Questions to Ask When Buying New Construction

builder-confidence-is-upBuying a new home is exciting. Buying a brand new home can be even more so with the realization of being the first owner and possibly being able to choose your own layout and finishes.

The prospect of owning new construction is definitely exciting, but it doesn’t come without its own set of questions. If you’re in the market for a new home, and considering new construction, make note of the questions below when you begin your property search.

What are the long term plans for the community?

Unless you’re looking at custom homes on acreage, it’s likely new construction in your area will be located in a new development or in a master planned community. With this in mind, feel free to ask about the plans for the community. If it’s a large area, find out if any subdivisions are planned.

If there are only a few houses built so far, it’s likely to mean lots of construction in the months to come – which means a lot of noise and construction traffic. Also ask about the builder – if they’re well known and respected, it’s unlikely they’ll lose funding and the community will likely continue on as planned.

What are the homeowners association’s rules and regulations?

Many new developments and master planned communities come with a set of rules and regulations set by a homeowners association. If you’ve never lived in a community with a HOA, it’s important to find out the rules before investing in it. The bylaws and the CC&Rs will let you know what is and isn’t allowed in the community (especially when it comes to the exterior of your home).

You’ll also want to find out when the HOA fee begins – in some communities, it can start before the home is even finished.

Do you offer any buyer or financial incentives?

If the community or development is still in the early stages, there might be incentives (like a buyer discount, builder upgrades or other financial incentives or freebies) for buyers. Sometimes these offers come with a catch – where something is expected from the buyer in return for the incentive – but it’s important to ask about any offers that may be available, especially if the community is still up and coming.

Do you provide warranties?

New homes often come with different warranties. Ask if a workmanship and structural warranty come with the home. A workmanship warranty (or builder’s warranty) is a warranty for newly constructed homes that offer limited coverage on workmanship and components of the home like windows, siding, roofs, doors, plumbing, electrical and HVAC.

Traditionally, a workmanship warranty will cover a one or two year period; another likely warranty is a structural warranty, which covers the structure of a home. If a warranty is provided, make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t covered and how much you’re responsible for in case of any issues.

Can you connect me with some current homeowners?

Just as you would check reviews before buying an item online or booking a service, the same can be said for a home builder. Just because the product that’s being offered is a shiny new home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence and check references before making a large investment.

While it’s likely that the builder will provide glowing reviews, checking reference and review websites and even knocking on the doors of current homeowners will provide additional information and give you a wider understanding of the builder and its practices. Talking to current homeowners will provide information about the actual community.

New construction is exciting, but you want to make sure you have all pertinent information before you go through with a home purchase.

Contact your trusted home loan professional to get your pre-approval started today.

Fix and Flip: Forget What You See on Television

home-prices-slightly-down-trendThe drama of home and garden TV shows may be fun to watch, but no matter what you think, reality shows are not at all like real life. If you think it’s easy to buy a house that needs updating and turn it quickly for substantial profit, you might want to think again.

That doesn’t necessarily mean, though, that you should shy away from the idea of buying a “fixer-upper” — just that you should approach such a home purchase with eyes wide open.

Here are some valuable tips:

Buying a house that needs cosmetic updates can make financial sense, particularly if you’re handy with a paintbrush, or don’t mind tackling DIY projects in your spare time. The willingness to make a house your home through ongoing TLC can be rewarding in terms of both dollars and good sense, if the structure is sound and all systems are in working condition.

Modern appliances, updated lighting and water-saving plumbing fixtures and faucets — even new carpeting and tile — are all items that can be replaced over time as your budget allows. But if the existing home systems aren’t in working order, you may be in for big surprises that can be hard to handle.

Buy a house that needs a new roof, major structural work, new HVAC or major kitchen renovation only if you can roll the work into a home improvement loan and, preferably, complete the rehab before you move in. If a house isn’t habitable, it’s really not a bargain!

Always pay for a home inspection prior to making an offer. While an independent inspection is not a guarantee that all systems are “go,” it should allow you to plan the next move. The best strategy might be to walk away and look for another well-priced property.

Remember that homes are priced under market for a reason. Sometimes the reason has nothing to do with physical problems and everything to do with the seller. Older homes in stable neighborhoods often represent great deals for sellers and buyers alike!

The best way to find a great deal, though, is to work with a professional realtor who is familiar not only with the local market, but who can advise you about real estate trends, financing options and the best ways to realize an appropriate return on your investment.

If you have dreams of becoming the next HGTV phenomenon, take the words of Chip and Joanna to heart: Their book confirms that they worked long hours, faced plenty of discouragement and experienced a fair amount of luck. In fact, as they note, their “overnight success” took many years!

After all, owning your own home, even if it does require some fixing, is still the American Dream!

Unless you are fortunate enough to have cash on hand, one of the most crucial steps before realizing most real estate dreams is to get pre-approved for mortgage financing. Contact your trusted mortgage professional to find out how much of a dream property you can be ready to invest in!

Buying A Foreclosure: 5 Things To Know

case-shiller-home-price-indexBuying a property out of foreclosure can be a very smart move, financially. But it can also be complicated, expensive, and stressful.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind before you take a first step in that direction:

Cash Or Preapproval Required

Buying a house that has been returned to the lender through foreclosure means dealing with bureaucracy rather than with a motivated seller. Large lenders are notorious for taking their time to approve a contract, even if the offer is for the exact amount specified.

Then there’s the paperwork, which can seem endless. Most lenders require that prospective buyers have cash on hand, or a pre-authorized loan in place in order to even submit an offer.

There’s Little Room For Negotiation

Although in certain circumstances there may be an opportunity for some discussion about the price, that is not the norm in a foreclosure. The minimum price is usually written in stone, even during an on-site property auction, and the only direction is up! The days of buying foreclosures for a song are long past, if indeed they ever really existed.

As-Is Condition Means Just That

Some buyers specialize in foreclosures while other investors run the other direction. There are pros and cons, of course, to every transaction. Sage advice is to always pay the fee for a property inspection on a foreclosed property, even if you have experience. A third-party evaluation is especially valuable if the home has been vacant for an extended period of time, if the utilities have been turned off, or if there are extensive visible defects.

Foreclosures can be like icebergs: What you see may be nothing compared to what lies below the surface. Also, with the findings in writing, always confirm that your loan commitment and insurance quotes will be honored in spite of the existing condition.

The Need For An Experienced REALTOR

Navigating the landscape of property foreclosures is a specialty field, and caution is the name of the game. As a prospective buyer of a pre-foreclosure, a short-sale or a foreclosed home, an experienced REALTOR is your best resource. A real estate professional will help you deal with all timelines and requirements, and has the knowledge and expertise to recommend lenders, inspectors, insurance agents and contractors to help you make a decision.

Always Consider Future Value

Although the initial price might be right, there are additional variables at play in every real estate transaction. What can you expect in terms of appreciation over the short term? What is the long-term outlook for the neighborhood? Will needed repairs and improvements add to the home’s value, or simply bring its condition up to standard? Do you plan to live in the home, or is it strictly for resale?

Contact your trusted mortgage professional to get your pre-approval today!

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 18th, 2018

50-year-mortgage-optionsLast week’s economic reports included the post-meeting statement by the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee along with readings on retail sales and inflation. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

Fed Raises Key Interest Rate on Strong Economic Indicators

The post-meeting announcement by the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve indicated that committee members voted to raise the target federal funds rate to 0.175 to 2.00 percent from the prior rate of 1.50 to 1.75 percent.

The post-meeting announcement cited strong economic conditions and stated that FOMC had altered their outlook from three rate increases in 2018 to four increases. This news is significant to consumers as banks and credit card companies typically raise lending rates in response to Federal Reserve actions.

Committee members were closely divided on interest rate forecasts for 2018. Eight members said that the Fed rate would likely increase four times in 2018 while seven members said three rate increases would be appropriate. The post-meeting statement also cited concerns over inflation and Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that raising interest rates too fast could increase the risk of recession.

Consumer Price Index, Retail Sales Rise in May

The Consumer Price Index rose from 0.10 percent in April to 0.20 percent in May according to the Commerce Department. The Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and fuel sectors, was unchanged at 0.20 percent against expectations of 0.20 percent growth and 0.20 percent in April.

Retail sales rose 0.80 percent in May as compared to expectations of 0.40 percent growth and April’s growth rate of 0.40 percent. Retail sales excluding the automotive sector rose 0.90 percent in May; analysts expected a reading of 0.50 percent based on April’s reading of 0.40 percent growth.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged eight basis points higher at 4.60 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose six basis points to 4.07 percent.

Rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage were nine basis points higher at 3.83 percent on average. Freddie Mac analysts said that demand for homes is holding steady despite higher mortgage rates.

First-time jobless claims fell by 4,000 new claims to 218,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected 225,000 new claims to be filed based on the prior week’s reading of 222,000 new jobless claims filed.

What‘s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include NAHB Housing Market Indices, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued and National Association of Realtors® reports on sales of previously-owned homes. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Long-Distance House Hunting Tips

consumer1It pays to start with a solid strategy when you have to house hunt from afar.

Hunting for a house is stressful enough even if you are moving to another part of town. However, when you are searching for a house from afar, it can make the task of finding the right home for your needs seem almost impossible.

Fortunately, in today’s high-tech world, you have an array of tools available right at your fingertips that can make it easy to find the perfect house for your needs. So, even if you are looking for a home thousands of miles away, you can do so quickly and with minimal fuss.

Partner With The Right Real Estate Agent

The first thing that you should do when looking for a house in an area that you are unfamiliar with is to find a local agent. Find someone who has the expertise of the local market and buying process. The information that you garner from choosing a local agent can be invaluable. They know the market intimately.

Additionally, a local agent knows the community as they likely live there as well. They know which schools and neighborhoods are best. They can get to know what you are looking for in an area and help you find the right community for your particular needs. They might also have information on local gems that are not yet showing up on online listings.

Do Your Research

After you find a home or two that you are interested in, thoroughly research the area. Search for information about local schools, churches, shopping centers and more. You want to make sure that the neighborhood will meet your needs. Research crime rates in the area.

Also, determine how long your commute from work to home will be each day. Even if you don’t have children, research local school rankings. The rating and quality of local schools is paramount when it comes to the resale value of your home.

Visit In Person

There is just no amount of research that can substitute for an in-person visit to a potential home. If you are planning to hunt for a house from a distance, be prepared for the travel. Make sure that you have the money and time to visit. It is best to prepare for longer house-hunting trips so that you can take your time when walking through each showing.

Also, make it a point to pay a visit to local restaurants, parks, and businesses to get a feel for the local community.

Whether you are buying local or at a distance, one of the most important things to do first is to get a pre-approval in order. Contact your trusted mortgage professional today to get the ball rolling.

What To Know When Looking At Active Adult Communities

understanding-reverse-mortgagesFor many Americans, retirement age is fast approaching or already here: Baby Boomers account for nearly 75 million individuals in the United States.

Retirement can present a lot of opportunities, especially when it comes to relaxation, activities, and the enjoyment of life with those of a similar age. More and more Americans are looking to 55+ communities to fulfill those wants and needs.

Active Adult Communities

55+ communities, also known as an active adult or age-restricted communities, are becoming increasingly popular throughout the U.S. because of what they offer and can provide. Traditionally thought to be only in warmer climates, active adult communities can be found in almost every state, and with more people retiring, new communities are being added every year.

Just like buying in a regular neighborhood or a master-planned community, there are a number of things to know or understand when it comes to investing in an active adult community and lifestyle. If you’re considering selling your current home and relocating to a 55+ community, here are some important things to consider before the big move.

Location

Location is an important consideration. Active adult communities can be found all throughout the U.S. While Florida and Arizona are known for their 55+ communities, it’s very likely there’s a community close to where you currently live.

Location is more than just where the community is located – location includes the proximity to towns or cities. Some may want a community that is cut off from large cities; others may want to be close to large metropolitan areas for what they can offer.

Location also includes things like local taxes – some states are much friendlier to retirees than others when it comes to taxes.

It’s also important to note the community’s location relative to an international airport if you plan on traveling a lot, medical centers, and other amenities that may be frequented daily or weekly.

Size

The size of the community is an important part of the community experience for residents. Communities will range in size, from just a couple hundred residents to thousands. The larger the community, the more residents.

Larger communities may offer more activities and amenities while smaller ones may be able to offer more comfort and relaxation with the reduced number of residents. If you’re interested in maintaining an active lifestyle and making friends, a larger community may be a better choice than a smaller one.

It’s also important to note that a larger community may offer more deals or incentives to those looking to buy within the community.

Amenities

Amenities are incredibly important when considering buying a home in an active adult community. A larger community will likely have a number of amenities and events while a smaller community may be limited in terms of what it can provide to homeowners.

When looking at communities, ask about the amenities provided within the community: is there a golf course, tennis courts, clubhouse, rec center, or arts and crafts studio?

Are there any clubs, group activities, or social events?

Does the community provide ample amenities to maintain an active lifestyle?

It is important to ask whether a membership is required to partake in any activities (especially with things like golf, tennis or the use of a clubhouse or rec center). If so, a membership structure within the community may add extra costs to the community.

HOA

Homeowners Associations have become increasingly popular within planned communities, and 55+ communities are no different. An HOA may have additional say on things within the community than in a regular neighborhood.

While maintaining the general areas, an HOA in an active adult community may also dictate whether a homeowner can grill outside, park a car on the street rather than in a garage, and some may go as far as to dictate the time of day a homeowner can have a conversation on a patio or deck.

While an HOA helps maintain the look and feel of a community as a whole, an overbearing HOA or homeowners board can possibly make living in a retirement community not very enjoyable for some individuals.

Living In Place

Another option to consider is whether the community offers a “living in place” option. This is still a relatively new concept but it is becoming more and more popular.

Living in place options offer homeowners the ability to buy a home in a community when they’re still active and able to live without accommodations. Then, should one’s health change or it becomes more difficult to live independently, the homeowners are able to move to a fully furnished apartment or condo within the community where cleaning, cooking and other services are provided.

These options allow homeowners to stay in one community through each phase of their retirement. More expensive than traditional active adult communities, they are a viable option for those planning for the long run.

Retirement is an exciting time. Finding a community that supports retirees and provides a place for relaxation is important for many people. If you’re looking at active adult communities, reach out to your trusted real estate agent to get more information about local communities in your area.

A 55+ community can be a great choice for those looking to enjoy retirement with other retirees. Happy hunting!

What You Need To Know About Short Sales

home for saleOn the surface, a short sale seems like the perfect deal. However, before you take the plunge, you need to understand how this type of home purchase works.

What Is a Short Sale?

A short sale is a home sale in which the homeowner is selling the home for less than he or she currently owes on the mortgage. In most cases, this means that the buyer is paying less for the home than it’s worth, which leads to instant equity.

Short sales allow homeowners to get out from under mortgages without damaging their credit as much as a foreclosure. Lenders often agree to short sales because the foreclosure process is lengthy and expensive, so short sales can be more beneficial for both parties in the long run.

Advantages

When you buy a short sale, you can often get a nicer home for a lower price. In most cases, you will still be able to use financing to purchase a short sale.

A homeowner attempting a short sale also tends to be highly motivated, which means they will be willing to negotiate on almost any aspect of the sale.

Disadvantages

Although purchasing a short sale can be lucrative, the process isn’t easy. Short sales can take as long as nine months to complete, which is much longer than the time required for the typical home purchase.

Because the homeowner owes more on the mortgage than you will be paying, the bank must agree to the price. This means that even if the homeowner is willing to accept your offer, the bank can still reject it.

If the home secures more than one mortgage, all of the lenders must agree to the sale before it can close. This can lengthen the process even more.

Even though the bank will hold up the process, they will want you to be flexible. Banks are less likely to approve offers from buyers with multiple contingencies, such as a house that needs to sell before closing.

Should You Purchase a Short Sale?

The decision to make an offer on a short sale home is personal. Although there are many obstacles and potential disadvantages, you may be able to save money and build equity quickly if you are able to complete a short sale successfully.

Keep in mind that most banks considering a short sale will want to see a well-qualified borrower who offers flexible closing terms, so it’s best to contact your mortgage professional for a pre-approval before you make an offer on the home.

Pros And Cons Of Buying A Foreclosure

case-schiller-index-updateWhen a homeowner stops making regular mortgage payments, the bank can foreclose on the property. This means that the bank takes possession of the property in an attempt to recover the debt the homeowner owes. In some cases, the bank may try to recover this debt by selling the property at auction. In other cases, the bank will simply list the foreclosed home for sale.

Choosing to purchase a foreclosed home has both advantages and disadvantages for the buyer. Weighing these advantages and disadvantages carefully is essential.

Pros of Buying a Foreclosure

When you decide to buy a foreclosure, you will be working with a seller that is inherently more motivated. The longer the bank owns the property, the more money they lose. For this reason, banks are often more willing to negotiate on all of the terms of the sale, including the price, closing costs and other important factors.

Buying a foreclosure also ensures that you are getting a house that is already vacant, so you can move in whenever you are ready. In addition, you can be sure that the title on the home is clear.

In most cases, you will be able to finance a bank-owned foreclosure with a mortgage, and you will be able to obtain an inspection if you want one.

Cons of Buying a Foreclosure

Buying a foreclosure also comes with disadvantages. For example, banks usually require additional paperwork when you are purchasing a foreclosed home.

In addition, most banks will refuse to complete any repairs on the home before the purchase. Most foreclosed homes are sold as-is, which means you may have to repair some problems or do some updates after you buy the home.

Finally, because the bank has only owned the home a short time, they cannot provide comprehensive disclosures related to the property’s current condition or history. This means that you may end up purchasing a home without being fully aware of the problems you’ll need to address.

Making a Choice

Buying a foreclosure isn’t the right option for every buyer. However, if you are a careful shopper, potential benefits are available.

Before making an offer on a foreclosed home, be sure to consult an experienced mortgage professional to get your pre-approval in order so you can complete the purchase quickly if you choose to move forward.

Fixer Upper’? Understanding the Balance Between Purchase and Renovation Costs

dyi-investment-property-renovationsFixer uppers can come with huge price benefits and opportunity, as well as problems. Make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into before you purchase a home that needs significant restoration.

Carefully Calculate
Do the math very carefully before jumping in. Add up the expected renovation costs based on a thorough evaluation of the property. As some of the expected costs will lie within a grey area, it is important that you base your estimation on the higher end of the price range. Be sure to account for all materials and labor.

Once you have calculated your expected renovation costs, subtract this number from the home’s projected post-renovation market value. It is important that you base this projection on comparable listings in the same neighborhood. Consulting a real estate professional can offer very valuable assistance with this step.

To be conservative, deduct at least another 10 percent for any unforeseen costs, mistakes, or issues that arise. That final number should be the highest offer you make on the property.

Work With The Right Team
When looking for a fixer upper that is a sound investment, make sure that you have a solid team of professionals to work with. Choose a real estate agent who is familiar with the area and type of property that you are interested in, and make sure that all laborers you hire are not only competent to deal with the problems that you’ll face during renos, but who won’t cut corners. Aesthetically appealing housing don’t always pass inspections – it’s important to make sure that the property is fit for sale or it may never close at your asking price.

Aesthetic Problems Are The Best Problems
If you’ve managed to find a home that’s in great condition but is visually unappealing, you may have found yourself an excellent fixer upper. Ugly carpet, old appliances, and tacky wallpaper are easy fixes that won’t eat up much of your budget or your time.

Asbestos, leaky water lines, a cracked foundation, or a rotted frame are examples of more significant issues that will require the help of a professional. Be wary when investing in a property that has one or several of these problems, as they are the kind of issues that snowball into larger costs and a longer timeline for repairs.

Ready to invest in a great fixer upper and tackle it as your next investment? Move forward with the help of your trusted mortgage professional today.

How To Qualify For An FHA Loan

blended-jumbo-mortgagesBorrowers who cannot qualify for a conventional mortgage are often able to obtain an FHA loan. However, to secure this type of loan, you must still meet certain requirements.

What Is an FHA Loan?

FHA loans are mortgage loans that are backed by the Federal Housing Administration. It is designed to help borrowers who are unable to meet the requirements for a conventional mortgage or other types of financing. These loans can be used to purchase single-family and multi-family homes.

What Are the Requirements for an FHA Loan?

When you apply for an FHA loan, the underwriter will consider many of the same characteristics considered when you apply for a convention loan, including:

Your credit rating
Your income
Your outstanding debts
Your down payment
The value of the home you intend to purchase
In order to qualify for an FHA loan, you must have at least a minimum credit score. However, the minimum credit score for FHA loans is much lower than the minimum imposed on conventional mortgage applicants. This allows more borrowers to qualify for financing.

Before approving your application, the underwriter will compare your revolving debts to your gross income to calculate your debt-to-income ratio. Your debt-to-income ratio must be below a certain threshold to qualify. However, this threshold is higher than the threshold typically imposed for conventional loans.

The underwriter will also want to see proof of your income, as well as evidence that your income is reliable and likely to continue. In addition, the underwriter will review an appraisal of the property to ensure that your loan amount is appropriate.

In general, FHA loans allow a much lower down payment than a conventional mortgage. Many borrowers will be able to obtain an FHA mortgage with only a 3.5 percent down payment. However, if your credit score is below a certain threshold, you may need a larger down payment.

Things to Consider

Although an FHA loan has less stringent qualification requirements than a conventional mortgage, there are also drawbacks. For example, you will be required to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium and a monthly mortgage premium.

Like other mortgages, FHA loans offer a variety of loan terms, including 10, 15, 20 and 30 years. Both fixed rate and variable rate options are available as well.

To determine whether an FHA mortgage is right for your needs, contact your trusted mortgage professional.