Monthly Archives: March 2007

Buying Your First Home

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Thinking of buying your first home? Weighing your options?

I remember buying my first home. It was an out-dated rambler in Taylorsville and I wanted the financial benefits of owning. What I didn’t realize is that there is much more to owning a home than simply paying a lender instead of a landlord.

The first few weeks after I closed on my fixer-upper house were spent ripping out carpet, laying tile, refinishing cabinets, painting, cutting down trees and bushes, installing new plumbing and lighting fixtures, etc. This very quickly taught me about the expense of remodeling. Instead of just complaining to a landlord that I wanted something fixed and hoping they would fix it, now I had to do it myself -and pay for it myself. I choose the fixtures and the carpet and I got to decide what colors to paint and what appliances I wanted.

My wife, my friends, and family all worked hard to get the remodel done. It wasn’t always easy, but it was funner than I expected and it was so worth it. And after a couple of weeks living in my newly-purchased home it really hit me.

“This is my home.”

As in, “In this whole great big world, this piece of land is mine.” And that was an incredible feeling to me. I could do what I wanted to my house and I was responsible for the upkeep. If something breaks it’s my responsibility to fix it because this is my property.

Fixing and repairing things in your new home is a responsibility, but it’s also a privilege. You get to decide how to repair something or what quality to replace a fixture with. And you get to take pride in your home, knowing that you are taking care of an appreciating asset and taking care of your own place.

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I have owned other homes without doing any remodeling or repairing of any kind, but I enjoy remodeling my home and now our home is constantly being improved or altered to fit our changing taste and style.

There is a pride of ownership that comes with owning your own home that simply is not there when you are renting from a landlord, or borrowing space. The neighborhoods are nicer when you own and are surrounded by other homeowners because of this. This is why FHA loans cannot be given on condos, townhomes, or other PUD’s with a renter-occupancy rate over a certain amount.

Properties appreciate faster, on average, when they are occupied by the homeowners.

And appreciation is a wonderful thing for a homeowner- actually earning money every year as your property goes up in value. Some stretches of time your home will appreciate faster than other times, but over the course of ten years- most every property will go up in value significantly if taken care of. And most will go up substantially. No matter how great your rental is, it’s not going to earn you any money- period.

And every year when I go to do my taxes I have tens of thousands of dollars to write-off on my taxes. I could never do that renting. So I save thousands of dollars every year and I earn tens of thousands with appreciation, and I have a pride of ownership I could not get from renting.

You can calculate all the numbers and weigh all the risks you want, but at the end of the day owning is a better investment, and not just financially. With that said, I did sell that first home after less than two years and made about $40,000.

Top Ten Gadgets for Realtors

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 I see the reviews of new stuff coming out all the time and I’ve read Realtor Magazine’s new gadgets for real estate, but I just see a bunch of new phones and computers. So here is my list of the…

Top Ten Gadgets for Realtors

 

 10- Advertising from your car 

Realtors are famous for their ubiquitous vanity plates, window clings, and automobile advertising paint jobs, so why stop there? Having a scrolling message would bring attention and give you an adjustable ad everywhere you go.

9- GPS systems with traffic updates (Also see voice-activated and 3-D)

GPS systems are all over the place now and they’re getting cooler and easier, but getting traffic updates in real-time along with the navigation is awesome. Every agent who works with buyers knows the frustration of setting appointments in a sequence and then needing to call to push back appointments because you are running late. Voice Activated makes it easier to keep your eye on the road, and 3-D is just cool.

8- Color printers for your mobile phone

No more running to the office to print out some new flyers for your listing- just plug in your mobile phone and print them up- and how impressed will your clients be?

7- GPS on your mobile phone

Call in for directions or get GPS on your phone without the cumbersome extra equipment- you have your phone with you everywhere you go, and this way you can have GPS everywhere as well.

6-Reading your voice mail

Need to know when to pick up your kid but can’t stand hearing your ex’s voice? Get your voice mails as text messages on your mobile phone. Also good for scrolling through to get to the important messages when you’re busy.

5- Viral Marketing

Think of a television commercial that will run for years, reach a large audience, and does not cost you anything. Is that something you would consider doing?

4-Client motivation detectors 

Ever put your ear up to the window after buyers leave your open house, trying to hear what they are saying about the house?

Here’s your spy gear to finally get the 411 *

3- One-Shot Virtual Tours

Create a virtual tour without being a photo-shop expert. Just one click captures a full virtual tour, ready to go. Save time, frustration, and the cost of the photographer.

2- Searchable Conversations

Ever heard the saying, “The longest memory isn’t as good as the shortest pencil”? Well, even better than a pencil is this little device that will record all of your conversations and let you search them. Remember all the details your client told you, laugh at the other agent with your co-workers after they have left the office, and improve your language skills.

1- Cup holders that do more

When you’re in real estate you live in your car, doing everything mobile. We are the most dangerous drivers on the road. Talking on our mobile phones while eating a cheeseburger and making a U-turn as we look for an address.

This is why when we shop for a new vehicle we don’t ask how fast it goes or care about the luggage space- we want to know three things- gas mileage, turning radius (for our U-turns, and how many cup holders does it have.

And these cup holders will turn your real office into a more efficient place, and probably save lives.

*This is only a joke- I don’t promote spying. And even if I did I would not suggest breaking out a big ole’ listening device and stick it out the window at people as they leave an open house.

Top 150 American Architectural Structures

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) lists the top 150 favorite American structures, beginning with;

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#1- Empire State Building

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#2- The White House

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#3- Washington National Cathedral

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#4- Thomas Jefferson Memorial

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#5- Golden Gate Bridge

Other Structures of (my) interest include…

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#9- Chrsyler Building- NYC- Tied for coolest skyscraper in the country (TransAmerica)

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#14- The Gateway Arch- Impressive, and a cool elevator to the top

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Brooklyn Bridge – Hey, you gotta problem with that?!?

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#22- Bellagio- My favorite place to stay in Vegas

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#57- Denver International Airport- Airport as art

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#61- (Shamefully low)-TransAmerica Pyramid- San Fran- Tied for coolest skyscraper in the country (Chrysler)

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#62- 333 Wacker Drive (Chicago)- Curves with the Chicago River

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#69- Salt Lake City Public Library

There are so many incredible structures on this list, you really need to check it out to see your own favorites.

Top Ten American Houses

CNNMoney presents us with their top 10 favorite houses in America, selected from the American Institute of Architects list of the top 150 American Structures.

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Biltmore Estate (Vanderbilt Residence)- By Richard Morris Hunt

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Monticello – Designed by Thomas Jefferson

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Fallingwater – Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

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Taliesin- Frank Lloyd Wright’s residence

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Hearst Castle- by Julia Morgan

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Gamble House by Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene

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Glesner House- Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson

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Dana-Thomas House- By Frank Lloyd Wright
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Taliesin West – By and For Frank Lloyd Wright

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Douglas House by Richard Meier

Top Ten Cities for Beer Lovers

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MSNBC lists its top 10 cities for beer lovers;

1. Amsterdam- Serving “pils” with two fingers worth of head on top

2. Berlin- the first week of August is devoted to Bierfestival, when the city center turns into a 1.2 mile-long beer garden hosting 240 breweries from 80 countries, representing 1,750 different brands of beer

3. Brugge- Over 450 unique varieties of Belgian brew.

4. Burlington- Vermont college town between Montreal and Boston.

5- Dublin- Irish people drink?

6- Mexico City- Home of warm pee Corona

7- Montreal- Order your beer by color

8- Portland- 28 local breweries

9- Prague- Home to U Fleku, world’s oldest brewpub

10- Sapporo- Beer from vending machines in Japanese setting

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Celebrator lists it’s top 10 American Cities for beer;

1- Salt Lake City- With it’s incredible brew pubs and much-drinking populas guzzling from free-flowing beer fountains throughout the city, Salt lake earns (once again) the top prize! Okay, I’m kidding- the top spot goes to Portland.

2- San Francisco- Totally cool city for pretty much everything you can imagine. Is there anything that San Fran isn’t in the top ten for (other than lowest cost of living)?

3- Denver- Sports-crazy town with all four major sports and a brew-pub for every ten people (it seems). Great place to be during any championship season.

4- Seattle- Techie geeks can pound back the brew- how else could someone get through 56 straight hours on the computer programming?

5- Philly- City of Brotherly drinking

6- San Diego- Beach parties account for 90% of beer consumed

7- DC- Lots of drinking on the hill? This explains a lot.

8- Boston- Celebrations are up since the Red Sox took the Series

9 & 10 (tie) New York- There’s a lot of everything in NYC

9 & 10 (tie) Chicago-It’s all those speak-easy’s

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Forbes ranks America’s drunkest cities

1- Milwaukee

2- Minneapolis

3-Columbus

4- Boston

5-Austin

6- Chicago

7- Cleveland

8-Pittsburgh

9- (tie) Philly

9-(tie) Providence

11-St Louis

12- (tie)San Antonio

12 (tie)- Seattle

14- Vegas

15- Denver/Boulder

*Salt Lake City is the least-drunk of American cities and we have the best-looking girls (well, other than these ten cities). Plus, the best mountains, the best real estate website, the best people, the best soil, the best…. um… dancers, the best singers, the best musicians, the best plants, the best- looking pets, the best top ten lists… and the best blog. And people are very polite here, well, unless they’re driving.

Keeping Your Home Cool During Summer

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As the weather warms and our lives begin to move outside, let’s take some time to think about keeping our homes a place where we can keep cool, but without spending all of our cold hard cash.

First, let’s look at our lifestyles and how they change with the warmer weather. Most people begin to move outside more, and that means opening doors more. Especially if you have kids. If you have children like mine your doors will be opened during the summer about once every 3.4 seconds, which presents a challenge to the air conditioner. Some tips on keeping the cool inside;

Make a plan- Discuss with your family which doors to use and ways to eliminate the need to go in and out as often. If the toughest spot in the house to keep cool is the front living room, maybe going out through the garage or a side door would be better.

Closing hinges- Put automatic-closing hinges on doors, so if children forget to close the door- it will close itself.

Solve Problems- Do the kids need to come inside for a glass of water every time they’re thirsty or can they use the garden hose to get a drink? Maybe installing a drinking fountain outside is a good idea. Eat more cold meals during the summer. Using your stove and oven can dramatically increase your home’s temperature.

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Before it gets hot you might want to check how efficient your home is- do an audit;

-Check your attic, garage walls and basement to make sure your home is insulated to DOE-recommended levels for your geographic area. Look for the R-value in insulation you buy, the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power.

-Install attic fans- these fans suck the heat out of your attic and reduce your home’s internal temperature, as well as dramatically increase the efficiency of your air conditioner

-Install a hot-water heater blanket to increase its efficiency

-Do you have drapes and shades on windows to close out the heat during the hotter times of the day?

-Ceiling fans can help circulate the air and help the efficiency of the air conditioning.

-Install a programmable thermostat that can allow your house to be warmer while you’re away, but then cool it down during the hours you’re home.

-Trees can give natural shade to your home, in addition to their many other benefits.

-Get your air conditioning serviced to make it’s running properly- and clean or replace it’s filters.

-Check the weather stripping around doors and the seals around windows to ensure they are in good condition.

-Low-E windows can reduce your cooling bills substantially, especially if your current windows are single-pane or in disrepair.

-Shade your air conditioning unit. This cuts down it’s workload substantially

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Hydrate your body well. Drinking a lot of water will keep your bodies internal temperature down and replenish it with necessary moisture. When your body heats up it loses much more heat than normal and needs extra water.

Wearing light clothing or materials that breathe can also keep you cool during the summer. Fabrics like synthetics allow your body to breathe and cool itself much better than other sorts of material. Heavy shoes can also keep you hot. Consider flip flops or light shoes.

Wear sunscreen. Sunburns don’t just hurt, they also keep you hot. Avoid the burn (and skin cancer) by increasing your SPF.

Of course, there are other ways to keep cool…

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Understanding Credit Scores and Credit Reports

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Love em’ or hate em’, our credit scores affect our lives.

Your credit score is a number that is calculated based on your credit history to help lenders identify the level of risk they may be taking if they lend to you. Scores range from 300-900. The actual formula for exactly how the score is calculated is proprietary information and owned by Fair Isaac (FICO).

Your credit report is historical information about how you pay your bills and repay loans, how much credit you have available, what your monthly debts are, and other types of information that can help a potential lender decide your credit worthiness.

Credit scores are reported by over 1000 credit bureaus across the country, but most are affiliated with the three large bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

Equifaxwww.equifax.com

  • To order your report, call: 800-685-1111 or write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
  • Experianwww.experian.com

  • To order your report, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or write: P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013
  • TransUnionwww.transunion.com

  • To order your report, call: 800-916-8800 or write: P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022
  • Our credit scores help determine how much we pay, or if we even qualify to buy, almost everything. They are used by our insurance companies, banks, even HOA associations and clubs to assess membership qualifications. Your credit score says a lot about you. It tells a story about what you have purchased and how you have handled your responsibilities in paying your debt. It’s definitely not a perfect system, but it’s not going anywhere so you better learn the system.

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    Your FICO is made up of ;

  • 35% – An individual’s history of making credit payments on time
  • 30% – The total amount of debt being carried along with available credit
  • 15% – The age of an individual’s open credit lines (more history is better)
  • 10% – The frequency with which someone applies for new credit
  • 10% – Wild card factors such as the types of credit lines
  • Avoid these 4 pitfalls that lower your FICO score.

    1. Late Payments – Late payments and your payment history are the largest single factor of your credit score. Paying bills consistently on time shows you take your debt seriously and that’s what lenders are looking for. Extra weight is placed on recent payment history.

    2. Debt levels Too High- Don’t max-out or charge near the limit of your credit cards and equity lines. Carrying more than 25% balance hurts your score, and over 50% hurts it even more. Potential lenders want to see that you don’t spend all the money you have available to you.

    3. Debt-to-Income Too High – Carrying too much debt for your income hurts your score. Typically lenders have their own calculations for figuring your debt-to-income ratio (some include mortgage payments, etc) and often lenders have their own standards for what interest rates to charge based on your score. Certain types of loans (signature loans, loans for luxury items) may require you to have a lower debt ratio.

    4. Closing credit accounts- It may sound strange, but closing your credit card accounts can hurt your credit score, especially in the near future. Lenders look at your payment history and the history and duration of your accounts. Cancelling credit cards take away that history, and hurt your credit.

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    The higher your score, the lower your interest rate. Here, you can see the difference in interest you would pay with different scores. You can see that the difference between a score of 650 and 720 is about double the interest rate. To help understand the true effect your credit score can make, let’s use an example;

    You buy a home with a loan amount of $300,000 (nice round number). If your credit score was good, say 730, you could expect to get an interest rate around 6.125% and have a payment of about $1822 (Principle and Interest). If your credit score was 640 you could expect an interest rate of around 6.65% for the same loan, resulting in a monthly payment of $1926.

    You would be paying $104/month more simply because of your credit score. And let’s say you want a new car. Assuming a loan amount of $30,000 your 730 credit score could get you a monthly payment around $589, while that 640 score would result in a payment of $670, or $81 more/month.

    Let’s say you keep the car and the house for 5 years and then sell them to move out of town. You would have lost $11,100 just by having that credit score difference. And that 90-point drop in your credit score (from 730 to 640) could be caused by something as simple as missing a couple mortgage payments (One 60-day late). Or activating two new credit cards with a $500 limit each and maxing them both out. That $1000 would have actually cost you 10 times the amount.

    In the real world, your credit score and credit report can effect dozens of decisions over a five year period, resulting in a more significant difference than this example shows. Check your report a couple times each year to make sure it’s accurate. The $20 or so you’ll pay to check it could save you $thousands.

    If you’re a student, a young adult, or just don’t have a credit score yet, there now some help. Fair Isaac now offers the FICO Expansion Score, which helps you raise your score a little faster.