Be a smarter buyer with this bonus information checklist

When you’re home hunting, information is power. The more you know before you make an offer, the better. Usually when two homes are equally appealing, digging into the details can make a difference. Here’s a list of “bonus information” that most buyers overlook or forget to ask about while they’re shopping for a house:

Homeowner’s association rules: Certain neighborhood covenants may be a deal maker or breaker for you, so if there’s a set of guidelines you’ll be required to adhere to, get them up front. They can cover everything from paint schemes to lawn design and beyond.

Utility bills: Most sellers won’t balk at sharing with you what utilities cost annually. Water, power, gas, and even telecommunication or cable service provider bills can help you get a better idea what it will cost monthly to live in the home.

Pest control: In areas where pests can be a problem, asking for information about who has been maintaining pest control (and how much it costs) can help you plan financially and get a sense if the sellers have been keeping up with pest issues.

Service providers: Save yourself some leg work and ask the sellers who they like for lawn maintenance, pool maintenance, home repair work, house cleaners, and appliance repair. Not only will the list save you time, but the providers will already be familiar with the home’s condition and systems.

Home insurance company: You can bet the company insuring the home will want to continue to keep the business, and getting this cost information and provider contact info from the buyer is a good idea.

Floor plans: Having a floor plan will help you understand whether or not your stuff is a good fit for the home. Not every seller will have these handy, but sometimes a seller’s agent will be willing to get a current floor plan put together if it’s important to you.

They may seem like small details, but they can make all the difference.

I love helping home buyers make informed decisions about their next home. I can help you walk through the pros and cons of every detail. Get in touch today:

Teresa Butler

Worthington Realty

614-565-8161

Teresa@TeresaButler.com

The Truth Behind Renting vs. Buying a Home

Are you doing the math these days around renting versus buying a home? Trying to decide if you can afford to buy? If so, you’ve probably Googled one of the many “rent versus buy” calculators out there to help you get a handle on your budget.

True, they’re helpful, and they can also help clue you in to things like insurance expenses and property taxes, but they overlook a number of key factors in the decision.

  1. A mortgage is a surefire way to build wealth. Provided you don’t buy more home than you can truly afford, your mortgage is like a mandatory savings account. A portion of your payment each month is going straight into your equity in your home. With renting, it’s your landlord who is building equity, not you.
  1. The tax situation has profound implications, especially in expensive markets. Until the laws change (and there’s little probability they will any time soon), your mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible on your income taxes. In expensive markets, this can represent massive deduction. (Also remember: Early on in a traditional mortgage you pay the most in interest and your deduction is the highest.)
  1. Renting puts your wallet at the mercy of the market more often than buying. If you have a year-long lease on an apartment, your rent could go up significantly should the rental market heat up. Your rent isn’t likely to stay the same over a long period of time. In most cities, in fact, it will steadily go up. With a standard mortgage, however, your payments are fixed and predictable. It might seem like a lot at first, but if you buy within your means, it’ll seem like less and less of an expense as the years go on.
  1. A mortgage gives you more future financial flexibility. The longer you have a mortgage, the more equity you build. The more equity you build, the more options you have to borrow against that equity or use it in ways which may be advantageous for debt and tax purposes. With renting, no such long-term benefit exists.

The key here, of course, is accepting the fact that you must buy a home you can afford which is priced in accordance with the market. Even if you’re not ready today, having a conversation with a Realtor(tm) will help you prepare for tomorrow.

How does renting look now? Should we have a conversation?:

Teresa Butler

Worthington Realty

614-565-8161

Teresa@TeresaButler.com

How to Build Neighborhood Connections

If you’ve recently relocated to a new neighborhood, you may find yourself struggling to break the ice with your neighbors. It can be a little daunting to just knock on doors unannounced, and in today’s day of texting and “connections at a distance” could be considered outright rude.

Still, neighborhoods are only as good as their neighbors. In a world where so many people recognize neighborhood cars over the faces of people who live around us, there’s a lot to be said for making an effort to connect with the people who live up and down the block. So how do you make those first few casual connections which lead to meaningful bonds?

Here are some tips for forming new connections with your neighbors:

  1. Throw a “move in” garage sale. Yes, most people have garage sales before they move out of their old house in order to reduce the amount of clutter they have to pack, but garage sales draw lots of local foot traffic and present super opportunities to get to know who lives nearby. If you didn’t have a garage sale before you moved, or you think you might still have some stuff to unload, why not throw a garage sale in your new ‘hood? Bonus tip: Have some free refreshments on hand.
  1. Stroll the streets. Want to get to know and be known? Get out there on foot. A routine morning or evening walk is a perfect way to say howdy and stop for a chat. Don’t wear headphones. Be open to conversations. Observe who’s out and about and use compliments and open ended questions to spark a little small talk.
  1. Be of service. If you have a skill you can share, offer it up to those nearby. This may be something small, like knife sharpening, or it may be a group project like power washing houses. Good deeds and shared labor build bonds.
  1. Start a group activity. Posting flyers for a book group, running club, or even routine cocktail hour or monthly potluck is a perfect opportunity to bring people together through a shared activity.

Step back from social media and make those neighborhood connections “IRL” (In Real Life). They can make all the difference when it comes to establishing yourself in the community.

Looking for a great new neighborhood? I’d be happy to help you sell your old home or find a new one: Teresa Butler, Worthington Realty, 614-565-8161, Teresa@TeresaButler.com

What You Need to Know about HOAs

If you’re a first-time buyer and are confused about what a Home Owners Association is (or does), you should definitely ask the right questions before you consider buying. Basically, an HOA is an organization which is designed to protect the quality of life and property values for owners within a neighborhood or shared building. How they do so, though, can vary widely. Typically when you purchase a residence subject to an HOA, you’ll be required to pay monthly dues which often contribute to major repairs or maintenance or the upkeep of common/shared resources.

But HOAs can also have a significant impact on what you can and can’t do with your own home. The HOA’s rules are detailed in what’s called covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). To understand how strict an HOA is (or isn’t) you’ll want to understand the details of its CC&Rs before you consider buying. These might have reasonable restrictions, such as keeping junk cars out of the front lawn, or they might extend all the way to what color you can paint your garage door.

HOAs are typically of greater concern to condo buyers than single-family home buyers, but they cannot be overlooked when searching for your next residence. Here are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself and the HOA before you make an offer:

  1. How comfortable am I sharing decision making about my own home? Yes, you own your property, but if you agree to abide by the CC&Rs of an HOA, you’ll need to be willing to abide by its rules.
  1. How much are the HOA fees, and how much have they increased over time? Your budget can be seriously impacted not only by current HOA fees, but anticipated increases. Sometimes HOAs can even require residents to chip in for major repairs or upgrades beyond HOA fees.
  1. What are all of the CC&Rs? Get a copy of the CC&Rs and make sure you understand all of the rules. Furthermore, see if you can sit on on an HOA board meeting or obtain notes from past meetings. This will help you understand the temperament of the HOA as well as the type of past conflicts residents have had with the board.
  1. Is the home (or unit) you’re considering in compliance with the HOA’s CC&Rs? If you’re considering an offer on a problematic property, understand a real hassle may follow.

If you like the idea of a group of neighbors who set community or building standards, a residence with an HOA may be for you. But if not, don’t worry! There are lots of other homes out there. Get in touch today:

 

Teresa Butler, Worthington Realty, 614-565-8161, Teresa@TeresaButler.com

What you need to know before you buy a home

Okay, first-time buyers… it’s time to turn the dream into the dirt you can stand on. Your very own home. I’m sure you have questions. In fact, I’m sure your questions are like most first-time buyers. Which is why I’ve put together this down-and-dirty answer guide for the most common questions home buyers have.

  1. What kind of credit score do I need to have?

Generally, 630 or above is what you’ll want to have. The better your score, the better the terms will be on your loan. Some lenders may give you wiggle room on this, but it all depends on the circumstances. A loan professional can help you navigate this as you go.

  1. How much of a down payment is required?

There are loans which will let you in for as low as 3% – 5% of the value of the home, but I would consider 5% to be the floor. More is better, especially if your credit isn’t as optimal as you’d like it to be. Working with a loan officer will help.

  1. What’s the first step to home buying?

Getting pre-approval for a mortgage. Don’t shop for a home until you know what you can afford. There’s no use in falling in love with a $300,000 home in your dream neighborhood if the banks will only write you a loan of $150,000.

  1. How much do I have to pay my real estate agent?

As a buyer, you don’t have to pay your real estate agent. The seller is responsible for listing fees and a portion of those fees will be paid to your agent for helping with the transaction.

  1. Why should I use a real estate agent?

Like a lawyer, doctor, or other professional hired to represent your interests, the agent will not only advise you about the transaction, but protect and facilitate the process.

  1. How long does it take to buy a house?

After you find the home you want to buy, it takes between 30 and 45 days, generally. The home search can take longer, however, so have a clear idea what you’re looking for and able to afford. (Your agent can help you with this. Another reason to have one on your side!)

Naturally, there’s more to buying a home, but this covers the basic introduction to the process. As your agent, I will walk you through the rest, guiding you along the way. When you’re ready to make the move, reach out to me: Teresa Butler, Worthington Realty, 614-565-8161, Teresa@TeresaButler.com

How PMI can make your dream of home sweet home a reality

(BPT) – In the 2017 housing market, those who choose to pursue the dream of owning a home face several important decisions, such as how much to put toward a down payment. Twenty percent down is typically recommended by most lenders.

While 20 percent is not a requirement, paying less can have a big impact on the amount you pay monthly. It is important for home buyers to know that when seeking a conventional loan with less than 20 percent down of the sales price or appraised value of the home, lenders will often require Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

This article takes a deeper look at PMI by answering the most common questions on the topic.

What is PMI?

PMI is a type of mortgage insurance. Like most other types of mortgage insurance, it protects the lender in the event the borrower is unable to repay the remainder of the loan. In many cases, PMI is required on conventional loans when the buyer has a down payment of less than 20 percent.

Some lenders may offer conventional loans that require a smaller down payment without PMI, but the tradeoff can typically be a higher interest rate.

How does PMI affect your loan?

PMI can affect your loan in several different ways depending on the loan type and the lender. In some cases, the PMI will be required in a lump sum at the time of closing. This PMI payment type is called an upfront premium.

Other PMI plans call for monthly payments where the total value of the PMI is divided and factored into your monthly mortgage payments. The PMI can generally be cancelled under certain conditions once 20 percent of the amount borrowed has been reduced from the principal balance, or amount borrowed.

Finally, the lender may also opt for a plan that requires both upfront and monthly PMI payments. In this case a portion of the PMI is paid at the time of closing, and then the remaining PMI is paid as part of the monthly mortgage payment.

Alternatives to PMI

Some government-backed loans offer alternative options to buyers paying less than 20 percent down on a home loan. There are several of these loans and each has a different approach to handling down payments and mortgage insurance. By being educated on the different types of loans you will have an easier time finding which best suits your needs.

Learning more about PMI

While PMI is an additional fee, it helps those with less than a 20 percent down payment realize their dreams of home ownership.

To learn more about financing options that can make your dreams of homeownership a reality, visit VMFhomeloan.com.

NMLS Disclosure

Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc., 500 Alcoa Trail, Maryville, TN 37804, 865-380-3000, NMLS #1561, (http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/), AZ Lic. #BK-0902616, Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license, GA Residential Mortgage (Lic. #6911), Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee, Licensed by the NH Banking Department, MT Lic. #1561, Licensed by PA Dept. of Banking.

5 mistakes to avoid when buying your first home

(BPT) – Buying a home for the first time is comparable to the first time you ride a bike. You can learn about how it works from your parents and observe it from a distance, but you really won’t know the ins and outs until you actually sit down on the bicycle and start riding.

Like most beginners, first-time homebuyers will likely make a few mistakes as they initially go through the home-buying process in the upcoming year. Here are five mistakes first-time homebuyers often make, and how to best avoid them.

1. Waiting too long to make an offer

One of the biggest mistakes first-time homebuyers will make in 2017 is simply waiting too long to get into the real estate market, according to Jay Carr, a senior loan advisr for RPM Mortgage in Newport Beach, California. Because the rates look like they’re going to continually increase over the year, it’s important for buyers to get in as early as they can so that they can avoid paying more later on. If you see a home that you’re interested in and you have been thinking about entering into the market for some time, don’t hesitate too long.

2. Trying too hard to get less than the asking price

Many first-time buyers are younger, tech-savvy and are comfortable researching homes on their own. Overall, these are positive traits in a buyer. However, because these buyers are typically self-sufficient when it comes to other purchases, they often think they know best when it comes to what price they want to offer.

“Buyers rely too much on what they see on the internet instead of the good advice of what they would hear from a real estate agent,” Carr says.

Of course sometimes it pays off to be bold in an offer (in that you get to pay a lot less than the asking price), but often it can end up that the buyers are negotiating themselves out of a deal. It’s important to pay attention to your real estate agent, who is a seasoned professional, when it comes to putting in an offer so you don’t offend the seller and lose the house you want.

3. Not exploring all your financing options

Carr says many first-time buyers have grown up thinking that they need to save up for a 20 percent down payment before they can enter the housing market. While it is always great to have as much money to put down as possible before you purchase a home, it’s important to consider many of the new options available today.

One option is a home ownership investment such as the Unison HomeBuyer program, which typically provides up to half of the down payment you need. The money is an investment in the home, not a loan, so there are no interest charges or monthly payments. This new type of financing – which works in combination with a traditional 30-year mortgage – can offer greater flexibility and control to the home buyer. It allows you to cut the time needed to save for a down payment in half, lower your monthly payments and avoid mortgage insurance, or increase your purchasing power so you can buy the home you want.

4. Wanting the dream house right away

Everyone has a picture in their minds of what their first home will look like. Whether you envisioned a craftsman bungalow near all your favorite bars and restaurants or a classic ranch-style home with tons of land and no neighbors, chances are you’re going to have to trade up to that dream home from your first starter home.

“If you really like the house, you probably can’t afford it. If you think the house is just kind of below what you want it’s probably right in your price range. Get in the market rather than wait to get the dream house,” Carr says.

Carr advises those in the hunt for their dream home to focus on becoming homeowners now and to wait on their dream home until they have built up equity and have higher incomes in the future.

The median tenure of a homeowner in 2017 is about 10 years, but for the 20-year period before that it was only six. Believing that this won’t be your last house can take a bit of pressure off the home being perfectly suited for you.

5. Not having your own representation

Another mistake a first-time homebuyer can make is not having their own representation (meaning that they use the seller’s agent as their own buyer’s agent). While this is not always a bad situation, Carr cautions buyers to be careful that they have selected a good and trustworthy real estate agent that is looking after their best interests. In other words, you don’t want to pay an unfair price because someone is looking after their own best interest.

To learn more about the Unison HomeBuyer program and how it could help you, visit www.unison.com/homebuyer.

An affordable way to qualify for a home loan without that big down payment

(BPT) – For many Americans, the biggest hurdle in buying a home is the 20 percent down payment they think is required for mortgage approval. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors, 34 percent of respondents believe they need more than 20 percent. Meanwhile, low down payment mortgages account for a significant amount of home buying annually.

Families with down payments as low as 3 or 5 percent have been able to purchase a home thanks to private mortgage insurance (MI) for 60 years. Since 1957, MI has helped 25 million families become homeowners. In the past year alone, MI helped more than 795,000 homeowners purchase or refinance a mortgage. Nearly half were first time homebuyers and more than 40 percent had incomes below $75,000.

How MI works

Mortgage insurance is simple. In addition to the other parts of mortgage underwriting process — such as verifying employment and determining the borrower’s ability to afford the monthly payment — lenders traditionally required 20 percent down to ensure the borrower had some of their own money committed before the bank would provide a loan. This is where MI enters, bridging the down payment divide to qualify borrowers for mortgage financing.

Benefits of MI

* It helps you buy a home, sooner. For the average firefighter or school teacher, it could take 20 years to save the typical down payment. Private mortgage insurers help borrowers qualify with as little as 3 percent down.

* It’s temporary, leading to lower monthly payments. MI can be cancelled once you build 20 percent equity, either through payments or home price appreciation — typically in the first five to seven years. This is not the case for FHA loans, the federal government’s form of MI. The majority of which require MI for the life of the loan.

* It provides several flexible payment options. Your lender can offer several options for MI payment; the most common is paid monthly along with your mortgage.

* It’s tax-deductible. Subject to income limits, MI premiums are tax deductible — similar to interest paid on a mortgage. In 2014, 4 million taxpayers benefited from this deduction with the average being $1,402.

MI is a stable, cost effective way to obtain low down payment mortgages, and offers distinct benefits to borrowers. It’s been a cornerstone of the U.S. housing market for decades, providing millions the opportunity to own homes despite financial barriers. Ask your lender for low down payment options using MI. Visit www.USMI.org for more information.

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