Category: Buyers

Get Your Credit Score in Shape Before Buying a Home

Get Your Credit Score in Shape Before Buying a Home

How strong is your credit? Cleaning up your credit is essential before you make any major financial moves. Having a bad score can hurt your chances of being able to open a credit card, apply for a loan, purchase a car, or rent an apartment.

It is especially important to have clean credit before you try to buy a home. With a less-than-great score, you may not get preapproved for a mortgage. If you can’t get a mortgage, you may only be able to buy a home if you can make an all-cash offer.

Or if you do get preapproval, you might get a higher mortgage rate, which can be a huge added expense. For example, if you have a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $100,000 and you get a 3.92% interest rate, the total cost of your mortgage will be $170,213. However, if your interest rate is 5.92%, you’ll have to spend $213,990 for the same mortgage  – that’s an extra $43,777 over the life of the loan! If you had secured the lower mortgage rate, you could use that additional money to fund a four-year college degree at a public university.

So now that you know how important it is to maintain a good credit score, how do you start cleaning up your credit? Here, we’ve collected our best tips for improving your score.

Talk to a loan professional

You can protect your score from more damage by getting a loan professional to check your credit score for you. A professional will be able to guide you to whether your score is in the ‘good’ range for home buying. Plus, every time that you request your own credit score, the credit companies record the inquiry, which can lower your score. Having a professional ask instead ensures that you only record one inquiry. Once you know your score, you can start taking action on cleaning up your credit.

Change your financial habits to boost your score

What if your score has been damaged by late payments or delinquent accounts? You can start repairing the damage quickly by taking charge of your debts. For example, your payment history makes up 35% of your score according to myFICO. If you begin to pay your bills in full before they are due, and make regular payments to owed debts, your score can improve within a few months.

Amounts owed are 30% of your FICO score. What matters in this instance is the percentage of credit that you’re currently using. For example, if you have a $5000 limit on one credit card, and you’re carrying a balance of $4500, that means 90% of your available credit is used up by that balance. You can improve your score by reducing that balance to free up some of your available credit.

Length of credit history counts for 15% of your FICO score. If you’re trying to reduce debt by eliminating your credit cards, shred the card but DO NOT close the account. Keep the old accounts open without using them to maintain your credit history and available credit.

Find and correct mistakes on your credit report

How common are credit report mistakes? Inaccuracies are rampant. In a 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission, one in five people identified at least one error on their credit report. In their 2015 follow-up study, almost 70% thought that at least one piece of previously disputed information was still inaccurate.

Go through each section of your report systematically, and take notes about anything that needs to be corrected.

Your personal information

Start with the basics: often overlooked, one small incorrect personal detail like an incorrect address can accidently lower your score. So, before you look at any other part of your report, check all of these personal details:

  • Make sure your name, address, social security number and birthdate are current and correct.
  • Are your prior addresses correct? You’ll need to make sure that they’re right if you haven’t lived at your current address for very long.
  • Is your employment information up to date? Are the details of your past employers also right?
  • Is your marital status correct? Sometimes a former spouse will come up listed as your current spouse.

Your public records

This section will list things like lawsuits, tax liens, judgments, and bankruptcies. If you have any of these in your report, make sure that they are listed correctly and actually belong to you.

A bankruptcy filed by a spouse or ex-spouse should not be on your report if you didn’t file it. There shouldn’t be any lawsuits or judgments older than seven years, or that were entered after the statute of limitations, on your report.  Are there tax liens that you paid off that are still listed as unpaid, or that are more than seven years old? Those all need to go.

Your credit accounts

This section will list any records about your commingled accounts, credit cards, loans, and debts. As you read through this section, make sure that any debts are actually yours.

For example, if you find an outstanding balance for which your spouse is solely responsible, that should be removed from your report. Any debts due to identity theft should also be resolved. If there are accounts that you closed on your report, make sure they’re labeled as ‘closed by consumer’ so that it doesn’t look like the bank closed them.

Your inquiries

Are there any unusual inquiries into your credit listed in this section? An example might be a credit inquiry when you went for a test drive or were comparison shopping at a car dealer. These need to be scrubbed off your report.

Report the dispute to the credit agency

If there are major mistakes, you can take your dispute to the credit agencies. While you could send a letter, it can be much faster to get the ball rolling on resolving a mistake by submitting your report through the credit agency’s website. Experian,Transunionand Equifaxall have step-by-step forms to submit reports online.

If you have old information on your report that should have been purged from your records already, such as a debt that has already been paid off or information that is more than 7 years old, you may need to go directly to the lender to resolve the dispute.

Follow up

You must follow up to make sure that any mistakes are scrubbed from your reports. Keep notes about who you speak to and on which dates you contacted them. Check back with all of the credit reporting companies to make sure that your information has been updated. Since all three companies share data with each other, any mistakes should be corrected on all three reports.

If your disputes are still not corrected, you may have to also follow up with the institution that reported the incident in the first place, or a third-party collections agency that is handling it. Then check again with the credit reporting companies to see if your reports have been updated.

If you can keep on top of your credit reports on a regular basis, you won’t have to deal with the headaches of fixing reporting mistakes. You are entitled to a free annual credit report review to make sure all is well with your score. If you make your annual credit review part of your financial fitness routine, you’ll be able to better protect your buying power and potentially save thousands of dollars each year.

How to clean up your credit now

Does your credit score need a boost so you can buy a home? Get in touch with me. I can connect you with the right lending professionals to help you get the guidance you need.

How to Amp Up The Resale Value of Your Home

How to Amp Up The Resale Value of Your Home

Whether you’re putting your home on the market this year or in the next five years, it is a smart decision to start building your home’s resale value now. Here are some ways to create a comfortable home while making it easier to put more money into your bank account on closing day.

Small Maintenance and Repairs

If you think that home maintenance on the weekends waste your time and energy, think again. The small chores you do around your home prevents it from losing value. Neglecting small maintenance and repairs causes 10% of your home’s value to walk out your door and slip through your windows. Most appraisers claim that homes showing little to no preventative maintenance can depreciate from $15,000 to $20,000.

study conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University shows that regular maintenance boosts your home value by about 1% per year. However, ongoing maintenance costs offset that value, which means that regular maintenance actually slows down your rate of depreciation. Furthermore, because homebuyers generally notice any repairs needed upon buying a new home, proactive maintenance lets the homebuyer know that he or she will not have to spend extra money to maintain the basics. This makes your home more attractive, and thus more likely to get higher priced offers.

Maintaining the basics can cost you little money and certainly some effort, but there’s a way to accomplish this very important activity smartly. This article by HouseLogic, for example,shows you how to keep home maintenance below $300 a year.  Planning ahead will also help make maintaining your home easier. Most professional appraisers and real estate agents recommend a proactive maintenance schedule that includes:

  • Keeping enough cash on hand to replace systems and materials
  • Creating and following a maintenance schedule
  • Planning a room redo every year
  • Keeping a notebook of all your maintenance and repairs

Landscaping

The Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Techpublished a study that shows landscaping can increase a home’s value by 15%.  The study claims that a home valued at $150,000 could increase its value between $8,300 and $19,000 with the addition of landscaping. Particular landscape elements add different value. For instance, landscape design can increase your home’s value by 42%, plant size can increase your home’s value by 32%, and diversity in plants can increase your home’s value by 22%.

Replace Entrance Doors

If your entry doors are wood, consider switching them out for either fiberglass or steel doors. Steel doors add style and architectural interest to your home while improving security; you can add a deadbolt and electronic keypads to keep out intruders. Unlike wood doors, steel doors do not rot or splinter.

Alternatively, fiberglass doors can be designed to look like wood doors and give your home a modern look. Fiberglass doors conserve more energy than steel doors.

Pricewise, a steel door will cost you $1,335 with a 91% return on investment whereas a fiberglass door will cost you $3,126 with an 82.3% return on investment.

Garage Door Replacement

 At first, you might not think that your garage door increases the value of your home. However, your garage door distinguishes your home from the other homes on your block. As the largest entryway of a house, garage doors get noticed first because they’re the focal point of your home. If you want to quickly increase the resale value of your home, you need to make the most of this space.

Some interesting things being done with garage doors include:

  • Increased Size:Bigger garage doors help homes stand out more, and homeowners can do more creatively with them.
  • Bold Colors:Bright and bold colors now can complement the color of your home, or you can build a concept around the color of your home.
  • Faux Wood:You can install fiberglass or steel garage doors that look like wood garage doors. This gives your home a new level of sophistication.
  • Windows:Large Windows on your garage door improve the aesthetic of your home, and provide light into your garage so that it’s no longer a dark space.

 More importantly, a garage door replacement will cost you $1,652 and add $1,512 to the value of your home; that’s a return on your investment of 91.5%.

Fiberglass Attic Insulation

While energy efficiency is still not the sexiest selling point of your home, installing fiberglass attic insulation saves energy and garners a big payback on your investment. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value top trends report, fiberglass attic insulation gained the top return on investment among the 30 projects in this year’s report. Using Remodel/Max as the cost source, a fiberglass attic insulation project cost $1,268 nationwide. Real estate professionals surveyed estimated that the work would boost the price of a home at resale, within a year of its completion, by $1,482. That’s a 116.9% return on investment.

Replacing Windows

Replacing your windows is another way to save energy and increase your home’s resale value. Replacing your old windows with energy saving models will beautify your home, keep it comfortable, and ease the workload of your HVAC system. According to HGTV, you’ll see a reduction in your utility bill by 7% to 15%. However, if you’re selling your home, you could expect a 60% to 70% recoupment of your investment. The two types of replacement windows that fetch the best returnare vinyl and wood.

Remodeling Your Kitchen

Kitchen remodeling can get expensive, but small renovations can make your home more buyer friendly. Changing your kitchen’s texture and color using a matte finish and neutral colors such as putty or grey enhances your home’s resale value. Because matte finishes have transitional qualities, your potential homebuyer can easily match his or her stainless steel or black and white appliances. Also, refinishing cabinetry, or switching to Energy Star™ appliances provide comfort you like and pizazz buyers adore.

Flow is important to any interior design of a home. If you feel that your kitchen hinders a good flow, change it. A small investment to knock out a non-structural wall or remove a kitchen island creates space and provides flow that buyers love.

A minor kitchen remodel can cost you $20,122 while putting $16,716 of resale value into your home; that’s an 83% payback on the project. If you want to do a major kitchen model, this can cost you about $60,000 and put about $39,000 of resale value into your home, which is only about a 65% payback on the project. Therefore, consider a minor kitchen remodel first.

Bathroom Addition or Remodel

Likewise, carefully consider adding a bathroom or remodeling your bathroom. Switching out your frosted glass shower doors for glass doors, cleaning the grout, replacing the shower and floor tiles, switching out your sink or toilet, or replacing your sink and shower fixtures can cost you little money.

Adding a bathroom can get expensive, but it can reduce congestion during hectic times and provide your guests with a bathroom. Consult with your real estate agent or a local appraiser before deciding whether a full remodel or addition is right for your situation. While a bathroom remodel will cost you about $18,000 with a return on investment of about 66%, a bathroom addition will cost you about $42,000 with a return on investment of about 56%. Therefore, it’s best do your due diligence before working on your bathroom.

Your Needs and Buyers’ Wants

On that note, if you need to renovate your home, be sure to consider how those changes will affect its appeal to future buyers. Knowing design trends will give you the opportunity to make changes to your home based on where your needs and your potential buyer’s desires intersect, thus increasing your property’s resale value drastically.

Designers and design websites provide great ideas when you’re brainstorming home renovations. Keep in mind as you research, however, that you don’t want to sacrifice your needs for a comfortable home just for the sake of what you think a future buyer will want!

Therefore, before you begin making any changes to your home, consult your real estate agent. Real estate agents, because we are constantly working with new buyer clients, have insider insight into what home buyers are looking for now and in the future. We’ll be able to help you make smart choices when remodeling or renovating your home.

If you think you might want to remodel or renovate your home in the near future, or if you are just curious about other ways you can increase its resale value, please reach out to me!

The Home Buyer’s Guide to Getting Mortgage Ready

The Home Buyer’s Guide to Getting Mortgage Ready

Don’t wait until you’re ready to move to start preparing financially to buy a home.

If you’re like the vast majority of home buyers, you will choose to finance your purchase with a mortgage loan. By preparing in advance, you can avoid the common delays and roadblocks many buyers face when applying for a mortgage.

The requirements to secure a mortgage may seem overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. But we’ve outlined three simple steps to get you started on your path to homeownership.

Even if you’re a current homeowner, it’s a good idea to prepare in advance so you don’t encounter any surprises along the way. Lending requirements have become more rigorous in recent years, and changes to your credit history, debt levels, job type and other factors could impact your chances of approval.

It’s never too early to start preparing to buy a home. Follow these three steps to begin laying the foundation for your future home purchase today!

 

STEP 1: CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE

Your credit score is one of the first things a lender will check to see if you qualify for a loan. It’s a good idea to review your credit report and score yourself before you’re ready to apply for a mortgage. If you have a low score, you will need time to raise it. And sometimes fraudulent activity or erroneous information will appear on your report, which can take months to correct.

The credit score most lenders use is your FICO score, a weighted score developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation that takes into account your payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%), and credit mix (10%).1

Source: myFico.com

Base FICO scores range from 300 to 850. A higher FICO score will help you qualify for a lower mortgage interest rate, which will save you money.2

By federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Transunion). Request your free credit report at https://www.annualcreditreport.com.

 

Minimum Score Requirements

To qualify for the lowest interest rates available, you will usually need a FICO score of 760 or higher. Most lenders require a score of at least 620 to qualify for a conventional mortgage.3

If your FICO score is less than 620, you may be able to qualify for a non-conventional mortgage. However, you should expect to pay higher interest rates and fees. For example, you may be able to secure an FHA loan (one issued by a private lender but insured by the Federal Housing Administration) with a credit score as low as 580 if you can make a 3.5 percent down payment. And FHA loans are available to applicants with credit scores as low as 500 with a 10 percent down payment.4

 

Increase Your Credit Score

There’s no quick fix for a low credit score, but the following steps will help you increase it over time.5

 

  1. Make Payments on Time

At 35 percent, your payment history accounts for the largest portion of your credit score. Therefore, it’s crucial to get caught up on any late payments and make all of your future payments on time.

If you have trouble remembering to pay your bills on time, set up payment reminders through your online banking platform, a free money management tool like Mint, or an app like BillMinder.

 

  1. Avoid Applying for New Credit You Don’t Need

New accounts will lower your average account age, which could negatively impact your length of credit history. Also, each time you apply for credit, it can result in a small decrease in your credit score.

The exception to this rule? If you don’t have any credit cards—or any credit accounts at all—you should open an account to establish a credit history. Just be sure to use it responsibly and pay it off in full each month.

If you need to shop for a new credit account, for example, a car loan, be sure to complete your loan applications within a short period of time. FICO attempts to distinguish between a search for a single loan and applications to open several new lines of credit by the window of time during which inquiries occur.

 

  1. Pay Down Credit Cards

When you pay off your credit cards and other revolving credit, you lower your amounts owed, or credit utilization ratio (ratio of account balances to credit limits). Some experts recommend starting with your highest-interest debt and paying it off first. Others suggest paying off your lowest balance first and then rolling that payment into your next-lowest balance to create momentum.

Whichever method you choose, the first step is to make a list of all of your credit card balances and then start tackling them one by one. Make the minimum payments on all of your cards except one. Pay as much as possible on that card until it’s paid in full, then cross it off your list and move on to the next card.

 

Debt Interest Rate Total Payoff Minimum Payment
Credit Card 1 12.5% $460 $18.40
Credit Card 2 18.9% $1,012 $40.48
Credit Card 3 3.11% $6,300 $252

 

  1. Avoid Closing Old Accounts

Closing an old account will not remove it from your credit report. In fact, it can hurt your score, as it can raise your credit utilization ratio—since you’ll have less available credit—and decrease your average length of credit history.

Similarly, paying off a collection account will not remove it from your report. It remains on your credit report for seven years, however, the negative impact on your score will decrease over time.

 

  1. Correct Errors on Your Report

Mistakes or fraudulent activity can negatively impact your credit score. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your credit report at least once per year. The Federal Trade Commission has instructions on their websitefor disputing errors on your report.

While it may seem like a lot of effort to raise your credit score, your hard work will pay off in the long run. Not only will it help you qualify for a mortgage, a high credit score can help you secure a lower interest rate on car loans and credit cards, as well. You may even qualify for lower rates on insurance premiums.6

 

STEP 2: SAVE UP FOR A DOWN PAYMENT AND CLOSING COSTS

The next step in preparing for your home purchase is to save up for a down payment and closing costs.

 

Down Payment

When you purchase a home, you typically pay for a portion of it in cash (down payment) and take out a loan to cover the remaining balance (mortgage).

Many first-time buyers wonder: How much do I need to save for a down payment?The answer is … it depends.

Generally speaking, the higher your down payment, the more money you will save on interest and fees. For example, you will qualify for a lower interest rate and avoid paying for mortgage insurance if your down payment is at least 20 percent of the property’s purchase price. But what if you can’t afford to put down 20 percent?

On a conventional loan, you will be required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) if your down payment is less than 20 percent. PMI is insurance that compensates your lender if you default on your loan.7

PMI will cost you between 0.3 to 1.5 percent of the overall mortgage amount each year.8So, on a $100,000 loan, you can expect to pay between $300 and $1500 per year for PMI until your mortgage balance falls below 80 percent of the appraised value.9For a conventional mortgage withPMI, most lenders will accept a minimum down payment of five percent of the purchase price.7

If a five-percent down payment is still too high, an FHA-insured loan may be an option for you. Because they are guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans only require a 3.5 percent down payment if your credit score is 580 or higher.7

The downside of getting an FHA loan? You’ll be required to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium (MIP) of 1.75 percent of the total loan amount, as well as an annual MIP of between 0.80 and 1.05 percent of your loan balance on a 30-year note. There are also certain limitations on the types of loans and properties that qualify.10

There are a variety of other government-sponsored programs created to assist home buyers, as well. For example, veterans and current members of the Armed Forces may qualify for a VA-backed loan requiring a $0 down payment.7Consult a mortgage lender about what options are available to you.

 

TYPE MINIMUM DOWN ADDITIONAL FEES
Conventional Loan 20% Qualify for the best rates and no mortgage insurance required
Conventional Loan 5% Must purchase private mortgage insurance costing 0.3 – 1.5% of mortgage annually
FHA Loan 3.5% Upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1.75% of loan amount and annual fee of 0.8 – 1.05%

 

Current Homeowners

If you’re a current homeowner, you may have equity in your home that you can use toward your down payment on a new home. We can help you estimate your expected return after you sell your current home and pay back your existing mortgage. Contact us for a free evaluation!

 

Closing Costs

Closing costs should also be factored into your savings plan. These may include loan origination fees, discount points, appraisal fees, title searches, title insurance, surveys and other fees associated with the purchase of your home. Closing costs vary but typically range between two to five percent of the purchase price.11

If you don’t have the funds to pay these outright at closing, you can often add them to your mortgage balance and pay them over time. However, this means you’ll have a higher monthly payment and pay more over the long term because you’ll pay interest on the fees.

 

STEP 3: ESTIMATE YOUR HOME PURCHASING POWER

Once you have the required credit score, savings for a down payment and a list of all your outstanding debt obligations via your credit report, you can assess whether you are ready and able to purchase a home.

It’s important to have a sense of how much you can reasonably afford—and how much you’ll be able to borrow—to see if homeownership is within reach.

Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is one of the main factors mortgage companies use to determine how much they are willing to lend you, and it can help you gauge whether or not your home purchasing goals are realistic given your current financial situation.

Your DTI ratio is essentially a comparison of your housing expenses and other debt versus your income. There are two different DTI ratios that lenders consider:

 

Front-End Ratio

Also called the housing ratio, this is the percentage of your income that would go toward housing expenses each month, including your mortgage payment, private mortgage insurance, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and association dues.12

To calculate your front-end DTI ratio, a lender will add up your expected housing expenses and divide it by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The maximum front-end DTI ratio for most mortgages is 28 percent. For an FHA-backed loan, this ratio must not exceed 31 percent.13

 

Back-End Ratio

The back-end ratio takes into account all of your monthly debt obligations: your expected housing expenses PLUS credit card bills, car payments, child support or alimony, student loans and any other debt that shows up on your credit report.12

To calculate your back-end ratio, a lender will tabulate your expected housing expenses and other monthly debt payments and divide it by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The maximum back-end DTI ratio for most mortgages is 36 percent. For an FHA-backed loan, this ratio must not exceed 41 percent.13

 

Home Affordability Calculator

To get a sense of how much home you can afford, visit the National Association of Realtors’ free Home Affordability Calculator at https://www.realtor.com/mortgage/tools/affordability-calculator.

This handy tool will help you determine your home purchasing power depending on your location, annual income, monthly debt and down payment. It also offers a monthly mortgage breakdown that projects what you would pay each month in principal and interest, property taxes, and home insurance.

The Home Affordability Calculator defaults to a back-end DTI ratio of 36 percent. If the monthly cost estimate at that ratio is significantly higher than what you’re currently paying for housing, you need to consider whether or not you can make up the difference each month in your budget.

If not, you may want to lower your target purchase price to a more conservative DTI ratio. The tool enables you to scroll through higher and lower price points to see the impact on your monthly payments so you can identify your ideal price point.

(Note: This tool only provides an estimate of your purchasing power. You will need to secure pre-approval from a mortgage lender to know your true mortgage approval amount and monthly payment projections.)

 

Can I Afford to Buy My Dream Home?

Once you have a sense of your purchasing power, it’s time to find out which neighborhoods and types of homes you can afford. The best way to determine this is to contact a licensed real estate agent. We help homeowners like you every day and can send you a comprehensive list of homes within your budget that meet your specific needs.

If there are homes within your price range and target neighborhoods that meet your criteria—congratulations! It’s time to begin your home search.

If not, you may need to continue saving up for a larger down payment … or adjust your search parameters to find homes that do fit within your budget. We can help you determine the right course for you.

 

START LAYING YOUR FOUNDATION TODAY

It’s never too early to start preparing financially for a home purchase. These three steps will set you on the path toward homeownership … and a secure financial future!

And if you are ready to buy now but don’t have a perfect credit score or a big down payment, don’t get discouraged. There are resources and options available that might make it possible for you to buy a home sooner than you think. We can help.

Want to find out if you’re ready to buy a house? Give us a call! We’ll help you review your options, connect you with one of our trusted mortgage lenders, and help you determine the ideal time to begin your new home search.

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

 

 

Sources:
  1. Quicken Loans Blog – 
    
    https://www.quickenloans.com/blog/how-does-your-credit-score-affect-your-mortgage-eligibility
  2. myFICO – 
    
    https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/credit-report-credit-score-articles/
  3. Bankrate – 
    
    https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/what-is-a-good-credit-score-to-buy-a-house/
  4. Bankrate – 
    
    https://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/7-crucial-facts-about-fha-loans-1.aspx
  5. myFICO – 
    
    https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/improve-your-credit-score/
  6. The Balance – 
    
    https://www.thebalance.com/having-good-credit-score-960528
  7. Bankrate – 
    
    https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/how-much-is-a-down-payment-on-a-house/
  8. Bankrate – 
    
    https://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/the-basics-of-private-mortgage-insurance-pmi.aspx
  9. Bankrate – 
    
    https://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/removing-private-mortgage-insurance.aspx
  10. The Balance – 
    
    https://www.thebalance.com/fha-home-loan-pitfalls-315673
  11. Investopedia – 
    
    https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/closingcosts.asp
  12. Bankrate – 
    
    https://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/why-debt-to-income-matters-in-mortgages-1.aspx
  13. The Lenders Network – 
    
    https://thelendersnetwork.com/fha-debt-to-income-ratio/

Child Advocates of Fort Bend – Donate Today

I recently had the pleasure of touring the facility. I was moved by the dedication and enthusiasm that every employee/volunteer showed during the visit. They are doing AMAZING work. 

Child Advocates of Fort Bend is a nonprofit agency serving child victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect through two nationally-affiliated programs:  Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC).  Started in 1991, it is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2016 having served over 14,000 children ages birth – 18+ years old over these years.  Its mission is to:  Provide a Voice, Heal The Hurt and Break the Cycle of Abuse and Neglect for Children in Fort Bend County.

With a staff of 35 professionals, volunteer corps of 200 child advocate volunteers and collaborations with 40 partner agencies, it is consistently ranked as the “best practices” model for the investigation, treatment, advocacy and prevention of child abuse.  It employs a Multi-Disciplinary Team approach and practices trauma-focused, evidence-based practices.  Child Advocates of Fort Bend is community supported, public/private partnership that provides all its services at no cost.

For more information

This holiday season I will be collecting new toys, clothing, shoes, backpacks, stuffed animals or blankets for the Child Advocates of Fort Bend. Wish list: 2018 Child Advocate Donation 

I will be collecting items through December 15, 2018. 

I’d be happy to pick up items or you can mail the items to me . Email me for my address. ali@happyclientsrealtygroup.com

Thank you in advance!

Find your dream home and save on closing costs!

Are you planning on selling a home within the next 18 months? Let us help you sell and buy your new home. As a thank you for your trust in our services we will contribute $2,500* to be used towards your new home’s closing costs. The credit does not expire and can be transferred to a friend or family member to purchase a home with us.

Here is what you can expect:

  1. Current home’s value – Thinking about selling in the next few months? If so, let us run a price analysis on your current home. We will provide you with a suggested sales price and an approximate net sheet. Together we can review the sales process and come up with a plan of action.
  2. Get Pre-Approved: Speak to a lender about getting pre-qualified for a new loan. The lender will review your options and will provide you with a loan estimate. This information will help us plan ahead for your new home purchase.
  3. Prepare home for sale – Schedule your staging consultation. We will provide you with a check list of items to repair/replace or remove in order to market your property to its highest potential. Once the home is ready, we will schedule professional pictures.
  4. Property goes active – Property will go active on the market. We will review offers as they arrive and decide together on the best offer.
  5. Search for Homes: Once we are under contract we can start looking for your new home!
  6. Make Offer: Work with us to craft a competitive offer.
  7. Closing: We will work together to assure that all inspections, contingencies and details are taken care of. $2500 will be applied towards your closing costs on your new home. This will be reflected in your closing disclosure.
  8. Celebrate: Celebrate your new home!

What to get started? It’s never too early

Email us at ali@happyclientsrealtygroup.com and references “closing costs credit”

*Restrictions: Credit is only valid on a purchase with a minimum $5,000 Buyer Broker commission offered by the listing brokerage and the purchase must occur within our same market area.  

If you end up buying a home before you sell your current property we will refund $2,500 off the listing fee at closing.

 

 

 

How to spot a meth lab



Recently, I had a customer call me to consult on a purchase she was getting ready to make. She found a home that was a steal and was super excited! Every sounded great until she mentioned the fact that the home was possibly a meth lab in the past. Wait, what? Yes, this is a problem for resale and as an investor.

Every year meth labs are busted and closed down but many home meth labs go unbeknown. These homes eventually get sold to unsuspecting buyers.

The problem is that these home’s surfaces, insulation and carpeting may be steeped in poisonous substances. These contaminates can make home owners sick over time.

When someone sells a home they are asked to fill out a seller’s disclosure form. In it there are two places that address possible issues. One section will ask if you know if the premise was used to manufacture methamphetamines. The other area will ask if the seller knows of any condition that will affect the health and safety of the individual. The homeowner is suppose to tell you but if they are the ones cooking the meth, it’s very unlikely they will disclose this info.

If the home has been foreclosed and it’s being sold by a bank, it’s also unlikely that the buyer will know if the home was being used to produce meth.

Beware of cheap foreclosed properties, which are usually sold “as is”. We can assume that persons’ producing meth are more likely to lose, trash and abandon their home. In fact, they might not own it at all. It’s likely they are renting or squatting in an abandoned home. Banks can resale the home and landlords can easily rent the property without you knowing.

There are a few signs you can look for, assuming the home has not been cleaned out. Look for the following:

  • Old bottles of acetone, muriatic acid, brake cleaner, drain cleaner, iodine, paint thinner, phosphorus laying around.
  • Rubber gloved, tubing, dust masks, propane tanks, coolers and camp stoves.
  • Yellow discoloration on walls, drains, sinks and showers.
  • Blue discoloration on valves of propane tanks and fire extinguishers.
  • Fire detectors that are removed–or taped off.
  • Burning in your eyes, itchy throat, a metallic taste in your mouth, or breathing problems when in the home.
  • Strong odors that smell similar to materials often found in a garage, such as solvent and paint thinner, or odors of cat urine or ammonia.

When it doubt or just to be proactive you can purchase a test kit for about $50 or you can hire a professional to do the testing for significantly more. You can also check with local police to see if the home was ever linked to drug arrests or complaints. Talk to the neighbors, most will be more than happy to tell you what they have seen and heard.

Something to consider: smoking meth in a home might also leave enough residue to cause health issues; it’s not just producing meth. It might be prudent to test before renting a home/apartment, buying vehicles, home and/or commercial buildings.

It’s best to be proactive because once you find out that the home is contaminated the clean up cost can easily run $10,000+.

To make matters worse there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of concrete information about clean up and testing. The EPA does provide clean up guidelines but they are listed as “voluntary” clean up guidelines. In doing research, I found that the testing and clean up industry is not regulated and everyone seems to do their own thing.

If you find yourself in this situation do your research and see what’s best for you. Here are a few more sources:

There is a database where you can search for address. Keep in mind these are the meth labs that have been identified. The issue is mainly with those that haven’t been identified.

National Clandestine Laboratory Register Data

EPA guidelines

Sources: CNN Money, Realtor.com, NPR

Seek better representation

Imagine you need to sell a car. Normally you would have the car detailed to make sure it shines. A clean, shiny, well kept car will appeal to the most buyers and get you the most amount of money. Most buyers will not seek out a dirty, beat up car, unless is cheap.

The same goes for selling a home. In fact, a home is a much larger sale so why not take the time to make it shiny.

Most people now a days have the attention span of a gnat (as do I). We only have one opportunity to make a good first impression.

Most buyers will research homes and areas online before they even consider reaching out to an REALTOR®. Property pictures are EVERYTHING. If your home does not show well in pictures you will not get the traffic you deserve.

You want to appeal to the most number of buyers. Stage your home to appeal to the masses. This will give you the best chance to get the most out of your investment. Your home is an INVESTMENT. It’s probably the largest investment you will make in your life.

When we represent a client in selling a property, it is our job to make sure that the property is marketed in a favorable manner. It is our job to tell you to declutter, clean, and freshen up the property. We know what buyers are looking for. We hear their complaints every day. Our critiques aren’t personal. We do not sell homes the same way we live in them. We want to you make as much money as possible. You make money, we make money. It’s that simple

As a future seller, do your research and make sure your listing agent will present your property in the best light. Look at their previous listings and see if you find them appealing. Does the agent focus on the homes best attributes? Are the pictures clear? Is the home clean and decluttered.

Sometimes the best way to explain the importance of our roles is to show them in pictures! Let the fun begin…

Please note that these are all listing pictures. None are from the Houston area (don’t want too step on any toes). They are all from different price points. I have seen multimillion dollar homes that are represented in this same manner.

First, declutter and clean. Most buyers when sent photos like this will not even want to tour the property. Would you?

Buyers will assume you have no storage if your counters are covered in stuff
This kitchen is small enough. Take out the table and bike!
I can’t even focus on the room. All I can look at is the personal items. Curtains on the main door?
Too much! Can you put away the trash can? Can you even open the frig door?
Speechless
Can you even see the built in shelves?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lighting focus and angles – Dark photo are the death of a listing. Add blurry to that and why would a buyer keep looking?

This room seems to be freshly painted and it has nice floors but the lighting and the random grocery bag is distracting
This is the way it was uploaded…blurry
What are we selling here? The back splash? This is one of two pictures that represent the kitchen. Neither one shows the entire kitchen
Is this the best way to represent a half bath? This is where wide angle lenses come in
Oh, a blurry brick wall! yay
Can you not fit in the entire home in the pic? How about straightening the camera?
It only takes a sec to straighten up the camera
Nope, it’s not a foggy day. Just a blurry pic
What are we selling? the couch?
Blurry seems to be an ongoing issue but there is much more wrong with this image.
Why? what are we really showing? Shampoos and toilet paper?
Crooked
Is this the master? Who knows?
Nope, I did not upload this pic upside down. That’s the way it’s listed.
Can I fit in this laundry room?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main picture, first impression – We have the ability to organize the pics as we wish. Ideally you want to post the best pic first. This picture will either tempt the buyers to open the listing and learn more or they will simply swipe past it. 

 

This home has an amazing view. Could you walk out a little further to capture the actual view?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What house?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If this is going to be your main picture could you be bothered to move the box?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe consider moving the cars? What are we selling here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does this pic best represent the home? Dirty walls?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual staging has come a long way but when it looks like this it’s probably better to leave the room empty

Um…

 

 

 

 

 

 

no comment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can’t force a seller to clean and declutter but we can stress the importance and set expectations. I know that money is sometimes a factor. You can’t do repairs if you don’t have the funds. That said,  cleaning and decluttering is free. No excuses.

A listing agreement is a partnership with the same goal: to sell for the most money. The seller does their part (clean, declutter, make repairs, etc) and we will do my part. We will stage the home to spotlight the home’s best features and order professional picture. Professional pictures are absolutely necessary.

This partnership will only work if we both do our part. We too are making a investment of time and money to make your home shine.

If you have any questions or would like a complimentary staging consultation please feel free to contact us at the following number.

Ali Palacios

GRI, ABR, MCNE, TAHS, ASPRE, HARRL
Broker
Happy Clients Realty Group
ali@happyclientsrealtygroup.com

Mobile – 832-418-0670

 

For example of great listing pics click here

 

Let’s grow together

Thank you for your support, trust and referrals. I would not be where I’m at without your help. You helped me grow, I will help you grow!

I’d like to offer you my support in promoting your business. Do you have a small business and/or hobby you’d like to promote. I will list your business on my facebook page, website and offer your services to other clients.

Tell me more about you and your business. I’d love to help.

 

Am I the best agent for you?

I’ll be beyond honored to help you buy or sell a home!

As long as I’m the best agent for you…which I probably am, since I have the guts to even say that.

Most agents get so excited when someone even breathes the words buy or sell (or even just breathes), that they cram people in their car to go see homes, or push you to list your house on the spot.

It’s like going in for a kiss when you’re asking someone out on a date…let alone on the first date!

I prefer setting a date…just to chat and get to know each other.

Hopefully we are as good of a match as I feel like we’ll be!

So, for now, let’s just set up a good time to chat and get a feel for what you want and need in an agent. This will help me get a feel for who I’m agreeing to go steady with…before we put a ring on the relationship.

I’m here when you are ready

 

Breath, read, then sign…

E-signatures have made it very simple for people to sign documents on the go. It’s made it too easy. At times the documents send deserve to be read.

I’m always amazed at how many people just sign these things without truly reading through it. After all, it is a contract to purchase your largest assets.

So please, take your time. I like seeing that, because it means I’m dealing with someone who’s careful and will take the time to make solid decisions as we move forward.

Kind of a side note…

So many agents push people to sign these things on the spot, and rush right into things. I think it’s probably because they’re afraid if they don’t walk away from the appointment with signatures, they won’t get the business.

To me, if you deserve to be hired, you don’t have to push.

Heck, I feel like if you do push, you don’t deserve to be getting the business. Agents should be pushy for clients and their best interests…not pushy with them.

Anyhow, take the time you need. Ask me any questions you have. I’m even glad to go over it line by line with you. I’m here when you are ready to move forward.