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Buyers: Challenged by Student Debt? Consider Down Payment Programs

July 8, 2018 - 1:02pm

Student loan debt is one of the biggest factors impacting millennials’ ability to purchase a home. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), 80 percent of millennials do not own a home, and, of that, 83 percent say student loan debt is impacting their ability to buy. Millennials expect to be delayed from home-buying for a median of seven years, the NAR research shows.

There are alternatives, however, that millennials may not know about. In fact, according to a 2016 ATTOM Data Solutions survey, few buyers and real estate agents know about the close to 2,500—mostly local—down payment assistance programs. Across the 513 counties surveyed in the ATTOM Data Solutions report, buyers that used these programs saved, on average, $17,766 over the life of their loan.

From offerings that benefit first-time homebuyers to options for refinancing costly student loan interest rates, it’s important that today’s homebuyer is aware of all the viable options for purchasing a home.

What’s Out There?
For consumers who are having trouble saving for a large enough down payment, there are plenty of options that offer grants or down payment assistance. The National Homebuyers Fund (NHF), for example, has multi-state Down Payment Assistance (DPA) programs that offer closing assistance or down payment grants for up to 5 percent of the loan amount.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has low- and no-down payment options via its Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, which assists lenders in offering low- and moderate-income households with purchasing opportunities in rural areas, for which closing costs and other related expenses can be rolled into the loan.

Additionally, there are more localized options available on a state-by-state basis. Here are a few examples:

  • Baltimore, Md./Washington, D.C. – The Maryland Mortgage Program offers a discounted mortgage rate and up to $5,000 in down payment assistance when consumers purchase in a sustainable community.
  • Ohio Grants for Grads offers reduced-rate mortgages for first-time homebuyers who’ve earned their associate, bachelor, master or doctorate degrees within the last four years.
  • Rhode Island – The First Down Program allows first-time homebuyers to purchase a one- to four-family home or condominium with down payment assistance of $7,500, forgivable after five years of owning the home as a primary residence.

More and more companies are introducing homebuyer assistance programs to tackle the student loan debt challenge that many of today’s buyers are facing, as well; however, buyers and agents should first consult a financial expert before participating in or recommending these programs. For example, the student loan cash-out refinance that multiple lenders offer, which allows homebuyers to use their equity to pay off high-interest student loans, may not make as much financial sense with the introduction of the new tax bill. as home equity financing is no longer tax-deductible.

With other incentive programs, such as the Eagle Home Mortgage’s Student Loan Debt Mortgage Program, homeowners can pay off outstanding student loan debt (up to $13,000 for this specific program) by redirecting 3 percent of their purchase price to student debt payoff when buying a new home from the home builder. Buyers should carefully assess whether these programs are financially worthwhile.

These are just a sampling of the available down payment assistance and grant programs that can help consumers with high student loan debt achieve their homeownership dream. It’s imperative that real estate agents research these offerings in order to assist consumers who believe homeownership is still out of reach.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Real Estate

5 Tips to Help You Find a Starter Home

July 4, 2018 - 4:01pm

(TNS)—First-time homebuyers might well wonder: Where are all the starter houses? They’re right to ask, because starter homes are becoming increasingly scarce in many housing markets. Housing inventory is low and home prices are soaring.

What’s a first-time buyer to do?

Here are five tips for finding a starter home:

Be realistic about today’s market. Sellers clearly have an advantage in the current market. Inventory is low, which keeps pushing home prices to record levels, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Buyer competition is fierce, as homes in the lower price ranges fly off the market.

Unfortunately, that leaves many first-time buyers––especially those with tight budgets––on the sidelines. If you’re searching for your first home, be realistic about what you can afford and what amenities come with that budget. (Hint: You may have to forgo top-of-the-line appliances and shiny quartz countertops.)

A starter home isn’t necessarily your forever home. Be prepared to make some compromises to get your foot in the homeownership door.

Adjust your wish list. Buyers shopping for their first home need to be open-minded about the location, size and condition of the home they want to buy, says Tim Deihl, associate broker with Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in Boston.

For many buyers, a classic starter home, which traditionally doesn’t have many amenities, is more achievable.

“If your first home is the place you’re going to have your family, maybe build an addition and stay there forever; that’s one set of criteria. If your starter home will be a financial launch pad into a larger, better home, that’s a different approach,” Deihl says.

Another strategy: Look for an older home in a well-established neighborhood. Resales typically cost less than brand-new homes, says Bradley Hunter, chief economist for HomeAdvisor.com, a home improvement matching service based in Golden, Colo.

Older homes typically need more maintenance and repairs, which offset some of the savings; however, Hunter says, buyers who choose a used home might be able to do repairs and renovations over time, pacing themselves to make the cost manageable.

Hire the right real estate agent. When you’re up against stiff competition, working with an experienced real estate agent who knows the local market is key.

Look for an agent who specializes in the neighborhoods you’re interested in. Savvy agents should be able to answer your questions about neighborhood amenities, local schools and nearby home values.

A good agent shines when it comes to negotiating the deal and writing a strong offer letter backed with solid data. Your agent can suggest certain strategies to win in a competitive market, such as limiting contingencies or writing a personal letter.

Ask friends and relatives to recommend agents they have used and were happy with. Also, interview two or three different agents. Find out how they prefer to communicate with clients and how often you’ll get updates. Finally, research the agents you’re considering online to see what past clients have said about their work.

Rethink location. If you’re thinking about starting a family in the future, don’t focus too much on your home’s location, size and school district just yet, Deihl says. Resetting those parameters can make it easier to buy a first home.

“Buyers may be in a position where schools won’t impact them for six or seven years,” Deihl says. “That’s a good opportunity to buy in the city, make some money and roll that into a community where they want to be longer-term with the kids.”

Buyers who sacrifice location for affordability can find themselves in a neighborhood far from major job centers with a long daily commute and expensive transportation costs. Sometimes that trade-off makes sense, but not always, says Cathy Coneway, a broker for Stanberry & Associates REALTORS® in Austin, Texas.

“You have to look at how much you make and how much you can afford to spend for gas,” Coneway says. “You might actually be better off buying a house that’s closer to town so you have more cash flow for property taxes, insurance and living expenses.”

Make a strong offer. When a well-priced starter house comes on the market, the quest to buy it can be “super competitive,” Deihl says.

One way to strengthen an offer is to present a loan preapproval that includes everything but a title search, appraisal and hazard insurance, says Jay Dacey, a mortgage broker at Metropolitan Financial Mortgage Co. in Minneapolis.

A strategic phone call might help, too.

“We call the listing agent and say, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Jones submitted an offer on your property. Not only are they preapproved, but they’ve gone through the underwriting approval process with our bank,'” Dacey says. “That makes the offer stronger.”

Other ways to entice sellers: Offer above asking price (if you can afford to), keep repair requests to a minimum, make a larger down payment or give them more time to move after closing.

© 2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Real Estate

5 Tips for Buying a Foreclosed Home

June 28, 2018 - 4:01pm

(TNS)—Buying a foreclosed home is not like the typical home purchase.

In many cases, only one real estate agent is involved.

The seller wants a preapproval letter from a lender before accepting an offer.

There is little, if any, room for negotiation.

The home is sold as-is, and it’s up to the buyer to pay for repairs.

On the upside, most bank-owned homes are vacant, which can speed up the process of moving in.

“Buying a foreclosure is definitely a bit of a grind. It’s not easy,” says Robert Jensen, broker and president of the Rob Jensen Co. in Las Vegas. “You’re getting fantastic pricing, but sometimes it takes going through a lot of houses and writing a lot of offers to get the home you want.”

Find a real estate broker and a lender.
The first two steps for buying a foreclosure should be taken at the same time. While you’re looking for a real estate broker who works directly with banks that own foreclosed homes, get a preapproval letter from a lender.

Elaine Zimmerman, a real estate investor and author, recommends that shoppers first visit any site with a database of foreclosed homes. You also could look at a local real estate website that lets you filter the results to see only foreclosures.

You might find the acronym REO, which means “real estate owned.” This signifies that the property has been foreclosed on and the lender now owns it and is selling it.

Get a broker on your side.
The goal of combing through foreclosure listings is not to find a house; it’s to find an agent. Banks usually hire real estate brokers to handle their REO properties. In many cases, the buyer works directly with the bank’s broker instead of using a buyer’s agent. That way, the commission doesn’t have to be split between two brokers.

“A lot of these REALTORS® have a long-term relationship with these banks, and they know of listings that haven’t even come on the list yet,” Zimmerman says. “Call them about the listings that you’re interested in, but also ask them about listings that may be coming up, because sometimes it may take a day or two or even a week before a listing actually comes onto the database.”

Get a preapproval letter.
Unless you plan to pay cash, you’ll need a recent preapproval letter from a lender. The letter will detail how much money you can borrow, based on the lender’s assessment of your credit score and income.

“The problem is, buyers want to find the house first, and then they think they’ll work out the financing,” Jensen says. “But the problem is, the really good deals on these bank-owned, they go quick—and the buyer doesn’t necessarily have time to try to work out the financing afterward. They need to work that out first.”

Zimmerman says some first-time buyers make the mistake of assuming that the bank selling the home will also finance the mortgage as part of the deal. “Don’t expect to get financing from the bank that foreclosed on it,” she says. “That’s a totally separate transaction, and they view it that way. The people in the (bank’s) REO department are not loan officers. They are getting rid of bad assets.”

Look at comps before making an offer.
There’s no rule of thumb on what the bank’s bottom line is on price. Just as with any other real estate purchase, you have to look at the recent sales prices of comparable properties, or “comps.”

“You really have to look at the comps in today’s current market conditions and write a competitive offer based on that,” says Jensen. “Sometimes the bank prices the homes really low, and the home will have multiple offers over list price within hours.

“Sometimes it’s priced too high, and you can come in lower. A lot of times, buyers will come to me and say, ‘We want to write offers for half price.’ It just doesn’t work that way.”

Bid the higher price if homes are selling quickly.
Keep in mind that foreclosed houses generally are sold as-is. That means that you shouldn’t expect to get a discount to compensate for repairs.

Jensen says: “Let’s say the house is listed for $200,000, all the comps are $200,000, and so the client comes in and says, ‘Hey, look, I want to buy this house but I’ve got to do paint, carpet and fix some mold damage, so I want to take $15,000 off the price.’ You know what? All the other ones were in the same condition, and they sold for $200,000.”

Jensen further advises finding out how quickly comparable houses are selling. With foreclosures, a 3,500-square-foot house with a pool in a gated community might sell within days or hours, but more modest homes might sit on the market for weeks, or vice versa, depending on market conditions.

If the foreclosed homes you’re looking at are selling swiftly, “the best advice on a bank-owned property is to come in at your highest and best, unless the property has been sitting on the market forever with no activity,” Jensen says.

“If you’re going to be upset because you would have gone $5,000 more but you lost the property, just bid the higher price in the first place.”

Find tradespeople who can assess and repair damage.
Because repairs are almost inevitable with foreclosed houses, Jensen and Zimmerman recommend getting to know tradespeople who can assess and repair damage from pests, mold and leaks. Zimmerman says you should assume that the air conditioning needs to be fixed, and possibly the heating system, too.

It all sounds daunting—but at least you don’t have to wait for the owner to move out of the house.

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Real Estate

Ask the Expert: What Do Buyers and Sellers Need to Be Aware of This Summer?

June 11, 2018 - 4:20pm

Today’s Ask the Expert column features Dan Steward, president of Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.

Q: As summer approaches, what do buyers and sellers need to be aware of?

A: With the summer season right around the corner, here are a few critical components that can’t be overlooked by buyers and sellers alike.

  • Insulation is often lacking in a home’s attic, leading to excessive heat loss or gain and high energy bills. Consult a professional to determine if more insulation should be added.
  • Soot builds up in chimneys quickly, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, in addition to posing a fire hazard. A certified chimney sweep should be hired to routinely clean your chimney to prevent build-up.
  • Deterioration and rot can remove caulk and grout around a bathtub, which can cause leaks and lead to extensive damage to the surrounding walls. You can determine if there’s insufficient grout by checking between tiled enclosures for voids. Caulk integrity can be determined by gently pressing and checking for any sponginess, a sign of weakened integrity.
  • A loose toilet seat, while uncomfortable, may be a sign of a bigger issue. In fact, a seat that rocks could indicate that the seal at the base has failed, which can allow water to leak to the floor below, causing significant damage. If the seat feels loose, have the toilet inspected by a professional—and have the seal replaced if necessary.
  • The electrical outlets in our homes are sometimes incapable of handling the large number of gadgets we now throw at them. To prevent problems from overloaded outlets, consult a certified electrician to install additional outlets to handle the increased load.
  • Plants too close to a home’s siding can cause moisture damage and premature wear. Make sure to keep vegetation in control by keeping plants neat and trim.
  • Downspouts often release against walls, which can cause the foundation to deteriorate, causing water to enter the basement. Redirect these downspouts away from the structure.
  • Like chimneys, oven or range filters can become clogged, posing a major fire hazard. Check filters for built-up grease, and consult a professional to check the connections to determine if the model needs exterior exhaust.
  • Seals around kitchen and bathroom sink fixtures can become loose, leading to water damage in cabinets below. Visually examine seals and test them to see if they feel loose. If so, repair or replace them immediately.
  • Roofs don’t last forever. When purchasing a home, consult a professional home inspector to determine both the age and condition of the roof. Failure to do so may result in a significant amount of expensive damage to the home.

For more information, please visit www.pillartopost.com.

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Categories: Real Estate

Listing This Summer? The Best Investments to Make Outdoors

May 28, 2018 - 4:01pm

Are you listing this summer? Get your outdoors in shape—it can pay off.

According to National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) research, certain exterior improvements are likely to recoup at resale. Based on feedback from REALTORS®—who, through their experience, know what house hunters are ready to spend on—the best enhancements are lawn care, landscape maintenance and tree care, and installing an irrigation system. Landscape/lawn care pays for itself—generally 100 percent of the expense or more is recovered, according to the research—while irrigation has a promising ROI of 86 percent.

For homeowners not selling yet, exterior improvements can be satisfying in and of themselves. Assigning a “Joy Score” from one to 10, with 10 anteing up the most enjoyment, both a fire feature and an irrigation system earned 10s, followed by a new wood deck or water feature (both 9.8s), “statement landscaping” (9.7) and an “overall landscape upgrade” (9.6), the research shows.

“REALTORS® understand that a home’s first impression is its curb appeal, so when it comes time to sell, a well-manicured yard can be just as important as any indoor remodel,” says NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall. “Even homeowners with no immediate plans to sell can gain more enjoyment and satisfaction from their home by taking on a project to revive their outdoor spaces.”

MORE: A Front Door, Flooring and Other ‘Happy’ Home Upgrades

Additionally, appearances matter beyond the residential space. Forty-three percent of REALTORS® have advised a commercial owner to improve the outside of the property, including lawn care, landscape management and an “overall landscape upgrade,” the research shows.

“It is not just homeowners that need to think about curb appeal when it comes time to sell; a beautiful exterior is just as important for commercial property owners,” Mendenhall said. “In fact, 81 percent of REALTORS® said they believe curb appeal is important in attracting a buyer.”

“This report validates that landscaping is an investment worth making, offering the immediate benefits of increased enjoyment of your property, as well as desirable long-term value that holds if or when it comes time to sell,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president, Public Affairs, at the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), which collaborated with NAR on the report. “From lawn and tree care to installing a new fire or water feature or landscape lighting, there’s no shortage of opportunities to enhance your landscape and to reap the benefits these upgrades provide.”

For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Real Estate

Common Home-Buying Mistakes People Make at Every Age

May 14, 2018 - 3:51pm

(TNS)—No matter the age or life stage, everyone makes mistakes when it comes to home-buying.

Whether it’s picking the wrong location or buying more house than you can afford, the mistakes are often universal, says Ilyce Glink, author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask.”

“When you’re in your 20s, your life isn’t the same as when you’re retired, and yet you’re both going to make timing mistakes,” Glink says. “You may make location mistakes. You may not think about what you need for every stage of your life, so you buy the wrong size home or make a bad money decision.”

Even so, certain age groups are more susceptible to particular missteps than others. Here are common mistakes homeowners make at each age, and a few ways to avoid them.

20s: Getting the Wrong Type of Mortgage
People in their 20s are just starting their careers and usually have less money saved than older homebuyers. For these folks, paying less for a mortgage is not just a priority, but a necessity.

This can be a bad thing if buyers get into an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) thinking they will earn more money down the road, says Michael Corbett, host of Extra’s “Mansions and Millionaires” and author of “Find It, Fix It, Flip It.”

“Younger buyers might get an adjustable-rate mortgage because the rate is really low; it’s like a teaser rate, and they think, ‘I’m going to get it because I’m improving in my job situation or I’ll pay off my student loan’—but if that doesn’t happen then, when interest rates go up in five to seven years, they’re going to see their mortgage rates double or even triple,” Corbett says.

If the rates on ARMs increase dramatically, there’s a chance the borrower will no longer be able to afford their mortgage payment, which could put the house in jeopardy. Before leaping into an ARM with just a dream of a house and a hope for a bigger paycheck, consider other cost-saving alternatives.

Along with popular programs like FHA loans and VA loans, there are other lesser-known initiatives geared to homebuyers on a fixed income. The HUD-sponsored Good Neighbor Next Door program, for example, offers home-buying assistance for law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and pre-kindergarten through 12th grade teachers.

Along with federal money, there are also state-sponsored grants for first-time homebuyers, which you can typically find on your state’s website.

30s: Not Thinking About the Future
Homebuyers in their 30s blunder by not considering a future family when they’re standing in the middle of downtown condo with gorgeous views and access to a rooftop pool. While snagging the ultimate bachelor or bachelorette pad might seem alluring, it can also cost you money down the road, Corbett says.

“What happens is they end up having to sell—maybe not at an appropriate time—the bachelor pad and get into another house,” says Corbett. “Now they’re doing it under duress instead of planning ahead the first time, so there’s a lot of money lost there.”

If you plan on having a family, it’s important to consider that when you’re home shopping, even if you’re currently single. Glink says to ask yourself these questions before buying a home:

  • Who do I imagine living with in the future?
  • Where do I imagine living?
  • How do I imagine living?

Those answers should be an integral part of what you look for in a home. For example, if you think you might want kids or even a dog, you’ll probably want to choose a home with a backyard versus one near a great nightlife.

40s-50s: Overestimating Your Budget
In your 40s and 50s, you tend to have more money, which can lead to overestimating your budget and buying a house you can’t afford. One way to avoid this is to figure out your lifestyle comfort level, Glink says.

“Just because you can afford a $500,000 home doesn’t mean you should buy one,” says Glink. “If you’re married and both you and your spouse are working, figure out whether or not you can afford the mortgage payment if one of you gets laid off.”

Figuring out your budget is a critical step for buyers of all ages. Even experienced homebuyers can make the mistake of spending at their limit, which can mean making sacrifices that they weren’t prepared to make. Use Bankrate’s home affordability calculator to determine how much you should spend.

The takeaway for buyers in their 40s and 50s is to leave room in the budget for things they aren’t willing to give up—for example, private school for the kids.

60s and up: Falling in Love With That Vacation Home
Many homeowners in their 60s are retired or getting ready to retire. Among the many decisions retirees make is where to live. While some choose to stay where they are, many plan on moving to warmer climates, or even another country.

A costly mistake retirees make, Glink says, is going on vacation, falling in love with the place and moving immediately. Relocating and buying a home is an expensive process, so retirees should be sure they familiarize themselves with a new place before buying.

“Too many retirees make the mistake of going on vacation, and they think, ‘Oh my god, this is great,’ and they go home immediately and they sell their house,” says Glink. “They get there and they hate it. They didn’t spend enough time there.”

Before buying a new house in your vacation paradise, be sure to visit the area in every climate. For example, Florida is great in the winter, but many people might not be comfortable in the humid summer months. The same goes for Northern areas—what’s blissful in one season can be awful in another.

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Real Estate

How the On-Demand Consumer Has Changed the Real Estate Industry

May 10, 2018 - 4:48pm

Over the last decade, homebuyers have become more tech-savvy, beginning with a simple shift of traditional in-store shopping and REALTOR® office visits to Cyber Monday shopping and searching for house listings online. As the real estate industry continues to grow, consumers have come to adopt, and expect, a self-sufficient, on-demand technology experience, where they have control over the process.

For the Buyer
Having absolute transparency to browsing house listings online has done numerous things for the real estate consumer, including increasing their overall knowledge and convenience, and making it a much more simpler process to buy a home. Consumers can educate themselves on real estate trends and changes in the industry. Rather than waiting on a third party, or real estate agent, to send them a list of houses, the consumer has the freedom to browse online from the comfort of their home.

Outside of the online experience, companies such as OfferPad allow buyers to browse their homes on their own and during their own timeframe. If interested in touring a home, the customer can simply send a text message and instantly gain access to the home. There is no need for an agent to be on-site, and the pressure is removed from the buyer. If the customer is interested in making a purchase offer, they are free to directly work with OfferPad.

For the Seller
Very similar to a buyer, a homeowner selling their home has more transparency into the market, as well. They have a better insight to what the buyer may be looking for, and possibly an inkling of what they think their home may be worth. Those who have sold a house before through the traditional process know that it can be a long and stressful event. Everything from determining what renovations need to be done to the home, keeping it clutter-free for when strangers want to tour it, worrying about how long the home may be on the market, and expenses that come along with each day, then hoping the right buyer doesn’t fall through…the process can be time-consuming.

Recent real estate industry changes have welcomed technology and alternate ways to buy and sell a house. Emerging companies like OfferPad offer a new way for people to move freely. Those who are looking for a more seamless way to sell their home that offers certainty, and removes much of the pain points, are selecting companies to directly buy their home.

With nearly every industry making great strides to support the on-demand consumer, real estate will need to evolve, and continue bringing innovative ideas and solutions to the homebuyer and seller. For those interested in using OfferPad as a different, hassle-free way to move freely, visit offerpad.com, and type in your address and property information. The company will contact you within 24 hours to provide an offer.

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Categories: Real Estate

How to Avoid a Low Home Appraisal

May 3, 2018 - 4:05pm

(TNS)—Even when a seller and buyer agree on a price for a home, the deal can collapse if the property appraises for less than that price.

For example, let’s say a seller lists his house for $325,000, the buyer offers $275,000, but they settle on $300,000. A week before closing, the appraisal comes in at $265,000. That’s the maximum price for which the lender is willing to offer a mortgage.

Who’s going to make up the $35,000 difference?

In this case, the seller has already come down on the price and doesn’t want to lower it again, and the buyer may not have enough cash to cover the shortfall, or does not want to pay more for the house than its appraised value.

As a result, the deal falls through.

What Causes a Low Appraisal
Short appraisals are common in declining housing markets because the lack of recent comparable home sales in the area, or “comps,” make it hard for appraisers to determine the current market value of a property.

When home sales slow down, good comps “age” quickly. Add foreclosures and short sales to the mix and appraisals can run all over the map.

The Home Valuation Code of Conduct, or HVCC, which went into effect in May 2009, compounded the problem. The HVCC prohibits Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lenders from having direct contact with appraisers.

As a result, most lenders work through appraisal management companies, or AMCs, whose pool of residential appraisers includes those with limited training or little familiarity with the geographic area being appraised.

Know How to Protect Yourself
You can protect yourself from low appraisals. Here are some suggestions for buyers and sellers.

If you’re a buyer:

  • Tell your lender to find an appraiser who comes from your county, or perhaps a neighboring county. After all, you’re paying for the appraisal.
  • Ask that the appraiser have a residential appraiser certification and a professional designation. Examples include the Appraisal Institute’s Senior Residential Appraiser, or SRA, or member of the Appraisal Institute, or MAI, designations.
  • Meet the appraiser when he inspects the home and share your knowledge of recent short sales and foreclosures that could skew the comps. You can speak with your appraiser; the prohibition applies only to your lender.

If you’re a seller:

  • Get an appraisal before you list a home. Search for a qualified appraiser in your area on the Appraisal Institute site.
  • Use the appraisal to set a realistic listing price for your home.
  • Give a copy of your prelisting appraisal to the buyer’s appraiser.
  • Question a low appraisal. There’s always a chance the appraiser or a supervisor will take into account new or overlooked information.

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Real Estate

Silent Killers: Managing Transactions With Hazardous Home Conditions

May 2, 2018 - 4:50pm

Mold. Radon. Lead.

For many homebuyers, these are words that strike fear and introduce uncertainty into a real estate transaction. Depending on how severe the conditions are, they not only may be hazardous to the health of the home dwellers, but also may be deal-killers, as well.

So, what’s the best way to manage a transaction in which inspections reveal the ugly truth behind a typically picture-perfect home? The answer isn’t simple, as it largely depends on the severity of these hazardous home conditions, the location of the home and the temperament of the buyer.

Where Are They Found?
In many areas across the U.S., high radon levels are more commonplace than the discovery of lead and mold. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), higher concentrations of radon are most commonly found in the Northeast, Midwest, Southern Appalachia and Northern Plains regions. According to Radon.com, the highest levels are found in Pennsylvania, averaging 8.6pCi/L, followed by South Dakota at 9.6pCi/L.

In the Westchester area of New York, hazardous levels of mold are not as common except within distressed properties, but high radon levels are more expected.

“Much of Westchester is built atop bedrock and granite, and older homes tend to have porous stone foundations,” says Melissa Colabella, a real estate salesperson with Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty Irvington in New York. “I have only a few select clients who buy and sell distressed properties, which is a market where mold is an issue, but they typically buy the homes in cash and expect to gut it to the studs anyway. In the high-end residential market, you will not see many situations involving mold, but even luxury homes are prone to fluctuating radon gas.”

Lead, however, appears within areas that have older homes. Any homeowners looking to sell property built before 1978 must complete a lead disclosure. Areas such as Boston, Mass., are host to a multitude of older homes, which were typically constructed using lead pipes, along with lead-based paint.

“In Greater Boston, we have a majority of older homes, so lead is most common, then radon and mold only on occasion,” says Paul Mydelski, founder and chairman of RE/MAX Leading Edge in Boston.

And as Andrew Northrup, broker at Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty in Chicago, Ill., has experienced, these three conditions can fluctuate in severity and occurrence even within the boundaries of a single city.

“I’ve found radon, lead and mold in many different areas of the city and suburb,” says Northrup. “City radon levels are on a lower scale in the suburbs, but new developments in both areas can have higher levels of radon from the displacement of ground materials during construction. For lead, condos and single-family homes built before 1978 can potentially contain lead-based paint. Mold can be an issue in many homes in the city and suburbs where below-grade space is used, and in attics where improper ventilation is present.”

What Is the Biggest Challenge?
Regardless of what the levels of mold, radon and lead are, homebuyers are by far the biggest obstacle when trying to close a transaction with any of these conditions.

“The biggest challenge of managing a transaction with high levels of radon, lead or mold is actually trying to tamp it down with the client,” says Mydelski. “Our job is to guide the client through the options of tools to repair the issue.”

And often, as Colabella has experienced in her own business, parents can become an obstructing force even if the conditions can be easily remediated.

“Radon is a fairly simple mitigation process costing roughly $1,500-$2,000 in [Westchester, N.Y.],” says Colabella. “It’s hard to tell a first-time homebuyer that radon gas is not a deal-breaker when their family members say it is. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that fluctuates, and if you don’t have it during your initial home inspection, you may still detect traces in the future—and while a client may trust their REALTOR®, they will always trust their parents more.”

Agents should begin educating buyers on these conditions at the start of the buyer-agent relationship. Familiarizing buyers with the terminology, possible severity and options for mitigation will ensure they are not caught off guard and scared away during inspections.

“It’s important that REALTORS® educate their buyers on potential hazardous home conditions by providing them with the EPA’s educational pamphlets,” says Northrup. “Also, connecting them with licensed professionals that test and/or offer remediation services can help to set proper expectations on how to best deal with the issue and the potential costs. This information can also be provided to the seller to then negotiate a mutual solution.”

How Can Agents and Homeowners Be Proactive?
Agents should have scripts regarding property conditions for sellers, as well as buyers. Depending on the condition, there are steps that homeowners can take to ensure their own safety and safeguard against inspection complications when it’s time to sell; however, if these issues are not resolved before the home is listed, agents should inquire about any known problems so they may be disclosed to potential buyers.

“When representing a seller, it’s imperative that they disclose any current known issue to a buyer at the beginning of the transaction to alleviate improper expectations about the condition of the home,” says Northrup.

For homeowners looking to sell, Colabella recommends they get a pre-inspection and resolve the major issues or risk losing more money than what they would spend to remediate the problem.

“Radon tests are inexpensive at $125 and worth conducting every few years, especially if you are living in your basement,” says Colabella.

There are also steps that homeowners can take, not only to monitor levels of radon and watch for mold, but also to prevent these conditions from becoming hazardous to their health. It’s all about knowing what to look for, according to Northrup.

“For radon, keep in mind that any environmental changes to the ground area of the home—or adjacent area due to new construction or an addition to your existing home—could cause elevated radon,” says Northrup. “For lead, monitor for peeling interior and exterior paint. If sanding or removing old walls, remediation experts should be utilized for proper removal of dust and debris. For mold, monitor areas prone to moisture and humidity, such as finished basements and attic areas. Make sure these areas are low-humidity and are properly ventilated.”

With the help of technology, homeowners can better spot these conditions before they become dangerous. For example, a new radon testing tool, Airthings Wave, provides real-time data of indoor radon levels to homeowners who can simply wave their hand in front of the detector to find out if levels are healthy, temporarily high or dangerous and unhealthy. For homeowners, knowing about these problems before they transform into unlivable conditions (especially with mold) can be the difference between a quick fix and a financially devastating one.

“Most sellers do not do any testing or take any precautionary measures with lead unless they are planning renovations,” says Mydelski. “With radon, if you know you have high levels, in most cases, it’s actually relatively inexpensive to mitigate. Mold can be tricky because it is not always easy to discover, but just keeping dehumidifiers going and keeping things dry can be a homeowner’s best start.”

When Does It Make Sense to Back Out?
Not every transaction is created equal when these conditions factor in. While some mold problems are nothing to worry about, others may be beyond the scope of a simple remediation process and are a much too costly fix for the homebuyer.

“If I’m representing a buyer facing a $30,000 mold remediation project and sellers do not renegotiate the price (assuming mold is not taken into consideration in the price), then they should back out,” says Colabella. “But not all mold is created equal, meaning that it is not all expensive or dangerous. In situations where buyers are backing out due to small traces of harmless mold then, ultimately, they will lose a few households before they get comfortable enough to handle it.”

When it comes to lead or asbestos, their presence alone should not set off red flags for a transaction as, in most cases, they are easy to encapsulate with a new coat of paint or coverings for pipes and floors.

“Asbestos was widely used during a certain period and is not necessarily an issue,” says Colabella. “The fibers are hazardous when aggravated. I had a client walk right out of a house when she saw asbestos tile in the basement, but you can put tile on top of asbestos flooring and never aggravate it, making it a non-issue. Asbestos wrapped pipes are more concerning, but also easily remediated and often by the seller. These are not great reasons to walk away from a house you love.”

Looking beyond costs, it’s essential to gauge if a situation merits resolving or if the home poses too much of a safety and investment risk. The EPA estimates that radon causes 21,000 cancer-related deaths each year, while exposure to aggravated lead can lead to reduced growth of the fetus and premature births in pregnant women, as well as growth, behavioral and learning problems in children. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found evidence that exposure to mold can lead to upper respiratory tract symptoms and illnesses in otherwise healthy individuals.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Silent Killers: Managing Transactions With Hazardous Home Conditions appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate

5 Home Inspection Mistakes Buyers and Sellers Make

April 22, 2018 - 1:01pm

(TNS)— A home inspection is an assessment of a home’s condition. Home inspectors not only identify problems with houses; they can give buyers information that will help them with the upkeep.

“We want to teach them how to maintain the property because it’s the biggest investment they’ll ever make,” says Alden E. Gibson, a past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

If you’re getting a home inspection, here are five mistakes to avoid.

Not Researching the Inspector
Too many buyers and sellers hire whoever is recommended to them without doing any research. The inspection is only as good as the inspector doing it, says Troy Bloxom, owner of Home Inspections Plus near Anchorage, Alaska, and past president of the National Association of Home Inspectors.

A few questions to ask:
·      How long have you been inspecting homes?
·      How many inspections have you done?
·      What are your qualifications, certifications and training?
·      What was your job before you were a home inspector? (Ideally, your pro was in contracting or building.)

You want a certified professional who stays current.

“There’s a lot of stuff you have to know, and you want someone who’s keeping up with ongoing education,” says Kurt Mitenbuler, who is certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and owns an inspection company in Evanston, Ill.

You’re looking for an inspector who can analyze the home’s strengths and weaknesses, then explain them.

Not Attending the Inspection
Being present for the inspection may not be mandatory, but it’s a smart idea. Simply reading the inspection report isn’t enough to give most homeowners the full picture, Gibson says: “If they don’t see it, they don’t understand it.”

Gibson says he turns down dozens of inspections a year “because people can’t be there or don’t want to be there.”

The inspection might take an entire morning or afternoon, so set aside enough time. Some inspectors will sit with you afterward to explain things and answer questions.

“Any home inspector who doesn’t let you follow him around? That’s weird. Ask me any question you want,” Mitenbuler says.

A good inspector can give you an estimate of how much you’ll need to spend on repairs and upgrades, which is very valuable information as you consider your budget.

Not Reading the Inspection Report
Too many buyers and sellers just glance at the inspection report. You need someone who uses “clear, concise” language in person and in written reports, Mitenbuler says. He recommends scanning a few reports by checking the inspector’s website or asking for a sample report.

A knowledgeable pro will state simply what’s wrong with the house and what it will take to fix, Mitenbuler says.

Not Getting a Presale Inspection
Many sellers decide to leave the presale inspection to the buyers, Bloxom says. That’s a mistake.

When the buyers get an inspection (and if they’re smart, they will), the sellers may have little time to complete repairs and keep the sale on track, Bloxom says.

But if the seller has the home inspected before putting it on the market, he has more time to do repairs and to shop around and control his costs for the work, Bloxom says.

Both buyers and sellers often wait too long to engage an inspector, Gibson says. You should find an inspector long before you have (or make) an offer on a home. “Any good inspector will be booked out,” he says.

Not Prepping the Home
Inspectors get annoyed when homeowners don’t prepare their houses for inspection.

“Don’t force the home inspector to empty the closet to get into the attic,” Mitenbuler says. If you have a crawl-space hatch, move anything sitting on top of it.

Got a lock on a utility closet, basement or shed? The inspector needs access, so open it or provide keys.

For a seller, the best tack is to be at home to meet the inspector, introduce yourself, provide your mobile number, and then you can take off, Mitenbuler says.

To reduce the need for repeat inspections, hire professionals to do repairs, Bloxom says. Too many sellers will try DIY or get them done on the cheap, but poor workmanship will show up during the follow-up inspection, Bloxom says, and could result in more repairs—and another inspection.

©2018 Bankrate.com
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Categories: Real Estate

Keys to Buying a Second Home

April 1, 2018 - 1:00pm

(TNS)—If you’ve been thinking about buying a second home, now is a good time to take the leap. Mortgage rates are still historically low.

But there are some vital things to do before you start shopping. Follow these steps to make buying a second home a smooth process:

The best way to start the search for a second home is to find a real estate agent who is familiar with your desired location. This person could provide you information about neighborhoods, market prices and the pros and cons of particular properties.

With an eye toward the long-term value of a property, the agent could fill you in on price histories and how comparable sales have fared, and resale prospects. Factors that tend to help properties hold or increase in value are proximity to a major metropolitan area, ease of access and the availability of year-round amenities.

Factor in additional costs. Today’s second-homebuyers are more interested in enjoying their properties rather than getting a quick return on their investment.

Still, you should consider that you will be away from the property a lot of the time, which usually entails additional costs, such as having a management company check the place in your absence for water leaks, frozen pipes and other problems.

Getting insurance for a second home may be more challenging than it is for a primary residence. If you are considering a second home on the beach, for example, you’ll need flood insurance in addition to regular home insurance. It has become more difficult to get flood insurance in coastal communities, and the cost has increased greatly in some markets.

Be sure you can afford two mortgages. You have to qualify for a second-home mortgage, which is on top of any mortgage debt on your primary home.

Typically, you will need to make a down payment of at least 10 percent, meet credit standards and debt-to-income requirements, and provide documents for income and asset verification.

If you have a good relationship with the mortgage lender on your primary residence, that might be a good place to start your quest for a second-home mortgage.

Take into account the tax implications of your purchase. If you use your home as a true second home, you could get a deduction for mortgage interest and property taxes, just as you do with your first-home mortgage.

Be aware that under the new federal tax law, the cap to the mortgage interest deduction will be lowered from $1 million to $750,000. So if you already have a $750,000 mortgage and get a loan for a vacation home, you won’t be able to deduct the interest on the second mortgage.

If you rent out your second home, you will have to consider additional tax ramifications, particularly if the rental period extends beyond 14 days a year.

©2018 Bankrate.com
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Categories: Real Estate

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