Archive for Real Estate

Why Green Homes Are Gold In Your Pocket

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on May 13th, 2021

Why Green Homes Are Gold In Your PocketIf you’re selling a home today, you know that it’s a seller’s market in many areas throughout the country. What you may not know, though, is that there are still things you can do to make your home even more desirable. From adding SMART home features to properly staging a home, there are plenty of things you can do to drive up the price and create a frenzy of bidding activity for your home. One of those things is to add green features to your home.

What Are Green Home Features?

Adding green features to your home doesn’t mean you’re painting the walls green or going for some odd decor. Instead, it means you’ve added one or more environmentally friendly features to your home. The following are a few green features you can add to your home that will add incredible ROI when the time comes to sell your home.

  • Landscaping with native plants.
  • Water conservation features in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Energy Star appliances.
  • SMART thermostats, lights, and garage door openers.
  • Recycled countertops.
  • Radiant floor heating.
  • Alternative energy systems such as geothermal or solar energy.

Why Do Buyer’s Desire Green Home Features?

Buyers today are savvier than ever when it comes to the plight of the planet and are constantly seeking changes they can make to reduce carbon footprints and conserve resources. Homes that provide these types of features allow them to do precisely that. More importantly, they don’t have to adjust their lifestyles or even think about making these changes because they’re already made.

Giving Buyers What They Want?

At the end of the day, when you install certain green features in your home, you’re giving prospective buyers the personal satisfaction of knowing they’re purchasing a planet-friendly home, without forcing them to do the work for themselves. It’s a win for those who have grandiose intentions for saving the planet to actually follow through on those intentions.

Will Green Home Features Help You Sell Your Home Faster?

That depends on the local market in the area where you’re selling. However, in many areas across the country, it is a winning proposition. Work with your real estate agent to see if adding one or more of the green features listed above can help you sell your home faster or for a higher price.

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Stimulus Checks And Your New Mortgage

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on May 7th, 2021

Stimulus Checks And Your New MortgageMost of the focus on stimulus checks has been on “when” they will arrive, but if you are in the market for a new home (and mortgage) you should know how that payment will impact your financing. Part of the latest Covid 19 relief package includes payments and protections for existing borrowers and renters, but what about those who are looking to buy? According to the IRS, here are a few things to know about how your stimulus impacts your upcoming mortgage. 

Stimulus Money Is Not Taxable

Any funds you are qualified to receive are not taxable; this is important to know as you move forward with your purchase because it allows you to properly anticipate your tax burden for the coming year. 

Stimulus Money Is Not Income

While funds from the stimulus can be used however you’d like, including as part of your downpayment, they are not considered income. If you currently qualify for an income-based mortgage incentive or program, having a one-time boost in income could work against your housing plans. If those extra funds counted as income, some families could find themselves no longer qualifying for programs and loans that have income guidelines. 

Stimulus Money Can Be Used For Your Mortgage

Whether you use it for your down payment, pay points to reduce interest, or even pay off remaining debts to improve your ratios, this money can benefit your home buying plans. 

Every debt you pay regularly impacts the amount of money you can afford to borrow for your mortgage — using a stimulus payment to eliminate one or more credit cards or even car payments can increase the amount of monthly payment you can afford. Making these payments can also improve your credit score, which could qualify you for a better rate. 

Since the current stimulus program can benefit home buyers in several key ways, there is no better time to buy than now. Use your stimulus to maximize your buying power and get the best possible mortgage terms and you’ll be able to access a wider variety of homes.

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Boosting Your Credit Score To Qualify For Better Rates

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on April 30th, 2021

Boosting Your Credit Score To Qualify For Better Rates

The better your credit score, the better the mortgage interest rate for which you should qualify. That can mean thousands of dollars saved over the life of the mortgage. If your credit score needs improving, get started prior to your search for a new home.

Pay Bills On Time
The simplest way to boost your credit score is by ensuring your bills are always paid on time. Nothing harms a credit score more than late payments.

Check for Credit Report Errors
Check your credit reports for any errors. These issues are not uncommon, and can really impact your score. Each of the three major credit card reporting bureaus –Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion –will provide you with a free annual report.

Credit Utilization Rate
Look into your credit utilization, or CU, rate. The CU rate is another big credit score consideration. Your CU rate is the amount of credit authorized versus the amount you use. It’s one reason maxing out your credit cards is not a wise move.

Never allow your CU rate to exceed more than 30 percent of your available credit. In simple terms if you have $1,000 in available credit, never use more than $300. High CU rates are a red flag, as they indicate someone with potential financial problems. For best results, keep your CU rate as low as you can.
Calculate your CU rate by adding up the credit limits on all cards, as well as the balances. Divide the total balances by the total credit limit, then multiply by 100. That amount is your CU rate percentage.

Reduce Your Debt
If you carry credit card debt, pay it down as much as possible. That also helps lower your CU rate.

Avoid Opening New Credit Card Accounts
Do not open new credit card accounts while trying to boost your credit score.   A new account lowers the age of your accounts, affecting your credit history and lowering the CU rate.

Do Not Close Unused Credit Card Accounts
Do you have credit cards you never use? You might think closing them would boost your credit score, but that is not how it works. When you close the account, the amount of credit you have drops. That triggers a CU rate increase.

Refinancing Credit Card Debt
If you have substantial credit card debt, consider refinancing all of it with a personal loan. You should receive a lower interest rate with your balances now merged into a single monthly payment. This also causes your CU rate to go down.

How Long Will It Take?
How long it will take to improve your credit score depends on the severity of your credit problems. Those with serious credit issues may find it takes years to raise their scores significantly, but most people should see improvement within a few months. Then it is time to think about mortgage shopping!

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Buying in a Sellers Market

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on April 27th, 2021

Buying in a Sellers MarketHome buying is often made possible or unreachable due to the local and national economy. Fortunately, what goes up, must come down. So, for buyers who can wait, economic changes in supply and demand can create opportunities. These shifts in real estate are known as buyer’s markets and seller’s markets. 

The seller’s market specifically tends to be the harder one for homebuyers. In short, sellers see a lot of demand, so they can command higher prices for a sale. Things are competitive, sell fast, and inventory is low. 

For buyers, it’s a headache, but there are ways of handling the challenge.

Understand Your Local Market Better

Many people might throw out the statement locally, “Oh good luck, it’s a seller’s market,” but that’s not necessarily the case until you can confirm it objectively. It may be that certain neighborhoods have high demand, but overall regional inventory is available. 

Understanding your local market as a whole and by neighborhood gives a buyer a far better idea of what’s really going on and how to compare homes in different locations.

When Making an Offer, Go With Your Best Offer First

The worst that can happen is someone responds “no.” You didn’t really lose anything with a rejected offer. However, if they accept your offer as-is, then you may have scored a better deal than trying to hedge and bargain down after the fact. Negotiation can be more difficult in a seller’s market, and sellers can be quite motivated to drop a negotiation the instant a second buyer becomes available.

Be Prepared to Move Quick and Bid Fast

Sellers’ markets go fast. Bids are taken in a day and a sale happens the next day or by that evening. If going out to buy, you need to be ready to make an offer on-site. That means also having your pre-approval for financing squared away and having enough liquid assets to cover the down payment along with enough cash to cover closing fees as well. If you’re not wired up already, you will lose sales waiting for your financing prep to get taken care of.

Have Cash, Will Talk

Buyers who are able to show they have the cash to purchase make the process go much more smoothly. Sellers are far more interested in parties who can show they are a firm sale versus those with financing approval still pending. 

Known as earnest money, a deposit placed on a home with larger than the minimum amount will get attention and commitment faster than someone with a nice bid but waiting for financing approval, thereby delaying the seller.

Anticipate Non-Cash Sweeteners

Sellers often have interests or desires to meet when letting go of a home. A buyer who can fathom what these are can improve a buying position considerably.

In some cases, it might be as simple as agreeing to additional time for a seller to move out. 

In other cases, the seller might have an attachment to the home that they want to keep protected versus seeing it destroyed by a new seller. 

Finding these things out can help a buyer make commitments in a sale that make it better for the seller and for the buyer versus other bids.

Sellers’ markets are hard, but there are ways around the challenge and getting into a home you want. By being flexible, creative, and ready you stand a better chance than bidders with half a heart in but one foot still hanging out.

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VA vs FHA vs USDA What’s the Difference?

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on April 21st, 2021

VA vs FHA vs USDA What's the Difference?You may have more options than you think when it comes to securing a mortgage for your new home. While many buyers opt for conventional financing, another option or program might be a better choice for you, depending on your personal and financial situation. Learning more about FHA, USDA, and VA loans ensures you get the best possible deal for your mortgage and that you secure the loan that you need for your new home. Here’s what you need to know about these useful mortgage options.

FHA Loans
These are traditional mortgages that are backed by the FHA: when you take out an FHA loan, this government agency is insuring the loan. This makes your loan more appealing to lenders who might otherwise feel your credit or income history is not strong enough. An FHA loan is available to a wide range of buyers and price points and offers a low-down payment, reasonable interest, and other perks that make it worth exploring for your next mortgage. 

VA Loans
If you are a veteran then this program, which offers loans insured by the VA, is a great option for you as they do not require money down so you can buy immediately, rather than saving for years for a down payment. The VA loan is available to those who have served or are serving in the armed forces and is a good option to help you get the home you want with no money down, unlike a conventional mortgage loan.

USDA Loans
One of the most useful and often overlooked loan programs is from the USDA. While this government office offers direct loans, far more people qualify for their insured loan programs. USDA loans are for rural areas, but a surprising number of suburban communities and locations qualify as well. With a low-down payment and interest, this subsidized loan program is well worth it if you plan to live in a rural or suburban area. 

Not every borrower will qualify for the mortgage options above; the USDA has guidelines on income and the home you are interested in. The FHA does not have income requirements, but you will need to prove your income and this option also has a loan limit.  If you do meet the guidelines of any of the above programs, they can help you access the home you want by dramatically reducing your upfront and deposit costs. 

The right loan for you will depend on your income, credit, and the home you’ve selected. Your agent can help you find the home that suits the program you want and make it easy for you to secure the financing you qualify for. Get in touch today to talk about your home buying options and see which loan option is right for you. 

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Looking at Home Mortgage Refinancing in 2021

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on April 20th, 2021

Looking at Home Mortgage Refinancing in 2021In 2019 many people expected that the home lending market was going to eventually grow more expensive. Instead, 2020 spent its entire 12 months becoming more affordable when it came to financing a personal home, moving in the opposite direction of what was expected. Not only did the loan cost drop break previous records, but it also presented an additional opportunity for homeowners to reposition and take advantage of lower borrowing costs again.

The General Advantages of a Home Loan Refinance

The refinancing of a mortgage has traditionally been three-fold. First, it is a chance to renegotiate the loan on a home purchase for a lower interest rate, which means more of the borrower’s payment goes to the loan and less to an interest charge. Second, it gives people an option to change the interest rate charged to a shorter payment period, which can also save considerable money. A borrower will pay dozens of thousands less on a 15-year loan versus a 30-year mortgage. Finally, refinancing allows a borrower to tap into home equity to use that cash value to consolidate debt, pay for other big costs, or make renovations to the home without paying out of pocket for them.

Why 2021 Provides a Good Window

By the time 2020 ended, mortgage rates overall were running at all time lows on a conventional 30-year fixed mortgage, an amazing opportunity for the cost of borrowing and probably the lowest possible in 50 years. The dip won’t last forever, as many people have been trying to project, and eventually what goes down also goes back up. Some amount of rising rates is a firm prediction from the National Association of Realtors® for 2021 which has already occurred, and that loan interest rate cost is expected to eventually go somewhat higher by the end of the year if the economy speeds up again. So, the 2021 window for a valuable refinancing opportunity is clearly the beginning half of the year.

Comparing Current Status to “What If”

Obviously, just chasing a mortgage refinance for minimal gain is silly. The amount paid in closing costs can be expensive. However, when the shift can easily be a percentage point difference or more, then it is worth considering. Many people locked in homes at higher rates in the past and are still paying that amount, especially on an adjustable-rate mortgage. Grabbing a fixed mortgage refinance in the current rate environment is definitely worth the work and time, potentially paying for itself in a handful of years or by consolidating higher cost debt into the home loan.

There is no perfect formula that applies to everyone, but 2021 has already shaped up to be the year that the majority of homeowners can definitely benefit from, especially given the need for financial reserves and a bit of personal finance reorganization after 2020.  As always, consult with your professional mortgage advisor for details on your personal situation.

 

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NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Ticks Up in April

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on April 16th, 2021

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Ticks Up in AprilThe national reading for home builder confidence rose one point to an index reading of 83 in April; the National Association of Home Builders predicted a reading of 84. Component readings for April’s national index readings were mixed.  Builder confidence in current market conditions for single-family homes rose one point to 88. Builder confidence in market conditions for single-family homes in the next six months fell two points to 81 but homebuilder confidence in buyer traffic in new home developments rose two points to an index reading of 75.

Readings over 50 indicate a majority of builders are positive about housing market conditions. Buyer traffic readings published before the pandemic rarely exceeded index readings of 50.

Regional Home Builder Confidence Varied

Regional readings for home builder confidence varied in April. The Northeast region reported an index reading of 84 in April, which was two points lower than in March. The Midwestern region’s April reading was three points lower at 75 than in March. Homebuilder confidence in the South rose two points to 84 and builder confidence in the West was unchanged with an index reading of 92.

NAHB’s Three-month moving average of regional homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions reported for the Northeast rose six points to 86; builder confidence in the Midwest fell two points to 78 and builder confidence in housing market conditions rose one point to 83. Builder confidence in housing market conditions in the West was unchanged at an index reading of 90.

High Demand for Homes Persists as Materials Costs Limit Affordability

Shortages of available pre-owned homes continued to boost new home sales, but rising materials costs and supply chain issues presented ongoing challenges to builders. NAHB Chair Fowkes said, “The supply chain for residential construction is tight, particularly regarding the cost and availability of lumber, appliances, and other building materials.”

Affordability is a substantial obstacle for first-time and moderate-income home buyers Prices of pre-owned homes are rising at their fastest pace in 15 years as mortgage rates move higher. NAHB Chair Fowkes also said, “Though builders are seeking to keep prices affordable…policymakers must find ways to increase the supply of building materials as the economy runs hot in 2021.”

Homebuilders and potential home buyers can expect ongoing challenges in 2021. As home prices rise, fewer families can enter the housing markets; other potential buyers may decide to postpone buying homes until home price growth eases.

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Buying a Home While Relocating is a Smarter Choice

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on April 8th, 2021

Buying a Home While Relocating is a Smarter ChoiceThe idea of buying a home is challenging enough as the process requires a lengthy approval validation, paperwork, financing, and the actual move with logistics. However, when one really looks at what typically occurs with relocation, buying versus renting can start to make more sense over time.

Finances Have to be In Order

Buying a home more than once every ten years requires a good amount of discipline on one’s personal finances. Most of the initial decisions and approvals will depend heavily on keeping one’s debt versus income ratios in line and viable. That also means saving up a lot to have sufficient cash flow for fees and your down payment. It also means not letting credit cards get out of hand or taking on other significant debt unless necessary as both weigh against one’s ability to obtain new financing for the next home purchase.

Renting Versus Owning

Renting or leasing tends to be the go-to option during a relocation because it tends to be easier upfront, has fewer requirements to achieve, and involves less of a significant commitment financially. After all, what happens if there is another relocation just a year later? However, most relocations are fairly defined in time. Anything under a year would make sense for renting, but when one starts getting beyond a year, buying starts to become far more appealing.

First, all the dollars one pays in rent are a sunk cost. If one buys, some of that money goes into home equity. Second, many companies and organizations who relocate their people often have connections for quick purchasing and residential needs, leveraging corporate interests for their employees. This allows for the rotation of homes from one employee to the next and makes buying easier for longer-term stays.

Third, a purchase for a shorter-term stay doesn’t have to be a full-scale home. Smaller units that cost much less are easier to close and can work just as well for temporary living. Relocating buyers should really consider a wide range of housing options in a buy versus just a strict replacement of what they had before.

Finally, market costs in the target location have to be considered. Some markets are very affordable and might be cheaper than renting month to month but others are astronomical, and it simply doesn’t make sense to buy in these regions for a short-term stay.

The Bottom Line

Understand with renting everything paid is gone and won’t be recovered in any form at all. It’s a lost expense. That can be thousands of dollars after one year alone. Buying will have fees, but the money spent on the mortgage each month buys equity which can be recovered in a sale, plus a possible gain as well down the road. Buying doesn’t work in every situation where one is relocated, but it can be a viable option in affordable markets and when one is staying longer than a year.

As always, check with your local real estate professional for the best advice on your relocation and your personal financial situation.

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Approved With Conditions: What Does It Mean?

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on April 7th, 2021

Approved With Conditions: What Does It Mean?Applying for a home loan might not be the most exciting part of purchasing a home; however, many homeowners need to go through a lender to purchase a home. It is exciting to hear that the approval letter has gone through; however, it is also possible for someone to see that they have been approved with conditions. What does this mean?

What are some of the most common reasons why someone might have conditions?

It Could Just Be Standard Procedure

Sometimes, people see that they have conditions to meet as a simple part of the approval process. For example, someone might be missing standard paperwork. It is the job of the underwriter to make sure that the lender is not taking on too much risk. Usually, this simply means that the loan requires some additional paperwork to be made final. Applicants need to gather this paperwork as fast as possible so the loan continues through the process. If there is a seller waiting, it is critical to jump on this immediately to prevent the offer from falling through.

What Are The Most Common Conditions?

There are several conditions that people might have to meet in order to finalize the loan approval process. For example, some people may need to provide letters of explanation, documenting anything that could be related to questions in the file. In other situations, a large deposit could require a letter of explanation as well. That way, the lender knows that someone has not taken a cash advance or opened another line of credit to cover the down payment. In other situations, proof of employment could also be listed as a condition of approval. Lenders want to make sure that applicants are going to keep their job after they purchase the house. Finally, earnest money proof could also be required. This is simply a copy of the earnest money check itself. It is critical for applicants to provide this paperwork quickly in order to finalize process.

Try To Meet All Requested Conditions As Quickly As Possible

It can be frustrating to see that a loan has been approved with conditions. Fortunately, a lot of these conditions are relatively easy to meet. Homeowners that are requested to provide proof to finalize the application process should try to do this as quickly as possible.

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Why A Carpet Change Can Boosts Your Home Sales Price

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on April 2nd, 2021

Why A Carpet Change Can Boosts Your Home Sales PriceWhen selling a home, it is rare for folks to see in bold big letters, “new carpet just installed”. However, on a practical level, replacing the carpet in a home just before selling can go a long way to helping the deal close.

A Brutally-Beaten Leftover

In just about every used home, the carpet has taken a beating. Even if the home has only been owned for a few years, carpets have taken a tremendous amount of traffic, walked-in dirt, funky smells, and dust that build up over time. That not only changes the color of the existing carpet, it also impacts the air in the house as smells are permanently trapped in that same carpet. And, if the existing homeowner had or has pets, the issues can be ten times as strong.

A Sure Formula

By replacing the existing carpet with a new one that is a neutral color and just installed, it adds perceived value to the home and comes a lot closer to competing with new homes in the area. Everybody buying a home wants to have a sense of newness when entering the home. If it’s an existing home, replacing the carpet will be almost a given for the new homeowner before moving in. So, combining a new carpet with the sale saves the buyer the headache and becomes far more attractive right off the bat.

Removing Embarrassing Conversations

The worst situation to be in is having to explain stains and torn carpet or worn-out patches. Letting them stay practically begs a prospective buyer to argue for a lower price to even disengage. Of course, this issue doesn’t apply so much when it’s a seller’s market and homes are being bid on unseen with high demand. But that isn’t always the case. Rather than handing an argument to a buyer free, adding the carpet could reverse the situation and give you support for a higher sales price.

Case by Case

Your real estate agent will have the best idea of how much a new carpet will apply to your local market for home sales, so start with him or her first. If the current market is looking for lots of quality improvements in a home for sale, you can expect that a new carpet would be to your advantage. And you don’t need to break the bank doing so. Follow the example of builders; use a base level carpet at an affordable price. It will look new, do the job, and help sell your home without paying a premium and cutting into your sale profit.

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