Top 10 Websites for Home Buyers, Sellers & Owners

Want to search for your next home without ever getting out of your pajamas? There’s a site for that. How much will the mortgage and taxes cost you each month? There’s a site for that. Or do you want to know approximately what your home is worth today? Yes, there’s a site for that, too. And once you move into that new home, there’s a site to help you find local schools, restaurants, even your next dentist.

Okay, with apologies to the iPhone app commercials, I thought it might be helpful to list 10 of my favorite websites for people interested in buying or selling a home, remodeling their existing residence, or just looking for local information on their new neighborhood. There are countless websites, of course, and I don’t claim to have the ultimate list – just ones that have good value for homeowners and those looking to become owners.

Here are 10 of my favorites:
• CaliforniaMoves.com. Okay, I admit I’m biased. But Coldwell Banker’s consumer website offers a myriad of tools for home buyers and sellers, including advanced search engines, tips on
buying and selling, relocation information, and even community facts, figures and links. • Realtor.com. In that same vein, Realtor.com is also a good consumer website, especially for those thinking about relocating to other regions or want advice on buying or selling, as well as hiring an agent. There are articles on the market, consumer tips, and even suggestions on gardening and remodeling.
• CaliforniaHome.me. This new blog, powered by Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, is a non-stop feast of all things California. From luxury home features and design ideas, to California events and celebrations, the blog if filled with everything that makes the Golden State such an incredible place to live.
• Zillow.com. Who isn’t interested in what their home might be worth, or even better, their neighbors? This website offers property valuations. While I’m not convinced that their estimates are always on target, they do give homeowners some general idea of its value, as well as tax records and other useful info.
• Bankrate.com. Now that you’ve decided where you’re going to buy, this site will help you figure out how much you can afford. This is one of my favorite financial websites because it offers mortgage rate comparisons, links to lenders, and literally dozens of different types of calculators to figure it all out.
• Local.Yahoo.com. So you’re ready to move into your new home. Now what? Go to this site to find a plethora of useful links and information on everything from local restaurants and coffee shops to city offices and police departments to public utilities to get the water and gas turned on.
• Yelp.com. Another great site for newcomers to an area is Yelp, which features customer reviews and ratings on every imaginable local business. Sure there’s the usual restaurant ratings, but you’ll come here to find favorite dentists, veterinarians, gardeners and yes, even real estate agents.
• ServiceMagic.com. For those homeowners planning to remodel or just looking for a contractor to do some routine work, this website can be quite useful. Service Magic prescreens a wide variety of contractors and also incorporates customer ratings in order to provide a list of recommended businesses.
• HomeTips.com. Run by Don Vandervort, a host on HGTV and well-known author of do-it-yourself books, this site – as you might guess – specializes in articles on how to maintain and remodel your home. One of the favorite search engines helps the weekend warrior figure out how to do a wide variety of repairs and save money.
• SFGate.com, MercuryNews.com and SacBee.com. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include our local newspaper websites. Not only do they offer the latest news, sports and business, but also good restaurant and movie reviews, job search engines, and valuable community information and links for all homeowners.

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How to Pick a Good Home Improvement Contractor: 10 Tips for Consumers

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1)    Check each contractor’s license. Licensing may be at the state, county, or municipal lever. The quickest surest way to find out who is responsible for licensing contractors in your area is to call your local building department, mayor city manager, or county executive office.

2)    Check with the local Better Business Bureau for any complaints filed against the contractor.

3)    Solicit proposals from a few contractors before selecting one.

4)    Beware of the lowers bidder. If a bud is more than 20% below the others, ask why. Make sure it’s not because the contractor is desperate for your business and deposit in order to finish another job.

5)    Ask the contractor for references and call them. Ask former customers what type of work was done, whether it was completed in a timely manner and on budget; if they would use that contractor again. Find out if the contractor maintained a clean and safe work area and whether the workman showed up when scheduled.

6)    Confirm that a contractor has at least a minimum insurance – including worker’s compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance – required by the state. If they don’t have any insurance, you the customer could be liable for injuries on the job.

7)    Make sure the contractor you choose is well established in your area. Find out how long they have been in the business; who are some of their major suppliers. Beware of those who only have a post office box as a place of business of no ongoing supplier relationships.

8)    Get everything in writing and avoid signing anything – even a bid – until all the terms area agreed upon. Contracts should include everything that has been agreed to. Before you pay, make sure that everything you are paying for was listed in the contract.

9)    Make sure contract proposals specify the type, and wherever possible, brand name, of the materials to be used.  This will help protect you from substitution of inferior quality materials.

10)  Keep a file on the home improvement job, including contracts, change orders, plans and specifications, bills and invoices, cancelled checks, and any other correspondence between you and the contractor or subcontractors.

It is very difficult – if not impossible – to recover money from dishonest contractors. The best way to avoid any problems with contractors is by doing your homework before signing a contract for the job. The extra work and organization upfront should give you greater comfort in the end.  (Article compiled by the Title One Home Improvement Lenders Association (TOHILA) )

If you are looking for a reputable contractor to assist you with a home improvement job, give me a call today at 408-410-2060!

What Your Lender Needs to Know (and what not to do during the home buying process)

buy-home1When you are buying a home the first thing you need to do is get pre-approved. This is different from pre-qualifying as it is a full loan approval instead of simply an opinion letter of your creditworthiness. Its is best that you take this step before looking at homes as finding out what you qualify for will help you look in the right price range and avoid disappointment. On the flip side, you might be able to look at more expensive homes than you originally thought possible.

Here are some things your lender will need (and need you to do or not to do) during the application and escrow process):

1) All funds used for the downpayment and closing costs need to be carefully scrutinized by your lender.

  • You must provide detailed and accurate information to show which accounts the funds are in and where the funds are coming from.
  • You must document the source of any funds that have been in your accounts for less than 2 months.
  • Any changes that occur to your financial condition will need to be explained to the lender.
  • Changes to your assets, employment, income or credit scores during the escrow process could jeopardize your ability to obtain a loan.
  • Provide complete documents – all pages!
  • Provide documents with names, addresses and account numbers.

2) Things not to do during the escrow process:

  • Do not transfer funds from one bank account to another.
  • Do not make unusual large deposits into your bank account or you will need to provide documentation for the source of any deposits.
  • Do not buy a car just prior to buying a house of during the escrow process.
  • Do not spend large sums of money buying furniture or appliances.
  • Do not change jobs.
  • Do not apply for new credit cards.
  • Do not close existing credit cards.

3) The lender is going to require a letter of explanation and/or support documentation for:

  • Recent inquiries on your credit report.
  • Derogatory items on your credit report.
  • Recent deposits into your bank account.
  • Recent transfers of money from one account to another.
  • Evidence earnest money deposit has cleared your account.

4) If you are receiving gift funds the lender will require:

  • A gift letter signed by you and the gift donor.
  • Evidence of the donors ability to gift the funds – a bank statement.
  • Evidence of the receipt of the gift funds – a copy of the check or wire.
  • Evidence of the funds being received into your account.

If you have questions or are looking for a wonderful lender, give me a call today at (408) 410-2060!