Going Green: How energy savings can help you afford more house
We all know going green is good for the ol' third rock from the sun, but it's also good for the other kind of green: cash.
Unfortunately, there are currently no standards when it comes to home valuation and energy features. But going green is something you need to be prepared to discuss with your agent.
Its very easy for home buyers to concentrate solely on the monthly house payment when in reality there are so many other costs associated with home ownership. Consider the following example. It doesn't include costs like insurance or maintenance, but it illustrates an interesting point:
The moral of the story? When purchasing a home that has $150 in monthly energy and water costs instead of a home with $300 in energy and water costs, you gets an additional $33,403 in purchasing power.
Is it possible to save $150 per month on energy and water in every home? That depends. Homes that do not currently have double-paned windows or an energy-efficient furnace could easily be upgraded to save $150 per month. Homes that were built with modern construction techniques and little to no landscape may have fewer features that would benefit from energy-saving upgrades, and finding $150 in savings may be more difficult.
Regardless, it's an important factor to discuss.
Out-of-town buyers: If you're looking for vacation homes or moving to a job in a new city, there's a good chance that viewing homes will be difficult-you could be a long drive or even a plane ride away. With today's video messaging apps like Skype or Facetime, your agent can walk you through a property virtually. It's not the same as walking through in person, but it will at least give you an idea about whether a property is worth pursuing further.
When life is just too crazy: If you're just getting too busy with everything else going on in your life, a good buyer's agent should be able to recognize the situation and help you take a step back. They can suggest that you take a few weeks off from your home search to recharge, or only focus on properties that exactly fit your wants list.
Inspection issues: You're dreaming about move-in day, and then some unforeseen issues turn up during inspection. A good agent can work out those issues by negotiating a lower offer-to cover costs of repairs-or by getting the seller to fix the problem.
1. High quality ceiling fans: In a recent National Association of Home Builders survey, ceiling fans ranked No. 1 as the most-wanted decorative item. If your ceiling fans are outdated, replace them with something in the $400 range-it'll make a big difference when it's time to sell.
2. Trees: Mature trees can be worth as much as $10,000 toward the value of your home. Trees also protect your home from the elements and prevent erosion.
3. Energy efficiency: Buyers are increasingly interested in saving energy, so any efficiency update is worthwhile. Switching from a wood to gas fireplace is a great start.
4. Outdoor lighting: Exterior lighting is great for highlighting the accents of your home, and you can typically expect a 50 percent return on investment.
5. Molding: You can finish a room with crown molding or railing for as little as $1.50 per foot if you take a DIY approach, and it's extremely desirable among prospective buyers.
1. Save as early as you can: Even if you think your years away from buying your first home, try to start saving for your down payment. It makes a huge difference in your monthly payments, and helps avoid paying Private Mortgage Insurance.
2. Be thorough with mortgage shopping: There are countless resources out there that can help you get the best terms for your mortgage. It may seem like a lot of work to shave less than a point off your mortgage rate, but it'll save you thousands in the long run.
3. Consult a skeptic: You're likely to fall in love with a home, and that can make it difficult to take problems seriously. Bring along a skeptical friend or family member who can give you an honest opinion.
4. Be patient with getting settled: You'll be anxious to make your new home your own, but take some time to see how your budget truly shakes out. In other words, hold off on big furniture purchases and remodeling projects.
5. Make sure you're happy with the neighborhood: The house may be perfect, but don't discount the surroundings. You don't want to end up in the suburbs if you're going to miss walking to your favorite coffee shop, and you don't want to settle for the city if you're looking forward to some peace and quiet.
Pay down your credit card balances Credit utilization is one of the biggest factors in determining your credit score. Your credit utilization should at least be less than 30 percent of your limit, and it's even better if you can get it below 15 percent. This rule applies to both individual cards and your overall credit limit.
It may even be worthwhile to use some of the cash funds you were planning to use for a down payment to pay off credit card balances.
Do no harm While you certainly want to improve your score if possible, at the very least you'll want to keep it steady. Avoid opening new lines of credit if you're applying for a mortgage in the very near future. This will cause a hard inquiry to show up on your credit report.
Take care of negative items It's good practice to check your credit report for negative items a few times a year-you can get one free report from each of the three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) per year.
If you find any negative items (collections, late payments, etc.), write a letter to the original creditor. Explain the circumstances that led to the negative item, and request that it be removed from your report. It can be surprisingly effective, and removing a negative item will improve your credit score in a hurry. You can find some good templates for a request letter online.
1. Screen-free rooms: After a long day of using your smartphone and computer, it can feel amazing to come home and take a technology break. More and more, homeowners are creating specific screen-free rooms-perhaps a library, craft room, or listening room-where you can escape from technology for a while.
2. Upholstered headboards: What if you could feel like you were sleeping in a luxury hotel bed every night? The bedding and mattress are an important part of that experience, but so is the aesthetic and comfort of an upholstered headboard.
3. Earth tones: Natural colors have become increasingly popular, especially deep greens. It's a great way to bring some of nature's colors indoors, whether as an accent wall, in blankets and pillows, or for furniture.
4. Black stainless steel: If you want a sleek, contemporary kitchen, black stainless steel is even more of a statement than traditional stainless steel.
5. Patterned fabrics: While solid upholstery will never go out of style, patterns have become trendy of late. It's an easy way to make a bold, eye-catching statement in your living space.
Three ways to ease your fears about making a move
With low inventory in many markets throughout the country, many homeowners are afraid to sell their homes because they're concerned that they may not be able to find a new one. This can be a real problem, but if you are seeking to sell-whether to upgrade or find a new neighborhood-there are a few ways to combat the low inventory.
Look to buy first
In most markets it is a real mistake to put your home up for sale before you start looking for your new property. Identify the geographic area where you are interested in buying. Even if you don't see anything on Zillow, it doesn't mean you can't or won't find the right home.
Think outside the box
Be proactive! Keep in mind that there are probably many people like you who want to make a move but are afraid as well. Have your real estate agent send a letter to the neighborhoods in the geographic areas where you want to live. The letter should be heartfelt and personal while announcing that you are ready to buy a home in that neighborhood. You could find a home to buy that may not even be currently listed or for sale.
Protect yourself legally
Each state varies in how the purchase process is conducted. Talk to your real estate professional about adding a clause in the purchase contract for the home you are selling that will enable you to not sell the home if you cannot find a suitable home to buy.
At the end of the process, the title company issues a title opinion. This is a legal document that states that the title is valid. The title opinion is part of obtaining title insurance. The insurance protects both the owner and the lender if there is a title dispute. If another party is actually the rightful owner of the home, your title insurance protects you from financial loss.
In addition to title opinions and title insurance, title companies also handle escrow accounts and distribute money to the appropriate parties at closing. They'll also deliver closing documents to the appropriate agencies.