Is Granite Going Out of Style?

Rumor has it: Granite’s going out of style.

Is it true? Could granite’s 30 year reign be coming to an end?

I don’t think so. Granite still remains a solid choice. After all, it’s both durable and attractive and increasingly affordable too. Some Designers are booting it in favor of alternatives that are cheaper, varied, and lighter or just to please granite-tired clients,

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Quartz

Granite’s top competitor, engineered quartz offers the beauty of stone without the maintenance. Its tougher than granite, and highly resistant to scratching, cracking, staining and heat. Because it is non-porous, it doesn’t have to be sealed like natural stone.

Wood

Increasingly, homeowners appreciate natural wood countertops- particularly butcher blocks and those custom created by quality craftsmen. While wood countertops can add warmth, balance and beauty to any modern home, they also require a fair amount of maintenance- must be sealed about once every month. However, wood can be refinished in the event any damage from heat and moisture occurs.

Soapstone

Soapstone is durable and comes in two types: artistic and architectural. It doesn’t stain, and it’s heat-resistant. It’s also non-porous and doesn’t require regular sealing. It is a softer material that can be scratched or nicked with sharp objects. Light gray soapstone will weather and darken over time. Material comes in smaller slabs, so seams will be visible in soapstone countertops longer than 7 feet

Concrete

Concrete has evolved a lot since its countertop entry in the 80’s. Precast concrete countertops are available in a number of different colors. Generally they’re flat and smooth. Historically, concrete countertops have cracked and chipped easily, but recent innovations have made them less prone to damage. Strong and heat resistant concrete slabs can be sealed to prevent staining.

Stainless Steel

Its heat, rust and stain resistant, easy to clean and wont absorb the toughest of bacteria. It’s no surprise that restaurants use stainless steel countertops. Downside? They scratch easily- and show it too. For this reason, it is best to always use a cutting/chopping board anytime you are prepping food. A balance of stainless steel and wood can add warmth, timeless and uber-functional kitchen.

There are other options like Silestone, Corian, Marble and so on!

Thinking of kitchen remodeling? Go with what you like the best! However, if resale is your concern, stick with the more neutral and generally appealing countertops!

Source: Homeadvisor

Dodd-Frank effect on closings after October 3rd, 2015

There is a lot of fuss on the new home loan rules set forth by Dodd-Frank Act. Starting October 3, 2015. “Know Before You Owe” initiative aims to simplify loan disclosures and help borrowers better understand their mortgage terms. Homebuyers might see longer loan processing periods, but they’ll also be less likely to experience last-minute loan drama

However, there’s been quite a bit of ranting around it.

Some of the most fundamental changes are:

  • Four closing documents will be merged into two. Good Faith Estimate and Truth in Lending disclosures will be eliminated and combined into a Loan Estimate formTruth in Lending disclosure and HUD-1 Settlement are being replaced by Closing Disclosure form.
  • Under new rules, lenders must provide closing documents to both parties three business days before the closing date, to give buyers a chance to read them, double check information and make sure they are aligned with what they expected.
  • You’ll receive the loan estimate within three days of providing basic information to each potential lender

PROS

It is appalling that under current system, buyers often have only few hours to wade through complex legal documents that represent the largest purchase most people will ever make. With numbers making their first appearance right at the closing table, Buyers do not have enough time to think them through and compare with what they were advised at beginning of process. A 3-day window gives Buyers opportunity to think through the numbers.

About my personal experience: We decided to try a new attorney charging really low fees. Idea was to cut down recurring attorney costs on recurring purchases. At the Settlement agent’s office, we saw the HUD-1 for the first time. The title related fees seemed quite high (mind you, I didn’t say title insurance), but we did not have any previous documents to compare them with. With lots of questions in mind, we handed them the check, with an understanding that the Settlement office would only deposit it after getting a green light from us.

My immediate stop was at my office to compare the fees. A lot of current title fees were unnecessary and about $ 400 more than what I had paid my previous attorney. Ultimately, the current attorney who I thought was $ 600 cheap turned out to be only $ 150-200 cheap (including his title expenses)!

Low attorney fees was a sheer marketing gimmick (he got his money by charging us higher title fees). But we were at such a late stage of the proceedings that we just decided to move on with the purchase. Had we got a 3-day window to check, things would have been different.

CONS

In some states (closing table states), Agents or Principals have to be physically present for closing. Clients, agents and attorneys are accustomed to routinely making changes at the closing table and still closing the sale on same day. The new three-day waiting period will severely limit this practice for items covered in the TRID documents.

Breather: New Jersey is an ‘Escrow State’ where documents and signatures can be submitted few days prior to closing. We may not be heavily impacted.

When transactions don’t close on time, it’s common for one or more of the principals to be stuck with furniture on a moving van and nowhere to go. Who pays the hotel bills? What if an error retriggers the 3 day waiting period? Can you allow the Buyers to move in quickly with a rental agreement?

There are situations when a principal has to close by a certain date to take advantage of tax breaks on sale of their primary residence or where 1031 tax deferred exchange in involved! The lost tax benefit can run into thousands of dollars!

Delay could also mean losing on to a locked interest rate.

CFBP (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) clarifications:

However, the CFBP had indicated that only three changes would require a new three-day review:

  • APR increases by more than 1/8th of a percent for a fixed rate loan or 1/4th of a percent for adjustable rate loan. A decrease will not require a new 3-day review
  • A prepayment penalty is added, making it expensive to refinance or sell
  • The basic loan product changes, such as a switch from fixed to adjustable rate or to a loan with interest-only payments.

Typos, credits that are given because of unexpected discoveries at walk-through, or changes in real estate commissions, taxes, utilities, proration and the amount paid to escrow will not require a new 3-day review.

Well, then really, are the three changes mentioned above worth the kind of hoopla?

What can you do?

The “Know Before You Owe” disclosure rule may simplify mortgage paperwork, but it doesn’t simplify the mortgage process itself. If you’re buying a house this fall, prepare for a longer closing process. You might want to adjust the term of your rate lock accordingly. And keep the lines of communication open with your lender and seller to avoid closing roadblocks.

Delays, even short ones, can put a buyer at a disadvantage to cash bidders in hot real estate markets. But understanding your loan terms can save you from headaches later.

Good luck!

Real spooky encounters @ house hunting

Who loves good ghost stories and movies and Ghost Hunter shows? Who always loves to gossip about real life paranormal incidents?

It’s all about triggering the amazing fight-or-flight response to experience the flood of adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine, but in a completely safe space.

With my kind of profession, I have to venture into distressed, vacant properties all by myself. Most often than not, the power is also shut off. Looks like a scene right off those haunted movies! With the coming Halloween, thought I’d share some spooky experiences with You.

House #1: This is the most recent experience. I went to see a house. Another Realtor was stepping out after showing his clients. He cautioned me against opening the bathroom door as it emitted super strong smell- a smell that would hit you hard in the face!

I quickly checked the rest of the property, held my breath and briefly opened the bathroom door for a quick glimpse. Looked OK. We put an offer that got accepted!

Since then, my business partner and I went to property few times (and it smelled and smelled).

One fine day, while I was sitting outside that house waiting for the architect and partner to step out, few ladies from the community came to pay a visit. Through them, I learnt that the owner was an old man who lived alone. His house was in shambles.  About 20-30 cats called his house their home! He died in the house and no one knew. Till after 4-5 days, it smelled so bad that neighbors called the cops. Cops had to call his daughter from Texas for identification!!!

Sad story…  But the weird part was, since then, every time we left the house, we would carry the stink with us. A good shower and change of clothes wouldn’t help. The stink seemed to accompany us in our own house- as IF we had brought back something from that property! And then out of nowhere, I started hearing strange squishing sounds in my house during noons!

BOOOOOOO. We took several measures at that property like keep windows open to let fresh air in, circulate incense stick around the house, gut most walls and floors. Result: Fresh, new, crisp smelling house. And those strange sounds? It so happened, my son had started playing games on Ipad and they were getting updated every noon with a strange squish sound J

House # 2: I went to see a half done house in Rochelle Park. It was a cloudy day and no power. Touring the 1st and 2nd floor was a breeze. The basement was pitch dark. I turned on the video on my phone for the flash-light, chanted God’s name and heroically dismounted the stairs. I could only see to the extent of my weak flash-light. I noticed a finished bathroom in the far corner of the basement. Sun rays squeezed in through the translucent window. As I started walking there, a knocking sound appeared from nowhere. The closer I went to the bathroom, it got louder. A quick peek in the bathroom and I scurried out of the basement- and out of the house! I went outside to check if there was any construction work going on in the vicinity, but could see (or hear) nothing.

BOOOOOOO.  I came home and showed the video to family, who agreed to not only hearing the knocks, but they getting louder towards the bathroom. Curiosity took the better of me. I insisted that someone should accompany me to the house for another visit and see if this repeated. No one volunteered J Still wondering what it could that have been…..

House # 3: Around last Halloween, few friends met (some willingly while others obstinately following their spouses) to watch a horror movie ‘MAMA’ at night. For those who haven’t watched it, a dark ghostly image keeps appearing in the movie!

I saw a house in New Milford and thought it was a great Buy. I called my Business Partner to see it. Again, no electricity. Since I had already viewed the house earlier, I was standing at one corner, engrossed in my phone (aah, the joys of owning a smart phone). My partner stepped down in the dingy basement with his flash-light and abruptly retracted at lightening speed. He thought he saw something but wouldn’t explain! I failed to apprehend what it could be- I was there just 2 days ago!!! Maybe a small animal.. or a dog.. or even a homeless man?? What could it be!!!

BOOOOOOOO. Upon further interrogation, he mentioned he saw a black smoky shadow hanging in the basement, like a bat :-) (Does it ring a bell? MAMA?) I had a good, hysterical laugh. He probably saw a shadow of stair-railing while flickering his flash light in the basement. Till date, I enjoy teasing him about that incident- WICKED!

I intend to stay put with my work- which means more property visits and more stories! Until next Halloween……. Ciao!