Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP)

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The Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) has been extended through December 31, 2013 and allows homeowners to refinance into low mortgage interest rates even if the property has decreased in value.

Established in 2009, for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Home Affordable Refinance Program provides an option for homeowners to refinance “Under Water Mortgages”. A HARP Refinance addresses situations where the homeowner’s property value has fallen causing them to no longer to qualify under traditional underwriting criteria. Homeowners with a loan owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae have the opportunity to refinance with any participating lender as long as the resulting loan is less than 125% of the current property’s value.

The following criteria must be met to qualify for the Home Affordable Refinance Program:

 

  • You must live in the home being refinanced.
  • A HARP refinance only applies to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgages.
  • The homeowner must be able to afford the new lower payment.
  • The current mortgage must be up to date with no late payments in the past twelve months.
  • Payments on the new loan must be more affordable or more stable than on the existing loan.
  • The maximum Loan to Value (LTV) cap has been removed on home owners looking to refinance in to a fixed rate mortgage.
  • However for homeowners looking to refinance in to an adjustable rate mortgage the maximum LTV is set at 105%.

The popularity of the HARP mortgage program has steadily grown since 2009. The three months ending in February 2011 saw record volume of 145,000 new HARP loans.

A participating lender can determine if your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and can further evaluate your eligibility. To contact one, fill out the convenient 4 step form to the right.

Go to the following link to determine whether or not your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac:

http://harp-mortgage.com/who-owns-my-loan/

 

Purchase Checklist

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Buying a home is one of the most exciting purchases ever!  Here is a purchase checklist to guide you through the process.

  1. Be sure you’re ready to buy a home
  2. Determine how much you can afford
  3. Organize your personal information
  4. Get pre-approved
  5. Find a real estate agent
  6. Search for a home
  7. Research areas and neighborhoods of interest
  8. Visit selected homes
  9. Make an offer on the home you want
  10. Arrange financing
  11. Schedule a home inspection
  12. Prepare for closing

 

Be sure you’re ready to buy a home

  • Consider all costs involved, including taxes, homeowner’s insurance, private mortgage insurance (PMI), and utilities.
  • Consider the responsibilities of home ownership, from mowing the lawn to maintaining the roof.

Determine how much you can afford

  • Consider all costs involved, including upfront costs such as the down payment and closing costs.
  • Estimate the monthly mortgage payment.
  • Include in your estimates other costs such as taxes and maintenance, as well as insurance and any applicable association fees.
  • Tip: Use the mortgage calculator found under each home listing on this site to run the numbers.

Organize your personal information

  • Check your credit report to make sure that there are no errors.
  • Gather documents such as financial statements and tax forms.
  • Make sure to have the following information readily available: the name, address, and Social Security number of all applicants; contact information for your current landlord or mortgage company; a pay stub and employer information; the value of your assets; and the source of your down payment and closing costs.
  • Make sure that you have the Social Security numbers of all borrowers involved.

Get pre-approved

  • A pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford, give you the power to negotiate and even make an offer, and show sellers that you’re a qualified buyer.

Find a real estate agent

  • Consider special, personal needs with which a real estate professional may be able to help you. Real estate agents can specialize in a variety of areas, including, employee relocation, military markets, or vacation homes.

Search for a home

  • Search for properties online to get an idea of the homes that are available in your price range.
  • Drive through areas that interest you in order to spot “For Sale” signs and to get a feel for different neighborhoods.

Research areas and neighborhoods of interest

  • Try visiting your preferred neighborhoods at different times of the day and at different days of the week to observe patterns of noise and traffic.
  • Use our Look tool to find statistics on neighborhoods, schools, and other demographic information important in your search for a home. Your Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate agent may also have some of the information you need.

Visit selected homes

  • Take your time. Carefully examine both the interior and exterior of each home you consider. You may want to visit more than once if you’re seriously interested.
  • Compare the prices of similar homes in the surrounding area. Your real estate agent will supply you with comparable properties (“comps”).
  • Tip: If the market is competitive, be prepared to act fast. A pre-approval will give you the ability to make an offer on the home you want and shows the seller you’re financially able to buy the home — and that can give you an advantage over other buyers.

Make an offer on the home you want

  • Before deciding on the amount of your offer, consider important factors such as the condition of the home, the competitiveness of the local marketplace, inspections, time restrictions and more.
  • Consult with your real estate agent for professional input on determining the amount of your offer.
  • Include in your offer provisions for a home inspection and an outline of the actions to be taken if problems arise.
  • Tip: Always check with your real estate agent before making an offer — it may be legally binding. Working with a licensed Real Estate agent may be beneficial and make the process smoother.

Arrange financing

  • Call your mortgage consultant with the property address.
  • Your mortgage consultant will explain your options for rates, terms, points and other details about loan programs you may qualify for.
  • Sign the necessary documents for application.

Schedule a home inspection

  • Ask your real estate agent to help you find a reputable, professional home inspector, and to help schedule the inspection.
  • Tip: It’s a good idea to be present during the inspection. It’s an ideal opportunity to ask important questions about the property.

Prepare for closing

  • Make sure your closing date is scheduled prior to any rate lock expirations on your mortgage loan.
  • If you’re also selling a home and need the cash from the sale, make sure that the closing on your current property is scheduled prior to the closing on your new home.
  • Arrange for your real estate agent or an attorney to be present. That will help assure that all closing tasks are completed to your satisfaction.
  • Check with your closing agent to find out the amount of certified funds — a cashier’s check or money order — needed for closing.
  • Make arrangements for all people needed to sign closing documents to be present. This may include your spouse or any other co-signer.
  • Make arrangements at work and with childcare to be absent for 3-4 hours. (Closing normally takes an hour but you should be prepared to spend extra time in case issues arise.)
  • Bring along a photo ID — your driver’s license or passport, for example.
  • If you haven’t done so already, make sure utilities will be turned on once you take possession of your new home.

When closing is completed:

  • Don’t leave without your new keys.
  • Congratulations on your new home!

Article by:  Sheri Negri, Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate

www.loveforhomessac.com

Moving with Young Children

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Are you excited and happy about moving? Or are you dreading the sorting, packing and other chores?

If you look at moving as an exciting adventure full of fun, new possibilities, then you’re halfway to getting your children on board for the ride. Your children will absorb your enthusiasm like little sponges.

There will be some worries, of course, but you can defeat those with a little preparation and understanding.

Most children don’t like the changes associated with moving. The younger the child, the less able they are to “see into the future” as you do. They tend to focus on losing the security they’re used to, and they worry about missing friends and family.

You can make childish anger and doubt grow into a sense of wonder and adventure. You can do that by acknowledging and empathizing with the loss they feel and showing them how to balance their feelings with what they have to gain.

1.Communicate with your child patiently and frequently.  Let your children know, step by step, what is happening and what is likely to happen next. Tell them what the move means to the family — how important it is that Mommy got a big promotion or that Daddy is opening a new office for his company.

2. List all the advantages there are for the child in the move. For example, will the family be closer to Grandma, the ocean, or another favorite person, place, or activity? Will they be able to see old friends and family frequently? Or at least at holiday time?

3. Show the child as much as you can about the new home. When you show your child their room, bath, and play area, make a game of it by asking where certain favorite toys or furniture should go. Have fun by showing your child the new house plans, or draw them yourself and let your child cut out furniture and toys to place in the rooms. Show your child a typical day in the home as you go from room to room.

4. Introduce your child to the new community online. Draw a map, and show how close Mommy and Daddy work, where schools are, where Aunt Bea lives, and other points of interest to help them orient themselves in their new surroundings.

5. Be ready for those “What about me?” questions. If your child is in scouts, little league, or other organizations, contact those associations for referrals in your new neighborhood or city. Knowing they won’t have to give up favorite hobbies or sports goes a long way toward helping children adjust.

6. Let your child participate. Make a fun activity out of researching services you’ll need online, like finding a new veterinarian for your dog. Older children can find blogs online about their new school.

7. Keep your child occupied by letting them plan and pack a box or two of their special things. Consider their input on new decor and the layout of their new rooms. Encourage them to take the time to exchange good-byes with friends and loved ones and get addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers to stay in touch.

8. Try to stick to normal routines as much as possible. Let your children know that, although they will soon live in a new house, the rules of the household will still be the same. Bedtime is still at 9 p.m., and homework must still be completed before TV time is allowed. And although Mom and Dad are a little busier and distracted with the move, they love their children very much and are giving the entire household a new opportunity to grow.

9. On moving day, have a bag packed of personal belongings for each member of the family, being careful to include medications, clothes, and personal items. Let your children choose what amusements and favorite “loveys” they wish to take along, and reassure them they will see their other favorite toys when they arrive in their new home.

Your preparedness will go a long way in reassuring your children that their needs are being considered, even while big changes are happening around them.

www.loveforhomessac.com

Selling Tips in a Buyer’s Market

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A buyer’s market means it’s the seller’s turn to be flexible, especially with sale terms. Purchase price, closing dates, move-in dates, storage, appliances, window treatments, points and fees may all require a little negotiation. Whatever the terms, don’t let personal feelings stand in the way of a good deal.

Selling in a soft market

The basics

In a buyer’s market, curb appeal, cleanliness, overall good condition and updates are especially crucial. Any little flaw should be taken care of before the first buyer drives up.

  • Attend open houses in your neighborhood to see what “sell-ready” really looks like. If you’re shy, ask your Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate sales associate to walk you through a few sell-ready examples.
  • Back home, start with the exterior to ensure you’re making a good first impression. Reseed or throw down some turf on lawn patches, change the lights in the lamppost, and if necessary, reset the walkway stone.
  • Clean the interior beyond your standards. Even if they are impeccable, rent an industrial carpet cleaner or hire a professional cleaning service. Brighten the interior ambience with light fixture updates, as new lighting is one of the most inexpensive and noticeable improvements you can make prior to listing.
  • Fix leaky faucets and make sure the water pressure is strong in both the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • If necessary, a great way to improve the appearance of your home is to paint. Use only neutral colors that can easily lend themselves to different décor and styles of furniture.

Don’t reject low offers; negotiate

  • Don’t dismiss lower-than-expected offers. Instead, consider buyer incentives that help you meet your asking price. Offer to pay the buyer’s closing costs, moving costs or loan origination fee. These can help the buyer with upfront costs. As well, you may consider offering a limited home warranty that covers HVAC systems and some appliances for a definitive period of time.
  • Be careful of purchase offers that are contingent on the buyer selling their home first. Their home may be in a softer market than yours and you could be in for a long wait. Be sure that the purchase agreement includes a contingency-release clause. This way you’ll be able to sell if another buyer comes along.
  • Work with your Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate agent to find creative solutions to make a deal come together. The purchase price is just part of the deal. Anything that makes your property stand apart from the competition will give it an edge in a buyer’s market.

Posted by:  Sheri Negri
www.loveforhomessac.com

Carbon Monoxide Detectors Now Required

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As of July 1, 2011 a new California law requires all “dwelling units intended for human occupancy” to be retrofitted  with carbon monoxide (CO) detection devices.  If you own your own home, you are responsible for obtaining and installing these devices.  Or you can hire a company that will come in and install them for you.  If you are a renter, it is the responsibility of your landlord to come in and install them.

The devices may be battery-powered, or a plug-in device with a battery back-up.  The device must be tested and certified pursuant to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and UL.  The cost of the devices range from as low as $20 to as much as $200.  Some are combined with smoke detectors.  You can find these CO devices at most hardware stores.

Unlike smoke detectors, CO devices must be replaced at least every 7 years. For this reason, when selling a residential property, disclosure of the existence of the device and its operability may not be sufficient, if the device is more than 7 years old. Some devices are equipped with an alert that the device is 60+ months old, signaling the necessity of replacing it.

Tips for Number of Alarms

  • Alarm should be centrally located outside of each sleeping area
  • Alarm should be located at least 6 inches from all exterior walls and at least 3 feet from supply or return vents
  • Alarm to be located on every level including basements within which fuel-fired appliances are installed and in dwelling units that have attached garages
  • Alarm should be mounted approximately 3 to 5 feet from the floor (Note: the battery-powered devices will allow you to go higher than 3 feet from the floor)

Article by:  Sheri Negri of Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate
Website:  www.loveforhomessac.com
Facebook:  http://goo.gl/mcqVs