Four Ways To Keep Your Lawn Healthy This Summer

With summer already upon us, homeowners across the country must now face the problem of maintaining a healthy lawn during the hottest and driest part of the year. Here are four tips to help you keep your grass happy and healthy this summer.

1. Water deeply and infrequently.

During the dry summer months, grass struggles to stay moisturized and develop long, healthy roots. If you lightly water your grass at frequent intervals, the grass will only be able to develop shallow roots, which results in added stress during periods of drought. Instead, water your grass more deeply at less frequent intervals. This encourages grass to grow deep roots, which better protect it from dry spells.

2. Keep your grass long.

As discussed in the last point, you want your grass to grow long and healthy roots during the hot summer months. By mowing high and keeping your grass long, you increase its ability to grow long roots and thrive during periods of drought.  Bonus: You don’t have to cut it as often!

3. Fertilize, fertilize, fertilize.

All too often, homeowners will fertilize their lawns and wait many months before repeating the process. Fertilizers typically nurture lawn growth for eight weeks at most, which means that you should fertilize your lawn every two months at least. Well-fertilized lawns grow in thick, which has a cooling effect on the soil and prevents weeds from taking over.

4. Consider reseeding.

Because many older lawns aren’t equipped to handle the summer heat, reseeding might be the best option. Although the reseeding process does require a fair bit of time, effort, and money, it can have a tremendous effect on your outdoor space. Furthermore, a properly seeded lawn can last for many years as long as you take good care of it.

Common Real Estate Scams And How To Avoid Them

During the housing bubble scams commonly manifested among fraudulent brokers issuing predatory loans or, as home flipping reached a feverish pitch, real estate gurus charging tens of thousands for get-rich-quick courses. When the bubble burst, many of those same swindlers set their sights on cash-strapped folks facing foreclosure.

But as housing recovers and technology evolves, real estate scams have not subsided. Rather, despite government initiatives on both the federal and state level, they’ve blossomed into more elaborate and sophisticated ploys.

Rental Scams

The scam: Most renters search for homes and apartments online.  Scammers take advantage of internet listing data of actual homes for rent or sale and repost them as their own on popular sites like Craigslist. The scammer may ask for a security deposit or broker fee upfront.  The most common scam is to ask for a fee for a phony credit check.  This scammer will collect this fee from sometimes hundreds of people and then simply disappear.  If prospective renters do hear anything at all back from the “agent” again, it will be to issue a denial of their “application”.

How to spot it: Be wary if you’re asked to wire any money upfront, especially if you’ve never met or signed a contract.  Some scammers have actually gained access to homes, advertising and showing them at alluringly low prices, so don’t let your guard down just because the “agent” has walked you around a home.  Finally (do we really have to say this?), if the person responding to your inquiry is out of the country, but asks you to wire any fees to someone, don’t walk, run!

Read more about rental scams on the FTC’s website.

Loan Modification Scams

The scam: Millions of homeowners have faced foreclosure in the last five years and millions more are still underwater on their mortgages.  The sheer desperation of these borrowers have led them to be prey for those running loan modification scams. A number of scams fall into this category: fake foreclosure counseling, forensic loan auditing, non-existent class action lawsuits, leaseback programs and fraudulent “government” modification programs.  Most of these scams begin with a simple phone call to a distressed homeowner, promising a lifeline in the form of a foreclosure related service.  In almost all cases you will be asked for fees to get the process started. In the fake leaseback deal, you surrender the title or deed to your home.

How to spot it: Again, be wary of telephone callers asking for fees upfront. Scammers have gotten better over the years and know that it may take 3-4 telephone meetings before you feel comfortable paying a fee. Foreclosure counseling is provided for free from agencies approved by Housing and Urban Development, a government agency.  Before accepting any loan modification, contact a reputable lender to investigate your options and compare the offers. Most large lenders, like AmeriSave, are approved to offer government housing programs like the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP).  AmeriSave, having been in business for over 10 years and continued to operate while the housing bubble burst, is a direct lender that has refinanced hundreds of thousands of homes.

Check current mortgage rates here.

Read more at Loan Modification Scam Alert.

Workshop Scams

The scam: Get-rich-quick schemes have been around since houses were built out of mud and stone. With historically low mortgage rates more people have renewed their interest in investing in real estate.  Many self-proclaimed real estate investing experts hold educational seminars promising to divulge the secret of making millions through real estate investing with a course that costs little to no money.  You leave the course, having spent more cash on an advanced course that offered nothing but mystery and vague tips.  Your options for recourse are few, as when you enrolled in the course, you signed a release that prevents you from taking legal action.

How to spot it: Not every workshop or real estate expert is a con-artist. Avoid being scammed by doing your homework. Ask your investment advisor, read up online and check out the company’s Better Business Bureau rating.

Real Estate News: No Housing Bubble In Sight

The following article appeared in Mortgage Professional America on July 17th, 2013.

Some are saying that the sharp rise in mortgage interest rates in June, driven by bond market responses to the Fed, is leading to a bubbling housing market. But CoreLogic shares a more optimistic housing recovery outlook in its July MarketPulse Report.

CoreLogic Chief Economist Mark Fleming, Ph.D., and Deputy Chief Economist Sam Khater say the market is not experiencing a housing bubble. Instead, the recent rise in mortgage rates is helping to slow the pace of current appreciation, preventing another bubble.

“Rates would have to rise appreciably higher to cause a housing market downturn,” the economists wrote in the report.

Instead, housing affordability is near its height due to historically low interest rates and home prices.

Home prices were less affordable as pricing boomed in the middle of the decade. In fact, the affordability index reached a low point in June 2006 when prices reached their apex, meaning the national median-income family could no longer afford the national median-priced home. Despite recent increases in prices, all but two states are affordable today, and most states are near their recent affordability high points, according to the report.

“While the rational or irrational nature of buyers’ expectations is not clear in housing today, CoreLogic believes there is still a long way to go before housing again becomes unaffordable,” the economists said in the report. “Even with the most recent prices gains and interest rate hikes, CoreLogic still observes high levels of affordability by historic standards.”

Four Ways To Reduce Home Electricity Costs During Summer Months

During the summer months, many people experience a sudden and unwanted uptick in their monthly energy bills. The change almost always occurs due to increased use of the air conditioning system, which uses a considerable amount of energy. Here are three tips to help homeowners keep their homes cool without breaking the bank.

1. Close all doors and windows when the air conditioner is running: Although it might seem obvious, all too many people forget to close up their house before they start using their air conditioning systems. Because even the slightest leak can have a significant impact on the energy efficiency of air conditioning, it is absolutely important to make sure all doors and windows are shut completely. You can close the vents in rooms that you don’t use regularly, like guest bedrooms, to cool other rooms more quickly.

2. Outfit your windows with heavy drapes: To keep the heat from the sun out of your house, consider hanging heavy drapes over your windows, especially the ones that face the sun for large portions of the day. Heavy drapes block out the sunlight and prevent it from heating up your house during daytime hours. As a result, your home will stay cooler and you will direct less electricity toward the use of your air conditioning system.

3. Turn off your lights: During daylight hours, turn off all artificial lights in your house and, if possible, illuminate your house with natural light. By doing this, you will decrease electricity usage for lighting purposes and mitigate some of the heat produced by light bulbs. However, you should exercise caution when opening up windows on sun-facing sides of the house; the direct sun exposure can heat up your home and require additional use of the air conditioning system.

4. Install a programmable thermostat: Cooling costs account for roughly 50% of a home’s monthly electricity usage.  Programmable thermostats will help control your energy usage by only cooling the house when you’re home.  This thermostat from Nest makes using a programmable thermostat easy by taking the programming out of it!  Nest learns your schedule and the temperatures you like and does the rest.  It even has sensors that know when you’re home or not.  An added bonus: you can control it from your phone or computer while you’re away!

Three Ways To Improve Your Credit Score

All too often, low credit scores keep individuals from obtaining loans, credit cards, and other forms of financing. Over a long enough period of time, there are ways for individuals of all incomes and debt levels to repair their credit and get back on their feet.

1. Obtaining a credit card is perhaps the simplest way to develop a good credit score, as it establishes reliability and creditworthiness in the eyes of the credit bureaus. Although you do not need to carry a balance in order to have a good score, using a credit card or two and paying off the balances on time can help you gradually boost your credit score. For individuals who do not qualify for a credit card, many banks offer secured credit cards, which contain a balance equal to the deposit made.

2. Another relatively simple way to improve your credit score is to pay off existing credit card balance. For a large number of people, credit card debt represents the primary factor in a low credit score. To repair a damaged credit score, you should start by repaying all credit cards and other revolving accounts. In general, credit bureaus grant higher scores when they see a large difference between available credit limits and the amount of credit actually used.

Tips:

  • If you have more than one card, paying off the one with the lower balance first will allow you to put that money towards the payment on the higher balance card.
  • Check your interest rates and focus your attention on the card with the highest interest rate.
  • Call the card issuer and negotiate a lower rate based on the length of time you’ve been a customer and your solid payment history.

3. Whether or not you pay your credit card bills in full every month, charging a large percentage of your card’s credit limit represents a red flag for credit bureaus. As such, you can increase your credit score by limiting purchases to 30 percent of a card’s maximum limit. Many credit card companies offer text or email alerts at user-specified amounts, which can help you keep track of your monthly spending.

Five Tips For First Time Home Buyers

For many first time home buyers, the prospect of finding and purchasing a home can be a bit overwhelming. Here are five tips to help you get started on the path to home ownership.

1. Determine what type of home matches your needs.

Residential properties come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from condominiums and townhouses to traditional single-family houses and multi-family buildings. As such, you should carefully consider all options before beginning the search.  Research the additional costs associated with various housing types.  A condo or townhome may have an attractive purchase price, but be sure you take into consideration monthly HOA dues.  If you’ve found the perfect house with a price you’re comfortable with, be sure you’re comfortable with costs and time associated with maintenance of a home, including lawn care, utility costs and property taxes/insurance.

2. Identify the features you want your home to have.

While no home will contain everything you want, you should also remember that you are likely making one of the biggest purchases of your life. By creating a list of features such as neighborhood, size, and amenities, you can rank prospective homes based on how closely they match your ideal house.  In today’s real estate market, it may not be wise to assume you’ll only be in the house for 3-5 years before selling and moving up.  By anticipating your needs down the road or not settling for something that isn’t what you truly want, you’ll find it easier to stay in the home longer than you originally planned if you are unable to sell it or unable to find another home.

3. Use all available resources.

Because the real estate market typically covers a wide geographical area, it is important to take advantage of all opportunities to find prospective homes. In addition to using a qualified real estate agent, you should consider seeking out listings online and looking for for-sale signs in your neighborhoods of interest. Many home buyers also choose to ask friends, family, and business associates about potential listings, which can result in a key reference.  In markets where the inventory is low, it’s not uncommon for shoppers to leave letters in the mailboxes of homes of desirable areas with attractive purchase offers for the owner.

4. Secure financing

Perhaps the most daunting aspect of the home buying process, financing is also one of the most important. Many first time home buyers qualify for federally backed loans and loans with a lower down payment minimum. Before you sign a loan agreement, you should perform careful research of all options and possibly seek out the opinion of a mortgage professional.  Online lenders, like AmeriSave, offer extremely competitive rates and use secure document upload technology that younger generations are very comfortable with.  AmeriSave makes the approval process simple and easy, saving you a considerable amount of money.  Check today’s mortgage rates.

5. Make an offer.

After you identify a home that you wish to purchase, you must submit an offer to the seller. In most cases, you tell your real estate agent how much you are willing to pay for the house and indicate any special conditions you want to ask for.  They will submit the offer to the seller’s agent, who will present it to the owner.  The owner has a few options: The best scenario is they accept your offer and you work with your lender to schedule the closing.  The owner may also decline your offer or counter-offer, where they modify your conditions or ask for more money.  These negotiations usually happen fairly quickly, with a 24 hour window to respond.

Why Is Spring The Best Time To Sell A Home?

In real estate, as in many other things in life, timing is everything. For many homeowners and prospective home-buyers, the decision of when to buy or sell a home can have a tremendous impact on the price, ease of sale, and competition. Many professionals in the real estate sector point to spring as the start of the busy season, which means that more houses will become available for purchase and more buyers will start looking at available properties.

The spring season brings with it an increase in real estate activity for a number of reasons. As the expensive holiday season becomes a distant memory, you might find yourself with more money in your pocket and start to become excited about a new project. Spring also means more sunlight and warmer weather, which to many people is a major motivator to finally get started on the home buying or selling process. Buying a home in the spring also lets you look forward to a summer moving project: a far better prospect than moving in the dead of winter.

So why should you consider selling your home in the spring? For starters, the boost in foot traffic at open houses increases the likelihood of multiple offers, which gives you the leverage necessary to negotiate a higher sale price. The spring weather also spurs the growth of plants and flowers, which can significantly improve the aesthetics of your home and ultimately allow you to ask for a higher price. Because spring marks the beginning of the “real estate season,” home-buyers will be nervous about missing out on a home that catches their eye, which can entice them to agree to a higher price.

That being said, this spring we’re experiencing the most active home-buying season since 2006.  If you’re shopping for a new home, don’t miss out.  Shop the most competitive rates and lock yours today. Click here for today’s rates.

How To Prepare Your Home For An Appraisal

In today’s housing market, a well-executed appraisal can add thousands of dollars of value to your home. It is important to prepare your home long before an appraiser ever arrives on the scene. Here is a quick list of tip to maximize the appraisal value of your home.

1. Clean the interior of your house: While this simple piece of advice may seem obvious, cleaning your house for even just a couple of hours can significantly affect the appraisal value. A deep clean of every piece of furniture in your house isn’t necessary, but you should at least clean it to the same level you would for a nice dinner party.

2. Maximize curb appeal: Because the exterior of a house is the first thing an appraiser will see when he or she arrives, it is important to generate as much curb appeal as possible. For most homeowners, this means mowing and edging the lawn, clearing all weeds from the garden, and trimming vines and hedges in prominent locations.

3. Invest in new appliances: In an otherwise spotless kitchen or living room, an old and worn-out refrigerator or television can make the entire room look old. By replacing outdated appliances with newer ones, you can increase the appraisal value of your home by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

4. Consider repainting: In many homes, repainting the walls can freshen up the atmosphere and make the interior look much newer, which can significantly increase the appraisal value. Choosing a neutral color can also add value to your home.

5. Rearrange furniture to highlight space: A room with too much furniture can seem cluttered, no matter how big it is. As such, you should minimize the amount of furniture in your home to emphasize the openness of each room.

Click here to check today’s mortgage rates.

FHA Rule Changes Coming June 3rd Make Now The Time To Refinance

Thinking about refinancing your existing mortgage, or taking out a new one? Don’t delay, or it could cost you. Some Federal Housing Administration (FHA) changes involving tighter lending standards and higher mortgage insurance premiums already took effect on April 1st, while others are on the way – and these changes could make a dent in your wallet.

So what’s prompting these changes? They come in the wake of the FHA’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund – which is used to fund homeowner programs – announcing a deficit of over $16.3 billion for fiscal year 2013.

You Might Have to Pay Mortgage Insurance for the Life of the Loan

After the FHA changes come into effect on June 3rd, most homebuyers with a case number after this date will have to pay mortgage insurance for the life of the loan – unless they put a down payment of more than 10 percent, according to Mortgagee Letter 2013-04 issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on January 31, 2013. Read the letter here.

This means you’ll have to either put down more money upfront, or you’ll face paying mortgage insurance over the life of your loan.

Check today’s interest rates.

According to the rule changes, if you have an FHA case number dated after June 3rd, then you must pay mortgage insurance for either 11 years, or the life of the loan, depending on how much you finance. If you put down 10 percent or more, then the annual mortgage premium can only be eliminated after 11 years.  If, however, you get a case number for a mortgage or refinance before June 3rd, you can stop paying mortgage insurance once you reach 22 percent equity in your home – and the savings can be significant.

There Will Be Minimum Equity Increase for Jumbo Mortgages (over $625,500)

Do you have at least 5 percent equity in your home, or for a down payment?

If you are considering refinancing or getting a mortgage over $625,500, the required down payment (or equity in the home if it’s a refinance) will rise from 3.5 percent to 5 percent of the home value, according to a FHA Federal Register Notice dated February 6, 2013. This means that your mortgage amount cannot exceed 95 percent of the home value.

Ready to shop rates? Click to see mortgage rates now.

Mortgage Interest Rates are Increasing – Regardless of the Loan You Have

If the upcoming FHA changes don’t seem like much to be concerned about, consider this: According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), mortgage interest rates are predicted to reach a whopping 4.3 percent by the fourth quarter of 2013.* And that could be a reason in itself to refinance now – regardless of if you’ll be affected by the FHA changes. Let’s take a look at how much of an impact this can have on your wallet. Below is a comparison of a $400,000, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with an interest rate of 3.76 percent (the March 29, 2013 average according to the MBA), and the predicted 4.3 percent:

3.76 percent 4.3 percent
Monthly Payment: $1,854.73 $1,979.49
Total Interest   Paid: $267,703.83 $312,614.88

With just an increase of a little over half a percent in interest rates, the monthly payment is $124.76 higher, with almost $45,000 extra paid over the life of the loan in interest. Now that sounds like a good reason to refinance.

Start your application now!

This article appeared on Yahoo! Homes on 5/2/13

https://homes.yahoo.com/news/get-a-fha-loan-before-june-3rd-181635371.html

Five Ways To Cut Costs At Home

In tight economic times, many families have begun looking to their household budgets for ways to save money every month. Here are five tips to help families cut down on their monthly expenses and start growing their savings.

1. Bundled services: As a result of increased competition in the telecommunications sector, many cable and satellite television providers have begun to bundle their services into cost-effective packages. Some families will be able to bundle without switching providers, while others may have to consider switching in order to get the best price.

2. Restructure cell phone plan: All too often, families will renew their plans without carefully considering their actual usage. By looking at the average number of minutes, text messages, and data used, families can cut back on their plans and save money on their monthly bills.

3. Consolidate insurance: Much like cable and satellite television and Internet providers, many insurance companies offer discounts for using multiple types of insurance under one account. Families can also lower their monthly rates by increasing their deductibles. However, one should generally conduct thorough research before doing so.

4. Review financial fees: Many individuals and families remain with the same bank or financial services provider out of familiarity. However, many financial institutions impose hard-to-catch monthly fees such as certified checks, ATM fees, and annual service fees. A considerable number of people have also switched to Internet banks, which offer highly competitive interest rates and minimal fees.

5. Conserve electricity: One of the most popular pieces of advice for saving money, conserving electricity can free up hundreds of dollars every month for families. Heating and air conditioning often represent the majority of electricity costs, especially during the summer and winter months. However, little things like turning off your lights and appliances can also save money.