What is the MLS?

Whether you are interested in buying or selling a home you may have heard that you should take a closer look at what is available in the MLS. While this is an acronym that is thrown around quite frequently within the real estate industry, many people do not fully understand what the MLS is or how it can help them with buying or selling their home. Therefore, before you contact a real estate agent, it is good to learn a bit more about the MLS and how it can help you.

The Basics of the MLS

The Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, is a massive database that contains information about homes that are for sale throughout the country. Through the MLS, you can gain access to information about properties that have been listed by agents other than the agent you have hired to help you find a home. “Not only does it allow you to access a greater number of homes, but it also allows you to conduct searches based on certain criteria,” says Brian Kinkade*.

While some property information is available for the general consumer to access on the Internet, you will need to go through a real estate agent if you wish to tap into the complete MLS system. This is because all of the properties available in the MLS are not listed on the Internet. In addition, there is no national MLS database. Rather, the information that is contained on the Internet has simply been compiled and shared by local and regional MLS systems. Since the local and regional systems do not participate to the same extent, certain information may be missing from the Internet.

Getting Use of the MLS as a Seller

The MLS is an excellent tool for getting a home sold. While placing ads is certainly a great way to grab the attention of potential buyers, listing your home on the MLS makes it accessible to every MLS member and the thousands of websites to which each MLS system syndicates listings (How to list on the MLS). Therefore, when a real estate agent conducts a search on behalf of his or her clients, your home will be among those that are available in the database. In short, being in the MLS helps to further expand the number of potential buyers while also helping to create a greater demand for the property. Not only will this help you get your home sold faster, but it will also increase the amount that you can hope to get for the property.

Getting Use of the MLS as a Buyer

As a buyer, the MLS helps you search through a broader range of properties. As a result, you are more likely to find a home to suit your needs as well as your budget. In short, it creates a win-win situation for everyone who is involved in the entire process!

Buying Your First Investment Property

Given today’s low housing prices and interest rates, it is easy to understand why so many people are considering purchasing an investment property for the first time in their lives. While you will have to take a few extra steps when purchasing an investment property versus an owner occupied property, buying investment property can certainly be quite rewarding. Before you take this step, however, it is important to learn a bit more about what purchasing an investment property entails.

Financing Your Purchase

Financing the purchase of an investment property can be a bit trickier than purchasing a home to occupy. When purchasing an investment property, you should be prepared to make a down payment that is equivalent to 20 percent of the cost of the home. Furthermore, the funds you use for your down payment cannot be a gift. In some cases, the seller can contribute up to 2 percent toward the closing costs an you may be able to have a second mortgage of up to 85 percent of the cost, but taking advantage of these offers will make it more difficult to obtain a loan. The same is true when it comes to your credit score, as those with low scores will be hit with higher interest rates.

Having Funds in Reserve

In addition to having enough money to put down as a down payment, most guidelines also require you to have six months reserves in your savings account by the time the transaction is complete. The six months reserve includes the amount needed to cover your mortgage payment for six months as well as any home owners association dues. Retirement funds and stocks can count as your retirement reserve, but lenders will discount the value of these to 60 or 70 percent when determining their reserve value.

Using Special Programs

For those who need a little help with purchasing an investment property, there are two options available: Fannie Mae Homepath and FHA. With a Fannie Mae Homepath Mortgage, you can put as little as 10 percent down on a property that has been designated for the program. No appraisal is required and you do not have to purchase mortgage insurance when purchasing a property through this program. You do, however, need to have a credit score of at least 660 to qualify.

You can also purchase an investment property with the help of an FHA loan, though you will need to occupy part of the property. This is a good option for those who are interested in purchasing a 2-4 unit property in order to live in one of the units and to rent the others. When going this route, you still receive owner occupied interest rates and you only have to pay a very small down payment. Furthermore, the rent that you expect to receive from the property can be put toward helping you qualify for the loan. As with any FHA loan, you will have to pay upfront mortgage insurance as well as monthly mortgage insurance, though the upfront insurance can be financed as part of your loan.

Is a Reverse Mortgage Right for You?

Thanks to the housing recession, reverse mortgages have become increasingly popular. Yet, despite their rise in popularity, getting a reverse mortgage is not necessarily right for everyone. To that end, it is important to explore the pros and cons and to learn more about the ins and outs of a reverse mortgage when trying to determine if this type of mortgage loan is right for you.

Con #1: You Might Not Qualify

Before you start exploring the rest of the pros and cons of a reverse mortgage loan, you first need to determine if you can even qualify to get one in the first place. Some requirements for obtaining a reverse mortgage include:

* You must be at least 62-years-old
* The home must serves as your principal residence
* You must own the home or have a significant amount of equity in the home

Pro #1: Put More Money Back in Your Pocket

While most reverse mortgages are conventional loans, which means they are insured by the FHA, they are different from conventional loans in that they put money back into your pocket. This is because the interest is subtracted from the current value of the home and the difference is given back to the homeowner. The amount you receive from your reverse mortgage depends upon the value of the home, your age and the current interest rates.

Con #2: There May be Added Expenses

While there are no income requirements and creditworthiness is not a concern with reverse mortgages, there are certain expenses associated with taking out this type of loan. For example, you will be expected to pay hazard insurance and you will need to pay property taxes and take other steps necessary to maintain the property. Of course, most homeowners already plan to pay for these expenses, but it is important to note that you will be required to make these investments if you take out a reverse mortgage loan.

Pro #2: Enjoy Flexibility

When it comes to receiving payments from your reverse mortgage, there are several different options available. These include receiving any of the following:

* A single, lump sum payment
* A predetermined payment each month
* A line of credit
* A combination of two of the above options

Con #3: Reducing the Inheritance

Of course, there is a trade-off for getting to use your home’s equity with a reverse mortgage. Namely, the interest and other costs associated with the loan are due after you die. Therefore, the home will likely need to be sold in order to pay off the loan, which means there may not be anything left to pass on to your heirs.

Pro #3: No Repayment Required So Long as the Home Remains Your Principal Residence

While the loan will have to be repaid after your death, the pro is that there are no payments due so long as the home remains your primary residence. As such, you can enjoy the benefits of your equity without having to worry about taking on another bill.

Five Tips for Staging Your Home

Are you trying to get your home sold as quickly as possible? If so, it is essential that you present your home to potential buyers in the most favorable way possible. After all, if your home makes a good impression on potential buyers, you will be more likely to get offers that you will be happy with. Here is a look at 5 simple ways you can stage your home to draw more buyers.

Staging Tip #1: Increase Curb Appeal

First impressions are lasting ones, so make sure to take the steps necessary to increase the curb appeal of your home. Things you can do to increase the curb appeal of your home include:

• Make minor repairs to the home’s exterior
• Apply a fresh layer of paint to the exterior, if applicable (be sure to choose a neutral color)
• Repaint the shutters, door and trim
• Remove clutter from the driveway and yard
• Keep the lawn and landscape neatly mowed, trimmed and edged
• Add fresh mulch to flower beds
• Place potted plants outside the door

All of these steps will make your home more appealing and inviting to potential buyers, which will make them more interested in seeing what else the home has to offer.

Staging Tip #2: Create a Welcoming Entryway

After seeing your home from the curb, the next thing potential buyers will see when viewing your home is your entryway. Therefore, you want to be sure your home is inviting to potential buyers as soon as they open the door. Two ways to accomplish this goal is to make sure the entryway is free of clutter and well-lit. Applying a fresh layer of paint can also create a fresh look that buyers will find appealing. Choose lighter colors to help make the space look bigger.

Staging Tip #3: Update Wherever Possible

Making simple updates to your home will help increase buyer interests while also potentially increasing the value of your home. Some simple updates that will leave a meaningful impression on buyers include installing water-efficient faucets and toilets as well as other eco-friendly features. Updating cabinets with new knobs and handles is also a quick and simple way to increase your home’s appeal.

Staging Tip #4: Remove Personal Items

When it comes to selling a home, removing personal items is one of the most important things you can do. After all, if your home is filled with pictures and personal mementos, it makes it difficult for the buyer to see anyone but you in the home. Since the goal is to get the buyer to see him or herself in the home, you want to remove as many barriers as possible.

Staging Tip #5: Make the Home Appear Comfortable

Most buyers are looking for more than just a house – they want a home. Therefore, you should take steps to make the house feel “homey” to the potential buyer. You can do this by making the home look comfortable and inviting. You can accomplish this by moving the furniture around so it is easy to walk around. Placing the furniture so it is conducive to conversation is also a good way to add appeal to your home.

Are You Ready to Own a Home?

Have you been considering purchasing a home? If so, you are not alone. After all, according to many experts, there is no better time to purchase a home than now. With interest rates lower than they have been in 50 years and with home prices hitting rock bottom, you stand to save a significant amount of money if you make a purchase now. Still, there are many things to consider when trying to decide if now is the right time for you to own a home. Here’s a look at five questions you should ask yourself as you try to make this decision.

#1: Are You Financially Ready for Home Ownership?

Perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself is whether or not you are financially prepared to own a home. Remember, home ownership involves more than making your mortgage loan payment each month. You will also need to pay taxes, insurance and utilities as well as the cost of any repairs that may be necessary.

#2: Are You Prepared to Maintain Your Home?

In addition to paying for the maintenance and repairs that your home might need, you will also need to dedicate time to home maintenance. If you call a professional to make repairs, you might need to take time off from work in order to be there when that professional arrives. Similarly, you will need to dedicate either the time or money necessary to hire someone to perform mowing, shoveling snow and other routine yard work that comes with home ownership.

#3: How Long Do You Plan to Live in the Area?

Before you purchase a home, you should give some thought to your long-term housing plans. If you intend to move within the next few years, purchasing a home now may not be a wise decision because you will not have time to build up equity in the home. If you don’t have any plans to move for at least five years, however, purchasing a home now shouldn’t cause any issues.

#4: What are Your Immediate Plans for the Future?

In addition to considering where you plan to live in the next five years, you should consider other plans for your future as well. If you plan to have a family, for example, purchasing a home may be a great idea. At the same time, you will want to purchase a home that is large enough to accommodate a family. If you plan to do a lot of traveling or to spend a lot of time climbing the corporate ladder over the next several years, on the other hand, the time and commitment involved with home ownership may be problematic for you.

#5: Is Your Credit Rating Healthy?

Finally, you should ask yourself if your credit rating is healthy. Even if you do manage to obtain a loan with a poor credit rating, the amount you pay toward interest can be quite significant. Therefore, even if you do feel you are ready to purchase a home, it might be better to wait for six months or longer in order to give your credit rating time to improve so you can qualify for a lower interest rate.

Exploring Latest US Real Estate Trends

While no one can say for certain how the future of the real estate market will pan out, there are several trends and indicators that give us a good idea of how the rest of 2010 and 2011 will play out around the United States. Here’s a look at some of real estate trends the market has seen and how they will likely affect us over the next several months or even years.

Trend #1: Remaining a Buyer’s Market
Although the housing market has shown signs of improvement, it is likely to remain a buyer’s market for some time now. In other words, the low prices and large inventory we have seen over the past year or so is likely to continue through at least the rest of the year.

Trend #2: More Foreclosures to Hit the Market
Although home values have been starting to stabilize in some areas, this doesn’t mean foreclosures have come to an end. While the rate of homes being foreclosed upon should continue to slow, we are still likely to see more foreclosures than the norm over the next several months.

Trend #3: Stabilizing Home Values
Home values have already started to show some signs of stabilization in certain markets throughout the country and, fortunately, we are likely to see more stabilization over the next several months. Of course, many markets will still continue to struggle during this same time frame.

Trend #4: Increased Mortgage Rates
While mortgage rates have still remained at the lowest rate they have been in 50 years, this trend is not likely to continue. As the market continues to stabilize, interest rates are likely to go up in the near future. Nonetheless, it looks like those who are interested in purchasing a home should still enjoy low mortgage rates for at least a few more months.

Trend #5: Lending Standards Remain Tight
Although lending standards have loosened up a bit, they are likely to remain tight for quite some time. While it will be easier to purchase a home than it was just a year ago, you should still expect to be asked to show plenty of documentation and to have excellent credit if you hope to purchase a home in 2010.

First Time Boston Homebuyer Tips

Are you considering purchasing a Boston area home for the first time? If so, you are probably both excited and nervous about your decision. After all, purchasing a home is a major transaction and you are getting ready to embark upon a major change in your life. To ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible and to make certain you are making a sound financial decision, it is important to keep a few tips in mind when purchasing your first home.

Tip #1: Know What to Expect

Before you contact a Boston real estate agent, it is a good idea to get a clearer picture of how much home you should expect to get at what price, and how the buying process works. While your real estate agent will certainly help guide you through this process, the better prepared you are beforehand, the easier it will be for you to work with your agent. To get a general idea of what you can expect to pay for a home in your area, visit Websites such as Zillow.com and Homegain.com.

Tip #2: Determine What You Can Afford

It is also in your best interest to have a good idea of what you can afford to pay for a home. In this way, you can give your agent an idea of the price range of homes to look at. To help get a better idea of how much you can afford to spend on a home, you might want to use one of the many mortgage calculators that are available on the Internet. Also, keep in mind that Fannie Mae recommends spending no more than 28% of your gross income on your housing costs. You can follow this up by speaking with a mortgage broker, a resource that can provide significantly more detailed information about the lower and upper bands of home prices you should be considering.

South End Condos Boston

Tip #3: Decide What You Are Looking for in a Home

By assessing your current and future needs, you will be better able to determine the type of house and features you are looking for. The better you communicate these needs to your real estate agent, the better he or she will be able to narrow down your options to those that are the most likely to suit your needs.

Tip #4: Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate

One of the benefits of working with a real estate agent is that he or she should have great negotiating skills. Don’t be afraid to speak up about what you want from the transaction, including extras such as having the furniture included in the price or having the seller pick up the cost of certain inspections and repairs. The more you communicate your desires to your Boston agent, the better prepared he or she will be to negotiate a great deal on your behalf. Bear in mind that almost everything is negotiable in real estate, including inspection items that come up during the standard inspection process.

About the Author: Brian Kinkade is a broker and team lead with Brokers Guild – Cherry Creek Ltd, one of Denver’s fastest growing full service Denver real estate firm. Brian’s team of Internet savvy agents service the Denver Metro area while specializing in Denver luxury homes, Colorado horse property and International sales. They invite you to visit their advanced real estate website today to search for homes, gather local information, and learn about Denver neighborhoods. Brian and his team are standing by and ready to assist with your home purchase, property sale or relocation needs.

Four Ways to Make Bathrooms Greener

Going green, or eco-friendly, is more than just a passing trend in the real estate industry. Rather, it is the wave of the future and Boston condo developers and current owners alike are taking notice. In fact, a growing number of homebuyers are looking for homes with eco-friendly designs and construction. Therefore, if you are looking for a way to increase the value of your home, or if you are simply trying to reduce your carbon footprint, you might want to consider implementing these four ways to make your bathroom greener.

Tip #1: Improve Water Efficiency

One way to make your bathroom more eco-friendly is to replace the toilet with a low-flow model and to install low-flow showerheads. You might also want to look for bathroom appliances with the WaterSense label, as those appliances that earn this label must be 20% more water efficient than their less efficient counterparts while still performing as well or better than those without the WaterSense label.

Tip #2: Choose Green Construction Materials

When remodeling your bathroom, there are many green material options to select from. Not only will these options reduce your carbon footprint, but many are quite attractive as well. For example, recycled glass tiles look great in the shower and green flooring options such as linoleum made from natural raw materials and bamboo will add flare to the room. Products carrying eco-friendly labels such as Green Seal and EcoLogo are also good construction options.

Boston Condo Bathroom

Tip #3: Install an Exhaust Fan

Installing an exhaust fan is a great way to get the air moving in your bathroom. Not only will this help keep your bathroom fresh, exhaust fans also help remove dampness from the room. By keeping dampness at bay, you reduce the risk of developing mold. This, in turn, reduces the need for using environmentally harmful chemicals to get rid of the mold.

Tip #4: Install Eco-Friendly Shower Curtains

Display your eco-friendly mindset by doing away with PVC shower curtains and replacing them with a “green” option. Eco-friendly shower curtain material options include coated nylon, hemp, linen, and organic cotton

By taking these four simple steps, you will save energy, water and money in the long run.

About the Author: Brian Kinkade is a broker and team lead with Brokers Guild – Cherry Creek Ltd, one of Denver’s fastest growing full service Denver real estate firm. Brian’s team of Internet savvy agents service the Denver Metro area while specializing in Denver luxury homes, Colorado horse property and International sales. They invite you to visit their advanced real estate website today to search for homes, gather local information, and learn about Denver neighborhoods. Brian and his team are standing by and ready to assist with your home purchase, property sale or relocation needs.