SOLD by Lucy Garber. Custom 4 bedroom, 2 level, single family home with detached guest quarters and 3-car garage. Impeccable interior with classic architectural elements blends seamlessly with exterior living space. First level features living room with fireplace, formal dining room, family room and a beautiful kitchen which opens out to the landscaped patio. Grand staircase leads up to the master bedroom with his and her closets and bathroom. 3 additional bedrooms, full bath and laundry room complete the 2nd level. Sold at listed price of $1,090.000.
It feels like there’s always a new rule about how to design your house. Whether it’s feng shui, how to make your room feel open, or how many colors to use, it can make your head spin trying to find the best way to decorate your home for you. All you want to do is make your home feel like home. Face it, no matter if you’re a rule follower or a rule breaker, when you enter your house after a long day, it feels good to feel at ease, to truly feel home. One of the things that make us feel most at home is to feel safe. Safety is an essential trait of any home and yes, it can be taken into consideration no matter if you have a furniture set or have collected pieces over the years. Get ready to learn Designed Defense.
Guarding with a Garden:
Great design and great protection start in the same place: the front yard. How you plan your garden will make a big difference in the protection of your home. First, consider the perimeter of the yard. Do you have a fence? Many think that having a fence will protect a home. But unfortunately, often it does the exact opposite. The fence provides privacy to you, but it also allows a person to move unseen behind it, and enter your home without worry of someone on the road spotting them. Best thing to do? Take down the fence. If you still want a fence and love the look, go for a shorter fence. Make sure that people can be seen behind it, and it’s for aesthetic purposes, not attempts at privacy.
Learn to love short plants. Little plants can make a big impact on your yard, while keeping your home nice and safe. These plants will not provide coverage for a burglar to break in. Like a fence, tall shrubs and overgrown trees allow burglars to move around unseen. If you have basement windows, keep the plants even lower. Trim your plants back from your basement windows.
Choosing flowers over big bushes means not only do you add extra color, but you’ll also be keeping your home safe. If you do not have basement windows, keep your shrubbery under the height of your first-floor windows. It will make your yard look neat, and protect your home.
Let There be Light:
Lighting can make or break a space. You want to set the right mood and lights can do the trick. Whether it’s a lamp or a light bulb, the quality and look of light change the feel of a space. But smart lighting choices can keep you safe too. Before we talk about lighting in the house, let’s stay outside. Add motion sensitive light outside. This will help you stop fumbling with your keys when you come in the dark, and it will also alert your community, literally putting a spotlight, on anyone moving around your yard who shouldn’t be there.
Inside your home, lights should be on timers. This way, whether or not you and your family are home, a potential burglar thinks you are. It will deter them from entering the property. They do not want to find a family at home. Empty properties are easier targets for a burglar, so they will not risk a property that looks occupied. It’s easy to use timers on your existing lamps. All you need to do is plug the lamp into the timer, the timer into the wall, and then set the timer. It’s helpful to have multiple lamps on timers. Consider timing the lights so it mimics your patterns as if you are home: turn the living area lights off as the upstairs lights turn on!
Use Your Blinds:
One of the most important rules of home security is to make sure that potential burglars do not know what you have that they might want to steal. The good news is this practice is easy to incorporate into your design. Always use your blinds and curtains. Don’t let anyone walking by on the street know about your new gaming system or computer. Not only do they know what you have, but they know where you keep it. Make sure to integrate closing your blinds into your evening routine. Additionally, keep valuables out of view from out a window. Even if they can’t be seen from the street, a burglar may peer through your windows, looking for potential targets.
Use your furniture to your advantage. If you have a finished basement, don’t let your furniture be a helpful aid to someone entering into your basement through a window. Furniture can help in their descent. Make sure to keep furniture away from windows. Upstairs, use furniture to block anything that you don’t want the outside world to see. This can include valuables, and help you protect your privacy late at night.
The rules of design are completely up to you, but home security should always be a factor as you design your home.
Especially with the current record-low interest rates, many homeowners would like to refinance their mortgage.
Are you having difficulties? The federal program HARP might be able to help you. Here’s how it works.
Is your mortgage rate above today’s rates?
Is your house worth less than your current mortgage amount?
Are you unable to refinance into a lower-rate mortgage or convert your adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage?
Then the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) is an option you should explore.
HARP is one of two components of the federal Making Home Affordable Program for struggling homeowners. Its counterpart, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), offers loan modifications if you’re behind on your payments or need help exiting gracefully if you can no longer afford your home.
HARP, on the other hand, helps you refinance your home with a brand new mortgage.
What Are the Benefits of HARP?
Your savings from refinancing using HARP could be substantial. The White House says the typical homeowner using HARP could reduce their mortgage payments by about $2,500 a year. Like any refinance transaction, HARP loans come with fees, so you’ll have to weigh the costs and benefits for your specific situation.
The good news is that HARP’s fees are less than the fees for typical refinances. For instance, you won’t have to pay for a full appraisal if the lender can get a reliable automated appraisal for your home. And Fannie and Freddie will waive for borrowers some fees they usually charge lenders (which lenders would normally pass on to you).
What Are the Qualifications?
Your mortgage must be owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.
Your current lender had to sell your mortgage to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before June 1, 2009. Check with your lender to make sure that happened.
This must be your first HARP refinance. You only get one Home Affordable refinance, so if you’ve used the program before, you can’t use it again (although there’s a loophole for those with a Fannie Mae loan refinanced between March and May of 2009).
You need the right balance between what you owe and your home’s value. The minimum is that you owe 80% of your home’s value (for example, owing $80,000 on your $100,000 home). If you owe less than 80%, you can’t use HARP. If you owe up to 105% (say your home is worth $100,000 and you owe $105,000), you can refinance into an adjustable-rate mortgage. If you owe above 105%, you have to go with a fixed-rate mortgage. There’s no cap on how much you can owe above what your home is worth.
If you’ve paid your mortgage late even once during the past six months, you can’t use HARP, but if you had a late payment between 7 and 12 months ago, you’re fine.
If you can meet those criteria, you have until Dec. 31, 2015, to apply for a HARP refinance through either your current lender or a new lender.
Should You Apply?
HARP makes sense if you owe more than your house is worth, which is preventing you from refinancing, according to Bob Walters, chief economist at Quicken Loans. You’ll still pay full-market rates for a HARP refinance, not a discounted rate or payment that you might get with a loan modification.
As a rule of thumb, for fixed-rate mortgages, you’ll want your new rate to be at least a half-point better than your old one.
Lowering your interest can pay off immediately. Let’s say you took out a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage at 6.5% for $176,800 at a monthly payment of $1,117.50 five years ago.
Today, you’d still owe $168,065. If you refinance that balance into a new 30-year loan at 4.5%, your monthly payment would drop to $851.56, saving you about $266 a month. Or, you could refinance into a 15-year fixed-rate loan, pay about $168 a month more, and pay your loan off about 10 years earlier.
HARP might also make sense if you can convert an adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage. Even if an ARM’s monthly payment is low now, it’ll go up if rates rise.
When applying for HARP, you need paperwork just like any other mortgage application:
- Pay stubs
- Tax returns
- Mortgage statements
- Account balances
- Debt totals (for credit cards, student loans, car loans, and such)
- Details about any second mortgages or home equity lines of credit
Pay attention to the fees associated with the refinancing, which the lender must disclose up front, and ask if those costs can be rolled into the new loan if you’re strapped for cash.
Tips to Make the Process Go Smoothly
To keep the process moving, ask your lender for a list of the documents it will need. Give yourself two weeks to collect everything.
If possible, submit the entire packet together via certified mail. Sending in documents piecemeal could result in lost paperwork and your loan application falling to the bottom of the pile, says Nicole Hall, editor of LendingTree.com. Keep detailed records of any phone calls you make, and dates you mail or fax correspondences.
There are companies that will offer to take care of the paperwork for a fee, but you don’t need to pay. You can access free help through a housing counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Counselors will help you understand the Making Home Affordable program and aid in gathering the documents needed for your loan servicer.
Don’t qualify for HARP? Then maybe its sister program, HAMP, is for you.
By: Donna Fuscaldo
Need help? Give me, Lucy Garber a call at (310) 293-4866. I can refer you to some great mortgage brokers I’ve worked with over the years.
One of the biggest misconceptions of home buying? The 20% down payment. Here’s how to buy with a lot less down.
Buying your first home conjures up all kinds of warm and fuzzy emotions: pride, joy, contentment. But before you get to the good stuff, you’ve got to cobble together a down payment, a daunting sum if you follow the textbook advice to squirrel away 20% of a home’s cost.
Here are five creative ways to build your down-payment nest egg faster than you may have ever imagined.
1. Crowdsource Your Dream Home
You may have heard of people using sites like Kickstarter to fund creative projects like short films and concert tours. Well, who says you can’t crowdsource your first home? Forget the traditional registry, the fine china, and the 16-speed blender. Use sites like Feather the Nest and Hatch My House to raise your down payment. Hatch My House says it’s helped Americans raise more than $2 million for down payments.
2. Ask the Seller to Help (Really!)
When sellers want to a get a deal done quickly, they might be willing to assist buyers with the closing costs. Fewer closing costs = more money you can apply toward your deposit.
“They’re called seller concessions,” says Ray Rodriguez, regional mortgage sales manager for the New York metro area at TD Bank. Talk with your real estate agent. She might help you negotiate for something like 2% of the overall sales price in concessions to help with the closing costs.
There are limits on concessions depending on the type of mortgage you get. For FHA mortgages, the cap is 6% of the sale price. For Fannie Mae-guaranteed loans, the caps vary between 3% and 9%, depending on the ratio between how much you put down and the amount you finance. Individual banks have varying caps on concessions.
No matter where they net out, concessions must be part of the purchase contract.
3. Look into Government Options
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, offers a number of homeownership programs, including assistance with down payment and closing costs. These are typically available for people who meet particular income or location requirements. HUD has a list of links by state that direct you to the appropriate page for information about your state.
HUD offers help based on profession as well. If you’re a law enforcement officer, firefighter, teacher, or EMT, you may be eligible under its Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program for a 50% discount on a house’s HUD-appraised value in “revitalization areas.” Those areas are designated by Congress for homeownership opportunities. And if you qualify for an FHA-insured mortgage under this program, the down payment is only $100; you can even finance the closing costs.
For veterans, the VA will guarantee part of a home loan through commercial lenders. Often, there’s no down payment or private mortgage insurance required, and the program helps borrowers secure a competitive interest rate.
Some cities also offer homeownership help. “The city of Hartford has the HouseHartford Program that gives down payment assistance and closing cost assistance,” says Matthew Carbray, a certified financial planner with Ridgeline Financial Partners and Carbray Staunton Financial Planners in Avon, Conn. The program partners with lenders, real estate attorneys, and homebuyer counseling agencies and has helped 1,200 low-income families.
4. Check with Your Employer
Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) programs help connect low- to moderate-income workers with down payment assistance through their employer. In Pennsylvania, if you work for a participating EAH employer, you can apply for a loan of up to $8,000 for down payment and closing cost assistance. The loan is interest-free and borrowers have 10 years to pay it back.
Washington University in St. Louis offers forgivable loans to qualified employees who want to purchase housing in specific city neighborhoods. University employees receive the lesser of 5% of the purchase price or $6,000 toward down payment or closing costs.
Ask the human resources or benefits personnel at your employer if the company is part of an EAH program.
5. Take Advantage of Special Lender Programs
Finally, many lenders offer programs to help people buy a home with a small down payment. “I would say that the biggest misconception [of homebuying] is that you need 20% for the down payment of a house,” says Rodriguez. “There are a lot of programs out there that need a total of 3% or 3.5% down.”
FHA mortgages, for example, can require as little as 3.5%. But bear in mind that there are both upfront and monthly mortgage insurance payments. “The mortgage insurance could add another $300 to your monthly mortgage payment,” Rodriguez says.
Some lender programs go even further. TD Bank, for example, offers a 3% down payment with no mortgage insurance program, and other banks may have similar offerings. “Check with your regional bank,” Rodriguez says. “Maybe they have their own first-time buyer program.”
Not so daunting after all, is it? There’s actually a lot of help available to many first-time buyers who want to achieve their homeownership dreams. All you need to do is a little research — and start peeking at those home listings!
By: Erik Sherman | Houselogic
With over 25 years of experience helping folks just like you to buy and sell homes in the Los Angeles South Bay, please give me, Lucy Garber, a call at (310) 293-4866. Once I understand your specific circumstances, I’ll can suggest some ideas that may help you get into your first home.
Want summer comfort but hate the AC (or just don’t have it)? Follow these tips on how to keep your house cool without frosty air conditioning.
You don’t have to switch on the air conditioner to get a big chill this summer. These tips will help you keep your Torrance house cool without AC, which will save energy (and avoid AC wars with your family).
Block that Sun!
When sunlight enters your house, it turns into heat. You’ll keep your house cooler if you reduce solar heat gain by keeping sunlight out.
- Close the drapes: Line them with light-colored fabric that reflects the sun, and close them during the hottest part of the day. Let them pillow onto the floor to block air movement.
- Add awnings: Install them on south- and west-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 77%, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Make your own by tacking up sheets outside your windows and draping the ends over a railing or lawn chair.
- Install shutters: Interior and exterior shutters not only reduce heat gain and loss, but they also add security and protect against bad weather. Interior shutters with adjustable slats let you control how much sun you let in.
- Apply high-reflectivity window film: Install energy-saving window films on east- and west-facing windows, which will keep you cool in summer, but let in warming sun in the winter. Mirror-like films are more effective than colored transparent films.
Open Those Windows
Be sure to open windows when the outside temperature is lower than the inside. Cool air helps lower the temps of everything — walls, floors, furniture — that will absorb heat as temps rise, helping inside air say cooler longer.
To create cross-ventilation, open windows on opposite sides of the house. Good ventilation helps reduce VOCs and prevents mold.
Fire Up Fans
- Portable fans: At night, place fans in open windows to move cool air. In the day, put fans where you feel their cooling breezes (moving air evaporates perspiration and lowers your body temperature). To get extra cool, place glasses or bowls of ice water in front of fans, which will chill the moving air.
- Ceiling fans: For maximum cooling effect, make sure ceiling fans spin in the direction that pushes air down, rather than sucks it up. Be sure to turn off fans when you’re not in the room, because fan motors give off heat, too.
- Whole house fans: A whole-house fan ($1,000 to $1,600, including install) exhausts hot inside air out through roof vents. Make sure your windows are open when you run a whole-house fan.
Power Down Appliances
You’ll save money and reduce heat output by turning off appliances you’re not using, particularly your computer and television. Powering down multiple appliances is easier if you connect them to the same power strip.
Don’t use heat- and steam-generating appliances — ranges, ovens, washers, dryers — during the hottest part of the day. In fact, take advantage of the heat by drying clothes outside on a line.
Plant Trees and Vines
These green house-coolers shade your home’s exterior and keep sunlight out of windows. Plant them by west-facing walls, where the sun is strongest.
Deciduous trees, which leaf out in spring and drop leaves in fall, are best because they provide shade in summer, then let in sun when temperatures drop in autumn. Select trees that are native to your area, which have a better chance of surviving. When planting, determine the height, canopy width, and root spread of the mature tree and plant accordingly.
Climbing vines, such as ivy and Virginia creeper, also are good outside insulators. To prevent vine rootlets or tendrils from compromising your siding, grow them on trellises or wires about 6 inches away from the house.
Want more tips for staying cool this summer? Substitute CFL and LED bulbs for hotter incandescent lights.
Also, try insulating your garage door to prevent heat buildup.
Source: Houselogic, by Lisa Kaplan Gordon