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All About Buyers

April 18, 2019

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Be Clear on Co-Signing Perils

April 11, 2019

Younger home buyers frequently look to parents or grandparents to help them get into a first home. However, rising home prices and interest rates are presenting challenges for first-time buyers these days, resulting in some turning to co-signed mortgage loans. 

There’s little doubt such joint purchases are on the rise. Of home purchase loans in the U.S. in 2017, the latest year for which data is available, 22.8 percent included a co-signer, up from 21.3 percent in 2016, according to real estate data company ATTOM Data Solutions. 

What should you know about co-signed mortgage loans? 

Start by speaking to a lender or a financial planning professional and take no action until you have that conversation. 

First, as co-signer, you’re 100 percent responsible for the obligation. If the person who’s benefitting from the co-signing loses his or her job and can’t make mortgage payments, you’re now responsible for payments. 

Second, co-signing the mortgage will affect your credit. Any delinquency will appear on your credit report. This could affect your ability to get credit in the future—and the interest rate you’ll qualify for—if you apply for a home, auto, personal, business, or student loan. 

Third, even if the mortgage payments are made on time and in full each month, being a co-signer on the mortgage can count against you when you’re trying to qualify for future loans. That co-signed loan takes up part of your debt-to-income ratio and restricts your ability to borrow additional money for your own purchases. For that reason, if you have plans to purchase a new car or home in the near future, talk to the lender about how this act of generosity will change your borrowing capacity. 

Fourth, your debts will be looked at. As a co-signer, be prepared to provide paperwork to meet the same credit requirements that the borrower is subject to. These include bank statements and income tax returns. Your debt as co-signer will be considered in the loan approval process, with the expected outcome that debt and income from two borrowers will lower the debt-to-income ratio for the loan. For conforming loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow a “blended ratio” DTI that combines the incomes of the occupant and non-occupant co-borrowers. This can help when you aren’t going to live in the house and have most of the income, a common scenario when parents help a child buy a home. 

Fifth, as co-signer, consider whether your help is truly helping the buyers. If they could not afford this home without your contributions, is it appropriate for you to offer help? Do they have the cash flow to make the monthly payments? Do you have the capacity to make the payments if they fall behind? Consider whether they are better off in a smaller, less expensive home that they can qualify for on their own. 

It’s important to note, it remains the responsibility of the home buyer and the co-signer to talk to a lender or professional financial planner to understand the ramifications. However, taking these points into considerations can help set you on the right track.

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Are you considering selling or buying a home this spring? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help. 

4 Things to Consider When Choosing Green Flooring

April 4, 2019
4-tips-in-picking-healthy-green-flooring-for-your-home_1_0

When you’re choosing flooring for your green home, there are a lot of factors to take into account. You want to use eco-friendly materials that are sustainably sourced and will stand up under long-term use. Also, you want them to be installed in a way that minimizes toxic fumes from adhesives and sealants.

Here’s a breakdown of the four major questions you need to answer when considering green flooring:

1. Materials

Every material has pluses and minuses, so consider what matters most to you. Appearance and texture? Durability? Minimal environmental impact in processing the substance and transporting it to your home? A few of the most common options are:

  1. Wood. This flooring has classic visual appeal and is excellent for indoor air quality. Make sure, though, that you buy wood that has been sustainably harvested and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
  2. Cork. A shock-absorbent material, cork is great for spaces where people will be walking and standing a lot. It’s also good for muting sound. However, it does require more maintenance and more frequent resealing.
  3. Bamboo. Long-lasting and durable, bamboo is harder than many hardwoods and is biodegradable—but it does require more energy for transport from the Asia-Pacific region.
  4. Stone. Flooring made from stone can have a long lifespan, but its durability is also dependent on the softness of the type of stone you select. To minimize air quality issues, ask your contractor to do cutting and grinding off-site as much as possible.
  5. Tile. You have a lot of options with tile, like ceramic, glass and linoleum—each with its own set of characteristics. True linoleum (not vinyl) is manufactured in Europe, adding to transportation energy, but is made from a mixture of natural materials. Ceramic and glass may be locally sourced, though the energy expenditure in initial production is high.

For a more comprehensive review of your options, take a look at our buyer’s guide or our roundup of eight types of eco-friendly flooring materials.

2. Sourcing impact

As you can see from taking a look at the materials above, traveling the distance from a material’s country of origin to your own home has an environmental impact. It’s up to you to take into account the overall life cycle and decide if that impact is mitigated by purchasing a floor that will be long-lasting and made from raw materials that were sustainably grown or harvested.

For a thorough description of the life cycle approach to green building, view the LEED v4 for Building Design and Construction Materials and Resources credit category, which focuses on minimizing the embodied energy and other impacts associated with the extraction, processing, transport, maintenance and disposal of building materials.

3. Installation

There can also be environmental impact from the actual installing of your chosen flooring. Air quality issues can arise from crushing or grinding in the space, as well as from use of adhesives, sealants and varnishes that contain VOCs.

Make sure you take precautions such as minimizing dust and ensuring good ventilation during any type of installation, finishing or refinishing of floors in your home. Choose an adhesive by comparing the VOC information on product packaging or in Material Safety Data Sheets. A good rule of thumb is to use products with VOCs of less than 250 grams per liter.

4. Your space

The specific flooring needs of your space will vary based on size, architectural style, acoustic requirements and even whether you have pets or kids. Using cork or sustainable carpet options will go a long way toward soundproofing your space, for example.

If your spaces need durable floors that won’t scratch easily, you might select certain materials, but you don’t have to use them throughout—if you anticipate a lot of foot traffic in a particular area, you can install flooring in that space that’s more durable than in less-used areas of the home.

Also, think about the conditions in different areas of your home or your geographic location. For areas subject to moisture, for example, avoid using linoleum flooring.

Read about our USGBC art director’s experience with a sustainably sourced, dog-friendly type of engineered wood flooring.

From: GreenHomeGuide – Heather Benjamin 

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Are you considering selling or buying a home this spring? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help. 


How Will the Housing Market Fare This Spring?

March 26, 2019
© Perry Mastrovito/Image Source/Getty Images

Real estate pros often anxiously await for the spring selling season, a time known for an uptick in home sales. But will spring be as hot for the housing market this year as it has been in the past?

Since the end of last year, home sales have slowed (a decline of 10 percent in December compared to a year prior), and properties have been sitting on the market for longer (46 days compared to 30 days a year ago).

Nevertheless, Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS®, says that “multiple data show definitively improving conditions” heading into the spring selling and buying season.

Consumer sentiment about home buying is turning more upbeat, and there have been greater reports of foot traffic at open houses, according to recent NAR surveys. The number of openings of lock boxes—which real estate pros use to access a key prior to unlocking a home for a showing—is “measurably higher” in January and February compared to the second half of 2018, according to NAR SentriLock data.

Further, the number of consumers applying for a mortgage to purchase a home is on the rise. “After the weak conditions of late last year, mortgage applications have picked up notably in 2019 with more consumers evidently searching for a home compared to one year ago,” Yun writes in his latest real estate column at Forbes.com. Also, contract signings to purchase a home rose 4.6 percent in January—another healthy sign about the market Yun points to.

With mortgage rates staying low, Yun expects more home buyers and sellers this spring. So far this year, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has fallen to under a 4.5 percent average. That means a typical home buyer could save nearly $100 per month due to the drop. In addition, wages are up 3.4 percent year-over-year on average, the hightest rate in a decade, .

“The slump is over” in the housing market, Yun notes. “Better times are ahead for home buyers.

”Source: “Boom or Bust for Spring Homebuying?” Forbes.com (March 14, 2019)

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Are you considering selling or buying a home this spring?
Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help.

6 Things You’ll Love (and Hate) About Selling a Home This Spring

March 21, 2019
Nastco/iStock

For many home sellers, there’s no better time to list than the spring, and for good reason: This is peak home-buying season, folks! Buyers turn out in droves once warmer weather finally arrives, bringing people out of hibernation mode, and bidding wars abound as buyers look for ways to one-up their competition.

The bad news? Selling a home during the spring isn’t free of pitfalls.

Indeed, “Spring home sellers still face challenges that they need to prepare for,” says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis.

Since knowing what to expect can help you nab a great offer, here are six things you’ll love—and hate—about selling a home this spring.

You’ll love: All the demand

While home sales decline in the winter (chalk it up to bad weather and holiday obligations), many home buyers blitz the housing market in spring, says Dossman. To meet that pent-up demand, many sellers list their homes at this time of year. It’s no surprise, then, that the lion’s share of real estate agents say March, April, and May are the best months to sell a home. With so many buyers competing for homes, sellers may be in a stronger position to spark bidding wars.

You’ll hate: All the competition

Demand is strong, but so is competition among home sellers, says Kimberly Sands, a real estate broker in Carolina Beach, NC. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the four heaviest home-selling months—May, June, July, and August—account for 40% of an average year’s total home-selling volume.

Want to compete with other home sellers and fetch top dollar for your house? Presenting your home in the best light is crucial. This may entail decluttering your house, having your home professionally staged, or making minor repairs so that your property is looking in tip-top shape when you put it on the market.

You’ll love: Selling in warmer weather

Open houses are often more successful during the spring than in the winter, says Dossman, since the nicer weather makes buyers more willing to emerge from the comfort of their homes to shop for houses. Another boon for home sellers: Daylight saving time gives buyers more time to look at houses, which means your property can potentially be seen by more people, says Dana Hill, vice president of Buyer’s Edge Realty in Bethesda, MD.

That said, “Sellers still need to do some prep work before holding an open house,” Dossman adds. To make sure your home is ready to be seen, do a thorough cleaning, remove such personal belongings as family photos and religious artwork, and trim your lawn for maximum curb appeal. Pro tip: Take a hike for a few hours during the open house. Buyers will feel more comfortable asking questions of your agent if you’re not hovering in the background.

You’ll hate: Fighting for your agent’s attention

Because this is a busy time for home buyers and sellers, it’s also a busy time for real estate agents. Unfortunately, some agents may take on more clients than they can handle at one time. That’s why it’s important to find a listing agent who is going to put the proper level of effort and time into selling your home. “If your agent is distracted, you’re not going to get great service,” Sands warns.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for the maximum number of clients an agent should be working with, but make sure to address this topic when interviewing prospective agents. If your gut says you’re not going to be a priority, continue looking, says Sands.

You’ll love: The higher valuations

When your home’s value is assessed by a home buyer’s appraiser, the appraiser will look at data for comparable homes (or “comps”) that were recently sold in your neighborhood. The good news: With more homes selling in the on-season, the comparable data tend in your favor, Hill says. In other words, your house is more likely to pass the home appraisal, assuming that you’re selling it at around its fair market value.

You’ll hate: The picky buyers

Naturally, some buyers can afford to be more selective when there are more houses to choose from, says Dossman. For instance, if your home clearly needs major repairs, they might simply pass. Add in the fact that most spring buyers aren’t shopping under pressure (as they might be during the winter), and you can expect to have a larger pool of picky house hunters in the spring than you do during other seasons.

The bottom line

Spring is unequivocally the busiest time of year to be selling a house, and though more demand from buyers can be good news for home sellers, there are still obstacles you need to plan for when selling a home at this time of year.

By Daniel Bortz, Realtor.com

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Are you considering selling or buying a home this spring?
Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117. I can help.

Staged for Success

March 14, 2019

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117.
I can help.


How Long Does Mortgage Pre-Approval Last?

March 7, 2019
courtneyk/iStock; realtor.com

If your pre-approval is about to expire, that doesn’t mean you have to apply from scratch all over again. Just prepare to provide updated financial statements to your lender to prove there’s been no change to your income, debts, or credit scores.

How long does mortgage pre-approval last? If you’re hoping to buy a home, it’s smart to ponder this question, since even after you receive a lender’s stamp of approval for financing, weeks or even months could pass before you actually buy a house. Will that pre-approval you received a while back still be valid by then?

Since lenders realize that buying a house does take time, pre-approval does have a shelf life, but not an indefinite one. While the length of time varies, in general pre-approval is good for about three months. Here’s what home buyers need to know about how to make the most of this time frame—and what to do if your pre-approval is at risk of running out before you buy a house.

What is mortgage pre-approval, anyway? The first step to buying a home

If you want to purchase a home, your first step should be to prove that you have the financial means to do so. This is where pre-approval comes in.

“Pre-approval is the process by which a mortgage professional such as a broker or bank account executive examines a loan application to determine whether a potential home buyer will qualify for a mortgage,” says Matthew Reischer, an attorney and real estate agent at New York’s Flushing Real Estate. Find homes for sale on 

Pre-approval is also key to understanding what your home-buying budget is, adds Michelle Mumoli, CEO of the Mumoli Group at Keller Williams City Life in Jersey City. Since a lender will let you borrow only up to a certain amount, that’s the price range you should stick to when shopping for a house.

How do you get pre-approval?

To obtain pre-approval, buyers need to provide a mortgage lender with information like their employment history, credit score, income, and debts. During this process, the lender will want to see bank statements, pay stubs, and tax returns. It can feel invasive, but lenders are just looking to protect their interests by not loaning money to someone who could be considered high risk. These are people who have high outstanding debts, inconsistent income, or a history of late payments.

Once a lender reviews your finances, it will give you what’s known as a pre-approval letter detailing a good-faith willingness to extend mortgage financing based on its preliminary examination of your assets, income stream, and creditworthiness. The letter will also detail the actual loan amount you qualify for.

How do you use pre-approval?

Real estate agents will submit a pre-approval letter to solidify your offer on a home to the seller, says Mumoli. That’s because most sellers simply won’t accept an offer unless the buyers can prove they can obtain a mortgage. Sellers see a pre-approval letter as evidence that a buyer is not only serious but also has the means to buy the home.

As such, pre-approval is something you need at the very beginning of your home-buying search. It doesn’t make sense to look for properties without first having a pre-approval letter in hand.

How long does pre-approval last?

Although there is no definite duration for the validity of a pre-approval letter, the custom within the real estate industry is that pre-approval is good for between 90 to 180 days, says Reischer. But many may consider it too old after three months.

The reason? In three months, your financial life can change drastically. You could lose your job, buy a car, or do plenty of things that might affect your home-buying prospects. So, lenders and sellers alike will just have a hard time trusting a pre-approval letter that’s more than a few months old.

Want to know how long your pre-approval is good for? The actual time frame will be on your letter. If you want a longer time frame, ask for that upfront.

What to do if your pre-approval will soon run out

Since pre-approvals do have a shelf life, it’s generally best to not get it until you’re seriously looking for a home. If you’re just window shopping, it may not be worth the trouble unless you want to know what price house you can afford. (But to find a ballpark estimate yourself, you can also enter your info into an online home affordability calculator.)h

From: Realtor.com

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117 – I can help.

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