Should I buy a Home or Keep Renting?

The American Dream. Owning your own home. Is it your time to have a piece of that dream? Are you ready? Because if you aren’t there can be some big financial consequences. Here are some pros and cons to owning a home:

PRO: Build Equity. Home equity is the difference in the market value of your home and how much you owe. So let’s say you’ve taken the mortgage and the market value of your house went up. You still pay out a fixed mortgage sum, so there is a difference between those two numbers and that difference can be put to good use, that’s your valuable asset.

PRO: Tax Benefits. Owning a home is a huge investment. Even if you’re not pulling your equity loan, there is always a chance to sell your house later for a better price. Today, as a homeowner you’ll also be entitled to tax benefits.

PRO: A Monthly Mortgage Payment Can Be Lower Than Rent. You should understand that it works only for some cities and states, but sometimes the monthly mortgage payment is lower than the rental payment or, at least, equal. This is a pretty good reason to prepare the down payment and take the mortgage.

PRO: Improve Your Home The Way You Want. Owning a home gives you home improvement freedom. There is no landlord who says what you can and cannot do while decorating and improving your house. Renovate your property or completely redesign your bath, you can do whatever you want with your own place. This is something worth paying for.

CON: You’re In That Same Home It Until You Sell It. While you have the freedom to make the home exactly the way you want it, you don’t have the freedom to leave your mortgage. the freedom mentioned above, when you take a mortgage for a house, you’re stuck with this particular place for a long time. When you are renting, it’s as simple as finding a new rental and off you go.

CON: Property Taxes. As a homeowner, there are plenty of tax benefits, but you are also obligated to pay property taxes which is usually collected by the municipal government. The value of the property tax is determined by multiplying the property tax rate by the market value of the particular property. Market changes a lot and it means that municipalities may recalculate the property tax.

CON: Home Repairs and Maintenance. The house is fully yours and it means that all the repairs and the whole maintenance process are on you. It’s always fun to call a landlord and ask him to fix a sink, but now you’re on your own and, of course, you pay for all the materials, work process and spend money on keeping your house well-suited for living in it.

The Bottom Line: For many people, owning a home makes more sense financially and from a lifestyle perspective than renting a home. Owning and renting each has its advantages, but what’s best for you depends on your circumstances. Crunch all the numbers.

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Title Search Company for Buyers and Sellers

Resources

The experts at Title First oversee and perform thousands of closings each year. When using Title First, you can sign confidently on the dotted line knowing that all details of your title transfer and closing are in proper order. We are here to answer any questions you may have about buying or selling a home, and our team will guide you through the entire process.

BUYER

Buying a home may be the single, largest financial purchase in your life and can signify a much-anticipated milestone. That’s why Title First offers a host of resources to help you understand this important personal transaction.

SELLER

Selling a home can be complicated and finding the right owner’s title insurance is just one piece of the puzzle. Title First can simplify this process by giving you the tools you need to get you through the selling process.

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Sell Your Home in August

The most important fact to consider if you want to sell your home in August is the beginning of the new school year. If a family hasn’t found the home they want yet, there is just enough time to find a home, close the deal, and move in, sometimes with time to spare. Make sure your home has the edge by making it move-in ready and priced right. However, be aware that because fewer people are looking for a new house, buyers might try and control the negotiations. It is important to have the best Realtor to make sure that the scales do not tip too far out of your favor.

Consider this if you fear August is not the ideal time to put your home on the market – there are buyers who actually wait because they don’t want to be a part of the Spring homebuying competition. They feel that there are too many buyers out in Spring, ready and willing to raise their offers to beat out any competition. However, again, the importance of a good Realtor can’t be stressed enough to help with negotiations.

Create the very best Summer curb appeal for the drive-bys. Mow your lawn often. Trim bushes, plant flowers, update mulch and sweep the driveway and walkway. Paint your front door and replace the hardware if need be. If you have front porch clean the furniture, add pillows and flowers.

Inside your home, there is nothing worse than a stuffy room on a hot day. If you have ceiling fans, have them spinning and jack your air conditioning down cooler than you like. Let all the light in. Tie back heavy curtains and open blinds.

The Bottom Line: August is sandwiched between two incredibly busy months. Both July and September start out with holiday weekends. August may be the month where some families go back to school, but many school districts around the country actually wait until after Labor Day to start the school year. If you think you missed the boat because you didn’t get your house listed in the normal peak season, August is still a good time to list, and possibly even better! 

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The Visual Marketing of Instagram and Real Estate

Realtors: Instagram should be a part of your social media business marketing plan. While you may not land your biggest home buyer or seller, using this platform to market your business, the culture of your business and the value can absolutely improve your reputation and help you to reach people others can’t. Set up a business account separate from your personal profile and use the analytics you will have access to.

Learn exactly who likes your posts. You will have the ability to reach out to potential leads just by seeing who “liked” your post. Expect 10x more engagement on Instagram than Facebook. Don’t be afraid to be personal.

One billion people use Instagram every month. And, 500 million users login and use the Instagram platform every day.

Instagram is a free form of advertising and almost everyone knows about it. Right now anyone with a smartphone, from kids to a retired relative is on the platform. However, for almost nothing, another option for advertising your real estate listings on Instagram is to promote individual posts. When you have a business account, Instagram gives you the option to reach more people by promoting posts.

It shows off real estate listings. Post stunning photos, video walkthroughs and anything else that might sell the home. Beyond the photos, show your personality. The homes may be fantastic, but sell them YOU so they not only come to see your listing on your page, but your personality and let them learn if you might be someone they want to work with.

Hashtags are the new SEO. As a Realtor, you can rank higher in an Instagram search with the perfect hashtag than you may be ranking with your traditional SEO approach to search results pages. Do the research and find other Realtors that cater to the same audience you want to find. Learn the hashtags they use, the calls to action they include, the captions they write and the content they share.

Make your post beautiful and post often and enjoy the rewards of more engagement and traffic. Posts with a lot of likes will be at the top of the users’ feeds, thanks to the Instagram algorithms. Be sure to use video in your social media marketing strategy. Right now it is the most powerful way to connect with anyone who follows you and their friends. Right now, Instagram allows you to post 15-second videos to your Stories and 60-second videos to your feed.  Use it.

The Bottom Line: Like it or not, the internet has become the go-to resource for would-be homeowners as they prepare to purchase a home and all real estate agents need to be using Instagram to market to potential clients. Using Instagram for real estate takes time and effort, but the process of creating posts and engaging with others online can be rewarding. Have an Instagram presence that you work on daily, even if briefly, and get users engaged in what you have to offer. While running ads on Instagram can be a useful step when starting off, the momentum comes from continued social engagement.

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Buying a Foreclosed Home

Buyers and Sellers

Buying a foreclosed home – bank-owned – comes with risk but can be a great deal. Foreclosed homes are inundating the real estate market and can be a great opportunity.

Get an Inspection. Foreclosed homes are sold “as-is” and are owned by banks that don’t and won’t make repairs to the property. It must be understood that in most cases these homes have been poorly maintained as the owner often vacates the home because they could not make their mortgage payments. The maintenance and condition can be an issue because of the circumstances under which the owner had to move out and the amount of time the house has been unoccupied. Not every bank-owned property needs repairs – but many do. While you can’t get the bank to fix the problems the inspector finds, in many cases, you can use it to negotiate a lower sales price. An inspection helps you to know exactly what you are getting into.

Get comparative market analysis. Never assume that a foreclosed home is listed below market value. There is a common misconception that buyers will get a good deal on foreclosed properties. The bank’s goal is to recoup as much of their money as they can and will put the home on the market for more than it is worth. A good Realtor can help you know what prices of other homes in the neighborhood are selling. Knowing this information coupled with the inspection results, you will be better able to determine what price you will pay for the home.

The process to close on a foreclosure can take more time. The offer you prepare to make will go to a bank, not to an individual seller. There are many layers of approval that the offer must go through. Foreclosed homes more times than not run into title issues, such as uncovered liens on the property that can further delay and complicate the situation. Using a Realtor that is skilled in foreclosures is highly recommended.

The Bottom Line: Learn as much as you can about the foreclosed property as possible. Know your own financial situation because often buyers underestimate how much money they will spend to fix the property to make it habitable. A home in need of repairs is a big project to take on. Assess how you will pay for the property. If you don’t intend to pay cash, you should have a preapproval letter from a bank or other lender. Use a Realtor and consult with a real estate attorney who understands foreclosure law in your state.

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Thinking of Buying a Home But Have Bad Credit? Here’s What You Can Do

The financial path to homeownership can be difficult—especially if you’re building your credit score from scratch or rebuilding it after a financial disaster. Lending companies can be fussy, and if your credit scores are low, the chances of you finding a lender willing to provide a home loan with favorable terms isn’t always likely. But it’s not impossible! If this sounds like the position you’re in, consider these four tips to help you buy a house even if you have bad credit.

Tip 1: Find Out What Your Credit Score Is
The first order of business when determining your home financing options is to get your most recent credit score. Contrary to popular belief, checking your own credit won’t actually lower it. That’s because doing so is considered to be a “soft inquiry,” or a case where your inquiry does not appear on your credit report or impacts your credit scores. It’s also important to keep in mind that you have numerous credit scores lenders might use to qualify you, but you’ll minimally want to find out what your scores are from each of the major credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can request a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from any of the agencies above.

Tip 2: Look for Errors on Your Credit Report
While assessing your credit report, you may want to be on the lookout for errors that can harm your credit scores. Delinquencies and derogatory marks alone can make up 35 percent of your FICO score. Check to make sure all personal information (name, address, employer, etc.), public records (bankruptcies, repossessions, foreclosures, etc.), credit accounts (payment history and open accounts), and inquiries (applications for credit) are accurate. If you spot an error, file a dispute with the credit-reporting agency with which you identified the error online, by phone, or by mail for a chance to correct the issue and improve your credit.

Tip 3: Assess Your Options
Once you know your credit scores, you can begin to understand what types of loans and rates you qualify for. Although the scores a lender chooses to use when reviewing your credit can vary, most use FICO® scores, which range from 300 to 850 and 250 to 900 for specific industries. To obtain a loan with the most favorable interest rates, you’ll generally need to have scores in the mid-700s or higher. If your scores fall between the mid-600s or lower, you may find it difficult to find a lender willing to provide you with a loan. There are, in fact, some lenders who make use of FHA-backed loans, which require no minimum credit score or a down payment; however, this option can be a slippery slope, as each lender is allowed to set their own requirements, which might call for a substantial amount of money up front. Whatever the case, weigh your options carefully and choose whichever won’t put you under undue financial duress.

Tip 4: Rebuild Your Credit
If, after weighing your options, you don’t find a loan with favorable enough conditions, it might be a good idea to put a hold on buying a house and increase your credit scores. Ideally, you should start this process over a year or two in advance to allow enough time for your efforts to take effect. For instance, you’ll have more time to pay off existing debt and for delinquencies to age off of your report. Throughout this process, it may be beneficial to switch from a traditional bank that may deny you access to your checking account in lieu of poor credit and switch to a second chance banking option that won’t penalize you for credit mistakes and will work with you to enhance your financial livelihood. By simply making nominal increases to your credit scores, you might open up new doors that can help you purchase the home you’ve always wanted.

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Negotiating When Buying a Home

A great, seasoned Realtor is your best bet when you find the home of your dreams. Negotiation in real estate is an art that any seasoned Realtor will be able to find some common ground that satisfies all parties. Bad negotiations can kill a sale.

  1. If you offer too far below the market value it will damage your credibility as a buyer and is usually insulting to the seller who often has a price range in mind that they’ll accept. If you aren’t even close to the lower end of that range, the offer probably won’t be considered.
  2. Incremental negotiations. Don’t continue to go back to the seller with small increases in your offer ($1,000 or less). The constant back-and-forth can grow tiresome and lead the seller to consider other opportunities.
  3. Take it or leave it. When you make a firm offer the seller can get defensive and consider other offers if you immediately show that you’re unwilling to budge. Even if you won’t negotiate, don’t show your hand.
  4. Being particular after an inspection. If a major issue is revealed, yes, that should be factored into the final sale price. But insisting on a lower price for every minor repair can put negotiations in a standstill.
  5. Asking for more, more, more: Some buyers will request that the sellers throw in add-ons like furniture or appliances that weren’t included in the listing.

The Bottom Line: Before beginning any negotiations, studies have shown that whoever has the most information has the most success on what they are bidding on as opposed to walking into something completely blind. If you have hired a good Realtor, he will be adept at understanding both the big picture and the little details of the home you want to buy. He should be able to read the market the home is in and know if the home you want is one that can be negotiated.

 

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Realtors: Partner with Title First Agency

Realtors: We are your first title company partner. As a trusted partner of Title First Agency, you can expand your coverage and grow your business. We are licensed and do direct business in 30+ states and have strategic relationships in all of our non-licensed states.

JOIN OUR NETWORK

Through a partnership with Title First, you can maintain control of client communication, deliver exceptional service and realize potential revenue you have lost in the past – all while remaining fully compliant with RESPA regulations. By working with us, you can accept more title orders from your clients, expand your footprint, and not have to obtain additional licensing in states where your business does not justify the expense.

Benefits of partnering with Title First:

  • Grow your business outside of your footprint
  • Continue to serve your clients as they grow
  • Maximize your revenue
  • Customize your program with us to serve your client
  • Work with a single point of contact
  • Work through integration and automation
  • See all of your transactions 24/7 on our secured Transaction Center web portal
  • Have unlimited access to some of the largest Underwriters

Contact us at experts@titlefirst.com to learn more about how Title First can work with you to grow your business.

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Questions You Need Answers To Before You Buy A Home

Contract

Buying a home is about the largest single investment you’ll ever make, and you should spend a lot of time and investigate for the perfect house for your family. You must get answers to questions that will give you peace of mind in your purchase. Hopefully, you have found the best Realtor who will help you get to the bottom of these questions:

Why is the house for sale: You may not get the real reason why. There are many reasons why people move, including job relocation, desire to get into a smaller/larger house, life events (marriage, the birth of a child, death of a spouse, or other reason) and retirement. But, if you can get an answer it might help in the negotiation of price.

How long has the home for sale been on the market? If it’s been more than 60 days, chances are you will have more room to negotiate.

How old is the roof?  A roof generally lasts between 15 and 50 years, depending on its materials. If you know how old the roof is, and what type is, you will better be able to determine how long it will last and calculate that into your offer price.

What was the previous selling price? If you know how much the seller paid for the home you will be able to see the value of the local market that the home is in – has it gone up or down. If they paid a lower price, they may be willing to negotiate. If they bought it close to what they are asking for, they most likely won’t budge.

Is there radon in the home? Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that’s found in about 1 every 15 homes.  Most Realtors will tell buyers to get a test done. If the home is found to have it, it will be safe to live in once the radon remediation occurs.

How is the school system? This really matters even if you don’t have children. The quality and rating of the school system affect the value of your home. The next buyers may have kids.

Has there ever been a pipe burst? A good inspector usually can tell if water damage has occurred, and any damage should be disclosed by the previous owner at the time of sale.  The big problem from water damage is moisture problems we are unable to see, behind drywall and trim which leads to mold. A mold remediation professional can tell you if mold is present and how to remove it.

Any signs of pests? Another disclosure that should be made by the owners at the time of the sale. Even if they had a past infestation and dealt with it and can offer proof, such as a receipt for pest control it doesn’t mean the pests are gone for good. Whatever conditions made the home ripe for infestation- a slow leak under the house, rotting wood, or even a total neighborhood situation, get the answers with help from your Realtor.

There are many more investigative questions to ask and hopefully, you have the perfect Realtor that will do a search for all the answers to any questions you may have. Nothing is off limits – this is your investment.

  • Are there sex offenders in the neighborhood?
  • What is the slope of the driveway?
  • How old are the appliances?
  • How many offers has the seller gotten?
  • What type of foundation?
  • What is included in the sale?
  • Are there any neighborhood nuisances?
  • Any lead paint?

The Bottom Line: A conversation with the seller and their Realtor and a review of public records can fill in any blanks to help you make the best decision. Also, you can contact city hall and the county’s property appraiser.

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What Not To Do Before Listing Your Home For Sale

Don’t Spend A Lot of Money on Improvements: It’s tempting to make expensive changes to your home allure prospective buyers. Too many times, sellers put a lot of money into fixing up their homes before listing it. Make an appointment with a skilled Realtor who knows your neighborhood well and can give you advice on what improvements are the most important to tackle. The Realtor will help you to weigh the cost of the proposed upgrades against the market value of your home after the improvements are made. Sometimes, it isn’t applicable to do anything if you won’t get a return on your money.

Don’t Ignore the Outside of Your Home: It’s always a good idea to spend a little extra money on landscaping, and you honestly don’t even have to spend a huge amount to improve the outside of your home. Mulch, bush trimming, plant flowers, tree branch removal, and a fresh cut lawn can speak volumes and set your home apart from the competition. The first impression can make or break your chance to sell your home with a profit. Prospective buyers do drive-bys and often don’t bother putting a home on their list to see the inside if the outside isn’t attractive. Or, they will use an unkempt yard excuse to lowball an offer.

Don’t Overprice Your Home: Prospective buyers are not going to overpay for a home. This is quite possibly the worst home listing mistake. You should choose a Realtor who will have all the neighborhood comparables printed out and ready for you. Remember, there is so much information out there on the internet and the average buyer is pretty real estate savvy. They are able to drum up any information they can find to show your home is overpriced. Then, there is the “typical time frame” that a home should sell in every market and if your home has surpassed that, buyers will know your home is probably overpriced.

Don’t Overlook the Small Details: Are the appliances working? Lights? Hardware on cabinets and doors all tightened and clean? Closets decluttered? Odors from pets need to be tackled. Are the carpets and air ducts clean? Scratches off the wall? All of these are easy fixes and you may not notice any of them, but buyers will.

The Bottom Line: Homes that need repair often deliver lower prices in any market. Buyers won’t even bother with homes that need the slightest work. Do the work in researching the best Realtor in your area who will be able to give you straight answers and guide you in what you must do and what you can pass on before listing your home.

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