My Next Move
Snowesq/Flickr By Scott Sheldon So you're buying a fixer-upper? The house looks good, needs some work and is in a desirable neighborhood. But what might seem like a great fixer-upper property could actually be a money pit. Let's look at some common, potential issues with a home that could easily derail an appraisal and your mortgage. Here are some common red flags that could halt your loan –- and they come up more frequently than one might think. And just a note: It's all about the appraisal and contract. If the problem isn't listed in the appraisal or listed as a condition of sale within the purchase contract, it shouldn't delay or deny your loan. Roof: Many resale homes have worn-out roofs that must be replaced at some point down the road, some much sooner than others. In... Continue Reading »

Bloomberg via Getty Images By Christine DiGangi The 30-year mortgage rate was reported at a three-month low last week at 4.22 percent, and a rate like that would seem to be good news for borrowers. But that drop came just after the U.S. government partially shut down, which complicated things for mortgage lenders and their customers. Lenders may need access to information held by the government in order to process a mortgage application, translating into potentially costly delays for homebuyers. For instance, the Internal Revenue Service isn't issuing tax transcripts, which lenders may need during the mortgage-application process. The same goes for confirming Social Security numbers. Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgages could face delays, considering a severe reduction in... Continue Reading »

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images By Michelle Conlin and Brian Grow NAPLES, FLA. -- Robert and Julie Davidson fell hard for the gleaming new house at the Valencia Golf and Country Club in Naples, Fla. They loved the way the palm-fringed, Spanish-style home backed up to the fifth-hole fairway. And they were taken with the three-bedroom's high ceilings and open plan. Plus the neighborhood -- with its power-washed driveways, blooming hibiscus and guarded gatehouse -- seemed all "dressed up." But when the Davidsons paid $255,385 in 2011 for the house on Birdie Drive, they didn't know that they had, in essence, bought only from the ground up, and that their homebuilder, D.R. Horton, had kept everything underneath. "Wait a second, wait a second," Robert Davidson said after a... Continue Reading »

Zillow By Catherine Sherman From enjoying a seasonal brew to dusting off your dirndl, there are countless ways to partake in German-themed festivities this time of year. To spice up your Oktoberfest tradition at home, we've gathered a few gingerbread-style chalets and yodel-inducing cottages for sale around the U.S. HOMES FIT FOR OCTOBERFEST: More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Find homes for rent. Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook. Continue Reading »

Shutterstock By Chris Birk It seems the Great Thaw may be upon us. Credit score requirements have loosened in recent months, a sign that at least some mortgage lenders are starting to take a softer approach after years of tight lending. Nearly a third of all successful mortgage applications in August featured FICO scores below 700, according to mortgage technology behemoth Ellie Mae. In August 2012, only about 15 percent of green-lighted borrowers had a sub-700 score. That surprising uptick may signal a promising shift for prospective homebuyers. But let's not call it a comeback quite yet. Plenty of consumers with and without great credit are still struggling to secure home financing. Before you start shopping for a home, it's important to get familiar with your credit reports and... Continue Reading »

Chris Carlson / The Associated Press By Alex Veiga LOS ANGELES -- When mortgage rates began climbing in May from rock-bottom lows, Kevin Williams worried he might miss out on an opportunity. So he listed his home in Orange County, Calif., and planned to buy a bigger house in San Diego after it sold. The process took all summer. Last week, he and his wife locked in a mortgage. The extra time added at least $1,000 more a year than if they had secured a loan in May. Still, Williams believes they made a prudent decision. "I don't know what rates are going to be in four years," he said. "I felt I had to act now before I was priced out." Williams' justification -- buy now or risk paying more later -- is why many brokers and analysts remain confident that the housing recovery can handle... Continue Reading »

Five college students are wondering where they will live next after their landlords were denied a special-use permit allowing the young women to continue occupying a three-bedroom single-family home in northern Georgia. Less than two weeks after moving into the house, neighbors complained that the students were violating a Cobb County ordinance that prohibits more than two unrelated persons from living together in a single-family home. "I know that typically the stereotype is 'partiers,' and they think we're going to move in and ruin their community," said one of the students, Caitlin Abshier, who is a senior business management major. "That's not our goal. We haven't thrown any parties and we don't plan to throw any parties." Caitlin Abshier and her sister Brette Abshier, both... Continue Reading »

Getty Images By Diana Olick Despite recovery in the single-family housing market, demand for apartments continues to surge. Just 4 percent of U.S. apartments nationwide were vacant in the second quarter of this year, according to a new report from Reis. That pushed rents up 3 percent from a year ago. "The simple fact that vacancy continues to compress despite such low vacancy rates speaks volumes about the ongoing demand for apartments," said Ryan Severino, senior economist at Reis. "The national vacancy rate now stands 380 basis points below the cyclical peak of 8 percent observed right after the recession concluded in late 2009." As a result, construction is surging ahead, with 34,834 units completed during the quarter, the highest level in four years and up from 21,237 a year ago.... Continue Reading »

Shutterstock By Scott Sheldon Consumer debt: Many of us have it. And most who do, have a love/hate relationship with it. If you can't make the purchase with cash, do it with debt -- right? We love to know we can still consume, but we hate the bill that comes 30 days later, along with the subsequent monthly payment. Ouch! Like it or not, your relationship with money can be best expressed on paper by how much debt you carry or don't carry, more specifically in the form of credit card debt. Credit card debt is a double-edged sword when it comes time to making high-ticket purchase like buying a home. On one end of the spectrum, having open trade lines with no debt increases a credit score, which can lower the cost of your mortgage. On the flipside, payment obligations reduce your ability... Continue Reading »

Getty Images By Diana Olick At the Federal Housing Administration, which represents about 15 percent of the mortgage market, the lights will still be on, but the staff will be reduced. "The Office of Single Family Housing will endorse new loans under current multi-year appropriation authority in order to support the health and stability of the U.S. mortgage market," according to a post on the federal Housing and Urban Affairs' website. Lenders with "delegated authority" will be able to go on making FHA loans. That is about 80 percent of FHA lenders. They will also be able to get FHA case numbers through the usual on-line service. The FHA will continue to collect insurance premiums from borrowers during a shutdown as well. "The FHA program can weather a shutdown as long as it doesn't... Continue Reading »

REX HomeBuyer/YouTube Would you accept help getting a down payment on a home now for a stake in the potential profit on the sale of that home later? That's the deal being offered by a program called REX HomeBuyer which offers to match up to half a homebuyer's down payment on a home for a chunk of the property's equity. Seattle-based HomeStreet Bank has partnered with the FirstREX real estate equity finance group to help fund a qualifying homebuyer's down payment under REX HomeBuyer. It's not a loan, so there are no monthly payments and no interest charges. "Many homebuyers can easily afford the monthly housing payments on the home they want to buy, but don't have enough cash saved for the required down payment," says James Riccitelli, Co-CEO of FirstREX. "Others have the cash but are... Continue Reading »

By Christine DiGangi For real estate investors looking for new, profitable markets, Texas offers some untapped opportunities. So does Florida. RealtyTrac and RentRage identified the 25 hidden-gem, single-family rental markets across the country, and they're all in 15 states no farther west than Texas. The companies analyzed national housing data of three-bedroom single-family homes to produce the list, which is limited to counties with populations of 100,000 or more. They compared properties by gross rental yield (gross annual rental income divided by property purchase price or market value) and the properties' expected return on investment. Within the top 25, investor purchases made up 5% or less of residential sales May through July, and unemployment rates were at or below 7.5%. The... Continue Reading »

Shutterstock You don't hear much about certain types of mortgages these days. Option ARMs, interest-only, stated income, no-money down, teaser rates -- many of the most popular types of mortgages from the days of the housing bubble have virtually disappeared. But are they really extinct? Or have they simply gone into hibernation, waiting to emerge again when the economic climate is once again favorable for them? While some of these truly seem to be gone for good, others have simply retreated to a specific niche in the market. And still others are beginning to re-emerge after a period of dormancy. Here's a look at some of the better known "extinct" mortgages, along with what mortgage professionals have to say about their current status. 1. Stated Income: Stated income mortgages, or... Continue Reading »

The makeup of the American household is changing. The birthrate is falling, people are getting married later, baby boomers and senior citizens are aging America. Millennials don't want the neighborhood their parents had, but they might move back in with their parents until they can afford to live in the one they want. These factors are changing where and how we want to live, and reversing the trend of half a century ago of leaving the city for the suburbs. But there's also a third way -- it splits the difference between the choice of living in a traditional suburb or the central city. "Suburbs were built because people wanted yards and a pool for their kids," says Leigh Gallagher, author of the recent book, The End of the Suburbs. "When that becomes a priority for a smaller percentage... Continue Reading »

Shutterstock By Robert Frank Wine cellars and tennis courts are becoming passe for today's mansion buyers. What they really want are open floor plans, smart technologies and really nice pools. A survey from Coldwell Banker Previews International and the Luxury Institute asked homebuyers who make more than $250,000 a year about their priorities or amenities for their homes. To put this group in perspective, their most recent home purchase averaged $1.6 million. More than a third own at least two homes. When asked about their preferred amenities, the number one choice was "open floor plan," cited by 39 percent of respondents. Ranking second (32 percent) was "fully automated/wired home environment" -- everything from high-speed cabling and integrated music systems to computerized... Continue Reading »

Rusty Clark/Flickr By Andrew Miga WASHINGTON -- A federal housing agency says it needs a $1.7 billion bailout from the Treasury to cover projected losses in a mortgage programs for seniors. At issue are reverse mortgage programs, which allow seniors to borrow against their homes for everyday living expenses. Carol Galante is Federal Housing Administration Commissioner. Galante wrote Congress Friday that her agency will withdraw the money from the Treasury before the fiscal year ends Monday. Congressional approval is not required. The agency insures mortgages for millions of homeowners. It's struggling with $5 billion in losses on its reverse mortgage program. The FHA suffered big losses when many borrowers 62 or older took large payments up front and later ran into financial... Continue Reading »

Shutterstock By Brendon DeSimone Whether you just bought a condo or have owned one for years, you've probably accepted the monthly homeowners association dues at face value. But there are reasons why you shouldn't. HOA dues are money out of your pocket. They can have a huge impact on your decision to buy, or not buy, a particular home. For example, you might have fallen in love with a condo in a big complex but decided you just can't afford the HOA dues. Also, high HOA dues can be a deterrent to future buyers, too, when you go to sell later. An HOA is made up of residents of the condo building or complex -- volunteers who are busy with their jobs and families just like everyone else. It could be that no one on the HOA board has time to look for ways to reduce the monthly HOA dues.... Continue Reading »

Getty Images By Niccole Schreck Creating your first budget can be daunting, but it's extremely important when you're moving out on your own for the first time. If you bite off more than you can chew, you may not have enough money to buy yourself something to chew on. Here are step-by-step instructions to help you create your first budget: 1. Determine your net income. The first step is figuring out your net income, which is not the same as your salary. Your gross income is what you earn; your net income is what you end up with after taxes, health insurance, Social Security, 401(k) deductions and anything else that comes out of your check. This is the amount of money you'll have to work with when you're budgeting. 2. Make a list of monthly payments and expenses. Now the real work... Continue Reading »

Denver Post via Getty Images By Donna Fuscaldo Mortgage interest rates may not be sitting at record lows anymore, but it's still cheaper to buy than rent in most parts of the country, according to new research from Trulia. The real estate website compared the costs of homeownership and renting in 100 of the largest metro areas and found that even with rising mortgage rates, buying a home is 35 percent cheaper than renting. With that said, the gap is closing: a year ago, it was 45 percent cheaper to buy a home than to rent. When comparing the costs of owning to renting, Trulia assumed buyers will get a 4.8 percent mortgage rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage with a 20 percent down payment. The estimate also assumed the buyers were in the 25 percent tax bracket and plan to stay in the... Continue Reading »

The Associated Press By Kelly Hartog The 2013 USC Casden Multifamily Forecast projects two more years of rent increases as the region's rental housing market continues to absorb units faster than it completes them. Between the second quarters of 2012 and 2013, the four Southern California apartment markets -- Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties and the Inland Empire -- completed almost 6,700 new units, a three-year high. However, it absorbed nearly 11,900 units during the same period. USC Lusk Center for Real Estate Director Richard Green, who along with USC's Vincent Reina and the California Association of Realtors' Selma Hepp authored the study, says the multifamily market is being fueled by deteriorating home affordability. "Despite marked improvements in employment and... Continue Reading »

Brennan Linsley/The Associated Press By Hannah Dreier LYONS, Colo. -- The storms that raged through the Rocky Mountain foothills instantly remade the landscape and disrupted thousands of lives. They may have also changed the character of the funky mountain hamlets that dot the Front Range. The disaster hit rich and poor alike, but some residents will be able to afford to wait and rebuild, while others will not. In Lyons, 20 minutes north of Boulder, two low-lying mobile home parks bore the brunt of the damage. Residents say their landlords have told them they will not rebuild, in part because a river now flows through a portion of the property. "I don't think we'll ever be able to go back," said Holly Robb, a Lyons native whose grandfather was mayor and who lived with her husband... Continue Reading »

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images By Susanna Kim A large majority of homebuyers choose a 30-year fixed rate mortgage when taking out a loan to buy a home. But it may not be the best choice of mortgages for all households. There are three reasons why homebuyers continually flock to the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, says Frank Nothaft, chief economist with Freddie Mac: affordability, stability and flexibility. First, Nothaft explains, the longer term means the principal is paid back (i.e., amortized) over a longer time period. "That means the monthly payments are lower than on a 15-year mortgage, which is fundamental to making homeownership viable for first-time buyers in their early earning years," Nothaft writes on Freddie Mac's website. Even though the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage was... Continue Reading »

Getty Images PHILADELPHIA -- A federal judge on Thursday ordered a trial to decide whether towns can force the eviction of tenants who make too many 911 calls, a national test case pitting free speech rights against community safety concerns. U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno said he expects the "complex and novel" case to reach a federal appeals court. The American Civil Liberties Union believes the laws endanger domestic violence victims and violate their free-speech rights. The group's Women's Rights Projects had been looking for a test case, and found one in nursing assistant Lakisha Briggs, a single mother living in a rowhouse in Norristown under a federal subsidized rent program. An ordinance in the Philadelphia suburb fines landlords and orders them to evict tenants who make... Continue Reading »

The Lantern/YouTube When you hear strange noises in the bowels of your rental, see lights turned on that should be off, kitchen drawers left open that you know you closed, what would you think? Some Ohio State University students' reaction was that the house might be haunted -- and they joked with friends about the ghost in their home. But as computer science and civil engineering students, they also knew that there had to be a more practical explanation than a supernatural one. That's when all eyes turned to a locked door in the basement. "Behind the locked door there were dings and alarms and stuff," said tenant Mark Hartman in a video produced by The Lantern, the campus newspaper. The 10 roommates living under one lease on the second and third floors of the house pictured above... Continue Reading »

Brennan Linsley/The Associated Press When natural disaster strikes, a tornado, flood or hurricane does not discriminate between renters and homeowners. And renters are often more vulnerable to material losses than homeowners because they are less prepared. However, some fast-acting tenants in Colorado's floodwaters reportedly helped save not just many of their own belongings, but also spared their landlord much more serious damage to his property. Renter Jaime Morton returned home Sept. 12 from a night out of town to find more than a foot of water in the basement of her rental home, reported the Boulder Daily Camera. She immediately called her landlord, who lived in one of the areas hardest hit by the floods, but did not reach him. As she waited for his return call she saw more damage... Continue Reading »

Getty Images Today's renters don't always want the quiet, secluded privacy that the suburbs offer. According to the Urban Land Institute's 2013 nationwide housing survey, Americans want to be less car-dependent, have access to public transportation and live closer to shopping. More than 6 in 10 (62 percent) of Gen Y respondents said they preferred to live in mixed-use developments with shops, restaurants and offices nearby. While living above your local grocery store or laundromat is wonderfully convenient, mixing businesses with residential units can also present conflicts. Mixed-use housing does come with risks: Last month, a python escaped its pet shop enclosure and found its way upstairs, strangling two boys sleeping in an apartment. And in May, residents near the San Francisco... Continue Reading »

Shutterstock By Niccole Schreck The American dream of owning a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence is changing. About 54 percent of Americans believe that renting has become more appealing than homeownership, according to an April 2013 housing survey of 1,433 adults by Hart Research Associates. And a Rent.com survey of renters nationwide found that 61 percent have delayed home ownership and plan to stay longer in their rental. With more people choosing to rent than buy a home, finding the perfect rental has become increasing difficult. If your moving dates are relatively flexible (i.e. you can stand living at Mom and Dad's for a few more months), it can be a good idea to time your move. The best time to find your next apartment depends on your ultimate goal: Are you more... Continue Reading »

By Erika Riggs A lot of properties claim to be "one of a kind," but as far as real estate agent Kelly Moran knows, there really isn't anything else like this Hawaii estate -- either on the mainland or the Big Island. "It would be very difficult to replicate," said Moran, owner of Hilo Brokers, Ltd. "I haven't ever seen anything else like it." While the home listed at $26.5 million boasts a lengthy list of over-the-top features, it's the location that really sets the property apart. Nestled on 8 acres near the former sugar plantation town of Ninole, the home on the Old Mamalahoa Highway is far from any tourist resort and surrounded by incredible lush landscaping overlooking the ocean. Waterfalls border the north and south ends of the property, with many of the rooms capturing both... Continue Reading »

By Catherine Sherman With home values up 5.8 percent year-over-year, the national median has increased to $161,100. For prospective buyers, this raises the question: How much house can I afford? Is that starter home still within reach? To aid your home search, we've gathered for-sale listings around the U.S. priced in line with the national median home value. MEDIAN-PRICED HOMES FOR SALE: More on Zillow: 3-Bedroom Homes for $100,000 How Many Acres Can You Get for Less Than $200,000? $150,000 Homes for Sale Around the U.S. More on AOL Real Estate: Find out how to calculate mortgage payments. Find homes for sale in your area. Find foreclosures in your area. Find homes for rent in your area. Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on... Continue Reading »

By Catherine Sherman Kansas City isn't just topping charts for its barbecue this summer -- it's also where renters can get the most for their money. According to Zillow's latest analysis, Kansas City is one of 10 big cities offering the best combination of: • Current rental prices. • Price per square foot. • Low year-over-year changes in cost of rent. • Low cost of rent compared with the cost of buying a home. If you're looking to rent, this could mean the difference between a two-bedroom with a private patio and a 500-square-foot studio. And for prospective buyers facing the current rise in home values and low for-sale inventory, renting in one of these cities may present an attractive alternative. Here's a look at homes for rent in the top 10 places where you... Continue Reading »

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