All posts by Steve Cook
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August 18, 2017

How Do You List a For-Sale-By-Owner, and More! – Cook’s Corner

Is it possible to purchase a home with no down payment?

Two government programs, the Veterans’ Affairs home loan program and the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Housing program, provide mortgages to eligible borrowers that require no down payment.  

To qualify for a VA loan, you must be a veteran with at least 90 days active duty or a surviving spouse of an eligible veteran. You can find more information on qualifying for a VA loan on the VA website. To qualify for a USDA guaranteed home loan, you must live in a rural or semi-rural county and have an income that is lower than the local median income level. To see if you qualify, go to the USDA Single [...]

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August 11, 2017

Where are the Nation’s Top Magnet Schools?

Proximity to good schools is one of the most important factors influencing home buying. The quality of local schools influences the neighborhood choice of “one out of four buyers” and “half of all buyers who have children younger than 18 years old,” according to a 2016 profile of home buyers and sellers.

Good schools not only make a lasting difference in a child’s quality of life; they also have a direct impact on home values. A recent RealtyTrac study found that in zip codes with at least one good school, the average estimated home value was “77 percent higher” than in other zip codes. Homes bought in zip codes with good schools [...]

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August 9, 2017

Are you Ready for Hurricane Season?

Do you live near the Gulf or Atlantic Coasts? Are you planning to move to or vacation in a city like New Orleans, Orlando, Virginia Beach, Jacksonville, Charleston, or even Atlanta or Washington, DC that may lie in the path of a devastating hurricane this summer?

If so, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center advise you to be prepared for another worse-than-normal hurricane season. For the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30, forecasters predict a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season and only a 20 percent chance of a [...]

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July 27, 2017

Real-Estate Property Taxes by State

What states have the lowest property taxes?

Property taxes are one of the annual expenses that some buyers may not include in their calculations of the total cost of owning a primary residence or vacation home. However, they are a substantial expense and they can vary by several thousand dollars a year depending on your state or local jurisdiction.

The amount of property tax owed depends on the appraised fair market value of the property, as determined by the property tax assessor. Appraisals are conducted annually and reflect changing home values. Property tax liability is calculated by multiplying the nominal property tax rate by the assessment ratio (the percentage of the [...]

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July 13, 2017

Does Adding a Deck Increase Your Home’s Value?

Backyard decks have replaced patios and front porches as the social centers of suburbia in the summer. Decks are elevated to catch summer breezes and to facilitate conversations with neighbors on their decks. Large enough for a table and grill, most decks are more versatile than front porches and provide privacy from street traffic.

So how much is a deck worth? If you are house-hunting, how much does a deck add to the value of a home you are considering? If you are thinking about adding a deck, will it pay for itself when you sell, adding more value than the cost of construction? Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report looks at a range of projects by cost, [...]

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July 12, 2017

Best Markets to Buy a Foreclosure Today

Just six years ago, more than a third of all the houses sold in America were “distressed sales,” homes lost by families that could no longer make their monthly mortgage payments and who had lost their homes to foreclosure or short sales.

Foreclosures no longer make headlines, and many people may think they have fallen to negligible levels or disappeared altogether. In fact, distressed sales are still around, but account for only 6 percent of all home sales compared to about 40 percent in 2011.

The “foreclosure flood” created extraordinary opportunities for real estate investors to buy distress sales, fix them up, and either “flip” [...]

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July 5, 2017

What’s the Best Time of Year to Buy a Vacation Home?

Whether your summer vacation takes you to the beach, the mountains, or any of America’s popular destinations, chances are good you’ll encounter advertising and sales pitches to buy your vacation place.

If you are tired of high rents and the hassles associated with finding a good location during the busy season, perhaps they make sense. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for you and your family to have your place at your favorite resort?

Finances are Favorable

With interest rates still low and other financial advantages of home ownership, buying a vacation home might not be as difficult as you might expect from a financial perspective. Mortgage rates are [...]

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June 29, 2017

Save on your Electricity Bill This Summer

If your first sign of summer is rising energy bills, you might want to take some steps to stay cool without paying more than you must for electricity. If you are thinking of moving from a cooler climate to a warmer one like Orlando, Nashville, Washington, D.C. or Charleston, you will find that efficient and effective air conditioning can be a significant cost of homeownership — but one you can control with maintenance and wise management.

Here’s a list of tips for everyday living, a maintenance checklist, and improvements that will save money and improve the quality of life for homeowners and home buyers, especially in warmer climates.

Tips for Summer Comfort and [...]
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