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Know Your Real Estate: 5 Researching Tips for Homebuyers

Being a first-time homebuyer can be an intimidating prospect; it seems like there’s so much to learn! The process doesn’t get less challenging the second or third time around. Here are five tips to help you research and prepare for your next home-buying experience.

Location, Location, Location
It’s a cliché but it’s true: location really is the most important part of the real estate equation. However, the right location isn’t the same for everyone. Take your family’s priorities into account and know where you would buy a home and where you would not. Try to be flexible; if you’re longing for a place with a yard, then a balcony might not cut it—however, a roof deck might! Always look for the exception to the rule. It’s also a good idea to compare home prices around the home that you’re considering. This will help you figure out if your house is a good deal and in line with the market expectations.

Find Your Financing
Finding the perfect house can take years, but once you find it things will move quickly. Most real estate markets are fast-moving and a great house at a great price can easily go on the market in the morning and be under contract by the evening. When you find that house, you have to be ready to jump on it. This means that you should have your financing figured out before you make an offer. Ask friends, family, any law or finance professionals your family uses, or your REALTOR® for a recommendation for a mortgage company. Be sure to get quotes from several different firms so you have a general idea of what your rate really should be.

Understand the Vocabulary

You should educate yourself about some of the jargon that comes with the real estate territory; otherwise, you might find yourself completely out of your league when discussing purchasing terms.

Check Out the Neighborhood
If you’re looking for homes outside of the neighborhood you live in, the best way to get a feel for it is to go and spend the day there. Find a few open houses you’re interested in and go make a day of it. Have lunch, stroll the streets, check out the parks and schools, and find out what kind of people live there. These are the things that give a neighborhood its flavor, and things that you can’t know until you go there and see for yourself.

Choose an Agent
A real estate agent can make or break your home-buying experience. If you don’t have an agent you already know and like, ask for recommendations and check local ratings sites. This can be a very personal relationship, so if you find an agent you believe in, hang on to them!

Buying a home is an exciting and stressful process, but with these tips, you’ll have a great experience researching, shopping for and purchasing your next home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

When it Comes to Homeownership Decisions, Pets Rule

A lot goes into the decision to buy, sell or remodel a home. After all, this is one of the most significant investments of your lifetime, so there are a lot of factors to be weighed and considered…including how happy your pet will be.

Yes, you read that right. In fact, 81 percent of respondents to a recent report from the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), reported that animal-related considerations play a role in determining their next living situations. In 2016, 61 percent of U.S. households either have a pet or plan to get one in the future, so it stands to reason that our animal companions will play a significant role in our housing decisions for the foreseeable future.

According to NAR’s 2017 Animal House: Remodeling Impact report, 99 percent of pet owners said they consider their animal part of the family, and 89 percent of those surveyed said they would not give up their animal because of housing restrictions or limitations. In fact, 12 percent of pet owners have actually moved in order to accommodate their furry, finned or feathered family member, and 19 percent said they would consider moving to accommodate their animal in the future.

No one knows the relationship between homeowners and their animal friends better than REALTORS. Those surveyed for the report said that one-third of their pet-owning clients often or very often will refuse to make an offer on a home because it is not ideal for their pet.

Other interesting statistics from the report include:

– 67 percent of REALTORS say animals have a moderate to major effect on selling a home. If you’re selling your home, make sure you’ve cleaned or replaced any areas affected by pet damage or odors.
– 52 percent of respondents said they had completed a home renovation project specifically to accommodate their pet, such as fencing in their yards, adding a doggie door or installing a pet-friendly laminate flooring.
– 80 percent of REALTORS consider themselves animal lovers, so you’ll have lots of support in accommodating your pet’s housing needs when buying!

Source: National Association of REALTORS

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Snow Emergency Numbers & Red Cross Links

With a winter storm approaching our region late tonight into tomorrow — a Blizzard Warning is in effect from late Monday night through late Tuesday night, with heaviest snow expected Tuesday morning/afternoon. Accumulations of 2-4” per hour are likely with total accumulation expected to be from 12-18.” Wind speeds will be 20-30 mph with gusts of 35-50 mph. During the storm, it is expected that travel will be almost impossible (and not recommended) and it’s likely most businesses and schools will be closed.

 

Below you will find emergency phone numbers and Red Cross safety information.

 

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SNOW EMERGENCY PHONE NUMBERS

 

Emergencies: Dial 911

 

To report power outages or downed power lines:

• PSEG 24 hour hotline(800) 490-0075

 

To report gas outages or gas safety emergencies:

• National Grid 24 hour hotline(800) 490-0045

 

Information on mass transit service:

• MTA/LIRR/NYC Transit: www.mta.info

• LIRR 24 hour travel information center: 718-217-5477

• NICE Bus travel information: 516-228-4000

• NYC Transit travel information: 718-330-1234

 

Up to the minute information about traffic conditions on Long Island’s major roads:

• NYS Department of Transportation’s 511 service: www.511ny.org or call 511.

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Local Numbers:

5 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

(TNS)—You’ve decided to go for it. You know mortgage rates are enticingly low.

Buying a home can be thrilling and nerve-wracking at the same time, especially for first-time homebuyers. It’s difficult to know exactly what to expect.

Take these five steps to make the process go more smoothly.

Check Your Credit
Your credit score is among the most important factors when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage.

“In addition, the standards are higher in terms of what score you need and how it affects the cost of the loan,” says Mike Winesburg, formerly a mortgage planner in Wheeling, W. Va.

Scour your credit reports for mistakes, unpaid accounts or collection accounts.
Just because you pay everything on time every month doesn’t mean your credit is stellar. The amount of credit you’re using relative to your available credit limit, or your credit utilization ratio, can sink a credit score.

The lower the utilization rate, the higher your score will be. Ideally, first-time homebuyers would have a lot of credit available, with less than a third of it used.

Repairing damaged credit takes time. If you think your credit may need work, begin the repair process at least six months before shopping for a home.

Evaluate Assets and Liabilities
A first-time homebuyer should have a good idea of money they owe and money they have coming in.

“If I were a first-time homebuyer and I wanted to do everything right, I would probably try to track my spending for a couple of months to see where my money was going,” Winesburg says.

Additionally, buyers should have an idea of how lenders will view their income, and that requires becoming familiar with the basics of mortgage lending.

For instance, some professionals, such as the self-employed or straight-commission salesperson, may have a more difficult time getting a loan than others.

The self-employed or independent contractor will need a solid two years’ earnings history to show, according to Winesburg.

Organize Documents
When applying for mortgages, you must document income and taxes.

Typically, mortgage lenders will request two recent pay stubs, the previous two years’ W-2s, tax returns and the past two months of bank statements—every page, even the blank ones.

“Why it has to be every single last page, I don’t know. But that is what they want to see. I think they look for nonsufficient funds or odd money in or out,” says Floyd Walters, owner of a mortgage company in La Canada Flintridge, Calif.

Qualify Yourself
Ideally, you already know how much you can afford to spend before the mortgage lender tells you how much you qualify for.

By calculating debt-to-income ratio and factoring in a down payment, you will have a good idea of what you can afford, both upfront and monthly.

Though there’s not a fixed debt-to-income ratio that lenders require, the standard dictates that no more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income be devoted to housing costs. This percentage is called the front-end ratio.

The back-end ratio shows what portion of income covers all monthly debt obligations. Lenders prefer the back-end ratio to be 36 percent or less, but some borrowers get approved with back-end ratios of 45 percent or higher.

Figure Out Your Down Payment
It takes effort to scrape together the down payment.

There are programs that can assist buyers with qualifying incomes and situations.

“I’ve helped arrange assistance loans for $10,000, which are interest- and payment-free, and forgivable after five years. Although considered a loan, they’re more like grants. Other programs can provide up to $40,000 interest-free,” Winesburg says.

Finally, speak with mortgage lenders when you’re starting the process. Check with friends, co-workers and neighbors to find out which lenders they enjoyed working with and ask them questions about the process and what other steps first-time homebuyers should take.

©2017 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Rising Rates: Spoiling Homebuyers’ Plans?

Homebuyers are concerned about the effect rising interest rates have on their ability to afford a home, but not enough to spoil their plans, according to a recent survey issued by Zillow Group Mortgages. Eighty-three percent of homebuyers who plan to purchase a home in the next three years expect to see those plans through, even if their monthly mortgage payment increases by $100 due to rising rates. Forty-nine percent will forge ahead even if their payment increases by $200.

Rising rates will have an impact, however, on the location and size homebuyers settle on, according to the survey. Twenty-five percent of homebuyers with $100 in additional costs would change their plans, opting for a home with less square footage or in a more affordable community.

“For years, falling interest rates have been a boon to the U.S. housing market, keeping monthly mortgage payments low for first-time and move-up buyers alike, even as home values rose,” says Erin Lantz, vice president of Mortgages for Zillow Group. “As rates rise this year, first-time buyers and those looking to buy in expensive markets where affordability is already an issue will feel the pinch of higher rates on their budget.”

Homebuyers overall in the majority of the top 35 metropolitan areas would have minimal added expense if their mortgage rate were to rise from 4 percent to 4.25 percent—in fact, a 4.25 percent rate on a median-valued home ($195,300) would tack on about $23 to a monthly mortgage payment. Comparing an even higher increase in specific areas:

Zillow_Rising_Interest_Rates_Chart

“For most borrowers, there is quite a bit of head room for rates to rise before home-buying becomes unaffordable,” Lantz says.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

Experts Agree: The No. 1 Factor Shaping the 2017 Housing Market

Rising mortgage rates will have the most impact on the housing market in 2017, according to expert opinions recently assessed in Zillow’s Home Price Expectations Survey, followed by limited housing supply and shifting demographics.

Rising rates, markedly, affect both sides of the transaction—as rates increase, homebuyers are further extended, while sellers hold off on listing to avoid a higher-priced mortgage. The experts surveyed expect the most significant changes to come when rates reach 5.5 percent. According to Freddie Mac, rates currently are in the neighborhood of 4 percent.

“Rising mortgage rates, inventory shortages and demographic shifts will be the main drivers of the U.S. housing economy this year, especially for first-time buyers who will face tougher competition for entry-level homes and often operate with a tighter budget than move-up buyers,” says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “When you combine higher mortgage rates with increasing home values, mortgage affordability starts to suffer, and buyers will have to spend more and more on their monthly payments. This makes it even more important for buyers to prepare their finances, and shop around to make sure they are getting the best possible rate.”

Seventy-seven percent of homebuyers obtain a mortgage to finance a home purchase, according to Zillow—this widespread use, experts agree, will amplify the effects of rising rates on home price appreciation.

“Compared to their outlook in our previous survey just a few months ago, most of our panelists now expect somewhat stronger home value appreciation this year and next, as tight inventory conditions persist,” says Terry Loebs, founder of Pulsenomics, which partnered with Zillow on the survey. “However, longer-term, the consensus still calls for decelerating prices, with the most pessimistic quartile of experts continuing to project negative inflation-adjusted returns for U.S. housing beyond 2017. The specter of rising mortgage rates and other affordability hurdles are clearly impacting these home value projections.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

The Real Deal on Rising Rates: What It Means for Your Home-Buying Plans

You’ve taken all the necessary steps to get ready to buy a home. You’ve saved for a down payment, improved your credit score, got all your financial documentation in line, and figured out what price range you can afford. And then the interest rates went up. Is your dream of homeownership now unachievable?

According to recent data from realtor.com®, the share of first-time buyers planning to buy a home this spring fell sharply when mortgage rates began to rise toward the end of 2016. According to realtor.com®’s January survey of active homebuyers, 44 percent of buyers planning to buy in spring 2017 are first-time buyers. This has dropped significantly since the survey was conducted in October, when 55 percent of buyers planning a spring purchase indicated they were looking for their first home.
However, with inventory shortages and rising home prices, the urgency to buy now has never been greater. So before you shelve your plans for buying a home this spring, know the facts about rising rates and home prices.

The average 30-year conforming rate rose to more than 4.2 percent by the end of December 2016 from 3.4 percent at the end of September 2016. With average rates today about half a percentage point higher than they were in 2016, a median-priced home financed with 20 percent down would cost an additional $720 per year in added interest. That equals more than 1 percent of the median household’s income.

With affordability being a top concern for first-time buyers, a rising interest rate can be enough to scare you off. Kiplinger’s expects the 30-year mortgage rate to reach 4.6 percent by year’s end, with the 15-year rate at 3.8 percent. Add to that the continued increase in home prices due to low inventories in many parts of the country and you can see that holding off on a home purchase will probably only cost you more down the line.

Take a cue from repeat homebuyers who are actually being spurred into action by rising rates. Even with the current increases, interest rates remain historically low, and the movement in rates hasn’t yet tipped overall buyer demand down. Experienced buyers, in fact, are trying to close before rates increase further, as evidenced by increased realtor.com® listing views and decreased inventory. In the short term, the rate movement seems to have encouraged, rather than dampened, overall demand.

While concerns about affordability are valid, waiting may not help your long-term financial picture. Instead, consider looking for a home in a slightly lower price range, finding a way to increase your down payment, or looking in a neighborhood that may be more affordable. The good news? In today’s competitive market, your home will most likely increase in value and prove to be one of the smartest investments you could’ve made.

For more information about how rising interest rates will impact your home purchase, contact me today.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

5 Things to Pay Attention to on a Walk-Through

You’ve done your research online and narrowed down the neighborhoods and homes you’re most interested in. The next step? Visit your top picks in person. But what should you look for? What real estate information will you be able to determine live that you couldn’t find in the photos and details you already looked at online? Here’s a list of what to look for when on a walk-through:

The neighborhood. Sure, you found out all about school quality, crime stats, proximity to transportation and more during your online research, but nothing compares to being there. Take a look at traffic patterns, the condition of surrounding homes, the neighbors, their yards, etc. After you’ve toured the house, take a few minutes for a quick stroll around the block. This will give you a much better sense of the neighborhood you may come to call home.

The home’s exterior. Photos online only allow you to get so close, so while you’re on site, carefully inspect the entire exterior of the home, advises Forbes. Is the paint chipping? Are the shingles in need of repair? How about the gutters? Repairs needed in any of these areas will factor greatly into your bid or can serve as a helpful negotiating point.

The smell. One thing you definitely cannot research online is how a home smells. So put your nose to work to sniff out mold, pet damage, air quality and general cleanliness.

The light. Sure, those appealing descriptions may have raved about the home’s natural light, but visit every room of the house to make your own assessment.

The size. But wait – with loads of photos and the exact square footage listed online, you already know the size of the home, right? Yes and no. You know the size on paper but you don’t really have a sense of size until you’re there. Photos tend to make rooms look more spacious and ceiling height adds another layer to perceived spaciousness.

Above all, the most important thing you will determine from a walk-through is completely intangible, namely, how the home feels. Square footage, gourmet kitchen and wrap-around porch aside, you need to be able to picture yourself living there. And that is something you can’t determine until you’re there. So don’t rush – take your time and really try the house on.

I hope you found these tips useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

By Maria Patterson

Important Contact Numbers

With the inclement weather upon us please use this information to keep yourself safe and informed!

Significant snowfall and strong winds are expected to impact our area starting early tomorrow morning.  With this storm approaching, I wanted to make sure you had the following phone numbers in case you need assistance or information:

Emergencies: Dial 911

To report power outages or downed power lines:

• PSEG 24 hour hotline: (800) 490-0075

To report gas outages or gas safety emergencies:

• National Grid 24 hour hotline: (800) 490-0045

Information on mass transit service:

• MTA/LIRR/NYC Transit: www.mta.info

• LIRR 24 hour travel information center: 718-217-5477

• NICE Bus travel information: 516-228-4000

• NYC Transit travel information: 718-330-1234

Up to the minute information about traffic conditions on Long Island’s major roads:

• NYS Department of Transportation’s 511 service: www.511ny.org or call 511.

To report snow plowing issues or downed trees:

Town maintained roads

• Town of North Hempstead: 311

• Town of Hempstead: 516-489-5000

• Town of Oyster Bay: 516-677-5757

Village maintained roads

• Baxter Estates: 516-767-0096

• Bellerose: 516-354-1000

• East Hills: 516-621-5600

• East Williston: 516-746-0782

• Floral Park: 516-326-6300

• Flower Hill: 516-627- 5000

• Great Neck: 516-482-0019

• Great Neck Estates: 516-482-8283

• Great Neck Plaza: 516-482-4500

• Kensington: 516-482-4409

• Kings Point: 516-504-1000

• Lake Success: 516-482-4411

• Manorhaven: 516-883-7000

• Mineola: 516-746-0750

• Munsey Park: 516-365-7790

• New Hyde Park: 516-354-0022

• North Hills: 516-627-3451

• Old Westbury: 516-626-0800

• Plandome: 516-627-1748

• Plandome Heights: 516-627-1136

• Plandome Manor: 516-627-3701

• Port Washington North: 516-883-5900

• Roslyn: 516-621-1961

• Roslyn Estates: 516-621-3541

• Roslyn Harbor: 516-621-0368

• Russell Gardens: 516-482-8246

• Saddle Rock: 516-482-9400

• Sands Point: 516-883-3044

• South Floral Park: 516-352-8047

• Stewart Manor: 516-354-1800

• Thomaston: 516-482-3110

• Westbury: 516-334-1700

• Williston Park: 516-746-2193

County maintained roads

• Nassau County non-emergency hotline: 800-315-5153

State maintained roads

• NYS Department of Transportation: 631-904-3050

 

Source: Senator Elaine Phillips

Making the Jump: Transitioning from a Tenant to a Homeowner

Becoming a homeowner for the first time is an exciting and stressful process. However, once the papers are signed and the keys are in your pocket, your work really begins. Homeownership can be fraught with financial and emotional perils, especially if you’ve been renting from a landlord up until now. Landlords are on the hook for not only minor repairs, but also major upgrades, yard work, taxes and fees associated with building ownership, as well as normal upkeep such as painting and cleaning carpets.

Before You Buy
The best way to make a smooth transition to your new home starts before you buy. A proper inspection can alert you to problems that already exist with the property. New homes shouldn’t have many issues, but it’s always wise to get an inspection anyway to ensure that everything has been installed properly. After inspection, you want to work on your budget. You should build home maintenance and upkeep into your monthly budget.

A basic rule of thumb for your maintenance budget is to put aside 1 percent of your home’s purchase price per year. This means if your home costs $300,000, then you should put aside about $250 a month for major home repairs. Of course, new homes shouldn’t need immediate major repairs, but by saving this money from the get-go, you’ll never have nasty surprises when an appliance breaks down, or when you need a new roof in 10 years.

Tips to Maintain Your Home
Once you’re in your home you’ll want to stay on top of maintenance. This doesn’t just mean yard work, gardening, snow removal and window cleaning, although all those things are important. You’ll want to do an annual survey of your major appliances. This should include things you don’t usually see or think of, such as your water heater, furnace or boiler, and air conditioner.

You should know what these things look like when they’re performing properly, and you should have the name of a trusted HVAC professional, plumber and electrician just in case you should ever need them. You should also keep a close eye on your roof and any plumbing pipes that are visible, as these can often be some of the most expensive repairs. Catching a problem early is always ideal.

Financial Changes
Another difference between renting and owning is your financial state. The first year you own a home your taxes will be much different, so even if you do file your taxes yourself, this year might be the year to turn to a tax professional.

You’ll also have to have money to spend to fill up your new home! Chances are you have a lot more square footage to work with now, and you may need additional furniture or even appliances if your new home didn’t come with them. Start reading reviews and comparison-shopping early on for things like washers, dryers and lawn mowers if you can. Buying a lawn mower in May is far more expensive than buying one in January. While it might seem silly, the last year models are usually very similar when it comes to appliances, so figure out when the new versions are released. Floor models (appliances that have been out for people to look at) are also a great choice, as they haven’t actually been used.

The best part of owning your own home is that it is all yours. You can paint, arrange and decorate to your heart’s content. However, the worst part of owning your own home is that it’s all yours, and if there’s three feet of snow to be shoveled, water pouring out of the toilet or a dryer that just won’t dry, these are all problems you’ll have to figure out how to fix—with a little help from the pros, of course.

Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. You can connect with her on Facebook here and Twitter here.

This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Visit the blog daily for housing and real estate tips and trends. Like Housecall on Facebook and follow @HousecallBlog on Twitter.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

By Megan Belnap

 

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