Ellen McLaughlin - Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage



Posted by Ellen McLaughlin on 2/23/2020

There are so many factors that go into buying a home. How much money do you have saved up? What is your debt amount? Hw much money do you make each month? Can you afford the neighborhood that youíd like to live in? All of these questions are swirling around the minds of all first-time homebuyers. Did you know that how long you have been at a job is just as important as your income as a factor in getting approved for a mortgage? 


Your ability to repay is why the lender is looking at so many different numbers and factors about your financial situation. Employment overall plays a large stake in the mortgage application. Lenders will look at your past employment history along with the job that your currently have. They are also concerned with your future employment status. Your lender will get an idea of your overall plan for your career and employment through looking at your history. 


As a first-time homebuyer, you most likely donít have the employment history of more seasoned homebuyers. Generally, most people who are buying a home for the first time are pretty young in their careers. As a rule of thumb, lenders will look at your employment history over the past two years. The lender wants to see your industry focus. Maybe you have stuck with one career direction, or maybe you have hopped around a bunch. As a hint, jumping around from job to job and field to field doesnít look very good to mortgage lenders. Job floaters tend to appear as if they have no plans for the future. 


Good Career Moves


Staying a software engineer, but moving from the medical industry to the financial industry is an acceptable and smart move in the eyes of lenders. Yet, leaving your stable job in accounting to pursue a career in acting would not be looked upon favorably in the eyes of a mortgage lender.


It doesnít matter how much money you have saved up, often, without employment history, a lender may not consider you as a dependable buyer. Your lender wants to see that your income is stable for a period of at least three yearís time.


Income Matters 


You wonít have the same work history as a first time homebuyer as you would if you were a bit more seasoned. When lenders look at your income history, not having a lot of work history can be a detriment to many factors. If your income is an annual salary, for example, your lender will divide that salary by 12 in order to get a monthly income. If you havenít been at the job for a full year or took a pay cut during times of training, those numbers will be affected.


For hourly employees, overtime may be a problem as it may not be factored in with the equation if there isnít a history of at least two years on the job. 


While it isnít impossible to buy a home with a short employment history, itís advisable to wait until you have some significant time under your belt before you dive into the home buying process.




Tags: finances   self employed  
Categories: Buying a Home   Mortgage  


Posted by Ellen McLaughlin on 2/16/2020

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

For anyone interested in investment diversification, real estate is one of the preferred holdings in addition to stock and bonds. However, many investors possess neither the cash nor the knowledge and interest to actually buy, sell, rent or manage real property. Such investment involves more than cash; it also requires in-depth market knowledge, and hands-on time, energy and effort.

Investment in a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) or a Real Estate Mutual Fund (REMF) are popular alternatives, with specific advantages that are attractive to small investors and to those who seek investment diversity.

Considering an REIT 

While there are three types of Real Estate Investment Trust, Equity REITs are the most common. These entities own and manage revenue-generating property, including shopping malls, office and apartment buildings, hotels and specialty properties. Niche markets today include medical developments, senior and targeted healthcare communities, retirement developments, and multi-use developments, including live-work centers in urban environments.

An REIT may also generate income by purchasing or trading in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, known as a Mortgage REIT, or through a combination of equity and mortgage holdings, termed a Hybrid REIT. Although shares may be traded publicly or sold privately, an REIT is bound by Internal Revenue Service rules to pay out most of its earnings to its investors. Although an IRS is treated as a corporation and must be managed by a board of directors or a group of trustees, it pays no corporate income tax.

What Are Real Estate Mortgage Funds?

Mutual funds, by definition and practice, pool investment funds to purchase stocks and bonds. Investors purchase shares or units based on the current net asset value (NAV) of the combined assets. Real Estate Mutual Funds invest solely in real estate-related stocks, REITs, or a combination of both. Investing in such a fund offers an investor a low-cost, relatively low-risk option to traditional real estate.

Transaction costs associated with investing in mutual funds are typically minimal, and there is a high probability that the funds will be professionally managed and researched, an advantage for most investors. 

While an REIT only pays dividends, based on the number of shares an investor holds, the REMF carries the expectation of regular dividend payments as well as capital appreciation. 

Because shares of both the REIT and REMF are readily traded, such investments are considered highly liquid, and carry minimal risk. They offer an excellent opportunity for the small or new investor to diversify into the world of real estate, and they are considered by some proponents to be a hedge against inflation. As home values and rental incomes climb, investment dividend payments are likely to increase.

The flip side is that as interest rates rise, corporate costs increase and profitability might be affected.

As with all investments, a decision will depend on personal circumstances, considered judgment, and careful comparison.





Posted by Ellen McLaughlin on 2/9/2020

Before you sell your home, you may wonder if there are any areas that you can improve on before putting the home on the market. Kitchen renovations have one of the highest return values of any changes that you make to your home. Itís worth investigating what areas of the room could use some improving. Some of these upgrades donít even require you to start a construction project.


Clear Off The Counters


You donít even have to replace the countertops to add some value to your home. Making it appear as if your counters have the maximum amount of space before you show the home can really impress potential buyers Simply clear your counter, clean it, and make any small repairs that you notice may need to be done. If you have time and the budget, you can always replace tired old countertops. Simply showing that your counters have more room can really make a big difference.  


Add A Backsplash 


You can add a backsplash or update your existing one in order to breathe some life into your kitchen. Make sure that the tiles you choose coordinate with the theme of the kitchen. This is purely cosmetic but a kitchen with a fresh backsplash sells much faster than a tired, worn looking kitchen backslash, or even a kitchen without a backsplash at all.


Add Some Technology To The Kitchen


Buyers like simplicity and convenience in their potential homes. Consider adding some technology to the kitchen like USB outlets and smart appliances. If you can save a buyer from needing to upgrade their appliances and meet their 21st century needs at the same time, your home will be a very attractive sell. There are few things more enticing to buyers than brand spanking new appliances in the kitchen! These updates will surely add value to your home before you sell.   


The Floor 


While floors offer the least return for your investment, buyers donít like looking at old, dirty floors! Take the time to clean up your floor and replace it if needed. Itís not a difficult do-it-yourself project and can really make your kitchen look more attractive.       


Clean The Cabinets


Buyers are very into looking at every nook of the home they may potentially buy. That means if you have nice looking cabinets, you can have a leg up as a seller. Whether you need to clean and stain the wood on your cabinets, add a fresh coat of paint, or do a larger project and replace the cabinets altogether, there are plenty of ways that you can give your cabinets a fresh look, drawing attention to this part of the room. Be sure that whatever you do to your cabinets will bode well with the style of the kitchen.  




Tags: kitchen   renovations  
Categories: Selling Your Home  


Posted by Ellen McLaughlin on 2/2/2020

Although property buyers fall in love with a home for different reasons, there are four factors that generally cause people to prefer one house over another.

For sellers, the cost of making their home more appealing to buyers can vary widely. It depends on how recently they've painted, updated, and made improvements to their property -- both inside and out.

When it comes to owning and maintaining a residential property, one thing's for sure: Deterioration is going to happen! It's also human nature to postpone taking care of needed updates, minor repairs, and issues like fading paint. Even though the condition of your home may feel comfortable to you, prospective buyers will see things through a different lens. If you think you're "too close to the trees to see the forest," your real estate agent can provide you with valuable tips and an objective point of view.

While there are a lot of qualities house hunters look for when they're sizing up a house, here are a few key factors that can make the difference between a quick sale and a home that lingers on the market for months or more.

  • Brightness: Inadequate light -- both natural and artificial -- can have a negative impact on the impression your home makes on potential buyers. If you're fortunate enough to have newer windows that let in lots of natural light, then the look and feel of your home will be much more appealing. Heavy drapes can detract from that effect, as can overgrown bushes and trees. Lighting fixtures that are noticeably outdated or glaringly bright will also work against you. Since one of your objectives as a seller is to make your home as appealing and cheerful as possible, proper lighting is a feature that's well worth keeping in mind.
  • Cleanliness: A factor that comes in "a close second" to brightness is cleanliness (Some might even put it in the number-one spot). Visible signs of dust, dirt, spills, or smudges can make an otherwise attractive home unappealing to prospective buyers. Undesirable odors can also turn off most, if not all people that come over to check out your house. A solution for some sellers is to have their house cleaner stop by more often to help them stay one step ahead of dirt, grime, and household messes.
  • Freshness: There are a lot of ways to create a feeling of freshness in your home, including opening windows (weather permitting), adding a coat of neutral-colored paint to scuffed walls, and displaying fresh flowers in a couple rooms -- especially the kitchen. Baking soda can also help eliminate unpleasant odors in your refrigerator, sink, and garbage disposal.
While all homes for sale have different needs, in terms of staging, decorating, cleaning, upgrading, and repairing, a seasoned real estate agent can point out strategies, ideas, and improvements that will help you put your best foot forward!





Posted by Ellen McLaughlin on 1/26/2020

Photo by Jeon Sang-O from Pixabay

Did you know that the terraced retaining walls that were built by the Incas at Machu Picchu date all the way back to the 15th century? There’s a reason that classic landscape design elements like the dry-stacked wall have endured for centuries. Not only do they look great, but they are designed to stand the test of time against harsh weather, earthquakes and centuries of use.  Dry-stacked walls are a good choice for any property and are versatile enough to perfectly fit in with any style. Keep reading to learn more about why we love dry-stacked walls and how you can utilize them in your landscape design.

How Do Dry-Stacked Walls Work?

Essentially, a dry-stacked wall is any outdoor stone wall that has been built without mortar to bind the stones together. This technique is ideal for retaining walls and freestanding accent walls. Not only are these walls incredibly strong thanks to interlocking construction, but they also can stretch and bend with the landscape because they are made without the use of mortar. This flexibility helps the walls to easily go along with the natural movement of the land during changes in temperature—particularly during the warmer months and times of continued frost. Because of this adaptability, dry-stacked walls don’t require a conventional foundation that must be set deep below the frost line.

Affordability

Additional benefits of investing in a dry-stacked stone wall include:

  • Natural Permeability — Water is able to freely pass through the mortar-less joints of a dry-stacked stone wall. This natural permeability helps to alleviate the need to invest in an additional drainage system, saving homeowners from having to divert water away from the wall to relieve pressure.
  • Longevity — Freely stacked stone walls are designed to allow for natural expansion and contraction. Therefore, this type of wall is much less susceptible to normal shifting and cracking that you might find with a traditional retaining wall. Ideally, your dry-stacked stone wall should look attractive and maintain its structural integrity for many years to come once construction is completed.
  • Variety — You can be creative as you’d like when building a dry-stacked wall. Whether you prefer round stones, river rocks or flat stones—there’s a stone material available to suit any design aesthetic. However, keep in mind that different stone materials are known for being easier to work with than others. For example, flat stone is typically the fastest and easiest option, while stones with rounded edges require more careful planning.

In addition to being attractive and versatile, dry-stacked walls can be created from a variety of materials. Typically, building a dry-stacked wall will cost homeowners anywhere from $65 to $100 per square foot, including all materials and labor. However, for those interested in an especially deep dry-stacked wall, the costs can climb. Working with an experienced landscape construction team can help to prevent costs from going outside your budget and allow you to enjoy peace of mind with a durable and long-lasting retaining wall.