Our Real Estate Blog
There are many parts and pieces that go into relocation. Finding the perfect home is, of course, an important step in the process. But once you have found a residence in your new city or town, it is crucial to consider other home-ownership factors that will affect your monthly and annual expenses. As part of your relocation preparation, research what other fees and bills you may need to pay outside of your mortgage.
If you’re moving to a new state, review the escrow process and any new, or different, closing costs that may increase the amount you’ll owe. Understand what annual property taxes will be assessed and fees you will be responsible for. Homeowners Associations may also function differently in your new city or state. Closely review all paperwork and research what costs are normal for the area. Know what your requirements are as a homeowner, so you don’t agree to anything outside the norm or incur fees from not aligning to your contract.
Utility costs vary from city to city and state to state, but even within the same city, prices can be different from neighborhood to neighborhood. While you’re house hunting, include a visit to the electricity, water, gas and trash company websites that service the homes you’re considering. For electricity and water, learn what the costs are per unit, time of day and any special programs available for conservation. See what bins your new trash company offers and how much they charge per month. There might be different sizes available to you at different pricing, along with compost or yard waste bins and lower to even free rates for recycling. Your new city may also have monthly fees for general upkeep of parks, greenbelts and other public services.
When you consider the monthly mortgage payment you can afford, it’s smart to take these other costs into account. You might be able to make a mortgage payment, but a high electricity or water bill might put your monthly outgo outside your budget. It’s easy to forget about these little (or big) costs. Make your move easy and successful by planning for monthly and annual costs outside of your mortgage.
The penthouse is the pinnacle of real estate in many markets -- and places like New York and Miami -- have plenty of options to choose from. It's easy to get caught up in great decor or fall in love with a view, but there are other considerations as well. Here's what to think about when you shop for a luxury penthouse unit.
Expect to Pay a Premium: Most penthouses are priced above similar sized units in the same building, so be prepared to spend a little more for that amazing view and those amenities. A single penthouse spanning the top floor will command more of a premium rate than one that shares the floor with one or more other units.
You Can Still Negotiate: While a penthouse will command a higher price than any other unit in a specific building or location, you can and should negotiate the best deal. In cities with a glut of inventory in this price range, you may be able to secure a better price, simply by presenting the right offer. Your real estate agent can help you determine how flexible a price is and what fair market value is for a home you are considering.
Inventory Impacts Price: In high-rise dense cities like New York, there are always penthouse properties available. Outside of cities, though, you may have fewer options In vacation and resort areas with coveted views, there are only a small number of penthouse properties to begin with, and they are not all on the market at the same time. Act swiftly if a property you truly want becomes available to avoid missing out.
Visit at All Hours: If you will live in the penthouse property, you should visit it during the day, at night and on weekends. Because this property is near the roof, it may also be near HVAC and elevator equipment -- these can get noisy when in heavy use. Newer penthouses have insulation and soundproofing, but older ones may not, so the home could be noisier than you expect when everyone else in the building is home.
Is the view guaranteed? A building that faces the ocean and is directly on the beach will have a view that is not interrupted by future construction, but not all penthouses fit this description. You should be aware of zoning and building possibilities -- could a taller building be placed in front of yours -- disrupting your view? Your agent can help you discover if this nightmare scenario is a risk factor in any home you are considering.
Buying a penthouse is different from other luxury property purchases, because the view and position of the home offer so much and contribute to the price. Be aware of the setup of the building and its location -- and be ready to move if a penthouse becomes available in a market with scant inventory. Your real estate agent can watch for new listings and help you be first in line to view new luxury properties as they arrive in the marketplace and ensure you don't miss out on the home of your dreams.
If you’re hoping to buy your first home in the near future, you’re likely wondering about the different types of mortgages that you may qualify for. Since the 1930s, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has been insuring home loans for first-time homeowners across America.
This program helps people achieve homeownership who typically wouldn’t be able to afford the down payment or pass the credit score requirements to secure a traditional mortgage.
In today’s post, we’re going to answer some frequently asked questions about FHA loans to help you decide if this is the best option for your first home.
Does the FHA issue loans?
Although they’re called “FHA loans,” mortgages are not actually issued by the FHA. Rather, they’re issued by mortgage lenders across the country and insured by the FHA.
Will I have to make a down payment?
With an FHA loan, your down payment can be as low as 3.5%, significantly lower than traditional loans at 20% down payment. However, you will be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) in addition to your monthly mortgage payments until you have paid off 20% of the home. So, the best case scenario would be to save as much as possible for a down payment to reduce the amount of mortgage insurance you have to pay.
What are the benefits of an FHA loan?
The three main reasons to secure an FHA loan are:
You can qualify with a low credit score
You can make a smaller down payment than traditional mortgages
Your closer costs will be less expensive
Where do I apply for an FHA loan?
You can apply for an FHA loan through a mortgage lender. You can also work with a mortgage broker to help choose a lender.
Is an FHA loan the only loan option for low down payments?
There are multiple loan programs offered at the state and federal level to help individuals secure a mortgage with a lower down payment. They can be provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the USDA, or state-sponsored programs. Lenders also often sponsor their own programs to attract potential borrowers. However, always make sure you compare these programs to make sure you’re making the best long-term financial decision.
Do all FHA loans offer the same interest rates and costs?
No. Since the loans are only insured by the FHA, it’s up to the lender to determine your interest rate and fees. So, it’s a good idea to shop around for the best lender.
How high does my credit score have to be to qualify for an FHA loan?
You can secure a mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5% with a credit score of 580 or higher. However, if you can afford to make a larger down payment, you can secure an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 500.
If your score is in the 500-600 range, it’s typically a better idea to spend a few months building credit before applying for a home loan.
What information will I need to apply?
You’ll need to gather all of the same information that you would for a typical mortgage. This includes W2s from your employer(s), two years of submitted tax forms, your current and former addresses from the past two years, and your gross monthly salary.
I’ve owned a house before, can I still qualify for FHA loans?
Even if you’re not a first-time homebuyer you can still qualify for an FHA loan. However, you cannot qualify if you’ve had a foreclosure within the last three years or have filed for bankruptcy within the last two years.
House shopping when you live far from your new community is not easy, but technology makes it much simpler to tackle this big task. While nothing beats in-person visits, if you live across the country, or even in an international destination, you may not have that option. Here’s a look at how you can make a long-distance house shopping experience work.
Find the Right Agent
You’re going to need a tech-savvy agent who is willing to be in constant communication. The agent is going to need to use technology to help you see houses, be able to get documents back and forth successfully and know how to move quickly when you’re ready to make the purchase.
Start your search online to narrow down what it is you do and don’t want. Different areas of the country have different types of homes, so you may find the basement you’re hoping for just isn’t standard for homes in your new community. Once you have narrowed down what you’re looking for, use the Internet to learn more about the communities.
Yes, you can have showings long-distance. Using real-time video tools like FaceTime or Skype, your agent can walk you through the home. This is why the agent you choose is so critical, because you’re going to need this type of partnership to find the right home. These real-time video tours will allow you to see the home's condition. The right agent will do a thorough search of the property and tell you about potential problems they may find.
Research Neighborhoods Carefully
One thing your agent won’t be able to do is give you specific details about neighborhoods, other than facts like its schools and commute times. Research neighborhoods carefully online to learn all you can about them, and find one that seems like a good fit for your needs. If you can, make a survey trip to your new community to narrow down the neighborhoods with the right vibe for you.
Never Skip the Inspection
When you’re buying a home long distance, you’ll need that inspection, even if it isn’t required. The inspection gives you details about the home that will be critical to your decision-making process.
Buying a home when you don’t live near the community is much easier today than it ever has been due to the increased amount of technology available to modern home buyers. Use this technology well, and soon you’ll find a home that’s a great fit.
If you own lots of items and plan to buy a house in the foreseeable future, now may be a good time to list any unwanted items online. That way, you can simultaneously eliminate clutter and earn extra cash for your excess items.
Ultimately, selling items online before you pursue a home can be simple – here are three tips to help you showcase your unwanted items online to dozens of potential buyers.
1. Provide Relevant Information in Your Item Listings
Find out as much as you can about any items you decide to list online. Because the more information you can provide to prospective buyers, the easier it becomes for a buyer to determine whether a particular item is the right choice.
There is no need to stretch the truth in your online item listings, either. If you provide accurate, relevant information, you can help a buyer make an informed decision.
2. Add High-Quality Photos
A picture is worth a thousand words, particularly for those who list items online. Thus, if you add high-quality photos to complement your online listings, you can instantly show off your items to large groups of prospective buyers.
You don't need to be an expert photographer to take high-quality photographs of your items. If you use a smartphone, tablet or digital camera, you should have no trouble capturing top-notch images that you can upload onto a computer without delay. Then, you can add these photos to your item listings and help buyers see exactly what you have to offer.
3. Be Ready to Respond to Concerns and Questions
If a buyer has a concern or question about an online item listing, you should be ready to quickly connect with this individual and provide him or her with the requested information. By doing so, you may be able to speed up the process of getting rid of unwanted items.
As you start selling items online and get ready to search for a house, you may want to find a real estate agent as well. If you hire a real estate agent, you can receive expert housing market assistance as you prepare to pursue your dream residence.
A real estate agent is happy to guide you along each stage of the homebuying journey. First, he or she will help you craft an effective homebuying strategy. A real estate agent next will keep you up to date about houses that fall within your price range and meet your desired criteria. Furthermore, if you find a home you want to buy, a real estate agent will help you craft a competitive offer to purchase. And if your offer is approved, a real estate agent will do everything possible to ensure you can finalize your home purchase as soon as possible.
Don't wait to get started on the homebuying journey – reach out to a real estate agent today, and you can begin your quest for your dream house.