February 2007 Vol. 3 No. 1
• Give Your Story a Happy Ending • Do You Really Know Your Comfort Level? • February's Home Value Improver • About Us

Give Your Story a Happy Ending

The best part of my job is hearing people’s stories. I’ve been lucky enough to work with hundreds of clients over the years, and each one brings a unique story when seeking a home mortgage.

One of my clients, for example, called me last month because he is looking to buy a second home, on Cape Cod. Before he started visiting homes with his realtor, he called me – I love when clients do this, because the earlier they bring me into the process, the greater the value I can provide.

This buyer told me he wanted to buy in the $350,000 range. I encouraged him to look at homes in the $400,000 range as well. When he replied that the price was out of his comfort level, I assured him that I was not advising him to offer $400,000 but rather just to look at these homes. The reason? Like buyers, every seller has a story.

The Seller’s Side

A vacant home on the market for $400,000, for example, may sell easily for $350,000 since clearly owners have moved on and probably are more eager to sell. If a family is still living in a home that is on the market for $400,000 and they have yet to find a new home to buy, it may be more challenging to get them to consider a $350,000 offer.

For every home on the market today – and there are a lot! – there is an owner with a unique reason for selling. Sometimes it can be difficult to learn this reason. The best realtors will never divulge why their client is selling their home, because they believe it may hurt their negotiating power. If a buyer discovers that a seller has to sell in order to buy the new home they want, for instance, he has a little more leverage when making an offer.

By taking the leap of faith to look at homes a bit higher than your comfort level, you may be able to learn about the seller’s story and make an offer that ultimately feels comfortable.

Do You Really Know Your Comfort Level?

Every buyer needs to decide what price range feels right when looking for a home. If you make a mistake and buy too high, your quality of life could suffer greatly. If you make a mistake and buy too low, you may end up with a home that doesn’t work for your lifestyle.

So how do you learn that number? Here are some questions to consider.

  • Am I looking for my dream home, the home where I plan to spend at least 20 years?
  • Am I a do-it-yourselfer who enjoys home improvement projects or will I need to outsource and pay more for these requirements?
  • What are your income expectations over the coming years? Is your income expected to rise, stay level or decrease? Of course, you can’t always predict these things.
  • How much can you afford to spend on a monthly payment, including principal and interest, taxes and insurance (make sure to leave a little “wiggle” room in this figure as property taxes and insurance rates can fluctuate)?
  • How much will you need for utilities and upkeep (the more expensive the house, the higher these costs)?
  • What kind of lifestyle do you want to live? Do you want to have money leftover after the home bills are covered so you can travel, dine out and shop without worry? Or are you willing to hunker down and be a little "house poor?"
All of these questions will help you figure out your price comfort level when shopping for a home. Then when you start looking, you can look a little higher!

February's Home Value Improver

Boost Your Home’s Energy Efficiency
Global warming is a hot topic these days, pun intended! So how can you make your home more energy efficient? You’ll be saving the environment and saving money at the same time!
Here are 7 tips:

  • Keep your home’s water heater set at 120° F.
  • Use energy-saving settings on your refrigerator, dishwasher and other appliances.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), which use 25% of the electricity.
  • Consider replacing old appliances with energy-efficient models before they die.
  • Clean or replace all filters in your furnace, air conditioner and heat pump.
  • Choose low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators.
  • Inspect your attic insulation to make sure it’s insulated properly.

Did you know that February is not just the month to honor U.S. presidents and celebrate romance? It's also National Time Managment Month.

When you're buying or refinancing a home, the requirements, paperwork and schlepping around can become a full-time job easily. Getting organized and focused is key to your success, and your peace of mind.

By devoting a certain amount of time per day or per week to the project, you'll avoid the overwhelming feeling that so often occurs with home buying and refinancing. Also, it helps to keep all your paperwork, contact information and deadlines in one place - and carry it with you so you can answer questions or get answers wherever you are!

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Best regards,
Debbie Siegel
Westchester Mortgage

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Click here to read my “Mortgage Minute” in ForeclosuresMass.com's monthly newsletter. This month’s column: “Don't miss your real estate deadlines.”

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