WAYS TO ASSESS YOUR READINESS TO BUY YOUR FIRST HOME


1. You think about buying your own home all the time. You subscribe to home & garden magazines, read your newspaper’s lifestyle section every day, look online at homes for sale in your favorite neighborhoods, go on drive-byes to homes that pique your interest, & stop at open houses just to stroll around. Or so you say. Basically, you dream of sheep jumping over the fence you just installed on your newly acquired property. And, you really want to find a place to call & make your own!

2. You have a good job. Not only is your employment record good, but you intend to keep working-and maybe even get promoted! If your spouse or a partner is in the same position, that’s even better. Employment is the pivot upon which all house-hunting activity will revolve, & you will need your salary statements & Form W-2 to verify all job information.

3. You’re confident about your credit history. Lenders are going to take a hard look at your credit history, so find out whether anything in your record might present a problem. Order a report two or three months before making a mortgage application to give yourself enough time to iron out any wrinkles. Any one of the big three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, & Trans Union take into account about 100 variables gathered from your credit file. The mortgage “credit score” specifically looks at such things as how much you are currently in debt, how many places you have applied for credit recently, & what kind of credit you have taken in the past. Take the time to dispute any derogatory items or credit inquiries. Doing this successfully can raise your credit score by tens or even over 100 points! Go through all 3 credit reports with a fine tooth comb and dispute everything you can to have it removed. Don’t close credit cards, but try to have the greatest variance between your balance & the credit limit on each card.

4. You’re a budget whiz. You actually know where your money is coming from & you know where it goes every month. A long time ago, you learned that making & keeping a budget is the first step toward financial security. Calculate how much money you can afford for down & monthly payments. Look closely at the mortgage picture & find the interest rates, processing costs, & adjustment features that suit your needs. If you make an offer & it’s rejected, consider offering more money while asking the seller to cover some of your closing or other costs. Often, negotiations on a price go back & forth several times before a deal is made.

5. You have money in the bank (or under the mattress). Once you’ve located a house you love & you know you can afford it, you’ll need a sizeable down payment to get the ball rolling. The more money you can put into your down payment, the lower your mortgage payments will be. Some types of loans require 10-20% of the purchase price. Closing costs average 3-4% of the price of your home. These costs cover various fees your lender charges & other processing expenses. When you apply for your loan, your lender will give you an estimate of the closing costs, so you won’t be caught by surprise.

6. You’re not afraid of commitment. Enlist the help of local realtors & attorneys to represent your interests, & convince them that you’re pushing on without fear or trepidation. You don’t get panic attacks, you sleep like a baby, & perhaps more important-you really like signing your name. An accepted contract is like a marriage agreement, the deal is not complete, it’s just started. There are many things you must do to successfully avoid the money pits. The ability of experienced professionals to open doors for you & close the deal can never be underestimated.

TIPS FOR FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS

home buyer

1. What are the benefits? You should buy a home. That’s what your friends & family tells you. So by now, you’ve weighed the benefits & decided that home ownership is the best decision for you.

2. Define your search criteria. Most searches start on the internet. Buyers can see hundreds of virtual listings, pictures, virtual tours, & aerial shots of homes & neighborhoods. Buyers should know what town, school district, number of bedrooms, square footage, etc. will work best for them. Drive around different towns & explore. Walk down the street of the downtown area to get a feel for the town. Do you fit in? Can you see yourself living here?

3. How long should the process take? Right now (Fall, 2008), it’s a buyer’s market. A motivated buyer should be able to find a house in a few weeks. Some buyers can find a house within a few days. It all depends on what you’re used to. If you live in a cardboard box on the sidewalk, most of the houses you see will look good. If you live in a penthouse in the Plaza Hotel, you may have more picky tastes. Find a good real estate agent & have them show you homes based on your search criteria. The narrower your search criteria is, the faster you’ll find you home & the better able you’ll be to analyze the homes to find the best deal.

4. How many homes should I see? Don’t see more than 7 homes in 1 day, or your brain will be on overload. Take notes on the listing sheet about the homes you see. Good or bad? Rank the homes you’ve seen in order, so you’ll always have something on the top of the list that all other houses should be compared to.

5. Compare & contrast. Bring a digital camera & start with a close-up of the house number to identify each group of home photos. Take notes of unusual features, colors, & design elements. Pay attention to the home’s surroundings. What is next door? Down the block? Do you like the location? Is it near a park? Train Station? Is there road noise from a highway? Are there high tension power lines above the house?

6. Always look at some houses twice before making an offer. Look carefully & don’t overlook any closet or attic or basement. Remember the three most important rules of real estate: location, location, location. Try to buy the cheapest house on the block, not the most expensive. Remember your exit strategy; make sure other people will want to buy this house when you are ready to sell. Colonials are the most desirable type of home. Raised ranches are the least desirable. Other important items that affect value: flat driveway, flat usable property, non-double yellow line road, no road noise nearby, close to railroad, etc.

7. Don’t let your realtor influence your decision. It’s not their choice; they won’t be living in the house. Make sure that your agent points out any defects that you may have overlooked. Get an inspection before buying.

Our Holiday Favorites!!!

Happy Holidays from King Real Estate Group!

In the spirit of the holiday season we wanted to share a couple of our favorite holiday recipes with you!

Ginger Snap Cocktail

I got this yummy Ginger Snap Cocktail recipe from the food network and thought I would share. www.foodnetwork.com

 

Ingredients

ginger snap drink

 

  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce ginger liqueur, such as Domaine de Canton
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon agave syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch grated nutmeg
  • Ice
  • Cinnamon stick, for garnish

 

Directions

Shake all together the vodka, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, agave syrup, grated ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Reindeer Cookie Ball Pops

Reindeer-Cookie-Ball-Pops-52162

I got this yummy recipe for Reindeer Cookie Ball Pops from http://www.kraftrecipes.com.

Kraft Recipe Ingredients

1 pkg.  (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened

40 NABISCO Ginger Snaps, finely crushed (about 2-1/4 cups)

4 pkg.  (4 oz. each) BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, broken into pieces, melted

1-1/4 cups  candy-coated chocolate pieces

1 cup  small pretzel twists, broken into pieces

 

Kraft Recipie Directions

MIX cream cheese and ginger snap crumbs until well blended.

SHAPE into 30 (1-inch) balls; place in single layer in shallow pan. Freeze 10 min. Dip balls in chocolate; place in single layer in waxed paper-lined pan. Insert lollipop stick into each ball. Decorate with candies and pretzels as shown in photo.

REFRIGERATE 1 hour or until firm. Keep refrigerated.

Do you have a favorite holiday recipe? We loved to know! Please share it with us in the comment section of our blog!

About Us:  

King Real Estate Group is an independent real estate company located in Greenwood Village, CO. We offer a local Buyer’s and  expert listing service in the Colorado Front Range. Our marketing, tracking and buyer assistance programs are the best in the business.

If you are interested in selling your current house or need help finding your dream home contact King Real Estate Group. King Real Estate Group offers their clients professional, knowledgeable, and innovative real estate services.   For more information about real estate trends visit our website at: KingRealEstateGroup 

21 WAYS TO SAVE ON YOUR REMODEL

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1. Increase efficiency, not size. If you can reorganize and equip your kitchen for maximum utility, you may not need to blow out the walls to gain square footage. Start by replacing space-hogging shelves with cabinet-height pullout drawers 8 inches wide, containing racks for canned goods and other items. “You’re getting three or more horizontal planes where you might otherwise get only one,” says Louis Smith Jr., an architect with Meier Group, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. You could easily shell out a few thousand to outfit cabinets with upgrades like dividers, pull-out pot trays, and lazy Susan’s, but you’ll save many times that amount by skipping the addition you thought you needed. *Cost to expand kitchen by 200 square feet: $48,000 to $95,000 Cost of super-efficient, custom-designed cabinets: $35,000 SAVED: Up to $60,000

2. Bring in natural light without adding windows. Before cutting a big hole in the side of your house and rearranging the framing, consider less invasive and less expensive ways of capturing light. To brighten up a windowless bath or hallway, for instance, you can install a “light tube,” which slips between roof rafters and funnels sunshine down into the living space. Cost to add a double-pane insulated window: $1,500 Cost for a light tube: $500 SAVED: $1,000

3. Hit the recycling center. Do-it-yourselfers can reap big savings with recycled or lightly used fixtures and building materials. Habitat for Humanity operates about 400 ReStores nationwide, which offer salvaged materials at half off home-center prices. One caveat: Many contractors won’t work with salvaged items or homeowner–supplied materials in general, because they don’t want to assume the liability if something goes wrong. That said, if you’re doing your own work, you can find anything from pre-hung doors to acrylic skylights to partial bundles of insulation. (To find a ReStore near you, visit habitat.org.) Price of 4×5 foot insulated window in a home center: $600 Price at ReStore: $300 SAVED: $300

4. Donate your trash. Before you begin a remodeling job, invite the local Habitat for Humanity chapter to remove materials and fixtures for later resale. “About 85 percent of a house is reusable,” says B.J. Perkins, Habitat’s ReUse program manager, in Austin, Texas. “We can do a total takedown, or do a cherry-pick job and take the cabinets, the tub, the sink, and so on.” You save space in the landfill, collect a charitable tax credit for the donation, and help a good cause. Visit Habitat’s website (see Way to Save #3) to find an affiliate near you. Cost to trash a suite of bathroom fixtures: $50 to $75 Cost to donate: Nothing, plus you get a tax deduction SAVED: Space in the landfill (and a little bit of your soul)

5. Do your own demo. Knocking down may not be as costly as rebuilding, but you can still shave dollars by doing some of the demolition yourself, as long as you proceed with care. “If a homeowner wants to demo a deck, well, I am sure they can handle that,” says Michael Winn, owner of Winn Design, in Virginia. “But when it comes to interior spaces, I would dissuade them from doing it unless they have done it before.” The reason: A reckless wrecker might unwittingly take out a load-bearing wall or, worse still, plunge a reciprocating saw into live wiring or pressurized plumbing. (For tips on how to do demo right, see our October 2005 feature, “Before You Construct, You Have to Destruct.”) Cost to demo a 200 square foot deck yourself: $450 (Dumpster rental and parking permit) Cost for a pro: $1,000 SAVED: $550

6. Consider long term costs, not just short term gains. If your addition calls for clapboard siding, for instance, you can save more in the long run by ponying up now for the pre-primed and pre-painted variety. It costs an extra 10 to 20 cents per foot, but “you’ll wind up paying for half as many paint jobs down the road,” says Paul Eldrenkamp, owner of Byggmeister, a design build remodeling firm in Newton, Massachusetts. The reason? Factory finishes are applied on dry wood under controlled conditions: no rain, no harsh sun. “I used prefinished claps on my house about ten years ago and the only flaw in the finish is the occasional mildew spot, easily washed off,” Eldrenkamp says. “The paint looks as if it’ll be good for another ten years, easily.” Cost of unfinished siding for a 10×40 foot addition, plus two paint jobs: $5,000 Cost for prefinished claps and one coat of paint at installation: $3,750 SAVED: $1,250

7. Tap your contractor’s sources. When it comes to things like flooring, ask your subcontractor if he has odds and ends stock left over from other jobs. While renovating a Civil War era bed and breakfast in New Jersey some years back, contractor Bill Asdal needed wood flooring. He made a few phone calls and came up with hundreds of square feet of hardwood, in various lengths and widths, that otherwise would have gone into the trash on other job sites. Just by planning it to uniform thickness, then sanding and refinishing it, he saved his client almost $9,000 in materials costs. Cost of new flooring: $19,200 Cost to use someone else’s discards: $10,500 SAVED: $8,700

8. Limit recessed light fixtures. “The more recessed lights you put in, the more it’s going to cost,” says Tom Silva, This Old House’s general contractor. In addition to the fixtures, there’s the labor to cut all the holes and insulate them properly. A wall or ceiling mounted light can also deliver more wattage, which means you may be able to get away with fewer fixtures. Cost to install six can lights: $900 Cost to install one surface mounted fixture of equal wattage: $300 SAVED: $600

9. Consult an architect. Depending on the scale of your project, you might not need a full on architectural commission, which involves extensive meetings, multiple job site visits, and several sets of construction drawings, to the tune of about 8 percent of a project’s construction budget. You might be able to tap an architect’s design savvy by having him undertake a one-time design consultation. For example, for a $400 flat fee, Baton Rouge architect Kevin Harris will meet with a homeowner, examine the problem, and sketch out a few solutions that could be as simple as opening up a partition wall or moving a door. The homeowner can then give the sketch to a builder or take it to a drafting service, which will charge about $1 to $1.50 a square foot to crank out formal construction drawings. Architect’s fee to design a 300 square foot home office: $2,250 Fee for design consultation only and plans: $580 SAVED: $1,670

10. Partner with a contractor. Though the practice is controversial among the trades, some contractors will offer consulting and mentoring services to skilled do it yourselfers on an hourly basis. Chicago area builder Ted Welch charges $150 per hour for such coaching, with a two hour minimum commitment. “The most satisfied clients tend to be those who have good manual dexterity, who realizes that skills need to be practiced in order to be perfected, and who are willing to risk making a few mistakes and then learn from them,” he says. Cost to drywall one room: $1,000 Cost with DIY consultation: $300 (2 hours of coaching), plus materials SAVED: $700

11. Make sweat equity count. Unless you’ve got loads of time (and expertise) to spend on your project, the best way to add sweat equity is up front, by handling your own demolition, or at the back end, by doing some of the finish work yourself. “If you want to save money, dig in and start helping out,” says Tom Silva. “You can insulate, you can paint, you can sand.” Or better still, he says, help with cleanup every day. “Instead of paying someone to pick up sawdust off the floor, put your money into the time it takes to trim the window properly,” he advises. Cost for construction crew to handle cleanup: $200 per day Cost to do it yourself: $0 SAVED: About 3 to 5 percent of the overall job cost

12. Do your own schlepping. If you’re doing your own project, slash your materials delivery fees by picking up goods yourself. No pickup truck? For about $400, you can purchase a nearly new single axle utility trailer online, which you can tow behind your SUV. Get one just big enough to carry 4×8 sheet goods flat. Use it for a half dozen trips, and it’s paid for itself. Find trailers for sale near you via eBay Motors, or try your local classifieds. Cost of 10 deliveries: $750 Cost to buy a used trailer: $400 SAVED: $350, plus you get to keep (or sell) the trailer

13. Don’t overspend on wall prep. If your walls are in such rough shape that it would take a painting contractor days of filling and sanding to make them ready for the roller, consider using materials such as Texturglas, from Deerfield Beach, Florida based company Roos International. A breathable, nontoxic wall covering made of fine glass filaments; Texturglas has a similar look and feel to the fiberglass matting used in auto body work. It’s available in a variety of surface patterns, takes paint readily, and is designed to be installed right on top of existing surfaces, adding strength while covering up dings. Cost to patch and paint a 15×20 foot room with heavily damaged walls: $1,525 Cost to install Texturglas: $1,050 SAVED: $475

14. Consider look a likes. Some imitations just make sense: Lumber giant Weyerhaeuser sells a fast-growing natural eucalyptus hybrid under the brand name Lyptus. Sustainably harvested in plantations in Brazil, the clear grained hardwood looks and feels remarkably like mahogany. It’s sold as tongue and groove flooring and in planks and sheets for cabinetry and millwork. (Visit Lyptus.com to find a distributor near you.) Cost of 100 board feet of mahogany: $808 Cost of same quantity Lyptus: $395 SAVED: $413

15. Demolish the whole house and start from scratch. “Most clients don’t want to hear those words,” says Paul Irwin, design director with Landis Construction, in the Washington, D.C., area, “but it really needs to be considered on major remodels. “In one case, for example, plans for a 1,300 square foot addition revealed that the house’s existing foundation wasn’t up to code and would have to be replaced, a $30,000 proposition. After crunching the numbers, the owners concluded that it would cost as much to update the house, a former summer cottage, as it would to reproduce it new. “For a relatively small additional cost,” says the owner, “we get all the benefits of new construction while preserving the character and feel of our old house.” Cost to remodel: $570,000 Cost to replicate: $588,000 SAVED: For $18,000, the owners gained as much as $60,000 worth of new living space, plus improved safety and energy efficiency.

16. Wait until contractors want your business. Don’t schedule your renovation in the height of summer or between September, when the kids go back to school, and Christmas. “That’s premium time,” explains Lisa Stacholy, owner of LKS Architects, in Atlanta, Georgia. Suppliers tend to be busier, labor scarcer, and deliveries slower. One Virginia based contractor offers discounts of between 4.5 and 5.5 percent (depending on the overall budget) on projects during his down time, right after the New Year. Cost of a major bathroom remodel in peak season: $25,000 Cost in January: $23,625 SAVED: $1,375

17. Skip the foundation. If local code allows, you may be able to support a small addition on posts and beams, as you would a deck, explains contractor Dennis Gavin, of Gavin Design–Build, in Media, Pennsylvania. 220 square foot addition with poured foundation: $40,000 Same size addition on posts and beams: $35,000 SAVED: $5,000

18. Don’t move the kitchen sink, or the toilet, if you can avoid it. “That often becomes the biggest part of the plumbing price increase,” says Richard Trethewey, This Old House plumbing and heating expert. If your new layout requires that you move the toilet, use the opportunity to upgrade the pipes at the same time. “That will save you money in the long run,” says Richard. Cost to move toilet more than 3 feet: $500-$1,000 Cost to leave in existing location: $0 SAVED: Up to $1,000

19. Plan with stock sizes in mind. “Ask yourself, ‘Why am I building something 10 feet wide if plywood comes in 4 foot wide sheets?'” says Lisa Stacholy, of LKS Architects, in Atlanta. The same applies to stock windows and doors: Use manufacturers’ off–the–shelf dimensions from the outset and you will save the premiums of custom fabrication. Cost of custom doors: $1,500-$2,500 Cost of standard doors: $500-$800 SAVED: Up to $2,000

20. Buy building supplies at auction. Brian Peppel, a homeowner in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, attends one building supply auction each month in nearby Lancaster County. His recent finds include two pallets of concrete block for $10 and a solid–wood prehung exterior door for $65. “Their inventory is everything under the sun, a lot of scratch and dent, misordered custom items, or new overstock supplies,” reports Peppel. He once watched the auctioneer’s gavel fall on a large, custom–made triangular window with an original retail value that he pegs at several thousand dollars. The winning bid? $1. Cost of solid cherry wall cabinet at a home center: $300 Cost at building supply auction: $10 SAVED:$290

21. Make decisions early. Start prowling the aisles at the hardware store or home center way before the wrecking crew shows up. Get a good feeling for what you want in fixtures and appliances and what they cost. If you aren’t absolutely specific up front about what you want, you’ll have to rely on your contractor’s estimate, called an allowance, and his notion of what is acceptable may be quite different from yours. “Ninety eight percent of the time, allowances are too low,” says Tom Silva. For instance, you may have had a glass–tile backsplash in mind, but your contractor’s bid was for ceramic. Cost to plan ahead: $0 Cost of change orders midstream: The difference in the item price, but also time lost to project delays and communications glitches SAVED: Up to thousands.

4 CRITICAL RULES FOR BUYING A REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT PROPERTY

Investors and Buyers who are looking to capture a deal in this wild real estate market will be presented with more “opportunities” than they know what to do with. It is important that as a buyer you carry some critical rules with you in your tool bag as you shop through the market to help you identify which potential real estate investment properties with be the best for you in the long run, and be the easiest to manage during the ride.

Here are the 4 easy to understand rules:

1. Selecting the right area: The first task will be deciding which area you want to invest in. There are a number of areas that you may be interested in, and they all may very well be great investment areas, so here are some criteria to help you narrow the search. First, invest in a property that is no further than 10 miles away from you. This will make a world of difference when you are collecting late rents, trying to get in touch with the tenant, keeping an eye on the property, running over to make emergency repairs, or checking on an emergency phone call. If possible, invest in properties that are in your “normal” travel path: to work, to the kid’s school, to the grocery store, to the gym. This will make all of the above trips to the property much more bearable and improve your ability to manage the property. So now, within that 5 mile circle that surrounds your home you must search for neighborhoods that are just below the average price for an area. NOT the average quality, just the average price. If the median selling price for homes in your area is $180,000, then look for homes in the $120,000 to $160,000 range. These will be in the highest demand by renters. This range should also keep you out of the bad, low value areas, and this price range should fare well as prices increase. Not too high, not too low, but just right. Now that you’ve narrowed the search, look for neighborhoods that are well maintained. PRIDE OF OWNERSHIP IS CONTAGIOUS. You can see evidence of this as you pass from one street to the next in a neighborhood, or even as you move between clusters of homes in a subdivision. The neighborhood slob drags one street down, while the guy who never stops working on his house and yard oftentimes guilt’s the other neighbors into doing the same. Look for well-groomed yards, no trash, and clean driveways.

2. Look for Average Joe’s Address. Now that you have identified the neighborhoods and streets that you’d like to invest in, you need to start evaluating the individual houses. Here are the rules, as little grass as possible (go desert or low water), NO POOLS, avoid RV parking, and stay away from wood fences and wood siding. Try to find stucco or aluminum siding houses, a pitched roof, & single story. This will do volumes for you in the way of keeping the house up, avoid neighborhood scrutiny “homeowners association type phone calls”, and keep management and replacement costs down.

3. Avoid the “Odd Couple”. Stay away from homes that have something odd about them. Did the old owner add something on without permits? Are there tacky awnings or patios? Did Michelangelo build a rock and brick waterfall monument in the front yard? You want the house to maintain a low profile. Odd items can tell you a lot about the old owner, and possibly how they took care of the home.

4. Keep maintenance to a minimum, whenever you are replacing something in the home (toilets, flooring, and landscape). Do not replace it with what you would like to have: for the simple reason that you are not living there. Tenants will often do damage to the home, intentionally or not. Give them as little to break as possible. Keep in mind, most of the ideas that you have add little or no resale value to the home.