- New Year Resolutions
- Does your home make you happy?
- Home Safety
- Taxes and Deductions
- Get your affairs in order (Transfer of Death Deed)
- Is your Air conditioner ready for summer?
- Pest Prevention tips
Let’s talk Homeowners Insurance
While you never want to leave yourself without a safety net, you also don’t want to overpay for insurance you don’t need (and will hopefully rarely use). Aim to strike a balance that will provide you with adequate protection at an affordable price.
Homeowners Insurance Covers Things Like:
Most Standard Policies DON’T Cover Things Like:
Some homeowners choose to supplement their insurance coverage by purchasing a home warranty, which covers many of the systems and appliances in your home that are NOT covered by homeowners insurance. While policy terms and coverage vary, a home warranty will often cover the cost (after deductible) to repair or replace components of your HVAC, electrical, plumbing and some appliances that fail due to age or typical wear and tear.
Unlike homeowners insurance, home warranties aren’t required by mortgage companies. But many homeowners like the added financial protection and peace of mind that home warranties provide.
A Home Warranty Covers Things Like:
Now that you understand the basics of homeowners insurance, you should be ready to start shopping for a policy that best fits your needs and budget. Your goal should be to minimize your risk while maximizing the value your policy provides.
Once you’ve purchased your policy, avoid setting the annual renewal on autopilot. Instead, take some time to consider factors that have changed over the past year. Home improvements, a shift in market conditions, a new home-based business, or even growth in your overall net worth could mean it’s time to reassess your coverage.
Need Guidance? We Can Help!
If you have questions about purchasing homeowners insurance or a home warranty—or if you would like a referral to a reputable broker—give us a call! We’re here to help.
Okay, you made one of the most important decisions in your life: you’re buying a home! You found your ideal home. It’s in your desired neighborhood, close to everything you love, you dig its design and feel, and you’re ready to finalize the deal.
But, whoa … wait a minute! Buying a home isn’t like buying a toaster. If you discover something’s wrong with your new home, you can’t return it for a refund or an even exchange. You’re stuck with your buying decision. Purchasing a home is an important investment and should be treated as such. Therefore, before finalizing anything, your “ideal” home needs an inspection to protect you from throwing your hard-earned money into a money pit.
A home inspection is a professional visual examination of the home’s roof, plumbing, heating and cooling system, electrical systems, and foundation.
There are really two types of home of inspections. There is a general home inspection and a specialized inspection. Most general inspections cost between $267 and $370. The cost of the specialized inspection varies from type to type. If the inspector recommends a specialized inspection, take that advice because buying a home is the single most important investment you’ll make and you want extra assurance that you’re making a wise investment.
By having your prospective new home inspected, you can:
- Negotiate with the home seller and get the home sale-ready at no cost to you
- Prevent your insurance rates from rising
- Opt-out of the purchase before you make a costly mistake
- Save money in the short and long run
How Much Money Can a Home Inspection Save You?
A home inspection helps to find potential expenses beyond the sales price, which puts homebuyers in a powerful position for negotiation. If there are any issues discovered during the home inspection, buyers can stipulate that the sellers either repair them before closing or help cover the costs in some other way. If the sellers do not want to front the money to complete the repairs, buyers could negotiate a drop in the overall sales price of the home!
Perhaps even more importantly, a home inspection buys you peace of mind. Your first days and months in a new home will set the tone for your life there, and you don’t want to taint that time with worries about hidden problems and potential money pits.
To help you understand how much money a home inspection can save you, here are some numbers from HomeAdvisor to drive the point home … so to speak.
Roof – Roofing problems are one of the most common issues found by home inspections. Roof repair can range between $316 and $1046, but to replace a roof entirely can cost between $4,660 and $8,950.
Plumbing – Don’t underestimate the plumbing. Small leaks can cause damage that costs between $1,041 and $3,488 to repair. Your home inspector will look for visible problems with the plumbing such as leaky faucets, water stains around sinks and the shower, and noisy pipes. Stains on walls, ceilings, and warped floors show plumbing problems.
Heating and Cooling – Ensuring the home’s heating and cooling system is working properly is very important. Your home inspector will make you aware of any problems with the existing system and let know you whether the system is past its prime and needs replacing. You don’t want to throw down $3,919 to replace an aged furnace. Nor do you want to spend $5,238 replacing an ill-working air conditioner. Replacing and repairing a water heater gets pricey too. Wouldn’t you rather use your savings for a vacation?
Electrical Systems – When thinking of the electrical system, no problem is better than even a small problem. Electrical problems might seem small, but they can blossom into thousand-dollar catastrophes. Make sure your home inspector examines the electric meter, wires, circuit breaker, switches, and the GCFI outlets and electrical outlets.
Foundation – If your home inspector sees that the house is sinking, that means water is seeping into the foundation; cracks in walls, sticking windows, and sagging floor also indicate foundational problems. The foundation is so important that if the general inspection report shows foundation problems, lenders will not lend money on the home until those issues are solved. Foundation repairs can reach as high as $5,880 to repair.
As you can see, a small investment of a few hundred dollars for a general home inspection can save you tons of money and future headaches. To save even more money, you might consider investing in a specialized home inspection as well. A specialized inspection gets down to the nitty-gritty of all the trouble spots the general home inspection might have located.
How Much Money Can a Specialized Inspection Save You?
A general home inspection can trigger a need for a specialized inspection because the general home inspector spotted something off about the roof, sewer system, the heating and cooling system, and the foundation. If humidity is high where you’re buying your home, a pest inspection is recommended. Usually, a pest inspection will check for mold as well as pests. Most homebuyers have a Radon test done to ensure air quality.
Roof – Roof specialists examine the chimney and the flashing surrounding it. They also look at the level of wear and tear of the roof. They can tell you how long the roof will last before a new one is needed. They’ll inspect the downspouts and gutters. The average cost of a roof inspection is about $223. Most roof inspections will cost between $121 and $324.
Sewer System – Making sure your sewer system has no problems should happen before the closing because what might look like a small problem can turn into a large problem in the future. If any issues pop up, you can negotiate with the seller about needed repairs or replacements before closing. Cost of inspection will vary; on the low side, it might cost you around $95, and on the high side, it might cost you $790. Compare these numbers to repairing a septic tank, which can cost, on average, $1,435 (though it could reach as high as $4,459), and you can see that the cost of an inspection is worth it when you catch the problem before you buy.
Heating and Cooling System – A HVAC specialist will check the ducts for blockage and for consistent maintenance of the unit. The repairs needed might be small or they might be big, but this small investment will save you headaches and lots of money down the road.
Foundation – A foundation specialist will pinpoint the exact problem with the foundation. The specialist will look at the grade or slope of the home. The ground should slope away from the home in all directions a half inch per foot. Most homeowners have spent between $1,763 and $5,880 to repair their foundation. And the average cost to re-slope a lawn is at $1,705. Most homeowners paid between $933 and $2,558 to re-slope their lawn.
Pest Inspection – Termites eat a home’s wood structure from inside out and can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to your home. Other pests can turn your dream home into a nightmare. Depending on the humidity of where you live, you should a pest/termite inspection every two years or so. You can start with your potential new home. Most inspections are extensive and cost between $109 and $281. The good news is that most pest management company will guarantee the past inspection if bugs show up.
Radon Test – Radon is a naturally occurring invisible odorless gas that is the second leading cause of cancer. A radon test is a good test to have done as a good habit. The cost of radon test is low and its cost varies from state to state. Here’smore information about Radon.
Steps You Can Take to Save Money Using a Home Inspection
To help yourself save with a home inspection, you will need to:
Attend the inspection – Attending the inspection is important because it’s an opportunity for you to ask questions.
Check utilities – Checking utilities let’s know the energy efficiency of your potential home.
Hire a Qualified Home Inspector – We can recommend bona-fide home inspectors to you. You can compare our recommendation with all inspectors who belong to the American Society of Home Inspectors. While the decision of who you work with is always yours, we can educate you so that you make a wise homebuying decision.
Should You Buy a New or Existing Home?
Maybe your dream home has the intricate details that you usually find only in older construction – wainscoting and crown molding in the interior, the front porch with a swing, an older tree shading the back yard, and the white picket fence.
Or maybe your dream home has all the conveniences of modern living – open floor plan in the living and dining spaces, large windows, connected, “smart” appliances and security systems, and minimalist design elements.
Whether you go for a brand new construction or an existing home, both types of properties have their pros and cons when it comes to purchasing. What type of home is right for you will depend on which factors are most important for your lifestyle.
Build your dream home with new construction
If you’re making a home purchase that’s still in the pre-construction phase, you may be able to customize many of the details. Many home builders will give you the option to add design elements that will give you the exact dream home you desire. If it’s a new subdivision, you may even be able to pick which lot you like best.
Very early in the building process, you may have more room to customize. For example, if the walls aren’t complete, you may be able to add extra outlets in each of the rooms or custom wiring for surround sound in the media room. Perhaps you could move the laundry room to the top floor instead of the basement. You might be able to get a separate mudroom entrance.
Later in the building process, you may be able to add marble countertops, an island, and custom cabinets in the kitchen. Your master bathroom could be upgraded with a steam shower, spa tub, and European fixtures. You will want to check with the builder to understand which features are included, and which ones are extra.
New homes save money with fewer repairs and more efficiency
Once your home is complete, all you’ll need to do is move in. New appliances will be under warranty for a few years if they need repairs, and will likely work well for several years without needing fixes. Often, new construction is under a builder’s warranty, so any repairs needed in the first year should be covered.
New homes often contain energy efficient and green appliances, like high-efficiency stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, heaters, or air conditioning units. These energy-saving appliances, along with good insulation and energy-efficient windows, will help you save money on monthly utility bills.
New homes also often use new building materials that require less maintenance — for example, using composite siding instead of wood, which doesn’t need annual repainting. You won’t need to spend as much to maintain your new home.
If you customized it during pre-construction, you won’t need to spend any money on renovations or upgrades for several more years. You can just enjoy it and not worry about saving for major home repairs.
What you need to do to make a good new home purchase
Before you put in your offer, do some research on the builder. Do they have a good reputation? What else have they built? Did their other new properties have issues such as poor construction or unfinished details?
You like the model home, but will you like where it’s situated? After you look at the home itself, come back to the neighborhood to see what it’s like at different times of the day. Walk around during the day and in the evening, and see how you like the area.
Brand new communities usually attract similar types of buyers—urban professionals, couples, or young families, for example. These will be your neighbors, so you’ll want to make sure that you want to be part of this new, homogeneous community.
You may also need to be flexible with your move-in date. Builders will only be able to let you move in if they can meet their construction schedule. If the wiring is delayed, the walls can’t be finished. And because there are so many construction tasks that are dependent on the completion of prior tasks, schedules tend to slip.
Get more variety and established neighborhoods with an existing home
Existing homes are those that have generally been built and lived in between the 1920’s and 1970’s. With existing homes, you will get more variety in home styles, as different types of construction have gone in and out of style throughout the decades. Within one neighborhood, you may be able to find a mix of different styles like Victorian, modern Tudor cottages, tract style, ranch or split-ranch, or contemporary homes.
Existing homes are situated in established neighborhoods, which may have more amenities nearby that a new home in a brand new subdivision may not have. Your new neighborhood may have restaurants, cafes, and boutiques within walking distance.
You might also have access to more supermarkets, dry cleaners, discount stores, and gas stations nearby. An established neighborhood might have a nice park, running path, or playground for the kids to enjoy. You might also be closer to a library or the post office.
Resale homes can be a less expensive purchase
If you’re considering a resale home, you may be able to get into a beautiful, unique property at a lower purchase price than a new home.
There are many more resale homes available than there are new homes — according to theNational Association of Homebuilders, about 10 times as many. With such a large pool to buy from, the market for resales can be more competitive. You may have more room to negotiate the selling price of the home. With a brand-new construction, you won’t likely be able to have the same kind of negotiating power.
Before putting a home on the market, sellers often make home renovations or remodel parts of their homes to make them more attractive to buyers and to be able to potentially increase the list price. If the resale home has a brand new, modern kitchen, an updated bathroom, or even a new roof or upgraded windows, you could end up getting a home that’s comparable to new construction without having to pay the potential more expensive new-home list price.
Existing homes have already been inspected at least once on the last sale, so you will know about any potential structural problems or repairs that have been made on the home. Knowing the track record on your potential home will help you avoid purchase mistakes—you’re much less likely to end up with a property that has a rotting roof, dangerous electrical wiring, or a crumbling foundation. With a new home, you could end up with incomplete construction or major issues that you didn’t know about because they weren’t yet documented.
What you need to do to make a good resale purchase
Before you go too far down the road to a purchase, you can protect your purchase by first having the home inspected. A good home inspector will document all flaws, no matter how small they appear. If the inspector finds any major problems, like foundation cracks or leaky roofs, you may be able to counter offer and get the seller to either fix it or reduce the selling price.
Even if the inspection doesn’t uncover any major issues, you will need to expect the unexpected. Older homes will eventually need replacement appliances, a new air conditioning unit, or a plumbing repair. As long as you know that before you buy a resale home, you can plan for surprise repairs.
With an older home, you may want to eventually remodel parts of it. Will you be happy living in your house while you’re doing major work on the living room or the kitchen? If you know that it would disrupt your lifestyle too much, you may want to consider whether you really want to buy an older property.
Whether you choose to buy a new home or an existing home, the best way to get started is to speak with your trusted real estate professional. We will have access to both new properties and resale homes that may fit your goals, and will know which neighborhoods will serve your needs.
A Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Investing
Despite the grim economic outlook for some industries, one sector is gaining viability — real estate. According to the 2016 Emerging Trends in Real Estate, which was released by the Urban Land Institute earlier this year, trends such as “18-hour cities” and millennial parents increasing moving from urban areas out into the suburbs signal that real estate as an industry is gaining strength every passing day in 2016. One lending officer at a large financial institution even went to far as to say that “the next 24 months look doggone good for real estate.”
These trends means that real estate is a smart place to make an investment and grow your wealth. A housing shortage means that flipped homes tend to sell quickly and for high prices, and an increased demand across all age groups for rental properties means that finding tenants for your buy-and-hold properties should be a breeze.
Of course, these trends also mean that the real estate market is highly competitive right now. If you want to make a foray into real estate investing, you’ll need to educate yourself and be strategic in who you work with and where you look for investment opportunities. Read on for our beginner’s guide to real estate investing.
Assemble your real estate team before you buy
Building relationships with your team will empower you to make serious offers that will more likely get accepted by sellers. Among your team members, you will want to include:
- A mortgage broker or banker, who can help you get the financing for your deal
- A real estate attorney to protect you by reviewing and revising contracts
- An appraiser who can help you get a correct appraisal for your potential property
- An accountant who is well versed in real estate investments
- A good contractor, for repairs whether you’re rehabbing or buying rental property
How to find rehab or wholesale deals
You can buy properties to fix up and resell (flip) or you can buy and hold properties that you rent out for monthly cash flow.
The advantage of flipping properties is that you can end up with a good return on investment (ROI) in the short term. For example, you buy a property for $100,000, and invest $50,000 into repairs. Once it’s rehabbed, your property is valued at $200,000, and you sell it for a $50,000 profit.
This is an extremely simplified version of ROI. There are many other factors that you need to determine to see if the numbers work in your favor — that is, you’re not overpaying initially when you buy the properties or for the renovations or holding costs.
Flipping properties means that you will need to spend more time looking for fixer uppers that may be under market value. These may be more difficult to find in a hot market with rising property prices. Beyond the actual purchase price, you will also need to factor in fixed purchase costs for inspections, closing, and lender fees.
You’ll also need to factor in holding costs. Your budget should include funds for making repairs, whether you are doing them yourself or hiring contractors. While you’re upgrading the property, you’ll need to carry mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, and insurance.
Because of rising property values, fix-and-flip deals in good neighborhoods can be hard to find. But once you know where to find rehab opportunities, you can easily repeat the process by reinvesting proceeds from a previous flip into the next property, which can be bigger, in a more desirable neighborhood, or finished out more luxuriously, and therefore sold for more cash!
Working with the right real estate professionals will help you learn which neighborhoods to consider and determine where you should focus your search. We can help you find the right fixer-uppers that may be under market value. Also, a Realtor will have access to many properties that may not be publicly available.
Finding buy-and-hold rental properties
A buy-and-hold rental property is one that your purchase with the intent of renting it out to tenants. If you find the right long-term buy-and-hold rental property, you can earn consistent cash flow each month, which can be a great source of supplemental income.
You’ll need to carefully review the operating expenses on the property and what tenants are willing to pay for the space to know if you’ll make or lose money each month. For example, say your total costs to buy a duplex was $20,000, including down payment and closing costs. You can rent each of the units for $600. Assuming your building is 100% occupied, you’ll make $1200 per month in income. Your expenses include mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, utilities, and management fees, and you want to set aside some cash each month for capital expenditures and routine repairs. You calculate that your expenses add up to $1100 per month. Once you subtract your expenses from your income, you’ll have a positive cash flow of $100 per month.
Of course, this is a very simplified example, and it doesn’t take into account that problems will inevitably arise. Emergency roof repairs, heating system breakdowns, broken windows that need replacing, and other unexpected expenses can eat away at your profits. One of your units may be vacant for a month or more — for example, vacancies are high in the summer months in buildings around universities — or you could have a tenant who fails to pay their monthly rent.
The more you can anticipate problems before they happen, however, the easier it will be for you to recover from setbacks! Moreover, rent isn’t the only way to make money on a buy-and-hold property. You can also add amenities, such as coin laundry and vending machines, to increase your potential monthly income. If your property has space to add a billboard, you can earn advertising revenue from renting that space, too. And when you decide to sell, your property’s value will likely have increased both from the overall rising property values and by the improvements you made to increase the cash flow.
Once you find and invest in your rental property, you’ll need to decide how you want it managed from month to month.
Getting the right property manager
Do you want to manage your own property or hire a manager? Property management can become a full-time job. As a property manager, you’ll have to deal not only with maintenance, repairs and tenant issues, but also with insurance, fair rental regulations, and building code compliance. So if you’re not an expert in these areas, managing your own properties may not be worth your time and effort.
Hiring a professional manager can save you headaches over the long term. While you’ll have to factor in management as a fixed expense, your property manager will likely know how to better take care of routine repairs, tenant issues, and keeping your property near 100% occupancy.
Your real estate professional can refer you to reputable property management companies to help you take care of your investment.
Where should I start investing in local real estate?
Work with a knowledgeable real estate professionalwho knows about the different neighborhoods. We can help you find properties that will fit into your budget and your overall goals. Whether you’re seeking a duplex or multifamily property so you can maximize your rental income or whether you want a condo or single-family home to improve for resale, we can guide you to the best property to suit your needs.
Contact your us to learn more about investment properties in our area.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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|
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.
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.
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%|
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 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:
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
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.
The Balance – https://www.thebalance.com/fha-home-loan-pitfalls-315673
Investopedia – https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/closingcosts.asp
The Lenders Network – https://thelendersnetwork.com/fha-debt-to-income-ratio/
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.
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you in advance!
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.
Sources: CNN Money, Realtor.com, NPR