Create an Evacuation Plan for Your Pets

An evacuation plan is a necessity for every home, especially if you live in an area where fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters are a possibility. Many homeowners create evacuation plans for their homes and practice them with their kids, but far fewer have considered one for their pets. Take these steps to add your pets to your evacuation plan.

Assign pet evacuation to an adult. Everyone should know how to act during an evacuation, and that includes assigning one parent or adult to the pets. This allows the other parent and the children to focus on their part of the evacuation plan, so there’s no confusion during a high-stress moment when time is of the essence.

Keep evacuation maps and pet carriers readily accessible. If you need to evacuate, you should know exactly where every important item is. If you pets require carriers, keep them in a place that you can access easily.

Practice your plan. Include your pets in your home evacuation drills. It’ll help you see how they will respond and make changes to your plan if necessary. Getting your dog out of a window may not be as simple as you think!

Be prepared in case you get separated from your pets. No matter how much you drill your evacuation plan, it’s possible that a dog or cat will run off while you’re focusing on keeping your family safe. A microchip or a GPS-compatible tag can help you find your pets once it’s safe to return to the area.

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Responsible buyers with low credit get new options

Source: Responsible buyers with low credit get new options

BOSTON – April 8, 2019 – Here’s some good news for anyone whose credit scores aren’t quite as high as they’d like them to be: Three new financial tools have come to market – or soon will be available – that could give your scores a shot of adrenaline when you need it most.

All three tools come from well-established players: FICO, developer of the ubiquitous FICO score; Experian, one of the national credit bureaus; and CreditXpert, a financial technology company whose products are used extensively in the mortgage arena.

FICO’s Ultra score is expected to be widely available from lenders this summer. It raises scores by importing data from your checking, banking, savings and money-market accounts into your credit report when calculating your score. If you have some savings, maintain your bank accounts over time and avoid negative balances, you’ll likely get a higher score.

Seven out of 10 consumers who exhibit good banking and savings behavior should see increased scores using Ultra, according to FICO.

Experian’s new Boost option, introduced in March and now becoming available nationwide, offers another score-enhancement approach. It imports your on-time utilities and telecom payments and includes positive data into your score calculations, raising scores in the majority of cases.

According to Experian, three-quarters of consumers with scores below 680 saw an increase in their scores from Boost.

The new Wayfinder, from CreditXpert, is different. Working with their loan officer, borrowers select a target credit score they’d like to achieve to qualify for a loan or get the best interest rate and terms possible. The Wayfinder software then runs dozens of scenarios to get the borrower that score within a designated time period by taking steps to modify accounts in their credit reports.

Say you have a 640 score but need at least a 680 to get a lower interest rate. Your loan officer plugs your 680 target into the software, and the program delivers specific steps you can take to achieve that score within days or weeks. Plans might call for a partial paydown of one or more accounts that are needlessly depressing your current score.

But since you may not want to spend the money, Wayfinder offers alternatives that won’t cost as much but might take a month or more to complete. Score improvements average around 27 to 30 points but have ranged as high as 179 points, according to CreditXpert.

All three of these tools could be practical if you find yourself in a score pinch. You simply need to ask your loan officer about them.

But Fico’s Ultra and Experian’s Boost come with a crucial handicap for anyone seeking a home mortgage: Under current regulatory restrictions, the two biggest sources of mortgage money cannot accept the FICO scores they produce.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both confirmed to me that at least for the time being, their underwriting systems don’t permit either UltraFICO or Boost. Both can be used for most other credit purposes using Experian credit reports, such as applying for credit cards or auto loans – but not for mortgages destined for purchase by Fannie or Freddie.

Wayfinder, by contrast, is designed for the mortgage market. The higher scores it leads to are acceptable because they reflect credit report changes that can be incorporated into scoring models that Fannie and Freddie have used for years. So if you’re seeking a mortgage and need a higher score, Wayfinder is worth mentioning to your loan officer.

Another key fact you should know about Wayfinder: It’s not free. It costs about $15 to $18 if you want to run it on your files at each of the big three credit bureaus. Plus, it typically involves “rapid rescoring” of your credit reports by a vendor working with your loan officer, and that can cost an additional $75 to $150.

But if the process lands you a loan that costs thousands less over the years, the small upfront expense should be worth it.

Copyright © 2019, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, VA, Kenneth R. Harney. Kenneth R. Harney heads his own consulting firm in Chevy Chase, Md.

If you are looking to buy or sell your home Jennifer is just a phone call away. Call today to get started.
Jennifer Bailey, REALTOR®, e-PRO®
Dale Sorensen Real Estate
Locally known….Globally Connected…

772-559-5524 • jbailey@sorensenrealestate.com • veroluxuryhomes.com

Download this great real estate search app at searchinvero.com

Housing market will be slower, steadier in 2019

Source: Housing market will be slower, steadier in 2019

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

NEW YORK – Jan. 4, 2018 – Forget fevered bidding wars and snap home-buying decisions. Slower and steadier will characterize next year’s housing market.

That follows a 2018 that started off hot but softened into the fall as buyers – put off by high prices and few choices – sat out rather than paid up.

Affordability issues will remain a top concern going into 2019, exacerbated by rising mortgage rates. But some of 2018’s more intractable issues will begin to loosen up. The volume of for-sale homes is expected to rise and diversify, while the number of buyers is forecast to shrink.

“For home sellers, they need to recognize those days of frenzied market are over. They must price competitively to sell their home,” said Lawrence Yun, the chief economist at the National Association of Realtors. “For buyers, there will be challenges when it comes to rising interest rates, but they don’t have to make hurried decisions anymore.”

Still, some cash-strapped first-time buyers will simply be priced out, while a cohort of potential move-up buyers will decide to stay in their existing home, make renovations and enjoy their current low mortgage rate. Price increases will moderate, and everyone in the market will need to adjust.

Finally, more homes to choose from

One of the biggest complaints among buyers in the last several years is that there weren’t enough homes for sale. In fact, the supply of houses hit historic lows in the winter of 2017 and has yet to rebound substantially. That fueled bidding wars, price increases and frustration.

The supply crunch is expected to ease some in 2019 with inventory rising 10 percent to 15 percent, according to Yun.

But the increase will be skewed toward the mid-to-high end of the market – houses priced $250,000 and higher – especially when it comes to newly built houses, said Danielle Hale, chief economist of realtor.com. That’s good news for move-up buyers, but not so much for the first-time millennial buyer. “There’s still a mismatch on the entry-level side,” she said.

Houses in all shapes and sizes

If you’re a first-time buyer, you won’t be completely out of luck if you stay open-minded. If a single-family home is out of the question, consider a mobile home or townhouse as a starter home, both of which are on the rise.

The volume of shipments for manufactured houses – also known as mobile homes – is expected to finish above 100,000 this year, up from 93,000 in 2017, according to Robert Dietz, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders. The trend is expected to continue next year.

These homes are also significantly cheaper than other home types. Not including land costs, the cost to buy a mobile home averages $70,600, compared with $257,900 for an existing single-family home and $309,700 for a new home.

You may also consider a townhouse, an attached single-family home located in a community of homes. Construction of townhomes also is experiencing year-over-year growth and is outpacing the single-family detached home market, Dietz said.

“The market is being supported by millennials moving from renting to their first-home purchase,” he said. “If you’re in a high-cost area with wage and job growth, townhouses are appropriate for entry-level. And they still get that suburban feel with their own front door.”

Affording a home remains hard

Housing values are still expected to increase next year, but not at the gang-buster pace seen in recent years. NAR’s Yun forecasts modest price growth between 2 percent and 3 percent, down from close to 5 percent this year and over 5 percent in 2017.

At the same time, mortgage rates are expected to hit 5.5percent by the end of 2019. Both factors make it more expensive for buyers to purchase a home. Hale estimates that the expected increase in prices and interest rates translates to an 8percent rise in the average monthly mortgage payment.

Interest rate trap

Shrinking affordability will convince some buyers – especially first-timers – to sit out the market altogether next year because they can’t make the numbers work. Homeowners considering selling their home may also stay put because of rising mortgage rates – a so-called interest rate trap. Most outstanding mortgages have an interest rate of 4.5 percent or less, according to a report this year from Black Knight, a data analytics firm.

“They have a nice low mortgage rate, lower than the current rate, so there’s no reason to move,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist of First American Financial Corp.

Tax worries linger

The first few months of 2019 will reveal how the new tax changes affect homeowners. One key rule is the new cap on the mortgage interest deduction.

Before, homeowners could deduct interest they paid on up to $1 million in mortgage debt – including interest on home equity loans and lines of credit – reducing their taxable income.

Now, you can only deduct interest on up to $750,000 in mortgage debt. Interest paid on home equity loans and lines of credit is deductible only if the funds were used to pay for home improvements or renovations.

The only taxpayers who will exceed those limits are high-end homeowners and buyers and those with multiple homes with mortgages.

The bigger question mark is if and how the $10,000 limit on state and local taxes deduction – known as SALT – will affect housing markets in high-tax states such as New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and California.

Buyers may be reluctant to purchase homes in those states – or choose a smaller house – if they calculate they will pay too much in non-deductible taxes. “These states may see softer housing markets compared to the rest of the country,” said Yun, if the SALT cap hurts enough homeowners.

The bottom line

If you’re a seller: Price realistically and be ready to cut the listing price or offer other incentives to get a deal done. “It’s still a seller’s market, but not like it was,” Hale said. “Sellers need to be mindful of competition, especially for more expensive properties.”

If you’re a buyer: Don’t worry about going slow when making decisions. “There is less buyer competition and more inventory,” Yun said. “Buyers can take time to find the home that fits into their budget.”

Copyright 2019, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY, Janna Herron

10 Amazing Vinegar Cleaning Hacks All Homeowners Should Know

Video

Vinegar is basically the Swiss Army knife of fermented products. Not only does it have various medicinal and disinfectant properties, but it has a number of potent uses around the home. These range from drain cleaning, to wrinkle removal, to trashcan deodorizing, and even repelling cats from scratching up your furniture!

Whether you’re a homeowner simply wanting to keep your place in better shape, or a real estate agent that needs a quick fix before showing a house, vinegar is a definite ally to keep around!

Making happy home owners one sale at a time! Call me today for a free home market analysis.

Jennifer Bailey, REALTOR® e-PRO®
Dale Sorensen Real Estate
772-559-5524 • veroluxuryhomes.comsearchinvero.com

TOP TIPS FOR STAGING YOUR HOME

A recent survey from the National Association of Realtors® revealed that 77 percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home makes it easier for potential buyers to visual it as their own. That’s why here at Breakthrough Broker, we believe staging is not to be overlooked! Here are our top tips.

  1. Dress up your yard. First impressions count, and the first one your home gives comes from the exterior. Mow the lawn, clean up shrubbery, rake any leaves, clean the walkway and driveway, plant in-season flowers, and pull up any unsightly weeds.
  2. Reduce personal items. Make it easier for buyers to imagine themselves making your house their home by removing personal photos and knick-knacks from shelves, walls, and counters. Instead replace them with clean, simple décor, such as abstract paintings, nature images, vases, plants, and more.
  3. Organize your storage areas. Storage is a huge selling point. Tidy up and clear out the accessible closets and cupboards in the home and make sure to point them out during an open house or showing.
  4. Appeal to the senses. Consider ways you can appeal to potential homebuyers’ other senses. During a viewing or open house, bake some fresh cookies or burn delicious smelling candles and play light, relaxing music in the background.
  5. Consider turning to an expert. With their knowledge of current trends and great eye for design, professionally certified stagers can transform a home in a variety of ways and have a keen sense of what homebuyers want and expect in a home. Investing in hiring a pro may pay off in dividends.

Locally Known… Globally Connected!
Jennifer Bailey, REALTOR® e-PRO®
Dale Sorensen Real Estate
772-559-5524 • veroluxuryhomes.comsearchinvero.com

House Hunting and Renovation TV Shows – Fun Facts and Dirty Little Secrets

Photo licensed under Creative Commons

Television channels like HGTV and DIY have truly changed residential real estate for the better. Thanks to these channels, buyers and sellers today are more educated about their homes’ structures, décor, and remodeling costs. Everybody’s expectations are higher and most buyers and sellers’ creativity is too. Have you wondered about how these shows are made? What is real and what is not? Here are some fun facts.

First, for the remodeling or fix and flip shows, the remodeling budget is truly the homeowners’ remodeling budget. If the homeowners have wanted more than their budget will allow, the producers usually bring the buyers back to reality long before the remodel is started. If there is some unforeseen cost, other changes are omitted or downscaled.

The inspections are real inspections, too. When you see a show host presiding over a sewer inspection (yuk!), they are really checking it out.

The programs need true action in addition to just on-camera interviews. (Ever notice how each of these shows has at least one homeowner hitting a wall with a sledge hammer?) When you see a show host or a new owner actually doing work, they are not faking it – they are really doing the work that you are seeing. Those are real nails in those nail guns. All of the show hosts and all of the buyers get involved in at least some portion of the decorating or remodel.

Now for the dirty little secrets. Here is the big one for the house hunter shows. Although it is really fun to try and guess which house a buyer will pick, these programs are shot in reverse. That means the show is filmed after the buyers buy – and close on – their home. The other homes are “decoys” that are filmed after the transaction concludes and were never seen by the buyers during the actual search.

Ever notice how much the buyer or house remodeler couples argue and disagree? A lot of the drama on the shows is fake. Conflict, like action, makes a more interesting television show. The producers will encourage the magnification of buyers’ and sellers’ fears and dilemmas because it is believed – correctly or incorrectly – that it makes for better ratings.

And even though the host and home owners get involved in some of the work, most of the work is done off-camera by professional contractors and (sometimes) large crews. The projects can take much longer than they usually would as well; the contractor’s schedules and stages have to work with the production crew’s schedules and availability.

Nevertheless, these shows are really fun to watch, and offer lots of general education about homes and house hunting.