Why Now May Be the Right Time to Downsize Your Home

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For many people, their house may be their biggest asset. But it also can be their biggest expense. That’s true whether they’re planning for retirement or even if they already are in retirement. So it’s no wonder that many homeowners begin to think about selling their home and moving into a smaller one as they approach their golden years.

Downsizing your home doesn’t have to mean downsizing your lifestyle. Homes have steadily expanded over the years with the average home now more than 2,600 square feet in the U.S. according to Census data – 60% larger than it was 40 years ago when families were bigger! So there is plenty of room to downsize without cramping your style.

But downsizing doesn’t necessarily mean moving to a smaller home. It can also mean moving to a less expensive residence that’s the same size. Something as simple as moving from a top, reputable school district to a district that is not highly rated may lower the cost of a house. And if you do not have school age children, the quality of the school district may not be that important to you.

If you’ve been kicking around the idea of cashing in on your home’s equity and moving into a smaller property, there are a number of reasons why it may be the best move you can make right now:

  • The housing market in our area has rebounded quite nicely from the recession with the value of many homes climbing in recent years. Cashing in on some of that equity appreciation may help provide retirement income and extend the life of your nest egg. For more information on the propriety of such a move, please first consult with your financial advisor.

  • A smaller home may mean a smaller mortgage payment each month if you are still paying off an existing loan. Or it might mean paying off your mortgage entirely and being debt free on your new home. Additionally, downsizing may lower your property taxes, energy costs, property insurance and ongoing maintenance and repair expenses depending upon the choices you make.

  • According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR), housing costs (including utilities, taxes and upkeep), represent one of the biggest expenses for a retired couple – 30 percent of expenses for a couple aged 65-74. That’s money that can be spent on other things in retirement.

  • For example, CRR estimates that a couple downsizing from a $375,000 home to a $250,000 home may be able to cut their annual expenses and increase their annual income from savings by a combined $7,260. CRR provides a calculator that may enable you to determine your own savings here. As always, it’s a good idea to consult with your financial advisor before making any decisions.

  • Some homeowners are reluctant to trade a house for a condominium or town house because of concerns regarding the financial impact of homeowners’ association fees. While such fees can change one’s monthly budget, keep in mind that you may be paying similar expenses as a homeowner in the form of maintenance and upkeep costs.

  • While a smaller home may mean less space, it could also mean less time and aggravation spent on keeping up a big house. Without all the work that goes into keeping up a bigger home, you may actually find a lot more time to enjoy traveling, hanging out with friends, picking up new hobbies and, generally, having more fun!

  • Moving from a suburban home to an apartment or condo building in a downtown area with amenities on site may open up a whole new world for retirees. Those who have made the switch often find that they now can enjoy more trips to the theater, nightclubs, restaurants, shopping, as well as taking advantage of fitness centers and other on-sight activities.

According to the Wall Street Journal, it can pay to downsize sooner rather than later for those approaching retirement or already retired. The financial benefits can add up over time. Additionally, as we get older, moving gets harder thus it may make a lot of sense to move now rather than waiting.

If I can help answer any of your questions about downsizing, please give me a call or e-mail me today. I’d be happy to discuss the pros and cons of making a move and help you decide if downsizing is right for you.

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How to Know if a Neighborhood is Right for You

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Before you buy a home and make what’s likely to be one of the biggest investments of your life, you owe it to yourself to receive quality information on your new neighborhood. Getting a deal on your dream home can quickly turn sour if the neighborhood doesn’t meet your expectations. Here’s how to research a neighborhood before you buy a home.

LOOK INTO THE CRIME RATES

In addition to the U.S. Census Bureau’s city profiles that list crime statistics, you can try sites like CrimeReports. com, which offers local maps where you can access crime data in near-real time (the site has partnerships with more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies). You might also visit the local police department to ask about crime statistics and what neighborhood watches or alerts are in operation.

CHECK SCHOOL REPORT CARDS

Even if you don’t have children, you should spend some time investigating the area schools (school districts are typically the largest beneficiaries of your property taxes). The reason for this is simple: good schools tend to attract a higher demand for homes, which can affect the value of surrounding properties. One way to research schools in your new neighborhood is to visit the GreatSchools website, a non-profit national organization, where you can find valuable information from local preschools to colleges.

REVIEW MUNICIPALITY AND PUBLIC SERVICES

It can be easy to focus on the condition of your prospective home, but you should also consider the general condition of the streets, sidewalks and parks in your new neighborhood. Take some time to research your new municipality (start with the official website) and the services offered. Don’t be afraid to call your local clerk’s office and ask questions if you can’t find answers on the website. Things like trash collection, street cleaning and general public maintenance can affect your property’s value over time, especially if these services suffer a sharp decline due to budget cuts.

WALK THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Visit the neighborhood at various times of day and on different days. The nature of a neighborhood changes from day to night and from weekday to weekend. Make sure the activity and noise levels are to your liking. If you see residents out doing yard work or walking their dog, ask how they like the neighborhood and tell them you’re considering buying in the area. Sometimes “insider” feedback can give you the real sense of a neighborhood.

When you’re in the market for a new home, it can be easy to get distracted by what lies within the walls. By following these home buying tips, you’ll be much better prepared to make an informed decision about your new neighborhood. That way, a sweet deal is less likely to turn sour. Please call me if you’d like help in further exploring a new neighborhood.

Tips for Selling Your Home in the Fall

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Summer has ended, the weather is cooling, leaves are changing and, you may be surprised to learn, homebuyers are out in force. Autumn is a popular time for corporations to relocate associates – creating a pool of buyers who need to make quick decisions about housing. They’re serious about purchasing and, with fewer houses on the market this time of year, your house may soon be getting more attention. What can you do to make sure your home sells before all the leaves fall off the trees? Here are a few helpful tips:

Highlight the location. Bring the benefits of your location front and center. Establish a list of perks that your property offers, such as proximity to public transportation, schools, shopping, recreation or entertainment.

Use the season for curb appeal. Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of year and by using that to your advantage, your home can stand out from others in the neighborhood. Leaves turning shades of crimson and gold can add extra appeal, but be sure they don’t get out of hand. Keep trees and shrubs properly groomed and pick up fallen leaves before they suffocate your front lawn. Add pumpkins, gourds or a fall display to your front porch to invite in potential buyers.

Stage your home. Buyers need to be able to envision themselves living in your home before they will consider buying it. You can help them by de cluttering, de-personalizing and thoroughly cleaning the entire house. Brighten your rooms by bringing the outside indoors with vases or displays of twigs, leaves or acorns from your yard.

Get everything in tip-top shape. Your buyer will most likely hire an inspector before closing, so pay close attention to elements around the home that are important in the fall. For example, make sure gutters are cleared of fallen leaves and that fireplaces are in working order.

Know your home. Access to real estate information on the Internet means that buyers are walking into your home more educated than ever. Take the time to review homes similar to yours on real estate websites like http://www.californiamoves.com or http://www.realtor.com. I can also let you know of the conditions and price ranges of other homes for sale in your area. This will allow us to better negotiate with potential buyers. Despite what you may have heard, this time of year offers plenty of opportunity to sell your home. By taking a few simple steps to make sure you and your house are ready to hit the market, you can better prepare yourself for what is to come. After all, the more welcoming your home is to possible buyers, the more welcoming it will be to offers.

Be sure to work with a professional realtor to ensure that you get top dollar for your home! Give me a call at (408) 410-2060 today to discuss your needs further!

7 Things You Should NOT do when Applying for a Home Loan

1) Don’t buy or lease an auto – Lenders look carefully at your debt-to-income ratio. A large payment such as a car lease or purchase can greatly impact those ratios and prevent you from qualifying for a home loan.

2) Don’t move assets from one bank account to another –  These transfers show up as new deposits and complicate the application process as you must then disclose and document the source of funds for each new account. The lender can verify each account as it currently exists. You can consolidate your accounts later if necessary.

3) Don’t change jobs – A new job may involve a probation period, which must be satisfied before income from the new job can be considered for qualifying purposes.

4) Don’t buy new furniture or major appliances with a credit card – If the new purchases increase the amount of debt you are responsible for on a monthly basis, there is a possibility this may disqualify you from getting the loan or even cut down the amount of available funds for closing costs.

5) Be aware of who runs your credit report – This will show as an inquiry on your lender’s credit report. Inquiries must be explained in writing.

6) Don’t attempt to consolidate bills before speaking with your lender – The loan officer can advise you if this needs to be done.

7) Don’t pack of ship information needed for the loan application – Important paperwork such as W-2 forms, divorce decrees and tax returns should not be sent with your household goods. Duplicate copies take weeks to obtain, and could stall the closing date on your transaction.

If you need help finding a reliable & reputable lender, give me a call! I have some fantastic lenders I can refer you to to qualify you for buying a new home.