Win-Win Solution Blog


Turn Your Home Into a Movie Star | We Bring Video to Sellers

Early in 2013, we got a Seller referral. Bill needed help to sell his 3-unit Edwardian on Alamo Square in San Francisco to move to a smaller condo. We were extremely excited to assist Bill, not only because we love all our referrals but because this was a unique property. Built in 1883 it still had its original features, such as stained glass and crown molding.

A historian and museum designer, Bill cherished these design features and intended to preserve them. Although he had updated the kitchen and bathroom, he left so many historic details untouched. In addition Bill hired the famous color consultant, Bob Buckter, who had painted numerous Victorian and Edwardian homes around Alamo Square.

We knew right away that this home was special, so we needed to create something memorable, something big. We made a film! Yes, a real mini-movie about this gorgeous home and its Seller.

And we liked it so much that we decided to offer this service to every Seller-client we get, for absolutely no charge. Because video is the new black! Because we love all our clients that much.

Luckily enough we have so much talent here at Princeton Real Estate, that it gives us advantage over other real estate companies.

Isn’t it the best marketing approach to sell your home? Go ahead, watch the video below and call us to get similar treatment for your home!

1241 FULTON STREET FILM for Princeton Real Estate SF from Kate Fomina on Vimeo.

Will Refinancing Help Save on Your Mortgage?

Are you bogged down in debt?  Are your monthly home mortgage payments rising each year and getting harder and harder to pay?  If this situation sounds familiar, you may have considered refinancing your mortgage.  But, will it help?

When you refinance you’re simply taking out a new loan to pay off the existing one.  It only makes sense to do this if you obtain a lower interest rate enabling you to save money.

Usually, there are two good times to refinance.  If you have an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) and you’re faced with a continual interest rate rise.  You can refinance to obtain a fixed rate mortgage and avoid the higher payments.

Even if you already have a fixed rate mortgage, it might pay you to refinance if you can secure a lower interest rate.  If you’re experiencing a cash flow problem and want to refinance to lower the payments by extending the term of your loan this is not a good reason.  With an extended term you’ll be paying more over the years remaining that you own the home.

Calculate the cost of refinancing.  It won’t come free you know.  There are various fees such as points, application and recording fees, title search and PMI fees.  Other closing costs you may have to pay are survey and appraisal charges.

You usually have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI) if the loan to value ratio is greater than 80% of the appraised value.  It’s to your advantage to pay the loan down as soon as possible to avoid PMI.

A cash-out financing arrangement may be suitable if you’re disciplined on how you spend your extra money.  A cash-out deal is when you refinance and borrow more than you owe.  Pay off the existing mortgage and any excess money is yours to use however you wish such as paying off credit card debt.

If you make the decision to refinance, make sure you save enough to recover the cost. It could be just a break-even proposition.  Usually, a good rule of thumb is not to refinance if you plan to move within five years.  It probably will take at least that long to recoup the expenditures.  Calculate this to be sure.

Use a refinancing loan calculator to determine if a new loan is feasible.  Here’s one for example, we found on . It is simple and easy to use.

Remember that your refinanced mortgage will be secured by a lien on your home.  If for some reason you’re unable to make payments the lender can foreclose and possibly sell your home to pay off the mortgage.

The decision to refinance should not be taken lightly. Examine each avenue thoroughly.  Educate yourself on each step.  Ask for advice.  If the move is right, it could lift you out of debt and help make you a happy homeowner.

If you still have questions, feel free to call us 415-923-7628 – we would be more than happy to advise you or refer you to the right mortgage broker.

Tips on Celebrating July 4th

Happy Birthday America!

Here are some tips that may help you prepare for this long weekend along with some interesting history facts.

In Honor of Our First Patriots

Who were the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? British subjects at the time, they advocated the overthrow of the government for a free and independent America.  They knew they could be targeted by the British as traitors, yet showed tremendous courage and bravery by willingly putting their names on a document that could bring about their deaths.

These rebels signed the Declaration of Independence and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to their new country.  What kind of men were these 56 rebels who signed the Declaration of Independence?  Twenty-two were lawyers and nine were judges. Nine of the signers were immigrants, two were brothers, two were cousins, and one was an orphan.  They were men who were good in business and men who were not.  In short, they were ordinary human beings, thrust into an extraordinary situation.  They put their lives on the line to preserve the country they loved.

Take a few minutes while enjoying your Fourth of July holiday to remember and honor our first patriots.

Fireworks Safety Tips

This year thousands of people will be treated in emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries, half of those ages 14 and younger.  If fireworks are part of your summer festivities, here are some safety tips from the National Council of Firework Safety:

  • Always read and follow label directions.
  • Have an adult present.
  • Buy from reliable sellers.
  • Use outdoors only.
  • Always have water handy (a garden hose and a bucket).
  • Never experiment or make your own fireworks.
  • Light only one firework at a time.
  • Never re-light a “dud” firework (wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water).
  • Never give fireworks to small children.
  • Store fireworks only in a cool, dry place.
  • Dispose of fireworks properly by soaking them in water and then placing them in your trash can.
  • Never throw or point fireworks at other people.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Never light fireworks in metal or glass containers.
  • The shooter should always wear eye protection and never have any part of the body over the firework.
  • Stay away from illegal explosives.

The Dog Days of Summer

July is National Hot Dog Month, and here’s a bit of history to go with your “dog.”

The name “hot dog” is actually credited to sports cartoonist Tad Dorgan.  In 1901 he was covering a baseball game at the Polo Grounds in New York where he encountered an intriguing scene.  The vendors at the game were selling hot Dachshund sausages in rolls. Up in the press box, Dorgan heard them yelling, “Get your Dachshund sausages while they’re red hot!”  He tried to sketch a cartoon depicting the vendors, but had absolutely no idea how to spell “dachshund” so he simply wrote “hot dog.”

According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, this summer folks will consume frankfurters in record numbers.  In fact, seven billion hot dogs are likely to be devoured between Memorial Day and Labor Day, 155 million of those on July 4th.

But you can’t eat just a plain old hot dog – you’ve got to give it some panache, some character.  The Council’s research shows that for adults, mustard is the preferred condiment, while children opt for ketchup.  Other popular condiments include onions, relish and sauerkraut.

However, no one seems to know why hot dogs come in packages of 10 and hot dog buns come in packages of eight!

Make Traveling Time Learning Time

If you’re getting ready to take a family trip in the car, you might want to take advantage of that time to set up some educational activities your children will enjoy.

If you want to enhance your child’s creativity, take along a tape recorder and give everyone a chance to sing a song.  Then ask your child to sing a song he or she knows well but to change the lyrics.  Education can be fun for your kids if you know how to deliver it.

You can also play games along the way.  For instance, find license plates from other states and count them.  Or you can look for things to identify in the landscape that follow an order – alphabetical perhaps, or color categories.  Let your kids choose.

Word games are another excellent way of passing time and exercising your child’s mind. Try rhyming games, opposite meaning words and so forth.

You can also have everyone in the car empty their pockets of change, then let your child count it and calculate how many nickels, dimes, etc., you have and determine the overall total of change available.

And don’t forget to bring books.  When you’re tired and don’t feel like playing anymore, your child still needs to be occupied. Giving him a book will allow him to stay active and give you a break.

– Adapted from the Big Book of Hints from Heloise by Heloise

No matter what you will be doing, we wish you all happy and safe Independence Day!

5 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Home

Are you properly prepared for buying a home? Do you know about the top 5 things every buyer should be aware of before they buy their home?

Keep reading and you will find out what the banks are looking for before they give you a loan, some of the unforeseen costs that you'll probably be dealing with, I will also reveal a quick calculation for you to determine what you can really afford, what to do if you can't put 20% down on a loan, and finally, how to make sure the house you're buying is ready to be sold.

I know that seems like a lot to cover, but trust me, I'll keep it plain, simple, and to the point. My goal here is to get you into the house you want.

So what ARE the banks looking at before they give you a loan?

I suppose the most obvious factor would be your credit. But what credit number is good enough for the bank? If you ask 10 different Realtors, you'll get 10 different answers, but the most common and accurate answer is simplyanything above 623. But you're probably not going to get a very good interest rate at that score, because like I said, 623 would be around the minimum number just to receive a loan.

If your score is in the 720's or higher, then you've got a good chance of qualifying for a pretty decent interest rate. Anything over 750 would probably be able to easily get a VERY good interest rate. Do take into account that this is only a guide and different lenders all have different rules, but these numbers are a pretty accurate rule of thumb.

Another aspect the bank will look at isyour income-to-debt ratio. This basically means that they want to make sure you're not spending more than you're earning, and that they can feel confident that you will be able to pay back the loan.

Generally, banks want the amount of money spent on housing costs (which are your mortgage, taxes, insurance, etc) to beless than 35% of your total gross annual income. So basically if I'm making $3,000 a month, the mortgage payment, with taxes and insurance, needs to be less than 35% or less of that number. So in this example, the monthly payment for the house would need to be no higher than around $1,050.

My suggestion would be to go to your bank and get pre-approved. There are a few good reasons for doing this. Once you're pre-approved you will know what your budget is on a home, and you won't have to worry about getting a loan. If you are unsure about your bank, contact me, I can refer you to a fantastic mortgage broker who would help you determine your eligibility. It is essential to get pre-approved before you go house shopping. Imagine you find a house you love, but your bank wouldn't approve the loan for the amount of the purchase. This would be devastating!

Most banks also want 20% down on your mortgage, and I'll be talking about your options if you can't afford the 20% later in this report.

Are you prepared for the unforeseen costs that you will have to deal with when buying a home?

There are a very wide variety of costs associated with buying a home, and the most common one is the home inspection.

Generally the seller will volunteer to pay for the inspection because they are happy to be selling their house and are helping you buy it in any way they can; however, there are some sellers who will insist that you, the buyer, pay for the inspection.

An inspection will generally run between $400 and $600, and this is not something you want to get the cheapest deal on. When it comes to inspecting the home you will live in for the next decade or so, it's crucial to have an honest and accurate home inspection.

You will also want to make sure you state in the contract what will happen if the inspector finds a problem that was not disclosed by the seller. You have the right to insist that the seller fix these problems before the house can be sold. Now this doesn't mean that the seller will just up and pay, he/she has the right to insist that you pay as well. You may also want to state a contingency that if the seller refuses to pay for these problems,you have the right to back out completely from the contract.

Closing costs are another debatable item between buyers and sellers. Since there is no law as to who has to pay these associated fees, it's left up to the buyer and the seller to negotiate. Finding a seller who is willing to pay for a home inspection AND all of the closing costs is rare.

As a rule of thumb, closing costs are going to run you about 2 to 4 percent of the purchase price. So, to put that in perspective, if you're buying a $150,000 house, you can estimate the closing costs to be between $3,000 and $6,000.

That's a good chunk of change, and if you have a seller who is unwilling to pay these costs, guess who is going to pay them? Sometimes the buyer and the seller will come to an agreement and meet halfway with the closing costs, but that isstill an extra $1,500 to $3,000 out of your pocket. On top of this, you'll have an application fee, appraisal fee, attorney fees, title fees and more.

The bottom line here is to make sure that you are prepared for these fees and some unforeseen fees that may come into play when buying your home. Put some money back if need be, but be prepared.

If you want to determine what you can probably REALLY afford, there is a simple calculation you can do to achieve this.

Take your annual salary (net not gross) and multiply it two and a half times. If you have a spouse, add in his/her annual salary too. You won't want to buy a house that has a price tag larger than this number

For example, if my wife and I make $70,000 a year net, then our loan amount shouldn't exceed $175,000.

If you want to get technical about it, and get a more accurate number, there is a great online calculator tool that will help you achieve this. You can visit that by going here: Mortgage Calculator. This calculator will give you a pretty accurate number of what you can afford.

Most banks are going to require that, in addition to having that 623 or better credit score, you will need come up with 20% of your loan amount as a down payment. If you don't have 20% to put down, here are your options…

A lot of people just don't have that amount of money saved up. If you're in this position, there are a couple of options that you may want to look into.

FHA loans are government guaranteed mortgages and they only require a 3.5% down payment. This is a lot less than the traditional 20%, but keep in mind that you will still have to pay your closing costs. I will go ahead and tell you that in order to qualify for this loan, you are going to have to have2 years of steady employment with a stable or increasing income, a minimum credit score of 623, no bankruptcies in the last 7 years, no foreclosures in the last 5 years, and a mortgage payment no more than 30% of your gross income. There are also limits as to how much you can borrow and these limits are directly related to the area that you live in. Finally, you do have to pay a premium of up to 1% of the loan amountat closing. This can be rolled into your mortgage, but keep in mind that your monthly payments will increase if you do that.

You could also get private mortgage insurance. Insuring your loan will appeal to your bank and may not require as much to put down. The premiums on this insurance vary, but the more money you put down on the loan, the more the premiums are reduced.

The bottom line is that buying a house is a very expensive investment, and it's always better to put that 20% down, but if you can't afford that at the time of purchase, there are other options. Just be careful to research all of the conditions that go along with these options.

Now I want to cover a few simple methods that you can do to ensure that the houseyou'vedecided to buydoesn'thave any damage that you're unable to live with!

The last thing you want is to end up with a house that has a million and one things wrong with it, but you've already signed on the dotted line. Make sure you figure these things out before you make any kind of legal agreement.

One obvious solution is worth mentioning again, and that solution is a home inspection. These are very inexpensive (especially for what you're getting) and if you get a good home inspector, he/she will be able to point out everything that's not 100% on the house. The main focus of the home inspection will be the structural, mechanical and electrical condition of the property. The inspector will check the roof, chimney, gutters, windows, doors, porch, heating, a/c, electric plugs and fixtures, the floors, the walls, the ceilings, bathrooms, kitchen, etc. You wouldn't want to be moving into a house that has an unstable foundation or could catch on fire from a bad wiring job. Below is an example of what I'm talking about.

I heard a story about a guy who bought a house that was built in the 1920's. He fell in love with it because of the original hardwood floors, and he said that's what "sold" him on the house. What he didn't do was get a home inspection because if he'd gotten one, he would have realized that the people who lived there before him re-wired the entire house themselves.

I won't go into the details, but basically the house was a standing fire hazard and the guy had to pay an unexpected $5,000 after he discovered the problem. By then he'd already signed the contract and the sellers were no longer obligated to do anything to fix it. Had he gotten an inspector, the inspector would have pointed out this very obvious problem that the buyer so easily overlooked.

Home add-ons seem to be another one of the most common problems. Previous owners decide they want to update the home, yet they aren't licensed nor do they get the proper permits to do this.

If the home you are purchasing has add-on rooms or rooms that have been "renovated", let that raise a red flag and make sure you inspect their work and question them about how they did it.

In conclusion, you will probably never be 100% prepared for all of the surprises that may pop up when buying a home, but I hope this short guide has given you some insight to the buyer's world, helped you make some decisions, and helped prepare you for what may come down the road.

P.S.These 5 things are VERY GOOD to know about buying a home, but there are a lot more elements just like this that I would love to help you with. If you need a good agent who is going to watch your back and cover all of your bases, then give me a call and let's meet up. I'd love to work with you!

4 Reasons You Should Sell Your Home Right Now

In 2006, you saw the housing bubble completely crash and burn, which put buying and selling homes at a near standstill. Homes were being foreclosed on, even people with good credit couldn't get loan approvals and sellers who were getting offers on their properties stood little chance of selling them for their true worth.

As a result, many folks who had their properties up for sale at the time that everything went awry decided to make a hasty exit from such a hostile and unpromising environment. They had hope that better days would eventually arrive, and that they would be able to sell their homes for a fair price.

As a real estate broker, I still see people eight years later still waiting to put their home up for sale. The main reason for this stalling is that they're terrified to try and re-enter the housing market at the wrong time.

Perhaps you are one of these very people who decided to cut your losses and stay in a home because it seemed that fate had forced your hand.Or, you might even be one of the many that are fresh to the home selling scene and are ready to move on to the greener pastures of a new home. Either way, it's likely that you have wondered if now is the right time to sell, or if you should hold out for the economy to improve just a wee bit more.

I won't misguide you. There are many of my colleagues who would say that holding out a little longer would serve you well. However, I have a good bit of data to back up my belief that now is the perfect time to get your house on the market. Following, I have disclosed this data and compiled four solid reasons that you should absolutely sell your home as quickly as possible. Making a move immediately will most definitely work for you rather than against you. Now is the time!

Reasons You Should Sell Your Home Right Now #1:

Interest Rates are on the Rise

Over the last several years, we have seen record low interest rates on mortgages. This was primarily in an effort to allow folks to continue to afford to buy properties and promote growth. The lower rates have allowed for the housing market to begin the slow process of healing. However, the past few months have seen interest rates gradually begin to increase. Further, these rates are projected to continue to go up steadily over the next year, and beyond, by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

But wait! You're selling your home, not buying it! What difference does all of this make to you? It's really quite simple! If you sell right now, the people who are in the market to buy want to do so quickly before interest rates creep up any higher than they already have! They want to take advantage of an opportunity to get more home for less money in the long run. Buyers just need homes to snap up!

Additionally, by making a purchase now, buyers can afford to pay you more money for your home. You see, the lower interest rate makes their monthly payment more affordableright now. See how that works? A lower interest rate translates into buyers being able to pay more to you presently. That won't be the case next year. Now is the time for you to act and get that baby up for sale.

Keep in Mind…

It will also benefit you to keep another little detail in mind. If you are planning to purchase a new home once you have sold the one you're currently living in, it would be simply grand for you to take advantage of this prime, low interest rate situation, as well! Not only could you make more money on the sale of your property, you could also come out with a lower monthly mortgage payment on your new home! In the event that you are both a home seller and a future homebuyer, these are important facts to consider.

Reasons You Should Sell Your Home Right Now #2:

Payroll Taxes Affect Future Sells

If you bring in less than $113,000 annually, you've probably already felt the squeeze on your paycheck since the beginning of 2013. This is when the payroll tax that provides funding to Social Security was reinstated to its 2010 high of 6.2%. (csnbc) Families of lesser incomes are feeling the pinch far more than those of higher revenue. This can have a huge, negative effect on your chances of selling your home for top dollar if you continue to wait to get back out in the market.

People who are in the market right now are willing to pay a higher price for your property than they might be in a few months. By then, this payroll tax burden really begins to take its toll. Take advantage of the opportunity to sell your home at top dollar right now. You'll also be helping current homebuyers get the benefit of cashing in on the current low interest rates, too.

Reasons You Should Sell Your Home Right Now #3:

Simple Supply and Demand

Supply and demand is an economic principle that is at work in the real estate market today. After the housing market collapsed in 2006, there was a huge surplus of homes up for sale, but there were few consumers demanding to buy them. New construction projects came to standstills, many of which have never been completed. Foreclosures skyrocketed, and people who were asking a price that their home was actually worth were routinely shot down in favor of a deal.

There were just too many houses and not enough eligible buyers to turn the market around quickly. This is the negative side of supply and demand. When there's too much supply (in this case I'm speaking of homes) and not enough demand (or sellers to buy said homes) prices on the supply drop exponentially. Nearly anyone serious about selling a home at that time had to let their property go for a deal, or be stuck with it indefinitely.

Thankfully, that trend is beginning to turn around now, some seven years later. You should absolutely take advantage of the beginnings of a prime supply and demand situation for you, the seller. While 2006 and the immediate time thereafter worked against sellers, the market environment right now is leaning toward the seller's favor!

On top of their being more buyers who are serious about purchasing your property, there is also a huge shortage of homes actually available on the market. Practically everyone is waiting for the big market turn around that will get them the best price for their effort…in theory. In reality, right now is the time to move. Less competition is great for you as the seller! Can you imagine? There literally hasn't been this few homes available in eight years. (kcmblog)

Reasons You Should Sell Your Home Right Now #4:

Low Interest Means Buying Power

Although all of the above points are compelling reasons to sell your home right now, they are not the most convincing argument to support your cause. Actually, the fact that the current low interest rates provide homebuyers far more buying power is the single most important reason to put your house on the market immediately.

You see, when interest rates are low, potential homebuyers have the ability to get approved for bigger loans far more easily. The reasoning behind this phenomenon goes a little something like this; the borrower will have less money for interest costs pushing their monthly bill up, so they can afford to get a loan for a larger amount. A little more simply stated, the lower interest rate a buyer locks in on, the bigger the loan they are actually able to obtain.

I highly recommend that you go ahead and put your home on the market while a borrower's buying power is strong and steady. More than anything else, a strong buying power is going to assist you in getting the very best price for your home.

By moving forward with your sale, your buyers win because they have a great home that is worth the price they are paying. Likewise, they can actually afford to make their mortgage payment without too much sweat, blood and tears. You win because you didn't have to drop your asking price exponentially just to get it to sell, and you were able to make a sell quickly because your buyers knew they were getting a deal. Everyone is happy and you all benefit from this situation.

Even if you haven't had luck in the past selling your property, I can most assuredly help you to get your home moved in the here and now.We are here to help! Please, feel free to contact me in the event that you are ready to take advantage of this great time for selling your home quickly and for a great price.

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