Blog

Baltimore Real Estate Market

Start your post here...

You got an amazing deal on your home, in part because the master bathroom was kind of really outdated. The wallpaper says it all — and that pink toilet, oh boy. You are so ready to do something about the Pepto Bismol nightmare attached to your bedroom, but you also want to be sure you’re doing this remodel right, otherwise you may be doomed to repeat it.

Bathroom Remodels Can Be Good Investments

When it comes to remodeling projects, there’s the rare exception that will return the entire cost of the improvement when you go to sell your home or have it appraised for a home equity loan. Although they don’t typically have above-cost ROIs, Remodeling Magazine’s 2018 Cost vs. Valuesurvey found that midrange bathroom remodels returned...

Read more

Shopping for a house can be stressful, but choosing a loan has the potential to be just as bad. There’s a lot to know, a small window in which to figure it all out and a 30 year commitment to a loan product that might just not be right for you for to worry about. All in all, it might be easier to remove your own inflamed appendix than to pick a mortgage.

The Loan Estimate Form and You

If you’ve already been to see one or more mortgage bankers or brokers and received a Loan Estimate form that explains your loan options, grab those now. If not, you can follow along with this dummied up copy provided by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is definitely a blog that needs some real life props.

There are a lot of things to see on this form, but it&rsquo...

Read more

temp-post-image

You’ve been a homeowner for a while now and overall, everything’s gone pretty well. Your home is a comforting, safe place that has given more than it has taken — you’re pretty happy with how that purchase has gone, really.

That’s why when your friend was talking about the frightening amount of rent he’s paying for his place, the wheels started to turn. Owning a rental or two just might be a great way to bring in some extra income without having to really work for it. Plus, there’s all the equity you’ll gain as those renters pay down your note. What could be better?

The Road to Rental Success is Paved With Good Intentions

There’s nothing ethically wrong with being a landlord and there’s nothing wrong with not being a landlord, but either way, you should go in with your eyes totally open. Rentals are hard work, even if you only have one or two single family homes. Before you buy your first rental, take some time to ponder these finer points of landlordship:

1. New tenants should always be considered carefully. Even your closest pal might have some really negative feelings about how a rental and the landlord attached deserve to be treated. You’re obviously not going to make a million bucks on your one house, but it would be good to cash flow. Always do a background check and ask probing questions to learn more about the people who will be living in your house. Bad renters can be enough to sink your entire rental empire before it’s really taken off. If you have to gut the house and start over between tenants, there’s no way you’re going to win at landlording.

2. Think about rent collection now. How do you plan to actually get your money? Now is the time to think about this, before you have a tenant that can’t or won’t comply with your wishes. In this day and age, it’s not unusual for a landlord to require electronic payments. They’re simple to set up using one of many systems available online, depending on just how large you hope your rental empire becomes, and easy for tenants to use. When it’s electronic, there’s no question about that check that’s in the mail. One click and it’s done.

3. Get comfy with the legal stuff. Do you know what your obligation is to your tenants were your rental to be made uninhabitable through no fault of their own? Does your state allow them to withhold rent with no penalty if you don’t get that property fixed up fast enough? Can they crash in a hotel and charge it all to you during said repairs? There’s a lot of legal stuff to cover, it definitely helps to have a real estate attorney in your corner. Real estate attorneys can also help you draft a rental agreement that protects both you and your renter.

4. Planning repairs and upgrades. Repairs and upgrades are best made before anyone moves in, that way you have full access to the property and can move a lot faster not having to remove furniture and personal objects. Repairs of a rented unit sometimes can’t be helped, so have a plan for how to handle them. Calling a home pro in can speed up the service and ensure the problem is fixed right the first time. Always check that your pros offer 24 hour service, in case of an emergency — otherwise you’ll be the one called in at 2 am to fix that busted pipe.

Upgrades also require plenty of forethought. Choose materials that are going to be easy to take care of and durable, even if they cost a little more. If you keep this rental house over the long term, making those choices early will mean not having to replace things like carpet every time a tenant moves out. Unlike your personal home, this house is an investment, so set it up in such a way that you get the most for your money across your entire anticipated ownership.

5. Dealing with eviction. This is a worst-case scenario scenario, but have you considered what you’d do if a renter stopped paying rent? Do you allow one missed payment, then start the eviction process? More importantly, can you stomach the idea of eviction? Even the best renter can turn into a financial drain when there’s been a death in the family, they’ve gotten laid off or new debt is making it harder for them to make ends meet. If you can’t see yourself evicting a family whose breadwinner died, making it too hard to keep up with the rental payments, rentals might not be for you. A workable compromise could be to immediately hire a property manager to deal with the dirty details.

Read more

When the sun is high in the sky and the wind feels like a blow dryer on your face, there’s nothing like the blessed cool blue of your private pool. If you’ve only just recently become a pool owner, you may be weighing your options: should you hire someone to juggle your pool chores or can you do this one yourself? Taking care of a pool isn’t hard, provided you’ve got a checklist to follow (just so you don’t miss a step).

Your Pool Maintenance Attack Plan

Most pools don’t require a lot of care, but if you don’t keep up with a regular maintenance schedule those tiny jobs can easily snowball into a giant one — or a big pile of broken pool equipment. Neither one is an awesome future prospect.

Instead of a looming disaster, you ca...

Read more

Whether you’re thinking about buying your first home or you’ve been contemplating an upgrade, you probably already know that there are several different kinds of home mortgages, some that seem pretty much alike at face value. FHA, VA, USDA — what does it all mean?! We’re about to take all the stress out of choosing the mortgage that’s right for you and your family (even if that family is just you and Spot the cat).

Mortgage Basics in a Nutshell

There are a few different elements of a mortgage that are important to understand before we move forward in this process. You already know stuff like interest rates and what your payment and interest payments are, but there are other things that might not be quite so we...

Read more

temp-post-image

It’s the little things that really matter sometimes. The cherry on top of a sundae, the light scent of gardenia on a warm spring breeze and a mortgage that’s assumable are each all about the details, and are sometimes overlooked by people who are in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B. But that assumable mortgage may make your home more competitive if you’re a seller or save you a bundle if you’re a buyer.

What is an Assumable Mortgage?

All mortgages are structured uniquely, such that the majority of any payment made before about halfway through the loan is interest (depending on your down payment and rate), so it would naturally follow that some people would want to shortcut this early period and get on to paying on the meat of the loan. The buyer would then take over the payments from the seller, without the loan changing terms at all. This is, in essence, how an assumable mortgage works. The buyer will also have to bring some amount of money to closing, either in the form of cash or a secondary mortgage loan, to compensate the seller for the remaining value not covered by the assumed loan.

Assumable mortgages can be of any variety, depending on the age of the loan, but the ones you’re most likely to see today are FHA, USDA or VA-type mortgages. To qualify, a buyer still has to meet all the same requirements that the seller had to meet in order to get their mortgage. This wasn’t always the case, but is today.

And although rates are still fairly low right now, in the 4.5 to 5 percent rage, over the next few years several rate increases are anticipated. That means that your mortgage terms themselves might be worth something when you go to sell your home. Provided your buyer can qualify for your loan and come up with the cash it takes to make the total meet your home’s value at the point of sale, you could find yourself with a more than full price offer, or even multiples, just by making it known that your loan is assumable and you’re ok with letting someone take advantage of this feature.

Why Would a Buyer Want an Assumption?

This is a bit of a trickier question, which will require a chart. Let’s say that your mortgage rate is 3 percent on a 30 year fixed note. You’ve had this loan for five years, but it’s time to move on to a bigger home, you had no idea you were going to have triplets when you chose this house! A buyer comes along when rates are at 4.75 percent and wants to assume your mortgage and pay you a total of $250,000 for your place. So far, so good.

This is what the picture looks like for the buyer:

temp-post-image

Assuming the buyer’s first payment on the assumed note is number 61, they’ll immediately pay almost $500 of the principle down. If they had taken out their own note, totally ignoring the additional mortgage insurance and upfront mortgage insurance that an FHA would require, they’d only pay down about $400 at this same point (which is five years down the road, remember). They’d also pay almost $350 more in interest.

Keep in mind that the payment at 4.75 percent interest is also higher, but when the higher payment is paying less of the note off each month, there’s nothing about that that makes it a good financial move. If the buyer did manage to pay their note all the way off, they’ll find that they paid $68,552.79 more in interest alone by choosing to get a new loan.

Provided the additional funding required to secure this home wasn’t cost prohibitive, it just makes good sense for a buyer to want to assume a loan. Beyond the savings mapped out above, their closing fees will be considerably smaller, making the net gain even larger.

Of course, both buyer and seller should discuss this with your lender or financial planner to be sure that it’s the right decision for them and their financial pictures.

The Seller’s Side of the Assumption Equation

For a seller, the picture is a little different. Although it doesn’t cost you anything to start the assumption process, it can get ugly if a seller doesn’t know to protect themselves and a buyer ends up defaulting on their assumed loan. You must make certain that you’ve signed and received back a fully executed (all parties have signed it) copy of a release from liability form. Remember, the bank has to also agree to these terms.

Beyond that, it can be a good deal for you as the seller, too. You’ll get a big chunk of cash, you’ll be free of your mortgage so you can buy something a bit roomier or closer to work. Assumptions can be tricky to close, but the more that are closed in the coming years (and there are likely to be a few), the easier they’ll get because everyone will be on the same page.

Note: If you’re a veteran with a VA note that you’re trying to sell to a buyer who wants to assume, the mortgage will retain your entitlement. This is why it’s important to only sell with an assumption to another veteran. With another vet in the equation, the bank can exchange your entitlement for that of the new borrower, allowing you to buy again using a VA loan.

Read more

Don't Run Out of Steam

You're a few minutes into hot, relaxing shower and then it happens... nothing but cold water.

A little love for the hot water heater will make sure this doesn't happen to you. Occasional maintenance will also improve efficiency and longevity, saving you money on your gas or electric bill and on future repairs.

Description:


What?
It's time to do some simple maintenance to your hot water heater.


Why?
Preventative maintenance will result in energy & cost savings, and will extend the life of your water heater.

How?Consider hiring a plumbing company to do semi annual service to all of your water systems, including your hot water heater. Many offer plans that do HVAC and plumbing services as a package deal and can be quite affo...

Read more

temp-post-image

Read more

temp-post-image

Read more

temp-post-image

As spring begins to really set in across the country a lot of homeowners are finally getting out into the yard and garden, soaking up the sun’s rays. Something else is taking in the rays in a big way right now: your neighbor’s solar panels. Although they function all year, just to be clear, the longer days mean more electricity production and lower utility bills. If you’ve been glancing up at those panels with envy in your heart, maybe it’s time to get your own mini electricity plant.

Depending on where you live, getting started with green energy can be a simple process with a range of providers to choose between. You should still learn as much as you can before choosing a system.

Solar Panels and Green Energy 101: Start Here
Before you dive head-first into a solar system, we want to give you a bit of a primer so you know what you’re looking at when you see it. Pretty much everyone knows that solar panels somehow make sun into electricity, but that may be the end of their knowledge base.

What’s actually happening inside is that the sun’s rays are being captured by special solar cells and converted into DC electricity. Just how that all works and what you need to make it happen is more of a mystery. Luckily, you don’t have to be a scientist to choose a good system.

Solar Panel Materials

Not every solar system is the same, which is why they vary in price so much. See, solar cells can be made from one of two main materials: monocrystalline silicon and polycrystalline silicon (thin film options are also becoming more widely available, but the adoption rate is low due to high cost). The first one, monocrystalline silicon is a more expensive, but more effective, solution. You’re gonna get more juice out of this material per square foot. That matters a lot when you have limited space on your roof to place panels.

Polycrystalline silicon is meant for areas with more space to spread out, like solar farms (or even dairy farms). But, the larger surface area means more maintenance, more chances of failure and so forth. For your house, focus your efforts on monocrystalline silicon if you’re serious about green energy.

Configuring Your Panels

Although there’s a very clear answer for the materials that should be inside your solar panels, how to configure them from there is a bit more open. You should really think about what it is you want your solar array to do before committing to a setup. These are your primary options:

Photovoltaic Direct. Unless you’re only going to use it for a single application that you do during the day, configuring an array as photovoltaic direct doesn’t make much sense. Basically, this is the kind of solar power that’s on your calculator (remember those?). It’s on-demand and when there’s no light to use, there’s no juice.

Off-Grid. Mountain Men and vacationers alike can take advantage of off-grid photovoltaic systems. These are systems that aren’t hooked up to the grid (hence the name), but are sufficient to provide your entire power needs. Used in conjunction with a battery bank for those long, dark nights, an off-grid system can make sense for temporary setups (like your RV) or very remote ones (that cabin way up on the hillside).

Grid-Tied with Battery Backup. After coming back to civilization, you may want to consider a grid-tied photovoltaic system with a battery backup. This way, you kind of have your cake and eat it, too. You store your own power, but you can also pull from the grid if you don’t make enough. You’ll be able to use these systems in an outage, since you’ve stored some electricity. Once the batteries are used up, though, karaoke party time is over. That aside, metering techniques have changed enough that it may be more cost effective to chuck the battery bank.

Batteryless Grid-Tied. Most systems today will be batteryless grid-tied photovoltaic. Essentially, your solar energy goes into your house, whatever needs to be used in that moment is sucked up by your TV and your fridge and so forth, then it travels out of your house to the grid. Your electric meter keeps track of how much electricity is leaving your house, as well as how much is coming back in during the night when you’re not generating any of your own juice. The only real downside to these systems is that they cannot act as an electricity backup in case of a power outage.

Getting the Most Out of Solar
Not all areas of the country are a good fit for solar, no matter how much you may want them to be. In fact, not even every house in an area generally believed to be good for solar is good for solar, so it pays to do a little legwork here before getting too emotionally invested. And by little, go to Google’s Project Sunroof and type in your address. It’ll do the rest.

Of course, having a house that’s awesome for solar is just the first step. There are several things you should do before making the leap to get the most out of the sun, including:

Weatherproofing your house. All those tiny leaks and the lack of insulation in the attic can impact how much you really benefit from solar in a big way. Because your air conditioning or heat is going to be influenced by those points, it’s a good idea to start by weatherproofing your home, no matter the season. Do it tight, do it right.

Upgrading the windows. Normally, if windows are opening and closing safely, they’re basically good. But when you’re talking about squeezing every cent out of your pricey solar panels, a window (and other glass panels like patio doors) upgrade is a great idea. Look for a low U-factor, indicating a tightly constructed window. Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) is another story. If you’re trying to use passive solar heat with your active solar panels, choose a high rating. If you’re trying to stay cool, or at least prevent outside heat from coming in unauthorized, go with a lower number. Your local window experts should be able to advise you on what’s best for your location.

Investing in Energy Star appliances. Energy Star appliances have long been the standard for efficiency. When you see an Energy Star tag, you know you’re looking at a washing machine, dryer, microwave, refrigerator or whatnot that’s among the most efficient in the market. If your new solar panels are trying to power your 50 year old refrigerator, you’re wasting an awful lot of power for nothing. Upgrade that fridge right away (they have some new ones with really cool features like on-door touchscreens and cameras that can show you what you forgot to get at the market)!!

Planting trees and bushes strategically. This is another one of those “depending on where you live” suggestions, unfortunately. In some areas, you simply can’t grow a tree tall enough to shade problematic parts of your home, for example, but maybe you can grow a taller bush to shade your air conditioner condenser from the heat of the summer so it works more efficiently. Grow all the things, but nothing too big too close to the house.

A Note on Solar Panel Financing
When you’re looking to pay for these fancypants solar panels of yours, there are plenty of options. There are a lot in most states, including rebates and grants, so seriously, go find a good loan.

Find a Pro to Help You Design the Perfect Solar Arrangement
Although some brave homeowners have configured their own solar systems over the years, the inspection requirements are getting more complicated as more people are adopting these systems. It’s usually worth it to hire a pro, since besides avoiding the hassle, you’ll also avoid penalties for installing one without a permit if you didn’t realize you needed one and the headache of having to give it two or three goes to get the system right. There’s no shame in it, not everyone can know the secrets of solar energy.

When you’re ready to reach out to a pro, just pop into your HomeKeepr community and send up a flag. Your Realtor has already recommended plenty of pros who can help you with various home projects, including solar panel design and placement.

GET IN TOUCH

Please provide the required field.

WE'RE ALWAYS AVAILABLE TO HELP OUT, GET IN TOUCH WITH US ANY TIME, OR SHOOT US AN EMAIL.

Please provide the required field.