Should I Refinance My Home?

So, you bought a house, took out a mortgage, and agreed to a monthly payment. At the time, you were excited that you were able to qualify for a mortgage, and were confident that you could keep up with the monthly payments, even if the Interest Rate wasn’t the best. After all, unlike rent, every payment you make adds to your equity in the home. You’re making an investment, rather than simply paying someone else for the privilege of living on their property.

Years go by, and life happens. You find yourself hard-pressed for cash. That monthly payment begins to loom. Is there any way to lower that payment?

Thankfully, there is. It’s called Refinancing. Refinancing is taking out a new mortgage at the price of what you currently owe, rather than the house’s original value. So if you bought a $200,000 house with a 30-year mortgage, then paid off $100,000 of it, you could get a new 30-year mortgage on just the $100,000 you have left. You use this new Mortgage to pay off the old and now enjoy a lower monthly payment.

However, just because there’s a lower payment, doesn’t mean you’re spending less money. That’s dependent on your Interest Rate.

Interest is the money you are paying the bank for the privilege of using their money to buy the house. It doesn’t add equity to your house. The less interest you can pay, the quicker you pay off your house, and the less money you spend in the long run.

If your circumstances (credit, debt-to-income ratio, etc) weren’t perfect when you bought the house, and you’ve spent the last number of years fixing that, then it’s likely your new Interest Rate would be much lower than the old one. In that case, Refinancing could help you save a lot of money, even if you don’t want to increase the length of the mortgage. Dropping the Interest Rate even a few points could save you tens of thousands of dollars over a number of years.

However, if you find your credit has slipped since signing the first mortgage, refinancing could cost you a lot more. You could still save monthly by getting a new mortgage over a longer-term, but in the long run, you will wind up paying those tens of thousands, rather than saving them.

In the end, the best thing to do would be to talk to your lender and see what your new interest rate would be. If it’s better, seriously consider refinancing, even if you don’t extend the length of the loan. All it can do is save you money. If the Interest Rate is higher, you can still refinance and get a lower payment if you desperately need the money, but be prepared to continue paying for a much longer-term, and to potentially pay much more than you were originally supposed to.

home construction loan

What is a Construction Loan?

What exactly is a construction loan you ask? A construction loan is a short-term loan that is commonly used to help pay for the construction of a home or other real estate projects. It is usually taken out by the builder of the project to help cover the costs of a project before obtaining other long-term funding. Construction loans have a higher interest rate than that of a traditional mortgage.

What is a Construction Loan?

As stated above, construction loans are typically taken out by the builder of a project or in some cases a homeowner who wants to build the home of their dreams. These loans are short term loans, only lasting one year or less. Once the construction is completed, the loan can be refinanced into a mortgage loan. The financier may also try to obtain a new loan to pay off the construction loan; this is called an “end-loan” in most cases. In most cases, the construction loan must be paid in full before the end date of the construction project.

How Does a Construction Loan work?

In an instance where the loan is taken out by a borrower with the intention of creating their dream home, the lender or bank might state that they will only pay the funds directly to the construction company. The loan payments may come in installments throughout the building contract instead of all at once at the beginning of the said project.

How to Get a Construction Loan

These types of loans may be taken out to finance the rehabilitation and restoration projects of houses as well as to build new custom-designed homes. Keep in mind that most lenders require a 20 percent to 25 percent minimum down payment on construction loans at the beginning of any given project. If a borrower has a limited credit history, obtaining a construction loan will be challenging.

Since the house is not yet built, collateral is considered limited. This can pose an issue when seeking loan consent from a potential lender. In order to get construction loans, the borrower must supply a “blue book”. A blue book is a detailed list of construction steps.

Construction loans are most typically offered through credit unions and/or regional banks. Local banks and credit unions usually know the housing market in any given area and therefore are more comfortable granting construction loans to those in their communities.

colorful indoor space

Creative Ways to Add Color to Your Rental House

Renting a house has very many benefits, one of them getting an opportunity to stay in luxury apartments. However, you will always be frustrated by the fact that you have minimal options for customizing your room. Some landlords have clear instructions on a wall painting, and any attempt to paint walls could lead to eviction. If you love colors and you’re wondering how to have them in your rental property, here are some creative strategies you can use.

1. Use Decorative Folding Screen
Decorative folding screens have been very useful in helping millions of people living in rental properties to customize their homes. You can mount this piece on the wall or have several pieces hanging around the house to create a lasting impact. You can also get a plain folding screen and add your personality by painting your favorite color. You can as well use it as a place to decorate your artwork or hang some of the fabrics that you love.

2. Paint Your Furniture
It looks funny, but painting your furniture is an innovative strategy of having colors that you love inside your rental house. You can have all the furniture in the room with different colors, especially if you are a color enthusiast. The benefit of painting your furniture is that you can always change without consulting anyone, especially when you get bored by one color. However, you should take caution and avoid damaging your furniture through over-painting.

3. Hanging Drapes on the Walls
Most of the people have a perception that drapes can only do the job on windows. However, this is not the case. Curtains have for many years been used to add color in the room. All you need to do is to get the right measurements of your room, and you will have the colors that you want. Besides adding color, drapes are very effective in adding texture, which is usually missing in most of the rental properties.

4. Use Area Rugs
Some people have been using area rugs to add color in their rooms, and you can also try them. Rugs are beneficial as they do not only help you to add color to your floor, but they can be used to cover unsightly flooring. To achieve maximum impact, you need to have them put on bare floors where you can go to the extra mile of making sure that they are wall-to-wall carpeted. However, you need to make sure that your rugs are not slipping using rug pads.

5. Use of Color Accessories
There is no doubt that you will need accessories in your house. Accessories allow you to include the color that you need in your room. Some of the accessories you can use to add personality, design, and color, including but not limited to flowers, vases, plates, artwork, and pillows. They will go a long way in giving your room the cohesiveness it needs.
Just because your landlord has restricted you from painting does not mean that you should leave in unpleasant rooms. There are very many creative ways that you can incorporate to have a colorful and attractive place.


6 Things You Need to Do When Buying A House

Purchasing a house is one of the big decisions in life. There are 6 things you need to do when buying a home. Following these necessities prepares you to find the perfect house.

#1 Finance

The place to start is to get your financing in place. Pre-approval will make you more attractive to sellers. Search lenders to discover what options are available, and how much you qualify for. A quick calculation is about 3 times your household annual income.

Gather a down payment, usually 5% of the purchase price. Don’t stop until you’ve secured the loan and the deposit, otherwise, you may stretch your budget beyond your comfort zone.

#2 Budget

Create a budget based on the information you have acquired. Items in your plan are current debt, home insurance, property taxes, utilities, food, gas, etc. Once it is set, stick to it! Going over your budget will strain your finances and your family.

#3 Agent

An agent is an expert on the housing market, so their advice is essential. This is not the time to hire your brother-in-law who has his license but isn’t selling real estate. The agent to look for knows the area, and listens to what you want. They are specialists who find examples fitting your description, so communicate to take advantage of their expertise.

#4 Location

You’ve heard it before: location, location, location. Find one that fits you. If schools are important, find a great school district. Other things to consider are suburban vs urban, single-family or condo, proximity to work, grocery stores, etc. Track how long it takes to get to those places by visiting the property at different times of the day or week.

#5 Shop

This is the best part. Everything’s in place to find the perfect property. Before you head out, create a list of must-haves and deal-breakers. Preparing ahead of time will steer you away from properties that don’t fit your needs. Share the list with your agent upfront.

#6 Inspection & Appraisal

An inspection is how you discover what isn’t visually noticeable during walk-throughs. An unbiased assessment provides a trained eye of the property. Your agent will assist with finding the inspector.

The lender will want an appraisal of the house to make sure it’s a good investment. This is a safeguard for you too.

To create a smooth buying process, there are 6 things you need to do when buying a home. The first 3 steps are vital. The financing, budget, and agent are necessities in finding your house. The 4th and 5th steps are fun; shopping time. The last one will assist you in making a smart decision.

Buying a Home? Plan for These Hidden Costs

You saved enough money, and now you’re ready to buy a home. Congratulations. No more renting, no more giving money out to something you don’t own, but do you know about all the hidden costs? There are many advantages to being a homeowner, and one of them is that you own the place where you lay your head. Still, those costs that you didn’t figure will come back to bite you if you don’t plan. Below are tips and advice that will benefit you and hopefully get you prepared for any nasty surprises.

Real Estate Fees. If you decide to go the route of hiring an agent, beware of a few factors. Such as: how much are their fees, do they have conflicting interests, will that agent look out for your best interest? Make sure you know what exactly is in the contract you sign with an agent.

Your Homeowner Insurance. According to the National Association Insurance Commissioner, insurers paid a premium of 1,192 in 2016. However, that cost may be different in another state. Most people fail to factor in their homeowner’s insurance. The amount you pay in homeowner insurance depends on several factors, including the location, which could be considerably higher if you’re in a less than a desirable neighborhood. Remember when you purchase homeowner insurance, you’re also purchasing title insurance and probably flood insurance.

Closing Cost. Know that these fees can add up, and you’re responsible for them as soon as the seller accepts your offer. Not paying these fees on time, means that they will increase. Closing costs vary from 2 percent to 5 percent. Also, you’re paying the following: A credit report fee, attorney fee, loan processing fee, inspection fee, appraisal fee, escrow deposit fee, underwriting fee, recording fee. The good news is that you can negotiate with the seller to ease you of some of the burdens from closing costs.

Property Tax. The cost of your home’s property tax also depends on the area that your home’s located in. Beware that the property tax is not a fixed rate.

HOA Fees. The perks of living in an HOA community has its advantages. For example, they can provide a pool, gulf court, someone to keep the area looking clean. You never have to worry about mowing your lawn. However, the payment for those perks can be expensive. Plus, HOA fees will increase at any time that the board of directors over the fees decides to. Furthermore, if you fail to pay those fees on time, it can lead to losing your home, which is why factoring in the cost of how much the fees are should go into any decision that you make when deciding to buy a home that has HOA fees.

Necessary Items. Even If you’re buying a new home, you might find that you’re going to have to purchase a few items that are missing in your home including appliances.

Upgrades. Okay, you’ve fallen in love with all the upgrades because the one with the base price doesn’t compare. However, those upgrades can be expensive. We’re talking in the thousands. Plus, some builders may want to charge more for those upgrades if you make the purchase of your home with them. Some builders may not have all the upgrades that you envision for your home, and that will play a factor if you decide to sell down the road.

Setting a realistic plan with a budget will help to make sure that you don’t end up house poor.

Estate Planning Attorney

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate Planning is something that most of us don’t want to think about. Yet, it’s important. It’s the one legal document that will save your family from a lot of hassle if it’s done right. Estate planning, in-short, is the sum of your belongings that remain after your death. This can be money and property.

Let’s outline what an estate plan entails.

When the event happens, you want to have control over who receives what. Remember that this can be to family and friends but also your favorite organizations. The sky’s the limit on what you can do with your own estate. There’s a logical way of doing things to keep it simple.

Estate Planning Prior to Passing

Make sure you have a solid plan for who will take care of you in case you can’t care for yourself. You’ll want to make sure you have all the details from religious ceremonies to the place you wish to rest. Burial or cremation, who delivers the Eulogy and if it will be religious or not.

Who will be the legal guardian for any minor children?

Make sure you have all the paperwork completed and copies handed to all who need to have it, or at least tell them where to find it after the fact.

If you have special needs relatives, make sure you talk to an estate lawyer so that whatever benefits they’re entitled to continue. You’ll want to be sure that those benefits go to their care and not into the wrong hands.

Life insurance, SSI benefits, disability or any monies collected by you will discontinue or transfer to someone else. Make sure you know what each of those benefits will do. You don’t want to leave important people without or with a fight to handle along with the grief.

Misconceptions of Estate Planning

One of the most common misconceptions about estate planning is that you do this in retirement. We can’t predict when the event will happen, so retirement is too late. Our estate planning should happen early before we create dependents and continue as our lives change.

As we gain property, possessions, and money and as we change the dynamic of our relationships, our estate plan should be tight and right so they say. This makes things seamless for you and the ones you leave behind.

The Stressful Bottom Line

If you don’t have an intentional estate in place the state and courts will handle it in a rather carefree way. They won’t investigate with compassion what you would have done. They’ll assume that if you cared where not only your belongings and money went, but your children, then you would have taken care.

In fact, your spouse and kids may not receive all the benefits you leave behind. It’s nothing to drag our heels about. Talk to an estate lawyer today for your peace of mind tomorrow.

buying a home

Do I Need A Lawyer When I Buy Or Sell A House?

Do I Need A Lawyer To Buy Or Sell A House?
If you are buying or selling a house, do you really need a lawyer? If you’ve done this before, do you really need the extra expense?

There are some individuals for whom buying or selling a house, or any residential property is a “ho-hum” exercise. They’ve done it before and never needed a lawyer so why should they take on an added expense of legal advice? Forms have been standardized and are easily available and customizable to the specifics of the transaction as needed. This standardization can make an entire transaction seem to be standard and run of the mill as long as there are no exceptions or caveats.

Remember, your lawyer is at the closing to protect your interests and investment and make sure that all the documents are in order and have the necessary signatures. When you are at the closing table and documents are being circulated for signatures, you need someone to ensure that you have signed all the proper documentation. There are several situations that could require a legal opinion or input. These are situations that are not that uncommon.

– Are you participating in a short sale? Have all the necessary requirements been met? Is the seller’s mortgage company properly represented?
– Is this a transaction regarding rental property? Have all conditions regarding renters been handled?
– Is a buyer of rental property impacted by any outstanding lease agreements? If so, what are they?
– Is this a “For Sale By Owner” transaction? Again, have all the details been covered?
– Are there any liens on the property – now or in the past? Have they been handled properly?
– Is the title to the property a proper and correct title?
– Are there any issues regarding the property that were noticed at the buyer’s walk-through prior to closing?
– Is the property in the same condition as it was when the purchase offer was made?
– What is the proper course of action if a major issue such as hazardous materials, building defect or zoning irregularity regarding the property is discovered just before closing?
– What happens if the buyer has not brought adequate funds to the closing?
– If this is a transaction for a condominium, have all conditions been met?

These issues probably will not show up at most closings. In fact, at most closings, attorneys and real estate agents are there only to make sure the closing itself goes smoothly. If the title company, any escrow agents and real estate agents for the property involved have done their jobs and there are no surprises, there is usually no need for an attorney.

Yes, it is frustrating to add the cost of legal representation to the costs of buying or selling a property. If the closing goes smoothly without any problems or challenges, there was no need for an attorney to be present. When that happens, the peace of mind that comes from knowing your purchase or sale is complete and correct is well worth the investment in legal advice.

Four More Ways You Can Find Your Dream Vacation Rental

Does the new school year already have a vacation on your mind? You’re in luck! Last month, we discussed four ways to help you find your dream rental. Here are some more tips to keep in mind while searching for your vacation home. And may these happy thoughts help you survive the new school year!

  1. Look at different sites. You may have a favorite site to search for rentals, but it’s never a bad idea to search on different sites in order to find the best deal. Even better is if you know the neighborhood you want to stay in, as location-specific sites often have high-quality listings that many don’t know about.
  2. Avoid areas that are heavy in tourist traffic. The more tourism in the area, the more expensive the place will be. Search for areas near public transit or are a short ride away from popular spots.
  3. Spend your money wisely. While you don’t want to overspend, you also don’t want to be too cheap. Make a list of what you’ll need in a place and what you’d like to have in a place, and then go from there. It’s possible to find a place that is both affordable and enjoyable.
  4. Be cautious. The majority of online listings are legitimate; however, the risk of fraud still exists. Avoid this conflict by contacting the property manager before agreeing to pay for anything. Ask them some questions, acquire all of the info you can gather about the property, and leave the situation if anything seems unusual or doesn’t feel right. There are a lot of sites that offer security measures and reviews, so you’ll get an idea of what you’re working with. When making a purchase, use your credit card since this type of payment has built-in fraud protection.

Four Ways You Can Find Your Dream Vacation Rental, Pt. 1

Whether you’re looking for a beach house or a cabin in the mountains, there are so many different types of vacation rentals to choose from. Now that we are in the age of people preferring rentals over hotels, it’s possible to also save money while looking for your great escape. Here are some tips to keep in mind while searching for your vacation home.

  1. Have an idea as to what you want. Ask yourself some questions when thinking about a vacation rental. Questions such as – “Do I want to lounge around or stay busy?” “Am I bringing children along? If so, how many?” “Do I want an ocean or mountain view?” Knowing what you’re looking for will help narrow down the many choices available to you. If you’re going with a group, consult with them so everyone gets something they’re wanting out of the rental.
  2. Stay ahead of the rest. In order to grab your dream rental home before the rest, you’ll want to book it as early as possible. It is suggested to book one year in advance, if possible unless you’re headed to areas like Florida or Arizona, where the destination is considered popular. Those areas usually have plenty of rentals to choose from, so it’s possible you could book last minute and still see a price reduction.
  3. Keep your dates flexible. If you’re traveling to Europe during summer, prices are going to be rather high and competition for rentals will be fierce. If you move your vacation to spring or fall, however, you’re more likely to find better prices and availability. Same could also be said on locations here in the US. Thankfully, many booking sites have fare charts that allow users to track rates over time. If you reserve in the last week of an offseason, you may just save hundreds on the rental.
  4. Know rental terms. Know the difference between beachfront and oceanfront, direct ski access and ski-in/ski-out, and what all is included in a garden view. Ask for photos of the property if there aren’t any included online and ask questions about any terms you aren’t sure about.
basketball goal

What You Can’t Take With You Once You Sell Your Home

It’s possible for the drama to occur if you take something from your home once you sell it without talking to the buyer first. It could affect the sale; it could also result in a lawsuit against you. Here are some guidelines as to what can’t go with you once you sell your home.

  1. Anything nailed, bolted, or mounted. Things such as built-in furniture, fences, and storage sheds should stay behind. As for AC units, if it is placed in a window, you can take it with you. But, if the house has been modified for something, it should stay since it is technically a fixture. However, if you insist on taking it with you, be upfront and tell the buyer as soon as possible.
  2. We’re not talking about house plants, of course, but the ones outside. There may be an exception if the plant was a special gift, but most will not allow you to dig up plants or trees since they are a part of the property.
  3. Light fixtures. Don’t be tempted to take light fixtures with you, as you will be leaving behind a bunch of wires hanging from the ceiling. The buyer is purchasing what they saw the day they viewed the property; if the seller tries to change something after that day, it is illegal. If there is a light fixture you simply can’t part with, take it out of the home before the potential buyer visits.
  4. Window treatments. Even if they’re custom blinds, they should stay. Curtains are considered personal property because they easily slide off rods. Rods and blinds, however, are attached to the house and are considered a part of it. Same applies to mirrors – if they are hung on the wall, they are personal property; bolted ones should stay.
  5. Items anchored in the ground. If a basketball hoop is cemented into the ground, it is to be sold along with the house; the same goes for swing sets.