Updated: Friday, February 28, 2020

Live Like a Celebrity With These Budget Baller Home Features

The one thing most of their homes have in common: incredible features you have to be incredibly rich to pay for. But you can get some baller features without spending big bucks. Heres how.

Gourmet kitchen

Get a look that seems like it came right out of the pages of a shelter magazine without busting your budget. The trick: a little ingenuity and a little elbow grease. For a couple hundred bucks, you can paint those dingy, dated cabinets. No one who has ever done this will tell you its not an easy job, but the results are well worth the effort. Add another couple hundred for sparkly pulls and knobs, and maybe a few pendants over the island or peninsula to totally transform your kitchen.nbsp;

Watch a tutorial and you can easily learn how to do your own backsplash. Or, for a super quick and easy transformation, try peel-and-stick backsplash tiles, which come in tons of options now and looks like the real deal.

Custom basketball court

Michael Jordans indoor basketball court at his Chicago home listed for sale for just under 15 million, if youre interested, is as fancy as you would expect from one of the all-time NBA legends. In addition to a regulation size court, its got motorized backboards and the Jumpman logo at center court. And its done up in Chicago Bulls colors. Of course.

You dont need a hangar-sized structure to create a baller basketball court. Take it outside and you have tons of options. Companies like Versacourt offer pre-designed kits of snap-together tiles for small courts, half courts, and full courts. The tiles are durable and shock-absorbing, and the install is DIY, saving on costs. Also, they can be placed over any flat surface.nbsp;

Versacourt estimates that the cost for a typical multi-sport game court will run aboutnbsp;3.50nbsp;tonbsp;4.50nbsp;per square foot for a fully designed, painted and prepared for easy assembly. This may run higher if additional game lines or custom logos are specified.

Pre-designed kits come in a variety of colors, including Bulls red and black and Lakers purple and gold, and they also offer custom options. You can also get a custom look without the cost of kits with a stencil. For under 200, you can turn a patch of concrete into a championship spot.nbsp;

Wine storage

Were not all blessed to have the square footage for Oprah Winfreys wine cave. Her Telluride, CO home, which she purchased for 14 million in 2015, includes a wine cellar built to mimic a mining tunnel, said Architectural Digest. The cellar spans 56 feet and holds up to 1,600 bottles of vino; it even features piped-in sounds of creaking wood and dripping water to add to the cave-like atmosphere. An antique ore cart lends further authenticity to the space.

Heres a significantly less expensive option: Turn a closet into a wine room all by yourself. Mind you, this does not look like an easy process, but the whole thing only ran about 500.

Backyard putting green

The 5.8 million Franklin, TN home that Miley Cyrus purchased in 2017 has a slew of dazzling features, including a mini-golf course.nbsp;Putting greens of various sizes and shapes are a popular feature among celebs and execs and golf-lovers, but they can get pricey. You can go the super custom route, but if youre not Tiger Woods, a more mid-range version may do.

A Tour Greens synthetic putting green generally costs between 15 and 40 per square foot which includes design, materials and installation, said Tour Greens. These costs, however can vary significantly based on the size of the green, features and other site-specific factors. In general, the larger the space, the lower the per-square-foot price.

You can also get one of these portable putting greens for under 1,400, or do it yourself to get the exact specs and look you want.nbsp;


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Ask the HOA Expert: An Owner Demanding Board Meeting Minutes For The Past Five Years

Answer: What you describe is a common tactic to gain control. The logic goes something like this: All owners have a right to most HOA information and records. So, an owner that is unhappy for some reason initiates a series of demands with the message that "I want it now or else"

Getting the requested information is secondary to keeping the board off balance. Intimidation tactics are highly effective when they get the board worrying about the "consequences" or else. Usually, though, when the board complies, it triggers another demand letter. Its a game of serve and volley, a game the board cant win.

While its true that members are entitled to most information, the board is not obligated to provide it at no cost. Charge a reasonable cost for requested records in advance. When a price is put on the demands, they usually go away. Or better, post rules, policies, governing documents, budgets, financial statements, minutes and newsletters on an HOA website so all members can self-help.

Question: We have members who would like to volunteer to do minor repair work on such things as our clubhouse, trails and pool. The board is concerned about the liability factor.

Answer: As long as the work is not precarious ladder work, on the roof, etc. there is nothing wrong with allowing volunteers to do certain task. In fact, the board should encourage volunteerism and find outlets for those that are so inclined.

Question: Our governing documents prohibit homeowners from having above ground pools in their yard. The board has decided that kiddie pools are included in this prohibition stating that the HOA could be sued if a child drowns. Is this correct?

Answer: The governing document prohibition on above ground pools likely has to do with curb appeal and not safety. As long as the wading pools are not visible from the street or an attractive nuisance to area children, the HOA should allow them. Since the pools are on private property, the HOA cannot insure against events that happen there.

Question: The board has announced that collection and rule violation hearings will be held in public. Is this advisable?

Answer: All collection and rule violation issues should have an established process which includes notifying violators in writing, stating the specific details, the correction needed, the penalties for failure to comply and the right of appeal. If an appeal is requested, a private hearing should be held at a convenient time and place where the board and accused can discuss the issue.

It is not appropriate to hold public meetings since the accused may not be guilty or there may be extenuating circumstances. The board should never engage in public humiliation of its members. Besides a legal challenge from an offended owner that could embroil the HOA in a lawsuit, it just makes practical sense when neighbors are governing neighbors.

Question: Our HOA has only one bank account for both operating and reserve funds. This frequently gives the board the impression that there is more spendable cash then there really is. If we run short, money that was intended for reserves gets tapped.

Answer: Operating and reserve funds should be kept in separate bank accounts for exactly the reason you point out. States like Oregon require it. Reserve funds are intended for specific major renovation scheduled to take place in the future, some times funds arent protected from operating budget shortfalls, the money wont be there in the future when its needed and the HOA will be forced into unfair and unpopular special assessments.

Question: I read somewhere that the cost of a reserve study should be paid for out of reserve funds rather than the Operating Budget.

Answer: It depends. Its reasonable to pay for the initial reserve study with reserve funds. Afterwards, some states require annual reserve study updates. Whether mandated by state law or not, it makes good sense to update the reserve study annually to keep it accurate, just like the Operating Budget. So the cost of an annual update should be included in the Operating Budget. If the reserve study is only being updated every few years, it makes sense to plan for it in the reserve study.

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5 Tips for Picking a Great Real Estate Agent

Working with a buyers specialist real estate agent isnbsp;a smart ideanbsp;becausenbsp;they understand the ins and outs of the real estate market and how to get your offer accepted. A good Realtor can help make the process smooth and stress-free for you.nbsp;

However, with so many real estate agents each claiming to give the best quality service and all of them claim to be 1 agents, you can easily get confused about which one to choose. Luckily, today you have landed in the right place. In this article, we are going to give you proven tips for picking a great real estate agent. Here we go

Conduct your own extensive research

Most people prefer to >

Remember that buying or selling a home is a big investment. You, therefore, need to take your time and research to know more about the role of a buyers specialist real estate agent and what you should expect when you hire one. Also, research to know the credentials that a good real estate agent should have. Once you have the right information at hand, then finding a good real agent will fall into place.

Interview Realtorsnbsp;

Create a short list of at least three Realtors. Research them online at Yelp.com and Zillow.com. Take phone interviews with them. An interview is very important because it will help you know the qualifications, experience, and values of the Realtor. Ask straight questions then listen keenly how the agent answers. If you realize that the agent is taking you in circles, then that is a clear red flag that you should avoid that particular agent. Only hire an agent who answers all your questions clearly and precisely. Here are a few questions to ask:

How many homes have you sold in the past three months?
How many escrows are you currently in?
Do you have recent clients I may speak with?
If the agent hasnt recently sold at least five homes, isnt currently in escrow, or doesnt have current or past clients for you to chat with, thats a red flag.

Check if the realtor is licensed

This is a very important factor that many people usually overlook. If you want to be on the safe side, then you need to hire a real estate agent who has a current license. Dont just stop there, take necessary steps to check if indeed the license is valid and the agent doesnt have any disciplinary actions. You need to be very careful because some agents can present fake licenses. Only choose an agent who has a valid license and is in good standing with the board of Realtors.nbsp;

Talk current or recent clients of the Agent

I mentioned this above but its important to bring back up. Talking to genuine current or past clients of the Realtor will help you get a real picture of what to expect when you choose to work with that particular agent. For instance, if you are looking for a house for sale, look for past clients who had a similar situation to yours. Find out from them the quality of service that they received and whether they were satisfied with the agents performance. If the answer is YES, then you should consider hiring that agent. However, if past clients are or werent impressed with the quality of service that the agent delivered, then you should not even think of hiring that particular agent because you too could be disappointed. Only hire a real estate agent who has good reviews and ratings from his/her past clients. Period.

Gauge the Realtors understanding of the local marketnbsp;nbsp;

You will only get quality service that you are looking for if you hire a neighborhood expert agent who understands the local market. A good agent needs to understand what is happening locally. The best way to know if the agent understands the local market thoroughly is by asking him/her specific questions. For instance, you can mention a house within your neighborhood that was recently sold. If the Realtor knows about that particular property and can even go ahead to give you a few details, then that is a good indication that the agent knows whats up in the local market. A good agent needs to understand the local real estate market and should be well updated on what is happening in the real estate industry as a whole.


Glenn Shelhamer is a Real Estatenbsp;Advisornbsp;andnbsp;team lead of The Shelhamer Real Estate Group
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What Are the Differences Between an Appraisal and an Inspection?

A property appraisal can be completed at a desktop or it can be a full appraisal requiring a licensed appraiser to research recent sales in the area and make a physical inspection of the property. How does the lender decide which one is appropriate? When a loan application is submitted through an automatic underwriting system, the results indicate the degree of a needed appraisal. A transaction where there is a good amount of equity in the purchase, say 10 percent or more, its possible that a limited appraisal will be needed. Other times, a full appraisal is needed.

Before the appraiser visits the subject property, research is performed to identify at least three recent sales in the area where the property is located. The sales need to be similar in nature to the subject property, the sales should have occurred within the previous 12 months and be located less than one mile from the subject. After the initial research is done, the appraiser will visit the home. The appraiser will take pictures, both inside and out and provide an overall description of the property. The appraiser will also take pictures of the comparable sales discovered via research.nbsp;

Then, the appraiser will make certain adjustments to the final value. These adjustments attempt to make up for slight differences in the various properties listed in the appraisal report. For example, a neighborhood is made up predominantly of four bedroom, 2 bath homes. Both the subject property and at least three recent sales might show up as all have four bedrooms and 2 baths. But two of the homes have an outdoor pool and a guest house while the subject property does not.nbsp;

The appraiser will then make an adjustment by subtracting some value from the subject due to the lack of a pool and guest house. The subject property however has a three car garage while the others only have a two car garage. The appraiser will make an adjustment in value due to the larger garage. There are appraisal standards issued that provide an approximate markup or markdown of values due to included or missing amenities or features. Once the appraisal is complete, it is ultimately delivered to the making the appraisal request.nbsp;

What if the appraisal doesnt match the price listed on the sales contract? In case of a price contradiction, the lender will use the lower of the two values. If the value is higher, the buyers do not get to access that equity during the transaction, however. Its just becomes an added perk for the buyers. On the other hand, if the appraised value is lower than the sales price, the lender will use the lower value which means the buyers must decide whether to walk away from the transaction or come to the closing table with the additional down payment, making up for the difference.

With an inspection, its not a lender requirement but its certainly recommended for buyers. An inspector will make a physical inspection of the home flipping light switches, turning on faucets and making sure the appliances are in good working order. The inspection is rather thorough, and the result is a multi-page report showing all the items reviewed and if theyre in good working order, could use a little work or do not work at all. Smaller items such as a leaky faucet can be repaired after purchase but something larger such as the hot water heater is out or there are cracks around door jambs that could indicate a problem with the foundation. The sellers can then take the inspection report and if there are enough items that need some serious attention, it may very well be time to go back to the bargaining table. That, or if the problem is big enough, to walk away from the offer and find another home.


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Dining Rooms Are Back! Here’s How to Create One You Love

But that may be changing. The American dining room has lost its footing over the years to expanded kitchen eateries and admonished for its lack of use, but the formal dining room is making a strong comeback, said BCC Builders.

Use these tips to make your dining room pop.

Pick the right table

Scale matters. A table that is too bigor too smallcan throw the whole room off. When choosing a dining table shape, consider your rooms dimensions, how many people youll typically want to seat, and your entertaining >

Show your true colors

The dining room is the perfect place to show some personality. Dont be afraid to drench those walls in a deep, rich, bright, vibrant, or saturated color. Or, put up some dramatic wallpaper.nbsp; The wallpaper trend has been. going strong for some time now, and the dining room makes a great foundation for a pretty pattern.

Have some fun

Todays dining rooms still have a touch of stuffiness, but it is subdued by integrating eclectic furniture and lighting to make the room feel more fun and quirky, said BCC Builders.

Light the way

Go all out with a chandelier. If not in the dining room, then where? But thats just the starting point.nbsp;

Ideally, you should choose bulbs and fixtures that produce between 200 and 400 watts, but the real key is layering: make sure to use a mix of lighting sources includingnbsp;floor lamps, wall fixtures, candles and windows Yes, natural lighting counts too, said Pottery Barn. The shape of your light fixture is also important. Choose a shape that complements your dining table. For example, hang a rounded fixture above a round table and choose an oval or linear fixture to hang above longer and rectangular tables.nbsp;Finally, consider the size of your space. If you have a large dining room, go big and bold with an extravagant chandelier. If your space is smaller, smaller hanging pendants will achieve a similar effect without taking up too much space.

Add the right seating

Go for a combination of comfort and >

But, the type of fabric you use is also important. If you have young kids, you might want to consider the porosity of the fabric. You can expect a lot of spillsduring the life of your dining chair, said Brosa. Try as you might, you wont be able to prevent these mishaps. But you can, at least, choose a fabric that wont hold onto a stain. Thankfully, there are a few of them out there.

Leather and microfiber are top choices. Busy patterns can also work well because they wont show the inevitable stains.nbsp;

Add a rug

Round out your dining room design with vibrantnbsp;area rugs, said Better Homes and Gardens. Anchor your dining set with a colorful area rug that harmonizes with your palette and decorating >
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How Google Chrome Plugins Have Become the New Best Friends of Realtors

What if we were to tell you that theres an easier way to improve your productivity and operational efficiency as a realtor,nbsp;andnbsp;ba>

Efficiently handling emails

This is one of the biggest bugbears in real estate. Unorganized email inboxes can be the difference between closing or losing a sale. Its not worth losing track of email conversations with prospects. Businesses that operate with Gmail accounts are increasingly looking at integrated plugins and extensions within Google Chrome that simplify email communications between real estate teams. A plugin called Hive is becoming increasingly popular due to its ability to segment emails into shared mailboxes but manage them from individuals personal inboxes. Specific email threads can also be assigned to colleagues and internal communications can also be attributed to email threads without the need for email forwarding, CCs or BCCs to confuse matters.

Staying up to date with feeds

In the real estate industry, keeping up-to-date with industry trends and developments is vital for any realtor. Whether its policy changes or government announcements, its vital that you are kept abreast of these situations. Google Chrome has accepted plugins such as Feedly that allow realtors to select the kind of content they need to consume on a daily basis. With bespoke curated news feeds, its possible to get >

Support for B2B lead generation

Realtors looking to improve their teams and recruit proven sales talent often struggle when it comes to headhunting. Many people find themselves at something of a dead-end when it comes to getting contact details for prospective leads. When it comes to establishing quick and genuine connections with potential candidates, its important that you can not only provide your own contact details but access other B2B contacts at the touch of a button. Plugins like the Lusha for LinkedIn extension simplify the process, with enriched and verified B2B profiles, compatible with LinkedIn accounts that so many real estate professionals use for finding work and building contacts.

Automating signatures

Another major bugbear for realtors that can decelerate the process of sale completions is signatures. All too often, real estate teams have to scramble to download PDF documents, email them to clients, ask them to sign them and either rescan or mail them back to their offices. Its not only a time-drain but a data protection risk too. The Google Chrome DocuSign plugin makes it possible for individuals to electronically sign documents, allowing realtors to collect all the signatures they need in a quick and secure manner. The extension fires out reminders to those who are yet to sign their documentation and notifies realtors when a document has been digitally signed and is ready to go.

Getting accounting assistance

As any real estate business will testify, its not easy to keep track of expenses, particularly when it comes to monitoring cash flow and filing year-end accounts. As real estate agents spend a lot of time out on the road, its becoming increasingly common for expenses to rack up. Whether its food, fuel or accommodation, managing these expenses and keeping on top of them isnt easy when there are deals to be completed looming in the background. The Fyle Chrome extension is another handy piece of kit that makes it possible to capture expense data directly within email confirmations in Gmail. Lets say for example that a hotel room had been booked. Fyle would capture the hotel name, resort fees and store it in the background, ready for when you need to generate monthly or annual expense reports.

There are so many Chrome plugins that could benefit your real estate agencys productivity. Google Chrome is one of the best web browsers out there, capable of enhancing your social media marketing and communications at the touch of a button.


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February Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "This weeks mortgage rates were the second lowest in three years, supporting homebuyer demand and leading to higher refinancing activity. Borrowers who take advantage of these low rates can improve their cash flow by lowering their monthly mortgage payments, giving them more money to spend or save."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 3.51 percent with an average 0.7 points for the week ending January 30, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 3.74 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.35 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 3.00 percent with an average 0.7 points, down from last month when it also averaged 3.19 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.77 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 3.24 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, down from last month when it averaged 3.45 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.84 percent.


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Five Valuable Think-Ahead Home Projects

Buyer tip: If youre shopping for a home now, consider a realistic time frame for must have changes and required maintenance.

The best time to make plans for a season is during that season in the previous year or at least two seasons ahead of that season.

That is, this winter decide what has to be up-dated or renovated to make your home safe, fun, and comfortable next winter.
Now is the time to think about how you want to enjoy the yard and house or recreational property during the coming summer or next fall.

If you wait until youre in a season to arrange improvements, you may spend more on materials and labor because youll be in peak season. Youll probably also discover all the best professionals are completely booked

Here are Five Valuable Think-Ahead Home Projects That Can Add To Your Enjoyment of Your Real Estate:

1: Add a Pool

Pool time may be a distant dream right now, but the warm months will be on you and over all too quickly if you arent ready for construction action as soon as winter weather breaks. Pools dont always add value to real estate, but build on-trend and with quality products so youve got a better chance of improving your enjoyment of the property and its eventual saleability. Fortunately, costly elaborate excessive creations and large rectangular pools, which dominate the yard, have fallen out of favor. Elegant, simple designs are in. Longer, narrower pools set in retreat->

2. Upgrade Landscaping

Garden overhauls should begin while snow covers the ground. Then theres time to carefully consider which trees, shrubs, and plants will thrive in your climate and in your yards sunlight levels. Is it your intent to shift to a native-plant garden which will attract bees and butterflies or do you have a different end-point in mind? Talk to suppliers to be sure where to find what you want and at the best prices. How should your budget be allocated for the greatest impact? Dont be satisfied with only what you can conjure up; landscapers and landscape architects have a wealth of knowledge to impart.

Buying larger tree specimens can be transformative, but you have to commit to a consistent-care regime to ensure they thrive. What effect do you want to create?
In wildfire areas, landscaping must also be considered for the danger it represents and that it can address. For instance, trees and shrubs set away from the house present less threat of spreading flames.
Where drought is an issue, drought-tolerant plants, or those able to thrive with limited amounts of water, provide greenery that is self-sustaining. This environment-friendly landscaping can take a wide range of intriguing forms. At least 30 states experience droughtranging from abnormally dry conditions in Florida and Massachusetts to the exceptional drought present in California and Nevada. To check on your state, use the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA Drought Monitor.
When youre intent on increasing accessibility, introduce raised flower beds, increased seating, and removal of trip hazards, but dont compromise aesthetics or viewpoints.
If your condominium unit is in a high rise, you may decide to reduce preventable bird deaths by advocating bird-friendly design and lighting. Ornithologists estimate that up to one billion birdsoften including threatened species from the annual four billion bird migrationdie in preventable building collisions in the United States.

3. Drainage Matters

Flooding is a growing threat in many areas. How vulnerable is your home? How far away is the nearest river, stream, or lake? Is your property graded or leveled, so that rainwater and run-off are guided away from your home and out-buildings? Gutters, foundation-weeping tiles, and other drainage systems need regular inspection, maintenance, and upgrading, especially since many areas are experiencing greater rainfall than ever before. Excessive rain may cause persistent settling and flooding, which in turn damages buildings and decking. Get outside in bad weather to discover exactly whats happening to the water around your house.

4. Improve Heating/Cooling

If you dont have your heating and cooling systems inspected and maintained each year, youre setting yourself up for a heating or cooling failure during the season warmth is wanted or disliked. What was the recommended life of the heating and cooling systems you installed or inherited? If a twenty-year limit is fast approaching, time to start researching what type of heating or cooling system will best suit your home and your needs now versus why that system was chosen years ago. You may decide to supplement existing systems with solar- or wind-powered equipment. Which fuel types do you have to choose from? How much renovation or improvement to the ducts, insulation, or wiring will be required to improve efficiency? Decide whether renting or owning the new equipment is the best financial move. Are there any subsidies, grants, or payment plans available to manage costs?

5. Minimize Construction Impact

If a house will be built near yours or a major construction project is planned in your neighborhood, youd be wise to take videos of your house and garage, inside and out, floor and ceiling shots, so you can prove your buildings were crack-free before the heavy work began. This documentation is a good idea if weather conditions are becoming extreme and theres more damage done with each storm.

Suggestion: Think ahead a few years to consider how easy it will be to buy parts for any equipment or systems you buy.

Think-ahead projects, like the five above, also allow you time to be creative or innovative with your solutions, rather than making do with what you can pull together in an emergency repair:

Visit home shows and > Inspiration abounds online and in social media, but dont be too gullible. If solutions or suggestions sound too good to be true, they probably are. Watch out for scams and fraud among the you wont believe how easy this is pitches.
Ask friends and family what theyve done and which suppliers and installers theyve used. Theyll often volunteer if wed started differently... or if only wed known... advice.


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Moving Down: Eight Things You Need to Know

You might need to downsize your furniture, too.

Whats one of the first things we say when we tour a new home: Our furniture would fit perfectly in here. But if youre downsizing, that might not be the case. You may have fewer rooms to furnish, and the proportions of the rooms you do have may be smaller.nbsp;

If youre looking for a smaller place for financial reasons, youre probably not keen on spending money on new furniture. Be sure to measure your large pieces and take those measurements with you when touring homes. If it comes down to a couple of homes youre considering, maybe the one with the larger living room that can accommodate your sectional gets the edge.

You may have to compromise less with new construction.

New homes today are built to feel more open and maximize storage. If youre worried about going smaller, look to new construction.nbsp;

Your bills may go down.

If youre trying to save money, the fact that a smaller home will presumably not only cost you less for your mortgage but also your ongoing bills is great news. If you can get a handle on how much your utilities will be This is a good thing to ask your real estate agent, who can then reach out to the sellers agent, you might even be able to use the presumed savings to boost your buying poweror to sock money away every month.

You may also save time.

Less square footage means less to clean and maintain If you also have a smaller outdoor area, mowing and yard work will also be easier, allowing you to spend that leftover time pursuing other activities and interests.nbsp;

You may have some tough decisions to make.

City or suburbs. Attached or single-family. Long commute or not. When your homebuying plans are dictated by budget, the decision-making process can be challenging. Written pro-con lists can be tremendously helpful in helping you sort out your feelings. But make sure to be brutally honest with yourself. If youre leaning toward a move to the suburbs and youve written off how grueling a long commute can be, you may be in for a rude awakening.

Other people may have to compromise, too.

No room for guests: Hosting a huge holiday dinner might be out of the question in a smaller home, said The Balance. Out-of-town guests might need to stay at a hotel when they come to visit.

There may be a mourning period.

People often tend to embrace the IDEA of moving down before they really embrace the reality. The idea of less square footage might be acceptable if it saves you moneybut the reality of less space often feels like a loss.

Its OK to see it that way. Anytime theres a big life change, we need time to adjust. Give yourself time to mourn the loss of the home youre leaving. It may make the transition easier.

See the upside.nbsp;nbsp;

While your home life>
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“Mattress Money” and Mortgages

One of the more important things lenders look at when evaluating a home loan application is how much money is available for the transaction. There needs to be funds showing enough money for the required down payment, if any, closing costs and some extra funds left over after closing called cash reserves. Cash reserves are counted as the number of months worth of house payments that are left after the loan has closed. If the total mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, is 2,000 and the cash reserve requirement is three months, there should be an additional 6,000 available. This is on top of the down payment and closing costs. But these funds have to be verified as yours.

Verification is done by reviewing recent copies of bank statements. If your savings account shows 20,000 and the checking account statements show regular deposits on the 1st and 15th, the lender will begin to tally the total amount available and when enough funds are verified, the loan application continues through the approval process.nbsp;

But in this scenario, the funds are short by 5,000. The down payment, closing costs and reserves needed add up to 30,000. Thats okay though, because at home in the vault, there is 7,000 in cash ready for you to use any way you wish. You take out the 7,000 and deposit it in your checking account. Yet theres still a problem. Even though youve saved up those funds over the past year or so, you may not be able to use them. At least, the lender wont count them as yours. This is called mattress money. Loosely meaning the cash is stuffed in your mattress at home. Its frustrating because you know the funds are yours and yours alone, but the lender is ignoring them.

The issue here is there is no way to source where those funds came from. Are the funds a personal loan? If so, at some point the loan will need to be paid back. Will there monthly be monthly payments and if so, how much? In both instances it can affect the ability to repay the mortgage.

If its cash saved up and you know youre going to buy a home in the future, pull the cash out of the vault and into your bank account. This will let the funds season over time and the lender will not question where the funds came from. How long does it take to season funds? Theres no universal guideline but in general funds may be considered yours after two or three months.

If the funds are from the sale of a car, provide a copy of the bill of sale, copy of the check and copy of the deposit into your bank account. If the funds are a gift from a family member or qualified donor, again provide a paper trail. But if its cash at home, mattress money, put it in the bank as soon as able.nbsp;


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How to Save Time, Ease Workload with Online CRE Management Platforms

Kladok is one of the newer online management platforms looking to shift this trend. Having one centralized platform tailor-made specifically for CRE professionals including brokers, property owners, lenders, investors, and insurers -- saves time and makes it easier for real estate professionals to juggle details on assets and deals.

Portfolio and asset management are key parts of CRE companies workload. Organizing financial information along with various property details can be challenging to keep in a simple format. For instance, with various spreadsheets within one Excel document, it can be easy to place a number in the wrong location.nbsp;

Further, various versions of the same Excel spreadsheet are often necessary, which can be confusing. With multiple people typically working on each CRE project, all users must be well-versed on how items are being labeled in order to keep the spreadsheets accurate.

New online management platforms created for CRE professionals make their work more efficient, provide seamless communication across team members and reduce the chances of inaccuracies.

Further, innovative online management systems such as Kladok are easy to operate, while understanding the most advanced versions of Excel might require taking a course on the topic to master the tools.

Kladok is a CRE-specific online management platform that can consolidate several disconnected spreadsheets into one cloud-based location accessible from anywhere. This organized unit gives companies the ability to conduct portfolio-wide analysis or rapidly garner individual property details.

Moving portfolio details onto a technologically advanced management platform can allow a team of CRE executives to view real-time data, eliminating the need to schedule meetings for specific updates on a project which can be frequent. It also can prevent possible project delays due to factors such as a lag in inputting information, incomplete data or details placed in the wrong spreadsheet location.

Along with speeding the workflow, allowing rapid input of data into a central platform can boost transparency, allowing managers to rapidly access all information.

Additionally, some online management platforms offer a task manager. This can ease any uncertainty among team members about when a specific job should be done and who is assigned to handle it.

Accessing financing and commercial insurance products also are available via portfolio and asset data input into CRE management platform Kladok.

Beyond managing data, Kladok is also a platform that offers a network of CRE professionals who can share information, benefiting from each others expertise.

Collaborating with colleagues, organizing data, better managing information and easing workflow are just some of the benefits of an online management platform for CRE executives. Kladok is an easy-to-use platform that creates a centralized workspace. This can save time by consolidating information and removing the need to manually input data in various spreadsheet locations.


Ryan Letzeiser is the Co-Founder and CEO of Obie, a portfolio management platform for commercial and multi-family real estate recently named a Top 100 Finalist for the 2019 Chicago Innovation Awards. Obie also offers tailored and competitive property insurance products.nbsp;nbsp;


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Tips for Updating Your House in an Up-and-Coming Neighborhood

Exterior paint can also help your home stand out in the neighborhood, offering more foot traffic and curb appeal should you decide to list your house. Especially considering how inexpensive a few buckets of paint are, repainting parts of your home can give you a huge return on investment.

Remodel your bathroom

One of the most popular areas to remodel in any home is the bathroom, and for good reason. Its important to create a bathroom that feels nice and clean. Depending on the current state of your bathroom, a remodel could be as simple as changing the bathroom tile or purchasing a new vanity or medicine cabinet. You may also want to consider refinishing your bathtub or upgrading your shower head, too, as these can give your bathroom the allure of luxury at a >

Replace windows to increase cost savings

Replacing the windows in your home is both a functional and stylish choice. Window replacement can translate to energy savings in the cold and hot months of the year, which will benefit you if youre planning to stay in your home. Even if you are intending on selling your house, though, having new windows will be an attractive feature for any interested parties.

Make sure your sewage is up-to-code

As a homeowner, one of the least appealing tasks is to keep your sewage system up-to-code. That said, when you dont properly care for your sewage lines, you can be barking up a very costly tree. If you find a >

Remodel your kitchen

While sometimes expensive, remodeling your kitchen is a surefire way to increase your homes value. Adding new hardware and cabinetry can go a long way in improving your kitchens looks, especially when paired with a refinished floor in tile or hardwood. Another option for updating your kitchen is to upgrade its appliances. A brand-new, stainless steel refrigerator and updated oven and range with induction burners will appeal to the wannabe chef in every prospective buyer. Plus, if you dont plan on selling for a few years, you can enjoy these features, too

Dont forget the yard

Landscaping is another important feature of any home that often gets overlooked when renovators are too focused on the houses interior. Think about how often a well-designed rock wall, fire pit, or flower bed has contributed to the curb appeal of a home. Installing a porch or deck is a quick and easy way to add functionality and excitement to your yard and help make your home a little more special. While pu>
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7 Affordable Decorating Ideas for A Lovely Patio

Try Vertical Gardening

There is no such rule that you can only use the grounds surface for planting. Why not add a t>

Use Fabric

The right use of fabric can give you privacy, sun protection, and soothing ambiance as well as the right amount of softness and drama. There are many choices of outdoor fabric available today ranging from flowy curtain types and drapery that is more structured.

Soothing Background Sounds

It can take some time before some birds call your garden their home so a small water feature can be a great addition for some soothing nature sounds. The water will also attract small creatures. If a water feature isnt your cup of tea, a wind chime can serve the same purpose and is particularly recommended for urban areas.

Inject Your Personality in Your Dcor

Are you a fan of stripes? Of tribal patterns? Or are you simply in love with pink? Go with what your heart desires. Personalize your outdoor space however you want. The key is to not go overboard and use your personal touch for accent only.

Take Advantage of String Lights

String lights range from whimsy firefly-like ones to bigger ones reminiscent of an outdoor summer fair. Whatever design you choose, adding some to your patio will su>

Switch Table Shapes

Rectangular and other angular table shapes can make your patio look a bit too stuffed. Go for a smaller round table or tables to add interest to your space as well as make your patio appear roomier.

Shop Your Stash

There is no need to head on to stores to shop for new additions to your outdoor space. Use what you already have by shopping your stash. Go over each room and see what unused item you have can have a new life outdoors. An old chair from a set you used to have can make a good accent chair in your patio. An unused candle holder can be the centerpiece of your outdoor table. Be creative


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Growing Wealth in the Vacation Rental Market: Advice for First-Time Investors

The Right Spot

First, think like a vacationer. You want a place in a beautiful and easily accessible natural setting, with lots to do and see. For many people, that means the beach. For others, it could be a mountainside cabin. Remember, people are looking for an unforgettable experience, a vacation theyll reminisce about for years. That makes the location an important factor.nbsp;

Do your research, as buying in an area where demand is low could leave you with high vacancy rates, which will certainly cut into your profits. When you find a place you like, consider spending a few days there to assess what the place has to offer. Youll want to be able to tell potential guests that theres lots to do and plenty of good places to eat.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

If youre located far away from your vacation home, you may not be able to handle routine maintenance and guest support. In this case, youll likely need to hire a property manager. Many property management companies offer online booking, hire maid services to clean your home in between guests, and provide 24/7 support.nbsp;

Assess Your Financial Situationnbsp;nbsp;

Review your financial picture, paying special attention to your income, debt-to-income DTI ratio, and credit score. Youre basically taking on a second mortgage, and that can be an overwhelming prospect for someone whos not well-positioned financially. Your credit and debt picture will have a lot to do with the kind of loan youre able to secure. A disadvantageous loan will ultimately work against your profit potential. And youll need an adequate cash reserve on hand in case you lose income due to job loss, illness or injury.

Best Loan Options

Conventional loans are often the best option for an investment property because theyre >

Show Lenders an Appealing Financial Picture

Having a plentiful supply of cash is one of the best ways to show lenders youre a good candidate for a loan. As with any real estate purchase, the more you can put down up front, the better the terms you can expect on your loan. An investment property mortgage will require at least a 20 percent down payment approximately half of all vacation property buyers made a down payment of at least 30 percent in 2017. Its an option well worth considering because paying at least 20 percent up front means youll avoid paying private mortgage insurance.nbsp;nbsp;

The Tax Factor

Even an inexperienced investor understands about property taxes and knows to factor it into expenses. However, if youre a first-timer, you may not be familiar with lodging taxes, which are required in many places. In such locations, its the landlords responsibility to collect lodging taxes on the rents they charge. As a landlord, you dont pay lodging tax yourself, but you do have to account for taxes from your guests, so be sure youre charging enough to account for it. A busy landlord may find it difficult to monitor and account for lodging taxes from each guest. Fortunately, there are tax management services that can help.nbsp;

A vacation rental property can be an excellent investment for a novice looking for ways to generate wealth. Growth in the short-term rental market and the desirability of a temporary vacation home rather than a hotel room make it a profitable investment.


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4 Home Security Features to Increase Safety and Peace of Mind

There are a million scenarios like this each year--in fact, 3.7 million of them. Of these 3.7 million homes with break-ins in the United States, only 17 had some sort of security system in place. How safe are you in your home? Do you have any security features in place to protect you and your family in case of a break-in or other emergency?

If you dont feel safe, and if you dont have any security features in your home, these are some features you might want to consider:

1. A security system.

Its been shown that as the number of home security systems increase in an area, the number of home invasions decrease--and not just for homes with systems, but for the whole neighborhood.

When you choose your security system, there are several types to choose from. But its best to purchase a state-of-the-art home security system service where the latest technology is used to allow you to monitor and control your home security from the convenience of your smartphone. A security system not only protects you when there are break-ins, but it also protects your family if there is a fire or medical emergency.

2. Smart locks.

Smart locks allow you keyless entry into your home, allowing you, your family members, and guests easy access when needed. With a phone or other authorized device such as a key fob, smart locks can be unlocked or locked remotely; and using smart home technology, access can be granted or denied for specific time periods.

This is a great security feature since smart locks take away the need to hide spare keys outside or leave a key with a neighbor. You can always look for a home security service that comes with a smart lock option and wholl install it for you. Youll love the convenience and added security of smart locks.

3. Smart lights.

Smart lights, same as with smart locks, can be managed virtually using similar smart home technology. There are several ways you can use your smart lights. One of the most important ways is to take advantage of the feature allowing lights to be turned on or off even when youre away, giving you added security when you cant be there.

Most break-ins occur when youre away from home, so being able to trick would-be-burglars into believing youre home by randomly turning on different lights and turning off others via your phone is a great way to keep your home safer. Its great when you can piggyback smart lights in with a security system that has this feature.

4. Security cameras.

Security cameras are important for several reasons: they help police solve crimes, they actually deter crimes, and they give you peace of mind.

Through smart home technology, you can strategically place security cameras to remotely view areas in and around your home and make sure everything is as it should be; you can even review old video footage when needed.

Security cameras are great features to add to any home, and security system services often have cameras available as part of their home security packages.

You probably know at least one person who has experienced a home invasion of some sort. It may have even been you. When these traumas hit close to home, we realize how important it is to make sure our homes are as secure and protected as they can be. Its better not to wait until something happens to our home, or worse, someone we know and love, before we take precautions. By getting a home security system, smart locks, smart lights, and security cameras, youll have that added peace of mind that youre doing all you can do to ensure the safety of your household.


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Ask The HOA Expert: Can The Board Modify Architectural Design Policy?

Answer: This kind of policy is generally amendable by the board when its in resolution form a separate document outside the recorded governing documents. If the policy is part of the governing documents, a vote of the members is needed. But even if the board has the authority to amend, it is strongly recommended that proposed amendments be circulated to the members for comment prior to voting to enact them. A 30 day review is not going to make much difference in the long run and members will be more likely to comply when theyve had a chance to be heard.

Question: Does a director of the board have the authority to give a power of attorney to another person to act on his/her behalf?

Answer: No. Directors are elected by the members and cannot give that authority to another person.

Question: We have a board member who argues that damage done to the interior of a condo unit from a roof leak is the responsibility of the homeowner association. I have been telling the board that the HOA is not responsible for the interior damage unless the board does not address the roof leak in a timely manner. Whos right?

Answer: Technically, this board member is correct. When HOAs purchase insurance for the structures, that insurance extends to the units themselves. However, the governing documents often has or the board can establish a requirement for unit owners to carry insurance for their individual units and be the primary insurance in the event of a claim, regardless of the source of the problem kitchen fire, toilet overflowing, flooding from the upstairs unit, sprinkler system leaks leaks through foundation, etc..

This kind of policy is necessary to protect the HOAs insurability. If every unit owner was allowed to file claims against the HOAs insurance, it would not be long before the HOAs insurance would be cancelled due to excessive claims or the premium increased beyond affordability. Spreading the risk out to unit owners keeps the HOAs insurability viable.

Question: What can be done about a board member that slanders another board member? He not only does it at meetings but spreads his accusations around the neighborhood.

Answer: It is inappropriate and divisive for a board member to engage in character assassination. The remaining directors should take action to rein him in in a diplomatic but firm way. The director with the best rapport with him should have a heart to heart with him and explain the damage that is being done. Insist that he keep such personal opinions to himself.

While the board doesnt have the authority to remove a rogue director from the board only the members do, the board can remove a director from his office President, Treasurer, Secretary if he has one. That may be necessary to make the point.

Question: Our HOA has many residents that leave trash receptacles out long after trash pick-up day. It makes the HOA look shoddy. What can we do?

Answer: Most HOAs have a requirement that trash receptacles are only allowed out on pick up day and need to be stored out of sight within 24 hours. This is both reasonable and desirable from a curb appeal standpoint.

Question: Our HOA has a member that is a chronic offender of rules. How should the board deal with this?

Answer: Three special "scofflaw" penalties come to mind: caning, tarring and feathering, and the stock and pillary. But seriously, rules that carry no penalties are useless. If you need a rule, it needs an effective enforcement mechanism in the form of a fine significant enough to get noticed. Scofflaws often refuse to pay fines so failure to pay them must be treated the same way as failure to pay regular HOA fees. Process them through the normal collection process. Eventually, even the most persistent scofflaw will come to understand the price of being a jerk.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net


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Jeff Bezos Didn’t Use an Agent to Buy His $165 Million Estate. Here’s Eight Reasons Not to Be Like Jeff

The property is, admittedly, stunning. Geffen reportedly auctioned off about 11 million worth of original furnishings, which he deemed too musty and museum-like, after he purchased the property, said The Los Angeles Times. But he did keep an imported wood floor"said to be the one upon which Napoleon proposed to Josephineas well as the paneled walls supposedly carved by a Chippendale.

Other impressive features, according to Architectural Digest, include a George III>

But 165 million isA LOT. Some real estate leaders have wondered aloud whether he overpaid. Others have mused that you cant put a price on a veritable museum. But what stands out for us is that Bezos and Geffen made the deal without involving real estate agents on either side. Before you start thinking, Well if its good enough for one of the worlds richest men, its good enough for me, check out these xx reasons you should definitely use an agent on your next purchase.

Because you dont have Bezos money

Part of what a good buyers agent does in advising clients is: Find you a home you love, but also one you can comfortably live in and afford. No one wants to be house poor.nbsp;

Theres no worry of that with Bezos, despite the exorbitant price tag. The 165 million is approximately one-eighth of one percent of his 130 billion net worth. A measly little 165 million isnt going to break him. Asnbsp;The Vergenbsp;pointed out, If you make 60,000 a year, thats like spending 75 on a house.

Also, its not the only property he has purchased recently. In addition to the Warner Estate, Bezos recently purchased a 90 million plot of undeveloped Los Angeles land, which he is considering an investment, a source told thenbsp;Wall Street Journal. And last summer, the Amazon chief made headlines when henbsp;purchasednbsp;not one but three Manhattan apartments overlooking Madison Square Park for some 80 million.

Bezos also reportedly owns several condos that overlook NYCs Madison Square Park, a 30,000-acre estate in Medina, WA, a huge ranch in west Texas, and two additional properties in Washington, D.C.

But what happens if you buy too much house? When you dont have billions of dollars as a safety net, you need to know youre in good hands with a professional who has your best interest at heart.

Because you dont have that 165 million in cash

There hasnt been any word on whether Bezos intends to mortgage his new manse, but we doubt it. Not surprisingly, his past purchases have been rumored to be all-cash deals.nbsp;

But it reminds us of a story we love. After L.A.s 924 Bel Air Road sold for 94 million in October 2019a huge cut from the original 250 millionnbsp;list pricethe anonymous buyer turned around and took out anbsp;58.2 million, 10-year loan from HSBC Bank USA, according to property records, said The Business Times. That would make the monthly mortgage payment about 650,000

Carry the nine, multiply that by xand, yeah, the possible mortgage payment on a 165 million home makes our collective heads hurt.

All-cash deals are on the rise among luxury homes, which is hard to comprehend for us regular folks who are just doing the best we can to cobble together a minimum down payment. When your money is on the line, you want to do everything you can to protect yourself. A real estate agent acts as a fiduciary of sorts, with training and expertise that can help give you peace of mind, whether youre spending 165,000 or 165 million.nbsp;

Because you dont have a yacht

I mean, arent all real estate deals made on a 590 million superyacht? Jeff Bezos and David Geffen hammered out the Amazon chiefs record-setting 165 million purchase of Geffens Beverly Hills estate while socializing on the former music moguls famous yacht, the Rising Sun, said The Real Deal.nbsp;

Because you dont want to do your own negotiating

Really, you dont. Check out this article from Inc. that called Bezos and Amazons search for its new HQ2 a master >

Bezos competitiveness and business savvy are legendary. Not that were saying yours dont comparebut, lets be honest. Unless youre a real estate agent or an attorneyor some other type of professional who gets paid to negotiate and/or argue for a living, its just best to leave this to the professionals.nbsp;

Because you dont know what you dont know

You might be far out of your element when it comes to reviewing and understanding the multiple documents involved in a real estate deal, and you should have a thorough understanding of what youre getting into regardless of whether youre buying or selling, said The Balance. Purchase agreements alone can top 10 pages in 2019, not to mention federal, state, and local document requirements.nbsp;

Home buyers may be tempted to purchase without using their own agent in certain circumstances, like if they happen into an open house and talk to the sellers agent or if they are buying new construction. But there are important reasons to work with your own agent in either case.nbsp;

Yes, a sellers agent might be able to work both sides of a deal, but having your own agent better ensures that you have someone in your corner whose priority is getting you the deal you want.nbsp;

Buyers are sometimes unaware that they can work with their own real estate agent when buying a new home. Each development has its own rules, but, in general, the agent must accompany you on your first visit to the community or they will forfeit any available commission. That commission may also be lower than what the agent is accustomed to; this will generally be advertised as a broker co-op or broker participation, with a percentage set by the builder or development.nbsp;

Working with a real estate agent on a new construction home may not yield you a better price; builders are typically >

Because thats just too much house

Seriously, who needs 13,600 square feet on nine acres, with expansive terraces and gardens, two guesthouses, nursery and three hothouses, tennis court, swimming pool, nine-hole golf course and motor court complete with its own service garage and gas pumps, as Architectural Digest puts it. No one. No one NEEDS this. But, clearly, this purchase wasnt about need.

A good real estate agent will su>
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The Sneaky, Costly Little Secret of FHA Loans

First, a little primer on mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance protects lenders from losing money if you default on the loan, said NerdWallet. Most lenders require private mortgage insurance PMI for conventional loansnbsp;when the home buyer makes a down payment of less than 20. All FHA loans have mortgage insurance, regardless of down payment amount.

Mortgage insurance can cost homebuyers hundreds of dollars per month. The average annual PMI premium typically ranges from .55 percent to 2.25 percent of the original loan amount each year, according to data from Ginnie Mae and the Urban Institute, said Bankrate. With these rates, it means that for a 200,000 mortgage, your PMI can cost between 1,100 and 4,500 each year, or around 91.66 to 375 per month.

In addition, PMI can be cancelled once the home appreciates to a certain level. But FHA mortgage insurance usually remains for the life of the loan.

Getting rid of PMI

So, here youve been paying down your mortgage every month, and you also happen to live in an area where homes are appreciating nicely. Sure would be nice if you could get rid of that PMI. But, short of refinancing to another loan, thats not going to happen.nbsp;

Alternative loans

There are a number of different ways to borrow money without mortgage insurance. The first and most obvious answer is to make a 20 down payment on whatever loan you get. Many loans allow you to use gift or grant funds for your down payment, which could be a solution to getting that 20 together if need be.

Short of a generous benefactor, look into these other loans, which allow you to make a small down payment without paying monthly mortgage insurance.

Bank of Americas Affordable Loan Solution mortgage

This home loan requires just a 3 down payment with no mortgage insurance. Other features include:

Income and loan amount limits, which vary depending on the location of the home
Up to 97 loan-to-value
Loan amounts capped at 510,400 with 3 down payment; You can also make a 5 down payment for a loan amount up to 765,600 with 5 in high-cost areas
Homebuyer education may be required

Flagstar Banks Professional Loan

These loans are for individuals who are very likely to have high earning potential, but have just started in their careers, said The Mortgage Reports. Think doctors, dentists, and lawyers with their own practices. The loan requires no PMI, and very low down payments. As a bonus, student loans could be excluded from debt ratios.nbsp;

In addition to low down payments and no mortgage insurance, details include:

Loan amounts up to 1.5 million
Fixed and adjustable rate options

Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America NACA Best in America Mortgage

The NACA loan is for low-to-moderate income individuals or buyers in underserved communities. In addition to no mortgage interest, this loan offers:

No down payment
No closing costs
Below-market rates
Flexible credit score requirement
Homeownership program required

SoFi 10 down loan

Dont have 20 for a down payment but think you might be able to cobble together 10? This loan might be the answer. SoFis 10 down loan offers:

Loan amounts up to 3 million
PMI required on conforming home loans with a loan-to-value LTV greater than 80, but not on any jumbo home loans
Great credit required

Citis HomeRun Mortgage

This mortgage requires just 3 down and no mortgage insurance, with flexible credit guidelines. In addition, loans are available up to 510,400, and 765,600 in high-cost areas.

Other features of these loans include:

Fixed rates
Interest rates comparable to conventional loan rates
Homeownership education and counseling required


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Updated: Friday, February 28, 2020

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