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A Bit About Mold

There are a number of little things to look out for when purchasing a new home. Normally the things to consider includes such things as location, wiring, the condition of the house itself, and several other factors. One of these factors that the home buying public is becoming more concerned with is mold. There are many different types of mold that can occur in a home and lead not only to structural damage, but some health concerns as well. Mold is difficult to find in many homes as it grows exclusively in dark and moist areas that are usually hidden somewhere in the structural areas of the home such as attics and basements. By the time mold shows up in the actual living areas, chances are that it is all through the home.

One of the most likely places for mold to form is anywhere that moisture is improperly vented. Another area of concern is if a home has ever flooded and was not completely or properly cleaned and dried after. Leaky plumbing and basement crawlspaces are other likely candidates. Mold can be a difficult thing to completely get rid of as the only thing it needs to continue growth is an organic material such as wood, and moisture. Both of these items are usually abundant in any home. The most likely was that moisture finds its way into the home is through faulty or leaky roofs and foundations. Both of these areas should be checked over by an experienced mold inspector on a fairly regular basis if there is any worry of mold beginning to grow, or if these has been mold in the past. Mold can be an expensive problem to deal with so be pro-active about looking for it, it can save you money in the long run.

Mortgage Points

If you have ever gone looking for quotes on a mortgage in order to find out just what a mortgage might cost you, you have probably had the term points thrown at you. So what are points?

Each point is a fee and it is based on one percent of the total amount of the loan. There are a couple of different points, there are discount points and then there are origination points and lenders do not all charge the same amount of these points. Some lenders will charge you one point while others may charge you three.

Discount points are the points that are like prepaid interest on your loan that you are getting for your new home. Every point that you purchase will lower your interest rate to some extent. Most borrowers will be able to choose just how many points they want to purchase. There is a limit of course, usually around four points. The number of points that you choose to buy will depend on how much you want to lower you interest rate. One especially good point of these points is the fact that they are tax-deductible.

Origination fees are different. These fees are used in order to pay for the costs of giving you the loan in the first place. You don’t get anything out of these points so most borrowers don’t like them as they are not even tax-deductible. If you can try to get a loan that does not require you to get these types of points. Discount points on the other hand can be useful to you.

The choices that you make concerning the points to get will be affected by a couple of different things. For example, how long are you going to be living in this house? And how much of a down payment are you going to be putting down? If you are thinking of settling into this house for the long haul then perhaps discount points are a good way for you to go. Lowering your interest rate for years to come is always a good thing. Before making your decision take stock of your situation and see what suits your needs best.

5 Ground Rules for Home Buying Success

There are few purchases in life that carry the financial and psychological weight of buying a home.  Whether you are buying your first home, moving up to your dream home, or downsizing your home and your life after the kids have gone, it is important to understand the ground rules for success in the world of buying a home.

Making the wrong decision in buying a home can have devastating and long-lasting effects, while making a wise decision in home buying can greatly enhance the overall value of the investment.  It is necessary to learn all you can about the world of home buying and mortgages before setting out to purchase the home of your dreams.

While there are plenty of web sites designed to help first time homeowners learn all they can, most financial experts say that there is no substitute for the good old one-on-one learning. Fortunately, most mortgage lenders, home inspectors and real estate agents will be able to provide this kind of one-on-one learning.

When buying a home it is often best to use a systematic approach as this is often the best way to be sure that all decisions are based on information and reason, not on impulse or emotion.  Buying a home can be an emotional process, nevertheless it is imperative to keep your emotions under control and not let them cloud your judgment.

There are five basic ground rules when it comes to buying a home and shopping smart, and they are:

#1 – Get your financing before you get your home.

There are few things in life as disappointing as losing out on the home of your dreams due to not being able to secure funding.  While the desire to get out there is search for that great home is understandable, it is vital to line up the financing you will need before you start shopping for a home.

Getting the financing ahead of time has a number of important advantages, including knowing how much you can buy and gaining more respect from the listing agents.  By knowing how much home you can afford before you shop you will avoid wasting your time looking at unaffordable properties, and the listing agent will be more than willing to show you the homes in your price range.

It is also important to take a good look at the various types of mortgage on the market before getting started in the home buying process.  These days, mortgages come in far more choices than the typical 15 or 30 year. For that reason, potential home buyers need to understand how each type of mortgage works, and to gauge which mortgage is the best choice for their needs.

#2 – Look at the community, not just the home.

It is a good idea to look at the entire community, instead of focusing on a single home. This can be a particularly important thing to consider for those moving to a new metropolitan area, as these buyers will be unfamiliar with the local climate and lifestyle.  It is crucial to determine the areas of town that are most desirable, and to consider things like distance from work and local shopping opportunities.

We have all heard that location is the key consideration when it comes to real estate, and that is certainly the case.  Buying a house in the wrong area can be a big mistake, and it is important to choose the location as well as the home.  Potential buyers can learn a great deal about the nature of the various neighborhoods simply by driving around town, as well as by talking to other residents.

#3 – Be fair with your first offer.

Trying to lowball a seller on the first offer can backfire, as can paying too much. It is important to carefully evaluate the local market, and to compare the asking price of the home with what similar houses in the neighborhood have sold for.

Comparing the sales of comparable homes, what are known as “comps” in the industry, is one of the best ways to determine what is fair, and to make sure that you neither overpay or underbid on the property.

#4 – Always get a home inspection.

Always investigate the home for any possible defects before making an offer.  Compared to the cost of the average home, the price of a quality home inspection is virtually negligible. Hence, get a good home inspection done before you buy.

To find the best home inspector, it is a good idea to seek out word of mouth referrals as many of the best home inspectors rely on word of mouth advertising.

#5 – Do not alienate the sellers of the home.

Many real estate deals have fallen apart due to the personal animosity of the buyer and the seller.  It is important to avoid alienating the seller of the home during the process, and to avoid nitpicking every little detail during the sale.

Keeping the good will of the seller will help the transaction go smoothly, and it will provide the best environment for seller and buyer alike.

Ten Ways to Fight Identity Theft

Recent reports estimate that as many as one in ten of the population have been a victim of identity theft, one of the fastest growing crimes of the last few years. By using a variety of means to usurp your identity and pass themselves off as you, the criminals involved go on to commit fraud and theft in your name – leaving you to pick up the pieces afterwards.

The effects on your credit rating can be devastating and often take years to completely fix, so prevention is obviously better than cure. Here are ten simple ways to help you avoid becoming a victim.

1: Be careful with your old documents such as paid bills, bank statements, and receipts. Either keep them safely stored or destroy them if you don’t need them anymore. Don’t just throw them away, as fraudsters often start stealing an identity by searching for these very kinds of documents in household waste. Shredding or burning unneeded papers will prevent this first step.

2: Store your personal documents securely by keeping them somewhere out of the sight of visitors to your home.

3: If you change your address, make sure that you inform your bank, utility companies, and everyone else who sends you mail. Documents wrongly sent to a previous address are a favourite target of fraudsters.

4: Make sure that when you stop using a credit card or bank account, you actually formally close the account rather than letting it go dormant. Having an unused, forgotten about account resurrected by a fraudster might not even be noticed until serious damage has been done.

5: Watch your plastic – make sure you know where your credit, debit and ATM cards are, and tell the issuing banks immediately if you lose them or they’re stolen.

6: If possible change your PIN numbers and passwords to something easily memorable, and NEVER write them down, especially not on scraps of paper kept in your purse or wallet.

7: Don’t respond to phishing. Banks will never ask you for personal details via email, and won’t ask you for the password to your account. You don’t need to ‘reconfirmed’ your details following an email request either – just delete the email. If in any doubt at all, call your bank to make sure the request is genuine.

8: Use anti-virus software and firewall on your computer, especially if you use online banking of any kind. Keep the software up to date as well to guard against attempts by hackers to discover personal information on your computer.

9: Check your bank account and credit card statements carefully when you receive them, and query with your bank anything that you can’t identify. Spotting a fraud in progress early on will vastly help in minimising the damage it causes.

10: Finally, monitor your credit reports regularly to see if anything appears that seems odd, such as applications for credit cards that you didn’t make, or missed payments on finance that you haven’t taken out. Services are widely available online which can help you do this by automatically informing you when something on your file changes.

None of us can be 100% sure that we won’t fall victim to the crime of ID Theft, but by taking the measures listed above you’ll be making the job of any potential fraudster very difficult indeed, and they’re likely to move on to an easier target!

Understanding Mortgage

A mortgage is defined as a way in which property or jewelry is used as a security against the debt. The loan that is taken against mortgage is termed as ‘mortgage loan’. This loan is taken in many countries mainly for the purpose of purchasing home or for wedding in the family.

Mortgage can be taken from banks or money lenders in many countries. People involved in mortgage include-creditor, debtor and at times a legal representative. The term creditor can also be used synonymously with lender. Money lenders, insurers, banks or financial institutions are creditors who provide the money to the person in exchange of property or jewelry.      

A borrower is also known as debtor, obligor or mortgagor. A debtor gets the amount equal to the value of the mortgaged article. A mortgagor is required to abide by all the obligations or conditions of creditors. Or, else there are chances that as a way of recovering debt, the property may be taken away by the creditors. There are various properties as a result of foreclosure. These properties are available for reasonable costs for the other buyers.  

It is always that the legalities of mortgage are done under the supervision of a lawyer. All the conditions and the amount of money involved should be stated in written and signed by the creditors, debtors and lawyer present. It adds authenticity and removes any confusion if any.

Currently many Certified Financial Planners work in combination with Certified Mortgage Planners so as to provide mortgage loans to financially sound people.

In addition to creditors, debtors, legal representatives and government agencies, there is involvement of pension funds and life insurers. Terms involved in the legal process of mortgage loan are Disbursements, Mortgage Deed, Conveyance, Land Registration, Sealing Fee, Freehold, Leasehold, Seasoned mortgage and Legal Charge.

Freehold is defined as the land and property ownership. Disbursements include all the money involved as search fees, stamp duty and land registry. Legal Charge is a document that has all the minute details of the land or property owner. Conveyance is the document that transmits the possession of unregistered property. Sealing Fee is paid when the creditor discharges the charge over the land. Land Registration is also referred as title. This document contains the details of the ownership of land and property. Seasoned mortgage is linked with secondary market. In seasoned mortgage payment is made on regular basis. Mortgage Deed is a document that gives detail of possession of ownership.

Legal mortgage are of two kinds Mortgage by legal charge and Mortgage by demise. There are essentially two types of legal mortgage. A lender becomes the legal owner of the mortgaged land till the money is paid in full. A lender is free to auction or sell the mortgaged property. While under Mortgage by legal charge, a lender can not sell the mortgaged land. He may possess the land legally but the right of selling and buying of the land lies with the debtor. Also, to provide safety to the lender, the details of mortgage are recorded in a register.

What You Should Know About Interest Rates

For all people shop around for the best rate, there are few who have taken the time to sit down and add it all up. After all, why would you bother? The answer is that understanding just how interest rates work can help you see how important small differences in rates and payment amounts can be.

Interest Rates are Compound.

It is important to remember that what you owe is compounded – that means you pay interest on the interest you owe from the month before. That means that if you’re paying 2% per month in interest, you’re not paying 24% per year – you’re actually paying 26.82%. Charging interest monthly instead of yearly is a trick to make it feel like you are paying a very low price for your borrowing.

A Thought Experiment.

Here’s a question: would you rather have $1 million, or $10,000 in a savings account earning 20% per year in compound interest?

Well, let’s see how that $10,000 would grow. After 10 years: $61,917. 20 years: $383,375. 30 years: $2,373,763. 40 years: $91,004,381. 50 years: $563,475,143.

So after fifty years, you’d have over $500 million?! Well, not so fast. Of course, you have to take inflation into account – if we say inflation is 5%, then that money would have the buying power that $10,732,859 does today. Still, that’s not a bad return on your investment of $10,000, is it?

That’s the power of compound interest, and the way the credit card companies make their money (it’s also the way pensions work, and the reason the prices of things seem to rise massively as you get older). Be very, very afraid of compound interest. Or, of course, you could start saving, and be very glad of it…

Compound Interest Adds Up.

Let’s work through an example on a more real kind of scale. Let’s say you have an average unpaid balance of $1,000 on a card at 15% APR.

You will owe $150 in interest for the first year you borrow. However, this amount is then added onto the balance, and interest is charged on that. The second year, you’d owe another $172.50, for a total of $1322.50. It goes on, with totals like this: $1,520.88, $1,749, $2,011.35.

After just five years at 15%, you’d owe double what you borrowed. And after 10 years, you’d owe four times what you borrowed! Bet you weren’t expecting that. If you let something like that carry on for long enough, you’ll end up paying back that credit card for years afterwards, paying back what you borrowed many times over and still not clearing the debt. Most people don’t work this out, and feel that the payments must simply be their fault for spending too much money to begin with.

One Percent of Difference.

One more thing. You might think there’s not that much difference between a card that charges 15% APR and one that charges 12% APR. Let’s see the difference the lower rate would make to that $1,000 borrowed for five years. Remember, after five years at 15%, you owed $2,011.35.

At 12%: $1120, $1254.40, $1404.93, $1573.52… $1762.34 after five years. So you’ve saved $249.01 from that 3% difference in APR – in other words, you’ve paid almost 25% less interest.

Who Is Responsible For Closing Costs

Buying or selling a home is a euphoric experience for both of the parties involved. This euphoria can cool when you learn which party is responsible for the closing costs.

Who Is Responsible For Closing Costs

When looking to buy or sell a home, every person eventually arrives at the question of funding closing costs on the transaction. To put it simply, both buyers and sellers typically are responsible for some of the closing costs. However, the exact amounts paid can vary significantly from area to area and depending on what agreements the buyers and sellers come to in the offer-counteroffer process.

It is important to research the area you are looking to buy or sell in and be knowledgeable regarding any laws and standards of practice for the area. Yes, the requirements are different in each state and often each city. Know what you will have to pay ahead of time so you can be prepared to cover these costs. Here are some examples of what buyers and sellers generally have to cover.

Buyers typically pay the following: fees charged for obtaining a mortgage; inspection fees; homeowner’s insurance (must be prepaid for one year at closing); transfer taxes if there are any (although the seller may pay these or they may be shared 50-50 between buyer and seller); title insurance and escrow fees (varies depending on the location); and attorney’s fees (if and where attorneys are involved in the transaction). If you are confused, a mortgage broker can tell you which fees are customarily paid for by the buyer in your area and how much they will cost. When buying a home, the use of mortgage brokers is highly recommended to both get a great deal on a mortgage and help with the transaction itself. The broker only gets paid if the deal goes through, so you know they will make every effort.

Sellers’ closing expense responsibilities typically include: loan payoff fees; the real estate commission (in some cases, a portion of this may be paid by the buyer); title insurance (depending on the location); termite repairs (this is negotiable in some areas); cash payments in lieu of repairs to the property; all or part of transfer taxes and escrow fees, if there are any; attorney’s fees where applicable; and other fees set by local custom or negotiated during the transaction.

Knowing and researching the area you are buying or selling in is critical to understanding who is responsible for closing costs. Educate yourself and you will avoid overpaying.

Four Real Estate Investment Tips, that you can learn from Warren Buffet, and other Stock Investors

Some of the most successful stock investors ever have based their investing principles on value investing. Investors such as Benjamin Graham, Irving Kahn, and Warren Buffet, have used value investing to build vast empires of wealth.

Value investing was conceived by Benjamin Graham, and David Dodd, in their classic book, “Security Analysis”, written in 1934. Although they were talking about stocks, there is still a lot to be learnt from value investing that can be applied to other investment vehicles. This article will show four things that real-estate investors can learn from value investing…

1: Investing vs Speculating – In value investing, it’s important to make the distinction between being an investor, and being a speculator. In “Security Analysis”, it is defined as this:

“An investment operation is one which, upon thorough analysis promises safety of principle and an adequate return. Operations not meeting these requirements are speculative”.

So, there are 3 things needed for something to be an investment: – You need to have done thorough analysis. – You need to be reasonably sure that you won’t lose your money. – You need to be reasonably sure that you will make some money.

In terms of real-estate, this means that just buying and selling real-estate, does NOT make you an investor. If you’re buying properties at random, just because there is a boom and all property is going up in value, you are not investing. You are speculating.

There is nothing wrong with speculating, you just need to be aware when you are speculating, versus when you are investing.

2: Value vs Quality – Value Investing doesn’t really have any formulas, or rules. It is more of a theory, with some general principles. Because of this, there are many ways to do value investing, and different ways to apply it.

Benjamin Graham focused on buying stocks significantly below value, with little emphasis in the quality of the stock, in regards to their long term prospects.

This can be a useful strategy for a real estate investor, particularly when they are first starting out, and need to build up equity fast.

Warren Buffet still looks at the value of a stock, but puts a lot more emphasis on the quality of the stock. He only buys stocks that he thinks have good long-term prospects, with a bright future in front of them.

This is generally a good strategy for real-estate investors to move to later on, when they have built up their portfolio. Long term, well-chosen property will make significantly more capital growth than poorly chosen property, and may be worth buying even if it can only be bought at market value.

And with commercial real estate investment, it may be worth getting a lower rental yield, if this means you can have a high quality tenant, who will pay the rent reliably. This is a strategy that famous New Zealand commercial real estate investor Bob Jones has applied, with great success.

3: Margin Of Safety -“One of the most important principles in value investing is a margin of safety”.

Margin of Safety is the idea of making sure that you only invest if your calculations show that there is a significant profit to be made. There is no way your analysis can be 100% accurate, so the margin of safety gives you a buffer, to use when your calculations are slightly off, or you get worse than average luck, or any number of unexpected problems occur.

So when estimating the value of a stock, you use conservative estimates for earnings etc, to come up with the value. If your estimated value comes in at $10, then you don’t buy the stock if it’s currently selling for $9.75, because it’s too risky, and if your calculations are off, you wont be buying a bargain. If the price is currently $6 though, you might buy it, because you have a $4 margin of safety to use if you estimated incorrectly.

The same principle applies to real-estate.

Suppose you are looking at a deal, and you find you can buy some land for $100,000 and you can build a 4-bedroom house on it for $150,000.

If new 4-bedroom houses in the area are selling for $270,000 then should you do the deal? Theoretically, it will only cost you $250,000 to buy/build with a sale at $270,000 so you should make $20,000 profit.

But that isn’t much margin of safety. What if building costs blow out, and it cost more than $150,000 to build? What if you can’t sell it straight away so you have some holding costs? What if the other 4-bedroom houses in the area have much better kitchens than you realized, and you can actually only sell for $245,000?

There are a lot of unknowns here, and because your margin of safety is so small, unless everything goes right, you can quickly find yourself making a loss.

If on the other hand, 4-bedroom houses in the area are selling for $350,000 then you have a projected profit of $100,000. You can afford for a lot of things to go wrong, and you can still make a profit.

In the first case, if building costs go up by $50,000, the deal will cost you $30,000.

In the second case, because you have a much larger margin of safety, if building costs go up by $50,000 then you will still make a profit of $50,000.

Margin of Safety is a very important concept to all investors, and all real estate investors should think about it if they want to be around for the long-term.

4: The myth of Risk vs reward – Conventual wisdom says that to increase your reward in investing, you must increase your risk. This is often true, but the Magen of Safety principle can turn this around.

When margin of safety is used, a higher reward actually means a lower risk!

You can see this is the example above. The deal that is projected to make $20,000 is quite risky, whereas the deal with a projected profit of $100,000 is much safer, because a lot more can go wrong before a loss is made.

This doesn’t mean than high reward always means lower risk though. The conventual Risk vs Reward wisdom is still correct in general. So if you borrow more to buy a property, your risk and reward have increased. If you buy in a small town to get a higher rental yield, your risk and reward have increased.

This Risk vs Reward theory is only incorrect when directly applied to the Margin Of Safety concept. So if you buy something for $100,000 that all your analysis shows is worth $200,000, then your reward has gone up, while your risk has gone down.

Pre-Approval Letter – How To Use It To Get Your Dream Home

When house hunting, many buyers make the mistake of waiting to contact a lender until after they have located their dream home. As a buyer, you will be in a much stronger position with a seller if you are pre-approved.

Pre-Approval Letter

To effectively house hunt, you must know the amount you can borrow from a lender. There is nothing worse than find your dream home, but failing to qualify for the amount you need for a loan. Avoid this by asking your lender to pull your credit information and to let you know what needs to be done to get a pre-approval letter. If you are going to have problems with getting a loan, it is better to know about it as early as possible.

Sometimes buyers resist contacting lenders because it’s not the enjoyable part of home buying and they’re afraid an extra credit check will reduce their credit score. This resistance is penny wise and pound foolish. Buyers who get their loan arrangements lined up at the beginning of the house buying process are really doing themselves a favor.

Much of the country is experiencing a hot, sellers’ market. It is not unusual for a seller to get more than one offer on the same day. If that happens to you, your pre-approved status can give you an edge over the competition. In fact, it can make a seller choose you over another bidder.

Presenting Your Letter to a Seller

When you tell the seller you want to buy their property, give them a copy of your pre-approval letter. They will probably recognize the value of the letter, but don’t depend on this assumption. Make sure the seller realizes the loan is already approved.

As you give the seller the letter, explain to them that you are serious about making the transaction go smoothly and, for that reason, you have already been through most of the loan application process. Point out that the lender has pulled your credit info and you’ve provided copies of W-2s, pay stubs, and all the other things the lender needed to decide that you do qualify for a loan. Tell the seller that the only remaining thing to do is to give the lender a copy of the contract that you and the seller sign, and the property needs to appraise for an appropriate amount.

Taking this approach puts you in a very strong position. The seller knows you are not just wishing; you are capable of buying his property. One of a seller’s worst nightmares is signing a contract with someone, taking his property off the market, wasting time and then finding out that the would-be buyer cannot get a loan. On the other hand, you and your pre-approval letter are dreams come true.

Put on your shining armor and get pre-approved by a lender. Once you have the letter in hand, get out there and find your dream home.