Eight Ways To Improve Your Home Appraisal

When I read this article I had to share it. ¬†The Caton Team always provides comparable properties for our buyers appraisal. ¬†But when you are refinancing on your own – don’t hesitate to call us – we’ll provide comparable properties for you! ¬†What can the Caton Team do for you?

Eight Ways To Improve Your Home Appraisal

When Kellie and Michael May decided to refinance their home in the New York suburbs, they wanted to take advantage of historically low interest rates. But before landing a new 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, they had to get through a home appraisal.

“It was a major stumbling block,” says Kellie May, who has owned the 4-bedroom, 3-bath colonial for seven years. Not that she and her husband were unprepared; they’d been through an appraisal for another refinance in 2010, so they knew to point out improvements they’d made to the 3,400 square foot home, and supply prices for other neighborhood properties that had sold recently.

But the appraisal came back roughly $70,000 less than the $1,230,000 the Mays were expecting, and too low to support their new loan.

They responded with a paperwork arsenal aimed at their lender, asserting that the appraisal had been based on faulty recent sales data. The loan squeaked through, after the bank crafted an exception for the Mays. It was able to do that because their loan was a jumbo loan, not subject to the more rigid underwriting standards they would have encountered if it were a conventional loan aimed at secondary buyers like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Low appraisals are becoming a bigger problem for many would-be buyers and refinancers as home values have started to stabilize and rise in some markets.

In Leesburg, Florida, for example, low appraisals have caused the cancellation of as many as 15 percent of home sales for local real estate broker Gus Grizzard.

“We are seeing higher price appreciation and are starting to run into appraisal problems,” said Charlie Young, chief executive officer of ERA Franchise Systems, a firm with a national network of real estate brokerage offices, including Grizzard’s. The National Association of Realtors reported on Tuesday that inventories of homes were low and the median price a home resale was, at $180,800 in December, up 11.5 percent in a year.

Appraisals are based on recent sales prices of comparable properties. And in rising price markets, those sales prices might not be high enough to support the newest deals. Young said there were many places in California reporting appraisal problems.

On Friday, the federal government issued new rules aimed at improving the appraisal process as it pertains to high-interest mortgages on rapidly appreciating homes.

But those rules don’t go into effect for a year, and don’t apply to most conventional loans. It pays to protect your own loan before the bank even thinks about sending that guy with the clipboard over to your house.

“The reality is that the appraiser is only there for 30 minutes at most,” says Brian Coester, chief executive of CoesterVMS, a nationwide appraisal management company based in Rockville, Maryland. “The best thing a homeowner can do to get the highest appraisal possible is make sure they have all the important features of the home readily available for the appraiser.”

Here are eight ways you can bolster your appraisal:

MAKE SURE APPRAISER KNOWS YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD – SOOOOOOO IMPORTANT

Is the appraiser from within a 10-mile radius of your property? “This is one of the first questions you should ask the appraiser,” says Ben Salem, a real estate agent with Rodeo Realty in Beverly Hills, California.

He recalled a recent case where an appraiser visited an unfamiliar property in nearby Orange County and produced an appraisal that Salem said was $150,000 off. “If the appraiser doesn’t know the area intimately, chances are the appraisal will not come back close to what a property is really worth.”

You can request that your lender send a local appraiser; if that still doesn’t happen, supply as much information as you can about the quality of your neighborhood.

PROVIDE YOUR OWN COMPARABLES – Call The Caton Team – We’d be happy to help you!

Provide your appraiser with at least three solid and well-priced comparable properties. You will save her some work, and insure that she is getting price information from homes that really are similar to yours.

Websites including Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia offer recent sales prices and details such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in a home.

KNOW WHAT ADDS THE MOST VALUE – Not sure where to put your money? ¬†Call The Caton Team – We’ll help!

If you’re going to do minor renovations, start with your kitchen and bathrooms, says G. Stacy Sirmans, a professor of real estate at Florida State University. He reviewed 150 variables that affect home values for a study sponsored by the National Association of Realtors. Wood floors, landscaping and an enclosed garage can also drive up appraisals.

DOCUMENT YOUR FIX-UPS РKeep those receipts!

If you’ve put money into the house, prove it, says Salem.

“Before-and-after photos, along with a well-defined spreadsheet of what was spent on each renovation, should persuade an appraiser to turn in a number that far exceeds what he or she first called out.”

Don’t forget to highlight all-important structural improvements to electrical systems, heating and cooling systems – which are harder to see, but can dramatically boost an appraisal. Show receipts.

TALK UP YOUR TOWN

If your town has recently seen exciting developments, such as upscale restaurants, museums, parks or other amenities, make sure your appraiser knows about them, says Craig Silverman, principal and chief appraiser at Silverman & Co. in Newtown, Pennsylvania.

DISTINGUISH BETWEEN UPSTAIRS AND DOWNSTAIRS

Many homeowners covet that refinished basement, but that doesn’t mean appraisers look at it the same way. “Improvements and additions made below grade, such as a finished basement, do not add to the overall square footage of your house,” says John Walsh, president of Total Mortgage Services in New York. “So they don’t add anywhere near as much value as improvements made above grade.”

According to Remodeling magazine, a basement renovation that cost $63,000 in 2011-12 will recoup roughly 66 percent of that in added home value. That’s not as good as an attic bedroom, which will recoup 73 percent of its cost. Even similar bedrooms typically count for more if they are upstairs instead of downstairs.

CLEAN UP

Even jaded appraisers can be swayed by a good looking yard. “Tree trimming, cleaning up, a few flowers in the flower beds and paint touch up can all help the appraisal,” says Agnes Huff, a real estate investor based in Los Angeles.

That advice holds true indoors, too. “Get rid of all the clutter in your home,” says Jonathan Miller, a longtime appraiser in New York. “It makes the home appear larger.”

GIVE THE APPRAISER SOME SPACE

Don’t follow the appraiser around like a puppy. “I can’t tell you how many homeowners or listing agents follow me around in my personal space during the inspection,” he says. “It’s a major red flag there is a problem with the home.”

And while you’re at it, make the appraiser’s job as pleasant as possible by giving your home a pleasant smell. At a minimum, clean out the litter box. Baking some fresh cookies and offering him one or two probably won’t sway your appraisal, nor should it. But it couldn’t hurt.

I read this article at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/22/us-usa-housing-appraisals-idUSBRE90L0ZE20130122?VBd0T4I3F0KvenaC7w1NXQ=1

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Reality of Real Estate Reality TV – by Sabrina Caton

The Reality of Real Estate Reality TV

Aside from my passion in real estate, I love writing and learning about movie and TV production.  A while back, a high-school friend of mine, Robin, was on one of the popular Real Estate Reality shows that so many of us are addicted too.  As soon as I finished her episode I was online asking her questions about her experience and how it all worked out.

The truth behind ‚Äúreal estate reality‚ÄĚ TV was as enlightening as it was awesome.¬† Why?¬† Because the truth set me free!¬† It confirmed it‚Äôs an entertainment show and not a true reflection on how buying a home really works.

Robin told me the episode is shot backwards.¬† They had already purchased their condo, they had spent plenty of weekdays and weekends house-hunting with their agent and doing the real work.¬† However, after they closed escrow on their new home, the production of the show started.¬† They walked through their future home and pretended to shop it.¬† Then the producers found two other properties, ones they may or may not have seen prior to buying and they walked through those too ‚Äď pretending to pick it apart or discuss their likes and dislikes.

Then at the end of the show, they reveal which unit they bought and it’s all smiles and a shot of signing a one-page contract.  So not a true picture of what it takes to buy a home!

The relief spilled over me.  Of course, I knew these shows were for entertainment.  Going on 10 years as a Realtor myself, I’ve rarely showed a home, drew up a contract, got the contract accepted and closed escrow in 30 minutes, minus the commercial spots.  But the people, the real buyers, are watching the show and not thinking about it as entertainment as much as following a buyer’s journey.

That‚Äôs where the hard part starts for us Realtors!¬† Get a new client in the car, ready to show some homes and they tell you ‚Äď we only want to do this for about a month. Scrape my jaw off the floor and break the truth to them.¬† In today‚Äôs real estate market, at least here on the SF Peninsula ‚Äď you‚Äôll be house hunting for months!¬† Some people can handle it some cannot.¬† I guess it‚Äôs one of those moments where you separate the men from the boys.

So I thought I would write a blog about it and share my ‚ÄėAh-Ha‚Äô moment.¬† Because we, (myself included before I became a licensed Realtor), would sit down and enjoy these shows and in the back of our minds we believed it was that easy.

In the last year or so, the SF Peninsula has switched from a buyers market, with plenty of inventory in various price ranges and condition, to a sellers market, with limited inventory and even the trashy properties receiving multiple offers and over bidding.

Real estate, as all things are, is cyclical.¬† What goes up, goes down, then up again.¬† That‚Äôs when I remind my buying clients that life is not like those TV shows, not even close to the ones branded as Reality TV.¬† If you truly want to own a piece of the Silicon Valley, it is going to take work, patience, and flexibility.¬† And the view from my drivers seat is fantastic.¬† There are opportunities out there for each buyer, they just have to open their eyes and their mind ‚Äď and drop the ‚Äėreality‚Äô from those TV shows.

So get off the couch and in my car ‚Äď we‚Äôll take you on a real Real Estate journey ‚Äď just a bit longer than 30 minutes.

Thanks for reading!  Sabrina
Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.
Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com
Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/
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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:
Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Bay Area home prices up 24.6% over 2012 – SF Gate Reports….

Great article I had to share by Carolyn Said in the SF Chronicle Friday.¬† It falls in line with what The Caton Team has advised our buying clients lately.¬† The market has definitely turned up the heat.¬† And I honestly have mixed feelings about this.¬† Don‚Äôt get me wrong ‚Äď I am so happy to see our real estate climate heal from the crash.¬† But I don‚Äôt want to see another bust either!¬† My heart goes out to our first time buyers ‚Äď most of who are pulling their hair out ‚Äď trying to save enough of a down payment to compete with cash buyers ‚Äď watching their smartphone apps track interest rates and counting their pennies, rather twenty dollar bills, when the rate sneaks up a half a percent.¬† I‚Äôm also excited for sellers who‚Äôve been waiting for the chance to sell without bringing money to the table.¬†¬† But then the next question arises ‚Äď where do we go if we sell?¬† The SF Peninsula is experiencing a unique real estate market and we are grateful for the opportunity.¬†¬† Enjoy this article‚Ķ.I‚Äôve added my 2 cents in italics – please share your¬†opinions¬†too!

 With high demand, low inventory, bidding wars return

In the latest sign of a rebounding real estate market, eager buyers vying for a limited pool of properties pushed Bay Area median home prices 24.6 percent higher in February compared with last year, according to a real estate report released Thursday.

“Drum-tight inventory, lower (interest) rates than most people alive have ever seen, and in some areas record levels of investor purchases (created) an unusual environment,” said Andrew LePage, analyst at San Diego’s DataQuick, which produced the¬†report.

Another big factor – “unleashing of pent-up (buyer) demand,” he said. During the downturn, “for years, some people sat on the sidelines, afraid to buy. Now there’s been a shift in psychology in the past year with people switching from fearing prices might fall more, to fearing they will go up, so they want to buy¬†now.”

This is so true.¬† I myself was sitting in the seller seat since 2009 ‚Äď it felt like no one was looking to buy.¬† For years we were ‚Äúon the market‚ÄĚ with no offers in site.¬† After pulling my condo off the market for one more try at the loan modification game ‚Äď by October 2012 ‚Äď I stuck out the For Sale sign again and within a week I had several offers.¬† In the end 20 offers in had, 10 over the asking price and 5 buyers more than willing to pay a the upcoming HOA assessment!¬† What a change in the tide!

An improving economy and job growth Рfactors that are stronger here than elsewhere in the country Рalso feed buyer demand.

We are blessed to live in the Silicon Valley where the tech, bio-chemical industries call home.

“The San Francisco Bay Area is the hottest market in the country right now,” said Errol Samuelson, president of Realtor.com, the online marketplace for the National Association of Realtors.

February’s sales median for the nine-county region was $405,000, compared with $325,000 in February 2012. It was the fourth straight month in which prices rose more than 20 percent compared with the prior year, and the ninth consecutive month of double-digit increases, DataQuick¬†said.

The same dearth of inventory that amped up prices caused the volume of sales to slump 6.1 percent compared with a year earlier. A total of 5,404 new and resale homes and condos changed hands in the region in February, DataQuick said.

Return of bidding wars

Realtors around the area report that tight inventories are spurring ferocious bidding wars over properties Рa phenomenon that holds true at all price points.

In Berkeley, John and Judith of the Grubb Co. sold three homes in recent weeks that listed for more than $1 million and went for substantial amounts above asking. One architecturally distinctive home was listed at $1.295 million but sold for $1.8 million, all cash Рmore than half a million dollars, or 39 percent, above the asking price.

“Everything in our market is getting multiple offers,” Judith said. “We need more¬†inventory.”

At a different point on the scale, Annie, an agent with ZipRealty in the East Bay, recently took an investor client to tour a $399,000 four-bedroom tract home in Dublin.

“We drove up and saw all these people in a line,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘What the hey?’ and then I realized it was to get in this particular house. It’s human nature; if people think they can’t get something, they want it more. We stood in line for over an hour to get¬†in.”

Her client offered $92,000 over asking and lost out to another investor who bid $100,000 more than the list price, she said. There were 40 offers.

“It’s an investor’s market right now,” Judith said. “Our first-time home buyers … are having a really hard time getting an offer accepted. It’s hard for them to compete with¬†investors.”

Absentee buyers

Indeed, investors continued to be powerful forces in the market. Absentee buyers accounted for an all-time high of 28.2 percent of February sales, DataQuick said. All-cash buyers also hit a record, representing 31.9 percent of February sales. Historically, cash transactions have been about 12.9 percent of sales.

Realtor.com data show that listings here are being snapped up much more quickly than elsewhere in the nation. In Alameda County, for instance, listings go into escrow on average within 14 days of hitting the market. Nationwide, it takes 98 days for houses to sell.

Around the Bay Area, inventories of for-sale homes are about half what they were a year ago, Realtor.com shows. By contrast, nationwide, inventories are down about 16 percent compared with last year, Samuelson said.

That’s true in many micro-markets as well. Take San Francisco’s Nob Hill, for instance. A year ago, it had 30 homes for sale. Now it has just 15, according to¬†Redfin.

Kiesha S, a listing specialist with Redfin, is preparing a two-bedroom Nob Hill condo Рa remodeled unit that retains its early 1900s character, including stained glass windows, wood wainscoting and two fireplaces Рto hit the market next week for $799,000, a relative bargain in that neighborhood.

She’s already had six agents ask if they could make pre-emptive¬†offers.

“There’s so little inventory that things are definitely skewed in sellers’ favor,” she said. “Right now there seems to be a surge of¬†buyers.”

Fewer distress sales

DataQuick said that changes in the market mix, such as fewer bargain-priced distress sales and more high-end homes, account for about half of the median’s increase. In other words, all Bay Area home values did not jump 25 percent in February, although values definitely are rising across the board. Distress sales – foreclosures and short sales, both often sold at a discount – are still above their historic norms but are¬†declining.

About a third of February’s existing-home sales were distressed; a year ago more than half (53.4 percent) were foreclosures or short sales, DataQuick said. Just 13.6 percent of resales were foreclosures in February, the lowest level since November¬†2007.

At their peak in February 2009, foreclosures accounted for 52 percent of all resales. Short sales also declined, but not as much. They were 21.4 percent of resales, versus 27.0 percent a year ago.

The number of homes selling for more than $500,000 rose 27.7 percent compared with last year, while those less than $500,000 fell 14.4 percent, DataQuick said.

Prices, which went into free fall during the downturn, are still far off their peaks. The Bay Area median reached a high of $665,000 in summer 2007 and a low of $290,000 in March 2009. DataQuick said that if the current rate of increase holds up, the Bay Area prices will be halfway back to their peak this spring or summer.

By Carolyn Said

As a full time Realtor this is exciting news for growth in our area.  As a potential buyer, I know I cannot save fast enough to compete with the overbids and cash offers coming down the pipeline.  There is a small window for some buyers today, a window that can shut if interest rates rise while prices are also climbing.  

My advise to buyers – get approved and get out there NOW!¬† Be clear on your financial goals; be sure you have done your math and know what you can afford.¬† Then look at what you can buy and re-evaluate your situation.¬† The Caton Team is here to help ‚Äď every step of the way ‚Äď please call or email your questions or comments ‚Äď info@TheCatonTeam.com¬†

My advise to sellers ‚Äď if you‚Äôve been waiting for market and price recovery ‚Äď now is the time!¬† It appears some sellers don‚Äôt even need to prepare their home for sale, just listing the home on the market will get a line around the block.¬† The Caton Team is here to help too!¬†

¬†I would love to hear your opinions too! ‚Äď Sabrina¬†

I read this article at: http://www.sfgate.com/realestate/article/Bay-Area-home-prices-up-24-6-over-2012-4356658.php#page-1

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-city

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

 

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Home Buyers Face Dilemma with Housing Shortage – SF GATE sheds some light…

After a great open house yesterday with candid discussions with the buyers out there. ¬†It was great to find this article this morning in the Sunday paper regarding what Realtors in the Bay Area were already thinking. ¬†If you want to call our glorious SF Peninsula home – now is the time. ¬†We hit bottom, whether it was 2009 or 2012. ¬†With limited inventory and low rates driving renters from out under their rock – homes are selling with multiple offers and for over their listed price. ¬†And with demand this strong – we don’t feel prices are going to fall anytime soon. ¬†Take a read and let me know your thoughts. ¬†Comment or email us at info@thecatonteam.com! ¬†Enjoy!

Home Buyers Face Dilemma with Housing Shortage

The sharp drop in homes for sale poses a tough choice for buyers: Jump in now and compete with hordes of others or wait until inventory¬†improves.¬† If you buy now, you might have to pay above asking. But if you wait, you could end up paying an even higher price and a higher interest rate if you need a loan. That’s because inventory won’t improve until prices rise enough to get more homeowners to sell and more builders to break¬†ground.

The inventory shortage is especially acute in California. Of the 30 largest housing markets, the four with the biggest drops in homes listed for sale on Zillow in February compared with February of last year were Sacramento (48 percent), Los Angeles, San Francisco (41 percent) and San¬†Diego.¬† Although listings are increasing on a month-to-month basis as the busy spring season gets under way, Trulia Chief Economist Jed Kolko predicts they won’t start rising on a year-over-year basis for a year or¬†more.

An example of that: “In all of Millbrae, there was one listing two months ago. There are about a dozen now,” says Roger Dewes, a Coldwell Banker agent on the Peninsula. In a normal market, there might be 20. “We are not there yet, but going from one to 12 is quite a leap,” he¬†says.

Experts cite five factors contributing to the inventory shortage:

Fewer foreclosures are hitting the market. “California did a good job of disposing of its backlog” of distressed properties, says Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries.

In California, where most foreclosures are handled out of court, the process is taking about 11 months on average, according to RealtyTrac. In New York and New Jersey, where foreclosures go through a court proceeding, the process is taking 36 and 32 months, respectively.

Many people still owe more than their homes are worth. If they sold now, they would have to come up with extra cash to pay off their loan. Although prices have rebounded from their lows, 23.3 percent of homes with a mortgage in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties were still underwater in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to Zillow.

Even if they are not underwater, many owners won’t sell for less than they paid. If they bought near the peak, it may take a while before they are ready to¬†budge.

The median price paid for a new or resale home or condo in the nine-county Bay Area was $415,000 in January. That’s less than halfway between its low of $290,000 in March 2009 and its high of $665,000 set in June/July 2007, according to¬†DataQuick.

Many people, even if their homes are worth more than they paid, won’t sell because they are afraid they won’t be able to buy another house. “It becomes a game of musical chairs; they are afraid to get out because they can’t get back in,” Humphries says. This becomes “a self-reinforcing cycle” that keeps homes off the¬†market.

The housing bust put new construction on hold.

The shortage comes at a time when demand is rising in the Bay Area, not just from regular buyers but from investors, second-home buyers and foreign buyers, especially from Asia.

‘Heck of a¬†wreck’

The result is stories like this: A 1,500-square-foot home on Clipper Street on San Mateo’s east side, advertised as a “heck of a wreck,” attracted 97 offers in the first eight days, says listing agent Claire Haggarty of NBT Realty Services.

The home was listed in mid-January at $375,000, which Haggarty considered “a little under market.” It sold for $510,000 in an all-cash deal with no inspections, no contingencies and a 10-day¬†close.

At some point, prices will rise enough to shake lose more inventory, but it won’t happen¬†immediately.¬† Based on what’s happening around the country, Kolko says inventory tightens fastest in the first 12 months after prices hit a bottom. “Everybody wants to buy at the bottom and nobody wants to sell at the bottom,” he¬†says.

About 12 months after hitting bottom, inventory continues to decline, albeit at a slower pace. But it won’t increase on a year-over-year basis until at least two years after hitting bottom, he¬†predicts.¬† If you adjust for the mix of homes sold, Kolko says prices bottomed in February 2012 nationwide and in most parts of California and the Bay Area. (The San Jose metro area bottomed earlier, in June¬†2011.)

Although DataQuick shows Bay Area home prices bottoming in 2009, that’s when most homes being sold were low-priced. The middle and upper end of the market bottomed in early 2012, says DataQuick’s Andrew LePage.

If you believe Kolko’s two-year rule, inventory won’t begin increasing on a year-over-year basis until at least early 2014 in most¬†areas.¬† Humphries says it might improve earlier, by the end of the year, but “this spring will still be challenging from an inventory perspective.” If you wait until next year to buy, the market may be cooler but prices are likely to be higher. There’s also a risk that interest rates will be higher, he¬†says.

Sweet spot 

The sweet spot for buyers might be this summer. Even though inventory is falling year-over-year, “the seasonal pattern means there will be more homes on the market in the summer,” Kolko says. “Search traffic peaks in the spring, but inventory peaks in¬†July.”¬† Many buyers also go on vacation in July and August, Dewes¬†says.

The decision to buy or wait “really comes down to a fundamental decision about how long you will be in a home,” Humphries says. “If you want to be in a home long enough to make buying better than renting, make that decision as soon as you¬†can.”

In the city of San Francisco, the breakeven point where it makes more sense to own is 3.7 years, Humphries says. “If you will be there more than 3.7 years, I’d say buy¬†now.”

By Kathleen Pender SF GATE

I read this article at: http://www.sfgate.com/business/networth/article/Home-buyers-face-dilemma-with-shortage-4342162.php#page-2

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-city

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Pintrest: https://pinterest.com/SabrinaCaton/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/thesabby

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

 

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina