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Types of Movers for Home Buyers

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Moving to a new house, city or state is one of the most stressful things a person can go through. Even when everything goes smoothly, you’ll likely be exhausted when all is said and done. Whether it’s down the street or across the country, moving is a major task that requires much effort and coordination. For this reason, many people choose to hire a moving company, but knowing who to entrust your belongings can be a daunting task.

While you do have the option of going the DIY route when moving, things will be so much easier and more convenient for you if you hire professional movers instead. You’ll incur certain costs by doing so, but the help they can provide is worth it.

It’s also a common mistake to hire the first moving company you lay your eyes on in an ad. There are so many moving companies out there, but not all are created equal. The movers you should hire are legitimate ones with licenses, insurance and other vital considerations. You should also get quotes from at least three movers to determine the best deal. Ask for references and verifying credentials. And remember to never pre-pay for a move!

Local Movers

There are many kinds of moving companies depending on the type of move you’re looking to make. Some companies specialize in local moves and will have limitations on the distance they’re willing to travel. Local movers are great for small cross-town moves since they typically charge by the hour.

Long-Distance

If you’re moving across the country, you’ll want to find a long-distance mover. These movers have special licensing that allows them to operate across state lines and they typically charge a bulk rate based on how quickly you need to be moved and how many items you’ll be moving. In some circumstances, you may even need to move out of the country. International movers will help you pack and get your items overseas. These moving companies are usually prepared for immigration and customs issues.

Full-Service

If you want a completely stress-free move, you should consider a full-service moving company. These companies take all the hassle out of your move by disassembling and packing up your old house and then unpacking and reassembling everything in your new place. Additionally, they provide all of the materials so you don’t have to worry about how much tape you’ll need or what size boxes to get.

Tax Considerations When Deciding to Relocate.

Florida retains its ranking as one of the nation’s lowest-tax states, according to the latest study released by Florida TaxWatch. Out of 50 states, Florida ranks No. 42 in the average amount of money paid by residents.
Florida TaxWatch findings:
  • Floridians pay an average $5,679 per person in state and local taxes
  • Residents pay an average $2,584 in state taxes – one of the least amounts nationwide. Only the residents of one other state pay less.
  • However, local tax burdens are higher. “Per Capita Local Tax Collections” ranked No. 27 nationally.
  • In the balance between state and local taxes, Florida relies more heavily on local revenue than almost all other states and is No. 2 nationwide. Local taxes account for 53.3 percent of the total.
  • With property taxes, Florida ranks a solid “average” score – No. 25. The state’s per capita property tax ranking is right at the median – 25th.
  • Florida also classifies 38.7 percent of its state and local revenue as non-tax revenue (such as “fees”) – the 7th largest percentage in the nation.
  • Florida relies more heavily on transaction taxes, such as general and sales taxes. They make up, 81.5 percent of all state tax collections compared to the national average of 47.2 percent.
  • Florida has the highest state and local selective sales (excise) taxes on utilities in the nation. The tax on motor fuels is No. 15; the tax on alcoholic beverages is No. 19.
  • Florida’s housing sector produces significant revenue, and the state’s documentary stamp taxes are rising rapidly post-recession. It collected an average of $276 per capita in 2006, $72 in 2009, and $130 per capita in 2016 – the nation’s second-largest doc-tax burden.
  • Florida is one of seven states without a personal income tax. The average state relies on personal income taxes for 37.0 percent of its tax revenue.
  • Businesses pay 51.7 percent of all Florida state and local taxes – the 12th highest percentage in the nation.

How to Declutter for the New Year!

The idea of living a simplified, uncluttered life with less stuff sounds attractive to many. They have considered the benefits of owning fewer possessions: less to clean, less debt, less to organize, less stress, more money and energy for their greatest passions. They are ready to declutter but some get quickly tripped up by the very next question… where in the world do I begin?

Many begin to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and defeated around the idea of decluttering their homes. That’s too bad. The decluttering journey doesn’t need to be as painful as some make it out to be. In fact, there are a variety of people who have come up with some pretty fun, creative ways to get started.

Below are three decluttering philosophies to help you clear out and clean up your home and life.

Feng Shui — The driving principle behind this Eastern philosophy is to create harmony and balance between an individual and his or her environment. Good feng shui invites prosperity and brings an overall sense of well-being into your space. From the front door to the bathroom, small changes to color, decor and furniture arrangement are believed to promote health, wealth, happiness and good energy.

The KonMari Method — Famed Japanese organizer Marie Kondo promises that you can drastically improve your lie by tidying up.  In her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” she explains a two-step approach. First, you take all of your possessions and lay them out categorically (clothes first and sentimental pieces last). Then, you hold each item in your hand and decide whether or not it brings you joy. If it doesn’t, you let it go.

The 90/90 Rule (Minimalism) — This home organization concept also relies on a two-part process. When implementing the 90/90 rule, assess each belonging based on two simple questions: Have I used it within the last 90 days, and will I use it in the next 90 days? If not, it’s time to say goodbye.

While some of these techniques require a big commitment of time, energy and emotional “letting go”, it may require starting with small steps before you fully embrace the concept of minimalism, if at all.

Consider this list of 10 creative ways to declutter your home:

Give away one item each day.  By giving away one item at a time and donating it to someone less fortunate you can declutter and enrich your life.

Fill one trash bag. Early in your journey towards simplicity, a favorite decluttering techniques is to grab a simple large trash bag and see how quickly you can fill it. This could also be used to fill a bag for a needy charity or just toss in the trash.

Try the Oprah Winfrey Hanger Experiment:  While this idea didn’t originate with Oprah, she was the one to help give it notoriety. To identify wardrobe pieces to clear out, hang all your clothes with the hangers in the reverse direction. After you wear an item, return it to the closet with the hanger facing the correct direction. After six months, you’ll have a clear picture of which clothes you can easily discard. This experiment could also be applied to a number of clutter areas in your home (cleaners, toys, linens, tools, hobbies and craft items).

Take the 12-12-12 Challenge. A simple task of locating 12 items to throw away, 12 items to donate, and 12 items to be returned to their proper home can be a really fun and exciting way to quickly organize 36 things in your house. This challenge actually became a quick competition … and your kids don’t have to be too old to participate as well.

9. Use your imagination. Psychology Today recommends using your imagination to help declutter objects that may seem difficult to remove. Try asking yourself unique questions like, “If I was just buying this now, how much would I pay?” These creative techniques may prove to be very helpful for some with difficulties removing unneeded clutter.

No matter what you choose to help you get started – whether it be one of these ten or one of countless others – the goal is to take your first step with excitement behind it. There is a beautiful world of freedom and fresh breath hiding behind that clutter. How you remove it is up to you.

Ultimately, there’s no shortage of ways to declutter and simplify your life. The important thing is to be willing to let go of the items that no longer serve you and make way for new experiences.

Things Not To Forget Before You Move

What a Home Buyer Should Never Say!

Always know who the real estate agent you are working with represents. If they are the Listing Agent they represent the Seller, a Transactional Agent works for their personal benefit and even though an agent will put you in the car and drive you around and are not the listing agent, in most states they are Sub-agents for the Seller and work for the seller. It is most advisable for buyers to only work with Exclusive Buyer Agents (EBAs). If you find that you are at an open house or have called an agent and they are not an EBA…you’re your tongue. What buyers may innocently say in the presence of a Seller, Listing Agent, Transactional Agent, or Seller’s Sub-agent can be used against them during a negotiation.

While it may be tempting for buyers to say what’s on their mind during their home search, you should consider yourself in a poker game and keep your cards close to your chest and your comments to yourself. There are some things home buyers should never say on the fly.

Others may be listening. Listing agents, seller and neighbors  all have motives to keep tabs on the situation — or there could be even be a camera or recording device planted somewhere.  In the age of smart home security you can never be too sure.

Those off-the-cuff comments made while moving from room to room could be used against you.

Here are some obvious comments home buyers should never say when shopping for a home:

‘I love it; it’s perfect!’

That feedback goes straight to the seller.

When the less-than-full-price offer comes in and the buyer requests all sorts of concessions, how will the seller be inclined to respond?

 

‘That (decor, furniture, wall color) is awful!’

What were they thinking?

So maybe the sellers’ tastes are not what the buyer would pick, but that doesn’t make their choices wrong. If these comments get back to the sellers, their desire to be cooperative when offer time comes in my be less than enthusiastic.

 

‘This home is way overpriced’

Be careful with that statement.

While this is a common buyer thought, what happens if this house ends up being the best option? When the listing agent or seller sees the buyer’s name on an offer, they immediately tart off in a defensive position. If is is truly overpriced your Exclusive Buyer Agent should provide a comprehensive analysis during the negotiation to make this point.

‘I can afford to spend up to X’

While it’s certainly a good idea for prospective buyers to find out just how much they can afford, they should keep that information strictly between them and their Exclusive Buyer Agent. You would be surprised by the number of deals that end of at the top of your affordability range because you disclosed this to the agent that is driving you around. Insist that they develop a Comparative Market Analysis and pay no more than market value for any property regardless if you can afford to pay more. Most real estate agents have a duty to get the highest price offer for the Seller or want to get the highest price offer to get the most commission. The only type of agent that has a fiduciary responsibility to the Buyer is an Exclusive Buyer Agent, even an Accredited Buyer Agent will either be a transactional agent or sub-agent of the Seller if they are not the listing agent as well.

“Why is the Seller moving?”

This is a personal question that’s best not asked by a buyer, it will more often then not result in an evasive answer or a lie.

Let the buyer’s agent position that query with the listing agent in a diplomatic way to glean information about the situation at hand.

‘What are the neighbors like?’

Talk about putting someone on the spot. Listing agents likely have no idea — they don’t live in the neighborhood 24/7, and it would they cannot discuss race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. When cornered, is the seller likely to divulge?

“There’s a Mrs. Kravitz across the street and a curmudgeon next door? And by the way, the teenager that lives on the other side of the house? His band starts warming up in the garage about 11 p.m. on Thursday nights.”Hardly. These people are trying to sell their house. It’s all wonderful. Buyers have to assess the neighbors on their own. Visit the neighborhood and different times of the day and on the weekends to get a sense of the neighborhood.

‘Will the seller take X price?’

Negotiations are best left to agents with a written document from which to work. No Agent or Seller will be inclined to negotiate in good faith without a written offer and Proof of Funds or a pre-qualification letter that demonstrates your ability to buy the property.

Although it’s OK to be candid with your own agent and those you trust, only do so when you are not within earshot of anyone in the seller’s camp.  That includes those curbside chats as you are wrapping up the showing near your car.

Be engaged but conservative in the information you share and how you react to homes you see, even if you have a real interest. You can jump for joy when you are with your agent writing the perfect offer.

 

Mortgage Rates and The Fed

The Federal Reserve kept the benchmark rate unchanged on September 21st, in a divided vote that alludes to the possibility of a hike before the end of the year.

“The Committee judges that the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened but decided, for the time being, to wait for further evidence of continued progress toward its objectives,” the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released in statement. “The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run.”

“Our decision does not reflect a lack of confidence in the economy,” Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a press conference, later adding, “We’re generally pleased with how the U.S. economy is doing.”Today’s action was largely expected by analysts as policymakers stood fast this summer, despite initially forecasting four hikes this year. The federal funds rate informs the trajectory of mortgage rates, which remain at historic lows.

Perhaps no sector has benefited more from ultra-low rates than housing, which was devastated by the real estate crash. Home sales are expected to total about 5.7 million this year, up from 5.4 million in 2014 and 4.6 million in 2011. The recovery can at least partly be traced to 30-year fixed mortgage rates that remain below 4%, down from about 6% in 2008, keeping borrowing costs low for buyers.

But today’s housing market is supported by far more than low mortgage rates — namely steady job and economic growth. What’s more, 30-year mortgages are priced off 10-year Treasury note yields, which do rise as short-term rates climb, but not as steeply.

Doug Duncan, chief economist of Fannie Mae, the giant government-sponsored funder of mortgages, expects this week’s Fed hike of a quarter of a percentage point to have virtually no immediate impact on Treasury or mortgage rates, noting markets already have priced in the move. Assuming the Fed raises its rate by a percentage point over the next year, Duncan expects 30-year mortgage rates to drift from 3.9% to 4.1% during the period. That would boost the monthly cost of a typical $225,000 mortgage by $26 to $1,454 — not enough to deter most buyers.

Adjustable-rate mortgages, many of which are modified annually, could increase about twice as rapidly, by about a half a percentage point. Yet as long as job growth and aggregate U.S. incomes increase proportionally, Duncan expects any market impact to be modest. A far bigger restraint on home sales, he says, is a limited supply that should push up prices by nearly 5% both this year and in 2016. As a result, Duncan expects home sales to increase 4% in 2016, down from 8% this year, with higher rates holding back 1% to 2% of deals.

“As long as the rate rise is gradual, I don’t see it as a hugely important factor,” he says.

Ensure A Smooth Mortgage Application Process

What to do before closing:

  • You can still be denied for a mortgage loan, even after you’ve been pre-approved by the lender. The pre-approval is not a commitment or guarantee. You’ve been conditionally qualified for loan. But you need to stay qualified all the way up to the closing. The less your financial situation changes, the better.
  • If you withdraw or transfer funds for any reason before closing, your lender will probably ask for a written explanation. They will also want to see a record of the transaction, such as your bank statements.
  • Make sure you have a home owners insurance policy in place. Your lender will require this. They might even require you to pay the first year’s premium in advance, by setting up an escrow account. The lender may contact your insurance agent before closing day, to verify the policy and coverage amount.
  • If you make any large deposits into your account, tell your lender about it. It will only help your cause, as far as mortgage approval goes. Provide any documents you have relating to the deposit.

 

What to avoid before closing day:

  • Don’t spend a lot of money. Implement a self-imposed “spending freeze,” as much as possible. You obviously have to buy groceries, gas for your car, and other necessities. But don’t spend anything beyond that. Keep things as stable as possible until after you close on the home.
  • It’s best to avoid any major purchases during this period. Your lender might have certain cash-reserve requirements for the loan. So a major reduction in assets could hurt your chances of getting the final approval.
  • Don’t open any new credit lines, such as credit cards. The same goes for buying a car, applying for a store credit card, etc. These things will change your debt ratio, which could cause problems with your final approval. Mortgage lenders hate surprises.
  • Don’t switch jobs before closing, unless it’s completely unavoidable. A new job usually brings a change in income, as well. If your income goes down, it will alter your debt-to-income ratio in a bad way. A change in employment will also require a lot of paperwork changes. Some lenders will verify your employment again, just before closing day.

 

How to Assess the Cost of a Real “Fixer-Upper” 

When you buy a fixer-upper residence for either personal or investment reasons, you need to have a thorough understanding of all of the potential related additional costs to determine if it is a worthwhile investment.

The following analysis in introspection will assist you in determining much you can afford, how much to offer, and whether a fixer-upper house is right for you.

Decide what you can do or want to do yourself

TV remodeling shows make home improvement work look like a snap. In the real world, attempting a difficult renovation job that you don’t know how to do will take longer than you think and can lead to less-than-professional results.

Do you really have the skills to do it? Some tasks, like stripping wallpaper and painting, are relatively easy. Others, like electrical work, can be dangerous when done by amateurs.

Do you really have the time and desire to do it? Can you take time off work to renovate? If not, will you be stressed out by living in a work zone for months while you complete projects on the weekends?

Price the cost of repairs and remodeling before you make an offer

If you are using a professional get several estimates on the work you want done by licensed and insured contractors.

If you’re doing the work yourself, price the supplies.

Either way, tack on 10% to 20% to cover unforeseen problems that WILL arise when you start to open walls, remove windows, install electric and plumbing, etc.

Check permit costs

Ask local officials if the work you’re going to do requires a permit and how much that permit costs. Doing work without a permit may save money, but it’ll cause problems when you resell your home.  Also check to ensure that there was no other non-permitted work done to the home.  If you get permits that chance that this work will be found and cited is likely.

Decide if you want to get the permits yourself or have the contractor arrange for them. Getting permits can be time-consuming and frustrating. Inspectors may force you to do additional work, or change the way you want to do a project, before they give you the permit.

Factor the time,costs, and additional requirements of permits into your plans.

Double check pricing on structural work

If your renovation plans include major structural work, hire a structural engineer  to inspect the home before you put in an offer so you can be confident you’ve uncovered and conservatively budgeted for the full scope of the work required.

Get written estimates for repairs before you commit to buying a home with structural issues.

Don’t purchase a home that needs major structural work unless:

You’re getting it at a steep discount

You’re sure you’ve uncovered the extent of the problem

You know the problem can be fixed

Check the cost of financing

Be sure you have enough money for a down payment, closing costs, and repairs without draining your savings.

If you are planning to fund the repairs with a home equity or home improvement loan:

Get yourself pre-approved for both loans before you make an offer.

Make the deal contingent on getting both the purchase money loan and the renovation money loan, so you’re not forced to close the sale when you have no loan to fix the    house.

Include inspection contingencies in your offer

Don’t rely on your friends or your contractor to eyeball your fixer-upper house. Hire pros to do common inspections such as whole home inspection, radon, mold, lead-based paint, chinese drywall, septic, well and pest.

Lastly, don’t pay more than fair-market value

Have your EXCLUSIVE BUYER AGENT develop an comparative market analysis that makes adjustments for all of the issues involving the property, location, condition, time value of money, et. al.  A transactional broker or listing agent is interested in selling the property for the highest price and is not working in a buyer’s best interest.  Always use an EBA when purchasing real estate. 

 

Most Often Asked Homebuyer Questions – Answered!  

Buying a home is a major lifestyle and investment decision. Homebuyers have a lot of questions throughout every step of the process and I have found that many of the questions are common to many. Here are some answers to the most common questions I get asked.

Q: What home can I afford?

That depends, of course-on your income and other financial obligations. There are many Home Affordability Calculators for a ballpark figure. A visit to the Optima Properties website will offer you many tools under the  Finance Center!

Before you start to shop, make sure that you know exactly what you can afford by getting pre-qualified by your financial institution of mortgage broker.

Q: Can I buy a home and sell my current one at the same time?

Yes, you can-but it’s the real estate equivalent of walking a tightrope. This is one of the trickiest questions to answer, on the one hand, if you buy a home before you sell the one you’re in, you’re overextended financially; if you sell before you buy, you might need to rent a while before finding a new place. There are ways to do both at once, and one option is to request a “sale contingency” in your contract. This means you only agree to buy a home if you can sell the one you’re in. The only downside is if your seller doesn’t agree and will not agree to this condition….it never hurts to ask!

Q: How many homes should I see before making an offer?

As many as you need to!  While home shoppers these days can look at hundreds of homes online, most need to physically visit the area and stand in the properties before they put in an offer. Keep in mind, this varies tremendously for each person. Some people find their home within hours of looking or make an offer sight unseen because they have definitively defined their criteria. For others, it takes months and sometimes over a year if they are trying to determine the area, lifestyle, and type of home that meets their requirements.

Q: What do you think the seller will accept as a fair price?

As a rule of thumb, knocking 5-10% off the list price

won’t ruffle any feathers for an initial offer. If the property has been sitting on the market for months, you can venture below that, but the bottom line is, you never know how low a seller will go, as they have different motivations for selling.  Your Exclusive Buyer Agent should develop a Comprehensive Market Analysis to determine the market value of the property. This should be your guideline as to how much to offer and how high to go.

Q: How do I know if the property is a good deal?

While there’s no crystal ball on whether a certain home is a bargain and will appreciate, rest assured that with research, you can keep surprises to a minimum. The best way is to check out comps-what similar properties are selling for in the area.

Q: How quickly can I close?

If you are paying cash you can typically close in the time it takes to get the home inspected and have a lien, permit, and title search conducted. The new TRID requirements for home loans have extended the time required to get a mortgage.  I advise all my buyers to not commit to a closing for less than 60 days from the effective date of the contract.

Q: Should I get a home inspection?

My only answer to this question is YES, YES, YES! A certified and licensed home inspector ( not your father in law) will look into the condition of the roof, electricity, heating and air, plumbing, among other functions and conditions of the property.  Even if you are just purchasing land you should check for soil contamination, septic perkability, etc.

Q: Can I back out if I change my mind?

While buyers can always back out of a deal, doing so without good reason may forfeit their earnest money and full deposit.  The form of contract you choose to use may provide you with different outs. Contingencies are great “escape clauses. For example, if you enter into an AS IS contract upon an unsatisfactory home inspection, the buyer can ask for their deposit back. Another contingency is “subject to appraisal.’” That means you can back out if the appraisal either ordered by your closing agent or your lender results in a valuation that is less than the agreed to purchase price.
Bear in mind that the more contingencies you include in your offer the less room you have to negotiate other terms and conditions of the contract with the Seller.

There is not question to small or unimportant when purchasing a home.  There is a wealth of information available and your agent should assist you in getting your questions answered in a timely manner.

 

 

Why Fla. is the Best State for Retirement

Sunshine, beaches and a laid-back lifestyle have made Florida one of the top destinations for retirees looking to live out their golden years in peace and comfort.

Now a new study from WalletHub.com has named the Sunshine State the best place in the U.S. to retire based on its affordability, quality of life and healthcare. The website pointed out that nearly a third of non-retirees have no retirement savings or pension and said it made its choices to help retirees find the states that offered the most bang for their buck.

Rounding out the top five for 2016 after Florida were Wyoming, South Dakota, South Carolina and Colorado.

At the bottom? Vermont, Connecticut, Hawaii, Washington D.C. and Rhode Island.

Here are the top six reasons why Florida is the best place to retire, according to WalletHub.

Hole in one!
From Seminole Golf Course in Juno Beach (the state’s top ranked links, according to GolfDigest) to Trump National Doral, Florida has the most golf courses per capita in the nation.

Company
Looking for new friends? You won’t be lonely in the Sunshine State, which has the highest percentage of people aged 65 or over of any state.

Out on the town
It’s not Broadway, but theatergoers in Florida have more and better options than ever before. The state has the sixth-most theaters per capita in the U.S.

Help at home
The cost of hiring a nurse and other in-home help can break the bank for many seniors. But Florida has the eighth-lowest cost of in-home services of any state.

Low taxes
Many retirees don’t realize they may need to pay federal and state taxes on Social Security income and withdrawals from IRA and 401(k) funds. Florida’s low taxes make it the 10th-best state for retirees come tax season, according to WalletHub.

A night at the museum
Miami’s burgeoning cultural scene means locals don’t have to travel to New York for their museum fix. From the Pérez Art Museum Miami to the under-construction Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science to HistoryMiami, South Florida museums are on the upswing. Nationwide, Florida has the 15th-most museums per capita.

So what are you waiting for? Florida is calling.

 

Miami Herald, Written by Nicholas Nehamas