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.

Navigating the inspection process when buying or selling a home

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, there will almost always be inspections done. Oftentimes, buyers will do roof, home, and pest inspections. Sometimes fireplace, foundation and sewer lateral inspections will be conducted as well.

Cranston, RI, April 17, 2010 -- FEMA inspector Mike Irwin with home owner Jose Henriquez run through his home inspection again to illustrate to the media what a FEMA home inspection looks like and what people can expect when they have their homes inspected. Photo: Michael Rieger/FEMA

Buyers are trying to determine the integrity of the house they want to buy – nobody wants to buy a home only to find out later that they will have to put additional money into it. However, sellers rarely know about these things off the top of their heads.

That is why it’s important, and beneficial to both parties, for inspections to be done. At the very least, a seller should do a pest inspection before going on the market to understand the cost of any issues, rather than deal with negotiating after something is discovered.

Once inspections are done, they become a disclosure. So, if a buyer gets scared off for some reason, the inspections are a disclosure for the next buyers. More than likely, this will incentivize the seller to work with the existing buyer. Occasionally, there are bad inspections with unreasonable pricing and there is no coming to agreement between parties. The seller will usually get another inspection from a more reputable inspector.

The climbing stock market’s effect on housing

Did you know interest rates climbed about 1/4 of a percent in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election? This was the biggest single-day rate increase in three years.

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Despite being told over and over again that a Trump victory would result in lower rates, the opposite has happened. In a recent Forbes column (Dec. 6 issue) Gary Shilling said he thinks the markets have massively overreacted to Trump’s election. He points out that the root causes of weak economic growth (that have kept rates low) will remain. He also says that Trump’s proposed tax cuts and stimulus programs will be watered down by Congress; the expectations of an economic boom are overblown. If he is correct, this means rates may fall again.

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This now begs the point: nobody can predict anything in this market. So, if you have been thinking about buying or selling, is it time to get off the fence? Rates are still historically low, but for every 1/2 percent increase in rate on a $500,000 loan, the payment increases about $140 to $150 (and even less after “tax benefits”). Should buyers and borrowers wait to see if rates fall before moving forward with transactions? Absolutely not. Borrowers can easily take advantage of no-cost refi’s if rates fall.

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If you do decide to buy or sell, give me a call, I would love to help you navigate the process!

December/January housing market is stronger than you think

December and January are usually busy months with holidays, vacations and school breaks. But, contrary to popular belief, that does not mean the housing market slows down. On the contrary, actually!

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Based on 2015 numbers, listing your home in December and January actually give you a benefit. You can garner multiple offers and close above list price. In Spring, you get the price increase but also more houses listed, which lead to many more choices for buyers, making multiple offers rarer (or, you’ll get fewer offers at least, like 3 vs. 8 in Dec./Jan.).

If you’d like to take advantage of this market in December and January, reach out to me. I’d love to help you navigate the holiday season weather you are selling or buying a home or just consult with you on the best overall strategy for you!

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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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!