[schema type="organization" orgtype="LocalBusiness" url="http://4salebydonna.com" name="Real Estate Agent Donna Baker" description="Real Estate Agent showing homes for sale and available real estate in Monrovia, Pasadena, Arcadia the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California." city="Monrovia" state="Ca" postalcode="91016" email="donna@4salebydonna.com " phone="(626) 408-7766 "]
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6 Ways to Zero in on the Lowest Mortgage Rates

Without knowing it, many people develop something akin to a split personality when it comes to buying a home. In the beginning, as they pursue their ideal house, they automatically assume an unabashedly active role. Nobody has to tell them that they’re the boss in the process—since they are the customer, they correctly expect to be in total command of the house hunting process. They develop their unique wish list and ultimately decide which property best satisfies it.

But then a split can develop. The active, in-charge commander often does an about-face when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the next step: securing the lowest mortgage rate. Upon entering the realm of what seems to be a monolithic and largely inscrutable home loan industry, the formerly active, energetic house hunter turns passive, hoping for approval with fingers crossed.

To some degree, that’s not an unreasonable stance, since home loan terms are based on hard numbers already set in stone: income and expense records, payment histories, and credit score numbers. But in truth, the best way to secure the lowest mortgage rate for a new home loan is to start early and actively to create the scenario you’re hoping for. Here are six ways to make it happen:

  1. First, as soon as possible and well before any house hunting begins, check for errors in your credit report. They can and should be corrected, but since the process can take months, here’s where being proactive early pays off.
  2. Stay on top of those credit accounts. Continue to use credit cards, but keep the balances below 30% of their maximum (better yet: below 20%).
  3. As you approach application time, keep your documents and reports up-to-date. Quick responses to document requests speed the process, and having everything at hand makes your part of the work much easier.
  4. Watch the market. Rates change frequently, and keeping an eye on their movement from week to week will build your confidence in being able to recognize an opportune moment to tap the lowest mortgage rates.
  5. Be wary of loans advertised as “no-cost.” The Brooklyn Bridge is not for sale, either: loans cost something to develop, and those costs will always be paid by the borrower. The bottom line lowest mortgage rates are best represented by the APR percentage, which summarizes the total cost, including fees, in a single number.
  6. Be prepared to shop. Whether you tap a savvy area mortgage broker for help or go it alone, tracking down the lowest mortgage rates in  is doable. The home loan industry really isn’t as monolithic as it might seem.

There shouldn’t be a split between actively seeking your dream house—then merely passively hoping for favorable loan terms to come your way. Starting early is one key—and teaming with an experienced real estate professional is the other.

That’s right—you guessed it: call me!

A “Kitchen Mirage” Could Speed Your Home Sale

When I see a feature with a title like X Ways to Make Your Kitchen Feel Bigger, I’m someone who’s unlikely to pass it up. Making any kitchen feel bigger would be a definite plus for any home sale. On the scale of honorable pursuits, it would be right there next to cleanliness.

Increasingly, today’s homebuyers think of the kitchen as a (and possibly the) center of family entertaining—the center of gravity where everyone hangs out more than anywhere else. It’s true that if another room features a giant TV entertainment center, that might be serious competition for the family’s attention. But although it might be a place that will occupy goodly chunks of everyone’s time, it’s in the kitchen where family members wind up interacting the most and which gets the most scrutiny when it comes to a home sale.

There’s no debate that in today’s market, a claustrophobic kitchen can retard an otherwise appealing home’s sale. Yet actually hiring an architect, contractor, pulling permits, etc. to physically expand a kitchen is a major undertaking that runs the risk of costing more than it returns. So finding ways to make your kitchen feel bigger without blowing out walls and tearing up the property for months on end, well—that’s definitely worth looking into.

To cut to the chase, most of the Feel Bigger Ways aren’t magical: they turn out to be design ideas that maximize storage efficiency. To achieve positive home sale results, the idea is to systematically substitute suffocating kitchen clutter with eye-pleasing open space.

One clear tactic is to make the most of any existing kitchen island. The space beneath is ideal for “smart” storage solutions. Googling smart storage yields 1,000,000+ results (not to mention the ads), comprising a ready-made resource for maxing out the cubic feet that are ready to use right there in the center of the kitchen.

On the opposing side of the “feel bigger” agenda is the suggestion to abandon one of the most popular design ideas of bygone eras: the overhead cupboard. In most layouts, those utilitarian storage solutions assail kitchen occupants’ sightlines exactly where it will do the most harm. When you remove those overheads, a whole lot of claustrophobia goes with them. Unfortunately, a good deal of storage space goes with them.

That brings up two other tried-and-true alternatives. First, placing shelving on unused wall space can solve some of the storage dilemma—most pleasingly, when it’s some variety of open shelving. Kitchen design publications are filled with examples of appealing open and glass-windowed shelving.

Second is what could be the most useful, least expensive, and easily adopted insight for making your kitchen fell bigger: just get rid of excess kitchen stuff! It’s simple but true. Removing unused utensils, pots & pans and kitchenware can work miracles. For the gourmet-pleasing cooks who can’t get by without a lot of exotic cookery aids, the solution is an off-site storage solution in the garage or dedicated closet. The minor inconvenience will be worth it if a quicker home sale results—besides, the extra going back and forth is healthy exercise, right?

If you are planning to list your San Gabriel Valley or Monrovia home, a good place to start is with a no-obligation consultation about your home and today’s real estate market. Call me!

Packing and Moving Do’s and Don’ts

When you first contemplate packing and moving, it’s advisable to take a deep breath first, then close your eyes and mentally recall the best, most positive moments from past moves.

Okay, if there aren’t any of those, try thinking of some bracing truism like “This, too, shall pass” or “The night is darkest just before the dawn.” Realistically, the packing and moving will be over before you know it. Those visions of jackknifed moving vans and your good china strewn across the Interstate…they’re NOT going to happen!

Not only that, but you can do some painless preparation for the move, whether or not you decide to go with professional movers. Here are some reminder do’s and don’ts. Let’s take the don’ts first:

DON’T:

  • Don’t procrastinate if there is any possibility that you will be using professional movers. The best movers can be booked up months in advance, especially if you think you’ll be moving near the end of the month. Get on-site written estimates, of course.
  • Don’t water plants for a couple of days before the move.
  • Don’t buy just one black marker. You WILL set it down somewhere and lose it as soon as the packing gets ferocious (which is when you most need to mark the cartons with where they’re going).

…and my favorite:

  • Don’t move boxes you haven’t opened since your last move!

DO:

  • Take out the measuring tape and determine the dimensions of the destination areas meant to house your furniture. You can avoid going to the trouble and expense of moving furniture that’s too large to fit…(think of it as garage sale fodder).
  • Start collecting cardboard boxes early. All sizes come in handy. There can’t be too many of the small boxes for fragile items: well bubble-wrapped, they’ll fit inside the larger ones.
  • Leave folded clothing inside dresser drawers. You can move the drawers separately if they make the whole thing too heavy (professionals will just pick up the whole thing).
  • Take your time when it comes to unpacking. This can actually be quite fun to do: to arrange things exactly as you want them to be in your new place! Remember these moments, so the next time, you’ll be able to close your eyes and mentally recall the best, most positive, etc.

Some people do put off hunting for a new home because of the dreaded packing and moving that goes along with a change of digs. But if your family’s lifestyle has outgrown your current residence, most of the trauma of moving can be avoided by a little pre-move organization. I help with more than just buying and selling: my San Gabriel Valley real estate clients are able to count on my assistance in all aspects of the process, every step of the way!