10 Steps to Getting Top Dollar for Your Home

When you decide to sell your home you should immediately begin referring to it as a house. You’ve become emotionally attached to this place and it’s now time to say goodbye. Start detaching yourself by making some changes that will help you with the sale of the house.

You probably have accumulated a lot of clutter over the years. This must be the first step.

1. Unclutter your home. Start in the basement and either throw things out or rent a locker off premises to store it until you move, but prospective buyers need to see what the house looks like behind all your stuff. This means going room to room and clearing everything out that makes it look junkie and disorganized.

2. Neutralize the personal nature of your home. You may love the native tapestry on the living room wall from Bora Bora but I’ll guarantee, 95% of your prospects will have it on their mind when they leave your home and not in a good way. Nick knacks and generally all things that you’ve previously enjoyed should be stored away until after the sale, that includes grandma’s spoon collection that takes up half a wall in the kitchen. Replace these things with neutral items like picture frames or vase with a simple arrangement.

3. Minor cosmetic work. Once you remove the clutter you will see all the things that you’ve been meaning to get to over the years. Painting where necessary, new carpet/s, moldings repaired, cracked plaster and re-taping/ repairing drywall. When making these improvements think neutral colors for any coverings be it paint or carpets. If you have hardwood floors sand them and finish them. Area rugs can look amazing. Whatever you do, don’t over do it. Try and think like a buyer.

4. Hire a professional cleaner. Once you have the house cleared you should hire a professional cleaning crew to wash the walls, windows, work over the kitchen and bathrooms, clean the floors and shampoo all carpets that don’t need to be replaced. Your house should be spotless and kept this way for the duration.

5. Staging each room. If your rooms are smaller rearrange the furniture to make the room look bigger. For example removing some furniture is better than having too much cramped in. Set your furniture up in conversation pit style. Like a gourmet coffee house, make it cozy. Pull couches away from walls to give the appearance of depth. Remove wall clutter, one or two pictures but no more. Generally make it look inviting.

6. Kitchen and bathrooms. These are the most important rooms in your home to a buyer. Make sure they are impeccable. Plumbing fixtures should be working properly and look like new or they should be replaced. Use a good cleaner or even a metal polish to make them gleam. Showers and tubs need to be spotless! Sinks and vanities need to be pristine and uncluttered. Kitchen cupboards should be orderly, doors opening and closing properly, drawers the same. I can’t stress enough how important these two rooms are to your potential outcome.

7. Doors and windows. First thing prospects see when they walk in your home is a door. Make sure its painted or cleaned up and that it will open and close properly. This goes for screen doors as well. Often screen doors are a problem people let go. Not anymore. Windows should all be cleaned and be sure if someone wants to open them that they work properly. If they have been painted closed as is the case with some older homes, now is the time to get them to open. Do whatever it takes.

8. Garages and workshops. These are the second most important areas. Again remove all clutter from the garage and make it accessible so you can actually park your car in it! As for the workshop, try and organize it so the handy person prospect will appreciate what they can do with their “new shop” when they move in. It’s all about your prospect picturing themselves in your house.

9. Family effort. Everyone in your family needs to be on board with the presentation of the house. This means your kids need to buy into the project and keep their rooms tidy. Bribe them if you need to but everyone has to help maintain the appearance of the entire house.

10. Odors and pets. Wow, is this ever important! If you have pets, only you really love them. When you walk into a house with dogs or cats you immediately smell them, especially if you don’t have your own. Keep litter boxes fresh and clean daily. Restrict your animals if at all possible to certain areas of the home until after the sale. Vinegar and water will do wonders when you clean their areas every other day until the sale is complete, and top it off with effective air fresheners wherever you need them. Vacuum often with carpet fresh powders two or 3 times a week.

This sounds like quite a bit of work and it is. Try and remember that by following these tips you could easily add five to ten thousand dollars to the sale price of your home, maybe more. A little elbow grease now will be a solid investment.

How A Reverse Mortgage Works

Ever wonder how a reverse mortgage works? For folks that have lived in their home for a long time, they may very well be sitting on a substantial amount of equity. Home prices have increased greatly over the last thirty years. This has left a great many homeowners with valuable equity in their homes and many different options to access that equity, with home equity loans and mortgage refinances being the most common.

For older Americans, there is another, less common option that is growing in popularity as home prices have increased and baby boomers have moved closer to retirement age: the reverse mortgage. But do you know what it is, and do you know how a reverse mortgage works?

What exactly is a reverse mortgage, and how does a reverse mortgage work?

A reverse mortgage is a loan product that allows homeowners 62 years of age and older to use their equity to generate tax-free income, without having to sell their home or take on a new mortgage payment. In fact the reverse mortgage is exactly what the title states, the reverse of a standard mortgage.

With a standard mortgage, the borrower (or homeowner) makes monthly payments to the lender (or bank or mortgage company), in order to pay back the loan that the lender originally lent them for the purchase or refinance of the house. This payment includes interest that the lender charges the borrower for the loan. In a reverse mortgage, the situation is reversed; the lender makes monthly payments to the borrower. However, in both a standard and reverse mortgage, the lender secures their loan amount by using the house as collateral.

There are a few factors that determine how much money a borrower will receive from a reverse mortgage, such as the value of the home, the borrower’s (and co-borrower’s) age, current interest rates and any lending limits that may be standard for your geographic area. As a rule of thumb, the older the borrower and the more valuable the home, the larger the available loan amount.

Homeowners can choose how they want to receive their payments, either as a lump sum, monthly payments or as a line of credit. The line of credit is the most popular option, with nearly 60% of reverse mortgage borrowers choosing this option to draw income or a lump sum off the line at the time of their choosing.

The proceeds from a reverse mortgage can be used for anything, completely at the discretion of the borrower, though most borrowers use the funds for home repairs or modifications, health care expenses, to settle other debts, or for a long-planned vacation.Reverse mortgages are available for nearly all property types, with the exception of co-ops.

If you are in retirement, or nearing retirement, and think this may be the product for you, here is some more detail about exactly how a reverse mortgage works.

For reverse mortgage borrowers with an existing mortgage, that mortgage will need to be paid off completely, so that the new reverse mortgage will be the only lien on the house. If the proceeds from the reverse mortgage are not ample to pay off the existing mortgage, the borrower will need to access savings or other sources to pay off the rest of the existing mortgage amount. In this scenario, the borrower won’t have access to any additional funds from the reverse mortgage; however, they will no longer have a mortgage payment!

The more common scenario is one in which there is a small or no mortgage on the home, and the borrower is able to access nearly the full amount of the reverse mortgage to use at their discretion. No monthly payments are due on the loan and the loan is repaid when the owner moves or sells the home, passes away, or ownership otherwise changes hands. If the home is sold and the proceeds of the sale exceed the mortgage amount, the balance belongs to the borrower or their heirs.

In most cases, there is nothing out of pocket, however, there are substantial costs that are built in to a reverse mortgage. Therefore. one very important facet of the reverse mortgage process is the consumer counseling that is required for borrowers contemplating this type of loan.

Your lender can help you find counseling agencies, and most programs are approved and monitored by HUD. The counseling is required to make sure that the terms and risks of the program are clear to you. Counselors are obligated by law to review with you all of the implications of the new mortgage, and what your potential options are.

If you are interested in a personalized analysis of what the costs and terms of a reverse mortgage would be for you or a family member, click here for further information. Or use the form on the right side of this page to drop me an email requesting your personalized analysis.

Overall, for older Americans contemplating a stress-free retirement, a reverse mortgage may be the right solution! Just make sure that you know your options and goals… and how a reverse mortgage works.

Avoiding Reverse Mortgage Scams

Reverse mortgages are gaining in popularity as more senior’s start looking for ways to supplement their retirement incomes. And as the interest in reverse mortgages increase, so are the cases of reverse mortgage fraud and scams.

Many seniors are finding that they have lost thousands dollars of their hard earned equity to these reverse mortgages scams. Since reverse mortgages typically involve our largest asset (your home), this type of fraud can have a serious negative impact on your retirement.

The following reverse mortgage fraud information will help you avoid becoming a victim of a reverse mortgage scam.

Reverse Mortgage Scams:

The are several types of reverse mortgage scams that can end up costing you thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars in equity in your home if you become a victim.

Charging for free information on reverse mortgages

Several estate planning companies have been charging thousands of dollars for information provided free from HUD. Typically these companies charge for this information as part of an estate planning program. Seniors that sign up for these programs are unaware that these firms are collecting thousands of dollars by charging a fee of 6 to 10 percent of the total amount borrowed. These fees cost the victims $6,000 to $10,000 on a $100,000 reverse mortgage. HUD has recently issued a directive to lenders that issued reverse mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to stop doing business with these companies.

Pushing reverse mortgages as a way to pay for purchases

Some companies that sell large ticket items or services, like annuities or insurance products, may try to suggest using a reverse mortgage as a way to fund these purchases. When the additional cost of the reverse mortgage is factored into the purchase, it ends up costing the homeowner much more than the benefit provided by the product or service.

Unethical reverse mortgage terms

Some lenders slip in excessive fees and terms into their contracts. These terms can have a serious effect on a senior’s equity. In some cases, lenders have used shared equity or shared appreciation terms, which gives the lender the right to collect a portion of the appreciation when the home is sold or refinanced. The cost of these type provisions can run into the tens of thousands as the home appreciates. These rising cost provisions eat up equity without providing any additional benefit to the homeowner.

Protecting yourself from reverse mortgage scams

If you are looking into a reverse mortgage, there are several things that you can do to protect yourself from falling victim to these types of scams.

1. Speak with a HUD approved reverse mortgage counselor. The counselor will help you understand reverse mortgages and help you evaluate your situation.

2. Obtain several offers from different reverse mortgage lenders in order to compare different options. The rule of thumb is to get at least three separate offers, so that you have a good comparison of the terms offered.

3. Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions within the reverse mortgage contracts. Your reverse mortgage counselor can guide you through the contracts.

4. You generally have three business days after signing the loan document to cancel it for any reason.

If you suspect that a company is operating in violation of the law, let your reverse mortgage counselor know and then file a complaint with your State Attorney General’s office or banking regulatory agency and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at: http://www.ftc.gov.

 

A Primer on Reverse Mortgages

It is not unusual today to find people living in $1 million homes who are almost entirely dependent on social security to get by.

Economists report that as housing prices have skyrocketed over the past several years, the amount of money that households are saving through 401(k) plans and FDIC insured savings accounts has fallen. For many people approaching retirement age that means they may be “equity rich” and “cash poor” at the same time. It is not unusual today to find people living in $1 million homes almost entirely dependent on social security to get by.

A 1994 Advisory Council on Social Security trends and issues concluded that reverse mortgages could provide an additional source of income for seniors, although at the time housing prices were not high enough to make this a meaningful source. Well, things have changed.

A reverse mortgage is still a loan with your house as the collateral, but it is entirely different from the kind of mortgage you got when you bought your first house. These are the major differences:

The Lender Pays You

That’s correct. You do not make a monthly payment with a reverse mortgage. The lender pays you, and the loan can be set up so that you can get paid in a lump sum, you can get paid regular monthly amount, or you can get paid at the times and in the amounts you request.

The terms of the loan determine what each of these amounts would be. The primary determining factors are your age, the value of your house, and the prevailing interest rates at the time.

You Continue to Live in Your House

Staying in your house is really the whole purpose of reverse mortgages when you get down to it. The twist is that instead of paying somebody else to live there, you get paid while you continue to live there.

You are actually required by the terms of the loan to continue to live in the house as your principal residence. You can spend any amount of time visiting your children and grandchildren, you can travel for pleasure, and you can continue to spend summers at the lake, so long as the house remains your principal residence.

You Retain Ownership of Your House

A reverse mortgage is not a sale. You keep all the rights of ownership that you had before the reverse mortgage loan. You do not need the lender’s permission to paint the house a different color or to remodel. You can put your house on the market and sell it to the highest bidder. You can will it to your children.

If there is a change in ownership, such as by sale or through the death of the last surviving owner, the reverse mortgage will have to be paid off at that time. The lender would be entitled to receive from the proceeds of the sale only the amount you actually received from the lender plus all accrued and unpaid interest to date. Any amount remaining after paying off the reverse mortgage lender would go to you, to your surviving spouse, or to your estate.

The Principal Amount of the Loan Increases with Each Payment

Another way of saying this is that you control the amount that must eventually be paid back by controlling the amount of money you actually get from the lender. A reverse mortgage is still a loan, and the money plus interest has to be paid back at some time, usually from the sale of the house after you and your spouse no longer live there.

Because the principal amount of a reverse mortgage cannot be determined until after you no longer live at the property, neither can the maturity date of the loan. This can be a difficult concept to wrap your mind around because it is so different from conventional mortgages.

You Can Never Owe More than the Value of Your House

This is true for the reverse mortgage product sponsored by the Federal government that we offer, the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), although it may not be true for privately created reverse mortgage programs.

The benefit of the Federal program is that you, your surviving spouse, or your estate, can never owe more than the loan balance or the value of your house, whichever is less. Your reverse mortgage lender cannot require repayment from you, your surviving spouse, or your heirs, or from any asset other than your house.

There are no income or credit requirements to qualify for a reverse mortgage.

To be eligible for an FHA HECM, you must be a homeowner 62 years of age or older, own your home outright, or have a low mortgage balance that can be paid off at closing with proceeds from the reverse loan, have the financial resources to pay ongoing property charges including taxes and insurance, and you must live in the home.

If you would like a personalized analysis of all the ins and outs of a reverse mortgage for yourself or a loved one, check out this page on my website, or feel free to contact me.

Top 5 Reasons People Get Reverse Mortgages

A thorough cost vs. benefit analysis has to be done in order to determine if a reverse mortgage is the right solution for yourself or a loved one

Let me say at the outset, that reverse mortgages are not for everyone, and although we offer them, a thorough cost vs. benefit analysis has to be done in order to determine if a reverse mortgage is the right solution for yourself or a loved one.

If you’re eligible (a homeowner 62 years of age or older with equity in your principal residence), this may be a quick decision or one that requires a bit more consideration. As with any decision, it’s always helpful to get the perspectives and experiences of others who have faced similar situations and asked themselves the same questions. So for those other folks who have decided to get a reverse mortgage, what were their reasons?

We’ve asked some of our readers and site visitors and below are the top 5 reasons people get reverse mortgages:

1.Retire in style – Most homeowners getting close to retirement age have spent the last thirty years or more making mortgage payments; depending on where you live, this monthly obligation could be anywhere from a few hundred dollars a month to a few thousand dollars a month and beyond. Every month, that one big check goes out the door to the bank and leaves you with that much less cash to save, invest or spend on the items you need and want. How great is it to finally turn the tables on Main Street Bank, where they now send you a check each month? Most retirees have steady monthly costs, such as housing, medical, insurance and other necessary expenses. For non-working retirees, those expenses are managed with a fixed income from retirement accounts, pension plans, social security or other plans. A reverse mortgage allows a retiree to increase their fixed income and provide cash to do some things that they might otherwise not be able to afford to do. Typically, the personal quality of life is the number one reason people get reverse mortgages.

2.Pay hospital or medical bills – For many older Americans and retiree’s, medical issues are an increasing reality in their daily lives. With the ever rising cost of healthcare, this can put tremendous demands on a fixed income. Ongoing medical treatments, prescription drug regimens, or a large one-time (possibly unforeseen) medical bill are all top reasons that people get reverse mortgages.

3.Improve or modify a home – While this may not be an expansion of the home, the early part of retirement is a great time to re-purpose your house to accommodate the way you will be living for the next ten, twenty, thirty years and on. Maybe it’s time to expand the kitchen, widen the hallways or remove some steps, or exchange the old pool in the backyard for a beautifully landscaped garden. As we get older, a top reason people get reverse mortgages is to outfit their home for their new lifestyle.

4.Dream vacation anyone? – What better time to just get away than when your working days are behind you and the weather turns a bit gloomy? Proceeds from a reverse mortgage have allowed many homeowners to take that vacation they’ve always dreamed about, but never had the time or resources to take.

5.Pay off high interest rate or problematic debts – With the large amount of debt that the American consumer accumulates over a lifetime, it should be no surprise that this is a top reason people get reverse mortgages. Whether its high interest rate credit cards, a relative’s student loan debt, or even a potential foreclosure that must be dealt with, reverse mortgages can be a very effective way to get a large sum of cash to manage other debts.

We offer reverse mortgages in either a lump sum or line of credit, and unlike most lenders, we charge no origination or broker fees, saving you thousands of dollars. For a free personalized illustration, contact me anytime.