8 Simple Rules for Negotiating Your Offer and Getting That House

You and your agent are going to use everything you’ve learned to seal the deal.

Here’s the dream: Your offer is perfect, you don’t need to negotiate, and you can spend the next few weeks addressing more pressing home-ownership questions, like “Why is it called wainscoting?” and “Do I want a new couch in blush or emerald green?”

And it could happen. Many sellers accept the best offer they receive, and for a variety of reasons.

But sellers are also known to reject offers for a variety of reasons. Or make counteroffers. This is especially likely if you bid low, or when you’re up against multiple competing offers.

If you do receive a counteroffer, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to accept the new contract, negotiate the terms, or walk away.

In cases such as these, look to your agent. He or she is your spirit guide. If you decide you want to negotiate — that is, make a counteroffer to the seller’s counteroffer — your agent will use their negotiating skills to help get you the best deal. This is what agents do every day.

But you’re not just going to sit there. If you understand what negotiating tactics your agent may deploy — they depend on the local market and your position — you can back them up. And cheer them on.

Here are eight rules every buyer should know before they — and their agent — start negotiating:

#1 Act Fast — Like, Now

When you receive a counteroffer, you should respond quickly — ideally within 24 hours. The longer you wait, the more space you leave for another buyer to swoop in and nab the property. Also? If a seller senses hesitation, they may decide to withdraw their counteroffer before you even have a chance to respond.

#2 Raise Your Price (Within Reason)

While you obviously don’t want to overpay for a house, you may have to up the ante — especially if you initially made a lowball offer. Lean on your agent’s expertise to determine how much money you should add to the sales price to make it more enticing to the seller.

Then, through their powers of persuasion, your agent can make the counteroffer look even more attractive by pointing out similarly priced “comps” — recently sold homes in your area that are comparable in terms of square footage and features. 

As your agent negotiates, it can feel like things are escalating quickly. It’s stressful. You may feel a sudden urge to do whatever it takes to win.

Before you go overboard, there are two things you must keep in mind:

  1. You can’t exceed the monetary confines of the pre-approved mortgage you received from your lender. 
  2. You shouldn’t overextend your budget.

Because your counteroffer has to be an amount you’re comfortable spending on a home. You want that new house and to keep living your life. Plus: You’re not out of options yet.

Explore More Topics:

Make an Offer & Negotiate

Buy a Home: Step-by-Step

#3 Increase Your Earnest Money Deposit

Increasing your earnest money deposit (EMD) — the sum of money you put down to prove to the seller you’re serious (i.e., “earnest”) about buying the house — is another way to show the seller you have more skin in the game. A standard EMD is typically 1% to 3% of the sales price of the home. Making a counteroffer with a 3% to 4% deposit could be what you need to persuade the seller to side with you.

#4 Demonstrate Patience About Taking Possession

Depending on the seller’s timetable, changing your proposed possession date — the date you take over the property — could butter them up, too. If the seller wants to stay in the home for a few days after closing, try offering a later possession date. You could also draw up a “rent-back” agreement, meaning the seller pays you rent for staying in the home for a set period of time after the closing date.

#5 Let Go of a Few Contingencies — With Care

Want to give your counteroffer an even bigger boost?

Reduce the number of contingencies you’re asking for. It’s your way of saying, “Hey, look, I have fewer ways to back out,” which gives the seller more reassurance that the deal will close.

But be selective: Some contingencies are too important to give up. A home-inspection contingency — the right to have a home inspection and request repairs — gives you an out if you spot major problems with the home (and protects you from buying a total money pit).

You might waive a termite inspection if you’re in a state where the risk is lower.

But ultimately, waiving contingencies depends on your market, your loan program requirements, your risk tolerance, and the circumstances of the house in question. And if you waive contingencies and then you find a problem, the seller isn’t responsible for fixing it.

#6 Ask for Fewer Concessions

At a mortgage settlement, home buyers have to pay closing costs for taxes, lender’s fees, and title company fees. Closing costs vary by location, but you can expect to shell out between 3% and 4% of the home’s sales price. The seller pays an additional 1% to 3%. (Smart Asset and Nerdwallet have simple calculators you can use to get a rough idea of what your closing costs might be.)

When making an initial offer, you have the option to ask the seller for concessions — a settlement paid in cash to help you offset your share of the closing costs. (This move is less feasible if you’re going up against multiple offers.)

Concessions effectively lower the seller’s net proceeds from the sale. Making a counteroffer that removes the concessions you would have otherwise received at settlement puts cash back in the seller’s pocket — and can improve your bid. 

#7 Pick Up the Cost of the Home Warranty

Sometimes sellers offer prospective buyers a home warranty. This is a plan that covers the cost of repairing major home appliances and systems, like the air conditioner or hot water heater, if they break down within a certain period (typically a year after closing).

A basic home warranty costs about $300 to $600 a year, according to Angie’s List. If it seems like waiving the home warranty can sweeten negotiations, but you still want the peace of mind of having one, tell the seller they don’t need to cover it — then buy it yourself.

Just keep in mind, whether you or the seller buy the warranty, you’ll need to pay the service fee (typically between $50 and $100) if something does, indeed, need to be repaired while under warranty.

Also, FYI: A home warranty is entirely separate from homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance — the security blanket that covers your home’s structure and possessions in the event of a fire, storm, flood, or other accident — is required if you take out a mortgage. It can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000 per year.

#8 Know When to Walk

When negotiating with a seller, trust your gut — and your agent. If he or she says a deal is bad for you: Listen.

And if you don’t want to make any more trade-offs — and the seller won’t budge — it’s smart to walk. That can be a tough decision to make, and rightfully so! Negotiating is tough. It’s draining. 

And losing something you’ve worked hard to get can be disappointing. But don’t worry. There’s a better deal for you out there. And after those strong feelings of frustration pass, you’ll realize: Now I know how to do this.

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Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

12 Simple Home Repair Jobs to Lift You Out of Winter’s Funk

Like that annoying squeaky floor board. Easy as tossing a ball to fix!

Accomplishments — even little ones — go a long way toward a sunny outlook. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy, quick home repair chores you can do when you’re mired in the thick of winter.

For max efficiency, make a to-do list ahead of time and shop for all the tools and supplies in one trip. On your work days, put the basics in a caddy and carry it from room to room, checking off completed tasks as you speed through them.

#1 Sagging Towel Rack or Wobbly TP Holder

Unscrew the fixture and look for the culprit. It’s probably a wimpy, push-in type plastic drywall anchor. Pull that out (or just poke it through the wall) and replace it with something more substantial. Toggle bolts are strongest, and threaded types such as E-Z Ancor are easy to install.

#2 Silence Squeaky Door Hinges

Eliminate squeaks by squirting a puff of powdered graphite ($2.50 for a 3-gram tube) alongside the pin where the hinge turns. If the door sticks, plane off a bit of the wood, then touch up the paint so the surgery isn’t noticeable.

#3 Stop Creaky Floor Boards

They’ll shush if you fasten them down better. Anti-squeak repair kits, such as Squeeeeek No More ($23), feature specially designed screws that are easy to conceal. A low-cost alternative: Dust a little talcum powder into the seam where floorboards meet — the talcum acts as a lubricant to quiet boards that rub against each other.

#4 Remove Rust on Shutoff Valves

Check under sinks and behind toilets for the shutoff valves on your water supply lines. These little-used valves may slowly rust in place over time, and might not work when you need them most.

Keep them operating by putting a little machine oil or WD-40 on the handle shafts. Twist the handles back and forth to work the oil into the threads. If they won’t budge, give the oil a couple of hours to penetrate, and try again.

#5 Repair Blistered Paint on Shower Ceilings

This area gets a lot of heat and moisture that stresses paint finishes. Scrape off old paint and recoat, using a high-quality exterior-grade paint. Also, be sure everyone uses the bathroom vent when showering to help get rid of excess moisture.

#6 Fix Loose Handles and Hinges

You can probably fix these with a few quick turns of a screwdriver. But if a screw just spins in place, try making the hole fit the screw better by stuffing in a toothpick coated with glue, or switching to a larger screw.

#7 Replace Batteries on Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors

If you don’t like waking up to the annoying chirp of smoke detector batteries as they wear down, do what many fire departments recommend and simply replace all of them at the same time once a year.

#8 Test GFCI Outlets

You’re supposed to test ground-fault circuit interrupters them once a month, but who does? Now’s a great time. You’ll find them around potentially wet areas — building codes specify GFCI outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, and for outdoor receptacles. Make sure the device trips and resets correctly. If you find a faulty outlet, replace it or get an electrician to do it for $75 to $100.

Another good project is to replace your GFCIs with the latest generation of protected outlets that test themselves, such as Levitron’s SmartlockPro Self-Test GFCI ($28). You won’t have to manually test ever again!

#9 Clean Exhaust Filter for the Stove

By washing it to remove grease, you’ll increase the efficiency of your exhaust vent; plus, if a kitchen stovetop fire breaks out, this will help keep the flames from spreading.

#10 Clean Out Clothes Dryer Vent

Pull the dryer out from the wall, disconnect the vent pipe, and vacuum lint out of the pipe and the place where it connects to the machine. Also, wipe lint off your exterior dryer vent so the flap opens and closes easily. (You’ll need to go outside for that, but it’s quick.) Remember that vents clogged with old dryer lint are a leading cause of house fires.

Related: How to Maintain Your Dryer

#11 Drain Hoses

Inspect your clothes washer, dishwasher, and icemaker. If you see any cracks or drips, replace the hose so you don’t come home to a flood one day.

#12 Check Electrical Cords

Replace any that are brittle, cracked, or have damaged plugs. If you’re using extension cords, see if you can eliminate them — for example, by replacing that too-short lamp cord with one that’s longer. If you don’t feel up to rewiring the lamp yourself, drop it off at a repair shop as you head out to shop for your repair materials. It might not be ready by the end of the day. But, hey, one half-done repair that you can’t check off is no big deal, right?

Related: Home Maintenance for People With Better Things to Do

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Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

13 Tips for Home Wildfire Protection

All it takes is for one ember to fall on your roof. Don’t let it happen.

How do most homes ignite during a wildfire? A floating ember or piece of burning wood touches down on a roof, gutter, in a vent, under a deck, or on a porch and ignites leaves and debris, says the National Fire Protection Association. Or else, a surface fire simply takes the fast lane to your home via dry vegetation.

With that in mind, fortify your home like the castle it is with these 13 wildfire-repelling steps. But keep in mind that no product or technique is a failsafe against a raging fire.

#1 Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you don’t already have working smoke detectors or haven’t tested them recently, make that your No. 1 job. Now.

#2 Check Fire Extinguishers

And if you don’t have them, get them. 

#3 Get a Bucket, Shovel, and Hose Ready

Have an easily accessible bucket, shovel (to dig a trench to protect against encroaching ground fire), and connected garden hose to help you defend the area around your home.

#4 Invest in Rain Barrels

An extra source of water can’t hurt. And rain barrels save on your water bills, too.

#5 Clear Yard of Debris

Keep gutters, porches, and the lawn free of debris, leaves, and fallen branches. If a fire threat is imminent, remove furniture and decorations from decks and porches, including welcome mats.

#6 Plant Fire-Resistant Shrubs and Annuals

Like irises, rhododendrons, hostas, and lilacs, which have high-moisture content. Your local Cooperative Extension Office can advise you on appropriate species for your area.

#7 Remove Tree Branches Lower Than 6 Feet

Fires tend to start low and rise. For that reason, don’t plant shrubs directly under trees; they can combust and cause the fire to rise up the tree. By the way, spacing out all plants and shrubs is a good practice, too.

#8 Remove Tree Limbs Near Chimneys

Keep them at least 10 feet away. Embers from burning limbs could fall in. 

#9 Set Up a Protective Perimeter

Create a 100-foot perimeter around your home, free of dry leaves, grass, and shrubs that fuel wildfires. Keep petroleum tanks, cars, and wood piles outside of this safe zone.

#10 Use Rocks Instead of Mulch Next to the House

Lay a six-inch swath of decorative rocks closest to the home and then use mulch from there. This also helps repel insects, like termites, (bugs like wood) and facilitate rain water drainage.

#11 Use Non-Flammable Fencing

If you have wood fencing around your home, replace any three-foot sections that attach to the home with metal or other non-flammable fencing material. A metal gate or decorative fencing piece is stylish as well as fire-unfriendly.

#12 Cover Chimneys and Vents With Flame-Retardant Mesh

And it’s cheap to do. They cost just few dollars from hardware or home improvement stores.

#13 Check Your Siding

Fire-resistant or non-combustible siding like stucco or brick provides the best protection against fire. Make sure your siding, whatever type, is in good repair, because if the plywood or insulation are exposed, the home is more vulnerable to flames.

Some experts recommend spraying homes with fire retardants, which can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the product, region, and size of the project. But some of the chemicals used to make flame-retardants have toxic properties. Although you might have less exposure to chemicals used on your home’s exterior than those inside, toxicity issues could still be a factor.

Most important, if a wildfire is on its way, evacuate. And have an evacuation plan worked out with your family before the worst happens.

Related:  Grease Fires and Other Unexpected Home Disasters

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Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

You’ll Be Glad You Did These 4 August Tasks When January Comes

Go ahead and get that energy audit. And schedule snow plowing.

Take a few minutes out of your pool time this month to do these four tasks.

Then you’ll have more time to eat popcorn in front of the fire next January.

#1 Call the Snow Plow Now

If you live in snow-prone areas, now’s the time to get your name on the snow-plow contractor’s schedule. By the time your car’s buried in the driveway, their rosters will be full.

#2 Schedule Furnace Service

Get ready for sweater weather — and beat the rush — by scheduling the annual fall service for your furnace now. If you don’t already have one, ask about your HVAC company’s twice-a-year maintenance plan. Often, you can get discounted rates, not just for the service plan, but for larger repairs, too.

#3 Get a Home Energy Audit

Save money this winter by scheduling a professional energy audit now. Not only will you learn where your home is prone to energy loss, your auditor may recommend inexpensive ways to save money (like caulking around the baseboards). Energy.gov has info on how pro and DIY energy audits work. Find energy auditors through the Resiential Energy Services Network.

#4 Plant Trees

Trees increase home value, so give yours the best start by planting them at the right time. In zones 4-8 (which is most of the United States), that’s late summer and early fall. This gives them time to establish roots before next summer’s heat and drought. 

Related: When’s the Best Time to Plant Trees?

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Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

United Against Racial Injustice

My heart goes out to the family and friends of our fellow Minnesotan George Floyd, and to everyone deeply affected by this grave injustice. We know there is much work to do, and we must awaken to that fact and never turn away.

Here’s a message from Edina Realty’s CEO Greg Mason:

Statement from Edina Realty Home Services CEO Greg Mason

It has been just over a week since we learned of the tragic killing of fellow Minnesotan George Floyd. Our hearts go out to his family, his friends, and to everyone in our communities who have been deeply affected by this grave injustice.

The events of the past week have served to shine a spotlight on how much work we have to do when it comes to equality. To that end, we have signed a statement with 50 other Minnesota companies to stand united against acts of racism and violence. We pledge: change has to start today, and it needs to start with us.

So, as a company, we’re reflecting on all the ways we can do better in serving diverse communities by promoting inclusion and equality, but also by helping to identify—and remove—historical barriers. We know there is work to do. We’re listening and we’re here for it.

Greg Mason

Greg Mason
CEO, Edina Realty Home Services

How to Disinfect Your Home in the Time of Coronavirus

A bleach solution or rubbing alcohol is your best bet for keeping your home sanitized.

There’s everyday clean, guest clean, and then there’s COVID-19 clean.

To get down the absolute nitty gritty on how to disinfect your home, you’ll want your big guns: bleach, rubbing alcohol, and hot water.

The Best Disinfectants

For your high-touch surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control recommends a bleach solution diluted with water, or a 70% alcohol solution.

Follow this bleach recipe: 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.

Make sure to properly ventilate when disinfecting with bleach.

And check to see if your bleach has expired. Who knew it could? After about 9 months to a year, and if it smells less bleachy, it’s lost its disinfecting power. Time for a new jug.

Tip: Don’t mix bleach with anything other than water; otherwise, it could set off a dangerous chemical reaction. For instance, bleach + alcohol is a deadly combo.

How to disinfect your home if you don’t have bleach? Regular old rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol) works, so long as it’s at least 70% alcohol, according to the CDC. The alcohol concentration will be listed on the bottle. Rubbing alcohol you buy should already be diluted, unlike bleach.

Is There a Such a Thing as Too Much Disinfectant?

According to an EPA fact sheet, studies have found that using some disinfectant products can cause germs to become resistant.

The EPA has issued a list of disinfectants on the market that it believes are effective in killing COVID-19. Look for the EPA registration number on the product and check it against this list to ensure you have a match.

Erica Marie Hartman, an environmental microbiologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., whose research focuses on resistance, confirms soap, bleach, and alcohol are your best bets.

What about the various disinfecting wipes on the market (at least if you can find them)? Hartman says the active ingredient in many of those is an ammonium compound, which could become resistant to viruses over time.

Surfaces That Need Your Attention

With your preferred disinfectant, wipe down high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, tables, remotes, banisters, toilets, sinks, and faucets daily or more often, if someone in your home is sick.

Contact time is another key aspect of surface sanitizing. “Disinfection isn’t instantaneous,” says Hartman. [For a bleach solution], you want to leave it on the surface for 10 minutes before wiping it off. ” 

By the way, new research from scientists at the National Institutes of Health, among other agencies, shows that at least some coronavirus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

But a report in “The Washington Post” notes that the most likely period for infection from the virus on surfaces is in the first 10 minutes to one or two hours.

Not All Floors Can Handle Bleach

For your nonporous floors, like those in the bathroom, the CDC recommends mopping with the bleach solution. 

Avoid bleach on hardwood and other porous floors because of staining. Instead, use a disinfecting wet mop cloth without bleach.

Cleaning Isn’t Disinfecting

From the you-might-be-surprised files: Disinfecting with bleach isn’t actually cleaning. If you also need to clean your countertops of dirt and grime, do that first with soap and water. Then use the bleach solution or rubbing alcohol to combat the virus.

Killing Microbes on Clothes

Most washing machines today do a bang-up job on dirty clothes with cold water, which is best for energy savings. But, and especially if you have a sick person in your house, the hot-water setting followed by a high-heat dry for about a ½ hour to 45 minutes is best for virus eradication.

Don’t forget about your laundry hamper. Wipe it down like you would other surfaces. You can also use a reusable liner bag, which you can launder with the clothes.

What If I’m Selling My House, and Inviting More Germs In?

How to disinfect your home when it’s for sale? Virtual showings and tours are the ideal, and your agent can set those up.

However, if there’s a need to have someone come in, talk to your agent who will work with you to establish a hygienic protocol, including requiring visitors to wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer when they arrive, and to remove shoes or wear booties before entering. Removing shoes not only reduces dirt coming in, but potentially germs.

In addition, many agents are eliminating open houses.

After any showings, practice your surface wipe-down routine.

Finally, when you work with disinfectants, practice some self care. “Alcohol and bleach can be very aggressive on your skin, so wearing rubber gloves can help protect your hands,” Hartman says. 

Related: 9 Cleaning Tasks That Homeowners Tend to Overlook

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Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Is Your Home Older Than Its Years?

Would you throw away $20,000? You are if you’re letting your home age faster than it should. Here’s a simple maintenance strategy to keep your home young.

You know how Dr. Oz says that if you keep your body fit and your mind nimble, you’re likely younger than your chronological years? The same principle applies to your house.

An out-of-shape house is older than its years and could lose 10% of its appraised value, says Mack Strickland, an appraiser and real estate agent in Chester, Va. That’s a $15,000 to $20,000 adjustment for the average home.

But good maintenance can even add value. A study out of the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University finds that regular maintenance increases the value of a home by about 1% each year.

So if you’ve been deferring maintenance, or just need a good strategy to stay on top of it, here’s the simplest way to keep your home in good health.

Focus on Your Home’s #1 Enemy

If you focus on nothing else, focus on moisture — your home’s No. 1 enemy.

Water can destroy the integrity of your foundation, roof, walls, and floors — your home’s entire structure. So a leaky gutter isn’t just annoying; it’s compromising your foundation.

Keeping moisture at bay will improve your home’s effective age — or as Dr. Oz would say, “real age” — and protect its value. It’ll also help you prioritize what you need to do. Here’s how:

Follow This Easy 4-Step Routine

1. When it rains, actively pay attention. Are your gutters overflowing? Is water flowing away from your house like it should? Is water coming inside?

2. After heavy rains and storms, do a quick inspection of your roof, siding, foundation, windows, doors, ceilings, and basement to spot any damage or leaks.

Related: How to Tell if You Have a Drainage Problem

3. Use daylight savings days or the spring and fall equinox to remind you to check and test water-related appliances like your washer, refrigerator, water heater, HVAC (condensation in your HVAC can cause leaks) or swamp cooler, and sump pump. It’s also a great time to do regular maintenance on them. Inspect any outdoor spigots and watering systems for leaks, too.

4. Repair any damage and address any issues and leaks ASAP.

Don’t procrastinate when you spot minor leaks or drips inside your house. Ongoing small leaks can slowly erode pipes and fixtures, and even cause mold and mildew issues you won’t notice until it’s too late.

Say you’ve got a bit of cracked caulk around the kitchen window. It may not seem like much, but behind that caulk, water could get into your sheathing, causing mold damage and rot. Before you know it, you’re looking at a $5,000 repair that could have been prevented by a $4 tube of caulk and a half hour of your time.

To help you with this routine, we have several guides with specifics and tips:

Once you settle into a routine, it becomes easier to handle other maintenance tasks, which will only do more to protect and enhance your home’s value. Plus, you’ll get to know your home better, which will help you spot other one-off problems, such as termites and other wood-destroying insects, that can cause costly damage.

If You Want to Take Home Maintenance to the Next Level…

If you’re a geek about home maintenance like we are, and you want to do more than water patrol, these ideas will help you keep your house in great shape.

Give yourself an incentive to do maintenance. Maintenance is your springboard to sexier projects like a kitchen remodel or basement makeover. So plan a room-per-year redo. This way you’re maintaining, fixing, and improving. For example:

In your basement:

  • Check for dark stains that could signal plumbing leaks. If you find any leaks, fix them.
  • Check your ductwork for leaks that are wasting energy.
  • Clean the lint out of the dryer vent. The machine will last longer, and you’ll help prevent fires.
  • Caulk and seal basement windows to stop air leaks.
  • Once your space is moisture sealed, you can start converting it into a family room or other livable space.
  • Add a basement ceiling.
  • Brighten it up with paint.

In your kitchen:

  • Clean out all the cabinets, then wipe them down. It’s a great way to purge and get organized.
  • Take a good look under your kitchen sink. Remove all the wastebaskets and cleaning supplies to help you spot any leaks, and fix them.
  • Pull out the fridge to give that yucky alcove a thorough cleaning. Check the drip pan for moisture that can spawn mold growth.
  • Update cabinet hardware and adjust hinges if necessary.
  • Re-caulk the seam between your backsplash and wall to keep moisture out. To give your whole kitchen a low-cost facelift, how about a new backsplash?
  • Re-paint the walls using paint with a tough, semi-gloss sheen that stands up to repeated cleanings and resists moisture.

Keep a maintenance fund. Some sources say you should save 1% to 3% of your initial house price annually to pay for maintenance. On a $200,000 house, that’s $2,000 to $6,000 a year. Yeesh, that’s a big nut.

Alternatively, make it a goal to save enough money to do a major replacement project, so the bill won’t catch you off guard. Probably the biggest single replacement project you’ll have is your roof or siding.

You can build up this fund over several years by paying yourself a monthly assessment — whatever you can manage. Keep it in a separate account to avoid the temptation to tap it for hockey tickets or other impulse buys.

If you need to replace the roof before you have a fund, an equity loan is an option. But consider very carefully.

If you’re practicing maintenance in the way we’ve outlined here, you won’t need $2,000 per year to manage your home’s natural aging process. Some routine tasks, such as cleaning rain gutters and changing furnace filters, could cost you $300 or less per year.

Your house takes care of you — not just for shelter but as a financial asset. Return the favor and keep it hale and hearty by caring for it with regular maintenance.

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Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

What You Need to Know to Get Coronavirus Mortgage Relief

Coronavirus Mortgage Relief
It’s a confusing time, but lenders are putting remedies, like forbearance, in place to help homeowners.

Mortgage lenders, and the federal agencies that regulate lenders, are putting coronavirus mortgage relief measures in place to ensure homeowners have options if they’re unable to make payments.

Your first stop in the face of financial hardship is your lender or bank.

Just keep in mind lenders are working to figure out and implement the new mortgage relief polices outlined by the regulatory agencies. So you might read one thing from the FHFA, a federal regulator, but your bank might be doing something else.

In addition, due to the number of homeowners affected by the pandemic, lenders are dealing with a crush of calls and online queries. Be patient, persistent, and prepared to spend time on hold.

Your Mortgage

Federally Backed Mortgages
If you have a mortgage backed by Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veteran’s Administration (VA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac, your loan servicer must offer you deferred or reduced mortgage payment options – called forbearance — for up to six months. This means you don’t have to pay your mortgage and you won’t be charged late fees, penalties or interest while you can’t pay.

Loan servicers for FHA, Freddie, and Fannie must provide an additional six months of forbearance if you request it.

Not sure who backs your own loan? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have loan look-up sites where you can find out who owns it, and how to get in touch with them.

In addition, here are direct links to some lenders and banks’ Covid-19 resources:

Mortgages Not Federally Backed
If your mortgage is one of the 5 million in the United States not backed by a federal entity, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes a coronavirus mortgage relief mandate, doesn’t apply. But regulators have encouraged those lenders to work with borrowers who can’t pay their mortgages, and most banks and other lenders are suspending mortgage payments or offering forbearance.

The level of relief you get will depend on who owns your loan. Contact your lender to find out what’s available.

Regardless of the type of loan you have, you must apply for coronavirus mortgage relief through their mortgage servicer. That’s the entity that collects your monthly payments and decides how long the assistance will last. When you reach your mortgage servicer, you’ll need to explain your situation and provide information about your income, expenses and assets.

Foreclosure and Evictions

Federal officials have imposed a nationwide halt to foreclosures and evictions for more than 36 million Americans with home mortgages backed by the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.

The moratorium only affects borrowers with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA, and RHS (Rural Housing Service loans through the USDA). This doesn’t apply to the roughly 35% of mortgages held in bank portfolios and private label securities. But some individual lenders are offering relief.

Some cities, counties, and states, including Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Texas, have placed a moratorium on foreclosures. Check with your city, county and state governments. Find state-by-state tallies online.

Housing Counselors

Another tool in your relief toolbox are housing counselors. Counselors can provide independent advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s look-up tool lets you can find counselors in your state.

Your Credit

The CARES Act forbids lenders from dinging your credit score for missed payments on federally backed mortgages and student loans during your forbearance period. The federal government is also encouraging private lenders to suspend reporting late payments on eligible mortgages. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has more advice about protecting your credit.

By law, you can get a free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Note that these reports don’t include credit scores. Equifax offers six free credit reports every 12 months through December 2026 if you sign up for a myEquifax account.

Your Student Loan

The CARES Act includes immediate relief for those who can’t make their monthly payments on federally held loans due to coronavirus. All loan payments (both principal and interest) are suspended through Sept. 30, 2020, with no penalty. You don’t need to apply for this program or contact your lender. It’s automatic.

If you keep making payments, they’ll be applied entirely toward the principal. These suspended payments will count towards any student loan forgiveness already in effect.

Here’s a list of servicers — and their phone numbers — for loans backed by the U.S. Department of Education.

Some loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program and some Perkins Loans not owned by the Department of Education aren’t eligible for suspended payments. Nor are private student loans owned by banks, credit unions, schools, or other private entities. If you can’t make payments, contact your loan servicer to find out what options are available. Many are offering ways, like forbearance, to postpone payments.

Not sure who your servicer is? Look on your most recent statement and contact the servicer immediately.

If your student loan is already in default, the relief act immediately suspends wage garnishments or tax refund deductions. They’ll resume after the suspension ends.

Find out more about student loan relief at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Your Taxes

The IRS has pushed back the deadline for filing and payment of federal taxes to July 15, 2020. Many states are following suit. Check with your state tax agency, or see this list from the American Institute of CPAs for details on deadlines.

Related: Tips to Get Filing Ready for (Delayed) Tax Deadline

Your Real Estate Transaction

If you’re going to be buying or selling a home in the near future, find out if your county recording office can complete the deal online.

In addition, more than half of states, many under emergency state directive, allow for remote online notarization of documents. This makes it safe and easy to complete real estate transactions under social distancing orders. The number of states allowing remote notarization could grow as pandemic legislation expands.

Your Appraisal

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have provided detailed appraisal alternative guidelines, so homeowners and appraisers can practice social distancing on Freddie and Fannie loans through May 17, 2020.

FHA, VA, and RHS are also allowing variations on the usual appraisal protocol. Check with your servicer for details.

Look Out For Scams

Fear breeds scams. And scammers are out in full force during the pandemic. Beware of third parties offering mortgage assistance and other help. Seek help from your lender directly.

For information on circulating scams and guidance on identifying them, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.
Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

My commitment to you during COVID-19

I understand there is a vital need for many to purchase and sell homes or refinance amidst the pandemic. Real estate services are considered an essential business in both Minnesota and Wisconsin during this time, but please be assured that we are making every attempt to do things virtually whenever possible. The health and safety of our communities and clients are a top priority, and during these unprecedented times, I’m doing my part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

I am open for business and here for you, but our offices have temporarily closed. I continue working remotely, offering virtual showings and appointments, and I’m ready to help with all your real estate needs while practicing prudent social distancing. Edina Realty employees are also working remotely and fully equipped to offer support throughout your transaction. Simply give me a call, send an email or reach out via direct message for help with your home buying, selling, mortgage, title, insurance and warranty needs.

I continue to safely market and show homes for sale. I am focused on providing remote and virtual solutions for my clients at this time. However, should you require an in-person appointment, I can still conduct careful private showings while practicing social distancing. Private showings are limited to one person or family at a time. Sellers are being asked to clean and disinfect homes before and after showings, and visitors are asked not to touch surfaces.

At this time, in-person open houses are suspended. To prevent gatherings of too many people, in-person open houses have been temporarily suspended throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota. However, you can still participate in virtual open houses or video tours of homes for sale. Reach out to further discuss all the options available to view and market homes.

We continue to perform closings in our closing centers. However, Edina Realty Title has implemented the following precautions:

  • To ensure social distancing, we will separate buyers and sellers into different rooms during closings
  • In some cases, closings may be conducted from your car in an Edina Realty Title closing center parking lot
  • Sellers are being encouraged to pre-sign whenever possible. Buyers must close in-person due to notarized signature requirements
  • Closings are conducted only at our closing centers or other title closing centers
  • Closing attendees are limited to clients and closers only (no agents or mortgage consultants)
  • All non-essential materials and refreshments have been removed from the closing rooms
  • Surfaces are being regularly cleaned and sanitized

Edina Realty has assembled a COVID-19 task force. Our task force meets daily to integrate the latest recommendations from government and industry officials, allowing me to keep things running smoothly for your real estate needs.

A very special thank you to the exceptional people in our communities. My deepest gratitude to all the first responders, medical professionals, law enforcers, government officials, grocery store workers, truck drivers and other essential workers putting themselves in harm’s way to support our communities. You are incredible and I appreciate you.

What Home Buyers and Sellers Should Know about COVID-19

I know there is still a need for many people to purchase and sell homes during this time, even during this COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic that is affecting us all. Your safety is a top concern and we are taking several precautions as we continue to provide the highest level of service possible during this unprecedented time.

I would like you to know the steps we are taking to help prevent the spread of the virus and changes you may notice while working with us. Here are some key points:

  • We remain open for business, but our offices have temporarily closed. Edina Realty Home Services agents and employees continue working remotely to assist you. Simply reach out at any time for help with your home buying, selling, mortgage, title, insurance and warranty needs.
  • At this time, all in-person Edina Realty open houses are suspended until safety recommendations are lifted. Agents will be conducting virtual open houses, video tours and careful private showings.
  • Meetings are being held via teleconferencing, video conference and with various technologies to avoid the need for in-person group gatherings.
  • At this time, we will continue to perform closings and have several precautionary measures in place to limit interactions and ensure the safety of everyone involved.

For an EXPANDED DESCRIPTION on what we are doing to help prevent spreading COVID-19 please follow this link.

Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns regarding your housing needs during this time. Please be safe, stay informed, don’t panic, and refer to the CDC’s website for up-to-date information and recommendations.

~Brian