Monday, August 09, 2010

Tips for Finding the Perfect Neighborhood

Photo ©Teresa Butler 2010. All rights reserved.

The neighborhood you choose can have a big impact on your lifestyle—safety, available amenities, and convenience all play their part.



Make a list of the activities—movies, health club, church—you engage in regularly and stores you visit frequently. See how far you would have to travel from each neighborhood you’re considering to engaging in your most common activities.



Check out the school district. The Department of Education in your town can probably provide information on test scores, class size, percentage of students who attend college, and special enrichment programs. If you have school-age children, also consider paying a visit to schools in the neighborhoods you’re considering. Even if you don’t have children, a house in a good school district will be easier to sell in the future.



Find out if the neighborhood is safe. Ask the police department for neighborhood crime statistics. Consider not only the number of crimes but also the type—burglaries, armed robberies—and the trend of increasing or decreasing crime. Also, is crime centered in only one part of the neighborhood, such as near a retail area?



Determine if the neighborhood is economically stable. Check with your local city economic development office to see if income and property values in the neighborhood are stable or rising. What is the percentage of homes to apartments? Apartments don’t necessarily diminish value, but they do mean a more transient population. Do you see vacant businesses or homes that have been for sale for months?



See if you’ll make money. Ask Teresa for the local appreciation trends in the area. Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, this information may give you a sense of how good an investment your home will be. Teresa may also be able to  tell you about planned developments or other changes in the neighborhood—like a new school or highway—that might affect value.

See for yourself. Once you’ve narrowed your focus to two or three neighborhoods, go there, and walk around. Are homes tidy and well maintained? Are streets quiet? Pick a warm day if you can and chat with people working or playing outside. Are they friendly? Are their children to play with your family?

For more information on neighborhoods and buying a home visit: http://teresabutler.com/

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Renters take note: patch and repair to reclaim your full deposit
(ARA) - Whether you're renting a truck or paying for movers, costs can add up quickly when you're changing residences. If you've been renting, the full return of your security deposit may come as sweet relief as you move from one place to the next.

Because you've been without that healthy chunk of change since moving in to the place you're now leaving, anything less than a full refund would be a disappointment. It would be a shame if a spot on the carpet, a broken blind or knick gave your landlord a reason to withhold a large portion, or all, of your security deposit.


With a careful eye and some elbow grease, you can ensure that you get your full deposit back and put the money to good use during the next phase of your life. Home improvement experts and authors of "Dare to Repair" Julie Sussman and Stephanie Glakas-Tenet teamed up with Lowe's to offer the following tips for getting your full deposit back:

* Work with your landlord. Obtain a list from your landlord that defines normal wear and tear, as well as tasks that must be completed upon moving out. If possible, have your landlord do a walk-through with you before moving out. If not, take photos so you have proof of the condition your residence was in when you left.

* Pack first, clean later. While cleaning and making minor repairs are integral to getting your deposit back, it's a lot easier to do once everything has been cleared out of your residence. A home improvement store like Lowe's will have all the boxes and moving supplies you may need.

* Dust and vacuum. Do not limit to just floors and obvious places. Dust light fixtures, ceiling fan blades and around the windows. Vacuum closets and under appliances.

* Clean appliances. Check the manufacturer's website for instructions on cleaning the oven. This can take hours, so budget your time accordingly. Clean the refrigerator with a warm, soapy rag and move shelves to be cleaned to the sink. Dry the shelves before returning to the fridge. A handy trick for cleaning microwaves is to fill a microwave-safe bowl with water and half a lemon and heat it for a few minutes. Remove the bowl, wear an oven mitt and wipe down the inside with a wet rag. Clean the exterior of your washer and dryer and remove lint.

* Make sure the kitchen and bathrooms are spotless. Use specialty cleaners for toilets, sinks and other surfaces if necessary.

* Touch up walls. Use lightweight joint compound for nail holes and wall repair patch over larger holes. Let the filling dry, sand and paint. For cracks, use wall repair tape, let dry, sand and dust. Reapply and follow the same process before painting. To find the right paint, take a chip of paint to a home improvement  store and have it matched to the original paint color. Consider a one-coat-and-you're-done paint like Valspar Signature, which is carried by Lowe's, to save time.

* Clean carpeting. Before spot-cleaning the carpet, test the carpet cleaning product in an out-of-sight area.

* Replace broken items. Look for burnt-out or broken light bulbs both inside and out and replace. Check for blinds and shades that are broken.

* Clean up outside. Pick up trash. Mow and sweep if necessary.

* Donate items you don't want or need. Look for local charitable organizations that could use the items instead of throwing them out. Ask for a receipt so you can write off your donations on your taxes.

For more help with your moving needs, visit your local Lowe's or lowes.com/moving.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Photo ©Teresa Butler 2010. All rights reserved.
Five Surprising Reasons to Buy a Home Now
Low mortgage rates serve as an equity shock absorber. When buyers borrow at today's record-low rates, they start building equity as soon as they close. That means they can absorb a few ups and downs as the still-recovering housing market gains traction.

Houses are in move-in condition. Home owners have continued to spend on maintenance and repair, according to the Harvard Joint Center on Housing. As these houses enter the market, they are in marked contrast to tattered foreclosures.

Terrific houses are coming on the market. Foreclosures are finally starting to clear the system, and they are being replaced by some very attractive properties.

Appraisal regulations are finally aligned with market realities. Fannie Mae has adjusted its appraisal guidelines, giving appraisers more flexibility to set values that reflect the current market.

Plenty of programs. Many programs that encourage middle-class families to buy homes continue to exist, despite market downturns. Buyers who qualify can get a big boost by combining one of these programs with today's low mortgage rates.

Source: ForSaleByOwner.com (07/29/2010)

Monday, August 02, 2010

Weighing the costs of walking away from an upside-down mortgage

(ARA) - Owing more on your mortgage than your house is worth may seem like a bad investment. But the alternative - choosing to default on your mortgage even if you can afford the monthly payments - will take a significant toll on your credit rating.

"Strategically defaulting - deciding to stop paying your mortgage regardless of your ability to actually carry the debt - will have a far-reaching, long-lasting impact on your ability to secure future credit," says Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education for global information services company Experian, one of the three large credit reporting companies that receive and update consumer credit histories which are scored to help predict risk. "It's by no means a move to be undertaken lightly."

About 355,000 borrowers strategically defaulted in the first half of 2009, according to research conducted as part of the Experian-Oliver Wyman Market Intelligence Reports. Interestingly, Experian and Oliver Wyman found that the homeowners most likely to strategically default were also those with the highest credit scores.

While it may seem like a good move to simply stop paying and walk away from a bad investment, keep several factors in mind when you consider strategic default:

* It's very final. Strategic default will lead to foreclosure by the lender. Foreclosure will negatively impact your credit report and scores. In fact, only bankruptcy will affect your scores more adversely than foreclosure.

For more information on just how severe the impact can be, VantageScore LLC recently completed a study that evaluates the effect that foreclosures, bankruptcies, short sales, and various mortgage programs have on consumers' VantageScore credit scores.

* The default will remain on your credit report for seven years. Since credit scores are based on information in your credit report, the foreclosure will greatly impact your credit scores during those seven years. Securing other credit at reasonable terms and rates will be very difficult, if not impossible, during that time.

* Potential lenders aren't the only ones looking at credit reports these days. Insurers, employers and even cell phone companies are considering the creditworthiness of those who want to do business with them. By impacting your credit report, a strategic default may affect your ability to get a job, secure insurance and enter into important service contracts.

* Fannie Mae, the government-controlled mortgage giant, announced on June 23 policy changes that will make you ineligible for a new Fannie-Mae-backed mortgage if you walk away from a current mortgage that you actually could afford to pay. The ineligibility will last for seven years from the date of foreclosure.

* Finally, in some cases, the debt that foreclosure "erases" may be recorded as income, which means you will have to pay taxes on it.

"Strategic default may seem like 'walking away' from a bad debt, but it's really anything but," Sweet says. "While you will no longer have to pay the actual debt, you'll almost certainly 'pay' in other ways, in the form of lowered credit scores and a drastically curtailed ability to secure future credit for the next seven years. Higher interest rates and unfavorable terms could end up costing you more in the long run than continuing to pay on an upside-down mortgage."

To learn more about credit management, credit reports, credit scores and the factors that affect them, visit www.Experian.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent