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Fifteen Will Get You Three

Mario Gonzalez - Wednesday, July 9, 2014
15 vs 30.pngFreddie Mac chief economist, Frank Nothaft, says that affordability, stability and flexibility are the three reasons homebuyers overwhelmingly choose a 30 year term. However, for those who can afford a higher payment, there are three additional reasons to choose a 15 year term: save interest, build equity and retire the debt sooner. First-time buyers have a higher tendency to use a minimum down payment and are very concerned with affordable payments. It is understandable that the majority of these buyers select 30 year, fixed-rate mortgages. Consider a $200,000 mortgage at 30 year and 15 year terms with recent mortgage rates at 4.2% and 3.31% respectively. The payment is $433.15 less on the 30 year term but the interest rate being charged is higher. The total interest paid by the borrower if each of the loans was retired would be almost three times more for the 30 year term. mortgage.png Another interesting thing about the 15 years mortgage is that more of the payment is going to principal than interest from the very first payment. It would take over 13 years on the 30 year mortgage for the principal to exceed the interest allocation. Some people might suggest getting a 30 year loan and making the payments as if they were on a 15 year loan. That would certainly accelerate amortization and save interest. The real challenge is the discipline to actually make the payments on a consistent basis if you don’t have to. Many experts cite that one of the benefits of homeownership is a forced savings that occurs due to the amortization that is not necessarily done by renters.

Make Good Offers Better

Mario Gonzalez - Wednesday, July 2, 2014
iStock_000019216251Small-250.jpgIt’s disappointing, frustrating and sometimes, discouraging when you lose a home you want to buy. One of the hardest lessons for today’s buyers is that writing an offer doesn’t mean that you’ll get the home or even a counter-offer. The low inventory affecting many of the housing markets requires a different strategy to give you the best chance to get the home you want.
  1. Make your best offer initially; you may not get a chance to accept a counter.
  2. Submit a written pre-approval letter from the lender.
  3. Increase earnest money above what is considered normal.
  4. Make a larger down payment.
  5. Eliminate unnecessary contingencies.
  6. Don’t ask for personal property not included in the listing agreement.
  7. Pay your own customary closing costs.
  8. Shorten the inspection period.
  9. Buy the home “as is” subject to inspections which still allows you to get your earnest money back if the inspections are unacceptable but doesn’t require the seller to make repairs.
  10. Write the seller a hand-written, personal letter telling them why you want their home; include a picture of your family.
  11. Offer to use the seller’s or listing agent’s preferred title company.
  12. If you can pay cash, do so and arrange financing after closing. Be prepared to show proof of available funds.
  13. Schedule the closing as soon as possible but let the seller know you can be flexible.
  14. Once you decide on a home, act with expedience.
  15. Ask your real estate professional if they have any other suggestions.
Think of making an offer like applying for a job. You want to make your best impression and show why you are the best choice. You won’t always know that there are multiple offers. Approach the process like the competition is doing their best to get the home.

An Unexpected Expense

Mario Gonzalez - Wednesday, June 25, 2014
iStock_000023022788Small-250.jpgIn a study released by TD Bank, 65% of buyers with mortgages that required mortgage insurance said the higher monthly payment was more than they originally expected. Private mortgage insurance is required on loans that exceed 80% of the home’s value. For conventional loans, the premiums range from 0.5% to 1% annually. The PMI could add close to $100.00 a month to the payments on a $200,000 mortgage and over $200.00 a month on a FHA mortgage. FHA has two components to its mortgage insurance which includes an up-front charge on closing of the loan and an annual charge. The up-front premium is 1.75% of the mortgage which can be paid in cash at closing or added to the mortgage amount. The annual premium ranges from 0.45% to 1.35% depending on the loan-to-value and term of the mortgage. Most lenders are required to automatically cancel coverage when a 78% loan-to-value is reached which on a 30 year loan with normal amortization could be eight to eleven years depending on original loan amount and interest rate. If the value of the home has increased as documented by an appraisal so that the current mortgage is below 80% loan-to-value, the lender can be petitioned to eliminate the PMI. Beginning in April, 2013, FHA requires the mortgage insurance to be paid for the entire term of the mortgage. Prior to this rule change, it was required to remain in effect for a minimum of five years but could be cancelled when the mortgage is reduced to 78% of the original purchase price. A homeowner can greatly reduce their cost of housing by avoiding mortgage insurance with a minimum 20% down payment. If a higher loan-to-value mortgage is required to purchase the home, the objective should be to pay down the mortgage amount to relieve the need for the mortgage insurance. Generally, loans with lower loan-to-value mortgages also have lower interest rates.

What is a Seller's Market?

Mario Gonzalez - Wednesday, June 18, 2014
iStock_000030508968Small-250.jpgIt is generally considered a seller’s market when the conditions favor the seller. This condition exists when demand is high and supply is low without any significant adverse economic conditions taking place. Demand is determined by ready, willing and able buyers. Low interest rates with indications that they will begin to rise fuels part of this demand. Rising prices also creates a sense of urgency to avoid higher housing costs. Inventory is currently below what is considered balanced in most areas. In some areas and price ranges, homes are selling very quickly, with multiple offers and sometimes at above the listing price. When too many buyers are chasing too few properties, things get competitive and the seller is the beneficiary. Even when buyers and sellers come to an agreement on price and terms, a challenge can occur if the appraisal doesn’t meet the sales price. Either the purchaser has to come up with the additional cash or the purchase price has to be renegotiated. A typical seller wants the most money possible for their home in the shortest time frame with the fewest inconveniences. A Seller’s Market provides the most likely environment for this to happen.

Don't Leave Home Without...

Mario Gonzalez - Wednesday, June 11, 2014
iStock_000019660747Small 250.jpgPlanning a summer trip is usually focused on what you’ll do, see and experience. Enjoy it even more by spending a little time before you leave to make sure your home is safe while you're gone. Consider these suggestions along with your other normal efforts:
  • Tell your neighbors you’ll be out of town and to be aware of any unusual activity.
  • Notify your alarm company .
  • Discontinue your postal delivery.
  • Use timers on interior lights to make it appear you’re home as usual.
  • Don’t make it easy for burglars by leaving messages on voice mail or posting on social networks.
  • Post on social networks about your vacation after you’ve returned.
  • Remove the hidden spare keys and give one to a trusted neighbor or friend.
  • Lock everything, double-check and set the alarm.
  • Take pictures of your belongings in case you need them.
  • Disconnect TVs and other equipment in case of unexpected power surges.
  • Adjust your thermostat.
  • Arrange for lawn care.
  • Consider disconnecting the garage door opener.
  • Put irreplaceable valuables in a safety deposit box.
It’s nice to go out of town on a well-deserved trip and it’s always nice to get back home…especially when it is just the way you left it.

Another Source for a Down Payment

Mario Gonzalez - Wednesday, June 4, 2014
IRA 250.jpgMost taxpayers know that they will pay a 10% penalty if they withdraw funds from their IRA before they turn 59.5 years old. There is an exception for first-time home buyers that allows a penalty-free withdrawal of up to $10,000 per person if they haven’t owned a home in the previous two years. This would allow a married couple who each have an IRA to withdraw a lifetime maximum of $10,000 each, penalty-free for a home purchase. In many cases, the money would be used for a down payment or closing costs. However, some buyers might consider this source to increase their down payment so they could qualify for a loan without mortgage insurance. If the taxpayer qualifies for the penalty-free withdrawal, there may still be taxes due. Contributions to traditional IRAs are made with before-tax dollars and the tax is paid when the funds are withdrawn. Since Roth IRAs are made with after-tax dollars, there is no tax due when the funds are withdrawn. Another interesting fact about this provision is that the taxpayer making the withdrawal can help a qualified relative which includes children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents. Homebuyers who are considering using IRA funds for a home purchase should get expert advice from their tax professional concerning their individual situation.

Record Improvements Now

Mario Gonzalez - Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Register-250.jpgThere is a significant difference in how the money you spend on your home is treated for income tax purposes. Repairs to maintain your home’s condition are not deductible unlike rental property owners who can deduct repairs as an operating expense. On the other hand, capital improvements to a home will increase the basis and affect the gain when you sell which may save taxes. Additions to a home or other improvements that have a useful life of more than one year may be considered an increase to basis or cost of the home. Other increases to basis may include special assessments for local improvements like sidewalks or streets and amounts spent after a casualty loss to restore damage that was not covered by insurance. Unlike repairs, improvements add to the value of a home, prolong its useful life or adapt it to new uses. You can read more about improvements and see examples beginning on the bottom of page 8 of IRS Publication 523. For a form to keep track of money you spend, print this Improvement Register.

Cut Your Housing Costs in Half

Mario Gonzalez - Wednesday, May 21, 2014
50% off (small).pngSerious shoppers wait for a 50% off sale to make the decision because of the bargain factor. Renters who are serious about lowering their monthly cost of housing should consider buying with today’s low mortgage rates. For an example, let’s assume a person buys a $200,000 home with 3.5% down payment on a 4.5% FHA mortgage for 30 years. The total house payment would be approximately $1,508 per month. However, once you consider the equity build-up due to normal amortization, a monthly appreciation estimated at 2% annually for this example, the tax savings and paying maintenance that a tenant wouldn’t be required to do, the net cost of housing is $772 a month. This is almost half of the full mortgage payment. If this person was paying $1,750 a month for rent, it would cost him almost $978 more to rent than to own. In the first year alone, it would accumulate to over $11,000 which is more than the down payment required of $7,000. Owning a home is the largest investment that most people make and the down payment of $7,000 to purchase this home would grow to $58,837 in equity by estimating a 2% appreciation and normal amortization. To check out what your real housing costs might look like, go to Rent vs. Own or contact your real estate professional. Rent vs Own - InTouch.png

Who Saves the Commission?

Mario Gonzalez - Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Save Commission-250.jpgOne of the most common reasons buyers want to deal directly with the seller is because they feel they can save the commission. It’s a valid consideration but interestingly, it’s the same reason the seller isn’t employing an agent; they feel they can save the commission. Both parties cannot save the commission. The buyer feels they have earned it because they’ve had to find the home, determine its value and negotiate with the seller. They had to arrange their own financing, title and inspections. The seller equally feels that they have earned the commission because they have incurred all of the marketing expenses and have invested hours upon hours to be available to show the property, hold open houses and answer inquiries. They have had to research value, financing, title work and make decisions. There is certainly value in all of the things that buyers and sellers are willing to do to save the commission but only one person can save the commission only if the buyer and seller can reach a written agreement. There is value to having a third party advocate helping each party to the transaction. The Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (Exhibit 8-1) reports that 14% of sales were For-Sale-by-Owners in 2004 compared to just 9% in 2013. The trend shows that agent-assisted sales rose to 88% in 2013 from 82% in 2004. The three most difficult tasks identified by for-sale-by-owners is attracting potential buyers, getting the price right and understanding and performing the paperwork. When surveyed, sellers most value the home selling in an anticipated time frame and for an expected amount. The reality is that both parties cannot save the commission. It is earned by providing specific services that are essential to the transaction. The capital asset of a home represents the largest investment that most people make. An investment that important certainly deserves the consideration of a professional trained and experienced to handle the complexities involved.

Consideration could be the key to your new home

Mario Gonzalez - Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Keys in Hand Small.jpgConsideration associated with a contract is generally thought to be the price and terms but being sympathetic and courteous towards the seller could make a difference in getting the home you want. Business people, like store owners, expect to deal with customers and even come to expect behavior that might not be accepted in a purely social atmosphere. Homeowners, on the other hand, may not be aware of what to expect. They are opening the sanctity of their home to the public for review and criticism. Buyers may be detached from emotional feelings while the sellers might react unfavorably to comments that are taken personally.
  1. Be on time for appointments; cancel if necessary. The sellers may be rearranging their schedules and making an additional effort to make it convenient for you to see the property.
  2. Be a good guest and respect the seller’s privacy. Look at the home and avoid looking at the seller’s personal items; there is no reason to look in refrigerators or furniture drawers.
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Try to focus on critical items of a home like location, floor plan, layout, size and not dwell on cosmetic items that are easily and inexpensively changed.
  4. It’s not a good negotiating technique to list the defects. Most people become defensive when presented with a list which could have the opposite effect of helping you get a better deal.
  5. Limit your visits until you actually own the home. It’s natural to be excited and making plans to move into your new home but it is still the seller’s until closing and they’re making plans to move too.
  6. Negotiations are generally finished when a contract is completed. It can be frustrating to continually be asked for “one more thing.” Make a deal with the seller and live with it. If there’s something you’re not sure about, specify it in writing in the contract.
Some things are obvious: the seller wants the most for their home and the buyer wants to pay the least possible. Showing consideration to the seller about things that don’t have anything directly to do with price can actually benefit the buyer.

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