Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc

Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 3/11/2018

Whether you’re a new homeowner or have owned your home for a few years, there’s always much to learn when it comes to understanding mortgages. Depending on your financial status and your long-term plans, it may make sense to either make larger payments or to refinance your home loan.

Today, we’ll tackle some of those difficult “what if?” questions, helping you decide when to refinance, when to keep your payments stable, and when you might want to increase your monthly mortgage payments.

What are the benefits of refinancing?

We’ve all heard about the benefits of refinancing when under financial stress. For things like student loans and credit card debt, refinancing is often a debtor’s only choice. However, with home loans, the allure of refinancing may not always be a good fit for you.

If your plan is to refinance to get lower mortgage payments each month, you should first question if it will be worth it on the long run, which might amount to you paying more in interest. To avoid paying more in interest, refinance after you’ve accomplished important financial milestones, such as increasing your credit score which makes you a lower risk client to banks.  

When does it make sense to pay more?

The benefits of paying off your mortgage in a shorter period of time are obvious. It means less time making payments, and less money spent on interest.  

However, depending on your mortgage, you might be better off investing your savings in something that will give you a larger return. Investments in a retirement fund, for example, are likely to pay off to a larger degree in the long term. To do the math, simply calculate the savings you would earn on by cutting your mortgage interest and weigh that against projected gains in retirement funds.

None of us can predict the future. Stocks rise and fall, people get laid off from their job due to fluctuations in the economy, and so on. These factors make it difficult to determine whether you should invest. So we encourage you to do your homework when it comes to investments so that you have the best chance of succeeding.  

Changing lenders

Your relationship with your lender will likely be a long one, so you want to make sure it’s one you’re comfortable with and that they are giving you reasonable rates. Now that you’re secure and living in your you have time to shop around for the best rates.

Be sure to ask lenders for good faith estimates and compare applicable fees. Ask friends and neighbors about their experience with lenders and read online reviews to get a better idea of what type of customer experience can expect.

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Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 3/4/2018

Whether you're environmentally conscious or just want to save a few dollars on your utility bills, there are simple ways to do both. One of the first steps to conserving electricity and water is to become more aware of when and how you're using it.

A major challenge for many parents is to get their kids to turn off lights, appliances, and water faucets when they're not using them. With persistence, you can hopefully get them to understand the importance of saving money, controlling costs, and conserving resources.

Dependable Old Appliances Are a Mixed Blessing

Toilets and household appliances can last much longer than their expected life span, but after a certain point, you're getting diminishing returns. If your toilets are more than 25 years old, for example, you're wasting gallons of water with every flush. Inefficient toilets from just a couple generations ago use as much as six gallons of water every time they're flushed. According the Environmental Protection Agency, recent advances in toilet design are now enabling families to use only 1.28 gallons of water per flush while still getting superior performance. In dollars and cents, families that replace old, obsolete toilets with Watersense-certified models can save more than $110 a year (and nearly 13,000 gallons of water). The EPA says utilities may even offer rebates and vouchers that can lower the price of a WaterSense labeled toilet. (As a side note, toilet use in homes accounts for nearly 30 percent of an average family's indoor water consumption.)

If your washing machine was manufactured before 2003, it's another source of wasted water and energy. The newer Energy Star-certified clothes washers can save about $45 a year in utility bills, based on typical usage patterns. They use about 25% less energy and 45% less water than the old, standard models. The EPA also says that if you have a dishwasher made before 1994, it wastes approximately 10 gallons of water per cycle. By switching to an energy-efficient model, an annual savings of $35 a year can be realized by the average family.

There's actually a wide range of Energy Star-certified products available that can save you money on utility costs and help conserve water and electricity. In addition to washers, dryers, and dishwashers, other energy-efficient appliances include dehumidifiers, refrigerators, freezers, air purifiers, water heaters, heating and cooling equipment, computers, televisions, pool pumps, and much more. Energy efficiency -- or a lack, thereof -- is one factor to consider when deciding whether to repair or replace old appliances, HVAC systems, or plumbing fixtures in your home.

Not only will you save money when your home is operating efficiently, but you'll enjoy the satisfaction that comes with minimizing waste and making the most of natural resources.

Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 2/25/2018

In real estate, cash is power. It’s not exactly the amount of money that you have been approved for by a lender. This type of “cash” is what you can pull directly from your account to buy a property on demand. It can be difficult to compete with cash buyers especially in tight real estate markets. Below, you’ll find some tips to help you match up against any cash offers that you may be competing with when you buy a home. 

Make Your Offer Look Attractive As Possible

First, you should always have a pre-approval letter from your lender. This lets sellers know that you’re a qualified buyer. You should also get your lender or realtor (or both) to provide some financial information about you along with your offer. This helps to add to the case that you’re a dependable buyer.

Let Things Move Quickly 

If you allow your lender to send an appraiser to the property as quickly as possible, this will give you an advantage in the home buying process. You want to reduce the amount of time that it will take to close on the house. That means you should consider cutting down on both the appraisal and contingency time. You could even consider waiving any contingencies if you feel comfortable. 

To speed up the process, even more, you should pre-order an appraisal in advance. You can do this before your offer has even been written. It can be difficult to arrange this, especially with larger scale lenders, but it’s always worth a try. Once the offer is written, the lender can relay to the seller that an appraisal has already been scheduled.

You’ll also want to get the inspection done fairly quickly. You only have a short window of time to get the inspection done. The quicker you get this done, the more serious of a buyer you appear to be. You should have the inspector who you’ll use ready before you even put an offer in on a home in order to expedite this part of the process. Usually, inspectors don’t take terribly long to schedule appointments knowing that their clients have short windows to get inspections done.  

Make A Strong Offer

Making a good offer could mean paying extra for a home you love in order to compete with cash offers. Spending more money helps to win. Here’s why: Sellers almost always will give a cash buyer a bit more of a discount since they’ll be getting all of the funds up front. If you love the house and plan to live in it for years to come, the extra money you spend will be well worth it.         

Write An Offer Letter

An offer letter adds a bit of a personal touch to the number you put down as a buyer. Here, you can tell the seller who you are and why you love the home. It can be emotional to sell a property, but a seller will feel more comfortable knowing that the home is going to someone who will appreciate it.


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Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 2/18/2018

Radon has no smell, taste, or color. It is a transparent, radioactive gas. Radon is released when the uranium that is contained in the soil and rocks decays over time. The reason that radon is an issue in a home is because it is released through cracks or openings that exist in the foundation. If too much radon is present in the home, the radioactive particles can attach themselves to dust particles, causing people in the home to breathe the harmful substance in.  

What Is A Radon Test?

The radon test is conducted over the course of two days. A testing machine or canisters are placed on the lowest habitable level of a home being tested. This would be either on the first floor or in the finished basement level of the home. The cost of a radon test isn’t very much, ranging anywhere from $65 to $125. The radon test is typically part of the home inspection, but sometimes other circumstances warrant a test or re-test. The canisters take a bit more time to produce results than the testing machines do, so confer with your inspector before the test is done.   

The Basics

One thing you should know is that radon is always present. The level of radon fluctuates constantly. The test is conducted over a two day period to get the average level of radon in the home. The Environmental Protection Agency considers levels of radon at or above 4 pCi/L to be unsafe. If this is found to be true, there is a solution, however, as systems that lessen the amount of radon in the home can be installed. These can come with a hefty price tag, costing anywhere from $1,000 and up.   

Radon Levels

Radon levels will vary on a daily basis. They can also vary by season, with weather conditions and with the amount of available ventilation. Structural changes that have been made to the home can also have an effect on the levels of radon in the home. If you are getting ready to sell your home and already have a radon mitigation system installed, you may want to test the levels before you even put your home on the market to know what you’re working with. The system may not be working properly, or the levels may have faced a sharp increase, making it hard for the removal system to keep up. 

 With the proper installation of a radon removal system, the air in your home will be safe to breathe. If you put an offer in on a home and the home inspection finds that there are unsafe levels of radon present, at least you’ll know what you’re dealing with. If you decide that the home is not the place for you and your family, even with a removal system, you’ll walk away from the deal informed. If you’re a seller, beware that the level of radon in your home could affect the sale. Although radon sounds like a scary thing, it’s manageable. Radon tests and removal systems help to keep the levels safe.

Tags: radon   testing for radon  
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Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 2/11/2018

When you think of buying or selling a house, the first thing that comes to mind may not be the legal aspects associated with the process. You may want to reconsider this rather boring part of the process as an important one. Hiring a lawyer can help both buyers and sellers to get through many hurdles that buying a home can present. 

The Contracts

There will be many negotiations and a lot of back and forth throughout the process of buying a home. Everything that’s involved with buying a home needs a contract for it to be legally binding. A real estate attorney will negotiate on your behalf and be sure that the contracts adhere to all state and local laws. The lawyer will also help you to address issues that may affect the future of the property such as botched inspections, liens against the home, and other items that could affect you as the home buyer. 

Title Search

Real estate attorneys will perform what is called a title search. This allows them to see if there are any outstanding liens or judgements against the house. This title search will also make sure that the seller has the right to actually sell the property that’s being sold. An attorney can do all of this much quicker than the average person since they have working relationships with title companies.

Transfer Of Property

If a property is being transferred through a corporation, trust, or partnership, things can get complicated. It’s good to have an attorney who is used to working with these complex situations and understands the legal boundaries within the state or municipality   that the property is in.

If You Choose Not To Have A Real Estate Attorney

Many times, a real estate attorney isn’t required to buy a property. It is advisable to have one, however. Without an attorney you increase your chances of problems arising in the future. You run the risk of:

  • Being sued for failure to disclose information
  • An improper property transaction takes place
  • You could miss relevant facts about the property
  • Failing to file the correct documents at both the state an local levels
  • Deeds are not transferred
  • Building permits weren’t correctly filed

The Takeaway

Having a real estate lawyer on your side is important due to the complex nature of property transactions. While some states require that an attorney be present throughout your property transaction, many states do not have this stipulation. You are smart to hire a competent real estate attorney to protect your own interests as either a buyer or a seller.