Monday, December 2, 2013

Motivated Sellers, Better Prices and Less Competition


winter house 250.jpg
The Winter Home Buyer Report conducted in the second week of November by REALTOR.com® revealed the sentiments of current home buyers expecting to buy a house during the winter months.  It appears that there is pent-up demand with buyers who were unable to purchase a home recently.
Most cited as an impediment to purchase was the challenge of low inventory.  Strong demand coupled with short supply explains why home prices have been increasing.
"This summer and spring home buying season was particularly challenging for buyers, especially first-time home buyers trying to compete with all-cash offers and bidding wars because of reduced inventory.  In fact, a quarter of the winter home buyers revealed they are in the market now because they were unable to find a home during this last home buying season," said Alison Schwartz, vice president of corporate communications at REALTOR.com®.  "While buyers are still experiencing challenges with inventory and approximately one in five buyers plan to put down all cash, there are advantages to looking for a home in the winter. Motivated sellers, better prices and less competition between buyers are some of the top reasons winter home buyers are interested in purchasing a home during the colder months of the year."
Some interesting statistics taken from the report are:
Biggest challenges when searching for a home during winter:
 34 percent shared that there is not enough inventory on the market 
• 29 percent believe that winter weather makes house hunting unpleasant
 
Traditionally, the industry has found that the fourth quarter of the year has a lower sales volume and is generally attributed to distractions from the holidays and not wanting to make a move during consistently inclement weather.  Even in areas that are not affected by extreme winter weather, there seems to be a mindset about moving in the winter.
Indications are that it may be advantageous for sellers to put their home on the market now rather than wait until after the first of the year.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Real Estate 411


411.pngWhen you’re buying or selling, the obvious source to get your real estate question answered is your agent but where do you go the rest of the time? As a homeowner for many years to come, you’ll need reliable help and solid suggestions. Our business goal is to have a select group of our friends and past customers who consider us their lifelong real estate professional. We want to earn that trusted position so they’ll enthusiastically refer their friends to us. Our plan to achieve this is simply to help these people with all of their real estate needs not just when they buy or sell but for all the years in between. Throughout the year, we offer reminders and suggestions by email and social media that benefit your homeowner experience. When we find good articles to help you be a better homeowner, we’ll pass them along. You’ll discover new ways to maintain your property, minimize expenses and manage debt and risk. We want to be your “Go-To” person for everything to do with real estate. If we don’t have the answer you need, we’ll point you in the right direction to find it. We’re here for you and your friends…now and in the future. Please let us know how we can help you. Email Charles Kraus

Why Homebuyers Pay Different Rates


interest.pngLenders, like any business, have to make a profit. The cost of acquiring the funds, the operating costs to service and the expected profit margin are easily identified. The variable in pricing is the type of mortgage and the credit worthiness of the borrower. A loan with a 3.5% down payment is riskier than a loan with 20% down payment. If the lender has to take the property back to recover their expense, the margin is greater between what is owed and what the property is worth on an 80% mortgage. Credit scoring is a risk-based pricing method that allows a lender to be competitive in the market for the best loans from different borrower groups. Individual lenders set their own levels for what they consider “A” credit which is reserved for the best rates. If good credit is approximately 710 to 740, scores below that are considered higher risk and will have higher rates. Risk must be assessed for both the borrower and the property that collateralizes the loan. The borrower’s credit history and income stability are strongly evaluated by the lender but if a default should occur, the property must secure the loan to avoid a loss to the lender.



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 The challenge for some buyers is they are unaware of what their credit score is and how it will affect the interest rate offered by the lender. It is to the buyer’s advantage to be pre-approved by a reputable lender prior to starting the process of looking for a home. In some cases, the lender can actually improve the borrower’s credit score to help them qualify for a lower interest rate. Contact me for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional - Email Charles Kraus

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lower Anxieties and Improve Marketability


Home inspection.jpgOne of the anxiety highpoints during the sale of a home is waiting for the buyer’s home inspection report. Most sellers willingly disclose what they know about their home to any potential buyers. The concern stems from the inspector finding something that they’re totally unaware of and that it will either cost them a lot of money to correct or the buyer will simply use it to void the contract. If the inspection does reveal some unknown problem with the home, it’s probably as big a surprise to the buyer who is not as emotionally or financially invested as the seller. It is human nature to fear what you don’t understand and when a report identifies defects, they may simply opt-out of the home. The solution to the situation may be for the seller to have the home inspected prior to putting it on the market. There is still a risk of becoming surprised by an unknown defect which at that point, would have to be disclosed to potential buyers or repaired by the seller. The advantage is that it creates a baseline to compare discrepancies that may arise when a future buyer has the home inspected. If the seller’s inspection report is made available during the marketing process, it could give buyers a sense of confidence about the home even though they may still choose to have the home checked by their own inspector. The cost of the inspection, possibly $500, keeps some sellers from taking this initiative when selling their home. In an effort to minimize their expenses, they forego getting valuable, disinterested 3rd party advice that could help sell their home. On a $175,000 home, the fee for the inspection will probably be less than 3/10 of one percent of the sales price. Another option to the seller to increase marketability of the property and bolster buyer confidence in the home would be to offer a home protection plan. Generally, the seller doesn’t incur cost for this coverage until the home is sold and there may even be some coverage for the seller during the listing period. The benefit to the buyer is avoiding unanticipated expenses for specific items that are covered during their first year of ownership. Contact me for recommendations of home inspectors or home protection plans.

Man's Best Friend and Homeowner's Insurance


dog.jpgMan’s best friend enjoys many of the benefits of his master’s home besides food and shelter and a comfortable place to live and play. In return, dog owners expect companionship and possibly, protection; after all, even a small dog can bark to signal intruders. Few people doubt that most dog owners love their pets and treat them well. The costs associated with having a dog can include medical and dental that rivals human expenses, premium food, toys, grooming and license fees. However, one of the expenses not anticipated by pet owners is a higher homeowner’s insurance premium. There are almost five million dog bites a year with children being the main victims. “Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2012, which amounted to more than $489 million,” said Peter Robertson, representing the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, testifying against the bill at a hearing of the Committee on Financial Services. He said, “The total cost of dog bite claims increased by more than 51 percent between 2003 and 2012.” It is now estimated that dog bites cause losses of over one billion dollars a year. Some insurance underwriters have denied or canceled coverage or increased the premium of the owner’s liability insurance based on the homeowners’ specific breed of dog such as Pit Bulls, Dobermans, Akitas, Mastiffs, Malamutes and even German Shepherds. The aggressive nature of certain types of dogs combined with specific training or lack of training, abuse or neglect are identified by insurer’s refusal to provide liability coverage. If you are considering what insurers identify as a high-risk pet, you might want to visit with your insurance agent prior to acquiring your new best friend to see if it affects your rates.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Don't Do This!


iStock_000004411494XSmall(er).jpgYou’ve seen lists telling buyers what to do to find the right home but knowing what not to do can be just as important. After finding the right home, negotiating a contract, making a loan application and inspections, buyers, understandably, start making plans to move and put their personal touches on the home. In today’s tenuous lending environment, little things can derail the process which isn’t over until the papers are signed at settlement and funds distributed to the seller. Verifications are made by a lender at the beginning of the loan process to determine if the buyer qualifies for the mortgage. The verifications are usually done again just prior to the closing to determine if there have been any material changes to the borrower’s credit or income that might disqualify them. Simply stated: 1. Don’t make any new major purchases that could affect your debt-to-income ratio 2. Don’t apply, co-sign or add any new credit 3. Don’t quit your job or change jobs 4. Don’t change banks 5. Don’t open new credit accounts 6. Don’t close or consolidate credit card accounts without advice from your lender 7. Don’t buy things for your new home until after you close 8. Don’t talk to the seller without your agent Your real estate professional and lender are working together to get you into your new home. It’s understandable to be excited about one of the biggest decisions you’ll make and that you feel you need to be getting ready for the move. Planning is smart but don’t do anything that would affect your credit or income while you’re waiting to sign the final papers at settlement.

Equity Dynamics

Equity small.pngEquity is the difference in what your home is worth and what you owe. Ideally, as the value goes up and the unpaid balance goes down with each amortized payment made, the equity grows from two directions. This dynamic leads to increasing a person’s net worth much faster than many other investments. A homeowner has minimal control over value. It is necessary to maintain the property to avoid depreciation and make good decisions on capital improvements. After that, appreciation is generally controlled by supply and demand and the economy. Mortgage management is something that the homeowner does have control. Making the decision to select a shorter term mortgage at a lower interest rate can have an impact on equity build-up. Lower interest rates amortize faster than higher interest rates which will also affect equity growth. Currently, it is possible to get a 1% lower rate on a 15 year mortgage than a 30 year mortgage. Compare two alternatives of a 30-year and a 15-year mortgage. The payments will definitely be higher on the shorter term because it pays off quicker. However, if a person can afford the higher payments of $362.53 more per month in this example, the equity will be greater. Even after you take into consideration the higher payments, the increased equity is $17,236 at the end of the seven year holding period.   Equity dynamics.png 
 Another decision that can affect equity build-up is making additional principal contributions along with the regular payments. Whether you’re making an occasional lump sum payment toward principal or regular monthly contributions, it will save interest, build equity and shorten the term on a fixed rate mortgage. Estimate your personal savings with this Equity Accelerator.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Who Is My Agent?


Secret agent 150.jpgMore often than you’d expect, homeowners refer to the person they bought their insurance from as their agent. It sounds reasonable but it’s definitely not accurate. That person is the agent of the insurance company and they legally represent the company, not the customer. Even an independent agent who can place a policy with different companies is still an agent of the company. A mortgage officer, in most cases is an employee and represents the company. And the same is true for a title or escrow officer. It’s important to understand the actual relationship to know what you can expect from them. Any business person who wants to stay in business must treat their customers fairly and with a high degree of service. As a customer, you should be able to reasonably expect honesty and accountability. The difference is that employees owe their loyalty to their employer and agents owe their loyalty to their principal. An agent owes more than just honesty and accountability. The principal can expect complete disclosure, obedience, loyalty, reasonable skill and care and confidentiality from their agent. This advocacy is very beneficial during the buying or selling process to coordinate all aspects of the transaction. The agent can bring valuable experience to your side of the transaction to provide confidence that your best interests are being represented from start to finish. Most states have a recognized procedure for the real estate professional to create a formal relationship between themselves and a buyer or seller. This requires a fiduciary/statutory responsibility that places the principals’ interests above the agent’s own personal interests.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mortgage Interest Deduction


MID.pngOriginally, in 1913 with the Sixteenth Amendment, Income Tax allowed a deduction on any interest paid by a taxpayer. Prior to World War I, most interest was paid for business purposes and very little paid by individuals. Credit cards, revolving credit, student loans and home equity loans that would charge interest would not become popular for decades. However, by the 1930’s, the Federal Housing Authority was created to help people to finance homes. Later, other quasi-governmental agencies like FNMA, FHLMC and GNMA were created to help facilitate mortgage lending. Even though, Congress never intended to use this deduction to encourage homeownership, it has certainly benefitted millions of people who couldn’t pay cash for their home. This deduction has made owning a home more affordable for tens of millions of people. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 eliminated the deduction of interest on most personal debt with the exception of qualified mortgage interest debt. Two new terms were introduced to specify what was qualified. Acquisition Debt is the amount of debt incurred, up to a maximum of $1,000,000, to buy, build or improve a principal residence or second home. It must be a recorded lien and the amount cannot be increased by refinancing. In other words, the acquisition debt is a dynamic amount that decreases as the loan amortizes. Home Equity Debt is any amount up to a total of $100,000 over Acquisition Debt. It must also be a recorded lien against either the first or second home. It can be used for any purpose and is no longer restricted to medical or educational purposes. In the example below, a person borrowed money to buy a home and the entire first mortgage was acquisition debt. The unpaid balance was reduced by the payments made and the acquisition debt followed accordingly. At some point in the future, after the home had gone up in value considerably, the owner refinanced a much larger amount. The existing acquisition debt was transferred into the new mortgage. Any borrowed funds that were used for capital improvements could be added to the existing acquisition basis. The interest on those funds would be deductible. The owner/borrower could also deduct the interest on up to a maximum of $100,000 of home equity debt. If there was still debt above the acquisition and home equity debt, it would be classified as personal debt and the interest on it would not be deductible. Refinancing.png 
 Lenders are not concerned if they are making a tax deductible mortgage on a home. They want to make sure there is sufficient equity in the property to secure the mortgage should it have to be foreclosed. A homeowner should consult with their tax professional if there is a question about deducting the interest on their mortgage. Click Here to use a Refinancing Analysis.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The "Rules"


rules3.pngThe profit potential in single family homes for investment has been a consistently good long-term investment. They offer investors the opportunity of high loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates for 30 years on appreciating assets, tax advantages and reasonable control that other investments don’t offer. Last year, Warren Buffett said that if he had a way of buying a couple hundred thousand single-family homes, he would load up on them. Blackstone group L.P. (BX) has now purchased over 30,000 homes and American Homes 4 Rent (AMH) has more than 19,000 for rental purposes. Individual investors actually have an advantage over the institutional investor but if they are not familiar with rental real estate, some basic rules could be very helpful.

  1. Invest now to get more in the future. Whether it is time, effort or money, the prudent investor is willing to forego immediate gratification for something more at a later date.
  2. Real estate is an IDEAL investment. IDEAL is an acronym that stands for income, depreciation, equity build-up, appreciation and leverage.
  3. Invest in single family homes in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods at or below average price range. This strategy should involve homes that will increase in value, rent well and appeal to an owner-occupant in the future who will pay a higher price than an investor.
  4. Location, location, location. The same homes in different areas will not behave the same. You can improve the condition, modify the terms or adjust the price but the location can’t be changed.
  5. Understand your strategy – buy and sell, buy and hold or buy, rent and hold. These three distinct strategies involve big differences in acquisition, management and taxation.
  6. Know where your profit is coming from before you invest. The four contributors to profit are cash flow, appreciation, amortization and tax savings. They don’t contribute equally or the same in all investments.
  7. Profit starts with purchase. Buying the property below market value builds profit into the investment initially.
  8. Risk is directly proportionate to the reward involved. An investment that has a high degree of upside also will have considerable downside possible.
  9. Avoid functional obsolescence unless you have a plan before you buy. The lack of usefulness or desirability of a home that exists when you buy it will still be there when you sell it. Unless it can be cured, it will affect future profit.
  10. Good property + good tenant + good management = great investment. These are three solid components for a successful investment.
  11. Problems left unresolved have a tendency to get worse. It is generally cheaper in time or money to fix a problem earlier rather than later.
If you’d like more information about the opportunities in our market, contact me.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Find The "Right" Agent Before Finding The "Right" Home


What Buyers Want.pngIt’s a common practice for buyers to make a list of what they want in a home during the search process and to explain it to their agent. However, maybe the first list they should make would have the skills they want their agent to have. The Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers identifies what buyers want most from their agents and as you’d expect, help with finding the right home was ranked highest most often. While it is important, it may not be the most unique of the desired area of expertise. Equally essential to the success of the transaction are the combination of help with price and terms negotiations and assistance with the paperwork, comparable sales, qualifying and financing. To summarize the responses in the survey, Buyers want help from their agents with two things: to find the right home and to get it at the right price and terms. Some agents are actually better equipped with tools and acquired knowledge to assist buyers with financial advice and negotiations. Since an owner’s cost of housing is dependent on the price paid for the home and financing, a real estate professional skilled in these specialized areas can be invaluable in finding the “right” home. An agent’s experience and connections to allied professionals and service providers is irreplaceable. Ask the agent representing you to specifically list the tools and talent they have to address these areas.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Home Is More Than An Address


iStock_000006174018XSmall.jpgA home is a place to call your own, raise your family, share with your friends and feel safe and secure. It is also one of the largest investments most people have. Leverage is the ability to control a larger asset with a smaller amount of cash through the use of borrowed funds. It has been described as using other people’s money to increase your yield and it applies to homeowners and investors alike. Positive leverage causes the yield to increase as the loan-to-value increases. Even a modest amount of appreciation combined with the amortization of a loan can cause a substantial rate of return on the down payment and closing costs. Homes build equity as the price goes up due to appreciation and the unpaid balance goes down due to amortization.
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 The example above indicates the yield on a home considering 3% acquisition costs on the home with a 4.5% mortgage rate and the resulting equity at the end of five years. The different down payments will affect the yield based on the leverage effect. Whether you rent or buy the home you live in, you pay for what you occupy. The question a person is faced with is whether they are going to buy it for themselves or their landlord. Take a look at the cost of Renting vs. Owning.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Get Regular Home Check-Ups


annual advisory.pngFollowing his heart surgery last week, after an issue was discovered during his annual physical, President George W. Bush encouraged everyone to get regular check-ups. Another important checkup that should be done on a regular basis and can be just as beneficial for your finances is an annual homeowner advisory. Why would you treat your investment in your home with less care than you treat your car or even your HVAC system? Consider investigating the following: • Know the value of your home by obtaining a list of comparable sales in your immediate area as well as what is currently on the market for sale. • Have you compared your assessed value for tax purposes to the fair market value in order to possibly reduce your property taxes? • Even if you’ve refinanced in the last two years, can you save money and recapture the cost of refinancing in the time you plan to remain in your home? • Have you considered reducing your mortgage debt with low-earning cash reserves that will not be needed in the near future? • Have you considered investing in rental homes in good neighborhoods to increase your yields and avoid the volatility of the stock market? • Recommendations of repairmen and other service providers from a trusted source who deals with them more frequently than you do. Our goal is to create a lifelong relationship to help you be better homeowners. We want to be your “go to” person whenever you have a real estate question. We want to help you not only when you buy and sell but all of the years in between. We want to provide good, consumer-based information about homeownership on a regular basis through email and social networking. If it benefits you by helping you be a better homeowner, hopefully, you’ll consider us your real estate professional for life. Anytime you or your friends need help, please call. Knowing where to get the answer is just as important as knowing the answer. If you’d like information on any of the items we suggested, please let us know.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Where Is It Invested?


iStock_000007485701XSmall.jpgYou’ve saved for a rainy day or retirement. Congratulations but don’t get too comfortable yet; where is it invested? It’s estimated that over 25% of Americans have their long-term savings in cash instead of investments like stocks, bonds or real estate. The memories of the financial crisis of 2008 are recent enough to understand why some people may want to avoid the stock market and real estate. Even though Wall Street and housing have rebounded considerably, uncertain investors are sitting on their cash. However, trying to avoid a bad decision can have serious costs too. If your money is not earning at least at the current inflation rate, you’re losing the purchasing power of your dollars. Bankrate.com estimates the average money-market deposit yields 0.11% and the average five-year certificate of deposit currently yields 0.78%. Rents are continuing to rise and there is a shortage of good, affordable housing. Single family homes have a significant advantage over many other types of investments. They have high loan-to-value mortgages available at fixed interest rates for long-terms on appreciating assets with distinct tax advantages. The cash flows are considered to be one of the most attractive features of rental properties. Some investors think of it as a growth stock that pays substantial dividends. In the example shown below, a $125,000 rental with an 80% loan-to-value mortgage at 5% that rents for $1,250 per month, has a positive cash flow before taxes of $3,000 a year. The rate of return on rental property can be substantially higher than other investments while allowing the investor control that isn’t available in alternatives. Note: You may wish to consult an attorney and/or financial advisor to consider all risk factors before making any investment decisions. Rental Property.png

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It Can't Hurt to Wait Before Buying, Can It?


Wait.pngIt’s been said that more money has been lost due to indecision than was ever lost because of a bad decision. Regardless of whether you agree with the statement, delaying the decision to buy in today’s market is going to cost the buyer more. Home prices have gone up considerably in almost every market in the country in the past year and while inventories are beginning to grow, prices are expected to continue to rise. Mortgage rates jumped 1% from the beginning of May to now. They could easily reach 5% by the end of the year and continue to rise in 2014. Many of the financial experts in the country believe that the economy will not be strong until rates are in the 7% area. The two components that move the cost of housing are price and mortgage rates. Escalation of either one will have an affect but when both are going up simultaneously, it is dramatic. It can literally eliminate buyers who could have purchased earlier. The following example shows what would happen to the payments on a $200,000 home if the price were to go up 3% at the same time that the mortgage rates went up 1%. Not only would the payments go up by $150.81 per month, the price of the home would be $6,000 more. Even though the down payment may not change much, the new owner would have to borrow more money. By not acting, it is costing them more in price and payment. The loss of the appreciation would have been equity had they purchased prior to the rise in price. 7-24-2013 8-44-42 AM.png Check out the Cost of Waiting to Buy to see what the effect will be using your own projections.

Friday, July 26, 2013

If I Had Known...

If.jpgWe’ve probably all said or at least thought “if I knew then, what I know now, I would have done things differently.” We should have stayed in school longer. We should have listened to our parents. We should have bought Apple stock in 2002 for $8.50 that sells for $400 today. Or we could have bought gold in 2000 for under $300 for a four-fold profit today. Years from now, if we look back at 2012, we may say that it was the best buyer’s market ever. Even now, in 2013, it’s apparent that both housing and mortgage prices are going up and they may never return to the record low levels. The housing affordability index, which is considered to be good at 100, had increased to over 200 this past December, January and February. Shrinking inventories and rising prices in most markets have caused the index to fall to 172.7 for May 2013. This market applies equally to acquiring a home to live in or a home to use as a rental. It is estimated that about 30% of the property purchased last year was done by investors. It is understandable because the positive cash flows far exceed most other investment alternatives. HAIndex.png Homeowners moving up in a rising market may sell their home for more by waiting but it will also cost them more for a new house. Typically, a person buys a 50% larger home when they move up. If they wait for prices to go up 10% on the $150,000 home they're selling, they’ll realize $15,000 more but will pay $22,500 more for the new home purchase. They’ll actually net $7,500 less by waiting for prices to go up and may have to pay a higher mortgage rate too. The question homebuyers and investors alike are faced with today is whether they will be saying years from now that they seized or missed an opportunity of a lifetime.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Retirement Without a Mortgage

iStock_000014489150XSmall.jpgPlanning for retirement is obviously important and many times, an activity plagued by procrastination. Some people plan to have their home paid for by that magical date so they won’t have payments after they retire. It makes sense to eliminate a large recurring expense before they quit working. One strategy would be to be make regular principal contributions in addition to the payments so that it will eliminate the debt by the target retirement date. Let’s say that a homeowner refinanced their $200,000 mortgage at 4% last year with the first payment due on May 1, 2012. Under normal amortization, the home would be paid for at the end of the term; 30 years in this example. By making additional principal contributions with each payment, it would accelerate the payoff on the home. An extra $250.00 a month would pay off the mortgage in 10 years. $524.55 extra with each payment would pay off the loan in 15 years; and $796.23 would pay off the loan in 12 years. Having a home paid for at retirement has the obvious benefit of no house payment. It is also a substantial asset that could be borrowed against or sold if unanticipated events should occur. Another strategy might involve purchasing a smaller home now to use as a rental that you intend to live when you retire; see Retirement Home Now. To make some projections to pay off your own mortgage, use this Equity Accelerator. Equity Accelerator.png

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When Mortgage Rates Go Up...

FreddieMac PMMS 2013.png Rising interest rates are great if you are renewing a certificate of deposit but not so much when you’re borrowing money. With interest rates on the rise as well as home prices, housing affordability is a concern for would-be homeowners. A rough rule of thumb is that a person’s or family’s housing should not exceed 28% of their monthly gross income. While rental rates and home prices have been consistently increasing, mortgage rates have been soaring in the past month. In one week, according to the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey, they jumped by .5%. This means that people have to pay a larger percentage of their income for housing unless their incomes have been increasing at an equal pace. A $200,000 mortgage would be over $100 more per month if closed in July compared to closing at the interest rates available in January of 2013. If rates increase by .5% by the time you close on the same size mortgage, payments would increase by almost $60 per month. In order to keep the payments the same, a borrower would have to put an additional $11,000 down to lower the mortgage amount. Check out how your payment would be affected if interest rates continue to rise. The National Association of REALTORS® suggests that housing is more affordable now than one year ago. However, with all of the variables in play including inflation that was not addressed in this piece, it is unclear how long conditions will remain “affordable”. 7-5-2013 9-22-00 AM.png

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

FHA & VA Mortgage Assumptions


fha-va assumptions.pngNot many buyers have assumed a mortgage in the past 25 years. Most people think it was because FHA and VA in the late 80’s began to require that buyers qualify for the assumptions. Not having to qualify for a mortgage would certainly benefit certain buyers. If a homeowner must qualify for an assumption like a new loan, they'll generally choose the mortgage with the lower interest rate. Over the past 25 years, rates have been trending down but it appears that rates have bottomed out and will gradually increase. As they continue to rise, the lower rates on the FHA and VA loans created in the last few years will appeal to buyers even if they do have to qualify for the assumption. There are significant advantages to assuming one of these government insured mortgages if the current interest rate on a new loan is higher:

1. Mortgage is further into amortization schedule 2. Lower interest rate loans amortize faster than higher interest rate loans 3. Lower closing costs than a new mortgage 4. Easier to qualify than on a new mortgage 5. No appraisal required
FHA assumptions are only allowed as owner-occupied residents. The borrower must meet current FHA guidelines for borrowers. The total debt ratio including house payment to be assumed cannot exceed 41% of borrowers’ monthly gross income. VA loans are also assumable with buyer qualification. However, in order for the veteran Seller to have their eligibility reinstated, the buyer must also be a veteran with eligibility. A 1% difference in the current rates and a lower assumable mortgage rate begins to make it very attractive to assume a mortgage. When the differential becomes even greater, assumptions will become more prevalent than they’ve been in over twenty years.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Debt Relief = Income


Mortgage Relief.png Many times a homeowner might feel relieved being out from under the obligation of a mortgage they can’t afford even though the property was lost due to foreclosure or short sale. If a lender cancels or forgives debt, a taxpayer must include the cancelled amount in their income for tax purposes depending on the circumstances. The tax significance could be serious. Congress enacted the Mortgage Relief Act specifically to help homeowners who might be affected in the housing crisis that started approximately in 2007. The Act expired on 12/31/12 but was temporarily extended by Congress until December 31, 2013. This relief only applies to a taxpayers’ principal residence which does not include second homes and investment property. The maximum amount is limited to $2 million of mortgage debt forgiveness or $1 million if filing separately. Another provision is that the debt relief is limited to acquisition indebtedness used to buy, build or improve the property. It excludes cash equity loans whether made separately or in a refinance of the original mortgage. Due to the serious consequences involved in short sales and foreclosures, it is advised that homeowners faced with this possibility should seek expert advice from their legal and tax professionals.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to Be a Serious Buyer


Serious Buyer2.pngInventory is dramatically shrinking and it is commonplace in many markets to have multiple offers on a home. While the sellers would prefer to be able to choose the best offer for them, it can be incredibly frustrating for the buyers who might consider the following tips to get their offer accepted.

1. Remove the uncertainty that you may not be approved for a mortgage by having a pre-approval letter from your mortgage company. 
2. Show your sincerity by increasing the normal amount of earnest money customary for the area and price of the home. The earnest money will be applied toward your down payment and closing costs. Consider placing even more money in escrow when the contingencies have been met. 
3. Specify a closing date in the contract but acknowledge that you can be flexible to accommodate the sellers moving date. If it becomes an issue, it still must be mutually agreed upon. 
4. Make the contingency periods shorter if possible to make the seller feel that they’ll know sooner that the offer is solid. 
5. If the contingency really isn’t important to you, leave it out of the offer. The more contingencies included in a contract, the more the seller will feel might happen to keep it from actually closing. 
6. Write a personal note to the seller explaining why you like and want their home. 
7. Physically sign the offer with a felt tip pen of contrasting color. You’d be surprised how this adds a personal touch to the offer.
Offer a fair price for the property in your initial purchase agreement. It shows sincerity and good faith that you’re actually trying to purchase the home and not trying to take advantage of the seller. The old adage that you can always go up later may never happen if there are multiple offers on the property in the beginning.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Renters Still Prefer Home Ownership


FNMA NHS.pngFannie Mae, in a recently released study, states that consumer attitudes continue to be favorable about homeownership, particularly with the younger generations, ages 18 to 34. Slightly over half of them think that owning makes more sense than renting when comparing the financial and lifestyle benefits. 90% of aspiring owners expect to purchase a home someday and slightly over half think they’ll do it within five years. The primary challenges are having sufficient savings and the difficulty of getting a mortgage today. Younger renters see renting as a temporary stepping stone toward homeownership. Homeowners are far more likely than renters to be “very positive” about their housing experience. Some of the benefits identified are:

• Having control over what you do with your living space • Having a sense of privacy and security • Having a good place for your family or to raise your children • Having the best investment plan • Living in a nicer home • Building up wealth • Saving for retirement • Living in a place where you and your family feel safe • Feeling engaged in your community
To satisfy a buyer’s doubts about qualifying for a mortgage, make an appointment with a trusted mortgage professional. If you’d like a recommendation at no cost or obligation, please contact me at ckraus@mris.com. Check out this Rent vs. Own to see the real cost of owning a home. For more information about the Fannie Mae survey in presentation form, Click Here.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What's It Worth?


Question button.pngHow much is a one carat diamond worth? Anyone who has shopped for one knows that the price could have a significantly wide range of value. It's been said that purchasers should consider the color, cut, clarity and carat size to compare stones but when it gets down to decision time, buyers still want to know “how much is it worth?”

 Real estate valuation can be equally as confusing to the public. There are three commonly used tools that today’s home buyers rely on to make decisions but they vary significantly in the methods used to make the determination as well as the possible final consideration.

 Appraisals are an opinion or estimate of value based on specific guidelines made by individuals who are licensed and possibly certified. Buyers and sellers may be reluctant to engage an appraiser because there is a fee of several hundred dollars that must be paid in advance even if no sale is ever consummated.

 A Broker’s Price Opinion (BPO) as defined by the National Association of REALTORS® is an “estimate of the probable selling price of a property.” The Dodd-Frank Act describes a BPO as “an estimate…that details the probable selling price of a particular piece of real estate property and provides a varying level of detail about the property’s condition, market, and neighborhood, and information on comparable sales, but does not include an automated valuation model.”

 A Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) is a commonly used tool of salespeople to provide information to buyers and sellers to facilitate a sale. In most cases, it would be difficult to distinguish a CMA from a BPO because the steps considered are essentially the same and practitioners commonly use the terms interchangeably.

 Another method called Automated Value Model (AVM) use software to search available data on the Internet to arrive at an approximation of value. Zestimates found on the Zillow site use this method. AVM’s may not consider all the market activity such as MLS sales and active listings. They can’t make adjustments based on location, improvements and condition that human experience and market knowledge provide.

 For what it’s worth, a buyer or seller might want to acquire as much current and factual information as possible from a trusted real estate professional familiar with the market before making a decision on the largest single asset most people acquire.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Will the "Good Life" Be Ready When You Are?

Life of Riley Index.pngThe Life of Riley was a TV show from the 50’s starring William Bendix but the title’s origin came from an expression meaning that a person was living the “good life.” Most people envision themselves living the good life by retirement but don’t really have a plan to get there. There’s a rough rule of thumb used to estimate how much net worth a person would need by the time they retire to generate a certain income. The target annual income is divided by a safe, conservative yield to determine the investable assets needed. A person who wanted $100,000 annual income generated from a 5% investment would need investable assets of $2,000,000. If a person had $500,000 now, they would need to accumulate $1.5 million more by the time they retire. If it was estimated to be 15 years away, they would need to save about $100,000 a year, each year until retirement. It is a sobering example that could be depressing without a plan. It might be easy to say, “I should have started sooner” which may be true but there is still hope. Gradually, over the next several years, accumulate rental property and allow the tenant to retire the debt for you. The equity in each property will grow from the amortization of the loan each time a payment is made. It also grows as the property increases in value due to appreciation. Single family homes as rentals offer the investor an opportunity to meet their retirement and financial goals for the following reasons:
  • The ability to borrow large loan-to-value mortgages
  • At fixed interest rates
  • For long terms (easily up to 30 years)
  • On appreciating assets
  • With significant tax advantages
  • And reasonable control not offered by alternative investments.
All investment has inherent risks and anyone looking at a new investment should seek competent financial and legal counsel.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Breathe Easy

iStock_000020770516XSmall.jpgThe benefits of regularly changing the heating and air-conditioning filters are obvious to homeowners; the real challenge is creating a system to make sure it gets done.

A reasonable schedule would be to replace it with a new one-inch pleated filter every 60-90 days. Households with shedding pets should consider replacing them every month. Some people change their filters every month when they pay their electric bills. A simple system would be to set a recurring appointment on your calendar like Outlook or Google.

Filters trap dust, mold and bacteria which can directly affect the air quality and play havoc with your allergies. When a filter is dirty, it prevents proper airflow and allows dust, dirt and allergens to blow through your home. Changing your filter regularly helps to avoid maintenance, improves equipment life and produces increased energy savings.

When shopping for filters, it’s understandable to look for the best bargain but the cheapest price may not be the best choice. When purchasing, recognize that HEPA-rated and HEPA-type filters are not the same thing. HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. A HEPA filter meets or exceeds standards for efficiency set by the U.S. Department of Energy. Most HVAC contractors recommend HEPA filters.

Some filters need to be changed monthly and other types have manufacturer recommendations of every three months. An alternative to disposable filters are the permanent, washable types. These will cost more initially but because you can clean them and re-use them, eventually, you’ll recapture the cost and realize savings.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Whose Commission Is It?

home price.pngOne of the most common reasons buyers want to deal directly with the seller is because they feel they can save the commission. It’s a valid consideration but interestingly, it’s the same reason the seller isn’t employing an agent. Both parties cannot save the commission. The buyer feels they have earned it because they’ve had to find the home, determine its value and negotiate with the seller. They had to arrange their own financing, title and inspections. The seller equally feels that they have earned the commission because they too have had to research value, financing and title work. They have incurred all of the marketing expenses and have invested hours upon hours to be available to show the property, hold open houses and answer inquiries. There is certainly value in all of the things that buyers and sellers are willing to do. However, only one person can save the commission assuming the buyer and seller can reach a written agreement. The Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers survey reports that 14% of sales were For-Sale-by-Owners in 2003 and 2004 compared to just 9% in 2012. The trend shows that agent-assisted sales rose to 88% in 2012 from 82% in 2004. The three most difficult tasks identified by for-sale-by-owners is attracting potential buyers, getting the price right and understanding and performing the paperwork. When surveyed, sellers most value the home selling in an anticipated time frame and for an expected amount. Experienced, third-party advocates helping buyers and sellers is a valuable contribution to the transaction which may determine whose commission it is.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"Please take our offer..."


iStock_000005895710XSmall.jpgIt’s interesting that the housing climate has changed so quickly. Some buyers, who think they’re still in the driver’s seat, find the market is now going up and they’re losing the home that they really want. Multiple offers are increasingly more common and buyers are frustrated because even full-price offers don’t guarantee that they’re going to get the home. In an effort to personify a contract offer and add emotional appeal, buyers are including a personal letter to the seller. In most cases, the seller wants to maximize the net proceeds from the sale by getting the highest price with the least expenses and an assurance that the home will actually close on time without surprises. When a seller is faced with multiple offers that may be close to the same net, an emotional appeal might make the difference in them accepting a particular offer. That’s where the letter comes in play. It should be a relatively short letter that gets to the point. The tone of the letter should be humble while positive and definitely, shouldn’t mention that you may have lost other homes due to multiple offers.

  1. Try to identify a common feature or characteristic of the home that is important to the seller and you.
  2. Don’t criticize the home or tell them about all of the improvements you need to make to justify your offer.
  3. Do verbalize why living in this home is important to you and your family.
  4. Assure the seller that you can indeed qualify for the home and that if they accept your offer, the sale will be consummated.
After writing the letter and eliminating the non-essential parts, read the letter a few times to your spouse or friend. Polish the verbiage and check the spelling and grammar. If your handwriting isn’t attractive and easy to read, print it. Use nice paper to appeal to the tactile senses. Attach the letter to the offer so they’re considered simultaneously. Being pre-approved with good credit, adequate financial resources, good employment, sufficient earnest money and a reasonable offer with minimum contingencies will favorably position you. A personal letter might be the deciding factor in your favor.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shifting Debt to Tax Deductible

AnnapolisHomesInfo.comThe Mortgage Interest Deduction is available to homeowners for up to $1,000,000 of acquisition debt on the combination of their first and second home. They can also deduct interest on up to an additional $100,000 of Home Equity debt. While Acquisition Debt is used to buy, build or improve a principal residence, the Home Equity Debt can be used for any purpose. It can be used for educational or medical expenses, to purchase a personal car or boat, consolidate debts or pay off credit cards. A homeowner with $15,000 of credit card debt at 19% and sufficient equity in their home could replace it with a home equity loan at much lower interest rate. Not only would the interest rate on the home equity loan be about 1/3 of the rate paid on the credit card, it’s would now be tax deductible. If the taxpayer was in the 28% bracket, the net interest on a 6.5% loan would be 4.68% after tax benefits are considered. Shifting personal debt to Home Equity debt can result in an interest deduction and probably, a lower interest rate. For more information see IRS Publication 936 page 10 and consult your tax professional.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When to Sell the Temporary Rental Property


Temporary Rental2.pngSome homeowners, who were not able to sell during the recession, chose to rent their homes instead. In some cases, they didn't need to sell their home at the depressed prices and opted to rent it until the market recovered. It's a valid strategy but there are time restrictions that could have serious tax implications for some homeowners. The section 121 exclusion for gain in a principal residence requires that the home is owned and used as a main home for at least two years during the five year period ending on the date of the sale. This allows a homeowner to rent their home for up to three years and still have some part of the exclusion available. The sale of a home with a $200,000 gain that qualifies as a principal residence would result in no tax being paid by the owner. Comparably, a rental property with the same gain could have a $30,000 or higher tax liability depending on the length of ownership and tax brackets of the investor. The housing market has dramatically improved in the last year. If you have a gain in a home that has been your principal residence and it has been rented less than three years, you might want to consider selling it while you qualify for the exclusion. If you are considering a sale on your principal residence that has been rented, consult with your tax professional for advice on your specific situation. For additional information, see IRS Publication 523.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Boomerang Buyers


Waiting periods.pngIt's estimated that 10% of the homes sold in 2013 will be to buyers who lost a home in the past five years. Approximately 500,000 buyers who may have thought they wouldn't own a home anytime in the near future will be homeowners again. It's estimated that several million of these previous homeowners will purchase again in the next eight years. This kind of activity will contribute significantly to the housing recovery. Some people thought that the housing crisis would cause a shift in values placed on owning a home but the boomerang buyers definitely don't support that theory. Having a home of your own, where you can raise your family, share with your friends and feel safe and secure is still part of the American Dream. The rising rents, increasing prices and low, low mortgage rates are also influencing buyers into the market. In many cases, it is cheaper to own that to rent. All new buyers, including those who have experienced foreclosures or bankruptcies, must have good credit history and the ability to repay the loan. It just may not take as long to reestablish the credit as some would-be buyers might have thought. Read more about Bidding Wars This Spring, Spring's Wild Card and Boomerang Buyers.

See also http://AnnapolisHomesInfo.com

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bunch Taxes and Save


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One of the drawbacks to low mortgage rates is that the total interest and property taxes paid for the year may be lower than the standard deduction. A little planning might be able to help you at least every other year.

Most homeowners know they can deduct their qualified mortgage interest and property taxes on their Schedule A of their 1040 tax return or to take the standard deduction if it is greater. See Your Deduction...Your Choice. Deductions are taken in the year that they're actually paid. If a homeowner paid their 2012 property taxes in 2013, they would not be deductible on their 2012 tax return. Then, if the 2013 property taxes were paid in 2013, both the 2012 and 2013 taxes could be deducted on the 2013 Schedule A.

By delaying the payment of the 2012 taxes until 2013, the combination of the 2012 and 2013 taxes might exceed the 2013 standard deduction and provide a higher deduction.

Other Schedule A expenses such as charitable contributions and medical expenses may be bunched also. From a practical standpoint, since most mortgage payments are due monthly, the mortgage interest would not be bunched.

This information should be discussed with your tax advisor to see how it might apply to your individual situation. The key is you must be aware of the strategy early to be able to use it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Eliminate the Mortgage Insurance


FHA Cancelled.pngPre-paying your mortgage can save thousands in interest and build equity in your home. As cheap as mortgage rates are currently, they're higher than you can earn on your savings. If you don't need the money any time soon, pre-paying the mortgage can be the better investment. If you have a FHA loan, pre-paying the mortgage can also benefit you by eliminating the annual mortgage insurance premium early. For example, if a person bought a home for $175,000 with a 3.5% down payment on a 4% FHA loan, the monthly mortgage insurance would be $178.99. It would take 116 months or over 9.5 years to reduce the principal enough to cancel the MIP. If the borrower would make additional principal contributions of $285.32 per month, the MIP would not be required after five years. Beginning June 3, 2013, mortgage insurance on FHA loans will be required for the life of the mortgage. The elimination of MIP would lower payments or a buyer could continue making the higher payments to reduce the principal and retire the loan sooner. FHA mortgages with terms longer than 15 years, the MIP can be cancelled when the loan-to-value reaches 78% after a minimum of five years. With normal amortization, that would take about 10-12 years. Another alternative to eliminate the MIP is to refinance the home with a conventional loan. If the loan-to-value is less than 80%, the MIP would no longer be required and a lower interest rate may be available.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Maintaining Comfort

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Some people refer to the heating and air conditioning systems as the "comfort systems." If you've ever had to be without one in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, lack of comfort may be an understatement. Simple maintenance with a HVAC checklist is something that every homeowner can perform.
Periodically
  • Change your filter every 90 days; every 30 days if you have shedding pets.
  • Maintain at least two feet of clearance around outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps.
  • Don't allow leaves, grass clippings, lint or other things to block circulation of coils.
  • Inspect insulation on refrigerant lines leading into house monthly and replace if missing or damaged.
Annual, in spring
  • Confirm that outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps are on level pads.
  • Pour bleach in the air conditioner's condensation drain to clear mold and algae which can cause a clog.
  • Avoid closing more than 20% of a home's registers to keep from overworking the system.
  • Replace the battery in the home's carbon monoxide detector.
Even with the attention that perfoming this list will provide, it is recommended that you have your units serviced annually by a licensed contractor. Furnaces can be inspected for carbon monoxide leaks and preventative maintenance may help avoid costly repairs. Click Here if you'd like a recommendation.

Standard or Itemized Tax Deduction?

Itemized Deductions.pngTaxpayers are allowed to decide each year whether to take the standard deduction or to itemize their deduction when filing their personal income tax returns. Roughly, 75% of households with more than $75,000 income and most homeowners itemize their deductions. The 2012 standard deduction, available to all taxpayers, regardless of whether they own a home, is $11,900 for married filing jointly and $5,950 for single taxpayers. Let's look at an example of a homeowner couple with a $150,000 mortgage at 3.5%. The standard deduction would give them $2,650 more than the total of their interest paid and property taxes of approximately $9,250. If they were in the 28% tax bracket, the actual tax savings would be $742.00. When mortgage rates were considerably higher, many people expected the interest and property taxes to easily exceed the standard deduction but with today's low rates, a comparison is certainly justified. There are other things that could come into consideration like charitable contributions, medical expenses and casualty losses. Tax professionals will compare available alternatives to find the one that will benefit the taxpayer most. For more information, see www.IRS.gov and consult a tax advisor.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Refinance Again?

CharlesKraus.net We're constantly bombarded by lenders to refinance our mortgage under a variety of programs. The volume of offers can almost make you numb to the rational consideration. There are common rules of thumbs that homeowners and agents use such as not refinancing more often than every two years or there must be at least 2% savings from your previous mortgage rate may not always be accurate. The reality is that if you can refinance for a lower rate and you'll be in the home long enough to recapture the cost of refinancing, it should be considered. The costs of previous refinancing that haven't been recaptured by monthly savings may need to be added to the costs of the new refinance. Take a look at the chart that shows the average rates according to Freddie Mac for 2012. They are lower today than they were in January of 2012 and for the ten years before that. Refinancing may save you a substantial amount of money, especially if you're going to be in your home for a long time. It is definitely worth investigating. To get a quick idea of what your savings could be, use this refinancing calculator.

Low Housing Inventory Indicates a Trend


Low inventory is a relative term depending on how you're comparing it. Would the comparison be to total number of homes on the market last year, homes in a certain price range or homes in a certain area? In some situations, it's a combination of all of those things. In any given market, inventories will fluctuate based on area and price range. The National Association of REALTORS® considers a balanced market to be six months' supply of homes. If it takes longer than six months to sell, it is thought to be a buyer's market and less than six months, a seller's market. Most buyers and sellers probably feel inventory equilibrium is more like three month's supply of homes. Inventory has a direct impact on price. During the housing bubble, demand decreased, supply ballooned to four million houses and prices dropped dramatically. Increased inventories due to foreclosures, bank' revised lending practices and builder's lack of new housing starts each contributed to the dramatically lower prices. As the market has recovered, economic conditions have improved, banks have loosened their requirements, interest rates have remained low, foreclosures have slowed and gradually, the inventory has been reduced to approximately two million houses. When demand is constant but inventory is reduced, price tends to increase because the same number of people are trying to buy a smaller than normal number of homes. Based on the low mortgage rates that have been inching up each week in 2013 and an improving consumer confidence level, most markets are experiencing some increase in demand. With inventory decreasing, buyers in the marketplace can see that prices are increasing. Just as signs of spring can be seen to be just around the corner, it should be recognized what direction prices will be moving. Hindsight is 20/20 but we can't purchase or sell in the past. We need to make decisions today on what we think will happen in the future. If you're curious to know what inventory conditions are for your specific market, send me an email with the price range and area and I'll send you a report.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

If It Shows Better...

checked_house.jpgIf it shows better, it will probably sell faster and maybe for more money. Once your home is on the market, it's time to look at it like a commodity and through the eyes of potential buyers. In all likelihood, you'll need to take care of these items eventually, so do them now to help it sell sooner.

  1. Not too personal - you may have bought your home to express yourself but if the buyer can't see themselves in the home for all of your things, it's going to take longer to sell than you want.
  2. Make repairs - it doesn't matter if it's been that way since you bought it. You need to fix it so that the buyer doesn't think that the rest of the house is about to fall apart.
  3. Drive-up appeal - the old saying "you never get a second chance at a first impression" applies to your home too. They may never even get out of the car to come inside.
  4. The nose knows - it may not smell like home but it shouldn't smell like a place they would never consider living.
  5. Neutral colors, decor, etc. - these are not decorating tips you'll see in magazines but the truth is that bold colors and designs are difficult for most people to see beyond. They'll imagine their things better in neutral surroundings.
  6. Less looks like more - removing some of the non-essential things from your home will eliminate clutter and make the home feel larger. The same suggestion applies to cabinets and closets.
A confused mind will not make a decision. Identify and eliminate items that could derail a potential sale. The preparation you make in the beginning will help the presentation to your buyers.

More Expensive Then Expected


fha.pngThe 3.5% down payment on FHA loans could be more expensive for buyers than expected. Beginning April 1, 2013, the mortgage insurance premium will go up by .1% to 1.35% which may not even be noticeable to most would-be homeowners. The staggering increase will occur on 6/3/2013 when FHA's policy on the duration of the required mortgage insurance will be increased for the life of the mortgage. It basically doubles the amount of total MIP if the loan is paid to term.

Example: Purchase Price $175,000 with 3.5% down payment at 4% mortgage rate on 30 year term
Current After 6/3/13
MIP duration 78% of original loan Life of mortgage
Cumulative premium $20,838.24 $42,447.93
Currently, the MIP is required for approximately 9 years 9 months with normal amortization. The new program would require the MIP for the life of the loan. In this example, the initial monthly MIP is $196.88 which decreases based on amortization. There are buyers that qualify on income and credit who may not have the necessary additional down payment required for 80% and 90% conventional loans. The 3.5% FHA program has provided a great vehicle to get into a home with a minimum amount of cash. For homeowners that expect to stay in their home for ten years or less, the new changes might not have much financial impact. Homeowners who expect to be in their home long term can refinance with a conventional loan without mortgage insurance once the equity has increased due to amortization and appreciation. For buyers to avoid these increases, they will need to act now to get the FHA commitment issued prior to these change dates.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Before You Leave Home...Check

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The last thing you want to do while you're on a trip is to worry about someone burglarizing your home. Use this checklist to add some peace of mind to your travel plans.

  • Ask a trusted friend - to pick up your mail and newspaper and keep the yard free of trash and advertisements.
  • Stop your mail but maybe not your newspaper - you can easily handle this online by going to the US Postal Service's Hold Mail Service. A recent story implicated an employee from a major newspaper who was passing customer hold requests to burglars.
  • Don't post about your trip on Facebook and Twitter until you return - some burglars actually look for this type of announcement to schedule their activities.
  • Do notify police and/or neighborhood watch - especially if you're going to be gone for more than just a few days. Let your monitoring service know when you'll be gone and if someone will be checking on your home for you.
  • Light timers make it look like someone is home - use several set for different times to better simulate someone at home.
  • Do unplug certain appliances - TVs, computers, toaster ovens that use electricity even when they're off and to protect them from power surges.
  • Don't hide a key - burglars know exactly where to look for your key and it only takes them a moment to check under the mat, above the door, in the flower pot or in a fake rock.
These easy-to-handle suggestions may protect your belongings while you’re gone while adding a level of serenity to your trip.

Friday, February 1, 2013

What's it Going to Take?


thumbsupdown.jpgHow much evidence is needed to make a decision to get out of the rent race and become a homeowner? Compare your rent with a mortgage payment on a similar size property. If you want a larger home than your current one, use the rent that property would require instead of what you're currently paying. If it's considerably cheaper, you may not need any further encouragement. By the time you consider the principal reduction, appreciation and tax savings, your monthly cost of housing could be much less than the rent you're paying. The principal reduction included in each payment is like a forced savings account that increases as your mortgage balance decreases. Your equity in the property will also grow due to appreciation. The equity is part of your net worth and an investment in your family's future. The income tax savings can be an additional financial consideration if the combined interest and property taxes exceed the allowable standard deduction. Trends are showing that both tenants and homeowners are staying in their homes longer. It's been said that whether you rent or own, you're paying for the home. Do you really want to buy the home for your landlord? Check out your numbers on a Rent vs. Own.