Ask the Expert: How Should I Prepare a Home to Sell in the Fall?

By Susanne Dwyer

Today’s Ask the Expert column features Dan Steward, president of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.

Q: What are your top tips for preparing to sell a home in the fall?

A: First and foremost, use the beauty of the season. If you’re lucky enough to live in a region that experiences changing seasons, take advantage of everything the season has to offer by incorporating autumnal flowers, plants and floral arrangements into the mix. Whether it’s colorful mums or adding intense color and drama to the home’s exterior with perennials, feature a variety of fall floral arrangements both inside and outside the home.

Next, be sure to check the roof and gutters. While a roof’s drainage system diverts thousands of gallons of water from a home’s exterior and foundation walls, it’s important to keep the process moving in order to avoid water damage. In addition to taking the time to unclog and clean the gutters, now is also a good time to inspect the roof from top to bottom. In addition to looking for damage to metal flashing in and around vents and chimneys, check ridge shingles for cracks and wind damage.

While outside, take the time to check driveways, walkways and steps for any noticeable damage. Fixing any problem areas during the fall is critical in order to prevent little problems from becoming expensive headaches down the line. Look for cracks that are more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections and loose railings on steps.

Before the bitter temperatures of the winter season move in, take the necessary steps to ensure that outside faucets and in-ground irrigation systems don’t freeze and burst. Close any shut-off valves serving outside faucets, then open the outside faucet to the drain line. If you don’t have shut-off valves, or freeze-proof faucets, you can buy faucet covers at your local home improvement store.

Moving inside, check the home for air leaks, as gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for 10 percent of a home’s heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. While weather-stripping is the most cost-effective way to control heating and cooling costs, it should be checked and replaced as needed every six months.

And last, but not least, bring in a professional to inspect the home’s heating system to ensure it’s working properly before the cold weather arrives.

For more information, please visit www.pillartopost.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

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Nancy Wey
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How to Sell a Vacant Home in the Off-Season

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

There’s a reason that spring and summer are the major seasons for selling houses. Most people want to move at a time that allows them to be settled by the fall, when kids go back to school and daylight shortens.

However, you might find yourself having to sell a vacant home in the off-season. The home might be empty because the seller had to move on for reasons of work or had to move into a house he or she was paying for.

There are really two issues here. The first is selling a vacant house. The second is selling a house in the off-season. Here are some tips on how to do both:

Selling a Vacant House

Keep Up Maintenance and Repair – Even with no one around, surfaces need to be dusted and kept clean. Once people move out, minor items needing repair, like a leaky faucet or a burned-out light bulb, might not be noticed. It’s your job to notice, though, because signs of even minor disrepair or lack of maintenance can quickly turn off prospective buyers.

Clean the house or hire someone to clean it at least once a month. Surfaces need to be dusted, for example, and floors mopped or vacuumed. Do a walkthrough looking for repairs once a month, or hire a property manager to do it.

Make Sure the House Doesn’t Look Vacant A vacant property shouldn’t look vacant for two reasons: First, it’s uninviting to see an empty property. It’s less likely that a buyer will see themselves in the space; second, it’s an open invitation to thieves, vandals and even squatters. You don’t want to open the door one day and see that vandals spray-painted all over the walls.

Develop a plan. Pick up mail if the seller isn’t having it forwarded. Place lights on timers so that they go on automatically in the evening, just as they would if someone still lived there. Many have remote apps that make this easy.

Turn Heat or Air Conditioning on Regularly Don’t leave the heat or air conditioning off for long periods of time. Lack of heat can cause pipes to freeze or burst. Lack of air conditioning may make it difficult to cool the house properly when it comes time to show it. In addition, lack of proper ventilation can make the house smell musty and unused.

It’s best to run the heat and air conditioning at regular intervals while the house is vacant.

Focus on Curb Appeal Don’t skimp on curb appeal just because the house is vacant. If anything, making the house look inviting becomes even more critical if no one lives there. Keep the grounds and garden in the same pristine condition as the house. Paint the door a vibrant color. Place small trees on either side to frame it.

Stage the Interior When prospective buyers come, they need to see an interior that looks welcoming, and that allows them to visualize themselves in the house. They may not be able to do that fully if the house is completely empty.

On the other hand, completely furnishing an empty house may not be practical. What you need to do is stage the interior. Put focal pieces in each room, for example. You don’t need to create a functional room; you just have to give clients a sense of how the room would look if they lived there. In other words: a fireplace with wood, a lamp and a sofa in the living room might be enough. No need for matching armchairs and two more lamps!

Selling in the Off-Season

Price to Sell While you likely won’t attract the maximum number of buyers in the off-season, some people do look in the fall and winter. To move the house, the most prudent move is to price it to sell. If you’re in a hot market, that may be at a market price. If demand is a tad sluggish, price it slightly under. For most sellers, it’s better to sell at a price slightly under the asking price in October than to wait five more months, especially if they’re carrying the mortgage.

Sweeten the Offer Sweetening the offer may also help sell the house in the off-season. Nicely enough, sweeteners abound, depending on the property. Does a patio look as if it may need replacement in the next five years? See if the seller will replace it as a sweetener. Do the same with any major appliance that may go in five years, such as water heaters.

The other sweetener strategy is to wait for buyers to suggest things. Some may want a reseeded lawn or pruned trees. Entertain these offers if they look likely to result in a sale.

It can be more challenging to sell a vacant home in the off-season, but by utilizing these tips, you’ll place yourself at a strategic advantage in moving a house in the off-season.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Don’t Scare Buyers Away This Halloween

By Beth McGuire

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

You may be getting into the holiday spirit this October, but remember that if you’re trying to sell your home, you still have to appeal to the majority of buyers. Not everyone is into the haunted house scene, so maybe tone down the spook factor while you’re on the market.

Keep it lit. You may be trying to set the mood with dim, orange or black lighting, but if your house comes across as dark, then you might be alienating buyers from the get-go. If holiday-themed lights are your weak spot, try to keep them as part of your outdoor decoration, and at a minimum. Trendy lanterns are a great way of boosting your seasonal lighting without incorporating off-putting plastic string lights.

Put the animatronics away. Sure, the sudden sounds and animation are a great way of frightening friends and family when they walk through your door, but you certainly don’t want to have that effect on buyers. That floating head that comes to life with the smallest movement (or goes off randomly, shocking unsuspecting victims)? Keep it stored away until your home is off the market. Even if turned off, these characters will distract buyers from the real reason for their visit: to see if it’s a place they can call home.

Keep it neat. You want your home to appear as neat as possible when it’s on the market. Any excess decorations—even if they’re fake spiders, tombstones, ghouls or spider webs—can come across as clutter. Make it as easy as possible for buyers to envision themselves living in the house. Selling will be significantly harder if your home looks like a scene from a horror movie. (On that note, put the fake blood away for the time being, as well.)

Don’t deck out the exterior. While you may be proud of your hair-raising cemetery, rolling fog and thundering sound effects, prospective buyers may have a hard time looking past your seasonal decor. All of the Halloween accessories can take part in molding buyers’ first impressions. You want them to think of your place as home, not a haunted attraction.

If you can’t live without the Halloween-themed accessories, keep it simple. There are plenty of Gothic-inspired items that scream Halloween without being over the top. A simple black rose wreath on your front door and a couple of pumpkins by the entrance won’t hurt your chances of selling. Candles are a great way to show off your holiday spirit, and they also make your home smell clean. Many fall centerpieces with leaves and twigs look great for Halloween, so double up on your autumn decor!

Don’t focus on the fact that you can’t embellish every nook and cranny with scream-worthy accessories. Remember, the faster you sell, the faster you can get into the comforts of your new place, where blood-curdling screams and chilling ghost stories make you feel at home.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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From: Remax Real Estate Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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Zillow: 1.9 Million Homes Underwater by Year 2100

By Beth McGuire

Flood damage as a result of rising sea levels over the next 100 years, are expected to impact over $900 billion worth of homes in the U.S. This, according to a recent report by Zillow that analyzes the types of homes that could be underwater by 2100, based on recent climate change estimates.

According to the report, less affluent homeowners stand to lose significantly more if their homes are damaged from flooding when compared to their wealthier neighbors. Zillow predicts that 1.9 million homes will be underwater by 2100 if the oceans rise six feet, and more than a quarter of these homes are in Miami.

While those with more valuable homes will lose out in dollar amount, a third of the homes in the bottom tier of their metros (32 percent) can potentially suffer a $123 billion loss. This could be life altering for the low-income population whose funds mostly go towards mortgage payments and other bills, making preventative measures against flooding an unaffordable expense. In the next 100 years, we can expect rising sea levels to impact $916 billion worth of homes, most of which are low- to medium-value properties.

Top-value homes are at risk in rural and suburban areas, while bottom-value homes are more likely to be impacted in urban areas. Here are the 10 metros that will be hit the hardest:

  1. Miami, Fla.
  2. New York, N.Y.
  3. Tampa, Fla.
  4. Fort Myers, Fla.
  5. Boston, Mass.
  6. Upper Township, N.J.
  7. Salisbury, Md.
  8. Virginia Beach, Va.
  9. Bradenton, Fla.
  10. Naples, Fla.

“We’ve seen the enormous impact flooding can have on a city and its residents,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “It’s harder for us to think about it on a long-term timeline, but the real risks that come with rising sea levels should not be ignored until it’s too late to address them. With organized and committed planning, cities can help protect both current and future residents. Living near the water is incredibly appealing for people around the country, but it also comes with additional considerations for buyers and homeowners. Homes in low-lying areas are also more susceptible to storm flooding and these risks could be realized on a much shorter timeline as we have seen time and time again.”

View more from the report.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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Nancy Wey
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Get Ahead of Home Maintenance Before the Holidays

By Susanne Dwyer

Twenty-four percent of home contractors recently surveyed by American Home Shield (AHS) reported Thanksgiving as the busiest holiday season for repairs and service. Get ahead of home maintenance with these tips from AHS:

  1. Wake your heating system from hibernation.
    No homeowner wants to wake up seeing their own breath because the furnace broke down in the middle of the night. Schedule a furnace check-up now with a heating system professional to ensure everything is running properly and that your system meets the manufacturer’s rated efficiency. One of the biggest causes of wasted energy is restricted air flow to the heating system, so have a contractor check that the filters and coils are allowing for enough air flow. Getting ahead of this issue will help you avoid appointment delays during the busy winter season and give you peace of mind.
  1. Give your gutters a fresh start.
    Leaves, twigs and other debris can easily clog gutters, which can lead to ice dams. Ice dams cause melting water to back up and flow into the house, resulting in a very expensive repair. Save yourself the money and trouble by thoroughly cleaning out your gutters after the leaves have fallen. Make sure to tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets, and replace any worn sections before it’s too late. Check that downspouts extend at least five feet away from the foundation. If they don’t, buy an inexpensive extension.
  1. Mind the gaps.
    Walk around the inside and outside of your home and check it for air tightness, carefully looking for any signs of cracks where air could leak out, as this can be a significant source of energy loss. An inexpensive tube of caulk can help seal the leaks and also help prevent moisture from getting inside the walls of your home. Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting or electrical wiring comes through walls or floors.
  1. Get smart—a smart thermostat, that is.
    The Wi-Fi rage is real, especially when it comes to your thermostat. If you still have a manual thermostat or even a programmable one, consider upgrading to a smart thermostat. Today’s models can learn your living patterns, heat only rooms that are occupied, turn up the heat as you near your home, allow you to make adjustments remotely from your phone, and much more. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10 percent a year in energy usage (and on your utility bills) by making smart adjustments to your thermostat.
  1. Double-check doors
    Inspect all doors that open to the outside or to the attic and be sure that they close tightly. An easy way to check for air leaks: place a piece of tissue in a clothespin, hold it at various points along the doorway and watch for any movement near the edge of the door and the frame. If you have a leak, take a photo of your door and door jamb, and ask an employee at your local hardware store for help finding the right weatherstripping or door sweeps. Air leaks cause your heating system to work harder, which costs you more money on your utility bills—and can shorten the lifespan of your system.

For more information, please visit www.ahs.com/home-matters.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

The Most (and Least) Valuable States in America

By Susanne Dwyer

most_valuable_states_infog

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Everyone knows location is the most important part of real estate. You can’t change where your house is (all things being equal). You have to consider school districts, crime rates, commute times—the list goes on and on. It can be much simpler when you’re considering buying a home to compare apples to apples so you can see how the real estate market differs according to location, so HowMuch.net created a new visualization showing land and housing prices at a glance.


The blue dots represent the value of an acre of land, and the red circles indicate the median value of a home. The bigger the blue dot and the larger the red circle, the more expensive it is to become a property owner. Small circles and dots likewise indicate a very low cost of purchasing property. The home values are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Consumer Survey, and the numbers behind the land values come from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Several things stand out in the illustration. An acre of land is much more valuable in the Northeast compared to any other part of the country. This is partly because the Eastern seaboard is a very densely populated area with several large cities, most notably New York. New York and Massachusetts have some of the oldest modern structures anywhere in the U.S. In other words, Eastern cities are a lot older than Midwestern cities, so there isn’t a lot of farmland for suburban expansion anymore. In terms of geographic size, these are some of the smallest states in the country. As a matter of fact, the three states where the cost of an acre of land is greater than the median price of a house are all located on the East Coast, and they happen to be some of the smallest states in the Union (Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey).

Median home values (the red circles) are a different and more complicated story. California has the most expensive houses by far ($449,100). Oregon and Washington boast similarly high housing valuations, as well ($264,100 and $284,000, respectively). It is also expensive to buy a home on the East Coast, with six out of the top 10 states with the most expensive median home values.

There’s a noticeable dip in both housing and land prices in Southern and Midwestern states. Prices slowly rise the further you move from east to west. This highlights unique economic developments over the last several years, including the boom in oil exploration in North Dakota and the growth of Western cities, like Denver, thanks to young people. Snowbirds also tend to move to Florida and Arizona when they retire, which also pushes up housing prices in those places.

Top 5 Most Expensive States to Buy a Home

  1. California
    Value per Acre: $39,092
    Median Home Value: $449,100
  1. Massachusetts
    Value per Acre: $102,214
    Median Home Value: $352,100
  1. New Jersey
    Value per Acre: $196,410
    Median Home Value: $322,600
  1. Maryland
    Value per Acre: $75,429
    Median Home Value: $299,800
  1. New York
    Value per Acre: $41,314
    Median Home Value: $293,500

Top 5 Cheapest States to Buy a Home

  1. West Virginia
    Value per Acre: $10,537
    Median Home Value: $112,100
  1. Mississippi
    Value per Acre: $5,565
    Median Home Value: $112,700
  1. Arkansas
    Value per Acre: $6,739
    Median Home Value: $120,700
  1. Oklahoma
    Value per Acre: $7,364
    Median Home Value: $126,800
  1. Kentucky
    Value per Acre: $7,209
    Median Home Value: $130,000

All this shows that the laws of supply and demand are alive and well in the real estate market. You can easily find cheap acres of land where they are plentiful and un-useful (sorry, Nevada), but owning property is a lot more expensive in smaller places crowded with lots of people. As always: location, location, location.

A version of this article originally appeared on HowMuch.net.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

San Francisco: The Sweet Spot for Trick-or-Treaters

By Susanne Dwyer

Zillow Trick-or-Treat Index 2017 (PRNewsfoto/Zillow)

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

The annual Trick-or-Treat Index from Zillow puts San Francisco in the sweet spot: No. 1 for trick-or-treaters.

Zillow Trick-or-Treat Index 2017 (PRNewsfoto/Zillow)

Analysts at Zillow began with the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI), concocting a formula that includes home values, how close homes are in proximity to each other, and the share of 10-year-olds (and younger) in a given market. Bubble, bubble…

“Searching for neighborhoods with the best candy is a Halloween tradition for many kids and their parents,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “Our annual list is a fun way for families to see how their neighborhood stacks up against others when it comes to trick-or-treating. These are places we think will have plenty of candy and lots of young kids running around from door to door.”

In the City by the Bay, the top three neighborhoods for trick-or-treaters are Presidio Heights, Sea Cliff and Golden Gate Heights; in No. 2 San Jose, the top three are West San Jose, Willow Glen and Cambrian Park.

Is your city out of the running this year? Fear not.

“If you don’t live in one of these cities, look for areas that are getting into the Halloween spirit with decorations and lots of costumed kids,” Gudell says.

See the 2016 Trick-or-Treat Index.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Autumn Additions

By Susanne Dwyer

(Family Features)—Fall provides a time for fun and celebration, but it also can be an opportunity to refocus on taking care of your home both indoors and out.

These simple upgrade ideas can help you improve aesthetic appeal, upgrade safety, keep your home free from pests and save you time, resources and money.

Find more ideas for upgrading and updating your home at eLivingToday.com.

De-Bug Your Doors
Enjoy nature without all the pests by adding a protective barrier to your entryways, such as an ODL Brisa Retractable Screen Door. It can be installed over single, double and sliding doors, and can take just 30 minutes to install from start to finish. With one-touch entry and auto-slide open, it allows for easy access when your hands are full. When you’re not using it, you can use the secure locking latch or let it slide back into its cartridge.

Elegant Entry
With a low-profile cylinder, Baldwin’s Spyglass Entrance Set with Spyglass Levers offers an elegant, architecturally inspired design. With SmartKey re-key technology, the set is the ultimate in convenience and safety as it allows you to re-key your lock in seconds and has American National Standards Institute and Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association Grade 2 security features. Belonging to the premium Prestige Series, the Spyglass Entrance Set delivers effortless, accessible style and affordable luxury.

Get Smart About Laundry
Take a load off and let your washer’s technology do the work. Available in white or diamond gray, the top load laundry line from GE Appliances gives owners the power to pretreat stains or hand-wash delicates with an industry-first soapy water station, automatically dispense the right amount of detergent and fabric softener based on each individual load and control the load remotely through smart devices by using WiFi Connect.

Feel the Heat
If temperatures are dropping and a warm blanket isn’t doing the trick on an especially chilly day, a space heater can help keep you cozy. Many options are light and portable, allowing you to move it from room to room as necessary. Rather than layering up to enjoy a lazy day on the couch, simply plug it in and choose the setting that’s right for maximum comfortability. Plus, by flipping the space heater switch rather than cranking up the heat, you can save money on energy bills.

Simple Shredding
One of fall’s obnoxious chores in the eyes of many is cleaning up leaves scattered about the yard. To help save time and energy, add a leaf shredder to your arsenal of lawn equipment. By shredding leaves rather than expending time and resources bagging and disposing them, you can improve the look of your yard without as much physical stress.

Mess-Free Mudroom
On cold days when a brisk chill sends you seeking indoor shelter, it can be easy to make a mess at the door with shoes and outerwear. Instead of a pile of garments greeting you each time you come home, add some structure to the mudroom with an organizer that allows you to hang coats and scarves and stow away shoes. While keeping clothes orderly, it can also help keep you and guests from tracking salt, mud and other messes throughout the house.

Source: Family Features Editorial Syndicate

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Crowdfunding Your Way Into a Home

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Crowdfunding has appeared in the real estate industry in a variety of forms: house flip investing, mortgage payoff and down payment support. High fees and legality issues have made it difficult for the popular funding method to be taken seriously within U.S. real estate markets.

A new crowdfunding platform—HomeFundMe—was recently launched by GMC Financial, a privately-held mortgage banking firm. This could be a game changer, since it’s the first crowdfunding service approved by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Here’s what GMC financial says about HomeFundMe:

  • No fees for using the service (Anything deposited into HomeFundMe can be used towards the buyer’s down payment.)
  • Better loan terms, more buying opportunities and the possibility of getting rid of or lowering mortgage insurance
  • Potential to receive a grant ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 in exchange for completing required homebuyer education or housing counseling.
  • Matching donations ($2 for every $1) up to the grant limits once the counseling is completed

While over 100 people have already used the platform, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have only approved the service on a trial basis until June 2018. The mortgage giants are keeping a close eye on results before giving it their stamp of approval.

There are a few caveats, of course. Borrowers must first be pre-approved for a mortgage by GMC Financial in order to use the crowdfunding service, which is limited to $7,500 in gifted funds. The loan must also be a Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-approved loan (their 30-, 20- and 15-year fixed loans are eligible, as well). In addition, borrowers must earn less than their area’s median income in order to qualify for matching contributions/grants.

This method will force borrowers into GMC Financial’s rates and fees. Millennial and Gen Z buyers, who are most likely to use such a service because of challenges in obtaining a down payment, will not be able to shop around for the lowest rate—a huge snag that may turn off borrowers from the crowdfunding service.

While other services charge fees and may complicate loan processing, borrowers will have to compare costs, as they may be able to save by using an alternative lender.

Here are some other crowdfunding options:

  • HomeFunded: 5 percent usage fee on total funds and 2.9 percent for processing each transaction
  • GoFundMe: 5 percent usage fee per donation and 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction
  • FeathertheNest: 5 percent usage fee per donation and 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction
  • Honeyfund: No usage fee and 2.8 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction

Keep in mind that these services may come with additional gifting restrictions in the lending world. Most Fannie, Freddie and FHA loans only allow gifted down payment funds from family and close friends. Loan processing may also be more time consuming if using these services, and you stand the chance of being rejected by lenders.

Crowdfunding may be a quicker way of amassing down payment reserves, but it can be a complicated process—extending your mortgage commitment dates or even threatening your loan approval. It may, however, be a useful option for borrowers who are dealing with high student loan or other debt payments and can’t afford to save.

If given final approval, HomeFundMe may open the door to a widespread financial backing of crowdfunding services in the real estate industry.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893