The Best Cities for Retirees to Call Home

Ask any retiree what mattered most in their search for a new home, and most will tell you location. A recent study by WalletHub ranked the top locations for soon-to-be retirees, weighing cost of living, health care, quality of life and recreation—and in a not-so-unexpected twist, the top three locations in the ranking were all within the Sunshine State:

  1. Orlando, Fla.
  2. Tampa, Fla.
  3. Miami, Fla.
  4. Scottsdale, Ariz.
  5. Atlanta, Ga.

Several other cities outside of the top five were named ideal for retirees, as well. Laredo, Texas was ranked No. 1 based on cost of in-home care and cost of living, while Plano, Texas, and Grand Prairie, Texas, were ranked No.1 and No. 3, respectively, in most employed retirees. (Many people of retirement age are simply forced to keep working due to a lack of savings, according to WalletHub.) Some sprawling metropolitan areas are suited for retirees seeking an active lifestyle; Washington, D.C., for instance, is tied for first for the most museums and senior centers per capita.

When it comes solely to weather, however, California cannot be beat: Glendale, Riverside and Bakersfield ranked in the top three for “mild weather,” followed by Scottsdale, Ariz., and Henderson, Nev.

Source: WalletHub

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(TNS)—An underwriter is an entity, typically a company, accountable for analyzing and assuming the risk of another entity. Underwriting typically happens behind the scenes but is an important aspect of mortgage approvals. The mortgage underwriting process has five key steps: verification, appraisal, title search and insurance, flood certification, and surveying.

Verification
After the housing crisis of the mid-2000s, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) enacted rules to protect borrowers. Under these new rules, lenders must be sure a borrower is qualified. Verifying the information you put on your application is top priority.

The lender’s team of underwriters will check the information on your application and supporting documents. They will call your employer, for example, to confirm that you work at that job and that you are paid what you said you’re paid. If you’re self-employed, you may need to supply a lot more documentation. The amount of verification involved depends on how risky your lender perceives you to be.

Appraisal
The lender wants to be sure that the price of the property you’re buying is comparable to the values of similar properties. The lender will get an independent appraisal of the property prior to closing, and the results could affect the rate and terms of your mortgage. A licensed appraiser will provide an expert’s estimated value based on a physical inspection and comparables, or “comps”—prices paid for comparable properties that have recently sold in the neighborhood. An appraisal typically costs between $300 and $500.

Title Search and Title Insurance
After the appraiser has looked at the physical side of your house, a title company looks at its legal history. Your lender doesn’t want to lend money against a house that may have claims on it. That’s why a title company performs a title search.

The title company will research the history of the property, looking for encumbrances such as mortgages, claims, liens, easement rights, zoning ordinances, pending legal action, unpaid taxes and restrictive covenants.

The title insurer then issues a policy that guarantees the accuracy of the work. Your lender will require a title policy that protects the lender. In some cases, two policies are issued—one to protect the lender and one to protect the property owner.

Flood Certification
Flood insurance is not part of a standard homeowners insurance policy. If your property is in a flood zone, your lender wants to know about it. The lender will hire a specialist to analyze your property and neighboring sites to determine if the home is in a flood zone; the report is called a flood certification. If you’re in a flood zone, you’ll be required to buy flood insurance.

If you think you may be in a flood-prone area, you can check out any property on FloodSmart.gov before you even start searching for your new home.

Survey
Finally, some lenders will require that a home’s property boundaries be verified by a professional survey.

While all of this information is being gathered, you can help by taking these steps:

  • Provide complete documentation with your application.
  • Respond promptly to your lender’s request for more information.
  • Call your lender and real estate agent to check on your loan application status.
  • Help contact employers and others who may need to provide documentation.
  • Keep records of your conversations with your lender.

Visit Bankrate online at www.bankrate.com.

©2017 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

If you’re selling your home, chances are good you’re familiar with the concept of staging your home. Real estate agents recommend your home look its best to prospective buyers, and home staging is a great way to ensure you receive top dollar.

Did you know you should stage the exterior of your home, too? Failing to update the look of your home’s exterior can cause buyers to get a bad first impression when they initially arrive to view your home. Whether your target is luxury homebuyers or you are selling your starter home, staging the exterior will have a major impact on the sale of your home. If you want to put exterior home staging to work, here are five elements you should consider tweaking.

Clean Your Exterior Windows and Screens
Nothing says poor maintenance like dirty windows and window screens. If your windows are caked with dust or muck from the last rainstorm, open house visitors are going to wonder what other maintenance jobs you haven’t attended to. Don’t give visitors the opportunity to question whether your home has been properly maintained or not; clean those windows and screens before hosting an open house.

Refresh Your Gardens and Walkways
Just like dirty windows are a real estate faux pas, so are unkempt flower beds. Weeds and overgrown bushes tell visitors you can’t be bothered with the small stuff. Spend a day removing weeds and trimming flowers, or hire a professional landscaper to refresh your gardens. It is amazing what a refreshed garden can do to your home’s curb appeal.

Refresh Your Home’s Siding
No, you don’t have to replace your home’s siding prior to an open house. A quick power wash could be all it takes to remove years of dust and grime. You can attempt this task yourself, but it might be worth your while to hire a professional—some homeowners have been known to damage their home’s siding by using too forceful a water stream.

Update/Clean Door Fixtures and House Address Signage
Something as simple as a new door knob or address signage can give your home a refreshed look. You needn’t spring for a new door; just update the face plate and/or door knob. Purchase new address numbers from the local hardware store and you’ll have tweaked the look of your home’s exterior in just a few minutes.

Clean Patio Furniture
Whether you have chairs on your front veranda or a dining set on your back deck, tired patio furniture can cost you big dollars when it comes time to negotiate with a potential homebuyer. Dilapidated patio furniture instantly gives a bad impression and can cause potential homebuyers to request replacement furniture as part of their deal. Spruce up your existing furniture with a quick power wash, or replace it if it is beyond cleaning.

Simple tweaks to the exterior of your home can have a big impact on your home’s final selling price. By spending just a few days improving the look of the outside of your home, you can increase the amount buyers are willing to offer and make your home the cleanest real estate listing on the block. Will you be trying these exterior home staging tricks when you list your home for sale?

Charles Muotoh is the owner of dcrealestateguru.com, a full-service real estate firm focused on leveraging digital marketing strategies to serve buyers and sellers of real estate in the Washington D.C. area.

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Would-be homeowners can easily plunk down savings for a home—if they forgo their friends’ one last hurrah before the big day.

A recent report by Zillow reveals the cost of destination bachelor or bachelorette parties can equal up to one-third of a down payment on a median-priced home. With attendees spending an average $1,106 (for destination bachelorette parties) and $1,532 (for destination bachelor parties), according to The Knot, partaking in just nine pre-marriage celebrations—or three each year for three years—would total 34 percent, or $13,788, of a 20 percent down payment on a median-priced home.

Without question, the amount of parties needed to rack up one-third of a down payment varies by market:

Zillow_Bachelor_Party

Bachelor and bachelorette getaways are just one of several stereotypically “millennial” spending choices called into question as of late. Earlier this year, one real estate developer singled out avocados, telling Australia’s “60 Minutes”: “When I was buying my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for 19 bucks and four coffees at $4 each.”

“Buying a home is one of the most expensive purchases someone will ever make, and for most first-time buyers, that means years of saving money to afford a down payment,” says Jeremy Wacksman, CMO at Zillow. “Attending your friends’ bachelor or bachelorette parties can be a trip of a lifetime. While everyone’s budget and priorities are different, big-ticket expenses like vacations can add up surprisingly quickly—a lot faster than a $19 avocado toast.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Choosing the right house for you and your family can be a very daunting process. One thing to note, however, is that the type, style and square footage of your abode are all secondary to location. Location is the one property feature that homeowners can never alter. You can redecorate, upgrade, and add on to a home, but its location will always remain fixed. As you decide whether or not you and your loved ones want to be city dwellers or suburbanites, you should consider these five benefits that can be gained from a commitment to suburban living.

  1. Get More Square Footage for Your Money
    When compared to the average city home, a house in the suburbs will usually provide far more square footage for the money. People living in rural areas enjoy large tracts of land that are sufficient in size for accommodating back, front, and even side yards. Moreover, many suburbs have only recently evolved from areas that were once heavily wooded, which means that they’re often still surrounded by active wildlife and plenty of trees.
  1. Less Noise and Less Pollution
    For some people, there’s nothing like falling asleep to the sound of trains, freeway traffic, and outside conversations. For these individuals, a short jaunt to visit family in the country can be downright maddening. They find it harder to drift off to the sounds of chirping crickets, or even deep and heavy silence. The suburbs are ideal for couples and families who enjoy quiet nights, fresher, cleaner air, and far less nighttime foot traffic near their abodes.
  1. Top-Rated Schools
    Whether or not you have or intend to have kids, it’s important to look for property in neighborhoods with top-rated schools. Not only will this provide better educational opportunities for minor residents living in your household, but it will also increase the marketability of your property and its resale value. For instance, some of the very best places to live in Minnesota are suburban areas with nationally ranked schools. Comparatively, schools in the suburbs are far higher in quality than inner city schools. They also tend to have better standardized test scores and a lesser likelihood of overcrowding.
  1. Enjoy Living in a Tight-Knit Community
    Cities often provide a much broader range of housing options than most suburbs. City residents can live in apartments, condos, family homes, townhouses, and more. There’s also a much higher number of renters in cities than there are in suburban areas. This means that both units and neighborhoods tend to have higher turnover rates, and that residents have much less opportunity to forge long-lasting bonds and establish a strong sense of community. This is hardly the case in the suburbs. Historically, suburban children have the chance grow up together given that many suburban homeowners retain their properties throughout most or all of their lifetimes.
  1. Take an Active Role in Community and Government
    If you love democracy and want to start taking a more active role in the development and maintenance of your community, the suburbs are probably perfect for you. With fewer people living in the region, it’s much easier for residents to assume roles within local government, and to voice their opinions and be heard. This benefit additionally gives property owners a greater ability to take part in decision-making processes for issues that could positively or negatively impact their property values.

While the suburbs lack the high energy and excitement of a bustling metropolis, they do have a number of important amenities for ensuring optimally high qualities of life. Residents can find a wonderful array of restaurants, grocery stores and entertainment venues, right within their own neighborhoods. Best of all, they can enjoy these things while still managing to escape the noise, pollution, and ongoing stresses of living in a densely populated area.

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(TNS)—Lenders use your credit score to determine whether you are eligible for a loan and to decide what terms they are prepared to offer. Credit bureaus keep track of when companies check your score, regardless of the outcome, and checks designated as “hard inquiries” may lower your score.

Understanding what constitutes a hard check versus a “soft” check makes it easier to plan how you intend to apply for new credit lines, thereby minimizing the risk of harming your credit score.

Soft Credit Checks Are Listed on Your Credit Report

A soft credit check, otherwise known as a soft inquiry or soft pull, is any kind of credit report check that doesn’t affect your credit score. Soft inquiries are background checks rather than checks occurring as a result of new loan applications; in some cases they happen without your knowledge or consent.

Common soft inquiries include:

  • When you check your own credit report
  • When a potential employer checks your credit history to determine your reliability and financial status
  • When a financial institute you patronize checks your credit
  • When credit card issuers check your credit to send you a preapproved offer

You can see all of the soft inquiries on your credit report, which lists each check along with the name of the organization that made the check.

Soft Credit Inquiries vs. Hard Credit Inquiries

Unlike soft inquiries, hard inquiries may have an impact on your credit score. Prospective lenders make hard checks when they are making a lending decision, with common examples including:

  • Applying for a new credit card
  • Taking out a loan for a new car
  • Applying for a mortgage

Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for two years, so you should always think carefully before making any kind of loan application as it can lower your credit score.

Be Smart About Applying for Loans

A good credit score is an essential part of getting approval for a new line of credit, and it also improves your chances of getting the best rates. It’s important to know what kind of activity has the potential to lower your score.

Many companies check your credit history, but only hard checks made to verify your eligibility for a new line of credit have a direct impact on your credit score. To maintain your credit score, apply only for loans when you really need them. If you are shopping for the best rates, make all of your applications within a short time frame.

©2017 Bankrate.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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(TNS)—Q: We are buying a home and had a “four-point” inspection done for the homeowner’s insurance. The insurer declined to cover the house due to the brand of the electrical panel fuse box. What gives? -Dan

A: Most insurance companies require a “four-point” home inspection before insuring a property. The inspection focuses on the four main causes of most insurance claims: HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning); electrical wiring and panels; the roof; and plumbing. This inspection doesn’t concern itself with cosmetic or other issues outside of the four listed systems.

Certain brands of electrical panels, particularly those installed before 2000, have been found to cause problems and not perform as they should. A fuse is supposed to trip when there is a problem in order to prevent a much larger problem. Many home fires are caused when fuses or panels malfunction.

If the insurer is denying coverage due to a suspect panel, the worst solution, in my opinion, would be to try a different insurer. Just because another company will give you the coverage doesn’t make the panel any safer.

If you are faced with this situation, speak to the seller about replacing the panel before the deal goes any further. If the seller won’t budge, your best bet is to find a different, and safer, home.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar.

©2017 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Flipping a house can be a profitable endeavor—especially in cities where flips thrive. The best cities, according to recently released findings from a study by WalletHub, boast a combination of a desirable quality of life, cost-effective renovation expenses and prime market potential.

The following cities, based on those criteria, are best for flips:

  1. El Paso, Texas
    El Paso earned the No. 1 ranking in WalletHub’s study, with a total score of 69.6. El Paso has the third-lowest bathroom remodeling costs, on average, of the 150 cities evaluated.
  1. Sioux Falls, S.D.
    Sioux Falls earned the No. 2 spot in the ranking, with a total score of 69.52.
  1. Fort Wayne, Ind.
    Fort Wayne earned the No. 3 spot in the ranking, with a total score of 67.38.
  1. Peoria, Ariz.
    Peoria earned the No. 4 spot in the ranking, with a total score of 66.6. Peoria has the fourth-lowest whole-home remodeling costs, on average, of the 150 cities evaluated.
  1. Oklahoma City, Okla.
    Oklahoma City earned the No. 5 spot in the ranking, with a total score of 66.56. Oklahoma City has the fifth-most real estate agents per capita of the 150 cities evaluated.

Source: WalletHub

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Homeowners spend an average $9,080 each year on common, yet often overlooked expenses associated with owning a home, including maintenance and utilities, according to a recent analysis by Zillow. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Homeowners Insurance/Property Taxes/Utilities – $6,059
  • Professional Home Maintenance – $3,021

(Note: Homeownership costs vary considerably by location—see chart below.)

Zillow_Costs_Owning

“Determining how much a home will ultimately cost you each year and what you can afford is one of the most challenging aspects of home-buying, especially for first-time buyers,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “Before starting a home search, take a good look at your finances to determine a monthly payment range you can comfortably afford. While that big backyard or larger home may be appealing, it is important to consider how much maintaining those spaces could cost you.”

“While it may be tempting for homeowners to think they can cut costs by doing home maintenance projects themselves, hiring a trained professional to take them on can save them time, anxiety and most likely money in the long run,” says Lucas Puente, economist at Thumbtack, which also conducted the analysis. “Across the U.S., buyers should be prepared to spend at least a few thousand a year in home maintenance costs.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

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Communities with sought-after schools often command a premium for homebuyers. Realtor.com® recently uncovered 10 towns where not only public elementary schools earn high marks, but also home prices make the grade—in affordability.

1. Aurora, Ill. (60503)
SchoolsHomestead Elementary School (rating 10/10 on GreatSchools), The Wheatlands Elementary School (8/10), Wolfs Crossing Elementary School (10/10)

The 2017 median household income in Aurora is $114,118 with a 2017 median listing price of $259,900. Aurora is 45 percent more affordable compared to its surrounding metro area, and 47 percent more affordable compared to the U.S. overall.

2. Stone Mountain, Ga. (30087)
School: Wynbrooke Elementary School (9/10)

The 2017 median household income in Stone Mountain is $71,678 with a 2017 median listing price of $218,950. Stone Mountain is 38 percent more affordable compared to its surrounding metro area and compared to the U.S. overall.

3. Hampton, N.J. (08827)
SchoolUnion Township Elementary School (8/10)

The 2017 median household income in Hampton is $118,810 with a 2017 median listing price of $297,000. Hampton is 60 percent more affordable compared to its surrounding metro area, and 37 percent more affordable compared to the U.S. overall.

4. Royersford, Pa. (19468)
SchoolsBrooke Elementary School (9/10), Evans Elementary School (8/10), Limerick Elementary School (9/10), Spring-Ford Intermediate School 5th/6th (9/10), Upper Providence Elementary School (9/10)

The 2017 median household income in Royersford is $83,264 with a 2017 median listing price of $246,125. Royersford is 21 percent more affordable compared to its surrounding metro area, and 32 percent more affordable compared to the U.S. overall.

5. Kingwood, Texas (77345)
Schools: Deerwood Elementary School (9/10), Greentree Elementary School (10/10), Hidden Hollow Elementary (9/10), Shadow Forest Elementary School (10/10), Willow Creek Elementary School (10/10).

The 2017 median household income in Kingwood is $123,201 with a 2017 median listing price of $323,750. Kingwood is 46 percent more affordable compared to its surrounding metro area, and 32 percent more affordable compared to the U.S. overall.

6. Rosemount, Minn. (55068)
School: Shannon Park Elementary School (10/10)

The 2017 median household income in Rosemount is $93,743 with a 2017 median listing price of $299,900. Rosemount is 30 percent more affordable compared to its surrounding metro area, and 32 percent more affordable compared to the U.S. overall.

7. Bowie, Md. (20715)
Schools: Whitehall Elementary School (8/10), Yorktown Elementary School (8/10)

The 2017 median household income in Bowie is $107,865 with a 2017 median listing price of $345,350. Bowie is 29 percent more affordable compared to its surrounding metro area, and 27 percent more affordable compared to the U.S. overall.

8. Huntington Woods, Mich. (48070)
School: Burton Elementary School (8/10)

The 2017 median household income in Huntington Woods is $120,265 with a 2017 median listing price of $400,000. Huntington Woods is 15 percent more affordable compared to its surrounding metro area, and 27 percent more affordable compared to the U.S. overall.

9. Stow, Mass. (01775)
School: Center School (8/10)

The 2017 median household income in Stow is $139,622 with a 2017 median listing price of $504,750. Stow is 45 percent more affordable compared to its surrounding metro area, and 23 percent more affordable compared to the U.S. overall.

10. Chandler, Ariz. (85226)
Schools: Kyrene De La Mirada School (9/10), Kyrene De La Paloma School (8/10), Kyrene De Las Brisas School (9/10), Kyrene del Cielo School (10/10), Kyrene Traditional – Sureno Campus (9/10), Paragon Science Academy K-12 (9/10)

The 2017 median household income in Chandler is $80,130 with a 2017 median listing price of $324,155. Chandler is 30 percent more affordable compared to its surrounding metro area, and 20 percent more affordable compared to the U.S. overall.

“When searching for a new home, finding something affordable in a good school district with family-friendly features, such as large backyards, tops the list of homebuyer priorities,” says Javier Vivas, manager of Economic Research for realtor.com. “These markets offer strong public schools and affordable homes, making them a great fit for homebuyers with elementary school-age children.”

The ranking was determined by identifying ZIP codes within the top metropolitan areas in the U.S. that contained at least one public school ranked eight out of 10 or higher by GreatSchools, then calculating affordability by factoring in the ZIP code’s median income and median-priced home with monthly mortgage payment and other cost data.

For more information, please visit www.realtor.com.

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