If you’re moving here from afar, here’s how to start…

Long-Distance Move: How to Plot One Remotely

Susan  Johnston | U.S. News | Dec 13th 2013 | link
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Finding the right house or apartment is rarely easy, but it’s even harder when you’re conducting your search remotely. Just ask Marjorie Comer, 26, a military wife who’s moved several times in the past few years. She and her husband tried to house hunt from afar before they moved from Kansas City, Mo., to Charleston, S.C., in January 2010. Not knowing many people in Charleston, the couple searched online before deciding to drive in for a two-day real estate blitz. “Everything was really gross or way out of our rental price range,” she says. Finally, they settled on a rental in what she describes as a “semi-nice area.”

When the family moved again to Florida in May 2011, Comer says she felt better equipped to find a place to live thanks to the military resources she’d uncovered and the strategies learned from their previous search. They searched online again, then spent a four-day weekend in the area north of Jacksonville, Fla., once they narrowed their search to 10 houses.

Here’s a look at strategies for conducting a real estate search from a distance.

Do your homework online. The Internet has a wealth of information available about rental units and houses for sale, so try websites like craigslist.org or zillow.com to get a feel for the local market. “Know what you’re looking for, how many bedrooms you need and what your price range is,” Comer says.

Alerting your social network can also help. “Don’t be afraid to post on Facebook that you’re looking,” Comer says. “You never know if someone is friends with someone whose brother-in-law lives in that location.”

As Bill Deegan, CEO of renternation.com, a website that advocates for renters, points out, “people usually pick up stakes and move for a reason – for school, family or work – so try to use those networks to get recommendations.” He also suggests using Google Earth to get a feel for the neighborhood, a potential home’s exterior and what amenities are nearby. “If having art galleries or things are important to you, make sure that they’re nearby, and you can have easy access to them,” Deegan says.

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Are you ready to buy in the New Year?

Planning to Buy a Home in 2014? Get Ready Now

Christine DiGangi | Credit.com | December 2, 2013 | link

 

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With big changes coming to the mortgage industry at the beginning of next year, many consumers will want to evaluate their homebuying plans. Regulations drafted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will change the definition of a qualified mortgage for any loan applications received on and after Jan. 10, and many consumers may find themselves unable to meet the new requirements.

Qualified mortgages are loans that meet certain standards designed to ensure that borrowers are highly likely to be able to pay back the amount in question. Facing this challenge, it’s up to the hopeful homeowner to improve their chances of mortgage approval by doing the necessary research, improving their credit profiles and meeting the qualified mortgage standards well in advance of filling out loan applications.

It’s important to meet qualified mortgage standards because government-sponsored enterprises, known as GSEs, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have said they won’t buy non-qualified mortgages starting next year, said Joshua Weinberg, senior vice president of compliance with First Choice Lending/Bank. Fannie and Freddie don’t lend to homeowners directly, rather they purchase mortgages from banks and then bundle them into securities and sell those securities to investors.

For lenders that originate mortgages with the intention of selling them to the GSEs, as many do, originating non-qualified mortgages won’t be feasible. Other lenders own the mortgages they originate, meaning they don’t have to worry about selling them to GSEs, and such larger portfolios could probably take on non-qualified mortgages.

What’s Changing? Mortgages must pass tests of sorts to meet the standards of a qualified mortgage: The APR must be within 150 basis points (1.5 percentage points) of the annual prime offer rate, the loan term cannot exceed 30 years, points and fees cannot exceed 3 percent of the loan balance and there can be no negative amortization or interest-only payments. Under these conditions, the mortgage qualifies for safe harbor, meaning the lender is not at risk of being sued by a borrower who is unable to repay the loan.

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Some words of real estate wisdom for the young…

The Top 10 Mistakes 20-Somethings Make Regarding Real Estate

Huffington Post | November 22, 2013 | link

You probably think I’m just a bit crazy for including the phrase “20-something” and “real estate” in the same title.

Okay, maybe you have a point. At this point in life, many 20-somethings are more interested in when the next game of Call of Duty will start than the best way to start building their financial future. However, there are those of us who want more out of life and understand the immense power of time that we have in building wealth.

As a real estate fan, and one who acquired dozens of properties in my early twenties, I want to focus specifically on the mistakes that I see many young people making today regarding real estate and offer some real world strategies for overcoming these concerns.

Whether or not you own any property yet, these tips should help you navigate the often muddy (but often profitable) world of real estate.

1.) Living With Mom And Dad Too Long

Admit it, as you are reading this, someone’s face is coming to mind.. and maybe it’s yours?

If you are staying with Mom and Dad simply to escape the reality that you are grown up, it’s time to grow up and get a job, start paying your bills and meet the world. The only exception I make to this rule is if you are living at home to save money or get out of debt.. but if that’s you, don’t use your freed-up cash to spend on frivolous things or work less hours. Accomplish your goals as quickly as possible and get on with your life.

2.) Not Doing Your Homework

Many 20-somethings believe homework ended when school ended, but when it comes to buying real estate, as either a home or as an investment, it all begins with homework. Knowing what makes a good deal a good deal, what makes a good location a good location and so on are extremely valuable skills to have. These skills are not impossible to obtain, as there are thousands of books, podcasts, blogs and more that can teach you how to invest in real estate at a young age.

3.) Believing “Real Estate” Is For The Old, Rich, And Boring

Yes, real estate is for old boring folks with a lot of money.

However, it’s also for the young, the hip, the middle-aged and every other kind of person who wants a killer smart way to use real estate to build serious wealth. With hundreds of ways to invest in real estate, from buying your own home to buying investment properties, there is no shortage of options for you.

4.) Not Buying With Flexibility In Mind

Those young people who do buy real estate often times buy real estate without realizing that the life they live now is VERY different from the life they’ll probably live next year or in the next decade. As a result, they often buy homes that don’t accommodate change. For example, buying a small, one-bedroom condo may fit your budget.. but how long can you live in a one-bedroom condo?

This same mistake often causes people to buy real estate too early. If you are confident that you’ll be moving out of the area in a short time, think hard about buying any real estate unless you plan to rent the property out using a property manager.

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Why buying yourself a home during the holidays is a great idea…

What You Need to Know About Buying a Home During the Holiday Season

Vera Gibbons | Zillow Blog | November 19, 2013 | link

For sale in winterIf you’re house hunting over the holidays, you’re likely a serious buyer with an immediate need.  Perhaps you have to relocate for a new job opportunity, or there’s been a change in your personal life? Regardless, while you may assume it’s not an ideal time to be looking — namely because there isn’t much to look at — there are some advantages to buying this time of year.

Less competition

Let’s start with the obvious one: less competition. This lowers the chances of multiple offers and bidding wars (something we saw a lot of last spring/summer), and should translate into a bigger discount for you. Know your market! This is where sites like Zillow come in handy. Start your research here for comps in your area and to see what homes are selling for.

Serious home sellers

Why would sellers pick such an inconvenient time — while everyone is busy entertaining family and friends and enjoying the spirit of the holidays  — to list their properties? Probably because they need to sell and may feel compelled to do so before the end of the year for tax purposes. What this means for you: less hassle when it comes to negotiating; a greater willingness, on the part of the seller, to agree to concessions; less chance of the seller waffling; and greater respect for your offer, even if it’s a little lower than the seller was perhaps expecting.

Faster mortgage approval

Lenders aren’t as busy this time of year, and less volume could mean faster approval. Some lenders might even be willing to reduce fees during the off-peak season in hopes of gaining your business. Regardless, don’t just go with the first lender who comes along. It pays to shop around. Get multiple quotes and check out lender reviews on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace.

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‘Tis the season to list your home!

Why Sellers Shouldn’t Wait Until After the Holidays to List Homes

Brendan DeSimone | Zillow   | Dec 2nd 2013 | link

 

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By Brendon DeSimone

With the holidays approaching, sellers often wonder if they should keep their properties on the market or take them off? Or if they haven’t listed their homes yet, should they wait until after the first of the year? Maybe hold off until spring?

Conventional wisdom used to be that you shouldn’t even try to sell your home during the busy holiday season. Potential homebuyers were too preoccupied with attending parties, cooking meals, buying presents or planning vacations. With all that going on, there just wasn’t time to ride around with a real estate agent, looking at properties.

But with the Internet, smartphones, tablets and our always-on lifestyle, that conventional wisdom isn’t relevant anymore. The reality is, the homebuying season is now year-round. Here’s why you should consider listing your home during the holidays, or even in January.

Today’s buyers never stop looking online: Serious buyers are always looking — and the holidays are no exception. They may check out the latest listings in a Zillow Mobile app before bed or while waiting for the kids’ school holiday show to start. Our hectic lifestyles also play a role.

Many serious buyers today work hard. They don’t shift into holiday mode until the last minute. Even during the holiday break, they’re still squeezing in work. There’s no such thing for them as “going off the grid.” So why not continue to monitor real estate listings, too?

The inventory — and the competition — is usually lighter: Despite our always-on lifestyles, many sellers still believe buyers can’t be bothered to look for a home between, say, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. At the same time, sellers who’ve had their homes on the market often take them off during the holidays. The net effect is that the inventory for good homes often tightens this time of year. So there’s less competition for sellers, at a time when motivated buyers are out there looking — and no doubt wishing there were more properties to see.

If you’ve been considering selling, are motivated, are flexible on timing and have a home that truly sparkles, after Thanksgiving there’s still a window of several weeks to get buyers into your home before the end of the year. And those buyers flipping through listings at their kids’ basketball game will be excited to see something new and awesome hit the market — especially if there’s a lack of good inventory in their area. These buyers will be motivated to see your home, regardless of what the calendar says.

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Buying with your brain or your heart?

Luxury Real Estate Purchasing: Emotional or Rational?

 Samantha DiBianchi | Zillow Blog | June 5, 2013 | link
 

Ellen's Montecito home

An avid lover of luxury real estate, Ellen DeGeneres recently added this Montecito, CA estate to her growing property collection.

When purchasing luxury real estate, getting the “best deal” doesn’t necessarily play a big role in a buyer’s decision-making process. Does the current most expensive home, listed at $190 million, sound like a steal? Not so much. So why would anyone spend such an extravagant amount on a property that may or may not be worth it?

Well as they say, the price and/or value of something truly comes down to what someone thinks it’s worth — and what they will pay for it. This is most definitely the case when dealing with luxury real estate.

Versace pool

The pool at the late fashion icon Gianni Versace’s Miami estate is lined in 24-karat gold. The estate is currently on the market for $75 million.

Luxury real estate is looked upon as a collectible — not simply just “somewhere to live” but rather a showpiece to add to a buyer’s valuable portfolio of possessions. “Cookie cutter” is disregarded and looked upon with disgust when viewing the priciest of pricey properties; the more extreme the price tag, the more extreme and unique the home is expected to be. From baseball diamonds and hockey rinks to a 2,714-square-foot 12-car auto showroom and a pool lined in 24-karat gold, the possibilities and ideas are endless, and the outrageous and ostentatious are expected when searching for, purchasing and living the luxe life.

How does one think rationally when purchasing such an over-the-top property? Luxury buyers think globally, not locally. It’s not necessarily about what is happening around the neighborhood, but rather what is happening around the world. With the exception of locations with strong government intervention, luxury residential real estate values will likely follow luxury goods, not the general housing market, and remain immune to economic and political trends.

While trophy properties are glamorous, the rich didn’t become so successful without thinking about the long-term investment of their pricey pad. Buyers who live in locations with economic uncertainty readily place bids on properties where stronger economies exist — even if it means buying thousands of miles away.

Marc Jacobs' apartment

In addition to this NYC apartment, fashion designer Marc Jacobs also owns a home in Paris.

Luxury real estate definitely creates its own category within the real estate world. And as recent news has indicated that the rich are getting richer, the extraordinary is quickly becoming passé and the possibilities of what is to come are limitless.

Keep an Open mind…

5 things to know about open houses

Beth Braverman | Money Magazine | June 7, 2013: 9:38 AM ET | link

open housesAttending an open house? Don’t assume the broker is there to help you.
(Money Magazine)

Open houses are a great source of information about the property, neighborhood and local markets. Nearly half of real-estate buyers go to one.

1. Look past window-dressing

A full 94% of sellers do some “staging,” such as repainting or bringing in new furniture, says Coldwell Banker.

“You can be so wowed by staging that you overlook important things,” says San Jose realtor Carl San Miguel. To focus on what matters, lift rugs to look at floors, ask the agent to turn off music so you can listen for nearby noise, and beware of any smells masked by candles.

Also request a disclosure sheet, which lists known structural issues.

2. You can learn a lot from the crowd

Nearly half of buyers visit open houses, says the National Association of Realtors, so pay attention to your fellow shoppers’ comments; they may have insight into how this home stacks up. Locals often pop in too, so if someone sounds like a neighbor, ask about the area.

To get a feel for demand, visit in the last hour and peek at the sign-in sheet. A full sheet could mean the home will sell quickly, says Paul Reid, a California-based agent.

3. It’s your chance to test-drive the place

Visiting a home in person allows you to pick up on details you won’t see in the listing, such as the strength of the water pressure and how much you could actually cram in the closets. What buyers often forget, though, is to explore the neighborhood as well, says Dallas agent Mary Beth Harrison. Get a sense of the area by checking out surrounding streets and driving home using a different route.

4. The agent may be scouting you…

Listing agents will often tap a colleague to run an open house, so your host may be fishing for buyers to represent. If you’re in the market for an agent, this can be a chance to meet pros and see what they’re like on the job. Not interested? Say so upfront to fend off any confusion, says Harrison.

Shoppers who already have a buyer’s agent should write his contact information on the sign-in sheet so he can handle any follow-up calls or emails on their behalf.

5. …Or gathering info for the seller

When a listing agent is hosting, pepper her with questions. Ask whether there have been any upgrades to the property, if she’s gotten any offers, and when and why the sellers are moving (you may get a vague reply on that last one).

Keep mum on your budget, feelings about the home, and anything else that might give the seller a leg up in negotiations. “Don’t assume the agent is there to help you out,” says Chicago agent Fran Bailey. To top of page