Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Safety Tips for Online Mortgage Refinancing

Mortgage refinance loans are a fast pacing trend in today’s consumer loan markets. Home prices almost always stay high. So many homeowners use the option of refinancing their mortgages or opt for a home equity loan. Online mortgage lenders have used quite a few innovative methods to make the application process easier and simpler. But as you know, shopping online can be quite a tricky business at times. Risks are always involved. To keep your transactions and personal information secured online, our market experts have provided some helpful suggestions and guidelines. 

Know whom are you dealing with

Before you click on the “apply now” button for a mortgage refinance loan, check and verify the respective lender’s credentials. As a worldwide common practice, websites usually post this information on an “About us” page. This page will mostly provide details such as company background, management hierarchy, certifications, and other mortgage sales experiences. If you are unable to verify any lender’s certifications, directly contact them or check with any of the mortgage related government agencies for verification. Genuine lenders will gladly provide all the relevant information for you to verify their credentials and certifications. They are aware of consumer’s concerns over online transactions.

The brand name

In online shopping, the branded firms get most of the business. People usually trust familiar and known names. Popular sites are known for providing excellent security features, which results in generating more traffic on their portals. The more recommended your online lender is, the better security they’ll have to offer. This does not mean that small time merchants are a taboo. They have secured connections and possibly lower rates too. So, do lookout for brand names, but also keep an eye on the small dealers.

The “S” of security

While applying online, look for two highly important and easy-to-identify security features on the web pages. A closed padlock or an icon of a key signifies that security options are enabled for the website. Also, on the address bar where you type the website name/URL, instead of “http” there will be “https”

For example: https://www.lenderxyz.com

These sites use an encryption service and have a link or a page dedicated to show the details about the connection.  But still, always be careful while filling out application forms; especially, the ones which ask for information such as your date of birth. These little pieces of personal information can be used by credit card scammers and other illegal activities. If you’re suspicious about a particular website, but they have been highly recommended, then contact them and ask for an executive to discuss their privacy policies.

Keep yourself updated

Keep checking for articles to educate yourself and to stay updated on the latest information about the online mortgage refinancing process. There a lot of websites which guide you through the process of home equity loans, mortgage loans and mortgage refinancing. Professional lenders are prompt with helpful advices and up-to-date information. They even conduct seminars and provide active online assistance to answer your queries.

Initially, taking precautionary measures might feel to be a little time consuming but, as the saying goes, better be safe than sorry.

So, keep these suggestions in mind while applying and working with online lenders for mortgage refinancing, and have a safe and satisfactory web experience.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Summer Home Improvement Ideas

Now that the weather is finally getting warmer, it’s time to think about what kind of summer home improvements you’d like to make. Not only can summer additions and improvements add to the value of your home, they can make your house much more desirable to potential buyers should you decide to sell in the next few years.
Let’s take a look at some cool summer home improvement ideas that are sure to make your home more enjoyable for years to come:
What could be better than a new pool for summer? It’s a fact that pools are extremely desirable home features for buyers. Be sure to figure out your budget as pool additions can get pricey, especially when it comes to pools that are below the ground.
New roof
The installation of a new roof should be done in warmer weather, and the summertime is perfect! The sun’s rays are warm enough to melt the tar paper so that it bonds. A new roof can give you peace of mind plus add great value to your home.
Enjoy the sun’s warm rays with the addition of a cool sunroom. Glass walls with screen options are a good idea when considering sunroom addition. The sunroom can even act as a family or reading room during the winter months.
Exercise room
Don’t pay for the gym anymore! Take that spare bedroom  and transform it into a calorie-busting gym. Your health will appreciate it, and so will potential buyers.
Backyard deck
A deck addition is most likely that biggest remodel that you can make for the summer. This is true whether you are remodeling an existing deck or building a new one from scratch. Keep in mind a deck addition takes a great deal of planning.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Common Refinancing Myths

Refinancing is increasingly getting difficult and this trend is expected to prevail for a while before rates climb down and homeowners return to the market. Refinancing qualifications have become rather challenging. Conventional credit profiles are being scrutinized more. People with little or no home equity are at a loss on how to put their refinance plans into motion.

Here, we discuss some basics of refinancing. More importantly, we clarify some common refinance myths:

Myth: Refinance Eventually Leads to Losing Equity

Truth: This is a common misconception. Refinance doesn’t eat into your equity. In fact, it helps you save more over a longer period. This is true unless you opt for cash-out refinance where the loaned principal amount is raised. Secondly, some folks don’t understand the concept of building equity. Refinancing requires some strategy if you are serious about increasing your equity. More equity doesn’t mean getting a gift check from your lender or paying progressively lesser on your original loan.

Mortgage payments are made up of two parts. One part goes to your principal and the other towards the interest. If you find a refinancing option with no prepayment penalty, additional payments to decrease the principal helps. It allows you to create more equity. The refinance allows you to pay off the home loan in lesser time than the original loan period with negligible changes to your monthly payment pattern—these are significant savings!

Myth: Refinancing Before Reaching Breakeven Doesn’t Make Sense

Truth: This refinancing myth is the result of incorrect interpretations of breakeven period. Sometimes, rates drop to an irresistible low, luring people into refinancing aggressively. Some people start questioning the wisdom of refinancing when the breakeven of the previous loan hasn’t been fully realized.

People don’t look at the bigger picture. If the interest rate can be lowered to such an extent that you can absorb the new breakeven period and still get more equity, you should go for it! To avoid such confusions, follow the simple rule of keeping your refinancing decision one dimensional. If you can lower your rate without the need to repay more, you stand to gain. Please note that the best rate for you might not be the lowest rate in the nation. It is simply the best available option among the many mortgage quotes you receive.

Myth: Refinance Always Leads to Higher Closing Costs

Truth: Yes, refinancing helps you get some equity in times of crisis. Equally true is the fact that refinancing brings along some additional costs that aren’t always visible. Refinance calculations work out better in the customer’s favor when the credit amount is big. A slightly longer, bigger refinance helps to neutralize the high closing costs.

Before jumping on to conclusions work out the true cost of your refinancing proposal. Every refinanced mortgage comes with a GFE—Good Faith Estimate where the total closing cost is mentioned. This figure can be slightly confusing. Usually, it includes many components for which a borrower would be paying anyway. This includes partial or prepaid month interests, escrow property taxes, and escrow homeowner insurance. Besides these, other components such as documentation fees, application fee, credit report fees, and title insurance make up the true cost of refinancing.

Myth: Repeated Refinancing Approvals are Simply Impossible!

Truth: Refinancing isn't refused just because a borrower had refinanced in the recent past. There are no mortgaging or federal laws which limit lenders from lending to people who repeatedly refinance. Yes, the success rate for such refinancing applications might be lower, but the market understands that whenever lending rates are lower, refinancing will be in demand.
Some lenders prefer profiles where the customer has waited for a certain period before seeking another refinance. Some borrowers prepay on their existing loans to get a low rate refinance. Though there is nothing wrong with this strategy, it could lead to some losses. We recommend keeping a check on the prepayment penalties that have huge regional fluctuations. Prime mortgages are usually without substantial prepayment penalties.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How to Fix Squeaky Floors

Squeaky floors can be quite irritating. Also, they will reduce the value of your home when it is time to sell. When the floor sheets rub against one another, they produce an irritating noise. This is the reason behind squeaky floors. If you can prevent the panels from moving, you can stop the noise. That is the only remedy.
If noisy floors have been destroying the peace and quiet at home, you should try these simple steps to restore peace instantly.
What causes noisy floors?
Noisy floors are a common problem. This is almost always caused by improper installation of the panels. If floors are not installed properly, they can buckle or squeak. Nails might even pop. Fortunately, preventing these problems is relatively easy. Here is a step-by-step guide to fixing noisy floors.
Choose the right materials
Any lumber that you use for flooring must be dry. Green lumber is not dimensionally stable. Its size may shrink when it dries. As green lumber dries, it may cause nail pops. This creates ugly bumps under the flooring and also causes squeaking. In addition it accelerates wear and tear.
Engineered wood dries up during just the production stage. When these wooden panels are properly installed, they will not cause nail pops. While selecting the panel for your floors, you should consider finish flooring, joist spacing, applied load, and floor system.
Allow proper panel spacing
Engineered wood is dry when it leaves the factory. However, these panels will eventually absorb moisture and expand. While installing them, ample space should be left between the panels to allow for expansion. If there is no room to expand, the panels may buckle and then you will hear the noise. According to APA, 1/8th of an inch should be left at all end joints and sheathing.
Ideally, you should let the panels acclimatize before they are installed. This will further reduce the potential for buckling. You can acclimatize panels by letting them stand on their edge for a few days. This arrangement allows ample air circulation.
Choose the right adhesives
If you use glue to keep panels in their place, you should choose an adhesive that meets the APA Performance Specification ASTM D3498 or AFG-01. The adhesive can dry out faster, so you should spread only enough adhesive to lay 1 or 2 panels at a time.
Before applying the adhesive, you should wipe away dust, debris and water. This is necessary to ensure that the boards will be properly secured to their joists.
Use ample amount of glue. Glue should be applied in a serpentine fashion in wide areas. All tongue and groove joints should be glued together by spreading the adhesive in the groove.
Each panel should be nailed before the adhesive sets. Note that adhesives tend to set faster in warm weather.
Nail panels correctly
Choosing nails of the right size is essential. The correct spacing and nail size depend on the thickness of your panel and joist spacing. You should also take into account the unique nature of the panel product you use.
Noisy floors are a headache, but by taking some simple steps you can easily solve this problem.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How Much Home Insurance Should You Get?

Homeowners seek to cover risks associated with damage to their property by buying homeowners insurance. However, not many homeowners have clarity regarding how much home insurance they should purchase. Most of them buy too much while some undervalue the risk proposition. There are no one-size-fits-all packages for the home insurance niche. The reason is simple—every home presents a totally different demographic. This includes parameters like overall safety associated with the neighborhood, geographic and climatic conditions, structural aspects, and household incomes. Here, we will help you understand the finer aspects of buying adequate and relevant home insurance.

Understand Your Home Insurance Premium

Most home insurance premiums are the collective sum of payments charged for the following type of coverage:

  • Dwelling—this means paying for different types of damage to the main structure, the home, and some attached constructions like a garage.
  • Loss of Utility—this part of premium partially covers your living costs when the home is rendered uninhabitable. For instance, widespread mold growth can leave your house dangerous to inhabit.
  • Personal possessions—here, you pay for household items of value which can be stolen or damaged.
  • Personal Liability—this payment ensures coverage in case you are held responsible for injury to someone on your property.
  • Medical Expenditures—along with personal liability coverage, this takes care of medical bills of the person injured on your property.
  • Other Important Structures—this payment is to cover damage to external, non-primary structures like fences.

Among these, dwelling coverage and personal possession coverage together form the biggest part of the premium. Dwelling coverage is the most basic, critical aspect of home insurance. Most households want a dwelling coverage sufficient to replace their entire home.

Personal Possessions: How much is good enough?

Coverage for personal possessions is often an argued part of home insurance. Though important, approximating the right value for various things in your home can be challenging. If you have lots of electronics items and valuable like paintings, expensive furniture, etc. ensure that the possessions coverage is close to the dwelling coverage. We suggest you keep the personal possessions coverage at about 50 percent of the dwelling coverage. This can go up to 60 percent in some cases.

Coverage that Compensates for Inflation: Ever thought about it?

Look at the last decade and it will become clear that nearly everything has become expensive. However, people forget that the same applies to the cost of construction. Supplies and professional labor is getting expensive with every passing year. So, what if you ever need to rebuild your home? Is your home insurance capable to cover for the rising cost of construction? Rather than thinking only about the current and near-future market value of your home, calculate the construction costs too. Your home insurance should be sufficiently spread to cover hikes in prices of property construction.

Standard Homeowners Policy Sounds Good? Think Again!!

Most standard home insurance policies don’t cover damage to property caused by floods! Though a natural cause, floods-related damages remain outside the realm of standard coverage. Check if your home insurance policy provides coverage against flood—don’t assume you have it. If not, ask for this coverage that is usually sold as an additional/add-on policy to the package. However, don’t be blinded by what insurance agents say about natural calamities. Do some basic research about flood-related susceptibility in and around your area. It is possible that you inhabit an area without any history or probability of floods.

Liability Coverage: Do you really need it?

Liability coverage is among the most commonly neglected aspects of home insurance. It seems people ignore the possibility of someone getting hurt on their property. This approach can have disastrous results. If sued, the financial damages can ruin you. It is better to pay a bit beyond your level of comfort to protect yourself. High net worth households are often recommended buying an umbrella policy. This comprehensive form of liability coverage covers most types of injuries sustained on any part of the property.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

How Landscaping Improves Curb Appeal

Your landscaping should add functionality and enhance the curb appeal of your property. Good landscaping can increase the resale value of your property by up to 7%. It will also facilitate a quick sale. But don't landscape with the sole objective of improving your home's value. When you landscape, your main concern should be increasing your own enjoyment of the space.

In this article, we will share the vital elements of good landscaping that adds value and provides enjoyment to the owner and potential buyers.


Trees provide shade. They keep your home cool during the hot summer months and reduce your energy bills. Trees also improve the air quality. They absorb the carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen. They also prevent soil erosion and retain the fertility of your soil. Trees are also known to reduce stress levels. Your trees may even increase the value of your neighbor's property.

In order to add resale value, the tree has to be healthy and mature. Trees that are native to the region have higher value because they don't require much maintenance. According to the US Department of Energy, two or three trees that are properly placed can save up to $250 in annual energy bills.

By planting windbreaks, you can also reduce your heating bills.

Native plants

If you are planning to add plants, trees or shrubs to the yard, opt for the native ones. They thrive well in their natural habitat. Native plantings can increase your home's value. They are also beneficial for the wildlife because they create a natural habitat for birds and butterflies.

Rain gardens

Rain gardens featuring native trees and plants are attracting buyers because they offer protection from extreme weather that plagues many states. These gardens can prevent rain water from seeping into the basement. Rain gardens can even reduce flood insurance premium.

Outdoor lighting

Good outdoor lighting is one of the most desirable outdoor features. It is also a great landscape essential.

Thoughtful lighting enhances the aesthetic value of your house at night. It has several other benefits, too. Outdoor lighting makes your yard usable at night. It prevents falls. It also keeps intruders away. If your outdoor areas are well-lit at night, thieves will think twice before trying to break in.


Fencing sets boundaries and creates privacy. It will keep intruders out and pets in. Fencing is unlikely to improve resale value, but it has several other benefits. However, nice fences do have some value.

Retaining walls

Retaining walls help reclaim sloped yards. They control soil erosion by slowing the flow of rain water down the slope. They also add color to vast stretches of green. If done correctly, terracing and walls can increase the curb appeal of your property and add resale value. However, walls can be quite pricey.


Walkways welcome visitors to your home. They also increase the overall curb appeal of your property. You can use pavers or solid stone walkways. When it comes to walkways, getting too fancy can be counterproductive. On the other hand, if your walkways don't meet the standard of your neighborhood, you will see a drop in the value of your property.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What You Should Consider While Shopping for an Adjustable Mortgage

The interest rate on an adjustable mortgage (ARM) can change at every adjustment. Actually, this is the main difference between a fixed rate mortgage and an adjustable mortgage. ARMs are also called flexible rate mortgages.

All adjustable mortgages have an initial period during which the rate of interest is lower than fixed rates. In fact, these low initial rates are the biggest USP of ARMs. They make mortgage payments affordable, at least during the initial period. But things can change for the worse when the rates adjust after the initial period.

Advantages of adjustable mortgages

·         Interest rates are low during the initial period. In fact, the rates on an ARM can be lower than fixed rates by 2 – 3%. This will translate into significant savings for the borrower.

·         Getting an ARM is easier than getting a fixed-rate mortgage.

·         Payments can drop if index rates fall.

·         Processing times are quicker and lenders are more willing to offer ARMs.

·         Most ARMs do not have a prepayment penalty.


Monthly mortgage payments can increase when interest rates rise. On the other hand, when you have a fixed-rate mortgage, you are immune to rate changes.

There is the risk of negative amortization. Adjustable mortgages have rate and payment caps. That means your monthly payment can't go beyond a certain amount. As a result, sometimes your payment may not cover the whole of the interest costs. In this case, the difference will be added to the principal amount. If this happens even after making several mortgage payments, you will still owe more money than you did when took the loan.

Who should consider getting an ARM?

People who are purchasing a starter home should consider getting an ARM because they are more likely to sell that home and move into a bigger home during the initial period itself.

People who are likely to get a transfer in the next two - three years also make good candidates for ARM.

Who should not consider getting an ARM?

Homeowners who plan to live in the same house for the rest of their life should consider getting a fixed rate mortgage, not an adjustable mortgage.

People who don't expect their income to increase in the immediate future, too, should not get an ARM.

While shopping for an ARM, you should ask the following questions to the lender.

·         What is the initial interest rate?

·         What is the annual percentage rate?

·         What index does the lender use to adjust the loan? The borrower should also ask how this index performed over the last few years.

·         What is the lender's margin? (The lender will add margin to the index rate to calculate the ARM interest rate. The margin will be the same throughout the life of your loan.)

·         How long does the initial period last?

·         Will the rate go up at the first adjustment even if the benchmark index hasn't moved?

·         Is there a rate cap?

·         How often will the rate change?

·         Does the mortgage require private insurance? If so, how much will it cost?

·         Is there a prepayment penalty?

·         Does the loan carry the risk of negative amortization?

Getting an ARM is not a wise idea if you intend to get an educational or an auto loan in the future.