Five basic steps to making a house your home

 

Owning a home remains a key element of the American Dream. In fact, a recent survey by TD Bank revealed that 84 percent of young renters (ages 18 to 34) intend to buy a home in the future. While it is exciting, home buying can be overwhelming and complicated if you don't have a general knowledge of the process. 
 
Equipping yourself with the right tools will allow you to navigate the complexities of the home-buying process. Here are five helpful steps to follow on your way to homeownership.
 
Step 1: Learn the home-buying ABCs: Build your homeownership knowledge by participating in a first-time homebuyer class at a local non-profit agency in your community to answer any questions you may have. Staying well-informed will help you feel confident and in control of this major financial decision and nip any initial questions in the bud.
 
Step 2: Get out your calculator: Owning a home requires a large investment of time, energy and money, so make sure you are careful when making the decision to buy. If you're like 43 percent of survey respondents, staying within budget is the top consideration. It is important to determine how much you can afford – you don't want to fall in love with a house out of your reach. When applying for a mortgage, the bank will assess your debt to income ratio. By looking at your income and current monthly debts, you can determine your ideal monthly payment. From there, you'll be able to narrow the focus of your house search to homes in your price range. Be sure to include down payments and other upfront costs in your calculations.
 
A few free, helpful online tools can help you determine just how much you could potentially afford. For example, visit TDBank.com and check out its mortgage calculator.
 
Step 3: Shop wisely: Condo? Single-family home? A fixer-upper or new construction? Once you know how much you can afford, determining your housing needs – and selecting a qualified real estate professional – before you start looking, will help make finding your perfect home much less time-consuming. In addition to being able to answer any questions that come up during the process, a real estate professional will work on your behalf to pre-screen houses and guide you through negotiations.
 
Step 4: Pick your perfect match: According to the survey, acquiring a mortgage and making a down payment is the most preferred method of payment for those who intend to own a home. With the variety of mortgage products that exists today, it's essential you choose the right one for your needs. How long do you plan on living in this house? Do you plan on making improvements to the home? Answering these types of questions will help you hone in on your financial strategy. Finding the right mortgage is about more than a rate and terms – it's about finding the right financial partner. Don't get led down the wrong path by choosing a bank that doesn't provide flexible options. Look for a bank that offers a hassle-free mortgage guarantee to ensure your first home purchase is as smooth and worry-free as possible.
 
"As a portfolio lender, we are able to set our own lending guidelines and interest rates," says Michael Copley, executive vice president for retail lending at TD Bank. "This allows us to provide our customers with the most adjustable and affordable financing options to suit their borrowing needs."
 
Step 5: Sign on the dotted line: Once your home has been inspected, your contingencies have been met and your mortgage has been approved, it's time to close the deal. In most cases, a closing officer and your attorney will be present during closing. As the buyer, you should make sure to bring a binder for homeowner's insurance (document proving you have adequate homeowner's insurance), a paid receipt for the first year's premium and a certified or cashier's check for your down payment and closing costs. Before the closing begins, review your mortgage, mortgage note and settlement statement documents to ensure there are no errors or red flags. Remember to ask questions during the closing, as the closing officer is there to help.
 
After you've signed all documents and paid your closing costs and down payment, the closing is finished. Congratulations and enjoy your new home.
 
  To get more information and to download your free TD Bank First-Time Homebuyers' Kit, visit esecure.tdbank.com/net/firsttimehomebuyers/default.aspx.

With the right approach, former homeowners can get on the path to homeownership again

 

When the housing bubble burst, a staggering number of Americans were affected – 4.8 million borrowers lost a home to foreclosure while a further 2.2 million gave up their homes in short sales, according to national data by RealtyTrac. The recovery of the housing market has been slow, but the confidence of once-foreclosed-upon homeowners has grown along with it. Sixty-five percent of Americans in Fannie Mae's national monthly housing survey for April said they would rather buy a home rather than rent if they were going to move. With a new perspective on saving and making wise investments, many of those affected are now eager to get back to being homeowners.

Many former homeowners have learned difficult lessons, and their road back to homeownership will be signposted with challenges. However, it may be possible for them to regain their dreams. These tips from Wells Fargo, the nation's leading mortgage lender, may help set prospective buyers on the right path:

* Talk to a reputable lender about owning a home again. Having someone on your side to help you through the process is important, but it's essential that that person has the experience and knowledge to help you make an informed, affordable lending choice. An experienced lender can explain the time limits that affect buyers who faced foreclosure or short sale; there is generally a set amount of time that needs to pass before you're eligible to be considered again for mortgage approval. Wells Fargo has a mortgage presence in 2,358 locations including stand-alone mortgage stores and other business partner sites. Go to www.wellsfargo.com/mortgage to find a home mortgage consultant near you.

* Make an honest assessment of your credit situation. In the current mortgage approval environment, having a foreclosure or short sale on your financial record will affect what options you may have for loan approval. You can access your credit report from any of the three agencies by going to www.annualcreditreport.com; everyone is entitled to a free annual report. If you need help in making sense of your financial status and information on how to improve it, you can talk to a Wells Fargo Home Mortgage consultant about the My Home Roadmap(SM) service. Those enrolled in My Home Roadmap receive up to two hours of free, phone-based financial coaching from an accredited credit counseling agency, paid for by Wells Fargo. Enrollees also receive emails from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage consultants that provide useful tips and reminders on handling the financial responsibilities of homeownership.

* Prepare a down payment. Homebuyers re-entering the housing market after foreclosure or short sale typically need to have a down payment – in most cases 20 percent – ready before purchasing a home. In addition to those funds, think about additional expenses you might have to pay, such as closing costs. Showing the ability to handle the financial responsibilities of homeownership beyond the monthly mortgage payment like taxes, homeowner's insurance, utilities and other household expenses will be extremely important in achieving loan approval.

* Get preapproved. It's a good idea for prospective homebuyers, even those who are re-entering the market, to work with lenders who offer a pre-approval program. The preapproval process helps borrowers determine and understand their budget before diving into a home search, allowing them to shop more confidently.

Homeownership is still part of the American dream, even for those who've dealt with foreclosure. To ensure that your next home is your dream home, plan carefully, get help and take a proactive approach to answering the tough questions.

Creating an island paradise: Tips for adding an island in your kitchen renovation

 

(BPT) – Custom cabinetry, granite countertops, reclaimed wood flooring and accents, and top-of-the-line, high-tech appliances – what more do you need to make your kitchen renovation perfect? How about adding an island? Designers and builders across the country are pointing to the addition of an island as the must-have upgrade for kitchen renovations this year.

Homeowners are embracing the island, and what's not to love about it? Adding an island can dramatically alter a kitchen's appearance, provide additional storage space and work area, and create a fresh focal point for family meals. What's more, common challenges that have historically held homeowners back from adding islands – such as the difficulty and high costs associated with adding plumbing drainage in the center of the room – are easier to solve than ever.

Plumbing problem solved

While you could add an island without plumbing, having a sink in an island can improve the workflow in a kitchen and open up counter space elsewhere. Plumbing an island can be problematic, however, if your home is built on a slab or a crawl space. The cost of cutting through concrete and adding piping can be prohibitive.

Above-floor plumbing can solve the problem. Manufacturers make a variety of pumping systems that can eliminate the need to cut concrete and reduce the cost of installing plumbing in a new island. 

"Cutting through concrete to install plumbing can easily account for 50 percent of a renovation budget," says Chris Peterson of Saniflo. "Homeowners may decide to abandon the idea of an island altogether when they face that kind of cost. Above-floor plumbing allows them to add an island, hide a single drain pipe in a decorative column, and achieve the kitchen of their dreams at a fraction of the cost of traditional plumbing options."

Top island trends

Islands are increasingly becoming the focal point of kitchen renovations, serving both practical purposes and as design statements.

More homeowners are replacing traditional dining tables and breakfast nooks with spacious islands that feature seating. "Islands are replacing tables," said Audrey Macdonald of Creative Interiors By Audrey in Mississauga, Ontario, in the National Kitchen & Bath Association's 2015 Kitchen & Bath Style Report.

In addition to seating, homeowners are incorporating restaurant-quality fittings into islands, adding charging stations for the family's personal digital devices. They're also choosing architectural and design touches such as decorative legs, and countertops and cabinetry that contrast with those around the perimeter of the kitchen.

Kitchen renovations continue to be among the most popular home improvement projects and can offer homeowners a high return on their investments. A major kitchen remodel costing about $56,000 can recoup nearly 68 percent of its cost when you sell your home, while a minor remodel in the range of $19,000 can yield a 79 percent ROI upon resale, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report.

Give your home a fresh look with color

 

(BPT) – A fresh coat of paint can give any room an instant lift, making it a great solution for converting a space from drab to fab.

Though neutrals reign as America's most popular paint choices, the National Home Color Survey from Sherwin-Williams shows people are becoming bolder with color. Three-in-four homeowners indicate they want to incorporate more color into their home, most commonly in their living room, bedroom and kitchen.

"Colorful paint is an easy and inexpensive way to stylishly transform a space," said David Bromstad, HGTV(R) star and celebrity interior designer. "Set the mood for a room with a splash of color and you'll spice up your space like a design pro."

Bromstad offers the following tips for anyone looking to add color to their home:

* Identify a colorful object as the focal point of the room. Select bold items to build your room around, such as a piece of artwork, rug or chair that really makes a statement.

* Use a color palette to guide design choices.-HGTV(R) HOME by Sherwin-Williams takes the guesswork out of choosing colors with coordinated collections of color, paint and wallpaper designed to flow beautifully throughout your home. Mix and match the colors to help guide your wall, furniture and accessory color choices.

* Coordinate your color transitions. For high-impact transitions, combine bolder shades with their more neutral counterparts and for a more tranquil transition, stick to softer or lighter shades that are from the same color family.

* Highlight unexpected areas. Turn ordinary areas like ceilings, banisters or door frames into extraordinary spaces. If you want to keep walls neutral, paint a piece of furniture, such as a chair, headboard or the back of a bookshelf.

* Use colorful patterns for the illusion of space. Horizontal stripes can help small rooms feel more spacious, while vertical stripes can add the illusion of height to low ceilings.

"Every colorful room adds personality to a home, from playful to serene to luxurious and beyond," said Bromstad. "That's what's great about paint colors; they allow you to express yourself through your home."

For more tips and color inspiration, visit sherwin-williams.com/color.

Sell your home faster with these cost-effective staging tips

 

Fortunately, many of the most effective staging trips are also inexpensive, from a thorough cleaning to decorator details. Here are five staging tricks that don't cost a bundle:

1. Cleanliness counts – Nothing turns off buyers faster than a dirty house. Before you list your house, give it a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning – something that costs nothing but the price of supplies if you do it yourself and a couple hundred bucks, tops, if you hire pros to do it for you. Don't overlook little details like baseboards, ceiling fans, blinds and shower doors. Include decluttering in your cleanup efforts, and remove excess items from your home, even if you have to rent a storage unit to do it.

2. Work those walls – Painting is one of the cheapest, easiest ways to help your home look fresh and great. Choose neutral colors that will appeal to the broadest range of buyers. Don't forget that neutral doesn't have to mean bland, either. Consider dressing up an accent wall, easily and cost-effectively with repositionable wallpaper or a removable wallpaper mural. Websites like MuralsYourWay.com offer a wide variety of repositionable wall coverings, called SmartStick, in a variety of designs. A patented adhesive makes it easy to install the mural – creating an eye-catching focal point for any room – and remove it later if buyers decide they don't want it. It's a great way to get a designer look at a fraction of the cost – and without the commitment of traditional wallpaper.

3. Fix up the fireplace – Sure, you're heading into summer selling season, but fireplaces charm buyers no matter what the weather. Make yours look its best. Old brick fireplaces can get designer flare from a coat of paint. If your fireplace is wood-burning, remove and clean the screen. If it looks tired and rusty, give it a fresh look with a coat of heat-resistant spray paint. For gas fireplaces, keep the glass clean and make sure everything is in working order. For a nominal cost, you can install a remote starter – a winning feature for buyers who can envision themselves starting a fire without ever having to leave the comfort of their couch.

4. Spruce up outdoor living spaces – If you have a deck or patio, do whatever it takes to spruce it up, from power-washing pavers and deck boards to staining tired-looking wooden decks. If you don't have a patio or deck, and don't want to spend a lot of money adding one, you can still create an appealing outdoor seating area. Mark off an area using stones or plastic edgers near the house or in a shady spot in the yard. Fill in with pea gravel or wood chips, then add an attractive bistro set – with umbrella – to create a pleasant seating spot.

5. Brighten the bath – Bathrooms and kitchens sell houses, yet many sellers are reluctant to sink any additional money into staging a bathroom. You don't have to spend a bundle to make your bathroom more appealing. After a deep cleaning, invest in some designer towels that only come out for showings. Put up a fresh shower curtain and get rid of those nasty area rugs that will make buyers think "germs." Add a small vase of fresh flowers on the vanity. Bring in more natural light by removing blinds and ensuring privacy with removable film that makes windows look frosted. Have a bathroom that doesn't have windows? You can really brighten it – and make a designer statement – by placing a removable wallpaper mural on the ceiling. Pick a sky scene with fluffy clouds on a blue background and you can even brighten a windowless powder room.

Staging a home can help make it more appealing to potential buyers, and ensure you sell it faster.

Five basic steps to making a house your home

 

Owning a home remains a key element of the American Dream. In fact, a recent survey by TD Bank revealed that 84 percent of young renters (ages 18 to 34) intend to buy a home in the future. While it is exciting, home buying can be overwhelming and complicated if you don't have a general knowledge of the process. 
 
Equipping yourself with the right tools will allow you to navigate the complexities of the home-buying process. Here are five helpful steps to follow on your way to homeownership.
 
Step 1: Learn the home-buying ABCs: Build your homeownership knowledge by participating in a first-time homebuyer class at a local non-profit agency in your community to answer any questions you may have. Staying well-informed will help you feel confident and in control of this major financial decision and nip any initial questions in the bud.
 
Step 2: Get out your calculator: Owning a home requires a large investment of time, energy and money, so make sure you are careful when making the decision to buy. If you're like 43 percent of survey respondents, staying within budget is the top consideration. It is important to determine how much you can afford – you don't want to fall in love with a house out of your reach. When applying for a mortgage, the bank will assess your debt to income ratio. By looking at your income and current monthly debts, you can determine your ideal monthly payment. From there, you'll be able to narrow the focus of your house search to homes in your price range. Be sure to include down payments and other upfront costs in your calculations.
 
A few free, helpful online tools can help you determine just how much you could potentially afford. For example, visit TDBank.com and check out its mortgage calculator.
 
Step 3: Shop wisely: Condo? Single-family home? A fixer-upper or new construction? Once you know how much you can afford, determining your housing needs – and selecting a qualified real estate professional – before you start looking, will help make finding your perfect home much less time-consuming. In addition to being able to answer any questions that come up during the process, a real estate professional will work on your behalf to pre-screen houses and guide you through negotiations.
 
Step 4: Pick your perfect match: According to the survey, acquiring a mortgage and making a down payment is the most preferred method of payment for those who intend to own a home. With the variety of mortgage products that exists today, it's essential you choose the right one for your needs. How long do you plan on living in this house? Do you plan on making improvements to the home? Answering these types of questions will help you hone in on your financial strategy. Finding the right mortgage is about more than a rate and terms – it's about finding the right financial partner. Don't get led down the wrong path by choosing a bank that doesn't provide flexible options. Look for a bank that offers a hassle-free mortgage guarantee to ensure your first home purchase is as smooth and worry-free as possible.
 
"As a portfolio lender, we are able to set our own lending guidelines and interest rates," says Michael Copley, executive vice president for retail lending at TD Bank. "This allows us to provide our customers with the most adjustable and affordable financing options to suit their borrowing needs."
 
Step 5: Sign on the dotted line: Once your home has been inspected, your contingencies have been met and your mortgage has been approved, it's time to close the deal. In most cases, a closing officer and your attorney will be present during closing. As the buyer, you should make sure to bring a binder for homeowner's insurance (document proving you have adequate homeowner's insurance), a paid receipt for the first year's premium and a certified or cashier's check for your down payment and closing costs. Before the closing begins, review your mortgage, mortgage note and settlement statement documents to ensure there are no errors or red flags. Remember to ask questions during the closing, as the closing officer is there to help.
 
After you've signed all documents and paid your closing costs and down payment, the closing is finished. Congratulations and enjoy your new home.
 
  To get more information and to download your free TD Bank First-Time Homebuyers' Kit, visit esecure.tdbank.com/net/firsttimehomebuyers/default.aspx.

Three questions to answer before you buy a home

 

Preparing to buy a home requires more than just a down payment. Before you purchase property, take time to understand your available mortgage options and balance your debt load. Thorough planning and smart budgeting now can help you avoid running into high debt or repayment problems down the road.
 

Farhaneh Haque, director of mortgage advice at TD Canada Trust, says that first time home buyers should answer three important questions before they start hitting any open houses this season.
 

• Do I understand the process? It never hurts to meet with a mortgage specialist to learn more about the home buying process and the different mortgage options available, such as fixed versus variable rate mortgages, flexible repayment schedules, and even mortgages that offer cash back. Before falling in love with a home, consider getting pre-approved so you know what you may be able to afford and avoid getting disappointed by falling in love with a home that is outside your price range.
 

• What is my personal debt load? If you have other obligations like a car payment or student loan, ensure you are taking on a mortgage that you can manage within your total budget. Try using an online debt management calculator to help determine how much debt you can reasonably take on based on your income, current debt payments and expenses.
 

• Can I afford my mortgage and save for the future? Sometimes home buyers take on more debt than they can manage and quickly find themselves "house poor" – with no money left for future savings or a rainy day. Before you take the leap into homeownership, crunch the numbers to ensure your budget reflects the lifestyle you want after you move into your new home, and you are clear on what sacrifices you may need to make to continue to live comfortably and save for your future.

Selling your home? Make it more appealing to buyers

 

"The most important thing you can do is to make your home look welcoming when people drive by," says Kimber Powell, Realtor and sales manager for Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group in Altoona, Iowa.

"You want to invite them in. Make sure your front door looks nice. Trim and landscape your yard. Accent your entryway with a new door mat and pots of flowers that contrast with the color of your home," she says.

Follow these tips to position your house for a successful sale:

Enhance curb appeal

A well-maintained house appeals to more buyers and can sell faster and may sell for a higher price, according to Realtor.com.

Maximize your home's exterior appearance. Keep the lawn and landscaping edged, cut and watered. Inspect doors, windows, trim, foundation and siding for peeling paint. Repaint and replace items as needed. Clean out gutters and replace missing caulk and shingles.

Declutter inside

Make your home look bigger by removing clutter and storing personal items and extra furniture before prospective buyers arrive. Make repairs where needed, Powell advises.

"Repairs are ongoing maintenance needs that show your home has been well-cared-for and kept up-to-date," she says. "Most potential buyers want turn-key homes that are easy to move into."

Repaint dingy or stained walls with a neutral shade of paint. Repair cracks or holes in walls, ceilings, tile and woodwork. Replace broken items and consider updating worn-out cabinet knobs, dated curtains and battered bath and kitchen hardware.

Show lifestyle possibilities

Create a lifestyle story to help buyers envision themselves living in your home. Have a small kitchen but a big deck? Focus on outdoor entertaining by adding lights, comfy cushions and showcasing grilling areas, Powell recommends. If you love your neighborhood, highlight a front porch with wicker furniture and window boxes.

"You want to show buyers the ways they can use the entire home and yard," Powell says. "If you don't have outdoor furniture or decorations, work with a stager to borrow those items." Or consider borrowing items from friends or family to get your home staged for sale.

Highlight quality brands

If your home features or you've replaced items with high-quality brands, like Pella Windows and Doors, include their names in your home's sell sheet, Powell says.

"People are very conscious of name brands and high-quality products. They also want to know about energy-saving benefits and warranties that may transfer to them," she says.

Windows, door replacement

Projects like window and door replacements can recoup more than 70 percent of their cost at resale, according to the National Association of Realtors and Remodeling magazine's Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report.

Whether you're preparing your home to sell, or updating it to live in longer, Pella offers low-maintenance, energy-efficient vinyl, wood, and fiberglass replacement windows and doors that can help improve your home's curb appeal, and help lower utility bills.

"Stylish exterior doors that look like wood, with the minimal maintenance of fiberglass, are popular replacement options," says Kathy Krafka Harkema, Pella spokesperson. "Plus, fiberglass offers exceptional energy efficiency, weather resistance and outstanding durability."

Pella fiberglass entry doors offer many prefinished options, as well as custom colors so you can design a door that truly reflects your home's style.

Five things before purchasing a house

 

One of the main purchases you are going to make is buying a house. You have to think through all of your options before making the decision. Here are some of the things you need to know before you buy a house:

1) It is essential that you have good credit. You will most likely obtain a loan to buy a house. Thus, you should ensure that your credit is good for a smooth sailing application. It would be better to check your credit history frequently for your own security as well.

2) Prepare for long-term debts. Keep in mind that it will take years before you will be able to pay for the house completely. Ensure that you will be able to manage payment for the mortgage. Having a financial cushion is significant. Since the debt is long-term, anything can occur.

3) Most loans need a document from the appraiser so it is better to get their opinion when you see a potential house. The appraisers are experts in giving values to properties depending on the location, structure, features, and added extras to the house. This will stop any sales representative from over pricing the house.

4) It is very attractive to buy a beautiful house at a very cheap price. Before you decide on purchasing the beautiful house, ensure that it has a safe environment. Take note that one of the factors that make a house costly is good location. If you think that the price is much cheaper than it looks, the locations may not be that attractive. Ask the appraiser why the value is low. It could be that the neighborhood is not safe. These factors are very important in your decision-making.

5) Make sure that the house you choose suits your lifestyle. No matter how beautiful the house is, if it does not coincide with your behavior, you will not be comfortable in it. When you choose a house, make sure that it makes you feel at ease.

Your financial state is most important when planning to a buy a house. This makes it essential to monitor your credit on a regular basis. Finally, you have to learn as much as you can about the home before purchasing it.

by: Sheldon Kalnitsky

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_3792.shtml

Secrets of a solid home inspection

 

Nearly two-thirds of surveyed homeowners report that a home inspection during the selling or buying of a house saved them money.

Selling, buying or just putting a house on the market may raise many questions. Can I get a good price? Are there any problems I should fix prior to listing my house? If I buy this house, will I encounter problems that may make me regret my decision?

The sale price of a house depends on many factors, including the market, location, size of the property, age of the house, condition of the structure, what appliances might be included in the sale and even how nicely the property and building were landscaped and decorated – just to name a few.

Having a qualified professional inspect your house prior to putting it on the market – or for prospective buyers, before closing on a sale – can help guide your decision. But many homeowners and prospective buyers are unsure what's included in a standard home inspection, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). A qualified home inspector will review these aspects of a property:
 

  • Roof, attic and visible insulation
  • Foundation, basement and structural components
  • Walls, ceilings and floors
  • Heating and central air conditioning systems
  • Windows and doors
  • Water fixtures and faucets
  • Decks

Nearly two out of three homeowners recently surveyed by ASHI reported they saved a lot of money as a result of having a home inspection during the selling/buying of a house. Sellers use inspections to help determine potential problems that can be repaired or replaced prior to listing – potentially getting them a higher sale price. And buyers use the inspections to determine if they want to invest in the property, or help negotiate for a better price that would include the repair and replacement of potential problems.

Not all home inspectors are certified and licensed. ASHI's "Find an Inspector" tool allows homeowners to locate an inspector in their area. Always check with your local inspector for a complete list of services provided.

"It's important for homeowners to do their homework before hiring an inspector," says Kurt Salomon, ASHI president. "Look for a home inspector certified through the ASHI Certified Inspector Program, which is the only home inspection association program approved by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies."

The following elements are not included in a standard home inspection:

  • Septic system
  • Electrical wiring and plumbing that is not readily accessible (for example, behind drywall or plaster)
  • Water conditioning or softening system
  • Swimming pool
  • Backyard fences
  • Lawn irrigation system
  • Household appliances
  • Compliance with local codes
  • Appraisal to determine market value

Before hiring a home inspector, inquire about what is covered in the inspection and ask to see a sample report. Although some inspectors provide ancillary services, it may be necessary to consult a specialist for concerns that extend beyond a standard inspection. Often your inspector will help you make this determination.

Hiring a certified home inspector and having questions answered before putting your house up for sale – or before finalizing a purchase price – can not only help save money, but also allow you to go through the process with more peace of mind.