Here you will find a list of the Top Five information from our past shows, including information on past guests.

If you would like to contact FirsTrust directly, feel free to do so at (800)492-4664 or email us. Any of our Certified Mortgage Planners, or Assistants, will be happy to answer your mortgage and finance question.

TIL Time

3 Ways to Drive Home Buyers Away

We focus a lot on what you should try to do when selling your home, but this week let’s talk about what NOT to do.  Here are our top 3 tips.

#1: Overwhelm Visitors with Odors

Whether you’ve got multiple pets or haven’t quite kicked your smoking habit, these odors are a great way to drive away potential buyers.  The thing about our noses is that they only tend to recognize odors when they’re novel.  When you get home from work, you may smell that litter box, but 30 minutes later the odor has disappeared.  The truth is it hasn’t — your nose has just stopped smelling it.  So imagine a potential home buyer walking in and being greeted with a less than pleasant odor.  It’s not exactly a welcome wagon.  And don’t be tempted to simply mask the odors with candles and frilly sprays either.  They won’t cover it up; they’ll just mix and overwhelm buyers.  Have your carpets and upholstery cleaned, and do what you can to eliminate the odors.

#2: Leave Your Home a Little Too Lived In

Home buyers want to walk into a home that looks like an open canvas to paint their dreams.  If you’ve left kids’ toys littering the living room or your toiletries (and worse!) all over the bathroom, you’re not really giving them a chance to do that.  Same goes for your pets.  Even if you normally leave them out, if you’ve got your home opening for a showing, crate them or even ask a good friend or family member to watch them while buyers are looking at your house.

#3: Forget About the Outside

The Truth in Lending Show Explains What NOT to Do When Selling Your House

If your home looks like a haunted house on the outside, it's probably not going to be very inviting to potential buyers.

The outside of your home is its first impression on home buyers.  If your lawn is unkempt or your bushes overgrown, it’s not going to put off a welcoming vibe.  Same if your paint is thin or peeling or your siding and trim is looking less than stellar.  Make the extra effort (and put in the extra cash) to make your home look good on the outside so people are primed to appreciate what’s on the inside.

More Home Buying & Selling Tips on the Truth in Lending Show

Check out our previous blog posts for even more tips on home buying and selling — and tune into the Truth in Lending Show every week for more great topics.

3 Steps to Set Up Your Tenant / Landlord Relationship

How do you set up your tenant-landlord relationship to ensure a lease term of profit and success?

There are 3 very essential things you must do to stand out above the rest. You can use these 3  steps right away and see the results immediately!

We’ve made a short video to show you exactly how we’ve being doing this for years.

 

How to Turn Your Home Into an Income Property

Scott McGillivray on The Truth in Lending Show

HGTV's Scott McGillivray

In a tough economy, we’re all looking to cut corners and boost income whenever and wherever we can.  If you’re a fan of HGTV’s Income Property, you may have considered adding a rental unit to your property.  Lucky for you, we had Scott McGillivray on the Truth in Lending Show this past weekend to give us some tips.

Three Ways to Create Income Property

There are a number of ways to transform your home into one that puts cash in your pocket.  Here are three tips.

#1: Start Off by Buying the Right Home

If you’re in the market for a home right now, you can make turning it into an income property easier by choosing a home that requires less renovation to make it attractive to renters.  For instance, looking for a home with a separate entrance and an extra room and bathroom accessible by that entrance will get you a long way down the road to income property.  A property with a finished walk-out basement with a kitchen and bathroom (or at least the plumbing and electrical hook-ups) already in place is just about perfect.

#2: Think About What You’d Want in an Apartment

It’s easy to just throw a space together and call it a rental property, but you’ll get a lot more buyers and be able to charge a higher rent price if you actually take the time to thoughtfully design a space.  Don’t skimp on insulation, drywall, plumbing, electrical or HVAC work.  Simple fixtures, cabinets and décor are fine, but overall you should shoot for the same quality as the rest of your home.

#3: Know What to Charge

The whole point of having an income property is to actually pull in an income.  Check listings for similar spaces and price accordingly.  If you’re going to include utilities in the rent price, you can add an extra $100 to $200 per month.  And if you’ll recall Tip No. 2, this is where not skimping on insulation and spending a little extra for energy-efficient appliances, low flow water fixtures and energy-efficient light bulbs comes in extremely handy.

Get More Home Tips from the Truth in Lending Show

If you found these tips helpful, make sure to check out our previous blog posts for even more ways to make financially savvy home-related decisions — and tune into the Truth in Lending Show every week for more great topics.

5 Great Ways to Design on a Dime

Casey Noble and the Truth in Lending Show Give You 5 Tips to Design on a Dime

HGTV's Casey Noble, host of Design on a Dime

We don’t all have massive budgets to spend on decorating our homes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make them look nice. On last week’s show, HGTV’s Casey Noble of Design on a Dime gave us 5 Great Ways to Design on a Dime in your home this week!

#1: Edit What You Have

The first thing you can do is to work with what you have.  As William Morris said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Get rid of what you don’t like or use, plain and simple. If this sound like a daunting concept, use the three-pile method: Trash, Give Away, Keep.

#2: Clean and Reorganize Your Storage

Once you’ve narrowed your belongings down to those things you love or use, give them a home. Go room by room instead of tackling the entire house at once.  Your storage solutions can be sources of pride, too, so don’t be afraid to show off that stylish boot bench, showcase those mason jars to store pens.

#3: Create Warm and Welcoming Lighting

Improving the lighting in your home is an easy and relatively inexpensive upgrade that can make a huge difference.  Whether it’s replacing harsh bulbs with soft ones, adding ambient light with ceiling fixtures, task lighting with under-cabinet and reading lights, or accent lights on to highlight your artwork or mantle, these simple lighting solutions can make a huge difference.

#4: Add Fresh Flowers and Plants

One of our very favorite design solutions is to add fresh flowers! You can do this for free if you’ve got wildflowers or rosebushes in your backyard (or in a generous neighbor’s!), or you can drop ten to twenty dollars once every week or two on a bouquet at the supermarket or even from a florist. Flowers don’t have to be only for special occasions — every day can be a special occasion!  If you’ve got a green thumb, think about adding some houseplants to your space, too.  If gardening isn’t your thing, you can even add easy-to-maintain succulents like cacti and aloe plants that need very little attention.  And adding flowers or plants to your home brings life into your living area.

#5: Make Your House a Home

Add your own personal touches to your house to really make it yours.  Showcase your pictures and souvenirs, and don’t be afraid to add an element that isn’t classic or even trendy.  If you like it, then make it a part of your design.  You can also make your home inviting — to yourself and guests — by hanging fresh, fluffy towels and other comforting elements.  If you have an empty room, think about staging it with an inexpensive bed frame and an air mattress.  Add an heirloom quilt or a stylish comforter, and you’ve got a room that looks like it belongs to a well-cared-for home instead of an empty house.

Use these tips to add some style to your home without putting a dent in your budget, and make sure to tune into the Truth in Lending Show every week for more great home-related topics.

Keeping Up with the Jetsons — How to Use Home Automation

Home Automation -- Not Quite the Jetsons, but Close!On this week’s show, we had the chance to learn about home automation from Keith Axe, owner of Integrated Electronics.  We’ve always dreamed of a Jetsons-style set-up, and now we’re closer than ever!  Here are three ways to take advantage of home automation.

A Little Mood Music

With home automation systems, you can wake up to your favorite gentle sounds, come home to the best relaxing jams on your playlist, and automatically get a party swinging in every room of your house with nothing more than the touch of a button.  With an automated audio/visual system, these are just a few of the options.  And with a multi-zone system, each room of the house gets its own access and sound system straight from a central hard drive storing your entire household’s music.  No more stealing your teen’s iPod when you want some peppy music for that run on your treadmill.  Just press a button, and you’re all set.

A Little Mood Lighting

Home automation gives you the ability to control just about any light in your house, all from a central control point.  Turning off all the lights in your house before you go to bed is no longer a sleep-delaying chore.  One touch and you’re done.  Even better, you can design your own lighting schedule so that your lights come on, dim or turn off at pre-determined times.  Impromptu romantic dinner? Use preset lighting schemes to set the mood.

Get Some Sun — Or Not

You’ve probably heard the advice that opening or closing your blinds during the day, depending on the season, can help reduce heating and cooling costs.  But who has time and energy — or memory — to run around every morning and night pulling on those frustrating cords that always seem to send one side of the blinds up while leaving the other hanging down?  Can you tell we’ve been scarred in this area?  Well, with home automation, that sort of situation is a thing of the past.  Motorized shades and blinds eliminate easy-to-tangle cords, and you can automate them to open or close based on time or even with a heat sensor.  And just like lighting, you can include motorized blinds and shades in your configurations for parties (open them up!) or for watching films (bring those blackout shades down!) or whatever you can imagine.

Home Automation isn’t the future — it’s now.  Visit Integrated Electronics for more information, and make sure you tune into the Truth in Lending Show for more tips on how to make your home a haven.

5 Tips to Improve Your Credit Score

Ken Easley and The Truth in Lending Show Give You 5 Tips To Improve Your CreditOn this week’s blog, we’ve got Ken Easley of CorrectMyCreditReport.com here to give us some tips on reviewing your credit score for errors, omissions and inaccuracies.

The Three Credit Reporting Agencies and Your Scores

There are three main credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  These are for-profit organizations with no government affiliation, but they’re all part of a trade organization called the Consumer Data Industry Association.  You are entitled to a free credit report from each of these bureaus annually, and you can do so at annualcreditreport.com.  Scores can vary between the three bureaus by as much as 20 to 30 points because the three agencies use different models to score your credit.

Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Credit Scores

Here are the 5 best things you can do when it comes to your credit report.

1. Obtain your three national credit reports and review for accuracy.

Address any disputes or updates needed, and consider joining a Credit Watch monitoring service, like the one offered from IdentityGuard.com (check out CorrectMyCreditReport.com for special pricing).  IdentityGuard offers credit monitoring, a “what if?” simulator, has exclusive tools for each credit bureau, zone alarm, monitors public records, and is the No. 1 software in the United States for protecting against breaches on your personal computer.

2. Ensure you’re carrying the lowest balances possible on revolving credit card accounts.

Ideally, you should carry between $1 and 10 percent of your credit limit for maximum score value.  Ensure this information is posted correctly at all three credit bureaus.

3. If you don’t have a credit card, get one.

Even if you don’t use it, having the line of credit will help your score.  Get a True Secured credit card that reports to all three credit bureaus.

4. Avoid credit inquiries.

Pursuit of new credit, consolidating debt, closing accounts, opening new accounts, and late payments and collections all trigger credit inquiries, so avoid these things whenever possible.

5. Know that time can heal most credit wounds.

The longer your good payment history gets plus time passed since delinquencies and opening of new accounts, the better.

Following these principles will improve your credit score, which leads to more approvals and better interest rates on things like mortgages and car loans.  For more information, visit CorrectMyCreditReport.com, and tune into the Truth in Lending Show!

Ten Tips for Finding a Perfect Second Home

The Truth in Lending Show Offers Ten Tips for Finding Your Perfect Second HomeWith both property values and interest rates still hovering at historic lows, now is a great time look for a second home. While you may have always assumed this was a far-off dream, the current “buyers’ market” means it’s a dream that could come true for many folks.  We’ve got ten tips to help you find your perfect second home to make that dream come true.

1. Define Your Lifestyle Interests.

Ask yourself how you like to spend your time.  Many people who are in the market for second homes are looking primarily for recreational interests. Define what those are for your life so you can look in areas that serve those interests well.

2. Determine the Ideal Travel Distance.

Ideal traveling time is very much a matter of personal preference — and tolerance!  Our EscapeHomes experts tell us that two to three hours’ travel time is ideal for most folks to ensure you’re using your second home enough to justify having it.  Don’t tell yourself the lie that you’ll use it just because you bought it. If you’re unsure, try renting in the area for a season to see how often you actually manage to get there.  That should give you a better idea of your travel time tolerance.

3. Research Locations.

Make sure you’ve researched the cost of living in areas that interest you.  For instance, you may really like downhill skiing, but can you really afford a home in a ski town?  And what happens in that town when the slopes close for the season?  Consider the following factors when researching locations:

  • Affordability
  • Climate
  • Population
  • Community Activities & Interaction

Check with the local chamber of commerce, and use internet resources like EscapeHomes to find out more about a community.

4. Select the Desired Location.

Once you choose the destination, you have to choose the specific location.  Do you want to live in the lively city, or do you want to live in the quiet suburbs or even further out in the peaceful country?  Do you want to live in a planned development or an apartment?  Do you want a single family residence, or do you want a town home that requires less maintenance?  Do you want to live near those slopes?  Or the beach?  Or a golf course?  These are all things you need to consider once you’ve selected the general destination for your second home.

5. Make Inquiries with Locals.

Talk with locals as much as you can.  If you’re able to do a visit, knock on neighbors’ doors to ask them what it’s like.  Are they second home owners, too?  Is the area populated with primary residences or renters?  If there happen to be a lot of renters, keep in mind that sometimes this means an area won’t be kept up as well.  These community details are important when finding a second home.

6. Contact a Real Estate Professional.

A real estate professional can act as your eyes and ears in faraway places.  You can find out a lot without a real estate agent, especially thanks to the internet, but at some point the pictures and virtual tours just aren’t enough.  Find a certified Realtor you can trust to highlight areas of interest and give you the scoop on the town, the neighborhood and the property you’re considering.

7. Visit Destinations.

It’s a good idea to visit a destination two or three times before making your purchase.  You can start finding resources, experiencing the actual travel time, and what it’s like to live there.  Keep in mind that many people buy second homes with the intention of some day making them their primary residences.  Visiting your destination a number of times can help you make sure this is a place you actually want to live.

8. Review Financing Options.

There are a number of ways to purchase your second home.  Some things to know:

  • Second home financing is a little different, and you can expect to pay a half-point to one point more.
  • Insurance criteria differs, and so can the pricing.
  • You still get the mortgage write-off up to certain limits, depending upon the value of the property and how it’s used.
  • Some places deal with high-end purchases without loans that fall under the 1031 exchange tax code.

Your best bet to make sure all your financial and tax bases are covered is to involve your tax professional in the financing part of the deal.

9. Purchase Through a Resort Specialist.

You get two types of sellers when it comes to resort properties: those who live and sell in the area, and those who operate on a more conglomerate basis.  You want the former. As a buyer, you benefit from someone who knows the area well rather than someone who just lists a property there.

10. Enjoy the Process!

This isn’t your primary residence, so everything doesn’t have to be perfect!  Have a little fun with it.  You probably don’t need to be near the best schools, and you can probably get away with not being in walking distance of the beach.  Be willing to open your mind and look at properties that don’t check off every box on your list.  You may be surprised at what ends up being your perfect second home!

Follow these tips, and we’re sure you’ll find that that perfect second home in no time — and hopefully have fun while doing it!

9 Tech Savvy Tips for a Successful House Hunt

Tech Savvy Tips from Trulia and the Truth in Lending Show for the House HuntFinding the right home can be quite an adventure, but you have more tools at your disposal than ever before thanks to technology. Here are nine tips from our friends at Trulia to help you take advantage of some new technology to make your home search easier.

#1: Feedback from Facebook Friends.

Find a listing you like on Trulia? From the property detail page, click the Facebook icon and share it with your digital peeps. Add a comment and ask them for their input on the house or the ‘hood.  This is especially handy if you’re relocating and others in your social network have insider info to share.

#2: Vids and Pics

Don’t just rely on the listing photos.  When you visit properties, document what you see with your own two eyes by taking your own digital pictures. It’ll help you keep track of whether the blue Craftsman was the place with the sweet redwood deck or the organic kitchen garden.

Moving out of town? Couples, families and those partnering to buy together can save loads of time and money flying back and forth by having the pickier partner do the first pass house hunt solo.  Have him or her record walk-throughs with a Flipcam or even a cell phone video camera so the one who stays at home can view the video. For real contenders, make sure to film the street and nearby neighborhood hot spots, too.

#3: Find Properties and Professionals

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that you can find more homes than ever – both for sale and for rent — at Trulia.com. Also, if it’s been a while since you’ve visited, the listing information includes more facts than ever before, from price history to real estate trends and comparable homes for sale in the neighborhood.  And if you’re just getting started and you need a local agent to rep you, every property page also offers an agent (or four, or more!) who would be happy to help.

#4: Map Views You Can Use

Once you’ve found a listing you like, but before you go out to see it, scroll down to the map and click Satellite to see where the place is positioned.  Check out whether it’s on a big street, next door to a shopping mall or down the road from a school. Then, click Street View to scope out the neighbors’ homes and how they are maintained.

#5: Property Specs by Text

Don’t you hate it when you drive past your dream house, screech the car to a halt, hop out to grab a flyer and there’s none in the box?! Or the ones that are the box are all faded from the sun or matted from the rain or sprinklers?  Check the flyer box and the sign itself to see if the agent offers ‘text’ flyers. Increasingly, you can opt out of a paper flyer and just send a quick text to get an immediate reply that includes the beds, baths, square footage and list price for the property.

#6: Get Listings On the Go

Speaking of driving around, if you find yourself in a neighborhood that you fall in love with at first sight, whip out your iPhone, Android, Blackberry or other mobile device and visit Trulia’s mobile site to see what homes are on the market – on the spot! You can even get the listing agent’s number, email them, rate the neighborhood, and save places you like to your MyTrulia account – all from your cell phone.

#7: There’s an App for That

Used to be, the serious tenant or buyer took along a backpack full of stuff on their house hunting trips: a camera, a compass, paint swatches and a tape measure — at the bare minimum!  Now there are apps for each of these functions – so your smartphone can minimize your load.  Just search your smartphone brand’s app store (like Android’s Google Play or Apple’s App Store) for tape any of those items, and see what pops up! Many apps are free, and you can see how well they’re reviewed right there in the app store. Once you’ve downloaded your apps, you’re ready to go!  You can even take paint swatches on the go with Sherwin Williams’ ColorSnap app, which lets you match real-world colors to paint, coordinate colors, and create custom palettes to compliment those of the property you’re viewing.

#8: Local Experts’ Answers to Your Personal Real Estate Questions

Smart home hunters often have questions specific to their personal situations that aren’t on any tutorial or FAQ list. When you have personal, pressing questions about your renting or buying experience, post your question to Trulia Voices.  Specify your area, and local Agents will chime in and share their expertise and need-to-knows.

#9: Give and Take: Neighborhood Ratings and Reviews

Use Trulia ratings and reviews to check out what other members of the Trulia community have said about a neighborhood you’re considering. In addition to info about the home, you might even find out that the best bakery, bookstore or yoga studio in town is just a hop, skip and a jump from your prospective home-to-be!  And you can repay the favor.  When you see a Trulia listing in a neighborhood you know, take a few seconds and rate it, or even write a quick review sharing your opinion of the place with the world!

We hope you find these tips useful.  It’s amazing what we can do with technology these days. For even more tips, follow Trulia and and our Real Estate Realist Tara on facebook!

Planning and Funding a Remodeling Project

Instead of searching for a new house, turn your current one into your dream home!

When it comes to landing the home of your dreams, some times the grass isn’t any greener anywhere else. Instead of dealing with the hassles of shopping for a new home, why not turn your current home into one you love by taking on a remodeling project?  It’s easier and more affordable than you think.

How can I finance a remodeling project?

There are a few options if you don’t have the cash immediately on hand.  First, see if you can refinance your current mortgage by pulling cash out of your equity.  Secondly, look into taking on a second mortgage, like a closed-end or HELOC.  Thirdly, you can see if you qualify for a 203(k) mortgage, which is designed to help people upgrade their fixer-uppers.  You can also see if you qualify for home improvement grants.

I’ve got funding. What’s next?

Once you’ve set a budget and decided on a remodeling plan, the most important thing to do is make sure you’ve got a solid, reliable contractor.  Here are some questions to ask.

  • Are you licensed?
  • Do you carry General Liability Insurance?
  • Do you carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
  • Are you a member of NARI or NAHB?
  • Will you take care of all the required building permits?
  • Is your work guaranteed?
  • Who will be in charge of the remodeling project?
  • How do I communicate with my job foreman?
  • Will you provide me with written references?
  • How do you handle daily job clean-up?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help ensure you’re safe from a variety of issues, from personal injury lawsuits for workers on your property to getting the job done on time in the way you expect.

Even if it’s not the right time to look at purchasing a new house, you still might be able to afford to upgrade your home.  Take a look at your options, and get a little creative!  For more ideas and advice on everything home-related, tune into the Truth In Lending Show or listen online.

The Importance of Home Inspections

Make sure your dream home really is a dream come true with an ASHI-certified home inspection.

Last weekend, we were proud to have Nick Welty of InspectorNick.com on the show to talk about why home buyers should never purchase a new home without insisting on a complete home inspection done by a Home Inspector certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors.

What happens during a home inspection?

During a home inspection, a certified home inspector will complete an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of the house, including the foundation, roof, major appliances, plumbing and electrical systems, heating and cooling systems, visible insulation, and all structures like walls, windows and doors.

Why is it important to have a home inspected?

Because a home is such a huge investment, it’s important to make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for.  If there are any repairs the seller is hiding or just plain unaware of, a home inspection will reveal them, which allows you and the seller to either work out a plan for repair or you to get out of the deal unscathed.  Similarly, if you’re getting ready to sell your home, an inspection can identify issues that can help you improve the selling value and marketability of your house.

Is it really necessary to hire someone?

Unless you yourself are certified as a home inspector, it’s really best to hire a professional. ASHI-certified inspectors are trained in all aspects of home building, from the construction to the home’s systems. They know what to look for, and they have the ability to remain objective — something that can be difficult for homebuyers and sellers since you’re emotionally invested in the situation.  An inspector is only invested in providing an objective account of the condition of the home.

Is it expensive?

Prices vary according to location, individual inspector fees, and special services (such as septic or radon testing) requested, but you can expect to pay between $100 for “bargain” inspectors or as high as $800 in some areas of the country.  That being said, the cost of skipping the home inspection can be incredibly high if unexpected and expensive issues pop up, and the peace of mind knowing the home you’re purchasing is in the shape you expect it to be is priceless.

How do I find a home inspector?

The best place to find a certified home inspector with appropriate qualifications is the ASHI’s Find an Inspector form. Here you can search by location and specialty.  Of course, if you’re in the Kansas City metro area, be sure to check out InspectorNick.com.  Nick and his team have a host of certifications to offer you the best quality home inspections for your money.

Check out last week’s show online to hear more about the home inspection process and to learn about the ins and outs of the mortgage process.