Family Fun March 28, 2021

Getting Out: Our day at Space Farms: Zoo & Museum

We couldn’t resist this wonderful weather anymore. Being suck at home due to the winter weather AND COVID has been a nightmare so finally being able to get out, while social distancing of course, has been godsend!

It was near the mid 60’s today with mostly clear sky’s. We took a little drive (okay, maybe not so little as it took us about 40 minutes to get there but the drive was smooth and scenic) out to a place called Space Farms: Zoo & Museum in Wantage Township NJ. My husband actually suggested it but unfortunately couldn’t join us since he had to head in for work.

It wasn’t packed at all, lots of room to roam, and an ample amount of animals to view and learn about from their bulletin boards. It’s no Bronx Zoo but it gets the job done and made my son happy (as well as myself). He was teaching me so many things about the different animals, facts that I didn’t even know. We truly enjoyed ourselves.

Note: the animals couldn’t care less for the corn kernels, except the deer, they don’t care what you feed them – “just feed me” mentality. But most of them did love the cookies.The museum wasn’t amazing. It’s a pretty quick to walk through, although my son had mentioned somethings he learned from school about Native Americans, since they did have Native American artifacts there. Really, the trip is more for the animals than anything else there.

We didn’t try the food since we ate before we got there and it took us a little over an hour to check out all of the animals.

You can find out more from their website

Music: Country Life

Howeowner ResourceSelling Your Home March 1, 2021

What is a mortgage forbearance?

Experiencing a short-term hardship?  A mortgage forbearance may provide temporary payment relief to assist you. These hardships typically come from dealing with a job loss, disability, illness, a recent disaster, divorce, death of a wage earner or other unique circumstances.

In this video, I describe a brief definition on what a mortgage forbearance is. If you have any other questions regarding a mortgage forbearance and you would like to see if you are qualified for it, speak to your mortgage servicer. The mortgage servicer is the company that you pay your mortgage loan payments to and they also perform other services in connection to your mortgage.

What is an escrow?

An escrow account, or impound account depending where you live, is an account that your mortgage lender uses to pay certain property-related expenses such as taxes and home insurance. If you are using a forbearance or thinking about using a forbearance, be mindful. The forbearance does not cover your escrow. Ensure that your escrow is property funded or take care of those property-related expenses on a regular basis, when they are due. Being in default with taxes will lead your property to be foreclosed upon by the government.

What is the CARES Act?

Cited directly from the U.S Department of Treasury’s website,

“The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 provide fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses, and preserve jobs for American industries.”

In other words, the CARES Act was put in place to assist home owners who are experiencing difficulty with making on-time mortgage payments due to the national coronavirus emergency.

Find out more here, on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.

If you are thinking about buying or selling real estate or have any other real estate related questions, please contact me today! I service the Hudson Valley area of New York but I do have a great network all across the country, so if you are looking elsewhere, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Home Tours November 13, 2020

Tour with me: Get this view for $250K?!?

I had an appointment this past weekend (November 8th) to show a lovely home out in Newburgh, NY. It was a bit outdated since the last owner had it custom built and lived in it for many years. Sadly, the owner has passed away and it’s now an Estate Sale.

Although it was outdated, definitely a blast from the past, the previous owner took very good care of it. You can tell by looking at the home that they loved it and the view, was to die for! I really couldn’t believe that you could get this view for $250k. The rooms are spacious and bright and there was ample storage.

I have to say, if my own family would have seen this home while on our own home search earlier this year, we may have went for it ourselves!

Who ever does buy this one, will definitely build amazing memories there. For my clients however, they weren’t fond of the idea of updating the space as they prefer something a bit more move-in ready.

I am truly loving living and working upstate! Well, for me, everything north of the Bronx is considered upstate, as I am a city girl! You could never get properties like these back in my hometown or get this view for $250K!

Enjoy the tour and if you’re looking for assistance finding your own dream home or looking to sell and move on, feel free to contact me! I have a contact page for a reason!

Also, check out my YouTube channel for more videos: HERE

First Time Home Buyer September 10, 2020

The 5 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Your First Home

two people shaking hands in front of a house

Buying your first home can be an anxiety-ridden process, and that potential anxiety gets amplified for anyone who’s embarking on homeownership for the very first time. There’s so much to do and so much you don’t know that “being overwhelmed” hardly seems like an appropriate description of how it feels.

And even though you don’t want to scare yourself away from the entire process, you still need to be wary of falling into a few common traps that first-time buyers generally don’t avoid. If you’re aware of these five potential mistakes — and able to keep yourself from making them — then you’ll be saving yourself some significant stress on your home buying journey.

Here are the 5 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Your First Home

Mistake No. 1: Not understanding your down payment options

The biggest headache for so many first-time buyers is the down payment. If you’ve ever bought a car, then you’re probably familiar with the concept — it’s money that you contribute to the total cost of the purchase.

A down payment of just a couple thousand dollars can get you a head start on your car. If you don’t have a certain amount to put down on your home loan, however, you might find yourself paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). Depending on your credit score, the bank and other factors, PMI could cost between 0.5 percent to 1 percent of the total loan amount.

Most banks require at least a 20 percent down payment before they will waive the need for PMI on the loan. And most homes in this area average about $300,000, so that means a buyer would need to bring $60,000 to the table in order to avoid PMI.

However, there are loans that allow you to put as little as 3 percent down on the home ($9,000 for a $300,000 home), which is much more reasonable for a first-time buyer, especially if you can accommodate the annual cost of $1,500 to $3,000 in PMI into your monthly payment amount. And veterans could be eligible for zero-down loan programs with no PMI through the Veterans Administration (VA) loan program, so that’s something else to think about.

There’s one more thing to know about down payment options: Some government organizations and lenders try to incentivize first-time homeownership by offering free down payment grants or loans to qualified buyers. Depending on your age, income level, credit score and other factors, you could qualify for free money to wrap into your down payment; a full rundown of programs is available at

Mistake No. 2: Not getting pre-qualified for a loan

Between the amount of money you plan to put down on the home, the potential PMI and other cost factors, your monthly cost could be significantly more (or possibly less) than some of those calculators will show you online.

So before you trust those “estimated monthly mortgage loan amount” numbers that you see popping up next to your potential new dream home on, Zillow or a brokerage website, it pays to figure out what you can actually afford — and that means getting prequalified for a home loan.

This means you will need to talk to a mortgage loan officer and submit a slew of documentation, from your monthly pay stub to your credit score, in order for that loan officer to tell you how much money you can get for your home loan. It’s a little bit painful, but the prequalification letter you’ll get as a result is much more credible than a quick qualification you can pull up on an app — and that means sellers will take it more seriously when it comes time to put in an offer. You’ll have to qualify for a loan eventually anyway, so why not get the painful part out of the way?

Be careful: A bank might approve you for a loan amount that’s realistically more debt than you can carry month-to-month. Consider that you’ll need to pay homeowners’ insurance, taxes and possibly flood insurance on your new property or PMI on your loan, and try to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for a total monthly payment that’s more than about one-third of your household’s take-home pay.

Not only will this help you set your price range for the search stage, but it will also give you confidence that you — yes, you! — can be a successful homeowner someday soon.

woman sipping coffee while doing research on laptop

Mistake No. 3: Not finding a qualified real estate professional 

It’s so easy to find homes online these days that you may wonder why a real estate professional is even necessary. After all, isn’t the hard part — finding the place you want to buy — something you can do yourself?

Well, maybe. But the process of buying and selling a home is filled with 100’s of details that need to be planned for and navigated to a successful outcome. Not to mention areas with competitive markets where you’re probably not seeing the most updated listings — that home you just fell in love with online might be under contract before you can set up a time to tour it.

Not only can a real estate professional make sure you have access to listings the second they hit the MLS, but a licensed real estate professional can also provide expertise on the area where you want to move. Whether that’s feedback on who can help you with homeowners’ insurance quotes to warnings about some of the challenges of owning a home in that particular area, you want to work with an honest professional dedicated to protecting your interests and those of the public.

A real estate professional is an invaluable resource.

Here are some questions to ask any real estate professional you’re interviewing:

  • How long have you sold real estate?
  • How long have you sold real estate in this neighborhood in particular?
  • Can you tell me about the energy options in the area?
  • What else should I know about utilities, like water/sewer and other amenities?
  • What do other clients who have moved here like about the area? What don’t they like?
  • What do people in this area like to do for fun? What are some popular weekend activities?
  • What can I expect about the buying process? What steps should I be especially aware of, and how will we stay in communication?

A real estate professional who’s an area expert should have no trouble answering the lifestyle questions, and a real estate professional who’s a transaction-management ace can help you understand exactly what you’re in for, how long it’s likely to take and what rewards await you at the end of the tunnel.

Mistake No. 4: Not spending the night in the neighborhood

If it’s at all possible, see if you can find an Airbnb or another vacation-rental type of setup where you can crash for a night or two — preferably closer to a week — so you can try your new neighborhood on for size.

Is an 8 a.m. arrival time at work still reasonable with this neighborhood’s commute? This is an opportunity for you to start navigating your way around public transportation or new routes to work so you know exactly what you’re signing up for.

Where are the closest grocery stores, parks, rec centers and hiking trails? Figure out where you’re going to shop and work out, and where you can spend time outside walking the dog or enjoying nature. That way you won’t kick yourself later for realizing too late that something you really value isn’t available.

And what are the overnight noise levels like, anyway? If there’s a train that rolls through town in the early hours of the morning, you’re near a highway or a flight path — and any of that is going to disturb you — then it’s best to figure it out before you’re spending your first night in your new home and wake up to unpleasant (and unexpected) noises.

At the very least, you can learn enough about the neighborhood to know how close to (or far away from) the bus line you need or want to be and target your home search accordingly.

Mistake No. 5: Not understanding what’s fixable and what’s a deal-breaker

Those drop panels in the ceiling are hideous, and you can’t imagine how anyone can fit into that minuscule bathtub.

Are those annoyances that can be fixed or deal-breakers that mean you should pass on the property entirely?

This is another area where a good real estate agent can help. They see so many houses in various stages of repair and updating that they can show you where you can claim another foot or two for bathtub space (and help you figure out how much it will cost and who’s trustworthy enough to take on the job) or let you know that the ceilings are too low for any changes to make much of a difference. They can also give you an idea of what’s up to code and what simply won’t pass an inspection in 2017, so you know what concessions to request as soon as you’re ready to make an offer.

In markets where entry-level homes are getting snatched up as soon as they hit the market, knowing what’s acceptable and what you just can’t take is a huge advantage — it’ll help you make a decision, with confidence, on the fly.

None of these mistakes will keep you from buying a home of your own — but they could delay the process and cost you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars at the end of the day. But if you’re able to avoid them when your buying your first home, you’ll be signing the closing papers on your dream home before you know it without the delays and saving some cash while your at it!

Home StagingSelling Your Home September 10, 2020

5 Home Seller Strategies for Staging Your Home Perfectly

an open kitchen with a kitchen island with chairs and views of the living room

There’s a reason why people love looking at photos of homes for sale — it’s rare that we get to see a place look it’s very best which makes it so appealing when we do. Also, scrolling through gorgeous room after room helps serious buyers see themselves settling down in those very rooms which makes this one of the best seller strategies one can implement.

But as any seller (or photographer) can attest, getting a home ready for its close-up (also known as “staging”) is not easy and is definitely not always fun. It involves a ton of cleaning, some furniture removal (or placement), a plethora of attention to detail, and usually a lot of light. This is why professional home stagers charge hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars for their services.

If hiring a home stager isn’t in your budget or you’re simply more of a do-it-yourself type, consider taking advantage of these relatively quick and easy methods for helping your soon-to-be-sold home appear shiny and new.

Here are 5 home seller strategies for staging your home perfectly.

1. Clean, clean, clean, clean, clean

Even if you follow every other tip on the list to an exacting standard, if your home isn’t clean, you won’t be reaping all of the benefits that staging could generate for you. There are two big steps to cleaning for staging:

  • Decluttering your home
  • Deep cleaning everything … everything

First is the clutter. This might be a good time to join the neighborhood garage sale or arrange for your sister-in-law whose kids are a few years younger to come pick up all the hand-me-downs you’ve been promising. It always makes sense to start with things that you don’t want to pack up and move to a new location.

Don’t forget about the furniture — too much furniture in a room makes it look cramped and small, so remove what you don’t need.

Resist the temptation to box everything up and stash it in one room, the garage, a basement or attic — unless it’s not your room. Buyers are going to want to open doors, cabinets, and drawers, and peer into closets and utility rooms, so if you want your home to look its best, you need to keep those areas neat, too.

Some sellers rent storage facilities during the process, and that’s always a possibility, too. If you have family or good friends in the area who can take some of the larger items for you, then you might be able to get a smaller storage unit. (Make sure to pay your loved ones back with a gift or thoughtful gesture when the home is sold!)

When the surfaces are clear and your surroundings are feeling more vacation-home than lived-in, it’s time to deep clean those surfaces. Scrub the inside from ceiling to floors; wash your windows; consider power-washing the outside to brighten it up. Plant new flowers, keep your sidewalks and walkways clear and weed-free and set some inviting chairs with fluffy cushions on your (freshly polished, cobweb-free) front porch.

Once the decluttering is done, it’ll be much easier to get everything looking shiny and new — and easier to hire help, too — so make sure to tackle this step first.

2. Light up

One of the most simpler and cost effective seller strategies can be done with just a simple switch of a bulb. If you haven’t changed a light bulb in a while, then you might be surprised by how much brighter they’ve gotten — or what a difference a bright bulb can make in a room that you thought was naturally dreary and dim.Changing out your bulbs can be a quick way to give your entire home a quick lift, brightening up every room and helping potential buyers see exactly how well-maintained those original wood floors are, and examine the crown molding close up.

Experts suggest that you obtain 100 watts of lighting for every 50 square feet in your home, and consider using three different types of lighting (not just overhead lighting) to get there. Overhead or ambient lighting is important, of course, but accent lighting (on walls and tables) and task lighting (reading or under-cabinet lights) will help showcase your space in all its glory.

Bedroom with dark wood bedroom set consisting of a king sized bed, night stand, and chest of drawers

3. Rearrange with an eye for balance

Most of us don’t live in perfectly symmetrical surroundings, but if there’s a way to achieve it with your furniture, then it’s worth it to try — at least for the photos. Try to balance any shelves, counters, and mantelpieces in the same way, with an eye for highlighting the accessories that will help make your home look like a retreat from a messy world.

You can do the same thing with area rugs and artwork. Arrange your floor and wall coverings to draw the eye down the halls and through the house, which will give touring buyers a pleasant sense of welcome and discovery.

4. Organize and energize

There are always going to be parts of your house that are made to hold “stuff” — but you can make that stuff look presentable with a little bit of organization.

Some decluttering and color-blocking on your bookshelves can make the display draw the eye instead of distracting from the rest of the room, for example. Kids’ and pets’ toys are another opportunity to organize and beautify with a decorative box or basket, or a fun shelving unit that holds everything with style.

Straighten your shoes on the closet floors and neaten up the hanging areas, then open up the doors when you leave for a buyer’s tour. They’ll enjoy the welcoming feeling of the open doors (and you know they were going to open them up, anyway).

5. Polish up the appliances

If you can afford it, new appliances in the kitchen can go a long (long!) way toward helping a buyer fall in love with the heart of the house. New appliances tend to help generate high returns for sellers, so depending on the condition and upgrades in the rest of your home, you might want to consider it — you might be able to find some good deals on floor models or end-of-season sales, too.

If not, help your appliances look their best by using stainless steel polish, glass polish, or whatever else you might need to help regenerate the shine on your stove.

These 5 seller strategies have helped my past clients

But you don’t need to take all these tips when staging your home — just don’t ignore them all when you’re selling, either. Taking the time to pay a little bit of attention to staging before a buyer even sees the place can reap big rewards at the closing table. If you have anything to add please feel free to comment or if you would like to hear more seller strategies to get your home sold, contact me.

First Time Home Buyer September 10, 2020

Smart Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Property

in front of a house during sunset with lights on and a wet road infront of it

Daydreaming about owning your own home is one of the most intoxicating practices known to modern man, especially now that HGTV and all the house flipping shows make choosing the perfect property look like a cake walk. But when the time comes to actually put your money where your daydream is, it can be challenging for first-time buyers especially to understand how a home that doesn’t currently come anywhere close to the “dream” status but could be whipped into shape — and how a home that they think is perfect now will end up feeling like a mistake in a couple of years.

To avoid that unfortunate scenario, first-time buyers will need to think carefully and weigh all of their options. After considering all of these factors, you’ll be well-prepared to choose a house that feels like home today and for years to come.

mansion with col-de-sac driveway

Before choosing the perfect property, think about pricing

First and foremost, you need a home that you can afford. There’s no sense in deciding that you must have four bedrooms when the most you could afford in your market is two.

You don’t need to go through the entire process of getting pre-approved for a mortgage before you can start even considering what you want, but do a little bit of research around what your current housing market looks like, and then think about the down payment size and your own current finances. Check out my websites mortgage calculator to start and it’s almost always helpful to talk to a real estate professional, like a mortgage broker or a real estate agent, so you can get a realistic idea of what you might need to spend and what you can spend on your new home.

Beds, baths, and size

You know what size your household is and whether it’s likely to grow in the future. You also know how much space you’re likely to need based on your own current household’s configuration — if you work from home, then your desire for a little more space (and a room for a home office) might be non-negotiable, whereas if you’re used to commuting to an office every day, you may not need a home office at all.

So get a handle on the minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms you’ll need in any home you buy. If you can, try to come up with some parameters for square footage, too. And you may want to think about your overall lot size if, for example, you’re an avid gardener or you have large dogs who’ll need some space to romp in the yard.

Special features

Once you understand your basic requirements for a home, you can start thinking about additional features that you’d like it to have. Perhaps you want a garage to store your tools, or a fenced in yard for the aforementioned dogs — or a deck where you can lay out and soak up some sun on weekends.

You should also think about the ideal heating and cooling setup in any home you buy, and it’s also wise to consider the school district (because even if you don’t have kids, it’s smart to keep in mind any buyers who could purchase your home from you in the future — they might have kids).

Some of these special features might be “nice-to-haves,” and you might decide that some are absolute necessities. Spend some time talking to a general contractor or a real estate agent before you make any final decisions about necessities, though — it’s quite possible that some of the things on your “must-have” list can be easily added once you move in.

grand central terminal clock

Location matters — a lot

Smart first-time buyers will want to think beyond a school district when choosing a home. How close is your home to major highways in the area (and is that a good thing or a bad thing)? How close are you to work, and are there other job opportunities or thriving industries nearby? What’s the shopping like? Are there parks or recreation centers, and where are the best grocery stores?

You’re buying a neighborhood just as much as you’re buying a home, and unlike your home, there isn’t usually a lot you can do to change the neighborhood. So make sure you’re fully aware of what the area where you’re hoping to buy is like, both positive and negative, and understand how that’s going to affect your life while you’re in the home and any buyers who may come after you.

When choosing the perfect property focus on what you can’t change

It’s really easy to fall in love with one part of a home and allow it to cloud a truer vision of your future. Maybe that kitchen is perfect for re-imagining yourself in a scene from Julia and Julia, but if there aren’t enough bedrooms or bathrooms in the home, then you’ll regret the purchase soon after you move in.

Try to look beyond trims and finishes to focus on the aspects of the home that are fixed and unchanging, like the lot size or the location of the property. If you’re touring a potential home with an agent, give your agent your list of must-haves and ask your agent if the house could fit that list with a little bit of work.

A real estate professional can help you figure out if a house that you think is just OK today might actually be your dream home in disguise. You can change out carpeting for hardwood floors and redo a kitchen over time, but if your heart is set on waterfront property … that might take a few thousand years to manifest, and you don’t have that long.

Is that really a “bargain”?

When you are choosing the perfect property, if you’re faced with a choice between a home that seems like a bargain but requires some fixing-up and a home that’s more expensive but requires little or no work, which should you choose?

In general, you probably want to opt for paying more out-of-pocket today for a home that’s still standing solidly tomorrow. There might be a good reason why that home is listed at a “bargain” price — it might be too expensive and time-consuming for anyone to reasonably fix.

This is another area where your real estate agent can help you understand whether a home’s condition is really worth the savings. Agents have seen homes in the area of all ages and in many different conditions, and they can let you know what issues typically arise in homes and whether the place you’re considering might be at risk for exhibiting one or more of those issues.

When you know how to choose the perfect property, you’re in a good place to start your home search — even if you’ve never bought a home before. Once you’ve got your short list of what you’re seeking, talk to a real estate professional so you can take the next step toward your homeownership dream.

Relocation September 10, 2020

Moving Safely During the Pandemic


Moving safely during the pandemic highly important especially with travel restrictions and social distancing in place. Since these restrictions, although softening, are still active, many people are postponing their moving plans. Governments are assisting by suspending foreclosures and eviction processes during this time. recommends you consider these questions before planning your move:

  1. Is COVID-19 spreading in the area where you’re going?
  2. Will you or your travel companion(s) be in close contact with others during your trip?
  3. Are you or your travel companion(s) more likely to get severe illness if you get COVID-19?
  4. Do you have a plan for taking time off from work or school, in case you are told to stay home for 14 days for self-monitoring or if you get sick with COVID-19?
  5. Do you live with someone who is older or has a serious, chronic medical condition?
  6. Is COVID-19 spreading where I live when I return from travel?

man moving boxes in front of a home

If you can’t put off your move, don’t worry! You can get moving safely during the pandemic with some careful planning. Here are some steps you can take to move safely.

  1. Talk to your moving company. Moving companies are taking several precautions to protect their customers, including following social distancing guidelines, providing estimates based on photos or videos of your belongings, sanitizing trucks and equipment, and wearing masks and gloves.
  2. Use a packing calculator, like this one from so you can purchase all your supplies in one trip to the store.
  3. Do your own packing to reduce contact with moving personnel. The coronavirus can live on cardboard for 24 hours, so any recycled boxes you are using should have sat untouched for at least 24 hours before you use them.
  4. If you are moving out of or into an apartment or condominium building, notify your neighbors so they can choose to avoid elevators, stairwells, or hallways during your move.
  5. Use door stops to hold doors open to reduce toughing door handles. Have your pets secured so you don’t have to worry about the doors being left open.
  6. Pack hand soap and paper towels in a marked box so they can be last on and first off the truck.
  7. When you arrive at the new home, disinfect door handles, cabinet and drawers pulls, appliance handles, and light switches first, even if the home was professionally cleaned before you arrived.
Investing September 10, 2020

16 Tips for the Really Green Real Estate Investor

It’s not rocket science, it’s not unheard of, and it’s not some Illuminati top secret that is withheld from the masses. We all know, that many of the wealthiest people in the world became wealthy through real estate investing. Many of these real estate tycoons started with just one property that grew into an empire. So yes, you too can become a real estate investor.

But, just like with other forms of investing, real estate investing is risky. And, just like with other forms of investing, with the high risks you will also get high rewards if done properly.

Here are some beginner real estate investor tips for those who dare to venture into the property-owning world.

Are you up for it?

Seriously, you have to be in it to win it! Seeing that you are green in all this, you probably don’t have tons of funds to spare. You probably want to penny-pinch as much as possible to make things work and maintain low expenses. This would mean that you would need to be a bit of a handyman or woman. This would mean that you would need to know how to fix that leaky faucet, patch a hole or two, and do some painting. Of course, if bigger things arise you will need an expert. However, when the little things come up, you would need to know how to take care of it to keep your expenses low and have more of a profit. So roll up those sleeves and get a little dirty!

man fixing kitchen faucet

Stick close to where you live

I am assuming that, just like with the above-mentioned tip, you don’t have a lot of funds to spare. So it would make more sense to have property within a 2-hour radius from where you live, no? This way when there is an emergency, and it happens, you will be able to rush over to your rental property and get it taken care of without having to book a flight, book a hotel stay, book a train ride, or pay for a long-distance bus. As you get better at it and build your experience as well as grow your property portfolio, you will be able to venture out further away from home and even possibly hire a property manager.

Jump in without the debt

If you’re going to be a real estate investor, you must realize that you are going to have a lot of expenses to deal with when you have an investment property. Things break, bad tenants, updating, and ongoing expenses will chip away at your profits. Unless you have tons of funds set away for an emergency, you shouldn’t have any lingering debt when you start your investment journey. Clear up those student loans, personal loans, and large credit card debt before looking into an investment property.

Beware of the higher down payments

You may think that you can get an investment property with as little as 3% down. I am sorry to burst that hopeful bubble of yours but that won’t happen. Generally, at least here in New York City, you would need at least 25% down. You also don’t have the luxury of mortgage insurance for investment properties and so, you are held at a higher standard from banks to get a loan approval.

Beware of the higher interest rates

Unlike traditional mortgages for residential properties, investment property mortgages come at a higher rate. This affects your buying power and your monthly payments. Since you have to worry about expenses and having a healthy margin of safety, you will have to look for properties that are cheaper to offset the interest rate to keep your monthly payments down.

two roofers working on a roof of a home

Make yourself look good to banks

Along with paying off debt, ensure that your credit looks good too. Investment loans are more strict than using a traditional loan remember? That goes for your credit too, so getting away with a lower credit score might not cut it for investment purchases like it would for traditional residential purchases.

Margin of Safety

Just like with other forms of investments, you have to keep a healthy margin of safety with investment properties. Sure, homes can go down in value. Just like with stocks and other forms of investments, you may choose a property that loses its value suddenly due to an unsuspected change to the real estate market. I however think that more important for you to be able to keep up with your monthly payments. House values rise and fall in cycles but not the monthly payments. If you can’t keep up with it, you will end up losing the property.

Stay away from fixer-uppers

Unless you are a contractor or have the knowledge and skill to tackle such a feat, I would advise you to stay clear from this for now. Sure, you may think by buying a sweet deal on a place that needs major work would be cost-effective but it isn’t. Repair items can add up and so can the people you hire to do the repairs.

rundown room in a home with floor boards missing and paint peeling

Your expenses

When becoming a real estate investor, you will have expenses, tons of them. If you are trying to rent it on your own without using a real estate salesperson or broker, you will have to worry about marketing and advertising as well as credit and background check fees. You will also have to worry about ongoing expenses like property insurance and taxes (which may or may not be a part of your mortgage payments or in escrow), utilities, maintenance, and accounting and legal services. You will also have to keep in mind for any sudden repairs or pest control.

Location, location, location

Location means everything with real estate including investment properties. Look for areas with lower taxes that has a good school district, low crime, and growing employment. It should also be close to local amenities like shopping and dining as well as transportation and/or highways or major roads.

Start Small

Don’t go overboard with your first investment in terms of size and price. You have to be able to not only take care of expenses but walk away with a profit.

Invest with others

By buying with a partner or partners, you can make the seemly impossible dream of investing come true. That 25% down payment can be split into two or more which will make it easier to move forward with a purchase, however, choose your partners wisely. You have to be comfortable with not only the partners but the agreements that you all have on the purchase price, updates, and management of the property.

group of people meeting their fists together over a table

Consider small banks

Big banks are typically less flexible than smaller banks. Smaller banks may consider a lower down payment and not have as many hoops to jump through to obtain a mortgage. Stop by a small local bank and shop around. You could also contact a mortgage broker instead. Mortgage brokers are intermediaries who bring mortgage borrowers and mortgage lenders together and typically have access to a vast array of banks and mortgage options.

Consider seller financing

If getting a traditional loan is a bit difficult for you then requesting seller financing can be an option. These types of terms are often for a short amount of time, about a five-year term, with a balloon payment at the end which can be refinanced before the end of the term. These arrangements are risky and can backfire so use caution.

Consider buying a multifamily and living in a unit as a way into becoming a real estate investor

This strategy is the easiest way to purchase an investment property. By living in a unit and renting out the other unit(s), the property isn’t considered an investment by the banks and if it is your first home purchase, you can reap the first-time home buyer benefits. You can also take advantage of FHA loans which allows you to purchase up to a four-family (fourplex) home with a down payment of 3.5%.

Consider a REIT

Having a physical property isn’t the only way to become a real estate investor. If all of this seems way too much for you, consider a real estate investment trust. REITs are companies that can be public or private. They use investors’ money to purchase actual real estate. REITs sell on the major stock market exchanges just like any other stock, ETF, bond, or Index. To purchase REITs, just create a brokerage account with company’s such as VanguardE-Trade, or Robinhood, and buy some shares. I currently own a few of the Vanguard Real Estate ETF, (ticker: VNQ) which costs about $74.36 at the time of this writing.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to educate yourself! Jumping into the real estate investment world is an amazing adventure however, it can bring some major headaches along the way if you are not prepared.

Up here in Orange County, there are some great prospects that you can consider as your starter home into the investment world, feel free to check out some homes here or contact me.

Relocation September 10, 2020

15 Tips for Relocating to a New Town

moving box with children books in it

Moving is always hard work but relocating to a new town can be exceptionally hard, even when you are excited about your next chapter in life. As your real estate agent, I can refer you to an agent in your new town to help you find your new home, and also give you referrals for other services you will need, such as recommendations for hotels, restaurants, child care, and pet boarding while you get settled.

To help make the logistics of your relocation as smooth as possible, here are some to-do items you may not have thought about yet that will help you when relocating to a new town

1) To keep or not to keep.

As soon as you know you will be moving, start to organize your belongings, getting rid of things you don’t want to take with you. The less you take with you when relocating to a new town, the less of a headache you may have. Also, sometimes the new space may not even fit what you currently have. Always remember, you buy furniture for your apartment not buying your apartment for your furniture.

2) Have a packing stash

Collect used packing materials like boxes and bubble wrap to reduce what you will need to purchase. Boxes and packing material pricing can get up there, especially if you have a large place and a lot of items to pack and protect. Simply saving those amazon boxes or stopping at local supermarkets or warehouses can help alleviate that cost. Even posting a question on your Facebook page for friends to see would help out too. When I relocated from NYC to Chester, NY, I had asked my clients who I had just recently helped purchase a home, if they had any spare boxes that they weren’t using. I was able to get two big boxes just by asking.

3) Pack rarely used items first

Start packing items you don’t use daily, like family mementos, holiday decorations, books, and décor accessories. Doing this will help you to not get overwhelmed when it’s crunch time.

side of a wooden box that has the word "fragile" spray painted on it in white

4) Shop around for moving companies

Get an estimate from moving companies and schedule a tentative date with the one you choose, but don’t stop there. Check on Yelp, Google, Angies List, and Facebook (etc) for reviews, not all moving companies are created equal. Since you are relocating to a new town, you want to be sure that your belongings are safe while in transport and that there aren’t any delays. Ask your real estate agent, you can ask me for NYC moving companies, as well as friends, acquaintances and family.

5) Check out the neighborhood

Visit your new town, if possible, and arrange a driving tour with a real estate agent that can show you different neighborhoods, shopping centers, and the locations of hospitals, schools, churches, and recreational facilities or parks. Doing this will help you figure out if this is a good fit for you, and if applicable, your family.

an empty classroom with blank chalkboards

6) Find out more about the schools

When you know what school district your children will enroll in, visit the schools your children will attend to meet the principal and tour the grounds. There is a lot you can find out just by going there and make a list of questions that you would want to ask the principal and staff to help ease your mind on things and make you more prepared for the school transition.

7) Get familiar with Nextdoor

Once you know what neighborhood you will be living in, join Nextdoor or the neighborhood Facebook group page to keep abreast of what’s happening there. I have joined several of the local Facebook groups in my area and learned a lot of things from people there as well as gotten referrals for local tax preparer, doctors, and veterinarians.

8) Keep your files in a safe and memorable space

Locate and pack your important papers and ID’s so that you know where they are at all times.

9) Work relocation services

If your company is offering you relocation services, make sure you know all the terms. Often, they will cover items you might not think about, like the cost of shipping your car or professional organizers to help you unpack. They may also be negotiable in what they cover.

10) Save your receipts

Save all your moving expense receipts. If you are moving 50 miles or more from your old job to start a new job, your expenses may be tax-deductible.

11) Connect and disconnect services

Make a list of services you need to terminate in your old town and services you need to initiate after relocating to the new town.

12) Cancel your future appointments

If you have a doctor, dentist, veterinary, or hair appointments scheduled ahead of time, call and cancel them. Sure, you’re no longer going to be using them so who cares, right? Wrong! These are professionals who had set aside time to serve you or your loved ones, or loved animals. Let them open up their schedule so that they can serve another in your place since you no longer in need of their services, unless you’re willing to travel.

13) Transfer your subscriptions and change your address

Remember to transfer subscriptions for things like magazines, food deliveries, and mail-order prescriptions. Lots of the time, updating your address with the United States Postal Service does that for you when it comes to magazines but just in case, update it through your service directly as well. Change your delivery address on your Amazon, Target, Shipt, or other shopping accounts so you don’t accidentally ship items to your old address and change your address on all of your credit and banking account as well.

14) Update the Department of Motor Vehicles

Schedule an appointment to transfer your automobile registration and driver’s license if moving to a new state or just update it to the new address within the state. Now a days, you can do all of this online if you’re staying in the state, so that saves a trip to their office while helping you to avoid their typically long waiting times. When you update your address through them, you can also take care of your voter registration at the same time.

15) Transfer your voter’s registration

If you didn’t do this at the Department of Motor Vehicles or just want to do this separately, transfer your voter’s registration. Get this done right away, especially if your move is close to a major election registration deadline so that you can participate and vote.

If you are in need of assistance with your move out of New York, don’t hesitate to contact me. I know some great trustworthy people that can help. If you’re planning on moving to the area, I’m here for that too! I service Orange, Rockland, Westchester and Putnam Counties. Feel free to contact me.

First Time Home BuyerHome Buying September 10, 2020

7 Things You Shouldn’t Do After Applying for a Mortgage

Congratulations! You’ve found a home to buy and have applied for a mortgage, yay! I bet you are totally excited, I mean seriously, now you have the opportunity to decorate your new home, right? Hold it right there! There are things you shouldn’t do after applying for a mortgage!

woman with hand up, palms facing out signaling stop

So hold your horses! Before you make any big purchases, move any money around, or make any big-time life changes, consult your loan officer or mortgage broker first! They will be able to tell you how your decision will impact your home loan, however, as a rule of thumb, I always advise my clients to just leave their credit alone. But let me dive a little bit deeper on that.

Below is a list of 7 Things You Shouldn’t Do After Applying for a Mortgage! 

Some may seem obvious, but some may not!

1. Don’t change jobs or the way you are paid at your job! 

Your loan officer must be able to track the source and amount of your annual income. If possible, you’ll want to avoid changing from salary to commission or becoming self-employed during this time as well. Usually, if you are a salaried person, going for a job that pays more is a-okay but if you are going for a price cut, that could be a major no-no and mess up your approval.

case with money on top of a table with money spread over it

2. Don’t deposit untraceable cash into your bank accounts. 

Lenders need to source your money and cash is not really traceable. Before you deposit any amount of cash into your accounts, discuss the proper way to document your transactions with your loan officer such as if it is a gift given to you by a family member.

3. Don’t make any large purchases like a new car or new furniture for your new home.

Yes I know, you want to furnish your new pad but new debt comes with it, including new monthly obligations. New obligations create new qualifications. People with new debt have a higher debt to income ratios… higher ratios make for riskier loans… and sometimes qualified borrowers no longer qualify, so yes, it’s one of those things you shouldn’t do after applying for a mortgage.

black porshe driving in the city in the rain with break lights on

4. Don’t co-sign other loans for anyone.

And yes, I mean anyone! When you co-sign, you are obligated. You become one of the people associated with that loan, even if you aren’t the main party. As I had mentioned, with that obligation comes higher ratios as well. Even if you swear you will not be the one making the payments, your lender will have to count the payment against you.

5. Don’t change bank accounts. 

Remember, lenders need to source and track assets. That task is significantly easier when there is consistency among your accounts. Before you even transfer money between accounts, talk to your loan officer.

6. Don’t apply for new credit. 

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new credit card or a new car. When you have your credit report run by organizations in multiple financial channels(mortgage, credit card, auto, etc.), your FICO score will be affected. Lower credit scores can determine your interest rate and maybe even your eligibility for approval.

jeans pants with credit cards in back pocket

7. Don’t close any credit accounts. 

You wouldn’t think that this would be on the list of things you shouldn’t do after applying for a mortgage but here we are! Many clients have erroneously believed that having less available credit makes them less risky and more likely to be approved. Wrong! A major component of your score is your length and depth of credit history (as opposed to just your payment history) and your total usage of credit as a percentage of available credit. Closing accounts has a negative impact on both of those determinants of your score.

Bottom Line

Any blip in income, assets, or credit should be reviewed and executed in a way that ensures your home loan can still be approved. The best advice is to fully disclose and discuss your plans with your loan officer before you do anything financial in nature. They are there to guide you through the process.

If you do have any questions at all, please feel free to leave a question in the comments or contact me directly. I can connect you with mortgage lenders that I have worked with who can assist you on making the right educated choice when it comes to your credit.  I wouldn’t want to see you lose the home you love because of a bad choice that you made with it.

women in front of brick wall with two thumbs up smiling wearing glasses