Congrats to two happy clients!

I want to offer my sincerest congratulations to Amanda and Siubhan on their recent closings!

Amanda, a past client of mine, decided she wanted to pursue her dream of having land, horses, chickens and a big garden. When a piece of land became available in Vacaville, she decided to make an offer and it was accepted! We then rushed to get her Concord home ready over the Thanksgiving holiday and were in contract by December 9th. Whew!

Siubhan is another past client who had bought a condo in Antioch four years ago, but had not been living in it for the last year or so and could not rent it out due to rental restrictions. She felt now was the right time to sell. Twelve offers and $26,000 over asking price later, Siubhan is excited to take a trip back to Scotland to visit family.

I would love to know your story and help you accomplish your dreams, reach out to me or visit my website: www.kristinlanham.com.

Tips for preparing to buy a home

It takes a lot of preparation to buy a home. I know, I know, thank you Captain Obvious, right? But if you’re going to be searching for a home in 2017, I want you to be ready for what is headed your way!

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From our friends at Bank of the West, here is a list of great tips for preparing yourself to buy a home. See my summary below:

1. Fix Your Credit

Your credit is one of the first things a lender will look at when approving you for a mortgage loan. You can get a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion at annualcreditreport.com. Make sure to check for mistakes and file a dispute with the business in question, as well as the credit agency, if you find any inaccuracies. They must investigate within 30-45 days.

2. Maintain Your Credit Score

Your FICO score is the most common number used by mortgage lenders to rate your creditworthiness. You can get your credit report with a FICO score for free, or for a small fee. Anything above a 740 FICO score will help you secure better interest rates. If your score is lower, you may still qualify for a mortgage, just with a higher interest rate attached. Your first instinct may be to find ways to boost that credit score. Here are two things NOT to do:

– Don’t close lines of credit – it may indicate credit risk and actually hurt your score

– Don’t open new lines of credit – the uncertainty of your spending habits with a new card might indicate risk and cause your score to tick up

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3. Get a Big Down Payment

You’ll get a better interest rate on a mortgage if you have a larger down payment because lenders will think you’re less likely to default on your loan. Aim for a down payment of at least 20 percent of the selling price. This will also protect you from paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects lenders if you default on a loan.

4. Get Pre-Approved

Meet with a mortgage specialist before you start shopping. They can help you determine an accurate budget and decide what kind of home you can realistically afford. Get a pre-approval letter and add it to a good credit report, income verification and a maximum allowable loan, and home sellers will take you most seriously among the suitors.

5. Keep Track of Your Money

You’ll have lots of documents, bank statements, etc. during the pre-approval and underwriting processes. These will be examined closely to verify income and expenses. If your records show unusual activity, you’ll be asked to explain it and you’ll have to jump that hurdle before continuing the approval process.

If you need a recommendation for outstanding mortgage brokers.  I have a few that I highly regard.

 

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.

Why your credit score is important to your home purchase

Did you know your credit score can affect your home purchase? In Keith Loria’s BHG story recently, he discussed this idea.

credit score 2As he points out, “having a good credit score can be the difference between obtaining the mortgage you need to buy your dream home—or settling for less because you didn’t qualify for the money you need.”

This is important as many buyers don’t consider their credit score until they’re already involved in the process. At that point, it’s usually too late to fix anything that might be wrong with your score. So think ahead and monitor your credit score!

Don’t like your credit score?   Paying off debts is the fastest way to up your score, but if you are in the process of applying for a loan, check with the lender first. Missing deadlines on your credit payments are huge hits to your credit score!

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Image by www.CafeCredit.com: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cafecredit/27321078025/

I also spoke with my local lender, Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending, about this, and he gave me a few benefits to having a high credit score :

  1. Borrowers with higher credit scores usually get lower interest rates (especially when loan-to-value ratios are higher)
  2. Borrowers are allowed to make smaller down payments, if necessary
  3. Underwriting requirements become less onerous because there are fewer conditions and requirements
  4. Second mortgage financing is easier to obtain, if necessary

If you have any questions about credit scores, purchasing a home, or the market in general, please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to help or guide you to the right person!

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.”