All About Closing Costs

 

Photo of a home for an article about closing costs.
Closing costs are the fees that are charged by lenders and third parties related to the purchase of a home. What exactly makes up closing costs? Below is a break down of the different components:

 

  • Escrow/Attorney Fees: Some states require third party escrow companies handle real estate closings while others allow attorneys to perform the function. Title companies, title agents, lenders, brokers, and real estate agents are allowed to handle closings and/or escrows depending on the state. These fees are usually split between the buyer and the seller.
  • Title Insurance: There are usually two types that need to be purchased-the lender’s policy and the owner’s policy. The title company or a lawyer will research the title to ensure there are no liens against the property or unidentified owners. These policies protect both the lender and the new owner for the full value of the property. In most cases the seller pays for the owner’s policy and the buyer pays for the lender’s policy.
  • Transfer or documentary taxes: These are paid either to the state, county, city, or a combination depending on the state. The government agency gets their piece of the pie during this transaction.  This is also called a reconveyance tax.
  • Recording Fee: Paid to the county for recording the deed, which shows ownership of the property.
  • Settlement or closing fee: This is usually split between the seller and the buyer and it covers the costs charged by the escrow company, lawyer, or whoever handles the transaction’s financial transfers.
  • Brokerage Commission: The fee you contractually agreed to pay for the selling of your home.
  • Pest Inspection: Most lenders require a pest report to ensure the property is in good condition. This fee is usually paid by the seller and they may be responsible for fixing areas that have been damaged by termites, carpenter ants, dry rot, fungus, etc. In many cases these repairs can be negotiated.
  • Septic Inspection: If you have a septic tank, the sales contract will likely require you to have it inspected.
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The 7 Steps To Buying A Home

 

Photo of a home to discuss steps to buying a home.
  1. Make An Offer-A formal offer is written up and signed. This is a legally binding contract, however, contingencies can be added to allow the buyer to opt out of the contract should certain circumstances arise.
  2. Disclosures-Sellers are obligated to disclose any known issues that may affect property value or livability. If something is listed here that is a negative for you as the buyer, you may opt out of the contract.
  3. Appraisal– Buyers will usually put a sum of money down towards the purchase of the home. The bank will send out an appraiser to come out and evaluate the value of the property. If the contract price does not align with the appraisal value, the bank can reject the loan or change the terms of the loan.
  4. Inspection-As a buyer, one of your rights is to have a property inspection done. An inspector will come out and evaluate the entire property from the foundation to the roof. If there are minor issues that come up as a result of the inspection, a buyer can negotiate with the seller to have something fixed or to add a credit.
  5. Loan approval– The lending bank will go through your credit history, income, and debt and will also ensure that there are no liens against the property in question. The bank can take up to 30 days to complete their review. Once they are done, you are closer to the purchase of your dream home!
  6. Final walkthrough-Just prior to closing, you will walk through the property to make sure that it is still in the condition it was when you first saw it and also to ensure that any fixes that were negotiated are completed.
  7. Closing– The closing will take place at an attorney’s office or a title company. All closings happen under different circumstances; sometimes the buyers and sellers will close together and sign papers in the same room and other times the buyers and sellers may never meet. If you are a buyer and obtaining a loan, be prepared to sign many documents and make sure to have your photo ID. It is always a good idea to review the closing statement prior to closing in order to avoid any surprises.
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Home Staging Accessories

Nicely staged family room to illustrate tips on home staging.

Setting the stage for the sale of your home is key to making a great first impression on potential buyers and getting top dollar for your home. Home staging does not need to cost a lot, in fact, just investing in a few items can make a huge difference.  Buying a few new throw pillows for your sofa can really update dated furniture and can be used to add a pop of color to the room. Having fresh fruit out in the kitchen and fresh flowers in the home really lightens and brightens the atmosphere, makes the home more inviting, and is an inexpensive way to add natural beauty to a room.  Putting a new area rug in a space can tie the room together and create a cozy and cohesive look. Buying new towels that are used only for display in bathrooms goes a long way in creating a clean look for the space. New bedding instantly upgrades the look of a bedroom and is a lot cheaper than buying all new accessories or furniture for the room. Mirrors are also a great accessory to invest in; they create the illusion of more space and are perfect for small spaces.  Implementing these cheap and easy accessories will get your home looking great and ready for buyers!

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Weekend Staycation Ideas

Cookies baking in an oven; just one weekend staycation idea.

Going away for a weekend is fun but can be a lot of work. Why not stay at home this weekend and try out some of these weekend staycation ideas?

  • Go swim at an indoor pool
  • Have a movie marathon
  • Head to the spa with family or friends for a day of relaxation and pampering
  • Check out a local bookstore and take your time finding a great book
  • Invite friends over for a game night
  • Bake
  • Eat at a local restaurant you have never been to before. Have you tried Casa Maya (awesome Mexican cuisine) in Shorewood or Sovereign (unique farm to fork dining) in Plainfield?
  • Tour the museums in Chicago
  • Go shopping!

 

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Preparing Your Home To Sell

 

Photo of a kitchen to discuss prepping your home to sell.


Getting your home prepped and ready to enter the market can be a stressful time and many homeowners are unsure of where to begin and what the first steps are to accomplishing this task.

Here are a few helpful tips to getting the interior of your home ready:
1. Give each and every room a good cleaning. Remove any clutter that may detract from the beauty and functionality of your home. In order to do this, you may need to rent a storage space to store extra items.
2. It may be a good idea to hire a professional cleaner to come once every couple of weeks just while your home is on the market. This may be especially true for homeowners who are working full time and are busy outside the home.
3. Focus on the kitchen and remove any items from your counter tops that are not necessary or are seldom used. Doing so will make your kitchen appear cleaner and larger which is very important. If the cabinets are older, invest in attractive and modern knobs to give the cabinets an instant face lift. New window treatments in the kitchen can also go a long way with making the space appear newer.
4. Steam clean any carpets that are dirty or showing wear. Also, it is a good idea to paint any walls that have bright or loud colors on them with a paint color that is neutral and will lighten and brighten the room.
5. Repair any cracks or holes in the walls and check for cracks/dampness in the basement and make repairs as needed.
6. Replace leaking faucets and shower heads. Putting out new towels in the bathrooms for showings will also improve the overall look and feel of your home.
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5 Ways To Lower Your Mortgage Payment


Photo of cash for an article discussing ways to lower your mortgage payment.

 

  1. Get rid of your PMI: PMI is the lender’s protection in case you default on your loan and cannot make your payments. Typically borrowers that can’t put down at least 20% are required to have PMI since they are seen as a riskier investment. If you live in an area that has seen rising home prices and have been in your home for at least 2 years, speak with your lender about dropping your PMI. This can save you an average of $195 a month for a $200,000 loan.
  2. Lower your PMI: In January 2015 the government announced lower PMI rates for buyers with FHA loans. New homebuyers will be able to take advantage of these lower rates and existing homeowners may be able to refinance and lower their PMI rate.
  3. Refinance: Refinancing to lower your PMI is not the only way to refinance your loan. Taking advantage of lower mortgage rates or switching from a 15 year loan to a 30 year loan can save you thousands of dollars. Speak with your lender to discuss options available to you.
  4. Buy down your rate: If you are purchasing a home, speak with your lender about the possibility of buying down your rate. If you are able to, putting down more money initially to buy a lower interest rate can save you a substantial amount of money over the course of the loan.
  5. Find a tenant: If your home has an extra room, especially with a private entrance, consider taking on a tenant.
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Do You Need A Realtor To Price Your Home?

Photo of a home to discuss the question "do you need a realtor to price your home."

1. Home evaluation tools can be inaccurate: Although there are several online tools that can give an estimate of your home’s value, these tools are often incorrect by about 5-20%. These inaccuracies mean that you are losing out on both money and buyers if you strictly go by these tools. Realtors may use these tools to begin the home pricing process, but there is a lot more work that goes into the price than simply using online tools. Realtors perform a lot of ground work that the average homeowner may not be able to do.

2. There are many factors that go into the price of a home: Market data is just one component of property value that Realtors will use when coming up with a list price; the rest of the factors are very property specific. The age of the roof, home upgrades, neighborhood info, etc. all come into play when deciding on a listing price. The property specific data is not something that these online tools have access to which can make these home values very inaccurate.

3. A Realtor’s experience plays a big role: A Realtor does a comparative market analysis or “CMA” for every listing. CMAs involve going to a property and thoroughly inspecting both the home and the neighborhood to determine the best price. After completing a CMA, the Realtor will be able to effectively articulate the home’s list price to potential buyers and their agents. A Realtor will use their experience and expertise to come to a well thought out price.

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Why You Should Buy Before Spring

A photo of a home for an article about why you should buy before spring.

  1. Prices are forecasted to rise: The Home Price Expectation Survey polls a prestigious group of over 100 economists, investment strategists, and housing market analysts. Their most current report predicts that appreciation in home values over the next five years will be between 15.1% and 32.8%. Home values are projected to appreciate for years to come and it no longer makes good sense to wait to buy a home.
  2. Mortgage interest rates will increase: Although mortgage rates have gone down slightly in recent months, most experts predict that rates will rise over the next 12 months. Mortgage rates directly affect your mortgage payment; your monthly house payment will be more a year from now.
  3. Either way you are making a mortgage payment: “Households must consume housing whether they own or rent. Not even accounting for more favorable tax treatment of owning, homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord plus a rate of return. That’s yet another reason owning often does-as Americans intuit-end up making more financial sense than renting”-  Joint Center For Housing Studies at Harvard University.
  4. It’s time to move on: The cost of a home is made up by two major factors: the price of a home and the current mortgage rate. It seems as though both are on the rise. Even if they weren’t increasing, would you want to wait to buy a home? Think about the reasons you are considering purchasing a home-are you looking for a great family home for your kids to grow up in, do you want to live in a safer area, or do you want to be able to have full control over renovations? If 2017 is your year to buy a home, buying sooner rather than later can mean saving a significant amount of money.
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Soup Recipe For A Cold Weekend

This weekend is supposed to be SUPER cold making it perfect weather to enjoy some delicious soup! Here’s a soup recipe to try out this chilly weekend. Check out my Pinterest page for recipes, design ideas, helpful hints and more!

Bowl of creamy tortellini soup for a post about a soup recipe.

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup 

Adapted from a recipe by Gal On A Mission

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion diced or 1 cup of diced onion
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 spring of rosemary chopped or substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  •  28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 5 large fresh basil leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 20 ounces of three cheese tortellini
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese plus more for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Put the onion, garlic, olive oil and fresh rosemary in a soup pot or a dutch oven.  Saute over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
  2. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, chicken stock and heavy cream and stir until incorporated together. Simmer for 18-20 minutes.
  3. Add the tortellini into the soup and cook for an additional 12-15 minutes or until the pasta is tender and cooked through.
  4. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
  5. Serve and garnish with more parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves if desired.
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Kitchen Design Choices You Won’t Regret

Updated white kitchen for an article about kitchen design choices.

Kitchen design choices can be difficult to make but there are some safe, classic design elements that you can’t go wrong with.

  • Hardwood flooring: Wood floors look great, are durable, and make a home cozy and inviting. They are a smart choice since they are so durable, especially maple, oak and ash. They typically have a 100 year old life and they can be refinished about 10 times.
  • Carrara marble countertops: Carrara is an excellent choice for counters because it’s timeless, beautiful, and will last forever. Although it can stain easily, if it’s properly sealed twice a year thereLight and bright kitchen with carrara marble countertops. shouldn’t be an issue. Carrara is also typically less expensive than other choices such as quartz.
  • White: White kitchens have always been in style. They are light and bright and can make a cramped kitchen appear larger. The great thing about a white space is you can keep it mainly white and neutral or you can add pops of color where you want. Brightly colored cabinet knobs and open shelving displaying colorful dishes are just some ways to add color and personality to the room.
  • Plentiful storage: Homeowners store more in their kitchens now than ever. Kitchens used to be small rooms typically found in the back of the home instead of the heart of the home like they frequently are now. Having storage and plenty of it is very important and something that you won’t regret. Many cabinets now adapt to fit pots, pans, lids, and baking sheets with ease. Kitchen islands can also be open on one side to provide extra shelving and storage.

Updated kitchen with shelving and storage in the island for illustrate kitchen design.

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