Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Transform your home into a showstopper with the power of staging!



Imagine looking around your home and wondering how you can make it shine during those crucial showings. The answer is simple: staging! It's a powerful tool that can transform your property and raise its appeal.

Your online listing photos serve as the initial showcase for potential buyers. Staging plays a crucial role in enhancing these images, making them more captivating and inviting. It sets the stage, quite literally, for a positive first impression. When buyers scroll through your listing, professionally staged rooms catch their eye, drawing them into the story your home tells.

Staging isn't just about creating a visually pleasing environment; it's about sparking an emotional connection. A well-staged home exudes warmth and welcome, making it easier for buyers to picture themselves living there. It's a canvas upon which they can paint their own future, creating an emotional bond with the space that lingers long after the showing ends.

The numbers don't lie. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 23% of buyer's agents report that staging can increase the dollar value offered by 1-5% compared to non-staged homes. In essence, staging is an investment that yields a tangible return. It's a strategic move to maximize your property's market value and, ultimately, your selling price.

Staging has another subtle yet impactful benefit. It redirects attention away from any outdated or minor repair needs that you may not have had the resources to address before listing. Instead of fixating on imperfections, buyers are drawn to the positive aspects of your home. It's about showcasing its potential and best features, ensuring they shine brightly.

To reap the full benefits of staging, timing is key. Ideally, it should be implemented before your home hits the market. The moment you decide to sell, consider reaching out to us. We can seamlessly incorporate staging into your selling timeline, ensuring your home stands out and captures the hearts of potential buyers right from the start. Don't underestimate the impact of this transformative process�it's the secret weapon in your arsenal to sell your home swiftly and at an optimal price.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Discovering Tax Credits That Enhance Homeowner Benefits



Owning a home not only provides a sense of stability and pride but also opens doors to potential tax benefits. As a homeowner, understanding tax credits can significantly impact your financial well-being. Let's delve into some key tax credits and deductions available to homeowners and how they can help you maximize savings.

If you've made energy-efficient improvements to your home in the past year, you may qualify for the Residential Energy Efficiency Property Credit. This credit allows you to claim a percentage of the cost of qualifying energy-efficient upgrades, such as solar panels, energy-efficient windows, and HVAC systems, up to certain limits. Not only do these upgrades help lower your utility bills, but they also contribute to a more sustainable future while providing tax savings.

Another valuable tax credit available to homeowners is the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. This credit applies to the installation of renewable energy systems, such as solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, and small wind turbines. Homeowners can claim a percentage of the cost of these systems as a credit on their federal income tax return, reducing their tax liability dollar for dollar.

For homeowners looking to make their homes more accessible and accommodating, the Disabled Access Credit can provide financial assistance. This credit covers a portion of the expenses incurred when making eligible improvements to accommodate individuals with disabilities, such as installing ramps, widening doorways, and modifying bathrooms. By taking advantage of this credit, homeowners can improve the livability of their homes while reducing their tax burden.

As a homeowner, understanding and leveraging these tax credits can lead to significant savings and benefits. They can not only reduce your tax liability but also enhance the financial rewards of homeownership in lower maintenance costs. Be sure to notify your tax professional about the expenditure so they can explore all available options and maximize your savings.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Building a Case for Homeownership Today!



Over the last 60 years, the average sales price of homes has appreciated at a rate of 5.56% annually, according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data. During the same period, rent has increased at a rate of 3.88% annually which presents a compelling argument in favor of homeownership.

When the figures are analyzed, it becomes evident that homes have not only appreciated in value at a faster rate than the increase in rental costs, but they have also provided homeowners hedge against inflation and a substantial asset that builds equity over time.

In the report called "Building a Case for Homeownership Today!", the reader will discover the real cost of homeownership is most likely less than they are paying in rent because of the two powerful dynamics of amortization and appreciation that are not currently working in their favor.  As they continue to rent, the dynamics work in favor of their landlord.

The median homeowner has a net worth of $396,000 compared to approximately $10,400 for renters making the net worth of a homeowner 38 times the household wealth of a renter according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve Board Survey of Consumer Finance.

Another powerful comparison shows what is happening to the postponed buyer's funds for down payment during the delay in purchasing.  Even when the funds are invested in a certificate of deposit or in stocks, the increased proceeds are no where near what their equity would be had they been invested in a home.

Another revelation in this report puts mortgage rates in perspective.  Instead of the anomaly the market has seen for the past 10 years and even more so, in the past three years, the average fixed-rate mortgage rate for the past 52 years is 7.74%; less than the current 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate.

The report also explains how homeowners can access their home's equity for a variety of purposes like education, medical expenses, investment, business opportunities, or other causes.

An interesting opportunity for owner-occupants is that they can purchase a two-, three-, or four-unit property with a minimum down payment on FHA and conventional loans.  The rent received on the investment units will be shown as income to help them qualify for the larger mortgage on a more expensive property.

In conclusion, the case for homeownership today extends far beyond the emotional and social dimensions�it's a solid financial decision. While high interest rates, affordability concerns, and soaring home prices may seem daunting, it's essential to recognize that the current environment still favors homebuyers.

Download the Building a Case for Homeownership Today! report either for yourself or for someone you know.  After looking at it, schedule an appointment with us to look at the specifics of your situation and give you the information you need.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Making Sense of Home Improvements: What Adds Value?



Before diving into renovation projects, it's important to understand which upgrades are likely to boost your home's value and which ones may not yield a significant return on investment. While certain improvements can enhance your home's appeal and attract potential buyers, others may fall short of expectations.

It's prudent to explore examples of home improvements that have the potential to increase your home's value, as well as situations where renovations may not have a substantial impact on its worth. By gaining insights into these factors, homeowners can make informed decisions and maximize their return on investment when upgrading their properties.

Home improvements that may increase the value of the home:

Hardwood floors ... Refinishing or updating to wood floors have good appeal and have a high return on the cost.

Kitchen Remodel - Updating the kitchen with modern appliances, countertops, and fixtures can increase the home's value by improving functionality and aesthetics.

Bathroom Update - Renovating bathrooms with new fixtures, tiles, and amenities can enhance the home's appeal, especially if it increases the number of bathrooms or improves their condition.

Curb Appeal - Enhancing curb appeal through landscaping, exterior painting, or updating the front door can make a positive first impression and increase the home's perceived value.

Energy-Efficient Upgrades - Adding energy-efficient features such as insulation, or windows can attract environmentally conscious buyers and reduce utility costs, thereby increasing the home's value.

Open Floor Plan - Removing walls to create an open floor plan can improve the flow of the home and make it feel more spacious, which may appeal to modern homebuyers and increase value.

Home improvements that may not affect value significantly:

Over-Personalized Upgrades - Home improvements that are highly customized to the homeowner's taste, such as extravagant or niche features, may not appeal to a broad range of buyers and may not recoup their cost.

Low-Quality Workmanship - Poor-quality renovations or DIY projects that are not executed professionally may detract from the home's value rather than adding to it.

Excessive Upgrades - Spending too much on renovations relative to the home's overall value for the neighborhood may not yield a commensurate increase in value.

Unpermitted Additions - Home improvements made without the necessary permits or that violate building codes may lead to complications during the selling process and may not add value to the home.

Overcapitalization - Investing in upgrades that exceed the anticipated resale value of the home for the neighborhood may result in diminishing returns and may not justify the expense.

While there are many powerful investment aspects of homeownership, not all the money spent on it will necessarily increase the value.  If the cost of some renovations won't be able to be recaptured in the sales price, homeowners should recognize that in advance of making them.  If they decide to move forward, they must realize that it was done for personal convenience or enjoyment. 

On the other hand, some improvements can satisfy convenience, enjoyment and return part or all the cost.  The latest Remodeling Impact Report done by the National Association of REALTORS� and the National Association of Remodeling Industry  can provide more insight into cost recovery.

Your real estate professional can provide guidance of a more specific nature.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Bridging Wealth Gaps: Homeownership's Stand Against Inflation



When exploring the benefits of homeownership, it's more than just having a place to call your own. Among its many advantages, homeownership stands as a formidable safeguard against inflation and a strong vehicle for long-term wealth accumulation. This article will delve into the dynamics of appreciation and amortization, explaining why owning a home can be one of the most impactful financial decisions you can make.

Inflation, the overall upward price movement of goods and services in an economy, erodes the purchasing power of money. In simpler terms, as inflation rises, each dollar you have buys a smaller percentage of a good or service.  The same inflation that is driving rising mortgage rates is putting upward pressure on home prices and rents.

Over the past sixty years, homes have appreciated in value at an annual appreciation rate of 5.56% according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data.  As a homeowner, you want to benefit from the appreciation.  Inflation for the same period averaged 3.7% (Bureau of Labor Statistics) making homes an effective hedge against inflation.

Real estate, unlike many other assets, is a tangible, real asset. History has shown that over the long term, the value of real assets tends to rise at a rate that at least matches, if not outpaces, inflation. So, as the price of goods and services increases, so does the value of real estate, making homeownership a strategic move against inflationary pressures.

With a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly principal and interest payment remains constant. As a result, while other costs may rise due to inflation, your primary housing cost (if you exclude taxes and maintenance) remains stable, shielding you from the full impact of inflation.

Home appreciation refers to the increase in the home's value over time. Given the finite nature of land and the ever-growing demand for housing, especially in thriving areas, real estate often appreciates. This appreciation can result in substantial equity gains for homeowners, creating a form of 'forced savings' and making it a powerful tool for wealth accumulation.

Amortization has been considered the silent wealth builder. Each time you make a mortgage payment, a portion of that payment goes toward the loan's interest, and the balance pays down the principal, thus retiring your debt incrementally. This process means you're gradually building equity in the home with each payment. Over time, a larger portion of your payment goes towards the principal, accelerating your equity buildup.

Combined, appreciation and amortization can lead to significant wealth growth for homeowners. As the home's value rises and the mortgage balance decreases, homeowners often find themselves sitting on a substantial asset, which can be leveraged in various ways, from securing loans to planning retirement.

While the emotional and social benefits of homeownership are often celebrated, the financial benefits are equally compelling. In a world of economic uncertainties and inflationary pressures, owning a home emerges not just as a source of stability but also as a strategy for long-term financial prosperity. By understanding and leveraging the twin forces of appreciation and amortization, homeowners can pave a path to meaningful wealth accumulation even during periods of relatively high mortgage rates.

For more information, download an information guide on Building a Case for Homeownership Today.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Baby Boomers' Wave to Downsize



As the first groups of baby boomers gracefully rides the wave of aging, they are setting new trends in the housing market, giving birth to what experts fondly refer to as the "Silver Tsunami." This phenomenon is not merely about a change in address; it's a lifestyle transformation tailored to meet the unique needs of the golden years.

With approximately 10,000 people reaching the age of 65 every day, the United States is witnessing an unprecedented demographic shift. By 2030, all baby boomers will have passed this milestone. Among these remarkable statistics, the AARP's estimate stands out: a staggering 74% of total U.S. homeownership belongs to individuals over 50, with more than half of this demographic opting for downsizing their home as a strategic move.

The Silver Tsunami is, in essence, a testament to the demographic strength of the baby boomer generation. Born between 1946 and 1964, this generation has played a pivotal role in shaping American society at every stage of life. Now, as they embrace their senior years, they are reshaping the real estate landscape. Downsizing has become a prevailing trend among this generation.

One of the fundamental aspects of this is the desire for aging Americans to remain in their homes, a concept known as "aging in place." However, this doesn't necessarily mean staying in the same large family home that has seen decades of memories. Instead, it often involves downsizing to a more manageable, efficient, and accessible living space.

The statistics are a testament to the appeal of downsizing among this generation. AARP estimates that a whopping 74% of homeownership in the United States is held by individuals over the age of 50. Additionally, more than 51% of people in this age group have already made the move to downsize.

The reasons behind this paradigm shift are as diverse as the individuals making it happen. For some, it's about financial prudence ... reducing the costs and maintenance associated with larger homes. For others, it's the desire for a simpler, more manageable lifestyle that allows them to focus on experiences rather than possessions. Accessibility and health concerns also play a significant role, with many opting for homes that are designed to accommodate mobility challenges.

Downsizing is having a profound impact on the housing market. It's not just about the scaling down trend; it's also about the types of homes that are in high demand. Single-story residences, condos, and communities with amenities tailored to an active older population are experiencing increased interest. Builders and real estate developers are adapting to these evolving preferences, creating more accessible, age-friendly housing options.

It is not merely a demographic shift; it's a testament to the baby boomer generation's determination to embrace their golden years on their terms. Downsizing is just one facet of this multifaceted trend, and it's changing the way we think about aging and housing. As the silver wave continues to ripple through the real estate market, it's essential for homeowners and industry professionals alike to be aware of these evolving preferences.

One way to find out about your options is to determine the value of your current home and its equity to facilitate the change in housing.  Contact us to provide this service at no obligation as well as to inform you what is available to meet your wants and needs.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Keep more profits from home sales



In recent years, home values have soared, presenting an opportunity for homeowners with substantial equity to consider a unique tax benefit.

Section 121 in the IRS code allows for homeowners who meet certain requirements to exclude up to $500,000 of capital gain on the sale of their principal residence.  Single or married taxpayers filing separately can exclude up to $250,000 of capital gain.  Taxpayers must meet the following requirements:

  • They must have owned and used the home as a principal residence during at least 2 out of the last 5 years.
  • They should not have excluded gain from another home during the two years before the current sale.
  • The property should not have been acquired through a 1031 exchange during the past five years.

Capital gain is determined as selling price, less sales costs, less basis in the property which is the purchase price paid for the home plus capital improvements made during the tenure.  Capital gains more than the exclusion amounts are taxed at the capital gains rate which varies between 0% and 20% depending on the taxpayers adjusted gross income in the year of the sale. 

Some exceptions for divorce, death of a spouse, or military service may apply.  For more information, see IRS Publication 523 and download our Homeowners Tax Guide.  It is always advisable to seek the counsel of your tax professional for your particular situation.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Smart Home Tech: Is It Real Property or Personal Belongings in a Home Sale?



Many of today's homeowners have accumulated multiple high-tech "smart" devices to make their home more convenient, economical, and fun to operate.  When they decide to sell the home, they need to make the listing agent completely aware of whether they will be included in the sale of the home. 

Some of these things easily meet the definition of real property because they are permanently installed like thermostats, doorbells, cameras, garage door openers, and pool equipment monitors.  A rule of thumb mentioned frequently is that if it were removed, the functionality would cease or if there would be evidence of where it had been, it is probably real property and is included in the sale.

Other devices like virtual assistants made by Amazon, Apple, or Google, may not specifically meet that criteria but they are needed to operate things like electrical switches and plugs, or lamps.  It becomes a grey area of whether it is real property when TV's, doorbells, garage door openers, and other devices are dependent on the virtual assistants.

Door locks, as well as some other devices, have a master code written on them that allows the new owner to reset the combination ensuring not only their safety but potential liability for the seller.  In some cases, the seller will need to do this using the app on their computer or phone while it is still connected to their home network.  It may be prudent to arrange a time for the seller to reset the devices in question for the buyers' convenience and security.

Smart home additions could easily be a selling point for potential buyers and sellers need to weigh the benefits of promoting the advantages of such and including those items in the sale of the home.

Make an inventory of what devices stay with the home and what needs to be done to reset them for the new owner.  This could be done at the time of listing the home and given to the listing agent at the same time the listing agreement is signed. Your listing agent will know how to handle it, but decisions must be made before the home is put on the market or it is shown to any prospective purchasers.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Leverage your home's equity into rental property



There can be many reasons homeowners aspire to have their home paid for.  They can include no mortgage payments, financial security, debt reduction, lower expenses, retirement planning, financial freedom, legacy planning, no risk of foreclosure, and reduced stress, just to name a few.

All those things have a cost attached to them which is the loss of the earning power which is tied up in an asset that only benefits the owner by appreciation.  In the past few years since the pandemic began, homeowners have experienced a dramatic increase in equity due to appreciation.

As an example, let's set up a comparison of how the yield on equity decreases as the property appreciates.  A homeowner has a debt-free home worth $400,000 that is expected to appreciate at 4% a year for the next five years. The future value of the home would be $486,661 and the owner would have earned a 4% return on his investment in the property.

In scenario #2, the homeowner refinances the property today for 80% of its value at 7% interest for 30-years.  At the end of the five years, the property is still worth $486,661 and his unpaid balance on the mortgage would be $338,874. The $80,000 equity would have grown to $147,787 earning him an annual return on investment of 13.06%.  The leverage of the borrowed funds caused the owner in this example to triple his yield.

Let's not forget the $320,000 cash out that the owner received when he refinanced the home.  If that was invested in rental real estate, he may be able to buy three to four more properties with 80% mortgages and increase his yield even more.

There is a lot more to a total analysis of a situation like this because rental properties have income and tax advantages that are not relative to a principal residence.  What is possible for the homeowner with this type of asset in their home, is to free up a major portion of the cash and reinvest it.

Having equity gives a homeowner many benefits including financial freedom and security, peace of mind, and the option to pull money out, tax free, to invest in rental property to increase their wealth position.

To learn more about rental property, download our Rental Income Properties and then, schedule a time when we can get together to explore options.  We can start with a Home Equity Review to see what kind of funds may be available based on the current value of your home and its unpaid balance and then talk about how rental property could help you with your financial goals.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Adapting to Life's New Chapters



All of us encounter major life events and they have the possibility of disrupting our lives temporarily, if not permanently.  The homes we live in may have met our needs originally but due to a change in our life, it may no longer be adequate or the best fit for us, which will require a move. The decision to change one's living situation often comes as a response to these pivotal moments, and the reasons behind such changes can be as diverse as the events themselves. 

The number of things that can influence these changes is numerous.  It may be the birth of a new child, or the ages of the children are getting such that you simply need more room. 

Marriages generally merge two households into one.  The possibilities are endless, but it could be two single people or two single parents each with children who need the right space to blend the families.

A promotion, transfer, or a new job could require a change in housing, or maybe just make it more convenient to move closer to where a person is working. 

Countless numbers of people have moved as a result of health issues.  It could be to get away from the altitude, or to a drier climate, or to a more rural area where life is simpler.  The death of a spouse can be the impetus for the move.

Empty nesters and retirees have the freedom to make changes to their housing that will better adapt to their new lifestyle.  The time may have come to seek a cozier, more manageable abode that suits the evolving needs of empty nesters.  It may or may not lead them to a new city or state, but it can certainly include a different size or style home than they have currently.

These are just a few examples of how major life events can set the stage for changes in housing. If you are considering a move for one of these reasons now, you will probably think about it at some point.  We can help you through today's market, talk about timing, and guide you through the decision-making process.

We want to be your trusted agent, ready to support you finding your dream home as you start this new chapter in your life. Take the first step, when the time is right, by connecting with us.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

House-Hacking your way to multi-unit rentals



House-hacking refers to buying a multifamily property on an owner-occupied mortgage, living in one unit and renting the others.  If you're thinking about becoming a rental mogul, starting early is an advantage.  Not only will you have longer to accumulate a larger portfolio, but you can also increase the leverage on the first owner-occupied acquisitions. 

Leverage is the use of other people's money to finance an investment.  The higher the loan-to-value, the greater the leverage which can increase the yield.  The lower down payment gives the investor more leverage which can increase the return on their investment. 

FHA, VA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac each have programs for buying owner-occupied two-to four-unit properties with the same minimal down payment required for a single-family home.  The advantage is that non-occupant investors must have a 20-25% down payment where the owner occupant is much less.

A qualified veteran could get into the first property with no down payment.  FHA only requires a 3.5% down payment.  And owner-occupants seeking to buy a multi-unit property with a conventional loan would need 5-10% down payment.

As an example, let's say there is a 2-unit property selling for $500,000.  A non-owner-occupant investor would need to make a minimum down payment of $100,000.  Whereas an equally qualified investor who was going to live in one of the units, would only be required to make a $17,500 down payment on an FHA loan or $25,000 to $50,000 on a conventional owner-occupied loan.

The difficulty is that there are not a lot of two-to-four-unit properties.  In some cases, they may be older properties in older neighborhoods.  With some searching, you might be able to find lots with the right zoning and get a builder involved.

It is certainly worth investigating to find out what is available in your area and surroundings.

Rental properties offer the investor an opportunity to borrow large loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates for up to 30 years on appreciating assets with tax advantages and reasonable control that many other investments don't enjoy.

Some people consider rental properties the IDEAL investment with each letter in the acronym standing for a benefit it provides.  It provides income from the rent which many investments do not have.  Depreciation is a non-cash deduction from income that increases cash flow.  Equity buildup occurs as each payment is made by reducing the principal owed.  Appreciation happens over time as the value of the property increases.  L stands for leverage that was explained earlier in this article.

The key to making this work is to be an owner-occupant in one of the units.  After a reasonable period of time, you may be able to buy another four-unit as an owner-occupant before you need to start using a normal investor's down payment. 

In the meantime, you could have eight units that are increasing in value while the mortgage balance is decreasing with every payment made.  If there is sufficient equity in the properties by the time you're ready to buy more units, you may be able to take cash out of the existing ones to use for the down payments.

This can be a great way to turbocharge your net worth by becoming an owner and a real estate investor at the same time.  To learn more about rental properties, download the Rental Income Properties guide and/or contact me at  to schedule an appointment to meet to answer your questions and discuss the possibilities.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The relationship between homeownership and net worth



During the span between 2019 and 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted both society and economic activities. Nevertheless, the latest Survey of Consumer Finance, which has recently been unveiled, highlights widespread enhancements in the financial well-being of American families during this timeframe, especially concerning their net worth.

The median net worth of homeowners increased 37%, after adjustment for inflation, between 2019 and 2022.  This is the largest three-year increase in the history of the modern Federal Reserve Board's triennial survey dating back to 1989 and more than twice the next largest one on record.

The survey showed increases in both median and mean net worth were near universal across different types of families, grouped by either economic or demographic characteristics.

For families who owned a home, the median net housing value, the value of the home, less secured debt, increased 44% between the same three-year period.  The median homeowner has a net worth of $396,000 compared to approximately $10,400 for renters making the net worth of a homeowner 38 times the household wealth of a renter according to the latest data.

Housing wealth, in this study, represented on average approximately 75% of the total assets of the lowest income household.  In the middle-income distribution, housing wealth represents between 48% and 74% of total assets.  For the top 10% of the income distribution, the wealthiest households' share was 33%.  The study suggested that as income and net worth increases, the diversification of investments increases.

Even though there was significant increase in the value of homeowners' property during this period, the debt secured by the residential property was relatively unchanged and the median amount of this debt decreased by less than one percent to $155,600 in 2022.  During the same period credit card debt was stable.

Odeta Kushi, deputy chief economist at First American, summarized by saying "For the majority of households that transition into homeownership, the most recent data reinforces that housing is one of the biggest positive drivers of wealth creation in this country."

Starting in 2022, mortgage rates more than doubled the rates during the fall of 2021 and continued to rise throughout 2022 and most of 2023 to the high 7% range which the market had not reached for 30 years.  This rate affected buyers' affordability and challenged a belief that rates would stay low since they had been for over ten years after the Great Financial Crisis.

While homeownership is still a major part of the "American Dream", would-be buyers are having to adapt to the higher rates.  And even if rates moderate during 2024, the low housing inventory experienced across the country will continue to increase prices which favors current homeowners.  It could take years to reach a balanced market.

The challenged buyers should remember that homes have appreciated 5.56% annually for the last sixty years.  The average mortgage rate in the same period is 7.74%. 

Based on the impressive margin that homeowners have 38 times more net worth than renters and that the contributing factor is the home's equity, Buyers who can financially afford to buy now should investigate exactly what it will take to get into a home now.

Download our Buyers Guide.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Understanding Credit Life Insurance for Home Buyers



Credit life insurance is a specialized type of insurance designed to provide financial protection for borrowers and their families in the event of the borrower's untimely death. This insurance is often associated with loans, including mortgages, and is specifically tied to the outstanding balance of the loan. In the case of a home purchase, credit life insurance will cover the remaining mortgage balance if the homeowner passes away before the loan is fully paid off.

In some cases, lenders may include the expense of credit life insurance in your loan principal. This arrangement means that you'll accrue interest on the combined amount, potentially resulting in increased costs over time. Consequently, opting for traditional life insurance, as opposed to credit life insurance, might be a more financially prudent choice to protect your family's financial well-being.

Credit life insurance offers peace of mind to homeowners, knowing that their loved ones won't be burdened with mortgage payments in case of an unexpected tragedy.  It can be a safeguard for their loved ones from inheriting the mortgage debt in the event of their death. It ensures that the home loan is paid off, preventing financial strain on surviving family members.

Some lenders may require or recommend credit life insurance as part of the loan approval process, making it easier for homebuyers to qualify for a mortgage but it is not typically mandatory, and the borrower usually has the option to request its removal from the loan agreement. 

Advantages of Regular Life Insurance:

While credit life insurance serves a specific purpose, there are advantages to opting for a regular life insurance policy instead:

  • Regular life insurance provides a broader range of coverage beyond mortgage debt. It offers financial protection to beneficiaries for various needs, such as income replacement, education, and long-term financial security.
  • Unlike credit life insurance, which is tied to a specific loan, regular life insurance can be used to address multiple financial goals and needs, making it a versatile option.
  • Regular life insurance remains in force regardless of changes in your mortgage or loan status. It can be maintained even if you refinance, pay off your mortgage, or move.
  • Some life insurance policies, such as whole life or universal life, offer a cash value component that can grow over time, potentially providing additional financial benefits.
  • With regular life insurance, you have the flexibility to choose any beneficiary, not just the lender, ensuring your loved ones are financially protected.

Credit life insurance can provide a valuable safety net for homebuyers by addressing their mortgage debt in the event of their passing. However, it's essential to consider the broader financial needs of your family and explore regular life insurance options, which offer more extensive coverage and flexibility. Ultimately, the choice between credit life insurance and regular life insurance should align with your specific financial goals and priorities.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Discover how to make a difference in your neighborhood



Whether you're a seasoned homeowner or just starting this thrilling chapter, every time you turn your key, you're not just entering a house but also embedding yourself in a neighborhood. The heartbeat of a vibrant community doesn't solely rest upon pristine lawns or architectural beauty, but predominantly on its residents � wonderful folks like you! Consider these suggestions to enjoy your new neighborhood and actively contributing to making it a wonderful place to live.

Foster Connection - Begin your journey by fostering connections. Introduce yourself to your neighbors, participate in or organize social events, and involve yourself in local gatherings, HOA, Next Door, or forums. Establishing a network of friendly faces creates a sense of belonging and shared responsibility towards the well-being of the neighborhood.

Create a Safe Environment - A safe community is a serene community. Be mindful of adhering to speed limits while driving through your neighborhood, watch out for children playing, and consider organizing or participating in a neighborhood watch program. Ensuring that everyone feels secure enhances the quality of life for all residents.

Champion Cleanliness and Green Practices - Your new neighborhood is an extension of your home. Engage in and advocate for practices like regular clean-up drives, recycling initiatives, and maintaining green spaces. Planting trees or creating communal gardens can be wonderful projects that not only beautify the area but also instigate sustainable living.

Support Local Businesses - Frequent local shops, cafes, and services to boost the neighborhood's economy. Supporting local businesses fosters a self-sustaining community, often making it more attractive to future residents and other local entrepreneurs.

Volunteer and Offer Support - Whether it's helping a neighbor with yard work or volunteering in local schools, your acts of kindness will ripple through the community, establishing a culture of support and assistance that enriches everyone's lives.

Organize and Participate in Events - From block parties to garage sales, events can add vivacity to any neighborhood. They provide a platform for residents to mingle, forge friendships, and create cherished memories, threading a fabric of unity and camaraderie.

Respectful Living - Being mindful and considerate of your neighbors is foundational. Adhere to noise guidelines, maintain your property, and respect shared spaces. A culture of mutual respect enhances peaceful co-existence and cultivates a harmonious environment.

Advocate for Improvements - If you observe areas for improvement, like a need for better street lighting or safer playgrounds, take the initiative. Work with local authorities, attend town meetings, or organize petitions to facilitate beneficial changes.

In contributing towards shaping a great neighborhood, you're not only enhancing your living experience but also elevating the quality of life for existing and future residents. Your active involvement, care, and initiatives sow the seeds for a community where everyone enjoys a sense of belonging, security, and joy in their daily lives. After all, the richest neighborhoods are those woven with the threads of unity, understanding, and collective effort. So, embrace your role and be the beacon that lights up your community with positivity and progress!

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

How Home Value Growth Beats Renting



Over the last 60 years, the average sales price of homes has appreciated at a rate of 5.56% annually, according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data. During the same period, rent has increased at a rate of 3.88% annually which presents a compelling argument in favor of homeownership.

When we analyze these figures, it becomes evident that homes have not only appreciated in value at a faster rate than the increase in rental costs, but they have also provided homeowners with a substantial asset that builds equity over time. This discrepancy in growth rates means that, in the long run, homeowners are likely to experience a greater return on their investment compared to renters.

Renters, while they may have the flexibility of moving without the ties of property ownership and might have lower upfront costs, do not gain any equity from their monthly payments. Their money goes straight to their landlord, and they are subject to the annual increases in rent. Over time, as rent continues to rise, renters might find themselves allocating a larger portion of their income to housing expenses compared to homeowners with fixed-rate mortgages, whose monthly payments remain constant.

Homeowners, on the other hand, can lock in their housing costs, particularly if they have a fixed-rate mortgage. Even as the value of their property increases, their monthly mortgage principal and interest payments remain steady. Furthermore, as they pay down their mortgage, they build equity in their home, which becomes a valuable asset. This asset can be leveraged for other financial opportunities, such as funding education, investing, or purchasing additional property.

In addition, homeowners can capitalize on the tax benefits associated with mortgage interest and property tax deductions, and potential capital gains exclusions, which can contribute to the overall financial advantage of homeownership.

In conclusion, while renting may offer flexibility and potentially lower upfront costs, homeownership presents a compelling long-term financial opportunity. The significant difference in the annual growth rates of home prices and rent over the past 60 years underscores the potential for wealth accumulation and financial stability that comes with investing in real estate and the equity building that comes with homeownership.

Download our Buyers Guide and consider getting together with your agent to get the facts of today's market.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Bridging Wealth Gaps: Homeownership's Stand Against Inflation



When exploring the benefits of homeownership, it's more than just having a place to call your own. Among its many advantages, homeownership stands as a formidable safeguard against inflation and a strong vehicle for long-term wealth accumulation. This article will delve into the dynamics of appreciation and amortization, explaining why owning a home can be one of the most impactful financial decisions you can make.

Inflation, the overall upward price movement of goods and services in an economy, erodes the purchasing power of money. In simpler terms, as inflation rises, each dollar you have buys a smaller percentage of a good or service.  The same inflation that is driving rising mortgage rates is putting upward pressure on home prices.

Over the past sixty years, homes have appreciated in value at an annual appreciation rate of 5.56% according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data.  As a homeowner, you want to benefit from the appreciation.  Inflation for the same period averaged 3.7% (Bureau of Labor Statistics) making homes an effective hedge against inflation.

Real estate, unlike many other assets, is a tangible, real asset. History has shown that over the long term, the value of real assets tends to rise at a rate that at least matches, if not outpaces, inflation. So, as the price of goods and services increases, so does the value of real estate, making homeownership a strategic move against inflationary pressures.

With a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly principal and interest payment remains constant. As a result, while other costs may rise due to inflation, your primary housing cost (if you exclude taxes and maintenance) remains stable, shielding you from the full impact of inflation.

Home appreciation refers to the increase in the home's value over time. Given the finite nature of land and the ever-growing demand for housing, especially in thriving areas, real estate often appreciates. This appreciation can result in substantial equity gains for homeowners, creating a form of 'forced savings' and making it a powerful tool for wealth accumulation.

Amortization has been considered the silent wealth builder.  Each time you make a mortgage payment, a portion of that payment goes toward the loan's interest, and the rest pays down the principal, thus retiring your debt incrementally. This process means you're gradually building equity in the home with each payment. Over time, a larger portion of your payment goes towards the principal, accelerating your equity buildup.

Combined, appreciation and amortization can lead to significant wealth growth for homeowners. As the home's value rises and the mortgage balance decreases, homeowners often find themselves sitting on a substantial asset, which can be leveraged in various ways, from securing loans to planning retirements.

While the emotional and social benefits of homeownership are often celebrated, the financial benefits are equally compelling. In a world of economic uncertainties and inflationary pressures, owning a home emerges not just as a source of stability but also as a strategy for long-term financial prosperity. By understanding and leveraging the twin forces of appreciation and amortization, homeowners can pave a path to meaningful wealth accumulation even during periods of relatively high mortgage rates.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Access "Trapped Equity" without Refinancing



American homeowners have a record amount of equity in their home.  Many of these homeowners would like to cash out part of that equity but don't want to trade an historically low interest rate for one that is as high as it's been in 20 years.

Instead of refinancing their home, an option is to get a fixed-rate second-lien.  This is different than a HELOC, home equity line of credit, which gives you continual access to your equity at a variable rate.  A HELOC has a draw period where you only must pay the interest.

A second mortgage is a loan against the equity where the homeowner will receive a lump sum and will make payments to repay the loan and interest over a specified period.  Generally speaking, lenders want the combination of the existing first-lien and the new second-lien not to exceed 75-80% of the home's current value.

To calculate how much would be available in a second-lien, subtract the existing unpaid balance on the first-lien from 75-80% of the home's current value.  The remaining amount would be available in the form of a second-lien mortgage.

The borrower, which is the homeowner, would have to qualify for the new second mortgage with sufficient income, acceptable debt-to-income ratios, good credit, and other underwriting requirements.

The advantage of this option is that the homeowner retains the lower interest rate first mortgage which may represent a larger percentage of the value of the property.  The second mortgage will have a higher interest rate but will only be on a smaller percentage of the value of the property.  The blended rate of the two mortgages will be less than the cost of refinancing the home at current interest rates.

Your lender can run an analysis to determine the blended rate on your first and second mortgages so you can see the benefit of keeping your low rate first mortgage in place and accessing your equity through a fixed-rate second mortgage.  Sources for home equity loans could be traditional banks, community banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, and mortgage companies.

A fixed-rate second mortgage is a solution for homeowners who would like to cash out part of their equity but feel trapped because they don't want to trade an historically low interest rate for a much higher one.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Navigating Closing Costs During Your Home Sale



Buying or selling a house is an exciting and sometimes confusing experience that includes expenses called "closing costs" that can often catch us by surprise. Closing costs are simply the fees and expenses incurred by buyers and sellers during a real estate transaction's closing or settlement process. 

Typical closing costs can vary depending on what is customary in an area, the mortgage type, property value, and other factors.  The largest expenses can be the real estate commission and the title policy.  Total closing costs for a buyer can characteristically range from 2% - 5%  of the sales price and 4% - 7% for a seller.

The most common buyer's closing costs include loan origination fee, title insurance, attorney fees, appraisal, homeowner's insurance, underwriting, miscellaneous fees associated with a new mortgage, and prepaid interest to the end of the month.

Interest is paid in arrears on mortgages after the borrower has used the money.  The payment due on the first of the month pays the interest for the previous month and is calculated for a full month.  The prepaid interest covers the time from the closing date to the end of that month.  The borrower's first payment will usually not be the first of the month following the closing date but the next one.

Separate from the closing costs, lenders usually itemize the additional fees collected at closing used to pre-pay portions of the property taxes and insurance to establish the escrow account.  Insurance is always purchased annually in advance which would be due at closing.

The seller will owe the taxes from January 1st to the closing date, and it will generally show as a credit to the buyer if they haven't been paid to the taxing authority for the year yet.  Lenders generally like to have two months of funds for the annual insurance and taxes so they can be paid or renewed before it is due.

Some expenses are paid outside of closing like the inspection fees that would be due to the provider at the time they are made.

While both buyers and sellers are responsible for paying certain closing costs, it is possible for a buyer to negotiate for a seller to pay part or all their closing costs.  VA loans restrict the buyer from paying certain fees and they become the responsibility of the seller.  Such fees include attorney fees, agent fees, escrow fees to establish the account, rate lock fees, appraisal fees or inspections ordered by the lender.

The actual expenses will be determined by the lender and special provisions in the sales contract. Your agent can supply you with an estimate of closing costs you typically will be responsible for at the beginning of the transaction and again at the time the sales contract is written.  Buyers will receive an estimate from their lender at the time of application.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Tap into your home equity five ways



Your home is not just a place to live; it's a valuable asset that can serve as a financial resource when you need it most. One of the significant advantages of homeownership is the opportunity to build equity over time, which can be accessed in various ways to fund life's important milestones or unexpected expenses.

Whether you're looking to undertake a home improvement project, consolidate debt, cover education expenses, or simply ensure financial flexibility for the future, your home equity can be a powerful tool to achieve your goals. By understanding the options available and the implications of each, you can leverage your home's value to enhance your financial well-being and seize opportunities that come your way.

Home Equity Loans are a fixed amount loan using the equity in the home as collateral. The borrower receives a lump sum and pays it back in regular monthly installments over a fixed term, typically at a fixed interest rate.

A Home Equity Line of Credit is similar to a credit card; a HELOC provides a revolving line of credit using the home's equity as collateral. Homeowners can borrow as much or as little as they need up to a specified limit, and interest is only paid on the amount borrowed.

 A Cash-Out Refinance involves refinancing the current mortgage for more than the homeowner owes and pocketing the difference. Essentially, homeowners replace their existing mortgage with a new, larger loan and get the difference in cash to be used any way they want.

A Reverse Mortgage is available to seniors, typically 62 and older and allows homeowners to convert part of their home equity into cash without having to sell their home or pay additional monthly bills. Instead of making monthly payments to a lender, the lender makes payments to the borrower.

Homeowners can choose to sell their current property and purchase a less expensive one, using the profit from the sale (equity) for other purposes. This is a more drastic approach as it involves moving, but it can release a significant amount of equity.

Each of these options has its own advantages and considerations, so homeowners should carefully evaluate which method best fits their needs and consult with financial professionals before making decisions.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Why you should check the claim history on the home before you make an offer



Buying a home is a big decision, and there are a lot of things to consider. One important factor to consider is the home's claim history. A home's claim history can tell you a lot about the property, including its potential risks and liabilities.

To identify potential risks because a home with a history of claims may be more likely to experience future claims. This could be due to the location of the home, the age of the home, or the materials used in construction.

The cost of insurance can be higher for homes with a history of claims. Insurance companies factor in the risk of future claims when setting premiums.

You may be able to negotiate a lower price if you discover the home has a history of claims. This is because the seller may be motivated to sell the home quickly to avoid future claims.

The Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) is a database that tracks insurance claims filed on homes.  A CLUE report can be purchased for a fee, and it will show you the number and type of claims that have been filed on the property within the last seven years.  

Sellers are entitled to one free copy of their LexisNexis CLUE report each year; there is a nominal fee for additional, original reports.  Contact LexisNexis by calling 888-497-0011 or by emailing consumer.documents@lexisnexisrisk.com.  As a potential buyer, your agent can request a copy of the report from the listing agent who may have to ask the seller to order it themselves, if they haven't done so recently.

Another option is to instruct your home inspector to look for signs of damage that may have been caused by previous claims.

Checking the claim history of a home is an important part of due diligence in the home buying process.  It is important to remember that the claim history is not a perfect predictor of the future. Just because a home has had claims in the past does not mean that it will have claims in the future. However, the claim history can give you valuable information that can help you make an informed decision about whether to buy the home.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

New Construction Homes with Your Own Agent



Homebuyers in the market who are frustrated by the low inventory are finding what they want in new construction.  Among the obvious advantages are that it is fresh and new, has never been lived in, and can be personalized to an individual's taste and needs.

New construction homes can be more expensive upfront, but they can save you money in the long run. These homes are built to the latest building codes, which means they are more energy-efficient and require less maintenance. They also come with warranties that can help protect you from unexpected repairs.

New construction homes can be a great option for first-time homebuyers. They offer a blank slate that you can customize to your liking, and they don't have the same wear and tear as older homes.

Working with a REALTOR� can help you navigate the process of buying a new construction home. They can help you find the right builder, negotiate a good price, and make sure that the home is built to your specifications.

One of the most critical steps in designing your dream home is enlisting the expertise of a qualified real estate professional. A REALTOR� brings essential knowledge of the local market, construction processes, checklists, and negotiation skills. They can help you explore financing options, connect you with reputable builders and guide you through the complex steps of purchasing new construction.

Navigate the path to your dream home with these steps guided by your REALTOR�:

  1. Select a Real Estate Professional: Find a trusted agent to champion your interests, negotiate with builders and ensure a seamless transaction.
  2. Research Builders and Neighborhoods: Discover builders, track records and neighborhoods using the expertise of your real estate professional.
  3. Get Pre-approved: Determine your budget and financing options by securing pre-approval from a trusted lender.
  4. Navigating Legal and Documentation Processes: Your real estate professional understands local regulations, permits and zoning requirements. They will guide you through the paperwork and review things along the way, allowing you to focus on the creative aspects of your dream home.
  5. Construction and Project Management: Your real estate professional will accompany you through the construction process. Your agent will work with the builder's agent to oversee the timeline and progress, to address any concerns that may arise.

An important step is having your agent introduce you to the builder's home for the first time and register you as their client.  Builders have sales teams that will assist you, but they don't represent you; they are employees of the builders.

Another consideration is to have a home inspection, even though it may not seem necessary.  It is comforting to have your inspector verifying that the building is up to code and being done the way it should be.  Some buyers elect to have inspections done at the major steps of the building process, but this does add some additional cost.

The importance of having a REALTOR� by your side is part of your investment in a home.  Your agent will be with you every step of the way and advocate for you in the process.  Your path to home-sweet-home starts with selecting your agent.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

How Rapid Rescoring Can Make a Difference



Imagine you're on the verge of securing a mortgage, and a slightly higher credit score could mean a lower interest rate. The good news? There's a quicker way to make that possibility a reality. Mortgage loans are often more time-sensitive than other loans. If you find yourself in a situation where a slightly improved credit score could open doors to better rates, the solution might lie in rapid rescoring.

When it comes to mortgage loans, time is of the essence. Your offer has been accepted, and you have a limited window to qualify for a new loan. But what if there was a way to boost your credit score swiftly and improve your chances of securing a lower interest rate?

Enter rapid rescoring ... a powerful tool that mortgage lenders use to diagnose potential actions that could lead to a credit score increase. It's important to note that these diagnostic reports are estimates, and their accuracy can vary since different lenders employ distinct scoring formulas. However, this innovative approach can provide a viable solution for improving your credit score in a time-sensitive scenario.

Let's say you realize you have sufficient funds in your savings account to significantly pay down your credit card debt. Acting on your mortgage officer's advice, you make the payment, anticipating a positive impact on your credit score. This strategic step is a prime example of how you can proactively influence your credit standing.

Following your payment, your lender can initiate a rapid rescore by obtaining an updated copy of your credit report from one or more of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies ... Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. With this fresh data in hand, your lender can reevaluate your credit scores based on the latest information, including your substantial debt payment aimed at elevating your scores.

Rapid rescoring is designed to be swift, typically taking three to five business days to complete. The exact duration may vary depending on your individual circumstances, but the benefits can be significant.

Before requesting your lender to initiate a rapid rescore, it's prudent to evaluate your entire financial situation. Ensure there are no unforeseen negative developments on the horizon, such as new delinquent payments or other potential issues that could affect your credit.

If you find yourself in a credit score range where a few extra points could unlock better terms for your mortgage, rapid rescoring could be an excellent option to explore.

In the intricate world of mortgage loans, rapid rescoring emerges as a valuable strategy for potential homebuyers aiming to secure favorable terms. By understanding the potential of rapid rescoring and acting strategically, you can potentially save time and even money in the long run. When considering this option, remember to assess your entire financial landscape and consult with a trusted mortgage professional to make an informed decision that aligns with your goals.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Why It's a Smart Move to Buy a Home in the Current Market



If you're in a financially stable position, now might be the perfect time to embark on your homeownership journey. Buying a home today offers several advantages, including the opportunity to build equity and stabilize your housing costs in the face of rising expenses. Explore the reasons why purchasing a home now can be a wise decision in the current market.

By purchasing a home today, you can start building equity, which is an investment in your future. Additionally, opting for a fixed-rate mortgage allows you to stabilize your monthly housing costs for the long term, even as other expenses continue to rise. This stability provides peace of mind in an ever-changing financial landscape.

While housing costs experienced significant increases in 2021 due to a combination of factors, such as inflation, high demand, and low supply, the market has since moderated. If you decide to buy now, you can expect relatively stable house prices and potentially face less competition from other buyers due to the current mortgage rate environment.

Despite prevailing interest rates, which fell to 7% last week, recent research from Freddie Mac suggests that homebuyers can save $600 to $1,200 annually by applying for mortgages from multiple lenders. It's important to remember that you can always refinance your loan in the future if rates decrease further.

Renters, on the other hand, have experienced rising rental costs in recent years. The 2023 Multifamily Outlook indicates that rent prices increased between 6% and 8% in 2022, with a projected growth of 3.9% in 2023. By choosing to buy a home, you can escape the uncertainty and potential annual rent increases, gaining stability and control over your housing expenses.

Homeowners with fixed-rate loans enjoy the benefit of consistent monthly housing costs over the life of their loan. While other expenses may fluctuate, you can take comfort in the fact that your mortgage payments will remain relatively unchanged in the long run. This stability gives you confidence in managing your finances effectively, regardless of external economic factors.

Despite the potential for rising rents and home prices, buying a home today offers distinct advantages for those who are financially prepared. With the opportunity to build equity, stabilize your housing costs, and enjoy long-term cost predictability, homeownership can be a smart investment in your future. By taking the leap into homeownership now, you can secure a place to call your own and navigate the evolving financial landscape with confidence.

Download our Buyers Guide and let's connect to provide you with specific information relevant to your individual situation.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Moving Scams: How to Spot Them



Moving can be stressful enough without having to worry about being scammed by a moving company. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous movers out there who prey on people who are in the midst of moving.

To protect yourself from being scammed, it's important to be aware of the red flags. Here are a few things to watch out for:

The mover or broker doesn't perform an on-site inspection of your household items and gives an estimate over the telephone or online. A legitimate moving company will always come to your home to inspect your belongings and give you an accurate estimate.

The mover or broker doesn't provide a written estimate or says they will determine the cost after loading. A written estimate is essential to protect yourself from hidden charges.

The moving company demands cash or a large deposit before the move. Legitimate moving companies will accept credit cards or checks.

The mover asks you to sign blank documents. Never sign blank documents. This could give the mover the opportunity to add hidden charges after the move.

The mover or broker doesn't provide you with a copy of the Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move booklet and a copy of FMCSA's Ready to Move brochure. These booklets contain important information about your rights and responsibilities as a mover.

The company's website has no local address and no information about their registration or insurance. A legitimate moving company will have a physical address and be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The mover claims all goods are covered by their insurance. This is not always true. Make sure you understand the terms of the mover's insurance before you sign any contracts.

On moving day, a rental truck arrives rather than a company-owned or marked fleet truck. This is a red flag that the mover may not be legitimate.

The mover claims that you have more belongings than estimated. This could be an attempt to charge you more money.

If you see any of these red flags, it's best to walk away from the moving company and find a more reputable one. You can check the FMCSA's website to see if the company is registered and insured. You can also read reviews of the company online.

For more information, go to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.   Download our Moving Guide.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Which types of showings work



A showing is an opportunity for a buyer to determine if a home is right for them. Each of the different types of showing plays a valid and necessary role in marketing the home. Some buyers may start by looking at homes online, which can lead them to drive by the home to see if it still meets their interest before they schedule a showing.

Online showing: This is when a buyer looks at a home's listing online, including photos, videos, and a description. This can be a great way for buyers to get a general overview of a home and see if it is worth scheduling a showing.

Drive-by showing: This is when a buyer drives by a home to see it in person. This can be a good way for buyers to get a feel for the neighborhood and the surrounding area. It can also be helpful for buyers to see the home's size and layout from the outside.

In-person showing: This is when a buyer schedules a time to visit the home with a real estate agent. This is the best way for buyers to get a true sense of the home and see if it is right for them. Buyers can ask the real estate agent questions about the home and the neighborhood. They can also walk through the home and get a feel for the space.

Virtual Showing: Virtual Reality (VR) can be used to stage, remodel, or update a home for sale by creating realistic images of what the home could look like with different furniture, appliances, paint colors, countertops, or flooring.  By creating images of the home in different staging scenarios, the agent can show potential buyers the potential of the home and how it could be used.

Each one of these types of showings contributes to the marketing of a home.  By offering different types of showings, a seller can reach a wider audience of potential buyers and increase the chances of selling their home quickly.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

How homeowners can avoid mortgage relief scams



Homeowners who are facing financial difficulty are often targeted by mortgage relief scams. These scams can be very convincing, and homeowners may be desperate for help, making them vulnerable to these schemes.

Scammers often pose as government officials or mortgage experts, and they may promise homeowners that they can help them avoid foreclosure or modify their mortgage loan. However, these promises are often false, and homeowners who fall victim to these scams may lose their homes and their money.

If you are facing financial difficulty and you are considering a mortgage relief program, it is important to do your research and be very careful. Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of a mortgage relief scam:

  • Only work with a HUD-approved housing counselor. You can find a housing counselor by calling 1-888-995-HOPE (4673).
  • Be wary of anyone who promises to help you avoid foreclosure or modify your mortgage loan for a fee. It is illegal for anyone other than a licensed attorney to charge a homeowner a pre-paid fee to negotiate a mortgage modification on the homeowner's behalf.
  • Read all paperwork carefully before signing anything. Do not sign anything that you do not understand.
  • Do not be pressured into making a decision quickly. Take your time and do your research before making any decisions about your mortgage.

The warning signs for fraudulent mortgage rescue schemes:

  • You are charged an upfront fee for assistance in avoiding foreclosure or modifying your mortgage loan.
  • You are asked to transfer the deed to your home. It is very unlikely you will ever get the deed back, regardless of what you are told.
  • The individual or company "helping" you asks you to make future mortgage payments directly to them, instead of paying your mortgage company directly. This is a common tactic used by scammers to take your money and run.
  • You are asked not to contact your current mortgage company. This is another common tactic used by scammers to prevent you from getting help from a legitimate source.
  • The scammer refuses to provide you with a written plan or contract, or alternatively pressures you to quickly sign documents you do not understand. This is a red flag that the scammer is not interested in helping you, but rather is trying to take advantage of you.

Review this HUD guide for homeowners having difficulty making mortgage payments. This guide provides information on your rights and options if you are facing foreclosure.

If you think you may have been a victim of a mortgage relief scam, you should contact your state attorney general's office or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can also file a complaint with the FTC online at ftc.gov/complaint.

It is important to be aware of the red flags for fraudulent mortgage rescue schemes. If you are contacted by someone who claims to be able to help you avoid foreclosure or modify your mortgage loan, be sure to do your research and ask questions before you hand over any money.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

How to Buy and Sell a Home at the Same Time (Without Losing Your Mind)



Buying or selling a home is a big adventure; some thrill seekers may choose to take on both tasks at the same time. If you're finding yourself in the position of needing to buy and sell at the same time, here are some tips to help you navigate the possibly challenging course ahead of you.

Evaluate Your Local Market

For most buyers and sellers, selling their current home before putting an offer on another property is their best real estate option. But for others, it really depends on the local real estate market. If you're thinking of selling and buying at the same time, research the market in your target area. This can help you gauge whether it's a buyer or seller market. If many properties are available, it might be a good time to list. If inventory is low, you may need to wait until the market picks up again.

The general rule of thumb is to sell first in a buyer's market and buy first in a seller's market; but this isn't always the case since every experience is unique. You can really get an understanding of what might work best for you by talking to your trusted real estate agent; they will know the market and will be able to provide insight into current trends.

Understand Your Finances

When it comes to buying or selling a house, finances are a huge part of both transactions. Whether you are looking to sell or looking to buy, knowing your current financial situation is vital to your next steps.

If you have a mortgage loan, you will absolutely want to know how much equity you have in your home. The equity that has built up could be enough for a down payment on another home. It's important to remember, though, that any equity is only accessible after closing unless you use a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a second mortgage to cash out.

If you currently own, consider having an inspection done to understand what repairs or work may need to be done to the property to help you understand how much you may need to deduct from the possible sale price or any concessions you may need to make for a future buyer.

Utilize A Contingency

Ideally, you would sell your home on the same day as buying a new one. Since this is not the case for most buyers/sellers, adding a contingency into the contract can be helpful. In a real estate transaction, a contingency refers to a provision for a possible event or circumstance when it comes to the financial ability to close a purchase sale.

If you want to buy before selling, make an offer contingent on the sale of your home, which means you will buy the new home once your current residence sells. You can also request an extended closing (if you are certain your home will sell), which extends your closing past the typical standard of 30-45 days.

If you want to sell before buying, you can make an offer with a settlement contingency. This contingency works when you have an offer on your home, and you want to buy another which means you will buy the home contingent on the sale of your existing home.

If you happen to sell and haven't made an offer on another home, you may be able to negotiate a rent-back, which means you go through with the sale of your home, but you rent the home back from the new owners for a specific time (anywhere from 60-90 days), giving you time to find a new home or make other living arrangements.

In low inventory markets, sellers are reluctant to accept contingencies because there are more buyers than properties for sale.  Competing in this kind of market, some buyers resist adding a contingency on the sale of a home.

Buying and selling are big events - if you are unsure of where to start or if you should do both at the same time, it is best to ask for help. Ensure your finances are up-to-date and have a reasonable idea of what you can get for your home. If you must search for another home while selling, have a backup plan if you can't find another home in time. Your real estate professional can provide insight into the market and what other buyers and sellers have encountered.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Discover the benefits of an FHA Assumption



With new mortgage rates approaching 8%, many buyers have decided to wait for rates to come down.  While there may be some easing in the fourth quarter of 2023 and 2024, assuming an existing FHA mortgage with a lower rate made in the last three or four years might be a much better alternative.

Since December 1, 1986, FHA has had the right to approve the purchaser of an existing FHA loan.  Prior to that, anyone, regardless of credit worthiness or other qualifications, could assume an existing FHA loan. 

Existing FHA mortgages are assumable at the current interest rate for owner-occupied buyers.  The benefit is that the rate could be much lower than a new current mortgage.  The borrower must qualify for the loan under current FHA underwriting guidelines, but it will be easier because the payment will be lower due to a lower assumable mortgage rate.

The buyer's closing costs on an assumption are less than a new FHA loan because an appraisal and survey are not required.  The transfer fee is $500 instead of the 1% loan origination on a new loan.

An existing mortgage is further into the amortization schedule than originating a new loan which means there is more being applied to the principal each month accelerating the payoff.  Another benefit is that lower interest rate loans amortize quicker than higher interest rates loans.

It will generally take a larger initial cash investment on an assumption to buy the equity than buyers were planning to use as a down payment.  Secondary financing can be used for the difference which is referred to as the assumption gap.  Purchase Price less Existing Balance on Mortgage = Equity less Planned Down Payment = Assumption Gap.

The difficulty is that lending institutions are slow to add second mortgages to their offerings. Another reality is that lenders make much more money on a new loan than an assumption. Alternative sources for the second loan could be the seller, relatives, credit unions, local banks, and hard money lenders.

Conventional loans have had a "due on sale" clause in their loan documents since the early 1980s which not only require the borrower to qualify for the assumption but allows them to escalate the interest rate to the current rate.  For practical reasons, there is no benefit to assuming a conventional loan; the borrower might as well get a new conventional mortgage.

Buyers who assume an FHA mortgage without obtaining lender approval risk triggering the due-on-sale clause.

Lenders must grant a release of liability to the original borrower (seller) if the assumptor (buyer) is approved and agrees to execute a statement to assume and pay the mortgage debt.

The practical difficulty in finding assumable FHA loans is that there is no searchable field in most MLS databases and anything identifying it as an assumable mortgage is limited to the description or the agent comments.

Another issue is that many agents have never done an assumption and, in some cases, are not even aware that FHA mortgages are assumable at the original mortgage rate.  An experienced agent can show you the savings on an assumption compared to a new mortgage at current interest rates and knows how to locate assumable loans.

If you're interested in learning more about it, find an agent familiar with FHA, VA, & USDA assumptions.  Each type of mortgage has slightly different requirements, but each is assumable.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Discover how to go from stress to success with your home move



Navigating a real estate transaction, which often involves substantial financial investments and emotional considerations, can understandably induce stress. To streamline this process, adopt these effective strategies that promote a smoother journey.

Begin by clearly outlining your primary motivations for either buying or selling a property. By eliminating distractions and maintaining a focused perspective, you can mitigate potential anxieties. For instance, if your primary goal is to secure more space for your family, evaluating properties without this essential feature becomes a straightforward decision.

Whenever feasible, allocate ample time to prevent hasty decisions or setting unrealistic deadlines. While external factors like a sudden job relocation or a booming market might necessitate swift responses, it's crucial to differentiate between preparedness for action and arbitrarily shortened time frames.

Remember, orchestrating a successful transaction requires coordination with other involved parties such as title and mortgage companies, appraisers, surveyors, inspectors and possibly, attorneys. The ability to expedite your actions doesn't necessarily imply that others can adhere to such accelerated timelines.

Anticipate encountering a few unexpected things during your home buying or selling journey. Recognizing the potential for sudden surprises can alleviate some of the pressure when they arise. When challenges do surface, counterbalance these concerns by reminding yourself of the favorable aspects associated with relocating, such as a home more conducive to your current lifestyle, a more convenient location, or other opportunities.

The ultimate strategy to alleviate stress when engaging in real estate transactions lies in partnering with a seasoned REALTOR� who possesses the expertise to navigate you through each step of the process, thereby facilitating the realization of your real estate aspirations.

For more information, download our Buyers Guide.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

The Net Worth Advantage: Homeowners vs. Renters



The decision to rent or own a home is not just about having a place to live; it also has significant implications for your financial future. One key aspect that often comes into play is net worth ... the value of your assets minus your liabilities. Numerous studies and statistics highlight a compelling trend: homeowners tend to have higher net worth compared to renters.

The numbers according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances confirms the belief that homeownership has long been associated with wealth accumulation.  The median net worth of homeowners is 40 times higher than that of renters. This discrepancy can be attributed to several factors that favor homeowners, including equity buildup, property appreciation, and forced savings through mortgage payments.

Homeownership allows individuals to build equity over time, which is the difference between the home's market value and the remaining mortgage balance. Every mortgage payment with amortizing loans contributes to this equity, leading to a gradual increase in homeowners' net worth. On the contrary, renters do not benefit from this form of forced savings, as their monthly rent does not result in any ownership stake.

Historically, real estate has proven to be a valuable investment, with properties appreciating in value over the long term. Homeowners enjoy the potential for capital appreciation, which can significantly boost their net worth. In contrast, renters do not participate in the appreciation of the property they live in and miss out on this wealth-building opportunity.

Homeownership also comes with tax benefits, such as deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes but with such a high portion of taxpayers electing to take the standard deduction, the more important tax benefit is the capital gains exclusion. 

Homeowners can exclude up to $250,000 of the gain on their principal residence if single and up

to $500,000 if married filing jointly. During the five-year period ending on the date of the sale, the

taxpayer must have owned and lived in the home for at least two of the past five years.

These advantages contribute to lowering the overall cost of homeownership and increasing the financial cushion for homeowners.

Owning a home can have positive implications for retirement readiness. As homeowners pay down their mortgages, they are essentially building a valuable asset that can be leveraged in retirement. Borrowing against one's home is not a taxable event.  The proceeds could be used for any reason.  Furthermore, owning a home outright eliminates the need for monthly rent payments during retirement, providing greater financial security.

Additional sources to support the claim that homeownership has net worth advantages include:

  • The National Association of Realtors regularly releases reports that analyze the financial benefits of homeownership, including equity accumulation and property appreciation.
  • The Case-Shiller Home Price Index tracks changes in the value of residential real estate, offering insights into property appreciation trends over time.
  • U.S. Census Bureau data offers a broader perspective on homeownership rates, wealth distribution, and their impact on net worth.

The numbers speak for themselves ... homeowners tend to enjoy a higher net worth compared to renters. The combination of equity building, property appreciation, tax advantages, and retirement preparedness contribute to this financial advantage. While individual circumstances vary, it's clear that homeownership offers a pathway to building wealth and securing a more robust financial future.

For more information, download our Homeowners Tax Guide.