Jill Finkelstein - Compass



Posted by Jill Finkelstein on 12/15/2019

Photo by SpeedKingz via Shutterstock

Living green is the goal of many young homebuyers. Once in their new home, they want to take steps toward improving their home’s efficiency. The first step to improving your home’s energy efficiency is to choose the right house.

Solar panels and LED light fixtures aside, the most efficient form of housing is an attached home. When your house nestles between the walls of adjoining homes, you share their heating and cooling through ambient temperature exchange. When a home sits above another home, their heat rises in the winter to warm that home. If it’s below another home, it’s cooled by the temperature set by the neighbor above. When energy efficiency remains a high priority for your home location, choose a condominium, townhome or duplex to improve your heating and cooling properties.

Improving an Existing Home

If you own a typical single-family, detached home, you’ll find a lot of wasted space being heated and cooled. But address these areas, and you’ll see a marked improvement in your energy consumption and costs:

  • Pile on the insulation. Many homes have expansive attics with high roofs above the ceiling joists. The deeper the insulation, the more your winter warmth stays in your home to keep you cozy. But along with adding insulation to your attic, improve its airflow so that summer heat escapes to the outdoors, helping your cooled air circulate.
  • Smarten up the windows. Older homes often have single-paned windows, and even those with double panes leak or have broken seals. Replace windows with thermal dual or triple-paned options to see an immediate improvement to those drafty winters and summers where you’re forced to keep the blinds closed. Along with thermal panes, look for smart windows. Buy windows coated with a substance called vanadium oxide (VO2) that adjusts to the temperature to either reflect or let pass infrared light to keep your home warmer or cooler.
  • Monitor your HVAC with a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats adjust your home’s temperature based on learning when you’re at home and when you’re away. Some can also detect the humidity and adjust the temperature to compensate.
  • Install automatic blinds. Adjustable powered window coverings open and close automatically throughout the day to offset outdoor temperatures.

Try These Simple Things Today

While they won’t make a drastic different, you will see an improvement in your energy bills.

  • Change incandescent bulbs for LEDs throughout the home.
  • Turn the thermostat up two or three degrees in the summer and down two or three degrees in the winter.
  • Lower your water heater to 120°F.

If your goal is to purchase an energy-efficient home, let your real estate agent know. That way, you won’t waste energy looking at ones that don’t fit your desire to leave a lighter footprint.




Categories: Uncategorized  


Posted by Jill Finkelstein on 12/8/2019

Image by Jojje from Shutterstock

Many people own homes through a mortgage agreement. Traditional mortgages are primarily fully amortized or gradually paid off with regular payments over the lifetime of the loan. Each payment contributes to both the principal and the interest.

A balloon mortgage is a short-term home loan with fixed-rate monthly payments that only take care of accrued interest on the loan for a set period. It also has a large “balloon” payment to cover the rest of the principal.

The payment plan is based mainly on a fifteen- or thirty-year mortgage, with small monthly payments until the due date for the balloon payment. These low regular payments partly cover the loan but require paying the remainder of the unpaid principal as a lump sum. Selling the house or refinancing the balloon loan before the payment is due is how most buyers approach this situation.

Key Issues with Balloon Mortgages

Lenders present a deadline by which the balloon payment is due (three- to seven-year period). The enormous amount is often more than borrowers can easily handle at once.

Paying only interest on a loan does not allow equity to build. Many homeowners use equity as a means to complete home improvements or other projects. Building equity also helps homeowners when it comes time to sell their home because a traditional mortgage reduces over time. 

Why People Opt for Balloon Loans

It is possible to refinance a balloon mortgage or sell the property before the balloon payment is due but it can be difficult to do so. A dry housing market, job loss, or low credit score are potential obstacles. Lay-offs and depressed home values can trap buyers in their balloon loans. Without the option to sell, refinance, or fulfill their balloon payments, borrowers may end up in foreclosure.

The One True Strategy

Traditional loans are generally safer than balloon mortgages. To keep housing costs at a minimum, use a balloon mortgage if you are sure you can exit before the balloon payment comes due. Otherwise, it is best to remain in the realm of traditional loans.

Review the pros and cons of taking a balloon loan before committing to it. Speak to your financial planner or realtor for professional guidance.




Tags: Mortgage   homebuyers   Financing  
Categories: Uncategorized  


Posted by Jill Finkelstein on 12/1/2019

Photo by Gustavo Frazao via Shutterstock

Whether you’ve been saving up for a while or you’re just getting started, getting into a home might be easier than you think. If you’re looking to buy a home, but you just aren’t sure about tying all your savings into a house, check out the various loan options with low down payment requirements.

The Myth of 20%

A lot of misconceptions exist about the down payment required to buy a home. Particularly about the "20% down" rule. Even though many potential homebuyers think they need to save up that 20% — and they delay buying a home because they haven’t been able to — it’s actually not a rule. While it is a suggestion, and necessary for obtaining a “conventional” loan, it’s not required to buy a house. Some first-time buyers have the mistaken impression that having that 20% down somehow balances out a lack of stellar credit history, guarantees a better rate or a bigger loan.

None of this is true. It does improve your ability to qualify for a loan from a regular lender because it makes your loan easier for them to sell on the secondary market. Even with a 20% down payment, you’ll have to meet the 43% or less debt-to-income ratio to qualify for a loan. It also, however, means that you do not have to buy private mortgage insurance (PMI), which saves you the monthly outgo toward that premium.

On a side note, PMI is not your homeowner’s insurance. It is the coverage you pay for to protect your lender in case you default on your loan.

Buying with Less than 20%

You can buy a home with less than twenty percent down, and in some cases, with zero down. 

Here’s the skinny:

A Conventional 97 loan is one you may not have heard of. It is available through Fannie Mae and is a fixed-rate loan that requires just three percent down. The best part is that the down payment can come entirely from gifts by blood-related or marriage-related donors. A Conventional 97 loan cannot be greater than $484,350 (the number changes annually), requires a better than average credit score and is useful only for a single-unit dwelling. Conventional 97 loans are available to first time and returning homebuyers.

  • The HomeReady™ Mortgage is a specialty option among low- and no-down-payment mortgages. Backed by Fannie Mae, most US lenders offer it. The HomeReady™ mortgage boasts below-market mortgage rates, lower mortgage insurance fees and innovative underwriting practices. In fact, the income of everybody living in the house may qualify for mortgage-approval. That means if your parents live with you, your income and theirs are added together.
  • The Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, insured mortgage requires just 3.5% in down payment. Also, FHA loan guidelines regarding credit scores are more liberal. Borrowers that have a lower FICO score can still qualify for an FHA loan when they have a reasonable explanation for why their score is lower.
  • Active duty and honorably discharged U.S. Military members and surviving spouses are eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans offer a zero down payment options. In areas with a higher cost of living, VA loans are even available above the one million dollar mark.
  • The no-money-down, 100% financing option available to non-military borrowers is offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan is also available to buyers in qualifying suburban neighborhoods. For many borrowers, the USDA loan is their lowest cost option.

While not everyone qualifies for a lower or zero down payment loan, if you are interested in home ownership and tentative about investing a big down payment, one of these options may be right for you. Ask your mortgage broker to explain the options to you for the home of your dreams.




Tags: Mortgage   FHA   20%   twenty percent  
Categories: Uncategorized  


Posted by Jill Finkelstein on 11/24/2019

When buying an older home, you might wonder how to get more livable space out of that low-ceiling basement. There are two ways to gain height: raise the foundation or lower the floor. Raising the foundation requires lifting the entire home off its current foundation, building a new foundation, and resettling the home. For most homeowners, the sheer number of things that can go wrong with a project of this magnitude makes it an unlikely option. An alternative is bench footing, a method of lowering the floor of the basement that results in a higher ceiling.

Bench footing is a straightforward technique regarded by contractors to be an optimal approach for supporting your building while providing room for more structural support and depth. With bench footing, professional contractors do not need to dig deep into the home’s foundation. Instead, they can lower the basement floor and add structural support from there.

How Is It Done?

The process is straightforward, but don’t try to do this one yourself: Hire a professional contractor. Bench Footing costs less than other methods because it doesn’t require you to dig underneath the existing footings. Instead, a new floor is dug through the existing basement floor. A new foundation is laid inside the existing one, creating your new basement floor and an additional wall inside your existing basement. It is important to consider that the width of your bench footing is determined by the depth you want to add to your basement.  For every foot in depth that you add, you will need about a foot of width for your bench footing.  The floor space of the basement will decrease in area by the thickness of the new wall. 

The result is a ledge or “bench” all the way around the outer wall of the basement. That’s why they call it Bench Footing. A savvy contractor can make use of the space above the bench by installing cabinets, reading nooks and other built-ins. Others simply inset the entire wall to the new location. 

Why Choose Bench Footing?

If you need to increase your usable space but you are unable to add another story or extend your home on any side, making better use of your basement is the most valid option. In addition to being less damaging to your existing home, bench footing is less costly to complete and doesn’t change the exterior aesthetic of your home. This is particularly important if your home is in a historic area or has a strict association.

To get the best results with your bench footing, hire a professional contractor with several years of experience and with many positive reviews. Consult with your real estate agent for recommendations for a local contractor who can help you with your project.





Posted by Jill Finkelstein on 11/10/2019

A real estate agent for a seller, often referred to as a seller's agent, performs many functions, including helping you organize your house for sale, set the right price, determine a selling strategy, and negotiate with buyers. This article covers the roles and responsibilities of a seller's agent and what qualities to look for, so you will know how to select the right real estate agent to sell your home.

What is the Sellers' Agent?

A seller's agent represents the seller during the course of selling their property. Seller's agent is the same as a listing agent, and both terms can be used interchangeably.

Listing Consultation

When you are selling your house, the first meeting that you have with a real estate agent is usually known as a listing consultation. During the consultative session, your agent will look at your property and learn more about your aims for selling. They will discuss your home's selling features with you, and suggest improvements that could lift your price. 

They will also do a comparative market analysis (CMA), which looks at comparable homes that have sold nearby, to help figure out what your home is worth in the current market and recommend a price to you. A good seller's agent should also bring a marketing strategy to help you realize that price.

Roles of a Listing Agent in Selling a Home

1. Prepare Your Home to Sell

A listing agent with lots of experience will know how to maximize your property value so you can receive top cash for your home. They will be able to figure out which updates you should make to your home to increase its selling price. They will also be able to suggest service providers such as an inspector, handyman, painter, landscaper, stager, etc., who will provide great value and high quality at a reasonable price.

2. Stage Your Home to Sell

Preparing your home is an art. Staging is different from decorating and requires the attention of a professional, especially if you want to make the most out of your sale price. They understand that proper preparation prevents poor performance. Your agent will help you stage your home so that it makes the best first impression among potential buyers. A well-staged home can wow buyers from the time they look at the listing photos, to the moment they walk in the door.

3. Hire An Expert Listing Photographer

An expert real estate agent will assist you in organizing professional photographers, or may even have one as part of the service. Once the home is prepared and staged, it will be ready for a photo shoot. The photographer will also perform a 3D scan of your house so that buyers can view it from every angle online. Many buyers who are not resident in the state or the country would want to have a 3D Walk-through of your house before they spend their time and money to tour it in-person.

These are essential roles real estate agents perform for the seller during the sale of a property. So when you are hiring an agent, don't be afraid to tap into their expertise and learn as much as you can from them.







Jill Finkelstein