Should You Improve Your Home Before Selling Or Not?

To Improve or Not to ImproveSelling your home is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever go through and one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. However, there’s a lot more to selling your home than just sticking a sign out in the front yard. Most likely, your home will need a little work before it is perfect.

Therefore, you’ll have to decide whether you need to take care of home improvement issues yourself or, to sell with the expectation that the buyer will be the one to do so. We put together a few pros and cons to doing it each way to make your decision a little easier.

Do The Improvements Yourself

Choosing to complete needed improvements yourself means that you will likely get a higher sales price for your home. In addition, with less work to do, it opens up your home to more buyers than one that is a fixer-upper does. Selling will usually be faster and closing more likely to go smoothly.

On the other hand, chances are good that you will not get the full value you put into those improvements at the closing table. In addition, when you are moving, money may be tight making this an even more difficult proposition.

Sell It As A Fixer Upper

The main benefit of selling your home as a fixer-upper is that you will not have to put that money in up front. If you are in a difficult financial situation or selling your home at a loss, this may be necessary. Additionally, you aren’t the one that has to deal with the contractors and calling around to get quotes on all of the work.

One of the downfalls to selling your home as a fixer-upper is that you’ll likely get a lower price and some buyers won’t even come out and check out your house if they think there is too much work that needs to be done. Plus, depending on the type of work that needs to be done, you may wind up in a pickle during the inspection process. Certain problems can prevent lenders from closing on the deal. You often find the closing process is slower and fraught with more concerns.

The reality is, it really depends on whether doing the improvement yourself or selling it as a fixer-upper is the right choice. Discuss your concerns and speak honestly about your financial picture with your trusted real estate professional and perhaps you will have a better idea of which of these options is the smart choice for your situation.


How To Successfully Use Your Down Payment to Achieve Your Home Buying Goals

How To Successfully Use Your Down Payment to Achieve Your Home Buying GoalsWhen you are considering purchasing a home , understanding the lending guidelines regarding a down payment is important. 

Here are a few key tips to consider:

Gifting of a Down Payment

There are some programs that will allow you to use a gift for your home down payment. However, before you assume this, make sure you talk to your loan officer. Generally speaking, the lender will require the person making the gift to provide a letter stating the money was a gift and does not require repayment.

Windfalls as a Down Payment

When people hit the lottery or come into money through an inheritance, one of the first things they may consider is buying a new home. However, it is important ot keep in mind that lenders will typically want to know exactly how you came up with your down payment.

Borrowers still need to show a “paper trail” of how they came into money. If your down payment amount has not been “seasoned” the lender may not accept your loan.

What is a Seasoned Down Payment?

Generally speaking, your loan officer will want a “paper trail” to document your down payment. Most lenders require down payment funds to be at a minimum 60 days old. For example, let’s assume a borrower did win the lottery: If they deposit the funds into their checking account and leave it there for 2 months or more, the funds would be considered seasoned.

However not all lending guidelines are the same. Some lenders require even more seasoning to consider the money in your account truly yours. So it’s a good idea to plan well ahead of your purchase date to get your down payment funds in your account if you plan on getting money from another source.

Lender restrictions on down payment funds are fairly common. If you are uncertain if your funds meet the lender’s criteria, talk to your loan officer. In most cases, a lender will require at least one-half your down payment fall into the category of seasoned funds.

The One Place You Can Borrow For Your Down Payment

Some borrowers may use their retirement account or other savings to make their home down payment.  And most lenders are perfectly fine with you borrowing against your own savings in a 401(k) or IRA account. Of course you will likely want to discuss the tax implications with your accountant or financial advisor before making these withdrawals.

Don’t wait until the last minute to discuss your down payment with your real estate agent because you may wind up disappointed. Keep in mind, your real estate professional is available to help guide you through the whole process of buying your new home.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 5th, 2018

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 5th 2018Last week’s economic releases included readings on new home sales, pending home sales and Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. Construction spending and consumer sentiment reports were also released, along with weekly readings on average mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

New Home Sales Drop in January

New home sales were reported at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 593,000 sales in January according to the Commerce Department. Analysts expected a rate of 693,000 sales based on December’s upwardly revised rate of 643,000 sales of new homes. January’s reading was 7.80 percent lower than for December; January’s reading was one percent lower than for January of 2017.

The average price of a new home was $323,000, which was 2.40 percent higher than for January 2017. The current supply of new homes for sale is 15 percent higher year-over-year, which is expected to ease low inventories of available homes.

Meanwhile, pending home sales were 4.70 percent lower in January than for December, which was unchanged as compared to November. Analysts said that sales activity, which is typically slow in January, was not likely a concern overall.

Case-Shiller Reports Higher Home Prices in December

Home prices were 6.30 percent higher year-over -year in December according to Case-Shiller’s 20-city home price index and were 0.60 percent higher month-to-month. The top three cities leading year-over-year home price growth were Seattle, Washington at 12.70 percent, Las Vegas, Nevada with 11.10 percent growth and San Francisco, California with 9.20 percent growth in home prices.  

None of the 20 cities in the index saw home prices fall in 2017 even after adjustments for inflation.

Construction spending was unchanged in January as compared to analyst estimates of 0.40 percent growth in spending. Builders cited concerns over higher materials prices and shortages of lots and skilled labor. Winter weather was also a factor in lower construction spending.

Mortgage Rates Rise New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher average rates for fixed rate mortgages last week; rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages were lower on average. Mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged three basis points higher at 4.43 percent. Rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.90 percent and were five basis points higher.

The average rate for a 5/1 mortgage was three basis points lower at 3.62 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Mortgage rates rose for the eighth consecutive week, which caused concerns about affordability for first time and moderate-income home buyers. Combined effects of rapidly rising home prices and higher mortgage rates may sideline buyers.

New jobless claims fell by 10,000 to 210,000 first-time claims filed last week. Analysts expected 226,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 220,000 new claims filed. In other news, the University of Michigan reported a lower reading for consumer sentiment in February with an index reading of 99.7 against an expected reading of 100.0 and January’s reading 0f 99.9.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes multiple readings from the labor sector along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.


Tired of Waiting for Summer? 3 DIY Projects That Will Keep You Busy Until the Weather Warms Up

Tired of Waiting for Summer? 3 DIY Projects That Will Keep You Busy Until the Weather Warms UpDo you find yourself staring out the window, longing for an early sunrise, hot days and late evenings? With spring just around the corner, it might feel like summer is a lifetime away.

However, the good news is that you can be productive around the home while you wait for summer to arrive. Let’s take a quick look at three easy do-it-yourself projects that will keep you busy until the summer sun is shining.

Add A Splash Of Spring-y Color

As long as you are willing to do the prep work, painting is one of the most straightforward home improvement projects you can undertake. It is also the best way to put your own personal touch in each room in your home.

If you haven’t painted before, it is best to start with a single room. Spend an hour or two watching instructional videos on YouTube before you head out and begin buying supplies.

The colors that you choose are up to you, but if you are going for a ‘spring’ look, consider pastel colors including soft greens, powder blues and creamy whites.

New Planters For The Garden

If you have a flower or vegetable garden, building new planters is a fun weekend DIY project. You can make planters out of wood, but a more durable option is to use granite, marble or another hard stone.

Simply buy four slabs of stone and a tube or two of stone adhesive. Line up the slabs together and, using a ruler, ensure they are at 90-degree angles. Caulk or glue the slabs on the inside of where they meet and then tape them together on the outside to hold them until the glue cures.

Bird Seed Rings For Your Feathered Friends

Do you enjoy the sound of birds around your home? If so, bird seed rings are the perfect treat to attract them. Creating these delicious treats is easy. Combine gelatin, corn syrup and flour into a thick paste. Mix this paste with a bag of bird seed, ensuring that it is fully combined. Then mold the rings together using a donut pan. Hang these tasty treats outside for your feathered friends to enjoy.

Investing your time in home improvement projects is an excellent way to wait out the sunny days of summer. If you decide that it’s too much work to renovate and that you would rather explore a new home, give us a call. Our friendly real estate team is happy to show you some beautiful new homes in the local area.

Current Servicemember or Veteran? 4 Reasons Why a VA Home Loan Is an Excellent Choice

Current Servicemember or Veteran? 4 Reasons Why a VA Home Loan Is an Excellent ChoiceAre you current or former member of the US military service who is looking to buy a new home? If so, you will be pleased to know that there are some special mortgage programs that are open to you. Let’s take a look at five reasons why a mortgage backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs is an excellent choice when buying your new home.

You Can Borrow Up To 100% Of The Home’s Value

You read that correctly! VA-backed mortgages are available to you even if you choose to put no money towards your down payment. This can be a huge benefit for those individuals and families who are looking to buy a new home but don’t have a large chunk of cash on hand to fund the down payment. Instead, you can work with your VA mortgage advisor to get financing for the entire purchase price of your home.

You Can Qualify For A ‘Jumbo’ Loan

Depending on the real estate market in your city, the size of home you need and how luxurious you want it, you may need a larger mortgage. The great news is that there are ‘jumbo’ options available with VA-backed home loans. In some cases, you may qualify for over $1 million in mortgage financing, which is likely to put most homes in your area within reach.

You Can Avoid Mortgage Insurance Fees

Home buyers using a conventional mortgage with less than 20 percent down are typically required to buy private mortgage insurance or “PMI.” However, this is not a requirement with VA-backed mortgages. If you qualify for a VA home loan, this can save you a significant amount of money over the loan’s term.

You Can Accelerate Your Payments At No Cost

If you decide that you want to pay your VA mortgage off a bit faster by accelerating your payments, you can do so without incurring fees or penalties. For example, if you are gifted a large sum of money or have a significant income tax return, you can contribute that amount directly against your mortgage.

These are just a few of the many great reasons to explore using a VA-backed mortgage to fund your next home purchase. For more information about VA home loans to buy your next home, contact your trusted real estate professionals today.

3 Tips To Consider When Buying A Home With An FHA Mortgage

Tips to Sidestep Common FHA Loan Problems

FHA loans are becoming increasingly popular these days as potential homeowners may not able to qualify as easily for conventional mortgages.

The FHA insures some higher-risk loans, in turn allowing borrowers with low down payments and less than perfect credit to purchase homes and bolster the housing market.

However, while getting through the loan process with an FHA mortgage loan is not necessarily more difficult than with a conventional or conforming loan, there are some issues that you will want to be aware of.

Property Condition

You can’t buy just any property with a FHA loan, or any other loan for that matter. All lenders are concerned with the condition of a property, especially as it relates to livability and safety. 

Major deficiencies in a home will almost always be noted when the home is seen by the FHA appraiser. The appraiser must deem it to be livable, without any conditions that could jeopardize health or safety. 

Sometimes you can get the seller to make the needed repairs to pass the lender requirements. In other cases, you may want go an alternate route. The FHA 203K streamline loan allows you to borrow up to $35,000 for home repairs to bring the house up to code.

Low Appraisal

The primary role of the appraiser is to estimate it’s market value. These estimates are based on the property’s features and a comparison to similar properties that have sold recently. If the appraisal is low, the loan funding could fall through because the FHA underwriting guidelines (along with almost all conventional guidelines) will not let you borrow more than the home’s appraised value. You can, however, add to the amount you bring in to closing if you prefer to compensate for a low appraised value.

Rather than trying to scrape together a bigger down payment, you may want to take the information to the seller to renegotiate the purchase price. The seller will likely recognize that other buyers would be in the same boat, leading the seller to agree to a lower purchase price.

High Debt-to-Income Ratio

Debt to income ratios are a concern with virtually every type of mortgage loan on the market today. Your FHA loan may encounter a snag in the underwriting process if your total debt payments, including your new mortgage, would be a high percentage of your income.

FHA has an automated underwriting program called TOTAL Scorecard which uses an algorithm to determine a borrower’s qualification. The process is quick, and often you can make up for a high debt-to-income ratio with other compensating factors, like a larger down payment or a cash reserve of several months of mortgage payments.

If you have any questions regarding FHA loans or any other home financing questions, please give us a call!

3 Great Homebuying Tools Millenials Have Available to Them Right Now

Millennials Have Great Home Buying Tools AvailableThe economy seems to be heating up rapidly, but home loan interest rates are still at historically low levels. Real estate values have climbed a bit across the country, but low interest rates and affordable prices makes for an excellent opportunity for new homeowners to get into their first home before it rates and prices rise higher.

According to the recent studies, there were 4 consecutive quarters of homeownership growth where new homeowners outpaced new renters.  The solid economic fundamentals are likely responsible for creating this excellent home buying environment.

Over the past year, Millennials seem to be on board and helping to drive the upward trend. They represent the next generation of homebuyers, and as this group is getting older, they are getting married more frequently. They are also starting families which tend to encourage the idea of home ownership. In fact, a recent analysis showed that home ownership is 30% higher among married couples than non-married couples.

Specifically, low unemployment numbers and a progressively aging pool of Millennials with a desire for home ownership appear to be driving this trend. US homeownership actually increased over 2017 to an unadjusted rate of 64.2%, which was a significant uptick from the previous year at 63.7%.

Here are a few very helpful tools are still available for new buyers:

  • Any homebuyer with military status can take advantage of Veterans Administration loans with far better rates than the normal market, making mortgage payments cheaper.
  • Those buying in rural areas can take advantage of rural homebuyer’s assistance programs provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help people move to small towns and similar communities.
  • The Housing and Urban Development Agency provides HUD loans that make it very affordable for those with limited income to purchase HUD-owned homes as first-time buyers and get into real estate.

Of course, the big response from Millenials is how do I earn more to even get started. Like Generation X folks before them, Millenials can’t wait for a job to be made available on a platter.

While looking, many smart folks have started their own businesses online or in their local marketplace. If a current job is enough to cover current bills, a second income can be entirely dedicated to saving, which can generate thousands of dollars quickly.

Even a part-time second job that creates $1,000 a month produces $12,000 a year and in two years enough for a sizable down payment. 

If you have questions about buying your next home, give us a call. We’d be happy to help!

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 26th, 2018

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 26th 2018Last week’s economic releases included minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting, a report on January sales of pre-owned homes and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

FOMC Minutes: Economic Strength Hints at More Rate Hikes

Minutes of the January 30-31 meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee indicated that most Committee members believe that inflation will reach the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent. Members found that the economy was stronger since 2017 and expected “a gradual upward trajectory of the federal funds rate would be appropriate.”

While analysts expect three rate hikes in 2018, the FOMC voted to hold the federal funds rate at 1.25 to 1.50 percent. Most FOMC members expected that the goal of 2 percent inflation was within reach in 2018.

Analysts were not as confident about reaching to Fed’s inflation goal. Instead, the said that in response to tax cuts, the labor market could exceed full employment and lead to higher wages and surging inflation.

A minority of FOMC members said that inflation could fall short of the Fed’s goal as retailers would compete by lowering prices.

Existing Home Sales Drop in January

According to the National Association of Realtors®, sales of previously-owned homes dipped from a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.56 million sales to 5.38 million sales in January. This reading was the lowest in more than three years; it could indicate that the shortage of homes for sale has reached critical mass.

Months of short supplies of homes for sale have caused rapidly rising home prices, buyer competition and fewer choices of homes for would-be buyers. Real estate pros have repeatedly said the only solution to shortages of available homes is that builders must build more homes but increasing materials costs and labor shortages have caused construction pace to lag demand for homes. Affordability continued to weigh on moderate-income and first-time buyers.

Mortgage Rates Rise for 7th Consecutive Week

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates on average last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 4.40 percent; rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged one basis point higher at 3.85 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.65 percent.

New jobless claims dropped by 7000 first-time claims and regained a 45-year low. 222,000 new claims were filed last week as compared to expectations of 229,000 new claims and 230,000 new claims filed the prior week. Real estate pros and analysts cite strong labor markets as driving housing markets and high demand for homes. Workers with job security and options for advancement in their careers are more likely to consider investing in a home than paying rising rents.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, readings on new and pending home sales and construction spending. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released along with a report on consumer sentiment.

Can Your Waistline Be Affected By Your Kitchen Colors?

Have you ever walked into your kitchen and instantly felt hungry?Have you ever walked into your kitchen and instantly felt hungry?

Rarely do people think about the colors that they choose to paint their kitchens. They are often too busy worrying about whether the kitchen will match the rest of the home, or whether the colors will be satisfactory to the rest of the household.

However, as much as you might want to have a special color in your kitchen, your brain is very likely wired in a way to react in ways that you may not have intended! When painting and decorating your kitchen, you may want to think about the process in a way many people do not — how the colors you choose will affect the way in which you eat. 

Colors affect a lot of our subconscious thinking. As behavioral psychologists have documented, the presence of specific colors your the kitchen can change your eating habits and your cravings for food.

Here are some examples :

Red: The color red increases your appetite. This is why so many restaurants paint their walls red. Although associated with romance and passion, red is also a color which promotes hunger. Furthermore, it has been noted that the color red in your kitchen can influence high blood pressure.

Orange: The color orange is a “stimulating” color; increasing oxygen supply to the brain and providing a mental boost. An orange-themed kitchen may stimulate your appetite, therefore, and make over-eating more likely.

Gray: Gray can be an ideal appetite-suppressing color for your kitchen. This is because, psychologically, gray is calming and relaxing, and it neutralizes anxiety. Gray can arrest binge eating and impulsive snacking. It’s also a color which home stagers recommend for its neutrality.

Blue: The color blue is calming, which can slow your eating speed, and prevent you from over-eating. When decorating your kitchen and dining room, therefore, using blue wallpaper or blue paint; and blue placemats, for example, can result in “slower” eating and fewer feelings of fullness.

And there’s more about blue! There are very few foods that are naturally blue outside of blueberries and some varieties of potatoes. So over time your subconscious mind has trained itself to be wary of any food that is blue. Some weight loss programs suggest eating on a blue plate and even putting a blue light in your refrigerator!

So if you’re concerned about the amount you or your family is eating, painting your kitchen blue may very well help curb the appetite.

Whether you’re a home buyer, a home seller, or just getting ready to remodel, consider the influence of colors in your home. They do more than just “match the next room” — they affect your food and drink cravings as well.

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

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

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

#1: Is Your Credit In Good Shape?

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

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

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

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

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

#3: Is Your Job Situation Stable?

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

#4: Are You Planning To Have Children?

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

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

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