Community Spotlight: Chapel Trail in Pembroke Pines, FL

Community Spotlight: Chapel Trail in Pembroke Pines, FL

About Chapel Trail:

Chapel Trail is a community located in western Pembroke Pines consisting of 3676 homes and townhomes. Within the overall community, there are 17 smaller communities (sub-associations) ranging in size from 83 to 500 homes, each with it’s own personality and in some cases, amenities. The first homes were built in the late 1980s, with build out completed in the late 1990s. The Chapel Trail development is comprised of a variety of beautiful residences in all styles, sizes and configurations and is conveniently located in the very desirable western Pembroke Pines suburb.

There are over 100 acres of well landscaped green space throughout the community. In addition, just north of part of the community is a 450-acre federally protected wetland area which was set aside as part of the overall development. The City of Pembroke Pines oversees this 450-acre passive park that was established in the 1990s. The wetlands have become home to 120 species of birds, deer, marsh rabbits, alligators, snakes, turtles, large mouth bass, and insects. This nature preserve includes a 1,650-foot long boardwalk and a pavilion for observation.

Pembroke Pines is located in Southern Broward County and is home to some of the most sought after neighborhoods in all of Broward County. The nearby cities of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami are close enough to enjoy all of the nightlife and action, but away from all of the everyday hustle and bustle. Pembroke Pines is a welcoming, friendly, and warm community, offering its residents, businesses, and visitors a vibrant yet relaxing place to live and work. The City reflects a diverse and high quality of life that meets the needs of families, singles, and senior citizens, providing “big City services” yet staying true to a small-community feel.

HOA Information:

All homeowners in Chapel Trail are part of the Chapel Trail Owners Association.  At the current time, dues for the CTOA are $295 per quarter and include community maintenance, access to Rose Price Park, as well as High Speed Internet and Extended Basic Cable with HBO through Comcast.  In addition to the Master Association, each home in a sub-community is also a member of a local association, each with their own dues and amenities.

Schools:

  • Chapel Trail Elementary school
  • Silver Trail Middle School
  • West Broward High School

Interested in Living in Chapel Trail?  Let one of our Local Experts help you find your dream home. Call us today at 305-788-3673.

To search for currently listed homes: visit our Community Search page for Chapel Trail in Pembroke Pines.

There are more mortgage options than ever in 2017

There are more mortgage options than ever in 2017

If you’re looking for a mortgage, there’s one less reason to walk into a bank these days. Alternative mortgage lenders “non-bank companies without customer deposits” are transforming the mortgage industry. Their goal: to offer mortgage rate transparency and help you complete the home loan process quickly, efficiently and mostly (if not completely) online.

The biggest banks, once major players in the $1.5 trillion mortgage industry, have backed away from a large portion of the business, citing low profit margins and high legal risks. It’s a result of the enhanced regulatory environment that followed the 2008 housing meltdown.

A number of new players jumped into the void – alternative lenders testing new business models and leveraging technology to improve the process of getting a home loan or mortgage refinance:

  • Marketplaces and brokers assist potential borrowers shopping for mortgages and the best mortgage rates.
  • Online mortgage lenders seek to shorten the home loan process.
  • Non-bank lenders offer solutions to credit-challenged consumers.

But the structure and capabilities of these alternative lenders vary widely. Here’s how to navigate the field.

Marketplaces and brokers are mortgage middlemen

The easiest way for tech startups to enter the mortgage market is by serving as a middleman. So that’s what you’ll encounter most in your search for an online mortgage.

Mortgage marketplaces, like LendingTree, Mortgage Hippo, Zillow and eLoan, are lead generators for loan originators. Here’s how that works: Their mortgage rate algorithms take your basic application info and present you a roster of potential lenders. You choose one, or several, of the rate options, and the referring marketplace site receives a fee for the lead. You then complete the process with the lender.

Online mortgage brokers offer another twist on the process. Companies like Sindeo provide a concierge service, with advisors guiding you through the home loan selection process. It’s more of a hands-on process, in which the broker works closely with you and the lender to complete your loan package.

Online alternative mortgage lenders streamline the process

Alternative lenders are online mortgage originators that are becoming more of a force in the industry. In fact, the largest of them, Quicken Loans, has become one of the largest mortgage lenders in the country. And the company is looking to become even more entrenched with its recent introduction of a ‘Rocket Mortgage’ service, promising full mortgage or refinance approvals online in as little as eight minutes.

That kind of near real-time approval is an example of how radically the mortgage process is changing. Next-gen lenders strip away layers of delays built into the old system by using automated loan-decision algorithms, electronic document gathering and secure online communications.

Seeing an opportunity to shave off a sliver of the monumental home loan market, new players are making a move to mortgages. Online student-loan refinance service SoFi now offers mortgage loans. And in just five years, Loan Depot has grown to 5,000 employees, offering mortgages as well as consumer loans to residents in all 50 states.

Another example is Lenda, a recent addition to the home loan landscape, which so far serves only a limited number of states but is a direct online lender offering purchase and refinance loans.

Non-bank alternative lenders cater to those with less-than-perfect credit

In some ways, the mortgage industry is coming full circle, back to where it started. Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and other huge lenders “battered by Justice Department fines, federal lawsuits and growing regulation as a result of the housing crisis” are shying away from mortgage lending, especially FHA loans, which have long catered to first-time homebuyers and borrowers with lower credit scores. As more of the large, national banks move to lending only to the most-qualified borrowers, community home lenders are filling the void.

Non-bank lenders are much like the original mortgage bankers; many are locally owned and family-run businesses serving their hometowns. These smaller lenders often face fewer federal regulations and still welcome borrowers with less-than-perfect credit, and they have bolstered the FHA-backed lending that big banks have been avoiding.

Credit unions also play a growing role. They originated more than 8 percent of U.S. mortgages in 2015, nearly double their amount in 2010, according to the CUNA Mutual Group.

There are non-bank mortgage lenders with national footprints, such as PennyMac, but just like their local counterparts, they are built more for phone and face-to-face transactions than for a strictly online loan process.

You have more mortgage options than ever

Alternative mortgage lenders now account for almost half (45 percent) of all home loans, according to the Federal Reserve “the largest share in 20 years. These originators are transforming the mortgage loan process with faster approvals plus online application and document processing, and they are powering a more competitive market.

But getting a mortgage online is not always strictly a keyboard- or smartphone-only transaction. While the paperwork process is moving more and more to e-documents, with some online services you’ll still have to visit a closing attorney or notary to finalize the loan.

Choosing whether to go with a mortgage middleman or a direct lender is a personal choice, based on your comfort and familiarity with the home loan process and how much guidance and advice you prefer.

But it’s empowering to know that when it comes to financing a home, you have more options than ever.

Copyright © 2017 The Steuben Courier Advocate, Hal M. Bundrick, CFP. All rights reserved. Hal Bundrick is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website.

Reposted from http://www.floridarealtors.org/NewsAndEvents/article.cfm?p=5&id=351810

Increase Your Home’s Value Up to 28% with These 5 Tips

Increase Your Home’s Value Up to 28% with These 5 Tips

Great curb appeal not only makes your home the star of the neighborhood, it can also improve its value and help you sell it for more. Whether you’re thinking of listing your home or just want to make your home the envy of your neighbors, here are several ways to increase your home’s curb appeal.

1. Make your home’s exterior look like new.

For many potential buyers, the condition of the exterior of a home can offer clues to the condition of the interior. The first place to start when boosting curb appeal is the exterior of your house.

Paint. Paint is the best way to make your home appear newer. While you can paint your home yourself, if it’s large or more than one story, consider hiring a professional. Painting is a fairly inexpensive improvement with between 60 to 100 percent return on investment.1

Maintain your siding. Over time, weather and the elements can make your home’s siding appear dull and dirty. Use a pressure washer to clean stains, spider webs and accumulated dirt and grime, or use a soft cloth and a household cleaner to get into those small nooks and spaces. Although the average life expectancy of siding ranges from 60 to 100 years, depending on the material, extreme weather may reduce this number. If you need to replace the siding, you’ll enjoy a 77 percent return on investment.1

Paint or replace garage doors. If your garage doors are in good condition, give them a new coat of paint. If they’re beginning to show their age, consider replacing them. Not only are new garage doors more energy efficient and better insulated than older models, they also have a 91.5 percent return on investment.1

Maintain your fence. Replace rotted or worn posts and panels and freshen it up with a coat of paint. If you have a hedge that serves as your property’s border, keep it trimmed and in good shape.

2. Pay attention to the small details.

The small details tie your home’s exterior together and help it stand out from others in the neighborhood.

Paint front door, trim and shutters. This inexpensive improvement adds brightness to a home, whether you choose a bold color, a neutral tone or classic white.

Install new door fixtures and be sure they match in style and finish and complement the style of your home.

 Update your house numbers. Make sure potential buyers and guests can find your home. If the numbers have faded or need an update, replace them. If choosing a metallic finish, make sure it matches the finish of your exterior light fixtures.

3. Tend to your driveway and lawn.

Well-landscaped homes may sell for between 5.5% and 12.7% more than other similar homes and studies show it may also add up to 28 percent to your home’s overall value.5

Place a border along your driveway or walkway made of brick, stone, pavers or another hardscape element to add visual interest to a plain driveway.

Maintain your green space. If you have grass, a well-maintained, green lawn makes your home look inviting and picturesque. However, in many parts of the country, water conservation is becoming more important. Xeriscaped landscapes incorporate drought-tolerant vegetation that thrives in warm, dry climates, such as lavender, sage, wisteria and agave, with water-saving drip irrigation and mulch. Xeriscaping has a cost savings of 36 cents per square foot annually through reduced irrigation and maintenance costs.3 Additionally, these landscapes are virtually maintenance free, which makes it an attractive option for busy buyers.

Include trees and shrubs to create texture and add interest to your landscape. Planting a few types of trees and shrubs of varying heights, widths and flowering times boosts your home’s curb appeal year-round.

4. Make it feel inviting.

It’s no secret that emotions play a role in a person’s decision to purchase a home. Stage the outside of your home to evoke warm feelings.

Stage your porch. If you have a front porch, make it feel more inviting by including seating, such as a chair or loveseat, an outdoor rug and a small table. If space is an issue, incorporate small decorative touches, such as a festive wreath or potted plant.

Hang flower boxes on your front porch railings and/or below your windows. If you don’t want to affix flower boxes to your home, purchase nice planters and containers and place them around your porch or on your front steps.

Choose flowers and plants that bloom at different times of the year for year-round appeal. For example, bulbs not only bloom all spring, they also multiply and come up every year. Perennials often flower for most of the year and will prevent you from having to replant them every year.

If you don’t have a green thumb, choose low maintenance plants and flowers. Flowers such as lavender, rosemary, and zinnias are a few low-maintenance and drought-tolerant options.

5. Boost Your Online “Curb Appeal.”

For those interested in selling, it’s important to know the effect online curb appeal has on a home. The better impression your home gives online, the more likely buyers will want to see it in person. Here’s how to get your home ready for its listing debut.

Stage your home. Staging shows your home in its best light and helps potential buyers picture themselves living there.

Hire a professional to take photos. A photographer has the skills and equipment to shoot your home in the best light and make it look its best.

Include a short video tour of the home. Videos are becoming a popular way to give buyers a glimpse of the home before they step foot in it.

Before you start a home project, keep these four things in mind:

  1. Why are you renovating? In other words, is your intention to update your home and get it show-ready or do you want to sell it for more money? Don’t fall into the trap of undertaking major renovations that may not pay off when you sell. If your home is in good shape, a few inexpensive updates may be enough to make your home attractive to buyers.
  2. The style of the neighborhood. Whenever you renovate your home, make sure the project fits with the style of the neighborhood and rules of the homeowner association. For example, an HOA may limit the choice and number of trees you can plant on your property. Similarly, a tall hedge border may not fit in in a neighborhood of low, picket fences.
  3. Permits. If you’re planning an extensive exterior renovation, you may need a permit from your municipality or other authority.
  4. Budget. A budget keeps your project’s costs and scope in check. Make a list of the improvements you’d like to make, set a realistic budget and stick to it. If you’d like advice on improvements you can make to boost your home’s curb appeal, give us a call.

Are you thinking of boosting your home’s curb appeal or renovating your home before you list? Do you want help making your home more appealing to potential buyers online and in-person? Give us a call and we’ll help you present your home in its best light.

Sources:

  1. Remodeling, 2016 Cost vs Value Report
  2. Realtor Mag, September 22, 2016
  3. REALTOR.com
  4. Houzz, Houzz & Home-U.S., June 2016
  5. Houselogic.com
Don’t Get Burned – Get a Home Inspection to Save Money on Your Next Purchase

Don’t Get Burned – Get a Home Inspection to Save Money on Your Next Purchase

Okay, you made one of the most important decisions in your life: you’re buying a home! You found your ideal home. It’s in your desired neighborhood, close to everything you love, you dig its design and feel, and you’re ready to finalize the deal.

But, whoa … wait a minute! Buying a home isn’t like buying a toaster. If you discover something’s wrong with your new home, you can’t return it for a refund or an even exchange. You’re stuck with your buying decision. Purchasing a home is an important investment and should be treated as such. Therefore, before finalizing anything, your “ideal” home needs an inspection to protect you from throwing your hard-earned money into a money pit.

A home inspection is a professional visual examination of the home’s roof, plumbing, heating and cooling system, electrical systems, and foundation.

There are really two types of home of inspections. There is a general home inspection and a specialized inspection. Most general inspections cost between $267 and $370. The cost of the specialized inspection varies from type to type. If the inspector recommends a specialized inspection, take that advice because buying a home is the single most important investment you’ll make and you want extra assurance that you’re making a wise investment.

By having your prospective new home inspected, you can:

  • Negotiate with the home seller and get the home sale-ready at no cost to you
  • Prevent your insurance rates from rising
  • Opt-out of the purchase before you make a costly mistake
  • Save money in the short and long run

How Much Money Can a Home Inspection Save You?

A home inspection helps to find potential expenses beyond the sales price, which puts homebuyers in a powerful position for negotiation. If there are any issues discovered during the home inspection, buyers can stipulate that the sellers either repair them before closing or help cover the costs in some other way. If the sellers do not want to front the money to complete the repairs, buyers could negotiate a drop in the overall sales price of the home!

Perhaps even more importantly, a home inspection buys you peace of mind. Your first days and months in a new home will set the tone for your life there, and you don’t want to taint that time with worries about hidden problems and potential money pits.

To help you understand how much money a home inspection can save you, here are some numbers from HomeAdvisor to drive the point home … so to speak.

Roof – Roofing problems are one of the most common issues found by home inspections. Roof repair can range between $316 and $1046, but to replace a roof entirely can cost between $4,660 and $8,950.

Plumbing – Don’t underestimate the plumbing. Small leaks can cause damage that costs between $1,041 and $3,488 to repair. Your home inspector will look for visible problems with the plumbing such as leaky faucets, water stains around sinks and the shower, and noisy pipes. Stains on walls, ceilings, and warped floors show plumbing problems.

Heating and Cooling – Ensuring the home’s heating and cooling system is working properly is very important. Your home inspector will make you aware of any problems with the existing system and let know you whether the system is past its prime and needs replacing. You don’t want to throw down $3,919 to replace an aged furnace. Nor do you want to spend $5,238 replacing an ill-working air conditioner. Replacing and repairing a water heater gets pricey too. Wouldn’t you rather use your savings for a vacation?

Electrical Systems – When thinking of the electrical system, no problem is better than even a small problem. Electrical problems might seem small, but they can blossom into thousand-dollar catastrophes. Make sure your home inspector examines the electric meter, wires, circuit breaker, switches, and the GCFI outlets and electrical outlets.

Foundation – If your home inspector sees that the house is sinking, that means water is seeping into the foundation; cracks in walls, sticking windows, and sagging floor also indicate foundational problems. The foundation is so important that if the general inspection report shows foundation problems, lenders will not lend money on the home until those issues are solved. Foundation repairs can reach as high as $5,880 to repair.

As you can see, a small investment of a few hundred dollars for a general home inspection can save you tons of money and future headaches. To save even more money, you might consider investing in a specialized home inspection as well. A specialized inspection gets down to the nitty-gritty of all the trouble spots the general home inspection might have located.

How Much Money Can a Specialized Inspection Save You?

A general home inspection can trigger a need for a specialized inspection because the general home inspector spotted something off about the roof, sewer system, the heating and cooling system, and the foundation. If humidity is high where you’re buying your home, a pest inspection is recommended. Usually, a pest inspection will check for mold as well as pests. Most homebuyers have a Radon test done to ensure air quality.

Roof – Roof specialists examine the chimney and the flashing surrounding it. They also look at the level of wear and tear of the roof. They can tell you how long the roof will last before a new one is needed. They’ll inspect the downspouts and gutters. The average cost of a roof inspection is about $223. Most roof inspections will cost between $121 and $324.

Sewer System – Making sure your sewer system has no problems should happen before the closing because what might look like a small problem can turn into a large problem in the future. If any issues pop up, you can negotiate with the seller about needed repairs or replacements before closing. Cost of inspection will vary; on the low side, it might cost you around $95, and on the high side, it might cost you $790. Compare these numbers to repairing a septic tank, which can cost, on average, $1,435 (though it could reach as high as $4,459), and you can see that the cost of an inspection is worth it when you catch the problem before you buy.

Heating and Cooling System – A HVAC specialist will check the ducts for blockage and for consistent maintenance of the unit. The repairs needed might be small or they might be big, but this small investment will save you headaches and lots of money down the road.

Foundation – A foundation specialist will pinpoint the exact problem with the foundation. The specialist will look at the grade or slope of the home. The ground should slope away from the home in all directions a half inch per foot. Most homeowners have spent between $1,763 and $5,880 to repair their foundation. And the average cost to re-slope a lawn is at $1,705. Most homeowners paid between $933 and $2,558 to re-slope their lawn.

Pest Inspection – Termites eat a home’s wood structure from inside out and can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to your home. Other pests can turn your dream home into a nightmare. Depending on the humidity of where you live, you should a pest/termite inspection every two years or so. You can start with your potential new home. Most inspections are extensive and cost between $109 and $281. The good news is that most pest management company will guarantee the past inspection if bugs show up.

Radon Test – Radon is a naturally occurring invisible odorless gas that is the second leading cause of cancer. A radon test is a good test to have done as a good habit. The cost of radon test is low and its cost varies from state to state. Here’s more information about Radon.

Steps You Can Take to Save Money Using a Home Inspection

To help yourself save with a home inspection, you will need to:

Attend the inspection – Attending the inspection is important because it’s an opportunity for you to ask questions.

Check utilities – Checking utilities let’s know the energy efficiency of your potential home.

Hire a Qualified Home Inspector – We can recommend bona-fide home inspectors to you. You can compare our recommendation with all inspectors who belong to the American Society of Home Inspectors. While the decision of who you work with is always yours, we can educate you so that you make a wise homebuying decision.

A Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Investing

A Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Investing

Despite the grim economic outlook for some industries, one sector is gaining viability — real estate. According to the 2016 Emerging Trends in Real Estate, which was released by the Urban Land Institute earlier this year, trends such as “18-hour cities” and millennial parents increasing moving from urban areas out into the suburbs signal that real estate as an industry is gaining strength every passing day in 2016. One lending officer at a large financial institution even went to far as to say that “the next 24 months look doggone good for real estate.”

These trends means that real estate is a smart place to make an investment and grow your wealth. A housing shortage means that flipped homes tend to sell quickly and for high prices, and an increased demand across all age groups for rental properties means that finding tenants for your buy-and-hold properties should be a breeze.

Of course, these trends also mean that the real estate market is highly competitive right now. If you want to make a foray into real estate investing, you’ll need to educate yourself and be strategic in who you work with and where you look for investment opportunities. Read on for our beginner’s guide to real estate investing.

Assemble your real estate team before you buy

Building relationships with your team will empower you to make serious offers that will more likely get accepted by sellers. Among your team members, you will want to include:

  • A mortgage broker or banker, who can help you get the financing for your deal
  • A real estate attorney to protect you by reviewing and revising contracts
  • An appraiser who can help you get a correct appraisal for your potential property
  • An accountant who is well versed in real estate investments
  • A good contractor, for repairs whether you’re rehabbing or buying rental property

How to find rehab or wholesale deals

You can buy properties to fix up and resell (flip) or you can buy and hold properties that you rent out for monthly cash flow.

The advantage of flipping properties is that you can end up with a good return on investment (ROI) in the short term. For example, you buy a property for $100,000, and invest $50,000 into repairs. Once it’s rehabbed, your property is valued at $200,000, and you sell it for a $50,000 profit.

This is an extremely simplified version of ROI. There are many other factors that you need to determine to see if the numbers work in your favor — that is, you’re not overpaying initially when you buy the properties or for the renovations or holding costs.

Flipping properties means that you will need to spend more time looking for fixer uppers that may be under market value. These may be more difficult to find in a hot market with rising property prices. Beyond the actual purchase price, you will also need to factor in fixed purchase costs for inspections, closing, and lender fees.

You’ll also need to factor in holding costs. Your budget should include funds for making repairs, whether you are doing them yourself or hiring contractors. While you’re upgrading the property, you’ll need to carry mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, and insurance.

Because of rising property values, fix-and-flip deals in good neighborhoods can be hard to find. But once you know where to find rehab opportunities, you can easily repeat the process by reinvesting proceeds from a previous flip into the next property, which can be bigger, in a more desirable neighborhood, or finished out more luxuriously, and therefore sold for more cash!

Working with the right real estate professionals will help you learn which neighborhoods to consider and determine where you should focus your search. We can help you find the right fixer-uppers that may be under market value. Also, a Realtor will have access to many properties that may not be publicly available.

Finding buy-and-hold rental properties

A buy-and-hold rental property is one that your purchase with the intent of renting it out to tenants. If you find the right long-term buy-and-hold rental property, you can earn consistent cash flow each month, which can be a great source of supplemental income.

You’ll need to carefully review the operating expenses on the property and what tenants are willing to pay for the space to know if you’ll make or lose money each month. For example, say your total costs to buy a duplex was $20,000, including down payment and closing costs. You can rent each of the units for $600. Assuming your building is 100% occupied, you’ll make $1200 per month in income. Your expenses include mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, utilities, and management fees, and you want to set aside some cash each month for capital expenditures and routine repairs. You calculate that your expenses add up to $1100 per month. Once you subtract your expenses from your income, you’ll have a positive cash flow of $100 per month.

Of course, this is a very simplified example, and it doesn’t take into account that problems will inevitably arise. Emergency roof repairs, heating system breakdowns, broken windows that need replacing, and other unexpected expenses can eat away at your profits. One of your units may be vacant for a month or more — for example, vacancies are high in the summer months in buildings around universities — or you could have a tenant who fails to pay their monthly rent.

The more you can anticipate problems before they happen, however, the easier it will be for you to recover from setbacks! Moreover, rent isn’t the only way to make money on a buy-and-hold property. You can also add amenities, such as coin laundry and vending machines, to increase your potential monthly income. If your property has space to add a billboard, you can earn advertising revenue from renting that space, too. And when you decide to sell, your property’s value will likely have increased both from the overall rising property values and by the improvements you made to increase the cash flow.

Once you find and invest in your rental property, you’ll need to decide how you want it managed from month to month.

Getting the right property manager

Do you want to manage your own property or hire a manager? Property management can become a full-time job. As a property manager, you’ll have to deal not only with maintenance, repairs and tenant issues, but also with insurance, fair rental regulations, and building code compliance. So if you’re not an expert in these areas, managing your own properties may not be worth your time and effort.

Hiring a professional manager can save you headaches over the long term. While you’ll have to factor in management as a fixed expense, your property manager will likely know how to better take care of routine repairs, tenant issues, and keeping your property near 100% occupancy.

Your real estate professional can refer you to reputable property management companies to help you take care of your investment.

Where should I start investing in local real estate?

Work with a knowledgeable real estate professional who knows about the different neighborhoods. We can help you find properties that will fit into your budget and your overall goals. Whether you’re seeking a duplex or multifamily property so you can maximize your rental income or whether you want a condo or single-family home to improve for resale, we can guide you to the best property to suit your needs.

Contact us to learn more about investment properties in our area.

Get Your Credit Score in Shape Before Buying a Home

Get Your Credit Score in Shape Before Buying a Home

How strong is your credit? Cleaning up your credit is essential before you make any major financial moves. Having a bad score can hurt your chances of being able to open a credit card, apply for a loan, purchase a car, or rent an apartment.

It is especially important to have clean credit before you try to buy a home. With a less-than-great score, you may not get preapproved for a mortgage. If you can’t get a mortgage, you may only be able to buy a home if you can make an all-cash offer.

Or if you do get preapproval, you might get a higher mortgage rate, which can be a huge added expense. For example, if you have a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $100,000 and you get a 3.92% interest rate, the total cost of your mortgage will be $170,213. However, if your interest rate is 5.92%, you’ll have to spend $213,990 for the same mortgage  – that’s an extra $43,777 over the life of the loan! If you had secured the lower mortgage rate, you could use that additional money to fund a four-year college degree at a public university.

So now that you know how important it is to maintain a good credit score, how do you start cleaning up your credit? Here, we’ve collected our best tips for improving your score.

Talk to a loan professional

You can protect your score from more damage by getting a loan professional to check your credit score for you. A professional will be able to guide you to whether your score is in the ‘good’ range for home buying. Plus, every time that you request your own credit score, the credit companies record the inquiry, which can lower your score. Having a professional ask instead ensures that you only record one inquiry. Once you know your score, you can start taking action on cleaning up your credit.

Change your financial habits to boost your score

What if your score has been damaged by late payments or delinquent accounts? You can start repairing the damage quickly by taking charge of your debts. For example, your payment history makes up 35% of your score according to myFICO. If you begin to pay your bills in full before they are due, and make regular payments to owed debts, your score can improve within a few months.

Amounts owed are 30% of your FICO score. What matters in this instance is the percentage of credit that you’re currently using. For example, if you have a $5000 limit on one credit card, and you’re carrying a balance of $4500, that means 90% of your available credit is used up by that balance. You can improve your score by reducing that balance to free up some of your available credit.

Length of credit history counts for 15% of your FICO score. If you’re trying to reduce debt by eliminating your credit cards, shred the card but DO NOT close the account. Keep the old accounts open without using them to maintain your credit history and available credit.

Find and correct mistakes on your credit report

How common are credit report mistakes? Inaccuracies are rampant. In a 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission, one in five people identified at least one error on their credit report. In their 2015 follow-up study, almost 70% thought that at least one piece of previously disputed information was still inaccurate.

Go through each section of your report systematically, and take notes about anything that needs to be corrected.

Your personal information

Start with the basics: often overlooked, one small incorrect personal detail like an incorrect address can accidently lower your score. So, before you look at any other part of your report, check all of these personal details:

  • Make sure your name, address, social security number and birthdate are current and correct.
  • Are your prior addresses correct? You’ll need to make sure that they’re right if you haven’t lived at your current address for very long.
  • Is your employment information up to date? Are the details of your past employers also right?
  • Is your marital status correct? Sometimes a former spouse will come up listed as your current spouse.

Your public records

This section will list things like lawsuits, tax liens, judgments, and bankruptcies. If you have any of these in your report, make sure that they are listed correctly and actually belong to you.

A bankruptcy filed by a spouse or ex-spouse should not be on your report if you didn’t file it. There shouldn’t be any lawsuits or judgments older than seven years, or that were entered after the statute of limitations, on your report.  Are there tax liens that you paid off that are still listed as unpaid, or that are more than seven years old? Those all need to go.

Your credit accounts

This section will list any records about your commingled accounts, credit cards, loans, and debts. As you read through this section, make sure that any debts are actually yours.

For example, if you find an outstanding balance for which your spouse is solely responsible, that should be removed from your report. Any debts due to identity theft should also be resolved. If there are accounts that you closed on your report, make sure they’re labeled as ‘closed by consumer’ so that it doesn’t look like the bank closed them.

Your inquiries

Are there any unusual inquiries into your credit listed in this section? An example might be a credit inquiry when you went for a test drive or were comparison shopping at a car dealer. These need to be scrubbed off your report.

Report the dispute to the credit agency

If there are major mistakes, you can take your dispute to the credit agencies. While you could send a letter, it can be much faster to get the ball rolling on resolving a mistake by submitting your report through the credit agency’s website. Experian, Transunion and Equifax all have step-by-step forms to submit reports online.

If you have old information on your report that should have been purged from your records already, such as a debt that has already been paid off or information that is more than 7 years old, you may need to go directly to the lender to resolve the dispute.

Follow up

You must follow up to make sure that any mistakes are scrubbed from your reports. Keep notes about who you speak to and on which dates you contacted them. Check back with all of the credit reporting companies to make sure that your information has been updated. Since all three companies share data with each other, any mistakes should be corrected on all three reports.

If your disputes are still not corrected, you may have to also follow up with the institution that reported the incident in the first place, or a third-party collections agency that is handling it. Then check again with the credit reporting companies to see if your reports have been updated.

If you can keep on top of your credit reports on a regular basis, you won’t have to deal with the headaches of fixing reporting mistakes. You are entitled to a free annual credit report review to make sure all is well with your score. If you make your annual credit review part of your financial fitness routine, you’ll be able to better protect your buying power and potentially save thousands of dollars each year.

How to clean up your credit now

Does your credit score need a boost so you can buy a home? Get in touch with me. We can connect you with the right lending professionals to help you get the guidance you need.

How to Amp Up The Resale Value of Your Home

How to Amp Up The Resale Value of Your Home

Whether you’re putting your home on the market this year or in the next five years, it is a smart decision to start building your home’s resale value now. Here are some ways to create a comfortable home while making it easier to put more money into your bank account on closing day.

Small Maintenance and Repairs

If you think that home maintenance on the weekends waste your time and energy, think again. The small chores you do around your home prevents it from losing value. Neglecting small maintenance and repairs causes 10% of your home’s value to walk out your door and slip through your windows. Most appraisers claim that homes showing little to no preventative maintenance can depreciate from $15,000 to $20,000.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University shows that regular maintenance boosts your home value by about 1% per year. However, ongoing maintenance costs offset that value, which means that regular maintenance actually slows down your rate of depreciation. Furthermore, because homebuyers generally notice any repairs needed upon buying a new home, proactive maintenance lets the homebuyer know that he or she will not have to spend extra money to maintain the basics. This makes your home more attractive, and thus more likely to get higher priced offers.

Maintaining the basics can cost you little money and certainly some effort, but there’s a way to accomplish this very important activity smartly. This article by HouseLogic, for example, shows you how to keep home maintenance below $300 a year.  Planning ahead will also help make maintaining your home easier. Most professional appraisers and real estate agents recommend a proactive maintenance schedule that includes:

  • Keeping enough cash on hand to replace systems and materials
  • Creating and following a maintenance schedule
  • Planning a room redo every year
  • Keeping a notebook of all your maintenance and repairs

Landscaping

The Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech published a study that shows landscaping can increase a home’s value by 15%.  The study claims that a home valued at $150,000 could increase its value between $8,300 and $19,000 with the addition of landscaping. Particular landscape elements add different value. For instance, landscape design can increase your home’s value by 42%, plant size can increase your home’s value by 32%, and diversity in plants can increase your home’s value by 22%.

Replace Entrance Doors

If your entry doors are wood, consider switching them out for either fiberglass or steel doors. Steel doors add style and architectural interest to your home while improving security; you can add a deadbolt and electronic keypads to keep out intruders. Unlike wood doors, steel doors do not rot or splinter.

Alternatively, fiberglass doors can be designed to look like wood doors and give your home a modern look. Fiberglass doors conserve more energy than steel doors.

Pricewise, a steel door will cost you $1,335 with a 91% return on investment whereas a fiberglass door will cost you $3,126 with an 82.3% return on investment.

Garage Door Replacement

At first, you might not think that your garage door increases the value of your home. However, your garage door distinguishes your home from the other homes on your block. As the largest entryway of a house, garage doors get noticed first because they’re the focal point of your home. If you want to quickly increase the resale value of your home, you need to make the most of this space.

Some interesting things being done with garage doors include:

  • Increased Size: Bigger garage doors help homes stand out more, and homeowners can do more creatively with them.
  • Bold Colors: Bright and bold colors now can complement the color of your home, or you can build a concept around the color of your home.
  • Faux Wood: You can install fiberglass or steel garage doors that look like wood garage doors. This gives your home a new level of sophistication.
  • Windows: Large Windows on your garage door improve the aesthetic of your home, and provide light into your garage so that it’s no longer a dark space.

 More importantly, a garage door replacement will cost you $1,652 and add $1,512 to the value of your home; that’s a return on your investment of 91.5%.

Fiberglass Attic Insulation

While energy efficiency is still not the sexiest selling point of your home, installing fiberglass attic insulation saves energy and garners a big payback on your investment. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value top trends report, fiberglass attic insulation gained the top return on investment among the 30 projects in this year’s report. Using Remodel/Max as the cost source, a fiberglass attic insulation project cost $1,268 nationwide.  Real estate professionals surveyed estimated that the work would boost the price of a home at resale, within a year of its completion, by $1,482. That’s a 116.9% return on investment.

Replacing Windows

Replacing your windows is another way to save energy and increase your home’s resale value. Replacing your old windows with energy saving models will beautify your home, keep it comfortable, and ease the workload of your HVAC system. According to HGTV, you’ll see a reduction in your utility bill by 7% to 15%. However, if you’re selling your home, you could expect a 60% to 70% recoupment of your investment. The two types of replacement windows that fetch the best return are vinyl and wood.

Remodeling Your Kitchen

Kitchen remodeling can get expensive, but small renovations can make your home more buyer friendly. Changing your kitchen’s texture and color using a matte finish and neutral colors such as putty or grey enhances your home’s resale value. Because matte finishes have transitional qualities, your potential homebuyer can easily match his or her stainless steel or black and white appliances. Also, refinishing cabinetry, or switching to Energy Star™ appliances provide comfort you like and pizazz buyers adore.

Flow is important to any interior design of a home. If you feel that your kitchen hinders a good flow, change it. A small investment to knock out a non-structural wall or remove a kitchen island creates space and provides flow that buyers love.

A minor kitchen remodel can cost you $20,122 while putting $16,716 of resale value into your home; that’s an 83% payback on the project. If you want to do a major kitchen model, this can cost you about $60,000 and put about $39,000 of resale value into your home, which is only about a 65% payback on the project. Therefore, consider a minor kitchen remodel first.

Bathroom Addition or Remodel

Likewise, carefully consider adding a bathroom or remodeling your bathroom. Switching out your frosted glass shower doors for glass doors, cleaning the grout, replacing the shower and floor tiles, switching out your sink or toilet, or replacing your sink and shower fixtures can cost you little money.

Adding a bathroom can get expensive, but it can reduce congestion during hectic times and provide your guests with a bathroom. Consult with your real estate agent or a local appraiser before deciding whether a full remodel or addition is right for your situation. While a bathroom remodel will cost you about $18,000 with a return on investment of about 66%, a bathroom addition will cost you about $42,000 with a return on investment of about 56%. Therefore, it’s best do your due diligence before working on your bathroom.

Your Needs and Buyers’ Wants

On that note, if you need to renovate your home, be sure to consider how those changes will affect its appeal to future buyers. Knowing design trends will give you the opportunity to make changes to your home based on where your needs and your potential buyer’s desires intersect, thus increasing your property’s resale value drastically.

Designers and design websites provide great ideas when you’re brainstorming home renovations. Keep in mind as you research, however, that you don’t want to sacrifice your needs for a comfortable home just for the sake of what you think a future buyer will want!

Therefore, before you begin making any changes to your home, consult your real estate agent. Real estate agents, because we are constantly working with new buyer clients, have insider insight into what home buyers are looking for now and in the future. We’ll be able to help you make smart choices when remodeling or renovating your home.

If you think you might want to remodel or renovate your home in the near future, or if you are just curious about other ways you can increase its resale value, please reach out to us!

Back on the Market: 900 Biscayne Condo with View of Biscayne Bay

Back on the Market: 900 Biscayne Condo with View of Biscayne Bay

This Gorgeous Condo at 900 Biscayne Bay sits on the 28th Floor and overlooks the Perez Art Museum and Biscayne Bay. ELEVATOR WITH PRIVATE LOBBY AREA AT THIS LINE! This Unit does not compare to line 12, is a bigger unit 1576 sq ft and has the elevator to arrive at its own private lobby. Privacy and convenience is definitely a plus. 2 bedrooms + den with 3 full bathrooms. Spectacular water view. Large balcony throughout the unit. Amenities include 2 pools, spa, theater, lounge area, indoor children playground, gym and more.

Click here for more info on 900 Biscayne Unit 2808.

Just Listed: Rare One-Story Gem in Heart of Doral

Just Listed: Rare One-Story Gem in Heart of Doral

Rare opportunity to own a large one story model style home in a gated luxurious community in the heart of Doral. Impact windows are the finishing touches to a gorgeous makeover that features high-end stainless steel appliances, Samsung washer & dryer, and a Bertazzoni gas range. Over $200K in upgrades including wide-plank mahogany wood floors throughout and a spa-like master bath with dual overhead rainshowers and body massagers. Maintenance includes exclusive membership to Doral Park Country Club.

Click here for complete details on this one-of-a-kind property in Doral.

 

How to Buy a Home: 7 Tips and Tricks from Real Estate Insiders

How to Buy a Home: 7 Tips and Tricks from Real Estate Insiders

No matter if you’re in a buyer’s or seller’s market, there are a few critical steps you can take to make a smarter purchase. Since buying a home is likely the biggest single investment you will ever make, being prepared will help you make a better purchase. Here are our best tips to buying a home.

Know your buying power

What is your buying power? It is the combination of your credit-worthiness and how much you can realistically pay for a home.

First, you need to understand the hidden costs of buying a home. You will need to save not only for the down payment of your home — which is typically between 10% – 20% of the offer price — but also for any additional transaction fees, such as transfer tax, PMI, title insurance, and legal fees.

Then you need to know what you can realistically afford each month to understand how much house you can buy. Your mortgage rate will depend on your creditworthiness — if you have a high credit score, your lender will likely approve you for a lower mortgage rate, which can save you thousands of dollars per year in interest.

How much of your budget should go to your monthly home costs? According to SmartAssets, you can use the 36% rule as a rough guideline. This means that your monthly obligation shouldn’t be more than 36% of your monthly gross income.

A loan professional can help you figure out how much house you can afford.

Fix your credit with the help of a loan professional

According to CreditKarma, a good credit score is usually 720 or above. You want to clean up your credit as soon as you can, and definitely before you go to a lender for a loan pre-approval.

When you apply for your loan pre-approval, you don’t want to have anything to hide on your application. So don’t lower your credit score by doing anything that will originate more inquiries into your credit. For example, don’t open any new credit cards. Also, don’t omit any debts or loans when you apply. If the loan officer discovers them in the application process, they may deny you a pre-approval.

Get a loan professional to check your credit score for you. A professional can give you a clearer idea if your score is in the ‘good’ range, or if you need to do some credit cleanup before getting a mortgage pre-approval.

Work with a knowledgeable buyer’s agent

Do you understand what kind of market you are buying into? Even within a city’s limits, there can be micro markets that are increasing or decreasing in value.

That’s why it’s important to hire a highly competent real estate agent who knows the specific market. You want to make sure that the professional who you’re working with really understands what the market is like and will help you find the home that you desire.

How can you tell if your agent knows the market? See if they can provide you with a buyer’s market analysis.

A buyer’s market analysis report outlines which neighborhoods are still up and coming — with potential for increased property value — versus those that have peaked with inflated home prices. Having this analysis at your fingertips will help you know if a home’s list price is above comparable properties so you don’t overpay for a home.

Don’t try to time the market…

Even in a hot market, there’s never a perfect time to buy a home. It can take a while to know exactly what you like, and you may have to look at 10 or more homes before you can recognize what suits your lifestyle best. While you’re shopping, take photos of your favorite properties and the details that you liked the best so that you can remember what you liked.

Another good reason to slow down the buying process: you might find a better deal if you do. Investigate expired listings. Expired listings may have gone off the market because they didn’t get any offers at the listed price, so you may be able to underbid the original listing price. It’s not likely worth your time to look at FSBO (for sale by owner) listings, though. Since they are not represented by a professional, they are often overpriced.

When you start shopping, have a one-hour initial consultation with your realtor. Give them every single detail that you know about your lifestyle, buying power, needs, wants and desires for your home. The more detail you can provide, the easier it will be for them to help you find your future home. Your agent may also know of exclusive listings not available to the general public.

… But make the offer as soon as you find the right home

If you love it, make the offer. Otherwise, that dream home may disappear faster than you think, especially if you’re buying in a hot market.

Your buying agent should contact the listing agent before you submit an offer so that they can decide what’s important to include in the offer. If you’re serious about it, you want to increase the chances that your offer is accepted.

Show that you’re serious about the purchase by creating a buyer’s offer packet. It should include your lender’s preapproval letter, a screenshot of your down payment money in your bank account, and comps that support the rationalization of the offer you are presenting.

Get a home inspection

Once you’re in the negotiation process, it’s essential that you get a third-party inspector to run a thorough home inspection. The inspector will be looking for major structural issues, including problems with the foundation, plumbing, and electrical systems. Your inspector should be extra picky, pointing out the most minor faults.

Make sure to have the inspection conducted before it is too late to back out of a deal. If there are any major structural issues, you may be able to make the seller repair them as a contingency to solidifying your offer. Minor issues that you can repair on your own may be points for negotiating a lower offer.

Protect your credit before you close

Don’t raise any red flags with your creditworthiness in the weeks before closing. Any one of these moves could mean that you’re denied the loan and the deal falls through — even if you’ve already been preapproved!

  • Keep your spending to a minimum and don’t make any major purchases before closing — that includes buying furniture, or a car, truck, or van, or any excessive charges on your credit card.
  • Keep your bank accounts stable. Don’t change banks, spend any of the money you have set aside for closing, or make any large deposits to your accounts without checking with your loan officer first.
  • Keep your employment situation stable — do not change jobs, quit your job, or become self-employed. Any sudden change in your income can have that preapproval offer rescinded.
  • Do not cosign a loan for anyone. It will open an inquiry into your credit and add to your debt, which could raise your mortgage rate and cost you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

Looking for a home in our area? Let us help you find the home of your dreams. We’re well versed in the our local real estate market, and we can provide you with a buyer’s market analysis to help you find the right neighborhood for you. Contact one of our trusted agents today.

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