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  • Red Flag Reasons Not to Buy a House

    A house with "broken bones" is the money pit you must run from. If a house has major structural, geological, or severe foundation or environmental problems, you don't want it. These will cost you. Even if you get the house cheap, the problems never go away and are sometimes impossible to fix no matter how much money you throw at them. Whatever the market, you will have to sell it for less - just like the guy who sold it to you.

    Of course any problem can be fixed. It's just a question of what it takes to fix it. Besides the expense, you'll need full permits and approval for every stage of renovation by the city inspectors. And major structural flaws can cover up underlying and costly issues.

    Here are my Red Flag Reasons NOT to Buy A House:

    • Structural Problems That Are Beyond Repair Economically
    • Foundations that are not built on slab or concrete footings
    • Major shifting due to poor foundation work
    • Unsolvable drainage issues and flooding of the basement
    • A
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  • 3 Steps to Avoid Storm Damage Repair Scams

    Much of the East Coast is still dealing with the aftermath of super storm Sandy and this will continue for the months and years to come. Last week, I talked about some great informational resources for people in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Now, I want to dive a little bit deeper into the ways you can avoid storm damage repair scams and work in harmony with your insurance company to get everything back in order.

    Step One: Check with Your Insurer

    You must check with your insurance agency before you:

    • Begin to do your repairs
    • Before you hire anyone
    • Before you pay anyone

    Ask your insurer to survey the damage and get your claims on file with them. During this process, you will need to know:

    • What specific damage the insurance company will cover
    • What the insurance company will pay and reimburse.
    • You will also need to know the specific procedural process required.
    • Will the insurance company need to approve a repair before you do it in order
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  • Four Backup Offer Must-Haves

    So you lost the home of your dreams to someone else. You may never know why. Maybe they offered more money or their terms were slightly better than yours. But it's not all bad news; in fact, there may be a silver lining here. You can ask the seller to accept your offer as a backup offer. It costs you nothing. You don't have to put out any money, yet you are in line to get the property if the current buyer falls out. Plus, sellers love backup offers because it puts pressure on the accepted offeree to close the deal quickly, knowing that there is another buyer standing in the wings hoping to take center stage.

    I have won big in backup situations where there has already been an inspection and the house falls out because there are problems that the buyer can't handle. Or simply because the buyer was not able to get his loan. In this situation, I have the advantage of jumping in to save the day when the seller is now frustrated and just wants to sell and get out. It puts me in a

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  • Why Buying a New Car Could Kill Your Home Buying Dreams

    Attention house hunters! Don't change your financial picture right before a home purchase!

    While you are seriously home shopping, don't make any big purchases on credit. Don't buy a car or purchase an expensive vacation. Any significant purchases will alter your financial picture, and the banks don't like to see sudden changes just before issuing you a loan.

    Be aware that positive changes -- such as paying off balances on all your credit cards -- are exactly the kind of financial moves you should be making, but these won't immediately show up on your credit report. It may take months for those newly low balances to boost your credit scores. So plan ahead -- even once the bank has run a credit check and you have been approved, they may decide to do a final re-check.

    Wait to make any big financial moves until after you own the house you have your eyes on.


    Michael Corbett is Trulia's real estate and lifestyle expert. He is also the host of EXTRA's

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  • Worst-Case Credit Scenarios—What Are Your Options?

    Yes, in this new market, a great credit score is king. However, when the market was in the height of the frenzy you would often hear: No Credit-No Problem! Five years ago a monkey with an address and a social security card could get a loan. But it's different now: No Credit-No Way!

    Unfortunately for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who got caught in the middle of the market meltdown, there is little chance of getting another mortgage today. Tomorrow, however, is another story.

    If you are coming out the other end of the financial meat grinder, trying to buy again after walking away or short selling your home, there is some hope.

    • Short Sale Survivors: If you succumbed to a short sale, according to the new guidelines, you will have to wait approximately two years to qualify for a Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae or FHA loan.
    • Foreclosure Survivors: If you walked away or went through foreclosure, you will have to wait at least five years to apply for one of the
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  • How Starbucks Can Help You Get a House Deal

    When you're house shopping, you have to also shop for a neighborhood. But how exactly can you find the right neighborhoodand a home at the right price point? Well, one of the ways you can buy your way into a great home and neighborhood and stretch your buying dollar is to find a neighborhood that is in transition. Called "fringe" or "transitional" neighborhoods, they are typically close to major metropolitan areas and were once neglected and less desirable, but have been gentrified.

    Buying in a transitional neighborhood for your first house allows you to get into the market relatively cheaply and build some equity. Your house gains value as the neighborhood improves. It may not be your dream location now, or the seaside beach community you want to retire to, but over time you will build even more equity and then move on at some point.

    How to find that perfect diamond in the rough? Here are two ways:

    1. Has a Starbucks just opened on the corner or maybe a Whole Foods

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  • Have I Bought the Right House? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

    What Have I Done? The Big Freak-out!

    You found a house, negotiated a deal you are comfortable with, you have opened escrow and turned in your deposit, and now all of a sudden . . . the reality hits. "Oh, my God, I am buying a house." That reality may be frightening, it may be paralyzing. You may be saying, "What have I done?!"

    I'm happy to tell you that this is an absolutely normal experience. Almost every buyer goes through what we call buyer's remorse. It's completely natural and it will pass. But you need to understand why it comes up in the first place.

    Let me share a little secret. I have bought and sold dozens of homes for myself and every single time I buy a house or property I have what some friends of mine referred to as "the Big Freak-out." My agent jokes with me about the fact that I put myself and my home purchase through an exhaustive reanalysis of the deal every time. Should I or shouldn't I? Do I really want this house? Is it a good deal? Have I made the

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  • What Your Credit Report Says About You

    A credit report is a complete history of all your financial activities. It lists your creditors, when you opened your bank accounts, what you owe and to whom, your credit limits and history―including late payments and any other negative information―your employment history, marriages, divorces, child support history, bankruptcies, property liens, whose name is on what, etc.-it's all there. When lenders request information, this is what they get, and you want to make sure it is in great shape.

    Credit Scoring

    This process gives a numerical value to all aspects of your credit history, factoring in your income, your debt, and your employment history. The past six to twelve months is examined first, so it's critical to keep current with your bills. Here's how the most popular type of score-the FICO-breaks down:

    760-850: Acceptable risk. Someone with a score in the high 700s and up to 850, which is a perfect score, is in the best position to get the best interest rates.

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  • Title, Title, Title - What Does it Mean?

    Many items and terms thrown around when purchasing a house have the word "title" in them. It's just downright confusing. But you have to know what all these "titles" mean, do, and stand for. They are all important―some more than others―some cost you money and, fortunately for you, some cost the seller money. So I think the best way to address them all is to go down the list in the order in which you will encounter them as you work through the buying process:

    1. Taking title
    2. Title company
    3. Title search-title report
    4. Clear title
    5. Title insurance

    Taking the Title

    Who is going to take title to this house? In non-"title" terms, that is asking: Who is actually going to own this house? Make sense? How you "take title" is actually just the name of the person, persons, or entity that will own the house, and in what form.

    Here are five ways you can "take title":

    • You can actually hold title in your own name.
    • Joint tenancy allows you to hold it with another
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  • Insurance: What to Get—What is Enough?

    Virtually all lenders require that you purchase homeowner's insurance. You'll have to show "proof of insurance" prior to closing. Lenders want to know that you're protecting their investment from harm, such as damage caused by fire, water, a tree falling through the roof, and even vandalism.

    How much insurance is enough? Your lender will tell you what's the bare minimum required for your particular home purchase, and then it's up to you whether you want to buy extra coverage for the perils that won't be covered under your basic policy. A basic policy will cover things like fire, theft, falling objects, damage from frozen pipes, and sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated current to electrical equipment.

    If you're buying a condo or co-op, there are special insurance policies just for you, sometimes referred to as "HO6" policies (as opposed to "HO2" policies for homeowners), and which meet the needs of owning a condo or co-op. This is because the property's

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