The Department Of Veterans Affairs Is Allowing Drive-by Appraisals Because Of COVID-19

Posted in Mortgage by Michigan Real Estate Expert on April 3rd, 2020

The Department Of Veterans Affairs Is Allowing Drive-by Appraisals Because Of COVID-19The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has impacted every industry across the country. Many people are being asked to shelter in place and everyone has been asked to practice social distancing to try to curtail the spread of this deadly virus.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has asked both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to make some changes in the manner they conduct property appraisals and employment verification.

Shortly after the move by the FHFA, The Veteran’s Administration (VA) and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) followed suit by relaxing property appraisal requirements. Due to the unusual circumstances that are facing the country right now, these changes are necessary to keep people safe while minimizing the blow to the economy.

Exterior Inspection Appraisals

One of the critical parts that must happen during the purchase of a home is something called an appraisal. Typically, these appraisals involve an on-site inspection of the home, taking a close look at everything inside to try to make sure the price is as accurate as possible. Now, appraisals can be done on something that is called an exterior-only or “drive-by” basis. This means that appraisers might drive by to confirm that the property exists, but will not physically inspect it. 

In some cases, they might just use the computer, find comparable properties, and appraise it in this manner. This is normally referred to as a “desktop appraisal”. This is important for everyone, including those who are Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loan borrowers.

Why Appraisals Are Needed Now

Even though fewer people may be currently looking at houses, there are other reasons why an appraisal might be necessary. Many people are looking for sources of emergency funding, particularly as hours get cut and people get laid off.

There are still bills that need to be paid, including utility bills and mortgages. Therefore, many people are looking at taking out a second mortgage as a source of immediate liquidity. Sometimes, an appraisal might be needed to make this happen.

Other Measures Are Being Taken By The FHFA

In addition to the notice about drive-by appraisals, the FHFA has also suspended any foreclosures and evictions in many cases. People who are facing hardship due to the pandemic can also apply for forbearance, which can take a lot of stress off of the shoulders of individuals and families.

If you have questions about your mortgage and financing options available to you during the Coronavirus pandemic, contact your trusted mortgage professional. They will be best able to analyze your personal situation and provide the most accurate feedback.

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What Is Pooled-Funds Investing?

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 18th, 2020

What Is Pooled-Funds InvestingUnder the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on April 5, 2012, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) relaxed the rules about advertising investments. This allowed the trend of crowdfunding to expand dramatically giving real estate investors more opportunities for pooled-funds investing.

What Is Polled-Funds Investing?

A pooled investment fund takes in money from a group of investors to use to acquire real estate for larger amounts than each investor’s money would support. Prior to the passage of the JOBS Act, these pooled investment funds were only accessible by large investors through private placements and private real estate investment trusts (REITs). The minimum investment might be up to $250,000 or more. High-net-worth individual investors and institutions were the only investors capable of the buy-in to gain access to these investments, which usually offered better and more stable returns.

After the JOBS Act came into being, the advertising of these pooled investment funds was possible under the new law. The phenomena of crowdfunding came out of this. Money from many investors creates a larger investment fund managed by a professional team, intending to obtain strong performance results.

Better Investment Opportunities For The Smaller Investor

These new investment opportunities allow the smaller investor to participate in a greater diversity of real estate than they could achieve on their own. Moreover, an investor can create a pooled fund to acquire a property with the help of other investors. To use this technique to buy real estate, it is helpful to work with a qualified real estate agent or broker who understands this concept of pooled investment funds.

Due Diligence Required

Not all investment pools succeed in producing decent returns for investors. The SEC is no longer regulating these polled investments carefully. This means that the challenge of due diligence falls on the individual investor. Before investing, it pays to conduct exhaustive research about the pooled investment fund, the cost of the fund management fees, the expertise of the fund’s management, and their past investment-performance history. Always remember past results are no guarantee of future performance and never invest any funds that you cannot afford to lose.

Summary

The relaxing of SEC regulations in 2012 allowed many opportunities for pooled investments to flourish. While there is the possibility of strong returns on investment, there is also some risk. Investors considering a pooled investment fund, such as a crowdfunding deal, should conduct thorough due diligence and get advice from a qualified REALTORS® in the market where the property will be located before making any investment.

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to consult with your trusted real estate professional.

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Disruptive Technology And The Real Estate Market

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 12th, 2020

Disruptive Technology And The Real Estate MarketRecent advancements in technology continue to disrupt the real estate market. This includes the use of “Big Data” for data mining, artificial intelligence combined with machine learning, augmented and virtual reality, use of drones, blockchain technology, and the ongoing deployment of 5G.

The Use Of Big Data

Consumers have access to more information about real estate market conditions because of the collection and online presentation of the results of data mining “Big Data.” For example, it is easy to learn if a market is a buyer’s or a seller’s market by searching for the median number of days a house will be on the market before it sells in a certain area.

Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) combined with machine learning works with data mining of Big Data to make the information more actionable. Real estate investors can set up search parameters to look for the exact type of properties that they want and let the AI software do the grunt work to find the investment opportunities.

Machine learning allows AI chatbots to learn correct responses to inquires from the questions previously asked. AI chatbots provide customer service 24/7 non-stop to handle leads and make sure to neglect no one.

Augmented And Virtual Reality

Virtual reality allows interested buyers to do a digital walk-through of a property and be able to imagine what it looks like. Augmented reality is used by some REALTORS® to digitally stage a home, listed for sale, by using digital furniture in the virtual walk-through. This furniture is selectable based on a potential buyer’s taste. Staging a home digitally is far less expensive than using real furniture.

Use Of Drones

The exciting use of drones captures a beautiful fly-over and fly-around a property to show what it looks like on the outside and its surrounding environment.

Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology, which is the type of software used for cryptocurrency, will have an application for digital verification and signatures in real estate transactions. This technology allows the reduction of all the massive paperwork for a title closing to a secure, digital format.

Deployment Of 5G

The 5G mobile technology allows the connections to a smart device that can broadcast information about a property listing to the local environment. This allows for digitally-assisted home viewing, which is responsive, interactive, and for a potential buyer to ask questions about a property.

Summary

Technology continues to make the search experience when buying more effortless and more pleasant. The promising news for REALTORS® is that even though around half of the homebuyers find a property online that is of interest, the vast majority (93%) use a real estate agent to close the transaction. Technology is making the process easier; however, smart buyers still work with a qualified real estate agent to buy a home.

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The Narrowing Gap Between Renting And Buying A Home In The US

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 10th, 2020

According to data compiled by Realtor.com in the fourth quarter of 2019, it is still more affordable overall to rent versus buy a home — but just barely. The median monthly mortgage payment at the end of 2019 was $1,600, while the median monthly rent payment was $1,319. This is largely due to steadily-increasing rates, rising home prices, and near-record-low mortgage rates.

The Narrowing Gap Between Renting And Buying A Home In The USThe Realtor.com study looked at 593 counties across the country. As compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, the average monthly cost of renting a home increased 4%, up from $1,254, while the average monthly cost of homeownership actually declined 1%, falling from $1,658. These numbers represent exactly 30% of a homeowner’s gross income and 25% for renters, based on median household income. 

A Turning Tide

In a stunning 84% of the 593 counties that were part of the study, renting is less expensive than buying. The average home price in these areas is 260% higher than the national median, while rent prices average about 79% more than the national median. 

Interestingly though, 26 of the 593 counties experienced the opposite for the first time ever: It became more affordable to purchase a home than to rent, even if only by a narrow margin. The largest metropolitan areas in which homeownership is more economical than renting now include Bronx County, New York; the greater Cleveland area; Columbia, South Carolina, and the surrounding areas; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Camden County, New Jersey, which includes Philadelphia, as well as cities in Maryland and Delaware. In 16% of the counties analyzed, buying a home is less expensive monthly than renting, which is up from 12% in 2018. 

On the other end of the spectrum, several large counties made the switch from being more affordable to buy a home to more affordable to rent. The top five include the Wichita Falls, Texas, area; Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pennsylvania; Luzerne County, Pennsylvania; the Greensboro, North Carolina metro area; and Craven County, North Carolina. 

With the costs of homeownership becoming more favorable over the past year, the gap between renting and buying a home is more narrow than it ever has been in the U.S. If you are in the market for a new home, be sure to contact your trusted real estate professional.

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How To Finally Become A Real Estate Investor This Year

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 5th, 2020

How To Finally Become A Real Estate Investor This YearInvesting in real estate remains one of the best ways to accumulate wealth in America. There are six ways to get started in real estate investing. One way does not require any investment capital, just an investment of your time. Ways to get started include investing in a REIT, buying an incoming-producing property, using a buy-and-hold strategy, flipping houses, crowdfunding, and wholesale deals.

Investing In A REIT

A real estate investment trust (REIT) is an investment instrument that offers a proportional ownership interest in a real estate portfolio that follows a particular investment strategy. A private REIT has a minimum investment that could be $1,000 to $25,000. A publicly-traded REIT sells in shares, just like stocks on the stock exchange. The investment minimum is just one share and some REITs have share prices under $100.

Income-Producing Property

Buy a home and rent it out. For this strategy to work, you do have to deal with the tenant headaches, unless you can afford to outsource the landlord’s work to a property management company.

Buy-And-Hold Strategy

Buy raw land for cheap on the outskirts of a growing town and wait the time necessary for the town to overtake your land for the opportunity to subdivide and develop it for a high price.

Flipping Houses

For those who like doing contracting work, or who partner up with a contractor, there may be profit in buying some fixer-upper homes to renovate and sell for more than the acquisition price plus the renovation costs.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a way to participate as a small investor in real estate deals and also to fund your own deals.

Wholesale Deals

Wholesale deals can be accomplished with no money down. You work for other investors and secure properties at lower than market prices by controlling them with an offer that is accepted and then assigning the deal to the investors for a fee.

Summary

If you have been thinking about becoming a real estate investor, now is the time to do something about it. Even if you start with only $100 by buying shares in a REIT, at least you got started. Once you get your real estate investment strategy going, you will find it to be a very rewarding experience, if you are careful and make wise decisions.

Be sure to associate with an expert REALTOR® in your marketplace area to get sound advice and information.

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What Should I Consider Most When Buying A Home In 2020?

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 27th, 2020

What Should I Consider Most When Buying A Home In 2020There are two times when it is best to buy a home. When you have to buy one and when you can afford to buy one. In general, owning a home is better than renting one because you are building up equity for yourself, instead of throwing your money away by helping the landlord buy the property with your rent money.

Best- And Worst-Case Scenario Planning

Be prepared for owning a home, especially if this will be your first time as a homebuyer. There is a natural tendency to stretch finances to the breaking point when wanting to own a home. Try to be patient and have a contingency plan for what would happen if you lose your job or if your significant other loses his or her job if you are buying a home with the help of another income.

A surprising piece of counter-intuitive advice is NOT to use all of your savings as a down payment, even if you have to pay more for the mortgage. Instead, hold back three to six months of mortgage payments in your savings to use in case there is an unexpected job loss or problem. That will give you enough time to recover from a temporary problem without having to worry about having enough money to make the mortgage payments.

Keep Emotions Under Control

Try not to let your emotions override practical considerations. Most people trade-up from the first home that they buy. A house need not be “perfect”; however, you want it to be in a decent condition to avoid having large expenses right after buying it, unless you are a fixer-upper type and know what you are doing.

Seller’s Or Buyer’s Market

It is useful to know whether the area you want to buy a home is a seller’s or a buyer’s market. In a seller’s market, there may be many buyers for fewer sellers. In that caseyou will need to be more competitive in your approach when buying a house.

One easy way to tell if the area is a seller’s market is to ask your REALTOR® to find out the median number of days that homes are on the market for sale and the percentage of the asking price that the average home sells for.

Don’t be surprised to learn in a seller’s market that homes stay listed only for a short time, and they sell for nearly the asking price. Having a pre-approved lending commitment before you go looking for a home in a seller’s market is one way to make your offer(s) stronger.

Summary

Take time when buying a home to do some market research first. Get your loan commitment approved, before shopping for a home. Make looking for a home to buy an adventure. Avoid stretching yourself to a financial breaking point and plan to stay in your home for a few years, at least, before you trade-up.

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to set an appointment with your trusted real estate professional.

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How to Buy An Investment Property

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 25th, 2020

How to Buy An Investment PropertyIt is important for everyone to take steps to diversify their assets. While many people take this to mean holding multiple stocks, bonds, and mutual funds in the market, this also includes branching out into the real estate industry. The real estate industry is far more stable than the stock market and provides a fantastic opportunity to generate reliable returns. At the same time, there are lots of options to choose from when it comes to investment properties.

Here are a few tips everyone should keep in mind.

Buying And Renting

One option is to purchase a single-family home as a second building and then rent it out. On the other hand, it is also possible to purchase a multi-unit property and rent out each individual unit. One of the biggest factors to keep in mind is that the owner is going to be responsible for collecting deposits, checking the backgrounds of potential tenants, conducting repairs, and completing maintenance tasks. 

If the property is located in a desirable area, it is possible for someone to collect enough rent to cover the cost of the mortgage and more. At the same time, it is also possible that someone might end up spending a considerable amount of time managing the property. It might be a solid idea to hire a property management company; however, this will eat away at the revenue. These are a few of the key factors to think about.

Flipping Houses

Another option real estate investors can consider is flipping houses. In this process, someone buys a home (which is often in a state of disrepair and inexpensive), repairs it, and then sells the home for a profit. It is also possible that someone might end up spending a significant amount of time and money renovating the home, which might eat away at any financial gains. Be sure to know exactly what repairs and renovations the home is going to need before buying.

A Real Estate Investment Trust

Sometimes, it might be too much for someone to buy individual properties. One possible option is called a real estate investment trust (REIT). This is a company that owns numerous big properties that generate incomes. Therefore, these trusts are often compared to mutual funds in the stock market but for real estate. Different REITs specialize in different areas, so there are lots to choose from.

If you are interested in buying a new home or purchasing an investment property, be sure to consult with your trusted real estate professional.

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NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Near 1999 High

Posted in Market Outlook by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 20th, 2020

NAHB Home Builder Confidence Near 1999 HighThe National Association of Home Builders reported a housing market index reading of 74 in February; the index reading was one point lower than for January and was only two points below the highest reading of 76 reported in December. Readings over 50 indicate that most builders consider housing market conditions to be positive.

Factors contributing to builder confidence included strong housing markets and low mortgage rates; job growth and higher wages also boosted builder confidence.

Low Inventory Influences Home Prices

Low inventories of available homes continued to drive demand and rising home prices. Homebuyers faced with low supplies of existing homes turned to new home developments for additional options. First-time homebuyers faced obstacles including affordability and student loan debt that negatively impacted the ability to save for a down payment and qualify for home loans.

High costs of building materials and lots contributed to homebuilder expenses and higher home prices. Analysts noted that environmental and zoning issues also presented challenges for builders and limited their ability to meet the rising demand for affordable single-family homes.

Composite indices used to calculate the Homebuilders Housing Market Index slipped one point in each category. Builder confidence in current market conditions for newly-built single-family homes fell to an index reading of 80 and builder confidence in market conditions over the next six months dipped to 79. Buyer traffic volume in new housing developments dropped to 57, but buyer traffic readings of 50 or more were historically rare until recently.

Analysts identified correlations between the Housing Market Index and readings on consumer sentiment. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index and the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index readings trend close to the NAHB Housing Market Index but are reported one month behind the Housing Market Index.

Regional Builder Confidence Mixed

Homebuilders reported mixed confidence in housing market conditions throughout the U.S. Market Conditions improved in the Northeast where homebuilder confidence was five points higher at 67. The Midwestern region reported a builder confidence reading of 62, which was five points lower than January’s reading. Homebuilder confidence in the South rose two points to an index reading of 79; homebuilder confidence fell four points in the West to 82.

Regional builder confidence levels reflect local economic conditions and events impacting housing markets.

 

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5 Essential Questions Real Estate Investors Should Ask Before Making An Offer

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 19th, 2020

5 Essential Questions Real Estate Investors Should Ask Before Making An OfferReal estate investing is not only a great way to diversify assets but can also be used to generate both income and capital appreciation. While this is a fantastic opportunity, it is also important to choose investment projects carefully. It is critical to ask the right questions before making an offer on an investment property.

Why Is The Building On The Market?

There is a reason why the property is on the market. It is important to know the answer to this question. Sometimes, the house is on the market purely because the owner is moving for job or family purposes.

On the other hand, there might be an issue with the integrity of the structure. Be sure to figure out the true nature of the building before making an offer.

What Are The Other Offers?

It is important to know the competition when purchasing an investment property. Those who are trying to get the best deal possible need to know what they are up against. Asking about whether a cash offer will sweeten the deal is a great way to garner some additional insights.

What Is The Recent Maintenance?

One of the most common hidden costs in the world of real estate comes in the form of deferred maintenance. If nothing has been done on the property recently, these maintenance costs are going to be passed on to the buyer, hurting any potential ROI. Be sure to ask about any recent repairs or replacements. It’s not unusual for someone to spend a third of the building’s value on repairs.

What Is The Seller Interested In?

Be straightforward and ask what is important to the seller. Some sellers want a quick close. Other sellers want to rent the property back. There are even some sellers who want to leave the furniture behind as well. Ask what the seller needs to offload the investment property.

How Long Has It Been On The Market?

Always check and see how long the building as been on the market. If the building has been on the market for a while, figure out why it hasn’t sold. On the other hand, if the building just landed on the market, there might be more room to negotiate.

If you are in the market for a real estate investment property, your trusted real estate agent will be one of your very best assets. Be sure to make contact as soon as you are ready to start looking!

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Green Energy Tax Credits For Home Improvement & Energy Efficiency

Posted in Mortgage by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 13th, 2020

Green Energy Tax Credits For Home Improvement & Energy EfficiencyMany individuals and families are looking for ways to reduce their energy consumption. Running the heater during the winter and the air conditioner during the summer can have significant impacts on someone’s energy consumption and costs. It should come as no surprise that many people are trying to reduce their HVAC usage to save money; however, there is a better way.

Individuals and families can permanently reduce their fossil fuel usage and carbon footprint by investing in home improvements. Better yet, local, state, and even the federal government wants everyone’s home to be more environmentally conscious, or “green.” Many utility companies want people to act in the same way. That is why there is a slew of incentives for homeowners who are willing to make their homes more Earth-friendly.

Government Tax Credits For Green Initiatives

Many of the tax credits the government is offering for “going green” are going to run through the end of 2021. They are available to any homeowner in the United States who files a federal tax return. Applying for tax credits is done by filling out Form 5695 from the IRS.

Some of the biggest tax credits come from solar energy generation. The first example of a solar energy system comes in the form of a solar water heater. All Energy Star-rated solar water heaters will qualify for this tax credit. Typically, solar water heaters cost somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000. 

The other biggest source of solar energy comes in the form of solar panels. Solar panels need to generate electricity directly for the residency and must meet all safety codes. Typically, solar panels cost between $25,000 and $35,000. Even though these sound expensive, the costs are dropping quickly and the tax credit makes the system worth it in the eyes of many homeowners.

Wind Energy

Homeowners can also qualify for green energy tax credits through the use of wind energy. The cost of a wind turbine strong enough to power a home will vary widely. Some may cost $15,000 while others may cost $75,000. 

Keep in mind that, in addition to the tax credit, these systems may drastically cut someone’s utility costs. Eventually, these systems should pay for themselves. For this reason, green energy has become an attractive option for many homeowners. 

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to consult with your trusted real estate professional.

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