Perks to Buying During the Holidays

If you’re house hunting over the holidays, you’re likely a serious buyer with an immediate need.  Perhaps you have to relocate for a new job opportunity, or there’s been a change in your personal life? Regardless, while you may assume it’s not an ideal time to be looking — namely because there isn’t much to look at — there are some advantages to buying this time of year.

Perks to Buying During the Holidays

Less competition

Let’s start with the obvious one: less competition. This lowers the chances of multiple offers and bidding wars (something we saw a lot of last spring/summer), and should translate into a bigger discount for you. Know your market! This is where sites like Zillow come in handy. Start your research here for comps in your area and to see what homes are selling for.

Serious home sellers

Why would sellers pick such an inconvenient time — while everyone is busy entertaining family and friends and enjoying the spirit of the holidays  — to list their properties? Probably because they need to sell and may feel compelled to do so before the end of the year for tax purposes. What this means for you: less hassle when it comes to negotiating; a greater willingness, on the part of the seller, to agree to concessions; less chance of the seller waffling; and greater respect for your offer, even if it’s a little lower than the seller was perhaps expecting.

Faster mortgage approval

Lenders aren’t as busy this time of year, and less volume could mean faster approval. Some lenders might even be willing to reduce fees during the off-peak season in hopes of gaining your business. Regardless, don’t just go with the first lender who comes along. It pays to shop around. Get multiple quotes and check out lender reviews on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace.

Greater affordability

Sure, home prices have been rising, but they’re typically lower in December than during any other month (so you don’t have to be as aggressive with your initial first offer, compared with buying during peak to high season). Zillow’s third quarter Real Estate Market Reports showed home value appreciation slowing. As we enter the slower home shopping season many overheated markets are moving away from bubble brink and ultimately becoming more affordable than they have been historically. If you want to take advantage of low interest rates, the time to act is now.

This article was originally published by Vera Gibbons on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.


Curvy Glass House by Ed Niles

Topping a half-acre promontory on Loma Linda Drive is this curving glass-and-steel contemporary, which mesmerizes with a see-through circular design and jetliner views of Beverly Hills.


The unique modern home is the work of modernist Malibu architect Ed Niles, who knows a thing or two when it comes to combining prime vantage points with architectural gems (see: The Henman House).



The Beverly Hills house, built in 2009, frames walls of blue glass in ribbed steel to create the home’s foundation while encompassing a central courtyard and infinity pool. The six-bedroom, six-and-a-half-bath example of architecture boasts a whopping 7,500 square feet, an elevator, views from every room and parking for six.







Niles’ architectural gem previously came to market in 2010 for $11.9 million. However, in a sign that the luxury real estate market is well on its way to recovery, the modern home with architectural pedigree now asks a cool $14.995 million.

Tamar Youssefian of Coldwell Banker California Moves has the listing.

This article was originally published by Neal J. Leitereg on For more photos and the article source, click here.

Applying for a Mortgage? Get Your Docs in a Row

Providing all the required paperwork and documents when applying for a mortgage may be one of the top anxiety-inducing processes of your financial life.

Just remember that countless homebuyers before you have survived the ordeal, and you can make it easier on yourself if you know what to expect.

“It is very common for a mortgage lender to request that you provide certain employment and financial documents when applying for a mortgage,” said Samantha Reeves, senior mortgage homebuying writer for Veterans United Home Loans. “These common documents include the most recent two years of tax returns with all attachments, such as W-2s and 1099s; your most recent bank statement for all accounts; your most recent 30 days pay stubs; and identification documentation.”

In addition to these documents, you may be asked to provide other records specific to your situation.

“For example, if you own a business you may need to provide business tax returns and profit-and-loss statements,” she said. “If you receive retirement or disability [payments], you may need to provide evidence of its continuation and receipt.”

A good way to prepare for the process is to assemble a checklist of everything you’ll need. Jeffrey M. Sutton, a mortgage loan officer at George Mason Mortgage in Virginia, provides the following checklist to his clients:

Mortgage Application Checklist

• A copy of your most recent pay stubs covering a 30-day period.

• A copy of your last two years of W-2 tax returns.

• Proof of any additional income needed to qualify.

• Copies of most recent two months asset account statements on all accounts including
checking, savings, mutual funds, stocks, bonds, 401k, TSP and/or IRA accounts. Please
provide all pages for each statement.

• Name, address and phone number of landlord(s) for past two years.

• Divorce decree, separation agreement, and property settlement agreement, if applicable.

• If investment properties owned, past two year’s complete Federal Tax Returns (include
all schedules) and a current one-year lease for each investment property owned. Please be
sure that page two of the tax returns is signed.

• Ratified sales contract, if available.

• If permanent resident alien, please provide copy of green card.

• Copy of Driver’s License.

Additional information required for self employed or commissioned borrowers:

• Past two year’s complete federal individual tax returns with all schedules, W-2s and 1099s.

Please also provide corporate, S-Corp, or partnership returns, if applicable.

• Year-to-date Profit and Loss Statement and Balance Sheet dated to within the most recent 90-day period.

• Copy of current Business License.

Additional information required if applying for a VA loan.

• Original Green Certificate of Eligibility.

• Copy of DD 214 OR Statement of Service from your commanding officer (stating rank,
position and that you are in good standing).

Additional information required when refinancing an existing

• Copy of Recorded Deed of Trust, and HUD-1 Settlement Statement

• Copy of Property Survey and Title Insurance Policy

• Copy of existing Hazard Insurance Policy (Homeowners Insurance)

Organize, Assemble and Deliver

After you have accumulated your paperwork, follow this advice from the experts:

  • Organize and make it easy to access — “One key tip for success when applying for a mortgage is to keep all of your financial and employment documentation organized and easily accessible,” Reeves said. “You will save a lot of time searching and stressing over the location of documents while being under contract on a home. Get everything together in advance. You will thank yourself later.”
  • Don’t leave anything out — Borrowers need to tell their mortgage person everything, said Leighton Johnson, branch manager and senior originator at Silverton Mortgage Specialists. “It’s not like buying a car, where the salesman is trying to sell them the least amount of car for the most payment. The mortgage person is trying to help them get the most house for the least payment, and they need all the information upfront. Most issues can be resolved easier if we know about them at application.”
  • No “blackouts” – “Don’t black out any numbers either on the tax returns or on the bank statements,” advised Linda Fleischmann, a mortgage consultant at Stress Free Mortgage. “If you do, you’ll have to resend it without the blackouts later.”
  • No state income tax returns – Don’t bother with the state portion of your income tax returns. “The lenders don’t need them and shred them,” Fleischmann said.

Know What You Can Pay

Before you file your mortgage application, make sure you have a mortgage figure in mind that will allow you to sleep at night.

“Select a dollar amount that stays within your mortgage payment limits,” said financial adviser Chris Hogan. “Banks are notorious for pre-approving amounts higher than you originally applied for. However, you’re the one who will be making the payments, not the bank. So stand firm.”

Hogan also advised that mortgage borrowers get their credit report from TransUnionExperian and Equifax.

“Scour the report, and make sure there are no surprises or inaccuracies,” Hogan said.

You can also get a free annual credit report at

By Brian O’Connell of To view the original article, click here.

8 Ways to Prep Your Dining Room for Thanksgiving

With so many dishes and serving utensils — not to mention the number of guests — Thanksgiving puts your dining room to the true test. Here are eight ways to get more out of your space, maximizing enjoyment of the meal and the day’s family joys.

No. 1: Clear the space

If the dining room is filled with nonessentials — in a small dining room that could mean everything but the table and chairs — clear them out for the holiday. This “less is more” approach will make the room seem more spacious, and a spacious room is more comfortable. Also, removing unnecessary furniture will place emphasis on the table, which seems only right.

No. 2: Set up a buffet

Take the burden off your dining room by serving food in the kitchen on a table, countertop or island. For second helpings, guests can simply return to the kitchen, or hosts might take a mid-meal lap around the table.

No. 3: Ride the bench

If big, bulky chairs are occupying more than their fair share of space in your dining room, consider using a bench along one side of the table to accommodate one or two additional guests. It’s a family holiday, after all; closeness is fitting. You might also think about renting chairs that are more compact than your existing furniture.

No. 4: Extend the table

Most dining tables are made in standard sizes of 36 inches wide by 72 inches long with one leaf. You can extend the width 1 foot and the length an extra 24 inches by simply placing a sheet of standard plywood on top. With a tablecloth draped over the surface, you won’t know the difference.

No. 5: Limit table decor

As tempting as it may be to adorn your table with an elaborate centerpiece or grouping of candles, decor can quickly become clutter if space is short. Opt for minimal ornament and make the most of your table’s total surface area.

No. 6: Establish a kids table

A kids table has been done before, and usually youngsters prefer to be on their own anyway. If your guest list overwhelms your dining room’s capacity, consider creating a satellite table even for adults.

No. 7: Take it outside

If you are fortunate enough to live in a warmer climate, why not move the feast outdoors? You can always use the dining room table as a buffet station, then enjoy the meal on a deck or patio — even by the pool.

No. 8: Rethink the space

If your extended table is a tight fit for your dining room, brainstorm ways to position it differently. If you position the table diagonally, it might give guests on the end a little more breathing room, or even free up space for a couple more chairs.

This article was originally published by Larry Bilotti of on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.

Glass House on Boulders in Colorado

Conventional wisdom says that homes are generally better served when they are built on flat land, away from jutting rock formations – even more so when said home is made of glass.


However, conventional wisdom was shown the door in Boulder, Colo., where a contemporary glass box was built into the rocky landscape.


The shimmering design you see before your eyes is not a mirage, but a product of Thomas Phifer. We’ve been big fans of the New York-based architect ever since his modern glass-and-steel compound known as the “Taghkanic House“ popped up on the radar last year. Much like that Hudson Valley contemporary, Phifer’s latest offering beautifully blends a striking modern construct into its natural surroundings, in this particular case the jutting rock face of a Boulder hillside.


As one can imagine, light-filled interiors take center stage within the 2008 build and are accentuated by 11-foot ceilings, translucent etched-glass walls and a massive, retractable skylight on the top floor.






The 5,026-square-foot home also provides an energy efficient state of living with geothermal heating and cooling, radiant-heat floors and passive solar.


Beyond its sunlit sitting areas and a vantage point that offers 360-degree views of mountainscapes, Denver and points beyond, the architectural trophy manages to burrow its way into our attention a bit further with a subterranean garage. Offering two bedrooms and three bathrooms, the glass house in Boulder currently lists for $4.25 million.


Jane Stebbins of Good Acre Properties has the listing.

This article was originally published by Neal J. Leitereg on To see more photos and the article source, click here.

Can Paying Rent Boost Your Credit Score?

Homeowners can wreck or raise their credit depending on how well they manage their mortgage, but what about renters?

Can Paying Rent Boost Your Credit Score

Not so long ago, renters only faced credit problems for serious rental offenses and paying their rent on time didn’t help their credit scores, but that has changed in recent years. Now, renters have more to look out for when it comes to their credit histories.

Breaking the Lease

When you sign a lease you’re agreeing to pay the rent in full each month through the remainder of the lease. If you move out early and skip out on the rest of the rent payments, it could come back to haunt you.

“Property managers may send unpaid rent amounts to a collection agency, which then reports the unpaid debt to a credit reporting company,” said Emily Christiansen, director for Experian RentBureau.  Once the collection appears on your credit history, it will stay there for seven years and you’ll see a drop in your credit score.

You could also face a lawsuit if you skip out on the lease or cause large damages to your rental, which could impact your credit score. Once your former landlord files a civil suit against you it becomes a public record, which is included in your credit history.

Rent Payments

In the past, paying your rent on time and staying on your lease helped you build a good reputation with landlords but did little to improve your credit score. Experian, one of the big three credit bureaus, changed that for many renters in 2010 when it started recording positive rental history through Experian RentBureau.

“The positive rental history is included as part of the standard Experian credit report and may be incorporated into certain credit scores, such as VantageScore and Experian’s PLUS Score,” Christiansen said.

Unfortunately, just being a renter doesn’t necessarily mean you’re building a credit history. Currently, Experian RentBureau is the only major credit bureau reporting rent payments and landlords have to be signed up with a rental payment service working with Experian RentBureau. If your landlord or property manager company isn’t currently with the program, you’ll likely only see an effect to your credit history if you break a lease or get involved in a civil suit with your landlord.

Boosting Your Credit Score

However, you might be able to improve your credit score on your own.

“Experian does not add late rent payments to credit reports,” Christiansen said. “Only positive, paid-as-agreed rental payments are added to the Experian credit report.” So having your timely rental payments reported could boost your Experian credit score.

To do so, start by ordering a rental history report through Experian RentBureau to see if your landlord is already reporting your payments. If not, you can sign up with an electronic rent payment program working with Experian, or ask your landlord to participate.

Currently, Experian RentBureau partners with the rental payment services WilliamPaid and ClearNow. Once you or your landlord is signed up with Experian RentBureau through one of these payment services, you’ll need to opt-in to start having your rental payments reported. From there, just pay your rent on time, stick to your lease, and you’re well on your way to building your credit reports.

Article originally published by Angela Colley on To see the article source, click here.


American Horror Story House for Sale

A cultural landmark popularized by the television show “American Horror Story” is back on the market in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.


Known as the Alfred F. Rosenheim Mansion, the home made famous by Hollywood horror was built by the German-American architect of that name in 1904 and offers six bedrooms and nearly 7,600 square feet.


As many viewers of the popular FX horror drama know, the three-story brick-and-stone home features handsome wood-trim finishes, Tiffany glass windows and period-style light fixtures and ceilings.





It has a sunroom, a basement with a hidden room and a converted chapel that now houses a ballroom, a recording studio and a car collection.



The historic horror story home has gone on and off the market a number of times over the last few years. The property was shopped for as much as $17 million in early 2012, but saw its price slashed by $11 million later on that year. This time around, the Rosenheim Mansion has relisted for the tidy sum of $7.85 million.


Dana Brockway of Coldwell Banker has the listing.

Article originally by Neal J. Leitereg on For more photos and article source, click here.