12 Ways to Lower Your Monthly Utility Bills

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 22nd, 2019

12 Ways to Lower Your Monthly Utility BillsAccording to the US Department of Energy, the average American household paid $111.67 each month for utilities in 2017. With some research and a few DIY projects, property owners can reduce those energy costs without sacrificing comfort or convenience.

Establish Energy Friendly Habits

Reduce energy waste to see an immediate change in your utility payments.

  • Before bed, walk around your home. Make sure you turn off all lights, televisions, computers, and other plugged-in devices.
  • In the colder months, close the doors to unused spaces to save big on heating bills.
  • Dial down the heat before bed. Invest in extra blankets and cozy pajamas to keep warm without blasting the furnace.

Small habits can add up to big savings.

Incorporate DIY Solutions

These easy projects improve insulation so your interior stays comfortable without HVAC overuse.

  • Use weather stripping to seal off drafty windows.
  • Install door sweeps on all exterior doors to prevent outdoor air from compromising your indoor temperature.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. Many models allow you to automatically adjust temperatures throughout the day.

It doesn’t take a large investment of time or money to positively impact your utility bills.

Install Energy Efficient Appliances

Upgrading your appliances is a simple way to reduce energy waste.

  • Install a solar-powered water heater to eliminate the cost of hot water.
  • Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED versions.
  • Invest in an Energy Star rated washer and dryer to save money on your electric and water bills.

As a bonus, your new appliances improve the look and feel of your space.

Attend To Administrative Tasks

Pay attention to what you’re paying for. Small details can cost you big dollars.

  • Review your billing statements at least once every 3 months. Notice any changes in usage, rate, and fees.
  • Talk to your utility company about average payments. This option allows you to pay a flat rate rather than fluctuating per-use charges.
  • Install a Smart Meter to ensure accurate usage reporting.

Practice due diligence to protect your wallet from unnecessary charges.

You don’t have to make drastic changes to your lifestyle to control utility costs. Incorporate these easy fixes to bring down your monthly obligations without emptying your wallet.

If you are in the market for an energy efficient home, be sure to tell your trusted real estate professional who is ready to assist you with your search.

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Real Estate Investing 101: Identify Your Investing Style

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 21st, 2019

Real Estate Investing 101 Identify Your Investing StyleAre you just starting on your real estate investing journey? Many newcomers are surprised to learn that there’s more to making money on the real estate market than buying and selling. These are some of the most popular strategies real estate investors use to create profits. Which one is right for you?

Buy And Hold

Buy and hold investors play the market like stocks. They buy properties when prices are low, then hold them until values are high. During the holding period, some investors choose to offer their properties as rentals. Apartment buildings are also a popular option for buy and hold investors, as these properties are always in demand.

Buy and hold investors might run into problems with out-of-control cash flows. Make sure you have plenty of backup cash to keep you afloat until the next sale.

Short Term Rentals

Sharing apps like Airbnb are changing the way short term rentals are done. Instead of pumping money into sterile timeshare properties, travelers are choosing a more home-like environment during their vacations. Many real estates investors concentrate on maintaining homes in various locations and offering them as an alternative to more traditional temporary accommodations.

Vacation renters can be particularly hard on properties. Check your insurance coverage to make sure you have access to enough cash to repair or replace any damages your visitors leave behind.

Fix And Flip

Made popular by a plethora of cable television reality shows, fix and flippers purchase distressed properties at low costs. They then spend some time correcting cosmetic defects, sprucing up any signs of disrepair, and making the property ready for new residents.

A quick sale ensures maximum profit. However, those can be hard to find. If the market suddenly changes, you could find yourself stuck with mortgage payments you weren’t prepared to meet. Always have a backup plan to protect your personal assets.

Commercial Leasing

From the corner drug store to a multi-unit strip mall, commercial property presents a unique opportunity for more advanced real estate investors. It takes a lot of buying power to acquire commercial property. However, commercial leasers usually last much longer than their residential counterparts, which means a more secure and longer-lasting income stream.

Keep in mind that empty commercial buildings take longer to fill. Check your resources to ensure you can survive a long period at less-than-optimal occupancy.

Real estate investing is a diverse discipline. Choose the strategy that works best for you to enjoy a long and happy career.

If you are in the market for a new investment property, sure to contact your trusted real estate professional.

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Down Payment Money Saving Mistakes

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 15th, 2019

Down Payment Money Saving MistakesAre you saving up money for a down payment? Saving money to put down on a home is always a smart idea, but there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. Understanding how to best save for a down payment will go a long way toward ensuring you’re ready when you finally find the house of your dreams.

Here are four down payment money saving mistakes to avoid.

1. Not Saving Enough

It’s very admirable to have a goal of saving exactly 20% for a down payment. However, this is a common mistake new home buyers make. First of all, consider loan programs that allow for a lower down payment.

In addition, there are lots of other costs associated with buying a home that you must also plan and save for, including:

  • Closing Costs
  • Title Fees
  • Miscellaneous Fees
  • Time Off Work

2. Not Keeping Track Of The Source Of The Money

Many lenders have strict rules about where the money comes from for a down payment. Pay careful attention to the source of your down payment money, and keep accurate records. You may be asked to present these financial records to prove the source of funds as part of the mortgage review process.

3. Borrowing The Money

In addition, many lenders may allow only a certain percentage of the down payment to come from a family member. They want to know that you have the resources to come up with the down payment yourself without relying on favors from family members. Don’t make the mistake of borrowing excessively for the down payment, even if it’s from a third party lender.

4. Not Keeping Money In Reserve

It’s essential to keep some money in your savings account that isn’t earmarked for the down payment. You’ll need to disclose how much you have in savings and it will factor in where you get approved or not. Lenders want to see a history of consistent saving. This shows that you’re a financially responsible person with cash reserves in the event of an emergency.

The sooner you can start saving money for a down payment, the better. As you save, keep these four down payment money saving mistakes in mind so you have the best possible chances for being financially ready to act when you do find the house you want to purchase.

If you are considering a new home purchase, please contact a trusted real estate professional to assist you with this valued investment.

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Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with These DIY Home Projects

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 13th, 2019

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with These DIY Home ProjectsYour carbon footprint is the measure of your impact on the earth’s natural resources. This number describes the amount of fossil fuel it takes to support your lifestyle. In the United States, each person produces an average of 19.78 tons of carbon dioxide every year. A high carbon footprint means your daily habits are a quickening drain on our finite resources. 

Homeowners can use these DIY projects to reduce the effect of their lifestyle on the environment.

Try Solar Solutions

A residential solar system gathers photo-voltaic energy from the sun and converts it into usable electrical current. Once installed, any energy your system produces is essentially free. However, the initial investment for a residential solar system to power your entire home can be prohibitively high. There are some ways to use solar power without a large upfront investment.

  • Take advantage of state and federal incentives to lower your out-of-pocket costs.
  • Opt for individual appliances like solar water heaters or solar lighting.
  • Talk to your utility provider about existing programs that allow you to sell back your excess power for bill credits.

You could also get your neighbor involved and build a neighborhood solar bank for charging batteries and electric vehicles.

Plant A Vegetable And Herb Garden

Food transportation is one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gases. Reduce your impact even further by growing some of your own food. Use containers, shelves, or construct a hanging wall garden to keep your home supplied with salad greens, tomatoes, and herbs of all kinds. Having a garden means fewer trips to the grocery store, which saves our supplies of natural gas.

Install A Clothesline

Skip the gas-powered appliances and hang your freshly washed laundry out on a clothesline to dry. When the weather is nice, your clothes will come back in with a sweet scent you can’t get anywhere else. And instead of spending the time staring at a spinning machine, you get the added benefit of fitting a little extra exercise into your day. You don’t have to completely ditch your dryer. Save it for rainy days or other unfriendly weather conditions.

Lowering your carbon footprint doesn’t have to be a big life change. Start with small steps and slowly build your property in an earth-friendly fortress.

If you are interested in greener living, be sure to tell your trusted real estate professional that finding an environmentally friendly property is a top priority.

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14 Remodeling Projects That Increase the Value of Your Home

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 12th, 2019

14 Remodeling Projects That Increase the Value of Your HomeYour home is likely your largest investment. Beyond repairs and regular maintenance to keep it clean, comfortable, and safe, there are a number of projects that can increase the resale value of your property. These renovations top the list of changes you can make that positively impact your home’s value.

Kitchen

With the right strategy, your kitchen remodel could return up to 92.9% of your construction investment. The trick is to not overdo it. You don’t need to gut and rebuild the entire room. Instead, make strategic upgrades that increase the comfort and usability of the room.

  • Paint wooden cabinets or install new doors and fixtures.
  • Install track lighting or LED features.
  • Refresh or change countertops.
  • Refurbish flooring and spruce up walls with warm, neutral colors that are easy to clean.

Invest in new appliances right before you put your home on the market to catch the eye of potential buyers and pull them in.

Odd Spaces

Older homes with distinctive architecture stand out from the crowd of cookie-cutter residences. However, these unique buildings often hide a lot of unused space. Make the most of every inch of your home to entice buyers to place a bid.

  • Convert a basement into a bonus room.
  • Turn the space underneath a staircase into a storage closet.
  • Divide oversized dining rooms to create a small home office.

Most buyers aren’t looking for a long-term project. Instead of pointing out the potential of your property, make it easy to see by getting creative with odd spaces.

Increase Energy Efficiency

In 2017, the average monthly utility bill reached $111.67. Help potential buyers lower their monthly costs by installing energy-efficient options throughout the home.

  • Install a solar water heater.
  • Change the windows to more energy-efficient models.
  • Add extra insulation to outer rooms and around doors and windows.
  • Use LED lighting outdoors and throughout the home.

You may be able to get some help paying for your earth-friendly upgrades with state and federal incentives.

Bathrooms

After the kitchen, bathrooms are the most scrutinized feature of homes for sale. Once again, a little goes a long way in these rooms.

  • Update fixtures with shiny metals for a modern look.
  • Change out the toilet seat.
  • Fix up the shower tiles and head.

These projects don’t take a lot of time. However, they can offer a big payoff when you decide to sell your home.

If you are looking for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted real estate professional.

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3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy Your First Home

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 8th, 2019

3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy Your First HomeHunting for your new home can be a confusing process. There are countless factors you need to take into account to ensure your new location fits your family’s lifestyle and preferences. In their excitement, first-time home buyers can easily overlook some essential points about their potential property.

When you’re searching for your new residence, ask these questions to get exactly what you’re looking for.

Am I Financially Ready For A New Home Purchase?

It takes more than money to find the right home. Your credit rating is an important factor in your ability to secure enough funding to finance your dream. Check out your credit score before you buy to make sure you won’t have to settle for less.

Some of the things you have the greatest control over include:

  • Payment history
  • Credit utilization ratio
  • Debt-to-income ratio

Even with a large down payment, having a questionable credit history can endanger your chances of qualifying for mortgage loans. Spend some time shining up your credit report for the best results. Getting a pre-approved home loan is a great way to find out how much house you can afford before you start shopping.

Is This The Right Neighborhood For Me?

No matter how beautiful the structure itself is, your house won’t seem like a home unless you’re comfortable with the surrounding neighborhood. Take a walk around your potential block to assess the area and compare it to your needs.

  • For families with children, are there high-quality schools in the area?
  • Do your neighbors’ homes seem well-kept?
  • What amenities (dry cleaner, grocery stores, parks, etc) do you want in your community?
  • How do the roads and sidewalks look?

Before committing to a purchase, visit the home at different times of the day to get an idea of what you might have to live with.

Am I Ready To Settle Down?

Align your home purchase with your future goals. If you know you’re planning to move out-of-state in the next several years, take that into account when shopping for a home. Will you be able to sell quickly enough before you leave? Or do you plan to retain ownership of the home and rent it out while you’re away?

Think about the directions your life might take in the next 5 to 10 years. By looking ahead, you can make a better plan for the best home you can afford which will accommodate you and your family in the years to come.

Buying your first home is a major decision. Knowing your goals, desires, and abilities before agreeing to a purchase a home will make you the most comfortable moving forward.

One of the best partners in your home search will be your trusted real estate professional. Be sure to make contact as soon as you are considering a new home purchase.

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5 Financial Terms Every Real Estate Investor Should Know

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 1st, 2019

5 Financial Terms Every Real Estate Investor Should KnowThe success of your real estate ventures depend on your ability to navigate the financial world. Learn these terms to make it easier to understand what’s going on with your real estate investments.

Cash Flow

Contrary to popular belief, cash flow isn’t just the amount of liquid assets you have available. Your cash and unused lines of credit are an essential indicator of your ability to complete projects and pay the cost of ongoing operations. However, these factors don’t tell the whole financial story.

Your actual cash flow is the difference between your gross income and your financial obligations. You can have a large cash reserve but still have a negative cash flow if you aren’t making enough to cover your obligations.

Gross Yield

When evaluating potential properties, it’s helpful to understand the gross yield. To calculate gross yield, divide the annual income you expect the property to produce by the property’s price. This number comes in handy for comparing properties and narrowing down your options.

Amortization

Lending institutions offer a variety of loan structures to fit your goals and financial standing. An amortized loan features a set amount of interest. This amount is integrated into each monthly payment. That means that borrowers are paying on the loan’s principal and paying down their interest liabilities from the very first payment.

Amortization is an excellent way to quickly build equity. This enables real estate investors to use existing properties to fund other projects without having to sell off their holdings.

Carrying Costs

Flippers and other short-term real estate investors need to keep a close eye on their carrying costs. These are all the expenses incurred after the initial purchase and before the property is sold for profit. Carrying costs include mortgage and interest payments, utility bills, taxes, and insurance.

The best way to limit carrying costs is to flip your property as quickly as possible. However, sudden changes in the market, illness, and other unexpected factors can prolong your need to make monthly payments. In this event, investors should carefully monitor their cash flow to ensure they don’t end up losing their entire investment.

Double Close

Wholesale home buyers often already have an exit strategy before signing on new properties. In this case, a double closing allows the wholesaler to purchase the property and sell it to a new buyer in a single transaction. This is also sometimes called a back-to-back closing.

Knowing these terms will make it easier for you to manage the financial details of your real estate investments. And partnering with a trusted real estate professional will make it easier for you to find just the right investment property. 

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11 Simple Ways To Save Money Toward The Purchase Of Your New Home

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 28th, 2019

11 Simple Ways To Save Money Toward The Purchase Of Your New HomeIf you find it difficult to make ends meet, these tips will help you save money in ways that are easy to do and create substantial savings over time.

Declutter

Get rid of stuff you do use or need by having a garage or yard sale or by putting things for sale on eBay or Craigslist.

Make Your Own Coffee

Do you really want to make that billionaire richer by buying coffee for $5+ a cup? Make your own gourmet coffee that costs around 50 cents per cup for the same thing.

Bring Your Own Lunch

Making your lunch the night before to take to work the next day will give you more time to enjoy lunch. You will save the money that is wasted when driving to fast-food restaurants or going to pricey lunch places.

Grow Some Food

Everyone should have a garden, even if it is only a window garden for herbs. If you have some room for pots, you can grow tomatoes and other vegetables. If you have a back yard or a front yard you can grow tons of stuff.

Buy In Bulk And Use Coupons

For the things that you use on a regular basis, stock up when the items are on sale. Buy things at discount stores. Buy bulk things like rice and pasta at wholesale prices in co-ops. Coupon clipping is a hobby that pays for itself in savings. Just be careful not to buy things you do not really need or use.

Change Home Lighting

If you have not yet changed out all your incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, what have you been doing? Change those bubs right away because you are burning up money on wasteful lights.

Install Smart Home Technology

Making a home run with more energy-efficiency is reduces your bills and helps the planet too. Smart home technology monitors comfort zones and turns things off when they are not needed.

Cut The Cable

An expensive monthly bill for cable TV is something many can do without. There are plenty of less expensive alternatives and tons of free content to view online.

Make A Change Jar

Every time you come home, put all the change you have in a change jar. You will be surprised how much money builds up over time and you will hardly even notice it is missing.

Walk Instead Of Drive

Do you have to drive your car everywhere? Try walking short distances instead. Not only will you save money on gas; walking may improve your health.

DIY Projects

Instead of paying others to do simple jobs around the house, do them yourself. There are plenty of do-it-yourself (DIY) guides on YouTube that show how to do just about anything. You will save the expensive labor cost for simple home repairs that can be up to $75 per hour.

Are you inspired? OK. Put some of these ideas into action. Ready, set, save!

Your trusted real estate professional is a skilled negotiator. Be sure to utilize this savvy resource as soon as you are considering a new home purchase.

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5 Ways Bridge Loans Help Real Estate Investors Increase Profits

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 21st, 2019

5 Ways Bridge Loans Help Real Estate Investors Increase ProfitsBridge loans, which are also commonly referred to as interim financing, gap financing or swing loans, help a motivated home buyer to secure financing before their home or investment property sells. Lenders can usually modify these flexible loans to accommodate a person’s unique needs.

Current real estate market conditions allow savvy investors to make big profits as long as they can move quickly on good opportunities. Low inventories of existing homes and slower than normal construction developments have combined to drive the median home price across the US to $223,900. This represents a 7.6% national average increase through 2018. Market experts expect prices to rise by another 6.3% over the next 12 months which may present very good opportunities for home buyers. 

Bridge loans are a short-term funding solution with some unique features.

  • They usually include payback terms between 2 months to 1 year.
  • Most bridge loan options gain approval in about 15 days.
  • May receive up to 70% of the property’s value in the loan.

Bridge loans are a tool real estate investors can use to increase their holdings in this hot market. How can these funds be used to help you make more money from your properties?

  • When prime properties come up for sale, investors need to be ready to take advantage. If most of your cash is already tied up in other properties, a bridge loan is a perfect way to get the quick cash you need to win the bid.
  • While a property is up for sale, investors can use bridge loans to continue financing new projects. When the sale is complete, the funds can be used to pay off the bridge loan.
  • Hard money loans are a popular option for real estate investors who can’t wait for the normal bank loan process. However, these funds usually come with higher interest rates. Bridge loans are a lower cost alternative, as lenders generally charge less interest for these accounts.
  • Not sure what you’re going to do with your new property? If you wait too long to make your decision, chances are good that the property will be gone. Use a flexible bridge loan to secure your property. If your plans change, it’s simple to convert the funds into a more conventional loan structure.
  • For flippers who buy properties, perform renovations, and put the properties back up for sale for a profit can use bridge loans to quickly increase their holdings without sacrificing the liquid assets they need for material, labors, and other renovation costs.

In order to qualify for these funds, investors need to prove that they can afford double mortgage payments, present a clear plan on how they intend to pay for the loan (either through resale or refinance), and have a property that can be used as collateral with at least 20% existing equity.

When used as part of an overall investment plan, bridge loans help real estate investors buy more properties, which can mean more money in their pockets. Call your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss bridge loan and other financing options that best suit your personal situation. Most importantly, be sure to utilize the skillset of your trusted real estate professional to find ideal investment properties in your area. 

 

 

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The 2019 Housing Market, While Still Risky, Isn’t All Bad for Buyers

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 20th, 2019

The 2019 Housing Market, While Still Risky, Isn't All Bad for BuyersMany new buyers start looking for homes in the spring. The question in 2019 is whether buyers can afford available inventory or want to buy given changes to the tax code and increase in natural disasters. 

Interest Rates

The 30-year-fixed interest rates have been trending lower recently. This reduction in interest rates, coupled with a slowdown in the resale housing market, is working in the buyer’s favor in some areas. Talk with your trusted real estate professional and mortgage lender to get the specifics for your area and situation. 

Affordability

Inventories of available homes are on the rise, but still out of reach for many Millennials and other first-time buyers. This has been the case for the past five years. One of the biggest factors some buyers second guess in a home purchase is the commission fees paid to real estate agents. Remember, the real estate commission is paid for by the seller of the home, not the buyer.

With advances in technology, the role of the real estate agent is changing. Many customers think they might be able to their own home online. However, agents still have valuable expertise in individual markets which may lead to a more competitive sales process. They also have helpful experience with the closing process which can significantly lower the anxiety throughout the home buying process.

Tax Code Changes

The 2018 tax code changes have big implications for current and prospective homeowners. The cutoff on home mortgage interest deductions dropped from $1 million to $750,000, and there’s a new $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions.

It may take a few years for the full impact to play out. However, it could mean an unfavorable combination of higher taxes, higher interest rates and higher prices. One favorable solution to this trifecta is new home construction. An increase in the number of homes could help to bring down housing costs, but zoning laws hinder a fast ramp up in many areas.

Hurricanes And Other Natural Disasters

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey decimated the Houston area and revealed a lack of adequate coverage for many homes. This should serve as a wakeup call since natural disasters seem to be on the rise. 

New buyers are more concerned with what the interests rate will be and whether they can afford the down payment. Many don’t even ask if the property is in a flood zone. That may change if the streak of hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other natural disaster events continues.

Even with all of these considerations, 2019 continues to look like a great time to invest in a new home. Contact your trusted real estate professional to discuss these issues and how they might affect your local area and personal financial situation.

 

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