Monday, March 22, 2010

Springtime Tips for Creating Curb Appeal

Whether you are selling or staying put, here are five tips that can help you on your way to a beautiful home.

1. Sidewalks and Driveways:

An affordable, virtually maintenance free option for sprucing up your paths is concrete stain. It can cost around $30 a gallon and requires very little prep work. This is a do-it-yourself project.

Another tip: Fix cracks and uneven sections. This project may require a bit more professional attention, but will give buyers the impression that your entire home, not just the entrance, has been maintained.

2. Accent Door:

A plain door tends to recede into the background.

Consider a contrasting color to the siding of your home. On the color wheel, green is opposite red and yellow is opposite blue. Don't be afraid to be daring. Just a pint of paint can cover most doors, and if you don't like the result – you can try another color!

3. Trimming Trees:

Stand in front of your home and take a close – and fresh – look at your trees and bushes. Are there branches that have become overgrown and now obstruct the view of the home?

You want your landscaping to complement your home, not hide it. Trees should frame paths and entries. To trim tree branches yourself you can buy a pole pruner or chain saw. Or you can hire a professional, who has experience in shaping trees.

Keep in mind, however, that spring is NOT the time to prune flowering trees or maples. These should be done in late Summer and early Fall.

4. Early Spring Planting:

The last frost date varies by area. It also varies from year to year in that area, but if you feel that your home will not see another frost, then you may be safe to plant a few hardy annuals to add some pops of color to your yard. Even if a frost catches you by surprise – you can cover the plants for the evening to save them from succumbing to the cold.

The plant must also have time to take good root before severe rains come.

Some plants that you can give you an early burst of color:

Pansies: these bolts of color can even survive winter in some areas

Calendula: these “pot marigolds” are a versatile plant

Violets: heart shapes petals

5. Outdoor Lighting:

Low voltage (12 volt) and solar lighting are great options for improving curb appeal.

There are hundreds of designs of solar lights. These small fixtures are generally set on stakes in the ground and can be used to accent paths or gardens. And they are a great do-it-yourself option.

Also, consider using uplighting on trees to create night-time focal points – great for buyers doing after work drive by inspections!

Monday, March 8, 2010

New Lending Policies Announced by FHA

If you or someone you know is considering an FHA loan, some of these changes may affect you. Here's a clear, concise rundown of the major changes and what they mean:

1. Increased mortgage insurance. The mortgage insurance premium (referred to as private mortgage insurance by many people) will be increased from 1.75% to 2.25%. This change will add some cost to purchasing a home, but will not overburden consumers since the mortgage insurance is paid over the life of the loan, rather than upfront at closing. This change will become effective on April 5, 2010.

2. New down payment and credit score requirements. According to the new policy, homebuyers who have a credit score of at least 580 may still be able to purchase a home with 3.5% down, but those with credit scores of less than 580 will be required to put down at least 10%. This change is designed to help the FHA balance its risk, while still providing affordable down payments for consumers with a history of good credit and responsibility.

3. Reduced seller concession. Basically, this change means that the person selling the home will now only be able to offer the homebuyer 3% to help defray closing costs, as opposed to 6% under the previous policy.

In addition to these changes, the new policies contain a series of new measures aimed at increasing lender enforcement.

The bottom line is that the changes will impact some homebuyers more than others. But in the end, the FHA is still committed to providing affordable home loans.