If you are a homeowner and haven’t refinanced your mortgage within the past 12 to 18 months, you are likely paying far more interest on your loan than you need to be paying. Over the past year and a half, home loan interest rates have dropped significantly and are much lower than the options that were offered last year. In addition to new low rates, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has introduced new mortgage refinance initiatives that are helping homeowners more easily refinance and save money very quickly.
The refinance program that works best for you and the amount of money that you can save on your mortgage depends on the type of mortgage that you currently have. There are several different kinds of mortgages, and each one has specific refinance programs that it will qualify for. Not all mortgages will qualify for all types of refinance programs. Here we will discuss the two most popular kinds of loans and the refinance options that work for each one.
FHA and First-Time Homeowner Loans
If you are a first-time homeowner, meaning that the home you currently own is the first one you have ever purchased, you likely have an FHA loan. These loans are great options for first-time buyers as they have low interest rates, low down payment requirements, and low or no upfront closing fees. In addition, they do not require that the buyer purchase additional private mortgage insurance (PMI).
If you have an FHA loan, your mortgage is guaranteed by the government, and you can only refinance with FHA or government programs. Luckily, the FHA has recently released the new FHA streamline Refinance program, which allows homeowners with an FHA loan to refinance quickly and affordably. The new FHA refinance program requires no credit check, no employment verification, and no home appraisal. The purpose of the streamline program is to refine the refinance process, making it happen quickly and very affordably. The fees associated with this program have been reduced or eliminated, and can help homeowners save money within 30 days of applying. If you have an FHA mortgage, the FHA streamline refinance is likely your best bet for lowering your interest rate and saving money.
If you are or have been a member of the United States Armed Forces, you likely used your veteran benefits to purchase your home with a VA loan. If you qualify, VA loans are easily the best home buying option available. They carry the lowest rates, best closing fees, and most convenient terms out of any mortgage available. Only US veterans and members of the Armed Forces qualify for these loans, however, so if you have not served there is no way you can get a VA loan.
Similar to the FHA options, the those with VA loans can also apply for a VA streamline refinance and save money quickly with little or no money paid upfront on fees or application processing. The streamline program requires little verification and does not require a home appraisal. VA mortgage rates are the lowest available out of any mortgage option, and the refinance options are quick and affordable. Current rates are extremely low and can potentially save you thousands on your mortgage depending on your current interest rate.
Start Saving Money Immediately
If you have either of these kinds of mortgages and haven’t yet refinanced your property, or have refinanced but it has been a while since you did, you may be able to save a significant amount of money on your mortgage with the right refinance. Take some time to speak with a few different lenders and learn about their refinance options and see what rates they are currently offering. It is important to shop around as different lenders charge different fees up front and offer slightly different mortgage rates. Be sure you are getting the best deal and start saving today!
Jessica Markam is an associate at StreamlineRefinance.net and writes about current mortgage industry news including refinances, new home loans, and other lending options.
Great News for Home Buyers in Michigan. Check out the recent changes in the law regarding the Principle Residence Exemption (formerly called the Homestead Exemption). This law change will definately help buyers save money on property taxes and will help reduce cash required for closing because they will not have to build up as much in their escrow account to cover the higher tax rate any more.
The Michigan Association of REALTORS® is pleased to report the following recent major RPAC legislative accomplishments.
Principal Residence Exemption – On May 1st Governor Snyder signed legislation providing homebuyers a fair process when it comes to their property taxes. Senate Bill 349 creates two Principal Residence Exemption (PRE) filing dates; one on June 1st, and the other on November 1st. Additionally, this legislation allows bank-owned properties to retain their PRE so that buyers can qualify at the lower rate of taxation. This is particularly important since foreclosures have flooded the market in recent years.
Statewide Taxation Reform - The legislature recently passed historic legislation containing much needed structural tax reforms, along with the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax (MBT) and its burdensome 22% surcharge. The passage of this legislation creates a positive business environment in this state to attract and retain jobs. In passing these tax reforms, Michigan will see increased economic growth and job creation. Our industry fully supports providing a structure to make Michigan a more competitive state for attracting and retaining jobs. With tax reforms in place, Michigan will once again be “open for business”. Prohibition of Private Transfer Fees – Public Act 34 and 35 of 2011 providing a pre-emptive strike on practices that have sprung up in other states where a private party collects a fee every time a property is sold in a development is now law. These fees are an excessive restraint on the transferability of property and also prey upon homebuyers. Non-Recourse Loan Legislation – Public Act 67 of 2012 sponsored by Senator Arlan Meekhof (R-Olive Township), creates the “Nonrecourse Mortgage Loan Act” to do the following:
- Prohibit a post closing solvency covenant from being used as a non-recourse carve-out or as a basis for any claim against a borrower, guarantor, or other surety on a nonrecourse loan.
- Specify that a noncompliant provision in loan documents would be invalid.
- Specify that the Act would not prohibit a loan secured by a mortgage from being fully recourse to the borrower or guarantor, if the loan documents did not contain nonrecourse provisions.
- Include statements of legislative recognition and intent.
You just bought a new house and want to make sure you get the most professional efficient cost effective relocation. You can follow these simple steps to ensure this happens.
First, educate yourself on what kind of move you have and how you are being charged for the process. Different types of moves have different types of charges.
- Local Move: You are moving within a local area less than 60 miles. These estimates are based on an hourly rate, depending on how many workers are needed and how much time it will take to pack, load and deliver your possessions. This is called a time and material estimate.
- Out of State Move: Your move is out of the state, estimates will be based on the distance of the move and the weight of your goods. To provide you with an accurate estimate, your sales consultant will need about an hour of your time to walk through your home. He or she is viewing and quantifying everything that will be relocated on your move.
Other factors can influence the price of your move, including what optional services you select for your relocation.
- Packing: Are you going to pack all the loose items in boxes for transport? Or is this a service you would like the professionals to handle?
- Specialty Items: Do you have unique, heavy or delicate pieces, such as automobiles, pianos, large exercise equipment, or large appliances that may need special servicing and attention?
On a local move time is of the essence. The faster the move gets done, the more money you will save. The key is to have everything as ready as possible when your moving crew arrives. Have all boxes taped, labeled and ready to go. You don’t want to end up paying $100 or more an hour for movers to tape boxes. You want your professional crew doing the things that make them the professionals; prepping and wrapping the important items, and handling your precious items with care.
Labeling boxes is also very important. I recommend labeling the boxes with a room location and a brief description of what is in the box. This will save time at destination when items are going into the new home. This avoids the headaches of opening the boxes to see the contents then deciding where it goes. You will be too busy showing the movers where you would like the bigger pieces set and placed.
Additionally, if you have everything prepped and ready there are a couple other time saving tips that can save you time and money. You can disassemble tables, beds and anything else that needs to be disassembled to get out of the house. You can also make items more easily assessable by eliminating stair carries and long walks. Bringing some items from basement to main floor or garage will knock tons of time off your final bill. If manual labor isn’t your thing and you don’t want to take the risk of getting injured you always have the option to just sit back and point and let the experts take care of everything, as they are on your clock and would be happy to assist you with anything.
Finally, if you are moving over 60 miles within the state or out of state your estimate will be based on distance and weight. You really can’t control the distance of your relocation but you can control the final weight of your shipment. Moving provides a great opportunity to sort and eliminate items and household goods no longer needed. You can focus on eliminating heavy items in order to save costs on your move. For example excess books, weight equipment, tools, and large appliances can sneak up on you very quickly towards the final weight of your move. I am not saying to get rid of items you use on a daily basis and are necessities, but a good example would be if you have 20 boxes of old college texts books at 50 pounds a box totaling 1,000 pounds. This is 1,000 pounds of weight you may not want to pay to have moved. Make sure you get things as organized as much as possible before the estimator arrives. This will allow the consultant to quote the move as close as possible to the actual final shipping weight.
It is my hope these small tips will help you understand what is needed to have your most cost effective relocation. If you have any additional question, or would like a free in home estimate, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (734) 740-2072 to schedule an appointment. I look forward to the opportunity to add you or your client to our growing list of satisfied customers.
Morse Moving/agent for ALLIED van lines
Visit our website at www.morsemoving.com
Energy Efficiency: Pick Upgrades that (Actually) Drive Down Costs
By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Published: November 3, 2011
A new study says home owners won’t see their utility bills drop until they’ve conducted four or more energy upgrades. Here are projects that will give you the greatest bang for your energy buck.
I’ve long suspected that saving energy is like saving calories: Small measures add up, until a Thanksgiving pecan pie — or a dazzling holiday light display — wrecks a year’s worth of small though consistent efforts.
Evidently I’m right, according to a new study claiming that doing a couple of small, energy-saving measures actually increase utility bills. And that a home owner must perform at least four energy upgrades before their utility bill drops.
The 450-page study, conducted by the eco-curious Shelton Group, found that energy-efficient home owners think they should replace water heaters and install a higher-efficiency HVAC system, though they actually replace windows and add insulation.
We think they’re half right: Adding insulation, especially in the attic, is a low-cost way to reduce utility bills. But replacing windows requires a huge upfront cost, which you probably won’t live long enough to earn back.
To see net-net savings — in your lifetime — select upgrades that reduce energy consumption by 5% and require modest initial investments. We suggest:
Seal and insulate ductwork through unfinished and unheated areas, such as the attic, garage, and crawl spaces.
Install a programmable thermostat so you don’t overheat your house when you’re away or asleep.
Seal air leaks around windows, doors, attic access, and recessed lights.
How many energy-efficient improvements did you make last year? Did you see a drop or increase in your utility bills?
You only get one chance to make a first impression
Creating good curb appeal has never been more important than in the current real estate market. Buyers have many choices since there are many homes on the market and sellers are competing with bargain foreclosures and bank owned properties. Here are a few tips to help you spruce up the curb appeal of your house and make it stand out from the competition.
View from the Street – Make sure the grass is cut and bushes are trimmed and all of the kid’s toys are put away and not laying around the yard. It would also be a good idea to put some of the lawn gnomes in storage. It is best to have a crisp look and minimal lawn ornaments
Sidewalks & Driveway – Make sure that the sidewalks and driveway are clean and there are no weeds growing in the cracks. A container of Roundup can help with this, simply spray the grass or weeds that are growing in the cracks and it will be dead and gone in just a few days. The nice thing about using Roundup in the crack is that it will help prevent more weeds from growing. Usually two applications will address the issue for the entire summer.
Lawn – The grass should be kept cut and if there are weeds popping up you can always spot spray them with weed killer. The grass around the walks and drive should be neatly edged, so it isn’t growing over the cement.
Porch – A couple of chairs on the porch and maybe a small table so there is a place to set your iced tea. Just make sure there is enough room to move around on the porch.
Front Door – the door should be clean and if the paint is faded or chipped it would be well worth the effort to give the door (and trim) a fresh coat of paint. As potential buyers are standing in front of the door waiting for their agent to unlock it they will look around and if they see evidence of a lack of maintenance they will automatically assume that the rest of the house is not properly cared for either.
Windows – The windows should be clean, again to show that the home is well cared for and it will also allow plenty of light in.
Gutters & Roof – If there is debris (sticks, leaves, weeds) visible in the gutters or on the roof when you are standing in the yard be sure to clean them out. Take a look out any second floor windows and if you can see in any gutters or on the roof you will want to make sure that these areas are kept clean.
Bonus Tips – Exterior Photos
Since the initial impression buyers have often comes from the main exterior photo on the listing in the MLS there are some dos and don’ts for the photo.
|Leave the garage door open||Make sure the yard is orderly|
|Take a photo with the pet in the yard||Remove all cars from the driveway|
|Shoot the photo through traffic||Get the entire front of the house in the photo|
|Take a photo with the trash at the curb||Get a couple of shots up close to the entry|
|Get the neighbor’s kids in the photo||Pick the most inviting photo for the MLS|
I hope these tip help you when preparing to sell your house. These tips come from observations of thousands of homes that I have shown and seen in the MLS. Most of these tips will cost nothing to implement and could make a huge impact in the number of showings your house draws. As I’m sure you already know the more showings the more potential for offers. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor to sell your house. If you are in the Metro Detroit area I would be more than happy to help you get your house sold for the highest price the market will bear.
Realtor, ABR, SRES
Coldwell Banker Preferred, Realtors
44644 Ann Arbor Road
Plymouth, MI 48170
There is no doubt, a Kitchen can make or break the sale of a home. No matter how well the rest of the home looks, if the kitchen is not properly prepared for showings buyers will pass up the home with the poorly prepared kitchen. Here are a few tips for preparing your kitchen for showings.
- Declutter – This is the first rule of staging any room, but it is more important in the kitchen than in any othe rpart of the home. Be sure to show every square inch of counter space to potential buyers. Put away small appliances, utensil holders, cook books and anything else that is on the countertop.
- Clean – Clean your kitchen like the sale of your house depends on it (’cause it does) Nothing else will turn off a buyer faster than a dirty kitchen.
- Refigerator – Many stagers will tell you to take every magnet, calendar and artwork off of your refigerator. This is good advice, but I think one or two magnets will hurt much. But be sure to wipe out the inside of the refigerator because many buyers will peek inside (especially if it stays with the house).
- Cabinets – Wipe them down inside and out. If the hardware is outdated it may help to dress up the kitchen if you replace the hardware.
- Lighing - Turn on the lights and make sure the fixtures are clean. Clean the windows and open the curtains/blinds to let in sunlight.
Finally, once the kitchen is spotless you can make a couple of final touches. Place some fresh cut flowers in a vase on the table. Another nice touch is a bowl of fruit on the counter (unless the counter is very small). Be sure to check out the article titled “Good Smelling Equals More Selling” for some tips on getting the proper aroma in your house for showings.
Reminiscing about how much I loved coming home from school to the scent of Mom’s baking, I wanted to give my kids the same experience. I timed it so the chocolate chip cookies would be warm and ready to eat when they walked in the door. While smelling the cookies as they baked, I was reminded of when my husband and I were in the market to buy a home five years ago. Some homes had no scent at all, some smelled nice, and some had very unpleasant scents. The funny thing is it’s the homes with the very nice or very bad scents that we remember most. One homeowner was at home cooking while we were viewing her house. She probably loved the scent of her dish, but it was hard for us to take. While it shortened our visit there, I still remember that house very well years later. Everything about it was nice, except the smell.
Looking back, I realize that scents have a powerful effect on our experiences and on the decisions we make. Even if the home had great curb appeal and was nice on the inside, we walked away because it had unpleasant smells. Sometimes we don’t realize that the unpleasant scents exist because we’re so used to them. These scents could be from various things like cooking herbs and seasonings, pets, garbage cans, musty pipes, even diaper genies which aren’t perfect. I remember getting a call from the realtor who wanted to bring a potential buyer over within twenty minutes to view the home. I scrambled to get my infant triplets’ diapers changed and get out of the house in time for their arrival. I was so worried that the scent of dirty diapers would linger in their bedroom while the guests were viewing it. If only I had known about Scentsy wickless warmers then. I would have had one in my kitchen and one in the nursery. I would have left the house stress-free and felt confident that the potential buyers would stay longer, want to come back, and maybe even make an offer.
You certainly shouldn’t light a scented candle and leave your home. Thankfully, there’s a safer alternative. Scentsy makes a ceramic warmer that melts scented wax by the heat of a small light bulb. There’s no wick, so they are safe unattended even if left on for hours and forgotten. They come in many different styles and are attractive to look at. Scentsy has basic scents that are generally pleasing to everyone like sugar cookie and clean, laundry scents. Everyone oohs and ahhhs over the sugar cookie scent and asks where the bakery is when I’m at a craft show. I’ve learned to set out a small plate of sugar cookies near the warmer since their mouths are watering from the scent. If you turn it on about 30 – 60 minutes before an open house or scheduled appointment, it would be in full effect. Your guests will remember the house – positively!
To see the warmers and smell the over 80 sample scents, please email me at email@example.com or call me at 734-956-0747 to schedule an appointment. My website is http://www.safeindoorscents.scentsy.us where you can view the many warmers – plug-in, medium, and full-sized. Orders can be placed online.
Certified Scentsy Consultant
I am asked daily by both buyers and sellers what a short sale is. I thought I would start with a simple explanation of a short sale and then will go on to provide a look at short sales specifically from a sellers point of view. A short sale happens when a home owner wants to sell their home and the market value is lower than the balance of the mortgage(s). This is commonly referred to as being upside down in the mortgage. There are two ways to go through with the sale of the property when the mortgage is upside down, 1) the seller can bring cash to the closing to make up the difference. or 2) the lein holder(s) can be asked to approve the sale and accept the market value as payment in full.