Category Archives: Real estate

Buying a Home? Factor These Into Your Interest Rate Calculations

The mortgage process can be complicated if you jump in without any prior knowledge on home-buying and lending. The best tool you can arm yourself with is an understanding of how your mortgage interest rate is calculated.

Credit can make or break you. 

Your credit score will determine how reliable you are in the lending world. The higher your score, the lower your interest rate will likely be. Check your credit on one of the three major credit reporting agency sites—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—or your credit card company may have a free credit report service (although these aren’t as reliable). Improve your FICO score for a better chance at a lower interest rate.

Factor in size and location.

  • State or County: Even your place of residence can affect your rate.
  • Local Mortgage Lenders: Shop around. Interest rates can vary from company to company even if they’re located in the same town.
  • Loan Size: The size of your home can also impact your interest rate. The bigger the loan, the higher your interest rate will be if you’re not putting more money down.
  • Down Payment Size: Your mortgage interest rate may also depend on how much you’re putting down and if your loan includes closing costs and private mortgage insurance (PMI). Putting down less than 20 percent can increase your risk factor and may require PMI, but your interest rate may be lower depending on the loan.

Not all loans are created equal.

Loan Length: Your loan terms play a bigger role in interest rate calculations than you think. Have you decided whether you want to pay off your loan in 15 or 30 years? You may pay more per month with a shorter term, but you’ll be paying less interest over the life of your loan. Short-term loans may also have a smaller interest rate.

Fixed or Adjustable: You’ll also have to consider whether a fixed- or adjustable-rate loan is right for you. Your interest rate can change over time if you choose an adjustable-rate loan. It may start off low or fixed, but can increase over time depending on market conditions. Fixed-rate loans, however, will have a higher interest rate attached to them.

Loan Type: Interest rates can also vary according to your loan type. Choosing a loan can be overwhelming, but a local lender should be able to provide you with the best options. Some of the more popular loans are conventional, FHA and VA loans. While FHA loans have less down payment restrictions and a smaller interest rate, your monthly payment can be more expensive due to the required PMI added on. VA loans can have smaller interest rates and don’t require PMI like FHA does. Conventional loans are widely accepted in the real estate industry as dependable, but your interest rate may be higher.

Knowledge about all of this is paramount!

By Liz Dominguez, RISMedia’s Housecall


Scammers stole their home down payment. Here’s how you can avoid a similar ripoff


 — Over the course of seven years, a local couple saved tens of thousands of dollars for a down payment on their first home — then, scammers took their money.

These scammers are so slick and so cunning that it’s hard for home buyers and sellers to realize something is wrong. The growing problem is so common that the Federal Trade Commission recently reissued an alert about the scam. And, with more than $50,000 at stake, a couple of first-time home buyers in Durham want to reinforce the warning.

After months of searching, Cemal and Derya Biryol finally found their dream home, and their excitement grew even more when their offer was accepted and the closing date was set.

Everything seemed perfect until an email came that asked for their $53,000 down payment. The email appeared to come from their closing attorney and included their insurance information and the exact amount due: $53,194.48. Attached wiring instructions even warned about fraud.

Cemal wired the funds and emailed his realtor to be on the lookout for them. The realtor sounded the alarm when she realized the funds went to the wrong bank.

“I almost started crying,” said Cemal. “I felt ashamed, or helpless, because it’s all (Derya’s) savings, together it’s all our savings, and I just sent it to someone else in a matter of seconds.”

“You just think, oh my gosh, so much money, and it’s just gone,” said Derya.

Hackers target buyers, sellers, agents and attorneys in different scenarios. Often, they break into a broker’s email, gather sensitive and accurate information about a transaction, and then clone the email address. As the closing date nears, they email the buyer new wiring instructions.

“I was pleading with my bank,” said Cemal. “I lost myself for a moment — I was asking these people, saying I lost my life savings, please help me. Please, this is a scam, please. The bank said it was already past the half-hour limit, so they could not stop the transaction.”

The bank did flag the funds as fraudulent and try to recall the wire, and Detective Ben Garth with the Durham Police Department’s financial crimes unit jumped on the case.

“Once it’s gone, it’s usually gone,” said Garth, but then he discovered that the Biryol’s money landed in a busy account.  “Another $120,000 fraudulent wire came into the same account,” said Garth.

Ultimately, because of all the quick action involved, and because they sent the payment on a Friday afternoon, the Biryols lucked out.

“The wire operations end at the end of the day on Friday and start again on Monday, so nobody was able to touch the funds in that account after we wired the money,” said Cemal.

Even after the Biryols froze the funds, it still took two more weeks for the bank to release the funds back to them. “Right at that moment I saw that money and I felt relief,” said Cemal.

After a delayed closing, these first-time home buyers are hoping others hear their warning about how fortunate they feel to also be first-time scam survivors.

“It’s easy money for them, but it’s just cruel,” said Derya. “We got lucky,” Cemal agreed.

Officials say the best way to protect yourself from a similar scam is to verify all details of a real estate transaction by phone before you send anything. The phone numbers you use need to be legitimate, not numbers you receive in a suspicious email.

Even better? Make the exchange in person.

WRAL news: Reporter 

Energy Efficient Home Hacks to Complete Before End of Summer

It’s hard to believe that the end of summer is almost here!  The soaring temperatures of the time come with sky-high energy bills. If you’re looking to improve your home’s energy efficiency as your HVAC kicks into overdrive, consider adding these energy efficient home hacks to your weekend warrior to-do list.

Increase Insulation
Air leakages can occur anywhere in your home, resulting in your AC unit having to work that much harder to keep your home comfortable. Adding a new layer of insulation is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more energy efficient. Best of all, you can do this easy hack yourself! Before laying any new insulation, be sure to plug up any large openings and seal off small cracks, especially around attic hatches, window frames, and electrical outlets.

Smart Home Automation
It seems like almost every electronic device now has a smart alternative on the market. Though it’s easy to write off this technology as a luxury, most of these devices can actually go a long way in helping to reduce your energy usage each month. Whether it’s a thermostat that learns your family’s habits or a dishwasher that only runs during off-peak energy hours, smart home appliances and devices can go a long way in helping curb your family’s energy demands.

Close Your Blinds
Sometimes the best hacks are also the easiest—and cheapest! By simply closing your blinds, especially for south- and west-facing windows, you have the potential to save upwards of seven percent off your energy bill, as well as lowering the ambient temperature by up to 20 degrees. Considering that almost 30 percent of unwanted humid summer heat comes in from your windows, it makes sense to drop the shades on the afternoon sun. Better yet, if it’s in your budget, replace those worn-out windows altogether. Energy Star has found that most homeowners can expect to see an average 12 percent drop in their home’s energy consumption after replacing single-pane windows with Energy Star qualified alternatives.

Landscape to Lower Energy
Think of landscaping as your exterior blinds, and plant a few trees along the south side of your home to help block direct sunlight from ever making it to your windows. Ensure that any tree you plant is a leafy variety, rather than an evergreen, so that you can get exceptional shade in the summer and plenty of warming sun in the leafless winter months. Similarly, plant evergreen shrubs around your home’s foundation to add year-round insulation

Cooking Counts

Summer is virtually synonymous with grilling, but did you ever consider just how much energy you can save by sparking up some charcoal instead of your oven? Not only will you be sparing yourself any operating costs, but you’ll also prevent your HVAC from having to combat the added heat your culinary masterpiece is likely to create.

The best way to make your home as energy-efficient as possible is to have a professional perform an energy audit. The typical audit usually only takes a couple hours of your time, but it has the potential to save you thousands of dollars in reduced energy expenses year round.

With a little planning ahead and a few upgrades, you’ll be saving energy daily!

By Courtni Wisenbaker-Scheel – from Housecall