Buying and Selling Tips

10 Tips for Lowering your Homeowner's Insurance Costs

10/20/2014

Here are 10 tips to keep your costs down.

1. Review the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report on the property you’re interested in buying. CLUE reports detail the property’s claims history for the most recent five years, which insurers may use to deny coverage. Make the sale contingent on a home inspection to ensure that problems identified in the CLUE report have been repaired.

2. Seek insurance coverage as soon as your offer is approved. You must obtain insurance to buy. And you don’t want to be told at closing that the insurer has denied your coverage.

3. Maintain good credit. Insurers often use credit-based insurance scores to determine premiums.

4. Buy your home owners and auto policies from the same company and you’ll usually qualify for savings. But make sure the discount really yields the lowest price.

5. Raise your deductible. If you can afford to pay more toward a loss that occurs, your premiums will be lower. Avoid making claims under $1,000.

6. Ask about other discounts. For example, retirees who tend to be home more than full-time workers may qualify for a discount on theft insurance. You also may be able to obtain discounts for having smoke detectors, a burglar alarm, or dead-bolt locks.

7. Seek group discounts. If you belong to any groups, such as associations or alumni organizations, they may have deals on insurance coverage.

8. Review your policy limits and the value of your home and possessions annually. Some items depreciate and may not need as much coverage.

9. Investigate a government-backed insurance plan. In some high-risk areas, federal or state government may back plans to lower rates. Ask your agent.

10. Be sure you insure your house for the correct amount. Remember, you’re covering replacement cost, not market value.

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine (RealtorMag.Realtor.org) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Ten Tips for Lowering your Homeowner's Insurance Cost

10/20/2014

Here are 10 tips to keep your costs down.

1. Review the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report on the property you’re interested in buying. CLUE reports detail the property’s claims history for the most recent five years, which insurers may use to deny coverage. Make the sale contingent on a home inspection to ensure that problems identified in the CLUE report have been repaired.

2. Seek insurance coverage as soon as your offer is approved. You must obtain insurance to buy. And you don’t want to be told at closing that the insurer has denied your coverage.

3. Maintain good credit. Insurers often use credit-based insurance scores to determine premiums.

4. Buy your home owners and auto policies from the same company and you’ll usually qualify for savings. But make sure the discount really yields the lowest price.

5. Raise your deductible. If you can afford to pay more toward a loss that occurs, your premiums will be lower. Avoid making claims under $1,000.

6. Ask about other discounts. For example, retirees who tend to be home more than full-time workers may qualify for a discount on theft insurance. You also may be able to obtain discounts for having smoke detectors, a burglar alarm, or dead-bolt locks.

7. Seek group discounts. If you belong to any groups, such as associations or alumni organizations, they may have deals on insurance coverage.

8. Review your policy limits and the value of your home and possessions annually. Some items depreciate and may not need as much coverage.

9. Investigate a government-backed insurance plan. In some high-risk areas, federal or state government may back plans to lower rates. Ask your agent.

10. Be sure you insure your house for the correct amount. Remember, you’re covering replacement cost, not market value.

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine (RealtorMag.Realtor.org) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What You Can Do to Improve Credit

10/16/2014

Credit scores, along with your overall income and debt, are big factors in determining whether you’ll qualify for a loan and what your loan terms will be. So, keep your credit score high by doing the following:

1. Check for and correct any errors in your credit report. Mistakes happen, and you could be paying for someone else’s poor financial management.

2. Pay down credit card bills. If possible, pay off the entire balance every month. Transferring credit card debt from one card to another could lower your score.

3. Don’t charge your credit cards to the maximum limit.

4. Wait 12 months after credit difficulties to apply for a mortgage. You’re penalized less for problems after a year.

5. Don’t order large items for your new home on credit until after the loan is approved.  Purchasing large items such as appliances and furniture will add to your debt.

6. Don’t open new credit card accounts before applying for a mortgage. Too much available credit can lower your score.

7. Shop for mortgage rates all at once. Too many credit applications can lower your score, but multiple inquiries from the same type of lender are counted as one inquiry if submitted over a short period of time.

8. Avoid finance companies. Even if you pay the loan on time, the interest is high and it will probably be considered a sign of poor credit management.

This information is copyrighted by the Fannie Mae Foundation and is used with permission of the Fannie Mae Foundation.

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine (RealtorMag.Realtor.org) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What You Can Do to Improve Your Credit

10/16/2014

Credit scores, along with your overall income and debt, are big factors in determining whether you’ll qualify for a loan and what your loan terms will be. So, keep your credit score high by doing the following:

1. Check for and correct any errors in your credit report. Mistakes happen, and you could be paying for someone else’s poor financial management.

2. Pay down credit card bills. If possible, pay off the entire balance every month. Transferring credit card debt from one card to another could lower your score.

3. Don’t charge your credit cards to the maximum limit.

4. Wait 12 months after credit difficulties to apply for a mortgage. You’re penalized less for problems after a year.

5. Don’t order large items for your new home on credit until after the loan is approved.  Purchasing large items such as appliances and furniture will add to your debt.

6. Don’t open new credit card accounts before applying for a mortgage. Too much available credit can lower your score.

7. Shop for mortgage rates all at once. Too many credit applications can lower your score, but multiple inquiries from the same type of lender are counted as one inquiry if submitted over a short period of time.

8. Avoid finance companies. Even if you pay the loan on time, the interest is high and it will probably be considered a sign of poor credit management.

This information is copyrighted by the Fannie Mae Foundation and is used with permission of the Fannie Mae Foundation.

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine (RealtorMag.Realtor.org) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What Should a Home Inspection Cover?

10/13/2014

Home inspections will vary depending on the type of property you are purchasing. A large historic home, for example, will require a more specialized inspection than a small condominium. However, the following are the basic elements that a home inspector will check. You can also use this list to help you evaluate properties you might purchase.

For more information, try the virtual home inspection at www.ASHI.org, the web site of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

Structure: A home’s skeleton impacts how the property stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected.

Exterior: The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.

Doors and windows
Siding
(brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, wood, etc.)
Driveways/sidewalks
Attached porches, decks, and balconies

Roofing: A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.

Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems.

Electrical: Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room. 

Heating: The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.

Air Conditioning: Your inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system.

Interiors: An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at:

Walls, ceilings and floors
Steps, stairways, and railings
Countertops and cabinets
Garage doors and garage door systems

Ventilation/insulation: To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and water damage.  

Fireplaces: They’re charming, but they could be dangerous if not properly installed. Inspectors should examine the system, including the vent and flue, and describe solid fuel burning appliances.

Source: American Society of Home Inspectors (www.AHSI.org)

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine (RealtorMag.Realtor.org) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What Should a Home Inspection Cover?

10/13/2014

Home inspections will vary depending on the type of property you are purchasing. A large historic home, for example, will require a more specialized inspection than a small condominium. However, the following are the basic elements that a home inspector will check. You can also use this list to help you evaluate properties you might purchase.

For more information, try the virtual home inspection at www.ASHI.org, the web site of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

Structure: A home’s skeleton impacts how the property stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected.

Exterior: The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.

Doors and windows
Siding
(brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, wood, etc.)
Driveways/sidewalks
Attached porches, decks, and balconies

Roofing: A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.

Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems.

Electrical: Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room. 

Heating: The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.

Air Conditioning: Your inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system.

Interiors: An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at:

Walls, ceilings and floors
Steps, stairways, and railings
Countertops and cabinets
Garage doors and garage door systems

Ventilation/insulation: To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and water damage.  

Fireplaces: They’re charming, but they could be dangerous if not properly installed. Inspectors should examine the system, including the vent and flue, and describe solid fuel burning appliances.

Source: American Society of Home Inspectors (www.AHSI.org)

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine (RealtorMag.Realtor.org) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

10 Ways to Prepare for Home Ownership

9/9/2014

Thinking of buying your first home? Get started here with these tips.

 

  1. Decide what you can afford. Generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between two and three times your gross income.

  2. Develop your home wish list. Then, prioritize the features on your list.

  3. Select where you want to live. Compile a list of three or four neighborhoods you’d like to live in, taking into account items such as schools, recreational facilities, area expansion plans, and safety.

  4. Start saving. Do you have enough money saved to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment? Ideally, you should have 20 percent of the purchase price saved as a down payment. Also, don’t forget to factor in closing costs. Closing costs — including taxes, attorney’s fee, and transfer fees — average between 2 and 7 percent of the home price.

  5. Get your credit in order. Obtain a copy of your credit report to make sure it is accurate and to correct any errors immediately. A credit report provides a history of your credit, bad debts, and any late payments.

  6. Determine your mortgage qualifications. How large of mortgage do you qualify for? Also, explore different loan options — such as 30-year or 15-year fixed mortgages or ARMs — and decide what’s best for you.

  7. Get preapproved. Organize all the documentation a lender will need to preapprove you for a loan. You might need W-2 forms, copies of at least one pay stub, account numbers, and copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements.

  8. Weigh other sources of help with a down payment. Do you qualify for any special mortgage or down payment assistance programs? Check with your state and local government on down payment assistance programs for first-time buyers. Or, if you have an IRA account, you can use the money you’ve saved to buy your fist home without paying a penalty for early withdrawal.

  9. Calculate the costs of homeownership. This should include property taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities, and association fees, if applicable.

  10. Contact The Siscos Group REALTORS.  An experienced REALTOR®can help guide you through the process. Call us at 913-766-2195 or email today.

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine (RealtorMag.Realtor.org) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a REALTOR®

9/9/2014

Make sure you choose a realtor who will provide top-notch service and meet your unique needs. Call The Siscos Group REALTORS today at 913-766-2195 we'll be happy to answer your questions.

1. How long have you been in residential real estate sales? Is it your full-time job? While experience is no guarantee of skill, real estate — like many other professions — is mostly learned on the job.

2. What designations do you hold? Designations such as GRI and CRS® — which require that agents take additional, specialized real estate training — are held by only about one-quarter of real estate practitioners.

3. How many homes did you and your real estate brokerage sell last year? By asking this question, you’ll get a good idea of how much experience the practitioner has.

4. How many days did it take you to sell the average home? How did that compare to the overall market? The REALTOR® you interview should have these facts on hand, and be able to present market statistics from the local MLS to provide a comparison.

5. How close to the initial asking prices of the homes you sold were the final sale prices? This is one indication of how skilled the REALTOR® is at pricing homes and marketing to suitable buyers. Of course, other factors also may be at play, including an exceptionally hot or cool real estate market.

6. What types of specific marketing systems and approaches will you use to sell my home? You don’t want someone who’s going to put a For Sale sign in the yard and hope for the best. Look for someone who has aggressive and innovative approaches, and knows how to market your property competitively on the Internet. Buyers today want information fast, so it’s important that your REALTOR® is responsive.

7. Will you represent me exclusively, or will you represent both the buyer and the seller in the transaction? While it’s usually legal to represent both parties in a transaction, it’s important to understand where the practitioner’s obligations lie. Your REALTOR® should explain his or her agency relationship to you and describe the rights of each party.

8. Can you recommend service providers who can help me obtain a mortgage, make home repairs, and help with other things I need done? Because REALTORS® are immersed in the industry, they’re wonderful resources as you seek lenders, home improvement companies, and other home service providers. Practitioners should generally recommend more than one provider and let you know if they have any special relationship with or receive compensation from any of the providers.

9. What type of support and supervision does your brokerage office provide to you? Having resources such as in-house support staff, access to a real estate attorney, and assistance with technology can help an agent sell your home.

10. What’s your business philosophy? While there’s no right answer to this question, the response will help you assess what’s important to the agent and determine how closely the agent’s goals and business emphasis mesh with your own.

11. How will you keep me informed about the progress of my transaction? How frequently? Again, this is not a question with a correct answer, but it reflects your desires. Do you want updates twice a week or do you not want to be bothered unless there’s a hot prospect? Do you prefer phone, e-mail, or a personal visit?

12. Could you please give me the names and phone numbers of your three most recent clients? Ask recent clients if they would work with this REALTOR® again. Find out whether they were pleased with the communication style, follow-up, and work ethic of the REALTOR®.

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine (RealtorMag.Realtor.org) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Why You Should Work With a REALTOR®

9/9/2014

Not all real estate practitioners are REALTORS®. The term REALTOR® is a registered trademark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics. Here are nine reasons why it pays to work with a REALTOR®. 

1. You’ll have an expert to guide you through the process. Buying or selling a home usually requires disclosure forms, inspection reports, mortgage documents, insurance policies, deeds, and multi-page settlement statements. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal, and avoid delays or costly mistakes.

2. Get objective information and opinions. REALTORS® can provide local community information on utilities, zoning, schools, and more. They’ll also be able to provide objective information about each property. A professional will be able to help you answer these two important questions: Will the property provide the environment I want for a home or investment? Second, will the property have resale value when I am ready to sell?

3. Find the best property out there. Sometimes the property you are seeking is available but not actively advertised in the market, and it will take some investigation by your REALTOR® to find all available properties.

4. Benefit from their negotiating experience. There are many negotiating factors, including but not limited to price, financing, terms, date of possession, and inclusion or exclusion of repairs, furnishings, or equipment. In addition, the purchase agreement should provide a period of time for you to complete appropriate inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase. Your agent can advise you as to which investigations and inspections are recommended or required.

5.  Property marketing power. Real estate doesn’t sell due to advertising alone. In fact, a large share of real estate sales comes as the result of a practitioner’s contacts through previous clients, referrals, friends, and family. When a property is marketed with the help of a REALTOR®, you do not have to allow strangers into your home. Your REALTOR® will generally prescreen and accompany qualified prospects through your property.

6. Real estate has its own language. If you don’t know a CMA from a PUD, you can understand why it’s important to work with a professional who is immersed in the industry and knows the real estate language.

7. REALTORS® have done it before. Most people buy and sell only a few homes in a lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each purchase. And even if you’ve done it before, laws and regulations change. REALTORS®, on the other hand, handle hundreds of real estate transactions over the course of their career. Having an expert on your side is critical.

8. Buying and selling is emotional. A home often symbolizes family, rest, and security — it’s not just four walls and a roof. Because of this, home buying and selling can be an emotional undertaking. And for most people, a home is the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you stay focused on both the emotional and financial issues most important to you.

9. Ethical treatment. Every member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS® makes a commitment to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics, which is based on professionalism and protection of the public. As a customer of a REALTOR®, you can expect honest and ethical treatment in all transaction-related matters. It is mandatory for REALTORS® to take the Code of Ethics orientation and they are also required to complete a refresher course every four years.

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine (RealtorMag.Realtor.org) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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