Category Archives: Reporter

Homebuyer Tool: Final Walk-Through Checklist

 

Do a Final Walk-Through Before Closing

Homebuyer Tool: Final Walk-Through Checklist

You’ve done it! You’ve found your dream home, and you are almost ready to sign the papers that will make it yours. While you are anxious to close the deal and move in, there is one critical last step before you do so – a final walk-through. You might be tempted to use this opportunity to give the house one more cursory glance as you plan where you’ll put your furniture, but this is your last chance to make sure the home is in good shape and that any repairs or changes have been made as agreed.

  1. Heating and Cooling Systems. Check to be sure that the heating and cooling systems in the home work, no matter what the season. You don’t want to wait until winter to know that the furnace or heat pump isn’t working.
  2. Plumbing. Turn on every faucet and showerhead and flush all the toilets. Do they all work? Is anything leaking? Is the water pressure appropriate? If not, make a note of it.
  3. Electrical Systems. Turn on all the lights and ceiling fans, find the fuse box and check to be sure that switch plates, fixtures, etc. are in place. If anything is missing, jot it down.
  4. Appliances. Are the appliances in good working order? Make sure that any appliances that are staying work. Turn on the dishwasher, make sure the refrigerator and freezer are cold, give the dryer a spin, test the garbage disposal, and check the microwave and bathroom fans.
  5. Home Security. If the home has a security system, is it working? Does the keypad work? How about the remotes? Do you know where everything is and do you have instructions on how to change passcodes, etc. once the home is yours?
  6. Windows and Doors. Open every window and door to ensure there aren’t any problems, and make sure you have keys to each door. Are the screens and storm windows intact? If the home has an electric garage door opener, check that too and be sure you have access to all remotes.
  7. Landscaping and Lawn Care. Check to be sure that the lawn has been left as you agreed to it. Make note of any problems with the fencing and, if there is a watering system, check to be sure that it works. Is anything missing?
  8. Repairs. If the current homeowner agreed to make any repairs prior to selling the home, or if the inspection required repairs or upgrades as a condition of sale, follow up to be sure these repairs have been made. Also, if the homeowner agreed to leave the ceiling fan, curtains or other items, check to be sure they are still in the home.
  9. Overall Condition of the Home. Is the home clean? Have all of the previous owner’s property been removed? If not, let your Realtor® know.

Make sure you have your Realtor along when you do the final walk-through, so she can serve as the liaison between you and the sellers should there be a problem. You’ll want to get everything resolved prior to closing. Enjoy your new home!

Sources:  Money Crashers, Realtor Magazine and Zillow

 

 

 

Homebuyer FAQs: Mortgage and Closing Costs

What You Need to Know about Mortgage & Closing Costs

Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned homeowner ready for your next home, it is important to understand mortgage and closing costs. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you better understand your options.

Buying a Home: Homebuyer FAQs re Mortgage Costs and Closing CostsQ:  What factors impact a mortgage interest rate?

A:  There are many factors involved when determining a homebuyer’s interest rate including credit score, loan type, home price, down payment and mortgage costs (for example, points, mortgage insurance and closing costs).

Q:  What other credit-related factors are important when financing a home?

A:  The better your credit, the lower your interest rate for a home loan is likely to be. Mortgage lenders consider your overall credit score, but they also consider your credit history with them, the amount of debt you already have, how much money you have in savings, your total assets and your current income. Learn more about credit reports and scores here.

Q:  What are points?

A:  Also called discount points, points lower your interest rate in exchange for a fee paid at closing. When you choose to pay points, you pay more at closing, but you lower your interest rate and pay less for the home over time. Points are related to the loan amount, and one point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. For example, on a $200,000 mortgage loan, 1 percent of the loan amount would be $2,000. Points are listed on your loan estimate and on the closing disclosure.

Q:  What is mortgage insurance?

A:  Many lenders require mortgage insurance for borrowers who put less than 20 percent down on the purchase of a home. The mortgage insurance lowers the risk to the lender, making it easier for you to qualify for a home loan. The cost of the mortgage insurance is included in your monthly mortgage payment, increasing your monthly mortgage payment. The cost of private mortgage rates varies depending on the borrower’s down payment and credit score.

Q:  What closing costs will I have to pay?

A:  Closings costs, the amount of money you’ll need to pay when you close on the purchase of your home, vary. Sometimes these costs are paid out of pocket, but some lenders will roll these costs into the total loan amount of your mortgage. Certain closing costs may also be negotiated with the home seller and the home seller’s agent. Common closing costs include appraisal fees, title insurance, government taxes, tax service provider fees, and prepaid expenses (for example, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and interest between the time of closing and the time your first payment is due).

For more information on interest rates, credit, points, mortgage insurance, closing costs and more, download this free home loan toolkit offered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It has some great information and checklists to help you through the home buying process. An experienced Realtor® can also answer these questions and guide you as you make decisions about buying a home.

Good luck!

Sources: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

16 Ways to Beat the Summer Heat Without Air Conditioning

16 Ways to Beat the Summer Heat, Even Without Air ConditioningAccording to the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), only 20% of Northwest Washington homeowners have air conditioning, with 42% cooling their homes through a heat pump in 2012. Compare this to Eastern Washington homes where 65% have air conditioning with 52% of those having central air, or Southwest Washington where 40% of homes had air conditioning via heat pump.

Wow – only 20% have air conditioning! Until a few years ago, we only had high summer temps a few weeks every summer, but in the last three or four years, we have many more hot days than we used to. In fact, in April, the Seattle area broke high-temperature records by hitting 89 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Now that’s hot!

Even if you love the heat, it can make daily life less pleasant at times. For the 80% of homeowners in Northwest Washington without air conditioning, we offer 16 ways for staying cool this summer.

  1. Keep blinds and curtains closed to block out the sun. You’ll stay cooler and save on energy costs.
  2. Set your ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise and at a higher speed during the summer.
  3. Close off rooms that get sun during the hottest part of the day, and allow those rooms to cool at night.
  4. On cooler summer evenings, open your windows to let the breeze in.
  5. Create a cross-breeze inside your home by strategically placing your fans.
  6. Replace your heavy winter and fall sheets with lightweight cotton sheets to keep your bed cooler.
  7. Make your own air conditioner by putting a shallow bowl with ice in front of a fan to create a cool mist.
  8. Turn off and unplug personal electronics and small appliances, which can radiate heat, when not in use. Every little bit helps!
  9. Don’t use your stove or oven for cooking. Instead, make meals that don’t require heat (sandwiches, salads, etc.), or that you can microwave indoors or grill outside instead.
  10. Staying hydrated with ice water will help keep your body temperature cool.
  11. Keep frozen treats on hand – popsicles, slushies, smoothies, etc.
  12. Make space in your refrigerator and/or freezer for wet washcloths, sheets and other little luxuries you can grab to cool off when the heat gets unbearable.
  13. Cool or cold showers, if you can stand them, can also help bring down your body’s temperature before bed time.
  14. Take a dip in the pool, run through a lawn sprinkler, visit a water park or wade in a local lake.
  15. Swap out incandescent light bulbs, which give off heat, and replace them with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which are cooler and more environmentally friendly. Learn how to choose the best CFLs at Energy Star.
  16. Make improvements that will help keep your home cooler in the long-term, such as planting shade trees strategically or adding awnings or outdoor shades to shield your home from the sun.

If these tips aren’t enough to help you beat the worst days of the heat, go to an air conditioned restaurant for dinner, hang out at the library or movie theater when the heat is at its worst, or offer to bring takeover to your friends who have air conditioning!

Sources: NEEA, MyNorthwest.com, Huffington Post, Greatist, Lifehacker

 

5 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for a Summer Sale

5 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for a Summer SalePeople say that spring is the best time to sell your home, but Realtor.com says that 50% of homes are sold during the summer! June, in particular, tends to be the best time to sell your home. In fact, according to Trulia, June is 29% busier than any other month when it comes to real estate.

Home asking prices tend to peak at the beginning of the season, and in our current market, demand exceeds supply so quality homes are the first to go. Summer is also a good time for families with school-aged, so children can adapt to their new environment before the school year begins in late summer/early fall.

Ready to sell? Here are some ways to prepare your home for sale:

  1. Do necessary and obvious repairs, inside and out, including repairing leaking gutters, fixing chipped paint, cleaning floors, replacing broken tile, and repairing loose deck boards and cracks in the driveway.
  2. Declutter and depersonalize. Prospective homebuyers find it easier to imagine themselves in your home if it has a neutral feel of it, so put away the kids’ sports photos, collections and crafts. This is also a good time to declutter. It will help you get organized for the move, and it will make your home more appealing to home buyers.
  3. Focus on curb appeal. Realtors® talk about this a lot, but you want your home to look its best for seller photos, buyer drive-bys and open houses. This means maintaining a well-manicured lawn with seasonal flowers, a tidy front porch and a clean and cozy entry way.
  4. Stage your home for sale. In the Pacific Northwest, outdoor living in the summertime is a great way to extend the living space of your home. Hire a professional stager (your Realtor® can recommend someone) to stage the interior and exterior of your home. For example, stage the BBQ area with a nice set of tools and other BBQ accessories, keep your patio furniture clean and organize it in a cozy seating arrangement, and consider upgrading your outdoor décor.
  5. Keep it cool. When your Realtor® hosts an open house, make sure the air temperature in your home is comfortable. If it is hot out, turn on central air, if you have it. If you don’t have air conditioning, turn on your ceiling fans and open the windows to let in the fresh air. A pitcher of lemonade and freshly-baked cookies can’t hurt either!

If you’re ready to sell your home this summer, call a trusted, local Realtor for more tips on preparing your home for sale.

King County Proposes Septic System Fee and Monitoring Requirement

Public Health of Seattle and King County to consider an on-site septic system fee and monitoring proposal at June 16 meeting

 

If you live in King County and have an on-site septic system, or you’re considering a King County property with an on-site septic system, you’ll want to be aware of a proposed septic system fee and monitoring requirement.

The Public Health -Seattle and King County will consider the fee and monitoring proposal on June 16 and vote on July 21. You can view the June 16 agenda here and download the meeting packet here.

You can also learn more about the proposal at an informational meeting on June 21:

Tues., June 21, 2016
6:30 p.m.
Tahoma Jr. High School
25600 SE Summit Landsberg Rd.
Ravensdale, WA

The meeting is being hosted by legislators from the 5th, 31st and 47th state legislative districts. If this could impact your King County home, you’ll want to be sure to attend.

 

What’s the Difference Between Being Pre-qualified and Pre-approved for a Mortgage?

What’s the Difference Between Being Pre-qualified and Pre-approved for a Mortgage?There are all kinds of terms thrown around when it comes to buying a home. Two of these terms are “pre-qualified” and “pre-approved.” While these terms are similar, they are, in fact, very different. Let’s talk about the differences.

Pre-qualification

Being pre-qualified for a mortgage does not guarantee that you will get a mortgage. A lender will talk to you while you’re still a prospective buyer and ask you questions about your credit, assets and income. During this meeting, you will not be required to show proof of income, and a credit check will not be run. There’s no harm in being pre-qualified, but focusing on pre-approval should be your priority.

Pre-approval

Pre-approval from a lender means your credit check has been approved, and that your income and assets have been verified by the lender. The mortgage lender has made a decision to lend you money to buy a home.

There is a time frame to use your pre-approval for the purchase of a home, generally 120 days, according to Realtor.com. For pre-approval, you will need at least two years of tax documents, several weeks of paystubs, your two most recent tax returns, and any other proof of your income. A credit score of 740 or higher will help you get the lowest interest rates and a minimum credit score of 620 to be approved for an FHA loan.

In short, pre-qualification means a lender will have an overview of your financial history, without pulling a credit report or verifying your income. Pre-qualification will not help much when it comes to buying a home, but it will help you learn where you stand and if there are areas you need to work on. Pre-approval, on the other hand, is vital to getting a mortgage.

For more information, please contact your mortgage lender or an experienced Realtor®. Good luck!

 

Summer Landscaping: 7 Tips for a Beautiful Yard

Summer Landscaping: 7 Tips for a Beautiful YardIt may still be spring, but we are experiencing some lovely summer weather. This is the perfect time to make sure your landscaping is up to par, so your lawn and gardens look beautiful year-round. This is particularly important if you are considering selling your home this year. Here are some summer yard maintenance and landscaping tips to get and keep your yard in tip top shape:

  1. Trim away dead or hanging branches. This improves the appearance and overall health of your trees, as well as preventing safety hazards from falling limbs.
  2. Check bushes, shrubs, vines and other large plants for overgrowth, particularly those that are close to your house. Untrimmed bushes look uncared for and they can interfere with your central air conditioning unit and trap moisture which can attract pests like termites and mosquitoes. Untrimmed bushes near windows also make good hiding places for burglars too!
  3. Make sure your lawn, trees and plants get sufficient water, but don’t overdo it. See the DIY Network’s “how to” guide for how often to water and how to do so properly.
  4. Reduce summer cooling costs and boost your home’s curb appeal with attractive landscaping. Mature shade trees like maple trees and oak trees can help cool your home, while darker stone can absorb heat better than light stone which reflects the sun.
  5. Add seasonal flowers and shrubs so that you have something in bloom most of the year. One of the great things about living in the Pacific Northwest is that our weather is mild enough to encourage year-round growth. Take advantage by planting bulbs in the fall for spring flowers, and plant annuals or perennials in the spring for year-round color.
  6. Keep your yard neat with regular lawn mowing and sidewalk trimming. In the summertime, you can get away with a slightly lower mower height (3 inches) to keep your lawn mowing to a minimum. Also, use an edging tool to stay on top of weeds and keep your lawn – and sidewalks – looking trim.
  7. Weed early and often. One disadvantage to a long growing season is that weeds can easily get out of control. To get rid of weeds without hurting your back, try using a weeding tool that pulls weeds out at the root!

While summer landscaping and maintenance can take work, it is a wonderful way to take advantage of the warmer weather and to invest in your home. Need some inspiration? Look online at lawn and garden sites or check out Pinterest for ideas for landscaping, gardening, container gardens, outdoor living and more. Good luck and enjoy your beautiful yard this summer!

4 Ways to Improve Your Chance of Getting a Mortgage

Mortgage talk is HOT on everyone’s minds right now –  especially in the midst of the spring and summer buying season. Homes rarely stay on the market for long if they’re a hot buy — so here’s how to jump start your likelihood of getting a mortgage, so you can get the home of your dreams faster!

  1. Financial Literacy: Shopping for a MortgageCheck your credit report. Make sure everything on your credit report is accurate, and dispute anything that’s incorrect. Make sure you pay down any debt you have, and don’t rush to close old accounts. According to Realtor.com, 15% of your credit score is due to overall account length. The longer you’ve had a certain credit account open, and as long as that account is intact, it’s wise to keep it open.
  2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage loan. Getting pre-approved may not guarantee you a home loan, but it will help you get an “in” with your lender to show that you are capable of being fiscally responsible and are serious about buying a home.
  3. Don’t apply for new credit shortly after applying for a mortgage. This could affect your score, and down the road, lead to rejection of getting a mortgage. Lenders will see every time that you have applied for credit, and your even searching for it can register a ding on your credit file.
  4. Decide on the right type of mortgage. According to Realtor.com, the type of home you want, as well as assistance you’ll need, will help decide what type of loan you’re eligible for. If you’re a veteran, you could consider a Department of Veterans Affairs loan.  If you’re a first-time homebuyer, the FHA could help you out, and provide you with a 3.5% down payment. Daily Finance recommends to get your paperwork together. Your lender will want to see proof of income, assets, credit documents, and any other important documents showing you make what you say you make, and that you are who you say you are.

Have questions? Reach out to a local mortgage lender or ask an experienced Realtor for referrals. Happy Hunting!

 

Important Factors to Consider When Downsizing Your Home

Are you considering downsizing – or rightsizing – your current home to accommodate your changing needs? Maybe your kids have left for college, you have more space than you want to maintain, or perhaps you and your spouse are tired of caring for a large yard. Here are some important factors to consider as you consider downsizing your current home.

Important Factors to Consider When Downsizing or Rightsizing Your HomeAccording to Realtor.com, the first thing to consider is how much money downsizing will actually save you. You might be surprised to learn that downsizing does not always save money, so it’s critical to evaluate your expenses carefully. For example, if you downsize your home but move to a more expensive part of town, your bills may actually increase.

The same might be true if you’re moving into an older home which may have an outdated heating or electrical system. Will making repairs or replacements in an older home cost you more than staying where you are? To help make this decision easier, trying using a downsizing calculator to help figure out how moving will affect your finances.

Next, take a look at why you’re downsizing. Do you want to move just so you can save some extra money month to month? Have your kids left for college, or moved out on their own? Do you want to live in a condo to save time on lawn maintenance, or are you tired of climbing the stairs because of health concerns? All of these are valid reasons for wanting to move.

HGTV offers some important questions to ask yourself when you’re considering downsizing. For example, will you miss important things about having a more spacious home? How will different life scenarios pan out if you live in a smaller home? Take a look at your options to see if downsizing is really the right option for you. Will the cost of selling your current home cover the cost of buying your newer, smaller home?

You might also have to get rid of or replace things that you have come to know and love over the time that you’ve lived in a larger home. Know how small you’re willing to go with your home, and make decisions about personal belongings accordingly.

Like any other housing decision, you also need to take in common lifestyle and convenience factors. Will your home have what you need and what you want in it? Is it in a neighborhood you feel comfortable living in? Will you have enough space to live comfortably? Are the services and amenities you access regularly nearby? How much “stuff” will you have to part with if you move?

There are many factors to consider when downsizing or rightsizing. Think through all of them carefully before making your decision. Can’t quite decide? Discuss the choices with your family and consult an experienced Realtor® who specializes in rightsizing. They’ll be able to talk you through the decision more objectively. Good luck!