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!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Convincing Advantages with Standard Deduction

The new tax law doubles the standard deduction and it is estimated that over 90% of taxpayers will elect to use it. However, even without considering tax benefits, homeownership has convincing advantages.


Besides the personal and social reasons for owning a home, one of the most compelling is that it is cheaper. Principal reduction and appreciation are powerful dynamics that reduce the effective cost of housing.

Amortized loans apply a specific amount of each payment to the principal amount owed to retire the loan over the term. Some people consider it a forced savings account; when the payment is made, the unpaid balance is reduced.

The price of homes going up over time is appreciation. While there are lots of variables and it is not guaranteed, it is easy to research the history of an area and make predictions based on supply and demand.

Interest rates are still low and can be locked-in for 30 years. Without considering the tax benefits at all, the appreciation and the amortization dramatically affect the "real" cost of owning a home.

Consider a $250,000 that appreciates at 2% a year for the next seven years instead of paying $2,000 a month in rent. In the example, the payment is less than the rent being paid even including the property tax and insurance.

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When you factor in the monthly principal reduction and appreciation and consider additional owner expenses like maintenance and possible homeowners association, the net cost of housing is considerably lower than the rent. In this example, reduced cost in the first year alone is more than the down payment required on a FHA loan.

Based on the assumptions stated, the down payment of $8,750 could grow to $73,546 in equity in seven years. Can you name another investment with this kind of potential that also provides you a place to live, enjoy, raise your family and share with your friends?

Use this Rent vs. Own to make projections using your own numbers and price range. We're available to answer any questions you have and to find out what it will take to own your own home.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Ready for Retirement

It can be shocking to hear how many people spend more time planning their vacation or next mobile phone purchase than planning for retirement. It is hard to imagine that they are expecting Social Security will take them through their golden years. A person who has paid in the maximum each year to social security can assume to receive about $30,000 a year.

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Every adult in the work force, should go to SSA.govto find out what they can expect based on their planned retirement age. Since it probably won't be the amount you need to retire comfortably, at least you'll know how much you'll be short so that you can devise an investment plan.

There's an easy rule of thumb used to estimate the investable assets needed by the time they retire to generate a certain income. The target annual income is divided by a safe, conservative yield to determine the investable assets needed.

A person who wants $80,000 annual income generated from a 4% investment would need investable assets of $2,000,000. If a person had $500,000 now, they would need to accumulate $1.5 million more by the time they retire. They would need to save about $100,000 a year to be ready for retirement in 15 years.

If saving that amount does seem possible, an IDEAL alternative could be to invest in rental homes. The familiarity of rental homes like owning a personal residence can reduce some of the risk. Rentals also enjoy other characteristics like income from the operation, depreciation in the form of tax shelter, equity buildup from the amortization of the loan, appreciation and leverage from the borrowed funds controlling a larger asset. 

Some investors explain the strategy by buying good rentals with mortgages and having the tenant to retire the debt for you. Single family homes offer the investor an opportunity to meet their retirement and financial goals with an investment that is easily understood and controlled.

An Retirement Projection calculator can give you an idea of how many rental homes you'll need to supplement your social security and other investments. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Debt Relief May Trigger Tax

The Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act, originally passed in 2007, was extended three times to protect homeowners from paying income tax on debt that was relieved due to foreclosure, short sales or deed in lieu of foreclosure.  

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The law expired on December 31, 2016 and unless it is extended again, homeowners with debt relief in 2017 may be subject to tax.

A homeowner might feel a sense of relief without the obligation of a delinquent mortgage but just because the payments are no longer due doesn't mean that there isn't another obligation that replaces it. If a lender cancels or forgives debt, a taxpayer must include the cancelled amount in their income for tax purposes depending on the circumstances. The tax significance could be serious.

This previously allowed relief only applied to a taxpayers' acquisition indebtedness of their principal residence which did not include second homes and investment property. The maximum amount was limited to $2 million of mortgage debt forgiveness or $1 million if filing separately.

Due to the serious consequences involved in short sales and foreclosures, it is advised that homeowners faced with this possibility should seek expert advice from their legal and tax professionals.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Risk Rate Relationship

Regardless of what a lender quotes on mortgage rates, the actual rate a borrower pays is based on a number of variables. Lenders determine whether to loan money and at what rate based on the risk involved with the transaction.

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Factors that increase the risk that the loan will be repaid will proportionately increase the interest rate charged to the borrower. If the risk becomes too high, the loan will not be approved.

  • Loan amounts – conventional mortgages above conforming limits as set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are considered jumbo loans and generally have a higher interest rate.
  • FICO score – the lowest interest rate is reserved for the highest score; the lower the score, the higher the rate the borrower will pay.
  • Occupancy – borrowers occupying a home as their principal residence are considered a better loan risk than second homes and investment properties.
  • Loan purpose – purchase transactions generally have the lowest interest rate with refinancing for better rates and terms being priced slightly higher. An even higher rate might be charged for refinancing and taking cash out of the property.
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio – a borrower's monthly liabilities divided by their gross monthly income develops a ratio that helps lenders to assess the borrower's ability to repay the mortgage.
  • Property Type – some types of property are considered higher risk than others which could adversely affect the rate. 
  • Loan-to-value – the lower the percentage of the loan to the appraised value of the property will generally lower the interest rate.

Any combination of these factors could limit a borrower's ability to secure a mortgage at the rate initially quoted. Pre-approval by a trusted mortgage professional can be the best way to know what rate you can expect to pay. Please call for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Which Value Do You Want?

What your home is worth depends on why you ask the question. It could be one value based on a purchase or sale and an entirely different value for insurance purposes.


Fair market value is the price a buyer and seller can agree upon assuming both are knowledgeable, willing and unpressured by extraordinary events. This value is generally indicated by a comparable market analysis done by real estate professionals.

Insured value is determined for insurance coverage. Homeowner policies typically have replacement clauses in them and the cost of demolition, new construction and the added complexities of matching existing construction could exceed the cost of new construction.

Investment value is based on the income it can generate during its useful life. This value is dependent on what kind of yield an investor requires to capitalize the value over time. The formula for this is to divide net operating income by the capitalization rate required by the investor.

The assessed value of a home is used to determine the property taxes the owner must pay. This value is determined by the responsible state government agency.

Homeowners are generally more familiar with their home's market value. Since it can be lower than the replacement cost, owners should review the insured value with their property insurance agent periodically. 

There can be a surprising difference in each of these separate values. It is important to know the purpose that it is going to be used for the value.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Assumptions are an Alternative

FHA VA Assumption.pngIn the late 80's, both FHA and VA began requiring buyers to qualify to assume their mortgages. The main reason there haven't been many assumptions in the past 25 years is that interest rates have been steadily going down and if a person has to qualify, they might as well do it on a new loan and get a lower interest rate.

Based on projections by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the MBA and NAR, rates for the second half of 2017 and 2018 are expected to be higher. When interest rates on new mortgages are higher than the rates of assumable FHA and VA mortgages in the recent past, it becomes more advantageous to assume the existing mortgages.

FHA and VA loans originated with lower than current interest rates have great advantages for buyers and sellers.

  1. Interest rate won't change for the qualified buyer
  2. Lower interest rate means lower payments
  3. Lower closing costs than originating a new mortgage
  4. Easier to qualify for an assumption than a new loan
  5. Lower interest rate loans amortize faster than higher ones
  6. Equity grows faster because loan is further along the amortization schedule
  7. Assumable mortgage could make the home more marketable
An Assumption Comparison can help determine the savings and financial benefits of an assumable mortgage with a lower rate.