Most condominium buildings or planned communities have a Homeowner’s Association, or HOA. The HOA is responsible for managing all of the common areas of the community, including such things as maintenance and gardening. Typically, the HOA is composed of several residents of the community, who collect money from residents — HOA fees — in order to pay specialists for maintenance. Residents usually aren’t required to directly interact with the HOA, but since the revenues they collect benefit the entire community, all homeowners in the community are required to pay HOA fees. In exchange, most of the residents don’t have to worry about routine upkeep.
Declining to participate may prevent your vote from counting when determining where the money goes, though. Except in smaller communities, most residents aren’t on the board of HOA directors. For the most part, HOAs do care about maintaining the community and have good intentions — they probably also live there, after all. However, they may not have the same expertise or connections as you, and it’s theoretically possible that the board members are primarily absentee owners renting out the units. So if you want your voice to be heard, consider joining the board. HOAs are not strongly regulated, so how difficult it would be to get on the board could vary.
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The answer to this question may seem obvious. Of course a first-time homebuyer is just anyone who is buying a home for the first time, right? Well, not exactly. What the phrase is actually referring to is someone who is eligible for a given first-time homebuyer program, usually a lender’s loan program. The lender doesn’t care whether it’s your first time buying or not, only whether or not you are eligible for the loan.
It’s not entirely misleading, though. At least for the criterion related to homeownership, those buying for the first time would qualify. But even that criterion is slightly different; it commonly only requires that you not have owned a home within the prior three years. Moreover, there are multiple other qualification criteria for first-time homebuyer loans. They usually include requirements for down payment, credit score, proof of income, employment history, and a maximum debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Typically, the down payment requirement is between 3% and 20%, the minimum credit score is 500 for FHA loans or 620 for conventional loans, two or more years of employment are required, and the DTI ratio must be no more than 43%. These numbers, as well as the specific criteria, could vary, both by region and by lender.
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For more information as well as information about specific first-time homebuyer programs, see: https://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/who-qualifies-first-time-homebuyer
Especially if you’ve never done it before, finding tenants for your rental property can cause a lot of anxiety. Plenty of things can go wrong — maybe your tenant doesn’t pay the rent; maybe the place gets trashed or your items are stolen; maybe you don’t find a tenant at all and it’s left vacant. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to make sure you find both more and better applicants.
The first step is to make tenants want to live there. Depending on the neighborhood, it may be true that many tenants don’t actually care what the property looks like and just want a roof over their head. But you’ll get those applicants regardless, so you should focus on making your property look and sound good to tenants who are truly looking for a place to call home. Proofread your listing and include attractive photos. Step two is formalizing the application process. There are several good questions to include on the application. You’ll want to have contact information, including full name, address, and contact information for supervisors, emergency contacts, and previous landlords. You also want to verify their identification and make sure their income is high enough to pay the rent. The third step is very important: You need to actually use that information. Call their supervisor and ask about their work reliability, and talk to their previous landlords about any specific concerns you may have. The last step is to meet the prospective tenant in person. You can get a good idea of what a person is like with just a single meeting, but it’s a lot harder if all your communication was by phone or email. If something feels off, you should trust your gut and find a different tenant, even if it’s only to spare you some nervousness.
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Accidents can always happen, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t minimize the risk. This is especially true if you have elderly or disabled people in your home, but homes have safety hazards even if you don’t. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to reduce the risk significantly.
One solution that can actually also save you money is to upgrade your lights. Some older homes may still have incandescent lightbulbs. These are generally dimmer than LEDs and also use more energy. Upgrading to LEDs can decrease the risk of bumping into things in the dark while also reducing your energy costs. Most people are aware of the risks of slipping on wet floors in the bathroom, but many don’t have a proper solution for it. It’s easy to install grab bars on the wall or in the shower to help stabilize you. Speaking of slipping, it’s important to minimize tripping hazards. These can be obvious ones like cables running across the floor, or they can be things you don’t normally think of like tassels on rugs. Cables can be rearranged or taped down, and you can either fold tassels under the rug or purchase a new rug without tassels.
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When you’re trying to sell your home, trying to work in open houses around your schedule can be frustrating. That’s true regardless of whether you want to be there or not. But is one better than the other? Should you schedule them for times when you will be there, or when you won’t be there?
Ultimately, it’s up to you. In general, though, if you choose to be there, it should be because you want to be there. Buyers actually don’t tend to want to talk to the seller so much as the agent, since the agent is usually the one who can answer any questions they might have. Of course, if you’re an outgoing sort of person, you may feel excited to welcome them. If not, though, it’s best to leave, otherwise things can get awkward for everyone involved. Buyers want to be able to imagine themselves living there, and that gets more difficult when it’s obvious that you live there. There is one practical benefit to staying, though — if any problems arise, you will already be there to sort them out.
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Buying a home is a major life decision. Because of this, it’s important that prospective homebuyers take the time to research the best option for them. Unfortunately, that tends not to happen with mortgage loans. Only about 13% of prospective buyers spend at least a month researching lenders. By contrast, 28% spend just as much time researching cars, and 23% vacation options.
One major reason is that they’re simply not well informed. 30% of prospective buyers believe that their credit score will take a major hit if they shop around, the most common reason cited for not shopping around. This is not accurate, as it’s only getting a pre-approval that reduces your credit score, not consulting with lenders. You can submit as many applications as you want within a 45 day period and your credit score will only drop once. 15% also believe that all lenders use the exact same rate, so there’s no reason to get a second quote, which is definitely not the case.
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It may be odd to think of getting a discount on a home. It’s not as though they have flash sales or seasonal specials, like you might find in a department store or supermarket. But price cuts do happen, and that’s kind of like a discount. And they’re actually not all that difficult to predict — there are fairly regular patterns as to when price cuts occur.
Most notably, home sales actually do have something a bit like seasonal specials. Price cuts are most common between the months of July and September, which roughly corresponds to the latter half of summer. By contrast, price cuts are significantly less common during the winter. You probably won’t see a price cut within the first three to four weeks of listing, either. It’s possible to fine-tune your timing some more, though. Price cuts are rare during the weekends, particularly Saturday, and are less common on Friday than other weekdays. Nationwide, the top day for price cuts is Thursday, though it’s not that much different from Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, and it definitely varies by region. The question remains, how much of a discount can you actually get? Currently, around 3%, but it has varied between 2.6% and 3.8% in the past few years.
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The terms of mortgage loans have a lot more variance than one might expect. It’s well known that the average interest rate is just that, an average, but there would be no competition if that were the sole factor. Be sure to get lots of estimates, comparing both different types of loans at the same institution as well as the same type of loan at different institutions.
Make sure you understand the terms clearly, especially because some loans have hidden costs. These can include fees for printing documents or prepayment penalties, among others. Not all lenders have these, nor necessarily for all loans, so shop around. It’s also important to know the rate lock period, so you can be sure that the rate will still be valid by the time you finalize getting the loan. Some costs may even be negotiable, such as loan closing fees and interest rate.
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There are a few different categories of costs involved in selling a house, some more expensive than others. Certain expenses may not apply to every sale, but you should still be aware of them in case they do come up. If you account for every possible situation in your budget, you may even end up with more profit than expected, since they aren’t likely to all occur in a single sale. These costs could come up at any time during the process, so be ready.
Before even deciding to sell, take a look at whether you need to repair or make any upgrades. Houses do sometimes sell as-is, but remodels can be more valuable than their cost, and major repairs may be necessary to sell for anything beyond the value of the bare plot of land. You may want to get a home inspection, though there’s a possibility you could get a buyer to pay for this later. Once your home is listed, you’ll want to help buyers feel welcomed. There could be costs involved with getting the home ready for open houses, though your agent may be responsible for some of these costs. When it comes time to complete the sale, there could be any number of costs, such as taxes, commissions, paying off mortgage, or other fees. And don’t forget about costs that occur after the sale. Many sellers are selling their primary residence and are also moving. That incurs moving expenses, which can get expensive for large, bulky furniture items or traveling long distances.
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Some of the most significant closing costs are related to loans. During a cash sale, loans aren’t a factor, so you may be thinking closing costs are no longer relevant. However, there are certainly closing costs unrelated to loans. And the rules for who pays don’t change; it’s still negotiated between the buyer and seller.
The costs related to loans include origination fees, processing fees, and credit checks. These are all generally paid by the buyer, but you don’t have to worry about these at all for a cash sale. That doesn’t mean everything else is automatically paid by the seller. Closing costs also include earnest money, property inspections, appraisals, title insurance, and a title search. It may also include attorney’s fees, notary expenses, and some escrow fees, if applicable. Earnest money is always paid by the buyer, and in most cases, all or nearly all closing costs are. However, there’s always room to negotiate. Particularly in the case of a cash buyer, the buyer may have more negotiating power because the seller is less likely to want to lose a cash buyer.
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Before you get a mortgage loan, ask yourself whether you want a qualified mortgage (QM) or non-qualified mortgage (Non-QM). You may be wondering under what circumstances you’d want your mortgage to not be qualified. Well, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Non-QMs don’t conform to the regulations set forth by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), but they’re actually entirely legal — the government simply can’t guarantee consumer protections.
So what are these protections, and why might you want to risk going without them? A QM loan cannot last longer than 30 years, cannot have prepayment penalties, cannot be a balloon loan, and should not have negative amortization. It requires a process for verifying several sources of information, including but not limited to bank statements and income. Because of this, it’s often more difficult to qualify for a QM loan. Therefore, someone who can’t qualify for a QM, such as many gig workers, may risk a non-QM loan. Investors, especially foreign investors, also frequently opt for non-QM loans that only require payments on interest. It’s also possible that you want to go for a longer-term loan, which would come with smaller payments, albeit a higher total amount paid once the loan is fully paid off. In any case, you probably want to ask a professional to explain the terms and risks of any loan you are considering taking, whether qualified or not.
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One of the offerings of the Department of Veterans Affairs is mortgage loans. Of course, this is limited to current or past members of the US military. With this restriction comes a few significant benefits if you qualify. VA loans have perks for both low-income and high-income homebuyers.
If you have the money to buy a more expensive home as long as you can get a loan, VA loans may have you covered. There are jumbo loans available which can even exceed $1 million. This may be a good bet even if you are not currently a high-income earner, as long as you are purchasing investment property. This is because there is no minimum down payment for VA loans; you can borrow up to 100% of the home’s value. You don’t even need to worry about private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is required for conventional loans with a down payment under 20%, but not for VA loans regardless of your down payment amount. If your investments pay off, or you start earning more money, you can also pay off the loan faster. VA loans have no penalty for accelerating payments.
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Insuring your home against natural disasters can save you quite a bit of money in the event such a disaster occurs. Frequency of different types of natural disasters varies by region. While this is also true of floods, floods can occur pretty much anywhere, so flood insurance may be worthwhile regardless of whether you are in a flood zone or not. So what do you need to know about flood insurance?
Flood insurance is not legally required. However, some mortgage lenders may require it, especially if the property is in a flood zone. As can be expected, flood insurance premiums are higher in flood zones, since there is more risk. That also means it can be relatively inexpensive if your area is not flood-prone. Since floods still occur at a significant rate in such areas, it’s probably a good deal even if the lender doesn’t require it. If you do get flood insurance, whether you chose to or your lender asked for it, make sure to compare plans. Premiums vary by company, and most companies have more than one insurance policy. Most policies cover damage to both the building and the contents of the home, but you should check to make sure. Some plans also include replacement expenses.
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If you’re selling your home, or getting ready to do so, you may have thought about some of your prospective buyers’ potential questions and what the answers would be. Many of these probably relate to the home itself or the neighborhood, and can be expected questions. However, some not so uncommon buyer questions are decidedly more bizarre.
Perhaps not entirely unexpected is the question of whether or not there have been infestations, and it’s a common one. This would obviously be a major concern for a buyers, but be prepared for buyers to be overly concerned about certain unlikely infestations. Buyers may ask about pests that don’t even live in your area. Another very common question that may seem a bit silly to some people is whether or not someone has died in the home. Certain superstitious buyers may think this means the home could be haunted, which would be a major turn off. You may not even know yourself whether someone died there or not if it happened a long time ago, but buyers like this will still want to know. A less common death-related question, though perhaps one grounded more in observable reality, is whether anything was buried in the home’s yard. It’s not uncommon for people to bury their pets in the backyard, but buyers or their own pets may not want to unearth something like that.
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Home staging is one of the best ways to garner interest in your home. Your home should look like someone lives there, otherwise buyers won’t be able to imagine themselves living there. At the same time, it shouldn’t be too personalized, otherwise it will look like a home for you rather than a home for them. Fortunately, some of the most cost effective methods of home staging are also impersonal.
While it’s certainly more cost effective if done for you rather than a buyer, updating your lighting to more energy-efficient models is sure to relieve some stress from buyers. Purchasing new furniture is expensive, but a similar effect can be achieved at much lower cost with new slipcovers and bedsheets. Even if you plan to keep them yourself, or just use them for staging, a few plants can add vibrancy to your home, particularly if they are in bloom. An important step that costs next to nothing in money, albeit a significant amount of time, is giving your entire home a thorough cleaning.
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Any time you are selling your home, you want to ensure that the transaction goes smoothly. The best way to do that is to pick the right buyer. Simply selling to the highest bidder may net the most profits, but that assumes the deal actually goes through. Even if it does, you may have lost time and gained headaches. Instead, make sure your buyer is qualified.
There are a few things to look for in a qualified buyer. The first is mortgage pre-approval. If your buyer is not pre-approved, they may have to back out after discovering they don’t qualify for a loan. If there’s a buyer you otherwise like but they aren’t pre-approved, you can certainly suggest getting a pre-approval before submitting an offer. You should also establish terms in the contract regarding an earnest money deposit and check that the buyer has the money ready. There are also a couple of red flags to watch out for. As cliché as it sounds, if an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. In addition, a buyer who isn’t interested in an inspection may not be very serious.
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You may have heard of a home equity loan, but you may not know what it actually is. A home equity loan uses the accrued value of your home as collateral against a loan, and typically allows you to borrow up to 85% of the difference between the home’s value and the balance due on your mortgage. If you fail to pay back your loan, you may have to sell the house to pay it back. This is similar to a home equity line of credit (HELOC), but unlike a HELOC, a home equity loan is a one-time event with a fixed interest rate. The interest rate tends to be higher than the rate for a standard mortgage loan, but lower than rates for most credit cards. Normal regulations for mortgage loan approval apply to home equity loans as well.
A home equity loan is frequently called a second mortgage. Homeowners frequently still have some balance due when they take out a home equity loan, which means they now effectively have not one but two mortgages. In addition, the money is often used to finance the down payment on a second home. However, this isn’t the only purpose of a home equity loan. You don’t need to have a mortgage to get a home equity loan — if you don’t have one, it just means your balance due is zero, and therefore there is potentially a higher ceiling on loan amount. Furthermore, the money gained from a home equity loan doesn’t need to be used for a second home, or anything relating to homes. It’s simply your money, and can be used without restriction.
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Renting out your home, especially for a short period, can seem like a simple way to turn a profit without much effort. However, there’s a fair bit that goes into getting the home ready to be rented out. Just like if you were selling your house, you need to make sure there’s interest, which means making a good impression on potential renters.
The easiest way to do this is by repainting your home, which is something you’d probably do if you were selling as well. It may even be more important when renting, though, especially if you aren’t going to allow your tenants to repaint. Buyers may think they’re just going to repaint anyway, so they don’t care what color the walls are. But with tenants, you want to be sure to choose neutral colors that won’t offend anyone’s aesthetic.
You should also be sure that all the legal details are worked out. You may feel the desire to skip the middleman, but that’s not a good plan. A real estate agent will help draft a lease that protects both you and the tenant. Property management companies remove much of the headache of being away from the property. Regular maintenance can often be left to property management companies. That said, if the house is not in good condition from the outset, tenants won’t be interested enough to sign a lease. Make sure to take care of repairs before you start.
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Vinyl has become a very popular option for flooring. It has a few important advantages going for it. Vinyl floors are both cost effective and durable, making them an attractive alternative to hardwood flooring. Many people also consider vinyl to be aesthetically pleasing. However, you can’t take advantage of that durability if you don’t know how to take care of it.
Spills and stains can become permanent if not dealt with quickly. Start by just wiping it up with clean water, then switch to a vinyl cleaning solution if you have one. For tougher stains, you can use a paste made with baking soda and water. Rub the paste into the affected area, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it up. If that doesn’t work either, try rubbing alcohol. As for regular maintenance, you should be sure to mop or vacuum the floor at least once per week. Wax polish isn’t necessary, but you should occasionally clean the floor with a mixture of baby oil, vinegar, and water.
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Most of the time, vacations don’t last that long — a few days or maybe a few weeks. Homeowners are generally okay with leaving their homes unattended for that length of time. But what if you’re vacationing for the entire summer or winter? It’s simply not practical to leave your home vacant for three months or longer. You may want to rent out for home for the length of your vacation.
A three-month rental contract may not seem like a long time, but is actually considered a long-term contract, not a short-term contract. So it’s not any more complex of a process than any other standard rental contract. The most obvious benefit is the income generation, but there are less obvious reasons to want to keep your home occupied. Vacant homes are the primary target for burglaries, so if you have tenants in your house, you’re less likely to be a victim of crime. Tenants can notify you of any problems that arise, and also take care of regular maintenance such as mowing the lawn, though you should make sure to include this in the contract.
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