Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Basic Legal Documents

iStock_000012034746_250.jpgMany times, young adults feel “bullet-proof” and don’t consider the urgency to get involved or spend the money to take care of certain legal aspects of their lives because they think they’re going to live forever.  Since no one is guaranteed longevity of life, if you want to be in control of who gets what and who is in charge now based on an untimely incapacitation or death, it is important to investigate these basic legal documents.

Will – This is a legal instrument that specifies your desires to care for your minor children and to distribute your personal property after you die and who will manage the process.  Anyone who has property and minor children needs a will.

Living Will – This legal instrument specifies your intentions regarding end of life decisions or to designate an individual to make those decisions on your behalf.  Many times, a person who had been diagnosed with a terminal condition or who is facing a serious surgery or hospitalization might feel a sense of urgency to have this document.

Power of attorney – This document allows you to appoint someone you trust, not necessarily an attorney, to handle important legal and financial matters for you if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.  The time limit can be for a specified period of time or indefinitely.

Trust – This arrangement involves an entity called a Trustee who takes control and manages property for someone else’s benefit called a beneficiary.  When property is placed in a trust, the trust becomes the owner of the property.  There are different types of trusts and a qualified advisor can explain and recommend which type would be best suited for your situation.

HIPPA Release Form – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPPA, was created by Congress to protect the privacy of a person’s health information.  Health care providers are prohibited from discussing any aspect of your medical information with anyone who is not directly involved in your care.  To allow friends or family who do not have legal responsibility for you to have access to this information, this release form is necessary.

Most of the issues affecting these types of documents are determined by state law.  Since they are legal documents, it is recommended that you seek sound financial and legal advice.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Are You Ready?

are you ready2.pngFor whatever reason you’ve delayed buying a home, it may be time to reconsider that decision based on today’s conditions and what is expected to happen in the future.

Rents are continuing to increase to the point that in most markets, it is significantly less expensive to own than to rent.  Even after you factor repairs into the equation, the low interest rates, principal accumulation due to amortization, appreciation and tax savings lower the monthly cost of housing.

Low inventories coupled with strong demand cause a rising effect on prices.  Another reason for higher values is that builders, especially in certain price ranges, have not ramped up new home starts to keep up with the demand.

Recently, the Federal Reserve announced that they intend to start raising rates. Most experts agree that higher interest rates are a foregone conclusion; it is just a matter of when it will happen.

A $300,000 home today could cost considerably more one year from now.  With a 20% down payment, if prices go up by 3% and the interest rates increase by .5%, the principal and interest payment at 3.625% would be $1,094.52 for 30 years compared to $1,198.05 at 4.125%.

The question is not necessarily “can you afford the additional $103.53 more per month that you’d have to pay for the home during the 30 year term?”  More importantly, “How would you feel about having to pay more because you weren’t ready to make a decision and what would you have spent it on if you didn’t have to pay a higher payment?”

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Rent Again?

Rent again.pngAfter you take the training wheels off your bike and learn to ride it, you’d never consider putting them back on again.  Similarly, once you’ve owned a home, you might think you’ll own a home from now on but there may be some situations where it might make sense to rent again. 

Big shifts in a person’s life like a divorce, death of spouse, empty nesting or a temporary transfer to a new city are certainly things that may warrant renting, at least temporarily, until those circumstances develop the particulars.

A good example might be that you think you’d like to move downtown.  Before selling your home and purchasing a condo, it might be enlightening to rent an apartment to see how you’ll adapt to the changes in that style of living.

The sales and purchase expenses incurred with real estate are absorbed over the period ownership which is usually between ten and twelve years.  When the holding period involves only a few years, it can negatively impact a homeowner’s equity.

Like any move, especially coordinating the sale and purchase of two homes, there are a lot of issues involved.  Your real estate professional can provide information that will help you to make better decisions on whether to buy, sell or rent again.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Home For Sale

Monday, July 2, 2012

Q & A For Sellers

Selling Your Home - Pricing the House to Sell What is the difference between list and sales prices? The list price is how much a house is advertised for and is usually only an estimate of what a seller would like to get for the property. The sales price is the amount a property actually sells for. It may be the same as the listing price, or higher or lower, depending on how accurately the property was originally priced and on market conditions. If you are a seller, you may need to adjust the listing price if there have been no offers within the first few months of the property's listing period. What are the two most important factors when selling a home? Price and condition are the two most important factors in selling a home, even in a down market. The first step is to price your home correctly. Use comparative sales information from your agent, or pay for a professional appraiser (usually $200 to $300), to objectively evaluate your home's worth. Second, go through the house and repair any obvious cosmetic defects that could deter a buyer. In a down market, you may have to consider lowering your price and/or making a major repair, such as replacing the roof, in order to lure a buyer. Also, make sure that your home is getting the exposure it deserves through open houses, broker open houses, advertising, good signage and a listing on the local multiple listing service or online listings provider. If this isn't happening, take it up with your agent or agent's broker. If you are still not satisfied you are getting the service you need, you may have to switch agents. What is the best time to buy? Because many buyers prefer to move in the spring or summer, the market starts to heat up as early as February. Families with children are eager to buy so they can move during summer vacation, before the new school year begins. The market slows down in late summer before picking up again briefly in the fall. November and December have traditionally been slow months, although some astute buyers look for bargains during this period. What is the difference between market value and appraised value? The appraised value of a house is a certified appraiser's opinion of the worth of a home at a given point in time. Lenders require appraisals as part of the loan application process; fees range from $200 to $300. Market value is what price the house will bring at a given point in time. A comparative market analysis is an informal estimate of market value, based on sales of comparable properties, performed by a real estate agent or broker. Either an appraisal or a comparative market analysis is the most accurate way to determine what your home is worth. What is the difference between list price, sales price and appraised value? The list price is a seller's advertised price, a figure that usually is only a rough estimate of what the seller wants to get. Sellers can price high, low or close to what they hope to get. To judge whether the list price is a fair one, be sure to consult comparable sales prices in the area. The sales price is the amount of money you as a buyer would pay for a property. The appraisal value is a certified appraiser's estimate of the worth of a property, and is based on comparable sales, the condition of the property and numerous other factors. How does someone sell a slow mover? Even in a down market, real estate experts say that price and condition are the two most important factors in selling a home. If you are selling in a slow market, your first step would be to lower your price. Also, go through the house and see if there are cosmetic defects that you missed and can be repaired. Secondly, you need to make sure that the home is getting the exposure it deserves through open houses, broker open houses, advertising, good signage, and listings on the local multiple listing service (MLS) and on the Internet. Another option is to pull your house off the market and wait for the market to improve. Finally, if you who have no equity in the house, and are forced to sell because of a divorce or financial considerations, you could discuss a short sale or a deed-in-lieu-of- foreclosure with your lender. A short sale is when the seller finds a buyer for a price that is below the mortgage amount and negotiates the difference with the lender. In a deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure situation, the lender agrees to take the house back without instituting foreclosure proceedings. The latter are radical options. Your simplest, and in many cases most effective, option is to lower the price. How is the price set? It's very important to price your home according to current market conditions. Because the real estate market is continually changing, and market fluctuations have an effect on property values, it's imperative to select your list price based on the most recent comparable sales in your neighborhood. A so-called comparative market analysis provides the background data upon which to base your list-price decision. When you prepare to sell and are interviewing agents, study each agent's comparable sales report (the data should be no more than three months old). If all agents agree on a price range for your home, go with the consensus. Watch out for an agent whose opinion of value is considerably higher than the others. What are the standard ways of finding out how much a home is worth? A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the standard methods for determining a home's value. Your real estate agent will be happy to provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on comparable sales in the neighborhood. Be sure you get listing prices of current homes on the market as well as those that have sold. You also can research this yourself by checking on recent sales in public records. Be sure that you are researching properties that are similar in size, construction and location. This information is not only available at your local recorder's or assessor's office but also through private companies and on the Internet. An appraisal, which generally costs $200 to $300 to perform, is a certified appraiser's opinion of the value of a home at any given time. Appraisers review numerous factors including recent comparable sales, location, square footage and construction quality. How do you prepare a house to sell? Doing whatever you can to put your house's best face forward is very important if you want to get close to your asking price or sell as quickly as possible. Short of spending a lot of money, here are several ideas for making your home show better: * Sweep the sidewalk, mow the lawn, prune the bushes, weed the garden and clean debris from the yard. * Clean the windows (both inside and out) and make sure the paint is not chipped or flaking. And speaking of paint, if your home was built before 1978, a federal law gives a buyer the right to request a lead inspection. If you think you might have some problems, do the inspection yourself beforehand and make any fixes you can. * Be sure that the doorbell works. * Clean and spruce up all rooms, furnishings, floors, walls and ceilings. It's especially important that the bathroom and kitchen are spotless. * Organize closets. * Make sure the basic appliances and fixtures work. Get rid of leaky faucets and frayed cords. * Make sure the house smells good: from an apple pie, cookies baking or spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove. Hide the kitty litter. * Put vases of fresh flowers throughout the house. * Having pleasant background music playing in the background also will help set your stage. Where do I get information on housing market stats? A real estate agent is a good source for finding out the status of the local housing market. So is your statewide association of Realtors, most of which are continuously compiling such statistics from local real estate boards. For overall housing statistics, U.S. Housing Markets regularly publishes quarterly reports on home building and home buying. Your local builders association probably gets this report. If not, the housing research firm is located in Canton, Mich.; call (800) 755-6269 for information; the firm also maintains an Internet site. Finally, check with the U.S. Bureau of the Census in Washington, D.C.; (301) 763-2422. The census bureau also maintains a site on the Internet. The Chicago Title company also has published a pamphlet, "Who's Buying Homes in America." Write Chicago Title and Trust Family of Title Insurers, 171 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60601-3294. Is a low offer a good idea? While your low offer in a normal market might be rejected immediately, in a buyer's market a motivated seller will either accept or make a counteroffer. Full-price offers or above are more likely to be accepted by the seller. But there are other considerations involved: * Is the offer contingent upon anything, such as the sale of the buyer's current house? If so, a low offer, even at full price, may not be as attractive as an offer without that condition. * Is the offer made on the house as is, or does the buyer want the seller to make some repairs or lower the price instead? * Is the offer all cash, meaning the buyer has waived the financing contingency? If so, then an offer at less than the asking price may be more attractive to the seller than a full-price offer with a financing contingency.

Friday, March 9, 2012



It's been far too long since I've blogged and I'm sorry. This year is really going by fast. Here we are in March already and looking forward to Spring. Yeah!

The world feels renewed when we see buds emerging on trees, longer days of sunlight and the sounds of early birds first thing in the morning.

Real estate has gotten a real jump on activity as well this year and I thinbk its due to the mild weather the last few months provided. There is also pent up desire for homes as people in our area are feeling they have waited through the uncertain economy and now want to move forward with important decisions.

All for the best...they are looking for the expert who can guide them with relevant information. The agent who consults the positive and negative aspects of buying and selling in your local market.

I'm here for you. Call and get an update today. It's my pleasure to help you, your friends, and families.

Regards, Nancy

Monday, May 23, 2011

"It Can Pay To Snoop On Neighbors!"

Going to the open house of a home for sale down the block may make you feel like a nosy neighbor. But there are good reasons, beyond sheer curiosity, to take a peek inside.

By knowing the selling prices and how properties look inside, homeowners can become more educated about values in their neighborhood, says Karen Goodman, a real-estate agent in the St. Louis area.

Attending open houses is especially important if you plan to sell soon. But it's also a good idea even if you plan to stay in your home for a while. Eventually, these homes will become the competition, and it's smart to know how your place stacks up, says Ken Shuman, spokesman for Trulia.com, a real-estate website.

"Look at the upgrades they've made, look where they haven't made upgrades," he says. This exercise helps you "find out where your advantage is and you can focus on that when you put [your house] on the market." And you'll know where your home may fall short.

There are other reasons to check out neighborhood open houses:

To prioritize home-improvement projects. Seeing what the neighbors have done can help you decide which projects to take on first. Perhaps you know you need to fix your roof. Noticing that five neighbors have replaced their roofs recently might cause you to put that project at the top of your home-improvement list, Mr. Shuman says.

To avoid over-improving your home. "Make sure [improvements] are in line with what's considered popular in the area," Ms. Goodman says.

In a $150,000 home in the St. Louis area, for example, you may not get a good return on your investment for the installation of a granite countertop in the kitchen, she says. By seeing other homes, you'll know what kind of finishes typical homes in the area have; that can help you make smart decisions when planning projects.

To get remodeling and decorating ideas. "For a lot of people, it's fun to see homes, decorating styles, the layout of furniture," Ms. Goodman says.

If you live in the same subdivision and your home has a similar design, it'll be easy to steal some of the ideas -- from how to arrange the furniture to how the living area would look if, say, a wall were removed to create an open floor plan.

To shop for a real-estate agent. If you want to sell your home soon, open houses are a good way to interview agents. Notice how attentive they are to prospective buyers walking through the property. And make sure they're selling the home they're standing in -- only bringing up other listings when it's clear buyers are definitely not interested in the home, Ms. Goodman says.

One of the reasons agents hold open houses is to meet prospective clients, so it's a good opportunity to assess whether you'd like to work with that agent.

To gather comparables. If you're selling your home, you may want to attend open houses to collect information about the competition in the area, says Joseph C. Magdziarz, president of the Appraisal Institute, a professional association that represents real-estate appraisers.

"Assessor's records don't always include all the improvements to a property," he adds. "Appraisers rely on interviews with sellers and [real estate] brokers." The only party who isn't allowed to speak with an appraiser during the process is the lender or mortgage broker -- whoever is involved in approving the financing, he says.

While it may feel awkward walking through a neighbor's home, sellers and agents typically don't take offense. "In today's market, people understand," says Mr. Magdziarz.

From their perspective, the more foot traffic they can get, the better, and they're hoping you spread information about the home to family and friends who might be interested in buying it.

"You never know where that buyer is going to come from," says Julie Ann Giachetti, a real-estate agent with Lang Realty in the Boca Raton area of Florida.

But be honest and tell the agent that you're not a buyer, just an interested neighbor. "That allows us to gauge how much interest there is," Ms. Goodman says. "Ten people, one buyer is very different than 10 buyers."

Also, sign in with the agent, just as everyone else does -- there's a good chance your neighbor won't see the sign-in sheet anyway, Ms. Goodman says.

Finally, in return for having a look around, give honest feedback about the home. "You can give us an honest opinion without jeopardizing your buying power," Ms. Goodman says. This can help the seller address issues with the property.