What Are the Different Liens That Can Be Found on Title?

There are plenty of terms to agree to when you sign a real estate contract to purchase a home. But one thing you likely would never agree to take over are liens on title. Unfortunately, liens can derail real estate deals and cause headaches for both buyers and sellers.

That’s precisely why it’s important for buyers to have a title search conducted on a property to have the home’s title looked into before the deal is sealed. The ideal outcome of a title search is a title that’s free and clear of any liens or legal issues with ownership. If not, that could be where the deal ends.

There are several types of liens that could throw a home sale off its tracks that all buyers should be aware of.

What is a Lien?

A lien is basically a claim that’s placed on title until a debt is paid off. It’s a flaw on title that must be rectified before a sale can be carried out, and until then, the lien will remain. 

Sellers with liens on title will have to take steps to pay off the debt or deal with whatever situation caused the lien before they’re able to sell. It’s common for homeowners to begin the selling process without dealing with liens. 

Whether they never bothered to deal with the liens or were not aware that they existed, not dealing with a lien appropriately can bring a real estate deal to a screeching halt. 

So, what types of liens can you find on title during a home sale?

Contractor Lien

Many homeowners take on home improvement projects to repair or update their homes, which is a good idea considering how much extra value it can add to the property. But contractors expect to be paid for the work done, and if the homeowner doesn’t pay up, the contractor involved can place a lien on the title until the full debt is repaid. 

Whether the homeowner withholds payment on purpose for a job they’re not satisfied with or simply didn’t have enough money to pay the entire the bill, the disgruntled contractor can slap a lien on title until they get the money owed. 

Property Lien

Lenders who hand out mortgages for homes have liens on properties they finance. Technically, until the mortgage is paid off in full, the homeowner doesn’t really own the home. Instead, the lender does until the homeowner completely pays off the mortgage. Until then, a property lien will be placed on title. 

This type of lien doesn’t necessarily stop a seller from selling their home. Instead, when the home is sold, the first party paid with the proceeds of the sale is the lender. Whatever money is left over can then be kept by the seller, minus all costs associated with selling real estate.

Once the home is sold and the lender is paid accordingly, the mortgage should be discharged. Unfortunately, there may be some rare cases where the mortgage is not properly discharged, which can cause problems when it comes time to sell. Regardless, this lien must be cleared up for a sale to take place. 

HOA Lien

If the property in question is governed by an HOA, the association can place a lien on one of its properties if the homeowner is behind on HOA fees. Living in an HOA typically requires unit owners to pay monthly dues to cover the cost of maintenance and repairs of common elements. 

But if a homeowner fails to make timely payments and becomes delinquent, the HOA can place a lien on the unit, which can throw a wrench in any potential sale.

Tax Lien

The IRS has very strict rules about how and when taxes are to be paid. There are all sorts of different taxes that Americans are required to pay, including income taxes, school taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes, to name a few. 

If a homeowner has failed to pay any one of these taxes, the IRS has the power to place a lien on title. Just like any other type of lien, a tax lien puts a homeowner in the position to pay the tax amount owed – plus interest – before selling the property.

Judgment Lien

A creditor may go to court to have a legal judgment lien placed on title of a home if a consumer has not fulfilled their duty to repay all their debt. This type of lien is a court ruling that allows a creditor to take possession of a debtor’s home if any associated contractual responsibilities aren’t carried out. 

Basically, a judgment lien is created when a party wins a lawsuit against a homeowner and records the judgment against the home. There could be any number of reasons for legal action to take place. Regardless, the end result may be a judgment lien, which must be dealt with before the home can be sold. 

The Bottom Line

Liens are a nuisance, both for buyers and sellers. But if a lien is found on title of a home, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a transaction can’t take place, as long as the lien is dealt with accordingly and taken off title. Until then, the deal will likely be stalled.

Turning An Ordinary Bedroom Into A Luxurious Bedroom

For most of us, our bedroom is little more than a place to sleep and relax. However, just because it’s always been that way doesn’t mean that we have to settle for drab and dreary.

One trend that’s gaining steam these days is converting your current bedroom into a luxury suite (or something comparable). If you want to live like you’re renting a room at the Ritz, then you want to follow these tips.

Compartmentalize Your Activities

Making your bedroom more functional is going to make it more luxurious. Add a gorgeous desk for working and a TV area for entertainment, and you’ll be living it up in no time.

Make it Chic

Choose a color palette that is both luxurious and classy. Silver and gold can seem tacky, so choose muted shades that compliment each other. Also, a brilliant and commanding headboard can instantly upgrade the look of your room without any other changes.

Light it Properly

Finally, make sure that you have the right light to show off your designs. If it’s too washed out or yellow, then it will look drab and run down. Switch to brilliant LEDs and see the difference.

Choose Your Accents Wisely

We already mentioned a headboard, but some elegant drapes can also make your room feel more royal. Being strategic with your furniture accessories is going to both keep you under budget and avoid doing too much with the space.

Are you ready to lux your bedroom? You’ll be impressed by the results, and the feeling of decadence will make you more confident in your surroundings.

Which Down Payment Strategy Is Right For You?

You’ve most likely heard the rule: Save for a 20-percent down payment before you buy a home. The logic behind saving 20 percent is solid, as it shows that you have the financial discipline and stability to save for a long-term goal. It also helps you get favorable rates from lenders.

But there can actually be financial benefits to putting down a small down payment—as low as three percent—rather than parting with so much cash up front, even if you have the money available.

THE DOWNSIDE

The downsides of a small down payment are pretty well known. You’ll have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance for years, and the lower your down payment, the more you’ll pay. You’ll also be offered a lesser loan amount than borrowers who have a 20-percent down payment, which will eliminate some homes from your search.

THE UPSIDE

The national average for home appreciation is about five percent. The appreciation is independent from your home payment, so whether you put down 20 percent or three percent, the increase in equity is the same. If you’re looking at your home as an investment, putting down a smaller amount can lead to a higher return on investment, while also leaving more of your savings free for home repairs, upgrades, or other investment opportunities.

THE HAPPY MEDIUM

Of course, your home payment options aren’t binary. Most borrowers can find some common ground between the security of a traditional 20 percent and an investment-focused, small down payment. Your trusted real estate professional can provide some answers as you explore your financing options.

How To Become A Morning Person

Ever wish you could become one of those rare morning people? The ones that wake with a start, feeling refreshed and energized. The ones that get in that morning workout or wrap up some work before many of us even hit the snooze button for the first time. Here are five tips to help you achieve that early bird status!

1. Create a morning schedule

Physically write down the things you’d like to complete in the morning and set a time for each. Then stick with it. Once you force yourself out of bed early one or two weeks consistently, you’ll find it gets easier and easier to do.

2. Let the light in

Whether natural or artificial, light tells your brain its time to get up and get going. If your room lacks large windows where you can open the blinds up, consider investing in a timed lamp or alarm clock with a light.

3. Prep and eat breakfast

Although there are many of us who chose the skip breakfast, it is key to perking up your energy in the morning. Try prepping protein-focused meals the night before or grab a yogurt or fruit and try to consume it right after you wake.

4. Get your body moving

Whether it’s a short walk around your neighborhood or a rigorous 5:30 am spin class, getting your blood pumping will help wake up your body and has a ton of other benefits, like stress and anxiety reduction.

5. Feed your mind

Stimulate your brain and do something you enjoy first thing in the morning. Try reading a favorite book, catching up on the news, doing daily meditation, or setting intentions.

What To Negotiate When Buying A Home

Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned veteran, the negotiation part of the transaction can be a little daunting and stressful. However, it is necessary to ensure you are getting the best possible deal for your money. So, what should you negotiate when buying a home?

Closing Costs
Your closing costs are determined by a variety of factors, but you can expect it to be between 2% to 5% of the purchase price. Ask the seller to cover some or all of the closing costs upfront or request a closing credit that can be used to make specific updates and fixes to the home.

Furnishings
Love how the seller has furnished and decorated the home? Buyers often negotiate keeping couches, fixtures, landscaping items, patio furniture, appliances, and more. And many sellers agree, wanting to make the home more appealing.

Inspection and Closing Timing
Buyer offers that include a quick inspection and close timeline are often more attractive to sellers who have been going through the process for far too long. Just ensure you allow yourself ample time to get your financing in place and complete proper, thorough inspections.

Home Warranty
Sellers will often agree to pay the premium on the home warranty at closing and then hand it off to the new homeowner, who is responsible for the deductible on any future claims.

Repairs
Your inspection may uncover small or large repairs needed to bring the home up to standard. You can negotiate to have these items fixed before closing or ask for a price reduction to cover the costs.

4 Repairs To Make Before You List Your Home

When you’re getting ready to list your home, it’s of the upmost importance to ensure you are showing it in the best light. Taking time to highlight its strengths and fix up some of its possible weaknesses can make a big difference in how fast it sells. Here are our top five recommended repairs to make before selling your home.

1. REPAINT WALLS

Giving your home a fresh coat of paint is one of the most cost-effective ways to spruce it up, and generally, it can be a do-it-yourself project. Make sure cover any walls with scratches and chips and consider updating any accent walls with a more neutral coat.

2. REPAIR FLOORS

Hardwood floors are a very desirable feature in a home, so you want to ensure they look their best by fixing scratches or dull areas. If your carpet is worn or stained, consider replacing them. And don’t forget the tile in your kitchen or bathrooms. Re-grouting can go a long way in making dingy tile work look brand new!

3. REFRESH THE LANDSCAPING

Show buyers your home is the full package by dressing up the outside as well as the in. Clean walkways and driveways, plant seasonal flowers and plants, trim hedges and trees, install outdoor décor pieces and fill in mulch and gravel.

4. FIX YOUR FIXTURES

Leaky faucet? Rusted drains? Loose drawer handle? Making these small fixes can make a big difference to potential buyers with detailed-orientated minds. Improve your kitchen. An outdated kitchen can be a real eyesore in a home. Updating cabinetry, repairing or replacing countertops, and installing new faucets and sinks may be worth the investment.

IS IT TIME TO UPSIZE YOUR HOME?

Unfortunately, our homes don’t always grow with us. What may have initially worked fine for a single person, a young couple’s starter home, or a family with a newborn can quickly become too small as families expand and multiple generations live under one roof.

Remodeling and adding to your home is one option for creating more space, but it can be costly, and the size of your property may be prohibitive. That’s when moving to a bigger home becomes the best solution.

WHERE DO YOU NEED MORE SPACE?

The first thought when upsizing your home is to simply consider square footage, bedrooms, and bathrooms. But it’s important to take a more critical approach to how your space will actually be used. If you have younger children (or possibly more on the way), then focusing on bedrooms and bathrooms makes sense. But if your children are closer to heading off to college or starting their own families, it may be better to prioritize group spaces like the kitchen, dining room, living room, and outdoor space—it’ll pay off during the holidays or summer vacations, when everyone is coming to visit for big gatherings.

MOVING OUTWARD

If you need more space, but don’t necessarily want a more expensive home, you can probably get a lot more house for your money if you move a little further from a city center. While the walkability and short commutes of a dense neighborhood or condo are hard to leave beyond, your lifestyle—and preferences for hosting Thanksgiving, barbecues, and birthdays—might mean that a spacious home in the suburbs makes the most sense. It’s your best option for upsizing while avoiding a heftier price tag.

Create An Evacuation Plan For Your Pets

An evacuation plan is a necessity for every home, especially if you live in an area where fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters are a possibility. Many homeowners create evacuation plans for their homes and practice them with their kids, but far fewer have considered one for their pets. Take these steps to add your pets to your evacuation plan.

Assign pet evacuation to an adult. Everyone should know how to act during an evacuation, and that includes assigning one parent or adult to the pets. This allows the other parent and the children to focus on their part of the evacuation plan, so there’s no confusion during a high-stress moment when time is of the essence.

Keep evacuation maps and pet carriers readily accessible. If you need to evacuate, you should know exactly where every important item is. If you pets require carriers, keep them in a place that you can access easily.

Practice your plan. Include your pets in your home evacuation drills. It’ll help you see how they will respond and make changes to your plan if necessary. Getting your dog out of a window may not be as simple as you think!

Be prepared in case you get separated from your pets. No matter how much you drill your evacuation plan, it’s possible that a dog or cat will run off while you’re focusing on keeping your family safe. A microchip or a GPS-compatible tag can help you find your pets once it’s safe to return to the area.

EASY LANDSCAPING DIY PROJECTS

Ever get the itch to do a DIY project? Whenever we do, our favorites involve getting outdoors and mixing up our landscaping features. Whether it’s as simple as installing some lighting or a little more time-consuming like re-plotting plants, a fresh look for the lawn always gives your home a fresh look as well. Here are our top five easy landscaping projects!

Create a pathway

To guide you and visitors throughout your yard and link different areas together, install a pathway. You can use materials from a variety of materials, including reclaimed pallet wood, flagstones, gravel, and more to add texture and color.

Add a wall or border

Installing a flagstone, rock, or brick wall around flower beds or trees adds a sleek, clean look to your landscaping and helps separate different sections of your yard.

Install a water feature

Nothing says zen quite like the sound of trickling water as you relax in your backyard. You can start simple with by purchasing and installing a small feature powered by a solar panel or create a larger focal point in your yard by installing a waterfall wall or small pond.

Light your way

An easy way to transform your yard is to strategically use lighting. Place cool-colored lights high in trees to recreate a moonlight feel, use pathway lights to naturally guide the eye, or highlight objects or plants.

Plant upwards

Expand your yard space by drawing the eye to the sky with a trellis fence or screen made of wood or metal. Once you install your trellis, select your climbing plants and vines and get to planting!

Should You Test For Radon in Your Home?

Imagine something dangerous lurking in your home that you can’t see, smell, touch, or taste. That’s what radon gas is, and it can be hazardous to your health and that of your family. But it’s virtually impossible to detect without the proper tools. 

Breathing in air with radon present might not necessarily cause any symptoms right away, which is yet another reason why a home should be tested for the gas. 

If no one in the house experiences any medical issues, there’s little reason to believe there’s anything wrong. But continued exposure to radon can increase the risk of the development of lung cancer.

In fact, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to radon causes approximately 21,000 cancer deaths every year. That’s why it’s so important for homes to be tested for this dangerous gas.

What is Radon?

Radon is an odorless radioactive gas that can be found in homes all over the country. In fact, it’s estimated that almost 1 out of 15 homes in the US has high radon levels.

Radon stems from the breakdown of soil, rock, and water and can make its way into a home through the ground or through cracks in the foundation and circulate through the air. 

Once radon enters the home, it gets trapped, leaving it to be inhaled by all occupants of the home. While having a home that is well-sealed and insulated is great for energy efficiency and lower utility bills, such efficiency can actually make things worse by not allowing radon to escape.  

How to Test For Radon

The only way to know for sure if there is radon in your home is to have it tested by professionals. Since you can’t see or smell it, there’s no other way of knowing whether or not radon is lurking in your home. 

All floors under the third level (if applicable) of a home should be tested. That’s because radon can rise into the air and make its way as high up as the second level of a home. That said, radon will likely be more concentrated on the lowest level, so that’s typically the first place that should be tested for the gas. 

Testing for radon is rather straightforward and isn’t overly complicated. In fact, many homeowners test themselves using kits that can be purchased at hardware or home improvement stores or ordered online. 

That said, it’s generally recommended that radon is tested by a professional to ensure an accurate reading. 

What Constitutes High Radon Levels?

After the home has been properly and effectively tested, the levels of radon – if detected – should be less than 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). If it’s at that level – or higher – steps need to be taken to remove radon from the home and identify the source of the radon making its way into the home.

Even if the levels detected are under this mark, it can still pose a risk. Ideally, there should be no radon detected at all. Since radon levels can change over time, it’s best to have a long-term test conducted to find out what the radon level is over time.

If dangerous radon levels are detected, take action to fix the home by hiring a qualified radon professional.

Buying or Selling? Have the Home Tested For Radon First

If you’re selling your home some time soon, consider having it tested for radon. While it’s not mandatory to do so, it can actually strengthen your listing. 

Being able to show buyers that the home has been tested and is free of radon can be a strong selling point. Even if radon was detected, taking steps to eradicate it can be something to boast about to prospective buyers. 

If you do have the home tested or have any issues with radon resolved, be sure to keep all the associated documentation to have ready to show buyers.

If you’re buying a home, on the other hand, ask the seller if they have any paperwork regarding radon testing. If a test has been done in the past, consider when it was done, as tests conducted far back may no longer be accurate to reflect what may be in the home today. 

Also, make sure to find out who conducted the test, which levels of the home the test was conducted, and if any significant improvements or renovations have been done since the test that could have affected radon levels.

If the home has not been tested, ask to have it tested. Or else, consider having a radon test conducted as part of your home inspection before the deal is sealed. 

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re a seller, buyer, or a homeowner who plans to stick around for the long haul, having the home tested for the presence of radon is important. While there may not be any acute symptoms of radon poisoning that you may notice, the long-term effects of exposure to this gas can be detrimental.