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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Wyss Report: 7 Ways to Keep Your Property Safe After Moving Out

If you're moving out while your home is still on the market, there are things you should do to keep your property safe.

An unoccupied property is at risk for a break-in, and removing all your belongings doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Graffiti, damaged appliances, stolen copper wiring and broken windows can all add up to thousands of dollars in repairs.

Your agent will want to take extra precautions once your property is vacant, and to keep your investment as safe as possible, you’ll have to convince passerby the property is still occupied.

Here’s how to pull it off.

1. Ask for Backup

When you’re moving out, tell your immediate neighbors, the head of your neighborhood watch and your local police department that your property will be vacant.

With more eyes on the house, you’ll have a better chance of getting quick assistance if someone does break in.

2. Maintain the Lawn

An unkempt yard is a surefire sign a home is vacant. In the warmer months, make sure the lawn is mowed regularly, the flowerbeds are free of weeds, and there is no loose trash around the curb or driveway.

In the cooler months, clean the rain gutters, rake leaves off the lawn and clear the driveway and walkway if it snows.

3. Don’t Let Paper Pile Up

As soon as you’re finished moving out, forward your mail and newspaper subscriptions to your new address.

Ask a family member, friend or neighbor to stop by your home regularly to check for phone books, flyers and any mail that might have been accidentally delivered.

4. Make Repairs

A few times a month, check the outside of your property for any needed repairs. If you find any obvious problems, make repairs as soon as possible.

A cracked window, broken porch railing or loose shutter are small problems—but problems a live-in owner would fix.

5. Use Your Driveway

If you have a driveway attached to your home, ask a neighbor to park a car there. Many families with more than one car will be happy for the extra space, and a car parked in the driveway is a great deterrent.

6. Leave the Curtains Behind

If at all possible, leave the curtains or blinds on the windows in the home when you’re moving out.

Keep the curtains drawn and the blinds closed, even at the back of the house, in case a potential vandal hops your fence to see what’s inside.

7. Keep the Lights On

Purchase lighting timers, connect to inexpensive lamps and place the devices strategically throughout the house. Set the timers to go on and off in different rooms at the appropriate times of day or night.

Some would-be thieves or vandals will watch a property for days before breaking in. If they see lights in different rooms, they’ll assume the property still is occupied.

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.


                    408.687.2026 |  Julie@JulieWyss.com | www.JulieWyss.com

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Wyss Report: 10 Home Improvement Projects You Can Do in a Day

Many home improvement projects are simple enough for the uninitiated DIYer and can be done in a day or less without breaking your budget.

1. Switch the hardware

Sometimes it’s easiest to begin with the front of the house rather than what’s inside, Kelly says, especially if you’re on a tight budget. To that end, changing the front doorknob and lock is a quick update that only takes a few minutes and can complement the style of the house. Add a kick plate for a touch of glam or go gold for a traditional feel.

2. Brighten the lights

Another quick, simple way to brighten your home is by changing the lights in the front yard. Feel free to purchase new ones, or better yet, clean the ones you already have. Your home will look far less spooky at night, and you’ll actually see where you’re walking.

3. Paint the door

If scrubbing bug-infested front yard lights isn’t your thing, put a new coat of paint on your front door to freshen it up. Go for something that complements the house’s exterior or be bold and opt for a pop of color, Kelly says, which will set the right tone.

4. Upgrade your house numbers

House numbers and address plaques are another quick update that can make a big difference. With the proper placement, they can make your house easier to find—not a bad thing when trying to sell—and the right style of numbers can help play up its architecture.

5. Plant a vertical garden

Beautify a blank wall by planting a vertical garden. “It can add architecture to the side or back of a home and be more structural” if you opt for, say, hanging planters, stacked crates, or a lattice, Kelly says. And the plants can be anything, from herbs used for cooking to bright gerbera daisies and vines.

6. Update kitchen or bath fixtures

Nothing modernizes a bathroom or kitchen quite like changing the fixtures. If you’re starting from scratch, you may want to coordinate with the rest of the room, although Kelly says she’s been seeing a lot of mixed metal and mixed wood. “People are more forgiving [of a lack of cohesion], and it seems more livable in our eyes,” she says.

7. Paint a piece of furniture

A fresh coat of paint can make old furniture feel new, Kelly says. Anything from bookcases to shelves to nightstands is an easy project, and if you mess up, so what? Just paint it again. “It’s not such a commitment, which is nice,” she says.

8. Install a fan

Installing a fan doesn’t take more than a few hours and is an inexpensive way to add interest to a room. Just remember to keep it “sleek and simple,” Kelly says, as low-profile fans are the best. “Don’t get too cute with it since it can quickly become dated.”

9. Change the cabinet hardware

“Changing the actual cabinet hardware can make a huge difference,” says Kelly, who recommends going with nickel for a more modern look. “It can dress up the cabinet.” Clear knobs are another option for a timeless and elegant feel, plus, they match nearly everything.

10. Add light dimmers


These days, homeowners are adding light-control dimmers and switches for the energy efficiency, not just the drama, Kelly says. “[Dimmers] are very affordable and create mood and ambiance,” plus you can use them with the lights that you already have. For a dramatic look, they work great in the dining room and bedroom.

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.


Monday, August 3, 2015

The Wyss Report: What Buyers Want

The National Association of Home Builders conducted a nationwide survey on what home buyers are looking for when purchasing a new house. Both people who had recently bought a home as well as prospective purchasers were asked what they felt were the most important features.

  • Buyers want a home with a median of 2,226 square feet
  • Lot size was important to 75% of purchasers
  • Close to half want 3 bedrooms while about 30% want 4 bedrooms
  • 65% want either 2 or 2.5 baths
  • 57% of buyers prefer a single story home
  • Over half want a 2 car garage
  • For 65% of buyers, the most critical characteristic is 'living space and the number of rooms that meet their needs'
  • Buyers focus on quality and appearance for most home features
  • 85% or more buyers are interested in energy efficiency and organization/storage
  • 84% want a walk-in pantry, table space for eating and a double sink in the kitchen
  • Over 80% of buyers ant both a tub and shower in the Master bath
  • 65% of buyers would sacrifice space in the Master bath for a larger Master bedroom
  • 90% of buyers consider outdoor lighting essential
  • 50% would like to have a wireless security system in their new home
  • 62% would choose a small home with high quality products and amenities VS a larger home without
  • 67% of buyers want an environmentally friendly home but aren't willing to pay more for it

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.



Monday, July 20, 2015

Protecting Yourself With Contingencies

Think of a contingency clause as insurance. Once you find a home and make an offer, you hope everything will go smoothly; but in case it doesn’t, you have a contingency clause in place that allows you to back out of the contract without losing money.

Most agreements already have a few key contingency clauses in place to protect against the bigger things—such as a lower-than-anticipated home appraisal—but there are contingencies that go beyond the norm. If you’re about to make an offer, consider all of your options.

Standard contingencies

Some contingency clauses are commonly used when making an offer. Some examples:

Home inspection: This gives the buyer the right to order a professional home inspection and back out of the sale if major unreported damage is found.

Appraisal: The buyer won’t be obligated to buy the home if the appraisal value is lower than the asking price.

Mortgage availability: This gives the buyer time to find financing for the home. If the buyer can’t find financing, either party can cancel the deal. IN today's market, it is best to have all of your financing in place in advance.

Atypical contingencies

You don’t have to stick with the standard contingency clauses. Depending on your situation, it may make sense to add additional clauses to the agreement. Some examples:

HOA rules: If you’re considering an area with a homeowners association, it may be prudent to require a copy of the HOA guidelines before you buy. HOA fees vary and if the dues are high, your annual homeownership costs will go up. Many HOAs also have rules on parking, landscaping, paint colors, and even holiday decorations. If you aren’t happy with the HOA, you’ll want the option to back out of the deal.

Selling your current home: If you’re trying to sell your home before you buy another one, you may want to put a selling contingency in place. If you’re unable to sell your current home within a certain time frame, this contingency allows you to cancel your offer.

Moving furniture early: With this contingency, you and the seller agree to allow you to move personal property in (or move in entirely) earlier than the seller anticipated. You may have to agree to pay the seller rent if you move in before closing, but it will spare you from putting your belongings in storage and finding temporary lodging.

Adding contingency clauses

A basic offer won’t automatically contain any contingency clauses. While many Realtors® include some standard clauses in every offer, you should work with your agent to make sure you’re including contingencies for everything you can anticipate before you submit your offer.

Once you’ve submitted the offer, keep in mind that the seller may submit a counteroffer with his or her own contingency clauses as well.

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.


                       408.687.2026 |  Julie@JulieWyss.com | www.JulieWyss.com

Monday, July 6, 2015

Get A Realtor to Ensure Home Buying Success

Buying and selling real estate is a complex matter. At first it might seem that by checking online sites you could quickly and easily find the right home at the right price.

But a basic rule in real estate is that all properties are unique. No two properties – even two identical models on the same street – are precisely and exactly alike. Homes differ and so do contract terms, financing options, inspection requirements and closing costs. Also, no two transactions are alike.

In this maze of forms, financing, inspections, marketing, pricing and negotiating, it makes sense to work with professionals who know the community and much more. Those professionals are the local REALTORS® who serve your area.

How Do You Choose a REALTOR®?

In every community you’re likely to find a number of realty brokerages. Because there is heated competition, local REALTORS® must fight hard to succeed in your community.

There are numerous places to find the right Realtor for you. Sources include open houses, local advertising, websites, referrals from other REALTORS®, recommendations from neighbors, and suggestions from lenders, attorneys, financial planners and CPAs. The experiences and recommendations of past clients can be invaluable.

In many cases buyers will interview several REALTORS® before selecting one professional to work with. These interviews represent a good opportunity to consider such issues as training, experience, representation and professional certifications as well as the personal rapport you have with each potential candidate.

What to Expect From a REALTOR®

Once you select a REALTOR® you will want to establish a proper business relationship. Some REALTORS® represent sellers while others represent buyers and some do both. Each REALTOR® will explain the options available, describe how he or she typically works with individuals and provide you with complete agency disclosures (the ins and outs of your relationship with the agent) as required in your state.

Once hired for the job, the REALTOR® will provide you with information detailing current market conditions, financing options and negotiating issues that might apply to a given situation.

Remember: Because market conditions can change and the strategies that apply in one negotiation may be inappropriate in another, this information should not be set in stone. During your time in the marketplace REALTORS® will keep you updated and alert you to each step in the transaction process.

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.


                  408.687.2026 |  Julie@JulieWyss.com | www.JulieWyss.com

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Guide to Decking Materials

There is something liberating about spending time outside on a deck. Whether you make it a private retreat shaded by vegetation or an energetic entertainment area complete with a built-in BBQ, this outdoor living space is often the most enjoyable area of a home. It also increases the value of your home. Most homeowners see a return on investment between 74% and 87% after adding or renovating a deck. Before you start building, however, you want to make sure that the material you choose matches the exterior of your home and fits your lifestyle. This quick guide on some of the most popular decking materials will help you decide which material best suits your needs.

Wood

Lifespan: 10–30 years
Maintenance: High

Wood decking is the most common choice for residential decks. Durable and strong, it also offers a classic look that complements traditional, craftsman, and virtually any other style of home. The smooth planks stay cool and feel good on bare feet, making wood a natural choice for building your outdoor oasis. Softer woods are fairly easy for a novice do-it-yourselfer to work with; hardwoods generally require a stronger skill set.

The price of wood varies greatly depending on the type you choose. Pressure-treated pine is the least expensive material, but it typically needs to be replaced after about 10 or 15 years. Tropical hardwoods such as ipe, camber, or garapa look stunning and last for upward of 30 years. They also cost quite a bit more per lineal foot. Cedar and redwood are popular choices that fall in the middle of the price spectrum and have a lifespan of about 20 years. Professional installation will add to the price of the deck.

Regardless of the type of lumber you choose, it will require a fair amount of maintenance. Wood decks needs to be cleaned annually and restained and resealed every few years. You may also need to replace a board or two over the life of the deck. If not properly maintained, the wood will absorb stains—especially red wine or BBQ sauce—and will be more prone to cracking, rotting, and warping.

Composite

Average lifespan: 20+ years
Maintenance: Moderate

Composite is an environmentally friendly choice for those who love the look of wood but aren’t as enamored with the upkeep. Premium planks boast a textured surface that mimics the look of wood grain. Made from a combination of recycled plastic and waste wood fibers, composite is available in an array of colors and makes a stylish addition to most any home. Some types of composite also feature grooves in the edges of the planks to allow for hidden fasteners—no unsightly screws. Composite decks are relatively easy to install, but it is imperative to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to allow enough room for heat expansion.

You can expect to pay more for composite decking than for wood boards. It can run two or three times as much as pine, but it usually costs less than exotic hardwoods. Extras, such as scratch-resistant features and UV coating, will up both the price and the life expectancy of the deck. Homeowners will likely recoup the additional costs though, since there is not as much maintenance involved over the life of the structure.

Composite materials need to be scrubbed annually with mild soap and water to prevent mildew. Aside from that, they require very little maintenance. The color often fades with prolonged exposure to the sun, so this may not be the ideal choice for a west- or south-facing location.

Plastic/PVC/polyethylene

Average lifespan: 30+ years
Maintenance: Low

Smooth and splinter-free, this lightweight material is strong enough to withstand the harshest elements of nature. It is impervious to stains and resistant to fading, making it a great choice for an outdoor dining area. Unlike other types of decking, plastic decks typically feature a nonslip coating that becomes less slippery when wet. Even with a faux-wood grain finish, this material does not look natural and may clash with homes that have wood or stone exteriors. The synthetic material also gets rather hot in direct sunlight and can burn bare feet.

Decking made from plastic is comparable in price to its composite counterpart. Certain brands are more prone to sagging than others, so it is a good idea to pay a little extra for a reliable brand. Plastic typically requires a more extensive support structure than lumber because it is not as rigid, which also increases the total cost of the project.

Plastic decking does not necessitate any sanding, staining, or painting. All it requires is seasonal cleaning to keep it looking fresh and new.

Aluminum

Lifespan: 50+ years
Maintenance: Low

Anodized aluminum decking offers a modern look that pairs well with contemporary-style homes. It is also a viable choice for destination decks near natural streams or manmade water features, because the textured finish boasts added traction. It also stays cool, making it barefoot-friendly even in sweltering temperatures.

Aluminum is one of the higher-priced types of decking material. Features such as a polyuria coating to reduce the sound of footfalls and tightly interlocking planks to prevent water from penetrating below will add to the price as well, but they are worth the investment—especially on second-story decks.

Like other synthetic decking materials, aluminum is virtually maintenance-free. It will not rust or rot and is resistant to mold and mildew. A quick sweep of the broom to keep it free of dirt and debris or an occasional hose-down to remove bird droppings or sap is all it requires.

The bottom line

These are four of the most popular types of materials used to construct residential decks. Even though wood is the most prevalent material, that doesn’t mean it is the right choice for your home. Take the time to consider the location of your deck, its intended use, and how much maintenance you are willing to take on before committing to a certain material. A well-designed deck built from the right material has the potential to become the best part of your home.

This story originally appeared on HomeAdvisor.

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.



                 408.687.2026 |  Julie@JulieWyss.com | www.JulieWyss.com

Monday, June 8, 2015

15-Year Or 30-Year Mortgage?

One of the best ways to eliminate your mortgage debt is moving into a 15-year fixed-rate loan. With the average spread a full 1% compared to its 30-year counterpart, a 15-year mortgage can provide an increased rate of acceleration in paying off the biggest obligation of your life.

Can you pull it off?

In most cases, you’re going to need strong income for an approval. How much income? The old 2:1 rule applies. Switching from a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year fixed-rate loan means you’ll pay down the loan in half the amount of time, but it effectively doubles up your payment for each month of the 180-month term. Your income must support all the carrying costs associated with your home including the principal and interest payment, taxes, insurance, (private mortgage insurance, only if applicable) and any other associated carrying cost. In addition, your income will also need to support all the other consumer obligations you might have as well including cars, boats, installment loans, personal loans and any other credit obligations that contain a monthly payment.

The attractiveness of a 15-year mortgage in today’s interest rate environment has mass appeal. The 1% spread in interest rate between the 30-year mortgage and a 15-year mortgage is absolutely real and for many, the thought of being mortgage-free can be very tempting. Consider today’s average 30-year mortgage rate of around 4% on a loan of $400,000—that’s $287,487 in interest paid over 360 months. Comparing that to a 15-year mortgage over 180 months, you’ll pay a mere $97,218 in interest. That’s a shattering savings of $190,268 in interest, but there’s a catch—your monthly mortgage payment is going to be significantly higher.

Here’s how it breaks down. The 30-year mortgage in our case study pencils out to a $1,909 monthly payment covering principal and interest. Weigh that against the 15-year version of that loan, which comes to $2,762 a month in principal and interest, totaling $853 more per month, but going to principal. This is why the income piece makes or breaks the 15-year deal. Independent of your other carrying costs and other credit obligations, you’ll need to be able to show an income of $4,242 a month to offset just a principled interest payment on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Alternatively, to offset the principled interest payment on the 15-year mortgage, you would need an income of $6,137 per month, essentially $1,895 per month more in income, just to be able to pay off your debt faster. As you can see, income is a large driver of debt reduction potential.

What to do if your income isn’t high enough

When your lender looks at your monthly income to qualify you for a 15-year fixed-rate loan, part of the equation is your debt load.

Lenders are going to consider the minimum payments you have on all other credit obligations in the following way. Take your total proposed new 15-year mortgage payment and add that number to the minimum payments on all of your consumer obligations and then take that number and divide it by 0.45. This is the income that you’ll need at minimum to offset a 15-year mortgage. Paying off debt can very easily reduce the amount of income you might need and/or the size of the loan you might need as there would be fewer consumer obligations handcuffing your income that could otherwise be used toward supporting a stable mortgage plan.

Can you borrow less?

Borrowing less money is a guaranteed way to keep a lid on your monthly outflow maintaining a healthy alignment with your income, housing and living expenses. Extra cash in the bank? If you have extra cash in the bank beyond your savings reserves that you don’t need for any immediate purpose, using these funds to reduce your mortgage amount could pencil very nicely in reducing the 15-year mortgage payment and interest expense paid over the life of the loan. The concept of the 15-year mortgage is “I’m going to have to hammer, bite, chew and claw my way through a higher mortgage payment in the short term in order for a brighter future.”

Can you generate cash?

If you can’t borrow less, generating cash to do so may open another door. Can you sell an asset such as stocks, or trade out of a money-market fund in order to generate the cash to rid yourself of debt faster? If yes, this is another avenue to explore.

You may also want to explore getting additional funds via selling another property. If you have another property that you’ve been planning to sell such as a previous home, any additional cash proceeds generated by selling that property (depending upon any indebtedness associated with that property) could allow you to borrow less when moving into a 15-year mortgage.

Are you an ideal match for a 15-year mortgage?

Consumers who are in a financial position to handle a higher loan payment while continuing to save money and grow their savings would be well-suited for a 15-year mortgage. The other school of thought is to refinance into a 30-year mortgage and then simply make a larger payment like you would on a 25-year, 20-year or 15-year mortgage every month. This is another fantastic way to save substantial interest over the term of the loan, since the larger-than-anticipated monthly payment you make to your lender will go to principal and you’ll owe less money in interest over the full life of the loan. As cash flow changes, so could the payments made to the loan servicer, as prepayment penalties are virtually nonexistent on bank loans.

There is an important “catch” to taking out a 15-year mortgage—you also decrease your mortgage interest tax deduction benefit. However, if you don’t need the deduction in 15 years anyway, the additional deduction removal may not be beneficial (depending on your tax situation and future income potential).

If your income is poised to rise in the future and/or your debt is planned to decrease and you want to have comfort in knowing by the time your small kids are teenagers that you’ll be mortgage-free, then a 15-year loan could be a smart move. And when your mortgage is paid off, you’ll have control of all of your income again as well.

Proximity to retirement is another factor borrowers should consider when carrying a mortgage into retirement isn’t ideal. These consumers might opt to move into a faster mortgage payoff plan than someone buying a house for the first time.

Keep in mind that to qualify for the best interest rates on a mortgage (which will have a big impact on your monthly payment), you need a great credit score as well. You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com every month, and you can get your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.

This article was written by Scott Sheldon and originally published on Credit.com.

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.








                 408.687.2026 |  Julie@JulieWyss.com | www.JulieWyss.com