Andy Weiser Fort Lauderdale Realtor Blog

What Exactly is a Home Energy Audit?

There are many small things you can always do to conserve energy like turning off lights when not in the room or taking shorter showers. However, how do you know how energy efficient your home is on its own? That is where an energy audit can be of help. This will tell you just that as well as which improvements are recommended to take your home’s efficiency to the next level.

How an energy audit helps buyers

Energy audit details are not typically stated in a typical online listing, however sometimes these documents can be posted in MLS so that agents have access to share with their buyer clients. If not, sometimes you can request these during a home inspection. This can be more of a true read as you cannot always gauge average bills on the previous owner as everyone uses energy differently.

Home energy score

Various companies including local utility companies will do energy audits, yet the one rating that is becoming increasingly popular is the Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score. This has become a standardized process for measuring efficiency.

Other audit types

Most other sources will do a more “visual” audit of your home. This includes things like checking for window types, gaps, insulation in attics or doors as well as type of lightbulbs that are being used. These recommendations are typically more general.

How much does an audit cost?

It will depend on the size of the home, but can cost around $150 to $250. This can be sometimes less if rolled into a home inspection package. Utility companies also sometimes offer their visual inspections in exchange for locking into a program.

What the auditor looks for

These audits take a couple of hours. They will measure windows and floor space for insulation. In addition, they factor in age of HVAC systems, water heaters and the condition of ductwork. This is all entered into a system that will calculate a rating between 1 and 10. A 10 states it is within the top 10% in energy efficiency, 5 being average and 1 consuming more energy than 85% of homes in the United States. These reports also offer recommendations for what the homeowner can do to improve efficiency, mostly having to do with insulation. They will also offer potential numbers in the way of saving per year should you increase your overall score.

The Essential Checklist for Buying a Home

The purchase of a home is not something that typically happens on a whim. Long before you get to the stage of placing an offer, there are several things that you will need to do to prepare. Here is a list of the essentials as you get yourself ready.

Your credit score

Even if this is your second or third property, before you do anything you will want to make sure your credit is currently solid. Making sure that your credit score is good is very important as it will dictate your ability to get financing for the new home. There are services nowadays online that allow you to check your credit or you can typically check it directly with one of the major credit bureaus. Alternatively, when you contact a mortgage lender, they will pull your report.

Fix credit if necessary

If your credit is less than perfect, fixing issues immediately is always best. Sometimes there is bad information or mistakes on your report so check to be sure there is no erroneous info on yours.

Estimate what you can afford

Get an idea about what you can afford to see what you can actually buy. There are online calculators for mortgages that help give you an idea of your payment. Don’t forget to be sure you are including insurance, taxes, association fees or PMI if you are putting less than 20% down.

Consult a mortgage broker

To get the best concept on what you can afford, consult with a reputable mortgage lender. A lender will pull your credit, check available interest rates, mortgage products and consider your income and finances to provide you with how much you can afford for your new home.

Secure pre-approval

Your mortgage lender will tell you what you can afford and they will also provide you with a pre-approval letter. This is an essential thing to have when submitting your offer as it will show sellers that you are serious and financially prepared to make the purchase of their home.

Down payment

To avoid paying PMI and get better rates, putting down 20% is ideal. However, because on most homes that is a substantial dollar figure, there are other options for putting down less. Regardless, saving your money is important as there are always other moving expenses and incidentals to account for.

Work with an experienced real estate agent

A local, professional real estate agent will be your best source for finding a home that suits your needs. As an experienced, full time agent who has experience in the local market, they will provide you with information on local active listings as well as advise when it comes time to make an offer. You will work together on visiting properties in various locations and help you craft negotiations to buy your perfect home.

If you have any questions about the buying process, please feel free to contact me. I am happy to assist you.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Paying Down Your Mortgage

The question of whether or not to pay down one’s mortgage often comes up when assessing your financial goals. Especially now that tax season has just come to an end you may giving your finances some extra thought. The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer as it all depends on your short and long term goals. From taxes to cash flow there are things to consider if you make regular payments or add additional monies towards the principal to pay it down. Here is a closer look at both of the pros and cons. Not every point, but most, will apply to both your rental properties as well as your own home.

The Pros

Of course, paying down your mortgage faster means that you will own the property free and clear sooner. Without having to pay a mortgage you will also have a better cash flow if it is a rental property. If your rental property is part of your retirement plan, you may want to calculate at what time it would be most beneficial to you to not have a mortgage and plan accordingly. For anyone that may have an adjustable rate mortgage, it may be helpful to pay down the principal in anticipation of a future rate increase.

The Cons

There really isn’t much of a tax advantage to paying your mortgage down faster. The only portion of your payment that is deductible is the interest. The more you pay towards the principal and the more cash flow you have, the more you will pay in taxes. Also, if you are currently relying on cash flow now, you will need that money on hand to live off of. Instead of ramping up your pay down efforts, you could always do an interest-only mortgage. This style of mortgage will reduce your monthly payment significantly, but also is just that, only interest payments and nothing towards principal. This option can potentially be good if you purchased when the market was good and is on the up. However, the risk here is if market conditions soften then it could cause more of a financial hardship.

Do you have questions on what you think you should do? Contact me today and I will provide you with information on the current state of the market to help you decide.

10 Tips for Decluttering Your Living Room

Other than the kitchen, your living room is one of the top common rooms in your home that can often be used for just about anything. Watching TV, doing homework, eating dinner or just relaxing with the family. With numerous activities going on, the living room can often accumulate belongings and become cluttered rather quickly. Being your own judge to evaluate where to begin decluttering is sometimes hard so here are 10 tips to follow as you create a more enjoyable and orderly room. These can also be very helpful as you prepare your home to be listed for sale.

Remote controls

With smart TV’s, Apple TV’s, XBoxes, Stereos and DVD players remote controls can stack up quickly. If keeping them confined to a basket is not enough, try purchasing a universal remote to cut down on the number of controls. Smartphones also can be a great solution with remote apps omitting the additional devices altogether.

Pillows

Audit your pillow collection. Do you have too few? Too many? Toss pillows should add color and function. At a certain point too many pillows will only get in the way and be more of a nuisance than a comfort.

Traditional reading material

It is true that a lot of reading is done online these days, but some periodicals and magazines can offer design and a three dimensional ability that your Kindle cannot. Keep recent and current issues and toss any older or irrelevant copies.

Store games

Get rid of the old or broken games that nobody uses anymore. Stow away any of your frequently used games in a cabinet or storage bins. Closed storage can keep things safe from being stepped on or broken.

Cut down on decorations

It can be easy to collect decorative items over time. Perhaps you have gifts from holidays, travels or friends that have accumulated. Although these can be much appreciated, too many can simply be too much for one room. Try cutting down on items one by one rather than all at once. Relocating sentimental items to other rooms or away in storage can be a good solution.

Toys

Toys can multiply quickly, but can also be outgrown just as fast. Keep your current and core toys and consider donating the ones that are old and have been outgrown.

Junk drawer

Everything should have a home to be stored in. Even with your smaller, odds and ends just throwing them into a junk drawer will only be relocating the mess. Invest in a drawer organizer, bins or shelving systems so that things are neatly put away and easily found when you need them.

Office space

Most homes have a dedicated space for a home office or computer. Consider a hideaway desk or a pullout desk so that papers, bills and the like can be stowed away as they can often quickly pile up.

Minimize pet belongings

Sometimes your pets can have just as many belongings as children. Invest in a basket or bin to keep all of their stuffed toys and balls in so they are neat and organized.

5 Ways to Save for a Down Payment

Investing in real estate is not just something for the wealthy. Even with a small down payment anyone can get involved in the real estate game and be on the road to achieving the American dream.

First things first. You will need to determine how much you will need for a down payment before you even create a plan. If you plan on purchasing an investment property that you won’t be living in, plan on at least 20%. Should you be purchasing something that you are going to reside in, you can get away with much lower provided that you have good credit. This can even be as little as 3.5%. Just note that if you do put less than 20% down, you will be required to pay private mortgage insurance or “PMI.”

Here are some helpful strategies to follow as you create your savings plan.

Step 1: Create a Budget

The very first step is to identify how much you will need. See the above mentioned percentage requirements for which applies to you. Consulting with a mortgage broker early on is also a great idea as they can provide you with the latest rates and loan programs as well as get you prequalified based on your credit score.

Step 2: Cut Your Expenses

Take a look at your bank statement and monthly expenses. You may be shocked to see how many things that you pay for regularly that you could cut. Can you trim down your cable TV bill to a lower package? Do you have to have satellite radio in your car? Trimming these expenses can really add up into sizable savings each month and over time.

Step 3: Sell Unnecessary Items

After you have trimmed your expenses, now take a look at the things you physically have and decide if you need them. How many things are simply wants versus needs? You just might have some jewelry, watches, electronics or appliances around your home now that you could sell for extra cash towards your down payment.

Step 4: Save Bonus Money

Anytime you receive extra money that you hadn’t planned on, put it aside in your savings. This includes things like tax returns, work bonuses, holiday checks from family or friends or the like.

Step 5: Extra Work

This is easier for some than others. Do you have the opportunity at work to take on some overtime? Do you have enough free time for a part time job? Could you even partake in a paid study? All of these ideas can also help you reach your financial goal.

In the end, just remain patient. Buying a home is a big commitment and you will certainly want to be financially stable when you make the plunge.

8 Things to Avoid When Buying and Selling at The Same Time

Even though it is very common to be buying and selling a property at the same time, it isn’t always easy and stress free. There are many moving parts to manage for each transaction and if your sale falls through, you could lose the funds to buy your new home. Alternatively if your purchase falls through, you could be temporarily homeless and scrambling while you find another property. The good news is that even though hiccups can sometimes happen, everything will always work out in the end. There are some mistakes to avoid some mishaps, so here are 8 tips to follow for the smoothest sailing possible.

Don’t Waste Time When Prepping Your Home for Sale

Even homes that are newer or renovated will need to be prepped for sale. Don’t wait until the last minute to repair your grout work, paint the walls or do a deep clean. Things always take longer than you expect and you don’t want to miss out on any valuable time on the market.

Have a Backup Plan

Coordinating both a sale and purchase at the same time is tricky. Chances are that you won’t be able to arrange closings back to back on the same day. Be sure to have a backup plan with some emergency funds on hand if need be. You may have to find temporary housing for example for any time gaps between closings.

Be Sure to Get Pre Approved

Sometimes people assume that they will be pre-approved for a home loan based on former experiences and factoring in their current situations. However, many things go into your financial profile and only a mortgage agent can officially offer a pre-approval for a mortgage amount. Don’t risk your situation and losing out on a property, make sure you get this step completed before making any moves.

Add in Some Cushion

It is great that you know what your home “should” sell for, but what it actually sells for can be a little less. The market could soften or some other external factor could play a role in market trends. Give yourself some cushion so that you don’t have to get extreme top dollar to make the purchase of your new home financially possible.

Learn to Compromise

Just remember that everyone involved in both the sale and purchase is human and will also be stressed at times. Keep this in mind should any issues arise. At the end of the day, everyone has the same interest and goal – to close on a deal. Should a little give and take be necessary to make issues resolved, be amenable to some compromise.

Multiple Agents

With more than one deal going at the same time, there are duplicates of everything. If possible, try to simplify things and use the same agent for both of your transactions. This can help streamline the process and limit communication hiccups.

Space out Closings

If possible, give yourself some cushion for closings. You may want to close on your sale two or three days before your purchase. This can give enough time for funds to clear (and be sure to factor in non-banking weekend days).

Schedule Earlier Closings

When making an actual closing time, aim for a time that is earlier in the day. With banks closing earlier, potential time zone differences or other unforeseen snags, this should allow ample time to get everything done in time.