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Find the Perfect Neighborhood
Real Estate

Once you've become pre-qualified for a loan, you should be ready to put your house-hunting efforts into full gear. But don't skip the important step of scouting out neighborhoods before you start your search for the perfect house. The neighborhood in which you live will heavily dictate your whole way of life—things like walking to a nearby park with your kids, knowing your kids are attending good schools, feeling safe when your children play outdoors, being close to restaurants and shopping, enjoying a short commute, and knowing your home will appreciate at a healthy rate. Of course one way to get started in your neighborhood search is to get in your car and explore, especially if you're unfamiliar with the area. Get an idea about the neighborhoods by driving around and seeing which areas appeal to you. Walk around, explore, and talk to some of the residents. Take note of the general appearance of the homes. Are they well maintained? Are they nicely landscaped? If you have children, you might be looking for a neighborhood with plenty of children around, as opposed to neighborhoods that attract more seniors or young singles. Other factors you'll want to consider are the schools, crime, your family's specific needs, and appreciation - as in how much the value of the home is likely to increase. A good Realtor will be very familiar with all the neighborhoods in the area and should be able to tell you about the strengths and weaknesses of the specific neighborhoods you're eyeing. The school district, Even if you don't have school-aged children, buying a home in a district with good schools will be in your best interest. When and if you sell the home at some point in the future, future buyers with children will likely consider good schools their top priority. And neighborhoods with good schools typically attract more buyers. There are several sites on the Web in which school reports are just a few mouse clicks away. Basically all you do is enter a geographical area or z

Saving the Best for Last
Real Estate

The end of the year is a great time for renters to become homeowners, growing families to move to more accommodating homes, and baby boomers to find houses that fit their evolving lifestyles. Benefits to buying at the end of the year include: Tax savings. Closing on your new home by Dec. 31 means you can deduct mortgage interest, property taxes and points on your loan on your income tax return. You can also deduct the interest costs associated with a home equity loan. These deductions are significant, especially in the early years of your loan when you are paying off so much interest. Sellers might be more motivated. Many sellers will also be anxious to sell by the end of the year so that they, too, can enjoy tax savings on the next home they purchase. That means you may have more leverage during negotiations and they may be willing to accept lower than their listing price. However, if you're in a strong seller's market, you'll want to be conservative -- and always heed the advice of your real estate professional. If you're buying a new house, there's a good chance builders will be offering incentives. Many builders will throw in nice little extras to sell as many houses as they can by the end of the year. Generally speaking, your housing choices during the fall are still healthy. By December there are traditionally fewer houses on the market. October and November are great months to go house hunting.It's easier to move. Many moving companies are booked six or so weeks in advance during the busy summer months. In the fall and winter it's normally easier to secure the services of a moving company or rental equipment on shorter notice. A new home for the holidays. The holiday season is a great time to celebrate your new home with family and friends. In addition, you'll enjoy the many benefits that come with homeownership, regardless of what time of year you buy, including: Paying toward something you own. If you're renting, your rent payment goes toward something tha

Debating Between a Condo or a House
Real Estate

Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important decisions you’ll ever make. Whether you are a first-time buyer, or a veteran homeowner looking to trade up or make a new start, you will inevitably be faced with a number of questions. Your answers will lead you to the home that’s right for you. One of the most fundamental questions all homeowners face is whether to buy a condo or single family house. There are advantages and disadvantages of each and only you can know what’s right for you. For Boston newlyweds Michelle and Kevin Millsom, 31 and 36, it was an easy decision. With high-powered financial careers and no children, they were drawn to the excitement of the city and wanted their fingers on the pulse. They bought a penthouse apartment with a breathtaking view of Boston’s famous esplanade and Charles River. “We enjoy everything the city has to offer—the restaurants, theatre, outdoor concerts. We walk everywhere and find the easy access to the airport to be a plus since we travel frequently for work,” said Kevin. “When we have children, we may think about a house in the suburbs, but for now this is where we want to be.”Like all things, living in the heart of the city comes with tradeoffs. For the price of their two-bedroom/two-bath condo, they could buy a home three times the size, just a short 20-minute commute away. They share decision-making for their building with fourteen other tenants and pay pricey condo fees to cover the costs of insurance and upkeep. Their car sits idle most of the time in a $300 per month rented parking spot only to leave for short jaunts to the grocery store or visits to see family. But for Kevin and Michelle who want to spend their spare time out and about, the location and convenience can’t be beat. On the other hand, Adriana Forte, 62, lives in a condo in the Boston suburb of Arlington and misses all that a single-family home has to offer. Six years ago, after her divorce, she bought a “condex,” (a two

Affordability Options For First-Time Buyers
Real Estate

First-time home buyers who want affordable homes may want to take a hard look at fixer-uppers, smaller homes and cheaper commutes to work to save on the costs of buying and owning a home. Real estate brokers say many home buyers expect more than they can afford in a home and once they start pounding the pavement for housing their disconnect could be discouraging. In an online survey of 150 of its brokers, Coldwell Banker discovered some disturbing trends among first-time home buyers. While nearly half of the Coldwell Banker brokers surveyed said affordability was the No. 1 concern for first time buyers, 81 percent of those buyers also consider move-in conditions to be very important when searching for homes. Only 7 percent are considering fixer-upper homes. The real estate company suggests more buyers should examine the fixer-upper option -- among others -- to get the affordability they seek. "In the past, first-time home buyers were willing to purchase older, more basic houses in an effort to save money and break into homeownership," said Jim Gillespie, president and chief executive officer, Coldwell Banker Real Estate, LLC. "It is important for first-time homebuyers to remember that by considering a fixer-upper for their first home purchase, they can build equity over time and later move up and into their second-stage home that better reflects their expectations," he added. Buyers looking for affordability who go with the fixer-upper option should get the home professionally inspected to determine what fixing up is necessary, and certainly not bite off more than they can chew. Even homes that need a basic face lift -- paint, carpeting, landscaping, window treatments and other cosmetic touches -- can come with big savings. Homes that may require professional upgrades cost even less, but the buyer has to weigh the discounted price against the cost of the improvement. Coldwell's study also found some disconnect between affordability desires and what buyers want i

Buying a Home With Loans from Family and Friends
Real Estate

Asking a friend or family member for a home loan can be tricky, considering the large sum of money involved. Entering into a private home loan isn’t a decision to make lightly—after all, you’ll be seeing Aunt Martha at the holidays for years to come—but your loved one might be more likely to make the loan if you explain how it will also work to his or her advantage. How to ask for the loan When you approach your friend or family member for a home loan, have a plan in mind. Thomas Fox, community outreach director at Cambridge Credit Counseling, told bankrate.com readers that borrowers should approach a private home loan the same way they would a mortgage from a bank. “Borrowers should be realistic about what a practical repayment plan would be and not try to borrow more than they can repay. You have to treat it the same as any kind of loan and be realistic," he says. If this approach seems businesslike, that’s because it is. When you create a legally binding loan contract, even your mother can take you to court for missed payments—and she can win. How private home loans are similar to traditional ones Private home loans, also called private mortgages or intrafamily mortgages, aren’t all that different from a loan from a bank or credit union. Like institutional loans, with private home loans: Both lender and borrower sign a promissory note (also known as a mortgage note) stating the terms of the agreement. Your promissory note should establish the amount loaned and the interest rate, as well as the repayment dates and frequency. You will draw up a mortgage (also called a deed of trust). This document gives the lender the right to foreclose on the property if you fail to stick to the repayment plan. The lender holds a lien on the mortgaged property. The arrangement legally protects the borrower as well. The lender may not foreclose on your house due to a family disagreement and can’t request repayment in full because

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