Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Dynamics of Home Equity



For many people, their home is their largest asset and their best performing investment.  The equity in a home is the difference in what it is worth and what is owed.  Two dynamics, appreciation and unpaid balance, work in concert to make homeowner's equity grow.

It can be said that you appreciate the fact that your home is your best financial investment.  It is also ironic that the appreciation, the increase in value, is what causes it to be your best financial investment.

In a one-year period, the increase in value divided by the beginning value will determine the rate of appreciation for the year.  News stories and articles, frequently, report statistics on appreciation for the month, the year or longer. In many cases, a national appreciation is mentioned but the local appreciation is more reflective of an individual property.

The National Association of REALTORS® reports "The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in June was $363,300, up 23.4% from June 2020 ($294,400), as every region recorded price jumps. This marks 112 straight months of year-over-year gains."

The low inventory being experienced nationwide has caused some significant appreciation that has increased homeowners' equity.  According to Black Knight, a mortgage technology and research firm, at the end of 2020, roughly 46 million homeowners held a total of $7.3 trillion in equity.

If a homeowner has a mortgage on their home, while the home is appreciating, the unpaid balance is declining.  An increasing portion of each payment is applied, when the payment is made, to the principal balance to retire the debt based on the term of the loan.

Each month the equity in the home becomes larger because the home is worth more due to appreciation and the unpaid balance is less due to amortization.

Once a homeowner has sufficient equity in their home, they can borrow against it and take cash out of their home.  Most lenders require that the homeowner maintain at least 20% equity position.  This means that owners can borrow up to 80% of the appraised value less the amount that is currently owed on the property.

The options include a cash-out refinance mortgage or a home equity line of credit, HELOC.  While some institutions have stopped offering HELOCs, they are still available.

 The HELOC is a line of credit that is established for usually ten years.  The owner is approved, and the money is available to draw out as needed.  The interest is calculated daily.  Like a credit card, when the balance is paid down, the unused portion of the available credit is available again.

Your real estate agent may be able to offer some lender suggestions.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Doing Nothing is Costing Something



It has been said that more money has been lost due to indecisions than ever was due to making the wrong decisions.  Many times, the larger the decision, the more likely procrastination comes into play and doing nothing will cost something. 

Buying a home is certainly one of the biggest decisions people make.  Careful consideration and planning are necessary steps leading to a prudent decision.  Considering today's market that includes a global pandemic, financial volatility, and rapidly rising home prices, it is understandable that many people thinking about a home purchase are in a wait and see posture.

However, there is a cost connected to waiting and it may be a lot more than you think.  The recent Home Price Expectation Survey 2021 Quarter two estimated appreciation rates will average just under 5% annual for the next five years.  It expects prices to increase by 8% in the next one year. 

Being a renter or even putting off moving to a larger home, could keep you from enjoying the benefit of that appreciation.  If your down payment is in the bank, your expected earning will be less than 2%.  In a home, the owner has the benefit of leverage when a mortgage is used to finance the home.

Buyers are borrowing a large portion of the purchase price at around 3% interest but the entire value of the home is appreciating at a higher rate and the profit builds equity for the homeowner.

Another major component for the owner is that the amortizing mortgage is being reduced with each payment that is made.  As the home goes up in value due to appreciation, the unpaid balance goes down with principal reduction creating equity from two directions.

If you waited one year to buy a $350,000 home today, the price could easily be $378,000.  A 5% down payment on this home at today's price is $17,500.  If you could earn 2% on a certificate of deposit, it would be worth $17,850 in one year.  If it used as a down payment on a $350,000 home that appreciates at 8%, the equity in one year would be $52,442. Use the Your Best Investment calculator to make your own projection.

Mortgage experts anticipate rates to rise by 0.75% in the next year which means that you'll pay more interest on a larger mortgage by waiting.  The monthly payment could easily be $200 more by waiting a year.  Based on how long you intend to be in the home, it could make the overall housing cost much more.

To run some examples of projections based on your own expectations and at the price you are considering, go to Cost of Waiting to Buy and Rent vs. Own.

If you have some specific concerns that is keeping you from deciding today, let's get together on the phone, an online meeting or somewhere face-to-face so that you can get the facts about what it takes to buy a home now.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Property Inheritance



Stepped-up basis is an incredible benefit to people who inherit property.  Not only do they receive the property itself, the basis or cost value of the property becomes the fair market value at the time of the decedent's death.  This avoids recognizing the gain between the decedent's cost and what it is worth when it is inherited.

If a person had purchased a home for $100,000 and 20-years later when they died, it was worth $500,000, there would be a potential gain in the property of $400,000.  However, because of a tax provision called step-up tax basis, the person inheriting the property will have a basis of the fair market value at the time of death.

The recipient could sell the property for $500,000 and have no taxable gain on the sale.

A formal appraisal is the most reliable and defensible estimate of fair market value at the time of the decedent's death.  There will be a fee of several hundred dollars for the appraisal.  Another alternative is to get a broker's opinion of value in writing.  It may be reasonable to get three opinions to see if they are similar.  They should rely on comparable sales to justify their position.  Either method is acceptable to IRS.

There is discussion from the current President about the possibility of eliminating the step-up in basis that allows families to leave assets to their heirs without having to pay capital gains tax.  Some people consider it to be a tax loophole for the ultra-rich but it can impact ordinary people who inherit property and do not want to have to sell it. 

An example would be a family farm that when inherited by the heirs may not be able to afford to pay the capital gains tax due at time of transfer and they could be forced to sell the property or borrow the money to pay the tax, assuming that was possible.

Federal estate tax is paid from the deceased's remaining estate, not by the heir.  If the decedent's estate is approaching the limit before estate taxes are due, currently $11.7 million, professional tax advice should be considered because there could be additional provisions in play.  More information on this can be found on IRS.gov.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Less to Own than to Rent



The question is "financially speaking, are you better off owning than renting in the long term?"

Renting a home has advantages.  It is usually a short-term commitment from year to year and the landlord is responsible for the repairs.

Owning a home with today's low mortgage rates, the total house payment could easily be less than what the rent would be on a comparable home.  Once you assume ownership, you will have the responsibility of the repairs and possibly, a homeowner's association fee.

Many times, an initial benefit of owing a home includes the ability to deduct property taxes and qualified interest on the mortgage.  With the increase of the standard deduction and a limit of $10,000 on state and local taxes, it is estimated that 90% of homeowners do not itemize their deductions to consider property tax and mortgage interest.  This comparison will not consider them.

There are two very significant benefits that contribute to a home being an excellent investment and they are principal reduction due to normal amortization of the mortgage and appreciation of the property.  While the property goes up in value and the unpaid balance decreases, the owner's equity grows, increasing their net worth.

Renters do not benefit from either of these, but their landlords do.  That is the reason for the saying "whether you rent or buy, you pay for the house you occupy."  Tenants pay for the home for their landlord.

Rent

 

Own

$2,500

Rent/Payment

$2,232

-0-

Principal Reduction

$504

-0-

Appreciation

$875

-0-

Estimated Monthly Maintenance

$300

-0-

Estimated Homeowners Association Fee

$25

$2,500

Net Monthly Cost of Housing

$1,178

*Projections based on 3% appreciation; $350,000 sales price with 10% down payment and a 3.5%, 30-year mortgage.

With each payment made on a fully amortized loan, the principal balance is reduced.  While appreciation is generally expressed in an annual rate, homes go up in value incrementally throughout the year so considering the monthly appreciation is appropriate in this comparison.

In this example, the payment is less than the rent proving the initial idea that it costs less to own a home.  After factoring in the effect of the principal reduction and the appreciation, even when you consider the maintenance and HOA fees, the net monthly cost of housing is considerably less than renting.

The largest part of the savings inures to the equity of the home which directly impacts a homeowner's net worth.  While the money may not be easily accessed, it has real value and available in a cash-out refinance or when the home is sold.

If you curious about how your numbers would be reflected in a similar comparison, go to the Rent vs. Own.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Are You Covered?



A home warranty is a service contract that protects your home's appliances and some systems from repairs or possible replacements.  A convenient benefit of a home warranty is that when you report an item, they will assign a service provider to evaluate whether it should be repaired or replaced without the owner having to act like a middleman.

Homeowner's insurance is required by most mortgage lenders when there is an outstanding loan.  This coverage protects the structure and the dwelling and the homeowner's personal property from named occurrences like theft, natural disaster, or accident.  Homeowner's insurance does not cover the systems and appliances for repairs or replacements due to normal wear.

The fees for home warranties can vary based on deductibles and how much of the risk the homeowner is willing to accept.

Additional items can be included to the standard coverage to include pool, spa, additional refrigerators, septic tanks, and other items.  There may also be some named items that are not covered that could include sprinkler systems, window air conditioning units or other specific items.

Contracts usually are for a one-year period, may have a waiting period and usually will not include pre-existing conditions.  The premium or fee is paid in advance.

Many homeowners learned about this type of service when they bought a home.  It was provided by the seller and probably gave some element of peace of mind.  Home warranties can be purchased even when the home is not being sold and by the current owner.  Even rental property owners are using this type of coverage to manage the repairs and replacement expenses.

American Home Shield, Choice Home Warranty, Select Home Warranty, First American Home Warranty.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Thoughts on Credit and Getting a Mortgage



Credit plays a huge role in getting a mortgage because it is a variable that helps the lender determine the likelihood that the loan will be repaid on a timely basis.  Credit bureaus evaluate people's credit worthiness using a FICO score.  The higher the score the better the borrower's credit.

The mortgage rate charged to a borrower depends on their credit score.   There is an inverse relationship between credit score and interest rate changed.  The higher the score the lower the rate and the lower the score, the higher the rate. 

Two separate buyers with the same income, purchasing the same price home may both be approved by the lender, but they may be charged different interest rates based on their credit scores.

You could save thousands of dollars over the life of a loan by improving your credit score by just a few points.  A $350,000 mortgage at 3.5% has a principal and interest payment of $1,571.66.  By improving your credit score to qualify for a 3% rate, it would save $96.04 a month. 

Over the life of the mortgage, that would save $34,575 in interest.  Improving your credit score to shave 0.25% off the rate would make it worthwhile.

Credit utilization is the percentage of total credit used compared to the total credit available.  If you have a $2,500 balance on a credit card with $10,000 available credit, your utilization rate is 25%.  Ideally, it should be 10% or below.  This ratio accounts for 30% of a person's FICO score. 

Credit utilization is calculated using the balance on the monthly statement so paying it off in full every month could still result in a high CU score.  Some credit counselors suggest paying down the balance before the end of month statement comes out.  A trusted mortgage professional can make specific recommendations like how to improve your credit utilization. 

Your credit score can be adversely affected if your credit limits are lowered.  You may have the same monthly outstanding balance you have had for years but it now becomes a larger percentage of your available credit and your score goes down.  In the example used earlier, if the available credit was lowered to $5,000 and your balance is $2,500, the credit utilization is now 50%.

Payment history is the largest contributor and counts for 35% of an individual's FICO score.  It is an indication of your likelihood of paying on time and as agreed for your debt, especially mortgages, credit cards, student and car loans, among others.

A big shock to some borrowers is to find out that while they may have never actually incurred a late fee because of a grace period, their score could be dinged because it was not paid on time of the actual due date.

Foreclosures, deeds in lieu of foreclosure and bankruptcies will affect a borrowers payment history as long as they appear on the credit report.

Americans are entitled to a free annual credit report by law from the major credit companies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.  AnnualCreditReport.com is the source for these federally authorized reports.   During the Covid-19 pandemic, they are offering free weekly reports.

Even if you are not buying a home or getting a mortgage currently, it is a good routine to check your credit report periodically to discover signs of identity theft early.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

First Love, Second Wife or Third REALTOR



There is a story of a real estate agent's prayer: "Dear Lord, if I can't be someone's first love, or second wife, at least, please let me be their third REALTOR®."  In a normal market with a balanced supply of sellers and buyers, this describes the preference that it might be better to be the third listing agent to help the seller after they became more realistic about their list price.

In today's market, it might have more to do with buyers because of the increased competition, their chance of having an accepted offer is greatly reduced and it is only after they have lost several that they become more aggressive in the negotiations.

Competition for homes being sold has greatly increased over the previous two years, according to a recent REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey from NAR.   In April of 2021, there were nearly five offers for every home sold which increased from two offers in 2019 and 2020.

Utah reported the highest number of offers per home sold with seven while Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Washington had six.  California, Colorado, Tennessee, and Texas each had five offers per home sold.

To make their offers appear more attractive, more buyers are making cash offers to eliminate financing contingencies and reduce the chance of rejection.  Cash offers represented 25% of offers in April and 21% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 18% in 2020.

Buyers who are not able to make cash offers are increasing their down payment.  Nearly half of homebuyers are putting 20% or more down during the first quarter of 2021.  Even first-time buyers are using an 80% mortgage to make their offers more attractive to sellers.

The median days on the market for listings was 17, down from 21 days a year ago.  31% of residential sales were made to first-time homebuyers which is down from 32% in March 2021 and down from 36% one year ago.

While nearly ¾ of homes closed on time, 5% were terminated and 22% were delayed but eventually went into settlement.  Appraisal and financing issues were the major contributors to the delayed transactions.  The two major factors for the terminated transactions were also appraisals and inspections issues.

Today's environment requires a strong, sensitive agent who understands your goals as well as the intricacies of the market to be able to devise a plan to make it happen.  Your agent and their recommendations for the other professionals involved are the boots on the ground necessary whether you are a buyer or a seller.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Simple Rates of Return



Looking for a simple way to determine if a rental property will give you the rate of return you want?  This modified annual property operating data may be just what you've been looking for.

There are many different rates of return that investor's consider to determine whether a property will generate the yield that they expect.  Sometimes the simplest of calculations can tell you whether you want it or not and if you get the other things like tax advantages and appreciation, it just makes it that much better.

The first yield we will look at is commonly called the Cash-on-Cash rate of return.  It is calculated by dividing the initial investment, usually down payment and closing costs, into the Cash Flow Before Tax.

To arrive at Net Operating Income, it is simply taking the gross scheduled income, less vacancy allowance and all operating expenses.  From that is deducted the annual debt service which is the principal and interest payment times twelve.  The remaining amount is referred to as Cash Flow Before Tax.

In this example , the initial investment of the down payment and closing costs, $66,000 was divided into the Cash Flow Before Taxes of $5,468 to get an 8.28% Cash-on-Cash rate of return.

The second yield to be considered is called Equity Build-up.  Each payment made on an amortizing mortgage pays a portion toward the principal balance to retire the loan.  It is calculated by dividing the initial investment into the principal contribution for the year.

Continuing with the example, $66,000 is divided into the principal reduction for year one of $4,606 to get a 6.98% Equity Build-up rate of return.

This approach is easy to understand because you are not considering depreciation, anticipated appreciation, holding period, recapture of depreciation or long-term capital gains. Simply rent the property, pay the bills and if there is money left over, it pays a return on the initial investment.

The same goes for the Equity Build-up.  When you make the payment on the mortgage, the loan is reduced and while you don't have access to the money like cash flow, it is definitely your equity and tangible.

To determine whether an ROI on a rental is good, compare it to what your initial investment is earning currently.  Ten-year treasuries are earning less than 2%.  Certificates of deposit are earning less than 1%.

For more information, download the Rental Income Properties  guide and schedule an appointment with your real estate professional.

ROI example.png

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Is a Home Inventory Necessary?



Most homeowners have insurance on their home that additionally, gives them coverage on their personal property.  That is the first level of peace of mind to know that it is available to you if there is an unfortunate need for it from a burglary, fire, or some other insured circumstance.

Personal property is handled slightly different than real property.  The claims adjustor could start by asking you for a list of the things lost.  You are allowed to reconstruct it but there is a distinct possibility that you'll forget things, sometimes for months or years after the claim was settled.

An interesting exercise would be for you to visualize two rooms, possibly, the kitchen and main living area.  Without being in the room, create a list of all the personal items in plain sight and those in the closets and cabinets.  When you're through with the list, go into each room to check to see what kind of things were not on your list and what the value of those items amounted to.  It could be substantial.

Remember, you are entitled to claim them regardless of how long it has been since you used them or if you do not intend on replacing them again.

When filing a claim, the more "proof" you have to substantiate it, the better off you are.  Receipts are great but chances are, you may only have them for the big-ticket items.  Photographs or video of the different rooms are great records that the items were in your home.

An itemized list of each room with a description of the content, cost and date of purchase, supported by pictures would be ideal.  This type of documentation will make filing and settling a claim much easier.   The more documentation you have, the more likely you are to have a favorable settlement.

The more expensive the item, the better it would be for you to have receipts, serial numbers and photographs.  A simple count of some items like clothing will suffice like four pairs of jeans, 24 dress shirts, etc.  More valuable items of clothing like a cashmere jacket or a silk dress should be listed individually. 

Depending on the frequency that you purchase new items for the home or possessions, you'll need to consider updating the list and photographs.  Moving creates opportunities to get rid of things that haven't been used for years and to acquire things for the new home.  It is always a good idea to complete a home inventory after you've moved and settled into your new space.

If you would like to have more tips and a form to itemize your possessions, download the Home Inventory.  This will even allow you to include pictures and store it in digital format for safe keeping.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Deciding on Whether to Move



Some homeowners feel like they may as well throw a dart against the wall to decide whether to move or not.  Other people might invoke a process attributed to Benjamin Franklin.  Supposedly, to evaluate the options and bring clarity to the choice, this American founding father would list all the reasons for and against the decision on a sheet of paper.  After reducing it to writing, the choice would appear either by obvious majority or practicality.

Buying a home is an emotional decision but selling a home can be also.  Separating the rationale from the emotion can make decisions seem obvious but they may still not be crystal clear.

There is an inventory shortage that caused prices to rise and market time to shorten.  In many active markets there is less than 30-days' supply of homes for sale which is half of what was available a year ago.  This will make it easier to sell and maximize the proceeds from your current home.

69% of economists who participated in the first quarter 2021 Zillow Home Price Expectations survey believe home inventory will begin to grow in the second half of this year or the first half of 2022.

Mortgage rates are near record lows which will keep payments at a minimum.  With the inflation rate in the United States expected to be between 2-3%, many borrowers consider that it balances with the mortgage rate to be an effective zero percent.

"Consumers are facing much higher home prices, rising mortgage rates, and falling affordability, however, buyers are still actively in the market," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist.  "At least half of the adult population has received a COVID-19 vaccination, according to reports, and recent housing starts and job creation data show encouraging dynamics of more supply and strong demand in the housing sector."

The pandemic has allowed many buyers have the flexibility to work from home for now and in some situations, permanently.  That opens new location possibilities options that would not have existed if they had to commute to work daily.  Economists believe that the increased preference to work remotely will be a permanent shift even if it is only a part of the work week.

This provides opportunities for homeowners to relocate in an area that doesn't have the high demand that their current area does and could benefit from more affordable housing for the replacement while possibly, maximizing the sales price of their current home.

Good information specific to your needs is essential to making good decisions.  Explore the possibilities with your real estate agent.  They can provide facts about the sale and purchase of another home.  Once you have the facts, you may use the Ben Franklin Balance Sheet to help you with your decision.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

"Mise en Place" for Homebuying



In cooking, "mise en place" describes having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, grated, as well as bowls, utensils and pans ready to use before you begin cooking.  The advantage is to inventory the ingredients and recognize if you have everything you need.  You are less likely to leave out an ingredient or step because it is "set up" and ready to use.

The same technique works well in the homebuying process, especially in today's highly competitive environment where multiple offers are normal and bidding wars are commonplace.

Check your credit ... not only does credit determine if you will get a mortgage, but it will also determine the interest rate you'll pay.  The best rates are for the borrowers with the best credit; lower credit scores mean higher rates because of additional risk to the lender.  Free copies are available from all three major credit bureaus at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

Determine your budget ... knowing your income and immediate living expenses will give you a feel for what you can afford but you also need to know what big-ticket expenses are in the future and how much you should be saving for them.  Lenders use debt to income ratios to qualify borrowers, but it may be more than the buyers feel comfortable with.  This is good information to discuss with your mortgage professional.

Meet with a mortgage banker ... their job is to get borrowers approved and instead of using calculators on a website, a trusted, experienced mortgage professional can look at your credit, make suggestions if it can be improved, run verifications on income, assets and liabilities and suggest loan programs to benefit your specific situation.  They can even provide a pre-approval letter and phone verification that may be the tipping point to negotiating a successful contract with a seller.

Initial investment ... The down payment and closing costs are related to the type of mortgage, which is generally, dependent of how much of the buyer's savings is available.  The down payment can range between zero and 20%.  Mortgage insurance is necessary on most loans if the down payment is less than 20%.  Buyer's normal closing costs range between two to five percent of the mortgage.

Costs of homeownership - Most mortgage payments include the principal and interest plus 1/12 the annual property taxes and insurance plus mortgage insurance if required.  Other expenses that will be incurred by the homeowner include maintenance, HOA dues, utilities, upkeep and replacement of equipment and appliances.

Process and timeline ... people tend to feel more comfortable when they understand the process of buying a home and the length of time it takes for the different steps.  Your real estate agent will be able to provide this information to you based on the type of mortgage and local market conditions.

Know the numbers ... being familiar with the basic statistics makes planning and even, negotiation easier to predict.  Important data, relative to the type of property you are buying, includes the current supply of homes for sale, days on market, sales price to list price ratio, and percent of cash sales in your price range.  This is another area that your real estate professional can be very helpful.

Must-have features ... the concept of a "dream home" is more myth than reality.  People rarely get everything they want even when they are building a home.  Especially, in a highly competitive market with rapidly increasing prices, buyers should create a list of their "must have" and "nice to have" features and amenities.  This can be helpful when you are determining whether to write a contract on a home.

Build your team ... buying a home is like an athletic team.  By selecting the best "players" for each position, you will have a much better chance for a successful sale and a satisfactory transaction.  Your real estate agent is in a unique position to guide you through the entire process and recommend trusted professionals for each job that needs to be done. 

An excellent meal includes fresh, good food, the right ingredients, superb preparation, and execution.  Whether you are following a recipe or doing it from memory, each step is important and affects the outcome.  The same is true for buying a home.  Get everything together before you start looking at homes.

For more information on buying a home, download our Buyers Guide.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

It's Not too Late to Refinance



With mortgage rates below 4% since May 2019, you would think that most people would have already refinanced but according to a recent Lending Tree survey, 49% of homeowners say they are considering a mortgage refinance in the next year.  The report estimated that over a third of homeowners are have mortgages above 4% and 11% didn't know what their rate was.

Slightly more than a third of the people surveyed regretted missing the opportunity to refinance in 2020 when rates did hit their historical low.  Homeowners should not beat themselves up on this issue because the only way to know to tell that it hit bottom is after it has started going up again. 

The current rates are very favorable to borrowers and some economists believe that when inflation is factored in, the rates are close to zero effectively.

While there are nine specific reasons people choose to refinance their homes, two are among the most prevalent: to lower the payment or take cash out of the equity.  Most reasons include:

  1. Lower the payment
  2. Lower the rate to pay less interest
  3. Shorten the term to pay off the loan sooner
  4. Take cash out of equity to pay off higher cost debt
  5. Take cash out of equity to improve their liquidity
  6. To remove a person from the loan as in a divorce
  7. To combine a first and second mortgage
  8. To replace an adjustable-rate mortgage
  9. To consolidate debt

There are some commonly held myths about refinancing among homeowners such as:

  • You can only refinance your home once.
  • You must refinance through your current lender.
  • There should be two-percent difference in the rate to justify it
  • You need 20% equity to refinance
  • Applications require a lot of documents
  • You need cash to cover closing costs
  • You won't save that much by refinancing
  • It's free to refinance

If your current mortgage is a FHA, there is limited borrower credit documentation and underwriting program.  The mortgage must be current and not delinquent, and the refinance must result in a net tangible benefit to the borrower such as a lower rate, lower payment or better terms.  For more information, see Streamline or contact an FHA approved lender.

VA has a similar program if your existing mortgage is a VA-backed home loan. The purpose is for a borrower to reduce their payments or make their payment more stable.  They must certify they are currently living in or did live in the home covered by the loan. The Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan, IRRRL, may be available.

USDA also has a program for current USDA direct and guaranteed rural homebuyers who have been current on their payments for 12 months prior to requesting the loan refinance.  No appraisal or credit review is required.  There must be a minimum of 40% net reduction to the PITI payment.  More information is available.

Before refinancing your home, determine how long you plan to keep the home.  If the reason for refinancing is to save interest by getting a lower rate, you may accomplish that immediately.  However, if you plan on selling soon, you may not be able to recapture the cost of refinancing.

There are costs associated with refinancing regardless of whether you pay for them in cash, or they are rolled into the cost of the mortgage.  These costs can range from two to five percent of the mortgage.

Check out the Refinance Analysis to determine your breakeven point and savings.  Call if you have questions or want the recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Writing a Successful Offer in a Low Inventory Market



With at least 40% less homes on the market currently than there were a year ago, serious buyers have probably experienced the disappointment of losing a home they wanted to buy from increased competition.  Today's buyers are looking for ways to improve their odds of being the best contract without having to use the purchase price as their only tool.

Buyers should reconsider, rethink, and re-evaluate their "must have" features and amenities.  It is probably unrealistic in a normal market to think you can have the perfect home at the price you want but in today's market it is less possible.  List the things you must have and the things you would like to have and prioritize them.  Try to identify the critical from the convenient.

The next step is to put together your "home" team.  You are the captain of this process, but it is essential to have a strong first officer and that is your real estate agent.  This professional will oversee the process, advise you on current market conditions and normal procedures.  Your agent will even help you assemble the rest of the team like mortgage officer, title, insurance, warranty, inspectors and can recommend service providers.

Your agent can advocate your cause personally to the listing agent by personally delivering the offer and expounding on your strong points to lobby your position.  Obviously, your agent will not share anything that you do not expressly give them permission to.

Even before you write the offer, your agent can inquire with the listing agent about any preferences of the seller not mentioned in the listing agreement as well as to use the proper contract forms and addendums.

The following list of suggestions are provided for your consideration realizing that some may not be appropriate for your individual financial situation or comfort level.

  • Get pre-approved from a local lender and include documentation with offer to purchase.
  • Have lender phone and email listing agent to expound on pre-approval.
  • Increase the amount of earnest money.
  • Acknowledge flexibility on closing and occupancy dates.
  • Eliminate unnecessary contingencies.
  • Waive the appraisal and have proof of funds to meet the difference in the purchase price.
  • Avoid concessions like asking the seller to pay the buyer's closing costs or points.
  • Avoid including personal property to go with the sale unless specified in listing agreement.
  • Purchase "as is" with right of quick inspection to cancel contract if condition is unacceptable.
  • Shorten time frames on necessary contingencies.
  • Attach proof of funds for down payment or full purchase price if cash.
  • Arrange bridge financing to be able to pay cash.
  • Buyer should pay their own normal closing costs.
  • Write a personal note to the seller explaining why you like and want their home.  Some listing agents are advising sellers to not accept them due to potential discrimination liability.
  • Escalation clause ... offer to pay $X,000 more than highest acceptable offer up to a limit.
  • If you physically sign the offer, use a contrasting color ink to add a personal touch.  If using a digital contract, change the font and color to distinguish the signature.
  • Make your best offer first because they may not make a counteroffer.

When a new listing hits the market, it is commonplace for there to be a rush of interested buyers that result in multiple offers.  It is prudent for you to research and consider which of these ideas you can implement before you find the home; it is much better to have more time to make these decisions, especially, if it involves a mortgage officer or an attorney.

Your real estate professional will be able to tell you if these suggestions are viable and may be able to offer additional recommendations.  If you do not have an agent, contact me at (703) 878-4866 or Bob@Military-RealEstate.comto discuss a plan to craft your offer in the most favorable way possible.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

How long do I have to keep this stuff?



"How long do I have to keep this stuff?" is the usual question you ask yourself when feeling that you are running out of room for all this "paper" that may never be needed. 

The paper receipt you get from your fast-food lunch may go directly into the trash.  The prudent consumer may keep it to reconcile it with their monthly statement and then, trash it.  The natural hierarchy with receipts and documents associated with purchases is that as the price or value goes up, the more important it is to keep them.  The question becomes "but for how long?"

The following table will give you an indication on how long certain documents related to your home need to be kept according to best practices of tax professionals.  IRS recommends that records are kept for three years from the date the taxpayer files their original return or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later.  There is no time limit in the case of fraud or failure to file a tax return.

 

Document

Length of time to keep

Home Purchase/Sale Documents

Home purchase documents

Duration of ownership + 3 years

Closing documents & statements

Duration of ownership + 3 years

Deed to property

Duration of ownership

Home warranty or service contract

Until expiration

Community/Condo Association Covenants

Duration of ownership

Receipts for capital improvements

Duration of ownership + 3 years

Mortgage Payoff statements or Release of Lien

Forever, in case proof is needed

Annual Tax Deductions

Property tax statement & cancelled check

3 years after IRS due date for return

Year-end mortgage statements

3 years after IRS due date for return

Federal tax returns

3 years after filing return or
2 years after paying tax, whichever is later

Insurance and Warranties

Home Inventory

Keep current

Homeowners insurance policy

Until the replacement is received

Service contracts and warranties

Until warranty/service contract expiration

Home repair receipts

Until warranty/service contract expiration

 

Going digital with your records can make them easy to keep as well as to find when you need them.  Create a folder on your computer that automatically backs up to the cloud like Dropbox, Google Docs or OneDrive so that if something happens to your computer, you have them safely tucked away. 

The main folder could be the address of your home with subfolders for purchase documents, capital improvements, warranties, etc.

When you receive statements that are already in digital format, simply move them to the correct folder and subfolder.  If it is a paper format, scan it and save it in the proper folder so you will have it when you need it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Rent your home tax free



There is a little-known provision in the tax code that allows homeowners to rent their principal residence or second home for up to 14 days a year without having to recognize the income.  In this situation, the taxpayer does not deduct the rental expenses associated with the income.

There is no restriction on how much you earn.  If your first or second home is in a desirable area where people are looking for short-term rentals, it could provide a windfall to the homeowner.

In cities where any big sports championships are played, there could be a market for a temporary rental of a home.  Events like PGA tournaments, college basketball tournaments, Bowl games, NFL playoffs and others can create a demand for this type of rental.

For instance, there are people in Augusta, Georgia who rent their homes during the Master's Golf Tournament each year.  There are not a lot of hotel rooms in the area relative to the number of people who usually attend in non-pandemic years and the homes can fetch a nice daily rate.

There can be confusion about the different types of properties and what constitutes a home.  The intended use coupled with actual experience will usually determine the type of property.

There are four types of property.  A principal residence is the home you live in.  There is income property that you rent and do not live in.  There is investment property that is primarily held for an increase in value.  And, there is inventory, which is related to your business like homes that are built or purchased to be flipped.

A second home is one that is used for the primary enjoyment of the owner in addition to their principal residence.  Taxpayers are allowed to deduct the mortgage interest and property taxes on a first and second home up to specific limits.  A vacation home could be another name for a second home but more accurately, it is a rental property that has more than 14 days of personal use during the year.  It becomes a hybrid.

You might want to check with your insurance agent to see if your current policy covers temporary rentals, including liability in case of an accident involving personal injury.  This could affect your decision as to whether you want to consider the rental.

For more information, see IRS facts about renting out a residential property or consult your tax professional.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Before you pay cash for a home



Before you pay cash for a home, ask yourself if there is a possibility, at some point in the future, you might put a mortgage on the home and would want to deduct the mortgage interest on your federal tax return.

Current federal tax law allows homeowners to deduct the interest on up to $750,000 in acquisition debt used to buy, build or improve a property.  When a person pays cash for a home, the acquisition debt is zero.  The only way to increase the acquisition debt is to make and finance the improvements to the home.

As with many IRS regulations, there are exceptions to this rule.  If a mortgage is secured on the first or second home within 90 days of the purchase closing, the debt is considered acquisition debt.  The interest on the funds used to purchase the home can be deducted on up to $750,000 of the mortgage balance.

Assuming a borrower has good credit, the ability to repay the loan and the home justifies the loan, lenders are willing to make mortgages for homeowners.  It does not mean that the interest on the mortgage will be deductible.

Additional information can be found in Publication 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction, of the Internal Revenue Service at IRS.gov.

To deduct home mortgage interest, you must file Form 1040 or 1040-SR and itemize deductions on Schedule A.  The mortgage must be secured debt on a qualified home in which you have an ownership interest.  Interest on home equity loans is only deductible if the borrowed funds are used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer's home that secures the loan.

If you answered yes or even maybe to the question first posed in this article, contact your tax professional to determine the best way to approach your individual situation.  For more information, download the Homeowners Tax Guide.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Homeowner Equity and Wealth Accumulation



National homeowner equity grew in the fourth quarter of 2020 by $1.5 Trillion or 16.2% year-over-year based on a CoreLogic analysis.  The study was done on the six out of ten homeowners who have mortgages on their home.

The fourth quarter of 2020 also saw the number of mortgaged residential homes with negative equity decrease by 8% from the third quarter.  Compared to the same quarter in 2019, negative equity decreased by 21%.

Equity is defined as the value of the home less the mortgage owed.  Negative equity means that the homeowner's debt is more than the value of the home.  Appreciation is the dynamic that is moving homeowner's equity to the positive position.

On a national basis, according to National Association of REALTORS®, annual price growth for the last ten years has been 6.4%.  In the last five years, it has grown at 7.3% annually.  According to the CoreLogic Home Price Index, home prices in December 2020 were up 9.2% from the year before.

Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic, is quoted as saying "the amount of home equity for the average homeowner with a mortgage is more than $200,000."

Equity in a home is a significant component of net worth.  The latest Survey of Consumer Finances reports the median homeowner has 40 times the household wealth of a renter: $254,000 compared to $6,270.  According to the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances by First American, housing wealth was the single biggest contributor to the increase in net worth across all income groups.

The study also concluded that housing wealth represented nearly 75% of total assets of the lowest income households.  For homeowners in the mid-range of income, it represented 50-65% of total assets and 34% of total assets for the highest income households.

Renters do not benefit from the appreciation of housing or the amortization of the mortgage which are significant contributors to home equity that results in net worth.  Examine what a down payment can grow to in seven years with a Rent vs. Own.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Skip the Starter Home



For generations, people have begun their homeowner experience with a "starter" home.  Part of the logic may be that by beginning with a smaller home, they can learn what it takes to run the home and discover some of the unexpected costs that come along with it.  A slightly longer view into the future could suggest a different strategy.

As of March 4, 2021, the average 30-year mortgage rate according to Freddie Mac was 3.02%; up .37% from the week of January 7th this year.  At the same time, in 2020, the rate was 3.29% and in 2019, it was 4.41%.  That is a difference of 28 and 139 basis points.

The principal and interest payment on a $300,000 mortgage would have been $236 higher two-years ago and $44 more one-year ago.  Today's low mortgage rates are saving buyers lots of interest especially when you factor in the median tenure for sellers is approximately ten years.  Even though prices have increased over the last two years, some people may be able to afford more now with the lower rates.

Anticipating the future wants and needs now may present some opportunities for preparing for the inevitable.  By purchasing a larger home today, a buyer can lock in today's low rates and prices to allow themselves room to grow without the expenses of moving.

Each time you sell and purchase a home, there are expenses associated with each side of the transaction.  Purchase costs could be 1.5 to 3% while sales expenses could easily be 2.5 times that much.  These expenses lower the value of your equity. 

Instead of looking at the low mortgage rates as generating a savings from the payment you might normally have to make, consider it an opportunity to purchase more home that will possibly meet your needs for a longer time while eliminating the cost of selling and purchasing in the transition.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Your Refund Could Open the Door



One of the silver linings to filing your income tax return is finding out that you are going to receive a refund that could literally open the door to owning a home.  If you happen to be one of these fortunate taxpayers, your next decision is what to do with it. 

With the average tax refund near $3,000, it could be the ticket to buying a home sooner rather than later.  Regardless of the size of your refund, it can be used toward the down payment or closing costs of the home.

Most people think it takes 10% or more down payment to purchase a home, but actually, it is much less because of several low down payment mortgages .  There are VA and USDA mortgages that allow for no down payment for qualified buyers.  FHA has a 3.5% down payment program and FNMA and Freddie Mac have 3% down payment mortgages for qualified creditors as well as 5% down programs.

Closing costs for originating new mortgages can easily range from two to three percent of the purchase price but most lenders will allow the seller to pay part or all of them based on the agreement in the sales contract.  If you are using a VA or USDA loan, your refund could go toward paying the closing costs.

On a practical matter, if you are due a refund, have it deposited directly into your account.  It is necessary to trace the source of the funds.  Cashing a refund check and depositing the cash adds an unnecessary aging requirement.

Maybe you have the money saved for your down payment and closing costs but you have other debt that is keeping you from qualifying for a mortgage.  The IRS refund could be used to pay down that debt.  However, you need solid advice from a trusted mortgage professional before you do that.

While the average tax refund might not cover the down payment on the median price home, it certainly helps.  Your refund could make it a simple as 1-2-3 to get into a home.

  1. Get the hard, cold facts for the homes and mortgages in your area and price range.
  2. Get pre-approved with a trusted mortgage professional.
  3. Start looking at homes.

Download the Buyers Guide and contact me at (703) 217-6447 or Bob@Military-RealEstate.comto get started.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Transferring Property Prior to Death



Sometimes, as people approach the inevitable, they start trying to get their things "in order".  They may even have a will, but they decide to transfer title to real estate prior to their death which could be an unnecessary expense for the would-be heir.

Generally, when property is passed through direction of a will, the heir will receive a stepped-up basis which means that the fair market value of the property at the time of death becomes the cost basis for the heir.  If the property were sold for that fair market value, there would be no gain and no capital gains tax due.

However, if the property is gifted prior to death of the donor, along with the title to the property comes the cost basis of the property.  The transfer of title does not trigger the capital gains tax but when the property is sold, the gain is calculated by subtracting the basis from the sales price leaving a capital gain subject to tax.  In other words, the person receiving the gift does not get the stepped-up basis.

There certainly can be advantages to transferring the property prior to death.  It completes the transfer without having to wait for the death and bypasses the probate process that might be required to settle the will.  Another advantage to the donor may be to remove the property from the owner's name which could lower the taxable estate. 

Some owners may transfer title prior to death to qualify for Medicaid.  The value of the asset may make them ineligible.  It may trigger a Medicaid Transfer Penalty when the gift is made within five years and the basis of the property is less than fair market value.

Once a property is deeded to someone, the donor loses control of the asset and it cannot be reversed.  Depending on the value of the estate, there could be gift or estate tax implications.  As mentioned earlier, it may have capital gain tax consequences for the donor when they dispose of the property.

If the person receiving the gift has creditors or judgements, the gift becomes an asset subject to those creditors or judgements.

Even though the mechanics of transferring title to a property is simple, there are many things to consider for both the person giving the property and the one receiving it.  Consult an attorney and tax professional to determine the best informed decision available.  There could be other alternatives that would better serve your situation.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Is It Time to Cancel the Mortgage Insurance?



Mortgage insurance benefits the lender if a borrower with less than a 20% down payment defaults on their loan.  Most conventional mortgages greater than 80% and all FHA loans require the borrower to have this coverage.

Private mortgage insurance on conventional loans can range from 0.5% to 2.25% based on the loan-to-value and the credit worthiness of the borrower.  A $350,000 mortgage would have a monthly mortgage insurance premium of $146 a month at the low-end of the scale and over $600 on the high-end.

You may request that your mortgage servicer cancel the PMI when the principal balance reaches 80% of the original value at the time the loan was made.  You should have received a PMI disclosure form when you signed the mortgage documents stating the date.  If you have made additional principal contributions, it will accelerate the date.

Other criteria considered to cancel the PMI on your loan is:

  • The request must be in writing.
  • You must be current on your payments with a good payment history.
  • The lender may ask that you certify there are no junior liens in effect.
  • If the lender is concerned that the value has declined, an appraisal may be required to show that it is eligible.

Conventional loans are supposed to remove the mortgage insurance when the unpaid balance is 78% of the original purchase price. 

Another possibility is that the lender/servicer must end the PMI the month after you reach the midpoint of your loan's amortization schedule.  For a 30-year loan, it would be after the 180th payment was paid.  The borrower must be current on the payments for the termination to occur.

With the rapid appreciation that many homes have enjoyed in recent years, homeowners may be able to refinance their home and if the new mortgage amount is less than 80% of the current appraised value, no mortgage insurance would be required.

The owner would incur the cost of refinancing but eliminate the cost of the mortgage insurance.  To calculate the savings, subtract the new principal and interest payment from the old principal and interest with PMI.  Then, divide the savings into the cost of refinancing to determine the number of months necessary to recapture the cost.

FHA loans have two types of mortgage insurance premium: up-front and monthly.  For loans with FHA case numbers assigned on or after June 3 2013 with LTV% greater than 90%, the MIP will be paid for the entire term of the loan.  If that is the case, refinancing on a conventional loan is the only way to eliminate the MIP.  For loans with original LTV% less than 90%, the MIP is collected for 11 years until the balance is 78% of the original amount.

When buying a home, purchasers may not have enough resources for a large down payment.  It is understandable to use the best mortgage available to buy the home.  The next goal should be to manage the mortgage to lower the overall costs.  In this article, we explored eliminating the private mortgage insurance.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Make Your Best Offer FIRST



This strategy is not about trying to negotiate the best price; it is about beating out the competition and buying the home.  It may be difficult to understand until you have lost a few homes to better offers but when the reality of the situation is that there are not that many homes on the market, the competition heats up and different tactics are necessary. 

Sales in December were annualized at 6.76 million, a 22.2% increase year over year according to the National Association of REALTOR®.  The median sales price is $309,800 which is up 12.9% from the previous year.  Inventory for December fell to 1.9 months' supply from 3.0 months' supply in December of 2019.  Six months inventory is considered a balanced market.

Things that work in a buyer's market will not work in a seller's market.  The shortage of available homes for sale has led to not only shorter market times but multiple offers that have sales prices above the listing price.  Buyers, especially in entry to mid-level priced ranges, may have lost out multiple times to buy a home. 

Buyers must be strategic if they want to successfully find a home.  There are some things that are absolutely essential to just be in the game.

Unless you are paying cash and have adequate proof of funds, you need to get pre-approved.  REALTORS® and financial advisors have been saying this for decades, but it is critical now.  There are plenty of reasons that benefit the buyer but most importantly, it is to show that a buyer is serious and has gone through the effort to have a lender run his credit and verify his income, expenses, employment, and credit.

If the home fresh on the market, in a desired location and price range, you need to assume there will be competing offers and you may never even get a counteroffer from the seller.  You need to consider making your highest and best offer first, as if you will not get a second chance.  This is more difficult for some people than others because of their bargaining nature.

Earnest money that accompanies a contract shows that the buyer is acting in good faith.  The amount that may be customary may not be enough in a competing market.  Consider two or three times what might be normal.  Talk to your agent about what would make an impression on the seller.

While contingencies will protect your earnest money from specific concerns like loan approval and inspections, the seller will look at them as ways that the buyer can get out of the contract and they'll need to put the home back on the market.  If a seller is presented multiple offers, they might be prone to accept one with the least contingencies, especially, if the prices are comparable.

There is usually a period connected to the different contingencies that are allowed to complete them.  By shortening these times as much as possible limits the time the seller might feel they are in limbo.

If you have the flexibility, you might express your willingness to move the closing and/or possession dates to accommodate the seller's schedule.  This could be an important factor in your favor and could be done in a verbal statement conveyed from your agent to the listing agent.

These are things buyers should consider and discuss with their agent before they find the home that they want to buy.  While you are formulating your position, another offer may be accepted before you even make yours.  For more information, download our Buyers Guide.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Home Insurance and Mortgage Insurance



Many homeowners with mortgages pay for both types of insurance but only one of them protects the owner.

Homeowner's insurance covers damage to your property and losses from fire, burglary, vandalism, and other named natural disasters.  When an insured has a loss, they file a claim with the insurance carrier which would be subject to the deductible mentioned in the policy.

If the homeowner has a mortgage on the property, the lender will require that the borrower carry adequate insurance on the property and name the lender as an additional insured.  This protects the lender that the home will continue to be sufficient collateral for the loan in case of a loss.

Mortgage insurance is not like homeowner's insurance in that it is solely for the protection of the lender if the borrower defaults on the loan.  Usually, lenders require mortgage insurance on any loan greater than 80% loan-to-value.  Occasionally, they may require it on some loans less than 80% based on their underwriting requirements and possibly, from anticipated risk from the borrower.

VA loans do not require mortgage insurance.  Conventional lenders must remove the mortgage insurance when the loan amortizes below the stated percentage.  FHA loans require mortgage insurance for the life of the loan.

When a property appreciates so that when the owners refinance, the loan-to-value ratio is less than 80%, no mortgage insurance would be required.  This can be a strong motivation for some owners to refinance to save the cost of the mortgage insurance.

Mortgage insurance premiums are not regulated by law like homeowner's insurance is in most states.  Most buyers are concerned about the interest rate on their mortgage, but few question the amount of the mortgage insurance premium.

The homeowner can select the carrier for his homeowner insurance, but the lender determines the carrier for the mortgage insurance.  When you are interviewing lenders, the type of insurance that will be required and the price of the mortgage insurance should be included in the discussion.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Moving UP or DOWN



Staying at home in 2020 caused of lot of owners to think about how nice it would be to have a larger home to accommodate the additional activities that come along with isolating.  Particularly for people with children at home or possibly, the potential of either adult children or parents coming to live with them.

There are other owners who are trying to weigh the pros and cons of selling their larger home and downsizing.  For entirely different reasons, the advantages could be very appealing to an owner.  A smaller home is easier to maintain and usually, has lower utilities, insurance, and property taxes.

Some people might be considering the convenience and ease of mobility of a single level home.  It may be finding a location with proximity to the activities they are now interested in.  A newer home might have less maintenance and be more energy efficient.

Married taxpayers who have owned and occupied a principal residence for two years can exclude up to $500,000 of capital gain while a single taxpayer can exclude up to $250,000.  Liquidating the equity in their home without a tax liability could have multiple benefits.

Some people might choose to pay cash for the replacement home.  Others might put 20% down to avoid mortgage insurance and possibly, even get a 15-year loan to get the lowest rate.  The balance of the equity could be invested at a rate higher than the interest on their new mortgage.  Still, others might want to have some reserve funds available for whatever the next unanticipated crisis might be.

It could be a way to fund a longtime goal like children's or grandchildren's education, or wedding, or a once-in-a-lifetime trip.  Maybe part of the equity could be used to start a business or make a grant to a worthwhile charity.

Selling a home and purchasing another will have expenses involved that have to be taken into consideration.  Purchase costs could be 1.5 to 3% while sales expenses could be easily be 2.5 times that much.

Regardless of whether it is moving to a larger home or a smaller one, now is a good time to make the move.  Due to the low inventory in most markets, homes are selling quickly, many times, in less than three weeks.  Normally, the winter months have less activity which means less competition also.

And then, there are the mortgage rates.  As of 1/21/21, the 30-year fixed rate was at 2.77% and the 15-year at 2.21%.

Like any other big change in life, it is recommended that you take your time to consider the possible alternatives and outcomes.  Your real estate professional can provide information that can be valuable in the discernment process such as what your home is worth, what you will net from a sale as well as, alternative properties for your next stage in life.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Rental Home Investments



Rental homes whether they be single-family detached properties, condos, two, three or four-unit properties share many of the same benefits.  Most people instinctively understand many of the working parts because they are the same as their home.  They have a basic understanding of value and how to maintain the property.  The service providers for a home would be the same for a rental home.

These properties allow an investor to obtain a large loan-to-value mortgage at fixed interest rates for up to thirty years.  They appreciate in value, currently exceeding many other assets; have defined tax advantages and allow an investor more control than many alternative investments.

Most lenders require 20-25% down payment and will finance the balance at rates close to owner-occupied homes.  Buyer closing costs will add another three to four percent to the amount of cash needed to close.  It is also prudent to have available funds for repairs and maintenance.

There are successful real estate investors in every price range and part of town.  If your ultimate goal is to have the rent handle the holding costs and to sell the appreciated property at the end of a seven to ten year holding period, it might be advantageous to stay in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhood.  They usually appreciate faster and will appeal to a buyer who wants it for their home.  Chances are, this type of buyer will pay a higher price than an investor who may not be willing to pay as high a price.

By staying in an average price range, or possibly, slightly lower, you'll be able to appeal to the broadest group of not only buyers but also tenants while you are renting the property.  Even during the mid-80's when FHA interest rate was 18.5%, buyers were still purchasing homes.  Whereas the higher priced homes have a tendency to slow down during trying economic times.

Ask your real estate professional what price ranges sell the best, rent the best and have mortgage money available.

Some investors manage their properties themselves and others don't want to be involved.  Professional property management has advantages like expertise, established contacts, operating statements and economies of scale.  The main disadvantage is the cost factor but if they can rent it for a higher price and keep expenses lower than you can, it could minimize the difference. 

A possible consideration might be to have a real estate professional place the tenant, check the credit and write the lease.  There would be a one-time fee for this, but the owner/investor could then, manage the property, saving the expense of a monthly fee.

Understanding the landlord tenant laws would be particularly important to an investor managing their own property but regardless, the investor needs to have a basic familiarity of the law.  There can be civil as well as criminal aspects.  Examples might be that a landlord is required to change the locks on a property for a new tenant; the number of days before a landlord must return a deposit and what to do if there are damages causing all or part of it to be withheld.

Another tool that can be very helpful for investors is an investment analysis that will assist them in selecting a property that is likely to provide a satisfactory rate of return.  Ask your real estate professional if they can provide this for you.  They should be more familiar with rents and expenses to be able to determine the cash flow and what kind of yield you may be able to expect over your intended holding period.

For more detailed information, download our Rental Income Properties and contact me to schedule a meeting to talk about the possibilities. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Pre-Listing Inspections



Imagine what happens when there is not a pre-listing inspection.  The buyer contracts for the home with a provision for professional home inspection.  When it is made, there could be things that the buyer didn't expect or even, anticipate.  If it doesn't trigger an action to terminate the contract, the buyer will inevitably, ask the seller to make all the repairs.

When presented with the buyer's request, the seller may take the opposite position of not wanting to do any of the repairs.  The buyer could accept the property in its "as is" condition or negotiate the repairs or a reduced price with the seller.

Any experienced agent can tell you that sometimes a mutually agreed negotiation is reached and other times, an impasse is met that cannot be resolved.  The contract is terminated, and the house has to go back on the market but this time, a disclosure has to be made to all parties looking at the home which may deter showings.

Taking a pro-active approach, by obtaining a pre-listing inspection, the seller can find out about things that will probably show up in a buyer's inspection.  They can get them repaired before the home is shown and it will help the buyer feel more confident with the home.  Another option would be to disclose them as not working and make a price adjustment, either way, the seller is in control and is taking a position of transparency with potential buyers.

In some cases, the pre-listing inspection may show things in working order that the buyer's inspection indicates as needing repair.  With two disinterested parties having opposing opinions, negotiations have a more likely chance for a mutual agreement.

Disclosing things that are not in working order can reduce liability in the future.  Some deficiencies with the home are not discovered prior to the closing and the surprise issues could lead to liability.  The pre-listing inspection by a professional combined with the seller disclosing it properly can reduce potential liability.

For the small investment in the pre-listing inspection, the benefits are well worth the expense.  You and potential buyers will have a better idea of the condition of your property and know what to expect.  You can present the property in a transparent way that will build confidence with the buyer.  You'll avoid unpleasant surprises as well as possible delays.  Pre-listing inspections can lead to faster sales and satisfaction for everyone involved.

For more information, download the Sellers Guide.