How to Obtain a Building Permit

July 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Home & Garden

how to get a building permitWhen beginning a construction project, you must obtain a building permit before any concrete is poured or any nail is driven. Building without one can result in heavy fines and will actually cause you to lose time on your project. Take the time to do it right and it will pay off in the long run.

Plan Ahead

Getting approval for construction and obtaining a building permit can take time, particularly if there are complications along the way. Be sure you start the application process early and leave yourself plenty of time before the planned start date of the construction project. This way you can be sure you have the necessary permit and will not cause any delay in the project.

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Obtain Architecture Plan

If you are building new construction, obtain several copies of the architect’s plan for submission to the municipal building department. Be sure you have the architect’s seal of approval on the plans. For additions or major modifications, you must go through similar steps and get an architect’s approved copy of the plan.

Complete the Application

Contact the permit group of your local municipal building department to get a copy of an application for a building permit. Fill out the main section of the application, supplying all requested information. Ask your plumber, electrician, and any other contractors to fill out relevant parts of the application as well. Check with the permit office for any additional paperwork, such as septic design plans, that may be required. Turn in the completed application with the required number of architectural plans and a survey of the land to be developed. Be sure to include the necessary payment for the application fee.

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Wait for Approval

The approval process can take anywhere from three to six weeks, or longer if there are complications. As you wait for approval on your building permit, make sure you have your construction loan in order and any special supplies have been ordered for your project. After receiving your building loan, typically a building inspector will periodically come out to the site to ensure you are in compliance with approved plans and codes.

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How To Increase Your Home Value

July 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Home & Garden

how do I increase the value of a homeRead a home decorating magazine or watch a cable-TV home improvement show, and you might easily conclude that any upgrade will pay off when you sell. This is simply not so because even in good times, not all projects have widespread appeal. You’ll earn back virtually your entire investment in a kitchen or deck, but less than 75 cents on the dollar if you add a home office or sunroom, according to "Remodeling" magazine’s annual cost vs. value survey.

What’s worse, some renovations can even hurt you in the eyes of home buyers, a costly problem if you hope to sell in a softening market like today’s.

The Swimming Pool:

In some areas, especially hot-weather spots like Arizona and Florida, a pool is a must-have. In the Southwest, adding one boosts your home’s value by 11 percent on average, according to a National Association of Realtors study. But elsewhere it can just as easily turn off buyers, who worry about affording the upkeep and insurance. And if the most likely buyer of your home is a family with small children, think long and hard before installing a pool.

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"People with younger children may be leery of houses with pools for safety reasons," says Barry Graziano, a real estate agent with Prudential Rand Realty in White Plains, N. Y. "I’ve had families walk away. A pool can cut down on the number of people who will want to buy your house."

The Addition:

You’ve thought about how that great room and master bedroom wing will let the family spread out. But what you probably haven’t considered is what the space will look like from the outside.

"A badly designed addition can kill your resale value," says Sal Alfano, the editorial director of Remodeling. "People focus on the floor plan and the flow, but not on how it fits into the neighborhood or even the house itself."

Watch out for boxy, poorly detailed additions and be careful of a style that will look dated when you throw your open house. Spotting the trend that’s on its way out is trickier than you think. While it is easy to assume that sleek red European kitchen cabinetry is tomorrow’s harvest gold fridge, other design staples that seem like sure bets can quickly drift into obscurity too.

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That’s what Mark Johnson, a Whirlpool design manager, says is happening to stainless-steel appliances. "For a period of time, people aspired to a commercial kitchen" he says. "What I am seeing is more interest in warmer finishes."

You want a design trend with legs. Johnson says custom panels that dress appliances in maple or mahogany finishes are likely to remain popular for several years. Also, think about the materials for hardware like hinges and light fixtures. Polished brass or anything shiny is out. Brushed nickel is a better option. Johnson is betting that oiled-bronze finishes will take off next.

The Jacuzzi:

The elaborate master bath is okay, but the big circular tub with 15 jets that can pulse or massage is risky.

According to Holly Slaughter, brand manager at RealEstate.com, you’re better off with an oversize shower that has a rain showerhead and multiple jets (think of it as a car wash for humans).

Baby boomers have little time to spend hanging out in the bathtub, and parents with small kids prefer a conventional tub. Ultimately, don’t expect a future buyer to pay up for the luxury you considered an essential.

How to Sell Your House without a Realtor

July 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Business & Finance

how to sell without a realatorRealtor fees are expensive. The fees realtors charge on a traditional home sale range from five to eight percent of the sale price – that is a substantial bite into your potential profits. Many would be home sellers are starting to shun realtors in favor of selling their homes on their own. For Sale by Owner or FSBO real estate is a growing field, and selling your home without a realtor may be much easier than you think.

Get Ready

Your first step to selling your home without a realtor is to get ready for parades of prospective buyers. Put away your knick-knacks, clean up your home and apply a fresh coat of paint and consider putting down new carpet. At the very least, have your existing carpet steam cleaned. Do what you can to increase curb appeal and be sure you have all liens cleared on your loan. You don’t want any hold ups or surprises should you get an interested party.

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Get Listed

The majority of homes are sold through a multiple listing service (MLS) which is a private data base used by realtors trying to show properties to prospective buyers. Usually this listing is the primary function of your realtor, but you can have your home attractively listed on your own. There are many websites and companies that will list your home for a fee or even for free with certain conditions.

Be sure to include all attributes of the home without vague adjectives such as “beautiful” and “gorgeous.” Take plenty of flattering pictures and include those with your listing as well.

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Get Noticed

Being listed in the MLS is an excellent start for being noticed, but you must do your own publicity as well. List your home for sale on internet sales sites and the local paper. Put out a sign in the front yard and have an open house or two. Be sure to advertise the open house with plenty of signs and other attention grabbing techniques. The more people who come through your home, the more likely you are to sell it.

Get Help

When you get an offer on your home, unless you are a mortgage broker yourself, you may consider working with a real estate lawyer or mortgage broker to be sure you’ve dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” come closing. It is possible to handle all paperwork yourself, but do your research very carefully as you can run into serious trouble if you don’t file all paperwork correctly.

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How To Refinance A Home

July 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Business & Finance

how to refinance a home When interest rates drop, many homeowners rush to the bank to lock in a lower rate on their existing home loan. When interest rates rise, those with variable rate loans begin to seek refinancing options on their homes as well. When you think it might be time for you to refinance here is how to refinance your home.

Determine the Value

Use a free mortgage payment calculator to see if it is even worth refinancing before you begin the process with the bank. Unless interest rates have fallen two percent or more below your current loan value, it’s unlikely the monthly savings would offset the cost of the loan itself. Some refinancing calculators will take you through the estimation process in greater detail, but remember to factor in closing costs on the new loan if you’re simply comparing two mortgage payments.

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Shop for Loans

When you’ve decided you’re ready to commit, begin shopping for loans. Speak to your current bank to see if they have a special rate for existing customers and be sure to browse online banks to see if those rates are lower than brick and mortar financial institutions. Find the loan with the lowest rate, but be sure to weigh the amount of fees and closing costs along with the interest rate to find the best deal.

Apply for the Loan

When you apply to refinance your home, you are essentially applying for a new mortgage. This means you’ll need almost as many documents to refinance as you did to buy your home the first time. Work with your lender to complete the application and be sure you’ve cleaned your credit and established a savings account with money for closing if you’re not taking cash out of the home’s equity.

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Complete the Refinance

Refinancing can take months if the paperwork and approval process drags, but most refinances are complete in less than a month. Work closely with your bank to ensure you’re on top of all paperwork and have given the underwriters and officers everything they need to successfully approve your loan.

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How to Find the Perfect Home

July 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Business & Finance

how to find the right homeWhen you’re ready to buy a home, you don’t ever want to settle for less than what’s perfect for you and your situation. Buying a home is a combination of emotional decision making and rational thought processes. You want to research your areas but also fall in love with your property. Here’s how to find the perfect home.

Consider Your Budget

Your first consideration for a home is how much you can actually afford to spend. Use financial calculators available on almost every bank’s website or speak to a lender to determine how much you are realistically able to spend on your new home.

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Check Your Location

When buying a new home, location is everything. You can buy a cottage in one area for the price of a mansion in anther all based on the value of the location. If you’re trying to get within walking distance of your work, do research on that area and particular neighborhood. Speak with a realtor about the prices of homes in that area and compare it to other areas in the city or town.

A valuable location, such as Colorado real estate, will almost never lose value, but will continue to become even more worthwhile as home builders are forced to move farther out from the center of town to find new land to build upon. Find an ideal location first before looking for a specific property.

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Plan Your Home

Before looking at properties make a realistic list of what you want from your home. If your budget is low, don’t expect five bedrooms and marble, but you can certainly list the number of bedrooms you’d like, the number of bathrooms, the living areas, the style of home, the type of garage, the size and presence of a yard or patio, and the type of kitchen in the home.

Find Your Home

Begin looking at properties screened to meet your budget and location. As you walk through each one, feel the home emotionally, but be sure to check for your attributes as well. If you love a home, but it is missing a bedroom, are you willing to sacrifice that space for the other features you love? Ideally you find a home you love that meets all your criteria. Otherwise find a home you love that meets enough of your criteria. That way you’ll always be pleased at what you’re coming home to.

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How to Find the Best Home Mortgage

July 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Business & Finance

how to find the best mortgageThe housing market is always fluctuating, but regardless of the overall market, you can always work to find a great deal on mortgage rates and terms. Here’s how to find the best home mortgage.

Determine Your Needs

Before contacting any bank, you need to start with your own needs and a bit of research. Presumably you’re buying a home, but what kind of home? How long are you going to stay in that home? How much money do you have available for a down payment?

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Your situation has more to do with the best home mortgage for you than any special offers a bank might be offering.

  • If you’re only staying in a home for a few years, a variable rate mortgage will help keep your payments low, provided you’re out or refinanced before interest rates rise.
  • A fixed term loan of thirty or fifteen years is the most traditional mortgage, and it works well for most buyers as payments are set for life.
  • Variations on the fixed and variable loans are programs that offer two loans – one for 80% of the mortgage and one for 20% to cover what should be a down payment. The more money you have to put down the better your options.
  • Interest Only Loans are fine if you’re planning on refinancing or leaving in a year or two, but they aren’t for the average buyer.

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Clean Up Your Act

Clean up your credit report and organize your paperwork before contacting any lender. Your credit needs to shine to get the best home mortgage. You’ll almost most likely need your last two tax returns and supporting documents as well as bank statements. To qualify for many loans, you’ll also need to have money in the bank ready to pay for closing costs and a down payment. Once you’re ready with money in your account, your paperwork on hand, and a squeaky clean credit report, you can start your search.

Find the Best Home Mortgage

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the best terms will come from a bidding or well advertised website. It may be that a website does have the best terms, but it is also possible your neighborhood bank has favorable terms as well. Without applying for any loans, simply look around for the mortgages being offered in your area.

Get online and look at as many websites as you can stand, and stroll into your own bank or others in your neighborhood to see if they are offering something more favorable. The best home mortgage will have:

  • A low interest rate
  • A reasonable amount of points to buy down the interest rate
  • Low or possibly fixed closing costs
  • A suitable down payment
  • A competent professional to guide your through the application process
Act on Your Decision

Finally, when you’ve made your decision, work with a lender to apply for the loan. You can possibly apply online, but for a loan of this size, you would do best to work with someone who might know a few tricks and tips to speed up the acceptance process or help remove obstacles. Congratulations – you’ll be a home owner in no time!

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How to Evict a Tenant

July 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Business & Finance

how to evict an tenantIf you didn’t manage to prevent problems through tenant screening and are now stuck with a bad tenant, you need to be rid of the burden as quickly as possible. There are certain rules and regulations you need to follow, but here’s how to evict a tenant.

Determine the Exact Legal Problem

To legally evict (or kick out) a tenant, you have to have a legitimate legal reason to do so. Your reason can be something like “failure to pay rent” or “repeated failure to abide by the terms of the lease contract.” Usually, you give a warning the first time or two, but you must absolutely be sure to document every warning or conversation about problems. You need a paper trail to prove your tenant is bad, so be sure to send every notice in writing with a copy for yourself. If possible, have the tenant sign to verify the warning.

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Serve the Tenant with a Notice

When the tenant has been warned at least once (or twice for good measure) and you’re ready to move forward, check the regulations in your city and state. Then, following those regulations to the letter, properly serve your tenant with an eviction notice. Your state may require this be done by a licensed police officer. If you fail to serve the notice correctly, your eviction notice may not be valid or even legal.

Use the Legal System

Following the notice, hopefully your tenant will agreeably move out, and you can both move on with your lives. If this is not the case, however, you must use the legal system to get your freeloader on his way.

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File an eviction lawsuit against the tenant and be prepared to show every scrap of your documentation about how terrible a boarder he was. It’s very possible he will counter sue which is why you must follow the letter of the law. Do not give him a reason to sue you – you can’t “help” him move out, change the locks, or doing anything in retaliation other than filing the lawsuit following failure to leave.

The lawsuit may go smoothly, or it may get nasty. A knowledgeable real estate attorney can help keep the process moving and help you be sure you are staying well within the rules and regulations of your state.

Eventually, assuming you are in the right and have the documents to prove it, you will win your suit and your tenant will be moved along with the assistance of local law enforcement. If you’re very lucky, he might even be required to pay back rent and legal fees, but don’t hold your breath.

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How to Estimate New Home Construction Costs

July 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Business & Finance

how do I estimate new home construction costsBefore applying for a traditional or stated income construction loan, you must accurately estimate construction costs for your new home. While the overall project may seem daunting, estimating construction costs is far simpler than you may think.

Select a Blueprint

Your first step to building a new home is to decide on the home you want. Be sure to include any architect or design fees into your budget as these are almost always the first set of building costs.

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Select Materials

Your next step is to select building materials for all areas of the home. Will you be using brick on all four walls for both stories? Stone? Don’t forget to include your flooring materials as well as doors and windows.

Contact the Experts

Unless you are a general contractor yourself, you most likely aren’t already in contact with the many subcontractors you’ll need to complete your home. Visit with a general subcontractor or find subcontractors in all areas of construction (excavator, mason, carpenter, roofer, siding contractor, plumber, electrician, heating/AC contractor, insulator, drywall installer, finish carpenter and painter) to discuss the project.

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Obtain Contractor Estimates

If you are going to work with a general contractor, he will use his contacts and expertise to obtain a total estimate for most construction – perhaps including materials. If you are planning to work as your own general contractor, you’ll need to obtain an estimate from each subcontractor.

Total the Estimates and Costs

Make a spreadsheet of all estimates and costs you have to date. Keeping track of estimates electronically should make the process less time consuming and allow you to keep track of your budget when construction begins. Then add in building permits, insurance, fees and legal costs. The resulting number is the total estimated construction cost.

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How to Do a Short Sale

July 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Business & Finance

how to complete a short home saleA short sale, or flip, seems simple enough when you watch a television program or read of other people’s success. Flipping a home can be simple if you know what you’re doing and the real estate markets support you. But short sales can be risky at the best of times. Here’s how to do a short sale.

Find a Market

Before you even think about a home, you must first find a housing market with conditions accommodating to a short sale. Area such as California have seem home prices rise dramatically in almost all areas, especially for homes that have been updated. Rising home prices and high levels of demand are ideal for a short sale. Be sure you’ve found a neighborhood where fixing up a home will bring you profits, not be lost in the sale process if the upgrades don’t add the right balance of value to the home for the area.

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Find the Right Home

Look within your selected market for a home that is in need of updating but that doesn’t have expensive necessary repairs such as roofing or foundation work. Redoing a kitchen and updating fixtures is one thing, but repairing termite and water damage is another. Find a home that seems to be behind its neighbors. By bringing that home up to date, it should make it more valuable if the entire neighborhood is increasing in value.

Find a Cheap Home Loan

When you’re doing a short sale, you’re not interested in building equity over time. You want to mortgage the house for as little as possible for the six months to a year that you’ll be holding it. California mortgage options include interest only and short-term variable rate loans ideally suited for this purpose.

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Complete Home Upgrades

To maximize profits, you must complete repairs as quickly as possible without spending an arm and a leg. Find a good general contractor if you’re too busy or inexperienced to act as your own and keep the workers coming. The longer it takes to sell, the more profit is lost. Upgrade areas that are obviously in need of updating, but focus your attention on areas that make a substantial impact such as kitchens, bathrooms, flooring and the living areas.

Sell Your Home!

Sell the home as quickly as you can. Short sales can take as little as a few weeks or might take up to a year. The moment your house is presentable, put it back on the market. Stage it well and work on curb appeal to sell it quickly. Every month it sits, you’re losing money in mortgage payments, so be flexible in your sale price – price it to sell, not necessarily to maximize profit. Waiting three months to sell $10,000 higher might net you nothing if you paid as much in mortgage payments during that time.

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How to Buy Your First Home

July 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Business & Finance

how to buy a new houseBuying a home is one of the primary goals of most citizens. There is nothing like the satisfaction of owning your own property. But buying your own home can be a challenge, especially if you are a first-time home buyer. Here’s how to buy your first house.

Clean Up Your Credit

The first step to buying a new home is to clean up your credit. A home loan is a huge undertaking and the bank is going to want to be sure you are worthy of the risk. Pay off old loans and close all the little credit cards you don’t use or need any more. Leave your oldest cards open, however, unless they charge a fee – these show how long you’ve had credit.

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Save Up for a Down Payment

Unless you’re entitled to a government loan, it is likely you’ll need at least 5% of the home’s price to put down when you buy. You’ll also need cash for closing costs which can be another 2-3% of the home’s price. Stash money away in a safe place or get help from family to set up a small nest egg so that you’re ready to buy when the bank checks to be sure you can actually afford the down payment on the home.

Establish the Budget

Before you shop, you should take the time to figure out your budget. A very rough guideline is that your new home should cost no more than twice your annual salary. If you make $50,000, your home should be $100,000. Obviously co-borrowers can afford more. Think about your future before deciding on an expensive home, however. If one of you will be staying home with future children, a smaller mortgage payment might be beneficial. Add up your monthly obligations, take out money for savings and other odds and ends and look at the amount you can pay monthly without feeling pinched.

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Get Pre approval

If you’ve worked with a monthly number rather than a broad total, head online to a free mortgage calculator to see exactly what your payments will be with mortgage, taxes and insurance each month. Then, when you’ve reached a number you’re comfortable with, apply with a finance company to become pre approved. Getting pre approval on a mortgage tells sellers that you are a safe buyer and that you can get the loan when the time comes for money to change hands.

Shop For Home Loan Options

Finally, with your pre approval complete, contact a realtor or browse listings yourself and start shopping. By staying carefully within your budget, you’ll find the perfect home in no time at all.

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