Topsy-Turvy World of Reverse Mortgages

“What goes up must come down,” so goes the saying. And, to that end, what goes forward must also go in reverse. Turns out the same also applies to mortgages, sort of. Except, instead of being a direct inverse from a “forward” mortgage, reverse mortgages are kind of their own special thing.

If you don’t read beyond this opening section, just remember that the big takeaway here is going to be that some reverse mortgages are good, some are bad and you need to always, always read the paperwork before signing on the dotted line. This goes doubly if your parents are considering a reverse mortgage and you’re going to be helping them deal with their finances as they age.

Reverse Mortgages and Their Bad Reputation

When reverse mortgages were first becoming fairly popular, banks willing to make the loans proliferated. And so did con-artists who took advantage of an aging population made of people who were often desperate to hold on to their homes or simply were medically incapable of understanding the consequences of the monthly payment they’d receive.

This was good for no one but the scammers.

That’s why a whole lot of legislation has been written to remedy these kinds of situations. Now, if you or your parents are worried that a reverse mortgage offer might be a scam, you can opt for an FHA reverse mortgage. It’s easy to verify that an FHA lender is legit, where it may be less clear if certain brokers are on the up and up. You may get a better deal with a non-FHA reverse mortgage, but they provide confidence that you’re on the right path and that’s worth something, too.

How Do Reverse Mortgages Work?

Reverse mortgages are designed to help people who are retirement age afford to stay in their homes longer. Generally, this means that mortgage payments stop and there might even be some form of payment to the homeowner. So, if your grandmother shows up to the next family gathering in a brand new convertible roadster, it might be a good idea to ask her about the terms of her reverse mortgage. Some are genuinely helpful and decent; others are not so much.

The good part is that reverse mortgages are now heavily regulated by the government, so it’s much harder for scammers to take advantage of older people who may be having money problems already.

They don’t require a credit pull or even decent credit. You just need a home that’s free and clear, or has a significant amount of equity, and be 62 or older. You’ll pay some fees upfront and be required to complete HUD-approved counseling (you will pay a fee for this, too) that will help you determine if you’re really a good fit for a reverse mortgage.

If you happen to die while you still own the house, your heirs have the option to redeem it from the reverse mortgage lender by paying off the borrowed amount in full. Usually this is achieved with another “forward” mortgage.

Reverse Mortgage Payment Options

One of the best things about a reverse mortgage is the money that comes back into the pocket of the borrower. You or your parents can choose how that money is distributed, too. Essentially, you have three options: taking a lump sum, taking a monthly payment or using it as a line of credit. There are also ways to mix and match these, so you might take a percentage as a lump sum for that flashy convertible and the rest as a line of credit to use as you need to fill up on gas.

For a lot of seniors, a reverse mortgage will allow them to age in place without fear of losing their home (provided they keep up with the taxes and insurance). This can be a great option as long as the source of the funds is fully vetted, all the paperwork is in order and read from top to bottom and they have a plan to make the money last as long as possible.

Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash

Homeowners Associations

For everyone out there looking at homes right now, there are three little letters that could make or break your purchase decision. They are “H,” “O” and “A.” Three of the most frightening letters of the alphabet, imposed over the largest purchase you’ll ever make — it’s a recipe for high anxiety.

But not every Homeowners Association is the nightmare that many home buyers imagine. As long as you do your homework and know exactly what you’re getting into, your HOA may be the best decision you ever made.

Homeowners Associations, Maintenance and Uniformity

HOAs are often part of life for condo, townhouse and some single family homeowners. They’re not all good and they’re not all bad. Their purpose in this modern world is to maintain a sort of uniformity and authority that can not only help neighbors deal with disputes, but help the neighborhood as a whole keep a nice, shiny reputation.

When it comes to attached homes, like condos and townhouses, the HOAs also maintain the exteriors of buildings, including roofing, and common areas, like lawns. Single family HOAs often provide amenities like pools and common buildings that can be used for parties. The more the HOA does, the more the fees will be. And sometimes there will be fees even if they don’t do much.

Homeowners Associations Versus Neighborhood Associations

Another point to clarify is that there is a difference between a neighborhood association and a homeowners association. Neighborhood associations are voluntary, generally have very low fees for membership and do not run with the land. That means that you can buy a house where the former owner was part of the neighborhood association, but decline to be a member yourself.

On the other hand, if you buy a home that’s part of a homeowners association, the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) run with the land itself. So, you buy the land (usually with a house on it) and at closing sign that you agree to the HOA’s rules. You can only change those by being an active part of the association itself and going through the process it takes to allow RV parking in the front yard or whatever it is that you really want to do.

Is an HOA For You?

It’s really hard to know if you’re going to get along in an HOA-controlled neighborhood without taking a long hard look at those CC&Rs. They vary widely, just like the people who live in different neighborhoods. Even if you find a home that you absolutely love, don’t sign a thing until you’ve seen the CC&Rs and gone over them with your real estate agent. You will be living under those rules for a while, make sure you can accept that.

While it would be fun to have a pool you don’t have to clean, sometimes you have to be realistic and say, “These rules just aren’t for me or my lifestyle.”

But, sometimes those rules are really practical and make a lot of sense. For example, some might state that your grass has to be kept under six inches high. Great rule, this practice reduces animal and insect problems by removing cover.

Others might say you can’t have a clothesline or a fence, which might be a total deal-breaker for you. There is often an appeal process, but if that clothesline is a big enough issue, don’t risk it. There are plenty of houses in the sea.

Don’t Forget, HOA Fees Are Included in Your DTI

Last, but not least, remember that HOA fees will be included in your debt to income calculation. So, if you are just barely able to afford that lovely home, the monthly fees may make your lender give you the red light. This is an important item to check when you’re investigating the other terms of the HOA.

You can expect them to run anywhere from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars a month. Definitely something you want to be sure about before committing. Would you rather have that much more in home, or in amenities?

Already in Love With the Idea of a Home In an HOA?

If you and your real estate agent have taken the time to investigate the HOA and the CC&Rs and you’re still good to go, write that contract! Make that home yours and know that the rules will help to maintain home standards, even if they can be a bit draconian at times.

5 Things to Consider for a Picture Wall

One of the best parts of owning your own home is that you can do pretty much whatever you want when it comes to hanging things on the wall. No landlord will charge you $5 per hole you poke through the sheetrock. It’s kind of nice. You can let your creative side have a heyday with a hammer and a bunch of nails.

For a lot of families, putting a family picture wall together is a high priority in their new homes. It can be a fun project that can be the very first of many happy memories in the new place.

Planning Your Picture Wall

If you hop on Pinterest and search for “family picture wall,” you’re going to find an overwhelming number of ways to put one of these together. There’s no one way to do a family picture wall, since every family is different. There are lots of things to consider while you’re planning your wall, though.

Don’t just start hanging pictures willy-nilly. Do some real prep work to ensure that your wall turns out as special as what you have envisioned rather than yet another #PinterestFail. These tips should help:

Pick a theme. You need something concrete to get you started in the planning stage. Choosing a theme can be a good place to start, since it’ll inform your image choices as you go through your Google Drive. A theme could be anything from “vacation photos” to “photos with the color blue in them.” The best photo walls have some kind of unifying theme, choose one before you get started.

Use technology to simulate your photo wall. Art.com’s iOS app gives you the capability to not just imagine what an image or set of images will look like on your wall, it actually can virtually add those photos to the wall using augmented reality. The same technology that powers Pokemon Go can help you get great results with your family picture wall.

Choosy kids choose cool frames. The frames you choose are just as important as the images. If you’re looking for something pretty unusual, scour flea markets and antique shops for old frames with unique designs. If you can’t find anything that tickles your fancy, your home improvement store’s trimwork aisle will have some really fancy trim that you can use to build your own frames!

Incorporate more than photos. Sure, it’s called a “family picture wall,” but who says you have to stop there? Memorabilia from favorite spots, items that reflect interests and hobbies, even accolades like medals have a place on a wall like this. Just make sure that you’re using sturdy materials and secure shelves tightly to the wall to avoid long term issues.

Sometimes, fewer is better. Family picture walls can get pretty overwhelming fast. Instead of hanging every photo you’ve ever taken of your kids, pick the two best from now and the two best from their early childhood. Capture those moments that really meant something and remember that sometimes less is way more. Besides, you’ll want to save some of those embarrassing pictures for leverage later.

When It’s Time to Start Decorating…

Some people love the process and others love the results when it comes to redecorating their homes. If you’re more of a looker than a doer, you’re in luck. I can help you meet interior designers who will put together a killer family photo wall that you’ll love to look at every day. Just ask for an introduction and you’ll be on your way to a wall full of memories in no time!

 INTERIOR DECORATING

Lakefront Living for Everyone

Lakefront living is a dream for many people . The tranquility of being on the water and the opportunity to enjoy water sports on a daily basis are very appealing amenities for some buyers. The problem is that lifestyle is often out of their budget.

In Central Florida, we have several lakes to chose from when buyers say that lakefront is the way they want to go. What those same buyers don’t often realize is that lakefront real estate is very expensive not only to purchase but often to carry on a monthly basis. The annual flood insurance, home owners insurance and dock maintenance can really add up. Over the course of my career, I’ve sold lakefront property all the way up to $3,500,000. That’s not a realistic price range for most buyers especially ones planning to use the property as a vacation or seasonal home.

Communities like Bellalago situated on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, FL are a perfect match for buyers who want lakefront amenities at a lower purchase price. Buyers can purchase a home with a dock or save the extra monthly carrying costs and purchase a home without one and use the private community boat launch. Bellalago offers residents a ton of amenities: a manned guard gate, boat launch, fishing pier, cable included, resort style pool with water slide & spa, fitness center, tennis courts, dog park and 24 hour security.

3553 Sunset Isles is a fantastic option for buyers. Its custom upgrades make it move in ready, the 3 car garage is perfect for storing water toys, and its list price of $299,000 make it an affordable option.   You can stop by this weekend and see Keith Renner during the Open House on Saturday (April 27th) & Sunday (April 28th) from 1-4 PM or call 321-697-8230 for more details.

Making Your Kitchen More Attractive to Buyers

What’s one of the most important rooms in your home? When it comes to selling your property quickly, and for the best price, the answer is clearly the kitchen. In fact, one of the most common explanations buyers often give for not making an offer is, “I liked the house, but I wasn’t too keen on the kitchen.”

That doesn’t mean you must do a major renovation. However, you should do what you can to make the kitchen as attractive as possible to buyers.

Here are some ideas:

First, clear the countertops. Put away the toaster and other items. You want to make the entire countertop area seem as spacious as possible.

If the cabinetry is old, you can spruce it up by installing new knobs, handles and other hardware. A fresh coat of paint on the walls and ceiling can also make the kitchen look like it has had a major renovation – but will only cost a few hundred dollars. According to an article on the website HGTV.com. “The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware.”

Replacing the countertops is a more expensive renovation, but may be worthwhile if the current counters are old and worn.

Finally, when preparing your kitchen for a viewing, make sure it’s clean and tidy. The garbage and recycling bins should be empty. Buyers will open cabinets, so make sure items on shelves are neatly organized with the front labels facing forward. There are many other ways to make the most important rooms in your home look great to potential buyers. Call today for more ideas

Your Home at a Glance

Have you ever driven up to a restaurant and been disappointed by your first impression? Perhaps the windows looked dark and gloomy, the façade was worn and unattractive or for some other reason it just didn’t look like a tempting place to eat.

It could still be a fantastic restaurant – a real gem. But, your first impression has soured your anticipation. If you still walk through the front door, it will likely be with much lower expectations.

This scenario often plays out in the real estate market as well.

Buyers drive up to a home for sale and quickly form an impression based on what they see “from the curb”. That’s why you’ll hear real estate experts talk about the importance of “curb appeal”. It’s one of the most important selling points of a property.

If you plan to put your home on the market, you want your home to look as attractive as possible from the street. Fortunately, there are many simple things you can do to improve curb appeal.

For example, you can trim shrubs and hedges, plant flowers, clean the walkway and driveway, paint the front door and garage door, and clean the exteriors of the windows. All these projects are relatively easy and inexpensive. Yet, each can have a dramatic impact on a buyer’s first impression.

Don’t be like the great restaurant that’s hidden behind an unkept façade. Make sure your curb appeal reflects the overall value of your property.

Looking for more advice on selling your home quickly and for the best price? Call today.

Bringing Fitness Home

Are you thinking about purchasing home fitness equipment? Owning your own treadmill, exercise bike, or rowing machine can save you a lot of time and money compared to joining a fitness club. However, selecting the right equipment can be a challenge.

Here are some tips:

  • Try it first. Ask your home fitness equipment dealer to let you do a few minutes of exercise on the machine you’re considering. Most will agree. Be suspicious if they don’t.
  • Ask around. Staff at local fitness clubs know the best equipment. Ask them for recommendations. Also ask friends and colleagues.
  • Read on-line reviews. Type the name and model of the fitness machine you’re considering into Google along with the word “reviews”. Chances are you’ll find several websites that contain candid customer comments, complaints and testimonials.
  • Make sure it fits. Home fitness equipment can take up a lot of space. Make sure the one you select fits in the room you have in mind. Pay particular attention to the ceiling height. You don’t want to hit your head while working out on your stair climber!

Nothing Like Great Curb Appeal

First impressions are everything. And a shiny red Ferrari parked in your driveway does scream hello! But if your car doesn’t quite resemble a Ferrari that doesn’t mean you can’t make your house be the real looker of your neighborhood.

No matter how big or small your remodeling budget, your first plan of attack needs to aim at improving the curb appeal of your home. Aside from major system issues, this is the decision point where a future buyer is going to eventually come inside or drive on by. No matter how flashy your interior is, if your exterior doesn’t say “love me!” you’ve already lost the real estate game.

What, Exactly, Is Curb Appeal?

Not that long ago (in the early days of the Internet, even), it was a lot harder to get an idea of what a house looked like simply from a listing. Instead of an online database, many markets had giant bound books that looked a lot like a phone book. But instead of telephone numbers, there were listings upon listings of properties for sale. Realtors would send their clients to drive by these homes to see if they thought they’d like to have a proper viewing. These potential buyers would pull up to the curb to take a look, and thus, the concept of “curb appeal” was born.

You may not think that how your house looks from the street really matters. After all, you’re going to live there forever / you have years and years to tick that box / you think a sterile lawn and worn out shutters are fine. Whatever your reasoning, you’re looking at this all wrong. It’s not just that curb appeal is good for a sale (though it is), it’s also a powerful tool for maximizing the property’s appraisal value. If you need a home equity loan or to refinance down the road, you’ll wish you had bothered.

So, let’s bother today. We’ll take a walk around the yard and figure out how to turn your boring house into a dazzling wonder with the budget you have.

Tips and Tricks for Better Curb Appeal

First of all, you’ll want to get cozy with the neighbor directly across the street from you. You’ll be popping over pretty regularly to see how your house is looking to a passer-by. After all, how can you judge the effectiveness of your efforts without seeing it from the same angle they would? Curb appeal is a difficult concept, and often an overwhelming one, but that’s why we came up with these tips to get you started:

Clean up any debris. Hey, whether it’s your leaf collection or just a bunch of junk you’ve been meaning to get rid of, get rid of it. Think about your home the way some people think about mullets: “Business in the front, party in the back.” Or to put it another way, keep the front of your house clean enough to eat off of, do all your cluttery things in the back. Your neighbors will also thank you.

Trim the hedges. Overgrown shrubbery and beds that need to be weeded are worthless, trim those and clean them up so you can make use of them. If someone chose to plant a tree in a poorly chosen spot, you should be the one to correct that tragic error. You can always plant a smaller tree in a better spot to make up for the one you cut down.

Paint the front door and shutters. There’s something exceptionally special about a front door. It sets the whole tone for the rest of the house, so if the paint is worn out or just the wrong color, people will notice. Consult a color wheel for suggestions or spend a lot of time standing at a paint counter going through paint chips. This is a big deal, take your time. While you’re at it, buy some shutters or choose a paint color that will give your old ones new life.

Consider an all-over paint job that really makes features pop. Every house has some architectural features that make it special and place it within its own time. Unfortunately, too many people bury these features with the wrong paint pallet. Plan your home’s exterior colors to emphasize these good bits of awesome.

Replace the old, worn-out lighting. New lighting can make a huge difference to the way your home looks. Choose something that fills the space appropriately but is also period appropriate. After all, you’re working on a theme here.

Add to the softscape. When you’ve got a yard that’s kind of meh, it’s important to pump it up a bit. Choose plants that will be easy to care for in your climate and that will come back year after year. These softscape elements can make your place far more interesting, plus perennials will multiply over time, giving a nice, full look to the garden.

Give the whole front yard white glove service. Whether that means rebuilding your cement driveway or adding a new mailbox, carefully go over the entire front of your property. Clean windows, take care of crumbling patios, make people eager to get out of the car to see what else you have in store.

Brown Thumb and No Time to Up the Curb Appeal?

If you’re currently at odds with nature or you simply don’t have the time to add that wow factor to your home, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You can always start with us!

Photo by Viktor Theo on Unsplash

Spring Has Sprung

It’s officially spring again, everybody and their great aunt Erma are abuzz with cleaning and organizing advice.

What ends up happening is that one room gets really clean, the next one is pretty clean, and diminishing returns follow until they give up and take a nap. Establishing goals gives you a way to know you’ve achieved something and those goals can tell you pretty precisely how much further you have to go. The Three Vital Goals of a Spring Cleaning

The Three Vital Goals of a Spring Cleaning

Before we get into the tips, it’s a good idea to set some goals for your spring cleaning. A lot of people get into trouble because they fail to actually establish what it is that they hope to accomplish with their cleaning efforts. They aren’t going to be able to clean their home top to bottom over the course of the next month, contrary to the claims of some magazine (no, not the Weekly World News).

Your vital goals may be slightly different, but odds are that these are in the ballpark:

  • Increase the feeling of openness in your home.
  • Make it easier to find things that disappeared last year.
  • Declutter. All. The. Things.

Before we proceed with these three goals, please understand that nothing in this article is meant as a judgement on you or anyone else. Everybody has their challenges and blind spots. Maybe you’re not very good at organizing, but you’re great at chess. We can’t all be great chess players.

Attacking Your Vital Spring Cleaning Goals

Whether you’re going to sort of just jump in the middle of your goals and attack them from all angles or you want a more organized approach, you need a plan of action that works for you. Don’t even start without one. If you have something working well for you, go with it, but if not, we’ve got a short attack plan for each goal above down below.

Keep in mind that some of these lists can be done simultaneously if you really want to be efficient. If not, that’s ok, too. This is your spring cleaning. Own it.

Goal: Increasing the Feeling of Openness In Your Home

Increasing the feeling of openness in your home comes down to one thing: light. The more light in your home, the bigger and more open it feels. Achieving this seemingly impossible goal is actually really easy and you can do it without replacing a single window or tearing down walls. See, it’s all about that glass. It’s about the paint on your walls, too, but for the amended spring cleaning, focus on the glass. That includes:

  • Windows. Scrub these things like they’ve never been washed. They probably haven’t. Wash the insides and then go outside and wash the outside. Just washing the windows will brighten up your space enough that you may end up stopping at this point.
  • Mirrors. Those mirrors are bouncing light around the room. Just because your windows are letting more light in doesn’t mean that it’s going to survive long once it hits that dirty mirror. Clean, clean away.
  • Light Fixtures. By light fixtures, we mean those light kits on your ceiling fan, the bulb enclosures on chandeliers and the shades on ceiling huggers. Anything glass, take it down and clean it. Most of these items can go into the dishwasher, but put anything thin or fragile in the top rack.
  • Light bulbs. Oh, the lowly lightbulb. How we forget you all the time when doing almost anything. You’re just a magic tube that gives us light… unfortunately, bulbs also get dirty, so grab your Swiffer duster and give all your bulbs a good once-over.

Goal: Make It Easier to Find Things

This one has a single, simple solution: The Container Store. Or any other sort of place where you can get every kind of organizer you could dream up. The reason homes get cluttered too often is because there’s simply not any kind of proper storage to begin with. Of course you’re going to struggle to find things when those things don’t have a permanent home!

You really don’t even need a list here. It’s all in the organization. Go room by room and take stock of what lays out a lot of the day. Do the kids throw their coats on the couch and wander off? Coat rack by the door should fix that. Does your closet look like it exploded? Check out some of the super impressive closet systems they make these days.

Sure, it’s going to take a little bit of an investment to make this goal manageable, but ultimately you’ll find that it’s worth it when you don’t end up buying three of the same top because you couldn’t find the one you needed the day you were going to give that big presentation.

Goal: Declutter

You can and should probably work on this while you’re working on organizing stuff. Decluttering has become a meme, you know what it’s all about. You take all the stuff that you own and then you subject it to your hardest judgement. Will you use that spork set again? Is that pair of duck shoes really necessary in the desert? So many questions and decisions to make.

Getting stuck trying to decide what gets to go? Ask these questions:

  • Am I using it regularly?
  • When I am using it, do I enjoy using it?
  • Have I effectively replaced this item and simply keep it around for nostalgia?
  • Am I really going to “fit back into these jeans?” Be honest. Cake is delicious.
  • Do I really want to finish this project?
  • Do I have too many of this item? (belts, shoes, microwave bacon cookers)
  • Am I keeping this item out of some sense of guilt? (gifts, mainly)
  • Once you’ve done this, grab the boxes and bags. Sort the items you don’t need into “useable and worth donating” and “garbage, only good for trashing.” If any of the trash is recyclable, you know, a third recycle bin is probably warranted

Achieve Your Spring Cleaning Goals This Year or Go Down Fighting!

With defined goals and plans in place to tackle each one, spring cleaning should be so much easier this year than it was in the past. Doing some regular cleaning might not be a bad idea, either, but you can always leave the basic stuff like doing the floors and washing the walls to home pros. You know, those people who make it their business to clean and organize your stuff. Just ask your real estate agent for a recommendation and you’ll be well on your way..