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Four Handy Tips for Managing Your Lawn After the Spring Rains Have Arrived

Four Handy Tips for Managing Your Lawn After the Spring Rains Have Arrived In many areas, the spring months mean warmer temperatures, more sunshine and plenty of beneficial rainfall that your yard may thrive with. These are prime growing conditions for your lawn, but they can also make lawn maintenance a challenge. By following these helpful tips, you can take better care of your yard during the rainy spring season.

Re-Seed or Re-Sod Carefully

The spring months are one of the best times of the year to re-seed or re-sod your lawn. If you have bare spots in your yard, these spots can turn into giant mud puddles during a heavy rainstorm that can be a true eyesore. New grass seed and fresh sod both require ample water to grow, so you can take advantage of the rain to grow new grass in your bare areas.

Mow When Possible

The sunshine, warm temperatures and ample rain can all make your grass grow quickly, and it can also make your weeds grow even faster. Mowing your lawn frequently will help you to keep the weeds from spreading seeds throughout the yard and creating an even greater problem. It can be difficult to find a time when the grass is dry enough to mow at certain times, so you may need to make mowing a priority during dry spells. This will also help you to keep your yard looking neat and tidy during the peak growing season.

Fertilize As Needed

Fertilizing the yard can also be beneficial during the warm weather season. Fertilization now can give you lush, green grass for many months to come. It can also be beneficial for you by helping to get rid of weeds that may be cropping up. Fertilizer needs water, so fertilizing before a light rain storm is a smart idea.

Avoid Walking On It

Grass can easily become damaged when you walk across it after a rain storm. It can tear the blades from the roots and create a trampled upon look that is not desirable. You can minimize damage to your yard by not walking on it until the ground has dried out again.

Taking care of your lawn may be a top priority year-round, but your focus may be drawn to it after the chilly winter months transition into warmer, wetter spring months. By following these tips, you can take better care of your yard throughout the spring and beyond.

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Real Estate Investing: Why Buying Raw Land Can Be an Excellent Long-term Strategy

Real Estate Investing: Why Buying Raw Land Can Be an Excellent Long-term Strategy When many people think about investing in property, they think about purchasing income-producing real estate such as a residential property or an office building with tenants. There are indeed many benefits associated with investing in income-producing property. For example, these properties may produce rent that can offset your ownership expenses. However, buying raw land can also be an excellent long-term investment strategy.

By learning more about the benefits of investing in raw land, you may be ready to start searching for real estate to invest in soon.

Minimal Ownership Expenses

Raw land will not have as many ownership expenses as land. This property may not produce rental income for you, but you also will not have to maintain or repair a building or pay for property insurance. Property taxes and a mortgage payment may be lower as well. Typically, your main expense will be the mortgage payment, and this may be far less than what a mortgage payment on developed land may be.

You essentially will be able to pay for the property outright to have no expenses or to leverage your investment and make affordable mortgage payments to pay for your investment.

Significant Potential Gain

There is a significant potential for long-term financial gain with your purchase of raw land. Consider that you can adjust the zoning or subdivide the property as desired. You can also wait for urban sprawl to reach the area to drive up demand and value for the property. It can be difficult to predict when the property value will increase. However, when you select a property in an area that seems to be growing, you may expect there to be some demand for that property in the coming years. Many who have invested in raw land may realize a significant gain when they make plans to hold onto the property for several years or longer before selling it.

Before you make any financial investment, it is important that you consider the amount of time that you wish to hold the investment before seeing a return on it. With raw land, you generally need to anticipate hanging onto the asset for several years or even decades before seeing a financial gain.

Keep in mind that land is a limited resource, and there is increasing demand for it as populations rise in many areas. With this in mind, you can generally expect most property values to eventually rise over time.

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Buying a Classic Older Home? Three Upgrades You’ll Need to Make Immediately

Buying a Classic Older Home? Three Upgrades You'll Need to Make ImmediatelyWhile some home buyers only want to live in a brand new home and will custom build a home to their specifications, others are drawn to the historic character and charm of a classic home. Older homes may have incredible architectural detail and special features that you simply do not want to change. However, there are some essential features that should be upgraded as soon as possible after you take ownership of your classic home.

The Electrical Panel

Many older homes were built at a time when electricity use was at a minimum, but the reliance on electricity has increased over the years. Older homes may commonly have an electrical panel with 50 amps or less, but your current needs may require you to have a panel with at least 200 amps. It may be good to have an electrician inspect the electrical panel as well as the wiring in the home to determine if an upgrade is needed in your new home.

Re-Plumbing the Pipes

A quick plumbing inspection will tell you if the home has copper, steel or other materials used with piping. The best material is copper because it is resistant to leaking, corrosion and rusting. Steel pipes generally should be replaced with copper as soon as possible. Other materials, such as cast iron, may be acceptable to keep in place. However, sections may need to be replaced if the pipes are more than 50 years old.

Firestops in the Structure

The good news about the structure of older homes is that older homes generally are better built than newer homes. However, most lack the critical feature of a firestop. A firestop essentially can minimize how fire travels through a home. Adding firestops to an older home can improve safety for the home’s occupants in the event of a fire and can minimize fire damage.

It is understandable that you may want to retain the historic character and charm of your older home. These may have been the features that you fell in love with when you bought it. However, you also want to ensure that the home has modern features that will make it comfortable and safe for you and your family to live in. These are all important improvements that you will want to make now that ultimately could improve your experience throughout the entire time you live in your home.

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Put Your Game Face On: How to Negotiate with a Home Seller and Their Real Estate Agent

Put Your Game Face On: How to Negotiate with a Home Seller and Their Real Estate AgentAll real estate transactions come with at least some negotiations, and some transactions are heavily negotiated from start to finish. As a home buyer, you understandably want to negotiate the best overall deal possible while successfully reaching your goal of closing on the home you have fallen in love with. To be truly successful with this process, it is important that you understand how to negotiate with the seller and the seller’s real estate agent.

Understand The Seller’s Position

In order to be successful with negotiations, you will need to understand the motivations and desires of the other party. A seller may have an emotional attachment to his or her home, but he or she also may have a desire or need to move. Some may have a firm bottom line for a price that they can accept or concessions that they are able to pay for out of pocket. While some may be unreasonable, most are willing to compromise and negotiate provided that your offer is feasible for their financial situation.

Define Your True Requirements

Just as a seller will have a hard and fast bottom line, you also may have specific requirements that you need to meet. This may be a firm closing date, the need to have some of your closing costs paid or a firm sales price that you do not want to exceed. While negotiations inevitably may have you asking for slightly more than what you truly need, it is important to define for yourself what your true requirements are and to remain focused on these when negotiating.

Be Willing To Compromise

When offers and counter-offers are flying back and forth between a buyer and seller, it is easy to feel stressed and even challenged by the other party. While there are times when a seller’s counter-offer may be unreasonable, most are reasonable and fair within limits. You may decide to submit a counter-offer as well, but some compromise will show the other party that you are willing to work with them.

From negotiating a sales price to asking the seller to make some repairs to the home after the inspection has been completed, there may be different times during the process when you need to negotiate. Consider these tips to help you more successfully negotiate with the seller and seller’s agent. A skilled real estate agent can also be instrumental with representing you during negotiations, and you can seek assistance from an agent today.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 18, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 18 2015Last week’s economic reports included data from the Federal Reserve on student loan debt, job openings and retail sales. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s survey of average mortgage rates were released as usual on Thursday. A report on consumer sentiment wrapped up the week’s scheduled economic new.

Federal Reserve: Student Loan Borrowers Struggle with Payments 

In two reports issued by the New York and St. Louis branches of the Federal Reserve, researchers found that high numbers of student loan borrowers are behind in making payments. According to the New York Fed, 11.10 percent of student loan borrowers were 90 or more days past due on their payments during the first quarter of 2015.

This is a slight improvement over the fourth quarter of 2014, when 11.30 percent of student loan borrowers were 90 or more days behind with their payments. The Fed notes that these percentages do not include borrowers who are behind on payments but who are not required to make payments due to forbearance or other approved payment deferrals. 

The burden of student loan debt is a serious consideration for the housing sector, as student loan debt can keep would-be buyers from qualifying for mortgages needed to buy homes. Worse, delinquency on student loans can damage borrowers’ credit and create further obstacles to getting a mortgage.

Job Openings, Retail Sales Lower

The Labor Department reported that job openings fell to 4.99 million in March as compared to February’s reading of 5.14 million job openings. March job openings increased by 19 percent year-over-year. There were about 1.72 job seekers for each job opening in March, which is lower than the reading of 1.77 job seekers per job when the recession started in December 2007.

Retail sales were unchanged in April against an expected increase of 0.10 percent and the March reading of 1.10 percent. Retail sales without the automotive sector expanded by 0.10 percent against expectations of 0.40 percent growth and March growth of 0.70 percent. Increasing fuel prices and skepticism over economic conditions likely contributed to slack retail sales.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Jobless Claims Lower

Weekly jobless claims provided some good news as they came in at 264,000 new claims against expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 265,000 new jobless claims. This was the third consecutive week that new jobless claims were less than 270,000; this has not occurred since 1975.

Freddie Mac reported that average rates for fixed rate mortgages rose, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked downward by one basis point. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.85 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also increased by five basis points to 3.07 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Consumer sentiment as reported by the University of Michigan dropped to a seven month low of 88.6 as compared to April’s reading of 95.9 and an expected reading of 94.9. Consumers are concerned about the economy and their personal finances. The reading for consumer sentiment prior to the recession averaged 86.9 over the year prior to the recession. Economists cited weak wage growth and rising fuel prices as contributing causes of consumer uncertainty.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes a number of housing-related reports. The NAHB Home Builders Housing Market Index, The National Association of Realtors® Existing Home Sales report, Housing Starts and Building Permits and the minutes of the Fed’s last FOMC meeting are set for release. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless Claims will be released as usual on Thursday.

 

 

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Thinking About a Major Renovation? Three Reasons to Consider Adding a Second Story

Thinking About a Major Renovation? Three Reasons to Consider Adding a Second StoryWhen your home is no longer fully functional for your needs, you may be thinking about moving into a larger home with a more functional floor plan. While this is one option to consider, another option is to renovate your existing home. You could build a wing onto your home, or you could add a second story to the property. There are several reasons why adding a second story to your floor plan may be the best solution for you.

Use the Existing Footprint

When you build a wing outward from your home, you will need to pour more foundation and take up a section of the yard with the new addition. By building upward, you can keep your yard intact and use the existing footprint. You may even be able to build into an attic space without making any structural changes to the home itself.

Improve Property Value

When you add a second story onto your home, you essentially will be adding more usable square footage with finished out space. This can have a direct and significant impact on your property value. You will not need to pay moving expenses or worry about if your existing furniture will fit into a new home. You will be able to enjoy the benefits of a larger and more functional home coupled with the ability to recoup most or all of the cost of the renovation through an increase in property value.

Keep Costs to a Minimum

By using the existing footprint of your home and by avoiding pouring more concrete for the foundation, you will be able to keep costs to a minimum. In some cases, such as if you build into the existing attic, you will not need to adjust the frame or roof to find the additional space you need. You may still need to add drywall, HVAC ducts and other features inside the frame of the home to take advantage of this space, but it generally is more cost-effective to build upward rather than outward when renovating a home.

A major renovation is one that can improve the style of your home, but it often will improve the function and increase value as well. If you are thinking about renovating your home, you may research how beneficial it can be to add more space upward on your home rather than to build outward.

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Save Some Additional Cash with Our Guide to Lowering Your Monthly Mortgage Payment

Save Some Additional Cash with Our Guide to Lowering Your Monthly Mortgage Payment If you are like many other homeowners, your home mortgage payment is the single largest expense in your monthly budget. This is a fixed expense that you will typically be responsible for until your loan is paid in full or until you sell your home, and you may have a 15, 20 or even 30 year term on your mortgage.

If your home mortgage payment has become unaffordable or burdensome for you to manage with your current financial situation, rest assured that you may be able to save some additional cash each month without selling your home. Refinancing your existing mortgage can provide you with important financial benefits to help you better manage your budget.

How Refinancing Lowers Your Mortgage Payment

Refinancing your existing mortgage essentially will replace your existing loan with a new loan, but you may not understand how this will result in a lower mortgage payment. When you initially applied for your current mortgage, your payment was fixed based on the interest rates at the time as well as the original loan balance. Since that time, you likely have reduced your loan balance considerably, and interest rates may be improved as well. In fact, some homeowners are able to refinance to a lower rate as well as pull equity out of their home in the process.

How Home Equity Could Further Reduce Monthly Expenses

While your main goal for refinancing a home mortgage may be to reduce the large monthly mortgage payment that you are responsible for, the fact is that you may be able to use your home equity to further reduce your monthly expenses. For example, you can use extra funds provided to you through a refinance to pay off an outstanding student loan, a car payment or a credit card balance. Some homeowners may even be able to pay off most or all of their debts by tapping into their home equity.

It is common for homeowners who have a high and unmanageable mortgage payment to feel overwhelmed and even trapped by their financial situation. However, as you can see, lowering your mortgage payment and even reducing some of your other expenses may be easier to do than you might think.

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Multi-Generational Living: Our Guide to Buying a Home That Suits Your Whole Family

Multi-generational Living: Our Guide to Buying a Home That Suits Your Whole Family It was very common decades ago for several generations of a family to live together, and this may have included kids, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents in some cases. Today’s modern homes are generally designed to accommodate a more traditional modern family, which includes only parents and kids or for only a married couple without kids. When you are buying a home for other generations as well, it is important for you to pay attention to a few important points.

The Right Living Spaces and Accommodations

Generally, a home with a floor plan that is most suitable for multiple generations is one with different wings of bedrooms and several different living areas. There is something to be said for togetherness, but you may find that having several different living areas as well as having a floor plan that keeps older family members’ bedrooms away from the bedrooms of younger family members is a good idea.

After all, there will be plenty of times when older family members may want to chit chat or read a good book in a living area while others may want to turn on the TV or music. In addition, they may have different sleeping schedules, and noise from either of their rooms can be bothersome.

Special Considerations for Older and Younger Generations

You should also think about the special needs of older and younger generations. Very young family members, for example, may benefit from a large, enclosed backyard, a play room and well-insulated windows or a home location removed from loud busy roadways. Older generations may prefer a bedroom on the first floor, special safety features in the bathroom and a home without many steps or steep elevations outdoors.

It may be challenging to find a home that can accommodate older and younger generations perfectly, so some modifications may need to be made to a home after purchasing it.

Finding the perfect home for a basic nuclear family is rarely easy, and your challenges may be more significant when you are searching for a home for a multi-generational family. While you may have more needs and desires when looking for a home that is ideal for a larger number of people with more variation in their ages, the fact is that most will be able to find a great home that is ideal for most or all of their needs with a little time and effort.

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You Ask, We Answer: How Does the Escrow Process Work when Buying a Home?

You Ask, We Answer: How Does the Escrow Process Work when Buying a Home? When you purchase a new home, escrow is a word that you will hear numerous times from different parties. There are several types of escrow accounts that will be established, and you may be wondering where your money will go when placed in an escrow account or how it is applied to your transaction. By taking time to learn more about the escrow process, you can be a more informed buyer.

Your Initial Escrow Deposit

Within a short period of time after your offer is accepted by the buyer, you will be required to make an escrow deposit to the title company. Typically, you will write a check for the escrow deposit, and your title agent will hold the funds in a non-interest bearing account. These are funds that will be applied to your down payment at closing, and they serve as a good faith of your interest to proceed to the seller.

In the event you back out of the contract after the option period has passed, the escrow deposit may be handed over to the seller and would not be refunded to you.

Escrows for Taxes and Insurance

In addition to this type of escrow deposit, you may also hear about an escrow account for your property taxes and insurance. Setting up this type of escrow account may be a requirement by your lender, but it is not always required. Essentially, this is the account that your property taxes and homeowners insurance will be paid out of. You will pay a specified amount of money into the escrow account to establish a balance at closing, and a portion of your monthly payments will be applied to taxes and insurance as well.

The amount of money that is required at closing will be dependent on the month that you close as well as the annual costs for taxes and insurance.

Essentially, escrow accounts are established to pay for specified expenses that you are required to pay for as a buyer. The initial escrow deposit for the sales contract is a short-term type of escrow account, and the property tax and insurance escrow will remain intact until your mortgage is paid off in most cases.

Now that you know more about the escrows that you will be required to contribute money to as a buyer, you will be a more informed buyer when making your real estate purchase.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 11, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 11 2015Last week’s scheduled economic reports primarily revolved around the jobs sector. The federal government released reports on Nonfarm Payrolls, the national unemployment rate and weekly report on new jobless claims. ADP issued its monthly report on private sector payrolls. Readings on labor statistics are important to housing markets as stable employment conditions are a significant consideration for prospective home buyers.

Private-Sector Job Creation Falls, Non-Farm Payrolls Rise

According to ADP, private-sector payrolls fell by 6000 jobs in April to a reading of 169,000 new jobs. This was the fifth consecutive monthly drop in new private sector jobs. ADP also adjusted its March reading to 175,000 new private-sector jobs.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that Nonfarm Payrolls rose by 223,000 in April after a bleak reading of 85,000 new jobs added in March. Analysts said that all economic sectors added jobs in March with the exception of the energy sector. More workers joined the labor force in April, which suggests that jobs are easier to find.

Unemployment Dips to Lowest Rate since 2008

The national unemployment rate fell to 5.40 percent in April, which was the lowest reading since 2008. While a low unemployment rate is good news for job seekers, it will likely prompt the Federal Reserve to raise its target interest rate sometime this year. Analysts expect that if current economic conditions hold steady, the Fed may raise rates in September. Fed policymakers have consistently stated that any decisions to raise rates would be based on careful review of current domestic and foreign economic trends. When the Fed does raise rates, mortgage rates are expected to increase.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates jumped across the board last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose from 3.68 percent to 3.80 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose from 2.94 percent to 3.02 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 2.85 percent to 2.90 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent, but dropped from an average of 0.50 percent to 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims also rose, but were lower than expected at 265,000 new jobless claims filed against an expected reading of 277,000 new claims. The prior week’s reading was unrevised at 262,000 new claims filed. New jobless claims remained close to a 15-year low.

While economists note that labor market conditions are improving, wages increased at a year-over-year rate of 2.20 percent as compared to the normal year-over-year increase of 3.00 percent.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic reports include more readings on labor market conditions along with reports on retail sales and consumer sentiment. Readings for weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report will be released as usual on Thursday.

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