Mortgage lending is a very competitive industry. Lenders will sometimes promise home buyers that they can speed up the process. While they can cut a few days off of the process, it generally takes 30-45 days to close. To expedite the process somewhat, they can speed it up by scheduling appraisers, home inspectors and underwriters. There are some things you can do on your end to help cut down on the time is takes to close.

Get a handle on your credit

Having good credit is beneficial for so many reasons. Obviously, you’ll need to meet a lender’s credit benchmark in order to even qualify for financing. You’re more likely to qualify for a more competitive rate and term if you have higher credit scores. It also saves time because you’ll spend less time producing documentation and explaining some of the bad things that may appear. It’s important to pull your credit reports and credit scores so you’ll know what’s there and what you can clean up.

Respond quickly to requests

You’ll be asked to supply things such as tax returns and documentation from your employer. Ask your REALTOR® what your mortgage lender will need.

Buy a house that meets requirements

Federal Housing Administration and VA loans have standards and requirements that must be met in order to qualify for a loan. Make sure to ask your REALTOR® if your home meets those standards.

Don’t add any new credit

Don’t buy a car, boat, or make any other large purchase that can change your credit score. Don’t even apply for a new credit card at a department store.

Find the right lender

Specialized products like government-backed Veteran Affairs and United States Department of Agriculture home loans require different knowledge. Make sure to ask about their turnaround times on loan files and the average number of days from contract to close.

Be sure to talk to your real estate agent about what you should and shouldn’t do to speed up the mortgage process.

Along with choosing a real estate agent that you’re comfortable with and marketing the home effectively, determining the correct asking price are three essential aspects of selling your home quickly and for the highest amount possible. The first are personal decisions; the last requires some research, finesse and some educated guessing.

Here are some tips to help you price your home right.

Look at the neighborhood

Consider comparable homes nearby that were for sale, recently sold or are currently for sale. This is perhaps the most important factor in pricing your home.

Local market conditions

Home sales is no different than any other industry. Supply and demand is a determinant of price. Your REALTOR® will have information about the supply of available homes compared to the demand of buyers.

Check out the competition

Visit open houses in the area to see how your home stacks up.

Price to appraise

The buyer’s appraisal price considers the prices of recently sold homes. Your sales price will be subject to an appraisal, unless your buyer agrees to pay cash or waives an appraisal contingency.

Don’t pay for an appraisal

Though the buyer’s appraisal will be important when it comes time to close, you don’t need to obtain a separate appraisal prior to pricing your home.

Square footage

Every home listing states the square footage, but not all square footage is created equal. Two homes could have exactly the same square footage, but one could be an open floor plan while the other has separated rooms.

Beware of the high asking price

An agent may propose a high asking price to flatter you in order to win the listing, but will then push hard for a price reduction almost immediately. This is known in the business as “buying the listing.” Make sure to avoid the trap by talking to several agents. If one comes in way higher than the others, they could be buying your listing.

Irrelevant factors

When it comes to pricing, there are a number of things that many homeowners think are contributing factors, but aren’t:

  • Price you paid for your house
  • Amount you want to net from the deal
  • Price the house would have sold for a few years ago
  • Amount you’ve spent on repairs, maintenance and improvements

Don’t overprice your home

You may be inclined to list at more than what your home is worth in order to hit the price point you really want to get when the buyer makes an offer. This is dangerous because if you don’t get an offer, you may have to reduce the price, which can be an indication to buyers that it’s probably more over-priced than the amount you just reduced.

Don’t underprice it, either

Some homeowners deliberately underprice their home to attract more buyers and start a bidding war. This is just as risky as overpricing the home. If the bidding war you hoped for doesn’t materialize, you may only receive one offer at exactly your artificially lowered asking price.

When you make the decision to sell your home, there will be a lot of things that require your attention in order to put your home’s best foot forward to attract sellers. Hiring the right agent; pricing it correctly; marketing the home; staging.

Add one to the list if you’re a pet owner. If there is evidence in your home that you own a dog or cat, it can affect potential home buyers in a negative way. It can mean the difference between getting the right price and getting bids at all.

If you own a pet, there will be visual evidence as well as an odor. Believe it or not, how your home smells can affect potential buyers in a real and dramatic way.

Tips to help sell your home when you have pets:

Relocate your pets

Although you don’t want to kennel your pet for a long period of time, relocating your pet while your home is on the market may be the best option. Ask a friend or relative to take them in while you’re trying to sell. You might want to speak with your veterinarian about what is appropriate.

Get rid of the hair

Vacuuming doesn’t always work. You may have to attack the carpeting with lint rollers. In addition to the carpets, you’ll have to remove hair from furniture, drapes, vents and near the feet of furniture.

Find trouble spots on your carpet

You can buy a small black light that can identify trouble spots on your carpet. Mark any place that shows up under ultraviolet light and use enzymatic cleaners to remove the odor and stain.

Don’t forget hardwoods and tile

Hard surfaces can absorb pet odors; and the cracks between tile and slats can be hiding places as well.

Cleaning the walls

If you’ve had your pet for a long time, they can spray or rub against walls enough to leave discolored spots. The oils in their coats can discolor the wall and leave an odor. Some will just wipe away, but in some cases, you may need to repaint.

Clear the air

Rather than burning a bunch of candles, which is a good sign that you’re hiding something, replace your furnace filters and dab them with essential oils to pump clean, attractive scents throughout your entire home.

Don’t forget the yard

In addition to the most obvious evidence, you’ll also need to give attention to patches and dead spots in the yard.

On the day of a showing

If you don’t relocate them when you have a showing scheduled, don’t leave pets at home. If your pet is hyperactive around people, that’s definitely a negative, especially if the potential buyers don’t like animals. Remove litter boxes and vacuum up every bit of litter. Put pet food, bowls, cat condos, scratching posts and pet toys where they are less likely to be seen.

Your real estate agent will advise you on how to best de-pet your home prior to selling it. It will take a little work on your part, and you may have to hire a professional cleaner in order to remove evidence of your pet, but when it means the difference between getting no offers and getting the right price for your home, it’s time and money well spent.

One of the things that nearly every home seller dreads is the home inspection. It’s perfectly natural to have some anxiety when an inspector is coming in to evaluate your home.

As a seller, you may opt to have a pre-listing home inspection done as a way to anticipate what you may need to do prior to the buyer’s inspection. Whether you choose to have a pre-listing inspection, or are preparing for the more traditional inspection, here are several things you can do to help your home inspection go more smoothly.

Remove clutter

Inspectors need access to electric panels, heating and cooling systems, water heaters, plumbing and any mechanical equipment. Those places are usually in places used as storage. Make sure to move everything out of the way so the inspector has easy access, including the cabinets beneath your bathroom and kitchen sinks.

Empty your appliances

Yes, they do look inside the washing machine, dryer, dishwasher and stove. They don’t want to move laundry and dishes in order to make an assessment.

Provide attic access

Inspectors have to check insulation and for water damage from a possible leaking roof. Ensure that they have clear access to the attic. Usually that means going through the garage, so make sure to move vehicles.

Check light bulbs

They need to see everything, and you don’t want them guessing as to whether or not the wiring is working. Make sure all the bulbs in the home are working.

Unlock everything

In order to expedite the process, after you let the inspector inside, unlock gates, garage doors, sheds and crawl spaces. An inspector needs to have access to everything on the property and they shouldn’t have to stop the inspection to ask you to unlock something they need to see.

Disclose your home’s flaws

They will find everything anyway. Make sure they know that you’re being forthcoming about what needs to be addressed, whether you’ll do it prior to the sale or the buyer will have to do it after the purchase. What you’re trying to avoid is a negative surprise.

Provide documentation

Save receipts and invoices of repairs and maintenance and put them in a binder.

Helping the inspector do his job can improve their impression of your home and improve their assessment of it, which can help your home sell faster and for more money.

If you’re selling your home, attracting younger home buyers is going to be important. For the most part, younger home buyers fall into these two groups – Generation X and Generation Y or Millennials.

The largest demographic of home buyers is Generation X, who were born between 1965 and 1979. Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, are the second largest. Although they may fall into two demographics, they share common ground not only when it comes to what they look for in a home, but how they look and the most effective ways to sell to them.

Online listing

Younger buyers are more likely to start the search for their new home online. According to the National Association of Realtors®, 90% of buyers use the Internet to search for homes, and 62% of buyers said they walked through a home after viewing the listing online.

Low maintenance

Working around the home is not high on the younger buyers’ list. They prefer to keep their weekends free, avoiding chores and maintenance associated with home ownership.

Good location

Some prefer to be closer to the city and mass transportation, while others are considering schools if they have children. Know which your location will appeal to and make sure it’s included in the listing.

Updated kitchen and bathroom

They may not have a lot of money to put into a remodeling project after they purchase; most of their cash just went into the down payment and furniture.


Cellular service and high speed Internet matter more to younger home buyers, especially since they are less likely than ever to have a landline.

Open floor plan

Younger buyers seem to be attracted to a big kitchen that transitions into a TV room, opting for flow of the home rather than sectioning off a formal dining room, living room, etc.

Home office

Technology offers more people the opportunity to work from home and younger people are most often the ones to take advantage of the opportunity.

Energy efficiency

Whether they’re going green or not, a home’s energy efficiency is something that most home buyers will ask about.


Buyers are affected by the home’s potential, or how comfortable they are the minute that they walk into a home. Staging, rather than an empty home, is more effective to help younger home buyers imagine themselves in the home.

Attracting younger home buyers will be more important – to sellers and agents alike – as the housing market continues to recover.

As you may know, feng shui is a practice that originated in China. It is an ancient art and science developed over 3,000 years ago and is a complex body of knowledge that reveals how to balance the energies of any given space to assure health and good fortune for people inhabiting it.

Literally translated, “feng shui” means “wind water.” In Chinese culture, wind and water are associated with good health, thus good feng shui came to mean good fortune, while bad feng shui means bad luck, or misfortune.

For homeowners, everything we associate with staging the home to sell, have their basis in feng shui strategies.

Make the room inviting

If you stand in the entranceway to a room and all you can see are the backs of chairs, it’s not very welcoming to guests. Creating spaces in the room where people can sit and talk improves the intimacy of a large room.

Create good traffic flow

Look at the room in terms of creating easy-to-navigate, open pathways. You don’t want anything that’s going to keep people from feeling that they can move through an area. Use space wisely, and if that means removing a piece of furniture (or even two!) that’s OK. You want potential buyers to feel comfortable. Too much in a room can make it feel cramped or claustrophobic.

Use plants and water

Living plants and flowers makes the room vibrant and adds splashes of color. Feng shui also dictates the use of a water feature, because water represents prosperity. The back left corner of a room is the wealth corner. Try placing a small water fountain in that location.

Make a good first impression

Feng shui, like home marketing, is about making a good first impression. You want it to be friendly and positive for all buyers. Choose neutral art that appeals to everyone, such as landscapes and nature scenes. When you’re selling, you also want to put away personal family photos and religious and spiritual icons. You want to make it easy for the buyer to imagine their family in the home.


Feng shui alone won’t sell your house. You want to make sure to have the right agent, who will help you set the right price and the right marketing plan.

Subprime loans make it possible for many homeowners to qualify for a mortgage and buy a home. In 2005, subprime loans also triggered a housing bubble that we are still feeling the effects of for nearly the last decade.

Subprime loans are made to borrowers who are highest risk: either they don’t have a good income history, little or no down payment, or their credit scores are bad.

The housing boom and the bursting bubble

In 2005, Wall Street investors were anxious to securitize subprime loans in hopes of a big return on their investment. This encouraged lenders to push high-risk loans. The assumption was that loans would be refinanced and the prices of homes would rise.

What happened was that eventually, home prices dropped, there were massive foreclosures and investors lost billions in the housing market. The bursting bubble was severe enough to help take down investment giants Bears Stearns and Lehman Brothers, just to name a couple.

The current subprime situation

Currently, subprime lending is a fraction of the total market. In the first nine months of 2013, about $3 billion of subprime mortgages were made compared to $625 billion made in 2005.

Tougher federal lending standards in the last couple of years means millions of Americans with poor credit scores have been unable to secure traditional mortgages. Lenders who operate in the new subprime space have an opportunity not only to help renters become buyers, but turn a big profit as well.

Lenders who offer subprime mortgages are much more careful. They require as much as 30% down to safeguard their investment. They have to hold onto their loans for a while or sell them to private equity firms until they establish a strong enough track record to offer mortgage-backed securities to investors.

Burned by the last bubble, investors are taking a pass on subprime for now. For the time being anyway, buyers who pose the biggest risk will have to rely on the Federal Housing Administration for mortgage loans until the new subprime lenders establish themselves as safe investment opportunities for investors.

When it comes time to sell your home, choosing the right real estate agent can mean the difference between selling your home quickly and seeing it sit on the market for a while; between getting your asking price and selling well under your target; between a stressful and a stress-free experience.

During the time your house is on the market, you’ll probably spend quite a bit of time with your agent. Their style should be compatible with yours. If you’re a type A personality, choose a go-getter. If you prefer a more relaxed approach, you’ll probably be happier with a REALTOR® who’s more laid back. You are going to be spending a lot of time with your agent, so your agent’s style should be compatible with yours.

Are you a member of the National Association of Realtors?

The NAR requires ethics training and strict adherence to their code of ethics.

What percentage of your clients are buyers vs. sellers?

Can you outline how you would represent us?

Listen for information about housing inspections, following through with your mortgage approval process, and being present at your closing.

In which neighborhoods do you primarily work?

If they don’t work in your area much, it might be worthwhile to keep looking.

How do you plan to advertise my house?

You should have realistic expectations. An agent isn’t going to spend half of their commission on marketing for your home.

What is a realistic time frame to sell my house at my list price?

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You don’t want to be lied to here; you want to be presented with realistic expectations.

Will I be working with you directly or handed off to someone else?

In many instances, the REALTOR® gets the commitment, then farms out the work to a sales associate or administrative assistant and you never hear from him again. They’re more interested in getting the next listing and letting someone else sell the property while they collect 3%. That’s not what you should be looking for.

Do you work full-time or part-time as a real estate agent?

A lot of great agents work part-time and are very successful.

How many homes have you closed in the last year?

A small number isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. Be realistic. If it sounds low, ask why.

How many other buyers and sellers are you representing now?

The busiest agents often are the most efficient, but if they have 100 people they’re working with, they’re not committing a lot of time to your business.

Is your license in good standing?

Make sure to check the agent’s certification with the state’s Department of Real Estate. Many states provide this information online.

How many years of experience and education do you have?

Years of experience is a good indicator of their level of commitment and talent. Those agents who make the effort to continue their education are usually better agents.

Do you work on weekends?

Answer to this better be yes.

Can you provide me references?

Insights from past customers can help you learn more about an agent and give you a greater comfort level.

The best strategy when picking a real estate agent is to choose the most qualified person, and the one with whom you think you’ll work well. Ideally, you want to partner with an experienced agent who knows your market, has a strong sense of ethics, answers your questions and, most importantly, listens to you and addresses your concerns throughout the process.

A lien occurs when a legal claim is put on a property in order to receive payment for debt or for services rendered. The holder of the lien can sell the property in order to recover the money owed.

A lien can be placed on assets almost any time you have an unpaid debt. A creditor files a lien in the county office stating that they have an interest in your property. It basically gives the creditor a financial stake in your home.

A lien will prevent you from being able to sell, mortgage or take a home equity loan on your home until the lien is lifted. Although there are a number of different types of liens that creditors may place on your home, there are three that are most common.

Mechanic’s lien

When a general contractor builds your home, they will very likely file a mechanic’s lien on the property to ensure they get paid for their work. Subcontractors and repairmen – including plumbers, painters and carpenters – may also file a mechanic’s lien if they aren’t paid.

Judgment lien

If you’re involved in a lawsuit and you lose, the winning party of the lawsuite can file a judgment lien against your home until the payment is collected. This type of lien can also be imposed by an attorney if you do not pay for legal services.

Tax lien

If you don’t pay your taxes, the government entity – be it federal, state, or county – can file a tax lien on your home until the tax bill is paid.

What to do if someone files a lien

Simply put, the best way to get a lien removed against your home is to pay the bill, settle the lawsuit or pay the taxes. You can negotiate with the lien holder to have them voluntarily remove the lien. It is in your best interest to have any lien against your home removed as quickly as possible.

If the lien is unjustified, you can ask the court to remove the lien.

To ensure that there is never a lien on your home, make sure you pay your creditors and taxes on time and in full. Don’t avoid the situation if you have mounting debt or can’t pay your bills. Consult an attorney or financial advisor to get some help.

Just last week, government issued the housing starts report for December and it was pretty good news. If you listen to talk radio or watch any financial news program on cable, one day a month they talk about housing starts and then you don’t hear much about it. The problem is that nobody bothers to tell you exactly what the term means and why it’s important.

The federal government tracks housing starts and issues the information, usually in the third week of the month. These statistics come from the Census Bureau, which is part of the Department of Commerce and from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The government reports the number of scheduled construction projects of new houses or apartment buildings across the country. That’s housing starts, in a nutshell. Like unemployment rates, economic growth, and consumer confidence statistics, it is used as an indicator of how the economy is doing.

The ripple effects on the economy

The housing market is one of the most vital aspects of the U.S. economy. Many analysts believe that there may be no better indication of how the housing market is doing than housing starts.

If a report comes out showing that housing starts are up, it’s a good sign for the economy. There are usually ripple effects in the stock market as consumers invest, which increases the value of stocks and corporate profits. If the report says housing starts are down, investors tend to get tight-fisted.

Housing starts are an indicator of the commitment of builders to new construction. When new construction is up, more people will be employed to build those houses and apartment buildings. It also means that the people who buy those homes or move into a new apartment will be purchasing big ticket items such as furniture and appliances. These are often referred to as durable goods and are yet another economic statistic you may hear reported.

How to look at housing starts

Because construction is seasonal and subject to weather, housing start numbers tend to be volatile. One down month doesn’t mean you should take it as an indication that the economy is tanking. To identify a trend, look at a six-month period of housing starts to get a more accurate indication of what the market is doing. You should also do a year-over-year comparison.

Remember also that we’re dealing with government numbers here. Like every other report it issues, housing start figures are subject to revisions up or down. Those revisions come out within two months of the original report and are very rarely reported in the news. The change can be significant.