Saturday, March 30, 2013

20 Signs You Need a Financial Makeover

1. You charge group dinners on your card and keep your friends’ cash to spend. I actually don’t mind doing this myself as it saves me a trip to the ATM if I need the cash, but if you’re just being stupid and thinking it’s “free money” to go and blow anytime then yeah – you need a financial makeover.

2. You spend more than 40% of your total income on rent. The last time I calculated this we were spending 37% of our total (net) income on mortgages. And I’ll admit it’s not very savvy. But I’ll also point out that we got ourselves into this BEFORE Mr. J. Money came about ;) So I agree with this one here – ya gotta keep your rent/mortgages way below that 40% line.

 3. You’re constantly transferring your balance to get 0% interest on your credit card debt. Bad if you don’t know what you’re doing, but good if you’re Jonathan from My Money Blog (the expert in xfering $20,000+ and milking the extra hundreds of dollars in interest every year;)

4. You pay off one credit card with another. Yes, BAD!!

5. Less than 10% of your income goes to your retirement savings. (Or worse, zero percent!) I wouldn’t say you need a total makeover if you were saving 10% really, even though everyone would love to see you saving 15% or even 25%, but definitely saving 0% is a troubling sign.

 6. You have a credit card that doesn’t give you anything in return, like cash back or airline miles. Haha…well this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it is a good idea to check and makes sure you’re getting *something* in return for doing nothing ;) You don’t have to do anything different than you’re doing now!

7. You don’t know what IRA means outside of Ireland. (is that supposed to be a joke?)

8. You pay the minimum balance on your credit card each month.Not the best habit to get into, that’s for sure. If at all possible you should be adding in at least $25-$50 more every month to help knock it away as fast as you can. I once paid $2,000 for a $1,200 computer back in the day because I kept just telling myself “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Make tomorrow, today!

9. You don’t open your credit card statement because you can’t bear to see how high the balance is. Oh yeah, definitely not a good sign. You HAVE TO KNOW what you’re dealing with so that you can fix it and get right back on track! And this goes for savings and investments too. If you don’t KNOW what’s going on you’ll just keep sinking and sinking until it takes something tragic to snap you out of it.

10. You don’t keep receipts because they remind you of what you’ve spent. Haha…that’s actually pretty clever ;) STUPID, but clever. Maybe these people should switch to debit cards instead? (I’m assuming they’re using credit cards which allow them to spend way more than they have due to credit limits and such. With debit cards though, you have a breaking point! Once you hit $0.00 you can’t pick up anything else.)

 11. You know your company has a 401k plan, but you have no idea what that is. My favorite tool ever! Just call up HR real quick (right now, actually, stop reading this!!) and ask how much your company matches. Then, tell your sweet old HR lady (or man) that you’d like to contribute that exact same # and make sure to fill out whatever forms you need to do ASAP. Even if you never look at it again, that one move you just made will hook you up years and years to come. So do it!

 12. You withdraw cash frequently from ATM’s that aren’t affiliated with your bank. I don’t know if this one applies as much as maybe it used to. Many banks now reimburse you for your fees so it doesn’t matter where you go (at least online banks do – like my fave USAA, baby!)

13. The number of credit cards in your wallet is higher than the number of dates you’ve had this year. Hahahhahaa…..didn’t see that one coming :)

14. You buy so much on eBay that they’ve awarded you VIP status. Wha wha wha….

15. You want to start a savings account, but then sale season starts again! Is it me or are these going down hill?

16. You don’t have an emergency fund to pay bills should you lose your job. Back in action! YES, emergency funds are KEY to any financial game plan. Whether it’s $100, or $1,000, be sure to be stashing some aside for when you least expect it!

17. Your monthly extra cell phone minute charges are bigger than your monthly electric bill. (I had to go look up my own electric bill to see if this is a good gauge or not, and indeed I think it may. Although if we’re talking about overall cell phone bills and not just “minute charges” then the iPhone kills us!)

18. You overdraw on your checking account more than once a year. Hmmm… once is kinda strict. I’d say not more than 3 times a year cuz sometimes weird things just happen. Although if you were really on top of it you’d sign up for overdraft protection (the kinds that don’t cost you any money!) so that you’d be safe just in case you got a little crazy here and there.

19. You live paycheck to paycheck. This should be the #1 sign you need a makeover, hands down. Living paycheck to paycheck is a recipe for disaster, and I know 80% of you reading this right now are in this boat :( I was too!!! For 25 years of my life! If you haven’t been serious about making a change, please start today. There are plenty of ways you can get yourself in better position, you just have to get on it and really commit. Start tracking your money and finding where all your spending leaks are! Picking up a hustle on the side will help too.

 20. You spend more on new shoes annually than you save. Oh wow, that would not be good. I think I’ve spent around $200 so far on shoes this year – and 2 of those were on new cleats that needed replacing. I would punch myself in the face if I was saving less than that every year :(

 Were any of you surprised with your answers to some of these? Did it get you to double check and see if you’re truly on track or not? Again, some of these were pretty crazy and more entertaining than anything, but hopefully it moved a few marbles upstairs and will prompt you to start researching any areas that may need improvement. It’s always a work in progress :)

Source

Friday, March 29, 2013

Take Charge When Buying a Home

If you approach the home buying process intelligently and with confidence, you are much more likely to emerge with a house you'll be proud to call home.

Approaching the task of buying your next home can be overwhelming. There's so much to consider.

How much house can I afford, and how can I find the best loan? Where will I come up with a down payment, and how much will I need? Should I buy a new or resale home, and which will go up in value? Should I use an agent or look at homes on my own?

And these questions are just the beginning. Buying a home is one of the largest financial transactions in your lifetime, yet we don't teach about it in school. You're just supposed to pick it up along the way.

Well, as you start down this road, let me give you a little advice. Here are the two most important things to remember no matter where you are on the road to ownership:

1. You can and should understand everything that is happening in the home buying process. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that is so complex that it can't be easily explained to anyone with average intelligence, and you've got more than that. Just because we don't apply for a thirty year mortgage once a week doesn't mean we have to take the first one that comes along. You'll need to learn some new terms, apply some new concepts and take the time to understand what you're getting into. If anything happens at any point in the process that doesn't make sense to you, simply demand a full and complete explanation. If it still doesn't make sense, seek help from someone you trust like your CPA, your banker or maybe your friendly online real estate columnist.

2. In the world of real estate sales, YOU are the most important person in the entire process. It's easy to think that everyone else carries more weight than you. The agent talks fast and has an answer for everything. The lender may decline your loan application, and on and on. But the truth is that you, the buyer, are the one person in this transaction that makes it all happen. If you decide to not buy, the entire process comes to a grinding halt. So flex your consumer muscle and take command of this process. Surround yourself with a team of professionals that you have confidence in and make them work for you.

If you plan from the beginning to approach the home buying process intelligently and with confidence, you are much more likely to emerge at the end of the day with a house you'll be proud to call home, and the knowledge that you made the right decision.

Source:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Home Prices Rise at Fastest Pace in Over Six Years

Home-price appreciation is accelerating in much of the U.S., offering the latest confirmation that the housing market is turning after the most severe property downturn since the Great Depression.

Prices rose by 8.1% in January from a year earlier, the largest such gain in 6½ years, according to figures from the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 major metropolitan cities released Tuesday. All 20 cities posted annual increases.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Buying A Home Plan for Younger People – Make Sure to Plan Ahead

Granted, few young people spend much time day-dreaming about buying their first home. They're naturally preoccupied with academics, athletics, parties, dating and future career possibilities. Nonetheless, there are a number of good reasons to start learning early in life about the costs of buying a home and the responsibilities of homeownership. For example, a college student's misuse or abuse of credit cards can preclude his or her buying a home later on.

Here are five recommendations for young people who want to position themselves for homeownership:

1. Establish good credit habits and a favorable credit history. Get a credit card and use it responsibly. Apply for an automobile loan and make your payments on time every month. If you're renting an apartment, put your own name on the lease and the utility bills and make sure the rent and the bills are paid every month. If you're already struggling with credit card debt or have large student loans, take a free workshop from the non-profit Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Call (800) 388-2227 for information.

2. Start saving for a down payment and closing costs. It's possible to purchase a first home in many parts of the country without much in the way of savings. But in high-cost housing areas, starting to save early can be enormously beneficial because you'll get the advantage of compounding interest and have a longer period of time to grow your investments. Open a savings account or a stock brokerage investment account and make regular deposits.

3. Read some books. Your local library and bookstore probably have at least a few shelves of books about financial management and buying a home. Take notes. Make a financial plan for yourself.

4. Research where you'd like to live. Many young people assume they'll continue living in their own home town when they get older, but people are more mobile than ever and chances are good you'll one day live in another city or even another state. Again, the library, bookstore and Web can be excellent resources for information about housing costs and homeownership opportunities around the country.

5. Tap your real estate agent relatives for advice. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or older cousins in the real estate business can give you good information about the cost of housing in the area where you want to live and what it takes to buy a home. Questions to ask: Is housing affordable in this area? How much money would I need to save in order to buy a home? What advice would you give me about planning my financial future? Would you recommend some books that I might like to read about buying a home? Don't be shy. If you have a question, ask someone in a position to know the answer.

Source:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How Much Money Do I Have to Save to Buy A Home?

The first thing to understand about buying a house is that you don't have to have all the cash saved up in order to make your purchase.

The good news is that there are lots of folks out there who are very interested in lending you as much as 95% of the purchase price of your home, at very favorable interest rates. Furthermore, they are willing to spread out the payments over a long period of time so that you can afford the house you want.

Just to cover the basics, let's elaborate on the points in the last paragraph:

If you have a steady job and a reasonable credit history, there is a good chance that you can find a home lender who will lend you most of the purchase price of your new house. Home loans are also called "mortgages," which comes from a Latin phrase meaning "pledge unto death." While lenders don't take your promise to pay quite that seriously, they DO expect to get repaid on time. Just to make sure you remember, lenders take an ownership interest in your house until the loan is paid in full.

Home loans typically are offered in amounts of 80%, 90% and 95% of the price you are paying for the house. You are expected to pay the remaining amount in cash from your own savings. As you might imagine, the lower percentage loans are somewhat easier to qualify for.

The reason the lender is willing to lend you up to 95% of the value of your house is that history has shown real estate to be such an excellent investment. Lenders expect that your home will be worth more in the future than it is today - so their investment in your home is considered very safe.

That's also why the interest rate you can obtain on a home loan is one of the best around. Consider that America's largest and strongest corporations borrow at what is called the "prime rate," and that today you can borrow a home loan - fixed at the same rate for many years - at substantially less than the prime rate. Lenders have found that home loans tend to be excellent investments, and you benefit every month when you make your loan payment.

Finally, home loans are available to be repaid over terms of usually 15 or 30 years. The shorter term loan offers a slightly lowered interest rate, so if you can afford the higher monthly payments, you'll save in interest costs by choosing the 15 year loan. At today's interest rates, a 15 year loan costs about 27% more than a 30 year loan in terms of your monthly payment. But the amazing thing is that lenders are even willing to offer a fixed rate loan for that time period. It's better financing than you can get on just about any other investment.

Source:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Understand Your Credit - Find out about your credit and correct any errors now!

Thinking about buying a house? Then think about your credit history...the folks who lend money do!

How well you have handled your credit obligations in the past is of utmost importance to lenders today. The good news is that this information, for the most part, is available to you.

Your credit history is maintained by three different private companies called credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Their websites and phone numbers are listed at the end of this article. Everyone can pull their own credit once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com. If you’ve already done that or need to pull it again. You can order your report by phone and charge it to your major credit card if you like. It usually takes about a week to arrive. You can even order your report online directly from each of the three agencies, but they have to verify your identity before you can obtain any private information. By the way, avoid services that offer to obtain all your reports for you in exchange for a fee. You want the information directly from the reporting agency, blemishes and all.

It's a good idea to get a copy of all three reports, because if an error exists on even one of the reports, it may negatively affect your chances of getting the loan you want. Your credit report lists all the consumer credit that has been extended to you over the past seven years. It will show what your highest balance has been and what your current balance was on the date last reported by the creditor. It will also show how many payments you made on time and how many late payments were late. Late payments are grouped into categories showing how late you were. For example, if your credit card payment was over 30 days late one time, it might not be considered too serious. But if payments were over 60 days late four times, over 120 days late two times and over 180 days late one time, you have had a serious problem. That problem is going to impact your ability to borrow money.

It just makes sense to find out about your credit and correct any errors now. Regardless of how many credit problems you have had in the past, there are two good points to remember.

First, negative credit information can be reported in your credit file for only seven years. After that, it drops out and cannot even be considered. The one exception is bankruptcy, which can be reported for 10 years. But after that you start with essentially a clean slate.

Second, lenders are much more concerned about how you have handled your credit recently than with what happened several years ago. Even if you have had a bankruptcy, if you have kept your nose clean and paid your bills on time since then, it is possible you could qualify for a loan after as little as two or three years.

One of the best developments in the world of lending has been risk-based pricing. That's a five dollar term for the ability of lenders to offer higher priced loans to borrowers based on their demonstrated ability to repay. In other words, even if you have slightly fractured credit, you can still likely get a loan. It just may cost you a little more.

Equifax (www.equifax.com) can be reached at 800-997-2493. TransUnion (www.transunion.com) can be reached at 800-888-4213. Experian (www.experian.com) can be reached at 888-397-3742.

Source:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Calculate Your Income Vs. Debt

Most lenders don't want you to take out a loan that will overload your ability to repay everybody you owe.

As you think about applying for a home loan, you need to consider your personal finances. How much you earn versus how much you owe will likely determine how much a lender will allow you to borrow.

First, determine your gross monthly income. This will include any regular and recurring income that you can document. Unfortunately, if you can't document the income or it doesn't show up on your tax return, then you can't use it to qualify for a loan. However, you can use unearned sources of income such as alimony or lottery payoffs. And if you own income-producing assets such as real estate or stocks, the income from those can be estimated and used in this calculation. If you have questions about your specific situation, any good loan officer can review the rules.

Next, calculate your monthly debt load. This includes all monthly debt obligations like credit cards, installment loans, car loans, personal debts or any other ongoing monthly obligation like alimony or child support. If it is revolving debt like a credit card, use the minimum monthly payment for this calculation. If it is installment debt, use the current monthly payment to calculate your debt load. And you don't have to consider a debt at all if it is scheduled to be paid off in less than six months. Add all this up and it is a figure we'll call your monthly debt service.

In a nutshell, most lenders don't want you to take out a loan that will overload your ability to repay everybody you owe. Although every lender has slightly different formulas, here is a rough idea of how they look at the numbers.

Typically, your monthly housing expense, including monthly payments for taxes and insurance, should not exceed about 28% of your gross monthly income. If you don't know what your tax and insurance expense will be, you can estimate that about 15% of your payment will go toward this expense. The remainder can be used for principal and interest repayment.

In addition, your proposed monthly housing expense and your total monthly debt service combined cannot exceed about 36% of your gross monthly income. If it does, your application may exceed the lender's underwriting guidelines and your loan may not be approved.

Depending on your individual situation, there may be more or less flexibility in the 28% and 36% guidelines. For example, if you are able to buy the home while borrowing less than 80% of the home's value by making a large cash down payment, the qualifying ratios become less critical. Likewise, if Bill Gates or a rich uncle is willing to cosign on the loan with you, lenders will be much less focused on the guidelines discussed here.

Remember that there are hundreds of loan programs available in today's lending market and every one of them has different guidelines. So don't be discouraged if your dream home seems out of reach.

In addition, there are a number of factors within your control which affect your monthly payment. For example, you might choose to apply for an adjustable rate loan which has a lower initial payment than a fixed rate program. Likewise, a larger down payment has the effect of lowering your projected monthly payment.

Just plan on contacting and investigating a number of lenders to find a loan program that meets your needs.

Source:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Making the Transition from Renting to Buying

Most lenders don't want you to take out a loan that will overload your ability to repay everybody you owe.  

As you think about applying for a home loan, you need to consider your personal finances. How much you earn versus how much you owe will likely determine how much a lender will allow you to borrow.  

First, determine your gross monthly income. This will include any regular and recurring income that you can document. Unfortunately, if you can't document the income or it doesn't show up on your tax return, then you can't use it to qualify for a loan. However, you can use unearned sources of income such as alimony or lottery payoffs. And if you own income-producing assets such as real estate or stocks, the income from those can be estimated and used in this calculation. If you have questions about your specific situation, any good loan officer can review the rules.  

Next, calculate your monthly debt load. This includes all monthly debt obligations like credit cards, installment loans, car loans, personal debts or any other ongoing monthly obligation like alimony or child support. If it is revolving debt like a credit card, use the minimum monthly payment for this calculation. If it is installment debt, use the current monthly payment to calculate your debt load. And you don't have to consider a debt at all if it is scheduled to be paid off in less than six months. Add all this up and it is a figure we'll call your monthly debt service.  

In a nutshell, most lenders don't want you to take out a loan that will overload your ability to repay everybody you owe. Although every lender has slightly different formulas, here is a rough idea of how they look at the numbers.  

Typically, your monthly housing expense, including monthly payments for taxes and insurance, should not exceed about 28% of your gross monthly income. If you don't know what your tax and insurance expense will be, you can estimate that about 15% of your payment will go toward this expense. The remainder can be used for principal and interest repayment.

In addition, your proposed monthly housing expense and your total monthly debt service combined cannot exceed about 36% of your gross monthly income. If it does, your application may exceed the lender's underwriting guidelines and your loan may not be approved.  

Depending on your individual situation, there may be more or less flexibility in the 28% and 36% guidelines. For example, if you are able to buy the home while borrowing less than 80% of the home's value by making a large cash down payment, the qualifying ratios become less critical. Likewise, if Bill Gates or a rich uncle is willing to cosign on the loan with you, lenders will be much less focused on the guidelines discussed here.  

 Remember that there are hundreds of loan programs available in today's lending market and every one of them has different guidelines. So don't be discouraged if your dream home seems out of reach. 

In addition, there are a number of factors within your control which affect your monthly payment. For example, you might choose to apply for an adjustable rate loan which has a lower initial payment than a fixed rate program. Likewise, a larger down payment has the effect of lowering your projected monthly payment.   Just plan on contacting and investigating a number of lenders to find a loan program that meets your needs.   Source:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Make Moorhead Home New Construction Property Tax Rebate Program

 

Instructions:

How do I qualify for the new construction rebate?

To qualify, the property must:
Be located within Moorhead City limits and classified as 1a,1b,2a,4b or 4bb (1-3 unit residential). The classification of your property can be found on your property tax statement or by contacting the City Assessor. The property must be new construction with no part of the structure commenced prior to January 1, 2012. Construction of the property must commence prior to December 31, 2014. Construction is deemed to have commenced if a city building permit has been issued and the mandatory footing or foundation inspection has been completed.

What is the benefit?

For property classified as 1a,1b,2a,4b or 4bb (1-3 unit residential) the rebate is the entire market value of the land and new improvements. The rebate includes the two payable tax years that correspond with the two assessment years after construction commenced.

How does the new construction credit work?

Builders or purchasers of new homes for which construction commenced between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2014 are eligible for a rebate of some or all general real estate taxes for the first two years following home construction. There is no minimum or maximum market value limit, and land value is included. Special levies such as school bond referendum, watershed, and economic development are not included in the rebate. Special assessments are not part of the rebate.

What if the residence sells during the rebate period?

Once an application is submitted and approved on a residence, the parcel is eligible for two payable tax years even if the ownership transfers. If the residence is constructed on or before August 31, 2012, I understand my rebate will be smaller than homes built after September 1.
 

Will I get the full amount the second year?

No. Construction activity that began prior to September 1, 2012 is not eligible for the Clay County portion of the tax payments for either year of eligibility. 

When will I get my rebate check?
Tax payments are required to be paid as due on May 15th and October 15th of each year. A rebate of the eligible portion of the tax payments will be mailed by the Clay County Treasurer in December of each year of eligibility. 

How do I apply?

Complete the application and return it to the City Assessor. Completed applications must be returned by January 31 of the year following the commencement of construction. Click here to download Application.

How we use information

The county/city assessor may share the information contained on this form with the County Auditor, County Attorney, Commissioner of Revenue or other federal, state or local authorities to verify your eligibility for the rebate. You do not have to provide this information. However, refusal may disqualify you from consideration for the rebate. 

Penalties 

Making false statements on this application is against the law. Minnesota Statutes, Section 609.41 states that giving false information in order to avoid or reduce their tax obligations can result in a fine up to $3,000 and/or up to one year in prison. 

For more information contact:
City of Moorhead
ATTN: Assessor Dept.
500 Center Avenue
Moorhead MN 56560
(218) 299-5310
Assessor@cityofmoorhead.com

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Seller’s Checklist

• Hire a stager, inspector, photographer and other professionals as needed.
 • Pressure-wash sidewalks and decks.
 • Clean windows.
 • Clear gutters and downspouts.
• Remove weeds; mulch; plant flowers.
 • Clear cobwebs, leaves from porches, patios.
 • Re-grout bathtubs and faucets.
 • Have air conditioning and furnace checked.
 • Paint trim, baseboards and nicks if needed.
 • Clear counters, tables, bookshelves.
• Organize closets and storage areas.
• Clean carpets.
• Ask a friend to give an honest assessment of your home.

Source: Washington Post
For more information on selling your home click here: Selling My Home in the FM Area

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fargo Buyers Alert: Don't waste your home search time on Zillow,Trulia and Homes.com

Most real estate home buyers are obsessed with finding the next great deal.  So much so that they stay up into the wee hours of the night scouring the internet for properties,  As real estate agents know, our livelihoods depend on the accuracy of the data we analyze and for that reason I’m begging you to PLEASE stop searching for real estate on nationwide portals like Trulia, Zillow and Homes.com - amongst many others!

For the past 12 months brokerage after brokerage has decided to withdrawal their listings from the nationwide real estate search portals citing, among other things, horribly inaccurate information and in some cases outright scams.  

Very Inaccurate Real Estate Search Results National portals like Trulia and Zilliow are slow to show new listings.  When a property is listed for sale it hits the local MLS in a matter of minutes, usually about 15, but can take as long as 9 days to populate to nationally syndicated sites according to studies on the subject.  To real estate investors ready to pounce 9 days might as well be 3 months.  By the time the home owner sees the listing, sees the property and submits an offer sufficient time will have passed that there could be one or more competitive bids or quite possibly the property could have sold already.  A seasoned real estate agent knows how important timing is and getting all of your real estate listings even 24 hours later than your competitors will cause you to miss out on great deals.  

Bad Data The real estate company Redfin was hired recently to assess the accuracy of sites like Trulia and Zillow and their study found that approximately 36% of the listings shown as active on Zillow and Trulia were no longer for sale in the local MLS, compared with almost 0% on local brokerage websites.  The study further found that brokerage sourced listings using their local MLS feed displayed 100% of the MLS homes listed for sale on their websites but Trulia only displayed 81% and Zillow 79%.  So let me summarize – over 1/3rd of the listings you are seeing are NOT ACTUALLY FOR SALE and you only get to see 4/5th of the listings that are actually for sale.  LOL.  I could go on but really there’s no need.  Obviously anyone searching for properties in a city would like to have access to all of the listings that are for sale and none of the ones that aren’t.  

What’s My House Worth? (Don’t Ask Zillow) I considered writing an entire post of the accuracy…or inaccuracy, of real estate portal pricing tools like the famed Zillow Zestimate.  For those who aren’t familiar with Zillow the website offers an opinion of a listed house value called a Zestimate and it is prominently displayed on each property’s listing page.  Sounds great right?  Unfortunately the Zestimate values aren’t even close to the actual values that the properties sell for.  If you’re wondering how I can be so sure it’s because, to Zillow’s credit, they actually publicize the accuracy of their Zestimates city by city. To measure the accuracy of the Zestimate Zillow compares the actual home sale prices of homes with their Zestimate and they’ve found that the Zesimtate is within 5% of the actual sale price around 33% of the time and within 10% of the sale price around 50% of the time.  What To Do? For real estate home buyers in need of accurate and timely data national search portals like Trulia and Zillow are not as reliable as other options available.  Instead of searching for properties on these websites real estate investors should focus on smaller, local brokerage based websites, establish relationships with local real estate agents or get a real estate license and pay to join the local MLS where they invest.  These steps will assure that you are getting the most accurate and up to date information and will give you a competitive advantage over those who are searching for real estate with websites like Trulia and Zillow.

Find out the value of your home from a local real estate professional, using local market data and accurate listing information. Find out your homes value here.  

What do you think? Do you use Trulia or Zillow?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

First Time Home Sellers - Tips!!

Attention first-time home sellers: This is not your father's housing market.
Today's buyer-take-all market is a benefit for buyers with great credit and deep pockets. But sellers are stunned with new realities that include paying (rather than making) money at the closing table, providing extras to sweeten the deal, and spending more time and cash making the home camera-ready.
For first-time sellers who have never been through the process before, it's a different world. One where the value of the house isn't measured in the profit made on the sale, but by the enjoyment the owners had from living in the home.
~Here are some important things experienced sellers would tell you, if they could.
Your largest number of showings will occur in the first two to three weeks. The (multiple listing service) systems and the Internet tend to drive the majority of showings. Many buyers are plugged in electronically. So the minute something new pops up that meets their criteria, they want to see it. Take advantage of that sweet spot by pricing the house competitively right out of the gate. How you style the price is important. For example, a home first marketed at $155,000, then lowering it to $150,000 meant the listing appeared within the computer search parameters that buyers commonly used in that price range. Want to sit with a house that won't move? Be the first-time seller who insists you can get the appraised value, the tax assessor's estimate or whatever you paid a few years ago. It seems like there's no relationship between your assessed value, taxable value and the actual market value of your house. There doesn't seem to be any correlation. The truth is that your house is worth what buyers are willing to pay. No more. This is a true market that is totally based on supply and demand. That means many buyers should be prepared to lose some money or hang onto the home until the price rises. To make your home stand out it may be smart to throw in some incentives, for instance, include the newer washer and dryer knowing that they will be challenging to move anyway and this will "sweeten the deal" for onlooking buyers. Beware the agent who promises big profits, Combs says. That person may just be after your business. Don't go with anyone who doesn't use comps. And study sales prices, not asking prices, for real estate. One question to ask yourself and pose as you interview agents: How will you reach the home's target market? You have to consider who your most likely buyers are for what you're selling and cater to that group of people. Targeting 20-somethings who live on their smartphones? You need to effectively access the networks your buyers are tapping to find their next home. One big trend: QR (or "quick response") bar codes that allow smartphone users to access property information electronically. The typical starter home can also appeal to downsizing empty nesters. To serve their needs, you might also want to have a phone number that instantly reaches someone who can provide details and answer questions. And don't neglect the modern version of curb appeal: using lots of photos on real estate listings' websites. However you market your house, you need a good number of clear, well-lit, professional-quality pictures that show your house at its best. Keeping your house clean is important in every sale. But first-timers are likely selling smaller houses, and clutter can mean the difference between cozy and cramped. Kitchen and bathroom countertops are another hot spot that many sellers forget to clear. The same chaos that represents your normal routine makes your house seem messy, disorganized and uninviting to buyers. However, you don't want to remove all traces of human existence. Decluttering is good. But I'm not a big fan of taking all of your personal stuff out. Don't neutralize it so that it's sterile. Most buyers are lazy. The last thing a new homeowner wants is another 'to-do' list, Ramsey says. So get the home move-in ready before it hits the market so the buyer can start fresh easily. That means making all the repairs and replacements that you would demand if you were buying the house today. If you have to walk single file up the walkway, trim the bushes. If the garage door is dented, have that fixed or replaced. If you go into a room and say, 'Hmm, I wonder if this carpet is dirty enough to replace?' You have your answer. First-time sellers are likely selling smaller, starter homes which are popular with first-time buyers and empty-nesters. Neither group is likely to want to spend weekends tackling the jobs that you avoided. From a presentation standpoint, you want them to feel it's turnkey -- ready to go. Because your competition is doing that. In this market, it's not just a price war but a beauty contest at the same time. If you're looking to spend some money to make your house memorable, ask someone who knows what will improve the market value. You might want to paint a stylish blue kitchen tan -- to match the walls of the adjacent open living room and attract more buyers. The cheapest thing you can do for a house with the biggest bang for the buck is to paint and replace carpet. Recommendation: soft neutrals, which are easy on the eyes and have mass appeal. Fresh carpet and that new-paint smell are also buyer-bait. Buyers don’t generally get emotionally attached to a carpet-allowance sign. What they fall in love with is the new carpet in the house. If you're a first time home seller and would like some direction to get the ball rolling, contact us anytime, we'd be glad to tour your home, give you some tips on getting your home ready to sell and fill you in on the entire selling process including sharing with you all the "extra" services we offer.  We're here to make sure all your questions get answered and that you don't have to go-it alone.  Just call, email or fill out the contact form on the right side of the page and we'll make sure you're selling experience is as stress-free and profitable as possible.  We're experienced full time realtors that work together to ensure you receive only the top notch service that you deserve.
Remember: Not all realtors are alike. You may pay a similar fee to a lot of different realtors, but we at least give you a lot more for your money than a majority of agents would even consider providing for you.  Call us today, even if you're just getting started, we're here to help even in the getting ready stage.  There are no costs to you until your home is listed, sells and closes!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

2013 Spring Parade of Homes Fargo ND

The 2013 Spring Parade of Homes hosted by Home Builders Association of F-M will be April 27-May 5. Modern Market Realtors The Home Builders Association of Fargo-Moorhead hosts two Parade events each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Admission is free. Description The spring Parade, held over nine days, will include homes in a wide range of prices built by HBA of F-M builders, each with his or her own distinct style. Bright yellow and blue directional signs and pennants will mark homes participating in the parade. Hours are 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. weekdays and noon - 5 p.m. weekends. 

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