Turn Your Yard Into Summer Gaming Fun!

Now that the weather is warming up, it’s time to think about your backyard. If yours is looking a little drab, why not spruce it up with some oversized games for family fun?

I was browsing Pinterest and saw this jumbo checker board and thought, “What a great idea!” As I was looking at the related pins, I saw ideas for other games that will fit in beautifully with your yard.

Follow Expert Real Estate Talk’s board Outdoor Gaming on Pinterest.

Hopscotch

When it comes to outdoor games, hopscotch has been a quick and easy game to set up. Just grab a piece of chalk and draw out your boards. But how about setting up a more permanent one with garden steps and painted-on numbers?

Chess or Checker Boards

I found a ton of checker boards! One uses alternating grass and concrete to create the board. Another uses all concrete in alternating grey. And I saw a wooden one that alternates green and white.

I didn’t just find your typical checker board. I saw quite a few Chinese checker boards, too!

Scrabble

Improve your vocabulary while having fun.

Our Pinterest board has ideas for an outdoor bowling alley, a giant Jenga board, an oversized Connect Four, and even a Tic Tac Toe! Be sure to follow us on Pinterest as we add more outdoor gaming!

Why not take a few weekends this Spring and make a fun, playful yard to enjoy all Summer long?

Albuquerque Open Houses 3/14 – 3/16

Open House Tip:
Plan on organizing your open house trips by geographic area. This will not only allow you to see more houses in a day, but save on gas as well. For example, you may cover Saturday on the East Side and Sunday on the West Side.

Our weather is expected to improve throughout this weekend. There are 121 open houses in the Albuquerque area this weekend. You can view all the open houses in Albuquerque that are listed in the SWMLS.

Highlights:
Price range: $69,900 – $750,000
Bedrooms: 1-5
Bathrooms: 1-5

Albuquerque Far Northeast Heights

Albuquerque Open Houses 3/7 – 3/9

Open House Tip:
Take lots of notes! After looking at numerous homes, you’ll have a hard time remembering if the 2-story house had the great fireplace or the gourmet kicthen.

Remember, Daylight Savings Time starts this weekend. Don’t forget to Spring your clocks forward so you don’t miss the open houses! There are 130 open houses in the Albuquerque area this weekend. You can view all the open houses in Albuquerque that are listed in the SWMLS.

Highlights:
Price range: $104,900 – $688,500
Bedrooms: 1-5
Bathrooms: 1-4

Our featured home this week is from Anita Mora with Coldwell Banker Legacy.

1305 El Segundo Av Albuquerque NM 87113

1305 El Segundo Ave Albuquerque, NM 87113

Bedrooms: 3
Bathrooms: 2.5
Est. Square Feet: 2,080
Price: $275,000
Listing # 805322

Open House on Sat 3/08, 12-2 & Sun 3/09, 11-1, 2:30-4:30.
Contact for info:
Anita Mora, Associate Broker
Coldwell Banker Legacy
8200 Carmel NE
Albuquerque, NM 87122
Cell: 505-400-8105
Direct: 505-292-8900
Office: 505-292-8900

Smart Homes of the Future

What is a smart home?

When you think of smart homes, you might think of the Jetsons. Everything is automatic, from taking a shower to Rosie the housekeeper. A house like the Jetsons isn’t just a futuristic idea. Most components of a home can be automated, including lighting, heating, air conditioning, locks, doors, and appliances. A smart home can improve your daily life. A smart home may also allow the elderly and disabled to live safely and conveniently.

History of Smart Homes

Frigidaire Kitchen of the Future

Courtesy of x-ray delta one

Homes of the future have been around since the early 20th century. World Fairs of the 1930’s depicted automated homes. In 1956, Frigidaire showed off the kitchen of the future which featured a computer screen showing a completed recipe (see video below). From 1957 to 1967, Disneyland featured the Monsanto House of the Future. The home was set in the year 1986 and featured a microwave oven. It was a round, Jetson-like home made almost entirely of plastic.

Setting Up a Smart Home

Early adoption of automated homes was limited to the more affluent. One of the major reasons was the early stages of electricity. Automating a home into a smart home can be as simple as setting up an automatic coffee maker to brew your pot of coffee so you awake to selecting your daily preferences on a smart grid. No matter what your budget, there’s so much you can do to begin automating your home today!

Stats on Smart Homes

Smart phones and tablets are driving the growth of smart home technology. A 2011 Parks Associates Research study showed that 77% of consumers surveyed would like the ability to remotely monitor their home while away. A 2012 study by Juniper Research predicted the value of the smart home market at $60B by 2017 with the smart entertainment segment at 82%.

Be sure to follow my weekly series on smart homes as we discuss various products and trends!

ABQ Open Houses

Even though the weather is a little bit chillier this weekend, there are still 97 homes in the Albuquerque area that are being held open. So bundle up and go look at some homes! You can view all the open houses in Albuquerque that are listed in the SWMLS.

Highlights:
Price range: $65,000 – $850,00
Bedrooms: 1-6
Bathrooms: 1-3

Open House Tip:
It’s okay to open the closets and cabinets to make sure there is enough storage space, but it’s never acceptable to start digging through the current home owners stuff! And you never need to open up drawers in furniture that isn’t built-in.

Our featured home this week is from Anita Mora with Coldwell Banker Legacy.

1416 Dorothy St Albuquerque NM 87112

1416 Dorothy Street Albuquerque, NM 87112

Bedrooms: 3
Bathrooms: 2
Est. Square Feet: 1,735
Price: $167,000
Listing # 805703

Open House on Sunday 3/2 from 2-4.
Contact for info:
Anita Mora, Associate Broker
Coldwell Banker Legacy
8200 Carmel NE
Albuquerque, NM 87122
Cell: 505-400-8105
Direct: 505-292-8900
Office: 505-292-8900

Albuquerque Open Houses

This weekend there are 93 homes in the Albuquerque area that are being held open. With that many to pick from, there’s something for every home buyer! You can view all the open houses in Albuquerque that are listed in the SWMLS.

Highlights:
Price range: $99,000 – $750,00
Bedrooms: 2-6
Bathrooms: 1-4

Open House Tip:
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You know those beautifully staged homes you see? Some of them are using false furniture! It’s a great way to stage a home, but you don’t want to sit on the bed and find out it’s a cardboard box! Be sure to ask if it’s okay to rest a spell first!

Our featured home this week is from Anita Mora with Coldwell Banker Legacy.

8215 TIERRA LINDA PLACE Albuquerque NM

8215 Tierra Linda Place Albuquerque, NM 87122

Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 3
Est. Square Feet: 2,542
Price: $362,000
Listing # 806077

Open House on Sunday 2/23 from 1-3.
Contact for info:
Anita Mora, Associate Broker
Coldwell Banker Legacy
8200 Carmel NE
Albuquerque, NM 87122
Cell: 505-400-8105
Direct: 505-292-8900
Office: 505-292-8900

6 Tips for Getting a Mortgage

loan applicationPotential homebuyers often hear mortgage lending standards are so tight these days that it’s next to impossible to qualify for a mortgage without perfect credit. But that’s hardly the case. If you’re willing to commit to living by a few good-practice guidelines, in the long run, you’ll stand a much better chance of landing the home you’ve always wanted! Here’s how.

1. Start Saving!
Start saving for a down payment and closing costs as soon as possible. Down payments can range from 3.5-20%. For example, a home at $200,000 at 3.5% will require a $7,000 down payment plus closing costs.

2. Keep a paper trail.
Make sure you have all the records to properly document your finances. This inclues tax returns, bank statements, W-2’s, investment accounts, and other assets. Also, be sure any cash gifts are documented.

3. Protect your credit.
Your credit score will determine if you get a home loan and what the rates and closing costs will be. Be sure to monitor your credit so there are no surprises.

4. Know how much you can afford.
Before you go house hunting, make sure you know you can afford the homes you are looking at. Lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio. Try to keep it below 43%, including all debts, mortgages, and property taxes.

5. Get pre-qualified.
Many real estate brokers will want to make sure you can buy a home before showing you any. Getting pre-qualified also means you know how much you can get a loan for and are ready to move on an offer when you find the right home. You really need to get a Letter of Pre-Approval.

6. Don’t Spend.
Once you are pre-qualified, it’s important not to make any changes to your financial situation. Don’t open or close any credit cards or lines of credit. Don’t purchase anything new — no cars or furniture.

If you think you missed out on lower rates, think again. Rates are still affordable and when you compare them to the 18.45% in October of 1981, they seem like a steal!

When you’re ready to speak to a lender about getting pre-qualified for your new home, contact any of our professional mortgage brokers.

How to Make Your Home Craveable and Sell It Before It’s for Sale

Sell Your HomeOnce you purchase your dream home, selling it may be the last thought on your mind. Today, with homebuyer sites such as Zillow.com, claiming your newly purchased home is a savvy first step to securing a profitable resale.

Zillow uses public records to relay information to potential homebuyers, such as:

  • Property Details
  • Property Value Trends
  • Tax Assesments
  • School Districts
  • Walkability
  • Neighboring Home Values*

What Zillow cannot do is put this information in context. This is where homeowners jump in. Once you purchase your home, claim it as your own on Zillow. It’s as easy as visiting the site, searching for your new address, claiming it, and answering a few verifying questions.

Now, the fun part begins. As the homeowner, you’re able to edit the details of your home for accuracy. For example, your address may indeed show up as a 2 bedroom/2 bath, but are the bedroom sizes correct? Is one of those bathrooms actually a master bathroom with a walk-in closet?

Once the nitty-gritty details are ironed out, you can describe your home in detail. The best part is that you don’t have to exaggerate! You purchased this property for a reason and now you’re sharing your reasons with others.

For example, you may mention that the backyard is fully landscaped with local plants, which are both low-maintenance and easy on your monthly water bill. Perhaps you adore the view of the fully-fenced backyard from the kitchen and dining area because you can keep an eye on your kids and cook dinner at the same time. Maybe there’s a gem of a tea shop within walking distance to your home that isn’t yet on WalkScore’s radar. This is the time and place to share.

Be sure to update your Zillow listing periodically to include any upgrades and additions made to your home. What homebuyer doesn’t appreciate a consistently maintained property? Just remember, updates add value, but before and after pictures tell a story. Don’t be shy. Post a photo or two!

The truth? Homebuyers crave a house that displays its value in more ways than one. When you’re ready to sell, you may be surprised at how little it will take to generate the interest that your home already deserves!

*Many states are non-disclosure states. Property sale prices in these states are not available publicly.

Mortgage Underwriters’ Most Common “Nitpicks”

Home Loan ApplicationThe mortgage stories in the news that continue to dominate the headlines always revolve around the “tightening” of credit and how hard it is to obtain a mortgage these days.

We still field phone calls daily where the person will say, “The last time I did this, it was not this hard and they did not ask for all of this information.” Keep in mind that it has been this “way” now since 2008. Almost 6 years!

I have listed below the most common items an underwriter asks for that drives people nuts.

Bank Statements

• In this internet/tech-savvy world we live in, folks always want to use internet printouts of their bank accounts instead of actual bank statements. These printouts typically do NOT show your account number and/or your actual name for security purposes. You can usually pull your actual statements from most banks online, but if not, you will need to make a trip down to the bank. If the bank will only provide printouts, then each page must be signed, stamped, and dated by the bank representative.

• All large deposits not direct deposited from your payroll must be proved with a paper trail and explained. For example, if you have $500 deposited into your savings account, be prepared to show a copy of the check that was deposited and write a quick explanation of what it was for. You may have to go to your bank to obtain a copy of the check. Read more about how large deposits can affect your mortgage approval.

• Most bank statements have a blank last page or perhaps a page two with either nothing on it or nothing you would consider relevant. This page will be required from the underwriters.

• Your Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) check must clear your account if you want credit for it at the closing table. Make sure your realtor has deposited the EMD check ASAP, since some agents will hold onto the check for a period of two or three weeks without you knowing about it.

Income

• When providing copies of tax returns, most people want to send only the first two pages of the Federal 1040. All schedules of tax returns are required and page two must be signed and dated.

• Many pay stubs provided do NOT show a current year-to-date income. If they don’t, the lender will be required to obtain a written verification of employment form to be filled out by your employer. The underwriter must ensure that your current pay is stable.

Identification

• You’d be surprised how often the drivers license provided is expired or will be expiring in the next month prior to your loan closing. You must have valid identification at the time of closing.

• It’s a problem when the address on the drivers license does not match the address that the borrower states they live at on the mortgage application. Sometimes all that’s needed is visual verification of the sticker on the back of the ID showing the address change. If you have not updated your address, you may be required to do so or write a letter of explanation of why you haven’t.

These items should be discussed with your loan officer upfront at the time of application. This may require a few extra conversations or some back-and-forth until there is a clear agenda of what needs to be done. Again, your local mortgage broker has the experience and customer service background to help you so you don’t feel like you’re getting the runaround.

This guest post was written by Kirk Chivas. Kirk is a licensed Loan Officer and co-owner of First Commerce Financial, LLC, a mortgage brokerage based in Wixom, Michigan. With over 17 years of experience, Kirk has committed to providing Michigan residents with accurate and honest mortgage advice. If you have any questions about your current or future mortgage needs, please feel free to ask Kirk a question on Twitter.

4 Things To Do Before Moving Into Your New Home

movingCongratulations! You’ve found your perfect home and you’re getting ready to move into it. You’re feeling excited and looking forward to starting your new life in your new home. With all the excitement surrounding your move, it can be difficult to stay focused on the things you need to do to make the move a success.

Aside from all the packing, sorting, and planning, including making a moving checklist, there are four things you can do as soon as you get your keys that will make moving in a smooth and enjoyable experience.

1. Change the locks.

It might sound a bit drastic, but just imagine how many other people could have copies of the keys to your front door. Investing in a locksmith and deadbolts can help give you the peace of mind that it is you, and only you, who has access to your new home.

2. Change your address and services.

The sooner you change your address and all your services over, the sooner you’ll be getting your mail delivered and be able to use services in your new home.

Things like broadband and telephone service can take a few weeks to sort out, so do this as soon as you have your move confirmed. Other things to remember include:

• Redirecting mail for anything you may have overlooked.

• Changing addresses on bank accounts.

• Finding a new doctor and dentist.

• Booking a moving company.

• Notifying agencies such as the DMV, voter registration, and USPS.

• Notifying gas, power, and water companies, and taking meter readings at both ends.

3. Undertake messy tasks.

If you know your home is going to need some renovation, taking care of messy, invasive, and complicated jobs before the furniture arrives can be a great way to reduce your stress. Think about whether you will need to:

• Wallpaper.

• Sand floors.

• Paint walls or woodwork.

• Install wiring.

• Plaster ceilings or walls.

• Install new carpet.

All these jobs are best performed without furniture and people on property, so do as much as you can before you move your belongings in to make your life a lot easier.

4. Carry out tasks from your home inspection.

If your inspection brought up some things that are inexpensive and easy to remedy, it’s a good idea to do them now rather than leave them until later. Consider whether you need to buy new smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors or if you need someone to service the hot water heater, stove, or other gas appliances.

This guest post was written by James Harrison, who works as a relocation consultant. He regularly contributes write-ups to business websites and blogs with most of his writings based on tips for business removals, business relocation, and marketing techniques. In his free time, he plays sports, mainly soccer, and plays chess. He is also passionate about reading fiction and traveling.