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.

 

Supplemental property taxes can confuse a buyer

Have you recently purchased a home and been thrown off by getting bills about “supplemental property taxes?” Our friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending breaks it down for you:

Supplemental property taxes often create significant confusion for new homebuyers. When someone purchases a property in California, the County Assessor is required to immediately re-asses the property for property tax purposes. This re-assessment usually correlates to the purchase price and can take up to six months to complete.

JVM Supplemental property taxes

When a home is purchased, property taxes are usually based on the property tax bill of the current owner or seller. But usually, their property tax bill correlates to the price the seller paid for the property – often much less than the buyer is paying. Then, buyers mistakenly believe the property tax payment estimate when they purchase is an accurate reflection of their actual property tax. Usually, that’s false.

Anywhere from three months and beyond, buyers should expect a “supplemental tax bill” from the County Assessor. Even if a buyer has an escrow or impound account, they have to pay for the supplemental taxes, which can be sizable. As soon as a supplemental bill is received, a buyer should contact their loan servicer.

Also, when new buyers refinance into a new loan less than a year after a purchase, supplemental tax bills can cause confusion. Even if a borrower is refinancing into a lower rate, the housing payment can appear to increase. This is because lenders are basing the new housing payment on the new property tax liability, while borrowers are still basing their housing payment on the seller’s property tax liability, which is too low.

East Bay housing market is shifting

housing-marketLately, we’ve started to see a “shift” in the Walnut Creek-area housing market. Price appreciation growth has slowed and we are now seeing more price reductions. Home price appreciation has generally declined to single-digit annual appreciation with estimates in the next year of 3-5 percent.

In the 24/680 corridor, homes are sitting on the market longer than they did in the Spring (20-26 days, as compared to 15-20 days). I am receiving 1-3 offers  with a final sales price of 4 percent over the asking price on most of my listings.

The Federal Reserve Bank will not increase interest rates this month. Currently, the best mortgage interest rate for a 30-year fixed rate is approximately 3.5 percent. In the big picture, global growth concerns remain the driving force behind the long-term trend toward lower rates.

Kitty Cole, who coaches many Bay Area agents, has noticed two distinct Bay Area markets. Many of them are side by side. Check out her insights:

Some of the market (still a seller’s market) is hot, with low DOM’s, high Sales Price to List Price ratios, low inventory, no contingencies, multiple offers and buyers aplenty. This market is going on in Oakland, Berkeley and surrounding cities.

It looks similar to the last 4 1/2 years. The only thing that is quite different is the number of offers that was 10-25 a few months ago, and is now 2-6 (and occasionally higher). This market requires savvy pricing and negotiating to get your seller the highest price. san-francisco

The other part of the market (a buyer’s market) has slowed with these factors in place: price reductions (up to 10 percent, and sometimes two before it brings an offer), contingent offers (contingent upon the sale of another property), high DOM’s, few offers (sometimes only one!), expired listings, cranky sellers and demanding buyers (because they can be!).

In the city, one client whose specialty is high-rise condos, literally slowed overnight and now the DOM’s for her listings are more than 30 days. Another San Francisco agent has had three listings expire in the past three months. One agent in the East Bay (Pleasant Hill) is stymied by her listings that sold within seven days and are now sitting for weeks. Many newer agents are not prepared to have the “I need a price adjustment to sell your property” conversation.  In three months, it will be different … how, I don’t know, wished I had that elusive crystal ball.

Why Are the Interest Rates So Low?

buy a houseThere have been a lot of articles about interest rates and the stock market recently. First, the German 10-Year Government Bond Yield has hit negative territory. In layman’s terms, this means that Germany gets paid interest to borrow investors’ money, the same thing is happening in Japan. Thus, Germany and Japan are getting paid to borrow money.
On the surface, this seems silly. Why would investors take a negative yield or pay somebody to borrow their money? Because it’s safe. Investors will put money wherever they can in order to ensure they can safely recoup it in the future.
How does this help the real estate market? First, the demand for bonds keeps rates very low, making real estate leverage much cheaper (The Brexit will also have an impact, which will be a different post). When investors have a lot of cash and are looking to put it somewhere, real estate investing becomes a good place to do so.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the number of homes that went under contract to be sold in April was the highest in more than a decade. It was also the strongest month in more than eight years for new home sales – with a 16.6% jump from the previous month. We do tend to see a bit of a lull in the summer as families head off for vacation.
If you are a buyer, it might be a great time to jump into the real estate market! Give me a call if you would like some help.

Home Buying 101: Having a Good Lender in Your Pocket

4439276478_109791356b_o (1)When you’re in the market for a new home, having a good lender is essential. In a seller’s market or at entry-level price points, where many first-time home buyers are also submitting offers, the information in this blog becomes even more critical.

I like to have a buyer’s lender call and speak to the listing agent when I submit an offer. I want to know what their qualifications are, and more importantly, the lender’s ability to close in the time stated on the residential purchase agreement. This is where a local lender becomes very important; it is unlikely if you go with an out-of-state lender or one where you have to speak to somebody different each time, that they’d be willing or able to make that call to the listing agent.

However, if the listing agent has worked with the lender before (odds increase if they are local) and had a good experience, the buyer is one step closer to getting their offer accepted over others. Simply put, people like to work with people they know they can trust.

Another question to ask your lender is if you’ll be completely underwritten with a complete file in hand. This prevents surprises. If you walk into a bank and give them the basics, oftentimes they will give you a pre-approval for a certain amount, or for the amount you stated you would like to have (provided you qualify).new home 2

This is fraught with land mines – once you are in contract, that lender is now asking for additional paperwork and, surprise! Something comes up under Freddie and Fannie guidelines that won’t allow you to get the loan for that amount, or at all. This is not a happy situation for anyone involved, so it is also helpful if the underwriter is somewhat local and they work closely with the lender on a daily basis. Communication is key!

One of the many benefits of working with a mortgage broker is the appraisal managment company most likely has better quality appraisers, who know the neighborhood they appraise in. They can’t select who will appraise the property, but they can choose who is or isn’t in the group.
Finally, if you are shopping a loan, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. If you get a quote for a condo, make sure the other company is also quoting a condo and not a townhome. I know some great lenders – contact me if you would like their names and numbers.