Is it Time to Review Your Homeowners’ Insurance Policy?

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Your home may be your biggest investment. Don’t let an unexpected surprise take it away. If there is one thing we have learned over time it is this. No matter where you live, you can expect the unexpected. Fires, floods, earthquakes, storms — we can’t stop them, but we can protect ourselves from financial devastation should the unthinkable happen.

Review your homeowner’s policy to make sure you know what is covered and what you may want to add to the policy in addition to what is already covered.

Things to consider:

Flood insurance and earthquake insurance typically need to be purchased separately from the homeowner’s policy or as additional endorsements.

Your policy may cover hail damage, but what if your roof is destroyed in a hail storm? Will you be able to get a new roof? Does your insurance cover full replacement value of your roof?

Your insurance may cover fire damage, but how do you ensure that all of the contents of your home are protected?

Do you need to consider an umbrella policy, just in case?

There may be ways you can save money and insure your home and its contents even better. An insurance professional will help you review your insurance coverage and make sure you and your family have the coverage you need.

Learn more with this Homeowner’s Guide to Natural Disasters from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc., and the The Actuarial Foundation, or contact your insurance agent today.

This year, don’t just renew your homeowner’s insurance policy — review and revise before you renew.

Buying a Home this Spring? Make Sure You Get the Details Right.

Front Door Flowers

Spring marks the beginning of the selling season and is often considered the busiest and best time to purchase a home. As more people look to purchase a home in the coming months, it’s important to understand the buying process. Here are some tips from DORA (Department of Regulatory Agencies) and the Division of Real Estate.

Talk to your lender early in the process. Meet with your lender before contacting a real estate agent to simplify the home buying process. Getting prequalified for a mortgage gives you a solid price range for homes to consider.

Determine your working relationship with your broker. Many homebuyers don’t know that Colorado has two options when it comes to your relationship with your broker – a Single Agency broker (an agent for the buyer OR seller) or a Transaction Broker (for the buyer or seller OR both). A single agency broker will advocate for and work solely on a single client’s behalf. A transaction broker facilitates the sale by fully informing the parties, presenting all offers and assisting the parties with any contracts, including the closing of the transaction without being an agent or advocate for any of the parties.

Understand the real estate contract. An offer for the purchase of real estate must be in writing to be valid. The Colorado Real Estate Commission requires every real estate broker licensee use a contract form approved by the Real Estate Commission, unless the contract is drawn by either the seller or buyer or the attorney for the buyer or seller.

Recognize contingencies in the contract. The contract approved by the Real Estate Commission allows for the buyer and their licensed broker to make the contract contingent on certain items. Contingencies can be items such as the property appraising for the purchase price, approval of financing, a satisfactory home inspection, or the sale of their current residence. It is critical for a buyer to include those contingency items in the contract to eliminate misunderstandings about what circumstances will allow for a successful execution of the transaction.

Meet all deadlines and put down your earnest money. Once your offer has been accepted by the seller, you will put down a good faith deposit, often called earnest money. Both the buyer and seller will need to meet specific deadlines before you close on your home. As a buyer, if you miss a deadline, you might not be able to cancel or withdraw your offer unless you are willing to forfeit your earnest money. Your offer allows you to make decisions regarding when to close on your new property, when you can take possession of that property, and what remedies are available if the contract dates are not met.

This is a lot of information. If you’re ready to get started on the homebuying process, contact us to start with step one and get you pre-qualified today.

Things You Should Do Immediately When You Move into a New Home

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You have a new home. Here are some great tips for things to do when you first move in to start saving money. Once the boxes are unpacked, tackle these tasks next.

Check the insulation in your attic. You should have about six inches of insulation throughout the attic. If you need more, get more! Click here for a guide from the Department of Energy on proper attic insulation.

Make sure the vents in all rooms are clear of dust and obstructions. Covering vents with anything makes your heating and cooling system work harder. And a quick dusting will help you remove dust and dust bunnies to keep these cleaner. If you need to, have a professional come out and clean all of your duct work.

Mark cracks in the basement with masking tape. It’s not unusual for basements to settle and for the floor to crack. But if you do have a problem with settling and cracking, you’ll want to take care of that sooner rather than later. Cover up the ends of cracks with masking tape. In a few months, if the cracks have grown outside of the original tape, call a professional for some repair work before the problem grows.

Plant some shade trees near your home. Get a natural cooling system working for you. Plant some trees near your house to add shade. Lowering the external temperature of your home can save you from running the air conditioning hard and all the time, when the sun is shining in the summer heat. The sooner you plant them, the sooner they can grow and help cool your home.

If you have to buy new appliances, buy energy efficient. You’ll likely pay more up front for these, but you’ll save money in the end. For example, a refrigerator that uses little energy and lasts 20 years is much less costly over time.

Check your toilets and under-sink plumbing. You don’t want these pipes leaking or discover you have a toilet that is constantly running. A dripping pipe may seem harmless enough, but the cost adds up in water and you may end up creating a mold problem.

Create a home maintenance checklist and run through it for the first time. And then run through it every month. Include things you want to check monthly or quarterly. Check plumbing, vents, outlets, paint, windows, etc. And while you’re at it, include a checklist for changing batteries in smoke detectors, something you should do at least once a year.

These are just a handful of tips to save money. Want more?
Read 18 Things a New Homeowner Should Do Immediately to Save Money.

Your Offer Can Beat a Cash Offer!

couple in front of new house

The word on the street is that the sellers’ market is slowing down. But that doesn’t mean cash offers are a thing of the past. For a seller, cash offers may mean a faster closing, but they also may mean a lower offer and extra demands in the deal. Here are some ways you can still “win the deal,” even if you’re not paying cash.

1. Prove you are ready to buy: Get a Performance Guarantee with Universal Lending. Our Performance Guarantee is a conditional loan commitment that guarantees your earnest money up to $10,000. Essentially, you’re putting in an offer that has already gone through underwriting. Other homebuyers may offer a pre-approval letter, but a Performance Guarantee is even better.

2. If you don’t have a Performance Guarantee, get a pre-approval letter. Your pre-approval letter says that you are qualified to buy a home. Other buyers will have this letter, so if you don’t, you are at a disadvantage.

3. Choose a lender that can get deals done quickly. Universal Lending is known as a quick-closing lender and our loan officers would like to help your offer beat a cash offer.

4. Make a higher offer. Even if your buyers are eager to sell, more money may sweeten the deal. Cash buyers often offer less for the home, in exchange for the fast closing, but at the end of the day, they are still hoping to get as much money as they can. You may be surprised that you don’t have to offer thousands of dollars to beat the cash offer; a higher offer of just $1,000 may be enough of an incentive.

5. Offer a bigger down payment or more earnest money. The more you put down, the more serious you seem about your offer.

6. Make your best offer your first offer. Assume that there will be little or no negotiation on your offer and make your best offer right off the bat.

7. Learn what the seller’s terms are. A good real estate agent will find out what the seller is looking for. Does the seller need to stay in the home until they find a place to move? Are they looking to sell quickly and move out right away? Knowing this information ahead of time will help you make an offer that has a better chance of getting accepted.

8. Be flexible. Can you be accommodating on a closing date? Can you ask for fewer repairs? A little flexibility may go a long way.

9. Get another vote of confidence from your lender. An updated pre-approval letter is a great start. A phone call or video email from your loan officer is even better. One final push saying how strong of a buyer you are may be the key that helps you close the deal. A confident lender will instill confidence in the sellers.

When you’ve found your dream home, you want your dream home! Make sure you give it your best shot when you make your offer. Happy homeownership!

FHA Loans – Great Options for First-Time Home Buyers

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If you’re a first-time homebuyer, an FHA loan may be the right loan for you. 

An FHA loan is insured by the Federal Housing Administration and protects lenders from financial risk. Lenders have to meet certain criteria for their loans to be termed “FHA-approved,” after which the FHA backs the loans the lender issues in case a borrower defaults on the mortgage. Borrowers must also meet requirements to qualify for one of these loans.

Why are FHA loans good options for first-time homebuyers? Because other home loan programs generally have higher credit score and down payment requirements, FHA loans are a great option for first-time homebuyers who have not had as much time to save for a large down payment or meet the credit score requirements.

Of course, are some other considerations to make before jumping in. 

Additional fees as well as private mortgage insurance add to the cost of the mortgage, and you may have a higher interest rate.

If you are ready to consider an FHA loan to help you make your first move, contact Universal Lending today to get started down the path of homeownership. We’ll discuss all of your home loan options with you so you find the right loan for you. 

 

Why Fall and Winter May be the Best Time to Sell Your Home

New Home

Summer is saying its farewell. And with cooler temperatures, we usually see a cooling in the housing market. But before you put your intentions to sell your current home on the back burner, take a minute to consider all the reasons now is the RIGHT time to sell a home.

There’s less competition.

No matter where you are, it’s a sellers’ market right now. But in the fall and winter, you’ll have an even bigger leg up on the competition with fewer homes on the market. This may pay off big time, making it easier for you to sell your home at the right price.

Fall and winter homebuyers are ready to make move.

Spring and summer buyers may be easing into the market. They know it’s home buying season, so they stick their toe into the water. But fall and winter homebuyers are serious purchasers. They really are planning to make a move, and in this tight market, that will work out well for the home seller.

Your agent can make different and potentially more accurate plans to market your home.

Because most parents don’t want to move their kids in the middle of the school year, it may be easier for your real estate agent to market more accurately to the true potential buyers – perhaps young professionals with no kids, older adults looking to downsize, people hoping to start a family “some day.” Often, these are the people more likely to make a move in the fall.

Note: This is a great reason to work with a listing agent and not try to sell your home on your own. An agent will know who the most likely buyers of your property are and will know how to reach them.

You could save money.

You won’t be hiring movers during the busiest time of the year, so they may offer you a less expensive rate than “peak moving season.” Everyone likes a bargain, so consider how much money you might save by selling in the fall.

Fall colors are great for curb appeal.

Run a rake over your yard, put out a few fall flowers and a fresh welcome mat, and your house can be read for fall in no time at all. Don’t discount the beauty of the season when it comes to curb appeal. If you’re selling in the winter, make sure you keep your home freshly shoveled and well lit.

Home owners will be home for the holidays.

If you sell in the fall, you’ll be in your new home by the time the holidays roll around, and the new owners of your house will also be home. That’s a big bonus. A lot of homebuyers picture themselves at home and settled in time for the holidays to roll around.

You may find your dream home easier.

You may be able to sell your home easier in the fall or winter, and surprisingly, you may be able to find your dream home in the fall or winter, too. In the summer homes move faster because there are more buyers out looking. In the fall or winter, even in a tight sellers’ market, you may find you have a little more time to make your move.

No matter when you decide to make your move out of your home and into your new home, we encourage you to solicit the help of a trusted real estate partner. A real estate agent can make selling your home easier and more profitable for you. Happy fall and happy house selling!

Consider it Sold – To You! Get Your Offer Accepted on Your Dream Home.

Family with Sold Home

It’s been a long, hard journey. But you’ve made it. You have found your dream home. However, your dream home is the dream home of a lot of other people, too. Offering asking price isn’t  enough – Your offer needs to stand out from the crowd. Let us help you with a few ways to get your offer accepted so you can move into your new home.

1. Get a Performance Guarantee with Universal Lending. Our Performance Guarantee is a conditional loan commitment that guarantees your earnest money up to $10,000. Essentially, you’re putting in an offer that has already gone through underwriting. Other homebuyers may offer a pre-approval letter, but a Performance Guarantee is the next best thing to a cash offer.

2. If you don’t have a Performance Guarantee, submit your pre-approval letter with your offer. Other buyers will have this. so going in without a pre-approval letter will put you at a disadvantage.

3. Work with a real estate agent. You may think “you’ve got this,” but an agent who is familiar with the neighborhood you are buying in, knows how to help buyers stand out in a seller’s market, and who is a genuine champion of buyers will be ready to get you into your home.

4. Have your lender go the extra mile. Can your lender vouch for your ability to close this loan? Your agent can reach out to your lender and ask for a video or testimonial about your offer and ability to pay. A Universal Lending loan officer sent a video testimonial to her borrower’s agent, who sent it to the sellers, and it was the ticket to an accepted offer. Encourage your team be creative!

5. Offer a fast close. Make your offer stand out by offering a shorter closing date. Universal Lending prides itself on the ability to do quick, clean closings – another reason we stand out.

6. Offer above the asking price. Now is not the time to low ball. Check comps in the neighborhood to see what a strong offer was on the homes that have sold most recently.

7. Make a good, clean offer. If you’re trying to sell a property, making the purchase of this home contingent on selling another home may not work in a seller’s market. It’s also going to be difficult to ask for additional concessions such as help with closing costs.

8. In fact, you may want to offer to pay the seller’s portion of closing costs.

9. Don’t ask for extras to be thrown in. Lawn furniture? A grill that’s not staying with the house? A painting that you “must have.” Asking for extras may be just the thing that moves you down the list of accepted offers.

10. Put down a larger down payment than is expected. Putting more down on the house shows that you are serious about making this purchase.

11. Include an escalation clause in your offer. An escalation clause means that your offer will outbid other offers up to a maximum price. This means that you make an offer saying you will pay X price for a home, but if a higher offer is received, you will increase your offer to Y price.

12. Offer one month of free occupancy. When purchasing a home with a mortgage, your payment doesn’t come due until a month after you close. A seller could very well need that time to figure out where they are going and offering to pay their “rent” for a month could strengthen your offer.

Don’t lose your dream home. Be prepared when the time comes to make an offer and make your offer stand out.