Spring Is Real Estate’s ‘Rush Hour’ — Here’s How to Tell If You’re Prepared

Spring Is Real Estate's 'Rush Hour' -- Here's How to Tell If You're PreparedThe most popular time of year to buy a home is in the spring, and this means that if you’re preparing yourself for getting into the real estate market, you may be experiencing a time crunch. If you’re wondering if you’ll be ready to put your home up for sale in time to take advantage of the season, here are few things you’ll want to think about.

Have You Cleaned Up And De-cluttered?

Spring is not only an optimal time to put your home up for sale, it’s also an ideal time for spring-cleaning! Instead of leaving all of the de-cluttering and clearing away to the time when you know you’ll be moving, get prepared by going through your stuff and discarding anything that you don’t want to move. This will not only make the packing up procedure more streamlined, it will also make the basic cleaning duties like vacuuming a dusting a little easier to carry out.

Are You Prepared To Move?

A home can sit on the market for a few weeks or months, and it can also sell on the first day, so you’ll want to have a game plan for moving beforehand. If you don’t yet have a place to stay, determine a plan for yourself and your family so that you can start looking for a home to invest in or at least rental property. You don’t want to lose out on a good offer by not being prepared, so make sure you know where you’re going before getting into the market.

Do You Know The Market Conditions?

Spring is certainly the most popular time to buy, but if your home isn’t priced right for the conditions of the market, it may linger longer than you’d expect. If you’re selling on your own, you may want to take a look at the MLS listings to determine what similar homes in similar areas are selling for. It can also be a great idea to utilize the services of a local real estate agent who will have background knowledge of the market and be able to do the tough negotiating for you.

With spring being the best time to sell, it’s important to de-clutter your house ahead of time and be aware of the market conditions you’ll be dealing with.

3 Things You Must Do after Inheriting a Home

3 Things You Must Do after Inheriting a HomeThere can be a lot of excitement when it comes to the realization that you’ve inherited a home, but simply because it’s an inheritance doesn’t mean there aren’t a few strings attached. Whether you’re expecting to be gifted with a home in the future or you’re currently going through this process, here are a few things you may need to watch out for.

The State Of The Mortgage

Once a home has been effectively handed over to you, it’s important to determine the status of the mortgage with the lender and if anything is still owed. While you have the option of taking over the mortgage in a lot of cases, in the event that there’s a reversible mortgage or you’re choosing to rent it out as a second property, you may not be able to transfer the mortgage. While this can often be a rather seamless process, if money is owed there can be other factors to consider.

Determine If You Want It

If you already have a first home and don’t want to take care of your second property as a rental unit, it’s important to realize that keeping the home may not be the best decision for you. While you have the option of organizing a short sale if you’d like to get it off of your hands, you can also contact a real estate agent who will be able to provide you with advice on how to proceed if you’re unwilling (or unable) to take control of the property.

Is It In Good Condition?

Whether you want to keep the home or not, there can be cases where it’s not even a question if it’s a home that you’re going to end up investing money into without much return. In the situation that a lot of money is owed on the house or there are serious issues with its general condition, you may want to release yourself from the inheritance and move on with your financial situation still intact.

There can be an instant feeling of acquired wealth in the event that you’ve inherited a home, but a home in bad condition or that you don’t want to take care of can end up being more of a headache than anything else.

Buying a Home? Make Sure Your Finances Are in Order First

Below is a guest blog post by Janet Elliot of RE/MAX

Purchasing a new home is part of the American Dream, just as much as graduating high school and college, getting married, and having children. It’s also the hardest part of the dream to achieve; you need patience, resilience, thick skin, and great financial planning.

The latter is the most important aspect of buying a home. With that said, you don’t need loads of money in order to purchase – just decent credit and a solid financial plan. So, before you head out to the local open houses, be sure you’ve first tackled your finances in order to know which homes you can actually afford.

Make Sure You Have the Credit

According to Keith Gumbinger, Vice President of HSH, a mortgage information company, the best mortgage rates are given to potential buyers who have a credit score of 740 or above. However, you can still get a home loan with a credit score of 620; in some cases even a 580 credit score can qualify you for an FHA loan.

Just because you may qualify for a loan at 580, it doesn’t mean that you should apply for one. Lenders use your score to determine whether or not they will lend to you, but also at what rate. Lower credit scores mean higher rates.

The best thing you can do to get your credit score on track before purchasing a home is to get a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com six to twelve months before you go house hunting. This report looks at the three main credit bureaus, giving you insight into your number, and what needs to be taken care of to improve the score.

Doing this up to a year before you start looking allows you plenty of time to increase your score. Mortgage companies aren’t the only ones that look at this number; sellers and real estate agents also look as this number, and it can determine if they will sell to you or take you on as a client. Don’t overlook this step, it’s essential to your success.

Do You Have Too Much Debt?

Your debt is another huge factor when attempting to secure a lender. In fact, it can at times be even more important than your credit score; it’s the first thing they look at when determining your eligibility. The debts they look at include student loans, car loans, credit card payments, and so forth. Ideally, lenders are looking to see if your overall debt plus your potential new mortgage payment is 45% or less than your income.

For example, if your monthly pretax income is $5,000, they want to see that $2,250 or less of it is going toward your mortgage payment and debt. Obviously, the less debt you have, the better. If you can reduce your overall debt by paying off that pesky car loan or student loan, your payment-to-income ratio will decrease and make you a more attractive buyer. In addition, leave older credit lines open, avoid opening new credit lines, stop buying on existing credit, and don’t shuffle your money around; this will leave you in the best position to buy a home.

Set a Budget and Prepare for Your Down Payment

Now that you have your debt and credit score goals where you want them, it’s time to look at your budget and prepare for your down payment. The best way to determine your budget is by using the standard rule when it comes to purchasing a new home. The rule of thumb is to only look at homes that are no more than 2.5 times your gross annual salary. In layman’s terms, if your annual salary is $50,000, look for homes priced no more than $125,000 dollars.

Once you have your max amount, it’s time to speak to lenders to see what your financing options are. You typically will have the choice between two types of mortgages: fixed-rate and adjustable-rate. Fixed-rate mortgages are where your monthly payment and interest rate stay the same the entire time you have the loan, for between 15 to 30 years.

Adjustable-rate mortgages have an introductory interest rate that will change after a specific period of time. Simply put, it could start off at a particular rate for the first two years, but can begin being adjusted annually after that. In general, most real estate agents would suggest that a fixed-rate mortgage payment is the safer financial choice, but every homeowner is different.

Aside from determining your budget and settling on a loan option, you will also need to plan for a down payment. In the best case scenario, you want to have a down payment of 20 percent of the total price of the home, but a minimum of 10 percent down can work for a conventional mortgage loan. Since everyone’s situation is different, some buyers simply cannot come up with that type of down payment.

If you are among those who cannot afford a higher down payment, you can apply for an FHA loan, which can make your down payment as little as 3.5 percent of the cost of the home.

In some cases, if you meet the income limitations of your state, you can even get a five percent down payment loan from traditional loans. Work with your real estate agent and speak with a few lenders to find which style of mortgage and down payment method will be best for your situation.

One Last Thing Before You Make an Offer

Closing costs are another thing to think about before you put in an offer. It used to be you could get some credits for your closing costs and still have your offer accepted, but not so much anymore. To be prepared in the current market, be sure you have at minimum 2.5 percent of the purchase price for closing costs (not including your down payment). This will give you the best chance of putting in a successful offer.

The real estate market is competitive right now, with many sellers taking multiple offers of the asking price and choosing the most solid one. Rise above the competition with closing costs already accounted for. By following these steps, you will be in the perfect position to put in an offer on your dream home. Now it’s time for the fun stuff – heading out to open houses!

janetelliotJanet Elliott has served as a Realtor with REMAX for 28 years in the metro Atlanta area. Janet is also a Certified Residential Specialist or CRS. This is a designation achieved by less than 1% of real estate agents. When not practicing real estate, Janet can be found spending time with family and friends out on the water!

3 Things You Must Do after Inheriting a Home

3 Things You Must Do after Inheriting a HomeThere can be a lot of excitement when it comes to the realization that you’ve inherited a home, but simply because it’s an inheritance doesn’t mean there aren’t a few strings attached. Whether you’re expecting to be gifted with a home in the future or you’re currently going through this process, here are a few things you may need to watch out for.

The State Of The Mortgage

Once a home has been effectively handed over to you, it’s important to determine the status of the mortgage with the lender and if anything is still owed. While you have the option of taking over the mortgage in a lot of cases, in the event that there’s a reversible mortgage or you’re choosing to rent it out as a second property, you may not be able to transfer the mortgage. While this can often be a rather seamless process, if money is owed there can be other factors to consider.

Determine If You Want It

If you already have a first home and don’t want to take care of your second property as a rental unit, it’s important to realize that keeping the home may not be the best decision for you. While you have the option of organizing a short sale if you’d like to get it off of your hands, you can also contact a real estate agent who will be able to provide you with advice on how to proceed if you’re unwilling (or unable) to take control of the property.

Is It In Good Condition?

Whether you want to keep the home or not, there can be cases where it’s not even a question if it’s a home that you’re going to end up investing money into without much return. In the situation that a lot of money is owed on the house or there are serious issues with its general condition, you may want to release yourself from the inheritance and move on with your financial situation still intact.

There can be an instant feeling of acquired wealth in the event that you’ve inherited a home, but a home in bad condition or that you don’t want to take care of can end up being more of a headache than anything else. If you’re currently considering your options when it comes to a home inheritance, contact us Mason-McDuffie Mortgage at 925.242.4400 for more information.

3 Money-Smart Reasons To Downsize Your Home

3 Money-Smart Reasons To Downsize Your HomeLiving big isn’t necessarily living better. Apartment buildings, townhouses and multiplexes have become the new normal for increasing numbers of individuals, couples and families. It’s clear that for many people, smaller spaces are smarter, too.

This attitude is more than just a trend. According to TIME Magazine, multi-family dwellings like condominiums accounted for 40% of new construction in the United States in 2014 and the movement shows few signs of slowing down.

The change isn’t surprising when considering the benefits to moving, especially when it comes to sheer cost-savings. Whether residents are spending less cash or conserving their valuable time and resources, they’re going to see a difference in their bank accounts.

Here are three money-smart reasons to downsize that can lead to big savings.

1. Reduced Maintenance

Maintaining a single-family dwelling can be difficult. Clearing gutters, painting walls, weeding the garden and other unpleasant tasks have serious costs, as residents are forced to invest their valuable time and resources into these recurring chores.

Switching to a smaller space means less maintenance, which can lead to serious savings. Multi-family dwellings typically have a building manager who is responsible for upkeep, leading to serious savings.

2. Heating, Water and More

Utilities are much less costly after downsizing. The less square footage a home has, the less electricity, water and other utilities it will require. Residents have the potential to save hundreds of dollars in costs.

There’s also an added benefit if there are shared utilities divided between other residents of multi-family dwellings. Splitting subscriptions or services like Internet and cable can lead to much lower prices.

Moving to smaller spaces makes these invoices less expensive, which gives residents a bonus every month.

3. Location is Key

Apartment buildings, condominiums and other compact dwellings are often located in central areas close to useful services and businesses. This convenience is a major cost-cutting reason that encourages many people to move.

The Nielsen Company actually found that 62% of millennials would choose to live in communities that combine residential homes and businesses. By being closer to things they value, residents save themselves time, a valued commodity.

Why Moving is a Smart Move

These three money-smart reasons are major factors into why people move into smaller spaces. It’s hard to resist saved time and resources, reduced maintenance, lower utility bills and increased convenience. Learn more about potential savings from one our Mason-McDuffie Mortgage professionals at 925.242.4400 today.

Understanding How Home Equity Works and Why Buying a Home Can Be Your Best Investment

Understanding How Home Equity Works and Why Buying a Home Can Be Your Best InvestmentWhen delving into the world of real estate and investment property, there are many terms that will come up that require further explanation. Whether you’ve never heard the phrase ‘home equity’ before or you have a little familiarity, here are the ins and out of what it means and how this asset can help your financial outlook.

All About Home Equity

Essentially, home equity refers to your portion of the value of your home, and the amount of this figure is important because it is included among your assets when determining your net worth. If this sounds confusing, think of it this way: if you have completely paid off the cost of your home, the value of your home equity is this total amount. Of course, because most people seek a lender to borrow money from when they purchase a home, their home equity would consist of their down payment and whatever amount they’ve paid down on the mortgage since purchase.

An Example Of Home Equity

To provide further clarification, let’s use the example of a house that has been purchased for $300,000. In the case that a down payment of 20% has been provided at the time of purchase, the equity in the home would be $60,000. Since this amount is the percentage and cost of the house that’s been paid down, this is the amount of the house that is actually owned and this will be figured among an individual’s assets.

How Home Equity Works

As you pay the amount that you owe on your home each month, you are paying off your total debt and thereby increasing your equity. Since this amount of money is considered an asset that belongs to you, it can be used down the road to buy another home or invest in other important things like education or retirement. While paying off the amount owed on a home is a considerable investment, if the value of your home increases, this means that you’ll still owe the same on it but your home equity will have automatically increased.

As an asset that is part of your financial net worth and can be used down the road to fund other investments, home equity is a very useful term to know when it comes to purchasing a home. If you’re on the market for a home and are considering your options, you may want to contact one of our local real estate professionals for more information.

Real Estate Terms: The ‘Debt to Income’ Ratio and How It Affects Your Home Purchase

Real Estate Terms: The 'Debt to Income' Ratio and How It Affects Your Home PurchaseThe real estate market is rife with terminology that can make a home purchase seem more than a little complicated. If you’re currently looking for a home and are considering your loan options, you may have even heard the term ‘Debt to Income’ ratio. In the interest of simplifying things, here are some insights on what this term means and how it can impact your home investment.

Determining Your ‘Debt to Income’ Ratio

It’s important to consider what exactly your DTI ratio is before your home purchase as this will quickly determine how much home you can actually afford. To calculate this number, take your monthly debt payments – including any credit card, loan and mortgage payments – and divide them by your monthly gross income to get a percentage. In the event that your monthly debt is $700 and you make $2800 in income, your DTI is 25%.

What Your DTI Means To The Bank

The DTI is a very important number when it comes to a home loan because it enables the bank to determine your financial situation. A DTI of 25% leaves some wiggle room, as most banks will allow a DTI percentage that runs between 36-43%. In the case of the above example, this means that the most debt this person could take on per month is about $1200. While banks vary on this percentage, credit history plays an important part in the DTI that will be allowed.

Paying Down Your Debt Or Purchasing A Home

In the event that you have a DTI ratio that exceeds what your bank will allow, you will need to consider your debts before moving on to investing in a home. If you’re planning on purchasing a home in the next year, it’s a good idea to tackle high-interest debt first. However, if you happen to have a chunk of money saved up that you’re planning on putting into a down payment, it’s worth considering that putting more than 20% down may slightly increase the DTI percentage your bank will accept.

There are many fancy terms that go along with the world of real estate, but it’s important to understand what they mean so you can make them work in your favor. If you’re calculating your DTI ratio and are planning a home purchase down the road, you may want to contact your trusted mortgage professionals for more information.

Buying or Selling a Home This Winter? Keep These Tax Tips in Mind!

Buying or Selling a Home This Winter? Keep These Tax Tips in Mind!With all of the expense that can go into buying and selling a home, it’s good to be aware of what you can claim and how a home can benefit you come tax time. When the New Year rolls around and you’re sitting down to the task of completing your taxes, here are a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind.

Gaining from Capital Gains

In the event that you’ve made money off the sale of your home through a capital gain, it’s possible that you may be able to exclude this amount from your tax filing. If you’ve lived in the home you just sold for at least two of the five years before the sale date, not having to report this amount on your taxes may come as a financial win.

Reporting Your Gain

If you have not lived in your home for two of the five years, you will have to report the sale of your home and the capital gain when you file your taxes. This is necessary whether or not you decide to claim the amount. If this happens to be the case for you, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on ‘Net Investment Income Tax’ before filing your return so you can ensure your claim’s accuracy.

A Two-Year Claim For Capital Gain

While there is definitely a great financial benefit in not having to report your gain in all situations, it’s important to be aware that you can only exclude any gain you’ve received from a home sale every 2 years. So, if it happens to be the case that you’ve moved more than once in the last few years, you will have to report any amount that you’ve made from these home sales.

Selling Your Home At A Loss

The boon of a capital gain is certainly ideal if you’ve made some money on your home, but if you’ve sold your home for less than you paid, you won’t be able to claim this. While the end result may be a bit disheartening, this amount cannot be deducted off of your tax return.

Beyond the benefits of buying or selling your home, there are ways that your tax filing can be more pleasant next year if you know some of these tips. If you have any further mortgage related financial questions, you may want to contact your trusted mortgage professional for more information.

3 Handy Tips That Will Prevent Serious Stress when Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time

3 Handy Tips That Will Prevent Serious Stress when Buying and Selling a Home at the Same TimeIf you’re in the process of simultaneously buying and selling a home, you may be in for the most stressful experience of your life. One UK-based real estate survey of over two thousand people found that buying and selling a house is more stressful than divorce, bankruptcy, a death in the family, becoming a parent for the first time, and even planning a wedding!

It’s not easy, but staying calm will help you to plan for your upcoming home purchase and sale and make the process easier. So how can you avoid the stress? Here are three strategies that will keep you calm, no matter what may happen.

Have A Thorough Plan In Place…

Much of the stress that you’ll experience will probably be the result of poor planning. You may feel stressed if you don’t have enough time to move or if you have to pay mortgages on two homes because your old home isn’t selling fast enough.

Before you get too far into the buying and selling process, talk with your trusted mortgage professional and ensure you have a solid financial plan in place for how you’ll manage buying and selling at the same time. Leave a time and expense buffer for unexpected complications – even if nothing goes wrong, it’s still nice to know you have some room to work with.

…But Be Ready To Improvise If Things Go Sideways

There are a number of ways that buying and selling at the same time might result in complications. Poor timing might mean you need to move out before you have a home to move into, or it might mean you don’t have the money for your new home if your old home hasn’t sold. Be prepared to rent a hotel room, take out a short-term loan, or move your belongings into storage if the sale doesn’t go according to plan.

Talk Out Your Problems With Loved Ones

In times of stress, it’s helpful to turn to friends and family for a helping hand. Studies have shown that having a strong social support network can mitigate the effects of stress, and even the Mayo Clinic suggests reaching out to loved ones when you feel overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends for emotional support, and whenever you have an opportunity to socialize, take it – you’ll find it easier to handle stress after a fun night out with friends.

Buying and selling a home at the same time is bound to be stressful, but working with an experienced mortgage professional and having a good financial plan in place can minimize the agony. Call your trusted mortgage professional to learn how you can successfully manage your finances while buying and selling a home at the same time.

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