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What is Title Insurance and Do You Need it?

by Michele Safford

When you are going through the home buying process there are a myriad of details, and you do not want to leave anything important out. One such item is title insurance. You might find yourself asking, “What is it and why is it important?” The following should help clarify.

What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance is a policy that protects lenders and homeowners against losing money if a problem develops within their rights to own the property in question. When the closing takes place, a lawyer will check the title of the property before the closing is complete. Sometimes there are hidden things within the title that the search will not reveal. The insurance will protect the people involved from losing money and it will cover the costs of defense if there are any claims involved. There are lender and owner title insurance policies. Lender policies are required, but they do not protect anyone homeowners. The buyers have to buy their own policies if they want coverage.

What Will a Policy Cover?

If you are thinking about getting a policy, you will want to know what all it will cover. There are a lot of common things that a policy will help cover if you run into the specific issue. You can expect it to cover your interests if there are any forged deeds, incorrect legal descriptions, or improper recordings of any deeds. It will also help protect you if any heirs appear and claim to have interest in the property for themselves. The newer policies also cover building permit violations, incorrect surveys, and zoning law violations among other things.

Why Does Title Insurance Matter?

Let's face it--you are not an expert when it comes to titles, home buying, or selling.  Your Realtor is, but even that person cannot protect you from some of the aforementioned issues. Any one item can become a costly issue. If you want your home buying and selling process to go smoothly, title insurance is important. It gives you protection as well as peace of mind.

Costs

The cost of your title insurance will depend on the value of your home. It is a one-time premium payment and can be usually be estimated to be $3.50 per $1,000. You can get quotes from a number of companies and choose the best rates.

For more information on title insurance and whether it is something you should consider, talk to your real estate agent. If you are thinking of buying a home, talk to The Michele Safford Group about what they can do for you or start your search for homes in Northville, Michigan.

What Not to do When Selling

by Michele Safford

Selling your house is a major decision and it requires a number of important steps. To maximize the sale price and sell your home quickly, there are several issues to avoid.

  1. Don’t list your house for sale until all upgrades are finished, the lawn is mowed and weeds have been pulled from the flower bed. Repair the furnace, replace appliances, install new carpet or hard surface flooring, paint and clean before any Realtor or buyer sees it. A potential buyer wants to see the finished product, not a work-in-progress.
  2. Don’t set a price for your house just because you think it's worth it and you want the profits. To successfully sell, your house must be listed at the fair market value of homes in your neighborhood. A professional real estate sales person can tell you what similar homes in the neighborhood sold for recently. Real estate professionals will give you a fair estimate on your home's value in the current market.
  3. Don’t over build or customize your home out of the neighborhood. However, an exterior paint job and inexpensive improvements to the front yard landscaping may enhance curb appeal.
  4. Don't over decorate the interior, either. Potential buyers are not interested in your family photos or antiques. They want to see the interior and visualize their furnishings in the home. Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes so keep those areas spotlessly clean and free of clutter.

Finding a real estate agent

You may try to sell your home yourself "By Owner." You will need to know the legalities involved in selling real property. Professional real estate agents must know this to obtain a license.

A Realtor will be able to qualify buyers before showing your home. They know who can qualify for a mortgage in your price range. You may have a difficult time doing this if you sell the home yourself and show it to anyone who contacts you.

Listing your home with an agent places it on the Multiple Listing Service. Your agent will show the home to other agents and set up an open house for the general public. They will advertise your home and give you excellent exposure to qualified buyers.

Interview several real estate agents. Relay on your own instincts to find the person who will do the best job of representing you. Don't hire someone just because he or she is a "friend of a friend."

Be honest with the agent you hire. Tell that person about the leaking water heater or the hole in the roof that was recently patched. The agent should know the ages of the appliances and if they are still under warranty. Potential buyers want that information before making an offer.

Be realistic about any offers from buyers. Don't be sentimental about your home thinking it's worth more than the offer. A professional agent will help you negotiate offers with workable counter-offers that will satisfy both you and the interested buyer.

For more information on what an agent can provide when selling your home, contact The Michele Safford Group today!

Things Not to do When Buying a Home

by Michele Safford

When you set your sights on finding a beautiful new home, your mind will spin with questions about the process. Will you get loan approval? Will you find the perfect home?

Once you’ve been preapproved and find your home, it’s important that remain conservative with your finances. The preapproval is not a guarantee that financing will be available; in fact nothing is final until you have closed. The following are a few things that are best to avoid until after your purchase is complete:

  1. Using plastic like it's going out of style- If you're shopping for a home, you might already know that you need to keep your available credit as high as possible by keeping low balances on your credit cards. Don't spend a weekend at the furniture store with your credit card before you've gotten loan approval. Banks examine your past use of credit to determine your interest rate. A bank might not look favorably on spending wildly on your credit cards.
  2. Making mysterious deposits- Mortgage approval depends upon long term stability of your employment, but sharing your past paychecks isn't the only thing the bank may require for loan approval. If your mother-in-law recently gave you a few thousand dollars as a gift to help you pay a down payment, you'll need to explain that unexpected, large deposit to your lender. The lender wants to make sure you're not using gifts and unorthodox deposits to pay your bills.
  3. Forgetting to pay the cable bill- Any monthly bill you pay late can wreck your chances for loan approval. Remember that paying credit cards, car loans, and personal loans on time isn't the only vital part of keeping an on-time payment history. Late payments on utility and phone bills may also impact your credit report.
  4. Agreeing to co-sign a loan- Your sibling recently decided to go back to school and needs someone to co-sign on a student loan. You're happy to act as a co-signer, but think twice about performing this service. The bank will consider this loan as a financial obligation when determining your ability to pay the mortgage.
  5. Starting a new job- A different job may open the door to higher income and prosperity, but it could also result in loan denial. Banks want to see that your situation is stable and long-term.

By planning ahead and being mindful of your actions, the home buying process can go smoothly. If you’re interested in buying your next home and want to discuss the process, talk to the Michele Safford Group today.

Ways to Prepare Your House for a Home Inspection

by Michele Safford

Many home sellers would rather go to the doctor for a complete physical than have a home inspection. They feel vulnerable and at the mercy of others. It does not have to be that way. You can make the home inspection period a stress-free experience by understanding the process and taking a few steps to prepare your home for the home inspection.

The inspection process

Home inspectors primarily conduct a visual inspection of the current condition of your home. They conduct nondestructive testing and operational test of your home's systems. Home buyers may choose some optional test like water quality analysis, electromagnetic field (EMF), septic system dye test, and others. The EPA recommends radon testing. This optional test involves leaving a monitor inside your home for 24 hours. Home inspectors look for safety issues, needed repairs, or potentially adverse conditions that may cause ongoing problems.  

When dealing with buyers using FHA or VA financing, you should understand that a home inspection is separate from other lending requirements of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  These minimum property standards for safety, security, and soundness require an appraisal that appears similar to a home inspection.

Preparing your home

You do not need to spend a lot of money preparing your home for the inspection. Give your home a thorough cleaning from top to bottom. While doing so, make sure all windows and locks are working properly. Be sure all interior and exterior lights are working. Clean debris out of gutters and replace the air filter for the furnace. Verify that the home has adequate smoke detectors and they are all in working order.

The day of the inspection, remove or contain any pets that may interfere with the inspector. The inspector needs to run the washer, dryer, and dishwasher for a complete report. Depending on the size of your home, a home inspection typically takes from three to six hours. Home inspectors will not light the pilot lights for stoves, water heaters, and heating systems. They cannot render an opinion on any inaccessible areas. They need all utilities on and the doors to all rooms, garages, sheds, and crawl spaces unobstructed and unlocked. Incomplete reports indicate problems and cause costly delays and frustration.

You can stay a step ahead by choosing to have a home inspection prior to putting your home on the market, allowing you time to address any issues before a potential buyer and their inspector visit the property.

If you’re considering selling your home contact the Michele Safford Group to assess the current market value of your home.

Buyer's Agent is your Ally When Purchasing New Construction

by Michele Safford

Many people buy new construction homes working exclusively with the builder's Realtor. That person representing the builder's homes or housing tract is representing the interest of the builder, not the buyer. The builder's Realtor may also work with only one bank or mortgage company when there are many others available.

Using your own agent when buying a new construction home will be helpful to you in negotiations with the builder. The real estate agent representing you is likely to get his or her commission from the builder-seller so you may be getting free assistance.

Upgrade negotiations

You may find a new home you like that is still under construction. You would like to make a few minor alterations and the builder is willing to work with you but he will charge you more for the changes. This can include fencing, landscaping, additional wiring and plumbing.

The Realtor representing you can negotiate the price for the upgrades or help you determine if you want to hire a separate contractor for fencing, landscaping, painting, shelving and other finishing work. You may decide to do your own landscaping and save money.

If you are a do-it-yourself person, you may decide to leave a daylight basement recreation room unfinished. You will paint the walls, install your own shelving and floor covering. Many first-time home buyers do this when purchasing in a new development. The builder wires the room and installs plumbing pipes where appropriate. Your agent will help you with these negotiations that may save on the overall cost of the house.

The buyer's agent is familiar with blueprints, topography maps and the general area. The buyer's agent will help you select the best lot in a new development. The agent will know about utilities and any flooding or sewer problems in the area.

Financial information

You may not want to use the builder's bank for your mortgage. Your Realtor knows different, reliable mortgage lenders and procedures for obtaining financing. You may be eligible for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan. It's your Realtor's job to help you find the best financing for your major investment.

The Realtor will also explain the taxes and necessary insurance, important information for first-time home buyers.

Real estate professionals are familiar with homeowner associations and related codes, covenants and restrictions (CCR's) that are often required in new construction communities. The CCR's include homeowner dues, landscaping and property maintenance requirements to preserve the value of the neighborhood. Buyers are required to join the association and agree to these rules and regulations when purchasing a new construction or older home in these residential planned communities.

You can rely on your buyer's agent to help you finalize the paperwork to complete the purchase of the home. If you are considering buying a new construction home, contact The Michele Safford Group to for assistance with your purchase.

The Importance of Staging Your Home

by Michele Safford

If you are trying to sell your home, you know there are a lot of little details that go into making the sale. Before you begin to imagine people walking through your house trying to decide whether or not to buy it, you need to think about staging. With the competitive market working against you, you need your home to be at its best. Your Realtor can give you advice on home staging, but these tips will help you understand the importance of staging.

Raise Profits – When you stage your home correctly, it can actually sell for a higher amount than it would otherwise. Any money you spend on staging the home will come back to you through a higher sales price.

Sell Fast – If your home is inviting and has been properly staged to entice prospective buyers, chances are it will sell much faster. This means you only have to maintain a neat and tidy home as well as deal with open houses and private showings for a short amount of time.

Objective View – Staging your home will give prospective buyers an objective view of the home. It might be hard for you to look at it that way, but your Realtor can give you an idea of what you need to do in order for others to see it in that light.

Help Visualize – When you stage your home, you are making it look like somewhere anyone could live. That is important because not many buyers can actually visualize their own items in the home. By making things neutral, you are allowing them to understand what the home could look like if they were to buy it.

Keep Prices – If your house stays on the market a long time, you will have to start lowering the price. Staging the home correctly will help it sell faster so you can keep your original price and not have to lower it.

Sell it As Is – If you are able to sell your home as is without the need for repairs or replacements, buyers will be a lot more likely to dig in and make that offer.

Once you have your home properly staged, you can relax. You have done all you can to make the home inviting to buyers. Now you just have to wait for the right buyer. If you’re ready to sell your home and want to learn more about staging and what your home is worth, contact The Michele Safford Group or learn more about your home’s value.

New Trends in Home Building

by Michele Safford

Every year we see a new wave of trends come to life in home construction. Some are driven by advances in technology and others are focused on how we live and interact in our homes. Whether you’re looking at a new home or remodeling your existing home, the following ideas can give your home a modern feel and if you’re thinking of selling, stay competitive in today’s market.

  • Quartz countertops- Surpassing granite in popularity, quartz countertops offer added depth and durability, with improved resistance to staining. They and other high levels of cabinetry and flooring finishes are a sought after choice among buyers. 
  • Natural living spaces- Sunrooms and screened porches, which bring in a lot of natural light, are in high-demand. As are outdoor living areas, which have gained popularity due to their prevalence on TV. 
  • Flex space- Highly functional, small, dedicated nooks in your home, often referred to as pocket offices, are ideal for storing and utilizing laptops, tablets, and wireless equipment. In addition, dedicated charging stations, featuring USB outlets and more, offer a far safer resting spot than the typical knotted up mass of wires tossed on the ground by an overused outlet. 
  • Mudrooms- Mudrooms are becoming a must-have with today’s open floor plans as surefire clutter busters, giving families safe, out of the way storage for coats, shoes, and other daily-use items.
  • Luxury showers and fixtures- Forget your run-of-the-mill tub. Luxury showers and fixtures such as wet rooms, rain showers, and full body, multi-directional showerheads are all the rage.
  • Tank-less water heaters- Highly efficient, tank-less water heaters can really take a chunk out of utility bills as heating water amounts for the second largest expense in your home. Space efficient and longer lasting, these systems save up to 25 percent annually on water heating costs. 
  • Cultured stone- Banish the boring brick. Opt for a cultured stone to update the exterior of your home. 
  • Outdoor storage- Basements are falling in popularity in favor of outdoor storage areas, which are cheaper than renting storage units and far easier to access than attic space. 
  • In-law suites- More popular than ever before, in-law suites make life far more comfortable for multi-generational residences. 
  • Geothermal- Dig a little deeper for energy savings with geothermal heating and cooling technology. Using thermal energy created and stored in the ground, harnessing geothermal energy offers a far greener alternative to conventional HVAC systems. Bonus: They also offer a tax credit (not a deduction).

If you’re looking for a new home that boasts some of these hot new home features, contact the Michele Safford Group today or start searching for your next home here.

Truths and Myths of Credit Scores

by Michele Safford

You are probably aware of the importance of your credit score. Having a good credit score is essential if you hope to qualify for any large loans in the future. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about what affects your credit score and how you can improve it. The following are ten common credit score myths that you should be aware of:

  1. Paying off your debts will make your score perfect – While paying off your debts will certainly help your score, you have to remember that your credit rating isn’t a snapshot of where you are financially at the moment – it’s an overall history of your financial credibility and responsibility.
  2. Canceling credit cards will boost your score – A mistake many cardholders make is to close cards once they pay them off. However, this actually hurts your score because it lowers your debt utilization ratio.
  3. If you pay your bills on time, then there’s no reason to check your credit report – Credit reports can actually contain mistakes. If you check your report, you can catch these mistakes and report them in order to have them removed.
  4. Checking your own credit report harms your standing – When a company checks your report in order to issue a line of credit, it can hurt your credit. However, checking your own credit rating will not.
  5. Your credit scores will be the same with all three credit bureaus – The credit bureaus are three separate companies and their update records aren’t always the same, which means the scores are usually different – although not by a large margin.
  6. Your credit report is always accurate – Always check over your credit report carefully. Mistakes do happen, and you can report these mistakes in order to improve your credit score.
  7. Paying cash for everything can help a credit rating – Paying in cash has nothing to do with your credit, other than that you are avoiding using it. The key to building good credit is using your credit wisely.
  8. You can pay someone to fix your credit – There are companies that can help fix errors made on your report by sending dispute letters to the credit report agencies. However, if the creditors can verify the entry, then they will stay on your report. Your credit history will remain intact – it won’t just go away.
  9. The more money you have, the better your score will be – Again, your credit score reflects how you handle your credit line, not the amount of money you have. You could have millions in bank – if you don’t pay your bills on time and maintain a high balance, you can still have poor credit.
  10. The more credit cards you have, the better your score will be – More cards can be beneficial, because it can lower your overall credit utilization. Applying for too many loans or cards can negatively impact your score. Every time you apply for a new line of credit a hard inquiry is added to your report.

Even if your score is not ideal now, you can still repair it. By being wise with credit usage, paying off debt on time and minimizing the new debt. It takes time and effort, but the freedom it gives you is worth it. If you are considering buying a new home and want to discuss the right type of home for your budget, contact the Michele Safford Group today.

Simple Ways to Improve Your Home's Curb Appeal

by Michele Safford

Many sellers will make up their mind about your home before they even step foot through the door. Improving curb appeal not only makes your house look great, but also improves buyers’ attitudes about it.  The following tips can help improve the curb appeal of your home and make selling a snap:

  1. Banish the grime with a pressure wash- Dirt, scum and mildew that has built up over the winter, and possibly the years, brightens up your home and creates a low-maintenance feel.
  2. Remove gutter gunk and clean your roof- If your gutters are sprouting more plant life than your gardens beds, its time they received some much-deserved attention. Drag out the ladder and clean them out to avoid deterring potential buyers. Bonus: Clean gutters prevent roof rot.
  3. Clean out those weedy flower beds- Trim dormant plants to the ground, clean out leaves and sticks, and make beds clean and tidy - even if they’re flower-free.
  4. Trim and prune shrubs and trees- Remove branches that block the view of your home to give buyers a clear look when they drive by. Trim and shape flowering and non-flowering bushes and shrubs for a buttoned-up look and more buds next year.
  5. 5.       Add container plants for a blast of color- Even when it’s too cold for annuals, colorful containers can add life and cheer. Place colorful pots and vibrant flower on your porch, front steps, and even in flower beds.
  6. Keep the weeds at bay and tidy-up with mulch- Mulch gets dull with time, particularly following this season’s brutal winter. Topping off old mulch with a new layer, or adding mulch to beds that are lacking, will both improve curb appeal and tame weed growth.
  7. Paint the front door- A bright, colorful front door that pops can really bring cheer and attention to your home.
  8. Replace porch lights and house numbers- Don't live in the dead zone. If you house is difficult to locate, it will be difficult to sell. Swapping out or adding house numbers can make a huge impact. Replacing porch lights can help illuminate these new additions, as well as add an air of ambiance and safety.

Get more than the average real estate speculator drive-by with the help of these simple tips. Stand out by improving the curb appeal of your home and selling is sure to be a breeze. Contact the Michele Safford Group if you’re ready to sell your home or are interested in learning more about buying or selling.

5 Home Improvements with the Best Returns

by Michele Safford

Unless your home is brand new, you may find yourself considering the value of remodeling. Remodels can be a tricky balance of personal taste and increasing the resale value of your home. To maximize both resale value and comfort and enjoyment, consider the following 5 home improvements:

Minor Bathroom Remodel- For about 102 percent return on investment at resale, update your bath by replacing the tub, worn out shower doors, surrounding tile, toilet, sink and fixtures, vanity, and flooring. Using a spray-on texture to hide imperfections, add a fresh coat of paint after removing dated colors or wallpaper. Tub too large for removal? Simply re-glaze it.

Minor Kitchen Remodel- If your kitchen needs facelift rather than a major overhaul, a minor remodel offers about a 98.5 percent return. Purchase re-facing or sand and repaint cabinets, replace worn countertops, purchase a new oven/cook top, sink and fixtures, and install resilient flooring. Go for a bold new look, but avoid overspending on trendy stone or glass countertops unless your home is over $500,000. Changing window treatments is also an inexpensive way to add a decorative touch.

Landscaping- Landscaping your yard not only adds curb appeal, but offers 100 percent return on investment. Check into free design services at your local garden center, or consult a neighbor with a green thumb. Add a splash of color at the front of your home, focusing on a single hue and varying plant height. Trim or replace overgrown shrubbery with flowering foundation plants of varying height. Adding a focal point like a walkway or fountain packs a visual punch, adding major value.

Exterior Improvements- Exterior improvements offer a 95.5 percent return, and significantly raise curb appeal. Jazz up your home by replacing worn vinyl siding or paint and removing old awnings from windows and doors to update the look. Swap rusted wrought-iron for wood, and consider adding a pergola and columns to your front entryway porch for a richer look.

Attic Bedroom Conversion- If your existing HVAC can handle the load of another room, an attic conversion adds usable square footage to your house, and with the help of added insulation, lowers utility bills. Recoup ranges 93.5 percent on average. Don’t forget the foil vapor barrier to prevent moisture from seeping up, and to check the U.S. Department of Energy regarding the right level of insulation for your area.

These are just a few ideas for how you can expand the utility and enjoyment of your home without breaking the bank. If you’re thinking it’s time to sell your home or find your next one, contact the Michele Safford Group today!

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