Status Update: Posting Details About Moving Poses Social Media Risks

Most people are eager to tell everyone they know about their upcoming move, and announcing it through social media is usually the quickest and easiest way to do it.

Sharing such important news via social networking may also get your friends interested in helping you with moving and getting settled in your new home.

But that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind and allow the entire world to view all your moving details.

Find a middle ground by using privacy settings before posting  times and exact addresses, or simply keep that information out of anything you post.

Once you notify contacts about your move, or even your interest in exploring the possibility, people will likely come forward with helpful information, often before you ask for it. They might volunteer recommendations of movers or storage providers and, depending on how close you are to the person making a recommendation, the information could be more relevant or credible than reviews from third parties you don’t know personally.

Whether you ask your social network contacts for advice or not, just using these networks’ search tools can uncover vital information that may help you decide if you really want to move. You can find neighborhood demographics and crime reports, along with what people there do for fun.

The farther away you are moving from your current location, the more you might want to solicit advice from your contacts about your future locale. See if your friends can introduce you to others who are more familiar with the area and could help you get settled into your new home.

Once your move is underway, it’s wise to limit the details of your move updates to your closest friends and family. Security experts warn against publicly posting when you are not home, which can tip off would-be burglars of a possible break-in opportunity. That logic extends to the dates and times you will be loading and unloading your moving van. Typing in the keywords “visibility” or “privacy” on most social networks will generate links to information on how to adjust these settings.

If you are relocating to another city for work, it might make sense to publicly share the name of the city you will be moving to. Professionally-focused social media networks such as LinkedIn are ideal for this kind of update. But refrain from sharing the exact address of your new home, and when you expect to be moving in.

Whatever the reason for your move, once you’ve completely unloaded the moving van at your new location and started to unpack, the security risks diminish. As you get settled in, go ahead and update your city on your Facebook profile. It might result in different advertisements being served to you, since local businesses have the option of targeting ads by ZIP code.

Now that you are all moved in, enjoy your new location. You’re starting a new adventure with lots to share with your friends, connections, contacts and followers.

By Jackie Cohen of Realtor.com. To view the original article, click here.

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These Homes Could Be Your Castle

To some degree, every home is the owner’s castle, but these homes take it a step further. With stone walls, turrets and even a guard shack, these residences would fit into medieval Europe, or perhaps a Harry Potter novel.

In the ivy-covered league

1 Castle Rd, Piermont, NY
For sale: $5.5 million

from Zillow

from Zillow

This castle is the oldest in the bunch, but it’s nowhere near the age of the stone monoliths found in Europe. Built in 1892 by the well-known architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, the 15,000-square-foot castle sits on 18 acres in upstate New York.

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

Storybook structure

undisclosed address, Cornwall, CT
For sale: $8.85 million

from Zillow

from Zillow

According to the listing, the first owners of this home traveled throughout Europe, collecting artifacts and materials to include in their custom castle. Built in the early 1920s, the home includes columns from France and Italy and a 16th-century, painted Dutch ceiling. The entire property has 275.5 acres, which include ponds, open meadows and gardens.

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

Idaho towers

1018 Mogul Hill Rd, Sandpoint, ID
For sale: $825,000

from Zillow

from Zillow

Castles in the Middle Ages were drafty and dark. This residence in Idaho proves to be otherwise with a waterproofed, insulated and steel-reinforced core that makes the castle not only “solid as a rock” but completely draft free. The residence measures 4,200 square feet with 4 bedrooms and 4 baths.

from Zillow

from Zillow

(Oh, and you have this view).

from Zillow

from Zillow

Castle Victorian

1579 Raymond Rd, Garland, NE
For sale: $695,000

from Zillow

from Zillow

The listing calls this home a “new-old” residence. Constructed in 2002, the home was actually built from plans first drafted in 1885. Nicknamed “Castle Victorian,” the residence sits on 60 acres and has 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and 3,000 square feet of living space.

Spanish style

2401 Portofino Ridge Dr, Austin, TX
For sale: $9.95 million

from Zillow

from Zillow

Solid copper domes top this sprawling, Mediterranean-style castle in Austin, TX. The home is located on 5.4 acres near Barton Creek Resort and Club, giving the future homeowners access to multiple golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools and spas.

Built in 2002, the house features hand-glazed walls and ceilings, limestone floors and mahogany-framed windows.

Castle in the woods

28523 Bacus Rd, Sedro Woolley, WA
For sale: $895,000

from Zillow

from Zillow

It’s not quite a moat setup, but a private bridge leads over a creek to the entrance of this stone castle. Truly a sanctuary in the woods, the castle is surrounded by 20 acres of lush forest with plenty of wildlife, promises the listing. The 1997-built castle has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

Race you to the castle

191 Degrassee Ln, Johnson City, TN
For sale: $4.3 million

from Zillow

from Zillow

What does every castle need? A modern racetrack, of course! The track in the yard of this Tennessee castle was designed to replicate the nearby Bristol Motor Speedway.

The 13-acre residence is also a replica — but of a 18th-century Spanish castle, with entry doors imported from Paris, hand-carved custom moldings and a staircase with imported marble steps.

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

By Erika Riggs of Zillow Blog. To view the original article, click here.

How to Choose the Right Home

For first-time buyers and repeat buyers alike, the decision to make an offer on a home is both exciting and a little scary. If your offer is accepted, the place you’ve chosen will be your home for the next several years. Not only should you feel emotionally satisfied by your choice, but you should also feel financially comfortable that you’re buying a home that you can afford and that you feel confident will hold onto its value or hopefully increase in value over the years.

While no one can know for sure what will happen to housing values, if you make the choice to buy a home that meets your needs and priorities you’ll be happy to live in it for years to come.

Neighborhood or Home Amenities

For some homebuyers, living in a particular neighborhood takes precedence over all other priorities, but for others, the home itself matters more. Ideally, you’ll find the perfect home in the neighborhood you love at a price that’s below your budget, but realistically, most people have to make some compromises.

You (and your spouse, partner or family) should make a list of what features you want in a home, such as the number of bedrooms, a fenced yard, granite counters in the kitchen, and then rank them in terms of priorities. Think about whether the house or the community matter more to you, and whether it’s worth it to you to make a longer commute in order to live in a home with a larger lot.

When to Compromise

Once you’ve determined whether the location or the house itself matters most, you may have to compromise on some of your priorities. If the location is the most important factor for your home choice but you find that homes are priced above your budget, you can compromise in several ways:

  • Look for a different home type within the community, such as a smaller single family home, a town home or condominium. Decide if you can live with one less bedroom or other features on your list.
  • Consult with a lender or a financial planner to discuss your options for increasing your budget. While no one should overspend on a home, you should recognize that going $10,000 above your price range when you’re financing your purchase with a 30-year fixed-rate loan will actually add only about $30 to your monthly payment.
  • Lower your expectations about the condition of the home. While everyone prefers a move-in ready home, you can often get a better deal on a home that needs some cosmetic repairs. Be careful, though, to have a home inspection and to evaluate the structure of the home to see that it meets your needs. Moving walls and adding a bathroom are costly renovations, while painting and replacing appliances are more reasonable.

If you have your heart set on a specific home style or a home with a larger yard for your children or to garden, your compromise is more likely to be in the location. If you’re willing to commute farther or perhaps choose a home in a community next to the “hot” neighborhood, you can often find a more affordable home that fulfills your wish list.

An experienced Realtor can help you determine when and how to compromise and should take the time to show you a variety of alternatives so you can make an informed decision about when to make an offer.

By Michele Lerner of Realtor.com. To view the original article, click here.

Home Buying Season Isn’t Over

The U.S. housing market is in a completely different position than this time last year, with solid price increases, steady inventory and strong demand continuing well into the fall season, according to realtor.com’s National Housing Trend Report for October 2013.
Home Buying Season Isn't OverMedian U.S. home prices in October were relatively unaffected by the usual seasonal patterns, with a 7.57 percent increase year over year. National inventory is stabilizing after the dramatic declines seen earlier this year, although the nation still is experiencing significant supply shortages. Most notably, median age of inventory – a leading indicator of demand – is down 11.32 percent from last year, demonstrating resilience to seasonal changes and stabilized inventory.

“Instead of the usual seasonal slowdown, October data show the 2013 fall market moving at a fast pace,” said Errol Samuelson, president of realtor.com. “Inventory has returned to last year’s levels, but prices continue to strengthen and homes are moving significantly faster compared to this time last year.”

“This demonstrates that the overall strength of the national housing market is determined partly by inventory availability,” said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.  “We expect rising home price conditions to continue through the balance of the year.”

Key Market Indicators for October 2013

October 2013 Year-over-Year Percentage Change Month-over-Month Percentage Change
Number of Listings 1,905,064 -1.51 percent -0.71 percent
Median Age of Inventory 94 days -11.32 percent 1.08 percent
Median List Price $199,000 7.57 percent -0.25 percent

National Perspective:

  • After six months of steady improvement, housing supplies are now just 1.51 percent lower than they were one year ago, which signals a greater balance between demand and supply.
  • Median age of inventory is down 11.32 percent from last year, and rose slightly from 93 days last month to 94 days in October. This suggests that properties continue to turn over quickly in contrast to the usual seasonal patterns, and despite increasing prices and stablizing inventory.
    • Median list prices are 7.57 percent higher than where they were one year ago. Monthly prices fell slightly in October, but remained resilient against the usual seasonal patterns and stabilizing inventory.

Market Highlights:

  • The report’s October figures identified several markets with rapid turnover, some at roughly half of the national median “days on market” figure of 94 days. Oakland remains the national leader at just 30 days. Only Washington, DC has shortened its age of inventory from September; the rest have increased time on market, while Phoenix remained flat.

Metropolitan Areas with the Shortest Median Days on Market

October 2013

Oakland, CA

30

San Francisco, CA

48

San Jose, CA

48

Denver, CO

48

Stockton-Lodi, CA

48

Washington, DC-MD-VA-WV(DC)

49

Phoenix-Mesa, AZ

50

Detroit, MI

52

Sacramento, CA

54

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA

55

The report also highlighted two other sectors of individual market health.

  • Widespread Price Increases  ­– Detroit continues to lead the country in year-over-year list price increases, followed by markets in California and Nevada.  Eighty-five percent of the 146 markets covered by realtor.com reported year-over year increases in list price, with just 19 markets showing price declines in October.
  • Market Inventories Shift – Decreases are steady and increases are on the rise. The number of markets where inventories were down by 5 percent or more on a year-over-year basis continued its steady decline, dropping from 102 markets in June to 65 markets in October. At the same time, inventory grew in more than twice the number of markets in October (49) compared to June (22), and the number of markets with inventories that are up by at least 5 percent over the year rose from 15 markets in June to 30 markets in October.

This article was originally published on realtor.com. See the original article here

Be Prepared for Mortgage Rules Changes in 2014

The world of mortgage lending has changed significantly since the housing bubble burst. Mortgage lenders have returned to traditional loan standards that require extensive documentation of income and assets for a loan approval.

Government regulatory agencies also continue to react to the housing crisis, with more adjustments to mortgage requirements set to go into effect in 2014:

Qualified Mortgage Rules

Whether you’re thinking of buying a home or mulling over refinancing your mortgage, Jan. 10, 2014, could be an important date for you to remember. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is in the process of implementing regulations to meet goals set forth by the Dodd-Frank Act in Congress, which was meant to correct the errors that led to the housing crisis. The CFPB’s “Qualified Mortgage,” or QM, rules go into effect in January. Essentially, these rules require lenders to prove borrowers’ ability to repay a loan by meeting several guidelines, including a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 43 percent. While many lenders already limit borrowers to a similar maximum debt-to-income ratio, the new rules won’t allow for any compensating circumstances such as significant cash reserves or a large down payment to be considered in order to offset a higher debt ratio.

If you have credit problems or a high debt-to-income ratio, you may want to push through your loan application for a refinance or home purchase to make sure you close your loan before the new rules go into effect. However, many lenders are already using QM standards in order to make sure they’re in compliance with the regulation. Mortgages that don’t meet QM standards will have to be held by the lender rather than sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so most lenders are careful to meet the new standards.

The 3 Percent Rule

The new QM requirements also limit fees for originating a loan to no more than 3 percent of the loan amount. If you’re financing a more costly home, such as a $400,000 home or more, the lender can easily keep fees under 3 percent, which in this case would be $12,000. However, if you’re refinancing a smaller loan balance or purchasing a less expensive home — for example, for $80,000 — the lender might find it more difficult to keep all fees under $2,400. Mortgage lenders are less likely to offer loans for smaller amounts since they won’t always recoup their costs and make enough profit to pay their staff. If you need a small loan, you may want to push to get it closed before Jan. 10, 2014.

Self-Employed Borrowers

One particular group of borrowers will most likely be impacted by the QM rules: self-employed borrowers. These borrowers already are heavily scrutinized and find it more difficult to obtain a mortgage because they must prove their income based on tax returns and profit-and-loss statements, rather than standard paystubs and W2 forms. The “ability-to-repay” feature of QM rules requires all borrowers to prove they have the cash flow to make payments on their mortgage. Self-employed borrowers often have fluctuating income and rely on cash reserves to pay bills in-between payments, but the emphasis on cash flow can make it harder for lenders to approve a loan even for someone with significant funds in the bank.

Potential Lower Loan Limits

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced in October that plans to reduce the maximum loan limits for conventional conforming loans will be delayed until later in 2014. Typically, loan limits are adjusted on Jan. 1 of each year, but the agency decided to wait to see the impact of the introduction of QM rules before making changes. Currently, the limits are $417,000 in most housing markets and rise to $625,500 in high cost areas. If you need a mortgage near these limits, it would be wise to close your loan earlier in 2014 rather than later in case limits are lowered.

Realtor can recommend a reliable lender who can help you navigate the new mortgage world in 2014.

By Michele Lerner of Realtor.com. To see the original article, click here

 

Spa-Like Bath Remodel Ideas

Treat yourself to spa treatment—everyday!

The rough day has been piling stress and burden on you the moment you stepped out your front door, threatening to snap your spirit and your will.

Your moment of solace arrives when you step into the spa. Soothingly warm water washes away the day’s troubles while the invigorating steam you take in with every deep breath invigorates you from within.

In that moment of relaxation, you know that there is very little that can compare to the luxurious comforts of a spa. Unless that spa is within the walls of your own home.

Draw inspiration from these spa-like baths and re-imagine your own bath and shower come the next time you remodel.

A bath in Louisiana by Lang Architecture.

A bath in Louisiana by Lang Architecture

 

A bath in San Francisco by Cary Bernstein Architect has a spa-like feel thanks to the wood shower tray.

A bath in San Francisco by Cary Bernstein Architect has a spa-like feel thanks to the wood

 

A bath in San Francisco by Malcolm Davis Architects opens directly onto the deck area. Photo by Joe Fletcher.

A bath in San Francisco by Malcolm Davis Architects opens directly onto the deck area. Photo by Joe Fletcher.

 

A bath in Croatia by Steven Harris Architects.

A bath in Croatia by Steven Harris Architects.

 

A bath in Los Angeles by Michaela Scherrer Interior Design.

A bath in Los Angeles by Michaela Scherrer Interior Design.

 

A concrete bath niche by Michaela Scherrer Interior Design.

A concrete bath niche by Michaela Scherrer Interior Design.

 

A seed pod as soap holder by Michaela Scherrer Interior Design.

A seed pod as soap holder by Michaela Scherrer Interior Design.

This post was originally published on realtor.com. See it here

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.