Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc

Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 12/16/2012

Buying a home can be very confusing and not to mention the new terms you need to know. This is especially true when it comes to navigating the mortgage process. One important term to understand is the Good Faith Estimate. The Good Faith Estimate or GFE is a government-mandated form mortgage brokers and lenders are required to give prospective borrowers within three days of a loan application. The GFE summarizes the terms of the loan. It can be used to compare loan offers from the same or different lenders. An approximation of the final figure of the loan costs are on the GFE and must be as accurate as possible, it is important to note that some GFE can have a 10 percent tolerance. The top two sections on Page 1 provide a summary of the loan terms and estimated settlement charges. There is also a section the covers when the GFE expires and whether the interest rate is locked or floating. You will want to go over the GFE closely; it will disclose the initial loan amount, interest rate, monthly payment and loan terms. Remember that the payment includes principal, interest and mortgage insurance, if any, but not property taxes or homeowners insurance. You can find a Guide To The Good Faith Estimate by clicking here.

Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 7/15/2012

With the recent scrutiny being placed on food quality in America, many people are looking to starting their own gardens. While there's no denying that keeping a garden can be a lot of work, the benefits of growing your own produce are hard to ignore. If you are thinking about trying out your green thumb, there are a few things to consider. What would you like to grow? Would you prefer a garden that you can keep indoors, or do you want an outdoor garden? How much time are you willing to dedicate to your new project? Herb gardens are a good start for anyone interested in growing useful plants. You can grow any combination of herbs indoors. Many herb kits exist, and can be purchased from your local gardening store for relatively cheap. These kits take the guesswork out of picking a complementary combination of herbs, and come complete with full instructions on how to maximize your little garden's potential. If your ambitions are bigger, you can opt for an outdoor garden. Outdoor gardens give you much wider selection of plants to choose from. Living in New England, you can count on about 120 frost-free days, so pay attention to the plants that you choose for your garden. You'll want to choose fruits and vegetables that can survive the occasional frost, and are considered relatively hardy. Here's a few ideas to get you started. Plants that do well in the climate of New England include tomatoes, asparagus, snow peas, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, and cucumbers. Tomatoes in particular offer a lot of variety, from the smaller cherry tomato, to more robust varieties like beefsteak. A newer variety of tomato called Glacier does fairly well in colder climates, and packs the same zest as the more fickle, hot-climate tomatoes. If you want to add a more unique fruit to your garden, you might also want to consider one of the heirloom tomato varieties. I've heard of a tomato called "White Wonder", which is a nearly all-white tomato that packs a whallop of flavor. Many types of berries do extremely well in New England summers. Why not try your hand at strawberries? Cavendish are a large, sweet variety of strawberries that do extremely well here, despite the harsh, unpredictable nature of our climate. For more information on gardening in New England, please visit the following link. http://www.gardeninginnewengland.com/index.asp Good luck!

Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 6/24/2012

Buying property can definitely be a very lucrative investment. However, before you decide on buying and selling real estate, you have to have a good understanding of the markets. In other words, if you are looking to buy so that you can sell down the road to make a profit on your real estate, then you are better off achieving this when the housing market is slow, as there is less demand for buying houses, thus forcing sellers to lower their prices. This in turn will allow you to get a home at the lowest price possible, and then being able to sell it at a higher price once the markets begin to move again. Of course, investing in real estate is not only about the current conditions of the housing market. In addition, you also have to look at other factors such as the location the real estate will be in, the condition of the real estate, and the reason why the owner is looking to sell. In the end, buying and selling real estate carries the same risks as any other type of investment, and the only way to avoid these risks is through proper research. More importantly, you will be spending a good amount of money on real estate compared to other types of investments, and so you want to make sure that your money is well spent. By keeping these valuable points in mind, you will be able to find the right property to invest in.

Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 5/27/2012

It is a great time to be a real-estate investor. If you are looking to jump in the investor market low home prices and low interest rates make this a great time. According to Zillow.com. the real-estate market is starting to recover: U.S. houses lost $489 billion in value during the first 11 months of 2009, but that was significantly lower than the $3.6 trillion lost during 2008 and things only continue to look up. While the timing may be right, you will need to have all your ducks in a row. An investment purchase is different than your typical purchase. Consider your options. Have a strategy and know what kind of investor you would like to be. Ask yourself if you want to be a landlord, or are you planning on flipping or restoring and reselling properties. What types of properties are you interested in? There are many choices from land, to apartment buildings, residential housing and other commercial real estate. Partner with experience. Real estate agents experienced in investment property deals know what to look for in a deal. You may also want to consider asking a more experienced real-estate investor for advice. If you plan on becoming a landlord make sure to familiarize yourself with the local laws regarding being a landlord. Location, location, location. If you buy a property with hopes of renting it out, location is key. Homes in high-rent or highly populated areas are ideal; stay away from rural areas where there are fewer people and a small pool of potential renters. Also, look for homes with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms in neighborhoods that have a low crime rate. Also think about potential selling points for your property. If it's near public transportation, shopping malls or other amenities, it will attract renters, as well as potential buyers if you decide to sell later. The more you have to offer, the more likely you are to please potential renters. Have capital lined up. Speak to potential lenders or a financial planner about what you will need for assets and cash flow. You will need to have enough assets to handle the ups and downs that could come with investing. Most experts suggest a fallback of about six months of mortgage payments for landlords. You will need this in case or vacancy or repairs. If you're planning to fix up a home and sell it, you will need reserves to cover the costs to maintain the home while it is on the market. Becoming a real-estate investor is much different than being a residential homebuyer. A buying decision is a business decision not one based on emotions.

Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 4/8/2012

Ok, so you didn't win Mega Millions but just in case Bankrate.com has some tips on how to spend a hefty windfall. It's everyone's favorite fantasy: a nice, huge windfall. Maybe that scratch-off lottery ticket pays off big, or that dusty vase in the attic turns out to be a collector's item, or that stock you've been hoarding turns out to be worth a bundle. Suddenly you're sitting on a nice mid-five-figure gift that you weren't expecting, and that's after taxes. Now what? Facing this envious dilemma, you might want some savvy guidance. With that objective, Bankrate.com asked several financial experts for their advice for managing a hefty windfall. Karen Altfest, executive vice president of L.J. Altfest & Co., a financial planning firm in New York, says to concentrate on three strategies. "What you're going to do is think of it as pockets," she says. "You've got three pockets, divide the money in thirds. Take the first pocket and use it to pay down anything that you think should be paid down: your child's education, your debt, your mortgage. Get rid of something and make your life a little easier. "Then, save for something in your future -- your next car, your vacation, your old age. Third is that you're a good person. Do something nice for yourself now. A vacation or something special you've always wanted," Altfest says. Sandy Shore, counseling supervisor of Novadebt, a nonprofit, credit counseling agency in Freehold, N.J., says start or supplement your emergency fund. But how do you determine how much to save? "You have to look at your individual situation," Shore says. "Is there another income? If one of you became unemployed, how much of a hole would that leave? How secure is your job? If you're one step away from being unemployed, I would say look at how long you think it would take you to get a job. "Six months is a pretty good ballpark for most people," she says. Add up your monthly bills and obligations (including taxes), and subtract any unemployment you'd receive. Then bank at least that amount. And if you already have some saved, use the windfall to take that savings to your goal amount. Dave Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies in Fairfax, Va., recommends socking away at least $10,000 into a savings account if you have debts but no savings. Then spend the rest to eliminate or pay down your debts, concentrating on your highest interest rate obligations first. If you have savings and no debt, you could consider low-risk investments, such as a money market fund or other "balanced low-risk fund," Jones says. Almost as important is what to avoid: "impulsive spending on inane perishables," he says. Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, author of "Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom," says the best solution is to tackle the problem in a series of steps. "Get professional financial help. Find a qualified adviser to help you set a budget and do long-term financial planning," Khalfani-Cox says. "And give yourself time. Resist the urge to do something -- anything -- immediately. Don't feel like you have to do anything at all with the money right away," she says. If you decide to invest, plan beforehand. "Be strategic about making any big moves," Khalfani-Cox says. "Don't just give in and start buying stocks, bonds or mutual funds without a plan." Create a plan to deal with money requests, she says. It takes away the guilt when you want or need to say "no." "The idea is to create a buffer between you and all the friends and family who will ask for money," she says. "Consider using an intermediary -- either an individual or an institution -- to handle the requests." Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Silver Spring, Md., advises people to approach a windfall by first looking at areas where you are financially weakest. Then, use your windfall to strengthen your position. Behind on the mortgage? "The best use might be to catch up," she says. "This will eliminate late fees, which only add to the balance." Paying only the minimums on credit cards? "A good use could be to put the money toward the debt with the highest balance," she says. Or, pay off a small bill. "This feeling of accomplishment often encourages a person to keep knocking off bills," Cunningham says. If you're financially stable but without savings, you're "really on a slippery slope," she says. Using your windfall to start or augment your savings account could create a safety net for emergencies. If you're stable financially, consider splitting the money between one of the above and a personal reward. "Treating yourself to a reward for responsibly handling your money can be an incentive to continuing this behavior," Cunningham says. Larry Winget, author of "The Idiot Factor: The 10 Ways We Sabotage Our Life, Money, and Business," says "Don't buy anything." "It's an opportunity, a real opportunity to fix everything you haven't been doing right," he says. First, pay off your high-interest rate credit card. Then, stash your windfall away. Consumers should create a savings equal to at least three months' worth of household expenses. Put the rest away for retirement. "That would be the top three things that I would say to do," Winget says. "But whatever you do, don't buy something that's going to immediately depreciate when you write the check: cars, clothes, food, vacation," he says. Ron Phipps, president of the National Association of Realtors, says consumers should pay down their credit card debt. "Simplify your ongoing financial responsibilities. Make life easier. Reduce your overhead," he says. After that, look after your No. 1 investment. Focus on needed home repairs or equity-generating improvements, he says. Or, reduce an ongoing expense like your monthly utility bill by installing energy-efficient appliances. After that, "I'd probably say if it were truly a windfall, I'd find something I'd like to do that I'd enjoy: an arbor, a garden or a spa/whirlpool," he says. If your house and your credit card accounts are in good shape, consider buying a rental property. "The goal would be to take that money and leverage it," Phipps says. If your finances are healthy and this is truly extra money, then remember the 80/20 rule. "Save 80 percent, spend 20 percent," says Wayne Bogosian, co-author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to 401(k) Plans." "Follow the 80/20 rule and you won't have any regrets." How do you spend it? "Any way you want," he says. Buy things that last or do some philanthropic giving, he says. For the savings? Aim to max out IRA and 401k contributions for you and your spouse over the coming years, he says. "If your income is outside the Roth IRA limits, open a nondeductible IRA and immediately convert it to a Roth IRA," he says. Your objective over the next eight to 10 years should be to deposit all or most of your 80 percent into a Roth IRA and then into a 401(k).