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How to Finance a Home Remodel

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Often times, when you buy a home, it’s not perfect. Fortunately, the magic of remodeling allows you to craft your current residence or a prospective property into your dream home. However, unless you’re flush with cash, you won’t be able to pay for your renovation project out of pocket. When faced with this dilemma, there are several ways for you to go about getting the funds.

Remodeling a Purchase

FHA 203k mortgages
The FHA 203k loan is backed by the Federal Government and is solely for the purpose of helping those who wish to purchase and renovate a home. There are two different kinds of 203k loans, each geared toward different types of projects.

1. Standard 203k
The standard 203k is for all projects that require professional architectural drawings and inspections. Typically, if the property has any sort of structural damage, or any other problems that make it unlivable, the Standard 203k is the way to go. There is a minimum cost of $5,000, and the project must be completed in six months, although a lender can approve extensions.

2. Streamlined 203k
The streamlined 203k is for less complicated projects that do not require the help of a consultant, architect, engineer, or that will not exceed $35,000. Due to the simpler scope of the task, the loan process is straightforward and will allow you to finish the project in a timely manner.

For both types of 203k loans, the properties will have to meet FHA requirements, including a maximum home value. Fortunately, the FHA’s guidelines are more lenient than those of conventional loans – including more flexible credit, income, and appraisal requirements.

Energy Improvement Mortgages (EIMs)
If you are planning to make renovations that increase energy-efficiency, the energy improvement mortgage is the way to go. An EIM allows you to add the cost of the energy-efficiency improvements to your mortgage without increasing the down payment. The way the lender sees it, you will be able to use the money saved from utility bills to finance the energy upgrades.

Remodeling Your Current Home

Home Equity Loan

A home equity loan is basically a second mortgage based on the equity in your house. Typically the max you can borrow is 85% of the equity in your home, but it will vary depending on income, credit history, and your home’s market value. So if your home is worth $300,000 and you have a mortgage balance of $200,000, you could potentially get a home equity loan for up to $55,000. The repayment plan is exactly like your first mortgage with monthly payments over a fixed term. As with any mortgage, there will be fees and closing costs.

Home Equity Line of Credit

Not unlike a credit card, with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) you have a revolving line of credit that you can borrow from—as much as you like—by using a check or card that is connected to your account. If you had $100,000 in equity, as in the previous example, that would be your account’s limit. The difference here is that you only make payments on what you borrow.

Cash-out Refinance

With a cash-out refinance, you get a new mortgage with a new rate and term, and you ”cash out” the available equity in your home. Most lenders require at least 15% equity. So to continue with the same example, it would mean a lump sum of $55,000 and a new mortgage for $200,000. Since you’re getting a new mortgage, make sure you factor in closing costs and fees.

Bottom line:
No matter what route you go, make sure you take a hard look at your budget. Home remodeling projects almost always take longer and cost more than initial estimates, so having some wiggle room is incredibly important. In the end, if you take your time, shop around, and speak with experienced professionals, there’s no reason your home remodeling project shouldn’t be a success.

Posted by Carter Wessman on HomeZada

8 Rental Kitchen Makeovers Under $100

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Spice up bland decor with budget-friendly kitchen makeover ideas that solve common rental eyesores.

A bland or outdated kitchen can present a steep challenge to any renter who craves a little more style in the heart of their home. That’s because the things that make the most impact in a kitchen — namely, appliances, cabinets, and countertops — tend to be pricey. (And replacing or updating them is completely inadvisable if you want to get your security deposit back.) But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things you can do to spice up your decor. Read on for budget-friendly solutions to the eight most common problems renters encounter in their kitchens.

Problem: Inefficient lighting

Solution: Under-cabinet adhesive lights

We know what you’re thinking: “Those touch-light things? Like the ones in infomercials?!” And the answer is: Yes. These stick-on battery-operated lights can be hidden underneath cabinets to cast a lovelier glow than your standard overhead fluorescent. Plus, they cost only about $5 each. If you want something slightly higher-end, you can also hang a tiny plug-in pendant light or mini-chandelier over the sink from a hook. Just be sure to secure the power cord far away from the sink.

Or add a dose of high style and opt for a faux fixture, no electrical skills required! (Who says an unlit chandelier can’t just be a cool ceiling accessory?) Purchase and hang a nonfunctional light fixture to get the look, like the apartment kitchen at Prism at Park Avenue South in New York, NY.

Problem: Outdated appliances

Solution: Peel-and-stick wallpaper and attention-grabbing accessories

Surprise: Wallpaper isn’t just for walls. Temporary wallpaper has lots of uses, including adding personality to outdated refrigerators and other appliances. If wallpaper patterns are too busy, you can opt for stainless steel film, which will make even the most yellowed plastic panel on a dishwasher look modern. The key phrase is “temporary” — make sure you’re using a peel-and-stick product that can be removed without leaving a sticky residue behind. As for stoves, you’ll definitely want to avoid using paper here. Instead, drape a cute tea towel over the door handle for a colorful pop of “art.”

Problem: Unfortunate cabinetry

Solution: Stylish pulls and handles

For a few dollars, you can completely change the look of cabinets (or even drawers) by swapping out the handles in favor of something a little more stylish. Of course, you’ll want to keep the originals handy so you can swap them back in before you move out. If you really can’t take another day staring at faux pine, you can cover the doors with temporary wallpaper (again, make sure it won’t leave a residue behind before you tackle them all). If you’re a really, really good negotiator, your landlord might allow you to paint them. Don’t get your hopes up, though, because you might not get approval, but if you offer to paint them a neutral color (white, black, gray) or if the landlord was going to replace the cabinets soon, there is an ever-so-slight chance of a “yes.”

Problem: No storage

Solution: Baskets, carts, and hooks

The tops of your cabinets are likely doing nothing but collecting dust. Make the most of this often overlooked space by adding stylish baskets and bins for storing rarely used things (holiday decor, anyone?). You can also squeeze in storage with a rolling cart (a bar cart can work brilliantly). And never underestimate the power of hooks like those under-cabinet cup hooks, which turn your collection of cute mugs into decor.

Problem: Boring floors

Solution: A kitchen mat

The kitchen isn’t the best place for an area rug for obvious reasons (hello, tripping hazard and stain magnet). But a chef’s kitchen mat, which is made from durable material with a no-slip backing, adds a touch of personality and feels good underfoot when you’re standing at the counter, endlessly chopping salad ingredients. Rugs in the kitchen (or any space, really) can also help define an area, which is helpful if you have an odd layout. Case in point: the rug in this apartment at New Manchester Flats in Richmond, VA, shows how to anchor a dining area in an open-concept apartment.

Problem: Basic backsplash

Solution: Tile decals and stick-on panels

Like faux wood cabinets, builder-grade tiles can look cheap. Enter tile decals. These are removable designs that add pattern and color. They can be a little pricey, but you need only a few to brighten up a backsplash. Or you can completely cover up the offending tiles with peel-and-stick panels that mimic the look of embossed metal.

Problem: No privacy, no view

Solution: Window film

If you have a teeny-tiny kitchen window that happens to look upon a gritty back alley (or you just don’t want prying eyes looking in at you when you’re making coffee in your jammies), this product is basically heaven-sent. Window films are translucent, decal-like sheets that add a privacy-boosting pattern without completely blocking out light.

Problem: Ultraneutral palette

Solution: Bring on the colorful accessories!

You’d be surprised at the impact that a boldly patterned trash can, colorful new countertop canisters, and even a vibrant fruit bowl can make. The bright patterns on these chairs at ArtHouse in Seattle, WA, immediately attract attention. By shifting the focus to these stylish extras, you’re less likely to notice the kitchen’s lesser charms.

Posted by Brie Dyas on Trulia

4 Keys to Buying a Flipped House

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Head over heels for a flipped house? Here’s how to make sure you’re getting a great deal.

Many home buyers wrongly assume that a newly renovated home is, well, just that: new. They perceive it as move-in ready and free from hassles. The newly renovated home typically pulls in top dollar, because the buyer assumes it is perfect, turnkey and ready to go.

Although house-flipping shows on television often make the process seem easy and feature beautiful homes with happy stories, they don’t follow through to see how the home withstands daily use, weather patterns and typical wear and tear.

Some contractors or property flippers want to move on to the next job as soon as the first one nears completion. Others may uncover unforeseen expenses that send them over budget. As a result, their work may be rushed or subpar.

If you’re buying a flipped house — one that the seller purchased less than one year earlier — the following tips will help ensure you don’t get any unpleasant surprises after closing.

Pay attention to details

As tempting as it can be, try not to get caught up in the excitement of new appliances, marble baths and other fancy bells and whistles. By looking closely at the details, you can learn a lot about the quality of work done on the property.

Be on the lookout for telltale signs of rushed worked such as:

  • Light switch plates that aren’t flush with the wall or are at an angle.
  • Crown molding that isn’t completely matched at the corner.
  • Gaps between the countertops and the wall.
  • Gaps in bathroom tile.
  • Doors or cabinets that don’t close tightly.

Cosmetic mistakes could be an indicator of larger issues that can’t be seen with the naked eye. If the flipper was sloppy on the small details, pay extra attention to other areas such as the electric panel, the water heater’s gas line, and plumbing connectors.

Get an inspection

Because many buyers assume a newly renovated house is in like-new condition, they think it’s okay to skip the inspection. That’s not a great approach, however.

An inspector can check the contractor’s work, and may find issues buyers would miss. For example, were renovations done to code?  Did the contractor cut corners or do the bare minimum in places because of a tight time frame?

Sure, the town/city likely would have had to sign off on the renovations, but city officials are only looking at health and safety issues. The home inspector can check the house from top to bottom. It’s worth paying for an inspection to ensure the home is perfect.

Double your due diligence

When buying a flipped home, it’s more important than ever to review the disclosures. Did the contractor take out permits for the work? If so, were all the permits signed off on?

If you aren’t given copies of all the work approvals or finalized permits, ask for them. If you don’t get them, look them up online or go to the local building department. Any permits taken out or applied for (and officially signed off on) are public record.

Never close on a home without making sure all permits were cleared. Otherwise, as the new homeowner, you could be on the hook for illegal or bad work.

Learn all you can about the flipper

Is the owner the contractor, and is he experienced? Does he have a good reputation in your community? Ask your agent about the background of the person who flipped the house.

Good investors have been at it for a long time, and their reputations precede them. A flipper with a solid reputation should have nothing to hide, and should be open and free with disclosures and provide you with documentation and warranties. Good home flippers want happy customers, too. They don’t want calls from buyers or attorneys a year later with liability issues or complaints about their work.

In the past 18 months, there has been a marked increase in the number of homes bought simply to be renovated and put back on the market. While the improvements may be done well, there’s also a chance the contractor or flipper cut corners or rushed through the project, simply to move on to the next one — leaving the new homeowner with a nightmare on their hands.

Flipped homes should always be double- or triple-checked for potential issues. Inferior work could end up costing you money and giving you headaches in the long run.

Posted by Brendon Desimone on Zillow

The 6 Most Common Rental Scams

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Here’s what to do when finding an apartment goes from annoying to criminal.

There’s almost no way around it: Finding an apartment can be stressful. The search, the competition, the upfront money … they’re all reasons most of us try to move as infrequently as possible. (The additional expense and frustrations of moving all of your stuff probably also play a role.) But sometimes the rental process goes from merely aggravating to actually illegal. While the vast majority of rental listings are legitimate, rental scams are out there, and they’re not always easy to spot. “Recently, we’ve been encountering a lot of fraud that doesn’t fit the historical norm,” says David Peters, director of engineering at HotPads, a Zillow Group company that powers Trulia rental listings.

Here are six of the most common rental scams out there, along with suggestions for how to avoid them.

1. Fake credit requests

One common rental scam involves a request for a credit report. Here’s how it works: The scam artist posts a fake apartment listing online and asks to check the credit reports of potential renters using a link they provide. The link redirects to a credit report company that uses a referral program; the scammer can earn up to $18 per credit report request.

The credit report itself may be legit, but the need to obtain it in the first place isn’t, since the apartment listing is bogus. To avoid this scam, don’t release your credit report through a link from a potential landlord; instead, when you’re satisfied a landlord is legit, get your credit report through one of the three credit-reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) and have a hard copy available for the landlord when you meet them.

2. Sketchy real estate agent services

Another common rental scam: fake real estate agent services. These services offer to generate a list of preforeclosure or rent-to-own rental properties for clients — appealing because of their lower price points — and then request either a sign-up fee or a monthly fee of up to $200. The list the client receives is usually full of sham real estate listings, either fake or expired, and it’s impossible to get a refund on the sign-up fee. Skip this one by searching rental listings for free on Trulia!

3. Asking for money before you see the apartment

“The most common type of scam we encounter involves convincing a renter to send a deposit, first month’s rent, or application fee before allowing them to see inside a unit or without meeting in person,” says Peters. Imagine: You find a terrific online listing that seems as if it’ll be snatched up immediately, so the request for money upfront may not seem entirely unreasonable. And unlike some scam listings of the past, which might include misspellings or photos stolen from another site, these write-ups seem completely aboveboard. “Fraudsters are constantly adapting to improve their odds of successfully stealing money from renters, so they’re making their fake listings look increasingly legit,” says Peters. Still, there shouldn’t be a cost for admission, so if you’re asked for cash upfront, walk away. “There is never a reason to send money without viewing an apartment or meeting in person,” Peters adds, especially if the request is for a money transfer. This is because it’s basically impossible to stop payment on a wire transfer, unlike a check or credit card payment.

4. A copy-and-pasted ad

Say a legitimate landlord writes up a compelling listing for their newly vacant apartment and posts it online. A scammer can very easily copy and paste the listing but significantly lower the price, which will generate furious interest. Otherwise known as the “clone scam,” this maneuver is especially aimed at someone who’s busy or renting from out of town and is willing to put down money sight unseen.

Another clue will be a request for an unusually high security deposit, since the scammer is seeking to take off with as much money as possible, as fast as possible. “We try hard to make sure you never come across fraudulent listings, but if you come across a scam listing on Trulia, report it to us so we can get better at preventing them,” Peters says. “Click ‘Report this Listing’ on the listing page, and we will review the listing, remove it, and block other related scams. If you’ve been scammed, also contact your local law enforcement and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).”

5. An MIA landlord

The setup: A scam artist finds a property that’s vacant because it’s bank-owned, it’s a vacant vacation home, or maybe it’s even being rented by the scammer, who plans to pull off this scheme several times over. They then insist they’re out of the country, sick, or otherwise detained, but still want first, last, and a security deposit sent over ASAP. “Scammers love to claim that they’re out of the country and will mail you keys once you wire them the first month’s rent,” says Peters. “Don’t do it! Regardless of where they live, a legitimate landlord or property manager will be willing to arrange for someone to meet you and show you inside the unit.”

6. Withholding your deposit

This happens all too often. A landlord behaves fine throughout the duration of your lease. But when the time comes for you to move out, they get cagey about the deposit, saying they’ll mail you a check that never arrives. Or they’ll claim excessive damages require them to keep the security deposit to make the necessary repairs, even though you left the place in great shape. To avoid the latter, be sure to take photos of the place right before you leave (and, ideally, when you’re moving in) to prove you didn’t trash the apartment. If the deposit still hasn’t materialized, send a certified-mail request for its return. If that doesn’t work, you might be looking at small claims court.

Posted by Meaghan Agnew on Trulia

Missouri REALTORS® Latest Market Report

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Missouri REALTORS® publishes a monthly market statistic report which includes:
  • Number of homes sold and purchase price
  • Days on market
  • Median purchase price
  • Average purchase price
  • Statewide sales volume

As you can see, sales are up since this time last year!

Click here to download the full report.

You can find previous market reports at missourirealtor.org.

Homes Continue to Sell Quickly Nationwide

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The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released their latest Existing Home Sales Report, which revealed that homes were on the market for an average of 47 days in March. This is a decrease from the 59 days reported in February, as well as the 52 days reported back in March 2015.

42% of homes across the country were on the market for less than a month, which is the highest it’s been since July 2015 (43%)!

Among the states with homes selling in 30 days or less are Washington, Oregon, and Minnesota. The map below was created using results from NAR’s Monthly Realtor Confidence Survey.

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Bottom Line

Buyer demand is increasing as the inventory of homes available for sale remains low. If you are thinking about listing your home for sale this year, meet with a local real estate professional who can help you take advantage of current market conditions!

Posted by The KCM Crew

Is Your Home the One Buyers Want?

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Boost your home’s sales appeal by adding key amenities and playing up hot features.

 Shutterstock ID 38093410; PO: Cat Overman;
Shutterstock ID 38093410; PO: Cat Overman;

When it comes time to sell your home, whether you’ve lived there for three years or 30, you need to see it as a product for sale. And just like an item on a store shelf, you want your home to stand out from the competition.

Of course, your feelings and emotions about your home — and all of the memories you made there — may make it difficult to detach and view your home as a product. But sellers who quickly transition away from the emotional connection and into investment mode will reap the financial benefits many times over. Homes that go into contract quicker and with few (if any) price reductions ultimately sell for more money. And isn’t that every seller’s goal?

What’s on buyers’ wish lists

Homes that sell quickly probably have many of the features today’s buyers find desirable. Smart retailers try to understand better what consumers want, and then deliver to them. Home sellers should do the same.

When you’re preparing to sell your home, consider small renovations, updates, cleaning and even some light staging. I’ve seen sellers make significant upgrades to their home before listing, leaving them to question if they actually want to move.

Today’s buyers look for move-in ready and turn-key homes. The more bells and whistles, the better.

Focus on kitchens and baths

It’s a pretty well-established fact that kitchens and baths sell a home. If your kitchen or bathroom is tired or outdated, consider modest upgrades that pack a punch.

Painting cabinets white gives the kitchen a clean and fresh look. Consider new stone countertops like quartz or granite. And replace old faucets with shiny new ones.

Spending a modest sum can reap incredible benefits — tenfold.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

Research shows that certain features help sell a home faster. Even if you don’t have time for renovations, you might luck out and already have some of the items on buyers’ wish lists.

For example, subway tiles in the kitchen or bathroom, barn doors, and craftsman features are proven to help homes sell faster. If your home has these, play them up, because today’s buyers want them.

Just like companies figure out the next hot car, handbag or shoe for their respective industries, smart home sellers must know their audience and market their product to meet customer demand.

When it comes time to sell, consider your buyer, and try hard to make your home into a top-notch product.

Posted by Brendon Desimone on Zillow