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The photographs you place in your listing are in most cases the first glimpse a potential buyer will have of your home.  They are vitally important to whether or not a buyer decides to make an appointment to come for a showing or visit your open house.  You want to make that first impression a good one, so follow these important tips for great photos.

Keep It In Focus

Make sure your photos are clear and in focus. If you don’t own a good camera, borrow one.  Your REALTOR® may handle taking the photos for you, and may have a high-end camera that takes better photos.  If so, hold out for those pictures.

Take a look at the pictures before they are published to make sure they’re in focus and sharp.

Get A Good View

Nobody needs to see an up close picture of the bathroom sink—a photo taken from further back showing the size and layout of the room is far more helpful.  The same goes for bedrooms.  The corner of a room doesn’t show much of it.  Take your pictures from as far back as you can to include as much of the room as possible.

When taking pictures of the outside, be aware of obstructions such as trees or vehicles in the driveway that make it hard to see the home.  Take pictures from several angles both inside and outside the house.  The better the view of your home in the pictures, the more a potential buyer can see to help determine if the house is right for them.

Clean House First

Laundry, toys, or clutter lying around do not make for a great selling point.  Take the time to clean up and put things away before you take the pictures.  Less clutter will make the rooms look larger, and nobody wants to see your clothes tossed on the bed or your child’s toys on the floor.

Remember, you want people to see a house that they can imagine making their own; seeing your clutter and mess makes that task more difficult.  Instead, present a house that is as clean and clutter-free as possible.

With today’s online listings, pictures are more important than ever.  Buyers expect to see multiple photographs that they can examine at their leisure to decide which houses to check out in person.  Make sure your listing photographs show your home to its best advantage so that you can draw in buyers and sell more quickly.

A home warranty plan, also known as a home protection plan, is a service contract that offers homeowners a way to safeguard themselves against possible breakage or a malfunction within the home.  It’s impossible to predict the future, which is why so many buyers look for that little extra peace of mind to comfort them when life unexpectedly throws them an unforeseen problem.

Who Needs A Home Warranty Plan

Basically, anyone who purchases a home and is concerned with the cost of repairs should consider a home warranty plan.  This is especially true of first-time home buyers who may not be familiar with home maintenance.

Factoring In The Cost

When factoring in the potential cost of repairing a major appliance or other home component, a home warranty plan may not be a bad investment.  The actual cost of warranty coverage will depend on the plan chosen and the items protected.  As is the case with everything in life, it’s best to shop around and compare prices.

Who Pays For A Home Warranty Plan

As a buyer, you can order a home warranty plan in conjunction with the purchase of your home.  However, some sellers or builders may include this type of offering as an incentive to attract potential buyers.  In this case, the plan is yours at no additional cost.  Some REALTORS® may also offer a home warranty plan as a gift to customers who buy a home through their agency.

What’s Covered & What’s Not

Just like a car warranty, no two policies are the same.  Coverage varies by location and issuer, and your REALTOR® can help you to choose a warranty plan that best suits your needs.  Most basic plans cover a home’s heating and cooling system, electrical system, plumbing, water heater and major appliances, including a dishwasher, range/oven/cooktop, garbage disposal, etc.  Coverage does not apply to items that are misused or damaged, either intentionally or through negligence.  Instead, most home warranty plans are designed to protect the homeowner from defects that result during the course of normal wear and tear.

When considering the purchase of a home warranty plan, review the complete contract and familiarize yourself with exactly what’s covered under your policy.  If you want an upgraded policy, don’t hesitate to ask your REALTOR® if one is available.  Most companies do not require a home inspection and will notify homeowners when their coverage is about to expire.  The good news is that most policies are renewable.

What To Do If A Problem Arises

If you are unable to satisfactorily resolve an issue with your home warranty plan, either due to denial of a claim or undesirable service, talk to the REALTOR® who sold you the home.  If he/she refers a lot of business to this particular company, it may be possible for him/her to speak with them about reaching an amicable resolution.

The purchase of a home is a big step and it’s likely to be the largest purchase you will ever make, so be sure to consider all of the options available to help protect yourself from costly repairs.  Ask your REALTOR® for more information relating to available home warranty plans.

In tough economic times, saving the money that you would have to pay a real estate agent to help you sell your home can be a tempting idea.  Sale by owner has become a fairly common practice in many locations, and in some cases it can be successful.  But before you consider trying to sell your home without any professional help, there are a few things you should keep in mind—the downside to a sale by owner.

Legal Details

Selling a home is a complex legal process, and there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be filled out, signed, and filed properly.  While showing the home and hosting an open house by yourself are relatively easy to do, some of the more legal aspects of the home selling process might be a bit complicated for the uninitiated.  When you let a REALTOR® help you sell your home, you can be confident that all of the paperwork is in order and everything is filed properly.

Tricks Of The Trade

A REALTOR® has the experience to know the right thing to say to a potential buyer in order to pique their interest, and how to get more people into your home for an open house.  It’s that practical knowledge and inside expertise that makes it possible for a REALTOR® to sell your house a lot faster than you might be able to on your own.

A Matter Of Time

Selling a home is time consuming.  Can you leave work to show it during the day?  Can you accommodate people who want to see the house on weekends or other odd hours?  Can you spend a whole day hosting an open house?  Think about the time commitment that is involved in being your own agent, and be realistic about your abilities.  Your REALTOR® can do all those things and more, because it is his or her job to do them.

Sale by owner sounds like a good idea on the surface, but be sure you consider all of the details involved before you decide to go it alone.  Having a professional by your side through all of the ins and outs of selling a home can make things a lot easier on you, and you can sell your house more quickly and more profitably.

Looking to buy your first home, but having trouble coming up with the down payment?  Typically you need to have between 5-50% of the purchase price of your home, so here are a few tips to help you save your down payment faster!

Save Your Tax Refund—Doing this alone for a few years may add up to a considerable amount to contribute to a down payment, especially if both you and your spouse commit to contributing the full amount.

Set Up A Savings Plan—This is a great way to make a regular contribution to your down payment fund, and with accounts that allow you to round up all your purchases and automatically deposit them into your savings account, this can be an easy way to save money quickly.

Sell Unwanted Items—This can add a considerable sum to your down payment fund, and is also a great way to get rid of unwanted items before your move.

Check Out Government Programs—There are a number of government programs available, depending on your area, that can assist you in saving for a home, especially if you are a first time buyer.

Dip Into Your Retirement Fund—Be sure that you consult a financial advisor before choosing this option. Some government programs offer this option with no penalty, and it is certainly worth looking into.

With home entertainment equipment becoming more and more advanced and the cost of going out for entertainment making it less realistic for many people, creating the perfect home theater is on the list of many homeowners.  Whether your budget is big or small, you can improve your home theater experience with a few simple tips and tricks.

Proper Placement Of Speakers And Screens

Your home theater speakers are designed to be placed in specific locations in relation to where you will be sitting in order to provide optimal sound.  The same goes for your television.  Each particular screen size has a proper viewing distance that will give the best picture quality.  Be sure to read the directions for your television and speakers.

Surround sound systems have multiple speakers that should send sound to the ears from many directions at once, creating the sense of being inside the show or movie.  Follow the manufacturer’s directions, and mount or place your speakers in relation to where you will be sitting.

Wall-Mounting Your Television

Flat panel televisions are designed to be mounted easily on a wall, giving you more leeway in where you will place your screen.  Having your television professionally mounted is the best way to go if you want the wires from the components to be hidden—they will run them inside the walls.  This gives a much cleaner look.

A television mount that both telescopes and tilts will allow you to adjust the position of the viewing screen to your location.  This is great if you want to watch the screen while working in the kitchen or view it from a different area than normal seating.

Don’t Go Too Big

Buy the screen size and speaker system that is right for the size of your room.  A giant television will look too large in a small room, and you won’t be able to sit far enough back to get the right viewing distance.  Overpowering speakers will be too loud in a small room.  The opposite is true as well—a large room calls for a larger screen and more powerful speakers.

The right components and set-up will provide you with the best home theater experience possible, regardless of how much money you have available to put into it.

Once your loan is approved, you will be ready to take the final step that will lead to the door of your new home.  Many homebuyers are intimidated by the closing process, but it’s not as complicated as you may think.  In fact, finding the right home is much more difficult than closing the deal.

Making It Official

The closing process begins with the borrower and lender meeting in the presence of a notary public.  This is a person who is authorized to oversee, create or certify contracts, deeds and other legal documents.  At the conclusion of the signing, the notary public will provide their stamp and signature, which certifies the identification of everyone present and the signatures on the loan application.

Handing Over The Cash

When you meet with the lender to close the loan, you will be required to produce your down payment and, if required, the closing costs.  Ask your lender about acceptable payment methods, which may include a cashier’s check or other certified funds.  If you have an account with the lender, a personal check may be accepted in some circumstances.

Review The Loan Documents

At closing, this will be your final opportunity to review the loan documents.  You should make sure that everything is accurate and as promised, including the interest rates and loan term.  It’s also important that you confirm that the names and addresses are correct, along with other important information relating to the loan.  If anything is inaccurate, now is the time to make changes.  Never sign the loan documents until everything is perfect.

Sign Here, Please

Once everything is verified and the loan documents are approved by both you and the lender, it’s time to sign on the dotted line.  Believe it or not, this is one of the most nervous times for a homebuyer.  If you’ve chosen the right home and are comfortable with your loan, however, it can also be one of the most exciting.  Once the documents are signed, the notary public will affix his/her stamp and signature.

It’s A Done Deal

The final step in the closing process is a simple handshake.  Most lenders and homebuyers will extend their hands and, with a smile, the person who was just a homebuyer is now a homeowner.  Now that’s something to shake on!  With the keys to your abode now firmly in hand, it’s time to get moving and turn your new house into a home.

If you have children, or even if you don’t yet but plan to in the future, schools are something you will need to take into consideration when you search for a new home.  In most areas, certain boundaries define which schools your children will go to, and switching to a different school can be complicated and expensive in many cases.

Fortunately, finding a great neighborhood with good quality schools is not difficult, thanks to the internet.  Online ratings and reviews of schools can help you to make the right call when it comes to finding a home that will offer your children a quality education.

Start With The District

The first thing you should look into is which school district you are considering moving into.  Find out if the schools in that district tend to be highly rated, and what kind of test scores are generally seen among students in the district schools.  All of this information is readily available online.

The school district Web site will be able to tell you which school your children would go to if you were to buy a particular house.  There is usually a boundary map you can check, or you can enter your address and search to find out which school is the right one.

Check The Reviews

The internet allows people to review everything from appliances to doctors—and schools are no exception.  Search for your school of choice online and you will find plenty of reviews from parents whose children have attended the school.  Getting an unbiased opinion of the school will help you to get an idea of what you can expect.

When You Love The Neighborhood, But Not The School

If you really want a particular house in a particular neighborhood, but aren’t too happy with the schools, you can look into your other options.  Most school districts have a system by which you can choose to send your child to a different school.  This usually involves either particular needs that can’t be met by the in-area school, or a fee or lottery system to allow your child to attend the school of your choice.  Find out what the rules are in your school district.

Your other option is to look into private schools.  This is, of course, the more expensive choice, but should you select a private school you will have the freedom to live wherever you like, without worrying about what school your child will be slotted to attend.

In addition to location and condition, the asking price of a home is at the top of the list of important considerations.  When a potential buyer is looking for a property, they want to get the best possible value for their dollar.  This doesn’t mean that a home should be priced too low, but it does mean that knowing how to price your home is a must.

Know The Value

Regardless of whether you are in a buyer’s market or seller’s market, it’s important for every seller to know the actual value of their home with the help of an appraisal.  With this information, you will be able to choose a listing price that does not exceed the home’s value.  At the same time, you will know how to react to various offers that a potential buyer may make.  If you can select a price that is affordable to a range of buyers, you may receive multiple offers thereby sparking a possible competition among the interested parties.

Do Your Homework

The asking price that you choose should not be based on an appraisal alone, but rather a combination of factors.  One such factor is that of recent selling prices for comparable homes in the area known as “comps.”  Important comparisons include construction year, square footage, views (if applicable), interior upgrades and additional features that make the home unique.  While you’re doing research, check out current listings and the asking price for each home available in your area.

Set A Realistic Timetable

In researching the sale price for other comparable homes in the area, you should also note the length of time a particular house has been on the market.  Some homes practically sell overnight, while others may remain on the market for months without being sold.  If you want to sell your home quickly, you should consider this when setting a price.  A bargain will obviously move quicker, but it’s important to make enough from the sale to feel good about your choice.  If you aren’t in a hurry to close, talk with your realtor about a fair starting price that’s at or near the appraised value of your home.

Ask Your REALTOR® For Advice

While you hold the key, so to speak, to your house’s actual asking price, most sellers will ask their REALTOR® for their opinion.  After all, real estate is their business and they will be working with you through every step of the process.  If you choose a REALTOR® that you trust, give great consideration to the advice they offer.

Congratulations!  Now that you have found the perfect home, all that’s left is getting the perfect mortgage.  In order to do that, you will have to know what your lender needs from you in order to get your loan application approved.

Property Description

When applying for a home loan, you will need to provide the lender with detailed information regarding the property that you intend to purchase, including a physical address, what type of loan you are requesting and how you obtained the funds to be used as a down payment.

Borrower & Co-Borrower Information

All persons named on a home loan must be able to provide their name, date of birth, current address, former address (if within the last two years), marital status, current and former employment information, telephone number and social security number.

Most lenders require tax returns for the two years preceding the loan application, along with current paystubs or, if self-employed, a year-to-date profit/loss statement.

Current Mortgage Expenses

An important part of every home loan is affordability, which is why your lender will need to know how much of your income is available to pay for a new home.  If you have a current mortgage, be ready to provide a detailed list of expenses that you pay each month in relation to the property.  This includes a mortgage payment, real estate taxes, mortgage insurance, homeowner’s association dues, utilities, etc.  If you plan to sell the home, let your lender know so that they will understand you are simply replacing one debt with another.

Yes Or No

Almost every loan application asks both the borrower and co-borrower (if applicable) to answer a few simple yes and no questions on the application.  Questions pertaining to outstanding judgments, bankruptcy filings, foreclosures, lawsuits, alimony, child support and citizenship status are standard and should be expected when applying for a home loan.

Statement Of Assets & Liabilities

When applying for a home loan, both the borrower and co-borrower will be required to disclose all of their current assets and liabilities.  An asset is property, either real or personal, that is owned and is of value.  A liability, on the other hand, is a financial obligation for which one is liable.

A loan application will request information relating to assets and their current market value, including automobiles, real estate, stocks, bonds, life insurance (cash value), business net worth, personal property, etc.  If any amount of money is owed on these properties, the lender will request information relating to the unpaid balance in order to determine the actual equity that the borrower has in any given property.

The Fourth of July is an exciting holiday filled with family and friends, backyard barbeques, and of course the main event—the fireworks.  Setting off your own fireworks can be a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous.  Before you get ready to start your pyrotechnic display, make sure you know some of the basics of fireworks safety.

Keep Kids Back

Young children don’t understand that the pretty lights they are watching are dangerous.  If you have young kids watching your fireworks display, set up seats for them far from danger, and be sure they don’t come any closer.  Sometimes a clearly defined line can help them understand—try using chalk to draw a “safe line” on the ground and ensure they don’t pass it.

Read The Instructions

Before you set off any fireworks, read the instructions on the packaging and all of the details on how the particular piece works.  You should know what height to expect from it as well as how much space you will need around it.  You should also be sure you know how long it will take to burn, and exactly how to light it.  Even if you are experienced with setting off fireworks, it’s important to read each new package to be sure you set them off safely.

You should also make certain that all of the fireworks you purchase are legal for use in your state—state laws vary.

Be Fire Smart

Fireworks have the word fire in them for a reason!  Fires started by errant fireworks on houses, trees, and other items are not uncommon.  Be prepared for any eventuality.  Keep a fire extinguisher nearby just in case something catches fire.

You should also keep a bucket of water handy and drop used fireworks into the water to make certain they are out afterward.  It doesn’t take much to start a fire, so don’t take any risks.  A few precautions can prevent a big disaster.

A safe fireworks display is a thing of beauty and awe, and should be fun for everyone with minimal risk.  Be prepared, know what to expect, and anticipate possible dangers.  That way everyone can enjoy the Fourth of July safely.

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