Category Archives: Closing Costs

9 Steps to Take Now to Buy a Home Next Year

9 steps to buying a home in 2018You and your family are thinking of buying a new home – or your next one – in 2018. There are things you can do now to prepare yourself. Here are seven steps to get you ready for this exciting move!

  1. Check your credit score. Target a credit score of 740 or higher to get the best mortgage rate. See mistakes on your credit report? Because this process can sometimes take months, you’ll want to start doing that now.
  2. Follow the real estate market and interest rates. What is the market doing in your area? Is inventory low? What about interest rates – are they inching up? You’ll want to lock in the lowest interest rate you can to lower your monthly mortgage payments and long-term financial outlay.
  3. Save, save, save. We can’t stress this enough. Make sure you have enough to cover a down payment, closing costs, moving expenses, etc. Read our article on closing costs to get a better idea of what those might run.
  4. Don’t use your credit cards or rack up more debt. Obviously, you don’t want to open any new credit cards before you apply for a mortgage, but it is just as important not to use the existing credit you already have. Banks will look at your debt to income ratio, so you want that debt figure to be as low as possible.
  5. Don’t overspend during the holidays. It can be tempting to spoil your loved ones during the holidays, but this could make it harder to get a mortgage – particularly if you use your credit cards for holiday shopping. Instead, get creative. Offer services (e.g., dog walking, babysitting, home organizing, handyman skills) or experiences (gourmet meals, outings, etc.)  instead of giving gifts.
  6. Meet with two to three potential Realtors. We say “Realtor” instead of “real estate agent” because “Realtors” have different and a code of ethics to abide by. Real estate agents are held to a lesser standard. Talk to friends, family and co-workers to get recommendations, and do your research before scheduling no obligation appointments to interview. In addition, check their online reviews on Facebook, Zillow, LinkedIn and other sites to see what they’re clients are saying about them.
  7. Shop for a lender. Just like you would shop for a Realtor, explore your mortgage lending options. Check with your bank, local credit unions and mortgage brokers to see where you can find the best deal and the best long-term relationship.
  8. Gather your documents. When you meet with a mortgage lender, you’ll need to provide tax returns and W-2s for the last two years, pay stubs for the last few months, proof of your current living expenses, a list of debts and other expenses, etc.
  9. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Once you’ve selected a mortgage lender and have pulled together all of your documentation, it’s time to get pre-approved! This will help you determine what your interest rate will be and how much home you can afford. Read more about getting pre-approved here.

Not sure what’s next? Have questions? Call Team Marti  at 253-859-8500. We’d be happy to help you prepare to buy your next home in the New Year!

 

FTC: Protect Your Mortgage; Beware of Scammers

FTC: Beware of Mortgage ScammersDuring National Home Ownership Month (June), the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors issued a warning to homeowners, advising them to protect their mortgage closing from scammers. According to the FTC blog post, scammers sometimes use emails to steal closing costs and personal information from homebuyers.

Here’s an edited excerpt from the FTC:

Here’s how the scam works: Hackers break into the email accounts of homebuyers or real estate professionals to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. The hacker then sends an email to the homebuyer, posing as the real estate professional or title company. The bogus email says there has been a last-minute change to the wiring instructions, and tells the homebuyer to wire closing costs to a different account. But it is the scammer’s account. If the homebuyer takes the bait, their bank account could be cleared out in a matter of minutes.

If you’re buying a home and get an email with money-wiring instructions, STOP. Email is not a secure way to send financial information. Instead:

  • Contact the company through a number or email address you know is real. DON’T use phone numbers or links in the email.
  • Don’t open email attachments, even from someone you know, unless you’re expecting it. Opening attachments can put malware on your computer.

If you’ve already sent money to a scammer, act quickly.

  • If you wired money through your bank, ask them right away for a wire recall. If you used a money transfer company, like Western Union or MoneyGram, call their complaint lines immediately.
  • Report your experience to the FTC and to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. Report as soon as you can and give as much information as you can. If your bank asks for a police report, give them a copy of your report to ic3.gov.

Learn more about protecting yourself from phishing and what to do if your email is hacked. If you gave your information to a scammer, visit IdentityTheft.gov.

Team Marti’s Top 10 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Team Marti's Top 10 Tips for First-Time HomebuyersA seller’s market can be a tough place for first-time homebuyers to purchase their first home, but don’t despair. It is certainly doable. Educate yourself on what’s needed to succeed in a seller’s market and work with an experienced Realtor who will give you world-class, 24/7 service. Here are our top 10 tips for first-time homebuyers. Good luck!

  1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. We recommend doing this before you begin shopping a home, so you know how much home you can afford and what type of credit you have, which will ultimately impact your loan terms, including the interest rates.
  2. Begin your home search online to get an idea of what’s available. Check out Realtor.com, Zillow, Northwest MLS or your favorite Realtor’s website.
  3. Work with a Realtor early on in your process. A talented Realtor can help guide you through what can be a very complex process, and offer advice specific to your situation. Get recommendations from friends and colleagues, and be sure to check out the referrals online before you meet with them. Read their online reviews and testimonials and their LinkedIn profile to see how long they’ve been selling real estate. You might also interview a couple of different agents to see who might be a good fit for you.
  4. Know the difference between your wants and needs in a first home. List all the features you want in a home and categorize them as ‘must haves,’ ‘should haves,’ and ‘absolute wish list.’ Learn more here.
  5. Check out the neighborhood and schools. The features of your home will be very important to you, but the neighborhood where you want to buy should also play a factor. Are there similar homes in the neighborhood? Are they well maintained? What amenities are nearby (e.g., parks, restaurants, shopping)? If you have a school-age child, or will be starting a family, what schools will your child attend? Visit the neighborhood at different times of day, if possible.
  6. Attend open houses. This is a great way to tour homes on the market to see what’s available. Keep in mind though that in a HOT real estate market like this one, a new listing may receive multiple offers the day of the open house. If you fall in love with a house you are touring, you’ll want to act on it right away.
  7. Write a winning offer. In a seller’s market, you need to bring your best offer to the table with as few contingencies as possible. Work with your Realtor to offer a fair but attractive price.
  8. Understand that your offer might get rejected. Competition is tough these days, so you may not get the first home you put an offer in on. Be patient. It will happen.
  9. Be prepared to cover closing costs. In a seller’s market, the seller tends to have control, so prepare to cover your own closing costs which will be on top of your down payment. Here are some additional guidelines.
  10. Don’t expect any home to be perfect. Sure, you have your heart set on a dream home with all of the desired features, but that is unrealistic. Realtor.com suggests you focus on three main factors: price, size and location. If you get all three, great, but getting two is more likely.

Good luck, and let us know if Team Marti can help!

[Sources: Inman, Realtor.com and CNN Money]

Real Estate Lingo for Homebuyers: Part 1

Freddie Mac Real Estate GlossaryBuying a home can be a daunting and complex process, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right Realtor, you can feel confident that you are being well represented and that she has your back. It can also help to understand real estate lingo. Here is part one of a Freddie Mac real estate glossary you can use to educate yourself on the home buying process.

Amortization: Paying off a loan over the period of time and at the interest rate specified in a loan document. The amortization of a loan includes the payment of interest and a part of the amount borrowed in each mortgage payment.

Amortization Schedule: Provided by mortgage lenders, the schedule shows how over the term of your mortgage the principal portion of the mortgage payment increases and the interest portion of the mortgage payment decreases.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): How much a loan costs annually. The APR includes the interest rate, points, broker fees and certain other credit charges a borrower is required to pay.

Application Fee: The fee that a mortgage lender charges to apply for a mortgage to cover processing costs.

Appraisal: A professional analysis used to estimate the value of the property. This includes examples of sales of similar properties.

Appreciation: An increase in the market value of a home due to changing market conditions and/or home improvements. [Because we are in a seller’s market, homes are appreciating faster than they would in a normal market. See our May 30, 2017 post for more info.]

Capacity: Your ability to make your mortgage payments on time. This depends on your income and income stability (job history and security), your assets and savings, and the amount of your income each month that is left over after you’ve paid for your housing costs, debts and other obligations.

Closing Costs: The costs to complete the real estate transaction. These costs are in addition to the price of the home and are paid at closing. They include points, taxes, title insurance, financing costs, items that must be prepaid or escrowed and other costs. Ask your lender for a complete list of closing cost items.

Commitment Letter: A letter from your lender stating the amount of the mortgage, the number of years to repay the mortgage (the term), the interest rate, the loan origination fee, the annual percentage rate and the monthly charges.

Contingency: A plan for something that may occur but is not likely. For example, your offer may be contingent on the home passing a home inspection. It the home does not pass inspection, you’re protected.

Counter-offer: An offer made in response to a previous offer. For example, after the buyer presents their first offer, the seller may make a counter-offer with a slightly higher sale price.

Debt-to-Income Ratio: The percentage of gross monthly income that goes toward paying for your monthly housing expense, alimony, child support, car payments and other installment debts, and payments on revolving or open-ended accounts such as credit cards.

Depreciation: A decline in the value of a house due to changing market conditions or lack of upkeep on a home.

Earnest Money Deposit: The deposit to show that you’re committed to buying the home. The deposit will not be refunded to you after the seller accepts your offer, unless one of the sales contract contingencies is not fulfilled.

Equity: The value in your home above the total amount of the liens against your home. If you owe $100,000 on your house but it is worth $130,000, you have $30,000 of equity.

Home Inspection: A professional inspection of a home to determine the condition of the property. The inspection should include an evaluation of the plumbing, heating and cooling systems, roof, wiring, foundation and pest infestation.

Index: The published index of interest rates used to calculate the interest rate for an ARM. The index is usually an average of the interest rates on a particular type of security such as the LIBOR.

Liabilities: Your debts and other financial obligations.

Loan modification: This is a written agreement between you and your mortgage company that permanently changes one or more of the original terms of your note to make the payments more affordable.

Loan Origination Fees: Fees paid to your mortgage lender for processing the mortgage application. This fee is usually in the form of points. One point equals 1% of the mortgage amount.

Lock-In Rate: A written agreement guaranteeing a specific mortgage interest rate for a certain amount of time.

Click here to read Real Estate Lingo for Homebuyers, Part 2.

[Source: Freddie Mac}

 

Honest Advice for First-Time Homebuyers in a Sellers’ Market

Honest Advice for First-Time Homebuyers in a Sellers' Market

 

With home inventory so low, homes are selling quickly and above the asking price, in many cases. Here is some sound advice to help first-time homebuyers purchase a home in this sellers’ market:

  1. Get pre-approved from a mortgage lender. Whether you go through a traditional bank or a mortgage broker, first-time homebuyers should get pre-approved before shopping for a home. This will show sellers that their lenders have run a credit check, verified income and have tentatively agreed to lend the buyers money to buy a home. Pre-approval also typically means that the homebuyers know how much home they can afford. Learn more about pre-qualification and pre-approval here.
  2. Buy a home with a conventional mortgage. This will make homebuyers more attractive to sellers than someone who is getting financed through a VA or FHA loan, for example, because those home loan programs sometimes have greater restrictions.
  3. Put down a large down payment. While low down payment programs like VA and FHA home loans exist so buyers can buy a home with less money down, you will be more attractive to a mortgage lender and home seller with a larger down payment. This will also save you in mortgage interest over the life of your mortgage loan.
  4. Come to the table prepared to cover closing costs. When sellers have multiple buyers to choose from, they are more likely to select a homebuyer that is not going to ask the seller to share in closing costs.
  5. Require fewer contingencies when making an offer. When a seller has to wait for you to sell your home, or when other contingencies exist, a homebuyer becomes less attractive. Sellers want to sell their homes for as much money as possible, and as quickly as is possible. When contingencies exist, they could potentially hold up the selling process.
  6. Make an offer above asking price. Homes on the market now are selling within days. To buy one of those homes, homebuyers often have to offer more than the asking price to get their offer seriously considered. Of course, how much a buyer can offer is going to be based on their budget and down payment, but in this market, they should be prepared to go above the asking price.

This market is particularly challenging for first-time homebuyers. If you are in the market to buy a home now, consult with an experienced Realtor – like me – who can help you improve your chances of finding a home and getting your offer accepted. We can help you understand your options and improve your chances of having your offer accepted.

 

 

Homebuyers, Have You Saved Enough for Closing Costs?

Many homebuyers and home sellers believe they need at least a 20% down payment in order to buy a home or to move on to their next home. There are many loan programs where you can put down as little as 3% – or even 0% with a VA loan.

If you have saved up your down payment and are ready to start your home search, one other piece of the puzzle is to make sure that you’ve saved enough for your closing costs which include everything from homeowner’s insurance and title insurance to appraisal and legal fees.

Freddie Mac defines closing costs as:

“Closing costs, also called settlement fees, will need to be paid when you obtain a mortgage.  These are fees charged by people representing your purchase, including your lender, real estate agent, and other third parties involved in the transaction. Closing costs are typically between 2 and 5% of your purchase price.”

Many first-time homebuyers say they wished that someone had told them closing costs could be so high. If you think about it, with a low down payment program, your closing costs could equal the amount that you saved for your down payment.

Here is a list of just some of the fees/costs that may be included in your closing costs, depending on where the home you wish to purchase is located:

  • Government recording costs
  • Appraisal fees
  • Credit report fees
  • Lender origination fees
  • Title services (insurance, search fees)
  • Tax service fees
  • Survey fees
  • Attorney fees
  • Underwriting fees

Is there any way to avoid paying closing costs?

Work with your lender and real estate agent to see if there are any ways to decrease or defer your closing costs. There are no-closing mortgages available, but they end up costing you more in the end with a higher interest rate, or by wrapping the closing costs into the total cost of the mortgage (meaning you’ll end up paying interest on your closing costs).

Home buyers can also negotiate with the seller over who pays these fees. Sometimes the seller will agree to assume the buyer’s closing fees in order to get the deal finalized.

Bottom Line

Speak with your lender and agent early and often to determine how much you’ll be responsible for at closing. Finding out you’ll need to come up with thousands of dollars right before closing is not a surprise anyone is ever looking forward to. Want some guidance? My team can help explain the closing costs you might have to pay on the homes you are considering.

Homebuyer FAQs: Mortgage and Closing Costs

What You Need to Know about Mortgage & Closing Costs

Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned homeowner ready for your next home, it is important to understand mortgage and closing costs. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you better understand your options.

Buying a Home: Homebuyer FAQs re Mortgage Costs and Closing CostsQ:  What factors impact a mortgage interest rate?

A:  There are many factors involved when determining a homebuyer’s interest rate including credit score, loan type, home price, down payment and mortgage costs (for example, points, mortgage insurance and closing costs).

Q:  What other credit-related factors are important when financing a home?

A:  The better your credit, the lower your interest rate for a home loan is likely to be. Mortgage lenders consider your overall credit score, but they also consider your credit history with them, the amount of debt you already have, how much money you have in savings, your total assets and your current income. Learn more about credit reports and scores here.

Q:  What are points?

A:  Also called discount points, points lower your interest rate in exchange for a fee paid at closing. When you choose to pay points, you pay more at closing, but you lower your interest rate and pay less for the home over time. Points are related to the loan amount, and one point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. For example, on a $200,000 mortgage loan, 1 percent of the loan amount would be $2,000. Points are listed on your loan estimate and on the closing disclosure.

Q:  What is mortgage insurance?

A:  Many lenders require mortgage insurance for borrowers who put less than 20 percent down on the purchase of a home. The mortgage insurance lowers the risk to the lender, making it easier for you to qualify for a home loan. The cost of the mortgage insurance is included in your monthly mortgage payment, increasing your monthly mortgage payment. The cost of private mortgage rates varies depending on the borrower’s down payment and credit score.

Q:  What closing costs will I have to pay?

A:  Closings costs, the amount of money you’ll need to pay when you close on the purchase of your home, vary. Sometimes these costs are paid out of pocket, but some lenders will roll these costs into the total loan amount of your mortgage. Certain closing costs may also be negotiated with the home seller and the home seller’s agent. Common closing costs include appraisal fees, title insurance, government taxes, tax service provider fees, and prepaid expenses (for example, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and interest between the time of closing and the time your first payment is due).

For more information on interest rates, credit, points, mortgage insurance, closing costs and more, download this free home loan toolkit offered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It has some great information and checklists to help you through the home buying process. An experienced Realtor® can also answer these questions and guide you as you make decisions about buying a home.

Good luck!

Sources: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Financial Literacy: Shopping for a Mortgage

This is our second blog post to celebrate National Financial Literacy Month and to help put (or keep) you on the road to financial success.

Shopping for a new home is such an exciting process – touring other homes, imagining yourself and your family living in them, having choices of different styles and vintages, etc. Shopping for a mortgage, however, isn’t as much fun, but it is important that you know what’s out there and what your rights are.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers these tips:

  1. Financial Literacy: Shopping for a MortgageCompare lenders and brokers. You can get a mortgage through a broker who represents multiple lenders or you can get a mortgage directly through a financial institution like a commercial bank, mortgage company or credit union. According to the FTC, some lenders are both lenders and brokers, and you want to know which you are dealing with because brokers usually get paid a fee for their services in addition to a loan origination fee and other fees. Compare several lenders and brokers and the various loan options and fees before choosing who you want to work with. Referrals from friends, family and your Realtor® are a good place to start.
  2. Get all relevant costs from your broker or lender, including
    • Current mortgage interest rates. Ask if the rates quoted are the lowest rates of the week.
    • Fixed or adjustable rates. If the rates are adjustable, ask about the terms of the loan, including the index the rate is tied to, how often the rate can be adjusted, and if there is a cap on how high it can go.
    • The loan’s annual percentage rate (APR). The APR factors in the interest rate, points, broker fees and other charges, expressed as a yearly rate.
    • Ask the lender or broker to quote current points as a dollar figure. Usually, the more points you pay, the lower your interest rate.
    • Ask the lender what fees you’ll have to pay including loan origination fees, underwriting, broker fees and closing costs.
    • Down payment and private mortgage insurance. Ask what percentage of a down payment is required and if you’ll be required to pay private mortgage insurance for down payments less than 20%.
  3. Negotiate the best deal. Mortgage lenders and brokers often have latitude in rates and fees, so you want to negotiate the best deal possible for your home loan. Ask each to provide you with a written quote, and once you’ve selected the best home loan for your situation, ask if you can lock in that deal, assuming you are in that stage of the home buying process. An experienced Realtor® can explain these steps to you if you have questions or need support.
  4. Fair Lending is required. The Equality Credit Opportunity Act prohibits lenders from discriminating against credit applications in any aspect of a credit transaction on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, whether or all or part of the applicant’s income comes from a public assistance program, or whether the applicant has in good faith exercised a right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act. In addition, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in residential real estate transactions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. A consumer cannot be refused a loan based on these characteristics, charged more for a loan, or offered less favorable terms based on such characteristics.
  5. Shop, Compare and Negotiate, even if you have credit problems. Even if you have minor credit problems or have extenuating circumstances, you are in a position to negotiate loan terms, including interest rate and fees. Explain your situation and any credit history problems up front. It is also a good idea to get a copy of your credit report before shopping for a home. You can get a free copy annually at AnnualCreditReport.com.

You can find more information about shopping for a mortgage, including a glossary of terms, on the FTC website.

 

5 Commonly Asked Questions from First Time-Homebuyers

5 Commonly Asked Questions from First Time-HomebuyersWith 11 years as a Realtor® and 30 years of related industry experience, I’ve heard just about every question you can imagine from first-time homebuyers. Here are some of the most common questions I get along with the answers. I hope you find them helpful.

Why should I buy a home instead of rent?

A home is a long-term investment that gives you secure long-term housing and financial security. When you pay rent, that money goes to pay your landlord’s mortgage. When you make a mortgage payment, however, you are putting money toward your future. You can deduct the cost of mortgage loan interest, as well as property taxes, from your federal income taxes and, in some states, from your state taxes. You’ll also have something that’s yours and that reflects you and your personal style.

How much do I need for a down payment on a home?

A down payment on a home is a percentage of the home’s purchase price that you pay up front. Ideally, you should plan on a down payment of 20%, but depending on a variety of factors, you may qualify for a loan with as little as 3% down. For a conventional loan, if you are putting less than 20% down, your lender may require private mortgage insurance (PMI) which will increase your mortgage payments. The more you put down, the less your monthly mortgage will be. Also, remember that your down payment is not the only amount of up-front cash you’ll need to buy a home. There will be other expenses including closing costs to budget for.

Can I qualify for a mortgage if I don’t have a lot of money for a down payment or closing costs or poor credit?

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers a variety of loan programs to help homebuyers with less-than-ideal circumstances. Learn more here. Click here for more information from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) including advice on buying a home and credit issues.

How do I find the right real estate agent?

I always recommend that prospective homebuyers work with a Realtor® rather than a real estate agent. While Realtors® and agents hold the same state licenses, a Realtor® adheres to the National Association of Realtor’s Code of Ethics and often has additional education. Read more about the differences between Realtors® and real estate agents here. To find the right Realtor®, ask friends and family for referrals and schedule an appointment with a couple of them to get to know them.

You’ll also want to visit their website, see what homes they’ve helped buy and sell recently, and what special qualifications they have, such as continuing education, special certifications or industry awards. Ask about their marketing plan, information about the current market where you plan to buy a home, and see if their communication style complements or conflicts with your own. When you’ve found a good fit, you’ll know!

How do I find a lender?

There are many entities that provide mortgage loans – traditional banks, credit unions, savings and loans, private mortgage companies and government-approved lenders. You can work directly with a lender, or work with a mortgage broker who will charge a fee to help you shop for the mortgage that best meets your needs. To choose the best option, I recommend you get referrals from family and friends and from your Realtor®. Then choose a few lenders to talk to. Ask what mortgage options they can offer, the price range of fees, time line to close, interest rates, etc.

In future posts, we’ll address other commonly asked questions.