Big changes are on the way for Earvin “Magic” Johnson Park, now that the LA County Board of Supervisors has approved an ambitious plan to renovate and expand the already very large park starting in 2018. The six-phase project includes the construction of an amphitheater, event center, reflecting pool, and state-of-the-art sports complex, among many other amenities. It also calls for the annexation of the adjacent sites of the former Ujima Village Apartments and a daycare center, expanding the 104-acre park to a roomy 126 acres.
An announcement from County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas notes that the park improvements are part of a “renaissance of Willowbrook,” the unincorporated area of South LA that is also home to the recently revamped MLK Medical Center.
In a series of public outreach hearings, the project planners found that residents of the area had an array of concerns about the current park, ranging from security and safety issues to complaints about duck poop and worries that the park’s central pond may be contaminated.
These latter concerns are not unfounded—the park is situated on the former site of an Exxon Mobil tank farm, and in 2007 the Regional Water Quality Control Board ordered the oil company to begin remediating contaminated groundwater on the site. Construction on the first phase of the park redesign will have to wait until after environmental specialists have given the go-ahead.
So far, the most controversial aspect of the plan is the construction of equestrian facilities, along with a 1.75-mile horse path. While area groups like the Compton Junior Posse, a youth equestrian organization, have actively supported the facilities (naturally), some residents are concerned that they may take up too much space, or that they will simply smell bad. Expect this debate to continue for some time, as the equestrian center will not be included in early phases of the project.
Altogether, the redesign is expected to take about 18 years to complete, at a cost of up to $135 million.
No matter how many fond memories you’ve accumulated in your home, there may come a time when you start wondering: Should I sell my place? Maybe it’s because your local real estate market is booming and you stand to score a sweet payout. Maybe you’re relocating. Or your expanding family has outgrown your space. Or you’re just looking for a change of scenery. But questioning is easy; deciding to put your house on the market is tough.
Here are some steps to help you pinpoint when the time is right.
How to calculate your home equity
A key variable in the decision on whether to sell your home is how much equity you’ve built up over the years. Home equity is the amount of money tied up in your house—what you’d receive if you sold it, minus what you owe on your mortgage.
So how do you calculate your home equity? You’ll need two numbers: the remaining balance on your mortgage and what your home is currently worth. You can get a ballpark of the latter by typing your address into home value estimator. For a more in-depth assessment, ask your real estate agent, who will do an analysis by checking comparables, or comps (the prices of recently sold, similar homes in your area), as well as other aspects of your home.
Here’s how this calculation looks with actual numbers: Let’s say you purchased your home for $300,000, but its market value has risen to $325,000. Let’s also assume that you’ve whittled down your mortgage over the years so that all you owe is $75,000. To get your home equity, subtract $75,000 from $325,000 and you have $250,000 in home equity, which is pretty sweet!
Of course, the more you owe on your mortgage and/or the more your home’s price has plummeted, the less home equity you have. If that number is much smaller or even negative (which can happen if housing prices plummet), consider holding off on selling until conditions improve.
Is it a seller’s or buyer’s market? Here’s how to tell
Another factor in deciding if it’s time to sell is whether you’re in a seller’s market. This essentially means that the demand for homes is outpacing the supply, which gives sellers more leverage during negotiations. To figure out if you’re in a seller’s market, browse through some listings and look for these two signs: houses are selling for over asking price, and homes aren’t sitting on the market for long (generally less than six months). If that describes your area, then it’s a great time to sell. (Just don’t forget that if you sell, you may also have to buy, which may present problems unless you’re leaving the area.)
On the other hand, if homes in your area are selling for under asking price and sitting over six months, that means you’re in a buyer’s market and that market forces aren’t working in your favor. This means if you want top dollar you may want to wait.
What’s up with interest rates on mortgages?
If you’re planning to sell your home and buy a new one, you should definitely consider interest rates on mortgages. Fortunately, right now, interest rates are at historic lows, hovering around 4%. That’s an astounding deal! In the ’80s, they were a whopping 17.48%—and while they probably won’t shoot up quite as high in the near future, we’re expecting them to move up by next year. Homeowners eager to upgrade to their dream home might want to grab them while they can.
Have your housing needs changed?
Market forces and interest rates aren’t the only things to keep in mind when deciding if you should sell your home. A lot has to do with you, and whether the house suits your space requirements. For instance: Is your current place too small now that you’ve been joined by a couple of kids—or is it too big now that your grown children have moved out on their own? Both scenarios are fine reasons to find a home that better suits your needs, so be sure to consider all of these factors in weighing whether the time is right to sell.
When homeowners ask how to get a home sold, there is typically more to the question. For instance, some really want to know how to get it sold quickly, some are wondering how to sell a home to get more money out of it while others have a home languishing on the market and just want to know how to get the thing sold.
There’s no mystery to getting a home sold; it all starts with basic real estate principles and practices.
It’s important to know the current trends in your local real estate market before putting your home up for sale. Is it a buyer’s market – where there are more homes available than buyers? Or is it a seller’s market, with few homes available and lots of buyers?
Your local newspaper most likely covers your regional real estate market but this is also information you can obtain by asking your real estate agent.
This information is important for several reasons:
• If you can afford to wait to sell your home, the current market may be the deciding factor as to whether you sell it now or wait.
• It helps you price your home appropriately.
• It gives you an idea of what to expect during the time the home is on the market.
Another aspect of timing the sale of your home is the season. Home sales are seasonal and the ideal time to sell the home is in spring. This doesn’t mean, however, that homes don’t sell at other times during the year, even in the dead of winter.
In fact, although fewer homes are listed and sold in winter than in spring, the likelihood that you’ll sell your home is higher in the former than in the latter.
The number one reason a home sits on the market and doesn’t sell is price. To make matters worse, sellers of overpriced homes typically reject initial offers because they think they are too low, when, in reality, they are most likely close to the market value of the home.
In a buyer’s market, it’s even more important to price your home competitively. If you choose the right real estate agent, your list price should be very close to the home’s true market value. It’s up to you, then, to either lower it a bit to create more interest or to overprice the home and risk eventually having to drop the price.
It almost sounds trite in today’s real estate market to mention that a home needs to be cleaned and decluttered before putting it on the market. While the advice is common, it’s still very good. A clean home with maximum curb appeal will put your house above the competition.
Make repairs to anything that obviously needs it. This means dripping faucets, loose banisters, cracked windows – anything that a buyer will notice. These little things make it appear that the home hasn’t been maintained – something no buyer wants to take on.
We can discuss larger repairs and whether or not they should be tackled.
Your Realtor can make or break the deal. Keep that in mind when determining who to hire to assist you in the sale of your home. This is not the time to hire that friend of a friend or your Aunt Martha.
Choose your agent carefully and then work as a team, following up with one another frequently throughout the process.
Getting your home sold requires, overall, patience. Take your time with each step in the process, ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks. Listen to the advice of your real estate agent and you’ll soon be on your way to the next phase of your life.
Like shopping for anything expensive, shopping for a home requires research and a game plan. When you have a list of steps to take, the process will be far less perplexing and far more enjoyable. You’ll also be more successful if you have a strategy, so let’s take a look at some of the initial steps to take to get you into that new home. Check them off as you complete them.
Get ready to buy a home – check your finances
No, working on your finances won’t be the most exciting part of the process, but it just may end up being the most rewarding. Just as you wouldn’t go car shopping without knowing exactly how much you can afford to spend, neither should you step foot in even one home for sale without understanding where you stand financially.
A good place to start is with your credit score. If you haven’t checked it in a while, order your credit reports. By law, you are entitled to one free credit report (from each of the three reporting agencies) every 12 months. The only company that is authorized by the Federal Trade Commission to supply consumers with these free reports is annualcreditreport.com. I can also do this for you for $16
Go through the reports and dispute any errors you find. Fixing even one error may significantly impact your credit rating.
Then, go over your budget (if you don’t have one, create one using the template here). Tally up all of your debts and figure out how much money you have coming in every month.
Finally, determine where you can make cuts or how you can bring in more money to set aside for your down payment and closing costs. Your down payment requirement will depend on which loan program you use and closing costs, although variable, typically run between 2 and 7 percent of the loan amount, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Shop for a mortgage
Meeting with a lender is the next important step in the game plan. Based on the outcome of your first meeting with a loan officer, you can request a preapproval letter, which puts you in a strong negotiating position with home sellers.
Lenders want stacks of paperwork, all proving that you can afford a home. Plan on supplying your lender with at least the following:
- Tax returns, including Schedule C if you are self-employed
- Pay stubs,
- Bank statements (all pages, including the blank ones)
- Identification, including your Social Security card and driver’s license
The self-employed and those pursuing jumbo loans may be asked for additional documentation.
Make a list of must-haves in your new home
Now that you know how much you can spend on a home, it’s time to make a shopping list, which can include items such as:
- Location – proximity to public transportation, schools, shopping or whatever is important to you.
- Neighborhood must-haves – community pool, security gate, guard, trails, clubhouse, etc. Do you want friendly neighbors or those that keep to themselves? A neighborhood with or without kids?
- Architectural style – if you have a particular style in mind, such as colonial or Victorian, list that, as well as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need.
- Interior features – If there is anything you absolutely must have, such as a formal dining room or a chef’s kitchen, make note of it.
- Exterior – Do you need a large lot or just a small yard? Is a carport sufficient or do you require a garage? Don’t forget to list pool, spa, fencing and any other exterior features you want in your new home.
Finally, organize the list, placing the three most important items at the top. These are your priorities, and you should share them with your real estate agent.
Tip: To determine your priorities, think about what you find intolerable about your current living situation. For instance, if barking dogs drive you crazy, vow to find a quiet neighborhood. If you’re sick and tired of mowing the lawn when you’d rather be relaxing, seek a home with low-maintenance landscaping.
Find a real estate agent
Since you’re now ready to look at homes, you’ll need a real estate agent’s help from here on. Remember, the services of a buyer’s agent won’t cost you anything – the seller pays all real estate commissions, so there really is no reason not to have your own representation and many, many reasons you should.
While all of the steps in the above checklist are important, and should be taken in the order listed, securing the services of a professional real estate agent to help in the purchase of a home is critical. Having a pro represent your interests, negotiate on your behalf and walk you through all the piles of paperwork — at no cost to you – will give you peace of mind during the process.
Consider this: a mortgage program offers certain Americans a home loan with a zero down payment and no private mortgage insurance requirement. In addition, closing costs are limited and if the home is newly constructed, the builder must supply the buyer with a one-year home warranty.
Despite the obvious perks of the program, only 10.5 percent of the nation’s nearly 22 million veterans take advantage of this aspect of their Veterans Administration benefit offerings. When asked why, 33 percent of those who responded said they were completely unaware of the benefit, another group said that they went with the FHA loan because they assumed it was “easier” to obtain.
Obviously, the VA could be doing a better job informing (especially young) members of the military, veterans and surviving unmarried spouses about the VA loan and the mortgage industry could be doing a whole lot more to get the word out. So, today we’ll take a look at the program and learn why it may just be the best loan product on the market.
Remember, we aren’t VA, mortgage or financial experts, so consult with the appropriate professional should you have any questions regarding the VA home loan program and its benefits.
The basics of the VA home loan program
Like the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) program, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t actually make loans, but offers lenders a guaranty, if the veteran defaults on the loan. Should this happen, the VA will pay from 40 to 50 percent of the balance of the loan (the percentage depends on the size of the loan).
As you can imagine, this promise enables lenders to relax when faced with a borrower who may have little or less-than-perfect credit and a lower-than-average income.
So, what can you do with the VA home loan program?
- Buy a home (a condo, too, if it’s in a VA-approved community)
- Build a home
- Simultaneously buy and rehab a home
- Buy a lot and/or manufactured home
Is the VA loan harder to qualify for than the FHA loan?
No-one quite understands why so many current members of the military and veterans assume that the FHA loan is easier to obtain. Although there are additional steps you’ll need to take when pursuing a VA loan, they are quick and somewhat easy (if you have the right lender).
To qualify, you’ll need to say “yes” to at least one of the following questions:
- Were you on active duty for at least 90 consecutive days during wartime?
- Have you served at least 181 days of active duty during peacetime?
- Have you served in the National Guard or Reserves for more than 6 years?
- Are you a widower or widow of a military service member who died either in the line of duty or as the result of an active-duty service-related injury or disability?
The biggest advantages of the VA loan
As previously mentioned, the biggest advantage of the VA loan is that you won’t have to put any money down. Now any conventional or FHA-backed loan for which a borrower submits a less-than 20 percent down payment will require the purchase of mortgage insurance (the Mortgage Insurance Premium in the FHA loan and private mortgage insurance, or PMI, with a conventional loan).
These policies cover the lender in the event the borrower defaults on the loan. This insurance, which benefits the lender should the borrower default on the loan, can add quite a chunk to your monthly mortgage payment. For instance, FHA’s annual mortgage insurance premium for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with 3.5 percent down payment is 0.85 percent annually.
The VA loan has no monthly mortgage insurance premiums, closing costs are limited and there is no prepayment penalty. With no monthly mortgage insurance premium, the veteran’s house payment each month will be less than if he or she had obtained an FHA loan.
The VA home loan process
Yes, there are a few more hoops to jump through when dealing with the VA. Eligibility requirements, however, are much like those for FHA and conventional loans:
- “Suitable credit.” The VA doesn’t really explain what they mean by “suitable.”
- You should be able to prove that you have the income to cover all your bills and the house payment.
- You must live in the home (you can’t rent it out).
- You must present a VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Most VA-approved lenders can access your COE online or you can access your COE on the eBenefits page of the VA website.
The biggest hurdle for vets is that these loans are provided by lenders and they all have their own guidelines. Shop around until you find one that you feel you can work with.
The West Coasts Premier Urban Professionals – Ski/Snowboard Weekend
March 10-12, 2017
Vacation with other urban professionals from across the country at Nevada’s premier winter resort. This vacation has something for everyone, including non-skiers/boarders; you won’t want to miss this experience!
Snowboard, ski, snowmobile, tubing, casinos, ice skate rink, dog sledding, carriage rides, gondolas, parties and more
Come for the snow or come for the parties ALL are welcome!!!
Placer County, California. Our territory stretches from the Sacramento Valley all the way to North Lake Tahoe. We are consistently ranked the 2nd healthiest county in California (but we’re bound and determined to get to 1st!), and we already rank 1st in quality of life. We boast the best schools, the best outdoor recreation, and the most beautiful views you’ll find anywhere, but we also are home to amazing art, award-winning wines and agriculture. We love it so much here – it’s a way of life we call the #PlacerLife. This is Placer.
Some people splurge on vacations, some on clothes, and others on things like Rolexes, cars, or fancy dinners. Me? I choose to contribute to my own personal spa fund. While my friends will take themselves on shopping sprees or out for drinks to celebrate accomplishments or unwind after a long week at work, I beeline straight towards my favorite spot for a 60-minute massage.
Which, in my opinion, makes me a bit of an expert on the subject. After all, I’ve gotten massages everywhere from five-star resorts, to local reflexology shops, beaches, and spa chains; I’m equally a fan of the budget-friendly deep-tissue massage and the relaxation-focused luxury resort Swedish style.
I get a lot of questions from people asking about “renting to own” a property, and I wanted to clear up some common misconceptions about rent to own situations.
Aspiring homeowners with lousy credit, no nest egg savings for down payments, or just plain low incomes may have a tough time purchasing a home—particularly as buyers with deeper pockets compete for the limited number of properties for sale.
That’s why it may be so easy for them to be lured in by the promise of rent-to-own properties—a fast-growing but slightly sketchy segment of the consumer housing industry. In these sorts of programs, tenants who can’t qualify for a mortgage will make monthly payments on a home they’re renting with the promise of owning it after a set number of years—usually between five and 20 years of payments. The payments are often higher than local rents, because tenants are essentially buying the property from their landlord over time. In many cases, they’re also responsible for making repairs on the homes.
The problem is that if a deal sounds too good to be true, well, we all know by now that it probably is.
Here’s the rub: Many renters in these arrangements never become homeowners—despite years of shelling out for repairs and extra-high rents, according to a New York Times investigation into Vision Property Management. The Columbia, SC–based firm is one of the largest firms in the field.
The deals often don’t come with consumer protections and may not even be enforceable in certain states. And it’s often the cheapest homes, those designed to appeal to the worst-off buyers, that come with the most pitfalls.
“It usually doesn’t end well for anyone involved,” Kevin Koel, a real estate attorney with Capital Farm Credit, in Bryan, TX, tells realtor.com®. The rent-to-own business “is rife for people to get taken advantage of.”
In the worst-case scenarios, there are no guarantees that the landlord (who could be an individual renting out just one property or a large company) even owns the property, he warns.
Sometimes landlords will try to evict tenants early to get out of the deals. “They’ll find some way to default you so they won’t have to honor the contract,” Koel says.
And even when tenants in these arrangements make their payments on time each month, that typically doesn’t give their credit scores a corresponding boost. That’s because sellers often don’t report the payments to credit bureaus, he says.
A better plan for those interested in rent-to-own propositions would be an owner-financed deal, says Cassandra McGarvey, a real estate attorney with Houston-based Sanders Willyard. They’re very similar to rent-to-own deals except the tenant gets the deed to the property.
Plus, their credit scores can go up if they pay on time. And they can’t be evicted as easily if they fall behind on payments as the home would need to go through foreclosure proceedings.
The problem for tenants is sellers are often reluctant to transfer the deeds to these super risky buyers.
If tenants can’t score an owner-financed deal, she recommends they have a record of the rent-to-own arrangement on the deed of the property. This provides them with some measure of protection if their landlord decides to sell the home to another buyer. Many title insurance companies would be hesitant to go through with a deal with a new buyer if they were aware of a rent-to-own arrangement, she says.
They should also have a home inspection performed so they understand what condition the property is in—and how much money they can expect to spend on repairs.
“If you’re buying a house with major foundation problems, it could cost you $20,000 to $30,0000,” McGarvey says. “You want to make sure you deduct that $20,000 to $30,000 from the price of the house.”
And finally, tenants and landlords need to hash out who will be responsible for paying property taxes, homeowners association fees (if there are any), and insurance. They should also put in writing when the deed will be delivered, assuming everything goes well, and who will get the insurance check if the home is destroyed by something like a fire.
With all of these potential problems, McGarvey advises tenants to steer clear of the arrangements. “They are designed to take advantage of lower-income, less credit-worthy individuals,” she says.
Rent control in L.A. primarily applies to multifamily buildings built before October 1978. When a new tenant moves in, a landlord can set the rent as high as someone is willing to pay, but rent increases in subsequent years would be capped — recently at 3%.
Tenants in rent-controlled buildings have strong protections against eviction to ensure landlords can’t kick them out to charge higher market rents.
But under the Ellis Act, passed in 1985, landlords are able to evict tenants if they intend to either take the housing off the rental market or demolish the building to put up new apartments.