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.

Image result for real estate agent in snow

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.   

Why borrowers should consider a 30-year mortgage

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending has written an excellent blog about borrowers and their understanding of liquidity, and why borrowers should consider the lower 30-year mortgage payment. Besides the flexibility it offers, it allows a sort of cushion for any borrowers who may find themselves in personal trouble, and is also usually a good long-term investment. Read on below to get the full picture, with two cents from me – can you say liquidity:

 Borrowers often underestimate the importance of liquidity. Especially when times are good. When rates are relatively low (under 8%), we always recommend using financing (obtaining a mortgage) to buy real estate, even if borrowers have ample cash. Similarly, we usually advise borrowers who want lower 15-year rates to take a 30-year mortgage. Even though borrowers can afford the higher 15-year mortgage payment, the lower 30-year mortgage payment offers them more flexibility. There are several reasons why borrowers should value liquidity more:

1. Job Loss, Major Illness, Injury, Legal Troubles, Recessions. People often forget how quickly fortunes can turn (especially those of us in sales), and how important cash is when income dries up. This is particularly the case when the economy turns and financial instruments and hard assets drop in value and become difficult to sell.  An abundance of cash during unexpected hard times often means the difference between bankruptcy and muddling through.

2. Ability to Buy Distressed Assets. When the economy turns and asset prices tank, there are often tremendous bargains to be had for anyone with even a little cash. After the mortgage meltdown, for example, one of our clients purchased eight rental properties for around $100,000 each. He was out of pocket less than $250,000 for all of those purchases, and all of the properties cash-flowed from the start. In addition, they are all worth close to $300,000 now. I watched many other clients do the same thing in the stock market after both the dotcom crash and the 2008 meltdown.

3. Investment Returns Exceed After Tax Cost of Mortgage. This does not apply to everyone of course, but many borrowers can often invest money that they do not put into their home and earn a return that exceeds the cost of their mortgage, especially after tax benefits are taken into account. Example: Borrowers A and B both have $250,000. “A” puts down 50% on a $500,000 house; “B” puts down 20% and invests the $150,000 he saves. In the long run, Borrower B will have a much higher net worth and more liquidity along the way if his investment yield exceeds his rate by 2% or more (not difficult over the long term).


Interesting, right?  I saw this first hand in the down turn, people with cash bought investment properties.  They are usually patient and don’t get caught up in all the hubbub.  Many can’t see past the downturn and believe it will never improve, however we are not building any new land and history shows us that what does down, goes back up.   Remember cash is king, so start saving and get a leg up on the next down turn.

Interest rates: is the latest increase a deal-breaker?

My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending had a fun blog about the 1/4% rate increase recently. He compared it to be equivalent to just less than four lattes per month, to put it into context. You can see the highlights of that blog below, and then our fun take on it!

From Jay: There have been a lot of rumblings in the news lately about rate increases…mostly b/c rates have been increasing :).

The Fed recently announced an increase in the Fed Funds rate with more on the way, and rates have been increasing in general in response to positive economic reports, as most everyone knows. As a result, rates are now back at levels not seen since 2011. The good news is that rates remain very low by historical standards, as we remind everyone over and over (6% was a “gift” in 2006; 7% was awesome in the 1990s; and 9% was unimaginable in the 1980s).

The other good news? Rates affect payments much less than most people think. Here is the rule of thumb: for every 1/4% increase in rates, a mortgage payment increases by about $15 per $100,000. That’s less than four Starbucks Lattes per month. So, in a “Starbuckian economy,” a 1/4% increase in rates will increase the payment on a $500,000 loan by about 20 Lattes per month. That’s not too bad, especially when you consider that those lattes may be tax deductible too.

From Kristin: So, let’s compare a 6-pack of beer, an average cost of which is about $9, to the 1/4% rate increase. You could get almost two 6 packs for that increase. Or maybe a new shirt on sale at Old Navy. A decent bottle of wine at Trader Joe’s will run you about $15. Eating out at many restaurants in downtown Walnut Creek might cost about $15 per person before tip.

So, before you get too worried about the rate increase, consider that what you’re really losing is just a new shirt, or a couple of beers, or one lunch out with friends. Or, god forbid, a handful of lifeblood, I mean lattes, before work! All said, this increase won’t have too much of an effect on your life.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. According to this article, mortgage rates are fast approaching 5 percent, which is a fresh blow to the housing market.

Borrowers beware of Google: JVM Lending

Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending wrote another great blog about Google, and how it can be both a friend and enemy. I have my own story about Google, but I’ll get to that at the end. First, read Jay’s take on why borrowers should beware of Google:

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One of the reasons loan officers and borrowers were able to get away with so much fraud prior to the mortgage meltdown was the lack of public records and information in general. That is no longer the case, and borrowers need to be extra careful nowadays because underwriters Google everything – borrowers, employers, self-employed businesses, and even renters.

We recently had a transaction questioned because the borrowers rented out their $500,000 departing residence to a person who already owned a $1.5 million home. The underwriter Googled the name on the rental contract and rightfully wanted to know why the renter would want to downsize into a rental that was much smaller and in a vastly inferior neighborhood.

We had another situation where the borrower was subject to numerous criminal allegations that will likely prevent him from garnering business for his consulting firm (killing the deal), and this too came up with a Google check because it was all over the news.

Underwriters also Google employers to make sure they exist, no longer exist (if the application says a business with losses is closed down), or that public records match what is stated on the loan application. We have had borrowers, for example, claim to not have ownership interest in a business to avoid providing corporate tax returns, but the internet made it clear that they were owners.

Sometimes borrowers try to fool us, and sometimes they are just not careful enough when filling out their loan applications. Either way, they need to be ultra-careful these days because there really is no getting away with anything. In addition, once an underwriter thinks the borrower might be trying to mislead, she will not want to approve the loan under any circumstances because of the risk.

Kristin’s take: This is a great blog. My own Google story is about sellers who Googled the buyer, and some criminal allegations showed up. We only had one buyer, so we accepted the offer, but we figured out from the internet that he wasn’t the most stand-up individual. Sure enough, we had problems closing. They were contingent on the sale of their condo, and that also did not go smoothly, between the two, we were delayed a month.   In this situation I had no control over the other parties or the process.  In the middle of all this, our buyer went out and bought a vehicle, which changed his debt-to-income ration and had to be paid off with some of the proceeds in addition to a tax lien. It dragged out the process and naturally, the sellers were very frustrated. That was just one of many issues that were not shared with me.   If my clients had another offer I believe after their Google search they would  have never accepted the buyer but they were prepared for a rocky road;  none of us knew how painful it was going to be.

Moral of the story? Always Google, and be prepared to be Googled.

Pre-Qual vs Pre-Approval

People don’t understand how knowing the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval can make a huge difference in an offer being accepted, and how the right choice can make them a stronger buyer. It’s extremely important! Luckily, my friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending broke it down for us:

Image: meyerpottsproperties.com

Panicked Borrower on Verge of Losing Deposit

We had a borrower in contract come to us a few weeks ago in panic mode. The reason? He was on the verge of losing his earnest money deposit b/c his loan had just blown up at America’s largest mortgage lender.

The loan officer had only done a “pre-qualification” and had missed a major issue with the borrower’s commision income. We were able to salvage the deal and still close on time, but the risk to the borrower was enormous.

Pre-Qualification vs. Pre-Approval

Most lenders only “pre-qualify” borrowers. Pre-qualifications consist only of a perfunctory glance at a credit report and a few income documents. Most lenders do not do full pre-approvals b/c they require so much more work.

Why Pre-Approvals?

We do full pre-approvals b/c they are absolutely necessary. Full pre-approvals (1) allow our borrowers to make non-contingent offers; (2) ensure there are no major issues missed; and (3) allow us to close in 14 days b/c we do all the work on the front end.

In other words, full pre-approvals make our clients’ offers far more competitive, and they eliminate stress for everyone – buyers, sellers, Realtors, escrow and us :).

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Image: Masonknowsmortgages.com

Full pre-approvals can take several hours, requiring us to review income, asset, employment and credit documents with a fine-toothed comb. But experience has shown that they are well worth the effort. 

Issues that can be missed with only a “pre-qualification” include the following:

  • missed 2106 expenses; 
  • unexplained and unusable deposits; 
  • side businesses with losses; 
  • K1 and partnership losses;
  • spousal and child support obligations;
  • lack of employment seasoning;
  • lack of bonus seasoning; 
  • lack of commission seasoning; 
  • debts not on credit reports

A major source of our business includes transactions that blow up at other lenders b/c the loan officers only did pre-qualifications. Realtors come to us b/c they know we can make the deals work and also b/c we can usually still close within the remaining contract time.

Top 5 Housing Predictions for 2018

As the first month of the new year closes, we are starting to see the 2018 market take shape, and getting a clear look back at the 2017 year. Last year was a strong one for sellers – interest rates remained low, but are now rising, and refinancing plummeted. So, what’s next for 2018?

Take a look at the summaries of Summit Funding’s Top 5 Housing Predictions for 2018, with commentary from yours truly:

  1. A rise in cash-out refinance

Low-interest rates have fueled buying, kept inventory low, and likely even helped speed up housing recovery in Miami and Houston after their 2017 hurricanes. Interest rates will continue to rise in 2018, but not high enough to deter interested homebuyers. We should, however, keep an eye on a potential rise in cash-out refinance, as Americans’ home equity wealth is at an all-time high. We are also seeing the rise of all-cash purchases, a high rate of home purchase co-borrowers, and increased buying assistance from family. As home prices become even higher — and overvalued, according to CoreLogic — expect to see more parents cash out their home equity to help their adult children begin building their own housing wealth.

  1. Return to services

With higher home prices come great risks and more compromises for homebuyers, who will become ever more reliant on experienced and informed housing professionals to make buying and mortgage decisions. Mortgage rates will continue to become a commodity; homebuyers have access to rates on their devices and know mortgage brokers are quoting from the same rate sheets. As homebuyers evaluate their partners, they should look for realtors and mortgage professionals who offer value that protects the clients’ bottom line. Housing professionals who deliver this will be the ones who can truly stand out and have longevity in this crowded market. A great lender and agent can make all the difference in the world. Be careful you are comparing apples to apples when getting rate quotes, as it can’t be locked in until you get an accepted offer so lenders can you give varying rates as they know they will be different the day you get an offer accepted.

  1. Advancement in housing Fintech

Expect technology to continue to make breakthroughs in housing. The proliferation of information has made everyday consumers more demanding of progress and fairness, which is a good thing. They demand more competition for their business and stronger customer empowerment. New housing financial technology will not just be about faster search results or more photos, it will be expected to serve up more home buyer protection. In 2018, homebuyers will increasingly question why they could sell a home at a loss when realtors still collect their brokerage fees. When they see a pre-closing statement listing fee paid to protect their lenders, they would demand to see the calculation of risks and returns designed to protect their purchase. Getting ahead of these questions and demands will become table stakes in the advancement of housing financial technology.  This may be a ways off.  There is a lot of buyer protection now as a result of the downturn.

  1. Millennials may continue to prolong homeownership

Americans — including millennials — want to own homes; we knew this already. However, millennials may want other things in life more than homeownership, or they don’t want to be “house poor.” Affordability is definitely the top barrier to home buying, no doubt. However, there are increasing indications that millennials are not pulling out all the stops to buy a home even if they could afford one. In ValueInsured’s latest Modern Homebuyer Survey, 36% of millennials who want to buy a home say they are delaying buying in order to keep their options open. Nearly half (47%) of millennials also say they worry their job future is uncertain and want to figure that out first. Instead of paying high home prices, millennials have proven unafraid to give up buying and go back to renting. A generation known for defying conventions and expectations may change the housing market forever in 2018 if they say “enough” to high home prices and decide to do their own thing.

  1. The next Seattle or San Jose

In the future, scorching-hot real estate markets will give rise to more calm and cool emerging markets. Places like Provo, UT, Athens, OH and Aberdeen, SD may be hot spots in 2018. More Americans will telecommute to their jobs or shop from their devices instead of at malls. This is simply a fact of life. So, as real estate prices and commercial rents increase, more Asian fusion restaurants, CrossFit studios and organic micro-breweries will open in previously ‘B’ or ‘C’ designated counties. Once upon a time, Portland, OR and Chattanooga, TN were seen as hidden real estate gems, and now they are cities millennials are leaving behind in search of more affordable homes. Millennials’ tendencies to be nomadic and to reject established institutions (or markets), and their sophistication in forming their own community, could prove to be very interesting in challenging traditional housing cycles and expectations.

Stay tuned for December to see if these things panned out or were just a pie in the sky.

Applying for a Home Loan? See JVM Lending’s “Don’t” List!

Once you’re pre-approved, the last thing you want to do is knock yourself out of qualifying range. My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending is a great source on this issue, as he’s seen hundreds of borrowers in this situation. Now, he sends them a list of “actions to avoid” with every pre-approval letter. Heeding his advice will help you at least prevent delays and extra paperwork. Take a look!

1. Do not make large deposits that can’t be explained. When you are trying to qualify, any large deposit – think $500 for a new mattress, or all-cash payments – must be explained. Otherwise, an entire account can become invalid and unusable for qualifying. Always keep a paper trail to make large deposit explanations easier!

2. Do not take on new debt. If you increase your credit card balances, finance a vehicle, or take on debt in another way, your ratios will be impacted and it will reduce your maximum purchase price.

3. Do not take vacation days if you’re paid hourly. A single day off work can push you out of qualifying range if your debt ratios are high and approaching your limit.

4. Do not spend liquid assets. Pre-approval software relies on specific liquid asset levels. So, pre-approval amounts can change if liquid assets are significantly reduced.

5. Do not miss payments on any debts reporting on a credit report. This one is pretty obvious, and you should avoid missing payments anyway, but missing monthly payments that reduce your credit score may also reduce your qualification amount!

6. Do not co-sign for someone else’s debts. That’s a dangerous maneuver anyway, but even if you’re just a co-signer, the debt will show up on your credit report. That makes you responsible for the debt and the payments.

7. Do not file taxes with a tax liability owing, or with less income than in previous years. This mostly applies to self-employed borrowers (especially during tax season). The most recently filed tax returns will be what the qualifying income is based on, and all tax liabilities must be proven paid. JVM recommends that borrowers file an extension when possible if they are making offers during tax season.

What to know about the new tax bill limits in 2018

The GOP finally pushed through its tax package, and the reaction has been interesting to say the least. While some seem to love it (The Wall Street Journal said the bill is the best thing to ever happen to our economy), many others hate it. Regardless of how you feel about the bill, it is signed in now and it’s time to see how it affects you, as a homeowner, seller or buyer.
My friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending put together a blog detailing some main points about the GOP tax bill and how it may affect real estate. Here are the main thoughts:
1. Current homeowners will be grandfathered in and still allowed to deduct interest against $1 million of mortgage debt. In 2018, buyers will be limited to $750,000 and interest against home equity lines will not be deductible.
2. State and local tax deductions will be capped at $10,000. This will be difficult for people in California.
3. Standard deductions are doubling to $12,000 for single filers and to $24,000 for married filers, so many homeowners won’t have to deduct their interest and property taxes anymore.
4. We have no idea what exactly the bill will do for the market when all is said and done, but for now, we can expect the low-inventory, high-demand market to suffer in high-end areas down the road, while remaining neutral in the short term.
5. To fully understand the bill’s impact on you, see a CPA. Defer your commissions. And if you’re planning an out-of-state move, consider relocating to a low-tax state like Florida, Texas or Nevada.
I’d like to expand on #5 quickly – as Jay mentioned, there will be a new $10,000 cap on tax deductions starting in 2018. If you paid off your property taxes before January, you should be able to save thousands of dollars on that by avoiding the new rule for a year. And if you are planning a move out of the Bay Area to another part of California or another state, you should be consulting a realtor or a CPA to see what kind of savings you can get!

Why it may be a really good time to be a borrower

You may have heard of the wild events at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently. My friend Jay Vorhees of JVM Lending had a few words to say about it on his blog, the main points of which are summarized below:

The departing director of the CFPB, Richard Condray, named his deputy, Leandra English, to be his successor. President Trump named his own acting director, Mick Mulvaney. Both claimed to be head of the CFPB, and English sued to nullify Trump’s appointment, but lost.

So, from a real estate perspective, this is what it means for the industry. The CFPB is extremely powerful and was created by the Dodd-Frank Legislation in 2010. It is funded by the Fed and mostly outside the control of Congress. So, the CFPB is well known for being aggressive in auditing and fining, even when offenses had no effect on borrowers.

On that note, Mulvaney – Trump’s appointment – has been openly anti-CFPB, and will likely try to roll back some of the agency’s enforcement efforts. If this holds true, there are two takeaways, or perspectives:

  1. A strong CFPB is necessary to keep the mortgage industry in check and avoid another meltdown like in 2008. It can be countered by pointing out that there are already other factors in place to prevent those abuses, including scrutiny from agencies such as HUD and state agencies.
  2. Lenders and loan officers spend an inordinate amount of time and money to make sure they never endure a CFPB investigation. These efforts often do little to help consumers, and only increase the overall costs of obtaining financing.

A weaker CFPB could result in more free time for lenders and loan officers, and lower borrowing costs for consumers.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also announced their 2018 loan limits, which went up significantly. The “Low Balance” limit for a one-unit property jumped from $424,100 to $453,100 and the “High Balance” limit increased from $636,150 to $679,650.

These jumps allow more borrowers to take advantage of conforming loan guidelines when buying properties in areas with increasing home prices. Combine this with the CFPB appointment, and we may be looking at an incredibly good time to be a borrower!

Also, note the Fed is most likely going to raise interest rates on the 13th and then again in the first quarter of 2018. The market has already taken it into account, and we might see rates drop slightly after the 13th.

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Are millennials looking for homes or glorified dog houses?

Everyone loves dogs! I love my dog! You love your dogs, too! It seems that millennials especially like their dogs, as a recent Time article explained that “space for a dog” is the third-most common reason cited by millennials for buying a home in today’s market.

What really struck me about the article is this: “space for a dog” is listed ahead of “children” or “marriage” as reasons for purchasing a home. It came in only behind “more living space” and “building equity.”

Now, isn’t that interesting?  We know millennials are getting married later and having fewer children than previous generations, and the housing market has become so expensive across the county that it prices out people who have spent money on marriages and providing for children, but it’s still surprising to see it behind a reason like “space for a dog.”

The rental market prices have also skyrocketed, which makes me think that millennials would rather pay a mortgage in some cases and have their own home with ample room for their four-legged friends, than pay a monthly rent in properties with strict pet policies.

I guess you can always buy a home first, let your dog break it in, and then bring in a partner and children! Whatever works! It’s just funny to see the difference between their generation and mine, and why they pursue home-buying.