Know More About Some Money Saving Maintenance Projects

Moving into a new home is a happy occasion, but unexpected repairs like a dripping roof, a flooded basement or a busted HVAC system can turn it into an unhappy – and expensive — one. The good news is that preventive maintenance can curb such common catastrophes.

Put these five projects at the top of your to-do list to keep your home, bank account and sanity intact:

1. Attend to Your Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning (HVAC) System: Your HVAC system regulates the temperature in your home to keep you comfortable throughout the year – and you’ll surely be upset if it breaks down during an epic heat wave. Perform regular seasonal maintenance on your heating and cooling systems to prevent this kind of disruption. Also, check your air filters once a month and change them out as necessary. (Definitely replace used filters when you first move in.) Not only will regular maintenance prolong the life of your HVAC system – and save you from shelling out $3,900 to install a new furnace — but it will also save you considerable cash on your energy bills.

2. Inspect Gutters and Downspouts: Clogged gutters and downspouts can lead to leaking basements, cracked foundations, wood rot, and pest and insect infestations that can cost $500 to $5,000 or more. To prevent devastating damage to your home, ensure that your gutters are free of debris — and that your downspouts are positioned to direct water away from your foundation. Also, keep nearby foliage trimmed to minimize clogging from leaves and branches. You should clean your gutters at least once a year. If you’re uncomfortable doing it yourself, a licensed professional will generally do the job for about $100 to $200, according to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide.
3. Check for Water Leaks — and Fix Them: Water leaks are an easy fix if you catch them early, but they can lead to mold, mildew, rot and other damage when left undetected or unaddressed. Check all toilets and under-sink cabinets for leaks or constant running. Also, take a tour through your new house to inspect for drips and stains on the ceiling. Fix any leaks that you find immediately. A leaky roof – whether caused by weather, age or neglect — can also cause significant and costly long-term damage to your home. Inspect your roof for damage at least once a year, as well as after any major weather event. If you’re not sure how to inspect your roof yourself, consider hiring a professional roof inspector. A professional will know exactly what to look for – and considering the roughly $6,500 it may save you on a roof replacement, it’s well worth the average cost of $230.

4. Assess Your Attic Insulation: Attic insulation controls moisture, retains heat and ensures proper ventilation. If you have an unfinished attic, inspect it to make sure that there is insulation covering the entire space. If there are missing pieces – or if the existing insulation appears to be damaged or depleted – consider adding more insulation or replacing it altogether. Adequate insulation will ensure that your home stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And it will save you a substantial amount of money on your energy bill as well – typically as much as $200 a year when coupled with air sealing, according to the EPA. A professional will usually charge about $900 to $1,900 to install blown-in insulation, but most states offer homeowner incentives to help offset the cost.

5. Find and Seal Air Leaks: Stop energy-sucking, money-wasting air leaks by caulking, sealing and weather-stripping all of the seams, cracks and openings in your home. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests testing for leaks by holding a lit incense stick next to potential air leak sources on a windy day. Any smoke stream that moves horizontally suggests a leak that should be sealed. A professional will generally install weather stripping for about $100 to $400, depending on the size of your home and the amount of air escaping it. Not bad when you consider that the EPA reports it can save homeowners as much as 10% on heating and cooling costs.

Foreclosed Properties at the Sheriff’s Sale

A sheriff’s sale (or auction) comes at the end of the foreclosure process when the defaulting homeowner can’t repair his financial problems with the lender. About half of our states use the “judicial” process when foreclosing mortgages.

  • This process starts with the mortgage document, a security device used to pledge the property as security against the loan.
  • When a default occurs, the lender will attempt to end the homeowner’s rights of possession to the property. The lender must file suit and prove in court that it has the right to sell the property to recover its loss by virtue of the default and as stipulated in the signed mortgage agreement.
  • If awarded a final judgment from the court, the lender will proceed with the foreclosure and the property will be scheduled for sale.

Foreclosure properties are sold at public auction under the direction of the court in the county where the property is located. The successful bidder becomes the new owner of the property. About 80 percent of the time the successful bidder is the lender, the original mortgage holder. Attorneys will be there to bid on the property for the lender. There will also be investors, onlookers and curiosity seekers observing the proceedings. Occasionally, a lienholder will appear trying to salvage what he can from his claim. Rare but certainly possible, the homeowner may show up to bid on his own property.

Here’s what you absolutely need to know about buying foreclosed homes during a sheriff’s sale.

Advantages

The biggest advantage to buying properties at the Sheriff’s sale is the high profit potential. If there is a large difference between the market value of a foreclosed property and its final judgment amount at auction, you can really win big. Typically, the largest cash rewards come from the proper application of this investing method.

Sales are usually advertised 4 to 6 weeks in advance. In some states, this information may be available 6 to 8 months or more before the sale. This gives you ample time to research the property, the condition of the loan and the condition of the homeowner. Why the homeowner? If you can work out a satisfactory arrangement with him, you can save yourself the trouble at the auction. If you meet with the owner and can’t work out a deal, you should at least take careful note of the property’s condition. This gives you a competitive advantage over other auction bidders.

You can go to the courthouse and observe the process as often as you like before going to bid on your foreclosed property. It’s certainly a good idea to familiarize yourself with the auction process. There usually isn’t much competition for foreclosed properties sold at auction. Sometimes no one shows up to bid on a property, perhaps due to transportation problems or inclement weather. This creates fantastic opportunities for the diligent investor.

Disadvantages

Buying foreclosed properties at the courthouse can be very dangerous for those who do not do their research properly.

  • The large cash outlay required to buy foreclosed property at the Sheriff’s Sale is the biggest deterrent for most buyers. Certified checks and sometimes cash will be required to bid on properties.
  • You may have to pay off the sale amount within 30 to 90 days. In some states it’s a matter of only days. In Palm Beach County, Florida, the successful bidder must pay for the property in full by 3:00 PM on the day of the purchase. That’s just 6 hours from the time the bidding starts to the time you must pay for the property in full or risk losing your cash deposit.
  • You may not be able to inspect a foreclosed property before bidding on it. In that case, there is little chance you will be able to assess the property damage and replacement costs. This hinders your ability to determine the true market value, your maximum bid amount and your profit.
  • If you are the successful bidder, you may have to evict tenants currently residing in your new property. This could take several months. This also interferes with your plans to repair and quickly sell the property for a profit. This delay increases your carrying costs and erodes your profits.
  • There may be land use problems with a property such as zoning or environmental issues like petroleum contamination or toxic waste. A clue to avoiding a problem property is when the lender’s representative fails to appear or bid on the property. If the lender doesn’t want it, you don’t want it either.
  • Failure to research a property correctly leads many to overbid. Too often properties are purchased for much more than their value. This accompanied by “auction fever,” the tendency to get caught up in the heat of the moment and overbid, results in large over-payments and even larger losses.
  • The most important concern perhaps is the possibility of other liens or judgments. As the successful bidder, you replace the homeowner’s position in the property. Any problems clouding the title are your problems now.
    • This includes other mortgages, mechanics’ liens and taxes.
    • At the sale, the first lienholder can nullify all other liens if he’s the successful bidder.
    • Junior lienholders must buy out senior lien positions and be high bidder to gain possession of the foreclosed property with clear title.
    • The first mortgage holder is not the only one foreclosing properties. If a third lienholder forecloses, the process will not wipe out the first and second lienholders.
    • Buying this property means you buy these liens as well. Typically, first mortgages are the largest liens on the property.

Researching Foreclosed Properties

Follow these steps to ensure you research the properties thoroughly:

1. Perform a title search. The only way to be sure that this is a first mortgage holder foreclosing is through a full title search. The cost of the search is nothing compared to the potential loss from not investigating the condition of the title.

2. Locate properties. Find foreclosure properties that are going to sales or auctions by looking for “Foreclosure Sales” or “Sheriff’s Sales” or “Auctions” in your newspaper, real estate magazine or by contacting the county clerk’s office.

3. Evaluate the properties. Evaluate the foreclosed properties and determine their profit potentials. Do this by determining the market value using comps, appraisals and brokers’ opinion of price. Subtract the default amount from the market value. If there is a significant difference, you may have a winner.

4. Inspect the property. If you can, pay an inspector to inspect the foreclosed property and assess any damages or repairs you must make before re-selling the property. Deduct those expenses from the profit you calculated earlier. If you cannot inspect a property, leave yourself a little extra room and some extra cash.

5. Calculate your profit potential. Start with the price you can sell the property for in good condition. Subtract any repair expenses. From this number, subtract the costs you will incur while holding the property (loan payments, taxes, insurance). Subtract from this the closing costs you will incur when you sell the property, including a broker’s commission if you intend to sell your property through a broker. Locate any other liens or judgments and subtract those amounts from your previous figure. Paying off the liens at a discount is one way to increase your profits, assuming you are the successful bidder.

Your subtotal so far, is your expected sale price of the property, less repair expenses, holding costs, liens and closing costs. This is the “net to you” after you sell. Deduct the default or final judgment amount from your last subtotal. This is your gross profit potential, hypothetically the most you can make assuming all goes well.

6. Determine your maximum bid amount. The lowest you can bid is the final judgment amount. The highest you bid is the “net to you” amount. Any amount over that breakeven point results in a loss. Determine the minimum profit you want to make. Subtract your desired profit amount from the “net to you” figure. That’s your maximum bid amount.

Buying Foreclosures at the Auction

1. Phone ahead. Prepare for the auction by phoning ahead. Make certain that the sale hasn’t been postponed. Determine the requirements for purchasing properties. How much deposit is needed? When is the balance due? What type of payment is required?

2. Attend the auction. Arrive early. Properties are sold very quickly, sometimes within minutes. Register yourself as a bidder if necessary.

3. Pay attention. Listen carefully for your target property to be announced. Observe the bidders. Know your competition. Do not announce your intentions to anyone there. Never bid more than your pre-determined amount.

4. Record your new deed and obtain title insurance. The successful bidder will receive a deed, the type of which depends on who is conducting the sale and state law. Record your new deed and obtain title insurance as soon as possible.

Know More About Resources for First Time Home Buyers

Buying a home can be both exciting and stressful for first-time home buyers. You might alleviate some of the typical anxieties by learning as much as possible about the process. From the first steps of determining your budget and securing your loan to then finding a home, you can proceed with confidence when you know what to expect. It can also help to utilize the expertise of a professional advisor to help you navigate the home buying process.

Determining Budget

Before proceeding with a mortgage, it’s important to determine what you can afford. Not only will you be responsible for the monthly mortgage payments, but you will also need to pay for home insurance, maintenance expenses, and possible homeowner association fees. Saving money to pay for your down payment is important. Lenders have different requirements for down payments, but generally, the higher your down payment, the lower your monthly payments will be. Calculate your monthly income to see what you can afford for your housing budget. Lenders typically recommend that consumers’ monthly mortgage and housing expenses not exceed 31 percent of gross monthly income.

  • Homebuyer Tools, Calculators and Look-ups
  • How To Prepare for Homeownership
  • Becoming a Homeowner
  • Tips for First-Time Homebuyers
  • A Guide for the First-Time Homebuyer (PDF)
  • Making Homeownership More Accessible and Sustainable
  • Mortgages for Home Buyers and Homeowners
  • Tips for First Time Home Buyers

Securing Financing

Once you know your budget, it’s time to find a lender and secure a loan. It’s helpful to request a copy of your credit report so you know your credit score. Your credit score can play a role in the type of financing you can get and the interest rate offered to you by a lender. Many buyers approach a few different lenders to explore various financing options. Banks, credit unions, savings and loan associations, and mortgage companies are the different lenders you might use for financing. Once you find a mortgage that fits your needs, you can apply for pre-approval with the lender. To proceed, you will need documents to verify your employment, income, and credit history. The lender will process your information and return a decision about the loan you can receive from this lender with terms and rates. Once you have this paperwork, you can use it to confirm your financing once you get to that point in your search for a home.

  • Buying a Home
  • Owning a Home
  • USDA Helps Rural Homebuyers Access Safe, Affordable Home Financing
  • First-Time Homebuyer Credit Questions and Answers: Basic Information
  • Fixed-Rate Mortgage Options
  • Home Buying 101
  • 5 Foolish Mistakes First-Time Home Buyers Make
  • Shopping for a Mortgage

The Home Search

After determining your budget and securing your loan, it’s time to find a home that you wish to purchase. If you have requirements concerning location or features of the home, make a list to use to narrow your search. For example, if you need a certain number of bedrooms or you wish to live in a specific school district, these requirements will determine where you search and which homes you consider. The search for a home may be easier if you use a professional advisor. A real estate agent can be helpful, because this professional has access to databases of homes for sale. The agent can help you find homes that fit your criteria. An agent can also schedule showings to enable you to tour homes that fit your requirements. After searching for and assessing homes, you can narrow your list to make an offer on the home you want to buy.

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  • Home Buying: Avoiding Pitfalls and Scams
  • What You Should Know Before Buying a Home
  • The Digital House Hunt (PDF)
  • For Some Ready To Buy, A Good Home Is Hard To Find

Offer and Acceptance

An offer to purchase is a legally binding contract. Your offer will include the price you want to pay for the home, special provisions for the sale, and specific items that you want to be included in the transaction, such as appliances. An offer may also include specific contingencies that must be resolved for the sale of the house, such as inspections. The offer stipulates a date for the resolution of contingencies and a specific date for closing of the sale.

After submitting your offer to the seller, the seller has the option of accepting the offer or counter-offering with different terms. If the seller counter-offers, you will need to review the different terms to see if you want to accept them. If you accept these terms, you can accept the counter-offer and you have a binding contract. If you don’t accept the terms, you can submit another counter-offer with different terms. These negotiations often take time and effort. A real estate agent can provide beneficial assistance during this phase of the process, because the agent has expertise and training in these negotiations.

  • Examples of Contractual Clauses (PDF)
  • Accepting an Offer
  • Purchase Agreement (PDF)
  • Questions and Answers on Offer and Acceptance (PDF)
  • Negotiating – Making a Counter Offer

Contingencies and Closing

After acceptance of the offer by both parties, the work begins to satisfy any contingencies written into the terms. Typical contingencies include inspections, financing, appraisal, and title search. For the home inspection, a professional inspector will examine and assess the entire home to find any issues. If the inspector finds problems with the structure of the home or in areas such as plumbing or the electrical system, the inspector will present a detailed report about the issues. The buyer then has the option of proceeding with the contract or ending it because of the problems. Once all contingencies are resolved and satisfied, the contract proceeds to closing. The closing often occurs at the lender’s office. At this meeting, the buyer, seller, lender, and agents meet to sign all legal documents for the financing and official transfer of the property between seller and buyer. Payment of closing costs and agent fees are also processed at this time.

  • Inspection Contingency
  • Buying a House – Glossary of Terms
  • Contingency Strategies for a Smooth Sale
  • Buying a Home? Pay Attention to Property Inspection
  • What Are Closing Costs and How Much Are They Typically?
  • Buying a Home – Closing Activities Checklist