Friday, March 23, 2018

5 Tips For Prospective Buyers To Submit A Winning Offer

5 Tips For Prospective Buyers To Submit A Winning OfferIn a hot real estate market, agents often tell buyers they must expect to make multiple offers before one is accepted. Disappointment may be the new normal rather than an exception. The stress of repeated rejections isn't easy, so be prepared.

Significant numbers of first-time buyers find the process difficult, and recent research indicates that about 60 percent of Millennials choose to rent rather than own, delaying other important life decisions, including marriage and family.

There are, however, at least 5 ways to strengthen your buyer profile and give yourself an advantage:

Check Your Credit

Take advantage of the free credit checks offered by the three credit reporting agencies, and clean up any questionable entries. At the very least, be prepared to offer clear and cogent reasons for any late payments that appear within the last couple of years. Pay down credit card balances and student loan debt as much as possible, and assure that your employment record is stable.

Sock Away Some Cash

Try to delay your home search until you have enough money for a reasonable down payment and required closing costs, plus a comfortable nest egg or contingency fund. Demonstrate a consistent savings habit. If you plan to borrow the down payment from parents or other family members, be certain it will be adequate and available when you need it.

Talk With Your Loan Officer

Get a definitive idea of how much you can comfortably afford. If you're a veteran or qualify for other special loan programs, find out in advance. Gain a comfort level with a lender, and listen to the advice that is offered. Interest rates are currently still low, but any rate change will affect the amount you can borrow. Limit your home search homes priced lower than your loan limit.

The only thing better than a pre-qualification letter is approval confirmation for a specific loan amount. In a fast-paced real estate market, seek that pre-approval, so that you'll be able to move quickly when you find the right property. A pre-approved loan, an offer with no contingencies, and a quick closing date are the marks of an "A-list" buyer.

Define Your Needs

Know your preferred neighborhoods, and prepare a list of "must have" items as well as a wish list to guide your search. But be realistic. Know that home-buying is a matter of priorities and a game of give and take.

Look at a home's structure and condition; consider the location, and realize that there is no such thing as the perfect house. Know that tired style can be updated, and decor changes are relatively easy on the pocketbook.

Make the First Offer Your Best Offer

In a seller's market, it's wise to make the initial offer your best offer. A lowball bid will not impress the seller, and you may never get a chance to submit a higher bid. When there is serious competition for homes, it pays to be serious about every offer.

Finally, know that if you're persistent and prepared, you will find a home to suit you. Practice patience!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

What Important Items Can Upset My Mortgage Pre-Approval Status?

What is a mortgage pre-approvalWhen you are purchasing a home, your lender may recommend you obtain a mortgage pre-approval before you find the home of your dreams. There are some benefits to being pre-approved before you find a home, but oftentimes, people confuse pre-qualifications with pre-approvals.

So the question many buyers have is what exactly is a mortgage pre-approval? In a nutshell, it's when the lender provides you (the buyer) with a letter stating that your mortgage will be granted up to a specific dollar amount.

What Do I Need For Pre-Approval?

In order to obtain a pre-approval for your home purchase, you will have to provide your lender all of the same information you would need to show for qualifying for a mortgage. This means providing tax returns, bank statements and other documents that prove your net worth, how much you have saved for your down payment and your current obligations.

What Conditions Are Attached to a Pre-Approval?

Generally speaking, a pre-approval does have some caveats attached to it. Typically, you can expect to see some of the following clauses in a pre-approval letter:
  • Interest rate changes - a pre-approval is done based on current interest rates. When rates increase, your borrowing power may decrease
  • Property passes valuation and inspection - your lender will require the property you ultimately purchase to come in with a proper appraisal and meet all inspection requirements
  • Credit check requirements - regardless of whether it's been a week or six months since you were pre-approved, your lender will require a new credit report. Changes in your credit report could negate the pre-approval
  • Changes in jobs/assets - after a pre-approval is received, a change in your employment status or any substantial assets may result in the pre-approval becoming worthless
What Items Can Change My Mortgage Pre-Approval Status?

One of the major issues that affect some borrowers as they are preparing to purchase their new home is financing large ticket items before the home purchase loan is completely funded.  Even if you are buying new furniture or other items for the home, it's best to wait until after your home loan is entirely complete before purchasing any of these new items.

Work changes can also drasitically affect your pre-approval status.  Make sure your loan professional is well aware of any changes well in advance of them happening in order to plan effectively.  There are ways to work with job changes but it is a delicate matter during the mortgage underwriting process.

Getting pre-approved for a home mortgage may allow you more negotiation power with sellers and may help streamline the entire loan process. It is however important to keep in mind there are still things that may have a negative impact on actually getting the loan.

It is important to make sure you keep in contact with your trusted real estate professional, especially if interest rates increase or your employment status changes after you are pre-approved.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

7 Tips To Plan A Spring Yard 'Tune-Up' Before Listing A Home For Sale

7 Tips to Plan a Spring Backyard Tune UpThe oft-repeated maxim that there is never a second chance to make a great first impression is especially true when it comes to real estate. Street appeal may focus on a dramatic approach to the front door, but prospective buyers will be especially "wowed" by an appealing back yard.

Early spring is the perfect time to add some new plants, set out pots of blooming flowers and focus on one memorable feature. A little work now will pay big dividends later, in terms of buyer interest, increased showings, quick offers, and even a higher price.

Here are 7 ideas that are cost-effective weekend projects:
  1. Create a focal point: Find an antique garden trellis and plant some vines to create an arbor. Add a piece of sculpture or statuary either in the center of the yard or in a secluded garden spot. Install a "gate to nowhere" and add bright flowers on one side. Paint giant sunflowers on a privacy fence or on the side of a storage shed.
  2. Build a partial wall or shade trellis: There is little that's more appealing that an an "outdoor living room." Accent and define your patio space in an interesting way -- use a sisal rug or paint a graphic design on the concrete -- and fill the room with appropriate furniture. Add a small fountain or a charcoal fire pit to create a real gathering spot.
  3. Install a simple drip irrigation system: Minimize landscape upkeep by planning DIY drip irrigation that will keep planting areas looking their best. All that's really needed is some tubing and a few fittings; the system itself can be attached to an outside hose bibb and operated by a simple timer. It's not necessary to extend the system to the entire lawn; that would be a more costly and time-consuming project perhaps best left to a professional.
  4. Create a dry creek bed: If parts of the yard or garden are plagued by standing water following heavy rain, give drainage an assist by making a dry creek bed. It's not too difficult and will add function and beauty to the back yard. Add some large boulders or a "Zen bench" to boost the appeal.
  5. Plant or hang solar lights: Define a pathway, highlight planting areas or just add night-time interest to the yard with solar lighting. Buy inexpensive versions at a home store, or order artistic lights from a catalog. They're fun, functional and portable.
  6. Plant a specialty garden: Attract butterflies and hummingbirds with a patch of wildflowers. Build a small raised garden plot to grow kitchen herbs, or plant seasonal vegetables and edible flowers. Carrots. kale and rainbow chard are especially pretty and don't take much space. Melons, squash and pumpkins have beautiful flowers and yield great fruit, but they do spread!
  7. Clean up, trim, weed and mow: Finally, don't neglect the routine maintenance that is required in every yard, both front and back. Nothing else is as important to prospective buyers as an attractive, well-kept home exterior.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What Are The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Putting 20 Percent Down On A Home Purchase?

Should You Put 20 Percent Down On Your Home Purchase?Several generations ago, lenders required home buyers to have a 20 percent down payment in order to get a mortgage. While there were a few options out there for people who couldn't save this substantial amount, the reality was that for the majority of people, the 20 percent down was a requirement.

It was the way to show that you were financially responsible enough for homeownership. And it was a strong way that the banks felt secure in making a home loan.

Today, however, homebuyers have many options available to them as they shop for a new home, and those mortgage options mean that the 20 percent down payment is no longer as much of a requirement. For most buyers, especially those who do not have the equity of an existing home to help with their purchase, the 20 percent down payment is not even a possibility.

Yet for those who can do so, putting 20 percent down carries some benefits worth considering. Here is a closer look at when the large down payment makes sense, and what the potential drawbacks are that buyers should consider.

How The 20 Percent Down Payment Helps

When it is possible for the buyer to save enough, the 20 percent down payment does have some benefits that are worth considering. First, when you are able to save 20 percent, you can get a mortgage that has no private mortgage insurance or similar fees. Because lenders consider a borrower with less than 20 percent for the down payment to be higher risk, they charge additional fees to serve as insurance on these loans.

Putting 20 percent down also means you are borrowing less. Because every dollar you borrow will be charged interest, the less you borrow the lower your repayment costs should be over the life of the loan. If you have the ability to save 20 percent, this is a benefit worth considering.

The Drawbacks Of 20 Percent Down

While saving 20 percent does have some benefits, it also has drawbacks that you must also consider. First, 20 percent of a home loan is a significant amount of money. On a modestly priced $100,000 house, that means you have to save $20,000. For the average home buyer, this represents years of saving. And you could be giving up years of price appreciation on the home that you could have purchased earlier by using one of the other financing options.

Also, if you are putting all of that money down as your down payment, you may find yourself cash strapped for other home buying costs, like new furniture or closing costs on your mortgage. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns that this can be a significant downside, especially for first-time buyers who have a lot of expenses as they make the move into their first homes.

Many people find themselves digging into their other investments, like their 401(k), to come up with the money for the down payment. When mortgage interest rates are low, this can be an unwise move. Paying a bit more in interest over the life of a mortgage is often better than creating a serious financial bind for your future needs. Digging into your retirement also means you are not getting that vital compounding interest.

Finally, saving 20 percent often means you can't buy a home quite as quickly. Since home prices historically tend to rise, not fall, the longer you wait, the more you may spend on your home. If home prices rise by 5 percent a year, which is fairly standard, waiting two years to purchase the home means $10,000 in extra costs for a $100,000 home. The higher purchase price counters any savings you may have when you put down 20 percent.

Can You Buy With Less Than 20 Percent Down?

So can you buy a home with less than 20 percent down? The answer to that question is yes, and often it makes more financial sense to do so. In fact, according to Freddie Mac, 40 percent of homebuyers in today's markets are making down payments of less than 10 percent. So if you are going to buy a home without saving the 20 percent, what are your options?

If you have strong credit, many lenders are still offering piggyback loans. These loans allow you to take out a smaller loan for part of your down payment, then a traditional loan for the rest of the purchase price. You may still need about 5 percent of your own money to put down on the purchase. Then you can work with your lender to borrow 15 percent with a smaller, and many times shorter-term loan, and the remainder with a conventional mortgage.

Down payment assistance is another option to consider. These programs, which are available through non-profit organizations or government-run programs, give homeowners a hand in coming up with the down payment they need to purchase the home.

Finally, consider the low down payment options that are out there. USDA loans, VA loans, FHA loans and similar loan products are designed for those with just a little bit to put down on the home. The FHA loan, for example, is a government-backed loan that requires just 3.5 percent down on the home.

Forbes indicates it is even possible to get a conventional loan with as little as 3 percent down. In some instances, like the USDA home loan program, you can even buy a home with no down payment.

While these home loans do have additional costs, like the funding fee for the VA loan or private mortgage insurance for conventional low down payment loans, they give you the ability to buy now without 20 percent down so you can start enjoying the benefits of homeownership sooner.

When buying a home, getting sound financial advice is always wise. Whether you choose to put down a large amount on your home or take advantage of these different loan options to buy with a smaller amount down, make sure you weigh your options before making your choice.

Monday, March 19, 2018

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - March 19th, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 19th, 2018Last week's economic news included readings From National Association of Home Builders, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

NAHB Posts 3rd Consecutive Decline in Builder Confidence

According to the National Association of Home Builders, builder confidence in housing market conditions dropped by one point in March to an index reading of 70. Three sub-categories of builder sentiment used to calculate the overall reading were either unchanged or lower than February readings.

Confidence in current market conditions were unchanged at 72, Builder confidence in market conditions for the next six months fell two points to an index reading of 78. The index for buyer traffic in new housing developments dipped three points to 51. Any reading over 50 indicates positive builder sentiment.

Builders cited increased demand for homes as a positive influence on builder confidence, but recent decisions to impose tariffs on some building materials concerned builders, but pronounced shortages of new and pre-owned homes contributed to positive builder sentiment.

Mortgage applications for new homes were 4.60 percent higher year-over-year in February according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Housing Starts Lower in February

The Commerce Department reported an annual rate of 1.236 million housing starts in February; this was seven percent lower than January's reading of 1.329 million starts. Analysts expected a reading of 1.25 million starts. Housing starts were higher in the Northeast regions, but the Midwest, South and Western regions reported fewer starts in February than for January.

Permits for building new homes slipped by 5.70 percent in February, but ups and downs in construction activity during winter months can cause volatility in readings for permits and housing construction.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, New Jobless Claims Dip

Freddie Mac reported lower fixed mortgage rates for the first time in 2018; the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points lower at 4.44 percent, Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 3.90 percent, which was four basis points lower than for the prior week. Mortgage rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged 3.67 percent, an increase of four basis points on average.

First time jobless claims dipped last week to 226,000 new claims. Analysts expected new claims to drop to 228,000 new claims based on the prior week's reading of 230,000 new jobless claims. The week ended on a positive note with consumer sentiment rising from an index reading of 99.7 to 102 in March. The Consumer Sentiment Index is produced by the University of Michigan.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic reports include readings on sales of new and previously-owned homes; the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve will issue its customary post-meeting statement, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell will give a press conference after the FOMC statement. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Can I Have A Co-Signer For My Mortgage Loan?

Can I Have A Co-Signer For My Mortgage LoanLike credit cards or car loans, some mortgages allow borrowers to have co-signers on the loan with them, enhancing their application. However, a co-signer on a mortgage loan doesn't have the same impact that it might on another loan. Furthermore, it poses serious drawbacks for the co-signer.

Mortgage Co-Signers

A mortgage co-signer is a person that isn't an owner or occupant of the house. However, the co-signer is on the hook for the loan. Typically, a co-signer is a family member or close friend that wants to help the main borrower qualify for a mortgage. To that end, he signs the loan documents along with the main borrower, taking full responsibility for them.

When a co-signer applies for a mortgage, the lender considers the co-signer's income and savings along with the borrower's. For instance, if a borrower only has $3,000 per month in income but wants to have a mortgage that, when added up with his other payments, works out to a total debt load of $1,800 per month, a lender might not be willing to make the loan.

If the borrower adds a co-signer with $3,000 per month in income and no debt, the lender looks at the $1,800 in payments against the combined income of $6,000, and may be much more likely to approve it.

Co-Signer Limitations

Co-signers can add income, but they can't mitigate credit problems. Typically, the lender will look at the least qualified borrower's credit score when deciding whether or not to make the loan. This means that a co-signer might not be able to help a borrower who has adequate income but doesn't have adequate credit.

Risks of Co-Signing

Co-signing arrangements carry risks for both the borrower and the co-signer. The co-signer gets all of the downsides of debt without the benefits. He doesn't get to use or own the house, but he's responsible for it if the mortgage goes unpaid.

The co-signer's credit could be ruined and he could be sued (in some states) if the borrower doesn't pay and he doesn't step in. For the borrower, having a co-signer adds an additional level of pressure to make payments since defaulting on the loan will hurt him and his co-signer.

As always, it's a good idea to speak with your trusted real estate professional for advice in your specific situation.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Benefits of Using a Veterans (VA) Loan To Purchase Your Home

The Benefits of Using a Veterans (VA) Loan To Purchase Your HomeU.S. military veterans have opportunities to enjoy some richly-deserved benefits in other aspects of their lives, including some special options for financing their homes. VA loans may give active military personnel, retired veterans, and sometimes surviving family members of veterans the ability to purchase homes that might not prove available to them through more conventional mortgage loans.

But the mere fact that you can do a thing doesn't necessarily mean that you should. In some circumstances, military home seekers may find other types of loan options more amenable to their specific needs.

If you've decided to pursue a mortgage loan during or following your military career, you may want to examine these considerations before leaping into a VA loan application.

Loan Qualifications and Limits

A VA loan can open the door to home ownership for cash-strapped or credit-challenged military personnel who might otherwise struggle to get a conventional mortgage loan. This type of loan offers tremendous flexibility in qualifying factors such as credit scores and debt-to-income ratios; in fact, VA loans may come with no maximum debt ratio at all.

Potential For Zero Down Payment

Additionally, VA loans do not require the down payment typically needed for a more conventional or FHA loan. (The only other loan with no down payment requirement, the USDA loan, applies to rural areas and comes with some prohibitive income restrictions.)

The elimination of a mandatory down payment, coupled with the relaxed financial qualifications, can make a VA loan the most sensible choice for individuals who suffer from limited resources, "upside-down" credit and short credit histories.

Additional Qualifications To Consider

That said, VA loans usually impose some qualifications of their own -- qualifications which may not appeal to some buyers. For one thing, a VA loan can only go toward the primary place of residence, not a summer cottage or second home. Military personnel who already own a home may therefore find this restriction a deal-breaker for their specific needs.

VA Loan Limits

VA loan amounts may also impose varying guaranty limits depending on where you live. The guaranty limit refers to your VA entitlement, the portion of your loan that escapes the down payment requirement.

In most counties, that limit currently levels off at 435,100, although in several major metropolitan markets it can range as high as 679,650. If you want to buy a more expensive home, you may end up making a down payment -- potentially making your VA loan competitive against other loan options.

As always, your best move is to call your trusted real estate professional to discuss the VA home purchase process and find out if it's the best option for you.