8 ways first-time homebuyers can make themselves mortgage-ready

 

(BPT) – It's rare to get something right the very first time you try it, but when it comes to buying your first home, a lack of knowledge and experience can lead to costly mistakes. One in four first time homebuyers say they are completely unfamiliar with the mortgage financing process, according to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Even among those with an understanding of the overall process, the report found that many first time homebuyers still had significant knowledge gaps in important areas such as available mortgage rates, closing costs, down-payment requirements and income required to qualify for a loan.

"Not having all the information available could lead to consumers paying a higher interest rate or failing to secure an affordable mortgage for the home they want," says Eric Hamilton, President of Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance. "While most first-time homebuyers understand the importance of their credit report score in securing a mortgage, it's important they arm themselves with comprehensive knowledge. Fortunately, there's plenty of useful information out there for borrowers who want to do their homework before diving into the loan process."

Here are eight tips for first-time homebuyers:

 1. Adjust your budget. A mortgage payment can increase your monthly housing expenses, so prepare by calculating what that amount will be and begin saving that same amount every month so you can get used to the budget change in advance. Use a free online payment calculator to help you predict your payment and understand your current debt-to-income ratio.

 2. Plan for a down payment. Nearly all home loans will require you to put some money down as a down payment. Some home loans may require as much as 20 percent of the purchase cost as a down payment, although some Federal Housing Administration loans may require less. Decide on the amount you think you'll need and create a savings plan to help you reach that goal.

 3. Consider the location and type of home you want to buy. Many factors influence the cost of a home, including its location, size, style and more. A larger home in a high-income area will generally cost more, and property taxes will be higher on a bigger, newer, well-located home. Many first-time homebuyers find manufactured or mobile homes are a good option. Knowing the estimated cost of the type of home you want to purchase can help you better manage your budget.

 4. Stay on top of your credit. Lenders will consider your credit score and report history when determining your mortgage eligibility and the interest rate they may offer you. Make sure to review your credit report in advance. If you're planning to apply for a mortgage, it's a good idea to review your report more frequently and to consider paying to obtain your credit score from at least one major bureau. If your report contains errors, work with the credit bureaus to have them corrected before you apply for a mortgage.

 5. Keep current on monthly bills. While it's important to save toward a down payment, don't let monthly bills slide. Paying your bills on time every month can help increase your credit score, and a good payment history is something lenders look for when reviewing your credit report. Use online tools like email reminders and automatic payment options to help ensure you never miss or make a late payment.

 6. Work on your debt. If you have delinquent balances, bring them up to date as quickly as possible. If you carry a lot of revolving credit card debt, you may want to work to reduce it by paying more than the monthly minimum payment. While it helps to have a report that shows no late payments, the most important thing is to not have any delinquent balances before you apply for a mortgage.

 7. Plan for escrow. In addition to the amount you will need each month toward repaying your mortgage, you'll need escrow – an amount added to and collected with each monthly mortgage payment that is applied toward annual homeowners' insurance premiums and/or taxes. Estimating taxes and total insurance costs can help you better understand how much your escrow will be each month, and you'll be able to budget more accurately as you prepare for home ownership. Don't forget that this amount may adjust every twelve months if your insurance premium or taxes change for the next year.

 8. Take advantage of educational resources. From lenders' websites to government agencies, it's easy to find plenty of information online. Check out resources like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Administration.

This top garage trend keeps gaining momentum

 

(BPT) – The carriage house garage door is to your house what the little black dress and strand of pearls are to your wardrobe; classic style elements that never go out of fashion.

At the dawn of the automobile age, those who were affluent enough to own a car kept it in the carriage house, where the horses and buggy would have been stored. But this cohabitation became a little, well, smelly, and the need for separate storing structures was soon realized.

Enter, the garage. Built in the style of the original carriage house, the garage's sole intent was to store the car away from the animals and elements. The word garage actually comes from the French word, garer, which means to shelter and protect. Naturally, the garage needed a door to offer protection to the automobile. The ensuing "carriage house door"  was a hinged, double door that swung outwards, and can be considered the original garage door.

In the early 1920s, the kickout door was invented and progress continued from there, bringing homeowners the modern convenience of today's overhead garage doors. Today's carriage house sectional garage doors open overhead and continue to gain in popularity, constituting 35 percent of the volume in the garage door industry with projections to remain a huge trend.

When it comes to the style of garage door chosen, most homeowners want something classic, that won't fade in popularity over the years and will also enhance curb appeal. This is especially true if home resale is a factor.

The carriage house door also offers a myriad of design elements. For example, the Classica Collection by Amarr offers a dual-directional wood grain design that provides the realistic look of wood with the practicality and low-maintenance upkeep of steel. With a three-section design and the option of larger windows, this door offers a more authentic carriage house look with the benefit of additional natural light flow into your garage. Two-tone looks are also available with many color combinations and panel designs, and hardware and window choices are plentiful. These different design options can be tailored specifically to your home's facade and will further enhance curb appeal.

If you're thinking of replacing a tired garage door in an effort to boost your home's curb appeal, consider the classic carriage house door whose popularity has only continued to grow over the last century. With a timeless design that can be specifically tailored to your house, it's a choice that both you – and future owners of your home – can happily live with for a long time.

How to determine the true value of home improvements

 

(BPT) – As the U.S. housing industry continues to emerge from the Great Recession, signs are pointing toward positive recovery. In fact, a recent report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University states that the home improvement industry could see record spending this year. It's news like this that may have you contemplating an update to your house. Even if you plan to stay in your home for years to come, it's important to consider which home remodeling projects offer the potential for a positive return on investment.

"Research shows that more homeowners intend to remain in their homes after remodeling, however, resale value is still a major factor when planning renovations," says Susan Selle, chief marketing officer of exterior building products manufacturer Ply Gem Industries.

Before spending a significant amount of time and money on your next home improvement project, consider these tips.

Five home improvements with the highest ROI

The Remodeling Magazine Cost vs. Value report identifies these top five mid-range exterior home renovations as beneficial investments that allow homeowners to recoup a substantial percentage of their investment when they resell their homes:

* Replacing the front door (steel 101.8 percent)

* Adding manufactured stone veneer (92.2 percent)

* Replacing the garage door (88.4 percent)

* Replacing the siding (vinyl 80.7 percent)

* Adding a deck (wood 80.5 percent)

The cost-value ratio compares resale value to construction cost. The higher the percentage, the more of the job costs you are likely to recoup when selling your home.

"Homeowners want lasting value from their exterior renovation projects, so it's important to select the best materials for the job upfront," says Jerry Blais, senior vice president of marketing for Ply Gem Industries. "For example, when choosing siding for the home, vinyl siding provides overall better performance than wood, engineered wood and fiber cement and requires less maintenance both in the short and long term, allowing homeowners to complete their renovation and enjoy it, hassle-free, for years. In addition, vinyl siding provides the styles, textures and stylish colors homeowners want to create beautiful curb appeal."

Budgeting for success

Once you've decided which replacement and remodeling projects will offer the best ROI, develop a schedule and a budget to ensure the home makeover remains financially sound. The budget defines the project's scope, estimates overall costs, and helps to establish priorities. Generally, renovation costs should not exceed 30 percent of your home's value and should be consistent with housing trends in your neighborhood.

What should the budget include? To start, consider these likely-to-occur expenses:

* Contractor costs. These include labor and may incorporate employee benefits, professional fees, permit and inspection charges and, of course, profit. Get at least three contractor estimates to ensure your contractor is cost-effective and reputable.

* DIY costs. Should you forgo a contractor? Keep in mind you will need to rent or buy power tools and equipment and potentially learn new skills.

* Hidden costs. For example, bringing outdated electrical or plumbing installations to code, or removing lead paint.

* Site preparation costs. For exterior renovations, this may include tree trimming, clearing land, and renting a haul-away container.

* Interim housing costs. If you plan to relocate, you will need living expenses for the project's duration.

* Material cost. These include large expenses and small ones (ex. nails, trim) and could account for as much as half to 75 percent of the total cost. Factor in an extra 6-to-10 percent for waste for materials that are cut and fitted.

Bringing it home

If you're interested in near-term resale value, it's important to make sure that selling your home will at least recoup the cost of any completed projects. If you plan to stay in your home for many years, however, you'll not only benefit from an improved resale value down the road, but you're also more likely to appreciate the improved comfort and curb appeal in the meantime.

How to think like a buyer when getting your property ready to sell

 

The house is finally done after a whole lot of "blood, sweat and tears", and now it's time to get your wholesale flip "retail buyer ready". Real estate investors all have the same question at this point; how can I make my house stand out from the other homes for sale in the neighborhood? The answer is quite simple. Your home has to make a better first impression than your competition. Your potential buyer has to want to come inside from the moment they drive up to the house. So how do you do that?

Learn to think like a buyer!

Curb Appeal Is Everything!

Pay special attention to the landscaping and keep the grass cut and trimmed while your house is for sale. If you are selling during the summer months, extra watering may be needed to keep the lawn in tip top shape.

    Give your yard a manicured look. It will really pay off to spend a few dollars to have the plants neatly trimmed, the planting beds weeded, and fresh mulch put down. A great touch is to put brightly colored flowers near the front of the house. You might even want to add a couple of pots of flowers at or near the front door well give it an extra touch. Be sure to pick plants that don't need daily watering.

All your windows should be sparkling clean on the exterior as well as the interior.

Take a good look at your front door. Does it need a fresh coat of paint or maybe just a good cleaning?

Spend a few dollars and replace your old mailbox, then add some attractive house numbers. These simple things will give your house a polished look.

Make sure your deck or patio in the back yard is neat and inviting. You want your buyers to be able to imagine entertaining or just relaxing in this space at the end of the day. A power washer can be rented for about $40-$50 dollars if heavy duty cleaning is needed. Go ahead and power-wash any siding on your house at the same time.

Store all garden equipment and trash containers out of sight.

Look at the interior of the house through "buyer's eyes"

Have a professional do a thorough house cleaning when the house is finished, paying special attention to the kitchen and the bathrooms. Remember these are the rooms that sell houses!

Make sure all floors have been cleaned and are in good condition. This also applies to any carpet that hasn't been replaced.

Give the house the "sniff test". Does it smell good?

Buyers don't want to have to paint before moving in, so be sure the house is painted in neutral colors. Painting the trim a crisp white makes the home look modern and inviting.

Home staging always pays big dividends! Consider doing some simple home staging so that prospective buyers can imagine what the home will look like with furniture in it.

Does the basement have a "musty" smell? Figure out what the problem is and correct it.

Does everything in the house function properly? Make sure all the light bulbs are working, and all of the cabinet handles and doorknobs are securely attached. Walk through the house and give it the same scrutiny that a buyer will, double checking the smallest details in the home.

Be sure to change your filters. If the furnace or AC filter hasn't been replaced during the rehab, clean or replace it.

Author: Sharon Vornholt

Sharon's Website: http://LouisvilleGalsRealEstateBlog.com