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6 things homebuyers should avoid doing once they are preapproved for a mortgage

August 21, 2014
Do's and don'ts (Image via Shutterstock)

Do’s and don’ts (Image via Shutterstock)


Making other major purchases or applying for new credit can turn experience into big hassle

You have done the hard part in the homebuying process and chosen a lender and a real estate agent to work with. You have also gone out and found the home of your dreams! Best of all, your team has done a great job of negotiating the best deal for you.

Now, as a buyer, all you have to do is sit back and wait for your loan to close … right? Wrong!!

Getting a home loan these days is a very interactive process. I am always amazed by how many clients I work with who come to me unaware of all the pitfalls they face during the loan process. To help avoid any surprises while waiting for final approval, I provide my clients with a short list of “do’s and don’ts” to follow.

Let’s start with the “do’s” …

Do keep the process moving by responding to your loan officers’ requests for documentation as soon as possible.
Do make decisions as soon as is reasonably possible.
Do convey questions or concerns you have as they develop.
Do continue to make all of your rent or mortgage payments on time.
Do stay current on all other existing accounts.
Do continue to work your normal work schedule with no unplanned time off.
Do continue to use your credit as normal.
Do be prepared to explain any large deposits in your bank accounts.
Do enjoy purchasing your home but remain objective throughout the process to help make decisions that are best for you.
After you have been preapproved for your mortgage you will want to refrain from the following …

Do not make any major purchases (car, boat, jewelry, furniture, appliances, etc.).
Do not apply for any new credit (even if it says you are preapproved or “xxx days same as cash”).
Do not pay off charges or collections (unless directed by your loan officer to do so).
Do not make any changes to your credit profile.
Do not change bank accounts.
Do not make unusual deposits into your bank accounts or move money around from one account to another.
Follow these simple rules and you will help to make your loan closing as smooth and hassle-free as possible! Good luck!

(This article was originally published by Barbara Mooers on Active Rain. Barbara is a loan officer with Primary Residential Mortgage in Tacoma, Washington.)


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No Project Left Undone

August 14, 2014

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during
renovations and more.
 Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.



Top 10 Questions to Ask During an Open House

August 7, 2014

Top 10 Questions to Ask During an Open House


By: Virginia C. Mcguire, Trulia


Visiting an open house gives would-be buyers the opportunity to speak directly to the seller’s agent. And the best way to take advantage of this personal meeting is to be prepared. Get the inside scoop by asking these ten questions:

1. How many offers have been made?

Does the agent look suspiciously happy? They might have received word that an offer is coming in any minute. If they’ve received offers, they’ll probably be eager to tell you, in hopes that you’ll bid as well and drive the price up.

2. How stable has the price been?

Your agent can find out how many times the price has changed since it was first listed, but the seller’s agent will likely jump at the chance to explain why. Perhaps the price dropped because the seller has to move on a tight timeline. Info like this might even clue you in that the list price is somewhat flexible.

3. Why do the sellers want to move?

If the sellers are moving because the area is unsafe, the schools are terrible, or the neighbor practices the drums at midnight, their agent is unlikely to tell you. But ask this question anyway, and try to read between the lines.

4. How long has this property been on the market?

You can find this information yourself on Trulia, or by asking your agent to check the local multiple listing service, but the seller’s agent will be able to put this information in context. Perhaps it’s been on the market for a long time, but only because the sellers received an offer from a buyer whose financing fell through. Or, perhaps the house went on the market this week, but the sellers have had a lot of interest and expect it to sell quickly. All of this is useful when you’re deciding whether to make an offer.

5. What issues does the house come with?

The seller is required to tell potential buyers about any known structural problems or code violations. It’s standard to ask for a written seller’s disclosure, so request one – and if you’re lucky, a talkative agent might reveal more in person.

6. When was the house last updated?

Clearly visible updates, like new appliances or a fresh coat of paint, are easy to identify. However, features like the age of the roof and wiring which can’t be easily seen, are equally as important and need to be asked about.

7. How much do utilities cost?

Know what you’re getting into before you make an offer by asking to see recent utility bills. If you’re moving from an apartment into a house, you might be surprised at the impact utility bills have on your budget.

8. What’s the seller’s timeline?

Sometimes sellers choose a buyer’s offer simply because of timing. Perhaps they want to sell quickly, or delay the sale so their kids can finish the school year. The more you know about what the sellers want, the more easily you can work around it — and put together a tempting offer while getting a good deal on the price.

9. Where can I get a bite to eat?

Getting directions to a local eatery or coffee shop will tell you a lot about your neighborhood. If there’s a retail strip close by that locals frequent and feel proud of, chances are you’ll love it too.

10. What are the neighbors like?

Is the neighborhood kid-friendly? Are there lots of retired people? Is there a thriving bar scene on the weekends? Some people are fine doing their own thing and don’t require (or want) a tight-knit neighborhood community. But other people are much happier if they’re surrounded by kindred souls who are in a similar stage of life. The seller’s agent will be able to give valuable information about who you’d be rubbing shoulders with, if you choose to buy.

And don’t forget: while open houses are great venues to ask questions and listen, be careful not to give away more than you want about your own situation. Being discreet about your finances and how much you love the home will benefit you when it’s time to bargain for a good price.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

What Home Buyers and Sellers Should Know About Housing Affordability

August 1, 2014
Photo: Zillow

Photo: Zillow

By: Jill Hamilton, ClientDirect


Is it the right time to buy a house? Is it the right time to sell? How do you know when to jump into the real estate market? The answer is….it depends. There’s no single answer that applies to everyone. A host of factors come into play, including the economy in general, whether home prices are rising or falling, the inventory of available homes, and the state of your own financial outlook. If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home, here are some factors to consider.

For buyers:
Improving Economy, Rising Prices, and Eager Buyers:

The rebound in the economy means more competition for homes because people who have been renting or staying put in their homes are now jumping into the housing market. This translates into quick turnover on home sales, multiple bids, and sometimes, buyers bidding over the asking price. The boost in housing prices is also fueling competition from buyers who want to get into the market before prices get too high. Even though prices are rising, many still consider some homes underpriced since prices had dipped so low. And buyers are looking to make a move while houses are still relatively a good deal.
FHA Fee Changes:

Loans through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) were historically the best bet for people with low to moderate incomes and not much money to put toward a down payment. Generally, private lenders require a 5% down payment, while FHA only requires 3.5%. However, with several changes to loan terms, FHA may no longer be the smartest option.
FHA loans require mortgage insurance, a fee tacked onto the loan that provides the lender some protection in case the borrower defaults on the loan. In the past, the borrower only needed to carry the insurance until the loan reached 78% of the original loan amount. Under the new rules, the borrower is required to carry the insurance for the life of the loan.
The cost of mortgage insurance on FHA loans has also been on the rise, almost tripling since 2008. In 2013, the fee rose to 1.35% of the balance of the loan. Additionally, FHA loans require borrowers to pay an upfront fee of 1.75% when getting the loan. Between the upfront fee and the required mortgage insurance, saving up more for a down payment and getting a private mortgage may make more financial sense.
Beyond FHA:

Buyers with a low down payment have other options to consider. Fannie Mae HomePath loans, available only on Fannie Mae-owned properties, offer low down payments and no mortgage insurance requirement. Periodically, Fannie Mae also offers special deals in which they cover the buyer’s closing costs. There also loans available to people in various special circumstances. Veterans, for example, can get VA Mortgages, which offer good terms, low down payments, and easier qualification requirements. The USDA offers attractive mortgage terms to moderate-income families buying property in rural or semi-rural areas.
Check Other Affordability Programs:

The Good Neighbor Next Door program offers discounts of homes in “revitalization” areas of up to 50% for qualified fire fighters, law enforcement officers, EMTs, and teachers. Check with state and local housing agencies to see what programs are available in your area. Check for links and other home buying help and information.
Mind Your Debt:

Having a large amount of debt in relation to your income will lower your chances of getting a loan with favorable terms, or even getting a loan at all. Private lenders generally have more stringent rules for debt-to-income ratio (DTI). There are two kinds of DTI–how much personal debt you can carry in relation to your income (e.g. car loans, student loans, child care expenses) and income versus the amount you will be spending on housing debt (e.g. mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance and so forth.) Lenders take both into consideration. Would-be borrowers who want private financing generally need to have less than 45% of their income going towards personal debts, while FHA will finance borrowers who have up to about 56% of their income allocated for debt payment. Borrowers can qualify for an FHA loan with up to 47% of their income slated for housing costs, while conventional lenders generally allow only up to 38-40%.

For Sellers:
Rising Home Prices:

House prices are rebounding from the downturn, and 2014 is shaping up to be a seller’s market. Rising home prices are a boon to sellers who can expect faster sales, multiple full-price offers and even offers above their asking price.
Starter Homes in Demand:

If you have a starter home and are looking to upsize, the market is especially in your favor. Starter homes are in short supply because during the economic downturn, people were buying and selling less frequently. Now that the economy is improving, there’s a lot of pent-up demand, especially for people looking for inexpensive housing or a starter home.
Fewer Underwater Mortgages, More Equity:

The nationwide trend of rising home prices means other good news for sellers. The boost in prices is finally lifting many homeowners from their underwater mortgages and giving others more equity in their homes. More equity means more owners will have the money for a down payment and closing costs if they’d like to move up to something pricier.

Time to Refinance?:

Rising prices will also raise the appraised value of many homes, meaning it may be a good time for homeowners to refinance. Higher appraisals may help you get more favorable terms on a first mortgage or refinance the rolling of a second mortgage into one stable, fixed-rate mortgage.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

7 things home buyers love but sellers don’t list

July 25, 2014
home buyers love but sellers don't list
By:  Tara-Nicholle Nelson, The Motley Fool

If your home has commercial-grade European appliances, sits on acres of land, or is in the most prestigious neighborhood in town, it’s pretty easy to know what to lead with in your marketing when selling your home. But if you have a normal house in a normal neighborhood, there could very well be things you take for granted which a first-time or relocating buyer might be magnetically drawn to if you mention it in the listing.

Below are 7 things buyers love and seller’s fail to mention.

1. Storage. When aiming to avoid undermarketing, keep this in mind: showcasing your home in its best light is not just about what you love about it. You might already have outgrown the place, and started to see its flaws more than its finer points: that’s why you’re moving. But the goal of good marketing is to highlight the things that will allow your home to shine in the eyes of your target buyers and against the competition.

So, it’s important to know what buyers care about and how your home offers a more comfortable lifestyle than the competition. First-time buyers, for example, are not simply comparing your home to other homes, they are also comparing it to the lifestyle of being a renter and to every bad rental property that inspired them to move forward with becoming a homeowner. One very common beef of renters is that rental homes lack storage, which leads to belonging overflow and a cluttered life. The vision of having a place for storing everything is a big motivator for many first-time home buyers. So, if your home has been tricked out with extra closets, pantries or other built-in storage amenities that you plan to leave, make sure your agent boasts about that in your home’s marketing materials.

2. Organizing systems. In the same vein, if you have made the investment in upgrading your home with customized or built-in closet, kitchen or garage organizer systems, desks or bookshelves make sure buyers see and know this from your home’s online listing. From the first-timer craving to have a clutter-free existence to buyers who are moving up into a family home and want each family member’s space to have at least the possibility of order, built-in organizers can represent value and appeal to a wide range of prospective buyers.

3. Proximity. You might be thinking the right buyers for your home will be finding it online precisely because of where it’s located, so it’s silly to call out the property’s proximity to amenities and attractions. Not so fast. First, some buyers simply might not know to search for your zip code, or might not be aware that your hidden gem of a neighborhood also happens to be tucked within a half mile of a subway station, entrances to 3 freeways and 2 regional parks. Second, buyers’ proximity wishes might be different than the location requirements of their online search. They might be looking at all homes in town in their price range, but the fact that yours is walking distance to a major employer or university could push yours to the top of the list.

Finally, relocating buyers might not have the core knowledge of the area that would allow them to connect the dots about the property based on location basics you are assuming everyone in the market for a home like yours will know. Don’t assume: if your home is particularly well-located vis-a-vis major employers, universities, recreational amenities or walkable shopping and dining districts, talk with your agent about showcasing this in your home’s marketing.

4. Senior-friendly features. Boomers are not necessarily looking for homes with built-in disability features, but they are often looking for homes they could live in for the rest of their lives, ‘aging in-place,’ without necessarily being located in senior-only communities. That means homes with level-in entrances (no stairs to the front door), single story layouts and low-maintenance landscaping have a massive new audience attracted to these features which would otherwise not warrant a mention in a home’s marketing, especially if homes near yours tend to have loads of stairs or other features that are difficult for people to navigate as they age.

Similarly, the movement toward aging-in-place has caused many more families to move aging relatives in with them, versus moving them out to retirement homes. These extended families often are looking for homes with a very well-appointed ‘mother-in-law’ or ‘outlaw’ units or a second master suite located on the home’s ground floor. If your home has multiple bedrooms with bathrooms en suite or completely independent living quarters, marketing these features to extended families is a must.

5. Energy. If your home runs entirely off-the-grid or on graywater, chances are good you’ll be mentioning that. But even buyers who don’t identify as hunting for a ‘green’ home can be attracted to the budget-friendliness of energy-efficient features of the less extreme sort. So, if your home is a pretty no-frills property but has a tankless water heater, dual-paned windows and new insulation, mention it! If you’ve managed to get your energy bills down way below what’s normal in your area, this could be a selling point you don’t want to overlook; your agent can help you navigate how to broadcast this message to buyers.

6. ‘Light’ green lifestyle features. That said, if you have configured your home to allow inhabitants to live a greener life, beyond just the energy bills, these might warrant a mention in your marketing. You might think things like your little organic kitchen garden, backyard compost bin or that $50 recycling center you installed are so low in cash value they don’t rate a line in your listing materials. But there are loads of buyers out there who are attracted to these sorts of features already being in place in a home, so calling them out (especially if you’re in a market with tons of competition) can call your home to their attention.

7. Natural, chemical-free and hypoallergenic home maintenance. In a similar vein, if you have a hypoallergenic HVAC system or have only used non-chemical cleaning products for the last few years, you might want to call these sorts of things out, as well. Marketers say today’s consumers are careful about not just what they put into their bodies, but also what they put on and around their bodies. Your home and the cleaning and maintenance products you’ve used may implicate both ‘on’ and ‘around,’ so if you’ve taken care to create a home that works well for people with physical or philosophical sensitivities to common household chemicals, make sure light-green buyers know it!

The Motley Fool is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news, analysis and commentary designed to help people take control of their financial lives. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.




Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

Everything You Need to Know About Cash Buyers

July 17, 2014
From: Zillow Blog

Even as the share of all-cash sales falls in many areas, it’s pretty clear that cash is still king, especially at the lower end of the market. This makes it more difficult for traditional buyers to compete with cash offers, especially in a tight inventory environment. So who are these cash buyers, and where are they located? Here are answers to some of your questions.

Why is this happening now?

It’s happening now for a couple of reasons. Lending standards are still very restrictive, and buyer competition is intense, particularly in markets with lots of demand and not much supply. The thinking is: If I pay with cash, I’ll get to the front of the line and have a leg up on the competition.

Where is this trend most prevalent?

This trend is nationwide, and while the share of cash sales is higher than “normal” in many parts of the country (even in rural heartland states that never had a housing bust), it’s most prevalent in Florida and Midwest markets. In the first quarter of this year, Miami had the largest share of cash buyers in the country at nearly 65 percent of total sales, down from 71 percent in 2012. Tampa and Cleveland were close behind with 57.1 percent and 54.2 percent, respectively.

Who are these all-cash buyers, anyway?

They aren’t all institutional investors, necessarily. After all, they found their deals last year and have more or less exited the party as home prices have risen. Rather, they are baby boomers, empty nesters, wealthy families buying second homes/vacation properties and foreign buyers who are coming to the U.S. from all over the world and snatching up properties in places such as Miami, New York City and Las Vegas.

What does this mean to traditional buyers?

Traditional buyers are faced with greater hurdles when making offers because they are likely to have to compete with cash offers, especially in the tight inventory environment in the bottom tier of the market.

Zillow examined the share of cash sales made in the bottom, middle and top one-third of home values and found that in 27 of the top 30 metros, more than one-third of all sales of the lowest-priced homes were made with cash. In three of the top 30 metros — Tampa, Detroit and Miami — more than 80 percent of all sales in the lowest price bracket were cash deals.

The good news is the portion of home purchases made with all cash is down from last year, which will help even the playing field for first-time and low-income home buyers.

How can non-cash buyers possibly compete with all-cash buyers?

Your best defense is to be a well-qualified buyer. You’re gainfully employed, able to make a substantial down payment (20+ percent), have been pre-approved, and, of course, have good credit. You should also make a strong offer and ideally one without any contingencies.

Finally, sweeten the offer any way you can. Find out what’s motivating the sellers and give them what they want. Remember, at the end of the day, money is money, and many sellers may not be in a great rush to close; they are simply looking for clean offers that are going to go through, hassle-free.

Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist based in New York City and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with her at

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.

Young Optimism in Real Estate

July 11, 2014

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117.




Young Optimism


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