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What is Title Insurance and Why Do You Need It?

by The Hat Team


When you are purchasing a home, especially if you are a first-time homebuyer, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the things you need to think about.  Something like title insurance is probably not even on your radar. It’s a fee that will appear on your closing document and chances are you don’t even know what it’s for.  If that’s the case, we’ve got you covered.  Here are five things you need to know about title insurance:

  1. Like other insurance policies, title insurance is something that protects you financially should there be a loss.  In this case it protects you with regard to property ownership. It not only ensures that the property you are purchasing will be legally transferred to you from the previous owner, it also protects you from possible future Title Defects.  There isn’t a monthly premium with title insurance; it is a one-time fee paid at closing.  This one-time payment will protect the insured from title defects for the life of the loan.
  2. Title insurance is important because while a title research company will look into the history of ownership of the home to be sure there are no title defects, there is always a possibility that an issue could arise later due to several reasons such as improperly recorded documents, mistakes in ownership history or other legal matters that occurred prior to your purchase of the home.
  3. There are two types of title insurance; one that protects the home owner and one that protects the mortgage lender.  Your lender will require that you purchase the lender’s policy to protect them from any loss should a problem arise.  The owner policy protects you and will cover legal fees or other losses that occur due to a title defect. You are not required to get an owner policy, but it’s well worth it to have it in place just in case something goes wrong in the future.
  4. It can be frustrating to pay for insurance that you might never use, but it is risky to not have it in place. Think of it as paying for peace of mind.  With title insurance, you will be protected from catastrophic circumstances should a title defect be found.  You could not only lose a lot of money; you may even lose your home.
  5. Title insurance is purchased when closing on your home. You have the option of buying it from whatever company you choose, but if your lender has a preferred company, you may find it less expensive to add your owner’s policy onto your lender’s policy. Average Cost of Title Insurance 2019

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: wsj.com

Furnishing Your First Home - Choosing Pieces that Will Last

by The Hat Team

Congratulations! You are a first-time home owner!  Now it’s time to furnish your new space.  While you may already have furniture from your previous home, if you are moving into a larger place, chances are you will be looking to add to it.  When deciding what to purchase, it will pay to think long-term so that you can choose pieces that will last, both in quality and in style. Here are 5 pieces of furniture that will stand the test of time;

  1. A SIMPLE BUT STURDY DINING TABLE

A small, well-built table is a great starter piece for your dining room or eat-in kitchen.It doesn’t have to be ornate; you can use table cloths to spruce it up.What’s nice about it…and what makes it lasting…is that when you upgrade to a larger dining room table down the road, you can use this table in your breakfast room, sunroom, craft room, or even as a desk in your office.


Photo Credit: etsy.com

  1. INDOOR/OUTDOOR CHAIRS

When looking for chairs to go with your dining table, avoid upholstered ones and instead look for durable materials that are suitable for both indoor and outdoor dining. Why? Because your dining set of today can be your patio furniture in the future.Look for chairs made of metal or with slats in the seat or back so that they can withstand being outdoors in the rain.


Photo Credit: pinterest.com

  1. A KING-SIZED HEADBOARD

An elegant headboard can dress up a bedroom. It might not be a priority to have one right away, but if you choose to purchase one, go big.Maybe you are sleeping in a double bed right now and you are wondering why you would buy a king-sized headboard for that.Well, down the road when you upgrade to a queen or king-sized bed, you will already have a headboard ready to go! So, choose a wall-mounted or freestanding headboard that will give your double bed a luxurious look now and you will still be able to use it when you get that king-sized bed later!


Photo Credit: pitus.info

  1. A SMALL LEATHER SOFA

You don’t necessarily need a large sofa right away, but it’s still important to have a quality, comfortable one.The family room is often the heart of the home and you will spend a lot of time sitting on your sofa. So, it should not only be comfy, but also made to last.The nice thing about a leather sofa is that while providing a cozy lounging spot for one or two people now, it will age well and become a great accent piece as part of a larger family room later.It will coordinate easily with colors and patterns in a larger seating arrangement.

Top 7 Benefits of Leather Furniture


Photo Credit: livingspaces.com

  1. A CLASSIC SIDEBOARD

A sideboard may not provide a lot of storage, but it adds a lot of style and function to just about any room in your home.Choose a warm, wood unit that will last through years of style and décor changes.It is such a versatile piece that can be used as a storage space/server in a dining area, as a media stand in a family room, as a bedside table in a bedroom, or as the perfect place to display treasures in a foyer or living room.


Photo Credit: pinterest.com

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Buying a Home in 2019 - Tips for Success

by The Hat Team


Are you planning to become a home owner in 2019?  If so, it’s important that you educate yourself about the real estate market so that you know what steps to take to successfully find and purchase the right home for you.

With the continued shortage of homes for sale, buyers need to be prepared for competition with other home buyers as homes will likely get many offers.  That being the case, it is vital that serious buyers put their best foot forward from the very start.  Their first offer will need to be their best one in a situation where there are likely to be multiple offers, because they may not have an opportunity to negotiate.  Unless you intend to pay cash, the best thing you can do is to get Pre-approved for a Mortgage Loan before you start shopping for your new home.  This will let buyers know that you are serious and that you can afford the purchase price.  Remember that in a seller’s market, homeowners are calling the shots and it’s not a time to take risks.  It’s also worth mentioning that the best offer might not be the offer of the most money.  Sellers will take into account the financing and likelihood of a successful closing. The more cash in the offer, the more likely the loan will close.

As a buyer in this market it benefits you to be flexible when it comes to a closing date. The best strategy is to have your Realtor find out from the sellers when they would like to close.  If they need to close by a certain date, they may pass on an offer if those buyers can’t close by that date.  Being flexible about when you want to take possession of the house will help you stand out to sellers as well. Sometimes sellers might need a little extra time to move out and if you can work with them, they might accept your offer over someone who needs to move in right away.

Be ready to make an offer right away. When a house comes on the market that you would like to bid on, have your pre-approval letter ready.  Take a look at the home as soon as possible and if it’s right for you, have your Realtor make an offer as soon as possible. This is not a time for a low-ball offer. A Realtor who is very familiar with the market can help you decide on the right amount to offer. In fact, one of the most important things you need to do to prepare to buy a home is to hire a professional, experienced Realtor like Sandra Nickel to assist you in the home buying process.

Finally, don’t wait!  Home prices are rising, as are interest rates. So, if you’re planning on becoming a home owner this year, now is the time to start your home search! 2019 National Housing Forecast

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Surprise! You Don’t Need a 20% Down Payment to Buy a House!

by The Hat Team

You are ready to purchase your first house.  Your credit score is great.  You know you can afford a monthly mortgage payment based on your budget.  You are sure you will be approved for a mortgage loan.  But that down payment!  How the heck are you supposed to come up with 20%?  Don’t despair, because the truth is, you don’t need a 20% down payment to purchase a house!

Saving for a down payment on a house can seem overwhelming for many people.  Keep in mind that it can come from various sources.  Funds can come from bank accounts, stocks or mutual funds, an inheritance, or a gift from a family member.  Some people will even use assets from their retirement portfolio.  Requirements regarding where the money comes from for your down payment depend on the loan type.  Also, purchasing a primary residence usually requires a lower down payment than if you are purchasing a second home or buying an investment property. The Different Types of Mortgage Loans in 2018, Explained

The myth about down payments is that 20% is the norm. While that may have been true in the past, it’s not anymore.  The fact is that per the National Association of Realtors, a majority of homebuyers purchased their home with a down payment of 6 percent or less. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t even consider buying a home because they still think they need 20% down.  The NAR'S Aspiring Home Buyers Profile 2018 found that 36% of non-owners believed that saving for a down payment would be very difficult. Chances are they still believe in the 20% down myth and it is just not the case anymore!

So, now that you know you don’t have to have 20%, perhaps buying a home seems more within reach.  But there are still some things you should be aware of before taking that first step toward homeownership.  Various factors are at play in determining if you should take on a mortgage with lower down payment.  For example, the less you put down, the larger your mortgage payment will be each month.  That is because you will have a larger loan amount, possibly a higher mortgage interest rate, and the added cost of Mortgage Insurance.  So, while you don’t have to come up with more cash, your monthly costs go up.

Once you have educated yourself about the requirements, you can make informed decisions about your budget and how much you can afford.  Don’t let the 20% down payment myth stop you from pursuing your dream of home ownership! 

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs. Call them today at 334-834-1500!

First-Time Homebuyer’s Checklist: Are You Ready to Buy?

by The Hat Team

The decision to purchase your first home is not one that should be made lightly.  It is an important, life-changing decision that should be given serious consideration.  So, before you take the plunge into searching for the prefect home, here are some questions you should ask yourself to make sure that you are ready.

- Can I afford a home?  The first step is to determine if you can afford to buy a home based on your current financial situation.   Using a Home Affordability Calculator will help you figure out how much you can afford by plugging in your income, debt and the amount of a down payment you will be able to make.   You will now have a number for the highest amount you can afford and what the monthly payment will be.

 - Is it better for me to rent or buy?  Using a Rent vs. Buy Calculator will allow you to crunch the numbers. You can enter the current amount of rent you’re paying (or how much you would be able to pay) and the zip code where you want to live. The calculator will provide a comparison of the cost of buying a home versus renting in that area.  You will also be able to see which option is more cost effective over time.

 - How long will I live here?  If you plan to stay in a home for a long time, it is generally better to buy versus rent. If you’re going to be living somewhere for a short term, renting might be the better option.  The reason is that when you buy a home you will likely have to pay closing costs which can total in the thousands of dollars.  In addition, most of your early mortgage payments go toward interest rather than paying down the principal, which is the actual amount you owe on the home.  A good rule of thumb is that home buyers should stay put for at least five years.  Otherwise, renting may be better.

 - Are you saving for retirement?  Retirement may seem a long way off to young home-buyers, but it is important to start saving early.  It’s not a good idea to neglect your retirement accounts to “save” money to put down on a house.   Consider meeting with a financial counselor who can help you find a balance in saving for retirement and saving for your first home at the same time.

 - Am I ready for the responsibility?  Owning a home is a huge responsibility.  With rentals, you can call your landlord to fix things that aren’t working in the home, but as an owner, it’s all up to you.  You need to be sure that you have the time, willingness and resources to keep up with home and yard maintenance.

Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professional Realtors at Homes for Sale in Montgomery AL can assist you in the process of determining if you are ready to purchase your first home.  Give them a call at 334-834-1500 and get started today!

Buying is Better than Renting: Here’s Why

by The Hat Team

With interest rates still relatively low, buying a house right now is less expensive than renting in many places, including Montgomery, AL.  Now is a great time to lock into a rate.

Buying is often considered to be financially better than renting over the long run because your mortgage payments build equity in your home, which you will eventually own, while rent only goes toward the upkeep of your home and the pocket of your landlord. That is just one reason buying is better than renting.  Here are some others:

  • You can do what you want with your property. Making home improvements will be your choice…from colors to paint the walls to light fixtures to types of floors, you won’t need permission from a landlord to make changes.
  • Tax benefits. Tax Deductions are a great perk of home ownership.
  • Stable monthly payments. Rents can go up, but with a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly payments won’t change.
  • Forced savings.  Renting might seem less expensive, but would you actually save the money you don’t spend on rent?  Since your mortgage payments are building equity in your own home, which you can later sell for profit, it’s like a forced savings.

Using a Rent vs But Calculator you can see how buying is a better financial option right here in Montgomery.  For example, after 4 years, the cost of homeownership (down payment, mortgage, taxes, etc.) for a $150,000 home in Montgomery would be $94,094.  The total cost to rent the same house for that period would be $52,193.  Renting would leave you with $41,901 in your pocket (including the money you didn’t spend on a down payment).  So, it looks like renting would be better financially, right?  But wait…not so fast.  Let’s look at what you gain over the same 4-year period if you buy.  After 4 years, your home will have $70,371 in equity. However, if you instead rent and invest your down payment and the other money you save at a 6% return rate, it will earn around $8,351 in 4 years.  So, if you look at your gross costs, equity and investment potential, it’s better for you to buy than rent if you plan to live in your home more than 3 years and 3 months.

The bottom line is, if you’ve been thinking about buying a home in the Montgomery area, don’t wait!  Start investing your money in your own home vs that of a landlord today!

Contact Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professional Realtors at 334-834-1500 and let them help you find your dream house today!

Mortgage Loan Pre-Approval Will Make You Stand Out to Sellers!

by The Hat Team

Across the country right now, the number of buyers seeking homes far outnumbers the number of homes available.  Because of this, the housing market is super competitive and buyers often need to do something to stand out.  One way to show that you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even in a less competitive market, knowing your budget will give you security of knowing if a home is within your reach.

One of the many advantages of working with a local Realtor is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process.  Once you have chosen a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with vital information regarding your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.

There are 5 Cs that aid in determining the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  • Capacity: Your current and future ability to make payments.
  • Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash.
  • Collateral: The home or type of home that you want to purchase.
  • Character: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time.
  • Conditions: Current interest rates and amount of principal influence lender’s likelihood of financing the borrower.

Getting pre-approved not only shows sellers you are serious, but also speeds up the process of completing the purchase once your offer has been accepted.

Many people overestimate the down payment and Credit Score needed to qualify for a mortgage.  If you are ready to buy, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised at what you can afford!  Contact Sandra Nickel and her team of professionals at 334-834-1500 and let them help you achieve your dream of home ownership today!

What Inspires Love at First Sight for Home Buyers

by The Hat Team

Perhaps you have imagined your dream house.  You’ve pictured it in your mind and can only hope that you can find it in real life.  Some buyers have to look for a long time before finding the home of their dreams, but others know right away. When reality matches the vision you have for your home, you might fall in love at first sight. Here are some things that make buyers know they had found “the one” the moment they see it:

  • A gorgeous front porch. Nothing says “welcome home” better than a beautifully appointed front porch.  A creative front door with porch railings painted a complementary color are a great way to draw a potential buyer into a home. That first look can make or break the interest of buyers.
  • Standing out among the crowd.  That neighborhood full of “cookie cutter” houses may be the right area for you, but you don’t want your house to look like everyone else’s.  A home that stands out is the one for you.  For example, maybe that one white brick house in a sea of red brick houses is just different enough to make it the right one for you.
  • Layout. Open concept has been popular for a long time, but maybe your dream house affords more privacy.  When you walk into a home that has defined rooms that serve specific purposes, you have found what you have envisioned as the perfect home for you.
  • The great outdoors.  Perhaps the inside doesn’t matter quite as much as the outside to you.  Despite the imperfections in the house itself, that huge, beautiful yard is all you ever wanted.
  • Good bones.  If your dream house is one that you design yourself, then you might just fall in love with a fixer upper that has good bones.  Just make sure to educate yourself about what it will take to make the vision you have for your home a reality.

There are many things that can make a buyer fall in love with a house at first sight. A professional Realtor like Sandra Nickel can help guide you through the process of finding and purchasing your dream home.  Give her a call at 334-834 1500 let The Hat Team of Realtors help you today!

YOUR HOME SEARCH STARTS HERE            FIND OUT WHAT YOUR HOME IS WORTH  

Photo Credit: East Bay Homeless

Using a Gift as a Down Payment - What You Need to Know

by The Hat Team

Coming up with the money needed for a down payment on a house is not easy for many people.  Some are lucky enough to have someone (or several people) give them cash as a gift to go towards purchasing a home.  No doubt, that is a wonderful thing!  But there are guidelines that must be followed when using financial gifts for your down payment.

Using gifted funds to buy a home is not as simple as it sounds.  First, the money can’t come from just anyone.  Lenders want the money to come from a family member, such as a parent, grandparent or sibling.  You can also receive gifts from your spouse, domestic partner or significant other if you’re engaged to be married.

You may or may not be able to use gifted money for your entire down payment. It depends on the type of loan you are seeking.  If you are taking out a conventional loan, all your down payment can come from a gift, if you are putting down 20 percent or more.  If you are putting down less than 20 percent, you must include some money of your own.  With FHA and VA loans, the entire amount can be gifted unless your credit score is less than 620, in which case you will have to come up with 3.5 percent of the down payment yourself. No matter what type of loan you apply for, you can only use gifted funds to purchase a primary residence or a second home.

In addition to there being restrictions about who can give you money, you will also have to prove that the money is a gift.  You will need to provide a gift letter that includes the name of the donor, their relationship to you, the date and amount of the gift and a statement that says the money is given with no expectation of repayment.  Both you and the donor must sign the letter. 

While it’s not necessary, it is a good idea to have the gift in your bank account prior to applying for a loan. That way when your lender looks through your bank statements for the previous few months, they will already see documentation of the gift.

If someone has given you money to go toward a down payment, Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of real estate professionals can help you find your dream house.  Give them a call today at 334-834-1500!

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Guide-for-First-Time-Home-Buyers-5-Steps-to-Get-You-Started

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Defeat-Debt-and-Become-a-Homeowner-in-2018

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Dont-Be-Deceived-by-Real-Estate-Myths

Guide for First Time Home Buyers - 5 Steps to Get You Started!

by The Hat Team

Buying your first house is a monumental milestone in life.  It’s likely the largest financial commitment you will have made up to this point.  You want to get it right.  Here is a basic overview of five essential things you need to know when taking this step.

- Hire a Realtor.  Having an agent will save you time.  They can send you listings directly from the MLS that fit your wants/needs and you won’t waste time looking at properties that might already be under contract. Realtors are also often aware of new listings that are not yet on the market.  And while house hunting, there is no point in wasting your gas when an agent will pick you up and provide transportation.  The advice you will receive from a qualified Realtor will be invaluable in the buying process.

- Figure out what you’re looking for.  Searching for the right home can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not even sure what you want.  Come up with a list of must-haves and desires that you can present to your Realtor so that they can provide listings that fit those parameters.

- Get a loan.  It is smart to get loan preapproval prior to making an offer on a house…especially in a seller’s market where you may be competing with other buyers. Sellers want assurance that you will be able to complete the purchase of the home.

Negotiate the offer. Don’t make the mistake of comparing the sale price to other homes you have seen because the truth is, sellers can ask any amount they want for a house.  Your agent can provide you with comparable sales of similar houses in the same condition and location over the past few months. Keep in mind that you may have to pay more than the list price in a seller's market.

- Do a home inspection. Some states will allow you to have a home inspection prior to making an offer on a home. In other states, the inspection becomes a contract contingency, meaning the buyer has the right to cancel the contract.  Either way, you don’t want to get locked into purchasing a home that has a faulty foundation, for example.

Remember, you don’t have to do this alone! Contact Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals at Homes for Sale in Montgomery Alabama to help you find your first home today!

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Defeat-Debt-and-Become-a-Homeowner-in-2018

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Finding-Your-Dream-Home

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/The-Top-Features-to-Look-for-When-Buying-a-House

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