Tag Archives: Home Ownership

First Time Home Buyer? Don’t Overlook These Helpful Down Payment Programs:

Many times, saving money for the down payment to buy a home is the one obstacle that stands in the way of homeownership for would-be buyers. What many people do not know is that there are a number of programs that can help buyers come up with the money that they will need to buy a home.

For those buyers who have a clean credit record, there is a no down payment loan program available. A Guaranteed Rural Housing Loan offers a no down payment loan with additional assistance provided with the closing costs if you purchase a home in an approved area and meet the income restrictions. If you have some minor flaws on your credit rating, you could look into an FHA loan. FHA loans can have down payments as low as 3.5% on a home purchase.

FHA loans can also work in conjunction with some nonprofit down payment assistance programs approved by HUD. These programs provide down payment assistance in the form of a second lien on the property. Nonprofit and Nonprofit Instrumentality of Government down payment assistance programs must be approved by HUD and on the approved roster.
Government Entity down payment assistance programs also offer help in the form of a second lien on the home, however they do not require HUD approval. The secondary loan works in conjunction with the FHA loan. Your lender must be sure that all of the FHA requirements are met.

In addition to the federal programs mentioned, there are a variety of first time homebuyer grants that may be available in your state. Check with your lender on what programs might be available to you where you live. Find the program that works the best for you and take advantage of the affordability and low interest rates that are available to assist first time home buyers.

Want to find out if you have what it takes to be a Real Estate Agent or Broker?

About David GoldsteinDavid Goldstein is an Owner and Founding Partner of Express Schools, LLC. which operates online education providers Real Estate Express, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.

Buying a Home Together

Tipsters often talk about buying strategies and talk about how a person can find or purchase a home, but how do people find a home together? Most home buying is a joint endeavor, and balancing both partner’s wants and needs (and often the wants and needs of other family members) can be challenging.

Start Talking
Before you even talk to an agent, talk to each other. Get every decision maker to share what they need and want in the home. Get on the same page about what is absolutely necessary, what is strongly preferred, and what is negotiable, and make a master list. Work out disagreements in advance, and lay the ground rules for budget range and other limitations. The more cohesive the joint vision of the home is, the smoother the search will be. Keep lines of communication open, so if someone’s feeling changes on a want or need it can be addressed and integrated into the joint vision. Then, lay it all out for your agent so that the homes you are shown are the best-fitting possibilities for you.

Rate the Options
When you go to a viewing, walk in prepared. Remember that a home purchase is both a business decision and an emotional decision, so balance your emotional reactions against the master list of needs, and be willing to compromise in order to get the best home for everyone. Take notes about each home you see, recording the features and your impressions of them, what you liked and disliked, and how you might see yourself and your family living there.

Compare Notes
After viewings, sit down together and talk about the options; share your notes and combine them into a complete impression of how each home option suits the joint vision. Have a discussion, and allow yourself to be open to strong or changed opinions, both in yourself and your buying partner (or partners).

Before making any offers, take the time to “sleep on it.” This doesn’t have to be an overnight, but take a little time to let your minds settle, then make a final decision. Consider how badly you want the property, and what you are willing to do to get it. Set a clear “walk away” limit, so that you are together on when to cut your losses and switch to a different option or go back to looking.

Talk with your agent and form the best offer. Make sure you consider how your offer may be seen by the seller and if there is any known competition for the property. Your agent can advise you and help you figure out what risks (if any) you could take and how to make your offer more likely to be accepted. If the seller makes a counteroffer, determine if it is reasonable, or if there is something non-negotiable (on either side) that could be a deal-breaker. Remember that there is a limit to how many counteroffers will be entertained before you, or the seller, should move on. With some teamwork and a touch of luck, you can buy the home that makes everyone’s dreams come true.

Want to find out if you have what it takes to be a Real Estate Agent or Broker?

About Tom DavidsonTom Davidson is Vice President of Express Schools, LLC. which operates online education providers Real Estate Express, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.

Is NOW the right time to buy a home?

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to buy a home, that time might now. Current economic reports are holding true to previous predictions: things are getting better. The economy is stabilizing, the housing market is firming up, and consumer confidence is on the rise. If home buying is in your future plans, your future is ready to start.

The most compelling reason to buy now is, as always, the bottom line: money. Rents are on the rise, while home prices are bottomed out. Housing experts describe current home prices as below ‘fair value’ – that means they have dropped below what the home is actually worth today. For many potential buyers, buying is cheaper than renting, maybe even significantly so. Reports indicate that home prices are on average 10% below the price of rents in monthly expenditures; people are paying less on mortgages than rent. Buying not only may save money each month, but buyers investing in an undervalued property can expect to see strong, if gradual, gains in home values (and increased equity) through the next few years.

The job market is picking up. The past months have posted better than expected employment numbers, dropping the unemployment rate and boosting consumer confidence. A stronger economy means better financial stability, and formerly uncertain potential homebuyers are beginning to feel secure enough to buy. Banks are also feeling more secure, and with historically low mortgage rates, the lending climate is becoming more inviting than ever.

Many potential homebuyers have been waiting for a sign to begin: this could be it. Already buyers are jumping in. Home sales jumped in January, increasing 2% from the previous month and 8% from last year’s figures, according to the National Association of Realtors. Demand is reaching a two-year high, almost as high as the boom spurred by the first-time homebuyer tax credit. This rise, however, is not artificially induced; it’s a true reflection of housing recovery.

Spring is traditionally a good time for home sales. As the weather becomes inviting, properties turn green, and the school calendar winds down, more people will become interested in selling, and buying. Sellers will be posting new listings and re-introducing properties taken off the market during the challenging winter months. The next round of foreclosures will be hitting the market as well, providing a boost in inventory for deal-seeking buyers. This should help keep prices low through the spring, but top properties are likely to see increased competition as more buyers enter the fray.

As economic factors continue to improve and more buyers enter the market, the best deals will begin to dry up in the face of increased competition. This is good for sellers, but buyers are far from hurting. Lending rates are projected to stay low, and large-scale price increases are still a few years away. So if you think you may be ready to buy, talk to your financial advisor, mortgage lender, and realtor to find out if the home of your dreams is ready for you.

Want to find out if you have what it takes to be a Real Estate Agent or Broker?

About The Author: Geoffrey Thompson is an owner and founding partner of Express Schools, LLC. Since 1996 the companies under this banner have offered online real estate licensing and insurance licensing courses as well as online real estate exam prep and insurance exam prep.

The Ugliest House On My Block

Most neighborhoods have one. That house. The ugliest house in the neighborhood. The eyesore on the block that all of the other neighbors call “that house” when you discuss the owner and what is happening on their neighborhood. The ugliest house in my neighborhood is right next door. The paint is chipping off, peppering the foot high lawn that are slowly swallowing randomly left behind toys, empty bottles and aluminum cans. The garage door the owner ran into last winter that once hid the disarray kept inside broken and exposing all of its content through the cracked wood and broken glass. Of course, the external beauty of the house could only pale in comparison to the chicken coup they put together out of scrap wood, plastic containers and a roll of chicken wire. Before we knew it, the only sound louder that the rooster in the chicken coup next door was the sound of my property value dropping.

What can you do to protect your investment when someone in your neighborhood is clearly not concerned about his or hers? Depending on where you live, it can be a complicated and lengthy process. This is one reason many people opt to buy where they are under the covenants and restrictions of a homeowners association. Although it can be frustrating to have to ask permission to make changes or improvements to your own home, it offers the security that your neighbors have to maintain their property to a certain standard that you know when you buy.

Those of us who chose to live restriction free could have a lot more work ahead to protect our property when our neighbors are restriction free as well. A good relationship with all of your neighbors is always helpful. If you are all on the same page, you can present a united front. If your neighbor is receptive, you could address them directly and try to resolve the issue. However, if you are like me and your neighbor is not at all interested in anyone’s opinion of the condition of his property, you may have to escalate things further.

It does not require specialized knowledge, nor a real estate license to find a solution to this particular type of problem. However, an effective solution might require research and a little creative thinking.

You should research the building codes in your city, county, or township. Most areas have restrictions against things that could help you force a cleanup of your neighbor’s property. If the lawn is too overgrown, they may be putting the other homes in the neighborhood at an increased risk for fire, or possibly a vermin infestation, especially if there is garbage left around. Building codes in your area may require them to repair broken windows or doors. Circulate a petition in your neighborhood and seek the help of your city councilman, township supervisor, or other elected official.

My neighbors and I were able to get the ugliest house on our block cleaned up some. The lawn was mowed and the garbage removed. We could not get rid of the rooster, but a call to our local humane society motivated them to provide proper (and a bit more attractive) accommodations for the chickens. A victory for our property value, a loss for sleeping late on Sunday mornings.

Want to find out if you have what it takes to be a Real Estate Agent or Broker?

About David GoldsteinDavid Goldstein is an Owner and Founding Partner of Express Schools, LLC. which operates online education providers Real Estate Express, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.

HELP! My Neighbor’s Dog Is Driving Me Crazy!


The day you first saw the house from the curb it was your home.

The neighbor waved hello as you approached the front door with your real estate agent. The adorable little dog was jumping and barking excitedly, as if the dog was as excited about the possibilities that lay ahead in your new home as you were.

The following week when your offer was accepted, again your furry friend from next door was there to share in your excitement. The day that you moved in to your dream home, there he was again, somehow a little less adorable that he had seemed on that first day. Now months have passed and the relentless barking and almost superhero ability to sneak into the yard to tear up flowerbeds and leave little “gifts” scattered about the yard have you screaming HELP! My neighbor’s dog is driving me crazy!

For those who wish to attempt to find a solution without having to involve your neighbor or their dog, never underestimate the power of white noise. Simply having some music or a sound machine on can block out a significant amount of nuisance noise from outside the house. There is always a chance that you could drown out the incessant yapping without ever needing to confront anyone, but if it does not, you may have to take further action.

  1. Your first course of action would be naturally to talk to your neighbor. After all, he had waved hello on that first visit, he is bound to understand where you are coming from. So, in the spirit of good neighbor relations you pay a visit to your neighbor with some gentle suggestions to help calm their puppy’s barking habit. Perhaps a few treat filled dog toys to help a bored dog pass the time, or some uncomplicated behavior correction techniques. Sonic dog repellants are another option. The reviews on them can be mixed, but many people swear that they work. If it is a really severe problem, you could suggest a bark collar; you could even spring for the cost of one.
  2. However, all of the polite niceties seem to go out the window at the mere mention of the possibility that this man’s best friend is anything less than perfectly well mannered. This approach could lead to your neighbor driving you crazy instead of just their dog, so if your neighbor is not open to the conversation, you may be left with no choice but to escalate your efforts.
  3. If none of these solutions does the trick, then you may be forced to contact the local animal control office to determine what the laws are in your area regarding nuisance barking. Find out exactly what the process is to resolve the issue and follow it to the letter. Whatever solution works in your situation; do not let your neighbor’s dog drive you out of a house that you love.

Want to find out if you have what it takes to be a Real Estate Agent or Broker?

About David GoldsteinDavid Goldstein is an Owner and Founding Partner of Express Schools, LLC. which operates online education providers Real Estate Express, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.