Buying your home: A step-by-step approach

There is a lot to consider when you decide to buy a home, especially if it is your first. How much home you can afford? What kind of loan should you choose? Which neighborhoods are both affordable and a good investment? These are just a few of the questions you’ll be asking yourself. But with an experienced agent to help you, you’ll get the guidance you need to come up with the right answers−and a home you love.

First things first

Before you start shopping, you need to find out how much home you can afford to buy. Your agent can refer you to a loan officer who will help you determine how much of a down payment you can manage, as well as the monthly payment, taxes and insurance costs. Your lender can then pre-qualify you for a dollar amount, which can help you focus your search. You can also get a quick, rough estimate of monthly mortgage costs at Windermere.com; there’s a mortgage rate calculator on every listing detail page.

Create a wish list

Once you know your price range, talk to your agent about the home features you need and the ones you would prefer. The former might include number of bedrooms or suitable space for a home office, while the latter might include hardwood floors or a pantry. By clearly communicating your needs and preferences, you can help you agent narrow down the selection and avoid wasting your time.

Check out a few neighborhoods

Be sure to talk to your agent about what you’re looking for in a neighborhood. Are property values your highest priority? Great schools? A short commute? Small-town atmosphere? Big-city amenities? Your agent will try to narrow down the affordable neighborhoods that fit your criteria. Then you can either explore them with your agent or get a sense of each neighborhood on your own.

Shop for a loan

There are many different loan programs to choose from. You’ll want to find one that offers you the best terms for your current situation and future plans. Your agent can give you the names of several mortgage specialists who can review your options with you and help you determine which loan is the most advantageous. Once you’re approved for a loan, sellers will consider you a more attractive prospective buyer.

Make an offer

You’ve finally found the right house in the right neighborhood. It fits your practical needs, has potential and just feels right. So how do you ensure that you keep the price as affordable as possible without running the risk of losing it? Your agent has the expertise to help you make the right offer. He or she knows what comparable houses are selling for, how long they’ve been on the market, and whether or not the asking price for the home you want is fair. Your agent can also offer excellent advice when it comes to making a counteroffer.

Seal the deal

Once you’ve found the home you want and your offer has been accepted, you give the seller an earnest-money deposit. Your agent draws up a purchase and sale agreement; it’s the contract that outlines the details of the property transfer from the seller to you. This contract is typically contingent on the home passing a structural inspection and you obtaining approval for financing.

The inspection lets you know if the house has any major issues and how well it has been maintained. Remember, no house is perfect. If the inspection uncovers some problems, your agent can help you determine whether to ask the seller to handle or pay for the repairs or to renegotiate the price of the home.

When the inspection is concluded and any loose ends resolved, you “close” on the home. Closing is when you and the seller sign all the papers, you pay your share of the settlement fees, and the documents are recorded. Your agent will be a happy to answer any questions throughout this complex process.

Home at last

When you buy a home, you get more than just a place to live. You get the satisfaction of having a place that is truly yours, one that reflects your style and provides a comfortable setting for you and your family. Buying a home also gives you a substantial annual tax deduction and a way to build wealth over the years.

If you have questions about the buying or selling process, or are looking for an agent in your area, we have professionals that can help you. Contact us here.

Posted on February 12, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: For Buyers | Tagged , , ,

6 Powerful Reasons to Consider a Short Sale Instead of Foreclosure

If you are unable to make your mortgage payments, you may be considering what to do next. One option is a short sale. Another option is foreclosure. There are many benefits to choosing a short sale over foreclosure.

Before you make a decision, make sure you know the facts. Our partner, Lambros Politis, Lead Counsel and debt settlement specialist at Ark Law Group, points out six powerful reasons to consider a short sale instead of foreclosure:

Selling your home can be a tough choice. It’s an emotion-packed decision that affects your whole family. Often homeowners feel that selling short is a catastrophe – even when it’s almost impossible to make their mortgage payments.

short sale can be the first step to a financial freedom. The relief from getting out from under an unaffordable mortgage can be exhilarating. It really is the beginning of a new life.

Foreclosure is a far worse alternative to a short sale. If you keep hoping something will change – you’ll get a windfall or a huge raise – and it doesn’t happen, at some point you’ll have to stop paying your mortgage. When you go into default, your bank will foreclose. And that’s very bad news.

If your mortgage payments are too much for you to handle and you’re at risk of losing your home, I want you to consider these reasons for choosing a short sale.

1.In a short sale, all debts will be settled or re-negotiated.

With a foreclosure, your home will almost certainly sell for less than what you owe. Your mortgage lender then might have the right to sue you for the rest of the debt or garnish your wages to get the money you still owe. The nightmare isn’t always over just because you lost your property.

Washington State allows non-judicial foreclosure on a lien. If your lender chooses non-judicial foreclosure, they can’t collect any remaining balance from you after they auction off your home. However, if you have other liens against your property – a second mortgage, a HELOC, or other debts secured by your home – those lenders still have the right to sue you, garnish your income or take money out of your bank account.

With a short sale, we will work with your mortgage holder to get a deficiency waiver, so the balance of your debt is forgiven. We will also work with any other lender to remove their lien from the property. This has to happen or the short sale can’t proceed. Our negotiator will also try to get a better deal for you, if the lender won’t forgive the debt – such as a reduced payment plan.

As a rule, we’re able to get full settlements for 90% to 95% of our clients while negotiating a short sale.

2.Foreclosure has a bigger impact on your credit than a short sale.

If you stop making payments on your home, that’s a big deal to lenders. That’s why a foreclosure is noted in your credit report for seven years. Even if you recover financially, have a down payment saved and great income, you’re very unlikely to be able to buy a new home for at least a few years.

A short sale is also kept in your credit record for seven years – and will also lower your credit score. Following a short sale, the waiting period before you can qualify for a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan is much shorter than if you go through foreclosure. And without delinquent payments, your credit score will be higher. If you’re hoping to get an FHA loan, you may qualify for consideration even sooner.

3.Foreclosure is public information.

There is some stigma to foreclosure. If the bank plans to auction off your home, they’ll put notices on your door and in your yard. Your neighbors will know you aren’t able to make your mortgage payments.

From the outside, a short sale looks like any other real estate transaction. No one needs to know. You’re in good company. As recently as March 2015, 10% of all home sales were short sales.

4.With a short sale, you may qualify for generous government cash incentives to help with relocation.

If you meet HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives) requirements you may get up to $10,000 when your short sale closes. While it’s called “relocation assistance,” you can use the money for anything. To qualify, you need to be using this home as your primary residence.

Even if you don’t qualify for HAFA relocation assistance, you have other options. If you have a Fannie Mae loan, you may qualify for up to $3,000 in assistance at closing. FHA and VA lenders may offer $1,500.

Not all lenders participate in these programs. We find that our clients get this assistance in about 70% of the sales we help with.

5.You don’t have to go it alone.

When you work with a team of professionals, you know that you have smart people on your side, working to get you everything you’re eligible for. You don’t have to talk to your lender yourself – we’ll take care of it. Nothing falls through the cracks. You don’t have to be the expert. All your questions are answered.

In the end, it’s always better to know you did everything possible to get the best outcome.

6.After a short sale, you can start fresh.

This is what people tell me is the biggest benefit of a short sale. It comes back to what I said at the beginning. A foreclosure only gets rid of your mortgage payment. Other lenders will still need to be paid.

We work very hard to resolve ALL your debts when we negotiate your short sale. You can let go of that stress and move forward with the rest of your life.

Richard Eastern is a Windermere broker in Bellevue, WA and co-founder of Washington Property Solutions, a short sales negotiating company. Since 2003 he has helped more than 900 homeowners sell their homes. A Bellevue native and a University of Washington grad, Richard is an avid sports fan and a devoted Little League and basketball coach. You can learn more about Richard here or at www.washortsales.com.

Posted on February 10, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: For Buyers | Tagged , , ,

How to Decorate a Rental

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Abiding by rental rules is important, but so is style and making a house feel more like a home. Thus, we’ve put together a little list for you to help personalize your home, while still insuring you get your security deposit back by the end of it.

Storage – Let’s be honest, rentals often lack sufficient storage place, and since custom cabinetry isn’t usually an option for renters, investing in some added storage is key. Add some simple shelves, bookshelves, baskets, or under the bed storage.

Blinds – Vertical blinds may be the ultimate decorating sin. No one likes feeling as if they’re living in a motel room. We suggest you either take them down or hide them under curtains. Just don’t throw them out or you may not get your security deposit back!

Accessorize Pillows, throws, candles, books, light fixtures… the only way to get a truly genuine space. This is by far the easiest and a MUST.

Wall Art – Those pesky holes might keep you from hanging art or photos on your walls, but when it comes down to it, they’ll only take a few minutes to patch up when it comes time to move out. This doesn’t mean you have to hang an entire art gallery, but hanging one statement piece and placing the rest of the photos on a mantel or shelf should do the trick.

Rugs – Last but not least, rugs: the peanut butter to your rental jelly. If there are scratched hardwood floors or stained carpets, you can cover those up easily with a throw rug. Not only that, a rug is a great investment piece that will add your personal flavor to any space. And they absorb noise and make a room feel comfy.

Posted on February 8, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: For Buyers, Housing Trends, Northern Colorado Real Estate | Tagged , , , , ,

Homeowners Insurance: Protecting Your Home

In addition to providing shelter and comfort, our home is often our single greatest asset. And it’s important that we protect that precious investment. Most homeowners realize the importance of homeowners insurance in safeguarding the value of a home. However, what they may not know is that about two-thirds of all homeowners are under-insured. According to a national survey, the average homeowner has enough insurance to rebuild only about 80% of his or her house.

What a standard homeowners policy covers

A standard homeowner’s insurance policy typically covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and living expenses if you are unable to live in your home temporarily because of an insured disaster.

The policy likely pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by disasters, such as fire or lighting. Your belongings, such as furniture and clothing, are also insured against these types of disasters, as well as theft. Some risks, such as flooding or acts of war, are routinely excluded from homeowner policies.

Other coverage in a standard homeowner’s policy typically includes the legal costs for injury or property damage that you or family members, including your pets, cause to other people. For example, if someone is injured on your property and decides to sue, the insurance would cover the cost of defending you in court and any damages you may have to pay. Policies also provide medical coverage in the event someone other than your family is injured in your home.

If your home is seriously damaged and needs to be rebuilt, a standard policy will usually cover hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while you are temporarily relocated.

How much insurance do you need?

Homeowners should review their policy each year to make sure they have sufficient coverage for their home. The three questions to ask yourself are:

·      Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets?

·      Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home?

·      Do I have enough insurance to replace all my possessions?

Here’s some more information that will help you determine how much insurance is enough to meet your needs and ensure that your home will be sufficiently protected.

Protect your assets

Make sure you have enough liability insurance to protect your assets in case of a lawsuit due to injury or property damage. Most homeowner’s insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability coverage. With the increasingly higher costs of litigation and monetary compensation, many homeowners now purchase $300,000 or more in liability protection. If that sounds like a lot, consider that the average dog bite claim is about $20,000. Talk with your insurance agent about the best coverage for your situation.

Rebuild your home

You need enough insurance to finance the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs, which vary by area. Don’t confuse the amount of coverage you need with the market value of your home. You’re not insuring the land your home is built on, which makes up a significant portion of the overall value of your property. In pricey markets such as San Francisco, land costs account for over 75 percent of a home’s value.

The average policy is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding your home using today’s standard building materials and techniques. If you have an unusual, historical or custom-built home, you may want to contact a specialty insurer to ensure that you have sufficient coverage to replicate any special architectural elements. Those with older homes should consider additions to the policy that pay the cost of rebuilding their home to meet new building codes.

Finally, if you’ve done any recent remodeling, make sure your insurance reflects the increased value of your home.

Remember that a standard policy does not pay for damage caused by a flood or earthquake. Special coverage is needed to protect against these incidents. Your insurance company can let you know if your area is flood or earthquake prone. The cost of coverage depends on your home’s location and corresponding risk.

Replacing your valuables

If something happens to your home, chances are the things inside will be damaged or destroyed as well. Your coverage depends on the type of policy you have. A cost value policy pays the cost to replace your belongings minus depreciation. A replacement cost policy reimburses you for the cost to replace the item.

There are limits on the losses that can be claimed for expensive items, such as artwork, jewelry, and collectables. You can get additional coverage for these types of items by purchasing supplemental premiums.

To determine if you have enough insurance, you need to have a good handle on the value of your personal items. Create a detailed home inventory file that keeps track of the items in your home and the cost to replace them.

Create a home inventory file

It takes time to inventory your possessions, but it’s time well spent. The little bit of extra preparation can also keep your mind at ease.  The best method for creating a home inventory list is to go through each room of your home and individually record the items of significant value.  Simple inventory lists are available online.  You can also sweep through each room with a video or digital camera and document each of your belongings. Your home inventory file should include the following items:

·      Item description and quantity

·      Manufacturer or brand name

·      Serial number or model number

·      Where the item was purchased

·      Receipt or other proof of purchase \Photocopies of any appraisals, along with the name and address of the appraiser

·      Date of purchase (or age)

·      Current value

·      Replacement cost

Pay special attention to highly valuable items such as electronics, artwork, jewelry, and collectibles.

Storing your home inventory list

Make sure your inventory list and images will be safe in case your home is damaged or destroyed. Store them in a safe deposit box, at the home of a friend or relative, or on an online Web storage site. Some insurance companies provide online storage for digital files. (Storing them on your home computer does you no good if your computer is stolen or damaged). Once you have an inventory file set up, be sure to update it as you make new purchases.

We invest a lot in our homes, so it’s important we take the necessary measures to safeguard it against financial and emotional loss in the wake of a disaster.

Posted on February 5, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: For Buyers | Tagged , , ,

5 Things to Consider if You’re Behind on Your Mortgage

Financial setbacks like the loss of a job or large medical bills can make it tough to make ends meet. If you find yourself behind on your mortgage payments, it helps to be proactive.  It’s also good to know that federal and local agencies, even banks, are working to help those who are behind on their mortgages from going into foreclosure.

If you are behind on your mortgage, here are 5 steps you can take.

1)  Call your lender as soon as possible.

As uncomfortable as that call can be, the problem will not go away by avoiding your lender. If you are having trouble making your payments, the sooner you contact your lender, the more options you will have. Some homeowners postpone communicating with their lender for so long, that foreclosure becomes the only option.  Don’t let that happen to you.

2) Talk to a housing counselor.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a list of approved nonprofit housing counselors, who will provide free counseling for homeowners who are behind on their mortgages. They’ll go over options and suggest next steps. Call HUD at 888-995-4673 or visit the HUD site to find a counselor in your area.

3)  See if you can lower your mortgage payment.

You might be able to refinance or do a loan modification to make your monthly payment more affordable. There are a number of programs available depending on your circumstances. A HUD housing counselor or your lender can help you explore your options.

4)  Find out if you qualify for a short sale.

A short sale is an alternative to foreclosure when a homeowner needs to sell and can no longer afford to make mortgage payments. The lender agrees to accept less than the amount owed to pay off a loan, rather than going forward with a lengthy and costly foreclosure process.

Although every homeowner’s situation is unique, the basic criteria for qualifying for a short sale are:

  • You need to sell your home.
  • You owe more on your mortgage than your home is worth.
  • You have a personal financial hardship that will prevent you from making future payments. (Examples of hardship include loss of job, divorce, death of a spouse and medical emergency or illness.)

In most instances, a short sale makes more sense than foreclosure. In general, when you want to obtain a loan to purchase a property in the future, more opportunities will be available to you if you do a short sale. Find out more about how short sales work.

5) See if you qualify for cash incentives tied to a short sale.

Several programs offer cash incentives to homeowners to do a short sale in order to avoid foreclosure.

The federal government’s Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program might provide $3,000 in relocation assistance to homeowners who do short sales.

Lenders, including Chase and Bank of America, have paid significant cash incentives to encourage sellers to do a short sale and avoid foreclosure. In the past few months, we have had homeowners receive checks from their lender at closing in amounts that range up to $35,000. And these large incentives are not restricted to owners of high-end properties. The owner of a short sale property that recently sold for $164,000 received a check for $25,000. The checks are given for relocation assistance and can be used however the homeowner sees fit. There are no restrictions.

It’s important to note that the seller incentive is determined by the investor, so not every lender is paying incentives. However, if you are considering a short sale, it’s a good time to find out if you qualify.

Richard Eastern is a Windermere broker in Bellevue, WA and co-founder of Washington Property Solutions, a short sales negotiating company. Since 2003 he has helped more than 700 homeowners sell their homes. A Bellevue native and a University of Washington grad, Richard is an avid sports fan and a devoted Little League and basketball coach. You can learn more about Richard here or atwww.washortsales.com.

Posted on February 4, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: For Buyers | Tagged , , , , ,

What Millennials are Looking for in an Apartment or Condo

LinkedIn recently told us that 4,279 new apartments were added to Seattle’s local inventory last year, and based on the number of cranes you constantly see around the city, we believe them. With so many choices, Millennials are getting really specific about what they want in a living space and the lifestyle it provides them. Here are some of the amenities we’re told that Millennials have come to want, and in some cases, expect:

1.  Parking & Electric Car Charging Stations

2.  High Speed Internet and WIFI (around the entire building). Preferably free WIFI on the first floor

3.  State of the Art Fitness Center  –  Fitness centers not only act as a place for exercise, but now a place to casually socialize and build friendships.  For instance, when a developer integrates fitness classes into the gym, they are creating a space where tenants can connect with their building community.

4. Dog Grooming/Washing Facility & Outdoor Pet Run:  As many millennials are postponing starting a family to focus more on their career, their pets are like their children.  With that said, an apartment building that doesn’t allow their fury friends will ultimately be losing out on a big portion of the millennial pie.

5. High- Tech Control Automation:  Using smart technology to control your thermostat, lights, switches, sensors, and locks while you are away.

6.  Business Center/ Work From Home Space:   With remote work becoming an increasing popular trend, the potential ways of catering to work-at-home tenants are limitless.

7. Laundry Facility/Service and Dry-Cleaning Drop Off/Pick Up- Laundry is a hassle, and most renters want the burden of doing laundry to be, well, less burdensome. Programs like “Laundry View” are used in some apartment buildings to view how many washers and dryers are in use. It will also send you text alerts when your laundry is done.

Read the full article on LinkedIn.

Posted on January 30, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: For Buyers | Tagged ,

Do You Have ‘Average’ Credit? If so, Getting a Mortgage May Be Tough

This article originally appeared on Inman.com 

In the early 2000s, getting a mortgage was hardly difficult thanks in great part to lax lending standards.

This practice eventually led to a bubble forming in the nation’s housing market — which, as we all know, subsequently burst.

Since that time, the pendulum has swung the other way — to an extreme.

Today, lenders require nothing short of pristine credit to obtain a mortgage. We can never return to the reckless lending policies of the past, but I believe they’ve gone too far, and it concerns me.

What will your credit score get you?

I took a look at data produced by the Federal Reserve and was shocked by what I saw. Of the $426.6 billion in mortgage origination during the second quarter of this year, almost 62 percent went to households with a credit rating of 760 or higher.

Borrowers with a credit score in the range of 620 to 659, which many lenders view as below-prime credit, received just 6.3 percent of the dollar volume of mortgages in the second quarter.

Now, when we compare that with the same quarter of 2004, the group with 760-or-higher credit received 23.5 percent of the mortgages, and the 620-to-659 borrowers received 8 percent.

Although surveys say credit is loosening for some types of loans, standards are still far tighter than necessary.

Too risk-averse?

The data raises questions about whether regulators and banks have become too risk-averse. It’s also possible that borrowers without prime credit have just given up owning a home for now.

Figures from property-data provider CoreLogic show that home-purchase mortgage applications from borrowers with credit scores below 640 fell to 6 percent in 2015, from 29 percent in 2005. In other words, lower-rated borrowers aren’t even applying.

But why?

Rising home values might simply be putting property out of reach for a lot of lower-income people.

For example, prices in Seattle are up 55 percent from their 2012 post-crisis low, according to the Case-Shiller Index. Nationally, prices are up 35 percent from their 2012 low.

Higher prices require larger down payments and bigger mortgage payments, especially for borrowers with lower credit scores.

But equally as culpable as rising home prices are homeowners who went through a foreclosure between 2004 and 2015.

Of these 7 million homeowners, only 7.3 percent have obtained a mortgage again, and 69 percent still have a foreclosure on their credit score, thus precluding them from buying again.

The market is making it remarkably hard for many families to buy a home.

I would never suggest that we consider returning to the “old days” of sub-prime lending, but understanding that there are a large number of families who want to buy — and who meet acceptable standards for risk — should give lenders some pause for thought.

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, the second largest regional real estate company in the nation. Matthew specializes in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

Posted on January 29, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: For Buyers | Tagged , , ,

Perspectives: Buyer Fatigue

Buyer fatigue. It’s a very real thing and we’re seeing it in cities all up and down the West Coast. What’s causing it? Intensely competitive market conditions in which bidding wars and properties selling for significantly more than asking price are the norm. It’s tiring for buyers. It’s tiring for agents. And it’s emotionally draining when you continue to find, and then lose, the perfect home over and over again.

We recently received a letter from a buyer detailing their experience of bidding on and losing home after home. Eventually they were successful but they wanted us to know that they couldn’t have done it without their agent. Not just the winning offer, but the grueling process it took to get there. They felt that their agent provided the perfect balance of emotional support and professional expertise that they needed to stick with it and eventually find a great home.

For us, this really underscored the importance of having a well-trained agent who not only understands how to compete in a seller’s market, but also truly cares about their clients and the outcome. This market isn’t for the faint of heart, so to be successful you have to be determined yet patient, and you need an agent who will put together specific strategies to help you achieve your goals. It requires total transparency and, at times, brutal honesty.

We wish we could tell you that we’re going to return to a balanced market by the end of the year, but unfortunately that’s highly unlikely. So, if you’re already out there, stay strong. There’s a lot of pressure to overpay for homes right now, so be sure to consult with your agent about the best course of action for your situation. If you’re thinking about jumping in, we can’t stress enough how important it is to work with an agent who will help you successfully navigate the rough waters of this unpredictable housing market.

Posted on January 28, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: For Buyers | Tagged , ,

Investing in Rental Property: The Risks, Rewards, and Benefits of Owning Rental Property

One area of the real estate market that is thriving right now is rental property.

All indications suggest that the rental market will continue to improve because of low vacancy rates and rising rents. In fact, the demand for rentals is predicted to far exceed supply through 2016, with 4.5 million new renters expected to enter the market in the next five years.

What to consider before buying a rental

Being a landlord has its challenges. The recession took a toll on rental prices for a few years and any future economic downturns could do the same. Once the job market returns to normal, there’s a strong possibility that more people will choose to move from rentals into homes of their own. And the demand for rental properties could become over saturated at some point, resulting in an investment bubble of its own.

What’s more, while the income from a rental property can be significant, it can take at least five years before you’re making much more than what you need just to cover the mortgage and expenses. In other words, the return on your investment doesn’t happen overnight.

However, in the long run, if you select the right property, it could turn out to be one of your best investment decisions ever—especially since rental real estate provides more tax benefits than almost any other investment.

Tax deductions for the taking

One of the greatest things about owning rental properties is the fact that you’re able to deduct so many of the associated expenses, including a sizeable portion of your monthly mortgage payment.

The commissions and fees paid to obtain your mortgage are not deductible, but the mortgage interest you pay each month is, including any money you pay into an escrow account to cover taxes and insurance. Whatever your mortgage company reports as interest on your 1098 form at the end of each year can likely be deducted.

For example, you may be eligible to deduct credit card interest for goods and services used in a rental activity, repairs made to the building, travel related to your rental (local or long distance), expenses related to home office or workshop devoted to your rental, the wages of anyone you hire to work on the building, damages to your rental property, associated insurance premiums, and fees you pay for legal and professional services. However, as is the case with any transaction of this type, be sure to consult your attorney or accountant for detailed tax information.

What to look for

As with any real estate investment, the location of the property and its overall condition are both key. But with rental properties, there are some other, unique factors you’ll also want to consider.

Utilities

Look for a building with separate utilities (water, electric, and gas, etc.) for each rental unit. This will make it far easier to legally charge for the fair use of what can be a very costly monthly expense.

Competition

If your property is one of the few rentals in the neighborhood, there will be less competition for interested renters.

Transportation

Rentals that are near popular public transportation options and/or major freeways (without being so close that noise is an issue) are usually easier to rent—and demand more money.

Landscaping

Properties with small yards and fewer plantings are far easier and less expensive to manage.

Off-street parking

Not only is off-street parking a desirable feature (people with nice cars usually don’t like to park on the street), it’s also a requirement for rental properties in some communities.

How to start your search

Unlike homes, rental properties do not typically have a visible ‘for-sale’ sign standing out front (as landlords don’t want to irritate, bring attention to their current renters, or turn off any prospective renters). Therefore, if you are interested in a rental property, your best option is to schedule an appointment with your real estate agent/broker to discuss your investment goals and identify what opportunities currently exist in the market place.

Posted on January 14, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: For Buyers | Tagged , , , , ,

Do You Have ‘Average’ Credit? If so, Getting a Mortgage May Be Tough

This article originally appeared on Inman.com 

In the early 2000s, getting a mortgage was hardly difficult thanks in great part to lax lending standards.

This practice eventually led to a bubble forming in the nation’s housing market — which, as we all know, subsequently burst.

Since that time, the pendulum has swung the other way — to an extreme.

Today, lenders require nothing short of pristine credit to obtain a mortgage. We can never return to the reckless lending policies of the past, but I believe they’ve gone too far, and it concerns me.

What will your credit score get you?

I took a look at data produced by the Federal Reserve and was shocked by what I saw. Of the $426.6 billion in mortgage origination during the second quarter of this year, almost 62 percent went to households with a credit rating of 760 or higher.

Borrowers with a credit score in the range of 620 to 659, which many lenders view as below-prime credit, received just 6.3 percent of the dollar volume of mortgages in the second quarter.

Now, when we compare that with the same quarter of 2004, the group with 760-or-higher credit received 23.5 percent of the mortgages, and the 620-to-659 borrowers received 8 percent.

Although surveys say credit is loosening for some types of loans, standards are still far tighter than necessary.

Too risk-averse?

The data raises questions about whether regulators and banks have become too risk-averse. It’s also possible that borrowers without prime credit have just given up owning a home for now.

Figures from property-data provider CoreLogic show that home-purchase mortgage applications from borrowers with credit scores below 640 fell to 6 percent in 2015, from 29 percent in 2005. In other words, lower-rated borrowers aren’t even applying.

But why?

Rising home values might simply be putting property out of reach for a lot of lower-income people.

For example, prices in Seattle are up 55 percent from their 2012 post-crisis low, according to the Case-Shiller Index. Nationally, prices are up 35 percent from their 2012 low.

Higher prices require larger down payments and bigger mortgage payments, especially for borrowers with lower credit scores.

But equally as culpable as rising home prices are homeowners who went through a foreclosure between 2004 and 2015.

Of these 7 million homeowners, only 7.3 percent have obtained a mortgage again, and 69 percent still have a foreclosure on their credit score, thus precluding them from buying again.

The market is making it remarkably hard for many families to buy a home.

I would never suggest that we consider returning to the “old days” of sub-prime lending, but understanding that there are a large number of families who want to buy — and who meet acceptable standards for risk — should give lenders some pause for thought.

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, the second largest regional real estate company in the nation. Matthew specializes in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

Posted on December 13, 2017 at 8:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: For Buyers | Tagged , , ,