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Maintain the Staged Look While Your Home Is Listed

Maintain the Staged Look While Your Home Is Listed The hardest part of the selling process may be keeping the house looking flawless for countless showings. October 14, 2019 By:  Charlene Storozuk Staging
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

The Statement Ceiling: A Reason to Look Up!

The Statement Ceiling: A Reason to Look Up! Make a space memorable by dressing up the fifth wall. See how these stagers and designers did it. October 7, 2019 By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Staging, Design Trends
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Fall Staging: Add Some Pumpkin Spice to Your Decor

Fall Staging: Add Some Pumpkin Spice to Your Decor Autumn is in the air, so spice up your décor to fit the season. Here’s some design inspiration. September 30, 2019 By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Staging
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Lean into Lending Support

“What’s a mortgage?” “It’s like waterboarding, but you do it to yourself.” So goes the conversation from a recent ice cream commercial. But in reality, securing the right mortgage can be just as rewarding as a scoop of rocky road; it’s an exciting step on the path to living your best life in a home that suits you and your family. If you’re looking for a home, chances are you’re in the market for a mortgage. You’re not alone; more than 6 in 10 of all U.S. homes carry a mortgage. Whether you’re buying your first home or moving on to your next, finding and securing the loan that’s right for you can be time-consuming and stressful. After all, a home is the largest investment most people will ever make. Luckily, realtor.com® helps make it as easy to find a mortgage lender as it does to search for homes on the site. We also offer tools and resources that I dare say can help make your financing journey kind of enjoyable – or at the very least, help give you the confidence you need to find a lender who can work with you to secure the mortgage that’s right for you. As you begin your search, you might be wondering how much home can you can afford. The terms of your mortgage ultimately will depend on several factors, including your down payment amount, home price, length of the loan, credit score and current interest rates.  When I bought my first house in the mid-1990s, my 30-year mortgage carried an interest rate of 7.5 percent, and that was a good deal at the time! With interest rates predicted to remain below 5 percent for the rest of the year, though, that 7.5 percent rate seems almost like usury by today’s standards. And when my parents refinanced our family home in the early 80s, interest rates – at around 18 percent – were as high as the hairstyles on some of my favorite glam rock bands at the time. Even a 1 percent change in mortgage’s interest rate can make tens of thousands of dollars’ difference in total payments over the life of the loan, so it makes sense to educate yourself. Using the various tools on realtor.com® in the “Mortgage” section, you can research current interest rates, calculate your monthly mortgage payments, explore how different features may affect a home’s price, and find a home within your budget.     You can even search for homes from many of these features. And while you’re searching, you can contact lenders who do business in the markets and neighborhoods you’re interested in. Realtor.com® helps make it easy for you to find the professional support and guidance you need to get your finances in order. It’s the better way to buy your home. So as you embark on your home search journey, spend some time learning about your financing options, and consider contacting a lender who can help you along the way. Perhaps the two of you can enjoy a celebratory sundae once you’re settled in your new home.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

The Post-Inspection Negotiation Two-Step: What You Can Expect

Inspections are an important part of the home-selling process. The home inspector will locate any potential problems with the property, making sure that all involved know what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. What happens then, though? Whose responsibility is it to fix the issues that the home inspector discovered? As with a lot of problems, the answer is a resounding “It depends.” Gauging Severity One big determining factor in how problems found in a home inspection are dealt with is how severe the issues are. A major problem with a property can be a deal breaker for many buyers. Depending on where you live, such a problem may even have to be addressed before the property can be sold. State-level restrictions vary, but most are rooted in making sure that sellers can’t avoid fixing potentially dangerous problems or leave them for the buyer to discover on their own. Even if a problem isn’t critical, most states require that any problems found by a home inspection be disclosed to potential buyers. This disclosure is a big deal, as it can significantly affect how much the buyers are willing to pay. Loan Program Requirements Beyond repair and disclosure requirements that vary from state to state, different loan programs (such as those offered by the Federal Housing Authority or Department of Housing and Urban Development) may have additional requirements when it comes to problems discovered during a home inspection. Many programs have very specific guidelines regarding the condition of the property that a buyer can purchase using those loans. If a loan program won’t allow a purchase while unsatisfactory conditions exist, the issues must either be repaired or have satisfactory arrangements made to facilitate the repair before the purchase can continue. Keep in mind that not all loan programs will make allowances for future repairs, either; in those cases, the repairs will either have to be made in full or the buyer will have to find a different lender that does not follow the same strict requirements. Negotiating Repairs In the event that there aren’t specific regulations at the state level or restrictions in the buyer’s loan program concerning problems with the property, it falls to the buyer and the seller to determine what repairs will be made. This is typically part of the price negotiation, as buyers are willing to pay more for a property that they don’t have to make extensive repairs to. In many cases, sellers may offer to cover the most pressing repairs and address any serious issues while the buyer assumes responsibility for any other issues found in the buyer’s home inspection disclosure. In many cases this will be agreed to in writing, either at the request of one of the parties or as a condition of the mortgage loan that the buyer is using for the purchase. By formalizing the agreement in writing, it ensures that both parties understand their responsibility and protects the seller from potential legal action regarding issues that weren’t addressed (provided that the seller completed all of the repairs that they agreed to.) Market Strength The strength of the housing market can have a big effect on who does the bulk of repairs on a property. If similar properties are plentiful and interest rates are low, it creates what’s referred to as a “buyer’s market”; buyers have a lot of options and can easily walk away from the purchase if they don’t get what they want. In this situation, the buyer has a lot of leverage and can usually get the seller to agree to either a lower price or a higher percentage of the repairs. When the opposite occurs and there are few choices and higher interest rates, a “seller’s market” is created. Buyers can’t walk away as easily and be guaranteed a good deal elsewhere, so sellers can often hold their ground more and get buyers to agree to higher prices or a greater percentage of repairs. Need Some Help? Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, having a seasoned pro on your side can make navigating repair negotiations a lot easier. Sign up for HomeKeepr for free to find the help you need to ensure the deal you deserve.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Selling Your Home in the Off Season

Spring and summer are traditionally seen as the best times to sell your house. Research has actually shown that homes sold during the first half of May tend to sell faster and sell for a higher average price than house sales at any other time of the year. Once you get into fall and winter, buyer competition doesn’t seem as fierce and average prices start to drop. This doesn’t mean you can’t sell during the off season, of course; it just means that you need to maximize the value of your home to get the most out of your property. There’s Always a Buyer Even though it’s the off season, there will always be someone out there who’s looking to buy a home. There are traditionally fewer home sales during the fall and winter, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. It’s easy to assume that you’ll have to take what you can get if you find someone who’s interested, but that’s definitely not the case. While there’s a good chance that you’re a motivated seller if you’re selling during the off season, keep in mind that many home buyers are motivated as well. It’s true that you might not get as much out of your home as you would near the start of summer, but don’t think that you’re necessarily going to have to settle either. Aggressive Pricing Strategies With that said, you’re more likely to sell quickly if you’re more aggressive with your pricing strategy than you would be during the summer. Don’t price your home for less than its worth – but cut a little closer to its actual value than you might otherwise. Determine the actual value of the home and what you need to get from the sale, then add a little more to the total to give yourself some wiggle room for negotiations. This lets you present the home as a great deal and still yield a bit to the buyer, convincing them that they really are getting a great deal on the property and need to make the purchase before somebody else comes along. Appearance Matters It’s always important to have your house looking its best when you’re trying to make a sale, but it’s especially important during the off season. This can be a chore, especially if you have trees dropping leaves all over the yard, but it’s worth it. If at all possible, your home should be the one that stands out from the neighborhood because it has fresher paint, a neater lawn, cleaner windows and any other adjustments you can make to improve its overall look. The more you can wow potential buyers, the more likely they are to actually buy. Cut Out the Clutter If you’re in the process of packing while trying to sell your home, take any boxes and anything that’s ready to go and get it out of the house and into a storage unit or elsewhere. The same goes for most of the clutter that we build up in our daily lives. When a potential buyer comes to look at the house you should ideally have everything pared down to some basic furniture, standard amenities and perhaps a few picture frames or other personal items that are tastefully presented around the house. You want buyers to see the house for its beauty and be able to picture their lives there, not to see how the house looks overflowing with your life. Be Prepared If you really want to get a potential buyer’s attention, show them that you’re prepared to answer any questions they might have about the house. Get a pre-inspection so you’ll know about any issues that you might not have noticed, making necessary repairs or disclosures as needed. Gather up documentation about the heating and cooling system, any maintenance that’s been performed and even details like the energy ratings on the windows. If you really want to go the extra mile, track down photos of the house from different seasons or pictures of any flowers or trees in bloom so that potential buyers will have an idea of what they can look forward to.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Tips for Surviving a Remodel

Remodeling your home is a major project. Most people don’t realize just HOW major of a project it is until they’re deep into it, however. If you aren’t careful, a remodel can cover everything with dust, throw off your day-to-day plans and leave you feeling more frazzled than you’ve ever been. More than one homeowner has found themselves wondering, well before the job was complete, why they ever decided to undertake such a monumental task. Whether you’re already hip deep in a remodel or you’re just considering one, here are a few ways to keep you from experiencing this same sense of mid-remodel regret. Start Small While it’s tempting to launch into a full remodel and get everything done at once, taking the time to prioritize certain aspects of the remodel can make it much less disruptive and easier to control the budget. Consider which issues are the most pressing as well as which would be the most difficult to pull off. Avoid projects that are excessively difficult such as moving plumbing unless there’s a good reason to take them on. Prioritize everything else so you can complete each project in turn and move in on the big picture over time. Respect the Construction Zone Remodeling creates a LOT of dust, debris and noxious odors. Many contractors will put up plastic sheets and take other precautions to try and keep all of this out of parts of the house where they aren’t working, but there’s only so much that can be done in this regard. Try to plan your time at home so that you aren’t there during the worst of the noise and fumes. Pick up an air filtration system or two that you can put near the work areas to grab as much dust as possible. Pack up belongings that you don’t want exposed like you would if you were moving, putting them in boxes and sealing them with tape. This lets the remodel proceed as quickly as possible without giving you such a huge mess to clean up afterward. Stick to the Budget One big issue when remodeling is that the budget tends to spiral out of control. Once you get going, you may find that there are extra bits of spending that are needed to finish the job. There’s also the temptation to upgrade some of your plans since the newer version wouldn’t cost that much more. Unfortunately, changing your plans or upgrading your purchases can really add up over time. Make a budget for what you want, add about 20% to 25% to account for the unexpected, then stick with it. If there’s anything that you REALLY want to upgrade but aren’t sure that the budget can handle it, save it until as close to the end as possible before authorizing the cost. Talk It Out Communication with your contractors is a key component to making it through a remodel unscathed. This doesn’t mean that you should require them to report every little thing back to you, of course; unless there’s a problem that they need your insight or authorization for, you’ll be best served to let the pros do their job. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check in and see how things are progressing, especially if you need to structure part of your day around the work that’s being done. Talking with your contractors regularly helps you to plan your life better around the remodel and saves them the trouble of tracking you down when they need to check with you about something. Find the Right Remodeling Contractor Perhaps one of the biggest things you can do to make your remodel more survivable is to hire the right contractors from the start. HomeKeepr can match you up with the best people to get the job done quickly and without any more disruptions than absolutely necessary. Sign up for a free account today and see how we can help you change your remodel from dreaded to done.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Heating Sources Explained

There are a lot of different options available when it comes to heating your home. Some of them, you’re likely really familiar with, while others are newer options that you may not have heard of. Regardless, understanding how different heating options work is an important part of deciding how to best heat your home. Whether you’re building the home of your dreams or just remodeling your existing home, here’s some info on some of the heating options you might encounter. Gas Heat As the name implies, gas heat means that your system produces heat by burning a flammable gas (typically propane or natural gas). Depending on where you live, the gas either comes from a city-supplied utility line or a standalone tank that sits on your property. The heater functions by adjusting the gas passing through the heating chamber to make flames larger or smaller, controlling the amount of heat the flames release into the air that passes through the chamber. Propane heat may also come in other forms, such as gas fireplaces that serve a decorative purpose, as well as providing localized heat. Forced Air A forced air system is one that uses fans or other blowers to move air over a heating element and throughout the heating system’s ductwork. These are some of the more common heaters that you will encounter, as variations of forced air heating is used in most central heat and air systems and in many portable heaters. Baseboard Radiators There are a few different types of baseboard radiators that you might encounter. These heaters sit at or around floor level around the edges of a room, generating heat and allowing it to rise naturally throughout the room or house. Different materials are used in these heaters, with more modern varieties using pipes filled with heated oil to hold and radiate heat at a lower power cost than similar heating options like older, electric floor radiators. Radiant Heat An increasingly popular option for heating the home comes in the form of radiant heat flooring. A closed liquid heating system is embedded in concrete or other flooring material, heating the floor itself and allowing that heat to radiate upward naturally to provide gentle heat over a larger area without the need for high energy costs. There are a wide range of radiant heat options available, including everything from electric heating to systems that are heated from a wood stove outside of the home. Solid Fuel Heaters Also referred to as “pellet stoves” or “biomass heaters”, solid fuel heaters are stoves or other heating units that burn solid materials such as wood pellets or shavings instead of liquid or gas fuels. This is seen as something of a green option for homeowners who want to use wood and other materials that would otherwise be considered waste by the forestry industry. The fuel pellets or shavings are loaded into the heater and released into the burning chamber gradually, providing more control over the temperature and heat intensity than you would have with traditional wood-burning stoves. CHP Systems An emerging technology, “combined heat and power” or CHP heating systems are designed to be another environmentally-friendly heating option. These systems use a generator that produces power for the home or other buildings on the property, then reclaims heat energy released by the generator to heat the home. These systems are not yet available in all areas and may not be for everyone since they do provide more than just heat. For those planning for the future, however, keeping an eye on CHP systems may be a way to heat the home while simultaneously reducing dependence on external power. Turn Up the Heat If you aren’t sure what type of heating system is best for your needs, HomeKeepr is here to help. Sign up for free and we can help you find a professional that will match you with the heating solution that best fits your home and budget.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

What Is a Non-Occupying Co-Borrower?

If you’re worried about whether you can get a loan on your own, having a co-borrower can take a lot of the stress off. Because there are two people applying for the loan, the lender has a lot more potential assets to consider and two different credit scores. In most cases, the co-borrower on a mortgage loan will live at the same address as the primary borrower (such as the residence being purchased.) Depending on circumstances, though, it is possible to have a co-borrower who doesn’t live at the same address. Non-Occupying Co-Borrowers As the name implies, a non-occupying co-borrower (also called a non-occupant co-borrower, or NOCB) is another person who is willing to take responsibility for a mortgage loan but who won’t be living in the purchased house. In most cases this is a family member such as a parent, sibling or spouse, though the exact restrictions will depend on the loan program you use. The co-borrower’s income is added in with the primary borrower’s for the purpose of qualifying for the loan, allowing the primary borrower to get the loan even if they couldn’t qualify on their own. Both the income and the liabilities of the co-borrower are considered along with the income and liabilities of the primary borrower. The total income and total liabilities of both are calculated and then used to determine the overall debt-to-income ratio of the two borrowers; provided that it’s favorable enough, they’ll then qualify for the loan. Because they are co-borrowers on the loan, both the primary borrower and the NOCB are equally responsible for the loan payments. Advantages and Disadvantages There are a few distinct advantages of using a non-occupying co-borrower for a mortgage: Can qualify you for a loan that you might not get otherwise May earn you a better interest rate or more favorable loan terms Provides you with someone else to help ensure that payments are made on time May be able to refinance without the NOCB later as your credit score improves Unfortunately, there are a few disadvantages as well: Can strain relationships between you and the NOCB Both borrowers are held liable in case of loan default Not all co-borrowers will help you qualify for a loan Not all co-borrowers will be eligible under the terms of your lender Some lenders don’t allow NOCBs on loans, especially with first-time borrowers Because non-occupant co-borrower loans are not cut and dried, it can take a bit of research to figure out whether you can even make use of one of these loans. Should You Use a NOCB? Assuming that you and your non-occupant co-borrower qualify for an NOCB loan through your preferred lender, the question remains of whether you should even try to add a co-borrower to your loan. There isn’t necessarily an easy answer to this question. The answer relies so much on your specific situation that it’s difficult to give a definitive answer, though there are a few things you can consider to try to find the right answer for you. Take a moment and ask yourself the following questions: What are the rules concerning non-occupying co-borrowers from your lender? If they’re allowed, how likely is it that the co-borrower you have in mind will actually help your application? Is the co-borrower someone you can trust with this, or will the experience likely be stressful? Consider how reliable your co-borrower is, how it will affect your loan terms and how much this will actually help your case. The more thought you put into it, the closer you’ll be to finding the right answer for you. Get Some Professional Advice If you’re still not sure, try discussing your situation with a loan specialist. Here at HomeKeepr, we can help you find the professional to answer all of your questions. Sign up for a free account today and start looking for the specialist that’s right for you and your needs.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Staged to Sold: How to Sell a 58-Year-Old Home in 48 Hours

Staged to Sold: How to Sell a 58-Year-Old Home in 48... This home hadn’t been renovated in more than three decades. But it didn’t need a remodel—just strategic staging to modernize the space. September 23, 2019 By:  Karen Post Working With Sellers, Staging
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Sharing our Lessons and Successes

We, as product managers at realtor.com, are constantly looking to understand our users’ needs more deeply, and to develop the best products possible to help make buying and selling homes easier and more enjoyable for everyone. We regularly collaborate with colleagues throughout the company, including researchers, designers, engineers, and many others, to learn from and with each other. To that end, our Demofest is an important company event for employees across groups to gather, share lessons, and celebrate successes. Led by our Chief Product Officer Chung Meng Cheong at the end of every business quarter, Demofest participants evaluate 15 product features that have been shipped to our users in the last 90 days to learn from past projects and glean insights for future development. Each product manager or engineer who worked on the respective product feature presents a five-minute TED-talk style demo and at the end of the event, awards are given out based on user impact, creativity, learning, and storytelling. One of the product areas that I’m most passionate about is affordability — to help home shoppers transition their focus from the home they want to buy to identifying the home they can own. So when my colleagues present insights that can better help our users determine how much home they can afford, that’s really useful for my work.  Some of the features built off of these insights include the realtor.com Home Affordability Calculator and Price Perfect, among others. For instance, when we created Price Perfect, we knew that one of the biggest pain points for most home buyers is finding the right home that fits their individual criteria — three bedrooms, two bathrooms, in a specific neighborhood, for example — and within a specific budget. After entering these criteria, buyers are able to view how much adding or subtracting specific features would impact the price of their home and adjust their search accordingly. Demofest is a great time to celebrate all the positive things that we have accomplished that might get lost in the day-to-day rumble. It’s great seeing the things the different teams have shipped across the company, along with the positive results they’ve brought to consumers as we inch toward delivering business goals. In addition to celebrating our successes, it’s also a good time to learn what didn’t work so we can improve our online experience moving forward.  Beyond nurturing our technical skills, Demofest provides a professional development avenue. Giving demos definitely helps us become better storytellers and public speakers. When you know you only have five minutes to get your message across, you learn to hone in on crucial content and share the most important points of the storyline.  Sharing insights with each other is a critical element of being a successful product manager and ensuring that what you’re shipping to users is, in fact, meeting their needs. Demofest is a unique part of our product team’s culture here at realtor.com and something that helps make us more impactful in helping today’s home shoppers find the right home for them. 
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Trendy Staging Props That Have Been Overused

Trendy Staging Props That Have Been Overused You may want to think twice about reaching for these popular home accessories. Some stagers say consumers are growing tired of the looks. September 16, 2019 By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Staging, Design Trends
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Home hacks you wish you knew sooner!

Owning or renting a home may come with its own set of problems but it doesn’t always need to be so difficult. There are plenty of quick and easy fixes that offer a new approach to tidying up and maintaining your home. Did you know essential oils can give your bathroom 24-hour freshness? Or that a certain household tool is perfect for picking up pet hair? From simple chores around the house to storage shortcuts that open up more space you didn’t know you had, these home hacks will hopefully make your life that much easier! Just wait until you see why you should glue a magnet to your hammer…   Use Pool Noodles As Bumpers In Your Garage Not all garages are created equally and some people unfortunately have to fit their cars into such narrow spaces. For those who have a small garage, try slicing a pool noodle in half and attaching the pieces to either side of the garage walls.   @madinahinc/Twitter Next time you get out of your car, the doors will nudge softly against the noodles instead of hitting the wall. No more scuff marks on the wall and no more dings on your car door!   Check To See If Your Ceiling Fan Has This If you know anything about science, then you know that hot air rises because it is less dense than cool air. This isn’t exactly helpful during those chilly winter months, but there is likely a switch on your ceiling fan that will help that!   @KUAdirect/Twitter Most ceiling fans are equipped with a small switch that changes the direction of the fan blades. In the winter, use this switch to get the blades moving in a clockwise direction so that the warm air will be pushed from the ceiling to the floor.   Use A Magnet To Keep Your Hammer And Nails Together Many of us don’t use a hammer and nails too often. You likely have both in your house, but when you finally need to use them, you can’t find one or the other. This is not only annoying but it is also dangerous to have unused nails lying around.   @houseflippersim/Twitter To avoid this mess and keep everything in one place, you can attach a small magnet to the bottom of your hammer. This will keep your nails attached to it when you need it most!   Did You Know A Squeegee Could Do This? One of the biggest caveats to having a cat or a dog is the amount of fur that can accumulate on your floors, especially if you have carpet throughout your home. Regular vacuuming usually does the trick but sometimes vacuums aren’t strong enough to pick up everything!       hellybellybutt/Instagram Next time, try using a squeegee to loosen all the hair off of the carpet. The hardest clumps will come out before you run over your carpet with the vacuum again.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

2020 Color Forecast: The Rise of Blues and Greens

2020 Color Forecast: The Rise of Blues and Greens Predictions for next year’s hottest hues already are emerging. Check out the colors you can expect to see dressing up more interiors. September 9, 2019 By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

So you want to buy a home? Don’t go it alone.

If you’re reading this, chances are you may be thinking about buying a home. Sure, it’s fun dreaming about where you might live, looking at photos of kitchens and baths, and exploring what kind of house you might get at a certain price point. But when you’re ready to take your online search into the real world, finding an agent that’s right for you can make all the difference. If you’ve never bought a home before – or maybe even if you have – you may not realize that you can work with a real estate agent who has a fiduciary responsibility to represent your interests as a buyer. A buyer’s agent can work with you to understand what you need and want in a home and help you find and secure a home that fits your budget and lifestyle.  He or she can even help save you from yourself – for example, when my husband and I were looking for our first home together, we fell in love with an adorable house that looked just perfect for us. Until our agent pointed out that the kitchen had no dishwasher and was so small that there was no room to add a dishwasher. Not to mention the oil tank in the basement – that’s for another blog post. But how do you find an agent that’s right for you? That’s where realtor.com® can help. While you’re browsing any one of the 1.4 million listings of homes for sale on realtor.com, you can also use realtor.com tools and resources to research and reach out to professionals with the expertise you need to succeed. Your first stop might be “Find a Realtor®,” where you can search an online database of 1 million+ Realtors® nationwide. Another way to learn about agents is while you’re searching for homes on realtor.com. On nearly every listing display, you will see a “Contact Agent” hyperlink: Clicking this link and completing the pop-up form will help put you in touch with an agent who could represent your interests as a buyer, if you ultimately decide to enter into a buyer agency agreement with that agent.  In limited markets, realtor.com is introducing ways to connect home shoppers with the local agent that’s right for them via the site’s concierge platform, which identifies agents that have proven success with clients in specific markets and price points. Once connected, buyers will be able to contact that agent by phone, text or email directly from a property listing on any realtor.com search result to ask questions about that property, schedule a house tour, arrange a meeting, or request additional support. You might also notice profiles of agents and local listings from sellers they represent in your search results: These agents are active in the local market in which you are searching and have expressed an interest in working with buyers who are considering a purchase in that market. As you talk to potential buyer’s agents, think about what you need in a professional partner. Some questions to ask: How long have you been a real estate professional? What neighborhoods do you specialize in? What experience do you have working with buyers like me?  How do you like to communicate? (Email, text, phone – what works best for you?) How often do you check in with your clients?  Will you represent my interests as a buyer exclusively? In the end, the time and consideration you invest in finding an agent who’s right for you will pay dividends in the long run; his or her professional guidance and support can help you turn home search into homeownership.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Are We Talking Ourselves Into a Recession?

A study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) states traditional housing zoning has been seen as a barrier to affordability, and that using policy to promote diversity in housing stick could accommodate a diverse population with varying incomes and needs.  “A fresh round of research continues to point to strict zoning ordinances as impeding supply and affordability in the United States,” the NAHB study states. “Innovative policy shifts that increase the flexibility in land use and the tools available to construct varied housing should be good news for builders, developers, renters and home buyers.” The NAHB added that “diversifying housing options with smaller lots and smaller homes provides resources on code requirements and could provide examples of housing projects that break the traditional mold of housing.  The report adds that opposition to policies, such as the elimination of single-family zoning, comes from “not in my backyard sentiments.”  “Property value and neighborhood congruity are common arguments against altering single-family zoned areas,” the report said. “However, appropriate zoning and design considerations can be of use to qualm these concerns.” Oregon’s HB 2001 went into effect on August 8, and mandates that cities with a population of more than or equal to 25,000 to allow middle-housing types on lots previously earmarked for the development of detached single-family housing.  The NAHB states, clarifying the legislation, that the policy does not “outright prohibit” single-family zoning or development in Oregon.  “In fact, the bill should give builders and developers more flexibility and opportunities to build an expanded range of housing types in the state,” the NAHB said.  The report states there are currently 11 case studies in the U.S. on innovative land-use policies, such as Oregon’s HB 2001. Those studies include:  Meridian Court: Two single-family lots in Pasadena, California, were combined to create a house-scale condominium building comprising 10 townhouse units and improve site density to 26 units per acre. Mews Townhouse Units: The flexibility of this type of housing proved useful by turning an awkward lot configuration into a successful, small scale project in South Jordan, Utah, and similarly increased site density while providing two- and three-bedroom townhouses. “Oregon is in fact following a national trend in updating city codes that for years have led to a majority of land use being dedicated to single-family homes,” the report states. 
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The Industry Pulse: Updates on LoanLogics, WFG, and More

LoanLogics, a provider in loan-quality technology for mortgage manufacturing and loan acquisition, announced it is the technology provider behind Freddie Mac’s new tool, Freddie Automated Servicing Transfer (FAST), which streamlines the transfer of mortgage servicing rights for Freddie Mac’s Cash-Released XChange. LoanLogics will also provide technology enhancements to expand the capabilities of FAST in support of Freddie Mac’s Co-Issue XChange. Launched in October 2018, FAST is an online tool that enables the physical transfer of mortgage servicing rights by extracting information from imaged documents. Leveraging drag-and-drop functionality, FAST standardizes and simplifies the exchange of documents and data, freeing lenders from managing servicer-specific requirements and processes, while also eliminating multiple, time-consuming manual steps. FAST also gives mortgage servicers a more efficient method to receive documents and data from a variety of lenders, a process that has traditionally been one of the most challenging aspects of servicing transfers. The FAST tool leverages LoanLogics IDEA (Intelligent Data Extraction and Automation) technology, which uses machine learning and other capabilities to transform digital images and scanned documents into verified and validated information for loan boarding. IDEA can be configured to support any servicer’s defined naming conventions, stacking orders and required document sets. It includes data extraction for required information found only in documents and leverages machine learning for the accurate versioning and indexing of all documents. __________________________________________________________________________ WFG National Title Insurance Company (WFG), a Portland-based provider of title insurance and real estate settlement services, announced that Gregg W. Christensen has been appointed Senior Business Development Officer for the company’s New York City-based national commercial services division. Christensen comes to WFG with more than 25 years of commercial real estate and title insurance expertise. Prior to joining WFG, he worked with the national commercial services team of another large national title insurer. Before that, he served as publisher and senior vice president of sales for ALM Real Estate Media Group, where he was one of the company’s top producers. “We’re thrilled to have Gregg on board to help us continue our national expansion here in the Northeast,” said Len Franco, WFG vice president and director of commercial services for the region. “His tremendous success in building relationships and his intense focus on the client relationship throughout all phases of the transaction are a huge benefit to both WFG and our clients. It’s an exciting time of growth for WFG, and we see this as a major step toward our goals.” __________________________________________________________________________   Jacksonville, Florida-headquartered technology services provider, Black Knight Inc. has announced that Gateway First Bank, one of the 10 largest banks by assets in Oklahoma now uses Black Knight’s Ernst Fee Service. Black Knight said that this enterprise solution provides lenders and settlement agents with accurate recording fees and taxes to assist a lender with its TRID compliance efforts. Gateway First Bank will use the fee and monitoring service to help mitigate risk associated with fee cures and enhance the consumer experience. “We needed a trusted provider that could automate our fee and closing cost data to help us more accurately disclose fees to customers,” said Whitney Barth, VP, Product Development Management for Gateway First Bank. “Fees frequently change during the loan process, and Black Knight’s Ernst Fee Service lets us provide our customers with accurate fees based on the closing date and automatically update those fees within our loan origination system.” Credit: DSnews
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Fannie and Freddie Prep Servicers for Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian gained strength in the Atlantic Ocean Wednesday and could be a Category 4 storm when it makes landfall on Monday. The storm could have maximum wind speeds of 130 mph. In response, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reminded homeowners and servicers of their respective assistance options. Freddie Mac reminded mortgage servicers of its disaster relief policies for borrowers as Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida. Freddie Mac's disaster relief options are available to borrowers whose homes or places of employment are located in presidentially-declared Major Disaster Areas where federal individual-assistance programs are made available to affected individuals and households. In areas where the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has not yet made individual assistance available, mortgage servicers may immediately leverage Freddie Mac’s short-term forbearance programs to provide mortgage relief to their borrowers that have been affected by hurricane damage. “As Hurricane Dorian approaches, we stand ready to ensure mortgage relief is made available to affected borrowers in eligible disaster areas,” said Yvette Gilmore, Freddie Mac’s VP of Single-Family Servicer Performance Management. “Once safely out of harm’s way, we strongly encourage homeowners whose homes or places of employment are impacted by the hurricane damage to call their mortgage servicer—the company borrowers send their monthly mortgage payments to— so they can learn about available relief options.” Additionally, Fannie Mae stated that homeowners may request mortgage assistance by contacting their mortgage servicer following a disaster. According to Fannie, mortgage servicers are authorized to suspend or reduce a homeowner's mortgage payments immediately for up to 90 days, even without establishing contact, if the servicer believes the homeowner was affected “We are monitoring the situation, and we urge those in the path of the storm to focus on their safety first as they prepare for the potential impact of Hurricane Dorian,” said Malloy Evans, SVP and Single-Family Chief Credit Officer, Fannie Mae. “Along with our lending and servicing partners, Fannie Mae is committed to ensuring assistance is available to homeowners and renters in need. We encourage residents whose homes, employment, or income are affected by the storm to seek available assistance as soon as possible.” Credit: DSnews
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Improved Affordability and Falling Delinquencies

After 16 straight months of declines, falling interest rates helped to improve the national affordability landscape and stem the slowdown as annual home price appreciation rose in July, according to data from Black Knight’s upcoming Mortgage Monitor. Additionally, tappable equity increased for the second quarter in a row in Q2 2019, growing by over $335 billion in Q2 2019 hitting an all-time high of $6.3 trillion. Tappable equity growth had been slowing in recent quarters due to rising interest rates and slowing home price growth, Black Knight notes, but the Q2 growth rate was slightly above Q1’s. Tappable equity is now at the highest volume ever recorded, and 26% above the mid-2006 peak of $5 trillion. According to the First Look at July 2019 mortgage data from Black Knight. Prepayment activity jumped 26% from June to its highest level in nearly three years and 58% above this time last year as falling interest rates continue to fuel refinance incentive. According to the First Look, the national delinquency rate dropped by 7%, offsetting the bulk of June’s 11% spike. At 3.46% of the active mortgage universe, delinquencies are just above the record low reached back in May. It’s also the lowest for any July on record going back to 2000. Both serious delinquencies and active foreclosure inventory fell as well. Black Knight states that serious delinquencies continued to improve, as these loans, 90 or more days past due but not in active foreclosure, dropped by 11,000 in June. Active foreclosures fell by 1,000. Despite July’s decline, mortgage debt and delinquencies make up a large portion of household debt. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, severely derogatory balances are now half of all delinquencies. “Although the housing crisis produced a huge increase in severely derogatory mortgages, that effect has dissipated as the foreclosure pipeline has cleared out in even the slowest states,” the Fed states. “Today, auto and especially student loan balances are the interesting components: in the second quarter of this year, the outstanding severely derogatory balance is comprised of 35 percent defaulted student loans, which have grown stunningly since 2012.” Credit: DSnews
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Could Eliminating Single-Family Housing be Good?

A study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) states traditional housing zoning has been seen as a barrier to affordability, and that using policy to promote diversity in housing stick could accommodate a diverse population with varying incomes and needs.  “A fresh round of research continues to point to strict zoning ordinances as impeding supply and affordability in the United States,” the NAHB study states. “Innovative policy shifts that increase the flexibility in land use and the tools available to construct varied housing should be good news for builders, developers, renters and home buyers.” The NAHB added that “diversifying housing options with smaller lots and smaller homes provides resources on code requirements and could provide examples of housing projects that break the traditional mold of housing.  The report adds that opposition to policies, such as the elimination of single-family zoning, comes from “not in my backyard sentiments.”  “Property value and neighborhood congruity are common arguments against altering single-family zoned areas,” the report said. “However, appropriate zoning and design considerations can be of use to qualm these concerns.” Oregon’s HB 2001 went into effect on August 8, and mandates that cities with a population of more than or equal to 25,000 to allow middle-housing types on lots previously earmarked for the development of detached single-family housing.  The NAHB states, clarifying the legislation, that the policy does not “outright prohibit” single-family zoning or development in Oregon.  “In fact, the bill should give builders and developers more flexibility and opportunities to build an expanded range of housing types in the state,” the NAHB said.  The report states there are currently 11 case studies in the U.S. on innovative land-use policies, such as Oregon’s HB 2001. Those studies include:  Meridian Court: Two single-family lots in Pasadena, California, were combined to create a house-scale condominium building comprising 10 townhouse units and improve site density to 26 units per acre. Mews Townhouse Units: The flexibility of this type of housing proved useful by turning an awkward lot configuration into a successful, small scale project in South Jordan, Utah, and similarly increased site density while providing two- and three-bedroom townhouses. “Oregon is in fact following a national trend in updating city codes that for years have led to a majority of land use being dedicated to single-family homes,” the report states.  Credit to: DSnews
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Realtor.com® believes in “Homes, for the Real of Us”

We know that buying a home is not what it looks like on TV. For homebuyers, it’s an equally nerve-wracking and rewarding journey, and for those looking for their next home there’s value in portraying the process in an authentic fashion. That’s why our brand campaign, “Homes, for the real of us,” captures that very sentiment. We sat down with realtor.com Chief Creative Officer Andrew Strickman to understand more about the campaign, which underscores our commitment to being the trusted partner home buyers can turn to throughout their home-buying journey.  What is the “Homes, for the real of us” campaign about?  With this year’s campaign, we chose to go back to the beginning and focus on the “real” in realtor.com’s DNA. There’s so much artifice in real estate advertising and searching for homes has been made to appear as an over-simplified process — like if buying a home is just a few clicks, or a 30-second TV commercial, away. Consumers want more; they’re smarter than that. “Homes, for the real of us” touches upon the truths and realities of the home-buying process. Searching for a home is a thrilling process, that can have ups and downs, but ultimately brings joy to our users. And realtor.com is that trusted partner to help navigate all of the highs and lows along the way, and to connect home buyers to real estate professionals.  How has realtor.com’s advertising evolved over the past several years, and why is this evolution important?  Just as the real estate landscape has evolved, so have our advertising efforts. The needs of consumers are changing and it’s important now, more than ever, to make sure consumers understand who we are, what we do, and what we stand for. We’ve always aimed to maintain a sense of humor and realness in our campaigns and in the past we’ve leveraged comedic talent (such as Elizabeth Banks) to help get the message across: that realtor.com is a place to beat the fear of missing out and find the home that’s right for you before someone else gets to it first.  After conducting research and hearing consumers’ pain points around the home-buying process, we dug deeper and discovered that they’re still looking for more. This led us to the most important insight: consumers are tired of seeing companies make the process look easy and they’re tired of seeing advertising with unrelatable, over-the-top homes. Realtor.com understands that and knows people crave more ‘real’ in the world, and our campaign reflects that. Sure, seeing over-the-top homes on social media and TV can be fun to look at (and even our Instagram feed can satisfy those cravings), but the reality is that when it comes to finding a home, people are looking for a real home that’s right for them and their needs — instead of a “dream home,” it’s a home they can dream in; instead of the “perfect” home, it’s the home that’s perfect for their situation, their family, their life. The first wave of our campaign features commercials that tell the full story, it’s our anthem and battle cry for more real in real estate advertising. The second wave of work — focused on specific product features — pokes fun at the reality shows we love to laugh at, but find it hard to relate to. We juxtapose a fake world and “real” world to show the contrast between the two and highlight the point that real always beats the dream. What do you believe makes this campaign unique?  Last year’s campaign used the wants-versus-needs construct of a home buyer’s journey. Each commercial highlighted a specific want or need, such as wanting hardwood floors or a guest bedroom with the need being satisfied by realtor.com, “the home of home search.” This year’s campaign focuses less on specific needs and more on the realities of the process and home-buying journey itself. It challenges conventional thinking about real estate, helps set realistic expectations for buyers and sellers, and, hopefully, leaves consumers with a sense of empowerment, motivation, and excitement. What are you trying to accomplish with this campaign? We want to break the cycle and elevate the conversation around home buying. It’s time to make it personal and break out of the sea of sameness that represents most real estate advertising and marketing. Impactful and relatable commercials allow us to spread the message that realtor.com understands the ups and downs of finding a home. The campaign won’t end at the end of the year, rather “Homes, for the real of us” will continue to expand its reach via unique entertainment and media partnerships across TV and digital media. What do you hope consumers take away from the campaign? Realtor.com has so many tools that can simplify the home-buying process and help you find the home that’s right for you. It’s not as easy as many of our competitors have made it appear. Research shows both home buyers and agents need something more — trust, honesty, and authenticity about the process. Home buying is not a click away. It’s a process: a fun, quirky, thrilling, and exciting process, and realtor.com is the place to get started.
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Pros and Cons of Filling in Your Pool

An in-ground pool can be a great way to relax around the house, enjoying the water on a hot summer day. There are a few potential issues with in-ground pools that can get to you after a while, however. Not only do you have to spend time and money getting the pool back in swimming shape each spring, but the various other maintenance costs can really add up over time. And that’s not even getting into the legal issues, child safety concerns and home insurance rates that go along with pool ownership. In time, you might decide that it’s just not worth keeping the pool around. The good news is that there are specialists who are experienced in pool removal that can get the job done for you. Before you rush into getting your pool filled in, though, there are a few things that you should consider. Insurance Premiums One big benefit of filling in your pool is that your home insurance premiums can go down. Swimming pools are considered a potential hazard by insurance companies, so removing the pool makes your home safer as far as your insurance provider is concerned. The amount that you’ll save depends on your insurer and how much they charged for pool risk, but in some cases, it could result in a substantial savings. Removal Costs Of course, a big con of having a pool removed is that you’ll have to pay someone to remove it. The cost of pool removal depends both on the contractor you hire to fill in the pool and the pool’s size, as well as any additional structures surrounding the pool that may be removed in the process. Depending on where you live, there may be additional costs for permits and inspections as well, as will be determined by city zoning ordinances. Pool Safety Issues If you’ve been concerned about accidents around your pool, another benefit of removing the pool is that pool-related accidents are no longer possible. With the pool filled in, pool-related falls, drowning risk and other possible safety issues are completely removed. Just make sure that small children and pets are kept away from the area until the removal is finished and it’s deemed safe by the removal contractor. Land Use Restrictions One potential con to pool removal is that some cities restrict what can be done with areas that once housed a pool. In some cases it may depend on exactly how the pool was removed, and whether it was what’s known as a partial removal (in which only part of the pool is actually removed and the rest is collapsed and filled in) or a full removal (in which everything is removed and the entire hole is filled.) If there are restrictions in your area, you may be limited to just basic landscaping and won’t be allowed to build on the area or do anything that would require digging deep in the soil. Maintenance Cost Elimination On the plus side, removing a pool removes all of the maintenance costs associated with pool ownership. This isn’t just the obvious things like maintaining pipes, fixing leaks and buying new chemicals each year, either. Just think about how much you’ll save on your water bill now that you don’t have to replace all of the water that’s lost to evaporation each week! Property Value Effects There are effects to your property value that are difficult to classify as a pro or a con because they depend so much on where you live and whether the pool was present when you bought your home. Getting rid of a pool changes your property value, but whether it’s an increase or a decrease depends on how much you paid and whether you were the one who installed the pool. It also depends on the type of removal that you choose; partial removals have to be disclosed to new buyers and may pull your resale value down. Full removals usually don’t have to be disclosed, but they can still affect your home’s value. Ready to Remove Your Pool? After you’ve weighted your options, if you’re still ready to remove your pool then HomeKeepr can help you find the pool removal specialist that will get the job done right. Because we use recommendations instead of ratings, you’ll know that your pool removal team comes highly recommended from people that you trust.
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