Monday, September 10, 2018

Housing shortage spreads to Oregon coast

Housing shortage spreads to Oregon coast: NEWPORT, Ore. — Hot housing markets in major cities like Seattle and Portland have pushed the cities to regulate short-term rentals like Airbnb. But small Pacific Northwest towns popular with visitor

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Your Local Market Report from your Local Market Expert - Tigard, Oregon

Your Local Market Report - Portland, Oregon -

Portland Market Action Report - July 2018

Save Money and the Environment One LED Bulb at a Time

Way back in 2012, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was being phased in. One of the most useful — and controversial — results was that old fashioned light bulbs had to be reinvented. All light bulbs manufactured after the phase out dates, which varied from state to state, had to use 25 percent less energy than their ancestors.
With that one change in the way light bulbs would be made rose three major options for homeowners: the curly compact fluorescent bulb, halogen incandescents and the light emitting diode. Although there are some specific uses for halogen incandescents, the most commonly used bulbs in residential settings are CFLs and LEDs. Of the two, the LED is currently the most cost-effective option, even when adjusting for the difference in price.

What is an Light Emitting Diode?

The part that actually creates the light in an LED bulb is a tiny cell the size of a fleck of pepper. Using a mix of blue, red and green LEDs, a bulb manufacturer is able to create white, directional light that costs almost nothing to power.
Unlike incandescent bulbs that waste electricity by converting up to 90 percent of the energy they use into heat and CLFs that release about 80 percent of their energy as heat, LEDs release so little heat that they’re often cool to the touch even after hours of use.
An Energy Star rated LED bulb uses significantly less electricity (up to 75 percent!) and lasts up to 25 times longer than traditional lighting. This is no small thing, especially when you consider that every home, every business, every street light, may eventually sport these bulbs.

Doing the Math: Cost Savings With LEDs

The United States Department of Energy already did the math, a lucky break for bulb-shoppers everywhere. When new bulbs are compared to a traditional 60 watt bulb, the 12 watt LED outshines them all.
According to the Department of Energy, those LEDs use 75 to 80 percent less electricity than the 60 watt bulb and only costs about $1.00 to use for two hours each day for a year. Oh, and the bulb life is approximately 25,000 hours, compared to 1,000 hours for the old reliable.
This means that if you have, say, 50 bulbs in your house and they’re all running for five hours a day (a more realistic number than two hours), your cost to light up with an LED is about $125 each year, for 13.7 years, provided energy costs remain stable.
The same lighting use with the old fashioned incandescent would cost you $600 each year, plus you’d be replacing bulbs every 6.57 months. Sure, maybe they cost a buck or two each, but the constant replacement and increased electricity costs certainly can make a big impact on your pocketbook.

Choosing the Right Bulbs

Along with better lighting standards came a way to compare bulbs across platforms. After all, who really knows which CFL is equivalent to that LED or halogen incandescent option? The Lighting Facts Label solved that problem. Instead of measuring bulbs by the power they consume, it measures them by the light they produce.
Now, a 1600 lumen CFL, LED and halogen incandescent are easy to price compare. This label also includes information on how much energy the bulb uses annually, its lifespan and what color the light is that it produces, measured by the correlated color temperature on the Kelvin scale. It’s an easy way to know that you’re getting exactly what it is that you want in a bulb.

Now That You’ve Moved In, How Are You Lighting That House?

Your new house will eventually reveal its darker spots, meaning you’re gonna need more light to get the job done. But it’s not a problem because your HomeKeepr community can introduce you to the best electricians in your area. Before you know it, your home will be the most luminous thing in the neighborhood — and you’ll be saving bundles because of all the LED bulbs you chose to install.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Smoking kills... your home's resale value

Smoking kills... your home's resale value: We all know that puffin’ is no good for your stuffin’ (organs), but did you know that it can also be detrimental to your home’s value?

Does Your School District Affect Your Home’s Value?

Home values are determined through a complicated series of calculations roughly based on the cost of actual construction plus value-adds like proximity to shopping and other conveniences. The prices that other nearby homes have sold for in the past are also taken into consideration. Formulas are applied, mysterious algorithms are run.
In short, home valuation is magic and appraisers are all wizards.
Although the workings behind the curtain may be both intimidating and seemingly unpredictable to home buyers and sellers, there is one thing that we can say definitely can affect your home’s value is your school district.

The Numbers Have It

A quick twirl around the web turns up a handful of recent surveys and studies that all say essentially the same thing: better schools means your house might be worth more.
It’s interesting, though, that at least one study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that schools that were just barely below the average for quality had no influence on the homes where their students lived. These houses were priced based only on their characteristics, like having three bedrooms or a lot the size of a city block. On the other hand, higher-quality school districts increased each home’s price well above what the physical characteristics would have normally indicated.
The National Association of Realtors reports that 26 percent of all buyers chose their house based on the school district’s quality. However, among age groups prime to have children in the household, 40 percent of those under 36 years of age considered the school district an influential factor, as did 35 percent of those buyers 37 to 51.
The New York Times noted that “There are many factors in a home price, of course, but economists have estimated that within suburban neighborhoods, a 5 percent improvement in test scores can raise prices by 2.5 percent.”

How Much More Will You Pay?

The problem with trying to price a home based on less concrete metrics, like school district quality, is that there’s someone else out there that also has an idea what that added value amounts to and may want to fight you for it. This year in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas metroplex, for example, homes were frequently being sold for more than their listed price because someone out there had to have that house in that location and right now.
But, you can still look at price trends for homes in a very general and national way to get a feel for the influence of school districts. The Washington Post reported on a huge study by Redfin that included 407,000 home sales and almost 11,000 elementary school districts across 57 metropolitan markets. The study’s goal was to determine the average additional value brought to homes by their elementary districts.
Surprisingly, top-rated districts brought a whopping $50 per square foot extra when compared to average schools. That’s an extra $100,000 for a 2,000 square foot home!! The effect in California’s hottest markets was even more dramatic, with buyers paying up to $500,000 more for the best districts.

Compromises: School or Shopping?

When announced its findings from a back to school survey in 2013, a few surprising trends popped up. For example, buyers were more than happy to make major sacrifices in order to get their kids into the right school district. Of the people surveyed and indicated that school boundaries were an important factor in their search (90.53 percent), 42 percent would give up parks and trails, 43.96 would give up a bonus room, 50.6 would give up easy accessible shopping and 62.39 percent could live without a pool or spa.
Three out of five buyers said that school boundaries would definitely influence their buying decisions.

Breaking It All Down

All of this may sound quite complicated, but at the end of the day, it’s really simple. There are only so many houses in the best school districts, and there are more buyers to buy than sellers to sell. Since school districts are so important to many buyers, things like bidding wars may result, where buyers make above sales price offers, perhaps many of them, until someone is tapped out and a winner is named.
Their prize? The house that is now $40k over asking price.
It’s a snowball effect, really. Those way-over-asking-price homes end up being comparable homes when the appraiser comes around a few months later, raising the prices of all the homes around them. So, in a very real way, it can be said that your school district, provided it’s a good one and not merely average, has a massive impact on your home’s value.

Where Can You Go for Advice on Buying or Selling in a Hot School District?

Your HomeKeepr community is a wealth of information about all things home ownership. From buying your first house to having a home inspection, getting help with a tax reassessment, or having someone out to repair the gutters, you’ll have your choice of the best home pros in your area. Log in today to find the people who can answer your burning questions or help you navigate a tricky transaction in the school district of your dreams.

Friday, August 17, 2018

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Radon

You found the perfect home. It’s gorgeous, energy efficient, in a great neighborhood and well within your budget. You wonder to yourself, “why is this perfect home still on the market?” Then you read the disclosures. Your perfect pad has a serious radon problem.

Radon and You: 7 Things to Know

Radon is a reasonably common problem in homes, so if you come across a house that you absolutely adore, you’re not even remotely out of luck. Instead, you may reap the benefits of someone else’s lack of information about the gas. Here are seven things to know if you’re considering a home with a radon problem:
  1. Radon is a radioactive gas. You can’t smell it, see it or taste it, but it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer anyway. Of course, it doesn’t go straight to cancer right away, but exposure over time will increase the likelihood of lung cancer in the home’s occupants if it’s left alone.
  2. Testing for radon is simple. You can choose to perform a short-term, long-term or continuous test for radon levels in a building. The short-term tests are active charcoal-based and only take about a week to complete. These are the kind that are typically used by radon inspectors.
  3. Radon is everywhere. Radon occurs naturally in the environment as a result of the breakdown of radioactive elements, such as uranium. Because of that, it’s literally everywhere, but typically in very small amounts. It doesn’t become a problem until you’re exposed to high concentrations of the gas.
  4. Smokers are at higher risk of radon-related lung cancer. A 4pCi/L, the level at which radon mitigation is typically recommended, non-smokers have about the same risk of cancer as they do of dying in a car crash, that’s about 7 in 1,000 people. Smokers, on the other hand, are at a risk five times that of dying in a wreck and 62 out of 1,000 may develop lung cancer.
  5. You can mitigate radon in any home. With enough money and effort, any home can become a low radon zone. One in 15 homes has an unacceptably high radon level, which is why it’s so important to test yours. Note to home buyers: this is one of those things you can ask the seller to do prior to your occupancy.
  6. DIY is possible for radon control. Only attempt it if you’re intimately familiar with your home’s construction methods, radon gas and sampling procedures. A bad DIY radon job isn’t like a bad paint job — incorrect processes can result in higher radon levels than before.
  7. It’s possible that your house itself is causing your radon levels to be high. Certain building materials that happen to be almost everywhere in your home, like drywall and concrete, tend to radiate radon in very low levels. Once in a while, though, the radon coming out of the walls is more than just a little bit. In this case, you definitely need an expert to guide the mitigation.
Just because radon is everywhere doesn’t mean you have to live with it. Radon mitigation systems are very good at removing large amounts of radon from any home. Most work by literally sucking the radon right out of the crawlspace or from underneath a poured concrete slab like what you’d find in a basement.
Slabs must be sealed and barriers installed in crawl spaces to ensure that the radon has no place to go but up and out the vacuum system. Once released into the air above your home, it’s no longer a threat and you can breathe deeply once again.
If you need a radon vacuum, make sure yours comes with a continuous monitoring system as well. It might cost a little bit extra, but you’ll know exactly if or when radon levels are unacceptable. Since levels vary throughout the year, this is a good investment in your future.

Do You Have a Pro for That?

Heck yeah! The HomeKeepr community is full of experts that can handle nearly any issue that may crop up before, during or after your home purchase. From plumbers to bankers (and even radon mitigators), your HomeKeepr family has your back. Pop on by to get the latest scoop on the very best pros in the area. Bonus: they come highly recommended by other local experts, so you know you can count on each and every home pro in the community.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Can you afford to finance a tiny home?

Can you afford to finance a tiny home?: As more people buckle under the weight of mortgage and rental rates, alternative housing has become a viable option. Specifically, tiny homes have piqued the interest of those wanting to ditch the picket fence and fat loan. But how affordable is a tiny home? Not very.

House hunters feel burn of hot market in Clark County

House hunters feel burn of hot market in Clark County: A home shouldn’t have been so hard to find, Morganna Figueroa recalled.

The Loan Estimate Form Turns Oranges Into Apples

Shopping for a house can be stressful, but choosing a loan has the potential to be just as bad. There’s a lot to know, a small window in which to figure it all out and a 30 year commitment to a loan product that might just not be right for you for to worry about. All in all, it might be easier to remove your own inflamed appendix than to pick a mortgage.

The Loan Estimate Form and You

If you’ve already been to see one or more mortgage bankers or brokers and received a Loan Estimate form that explains your loan options, grab those now. If not, you can follow along with this dummied up copy provided by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is definitely a blog that needs some real life props.
There are a lot of things to see on this form, but it’s a million times easier than the form that was its predecessor. The goal with the new Loan Estimate form was to make it more accessible for more people and, hopefully, easier to compare apples to apples. Let’s see what’s in your orchard.

The Big Question: What’s This Loan Cost?

One of the most important variables for many buyers is the monthly cost of their home loan. After all, the monthly payment is immediate and pressing. If you can’t make it, you have nowhere to live and bad things happen. Check out these items to figure your immediate costs:
Monthly Principal and Interest. You can find information on your monthly payment on the front page of the Loan Estimate form. Under the “Loan Terms” section, you’ll find the “Monthly Principal and Interest” line. That’s the base payment for your loan — and if there’s a big, fat “No” next to it, this is always going to be the base payment for your loan, until you sell, refinance or pay it off.
Balloon Payment. Two lines down is the “Balloon Payment” option. You want this to say “No” unless you have a plan to pay the loan off before the balloon hits. A balloon payment is an amount of money you still owe on the loan when the term is up. So, if you have a loan that has payments calculated like it’s a 30 year loan, but the balloon is expected in five, you essentially have to pay 25 years worth of payments all at once when that five year term is up.
Projected Payments. Pop on down to the section called “Projected Payments.” This section breaks your payment down into more parts. Not only is your base payment included, you’ll see a line for mortgage insurance and escrowed items (usually this includes taxes and homeowner’s insurance). If there’s a planned change in your loan payment, like the removal of mortgage insurance, your “Projected Payments” section will have more than one column for payment information. You’ll read this left to right to see how your payment changes over time.
Estimated Taxes, Insurance and Assessments. The escrowed items are detailed in this section. Normally, that’s one month’s worth of taxes, homeowner’s insurance and HOA fees.
Cash to Close. You’ll probably have to bring some money to closing. You’ll find out just how much on the very last line of page one. You can find the details on this figure on page two, but we’re going to skip that for now.

Comparing Your Tree Fruit

On page three, you’ll find one last set of very important numbers for comparing your loan offers. It’s even labeled “Comparisons.” This section will help you understand the long-term differences over the loans that you’re considering. If loan one will cost you $50k over the first five years and loan two costs $60k in the same time period, it’s clear that in the long run, the first loan will do you better. But let’s say you’re not as interested in the long run as you are in the now.
Right now, you have a small down payment and you’re trying hard to hold on to as much cash as possible for emergencies. Back on page one might be the better place to look for your answers. It’s possible that the loan that’s cheaper in the long run costs a great deal more in cash to close. In that case, you may want to take the more expensive long-term loan and plan to refinance after a few years.
While you’re on page one, go ahead and compare those payments. Do both estimate forms include mortgage insurance or escrows? If so, it’s an easy side-by-side comparison. If not, you’ll want to look at the principal and interest payment, and find out what the average taxes and insurance cost in your market so you can estimate how much extra to hold back each month so you can pay those yourself.

How ‘Bout Them Fees?

The elusive page two includes details on your closing costs. This is everything from loan origination costs to prepaid items like your portion of the current year’s taxes. All of this stuff, when added together, end up on the last line in the right-hand column. That’s your cash to close.
If you’ve rolled any of those fees into your mortgage, you’ll see those appear next to the line that says “Closing Costs Financed…” Asking your mortgage professional for a couple of different Loan Estimate forms with and without fees added to your mortgage can help you decide whether it makes financial sense to pay for those items now or finance them over time.
It’s a pretty handy form, really.

Need to Find a Banker or Broker First?

Of course, none of this is meaningful unless you have some context to set it in. That’s where your friendly neighborhood mortgage professional comes in. If you haven’t started shopping loans, your HomeKeepr family can point you in the right direction. After all, your Realtor has already recommended their favorite brokers and bankers, all you have to do is pick up the phone and call. They’re always happy to help.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

One Step Over the Line: Property Line Disputes and You

When you moved into your new house, the neighbors were so friendly. You almost felt bad about putting up a fence, but you promised your dog he’d have plenty of room to frolick when you finally owned your own little piece of land. So you did, and now those same neighbors are giving you the cold shoulder, along with a letter from their attorney.
What in the world caused them to turn from the nicest people you’d ever meet to ice-in-their-veins cold? According to their lawyer (they’re not speaking to you anymore), you’ve encroached on their property with your fence.

Property Line Disputes: The Basics

Please note: the laws that revolve around property line disputes vary wildly from state to state, so this topic can only be addressed in broad strokes. We’ll give you a good place to start to understand why your neighbors are so angry, though.
All you wanted to do was build a fence. You thought the place you stuck it looked right — it was kinda along the middle of the space between the two houses. You kind of figured that if you were off by a foot or two, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. As it turns out, people get really touchy about a foot of land these days.
What’s happened here is that you’ve accidentally taken the first step to adverse possession of the neighbor in question’s land. This threatens to decrease their property value, since you could, in theory, become the legal owner of that land given enough time and effort. Of course, you didn’t mean to do it, but they can’t see that right now. Right now they’re just angry.

What is Adverse Possession?

Adverse possession, as defined legally, is when a random person occupies your property in an open, hostile and continuous way. Breaking it down:
The open: The occupant made no secret of being there. They’re not hiding or trying to be sneaky.
The hostile: You didn’t tell this person it was ok to hang out, they didn’t seek your permission anyway, maybe they thought it was theirs or maybe they just didn’t care who owned the place.
The continuous: The usurper is there for a long time without stop. In some states, this can be as little as about five years, in others it might be 20. It’s important for affected owners to act fast if they don’t know which category their state is in.
By not having your property surveyed before putting up your fence, you’ve done all of these things, though obviously not intentionally. But now that you know, it’s time to do something to clear the air.

Some Solutions to Boundary Woes

In this scenario, you’re the accidental assailant, but it could just as easily happen in reverse, where you’re the one whose new neighbor built a fence that you weren’t happy about. Either way, the approach is similar.
Step 1. Talk to the neighbor. If you did the encroaching, apologize profusely and throw yourself on the mercy of your neighbor. Explain that you didn’t realize you needed a survey or that you thought you were putting the fence in the right spot. Often people will surprise you with their ability to forgive if you’re willing to meet them part of the way.
Step 2. Figure out your options. With the neighbors warmed up again, it’s time to figure out how to solve the problem. You could simply have a survey, dig up the fence and move it to the proper location. But, let’s say that’s currently cost-prohibitive, what with the recent house purchase and fence erection both taking up a lot of your free cash. To protect your neighbor’s rights, start with one of the following:
* A notarized letter granting you permission to use the land. This way, you’re openly declaring that your intentions are not hostile and the owner is giving you permission to be on their land. You can leave your fence in place — at least for now.
* A rental agreement. By agreeing to a small rental fee (even as low as a few bucks a month), you immediately acknowledge that your fence is on the neighbor’s property. Should they want to sell their home, they could simply terminate the rental agreement and you’d have to move the fence. It might be a good idea to stipulate a deadline for moving the fence just to protect everyone.
Whatever you choose, make sure to file a copy with your county recorder so that it becomes a public agreement. This will help your neighbor by creating a permanent record that any appraiser or title researcher could pull up later should the fence problem threaten to cloud their title.

What If You Can’t Come to Terms?

If you’re in the situation where the shoe’s on the other foot — your neighbor built his fence on your lot and you sent the letter from the attorney, then you’re the one that’s angry and frustrated at such ruthless behavior. Remember that it could have been a simple oversight, but definitely try to work it out with minimal bloodshed initially.
If, on the other hand, you went to chat with the neighbor and he told you he liked your lot and wanted to keep it for himself like some sort of real estate pirate, well, you can’t just leave it like that. You may have to take him to court to settle the issue (if you live in a planned neighborhood with an active HOA, they may have a mediation process in place to handle these problems).
In the weeks leading up to court, you may be given any or all of these options by the neighbor’s attorney as a settlement: sell your property, split the difference or give up and let the pirate win. Likely end results of these choices include:
Sell: You lose a piece of property that could affect your real estate values. If it’s a few inches, maybe it’s not a big thing, but if it’s several feet all the way down your 200 foot long lot line, it could be an issue. Consult with a Realtor or appraiser for more on the value impact, as well as how much compensation to seek.
Split the difference: You’re not admitting defeat, but it’s still not the outcome you’d hoped for. You still lose something, though not as much as you would have if you hadn’t gone to court. If the neighbor will pay you something for your loss, consider it.
Give up: Don’t do this. It’s just like selling, except you don’t get any compensation for the property you’ve lost.
Always consult with your lawyer before making a final decision on how to handle a property line dispute.

It Might Not Be Too Late to Avoid Trouble…

If that fence hasn’t gone up yet, it’s not too late to avoid all this hassle by hiring a surveyor. They’ll locate the pins planted at the corners of your lot and mark the line clearly, so both you and the neighbor know exactly where the boundary is located.
Don’t know a surveyor? That’s ok, your HomeKeepr family has you covered! Just log in today and your Realtor can recommend a surveyor (and a fence builder!) that can come by and ensure that you’re not going to have to have an unpleasant conversation down the road.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Mortgage Brokers VS Mortgage Bankers

You’re just swinging in your hammock on a sunny summer day when an ad pops up on YouTube for home equity loans. It sounds like a pretty good deal and you have been wanting to put a pool in for years, but it’s a bank you’ve never heard of, and a quick message to your group chat reveals that no one you know has, either.
What you might have witnessed was an advertisement for a mortgage broker. Like a mortgage banker, a mortgage broker can find a mortgage loan for your situation, but that’s where the two start to diverge.

Brokers and Bankers and Mortgages, Oh My!

Let’s start with some simple explanations just so we’re all on the same page.
Mortgage Bankers are people who work for a specific bank, like Main Street Bank USA, and help customers of the bank (and potential customers) apply for mortgages that Main Street Bank USA funds. They only write loans for their employer, except in a few special cases. They’re typically paid a salary by the bank they work for, whether your loan is $50k or $500k.
Mortgage Brokers, on the other hand, have permission to sell loans from a portfolio of wholesale investing clients. These may be traditional banks like Big Bank USA (these are fake banks, just so we’re clear), or they may be investment groups like In It For The Interest, LLC. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but because a broker makes their money solely on commission, unscrupulous ones may be tempted to put their own interests above yours. Always vet any type of lender, for peace of mind, if nothing else.

How Mortgage Bankers Work

Mortgage bankers may have a more limited product line they can use to finance your home-related loan, but they have a great deal more control over them because all the underwriting is done within the bank itself. Your local branch might not originate loans, but there’s someone nearby that your banker can call to check status and collaborate with to solve problems like a loan that you’re all by a hair’s width from being able to qualify for.
When a banker takes your application, they may literally forward it to the next room, where local people get to work to verify your income, length of employment and so forth. If you have your checking account with the same bank, you can often skip the tedious submission of income document after income document, since they can pull a lot of information from that checking account.
When the underwriter is comfortable that you’re able to qualify for the loan you’re seeking, they call the title company that you (or you and the seller, in the case of a purchase) agreed to use. They probably already have a relationship with this company since it’s nearby. When they send documents over, the title company doesn’t wonder what to expect from your closing.

How Mortgage Brokers Work

Mortgage Brokers take your application up front, then shop their lenders to see who can make you the best loan based on your credit history, income and desired loan amount. Often, brokers can do things that bankers can’t, even though a banker knows the loan originator by their first name. For example, helping people with troublesome credit is sometimes an area of specialization for brokers. They have access to all sorts of unusual loans that can turn a hopeful into a homeowner, or at least a pool owner.
This is both bad and good. On one hand, you got a loan — woohoo! — but on the other, you’re going to pay for it. These kinds of loans are rarely cheap because the broker’s fees have to be figured into the equation somewhere. Remember, they get paid on commission, not on salary. A normal broker fee can be as much as two percent of your loan amount.
When a mortgage broker pulls off a miracle you were really counting on, though, that two percent seems pretty cheap. Really, it’s all relative to your needs and what’s realistic for your financial situation. Before you choose a broker, make sure that you’ve really vetted them because each company and broker can be as wildly varied as the portfolios they have to sell. Ask around, check online reviews, ask your Realtor their opinion. Chances are good that someone knows a reputable broker that they can set you up with rather than letting you jump in blind.

Which to Choose… and Where to Find Them?

If you’ve decided that you’re absolutely committed to putting in that pool this summer, you’ll need a reputable lender to help you finance all the cement and whatnot. Luckily, both mortgage bankers and mortgage brokers are members of the HomeKeepr community! Log in to see who your Realtor recommends and then give them a call. You’ll save time in lender meet and greets, letting you trade that hammock in for a pizza slice shaped raft sooner.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Is a Home Warranty for You?

Whether you’ve recently purchased a home or are considering renewing the home warranty that came with your home, chances are good that you’ve got questions. Big ones. You’ve probably heard a lot of different things about home warranty programs, ranging from really awful to crazy and near lifesaving. Like anything that remotely resembles an insurance program, there’s a lot of nuance behind individual experiences.

What is a Home Warranty?

You can think of your home warranty as a type of insurance if that makes it easier to understand. It’s technically a service agreement, kind of like what you’d get with a new car. Individual warranty programs have contracts with individual service providers who will come out and diagnose your problem, arrange for parts and then return ready to fix it. The quality of any single home warranty program, then, is only as good as the contracts that the company has with its service providers.
The yearly costs involved range widely, with very basic plans with limited coverage starting around $300 and comprehensive plans that include things like pool repair pushing the $1,000 mark. There’s also typically a service call charge and there can be an upper limit on the costs the warranty will cover.
Depending on the age, size and complexity of your home, that $1,000 plan still may look pretty good next to actually making needed repairs out of pocket. It’s all a matter of perspective.

How Does a Home Warranty Work?

It cannot be stressed hard enough that you should read the entire document before agreeing to a particular home warranty. Although they may seem the same, what one company will cover may be completely excluded by another. Your Realtor should be able to guide you toward a product that they have had a good experience with and consistently delivers good results. If they can’t, call the Better Business Bureau and read reviews online to be certain the company you choose will deliver the goods.
Working with a reputable warranty company is a simple process. It goes something like this:
  1. You notice that the sink is backed up unexpectedly. Running the disposal doesn’t help and you’re not a plumber. You don’t even play one on TV.
  2. You call the number to your warranty company.
  3. An operator answers and asks for identifying information, along with a brief description of the problem.
  4. You explain that your sink is full of water and you’re worried you may soon drown if someone doesn’t come to help.
  5. Your operator collects all the necessary information, triages the case as either emergency or not, and does one of two things: gives you the number to a service provider OR promises to contact one on your behalf.
  6. No more than a day later (depending on your urgency level), the provider calls you to arrange an appointment.
  7. The appointment is set, the service provider comes out and figures out what the problem is. If it’s an easy fix, they may deal with it right then. If it’s a costly repair, they’ll need to go back to the warranty company and try to figure out how much is your responsibility and how much the company will cover.
  8. You authorize a costly repair, it’s made, you pay your part and go on with your life. Or you decline it, kick the dirt and call the warranty company back for a second opinion, then go through the steps above again.
Warranty programs can be hit and miss, there’s no doubt about it. Sometimes the things they cover versus the things they don’t seem completely arbitrary. But, there’s plenty of competition in this arena that will allow you to get into a program you can afford and will be able to use if need be.

The Biggest Warranty Program Con

This has already been touched on, but bears repeating. The biggest drawback to a home warranty is the very thing that leads some people to believe that they’re cons: they don’t cover everything. Again, this is highly dependent on the program and service level you select, but you have to remember that a home warranty is not the same as homeowner’s insurance.
Acts of Nature, shifting foundations, broken sewer lines and broken windows are among the biggest pain points for home warranty users. These items are often not included because of the massive expense they represent, as well as the fact that many are already covered under your homeowner’s policy.
There’s absolutely every reason to read your warranty paperwork thoroughly so you know what will be and won’t be covered. That way you’ll be armed to fight a refusal to pay thoughtfully and efficiently should it occur in error.

Intangible Benefits Come With Warranties

There are a few people who end up winning the lottery with their home warranties. They move in and everything they touch just starts breaking. These are items that showed no sign of serious wear and were installed correctly, their breakdowns were wholly unexpected. But suddenly, that homeowner has a new furnace and air conditioner, the pool pump’s been replaced and so on. This really does happen, and even at $800 a year and $75 a piece for service calls, it represents an incredible savings.
However, most people don’t get that lucky and if they use their warranty at all, they only need it once or twice during their ownership. This is why it’s important to consider the intangibles with these programs. Sure, your breaker box seems fine today, but would you know what to do if it started malfunctioning? That’s where the home warranty really provides a powerful value.
People don’t buy home warranties to save money on home repairs. They do it to control their repair costs over the long term. Usually, they will spend a lot more on the home warranty than they would just hiring their own contractors, but these same people admittedly don’t know who to call or how to vet a potential service provider.
Service provider vetting is a service that the warranty company provides with their yearly fee. Peace of mind, at a cost, is the thing that many home warranty buyers end up choosing. For the highly risk averse, it’s a total win — these people can go on with life and not have to give home repair another thought.

What If You Could Find Vetted Service Providers and Still Save Money?

If you’d rather have a relationship with your plumber, roofer or other service provider rather than have one with a call center, a home warranty might not be right for you. Instead, you should connect with a referral community like HomeKeepr where you can get to know your people on a personal level, thanks to your Realtor’s recommendations.
There’s just something about telling your friends that “my electrician Greg came right over and fixed the faulty wiring,” rather than “I called the warranty company and some guy showed up” that can give you a huge feeling of security in homeownership, whether these are your first steps or you’re well on your way to your next address.

Monday, July 9, 2018

4 Mortgage Programs For Homebuyers

Whether you’re thinking about buying your first home or you’ve been contemplating an upgrade, you probably already know that there are several different kinds of home mortgages, some that seem pretty much alike at face value. FHA, VA, USDA — what does it all mean?! We’re about to take all the stress out of choosing the mortgage that’s right for you and your family (even if that family is just you and Spot the cat).

Mortgage Basics in a Nutshell

There are a few different elements of a mortgage that are important to understand before we move forward in this process. You already know stuff like interest rates and what your payment and interest payments are, but there are other things that might not be quite so well settled in your mind. Most homeowners have questions about the following mortgage related definitions:
Loan features. When you get a mortgage, it often has other stuff that comes with it. After all, this isn’t the same as borrowing money from your mom, banks have fancy lawyers who make sure they earn their keep. You may notice features like “assumability” and “prepayment penalty” listed on your initial loan form.
Assumable loans are loans that you can literally transfer to another person when they buy your house. This is useful when interest rates are climbing, sometimes people will pay more for a lower interest rate mortgage they can take over.
Prepayment penalties are very bad and you don’t want this. Basically, you’re punished for paying your loan off early. Typically, they’re part of subprime lending, but you never know when one might pop up elsewhere. Since “prepayment” includes the payoff from selling your home, there’s no winning with this one.
Mortgage insurance. There’s been a lot of talk about mortgage insurance, both for better and worse. To put it simply, mortgage insurance makes it possible for you to bring a downpayment as little as about three percent to closing with FHA or conventional type mortgages. It’s a type of insurance that you pay for in case you were to default on the loan. If you do, the insurance company pays out your coverage to your bank, reducing the amount you may be responsible for if the house can’t bring enough at the foreclosure sale to cover your remaining note.
Down payment. Down payments are your initial investment in your home. Many times, home buyers are surprised to see that they have to bring both closing costs and a down payment, having assumed the two were the same. The down payment goes to the bank as proof of your commitment. We’ll get to closing costs.
Closing costs. Closing costs are the bane of buyers everywhere. They can seriously mount as things like appraisals, title insurance, fees to the bank (separate from your down payment) and prepaid items like taxes and homeowner’s insurance add up. Some programs will allow you to ask the seller to pay these on your behalf, but the amount you can ask for is limited to a percentage of the sales price and based on the program you’re using. For many homeowners, closing costs will be similar in price to their down payment, which is where the confusion typically starts.

Pick Your Poison: The Four Basic Home Mortgage Types

Understand that these are not the only mortgages out there, but they are the ones that you’re most likely to use in order to buy a home. Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, which we’ll discuss briefly.

Conventional Conforming

If you’ve heard of Sallie Mae or Freddie Mac, you know the family of conventional loans. These loans are written by a wide range of banks, from your hometown locally owned to the fanciest mortgage broker. “Conforming” loans meet Sallie and Freddie’s high requirements, including maximum sales price.
Pros: Generally, you’ll get a better deal on mortgage insurance that automatically drops off (meaning you no longer have to pay it) once your home reaches a 78 percent loan to value ratio. Also, you’ll pay less in closing costs and your debt to income ratio can be somewhat flexible as long as look really good on paper.
Cons: These are generally the hardest loans to qualify for. Even though there are now three to five percent down payment options, your credit score will need to be around 700 (better is better) and your other ducks should be lined up nice and straight. Consistent employment, savings that can be designated as “reserve funds” and few to no scabs on your credit report are helpful.

Federal Housing Authority

The FHA started insuring loans after the Great Depression as a way of helping people get back into owned property. It basically created the 30 year fixed interest mortgage and continues to carefully oversee which homes can and cannot be purchased in its name.
Pros: Good option for first time buyers because of low down payment and credit requirements. FHA will accept “soft” credit lines for people who haven’t established credit yet or have very little, so keep that utility bill paid on time. The program allows up to six percent of your closing costs to be financed into your loan, as “seller paid items,” which can help reduce the actual cash you need to close.
Cons: FHA requires a lot more in closing costs because of the additional upfront mortgage insurance deposit. In addition, if you have less than a 10 percent down payment, under the current programs you’ll be forced to keep paying mortgage insurance for the life of the loan, giving you no options but to refinance or sell down the line if you want rid of it (it’s costly, you want rid of it). Not every banker wants to deal with FHA loans because they can be time consuming to write, so you may have to shop a bit to find a good bank.

Veterans Administration

As part of the benefits that active military members and veterans receive from the government, VA loans are built on a merit-based system. Career military and those honorably discharged early are generally eligible, but short-term members or Reserves may have to meet additional requirements. Anyone who can get this loan will need to bring a Certificate of Eligibility in order to get the ball rolling with an approved lender.
Pros: Favorable interest rates, extremely flexible guidelines and absolutely nothing required as a downpayment (often little to nothing required at closing!) There’s no mortgage insurance, just a one time “funding fee” that varies with your service type, downpayment and times you’ve used your Eligibility.
Cons: Really, there aren’t any. You can’t get this if you’re not military, though, so that could be a con if you really wanted this most excellent loan type.

US Department of Agriculture

In rural areas, the US Department of Agriculture will offer mortgage lending as a way of helping to keep the local economy flowing. Homes don’t have to be on an acreage, but they do need to be located in communities with under 35,000 inhabitants.
Pros: Like VA, USDA are fairly easy to qualify for as the buyer. They can also be zero down loans, though the more you can bring to closing the better. Payment assistance and other types of help are sometimes available for very low income borrowers.
Cons: The house you’re buying will undergo significant scrutiny in order to be approved for the program. In all loan programs, your house has to qualify, but the hurdles USDA puts in front of the building are much larger than most other programs. This is good for you, because it means you’re getting a great house, but it makes the process take a lot longer and can be scary for sellers. In addition, there’s a cap on income for potential borrowers.

Need a Mortgage? Who Ya Gonna Call?

HomeKeepr! Wait, that’s a different thing. But, seriously, whether you’re looking for more answers to your burning lending questions, need a plumber to fix your leaky faucet or a party planner to celebrate your finally closing on that loan, your HomeKeepr community has contact information for them all. Just log in and check out all the specialties your HomeKeepr family has to offer — they’re recommended by your Realtor, so you know you can count on these experts.

Friday, July 6, 2018


Should You Jump Into the Current Real Estate Market?

Deciding you’re ready to buy a house is a big moment in your life, whether it’s a first time purchase or you’re snatching up yet another investment property. The home buying process is fraught with dangers, both real and imagined, as well as very real financial risks.
That’s why there are so many pieces of advice about when to buy a house. The truth is that there’s no one answer for anyone. Because market conditions can vary dramatically, there’s no way to safely predict if or when the neighborhood you’re looking at will be ripe for the picking. These are the times when having a really knowledgeable Realtor comes in handy.

Today’s Real Estate Market: An Overview

You should have some idea of what you’re walking into before you jump in the real estate market. Sometimes, there’s way too much supply (too many houses for sale) and not enough buyers — this is a “buyer’s market,” and that’s who has the upper hand in negotiations. Sometimes there are too many buyers and not enough supply — a “seller’s market.” Often, there are roughly balanced parts supply and buyers, which makes for a very healthy and predictable market.
We’re not in a healthy and predictable market at the national level. There are currently way too many buyers who want to buy at any price and not nearly enough new homes being built, nor are there enough existing homes to meet demand. Generally, this would push prices up. However, since interest rates are increasing, some buyers are starting to get squeezed out of the market entirely, which should be pushing prices back down, but doesn’t seem to be.
What we seem to have right now, as of the writing of this blog, is a market that’s sort of stalling. Normally, the summer is the craziest time of the year for Realtors — no one wants to pull their kid out of school mid-year to move across the city. And although many Realtors are reporting that they have plenty of potential, well-qualified buyers, they’re fighting over scraps as the supply continues to shrink.

Should You Be Trying to Buy Right Now?

Depending on who you are and where you are in your life journey, the competitive, weirdly stalled market we have this year may be as good a time as any for you to buy. Below is a brief breakdown of major buyer types and how the market could affect them if they were to buy today:
First time homebuyers. Jumping into the real estate market as a first timer is always a little terrifying, but the current market may give you a serious complex. If you’re buying a house to live in, not one that you expect will make you a bundle down the road, and your life is fairly settled, there’s no time like the present to go down the home purchase road. Just bear in mind that you will probably have to write several offers before you land that starter home — give yourself plenty of time for houses that will get away.
Maturing family. When you’re looking for that last house, the one you’re going to send your kids away to college from, the most important thing is finding a house that’s suitable for your family. There’s no time that’s better or worse for this purchase, especially if your plan is to hold it indefinitely. Sure, you may end up paying a little bit more now than you would have a couple of years ago, but the value you get from living in the house, as well as natural appreciation, generally ensure you come out a little bit ahead. It beats renting, anyway.
Empty nester. Aging in place is the thing these days, and for good reason. That just creates one big problem: not enough inventory that will accommodate mobility equipment like walkers and wheelchairs that you may ultimately need. Housing starts are really rising, though, so you might as well visit a few Open Houses to see if there’s a builder out there that you can picture building the home where you’ll retire. Although existing homes can work for your needs, new construction gives you the option to create an age in place friendly universal design from the foundation up.
Investor. Investors! You are literally the only group on this list that should be seriously concerned about the timing of your purchases. Since owner-occupied homes tend to be held for the long term, the risk to those buyers is minimal, but you’re looking to buy and almost immediately start making money.
Finding a good price on a listed home may be tricky right now, but switching gears to the building of new homes will introduce a lot of competition. Buying and holding properties as rentals could pay off, but only if you really buy them right. Now may not be a great time for you to buy if you have investments that are already paying for themselves. It would, however, be a pretty good time to unload properties that you’ve fully depreciated or those that just really don’t fit in with your portfolio.
When it comes down to it, the biggest factor you should be considering when purchasing real estate that you intend to occupy is whether or not you’re really ready for homeownership. A close second, of course, is whether or not you can really afford a house, but your Realtor and mortgage lender will help you with that part.
You’ll have to decide for yourself if today is a good day to buy, there’s no way to know what the market will look like in five to 10 years when you may want to buy again.

Let Your Realtor Be Your Guide…

Just like the HomeKeepr community helps you find home pros that can fix just about any problem you might have related to your current or future home, your Realtor is the best person to go to when it comes to the question of timing your real estate purchase. If they tell you to punch it, then all systems go.
Don’t forget your HomeKeepr family as you move through the various buying stages, from securing your mortgage to having your home inspected and appraised. Finding the experts you need is as simple as logging in to HomeKeepr!

Monday, July 2, 2018

County growing, but not as fast

County growing, but not as fast: Clark County’s population is still growing at a fast clip, but the growth rate may have reached its peak.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Assuming a Mortgage 101

It’s the little things that really matter sometimes. The cherry on top of a sundae, the light scent of gardenia on a warm spring breeze and a mortgage that’s assumable are each all about the details, and are sometimes overlooked by people who are in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B. But that assumable mortgage may make your home more competitive if you’re a seller or save you a bundle if you’re a buyer.

What is an Assumable Mortgage?

All mortgages are structured uniquely, such that the majority of any payment made before about halfway through the loan is interest (depending on your down payment and rate), so it would naturally follow that some people would want to shortcut this early period and get on to paying on the meat of the loan. The buyer would then take over the payments from the seller, without the loan changing terms at all. This is, in essence, how an assumable mortgage works. The buyer will also have to bring some amount of money to closing, either in the form of cash or a secondary mortgage loan, to compensate the seller for the remaining value not covered by the assumed loan.
Assumable mortgages can be of any variety, depending on the age of the loan, but the ones you’re most likely to see today are FHA, USDA or VA-type mortgages. To qualify, a buyer still has to meet all the same requirements that the seller had to meet in order to get their mortgage. This wasn’t always the case, but is today.
And although rates are still fairly low right now, in the 4.5 to 5 percent rage, over the next few years several rate increases are anticipated. That means that your mortgage terms themselves might be worth something when you go to sell your home. Provided your buyer can qualify for your loan and come up with the cash it takes to make the total meet your home’s value at the point of sale, you could find yourself with a more than full price offer, or even multiples, just by making it known that your loan is assumable and you’re ok with letting someone take advantage of this feature.

Why Would a Buyer Want an Assumption?

This is a bit of a trickier question, which will require a chart. Let’s say that your mortgage rate is 3 percent on a 30 year fixed note. You’ve had this loan for five years, but it’s time to move on to a bigger home, you had no idea you were going to have triplets when you chose this house! A buyer comes along when rates are at 4.75 percent and wants to assume your mortgage and pay you a total of $250,000 for your place. So far, so good.
This is what the picture looks like for the buyer:
Assuming the buyer’s first payment on the assumed note is number 61, they’ll immediately pay almost $500 of the principle down. If they had taken out their own note, totally ignoring the additional mortgage insurance and upfront mortgage insurance that an FHA would require, they’d only pay down about $400 at this same point (which is five years down the road, remember). They’d also pay almost $350 more in interest.
Keep in mind that the payment at 4.75 percent interest is also higher, but when the higher payment is paying less of the note off each month, there’s nothing about that that makes it a good financial move. If the buyer did manage to pay their note all the way off, they’ll find that they paid $68,552.79 more in interest alone by choosing to get a new loan.
Provided the additional funding required to secure this home wasn’t cost prohibitive, it just makes good sense for a buyer to want to assume a loan. Beyond the savings mapped out above, their closing fees will be considerably smaller, making the net gain even larger.
Of course, both buyer and seller should discuss this with your lender or financial planner to be sure that it’s the right decision for them and their financial pictures.

The Seller’s Side of the Assumption Equation

For a seller, the picture is a little different. Although it doesn’t cost you anything to start the assumption process, it can get ugly if a seller doesn’t know to protect themselves and a buyer ends up defaulting on their assumed loan. You must make certain that you’ve signed and received back a fully executed (all parties have signed it) copy of a release from liability form. Remember, the bank has to also agree to these terms.
Beyond that, it can be a good deal for you as the seller, too. You’ll get a big chunk of cash, you’ll be free of your mortgage so you can buy something a bit roomier or closer to work. Assumptions can be tricky to close, but the more that are closed in the coming years (and there are likely to be a few), the easier they’ll get because everyone will be on the same page.
Note: If you’re a veteran with a VA note that you’re trying to sell to a buyer who wants to assume, the mortgage will retain your entitlement. This is why it’s important to only sell with an assumption to another veteran. With another vet in the equation, the bank can exchange your entitlement for that of the new borrower, allowing you to buy again using a VA loan.

Assuming I Want to Assume, Who Do I Call?

If you’re interested in talking more about assumable loans, as a buyer or a seller, just log into your HomeKeepr community. The lenders and financial planners in our little family come highly recommended by your Realtor and they know their assumptions.

Housing shortage spreads to Oregon coast

Housing shortage spreads to Oregon coast : NEWPORT, Ore. — Hot housing markets in major cities like Seattle and Portland have pushed the ci...