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10 Best-Kept Secrets for Buying a Home

by Cardany Realty Group

Getting ready to purchase a home?  

Follow these guidelines for a smooth transition...

Buying Secret #10: Keep Your Money Where It Is
It’s not wise to make any huge purchases or move your money around three to six months before buying a new home. You don’t want to take any big chances with your credit profile. Lenders need to see that you’re reliable and they want a complete paper trail so that they can get you the best loan possible. If you open new credit cards, amass too much debt or buy a lot of big-ticket items, you’re going to have a hard time getting a loan.

Buying Secret #9: Get Pre-Approved for Your Home Loan
There’s a big difference between a buyer being pre-qualified and a buyer who has a pre-approved mortgage. Anybody can get pre-qualified for a loan. Getting pre-approved means a lender has looked at all of your financial information and they’ve let you know how much you can afford and how much they will lend you. Being pre-approved will save you a lot of time and energy so you are not running around looking at houses you can't afford. It also gives you the opportunity to shop around for the best deal and the best interest rates. Do your research: Learn about junk fees, processing fees or points and make sure there aren’t any hidden costs in the loan.

Buying Secret #8: Avoid a Border Dispute
It’s absolutely essential to get a survey done on your property so you know exactly what you’re buying. Knowing precisely where your property lines are may save you from a potential dispute with your neighbors. Also, your property tax is likely based on how much property you have, so it is best to have an accurate map drawn up.

Buying Secret # 7: Don’t Try to Time the Market
Don’t obsess with trying to time the market and figure out when is the best time to buy. Trying to anticipate the housing market is impossible. The best time to buy is when you find your perfect house and you can afford it. Real estate is cyclical, it goes up and it goes down and it goes back up again. So, if you try to wait for the perfect time, you’re probably going to miss out.

Buying Secret # 6: Bigger Isn’t Always Better 
Everyone’s drawn to the biggest, most beautiful house on the block. But bigger is usually not better when it comes to houses. There’s an old adage in real estate that says don’t buy the biggest, best house on the block. The largest house only appeals to a very small audience and you never want to limit potential buyers when you go to re-sell. Your home is only going to go up in value as much as the other houses around you. If you pay $500,000 for a home and your neighbors pay $250,000 to $300,000, your appreciation is going to be limited. Sometimes it is best to is buy the worst house on the block, because the worst house per square foot always trades for more than the biggest house.

Buying Secret #5: Avoid Sleeper Costs
The difference between renting and home ownership is the sleeper costs. Most people just focus on their mortgage payment, but they also need to be aware of the other expenses such as property taxes, utilities and homeowner-association dues. New homeowners also need to be prepared to pay for repairs, maintenance and potential property-tax increases. Make sure you budget for sleeper costs so you’ll be covered and won’t risk losing your house.

Buying Secret #4: You’re Buying a House – Not Dating It
Buying a house based on emotions is just going to break your heart. If you fall in love with something, you might end up making some pretty bad financial decisions. There’s a big difference between your emotions and your instincts. Going with your instincts means that you recognize that you’re getting a great house for a good value. Going with your emotions is being obsessed with the paint color or the backyard. It’s an investment, so stay calm and be wise.

Buying Secret #3: Give Your House a Physical
Would you buy a car without checking under the hood? Of course you wouldn’t. Hire a home inspector. It’ll cost about $200 but could end up saving you thousands. A home inspector’s sole responsibility is to provide you with information so that you can make a decision as to whether or not to buy. It’s really the only way to get an unbiased third-party opinion. If the inspector does find any issues with the home, you can use it as a bargaining tool for lowering the price of the home. It’s better to spend the money up front on an inspector than to find out later you have to spend a fortune.

Buying Secret #2: The Secret Science of Bidding
Your opening bid should be based on two things: what you can afford (because you don’t want to outbid yourself), and what you really believe the property is worth. Make your opening bid something that’s fair and reasonable and isn’t going to totally offend the seller. A lot of people think they should go lower the first time they make a bid. It all depends on what the market is doing at the time. You need to look at what other homes have gone for in that neighborhood and you want to get an average price per square foot. Sizing up a house on a price-per-square-foot basis is a great equalizer. Also, see if the neighbors have plans to put up a new addition or a basketball court or tennis court, something that might detract from the property’s value down the road.

Today, so many sellers are behind in their property taxes and if you have that valuable information it gives you a great card to negotiate a good deal. To find out, go to the county clerk’s office. 
Sellers respect a bid that is an oddball number and are more likely to take it more seriously. A nice round number sounds like every other bid out there. When you get more specific the sellers will think you've given the offer careful thought.

Buying Secret #1: Stalk the Neighborhood
Before you buy, get the lay of the land – drop by morning noon and night. Many homebuyers have become completely distraught because they thought they found the perfect home, only to find out the neighborhood wasn’t for them. Drive by the house at all hours of the day to see what’s happening in the neighborhood. Do your regular commute from the house to make sure it is something you can deal with on a daily basis. Find out how far it is to the nearest grocery store and other services. Even if you don’t have kids, research the schools because it affects the value of your home in a very big way. If you buy a house in a good school district versus bad school district even in the same town, the value can be affected as much as 20 percent.

Why Is Moving Soooo Stressful?!!!

by Cardany Realty Group

Top 10 Most Stressful Moving Tasks



Everyone knows moving is stressful. But how stressful is it? And how can you make your next move less stressful?

My Move wanted to find out. Our research team recently asked 1,500 consumers who had moved in the past three months questions about 75 tasks related to moving. We began with the hypothesis that stress results not only when things are difficult, time-consuming or expensive, but also when they end up being more difficult, time-consuming or expensive than expected. For example, finding a home loan may have taken more time, cost more money and been more difficult than a respondent had expected. As a result, this task would have a high composite moving stress rating.

Here are the top 10 most stressful moving tasks, as well as tips to make each task easier.

1. Packing & Unpacking

It’s no surprise that packing and unpacking were the most stressful tasks. From the mild case of pack rat to full-on hoarding syndrome, Americans accumulate a lot of stuff. Minimize the stress of packing by donating as much as possible before the move. Your donation can be tax deductible, and the less stuff you pack, the less stuff you’ll have to load, unpack and find a place for in your new home.

2. Loading & unloading a moving truck without professional help

If you’re moving yourself, you need to know what you’re in for: a lot of bending, lifting and pain killers. The list of heavy objects that need loading and unloading is long: your couch, dresser, TV, bed frame, mattress, boxes of books, dining table … If you don’t hire a professional mover, make sure you get at least one friend to help carry objects that can’t be lifted alone. Buy helpful moving tools such as a dolly, hand truck and moving straps to make lifting easier on your back. Also be smart with how you load the truck. Pack items snugly so that there’s less shifting en route and to reduce the number of trips.

3. Home improvement projects for new and old homes

Whether you’re fixing your home up to put it on the real estate market or remodeling a kitchen or bathroom in your new place, remember to budget extra time and money for these tasks. The average cost of a kitchen remodel is $45,000, so we’re not talking chump change. Read reviews of contractors before hiring.

4. Searching for a new home

This task can seem especially hard when you’re new to the area. Before buying or renting, visit neighborhoods in person to get a feel for the place and people. Download a real estate app for your mobile or tablet device and use it on-the-go. If you have kids, research school rankings and private school availability. The bottom line is that the search for a new home often takes more time than anticipated. Start your search early, well before you plan to move, so you’re not in a rush to settle for a place you don’t love.

5. Compiling a home inventory

This  means going through every room in your house and documenting all your important possessions: art, furniture, electronics, jewelry, china, outdoor equipment and more. Do a home inventory if you hire professional movers. It’ll act as a checklist for keeping track of what went on and came off the moving truck, as well as the pre- and post-transport condition. After the move, file away your home inventory for insurance purposes in case of fire, natural disaster or theft. Try using a pre-populated downloadable home inventory spreadsheet to save time (it contains the items; you mark how many and the condition). Too busy even for a spreadsheet? Walk through your home with your smartphone’s video camera; focus on important possessions and talk about how much they cost and when and where you purchased them.

6. Transporting belongings without professional help

AKA driving a moving truck. Watch this video for tips. Remember that driving a moving truck isn’t like driving a sedan or SUV. It’s significantly larger and has a wide turning radius. You’ll need to brake earlier, make wider turns, drive slowly and watch for overpass, bridge and tunnel height limits.

7. Cleaning out closets, cupboards & pantry

No one likes to see the word “cleaning” followed by “closet,” “cupboard” or “pantry,” so it’s no surprise this task made the list. These are the areas where you put stuff so that you don’t have to look at it. Therefore we forget about it, and it piles up. Tip: The weeks before your move, make a concerted effort to cook with the grains, canned goods and condiments in your pantry and cupboards. Donate the clothing and shoes in your closet. A good rule of thumb: If you haven’t worn it in a year, donate it.

8. Shopping for household goods & furniture

Think small — from trash bins to window treatments — and large, from furniture to major appliances. We’re talking about the stuff you need the first 30 days in your new home. If you just moved, you’re rushed. You might not have time to look for discounts. According to the Zillow Mover Study, 21 percent of movers spend $10,000 or more on move-related purchases, so it behooves you to look for deals whenever possible. When it comes to expensive, long-term commitment purchases such as appliances, don’t wait until you’re in your new home to rush out and buy them. Take measurements and order appliances ahead of time, and look for deals on shipping and seasonal offers to save.

9. Cleaning new home

There’s that word “cleaning” again. If there’s room in your budget, save your time and aching back by hiring professionals to clean the mess left behind by previous occupants. (Renting? Negotiate and try to have the landlord foot the bill.) If there isn’t any budget, try to get the keys to your place before move-in day so that you can do a thorough cleaning before moving all your stuff in. Pay attention to nooks and crannies you usually bypass under normal house-cleaning conditions. Wipe down cupboards, walls, railings, light switches, door knobs, refrigerator doors and shelves, baseboards, floors and every surface in the kitchen and bathrooms.

10. Collecting & sorting important papers

Best advice to avoid this mess? Go paperless. If paperless isn’t an option, tackle the task of collecting and sorting important papers about three weeks before the move (well ahead of crunch time). Get an accordion folder and sort papers by subject — don’t just shove everything in together. Make sure it’s you and not your mover who’s in charge of these papers on moving day. Change your address with the USPS so that important mail finds its way to your new home after you’ve moved.

If moving is so stressful, why do we do it? Our research shows that, overwhelmingly, we move for positive reasons: to start a family or a new job; to live on our own, be closer to work or retire; to have a yard for a dog. When the tasks associated with the move start to seem unbearable, take a deep breath and remember why you’re moving. This alone will reduce stress.


8 Costly Home Seller Mistakes

by Cardany Realty Group

Homeowners who want to sell their home know they need to get the place spruced up for marketing, but a tougher challenge for some sellers is to get mentally prepared for putting their residence on the market.

After all, if you’ve been happily living in your home for years, it can be emotionally hard to detach yourself from your memories and look at the place as a commodity you’re selling.

For a smoother sales transaction that garners the most possible profit from your sale, avoid these common, yet costly, seller mistakes:

1. Skipping a home inspection. Depending on the age of your home, scheduling a pre-listing home inspection could save you a lot of time and aggravation. You can address issues on your own time and budget before negotiating with a buyer to fix problems.

2. Skimping on your sales prep. While you may be tempted to ‘test the waters’ and put your home on the market without painting it or making minor repairs, your home is likely to languish on the market and get a reputation for having a major problem. A thorough, professional-level cleaning should be your bare minimum seller prep. Your eventual sales price is likely to be lower if you don’t sell within the first few weeks after you list your home.

3. Choosing the wrong REALTOR®. Instead of picking a REALTOR® who’s a friend of a friend, a relative or perhaps someone who’s great at working with buyers, take the time to pick a REALTOR® with an excellent reputation for listing homes. Your payoff will be much larger if you list your home with a REALTOR® with local market knowledge and sales expertise.

4. Neglecting to ramp up your curb appeal. If you polish and primp inside your home but neglect to pull weeds or paint your front door, you run the risk of potential buyers leaving without ever entering your home.

5. Withholding information from buyers. If you hope that the buyers or their inspector won’t find out about the leak under your bathroom sink or the fact that your basement gets flooded every winter, you run the risk of a nasty negotiating period, or  worse, a lawsuit after the settlement.

6. Overpricing your home. If you’ve hired the right REALTOR®, someone who can give you a strong market analysis and help you determine a reasonable price for your home, then you can avoid overpricing your home. If you don’t listen to your REALTOR® and base your listing price on an inflated view of your home’s value, you’re likely to end up selling after multiple price drops for less than you would have if you priced it right the first time.

7. Being unprepared for your next step. Whether you should buy your next home or sell your current home first is only one part of the preparation you need to make to move. You need a back-up plan in case your transaction on either end takes longer or shorter than you think, and you need to understand your mortgage payoff and the closing costs you must pay.

8. Letting your pets and kids spoil a sale. Part of your emotional detachment from your home is recognizing that while you love Fluffy and your darling twins, buyers want to visualize themselves and their own family in your home. Bribe your kids if you have to, but make sure the house is neat and as neutral-looking and smelling as possible. Take the kids and your pets out (or lock up your pets) when prospective buyers are visiting – you never know if someone who is terrified of dogs or cats will be turned off from making an offer because of your adorable pet.

Selling a home can be challenging, but with the help of a reliable REALTOR® you can avoid making mistakes and reap the rewards of your sale.


by Cardany Realty Group

In your excitement to buy a home, it's easy to miss a small crack in the foundation, some leaky pipes under the house, or a roof that needs to be replaced.

The sellers worked hard to make the home look as desirable as possible, but looks don't tell the whole story. That's where your home inspection comes in.


For sellers, a home inspection is also a good idea prior to listing the home for sale. An inspection can help you turn up issues ahead of time so there will be no surprises when serious buyers start inquiring. Knowing in advance means you'll be able to consider all your options – either making repairs before listing or pricing your home to account for anything you're not going to fix.


A general home inspection will evaluate the house and adjoining structures from top to bottom, inside and out, including but not limited to:

Roof, porches, driveways, garage, drainage, retaining walls, grading, and plants or vegetation that may impact the home's condition

Electrical and plumbing systems; foundation; heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; water heater, septic system, electrical system, windows, doors, floors, ceilings and walls

What a home inspection doesn't cover
The home inspector can't make any alterations in the course of inspecting a home – so there’s no digging up the ground, lifting carpets, knocking out walls, etc.

Also consider that a home comprises tens of thousands of parts, pieces, nooks and crannies. An inspector will look at a representative sampling, but there's simply no way to check every single element.

RE/MAX Home Inspection Tip: Many home inspectors know about major appliance recalls, but do your own research by noting model numbers and then checking for trouble online.

RE/MAX Home Inspection Tip:If an area of the house is not accessible because of barricades, such as boxes piled in front of a door, request that the seller remove these to allow for a thorough inspection.


Some states and cities require additional inspections on top of a general inspection. Beyond that, you may just want a specialized inspection due to a special circumstance or particular concern you or your general inspector may have.

Examples of specialized inspections:
• Sewer inspection
• Chimney inspection
• Mold inspection
• Lead inspection
• Asbestos inspection
• Pest inspection
• Inspection of a special feature such as swimming pool or hot tub

RE/MAX Home Inspection Tip: Check with your agent to see which inspections are required in your area and which may not be required, but are standard.

RE/MAX Home Inspection Tip: If a home inspector tells you not to attend the inspection, find someone else. This is a classic red flag.

Here are 10 common problems that general home inspections bring to light.

1. Plumbing:

• Leaking around exposed pipes, particularly with washing machines.
• Outdated pipes. It's common to find old Polybutylene pipes, which your inspector will recommend replacing.

2. Electrical:

• Ungrounded outlets. You can recognize these by their two-slot configuration versus the three-slot configuration of a grounded outlet. Most inspectors will recommend that you upgrade to grounded outlets.
• Improperly wired breaker boxes. Common hazards include two circuits on a single-pole breaker, oversized breakers, double-pole breakers that supply two single circuits, and wires that cross over the panel's center.

3. Heating:

• Leaks in piping or heating unit; air ducts that need cleaning.
• Not enough insulation. Insulation requirements vary by location, but an improperly insulated home will always lead to high energy bills.

4. Drainage:

• A wet basement is a problem because it indicates that water isn't properly draining away from the home.
• Mold in the air. When water isn't draining properly, it can result in mold in the air. Mold can also be a byproduct of dry rot.

5. Roof:

• Torn and cracked shingles, or flashing that's not properly installed. Each of these can cause roof leakage.

6. Walls: 

Cracks or holes in drywall or plaster.  Also be sure to check the ceilings and around windows and skylights. 

7. Dry rot:

• This occurs when fungus grows in your home's wood due to high condensation. The affected wood will have to be replaced.
• Another main concern is figuring out why the condensation is occurring in the first place.

Home Inspection Myth: You don't need a home inspection for a newly constructed home. Not so. Property defects come up on new construction all the time. Just because the house is new doesn't mean it was built properly.

Home Inspection Myth: You don't need a home inspection if you're buying a home warranty. Home warranties rarely cover everything. You'll want to know of any potential problems before your closing so that you the seller can take care of them.


Easily fixed pipes or a few outdated electrical outlets are no reason to back out of a deal. However, other issues that come up during a home inspection should give you pause to think about whether or not to proceed.

Here are some red flags that warrant closer attention.

1. Water intrusion and grading problems Water in the basement, condensation on the walls and mold in the air indicate moisture and drainage problems that could cost a lot of money to fix. These issues often suggest improper grading.

2. Structural damage Cracks in walls, ill-fitting windows and doors, and visibly shifted bricks on the exterior are all signs of structural damage. Your cost to fix these types of problems? Anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000.

3. Roof repairs Old shingles, water stains on the ceiling or rotting rafters are all signs that the roof may need to be replaced. This is another extremely expensive undertaking, so pay close attention during the roof inspection.

4. Window replacement Windows that don't work, fit the frame poorly or show condensation between the panes may need to be replaced. Depending on the number of windows, this could easily run between $5,000 and $8,000.

5. Insect infestation A general inspection should show you whether the home has a pest problem, which may prompt a need for a more detailed report from a specialist. This is a serious issue because some pests can cause structural damage.

RE/MAX Home Inspection Tip: Condo or co-op boards pay for many repairs, but remember that the costs will get passed on to you eventually – so it's good to know the building's overall condition from the start.


Attend your home inspection to see first-hand what the inspector notes, and learn some important details about the house — like how to use the water, sprinklers, heater, electricity, etc.

When attending your inspection:

• Wear casual clothes and comfortable shoes. You may find yourself crawling under and behind things to see what the inspector is pointing out.

• Plan for the inspection to take two or three hours.

• Bring pen and paper, copies of any inspection reports provided by the seller, and any disclosure reports that identified past problems so the inspector can follow up.

• Feel free to ask questions, but give the inspector time and space to work.

10 Things To Do Before Selling Your House

by Cardany Realty Group

Getting ready to put your house on the market?  Use this list to make your home the best it be for potential buyers.

1. Get rid of any extra furniture- This means that any furniture that doesn’t serve a real, functional purpose needs to go. It can be sold, or just in storage, but it needs to get out of the house. You want as much of your space shown as you can.

2. Hide the toys- Before taking any listing photos or showing your house, hide the toys! Unless there is a designated area used as a playroom, toys need to be hidden. Buyers want the spaces they are looking at to feel fresh, clean, and grown up.

3. Open doors- Be sure to open all of your interior doors before taking photos and showing your house. In photos, it helps the photos flow together so that the potential buyers can understand the layout of the home more easily. When showing, you don’t want any big surprises. The potential buyers need to be able to easily walk from one room to the next.

4. Turn on lights- When showing your home, turn on all of the lights before you leave. This is especially the case if your house has light switches in strange places. The last thing you want the potential buyers to do, is search for your light switches. By having the lights on, it makes the home feel brighter and more cozy.

5. Good smells- The smell of your home will be one of the very first things that the potential buyers register in their brains when looking at your home. Be sure it is a good smell! 

6. Take good photos- Chances are, the first impression of your house will be by the photos that potential buyers will see on your listing. Make sure they are good! There are so many times I see pictures that have awkward angles that make the rooms look much smaller than they are. There are also several listing photos out there with clutter all over the place! Potential buyers want to look at photos of a clean house. Pay attention to detail when taking photos.

7. Fix up the curb appeal- This doesn’t mean that your front yard needs an entire makeover, but make sure that it looks warm and inviting. Plant some flowers, fix your fence, and mow your lawn. It is the little things that really make a difference.

8. Clear off counter tops- Nobody wants to look at clutter. Put your bread and bananas in the cupboard before your house is shown. You want potential buyers to feel like there is plenty of counter space. While you are at it, take down the cutter off of your fridge to make your kitchen feel fresh and clean.

9. Clean doors- You don’t realize just how dirty your doors are until you start scrubbing them down! Clean the doorknobs to make sure they aren’t sticky and make sure there aren’t dirty fingerprints all over the door. It is a small detail that most people won’t notice unless they are dirty most likely. You don’t want potential buyers to notice dirty doors.

10. Clean your windows- There is so much dirt, dust, and who knows what else that gets stuck to windows. Clean them inside and out. It is amazing to see how much more light comes through when the windows are clean. It makes the entire room feel cleaner too. 

Organizing Your Move

by Cardany Realty Group

Moving can be overwhelming.  Before you start packing boxes, check out list list of things you should do to make a smooth transition.

Non-packing Essentials That Must Be Planned In Advance

While most people agree that moving is stressful, there are ways to ensure you have a much less stressful move than you thought possible. There are lots of ways to reduce the stress of moving so you can actually enjoy the moment, look forward to the change and know that this move can be a positive and rewarding experience - a chance to start over.

1. Give Yourself Time

Time is not always in your control. Sometimes a move sneaks up on us, forcing us to move last minute, and we have to act fast. If you can plan ahead, try to allow yourself at least eight weeks. I highly recommend twelve, especially if you need to hire movers and/or if you're planning a summer move. But everything can be done without too much stress within eight weeks.

2. Get Organized

Make a list of all the tasks you need to do, then divide them into weeks, allowing yourself enough days to complete everything on that week's list. If you're unsure where to start, check out an eight-week planthat will ensure you stay on track.

3. Clear Out the Clutter

I recommend you tackle this one first. Ridding your home of all the clutter will help you be, and feel, more organized. It will also ensure that when you begin packing, you'll only be packing the things that you need to. There's nothing more frustrating than packing items you're going to get rid of after the move.

De-cluttering also helps you unburden some of the old stuff that might have been holding you back. The process itself will help you make that transition between the past and the future; between one part of your life and the next. This will help you feel excited about the upcoming change.

4. Ask for Help

Sometimes it's difficult to ask for help. But remember, most people have been through at least one move in their lives and understand how hard it can be. Reach out. Ask friends and family if they can spare a couple of hours to help you sort, pack or move. If you're moving far away, this could be one of the last opportunities you have to spend time together.

5. Say Goodbye

Allow yourself the time to say goodbye. Throw a party. Invite friends out for dinner. Take an hour everyday to walk through your neighborhood. Visit one favorite spot every day. Feel the memories and allow yourself to relive them one more time. This will also help with the transition from the old to the new and give yourself some much needed time to enjoy the moment.

6. Treat Yourself

During a stressful time like a move, we often don't feel that there's enough time to get all the tasks done, and as such, we often neglect our own needs. I know that I often go without enough sleep, spend long days packing without taking breaks and end up eating junk food just to save myself cooking time. While it may seem like you're be efficient with your time, you're also neglecting the most important moving tool that you have: yourself.

Make sure you take care of yourself. Add in some time to your task list for special treats like having dinner with friends, going to a movie, visiting a bookstore or having coffee at your sister's place. It doesn't need to be big, just something that ensures you're taking time out from the hectic moving pace.

If you have children, treat them as well. Plan special evenings out to visit their favorite ice cream shop or restaurant or playground. Kids require special handling during a move; they'll need time from you and patience, too.

7. Get Enough Sleep and Eat Well

I'm adding this in since these two items are the first on my list to be ignored, yet, they are the most important factors in keeping us healthy and happy. So make sure you're getting enough sleep and that you're eating a balanced diet. Don't skip meals and try not to live on coffee (although that can be difficult not to!).

8. Go With the Flow

Even if you're the most organized mover ever, things will still go wrong. Unplanned events will happen, so you need to be flexible and allow yourself some extra breathing room to deal with these problems. Maybe return to your task list and timeline and work in some extra days if you can. Allowing for some wiggle room will ensure that you can adjust and feel calm even when chaos abounds.

9. Have a Back-up Plan

Now, I'm not talking about creating a full back-up plan, but rather that you have a list of options should some of the major pieces of your move fall out of place. For instance, I always keep a short list of back up movers and rental agencies, just in case. I also allow a few days on either end of our move out/move in day should our moving company cancel or not show up. This can happen even though it's rare. Plan for alternatives. You'll feel better knowing that your uncle and his two-ton truck is available should you need it.

10. Be Prepared to Feel Uprooted

You're going to be living in chaos for a while, with boxes everywhere and things feeling out of control. It's normal to be upset when you can't find the spatula or the crock pot; just remember to consult your lists and know that you're organized and on track for this move. You've done the work, and even though there's still more to go, it will get done.

And when you move into your new home, also remember that it'll take a while for this new space to feel like your own - for you and your family to settle in. Give it time.

And remember to breathe...

How To Get The Best Mortgage Rate

by Cardany Realty Group

When you’re buying a home on a tight budget, qualifying for the lowest mortgage rate becomes extremely important. The larger your loan, the greater the impact a difference in interest rates will have on your monthly payments.

For example, if you had a loan of $100,000, the monthly payments would rise by just $30 with an interest rate change from 4.5 percent to 5 percent. If your loan balance were $500,000, the difference in your payment under similar circumstances would be $151.


A lower mortgage rate also impacts the total amount of interest you will pay over the life of your loan. A $100,000 30-year fixed-rate loan at 5 percent requires $93,256 in interest payments; whereas an interest rate of 4.5 percent requires $82,407 in interest payments – a savings of $10,849 over the full length of the loan. Similarly, on a $500,000 loan you could save $54,245 in interest with the lower 4.5 percent rate.


Steps to the Lowest Mortgage Rates

Lenders have different standards and loan programs, so it’s important to shop around on the same day (since rates change frequently) for the same loan terms to find out who is offering the lowest rates. In the meantime, you can also consider these other options to qualify for the lowest interest rate:

Pay points: A discount point, equal to 1 percent of the loan amount, can be used to buy down your interest rate. Generally, paying one point at closing will buy down your rate by about 0.25 percent, but think carefully whether this is the best use of your cash.


Shorten your loan term: Shorter loan terms generally have lower interest rates, although the difference between the rates varies. For example, on Jan. 10, 2014, the average mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed rate loan was 4.64 percent compared to 3.74 percent for a 15-year loan. However, given the shorter term, your payments will be higher.


Consider an ARM: Adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) have a lower interest rate for the first few years (you can find 1-, 5-, 7- and 10-year ARMs) and then adjust, usually on a yearly basis. You’ll need to qualify for the loan based on the highest possible mortgage rate (ARMs are capped so they can’t go higher than the cap) and be prepared for the worst-case scenario, but in the meantime you can benefit from a lower interest rate.


Improve your credit score: Lenders tack on slightly higher interest rates for borrowers with a credit score of less than 740. The rates are a bit higher for every 20-point difference in your credit score, so making changes such as paying off debt and paying all your bills on time before you apply for a loan can help.

Increase your down payment: Interest rates are also based on your loan-to-value and will be lower if you make a down payment of at least 20 percent. If you can manage to make a down payment of 30 percent or 40 percent your interest rate will be even lower.


Wait to lock-in your interest rate: Home buyers often choose to lock in their mortgage rate 60 to 90 days before closing to avoid the danger of rising rates. However, lenders charge a slightly higher interest rate for lock-in periods. Ask your lender for advice about when to lock in, but you may want to consider a shorter 30-day lock once your settlement date is determined.


While qualifying for the lowest possible interest rate is important, be sure you understand your loan terms and your budget before you sign the papers for a new loan.

Should Your 401(k) Finance Your Down Payment?

by Cardany Realty Group

The thought of taking money out of your 401(k) retirement plan to finance an immediate need can be tempting—but it’s not so simple. You don’t want to risk your retirement plans to pay for something right now—even if it’s a house—if you can avoid doing so.

Depending on the circumstances, you might be able to take early distributions or take a loan out for yourself. However, there are risks and sometimes penalties for doing so.

What Is a 401(k)?

The 401(k) is an employer-instituted retirement plan. Employees voluntarily defer a percentage of their wages directly into their workplace’s 401(k) pension plan. Employers often match these pension contributions with contributions of their own, such as a 50-cent contribution for every dollar deposited by the employee. Some places of employment offer stock in place of monetary contributions.

All of the wage contributions and the company matches are made before taxes, which presents a tax saving for the employee. For example, if you earned $50,000 one year but contributed $3,000 to your 401(k) plan, you would declare taxable income of only $47,000.

The deferred wages earn interest that compounds over the years the pension plan is squirreled away. An employee is able to withdraw distributions from the 401(k) starting at the age of 59-½ years.

Taking Early Distributions

In certain circumstances, you can take money out early (younger than 59-½ years) from your retirement plan. Generally, this is done if you are undergoing a hardship. Keep in mind there are many variations on 401(k) retirement plans, so be sure to review your specific plan. Not all 401(k) plans are required to have a hardship distribution rule, but those that do should cover the following, according to the IRS:

  1. Medical emergencies

  2. Funeral expenses

  3. Payments related to the principal residence, including those needed to prevent eviction or to repair certain damages

Once approved by the company’s pension plan administrator, the employee can receive a substantial hardship distribution. The cost of early withdrawal is very high, though. Once withdrawn, the money is subject to all taxes and penalties and may also be liable for up to 10 percent in additional taxes.

Using a Loan From a 401(k)

In place of an early distribution, some 401(k) plans allow for employee loans. Meaning, when an employee borrows money from his 401(k), he’s borrowing money from himself and then paying the capital and interest back into his own pocket.

The good news: As long as the money is paid back, the loan isn’t taxable. Also, 401(k) loans should not affect your credit score.

The risk: If you lose or move jobs, then you’re obligated to repay the entire loan or pay full taxes and penalties as if it were an early withdrawal.

Keep in mind this will increase your debt-to-income ratio and could disqualify you for the loan or raise the cost of the mortgage. Also be aware that your lender may not let you use a 401(k) loan to buy a house. Also, while your money isn’t in the 401(k), it’s not earning interest.

Should You Take an Early Hardship Distribution From Your 401(k)?

It is probably unwise to use your retirement funds to pay for a house. Retirement money should be kept safe, so when you retire you will have sufficient income to live comfortably and cover your basic needs. But if you really do need the cash—say, you’re close to a foreclosure—taking some cash out of your 401(k) could be a viable option.

Updated from an earlier version by Dini Harris.

7 Home-Selling Blunders To Avoid This Spring

by Cardany Realty Group

7 home-selling blunders to avoid this spring

Buyers continue to have the upper hand, which means you’ll have to play it smart. Your first move? Avoiding these common pitfalls.

Amid falling home prices, near-record-low mortgage rates and even an $8,000 tax perk from Uncle Sam, prospective buyers have plenty of reasons to dive into the real-estate market.

But with the teetering economy and financial markets, real-estate experts don't expect an aggressive bounce in sales this spring. "I don't think (home) sales will really pick up until the job market has stabilized — and that won't be this spring," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's

Despite some encouraging housing data, buyers will continue to have the upper hand in this home-selling season. But that doesn’t mean your house won't sell; it just means you'll have to make smarter moves to land a buyer. With the help of several experts, U.S. News & World Report compiled a list of seven home-selling moves to avoid this spring.

1. Thinking your home is the exception: It's natural to be emotionally attached to your home, especially if you've lived there a long time. But allowing this affection to obscure the realities of today's real-estate market is a serious mistake. If your local market is declining in value, you'll need to price your home at a compelling level. That will require a painful decision: to price the property at or below comparable homes in the area, even if the price point is less than what you think your home is worth. "There are still sellers out there who think that their house is the exception," says Judy Moore of Re/Max Landmark Realtors in Lexington, Mass. "They think that the other houses that are on the market are really overpriced, yet when you get to their house, they think that it should have a higher price because it is better." Overpricing a home because of an emotional attachment only makes selling it that much more difficult.

2. Not scouting the competition: Another reason sellers might price a home too high is that they're simply unaware of the dynamics of their real-estate market. To sell your home, it's essential to have a firm grasp on the conditions in your area. Sellers should study the pricing trends and sales data in their local market. But the data tell only half of the story. To fully understand the market, sellers should get a first-hand look at the nearby homes that are also up for sale. "I would recommend my sellers go look at open houses so they see how [their homes] really compare," says Ron Phipps, a broker with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I.

3. Not checking your agent's references: An effective, experienced real-estate agent can be a big help in selling your home in today's sluggish market. But finding such a broker may not be easy. "[Real-estate] agencies these days are pinching pennies, too," says Joshua Dorkin, founder and chief executive of, a real-estate networking and information site. "A lot of them think you can just put something on Craigslist and it [will] sell, and that's not how it works anymore." To ensure you're doing business with a solid real-estate professional, contact some of his or her previous clients and ask about their experience.

4. Not prepping the property: Since buyers have many options these days, home sellers need to ensure that their property is in tip-top condition for showings. That means making any and all home repairs, ensuring that the indoor and outdoor portions of the property are immaculate, and removing clutter. "It is a very picky buyer right now, and they are ready to seize on any little thing that they see," says Elizabeth Blakeslee of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Washington, D.C. "You want your house to look cared for."

5. Being present during open houses: It's important for the sellers to be away from the home during open houses, as their presence can be unnerving to would-be buyers. "Some sellers have the mistaken idea that they are the best people to sell their house, and that is absolutely not the case," Blakeslee says. If a seller remains at home during an open house, she says, "buyers will have an uneasy feeling, and that is the feeling that they will take away from the house."

6. Taking negotiations personally: The negotiation process can be tough on sellers, as buyers may demand concessions such as price reductions or help with closing costs. Although such requests might be irksome, it's important that sellers consider them just another part of a business transaction. "It is not meant to be personal; the buyer is looking to buy as carefully as they can and pay as little as they can," Phipps says. "It is not about you, it is about them."

7. Sneering at offers: Even if you aren't crazy about a buyer's offer, don't dismiss it out of hand. "You need to be willing to negotiate with anyone and everyone who puts in an offer, even if it is one of those low-ball offers," Dorkin says. "Don't ignore it, because those people might really want the property."

This article was written by Luke Mullins of U.S. News & World Report.

The Best Time To Sell a House Is...

by Cardany Realty Group

The Best Time To Sell A House Is...

The sun is shining, the days are longer and people are wearing jean shorts and ordering chardonnay in droves. It's spring, which means that it's also the best time to sell a house. It makes sense that after a long winter spent hibernating on the couch in a Snuggie that potential homeowners would want to spend sunny weekends strolling and looking for a new home.

Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel, confirmed our beliefs in a recent New York Times piece. "Based on the number of contracts signed each month, the spring is still the ‘Super Bowl’ of annual real estate sales,” Mr. Miller said. June is the top month for the number of contracts signed which means the properties were most likely listed in May. In fact, June sees 90 percent more sales than December.

Are you thinking of selling your property? Here, five reasons to take the leap:

1. Gorgeous weather puts everyone in a good mood. "May weather is ideal for selling a home because gardens are in bloom. In the fall, home seekers are reminded of the leaves they'll need to rake, and in the winter they'll often see how much snow needs to be shoveled. In the spring they'll be imagining the barbecues to come," Ryan Nickum, a blogger for told The Huffington Post.

2. School's out! Changing schools is a big deal for families, so people with kids prefer to move during the summer so the children have the summer to get adjusted before the school year begins.

3. Potential buyers and real estate agents are hungry for new inventory after winter. "April officially kicks off Open House Month and home buyers are pounding the pavement in search of the perfect fit,” said Alison Schwartz, Vice President, Corporate Communications at

4. Spring weather shows the property in its best light. Potential buyers are less likely to think about the exorbitant heating and cooling costs when it's 70 degrees outside.

5. Tax refunds are in the air (and in wallets). Potential buyers may have a little extra cash in their pockets and may be more excited to look for a new home.

No matter when you list your home, it's imperative to consider the details. "Little things like presenting and photographing the home correctly, pricing the home just under what it's worth in order to get a bidding war started, listing the house mid-week with the intent of picking an offer the following Monday or Tuesday and doing open houses in markets where people expect them," CEO Galen Ward told The Huffington Post.

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