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HomeFit

March 2014

Exercise the Best Ins and Outs of Home Ownership

What to Fix In and Outside Your House before Selling How to Choose the Perfect Neighborhood 3 Proactive Steps First-Time Homebuyers Should Consider

First Time Home Buyers Fulfill Dreams with the Right Mortgage

6 Powerful Home-Staging Secrets the Pros Use

The Magazine for Home Buyers and Sellers

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Letter from the Editors In this issue, we will touch on a lot of consumer-oriented subjects regarding the sale and purchase of real estate. As the housing market continues to rebound, real estate agents and their clients still face issues of financing, pricing and strategies for showing their homes.

Eric and Debbie Sinensky License Sales Associates Chris Capitelli George Mazzocchi Talmage Trail Realty Associate Broker Licensed Sales Associate 631-742-7096 Exit Realty Achieve Remax Innovations Tony Maciaszek 631-428-6733 516-582-4005 Licensed Sales Agent 631-428-5611 Exit Realty Achieve

In this issue, we will cover details about how a buyer or seller should choose a real estate agent to represent them and what questions should they ask their potential agent to ensure they are both on the same page. We will touch on how a first-time homebuyer can proactively prepare for acquiring a mortgage to finance their starter home, the type of credit reports needed, what factors affect their credit scores, what steps can they take to repair their credit and if it needs to be repaired. Also, the documents expected to gathered and presented to a loan officer. For sellers, we’ll examine home improvements and decide which come closest to paying for themselves, or if any of them do. We’ll also offer sellers a list of repairs they should make before even considering putting their house up for sale. Finally, we’ll share some professional staging secrets with sellers that will ensure that they’ll be able to show their properties in the best possible light. We hope you find this issue as informative and fun to read as we did writing it.

David Bailey Mortgage Broker NMLS # 3458 631-767-8948 The Mortgage Outlet

Feel free to contact us if you have questions or would like your friends and family added to our distribution list.

The Mortgage Outlet, NMLS # 36861 is a registered mortgage broker with the New York State Financial Department. All loans are arranged through third party providers.

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CONTENTS 4. What to Fix In and Outside Your House before Selling 6. How to Choose the Perfect Neighborhood 8. 3 Proactive Steps First-Time Homebuyers Should Consider 10. First Time Home Buyers Fulfill Dreams with the Right Mortgage 12. 6 Powerful Home-Staging Secrets the Pros Use 14 Found the Perfect Home – But Furniture Won’t Fit! 15. A Bit About Mold

This magazine is published monthly. Entire contents are copyright protected under law where applicable. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction or use of content in any manner without permission is strictly prohibited. All images are copyright protection of 123RF.com and its photographers.

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What to Fix In and Outside Your House before Selling If you’ve decided to sell your house, then the next step you need to take is to make some necessary improvements to its exterior and interior.

If you house doesn’t have siding and it hasn’t been painted in a few years, consider putting on a new coat or two. This should include painting your front and garage doors.

Professional home stagers say this is the only way to ensure that your real estate agent will be able to sell your property in a reasonable amount of time for the price that it’s worth. You’ll want to plan and complete these improvements before you list your home and you’ll want to make them without going overboard on spending.

Inside Improvements Will Boost Its Value

First Things First In real estate, as with so many things in life, first impressions are everything. That’s why the first thing you should focus on improving is how the outside of your house looks, commonly known as curb appeal. That’s because the exterior of your property is the first thing a potential buyer sees. Cosmetic touches such as making sure your lawn is mowed and your shrubbery is trimmed are a must. If your house has siding that is weathered then you should invest in getting it pressured washed. Some companies advertise that they will pressure wash any house for just $199. Or if you want to save some money and you have the time, you could rent a pressure washer yourself. It goes without saying that if there is any siding missing, it should also be replaced.

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Again, inside cosmetic improvements can help you get top dollar for your home. You should focus on improving the first impression a potential buyer gets when they enter it. If the tile in your foyer is dated or cracked, replace it. However, don’t improve something

that is in fair shape but just needs to be scrubbed. For example, sometimes bathtub faucets can be spotted, dull and grimy. That’s the time to clean and polish them, resurrecting their original shine and beauty. As with the exterior of your home, a coat or two of paint can cover up blemishes and accentuate the architectural lines of your dwelling. It’s not unusual for those putting their homes up for sale to have second thoughts after sprucing the old place up!


Super Clean Bathrooms and Kitchens Cleanliness is something a potential buyer will see, smell and notice throughout your home, but especially in the bathrooms and kitchen. As a result, home staging experts recommend thoroughly cleaning your entire house, but cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms with bleach. They also suggest fixing any dripping faucets because they are a major turn off to potential buyers. So do repair them if you have this problem. Sadly, it’s often such little things that can kill a sale.

Say Goodbye to Clutter Finally, improving the appearance of your home so it will show at its best can sometimes be an exercise in subtraction rather than addition. Staging professionals say clutter is the No. 1 reason potential homebuyers reject some of the most pristine properties they’re shown. Clutter is insidious because it happens slowly over the years and finally forces home sellers to remove or pare down some of their favorite pieces of furniture and decorations. It also forces them to get rid of the junk that’s been accumulating over the years in their garages, basements and especially their closets. But get rid of it you must, if you hope to sell your house for a high-market price.

3 Tips to Get You Started with the Outside of Your Home 1. Go stand on the street to see what clients see when driving up to the house. Be aware that any negative impressions they get outside the house (landscaping not maintained or non-existent, peeling paint, etc.) is just going to make them think that the house itself has not been well taken care of. So even if you have spent the time and money to fix up the interior, it would all be wasted if the clients get a bad first impression as they drive up to the house. 2. Next, step outside your front door and close the door; then stand on the stoop and look around for 5 minutes. While the real estate agent is searching for keys and trying to open the door, the clients are standing behind and looking around. So what are they seeing? Dead plants, old Halloween decorations in the middle of January, cobwebs?

3. Don’t forget the backyard. While that might not be part of the potential buyers’ first impression, you still should make sure it’s in the best condition possible. Pull up weeds, water plants, do some sweeping (if that’s applicable) and maybe purchase new furniture or accessories (plant pots, bird houses, etc.). And the biggest tip of all? Imagine yourself as a potential buyer looking at your property for the first time. What impressions are you getting? Would YOU buy your house? What would you like to see changed before you put an offer on your house? Proper staging helps you sell your house in a shorter time and potentially at the price you want.

It’s definitely worth it to take some time and clean it up. Want to go a step further? Try a new coat of paint or some new furniture or accessories.

If you follow these suggestions, experts say you can expect your property to stand out from the rest, sell at a good price -- and do so in a reasonable period of time!

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How to Choose the Perfect Neighborhood Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or getting ready to sell your house and upgrade to a larger property, choosing the right neighborhood to move into should be your first consideration. While different people may seek various amenities and aesthetics as part of their neighborhood search, there are certain factors everyone should consider before making a final decision on where to move.

Important Factors Before you move into a particular locale, you should check the crime stats of the neighborhood. This can be done online using various websites that breakdown this critical information by zip code. In some jurisdictions, local police stations can give you this data. Suffice it to say, even if a neighborhood looks beautiful on the outside and there are plenty of houses to choose from, if you find that burglaries and car theft is skyrocketing there, it’s time to move on.

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If you have children, or are planning to, the quality of a prospective neighborhood’s schools should be a major factor in making your choice. You can contact the local school board in the neighborhood’s jurisdiction and obtain the latest stats on how the average student in the neighborhood scores on national proficiency tests. You can then compare them to scores of students in other areas. This stat often mirrors the quality and effectiveness of education available in a particular neighborhood.

Education Budget You can also get an idea of the quality of education in a neighborhood by comparing the budget allotted by local officials to the area compared to other areas. Another source of information is the education section of community newspapers covering the neighborhood. It wouldn’t hurt to look them up online and even give the education reporter a call. You’d be surprised how many of them will

be glad to give you their opinions of the state of education in the area they cover. Finally, you can contact the local Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and get both the pros and cons of the education system in the area. Members of this organization also can tell you if the schools have sufficient room, or if they are overcrowded.

Traffic and Future Development When choosing a new neighborhood, quality-of-life issues such as traffic and potential crowding have become important factors in making a decision. Let’s face it, no matter how pristine a neighborhood is, if you have to sit in gridlock for a significant amount of time before you can reach your front door, it might not be the area for you. The easiest way to discover the traffic volume in a neighborhood is to get in your car and drive around it at peak morning and evening rush hours. If it’s easy to drive from place to place, then


you have a winner. If not, then you might decide to cross the neighborhood off your list. If a neighborhood you’re interested in is already fairly built out, it makes sense to research whether there are any major development projects in the wings. This can be done by visiting the local planning board’s website, or visit in person. Although it’s not a given that all proposed developments will be approved, a majority of them do make it from the drawing board to completion. So, if you are considering a neighborhood that is in store for major development in the next couple of years, you really need to weigh this factor in your decision.

Proximity to Schools, Stores, Hospitals and More Another important consideration in choosing a neighborhood is the proximity of your new home to schools, hospitals, stores, parks and airports. If you have a family member who is disabled or sick, it makes no sense moving into a neighborhood that is far from the best medical facilities. If you are an avid runner you probably want to choose a neighborhood that is close to a park with a running trail. While some neighborhood associations take pride in the fact they’ve managed to block zoning changes that would allow a local convenience store, if you like to grab a hot coffee everyday on the way to work, then you have to take this into consideration before buying a home in a neighborhood that bans stores.

Rising Property Values Finally, before you choose a neighborhood to move to, you should also examine whether the property values are trending up or down. You can easily check recent property sales online to find this out, or call your real estate agent and have her run the numbers. This is an important factor in case you decide to sell the property in a few years. The point is to take your time and carefully research each neighborhood on your list of perfect neighborhoods until you find the one that most closely fits your needs.

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3 Proactive Steps First-Time Homebuyers Should Consider There are specific steps a firsttime homebuyer can take before entering the real estate market that will greatly improve his or her chances of getting financing and being able to purchase a starter home. Here are three proactive steps you should consider taking before you contact a real estate agent or mortgage broker:

1. Check your credit score If there is a single factor that can help or hurt your foray into the world of financing a new home it is your credit score, according to mortgage-finance experts. So,

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if you want a good idea of what your chances are of obtaining such financing, you should first order a credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Just use one of the many online credit monitoring companies that provide the reports, as well as your current credit score for a small fee.

2. Begin reviewing and repairing your credit Once you get the reports you should carefully examine them to make sure there are no mistakes. If there are any errors, you should contact the credit bureaus and take the necessary steps to have them

corrected. You should also look for any unpaid or collection accounts. If there are any unpaid or collection accounts you should settle them immediately, or set up some sort of payment plan. At the very least, this will show that are willing to pay your debts. A copy of your credit report will also show all of the credit you have available in relation to your credit lines. This is something lenders consider carefully before making a loan. It’s known as your credit utilization rate. For example, if you have total credit availability on your credit cards of $30,000 and you owe $20,000, then your


credit utilization rate is 67 percent. This rate has a great effect on your overall credit score. The lower the percentage, the higher your credit score will be, vice versa. According to industry experts, a good credit utilization rate for a first-time homebuyer is less than 33 percent. If your rate is higher than this, you will have to make a serious effort to pay off as much debt as possible and satisfy any unsettled notes. On average, it takes about six months to improve your credit score.

3. Get your documentation in order. As we mentioned, today more than ever, mortgage companies by law are requiring documentation of a potential borrower’s income and taxes. The day of the so-called no-doc loan, where no such documentation was required, is gone. In general, a mortgage lender will ask a first-time

homebuyer to produce two recent pay stubs and the last two year’s W2 forms in order to apply for a loan. In addition, the lender will require the applicant to provide two months of bank statements. The exception to this rule is the documentation lenders require of first-time homebuyers who are self-employed or are in commission sales. If you fall into one of these categories, you should be prepared to produce up to three to four years of W2s. Lenders are looking for steady income and to make sure your last two years or earnings were not an anomaly. While taking these steps may seem like a lot of work, getting your credit score, working to improve it and gathering your documentation will greatly increase your chances of acquiring a mortgage for your first home when you are ready to buy.

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First Time Home Buyers Fulfill Dreams with the Right Mortgage

When it comes to mortgages, it’s important to find the right loan officer.

the three major credit reporting agencies provide you with a free annual credit report.

You want to work with someone who can find the type of mortgage that is right for you and your family, whether you’re seeking to buy a new home or refinance your existing home.

Reviewing these reports will not only provide you with your credit rating, but will alert you to any misinformation or errors contained in your report.

The right loan officer takes pride regarding their customer service so your experience will be more personalized.

What if Your Credit is Less than Ideal? Before you go to a lender, you should check your credit rating. Federal law requires that each of

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challenging bad reports that are on your record in error, and so forth. Having someone to help you navigate through the maze of credit reporting is extremely useful even if your credit isn’t pristine so you can still apply for a mortgage.

Fulfilling Your Dreams Bad credit mortgages come with higher interest rates so it pays to clean up your credit before actually buying a home. A good loan officer will offer credit improvement ideas, or refer you to a service to help you repair your credit prior to obtaining a loan. This may involve setting up payment plans to existing creditors,

With the right mortgage, first time home buyers can truly own a piece of the American dream. It’s enormously satisfying to pay a mortgage payment instead of rent every month, knowing that you’re slowly and surely building equity. That equity lays a foundation for your financial future and that of your children too giving you peace of mind.


10 Tips to Buy Real Estate without Breaking Your Budget 1. Get pre-approved for your home loan 2. Explore creative financing options 3. Sell your existing home first 4. Look for vacant real estate 5. Consider cosmetic fixers 6. Buy a major remodel project 7. Don’t discount bank foreclosures 8. Buy land with a manufactured home 9. Purchase an older, smaller home 10. Buy the cheapest house in the best neighborhood

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6 Powerful Home-Staging Secrets the Pros Use The art of staging a home so it will have the most appeal to potential buyers is something anyone can do, if they just follow the example of professional decorators. Here are six staging secrets that you can use to make your house stand out and capture the attention of potential buyers:

1. Dress up your porch Whether you have a large porch or just a few steps in front of your house, adding a new doormat and a few exotic flowers or plants can help make your home stand out. A nice porch can come alive with just a couple of pieces of outside furniture, while a few strategically placed solar lights on either side of your walkway will do much

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to make your house sparkle as will porch lights kept on when a potential buyer drives by at dust or at dawn.

2. Make your house spotless but lived-in – While it’s critical to keep your house super clean and spotless when it’s being shown, you don’t want it to appear sterile or unpopulated. After all, a house is a place where people live. Professionals use a few fresh flowers in vases or a basket of produce to make a house look lived in. A few lemons on a cutting board in the kitchen is also not a bad idea.

positive energy out of anyone who passes by it. The pros say decorating such a table with an assortment of small colorful arrangements will breathe life into an otherwise dreary dining chamber.

4. Closets wide open – Professionals say you should open your closets wide, that is, after you have thoroughly cleaned them and removed any clutter. By doing so, you create a feeling of spaciousness and you’re declaring affirmatively that there is a great deal of closet space in this home!

3. Stylize your plain dining room table – A bare dining room

5. Install a pedestal sink to create the illusion of more space - If you have a tiny bathroom

table is a little like a black hole. It is unfriendly and tends to suck the

that’s cramped and makes you want to scream, imagine the effect


it might have on a potential buyer. One possible and inexpensive fix the pros use is to remove the big, old sink in your tiny bathroom and replace it with a small pedestal sink and decorate it with a few red roses. The result is the optical illusion of much space and style, transforming the bathroom from a liability to an asset.

6. Use art to draw people in – Unfortunately, many prospective homebuyers tour a house with blinders on. It’s almost as though they have tunnel vision. How in the world can you get them to explore the entire depth and breadth of your home? Professional stagers use a piece of artwork hanging at the top of the stairs, or a colorful vase near the back of the house to catch the eye of prospective buyers. Such a strategy gets them to view the house in its blissful totality, rather than segmenting it into little chucks.

Busting the Myth That Home Improvements Pay For Themselves For years, homeowners cherished and embraced the myth that expensive renovations and improvements to their homes were great investments that would more than pay for themselves in the long run by adding to the overall value of their properties when they were sold some day in the near future. Many major home improvement contracts have been signed and justified by this financial myth.

Remodeling and Improvements Equals Poor Return According to Remodeling Magazine, over the last decade, payback on the average remodeling job has fallen from 82 percent in 2003 to 57 percent in 2013.

* Here are the payback percentages on some popular home improvements: Garage doors only paid back 71.9 percent of their cost when the house was sold. Steel Entry doors only paid back 73 percent of their initial cost. Built-in, back-up power generators only returned 47.5 percent of their cost at the sale of a property. Popular additions such as a sun room only returned 45.9 percent of their original cost. *Remodeling Magazine

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Found the Perfect Home – But Furniture Won’t Fit! You’ve been looking for a home and you’ve found one that feels almost perfect. The location is convenient and you can picture your family living here happily. However, there’s a problem. One or more pieces of furniture you’ve had for years just will not fit. Do you buy the home anyway, or keep looking?

Move It? Suppose the piece of furniture that won’t fit is a tall chest-on-chest that’s always been in your bedroom. Could you use it in another room? Might it be handsome and useful in the living room or dining room? (Rooms downstairs often have taller ceilings than rooms upstairs.) Could it store games, videos, tablecloths and place mats, and silverware in its new location? If that thought process takes care of the chest, but you’re left without enough storage in the bedroom, what then? Is there a smaller chest of drawers that was used in your old guest room that would fit in your bedroom? What about putting an inexpensive chest of drawers into your walk-in closet?

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Give It Away?

Evaluate and Decide

Maybe the problem is that you have a bed that’s too large for any of the bedrooms in the “almost perfect” house. Is it a Sheraton tall post field bed with canopy or a massive Victorian piece that’s been in the family for generations? Do you love it, or might another family member with larger rooms and taller ceilings be very excited to get it?

Don’t turn down the idea of purchasing a home you’d really enjoy simply because some of your furniture won’t fit.

Sell It? Maybe the offending piece of furniture has monetary value, but has no sentimental value. Why not just sell it? There’s no need to buy a house based on where it’ll fit, is there?

Ask yourself questions about the possibilities. When you come up with answers you like, you’ve made your decision. Who knows, another family member or a stranger shopping for a special piece of furniture could be delighted with your decision, too!


A Bit About Best House Color to Sell Mold There are a number of little things to look out for when purchasing a new home. Normally things to consider include location, wiring, the condition of the house, and several other factors. One of these factors is mold. There are different types of mold that can occur in a home and lead not only to structural damage, but some health concerns too. Mold can be difficult to find in homes as it grows exclusively in dark and moist areas that are usually hidden somewhere in structural areas, like attics and basements. By the time mold shows up in actual living areas, chances are that it is all throughout the home. Another concern is if a home has ever flooded and was not completely or properly cleaned afterward. Leaky plumbing and basement crawlspaces are other likely candidates. Mold can be a difficult thing to completely get rid of as the only thing it needs to continue growing is organic material such as wood and moisture. Both of these items are abundant in most homes. Usually moisture finds its way into a home through faulty or leaky roofs and foundations. Both areas should be checked by an experienced mold inspector on a fairly regular basis if there is any worry of mold beginning to grow, or if there has been mold in the past.

When you go to social events, do you make an effort to snazzy up? Of course you do. Attraction is a key factor in forming relationships and the same applies to your house. When you put the house on the market, you need to make it look good for the dates with potential buyers. The color of your house can make all the difference. First, there is no absolutely correct answer to the best color! Instead, the decision depends on the makeup of your home and the surrounding landscape.

Let’s take a closer look: 1. Whatever color you choose, make sure it doesn’t clash with the other homes in the neighborhood. An otherwise appropriate color could end up making your house an eye-sore. 2. The Roof. What color is the roof on your home? If it is a red tile roof, off-whites are probably going to be the better choice than dark green. Unless you are going to invest money in a new roof, make sure the paint color doesn’t clash with it.

5. On large flat surfaces, such as

the side of a garage, keep in mind the color you choose will have a washed out appearance. Now we get to the fun part. After considering the above issues, make a preliminary list of colors and buy small cans of each color. In a private area of the house, start applying samples strokes a couple feet long and a foot or so wide. Try to paint examples in shaded areas and those exposed to the sun. Do not immediately judge the results of your experiments. Instead, wait a few hours for the paint to dry and then start comparing. Dry paint takes on a very different appearance than when it is wet. Once the paint is dry, take a long look at each sample. You will typically find the colors look much different. You may find one color is perfect or you may find something a little different would be best. Either way, you’ll have come up with the best house color to sell your home.

3. Highlights. If there is a particular part of your house that should be emphasized, used light colored paint around it to draw attention. 4. Hide It! Conversely, if there are parts of the house that are mundane, use darker colors to draw attention away from them.

Mold can be an expensive problem. Be proactive about searching for it so you save money in the long run. 15


Opening Doors...

...Making the Dream of Home Ownership a Reality Call and Let Us Help Make Your Dream Come True! George Mazzocchi Chris Capitelli Debbie and Eric Sinensky Tony Maciaszek Licensed Sales Agent Associate Licensed Sales Agent Licensed Broker Sales Agent Remax Innovations Exit Realty Achieve Talmage Trail Realty Exit Realty Achieve 516-582-4005 631-428-6733 631-742-7091 631-428-5611

David Bailey Mortgage Broker, NMLS # 3458 The Mortgage Outlet 631-767-8948

The Mortgage Outlet, NMLS # 36861, is a registered mortgage broker NYS Financial Department. All loans arranged through third party providers. Office located a 280 W. Main St, Sayville NY 11782


Home Fit March Issue from Debbie and Eric