When Is the Right Time to Buy Your First Home? Use This Easy 4 Point Checklist

When Is the Right Time to Buy Your First Home? Use This Easy 4 Point ChecklistAre you growing tired of renting? Or perhaps you’ve recently graduated from college and are looking to set down some roots?

Whatever the case, buying your first home is an exciting prospect. Let’s take a look at a quick and easy four-point checklist that you can use to determine if you are ready to buy your first home.

#1: Is Your Credit In Good Shape?

How is your overall financial health? Once you have your down payment saved up, you should turn your attention to your credit rating.

If you are going to borrow a mortgage to help cover the cost of your home, your lender will be doing some digging into your credit history. It is best to ensure that you aren’t late with any payments and have cleared off any black marks from past credit problems.

#2: Can You See Yourself Living In This Community?

Do you love the area you live in? Or are you thinking about moving to a community that you like a bit more than your current one?

Perhaps it’s the local shops, the amenities, the walking trails or just being closer to work. It is always best to ‘love where you live,’ so ensure that you are buying your first home in a community that you can call home.

#3: Is Your Job Situation Stable?

Another factor to consider is your job or career situation. Are you likely to switch companies or be transferred to another division within the next few years? Be sure to give some thought to this as it will be inconvenient to have to move shortly after buying and furnishing a home.

#4: Are You Planning To Have Children?

Finally, have you considered what your family might look like in the future? Are you planning to get married, or if you are already married are you planning to have a family? If you have children now, do you expect to have any more of them?

Keep in mind that as your children grow older, they will need a bit more space. If you have a couple of young kids sharing bunk beds, each will need their own bedroom soon enough.

When you’re ready to buy your first home, our friendly real estate team is here to help you find the perfect home. Give our offices a call and we will be happy to meet with you to discuss your needs.

The 4-Step Financial Checkup to Get Ready for a Mortgage This Year

The 4-Step Financial Checkup to Get Ready for a Mortgage in 2018Are you ready to join the ranks of homeowners in our local community? Congratulations – homeownership is a big step towards building your net worth and financial freedom.

However, it is also a significant transaction that will affect your finances for the foreseeable future. Let’s take a look at a quick four-step checklist that will help you to get ready to buy a home with a mortgage this year.

Step 1: Set Up A Monthly Budget

It might sound a little basic, but the best first step is to commit to a monthly budget. After you buy a home using a mortgage, you will be responsible for making monthly payments for a period of time. The faster you get used to working inside of a budget, the better.

Your budget doesn’t have to be extravagant. Simply list your sources of income and your expenses. If you are spending more than you are making, you are going to need to cut back a bit.

Step 2: Start Setting Aside Your Down Payment

If you haven’t already, it is an excellent time to start gathering the funds necessary to make your down payment. This is the amount of cash that you put forward against the price of the home. The remainder of the purchase cost is covered by your mortgage, which you will pay off monthly in the future.

Note that the standard down payment amount is 20 percent of the home’s purchase price. If you have less than this available, you may be required to purchase mortgage insurance. But don’t let this deter you from starting the process now, especially if you have found the house that you want to buy.

Step 3: Check Your Credit Rating

Next, you will want to check your credit rating and FICO score to find out if you have any outstanding issues. You can access a free credit report from any of the major reporting agencies up to once per year, so be sure to take advantage.

Step 4: Meet With Your Mortgage Advisor

Last, but not least, you will want to schedule a meeting with your mortgage advisor. This is your opportunity to have all your mortgage-related questions answered by a professional who has your best interests in mind.

If you decide that you are ready to move forward with buying a home, you can begin the pre-approval process at your convenience. We look forward to helping guide you down the path to buying your dream home!

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - February 20th, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 20th, 2018Last week’s weeks economic releases included readings on the NAHB Housing Market Index, housing starts and building permits issued and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

NAHB: Builder Confidence in Housing Market Holds Steady in February

The National Association of Home builders reported an index reading of 72 for its Housing Market Index in February. January’s reading was also 72; readings over 50 indicates that more builders than fewer are confident about housing market conditions.

Three readings comprising the overall NAHB HMI reading include builder confidence in current market conditions, which was one point lower in February at 78. Builder confidence in housing market conditions in the next six months rose two points to an index reading of 80.

This was the highest reading for future housing market conditions since before the recession. Builder confidence in buyer traffic in new housing developments was unchanged at 54.

Builders surveyed cited strong labor markets and short supplies of pre-owned homes as fueling confidence in current market conditions, but identified ongoing labor and lot shortages and rising materials costs as concerns for builders.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Issue Rise in January

High builder confidence was reflected in readings for housing starts and building permits issued in January. Housing starts rose to their highest level in more than 10 years. The annual pace of housing starts reached 1.326 million starts.

January’s reading exceeded expectations of 1.324 million starts and December’s reading of 1.209 million housing starts. January’s starts reflect strong builder confidence readings and may also signal future relief for short supplies of available homes and high demand for homes in many metro areas.

High demand for homes has caused rapid appreciation in home values and sidelined first-time and moderate-income buyers in areas with high home values. According to the Commerce Department, building permits issued rose to 1.396 million from December’s1.380 million starts annually.

The University of Michigan reported the second highest reading for consumer sentiment in 14 years. February’s reading of 99.9 was higher than expectations for a reading of 95.3 and January’s reading of 95.7Analysts said that recent tax cuts likely stabilized consumer outlook in spite of volatile financial markets.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates for all three types of mortgages it tracks in its Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose an average of six basis points to 4.38 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was seven basis points higher at an average of 3.84 percent. Rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged 3.63 percent, which was six basis points higher than the prior week.

New jobless claims were higher last week with 230,000 new claims filed, which matched expectations and exceeded 223,000 new jobless claims filed the prior week.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic releases include readings on existing home sales along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. Financial markets were closed on Monday for President’s Day.

Questions and Answers Regarding Escrow Accounts

Whether you are purchasing a new home or you are considering applying to refinance your home, chances are the lender will require an escrow account. These accounts are often a source of confusion for homeowners. In reality, these accounts benefit the homeowner and help protect the lender.

What is an escrow account?

Escrow accounts are sometimes called “impound” accounts. These accounts are set up to help manage payments of property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Depending on the individual requirements of the lender, you may be asked to pay as much as one-quarter of these upfront and they will be put into the account for the purposes of making payments.

Who controls escrow accounts?

Lenders have complete control over escrow accounts. However, homeowners are entitled to receive an annual statement advising them of their escrow balance. If there is an increase or decrease in insurance payments through the year, a homeowner may request the lender evaluate the escrow account and change the amount that is paid.

Is interest paid on escrow accounts?

There is no mandate to pay interest on escrow accounts. When you refinance your home, the funds for your taxes and insurance are calculated into your overall payment. The portion that is to be used to pay taxes and insurance is placed in escrow. Federal laws do not require lenders to pay interest on these accounts.

What happens if I sell my home or refinance?

When you sell or refinance your home, your escrow account will be credited at closing. The amount may be used to lower your out-of-pocket costs or may be turned over to you as a direct payment.

What happens if there is not enough/too much money in escrow?

If your lender has underestimated your escrow payments, they may request you send an additional payment to make up the difference. In the event you are paying too much into escrow, your lender has the discretion to release the overage amount directly to you. In most cases, shortfalls or overages of $50 or less are typically not a major concern.

If your lender requires you to have an escrow account for the taxes and insurance portion of your mortgage payment, it can be very helpful. Escrow accounts help ensure you do not have to come up with a large payment once a year for insurance or quarterly for taxes.

In some cases, if a lender does not require an escrow account, as a borrower, you may request they escrow your taxes and insurance for convenience.

4 Home Improvement Shortcuts That Can Lead to Disaster -- and How to Avoid Them

4 Home Improvement Shortcuts That Can Lead to Disaster -- and How to Avoid ThemAre you starting to get the renovation itch? With spring on the way, you might be tempted to launch those home improvement projects that you contemplated over the winter. However, as with any project, you will want to get things right. Let’s take a look at four renovation shortcuts that can lead to disaster and the steps you can take to avoid them.

Shortcut #1: Not Understanding Your Home’s Structure

Before you undertake any renovation involving your home’s structure, you must be confident that you know exactly what is where. For example, do you know what is inside of your walls? You might be surprised to learn what is hiding behind those pieces of painted drywall. Electrical wiring, plumbing, structural supports, insulation and possibly even soundproofing material can all be damaged by misplaced nails or cuts. You might also discover damage caused by pests, mold or water which needs to be repaired.

Shortcut #2: Not Measuring Everything (At Least) Twice

You have likely heard this tired cliché: “measure twice, cut once.” However, what you may not realize is that was intended for professionals. If you are new to renovating, you will want to measure at least twice, if not three times or more. A small measuring mistake of one-half-inch can mean the difference between your new cabinets fitting and not fitting. Or your tiles lining up with one another or not.

Shortcut #3: Not Using Quality Tools And Materials

Another shortcut that homeowners try to take when starting do-it-yourself home projects is using cheaper materials or whatever tools they have handy. Keep in mind that you are investing in your home and that you are saving money by not paying for the labor. Use those savings on top-quality materials that will withstand the test of time.

Shortcut #4: Not Calling A Professional After You Mess Up

Finally, one shortcut that must be avoided at all costs is not calling a professional if you have made a significant mistake. If you end up drilling into the wrong wire, or you damage something else beyond your repair skills, don’t try to patch it up. Swallow your pride and make the call. You will be able to sleep soundly knowing that whatever was damaged isn’t at risk of failing later.

Renovating your home is the best way to increase its value, but even the smallest mistake can blow up into a major problem in the future. To learn more about your home’s value, contact us today. Our real estate sales team can help you assess your home and share how much it will sell for if you decide to list.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - February 12th, 2018

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 12th 2018Jerome “Jay” Powell was sworn in as Chair of the Federal Reserve amidst wild fluctuations in U.S. stock markets. Analysts attributed sliding stock prices to fears over inflation.

Mr. Powell, who follows former Fed Chair Janet Yellen, introduced himself via a video clip on the Fed’s website. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

New Fed Chair Promises Transparency in Video Introduction

In a video introduction posted on the Fed’s website, new Fed Chair Jay Powell promised that the Fed would explain “what we are doing and why we are doing it.” Mr. Powell did not address stock market volatility but said that monetary policy decisions would be made based on the Fed’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and price stability along with economic growth.

Mr. Powell took leadership of the Fed as the national unemployment rate dipped to 4.10 percent.

Mr. Powell is an attorney by profession and is the first Fed Chair not to hold a PhD in economics in more than 30 years.

Former Treasury Secretary Advises Against Raising Rates Too Fast

Former Obama administration Treasury Secretary Larry Summers cautioned against raising rates too fast: “If the Fed raises rates sufficiently to assure financial stability, there is a risk that the economy will slow too much.

When the Federal Reserve raises its target federal funds rate financial institutions, mortgage lenders and retail lenders usually follow suit.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 10 basis points higher at 4.32 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by nine basis points to 3.77 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage gained four basis points to 3.57 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent, 0.50 percent and 0.40 percent respectively.

New jobless claims fell to their lowest level since the 1970s. 221,000 first-time claims were filed as compared to 232.000 new claims expected and the prior week’s reading of 230,000 new claims filed.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic news releases include readings on inflation, retail sales and the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Indices. Readings on housing starts and building permits issued will also be released, along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims.

Sellin' Ain't Easy: 4 Reasons Why You Will Want to Engage a Professional Real Estate Sales Agent

Selling Ain't Easy: 4 Reasons Why You Will Want to Engage a Professional Real Estate Sales AgentAre you listing your home for sale this year? If so, you may be wondering just why you need the services of a real estate agent. Sure, it is theoretically possible to handle the entire process yourself and be successful. However, if you’re inexperienced, you may end up stumbling. Let’s explore four reasons why you will want to enlist the services of a professional real estate agent when you sell your home.

Do You Know How To Price Your Home?

Choosing the right listing price is a decision that requires research, intuition and a day-to-day understanding of how the local real estate market is moving. Unless you work in real estate, it is unlikely that you have your finger on the pulse of the market. Without a real estate agent’s help, you might end up pricing too high, which means that your sale takes much longer, or too low, which means you leave money on the table. Setting the right price is critical and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Have You Ever Marketed A Property Listing?

Do you have experience with marketing a property listing? If not, it is crucial that you work with an experienced real estate team. Today’s market requires website listings, social media advertising and other tactics to ensure success. It’s best to leave marketing to those who understand it.

Are You Good At Dealing With Strangers?

Do you consider yourself a ‘people person’? If not, you probably aren’t going to like the home selling process very much. Every open house means new people are walking through your home – potentially dozens of them. Your real estate agent is there to take care of dealing with strangers so you don’t have to.

Is Negotiating One Of Your Strengths?

Finally, don’t forget that real estate transactions almost always end up in some sort of negotiation. It is rare for a buyer to walk up and pay your listing price, although it does happen. However, it’s more common to receive a lower bid to try to draw you into submitting a counteroffer. In other cases, you may end up with multiple buyers fighting a bidding war to buy your home. In all of these situations, you will want an experienced negotiator on hand to help.

These are just a few of the many reasons that working with a professional real estate agent is in your best interests when you sell your home. To learn more about the sales process, or to list your home for sale, contact us today. Our team is dedicated to ensuring you have a fast, stress-free sale.

When Is the Right Time to Buy Your First Home? Use This Easy 4 Point Checklist

When Is the Right Time to Buy Your First Home? Use This Easy 4 Point ChecklistAre you growing tired of renting? Or perhaps you’ve recently graduated from college and are looking to set down some roots? Whatever the case, buying your first home is an exciting prospect. Let’s take a look at a quick and easy four-point checklist that you can use to determine if you are ready to buy your first home.

#1: Is Your Credit In Good Shape?

How is your overall financial health? Once you have your down payment saved up, you should turn your attention to your credit rating. If you are going to borrow a mortgage to help cover the cost of your home, your lender will be doing some digging into your credit history. It is best to ensure that you aren’t late with any payments and have cleared off any black marks from past credit problems.

#2: Can You See Yourself Living In This Community?

Do you love the area you live in? Or are you thinking about moving to a community that you like a bit more than your current one? Perhaps it’s the local shops, the amenities, the walking trails or just being closer to work. It is always best to ‘love where you live,’ so ensure that you are buying your first home in a community that you can call home.

#3: Is Your Job Situation Stable?

Another factor to consider is your job or career situation. Are you likely to switch companies or be transferred to another division within the next few years? Be sure to give some thought to this as it will be inconvenient to have to move shortly after buying and furnishing a home.

#4: Are You Planning To Have Children?

Finally, have you considered what your family might look like in the future? Are you planning to get married, or if you are already married are you planning to have a family? If you have children now, do you expect to have any more of them? Keep in mind that as your children grow older, they will need a bit more space. If you have a couple of young kids sharing bunk beds, each will need their own bedroom soon enough.

When you’re ready to buy your first home, our friendly real estate team is here to help. Give our offices a call and we will be happy to meet with you to discuss your needs and share a variety of beautiful homes that are available today.

Case-Shiller Home Price Growth Ticks Upward in November Reading

Home prices increased in November, with national home prices up 0.70 percent month-to-month and 6.20 percent higher year-over year. Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index rose by 0.70 percent in the three-month period ending in November; nationally, home prices grew 6.20 percent year-over-year.   Seattle, Washington held first place in home price growth with a year-over-year increase of 12.70 percent. Las Vegas, Nevada home prices followed with year-over-year home price growth of 10.60 percent. San Francisco, California home prices grew by 9.10 percent year-over-year. Slim supplies of homes for sale drove rising home prices and sidelined would-be borrowers as affordability remained out of reach.   Home Prices Get a Pre-Recession Do-Over in Some Cities David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the S&P Dow Jones Indices Committee, said that Los Angeles and San Diego California along with Las Vegas, Nevada and Miami Florida are repeating fast-paced price gains that they had prior to the recession.   Mortgage Rates, Building Costs Impact Supply of Homes and Affordability Combined effects of high mortgage rates and rapidly rising home prices could dampen buyer enthusiasm over time, but the time-worn proclamation that what goes up must come down has not applied to home prices in high demand metro areas. Home buyers may rush to close their home loans before rates rise, but more buyers may delay buying a home due to few options, higher home prices and rising rates.   Lower taxes and rising wages may encourage renters to buy homes, but home prices continued to outstrip income for many potential buyers.   Building more homes is the only relief in sight for low inventories of homes for sale, but builders face rising materials costs, shortages of lots suitable for building and insufficient workers. Other factors impacting home building and buying homes include poor weather in some areas during December, and further shortages of homes caused by natural disasters in 2017.  2018 may see high-priced local areas develop affordable homeownership programs as current prices continue to rise above interested buyers’ financial resourcesHome prices increased in November, with national home prices up 0.70 percent month-to-month and 6.20 percent higher year-over year. Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index rose by 0.70 percent in the three-month period ending in November; nationally, home prices grew 6.20 percent year-over-year.

Seattle, Washington held first place in home price growth with a year-over-year increase of 12.70 percent. Las Vegas, Nevada home prices followed with year-over-year home price growth of 10.60 percent. San Francisco, California home prices grew by 9.10 percent year-over-year. Slim supplies of homes for sale drove rising home prices and sidelined would-be borrowers as affordability remained out of reach.

Home Prices Get a Pre-Recession Do-Over in Some Cities

David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the S&P Dow Jones Indices Committee, said that Los Angeles and San Diego, California along with Las Vegas, Nevada and Miami, Florida are repeating fast-paced price gains that they had prior to the recession.

Mortgage Rates, Building Costs Impact Supply of Homes and Affordability

Combined effects of high mortgage rates and rapidly rising home prices could dampen buyer enthusiasm over time, but the time-worn proclamation that what goes up must come down has not applied to home prices in high demand metro areas. Home buyers may rush to close their home loans before rates rise, but more buyers may delay buying a home due to few options, higher home prices and rising rates.

Lower taxes and rising wages may encourage renters to buy homes, but home prices continued to outstrip income for many potential buyers.

Building more homes is the only relief in sight for low inventories of homes for sale, but builders face rising materials costs, shortages of lots suitable for building and insufficient workers. Other factors impacting home building and buying homes include poor weather in some areas during December, and further shortages of homes caused by natural disasters in 2017.

2018 may see high-priced local areas develop affordable homeownership programs as current prices continue to rise above interested buyers’ financial resources. 

Recently Inherited a Home That You Don't Need? Here's How to Get It Sold Without Too Much Stress

Recently Inherited a Home That You Don't Need? Here's How to Get It Sold Without Too Much StressHas a loved one or family member recently passed on and left you with their home? Inheriting a house can be a delightful gift, but it can also present a significant number of challenges that you must navigate. Let’s explore how to deal with an inherited house and, should you decide to, how to sell it without incurring too much stress.

Are Emotions Involved?

The death of a family member or other loved one can be a trying time emotionally. Depending on how the deceased left the property, you may also have to deal with cleaning out personal belongings and reviving old memories. A battle over a will or the proceeds of an estate can compound the situation, making things worse.

If you are emotionally involved, it is best to work with a real estate agent who can do much of the heavy lifting. That way you can focus on supporting your family and keeping your stress levels down.

Understand Your Legal Obligations

Although real estate inheritance is common, there are still some legal issues that must be considered. As such, you will need to understand what your legal obligations are regarding the will or estate process. Are you the executor of the will, or is someone else? Is the property included in a trust, or is it free-standing and gifted directly to you? Has the probate period passed, or can a family member or relative still challenge the will? If you haven’t already, it is best to speak with a real estate professional or experienced lawyer to get their advice.

Consider The Tax Implications

As with any financial windfall, there are going to be tax implications that need to be considered when selling an inherited home. For example, it’s unlikely that you will qualify for the home sales tax exclusion unless you have been living in that house as your primary residence. Once you sell the home, you will also need to report the proceeds of the sale to the IRS. There are also a variety of different taxes that need to be factored in, including estate taxes, inheritance taxes and more.

Consult An Experienced Real Estate Agent

Selling a home that you have inherited in a will or as part of an estate can be an emotionally draining process. Before you make any moves, it is best to speak with a real estate professional. Contact our offices at your convenience and we will be happy to meet with you and share our guidance.