Whether you own a home or looking to buy or sell one, here are the latest Good To Know articles for when you’re ready to take the next step in finding your Forever Home.


Small Home Improvements, Big Results

Whether you’re selling your home, leasing your home, or wanting to add more decorative flair, consider small improvements with little money or time spent.

The first thing you want to do is boost your curb appeal. Your home’s front entrance is crucial to first impressions. Add a new steel door or paint your existing door with a trendy new color. Round out the look with a new welcome mat, a new framed house number, a freshly painted mailbox, and planters of fresh greenery or flowers.

Regular exposure to dirt, dust, spills, and high foot traffic makes wood and carpeted floors look dull, dirty and distressed. Polish your hardwood flooring once a year or when you list your home. Weekly vacuuming can pick up topical dirt from your carpets, but it takes professional equipment and cleaning solutions to remove stains, pet odors, allergens, dust mites, and deeply embedded dirt. Your carpets will look like new and last longer, too.

Dress up your interior by installing new trim, molding and shelving. Crown molding and trim can transform a room, and it’s available already painted or you can paint it yourself. If space is an issue, add some decorative or modular shelving to an unused blank wall or cut out some drywall to make a recessed area for displays of books or collectibles. It will eliminate clutter from your tabletops and make your home appear larger.

Last, replace outdated, yellowed outlet and light switch covers with upgraded plates in bronze or a modern ceramic.


Is Now the Time to Buy a Home?

As the spring homebuying season kicks off, you may be ready to buy a home of your own, but continuing inflation, high home prices and high interest rates may be giving you pause. Is now a good time to buy a home?

Market conditions are changing. According to a new report, national mortgage rates have gone from a high of 7.37% in October, to 6.2% into January 2023. Home prices in November were 2.5% lower than the peak achieved in spring 2022, and 42% of home sellers offered concessions in Q-4, 2022. Also boosting homebuyer confidence is that the job market has improved. In January 2023, the national unemployment rate lowered to 3.5% as employers added an unexpected 223,000 new jobs.

While those shifts aren’t monumental, they’re making some consumers feel better about the housing market; homebuyers believe home prices will fall through Q3-2023, and they also said they believe mortgage rates will come down, despite the Federal Reserve’s determination to tame inflation by increasing interest rates.

Let your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network professional show you the latest sales trends in the area where you want to live with a custom competitive market analysis. You can use the past six months of data to help your agent and you to develop a strategy such as choosing a less expensive neighborhood or a smaller home in the area you want. You may be pleasantly surprised that market conditions are more favorable at the local level than national data may indicate.


Why Loan Estimates and Closing Disclosures May Not Match

When you apply for a mortgage loan, your lender has three business days to provide you with your loan estimate—a detailed summary of the loan terms, fees associated with taking out a mortgage, the loan amount, interest rate, and monthly payments—including estimates for property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and mortgage insurance, if applicable.

The reason it’s called a loan estimate is that between the time you applied for your loan and when you close escrow on your new home, the data the lender has can change as it goes through the underwriting process which may cause the closing disclosure to show higher costs or a higher interest rate than you may be expecting.

According to Rocketmortgage.com, you should receive your closing disclosure three days before the closing date. This is a final accounting of all your closing costs. Compare the numbers line by line with the loan estimate and if you find a discrepancy, contact your lender for the reason why.

Sometimes, the closing disclosure will be lower than the loan estimate when a lender overestimates some items, but typically, they’re more. Some costs aren’t allowed to change, including loan origination fees, fees paid to the lender’s third-party service providers, and transfer taxes, which are typically paid by the seller. Costs that can change include prepaid interest between closing and the end of the month. Last, there are costs that have limits on how much they can change, including mortgage recording fees and some third-party services.


Should You Offer a Wrap-around Mortgage to Your Homebuyer?

Wrap-around financing is a type of seller financing used to facilitate the sale of real estate. If the seller has a mortgage, they can continue to pay off their original loan while extending financing to the buyer. The seller’s loan to the buyer “wraps around” the original loan at a higher interest rate than the seller is currently paying, giving the seller a chance for additional profit. The buyer profits by getting a home, often for less than market value, in exchange for paying a higher interest rate to the seller.

The original lender has to give permission for a wrap-around mortgage, as there are risks for all parties. The buyer or seller could default, but in the best case, the seller makes more money than they would have in a cash sale and the buyer gets a home they might not otherwise have been able to afford. Everything else about the transaction is normal—the buyer’s down payment pays both the seller’s and buyer’s real estate agents at closing, just like any other home purchase.

Explains Nolo.com, the buyer and seller sign a promissory note containing the terms of the loan and records a mortgage or a deed of trust with the local public records authority. These loans are typically short term—while the monthly payments may still be calculated as if it were a 30-year loan, it will usually be accompanied with a balloon payoff due in three to five years. By this time, the property may have appreciated, or the buyer may be in a better position to refinance with a traditional lender.