7 Signs of An Up-and-Coming Neighborhood

blog_250x250-jan26Live in a town large enough for a time long enough, and you’ll undoubtedly be made privy to a story of the one that got away. The neighborhood that got away, that is – the neighborhood that all the locals saw as down for the count, pshawing away little sprouts of area upturn, until one day the formerly downtrodden district was teeming with new businesses, new residents, new life – and newly high property values, to the advantage of those few brave souls who decided to go all in before the place actually arrived.

Maybe you’re a first-time buyer trying to squeeze every iota of value out of your precious house hunting dollars, or you just love the prospect of being an early settler in your city’s Next Big Neighborhood. In any event, it can be daunting and even scary to try to figure out whether a neighborhood is up-and-coming or down-and-out. Home value increases are an obvious indicator, but by the time values are up it’s often too late to get in on the early advantage of buying in a neighborhood before it’s potential has been realized.

If you’re ready, willing and able to take on the challenge of buying in a diamond-in-the-rough type neighborhood, here are some signs to look for beforeproperty values shoot through the roof.

1. On-trend businesses are moving in. In my neck of the woods, when a co-working space, a Whole Foods or a Blue Bottle coffee moves into the neighborhood, it’s a sign that the nature of things might be changing. This is just as true for small, local businesses that attract people with disposable income as it is for businesses that sell the basics with flair. In fact, most larger businesses do a fair amount of economic research and projections on the neighborhood before moving in. Watching big industry and business moves can be a great way to spot emerging areas with strong fundamentals way before you might otherwise be able to see them yourself.

2. Uber-convenient location in a land-impacted metro. If you live in a densely populated metro area – especially one that is coastal – or an urban setting with intense governmental restrictions on building, demand for homes will continue to grow as the population does, but the supply will remain somewhat limited. In many of these situations, neighborhoods that have been downtrodden but have very convenient proximity to employment centers, public transportation, freeways and bridges tend to be prime for whole-neighborhood remodeling in times of population growth or rapid real estate price rises in already-prime areas.

3. Downsides have an expiration date. If there’s one major issue that has caused an area to be less desirable for decades, and that issue is being eliminated or ameliorated, it could set the neighborhood up for a turnaround. For example, striking crime decreases or a major employer moving into the areawhere none were before can spark a serious real estate renaissance in an area which has some of the other desirable features on this list.

Also, keep in mind that a new generation of home buyers has a new set of values, and might simply not be concerned or deterred by things their parents might have viewed as turn-offs. Living above a commercial unit might have been a deal-killer for my parents, but my son thinks it’s cool – even desirable, depending on the business on the ground floor. Similarly, gritty and urban might not be the descriptors of your dream home, but some twenty-something first-time buyers in major metros are seeking exactly that feel.

4. Architectural themes with a following. Many up-and-coming neighborhoods find themselves pulled by aficionados of the particular type of architecture that characterizes the neighborhood. Often, down-at-the-heels neighborhoods that are riddled with Tudors, Victorians, Spanish-style homes or even Mid-Century Moderns will see a surge of revitalization when a fresh generation of frugal home buyers falls in love with the style and realizes the deals that can be had there vs. other, already prime areas in town.

5. At least one major economic development is brewing. Never underestimate the power of a major economic development to overhaul a neighborhood’s fate. From Google and Microsoft building cloud storage data centers in Des Moines to a new light rail station going live in Denver, one large-scale employer or infrastructure development can be a very early, very strong sign that an area will see it’s real estate fortunes rise. (That said, areas dependent on one near-obsolete employer or industry can see their fates decline rapidly. Look for industry-wide investment in an area, vs. a single company’s investment.)

6. Fixing is in the air. When you see that an area long known for its rundown homes has a number of homes being renovated and rehabbed from the inside out, this can be a sign of fledgling neighborhood turnaround. If you spot these sorts of projects visually, it might be worth taking a trip down to the City Building Permit counter to see whether the staff has seen the same uptick in individual owners’ investment in the area, and if so, what they think the story of the neighborhood might be – or might become. City staffers often have a wealth of information at the ready, everything from pending commercial development applications that could change the whole landscape of an area to projects the city itself has funded or will prioritize due to its own development initiatives.

7. Slow but steady decrease in DOM. Ten years ago, I listed a charming, pristine home on a not-so-charming, less-than pristine street – the location was its fatal flaw, and the place just lagged on the market as a result. Now, Millennials buying their first homes are salivating over that precise location, for its mix of urban feel; new trendy restaurants and yoga studios; and complete convenience to both the subway and the Bay Bridge. In between now and then, though, those who were watching carefully would have noticed how homes that once took 90 days to sell gradually were selling in 45, then in a couple of weeks – and would have noticed that this decline in the number of days an average listing stayed on the market (DOM) occurred way before the home prices themselves increased. A slow, steady decrease in DOM is a smart, early sign that a neighborhood might be poised on the precipice of up-and-coming status. Ask your agent to help clue you in as to where precisely those areas might be, in your town.

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6 Hefty Questions that Block Buyer Offers

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“The right home for the right price” – If only finding it was as easy as saying it. To do so these days, you can’t be just a good salesperson or property hunter.  Now buyers expect you to play  builder, designer, and financial expert all at the same time.

Clients need you to tackle their biggest questions, no matter how closely (or loosely) related to your real estate license.

So, which questions do you need to be ready to answer?

Here’s a list of 6 you want to be ready to respond to to move your clients toward an offer and a few helpful tools for tackling each one.

1. “Will my Grandma’s antique table fit here?”

When touring a home, it’s usually not the total square footage that keeps clients from stepping toward closing. Many times there’s one wall, nook, or doorway where the feet – or inches – cause buyers to question whether a home is right.

It’s likely that you (and your clients) won’t know exactly how their favorite furniture will fit. But, if you’re serious about closing the deal, you can get your hands on the answer.

2. “I wonder what we could do with this space?”

Whether you want to admit it or not, there are certain homes with designs that are, well, let’s just say “interesting.” Your goal is to get buyers thinking outside the box (or whatever shape you’re dealing with.)

Offer suggestions of rooms you’ve seen in the past. The more personal you can make it for the client, the better. If you know that their huge movie buffs, why not suggest turning that odd-shaped office into a mini-theater with just enough seats for the entire family.

3. “What were they thinking with these walls?”

Ok, so maybe the floral wallpaper or the do-it-yourself sponge-painting wasn’t the previous owner’s best choice ever. Don’t let your clients dwell on the current look. Instead, ask “What are you thinking for these walls?”

The more you can your clients imagining themselves living in the home, the better. It helps get them one step closer to purchase.

4. “What’s nearby?”

You know as well as we do that clients aren’t looking just for a home. They’re looking for a neighborhood and lifestyle. Be prepared to answer the neighborhood questions with tips and insights to share on the surrounding area.

 

5. “What will our mortgage on this place look like?”

Even if your clients love the home you’re showing them, the ultimate question is: can they afford it? Just like a bedroom, if buyers can’t visualize how a monthly payment is doable, they won’t offer.

Don’t make them wait to run the numbers. Help them estimate their cost commitment on the spot with one of these free mortgage calculator apps for your smartphone.

6. “Can we make an offer?”

Cue the hallelujah chorus. It’s time to make an offer. You’ve helped your clients find the perfect home, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop wowing them – it’s your time to really shine.

Keep the transaction moving forward smoothly and quickly through the offer, contract, and other paperwork sign-offs that can seem overwhelming. Take advantage of document signing tools to avoid being slowed down by a pile of paperwork.

New Listing 6 Anthony Circle Peach Bottom PA

NEW LISTING coming in the next few days!!!!! 6 Anthony Circle Peach Bottom PA 17563. This home is a 3 + Bedroom 2+ Bathroom home with an over sized 2 car (front loading) over 1800sq foot rancher with a full walk out basement. About 1000 sq foot finished in the Basement. Sq foot is averaged at this time. 1 acre lot Great location many people live in the area that work in Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) Call to set up a preview prior to listing. This home will not be sold in the 380k range it will be much lower Seller’s are relocating for work. Great deck with lighting out back. High end kitchen with stone counter tops.

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2014 Remodeling Trends

Home remodeling may have taken a backseat during the recession, but not anymore. According to a 2013 Hanley Wood survey, remodeling sales were up 10 percent compared to 2012, and 45 percent of remodelers surveyed expected another 10 percent growth in 2014.

Home remodeling is back in again, and with the desire to improve our homesteads come a bunch of new and exciting trends we’ll start seeing next year.

1. Modern Kitchens

According to data compiled by Hanley Wood and Remodeling Magazine, 61 percent of remodelers surveyed expect to complete kitchen remodels in 2014, more than any other room in the house. And, those remodels are expected to follow a new trend.

Not so long ago, remodeled kitchens had a rustic feel with warm paint colors and cabinetry, and wrought iron hardware and lighting. Now, modern is in, with white or gray cabinetry, simple countertops, glossy finishes and minimalist designs.  Appliances are more likely to be blended into the design or hidden away from view entirely to give the kitchen a sleeker appearance.

2. Brass Accents

Brass made a comeback at home-design and remodeling conventions this year and the trend is expected to pick up in 2014. While brass is nothing new, it has gotten a facelift. Highly polished, bright brass hardware and lighting is gone; rustic, dull and hammered brass is in. The new looks will be incorporated into kitchen and bathroom hardware as well as lighting and door hardware throughout the house.

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3. Updated Bathrooms

In the Hanley Wood survey, bathrooms came in second to the kitchen with 58 percent of remodelers planning to do bathroom remodels in 2014. As far as style, vintage bathrooms with wainscoting and claw-foot tubs won’t be as popular as resort-style bathrooms that feature amenities such as large walk-in showers with multiple shower heads, heated floors or towel racks, and jetted bathtubs. For coloring and style, glass tiles will be a popular feature as well as neutral and cool colors like ash gray, light blue and off-white.

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4. Vibrant Colors

While the kitchen may be getting the modern single-shade treatment next year, designers have a different idea for other rooms. Bright accent colors such as turquoise, yellow and orange that were popular in 2013 have a new twist; in 2014, they’ll be more of a focal point and even more vibrant with colors such as Green Flash, Lemon Zest, Nectarine and Rouge Red, according to Pantone, the international authority on color. Designers will start featuring vibrant accent walls, main paint colors and flooring throughout bedrooms and main living spaces.

5. Sustainable Materials

Going green is nothing new, but sustainability may get easier in 2014 remodels. According to Craig Webb, editor-in-chief of Remodeling Magazine, “Manufacturers and builders are constantly getting greener and greener in the way they source materials and put up homes.”  As a result, “Energy efficiency is becoming an assumption, not an add-on.” Next year, remodels will include more renewable materials such as bamboo, energy-efficient appliances and additional designs that incorporate the local climate.

More at http://stormteamrealestate.com

Boost Your Credit Score to Buy a home

credit scorePromises of loans for bad credit borrowers, while common amid the housing boom in the early 2000s, are now rare. If you’re interested in buying a home today, know that lenders will carefully check your credit and will rarely approve a loan for someone with seriously bad credit.

For that reason, it’s important to check your credit report and your credit score. Many consumers are surprised (pleasantly or unpleasantly) by their credit score and many find errors on their credit reports. Carefully review your credit report and focus in particular on negative items to see if there are ways you can address them and improve your credit profile and your access to a mortgage.

Credit Scores and Lenders

A lender can be a great source of advice about your particular credit issues and can tell you what minimum credit score is needed for a particular loan program. Different lenders have different loan standards, so while one lender may reject you if you have a credit score of 640, another could give you a loan approval.

In general, FHA-insured loans have lower credit score requirements than conventional loans. In addition, the FHA has loan programs that make it easier for some people who lost a home in a short sale or a foreclosure to get a new mortgage faster. While FHA loans can be easier to qualify for if you have damaged credit, the downside of this loan program is that you must pay mortgage insurance on the loan, usually for the life of the loan. FHA mortgage insurance is typically higher than private mortgage insurance that you must pay for conventional loans if you make a down payment of less than 20 percent. Private mortgage insurance is automatically cancelled when your loan-to-value ratio reaches 78 percent.

Conventional lenders base their interest rates on your credit score, among other factors, so if your credit score is above 740 you’ll pay a slightly lower interest rate than someone with a credit score of 700.

Lenders look at many factors when evaluating you for a mortgage loan, including your debt-to-income ratio, your income and assets, how much your down payment will be and your job history. These compensating factors can sometimes help you overcome a slightly low credit score, but your best chance for a loan approval is to improve your credit score.

Boost Your Credit Score

While there’s no quick fix for bad credit, taking steps to improve your credit profile can raise your score over time:

  •  If you have any collections or judgments against you, pay them off as quickly as possible.
  • Bring your over-the-limit and past-due accounts up-to-date.
  • Pay all bills on time.
  • Try to reduce your credit card debt to 25 percent or less of your credit line on each card.
  • Don’t open new lines of credit.
  • Don’t close your credit card accounts because then you’ll be using more of your overall credit limit.
  • If you have an old credit card that you haven’t used in awhile, you can use it and then pay the bill in full to show that you can responsibly handle credit.

A reputable lender can suggest specific actions such as which credit card bill to pay off if you can’t eliminate your debt, so it would be a wise move to visit a lender as soon as you’re considering buying a home.

More at http://stormteamrealestate.com

5 Traits to Look for in Your Agent

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BUYERS + SELLERS:  How did you find your agent? Any advice for those still looking for one?

AGENTS: What traits do you think are important for buyers and sellers to look for? Why?

In this internet era, we’ve gotten to a place where we require all of our information in bite-sized, white-and-charcoal grey pieces. But when it comes to creating interpersonal and professional relationships that really work, lists of interview questions and “what to Google” articles can fall short of fully fleshing out the factors that make us mesh with someone.

So let’s go a little deeper. Picking a real estate agent is a business and a relationship challenge – one which has a potentially massive impact on your finances and future enjoyment of the place you and your family live. If you take that seriously, here are a handful of characteristics I recommend you look for as you evaluate prospective agents.

1. Creativity. Some transactions go precisely as planned, clicking right along on schedule. Others – many others – get messy:

  • the loan underwriter issues bizzaro, last-minute document demands

  • the appraisal comes in low

  • the buyer backs out

  • you see 50 homes without any winners, or

  • the inspection reports reveal issues that make you wonder whether the home is a diamond in the rough or a money pit.

Whether your transaction will be easy-peasy or uber-messy, you cannot know until you’re in it. When you’re agent-hunting, it behooves you to look for someone who has the experience and creative problem-solving skill to help you methodically think through the facts, surface alternatives, propose solutions and engineer obstacle workarounds – just in case the going gets tough.

2. Deep, varied expertise. Buying or selling a home is much more of a lifestyle design experience than it is a financial transaction, truth be told. To do it with results that work well for yourself, your family and your finances for the duration, you need an agent that’s an eager partner with you. One that will deep-dive into all the nooks and crannies of your aesthetics, your psychology, your life plans, your financials and even your relationship dynamics.

You also need an agent with deep – not surface – understanding of homes, neighborhoods and local real estate market metrics, practices and contracts, and someone who deeply *gets* the home buying or selling process itself – so they can brief you on it and fruitfully coach you through it.

Have you ever taken a class from a novice teacher vs. a class from an experienced professor? The difference is nuance: a deep, mature understanding of a complex subject allows the more experienced instructor to give you insights into patterns they’ve spotted over time and repeat transactions. Same goes for your real estate pro: you want to make sure that either your agent or someone that will be working with them on your transaction (like their manager or broker) has deep knowledge and understanding in most or all of these areas, so they can share the nuanced insights and patterns they have spotted in the past which you can harness to your advantage in the present.

3. Calm resilience. When you lose out on a home to other offers, it can feel like the end of the world. When you list your home, stage it to the nines, and not a single offer is forthcoming, feelings of discouragement, frustration and even depression can easily arise.  In both cases, it’s easy to delve into fear (fear that you’ll never get the home you need, or will never be able to move on to the next stage of your life) or paralysis (freezing up because you just don’t know what to do – period).

A great agent – and there are thousands and thousands out there – can bring a massive, game-changing dose of calm resilience to the table. They’ve been through this before. They know that there are lots of homes and lots of buyers out there, so losing out on any one is not a death knell to your dreams. They also know how to tell the difference between a normal delay in receiving an offer or an acceptance on your market and when your approach requires some serious course correction (see #4, below).

A great agent will be able to receive the news that you’ve lost out on a home or take in negative feedback from a prospective buyer, call you and deliver it calmly and right along with some smart, constructive suggestions for action items you should work on next, to keep the process moving forward.

4. Frankness and optimism. You want – no – you need your agent to be frankly honest. You need them to be frankly honest with themselves and with you about all facets of the reality you’ll face as you proceed through your transaction. Sellers, you cannot afford to have an agent who will let you persist in fantasy-land beliefs about what your home is worth – contrary to all evidence as to what homes in your area are actually selling for and feedback (read: silence) from prospective buyers who have seen your home – without challenging you to look at the data and adjust your pricing strategy. Buyers, by the same token, you can’t afford to work with an agent who encourages or allows you to make 5, 10, or 15 lowball offers on a home without urging you to face the truth that you need to house hunt at lower price points or make higher offers in order to be successful.

You need an agent who is willing to tell you the truth and have these sorts of hard conversations with you even when you won’t like it.

That said, you want an agent who possesses both this frank integrity and an ultimate optimism that, with right thinking and strategic action, you can and will ultimately succeed at making a great buy or sale.

5. Bandwidth. This one might sound strange, but the fact is that it can be difficult to get the advantages of having the best agent in the world if the agent is wildly over-subscribed and so busy they struggle to respond to calls and emails. This is why I don’t always say a great agent will necessarily have years and years of expertise. Some agents who have wonderful experience and wisdom are simply too busy to do the time-intensive guidance your situation may require. And some agents who are new to real estate bring highly relevant expertise and skills they’ve developed in other careers, have ample time to devote to your transaction and can enlist the real estate-specific insights of an experienced team leader, manager or broker.

If you know you’re going to want to meet up weekly for a house hunting session or debrief with your agent, tell them this up front and ask them flat-out how much time they can devote to your process. Make sure you’re comfortable with their response or solution (example – their listing specialist or partner can meet with you when they can’t) before you make your pick.

My advice for agent-finding is to engage in a multi-step process:

  • First, make sure you get referrals from your friends, colleagues and relatives to the agents they have worked with and love.

  • Also get a few names from our Agent Finder on Trulia, which allows you to get incredibly specific about what sort of homes, areas and transactions your ideal agent will have worked with.

  • Then, check all of your prospective agent candidates out online. Narrow them down a bit by what you see in terms of reviews and style of advice you see them providing on channels like their blog, website or social media pages.

  • Reach out to all the people on your short list through whatever medium you prefer to communicate – phone, email, etc. – and note how quickly you get responses.

  • Then book appointments to meet with a handful of agents and let them present their method to you.

  • Get references and check in with those past clients – ask them to tell you about their transaction experience, warts and all.

By the end of this process, you’ll likely find someone who fits just-right with your own personality, timing and transactional needs and possess these five traits.

11 Ridiculously Easy Ways To Save Money Without Changing Your Lifestyle

 

We always hear tip-based stories about clever ways to cut your spending, but many of them come with a lifestyle change to which you might not be ready to commit. Such as: Growing your own vegetables, cutting your own hair and nixing the occasional latte that makes you feel more human during a difficult workweek. However, there are a bunch of painless changes you can make that can help you save more. If you’re up the creek without a paddle, these won’t help you too much. (Instead, get thee toSuze Orman and the Frugal and Personal Finance subreddits.) But if you’ve ever looked at your bank statement and thought “I could do better,” then this is for you.

 

  • Adjust Your Thermostat
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    Unless you get hit with a polar vortex, you probably won’t notice a change of a few degrees. You should also lower your thermostat a few degrees before you leave the house and before you go to bed.
  • Turn Everything Off When You Leave Your House
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    If you’re convinced that a TV blasting “The People’s Court” and having a light in front of a window is what keeps you robbery-free, use a power strip with a timer.
  • Run Your Appliances At The Right Time
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    If your utility company defines “peak” and “off-peak” hours, you’re probably spending more to run appliances during the former. Instead, shift your usage to “off-peak” hours. Don’t know what’s what? Ask your utility company.
  • Plan Your Meals Ahead Of Time
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    If you head into a grocery store with no real idea of what you’re looking for, you’ll end up with a cart full of novelty ice cream products and frozen pizzas. At least that’s what we assume when we see our college-age neighbors out shopping. Have a hard time getting organized? Try this printable grocery planners from Design*Sponge, that kind of forces you to plan the week’s meals before you list groceries.
  • Compare The Right Prices
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    At the grocery store, you should always look at the unit price sticker when trying to decide between two items. The price of the best option might be higher, but gives you more for your money.
  • Use The Crock-Pot Your Mom Gave To You
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    At the end of a long day, takeout just feels necessary. But if you get into the habit of occasionally throwing a few chicken breasts into a Crock Pot, along with a little bit of stock (from a box) before you go to work…dinner is just about ready once you come home. Clueless about where to start? Here are 77 slow cooker recipes to get you started.
  • Buy The Right Things In Bulk
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    Eventually, trash bags will go on sale — that’s when you stock up. Same for things like deodorant, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc. You spend a little bit more now, but save in the long run.
  • Check Your Air Pressure Once In A While
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    You’d be surprised at how many people don’t do this. Making sure your tires are properly inflated helps with gas mileage. The inside of your door usually has the ideal PSI (that’s pounds per square inch), which will guide you as you’re filling your tires at any gas station. Urbanites and/or public transportation devotees: Take advantage of any pre-tax commuter discount your job may offer you.
  • Know What’s In Your Closet
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    Going through your clothing is a minor time investment, but it pays off when you realize that you keep buying plain black t-shirts when you already have enough of them to keep Ricky Gervais clothed for months. Knowing what you already have not only keeps you from spending more, but it gives you an opportunity to weed out the stuff that you’re not wearing, so you can donate, consign or eBay.
  • Cancel Memberships You’re Not Using
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    Magazines, online subscriptions and gym memberships, we’re looking at you.
  • Repair Instead Of Automatically Replacing
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    No, you don’t need to trash a shirt once a button goes missing.
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 More at http://stormteamrealestate.com 

4 Buyer and Seller Resolutions for 2014

At this time of year, New Year’s Resolutions are on the front burner in many minds, and for those who are planning to buy and sell a home in 2014, real estate resolutions rank right up there with the obligatory ‘lose 10 pounds,’ ‘take a trip to Paris’ and ‘call Mom once a week.’ But here’s the rub: the obvious overall resolutions to ‘buy a home’ or ‘sell this house’ don’t give us the details we need to be able to target our marketing to magnetically attract these Resolution setters. Rather, to market to 2014 buyers and sellers, we have to dive deep into their micro-resolutions, if you will: the baby step goals they are putting on their lists of wildly important goals (WIGs) for this coming year. Let’s explore 5 of the micro-WIGS that 2014 buyers and sellers are setting for themselves this very moment, and how you can use them to position yourself as their go-to local agent. Remember, the vast majority of sellers are moving on up, which means they’re planning to buy, too! For Buyers

1. Save/Find down payment money. Both buyers and sellers are concerned about making sure they have enough down payment money to seal the deal. And let’s face it, as we move from last year’s strong recovery into 2014, buying a home is just going to get more expensive in most markets. In fact, as Trulia’s Chief Economist Jed Kolko noted in his 2014 Housing Market Predictions, even though home-price increases should slow from this 2013 unsustainably fast pace, prices will still rise faster than both incomes and rents. And making matters even tougher, mortgage rates will be higher in 2014 than in 2013, thanks to the strengthening economy and the impending tapering by the Feb, which we’ve all heard so much about. But worsening housing affordability doesn’t have to mean grey skies for aspiring home buyers, and that’s where you–the real estate agent–comes in to help educate them through it! The truth is that despite rising home prices, buying throughout 2014 will remain cheaper than renting in most markets. As of September 2014, buying was, nationally on average, 35% percent cheaper than renting. What’s more, these higher prices will encourage home sellers who have been holding out to finally put their home on the market, meaning your buyers will have more properties to choose from. Plus, mortgages should be easier to get. Why? With the rising rates, there has been a significant decrease in the refinancing activity, which means that banks have begun to ramp up their purchase lending.

2. Pay down/off credit card debt. Financial goals like reducing or eliminating credit card debt generally fall into the top 10 resolutions set by Americans at large – and if we take an educated guess – that this goal is even more prevalent among buyers–to-be. If you send out a monthly client newsletter or your own resolution list includes starting a Trulia Voices blog, you can be sure to get the attention of 2014 buyers and sellers-in-the-making by posting content that supports their debt-reduction goals. Want a writing-light way to do this? How about curating and publishing your own list of credit-card debt-reducing blogs, websites, books or local resources, like non-profit credit counselors or support groups? Position yourself as the expert by adding your own strategic insights to make sure they don’t go overboard and make moves that can make it harder to qualify for a home loan, like closing out all their credit accounts or leaving everything with a zero balance.

3. Boost credit score. Remember, many of the buyers and sellers who will be looking to make a real estate move this year are coming out of the near-universal financial crises of the recession era. They might have had a past bankruptcy or foreclosure, or a job loss which interrrupted their income temporarily, causing them to make a few late payments which brought down their credit score. What can you do to market directly to those who are setting the baby step resolution to boost their credit score? Co-market a credit score clinic with local mortgage broker, actually running credit scores, putting individualized action plans in place and briefing buyers about what sorts of local homes they can get before and after they do the recommended work Place locally targeted ads in social or other media, positioning yourself as a specialist in helping those who need to boost their credit scores and get financially ready to buy a home. Create educational articles, blog and social media posts: Educating your local readers and followers on what their credit score really needs to be to qualify for a home loan – many will think the minimums are higher than they truly are. Encouraging them to begin pulling their own reports and giving them some basic, credit-boosting action steps to follow, plus the link to the free, government-mandated reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. Reaching out to your contact database and letting them know that you have resources for any of their friends and referrals who would like to buy but are worried about credit issues: you might be surprised at how many of your contacts will respond asking for help for themselves! For Sellers

4. Paint/carpet/landscape/remodel. Most sellers will wait to work on the nitpicky staging projects until after they reach out to list their homes for sale. But many who have a 6-12 month time frame for sale are very well aware of some major projects they are assuming they’ll need to do to the property, and will move forward with them in advance of contacting agents for listing presentations. If you farm a particular neighborhood, why not offer a Pre-Listing Property Preparation Consult in your monthly newsletter, email or postcards? Include a data point about how your listings (or well-prepped/staged homes in general) sell faster and for more than average. Then offer to come in as much as a year in advance and give sellers resources and a personal consult for getting their home ready to sell, including advice about what investments they should not make and your own personal list of recommended, cost-effective vendors. Chances are good that the agent that meets with sellers and gives sound strategic advice months in advance will have a major leg-up when it’s time to sign a listing agreement. As real estate pros, it’s essential that we spend our spare time exploring what’s inside the mind of our prospective clients. How better to serve and satisfy their needs, as well as marketing to and for them? If you want to become a buyer or seller’s agent for life, understand their goals and Resolutions – at all times of year – and provide resources that assist them in realizing their aspirations. You’ll become a trusted advisor in multiple areas of their lives, as well as their undisputed go-to resource for all things real estate.At this time of year, New Year’s Resolutions are on the front burner in many minds, and for those who are planning to buy and sell a home in 2014, real estate resolutions rank right up there with the obligatory ‘lose 10 pounds,’ ‘take a trip to Paris’ and ‘call Mom once a week.’ But here’s the rub: the obvious overall resolutions to ‘buy a home’ or ‘sell this house’ don’t give us the details we need to be able to target our marketing to magnetically attract these Resolution setters. Rather, to market to 2014 buyers and sellers, we have to dive deep into their micro-resolutions, if you will: the baby step goals they are putting on their lists of wildly important goals (WIGs) for this coming year. Let’s explore 5 of the micro-WIGS that 2014 buyers and sellers are setting for themselves this very moment, and how you can use them to position yourself as their go-to local agent. Remember, the vast majority of sellers are moving on up, which means they’re planning to buy, too! For Buyers 1. Save/Find down payment money. Both buyers and sellers are concerned about making sure they have enough down payment money to seal the deal. And let’s face it, as we move from last year’s strong recovery into 2014, buying a home is just going to get more expensive in most markets. In fact, as Trulia’s Chief Economist Jed Kolko noted in his 2014 Housing Market Predictions, even though home-price increases should slow from this 2013 unsustainably fast pace, prices will still rise faster than both incomes and rents. And making matters even tougher, mortgage rates will be higher in 2014 than in 2013, thanks to the strengthening economy and the impending tapering by the Feb, which we’ve all heard so much about. But worsening housing affordability doesn’t have to mean grey skies for aspiring home buyers, and that’s where you–the real estate agent–comes in to help educate them through it! The truth is that despite rising home prices, buying throughout 2014 will remain cheaper than renting in most markets. As of September 2014, buying was, nationally on average, 35% percent cheaper than renting. What’s more, these higher prices will encourage home sellers who have been holding out to finally put their home on the market, meaning your buyers will have more properties to choose from. Plus, mortgages should be easier to get. Why? With the rising rates, there has been a significant decrease in the refinancing activity, which means that banks have begun to ramp up their purchase lending. 2. Pay down/off credit card debt. Financial goals like reducing or eliminating credit card debt generally fall into the top 10 resolutions set by Americans at large – and if we take an educated guess – that this goal is even more prevalent among buyers–to-be. If you send out a monthly client newsletter or your own resolution list includes starting a Trulia Voices blog, you can be sure to get the attention of 2014 buyers and sellers-in-the-making by posting content that supports their debt-reduction goals. Want a writing-light way to do this? How about curating and publishing your own list of credit-card debt-reducing blogs, websites, books or local resources, like non-profit credit counselors or support groups? Position yourself as the expert by adding your own strategic insights to make sure they don’t go overboard and make moves that can make it harder to qualify for a home loan, like closing out all their credit accounts or leaving everything with a zero balance. 3. Boost credit score. Remember, many of the buyers and sellers who will be looking to make a real estate move this year are coming out of the near-universal financial crises of the recession era. They might have had a past bankruptcy or foreclosure, or a job loss which interrrupted their income temporarily, causing them to make a few late payments which brought down their credit score. What can you do to market directly to those who are setting the baby step resolution to boost their credit score? Co-market a credit score clinic with local mortgage broker, actually running credit scores, putting individualized action plans in place and briefing buyers about what sorts of local homes they can get before and after they do the recommended work Place locally targeted ads in social or other media, positioning yourself as a specialist in helping those who need to boost their credit scores and get financially ready to buy a home. Create educational articles, blog and social media posts: Educating your local readers and followers on what their credit score really needs to be to qualify for a home loan – many will think the minimums are higher than they truly are. Encouraging them to begin pulling their own reports and giving them some basic, credit-boosting action steps to follow, plus the link to the free, government-mandated reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. Reaching out to your contact database and letting them know that you have resources for any of their friends and referrals who would like to buy but are worried about credit issues: you might be surprised at how many of your contacts will respond asking for help for themselves! For Sellers 4. Paint/carpet/landscape/remodel. Most sellers will wait to work on the nitpicky staging projects until after they reach out to list their homes for sale. But many who have a 6-12 month time frame for sale are very well aware of some major projects they are assuming they’ll need to do to the property, and will move forward with them in advance of contacting agents for listing presentations. If you farm a particular neighborhood, why not offer a Pre-Listing Property Preparation Consult in your monthly newsletter, email or postcards? Include a data point about how your listings (or well-prepped/staged homes in general) sell faster and for more than average. Then offer to come in as much as a year in advance and give sellers resources and a personal consult for getting their home ready to sell, including advice about what investments they should not make and your own personal list of recommended, cost-effective vendors. Chances are good that the agent that meets with sellers and gives sound strategic advice months in advance will have a major leg-up when it’s time to sign a listing agreement. As real estate pros, it’s essential that we spend our spare time exploring what’s inside the mind of our prospective clients. How better to serve and satisfy their needs, as well as marketing to and for them? If you want to become a buyer or seller’s agent for life, understand their goals ate.

4 Methods for Your Mobile House Hunt Madness

 

newsletter-blog-010513Even if it took a few years to truly incorporate smartphone apps into your life, by now one thing is probably clear: there’s no going back. The uber convenience of instant information – anytime, anyplace, at your fingertips – is nothing short of addictive. I know one toddler who is frustrated that her television screen doesn’t respond to her attempts to swipe it, and a number of tweens who don’t get the idea of a phone with a cord that does nothing but let you talk to someone.

For some, mobile real estate apps are the most addictive around. If you simply love to peruse houses, love to see exteriors and interiors, or love to see what homes all over the country are selling for, theTrulia app, for instance, is probably on your home screen. (As far as I’m concerned, if you have to have a vice, an addiction to seeing beautiful homes is not the end of the world!)

But once it’s time to move from house hobbyist to real, live house hunter, things change. It’s very easy to become obsessed with perpetually checking your app, going out on constant scattershot viewings the moment you see things, or tweaking your search price range and geographics without giving it much thought (just to see!). Real talk: you’re trying to use mobile as a tool to solve a problem here – the problem of finding and buying a home. Obsessively clicking search is not the means to that end.

On top of that, you’ll also want to make sure you find the best solution (home), with the most efficiency (time, money, etc.) and strategic smarts (not driving yourself wild with anxiety or overwhelm).  What you need is a little method to avoid the madness that mobile house hunting can bring.  Here are a few methods to try on for size!

1. The Set-it-and-Forget-It Method. If you’ve used a house hunting app like stormteamrealestate.com before, you’ve at least been exposed to one of the most powerful tools it provides: alerts. While it sounds somewhat alarming, the upshot of an alert is that it actually allows you a measure of peace in knowing you can set up some search terms and have stormteamrealestate.com notify you when new listings meeting those criteria come onto the market.

The power of search alerts is that they allow you to set the system up to do the work for you, resting assured that the app will reach out and touch you when it needs to. Having set search alerts that you trust to notify you of suitable new listings can also inject some discipline against price creep and panic-driven home spec changes during your house hunt.

The thing is, it’s not a peaceful arrangement if you’re constantly second-guessing yourself and your search criteria, or you otherwise feel the need to constantly worry about what you might be missing. There’s a calibration period you might need to go through, where you set up search alerts but also do proactive, manual searches to massage your search criteria until you feel confident that your manual searches aren’t finding any listings that your alerts aren’t also serving up. Then, you’ll feel more comfortable setting it and actually forgetting it. (Until the next alert, that is.)

If, later in your house hunt, you do decide to make a strategic change to your search criteria, just remember to go back in and edit your search alerts accordingly – it’ll take you less than 5 minutes.

2.  The Drive-Around Method.  Early in your house hunt, this method rocks. If you don’t know the zip codes you’re looking in, want to make sure you explore new parts of town, or just happen to find yourself in a neighborhood you love – practice the drive-around method. It’s highly sophisticated. When you’re physically in an area you would love to live in, pull out your phone and open your Trulia app.  Better yet, if you happen to find yourself in front of a home with a for sale sign in the yard, you can just go to your app and get the inside information, then send it straight to your agent to get inside.

It’ll automatically surface all the homes for sale and recent sales in the neighborhood, and give you efficient access to details like the zip code, neighborhood name, and even info about local schools, commutes and crime stats. One of my favorite things to do is to use it to find the nuances of neighborhood flavor: what are the hot spots in the area, what are the nearby parks and shops, restaurants and more. If you’re in a new town or neighborhood, it’s not at all bizarre to reach out to an agent you find via the app and connect with them right then and there!

3.  The Open House Method.  Early-stage house hunters often use Open House window shopping to get acclimated to what they can get for their dollar in their target neighborhoods. But Open Houses also offer powerful opportunities for late-stage house hunters who are ready to make offers: they offer a time slot when you and your agent can meet regularly and predictably to see multiple target properties at once, in their best light, without having to book individual appointments with individual sellers. You can even find other nearby Open Houses or listings that weren’t on your radar so you can visit or drive by them while in the neighborhood.

4.  The Market-Method Match-Up.  Loop your agent into how you plan on using mobile during your house hunt from the very beginning.  It’s essential to match up your strategy with the dynamics of your market. In some markets, as rough as it seems, you might need to be immediately responsive to a new listing that piques your interest. If you’re market is one in which great homes sell at warp speed, you’ll need to send the listing to your agent via your app the moment you get an alert.

In other, more sanely paced markets, you and your agent might simply want to set up a regular check-in once or twice a week to talk through new listings and make plans for viewing them.

In any event, it’s ideal to have a clear understanding of the best way to get your agent briefed on the listings you’ve found via the mobile app – and vice versa. If your app of choice is Trulia, ask your agent if they can send you their suggested listings from Trulia too!

ALL: What are your tricks and tips for using mobile apps in the course of your house hunt?

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Sites Buyers Love

If you can’t beat them, help them. If buyers want to investigate on their own, here are some great sites to suggest.

REALTOR.com. Listings of available properties in your area help buyers pinpoint what they want and what they can afford. The site also contains homebuying tips, moving information, and market updates.

Google Maps. Buyers can pinpoint the location of properties, get directions, and view images of the neighborhood.

TIP: Add a list of helpful links to your site. Inquire if the sites will link back to your site, called a “reciprocal link,” at no charge. You gain great free promotion and provide a great service for buyers.

Scorecard.org. Environmentally concerned buyers can search by Zip code for possible toxicities in the area.

Moving.com. Every aspect of moving is covered from information about the new area to how to find a mover. Links to other useful real estate-related sites.

ASHI.com. The American Society of Home Inspectors lists professionals by Zip code and gives tips for residential inspections.

TIP: Some states license home inspectors. Learn more by reading 12 Questions Buyers Should Ask the Home Inspector.

Mortgagebot.com. Calculators, glossary, and online applications help buyers determine what they can afford before they shop.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Negotiating—and How to Avoid Them

Here are some actions to avoid in the negotiation process:

  1. Poor planning. Analyze the strengths and weakness of both parties, identify areas of mutual interest, and define the issues of likely contention.
  2. Failure to negotiate with the client first. Know what the buyers must have and what they are willing to give up. Otherwise, you don’t have any negotiation options.
  3. Failure to gather adequate information on the property and the seller. Discovering a problem when the negotiation is underway weakens your position.
  4. Unwillingness to make concessions. Your power is seldom sufficient to roll over the opposition. And if you do “win,” the sellers will often create later obstacles to the deal because of their anger.
  5. Premature concessions. Nervousness or overeagerness to make a deal usually indicates that even greater concessions can be expected.
  6. Ego involvement. Don’t let your desire to “win” sabotage the deal.
  7. Dishonesty. It never pays.

Moving Checklist

The trauma of moving can be an added stress for buyers and sellers. Offer this advice to make things calmer before closing:

TIP: Pack one or two boxes of must-haves—children’s toys, toilet articles and towels, can opener, flashlight, light bulbs, paper plates and cups—and carry it with you so you can find it fast after the move.

  1. Weed out items you won’t be moving; hold a garage sale or donate them to charity.
  2. Get estimates from moving companies.
  3. Make a list of people and organizations—credit cards, magazines, college alumni associations—that will need to be notified of the move.
  4. Look at schools and day care facilities in new area. Forward school records.
  5. Complete change-of-address forms.
  6. Contact doctors and ask for referrals if you’re moving to a new city. Forward medical records.
  7. Check homeowners’ policy to see if possessions are covered during the move.
  8. Decide how you’ll move valuables.
  9. Get information on driver’s license, insurance policy, license plates, and auto stickers if you’re moving to a new city.
  10. Contact utility companies—gas and electric—in both cities.
  11. Register with an Internet service provider.
  12. Contact phone service—see if your long distance, cellular, and Internet providers operate in the area.
  13. Contact satellite and cable TV providers.
  14. Empty and defrost refrigerator.
  15. Map out driving route to new home.

Moving Checklist for Sellers

  • Provide the post office with your forwarding address two to four weeks ahead of the move.
  • Notify your credit card companies, magazine subscriptions, and bank of your change of address.
  • Create a list of friends, relatives, and business colleagues who need to be notified about your move.
  • Arrange to disconnect utilities and have them connected at your new home.
  • Cancel the newspaper, or change the address so it will arrive at your new home.
  • Check insurance coverage for the items you’re moving. Usually movers only cover what they pack.
  • Clean out appliances and prepare them for moving, if applicable.
  • Note the weight of the goods you’ll have moved, since long-distance moves are usually billed according to weight. Watch for movers that use excessive padding to add weight.
  • Check with your condo or co-op about any restrictions on using the elevator or particular exits for moving.
  • Have a “first open” box with the things you’ll need most, such as toilet paper, soap, trash bags, scissors, hammer, screwdriver, pencils and paper, cups and plates, water, snacks, and toothpaste.

Plus, if you’re moving out of town, be sure to:

  • Get copies of medical and dental records and prescriptions for your family and your pets.
  • Get copies of children’s school records for transfer.
  • Ask friends for introductions to anyone they know in your new neighborhood.
  • Consider special car needs for pets when traveling.
  • Let a friend or relative know your route.
  • Empty your safety deposit box.
  • Put plants in boxes with holes for air circulation if you’re moving in cold weather.

What to expect at the closing table

The home inspections are complete. You have your homeowners insurance. The day you’ve been waiting for has arrived — closing day. If everything is in order, a closing process can run smoothly and ownership of the property will be transferred to you with no hitches.

 

Before the congratulations are given and house keys handed over, you, the homebuyer, are expected to come to the closing table actively engaged and prepared to seal the deal.

 

Closing day prep

 

The most important item a homebuyer can bring to the closing table? Patience, says Walter Walker Jr., director of education for Housing and Education Alliance, a housing counseling agency in Tampa, Fla.

 

Walker warns buyers not to close on their lunch hour. An hour might not be enough. Rather, he says, take off a day or half-day.

 

He also recommends scheduling the closing date around the 20th or 25th day of the month, rather than the last day of the month, to allow time to address any last-minute problems.

 

“If something goes wrong, (you) want to have a couple of days to attempt to resolve the problem that exists,” he says. “Also, everybody wants to close on the last day of the month. What happens if, for some reason, there’s a mechanical breakdown — the office printer breaks down and it’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon and your mortgage company is about to close?”

 

If a closing scheduled on the last day of the month is not completed that day, you will have increased closing costs, beginning at the start of the next month. That’s because prepaid interest due at closing accumulates throughout the month, but can be avoided or reduced if the closing is near the end of the month.

 

Buyers are often allowed to do a final walk-through inspection 24 hours before closing to determine if any damage was done to the property between contract and closing, and to negotiate any necessary repairs with the seller, says Mary Beth Rapice, a real estate attorney for the Pullman & Comley law firm in Bridgeport, Conn.

 

It is important for you to bring to the closing table every document received throughout the homebuying process, Rapice says. These include the good faith estimate and proof of homeowners insurance.

 

“It’s always good to bring a copy of your contract, a copy of your inspection reports and any documents that you had delivered to the bank so that they could approve you for the mortgage,” Rapice says.

 

What happens on closing day?

 

While closing practices vary from state to state, even locality to locality, the following parties are generally present at the closing.

 

  • Home seller.
  • Seller’s real estate agent.
  • Title company representative.
  • Attorney(s): The buyer and lender may have attorneys.
  • Closing agent: This person conducts the meeting and makes sure all documents are signed and fees and escrow payments paid.
  • Mortgagor (you).
  • Mortgagee (lender).

 

During the closing meeting, the seller signs certain documents transferring property ownership. You receive and sign documents related to the mortgage agreement and ownership of the property, and pay any closing costs and escrow payments. These include:

 

  • The HUD-1 settlement statement detailing all of the costs related to the home sale.
  • Final Truth in Lending Act statement outlining the cost of the loan and annual percentage rate.
  • Mortgage note stating the buyer’s promise to repay the loan.
  • Mortgage or deed of trust securing the mortgage note.

 

“It’s very helpful for homebuyers to be able to review all of the closing documents before they get to the closing table,” says David Adamo, CEO of Luxury Mortgage Corp., in Stamford, Conn. “This way, they are informed and prepared when it comes time to sign all of the closing documents.”

 

What can go wrong?

 

Real estate attorney Neil Garfinkel offers a “closing nightmares” list: a lender pulling out at the last minute and not financing the property, a buyer not having enough money or a seller not clearing up property liens.

 

Failing to complete the final walk-through prior to closing is a significant issue as well. Garfinkel, a partner with Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson in New York, says buyers have neglected to do final walk-throughs, but have asked the sellers to set aside money for any repairs. “That’s just a no-no; that’s not happening.”

 

Another action can cause problems at the closing table: when the buyer’s financial circumstances change. Opening a new credit account, securing a new auto loan or charging up an existing credit card can delay or even cancel your mortgage closing.

 

To lessen the chances of problems arising at closing, Rapice advises potential homebuyers to research the entire homebuying process with an attorney or mortgage lender.

 

“Understand what the total cost of the transaction will be to you. It’s not just the purchase price and attorney fees, there are a lot of other costs involved,” she says. “It’s more than what appears to the naked eye, it’s not just going and finding a house that you are in love with and deciding to buy it and deciding to get a mortgage.”

Read more: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/real-estate/what-to-expect-at-closing-table.aspx#ixzz2prBhy8La

10 Ways to Prepare for Homeownership

  • Decide what you can afford. Generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between two and three times your gross income.
  • Develop your home wish list. Then, prioritize the features on your list.
  • Select where you want to live. Compile a list of three or four neighborhoods you’d like to live in, taking into account items such as schools, recreational facilities, area expansion plans, and safety.
  • Start saving. Do you have enough money saved to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment? Ideally, you should have 20 percent of the purchase price saved as a down payment. Also, don’t forget to factor in closing costs. Closing costs — including taxes, attorney’s fee, and transfer fees — average between 2 and 7 percent of the home price.
  • Get your credit in order. Obtain a copy of your credit report to make sure it is accurate and to correct any errors immediately. A credit report provides a history of your credit, bad debts, and any late payments.
  • Determine your mortgage qualifications. How large of mortgage do you qualify for? Also, explore different loan options — such as 30-year or 15-year fixed mortgages or ARMs — and decide what’s best for you.
  • Get preapproved. Organize all the documentation a lender will need to preapprove you for a loan. You might need W-2 forms, copies of at least one pay stub, account numbers, and copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements.
  • Weigh other sources of help with a down payment. Do you qualify for any special mortgage or down payment assistance programs? Check with your state and local government on down payment assistance programs for first-time buyers. Or, if you have an IRA account, you can use the money you’ve saved to buy your fist home without paying a penalty for early withdrawal.
  • Calculate the costs of homeownership. This should include property taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities, and association fees, if applicable.
  • Contact a REALTOR®. Find an experienced REALTOR® who can help guide you through the process.

Get a Mortgage Pre-Qualification Letter Before House Hunting

Once you’ve made the decision to purchase a home, I recommend you get pre-qualified for a home loan as soon as possible. Pre-qualification is a quick but very important step you should take before making any offers.

Why?

Pre-qualification serves two primary purposes:

  • It demonstrates to both you (and to sellers) how much house you can afford.
  • It gives you the purchasing power to make a legitimate offer. (In fact, many financial institutions will not accept an offer on a house without a pre-qualification letter.)

But the benefits continue.

Realtors also prefer that you have a pre-qualification letter before they start showing houses so they know the price range you have qualified for. And, in the event you’re competing with multiple offers on your dream home, most sellers will consider offers with pre-qualification letters before those without.

How to Get Mortgage Pre-Qualification

Finding Lenders

The first step in the pre-qualification process is finding a lender. If you’ve worked with a lender in the past and were satisfied with the service, you can save time and use the company again. If you’re not sure where to find a lender, ask a Realtor, friend, relative or co-worker for a referral to a bank or a mortgage broker. Most Realtors have built relationships with lenders and should be able to refer to you one that is honest and trustworthy, and it’s against the law for Realtors to get referral fees or other payment from lenders, so if you’ve done your homework on your Realtor, you shouldn’t have to worry about this.

Keep in mind that smaller lending institutions like local banks and credit unions may offer more competitive rates and more personalized customer service than larger companies, although they may have stricter credit score and other underwriting criteria. You can also get mortgage quotes from multiple lenders at once online. Since every mortgage application is unique, it’s valuable to spend some time doing your research and not to discredit lesser-known lenders.

Applying for Pre-Qualification

Once you identify your lender, you’ll need to contact the lender and let them know that you want to be pre-qualified for a loan. They will provide you with pre-qualification paperwork to fill out, for which you’ll need to know your gross monthly income and monthly expenses such as car payments, credit cards and child support. Your expense to income ratio is one factor the lender will use when determining your creditworthiness. Also, be prepared to provide copies of pay stubs and bank statements for the previous three to six months, if requested.

Keeping Your Credit Clean

The lender will also need your authorization to run a credit check, which they obviously need to determine if you will be able to repay a loan.

Every time a prospective lender runs your credit they create what’s called a “hard inquiry” or “hard pull” on your credit report, and your credit score drops ever-so-slightly. But here’s a little known fact: the credit bureaus treat multiple hard pulls with the same few days—and for the same kind of credit—as just one. So if you’re shopping for the best rate, try to time your applications so they fall within a few days or at least a week or two of each other.

This is important because you want to keep your credit score as high as possible to get the best interest rates when the loan terms get locked-in and the loan actually funds (remember, you’re just getting pre-qualification). To prevent any credit score surprises as you shop for a home, you’ll also want to avoid opening any new lines of credit or making any large purchases (like a car) within a few months of shopping for a home loan. You may even want to invest a few dollars in a credit monitoring service for a few months before you buy a home to get your credit in good shape. A little credit clean-up could save you thousands on your mortgage.

Getting Your Pre-Qualification Letter

After reviewing your pre-qualification application and credit history, the lender will send you either a denial with justification (the reason they couldn’t approve you) or a pre-qualification letter containing an offer stating the terms of the loan. The terms include the interest rate, points (money you pay up-front in order to lower your interest rate), and any fees the lender charges.

Finally, a pre-qualification offer is only valid for a specific length of time—often between 60 to 90 days—so once you’re approved; start shopping for that new home!

Sarah Davis is a licensed Realtor in San Diego, California where she works with a team of real estate attorney/brokers specializing in short sales and foreclosures. Sarah and her husband Cole are also real estate investors focusing on fix and flips and buying and brokering seller-financed notes. Sarah has been writing about real estate since 2006 and also has her own Website: RealtorSD.com.
Read more at http://www.moneyunder30.com/mortgage-pre-qualification-letter#y1OIeerS0zlD4weR.99

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How to Prepare to Buy Your First Home

Thanks to low mortgage rates, a housing glut, and generous tax incentives, mortgage applications are surging. Although the housing market is still a ways from a full-scale rebound, it is a great time to buy a home—especially your first. Over the years I’ve written several posts with mortgage information to help first-time home buyers navigate the complicated and stressful home-buying process. Here’s a recap of what you’ll need to know as you prepare to buy your first home.

Understand how mortgage rates work. Before we were in today’s economic mess, you probably remember hearing about how many people were starting to have trouble making payments on adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs. This post briefly describes the difference between fixed rates and ARMs, as well as what mortgage points are, and whether you should ever pay them on your mortgage. Compare current mortgage rates and get good-faith estimates from a few lenders on what your rate and costs would be.

Be patient, and remember a few important things about buying a home. Buying a home—especially your first home—is a huge decision. Take your time, don’t let brokers pressure you, and make sure you’re ready. It’s better to buy a home when you’re financially prepared to do so, not just because rates and housing prices are low.

Determine how much house you can afford. I do not subscribe to the philosophy that you should treat your home as an investment. Yes, hopefully it will appreciate over time. But you should buy it to be your home. That means you should only spend what you can afford today.

Consider condos carefully. Condos are popular among first-time home buyers, especially among those living in urban areas. But consider the pros and cons of condo living carefully. Condos make some things easier (like not having to worry about yard work or exterior painting), but they come with their fair share of headaches.

Get both buyers’ credit in shape. If you’re buying your first home with a spouse, partner, or friend, you’ll both need great credit to qualify for the mortgage. If one of you is struggling with poor credit, you’ll need to be prepared to buy the home with only one borrower on the loan. To do that, the signing borrower will need to have enough income and assets to qualify alone. So check your credit score and take steps to improve your credit if it needs it.

Start to save cash for a down payment and more. Having a down payment of up to 20% of the home you want to buy is almost a necessity in today’s tighter credit market. And, not only will you need a down payment, many mortgage lenders will want to see that you have at least six month’s worth of mortgage payments “on hand”. So keep stashing money away in a high-yield savings account as fast as you can!

Get mortgage pre-approval before you shop. You’ll want to make sure you can get approved for a fair mortgage rate before you find your dream house. That’s where pre-approval comes in. Shop around with several local banks or mortgage brokers. You can start by getting free, no-obligation mortgage quotes online.
Read more at http://www.moneyunder30.com/prepare-buy-first-home#Q5RlfOPXazwz8wdm.99

Check out other info at http://stormteamrealestate.com