Going green: A smart idea.

Today’s homebuyers are seeking green features in the homes they consider. That’s why it’s smart to create an eco-friendly atmosphere for the buyer, and that doesn’t always mean costly fixes.

It begins when showing or marketing your home:

  • Instead of using bottled water, offer a chilled pitcher of filtered tap water at the ready.
  • Add some organic fruits or vegetables and eliminate excess packaging.
  • Use washable glassware and small ceramic plates instead of plastic, paper or Styrofoam.
  • Consider recycled paper and ink for all your marketing materials (include the recycled logo).
  • Advertising online.

And it can continue with eco-friendly upgrades to the home:

  • Replace all the light bulbs in your home with CFLs or LEDs.
  • Seal, upgrade and insulate (it can reduce your annual heating bill by $100 according to Department of Energy figures).
  • Consider upgrading to energy-efficient appliances.
  • Tankless water heaters are known for energy efficiency and water conservation.
  • Update your yard with hearty, drought-tolerant greenery that can save many gallons of water each month.

Employing any of these tips will paint a desirable picture for prospective, eco-conscious buyers.

Five Tips for Spring Cleaning

Spring is here and for those selling their home, there’s nothing more beneficial than doing a great spring cleaning job. It will not only make your home look great, but it can get rid of clutter that could distract potential buyers.

Here are five spring cleaning tips that will help you sell your home:

  1. Mow the lawn, pick up leaves and trim the hedges. Buy some colorful flowers and spread fresh mulch in flowerbeds. Fill in bare spots on your lawn. Clean gutters, wash the welcome mat and put away tools.
  2. Clean windows bring more light into a room and allows buyers the chance to see the view from their potential new home. Include all sliding glass doors, garage windows and outside doors.
  3. Inspect each room for things such as holes in the wall, outlets that are missing a cover or doorknobs that are loose and squeaky. Check caulking around sinks, faucets and tubs, as well as grout in counters or bathtubs.
  4. Power washers are easily rented from a home improvement store and they can remove layers of grime from stone, porch, deck and fencing.
  5. Go through closets and bag clothes that don’t fit, are out-of-style or you don’t wear anymore and donate them to charity. Take your old books, toys and knickknacks and hold a garage sale. A de-cluttered home is always more attractive to the homebuyer.

What a Buyer Should Expect During the Closing

The last step in the home buying process is commonly referred to as the closing. The close of escrow is when all steps—from acceptance, title search, inspection, mortgage approval, and so on— come together in a final transaction. Documents are ready to sign, the buyer is ready to hand over the purchase price and the seller is ready to transfer title. And most importantly, the keys!

It usually takes about an hour and may be attended by some or all of the parties involved: buyer, seller, real estate sales professional, attorney and title company representative. The buyer reviews and signs the loan and real estate documents and pays for the property, closing and other costs.

Assuming that the funds are in order, the deed is correct and the title is clear, the final step is the disbursement of funds to the seller. The title company should have the funds in its possession, but the buyer needs to bring a cashier’s or certified check for the down payment and the closing costs if it was not included in the mortgage loan. If the buyer’s annual real estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance will be paid through the lender, an escrow account will also be established.

Once all the papers are signed and funds are disbursed, the buyer receives the keys and is now a homeowner.

Dealing with the Down Payment

Ever dream of owning a home but don’t think you can because you lack the down payment and closing costs? Here are a few tips:

  • Borrow from your retirement account: A 401(k) or traditional IRA may allow a first-time homebuyers to borrow up to $10,000 for their down payment without incurring a penalty. If you’re self-employed or your employer allows it, you may also be able to borrow up to $50,000 from your current 401(k) and pay yourself back over five years at a reasonable interest rate.
  • Ask family: If you are able to get help from a family member, the lender may ask you to sign a gift-letter form, attesting to the relationship. They may also require your relatives to explain where they got the money and prove that they are financially able to make such a gift.
  • Look for down payment assistance grants: Down payment assistance and community redevelopment programs offer affordable housing opportunities to first-time homebuyers, low-income and moderate-income individuals and families who wish to own a home.
  • Come to a lease/purchase agreement: Homeowners who can’t sell their homes may consider a lease/purchase agreement, where you rent the home you want to buy and a percentage of your rent is applied to the down payment. Make sure you get a contract outlining all the details so both parties are protected.
  • Add it to the wedding registry: Some mortgage companies allow those getting married to set up a down payment registry.
  • Cut back and save: If nothing else, there’s always the old-fashioned “saving for a rainy day.” Try putting aside 10% of each paycheck and eating at home instead of eating out. If you’re married, save the money you would spend on birthday, anniversary and Christmas presents and put it toward your house. You also may need to forget that vacation this year.

These sacrifices may seem significant but they will be worth it once you’re inside your own home.