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7 Quick-and-Easy Winter Weather Preparations to Do Right Now

winter home

Wintry weather is great at turning up problems you didn’t even know you had. Like that first snowy night in front of your fireplace that you thought was pure bliss — until you noticed a leak in the ceiling corner, which apparently was caused by a lack of insulation. How were you supposed to know that?

Here are seven things to do now to avoid costly wintertime mistakes:

#1 Buy a $2 Protector for Your Outdoor Faucet

The cost if you don’t: Up to $15,000 and a whole lot of grief

It’s amazing what a little frozen water can do damage-wise. An inch of water in your basement can cost up to $15,000 to pump out and dry out. And, yet, it’s so easy to prevent, especially with outdoor faucets, which are the most susceptible to freezing temps.

The simplest thing to do is to remove your garden hose from your outdoor faucet and drain it. Then add a faucet protector to keep cold air from getting into your pipes. They’re really cheap (some are under $2; the more expensive ones are still less than $10). “Get these now,” says Danny Lipford, home improvement expert and host of the “Today’s Homeowner” television and radio shows. “When the weatherman says we’ve got cold coming, they’ll sell out in minutes.”

While you’re at it, make sure any exposed pipes in an unheated basement or garage are insulated, too, or you’ll face the same pricey problem.

Wrap pipes with foam plumbing insulation — before the weather drops. It’s cheap, too, just like the faucet cover (only $1 for six feet of polyethylene insulation). And it’s an easy DIY project, as long as you can reach the pipes.

#2 Add Insulation to Prevent Ice Dams

The cost if you don’t: $500 — if you’re lucky; a lot more if you’re not

Those icicles make your home look so picturesque, you just gotta take a few pics. But you better make them quick. Those icicles can literally be a dam problem. (Yes, dam — not the curse word that sounds the same. )

Icicles are a clear sign that you’ve got an ice dam, which is exactly what it sounds like: a buildup of ice on your gutter or roof that prevents melting snow and ice from flowing through your gutters. That’s really bad news because these icy blocks can lead to expensive roofing repairs.

Depending on where you live, expect to pay at least $500 for each ice dam to be steamed off. Leave the ice and you risk long-term damage, which could ultimately cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to your roof, depending on what type of shingles you have and the size of the damaged area.

How to prevent them? Insulation. “Ice dams, icicles, and ice buildup on the gutters is a symptom of not enough insulation in the attic,” says Chris Johnson, owner of Navarre True Value and several other stores in the Twin Cities area.

And “you need to have at least 14 inches of insulation in your attic, no matter where you live,” says Lipford. If you live in a colder climate, you’ll need more.

If you don’t have the cash to insulate, heated gutter cables, which run between $50 and $150 each, can be a less expensive alternative when temporarily affixed to areas prone to ice damming, Johnson suggests.

Ice dams and snow on roof and gutters

#3 Clean Your Gutters

The cost if you don’t:: You really don’t want to be in a position to find out

It can be so tempting to skip gutter cleanups as winter nears. It seems like as soon as you clear your gutters, they clog right back up again. So what’s the point?

Well, if it looks like you’re living inside a waterfall when it rains, water is missing your gutter system completely. It’s being directed to your foundation instead. And a water-damaged foundation is never, ever cheap to fix.

A contractor can plug foundation cracks for $1,500 to $3,000, says David Verbofsky, director of training for exterior home products manufacturer Ply Gem. But a worse problem, one that requires a foundation excavation or rebuild, can set you back (gulp) $30,000 or more.

Suddenly, cleaning your gutters a few times each fall doesn’t seem so bad. A pro can do the work for anywhere between $70 and $250, depending on the size of your gutter system.

#4 Seal Up Leaks

The cost if you don’t: Nights where you never feel warm, despite sky-high heating bills

“If it were possible to take every crack on the outside of a typical home and drag them together, you’d have the equivalent of a three-by-three window open all the time,” says Lipford. Yikes.

Yet cracks can be easily and inexpensively sealed with a simple tube of caulk, and it’s available in hundreds of colors to match your window panes, outside siding, and even brick. Not sure where to caulk? Look for visible cracks around:

  • Window sills
  • Baseboards
  • Fireplace or dryer vents
  • Anywhere something inside pokes a hole to the outside

winter cookies

#5 Program Your Thermostat

The cost if you don’t: Money you could spend on something else besides heating

We all know we should, but we seem to have some mental block when it comes to programming our thermostats to align with our schedules. It’s not that hard, and sometimes all it takes is buying a new one that suits you. (Like maybe a Wi-Fi one that’ll give you a little money-saving thrill each time you swipe your app.)

“From a cost-savings perspective, a programmable thermostat is a great investment,” Lipford says — as much as 10% off your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

#6 Get a Furnace Tune-Up

The cost if you don’t: A furnace that’ll die years before it should — and higher energy bills

“Forget to service your furnace and you could easily cut five years off the life of your system,” says Lipford, who added that five years is a full third of the typical unit’s life span. New units can cost around $4,000 installed, making the $125 annual maintenance charge a no-brainer.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to replace the furnace filter, which cleans the air in your home, and also keeps your furnace coils cleaner, which can shave up to 15% off your energy bill. Johnson suggests at least every three months, but possibly as often as monthly if you have allergies, pets, or smoke cigarettes at home.

fireplace

#7 Get a Fireplace Inspection

The cost if you don’t: Possibly your life — and your home

“A cozy fire is great, but if you don’t maintain your chimney, a fire can cost you thousands of dollars,” says Johnson, not to mention the risk to you and your family.

Schedule your maintenance appointment as early as you can.”If you wait until the busy season, you’ll have a hard time getting them out there, you’ll pay more, and you’ll get a lower quality job,” says Lipford.

written by ALAINA TWEDDALE for houselogic .com

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7 Key Things That Help You Qualify For A Mortgage

A SHARED ARTICLE WRITTEN BY MICHELE LERNER

mortgage-refinancing

In an environment where lenders are highly regulated and risk-averse, borrowers are rightfully a little nervous when they apply for a mortgage. But with the right preparation, qualifying for a home loan can be a rewarding experience in your journey toward homeownership.

“In a lot of ways, lenders have gone back to the basics, looking at fundamental personal finance criteria to decide who qualifies for a loan,” says Rick Sharga, chief marketing officer of Ten-X, an online real estate marketplace in Irvine, California.

At the same time, Sharga says lenders have been more risk-averse than ever since the housing bust.

A.W. Pickel, III, Midwest division president of AmCap Mortgage in Kansas City, Missouri, recommends finding a loan officer you can trust and sticking with that person during your entire homebuying process.

“A good loan officer is like a pilot flying you and your loan from Kansas City to Hawaii,” Pickel says. “There are several ways to get there and several things that can happen on the way. A good loan officer has seen the turbulence and knows where the smooth air is.”

7 steps toward a loan approval

The back-to-basics approach by lenders means that borrowers can take steps that increase their chances of a mortgage approval.

Improving your credit, reducing your debt and gathering your documentation are among the many things you can do long before a loan application to increase the likelihood of getting a “yes” from a lender.

1. Maintain a high credit score. The average FICO score for an approved borrower is around 720 for a conventional loan and close to 700 for an FHA-insured loan, says Sharga. He says borrowers should find out their FICO score before applying for a loan, make sure their credit report is correct and take steps to improve their score if necessary. Pickel says he recently reviewed a loan file with a high debt-to-income ratio of 49 percent but a credit score over 800, which resulted in a loan approval.

Keep a vigilant eye on your credit profile while you wait for your loan to close, too.

“Once the application process has begun, borrowers shouldn’t do anything that might negatively impact their credit rating — no new accounts, no late or missed payments,” says Sharga.

2. Save for a bigger down payment. One way to minimize risk for a lender is to make a higher-than-minimum down payment. “The average down payment today is around 10 percent; historically the standard has been 20 percent,” says Sharga. “Anything above that lowers the loan-to-value ratio, which is viewed positively.”

3. Choose the right loan. If you have less money for a down payment but have good credit, you may qualify for a conventional loan with private mortgage insurance and a down payment requirement of 3 to 5 percent.

You may want to look for a lender who issues FHA loans, which are often available to borrowers with less cash or a lower credit score and require a down payment of 3.5 percent. Keep in mind these loans require a monthly mortgage insurance payment in addition to principal and interest, Sharga says.

4. Manage your debt. Lenders are reluctant to issue loans that fall outside qualified mortgage rules established by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), says Sharga. These loans have a strict cap of a 43 percent debt-to-income ratio, which is the percentage of your gross monthly income that goes toward the minimum payment on all your debt, including your mortgage.

Paying off credit card balances or at least reducing debt before applying for a home loan is helpful.

5. Buy within your means. “Be realistic with your monthly income,” Pickel says. “Buy a house with a monthly payment you can afford. Buying a house that needs the income from two or three future raises will only cause stress.”

It matters that you can afford your payments and have remaining income after those payments are made, he says.

6. Demonstrate stability. Lenders look for signs of personal and financial stability, such as whether you’ve saved three to six months’ worth of expenses in the bank, whether you have a steady employment record and how often you’ve moved over the past few years, Sharga says. Your good credit score and a pattern of saving money are both indicators of financial strength.

7. Respond fast to lender requests. The CFPB’s ability-to-repay rule requires lenders to verify whether a borrower has the means to handle loan payments, says Sharga. This requires you to have all your financial records in order, including pay stubs, bank records, tax returns and more. Sharga says incomplete documentation is a common reason for loans being declined.

“If the loan officer asks for it, then bring it,” says Pickel. “Sometimes people don’t want to say they can’t find something or they don’t want to look for it, but it really helps to have all the information that the loan officer requests. This will help expedite the process.”

While it should go without saying, honesty is an essential component of a loan approval.

“No one likes surprises, especially loan underwriters,” says Pickel. “Tell the truth, even if it hurts. It will help even if it means that you don’t qualify today.”

Michele Lerner has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades and contributes articles about mortgages at MoneyGeek.com. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and online at Fox Business News, Forbes BrandVoices, NewHomeSource.com, MSN.com, and Yahoo.com.

Garry’s Thoughts

If you are renting now you are very familiar with the high cost of rental rates in this sizzling real estate market.  This article will help with laying the ground work for qualifying for a mortgage to purchasing your own home plus the mortgage payment will most likely be less than what you are paying in rent right now.

Home Security Tips for the Summer

An increase in burglaries during the summer months means it’s time to help safeguard your clients’ homes while they’re away for the season or absent while selling. Ooma, a smart home phone and security company, offers six tips for preventing break-ins.

  1. Front door surveillance. Because 34 percent of break-ins happen through the front door of a home, recommend that your clients install a smart doorbell that routes to their phone. Other security options Ooma mentions include two-way speakers that will give visitors the impression the owner is home, or video cameras so your clients can see who’s at the door from their phone.
  2. Secured windows. The second most common break-in location is a first floor window, the access point of 23 percent of burglars. Ooma recommends installing sash locks and wireless motion sensors that will alert the homeowner if a window is opened or broken.
  3. Don’t forget the AC unit. Pushing in a window air conditioning unit is another common break-in method. Suggest motion sensors near the AC unit, or tell your clients to remove the unit while they’re away, Ooma says.
  4. Barring patio and sliding glass doors. Sliding doors should not only be locked, but should also have a barrier bar in the tracks. Ooma suggests homeowners place motion detectors in this area as well.
  5. Leave the lights on. The goal is to make the home appear lived in, even if your clients are vacationing or have already moved out. Ooma recommends smart lights that homeowners can control from their phone, or at the very least, light timers.
  6. Call 911 from afar. A homeowner trying to reach the police from a remote location can take valuable minutes. Home security companies, including Ooma, offer remote 911 calling.

Source: Ooma Home Security

Shared from DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS

Garry Thoughts

With summer upon us and many taking vacations, it’s important that you keep your home secure, especially while your home is listed on the market.  This list is a good start to a safe home.  Remember to always verify with your Listing Company who is showing your home!

Americans Want to Hear More on Affordability

“In many ways, housing is an invisible crisis,” says Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “There are still too many families without access to safe, secure, and affordable housing. This survey highlights the value all of us place on a decent place to call home and underscores the critical need to increase access to affordable housing.”

According to the survey, nine out of 10 Americans say owning a home is one of their greatest achievements in life. Also, 68 percent of U.S. renters say owning a home is one of their chief goals, according to the survey. PSB, on behalf of Habitat for Humanity, surveyed 1,000 people in the U.S. and Canada to gauge their perceptions of and challenges to affordable housing.

Ninety-one percent of American homeowners credited owning a home with making them more responsible, and 44 percent said it helped them build a nest egg. Forty-one percent say homeownership has given them stability.

But homeownership remains out of reach for many. Nine out of 10 Americans and Canadians say it’s important to find solutions to the lack of affordable housing. At 59 percent, concerns regarding U.S. affordability in particular easily topped other housing issues like safety (16%) and quality (11%).

One major barrier to homeownership cited among survey respondents: the high costs of rent. Eighty-four percent of survey respondents said the high cost of rent was preventing them from buying, followed by 75 percent who said obtaining a mortgage was proving to be a big barrier.

Many of the survey respondents said they’ve struggled to pay housing costs at some point in their life. Among U.S. respondents, 27 percent of respondents said they struggled to pay housing costs in their 20s; 22 percent in their 30s; 11 percent in their 40s; and 9 percent in their 50s.

Source: “Nine Out of 10 Americans and Canadians Call for Affordable Housing Solutions,” Habitat for Humanity (June 20, 2017)

Shared from DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS

Garry’s Thoughts

It seems hard to believe in our market here in Colorado and how housing prices have been increasing over the past 3 years but here is a short list of areas in the country where housing prices are actually dropping.

First-Time Buyers Face New Competition

Investors are scouring real estate markets looking for low-priced homes, and they’re increasingly stepping on the toes of first-time buyers, who are hunting in the same price range. “The investor is starting to gobble up pretty much anything under $200,000,” Dennis Cisterna, chief revenue officer for Investability Real Estate, which markets rental homes, told The Dallas Morning News. “We are not adding any new supply to the market to serve that first-time home buyer.”

Housing inventories are at the lowest level in 30 years, and the shortages are most pronounced in the low and middle price ranges. “We are losing inventory at a record pace and in the segment of the market with the most demand,” says Javier Vivas, a realtor.com® analyst.

Investors comprised 33 percent of all single-family and condo sales in 2016, the highest percentage ever recorded by real estate data firm ATTOM Data Solutions. “This is setting the stage for a boom in single-family rentals,” says Daren Blomquist, an economist at ATTOM.

But while institutional investors dominated the rental housing market after the housing crash, they’re increasingly being priced out of markets such as Denver and Dallas. Smaller mom-and-pop investors are now stepping in to take their place. “The investors are competing for those starter homes,” Blomquist says, adding that 61 percent of investor purchases are for homes between 1,000 and 2,000 square feet.

Investors also tend to pay cash, which is making it difficult for first-time buyers who need financing to compete. About 19 million single-family homes in the U.S. are now owned by investors, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.

Source: “First-Time Buyers Hunting Affordable Housing are up Against Property Investors … and Losing,” The Dallas Morning News (June 16, 2017)

Shared from: DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS

Garry’s Thoughts

This article is great as it describes the fact that First Time Homebuyers are being forced out of the market.  This is due largely because housing values are increasing so significantly and buyer’s aren’t able to qualify for the average sale price of homes in the Front Range area. We are finding that an FHA loan or even a low down-payment conventional financed loan cannot compete against an investor cash offer who will use the home as a rental property. I am seeing a large percentage of investors taking their money out of their stock market investment portfolios and reinvesting in real estate.