Thursday, February 27, 2014

The 5 Worst Things You Can Do Before Buying a Home

Some missteps can be costlier than others. Here’s a look at five of the worst things you can do before buying a home.

1. Go credit-crazy

It’s almost become cliché in the mortgage industry, but the warning still bears repeating: Don’t buy a truckload of furniture until after your loan closes. The prohibition goes beyond sofas and settees. Avoid obtaining credit for any major expense, like a car, a boat or, yes, a new bedroom set.
Be careful with even minor expenses. If you absolutely need to obtain new credit or accrue debt before closing, talk with your loan officer as soon as possible.
New payments are going to affect your monthly debt-to-income ratio (and residual income on a VA loan), and not in a good way. Hard inquiries on your credit report could also lower your credit score. That might hurt your interest rate if you haven’t locked, or even knock you out of qualifying range altogether.

2. Shuffle dollars and cents

Lenders will scour your most recent bank statement as part of the preapproval process. It’s not like they forget about it after that. They’ll take another look at your assets and bank records again during the underwriting process.
You’ll need to explain any unusual deposits or withdrawals. Lenders will require clear documentation and a paper trail if you’re putting gift funds toward a down payment or closing costs. Stuffing a wad of undocumented cash into your account is going to raise some red flags.

3. Get behind on bills

Having a late payment hit your credit report before closing can devastate your deal. Payment history comprises about a third of your credit score.
One solitary 30-day late payment can clip 60 to 110 points from your credit score. Maybe not a huge deal if you had an 800 score, right?
Possibly. But if that 30-day late blemish is a mortgage or rent payment, some lenders will boot your application altogether. Many will require at least 12 consecutive months of on-time payments in order to qualify for a home loan.
4. Co-sign on a loanCo-signing a loan is arguably a bad financial move whenever you make it. But it’s especially risky during the mortgage lending process. It means you’re financially liable for someone else’s debt.Yes, that someone else might be the most responsible person on the planet. Lenders will still need to factor that new monthly obligation into your overall affordability profile. Adding one more debt to the list could stretch too thin your debt-to-income ratio and assets.

5. Change employment
Probably goes without saying, but losing your job is going to be a big problem. Even job-hopping can present some major hurdles. Lenders crave stable, reliable income that’s likely to continue.

Lenders are likely to slam on the brakes if you take a new job in a different field or if you decide to start your own business. Or even if you get a promotion but see some or all of your income shift to a commission basis.

The bottom line: Any change to your employment is significant. Keep your loan officer in the loop, and ask questions when in doubt. The last thing you want is to waste time and money on a home loan you’re never going to get.

Throughout the mortgage process, it can also be helpful to monitor your credit scores for changes so you can know whether you need to address any problems. To do that, you can use a free tool like’s Credit Report Card, which updates your credit scores and an overview of your credit report every month. Full Article

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When to Plant Vegetable Seeds

If you're new to vegetable gardening, you'll want to know that there is a right time to plant each variety of vegetable seed. By following our zone chart for both cool and warm season vegetables, you'll be sure to plant your seeds at the correct time, enabling optimum sprouting and yield. And don't forget, the seeds you pick are also of the greatest importance. Even if you are an old hand in the vegetable garden, we hope that our USDA zone planting chart will be a useful tool for organizing your spring and summer vegetable planting. Full Article

            Zone 1-2          Zone 3-4          Zone 5-6          Zone 7-8          Zones 9-10

Not sure what your USDA Zone is? Enter your zip code to find out.
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What You Should Know About the Appraisal Process

When you wrote your purchase offer for a home, you most likely made your offer contingent on several items, including financing, a home inspection and an appraisal. If your loan is locked in and your prospective home passed its inspection with ease, then you’ve only got one challenge left: the appraisal.
Mortgage lenders require an appraisal on your home before they’ll provide a loan for the simple reason that the property is the underlying asset that serves as collateral for the loan. If for some reason you run into financial difficulties and lose your home to foreclosure, your lender would need to sell the property to repay the loan. A lender will only approve a loan for a property that appraises for the full sales price of the home — or more.
Appraisal Basics
Your lender will choose an appraiser to evaluate your home and you’ll pay the appraiser’s fee, typically $300 or $400.New rules by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that went into effect in January require your lender to give you a copy of your appraisal as soon as the mortgage company receives it, or at least three days before your closing. You can waive that right, but it makes sense for you to see it so you have time to review it and understand the information your lender is using to determine how much to lend.
An appraisal is based on information that’s similar to the information Realtors® use for a comparative market analysis, including the specifics of your house such as square feet, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, the location and age of the property and interior improvements. These facts about your home will be compared to other homes that the appraiser considers comparable to come up with your home value.
You and your Realtor® should review the report to see which homes were chosen for comparison purposes, and to make sure the appraisal includes accurate information and takes into account intangible things that can add value to a home, such as location within a sought-after school district or near a transportation hub.
Appraisal Value to Buyers
It’s important to recognize that an appraisal isn’t meant to derail your real estate deal. In fact, it can function as a consumer protection for a buyer. If your appraisal comes in higher than the price you’re paying for the home, then you benefit immediately because you’ll have more home equity in the property than you thought. For example, if you’re paying $200,000 for a home and the appraiser says it’s worth $225,000, you instantly have gained $25,000 in equity.
If the appraisal comes in lower than the sales price, you and the seller will need to abide by the contract you and your Realtors® have negotiated. If your contract is contingent on an appraisal, one option you have is to withdraw your offer and have your earnest money deposit returned. The appraisal has saved you from paying too much for the home.
If you prefer to buy the home anyway or have waived the appraisal contingency to make your offer more attractive to the sellers, you have a few other options:
  • Challenge the appraisal with documentation from your Realtor®
  • Pay for a second appraisal, which may or may not come in higher
  • Come up with extra cash to make up the difference between the appraised value and your purchase price
  • Renegotiate the contract, if the seller is willing
  • Ask the seller to finance the gap between the appraisal and the sales price
Your Realtor® can advise you about the appraisal process and help you decide how to handle a low appraisal to match your interests. Full Article 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The 8 most common tax filing errors, and how to avoid them

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It’s tax time! The IRS started accepting individual returns for processing on Jan. 31 — later than usual, but better late than never.
Last year, the IRS issued a useful list of the eight most common filing errors made by individual taxpayers. Many of the mistakes people make are incredibly easy to avoid — it just takes a little care and attention.
If the IRS owes you a refund, it could be delayed if your return contains an error like one of these:
1. Wrong or missing Social Security numbers: Your refund could be delayed simply because you made a mistake listing your Social Security number. The number on your return must match the number on your Social Security cards.
2. Names wrong or misspelled: You’ve got to spell your own name right, or the IRS will get confused. Again, your name on your return should match the name on your Social Security card.
3. Math mistakes: Your math needs to add up. This ordinarily isn’t a problem if you file electronically, since the software does the math for you. Because most people file electronically, math errors have gone down. Such errors were found in 2 percent of returns filed in 2012, less than one-fifth the rate for 2002. Still, if you file on paper, be sure to double-check your math.

4. Wrong bank account numbers: The IRS will direct-deposit your refund directly into your bank account. But you have to give the correct account number.

5. Forms not signed, dated: The IRS says that an unsigned tax return is like an unsigned check — it’s invalid. Also, remember both spouses must sign a joint return.
6. Electronic signature errors: If you e-file your tax return, you sign the return electronically by using a Personal Identification Number (PIN). For security purposes, the IRS software will ask you to enter the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) from your return for last year. This should be the AGI from the return you originally filed. If you later amended your return, or the IRS provided you with a different AGI after correct your return, don’t use those numbers. You may also use last year’s PIN if you e-filed last year and remember your PIN.
7. Filing status errors: Your filing status means whether you file your return as single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. Usually, it is pretty obvious what your status should be, but there can be complications. If you e-file your return, the software will help you choose the right filing status.
8. Errors in figuring credits, deductions: This is where taxes can get complicated. Moreover, a mistake here can cost you extra taxes or prevent your from getting a refund. For example, if you are age 65 or older, you’re entitled to a larger-than-normal standard deduction. But you must claim the deduction on your return. The same goes for common deductions such as charitable deductions. Full Article

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Closing Has Been Delayed, What Are My Options

Q: I was supposed to close on the house that I am selling in exactly one week. The people who are buying my house have to close on their house first. Their closing got pushed back at least 45 days which pushes my closing back which also means I can’t close on my new house. My husband got a VA Loan and I was wondering if I have any other options to close on my new house? 
–Ash, Illinois
A: In your question you state that “The people who are buying my house have to close on their house first.” This tells me that the funds required to close on the sale of your home are contingent upon the sale of your buyer’s home and you require the proceeds of your home’s sale to buy a new one. Do I have that correct?
Unless you have the funds in hand to proceed with closing on your new home you are stuck. One option however would be to seek owner financing on the funds you need from the owner of your new home. Maybe the seller is willing to do a short term note with you to close quickly.
The other alternative would be to obtain a short term bridge loan from a bank or other lender that would be paid off when escrow closes on the sale of your current home.
Either of these options will probably require the approval of your new lender so tread carefully and make sure everyone is onboard if you attempt to modify the terms of your deal. Full Article 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

49 Brilliant Garage Organization Tips, Ideas and DIY Projects

Spring is around the corner and you know what that means: Spring cleaning and organizing the house after being cooped up for months. Here is an article with great ideas on how to organize your garage.

Garage organization is not difficult nor is it expensive. It is however, essential if you want a cleanspace where everything is relatively easy to find. Whether you have a large garage or just a small space, there are many things that you can do to utilize that space and give yourself a bit of additional storage without taking up the area that you need for cars and other items. Full Article

Friday, February 14, 2014

Weekly Update

Its Friday, and we had another busy week of listings, solds, and going over offers. The market is starting to pick back up again and if you are priced right you will sell quickly. The best thing is that our sellers have plenty of negation room as they are saving thousands on commissions. Just last week we had one of our listings sell within 24 hours! 

Below are the new listings for the week:

MLS# 592508

Split- level 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, spacious kitchen dining area. Completely remodeled kitchen to include new granite counter tops and all new stainless steel appliances. New carpet and paint. New fence.

MLS# 592075

Amazing 180 views from this graciously updated, well built custom home. Vaulted ceilings & lots of light throughout. Ideal for living and entertaining. Main floor - 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen with dining nook, large decks, laundry room, 2 car garage. Downstairs - fully finished daylight with family/media room, 2 bedroom sized bonus rooms. Downstairs can be used as mother-in-law with separate entrance. 2nd garage with shop & RV/boat parking off street.

MLS# 591590

1490 sq. ft. home w/ 3 bedrooms and 1.5 baths + a bonus den all for under 300k in a very desirable neighborhood. Half bath is newly remolded w/ heated flooring. Newly remolded living room with crown molding & baseboard with hard wood floors. The roof on the single car garage and home have been replaced within the last 6 years. New windows in each of the bedrooms. 

MLS# 592063

Adorable, move in ready, one level home, attached garage w/auto opener, fresh interior paint throughout, refinished original oak hardwood floors, new laminate counter tops and double stainless sink, new dishwasher, new vinyl flooring in kitchen and bathroom, built-in storage, 12x20 covered patio, 10x12 garden shed w/workbench, automatic underground sprinklers, low maintenance landscaping, fully fenced rear yard, close to hospital, schools, shopping and city park

MLS# 592977

Bryce Park is Lynden's premier 55+ active adult community. This new townhouse style home features everything that you want in a home, granite counter tops, ss appliances, large double car garage, 2 bedrooms plus den/bedroom set up for live in caregiver unit-2 master bedrooms.. Amenities include landscaping, clubhouse and monthly home cleaning. Other home services are also available. This home is a must see!

MLS# 592500

Experience the excitement of an evolving neighborhood as luxurious homes are being built all around the development. Located on the fifth green of the Prospector Golf Course, this Suncadia lot features breathtaking views overlooking the fifth fairway, lake and green. There is a spectacular Aquatic Center, Inn and Lodge in the development. The neighborhood has a community playground and hiking/biking trails. Wintertime sports include groomed x-country and snow-shoeing trails, as well as tubing.

MLS# 591557

136' of low bank waterfront and spectacular sunset view of Olympics. Spacious home with gourmet new granite-topped counter kitchen, large master bedroom ensuite and huge mb walk-in closet, den, extra large util room off master closet, large open dining room to expansive living room all with views. Downstairs complete 2 full bedrooms and 2 baths - huge rec room or office, 1 studio or office, huge storage or work room. Concrete steps from low bank to beach. Clams/oysters. Park-like setting.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How to Make an Offer on a House

While much attention is paid to the offering price of a home, a proposal to buy includes both the price and terms.
In some cases, terms can represent thousands of dollars in additional value for buyers — or additional costs. Terms are extremely important and should be carefully reviewed.
How Much? You sometimes hear that the amount of your offer should be a certain  percent below the seller’s asking price or an amount less than you’re really willing to pay. In practice, the offer depends on the basic laws of supply and demand: If many buyers are competing for homes, then sellers will likely get full-price offers and sometimes more. If demand is weak, then offers below the asking price may be in order.
How Do You Make an Offer? The process of making offers varies around the country. In a typical situation, you will complete an offer sheet that the REALTOR® will present to the owner and the owner’s representative. The owner, in turn, may accept the offer, reject it or make a counter-offer.
Because counter-offers are common (any change in an offer can be considered a counter-offer), it’s important for buyers to remain in close contact with REALTORS® during the negotiation process so that any proposed changes can be quickly reviewed.
How Many Inspections? A number of inspections are common in residential realty transactions. They include checks for termites, surveys to determine boundaries, appraisals to determine value for lenders, title reviews and structural inspections.
Structural inspections are particularly important. During these examinations, an inspector comes to the property to determine if there are material physical defects and whether expensive repairs and replacements are likely to be required in the next few years. Such inspections for a single-family home often require two or three hours, and buyers should attend. This is an opportunity to examine the property’s mechanics and structure, ask questions and learn far more about the property than is possible with an informal walk-through. Full Article

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How To Get Appraises to See What You See

Appraisals continue to be a potential issue with every contract. It doesn’t need to be this way.

Of course, there will always be situations where a genuine value challenges exists. But for the most part, better preparation by agents can alleviate the majority of problems.

A key component of that preparation is an understanding of what an appraiser does and how they operate. This can quash issues before they arise.

Appraisers have no interest in “killing a deal.” They get paid to complete reports. Appeals or contested reports waste everyone’s time, and no appraiser goes out looking to waste time.

Agents would do well to understand that the appraiser is not their enemy, but simply one of the many people involved in the sale. Appraisers report the market — they don’t create it.

The agent-appraiser relationship can be contentious, mainly due to a lack of understanding. Appraisers have little idea of how much time can be invested with a client, and agents have little understanding of the requirements appraisers work under. Full Article 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Weekly Update

Happy Friday! Below are the new listings for the week: 

MLS# 14628743

Beautiful well maintained home. Nice location and open floor plan. Vaulted entry . Large upstairs loft. Walk in closets in both master bedroom and 1 other bedroom.. Ceiling fan in 1 bedroom and in family room. Central Heat, A/C ready. Open Kitchen layout with bar/island, pantry

MLS# 589583

Location, Location, Location! Live in the heart of desirable Mill Creek Town Center, Walking distance to workout centers, shopping and restaurants. Corner Lot, 3 Br 2.5 Ba, Fireplace, Large Kitchen and cabinets, Lots of storage, Attached Garage. Quiet neighborhood. View to duck pond and beautifully paved Wooded Nature Walking Trails. Everett Schools. Close to Bus line, I-5, I-405, 10-15 Min to Boeing/Paine Field. One NS Owner w/no pets, good Feng Shui setting. Ready to Move in at closing!

MLS# 589299

Located in Olympia Kempton Downs neighborhood. 2214 square feet, 4 bedroom, Den, Dining Room, 2 ¼ bath, 3 car garage with over 900 square feet, as well as RV Parking in the back. Large corner lot, new 30 year roof completed in the fall of 2013. Sprinkler system in front and back yard. . Spacious Master BR w/ 5 piece BA and large walk-in Large backyard with extended patio. In Olympia School District neighborhood.

MLS# 589017

Charming home in Meadowdale Neighborhood in a quiet cul de sac walk to schools and play field, close to bus line. Home features include: hardwood floors on main with cozy fireplace and tile in upstairs bath, large master suite w/double closets, bright and open kitchen with dining area that includes large bay window, large airy family room opens to hugh brick patio for entertaining, fully fenced back yard 

MLS# 14249529

Wilsonville/Charbonneau remodeled 2 Bedroom 2.5 Bath 2 car garage. Granite Kitchen with undemount sink, walk-in pantry, new stainless appliances, new hardwood floors. Golf Course frontage, pool across the street. Front and rear patios. Quiet cul-de-sac location, easy freeway access and close to shopping. Peaceful golf course community.

MLS# 588364

FABULOUS GIG HARBOR CRAFTSMAN STYLE RAMBLER. Heated outbuilding suitable for hobby room or heated storage 
• Oversized 2-car garage (672 SF)*
• Updated kitchen and master bath, including Jacuzzi tub in master bath• Newer (2008) high efficiency Trane furnace and Rheem hot water heater 
• R49 attic insulation 
• All new appliances in 2007, including washer and dryer -
• Newer Culligan soft water system 
• Living room wall mounted TV, and flat screen in den included
• Two room air conditioners

MLS# 14606028

Private 1.15 acres, RV parking. 3 car garage plus shop. Potting shed, pond, low maint yard, circluar driveway. Den/Family room. Fireplace, utility room, kitchen has an island with breakfast bar, sliding glass doors from dining area and from master bedroom on to deck. Wheel chair accessible/ramp. Garden tub. Open living with light and storage. Few blocks tp beach Very Nice

MLS# 590666

Beautiful remodel, hrwd flrs, crown molding. Space for entertaining. Vaulted ceiling in stp down great room w/skylight, fnch doors leading to the deck. Cornor lot, w/fenced yard, with fruit trs, annuals/pernnuls. Deck. Updated windows, new roof & hot wtr tnk. Travertn tiled hallwy & baths, K & ding rm. Garg conv (some finishing wk).2 mstr bds, pntry & lndy rm.

MLS# 588373

Open floor plan with gas fireplace and wood flooring. Light and bright home with 10 ft ceilings, skylights, and lots of windows. California Closets throughout. All appliances included. It’s all ready for you with fresh paint throughout and new carpet in bedrooms. Great location on a private road within city limits. Appointment for private showing only.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

14 Tips for the Best Garage Sale

When you are preparing for a move, a garage sale or yard sale is one of the best ways to clear away the clutter of old, unwanted stuff. Wading through your accumulated items may be a bit overwhelming, but it’s not as bad as moving to your new home with a bunch of boxes filled with things you don’t need. And, if you plan properly, you could end up with a sweet wad of cash in your pocket. Where to begin? Follow these tips for a great sale:

  1. Advertise your upcoming sale like crazy. Put an ad on your local Craigslist and detail what you’ll be selling. If you want your ad to stand out, be creative! Try headlines with a bit of humor or hype to increase interest.
  2. If you like haggling and don’t mind answering questions every time someone picks up or points at an item, don’t bother with pricing every piece. However, if you’d rather give shoppers a heads-up while you kick back in the shade, get some ready-made pricing stickers to put on the items.
  3. Be realistic with your price points. Very few buyers at garage sales are expecting to spend big bucks. If you have time before your sale, visit a couple of other neighborhood sales to gauge prices.
  4. The day before the sale, make a run to the bank to get small bills and change.
  5. Put up signs on busy streets and around your neighborhood that will lead shoppers to your place. On the signs, use black ink on a bright background and keep your message simple and easy to read.
  6. Greet your customers and let them know you’re there to answer any questions. A little friendliness goes a long way in encouraging sales.
  7. Merchandising your items is key. Think about how stores pull in shoppers. A well-organized display of your wares will pique the interest of buyers and result in more sales. Take your stuff out of boxes and group items in a visually appealing way.
  8. Put big-ticket items such as furniture, electronics or eye-catching pieces of art closest to the street or in a prominent spot for maximum visibility.
  9. Put together a catch-all box of junk and make a bright “Free Stuff” sign. Place this free box on the curb. Most shoppers driving by a garage sale can’t resist the allure of the lowest possible price point.
  10. Create pathways through your merchandise. Shoppers who feel comfortable that they won’t knock something over or trip over a box will spend more time browsing and buying.
  11. Divorce yourself from any emotional attachment to your stuff. Buyers probably don’t care to hear about the history behind your possessions, they’re just looking for bargains.
  12. Keep in mind that you’re trying to get rid of stuff and that low-ball offers are a part of the game. If you have truly valuable items, try selling them individually through eBay or Craigslist.
  13. Get flexible with your pricing as the day goes by. Knock a dollar or two off a listed price. Offer package deals to folks buying multiple items. Encourage customers to grab anything remotely interesting. You want to end the day with minimal leftovers — so don’t take a hard line on items you never have to see again.
  14. Arrange to donate the leftover items at the end of the day. Make sure to get a receipt for your donation for a tax write-off.