Smoke Alarm / Carbon Monoxide Detector Requirements in Prince George’s County

I know, sexy headline, right?

Sexier still – to be alive after a fire or carbon monoxide leak.

State law for smoke alarms went into effect July 1, 2013 and mandates that any battery-only operated smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old must be replaced with a unit powered by a 10-year sealed-in battery. All  smoke alarms must be replaced every 10 years, regardless of type. (PDF of image below)

PGFD.Smoke_Alarm_Law

 

Effective July 1, 2014, Prince George’s County mandated that most dwellings in the county must have CO Detectors installed. There should be one carbon monoxide detector installed on each level of the dwelling, in close proximity to sleeping quarters in any residence with gas heating system, fuel burning appliances and/or an attached garage. (PDF of image below.)

PGFD.Carbon_Monoxide

Be safe!

Posted in Maintaining Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

If a Picture is Worth 1,000 Words…

…then why do we have so many bad ones? What kind of words does a really bad photo convey? Or a decent photo of an ugly room? It seems like such a basic concept – use a photograph to convey to best features of a house, and along the way, the photo itself shouldn’t be a distraction from those features.

Time is limited, attention spans are short. For this example, I purposefully used a very modest kitchen, with a stacked washer/dryer, to show the difference. Not a lot of room, but laid out nicely to maximize the use of the room. Quick – which kitchen appeals to you more?

Photo taken by professional real estate photographer

Photo taken by Susan Pruden

Photo taken by another real estate agent, to market property

Photo taken by another real estate agent, to market property.

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In the Pocket?

236216358_18b34d407e_zGreat – if you’re playing pool!

But what if you’re selling your home? Is that a good place to be? And just whose pocket are you in, anyway?

You have to know what a pocket listing is before you can decide if it works for you as a selling strategy – because that’s what it is, a strategy, not a silver bullet.

The “pocket” in question is the listing agent’s pocket – as in, you’re hidden in the listing agent’s pocket. If your agent is marketing your home before it goes “live” in the MLS, then your home being treated as a “Pocket Listing”.  The question is, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

As with most things real-estate related, the answer is “It depends”.  So let’s explore.

Why might you want to be a pocket listing? You may not want people traipsing through your home. Timing may be more important to you than getting the highest price reasonably possible.  Maybe you’re a celebrity and value your privacy above all else.  You may just find a buyer that is willing to pay a good price and meet your other terms in order to keep from competing on the open market.

And there’s the rub. It’s competition on the open market that is likely to bring you the best price and/or terms. Many real estate agents who tout the benefits of marketing your home privately are likely looking to sell your home themselves, thereby getting both sides of the commission.  There are companies who extol the virtues of not putting your home in the MLS for a week or two, but marketing it “in-house”. They may state that they’ll have more control over the process, but the real reason to do this as a matter of course is to get more business for your company. Not exactly promoting your best interests, is it?

There are also some concerns that pocket listings may present a fair housing issue, but that’s more a problem for agents than sellers.

Not all homes that sell off-MLS are pocket listings. If I talk up your listing before it actually goes on the market, then I’m just building anticipation.  And there are private sales all the time that don’t fit this particular strategy. It’s not illegal and it’s not unethical, as long as you understand the pros and cons, and you go into it with your eyes wide open and your own best interests squarely in front of you.

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More on Mortgage Loans

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  1. Most lenders get their money from the same sources – from Fannie Mae (FNMA), Freddie Mac (FHLMC), and Ginnie Mae (GNMA). The standards are uniform and fairly strict for the loan to be approved.  In industry jargon, we call this “A-paper”.
  2. Even with “A-Paper”, underwriting guidelines may differ from lender to lender. This is called an “overlay”, where some lenders have more strict guidelines in place than FNMA, FHLMC or GNMA require.
  3. Some lenders will offer loans for people who don’t qualify for the loans in #1 – but the trade off is a higher interest rate and possibly higher fees. Criteria for loan approval starts to vary quite a bit from lender to lender, so if one doesn’t work, try another. This is typically called “A- or Alt-A” paper. It is considered more risky than A-paper, but less risky than sub-prime.
  4. Sub-prime loans are for those who don’t qualify for A-paper or Alt-A lending. They completely set their own criteria and rules and typically cost a lot of money. Still, not a bad deal if this is what it takes to get you where you want to be. It’s all a trade-off.
  5. Interest rates change daily – so if you compare one lender’s rates that you got today to the rates of a lender you talked to last week, you are comparing apples and oranges.
  6. Be wary of lenders promising you a rate where you get “free money” back. You are likely paying for that lender credit in your interest rate. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s definitely not free. Ask how much the interest rate would be if there were no lender credit. Then decide for yourself if the lender credit is something you want.
  7. Since most lenders differ very slightly in terms of interest rate, the interest rate might be the least of your concerns. There are other questions you should ask – 1) how much does the lender charge in additional fees (this does not include fees that the lender has no control over) and 2) does the lender have a good reputation for completing your loan as promised, in a timely manner?
  8. Pay attention to the number of days for the rate lock. It does not good to get a great interest rate that is good for 30 days if you aren’t going to settlement for 45 days. Your rate lock needs to be realistic for the amount of time it takes to get to closing.
  9. All the promises of a great interest rate don’t mean anything until you have a contract and are ready to lock in your rate. Last week’s rates don’t matter – the only rates that matter are today’s rates. If a lender quotes you a rate that is too good to be true, it probably is. You’ll find that this lender’s rates are suddenly in line with everyone else on the day you need to lock in your interest rate.
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How Your Interest Rate is Determined

percentage

In the good old days, a buyer called a lender, gave him income, debts and permission to pull what we call an “in file” credit report, and the deed was done. A pre-qualification letter was sent out and promises made about great interest rates. The buyer then found a house, checked around with some different lenders – sometimes after the contract was accepted – to see who had the lowest rate.

Interest rates used to be the same for everyone who was looking for the same type of loan. In other words, when you talked to a loan officer about the interest rate for a 5% down payment, 30 year fixed rate loan, you got the same interest rate as everyone else looking for the same loan.

Now the lender needs to know your credit score as well. If you go to bankrate.com and search on mortgage interest rates, you’ll see a place to put in your credit score and your expected down payment. So if a lender quotes you a rate over the phone without discussing your credit score, he’s likely giving you the lowest rate reserved for the very best credit scores.

It is important enough to repeat – Your interest rate is credit-score driven, followed by your down payment and how long you need the interest rate to be guaranteed

I wrote a little more specifically on credit scores here.

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