Home Buying Made Simple

Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Finding Your Dream Home

There are many ways to find your dream home. You may stumble upon it at an open house, while surfing the Internet or through your friendly neighborhood real estate agent. In addition to these popular ways of landing a home, there are some less-obvious methods, such as buying foreclosed properties or attending auctions.

On the Web

More than 80 percent of home buyers begin their home search on the Internet, according to The National Association of Realtors. That’s because looking for a home online offers huge benefits: you can do it from the comfort of your home, and it is a great way to narrow down and preselect the properties you’ll want to check out in person. Best of all, thanks to today’s sleek technology, web real estate sites allow you to view photos of a home’s interior and exterior, while 360-degree virtual tours and videos bring your prospective dream home to life on you monitor. 

Real estate agents

Nearly 90 percent of homes are sold through real estate agents. For a list of available properties, real estate agents often consult the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which is a registry of available homes in a specific area compiled by member brokers. However, some home sellers prefer to keep a low profile and choose not to publicize their properties in the MLS. An expert agent can give you the edge over other house hunters. Many agents receive early alerts before a property goes on sale, so keep in close touch with an agent who knows which homes are hitting the market!

Newspapers and magazines

Newspapers still command a large share of real estate advertising. They feature a listing of the largest number and the latest properties that you can view on open house days, along with viewing schedules and addresses. Often, you can also find the papers’ printed real estate information online. HomeFinder.com, for instance, carries home listings of more than 130 newspapers! For those who prefer to start out with a more traditional home hunting option, home magazines offer a photographic shopping tour for available homes with published prices in a specific geographical area Keep in mind, though, that printed home listings become outdated quickly, and some homes might already be under contract.


Don’t forget that I write for the Total Mortgage Blog. When it’s time to finance your home come to Total Mortgage Services for the absolute lowest mortgage rates

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Mortgage Types

Can’t get a standard mortgage, one that conforms to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac guidelines? Not to worry. You can consider alternative types of home financing. Some of these carry higher interest rates, because the person or institution loaning you the money feels that there is a higher risk involved. Higher risk equals higher interest rates and terms that are not as attractive. Here are some alternatives

Affordable housing loan-- An umbrella term used to cover various loan products targeted to first-time home buyers. Many states, counties and communities offer attractive mortgage programs to new buyers. Ask your real estate agent or mortgage loan officer about the programs and qualification guidelines.

Assumable loan-- An existing mortgage loan that can be “assumed” by another person. Most conventional loans are not assumable; government loans — Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or Veterans Administration (VA) loans — are typically assumable if the buyer qualifies.

Installment sale, also called a land contract-- Usually a private agreement between a seller and buyer in which the title is not transferred until all payments have been made. These are more popular in slow housing markets. If you’re considering an installment sale make sure that a real estate attorney reviews all the contract details before you sign.

Carryback financing-- When a seller agrees to finance either the first or a second mortgage on the property. This might be attractive if you only qualify for 90 percent of the value of a home. Ask the seller if he will carry back or hold a 10 percent mortgage. In this arrangement, the seller basically assumes the role of a bank.

Purchase money mortgage-- Any loan used to purchase the real estate, also referred to as “real property,” which serves as collateral. This is another form of seller financing.

I am a writer for the Total Mortgage Blog. Total Mortgage is a great place to find current mortgage rates and learn more about numerous topics from the Total Guide.  

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012
How to Find a Great Real Estate Agent

Types of Agents

There are different types of real estate professionals.  It is important to understand the different levels of expertise.  Bear in mind that licensing and certification tends to vary from state to state:

  • Real Estate Agent- A real estate agent typically has a state license or certification. 
  • Realtor- Realtors have state licensing and have additional certification from the National Association of Realtors. 
  • Real Estate Broker- Depending upon the state, a real estate broker may have to have a certain number of years of experience and may have to take a broker’s exam on real estate law.

Look Beyond Certifications and Licences

When you are searching for the right agent, consider their licensed qualifications, but also keep these intangibles in mind:

  • Look for someone that takes the time to look presentable and professional.  Remember they are representing you and your interests. 
  • Find someone with excellent communication skills.
  • It is important that your agent be a skilled negotiator.
  • Think about how your agent will be perceived by perspective buyers.  You want someone who will be friendly and respectful to potential buyers. 
  • Try to find an agent that likes your home that is able to accentuate the positive. 



  • Are you a seller or a buyer?  Look into a seller’s agent or buyer’s agent. 
  • Look for a local agent.  Their knowledge of local conditions will be useful in buying or selling a home. 
  • Choose your agent before you start seriously looking at homes.  The agent can provide helpful guidance in making your decision.
  • If possible, try to find an agent with two or more years of experience.
  • Look for commitment.  Try to find someone that will give you all of his or her time and energy to get your home sold. 
  • Interview at least three prospects.  Ask them tough questions.  Ask for references and evaluate their personality.
  • How long have you been in real estate?  How long in this area?
  • How many houses have your sold?  At what prices?
  • What will they do to sell your home at the best price?
  • What kind of training have they obtained?
  • How many properties do you manage?
  • Ask them to report back to you with their progress.
  • Consider the National Association of Realtors website.
  • How proactive can they be to make sure your home is sold?



I am a writer for the Total Mortgage Blog. Total Mortgage is a great place to find current mortgage rates and learn more about numerous topics from the Total Guide.  Check it out!

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Monday, July 30, 2012
Adding Value to Your Home

Adding Value to Your Home!

Low Budget Changes

There’s a fine line between adding value to your home, and dumping cash into a bottomless pit. If you don’t want to spend the money on a contractor or interior decorator, here are some low cost, do-it-yourself ways that you can improve your home. 


Regardless of how good your home looks from the outside, if the interior is falling apart then it will be difficult to sell. A fresh coat of paint on all of the walls and ceilings will reassure potential buyers that you have taken good care of the house over the years.


By giving your hardwood floors a shiny new look, buyers will assume that the floors are newer than they actually are. This can help distinguish your home from others. You will have a better chance of selling your home if it appears to be in good shape. It’s also a good idea to refinish the front door. This way you can set a positive tone for the tour right from the get go.


If you have laminate countertops in your kitchen, it would be simple and relatively inexpensive to replace them with fresh laminate. Even if the buyer doesn’t end up liking the replacement tops, it will be just as convenient for them to replace the tops later.

The Bathroom Fan

While this may seem a bit out of the ordinary, it’s more important than you would think. Other than the kitchen, the bathroom is the most expensive room in the home to refurbish. Excessive amounts of steam can result in serious, costly damage to the bathroom.  It’s not a bad idea to invest in a fan that is rated for a bathroom twice the size, to ensure that your investment is safe.

I write for the Total Mortgage Blog and am also a contributor on our Total Guide page.

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Friday, July 27, 2012
Tips to Finding a Gay Friendly Neighborhood

Tips to Finding a Gay Friendly Neighborhood


When you and your partner are searching for your new home, you may also want to consider the type of neighborhood that you will move into. Although it’s 2012, there are still narrow-minded people out there. If you and your family don’t feel comfortable and safe in your new home then a great experience will inevitably be ruined. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re searching for your ideal neighborhood.


Safety and Comfort

Do a little research on recent, local hate crimes. Life is stressful enough, and you shouldn’t have to worry about holding hands in public, or your child being accepted at their new school.

Consider the City

If the city life is for you then you’re in luck. American cities generally have larger and stronger gay communities, which will naturally make you and your family fell more comfortable with your surroundings.


Don’t spread yourself too thin because you think you found a great neighborhood or home to live in. Like all new homebuyers, you need to purchase property within your means.


You know yourself better than anyone. It’s okay to take suggestions and advice when searching for a place to live, but in the end you need to live somewhere that can support your lifestyle. It makes sense to buy a home that is surrounded with activities and attractions that spark your interest.

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Potential Roadblocks

Potential Roadblocks

I thought I would share some of the roadblocks that could stand in your way while trying to buy a home.

In some localities there are laws in place that prevent same sex couples from being granted the same rights that straight couples enjoy. It is because of these laws that same sex couples have to be that much more careful when filling out their documents for a home or mortgage.


Intestacy Laws

These laws vary by state, and have been put in place to protect couples from losing assets in the event one of the partners dies without a will.  Often these laws do not protect same sex couples. In fact, if a partner dies the survivor may be last in line to receive his or her assets (children, parents, siblings, grandchildren, next of kin, and creditors may take precedence). It is particularly important that same sex partners have wills drafted if they are buying a home. 

Federal “Defense of Marriage Act”

This is a U.S. federal law that recognizes marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The act states that no state is required to recognize a same sex marriage that is considered a marriage in another state. Therefore, same sex couples are not granted social security benefits, immigration privileges, or marriage exemptions for federal estate, transfer, or gift taxes. (26 states have passed statutes specifically barring same sex marriage).


This blog was written by Kris Poolie. A blogger for the Total Mortgage Blog and a writer for the Total Guide

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Thursday, July 26, 2012
Quick Blog!-Types of Partnerships as Recognized by Various States

Quick Blog!-Types of Partnerships as Recognized by Various States

Laws pertaining to same-sex partnership vary from state to state. Some states allow gay couples to get legally married while others offer alternative options.  Also, some states recognize certain legal relationships even when that state does not offer that relationship.  For example, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont only offer marriage, but they will recognize civil unions and domestic partnerships that offer all the rights of marriage and provide those couples with all the state rights of marriage.  This is an ever changing landscape, and you should check with LGBT legal organizations like Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), or Lambda Legal, for the latest information.     

Also, because of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), NO same-sex couple (even couples who are married) is able to access the 1138 federal laws that pertain to marriage.  This means that married same-sex couples cannot file married federal income tax returns, or apply for Social Security spousal benefits or receive any of the other numerous rights and protections that the federal government provides to married couples.  The United States Supreme Court will most likely address the issue of whether DOMA is constitutional during its 2012-2013 session.

Legal Marriage

In the following places some states two people of the same sex can be legally married:  Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and The District of Columbia  In those places, same-sex married couples receive all the rights that place provides to married couples, but none of the federal rights and protections.

Civil unions

Civil Unions provide all the state rights of marriage but not the name and are only recognized by certain states.  were designed to extend rights to same sex couples, but these rights can only be enforced in the state the couple lives in. The states that currently provide civil unions are Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Delaware, and Rhode Island. Although several other states that do not offer civil unions will recognize them. 

Domestic Partnership

This is a very confusing term because it is used in a variety of contexts.  However, in terms of local and state governments, domestic partnerships vary among states, cities, and counties. Currently, domestic partnerships are recognized in California, Oregon, DC, Nevada, Washington, Maine, New Jersey, Colorado, Wisconsin and Hawaii. Four states, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, have domestic partnerships that provide all the state rights and protections that married couples in that state receive.


Check out the full guides I wrote on Home Buying for Unmarried Couples and The Gay Guide to Home Buying. Check out some financial blogs from myself and others at the Total Mortgage Blog.

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Important Documents for Home Buying

Important Documents

The paperwork will be extensive and tedious, but it is important to be aware of the documents that need to be filed when you are purchasing a new home. It is not just about the house, but also about leaving your assets to the appropriate people in the instance of death. Here are some options for protecting your assets and your family, in life, and for the years to follow:

  • The Will-

The will is a document that must be filed with the probate court upon the death of the testator. This process can be both timely and expensive. A person uses a will to allocate whom he or she will leave their estate and assets to upon their death. In the instance of same sex partnerships, this would be a preferable way for one partner to ensure the other partner receives any and all intended assets. 

  • Trusts-

A trust is created when property is transferred by one party, the settlor, to be held by another party, the trustee, for the benefit of a third party, a beneficiary. The beneficiary, either immediately or in the future, will receive income or property from the trust.  Trusts are more difficult than wills to contest in court, which will help to protect the survivor from family members of the deceased. However, if you elect to take this route in insuring your assets, you must be thorough because anything that’s not named in the trust will be subject to probate.

  • Living Trusts-

A living trust is a trust created and in effect while you are still alive, rather than a trust created at your death.  Living trusts are a type of trust that is often used by same sex couples who are in an unmarried partnership. These trusts name the beneficiaries who will receive any assets and the trustee who will divide and allocate said assets upon death.

  • Transfer on Death Deed-

A transfer on death deed allows a property owner to directly transfer the ownership of real estate at the owner’s death to whomever the owner designates by name.  This is an affidavit, which relinquishes full ownership of the property to the surviving partner upon death. The beneficiary can be changed at any time while the holder is alive, so along with a will, a transfer on death deed is a convenient document to have on file.

  • Cohabitation Agreements-

A cohabitation agreement is a contract that both parties enter into in order to express their rights and obligations to one another while they coexist on the same piece of property. This is a business arrangement that is financially effective, especially if both parties involved are of similar financial worth. Even if the relationship fails, under the terms of this agreement, the parties may still be required to support one another.

  • LLC/LLP-

You and your partner have the option to form a Limited Liability Company/ Partnership, so that you will own your property and home as business partners. In states where same sex marriage is not permitted, this method will help you and your partner to avoid double taxation on your assets and property. You both will own the property equally and will be able to transfer assets back and forth, as well as to your children (regardless of biological ties).

This process can be difficult and tedious. There are initial filing requirements and fees that would not accompany some of the other options in this guide. LLCs and LLPs also need to file articles of organization and include a business description in their application. They must also register with the IRS and the state department of revenue. Some states (including Connecticut) require the owners to obtain workers’ comp insurance even if they do not hire any employees.

  • Domestic Partner Agreement-

This is a written agreement that establishes property rights. A domestic partner agreement is especially important if you and your partner don’t have a joint partnership agreement. In the event of a break up, this agreement will address questions like:

  • Does the house have to be sold?
  • Can one partner buy out the other?
  • If the house cannot be sold, should both partners contribute to the mortgage to preserve their credit?
  • If the house is sold, but one partner had contributed more financially, how will the proceeds by divided?

There are plenty of questions that could, and most likely will, be asked if a relationship comes to an end. If you and your partner predetermine the answers to these questions as a precaution, then you will save yourselves a lot of excess stress. 

I am a writer for the Total Mortgage Blog. Total Mortgage is a great place to find current mortgage rates and learn more about numerous topics from the Total Guide.  

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Same Sex Home Buying- Part 1

Here is my first blog! Hope you find it informative.

Buying a home is a major responsibility for any couple, but same-sex couples must be especially meticulous to make sure their investment and their interests are protected.  This is due in part to inconsistent marriage laws in America and because of varying laws handling the disposition of a property with multiple owners.  Purchasing a home with your partner is an exciting time in both of your lives, but it is absolutely imperative that you plan ahead so that you can avoid potentially serious financial and emotional stress in the future. 

Planning for the Inevitable

It is inevitable that a partnership will end, either by death or divorce.  All couples (not just same sex couples) need to establish the appropriate type of ownership for their particular situation.  The means of ownership will determine what happens to a home when one of the partners dies.  Property laws vary greatly from state to state, so it is advisable to speak with a property lawyer in order to understand your options.  

• Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS)

In the case of a joint account, on the death of one account holder ownership of the account assets is transferred to the remaining account holder. Filing for (JTWROS) is crucial if the dying partner wishes to relinquish all of his or her assets to the surviving partner. If this action is not taken, the family of the deceased will, by law, become the rightful owner(s) of the property/assets along with the surviving partner.  Overall, this is the best option for same sex couples that wish to leave their assets to their partner.

• Tenants in Common

 In the case of tenants in common, each partner owns a percentage of the property.  The shares do not need to be split evenly, especially if one partner makes more money than the other and is investing more of his or her money into the property. However, if one of the partners dies, their share will not go to the surviving partner. This method is not suggested for same sex couples that wish to relinquish their assets to the survivor.

• Tenancy by the Entirety

A majority of the states do not offer this option to same sex couples because they don’t recognize same sex marriage. Tenancy by the entirety allows both partners to own 100% of the property equally as if they were purchasing the property as one person. If one partner dies, the property remains with the survivor.


Check out The Total Mortgage Guide page for interesting tidbits on other subjects!

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