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Displaying blog entries 41-50 of 53

Martin Luther King Day - I Have A Dream

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI
During the 1950s and ’60s, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized the power of service to strengthen communities and achieve common goals.

Initiated by Congress in 1994, King Day of Service builds on that that legacy by transforming the federal holiday honoring Dr. King into a national day of community service grounded in his teachings of nonviolence and social justice. The aim is to make the holiday a day ON, where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to improve lives, bridge social barriers, and move our nation closer to the “Beloved Community” that Dr. King envisioned. With thousands of projects planned across the country, the 2009 King Day of Service on January 19 promises to be the biggest and best ever!
 
Fueled by President-elect Obama’s call to service, this will be the largest King Day of Service ever. In 1994, Congress charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with transforming the King Holiday into a national day of service. This year, President-elect Obama is asking all Americans to serve on King Day and make an ongoing commitment throughout the year. Its not too late to get involved -- visit USAService.org to register a project or find a volunteer opportunity, or our Impact Challenge for ideas on creating your own project.

Watch the video - I Have A Dream

Moving Tips - Parent Tips When Moving With Children

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

Moving can be extremely stressful especially if you have children. It is important to be aware of the things that may be a concern to your children when making a move.

A few areas of concern for children when making a move may include:

  • Preschool children tend to worry about being left behind or separated from their parents.
  • Kids aged 6 to 12 can be concerned with how their daily routines will be affected.
  • Teenagers are concerned primarily with fitting in and having their social life disrupted.

A way to ease these concerns may include:

  • Communicating with your child about what the new house will be like.

  • Take them on a visit of the new home and neighborhood (if possible)

  • If you can, visit the school with your child and meet some of the teachers.
Involving your children in the move can help make the transition easier. Your kids can be a great help to you and the move if you involve them such things as:

  • Packing some of their own special belongings, and decorate the box with stickers and markers.
  • Make plans together on how to decorate their new room.

There is a lot to consider during a move and by involving your children you just may relieve the stress your children are feeling, reduce your own stress and be able to focus more on other aspects of your move!

Know Your Buyer Responsibilities

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI
Your role during the escrow process should be an active one. Don’t wait for the seller to volunteer information – stay on top of it yourself and take reasonable care, along with me, your agent, to protect yourself.

For example, when you review the Transfer and Disclosure Statement, TDS, keep an eye out for questions answered "unknown" or left unanswered. Ask about them until you are satisfied with the answers.

Let's talk about your specific concerns or plans for the property. Concerned about the open parcel behind the house? Ask about it!

You may also wish to investigate the following non-physical conditions, including:

  • Governmental zoning, requirements and limitations
  • Governmental permits, inspections or certificates
  • Limitations, restrictions and requirements affecting use of the property
  • Rent and occupancy control
  • Schools
  • Proximity and adequacy of law enforcement, crime statistics, proximity of registered sex offenders (see section on Megan’s Law) and other criminals
  • Proximity to fire, police and other services
  • Proximity to commercial, industry or agricultural activities
  • Existing and proposed transportation, construction and development, which may affect noise, view or traffic, airport noise, or odor
  • Wild and domestic animals, other nuisances, hazards or circumstances
For Further Protection – Home Warranties: Home warranties have become a more popular option on homes for sale. For protection you may wish to have a home warranty that either you or the seller pays for. (It’s negotiable.) Warranties range in price from $300 - $600 and, for a fixed rate, generally cover limited aspects including plumbing, electrical, pest control and a host of other related areas. If you have a problem, generally you’ll pay $35-$50 to have a professional come out inspect and fix problems that are covered. Warranty agents typically are on hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take your calls in emergencies.

The Challenges of Pricing Your Home

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI
Why is it that some homes sit on the market for a year while others sell like hot cakes?

Frustrated sellers will blame a bad market, while a good real estate professional will tell you that many times, a slow sale is often attributed to the listing price.

If a home is overpriced, buyers will stay away. But, if the price is competitive with similar homes in the area and “shows” better than the competition, it will have a better chance of being sold quickly.

The secret is perfecting a technique that’s as American as apple pie: comparative shopping.
Although comparing houses with different styles, square-footages and locations is challenging, real estate professionals still feel it’s one of the best methods to use when determining a home’s market value.

A responsible real estate agent will effectively evaluate a home’s worth through a process known as Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). Taking a look at assets, such as a swimming pool, bigger than normal living spaces, a fantastic view, adjacent city parks and other attractions, the agent will begin to compare your home with similar properties, called “comparables,” that have sold in the area within the last six months. Typically, it is a realistic price range that will ensure you top dollar and a reasonably quick sale.

However, factors such as the amount of time needed to sell your home can affect the agent's price recommendation dramatically.

I can determine the typical duration that listings are on the market and can explain that the marketing “norms” vary with prices and properties. Based on this criteria, we will be able to sell your house for a price that both you and the buyer will be happy with. However, if you’re under time constraints because of unexpected job changes or moving agreements you’ve made on another property, this will narrow your chances of selling the home for top dollar in the market.
Assuming you have sufficient time to market the home, here are a few small steps you and your agent can take to finding the right price for your property.

The best comparisons can be made with similar homes that have been sold within the last 45 days as opposed to the standard six months. Any longer, and other factors, such as the economy, could cloud your view of how much your home is really worth.

Another good benchmark is to review the selling prices of homes that have just been sold and are pending closes. Most MLS services provide information on deals pending that most real estate agents should be able to share with you.

A good rule of thumb before setting a price is to make 20 comparisons of comparable properties within a one-mile radius of your house. Once completed you can feel comfortable that the price you’ve picked is a good gauge of the home’s worth and won’t discourage qualified buyers.

Being open and honest about what you see as the home’s greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses will also help your agent get a better feel for how to best evaluate (or assess) and market your home. Think of your home as if you were the buyer. If your home is listed at the right price, you’re well on your way to a speedy and fruitful sale.

Examining Your Credit History

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

As indicated earlier, your credit report and history are key to obtaining your home loan. We encourage you to view your credit report yourself, prior to the lender’s viewing of it, by contacting one or all three of the major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. All you have to do is call and request it. Once you receive it, check the "high credit limit," "total loan," and "past due" columns. It is a good idea to get copies from all three companies to assure there are no mistakes since any of the three could be providing a report to your lender. Fees, ranging from $5-$20, are usually charged to issue credit reports.

Credit reporting companies:

You can also get a copy of your credit history at the following online locations:

www.freecreditreport.com
www.creditreports.com

What if I find a mistake in my credit history?
You can correct simple mistakes by writing to the reporting company, pointing out the error, and providing proof of the mistake. You can also request to have your own comments added to explain problems. For example, if you made a payment late due to illness, explain that for the record. Lenders usually understand about legitimate problems.

What about my overall (or FICO) score? What does it mean?
Prior to the late 1990s, credit scoring had little to do with mortgage lending. When reviewing your credit worthiness, an underwriter would make a subjective decision based on past payment history. Then things changed.

Lenders studied the relationship between credit scores and mortgage delinquencies and found a definite relationship. Almost half of those borrowers with FICO scores below 550 became ninety days delinquent at least once during their mortgage. On the other hand, only two out of every 10,000 borrowers with FICO scores above eight hundred became delinquent.

When can I stretch the percentages?
Depending on your area's housing market, lenders sometimes will allow you to stretch their allowable debt ratios. One of the best ways to encourage your lender to do so is to increase your down payment, as indicated in the following chart:

Allowable Monthly Housing Expense

Underwriters sometimes also will stretch the ratios for other "compensating factors," including:

  • Strong cash reserves after close of escrow
  • A new payment that’s only slightly higher than current rent or mortgage payment
  • A history of increasing earning capabilities
  • A history of an ability to save money
  • A large cash down payment

4 Word For Every Home Buyer

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI
Home buyers are often confused by an array of unfamiliar terms used when it comes to  the buying and selling process. Even the greenest buyers, however, can save thousands of dollars in financing by mastering just four words:

    * Interest
    * Principal
    * Amortization
    * Equity

Interest, of course, is the cost of borrowing the money to buy the property. During the first years, the monthly payments are largely interest. A smaller portion of the payment is credited to the loan itself, or the principal. The process of reducing the principal is called amortization. As the loan is gradually paid off, the homeowner’s actual ownership – or equity – is increased.

You can learn more about the real estate process by visiting our website www.DesMoinesHomeSource.com

Keep a Grateful Journal and Give Thanks

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI
The point of Thanksgiving is to remember the things we have to be grateful for. It's our special time to give thanks... not just for the obvious, like food, but for the thousands of fortunate moments, the multitude of blessings that we receive each year.

That's not always as easy as it sounds. We tend to remember the bad things much more easily than the good. That's where this article comes in. using the tips below, you can make thankfulness an everyday habit. It's a skill that will benefit you throughout the year.

Begin by keeping a gratitude journal. Don't write down negative things; only positive ones. For example, "I'm grateful that I made it through that heavy rush hour traffic safely." "I'm grateful that I got to see a beautiful sunset." "I'm grateful that I have a class at school that I really like."

Think of all the good things that happened because something bad happened first. For example, "If that slow driver hadn't pulled in front of me, I would have gotten a speeding ticket." "If I hadn't tripped on the playground, I would never have met such a nice person." "If I hadn't experienced unemployment, I would never have acquired the skills that got me a more fulfilling job."

Don't focus on what you don't have. Focus on what you do have. For example: "I'm so fortunate to have a warm place to sleep in the winter." "I'm so fortunate to live in a safe neighborhood where I can take walks." "I'm so fortunate to be able to see the beauty around me."

Think about people you've known that have made you thankful for their existence. They can be family, friends or simply people that you've read about or seen on television. Imagine how many other people there are who might be equally as wonderful. You just haven't met them yet.

Think about people who have made life hard for you. Now think about the things you accomplished because of them. Did you finish something because they said that you couldn't? Did you get better at something because they made fun of you when you did it badly? Did their cruel actions make you vow never to treat others that way? Even the negative forces in your life can be hidden blessings, worthy of your gratitude.

Think about the animals that have given you joy: Dogs that love you with every inch of their hearts, cats that think your lap is the best place to nap in the whole world, birds whose songs uplift your spirit, squirrels whose antics put a grin on your face and so on.

Think about the places that make you smile: A favorite hangout, a wooded trail, an exciting city, a great spot from which to view the sky, a hill that you once rolled down. Give thanks for all these things.

Now pass it on. True gratitude involves action. Lend a hand. Pitch in. Make a gift. Give your time. Listen. Give back as often as you can. Even a friendly greeting can make all the difference in the world.

Create your own opportunities for gratitude. Do you know someone who never seems happy? Be ready with a smile and a kind word each time you see them. It may require patience, but eventually, they'll smile first when they see you. Your interactions with them will be much more pleasant. Guess what? You'll have a new reason to be thankful!

Let others know when they've done something that you're thankful for. For example, "I'll never forget how you stuck up for me. It meant a lot." "That email you sent really made my day." "You make shopping here a pleasure." An attitude of gratitude spreads like ripples from a tossed pebble, benefitting all it touches.

Remember that hard times make good times sweeter. Also keep in mind that obstacles and challenges not only make you stronger, but they force you to explore outside of the comfortable routine that you've settled into. Without challenges, there can be no progress. Without obstacles, there can be no achievement. Be thankful for the opportunities that they provide.

In conclusion, giving thanks is a powerful tool that can dramatically improve your life and the lives of those around you. Start by embracing gratitude's special day, then make it a habit!
   

The Silent Killer-Radon

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI
Many people are unaware of what exactly what  Radon gas is and what are the dangers associated with it. Radon Gas is a tasteless, odorless, invisible gas that It is formed from the radioactive decay of uranium. Uranium is found in small amounts in most rocks and soil. It slowly breaks down to other products such as radium, which breaks down to radon. Radon is a serious potential health threat that most people don’t even consider.   According to the EPA reports, “Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America and claims about 20,000 lives annually.”  With these serious statistics you might wonder where Radon comes from, how it gets into your home and how to  test for it and most importantly remove it from your home.

How to tell if you have Radon

Radon testing is only way to find out if you have a radon problem in your home, the good news is that it is very easy. Since you cannot see or smell radon, special equipment is needed to detect it.  When you're ready to test your home, you can order a radon test kit by mail from a qualified radon measurement services provider or laboratory.  You can also hire a qualified radon tester, very often a home inspector, who will use a radon device(s) suitable to your situation.   As new testing devices are developed, you may want to check with your state radon office before you test to get the most up-to-date information

What to do if you have Radon

 It is estimated that one in 15 homes are threatened by Radon gas.  Companies like Safety Siren market a Radon detector not unlike a carbon monoxide detector. While the threat is real, the good news it it can be corrected if the gas is found in your home. If your house has failed a radon air to/or water test, you have options available to you to reduce radon levels to an acceptable level. There are companies that specialize in the reduction of Radon.  For Information on Radon Removal and various techniques, the EPA has published an on-line booklet called  "How To Reduce Radon Levels in Your Home"

Preparing Your Home for Winter

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

 

TODAY'S FEATURED PROPERTIES



The fall Equinox is a good time of year to start thinking about preparing your home for winter, because as temperatures begin to dip, your home will require maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape through the winter.

Autumn is invariably a prelude to falling winter temperatures, regardless of where you live. It might rain or snow or, as David Letterman says, "Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees." Did you know there is only one state in the United States where the temperatures have never dipped below zero? Give up? It's Hawaii.

Here are ten tips to help you prepare your home for winter:

1) Furnace Inspection

  • Call an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean ducts.
  • Stock up on furnace filters and change them monthly.
  • Consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat.
  • If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly and when water appears, close them.
  • Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.

2) Get the Fireplace Ready

  • Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
  • If the chimney hasn't been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
  • Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
  • Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.
  • Check the mortar between bricks and tuckpoint, if necessary.

3) Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows

  • Inspect exterior for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes; seal them.
  • Use weatherstripping around doors to prevent cold air from entering the home and caulk windows.
  • Replace cracked glass in windows and, if you end up replacing the entire window, prime and paint exposed wood.
  • If your home has a basement, consider protecting its window wells by covering them with plastic shields.
  • Switch out summer screens with glass replacements from storage. If you have storm windows, install them.

4) Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts

  • If your weather temperature will fall below 32 degrees in the winter, adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
  • Check flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.
  • Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.
  • Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
  • Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the home.

5) Service Weather-Specific Equipment

  • Drain gas from lawnmowers.
  • Service or tune-up snow blowers.
  • Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.
  • Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.
  • Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand.

6) Check Foundations

  • Rake away all debris and edible vegetation from the foundation.
  • Seal up entry points to keep small animals from crawling under the house.
  • Tuckpoint or seal foundation cracks. Mice can slip through space as thin as a dime.
  • Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.
  • Secure crawlspace entrances.

7) Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

  • Some cities require a smoke detector in every room.
  • Buy extra smoke detector batteries and change them when daylight savings ends.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and / or water heater.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work.
  • Buy a fire extinguisher or replace an extinguisher older than 10 years.

8) Prevent Plumbing Freezes

  • Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.
  • Drain all garden hoses.
  • Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
  • Drain air conditioner pipes and, if your AC has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
  • If you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set to at least 55 degrees.

9) Prepare Landscaping & Outdoor Surfaces

  • Trim trees if branches hang too close to the house or electrical wires.
  • Ask a gardener when your trees should be pruned to prevent winter injury.
  • Plant spring flower bulbs and lift bulbs that cannot winter over such as dahlias in areas where the ground freezes.
  • Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks.
  • Don't automatically remove dead vegetation from gardens as some provide attractive scenery in an otherwise dreary, snow-drenched yard.
  • Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area.

10) Prepare an Emergency Kit

  • Buy indoor candles and matches / lighter for use during a power shortage.
  • Find the phone numbers for your utility companies and tape them near your phone or inside the phone book.
  • Buy a battery back-up to protect your computer and sensitive electronic equipment.
  • Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (including pet food, if you have a pet), blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-to-access location.
  • Prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.

The Nehemiah Program - The Gift for Your Down Payment

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

If you are ready to buy a home, but the down payment is holding you back there is a program you may be interested in.  It is called The Nehemiah Program.


The Nehemiah Charitable Model uses funds from charitable sources for down payment assistance for persons who qualify.  You can get more information on this  program at http://www.getdownpayment.com/.  There is a tutorial on how the program works.

Nehemiah is an FHA product in that all loans must comply with FHA/HUD rules, but there are many great points such as.....

  • Gift funds up to 6% of the final contract sales towards your down payment and/or closing costs
  • Gift funds for both first time and repeat homebuyers
    (Nehemiah charges a nominal processing fee that may be paid by the seller, homebuyer, or lender.)
  • Gift funds for both new construction and resale homes
  • No repayment of gift money
  • No income or asset limits
  • No geographical restrictions

If you think you can use this program to purchase a house in our current market, which is a great time to buy, then give me a call.

Displaying blog entries 41-50 of 53

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Contact Information

Photo of Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, SRES, SFR Real Estate
Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, SRES, SFR
Iowa Realty
3521 Beaver Ave.
Des Moines IA 50310
515-240-2692
Fax: 515-453-6404
 

 

 

Licensed in the State of Iowa