What Is a Short Sale — And What Does It Mean for Home Buyers?

Image of the outside of a house in a city. It has a white picket fence and nice landscaping. Captioned: What Is a Short Sale — And What Does It Mean for Home Buyers?

When you’re browsing the listings, you might encounter the terms pre-foreclosure or short sale. What’s the scoop on these homes?

It all starts when homeowners with mortgages find themselves under water — property values drop, and a homeowner owes more on the loan than the house is worth. Further, the owner has fallen on difficult financial circumstances and is unable to find assets or sources of income to keep covering the regular monthly payments. Hoping to avoid foreclosure and keep some control over the transfer of the property, the homeowner asks the lender to approve a short sale of the home — meaning the lender will agree to receive less money than the outstanding mortgage balance from an unrelated person who buys the house.

Continue reading “What Is a Short Sale — And What Does It Mean for Home Buyers?”

Concierge Services for Home Sellers

Today’s Real Estate Pros Let You Renovate Now and Pay Later

Image of a neatly arranged modern kitchen area.

Concierge services are making a big splash in the real estate world. Chances are, you’ve received postcards from local agents showing before-and-after images of recently spruced-up homes. Text on the postcards explains how a local agent just sold a comparable home to yours at a truly impressive price — and can win similar success for yours. What’s more, you don’t even need to be in the position to afford renovations. You can optimize the appeal of your home now, and pay later, after your home sells or the listing ends.

In a sense, the concierge concept competes with the continuing advancement of property technology. While tech streamlines the experience of home selling, concierge services add elements of support that go above and beyond the norm. Often without adding fees, agents can anticipate the services sellers need most, and that local buyers are willing to reward.

Of course, real estate brokers and agents have recommended or provided home improvement services for years. But today’s innovation-focused real estate companies are bringing the idea into the mainstream and creating new financing options.

Continue reading “Concierge Services for Home Sellers”

What Happens When Wills and Deeds Conflict?

Image of paper legal documents for the last will and testament. Captioned: What Happens When Wills and Deeds Conflict?

When a person passes away, the death certificate and last will are submitted to the county probate court. A person representative begins the process of passing assets along as the will directs — except when other valid legal instruments have priority. One of those instruments is the all-important real estate deed.

Houses can be left to their owners’ chosen beneficiaries through wills. But when someone who co-owns a house passes away, questions may arise as to what the last will says versus what the deed says. In case of a conflict, does the last will get the last word? Short answer: probably not. The long answer starts with the way the title is vested.

Survivorship Rights Vs. Tenancies in Common

When an owner dies, a properly signed and recorded deed directs and channels the person’s property interest to its next owner, typically according to the following rules.

Continue reading “What Happens When Wills and Deeds Conflict?”

An Opinion of Title: What Home Buyers Should Know

Image of reading glasses laying on paperwork. Captioned: An Opinion of Title: What Home Buyers Should Know

We all need to know if anything could compromise our ownership of property we buy. We rely on title companies to affirm that the seller has the rights to sell. To affirm this, the title company in turn relies on a legal expert’s opinion of the integrity of the deed — an opinion of title. This document offers clarity and confidence that the seller has full rights in the property, and the ability to transfer it. Then, the title company can back that guarantee with title insurance.

In this article, we look at these two sets of assurances: the opinion of title and title insurance — and their differences.

Continue reading “An Opinion of Title: What Home Buyers Should Know”

Maintaining Your Home’s Value: Upgrades, Upkeep… And a Few Flourishes

Image of the inside of a house with furniture and lots of windows looking outside. Captioned: Maintaining Your Home’s Value

Are you watching the value of your home over time, and seeing your equity rise? Are you planning to have your home appraised so you can set an asking price for it, or borrow against its value?

A few simple fixes, upgrades and flourishes can help you sustain your home equity over time, or help your home ace its next appraisal. Here, we’ve put together a checklist of things you can do to get the most value for your effort and investment.

Continue reading “Maintaining Your Home’s Value: Upgrades, Upkeep… And a Few Flourishes”

Applying for a Mortgage? Get the Facts on Credit Scores—and How to Improve Yours

Image of money scattered on a table top. Captioned: Get the Facts on Credit Scores

A credit score is part of each home buyer’s whole debt and income picture. Lenders consider it a key factor when deciding to approve a loan application. To put the score in context, a lender’s top questions are:

  • Whether the borrower can repay the loan, and
  • Whether past credit history suggests that the borrower will repay the loan.

The FICO® Score, which is the best known of several credit scoring tools, comes from the Fair Isaac Corp. As we’ll see, mortgage lenders can take other scores into account, too, and even tweak the factors in the scores to come up with unique tests for loan approvals. The good news? While mortgage lenders use their secret sauces to determine creditworthiness, we, the applicants, give them the ingredients.

Here, we take a look at how credit scoring actually works, and how to optimize your score.

Continue reading “Applying for a Mortgage? Get the Facts on Credit Scores—and How to Improve Yours”

What to Know Before You Buy a Foreclosed Home

Image viewing the outside of a row of houses. Captioned: What to Know Before You Buy a Foreclosed Home

Thinking of buying a foreclosed home? The lower prices for foreclosures among the listings are certainly tempting! Even better, a lower price translates to lower property taxes. But given the potential pitfalls, will the deal be worthwhile?

Buyers’ experiences vary widely. States vary, too, in laws and policies related to the way foreclosures are handled. That noted, here is a general planning guide to buying a home in foreclosure.

Continue reading “What to Know Before You Buy a Foreclosed Home”

Can Filing for Bankruptcy Save a Home From Foreclosure?

Image of bankruptcy documents scattered on a table. Captioned: Can Filing for Bankruptcy Save a Home From Foreclosure?

It’s not the easiest topic we cover, but we know foreclosure sales will be on the uptrend as the U.S. works for financial recovery from a global public health crisis. Many readers are currently stretched thin by their mortgage obligations combined with other debts. For some, the financial stress will be overwhelming. If any helpful arrangements offered by the government or the lender cannot be sustained, homes can ultimately be taken back by the lending banks.

Under your mortgage agreement, your home is collateral in case you stop repaying the loan. So, in a default situation, a lender will follow the process agreed upon in the contract, in order to sell the house and use the sale proceeds to pay the loan debt and the administrative costs of foreclosure. Many people are anticipating that possibility, depending on how feasible it is for them to adjust to our abruptly changed economy.

For the owner motivated to keep the house, can filing for bankruptcy help? It can, if the homeowner has a regular source of income. Let’s look at how this works.

Continue reading “Can Filing for Bankruptcy Save a Home From Foreclosure?”

How Not to Overpay Your Property Taxes

Image of people reviewing paperwork on a desk with computers on it. Captioned: Hot Not to Overpay Your Property Taxes.

Homeowners pay taxes on their real estate to fund local services. Renters, too, pay property taxes, as they’re rolled into monthly rent charges. The property taxes we all pay go to sustain libraries and schools, emergency services, environmental projects, sewer work and road maintenance.

How much is one property’s share? To determine this amount, an assessor multiplies the local tax rate by a property’s value. Many assessors’ offices use discounted values of properties when coming up with their tax assessments, not the full market price; still, property taxes often amount to thousands of dollars each year. With local governments determining them, rates vary from county to county, and big cities generally collect higher property taxes than suburban developments or country towns do.

Home shoppers need to check the property tax when perusing a listing, and include that tax in the cost of owning a particular home. Plus, they should expect a possibly higher tax after buying the home, as there could be a new assessment when the deed changes hands.

A homeowner’s mortgage account may hold money aside in escrow. Of course, the owner pays into the escrow account — but this way, the owner’s taxes will be continually kept up to date without the owner having to remember to submit a payment each time local taxes are due.

Continue reading “How Not to Overpay Your Property Taxes”