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21162039_SWhen it comes to home improvements, not all upgrades pay off when you sell your property. Trying to decide how to spend your home improvement dollars? Here are some tips from the U.S. Appraisal Institute that may shape some of your decisions. And if Stone Passion can help you achieve those dreams, even better.

Don’t neglect ‘green’ renovations. A number of ‘green’ projects, such as replacing windows, installing Energy Star appliances and adding extra insulation, are likely to pay off in two ways — in your monthly utility bills and when you sell your home. You’ll want to consider both when deciding whether they are worth your while.

Go neutral. It’s been proven time and time again: Basic upgrades offer the largest returns. These may includes projects as simple as painting your walls neutral colors. Or, they could include replacing countertops with a more durable product that shows well at the time of sale. You may love the idea of wallpaper with farm animals in your kitchen, or perhaps a kid’s room painted in purple, but a potential buyer may consider these things to be a major turnoff.

Stick with neighborhood norms. As a general rule, you’ll want to undertake renovation projects that are on par with your neighborhood. If most homes in your neighborhood have one or two bathrooms, you may not have a great return on an investment in a third bathroom. Exercise caution with projects that take a home significantly beyond the neighborhood standard. However, basic upgrades to kitchens or bathrooms that enhance the living space and provide increased functionality will yield financial returns in the end.

If you need help making upgrades to your home sweet home, let us know. Stone Passion can provide you with kitchen and bath solutions that can help you increase your home value without breaking the banking. Call us today!

70248499 - lunch and restBuying a fixer-upper? Whether you have a small remodeling job ahead of you or a big one, you’re always much better off with a plan. Here are some tips for coming up with a plan designed to help you succeed:

Decide how much you’re going to spend. Make a plan for exactly what needs to be done on your property and set a budget. Don’t forget that home renovation projects are notorious for going over budget. You’ll want to allow for a cost overrun of 10 to 12 percent, or more if you are purchasing a distressed property on an as-is basis that could have some defects you don’t know about.

Go neutral. If you’re fixing up a home you plan to live in over the long term, by all means select the colors, textures, window coverings and appliances that you like. But if you are going to be selling your property in the near future, you may want to select neutral accents with the most widespread appeal. A Realtor can be a great help with this.

Find good help. Do your homework when hiring contractors. Many people fail to check out a contractor’s licenses and references. Don’t skip this important step.

Negotiate a detailed contract. A contract can make it clear for all parties involved. Include a start-date as well as an estimated completion date, and details about all the services being rendered. Spelling this out at the beginning can keep you and your contractor on the same page and prevent miscommunication.

Think ahead. You could be living with a construction zone for weeks. Try to schedule major work at a time when it will have the least impact on your daily routine.

Speak up. Contractors can produce some amazing work, but they won’t know exactly how you feel about it unless you tell them. If you find something along the way that surprises you, or something that you don’t like, mention it as soon as possible. You don’t want to get to the end of a remodel and have something become permanent that could have easily been fixed before the project was finished. Good luck!

46796187_MEight seconds.

Not much time, right? But that’s how long you have to catch a buyer’s attention when selling a home. So, you’ve got to make those seconds count from the moment a prospective buyer arrives on your property.

It’s not just about selling your home quickly. It’s also about fetching the highest price possible.

Properties that look nice and smell nice inevitably sell for more money than comparable homes with cluttered closets, dishes in the sink and dandelions speckling the front lawn. So, how do you get your home ready for a potential buyer? Here are some tips that will help you make a good first impression.

Let’s start with the outside:

  • Curbside appeal: Believe it or not, the cleanliness of your street and sidewalk matter when it comes to selling a house. Keep the pavement in front of your house free of litter – even if it takes a sweep – and remove any weeds that may be growing up through the cracks of your sidewalk.
  • Fresh paint: Even if you don’t want to spend the money to paint the entire house, there are a couple places that will pay off in dividends if you can afford a few gallons of paint. When it comes to making a good first impression, there’s no better place to start than with the fence. Give it a fresh coat. You should also think about the front door, shutters and even lamp posts to send a message that you care about details.
  • Landscaping: No buyer will be impressed by an overgrown, or weed-infested, lawn. Keep the yard looking nice in the spring and summer by mowing the grass, weeding flower beds and clipping any hedges. Take time to prepare your yard in the fall. And in the winter be sure to keep your driveway and sidewalks clear.

Now for the inside:

  • Lighten up: Make sure your house looks as bright as possible. Light is a proven seller. So keep the windows clean, replace any burned-out light bulbs and even use mirrors to help magnify the feeling of light and space.
  • Color scheme: Although you may enjoy decorating in orange or lime green, avoid those colors when selling. Look for neutral colors that allow buyers to better picture themselves in the home.
  • Clean, clean and de-clutter: Make sure your potential buyer isn’t distracted by a gallon of milk on the counter, dust bunnies beneath the couch or knickknacks piled high on your shelves. Focus on making your home look big, clean and desirable.

Does that help? If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call.

5831173_MReady to buy your first home? Your first step is to visit a mortgage lender to see how much house you can afford. But be prepared for the paperwork that comes with it. Here are the documents you’ll be asked to provide as part of the loan application process:

Rental payment history. If you’re a first-time home buyer, you’ll need to provide proof that you paid your rent on time. Your lender can tell you how to document this payment history.

Tax returns. You will likely be asked for two or three years of tax returns with all the attached schedules and documents.

Paychecks, W-2s and other income documentation. Start with at least a month’s worth of paychecks, plus W-2 forms for you and your spouse. Do you have income from other sources? Include documentation for any freelance work, self-employment income and child support payments as well.

Account information. Your lender will want to see checking and savings account statements for at least one month. You may be asked for any other account statements as well to document your down payment funds and money you have set aside in savings.

Remember, the more quickly you respond to requests for documentation, the more quickly your loan application can be processed!

Poor credit score report with pen and keyboardEver wonder which things can affect your credit score the most when you’re applying for a mortgage loan? Here are some of the top factors that can dramatically lower anyone’s score:

  • You’re 30 days late (or more) paying a bill. You could see a 60- to 110-point drop in your score by being a month late on a financial obligation. Expect more of a drop if you’re 60, 90 or 120 days late.
  • You have gone through foreclosure, a short sale or bankruptcy. A typical drop after a foreclosure is 85 to 160 points. A short sale will result in a substantial drop in credit score, too. A bankruptcy could push down your score by 130 to 240 points.
  • You’re maxed out. Being close to (or over) the credit limit on all your credit cards can definitely hurt your score.

Everyone’s situation is different, and how long these credit-score drops remain in effect vary. The key to rebuilding your credit is to pay your bills on time and avoid using all of the credit that’s available to you.

Although a “perfect” credit score can be over 800, remember that to get the best deal on your next mortgage, you’ll need a score of around 720 to 780. Want to learn more about your credit score? Read this article.

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