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How to Sell Your Home Faster

First, get several storage boxes that are all the same size and color. You’re going to fill them and stack them in the garage, so you want the stacks to look nice.

Then go about your home and de-personalize it. Pack away all the family photos so prospects can visualize the place as theirs, not yours. Remove the religious items for the same reason.

Though some sellers hire a professional stager, there’s a lot you can do yourself. Think about how builders’ model homes look. There are no unnecessary objects anywhere.

Try to look at your shelves, closets and countertops with new eyes and you’ll see clutter. Don’t get sentimental about anything, especially gifts from others. The givers don’t care. Give much of it to charity and put the rest in boxes.

Closets, cabinets and drawers have to be neat and organized. People will look inside to see how their stuff will fit.

The next step is to rearrange rooms so they have a spacious feel. Get rid of extra chairs, end tables and magazine racks in the living room. Take extra chests and chairs out of the bedrooms. Get rid of the extra clothes or pack it up.

Check to see what rooms should be painted. A neutral beige is best.

The exterior view of your home is what prompts buyers to make an appointment to see it, or to drive on to the next place. Have the yard cut and trimmed, clear the driveway and walkways and make sure the house number is clearly visible.

Now that you’re almost ready. A very thorough cleaning comes last. A professional cleaning is worth the cost.

Not too late for 2012 IRA Contributions

Wish you had put more into your 2012 Individual Retirement Account?

If you didn’t reach your 2012 IRA limit, you can direct additional funds toward last year’s contribution until April 15 of 2013.

Beware of Foreclosure Rescue Scam

Con  artists still work the ‘foreclosure rescue’ game:

Because some homeowners are unable to make their mortgage payments, they may grasp for any plan they think will help them avoid foreclosure. They might even come up with thousands of dollars to pay unscrupulous con men. Here’s how the frauds work…

* Scammers set themselves up with an official-sounding name, one similar to a legitimate organization, and claim to be approved to make loan modifications. After taking $4,000 of the homeowner’s money, they disappear.

* In another fraud, scammer companies send a salesperson to call on homeowners and say they can audit their mortgage documents and use the violations to force their lender to approve a loan modification. They tell people they have found violations 90 percent of the time. These types of scams typically ask for $1,000 to $5,000 from the homeowner.

* One con man collected $2.8 million from various homeowners by promising them he could guarantee a loan modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). He told them to stop making their payments and to avoid contact with their lenders. Some of his victims would have been able to modify their mortgages if they hadn’t stopped making the payments.

* Three scammers were arrested on charges of fraud against California homeowners. In addition to requiring up-front fees in exchange for loan modification assistance, they told one homeowner to reject his lender’s offer of a loan modification because they could get a better deal. Instead, the home was lost to foreclosure within four months.

* The attorneys general settlement with the five largest mortgage lenders brought out a new group of people who call homeowners and tell them they represent the lender. They request $500 or more to facilitate the homeowners getting money from the settlement. The homeowner never gets anything.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage Scenario

Ask the expert…


We’ve found our dream home. Our lender suggests we finance with an open-end adjustable-rate mortgage.

Is that a good idea?

That depends on your personal circumstances. The open-end mortgage is a legitimate instrument and works well for some people. I personally would rather have a regular ARM or a fixed rate 15 or 30-year mortgage.

Regardless of the type of loan you choose, your dream home will require a jumbo mortgage, which means you’ll borrow at least $625,000. Interest-wise, the jumbo can be a good deal, sometimes having a lower interest than a regular 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

Today, adjustable rate mortgages account for 30 percent to 40 percent of private jumbo loans at Bank of America and about half of the private jumbo loans by NASB Financial, the holding company of North American Savings Bank.

How ARMs work

All ARMs have a fixed rate for a certain number of years before they become variable, usually resulting in a significant increase in the interest rate. A five-year fixed rate is typical, but the time period can be as long as 10 years.

Note that ARMs got a bad name during the housing bust, because borrowers couldn’t afford the higher interest when the original terms expired.

Since you are a high-net-worth buyer, your risk of being unable to make monthly payments when the interest rate rises is small.

Open-End Mortgages

Some jumbo home loan buyers do opt for an open-end mortgage, which is an entirely different type of loan.

It’s a mortgage that allows the borrower to increase the amount of the mortgage at a later date. The total outstanding principal must not exceed a certain amount, such as 80 percent of the appraised value of the home.

The loan is similar to a home equity line of credit, which allows homeowners to pull equity out of their homes as well as make larger payments on the property.

Kitchen Design Continues to Evolve

In the 1960′s, a kitchen was just a kitchen. The appliances and the kitchen table were in plain sight and there were no desks, wine cabinets, TVs or easy chairs.

Over time, we knocked down walls separating the kitchen from the dining room and, in many cases, from the living room as well. The era of the open kitchen dawned, grew and matured.

According to culinary anthropologist Tori Avey, the open kitchen encourages family connections, but some homeowners disagree.

It’s nice that the hostess can visit with the family and guests while putting the finishing touches on dinner, though some say it’s a distraction. Today, many householders, really don’t want dirty dishes and groceries in plain sight. So kitchen design is evolving again.

Alternatives to the open kitchen are emerging as designers and architects hear that clients want to rope off food preparation, odors and clean-up chores from other household activities.

Instead of having kitchen stools by a bar, some designers are walling off the kitchen and bringing back the table and chairs. At Alexander Gorlin Architects, they say there’s a return to more focused mealtimes at home. There’s something important about dining together instead of having family members constantly moving about.

One new design features a galley kitchen for food preparation only, no chairs. It’s separated from the dining area by pocket doors.

In Washington, D.C., architect Robert Gurney takes the middle ground by separating kitchens from living rooms with see-through glass panels that can pivot open.

Another designer advises against quitting openness cold turkey and includes a command center in the kitchen itself. She says her clients are used to charging cellphones in the kitchen and stacking their mail there.

One nice note: homeowners who have considered spending a lot of money to create an open kitchen may now decide to wait for the next evolution.