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Home Renovation

The front of a white and grey, classic-style house with fall leaves on the ground.

Preparing Your Home for Fall

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Now that the sun is starting to set on summertime and the cooler weather is starting to settle in, it’s time to think about how to prepare your home for the quickly approaching fall season. It’s important to check on various parts of your home in the fall so that it’s ready for the following cold winter months, and VA Home Loans is happy to help you secure the loans and finances to make that possible.

Gutters

Now that it’s September, rainy days are on the horizon in the Treasure Valley. Over the summer, your gutters most likely have collected an assortment of leaves, dirt, and debris. When it rains, this blockage could lead to flooding in the interior of your home and water damage to the exterior. It’s best to make a habit of checking your gutters every fall to see if they need to be cleaned or even replaced so that you don’t have to find out the hard way!

HVAC

After not being used for a few months, your heating system might not be at the ability that it was at the end of last winter. This is one of those things that you don’t want to wait until you first use it to find out that it isn’t working properly! Catching problems with your HVAC system early gives you time to allocate the time and money needed to get it professionally fixed.

Seals

As it cools down, more and more you’ll want to be keeping the heat in and the cold out. The easiest way to do this is to check all of the seals in your house on every door and window to make sure that they are airtight and actually sealed. You would be surprised how much a faulty seal can really affect the air in a home! Additionally, it will help you save big on your electricity and heating bills come wintertime, so checking them periodically is very important.

At VA Home Loans Idaho, we want to make sure that you are able to prepare your home for every season. If you are a veteran looking for a home loan or refinancing options, contact us today. You might even be able to use some of the money you save to fix some of the things mentioned above to get your house ready for the colder seasons!

An array of solar panels on the red roof of a house.

6 Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

By | Home Loans, Home Maintenance, Home Renovation | No Comments

When it comes time to sell your home, getting top dollar is crucial. By upgrading and renovating while you’re still living in your home, you can guarantee to get the most for it when you sell.

1. Smart Technology

Most people looking to buy a new home want it to be upgraded with technology that enhances safety and functionality. Smart technology does both of those things, and is becoming cheaper and more readily available. Some examples of “smart” devices include:

  • Smart thermostats
  • Smart door locks
  • Smart cameras
  • Smart fire and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Smart home hubs (Amazon Echo, etc.)

By incorporating smart devices into your home, you are able to control everything from blinds to kitchen appliances and more. Because all of these can be connected to your smartphone, you can have total control of your house from anywhere in the world.

2. Expanding

Bigger homes tend to sell for more money. If you are able to knock down a few walls to open up space or add an extra room, it could significantly raise the value of your home.

3. Redoing Your Front Yard

Curb appeal is important. You want potential buyers to fall in love with your house before they even go inside. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, there are tons of small improvements you can make that will make a huge difference. Whether it’s redoing the grass or adding a walkway decorated with plants and flowers, making your front yard look nice will give a convincing first impression.

4. Update Your Appliances

New, clean-looking appliances will not only make your house more beautiful but also increase its value. This could mean adding a stainless steel refrigerator and dishwasher or simply upgrading appliances to the newer models. If you are not particularly artistic when it comes to interior design, hiring an expert in the field or looking for ideas online can be a good way to get inspiration. The rule of thumb when it comes to appliances is to make them match. Installing new appliances made out of the same material with a similar look and style will make your kitchen more eye-catching and your house more valuable.

5. Make Your Home Energy Efficient

Lowering your home’s energy costs will save you money while you’re still living there and provide a key selling point. You can install high-efficiency windows that help insulate the house and bring down the electric bill. If you’re looking for a lower-cost option, you can switch out incandescent light bulbs for LEDs or add more insulation around your house. Currently, the popular energy-saving option is solar panels. While they are not exactly cost-efficient at first, they can significantly lower your electric bill and significantly boost property value.

6. Upgrade the Fundamentals

How old is your water heater? Garbage disposal? Electric box? These are things that most people don’t think about but will help you get more money for your home. When the fundamentals are old, buyers often negotiate the price down so they can use the extra money to replace them. If they haven’t been replaced in a long time, now is the time to do it!
While some of these options can be pretty expensive, active military and veterans can refinance with a VA Home Loan and invest that money back into the home. If you have any questions regarding VA Home Loans, don’t hesitate to contact us!

A clean kitchen from a home purchased with a VA Home Loan

VA Loans for Home Renovation

By | Home Loans, Home Renovation, VA Loans | No Comments

The VA offers endless resources for veterans and active military members. Some of these resources go unused by military servicemen – active, reserve, or retired. Especially as regular life begins to resume, we tend to forget about the continued support offered by the federal government through the VA.

One of these underutilized offerings are VA home loan. While the home loan sector has plenty of options available with a range of opportunity, the offerings from the VA are arguably unmatched because of its direct relationship with the federal government. As such, current and former military service members are able to access some of the lowest, most flexible rates, payments, and terms on the market.

Veteran Benefits Update

In April 2018, the Veteran Benefits Administration updated their policies and practices with regard to veteran benefits and home loans. This occurred in response to increasing interest from the military population as well as housing market demands.

“The Aging housing stock in the United States has contributed to the increased demand for alteration and repair loans. Due to the condition of this aged housing, homes are often sold as “cash or conventional financing” which does not allow Veterans to use their VA earned benefit. This guidance will allow Lender’s to make VA-guaranteed loans to Veterans who wish to purchase or refinance a home that is in need of alteration and/or repair. The terms alteration, repair, renovation, and improvement are interchangeable for the purposes.”
Veterans Benefits Administration, Circular 26-18-6

More opportunity was then accounted for within the VA guidelines on loan capacity, which can be found in the Circular 26-18-6 publication.

VA Loan Capabilities and Eligibility

A major misconception about VA home loans is that they can only be used for purchasing or refinancing. This, then, limits what military borrowers feel they are allowed to do. VA home loans can do much more, though. Some loans have cash-out options allowing borrowers to pay for outside costs or reinvest in their home. There are also supplementary terms that can be added to traditional VA home loans that provide specific support for borrowers pursuing home improvement actions. These are then known as renovation, or rehabilitation, loans.

Because rehabilitation loans are just an extension of normal VA home loans, they have the same eligibility requirements or qualifications. As a result, former or active military are given easier access to loan opportunities to purchase and improve their properties.

VA Home Loans: Rehabilitation

VA Rehabilitation Loans are typically used when a property is not completely move-in ready. These loan agreements may require more processing, which will tack on additional time and energies before the borrower can begin residing on the property. However, they can also serve to save the borrower money in the long run based on financial investment, renovation costs, and even property value.

Lender Oversight

It is important to remember that the process is different than a traditional renovation experience. The lender initiates and oversees the renovation process on behalf of the borrower. Because the lender is the general authority on the completion of work, they are in charge of supervising the contractor. This ultimately expedites the renovation process as opposed to the lengthier improvement repairs attempted by homeowners themselves. Lenders are also able to ensure that time is not wasted and the work is accomplished in an efficient manner.

Home Renovation Loan Options

As is the case with nearly every loan, there are term and agreement options that need to be carefully discussed and selected by the borrower. Some areas of adjustment that relate specifically to rehabilitation loans are:

  • Loan type
  • Minimum property requirements (MPR)
  • Contractor requirements
  • Repair/renovation operations
  • Notice of Value (NOV)

Understanding the opportunity and value of these variables will allow every borrower to have a satisfying loan experience. Working with loan professionals that understand industry standards as well as Veteran Affairs and military member needs will provide you with the expertise you need for a smooth transition into your new or renovated home.

Should the Buyer’s Agent Attend the Home Inspection

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A home inspection plays an important role in your home-buying process. By knowing the actual condition of the house that you’re buying, you’re able to reach an informed decision which can either be to move forward or to leave the deal. Curb appeal is one thing, but it’s what’s under the surface that counts. You can hire a contractor to quickly make a property look better on the surface, but what about the foundation, electrical, and plumbing? Those are all big unknowns that need to be addressed.

If you’re not there, you can’t ask questions about the unknowns your inspector uncovers.

It’s undeniably important that you not miss the inspection. Being physically present during the actual home inspection will allow you to familiarize yourself more with the property as well as raise any concerns you have about the property. But should your agent also attend the inspection? Absolutely YES!

You hired your agent to represent you throughout the home-buying process. This means that your agent should be present whenever needed, and that includes a home inspection. Even the seller’s agent should be present during the inspection to ensure that both sides are equally represented.

 

Here are the top 4 reasons why your agent should attend the home inspection:

1. Not all inspectors offer the same quality of work.

Just like realtors, home inspectors can offer amazing to terrible services. They’re only human and therefore are not exempt from making mistakes. However, your agent is your dedicated representative. Having said that, if an inspector is intentionally cutting corners or missing important details, that’s when your agent steps in on your behalf. And while most inspectors always give their best effort to adhere to the standards and requirements of their profession, not all do. That’s why it’s definitely important that you and your realtor are present during the inspection.

2. Your agent helps you make sense of inspection results.

If you’re like most homebuyers, you lack the expertise to analyze the results of the inspection. This is where your realtor should show due diligence by giving you insight and advice to aid you throughout the process. The results of the inspection can make or break a sale. So, it’s always best to have another set of eyes.

3. An agent must be able to make effective negotiations.

In addition, if your agent isn’t present during the actual inspection, effective negotiations just aren’t possible. Negotiation is one of the most important reasons you hire a realtor. A home inspection report will detail issues, minor and major, and that often requires a re-negotiation concerning the terms of the sale. When your realtor is present during the inspection, chances are the negotiation process goes much more smoothly.

4. Representing you as a client is part of a realtor’s job.

Homebuyers’ hire realtors to ensure they’re represented professionally throughout the entire process, and not just during the negotiation process. This means your agent is there from the very beginning all the way through the day you close on your new home. The professional advice of a realtor is not only much needed and deserved, but it’s also crucial to the home-buying process.

Finding the best realtor and the right inspector can be a bit hard, but it’s a necessary step for you to get the most out of your investment. This is why you shouldn’t settle for anything less than the best from your realtor, as well as from your home inspector.

What are the best questions to ask during a home inspection?

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If you’re in the process of buying a new home, get as much information as you can about the property. This is why a professional home inspection is very important and crucial. Homebuyers often ask if they have to be present during the home inspection. And the answer is a big yes. Though it’s not really required, it’s very important that you be physically present during the entire inspection process.

Buying a home is probably the biggest investment you’ll ever make, so you should be confident that you’re doing it right, and asking questions during the inspection will help you make an informed decision on how to move forward. Below are some questions to ask your home inspector on inspection day.

 

1. What credentials do you have?

It’s important to make sure that you’re hiring the right professional to do the home inspection. And asking for their credentials is one of the best ways to do it.

  • What professional organizations do they belong to and what training and qualifications do these organizations require?
  • Ask for certifications.
  • Ask for years of experience.

A reliable and professional home inspector should be knowledgeable about any red flags found during an inspection. Moreover, they should be able to answer all of your questions and give you appropriate advice. So, do your research and hire the right person that can do the job right.

2. What is the condition of the roof?

Ask your home inspector about the condition of the roof. Know if there are any buckling or missing shingles. Ask about the eavestrough and if there’s an accumulation of asphalt granules in the gutters. To avoid an expensive roof replacement, ask the inspector if there are any signs of major wear and tear or past storm damage. If the inspector indicates that there’s a need to replace the roof, ask the seller to replace it or negotiate the price to compensate for the replacement if you’ll have to do it after closing.

3. How well-insulated is the home?

How well the home has been insulated will have a significant impact on your heating and cooling costs. The home’s attic should be well insulated to prevent heat from escaping the home. The insulation rate should be at least an R-value of 60. R-value refers to the capacity of an insulating material to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulating capacity is.

You also need to ask your inspector about the type of insulation used. Vermiculite insulation contains asbestos which can pose a serious health risk if disturbed. The attic should be properly ventilated and the basement should also be insulated. Proper insulation and ventilation throughout the entire home is important in order to prevent mold and mildew growth.

4. How is the electrical system?

To ensure your home is safe from electrical fires, your inspector checks the condition of the home’s electrical wiring. It should be up to code, with no worn, damaged, frayed, or exposed wiring. And if any updates were done, were they done by a licensed electrician? You also need to find out if the electrical is knob-and-tube, as some insurance companies will not insure the house or will they will charge a higher premium. Additionally, you should ask if there are any outlets that are close to water sources like the kitchen, bathrooms, garage, and outdoor locations. Asking these questions will give you a pretty solid idea how safe the electrical system really is.

5. How is the plumbing?

Your home inspector will evaluate drains, water heaters, pipes, water pressure, and test water temperatures to see how well each works. During the inspection, find out if any galvanized-steel piping was used. Galvanized-steel is known to rust, affecting water pressure, and worse they can rupture. Also, remember to ask your inspector if the home has any lead pipes. In older homes the use of lead pipes is fairly common. Over time, lead pipes wear down and can contaminate the water supply.

6. How solid is the foundation of the house?

The inspector will check how solid the home’s foundation is, and also check for any cracks. Keep in mind, however, not all cracks are serious. If any cracks are found in the foundation, ask the inspector what type they are and their sizes. If a dime can fit into a crack, you may want to consider getting a second opinion from a foundation specialist or structural engineer.

7. What is the condition if the HVAC system?

The home’s heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system (HVAC) will be inspected to ensure they’re fully functional. During the inspection, ask the age of the AC unit, as well as how long it should be expected to last. Lastly, ask if the furnace has been properly serviced and maintained.

8. How is the drainage?

Join the inspector during a walk around the home’s exterior. The ground should slope away from the home’s foundation. If you notice any faulty grading, ask your inspector if this is something you should be concerned about. Any downspouts should be intact and directed away from the home’s foundation. Faulty grading and improper drainage can lead to costly foundation issues in the future.

9. Are there any signs of pest infestations?

If your inspector comes across mouse droppings or evidence of other pests, such as termites, it’s good to know if there’s a suspected infestation. Pests can cause significant damage to homes and can also pose a health risk.

10.What’s next?

Once your home inspection is complete you should receive a final detailed report. Once you receive the report, thoroughly read through the report and the results of the home inspection. If you have any questions or concerns about the report, contact your inspector. Asking questions is the best way to make an informed decision. It’s your right and obligation to do so. Best wishes in your quest to find that dream home!

6 Best Roofing Materials Ranked by Durability and Cost

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Written By Lindsey Joy

Choosing a new roof? Or currently building your dream home? Whatever it may be, you’re probably looking for a roofing material that’s going to protect your home without breaking the bank.

In order to help you make an informed decision, we ranked the 6 best roofing materials based on the most important factors that most homeowners consider: durability and cost.

#6 Asphalt Shingles

Longevity: 15-30 years

This roofing material is by far the most popular roofing material because of its cost-effectiveness. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. It’s a good idea to research all the available option first, even if cost is a major concern for you.

It is important that you look for shingles that have a decent hail rating, a good level of impact resistance as well as overall durability. Note that roofing manufacturers aren’t legally required to report their hail rating. But quality manufacturers are more likely to report this data. So, if you don’t see a hail rating, it isn’t a good sign.

One downside of asphalt shingles is that it’s a petroleum-based material which means it isn’t the most sustainable roofing material option available. However, they are recyclable. To ensure they don’t end up in a landfill, look for a local shingle recycling center.

#5 Wooden Shingles and Shakes

Longevity: 30-50 years

Roofing materials made of wood are typically made of fire-resistant woods such as cedar or redwood. But it is important to note that they aren’t fireproof.  While it is true that they do last longer than asphalt shingles, they are not as durable. Wood shingles and shakes are prone to cracking. As with asphalt shingles, you should keep an eye out for their hail rating.

#4 Metal

Longevity: 30-50 years

Common materials used are steel, copper, zinc alloy, or aluminum. Metal roofs are slightly more expensive than asphalt or wood, but are significantly more durable< Some other advantages of choosing a metal roof are:

  • They are impact resistant
  • Needs less maintenance
  • Very energy-efficient
  • Made from recyclable materials and are also 100% recyclable

#3 Plastic Polymer

Longevity: 50 years or so

Plastic polymers are incredibly durable roofing materials that look like slate or wood shingles but require significantly less maintenance. This type of roofing material has high hail ratings and is very energy-efficient. But if you’re after sustainability, then you might want to think twice before choosing this roofing material. Since plastics are built to last, this makes them quite unsustainable. However, you may find many manufacturers that use recycled materials.

#2 Slate

Longevity: 75 to 150 years

Known as the oldest roofing material, slate roofing is quite expensive but it stands out from the competition for reasons as follows:

  • Fireproof
  • Virtually invincible in most extreme weather conditions
  • Energy-efficient

Slate roofing is also 100% sustainable since it is a naturally occurring material, therefore, no toxins are used during the manufacturing process.

#1 Solar Glass

Longevity: Lifetime

Solar glass comes with a lifetime tile warranty and an extremely high hail rating. Overall, this roofing type is the best bet for homeowners that are more concerned with durability over cost. Solar glass roofing is also very energy efficient. And although it’s fairly expensive to install, depending on where you live, you may qualify for a tax credit to offset the cost. Lastly, solar glass roofing is the most sustainable roofing material on our list due to the fact that it generates its own energy.

 

If you have further concerns about other types of roofing materials for your home, give us a call or check out the rest of our blog.