5 reasons why this winter is the best time to buy

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending put together an interesting blog post recently, and I want to share that with you below. Essentially, he finds five reasons why this current winter season is the best time to take advantage of the real estate market and buy a house! Enjoy:

Most of our agent-readers well know why winter can be a great time to buy from a real estate perspective. I am nonetheless repeating a few of the obvious reasons while also illuminating a few less-obvious mortgage-related reasons.

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1. Rates Hit Six Week Low! While rates have been climbing for most of the year, they hit a six week low last week in response to the oil glut and signs of a softer economy. Given that the Fed will likely continue to push rates up next year, this brief rate-reduction gives buyers a short-term opportunity to lock in a relatively low rate.

2. Lender Incentives. 
Many lenders are offering extra incentives to borrowers right now simply to maximize loan volume during a slower time of the year. This includes JVM of course, as we are offering a $500 closing cost credit to any buyer who gets into contract from now until January 31st. This does not apply to borrowers who are already in contract and locked.

3. Motivated Sellers. If someone is willing to go to the trouble to sell their home during the holidays/winter, they are usually more motivated to sell and willing to negotiate.

4. Fewer Buyers/Less Competition. There are fewer buyers and a lot less competition for homes. Many buyers pull out of the market in the winter b/c they don’t want to take the time to house-hunt during the holiday season or they don’t want to buy in the middle of the school year (if they have kids).

5. Seeing Properties at Their Worst. 
My neighbor has drop-dead gorgeous crape myrtle and Japanese maple trees all over his yard. In the spring and summer, his yard is an oasis of color. In the winter, however, his yard looks like a war zone. Buyers get to see homes at their worst in the winter, avoiding unpleasant surprises and knowing that their dream home will only look that much better, come spring.

The internet conveniently has numerous articles backing up my points above, in case any readers don’t want to take my word for it. Here are two: The Best Time of the Year to Buy Property from Financial Samurai; and Mortgage Rates Pull Back from Freddie Mac’s website.   

Client Appreciation Party

After sending out invites, speaking with past clients and those who have referred me, coordinating with the venue, and designing the event, I am happy to share some pictures of a fun day with my wonderful clients and friends. I also want to give a big shout-out to Prima Ristorante, where we enjoyed appetizers, wine tasting of old and new-world wines, great company and friendship all in the cozy space of their room with a fireplace.

Frank, our sommelier, did a wonderful job of introducing us to the nuances of French vs. California wines, and we finished with a blind tasting of a white and red. We had to guess if it was a French or California wine based on the taste. We also had a seasoned waiter who served us some amazing appetizers of  calamari, shrimp, antipasto platters, rice balls and deep friend olives – yum!

We also gave away some door prizes: two $50 gift cards to Whole Foods donated by Lukasz Wilk of Wolf Construction, a certificate for house cleaning donated by my stager Heather Farry, and two bottles of wine from Prima as part of the day’s event.

Many may think the job of a realtor only involves buying and selling homes with my clients. But being a guide, friend and advocate for my clients is actually the biggest part of the job and celebrating them is my favorite part! I look forward to seeing new and old faces at future events!

Open House Saturday 1-4 pm, Kirker Pass Rd. in Concord

Offers Due Monday 2/5 at noon!

Selling a home without an agent is risky!

When you sell a home, you don’t need a real estate agent, just like you don’t need a lawyer when facing criminal charges. You can, if you want to, represent yourself in a court of law, and you can always put your home up for sale by owner (FSBO).

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But, it’s an extremely risky proposition. As outlined in this Inman article, there are many things to consider when putting a home up FSBO. Here are eight things, summarized from said Inman article, that sellers risk when they don’t have a realtor representing them:

1. Knowledge

Realtors are professionals in this business. They have expansive knowledge of the complicated home-buying and selling processes, possess loads of helpful data, and have large networks of people who can help minimize the difficulties that arise.

2. Time

The non-realtor probably doesn’t realize how many hours are put into any given home, buy or sell. Real estate agents are available for clients around the clock, on a whim, and can confidently and smoothly quell any concerns by potential home buyers.

3. Presentation

Preparation is essential to selling a home – what buyers see when they walk through the door will determine if your home sells. Agents can prepare the finest details and have stagers, professional photographers and others who will help make the space beautiful.

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4. Marketing

Anyone can draw up a “For Sale” poster, but realtors will design, distribute and widely market the home to a huge number of potential buyers. Realtors can access predictive analysis and promote to those demographics on social media. Also, they know just what to write to draw interest.

5. Negotiation experience

If you’re doing FSBO, what do you do when you actually receive an offer? There’s a purchase agreement to be discussed, price negotiations to be had, and so on. Realtors will make sure you don’t get screwed by a buyer, and that you only incur costs you’re supposed to pay.

6. Inspection and repair know-how 

One of the most important parts of any real estate transaction is knowing which inspections to expect and how to get them done. This is where the realtor’s web of resources comes in handy again – he or she should be able to provide repair people to fix anything discovered in an inspection.

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7. Transaction management

Once a home is in contract with a buyer, there are more steps to close the deal. Realtors can make sure the right people are contacted to handle the closing, appraise the property, repair anything found in inspections and anything else to follow up on.

8. Closing finesse

There are expectations upon closing a property. Non-realtors probably don’t understand what the buyers expect, in terms of when move-in/move-out occurs, the condition one should leave their home in, or what to do if a last-minute issue arises. Realtors do know, and they are worth the time and money to ensure your sale is in good hands.

FSBO’s may be intriguing to the cheap and/or self-confident, but the small savings on a realtor’s commission is not worth the hassle that comes with navigating such a difficult process without professional help, and often a house sells for less than what it would have with an agent even after the commission has been paid.

On that note, there’s a reason I do what I do! I’d love to help you buy or sell a home. Please reach out any time for information regarding the current, local real estate market!

Donna is our latest satisfied customer!

My assistant Lilly and I recently closed on a home for Donna, an 85-year-old client. Donna lived in San Mateo many years ago before moving to Las Vegas to be closer to family.

It didn’t take long for Donna to realize that Vegas wasn’t her scene, so she moved back to San Mateo. Once there, she quickly learned that she’d been priced out of her little town, and needed to find a less expensive option.

So, Donna started exploring Concord! That’s where we met – at one of my listings. She told me she was looking for a white kitchen in a traditional rancher. A few months later, she found her dream home in Concord

I stopped by on Saturday before a hike with my dogs to give Donna the key and help her carry in a few items she brought over.  They would have loved to help too and I would love to help you – dogs are extra ;-).

 

Tax returns and your loan approval!

Our friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending came up with another relatable blog recently: Tax Transcripts and 4506-T forms. It generally explains how those forms work, and reminded me of an experience of my own. First, a summary of Jay’s blog:

Every time a lender gets a loan from a borrower, they also have to get the last two years of tax returns. This is why borrowers sign IRS Form 4506-T as part of their disclosures. It formally authorizes lenders to request tax transcripts, which then show the filer’s status and income information.

Lenders are required to request transcripts from the IRS before a borrower can (borrowers can only request them directly if the IRS reject’s a lender’s request). If there is a minor error between the 4506-T and the tax return, this rejection may occur, so it happens pretty often.

That covers the basics of how the 4506-T form works and the role it plays in a real estate transaction. It’s a more subtle part of the process, but can cause huge headaches when done incorrectly. Take, for example, my experience with a property at Madeira in Pleasant Hill last year.

I represented the seller, and the buyer had their lender in Oakland, with a Bank out of L.A. Unbeknownst to us, the bank was being bought out and the new bank was called Bank of Hope – yes, really. But it turned out to be the Bank of Hopelessness.

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Processes changed, the lender in Oakland was let go and nobody knew what they were doing. Communication was terrible. One of the balls that got dropped was getting the tax returns. We closed almost two weeks late and the only way this ended up closing at all is by the processor who I had been speaking with regarding other issues. They actually went down to the IRS office and got the tax returns. She went beyond what is required (and probably got tired of our phone calls), but my seller is an attorney and also made multiple phone calls as they had already purchased a new home that was about to close.

This is one of the best reasons to get fully underwritten before you start to write offers. If all the documentation is in upfront, there won’t be any surprises or delays once you get into contract. Selecting the right lender can be the difference between smooth sailing and dark nightmares.

New review from a happy customer!

One of the greatest joys of working in real estate is sharing in the excitement (and relief!) of buying or selling a home with a client.

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Oftentimes, I become close with my clients just by virtue of developing a personal connection while I vet houses for them. Throughout the process, we usually text, call, email and meet in person dozens of times. So, when we succeed together and find the perfect buyer or the perfect property, it’s extra special for me to get a great review!

For example, I recently helped my client and friend Mckenzie with a transaction, and here’s what she wrote for me:

Kristin is amazing-she went above and beyond as my real estate agent; as a first-time homebuyer, I am SO lucky that I found her!! I found Kristin on Zillow, I was interested in a specific property and sent an email. She followed up and was immediately so helpful over the phone. As I said, I am a first time home buyer, and she gave me lots of advice. She met with me in person to go through the home buying process (like a crash course) which was VERY helpful, and something she didn’t have to do, as I wasn’t even looking at properties yet. She went out of her way, she knows her stuff, she is quick, gives good advice that isn’t biased, and made sure through the whole process I was finding what I wanted. She has a great reputation with other agents in the area and has lots of people she works with that she recommends in terms of home repairs etc. Even after escrow closed, she is still talking with me making sure I have what I need, helping me find handymen and other things I hadn’t even thought of. On top of how capable she is-she is also so fun and has personality plus! It was actually an enjoyable process for me (who would have thought!?!?) I have already been recommending Kristin to friends looking to buy in the area, and if I ever buy/sell again, will definitely be contacting Kristin to be my agent!

What a sweet note from Mckenzie! I loved working with her. If you want to be like Mckenzie, and be my next satisfied client, please give me a call or shoot me an email!

The VA loan is the best loan going!

With Memorial Day around the corner and a time to honor and remember all the brave heroes who served to hold our flag high, I thought it would be a great time to mention the benefits of a VA loan and what is currently happening in that arena.

There’s a bill in Congress that eliminates loan limits for the VA. The current VA limit for Contra Costa is $636,150, so eliminating the limit will help our vets who qualify for more to still be able to purchase with their VA benefits. I specialize in working with VA buyers and sellers, and have a strong passion for it given my family’s history in service.

There is also a rebate available of up to $2,500 in Contra Costa County for qualified buyers with approved lenders. I can connect you with a qualified lender. The VA loan is the best loan around  –  low rates, nothing down, 25% of the loan is backed by the federal government, lowest loan foreclosure rate, plus many additional changes over the years to help make a VA offer be accepted such as the seller no longer has to pay for the pest inspection.

Did you also know, you are eligible for a VA loan after 90 days active duty in wartime (we are still considered in wartime which started with the Gulf War)? You are eligible after two years of service if no longer on active duty  and six years of service in the National Guard or Reserves.

If you’re a veteran looking to buy or sell in the Bay Area or know somebody who is, please give me a call so we can get the ball rolling on helping you land a rebate and get your VA loan accepted!

Pending: 304 Grapevine Pl. (Pleasant Hill)

A past client just put his home at 304 Grapevine Place in Pleasant Hill on the market. It went pending in 7 days and received four offers all over the asking price.

He only bought 15 months ago, but a career with the Coast Guard has him moving to Seattle and he will still walk away with some money in his pocket, although he is telling me Seattle is as pricey as the East Bay if not more so.

I love helping our military sellers and VA buyers. I specialize in knowing about the VA loan, have worked on a military base in Nuremberg, Germany and have a son who is currently in the Navy (on a nuclear sub, NuPoc graduate). If you know somebody who is eligible for the VA benefits and would like to know more about the home buying process, I would be honored to help them.

You can take a tour of their beautiful home here. If you’d like to know what it takes to get your home sold in 7 days or be next on my list of satisfied customers, please give me a call or visit my website at www.kristinlanham.com.

Rent vs. Buy Calculators

When discussing renting versus buying, it’s helpful to have tools to calculate the differences. Luckily, our friends at JVM Lending have hooked us up. Here is our edited version of their information:

Imagine having a borrower who is paying $1,800 in rent who is very nervous about his or her potential payment increase after purchasing a home. These calculators can show how their “effective payment” will go down when tax savings and appreciation are accounted for.

Now, Trulia and Freddie Mac both offer great “rent vs. buy” calculators that will help with this. Even with modest appreciation (like 3%) and tax rate (28-34%) assumptions, these calculators can clearly show how much better off people are when they buy.

For example, according to our imaginary borrower, the Trulia calculator tells us her net housing costs will actually be 3% lower after she buys a $500,000 home with 20% down. These tools can help potential  buyers get off the fence by showing why it’s a better investment to buy a home and  accurately differentiate between buying and renting.  I like to look at as you are paying yourself, not a landlord.