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Get the Best Mortgage Financing Deal

Few people are able to walk into a home, like what they see and then pay for a house in cash. In the vast majority of home purchases, mortgages make the dream of home ownership a reality.

Getting a mortgage requires research and some preparation on the part of borrowers if they hope to get the friendliest terms possible.

Homes are substantial, decades-long investments, so it’s smart to shop around to find the best rates and lenders available. These tips can make the process of applying and getting a mortgage go smoothly, and may even help borrowers save some money.

· Learn your credit score. Your credit score will be a factor in determining just how much bargaining power you have for lower interest rates on mortgage loans, according to the financial resource NerdWallet. The higher the credit score, the better. Well before shopping for a mortgage, manage your debt, paying it off if possible, and fix any black marks or mistakes on your credit report.

· Investigate various lenders. The Federal Trade Commission says to get information from various sources, whether they are commercial banks, mortgage companies, credit unions, or thrift institutions. Each is likely to quote different rates and prices, and the amount they’re willing to lend you may vary as well. Investigating various lenders can help you rest easy knowing you got the best rate for you. Lenders may charge additional fees that can drive up the overall costs associated with getting a mortgage. Compare these fees as well so you can be sure you get the best deal.

· Consider a mortgage broker. Mortgage brokers will serve as the middle person in the transaction. A broker’s access to several different lenders can translate into a greater array of loan products and terms from which to choose.

· Learn about rates. Become informed of the rate trends in your area. Lower rates translate into significant savings amounts per month and over the life of the loan. Rate may be fixed, though some are adjustable-rate mortgages (also called a variable or floating rate). Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and a financial consultant can discuss what might be in your best interest.

· Discuss points with your financial advisor and lender. Some lenders allow you to pay points in advance, which will lower the interest rate. Get points quoted in dollar amounts so they’ll be easier to compare. If you’re unfamiliar with points, discuss the concept with your financial advisor.

The vast majority of homeowners secured a mortgage to purchase their homes. Learning about the mortgage process can help new buyers navigate these sometimes tricky financial waters.

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Transform Your Bathrooms with Technology

Technology is infiltrating every room of the house. Many new home buyers are millennials, and this tech-savvy demographic covets technological innovations.

A recent survey by Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate indicates 77 percent of Generation X and Y home buyers want their homes equipped with the tech capabilities they have grown accustomed to. Many of these involve smart innovations, including those that can transform one of the most private rooms in the house – the bathroom.

Automated home theater rooms and Wi-Fi-enabled home security systems have become the norm, but what tech improvements are available to make the powder room more in touch with today’s digital lifestyle? According to the home improvement resource The Spruce, bathrooms have the most potential of any rooms to be improved with technology. The following are just some of the bathroom gadgets and gizmos no one should resist before giving a try.

· Automatic faucets: Infrared sensors have been helping keep public restrooms more hygienic for years. The same technology can be used in home bathrooms to curtail water waste and keep faucets and sinks from becoming infested with germs. In addition, faucets with built-in timers can be programmed to set tasks for brushing teeth or washing your face.

· Musical shower: Instead of having to blast the volume on the portable speaker you use in the bathroom, a wireless speaker is built into some showerheads. This enables those who like to sing in the shower or listen to podcasts while washing up to enjoy this luxury effortlessly.

· Smarter weight management: Bathroom scales have gone high-tech as well, with various options enabling users to measure weight, BMI and body fat percentage before sending the data wirelessly to a phone, tablet or computer. This can put you in greater control of fitness goals.

· High-tech toilets: Borrowing ideas from bidets and trends around the world, modern toilets do not require hands or paper. These toilets have temperature-controlled water, spritzing wands and air dryers to clean and sanitize. Self-cleaning toilets help busy professionals save time and are ideal for those who always want their bowls as clean as possible. And if you desire extra comfort, toilet seat warmers are available, while LED lights can make nighttime restroom visits easier.

· Soaking tubs: As fast as stand-alone showers were introduced to the modern bathroom, tubless designs have been replaced with streamlined soaking tubs. Tubs come with different features, including chromatherapy, which employs colored lights to enhance mood. Air baths are controlled electronically and provide different levels of sensation for those who are skipping the hot tub.
Round out these innovations with automated lights, chilled medicine cabinets and aromatherapy, and your bathroom will indeed become a technological spa.

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4 Simple Ways to Cut Mortgage Costs

Monthly mortgage payments are the biggest single expense for many homeowners. So it’s understandable why plenty of homeowners would love to trim those costs.

A host of factors determine how much homeowners pay for their mortgages each month. The cost of the home, the amount of the initial down payment and property taxes, which are often folded into monthly payments, will factor heavily into the cost of home ownership. While homeowners may feel as though there’s little wiggle room to cut the costs of their mortgages, there are several ways to do just that and potentially trim years from the life of a home loan.

MAKE BI-WEEKLY PAYMENTS

Making bi-weekly instead of once-a-month payments can save homeowners substantial amounts of money. A year’s worth of once-a-month payments equates to 12 payments per year. But homeowners who pay on a bi-weekly basis will make 26 half payments, or 13 full payments, per year. That extra annual payment can be applied directly to the principal, dramatically reducing how much homeowners pay in interest over the life of their loans.

STOP PAYING PMI

Homeowners whose initial down payments are less than 20 percent of the sale price will have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI. But once the balances on such mortgages falls below 80 percent, homeowners can cancel such insurance. Homeowners may also be able to stop paying PMI by having their homes reappraised.

REFINANCE THE LOAN

Refinancing a loan also can save homeowners substantial amounts of money each month. Homeowners are typically eligible for lower interest rates when refinancing their loans, meaning they will pay less in interest each month. However, refinancing is not free, so homeowners should first check the going home interest rates and examine their credit scores to see if the interest rate they’re likely to get upon refinancing will save them money. The cost of refinancing might be more than homeowners can save.

REQUEST A TAX REASSESSMENT

Real estate values increase and decrease, and homeowners who feel their homes have decreased in value can request that their homes be reassessed. Homeowners whose homes are assessed at a value lower than the current value can expect to pay less each month in taxes.

Homeowners hoping to cut mortgage costs have various options at their disposal.

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How to Make Moving Much Easier

It should come as no surprise that spring kicks off one of the busiest times of year in the housing market. Warm weather makes it more comfortable to see and display homes, leading to more listings and open houses.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average person in the United States changes residences more than 11 times in his or her lifetime. With each move, the process of moving may become more familiar. But even the most practiced nomad can find moving to be an overwhelming experience.
Those on the cusp of moving and nervous about packing up and leaving can employ a few tricks to make moving much easier.

Research areas carefully

Buyers are advised to do their research when seeking new towns or cities to call home. There are many factors to consider, including school district ratings, proximity to shopping, distance from work/commute times, availability of transportation, climate, and crime ratings.
Before falling in love with a particular home, potential buyers can visit the area in which the home is located during a typical weekday to get a feel for the atmosphere. Check out shopping centers, observe the residents and drive by the schools and businesses. This can help paint an accurate picture that may or may not differ from that depicted in the real estate listing.

Stack the deck

Working with qualified professionals who have gone through the moving process before can make for easier work for buyers and sellers. Ask for recommendations regarding real estate companies, real estate attorneys, home inspectors, insurance agents, and all of the other people who will assist with buying, selling and moving. Carefully vet these professionals, relying on third-party reviews as well as any information provided by the Better Business Bureau.

Secure temporary storage

It can help to put some belongings into a storage center prior to moving, and then gradually take items from the storage unit to your new home. This will free up space to make repairs to your new home and give you time to figure out decorating schemes while ensuring clutter won’t get in the way of renovation projects. New homeowners also can take their time sorting through boxes and getting rid of items they may not need in their new homes.

Get estimates and verify licensing

The BBB advises consumers to verify all licensing for movers. Solicit at least three in-home estimates and get those figures in writing. Confirm insurance coverage for the company chosen, and be sure to have all agreed upon information spelled out explicitly in a written contract. Red flags to consider include movers who don’t make on-site inspections for estimates and those who demand payment in advance before the move.

Have a first-week survival kit

New homeowners can pick up takeout restaurant menus and premade grocery store meals. In addition, stock up on staples such as paper plates, toilet tissue, light bulbs, and cleaning supplies in advance of the move so you won’t have to unpack everything at mealtime or when you want to clean after arriving at your new home.

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3 Ways to Use Your Lawn to Improve Curb Appeal

Returns on home improvement projects vary. In its annual Cost vs. Value Report, Remodeling magazine notes the projects that yield the best returns on investment in a given year. But a host of factors, including the type of market (buyers’ or sellers’) and the region where the home is being sold, ultimately combine to determine if homeowners’ investments in home improvement projects will provide the returns they were hoping for..

Though there’s no way of guaranteeing a home improvement project will yield a great return, real estate professionals often cite improving curb appeal as an excellent way to attract prospective buyers and potentially get the asking price or more when selling the home. Improving curb appeal makes even more sense in today’s real estate market when many people do their own searching via real estate websites such as Trulia or Zillow. When using such sites, buyers will likely be less inclined to click on a listing if exterior photos of the property are not eye-catching.

Various projects, including tending to lawns and gardens, can improve curb appeal. An added benefit of focusing on landscaping to improve curb appeal is it promotes spending time outdoors in spring and summer. In addition, many lawn-and garden-related home improvement projects need not require professional expertise.

1. Maintain a lush green lawn.

Lawns that fall into disrepair may not give buyers a correct impression about how homeowners maintained their homes. Lawns with multiple dead spots and grass that appears more brown than green may lead many buyers to assume that the home’s interior was equally ill-cared for. Maintaining lush green lawns is not as difficult as it may seem. Applying fertilizer and aerating at the appropriate times of year (this varies by region) can promote strong roots and healthy soil, making it easier for grass to survive harsh conditions like drought. When watering in summer, do so in early morning or evening so as little water is lost to evaporation as possible.

2. Address brown patch.

Even well-maintained lawns can fall victims to brown spots. According to the lawn care professionals at TruGreen, lawns in regions with hot temperatures and high humidity can be infected with brown patch, a common lawn disease that is caused by fungus, which can produce circular areas of brown, dead grass surrounded by narrow, dark rings. Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences notes that removing dew that collects on grass leaves each morning, which can be accomplished by mowing or dragging a water hose across affected areas, can be an effective way to reduce brown patch. Homeowners without much lawn care experience can consult professional landscapers to address the issue. But those looking to sell their properties should note that buyers often walk the grounds of homes they are considering buying. So addressing any issues on the lawn should be a priority for sellers.

3. Confine dogs to certain areas.

Dog owners may want to let their pets roam free in their yards. But homeowners about to put their properties up for sale may want to confine their four-legged friends to certain areas. That’s because dog urine can be high in nitrogen. Nitrogen itself is not harmful to lawns, but in high concentrations, it can contribute to yellow or brown spots. Also, highly acidic dog urine may even adversely affect pH levels in the soil.

Curb appeal can go a long way toward helping homeowners sell their homes, and a lush lawn can be used to catch the eye of prospective buyers.

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Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market

The real estate market can be difficult to navigate for both buyers and sellers. First-time buyers can easily become overwhelmed as they search for homes, while sellers hoping to get the best price for their homes might be frustrated if offers are slow to come in or fall short of their asking prices.

If met with an underwhelming market, many sellers can pull their homes off the market and wait until it becomes more advantageous to sell. But buyers, particularly those shopping in a seller’s market, may not have that flexibility. Buying in a seller’s market can be competitive and frustrating, but buyers can employ various strategies to survive such markets and land the homes of their dreams.

· Get mortgage pre-approval. Sellers’ markets typically feature low inventory, which can make the buying process very competitive. Prospective buyers who do not have a mortgage pre-approval letter in hand when making offers may find themselves losing out on their dream homes to fellow buyers who have gotten pre-approval from a lending institution. Sellers may be impatient with buyers who have not yet been pre-approved for a mortgage, even accepting a lesser offer from buyers who are ready to begin transactions immediately. The pre-approval process is relatively quick and simple, so buyers should not hesitate to apply.

· Stick to your budget. Lenders will indicate to prospective buyers how much they’re willing to lend them, and that figure is typically considerably more than buyers are willing to borrow. In a seller’s market, bidding wars can quickly drive up prices, but buyers should stick to their budgets so they are not house poor after buying. Sticking to a budget can be difficult in a seller’s market, but such patience will likely pay off in the long run.

· Be ready to compromise. Unless they have unlimited budgets, buyers often must compromise when purchasing a home. That’s especially true in a seller’s market with limited inventory. Buyers who need to buy a home must identify their needs versus their wants and recognize the likelihood that they will have to compromise.

· Work with real estate agents. Some buyers may be tempted to go it alone, searching for and ultimately buying homes without the help of real estate agents. That can be a foolish move in a seller’s market where competition is high and inventory quickly disappears from the market. Veteran real estate agents have worked in buyers’ and sellers’ markets, and buyers can use that experience to their advantage. In addition, real estate agents likely have access to inventory before homes appear on popular real estate websites, giving buyers working with them a leg up in competitive markets.

Buying a home in a seller’s market can be fast-moving and very competitive. But various strategies can ensure buyers still find great homes at great prices in such markets.

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4 Simple Ways to Cut Mortgage Costs

Monthly mortgage payments are the biggest single expense for many homeowners. So it’s understandable why plenty of homeowners would love to trim those costs.
A host of factors determine how much homeowners pay for their mortgages each month. The cost of the home, the amount of the initial down payment and property taxes, which are often folded into monthly payments, will factor heavily into the cost of homeownership. While homeowners may feel as though there’s little wiggle room to cut the costs of their mortgages, there are several ways to do just that and potentially trim years from the life of a home loan.

MAKE BI-WEEKLY PAYMENTS

Making bi-weekly instead of once-a-month payments can save homeowners substantial amounts of money. A year’s worth of once-a-month payments equates to 12 payments per year. But homeowners who pay on a bi-weekly basis will make 26 half payments, or 13 full payments, per year. That extra annual payment can be applied directly to the principal, dramatically reducing how much homeowners pay in interest over the life of their loans.

STOP PAYING PMI

Homeowners whose initial down payments are less than 20 percent of the sale price will have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI. But once the balances on such mortgages falls below 80 percent, homeowners can cancel such insurance. Homeowners may also be able to stop paying PMI by having their homes reappraised.

REFINANCE THE LOAN

Refinancing a loan also can save homeowners substantial amounts of money each month. Homeowners are typically eligible for lower interest rates when refinancing their loans, meaning they will pay less in interest each month. However, refinancing is not free, so homeowners should first check the going home interest rates and examine their credit scores to see if the interest rate they’re likely to get upon refinancing will save them money. The cost of refinancing might be more than homeowners can save.

REQUEST A TAX REASSESSMENT

Real estate values increase and decrease, and homeowners who feel their homes have decreased in value can request that their homes be reassessed. Homeowners whose homes are assessed at a value lower than the current value can expect to pay less each month in taxes.
Homeowners hoping to cut mortgage costs have various options at their disposal.
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How to Create a Sale-worthy Showplace

The sentiment “don’t judge a book by its cover” can be applied to many situations. When it comes to selling their homes, homeowners should remember this adage as they prepare their homes for prospective buyers. Homeowners who want to make their properties stand out can take the following steps.

De-personalize the home.

Homeowners fill their spaces with family photos, heirlooms, personal interests, and other conversation pieces. Prospective buyers may not be able to see past personal belongings and may even be distracted by them. For example, buyers who have strong beliefs about animal welfare may not buy a home displaying hunting trophies. Remove personalized items where possible, replacing them with generic items.
Improve the exterior.
HGTV says that curb appeal is crucial to making a strong first impression. A messy or lackluster landscape can turn buyers away even before they reach the front door. Mow the lawn and make sure hedge has been trimmed. Seasonal potted flowers and plants can help make the house look polished. Repair cracks or damaged walkways, and consider a fresh coat of paint on the trim around windows and doors. Pressure-wash siding if necessary.

Put things in storage.

Rent a storage unit to house items that can make a home appear cluttered. Clean out closets and cabinets, so that when buyers snoop during appointments or open houses they see orderly storage areas. If closets are brimming with stuff, buyers may assume the house doesn’t have enough storage space and move on.

Make it light and bright.

Open all the drapes and blinds, and turn on overhead lights, so the house is well-lit. Add table lamps or other fixtures to especially dim rooms.
Create a hotel experience.
Forbes suggests making bathrooms look like a spa. Stack a few pretty washcloths tied with ribbon, add some scented candles and faux plants and buy bathmats and towels in coordinating tones. Remove extraneous items from kitchen counters and replace them with vases of flowers. Also, set up dining spaces as if one were sitting down to a meal, and ensure appliances are sparkling clean.

Use common scents.

Skip the fish, bacon or other aromatic meals for a few days, as such foods can leave lingering aromas. Baked goods, vanilla, and cinnamon might make for more appealing scents. Selling a home fast involves preparation and the knowledge that buyers are often greatly influenced by their first impressions.