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  Mon Oct 30

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They continued, "Well, you may not be stupid or broke. Maybe you already have a house and you don't want to move. Or maybe you're a Trappist monk and have forsworn all earthly possessions. Or whatever. But if you want to buy a house, now is the time, and if you don't act soon, you will regret it. Here's why: historically low interest rates."

 

They were talking about rates hovering around five percent. Today, rates are under four percent for a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

Reason No. 1 to buy now: Rates are low

"Low mortgage rates continue to keep ownership less expensive than renting," said Investopedia. "Even a small change in interest rates has a significant effect on what you'll pay each month and over the life of a 30-year mortgage. Take a $172,000 30-year mortgage, for example ($172,000 is 80% of the median sales price for existing homes of $215,000 after a 20% down payment). With an interest rate of 4%, you would pay $821.15 each month. At an interest rate of 5%, the monthly payment would be $923.33, and at 6%, the payment rises to $1031.23."

Reason No. 2: Rents are high

In many markets, rents are rising to unsustainable levels, reports the National Association of Realtors (NAR). "In the past five years, a typical rent rose 15% while the income of renters grew by only 11%."

The cities with the highest rent increase since 2009 include New York, San Jose, San Francisco, Denver, and Seattle. For the rest of the list, click here, and to see how much more renting can cost you over a lifetime, check out Riskology.

Reason No. 3: Qualifications are easier

During the real estate downturn of the mid-2000s, banks and lenders tightened the reins, and often only the most qualified applicants could get approved. Post-recession, qualifications have loosened. Buyers who can't show solid income and a minimum credit score probably won't be offered a risky interest-only ARM today, however, those with less-than-perfect credit and minimal funds still have options. The Federal Housing Association (FHA) minimums are a 620 credit score and a 3.5 percent down payment.

Reason No. 4: Private mortgage insurance fees are down

Buyers who put less than 20 percent down on their home generally incur a monthly fee in the name of private mortgage insurance (PMI). In January 2015, the government announced lower PMI rates on Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, which equates to a savings of about $900 a year. Seventy-five dollars a month may not seem like much, but every little bit helps when you're committing to an investment as large as a home.

Reason No. 5: It's still one of the best investments out there

In fact, some would say it's the very best investment out there.

"Buying a home is the best investment any individual can make. Affordability is still at an all-time high," said CNBC.

Not only as a comparison between buying and renting, but as a measurable asset, homeownership stands up—as long as buyers make a smart decision.

"The largest measurable financial benefit to homeownership is price appreciation," said Investopedia. "Price appreciation helps build home equity, which is the difference between the market price of the house and the remaining mortgage payments."

Reason No. 6: It feels good

You know that pride of ownership thing? It's true. Really. Nothing compares to the feeling of walking into a home that's yours for the first time. Or painting the walls a color other than white. Updating the kitchen. Making it your own. Not worrying about your rent being raised. And, of course, watching your equity grow over time.

   
  Wed Aug 29

Mortgage Pre-Qualification vs Pre-Approval

Two often confused terms in the home buying process are a mortgage loan pre-qualification and a home loan pre-approval. Even some loan officers and real estate agents will use the terms incorrectly, so here's what you really need to know about each one.

 

Pre-Qualification

A mortgage loan pre-qualification is simply an estimate of how much house you can afford and how much money a lender would be willing to loan you. The best time to get a pre-qualification is right at the beginning of your home buying process, before you even start looking at houses. This involves either sitting down with a lender or talking with one on the phone, and providing information on your income, assets, debts, and a potential down payment amount. The lender would then provide you with a ballpark figure in writing of how much he thinks you could afford to pay for a monthly mortgage. There is no cost involved and there is no commitment on either side. This estimate is just helpful in helping you figure out if buying a home is a viable option, and if so, what your price range would probably be.

 

Pre-approval

Getting pre-approved means that you have a tentative commitment from a specific lender for mortgage funding. In this case, you provide a home loan lender with actual documentation of your income, assets, and debts. This process typically requires an application fee as well, since the bank will run a credit check and work to verify all your employment and financial information. Once you are approved, the lender will give you a letter of commitment, stating how much money her bank is willing to loan you for a home purchase. With a pre-approval in hand you can start your shopping - real estate agents and sellers will take you much more seriously when they see you have your mortgage funding in place.

It is important to understand, however, that even a pre-approval is not a guarantee that you will be approved for a mortgage loan.  The funding will only be given when the property appraisal, title search, and other verifications check out on the home you have chosen to buy.  Neither is the pre-approval binding; you can still obtain a mortgage from a different lender. If you do stick with the same company that pre-approved you though, the application process will be much shorter once you find the right house.

   
  Sat Sep 01

Home Inspection List - You do as many as possible to prepare

Prepare your house for an inspection


What will a home inspector be looking at and how you can prepare for a home inspection?  The below listing may be helpful in preparing for a home inspection.  Many of these items can be done with little or no cost and many are regular maintenance items for a home. 

  1. Remove grade or mulch from contact with siding.  Six (6) or more inches of clearance is preferred. 
  2. Clean out dirty gutters or debris from the roof. 
  3. Divert all water away from the house; i.e. downspouts, sump pump, condensation drains, etc.  Grade should slope away from the structure.  Clean out basement entry drains. 
  4. Trim trees, roots and bushes back from the foundation, roof, siding and chimney. 
  5. Paint all weathered exterior wood and caulk around the trim, chimney, windows and doors. 
  6. Seal asphalt driveways, if cracking. 
  7. Seal or point up masonry chimney caps.  Install metal fluecap. 
  8. Clean or replace HVAC filter.  Clean dirty air returns and plenum. 
  9. Point up any failing mortar joints in brick or block. 
  10. Test all smoke detectors to ensure they are in safe working condition. 
  11. Update attic ventilation if none is present. 
  12. Have the chimney, fireplace or woodstove cleaned and provide the buyer with a copy of the cleaning record. 
  13. Seal masonry walls in the basement. 
  14. Don't do quick cheap repairs.  You may raise questions that will unfairly cause great concern to buyers and inspectors. 
  15. Ensure that all doors and windows are in proper operating condition, including repairing or replacing any cracked window panes. 
  16. Ensure that all plumbing fixtures (toilet, tub, shower, and sinks) are in proper working conditions.  Check for and fix any leaks.  Caulk around fixtures if necessary. 
  17. Install GFCI receptacles near all water sources.  Test all present GFCI receptacles for proper operation. 
  18. Check sump pump for proper operation. 
  19. Replace any burned out light bulbs. 
  20. Remove rotting wood and/or firewood from contact with the house. 
  21. Ensure that proper grading is followed under a deck. 
  22. Install proper vapor barrier in crawlspaces. 
  23. Caulk all exterior wall penetrations. 
  24. Check to ensure that the crawlspace is dry and install a proper vapor barrier if necessary.  Remove any visible moisture from a crawlspace.  Moisture levels in wood should be below 18% to deter rot and mildew. 
  25. Check that bath vents are properly vented and in working condition. 
  26. Remove paints, solvents, gas, etc., from crawlspace, basement, attic, porch, etc. 
  27. If windows are at or below grade, install window wells and covers. 
  28. Have clear access to attic, crawlspace, heating system, garage and other areas that will need to be inspected. 
  29. If the house is vacant, make sure that all utilities are turned on, including water, electric, water heater, furnace, air condition and breaks in the main panel.

 

   
   
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