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Home Improvement Etiquette [Infographic]

(Published on - 10/14/2015 8:35:47 PM)

(Photo Credit: David Sawyer/Flickr)

Making improvements on your home can be much more confusing and involved than you may think, but it doesn't have to be. Thanks to TheBathOutlet.com, you can use the handy infographic below to be in the know about standard home improvement etiquette the next time you hire a general contractor, painter, electrician, plumber, or interior designer to work on your home.


Source: TheBathOutlet

Looking for easy and affordable ideas on how to make your house feel like a home, then try these seven DIY projects this weekend, or consider adding a bit of curb appeal with these seven ideas that won't break the bank.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and feel free to share this post with your followers. Sharing is caring.  

 


5 Ways to Come Up With a Down Payment When You Have Little to No Money in the Bank

(Published on - 8/20/2015 9:25:58 PM)

Being a first-time buyer is just as scary as it is exciting, and my job is to ensure that you get into the home of your dreams in a timely and seamless manner. Owning a home is one of the greatest accomplishments in a person's life, and I love being a part of making that dream a reality. If you would like to be a homeowner but think it's too far out of reach, then give me a call at 714) 801-0175, because part of my job is coaching and preparing my clients to become buyer-ready, and I haven't been unsuccessful yet. Click here to read about assistance programs available to first-time homebuyers.

All it takes is a five-minute call to discuss your real estate options, and you never know, those five minutes could get you one step closer to getting the keys to your dream home in your hand before you know it. Give me a call today: 714) 801-0175, or contact me via email at LindseyActon@att.NET.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook to keep up with the latest housing tips, tricks, news, and inspiration.


Affordable Custom Interior Design Services, Thanks to This Brilliant Company

(Published on - 8/7/2015 9:48:21 PM)

You finally got the keys to your dream home and you're ready to move in… but how are you going to fill up all that extra space? The hodge-podge of furniture and belongings that you've accumulated over the years don't necessarily go with the new contemporary, clean look you want, and hiring an interior designer seems far-fetched based on your budget.

Fortunately, your dreams of having a professional interior designer decorate your space are within reach, thanks to one company that takes the interior design process virtual and makes it ridiculously affordable based on your budget and criteria. Read on to learn more about this fabulous interior design firm and how you can beautify your home without breaking the bank.

Laurel & Wolf is the brilliant online interior design company that provides an "affordable, accessible, and fun way to design your space," all at your fingertips. The best part is, you don't even have to leave the comfort of your own home to make your decorating dreams come true, because it's all conducted online. No more spending hours, days, and weeks trying to figure out how to turn a Pinterest dream board into reality on your own. Laurel & Wolf's professional interior designers do all the work for you -- all you need to do is tell them where, when, and how much. Simple as that.

Arielle Pardes wrote about her experience using Laurel & Wolf to decorate her new art-deco home in West Hollywood in her article for Refinery29 called, "I Hired An Interior Designer Without Going Broke (& I'm Only 23)." Pardes upgraded from a small apartment and she wanted to upgrade the décor to suit the bigger, more lavish space in her new home. That's when she came across Laurel & Wolf and discovered that her dreams of hiring a professional interior designer was very much within reach. Pardes described the initial process of selecting a designer much like online dating, "We created a profile with pictures of our living room, a description of what we were looking for, and a few deal-breakers." Then, designers submitted their designs so Pardes could select the right designer -- or "suitor" -- for the job.

So, how does the process work? It's quite simple and, actually, pretty fun.

Step 1: Go to www.laurelandwolf.com

Step 2: Click the "START WITH A FREE STYLE QUIZ" button

Step 3: Select between the "I want to design…" "My Home" or "My Office" options

Step 4: Select the room(s) you wish to decorate, then click "Next"

Step 5: Select "Love It" or "Leave It" for the different décor options provided

Step 6: Fill in the requested information and click "SIGN UP & VIEW STYLE" to gain access to your interior design style and see the interior designer selected for your project.

Investing in a good interior designer can make all the difference in shaping your opinion about your home or a particular space in your house. Thanks to Laurel & Wolf, you don't have to break the bank or leave the comfort of your own home to obtain top-notch interior design services to beautify your space.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and share this post with your followers (share buttons at the top of this post).If you are interested in buying or selling a home, contact me today to discuss your options, or take a look at the rest of my real estate blog for valuable tips, tricks, news, and inspiration for your real estate dreams.


Everything First-Time Buyers Need to Know About Becoming Homebuyers

(Published on - 8/4/2015 4:40:11 AM)
(Photo Credit: Nan Palmero/Flickr)

 

There's a lot more that goes into buying your first home than you may think, but fret not. I've compiled a comprehensive list of everything you need to know as a first-time buyer that will help prepare you for your home-buying experience. Below you will find a list that covers what you need to know about your finances, the types of loan + programs available to you, how to determine what you can afford, and more. Get your pen + paper out, folks, it's time to make this home-buying dream a reality!

 

1. WHAT IS YOUR FINANCIAL STANDING?

 
Credit Score

Rule of thumb: The higher your credit score, the lower the monthly payments. This is where being financially responsible truly pays off in life. You're going to want to aim for a credit score above 660, because additional fees are tacked on for individuals who don’t have good to excellent credit. The sweet spot for a credit score is 750 and above -- that's where you're going to get the best rates.

Tip: Before applying for a loan, you'll want to pay down as much debt as possible, and be sure to not take out any new loans or lines of credit (yes, this includes new credit cards) for at least 8 to 12 months prior.        

FRONT-END RATIO

MortgageCalculator.com explains, "The front-end ratio is the portion of gross (pretax) monthly salary which is consumed by your monthly mortgage payment. This should not exceed 28% of your gross monthly income for a conventional mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and 29% for FHA & USDA loans." Formula: Maximum Front-End Ratio = Annual Salary * 0.28 / 12 months*

Back-End Ratio

Your back-end ratio is also known as your debt-to-income ratio. According to MortgageCalculator.com, "This includes all other forms of debt obligations (such as auto loans, credit cards, student loans, personal loans, and child support) along with the mortgage payment. This should not exceed 36% of your gross monthly income for a conventional loan or 41% for FHA, USDA & VA home loans. Formula: Maximum Back-End Ratio = Annual Salary * 0.36 / 12 months*

*Formulas also provided by MortgageCalculator.com

 

 

2. WHAT TYPE OF LOAN/PROGRAMS DO YOU QUALIFY FOR?

 

The good news for buyers in today's market is that 30-year mortgage rates are at an all-time low, between 3 - 4% nationwide, which means home-buying is much more attainable, especially for first-time buyers, due to lower monthly payments. There are also several assistance programs that help homeownership a possibility for many first-time buyers who need a little help getting into the home of their dreams. Below is a run-down of available loans and programs for first-time buyers.

 

CONVENTIONAL LOANS

 

CalPLUS Conventional Loan Program*: The CalPLUS Conventional program is a first mortgage loan insured through private mortgage insurance on the conventional market. This loan is fully amortized for a 30-year term and is combined with the CalHFA Zero Interest Program (ZIP) for down payment assistance and/or closing costs. First-time homebuyers can receive more down payment assistance through ZIP Extra.

CalHFA Conventional Loan Program*: The CalHFA Conventional program is a first mortgage loan insured through private mortgage insurance on the conventional market. The interest rate on the CalHFA Conventional is fixed throughout the 30-year term.

Conventional 97: This Fannie Mae-backed loan requires only a 3% down payment, has extremely competitive mortgage insurance rates, and allows for "a 100% gift from blood or by-marriage relatives," according to The Mortgage Reports.

 

GOVERNMENT-BACKED LOANS

 

CalPLUS FHA Loan Program*: The CalPLUS FHA program is an FHA-insured loan featuring a CalHFA fixed interest rate first mortgage.  This loan is fully amortized for a 30-year term and is combined with the CalHFA Zero Interest Program (ZIP) for down payment assistance and/or closing costs.

CalHFA FHA Loan Program*: The CalHFA FHA program is an FHA-insured loan featuring a CalHFA fixed interest rate first mortgage.  This loan is fully amortized for a 30-year term.

Cal-EEM + Grant Program*: The Cal-EEM + Grant program combines an FHA-insured Energy Efficient Mortgage first mortgage loan with an additional Cal-EEM Grant, making energy efficient improvements even easier. The interest rate on the Cal-EEM is fixed throughout the 30-year term.    

 

ASSITANCE PROGRAMS

 

California Homebuyer's Downpayment Assistance Program (CHDAP)*: Offers a deferred-payment subordinate loan in the amount of (3%) of the purchase price or appraised value, which ever is less to be used for down payment and/or closing costs.

Extra Credit Teacher Home Purchase Program (ECTP)*: Program intended for eligible teachers, administrators, classified employees and staff members working in high priority schools in California. Offers a deferred-payment junior loan of an amount not to exceed the greater of $7,500 or 3% of the sales price or in CalHFA-defined high cost areas an amount not to exceed the greater of $15,000 or 3% of the sales price. Assistance can be used for down payment.

Mortgage Credit Certificate Tax Credit Program (MCC)*: A federal credit which can reduce potential federal income tax liability, creating additional net spendable income which borrowers may use toward their monthly mortgage payment.  This MCC Tax Credit program may enable first-time homebuyers to convert a portion of their annual mortgage interest into a direct dollar for dollar tax credit on their U.S. individual income tax returns.

Individual Development Accounts*: IDA's are special savings accounts designed to assist low income borrowers on their path toward ownership of a long-term asset, such as a home, through matched contributions by nonprofit organizations and eligible banks. These organizations may offer up to a 3:1 savings match (i.e., if you save $1,000, you will receive an additional $3,000). To find an organization that offers an IDA program please follow the link above.

*Extracted verbatim from the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) website.

 

VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA) LOANS

(for Servicemembers, Veterans, and eligible surviving spouses)

Purchase Loans: These types of VA loans help qualified Veterans purchase homes with extremely low interest rates, zero down payment, low to no closing costs, and no private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Native American Direct Loan (NADL) Program: "Native American Veterans gain assistance to finance the purchase, construction, or improvement of homes on Federal Trust Land, or reduce the interest rate on a VA loan," according to the VA website.

Adapted Housing Grants: There are two grant programs under the Adapted Housing Grants program: 1) The Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant' and 2) The Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant. These grants help Veterans "with a permanent and total service-connected disability purchase or build an adapted home or to modify an existing home to account for their disability."

 

USDA MORTGAGE PROGRAMS

 

Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program: "This program assists approved lenders in providing low- and moderate-income households the opportunity to own adequate, modest, decent, safe and sanitary dwellings as their primary residence in eligible rural areas," according to the USDA website. Program offerings include no down payment, low to no closing costs, lower minimum credit score requirement, can be used with other down payment assistance programs, and no private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Section 502 Direct Loan Program: "This program assists low- and very-low-income applicants obtain decent, safe and sanitary housing in eligible rural areas by providing payment assistance to increase an applicant’s repayment ability. Payment assistance is a type of subsidy that reduces the mortgage payment for a short time. The amount of assistance is determined by the adjusted family income," according to the USDA website.

 

3. WHAT CAN YOU REALLY AFFORD?

 

It's important to be realistic about what you can and can't afford when it comes to buying a house. You'll want to look at big- and small-picture dollars when running the numbers, so be sure to consider total property value, monthly payment, and down payment figures. The best way to get a ballpark figure of how much you can afford is by using an online calculator tool, like Bankrate's "How Much Can I Afford" calculator. You may be surprised at how much you can or can't afford after running the number. Be realistic and honest with yourself about your price-point, because you don’t want to buy a house that you can't afford and end up losing it down the road.

There are also other costs that are involved in buying a home that many first-time buyers neglect to factor in when shopping around, such as taxes, fees, closing costs, and insurance, to name a few. For a comprehensive list of "hidden" costs involved in purchasing a home, see this article, here.

 

4. KNOW WHAT YOU DO + DON'T NEED

 

Before shopping for a home, it's important to make a list of things you do and don't need in a home. For instance, if you know you need a house with 4 bedrooms and at least 3 bathrooms to accommodate your family of four, then don't settle for a 2-bedroom house with one bathroom -- your family will be miserable. However, on the flip side, don't nix a nearly perfect home off the list simply because one of the closets is too small. Before embarking on your home-buying journey, be crystal clear about the difference between your needs and wants for your dream home. Your home-buying experience will be much more enjoyable when you are realistic and honest about what you and your family need in a home. Plus, your agent will thank you.  

 

5. GET A PROFESSIONAL ON YOUR SIDE

 

The difference between your home-buying experience being a nightmare and a dream come true is the real estate agent you choose to hire to represent your family. It's key to do your research and hire an agent that not only has ample experience, but who also has a proven track record of closing deals successfully and not walking away when the going gets tough… because it will get tough at certain points during the transaction.

Being a first-time buyer is just as scary as it is exciting, and my job is to ensure that you get into the home of your dreams in a timely and seamless manner. Owning a home is one of the greatest accomplishments in a person's life, and I love being a part of making that dream a reality. If you would like to be a homeowner but think it's too far out of reach, then give me a call because a big part of my job is coaching and preparing my clients to be able to become homeowners -- and I haven't been unsuccessful yet.

All it takes is a five-minute call to discuss your real estate options, and you never know, those five minutes could get you one step closer to getting the keys to your dream home in your hand before you know it. Give me a call today: 714) 801-0175, or contact me via email at LindseyActon@att.NET.


3 Tips to Help You Become a Wiser, Better Prepared Homebuyer

(Published on - 7/30/2015 5:57:02 PM)

Tips for Homebuyers

(Photo Credit: Andrew_Writer/Flickr)

Home buying can be a daunting task, if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Here are three valuable tips to help make your home-buying experience a success! 

1. Get to Know Your Credit Score

Did you know that you have dozens of different FICO scores and each is used for different qualification purposes? Just this year, the Fair Isaac Corporation (creators of the FICO score) announced that homebuyers will now be privy to versions of their credit scores that were previously “unavailable to them, including the ones most commonly used by mortgage lenders,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

You might be thinking, “Well, can’t I just use Equifax, Experian or TransUnion to see my FICO score?” Yes, you can, however, a lender is going to look at older scores that may paint a completely different picture than the other three credit-reporting sites. It’s best to compare apples to apples so that you are aware of any red flags or areas of improvement with your credit that may need to be taken care of before shopping for a mortgage. By being in the know, you’ll be able to better assess how much you qualify for, the best interest rates for your credit score, where you can and can’t shop, and etc. Check out myFICO.com for a more accurate picture of your credit score.

2. Hire a Competent, Knowledgeable Realtor

The last thing you want to do is to enter your home buying experience blindly, because, as with any industry, there are some bad seeds out there that can really do you in when it comes to loans – just look what happened with the unfortunate sub-prime mortgage crisis from 2007 to 2009. Therefore, it’s always best to have an expert professional to help you navigate through such a decisive and momentous occasion to ensure that you’re not being taken advantage of when buying a home.

Things to look for in a realtor include, but are not limited to: a) verify the individual has a valid real estate license, here (Tip: use “Last Name, First Name” format in the search field); b) review the agent’s rating and testimonials from past clients online via Zillow, Realtor.com, Redfin, or social media pages; c) check for additional certifications or designations, like SRES® (Seniors Real Estate Specialist); d) ensure that the agent is friendly, responsive, considerate, and patient with all of your home-buying needs from the initial call; and, last but not least, e) verify that the agent specializes in or is familiar with the areas in which you’re looking to buy.

3. Be Realistic About What You Can + Can’t Afford

Once you know what you’re qualified for and how much you can realistically afford, it’s time to go shopping! It’s important to not get discouraged if you don’t find the perfect home on your first outing, these things take time, patience, and diligence. It’s not uncommon for buyers to be become disheartened when they see what their money can’t buy, rather than focusing on what their money can buy. The Rolling Stones said it best, “You can’t always get what you want […] you get what you need.” Just because it’s not love at first sight the first time you view a home, doesn’t mean it can’t be the home of your dreams after some finishing touches of your own. A good agent will help you determine whether the property is a wise investment, and your heart will tell you whether you can make that house a home.

I hope these tips will help better prepare you for one of the most exciting and significant events in your life, which is finding a place to call home. My years of experience as an Orange County REALTOR® working with an array of clientele over the past decade has helped equipped me with the knowledge and resourced that enable me to successfully navigate my clients through even the most difficult transactions from start to closing. If you or someone you know is in the market to buy or sell a home and are looking for a dedicated realtor, then please don’t hesitate to contact me today.

Lindsey Acton, REALTOR®, SRES®

T: 714) 801-0175

LindseyActon@att.NET