Monday, September 17, 2018

Consumer Protection from Irresponsible Mortgage Practices


Congress enacted the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010 in response to the mortgage crisis that led to America's Great Recession.  The two parts that apply closely to homebuyers are the Ability-to-Repay (ATR) and Qualified Mortgages (QM).

A Qualified Mortgage is a category of loans that have certain, more stable features that help make it more likely that borrowers will be able to afford their loan.  These loans do not allow certain risky features like an interest-only period when no money is applied to reduce the principal; negative amortization that would allow the mortgage balance to increase; and, "balloon payments" at the end of the loan that are larger than the normal periodic payments.

A debt-to-income ratio of less than or equal to 43% has been established to provide a limit on how much of a borrower's income can go toward total debt including the mortgage and all other monthly debt payments.  However, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau believes these loans should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and in some cases, can exceed 43%.

There is a limit for up-front points and fees the lender can charge.

By showing that the lender made an effort to be certain that the borrower has the ability to repay the loan, the lender in turn, receives certain legal protections.  Underwriting factors considered by the lender include:

  1. current or reasonably expected income or assets 
  2. current employment status
  3. the monthly payment on the covered transaction 
  4. the monthly payment on any simultaneous loan 
  5. the monthly payment for mortgage-related obligations
  6. current debt obligations, alimony, and child support
  7. the monthly debt-to-income ratio or residual income 
  8. credit history

For more information, see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fact sheet ... protecting consumers from irresponsible mortgage lending.





    
    
    

    


Monday, September 3, 2018

Act Decisively

Whether it is hesitation or procrastination due to uncertainty, it can cost buyers by having to pay more for both the house and the financing.  This is one of those markets where most of the experts expect interest rates and prices will continue to rise through 2019.

The National Association of REALTORS? reports there is currently a 4.2-month supply of homes for sale which is close to the same as last year's inventory.  Normal inventory is considered to be a 6-month supply.

If during the period you're waiting to buy, the price of the home goes up by 5% and the mortgage rate increases by 1%, the payment on a $275,000 home with a 95% mortgage could be $233.80 more each and every month.  Over a seven-year period, the delay to purchase would total close to $20,000.

To act decisively, you need good information; a confused mind will not generally make a decision.  In today's market, you need to know exactly what price home you can qualify for and you need to know what kind of home you can expect for that price.  

You'll want a housing and a mortgage professional you can trust to give you the information you need to make good decisions for yourself and your family.  We'd like to be your real estate professional and can recommend a trusted mortgage professional.

To get a better idea about what it may cost you for a home in your price range, use the Cost of Waiting to Buycalculator.  If you have any questions, call me at (785) 650-4370.




    
    
    

    


Monday, August 20, 2018

Moisture & Mold


Moisture is mold's best friend and it thrives between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit which is why it is commonly found in homes.  Mold spores float in the air and can grow on virtually any substance with moisture including tile, wood, drywall, paper, carpet, and food.

Moisture control and eliminating water problems are key to preventing mold. Common sources of moisture can be roof leaks, indoor plumbing leaks, outdoor drainage problems, damp basements or crawl spaces, steam from bathrooms or kitchen, condensation on cool surfaces, humidifiers, wet clothes drying inside, or improper ventilation of heating and cooking appliances. 

  • Control the moisture problem
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces using soap and water or other cleanser; dry completely
  • Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces
  • Discard porous materials with extensive mold growth
  • Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold
  • Periodically, inspect the area for signs of moisture and new mold growth

The EPA suggests that if the moldy area is less than ten square feet, you can probably handle the cleanup yourself.  If the affected area is larger than that, find a contractor or professional service provider.  

Increasing ventilation in a bathroom by running a fan for at least 30 minutes or opening a window can help remove moisture and control mold growth.  After showering, squeegee the walls and doors. Wipe wet areas with dry towels.  Cleaning more frequently will also prevent mold from recurring or keep it to a minimum.

A simple solution to clean most mold is a 1:8 bleach/water mixture.  Since homes have thermostatically controlled temperatures and water is used all day long in the kitchen and bathrooms, the environment is conducive to mold.  

See Ten things you should know about mold written by the EPA.



    
    
    

    


Monday, August 13, 2018

What to Avoid Before Closing Your New Home


It's understandable; you're excited; you've found the right home, negotiated a contract, made a loan application and inspections.  Closing is not that far away, and you are making plans to move and put personal touches on your new home.

Even if you have an initial approval on your mortgage, little things can derail the process which isn't over until the papers are signed at settlement and funds distributed to the seller.  The verifications are usually done again just prior to the closing to determine if there have been any material changes to the borrower's credit or income that might disqualify them.

Most lending and real estate professionals recommend NOT to:

  • Make any new major purchases that could affect your debt-to-income ratio
  • Buy things for your new home until after you close
  • Apply, co-sign or add any new credit
  • Close or consolidate credit card accounts without advice from your lender
  • Quit your job or change jobs
  • Change banks
  • Talk to the seller without your agent

Your real estate professional and lender are working together to get you into your new home.  It's understandable to be excited and feel you need to be getting ready for the move.

Planning is fine but don't do anything that would affect your credit or income while you're waiting to sign the final papers at settlement.




    
    
    

    


Monday, July 2, 2018

Don't Let a Killer In

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer you don't want in your home but because it is colorless and odorless; you may not even be aware the deadly condition exists. The Center for Disease Control says more than 400 people in the U.S. die annually from carbon monoxide poisoning and over 10,000 require medical treatment each year.

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Unmaintained furnaces, water heaters and appliances can produce the deadly gas. In addition, other sources could be leaking chimneys, unvented kerosene or gas space heaters or exhaust from cars or trucks operating in an attached garage.

The Environmental Protection Agency suggests the following to reduce exposure in the home:

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted
  • Install and use an exhaust fan vented to the outdoors over gas stoves
  • Open flues when fireplaces are in use
  • Do not idle car inside garage
  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up central heating systems annually

Headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and feelings of weakness or fatigue are a few of the most common symptoms. Lower levels of exposure to carbon monoxide may be mistaken for the flu.

Carbon monoxide alarms should be on every level of a home and especially, in sleeping areas. The alarms can be purchased for as little as $25 and plugged into the wall like a night light.

Regardless of the government requirements, no one would want to put their family, guests or themselves at risk for something so deadly. 





    
    
    

    


Monday, March 19, 2018

Don’t be confused when buying!!


Buying a house is a confusing process. Not only is there a lot of material to process, you really have to do a lot of introspection to find the house that's right for you and your family. It's about more than just ceiling treatments and square footage, there's something else, too.

Irish poet Thomas Moore may have captured that little bit of something else best when he penned these lines:

Sometimes, the spirit of a place is so strong, you may think you see its face and glimpse it gamboling over a field or peeking out of a forest. This spirit we sense in each locality would once have been described as the scintilla or spark of its soul, the pearl in the oyster. It accounts for the magic of a region, and, without it, an acute sense of place dissipates into a vague and lazy feeling of nowhere.

Maybe you've not started your home search yet, so you've yet to experience this strange phenomenon, or maybe you've just seen a few homes and they just didn't strike you. Either way, it's important to take stock of what it is that really moves you so that you can narrow your list of prospective homes and get the perfect fit sooner rather than later.

Home Is Where the Investment Is?

Home buyers should never think of their primary home as an investment first, but you should keep in mind that you might need to sell one day. Because of that, you need to think a little bit like an investor and a little bit like a love-struck teenager. It's ok to be both. Before you step foot into a single house, figure out where you need to buy.

If you live in a large metro area, this may mean narrowing to within a few suburbs or choosing some urban neighborhoods that you really feel drawn to (and are holding their value). Some people go one step further and narrow by schools, especially if they have children. Even people without kids can benefit from the extra value good schools bring to the immediate neighborhoods surrounding them, though.

Now that you've narrowed the initial list, you can create a checklist to help you decide what it is that you want in a house so you don't waste time with homes where you'll never feel the spirit of the place.

Your Home Buying Scorecard

This exercise is meant to help focus your home search, but you should also realize that it's highly unlikely you'll be able to get everything you want out of one house without an incredible budget or very low standards. To the scorecard!

When shopping for a home, it's useful to start your search online for houses in your price range to see what sort of features they usually have. For example, if a $250k house in your area tends to have a fireplace or a ceiling treatment or a two car garage, you know you can reasonably expect that. You'll probably also realize about 20 houses in that your expectation of acreage or a private movie theater is a little out of reach.

Grab your tablet or a piece of paper (if you're into that sort of thing) and draw four columns. Label them like this: Definitely Need, Want, Can Live Without and Definitely Don't Want. If you have a spouse or other person you're buying with, make sure they make their own scorecard — no sharing answers, please.

Now for the really hard part. You need to fill those columns in.

This isn't an exercise that you should finish in five minutes or ten minutes. You should spend a good week or two really working on it. Think deeply and about the long term. A few questions you may want to ask yourself include:

* Do I intend to age in place? In this case, you might want to put stairs in your "don't want" column, since it can be difficult to navigate them as you age.
* Am I planning to start a family? You'll want a bigger house, make sure there are enough bedrooms for all your future kids.
* Is there a style of house I'm attracted to?Open floor plans are big right now, but they're not for everybody. If you hate them, write it down!
* Would I use a fireplace if I had one?Fireplaces can be nice, but they can also be huge pains to maintain and keep safe. If you won't be using it, you might as well not pay extra for a house that features one.
* Do I plan to have pets? Hard surfaces are a must for pet owners. Carpet is cleanable, but it will never hold up like a tile, hardwood or laminate floor when pets are involved.
* How close can I tolerate my neighbors?For many people, it's no big deal to be piled on top of the next house, but for others it gets downright uncomfortable. If you need room to roam, a cul-de-sac lot or other irregularly shaped lot may give you some elbow room without the added expense and upkeep of buying an acreage.

As you start to take inventory of your actual wants and needs, you'll also be eliminating huge swaths of houses in single blows. This makes your home search a lot easier, believe it or not. Don't narrow so much that only that house at 123 Marigold Lane will do, but do spend some time really thinking about your perfect home.

When your scorecard feels pretty complete, make sure to compare notes with your spouse (wait until they're done, of course). You may have some compromising to do, especially if you're dead set on a house with a pool and they want a small yard with nothing in it. With all of the details decided, you can finally call your Realtor and declare that you know what you want! They'll appreciate the effort you've taken to doing the homework ahead of time.

Your Next Stop: Home Inspections and Home Repairs

Once you have that one house chosen, the one where you feel the spirit of the place tugging at your sleeve, you'll need a good home inspector and someone to make whatever minor repairs they recommend. No worries, just pop into the HomeKeepr community and check out the home pros that your Realtor has already recommended. You know they've got to be good, otherwise your agent wouldn't have put their own reputation on the line!