Lewiston First Time Buyers Find Multiple Funding Resources

In an improving residential real estate market, first time buyers may flinch at the greater loan amounts that accompany larger price tags. Lending standards have also put some first time buyers through a tougher gauntlet than faced during many previous eras. Although some easing is now beginning to take place, some Lewiston first time buyers can still find it difficult to secure the level of funding they seek. For them, there are a number of alternative funding possibilities that first time home buyers in Lewiston may wish to explore. Here are some of the assistance programs that can serve buyers as they go about buying that first home:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home Loan Guaranty Service is the most well-known of the programs, providing government guarantees for loans to service veterans and those on active or reserve duty. It also provides assistance to widows or widowers of veterans. Some VA loans require no deposit, and although the size of loans are limited and vary by area, the limits aim to make possible purchase of a mid-sized home. The actual loans are made by private lenders; the portion that is guaranteed by the VA protects the lender from losses should the veteran prove unable to repay the loan.

The HUD Basic Home Mortgage Loan 203(b) is a program that provides mortgage insurance to purchase or refinance one-to-four unit principal residences. Applicants who meet standard FHA credit standards and who pay the insurance premiums are eligible for approximately 96.5% financing provided by FHA-approved lenders.

The USDA Rural Development Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program is a rural development grant designed to help low- and moderate-income rural applicants purchase a home. The rural development program works with local lenders to provide 100% financing for eligible home buyers. In order to qualify for the program, an applicant must live within one of the eligible rural areas and have a total household income that does not exceed the established limits for that area.

The Community Development Block Grant is one of the nation’s oldest housing assistance programs. The goal of the CDBG is to make funds available to urban communities to be disbursed to citizens in the low and moderate income range. The money allocated to the CDBG is provided to local government authorities, who have broad latitude in how they allocate the funds to create and upgrade local housing conditions. Examples are shown in the video Role of the CDBG.

Each program has its own specific application format, which may involve completing a grant application package or simply applying for a loan from an approved lender. More detailed information can be found on each relevant agency’s website.

Securing financing is just one step of the home-buying process—though a first time buyer may be excused if they find it an intimidating one. Whether you are a first time buyer in Lewiston or a seasoned homeowner, give us a call: We’re here to help every step of the way!

Lewiston Luxury Home Sales Ramp Up for a Bustling Fall Market

With summer drawing to a close (say it isn’t so!), it’s time to cast an eye towards the prospects for this year’s fall home sales market. Fall can be a great time to list a home, but it can be especially opportune for luxury home sales in Lewiston. It’s a season that traditionally brings out serious buyers—those looking to find a home and complete the move before the holidays. If you are selling a property that falls into the luxury home category, before you roll up your sleeves and get to work in earnest, here are some broad-brush pointers real estate writers cite most often:

Make Sure You Work With the Right Agent

Before you even begin other preparations, you can make the most efficient use of your time by first being sure you have recruited the right agent. Aim for a professional who has earned a reputation for successful luxury home sales in Lewiston. A solid portfolio is the best demonstration that you’ve identified someone with the know-how (and the right contacts) that so often make the difference in luxury home sales.

Details Matter

Even more than with an average listing, Lewiston luxury home sales depend on every detail being well handled. Don’t just have the windows cleaned—scour the screens, too. Don’t just put out a vase of flowers in the dining room—where tasteful, think about placing them by the beds; in the bathrooms, too. Make sure the entryway is always clear at every showing. In short, sell the dream of the picture-perfect luxury home. By treating every detail with care, you validate your luxury-level asking price!

Highlight Features

You know your property best—which gives you valuable insight into the features that make your home a standout. Make a list of additions, enhancements and luxury touches you have added, and other elements that would make any new owner proud. Where is the light most magical? When do the gardens burst with color? Your agent can determine which details will have the most impact in the each of the marketing media.

Know What to Expect

With luxury home sales, it’s a good idea to always keep the nature of the market in mind. Luxury home sales in Lewiston can happen quickly, but more often than with an average property, success can take a little longer. A good agent will let you know how long similar homes have taken to sell in your price range—it’s useful background knowledge. Most often, the key to luxury home sales is the quality of showings rather than the quantity.

If you’d care to hear more about what we can expect for this fall’s luxury home sales in Lewiston, contact us today. We’ll be happy to share an up-to-the-minute market analysis—the best way to project the outlook for the upcoming market.

Lewiston Virtual Tours Can Be Shot with Your Own iPhone

A newly-updated NAR survey confirms that 51% of agents with smartphones use iPhones. This fact is hardly startling, since these phones have been such a boon to the real estate business. Today’s agent can use apps to quickly scan and electronically sign documents, instantly get property details for clients, access key boxes—it’s almost hard to remember how we got along before!
But what about the 9% of homeowners who choose to go the FSBO (For Sale by Owner) route? As many a do-it-yourself home seller has learned, just planting a sign in the front yard does not constitute much of a marketing campaign. For those who will be selling a Lewiston home this fall, creating a virtual tour is an all-but-indispensable way to take advantage of all an iPhone has to offer. For anyone who would like to shoot a virtual tour as a market aid, here’s the lay of the land:
• A Lewiston virtual tour doesn’t need to be an all-out professional Hollywood production. You can keep matters as simple as possible using nothing more than your iPhone’s camera.
• More ambitious self-producers can invest in devices like the GoPano. This attaches to your phone: its curved mirror collects light and streams it into the camera as you walk. The free app converts the image into a moving scene which allows viewers to pan in any direction.
• If your Lewiston virtual tour will be assembled without any add-on equipment, it’s still possible to meld your photos into panoramas using one of the many apps devised for that purpose. Just make sure the results meet your quality standards—not all apps are created equal.
• Follow the conventional tips for video shooting: in motion, walk slowly, keeping the iPhone as steady as possible. For stills, an iPhone tripod is a valuable addition. Not only does it prevent hand motion blurring; it also allows you to rotate the camera for a 360-degree view.
• Free or low-cost apps allow you to assemble your virtual tour from stills and video. Search for “real estate virtual tours” in the app store for a comprehensive list. Look for apps that have high ratings—especially those that score well on the ‘user-friendly’ scale. You can also find services through the app store that will take your uploaded images and create the tour for you.
• After you have made your Lewiston virtual tour, if at all possible, preview the result on an iPhone, iPad, PC, and an Android device. It’s an unfortunate fact that a virtual tour that plays well on one device does not necessarily display the same way on the others. If you used an app to create panoramas, you should definitely watch it on a PC before releasing it to be sure the image quality is adequate on a larger screen.
Virtual tours in Lewiston listings are just one part of an effective Lewiston real estate marketing effort. Of course, the easiest way to have a professional-looking production is to forget about FSBO altogether and just call us! After all, it’s our full-time job to create and assemble a comprehensive marketing plan that gets your home sold for top dollar.

Does Assessed Value Matter When I Set The Listing Price for My Lewiston Home

The answer to this question depends on the market. If the market is appreciating as most are now, our answer would be, “Sure! As long as you are comfortable with selling your home for less than what it is worth and thereby leaving money on the table.” If it is a declining market, we would say, “Sure! If you are okay with not selling your home.”

Forgive us for being a little bit flippant in the above paragraph but in the vast majority of cases like those above, that is exactly what will happen. In order to fully understand this, we need to fully understand how your tax assessment works.

Your property tax assessment is a value put on your Lewiston home by your local government. This value is used, based on the tax rate, to compute how much you owe the local government in taxes. Most localities divide this tax amount into 2 payments broken out over the course of the year. These funds are used to pay for the services your government provides.

What most people do not know is that the assessed value of your Lewiston home is typically computed every other year. So how does this relate to where to price the home you are selling?

When a buyer buys your home, their lender is going to require an appraisal of your property to determine what its current value is. An appraiser will only use comparable sales from the last six month or less. This is where the condition of the local real estate market comes into play.

In an appreciating market where the values are rising, home sales will most likely sell above their assessed value. If you remember, the assessed value could be as much as 2 years old. If the homes have been appreciating since the last assessment, a seller who sells at the assessed value may be leaving a lot of money on the table.

Conversely, if the market is depreciating and home values are dropping, home sales will most likely sell below their assessed value. In this scenario, a home seller who prices their home based on an old assessment takes a major risk in not selling at all. Buyers will base their offers on current market conditions, not an old assessment that might be currently inflated.

When it comes time to pricing your Lewiston home for sale, please take note that your tax assessment will typically run behind the current market place. Pricing a home is truly an art. When interviewing agents, ask how they came up with a price for your home. Using the assessed value is one small part to determine home value. If the agent used it exclusively, find another agent.

If you’re looking for the right agent to help direct your sale every step of the way, we hope you’ll give us a call!

Buying a Vacant Lewiston Home Can Mean No Disclosures

Suppose that in the course of buying a home in Lewiston, your eye is drawn to a bank-owned home, or a home held in a trust. There are many reasons why you could find yourself buying a Lewiston home that’s currently vacant—which can also mean that the usual owner disclosures are not to be had. There are perfectly innocent reasons why this situation develops. Suppose the sellers of the property have just inherited it. How would they know that water tends to pool under the house during a strong rainstorm? Or that unpermitted repairs were made to the electric wiring in the kitchen?

If thoughts like these cause beads of sweat to pop out all over your forehead, don’t fret. This summer we can find you plenty of alternatives in Lewiston’s traditional housing market. But before you automatically pass on a vacant home because of unknowns in its history, you should know that, with due diligence, you can still end up with a home that is worth your money and a safe place to live!

When you consider a vacant home, the most reliable information will come after you’ve arranged an inspection. The inspector’s report will let you learn what you’re getting into before you buy—and whether it’s in safe and livable condition. Most homes that fall vacant due to circumstances like divorce or a move are well cared-for and in decent shape; others, long abandoned, are more likely to have fallen into disrepair. Without any owner disclosures, you’ll be on your own to discover potentially major issues like leaking pool equipment or pest problems.

Even after you’ve had a thorough inspection, there is still a good chance you will encounter at least some surprises. There are some elements of a home that can’t really be properly inspected—like what lies under the floorboards or behind attic walls. Since there is no former owner to sound a warning, there is always a chance that you could run into unplanned-for expenses. Truth to tell, though, this can also hold true for a traditional home if the sellers have no prior knowledge, either.

Although buying a home with no disclosures can be a great way to get a wonderful deal, it’s still a good idea to leave some extra budget for the most likely potential costs. In addition to things like insurance, unexpected repairs, and maintenance, there are other costs you might also need to cover—such as a vacancy endorsement on your insurance policy if the house will continue to stand vacant for more than 30 days after the sale.

The bottom line? If you’re considering buying a home in Lewiston with question marks in its history, be sure you apply some energetic diligence before signing on the dotted line. You’ll be a lot more relaxed after the fact.

Thinking of buying a Lewiston home this summer? Then it’s time to give us a call!

Lewiston Rental Property Investments—They’re Out There!

When any investor first begins to mull over the idea of acquiring a rental property in Lewiston, it’s usually in competition with an array of other investment types—each with its inherent pluses and minuses. Some of them are new ideas (new technology company stocks; new forms of commercial exchange)—but real estate is definitely not one of those. It may not be innovative, but being a landlord has always been one of the leading sources of passive income.

What is exciting about rental property is why it has always been recognized as a sound investment. When the income from a Lewiston rental property is able to pay for its own underlying mortgage, it self-propels its growing equity. The rental property’s investment value grows as the loan is paid down month by month, year after year. Added to that is any appreciation in its market value.

And with the best Lewiston rental property scenario, when rental income exceeds mortgage and other expenses, it will even throw off an extra income stream. Needless to say, choosing the right rental property in Niagara Falls is worth the effort! Much of that effort involves making a serious effort to map out and project values, income and expense:

  • Neighborhood: Consider how the overall desirability of the neighborhood is likely to affect its appeal to tenants. Are there attractive amenities like parks, shopping and entertainment venues? What do the local classified ads reveal — is the area’s vacancy rate high or low? How do rental prices compare with adjacent neighborhoods?
  • Project Ancillary Expenses: Determine the historical property tax rates, and what future rate changes are being proposed. Likewise, investigate insurance costs and roll both expenses into your total monthly expense projections. You want to be sure that they are low enough that you can still make a profit from the rental.
  • Local Dish: Expert advice from Investopedia is for prospective landlords to speak with renters as well as homeowners in the neighborhood. It’s a good point: “Renters will be far more honest about the negative aspects of the area because they have no investment in it.”
  • Schools: Rental homes in Lewiston featuring two or more bedrooms will attract families—and that means they will likely have children in school. If a school is nearby the home, it’s likely to be that much more popular with family tenants.
  • Crime: Crime-prone neighborhoods can have higher turnover and longer vacancy rates, so a bargain purchase price may be less of a bargain than you’d hope.
  • Commute: Is the property a long commute from the commercial center of town, or a quick drive? Is there public transportation? Many prospective tenants begin their housing search with their workplace as the center point. Renters will consider this before signing a lease—and you should before signing your offer!

If you are thinking of looking at rental property in Lewiston this summer, they’re definitely out there. Call us today to discuss some of the many opportunities!

Online Lewiston Virtual Tours & Video

In today’s Lewiston, more and more often shopping of all kinds has become a virtual affair. Instant information is at everyone’s fingertips—nowhere truer than in Lewiston real estate. No sooner has today’s buyer made the decision to start looking than—boom!—the laptop/tablet/iPhone is out and Lewiston virtual tours are underway.

What’s most surprising is the key finding of the joint Google-NAR study of the growth of the web in home buying. “90% of home buyers searched online during their home buying process,was the headline highlight. That’s 9 out of 10!

What’s surprising about that?” you might be asking yourself. The answer: that data is more than two years old! And we know online searches and virtual tours have skyrocketed since then.

To capitalize on the online home search juggernaut, real estate agencies increasingly bring video to their Lewiston virtual tours. Many video formats are being used, but the even the most basic use zooms and pans that draw prospects into the picture in a way stills cannot.

First-rate Lewiston virtual tours, whether they include video or not, augment the buyer’s search experience. Motion makes it feel as if you’re right there, touring the house in person.

But…The negative aspects of some virtual tours using video are, unfortunately, just as clear. Slow download time and lagging video streams can lose otherwise interested prospects. In some cases the property itself forces awkward angles that make filming complicated and viewing uncomfortable. It’s simply true that virtual tours are not a good idea for every Lewiston, NY property. They are, however, a great idea for some.

How can you tell the difference? It’s usually a question of the spaciousness of the property itself. Usually, the bigger the home, the easier it is to film a tour—and the better impression it will make on viewers. High-end Realtors® gain from producing and sharing video virtual tours on their websites, but others get strong results by just sticking with high-quality photos. Sometimes the best impression of a small dwelling will be made by a talented still photographer. When selling your Lewiston NY home, in a well-rounded marketing plan it is the unique aspects of your property that should shape the media.

If you’re looking for an agent to represent your home in its best light, you’ve come to the right place. Call us today!

Getting a Lewiston Mortgage is a Detailed Endeavor

Buying a Lewiston home can’t help but be about as thrilling a purchase as you can make, whether you’re a first time buyer or an experienced homeowner. ‘Buying’ a Lewiston mortgage, on the other hand…well, the experience may be slightly less exciting, but if your team has managed to secure a good one, it’s actually a comparable accomplishment.

In the same way that it’s the features and condition of your new Lewiston home that give it extra value, there are multiple elements of a local mortgage that make signing on the dotted line an action you look back on with satisfaction. Having a knowledgeable Realtor® on your side is one part of making sure that happens—knowing how the process works, familiarizing yourself with the terms involved, and fully comprehending the significance of the paperwork elements is the other part. Here is a brief overview of the key elements that come into play:

· Being 100% clear about the financial terms prior to signing is the primary order of business. How much you will be paying each month, how much your interest rate is, whether it is fixed or variable, what additional costs accompany your Lewiston mortgage—this is the ‘meat-and-potatoes’ of your loan.

· An application fee is the charge that covers the lender’s costs for processing your application. This sometimes includes the credit report and property appraisal—you’ll want to know whether these fees were included as part of your application fee.

· An appraisal fee is included to make sure your home is professionally appraised (it may or may not be part of the application fee).

· A loan origination fee includes the additional expenditures associated with your application. It’s usually presented as a percentage (point) of the loan amount.

· Title insurance covers the title search that investigates whether the property is lien-free. This also covers the legal recording costs, and indemnifies against legal costs for defending the property from future claims. It can sometimes pay to comparison shop between title companies.

· Other amounts may also be included: if, for instance, you and the seller have agreed upon certain things, those details will be listed and costs added onto the total of your Lewiston mortgage. Property taxes and insurance may also be prorated and included in the monthly payment.

Before the closing, expect to receive a HUD-1 form—the federally-mandated settlement statement that lists all fees, charges and costs. If there is a problem, this is the time to address it. And keep this and the other papers in a safe place…and remember where they are! You’ll save time later, because some of them may be required in future financial dealings. You will also receive a final Truth-in-Lending statement, a mortgage note, and a Deed of Trust. It’s important to make sure all the due dates are clearly understood—it’s not a bad idea to list them on your own personal “To Do” sheet to keep track for your own reference.

If you are thinking of buying a home in Lewiston this summer, it’s time to get pre-qualified now. Contact us for an introduction to an experienced mortgage broker—then we can get started with the fun part: finding your future home!

Moving to Lewiston Means Vetting Reliable Carriers

Moving to Lewiston NY (or moving to anywhere) is adventure enough without including one of the moving company scams that are all too common. It seems hard to believe that unscrupulous carriers can continue to operate, but the fact is, there are a lot of them out there. If you will be moving to Lewiston anytime soon, you don’t have to worry about any of the rip-off artists if you follow some straightforward guidelines:

  1. 1. Check the FMCSA

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration runs a household goods program designed to aid consumers. Their website includes a search feature that records past complaints for known companies…but be aware that only interstate movers are listed. Along with complaint information, it lists company contact details so you will know you’re dealing with the people they say they are.

  1. Check Online Reviews

A search engine search of the company can be helpful: just enter the company name plus ‘reviews’ or ‘ratings.’ You’ll often find Yelp entries, and with luck, recent experiences by customers moving to Lewiston.

  1. Get A Written Estimate

You should be skeptical of any moving company that is willing to provide a quote over the phone or internet. This may not be evidence of a scam, but often means that you are dealing with a broker rather than the company itself. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation red flags any over who doesn’t offer or agree to an on-site inspection of our household goods “or gives an estimate over the phone or internet”…the too-good-to-be-true estimates, demands for large upfront deposits, or failure to hand you the “Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” pamphlet (Federal regulations require Interstate movers do so during the planning stages) are all signs of trouble ahead!

  1. Insurance Issues

Before you hand over your belongings, it is a good idea to check that you’ll be moving to Lewiston with the proper insurance. Ask the movers about their insurance policy and note the policy number. If you have any concerns, you can check with the insurance provider to confirm that they are properly covered.

  1. Use A Mover With A Physical Address

Another sign to watch out for are moving companies that don’t list a physical business address. With a brick-and-mortar base of operations, you know where to head should anything go wrong.

Moving scams can cost a lot of money—not to mention the stress that results when unscrupulous operators have all your stuff! If you’re planning on moving to Lewiston NY this summer, please consider one of us as your local guide to our area. We’re here to offer professional real estate representation—as well as a ton of information about all things Lewiston!

Selling Your Home in Lewiston is a Collection of Decisions

Selling your home in Lewiston: from the first inkling that you will be putting it on the market until you sign off on the paperwork, the process can be seen as a series of dozens and dozens of decisions. Many are not simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decisions, either; and many have answers that no one can ever prove was right or not.

From your Lewiston real estate agent’s perspective, providing counsel on the choices when asked is an important part of the service we provide. We get to offer a deep reservoir of experience: what has worked (and not worked) before here in Lewiston, as well as where the latest trends are pointing. Pricing, timing, marketing approaches are all areas where our input can be of immense value—can shape how quickly the selling of your home succeeds. In addition to the thunderously clear absolute imperatives like de-cluttering and removing an overabundance of personal items, there are also less vital areas where small touches can nudge prospective buyers in the right direction.

These are details that aren’t vital—details that sometimes may not even have any impact at all on some prospects—yet which sometimes come into play. Here are a few examples of touches that you can decide to consider when you are in the process selling your own Lewiston, New York home:

Kitchen: clean that refrigerator; defrost that freezer! You’d be surprised a many buyers open the refrigerator door (whether it’s included in the listing or not). For some reason, it seems to be a natural thing to do…even though when you’re prepping your house for a showing it’s one of the last things you think about. But taking the time early-on to do a deep cleaning and defrosting will make it simple to keep up, and the ‘newer home’ impression that results can be worth doing.

Fixtures: A little changing out of outdated bathroom fixtures, as well as knobs and pulls on cabinet doors and drawers, can make a huge difference in whether a room comes across as old and tired—or newly updated and presentable. The decisions about whether and what to consider changing can be less than obvious, so giving some thought and imagination into them will be necessary.

Presentation: Set the table? Arrange fresh floral cuttings in more than one room? Leave a note thanking your visitors for considering your home?

Decisions, decisions, decisions! If you will be selling your home in Lewiston, NY this summer, your Realtor will be by your side, helping you make informed choices about which are worth pursuing. Starting early is the first one that’s a definite right choice…and we hope calling us for a complimentary assessment will be your second!