Do You Need a Real Estate Attorney to Help Close Your Home Purchase? Let’s Take a Look

Do You Need a Real Estate Attorney to Help Close Your Home Purchase? Let's Take a LookWhen buying a new home, you may have a close eye focused on your budget and expenses, and your goal may be to keep related expenses to a minimum. However, you may also be well aware that a real estate purchase is a legal transaction, and you may be wondering if you need to pay for legal services from a real estate attorney. With a closer look, you can make a better decision that is right for your home buying plans.

The Legal Forms Used With A Typical Transaction

The majority of real estate contracts will be written using standard legal forms. These are legally binding forms with clauses that protect buyers and sellers alike. While they are standard forms, you do want to read the forms in their entirety and understand your obligations before signing the contract. Keep in mind that you are not required to use these forms, and you can request an attorney to prepare a separate contract for you. However, these are commonly used forms that real estate agents typically will use.

The Services Of A Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is not a legal professional, and your agent likely will not be licensed to practice law in the state. However, the agent can explain your obligations with a standard contract so that you have a better understanding about what you are committed to. Your real estate agent may refer you to a real estate attorney if you require a special contract to be drawn up or if you are not comfortable with different clauses in the standard forms.

When Special Situations Arise

The standard real estate contracts will typically be feasible for use with most transactions, but there are special situations that may arise from time to time. For example, you may only want to purchase a portion of a large estate. While the seller would need to subdivided, your attorney would need to review special documents to ensure the transaction is legal. Perhaps you want to purchase real estate in a corporation or under another entity, or you want to protect your rights when purchasing property with a partner who you are not legally married to.

While real estate agents are not legal professionals, they are able to prepare standard contract forms for you and explain them to you. Because of this, many people will not need to pay for additional legal services, but each situation is unique. When you speak with your trusted mortgage professional about your upcoming purchase, he or she can help you to learn more about services an attorney may provide that your real estate agent may not be able to.

Buying a Home While Relocating is a Smarter Choice

Buying a Home While Relocating is a Smarter ChoiceThe idea of buying a home is challenging enough as the process requires a lengthy approval validation, paperwork, financing, and the actual move with logistics. However, when one really looks at what typically occurs with relocation, buying versus renting can start to make more sense over time.

Finances Have to be In Order

Buying a home more than once every ten years requires a good amount of discipline on one’s personal finances. Most of the initial decisions and approvals will depend heavily on keeping one’s debt versus income ratios in line and viable. That also means saving up a lot to have sufficient cash flow for fees and your down payment. It also means not letting credit cards get out of hand or taking on other significant debt unless necessary as both weigh against one’s ability to obtain new financing for the next home purchase.

Renting Versus Owning

Renting or leasing tends to be the go-to option during a relocation because it tends to be easier upfront, has fewer requirements to achieve, and involves less of a significant commitment financially. After all, what happens if there is another relocation just a year later? However, most relocations are fairly defined in time. Anything under a year would make sense for renting, but when one starts getting beyond a year, buying starts to become far more appealing.

First, all the dollars one pays in rent are a sunk cost. If one buys, some of that money goes into home equity. Second, many companies and organizations who relocate their people often have connections for quick purchasing and residential needs, leveraging corporate interests for their employees. This allows for the rotation of homes from one employee to the next and makes buying easier for longer-term stays.

Third, a purchase for a shorter-term stay doesn’t have to be a full-scale home. Smaller units that cost much less are easier to close and can work just as well for temporary living. Relocating buyers should really consider a wide range of housing options in a buy versus just a strict replacement of what they had before.

Finally, market costs in the target location have to be considered. Some markets are very affordable and might be cheaper than renting month to month but others are astronomical, and it simply doesn’t make sense to buy in these regions for a short-term stay.

The Bottom Line

Understand with renting everything paid is gone and won’t be recovered in any form at all. It’s a lost expense. That can be thousands of dollars after one year alone. Buying will have fees, but the money spent on the mortgage each month buys equity which can be recovered in a sale, plus a possible gain as well down the road. Buying doesn’t work in every situation where one is relocated, but it can be a viable option in affordable markets and when one is staying longer than a year.

As always, check with your local real estate professional for the best advice on your relocation and your personal financial situation.

Do Not Procrastinate On These Spring Maintenance Tasks

Do Not Procrastinate On These Spring Maintenance TasksAt the flowers begin to bloom and the weather starts to warm up, everyone is thinking about spring cleaning. It is critical to make sure the house is ready for the warmer weather. What are the top spring maintenance tasks that have to be completed? Do not procrastinate on these tasks, as the price could be high.

Prune The Trees Before They Start To Bloom

Take a closer look at the trees, particularly those that hang over the house. As they begin to bloom, the weight on these branches could start to increase. If that happens, branches could snap over the house, leading to serious roof damage. Prune these trees before they start to bloom. If they are too high, it may be better to reach out to a trained professional who can prune them safely. 

Always Look For Signs of Leaks And Water Damage

Check around the house for signs of leaks and water damage. If the floor is buckling, the walls are starting to change color, or the water bill is going up without an explanation, these could be signs there is a leak somewhere. Address any signs of water leakage now. Waiting to address a water leak could lead to serious repair bills down the road. Be sure to get the plumbing system maintained regularly. That way, these leaks can be avoided. 

Inspect The Water Heater

Take a closer look at the water heater. It is important to get it inspected by a trained professional once per year. Over time, mineral scaling and gunk can accumulate in the water heater. It needs to be flushed regularly. Even though online tutorials can be helpful, it may be better to reach out to trained professionals who have the equipment to do this properly. In addition, professionals may take a look at other areas of the water heater that might have to be addressed.

Get Ready For Spring

These are a few of the most important spring cleaning maintenance tasks that have to be completed now. Make sure these systems are ready to go before they are called upon. If homeowners do not procrastinate on these important tasks, they could save a lot of money down the road.

 

7 Inexpensive Upgrades You Can Make To Your Rental Property

7 Inexpensive Upgrades You Can Make To Your Rental PropertyUpgrading your rental doesn’t need to cut deeply into your profits. You can add curb appeal and help prospective tenants see your rental as their next home by making some simple changes. The following upgrades are all things that a handy landlord can do without needing to hire professional contractors.

1.  Decorative Switch Plates

Replace ugly cream switch plates with either stainless steel models or decorative designs. Fancy switch plates for light switches and electrical sockets cost very little, yet make any room look nicer. The best part is, you can do the replacements yourself, using only a screwdriver.

2.  Flower Beds

Beautiful flower beds make any rental look more inviting. You can enhance curb appeal by planting inexpensive perennials around the front of the rental and along the pathway leading up to the door. Top off your newly planted flower beds with a fresh layer of colored mulch.

3. Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Kitchen cabinets are pricey, but it’s cheap to just reface existing cabinets. You can either replace the entire doors or take them off and give them a fresh sanding and a couple of coats of varnish or paint.

4. Fresh Paint

Even quality paint is inexpensive. Give your rental a beautiful new look with fresh paint throughout. You’ll want to use neutral tones, but consider making an accent wall, painted with an attractive color.

5. New Light Fixtures

Old light fixtures make a place look dated. You can pick up inexpensive light fixtures at big box home improvement stores. This simple upgrade will make your rental more attractive and modern.

6. Broom Storage Area

Most rentals don’t come with a broom closet, but you can create a makeshift broom storage area very cheaply. Just pick up some plastic broom holders and a shelf from the hardware store. Attach the broom holders to the wall and hang the shelf over that. Your tenants will appreciate the upgrade!

7. Fresh Window Treatments

Window treatments make a house look like a home. Replace window blinds or shades for an instant upgrade. Curtains are even cheaper and can be laundered and reused between rentals.

No matter where your rental is located, you can make it more attractive with these easy and inexpensive upgrades that you can do yourself.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 19, 2021

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 19, 2021Last week’s economic news included readings from the National Association of Home Builders on housing markets along with Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued.  Fed Chair Jerome Powell appeared on 60 Minutes. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims were also released.

NAHB: Homebuilder Confidence Ticks Up

The National Association of Home Builders reported that home builders’ confidence in housing market conditions rose one point to an index reading of 83. Builder confidence readings over 50 indicate that most builders consider housing market conditions as positive.

Component readings used for the NAHB Housing Market Index were varied. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose one point to 88 and home builders’ confidence in housing markets over the next six months fell two points to 83. The index reading for home buyer traffic in new housing developments rose three points to 75. Homebuilders faced ongoing challenges including supply chain problems, rising materials prices, and meeting the need for affordable homes.

In related news, the Commerce Department reported a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.74 million housing starts in March. 1.77 million building permits were issued at a seasonally adjusted annual pace in March.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week as the rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped by nine basis points to 3.04 percent; rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped by seven basis points to 2.35 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 2.80 percent and were 12 basis points lower. Discount points for fixed-rate mortgages averaged 0.70 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and  0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims fell to 576,000 claims filed last week as compared to 769,000 initial claims filed the previous week. Ongoing jobless claims were unchanged from the prior week at 3.73 million claims filed.

The Commerce Department released inflation data for March. The Consumer Price Index rose by 0.60 percent as compared to February’s growth rate of 0.40 percent; analysts expected a March reading of 0.50 percent. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and fuel sectors rose 0.30 percent in March and exceeded expectations of 0.20 percent growth. Core inflation rose by 0.10 percent in February.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell appeared on 60 Minutes on Sunday; he said that that the global economy would not return to normal until the COVID pandemic is controlled, but he presented a brighter picture for the U.S. economy. He said that the national economy is expected to grow between six to seven percent and that the national unemployment rate could fall to four or five percent from its current rate of six percent.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on readings on sales of new and previously-owned homes and weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims.

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Ticks Up in April

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Ticks Up in AprilThe national reading for home builder confidence rose one point to an index reading of 83 in April; the National Association of Home Builders predicted a reading of 84. Component readings for April’s national index readings were mixed.  Builder confidence in current market conditions for single-family homes rose one point to 88. Builder confidence in market conditions for single-family homes in the next six months fell two points to 81 but homebuilder confidence in buyer traffic in new home developments rose two points to an index reading of 75.

Readings over 50 indicate a majority of builders are positive about housing market conditions. Buyer traffic readings published before the pandemic rarely exceeded index readings of 50.

Regional Home Builder Confidence Varied

Regional readings for home builder confidence varied in April. The Northeast region reported an index reading of 84 in April, which was two points lower than in March. The Midwestern region’s April reading was three points lower at 75 than in March. Homebuilder confidence in the South rose two points to 84 and builder confidence in the West was unchanged with an index reading of 92.

NAHB’s Three-month moving average of regional homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions reported for the Northeast rose six points to 86; builder confidence in the Midwest fell two points to 78 and builder confidence in housing market conditions rose one point to 83. Builder confidence in housing market conditions in the West was unchanged at an index reading of 90.

High Demand for Homes Persists as Materials Costs Limit Affordability

Shortages of available pre-owned homes continued to boost new home sales, but rising materials costs and supply chain issues presented ongoing challenges to builders. NAHB Chair Fowkes said, “The supply chain for residential construction is tight, particularly regarding the cost and availability of lumber, appliances, and other building materials.”

Affordability is a substantial obstacle for first-time and moderate-income home buyers Prices of pre-owned homes are rising at their fastest pace in 15 years as mortgage rates move higher. NAHB Chair Fowkes also said, “Though builders are seeking to keep prices affordable…policymakers must find ways to increase the supply of building materials as the economy runs hot in 2021.”

Homebuilders and potential home buyers can expect ongoing challenges in 2021. As home prices rise, fewer families can enter the housing markets; other potential buyers may decide to postpone buying homes until home price growth eases.

It’s Almost Spring Cleaning Time! Kick Clutter To The Curb With These Home Cleaning Tips

It's Almost Spring Cleaning Time! Kick Clutter to the Curb With These Home Cleaning TipsSpring is around the corner, and it’s time to get your home in order!

Spring cleaning can be fun and easy if you follow some general guidelines, which are sure to get your home ready for the nice weather and looking as beautiful as the weather is about to. Kick the winter clutter to the curb with these spring cleaning tips.

Start With The Closets

Spring is here, and winter wear is no longer needed! It’s time to box up all of the winter boots, jackets, gloves, and scarfs until next season.

Starting your spring clean with your closets is a good tip, and will get you prepared for the rest of the process while creating more space and organization in the bedrooms of the house. This is also the perfect opportunity to create a “giveaway” box full of clothes that are no longer being worn.

Reorganize: Bookshelves, Countertops, And Desks

Reorganizing is the perfect way to prepare your home for the spring and summer. Good clutter is common in many homes, like useful books that are interesting for guests to read or decorations that offer a sense of warmth and character to the home.

So pick up the fallen and leaning books on the bookshelf, reorganize your kitchen countertops, and de-clutter your home office. For busy home offices, purchase organizational tools like additional shelving units, compile and file away old bills and receipts, and toss anything else that is no longer needed or of any use.

Get Scrubbing: Removing Stains And Odors

Getting ready for spring means removing the stains, dirt, and odors that accumulated in your home over the colder months. First, you should start with wiping your painted walls with a wet cloth to remove scuffmarks and dust.

If the water doesn’t do the trick, you can try mixing a little dishwashing soap in with the bucket of warm water. You may even want to repaint certain high-traffic areas, like entrance halls and the baseboards around the front door.

Next, you can go for the floors. Having a fresh carpet cleaning is sure to kick-start your spring cleaning; this may be something that you wish to have done by a professional. To make the most out of your carpet cleaning, have it scheduled for when the kids are out of the house for a while, and wait until the worst of the weather is over.

Make sure the kids take their shoes off inside, but get them to leave their socks on to avoid natural oils from getting into your freshly cleaned carpet. Vacuum area rugs in the same fashion, and mop the kitchen and bathroom floors at the same time you clean your hardwood floors.

Give the showers, bathtubs, and toilets in the house a good scrub. In the kitchen, empty the fridge and freezer of their contents, and give the inside a good scrub down as well.

Once the tidying, de-cluttering, and scrubbing are done, you will get to enjoy the fun part of spring cleaning: spring decorating! And while you’re at it, why not buy yourself and your home some spring flowers for a job well done.

If you’re doing a big spring clean this year because you’re looking to sell your home, these tips will get your home ready for any buyer’s eyes. Contact your real estate professional today to get more tips on buying or selling a home.

3 Easy Ways to Put Aside a Bit of Extra Cash So You Can Pay off Your Mortgage Faster

3 Easy Ways to Put Aside a Bit of Extra Cash So You Can Pay off Your Mortgage Faster If your personal budget is similar to many other people’s budgets, your home mortgage payment is by far the largest expense that you pay for each month. In fact, this payment may easily account for 20 or 25 percent or more of your take-home income.

Understandably, you may be focused on trying to pay this expense off early. By focusing on this payment, you can build equity and may be able to achieve financial security more quickly. You simply have to find a way to put aside a bit of extra cash regularly so that you can make extra payments, and there are few easy ways that you can consider.

Use Your Tax Refund

First, if you are one of the many taxpayers who receives a refund each year, consider setting aside some or all of this refund to reduce your outstanding mortgage balance.

Some taxpayers may have such a sizable refund that it can account for two or more mortgage payments each year. However, even a few hundred dollars extra put toward your principal balance will save you a considerable amount of money in interest charges over time and will have a wonderful effect on your balance.

Earmark Your Annual Bonus

If you are lucky enough to receive an annual bonus each year, you may consider using this to pay down your principal balance. While you may usually spend this money on extra holiday gifts or just add it to your spending cash, you can benefit more substantially when you contribute it to your effort to pay down your mortgage.

Use An Automated Draft To Create a Fund

Another great idea that will work well for all individuals is to create an automated draft from your checking account each month. You may set aside the funds in a special account, and you can make an extra mortgage payment from this account periodically. Another idea is to set up auto payments for your mortgage that are higher than the amount due. For example, you may establish auto payments that are $50 or $100 more than your scheduled payments.

Paying off your mortgage earlier can be a life changing event for you. Simply imagine how different your life would be if you were not responsible for this payment each month. The fact is that this could be your reality sooner than you think if you follow these tips. For the best results, apply two or even all three tips to your efforts.

Boosting Your Credit Score To Qualify For Better Rates

Boosting Your Credit Score To Qualify For Better Rates

The better your credit score, the better the mortgage interest rate for which you should qualify. That can mean thousands of dollars saved over the life of the mortgage. If your credit score needs improving, get started prior to your search for a new home.

Pay Bills On Time
The simplest way to boost your credit score is by ensuring your bills are always paid on time. Nothing harms a credit score more than late payments.

Check for Credit Report Errors
Check your credit reports for any errors. These issues are not uncommon, and can really impact your score. Each of the three major credit card reporting bureaus –Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion –will provide you with a free annual report.

Credit Utilization Rate
Look into your credit utilization, or CU, rate. The CU rate is another big credit score consideration. Your CU rate is the amount of credit authorized versus the amount you use. It’s one reason maxing out your credit cards is not a wise move.

Never allow your CU rate to exceed more than 30 percent of your available credit. In simple terms if you have $1,000 in available credit, never use more than $300. High CU rates are a red flag, as they indicate someone with potential financial problems. For best results, keep your CU rate as low as you can.
Calculate your CU rate by adding up the credit limits on all cards, as well as the balances. Divide the total balances by the total credit limit, then multiply by 100. That amount is your CU rate percentage.

Reduce Your Debt
If you carry credit card debt, pay it down as much as possible. That also helps lower your CU rate.

Avoid Opening New Credit Card Accounts
Do not open new credit card accounts while trying to boost your credit score.   A new account lowers the age of your accounts, affecting your credit history and lowering the CU rate.

Do Not Close Unused Credit Card Accounts
Do you have credit cards you never use? You might think closing them would boost your credit score, but that is not how it works. When you close the account, the amount of credit you have drops. That triggers a CU rate increase.

Refinancing Credit Card Debt
If you have substantial credit card debt, consider refinancing all of it with a personal loan. You should receive a lower interest rate with your balances now merged into a single monthly payment. This also causes your CU rate to go down.

How Long Will It Take?
How long it will take to improve your credit score depends on the severity of your credit problems. Those with serious credit issues may find it takes years to raise their scores significantly, but most people should see improvement within a few months. Then it is time to think about mortgage shopping!

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 12, 2021

Last week’s economic reporting included readings from the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee and a speech given by Fed Chair Jerome Powell. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and jobless claims were also released.

FOMC Minutes: Fed’s Monetary Policy Stance to Remain “Accommodative”

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve released minutes of its meeting held March 16 and 17. The meeting minutes indicated split opinions on the U.S. economy’s outlook. Several members expected inflation to rise due to constricted supply chains and high demand for goods and services. This scenario resembles trends in residential real estate where supplies of available homes are far lower than buyer demand. Other FOMC members expected continued downward pressure on inflation. Members expected inflation to rise to 2.40 percent in 2022 but expected the inflation rate to ease to 2.10 percent by 2023.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 12, 2021The Federal Reserve has a dual legal mandate to achieve an inflation rate of 2.00 percent and maximum employment. While inflation is expected to exceed 2.00 percent in 2022 and beyond, unemployment remains above pre-pandemic levels. FOMC members did not raise the Fed’s key interest rate range from 0.00 to 0.25 percent.

In related news, Fed Chair Jerome Powell spoke at a webinar hosted by the International Monetary Fund. He emphasized the potential threat of COVID to the U.S. and global economy and encouraged everyone to get vaccinate and said, “Until the world is vaccinated, we’re all going to be at risk of new mutations and we won’t be able to resume activity all around the world.”

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Show Mixed Readings

Fixed mortgage rates were lower last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell by five basis points to 3.13 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages fell by three basis points to 2.42 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 2.92 percent and rose by eight basis points. Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and 0.60 percent for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. Discount points averaged 0.10 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Initial jobless claims rose to 744,000 claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 728,000 first-time jobless claims filed. Analysts expected 694,000 new claims for last week. Continuing jobless claims were lower last week with 3.73 million ongoing claims filed. There were 3.75 million continuing jobless claims in the prior week.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic reporting includes readings from the National Association of Home Builders, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued, and inflation. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims will also be released.