Friday, December 14, 2018

Your Need to Know Guide to Buying a New Home

If you’ve been following along, you know that last time around we covered a lot of the important things you should be thinking about when buying an older home. They’re great, but they can also be expensive and needy — definitely not for everybody.
Today, we’re looking at buying a new construction home. Although it’s a chance to get the house you’ve long wanted, buying a brand new house can also be fraught with problems.

New Construction Homes and Their Builders

There are no two ways about it, a new construction home can be the best decision you’ve ever made. Not only are they up to current building codes, they’re well-insulated, nothing needs to be fixed — all you have to do is move in and keep your new house clean.
There are essentially two distinct types of builder: custom and speculative.

Custom home builders wait for a person who wants a house built to come along, then they work closely with the home buyer, architects, electricians and other home pros to create your dream home. That being said, custom home builders tend to be on the upper end of your local housing market, but some also cater to people who want a smaller home.

Speculative builders (also known as production builders) build a bunch of houses and hope someone will come to buy them. These folks are generally responsible for creating whole neighborhoods out of thin air. One day, you’re driving by a field, the next week it’s a 100-lot development with 20 houses already going up. Speculative builders are nothing if not fast. You won’t necessarily get the house of your dreams unless your dreams are pretty vanilla, but you will have a home that’s new, up to code and that will keep you out of the rain. Super important, that.

New Construction Pros and Cons

You may be considering a new house, but aren’t sure you’re totally willing to wait for one to be finished. If only there were a place you could get an overview of the pros and cons of buying new. Wait, there’s a list below!

Pros of New Construction:

Owning a brand new house is a pretty sweet deal for most people. Here’s why:
  • Low maintenance requirements. A new house is, well, new. From the bottom to the top, everything is yours to break in. What this means for you is that you can expect to have several years to ease into learning how to do home maintenance and the bigger ticket items like your air conditioner condenser won’t need replacing (with normal use) for at least a decade.

  • Warranties on pretty much everything. Did you know that most new homes come with a warranty? Sometimes it’s a builder’s warranty, meaning the builder themselves will fix any problems that crop up during the specified period. Sometimes it’s a home warranty through a warranty company. Either one will help you sleep better at night knowing that you’re not on your own if something breaks.

  • Less risk of neighborhood blight. Unless you buy an infill home (a new house that’s built in an older neighborhood), new homes virtually guarantee you won’t have to worry about neighborhood blight for a while. Blight can occur in any neighborhood, but it’s far less likely where most of the occupants are owners and the houses are all the same age. It’s the ultimate in peer pressure, really.

  • It’s a blank canvas. Your new home has never been lived in by anyone, ever. You probably realize that, but it can still be sort of a shock to know that you are the one who will start this particular home on its road to being a quaint and charming place fifty years down the road.

New House Drawbacks:
Of course, a new house isn’t for everyone. There are a few drawbacks to building from the ground up, including:

  • Higher monthly costs. Unlike an older home, where you may find an owner who just wants to get out from under their loan so they can move across the country, a brand new house is pretty much priced where it’s priced. You’ll have to pay what the builder is asking if you want it, which may push the price of your house to the top of your price range. If you request any changes to the plan of a home in progress, or one that hasn’t had the ground broken yet, you may be asked for a larger escrow deposit in case something happens to prevent your being able to close when the house is finished.

  • It’s a blank canvas. As noted above, a new house is a blank canvas. For some people, this is pretty intimidating, since that also means that more often than not, there’s not a lot in the way of storage systems or other handy aftermarket items that houses that have been lived in are generally fitted with. You can ask your builder about closet systems that go beyond a single bar for hanging clothing, but generally you’re better off to install these yourself so you can get exactly what you want.

  • You’re probably subject to an HOA. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a homeowner’s association, but it’s an additional cost that you may not have budgeted for. The additional amenities that an HOA provides are often worth the extra spend to homeowners, but if you’re already tight, it’s going to make things even tighter.

  • Flexibility is key. Building a house is an exercise in patience. Sure, you think you’re going to be able to move in on February 1, but sometimes things get in the way and construction is delayed. You’ll need to be flexible, otherwise you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to guess when you’ll have the keys.

New Year, New Home?

If you think a new home is for you, your Realtor can recommend some great home builders in your area. Just log into the HomeKeepr app and ask for a connection! Your HomeKeepr community can also help you connect to home pros like interior decorators and architects, the kind of people who will help you and your builder turn pile of lumber into a home you’ll love for a long time.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Your Need to Know Guide to Buying an Older Home

For a lot of homebuyers, buying their dream home means choosing an older structure that has passed the test of time. These grand places have an undeniable charm about them, with classic styling that can be adapted to nearly any taste. Older homes can be incredible places to live and love, but no home is perfect. The history of your older home may include skeletons in the upstairs bedroom closet.

Five Amazing Reasons to Choose an Older Home

Buyers who are into the details are going to love owning an older home. Not only do you get all those little bits of period hardware, real wood floors and intricate trim work, your home has a real history that you can trace should you be so interested. Older homes can become a real love story really fast.
There are a lot of reasons to choose an older home, here are five to get you started:
The neighborhood is established. You may not be giving any thought to this particular item right now, but when you’re living with the sound of bulldozers, skid loaders and other heavy equipment nearby as they add even more streets to a newer neighborhood, you might wish you had gone another way. Established neighborhoods don’t give you a lot of room to move, but you also know exactly what to expect day to day.
Mature landscaping! Even if you’re not a gardener, you can appreciate that 50 or 80 year old shade tree that protects your house like a giant leafy umbrella. If past owners put in plants, you may also have bought into a hedge or foundation plantings that will give you lots of green without lots of effort.
High ceilings. Although the types of ceiling treatments that are in modern homes rarely pop up in older homes, you may find high ceilings in older homes (this will depend on how old of a house you’re looking for). Before air conditioning, those high ceilings helped keep occupants cooler in the summer. Today they give you a more spacious atmosphere and more room for vertical storage.
Lots of natural light. One of the best features of many older homes is the sheer number of windows that have been installed. So many windows means so much more light inside your home. When you’re buying a glass house, though, make sure that those windows have been replaced or brace for high winter energy bills.
You become part of the story. Older homes tell the story of the lives of past owners, in small and large ways. Every owner left a mark somewhere in that place, just like you will. For example, you may decide you’re not so fond of the carpets, instead choosing to recover the wood floor underneath. Your fingerprint was just added to the collection.
Owning an older home can be a home ownership dream come true. But don’t fall headfirst yet. Read on so you know when to walk away.

Five Reasons to Reconsider That Older Home

Although older homes can be charming and even decadent with the details, there’s a lot more to them than history and natural light. Every house is the result of its cumulative care over its lifetime. The longer the house has been around, the more care (or neglect) it receives. Even so, there are many reasons to be wary when it comes to buying an older home.
Vital systems may not be to code. When that house was built in 1940, there weren’t really building codes to adhere to. In fact, that house might have come from a catalog and was shipped in pieces for a homeowner to build like a giant Lego set. The fact that it’s still standing is probably a good sign, but you’ll want to have a very thorough home inspection before you get your hopes up too high.
Owners adding defects when trying to repair things. Homeowners regularly make repairs without the proper permits or inspections, leaving you to wonder how good the work really went. Whether the repair was made in the 60s or last week, discovering that a closet light was wired using lamp wire is a terrifying discovery that should leave you wondering what other “repairs” are hiding behind the wall, in the attic and under the floor.
So many windows means thermal leakage. All that natural light is awesome, until it gets cold or hot — then you’ve suddenly got a major issue with thermal leakage. Even the best weather seal isn’t much on a single pane window when compared to modern engineered double and triple paned windows with Low-E coatings. If you like a drafty house, by all means go for it. If not, at least look for a place with upgraded windows.
Add-ons should get the side eye. Above we discussed how each owner touches a house in a unique way. One of those ways is to add more square footage. There are good add-ons that flow seamlessly from the original structure to the new part without it being obvious. Then there are the others. Does this place have something that’s akin to a shanty attached to the back side and called a bedroom? Run away.
Infestations. Another gift former owners may leave you is pest infestations. From bats to cockroaches and mice, older homes are accidental havens for all sorts of creatures. Along with a termite inspection, you definitely want to have a pest control expert out to look for signs of other things that you’d probably rather not be sharing your home with.
Living in a remodeling zone is not a party. Some people gravitate toward older homes because they believe this will save them a lot of money. There’s certainly a chance of that, but market forces are finicky, so you definitely want to talk to some pros before putting the numbers together. Even if you do find that you’re sitting on a gold mine, consider what this is going to do to your life and family. Living in a construction zone means that you never get away from the destruction and that you’re potentially dumping a lot of money into upgrades and fixing old “repairs.”

Is an Older Home Right for You and Your Budget?

It’s one thing to dream a little dream and yet another to turn that dream into a reality that may have unforeseen results. This is why it’s really important to talk to your Realtor and other home pros before making an offer on an older home.
Not sure where to find the pros you need to take a look at your potential future home? Visit your HomeKeepr community!
Your Realtor is already there and they’ve recommended the best home inspectors, pest inspectors and other home pros that they know. With just a few clicks you can surround yourself with experts to help you decide if it’s worth the effort and money involved to live your old house dream.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Home affordability watch: price tags in midsize metros

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Buying and selling a home will become more difficult in 2019

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Your Step-By-Step Guide to Mortgage Pre-Approval

If you find yourself sitting in a strange hallway, waiting for a stranger in a suit to size you up and decide if you’re worthy as your palms sweat and your breath gets just a little bit harder to push out, you might be waiting for your appointment for your mortgage pre-approval. You’re one step closer to owning your own home, but this one is a doozy.
Let’s talk mortgage pre-approval step-by-step.

Step One: Mortgage Pre-Qualification Versus Pre-Approval

You probably already have a pre-qualification letter saying that you can probably buy a house in a particular price range, so why isn’t this enough? A lot of homebuyers find this part of the process confusing, and frankly, it can be. Your pre-qualification was probably done over the phone or on your first meeting with your lender. They asked you a bunch of questions about your income, your job and maybe even pulled a “soft” credit report to get some idea about your debts.
Based on this information, they gave you the details on the kinds of programs you’re eligible for and how much you can expect in buying power. You probably got a letter that you could show your Realtor to help guide the buying process. The difference between the pre-qualification and the pre-approval is simple: a pre-qualification is based largely on your word. If you give the lender incorrect information, they’ll give you a pre-qualification letter that’s not right.
A pre-approval, on the other hand, takes a harder look at your background, work history and requires a full credit report and FICO score to ensure that you can, in fact, pay back a note.

Step Two: Documentation

Your next meetup with the nice banker is going to be to deliver documents, provide consent to pull a full credit report and, if you’ve already found one, give them the information on the home you’ve put under contract (in some areas your Realtor can do this last bit for you).
Documentation you’ll be asked to bring will include pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns, along with other information that may be needed to verify your income source or sources. Self-employed people, for example, are sometimes required to prepare profit and loss statements (or just pony up more tax returns). If you have assets like a 401(k) or even a CD, you’ll want to bring the details on these, too.

Step Three: The Loan Estimate Form

You’re going to get a copy of something called the Loan Estimate Form, probably at the same meeting where your lender pulls that full credit report and takes all your papers away. This form explains exactly how much they expect you’ll need to bring to closing, along with itemized estimated fees to plan for at closing. If you’re shopping your loan, collect these and compare them side by side before you make your final choice.
But don’t spend too much time crunching the numbers. Just like your contract (and the National Association of Realtors) says, “Time is of the Essence.”

Step Four: Acceptance

Once you’ve had a few minutes to review the paperwork and you’ve made your final pass through the numbers, all that’s left is to call the lender you’ve chosen and let them know you need that pre-approval letter faxed over to your Realtor.
Understand that a pre-approval is not a guarantee that you’re going to get the money you need to close. Several things can go wrong along the way through underwriting, including, but not limited to:
– Unverifiable income (this is often due to issues with overtime)
– A change to your credit score.
– An increase in your debt to income ratio
– An undocumented change in employment
– Assets that are unverifiable
The best plan is be totally honest with your lender when you get your pre-approval so that you don’t get a last minute call telling you that your loan has been denied (this actually happens, so pay everything on time and don’t take out new credit lines or add to old ones until you’ve got the keys in your hand).

When is the Best Time to Make an Offer?

Ideally, you should have a pre-approval letter in hand before you so much as set foot into the first house you’re considering for purchase. After all, the seller isn’t going to think you’re all that serious without one, nor will they be keen to want to negotiate under these circumstances.
Help your banker help you get the best deal on the house of your dreams, save everybody a lot of headaches and get that pre-approval first. Knowing how much your closing costs are going to be will also help your Realtor write your contract accordingly if they should need to be wrapped into your mortgage.
Basically, that document is the key to everything. So, no pressure.

When You Need a Loan for Your Home…

Finding a banker you can trust these days couldn’t be easier! Check out the lenders that your Realtor has already recommended within your very own HomeKeepr community. These are banking pros that your agent has worked with enough that they know they can do the job and will make sure you don’t get a big surprise a few days before closing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

5 Worst Returns on Your Home Renovation Dollars

There are a whole boatload of articles on the Internet about the home renovations that offer the best return on your hard-earned cash, but not so many about the ones that are literally just black holes that suck said cash out of your pocket and never, ever tell you where it went.

That changes today. Everybody talks about the good, let’s talk about the bad and the ugly!

First and Foremost: Personalization Has Limits

When you bought your house, there were probably some very specific things about it that you promised yourself you’d change as soon as possible. From dated light fixtures to unbearably pink carpet, there’s always something. Hold on to that thought for a moment.
Now, pretend that you’re the person looking at this same house after you pulled out the pink carpet and changed those fixtures. Is this a house that now has wide appeal, or does the fact that you hung floral wallpaper on the ceiling create a whole new level of problems?
Of course you want to make your house your own, but if you think you’ll be selling in the near future to relocate, upgrade or downsize, maybe don’t go too nuts. Keep in mind that most buyers will accept some level of personalization, provided you don’t push it. You don’t have to live in a bland cracker box, but there’s something between that and a 1970’s disco inferno.

Renovation Loss Leaders By the Numbers

It’s really important that you consider future owners when you go to the trouble to make a major upgrade to your home. But sometimes, even the most thoughtful and beautiful renovation can cost a lot more than it will ever be worth (and often, the most beautiful are the most susceptible to this).
It’s a good thing, then, that Remodeling Magazine has been tracking the average costs of the 21 most popular projects since 2002 and the value they retained at sale. If someone told you that adding eccentric details like green shag carpet can be a big punch to the checkbook, it probably wouldn’t shock you. But you might be surprised at these projects Remodeling Magazine turned up as the worst investments, based on national averages:

5. Upscale Bathroom Remodel. Cost: $61,662. Return: $34,633 (56.2%)
There isn’t a person in this country who hasn’t dreamed of a bathtub the size of a swimming pool, glass tile surfaces everywhere and a shower with five or six different shower heads. And although this will be an absolutely amazing experience while you own your home, you can’t take that stuff with you. It also won’t return anywhere near what you’ve invested in it.
If you’re thinking about a bathroom remodel, consider sticking to the midrange. They cost about $19,134 on average and return $13,422, or about 70 percent of your investment.

4. Upscale Bathroom Addition. Cost: $83,869. Return: $45,752 (54.6%)
Adding a bathroom on to a house was a big return bust in 2018. Not only did the upscale bathroom addition return just 54.6%, even the midrange bathroom add-on, where returns tend to be a bit better, returned just under 60%. That midrange bathroom remodel is looking better all the time.

3. Upscale Major Kitchen Remodel. Cost: $125,721. Return: $67,212 (53.5%)
Despite the fact that a midrange minor kitchen remodel will return about 81 percent of its value, an upscale major remodel doesn’t even come close. This is probably because of budget-consuming components like new cabinets, new granite or marble slab counters, floor tile and high end appliances from manufacturers like Viking. Honestly, if you’ve done this kind of remodel, why are you even moving? Seems you’ve found your perfect house already.

2. Upscale Master Suite Addition. Cost: $256,229. Return: $123,797 (48.3%)
Downgrading to a midrange master suite addition won’t help you get much more out of your dollar, it only changes the return from 48.3% to 56.6%. A new master suite is one of those things that you may find you use extensively, but shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for one may be a sign you’re not ready to give up on your existing home after all.

1. Midrange Backyard Patio. Cost: $54,130. Return: $25,769 (47.6%)
Generally speaking, outdoor-facing projects tend to return better because they increase the overall curb appeal of a home. And even though midrange wooden deck additions return 82.8% and midrange composite deck additions return 63.6%, the backyard patio is the single worst return on your home renovation dollars in 2018. This may be due, in part, to the fact that it adds nothing to curb appeal and is almost assumed to be the norm in most markets.

When It Comes to Home Renovation Projects, Think Small

The key to better returns on home renovation is to think small. Replace that ugly light fixture in your foyer, swap the vinyl flooring in your entry for tile. A home that is neat, clean and well-lit will always sell better than one that has something a bit quirky about it, no matter how much it cost to install.
When you need to update your home, but DIY just isn’t your thing, drop in on your HomeKeepr family. The community can recommend talented and affordable painters, carpenters, handymen and more! Since they come so highly recommended, you can be sure that you’re getting the best craftsmen in your area.

Monday, November 5, 2018

What is happening in your local market? Your City not listed here TEXT me and I can get you the information you need!

Give Me Land, Lots of Land… 5 Things to Keep In Mind

Land can be a good investment, whether you intend to build a house or business on a particular lot or simply want a place where you can stretch your legs and breathe a bit more deeply. After all, they’re not making any more of it (ok, technically this isn’t true, but you’d need to be volcano adjacent to get dibs on brand new land).
Buying land can be tricky, though, even after you secure a mortgage for it. There are several important real estate concepts you’re going to want to familiarize yourself with.

Lessons in Land Buying

Unlike purchasing a house in an established neighborhood, where everything is pretty obvious and cut and dry, land can throw a lot of weird wrenches into the works. Let’s take a look at the most important aspects to keep in mind before and during your land acquisition.
1.Title Restrictions
Before you even set foot on a piece of property you’re interested in purchasing, ask about title restrictions. These are conditions that, when met, could go as far as to revoke your ownership or punish you in other serious ways. For example, if you’re interested in land for farm and you come across a lovely place that happens to border on public forest, you may be restricted from owning sheep because of the danger they pose to the unique neighboring trees.
Another more common example would be that the title restricts your subdividing the land. If you just want to get away from neighbors, that probably won’t be an issue for you, but if you had planned to build some houses on that land and splitting off the parts you don’t want to keep, you’re in trouble.
Always check the title restrictions because many will run with the land (that means they’re enforceable as long as the land exists). Don’t assume that because they’re 50 or 60 years old they’re unenforceable. They are.
2. Easements
Easements are a very specific type of property ownership where the legal use of your land is granted to another person or company. A good example of this is the utility easement that often runs along one edge of a home’s lot. That easement gives the utility company the right to go in and perform necessary upgrades and repairs without having to beg and plead with homeowners for permission.
Before you make an offer on any piece of land, it’s important to know what easements, if any, apply. There almost certainly is a utility easement somewhere, but there can also be private easements granted by any former owner that could remain with the property. It’s much better to know what it is that you’re buying and how much of that land is usable. If you don’t understand the maps that show these easements, ask your Realtor to explain them to you.
3. Landlocked Property
In the United States, there is no such thing as a landlocked property. That being said, there are properties that appear to be landlocked because there’s no way to access them from the road. In these situations, a right-of-way easement is created to allow unencumbered access to the landlocked property.
If you’re the one buying the “landlocked” property, these easements are generally not a point of concern. However, as a seller, right-of-way easements can hurt the value of your land and create an additional expense maintaining that strip of Earth you can’t use for other purposes.
4. Surveys
Buying a house in a subdivision is easy because the land has already been surveyed and small metal pins placed at the corners of the lots. Even if your bank wanted some sort of survey done for a single family home purchase, all the surveyor has to do is find those pins and mark them. Ultimately, they’ll record your property as something like “Lot 12, Smith’s Addition, Your Town, State.”
When it comes to land, the story is very different. First, a surveyor has to do a bit of research beforehand to figure out where the parcel’s boundaries should be. Land is one of those things that can stay in families for decades, or even longer. Depending on where you live, that empty property could reasonably still be held by the original family to take title. It creates a significant challenge for surveyors.
Regardless, you need that survey to ensure that the land you’re buying is the land you think you’re buying. The surveyor can also verify the easements you’ve been told exist. Once that’s established and everyone is in agreement, you can go to Closing with confidence.
5. Adverse Possession
There’s nothing in the real estate sphere as confusing and infuriating as adverse possession. This is a situation where someone, often a neighbor, has managed to somehow use your land without your permission over a long period of time. Through a series of events, they then become the legal owner. And you won’t see one red cent ever.
This sometimes happens in urban and suburban neighborhoods when a homeowner installs a fence, for example. They may not even realize they’ve crossed the lot line. It’s nowhere near the same issue as it is when you’re buying land. Acreages can see significant shrinkage if a fence is even a few feet over the line. If the lot line is 300 feet long and the neighbor is intruding by two feet, that’s 600 square feet that you no longer control and may be at risk of losing.
Fortunately, if you catch the problem early, you can take actions to reclaim your land and rid yourself of your accidental squatter (because, let’s face it, most of the time it is an accident).
Step 1: Ask the neighbor nicely to move their fence. Show them your survey so they can see where the fence should be.
Step 2: Post “No:Trespassing” signs that are visible to the neighbor. This removes the “hostile claim” condition of a successful adverse possession claim. “Hostile” in this situation means that they’re using your land against your will.
Step 3: If the neighbor needs to continue to use the land for some reason, have them sign a land lease and demand a small rental fee. Again, this will remove the hostile claim condition, but in a much more concrete way.
Step 4: Lawyer up because it’s time to take this thing to court. Although the time that a squatter must occupy property to take it as their own varies, the sooner these issues are addressed, the better. The court can force your neighbor the squatter to move his fence to where it belongs.
No one wants to take their neighbors to court, so try everything else first. If you and the neighbor can come to an amicable agreement about the fence placement, you’ll be in a much better place to have a harmonious long term relationship with them.

Are You Ready to Own Your Own Bit of Earth?

Buying land can be a scary proposition. The upkeep and planning for its future alone can be overwhelming. Don’t panic! Your HomeKeepr family is just waiting for you to put them to work keeping the grass cut, drawing up plans for your future home or business and bringing it all to life. Just ask your Realtor for recommendations from the community and wait to be connected to the best of the best in your area!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Getting to Know FHA Mortgage Financing

While you’re dreaming about your Starter Home, don’t forget that you’re going to need a Starter Mortgage to pay for it. The mortgage programs offered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Federal Housing Authority can be easy ways for borrowers with limited or lightly bruised credit to enter the housing market with confidence.
Of course, like with any mortgage, FHA loans aren’t for everybody. But they are really good for many people. Let’s get to know the loan most people are talking about when they say they need an “FHA loan,” the FHA Basic Home Mortgage Loan 203(b) (what a mouthful!).

Who Is This Loan For?

Before you waste your time by reading this whole blog just to learn that you’re not a good candidate for this loan, let’s get it all out upfront, shall we? FHA mortgages are good for a wide range of people, especially those with credit scores in the mid- to upper 600s with minimal downpayments.
FHA is forgiving of some sins, including unpaid medical bills, but is less tolerant of monthly payments for things like revolving loans and secured loans (know as your “debt-to-income ratio”). Where Fannie Mae’s conventional loans may let you have upward of about 45 percent of your income going to monthly debts and housing, FHA mortgages are much more selective. Your housing debt can’t exceed 31 percent as of the writing of this blog; your overall debt has to be below 43 percent at this moment.
Looking at that in a more concrete way, it breaks down like this if you make $50,000 annually:
– Your monthly income: $4,166.67
– FHA housing debt allowed: $1,291.67
– FHA total debt allowed (includes housing) : $1,791.67
– Conventional debt allowance: $1,875
It might not seem like a big difference overall, but the FHA restricts your mortgage to about a third of your income, even though in some markets that’s a difficult, if not impossible, house to find. Your conventional loan doesn’t discriminate, so if you have no credit card debt, you might be able to buy more house.
But that’s not to say that the FHA loan is a bad mortgage. It’s a really decent one, it just has a lot of rules designed to ensure you succeed at homeownership.

The FHA Downpayment Conundrum

FHA mortgages maintain one of the lowest downpayment requirements of any mainstream mortgage offering. At just 3.5 percent, this financing type makes it easy to get into a home. That $200,000 house you’ve got your eye on? You just need $7k for a downpayment (closing costs are separate)! That’s $3k less than the conventional loan can offer.
However, there’s a pretty big catch with that low downpayment. The mortgage insurance that makes it possible for you to put down such a small amount of money is going to stick with you for the life of the loan. That’s the case, in fact, unless you’ve scraped together at least 10 percent of the sales price for a downpayment.
Theoretically, you could refinance your low downpayment FHA loan when you’ve paid down about 20 percent of the total value to shake the mortgage insurance, but there are no guarantees that you’ll end up in a better place. Rising interest rates, additional costs to close a new loan and even a new appraisal can eat into those cost-savings.
Some lenders offer a streamline refinance, which can save you a bundle when you’re ready to refinance the note you already have. Check with yours to see if the mortgage you’re signing will be eligible. You have some options, let’s make sure you’re taking advantage of them.

Oh, That Thing About Student Loans…

FHA is picky about your debt, that may have been mentioned. One thing that it is almost cruelly strict on is student loan debt. Unlike Fannie Mae, which only figures your actual payment into your debt-to-income ratio, FHA uses a formula that often ends up in a rejection for otherwise really well-qualified borrowers.
As of the writing of this article, FHA figures your monthly payment as one percent of your debt. Say, for example, you have $68,000 in student loan debt because you triple majored in everything, but you happen to be working in a field that won’t support a payment anywhere near what that debt requires to be repaid. Your federal student loan is enrolled in an Income Based Repayment program, with a payment of under $20 a month.
A conventional loan would verify that $20 and that would be all that would go into your DTI from your student loans. FHA, on the other hand, would add $680 to their calculation. Which, considering you’re on an IBR, will almost certainly make it impossible for you to qualify for anything.

TL;DR: FHA Ups and Downs

FHA has some nice features:
– Great for people with lower credit scores or small credit blemishes
– Allows for a smaller downpayment vs. other mortgages
– As a federally regulated loan, closing costs are often lower
But it also holds many buyers back with:
– Low DTI allowances
– High student loan payment calculations
– Lifetime mortgage insurance
If your overall debt is low, you don’t have a student loan to deal with (or you have a very small one) and you’re planning on selling in five or seven years, FHA loans can absolutely get you into the real estate market faster with less money out of pocket. The extra time spent putting monthly payments toward equity rather than rent can help you become more financially secure earlier.

I Want the FHA! Who Do I Call?

An FHA mortgage can be a great solution, but you need a good lender to help you get through all the paperwork that’s involved in applying for this loan. Sure, you can ask your friends who to talk to, but wouldn’t you rather hear from other professionals in the field? Your HomeKeepr community is full of people who work with bankers every day. — your Realtor will be happy to recommend your new lender, just log in and ask for the details!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Recession Talk Heats Up

Recession Talk Heats Up: Concerns about a housing slowdown not supported by the data.

How much of my income goes towards housing?

How much of my income goes towards housing?

Lawmakers hope to increase homeownership for minorities

Lawmakers hope to increase homeownership for minorities: SALEM — Lawmakers are trying to figure out what’s keeping Oregonians of color from buying homes when loans and subsidies are available.Overall, about 62 percent of Oregonians own homes, and overall the rate of home ownership in the state is slightly lower than in 2000. But state data s

Fall Yard Care Checklist: What to Do When

Fall Yard Care Checklist: What to Do When: As temperatures cool, here’s what homeowners should do to keep their lawns in tip-top shape. Share this infographic that breaks it down.

South County gets preview of housing study

South County gets preview of housing study: To make more affordable and workforce housing available in Clatsop County, cities will need to expand their toolkits. That could come through zoning changes, identifying new land for residential use, and public-private partnerships designed to meet funding goals. Kevin Leahy, executive director of C

Average American putting less money down when buying a home

Average American putting less money down when buying a home: The average down payment on a U.S. home decreased nearly 10% in the third quarter of 2018, according the latest data collected from LendingTree. Furthermore, the average loan amount offered to potential homebuyers dropped about $28,000.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Is Your Home Staging a #PinterestFail?

There you sit, watching “The Vanilla Ice Project” on the DIY Network when a thought bubble forms over your head. If Vanilla Ice can remodel houses on television, you could probably save yourself the expense of a pro home stager and take the job into your own hands. Your Realtor will be so impressed that she’ll probably put it on her Instagram account right away.
This is a critical decision point. Do you put down the remote control and get to work making your home presentable for buyers or do you keep watching in hopes that Vanilla Ice breaks out into random song? It’s a hard decision.
As you lean forward to turn the television off, your spouse calls to see if you picked up milk on the way home from work. Of course you did. It’s just that important.
You may not realize it now, but one day you’ll see how close you came to total annihilation. That might be a bit dramatic, but you definitely came close to something…

What’s the Big Deal with Home Staging?

Staging a home is a delicate art meant to accentuate the positive features of your home, often with furniture you can’t afford or would never choose because of its basic impracticality. Who really owns a fainting couch in this day and age?
No one. Nacho cheese Doritos, football and fainting couches don’t mix.
This is why interior decorating pros often bring their own furniture and accessories to vacant or partially emptied homes. With their own furnishings, pro designers have a lot more control over how your home is presented and they can go wild creating a lot of interior decorating fantasies for people who will never own furniture like what your home is showcased with.
Even so, when potential buyers later see your professionally decorated home online, they’re far more eager to take a look right now than if your home is photographed empty, or worse, full of furniture that is practical and functional, but makes no sense with the architectural style. If your furniture were music, it would sound like a 10 year old learning to play the violin.

Does Professional Home Staging Make Sense for You?

There are some homes that absolutely demand home staging. That ancient manor on the hill, for example, that’s a place that needs to be photographed with furniture in it or else it’s just a series of long, scary, dark rooms. Put the right furnishings inside, from curtains to a long, elegant dining table, and suddenly it’s a glamorous and ornate dreamscape for someone.
A house like that, with a value in the millions of dollars, clearly is getting treatment that yours may not, but you’d might be surprised how well you can come out. According to reporting by, staging can cost about $2,400 per month and a typical contract is for three months, even if you sell sooner. That brings the total to around $7,200, give or take.
Before you decide you can do better on that kind of budget, take a moment to check out these sales-related stats from the National Association of Realtors 2017 Profile of Home Staging report:
* 39 percent of Seller’s Agents reported that staging greatly decreased time on the market. That means fewer house payments for you and a faster transition into your new place.
* 33 percent of Buyer’s Agents told NAR that staging resulted in a one to five percent increase in their clients’ offers. Nationally, the median home sold in August 2018 went for $320,200. If this home were staged, the owner would have seen an initial offer of $3,202 to $16,010 more than similar homes that weren’t staged.
* On the flip side of that, 29 percent of Seller’s Agents reported the same one to five percent increase in sales price versus comparables nearby, another 21 percent said they saw a six to 10 percent increase in the final sales price. If you do the math on this, that same $320,200 home staged may bring up to $32,020 more just because it was easier for the buyer to visualize themselves in the space.
Obviously, where you live and how in demand the area is will make a big difference in whether or not it makes sense to hire a home stager. The cost can initially be alarming, but with the right type of home and the right market, it becomes a bit of a magical money machine.

Before You Stage Your Home Yourself…

Why not drop in on your HomeKeepr community? Not only is it an easy way to find trusted and reliable home stagers in your area, you can touch base with your Realtor before you do anything rash. After all, that life-sized velvet painting of Elvis in your bathroom is cool, but it’s not exactly what homeowner fantasies are made of…

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Understanding Mortgage Insurance

Whether you’re in the process of buying your first home or you’ve been a homeowner for years, there are few phrases that hit right to the bone like “mortgage insurance.” Why, you’re not sure entirely, but lots of people indicated that it was terrible and you were going to regret it.
As usual, the truth lies somewhere closer to the middle. Mortgage insurance is not your enemy, but it can be a costly surprise if you’re not prepared. Let’s dive into this hot button topic.

What Exactly is Mortgage Insurance?

Mortgage insurance is a type of coverage that your lender will take out on your loan to help shield them against loss should you default. They generally only require it if you have less than 20 percent down and often, this monthly payment will drop off once you’ve paid your home loan down to the point that your house has about 22 percent in equity versus its mortgage.
To be clear, this insurance does not cover you — at least not directly. In the case of default, the bank gets the check, but you get something, too. In many states, even recourse states, the mortgage insurance can be enough to prevent the bank from coming back on you for the difference between what you owe and what it was able to recover at a public sale.
Having mortgage insurance does not guarantee you will be free and clear should you lose your home, but it sure helps, especially if that house is in good condition when you turn it over to the bank. Its original purpose was to make it easier for people to get mortgages, even if they couldn’t come up with a big down payment, but during the housing bubble a decade ago many homeowners discovered that it can help on the back end, too.

MIP, PMI and Funding Fees

Mortgage insurance is a blanket term for several different insurance programs that essentially do the same thing. Rather than just calling it “mortgage insurance” across the industry, due to the way each program came into being in sort of a vacuum, different loan types have different names for it. For example:
* FHA calls it MIP, the Mortgage Insurance Premium. It was one of the first programs and the name is an original, for sure. It requires both an upfront and monthly payment.
* Private Mortgage Insurance is available on conventional loans and will be provided by one of a few different companies, MGIC being one of the biggest.
* Many people think that VA loans don’t have mortgage insurance, but they do — it’s a one time charge at closing known as the “Funding Fee.”
For most people, having mortgage insurance is just a reality of life. They can either continue to give their entire payment to someone else to pay off real estate the renter will never have a stake in, or they can give a fraction of their payment over to the bank in order to be given a chance to establish some equity and build a little wealth, even if it’s in the form of the family home.
Since the pricing of your mortgage insurance is based largely on your outstanding mortgage balance, the payment will get smaller and smaller each year. You can expect to pay from a half percent to one percent of your total mortgage balance annually. So, for example, if you borrow $300,000 to buy your home, your mortgage insurance payment will be anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000, or $125 to $250 a month, the first year.

Getting Rid of Mortgage Insurance

Although mortgage insurance has its place, you don’t want to pay it forever. That’s where this section of the blog comes in! If you borrowed using an FHA program after the summer of 2013 and had less than 10 percent down, you probably have lifetime mortgage insurance. There’s no joking, this is not a great situation.
Usually, once you reach 78 percent loan to value, based either on the original appraisal or an updated one, the bank will drop your mortgage insurance. You may have to write a formal request, but it’s not that big of a deal. With these FHA products, the mortgage insurance is meant to stay for the entire life of the loan. So, your options to shed it are a little trickier. You can:
1. Avoid it entirely by using a piggyback loan. This is a combination mortgage made up of an 80 percent LTV conventional loan and a 15 percent LTV secondary loan. That secondary loan, however, can have a pretty high base interest rate and may have terms like an adjustable rate, a shorter amortization period or a prepayment penalty.
2. Bring more to closing. Hey, it’s not fun to crack your piggy bank or 401(k) to get extra money, but there are times when it makes sense. This is one of them. You always need somewhere to live, you might as well be building equity, too.
3. Refinance the monster. If you’ve noticed prices in your neighborhood rising dramatically or you’ve just been paying on your mortgage a while, it could pay to refinance your loan. Your Realtor can help you determine if it will be worthwhile to spend the money for a new appraisal and new loan paperwork. That’s also the downside, though. It can cost as much to refinance at the wrong time as you’re paying in mortgage insurance.
4. Sell your home. You know, it was a good home, but you’re sick to death of paying the mortgage insurance. You plan to take the sale proceeds to buy another place that you can put at least 10 percent down on to avoid further incidents of lifetime mortgage insurance.
Most of the time, if you compare your mortgage insurance to the alternatives, it’s not really that big of a deal to pay an extra percent for the ability to buy a home with five percent down, rather than when you finally have 20 percent down.
Keep in mind that although interest rates have been in the three to four percent zone for a while now, pre-bubble, they were between six and eight percent for a prime mortgage and no one blinked an eye. Effectively having a four to five — or even six — percent interest payment doesn’t have that much of a relative impact on your monthly housing costs.

Ready to Shed That Mortgage Insurance?

Log in to your HomeKeepr community, where you can meet bankers who can help you refinance, builders who can help you add instant equity to your home and, of course, your Realtor who can help you build your case if you’ve accumulated enough equity naturally to be rid of mortgage insurance entirely. Because the entire community is powered by recommendations, you know the people you’ll meet can be trusted to follow-through in a totally professional way..

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