808 Oahu Realtor (Ryan Riggins) License #RS-74740

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Why Use a REALTOR®

A REALTOR® is a licensed real estate salesperson who belongs to the National Association of REALTORS®, the largest trade group in the country.

Every agent is not a REALTOR®, but most are. If you’re unsure, you can ask your agent if they’re a licensed REALTOR®.

REALTORS® are held to a higher ethical standard than licensed agents and must adhere to a Code of Ethics.

Some REALTORS® are brokers, while some are agents. Unfortunately, people use the term interchangeably: there are some differences.

Brokers are usually managers. They run an agency and have agents working under them as salespeople. They might own a real estate brokerage or manage a franchise operation. They must take additional courses and pay additional fees to maintain their state-issued broker license.

An agent, on the other hand, is a salesperson selling on behalf of the broker.

Agents are also state licensed and must pass a written test before legally acting as a real estate agent. Each state has its own licensing laws and standards.

Some states—like Illinois—have eliminated the real estate salesperson license and mandate all agents take additional course work and pass another test to become brokers. They are broker associates still selling under a managing broker.

The Typical REALTOR®

There is a stereotype of the typical REALTOR® that must be dispelled: the stereotypical agent works a few hours a day and makes millions of dollars a year. Reality TV shows perpetuate this myth.

On television, buyers find the perfect house after visiting just three homes—and write an offer that is accepted immediately. The next thing you know, they’re moving in!

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The typical buyer searches with a REALTOR® for about 12 weeks and looks at about 10 properties before selecting a home, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. They then wait about 30 days—on average—or the deal to close. The agent is only paid once the deal closes.

If the buyer decides to sign another lease—or not to buy—that agent is not compensated. The same is true of listings. If the listing does not sell, the agent is not paid.

The average agent earned $47,700 in 2013, according to the National Association of REALTORS® Member Profile 2014.

Selling real estate is a commission-only business. That means an agent can work with a buyer for months without ever making a commission—because deals fall though and not every listing sells. It’s a business run on trust and faith.

Also, many people see the commission check at the closing table and have no idea how that money is split. They think their agent walks away with all of it—that’s just not true.

Remember, agents work for brokers. The commission check is made payable to the brokerage which then cuts a check to the listing agent and the selling agent. Both agents also must pay a percentage of their earnings to their broker.

Generally, agents also are responsible for paying their own federal and state income taxes, social security tax, and health insurance.

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10-Step Guide to Buying a House

Are You Ready to Become a Homeowner?
Whether you’re becoming a homeowner for the first time or you’re a repeat buyer, buying a house is a financial and emotional decision that requires the experience and support of a team of reliable professionals.

Get a REALTOR®
In the maze of forms, financing, inspections, marketing, pricing and negotiating, it makes sense to work with professionals who know the community and much more. Those professionals are the local REALTORS® who serve your area.

Get a Mortgage Pre-approval
Most first-time buyers need to finance their home purchase, and a consultation with a mortgage lender is a crucial step in the process. Find out how much you can afford before you begin your home search.

Look at Homes
A quick search on realtor.com® will bring up thousands of homes for sale. Educating yourself on your local market and working with an experienced REALTOR® can help you narrow your priorities and make an informed decision about which home to choose.

Choose a Home
While no one can know for sure what will happen to housing values, if you choose to buy a home that meets your needs and priorities, you’ll be happy living in it for years to come.

Get Funding
The cost of financing your home purchase is usually greater than the price of the home itself (after interest, closing costs and taxes are added). Get as much information as possible regarding your mortgage options and other costs.

Make an Offer
While much attention is paid to the asking price of a home, a proposal to buy includes both the price and terms. In some cases, terms can represent thousands of dollars in additional value – or additional costs – for buyers.

Get Insurance
No sensible car owner would drive without insurance, so it figures that no homeowner should be without insurance, either. Real estate insurance protects owners in the event of catastrophe. If something goes wrong, insurance can be the bargain of a lifetime.

Closing
The closing process, which in different parts of the country is also known as “settlement” or “escrow”, is increasingly computerized and automated. In practice, closings bring together a variety of parties who are part of the real estate transaction.

What’s Next?
You’ve done it. You’ve looked at properties, made an offer, obtained financing and gone to closing. The home is yours. Is there any more to the home buying process? Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a repeat buyer, you’ll want to take several more steps.


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Top 5 Reasons to Buy a House Right Now

Buying a house is a highly individual decision—and a local one—but current trends are creating a favorable situation for many would-be homeowners.

Interest rates are low, employment is rising, home prices—in most markets—are still well below their peaks, and rents are through the roof.

Every family and each individual has various factors affecting the ability and the decision to buy a home. If you live in a market where studio apartments are $2,400 per month—while nearby condos sell for $300,000—it might make sense to buy a house instead.

(Remember, a local REALTOR® always is your best resource in helping you assess market conditions.)

Five Compelling Reasons to Buy a House Right Now

1. Interest Rates Are Still Low

Mortgage interest rates are still low—for now.

A 30-year-fixed-rate loan now averages 4.16%, according to Freddie Mac, but many economists believe we will see 5% rates next year. As interest rates increase, so do your monthly payments.

A $300,000 house at 4.16% with 20% down would have a monthly payment of $1,168. With a 5% interest rate, that payment increases to $1,288.

2. There’s More Inventory

As more houses enter the for sale market, prices stabilize.

“Inventories are at their highest level in over a year, and price gains have slowed to much more welcoming levels,” said Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of REALTORS®.

The upside is consumers now have more choices, if they are looking at existing homes.

New homes are another story: Yun says new construction needs to double its current production to meet market demand.

3. Home Prices Are Going Up

Home prices are rising.

The median price of an existing home was $223,300 in June, or 4.3% higher than June 2013. That’s the 28th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains, and economists expect that trend to continue. However, we are still at least 20% off the peak prices of 2006.

“Attempting to buy a home when the market is at its lowest point—or to sell at the peak—is tricky,” said Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist for realtor.com®.

He compares it to trying to time the stock market.

“You might get lucky one or two times, but overall, timing the market does not work,” Smoke added. “It all points to purchasing power, and that’s a reflection of price and interest rates, which will both be higher in the future.”

4. Rents Are Sky-High

If you live in a big city, then you know rent is astronomical. In San Francisco, many people are spending 42% of their monthly income to pay the rent. Nationwide, rents are rising at a 4% annual clip.

It’s not unusual to see adults rooming together in expensive cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago, but everyone needs his or her own space at some point.

Buying a home would lock in your monthly payment and stabilize your finances with a fixed-rate mortgage. This is, of course, assuming you don’t live the San Francisco area, where the average price of a home is $1 million.

(If you’re renting and never thought you could afford to buy a house, try our Rent vs. Buy calculator to see what’s possible.)

5. Employment on the Rise

Perhaps nothing is as important to the financial stability you need to buy a home as steady employment. The U.S. economy is finally adding jobs—about 200,000 new jobs per month.

The next generation of home buyers—the Millennials—has been particularly affected by the nation’s job slump. Saddled with student loans and tight lending restrictions, many in this generation have been living with their parents to save money until the economy picks up.

If your employment prospects look good these days and the other four factors check out, then it may indeed be the right time for you to buy a home of your own.


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Which Filter to Use?

iStock_000012737667Small250.jpgA dirty air filter decreases the effectiveness of your HVAC system because it inhibits airflow and allows dirt, dust, pollen and other materials to blow through the system.

The challenge is how often it should be changed to keep the system working efficiently and extend the equipment life. Too often and you’re wasting money and not often enough and your increasing the operating and maintenance costs.

Fiberglass panel filters are inexpensive and easy to find but they’re not very efficient and they allow most dust to pass through. They were popular years ago but there are much better products available currently.

Pleated air filters are available in MERV ratings from 5 to 12. As these filters collect dirt and other particles, they become less efficient to the point of impacting air flow. Allergy sufferers can benefit from this type of filter. These should be changed every two to three months based on local conditions.

HEPA filters stand for High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance. They are very efficient and more expensive than previously described filters. Since they are very efficient, they require changing more frequently; possibly, every month.

Electrostatic air filters are permanent and washable. They generally cost more initially but the savings will be based on how long they last. This type does not add to landfill issues or produce ozone.

Improperly maintained filters will lower the quality of the air in the home, have a negative impact on air flow, cause it to use more electricity and eventually require maintenance to the systems.

In an attempt to easily comparing filters, a rating system was created called MERV, an acronym for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The rating from 1 to 16 indicates the efficiency of a filter based on standards set by ASHRAE. Higher ratings indicate a greater percentage of particles are being captured in the filter.

To create a system to remind you when to change your filters, set a reminder on your electronic calendar to recur for whatever frequency you determine is best for you. Be sure to keep a supply of filters on hand to be ready to change them out when the time comes.


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5 Myths about Loan Modifications

Myth 1: You have to be behind on your mortgage –
I can’t tell you the number of times I have met with a new client who has gone into foreclosure because they received the bad advice that they had to fall behind on their payments in order to get their loan modified. This is simply not the case. The federal Making Home Affordable Modification Program was designed to help borrowers who are already behind AND borrowers in danger of falling behind. Most lenders call this imminent default and have a special modification division that handles these borrowers. While it is true that once you fall behind on your mortgage payments you will begin to receive plenty of correspondence from your lender telling offering your modification assistance. And it is also true that once you stop paying there may be more incentive for the bank to modify your loan and get you paying once again. But you have to remember that if you stop paying your mortgage several things will inevitably happen. First, your credit will be negatively affected, sometimes quite severely. Second, your lender will start foreclosure proceedings against you. Once this happens you will need to defend yourself and will likely incur significant attorney fees and expenses. You will also incur late fees, penalties and legal fees from the lender which, if and when you do receive a modification, will be added to the principal that you owe! Furthermore, you will have to deal with the emotional stress and unease that comes with knowing that you could at some point soon be losing your home to a foreclosure. If you are not behind on your payments it is best to stay current and apply for a modification as an imminent default borrower. If you can show a reduced income or some other hardship that is making it difficult for you to stay current with your mortgage payment, you should be able to obtain a modification without being behind. Also keep in mind that if you are experiencing resistance in modifying your mortgage because you are current on your payments you may qualify for a refinance under the Home Affordable Refinance Plan.

Myth 2: You have to have a negative income every month to show a hardship –
While it is true that you must demonstrate a hardship in order to receive a loan modification under the MHA, most lenders do not want to see your monthly bank accounts in the ‘red.’ In fact the exact opposite is true. If your monthly expenses vastly exceed your monthly income, most lenders will view you as a substantial risk of defaulting again in the future. If you are currently in the red every month it would be wise to take some time examining your expenses and cutting back where necessary before you submit your documents to the lender.

Myth 3: You can only modify your primary residence –

Contrary to popular belief you can modify a mortgage on an investment property. Of course modifying a mortgage on an investment property is not nearly as simple as modifying a mortgage on a primary residence. Only primary residences qualify for modification under the federal MHA program so you will have to apply for an internal lender modification. The good news is that most lenders do offer their own variations of loan modification. Many times these internal modifications are constructed quite similar to federal modifications as far as the interest rates and payment structures so they are not a bad option. One potential issue that homeowners run into with internal modifications is that without federal guidelines the language and structure of the modification may be a bit confusing. Reinstatement and forbearance plans are not modifications and can be a bit misleading in the way they are presented so a homeowner should carefully review any potential plans they receive.

Myth 4: Principal reductions are a standard part of a true loan modification –
In early 2009 Bank of America announced that it would now be offering principal reductions to many of its borrowers. Unfortunately, what BOA didn’t tell the public is that the guidelines used to determine who qualifies for a principal reduction are quite extensive. For example, only severely underwater mortgages with incredibly high rates of delinquency, such as subprime loans, pay-option ARMs and prime two year hybrid ARMs that are 60 days or more delinquent, will qualify. Out of the millions of loans that Bank of America owns and/or services they estimate that about 45,000 people will qualify for a principal reduction under their plan. That’s only about 3% of all borrowers! Furthermore, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won’t allow them to participate in principal reduction so a large number of loans will not qualify for principal reduction at all.

Myth 5: Your credit will not be affected by a loan modification –
Unfortunately this is not exactly true. While a loan modification itself will not necessarily affect your credit, several factors may affect what the impact may be on your credit score. For example, if the lender agrees to reduce your principal as part of the loan modification, they have essentially ‘forgiven’ a part of your debt. In that case, the lender may report the account “paid for less than owed” which is not good for your credit score. Also, many times prior to receiving a modification a homeowner will fall behind on their payments. Clearly, being late or missing payments will reflect negatively on your credit rating. Despite these negative implications, if you do receive a modification under the HAMP program your servicer must report the account as “current” and also identify the loan as “modified under federal government plan.”


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Which Filter to Use?

A dirty air filter decreases the effectiveness of your HVAC system because it inhibits airflow and allows dirt, dust, pollen and other materials to blow through the system.

The challenge is how often it should be changed to keep the system working efficiently and extend the equipment life.   Too often and you’re wasting money and not often enough and your increasing the operating and maintenance costs.

Fiberglass panel filters are inexpensive and easy to find but they’re not very efficient and they allow most dust to pass through.  They were popular years ago but there are much better products available currently.

Pleated air filters are available in MERV ratings from 5 to 12. As these filters collect dirt and other particles, they become less efficient to the point of impacting air flow.  Allergy sufferers can benefit from this type of filter.  These should be changed every two to three months based on local conditions.

HEPA filters stand for High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance. They are very efficient and more expensive than previously described filters.  Since they are very efficient, they require changing more frequently; possibly, every month.

Electrostatic air filters are permanent and washable. They generally cost more initially but the savings will be based on how long they last.  This type does not add to landfill issues or produce ozone.

Improperly maintained filters will lower the quality of the air in the home, have a negative impact on air flow, cause it to use more electricity and eventually require maintenance to the systems.

In an attempt to easily compare filters, a rating system was created called MERV, an acronym for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value.  The rating from 1 to 16 indicates the efficiency of a filter based on standards set by ASHRAE.  Higher ratings indicate a greater percentage of particles are being captured in the filter.

To create a system to remind you when to change your filters, set a reminder on your electronic calendar to recur for whatever frequency you determine is best for you.   Be sure to keep a supply of filters on hand to be ready to change them out when the time comes.


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How’s Your Memory?

home inventory3.pngHow old is your bedroom furniture and what did you pay for it? Don’t know? That’s okay, let’s try an easier question. When did you buy the TV in your family room and is it a plasma, LCD or a LED?

Whether you are the victim of a burglary, a fire or a tornado, most people are comforted they have insurance to cover the losses. However, unless you’ve filed a claim, you may not be familiar with the procedures.

The adjustor will want to know the date and how the loss occurred. Assuming you have contents coverage, the claim for personal belongings is separate from damage to the home.

You’ll be asked to provide proof of purchase, like receipts or cancelled checks, or a current inventory. If they’re not available, you can reconstruct an inventory from memory. The challenge is trying to remember things you may not have used for years and may not miss for years more.

Relying on memory can be a very expensive alternative. A prudent homeowner will create a home inventory with pictures or videos while all of their belongings are in the home and they can see them.

Download a home inventory to make your project a little easier.