Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Real Estate Tips for Buying in Denver

(Source: Andrew Stratton)

Are you looking to put down roots with your own piece of Denver real estate? Maybe you've gotten married, had a baby, been promoted or got a raise- somehow your situation has changed and you know it's time to stop renting. Whatever the reason, you have decided its time to buy a home of your own. This is a big step and, whether it is your first home or you're fourth, it is always smart to be prepared, when starting the process. Here are a few things to consider, when purchasing a house that will help you avoid common pitfalls and surprises.

1. First things first, how much can you afford to pay? You have to be realistic here, especially, if you go with a variable rate loan. A low payment in one year can become too much to handle the next, if the rates go up. Understand how loans work when determining your budget and get pre-approved for one. You will know exactly how much money you have to work with, but it also locks in the rate for a short time.

2. Decide what exactly you are looking for in a Denver house. Square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, ranch or two-story. These are just a few issues to help you narrow down your search. Search the internet for houses in your area; see what is out there and what you can get for your money. If you aren't willing to compromise on certain amenities, you may have to look at older homes instead of newer builds. The good thing is that you can usually get more for your money when buying older homes. The bad news is that the money you save may have to go back into the house for updating and fixing up. Are you prepared for the work?

3. Choose a good Denver real estate agent. Meet with him and discuss all important questions. Do you like him? Is he professional? Compatibility is very important, because you will be working so closely. You want to make sure he is going to work hard for you, no matter how much money you have to spend. Once you have chosen your agent, be clear about what you want. The last thing you want to do is spend the day looking at bi-level homes when you hate stairs.

4. Look, look and look some more. Take someone who knows you and can be supportive yet objective as you look at potential real estate. You don't have to look at 50 houses, but look at enough to feel good about your decision. Take a breather after finding the house and go back on a different day to view just that house. Houses tend to blur together when you look at so many on the same day. To help you remember the points you like, make notes about each house. That will also save time and remind you if it was a yes, no or maybe.

5. Once you have picked out your dream home in Denver, make an offer. Your agent can pull up comparison prices for sold homes in the neighborhood to let you know where the asking price falls. But, always make a lower offer than the list price. They may accept, but chances are they will make a counter-offer. If this sounds scary, your trusty real estate agent can talk to you through it and advise you on how to carry out negotiations.

6. After an agreement has been reached, your agent and your lender will help you set up a home inspection and an appraisal. If anything should come up during these, don't be afraid to ask for concessions from the seller. Anything involving the structural integrity of the building should be fixed prior to closing and your agent can help facilitate this with the sellers.

Buying a home can be intimidating, but it is also very exciting. If you follow these steps, the process will be less stressful. You should enjoy this time and look to the future instead of feeling overwhelmed and bogged down in paperwork. Set down your roots and enjoy!

Real Estate Tips For the Recession

(Source: Sean Mize)

This is a golden opportunity that definitely shouldn't be allowed to pass you by, but there are a few things you should watch out for.

1) First and foremost, when you're choosing a company to invest in it's essential that you choose one that's going to weather the storm of the recession and bounce back when the time comes. If you sink your savings into a company and it goes under as a result of the recession you're going to be no better off than you were before. To determine whether or not a company will survive to see a bright new future rather than being culled out when the recession separates the wheat from the chaff, answer the following questions:

• How long have they been in business? Companies that have been in business for many years are unlikely to go under because of a simple recession-in fact, they've likely weathered many of them in their time. A company that's already proven their staying power is an excellent choice of investment, and should definitely be given first consideration.

• What do they do? Although companies that specialize tend to be movers and shakers when the economy is normal, if they are unable to expand and "macro" themselves (a topic we'll talk about in greater detail in just a bit) to adjust to the changing economy they're going to go under. If a company has not been able to expand and diversify, and if it doesn't offer a product that people are guaranteed to need day after day and therefore are pretty much guaranteed to keep coming back for, it's at a high risk for going under during the recession and should be given a wide berth.

• Is their industry stable? Historically, there are certain industries that tend to fare better in a recession than others, and these should be given firm consideration when you're expanding your portfolio. Utility stocks (telephone, electric, gas), food and "escapes" such as cigarettes, alcohol and gambling have a history of tremendous success when it comes to riding out a recession because these are the industries that most consumers deem necessities and will continue pumping their money into.

• Is it a necessity? The industries listed above are stable choices during a recession because they are deemed to be necessities; however, if there is one industry that you can be sure is not going to go anywhere in the face of any kind of recession, it is the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry. Regardless of what the economy looks like, people are going to get sick and they're going to need their medication to recover. This is a strong, stable choice for your portfolio, and it's one that you can count on to bring in a steady, if not always remarkable, return.

• What about gold? Gold isn't going anywhere. If you're looking for a safe, solid and low risk investment during a recession period, gold is an excellent choice. There is very little chance that the value of gold is going to depreciate rapidly, and it's definitely not going anywhere.

• Successful investing isn't always just a matter of knowing what to invest in. Many times, it's also a matter of knowing what not to invest in. There are certain industries that often bring about good returns when the stock market is high, but who are extremely risky during times of recession. Can you guess which industries those are? Right. Any industry that specializes in luxury services is going to take a hit when conscientious investors start counting their pennies, and as a result so are their stockholders. Good industries to avoid include airlines, luxury resorts, restaurants (unless they have been around for a while) and, of course, financial and lending institutions (who are likely to go under as their borrowers slip further and further into debt).

• If you aren't familiar with the process of investing the best thing you could do for yourself to ensure the continued growth and success of your investments is find a skilled financial counselor and/or investment broker to work with. Ideally, they'll be able to look at a company's past history and their current place on the market and let you know whether or not they are a good choice for investment. Choose your broker with care, however; the last thing you want is to see your hard work and cautious planning fall apart because your broker was overly ambitious and pushed you into an investment that was doomed to failure from the very beginning.

2) Diversify. Regardless of how established a company is, there's no way to positively predict how they are going to react in the event of a recession. Your mother always told you not to put all of your eggs in a single basket, and she was absolutely right. If you can spread your investments around a bit through several companies in a variety of industries you will stand a better chance of being able to profit from this recession. Even if the bottom falls out of one and it goes under as a result of the poor economy you will have the others to fall back on and ensure that you are never left holding absolutely nothing at the end of the day.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

10 House Selling Tips

Source: CNN Money.com

It's a tough market for selling a house. Maximize your chances of a sale at a good price with these house-staging tips from an expert.

Who knew that getting rid of family photos and clearing off countertops could help you snag top dollar for your house? These are just two secrets from Debra Gould, founder of Staging Diva. Gould, a professional home stager, has helped scores of homeowners clean up, rearrange, and style their homes to command top price.

That can mean anything from putting extra books in storage to getting rid of moldy caulk in bathrooms to renting furniture to fill up too-bare spaces. "The goal is to make your home clean, organized, and welcoming so potential buyers can picture living there," says Gould. Thus the no-family-photos rule: "They make people feel like they're invading your space," she explains.

Based in Toronto, Gould has trained a network of 800+ home stagers across the U.S. "Most owners aren't seeing bidding wars the way they were a few years ago," she says. "But with the right staging, you can get close to your asking price."

Here are before-and-after photos of rooms in houses Gould has staged in the Toronto area, along with information about fees paid and sales prices.

Problem #1:
A dingy door in a blah color, plus out-of-season holiday lights, made this entry less than welcoming.

Before and After photos

Solution: Nixing the string of lights and adding black trim and a fresh coat of white paint spruces things up. Gould also swapped out the exterior sconces for larger ones that match the new color scheme

Problem #2:
Buyers could see this area of the house from the entryway. A haphazard placement of tall plants, toys, and a huge TV made it feel awkward and cluttered.

Before and After pictures:

Solution: The plants were given to a friend and the electronics and toys stored. Gould replaced them with a comfy reading chair and lamp to give this sunny spot a cozy focal point.

Thursday, December 4, 2008