5 Smart Strategies to Pull Off a Fast-Paced Military Move

If you’re a service member, you know that when things happen in the military, they happen fast. And that’s especially true for prospective buyers during a Permanent Change of Station, or PCS—when you’ll suddenly be buying a house and making a hurried move to a community you know little or nothing about.

Without the luxury of time to stroll through open houses and compare neighborhoods, you might feel uncertain whether you’re making the right decisions.

Don’t worry! There are a few things you can do to help yourself nail this fast-paced move—with no regrets.

1. Find an agent who’s experienced with military moves

Although any real estate agent can help you with a military move and Veterans Affairs loan, it can help to work with someone who knows the process inside and out.

A real estate agent who specializes in working with military buyers understands every step of your home-buying journey—from checking that a home has the VA-designated Minimum Property Requirements to making sure closing is a breeze.

To find the right agent for you, start by checking for specialized certifications such as Military Relocation Professional® or Military Residential Specialist. You can also ask another veteran for a referral, or get help from Veterans United Realty to find a pro.

And remember: Nothing is as important as asking potential agents how they’ve handled military purchases in the past—and how they’d handle yours.

2. Have your paperwork in order

As soon as you get your PCS orders, make sure to get a mortgage pre-approval in hand.

This crucial document gives you a clear picture of your buying power so you don’t fall in love with a place you can’t afford. Plus, a pre-approval can give you a leg up, proving to the seller that you’re both willing and able to purchase the home, says Realtor® Bobby Middleton with Texas Premier Realty in San Antonio.

But even if you’ve been pre-approved, don’t assume you’re good to go, Middleton cautions.

“Pre-approval doesn’t mean that your lender won’t check your credit again,” he says, warning would-be buyers not to open a new credit card to buy appliances, or to ignore a credit card payment in the chaos of moving. Middleton’s seen a number of cases where an approved loan went south at closing when a buyer’s credit was checked again.

You’ll also want to get your Power of Attorney finalized, in case you aren’t able to be present for key events, like closing. Talk with your lender about the type of power of attorney you might need.

3. Make good use of technology

Once you’ve nailed down your budget, it’s time to start searching for homes. This is where things can get tricky—but they don’t have to be.

Use an online home search to narrow down the homes that check all your boxes and your budget. Then ask your VA-savvy agent to check out the properties—and take you along for the visit. Thanks to the magic of video-chatting apps (like Skype and FaceTime), being out of market doesn’t mean you have to purchase a house “sight unseen” anymore.

“My client might say, ‘Show me what the pantry looks like or how big the kitchen really is,’” Middleton says. “We go through the house with such a fine-toothed comb that they feel like they are there; it can be almost as good as an in-person view if you take adequate time.”

Even if you’re able to swing a visit, an early video tour will help you rank properties so you can spend extra time in the houses you like and not waste time on the nonstarters.

In addition to the house tour, try using Google Earth, recommends Twila Lukavich, a Realtor® with ProSmart Realty in Peoria, AZ.

“This tool truly gives you a real-time, bird’s-eye view of the street and the neighbors’ homes that surround the house that interests you,” Lukavich says.

4. Do some homework

Sure, driving the streets and talking to neighbors are an important part of house hunting. But doing some research might give you a better picture of key details—and make you feel like you’re almost there.

Your first stop should be the city’s chamber of commerce website, Lukavich says.

“The majority of them will have a section with information on the area that will help you get a feel for the community—from what sorts of shops and services are available to what local events they host,” she says.

And make sure you do your homework on the community’s crime stats, sex offender registries, and any other details that might be of concern; because of the Fair Housing Act, your agent actually isn’t allowed to answer these kinds of questions.

Don’t overlook the local schools—even if you don’t have kids now, the reputation of the school district has direct bearing on your future resale value. Check out GreatSchools for information on everything from test scores to school diversity and experience level of the teachers, Middleton suggests.

Finally, if the home is in an HOA community or a master-planned community, look for a Facebook or Nextdoor community page.

“There is no better insight to a community than a localized social media page,” Lukavich says.

5. Factor in time to sell your current home

Make sure you’re not so laser-focused on buying that you forget about offloading your current home.

“While selling a home is no easy task for anyone, it can be even harder when you add the stress of being active-duty and ordered to relocate to a new area within a very short timeline,” Lukavich points out.

If you’re not in a seller’s market, you might have to make a few concessions to move your home fast: Price your home to sell. Be willing to negotiate. And spend a bit of money to stage it and make it look irresistible (this is especially important if you’ve already moved and your home is vacant). You can even try writing a personal letter to potential buyers explaining the reasons you bought the home, including the amazing neighborhood, schools, and any other amenities that stand out to you.

Finally, put your house on the market as soon as you learn you may receive PCS orders to a different area, Lukavich suggests.

“You can note in the listing that the sale is contingent upon the sellers receiving the actual PCS orders,” she says.

 

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Source: https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/home-buying-military-move-tips/

 

May 21, 2018   No Comments

Summer Savers: 9 Things You Can Do Now To Protect Your Home Before The Heat Hits

Summer Savers: 9 Things You Can Do Now To Protect Your Home Before The Heat Hits mdsprinklers.com

Things are heating up and school is winding down. That mean’s summer is right around the corner. But it’s not all flip-flops and sunglasses and smiles. Summer is also hot and sweaty and often expensive when you’re trying not to be hot and sweaty, or you just want your home to run more efficiently. There are things you can do and changes you can make now to save money this summer.

Have your sprinkler system and outdoor faucets looked at

You could have sprinkler heads that are malfunctioning or not working at all, which could harm your grass and cost you money to replace it. Leaky outdoor faucets could also be costing you in increased water bills.

Do a leak check inside

Cold air escaping and hot air intruding – it’s the reality of many a home, and not only can it make you feel uncomfortable, it can make your air conditioner work overtime. “For a thorough and accurate measurement of air leakage in your home, hire a qualified technician to conduct an energy audit, particularly a blower door test,” said the U.S. Department of Energy. “A blower door test, which depressurizes a home, can reveal the location of many leaks.”

Do an appliance check

Have a mixer, blender, and knife sharpener plugged in on your kitchen countertop? How often do you really use any of these items? The more you unplug, the less energy you use.

Have your A/C unit checked and serviced

Not only do you not want your air conditioning to conk out in mid-summer when it’s blasting hot outside, but you also want to make sure you catch little issues before they become giant, expensive ones – and before you’re A/C guy books up. “There are two main reasons to schedule annual air conditioner maintenance with your local HVAC contractor: saving money and saving money (no that isn’t a typo),” said HomeAdvisor. “For starters, you greatly increase the chances that your A/C technician will catch small problems before they become big ones by schedules regular check-ups. Repairing a small refrigerant leak shouldn’t cost much more than the service call. Buying a new compressor when low refrigerant levels burn your current one out, however, can cost a thousand dollars or more. The other way an annual check-up saves you money is by ensuring that your A/C unit is working at optimal efficiency. When your A/C is running well it uses less energy to cool your house, and lower energy use means bigger savings for you on your monthly utility bills.”

Remember to change your filters regularly, too. According to Energy.gov, “The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to routinely replace or clean its filters. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%.”

Use the toaster instead of the oven

The heat from the oven can raise the temp in your home, causing your air conditioner to turn on. Using smaller appliances – your slow cooker is another idea – can help keep the temperature lower. Even better, use your outdoor grill, instead!

Cover up

Windows that are exposed to afternoon sun can heat up the house quickly, undermining your A/C and making everyone in the house uncomfortable.

“Air conditioning is blissful during the summer, but running it nonstop during a heat wave will have you cursing when you get your utility bill,” said Consumer Reports. “Fortunately, clever use of blinds, curtains, and other window treatments can help keep your house cool and your bills in check. The Department of Energy says that smart management of window coverings can reduce heat gain by up to 77 percent.”

Cover up inside and out for the best protection. “Studies show that medium-colored draperies with white plastic backings can reduce heat gain by 33 percent, according to the DOE. Because of the horizontal slats, it’s difficult to control heat loss through interior window blinds, although they do offer some flexibility. Unlike shades, you can adjust the slats to control light and ventilation. When completely closed, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45 percent, says the DOE. They can also be adjusted to block and reflect direct sunlight onto a light-colored ceiling, which diffuses the light without much heat or glare.”

Outside, consider solar screens, or awnings. “Window awnings can reduce solar heat gain by up to 65 percent on south-facing windows and 77 percent on west-facing windows, according to the DOE.”

Turn up the temperature

That goes against the whole “keeping the house cool” thing, right? But, if you can stand it, a few ticks up on the thermostat can lower your costs. “According to Energy Star, almost half the energy used in your home goes toward heating and cooling. Even making small adjustments, such as turning up your air conditioning by only one degree, can make a huge difference,” said Huffington Post. “For each degree you reduce your air conditioning, it’s estimated you’ll save 3 percent on your utility bills. You can also save money by using a programmable thermostat. When used correctly, a programmable thermostat saves the average family $180 per year.”

Get a learning thermostat

Unlike old-school thermostats that you can program for different times and days, products like Nest actually learn from you, and your house, which can then save you money. “Why should you have to figure out your thermostat? The Nest Thermostat learns from you,” said Nest. “Just turn it up and down for the first few days. The Nest Thermostat will get to know the temperatures you like and when you like them. Then it programs itself and creates a schedule for you. The Nest Thermostat even learns from your home and figures out how it heats or cools, because no two homes are exactly the same.”

Add insulation

The upfront expense will will pay dividends later when your energy bills go down. “Adding insulation to prevent leaky ducts, walls, windows, and doors can improve your home’s energy draw by 20 to 30 percent,” said Real Simple.

Written By Jaimi Naciri

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice/item/1017243-20180514-summer-savers-9-things-you-can-do-now-to-protect-your-home-before-the-heat-hits?rtmpage=

May 16, 2018   No Comments

Buying a House? Here’s Some Advice You’ll Hear—and Should Totally Ignore

Buying a house? Then you’ll no doubt hear tons of advice from people who’ve been through the home-buying process before and want to pass their sage wisdom onto you. Problem is, sometimes the advice that “everybody knows” is right isn’t.

Fact is, housing markets change over time—and the rules vary widely based on where you’re looking to live, along with lots of other specifics. Just so you can keep your eye peeled for the home-buying advice you might hear that could lead you astray, here are common tips to take with a grain of salt.

‘You can save money by buying a fixer-upper’

Sure, shows such as “Fixer Upper” make it look easy, but rest assured, purchasing a run-down home and turning it into something special “is not for the faint of heart,” says Dan Bawden, former Remodelers Chairman of the National Association of Home Builders.

“If you have no knowledge of renovation, it’s a lot riskier,” Bawden says. Unless you’re an experienced remodeler, he suggests getting an inspection with estimates from a remodeling contractor before you buy.

Even if you have the ability (and time) to do the fixing up necessary, or have found a reliable contractor who can do the work while staying within your budget, you have to factor in the time you’ll be paying the mortgage and bills without being able to live in the home. Six months of paying rent on top of your house payment can quickly eat into what you saved on your “great deal.”

Bottom line: For the inexperienced, the line between fixer-upper and money pit is perilously thin. Make sure the stress of a remodel is worth the savings.

‘Foreclosures and short sales are bargains, too’

Short sales and foreclosures are often not the deals they appear to be, especially for inexperienced buyers.

“In this market, even banks want to get top dollar for their properties,” says Melisa Aponte, a real estate agent with the Keyes Group in Miami. “People can overpay for a property and still have to go through all the hassle of doing the work on it.” This is especially true for people using FHA loans, which have strict requirements about the condition of the homes they are used to purchase.

It’s difficult for novices to know what they’re actually buying, explains Dillar Schwartz, a real estate agent in Austin, TX. “The price tag may be fair, but the damages are often severe and the room for negotiation is limited.”

With foreclosures sold at auction, you’re buying the property as is: You can’t even go inside before purchase. Is that really a risk you’re willing to take, however great the price is?

‘Always buy the worst house on the best block’

On the face of it, this seems like good advice: Pick the ugly ducking in your area, and the higher value of surrounding homes will elevate its value, which means your home’s price has nowhere to go but up! And that’ll be great when you’re ready to sell.

Still, though, what if you don’t want to live in the “worst house”?

While it’s important to think about resale value, most buyers aren’t real estate investors; they’re people buying a home they’re going to live in. Even on the best block in the world, a home that’s too small for your family or that has other deal-breaker qualities is not going to be a good fit.

It’s better to find the right house in a less expensive neighborhood. After all, in a few years, your neighborhood can change, trees will grow, your neighbors’ landscaping could improve, but your house isn’t going to sprout another two bedrooms.

‘You need a neighborhood expert’

Of course you want an agent who knows the area, but do you really need a neighborhood expert? What on Earth does that even mean?

“I think it’s kind of a fake term,” says Schwartz. “Most cities aren’t as divided as you think.” In fact, working with a neighborhood expert can hurt your search if your agent doesn’t suggest properties in more than one small area.

Even if you think you know for sure where you want to buy, “there may be other opportunities out there that are a better fit, and for a better price,” says Schwartz.

She suggests looking at how many clients an agent has worked with overall as a measure of expertise, not just how many homes the agent has found in a certain neighborhood.

“Beware of reading too much into a designation,” she warns.

‘Cost per square foot gives you an apples-to-apples comparison’

Sure, looking at the price per square foot can help you compare properties of different sizes, and is often used as a benchmark for prices in a neighborhood. But that metric can be misleading.

“Price per square foot isn’t always the best data to make an investment decision off of,” says Schwartz.

That’s because there are many very important factors that don’t show up in that number. For example, you’re looking only at interior space. For real apples-to-apples comparisons, you need to consider the yard, garage, unfinished basement, and anything else that doesn’t qualify for the “official” square footage. It also doesn’t take into consideration the number of bathrooms and bedrooms (only the size), or the condition of the home. Price per square foot is just part of the story.

The most important thing to remember when you’re buying a home is that nothing is universal. Advice that makes sense in one market could be absurd in another—which is all the more reason to work with a real estate agent you trust and feel comfortable asking questions. Here’s more on how to find the right real estate agent in your area.

 

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Source: https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/buying-a-house-advice-to-ignore/

April 16, 2018   No Comments

Mortgage Interest Rates Have Begun to Level Off

Mortgage Interest Rates Have Begun to Level Off

Whether you are a buyer searching for your first home, or a homeowner looking to move up to your next home, you should pay attention to where mortgage interest rates are heading.

Over the course of 2018, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, rates have increased from 3.95% in the first week of January to 4.40% in the first week of April.

At first glance, the difference between these numbers in such a short amount of time could be concerning, but if we look at the graph below, we’ll see that rates have already started to level off and return to the mark set in February.

Mortgage Interest Rates Have Begun to Level Off | Keeping Current Matters

This is great news for anyone looking to buy a home this spring! The spring is always one of the busiest seasons for home buying, and with rates increasing even more, buyers have come off the fence to lock in great rates! This is still great advice as the experts believe that rates will continue to rise throughout the year.

Every month, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors release their projections for where they believe mortgage rates will be in the coming months. If we take the average of what each of the four organizations is predicting for the second quarter, rates are expected to rise to about 4.48% by June.

That average climbs to 4.73% by the end of this year.

So, what does this mean?

Waiting until the end of the year to buy, with rates still projected to increase, will end up costing you more money on your monthly mortgage payment. For every $250,000 you need to borrow to purchase your dream home, you will spend $49.21 more per month, $590.52 per year, and over $17,700 by the end of your 30-year mortgage.

And that’s just the impact of your interest rate going up!

Bottom Line

If you are ready and willing to purchase a home, find out if you’re able to by sitting with a local real estate professional who can evaluate your needs and help you with next steps!

Written By The KCM Crew

Source: https://www.keepingcurrentmatters.com/2018/04/11/mortgage-interest-rates-have-begun-to-level-off/

 

April 16, 2018   No Comments

One-Story vs. Two-Story Home: Which Is Better?

One-story versus two-story home: Which is better? When house hunting, this question is worth considering—and the answer isn’t as simple as you might think. The number of floors in a home affects not just the way it looks, but also how easy it is to navigate and maintain, how much you’ll pay for heating and cooling, and much more.

Just so you know what you’re in for based on the number of stories you buy (or build), consider this list of the pros and cons of one-story versus two-story homes.

One-story homes: Pros and cons

Whether you have your eye on a ranch house or bungalow, living life on one floor has plenty of positives. Here are some of the advantages:

  • Maintenance is a piece of (one-layer) cake. One-story homes are easier to maintain because everythings on the same level, points out Nathan Garrett, owner of Garretts Realty in Louisville, KY. On a daily basis, that means no schlepping a vacuum cleaner or loads of laundry up two flights of stairs. From an exterior point of view, everything from power-washing to window washing to painting stays easy and on the groundno scaffolding necessary.
  • Single-story homes are simpler to design. Thinking about building your dream house? One-story homes are simplest to design and thus less expensive to design, explains Rachel Preston Prinz, founding director of Archinia and Architecture for EveryBody in Santa Fe, NM. Theyre also easier than two-story houses to structurally engineer and can be built with prefab components, if that’s your jam.
  • They’re safer to navigate. Have toddlers or an elderly parent living with you who might not be able to safely handle stairs? A one-story home means fewer risks of falls and accidents. It also means that once you get old, you can safely age in place.
  • They’re easier to evacuate. In case of a fire, you’ll be able to open any ground-floor window and crawl out to safety. (Just don’t plant rose bushes directly under your planned escape routes.) Live in an earthquake zone? One-story (wood-framed) houses are the safest structures to be in during a quake.

Now for the potential drawbacks of single-story homes:

  • Building and adding on can be costly. If you’re building a home from the ground up, a larger footprint requires more land, says Prinz. A one-story house also requires more materials such as for the foundation, roofing, and windows. And since plumbing and HVAC runs will need to be longer, thus requiring more power, you’ll need bigger, pricier systems.
  • There’s less privacy. Not everybody likes the letter carrier passing right by their bedroom window to drop off packages. While it’s true that not every single-story house means you’re all that exposed, second stories tend to be more secluded.

Two-story homes: Pros and cons

Whether you fancy a Cape Codsaltbox, or romantic Victorian, there’s a sense of elegance that’s inherent in multistory houses. Can you imagine the White House as one story? Certainly not Buckingham Palace. Aesthetics aside, here are the other perks you get with a two-level house.

  • Extra privacy: A second floor makes for an easier separation of public and private spaces, points out Prinz. If youve ever had guests over and sent your kids upstairs to watch a movieor your in-laws are crashing in the guest room downstairs and you need to get away in your master suitewell, you know what we mean.
  • Lower risk of burglary: You have a significantly lower risk of a break-in if you accidentally leave a window open on the second floor [rather than one on the first], says Shayan Jalali, a sales associate for Keller Williams in Boston. A thief is unlikely to shimmy up your drain pipe just to check out your goods, and far less likely to shimmy down it with your flat-screen TV.
  • More design options: In two-story homes, its fun to play with the massing and scale of spaces, says Prinz, much more so than with just one level.
  • Potential views: If you live in a picturesque area, this advantage speaks for itself. Who doesn’t love a good balcony or second-floor porch?

That said, two-story homes aren’t perfect. Here are the downsides.

  • Greater risk of accidents: Lets talk about those stairs for a moment. They present a potential danger for young children and can be cumbersome for anyone with mobility issues, says Jalali. Youll need to deploy baby-proof gates or figure out a way to make your staircase accessible to any loved ones whose movement is limited. That isnt cheap. Most stairs are difficult to adapt for disabilities, says Prinz. Making a second floor accessible can cost upward of $20,000 for a lift.
  • Costlier heating and cooling: Heat rises; cold air drops. As a result, your upstairs will run hot, your downstairs cold, and you’ll have to adjust your heating and AC accordingly. In fact, some experts say that a two-story home may have double the heating and cooling costs of a single-story home of the same square footage.
  • Potential for higher noise level: If not designed well, a multilevel home can have you covering your ears. If your bedroom opens directly onto a great room balcony or the floor isnt properly designed for acoustics, youll hear people walking and talking above you, cautions Prinz.

Source: https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/one-story-vs-two-story-home-which-is-better/

April 10, 2018   No Comments