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  • Hey, Homeowners! These Little-Known Tax Deductions Can Save You Thousands

    You probably already knowthat owning a home comes with some sweet tax benefits, like the mortgage-interest and property-tax deductions. But did you know theres a whole list of other homeowner-related tax breaks that you might be leaving on the table?

    Were not talking chump change, either.Homeowners already save an average of $3,000 a year in taxes from mortgage-interest and property-tax deductions, according to the National Association of Realtors. When you add in some of the lesser-known homeowner tax breaks, you could really be amping up the savingsand beating the IRS at itsown game.

    Back in December,Congress passed theProtecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015, which extended many exemptions that were about to expire and made others permanent.But to reap the benefits, you first have to know about them.

    So, here we go! Check out these commonand not-so-commonhomeowner deductions that you shouldtake advantage of this year:

    1. Mortgage interest deduction

    If youve taken out a loan to buy a house, you candeduct the interest you pay on a mortgage, with a balance of up to $1 million. To access this deduction, you will have to itemize rather than take the standard deduction. The savings here can add up in a big way. For example, if youre in the 25% tax bracket and deduct $10,000 of mortgage interest, you can save $2,500.

    Of course, there are some limitations. For example, if youre helping a family member pay his or her mortgage, you cant deduct that interest on your tax return.

    2. Private mortgage insurance

    Qualified homeowners can deduct payments for private mortgage insurance, or PMI, for a primary home. Sometimes youcan take the deduction for a second property as well, as long as it isnt a rental unit. Heres the catch: This only applies if you got your loan in 2007 or later.

    Another restriction:This deduction only applies if your adjusted gross income is no more than $109,000 if married filing jointly or $54,500 if married filing separately.

    3. Property taxesPlease, Mr. Postman

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    Youcan include state and localproperty taxesas itemized deductions. An interesting note: The amount of the deduction depends on when you pay the tax, not when the tax is due. As a result, paying property taxes earlier could have a positive impact on your return.

    4. Capital gains on a home sale

    The dreadedcapital gains taxcan be avoided whenthe gain from selling your personal residence is less than $250,000 if you are a single taxpayer or $500,000 if you are a joint filer. To qualify, youmusthave owned and used thehome as aprimary residence for at least two years out of the five years leading up to the sale.

    5. Medical improvements

    If youve made improvements to your home to help meet medical needs, such as installing a ramp or a lift, you could deduct the expensesbut onlythe amount by which the cost of the improvements exceed the increase in your homes value. (In other words, you cant deduct the entire cost of the equipment or improvements.)

    A lot of this comes down to fact and circumstance, saysGil Charney, director ofThe Tax Institute at H&R Block. For example, if youve recently installed a heated therapy spa or hot tub in your home, you may be able to deduct the expense if theres also evidence that, say, a physical therapist visits your home three times a week and youre over a certain age.

    6. Home office

    If you have a dedicated space in your home for work and its not used for anything else, you could deduct it as ahome office expense.

    It doesnt have to be an entire room, Charney says. It can just be a dedicated space.

    7. Renting out your home on occasion

    If yourented out your homefor, say, a major sports event like the Super Bowl or the World Series, or a cultural event such asMardi Gras, the income on the rental could be totally tax freeas long as it was for only 14 days or fewer throughout the course of a year.

    8. Discount points

    Discount points, which are paid to lower the interest rate on a loan, can be deducted in full for the year in which they were paid. In addition, if youre buying a home and the seller pays the points as an incentive to get you to buy the house, you can deduct those points, Charney explains.

    9. Energy-efficiency tax credit

    Youcan take advantage of anenergy-efficiency tax creditof 10%of the amount paid (up to $500) for any green improvements, such as storm doors, energy-efficient windows, and air-conditioning and heating systems.

    10. Loan forgiveness deduction

    If youre the owner of a foreclosed or short-sale home, youcan take advantage of mortgage-debt forgiveness. For example, if you makea short sale of yourprimary home at $250,000 but owe $300,000 on yourmortgage, the lender will forgive the extra $50,000 owedand you dont have to pay taxes on that amount.

    For more tax tips, check out IRSPublication 530for a list ofwhat homeowners can (and cannot) deduct.

  • TheNational Association of Realtors (NAR)just announced that the FebruaryPending Home Sales Indexreached its highest reading since July 2015.

    What is thePending Home Sales Index (PHSI)?

    NARs PHSI isa forward-looking indicator based on contract signings.The higher thePending Home Sales Indexnumber, the more contracts have been signed by buyers that will soon translate to sales. Februarys Index rose 3.5% month-over-month to 109.1.

    What does this mean for the market?

    Lawrence Yun,NARs Chief Economistexplained:

    "After some volatility this winter, the latest data is encouraging in that a decent number of buyers signed contracts last month, lured by mortgage rates dipping to their lowest levels in nearly a year and a modest, seasonal uptick in inventory."

    "Looking ahead, the key for sustained momentum and more sales than last spring is a continuous stream of new listings quickly replacing what's being scooped up by a growing pool of buyers. Without adequate supply, sales will likely plateau."

    So What Does This Mean For Buyers?

    There is a lot of competition out there right now for your dream home. Prices are going to continue to climb, act now before you are priced out of your future home.

    What Does This Mean For Sellers?

    If you are on the fence about listing your home for sale and debating whether now is the time to move on with your plans of relocating don't wait!

    There are more buyers that are ready, willing and able to buy their first, second, third, vacation, or investment property now than there has been in years! The supply of homes for sale is not keeping up with the demand of these buyers.

    Listing your home for salenowwill give you the most exposure to buyers and the best sales price.

    Bottom Line

    Whether you are planning on buying or selling a house this year, waiting to act no longer makes sense.

  • Open house today 12:00pm to 3pm at 5333 Covina Place, Rancho Cucamonga 91739. Hosted byHajia Zafarfrom Prudential California Realty and yours truly. Come check out this gorgeous home 2,609 sq feet, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths. This is a Brentwood home built in 1993 is on a cul de sac with mountain views and in a quiet neighborhoood, 3 car garage, RV parking. Asking $639,900. Stop by and see this home! Seller motivated!!!

  • Its always exciting to get a fresh start in a new place, but the actual moving process.Here are 23tips to do the whole thing yourself and save your sanity while youre in the process of moving.

    1. Stack paper plates in between your real plates to keep them from smashing.

    2. Use your big pots to lug spices, salts and oils. when and if they spill a bit, youll just wash out the pot.

    3. Buy a divided wine bottle box at the groceryfor your glasses.

    4. Use a checklist to manage everything you need to do. Its more gratifying to be able to tick off what youve already done and see your list in small, manageable chunks.

    5. Theres even an app for that.

    6. Pack makeup with a cotton ball inside to keep powders, like foundations and eyeshadow from cracking.

    7. Use this time to get curtains, area rugs and couch covers professionally cleaned.

    8. Take a picture of how your electronics are put together. Youll be able to just follow your photo when youre hooking them back up.

    9. Pack your closet on the hangers inside plastic bags. It will help them stay in order and will keep moving grime off them.

    10. Or go the extra mile and vacuum pack your clothes and blankets.

    11. Put pillows, blankets and throws inside dresser and ottoman drawers.

    12. Add a little extra protection against leaks by wrapping plastic or cling wrap around bottles.

    13. Lock the pumps of your soap and lotion dispensers back in place by pushing down the lever and turning the cap, the same way they were when you bought them.

    14. Cut handles inside boxes to make them easier to move. Reinforce them with duct tape for extra heavy loads.

    15. Make sure to load up your laundry baskets before you move them.

    16. Rent a dolly. Its a few extra bucks, but youll save your arms and back while youre hauling your boxes.

    17. Color code boxes with tape or markers to take boxes to the right room when youre moving them in.

    18. Use rubber bands to keep doors from locking you out when youre going back and forth.

    19. Rent padded blanket wraps to protect your appliances and furniture. Theyre a small expense, but its worth the peace of mind to not have to worry about dings and scratches.

    20. Clean the new space before you unpack. Youll get all the dust bunnies and dirt youve tracked in out of the way before it comes into contact with your stuff.

    21. Have an overnight bag handy. This way, you wont be looking at a mountain.

    22. Hire sitters for the little ones. (Kids and pets.)

    23. Drain any dangerous and messy fluids, like motor oil or gasoline, before moving.

  • Thinking about remodeling but not sure it will pay off when it comes time to sell? According to Remodeling Magazines Cost vs. Value Report, most room remodels and additions may only recoup up to 80 percent of the cost. And since time and money is something prospective sellers are cautious about wasting, we put together the following list of practical ways to attract buyers and increase resale value without drastically changing your homes footprint.

    Transform The Kitchen With Simple Upgrades

    The most economical way to breathe new life into the kitchen is by first repainting walls with a fresh coat of neutral paint. Next, consider refreshing outdated cabinet fronts (as shown in photo above) with bright white paint along with brushed nickel or chrome hardware in modern styling. Upgrading flooring and countertops is also worth considering since there are many options available with a range of price points that are both stylish and functional.

    Give The Bathroom A Facelift

    It still goes without saying that outdated bathrooms are simply a turn-off to millenials. Even the smallest bathrooms can look more attractive with the right finishing touches. The key features that will sell a bathroom are updated or refinished cabinets and countertops, wall color, tile, faucets, toilet, and lighting in modern styles. For the bathroom featured above, we covered the light wood vanities that were in decent condition with dark espresso paint to add instant elegant style when paired with updated faucets and lighting.

    Convert the Extra Room Back To Bedroom

    Its common for many empty nesters to repurpose a spare bedroom into a more practical space such as an office, study or game room once the kids go off to college. But when it comes time to sell, showcase a room with its original purpose to appeal to young, prospective buyers since they are always on the look out for more bedrooms for the kids. In the room above, our team turned the hobby room back into an inviting bedroom setting by removing clutter and replacing with twin beds with colorful comforters and pillows, new fixtures, and simple wall art.

    Create Usable Space In The Basement

    Convert an empty or junk-filled basement into a room with a purpose. A game room, family room, in-law suite, office nook, or exercise room are all great examples that will appeal to buyers looking for extra living space. Once clutter is removed, carpet cleaned and walls repainted, add simple furniture such as a desk, chair, sofas and accessories that create a lifestyle that buyers can envision for themselves. Consider adding extra closet space or using a hidden area under the stairs for more storage.

    Add Style and Function To The Back Entry

    Create a mudroom that will be useful for families with young kids and pets year round. In the photo above, we transformed our clients back entry with built-in storage and seating surrounded by bead board for a stylish finishing touch

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Patti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. She also developed an award winning staging program for luxury homebuilder, Toll Brothers. Her company has received Houzz 2015 and 2016 Awards for Customer Service. Sternhas been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV. She is a regular contributor to REALTOR Magazines blog, Style, Staged and Sold.

    By Patti Stern, PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

  • Hey, we know: Moving into a new home is exciting. Like, obsess over decor blogs and catalogs, binge-watch HGTV for eight-hour stretches, find ways to interject phrases like open kitchen shelving into everyday conversations exciting. So its understandable that youre dying to start filling every corner withstuff as soon as youve unpacked your last box. Beware: Time and again, interior designers see overeager new homeowners make the same mistakes when furnishingtheir home. Big mistakes! Take heed and tread carefully into your newspace.

    Mistake No. 1: Buyingeverything at once

    Of course, you want tomakethose empty rooms look likehome, sweet home, pronto. So youwhip out your laptop and go on a mad room-by-room shopping spree for every stick of furniture from coffee tables to your canopy bed.

    ButMark Clement of MyFixItUpLife.comurges a completely different strategy: Stop, sit down, get out a piece of paper, and plan. Great decorating, he says, is about taking your time to think through the rooms. Make a list of what you need to furnish the whole house; then focus first on the two to three most important rooms generally the more exposed parts of the house such as living room, kitchen, and family room. From there, proceed at a pace where you're certain you love (or at least deeply like) each purchase you make.

    Itreally is OKto take up to a year to decorate a new home. Youre going to be living there for a while, remember?

    Mistake No. 2: Decorating around a legacy piece

    It might be your mothers armoire or that overstuffed chair your husband bought when he was still single, or maybe its bookshelf you paid a ton of money for and wouldnt consider tossing. Regardless, trying to decorate around some of these pieceswill only cause you grief. Odds are they'll push you into acertainlyout or color scheme even one that might be completely wrong for you or your new home.

    Ive personally been saddled with two wide, black Barcelona chairs for the past decade, creating a living room motif that is simply too dark and cluttered for the space. (Welcome to my pain.) What I should have done, according to experts, is placethem in a different context (a bedroom, perhaps), sold them, or put them out on the street. Hello, Goodwill?

    Mistake No. 3: Trusting your eye rather than a tape measure

    Professionals know that measuring accurately is a critical step in design.

    Measuring a space is imperative before you purchase anything, says Homepolish designer Will Saks. Its not just a question of whether a piece of furniture will fit, but how it will look sitting there. You need to understand the dimensions of a space so the scale will feel balanced, Saks adds.

    Everything needs to be proportionate to the architecture of the room.While a large, over stuffed Chesterfield might look great in the store, in a tiny apartment it might end up looking like a fat guy in a little coat, says Saks.

    And always remember to measure doorways and hallways before purchasing large pieces.There are few things more soul-crushing (or, for the delivery guys, more back breaking) than lugging a sofa up six flights of stairs only to discover it doesn't fit through the doorway. Most companies will give you the minimum clearance you need for delivery, but its up to you to ensure that it will truly fit. In most cases, its the heightof a sofa that is the key measurement, not the width or depth.

    Mistake No. 4: Cramming rooms like a clown car

    Take a deep breath: Its OK to have some empty spaces and walls. You want to be able to move around freely without having to hurdle a cocktail ottoman. Granted, while Saks maintains that how much furniture you decide to put in a space is completely dependent on the aesthetic you want to achieve, if you're going for a more sleek look, stick to a few key pieces in a room to create the feeling of openness.The same goes for artwork enlarge frame can create an art gallery feeling.

    Mistake No. 5: Looking like a page from a catalog or decor mag

    Ah, it all looks so greatin print, but in your home, its a different story.

    I know its tempting to want to buy everything all at once and from the same place those catalogs and stores are styled so well, says Saks. But refrain from doing so.To me, the most interesting designs are the ones that are aesthetically mixed.

    His tips: Incorporate vintage or one-of-a-kind pieces into your space to make it feel personal and curated. Pair that spanking new sofa with a beautiful, vintage credenza. Shop for accessories and artwork on Easy and at flea markets so that your home feels unique. Because as nice as catalogs look, ask yourself this: Do they look like a home? Like your home?

    Article by Rosie Amodio: writer/editor who has written for brands such as Self, InStyle, Wetpaint, and The Nest. A native New Yorker, Rosie is obsessed with NYC real estate, though she dreams of living on the beach in Southern California.

  • Pay your bills, respect your neighbors, and please hide your weed. Please.

    Sometimes the landlord/tenant relationship can be a difficult one. But it does not have to be that way, and it certainly does not have to start out that way. As landlords, we try to get this relationship off to a good start and keep it that way by taking care of our properties and tenant concerns.

    But some tenants, perhaps due to past experiences, prepare for the worst and thus approach the relationship ready for a fight. Maybe they have never had a decent landlord. Maybe some just do not know how to act. Whatever the reason, here are 14 tips from our 12 years as landlords to tenants everywhere for a decent landlord/tenant relationship.

    1. Pay your bills on time. Seems fairly obvious, I know, but many tenants believe they can pay every other bill before they pay the rent. Want to stay on our good side? Please pay your rent on time.

    2. Always try to be polite. I will, too. Being polite and calm really does go a long way. You would not like it if I left you snarky or angry screaming messages on your voicemail. I know sometimes issues can seem to linger on and on, but we really are doing our best to get things resolved.

    3. Listen to our instructions. We tell you things for a reason. If we show you how to trip a breaker or turn a gas valve off, listen. It may just save your butt. If we tell you there will be a hard freeze tonight and to please let your faucet drip, dont call us the next day and complain that your pipes have frozen and you need to do laundry. I cant control the weather, so you will just have to wait until it warms up.

    4. Help us. We try to take care of our properties, but we cant be everywhere all the time. Is there something we need to know about? Tell us. Is something broken? Let us know. Help us by being our eyes and ears.

    5. Tell the truth. Did you or your kid flush something down the toilet and stop it up? Then tell us the truth so we can get the problem resolved as quickly as possible. After a dozen years in this business, we can almost always determine the culprit anyway.

    6. Please just leave me a message. If we do not answer your call, do not hang up and call over and over again. There are times we simply cannot take your call. How do you think we are going to feel when we finally answer you after you have called five times in a row? It had better be a matter of life or death.

    7. Understand that we have a lot going on. Sometimes other tenants issues may take priority. We know about your issue, and we will get to it just as soon as we can. We might for example need to make sure everyone has heat before taking care of your dripping bathroom sink.

    8. If you get in a bind, talk to us. Communication is key! Tell us what is going on. Did you lose your job? Has your roommate gone off the deep end? We have been there before, and we know what it is like. But if you do not talk to us, there is no way we can help you. Please do not put your head in the sand and hope whatever problem you are having will go away. It will not, and things will only get worse.

    9. Treat my property and the people who do work for me with respect. You would not believe how many people are just plain rude to the people we send over to try and fix their problems. Plus, how do you think we are going to react if we see that your place is a mess or that you are causing damage? Disrespecting our properties or our help is a sure way to create an adversarial relationship.

    10. Work with me. We know you have a busy schedule. So do we, and trust us, we want your issue resolved as quickly as possible too because we have a dozen or so more to deal with. It all goes much easier if you work with us on times and arrangements. You might have to put up your dog for a day or allow us into your apartment on your day off. We hate to disturb you, but we will be done and out of your hair just as soon as we can.

    11. Trust me. We are not going to steal your stuff or try and stiff you. Yes, we know some landlords might, but not us. If we say we need to get into your home, it is for a legitimate reason.

    12. Follow the rules. They are there for a reason. They were explained to you when you moved in, and you agreed to follow them. It just makes life harder for all of us if you choose to ignore them. If you could not live with the rules, then you should not have moved in.

    13. Respect your neighbors. Would you appreciate a loud party the night before you need to make a major presentation at work or before your final exams? No, you would not. Remember that you live in an apartment building, and you have neighbors sometimes very close neighbors. Think about how your actions might affect them. Im not saying do not have any fun; just try to be considerate.

    14. Hide your weed. Just please do this. It is technically against your lease, and you really never know when there will be an emergency and who will need to access your place.

    A lot of the above is just common courtesy and common sense. But for those few and you know who you are please review and follow the above and lets make your stay with us as pleasant as possible.

    Kevin Perk /This article originally appeared on BiggerPockets, the real estate investing social network. 2015 BiggerPockets Inc.

  • byonDecember 28, 2016inFor Buyers,For Sellers

    When it comes to buying a home, whether you are a rookie homebuyer or have gone through the process many times, having a local real estate expert who is well versed in the neighborhood you are looking to move into, as well as the trends of that area, should be your goal.

    One great example of an agent who is in your corner and is always looking out for your best interests is one of the main characters on ABCs Modern Family, Phil Dunphy.

    For those who arent familiar, the characterPhil is a Realtor with a huge heart who always strives to do his best for his family and his clients.

    In one recent episode, Phil even shared the oath that he created and holds himself accountable to:

    "On my honor, I promise to aid in man's quest for shelter, to recognize I'm not just in the business of houses -- I'm in the business of dreams in the shape of houses. To disclose all illegal additions, shoddy construction, murders, and ghosts. And to put my clients' needs before my own."

    While this might seem silly, and it was definitely written with humor in mind, the themes of helping someone achieve the American Dream and putting a client's needs above your own are not to be taken lightly.

    Bottom Line

    When you make the decision to enter the housing market, as either a buyer or a seller, make sure you look for an agent who exemplifies these values and will help you through every step of the process.

  • Space, space, space! You may prefer a cozy, lived-in look, but when youre selling your home its all about creating a sense of spaciousness for potential buyers. Here are some ways to shuffle things around to make your home feel big to potential buyers.

    Create Pathways

    Keep furniture to the outside of the room to maximize visual space for buyers. But dont push everything up against the walls; keep it floating as much as possible to create a sense of airiness. Ideally, there should be clear pathways around all pieces of furniture and to all exits and entrances. You may need to remove a few pieces of furniture to make the room seem more spacious.

    Keep Things Neutral

    Dark colors make a room seem smaller, so paint dark walls with a light neutral color. The same goes for furniture: cover dark upholstery with light-colored slipcovers or throws to fool the eye, but make sure to use fabrics that arent heavily textured.

    Trick the Eyes with Mirrors

    Mirrors are one of the best tricks to maximize the feeling of space in a small area. Replace wall art with mirrors to create an optical illusion of never-ending space. Placing mirrors opposite windows will also reflect sunlight and the view, in essence doubling their impact.

    Remove Rugs and Drapes

    Rugs and drapes tend to look heavy and draw the eyes down in a space of any size. While these certainly help ground a living space, potential purchasers want to see clean lines and as much clear space as possible to be able to envision their own lives in the home.

    Keep Things Low-Profile

    Low-profile furniture is an easy way to instantly add the feeling of more space to your rooms. Overstuffed couches and massive chairs may be comfortable, but they inhibit maximum use of the room from the buyers perspective. Consider putting bulky furniture in storage and renting low-profile pieces to help sell the house. Glass coffee and end tables always take up less visual room than heavy wooden ones.

    Emphasize Windows

    To begin with, make sure all of your homes windows are sparkling-clean and the woodwork is freshly painted. Think about removing drapes or dark or heavy-looking blinds, or at least have them open or pulled up when youre showing your house. Wooden blinds are a nice feature, but will make the room look smaller.

    Remove Clutter

    Clutter has a way of taking up visual and physical space and sends a chaotic vibe to people. Conquering clutter will make a room look larger and allow buyers eyes to rest on clean spaces. Clear it out, but dont just throw it in a closet buyers look in closets too!

    Make it Bright and Light

    Using higher-wattage bulbs with a daylight spectrum adds the illusion of extra natural light and enlarges even the smallest space. Turn on the lights in both daytime and nighttime showings of the house so buyers can see the effect.

    By Natalie Wise on 6/3/2016

  • If you ever get to the point when you feel as though all of your money seems to go toward paying off debt, you are probably living on the edge of a high debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Your debt-to-income ratio is a measure of how much you are paying in debt each month versus how much income you receive. Suffice to say, the higher your DTI, the greater the strain on your financial situation. If your DTI is more than 40 percent, you are under financial stress and you should be doing everything you can to reduce your debt payments or make more money.

    Calculating Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

    If you want to know your DTI, it's easy to calculate. Simply add up all of your debt payments, including your mortgage or rent, car payment, credit card payments, student loan payment and any other debt payment. Then, add your sources of monthly income. You divide your total debt payment by your total income and the result is your DTI ratio.

    Why Your Debt-to-Income Ratio is so Important

    From your personal perspective, the DTI ratio is an important number to watch. The more it creeps up past 40 percent, the less wiggle room you have should your income suddenly drop or you have an unexpected expense. From the perspective of lenders and creditors, your DTI is an indication of how much risk you present. Looking to buy a home? Applicants with a lower DTI ratio will be able to qualify for a higher value mortgage, vs. those with high DTI ratios. Lenders view borrowers with higher DTI ratios as more likely to default. Though your DIT does not affect your credit score, it is sometimes more heavily weighted than your credit score. Don't confuse your DTI ratio with your credit utilization ratio, which is a big part of your credit score. Your credit utilization ratio is a measure of how much credit you're using compared to your credit limit.

    Each mortgage lenders has their own DTI requirement; however, as a general rule, a DTI of 43 percent is thought to be the highest you can have and still qualify for a mortgage. Some lenders require a lower DTI ratio. If you have less than great credit, lenders may want to see a lower DTI ratio. Generally, for the best financial health and to expand your opportunities for getting a mortgage, it is recommended that you keep your DTI ratio to less than 36 percent with no more than 28 percent going towards mortgage expenses. Again, if you have less than great credit, you may want to reduce your ratio even further to less than 25 percent.

    How to Lower Your DTI Ratio

    There are two obvious ways to lower your DTI. You can make more money and/or you can reduce your monthly debt payments. As far as making more money, you know your capabilities or limitations better than anyone. If you can handle a side job or a small business on the side, you can increase your income. Any raise you have coming will reduce your DTI ratio as long as you don't increase your debts.

    Pay Down Consumer Debt

    Regardless of your ability to make more money, you should target debt reduction as your number one strategy. Your first target should be your credit card debt. The most effective way to slash your credit card debt is to stop paying for things on credit and then start living below your means. Then, budget for a big enough credit card payment to reduce your credit card debt by a meaningful percentage each month.

    If you have a high interest credit card account, be on the lookout for a zero interest balance transfer offer. If you can transfer a balance and pay no interest for 12 to 18 months, you will be able to pay down your balance faster. Transferring to a zero interest account will also lower your DTI ratio because your minimum payment will be lower. You could accomplish something similar with a personal loan. With a personal loan, you could lower your monthly interest costs, which allows you to pay the balance more quickly. A personal loan can be an effective way to consolidate multiple credit card accounts for a more manageable payment.

    Slash Your Student Debt

    Unfortunately for student loan borrowers, student debt is also counted towards the DTI ratio and, for many, it can be an obstacle to reducing it. As with any other type of debt, the best way to reduce the balance and lower your overall costs is to pay it down more quickly. Student loans do not have prepayment penalties, so by making extra payments, you can reduce the balance and the interest costs. Making extra payments to your student loan won't reduce your interest rate or lower your required payments.

    If your goal is to reduce your monthly payment, your best option is through refinancing. Private loans can be refinanced, and some lenders will also refinance federal loans into a new private loan. Although you could lower your interest costs, and therefore your monthly payment, the disadvantage is you will lose the protections you have under your federal loan. You would no longer be eligible for income-based repayment plans or loan forgiveness. However, with a lower interest rate, you should be able to make additional payments which can drastically reduce the term and cost of your loan.

    Andrew Rombach

    Andrew Rombach is a NYC-based writer with a knack for personal finance. He grew up reading the Wall Street Journal and watching Bloomberg, and today enjoys helping Americans optimize their finances.

  • For owners who can no longer afford to keep mortgage payments current for whatever reason, there are alternatives to bankruptcy or foreclosure proceedings. Foreclosure on a home has consequences for the family, the community, the housing market, and the economy. However, the option for a short sale provides a way for troubled homeowners to prevent foreclosure and many of the dire penalties involved.

    A short sale is an agreement in which your mortgage lender agrees to accept a payoff on the loan for less than the balance. Many lenders agree to a short sale because they receive more of the loan balance in comparison to the amount they would gain from selling the property following a foreclosure. This process also aids in maintaining home values in the community the property is located and helps the homeowner maintain a better level of credit compared to a foreclosure. In most instances, homeowners considering a short sale must meet specific criteria to qualify: you must be behind in your mortgage payments, provide evidence of economic hardship, and have little or no equity in the property.

    A short sale is not a typical real estate transaction. Most real estate transactions involve the home seller and their real estate agent, the buyer and their lender, and their real estate agent. In a short sale situation, all of those parties in addition to the sellers loan servicer, a housing counselor, any junior lien holders, mortgage investors, and insurers may be involved too.

    With so many parties involved in a short sale, the process can be difficult to complete without a qualifiedREALTORto help guide you and act as a liaison between all of the parties involved. You will want the advice and expertise of a REALTOR who has your best interests in mind and will expedite the short sale transaction. It is essential to have a REALTOR who wont allow you to miss a detail that could delay closing the transaction in a timely manner and to the specifics required by all parties involved. A qualified REALTOR with experience in short sales will also be able to find a buyer to complete the transaction. Homeowners agreeing to a short sale should also consult a tax expert and obtain the services of an attorney to help protect themselves from any future claims by the lender.

    If you are considering selling your home and owe more than the home is worth. Please contact us today so we can discuss your options with you, No Obligations and Absolutely FREE to you 909-552-3131

  • Homeowners Net Worth Is 45x Greater Than A Renters

    Every three years, the Federal Reserve conducts aSurvey of Consumer Financesin which they collect data across all economic and social groups. The latest survey, which includes data from 2010-2013, reports that a homeowners net worth is 36 times greater than that of a renter ($194,500 vs. $5,400).

    In aForbesarticle, theNational Association of Realtors (NAR) Chief EconomistLawrence Yun predicts that by the end of 2016, the net worth gap will widen even further to 45 times greater.

    The graph below demonstrates the results of the last twoFederal Reservestudies and Yuns prediction:

    Put Your Housing Cost to Work for You

    As weve saidbefore, simply put, homeownership is a form of forced savings. Every time you pay your mortgage, you are contributing to your net worth. Every time you pay your rent, you are contributing to your landlords net worth.

    ThelatestNational Housing Pulse SurveyfromNARreveals that 85% of consumers believe that purchasing a home is a good financial decision. Yun comments:

    Though there will always be discussion about whether to buy or rent, or whether the stock market offers a bigger return than real estate, the reality is that homeowners steadily build wealth. The simplest math shouldnt be overlooked.

    Bottom Line

    If you are interested in finding out if you could put your housing cost to work for you by purchasing a home, lets get together and evaluate your ability to buy today!

  • About Good Neighbor Next Door

    Law enforcement officers, pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians can contribute to community revitalization while becoming homeowners through HUD's Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program. HUD offers a substantial incentive in the form of a discount of 50% from the list price of the home. In return you must commit to live in the property for 36 months as your sole residence.

    How the Program Works

    Eligible Single Family homes located in revitalization areas are listed exclusively for sale through the Good Neighbor Next Door Sales program. Properties are available for purchase through the program forseven days.

    How to Participate in Good Neighbor Next Door

    Check the listings for your state. Follow the instructions to submit your interest in purchasing a specific home. If more than one person submits an offeron a single home a selection will be made by random lottery. You must meet the requirements for a law enforcement officer, teacher, firefighter or emergency medical technician and comply with HUD's regulations for the program.

    HUD requires that you sign a second mortgage and note for the discount amount. No interest or payments are required on this "silent second" provided that you fulfill the three-year occupancy requirement.

    The number of properties available is limited and the list of available properties changes weekly.

    To learn more, please see our Good Neighbor Mortgage Frequently Asked Questions!
  • The National Servicing Center (NSC) monitors the servicing of Good Neighbor Next Door (GNND) loans after closing. The Good Neighbor Sales program allows eligible full-time law enforcement officers, teachers, and firefighters/emergency responders to participate. This page describes GNND participant responsibilities according to program regulations.

    If you have any questions about your GNND mortgage, pleaseclickthereforinformation about how to contact HUD's Loan Servicing Contractor.

    Annual Certifications

    When participants purchase properties under the GNND program they agree to own and live in the property for a three-year period as their sole residence. Participants are required to certify every year that they are living in the property.

    The annual certification is mailed to participants, ready for signature, around the anniversary of the purchase. Participants should sign, date, and return the form to the address specified in the letter. If they fail to return the first letter, a follow-up letter is sent one month later. At times, their return letter and our follow-up letter cross in the mail. If this happens, participants can either contact our servicer to determine if the first certification was received and logged in or they can sign and return the second certification.

    If participants fail to return at least one annual certification per year, NSC refers the case for investigation. An investigator will then make an on-site visit to verify the occupancy of the property. Further, the investigator will ask the participant to sign the annual certification in their presence. In the event that investigation fails to verify occupancy, the participant will be turned over to the Office of Inspector General for further investigation and possible prosecution. To avoid noncompliance, complete and return the annual certification forms promptly and honestly. Falsifying information on this certification is a felony. HUD will prosecute false claims and statements. Conviction may result in criminal and/or civil penalties. (18 USC 1001, 1010, 1012 3559, 3571; 31 USC 3729, 3802).

    Military Duty

    Participants who are called to active military duty are provided clemency in regards to the owner occupancy requirements of the program for the timeframe that they are on active duty. Participants on active military duty are not required to occupy the property and are allowed to rent the property (only while on active duty) if necessary to minimize potential vandalism. However, the NSC needs to be aware of those participants who are on active military duty and are not occupying their property. Participants must notify the NSC according to theMilitary Duty Instructions. Print out the information and instructions and comply with the instructions so that you will not be referred for investigation during your military duty.

    Subordinations

    When participants close on their home, they sign a note and a mortgage. The mortgage is filed right after the first (primary) mortgage, making it a second mortgage. When participants pay off their first mortgage (usually done by refinancing), HUD's mortgage moves into first position. If a participant is attempting to refinance their first mortgage, the lender will want its new loan to be in first position. In order to accomplish this, HUD must be willing to subordinate its position to the new first mortgage.

    HUD has certain rules and procedures regarding subordinating. The rules are that HUD will consent to refinancing (1) for the purpose of obtaining an FHA 203(k) rehabilitation loan or (2) for the purpose of obtaining a lower mortgage interest rate or change in the term of the loan and (3) to prevent the participant from defaulting on the first mortgage. The 203(k) loan is a rehabilitation loan in which necessary property improvements are financed into a new loan.

    The closing (or title) agent handling the closing of the new loan should handle the paperwork and details to obtain the HUD subordination. Participants can refer the closing company to this page or they can print theSubordination Informationsheet and take it to the closing company. Read the linked information then mail or fax the subordination request toHUD's Loan Servicing Contractor.

    Pay Offs

    If a participant needs to dispose of the property before expiration of the three-year occupancy period (for job relocation, family composition changes, or refinance),HUD's Loan Servicing Contractorprocesses those payoffs. Fax the request for the payoff with the following information: participant's name, full property address, estimated closing date, company requesting the payoff, company address, company telephone number, return fax number, and signed permission of the participant to collect the data. All of this information may be mailed or faxed toHUD's Loan Servicing Contractor. Payoff requests are usually processed and faxed out within 2 business days of receipt.

    Releases

    At the end of the required three-year occupancy period, HUD's second mortgage will be released provided (1) the participant has completed and returned the required annual certifications, (2) is not currently under investigation by the Office of Inspector General, and (3) is in compliance with all GNND regulations. A mortgage satisfaction will be filed with the participant's local county recorder's office. After the release is filed, a copy will be mailed to the property address. Thereafter, HUD's second mortgage will not show up on the title to your property. After release, there is no further obligation to or restrictions imposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Releases are mailed to the county recorder for filing no later than thirty days after the end of the required occupancy period. However, some counties have a filing backlog, over which HUD has no control.

    Releases are prepared and filed byHUD's Loan Servicing Contractor.

  • Law enforcement officers, pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians can contribute to community revitalization while becoming homeowners through HUDs Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wants to make American communities stronger and to build a safer nation. The Good Neighbor Next Door program helps make this goal a reality by encouraging law enforcement officers, pre-K through 12th grade teachers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians to become homeowners in revitalization areas. HUD offers a substantial incentive in the form of a discount of 50% from the list price of the home. In return, you must commit to live in the property for 36 months as your sole residence.

    Who Can Participate?

    Law Enforcement

    You may participate in the Good Neighbor Next Door program as a law enforcement officer if you are employed full-time by a law enforcement agency of the federal government, a state, a unit of general local government, or an Indian tribal government; and, in carrying out such full-time employment, you are sworn to uphold, and make arrests for violations of, federal, state, tribal, county, township, or municipal laws.

    Teachers

    You may participate in the Good Neighbor Next Door program as a Teacher if you are employed as a full-time teacher by a state-accredited public school or private school that provides direct services to students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12. In addition, the public or private school where you are employed as a teacher must serve students from the area where the home you are purchasing is located in the normal course of business.

    Firefighters / Emergency Medical Technicians

    You may participate in the Good Neighbor Next Door program as a Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician if you are employed full-time as a firefighter or emergency medical technician by a fire department or emergency medical services responder unit of the federal government, a state, unit of general local government, or an Indian tribal government serving the area where the home is located.

    How the Program Works

    Eligible Single Family homes located in revitalization areas are listed exclusively for sale through the Good Neighbor Next Door Sales program. Properties are available for purchase through the program forseven days.

    HUD requires that you sign a second mortgage and note for the discount amount. No interest or payments are required on this silent second provided that you fulfill the three-year occupancy requirement. If you qualify for any FHA-insured mortgage program, your downpayment is only $100 and you may finance closing costs.

    You do not need to be a first time home buyer to qualify for the Good Neighbor Program. However, you may not own any other residential real property at the time you submit your offer to purchase a home; and for one year previous to that date.

    You must use a real estate broker or agent to buy a home through the Good Neighbor Program. The number of properties available is limited and the list of available properties changes weekly.