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Home Ownership

Essential Tips For Finding The Best Property

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Moving house is always going to be a pain in the backside. You will have so much to think about that you’re almost certain to forget something important. Not only that, but your family will probably add to the stress, especially if you have young children. Even so, you’ll need to find the ideal property first, and that’s where most of the hard work comes into play. Throughout the course of this article, we’re going to present you with lots of tips that could help to make the process a little easier. At the end of the day, the last thing you want is to uproot your family and move into a less and suitable home. Considering that, you should pay close attention to all the advice we’re about to relay.

If this is the first time you’ve moved home as a family, there are lots of different elements you’ll want to think about. We’ve done our best to cover them all in this post. However, you still might like to create a “to-do” list. That is the best way of ensuring you don’t overlook anything, and your moving day goes as smoothly as possible. Whether you’re relocating due to a new job or you just fancy trying something new, the tips below will guarantee you stand the best chance of getting things right.

Choosing the best location

You’ll want to perform a lot of research when looking for a new home, but that’s much easier than it used to be. While you should still visit your chosen area to ensure it’s suitable, you can find lots of useful information online too. Crime rates usually play a big role in determining whether or not an area is suitable. Luckily, the government published regional crime statistics on a quarterly basis these days, and so you can find out everything in a matter of minutes.

Finding good schools

Presuming you have children, you’ll want them to attend a good school, right? Again, league tables are frequently released, and inspection reports are often published online. So, all you have to do is make a list of all the schools in the area and compare them using that information. It might also make sense to arrange appointments where you can take a tour of the school and speak with teachers. That should be enough for you to get a feel for the place. If you have any doubts, simply try somewhere else. It’s usually better for your children to attend schools closer to major cities as they tend to have more money and thus employ the best staff.

Considering your work commitments

When looking for a new home, you’ll want to make sure it’s within a suitable distance of your place of work. Nobody wants to spend more than an hour commuting each morning, and so you should draw a circle on the map of around thirty miles. Any further away than that, and you will be out of the house for far too long each day. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to work from home, that isn’t a problem. Unfortunately, most people don’t have that luxury.

Assessing your requirements

Depending on the amount of people in your family, their ages and their interests, you should aim to find a property that fulfills your needs. If one of your children plays a lot of football, you’re going to want somewhere with a big garden. Likewise, if you have lots of children, you’re going to need somewhere with enough bedrooms. That might sound like an obvious point, but you would not believe the amount of people who settle for somewhere unsuitable just to make the move happen as soon as possible.

Using real estate agents

While you will save some money if you look for a property off your own back, often the best technique involved employing the services of real estate agents. They will do most of the hard work for you. All you have to do is give them a list of requirements and wait until they get in touch with suggestions. Just be warned that agents will want to make the most commission possible, and so they will always try to push your budget as far as it can go. With that in mind, you should tell them you have slightly less money to spend that you actually have. That way, you should stay within your budget, even if they insist on showing you properties that are more expensive than you stipulated.

Advertising on social media

Social networks are fast becoming the best place to sell almost anything. For that reason, you should make a few posts on relevant pages explaining that you’re looking for a new home in your chosen location. You never know; you could find someone comments with details of a property they’re trying to sell that meets your requirements. Stranger things have happened.

Planning the move

Once you’ve found the best property you can afford, the only thing left to do is put in an offer and wait for it to be accepted. So long as the sale goes through, your next worry is the moving process. While some people like to handle the whole thing on their own, professional removals firms like The Professionals could help to make the endeavor much easier. There are plenty of similar companies in your local area, and you can find their details by searching online. The best thing about using a removals firm is the price. Their services are usually very affordable, and using them means you won’t have to lift a finger.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this post guys. We sincerely hope you are now in a better position to find the best property for your family. No matter where you want to live, an ideal home is out there. All you have to do is identify it, and the tips in this article should help you to do that in a timely manner.

Good luck with the move. See you next time!

Home Ownership

10 Coastal Communities That Are Actually Affordable

Finding the best property starts by nailing down the ideal location. For many of us living in a beachside community is at the top of our bucket list. Living in a coastal city is like perpetually being on vacation. Time seems to move a little slower and everyone appears to be in good spirits when they’re near the water.

If you’ve ever taken a beach vacation you may think living the dream of an oceanfront lifestyle is way too expensive unless you have an upper-class income. While that may be true in some coastal cities, there are many communities that offer affordable living for the middle class. Make your coastal living dream come true in one of these affordable beach towns.

Corpus Christi, TX

For a sizable city, Corpus Christi, TX is actually quite affordable, even though it’s right next door to popular Padre Island. There are a number of things that make Corpus Christi an inexpensive coastal city. For starters, Zillow estimates that the average home price is just under $200,000. The area is also deregulated, which means you can compare electric rates Corpus Christi providers currently offer to find the most cost-effective plan. It’s a big money saver in the hot months of summer. Another consideration is that Texas doesn’t have a state income tax, which offsets the cost of higher home insurance rates on the coast.

Crystal Beach, TX

This city has been noted for being one of the nation’s most affordable oceanfront communities, it’s got the home prices to prove it. With a median home price of just $153,500, it’s easily one of the least expensive cities on our list. Having a population of just 1,600 means Crystal Beach is also an intimate and quiet place to kick back and relax. Plus, a free ferry can take you the short ride to Galveston Island for additional fun in the sun.

Matlacha, FL

Matlacha is one of the few areas of south Florida that is fairly affordable. This old-school fishing community has maintained its character and flair over the years and the vibe has often been compared to the Florida Keys. But instead of paying more than $565,000 for a home you can get a colorful row house for around $185,000.

Pensacola, FL

If you prefer a slightly larger city that’s lively Pensacola, FL is a fantastic option. The city has been called an affordable alternative to Palm Beach, and with home prices that hover around $125,000, it’s definitely more budget-friendly. In addition to miles of white sandy beaches, Pensacola also has a variety of shops, restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife.

Gulf Shores, AL

Alabama doesn’t have as many miles of coastline as other states, but the little bit it has is quite impressive. So are the home prices, especially in the lively coastal city of Gulf Shores. The area is noted for having 32 miles of white sandy beaches, beautiful blue-green water, historic sites and first-class golf courses. At just over $230,000 for the average home, Gulf Shores is a popular spot for retirement or buying a vacation home.

Myrtle Beach, SC

Hilton Head may be a hot spot for golfers and vacationers, but locals know to home shop in Myrtle Beach where a dollar goes a lot further. The popular beach town boasts 100 golf courses in the area, over 1,700 restaurants and 60 miles of beachfront.

Old Orchard Beach, ME

Maine isn’t known for its beaches, but there is one place that’s been a coastal vacation destination for years. Old Orchard Beach comes to life when the weather warms up. There’s a seven-mile strip of beach, a historic pier and an amusement park right on the water. For less than $300,000 you can get your own piece of the “garden by the sea”.

Crescent City, CA

Bet you didn’t think you’d see a California city on the list. Crescent City is in the northern part of the state close to Oregon. It’s a combination of rocky shores and sandy beaches, but there are a variety of aquatic activities to enjoy in the spring and summer. With median home prices at about $250,000, this is one California coastal city people can actually afford. While this may seem like a hefty price tag it’s far less than California’s median home price of just over $490,000.

Empire, MI

The next best thing to the ocean is a great lake. The tiny village of Empire, MI is situated on Lake Michigan, and it’s one of the areas that’s known for its unspoiled beaches. Believe it or not, the dunes can reach 400 feet and the waves are sometimes big enough to surf. A big benefit of living on Lake Michigan is your home insurance will be a fraction of the cost to cover a beachfront property.

Home Ownership

Tapping into idle money: Using equity in your home

It’s been six months since we put our house on the market; six months of keeping our home spotless in case of last-minute showings, which have all resulted in not a single offer. As we kept dropping the price tag on our home – it’s now far below its appraised value – my husband and I kept asking ourselves, “This property is worth so much more; surely, there’s something better we could do with it?”

And there is.

Tapping Your Home’s Equity

The answer to our problems could come from tapping into our home’s equity. Currently, we have nearly $40,000 worth of equity in our property – not bad considering we bought it at the height of the real estate boom and (naively) put down just five percent. Instead of losing just about all of that by selling it for well under market value, we’re considering using the equity in a different way.

Using your home’s equity usually happens in one of two ways: by taking out a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit, sometimes called a HELOC for short. While they sound very similar, there are some stark differences. A home equity loan functions like a second mortgage, using your home’s equity as the collateral; the loan is a fixed-rate for a set number of years, which you pay back in month installments. A HELOC, on the other hand, operates more like a credit card; the interest rate fluctuates, and you can “charge” up to the line of credit’s limit, typically the amount of equity you’re borrowing against. Just like a credit card, you can either make payments in full, or just pay the minimum and incur the interest.

In both cases, determining the amount you can borrow is essentially the same. In a slow housing market like we’re currently seeing, multiply your home’s appraised value by 90 percent, then subtract the remaining principal balance on your home loan – that’s typically the maximum amount lenders will let you borrow on a home equity product; in my case, that would be about $24,000.

The Benefits

House rich but cash poor? Tapping your home’s equity can change that. If you have enough equity in your home – lenders typically like to see 20 percent or more – you can pull out that money with a home equity product to use at your discretion. For example, maybe you’re about to embark on a huge home improvement project, or need to pay off other high-interest debts; a home equity loan can give you the cash you need in a one-time lump sum. Or perhaps you need access to the equity in your property to pay your kids’ college tuition or cover expenses during a period of unemployment  – a HELOC is ideal for that.

There are also tax breaks, just as there are for first mortgages. In most cases, property owners can write off interest on loans under $100,000, even if you’re using the money to buy something frivolous like a sports car.

The Risks

The main risk that comes with using a home equity product is that you’re taking out a loan and using your equity in your property as collateral – leaving you with little or no equity at all. In other words, if you can’t make the payments on your loan or line of credit, the lender has something very tangible to take from you: your home.

At the same time, you’re also subject to the ebbs and flows of the market itself. Interest rates go up? So will your interest charges on your HELOC. Property values go down? You may find your property underwater (owing more on it than the home is worth).

How We Could Use Our Home’s Equity

We’ve been toying with a home loan calculator to see just how pulling out some of our current home’s equity could help us get into a new home. The mortgage calculator showed us that with today’s low interest rates and housing prices, a 20 percent down payment would cost us around $50,000. By tapping the equity on our current home, using it to put a down payment on another, and renting out the existing house, we could buy our dream home and become landlords without breaking the bank.

Written By Betsy Falwell

Home Ownership

Beware of Hidden Costs in Mortgage Deals

Whether you are buying your first home or have purchased and refinanced several homes over the years, you no doubt are making your best effort to budget and plan financially for your mortgage. The most obvious expense associated with a mortgage pertains to the regular monthly obligation of your mortgage payment. However, a mortgage also comes with various loan fees and closing costs. Some of these are required to be paid at the beginning of the loan process, and others will be paid at the closing table. While effort is made to fully disclose these fees and costs to a mortgage applicant, there are some hidden costs and fees that often take a mortgage applicant by surprise.

Taxes and Insurance

Many mortgage lenders require you to establish an escrow account when you open a new loan. This escrow account will be used to pay for property taxes and interest, and lenders generally prefer to keep approximately three to six months’ worth of property taxes and homeowner’s insurance payments in the escrow account. The actual amount collected from you, however, will vary based on the time of year it is and the lender’s requirements. A collection of several months’ worth of property taxes and homeowners insurance is a significant expense that is often overlooked.

Loan Origination Fees

A loan origination fee is a fee that a broker charges you to work on your loan, and some lenders will also charge this fee. Some may call it an origination fee, and others will call it a generic loan fee or a lender fee. In some cases, this is a flat fee that is easy to budget for. However, it is common for this fee to be listed as a percentage of the loan amount. A seemingly small percentage, such as one or two percent, may be overlooked by a typically borrower as a small fee. However, in reality, a one or two percent fee can be rather significant.

Loan Points

Loan points or “buydown” points are often tacked onto a loan in order to reduce the interest rate. Some lenders and mortgage brokers will advertise a very low interest rate that has several loan points tacked onto it. You may believe that you are getting a great deal on your loan request because of the unbeatable interest rate you are receiving. However, the loan points that are being used to buy down the interest rate will generally need to be paid at closing, and these typically will range from a half a percent to two percent or more. The cost of loan points coupled with other closing costs and fees can be expensive.

It is common for total loan costs on a typical loan to be approximately three to five percent of the loan amount. However, there is a great deal of flexibility and variation in this area. Some fees are negotiable, such as loan origination fees, and some borrowers have been able to reduce their closing costs through negotiation. Other fees may be needed. For example, mortgage protection insurance or a borrower may need to buy down the interest rate with a loan point in order to qualify for the loan amount needed. Regardless of the total loan costs, these expenses and fees ultimately can catch you off guard if you have not planned for them. With this in mind, ask your lender or mortgage broker for an estimated closing statement very early on in the loan process. If any factors change during the loan process, request an updated estimated closing statement. This effort can help you to better plan for the closing costs and fees associated with your loan.

Home Ownership

Homes Sales to Chinese More than Double in Past 7 Years

Homes sales are up across the board, which means that the economy is steadily growing. However, one demographic stand out as having a huge growth in home buying since 2007, and that is the Chinese. A lot of these residents are in Southern California, but across the United States the sale of homes to Chinese to Chinese-Americans has grown. There are many reasons for this growth, but whatever the buyers reason is, it is good for the overall economy.

One reason that Chinese nationals could be buying in the United States is for investment property. Property in China and Hong Kong is notoriously pricy, as well as scarce. The housing market in the United States always has plenty to offer, as well as buyers who are more than happy to drop the price a little to get cash payment. Cash payments are more common with overseas buyers than with stateside buyers, and with little else attached, owners are usually happy to cut a bit of the price to get cold hard cash. Many come to the United States to find jobs or to attend college, and China and Hong Kong are hard pressed for jobs right now, unless someone is highly educated. While they may not make as much money working in the United States, the lower cost-of-living expenses helps even out the lower wages.

One obstacle of foreign homebuyers is how American homes are set up. If you have ever flipped through an international architecture magazine, or watched “House Hunters International” on HGTV, you know that homes overseas are sometimes vastly different from American homes. Our homes have much more space than homes in Asian countries, and are set up completely different. While a massive staircase in the foyer may be a status symbol to Americans, it is Feng Sui no-no to those who practice it. Feng Sui is a system where the placement and colors of objects help move energy through the location. Therefore, for the massive staircase in the foyer, it can press energy from upstairs downward and out the door, which you do not want. This can be combatted with a red rug, which keeps the energy upstairs, flowing freely. Homes in the United States are usually freestanding structures, even in large cities, and the opposite occurs in China and Hong Kong. Even though the United States has condominium and apartment options for habitation, they are usually much larger, and with more amenities, than homes overseas. The size, costs, and amenities drive many to look at the United States as a place to live, or at least a place to invest in.

Home sales overall have increased, but the one demographic that stands out are sales to those that are Chinese-American or Chinese nationals. There are many possible reasons for this jump in sales, from our economy to our cheaper home prices to our home amenities and sizes that are not available elsewhere. Regardless of the reason, the influx of international buyers is helping our economy gain steadily.

Blair ThomasAbout the Author:  Blair Thomas is the co-founder of the #1 high risk Credit Card processing company and he could tell you how to get a merchant account with bad credit at amazing rates! He has been in the electronic payments industry for over 10+ years.  When he is not running his business he spends his time writing and producing music, which has been featured in a variety of films.