Updated: Friday, May 26, 2017
4 Common Homeowner Association Security Errors to Avoid
Homeowners associations HOAs are more popular than ever. In 2015, 66.7 million Americans were members of a homeowners association, equivalent to 20 percent of the population, a Community Associations Institute study found. Unfortunately, the growth of homeowners associations has made them a more attractive target for burglars. Why? Seventy percent of HOAs are managed by elected volunteers, says HOA-USA.com, meaning that most HOA managers are amateurs at security. Here are four of the most common security mistakes homeowners associations make, and some tips on how to avoid them.
Failing to Conduct a Security Review
Many HOAs start off on the wrong foot by failing to conduct a security review, says SecurityNet.com. Without taking this basic step, you donrsquo;t know what vulnerabilities you have, so itrsquo;s impossible to take adequate counter-measures.
A thorough security review should begin with considering where you live mdash; different locations have different needs. For example, if your HOA occupies a high-rise or is spread out over a large area, you should probably have a professional conduct your review. A full review should be conducted at least every three years, but once a year is better. If you live in a high-crime area, you may need to do it as often as every six months, says HOALeader.com. Your HOArsquo;s security company will often give you a free review if theyrsquo;re your current provider.
Taking the Wrong Measures
Failing to conduct a security review can easily lead to taking the wrong security measures. After a high-profile crime incident, a common reaction is to panic and take measures that calm resident fears but donrsquo;t necessarily solve the problem. For instance, hiring a guard is a common response, but a guard only provides security in the particular area theyrsquo;re covering, which may leave other vulnerabilities unsecured.
A good rule of thumb is to use guards for situations where a human response is required to solve a security issue and to deploy technology where a human response is not required. When deploying technology, make sure to choose equipment thatrsquo;s up to the task. For instance, a cheap security camera may not be effective at capturing suspectsrsquo; identifying features, such as hair and eye color in low lighting. Be sure to choose a high-tech HD security camera system that can capture high-resolution detail even in low lighting.
Failing to Remove Landscaping Concealment Opportunities
Burglars depend on concealment, and allowing them opportunities to hide is another common mistake. Most homeowners associations remember to provide lighting, which is an important deterrent, but they often forget to remove bushes, hedges and low-hanging foliage that criminals can use for concealment, says Spectrum Association Management.
Make your landscaping less friendly to burglars by planting thorny shrub barriers at your HOArsquo;s main entrance and exit points, including the perimeters of parking lots and boundaries between neighboring communities. Keep shrubs narrow and low, and keep tree canopies trimmed. Flatten any vegetation that obstructs views of your HOArsquo;s parking lot.
Forgetting to Conduct Periodic Maintenance Checks
The best security equipment wonrsquo;t help you if itrsquo;s not working. Failing to establish a routine maintenance check procedure is another mistake HOAs often make. Assign responsibility for periodic maintenance checks to your HOA manager. Schedule regular checks of gates, lights, motion detectors, alarms, cameras, video recorders and any other security equipment. Lastly, its important to create an accountability mechanism to make sure these checks are conducted on schedule.
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How To Buy A House Without Going House Poor
How much house can you really afford? Is it the amount the bank tells you when preapproving your loan? Thats what most people go by, oftentimes spending up to their max approval amount to get as much house as possible - or to be able to afford something at all in tight markets.
The debt-to-income DTI ratio, along with your credit score, is what is used by lenders to determine your loan approval and amount. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureaus CFPB efforts to keep this number low notwithstanding, it has been rising to levels that are concerning to industry insiders who fear a widespread wave of homebuyers overextending themselves and becoming unable to support their mortgage payment and other obligations.
The CFPBs Qualified Mortgage QM Rule went into effect in 2014, intended to curb overleveraging by capping a borrowers debt-to-income DTI ratio at 43 percent. "This means that a borrowers total debt expense including total mortgage payment does not exceed 43 of their gross income before taxes are withheld," said the National Association of REALTORS NAR. The rub: Many loans Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration FHA, are exempt from the 43 percent DTI limit.
The impact higher DTIs are having on the market is clear; a new WalletHub report "analyzed data from 2,533 U.S. cities and ranked all of them on the basis of a lsquo;WalletHub Home Overleverage Score," said 24/7 Wall St, finding that, in many cities, overleveraging is becoming the norm. "The score was derived from a citys median mortgage debt, median house value, median income, mortgage debt-to-income ratio and mortgage debt-to-house value ratio." The top 10 are all well over the 43 percent threshold, with the top three - San Luis Obispo, California at 59.62; Williamsburg, Virginia at 58.76; and Brooksville, Florida at 57.44 pushing 60 percent.
Getting in over your head with a house, either from the get-go when first purchasing, or later on with a home equity line that increases your monthly payments, is a dangerous scenario for homeowners and for the market in general. So how do you keep yourself in check to make sure the house youre buying is one you can actually afford and that youre not in danger of becoming house poor?
Do your own calculations
The bank may be telling you that a 350,000 house is within your means, but are you OK with the monthly payment attached to that price? No one is more familiar with your spending habits than you. Are you really going to be able to cut 500 a month in discretionary spending eating out, movies, clothes shopping, morning lattes to comfortably make your new house payment?
Dont forget about the extra expenses
If youre buying your first home, you may not be estimating your new monthly expenses accurately. Did you include the HOA fee, if the community in which youre looking to buy has one? What about any special assessments, if there are any? And private mortgage insurance PMI if you have an FHA loan and are putting less than 20 percent down on your home. That couple hundred dollars could put you over the top.
Have you also considered your utilities? You may not be accustomed to paying gas and electricity and water and trash if youve been living in an apartment. There could also be an increase in the cost of electricity if you have more square footage to heat and cool.
Watch out for HELOCS
A home equity line of credit HELOC can seem harmless. I mean, its your money, right? And youre using it improve your home, which will only raise its value, right? But what seems like a great idea can also get you in trouble when you tap your home equity. You may be calculating the additional payment for now, but what happens later?
Thats the conundrum thousands are facing right now, as "HELOCs are resetting higher rates and overleveraging homeowners," said Inman. "An analysis bynbsp;Black Knight Financialnbsp;shows that 1.5 million home equity lines of credit will see interest-only draw periods end this year with outstanding unpaid principal balances that average 62,500 per HELOC. The data reveals that average borrowers whose lines of credit reset will face an additional cost of 250 per month, more than double the current average payment."
Keep an open mind
Finding a house you can afford may be challenging - especially for first-time buyers and those in competitive markets that push the affordability index. If you have tight parameters for your house hunt that are making it hard to find something within your budget, consider:
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- Extending your area search. You may not be aware of but your Realtor probably is adjacent cities or communities that offer a similar life>
- Buying a condo or townhome instead of a single-family home. Some buyers have an automatic aversion to condos and townhomes because they dont like the idea of living attached. But your real estate agent may know of properties that are end units, that have private yards, and that are two-story units with no one above or below you. It may be that this is your best bet for homeownership you can really afford at this point, and you may find you like it far more than you expected - especially because so many of these communities come with great amenities like a pool and gym, plus front-yard landscaping that is taken care of, saving you time and money.
- Looking at fixer-uppers. A little-known loan called an FHA 203k mortgage may be your "in" to a home you can afford and make your own. The bonus is that its also great for borrowers who may not have the credit and/or down payment to qualify for conventional loans. "The FHA requires a credit score of at least 580 if you want to make the minimum down payment; if you have 10 down, your score can be as low as 500," said Interest.com. "You can borrow more than the home is worth, as long as the repairs will increase its appraised value. The most you can borrow is 110 of what an appraiser estimates it will be worth after renovations, or the cost of the home plus the estimated renovation cost, whichever is less, minus your down payment. The minimum down payment on an FHA loan is 3.5."
Landscaping to Improve Resale: 9 Projects That Fit Within Your Desired Price Point
As the weather starts to heat up each Spring, so too does the housing market. Spring is an optimal time to get your house ready to sell. The first thing that potential buyers will see of your home is the landscaping, so make a great first impression with beautiful outdoor spaces. An investment in landscaping can help sell your home faster and for more money. There are simple projects at every price point that can help you achieve great curb-appeal.
1. Keep the Lawn Well-Manicured
The easiest and most obvious landscape project when hoping to sell your home is to get your lawn looking its best. Spring is a great season to try to sell because your lawn is helped by Mother Nature. Wet, mild Spring weather will help the lawn stay green with less effort. To show off that green lawn, make sure to mow and edge it often.
2. Keep Your Yard Weed Free
It may not cost much, but it will require some time and effort to control the weeds around your property. Spray or pull weeds in flowerbeds, on property borders, and along the driveway. A weed-free yard will help potential buyers feel confident that the home is well cared for, which can create an overall positive impression of your home.
3. Add Flower Pots Near Your Front Door
A splash of color in the yard is a great way to highlight your home. If you are looking to sell quickly, it might be too late to do major yard improvements since new flowers and plants will not have adequate time to grow and mature, but a few beautiful pots of flowers strategically placed near your front door can have a similar effect without requiring a lot of time and maintenance.
4. Add Outdoor lighting
Outdoor lighting has become a trendy feature that buyers have embraced. Lighting can add interest to your yard, highlight areas of beautiful landscaping, and make your home stand out at all times of the day. Solar lights are particularly easy to use because they will recharge during the day and automatically come on in the evening to illuminate your home.
5. Install Curbing/Edging
If you have a little extra money to spend, consider adding curbing or edging around your yard. It helps the landscaping appear crisp and clean, and makes the lawn easier to mow and trim. Savvy buyers will appreciate the ease of maintenance and the defined spaces that curbing creates.
6. Hire a Lawn or Pest Control Company
It is important when selling a home to make sure that their arent any obvious problems. If your lawn is dead or patchy or you have pest problems like spiders, mice, etc, you will need to get those under control. Some of these projects are beyond the scope of what an individual without training can quickly achieve and should be left to professionals. Lawn care companies and exterminators can assess the issues you may have and recommend treatments. This may even be limited to a one time visit that can quickly improve the chances of selling your home.
7. Create Outdoor Living Areas
If you have money to invest in your home, high-end landscaping projects can increase your bottom-line and draw attention from buyers looking for upgrades. Extra living area outside of your home is a huge attention grabber that attracts buyers. This could range from simple patios staged with outdoor furniture, to screened in porches, to full outdoor kitchen areas. Depending on your location, these upgrades may or may not be worth the investment, so do your research before proceeding.
8. Replace or Update Fencing
Fences provide a safe place for children and pets and also give homeowners a feeling of privacy, so they are highly sought after. Fencing is also one of the first things people see when coming to your home. If your fence is an eyesore, it will be worth it to make the effort to have it replaced or fixed up. A new fence is quite an investment, so first determine if your fence can be spruced up with some nails and a new coat of paint.
9. Hire a Professional Landscaper
If you are serious about creating a stunning yard, a professional landscaper can add massive amounts of curb appeal to make your home one of a kind. A landscaper can help you add impressive things like paving stone walkways, decorative retaining walls, and water features. Outdoor improvements definitely increase house values, but it is always good to know what the market will support in your area before moving forward.
No matter how much money you have to invest in your homes landscaping, there are projects you can do this Spring to improve your homes curb appeal and get it noticed by buyers.
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