9 Tips For Throwing a Housewarming Party

Buying a new home is incredibly exciting. So exciting, in fact, that it’s hard not to share your excitement with the world. A housewarming party is a perfect opportunity to invite your friends and family members over to celebrate this endeavor together.

To make sure that your get-together is a success, consider the following tips.

1. Wait a Few Weeks After You’ve Moved in

Moving into a new home can be overwhelming, so you don’t want to make things even more stressful by adding an extra event into the mix so soon after getting the keys to your new place. Ideally, you should be given the chance to move everything in, put everything in its place, and enjoy what life is like in a new home first. Once the dust has settled, then call in the troops and enjoy entertaining in your new crib.

2. Send Your Invites Out Well in Advance

Give your guests a chance to make sure their schedule is clear for your housewarming party. That means giving plenty of notice and not throwing a last-minute shindig. At least a week or two would be nice to give everyone on your guest list a heads up about your housewarming party. Besides, knowing how many people will be attending in advance will also give you a chance to get enough food and beverages and prep for the upcoming gathering.

3. Provide Detailed Directions

Since you’ve got a completely new address, many of your friends and family members might not know where you now live. As such, you’ll want to make sure that your invitations provide detailed and easy-to-follow directions.

4. Plan Out Parking

Depending on how many people you plan to invite, there’s a good chance that your driveway (if you even have one) won’t be able to accommodate all the cars that will need to be parked. For this reason, you’ll want to plan out where guests can park. This is especially important if your new home is a townhome or condo that has minimal guest parking. Once you have that all planned out, be sure to include these details in your invitations.

5. Treat it Like an Open House

Unless you have no problem with having guests lingering all day long, be sure to stipulate the time frame that the party will be held. For example, from 2 pm to 6 pm would provide enough of a window to get all your guests in to visit. They can show up whenever they like and leave at the time of their choosing, as long as it falls within the stipulated time frame.

This is especially helpful if your new home isn’t large enough to house everyone on your guest list. By specifying a time frame, people can drop in and out at different times, rather them all showing up at the same time.

6. Invite the Neighbors

You might be new to the area and don’t know anyone in your neighborhood, but now is a great time to get to know your neighbors. A housewarming party may be the perfect opportunity to get to know the people who you’ll be living in close proximity to. So invite them over – you might just strike up new friendships!

7. Be Prepared to Give Tours

Most people who visit your housewarming party will probably want to check out your new abode. It’s almost a given considering the nature of the gathering. So be prepared to take time out of serving food and mingling with guests to give a few guided tours of your home. Considering the fact that people will most likely see all parts of your home, make sure everything is prepped accordingly.

8. Have Food and Drinks Handy

While you don’t necessarily have to serve a full meal, having some appetizers and beverages handy during your housewarming is warranted. But when you choose your menu list, go for items that don’t require a lot of prep time and upkeep. You don’t want to be slaving over a hot stove while you should be getting to know the neighbors and showing off your new home.

At the same time, be sure to take different tastes and potential food sensitivities into consideration. Offer a few options so that everyone is covered.

9. Send Out Thank You Notes

After a successful housewarming party, take the time out to send out thank you cards to show your appreciation to all who came out. Most people will likely show up with some sort of housewarming gift, so you’ll want to thank them for their generosity as well. Rather than spending money on postage, however, consider having them ready-made to hand out with a party favor (if you so choose) as each guest leaves.

The Bottom Line

A housewarming party is a fun and exciting time for new homeowners. It’s a wonderful way to share your excitement with others and satisfy the curiosity that your friends and neighbors might have about what your new home is like. And following the above guidelines will help ensure a successful festivity.

Strange Home Features That Could Throw Buyers Off

The quirky and unique features of a home might accurately showcase a homeowner’s personality, but they might not necessarily be very good at impressing buyers. Some features could actually throw buyers off and even confuse them to the point that making an offer is off the table.

Personalizing a home is great, as it can make family members more comfortable. But when it comes time to sell, such features can work against homeowners.

Here are a few odd features that could throw buyers off and potentially derail a sale.

Converted Garages

Some homeowners who find themselves short on space may turn to their garages to provide them with the extra room required. Whether it’s to house a fitness area or a man cave, the extra space of a garage can certainly come in handy.

But many buyers who actually want a garage that serves its original purpose might not appreciate garage conversions. One of the rules of home staging is to showcase every room in the home with its intended purpose.

A dining room should be outfitted as a dining room, for example. This will help show buyers what each space is supposed to be used for without any confusion.


Not something you’ll see in the average home, bidets are typically located next to the toilet and are designed to wash certain private areas of the body. Buyers will definitely wonder what they are and might be confused as to what their purpose may be. And perhaps they might not want to know, after all.

Oversized Statues

Whether it’s in the middle of the front yard or the center of the foyer, a massive statue might be of significance to the homeowner but might be overwhelming for buyers. And if the statue has some sort of political or religious affiliation, that can be even more off-putting.

Getting rid of these statues can also be a major endeavor, so any buyers who may be interested in a particular home may wonder what type of effort and cost would be involved in removing them, which could add to the costs of making the purchase.

Pet Rooms

A rising trend among homeowners with pets is installing a mudroom specifically for furry friends. These include shower stalls that make it ultra convenient to wash messy pets that have just come from a frolick in the mud before they’re allowed to trot around inside the home. But for buyers who might not be pet lovers, these rooms might be considered a bit of a waste of space.

Strange Looking Plants in the Yard

Landscaping plays a huge role in the aesthetics of a home and is a key component to curb appeal. Sellers should certainly maximize their curb appeal in order to attract the masses of buyers. But certain types of plants could actually raise an eyebrow or two among buyers.

Some plants are not conducive to a healthy garden and can actually compromise the health of surrounding greenery. Other plants might even be dangerous, both to pets and humans. Others still might be so invasive that they can compromise the integrity of a home’s foundation if planted too close to the home.

Oddly Placed Bathrooms

Some homes have such strange layouts that really make buyers wonder what the original builder was thinking. One such layout incorporates bathrooms that are positioned adjacent to kitchens. If there are two rooms in a house that should never be mixed, it’s these two. After all, the thought of a bathroom being anywhere near where people would dine is certainly not a pleasant one.

Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly an easy fix and would require a bit of in-depth work to build a completely new bathroom in a more appropriate spot.

Inadequate Access to Rooms

Piggybacking off of the previous issue, some older homes may have layouts that require occupants to have to go through one room in order to access another. While that might be fine with living rooms or kitchens, it can be pretty awkward when the space being invaded is a bedroom. It’s pretty inconvenient to have to pass through a bedroom – which is supposed to be a private space – to access another room in the home.

Compartmentalized Rooms

The going trend over the past few years in home design is open concepts. More and more homeowners like the idea of having a wide open space where they can interact with others regardless of whether they’re in the kitchen or living room. Open concept layouts also make a home seem larger and brighter, which is why they’ve become so popular.

But some homeowners still like the idea of having separate rooms for separate purposes and intentionally compartmentalize their rooms in order to achieve that goal. While that may work for some homeowners, it’s not exactly a layout that buyers necessarily appreciate.

The Bottom Line

Selling a home is already a challenge, but trying to sell a home with awkward features like the ones just mentioned can make the job even harder. When dealing with odd features and layouts, it’s best to work with a home stager who will have sound suggestions about how to counteract the effects of such traits in order to attract buyers and end up with a quick sale.

Buyers: 9 Smart Tips For Negotiating a Home Purchase

All homebuyers are looking for a deal, which is why the negotiating process in a real estate transaction is so important. But getting the home you have your eye on at the price you’re looking to pay can be a challenge if you don’t go into the negotiations with a little flair.

You certainly need to employ a few tactics to help get the price down to what you’re willing to pay, and the following tips can help you land the best deal on a home.

1. Get Pre-Approved

Sellers prefer to deal with qualified buyers instead of tire kickers who might express an interest in buying a home but aren’t actually financially capable of handling a mortgage. Being pre-approved for a mortgage is always a good step in the homebuying process and makes you more competitive against other buyers and more attractive in the eyes of the seller.

Besides, a mortgage pre-approval will help you determine how much you can afford. That way you can focus only on homes that are within your price range.

2. Have Your Deposit Check in Hand

Not only will a pre-approval letter help show the seller that you’re qualified and serious about buying, attaching a deposit check with your offer will further seal the deal. Just make sure the deposit amount is enough to intrigue the seller and is in line with what deposit amounts are going for in your market.

3. Study the Market

The value of a home is directly influenced by the market that it is immersed in. Is it a buyer’s or seller’s market? Are homes appreciating in value, or are they stagnant at the moment? What is the supply versus demand profile like?

Identifying the temperature of the market you’re dealing with will help direct which way your negotiations should go and will help you stay in line with what the home you’re putting an offer on is really worth.

4. Go in With Comparables

You’ll have a better understanding of the market and will go in with more negotiating power if you understand how much similar homes in the area have recently sold for. Your offer should ideally be based on what the home is actually worth, and not necessarily what the seller listed it at.

Sellers can essentially list for whatever they like, but that doesn’t mean the listing price is an accurate reflection of what the property is worth based on the current market.

Based on the information you compile from the comparables, you’ll be able to make a sound and fair offer on the home. If the home is listed at market value, there is probably little wiggle room in the negotiation process. But if it’s listed above market value, you may be able to go in with a lower offer and use your research to back up your offer.

5. Find Out the Seller’s Motivation

If possible, find out why the seller is moving. Many sellers are not highly motivated to move, while others are. In the case of the latter, you might be dealing with someone who is eager to get the home off their hands. Whether they’re closing on another home soon or are in need to get out of town to start a new job, you might have a motivated seller on your hands who may be more open to negotiations.

6. Keep Your Contingencies to a Minimum

While you don’t necessarily want to completely expose yourself to vulnerability, you also don’t want to bombard sellers with a list of contingencies that will just complicate the offer. Too many contingencies will make the closing process more complex and time-consuming, which is never a good thing for sellers.

Contingencies play a key role in offers, so consider keeping them clean. The fewer the number of contingencies, the higher the odds of landing the house at the price point you want.

7. Separate Yourself From Emotions

It’s not uncommon for negotiations to get heated. After all, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single purchase, so you want to make sure you get this right. Not only that, but sellers tend to be very protective of their homes and are not typically willing to hand them over at a price that they may deem to be unfit.

What sellers do is out of your control. But in your case, try your best to keep your cool and remove emotions from the equation. If you don’t end up getting the house, just remember that there will always be another one out there for you to put an offer on. 

8. Accompany a Personal Letter With Your Offer

Sellers are understandably attached to their homes and don’t want to see it get into the wrong hands. Sometimes submitting a personal letter along with your offer explaining why you love the house and how you would turn it into a family home can be just enough to tip the odds in your favor and convince the sellers that you’re the right buyer for the home.

9. Use an Agent

Your best friend in a negotiation situation is a real estate agent. While you can learn everything there is to know about handling negotiations to land a great deal, letting a professional take the reigns can provide you with the best outcome.

Real estate agents are trained and experienced at handling negotiations. They’ll be able to help you find the right property and handle the entire negotiation process on your behalf.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to real estate transactions, negotiating is part and parcel of the process. But how you handle the negotiations can make all the difference in the final outcome. Get familiar with some savvy negotiating tactics that you can employ and team up with a seasoned buyer agent who can help you land the home of your dreams at a price point you can be happy with.

Tax Perks of Buying a Home

It might not quite be time to file your taxes just yet, but it’s important to understand all the ways that you can take advantage of the tax perks available to homeowners.

In fact, buying a home comes with a number of tax breaks to be taken advantage of that can help potentially save you hundreds of dollars – or more – thanks to the following.

Mortgage Interest Deductions

The principal portion of your mortgage payments is one major expense that you have to pay when you purchase a home, but the interest portion that’s tacked onto to it can be an equally hefty expense. That’s especially true during the first few years of your mortgage where a bigger chunk of your payments is dedicated to interest.

Luckily, you may be able to deduct your mortgage interest come tax time. In fact, this is one of the biggest tax deduction advantages of buying and owning a home. The cap for deducting mortgage interest is $750,000.

Property Tax Deductions

Property taxes are just another annoying tax to have to pay as a homeowner, but they can be deducted. There are rules to this deduction, however. According to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), property taxes are no longer deducted separately, but rather are included with state and local income taxes. The cap for these deductions is set at $10,000 for married couples who file their taxes jointly.

Private Mortgage Insurance Deductions

Saving up for a down payment can be tough, which is why there are plenty of mortgage products and programs available that make it easier for homebuyers to be eligible for a mortgage without a massive down payment amount. But if you put down less than 20% of the purchase price on a conventional mortgage, you’ll be subject to Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) premiums.

These extra fees will be tacked on to your mortgage payments, and you’ll have to continue paying them until your loan amount dips to 78% of the value of your home. Until then, you’ll have to continue paying these added insurance premiums.

The good news is that private mortgage insurance premiums can be deducted. That said, this deduction is no longer a separate deduction, which means homeowners can choose one deduction that also includes property taxes as well as state and local income taxes. Single taxpayers are eligible for the deduction if they have an adjusted gross income of less than $50,000, and married taxpayers filing jointly who have a combined income of less than $100,0000 are also eligible.

HELOC Deductions

If you have a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or home equity loan, you may be eligible to deduct the interest paid. However, there are exceptions. According to the IRS, interest paid on HELOCs and home equity loans may still be deducted, as long as the loan funds are put towards buying, constructing, or improving the home that is being used to back the loan.

For example, you wouldn’t be able to deduct the interest of your HELOC if you used the money to buy a car or pay for an extended vacation. On the other hand, of the money was used to renovate your kitchen or bathroom, then such deductions can be made.

Home Improvement Deductions

Renovating your home and adding value to it is a good thing. But not every home improvement project that you take on will be eligible for a tax deduction. If you plan to live in your home for the long haul – including throughout retirement and beyond – then any improvements that you make to your home that will make it possible to live in it throughout your Golden Years may qualify.

For example, wheelchair ramps, stair lifts, or widened shower stalls with handrails can make living easier for the elderly. In these cases, the cost associated with these upgrades may be able to be written off. Just keep in mind that such improvements will have to be deemed a medical necessity to take advantage of the tax breaks.

Energy-Efficiency Upgrade Deductions

Homeowners who make their homes energy efficient in some way can take advantage of several opportunities to save some money. The local, state and federal government offer incentives for homeowners to make improvements to their homes that will save energy, and that includes tax breaks.

The Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit offers a couple of tax incentives for installing energy-efficient upgrades in a home, including solar electric and solar water heaters. Up until the end of 2019, homeowners can deduct 30% of the expenses associated with these upgrades.

Home Sale Exclusions

While you might not be thinking about selling so soon after buying, you should know that homeowners can get a tax break when they sell as well, as long as they meet certain criteria. Generally speaking, anyone who sells real estate and realizes a profit may be subject to capital gains taxes on the proceeds of the sale if they fall outside of certain requirements.

In order to avoid paying capital gains taxes, the home must have been used as the primary residence for a minimum of two of the past five years before selling. Further, up to $250,000 of gains can be free of capital gains taxes for single tax filers, or $500,000 for married couples filing jointly.

The Bottom Line

Everyone loves saving a few bucks when filing their taxes, and homeowners have a distinct advantage to do so. The above-mentioned incentives might be applicable to you, helping you save quite a bit of money on your next tax filing. Be sure to consult with a tax professional to find out exactly what you may be eligible to claim in order to maximize your savings.

Fixed-Rate Vs. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages: Which One is Best?

There are so many decisions to be made when buying a home, and the type of mortgage to take out is one of the more important ones. With all the different mortgage products and variations out there, it can be daunting to choose a specific type of mortgage that will help you finance a home purchase while making it easy for you to comfortably make your mortgage payments every month.

Among all the different factors associated with mortgages that borrowers must decide on is fixed rates versus adjustable rates. While one stays the same through the mortgage term, the other fluctuates. One might sound better than the other at face value, but depending on the market and your current financial situation, one might end up being more convenient and even more affordable for you.

So, which one is better: fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgages?

What is a Fixed-Rate Mortgage?

A fixed-rate mortgage comes with an interest rate that remains steady throughout the life of the mortgage. During this time period, it never changes, and as such, the mortgage payment never changes, either.

The only things about the mortgage payment that will change from one month to the next are the portions allocated to the principal and the interest. With each payment made, a little bit of the principal is paid down, which reduces the overall loan amount and therefore the amount of interest charged. However, the total payment stays the same.

Many borrowers like the idea of having steady payments, making them more predictable and easier to budget for. Fixed-rate loans are also ideal when interest rates are expected in increase in the near future. In this case, locking in at today’s interest rate with a fixed-rate mortgage protects the borrower from being vulnerable to higher rates should they increase throughout the life of the loan.

While the interest rate may be fixed, the total interest amount that the borrower pays will depend on the length of the mortgage term.

What is an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage?

Whereas fixed-rate mortgages come with interest rates that do not change over the life of the loan, adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) interest rates do fluctuate from time to time.

These types of mortgages attract borrowers because their advertised rates are usually lower than those of fixed-rate mortgages. These lower rates are usually offered during an initial introductory period, after which the rate often increases.

When the initial introductory period expires, the rate adjusts at a frequency that has been pre-determined. This fixed-rate period can vary from anywhere between a month to as long as 10 years.

That said, shorter adjustment periods typically come with lower interest rates at the onset. Once this initial term is over, the mortgage resets. At this point, a new interest rate is put in place that’s based on current market conditions. Until the rate is reset again, the interest rate on the mortgage will remain the same.

ARMs are written as ratios that dictate how long the interest rate will remain fixed and how frequently after that the rate will change. For instance, a “5/1” ARM is quite popular, which basically means the interest rate will stay fixed for five years and will be adjusted – along with your payments – every year going forward.

It’s certainly possible for the rate to increase at some point throughout the life of the loan, and even surpass the rates associated with fixed-rate mortgages. Adjustable-rate mortgages are better suited in an environment where the rates are expected to decrease in the near future, helping borrowers save money over the long run.

Which is Better: Fixed-Rate or Adjustable-Rate Mortgages?

The answer to this question depends on the current market and your particular situation and comfort zone. Generally speaking, a fixed-rate mortgage might be better suited for borrowers who like the idea of having predictable payments that will not change over the life of the loan.

They make budgeting much easier, especially when there isn’t a lot of wiggle room with finances. Anyone with a low tolerance for risk might appreciate the predictability of fixed-rate mortgages.

Further, fixed-rate mortgages might make more sense if the rates are expected to increase in the near future. In this case, locking in a today’s rate can protect against any increase in rates that are anticipated. This can help save borrowers tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

Adjustable-rate mortgages, on the other hand, might be better suited in a market where rates are expected to decrease in the near future or remain steady. In this case, borrowers can take advantage of the lower introductory rate compared to fixed-rate mortgages.

Even if rates might increase in the future, adjustable-rate mortgages might still be a great option for those who don’t plan on staying in their home for very long. A buyer who plans to sell their home before the introductory period expires could be saving quite a bit of money, even if rates rise after that introductory period is over.

The Bottom Line

Both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages can offer borrowers specific advantages. Depending on factors such as the temperature of the market, a borrower’s tolerance for risk, and a borrower’s plans for selling in the near future, the decision could go either way. Speak with a seasoned mortgage broker to help you determine loan product is better suited for you.

What Standards Does a Property Have to Meet in Order to Secure an FHA Loan?

FHA loans are attractive mortgage options for borrowers who may find it challenging to get approved for a conventional mortgage. The criteria required to secure an FHA loan is usually less stringent than that of a conventional loan, including minimum down payment requirements and credit scores.

But not only does the borrower have to qualify for an FHA loan, so does the property itself. Before lenders agree to extend a home loan to mortgage applicants, the property in question that is being purchased must be eligible for this type of government-backed loan.

Why Do Properties Have to Meet Specific Standards For FHA Loans?

Lenders who issue mortgages have the benefit of being able to repossess the home in case the borrower ever defaults on mortgage payments. That’s because the property itself collateralizes the loan. As such, lenders want to make sure that the home meets certain standards in order to allow them to recoup as much as they possibly can in the event of mortgage default.

Both lenders and buyers are protected as a result of specific standards that homes have to meet in order for an FHA loan to be issued.

In terms of lender protection, the home should be worth what it’s being bought for according to the current market and should be able to be sold within a reasonable amount of time in the event of repossession. In terms of the buyer, the standards that homes have to meet in order to qualify for an FHA loan protect the buyer by ensuring that the property is habitable.

In order to be eligible for an FHA loan, the subject property must be:

  • Safe – There should be no health or safety issues with the home.
  • Secure – The property should offer a minimum amount of security for all occupants.
  • Sound – Ther property should be structurally sound without any major issues that could render it inhabitable.

The lender issuing the FHA loan will send out an appraiser to the home to make sure it meets the criteria needed for loan approval. Any issues with the home will be noted appropriately.

So, what specific standards does a home have to meet in order for the buyer to qualify for an FHA home loan?

Minimum Property Standards For FHA Loans

The following are some of the criteria that properties must meet in order for an FHA loan application to be approved:

Crawl space – The crawl space must be properly vented and void of debris, rodents, insects, and moisture issues. It should also provide enough space for adequate plumbing, ductwork, and electrical work if required. 

Foundation – There must be no signs of water damage or oversized cracks. Further, the foundation must be able to withstand normal weight loads.

Attic – The attic of the home should be well-ventilated. Further, no signs of water damage, fire damage, faulty wiring, or rodent infestation can be present in this space.

Roof – The roof material and structure should be able to keep water out of the home and should be expected to have a lifespan of at least two more years. Further, the roof must not have more than three layers, or else a new roof will be required.

Water supply – There must be a public water supply or well connection to the home that provides safe drinking water. If the water does not meet water quality standards, there must be a water purification system servicing the property.

Sewage system – There must be a public, community, or off-site sewer system connection to the home.

HVAC system – The home must be adequately heated and/or cooled by a functional HVAC system.

Electricals – There must be power to all living units within the property. All wiring should be adequately installed and all electrical switches and outlets should be operational.

Plumbing – There should be a functional plumbing system that provides reasonable water pressure, hot water, functioning toilets, sinks, and showers.

Property access – There must be proper and safe access to the property from the street, which also allows for emergency vehicle access in all weather conditions.

Encroachment – There cannot be any intrusion of the subject property onto another property, and vice versa.

Built-in appliances – These must be fully operational.

Termites – There must not be any termite infestation.

Power lines – Any overhead electric lines cannot be extended directly atop the home or any water feature in the premises, such as a pool.

Flood zone – If the home is located in a designated flood zone, adequate insurance must be readily available. 

Pools – Any swimming pools adhere to local regulations.

Hazards – No hazards should be present in the home, including:

  • Lead-based paint
  • Mold
  • Asbestos
  • Contaminated soil
  • Close proximity to a hazardous waste site
  • Oil and gas wells
  • High-pressure petroleum line
  • Close proximity to high-voltage power lines

Noise pollution – Whether from airplanes crossing above, heavy traffic nearby, or any other source, there must not be excessive noise present.

Does Your Home Qualify?

If the subject property meets the minimum standards in terms of safety, soundness, and security, it should qualify for an FHA loan. If not, the issues in question may be able to be rectified before the loan closes. Speak with your real estate agent and let them know that you plan to apply for an FHA loan, and they’ll help to narrow down properties that will be more likely to qualify.

6 Things to Consider Before Buying a Foreclosure

Homebuyers are always looking for a deal on a home purchase. After all, who doesn’t loves to save some money? That’s precisely why some buyers choose to peruse foreclosure listings with the goal of getting a discount on an otherwise solid piece of property.

But while deals can certainly be had with foreclosures, these transactions aren’t necessarily cut and dry. There are some potential pitfalls associated with buying foreclosures that buyers should be aware of before they pursue this type of purchase.

Here are some important things that buyers should consider before buying a foreclosed property.

1. Have a Home Inspection Conducted

Although a home inspection should always be done on homes being purchased, regardless of whether or not they’ve been foreclosed, home inspections become even more much important when it comes to foreclosures.

It’s not uncommon for foreclosures to have some hidden issues with them, sometimes deliberately caused by the vacating homeowners themselves. For a few hundred dollars, a home inspection can give you a much better idea of exactly what you’re pouring your hard-earned money into.

Sellers are typically required to disclose all known issues with the home before selling, but when a home is being sold by the bank, this entity is not going to have the type of insight on the property that the previous owner may have had. That’s why a home inspection is so important.

2. Have the Title Searched

It’s wise to have a preliminary title report pulled on a foreclosure property that you’re interested in purchasing. This report will identify whether or not there are any liens on title that you could be stuck having to deal with. Be sure that no hidden liens or encumbrances are on the property that could become big issues in the near future.

It’s so important to make sure that title is clear and that the home truly is for sale. While not very common, situations like these can and do happen, without a title search and title insurance, you could be putting yourself at risk.

3. Assess the Surrounding Area

Of course, having the house itself thoroughly inspected and assessed is crucial, but so is examining the surrounding neighborhood that it’s located in. Look at how other homeowners care for their properties.

Are they keeping up with maintenance, or does it look as if most of the owners have let their properties go? Are there a lot of abandoned homes on the block? Are the surrounding businesses transient? Are there many businesses that are boarded up or have “For Lease” or “For Sale” signs?

You want to make sure that not only is the house in good shape, but that the neighborhood is healthy too.

4. Find Out How Many Other Properties in the Area Are in Foreclosure

One house in foreclosure on the block is already too many, but a handful is just too much. Too many foreclosures in one neighborhood could point to weakening prices and could be an indication that there’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

Even if you’re getting a good deal on a foreclosure, you could be investing in a dud if the surrounding market that the house is located in is trending downward.

5. Examine Price Trends in the Area

As already mentioned, you don’t want to invest in an area that appears to be experiencing some level of depreciation. As such, you’ll want to look at the trend in prices in the neighborhood.

Are they rising, falling, or have they just been sitting at the same level for a while now? Data like this can give you some insight into where the area is headed. It can also give you a better idea of how much you should be spending on a property in the neighborhood.

6. Have All Locks Changed

If you do decide to pursue a foreclosure purchase, make sure that you change all the locks on all doors. Not only could the previous owners still have their own set of keys, so could other people, including contractors, appraisers, and anyone else who may have been given access to the property. To keep you and your family safe, it’s important that all locks are changed before you even move in.

The Bottom Line

If buying a foreclosure is on your radar, be sure to work with a real estate agent who is well-versed in these types of transactions. Having an expert on your side can help ensure that you’re protected in all aspects of the transaction so you can get yourself a great house at a great price.

7 Must-Do’s When House Hunting

House hunting is an exciting time. When you’re finally ready to buy a home, the next logical step would be to scope out different homes on the market in order to find the one that you fall in love with and meets all your needs. But as fun as it can be to hop from one home to another, it’s also a task that you need to make the most of.

When visiting homes on the market, be sure to keep the following in mind.

1. Get Pre-Approved For a Mortgage

How do you know how much you can afford to pay for a home? Are you planning to just arbitrarily visit homes regardless of their price? Not only is this a waste of time it can also set you up for disappointment.

But you can make the most of your time house-hunting by getting pre-approved for a mortgage. While this is not a guarantee that you will definitely get approved, it is a foot in the door.

Your mortgage broker will assess your current finances on a surface level and will pre-approve you for a certain loan amount. From there, you’ll have a better idea of what price range you should focus on when searching for a new home.

2. Hire a Seasoned Real Estate Professional

Once you’ve made a visit to your mortgage broker, the next professional that obviously needs to be recruited is a real estate agent. Hiring a professional with experience in the neighborhoods you’re interested in will give you a leg up in the process.

They’ll make sure you spend your time wisely searching for homes that match your criteria and will help you make sense of potentially complex real estate contracts. Your agent will be sure to include the right contingencies to protect you and will negotiate on your behalf to help get you the best price possible.

3. Don’t Let Minor Repairs Scare You

Most buyers prefer to buy a home that’s in move-in condition, with nothing to do except move their belongings in. But it’s not uncommon for resale homes to have minor little issues here and there that might need some attention.

Don’t let these little issues deter you from potentially landing a great home at a great price. Try to look past things that can be easily rectified, especially if you love the home and the neighborhood it’s in, and the price fits within your budget. Unless you build the home yourself from scratch and it’s brand new, it’s likely that there may be things that might need some tweaking to make the home perfect.

4. Keep a Look-Out For Signs of Major Problems

While little issues might not be such a big deal, more serious problems could cost you a lot more than you’d care to spend. During your showing appointment, be sure to pay attention to any red flags that could be signs of much bigger issues that you may have to deal with, including the following:

  • Musty smells, which could be a sign of water infestation and even mold;
  • Stains on ceilings, floors, and walls, which could also point to water problems;
  • Uneven floors, ‘sticky’ doors and windows, and large cracks in the foundation wall, which could be signs of a faulty foundation;
  • Gnaw marks on trim and other wooden components, which could be a sign of a termite infestation.

Your home inspector will be able to uncover any issues you may not have noticed during your viewings, so be sure to include a home inspection contingency in your real estate agreement.

5. Make a List of Must-Haves

Who wouldn’t love a huge lot, a gorgeous view, 10′ ceilings, granite counters, multiple walk-in closets, and Sub Zero kitchen appliances? While you just might be able to get all of these things, it’s important to be realistic about what your budget can get you. Although there may certainly be things you’d love to have, be sure to differentiate between your “needs” versus your “wants.”

Before you visit your first home, go in armed with a list of absolute must-haves in order for the home to suit your lifestyle. While you may be open to compensating certain traits, others might be ones that you won’t be so open about sacrificing.

6. Scope Out Different Neighborhoods

You might have a good idea of exactly where you’d like to live, but keep an open mind about other communities that you might not have thought about. Your real estate agent may have some neighborhoods in mind for you to check out that they think might be places that would suit your tastes and lifestyle.

The location of the home you buy is even more important than the actual house. The structure itself can be changed, but there’s nothing you can do about the location. Think about important things such as the types of schools in the area, proximity to your place of work, noise pollution, future developments, and businesses in the area before settling on a specific neighborhood and lot.

7. Book Second Showings on Homes That Make the Short List

Don’t put in an offer after only visiting a home once. Even if you believe you’ve found “the one,” it’s still important to check the place out one more time before signing off on an offer. There may be things that you might not have noticed the first time around, and viewing the home a second time around will give you another opportunity to see the place in a different light.

When you do book a second showing, consider going at a different time of day than the first time around. The way a neighborhood seems during the day might be totally different than how the area is at night. Things such as traffic and how neighbors behave could differ at various times of the day.

The Bottom Line

Buying a house is a huge deal and a major expense. The last thing you want is to suffer from the dreaded “buyer’s remorse.” But you don’t have to. With careful planning, sound house-hunting tactics, and a seasoned real estate agent by your side, you can make the most of your house-hunting trips and buy the home of your dreams.