March 14, 2024

Closing Costs 101

 

When purchasing a home, there are several fees you have to understand and factor in to your budget before you hit the closing table. Here’s what you need to know.

What are closing costs?

Closing costs are the fees for services required to finalize your mortgage. Typically, the buyer is responsible for paying these costs unless otherwise negotiated to have the seller contribute. Fees include (but certainly are not limited to) attorney, appraisal, inspection, government taxes, title insurance, home insurance, mortgage insurance, and property taxes.

How much are closing costs?

According to Zillow.com, closing costs usually total about 2 to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price, and they generally vary depending on the property purchased and state you reside in. Your lender will provide you with an estimate of your closing costs following your loan approval, and although that number can change slightly, your final costs should be similar.

How can you reduce closing costs?

Some of the fees that fall under your closing costs can be reduced by doing ample research on lenders at the beginning of the homebuying process. Then, compare any potential discounts or deals they offer before making your choice. Additionally, you can attempt to negotiate with the seller to cover part or all of your closing costs.

Can you avoid upfront closing costs?

If you think you will be unable to afford the closing costs upfront, you can opt to roll them into your loan. However, choosing this route often costs you more in the long run. At a minimum, you’ll have to pay interest on your closing costs, or depending on your lender, you may face a higher interest rate on your entire loan.

 

Feb. 12, 2024

Put More Money In Your Pocket Each Month

 

Reviewing your monthly expenses once a year is a great practice to get into. As you look at your monthly budget, you will find some expenses that are fixed, like your rent or mortgage, car payments, and child care expenses. But there are several other common monthly expenses that should be reviewed and re-negotiated each year.
Call your current car insurance provider and shop other providers to make sure you have the lowest possible premium at that time. Contact your cell phone carrier to make sure you have the best and lowest cost package currently available. Shop health insurance each year to make sure you are covered at the best possible price. Contact your gym to make sure you are paying the best current pricing for your membership.
Research your cable and internet provider’s offers online then give them a call to make sure you have the best pricing for your services. Cable and internet companies often have promotions or package pricing that could be lower than your current bill. Do an audit of all online and app subscriptions you have to make sure you are not paying monthly fees for apps you signed up for in the past that you are no longer using. You will be surprised what the small fees add up to!
Don't stop here! Analyze your monthly recurring payments and see how many of them you can bring down. The compound effect will give you a nice monthly raise.
Jan. 11, 2024

Keeping Warm and Saving Energy: Tips for a Cozy, Efficient Winter

 

As winter settles in, many people are looking for ways to stay warm without breaking the bank on energy bills. Fortunately, there are several home energy-saving tips tailored to California's unique climate that can help you achieve both comfort and efficiency during the cold months.

 

Optimize Your Thermostat Settings:

In California, where winters are relatively mild compared to other regions, setting your thermostat to 68°F when you're at home and lowering it a few degrees when you're away can make a significant impact on energy savings. Consider investing in a programmable thermostat to automate temperature adjustments based on your schedule.

Seal Drafts and Insulate:

Even in the temperate climate of the Golden State, drafts can creep in and contribute to heat loss. Check for gaps around windows and doors, and use weatherstripping or caulk to seal them. Additionally, ensure your home is adequately insulated, especially in the attic and walls.

Harness the Power of the Sun:

California is known for its abundant sunshine, so take advantage of it to naturally warm your home. Open curtains and blinds during the day to let sunlight in, and close them at night to trap the warmth. This simple practice can reduce the need for additional heating. If budget allows, consider motorized or smart blinds to save yourself time each day with raising and lowering.

Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Appliances:

Investing in energy-efficient appliances, particularly heating systems, can lead to substantial long-term savings. Look for appliances with the ENERGY STAR label, as they meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. PG&E will also occasionally give rebates to switching over to energy-saving appliances!

Regular HVAC Maintenance:

Ensure your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is in top condition. Schedule regular maintenance, including filter replacements, to keep your HVAC system running smoothly. This helps ensure it doesn't have to work harder than necessary to heat your home. You may event want to look into your ducting system to see if it is tightly sealed and operating correctly.

Embrace Zone Heating:

Rather than heating your entire home, focus on the rooms you use the most. Use space heaters or electric blankets in specific areas to reduce overall energy consumption. Make sure to follow safety guidelines and use energy-efficient models (also first ensure your electrical panel has enough capacity). Some smart thermostats also offer extendable sensors so you can fine tune your heating schedules to specific rooms. 

Upgrade to LED Lighting:

Replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LED lighting. LEDs use significantly less energy, produce less heat, and last much longer, making them a cost-effective choice for brightening up your home during the darker winter months.

 

By incorporating these home energy-saving tips, you can enjoy a warm and cozy winter while keeping your energy bills in check. Making small changes in your daily habits and investing in energy-efficient upgrades will not only benefit your wallet but also contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle. 

 

Nov. 9, 2023

How to Keep Mold Out of Your Home

Finding mold in your house is the last thing a homeowner wants to encounter. Not only is it unsightly and smells unpleasant, but it can pose a serious health threat to you and your family.

  • Take steps up front to prevent mold in your home by checking gutters and downspouts to ensure water is draining away from your foundation.
  • Check under sinks and near dishwashers and clothing washers for any leaking and repair immediately.
  • Finally, use bathroom fans when showering to limit moisture.

 

After taking these steps, if you still encounter mold, don’t fear! Here are our top tips for dealing with it.

  • Take precautions. When cleaning mold, make sure to wear proper protection, such as eye covers, face masks, and rubber gloves. Keep children and pets out of rooms where mold exists and run fans or dehumidifiers to expel moisture.
  • Use proper cleaning solutions. The best way to remove mold depends on the surface it has grown on. For interior walls and flooring, use a mixture of bleach, detergent, and water with a sponge or mop. For exterior walls or cement, use the mixture alongside a strong bristled brush to scrub the area.
  • Clean clothing immediately. To prevent the transfer of mold spores, place clothing worn while cleaning in a plastic bag and wash separately with hot water.
  • Hire a professional. If the mold is extensive, it may be beneficial to hire a professional. A good rule to follow is to call for help if affected surfaces surpass 10 square feet.

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Article provided by Breakthrough Broker

 

Sept. 26, 2023

How to Keep Your Utility Bills Low

 

As a homeowner, costs can really start to add up, so it never hurts to take measures to help you reduce your monthly utility bills. Below are a few ways to do just that!

Electricity Bill

Saving money on your electricity bill can be done multiple ways. Some easy changes include:

  • Running appliances, like the stove, dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer, at night, opting to air dry clothes, or cooking meals in a crockpot or toaster oven.
  • Set aside time throughout the year to inspect the areas around doors and windows and seal any cracks with caulk or weather stripping.
  • Additionally, make sure to unplug electronics when not in use or use a power strip to turn them all off at once.

Water Bill

Your monthly water bill can sneak up on you, but small changes can be made to cut costs.

  • Install WaterSense-certified faucets and shower heads and convert toilets to low flow to reduce the amount of water used.
  • Make sure to regularly check toilets and sinks for leaks and repair them.
  • Opt for using your dishwasher instead of hand washing and ensure its a full load each time.
  • Also, don’t forget to turn off water while brushing your teeth and shaving.

Gas Bill

Investing in some changes up front can make a difference on your natural gas bill long term.

  • Add insulation in your attic and around your water heater and pipes.
  • Make sure to repair any leaks in your ducts. Inspect your furnace regularly, and check your home for any blocked vents that could cause your gas heating system to work overtime.
  • You can also reduce the temperature of your water heater.

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Article courtesy of Breakthrough Broker

July 25, 2023

Your Credit Score's Impact on Buying a Home

 

 

Before you jump head first into searching for your dream home, you need to ensure the basic foundation of your finances are in order. This includes reviewing and strengthening your credit. Here are the important things you need to know!

 

Why Does Your Credit Score Matter?

As a buyer, a strong credit score and clean report makes you a more desirable loan candidate. When deciding to approve you for a home loan, mortgage lenders take a deep dive into past car loans, student loans, credit cards, medical bills, and more. They also review your history of repayment and public-record information is included. If their findings are positive, they will be much more likely to approve you for a loan as well as lower interest rates and better terms or better loan repayment programs.

 

What Credit Score Do Lenders Desire

The credit score required for a loan depends on the type of mortgage you desire, the size of your down payment, and the loan company you want to use. According to QuickenLoans, most lenders require around a score of 620 or higher to be approved for a conventional mortgage, and "A Paper" buyers will have a score of 680 or higher to obtain lower interest rates and flexible repayment plans. For example, if a buyer wants to obtain a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, they require a minimum score of 580 and, for a loan through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), score requirements differ depending on the private lender. If your scores are in the mid-700's or higher you'll have the smoothest loan journey.

 

Steps to Improve Your Credit

Reviewed your credit score and realized it may need some work? Don't despair, there are ways to improve your score. These include, but are not limited to, correcting payment errors on your credit report, ensuring you are making all credit card and loan payments on time, making smaller payments in between due dates, and paying down credit cards as much as you are able. Make sure there are not too many "hard pulls" of your credit all during the same timeframe, and also try to keep your overall credit card usage to a minimum percentage of the credit limit. It is generally agreed that 30% or lower is best, although keeping overall usage as low as possible is ideal.

 

 

Posted in Home Buying
July 24, 2023

Embrace Your Creativity with Home DIY Projects!

 

There's something undeniably satisfying about transforming your living space into a personalized haven. Whether you're looking to spruce up your home décor, add a touch of personality, or simply unleash your creativity, do-it-yourself (DIY) projects are the perfect solution. Not only do DIY projects allow you to save money, but they also provide a sense of accomplishment and pride when you see the results of your hard work.

 

Upcycled Furniture:

Instead of discarding old or worn-out furniture, consider giving it a new lease on life through upcycling. With a fresh coat of paint, new upholstery, or some creative modifications, you can transform an ordinary piece into a unique focal point. 

 

Statement Walls:

Want to make a bold statement in a particular room? Consider creating an accent wall! Experiment with different techniques such as stenciling, geometric patterns, striking wallpaper or paint colors to add visual interest and personality to your space. 

 

Custom Shelving:

Custom shelving not only provides functional storage but also serves as a fantastic decorative element. Building your own shelves allows you to tailor them to your specific needs and aesthetic preferences. You can construct simple floating shelves for displaying books or decorative items, or go for a more intricate design to showcase your favorite collection. 

 

Indoor Herb Garden:

Bring the beauty and benefits of nature indoors by creating an herb garden. Install a vertical herb garden on a kitchen wall or utilize window boxes to cultivate your favorite herbs. Not only will you have fresh ingredients at your fingertips, but the greenery will also add a touch of natural charm to your home.

 

Lighting Makeover:

Lighting has a significant impact on the ambiance of a space, so why not create your own unique lighting fixtures? Consider pendant lights made from mason jars or elegant chandeliers crafted from repurposed materials. Upcycling old fixtures or creating new ones will add a pleasing touch to the atmosphere.

 

Embarking on DIY projects is an excellent way to infuse your living space with your personal touch while enjoying the satisfaction of creating something unique. Whether you're a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a complete beginner, there are countless projects to explore and unleash your creativity.

June 6, 2023

Questions to Ask With New Construction

 

Buying a new construction home can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be overwhelming. There are many things to consider when making such a significant investment, and it's essential to ask the right questions to ensure you make an informed decision.

Here are some questions to ask when buying a new construction home.

  • What are the standard features, and what upgrades are available? It's important to know what comes standard with the home and what else is available, so you can budget accordingly. Ask the builder for a list of standard features and the cost of any upgrades you're interested in.

 

  • What warranties are included? Ask the builder what warranties are included and for how long. This can include warranties on the structure, materials, and appliances. Understanding the warranties can give you peace of mind and protect you from unexpected expenses.

 

  • Can I make changes to the floor plan or finishes? Some builders may allow you to make changes to the floor plan or finishes, while others may have strict guidelines. Ask the builder what changes are possible and what the process is for making them. Some builders even have a design studio for choosing materials and designs. Often, the sales rep at the new construction office can show you physical materials or photos of what their different finishes look like in the units.

 

  • What is the expected completion date, and how flexible is it? Knowing the expected completion date can help you plan your move and make arrangements for any necessary temporary housing and moving plans. It's also important to ask how flexible the completion date is in case of delays.

 

  • What is the total cost, and what are the payment terms? Make sure you understand the total cost of the home and any additional fees, such as HOA fees. Also, ask about the payment terms, including the deposit amount, payment schedule, and final payment due date.

 

  • What is the energy efficiency of the home? Energy-efficient homes can save you money on utility bills and reduce your carbon footprint. Ask the builder about the home's energy efficiency and what features, such as solar, insulation, and appliances are available.

 

  • What is the builder's experience and reputation? Research the builder's experience and reputation before making a decision. Ask for references and check online reviews. You want to make sure you're working with a reputable builder who will deliver a quality home.

 

  • What are the homeowners association (HOA) rules and fees? If the home is part of an HOA, make sure you understand the rules and fees. Ask for a copy of the HOA bylaws and budget. Understanding the HOA's rules and fees can help you decide if the community is a good fit for you.

 

  • What is the neighborhood like? Ask about the neighborhood's amenities, such as parks, schools, and shopping. Drive around the neighborhood and talk to current residents to get a feel for the community.

 

  • Ask also if there any discounts or credits for using the builder's approved lender. In some cases, the builder may actually require you use their lender if you're getting a loan.

 

Buying a new construction home can be a great investment, but it's important to ask the right questions to make an informed decision. By asking these questions, you can ensure that you're getting the home and community that's right for you.

 

Posted in Home Buying
July 31, 2017

Curious About Local Real Estate?

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Curious about local real estate? So are we! Every month we review trends in our real estate market and consider the number of homes on the market in each price tier, the amount of time particular homes have been listed for sale, specific neighborhood trends, the median price and square footage of each home sold and so much more. We’d love to invite you to do the same!

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You can sign up here to receive your own market report, delivered as often as you like! It contains current information on pending, active and just sold properties so you can see actual homes in your neighborhood. You can review your area on a larger scale, as well, by refining your search to include properties across the city or county. As you notice price and size trends, please contact us for clarification or to have any questions answered.

We can definitely fill you in on details that are not listed on the report and help you determine the best home for you. If you are wondering if now is the time to sell, please try out our INSTANT home value tool. You’ll get an estimate on the value of your property in today’s market. Either way, we hope to hear from you soon as you get to know our neighborhoods and local real estate market better.

Posted in Market Updates