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LaDonna Simpson
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14 Things to Consider Before Buying a Home

Decorating a Contemporary Dining Room

Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment

Wait! That house may seem like everything you’ve ever wanted, but before you make an offer, take some time to consider a few things beyond the size, style and price.

When buying a home, it’s easy to let emotions get in the way of reality, or get sudden amnesia about factors that may make a difference.
“Sometimes we want something so badly, we’re not willing to ask all the questions we should,” says Leslie Levine, author of “Will This Place Ever Feel Like Home?”

For instance, she says, you may see a basketball hoop over the garage and assume the neighborhood is great for kids. But a closer inspection may show that it’s rusted and hasn’t seen a ball in a decade, and that other yards in the neighborhood have no jungle gyms or tire swings out back.

1. Visit at various times of day

The windows that let in so much light during the day may be a peeping Tom’s dream at night. That seemingly quiet residential street may be a noisy, highway-feeder street during morning or evening rush hour; or it may be near impossible to get from your quiet street across traffic and onto the feeder street in the morning. The adjacent school may seem like a nice perk if you’re buying in the summer, but during the school year, daily playground noise and extra traffic may be more than you bargained for.

2. Look through recent newspaper archives

“Make sure you’re getting information on what you can’t see,” Levine suggests. Perhaps the municipal water well that feeds your neighborhood has high levels of contaminants or a proposed high-voltage power line may soon be coming through your back yard. You can also check with the city or county to see if there are any proposed projects.

3. Talk to neighbors

How many people in the neighborhood own their homes? Sometimes it’s hard to tell at first if you’re choosing a neighborhood that’s primarily rental houses.

4. Ask if the neighborhood has an association

“Is there a newsletter for it? How often does the neighborhood get together? Do they have a block party every year?” Levine asks. “Even if you don’t plan to attend, the fact that they’re having a gathering says they care about their community, that they want to get to know each other, that they’re willing to socialize that way. People who behave that way are building a community. They’re going to look out for your kids; they’re going to look out for your house. It’s a nice, safe way to celebrate something.”

5. Quiz the sellers

What problems are they aware of that the house had in the past – even if they’ve been fixed? An ice dam five years ago may have caused water damage that has since been repaired. But it’s good to know that the house may be prone to ice dams so you can take preventive measures rather than find out the hard way. Discovering the basement flooding was solved by building up the landscaping in a particular area will prevent you from leveling the ground there in later years.

6. Get a home inspection

Virtually all houses have defects, according to National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents. Some will be obvious and most will be curable. But knowing what needs fixing can help you negotiate a lower price – or at least prepare you for costs you’re soon to incur. Strongly consider getting inspections, too, for lead paint, radon and wood-eating pests.

7. Get detailed records on past improvements

This isn’t always possible. But if you’re told the house’s exterior was painted two years ago – and then see a receipt noting the whole project cost just $1,000 – then you’ll be forewarned that cheaper materials were used and that you may be looking at repainting sooner than you thought.

8. Don’t just assume remodeling will be a snap

If you voice your ideas to the sellers, you may be able to glean valuable insights. For instance, perhaps that shower is in an odd location because, when remodeling 10 years ago, the previous owners discovered a costly structural impediment to putting a shower where it would seem more appropriate.

9. Consider the view

“So many neighborhoods now have teardowns. So look at the two houses on either side of you. If this neighborhood has had some teardowns, one of those houses might be a candidate. And they may build some behemoth structure that affects your light or the way your house looks or your view,” Levine says.

10. Ask for utility bills

You may adore the Cape Cod architectural style or the high ceilings and walls of glass in a modern home – but those winter heating and summer cooling bills may push your monthly payments beyond affordable. Ditto for the water bills you’ll pay to maintain a pristine landscape.

11. Pay close attention to taxes

Don’t just ask what the seller’s most recent tax bill was; ask what several recent tax bills have been. In some areas, houses are re-appraised – and taxed at higher rates – frequently. That great deal and good investment may not seem quite so grand if the property taxes skyrocket year after year. Again, look at newspaper archives or talk to your Realtor about the way taxes are used in this area. In some cities, schools are substantially funded through property taxes – which means you can count on yours increasing regularly.

12. Check with city hall

NAEBA recommends looking into the property’s and neighborhood’s zoning, as well as any potential easements, liens or other restrictions relating to your property. The seller should disclose these facts, but it’s better to be safe. If you’re using a buyer’s agent, he or she should be able to help you with this.

13. Reconsider the bells and whistles

Are you sure you can live with a one-car garage, or a detached garage, or on-street parking? The pool may be a nice bonus, but can you afford the upkeep?

14. Explore the surrounding area

If you’re not just making a cross-town move, you may not know that only three blocks away, this pretty neighborhood backs up to a dumpy commercial area or a less-than-savory part of town. If the home is near an airport, fire station, police station, hospital or railroad track, expect to hear trains, planes or ambulances throughout the day and night. Make sure you’re not too close to an agricultural area that may generate odors or kick up dust or other airborne problems.

Harrington, Diane Benson. “14 Things to Consider Before Buying a Home.” Realtor.com. N.p., n.d. Web.

Signs That You’re Ready to Buy

Signs That You're Ready to Buy

Six tips that tell you it’s time

Figuring out whether you’re ready to buy a house, whether you’re a renter or are aiming to move up or size down, can be a daunting task. But there are signs that will indicate whether you’re ready to take the buying plunge.
If you are thinking about buying, you’re not alone. So are you ready to make the move?
You might be if you:

1. Are familiar with the market.

If you’ve been paying attention to how much houses are listed for in the neighborhoods you’re eyeing and have a realistic view of how much a house will cost you, you’re in good shape. But if you’re dreaming about that big corner house with no clue about it’s asking price, you may want to spend some more time becoming familiar with the market and how much houses are going for.

2. Have the money for a down payment and closing costs.

The down payment is a percentage of the value of the property. Freddie Mac says the percentage will be determined by the type of mortgage you select. Down payments usually range from 3 to 20 percent of the property value. Also, you may be required to have Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI or MI) if your down payment is less than 20 percent. Closing costs include points, taxes, title insurance, financing costs and items that must be prepaid or escrowed and other settlement costs. You can expect to pay between from 2 to 7 percent of the property value. Generally, buyers will receive an estimate of these costs from your lender after you apply for a mortgage.

3. Know how much you can afford.

Freddie Mac says that as a general guide, your monthly mortgage payment should be less than or equal to a percentage of your income, usually about a quarter of your gross monthly income. Also, your income, debt and credit history go into determining how much you can borrow. As a general rule, your debt -credit card bills, car loans, housing expenses, alimony and child support — should not be more than about 30 to 40 percent of your gross income.

4. Know what additional expenses will come with owning a home.

This includes homeowners insurance, utility bills, maintenance costs — roofing, plumbing, heating and cooling.

5. Have your credit in good shape and make sure your credit report is accurate.

Potential lenders will view your credit history — how much debt you’ve accrued, how many accounts you have open, whether your payments are made on time, etc. — to determine whether they’ll give you a loan. You should get a report from each of the three credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union.

6. You haven’t made any recent major purchases, particularly a vehicle.

If you do, you may have a harder time getting a loan — or it could potentially lower the amount you’ll be approved for.

Dawson, Michele. “Signs That You’re Ready to Buy.” Realtor.com. Copyright © by Realty Times, n.d. Web.

10 Summer Moving Tips

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How to prepare for a seamless transition

If you’re moving this summer, the busiest season for moving, you know how daunting it can be. But if you create a blueprint for your move, the transition from house to house will go more smoothly.

Here are 10 things you can do to prepare for a seamless transition.

1. Full serve, partial serve or a do-it-yourself move.

Can you do it alone or should you hire a licensed moving company for a full-service or partial-service move? This is one of the first and often most difficult questions soon-to-be moving households face. The answer depends on your lifestyle, household size, budget and amount of time you have to get everything accomplished. Get written quotes from at least three licensed moving companies so you know you’re getting the best deal based on your specific moving needs. Moving yourself or doing a partial-service move? Packing calculators can make it easier to estimate the amount of boxes and packing materials needed.

2. Plan to unpack BEFORE you pack.

Take photos of each room in the new home before you arrive with furniture, plants, appliances and family in tow. Write down on a clip board where each item should go in your next home before packing, and carry it with you on moving day. List out the major items that need to be assembled first. As you place each item in its new room, cross it off the list and you will be one step closer to enjoying your new home.

3. Be strategic about packing.

If you have more than a month to ‘pick up and move’, start early. Complete a free change of address and schedule utilities ahead of time at Moving.com. Start packing early. Whether it’s one room, one cabinet or a drawer at a time, weed through what may be years of accumulation. As you’re going through your belongings, divide everything into these helpful categories: donate to charity, give to a friend, recycle, trash, pack now, or keep handy until moving day. You’ll be surprised at how much you can donate, recycle or give to friends. And, you’ll not be overwhelmed with the task at hand three days before you move.

4. Moving is NOT child’s play. Plan ahead.

Consider daycare on moving day, or get help from a friend or family member. Provide lunch or some other appropriate thank you gesture if you do call in a favor. If that’s not an option, prioritize setting up safe places for your children to play in the new home on moving day so they’re not underfoot. This will help everyone remain happy and calm on moving day.

5. Don’t fight with Fido.

Sometimes we forget that all the packing and constant in-and-out of visitors is stressful for animals. Consider checking your pet into a daycare facility, or setting up a time for a friend to take them or check them into petday care. Don’t let your four-legged best friends get lost in the shuffle and remember to make day-of moving arrangements.

6. Keep track of small parts.

Some items need to be broken down into pieces when moving, but do you know what to do with the small screws and washers that you end up with? Rather than tape them to the furniture, which can result in losing them, put everything in a baggie that is clearly marked and sealed. Keep all of the separate baggies together in one box on moving day and personally take it with you to your new home.

7. Take pictures of electronic hook-ups.

Hooking up TVs, DVRs, home theater systems and computers can be challenging. Before unplugging any wires for the move, take a photo of the connections, print them out and label them in detail. This will create fewer headaches when setting up technology in the new home. Keep track of all loose wires using baggies or boxes that are clearly labeled, and personally carry these easy-to-lose items on moving day.

8. Packing cleaning products and toxins.

Products such as detergents, pesticides and paint are heavy and unwieldy to pack. Dispose of as many as possible before the move in an eco-friendly way. Call your city’s waste disposal department for guidance on proper disposal. For items that must be transported, pack them in a small box within a larger box for protection against leaks. Don’t overstuff boxes with these items! Consider marking these boxes in a different color, and seal them extra tight. Keep them separate from the rest of the boxes, particularly if you have kids and pets.

9. Consider getting full value insurance protection.

If using a professional mover, it may cost a few dollars extra, but it provides peace of mind and eliminates later annoyances. Investing in full value protection means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made at current market value, regardless of age. It’s important to note that the required minimum coverage of 60 cents per pound would not cover the replacement cost of more expensive items such as a flat screen TV if damaged in transit.

10. Know your rights.

If using a professional mover, research your rights as a consumer with either the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for interstate moves or contact the state agency within the state in which you reside for moves within state. Also, enlist the help of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or local law enforcement if the moving company fails to live up to its promises or threatens to hold your belongings hostage. FMCSA requires interstate movers to offer arbitration to help settle disputed claims.