Friday, February 22, 2008

A Musical Interlude

I thought I would post a few links to some music I truly enjoy. Glenn Gould is an astonishing pianist who is one of the few people ever to master Bach's Goldberg Variations. Some have commented that he has a brain in every finger. He was controversial because he sang the 'melody' out loud while playing and you can hear it on all of his recordings. Additionally, it is suspected that he had Asperger's Syndrome and that played a role in his musical genius.

I recommend right-clicking these links and opening them in a new window. While you are enjoying the music, go to my website, Real Estate Louisville, and take the time to explore the site. You may find your new home while appreciating some of the greatest music ever composed!

Glenn Gould, Bach's Goldberg Variations 1-7

Glenn Gould, Bach's Goldberg Variations 8-14

Glenn Gould, Bach's Goldberg Variations 26-30 - The beginning of this one is unreal! Lots of cross-hand technique that I've tried unsuccessfully to incorporate into my rendition of chopsticks...;)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Planning for the Future's Hard - Because the Future Hasn't Happened Yet

Ha, ha! I love that title. When you get done reading, take a look at the link below to see where I found it...

I think it is an apt title for this post because it is obvious and oh so true. It is hard to plan for the future, not only because it hasn't happened yet (obviously), but because it is hard to find the time, motivation, and guidance to do it in a productive manner (true).

How does this apply to real estate, especially for you first-time home buyers? Simple...You need a financial plan in place before you even consider making an offer on a new home. It takes time, personal honesty, and the motivation to see the plan through to implementation to make it a success.

What should you consider in this financial planning? You need to accurately assess your income from all sources, determine your credit scores and correct your credit report (see the post below), and you need to analyze your expenses. You need to determine your short and long-term budget, plus you may need to consider adjusting spending habits. You should seriously consider speaking with a professional financial planner.

The reason for all of this planning is because a home is a tremendous asset, probably the largest asset you will control, but it is very hard to quickly turn into cash. In other words, if you are committed to a mortgage, you will have to continue making those payments regardless of any other unexpected changes to your financial status and risk negative effects if you fail to do this as promised.

Yes, you could borrow against the equity in the home if you have any, but this will most likely serve to make your financial situation worse. So, it is extremely important that you have planned not only for your normal budget, but added extra as a buffer.

Something else to consider when planning your finances for buying a new home is there will be unexpected and possibly new expenses that you will experience for the first time. Yard maintenance, exterior maintenance like the roof, gutters, windows, and landscaping, plus all other mechanical and electrical components in the house will now be solely your responsibility. And...You have to keep up with these things. If you let the maintenance go, it could cause at least minor financial troubles leading up to major damage to the home.

I suggest getting out a piece of paper (or firing up the computer) and making lists of all of your current expenses, plus your expected new expenses. Call around to your friends and family who are already homeowners and ask them what they pay for routine maintenance and upkeep. Add a buffer to this. Be realistic and make sure when you are finished, you have enough money left over to pay for the mortgage you think you want. You may be surprised, but at least you will have that surprise behind you, the adjustments made, and your budget planned before you enter into a contract to purchase your new home.

Most of all, I suggest the guidance of a professional financial planner. A very small investment to save or earn potentially substantial sums of money in the future.

Okay, now the inspiration for the title: Frank Caliendo as GWB. Note that this is not considered political commentary by me, just a guy trying to be funny.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss buying or selling real estate, contact me through my website, Louisville Homes.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Owner's Title Insurance

At some point in time during the process of buying a home the issue of owner's title insurance will arise. If you are making an offer to purchase in the Louisville area you may be using the standard Greater Louisville Association of Realtors contract. This contract contains a specific paragraph that advises buyers to purchase an owner's title insurance policy and actually requires you to initial a space acknowledging you are declining this option.

What is title insurance? First, you need to realize that the word 'title' refers to the chain of ownership of a piece of property. At some point in the past, that particular piece of property was surveyed and conveyed to an entity, whether it is an individual, a corporation, or other legal vehicle, and a record was established in a local government office. In Kentucky, the records are maintained by the county in which the property is mostly located.

In addition to the chain of ownership that is maintained by the county, there will also be records pertaining to all legal claims against the property that have occurred throughout the years. These could be in the form of easements, liens for work performed, mortgage notes, special assessments, etc. Any one of these, and many, many others that are not listed, could affect the ownership of the property and this is where title insurance comes into play.

For someone to sell you a piece of property they must legally own that property and have full authority to convey ownership to another entity. As a quick example, if a married couple owns a piece of property jointly, the husband or the wife individually could not sell that property without the consent (in writing on the deed of transfer) of the other party.

One of the most important steps in the transfer of property is the title search. Typically, the lender will commission a professional to search the chain of title for the property to be transfered to ensure the seller has the legal authority to transfer the property and there are no outstanding recorded claims against the title. While this search is considered very thorough and should be enough to protect the parties involved, the lenders know that problems can and do arise and they will always buy a lender's title insurance policy to protect their interests from an unrecorded or missed claim. In other words, if someone makes a legal claim to the property and threatens the lender's investment, they will be covered and defended fully by this policy.

Here is a great post on this topic by Dan Melson that enumerates several of the ways problems can complicate the transfer of property.

What does this mean for you as a buyer? Simply put, if you do not have an owner's title insurance policy in force and a legal claim is made against property you have purchased, you will have to defend the claim out of your own pocket. Even worse, if you lose the legal battle, you will lose the property and most likely still owe the lender for the money you borrowed. You will be in big financial trouble.

Owner's title insurance policies are very inexpensive in this light. In fact, they are typically only a few hundred dollars and I think they are well worth every dollar in piece of mind, protection, and investment smarts. So the next time you are asked if you would like to accept an owner's title insurance policy, you may want to give it serious consideration. Please feel free to visit my website, Real Estate in Louisville KY, to read more about the process of buying a home and to contact me with any questions you may have on this subject.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Buy! Buy! Buy!

Wow! What a great time to buy a home! Interest rates are extremely low, lenders have stabilized their underwriting requirements, and there is a huge inventory of homes to choose from in the Louisville area... It's an ideal market to maximize your buying dollar!

If you are thinking of purchasing your first Louisville home my website, Louisville Homes, has loads of useful information and tutorials to help get you started.

If you would like to read about defensive buying techniques, especially when the economy exhibits some signs of challenge, go here. I have posted an article giving advice on how to take advantage of a buyer's market here. Keep in mind I think there are endless ways to structure deals that can be very beneficial in their own right, especially in the current market in the Greater Louisville Area.

There is no doubt that a savvy buyer who has properly prepared themselves financially and through thorough market research stands to be in an advantageous position presently. The mortgage rates are going to fluctuate, home prices will probably begin to rise as the market recovers, and the inventory will decrease as more and more buyers make their move. It's a great time to buy while the market adjusts!

Please feel free to contact me through my website with any questions regarding buying a home. You can also search the entire Louisville MLS for free on my site. Good luck, may this market treat you well!