See inside ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ home that’s on the market

Millions mourning the recent loss of Mary Tyler Moore will be heartened to see photos of the Minneapolis home where she lived in the popular ’70s show that carried her name.

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The stone Victorian mansion’s exterior was used in the show, but Mary’s actual apartment was a Hollywood set. It was meant to be behind the Palladian windows next to a turret on this Minneapolis home’s third story.

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In real life, that space is a family room with a gas fireplace, built-ins, and a beautiful view of the tree-lined street. The home is listed for $1.695 million with Barry Berg and Chad Larsen of Coldwell Banker Burnet.

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It spans 9,500 square feet — plenty of room for Mary and her fictional best friend, Rhoda, who lived in the TV mansion’s turret. In real life, that’s a third-story office with a sitting room.
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Altogether, there are 7 bedrooms and 9 baths, which means that theoretically even Mary’s crusty journalist boss, Lou Grant, could move in.

 

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Built in 1900, the home has been remodeled to include a chef’s kitchen with four — count ’em, four! — ovens and an L-shaped, granite island.mary-tyler-moore-bedroom-today-170126_15982ebe29244a137fdd23a9d339557c-today-inline-large

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The master suite features a fireplace, sitting and dressing rooms, and a spa-like bathroom. For kicking back, there’s a sauna and a rooftop deck with a hammock.

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The home’s Victorian aesthetic remains strong in the ornate millwork, bay windows and leaded glass transom accents. It boasts five gas fireplaces and two laundry centers.

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Although Mary Tyler Moore never visited the home while the show was on, she did drop by in 1996, and everyone was thrilled to see she’d made it after all.

 

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*Photography by: Landmark Photography

 

10 Things to Toss From Your Junk Drawer Now: How Many Are Hiding in Yours?

| Feb 1, 2017

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We all have one—a drawer that either by accident or design becomes the “junk drawer.” The one into which we throw random things that soon meld into a sea of mangled paper clips, empty tape rolls, and chip clips. Even the most obsessive-compulsive organized among us have this compartment of chaos somewhere.

There are few things in life, however, that feel better than tackling the junk drawer. The easiest way to start is to just dump the whole thing out and put back only the items you need. But what should you keep and what should you toss?

Here are 10 things to ditch from your junk drawer to transform it into an organized, efficient storage space—or at least one that will open and close easily, without getting jammed because of all the worthless crap in there.

1. Nonworking pens

The cap is gone and the ink has long since dried up, yet for some reason someone keeps putting them back in the drawer. Get a notepad, test them all, and get rid of every single pen that doesn’t work. Do it now. The relief you’ll feel the next time you go to grab a pen that actually works will feel downright sublime.

2. Expired coupons

You had the best intentions of using the coupons and saving money; however, they never made it into your wallet. Now they’re just sitting there, crumpled and expired. Sad. Toss them into the recycling bin (save the ones from Bed Bath & Beyond, or other stores that honor expired coupons), and consider collecting digital coupons instead going forward. Another option is to send the old coupons to Support Our Troops, which allows U.S. military families to use manufacturers’ coupons even if they’re expired.

3. Batteries

The big question is: Do they work? It turns out, you don’t need a battery tester to find out. Just try this simple trick: Drop each battery—negative end down—on a hard surface. If it bounces, it’s a dud. If it makes a thud, it should still have some juice. Seriously!

If you don’t believe us, check out the video below for a demonstration and a search for the explanation that’s worthy of “MythBusters.”

4. Duplicates

When I recently cleaned out my junk drawer, I found four rulers. Why? Probably because every time someone needed one they couldn’t find one in all the clutter, so we bought another one, then stuffed it in the junk drawer. Rinse and repeat a few times, and we’ve got 48 inches taking up space in the drawer. Take inventory and discover which duplicates you can ditch.

5. Cords, chargers, and cables

Long after phones, cameras, games, and other electronic devices are abandoned for shiny, new models, their chargers and other accessories linger on. You keep them around because you’re worried you might need them at some point in the future. If you can’t remember what something goes to and/or the last time you used it, get rid of it.

6. Spare change

Pennies and nickels scattered throughout, maybe even a handful of quarters. Scoop it all up, and take the pile to a coin machine—and finally let your junk hoarding ways pay off. Or just dump it into some lucky barista’s tip jar.

7.  Random keys

How people wind up with random keys is anyone’s guess, but for whatever reason, it’s a pretty safe guess that there are at least a couple of them in your junk drawer. If you can’t figure out what they open, it’s probably safe to toss them. If you do successfully ID them, go ahead and label ’em to keep them from going back into key purgatory.

8. Rubber bands, paper clips, and chip clips

All of these have legitimate uses, but you’ll never actually use them if they’re buried in all of the clutter. Separate them into groups and place them in containers or drawer dividers so they can be easily found.

9.  Corks

Once upon a time I thought about making a corkboard with all the corks I amassed, but I gave up on that dream many bottles of pinot ago. If you are the crafty type, you probably would have recycled these into a Pinterest-worthy project a long time ago. Since you haven’t, make it a rule to get rid of corks when the bottle is dry. Recork provides a search tool for wine cork recycling drop-off locations.

10.  Buttons

From the extra ones that come with clothing to random ones that pop off, there are often colorful little buttons swimming about in the senseless sea that is your junk drawer. Scoop them up, and put them in a sewing kit for those times when you might need them. Or if the thought of sewing a stitch has you in stitches, you can also collect them for crafts projects or donate them to local schools or day care centers that might use them for art projects.

Think You Know The Best Time Of Year To Sell Your Home? Think Again.

By Jessica Cates

The best time of year to sell is a hotly debated topic. Many experts agree that spring is a safe bet, and industry research backs this up. But, a recent Redfin report also brings some surprising data to light. Read on to learn which seasons will help you sell faster and for more money in your metro.

Spring Selling is Usually a Safe Bet:

As expected, homeowners who decide to list in the spring tend to do pretty well when it comes to selling fairly quickly and getting a good return on their real estate investment. This is often attributed to the fact that nicer weather and more free time tend to prompt more buyer activity. More activity means more competition in the market, which helps drive prices up. But if waiting until spring isn’t your ideal scenario – you’ve got options.

Winter is a Surprisingly Good Time to List:

While you’d think people tend to hunker down in the winter and are less likely to home shop, Redfin’s data proves otherwise. They pulled numbers on over seven million home sales across the US that occurred over the past four years. In their analysis, they discovered that winter sellers are actually on pace with spring sellers when it comes to getting over asking price and selling quickly. Part of it has to do with the fact that winter shoppers tend to be more serious buyers and part of it has to do with other factors that impact local and national real estate markets, a number of which are outlined here. Check out Redfin’s data, organized by major metros, below:

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Redfin has reported similar findings in the past – and has even shown that in previous years, winter sellers sold faster and made more money than those who listed at other times of the year.

Summer and Fall Lag Behind:

Summer break can get busy for people when the kids are out of school and fall gets busy as the holidays approach. Knowing that, it’s no surprise to see that these two times of the year come up short when it comes to faster sales and higher payouts. But be sure you take a look at the impact on your specific city. In some cities, the differences are negligible. In other major metros, the impact is more severe, which means listing in slower seasons can translate into making significantly less money on your sale.

Don’t Forget to Consider Your Motivation to Sell:

The real estate market is fluid and is impacted by a variety of factors, so what’s true now may not be true six months from now (or even one month from now). For example, rising interest rates are driving a lot of activity now, as buyers try to lock in low rates on their home purchase. But the same may not be true this time next year.

All market trends aside, your motivation to sell should also play a big role in determining when you should list. If you have an immovable deadline, all you can do is price right and do everything in your power to make the best of current market conditions. But, if you have more flexibility with your timeline and your local market tends to favor a particular season, it may be worth it for you to time your sale in a way that allows you to take advantage of the optimum selling season.

In any case, it’s always a good idea to consider historical data, current market trends, and your own needs as you work to decide when it makes the most sense to sell your home.

Steps to Sell a House: How Long Does Each One Take?

By Jamie Wiebe

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Adam Gault/Getty Images; realtor.com

Even in the hottest markets, selling a house is by no means a transaction that happens overnight. Every step—from listing your house to getting an offer to closing—takes time. But how much time?

To help you pace yourself, here are the steps to sell a house, and how long each one typically takes so you can plan accordingly. Depending on where you live, you may need to settle in for a long ride!

How long does it take to list a home?

Answer: 3 to 5 days

It will take your listing agent a few days or a bit longer to gather all the necessary info on your home (e.g., square footage, special features, and photos). But once your agent has it all, things generally happen fast. Your agent will then upload these details onto the multiple listing service, which will make the listing viewable to agents. A shorter, consumer-friendly version of the MLS listing will also appear on sites like realtor.com®—and since this site refreshes its data at least every 15 minutes, your home will be in front of plenty of eyeballs in no time at all.

How long does it take to get an offer on a home?

Answer: 65 days

The current average age of properties on the market is 65 days. That said, this varies greatly by location and time of year, so there’s no one right answer to how long you’ll wait for that blessed first offer. Is your market hot or chilly? San Francisco residents might sell their house in a hot second, but if your place is rural, expensive, or unique, you’ll probably wait longer.

How long does it take to close after we receive an offer?

Answer: 50 days

Currently, there’s an average of 50 days between when buyers apply for financing and when they get approved and can close on a home. Yes, that’s a long time, especially if you’re selling and eager to get on with it. But buyers and mortgage companies need to do their due diligence—and you certainly don’t want any last-minute surprises before the buyer takes possession. Closings fail for a number of reasons, like contingencies (perhaps the buyer’s home didn’t sell, or the bank rejected her loan). Whatever you do, don’t be a pain and not fix issues that arise during inspection (assuming, of course, you agreed to fix them). Final walk-through surprises can delay closing even longer.

How long before I get paid?

Answer: 0 days!

Here’s good news: Your money should be available immediately after you sign on the dotted line. Cash is typically disbursed by the title or escrow company, which will wire the money to your bank account or cut a check on closing day with little to no lag time. Make sure to check with your attorney or real estate agent, though—they’ll be able to provide specific details on the process for your sale.

How long do I have to move out?

Answer: 0 days, except by special agreement

Typically, sellers are expected to move out by the day they close on the home so the new buyers can move in as soon as they’ve signed on the dotted line. Most people move out in advance of the close, but if you need more time, you can negotiate a rent-back agreement, which allows the new buyers to essentially become your landlords for a few months while you find a new place to live. But considering how long the home-selling process takes, odds are you’ll be chomping at the bit to get out!

Is It Hard to Get a Mortgage?

Standards have tightened from the pre-housing bubble days, but are they actually tough?

 Daniel B. Kline

 

From the early 2000s through the housing bubble’s burst in 2006, mortgages were extremely easy to get for anyone with even decent credit.

Back in those days, legitimate banks and lenders offered no-documentation loans — mortgages where the consumer tells the bank how much he or she makes, which is then not verified — and low-documentation loans, where some checking (maybe looking at pay stubs) was done, but not much. Less-scrupulous lenders even offered something known as a “NINJA” loan, or a “no income, no job, no assets” mortgage.

It’s easy to see why standards needed to be tightened up from those days. People were getting loans to buy houses they could not afford based on banks’ accepting their word that they would be good for the money. That, as you might imagine, led to huge numbers of defaults, which caused housing prices to collapse in many markets.

Post-housing bubble, the mortgage industry tightened up. Nearly all loans required traditional documentation — two years of tax returns, two months (or more) of bank statements, two pay stubs for every borrower, and verification of any non-payroll financial gains. In addition, many banks were less tolerant when it came to credit scores.

Now, while the no-doc days have not returned, standards are looser than they were in the aftermath of the bubble’s burst. It’s not easy to get a mortgage, but it’s certainly easier than it has been.

 

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GETTING A MORTGAGE SOMETIMES COMES DOWN TO SIMPLE NUMBERS. IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

What does it take to get a mortgage?

It’s worth noting that with mortgage loans, there is always an exception to every rule. For example, when my wife and I recently purchased the condo we live in, our bank granted an exemption on verifying our tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service because we had our identities stolen to file a fraudulent tax return the previous year.

That exemption, which would have been easy to come by in 2004, was only granted because we were well-qualified, buying much less home than we could technically afford, and were putting 25% down. Had one of those three not been true, we may well have been denied.

In general, however, a credible mortgage company (and there still are predatory ones that will make non-traditional loans, generally not benefiting consumers) wants to see borrowers conform to the 28/36 rule. This means that the household should be spending no more than 28% of its verifiable monthly income on housing expenses (mortgage plus insurance and any homeowners’ association fees) and no more than 36% on revolving debt in total.

The other major factor beyond income is credit score. There is no hard and fast rule for credit, but the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which helps first-time buyers, requires at least a 580 for its loans with the lowest-required down payments. In general, borrowers falling into the poor-to-fair credit range — 501-660 — will face a harder time. It’s not impossible to get a loan with credit at those numbers, but interest rates may be higher, and higher down payments may be required.

It’s harder than it was, but not as hard as it has been

Qualifying for a mortgage has always had some grey area. For example, someone with a 620 credit score but income that puts him or her well below the 28/36 ratio should be able to get approved. Lenders are not being as lenient as they were pre-2006, but they have generally been more flexible than they were in the immediate aftermath of the housing bubble’s bursting.

How hard it is to get a mortgage generally varies based on how qualified you are and how well you have your ducks in a row. A well-qualified buyer with all of his or her documentation ready to go should generally have an easier time of it. Someone pushing against the 28/36 rule or with less-than-stellar credit may have to speak with multiple lenders and will generally have to work much harder for approval.

The $15,834 Social Security bonus you could be missing
If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $15,834 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after.

 

What Is a Smart Home? How to Create One Even If You’re Not a Nerd

By Cathie Ericson
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David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ever since “The Jetsons” aired on TV in the early 1960s, we’ve been dreaming of the day our own homes would be “smart” enough to pretty much run themselves. (We kinda had a thing for Rosie the Robot, too.) And now that the term “smart home” seems to be everywhere, that day has apparently arrived! But what exactly is a smart home?

A smart home is equipped with technology that operates with minimal human input: You can lock your doors from miles away by pressing a button on your smartphone; or your heating/AC adjusts all on its own based on your preferences. There are homes that are completely tricked out, and others that make use of a clever gadget or two.

“Smart products utilize machine learning and can adapt to the environment, or the behavior of the users in their surroundings,” explains Tom Flanagan, founder of Real Estate Things, a blog that explores the intersection of technology and real estate.

Here’s how smart homes have evolved since their inception, and what it takes to have a smart home of your own.

A brief history of smart homes

While the idea of a “smart home” has been bandied about since the dawn of science fiction, Bill Gates turbocharged the concept in 1995 when he wrote “The Road Ahead,” which included his vision of the home of the future, encompassing technology like touchpads that control lighting, temperature, music, and even art. He wrote about an electronic wearable pin that “will tell the house who and where you are, and the house will use this information to try to meet and even anticipate your needs—all as unobtrusively as possible.”

Gates’ predictions turned out to be surprisingly (or, perhaps not surprisingly) on target. Starting after 2000, devices like security systems could be hooked up to a homeowner’s Wi-Fi, and smart home “hubs” grew from there, enabling more and more gadgets to be controlled from one central device. Some can even “talk” to each other (i.e., your clock can tell your coffee maker to brew a cup of joe once you’re up).

In 2013, the Consumer Electronics Show, a trade show showcasing all things tech, introduced the term “smart home,” and by 2016, the show was devoting two entire floors to smart home technology. Homeowners today are wooed by an assortment of smart home systems, including Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, Samsung’s Smart Things, and more.

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Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple HomeKit are some of the leading smart home technologies

Many smart home products have already come and gone, but it’s clear that smart home technology is here to stay and of growing interest to homeowners. One survey found that almost half of all Americans either already own smart home technology or plan to invest in it soon.

According to Flanagan, almost 2 billion smart home devices will be shipped by 2019, generating an estimated $490 billion in revenue.

Steps to create a smart home: Where to start

If you’re curious about incorporating some smart home features into your house but aren’t all that tech-savvy, you’ll probably want to hold off on the cutting-edge stuff for starters. Sure, it may be cute if your toaster starts making breakfast as soon as your Jawbone registers that you’re awake, but how useful is that, really?

A more sensible place to start is smart home tech that’s simple and will save you money. Some of the most popular smart home devices include the following:

  • Smart thermostats like Google’s Nest that will automatically lower your home’s temperature at night, cutting your electricity bills.
  • Smart home smoke detectors: Installing one (which will alert you to smoke by phone even if you’re not at home) can save about 5% on your insurance premiums.
  • Smart locks: These handy locks can be programmed with special codes so you know who’s entering your house. For example, when your kids arrive home from school, you’ll get an alert so you can call and start nagging them about their homework. You can also program guest codes that work at certain times, such as for when a housecleaner or dog walker is expected. Codes can be canceled, if you decide that you don’t want the window washer inside after all, or changed remotely at any time. No more wondering who has one of your house keys, or whether your kids are going to be locked out.
  • Smart video cameras: These connected cameras allow you to check your home when you’re away. They can also be programmed to send alerts when there is activity. For example, they can start recording and send you a video clip when your kids come home from school or if they detect motion in a certain room.
  • Smart lighting: Some lighting systems allow you to set timers that you can override with an app if you’re going to be home later than expected. Other systems have sensors that recognize when dusk is approaching and turn on automatically.

 

While no one can predict for sure what smart homes of the future might look like, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg—who built a rather imperfect artificial-intelligence assistant modeled “kind of like Jarvis in ‘Iron Man’”—cautions, “AI is both closer and farther off than we imagine.” In other words, don’t get too caught up in any sci-fi fantasies of martini-mixing robotic butlers just yet.

 

5 ways the housing market will be different in 2017

By Devon Thorsby

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A view of the Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO neighborhood on June 24, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.Drew Angerer/Getty Image

 

The end of a year always has people wondering what the next will bring. And after a year like 2016 – with its political upsets, social uncertainty and international instability – many are desperately looking forward to a change in 2017.

Unlike other major points of discussion in the news, real estate maintained an overall positive trend throughout 2016, with home prices increasing 4.8 percent over the course of the year through November, according to real estate information site Zillow. Results from Zillow’s most recent Home Price Expectations Survey of more than 100 economic and housing experts shows home values likely increasing by 3.6 percent in 2017 – continued growth, but slower than the past year.

Real estate functions in a cycle – both seasonally and over several years – and 2017 isn’t expected to break that pattern in any significant way. However, the year will most likely lead us into a new curve of the cycle, with higher interest rates supported by faster wage and job growth than recent years.

Many expect President-elect Donald Trump’s administration to ease some lending restrictions, which would make it easier for lenders to issue mortgages, but nothing is certain in the lead-up to Inauguration Day. While we wait to see how policy changes may affect the real estate industry and homeownership, here are five things to expect from housing in 2017.

 

1. Interest rates will go up

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Wikipedia

And don’t hold your breath for them to go down in the foreseeable future. To properly follow inflation rates and support a positively functioning economy, interest rates have to tick upward, meaning we’re likely going to see an increase of as much as a full percentage point by the end of the year. On Dec. 14, the Federal Reserve increased interest rates by 25 basis points, with expectations to increase rates three more times by the end of 2017. Recent memory is filled with near-historically low interest rates, so any increase may seem like a big deal.

“It’s going to crimp some of those first-time homebuyers,” but negatively affect a relatively small group due to general economic growth, says Steve Rick, chief economist for CUNA Mutual Group, which builds financial products for credit unions nationwide.

Luxury real estate, where new property development has been largely focused following the recession, remains mostly unaffected by increasing mortgage rates, as the hikes aren’t significant enough to make a major impact.

“One thousand dollars for somebody who’s buying a $4 million apartment does not make a difference. It does make a difference to a $1 million buyer, because $290 [more in your mortgage payment] is your car, your school, your transportation costs or your monthly internet bill,” says Victoria Shtainer, a luxury real estate agent for Compass in New York City.

Those who should act fast to take advantage of current interest rates are homeowners with an adjustable rate mortgage. Rick suggests refinancing your mortgage to secure a fixed rate and avoid what’s expected to be at least three years of increasing interest rates.

“Even though [your rate] might be slightly higher now, in the long run you’ll be better [off],” Rick says. “Your rates by 2019 could be 2.5 percent higher than they are now, and nobody wants that.”

2. Cities will increase in density, leading to more buyers in the suburbs

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Flickr/Timmy Caldwell

Continuously growing property values means many homebuyers and renters will have to choose between prime location, space and affordability.

“When they’re looking for new homes, they want something they can afford, and oftentimes that means settling for something that’s a little bit smaller,” says Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s chief economist.

Zillow predicts development in cities will remain focused around key points for public transportation, and as a result of limited space, this will create denser housing options in city settings.

But as prices continue to climb in those already pricey urban centers, millennials – who Gudell expects to be the largest buyer group in 2017 – are likely to look to the suburbs for more affordable alternatives.

 

3. New development will ease demand

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An aerial view of The Villages retirement community in Central Florida.Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Low inventory of available housing has been a key factor in the rapidly increasing housing costs following the recession, but the coming year should bring some easing of that demand. The National Association of Home Builders predicts 1.24 million housing starts in 2017, compared to the projected 1.16 million starts in 2016.

New development for multifamily housing, including apartments and condominiums, also remains high. “New apartments are hitting the market all the time, and that’s easing some of the supply constraints we’ve seen. It’s going to make rents grow at a slower pace,” Gudell says.

Shtainer notes she has finally begun seeing more properties coming to the market in New York at a slightly more affordable price because many are one-bedroom apartments. Still, she says smaller units are in such high demand that they get snapped up quickly.

“Most of the products like that get eaten up and digested quickly because we haven’t had that product in a long time, because the majority of development was three bedrooms, $15 million and up and super-luxury,” Shtainer says.

Luxury residential development is still expected throughout the U.S. But with slowing demand, prices likely won’t increase at the same pace they have over the last few years.

 

4. Rental affordability will improve but remain tough

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Courtesy onefinestay

Rental rates are expected to slow in 2017, according to Zillow, but it’s important to keep in mind that many major cities for renting like New York and San Francisco are already considered unaffordable for many renters.

“Even as rental affordability won’t deteriorate further, it’ll still remain bad. So a lot of these markets will remain unaffordable in a rental sense for this coming year as well,” Gudell says.

 

5. Optimism will have a big impact

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Flickr/Lel4nd

Despite 2016 being a year full of surprises – some good and others bad – expectations for the economy remain positive, which is positive for housing.

“Even though rates are up, which is going to choke off a little bit of housing demand, what’s upsetting that is strong job growth, strong wage growth and strong optimism,” Rick says.

Confidence is half the battle when it comes to real estate, as people don’t want to move or purchase a new property if they’re concerned values will go down.

Shtainer says she expects to see a resurgence of international investors in U.S. real estate, despite a decrease in overseas buyers in recent months caused by political uncertainty both in the U.S. and abroad.

“They see that the economy is booming, and they see a lot of optimism going into 2017,” she says.

 

 

From the Credit Check to Getting the Keys: Answers for the Big First-Time Homebuying Questions

By Brittney Morgan

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New to the home-buying process? If you’re ready to start looking for your dream home—or if you’re just looking to learn more about how buying a home works for the future—there’s a lot you’ll need to know. The process is long and can be as stressful and confusing as it is exciting. Sometimes you’ll feel like celebrating, while other times you’ll feel like you’re drowning in paperwork, but in the end, when you finally close on your new home, it’ll all be worth it. In the meantime, you’ll probably have a lot of questions come up, so here’s what you need to know.

What’s the first step in the process?

If you haven’t started doing research about homes and mortgages or saving up money, those should be your first steps. But, if you’re ready to really get into the home-buying process and have some down payment money saved up, your first step is to talk to your bank and different mortgage companies and mortgage brokers to find out your lending options and get pre-approved for a loan.

Can I buy a home if I don’t have great credit?

If your credit score is below 700, you’ll be at a disadvantage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a home. You may have to pay a higher interest rate, or you may be able to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan if you have poor credit that’s still above a score of 580, but you’ll have to pay mortgage insurance (which protects the lender) which will cost you.

What are points?

Points, or discount points, are fees that the buyer pays to the lender during closing in exchange for a reduced interest rate on their mortgage. One point is the equivalent of 1% of your mortgage amount, and while they cost money up front, they can save you potentially thousands of dollars in the long run.

What is a foreclosure?

When a homeowner fails to pay their mortgage, their home is foreclosed on—it’s a legal process in which the homeowner gives up the rights to their home. If the homeowner can’t pay the balance or sell the home, it goes to auction. Prospective homeowners can buy foreclosed homes—it’s one option for getting a great deal on a home, but it can also be extremely risky. If you’re considering buying a foreclosure, HomeFinder has a great breakdown of all the related issues.

What does a Realtor do?

Realtors handle negotiations between home buyers and sellers. When Realtors represent buyers, they help their clients find the best property for them at the best price, and navigate them through the offer and closing process. Realtors representing sellers market their client’s property, help them find qualified buyers, and help them get the best price for their property.

Who pays the Realtor?

According to Realtor.com, the seller is generally responsible for paying the Realtor’s fees and commissions, since the Realtor represents them and helps them make the sale. The seller’s realtor typically splits their commission with the buyer’s realtor—that’s how the person representing the buyer makes money on the deal.

What is earnest money?

An earnest money deposit, or good faith deposit, is a deposit the buyer makes once their offer is accepted in order to show the seller they’re committed to buying the property. The deposit means that it’s unlikely a buyer would enter into multiple purchase contracts on multiple homes at once (which would take all of those homes off the market). Once the sale goes through—a.k.a. at closing—the earnest money deposit is applied towards the down payment.

How long does it take to close?

A 2016 study from Realtor Mag shows that the average closing time is around 50 days, and the time to close depends on funding, appraisal disparities, and more. You can help speed up your closing by addressing any title issues and repairs.

What happens at closing?

At closing (also known as the settlement) the buyer provides a check for what they owe on the home, the seller signs over the deed to the home to the buyer, the title company registers the new deed to the home, and the seller receives any proceeds they earned from the sale. According to the Home Buying Institute, it’s a lot of paperwork and you’ll likely sign your (full) name anywhere from 10 to 30 times. Get your arm ready.

Who pays closing costs?

Both the seller and the buyer have closing costs to pay, but they differ a lot. According to Zillow, the seller’s costs are usually higher (since they pay the Realtor’s commission) but they cover less costs in general. The buyer, on the other hand, pays for more line items. Those items include several fees, from appraisal fees and origination fees to bank processing fees and title insurance.

How much does the inspection cost?

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a home inspection in 2016 was $318, but could cost as low as $200 or as much as $470.

Who pays for the inspection?

Since the inspection is to benefit you, the buyer, you’ll pay the cost of the inspection (it’ll likely come out of pocket ahead of your closing)—although you may be able to negotiate to have the seller pay it, but it’s unlikely.

What and when is the final walk-through?

The final walk-through takes place after the inspection and is usually scheduled for the day before closing. This is your opportunity to check the house before the settlement, to make sure everything is in good shape and that any repairs the seller was required to make were completed.

Do I need homeowners insurance?

It’s often required, but not always (although, even if it’s not required in your area, it is a good—nay, really good idea). Homeowners insurance can help protect your home in case of damage from fire and natural disasters like floods and earthquakes, also from liability in case someone gets injured on your property, and it generally doesn’t cost that much to get a policy.

When do I get the keys?

Usually, you’ll get the keys to your new home at closing, or after closing if you need to wait until your county officially records the title (which could take a few days) or if there’s a delay with your loans. It all depends on local laws and your mortgage.

NYC real estate agents turn Snapchat into a listing tool

By Sean Barry

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Dive Brief:

  • A handful of real estate agents in New York City are using the mobile image messaging application Snapchat to show homes for sale or rent, including multimillion-dollar properties, according to CNBC.
  • The Snaplistings account gives followers an inside look at available apartments and allows them to connect directly with the real estate agents to learn more.
  • The account’s founders told CNBC that the majority of leads coming through the app are focused on the lower end of the market, since those properties are more accessible to Snapchat’s younger audience.

Dive Insight:

The recent increase in investment and development concerning mobile, web-based tools for real estate is being driven by competitive market conditions and an influx of tech-savvy homebuyers and renters. Younger buyers and renters are more likely than previous generations to engage with internet tools when looking for a new property, a recent Zillow survey found.

Last month, real estate listing website Zillow announced that it had revamped its app to feature iMessage functionality. Now, users with iOS-based mobile devices can use the app to share photos and information concerning a home for sale or rent with their regular contacts via text messaging.

Meanwhile, Realtor.com launched an automated response application for Facebook Messenger that allows users of its Doorsteps rental listing website to receive new home listings that meet their preset criteria at a set time each day through the social media platform’s web and mobile app.

 

Should I Refinance My Mortgage Even if It Only Saves Me $50/Month?

By Mark Fitzpatrick updated January 11, 2017

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Does it make sense to refinance your mortgage if you are only saving a small amount a month, like $50? The best way to answer this question is with an answer to another question.

Answer this question first: How long do you plan on keeping your property?

It’s best to try and answer this question because the answer will have everything to do with whether or not refinancing with a small monthly savings makes sense for you.

Many people refinance to lower their payment, which helps their overall monthly obligations. Others look to refinance in order to pay less interest over the life of the mortgage, since even a small reduction to the interest rate can mean savings tens of thousands over the long-term.

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Let’s Look at an Example

If you are in a position where you don’t need the monthly savings to help your monthly obligations, then you should apply that savings to your new mortgage. If you apply the monthly savings to your new mortgage principal balance, it has a tremendous benefit to your term.

Let’s use the example of a 30-year mortgage with a balance of $150,000 that was taken out about a year ago, at an interest rate of 4%. The new mortgage rate would go down to 3.5% and reduce the monthly payment $77.81.

Normally, a $77.81 monthly savings wouldn’t make sense to most people, but the trick is to apply that to your new payment. Doing this will reduce the term just over 5 years! Yes, that is like turning your mortgage into a 25-year term. Most people don’t realize that they should look at refinancing, even if the monthly savings is very small. Applying even the smallest amount to your mortgage will reduce the term and pay it off earlier.

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Conclusion

Does it make sense to refinance your mortgage, even if you are only lowering your payment a small amount? Absolutely! If you plan on keeping the property for a long time, just applying a small savings to the new mortgage payment will reduce the term, pay less interest, pay off the mortgage sooner, and build equity faster.