REMAX 440/Central Blog

Organization is Key when Finding a New Home

January 31, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 31, 2011--When trying to find a new home, a well-thought out strategy is always beneficial to have. By being organized, you can save yourself lots of valuable time and narrow your search as you cruise through the buying process. To help you get prepared, here are a few things to think about before going to that first showing.

Know exactly what you want. What type of home will suit you and your family? Are you looking to buy new or buy an existing home? What style do you want, and how handy are you to fix things up? All of these questions are important to ask yourself. Don't forget to consider commuting time, school districts, price ranges, and recreation and entertainment as well. With a little introspection, you can communicate to your REALTOR exactly what you're looking for and you can save yourself and your agent lots of time. The quicker you declare your wants and needs, the quicker you'll be living in your new home.

Figure out the finances. It's imperative that you know exactly what you can afford. Most lenders claim that you can afford a home priced two or three times your gross income, depending on location. Create an estimated budget beforehand so you can know which homes are within your price range. Also, be sure to meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter. This letter will tell you exactly how much you are eligible to borrow. Waiting until after you've found your "dream home" to do so may turn out to be a devastating mistake.

Determine when you want to spring into action. Having a timelime is a surefire way to achieve your buying goals. If you already own, you'll need to incorporate selling as a factor. If you are building your credit, that may take additional time as well. Although it may be difficult to juggle buying, selling and multiple closings at the same time, a solid game plan will be the key to your success.

Try to remain realistic about your decisions. Refrain from being closed-minded about new possibilities. It's good to be loyal to your wants and expectations, but entertaining some new ideas may help you in the long run. There's no such thing as the "perfect" home, so try not to let "wow"-factors make the decision for you.

Planning for your future is the best way to guarantee that you'll find a home that will make you happy. By thinking long-term and mapping out your buying strategy, you will save time and facilitate the process considerably.

Source: HouseLogic

How to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

January 28, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 28, 2011In cities and the suburbs, sometimes the air inside a home is more of a problem than the air outdoors. The sources of air pollution can come from anywhereair fresheners you use to mask various odors, your shedding cat or dog, dusty furniture (and the aerosol spray you use to clean it), dust mites in bedding, a poorly ventilated kitchen range, and so on. If you want to neutralize and refresh your home, consider these easy steps to reduce the fumes.

Prevent problems. To cut down on dust mites, put your pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust mite-proof covers. Wash dirty or dusty laundry in the hottest water. By doing so youll not only cut down on dust around the home, but youll protect your family from any sort of related allergens from popping up as well.

Ventiliate. Cooking, cleaning, using hair spray and polishing your nails can release volatile organic compounds that are linked to a variety of health problems. Use fans in the kitchen and bathroom to reduce your exposure and minimize humidity that can cause mold and mildew. Before you use your fireplace, make sure the flue damper is wide open. Poor ventilation can allow pollutants to stay in the air.

Ban smoking. Don't smoke or allow others to do so in your home or car. Smoke is a hard smell to get out of clothes, fabrics, carpeting and drapery. The clinging odor will last awhile. Prevent any sort of lingering smell by not allowing smoke in your home.

Eliminate odors, don't mask them. Find the source of bad smells (bad food, musty sheets or blankets, pet-related smells, etc) and tackle the problem the old fashioned wayby cleaning it up. Use a box of baking soda in the area instead of air fresheners, which cost more and can contain VOCs and phthalates.

Make your cleaning count. Because dust can harbor pollen, pet dander, bacteria, mites, mold and mildew, dust furnishings regularly with a damp rag or an electrostatically charged duster. Vacuum often, ideally with a low-emissions vacuum. There is no replacement for a hardcore cleanup.

Control critters. Seal cracks and crevices and properly seal and put food away. You'll be less apt to attract pests and need to use pesticides. To minimize your exposure to pet dander, banish pets from sleeping areas and upholstered furniture.

Rethink pricey fixes. There's little medical evidence that an air cleaner alone can ease allergies and asthma; try low-cost solutions first. There's also no proof that cleaning ducts prevents health problems or that dirty ducts increase airborne particulates.

If your home is stuffy and you want to decrease the amount of air pollution, try simple tactics first. By keeping your house clean and tidy, youre already halfway there to improving your familys air quality.

Source: Consumer Reports Health Blog

Protect Your Home with These Home Security Tips

January 28, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 28, 2011For any homeowner, protecting your property and possessions should be one of your main concerns. Extra security for your home will not only protect your things, but your loved ones as well. With these added precautions you can rest a little easier knowing your property is protected against intruders and other dangers that may lurk around your home.

For exterior doors: *Install sturdy doors that are either solid wood or metal-clad instead of hollow units. Hollow doors are best used indoors, seeing as they can give way to a powerful shoulder blow or kick. *Security glazing is a smart idea for extra protection for glass insets on doors. The heavy-duty plastic will prevent someone from smashing the glass and unlocking the door from the inside. *Provide additive locks for sliding glass doors. Key operated locks can be added that secure the bottom of the door to its frame. This prevents the door from being forced open. (Safety Tip: Make sure these fortified doors are not part of a fire escape plan, as the extra security may slow down escaping family members.)

Lighting *Installing motion sensors provides additional lighting to your property, which is helpful to welcome guests and a deterrent for potential lurkers. *Illuminate your address numbers so that police and emergency crews can quickly and easily find your home.

Locks *Reinforce all keyed locks with a dead bolt. Make sure the dead bolt you add extends at least one inch when locked, to resist heavy blows. Beveled rims on the lock will prevent it from being compromised with pliers. Mounting screws should be three inches or longer to prevent damage from strikes. *Consider an alarm system. Alarms that have loud rings are effective, or some systems will silently alert the alarm company or police if the circuit is t ripped. Compare various systems to see what would be best for your home.

Windows *Add a key-operated lock onto windows in exchange to the normal thumb-operated latches on your windows. This will secure the windows top and bottom panels so that the unit cant be forced open. *Consider safety bars for your windows, depending on the area. These will provide extra protection for ground floor windows of your home or apartment. You can choose a style and material that will best suit your needs and look.

Taking the time to time to bolster your homes security will be time well spent. Your home and possessions are the fruits of your labor. Be sure to keep them safe at all times.

Source: Martha Stewart Living

Pending Home Sales Improved in December, Marking the Fifth Gain in Six Months, Says NAR

January 28, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 28, 2011--The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator, increased 2.0% to 93.7 based on contracts signed in December from a downwardly revised 91.9 in November. The index is 4.2% below the 97.8 mark in December 2009. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, credits good affordability conditions and economic improvement. "Modest gains in the labor market and the improving economy are creating a more favorable backdrop for buyers, allowing them to take advantage of excellent housing affordability conditions. Mortgage rates should rise only modestly in the months ahead, so we'll continue to see a favorable environment for buyers with good credit," he says.

"In the past two years, home buyers have been very successful, with super-low loan default rates, partly because of stable home prices during that time. That trend is likely to continue in 2011 as long as there is sufficient demand to absorb inventory," says Yun. "The latest pending sales gain suggests activity is very close to a sustainable, healthy volume of a mid-5 million total annual home sales. However, sales above 6 million, as occurred during the bubble years, is highly unlikely this year."

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Tips for Securing a Mortgage Loan in 2011

January 27, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 27, 2011--Although it is doubtful that mortgage lenders will change their recently tightened standards in the coming year, there are still great mortgages to be had. With some financial preparation and by following the right steps, you can still secure a low interest rate and terms that work for you and your family. Here are some tips to get the best deal possible for your new purchase.

Nothing can replace a high credit score. Nowadays, the best loan terms are awarded to those with a 740 credit score or higher. Gone are the days when the best terms were given for a 720 rating. With this increase in standards comes an added pressure on borrowers to make sure that score is higher than ever. For those that can do so, reaching that mark will only benefit you when it comes time to snag a mortgage.

Dont take the first deal you can find. Always shop around for a mortgage. Compare discount points, loan types and even combinations of the two from various lenders. What makes more financial sense for you? Using a mortgage calculator on the Web can help you when trying to decide what is best.

Know your limits. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) sets a nice example to follow regarding how much debt you should actually take on for a house payment, topping off at 31% of your pre-tax income. Whether or not you actually get an FHA-insured loan or not is irrelevant. Its always extremely important to make sure your debt is manageable. To be safe, a 28-30% ratio can also be followed Be knowledgeable about what size of home you can actually afford and how big of a mortgage you can reasonably take on.

Seek out other options if you have a small down payment. Most lenders require borrowers to have at least a 10% down payment. Some may even require 10% in equity. Borrowers that fall under these requirements should look into other options that may accept a more modest down payment. Borrowers with good credit can look into FHA-insured loans, which typically require a down payment or equity of 3.5%. Other programs may be relevant to your situation as well. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers zero-down mortgages for qualified veterans while the Department of Agriculture runs similar programs.

Although standards may not be ideal, there is always a way. By utilizing these tips and being financially prepared for ownership, you can hone in on a mortgage that will be suitable and affordable for you and your family.


How to Color Coordinate Your Roof to Complement Your Home

January 27, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 27, 2011--Does a green polymer tile roof work with a red brick house? Not likely. Will that same green roof be a better match for a white clapboard home? Absolutely.

Selecting roofing colors that complement the rest of the homes exterior can be challenging for some people, says Kate Smith, CMG and owner of Sensational Color. While people have the freedom of color choice these days with the vast multitude of synthetic roofing colors and blends available in the marketplace, there are certainly some fast and easy guidelines they can keep in mind.

Smith, who is the resident color expert consultant for DaVinci Roofscapes, recommends the following guidelines when matching polymer roof colors with different style homes.

* Green roofs look best with homes that have natural wood siding, or are painted gray, white or a lighter green color than the roof itself. Avoid red or colors that are very warm for the siding, although these bright colors could be used as an accent, such as for a front door. * Brown roofs complement houses painted in tan, yellow, cream, off-white or a different shade of brown. Brick homes that have a yellow or brownish color cast to the bricks can also look good with a brown roof. Stay away from using a brown roof if you have a home with cool colors on the main body, such as blues and grays. * Black roofs provide an anchor for tall homes by helping visually lower the roof and making the home look wider in contrast to the siding color and trim. A black roof has a strong link to homes painted in gray, blue, green or white and can also be used with a brick exterior. Try to avoid a black roof if you have a single story or smaller home, because the black can seem too weighty for a smaller structure. * Gray roofs are an ideal complement to more traditional style homes and can also be used on blue, green, black or white house colors. Bolder accent colors for trim, shutters or the entryway door can broaden the visual appeal of the home with a gray roof. * Terracotta color roofs work exceptionally well with stucco and brick homes, along with stone and those houses with a mixture of exterior materials. White is a classic color to use with a terracotta roof. The high contrast between the body and roof colors looks crisp and clean together, and is often a choice for warmer climates. * Red roofs match up beautifully to accent gray or warm brown house colors. Consider a red roof for a white or cream exterior to create a country look for a home.

Depending on the style of a home, as much as 40% or more of the visual you get when looking at a house is the roof, says Smith. The more roof that is shown, the more important it is to allow the roof color to help define the homes style.

Im a great fan of color blends for roofs. When you select blends with different shades of a color or two in it, the entire roof seems to merge and unify the home exterior. This softens the roof visually and provides the homeowner with more long-term options for accent colors to pull out from the roofing blend color.

Smith recommends the following blends:

* Milano light gray, medium gray, dark gray and dark purple colors * Cambridge light brown, medium brown, dark stone and dark tan colors * Sedona medium terracotta, dark terracotta, light clay and dark clay

For more information, visit: at

New Survey Shows Mortgage Rates Steady

January 27, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 27, 2011--As of this week, mortgage rates have remained steady. Current 30-year conforming fixed mortgage rates are at 4.625%, 15-year conforming fixed mortgage rates are at 3.875%, and conforming 5/1 adjustable mortgage rates are at 3.125%. Well-qualified borrowers are able to take advantage of these low conforming mortgage rates with only 0.7 to 1.0% origination fees.

Current 30-year fixed FHA mortgage rates are 4.500%, 15-year fixed FHA mortgage rates are 4.000%, and FHA 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rates are 3.125%. FHA mortgages have more favorable loan terms than conforming mortgage rates. The tradeoff, however, is the higher closing costs associated with an FHA loan. Additional fees that the Federal Housing Administration charges to borrowers include upfront mortgage insurance premiums, annual mortgage insurance premiums, additional residential appraisals, etc.

Jumbo mortgage rates are likewise currently stable. Current 30-year fixed jumbo mortgage rates are 5.125%, 15-year fixed jumbo mortgage rates are 4.750%, and jumbo 5/1 adjustable mortgage rates are 3.875%. Borrowers interested in obtaining a jumbo mortgage loan are able to do so in excess of the conforming loan limit for their desired area.

Mortgage backed securities (MBS) prices are currently higher today than yesterday. MBS prices have increased by +9/32 (FNMA 30-year 4.5 at 102.11). Mortgage rates and MBS prices have an inverse relationship, which means they move in opposite directions. Therefore, as MBS prices increase, mortgage rates are expected to decrease.

The survey, conducted by, reviews more than two dozen wholesale and direct lenders' rate sheets to determine the most accurate mortgage rates available to well qualified consumers at a standard .07 to 1 point origination.

For more information, visit

When Is It Best to Go With a Professional?

January 26, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 26, 2011--Recently, more homeowners are leaning towards taking on do-it-yourself projects to prevent paying big bucks to professionals. Many resort to online research when trying to determine whether or not to tackle a project hands-on. While this might be a good first step, sometimes it is hard to judge whether or not you should attempt a job. Try to find step-by-step directions and examine the different types of tools necessary. Do you own them? More importantly, do you know how to use them?

If you are unsure about any part of the process, consulting an expert is a great next step. Keep in mind, also, that a botched job can sometimes cost even more than hiring someone in the first place. So, when exactly should you sit back and hire a pro?

When safety is an issue, hire a professional. Any job that includes fiddling with the homes electrical system is a risky one to take on. The risk of electrocution is extremely high, making it a very dangerous do-it-yourself job to tackle. Not only does it risk physical harm, but incorrect work could become a safety hazard within the homes structure.

Gas lines should also be avoided. If you arent 100% sure how to check for gas leaks, do not attempt messing with gas lines yourself. Mistakes like this could equal severe consequences such as explosions or carbon-monoxide poisoning. Heights can be tricky as well. Homeowners should carefully assess jobs that require you to be high up, such as trimming trees or fixing a roof. Ask yourself if you are well-trained enough to complete the task before attempting it.

A less obvious job you should be careful with is ceiling fan installation. Many like to install these themselves, but arent aware of the fact that more than 19,700 people a year are injured by improper mountings and installs, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, an organization that focuses on electrical safety. If you have any doubts, seek help.

Large power tools should also put question marks in your head. Tools such as circular saws, chain saws, nail guns, etc, should be properly handled. You can seriously injure yourself with misuse, putting yourself out of commission for weeks or months at a time, or in the most severe cases, death could occur. For this and all the aforementioned scenarios, professionals can help keep you and your family safe by completing jobs that may be over your skill set. Put away that pride, and hire a pro.

Water situations can also require a pro. If leaks and water damages are left unfixed, they can lead to mold, or worse, pricey and complex repairs. Though mold situations should be alleviated immediately for health purposes (it affects air quality and could make your family quite sick), its often a deal breaker for home sales--a huge red flag for buyers. Even jobs like installing a skylight could lead to mold and leaks if not done properly. Worst case scenario, water could end up leaking on the inside, dripping behind walls and causing damage to drywall and wooden beams.

Add up the costs. If the cost of materials and tools runs exceptionally high, hiring an expert might even be the most cost efficient way to get the job done. If you make a mistake in ordering, you could even be subject to restocking fees and nonreturnable special orders. Allowing a professional to take over will prevent you from making these mistakes,

For extra-large projects, you may want to refer to a pro as well. Small jobs, such as changing lighting fixtures, cabinets, retiling or painting may be completely doable for most do-it-yourself homeowners, but if you are replacing a multitude of windows on your house or remodeling an entire room, you may want to think twice. Heavy lifting and installations can be handled by pros, while touch-up aspects can be done by you later down the road. Sometimes it simply isnt worth the work and expenses involved if the job is too large.

There definitely is an appeal to completing tasks yourself. It feels good to see the results of your own efforts, and it is usually more affordable than hiring help. However, when safety is at hand or the damage risk is extraordinarily high, hiring an outside professional is entirely worth the headache-free renovations.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Tips for Decorating On a Budget

January 26, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 26, 2011--Sometimes a change in dcor is exactly what your home needs to brighten it up. Even though your home may need a fresh look, it doesn't necessarily have to cost you thousands of dollars. With these simple tips and a little bit of creativity, you can save yourself lots of money, time and frustration but still feel accomplished in your decorating.

Start by working with what you already have. Moving furniture is a great way to give an old room new appeal. Don't move everything; rather, focus on one piece per room, such as a couch, armoire or end table. By moving one of the room's central pieces, you can change the entire energy of the room and give it a new dynamic. Adding lamps or artwork is also a smaller decorating feat you can tackle. By adding to or cutting back the amount of light in the room, you can definitely change its look and feel.

Changing your window treatment can go a long way. Though this could get pricey, it doesn't have to be. Try white muslin or loose, white sheer linen panels. The way that light enters the room will be attractive and definitely provide a change of scenery. Doing this in the winter is best because the diffused light will soften the room.

Consider large area rugs. For rooms with multiple rugs or none at all, consider one large one. Large rugs pull the room together and really provide the room with a central focus. Play around with different designs, colors and kinds and find the rug that suits the room the best. One decision like this could really change a room's theme. You can then change wall decorations or colored blankets and pillows to match.

Give your room a color boost by adding flowers. Flowers allow you to color coordinate specific rooms, helping you match various themes or designs that may already be in place. If you're looking for bigger changes, add unique colors. If your room already feels convoluted in color, try some white lilacs to draw attention elsewhere. Flowers can be as lavish or simple as you need them to be. Accessorize with them often and continue trying different combinations of color and type.

Redecorating a home doesn't have to completely drain your bank account. By being creative and resourceful, you can give your home a brand new look for a modest price.

Source: The Washington Post

15 Ways to Save Money Around the Home

January 26, 2011 10:31 am

RISMEDIA, January 26, 2011--In a slowly recovering economy, many homeowners are still trying to save money wherever they can. Christine Van Tuyl and Margaret La Grange, award-winning real estate agents from Coronado Island, California have released their Top 15 No-Brainer Ways to Save Money Around the House. Although you may have heard a few of these ideas before, you may not be implementing them. Doing so can save you thousands of dollars a year with minimal effort.

  1. Turn down your heater or air conditioner when you leave the house. No need to crank it full-strength when no ones home.
  2. Use compact fluorescent bulbs. Experts say they last 10 times longer than regular lights.
  3. When washing clothes, use the cold-water wash cycle, and the coolest dryer setting you can. Only run the washing machineand the dishwasherwhen they are FULL.
  4. If you have a fireplace, make sure youre keeping the damper closed when youre not using it.
  5. No more expensive bottled water! Invest in a handy water purifier instead, such as the Brita water purifier pitcher. Buy a stainless steel water bottle and refill it throughout the day.
  6. Become an expert at in-home entertaining. Studies have shown that people spend more than $2000 a year (probably more!) on entertainment spending. Instead of going out to eat, invite friends over for dinner. Or better yet, host a potluck.
  7. Go veggie. If you can do three meatless days a week, you could save $25 a week, which equals $100 a month. Thats $1,200 a year, folks. Hooray for beans.
  8. Brown-bag luncheswell, at least a few times a week. Not only will you save money, but youll probably eat healthier and lose weight.
  9. If you must go out, make it lunch instead of dinner. The lunch portions arent usually much smaller, but theyre a heck of a lot cheaper.
  10. Use dining coupons. Save coupons from the paper each week--or take advantage of those priceless coupon books mailed to your house.
  11. Save those grocery store coupons from the mail. You know the junk mail you throw away every day? Well, its actually packed with bargains. Check out the sales at your local grocery store--and bulk up on items when they are on sale.
  12. Haggle. Youd be amazed at who will drop their prices, fees and interest rates: airlines, hotels, credit card companies, computer sales people, and more.
  13. Never pay full price. If you must shop, discover the online world of discount websites. Our favorites include Ebay and Craigslist and are also great sources for lightly used goods--and new items too.
  14. Keep minimum funds in your checking account. Keep the bulk of your funds in your savings account where it will earn more interest. Call your bank and shop for the best rates.
  15. Use rewards credit cards. If youre going to charge itmight as well get something back, right? If you can discipline yourself to pay off your card each month, thereby avoiding any interest payments, you can score airline miles and other great perks.

By slightly altering some of your spending habits, you can save thousands over the course of a year. Once the savings accumulate, you'll be glad you made some of these changes.

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