Mortgage Terminology 101

mortgage-1 Buying a home, even for those with experience, is already a tricky process to navigate. Add choosing a mortgage on top of that and things can get really stressful. Luckily, Keith Loria of BHG posted a great list of basic mortgage terminology to help guide buyers through this process. Check out our lightly edited version:

“Mortgage Lenders” – lenders make the loan and provide the money you’ll use to buy your home. You’ll need a lot of financial background information when you meet with a lender so he or she can set mortgage interest rates and other loan terms accordingly.

“Mortgage Brokers” –  brokers work with multiple lenders to find you the best loan. This can be confusing, but their jobs are essentially to get you the best rate and terms on your loan.

“Mortgage Bankers” – most lenders are bankers, which means they don’t actually lend their own money, but borrow funds at short-term rates from warehouse lender. Some larger mortgage bankers will originate their own loans and sell directly to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or investors.

“Portfolio Mortgage Lenders” – they originate and fund their own loans, offering more flexibility in loan products because they don’t have to adhere to secondary market buyer guidelines. Once these loans are serviced and paid for on time for at least one year, they’re “seasoned,” and can be sold more easily on the secondary market.

“Hard Money Lenders” – this may be your last resort if you’re having trouble getting a mortgage and working with a portfolio mortgage lender. They are private individuals with money to lend, though interest rates are usually higher.mortgage-2

“Wholesale Lenders” – they cater to mortgage brokers for loan origination but offer loans to brokers at a lower cost than their retail branches offer them to the general public. For you, the loan costs about the same if it were obtained directly from a retail branch of the wholesale lender.

“Correspondent Mortgage Lenders” – these lenders have agreements in place with one or more wholesale lenders to act as their retail representative. They lend directly to buyers and use wholesaler guidelines to approve and close loans with their own money. They will also buy back any loans they close that deviate from those guidelines.

“Direct Mortgage Lenders” – direct mortgage lenders are simply banks or lenders that work directly with a homeowner, with no need for a middleman or broker.

10 tips for adding value to your home before you sell

kitchenWhen you sell your home, it’s all about adding value before it goes on the market. There are some small tweaks you can make around the house to make sure you get top dollar for your house. Here is a whittled-down version of the top 10 tips from Houzz.com on how you can increase that value:

1. Add square footage: Move furniture around to fit the room better and make it feel larger. Perception is powerful, even if that true square footage won’t budge. You want prospective buyers to see a lot of space, and therefore, a lot of potential.

2. Traditional sells too: You don’t have to buy a bunch of new stuff to show off your home. Every buyer has his or her own style, so staying honest to the home’s roots can pay off.

3. Master bedroom closet upgrade: Add custom closets to the master bedroom. A large, walk-in closet will add value to any home and excites buyers. Finding an affordable way to do it isn’t terribly difficult with a little research.

4. Kitchen is king: If you do spend money on your home before it hits the market, put it towards your kitchen. Even updated light fixtures will add value to a space used for eating, drinking, gathering and storage by even the worst cooks.

5. Storage, storage, storage: There is no such thing as too much storage. It’s important to provide ample storage space, so utilize it as much as possible when selling!

6. Fresh paint is magical: Painting is the most cost-effective way to freshen up a space. Freshly painted rooms feel updated, clean and crisp and won’t break the bank. Try to avoid colors that are too bold and might scare off buyers. Traditional, neutral choices can do wonders!

7. Try to be energy-efficient: Buying a home involves closing costs, moving fees, energy bills and more on top of just the sale price. If you offer buyers energy-efficient options (CFL or LED lightbulbs, solar panels, etc.), they may find that long-term cost savings attractive. front-yard

8. Bathroom updates help: Behind the kitchen, bathrooms are going to be the most important part of your home to get updates in when selling. A little bit can go a long way in most bathrooms; replace outdated features or change light fixtures to start.

9. Hire a professional organizer: Don’t try to do everything yourself. This process is stressful enough! A professional organizer can help you de-clutter your home and help open up manageable space. That organization will impress buyers.

10. Add curb appeal: You only get one chance to make a first impression, right? Make sure your front yard is tidy and well-groomed. Don’t let peeling paint or cracks in the walls scare off buyers before they even make it in the door.

Does your front door impact your curb appeal?

front-door-1Yes, it does! When it comes to your front door, big decisions must be made. I’ve seen some of the prettiest houses ruined by the ugliest paint jobs on front doors.

For example, unless the rest of your house can really pull it off, please don’t paint your front door bright, neon pink!

From merging classic colors to considering nature tones and your home’s immediate surroundings, there are a lot more factors to consider than one would think when painting a front door.

When all is said and done, a good paint job can really tie a house together visually.

Check out Better Homes and Gardens’ guide to the “do’s and don’ts” of painting your front door.  I think you’ll find these tips helpful. I know I did, though my front door is in need or repair and really needs to be moved back to it’s original spot – remodeling is on the horizon!

You can also check out this free guide on how to paint your front door right here!

Another happy client!

Our newest seller! Congratulations to Todd, on selling your home on San Carlos Ave. in Concord. The home was listed at $400,000 and sold for $460,000. Todd chose to do a lot of things at once: get his home prepared for sale, get married, move out between friends’ weddings, and take a short trip to Palm Springs [I don’t recommend such a busy schedule when selling a home! ;-)]. Now he and his new bride search for their new home together! Wishing you many wonderful memories!

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Open House this weekend: 1326 San Carlos Ave. in Concord

Don’t miss this cozy, updated gem! Just a couple blocks from the Concord BART station and close to Todos Santos Plaza, you’ll feel right at home in this 2-bedroom, 1-bath (with an extra bedroom and bathroom in the converted garage) property.

Fresh paint, new bamboo floors, skylights, granite countertops and a big backyard with a spacious shed top the list of eye-catching features this property has to offer.

You can use that converted space as an AirBNB income-generating room that can be locked off from the rest of the house, and it even has its own little private side yard!

The open kitchen/dining room concept, complete with skylight and dark, beautiful cabinetry, flows into a separate living room with a fireplace and recessed lighting. Both main bedrooms open to the deck and backyard.

Speaking of, both main bedrooms open to the massive deck and backyard. You’ll have plenty of space to entertain friends and family. And you’ll love the huge tree in the front yard casting much-needed shade over the house in the summer.

Come see for yourself how so much can fit into such a beautiful space!

Visit our Open House this weekend from 1-4 p.m. both Saturday (7/30) and Sunday (7/31)!

You can see a virtual tour of 1326 San Carlos Avenue here.

How to Ensure a Smooth Home Purchase

5 steps 3If you’re planning on purchasing a home this year, you’ll will want a transaction as smooth as possible. That’s what us agents are for! We want to help you find the perfect home and then ensure the process becomes as pain-free as possible.  You don’t realize how important this is until you have the transaction from Hell!

Taken from a Better Homes and Garden’s article and repurposed with some of my insights, here are five tips for a smooth home purchase:

Tip 1: Communicate with Your Agent

You spend a lot of time with your agent in a finite window, so, you should work with a real estate agent you are comfortable with. They should be straight up and express everything you want and need in your new home. By communicating your desires from the beginning, your agent won’t waste time showing you homes that don’t fit your criteria. If you know you want an updated kitchen or two baths, make that clear. It is also a process; sometimes what you want and what your budget can afford creates a discovery process, but when it comes to finding that perfect home, clear communication is key. And if you run into any problems along the way, be sure to speak with your agent to iron out any issues.

Tip 2: Be Reasonable with Expectations

If you’re searching for a three-bedroom home located in a certain neighborhood that has the right schools, and your agent shows you a property with a color you don’t like that only has 1.5 baths, don’t simply write off the home. When searching for the home of your dreams, you may have to give something up or make some changes once you move in. No home will be perfect and, again, it is a process to find that out.

Tip 3: Don’t be Discouraged

Don’t expect to find your dream home overnight. Buyers often get frustrated because nothing pops up in their price range for two weeks or they have written five offers and none of them were accepted, but remember, it is a process. And, this is the Bay Area! 5 steps 2Buyers usually course correct, change their expectations, get a quick education on the market and – voila! – the universe unfolds, the right house pops up and your offer is accepted! Woo-hoo! Now the rubber hits the road and you are in contract!

Tip 4: Play the Money Game

If you offer $375,000 on a home that’s listed at $400,000 and the seller refuses to budge, be prepared to negotiate. Wait!!! This is the Bay Area! When you offer $650,000 on a home listed for $620,000 and you are one of nine offers, you need to have some wiggle room for a counter offer. Before making an offer, discuss your strategy with your agent as he or she will be able to tell you whether your offer is fair or not. It’s also important to check out comps in the neighborhood so that you can make a reasonable offer from the get-go. Don’t forget how important a good lender is and the reputation they have with other agents. This may make the difference in your offer getting accepted over the other eight.

Tip 5: Get Your Mortgage Pre-Approved

This could be the smartest thing you do all year. By having a mortgage approved before you even begin looking at houses, you’ll be ready to make an offer as soon as you find the home of your dreams. Not all lenders are equal, and a good lender may give you the upper hand over other buyers who may be interested in the same house. Can they closer faster than 30 days? Do they get all the paperwork upfront and desktop underwrite you so there are no surprises? Are they responsive to your calls?

If you have any interest in purchasing a home this summer, and are looking for an agent who can guide you through the process smoothly, I am at your service and I have a great lender or two to refer!

Hot Housing Market This Summer

It is unlikely the Federal Reserve will be increasing interest rates this month after a weak May job report (only 38,000 jobs created, 117,000 less than expected and the worst month for job creation in nearly six years). According to experts, the likelihood of a rate hike is down to a measly 4 percent, and that trend may carry over into July.

Thus, this summer could prove to be the hot time to buy or sell a home. In California – specifically the East Bay – selling season tends to be in the spring. Once we move into the middle of May, buyers and sellers become distracted with graduations, weddings, etc.

And once school is out everyone moves into vacation mode through mid-August, before families start getting ready for going back to school. Usually, we see an uptick in the number of homes that are on the market in the summer compared to the  the spring. With continued low rates, this summer might buck that trend with buyers out to purchase.Beautiful white, blue and beige living room.

To prepare, buyers should be pre-qualified for a mortgage before they start shopping and, ideally, desktop underwritten. It is best if buyers don’t make an offer contingent on the sale of their own home. For sellers, they should be ready to make themselves and their homes available for show. At minimum, have a staging consult done. Try to have your home staged before a showing.

 

Statistics show clean and pristine homes that are staged properly sell faster and for more money than ones that are not. Necessary improvements, such as new painting, replaced fixtures and refreshed house plants are huge for staging.

It is about getting it show and picture-worthy and keeping it neutral, not spending a lot of money on upgrades. As is the case with personal preferences, “What you think is a nice improvement is another man’s gold shag carpeting.”

The Tax Benefits of Home Ownership

money in pocketMoney Management 101: Buying a home, especially in California, has its benefits from a tax perspective – buyers can deduct their mortgage interest and property taxes from their income after they purchase. For buyers in high tax brackets, these savings can amount to more than $1,000 per month in high-end markets.

Why is this benefit important? For payment-sensitive renters who are considering a first-time purchase and are nervous about their housing payment jumping from $2,500 in rent to $4,000 (for PITI = Principle, Interest, Taxes & Insurance), it may be enough to make them change their mind or scare them into being a renter for life.

What most people don’t realize or most lenders and realtors don’t emphasize (or bother pointing out at all), is that IRSbuyers can recognize their tax benefit right after purchasing by increasing their allowances or exemptions on their IRS W4 form and giving it to their HR contact. By increasing the number of exemptions – because now you own a home and can write off the interest – you don’t need to withhold as much money for the IRS. This allows the new home owner to maximize their take-home pay with each check and mitigate the pain that results from the increased home payment.

Buyers should consult with a CPA or tax planner to figure out their optimal number of exemptions. The idea is that on April 15th, you don’t pay any additional money or you don’t receive a refund from the IRS. If buyers are already claiming a handful of exemptions, then it is unlikely this benefit will give much in the form of extra income flowing into their paychecks.

Some information in this blog taken from JVM Lenders Daily Comments.

Can a Seller Reject a Full-Price Offer?

Concerned guyI was recently asked this question as sellers often have concerns if they list their home slightly lower then recent sales, what would happen if they got a list price offer?  I saw a recent article on this subject and thought I’d address this concern in my blog.

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In short, the answer is yes, a seller can reject an at or above listing price offer.  A listing is a solicitation of offers, not an offer to sell.  This means that an offer at or above asking price does not necessarily mean the offer will be accepted.

In order for there to be a contract between buyer and seller, there has to be a “meeting of the minds” on all the elements of the contract.  The seller must agree to all elements of the offer including price, financing, contingencies, and time for performance.  If the seller has a problem with any of these elements, they have the right to reject the offer
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In a sellers market, listings often receive multiple offers, sometimes much higher than asking price.  This means that a buyers offer can be rejected because another buyer had a more appealing offer in terms of price, financing or terms like no appraisal contingency.

The bottom line … until the buyer and seller agree to all the terms of the purchase, there is no contract.