Thursday, October 30, 2014

How a Home Warranty Helps You Sell Your Home

Selling your home and want to give it a little extra edge in the market? Consider offering a home warranty. It’s a great way to interest buyers in your property — and potentially sell faster.

Home Warranties Give Buyers Peace of MindHome buying is stressful, especially for first-time buyers, who may have little experience with the unexpected maintenance surprises that are part of home ownership.

Although the home inspection usually points out major structural damage, problems with the roof, and other issues that can be negotiated during the sale process, inspectors can’t predict with certainty when appliances or home systems will break down.

That’s where a home warranty comes in. It can protect homebuyers from costly repairs — and replacements — involving:
Major appliances
Heating and cooling systems
Electrical systems
Home plumbing

Another benefit to your buyers (and you)A warranty can mean that buyers won’t need to set aside as much money for emergency repairs, and may have more funds available for the purchase.

Plus, the reassurance of the warranty — along with a competitive home sales price that you work with your REALTOR® to set — could help fast track your sale.

How Much Do Warranties Cost?Warranties are pretty reasonable. You can expect to pay anywhere from $250-$400, depending on coverage. There’s also usually a fee — typically less than $100 — for service calls.

A warranty covers the homeowner for one year.

How Will the Buyer Use the Warranty?If a covered appliance or system breaks, the homeowner calls the warranty company, which calls a service provider in the company’s network.

The provider sets up an appointment with the homeowner.

If the appliance can’t be repaired, depending on coverage, the warranty company will pay to replace the unit.

For more information on home warranties, visit today or watch the video.

AHS wrote this sponsored article that appeared on National Association of Realtors® web site and is used with permission.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR®, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail –  He is also available for web video chat.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Home Buying Tips You Can Use Today

It won’t be long until the Christmas shopping season arrives. While that is the peak season for retailers, it is not the peak season for home buyers. That said, every day of the year, without regard to the overall economy someone must buy a house and someone must sell a house. Let’s look at some common sense ideas about buying a house.

Timing – Market conditions are as favorable now as they will ever be. Let’s define the cliché “market conditions.” That is simply a combination of mortgage interest rates and housing availability.

Most lenders have different types of mortgages but generally all have a fixed rate well under 4.0 percent for a 30 year period. When a 30-year rate falls below 5.375 percent, that is a bargain rate because the interest on the mortgage is less than the principal (or amount borrowed). A year ago interest rates were about half a point higher. So interest rates are really at bargain prices now.

As for availability, there is more than a six-month total supply of houses on the market. When there is less than a six month supply of houses, sellers normally have the upper hand. That is because there is more demand than supply. The current market conditions mean there are more sellers (supply) than demand (buyers). As a result, prices fall because of increased competition.

The laws of supply and demand could reverse dramatically if the buyer wants a specific house in a specific location and if there are no competing listings.

Motivation – Different people have different levels of motivation. Motivation works for and against a buyer and also for and against a seller. A buyer might be in a situation where the lease is about to expire and renewal or even an extension is out of the question. That buyer has a high level of motivation. Another buyer might be in a situation where the landlord encourages a month-to-month extension. Those are the types of conditions that change the buyer’s motivation level.

On the seller side, motivation is a just as important. Perhaps the seller moved out of the house already and is making two payments. That is a motivated seller. Another seller wants to sell but the new house is six to eight months from completion. The seller has a temporary place to move. That seller does not have the same level of motivation as the one with the vacant house.

An eager seller might be willing to drop the price or add certain concessions. An eager buyer might be willing to pay a bit more or ask for fewer concessions. Trying to understand the level of motivation of the other side is an important factor in real estate negotiations.

Avoid Fascination and Infatuation – Sometimes a buyer can find a perfect house. Unfortunately the seller wants a price that far exceeds the fair market value. Let’s provide a generic example. Suppose a house has everything the buyer wants with respect to location, structural age (about 10 years old), and features. The seller wants $100 per square foot for the house. Yet new construction in the neighborhood might sell for $90 a square foot. The buyer needs to realize that another house might be a better value.

Buying a home is an emotional decision. But it’s good to step back and make it a rational decision also. Relying just on emotions may result in paying too much for a house. Another house may have those intangible factors but at a more affordable price.

Buy Affordably – Getting mortgage pre-approval before shopping for a home saves time. That is because the buyer can direct all the emotional energy of house buying on houses within their price point. The worst mistake a buyer can make is finding a great house to buy and then coming to the realization that no lender can pre-approve them for the fair market value of that house. Such mistakes sour a buyer on the purchase process. Don’t make that mistake. Get the financing arranged first. Then shop.

Make An Intelligent Offer – The best way to make an intelligent offer is to hire a buyer’s agent with expertise in that particular market. Preview several houses. That way a buyer can begin to grasp the difference $5,000 or $10,000 means when writing an offer. Be able to justify why a seller should accept the pricing and terms in the offer. Then be willing to listen to the seller’s side. Suddenly the concepts explained above about motivation become alive.

Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR®, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail –  He is also available for web video chat.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Is An Appraisal

The typical real estate consumer or the typical mortgage consumer knows that an important part in purchasing a house is the appraisal. Let’s discuss the definition of an appraisal, the primary purpose of the appraisal and something about the qualifications of an appraiser.

Definition – In its simplest terms, an appraisal is nothing more than determining the value of a specific piece of real estate. The difficult part of any appraisal is making that determination. That is because each piece of real estate is unique. There are not two identical houses. There are no two identical parcels of land. 

There are different ways to find the value. The most common is to compare it to recent similar sales in the nearby vicinity, and make adjustments as necessary. Other methods are more complicated and really go beyond the scope of this blog.

Value is an often misunderstood term. Let’s provide an example.

To a seller, the house has greater value than it does to most buyers. The seller had many good memories. The seller remembered the details of remodeling projects that corrected problems. 

To one buyer, that same house might have a lesser value than the list price. This buyer has no sentimental attachment to the house. So buyer #1 believes the house has value for only 95 percent of the list price. The seller believes that is insulting.

Suddenly Buyer #2 emerges. This buyer makes a full price offer. Why? It could be that the second buyer learns there could be another buyer ready to make an offer, but doesn’t want to lose a house for the sake of a few thousand dollars. Quite possibly, buyer #2 desperately needs a house due to an expiring lease or similar circumstance. 

Purpose – The main purpose in any appraisal is not to referee winners and losers in the battle to determine the exact value of the house. There is another player – the lender. The appraiser advises the lender on the value of the property. 

To make a mortgage, the property must appraise at or above the sale price. Let’s assign some numbers to explain.  A property owner wants to sell his house for $150,000 because he owes $140,000 on the mortgage. Two buyers emerge. Buyer #1 writes a $135,000 purchase offer. Buyer #2 will pay $145,000. Obviously, the seller will accept the offer from Buyer #2.

Then the appraiser visits the house on behalf of the mortgage lender for Buyer #2. The appraiser must assign a value of $145,000 or higher to the house. If that happens, the transaction closes as planned. What happens if the appraiser finds the value is only $130,000? The answer is simple. The lender cancels the transaction. What mortgage company will lend $145,000 on a house that is worth only $130,000? None!

Conversely, the seller must either lower his price or remove the house from the market.
The appraiser does not determine the value a house has to a buyer or a seller. Typically the appraiser determines the value in relation to the amount of the mortgage.

Qualifications – The Mississippi Real Estate Commission licenses appraisers. While their license is valid in all 82-counties, the appraiser must have first-hand knowledge and experience in the vicinity of the appraisal. That means a Gulfport appraiser will not render an opinion in Lowndes County. Conversely, a Columbus appraiser will not evaluate properties in the Delta or Pine Belt regions.

The appraiser compares the subject property to the comparable properties. The comparison includes both quantitative and subjective comparisons. The appraiser tries to find comparable properties with nearly identical square footage, structural age, lot size, proximity, etc. Those are the quantitative comparisons. It’s the subjective comparisons that require the expertise of the local appraiser. 

Assume there are two nearly identical houses in the same subdivision. One house might be “Move in ready.” The other has deferred maintenance issues such as poor insulation, a weather-worn roof or dirty flooring. It’s the appraiser’s job to find house in about the same condition as the subject house for a true “apples to apples” comparison to find the value in each.

It is a common practice for a lender to hire an intermediary company for the purpose of hiring an appraiser. That way the lender has no direct contact with the appraiser or vice versa. Similarly, it is a standard procedure that neither the buyer nor the seller can contact the appraiser. That also extends to the agents or brokers representing the buyer or the seller. This insures a fair and honest evaluation without the influence of any party to the transaction.
Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Short Sales and  Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail –  He is also available for web video chat.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Objections To Home Ownership - Overcome

There has never been a better time to buy a home. Why are some wannabe homeowners avoiding the market? Mortgage interest rates are very low – many are under 3.5 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. Let’s try to answer some questions that prospective buyers ask.

Banks Are Not Lending Mortgage Money – This is really dodging the real concern. Banks have never stopped lending mortgage money. What they have done, and will continue to do in the future is become more selective of their clientele.

Some mortgage options have changed.  There are some mortgage packages that reward a borrower who has a higher credit score by offering a lower interest rate. Other options include requiring less documentation. Another option is granting an exception to policy if the borrower fails to fully meet one of the requirements.

Conversely, if someone has a lower credit score, do not expect the same benefit of the doubt that a person with stellar credit has. Remember the bank takes a huge risk on each mortgage. They cannot afford to make a bad decision.

Generally it takes a minimum 640 credit score to convince most lenders that a borrower has the financial maturity to repay a mortgage over a number of years. That 640 credit score is the minimum threshold. Yet there are many potential homeowners that cannot meet this requirement.

Do not talk to a mortgage lender about how to raise a credit score. Instead talk to a mortgage lender about how to raise YOUR credit score. Make it specific to raise your score to the threshold as quickly as possible.

Another problem many people must confront to get a mortgage is the amount of their recurring debt.  Repay as much recurring debt as possible, but do not close any credit accounts. An “active” account has a positive influence with mortgage lenders. A “closed” account has a lesser impact. The key factor to the lender is the amount of recurring debt in relation to the amount of monthly income.

Someone Already Bought The Best Houses – The job of the REALTOR® is to sell a listed house to the first “ready, willing and able” buyer. It is possible that a specific buyer wanted to buy a specific house but another buyer wrote an acceptable contract first. The lesson is to act quickly once a buyer sees an acceptable house. Don’t continue searching. Don’t think no one else wants that very house. It’s available.

New houses come on the market every day. It is very possible that the perfect house is not yet on the market. Keep watching. Better yet, have your REALTOR® watch for new listings or have new listing information e-mailed directly to you.

Making The Down Payment Is Impossible – There is a program for first time homebuyers in low and medium income brackets offered by the Mississippi Home Corporation. Ask your REALTOR® or your lender about the Down Payment Assistance Program. Let’s provide a quick generic example of how the program works.

The borrower needs a 3.5 percent down payment for a FHA mortgage. Assume the house sells for $100,000. That means the down payment is $3,500. With down payment assistance, the borrower makes a down payment of $500 and MHC makes a loan to the borrower for the remaining $3,000 of the down payment. The borrower repays to $3000 loan, at 7 percent interest over ten years. MHC adds about $35 a month to the monthly mortgage payment for the first ten years. That still keeps the monthly payment below $700.

Another popular mortgage program with no down payment is a Rural Development mortgage. The only caveat is that the house must be in a rural area, not in a flood zone and not have certain disqualifying factors like an in-ground swimming pool or large detached workshop.

The Process Is Too Complicated – Buying a house is the largest single capital purchase most people make in a lifetime. It is also complicated. There is a reason. It’s a unique product. There are no two houses absolutely identical. Unlike having a side-by-side comparison of a piece of clothing, or even a car, looking at a house means actually visiting different neighborhoods.

There is another reason it’s complicated. All real estate sales are final. There is no “return policy if not completely delighted.” That means homeownership requires a certain amount of maturity. What is the single most important sign that a person is mature enough to own a home? Reread the paragraph about credit scores and debt ratios. Someone that understands the correlation of maturity to money management realizes that home ownership is a complicated but manageable process with the help of a buyer’s agent.
Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR®, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He is a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of REALTORS®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail –  He is also available for web video chat.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall Weekend Means Many Events In Columbus, Mississippi

There is never a shortage of unique things to do during the weekend in Columbus, Mississippi. That is one of the main reasons for highlighting community activities. Newcomers to this area need to realize that a wonderful lifestyle awaits them. How wonderful? Let’s see some examples.

Columbus is the home of Mississippi University for Women. This weekend they celebrate The W's most famous alumna – Eudora Welty.  For the past 26 years, the W honors Miss Welty with a Writers' Symposium.  Southern writers read from and discuss their works to an audience of several hundred.

Each year a theme provides coherence to stimulate interest. Writers whose works seem to embody the theme chosen receive an invitation Characterization, locale, autobiographical elements, problems of dialogue/dialect, etc. More than 125 different writers and nearly 50 scholars have appeared, some multiple times.

The symposium takes place at several auditoriums on campus on both Friday and Saturday. Use the entrance on College and 12th Streets and ask campus security for the symposium locations.

The Ultimate Fair is at the Columbus Fairgrounds on Highway 69 in East Columbus. Gates open at 5:00 p.m. Friday and at noon on both Saturday and Sunday.

The Ultimate Fair has always one of the largest ride midways in Mississippi or Alabama. The 2014 edition has a larger midway with new rides and shows, games, sideshows and live entertainment. It’s fun for the whole family.

Leon Gilliam, a former member of the legendary group “The Platters” performs Friday at 7:30 p.m. There is a giant demolition derby on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. The American Daredevil Stunt team performs at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The Thai by Thai restaurant in the Littlewoods Shopping Center on Wilkens-Wise Road and US-45 has a Friday night special planned. Enjoy a 4-course meal along with 4 different beers. Let’s start with the appetizer. It’s Thai beef jerky, sun-dried sliced beef jerky fried with sriracha sauce. Next have a bowl of Tom Kha chicken soup. This is a tangy broth of galangal and coconut milk, with onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and cilantro.

Then comes the main course. The entrée is a Beef Rama platter. It’s beef sautéed in peanut sauce, served on a bed of steamed carrots, bok choy and broccoli. If that doesn’t fill you up the Banana in Sticky Rice dessert will. Banana wrapped in sticky rice is jasmine rice mixed with coconut milk and steamed inside a banana leaf.

Remember, each course comes with a wonderful craft beer from Goose Island and Shock Top breweries. The Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society receives a donation from each meal.

Friday night also means high school football.  The Columbus Falcons (2-6) begin their final home stand of the season by hosting the Madison Central Jaguars (4-4). The New Hope Trojans (7-1) host the Lewisburg Patriots (4-5) from Olive Branch. The Caledonia Confederates (5-4) host the Noxubee County Tigers (7-2) on senior night. The West Lowndes Panthers (4-5) visit the Sebastopol Bobcats (4-4).

In private school football, the Heritage Academy Patriots (5-4) visit the Starkville Academy Volunteers (7-1). The Columbus Christian Academy Rams (5-4) travel to Arcola for a game with the Deer Creek Warriors (2-6). The Victory Christian Academy Eagles (8-1) takes the week off before starting the playoffs next week.

This is the final shopping day for the season at the Hitching Lot Farmers’ Market on the corner of Second Avenue North and 2nd Street. After today the market closes for the winter. Stock up on the freshest produce, baked goods and crafts.

The Coffee House on 5th Street donates the coffee each Saturday morning for market shoppers. There is a juice bar with watermelon and apple juice, peach and carrot juice, kale, pineapple and cucumber juice or apple, carrot and ginger juice. The market opens at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday.

This is also the final weekend that Country Pumpkins is open.  Get your seasonal flowers, pumpkins or other gourds while the children have fun playing in a safe family-oriented environment. Country Pumpkins is on Spruill Road in Caledonia. Watch for the signs off Wolfe and Ridge Roads.

The Mississippi Soccer Association has their Coaches Cup tournament this weekend at the Columbus Soccer Complex. There are games all weekend. Plus there is a Youth Module U10 Coaches Clinic on Saturday beginning at 12:00 p.m. The Soccer Complex is directly behind the Farmers Market between Second and Third Streets from Third through Seventh Avenue North.

Three major universities with membership in the Southeastern Conference are within a two-hour drive (or less) of Columbus. Each is among the top four ranked teams in the nation too. Unfortunately each is on the road this weekend.  #1 Mississippi State plays at Kentucky in the middle of Saturday afternoon. #3 Ole Miss visits LSU and #4 Alabama is at Tennessee. Both of those games are in the early evening on Saturday.

The Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi has their annual awareness walk in Columbus Sunday. Registration begins at 1:00 p.m. with the walk starting an hour later. Teams or individual participants can walk along the Riverwalk at the west end of Main Street knowing that the money raised by DFM remains in Mississippi. That is why differentiate this event from the fund raising events of other diabetes groups. After the walk, stick around and enjoy free hot dogs, snacks, fruit and games for the children.

Anyone have a real estate need this weekend? Please make a private preview appointment at least 24-hours in advance. Your REALTOR® knows how to do that.
Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR®, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Sales and Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail –  He is also available for web video chat.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The 7 Most Common Code Violations Remodelers Make

You may save money when you DIY, but unless your projects are up to code, you’re flirting with expensive fixes and putting your home and family at risk.

A good DIYer knows a lot about tools and techniques, but the best DIYers know about building codes, too. Completing home improvement projects that are code-compliant — and can pass inspections from your local building authority — are the route to a safe and happy home, and well-done DIY projects.

Although few homeowners can claim an encyclopedic knowledge of their local building codes, here’s a heads up on seven of the most common code violations that DIYers are guilty of:

1.  Working Without a Permit – Sure, permits cost money. And if you don’t apply for one, who’s to know?

A lot of DIY homeowners have that point of view, and it’s wrong-headed. Yes, homeowners are allowed to do their own improvements without a contractor’s license, but you still need a permit for many remodeling projects.

That’s important because:
 – You’ll know that your improvements are safe and reliable.
 – Your work will comply with the latest energy- and water-conservation measures. That saves you money in the long run, and makes your house more marketable when you decide to sell.
 – Work that’s not up to code may be discovered by an inspector when you try and sell, putting a big damper on your plans. You may be required to fix any problems (with added expense) before a buyer will consider making an offer. And if your buyer should later discover fixes that aren’t up to code, you could be sued for repairs and damages.
 – If you have permits, your project will be inspected. Don’t think of visits from a building inspector as adversarial; rather, they’re opportunities to learn about construction techniques and materials. A building inspector can be a valuable helpmate for the DIYer.

Not all projects require permits and inspections. Start off by inquiring with your local building authority and discussing your project in detail.

2.  Not Testing Older Materials for Asbestos and Lead – These two dangerous materials lurk in many older building materials, and their disposal is strictly regulated in most states.

Those laws not only protect your health, but protect trash removal workers and landfill operators, too. If you dump tainted remodeling waste, you’re putting others at risk.

Asbestos is found in many common building materials, especially in houses built before 1970, including:
 – Popcorn ceiling texture
 – Vinyl tile
 – Drywall joint compound
 – Hot-water pipe and duct insulation
 – Vermiculite attic insulation
 – Cement shingle siding

Most communities have independent testing facilities that, for $25 to $50, can determine if asbestos is present in samples.

However, even the removal of samples is risky. If you suspect asbestos, contact your local building authority or regional Occupational Safety and Health Administration office to find out the best way to test for and remove asbestos.

Lead paint has been outlawed since 1978. Laws prevent contractors from doing work without taking specific precautions to contain and dispose of lead-contaminated building materials.

DIY homeowners aren’t subject to those laws. But if you’re hiring a contractor to do some of the work, your pro must adhere to the laws or be subject to fines of up to $37,500 per day. Talk about putting a crimp in your plans!

Other than that, your own health may be at risk if you cut, scrape, or sand materials — especially paint — with lead in them. DIY lead test kits are cheap ($8 to $35) and easy to use.

3.  Improper Fastening of Deck Ledgers to Houses – Building a deck is the ideal DIY project — it’s fairly straightforward and materials are simple.

But a recent spate of deck failures reveals that many decks fail where the deck ledger fastens to the house — one of the more technically challenging steps of deck-building.

The North American Deck and Railing Association says two of the most-common mistakes are:

 – Improper (or missing) flashing to keep water from seeping behind the ledger where it can soften and rot out wood.
 – Using old fastening methods, such as plain nails, to secure the ledger to the house.

It’s a good idea to have your deck inspected for proper construction techniques when you build it, and to do yearly DIY inspections and repairs.

4.  Adding a Basement Bedroom Without an Egress Window – Seems like a no-brainer: Junior needs his own bedroom, and you’ve got all this space in your basement. A few walls and carpet and voila! — an extra bedroom.

But it’s not that simple. Codes say that any “sleeping room” must include an egress window that’s at least 20 inches wide and 24 inches high, with a minimum opening of 5.7 square feet — enough for an adult to crawl through.

Because it’s a basement, you’ll likely need to excavate outside the window and add a window well to help keep water out.

The installation of an egress window costs $2,500 to $5,000 — well worth it for your peace of mind and the safety of your family. Without an egress window, a real estate appraiser won’t qualify the space as a bedroom, which may hurt your chances to sell your home.

5.  Venting a Bath Fan into an Attic – You’ve spiffed up the guest bathroom and even added a new bathroom vent fan — nice going. But you aren’t finished unless you vent that fan all the way to the outside of your house.

Venting directly into an attic space might be easy, but your fan is going to deliver plenty of humid air into your attic where is can cause mold and rot.

Building codes say you’ve got to vent the air from the fan to outside your house using a 4-inch-diameter vent pipe.

Some inexpensive bath fans have 3-inch-diameter fittings. If so, buy a piece of converter pipe that changes the diameter to 4 inches.

6.  Botched Electrical Work – Few examples of home improvement and repair are life threatening, but electrical work definitely can be. That’s why utmost caution is needed when you do your own wiring. Here are a few common wiring mistakes:

Wrong size circuit. Basically, 15-amp circuits are for lighting fixtures and 20-amp circuits are for receptacles. If you’re renovating and want to add a receptacle, don’t splice into a lighting circuit to do it — rather, extend from an existing 20-amp circuit.

An exception is a refrigerator, which can be on a dedicated, 15-amp circuit.

Splicing wires without a junction box. Don’t splice wires together with a couple of wire nuts and some electrical tape and call it a day. All wire connections must be inside an approved junction box. While you’re at it, you can’t hide a junction box inside a wall — it must be visible and accessible.

Missing GFCIs. A ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is required for any circuit that services an area where water might be present: bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, garages, and outdoor receptacles. A single GFCI at the beginning of a circuit can protect other receptacles on the same circuit.

7.  Not Following Fence Height Requirements – Fences are a major source of disputes with neighbors, and a top source of complaints to local building and planning departments.

Many problems stem from the fact that homeowners, in an attempt to establish privacy, build fences that are too tall. Most codes limit fences on the sides and in the back of property to 6 feet, and 42 to 48 inches in the front.

If you build a fence that’s not in compliance, a complaint could bring a building official to your property with an order to tear your fence down.

John Riha wrote this copyrighted article that appeared on National Association of Realtors® web site and is used with permission. He has written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Follow John on Google+.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR®, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail –  He is also available for web video chat.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Act Now For Affordable Mortgage Interest Rates

There are two items costing less these days.  A month ago a gallon of regular gas sold for about $3.09 a gallon. Today the price is 25¢ less.  Here is another item with a decreased cost. A month ago mortgage rates were about 3.75 percent for a 30-year fixed rate government backed mortgage. Today that rate is 3.375. So what does that mean? Let’s explain.

Principal and Interest Last Month – Let’s assume a buyer found a great house and agreed on a price. The borrower got a $100,000 mortgage. About a month ago the standard interest rates for a government backed mortgage was 3.75 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. That equates to a $463.12 monthly payment for principal and interest only.  Remember the actual payment also includes other fees, insurance and taxes. But the principal and interest compromise the vast majority of the monthly mortgage payment. The key number to remember is the $463.12.

Principal and Interest Today – Let’s assume the another borrower found an equally priced house ($100,000). Today’s rate for the same 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 3.375.  The monthly payment (principal and interest only) is $442.10. That is a savings of just over $21 a month. It is a savings in the cost of a mortgage.

Will The Rates Go Lower – Unfortunately no one knows the answer to that question. Technically, yes they can. Realistically, how much lower can interest rates go? Is waiting for a lower rate worth the risk? If rates do fall, what is to prevent that same borrower from waiting again in the hopes of getting still another reduction? Remember you do not know the rates bottomed out until they begin to rise. Then you’re paying slightly more.

Allowing a borrower to use money at any rate under 5 percent is a bargain. Get that rate under 4 percent and it is bargain basement time.

When Will Rates Rise – Again no one knows. When will gas prices go up or down? Please understand that there is no correlation between gas prices and mortgage rates. But there is this similarity.

The consumer never knows when there is a change in prices. Neither does any bank. That is because economic issues change by the minute. Go back to the point made above. You do not know the point where mortgage rates bottom out until they begin to rise.

Who Does Know – No one has a crystal ball to accurately predict the future. Can the weatherman accurately predict the weather every day of the year?

The government (or more specifically the Federal Reserve Bank or the Fed for short) sets the amount of money they want in circulation. Lending money is part of that total amount of money. Money is like any other good or service offered by the market. The laws of supply and demand take precedent.

External factors such as unemployment rate, imports versus exports, and even political issues all have an effect on how much money is in circulation.

When small banks need money they borrow it from the Fed. The rate the government charges banks to borrow money is the “prime” rate.  Banks then add to the prime rate as a method of covering business expenses and generating profit.

What To Do – Any serious homebuyer needs to take action today about applying for a mortgage. Also remember most lenders will not allow a borrower to “lock in” a certain rate until they have a purchase contract that lists the specific address, the price and terms of the sale.

Your REALTOR® can assist you with preparing a purchase offer that will eventually become a purchase contract once the buyer and seller agree to every term and condition.

Most sellers want to see the pre-approval letter before they begin serious negotiations. A seller has zero motivation to reveal his true purchase price to a buyer that cannot prove their financial capability to complete the purchase.

Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR®, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail –  He is also available for web video chat.