Monday, December 28, 2015

Emergency Ready Kit

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that all Americans have some basic supplies on hand in order to survive for at least three days if an emergency occurs. It is recommended that the Ready Kit should be assembled well in advance of an emergency.

The concept is to be able to survive for at least 72 hours until local officials and relief workers arrive on the scene. The disaster could be wide-spread and involve a lot of people that makes it difficult for relief workers to reach everyone immediately.

  • Water, one gallon per person per day for at least three daysFema ready logo2.jpg
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (prescription and basic)
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Emergency blanket
  • Pet supplies if necessary

Click here for a print version of this list and additional items to consider adding to an emergency ready kit. The American Red Cross has a suggested list for first aid kits and has other items available for purchase at their online store.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Forced Savings

One of the big banks has a voluntary program available that transfers $100 each month from your checking account to your savings account. In five years, the account owner would have over $5,000 because of a type of forced savings. iStock_000059416596-250.jpg

Similarly, when a person buys a home with a standard amortizing loan, each month, a part of the payment is used to reduce the principal loan amount. Amazingly, over $4,000 would be applied toward the principal in the first year of a $250,000 mortgage at 4% for 30 years. In five years, the loan amount would be reduced by almost $25,000 through normal payments.

The other dynamic that is in play is that while the unpaid balance is being reduced, appreciation causes the value to increase. The difference between the two makes the equity grow even faster. Three percent appreciation on a $250,000 home would increase its value in five year by almost $40,000.

A 30-year mortgage of $250,000 will be paid for in 30 years. At an average of 3% appreciation, the asset would be worth about $600,000. If you continue to rent, the asset belongs to your landlord instead.

Many experts believe that the homeowner benefits from the forced savings of amortization and the leveraged growth that takes place in the investment. It has been observed in the tri-annual Consumer Finance Survey by the Federal Reserve Board that homeowner’s net worth is considerably higher than that of renters.


Monday, December 14, 2015

More Equity...More Options

The more equity in your home, the more options you have. Since equity is determined by the difference between value and what is owed on a property, when homes lost value during the Great Recession, homeowners’ equity decreased. Equity-250.jpg

Negative equity occurs when the value is less than the mortgage owed. According to CoreLogic, 91% of all mortgaged properties have equity and only 4.4 million properties remain in negative equity at the end of the second quarter in 2015.

A homeowner, who qualifies, can release part of their equity by refinancing the existing loan and taking out additional cash or by getting a home equity loan. The benefits include:

  • To get a lower rate on your current mortgage
  • To finance capital improvements on your home
  • To payoff higher interest rate debt such as credit cards or student loans
  • To purchase items that would not have deductible interest like personal cars, boats, etc.

It could be as simple as waiting for positive home equity so owners can move to another home without having to pay out-of-pocket expenses to sell their home.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Two things everyone needs to know about plumbing

The first thing every homeowner needs to know about plumbing is how to turn the water off in case of an emergency. It’s like having a fire extinguisher; you hope you never need it but you want it just in case you do.Plumbing-250.jpg

Generally, the cutoff is in the front of the home. There may be a separate cutoff box on the owner’s side of the meter. If not, the owner needs to be able to open the water meter and turn it off there. This will require a water meter key which can be found at a local home improvement store and a wrench. Once you have the key, practice opening the meter door and check out how the shutoff valve works. Then, put the key in a quick and easy place to find when you need it.

The second thing a homeowner needs is a recommendation of two good plumbers. Having a backup name is always good in case your first choice can’t make it when you need them.

Some homeowners prefer to go the do-it-yourself route. There are plenty of DIY videos on the Internet but having the name of a good plumber if the job gets out of hand can be the tool that saves the day.

Our business puts us in touch with some of the most reliable and reputable service providers and we’re willing to share their names with you. Regardless of whether you “do it or delegate it”, being familiar with the basics can be very helpful.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Look at a Rental This Way

Appreciation, tax advantages, cash flow, leverage and equity build-up contribute to the rate of return on rental real estate. If that sounds confusing and it’s keeping you from investing in rentals, try looking at it a different way.Paperwork-250.jpg

Consider this, look at only cash flow and equity build-up to determine whether to buy the property. They are easy to calculate and their outcomes are both reliable and predictable.

Most homeowners, based on their familiarity with their own home, should feel more comfortable with a rental than alternative investments. A conservative strategy is to purchase slightly below average price range homes in a predominantly owner-occupied neighborhood. Collect the rent, pay the bills and make necessary repairs.

A cash on cash rate of return is determined by dividing the cash flow before taxes by the cash invested in the property. It considers all of the “real world” income and expenses related to the property.

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The equity build-up occurs from the normal process of amortization with an increasingly larger portion of each payment applied to reduce the principal loan amount.

In this hypothetical example, the combination of the Cash on Cash and the Equity Build-up is almost 12% which is considerably higher than certificates of deposit and bonds and nowhere near as volatile as stocks or mutual funds.

In most of today’s markets, rents are expected to continue to rise and due to a low inventory of homes for sale coupled with growing demand, prices will continue to rise. Even though there is value in appreciation, tax advantages and leverage, they could be considered an unexpected bonus to this basic rate of return.


Monday, November 23, 2015

One-button Pricing?

An Automated Valuation Model, AVM, is a computer approach that looks at public records to make a determination based on square footage, comparable sales and other elements. It is as easy as putting your address in a blank but unfortunately, AVM results may only be accurate about 20% of the time.Value BUTTON3.png

A popular AVM, Zestimate®, states “It is considered a starting point at determining a home’s value.” While an AVM contains some of the same information as a comparable market analysis, it lacks a critical human factor.

Having a pair of experienced eyes consider aspects that are not easily quantified can make a big difference. A skilled professional can tell which properties are truly comparable. A knowledgeable expert can recognize features, floorplans and other things that can affect value but are difficult to quantify.

Even if a person isn’t ready to sell their investment, they like to know its value. It is easy to find the price of stocks or mutual funds on any given day but the value of a home is more difficult.

Regardless of whether you’re just curious as to how much your home is worth or are ready to monetize your equity, I’m available to give you that information without obligation. If you’re not ready now, just keep this letter for when you are.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Resource Central

Homeowners should recognize that the same trusted professional who helped them buy or sell their home can be a valuable resource while they own their home too.resource central.png

Think of your REALTOR® as an indispensable homeowner’s resource who can make recommendations about a variety of services that homeowners will use throughout the tenure in their home. This experience far exceeds personal experience because of the day-to-day activities working in the industry.

  • To recommend reputable and reasonable service providers.
  • To offer information about your community, nearby businesses and local agencies.
  • To solicit general homeowner knowledge such as protesting your property tax assessment, determining fair market value, determining the best improvements and other things.
  • To assist with advice and suggestions about maintenance, protecting value and saving money.

Our goal is to have a long-term relationship with you. We want to help you be a better homeowner not only when you need to buy or sell but all of the year’s in-between. We want to earn a recommendation to your friends. We want you to consider us your REALTOR® for life.


Monday, November 9, 2015

At least consider a shorter one

Affordability and stability are reasons homebuyers choose a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. It makes the payment lower than a 15-year mortgage and the principal and interest portion of the payment will be constant for 30 years. Pencils-250.jpg

A common belief among homeowners for decades was that they would always have mortgage payment. The Great Recession has caused many individuals to rethink that concept and make plans to get their home paid for sooner.

For people who can afford it, shorter term mortgages will provide a lower interest rate and build equity faster. A 3.09% 15-year fixed-rate mortgage compared to a 3.87% 30-year loan will have a $562.42 higher payment.

The equity would be $66,903.04 greater on the 15-year term at the end of seven years. Even after you consider the higher payment on the shorter term, the equity difference is still almost $20,000 greater.

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By choosing a 15-year loan, a borrower is committing to the higher payment for the term of the mortgage in exchange for a slightly lower interest rate. Another approach would be for the borrower to acquire a 30-year mortgage and make payments as if it were on a 15-year term. The slightly higher rate would allow the borrower the flexibility of not having to make the higher payment in the event he could not afford it on any particular month.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Discussion with your Insurance Agent

Insurance and homeowners go together like peanut butter and jelly. Lenders require fire insurance at a minimum for homes with a mortgage but many owners opt for a more comprehensive coverage with a homeowner’s policy. discussion-250.jpg

However, comprehensive doesn’t mean that everything is covered. Filing a claim is not the time to learn that you don’t have the right coverage. Discuss the following issues with your insurance agent to get a better understanding of your policy and whether some adjustments might be in order.

  • Flooding?
  • Rising water? 
  • Mold?
  • Earthquakes?
  • Pools?
  • Termites?
  • Certain kinds of pets or breeds of dogs?
  • Limits on jewelry and cash?
  • Deductible amount?

The whole concept behind buying insurance is to transfer the risk of loss that you cannot afford for an annual premium that you can. Price and coverage need to be considered when comparing policies. Call your agent and make sure you understand what you’re insured for and if there are alternatives available.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Real Cost of Housing

A variety of factors have led to a shortage of rental units, especially single family homes, and as a result, rents have been steadily increasing nationwide. In most markets, it is considerably less to own than to rent.House composite.png

In some cases, the total house payment is less than the rent for a similar size and condition home which supports a purchase. However, when you factor in some of the financial benefits like principal reduction, appreciation and tax savings, the difference becomes even more dramatic.

Let’s look at an example of a $250,000 home with 3.5% down payment and a 4.50% mortgage for 30 years. We’ll assume a 3% annual appreciation, 25% federal tax bracket, $1,200 annual maintenance and current rent of $2,100 a month.

The total house payment with property taxes, insurance and mortgage insurance premium would be $1,834 a month. Once the principal reduction, appreciation, tax savings and maintenance have been considered, the net cost of housing is about $673 a month. It costs a tenant over $1,400 more a month to rent than to own which would amount to $17,000 in the first year alone. That’s almost twice as much as the down payment to get into the home.

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In this example, the down payment of $8,750 grows to almost $94,000 in seven years due to appreciation and amortization of the loan. Owning a home is one of the few investments available that allow these personal and financial benefits.

One of the obstacles in the past five to seven years has been a borrower’s inability to qualify for a mortgage but new programs and relaxed requirements have allowed more people to be eligible for mortgages. The important step is to talk to a trusted mortgage professional very early in the home search process. Your REALTOR® can make recommendations based on experience from actual closed transactions.

Use the Rent vs. Own calculator to see what the benefits might be in your price range.


Monday, October 19, 2015

6 Reasons for Rentals

Rental homes have several distinct advantages compared to alternative investments. These advantages coupled with the opportunity for a higher yield make it a clear choice for some investors.Income Property.png

  1. Most investments must be paid for in cash. Stocks can be purchased with 50% cash but if the value goes down, more cash has to be used to keep the margin at 50%. Rentals can readily be financed with only 20-25% down payment.
  2. Most loans made for business or investment purposes are at a floating interest rate compared to the prevalent fixed-rate mortgage on non-owner occupied real estate.
  3. Terms for investment loans if possible are generally six months to a year with a possible renewal but real estate commonly has long term loans up to 30 years.
  4. Real estate has a long-term history of appreciation.
  5. Real estate enjoys tax advantages like long-term capital gains treatment, cost recovery and tax deferred exchanges that are not available to many other types of investments.
  6. Single family homes and similar properties give the investor a reasonable amount of control to make improvements and manage the property which are limited to simply determining when to buy and sell for other investments.

The ins and outs of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, commodities and other investments are unfamiliar with most people. It is obviously possible for anyone to invest in them but the lack of knowledge about how they work could make it more difficult to have a successful outcome. On the other hand, homeowners can use their experiences to select, manage and sell with much more confidence using a single family home for rental purposes.

To find out more about investing in rental properties, contact your real estate professional.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Your Best Investment

According to a Federal Reserve report on Consumer Finances, homeowners' net worth is 36 times greater than that of renters. Building on that study, the National Association of REALTORS® believes that by the end of 2015, the factor will grow to 41 times greater.36x.png

There can be several factors that contribute to this disparity but an important one is the forced savings that is achieved due to an amortized mortgage. A portion of the payment goes to the reduction of the principal balance of the mortgage which increases equity in the home.

Appreciation is also a major contributor to homeowners’ equity. Homes, in most areas, have consistently increased in value over the long term and during the past four years have experienced solid growth. Many economists expect home prices to increase in the next five years.

Let’s look at a scenario where a qualified buyer considers three different options to see what their investment would be in five years: purchase a certificate of deposit, invest in the stock market or buy a home. The following assumptions are made: a $250,000 home with an $8,750 down payment with a 4.5% mortgage for 30 years and 3% annual appreciation; CD rate at 2% and a 5% return in the stock market.

The $8,750 would grow to $9,661 in the certificate of deposit, to $11,167 in the stock market and to $69,900 in equity with a home purchase. That is over a six times growth in the same period of time due to the amortization of the loan and the appreciation.

Check out Your Best Investment to compare possible differences in your price range.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

The Cost of Co-Signing

It seems fairly innocuous; a friend or family member wants you to co-sign on a loan because they don’t qualify. They assure that they’ll make the payments; they’re quite convincing and very appreciative. You don’t want to disappoint them and after all, it’s not like it’s going to cost you anything…is it?Caution CoSign.png

Think of it this way. They couldn’t get a loan unless you co-sign for them. If they don't make the payments, the lender is going to look to you to repay the loan plus late and collection fees. The lender may be able to sue you, file a lien on your home or garnish your wages.

And it’s not just money that you could be losing, it could be your credit too. Co-signing a loan is a contingent liability that could affect your debt-to-income ratio and your ability to borrow.

Co-signing is an obligation to repay the debt if the other signer is unable. You could be out the money and unable to recoup the loss because you don’t have control of the asset. The impact on your credit could take years to recover.

Before you obligate yourself, consider all of the ramifications involved in co-signing a loan for someone.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Finding the Best Mortgage

As rates are inching up but still very affordable, buyers should remember that there is an alternative to a fixed rate mortgage that can provide the lowest cost of housing for the homeowners who understand the parameters. finding best mortgage.jpg

A $300,000 fixed-rate mortgage at 4% has a principal and interest payment of $1,432.25 per month for the entire 30 year term. A 5/1 adjustable mortgage at 3% has a $167.43 lower payment for the first five years and then, can adjust, up or down, based on a predetermined index.

Another interesting fact is that the unpaid balance on the ARM at the end of the first five years is $4,624 lower than the fixed-rate mortgage. The total savings in the first five years on the ARM is $14,669.00.

Adjustable rate mortgages are not the right choice for everyone but buyers should at least consider the options based on their individual situation. It could be an obvious choice for a buyer who is only going to be in the home for five years or less.

Use the ARM Comparison worksheet to see what possible savings you could have based on your actual numbers. A trusted mortgage professional can help you to understand the advantages and disadvantages based on your situation. You need the facts to make the best decision.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Cut Mortgage Insurance

Making additional payments toward the principal of your mortgage will do three things for the homeowner: save interest, build equity and shorten the term on fixed rate mortgages. 36893374_s.jpg

These things should be beneficial enough to justify the extra payments but another huge advantage is available to those who have private mortgage insurance on their loan. Mortgage insurance rates vary but can range from seventy-five to two hundred dollars a month on a $200,000 mortgage.

Lenders are required to automatically terminate mortgage insurance when the principal balance reaches 78% of the original value of the property. It is important for homeowners to monitor their balance because sometimes lenders may inadvertently fail to terminate the coverage.

Mortgage insurance is a necessary but expensive requirement for many people who are limited to a down payment of less than 20%. Eliminating the need for it can save thousands of dollars over time.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, CFPB, issued a compliance bulletin on August 4, 2015.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Lower the Rate & Deduct the Interest

A home can easily be a person’s largest personal asset and it can be a powerful tool to increase financial stability also.

Since most mortgages are amortizing, the loan becomes a forced savings account that reduces the unpaid balance with each payment. The equity could be used to improve a homeowner's financial position involving other loans.iStock_000006029471Medium-250.jpg

While every homeowner recognizes that they can deduct the interest paid on their mortgage, it is surprising how many don’t know that they can write-off the interest on up to $100,000 of home equity debt assuming there is sufficient equity in the home.

The real advantage to a homeowner is that the money borrowed can be used for any purpose and the interest is still deductible. Homeowners could payoff high-interest rate credit card debt or student loans with a considerably lower rate on a mortgage and deduct the interest on the home-equity debt.

Replacing debt with lower rate loans that have deductible interest can be a strategic decision to financial stability and a debt-free environment. A trusted mortgage professional can help you analyze your individual situation to determine if it would be better to refinance with a cash-out first-mortgage or a dedicated home equity loan.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Things That Kill Your Credit

Some people take their credit for granted and don’t start paying attention to it until they need it. The problem with this is that it could delay if not altogether cause the loan to be denied. iStock_000050117608_250.jpg

The most common issue is not correcting items on your credit report. A large majority of credit reports have errors but not all of them are critical. Since it takes time to remove them, it is a good practice to review your free credit reports from each Experian, TransUnion and Equifax once a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

Another problem is making late payments. One 30-day late payment could be enough to cause a borrower to pay a higher interest rate or even be denied a loan. Payments have a due date and even when they allow a few days before a late fee kicks in, if it isn’t on-time, it is late.

Maxing out credit cards is another big problem. Ideally, a person wants to have an outstanding balance of no more than 30% of their available credit. As the percentage of available credit decreases, the credit score will go down.

Bad credit can not only keep you from getting the loan you want, it can raise your rates on the insurance you buy. In a study released by the Consumer Federation of America, people with good credit paid less than people with average and poor credit. Their results indicate that some customers with poor credit scores were charged about twice as much as those with excellent scores.

A prudent idea if you are going to be moving to a larger home is to get pre-approved with a trusted mortgage professional before you sell your current home. Occasionally, sellers find out after they’ve sold their home that they can’t qualify for another mortgage.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Checking for Water Leaks

An unexpected, larger-than-normal water bill could lead a person to think that they might have a leak. Before incurring the cost of a plumber, it is fairly easy to run your own test. water meter-250.jpg

Locate your water meter. They’re usually in the front of the house, near the street. In some cases, you might need a meter key to open it; they can be purchased at Lowe’s, Home Depot or other hardware stores.

Step One - Write down the numbers on the meters to get a current reading. Don’t use any water for thirty minutes. If the meter shows water usage during the test period, proceed to step two.

Step Two - Shut off the valves to all of the toilets. If you have a pool with an automatic filler, it has a similar device. Repeat the test again for the same thirty minute period. If the numbers haven’t changed this time, it indicates that the toilets probably need servicing.

If the numbers have changed during step two, it is an indication there may be a leak and it will need to be tracked down. This could be the time to call a plumber or plumbing leak specialist. Your water department may have a consumer help line that can offer suggestions also.


Monday, August 24, 2015

More Home for a Lower Cost of Housing

What if you could live in a larger and possibly newer home for less than you are currently? Would you consider moving? Do you want to hear more?

Interest rates, while they’re expected to go up, actually took a small dip and are still hovering at the 4% or below mark for a 30 year mortgage and almost one percent less for a 15 year term. QUALITY COSTS3.png

Let’s assume that you have a $225,000 mortgage currently at 6% which has a principal and interest payment of $1,348.99. With a 4% rate, you could have a $282,561 mortgage with the same payment. A $57,000 more expensive home could help you get what you need most such as more square footage or a different location or a newer home.

If you’re going to be making that payment for years to come, why not allow lower interest rates to help you get the features you want without having to necessarily pay a higher payment. Taking that logic a little bit further, let’s see how utilities can make a difference too.

A newer home could easily have lower monthly utility costs than your current home due to being more energy efficient. Construction materials, windows, doors, insulation, modern HVAC systems and energy efficient appliances all contribute to lower utility costs. A new home with these advantages could easily save a homeowner up to 25-50% on utilities for the same size home.

The concept is simple: get the most home you can for the amount you spend on the payment and utilities. It will take some investigation and your real estate professional can help.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Get Ready for College

rental advantages.pngOne of the important things as a parent is to plan for their children’s education. Let’s look at two different approaches: a savings account or investing in rental real estate.

Assuming your child is five years old and you start putting $250 a month in a savings account earning 2%, in 13 years you’d have $44,497.41 to pay for their college. Anticipating that isn’t going to be enough, you’d have to save $500 a month to end up with $88,995.

Another way would be to make a lump sum contribution of $20,000 today in a mutual fund earning 5% that would be worth $37,713 in 13 years. You’d have to make a $47,196 initial contribution to end up with the same $88,995.

An alternative to savings would be to invest in a $100,000 home in a good area. Assuming a three percent appreciation and rent of $1,000 a month, an initial investment of $23,500 could have a future wealth position of $83,838 at the end of 13 years.

Obviously, this is just an example of why rental homes are the IDEAL investment providing Income, Depreciation, Equity build-up, Appreciation and Leverage. While rentals certainly have more risk and management than a savings account, they do provide an opportunity for a higher rate of return.

If you’re concerned about paying for college tuition in the future, it is certainly worth investigating the possibility of investing in rental homes today.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Wait a Year...It Won't Matter?

There is a frequently quoted expression “more money has been lost from indecision than was ever lost from making a bad decision.” Regardless of the extent of its accuracy, most people can recall when procrastination has cost them money. 2015-16-250.jpg

There are markets so short of inventory that buyers have become frustrated after losing bids for several homes and have decided to wait until more homes come on the market. In the meantime, the shortage of homes is driving the prices up more by the month.

There are buyers who can’t find what they want for the price they want to pay and think that waiting will somehow change things. In some cases, what they want just keeps moving farther and farther away from them.

The other dynamic in play is, of course, the mortgage rates. While they’ve remained low for several years, most experts agree that they’re going to rise; it’s just a matter of when. If you look at what positive increases in both of these would do, it becomes apparent that waiting will matter.

A $250,000 home purchased today on a FHA loan at 4% for 30 years will have a principal and interest payment of $1,151.76. If a buyer were to wait a year and the price increased 5% and the rate went up by 1%, the payment would increase by over $200 a month. In a seven year period, the increased payment alone would cost the buyer over $17,000.

Use the Cost of Waiting to Buy calculator to see how much it will matter based on the home you want to buy and what you think the prices and rates will do in the next year.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Who is Your Champion?

champion-200.jpgThe Super Bowl and World Series determine the football and baseball champions. Since there can only be one champion, the other team loses the competition. In feudal times, a knight might champion for the king or a patriotic, romantic or religious cause.

Fierce competition can occur when buying or selling a home because each party wants to get the “best deal” possible. When the buyer and seller are not equally matched, and they rarely are, it is important to have a champion on your side to fight for your cause.

The price of the home, the type of financing and concessions, personal property, closing dates and possession are just a few of the many things that can be negotiated in a contract. Since the seller wants to get the most for their house and the buyer wants to pay the least, their causes are diametrically opposed.

Even after the contract is signed, removing the contingencies can cause considerable negotiations. The inspections or the appraisal could be the source of reevaluating the terms and provisions of the contract.

Negotiating the sale or purchase of a home is definitely a competition and you need a champion on your side.


Monday, July 27, 2015

It's Hard to Imagine

With mortgage rates below 5% since 2009, you’d think any homeowner who should refinance would have already. However, it is estimated, there are approximately 6.5 million borrowers who would benefit with significant monthly savings by refinancing. iStock_000064771413_300.jpg

Rodney Anderson of Supreme Lending, on his weekly radio program, described a recent pipeline meeting where they reviewed every pending mortgage application his company was processing. They had seven refinancing applicants whose current mortgage was over 9% and twelve with a rate between 7% and 9%.

“Some 550,000 American homeowners with a mortgage could save $500 or more each month by refinancing at today’s rates. Over three million could save at least $200 per month.” said Ben Graboske, CTO with Black Knight Financial Services.

Getting a lower interest rate should be reason enough but eliminating the mortgage insurance should make the decision a no brainer. With increased home values, the loan-to-value ratio may no longer require mortgage insurance which would add additional savings.

Homeowners need solid information about what their home is worth and whether they’d benefit from refinancing. The most reliable solution is to talk with a qualified mortgage professional. The internet is a great place for generalized info but each person’s situation is unique. Call if you'd like a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional or would like to know what your home is worth.


Monday, July 20, 2015

What's Stopping You?

The majority of tenants say they’d like to own a home but continue to pay rent and missing out on financial and emotional advantages. There seems to still be a lot of misinformation in the marketplace. Questions2.jpg

There are a number of programs for low or no down payment options. Veterans can get into a home with no down payment or closing costs. In qualifying areas, USDA has zero down payment programs. FHA requires 3.5% down payment and there are conventional programs for as little as 3% and 5% down.

People with credit issues need expert opinions about their specific situation. Borrowers with bankruptcies or foreclosures may be eligible to purchase again after certain periods of time. There are short-term fixes for some types of credit problems. There is an extended list of individual issues that a skilled mortgage professional may be able to overcome.

Most tenants realize considerably lower cost of housing by owning once the appreciation, amortization and tax savings are considered. The savings in the first year alone could easily be more than the down payment required.

Plug in your own numbers in a Rent vs. Own to see what your real cost of housing may be. Contact us for a recommendation of a mortgage professional who can give you accurate information about your situation.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Build Equity Faster

Equity is an asset and an appreciating home is an investment. While some people have resolved themselves that a mortgage payment is a normal part of life, others have set goals to get their home paid for as soon as possible. There are several strategies that will work but they all require persistent vigilance. 44969574_250.jpg

A shorter term mortgage such as 20, 15 or even 10 years will not only pay off sooner, it will generally have a lower interest rate. A recent comparison at Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed a 30 year fixed-rate mortgage at 4.04% compared to a 15 year fixed-rate at 3.20%. The fees for the shorter term were even .1% less. The shorter term with the lower rate would have a higher payment but some people consider it forced savings.

Additional principal contributions to any length fixed-rate mortgage will save interest, build equity and shorten the term of the loan. Some homeowners may apply lump sums at various times during the year such as when bonuses are paid or a tax refund is received.

Other owners might increase their payment by $100, $200 or more each month. Setting the increased payment through electronic banking would insure that you consistently make the extra amount.

Bi-weekly payments make 26 half-payments in a year which equals 13 full-payments. Because of the frequency, it reduces the interest that is due. This might work well for borrowers who are paid every two weeks but could present cash flow problems for those who are paid on schedules that don’t coincide.

Making one extra payment a year will have almost the same effect as a bi-weekly payment. The 13th payment would be completely applied to principal.

Before embarking on one of these strategies, it would be wise to verify with your lender that it complies with their policies. Check out the Equity Accelerator to see how it could affect your loan.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Three M's of Homeownership

Among the many reasons people have to own home, they include having a place of their own, to raise a family and to share with friends. Additional benefits include security, investment, peace, pride and enjoyment. home maintenance 250.jpg

Together with the benefits come the responsibility to take care of the home for its livability and viability as a sound decision. A homeowner’s concerns can be broken down into three areas.

The maintenance on the property is something that every homeowner deals with. Changing filters are easy to handle yourself. Other things might require a skilled professional but identifying the “right” one can be challenging.

Minimizing expenses can reduce the cost of living in the home. It’s good to recognize when a repair is appropriate compared to a replacement. Reputable and reasonable service providers are key to keeping expense low.

Managing debt and risk becomes the financial side of the effort. Taking advantage of low interest rates or shorter terms for refinancing, making additional principal contributions are just a few ways to manage debt. Home warranty programs and homeowner insurance tips can reduce risk.

We sincerely want to be a resource for you not only when you buy or sell but all of the years in between. It is actually the reason we send this newsletter to you.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Grilling Safety

More people grill in July than any other month. While grilling is all about good food, fun, friends and celebrations, it is important to make sure that accidents don’t interrupt your activities. Approximately half of the injuries involving grills are thermal burns. If you work with fire, there’s a chance of getting burned.

  • Only use BBQ grills outdoors and in ventilated areas.
  • Place the grill away from home or anything that could be flammable. iStock_000065187147-250.jpg
  • Keep grill stable.
  • Keep fire under control.
  • Keep children away from grill.
  • Never leave the grill unattended.
  • The grill lid should always be open before lighting it.
  • Grease should not be allowed to build up in the grill. 
  • Use long-handled utensils.

    Gas/Propane
  • Check the tank hose and connections for leaks before using it for the first time each year by using a light soapy water solution to see if bubbles appear.
  • If you smell gas when the grill is lit, move away from the grill and call the fire department.
  • If the flame goes out, turn off the gas for 15 minutes and open the lid before re-lighting it.

    Charcoal
  • Never add any starter fluid or other flammable liquid to a fire.
  • Only use charcoal starter fluid and not gasoline, kerosene or other flammable liquid.
  • Keep starter fluid away from heat sources and out of reach of children.
  • Electric charcoal starters do not use fire but have a coil to ignite the coals.
  • When finished cooking, close off the grill vents to suffocate the fire and save some of the remaining charcoal.

 Practice safe grilling and enjoy the occasions to cook outdoors and share with your family and friends.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Eliminate Mortgage Insurance

Why would you consider refinancing if your mortgage is only two or three years old and the rate is not considerably higher than what is currently available on new loans? Because you may be able to eliminate the mortgage insurance and have significant monthly savings. chopped.jpg

Many homes have seen their values rise in the past few years. The current loan-to-value ratio may be low enough to no longer require mortgage insurance. In some cases, a homeowner might actually pay a little higher rate than they currently have but lower their monthly payment dramatically because the mortgage insurance isn’t required.

A rough rule of thumb is that mortgage insurance is not needed on loans at or less than 80% of value. There could be programs available that would allow a higher LTV than 80%.

Careful consideration should also be given to the fees required to refinance. Lenders differ in not only the rates they charge but also the fees associated with the loans and the process. If you’d like a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional, we’d be happy to make a recommendation.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Where Are the Sellers?

Low inventories resulting in multiple offers are contributing to what experienced agents are calling the most challenging market they’ve ever worked. While buyers with resources may find the market difficult, purchasers with minimum cash and credit are struggling to find and get into a home. where are sellers.jpg

First-time buyers feel the impetus to purchase because they’re renting and are concerned about being priced out of the market with rapidly appreciating prices and rising interest rates.

Sellers may not feel the same urgency because they already own a home. While they might find it appealing to change homes, they may not feel a pressing motivation causing them to act.

In some cases, sellers are so attached to their low interest rate mortgage that instead of selling, they’re keeping the home for a rental property. This may be a good investment for people with additional cash resources for the down payment and closing costs on the replacement property.

Why now is a good time to sell:

  1. The economy is strong.
  2. The majority of home sales occur in the months of May through September.
  3. Many buyers find it preferable to move in the summer because their children are out of school and they can avoid the winter weather.
  4. Mortgage rates are still very low but are starting to rise.
  5. Current low inventories in most markets result in higher prices and less competition.

Contact your real estate professional to evaluate the opportunities of making a move.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Take Pictures Now

Preserve the memories you’re making by taking photographs of your home now. The pictures will remind you of the role your home played with your family and life.

Reminiscing is easier when scrolling through pictures to remind you of people and times. One of the least heard regrets is that westreet scene.jpg should have taken more pictures.

Shots to consider:

  • The front of the home from across the street    
  • Times when your yard and plants looked exceptional
  • Holiday decorations
  • Special occasions in the homes like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc.
    Home improvements
  • Major purchases for the home
  • Times when the home looked the best and the worst
  • Family, friends and pets in the home
  • Your children’s height marks on a door frame
  • The view from a favorite window

From an organizational standpoint, put the pictures in a folder with your address as the name. Even if you don’t take time to name each picture, you’ll have the file date to identify when it was taken. Since the cost of film and processing has disappeared, there is little reason not to chronicle your life in pictures.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Make Your Offer Standout

If a seller was looking at two offers for exactly the same price on their home, there would still be things that could make one standout more than the other. If there happens to be more than two offers, things can really get sticky for a buyer. For that reason, it is good to craft the most attractive offer possible because even if you don’t have competition now, another offer could come in during negotiations and derail all your efforts to that point. InTouchbyPatZaby-unique.jpg

Anything that can give the seller the peace of mind that one contract will close on time and as agreed will make them more comfortable in accepting one offer over another. Buyers can consider putting up larger than customary amounts of earnest money and limiting the contingencies to only the most essential items.

The closing costs could be more expensive to the seller based on the type of mortgage a buyer is obtaining. One buyer may be asking the seller to pay part or all of their acquisition costs and the other buyer is paying their own costs.

The borrower who has a signed, preapproval letter will appear to have a greater certainty to closing than a buyer who only says they have talked to a loan officer. Some lenders' letters are considered “gold” and others may not be worth the paper they’re written on. The seller will depend on their listing agent to advise them.

In most cases, the seller will be taking all or part of the cash they receive from the sale of their home and buying another one. If they have to put a contingency clause in the contract based on their current home selling, it weakens their position. Conversely, it will strengthen a buyer’s position if they don’t have to make their offer contingent upon selling their current home.

Even shortening the inspection periods and offering to close early or possible lease the home back to the seller for a short time can be valuable negotiating factors.

Finally, don’t overlook the value of a personal hand-written letter that tells the seller why you want their home. An emotional connection has been known to make a difference for one set of buyers getting the home.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Who would want to be without one?

When the 75 year old man who had been widowed four times was asked why he was getting married again, he said “for the little bit that they eat, I wouldn’t want to be without one.” house-umbrella.png.jpg

In a torrential rainfall, you wouldn’t want to be without an umbrella. It is also understandable that when purchasing or selling a home, more and more people want an agent involved.

NAR’s Homebuyers and Sellers Profile states the trend in owners trying to sell their home themselves has declined over the past ten years from 14% in 2003 to only 9% in 2014. Similarly, the number of buyers purchasing directly through an owner has decreased from 2001 to 2014 from 15% to 5%.

It is natural to think that a seller wants to get the highest price for their property while the buyer wants to pay the least possible. Negotiations may be the most valuable service provided by an agent because of the clear conflicts of interest such as the price, terms and condition.

Other areas of contention that could affect a party without an agent:

  • The real estate agent who represents the other party
  • The attorney who represents only one party
  • Home and pest inspectors regarding condition
  • The buyer’s lender regarding terms
  • The lender’s appraiser regarding value
  • The title company in an effort to satisfy challenges to clear title
  • Municipal authorities to mitigate code violations

 Even when there are two licensed agents involved, there could be a question of representation. This is a discussion that buyers should have with a real estate professional before looking at houses.


Monday, May 18, 2015

You've Got Money!

Imagine that after checking www.SSA.gov to see what you can expect when you retire and estimated what your minimum required distributions from your retirement accounts will be, you’ve discovered that you’re not going to have enough retirement income to cover your living expenses. Youve got money.jpg

Ideally, it would be perfect if the extra money you need would just come to your mailbox each month with the same certainty as your social security or retirement income.

Rental homes are a popular choice for passive income because they are an investment that most people understand based on their experience owning a home. They’re easy to manage and the rents should keep pace with inflation.

Mortgage loans for investors are available to investors with good credit and at least 20% down payments. While 30 year terms are the most common, some investors wanting to have the home paid for by retirement may choose a 15 or 20 year term.

A tried and true strategy is to choose average or slightly below average priced homes in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods. This will appeal to more prospective tenants wanting to live in good communities and should provide a higher level of revenue.

When an owner has a good property with a good tenant, the income is as predictable and convenient as going to the mailbox each month. To learn more about rental homes, contact your real estate professional.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Live the Dream

Consumers are more easily living the American Dream of owning a home because of the incredibly low mortgage rates. Today, most buyers can get a much lower rate than their parents or grandparents got on their first home. American dream2.png

In a recent housing survey, FNMA released information about consumers' thoughts on the current market. Almost two-thirds would rather buy than rent and believe that now is a good time to buy. Half of the respondents expect rent and home prices will go up.

Top Ten reasons to move the dream to reality:

  1. It’s cheaper than renting in most cases
  2. Avoid rental increases in the future
  3. Equity build-up with amortization of each payment going to principal
  4. A home is a forced savings account
  5. Appreciation increases your equity and your overall investment
  6. Mortgage interest and property tax deductions
  7. Home equity interest deduction
  8. A place you can call your own
  9. A place to share with friends and family
  10. Capital gains exclusion on profit

Buyers need the confidence that they can afford a home and proof for the sellers when they’re ready to submit a contract. If a buyer has steady reliable income, a good record of paying their bills, money saved for a down payment and are prepared to pay the mortgage each month, the next step is to get pre-approved by a trusted mortgage professional.

Take a look at the Rent vs. Own to see what the real cost of owning a home for your price range.

 


Monday, May 4, 2015

Amortization

The word describes the process of accounting that will repay a loan over time. Residential buyers will most commonly be required to have an amortized mortgage.

When amortizing a fixed rate mortgage, the payment remains constant for the entire term but the allocation of what goes to principal and interest changes with each payment that is made. Since an amount of each payment retires the principal, the interest due on the next payment is calculated on the unpaid balance after the previous payment was made. amortization schedule.png

This means that an increasing amount is applied to principal on each payment while the amount owed in interest decreases. If normal payments are made each time, on time, the loan will be completed paid off at the end of the term.

You can see in the example of a mortgage of $200,000 at 3.25% for 30 years that it has a fixed principal and interest payment of $870.41. There is $541.67 due in interest with the first payment and the remainder is applied to principal leaving an unpaid balance of $199,671.25. Since the interest due in the second payment is based on a lower principal, a little more is applied to principal.

If you’d like to have an amortization schedule for a mortgage, click here and enter the information about the loan.

amortization.png


Monday, April 27, 2015

Pay More or Less

Paying more for your house payment does not make your home more valuable. It does mean that the mortgage rate may be higher than it has to be. more or less.png

Even though fixed rates may never again be as low as they are currently, an adjustable rate mortgage may provide the lowest cost of ownership depending on how long a borrower plans to own a home. There are different types of ARMs but the one in this example is a 30 year mortgage with the rate fixed for five years and can adjust every one year after that based on independent indexes.

Another feature of a FHA ARM is the maximum rate change in one period is 1% and the maximum lifetime cap is 5% over the initial rate.

In the example below, the payment on the adjustable is $153.48 lower for the first five years or 60 payments. Another interesting thing is that lower interest rate loans amortize faster than higher interest rate loans. In this example, the ARM has a lower unpaid balance at the end of the first five years by $4,239.

The total savings on the ARM at the end of the first period is $13,477. If a borrower felt confident they would sell the home prior to the breakeven point of 8.5 years, the ARM would produce a lower cost of housing even if the mortgage rate escalated the maximum at each adjustment period.

To help determine whether you pay more or less, consult with a trusted mortgage professional and your real estate agent to learn the advantages and disadvantages of different programs. To try your own comparison, check today’s rates at the Freddie Mac Mortgage Rate Survey and plug your numbers into an Equity Accelerator

ARM comparison2.png.jpg

Monday, April 20, 2015

Basic Legal Documents

iStock_000012034746_250.jpgMany times, young adults feel “bullet-proof” and don’t consider the urgency to get involved or spend the money to take care of certain legal aspects of their lives because they think they’re going to live forever.  Since no one is guaranteed longevity of life, if you want to be in control of who gets what and who is in charge now based on an untimely incapacitation or death, it is important to investigate these basic legal documents.

Will – This is a legal instrument that specifies your desires to care for your minor children and to distribute your personal property after you die and who will manage the process.  Anyone who has property and minor children needs a will.

Living Will – This legal instrument specifies your intentions regarding end of life decisions or to designate an individual to make those decisions on your behalf.  Many times, a person who had been diagnosed with a terminal condition or who is facing a serious surgery or hospitalization might feel a sense of urgency to have this document.

Power of attorney – This document allows you to appoint someone you trust, not necessarily an attorney, to handle important legal and financial matters for you if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.  The time limit can be for a specified period of time or indefinitely.

Trust – This arrangement involves an entity called a Trustee who takes control and manages property for someone else’s benefit called a beneficiary.  When property is placed in a trust, the trust becomes the owner of the property.  There are different types of trusts and a qualified advisor can explain and recommend which type would be best suited for your situation.

HIPPA Release Form – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPPA, was created by Congress to protect the privacy of a person’s health information.  Health care providers are prohibited from discussing any aspect of your medical information with anyone who is not directly involved in your care.  To allow friends or family who do not have legal responsibility for you to have access to this information, this release form is necessary.

Most of the issues affecting these types of documents are determined by state law.  Since they are legal documents, it is recommended that you seek sound financial and legal advice.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Are You Ready?

are you ready2.pngFor whatever reason you’ve delayed buying a home, it may be time to reconsider that decision based on today’s conditions and what is expected to happen in the future.

Rents are continuing to increase to the point that in most markets, it is significantly less expensive to own than to rent.  Even after you factor repairs into the equation, the low interest rates, principal accumulation due to amortization, appreciation and tax savings lower the monthly cost of housing.

Low inventories coupled with strong demand cause a rising effect on prices.  Another reason for higher values is that builders, especially in certain price ranges, have not ramped up new home starts to keep up with the demand.

Recently, the Federal Reserve announced that they intend to start raising rates. Most experts agree that higher interest rates are a foregone conclusion; it is just a matter of when it will happen.

A $300,000 home today could cost considerably more one year from now.  With a 20% down payment, if prices go up by 3% and the interest rates increase by .5%, the principal and interest payment at 3.625% would be $1,094.52 for 30 years compared to $1,198.05 at 4.125%.

The question is not necessarily “can you afford the additional $103.53 more per month that you’d have to pay for the home during the 30 year term?”  More importantly, “How would you feel about having to pay more because you weren’t ready to make a decision and what would you have spent it on if you didn’t have to pay a higher payment?”


Monday, April 6, 2015

Rent Again?

Rent again.pngAfter you take the training wheels off your bike and learn to ride it, you’d never consider putting them back on again.  Similarly, once you’ve owned a home, you might think you’ll own a home from now on but there may be some situations where it might make sense to rent again. 

Big shifts in a person’s life like a divorce, death of spouse, empty nesting or a temporary transfer to a new city are certainly things that may warrant renting, at least temporarily, until those circumstances develop the particulars.

A good example might be that you think you’d like to move downtown.  Before selling your home and purchasing a condo, it might be enlightening to rent an apartment to see how you’ll adapt to the changes in that style of living.

The sales and purchase expenses incurred with real estate are absorbed over the period ownership which is usually between ten and twelve years.  When the holding period involves only a few years, it can negatively impact a homeowner’s equity.

Like any move, especially coordinating the sale and purchase of two homes, there are a lot of issues involved.  Your real estate professional can provide information that will help you to make better decisions on whether to buy, sell or rent again.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Home Too Big Now?

iStock_000013567449-200.jpgOnce the kids are grown, have careers, relationships and get a place of their own, parents find that they may not need their “big” home like they did before. Their lifestyle may have changed and the house just doesn’t “fit” anymore.

Benefits of a smaller home:

  • Easier to maintain 
  • Lower utilities
  • Lower property taxes 
  • Lower insurance
  • More convenient location
  • Convenience of a single level
  • Possibly more energy efficient
  • Possibly lower maintenance

Moving from a larger home frees equity from the previous home that can be invested for retirement income, purchase a second home, travel, education or just to have a nest egg for unexpected expenses.  The profit on the home, in most cases, will be tax-free up to the exclusion limits set by IRS.

There will be expenses involved in selling a home as well as the purchase of a new home.  These will lower the amount of net proceeds available to invest in the new home.

Like any other big change in life, it is recommended that you take your time to consider the possible alternatives and outcomes.  Your real estate professional can provide information that can be valuable in the discernment process such as what your home is worth, what you will net from a sale as well as alternative properties for your next stage in life.

Monday, March 23, 2015

FHA or Conventional?

FHA vs Conv 200.pngBuyers with a minimum down payment are generally faced with the decision of whether to get a FHA or a conventional loan.  With the new 3% down payment program on conventional loans, it may become more confusing which loan to pursue.
The two loan programs have mortgage fees that can differ greatly.  FHA has a 1.75% up-front mortgage insurance charge in addition to the monthly mortgage insurance charge which was recently lowered by .5%.
FHA’s mortgage insurance is a fixed amount where conventional mortgage insurance providers’ fees are determined by individual companies and according to the credit score of the borrowers.  A borrower with a good credit score will be charged less than a borrower with a marginal credit score.
Mortgage insurance on conventional loans can be cancelled when the equity in the property reaches 20%.  FHA mortgage insurance in most cases, is paid for the life of the mortgage.  Once a borrower has a 20% equity in their home, to eliminate the monthly FHA mortgage insurance, they would need to refinance the home with a conventional loan and would not be eligible for any refund of the up-front fee paid at closing or added to the mortgage.
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If a borrower has a low credit score, FHA may be the better choice because conventional underwriters may have a higher minimum score.  FHA loans also tend to be more lenient than conventional loans when a borrower’s total monthly debt exceeds 45% of their monthly income.  FHA tends to allow borrowers a shorter time frame after foreclosures and bankruptcies.
The decision-making factor is which mortgage will provide the lowest cost of housing including payment and all loan fees.  A lot of information is necessary to make a good decision and typically, the borrower isn’t able to acquire it on his/her own.
A trusted mortgage professional is very valuable in not only providing the information but guiding the borrower through the entire process.  Your real estate professional is uniquely qualified to make such a recommendation.


Linda Smalley, Chinowth & Cohen Realtors, 918.630.8431
Learn more at LindaSmalleyHomes.com
 

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