Buyer Tips

Tips on buying a home...

5 Questions to Ask Your Mortgage Broker

by | Mar 21 2013 | Leave a Comment

Before you even start looking for a home the best thing to do is get pre-qualified for a mortgage (click here to get started). Pre-qualification will give you an accurate assessment of how much home you can afford and key numbers that will factor into your family’s budget. And when you working with your mortgage professional, here are some “must ask” questions.

Questions to Ask Your Mortgage Broker / Loan Officer

  1. Which loan type is the best and what are the pros and cons for each?
  2. What is the APR of the loan and any applicable lender fees? If the loan will be adjustable ask about the adjustment frequency, maximum annual adjustment, the Cap, Index, and margin.
  3. Lenders are required by law to give you a GFE (good faith esitmate) within 3 days after applying for the loan, be sure to ask that all of these fees are included in the GFE: appraisal, credit report, lender’s title policy, pest inspection reports, escrow, recording fees, and taxes.
  4. Are there any pre-payment penalties?
  5. How long will it take the loan to process (i.e. time to fund)? This could take anywhere between three and six weeks.

Mortgage Pre-Qualification Keys

  • Price range of homes you are interested in purchasing
  • What your approximately monthly house payment will be
  • How much down payment, if any, will your need or want to put down
  • What are your approximate closing costs
  • What kind of loan program is best for you based on your wants, needs, and desires

Arizona’s Good Funds Law

by | Dec 27 2012 | Leave a Comment

ARS 6-834 requires that “escrow agents not disburse money from an escrow account until funds related to the transaction have been deposited and available.” The legislation specifies which forms of payments are acceptable for deposit. All availability dates are based on funds deposited into the title company’s bank, and are considered business days. A business day is defined as a calendar day other than Saturday or Sunday, and also excluding most major holidays.

How soon you can get funds deposited

Same Day:

  • Cash
  • Electronic payment / transfer or wire (preferred method)

Next Day:

  • Official checks: in-state checks drawn on an FDIC insured institution
  • Cashiers, certified, or tellers checks
  • US Treasury Checks
  • Postal money orders
  • Federal Reserve, federal credit union, and federal home loan bank checks
  • In-state state or local government checks

Second Day:

  • Other checks (from in-state institutions): personal, corporate, credit union, money market, and travelers checks

Fifth Day:

  • Official checks: out-of-state checks and/or drawn on an FDIC insured institution
  • Money orders (except postal money orders)
  • Out-of-state state or local government checks
  • Other checks (from out-of-state institutions): personal, corporate, credit union, money market, and travelers checks

Foreign Checks

Check with your title company, but some will not accept foreign checks into escrow. Most require that all money from outside the USA be sent via wire transfer.

Third Party Checks

Most title companies will not accept any third party checks.

Information courtesy of First American Title Insurance Company

Things To Do Near Rancho Santa Fe

by | Mar 27 2012 | Leave a Comment

I have lived in Avondale, Arizona for two years now in Rancho Santa Fe, a nice little community near Luke Air Force Base.  I also lived here about eight years ago for three years.  I am amazed at the growth of this area since then!  Adjacent to Phoenix, Avondale has grown to over 76,000 people!  There are shopping centers and things to do everywhere now.  Before, you had to commute into the city for the good stuff, but not so anymore.  Following is a list of 10 things to do near Rancho Santa Fe for you and your family to enjoy:

Katydid Insect Museum

The Katydid Insect Museum is just a short ride to Glendale from Avondale.  This museum contains a wide assortment of insects, arachnids, reptiles and other fascinating creatures.  Katydid’s insect museum is a great place for bug-loving kids and the adults who tolerate their obsession.  The museum houses thousands of insect specimens, mounted in display cases and labeled, as well as lizards, spiders, and snakes.  The more adventurous (or crazy) visitors can even interact with some of the residents LIVE.  It only costs a dollar for admittance for children and those under six years old are free.  For more information, call 623-931-8718.

Arizona Fairgrounds

The Arizona fairgrounds are home of the annual Arizona State Fair.  The fairgrounds are located only a short 12 miles from Avondale.  The State Fair has attractions and vendors to please everyone.  Some of the attractions include a rodeo, a demolition derby and various types of racing.  There is a wide variety of food vendors and all kinds of exciting rides.  The fair runs from October 12th to November 4th and is open everyday except Mondays and Tuesdays.  For more information, click on the link above.

Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium

Located immediately north of Goodyear in Litchfield Park, the Wildlife World Zoo has Arizona’s largest collection of exotic animals with over 2,400 individual animals representing more than 400 exotic and endangered species.  The state’s first Aquarium has now opened at the Zoo – 16501 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield ParkFor more information, their phone number is 623-935-WILD.

Goodyear Ballpark

While the Goodyear ballpark may not be quite the same as the University of Phoenix Cardinals Stadium, it’s still a fun place to visit with lots of events all year round.  The Right Field Pavilion has a picnic style atmosphere for the best views of the park and can accommodate up to 500 people.  Or you can enjoy a game from The Terrace, a private, covered area located on the third level behind Home Plate.  The Terrace provides a more casual atmosphere for groups up to 90 people.  Terrace packages include food and non-alcoholic beverages, cash bar service and private rest­rooms.  In addition to ball games, the park has a variety of events hosted by businesses around the valley such as Kids Run The Bases, every Saturday and Sunday where children are allowed to run the same bases their favorite ball players have run.  Check out the link above for more information on events at the Goodyear Ballpark.

Parks And Recreation

Avondale offers a variety of parks and hiking opportunities such as the hiking and mountain biking trails in the Estrella Mountain Regional Park that sits at the northern tip of the Sierra Estrella mountain range.  The park offers many trails that crisscross the foothills and plains.  You can also hike in White Mountain Park.  White Mountain Park has nearly 30,000 acres making it the largest regional park in Maricopa County.  Most of the park is made up of the rugged and beautiful White Tank Mountains on the Valley’s west side.  You can check out all of the parks in the Avondale area by clicking on the link above.

K1 Speed Indoor Go Cart Racing

K1 Speed Phoenix brings electric indoor go kart racing to the Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale and Peoria areas.  Whether you’re a diehard racing enthusiast or are interested in trying authentic, European-style kart racing for the first time, K1 Speed has it all.  The facility provides a genuine racing experience with 20hp electric karts that can reach speeds approaching 45mph and high-grip racing surfaces that allow drivers to push the limit through high-speed corners!  Needless to say, don’t be surprised if the adrenaline is flowing after your race.  For more information, click on the link above.

I hope this short list gives you some insight into just how much there is to see and do near Rancho Santa Fe in Avondale, Arizona.  Not to mention, Avondale is very close to many other active communities and to downtown Phoenix and Luke Air Force Base, home of the Thunderbolts, the Air Force’s primary F-16 pilot and maintenance training base.  The base often welcomes civilians to enjoy air shows and other festivities and meet the nation’s finest.

Enjoy Avondale!

10 Fun Things To Do Near Arlington Estates In Phoenix, AZ

by | Mar 5 2012 | Leave a Comment

Arlington Estates is a cozy, family-oriented community located on the northeast corner of 43rd Ave. and Baseline Road in Phoenix, Arizona, only 10 miles west of Phoenix Sky Harbor National Airport with convenient access to Interstate I-10.  The other great thing about Arlington Estates is its close proximity to so many fun things to enjoy in the Phoenix Metro area.  Following are the top 15 activities in the area:

1)  Heard Museum

The Heard Museum is unique not only in the exhibits that are displayed but also the style and grace with which it displays them.  The museum boasts more than 32,000 pieces of cultural and fine art.  There are permanent exhibits, like the famous Barry Goldwater collection of Kachina Dolls, as well as special exhibits year-round.  Some of the special annual events include the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest which is held each February, and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market each March.  The museum also includes 11 exhibition galleries, free guided tours, outdoor sculpture gardens, a renowned café, art gallery, trading-post style shopping and more!  For more information call:  602-252-8848.

2)  Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix has one of the world’s finest collections of desert plants.  It is one of only 44 botanical gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums.  At the Desert Botanical Garden you will find 50 acres of beautiful outdoor exhibits.  Home to 139 rare, threatened, and endangered plant species from around the world, there is no finer place to enjoy desert beauty than the Desert Botanical Garden.  The Garden is located in Papago Park in Central Phoenix.  For more details contact:  480-941-1225.

3)  Boyce Thompson Arboretum

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum brings together plants from the Earth’s many and varied deserts and dry lands.  Approximately 3,200 different desert plants can be found within the arboretum, and most of them can be seen along the 1.5 mile main trail. During wildflower season, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is especially beautiful, displaying all the wonderful colors of the desert. Are you a bird lover?  More than 250 species of birds have been recorded at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  You can also attend classes, nature walks, and guided tours.  There is fun for everyone!  For more details call:  520-689-2723.

 4)  The Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo in Arizona is one of the younger zoos in the country.  Not only is it a successful zoo, but it is a privately owned, nonprofit zoo.  That means that it operates strictly without any government funding – the Phoenix Zoo is totally supported by donors and private organizations. Recognizing the important role that zoos must play, the Phoenix Zoo has been very active in wildlife conservation programs.  The Phoenix Zoo is open every single day of the year, including December 25th.  In the summer it is advisable to get there as early as possible, since many animals head for shade and hide during the heat of the day.  The zoo offers a camel rides, a giraffe encounter, a petting zoo, pedal boat rides and much, much more!  For more information call:  602-273-1341.

5)  Phoenix Children’s Museum

Acting on the principle that learning is a joy, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix’s mission is to engage the minds, muscles and imaginations of children and the grown-ups who care about them.  With hands-on, interactive exhibits designed for children ages birth to 10, the Museum focuses on learning through play, with emphasis on early childhood education and school-readiness.  The Children’s Museum of Phoenix is located at 215 N. 7th Street, Phoenix, ArizonaFor more information call:  602-253-0501.

6)  Childsplay

Childsplay theater sets out to create theater so strikingly original in form, content or both, that it instills in young people an enduring awe, love and respect for the medium, thus preserving imagination and wonder, those hallmarks of childhood which are the keys to the future.  There is a wide variety of performances and events that can be found on the link above.  For more information call:  480-921-5700.

7)  Arizona Science Center

The Arizona Science Center offers hands-on, eye-opening fun with more than 300 interactive exhibits, a state-of-the-art planetarium, five-story giant-screen theater, live demonstrations, and traveling exhibitions.  Explore 350 hands-on exhibits, a five-story theater and a planetarium in a unique setting.  Group rates and facility rentals available.  For more information, call 602-716-2000.

8)  Musical Instrument Museum

Metropolitan Phoenix’s newest museum opened in spring 2010, billing itself as the first in the world dedicated to the celebration of global instruments.  Upon entering the airy, acoustically thoughtful building, you’re issued a wireless headset.  When you approach a displayed instrument, voila—its sound plays clearly in your ears.  The museum emphasizes instruments that have been used for folk and tribal occasions, and the collection includes instruments from over 200 different countries and territories.  Unless you’re the world’s expert on this subject, we figure you’ll be seeing and hearing instruments you’ve never even thought of before. Musicians will especially dig the Experience Gallery, where you can touch and play exotic instruments.  For more information call:  480-478-6000.

9)  Tovrea Castle

Tovrea Castle was built about 70 years ago by Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro as a grand hotel, intended as the centerpiece of an upscale housing developement. Tovrea Castle was built without working plans, and the final structure bears little resemblance to the intended design.  Construction of the castle was interrupted frequently, sometimes for long periods of time, due to the extensive landscaping taking place in the 277 acres surrounding the building.  Hundreds of cacti were transplanted along with 2,600 truckloads of river stones, which were whitewashed and used for retaining walls, terraces, and edging for the roads and trails.  Mr. Carraro’s dreams were ended by the stock market crash of 1929, and he sold the castle to Edward Tovrea, a business man who owned a meat packing plant on adjoining acreage.  The castle was lived in by the Tovreas until Mrs. Tovreas’ death in 1969.  The house was opened to the public only once, for one weekend in 1984.  In 1993, the City of Phoenix bought the castle along with 40 acres, and is planning to restore the castle for use as a visitors center.  For more information call:  602-262-6412.

10)  Mystery Castle

This unusual piece of architecture, built from recycled bottles, granite and bricks in 1930, is a tribute from a father to his daughter. Located near South Mountain, you may take tours through the castle. Largely constructed of native stone, the 8,000-square-foot castle contains 13 fireplaces, 18 rooms and various features of interest. Southwestern antiques furnish this unique facility.  For more information call:  602-268-1581.

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Having Fun Near Peterson Farms

by | Feb 21 2012 | Leave a Comment

Peterson Farms is a quiet family neighborhood located in Chandler, Arizona.  Peterson Farms is  within three-minutes of Chandler-Gilbert Community College and a ten-minute drive of the ASU Polytechnic campus.  This community provides an ideal balance of family living near all the conveniences.  Some of the more exciting adventures are:

1)  Just Roughin’ It Adventure Company

Just Roughin’ It Adventure Company is a full service backpacking and hiking guide company, leading tours in Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Olympic National Parks, as well as Paria Canyon and the Superstition Mountains in Phoenix, AZ.  Guests are provided with top of the line backpacking and hiking gear.  And the food is NOT what you would expect on a camping trip.  Quality meals are prepared by an experienced and certified guide in the middle of the wilderness!  For more information call:  480-857-2477.

 2)  Chandler Center For The Arts

The Center is equipped with three theaters and a 2,000 square foot exhibition gallery.  With a total seating capacity of 1,500, the unique design of the Center allows for two rear sections of the main auditorium to rotate 180 degrees to become two more intimate performance spaces:  The 350-seat Hal Bogle Theatre and the 250-seat Recital Hall.  Patrons and artists alike have hailed the Center’s acoustics as being among the best in the country and the world.  The walls between the separate performance areas prevent sound interference, thus allowing up to three productions to run simultaneously.  You can enjoy music, dance, comedy, you name it!  For more information and events call:  480-782-2680.

3)  Jumpstreet

We have all seen kids and families jump on a trampoline just about everywhere, but have you seen them bounce from the walls?  Newly opened, jumpstreet is a family fun center  where kids and adults can jump on a trampoline, and then bounce off a WALL of trampolines!  Take in a great game of dodgeball or just some time to bounce off the walls and be a kid again.  You have to see it and try it for yourself!  For more information call:  480-270-8008.

4)  MVP Zone

MVP Zone is a premier indoor baseball/softball practice facility with batting cages in Chandler.  Featuring over 8,500 square feet of state-of-the-art training equipment, professional instruction and a wide variety of programs, The MVP Zone has something for every age group and skill level.  For more information call:  480-857-6000.

5)  Sweeties Candy of Arizona

Have a sweet tooth?  Looking for a tasty treat from the good old days?  Housing over 75,000 pounds of candy and over 3,000 different types, visitors of all ages will enjoy the newly opened sweet shop for a trip down memory lane or to discover a new favorite at Arizona’s largest and most comprehensive candy store.  There are sugar-free treats as well.  Family owned and operated for over 60 years, Sweeties Candy is not only inviting to children but allows adults to be a “kid in a candy store” once again!  For more information call:  480-899-4245.

6)  Xtreme Air Jump ‘N Skate Park

Xtreme Air is Arizona’s largest one-of-a-kind indoor entertainment park, featuring over 30,000 sq. ft. of air-conditioned space for families and kids of all ages.  This spectacular indoor entertainment center includes an indoor skate park for street style skate boarding and BMX bikes, 10,000 continuous feet of interconnected trampolines, with separate dodge ball/basketball bounce areas for youth and adult teams, one insanely large Velcro wall, and a fully-equipped arcade with video games and prizes.  The facility also features a coffee bar, parents lounge with WI-FI access, and clothing boutique.  For more information call:  480-409-4555. 

5 Things To Do Near Stetson Valley

by | Jan 31 2012 | Leave a Comment

Stetson Valley is located in a mountain preserve.  From anywhere in the neighborhood, you will experience breath taking views.  It’s just minutes away from restaurants and shopping yet secluded in the countryside.  Stetson valley is still on the rise, and plans in the near future still include an elementary school, and many large parks and walking paths.

Located in the northern part of Phoenix, there is a multitude of things to do near Stetson Valley.  Following is a list of 5 things you may enjoy:

1)  Arizona Desert Tours

For more than twenty years, Arizona Desert Tours has been guiding visitors through Arizona‘s back country.  Trained guides will teach you survival techniques while relating the lore of the area.  Enjoy the enchanting desert colors and scenery while touring. Services offered are 4×4 tours, cowboy cookouts, horse trail rides, gold panning, rafting, eco tours and corporate team building.  For more information call:  (602) 867-8162.

2)  Castles ‘N Coasters

Castles N’ Coasters is Arizona’s finest family fun and thrill park.  There’s roller coasters, miniature golf, go-carts, bumper boats, and much, much more.  Fun for the whole family!  The park is located at 9445 Metro Parkway East, Phoenix.  For more information call:  (602) 997-7575.

3) Arizona Science Center

Spend the day in the fantastic Planetarium, or enjoy the spectacular, informative IMAX films on a five-story screen, view enriching exhibits, or test out one of the over 300 hands on activities.  There are also special events to enjoy all year.  Whatever you choose, there is something for every member of your family.  For more information contact:  602-716-2000.

4)  Cave Buttes Recreation Area

Stetson Valley Phoenix AZAs a designated City District Park site, the Cave Buttes Recreation Area will most likely provide a combination of passive and active recreation opportunities to residents within a five-mile radius or service area. Ball fields, swimming pools, and golf courses are some examples of active recreation facilities. Passive facilities could include multi-use trails, group picnic areas, playgrounds, or educational centers.  For more information call:  (602) 262-7901.

5)  North Mountain Park

At 2,104 feet and 2,149 feet in elevation respectively, North Mountain and Shaw Butte are landmark Phoenix peaks in their own right. This area offers more than summit climbs; an array of trails of all levels of difficulty offers something for everybody. At it’s highest point, North Mountain elevation is 2,104 feet.  Shaw Butte tops out at 2,149 feet.  The major plant species found in the park are typical of those found in the lower Sonoran Desert and include bursage, brittlebush, creosote bush, palo verde trees and saguaro cactus.  Overall, more than 300 species of plant life are found in the area.  For more information call:  602 262-7901.

Communities Near Stetson Valley

9 Things To Do Near Fireside At Norterra, Arizona

by | Jan 16 2012 | Leave a Comment

Come to Fireside at Norterra, nestled against a mountain preserve, this spectacular community offers an intimate and peaceful hillside setting while being conveniently located between Scottsdale and Downtown Phoenix in Arizona.  Below is a list of 9 fun things to in the local area:

1)  Heard Museum

Every major city, and most minor ones, have museums.  The Heard Museum is unique, however, not only in the exhibits that are displayed, but the style and grace with which they are displayed.  Heard museum has more than 32,000 pieces of cultural and fine art.  There are permanent exhibits, like the famous Barry Goldwater collection of Kachina Dolls, as well as special exhibits year-round.  Some of the special annual events include the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest which is held each February, and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market each March.  The museum is located at 2301 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix.  For further information contact:  602.252.8848.

2)  Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden has one of the world’s finest collections of desert plants.  It is one of only 44 botanical gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums.  At the Desert Botanical Garden you will find 50 acres of beautiful outdoor exhibits.  Home to 139 rare, threatened and endangered plant species from around the world, there is no finer place to enjoy desert beauty than the Desert Botanical Garden.  The Garden is located in Papago Park in Central Phoenix.  For further information contact:  480 941.1225.

3)  Boyce Thompson Arboretum

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum brings together plants from the Earth’s many and varied deserts and dry lands.  Approximately 3,200 different desert plants can be found within the arboretum, and most of them can be seen along the 1.5 mile main trail. During wildflower season, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is especially beautiful, displaying all the wonderful colors of the desert. Are you a bird lover?  More than 250 species of birds have been recorded at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  For more information contact:  520.689.2811.

4)  The Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo has more than 1,000 animals on exhibit.  Because the Zoo makes a special effort to provide the animals with appropriate habitats, some of them may be a challenge to see.  Keep looking!  The zoo also offers many attractions such as the Safari Train, the Endangered Species Carousel, and pedal boat rentals.  The zoo is located at 455 North Galvin Parkway in Phoenix.  For further information contact:  602.273.1341.

5)  The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art focuses on modern and contemporary art, architecture and design.  There are five galleries that showcase changing exhibitions and works from the Museum’s growing permanent collection.  The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art features an outdoor sculpture garden.  The Museum presents a variety of educational programs and special events for adults and families, including lectures, docent-led tours, workshops and classes.  For further information contact:  480-499-8587. 

6)  South Mountain Park

At over 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park and Preserve often is considered the largest municipal park in the country.  There are more than 50 miles of trails for horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking.  Dobbins Lookout, at 2,330 feet, is the highest point in the park accessible by trail.  If you aren’t into hiking, biking or riding, you can simply drive to Dobbins Point to get a fantastic view of the Valley of the Sun.  It’s just over 5 miles from Central Avenue to Dobbins Lookout.  The park is located at 10919 S. Central Avenue in Phoenix.

7)  Phoenix International Raceway

In 1964, when Phoenix International Raceway was carved out of the foothills of the Estrella Mountains, it was intended to be a new jewel in the crown of American open-wheel racing.  Today, PIR has a tradition that is unmatched in the world of racing.  If you love the excitement of racing cars then be sure and include the Raceway in your vacation plans.  For further information contact:  866-408-7223.

8)  Arizona Science Center

Spend the day in the fantastic Planetarium, or enjoy the spectacular, informative IMAX films on a five-story screen, view enriching exhibits, or test out one of the over 300 hands on activities.  There are also special events to enjoy all year.  Whatever you choose, there is something for every member of your family.  For further information contact:  602-716-2000.

9)  Out Of Africa Wildlife Park

Out of Africa Wildlife Park is an opportunity to see animals from all over the world, especially Africa.  Visitors enjoy an authentic replica of a real African Bush Safari.  Out of Africa is home to hundreds of wild-by-nature, animals.  Sit back and ride the tram while you enjoy a Safari experience.  Watch the giraffes, zebras, antelope and more in their natural setting.  The Park is open Monday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 5 pm year-round.  For further information contact:   928.567.2840.

7 Things To Do Near Las Sendas, Arizona

by | Jan 3 2012 | Leave a Comment

Surrounded by both the Usery Mountains and Tonto National Forest, residents of Las Sendas in Mesa, Arizona, enjoy beautiful scenery in addition to having a golf course, sports courts and numerous walking paths all on-site.  Below is a list of 7 things to do near this beautiful southwestern community:

1)  Desert Botanical Garden

Botanical Gardens Near Las SendasNestled amid the buttes of Papago Park, the Garden is home to the world’s largest and most diverse collection of succulent plants, including rare and endangered species from around the Southwest.  There are often special events such as the Las Noches de las Luminarias displayed during the holiday season each year and musical shows in the gardens.  The gardens are located on Galvin Parkway in Phoenix.  For further information, call:  (480) 941-1225.

2)  Dolly Steamboat

Enjoy a 90-minute “nature cruise” or “twilight dinner cruise” aboard the Dolly.  You’ll step back in time to America’s riverboat days.  The captain will share interesting facts about the historic Apache Trail, Canyon Lake, and the legend and lore of the Lost Dutchman’s gold.  The company is located in Apache Junction.  For more information, call:  (480) 827-9144.

3)  Arizona Museum of Natural History

One of the premier museums in the state!  “Dinosaur Mountain” is the largest dinosaur exhibit west of the Mississippi River.  See a constantly flowing 50-foot-high indoor waterfall and hear the thrilling roar of life-size, animated dinosaurs, including a saber-tooth cat and a Columbian Mammoth.  A mini-environment re-creates the Petrified Forest featuring a Cretaceous aquarium with live descendants of prehistoric creatures such as sturgeon and turtles who haven’t changed in 65 million years.  And much, much more!  The museum is located in Mesa.  For more information, call:  (480) 644-2230.

4)  Commemorative Air Force Aviation Museum

The Arizona Wing is the home of Sentimental Journey, the most authentically restored B-17 Flying today. Warbirds from WWII through Vietnam are also on display. Memorabilia from WWII can also be viewed. Warbird flights available or shop at our gift shop.  The museum is open daily.  For more information, call:  (480) 924-1940.

5)  The Phoenix Zoo

Whether you want to see the wide variety of animals, visit the petting zoo, do the “wild walk,” ride the Safari Train or the endangered species carousal, the Phoenix Zoo has it all.  There are also caverns, lagoons, and a discovery farm.  The Zoo is located at 455 N. Galvin Parkway in Phoenix, Arizona.  The entrance to the Zoo is off Galvin Parkway in the heart of Papago Park, between McDowell and Van Buren.  For further information, call:  (602) 273-1341.

6)  Golf!

Mesa is a golfer’s paradise with outstanding rates and all-inclusive or ala carte golf and vacation packages offered all year round.  Mesa is home to some of Arizona’s most renowned golf offerings designed by the best including Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Jack Nicklaus, and Pete Dye.  With more than 40 golf courses within a half-hour drive of downtown Mesa, the choices are endless.

7)  Mesa Arizona Temple

Since its dedication in 1927, the Mesa Arizona Temple for Latter Day Saints has greeted millions of visitors of all faiths from across the world.  This universal gathering place, which is set on 20 acres in central Mesa, hosts two nationally-recognized events each year including the World’s Largest Easter Pageant every spring and the Christmas Lights Display every winter, touted by Good Morning America as one of the best light displays in the country with more than 600,000 lights.

Communities Near Las Sendas

6 Things To Do Near Tartesso

by | Dec 13 2011 | Leave a Comment

Here is a list of 6 things to in or near the community of Tartesso in Buckeye, Arizona.  The town is rich with nature and a family atmosphere.  Neighborhood parks, nature trails, wide-open spaces, and access to the White Tank Mountains are an integral part of Tartesso, where families enjoy spending time together.

1)  Buckeye Valley Museum

The Buckeye Valley Museum was etablished in 1954 and run by volunteers until 2007 when the Town of Buckeye took over operations of the local museum.  The Museum is a great place to learn about Buckeye and its early beginnings.  Special Collections and Exhibits – Historic photographs, family histories, Hohokam pottery, artifacts from the early establishment of the Town of Buckeye, Arizona, Buckeye High School year books dating back to 1928.  The museum is located on 116 East Hwy. 85 (10th Street and Monroe).  Admission is free and contact information and hours are as follows:

Open September through June
Wednesday & Thursday 12:00 – 4:00
Friday & Saturday 10:00 – 4:00
Phone (623) 349-6315

2)  The Desert Skydiving Center

The Desert Skydving Center is located in Buckeye at 3000 S. Palo Verde Rd.  Whether you are an advanced skydiver or looking to make your first jump, the center provides an experienced and friendly staff on hand to assist you.  There are three types of jumps: 

Static Line
After only 5 hours of hands on training you’re in command of your first skydive.  As you jump from 3,500 feet or 5,500 feet, the parachute is automatically pulled open by a static line.  You will enjoy a 5-7 minute ride under your modern ram air parachute.

Tandem
You will need only 30 minutes of training because you’re harnessed together with an expert.  Jumping from over 2 miles high, you will freefall for 40 seconds, pull your own ripcord and enjoy an exhilarating 5-7 minute parachute ride.  You’re learning as you go on this low-pressure high-thrill skydive.  It’s a perfect first jump for those wanting a quick adrenaline adventure

Accelerated Freefall 
During the 8 hours of training, you will learn all of the important points of skydiving for the first time.  Using the real equipment you will practice exits, freefall, canopy control, and landings.  Then, with 2 instructors at your side, you will leave the airplane from over 2 miles high, freefall for 50 seconds, pull your own ripcord and then enjoy a breathtaking parachute ride.  You will feel a real sense of accomplishment as you land with our state of the art equipment.

3)  Buckeye Town Park

Things to do in TartessoTown Park boasts a brand new X-Wave play element for ages 2-12 years old.  There is a fully staffed pool in the summer months as well as a Skate Park.  You can picnic, swim, play and just enjoy the outdoors.  You may contact park staff at:  480-350-8625.  The park is located at 207 N 9th Street in Buckeye.

4)  Raven Golf Club

Raven Golf Club offers golfers experiences unique to their environments with superior course conditioning and exemplary guest service.  Each Raven golf course must pass a comprehensive annual 136-point inspection, which evaluates every aspect of the golf operation.  This ensures a consistent level of excellence and quality throughout the network of Raven branded golf courses.  Raven Golf Clubs have become some of the most highly acclaimed daily-fee golf courses in the world. 

Phone:  623-215-3443
Located at 4242 North Golf Drive in Buckeye

5)  K1 Indoor Go Cart Racing

Arrive and Drive allows individuals, be they seasoned pros or novices, to come in any time (except in the event of a private party rental) and feel the rush of adrenaline from the green, eco-friendly electric karts.  If you feel the need for speed, you can visit one of the public indoor karting centers to see firsthand what K1 Speed has to offer.  Battle it out with friends and family and see who can set the fast lap!  There are two locations in Glendale and PhoenixPhone: (602) 275-5278

6)  Katydid Insect Museum

The Insect Museum is a tiny strip-mall museum affiliated with an exterminating company, but has an astonishing collection of live and mounted bugs!  It’s a hands-on place!  Lizard and bearded dragons are on leashes.  The majority of the bugs tend to not play well with others.  There are 20,000 specimens in all to get your fill of reptiles, turtles, tortoises, beetles, roaches, millipedes, and scorpions. 

Hours:  Monday through Friday from 11am to 4pm
Admission is under $5 for adults and even less expensive for children
Phone:  623-931-8718
Located at:  5060 W Bethany Home Rd # 7 in Glendale

10 Things To Do Within 10 Minutes Of Sun River

by | Nov 28 2011 | Leave a Comment

Positioned on the southeast edge of the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Arizona, the residents of Sun River have the advantage of enjoying the open Arizona desert to the south and the perks of the city life just to the north with restaurants and shopping centers, golfing and more!!

Following are 10 things to do within 10 minutes of this wonderful southwestern town:

1)  Hamilton Aquatic Center

The Hamilton Aquatic Center was named the “2001 Outstanding Facility” by the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association!  Enjoy a variety of amenities including a zero depth play pool, current river, two water slides and an eight-lane competition pool.  The pool is located at Arizona Avenue and Ocotillo.  This large aquatics center is jam packed with swim lessons and other water programs for young and old alike.  You can reserve the center for swimming parties, take advantage of the lap pool (which has designated hours specially for lap swimmers), join a swim team and more.  Or just come out and enjoy some time in the water with your family.

2)  Chandler Center For The Arts

Chandler Center for the ArtsThe Chandler Center For The Arts is jointly owned and operated by the City of Chandler and the Chandler Unified School District, and programmed by the Chandler Cultural Foundation, a separate non-profit corporation.  In addition to providing big-name entertainment, the Center hosts nearly 40 performing arts groups in the Phoenix metropolitan area, and prides itself on community education and outreach.  Tickets for events can be purchased online at Ticketmaster online or onsite at the Chandler Center for the Arts Box Office located at 250 North Arizona Avenue in Chandler.  The box office is open Monday through Saturday.  You can call 480-782-2680 for hours of operation.

3)  Chandler Skate Park

The mild Phoenix climate makes this a perfect area, all year long, for outdoor skating.  Whether you have inline skates, roller skates or a skateboard, it is likely that there will be a skate park near you where you can skate on a great surface and get the most of your skating experience.  Since the day it opened to the public, the Chandler Skate Park has earned a reputation that attracts some of the best skateboarders in the world to south Chandler. This spacious, 35,000-square-foot facility has been designed for all skaters no matter how skilled.  It is a free, non-supervised facility for use by skateboarders and in-line skaters.  The Skate Park is located at 4500 S. Basha Rd.  Amenities include concrete bowls, decks, blocks, and metal rails, as well as a ramada and playground adjacent to the Skate Park.

4)  Chandler Museum

Take a step back in time at the Chandler Historical Museum.  The facility, located at 178 E. Commonwealth Avenue, displays artifacts from Chandler’s long and storied past.  New exhibits are displayed regularly.  Entrance is FREE and the museum is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., holidays excluded.

5)  Chandler Fashion Center

Chandler AZ Fashion CenterRight off the Loop 101 Price Freeway at Chandler Blvd., shoppers from Chandler, Gilbert, and south Tempe find this mall very conveniently located.  The Chandler Fashion Center offers an indoor/outdoor shopping experience and boasts over 180 stores including all the big names like Ann Taylor, Eddie Bauer, Abercrombrie and much, much more.  Very near the mall you’ll find a wide variety of eateries as well including Kona Grill, Chipotle Mexican Restaurant, Firebirds Rocky Mountain Grill, My Big Fat Greek Restaurant, Rockfish, and Dave’s Barbecue just to name a few.  There is also a 20 theater Harkins movie complex at the Fashion Center. (Image courtesy of Dean Ouellette)

6)  Rawhide At Wildhorse Pass

Rawhide is an authentic frontier town, and is considered Arizona’s largest western-themed attraction.  Located off I-10 in Chandler, Arizona on the Gila River Indian Community, activities at Rawhide include gunfights and stunt shows, mechanical bull rides, gold panning, real blacksmiths and live country music.  You can take an old fashioned western photo with your family in authentic old west garb.  You can shop for clothes, hats, toys, and gifts.  You can also enjoy the Rawhide Steakhouse and Saloon with live entertainment and a full, sit-down western meal.  If you want to visit an attraction or go on a ride, prices are posted and tickets are available at several ticket booths on Main Street.  The “Town Pass” entitles the holder to enjoy all the shows and attractions as many times as they’d like in one day and only costs $15 per person.  The Town Pass may not be offered during the summer months.  Parking is free at Rawhide.

7)  Bear Creek Golf Complex

Bear Creek Golf Course in ChandlerBear Creek Golf Complex is a 36-hole inland links golf facility consisting of both a long and short course.  The Bear Championship Course stretches to 6,825 yards from the back tees and plays to a par 71, The Cub Executive Course is a fun, sporty par 59, 3,501-yard course.  Bear Creek is a unique and exciting place.  In addition to two golf courses they have a full Practice and Learning Center, staffed by PGA Professionals who are available for both individual and group lessons.  Bear Creek Golf Complex is located at 500 East Riggs Road in south Chandler, 1/4 mile east of Arizona Avenue.

8)  Historic Downtown Chandler

Recently designated a National Register Historic District, Historic Downtown Chandler offers a unique collection of eclectic art galleries, trendy shops, a micro-brewery, the Arizona winery and award-winning, independent restaurants making Downtown Chandler a favorite stop on your Arizona itinerary.  While the area has the unique distinction of being the only downtown area in Arizona to feature both a micro-brewery and Arizona winery, this is also a great place to spend an afternoon, wandering through the one-of-a-kind shops, taking in a festival, breaking for a delicious lunch, and perhaps spend some time in the park.  You can visit the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership website for more information.

9)  Festivals

The Chandler area around Sun River hosts many festivals at different times of the year.  The annual Jazz Festival offers residents and visitors an opportunity to enjoy a fine selection of jazz musicians.  The weekend long event takes place in the spring each year.  Another popular festival is the Ostrich festival which is a community family event featuring live ostrich races and ostrich-themed activities, national and regional entertainment, a Saturday morning parade, a carnival, food, interactive activities for children, and much more.  The City of Chandler has a colorful and long standing tradition of Ostrich Ranching.  Chandler and Maricopa County led the nation in raising ostriches for their stylish and expensive plumes.  A complete list of festivals by month can be found on the Chandler Festivals and Special events website.

10)  Veterans Oasis Park

Veterans Oasis Park in Chandler is more than simply a recreational area with grass, paths and a pond.  This is actually an important part of Chandler’s reclaimed water processing where treated waste water is redistributed to recharge basins in the area.  That gave the city the opportunity to develop the park as a riparian and wetland habitat to share with the community.  The entire park covers about 113 acres, 78 acres of which are designed for groundwater recharge and wetlands.  The park can be found at 4050 E. Chandler Heights Rd. Chandler, AZ and their phone number is 480-782-2890.

10 Things To Do Within 10 Miles Of Arrowhead Ranch

by | Nov 15 2011 | 1 Comment

Characterized by picturesque mountain views and serene waterfront plots in Glendale, Arizona, Arrowhead Ranch has become widely known as the home of some of the most desirable properties in the Grand Canyon State.  Nestled in the foothills of Thunderbird Mountain, this master-planned community offers everything from championship golf via the Arrowhead Country Club to world-class shopping at the Arrowhead Towne Center.  Following is a list of 10 things to do within 10 minutes of this lovely community:

Arrowhead Towne Center

If you want to shop or eat or go to a movie, this is the place for you.  One of the newer malls in the greater Phoenix area, it is located in northern Glendale at 75th Avenue and Bell Road.

Thunderbird Park

There are about 1,000 acres of desert preserve here, the only mountain preserve in Glendale.  Major jogging trails and bike trails are here, along with horseback riding and picnicking opportunities.

Glendale Xeriscape Botanical Garden

Considered one of the best demonstration gardens in the state, the garden has over 1,000 varieties of desert plants on about 4 acres.  The walking paths of the garden are open every day, and there is no charge.  Want some ideas for your yard?  This is the place to go!

University of Phoenix Stadium (formerly Cardinals Stadium)

Home of the Arizona Cardinals, the Fiesta Bowl, and the BCS Championship Game, as well as many conventions and trade shows. The public can even take a guided tour of the stadium on non-game days.

Westgate City Center

Westgate City Center is a shopping and entertainment destination adjacent to Jobing.com Arena and University of Phoenix Stadium.  Although there are several stores there, it is known more for the restaurants and bars, as well as for the fountains and entertainment events.

Historic Sahuaro Ranch

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Sahuaro Ranch is just north of downtown Glendale.  Built in 1885, there are 17 ranch buildings available to be toured on this 17 acre property which also includes a rose garden.  Many special events are held at the Sahuaro Ranch, including the popular Antique Tractor and Engine Show each February.

Cerreta Candy Company

Take a special guided tour of this family-owned hometown candy factory.  They’ll show you how a sea of caramel becomes wrapped, tempting, tasty treats.  Learn how cream centers are enrobed in luscious chocolate.  These tours are about 30 minutes long and are offered Monday through Friday.

The Bead Museum

The Bead Museum got its start in 1984 in Prescott, Arizona.  Now it thrives in the heart of Historic Downtown Glendale, Arizona, just a few minutes west of Phoenix.  Here you’ll discover a fun and unique small museum dedicated to the art of beads and beading.

Cabela’s

Half huge retailer and half tourist attraction, this store for the hunting and fishing folks has a museum, an aquarium, and other attractions inside.  Cabela’s is located within walking distance from the Glendale Arena, and within about a mile of Cardinals Stadium.

And Just For Golfers

  • Desert Mirage Golf Course, Desert Mirage Course
    9 holes over 2,095 yards with a par of 31 (Public)
    8710 W Maryland Ave
    Glendale, AZ 85305-2467
    (623) 772-0110
    2 miles from the center of Glendale
  • Glen Lakes Golf Course, Glen Lakes Course
    9 holes over 2,403 yards with a par of 33 (Public)
    5450 W Northern Ave
    Glendale, AZ 85301-1406
    (623) 939-7541
    3 miles from the center of Glendale
  • Bellaire Golf Club, Bellaire Course
    18 holes over 3,493 yards with a par of 59 (Public)
    17233 N 45th Ave
    Glendale, AZ 85308-3551
    (602) 978-0330
  • The Legend At Arrowhead, Legend Course
    18 holes over 7,005 yards with a par of 72 (Public)
    21027 N 67th Ave
    Glendale, AZ 85308-6401
    (623) 561-1902
    11 miles from the center of Glendale
  • The 500 Club at Adobe Dam, Futures Course
    9 holes over 1,620 yards with a par of 28 (Public)
    4707 W Pinnacle Peak Rd
    Glendale, AZ 85310-3825
    (623) 492-9500
    13 miles from the center of Glendale
  • Adobe Dam Family Golf Center
    9 holes over 1,757 yards with a par of 31 (Public)
    3847 W Pinnacle Peak Rd
    Glendale, AZ 85310-4101
    (623) 581-2800
    13 miles from the center of Glendale

Best Arizona Neighborhoods for Hockey & Football Fans

by | Oct 11 2011 | 3 Comments

Looking for a home or neighborhood that’s no more than a short walk from the Phoenix Coyotes Jobing.com Arena, or the Arizona Cardinals University of Phoenix Stadium? Here are 18 Glendale Arizona neighborhoods that meet the criteria and are perfect as a second home, or your primary residence.

18 AZ Neighborhoods for Hockey and Football Fans

Property Buyer’s Checklist (Home or Land)

by | Sep 19 2011 | Leave a Comment

The following is a checklist of helpful hints for consumers to help avoid some of the pitfalls of purchasing a new or used home, or raw, undeveloped land.

New Homes in a Subdivision

1. You should read the Arizona Department of Real Estate Disclosure Report (Public Report). By law, this document must be given to you before you sign the purchase contract. You must sign a receipt for the Report. By signing the receipt, you imply that you have read the report.

The Disclosure Report (Public Report) will tell you such things as:

  • Flooding and drainage disclosure
  • A description of adjacent land and uses
  • Who provides electricity, telephone, gas, water and sewage disposal
  • Common community and recreation facilities
  • Assurances for completion of improvements
  • Local services and facilities, including schools, shopping facilities, public transportation, medical facilities, fire protection, ambulance service, police protection and garbage services
  • Taxes and assessments
  • Property owners association details

If you have any questions about the Disclosure Report (Public Report), you are welcome to call the Arizona Department of Real Estate, Development Services Division at 602.771.7750. A Subdivision Representative will assist you with your questions.

The cover sheet of the Disclosure Report (Public Report) contains a disclaimer by the Department of Real Estate. Read it carefully. Most importantly, note that it states:

“Not all of the information in this report has been verified by the Department; certain information has been accepted by the Department as true and accurate based on attestation of the subdivider and/or the subdivider’s agents. You should verify all facts before signing any documents.”

2. Read the purchase contract carefully. Note that if the builder or developer is not placing your earnest money deposit in escrow, the funds may be placed in the builder’s or developer’s general funds account, and may be used for any purpose. You could lose the money if the builder or developer declares bankruptcy or otherwise goes out of business. If the funds are not going to be placed in escrow, that fact must be stated in a separate paragraph in the purchase contract and you are required to initial that paragraph. Make sure you understand where your earnest money is going to be deposited.

3. Before you sign a purchase contract, drive around the home for at least a mile or more in every direction to see how the surrounding area appears to you and what land use of safety issues exist in the area. Is there a storm drain or canal nearby that might pose a hazard to your children? Is the home or building site near an airport or a manufacturing plant? Visit the area at different times of day, on weekends and in the evening. Disturbing noises and odors can travel farther at night.

In areas where there are expanses of vacant land nearby, check city or county zoning maps to see if nearby property is zoned for apartments, industrial or commercial use. Land zoned for commercial use might be used to construct anything from a shopping center to a hotel. To obtain this information, call the city or county planning and zoning department listed in your telephone directory.

Check Arizona Department of Transportation maps to find the nearest future freeway routes, and whether roads in the area are slated for widening.

4. Call the school district serving the subdivision to determine whether nearby schools are accepting new students. Some school districts have placed a cap on enrollment. You may find that your children cannot attend the school nearest you and may even be transported to another community.

5. Read the deed restrictions, also called CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions). You might find some of the CC&Rs are very strict, especially those addressing landscaping, RV parking, play equipment, satellite antennas, and other common amenities — particularly if the subdivision is governed by a homeowner’s association.

6. Check out the homebuilder with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. You can determine the number of complaints customers have filed against the contractor, whether any are unresolved and whether the builder’s license has ever been suspended or revoked.

Previously Owned Homes

1. Be aware that the seller’s broker does not represent you; the seller’s broker represents the seller. The seller’s broker has certain responsibilities to the seller that are not afforded to you. You might wish to retain the services of a buyer’s broker to represent you in the transaction. Usually, the buyer’s broker receives a portion of the commission paid by the seller, and the services may cost you nothing, but you will receive representation equal to that provided to the seller by the seller’s broker.

2. Read the seller’s property disclosure report, and check every item on it. Ask to see receipts for repairs to the home. Look behind large pictures on the wall and behind anything on the floor which conceals large areas of the wall. Look for stains on the ceilings or carpets that might indicate water damage. Read the purchase contract carefully to determine if there are any deadlines for challenging the seller’s disclosure report or for having your own inspections conducted.

3. Order your own termite inspection. Don’t rely on a termite inspection obtained by the seller. Some sellers have been known to cover up termite infestation by having several inspections done until they obtain a report that shows no infestation.

4. Consider having the home inspected by a professional home inspector. It is money well spent. For instance, the owner may not know that the roof is rotten and must be replaced. If any alterations have been made to the home — the addition of an Arizona room, for instance — ask to see the building permit. Make sure the alterations are legal.

5. Check all appliances to confirm that they work, including the stove burners, oven, garbage disposal, dishwasher, washer and dryer and the water heater.

6. Run water in all sinks and tubs and flush the toilets to make sure they drain properly. If the landscaping includes an irrigation system, check to see that it works.

7. Drive around the neighborhood and observe the condition of the homes. Are lawns mowed? Are there old cars rusting in driveways? Ask neighbors how they like living in the area. Is this really where you want to live?

8. Read steps 3, 4, 5 and 6 for “New Homes in a Subdivision” above.

Raw Undeveloped Land

1. Ask to see the Arizona Department of Real Estate Disclosure Report (Public Report) before you sign anything. The contents of the Report are described above in “New Homes in a Subdivision” above. Pay particular attention to the source of utility services. You may find that bringing utilities to the property will be an expensive proposition. If the property you are considering is smaller than 160 acres, if there are more than five parcels in the subdivision, and if the developer cannot produce a Disclosure Report (Public Report), the subdivision is probably illegal. If you buy the land without reading a Public Report, you may find there is no supply of water, or that it will cost tens of thousands of dollars to bring electric service to the property. You may also find that you do not have permanent legal access to your property.

2. Ask to see the Arizona Department of Water Resources report for the property. Determine that there is an assured or adequate water supply (depending on whether the property is in or outside of a Groundwater Active Management Area), and how much it will cost to have a well dug if necessary.

3. If purchasing raw land with the intent to develop it into smaller parcels, be aware that splitting the land into more than five parcels requires a Subdivision Disclosure Report (Public Report) issued by the Arizona Department of Real Estate. For more information about applying for the report and the cost, contact the Development Services Division at 602.771.7750.

4. If you have inspected the land and signed a purchase agreement or contract, you have 7 calendar days following the day on which you signed the agreement or contract to rescind the purchase in writing without cause. The rescision notice must be received by the seller by midnight of the seventh calendar day. The seller must clearly and conspicuously disclose your right to rescind the purchase. Right of rescission does not apply to new or previously owned homes.

5. If you have not inspected the land before signing a purchase agreement or contract, you have 6 months in which to inspect the land, and at the time of the inspection you have the right to rescind the purchase.

Courtesy: Arizona Department of Real Estate (click here for latest version)

Return Of The Home Buyer Tax Credit?

by | Sep 13 2011 | 2 Comments

Could we possibly see the return of the Home Buyer Tax Credit?

The National Mortgage Complaint Center, a consumer advocacy group, is asking Congress to introduce legislation to restore the federal tax credit for home buyers in order to “rescue the U.S. residential real estate markets” and prevent home prices from dropping any further.

$15,000

They are asking the tax credit be increased to $15,000 and be available to every qualified home buyer, including first-time buyers, repeat buyers and investors.

The National Mortgage Complaint Center said in a statement, “With the enormous devaluations we have seen in most U.S. residential markets, we need to stop the hemorrhaging, and do something meaningful to stabilize one of the most vital aspects to the U.S. economy — our residential real estate markets.”

Last Years Tax Credit

Last year, Congress offered a home buyer tax credit for first-time and repeat buyers to help spike home buying.  The maximum allowable credit for first-time buyers was $8,000 and $6,500 for repeat buyers.  The last version of the tax credit expired on April 30, 2010.  After that the demand for housing completely collapsed (despite record low mortgage rates).

Currently there is a huge surplus of homes on the market.  The excess supply and lack of demand are causing house values to drop.  Predictions are pessimistic with declines of 5-20 percent expected over the next year or two.

Nothing’s Been Ruled Out

Apparently, the Obama Administration has not ruled out bringing back the tax credits even though Congress is not currently considering any new legislation to expand it.

Reported in the New York Times, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said that though it is not known whether the tax credit will be revived, the administration would “do everything we can to stabilize the shaky U.S. housing market.”

As I see it, if the first tax credit only spurred sales while it existed, and was then taken away, another credit (exclusive of other market conditions such as employment) would have to be long-term to have any real lasting affect on the market.

Time will tell so stay tuned!

8 Tips For Closing Escrow

by | Aug 30 2011 | 2 Comments

I used to be an Escrow Officer (E.O.) and I realize I took a lot for granted because I learned things that I normally wouldn’t have known as a home buyer before that experience.  Following are some things I learned along the way that might be helpful.

1)  Buyers: Read The Mortgage!

That’s right, that 20+ page document that places the lien on your property from the bank.  It would be unrealistic to think that  a buyer could do this in the time they are allotted for the closing.  So I used to contact buyers up front and offer to give them a copy to review before the day of their closing.  Then I would go over the major points on each page in the actual closing so the buyer actually understood what they were signing.  A lot of things can happen in the fine print.  Just think of the difference it would have made with bad loans that were done in the last 5-10 years if buyers had actually read and understood what they were signing!?

For example, some mortgages used to be written in such a way that even if the buyer didn’t have Private Mortgage Insurance or a Mortgage Insurance Premium, the lender still rolled insurance into the loan at the buyer’s cost in case of default.  I am no longer an E.O. so I don’t know if this is still taking place – make sure you read the fine print!  In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to get a copy of the whole loan package and review it before the closing.

2) Watch Your Debt

Buyers should never accumulate debt while in the process of closing on a home. Lenders consider factors such as debt ratio (the ratio of debt to income) and the credit score, for example, to approve loans.  They will recheck the financial situation of buyers prior to closing, typically repeatedly.  Especially if the transaction takes a long time to process which is common today with short sales and the like.  By going out and accumulating debt, a buyer is increasing their debt ratio (if income doesn’t increase as well) and lowering their credit score (which happens every time an entity pulls a hard, or full, credit report). 

If it’s pulled a lot in a short period, the score can decrease even more because the buyer now appears to be a risk to the lender.  So even though it may be tempting to buy appliances in anticipation of moving into a new home, it is smarter to wait until after the escrow closing to do so.  Buyers should also be aware that lenders will check bank accounts.  If Uncle Jim is generous enough to lend his nephew Bob $10,000 to help purchase a home and Bob doesn’t normally hold that much money in his account, you can bet the bank will question it.  In fact, unless money like this is bank approved, it’s not even allowed! 

Why?  Because the lender will avoid anything that could cause a problem with the loan and from their perspective, good old Uncle Jim may come back at some point and claim to own part of the house due to his substantial down payment.  Not to mention that if Bob is attempting to pay back a debt to Uncle Jim, he may find himself struggling to pay his mortgage payments to the bank.  Buyers should avoid this and at the least, be able to explain extraordinary income.

3) Full Disclosure

Buyers should always give full disclosure when they apply for a mortgage. Underwriters are known for being very stringent when it comes to verifying (repeatedly) the facts on a buyer loan application.  This process has gotten even more stringent as mortgage guidelines have tightened and lenders have made the underwriting process more and more thorough.  It is important to note, that the underwriter is the one who approves the funding of the loan, allowing the lender to wire the funds for the loan closing.

It’s also very important to make the lender aware of any changes such as marital status, changes in employment, or new credit issues.  The lender will find out about these things and this could bury the transaction altogether.

4) Know What’s On Title

On a short sale for instance, the title will be checked just before the closing a second time and can reveal legal judgments and liens against the seller that have been placed on the property right up to the day of closing.  For both buyers and sellers, it’s very important to request a copy of the title report on the property.  Any outstanding liens, encroachments, etc., have to be addressed and even if they’ve been taken care of, they still have to be cleared on the title report.

This can require some time and paperwork depending on the issue.  There’s nothing worse for either party then to get to the point of closing and find out that the deal will have to wait another number of weeks for a title issue to be cleared up.  Things such as bankruptcies and divorce can also present a problem without the necessary paperwork on record such as a final divorce degree or the paperwork clearing a bankruptcy.

5) Have Realistic Timelines

Buyers should be cognizant of how long it may take for them to find the right home and close on it if they are pre-qualified. A number of things can happen that extend the time from prequalification to closing for buyers, especially in short sales and bank owned transactions

The terms of the prequalification can change over a period of time and buyers do not want to find this out at the closing table.  Something else to note is that any changes that have to be made to loan documents can often require a whole new loan package since one change can affect many different documents that are based on the stated loan terms.  This is another good reason to get documents in advance and review them before the closing.

6) Close at Month-End

Buyers should try to schedule closings toward the end of the month whenever possible. Doing so, minimizes the amount the buyer pays in prepaid interest, which is added to the costs of the loan.

7) Consider Tax & Insurance Implications

If a buyer would rather pay their taxes and insurance in escrow to avoid the hassle of paying the bills when they come in, they can do this.  However, they should keep in mind that the bank is holding this money in escrow and consequently making interest on it as they hold it.  I personally would rather pay the bill and keep my interest!

8) Ask questions!

A good escrow officer should know how to properly explain loan documents in such a way that buyers can understand them.  While they are not responsible for the bank documents, they should be able to explain closing documents when they notarize signatures (they should at least explain their own).  I’ve seen this diminish quite a bit in the current market as title companies further protect themselves from liability (who doesn’t nowadays?).

However, if the E.O. can’t or won’t answer questions on the actual loan documents, they should contact the lender and have them do so.  For instance, the Truth In Lending (TIL) is one of the main documents to understand.  The amounts reflected on a TIL indicate to a buyer not only what they are paying in full over the life of the loan but also show the APR which when compared to the actual interest rate on the loan, indicates how much the loan actually costs.

There is so much to think about at closing time.  Reviewing documents in advance and asking questions in order to truly understand the transaction, can save a lot of headaches for buyers (and sellers), at the time of closing, and long afterward!

Six Tips for Making a Successful REO Foreclosure Offer

by | Aug 22 2011 | Leave a Comment

Cruise through nearly any neighborhood across the country and you’re likely to discover an REO foreclosure. An REO (Real Estate Owned) foreclosure home is one owned by the bank because the bank did not receive the minimum bid on the home during the foreclosure sale at the courthouse.

Buying REOs Can Be Tricky

Now that the home has become part of the bank’s inventory, they’re likely to price it attractively in an effort to sell it off their books as soon possible. As a result, you may be able to buy the home for a knock-out price. But be prepared; buying an REO foreclosure is a bit trickier than a traditional home purchase. It’s imperative that you make an educated, reasonable offer if you want any hope of snatching an REO foreclosure property. The more you know before you begin the often complex process the greater your chances for success.

When submitting an offer for an REO foreclosure property, keep these six tips in mind:

  1. Research three months of comparable sales. Select only those that closely match the REO foreclosure home with regard to amenities, number of bathrooms, number of bedrooms, square footage, etc. Keep in mind that REO foreclosure homes are generally priced a bit below comparables.
  2. Determine the bank’s purchase price on the Trustee’s Deed or Sheriff’s Deed, and then compare that figure to the bank’s asking price.
  3. If the REO foreclosure listing has been on the market less than 30 days, the bank is unlikely to deviate much from their asking price. Generally, the longer the home has been on the market, the greater your negotiating strength. If your offer is rejected, try resubmitting it in another 30 days.
  4. Take a look at the REO listing agent’s sold properties. Compare the list price of several properties to the sale price. This will give you an idea of the list-price to sales-price ratio the listing agent’s properties generally fall within and might give you a good idea of where your offer needs to come in.
  5. Realize that REO foreclosure homes are often priced to attract a great many buyers which generate a number of competing offers. Some offers may be cash, which banks smile upon. And some offers may be for more than the list price. Realize you’ll need to be flexible with your REO foreclosure offer if you want to close the deal.
  6. If you need financing, be sure to get pre-approved and send a copy of your pre-approval letter with your offer.

A final word of advice

When submitting an offer on a REO foreclosure property, do not neglect a home inspection. It’s true that there are many REO foreclosure deals out there to be grabbed but there are also some lemons. Most REO foreclosures are “as is” properties and what first appears to be a bargain may suck your wallet dry with repair costs. Be sure your offer stipulates that the property is subject to a home inspection.

Investing In Multi-Family Housing

by | May 17 2011 | 1 Comment

In today’s tumultuous economy, companies and individuals alike are finding real estate to be a particularly interesting investment sector.  While this is not a new concept, participation in this market sector has increased  significantly. One appealing strategy is to own moderate and moderate-lower income multi-family rental housing situated in primary and secondary urban areas.  It is critical to have professional property management for these facilities.  This strategy is based upon the continuing shortage of good housing in these income brackets and areas as well as a history of low vacancy rates.

Investing In Arizona Multi-Family HousingAn attractive strategy is direct ownership in forthcoming real estate acquisitions:  10 up to 100+ units.  The common experience has been that a prudent direct multi-family property can yield more attractive operating as well as long-term returns than alternative opportunities. 

Consistent Returns

Multi-family investments tend to generate relatively consistent returns due to the fact that the demand is a function of population and income, neither of which are likely to change very quickly, and both of which can be identified in emerging markets.  This strategy statistically makes sense as well with declining home ownership rates which peaked at 69% in 2004 and dropped to 66.4% in 2010.  This rate is expected to continue to drop to 64% by 2015.  Demographic changes play a significant role with a substantial jump in the older population due to the baby boomers, and the fact that 5 million households over the age of 65 rent.  In addition, immigrants are now an important element with 26 million immigrant renters who make up 45% of all rental growth between 1998 and 2008.  65% of immigrant households rent.  When you add to this a decrease in the median asking price per unit for multi-family properties, the appeal becomes even more obvious.

Multi-Family Investment Strategy

Without extensive knowledge and experience in this arena, an investor needs to have a multi-family real estate strategy which should include:

  1. Ongoing searches for real estate acquisitions that appear to be stable and profitable
  2. Once identified, an objective financial and marketing analysis should be developed to eliminate any potential acquisition that fails to meet goals for performance.  Depending upon preferences and goals, current criteria generally seek cap rates of not less than 8% and “cash-on-cash” returns of not less than 12%, loan-to-value (LTV) ratios of 70% to 80% (depending upon whether recourse or non-recourse financing is used), and debt service coverage of at least 1.25.
  3. Following an acceptable analysis, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) will often be established to ultimately take title to the property.
  4. The LLC will then present an Offer and undertake the subsequent “due diligence,” e.g., professional property inspection, professional appraisal, title search, ASTM E-1528-00 Environmental Transaction Screen, and lead paint and asbestos inspections, if required.
  5. The satisfactory completion of “due diligence” and ultimately a Purchase and Sales Agreement.  If the due diligence examination uncovers problems or deficiencies that cannot be cured, the negotiations should be terminated.
  6. Following execution of the Purchase and Sales Agreement, negotiations will be initiated to secure mortgage financing.
  7. All due diligence analyses and reports are made available to all parties to facilitate timely decisions as the goal is to negotiate expeditiously, which is in the best interest of the buyer and the seller.
  8. All conditions of the transaction (i.e. terms, interest rates, amortization, and payment schedule) are to be designed to meet owner’s financial goals.
  9. While understandably subject to the constraints of the Seller, the target is to complete a transaction within 60 to 75 days of the initial commitment to proceed.

This is a good list to follow.  Avid real estate investors will want to consider these types of opportunities because with the demographics listed above, a huge upward pressure on occupancy and rental rates may very well make this a golden age of multifamily housing!

How a Home Warranty Can Save You Money…And Time

by | May 9 2011 | 2 Comments

Most of us are all-too-familiar with Murphy’s Law:  “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” If you are a homeowner or a real estate agent selling a home, you’ve probably used this phrase more often than you’d like! When the dishwasher breaks, the typical repair could cost $200, or even $600 to replace.  The refrigerator conks out –$500 to repair or $1,000 to replace. And don’t even think about the costs involved when it comes to your heating system — get ready to fork out upwards of $2,500 for a typical replacement.

But with a home warranty, if the repair or replacement is covered in your contract, then the low tradecall fee, which averages $60 but varies by state and contract, would be your only cost to repair or replace the item.  How’s that for peace of mind?

Having a home buyers warranty not only saves you money, but it also saves you time.  Now, you never have to worry about taking the time and energy to search directories for service contractors or repair technicians or wonder whether you can trust an unfamiliar one.  Usually, when a covered item breaks down due to normal use, you simply dial a toll-free number 24/7/365 and an authorized service technician will be dispatched to handle your needs.

Costs and coverage vary by state but often include a far-reaching range of appliances and systems from ranges/cooktops and built-in microwaves to door bells, heating/AC systems, plumbing, permanent sump pumps and even whirlpool tubs.

If you or your clients are ready to find a home warranty plan, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Look for a company with longevity.  Make sure the company you select has been around for many years and has a solid track record.  
  • Read their Better Business Bureau rating. Companies with very high BBB ratings tend to be more reliable and responsive to consumers.  Choose a company with an A+ BBB rating.
  • Seek “green” options.  Want to save on energy and help the environment?  Look for a green home warranty option, which uses ENERGY STAR qualified products to replace your dishwasher, water heater (to a tankless), kitchen refrigerator, clothes washer and furnace (to 90% efficiency).
  •  

  • Ask for – and expect – knowledgeable help.  Make sure a customer service representative helps you understand your contract and that you know exactly what appliances and systems are protected under your home warranty.

So, next time you’re ready to host a party and that little voice inside your head is repeating Murphy’s Law, relax: a home warranty can help solve your problems without breaking the bank.

Guest contributor:Home Warranty of America, Inc. (HWA) of Buffalo Grove, IL, was founded in 1996 to provide home warranty coverage for houses, town homes, and condominiums. HWA offers a 30-day, money back guarantee on every home warranty. More information is available at www.hwahomewarranty.com.

Spending Is On The Rise

by | Apr 12 2011 | 1 Comment

Consumer spending was up for the 8th straight month in April and rose 0.7% in February, 2011.  However, vacancies are up too.  Residential vacancies largely steeped by foreclosures are depressing home prices and values and future numbers don’t look promising.  Vacancies are up 13% over last week’s report and up 12.1% from 2007 levels.  But despite the vacancies, in late 2010 the economy grew better than analysts expected.  The commerce department showed the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was up 3.1% in the last quarter of the year, due partially to large rises in corporate profits.

Inflation accelerated as it’s fastest rate since June 2009.  Incomes also increased in February by 0.3%.  Spending is expected to have slowed however, in the first quarter of 2011.

The good news is, even with all of the vacancies, housing is spread liberally across the market.  Pending home sales compiled by a National Association of Realtors (NAR), were up by 2.1% in February over the month before.  While this is 8.2% below figures from 2010, this is still a promising trend.

Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist says,  “Month-to month movements can be instructive but in this uneven recovery it’s important to look at the longer term performance.  Pending home sales have trended up very nicely since bottoming out last June even with periodic monthly declines, contract activity is now 20% above the low point immediately following the expiration of the home buyer tax credit.”  He went on to say that while we may not see notable gains in home sales in the near term, sales are expected to rise 5 to 10 percent this year.   Job creation and more affordable conditions will allow for more confident buyers in the market and thus, increased spending and more home sales.

Documents Needed To Buy or Sell Real Estate

by | Apr 5 2011 | 4 Comments

In the bigger picture, it’s all about fraud, hardship, and qualification.  Are you who you say you are?  How can you prove that?  Do you truly have a hardship that requires a short sale?  As a buyer, do you have adequate, stable income?  For all of these instances, having the appropriate paperwork readily available can save tons of time and heartache.

Typical Lender Required Documents

Identification
State-issued ID, drivers licenses, or passports can also be used.  Buyers and Sellers have to provide this to the lender to ensure identity and avoid fraud.  Additionally, you will be asked by the closing agent for this when you close escrow on the house because they are notarizing your signatures and have to verify your identity to do so.

Proof Of Income (POI)
POI is needed and this usually consists of two months or more of your pay stubs from employment.  If you’re self employed, you will be asked to provide copies of your 1099 tax forms.   In a short sale, lenders want to see POI from the sellers to substantiate their financial hardship and the purchase price for buyers is determined in part by their income.

Two Months of Bank Statements
These are required for buyers because lenders want to see stable, long-term income and verify that the money belongs to the borrower.  For short sellers, this is part of the documents required by the seller’s lender to establish a hardship.

Two Years of Tax Forms
Two years of tax forms are required by lenders for short sellers to establish a hardship and as another tool to review the seller’s finances.  For buyers, again, lenders want to see stable, long-term income.

Two Months of Mortgage Statements
Sellers with mortgages will need to provide at least two months of mortgage statements. This provides the information the escrow or title company will need for getting applicable payoffs to be included in the real estate closing.  These payoffs must be included before the title to the property can be insured covering lenders for new loans on the title and clearing the seller from all obligations (i.e. making sure the title is free and clear for the sale).

Short Sales
You’ll want to remember that because of the length of the transaction, all the documents required by buyers and sellers has to be updated, typically every 2 months for the lenders. This is one of the areas that holds up short sales the most – make your buyers or sellers aware of this up front and prepared to provide their documentation regularly so as not to slow the process.

Other Miscellaneous Documents

Divorce Decree
For instance, if a divorce has taken place since the property was purchased, the lender will want a copy of the divorce decree to ensure that the seller has a right to sell the property exclusively.  Buyers may need to provide this for name changes and/or to show that they are not responsible for the credit history or debts of their prior spouse.

A Quit Claim Deed or Disclaimer Deed
This type of deed may be necessary for married buyers and sellers who are living in a community property state such as Arizona.  If you are married and buying property, your spouse will need to sign a disclaimer if you want to buy the property in your name only.  A seller who is separated for example, but not yet divorced, will need a Quit Claim Deed if their spouse is not to gain proceeds from the sale or be part of the transaction.

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice, talk to the title company or lender involved as they can inform you of any documents that are needed for any situation and legalities.

Tips For Borrowers

by | Mar 22 2011 | 3 Comments

In today’s volatile market, borrowers need to be aware of what is considered when they shop for a mortgage loan.  Information can change from one day to the next, but here are a few tips:

Mortgage Interest Deduction

There has been some controversy over the mortgage interest deduction (MID) that can currently be taken on homeowner income tax returns.  Recently, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform recommended changes that would have drastically reduced the size of these deductions.  However, while other parts of the this proposed reform will likely be adopted, luckily for borrowers, this part wasn’t.  For now, housing recovery is crucial to the economy so it is unlikely that Congress will reform MID because that would only serve to weaken the already struggling housing market.

FICO Score

FICO stands for Fair Isaac Corporation, a public company that provides analytics and decision making services including credit scoring.  Your credit bureau (FICO) score is very important to lenders when you apply for a loan because it reflects numerous aspects of your credit history such as how established your credit is (i.e. how long your credit history is), how timely you pay your debts, and what your debt ratio is (this tells lenders how strong your ability is to pay your debts with your current income).  The higher your credit score the better.  Typically lenders want to see a credit score of 620 or above.  Very recently however, two of the largest FHA lenders in the nation announced they are lowering the minimum required score to 580.  Wells Fargo for example, may go as low as 500.  However, as with any increased risk, there has to be balanced security.  So with a lower credit score, the lender will want more of a down payment (up to 5 – 10% of the purchase price as opposed to the standard 3.5%) because with a higher down payment there is less risk of default.  Wells Fargo is requiring 10% down for FICO scores between 500 – 579.  But at least with these changes, there is an opportunity for borrowers who have struggled in the current economy to get lending without having to wait years to reestablish their credit.

Unemployment

Lenders will typically want to see a strong employment history to lend.  In the current economy, a lot of people are out of work and believe that this automatically prevents them from lending opportunities.  In fact, in the past you could not get lending until you had recovered from an economic hardship (for example, became gainfully employed).  Now however, the U.S. Treasury Department has established a Hardest Hit Fund in which they’ve allocated $7.6 billion to specific states such as Arizona for unemployed homeowners.  These funds offer up to $3,000.00 per month for up to 36 months in mortgage payment assistance to help unemployed homeowners avoid foreclosure.

Loan Guidelines

Many are under the impression that loan guidelines will become less stringent over time.  However, the U.S. Treasury Department recently recommended that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two major mortgage investors of our nation, be eliminated.  What this would mean for you and me is that loans will become harder to attain and cost more.  If this change occurs, it isn’t likely to happen for 5 – 7 years so the truth is, now is actually the time to get funding to lower payments or buy a home.

Equity

Typically in the past homeowners needed to have equity to get financing.  However, this is no longer the case.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for instance, will refinance up to 125% of a home’s current loan value with all other qualifications being met.  In light of this, if your current home value is not too far below the amount owed (or too far “upside down”), you may be able to refinance.  For loans not owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, there is the FHA “Short Refi” program.  Under this program homeowners who are current on their mortgages can refinance for up to 115% of their home’s value.  So if you owe $115,000.00 on your home, you can refinance with an FHA Short Refi even if your home’s value is as low as $100,000.00.  The time to do this is now, because so few people have taken advantage that Congress is considering diverting the funds for this elsewhere.

If you’re considering buying a home or refinancing your current loan, be sure to educate yourself on what is going on in the market today.  There have been  lot of changes recently and we continue to see them everyday.  The best investment decisions will be made by those who keep up with the ever-changing market!

Avoid Housing Discrimination

by | Feb 14 2011 | Leave a Comment

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which is sometimes referred to as the “Fair Housing Act,” it is illegal, in almost all circumstances, to discriminate in the sale or rental of residential property based on race, religion, national origin, and sex. This law was amended in 1988 to add disability and marital status to the list of protected categories. This is a federal law, and applies everywhere in the United States.

Housing Discrimination Laws

Additionally, some states and cities have housing discrimination laws that prohibit discrimination based on characteristics not covered by the federal law, such as sexual orientation and gender identity. Thirteen states currently have laws that ban housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, and several cities outside those states have done the same.

Still, despite all of these laws, which are generally enforced pretty aggressively, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that there are approximately 2 million cases of unlawful housing discrimination every year in the United States.

Don’t Be a Victim

So, what can you do to avoid being the victim of housing discrimination, and what can you do if you have been victimized? There are several things.

  1. First, and most obviously, if you see a real estate listing that clearly states a discriminatory preference (“Eskimos need not apply,” for example), don’t respond to it. Vote with your dollars, and simply refuse to do business with such a person. Also, it’s illegal to state a discriminatory preference in an advertisement for housing, so you should file a complaint with HUD. Most acts of discrimination are far more subtle, however.
  2. Because spotting and avoiding owners who intend to engage in housing discrimination is key, you should be aware of some of the common discriminatory practices that are much more subtle than a real estate listing that comes right out and states a discriminatory preference. One of the most common discriminatory practices is to simply decline the applications of members of a particular group. If you happen to belong to the group that the renter or seller doesn’t like, you might find your application rejected, with no reason given. In these cases, there’s often no way to tell that discrimination even took place. It’s possible, however, with the advent of online reviews, to see if a landlord has a pattern of rejecting qualified renters of a particular group, while accepting renters who do not belong to that group, even if some of them are less qualified. This is much more difficult to prove than the blatant (but rare) discrimination discussed above, but filing a complaint with HUD may trigger an investigation, if there is evidence to support it.
  3. If you determine that you have been a victim of housing discrimination, you have a few options, and need to consider which, if any, of the remedies available to you are worth pursuing. Obviously, filing a complaint with HUD is the easiest option, as it only takes a few minutes. However, there’s no guarantee that HUD will do anything with your complaint.
  4. If you decide to file a lawsuit against a renter or seller, you will have a lot of work ahead of you. First of all, you’ll need to hire a good lawyer who specializes in housing discrimination. You should also prepare yourself for a long, drawn out process, which has no guarantee of success.
  5. If you don’t want to file a lawsuit, you might consider making your concerns known to the public. There are many websites that are set up to let tenants and applicants review landlords, especially in major cities. If you know for a fact that a landlord engages in discrimination, you can make this known to the public, to discourage others from renting from the landlord. However, making such a claim against a person can have serious consequences, and you may find yourself facing a lawsuit for defamation.

Legal Rights

Housing discrimination, sadly, remains a problem in the U.S., and many other parts of the world. However, if you have been the victim of housing discrimination, you have legal rights and many different options at your disposal.

However, pursuing a claim for housing discrimination can be costly and time consuming. For that reason, it’s best to take steps to avoid being victimized in the first place. This will save you a lot of time, energy, and grief, and it will also deprive a landlord who would engage in unlawful discrimination of your business.

Guest Contribution: John is a writer for LegalMatch.com and the LegalMatch.com Law Blog. The above article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as any form of legal advice.

Home Buyer – Affording a Home

by | Dec 19 2009 | Leave a Comment

Value Your Homes

Just because you can make a certain monthly payment on a fabulous home doesn’t mean you can truly afford it, or that you’re ready for the responsibilities of home ownership. Consider these guidelines to help you decide whether or not you’re ready to take the plunge.

  • Be as debt-free as possible. Take care of outstanding credit card balances, and make sure your bills are up-to-date. Having a car payment or a monthly cell-phone bill won’t kill you, but if you can’t even pay off credit cards or cover your obligations, lenders will question your ability to pay a mortgage.
  • Save up for a down payment. Though homes can be purchased without a down payment, having cash to put down will get you a better mortgage, and you’ll save a healthy chunk of interest in the process. Making a 10 percent down payment is a good rule of thumb.
  • Have an emergency fund before you purchase. It only takes one major problem such as a burst pipe or a furnace failure to instantly set you back thousands of dollars. If you’re not responsible enough to prepare for the worst, then you’re probably not ready to purchase a home.
  • Consider all the expenses. Don’t forget about things like property taxes, utilities, maintenance costs, and insurances. These are just some of the ongoing costs associated with buying and maintaining a home.
  • Decide on what you can afford before house hunting, and then stick to it. Don’t be wooed into a higher price bracket by a pretty home—decide on a price before house hunting. A good rule of thumb is to not exceed 30 percent of your income on your mortgage payment. Don’t base your figures off combined incomes if you’re married; being able to stay in your modest home should you or your spouse become unemployed is far better than losing your extravagant mansion because you overextended your budget.

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Category: Buying Tips

Home Buyer – Seven Steps to Buying a Home

by | Dec 19 2009 | 2 Comments

Value Your Homes

Having a well conceived, home purchasing plan ahead of time isn’t just a good idea, it’s key to ensuring you find the right home, in the right place, at the right price, while avoiding some common pitfalls that can snare unsuspecting buyers. Here are seven vital steps to help you make a successful home purchase:

  • Decide on a price ahead of time, and stick to it: Examine your budget and set a maximum figure before venturing into the market.
  • Get pre-approved for a mortgage: There’s no sense shopping for a home if you don’t qualify for a mortgage. Shop around, determine which mortgage type works best for you, and have the funds ready before you go house shopping.
  • Choose your location wisely: Be diligent on researching potential neighborhoods. Talk with neighbors, check the school system, and spend time in the area. A mediocre house in a great neighborhood is better than a fabulous house in the bad part of town.
  • Get a real estate agent: Even real estate agents usually purchase homes though other agents. They’re the experts, and when the technical legalities start cropping up, you’ll be thankful for their guidance and experience.
  • Don’t skimp on the home inspection: Always hire a professional inspector to check out a potential home before finalizing the deal, even if one was already performed by the realtor or home owner.
  • Look for homes that have been on the market for awhile: The best deals usually come from homes that have been on the market for at least 90 days, and in this market, there are plenty of homes out there.
  • Be patient: Be prepared to “hurry up and wait” when it comes to the home buying process. A two to three month timeframe from start to finish isn’t unheard of, but as the saying goes, the best things come to those who wait.

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Category: Buying Tips

Home Buyer – Common Mortgage Types

by | Dec 19 2009 | Leave a Comment

Value Your Homes

Fixed-Rate Mortgages (FRM)

Fixed-rate mortgages are just that—the interest rate is fixed for the duration of the loan. Fixed-rate mortgages are the more traditional type of loan, usually having a repayment term of 30 years, though some mortgages offer longer terms of 40 or 50 years, or as little as 15. While they offer security and stability, fixed-rate mortgages are generally more expensive to obtain and tougher to qualify for. Some unique fixed-rate mortgages include:

  • Federal Housing Administration mortgage (FHA). This is commonly referred to as a first-time homebuyers mortgage, as it’s insured through the Federal Housing Administration and offers assistance to home buyers who may not otherwise qualify for a mortgage.
  • Veterans Administration mortgage (VA). Similar to the FHA loan, VA loans are available only to eligible U.S. military veterans and their spouses, and they’re guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARM)

Adjustable-rate mortgages are subject to interest rate changes for the duration of the loan. Adjustable-rate mortgages come in a wide variety of styles and options, they are generally easier to obtain and are usually more affordable. The trade off is that adjustable-rate mortgages typically come with a greater set of risks, most notably an unexpected payment jump due to increasing interest rates, or an extension of the loan duration. Some common adjustable-rate mortgages include:

  • Option ARM. This loan offers buyers a variety of payment options and amounts, which can be useful for buyers with a fluctuating income. Choosing the minimum payment can be dangerous, however, as it can lead to negative amortization—where the payment doesn’t cover the interest, which is then added to the principal loan.
  • Fixed-period ARM. This loan will maintain a set interest rate for a specified amount of time, then adjust accordingly. The length of the term and how often it changes can vary depending on the terms of the loan.

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Category: Buying Tips

Home Buyer – Home Inspections

by | Dec 19 2009 | Leave a Comment

Value Your Homes

Types of Home Inspections

A pre-sale home inspection by an independent, licensed inspector is the most important step in the home buying process. It’s also a step many people are tempted to skip, because inspections aren’t usually required by law, and at $250 to $500, they aren’t exactly cheap. Don’t skimp however—a $500 investment at this stage of the game can save you from a potentially disastrous purchase, or give you ammunition to renegotiate a price should the inspector find issues. Some common home inspection types include:

  • General: This is the standard pre-sale inspection that covers all aspects of the home. A general inspection usually takes two to three hours, and though buyers aren’t usually present for the entire time, meeting the inspector at the end of the visit for a review is quite common. General inspectors may also recommend specialized inspectors if specific problems are found.
  • Foundation: This can be instrumental in determining any major foundation issues, including damage or movement.
  • Pest: Termites, dry rot, and other biological issues can sometimes be hard to quantify. This inspection is recommended for older homes or houses in a rural location.
  • Electrical: While a general inspection usually identifies whether or not a home’s electrical system is up to code, an electrical inspector can identify trouble spots or specific areas of concern.
  • Roof: With most roofing jobs costing upwards of $5000, knowing the condition of the roof can help you plan for future repair costs, or negotiate a lower sale price if the roof is in rough shape.
  • Environmental: A mold-infested house can appear normal, but can be an enormous health hazard. The presence of gases such as carbon monoxide, methane or radon can also be a potential deal breaker.
  • Soil: Most prevalent for homes on hillsides or in mountainous terrain, having an inspection on the soil can help determine the fluidity of the ground. It can also spot soil contamination.

More Information…

Category: Buying Tips