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What Property Buyers Should Know About Land Loans

September 9, 2018 - 12:03pm

(TNS)—If you’re thinking about buying land, you’ll be hard-pressed to persuade a mortgage lender to finance your purchase. Instead, you’ll likely need to apply for a land loan.

Land loans aren’t as common as mortgage loans, so your options may be limited. Also, because of different factors, you could end up with a shorter repayment period and higher down payment and interest rate than you’d find with a mortgage loan.

So, if you’re considering getting a land loan, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into and what options are available to reduce your costs.

What Are Land Loans?
Land loans are a type of credit you can use to buy a vacant lot to eventually build a home on or raw land that you don’t intend to develop.

Land loans tend to be riskier for lenders than mortgage loans, says Casey Fleming, a mortgage adviser with C2 Financial Corp. in San Jose, Calif. Because of that, you may not get as favorable terms as you might get with a mortgage loan.

“Owners of raw land are much more likely to stop making payments and walk away from the property in the event of a financial event in their lives,” Fleming says. “And land is much harder to sell (than a home).”

That’s primarily because the demand for land is smaller than the demand for new and existing homes. So, if a lender needs to foreclose on the land, there’s no guarantee it will get its money back in a timely manner, if at all.

As a result, some lenders require a substantial down payment and charge high interest rates on land loans. Also, some land loans have significantly shorter repayment terms than a typical 15- or 30-year term you might get with a mortgage loan.

5 Land Loans to Consider to Finance Your Land Purchase
There are five common types of land loans you can get to finance your land purchase, each with its own terms and features.

  1. Lender Land Loans
    Community banks and credit unions are more likely to offer land loans than large national banks. Your best bet is to find a lender with a presence near the land you want to buy. Local financial institutions know the area and can better assess the value of the land and its potential.

If you’re leaving the land undeveloped, interest costs will be very high, Fleming says. Plus, a lender could require a down payment as high as 50 percent.

Some lenders, however, may be willing to take a lower down payment and charge lower interest rates if you have plans to build on the land soon. So, shop around before you apply.

Also, local lenders are more likely to offer longer repayment terms, giving you more time to repay the debt.

  1. USDA Rural Housing Site Loans
    If you’re planning on building a primary residence in a rural area, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a couple of loans that can help.

Section 523 loans are designed for borrowers who plan to build their own home, while Section 524 loans allow you to hire a contractor to build the home for you. Both loans are designed for families with low to moderate income, and they have a repayment term of just two years. Interest rates, however, can be low. Section 523 loans, for instance, charge just 3 percent, while Section 524 loans charge the current market rate.

Depending on the situation, you may even qualify for a loan with no down payment.

  1. SBA 504 Loan
    If you’re a business owner planning to use the land for your business, you may qualify for a 504 loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). With a 504 loan, you, the SBA and a lender help contribute to the costs of the land purchase:
  • The SBA provides a loan for 40 percent of the purchase cost.
  • A lender provides a loan for 50 percent of the purchase cost.
  • You contribute 10 percent in the form of a down payment.

SBA loans come with a 10- or 20-year repayment period, and the interest rate will be based on current market rates. The terms of the loan you receive through the lender can vary, however, depending on which lender you choose.

  1. Home Equity Loan
    If you have an existing home with significant equity, it may be worth getting a home equity loan instead of trying to get a land loan. There’s no down payment on a home equity loan. What’s more, you can typically get a low interest rate—regardless of what you plan to do with the land—because your home secures the loan.

The downside is that if you default on the loan, you could lose your home. Also, since you’re not using the loan to buy, build or substantially improve the home used as collateral, you can’t deduct the interest you pay when you file your taxes.

Depending on the lender and the loan, your repayment term could be anywhere between five and 30 years.

  1. Seller Financing
    In some cases, the person or company selling the land may be willing to offer short-term financing. In many cases, the seller isn’t in the lending business and doesn’t have a broad portfolio of loans like a community bank or credit union.

As a result, you can typically expect high interest rates and a high down payment. Also, it’s unlikely you’ll get a long repayment term. So, consider this option if you can’t qualify for any other type of land loan.

How to Find the Right Land Loan for You
There’s no single best land loan out there for everyone, so it’s important to shop around to find the best one for your situation. Before you do anything, Fleming recommends developing a comprehensive plan for what you plan to do with the land. Doing this can help you determine what type of loan is best and how long you want the repayment term to be.

Keep in mind, though, that some lenders may have limits on how much they’re willing to finance. Others, Fleming says, may require a balloon payment, which is a large, one-time payment at the end of the loan term. “So, you may have to have a plan to pay it off before that payment comes due.”

As you consider your different options, make sure you choose one that fits within your budget and helps you achieve your ultimate goal with the land.

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

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Categories: Real Estate

Experts Weigh In: Here’s When You Should Reach Key Financial Milestones

August 22, 2018 - 3:11pm

(TNS)—Maybe you have an idea of when you’d like to buy your first home or retire from the workforce—but just how realistic are your expectations?

We recently asked Americans to tell us the ideal ages for accomplishing certain financial goals. Then, we ran their responses by 10 certified financial planners living in different parts of the country.

Americans’ expectations overall were fairly realistic—but some experts argue that when it comes to hitting key milestones in life, age is arbitrary. What’s more important is whether you’re financially ready to make certain decisions, says Jennifer Faherty, founder of Financial Wealth-Being.

Getting Your First Credit Card
The ideal age to open a first credit card is 22, Americans say, but according to many financial planners, the sooner you start building credit, the better.

“I think 22 is a little late,” says Dana Twight, a certified financial planner based in Seattle. “I think you want to help your kids or your independent kids and support them in opening a card when they’re young enough to benefit from a parental safety net, if that’s possible.”

Parents who want to teach their children how to use credit cards responsibly at a young age can help them sign up for a secured credit card. These types of cards require you to make a cash deposit that becomes your credit line. With time, you should have the opportunity to trade in your secured card for a traditional, unsecured credit card.

Another option is to make a teenage child an authorized user on a parent’s account—but any mistakes that are made can impact the parent’s credit score.

Lucas Casarez, founder of Level Up Financial Planning in Fort Collins, Colo., used to help clients open their first credit cards when he worked at a credit union. Many of the people he helped were 18 and 19 years old. He sees nothing wrong with someone that age having a credit card, as long as they have someone showing them the right way to use it.

Quentara Costa has a different opinion. She’s seen too many college kids with credit cards getting themselves into trouble. Waiting until you’re 22 to open a credit card is a safer bet, says Costa, a certified financial planner in North Andover, Mass.

Waiting to Buy Your First Home
While there may be benefits to getting a credit card at a younger age, postponing the purchase of your first home may be advantageous.

Americans, on average, say 28 is the ideal age to become a homeowner, but many experts recommend waiting until you’re in your early 30s to take the plunge.

Once you graduate from college, Helen Ngo thinks it’s best to wait at least 10 years before buying a home. That way, you have a better idea of where you stand financially and whether you can take on a mortgage.

“At 28, to me that’s still a very young age,” says Ngo, CEO and founder of a financial planning practice in Atlanta. “I think those who are able to buy a home at 28 are married at that age and they have dual income to be able to afford a house at age 28.”

Unless you’re in a stable financial position and you have access to a lot of cash, it’s probably best to avoid buying a home until you’ve paid off your student loans, says John Piershale, a wealth adviser in Crystal Lake, Ill.

Homeownership Is a Long-Term Commitment
Generally, buying a home at any age isn’t a good idea if you’re not planning to stay there for at least five years. That’s particularly the case if your goal is to build home equity, Ngo says.

“If you’re purchasing a home, how much time are you going to live in there in order to get the actual equity value out of it? Unless you buy a fixer-upper and you put more money into it, and then you’re able to sell it real quick and you might make $100,000 extra out of it…but most people aren’t doing that,” Ngo says.

Even if homes seem affordable where you live, think beyond the cost of the mortgage when deciding whether to become a homeowner. Factor in the cost of property taxes, home repairs and unexpected expenses. Think about the costs involved with selling the home, too, like paying closing costs.

You’ll also want to consider market conditions. Percy Bolton, founder of a financial planning company in Pasadena, Calif., says he wouldn’t buy a home right now because it’s a seller’s market.

“You don’t ever buy in a market like this. You wait,” Bolton says. “If I was advising a client right now, it’s cheaper to rent.”

Saving for Retirement
Americans say the ideal age to start saving for retirement is 22. According to the financial planners we polled, it’s best to start saving as early as possible. The average age the experts suggested was 21.

Costa says it’s important to start saving money at a young age, but starting to save for retirement as a teenager isn’t necessary.

“When you’re younger, you do need to save for things like a car and a down payment and college,” says Costa, founder of a company called Powwow. “I think there’s plenty of time to catch up. I’ve seen plenty of people turn the corner where they haven’t had much savings because they’ve had all these milestones and at 40 they’re finally able to get serious about retirement and they’re fine.”

Lauryn Williams, a four-time Olympian who founded her own financial planning company, says you can start saving as early as age 19 in a Roth IRA. The stereotype of the broke college student is misleading, she says. Even college kids have money that they could be saving.

“Once you get in college, that first year get settled, but then also get saving,” Williams says. “Automate that saving from the very beginning, create that habit and you’ll finish college with a little nest egg for yourself and a little nest egg for retirement.”

Another recent Bankrate survey found that millennials prefer cash over stocks, but when it comes to preparing for the future, having mostly cash investments will ultimately cost you.

“A far as long-term savings, that’s not a viable strategy to me,” says Donovan Brooks, a certified financial planner in Saint Joseph, Mo. “Based on probably the retirement lifestyle that they have in their mind, cash likely isn’t going to get them to where they need to be long-term, unless they have a large income and they’re putting away a ton of money and they envision a very minimal, inexpensive retirement lifestyle.”

The Ideal Age to Retire
Americans say the ideal retirement age is 61, but the financial planners we surveyed agreed that retiring at 61 wasn’t realistic for most people. What’s more, the way people think about retirement is changing.

“I think if you redefine what retirement means, you can retire at different stages in your life,” says Ngo, founder of Capital Benchmark Partners.

Ed Leach, a certified financial planner in Wayne, N.J., says he has clients who are executives and business owners. They sell their businesses and “semi-retire” by doing consulting work.

Other financial experts say their clients are retiring later by choice. Sixty percent of her clients would list 70 as their ideal retirement age, Williams says. If you love what you do, you don’t have to stop working.

Working until you’re 70 or 80 may be more possible today than in the past now that more people today have white-collar jobs, Leach says.

“As we become less of a manufacturing, production-type of country, and jobs transition into more of, ‘Hey, I can work from home and do computer coding,’ I can do that until I’m 80 years old if my mind allows me to do it.”

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

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Categories: Real Estate

Ask the Expert: How Can I Assist My Buyers in a Seller’s Market?

August 19, 2018 - 12:02pm

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

Q: When guiding clients through the real estate process, how can I ensure that they’re prepared to find success when in the midst of a seller’s market?

A: Pillar To Post Home Inspectors® enjoys a leading position in its category. As such, we have nearly 600 franchisees performing thousands of home inspections, and we gather a myriad of great tips from them. Here are some of their best tips for making sure your buyers are prepared—and positioned to be the most attractive bidder in a competitive seller’s market.

  • If your client isn’t going to be a cash buyer, make sure they get a pre-approval for a mortgage before looking for homes in their price range.
  • When putting together an offer, it helps if there are no contingencies involved, such as waiting for the client’s home to sell first. In the event that multiple offers are involved, it pays to be flexible in many areas, including—but not limited to—move-in date.
  • Work with your client to determine what they really need in a home versus what they really want. If inventory is tight, they may need to compromise.
  • Show your client that you’re committed to being in their corner and take the time to educate them in regard to everything they need to know as they make their way through the process.
  • Encourage your client to act quickly, as they’re bound to run into others who will not hesitate to make a move in a competitive market.
  • Be sure your client has all their documentation ready in case of a quick close. It’s also important to make sure they know exactly what they need to have in order, should they encounter a tight timeline.
  • Line your client up with the most reputable home inspector you can find so that they’re ready for the inspection. While there’s typically a period that ranges from 7-10 days to complete the inspection, be sure to remind your client that the tighter market may have sellers expecting an even quicker turnaround.
  • A home inspection is a prospective buyer’s most powerful negotiation tool, as well as the most valuable insurance one can ever get on a property, which is why the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) requires a special form entitled “For Your Protection: Get a Home Inspection” with every contract. More often than not, there won’t be much to see on the inspection report, but if your client happens to write an offer on a home with an issue that needs to be addressed, you may save both yourself—and your client—a lot of heartache with this simple report.

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

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Categories: Real Estate

What Is a Jumbo Mortgage and When Do You Need One?

July 19, 2018 - 2:55pm

(TNS)—Home prices have shot up in some areas of the U.S., to the point where buyers need jumbo loans to finance them. In mortgage-speak, jumbo refers to loans that exceed the limits set by the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that buy most home loans and package them for investors.

Jumbo mortgages, or jumbo loans, are those that exceed the dollar amount loan-servicing limits put in place by GSEs Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. This makes them non-conforming loans.

As of 2018, these limits are $453,100 in all states except for Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the limit is $679,650. The conforming limit is higher in counties with higher home prices, so be sure to check your area’s loan limits.

The maximum loan amount varies by lender. Borrowers can get fixed- or adjustable-rate jumbo mortgages with various term options. The mortgages can be used for primary homes, as well as for investment properties and vacation homes.

How to Qualify for a Jumbo Mortgage
Jumbo lenders usually have stricter underwriting guidelines. The main reason for this is that they’re not backed by Fannie or Freddie, so they’re riskier loans. On the flip side, lenders have more to gain since the dollar value is higher and they can offer additional services to these wealthier customers.

The three common hurdles borrowers must clear to get jumbo loan approval are larger income, higher credit scores and greater reserves, says Robert Cohan, president of Carlyle Financial in San Francisco.

“To consider a jumbo loan the FICO scores have to be higher. The average is around 740, although I have seen some as low as 660,” Cohan says.

Borrowers whose scores fall beneath the normal requirements usually have to offset it with a low debt-to-income ratio.

“If you’re high-leveraged and you have a low credit score, it’s going to be hard to get a jumbo loan,” Cohan says.

Borrowers should be prepared to show enough reserves, or assets, to cover between six and 12 months’ worth of mortgage payments. The down payment on jumbo loans is, on average, between 10 and 20 percent.

“Anything lower than a 10 percent down payment and you’re probably going to pay for it in higher rates,” Cohan says.

What Are the Benefits of a Jumbo Mortgage?
The main benefit for borrowers is that a jumbo mortgage allows them to go outside of Fannie and Freddie limitations. You can still get a competitive interest rate and finance the home of your choice without being restricted by the dollar limit on conforming mortgages.

The rates on jumbo mortgages fluctuate and may be higher or lower than the conforming mortgage rate. Recently, a 30-year jumbo rate was 4.62 percent, eight basis points lower than a conventional 30-year fixed rate of 4.71 percent.

Jumbo loans are a convenient way to finance property. Instead of getting two conforming loans to finance a home, the jumbo option eliminates that need. Some borrowers prefer to finance more of the home’s cost rather than tying up cash, making the jumbo mortgages a helpful financial tool.

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

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Categories: Real Estate

Partnering IRA Funds: An Alternative Way to Fund Your Real Estate Investment

July 18, 2018 - 2:48pm

Did you know you can partner with other funding sources to increase your investment potential? Self-directed IRAs are the only retirement arrangements that allow individual investors the freedom to pursue alternative investments, such as real estate. Investing in real estate with a self-directed IRA offers many benefits to those who are looking for creative ways to save for the future. Investors have complete control over their investment choices. Unlike other IRAs, you’re not limited to stock, bonds or mutual funds. Self-directed IRAs provide the opportunity to save money for the future on a tax-deferred or tax-free basis. In addition, an IRA is considered a separate entity that can conduct business with others. This is a common strategy used in real estate investments. The process is fairly simple, but be sure to adhere to IRA regulations to avoid engaging in any prohibited transactions.

How do I partner with others to purchase real estate using a self-directed IRA?

  1. Identify the partner you would like to invest with.
  2. Perform your due diligence and confirm that the investment fits your strategy.
  3. Combine your self-directed IRA fund with other funds to purchase the property.
  4. Your IRA will own a percentage of the property and must be stated on the title when the transaction is recorded.
  5. All income and expenses (on a proportionate basis) from the property flow in and out of your IRA and not your personal finances.
  6. If the property is sold, your IRA receives the portion of the proceeds proportionate to the percentage of ownership.

A self-directed IRA can partner with anyone at the time of initial purchase, but after the transaction is complete, the IRA cannot conduct any business with a disqualified person. Doing this could lead to significant tax penalties.

The following people are considered disqualified persons:

  • You
  • Your spouse
  • Your lineal ascendants and descendants, and their spouses
  • Any person providing plan-related services (custodians, advisors, fiduciaries, administrators)
  • Any entity (business, corporation, partnership) of which you own at least 50 percent, whether directly or indirectly

What are the ways in which I can take advantage of the partnering strategy to help me save for retirement?

  1. Partner With Another Investor
    Investors are on the lookout for new opportunities, and networking with like-minded individuals can be a great way to find an investment partner. Partnering with a fellow investor offers the potential to learn from each other, as well as disperse risk between two people.
  1. Partner With a Relative
    While you are not allowed to buy from/sell to relatives, as they are considered disqualified persons for these purposes, you do have the option of partnering with them to purchase a new investment. This can be a great way to save for retirement together with a loved one.
  1. Partner With Yourself
    It is possible to partner your self-directed IRA funds with your personal savings for the purchase of a new asset, such as a real estate property.
  1. Partner With Another Self-Directed IRA
    Partner your account funds with the funds in another IRA to maximize your purchasing power. Find another motivated retirement investor to explore your possibilities.
  1. Partner With a Group
    Sometimes partnering with one account, one investor or only yourself will not provide enough funding for the investment you are interested in. In this case, you can partner with a group! Partnering can be a great tool for retirement investing, but it is important that you understand how to utilize this strategy for success.

It’s Easy to Get Started
All you have to do to get started is open an account and fund it. There are three ways to fund your self-directed IRA: transfer or rollover an existing retirement account, such as an employer’s 401(k), into a self-directed IRA; or make regular, annual contributions to your account. Once your account has cash in it, you can start investing immediately! As you read in this article, you can partner with other investors until you have enough cash to invest in real estate on your own. Download our free report about partnering your self-directed IRA with real estate here to learn more.

Disclaimer: Before you invest in this business sector using your IRA, it is best to consult with your investment, legal and tax advisor. Entrust does not endorse or recommend any of these investments. Proper due diligence by you, the IRA holder, is recommended before entering into any transaction.

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Categories: Real Estate

A Closer Look at Online Home Value Estimates

July 18, 2018 - 2:44pm

The following information is provided by the Center for REALTOR® Development (CRD).

Consumers who are seriously in the home-buying and -selling market should be mindful of a variety of competing home price estimators. Solely relying on just one price estimate is likely to skew the views of what a particular property will actually transact for. When it comes to online home value estimates, however, the No. 1 caveat for consumers is that these estimates are not a substitute for formal appraisals, comparative market analyses and the in-depth expertise of real estate professionals. Nonetheless, it is important to know the different sources of automated valuation models (or AVMs) and home value estimates available online, so that you can help clients and potential clients understand these estimates in their proper context.

How are online home value estimates created? The prevalence of technology offers more access to a broad spectrum of information on the internet. In real estate, access to property details and values is easier due partly to low-cost immense computing power. AVMs generate a price for a property based on computer algorithms and calculations that take different sets of property data and look for patterns and relationships between property value and the input data. There are websites that will have a home value estimate available by just searching an address, while others may provide an estimate only upon request.

The most popular sources of home value estimates online are those that use AVMs. These estimates have varying levels of accuracies. The main sources of AVM estimates are:

Realtors Property Resource® (RPR®) – RPR® has two home value estimates: their AVM estimate and the Realtors Valuation Model® (RVM®) estimate. The difference between the two is that RVM uses the same data as the AVM plus Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data. Both AVM and RVM show the accuracy level of the estimate by giving estimate ranges and confidence scores. This resource is available for REALTORS® only and allows a significant amount of expert customization, making it a useful tool for members, especially when working with well-researched clients.

realtor.com® – Realtor.com uses tax assessment records, recent sale prices of comparable properties and other factors to estimate home values. This estimate is free and publicly available.

Redfin – Redfin is a web-based real estate brokerage that gives the Redfin estimate for the property, which is based on market, neighborhood and home-specific data, including MLS data on recently sold homes. Redfin cites that their estimates for properties currently on the market are more accurate than estimates for off-market properties. This estimate is free and publicly available.

HouseCanary – HouseCanary has two main services: valuations and forecasting. Their estimates use property-level data from public records and the MLS. Their accuracy will vary across markets depending on the availability of data. This estimate is available with subscription to their services.

Homes.com – Homes.com’s estimate mainly uses public records. They test and benchmark the accuracy of their estimates. This estimate is free and publicly available.

Zillow and Trulia – Zillow has the Zestimate, which is their home value estimate for properties and is computed using public and user-submitted data. Their estimates have different accuracy levels depending on the data of the property and location. This estimate is free and publicly available. The estimate from Trulia is likely to be very similar to Zillow’s Zestimate, since it is part of the same Zillow Group.

Eppraisal.com – Eppraisal.com uses property records, home sales data and local market data for their estimates. Their accuracy depends on the accuracy and completeness of public data. This estimate is free and publicly available.

There are also websites that provide home value estimates by request only, or estimates using user inputs, such as HomeValues.com, SmartAlto.com, ValuemyHouse.com and ZipRealty.com, among others. Some banking and financial institutions, such as Chase Bank, Bank of America, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fifth Third Bank and PennyMac, also provide estimates to accompany their other financial services.

Some real estate agents and brokerages also share their estimators through their websites. Again, it is important to know that these estimates have varying levels of accuracies. These sites may or may not use AVMs, but can be another source of property and home value data that anyone can access. Additionally, there are also data companies, such as ATTOM Data Solutions and CoreLogic, that market proprietary AVMs.

As technologies advance and more data becomes available, the number of sites that provide home value estimates may grow. With the knowledge of where to find home value estimates online, it is important to note that these home value estimates are not interchangeable with formal appraisals and comparative market analyses, and they cannot be used as a basis for a loan. Most of these sites, if not all, reiterate the importance of consulting the expertise of real estate professionals to receive an in-depth and in-person analysis of the property and the local market.

This article was adapted from a post on NAR’s Economists’ Outlook blog on July 3, 2018.

Karen Belita, data scientist, focuses her research on discovering insights using large publicly available datasets. Belita has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from George Mason University and a Certificate in Data Science from Georgetown University.

For more education about comps, valuation and pricing strategy, check out this month’s featured online certification course at the Center for REALTOR® Development, Pricing Strategies: Mastering the CMA, which is the educational requirement for NAR’s Pricing Strategy Advisor (PSA) certification, and is on sale this entire month of July at 25% off its regular price.

In addition, Episode 001: Pricing Strategies in the Market, of the Center for REALTOR® Development’s monthly podcast, discusses pricing and valuation and is available for free on most podcast channels. To listen or subscribe, visit www.crdpodcast.com.

For more information, please visit RISMedia’s online learning portal from NAR’s Center for REALTOR® Development (CRD) and the Learning Library. Here, real estate professionals can sign up for online professional development courses, industry designations, certifications, CE credits, Code of Ethics programs and more. NAR’s CRD also offers monthly specials and important education updates. New users will need to register for an account.

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Categories: Real Estate

Buyers: Challenged by Student Debt? Consider Down Payment Programs

July 8, 2018 - 12:02pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Real Estate

5 Tips to Help You Find a Starter Home

July 4, 2018 - 3:01pm

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

What’s a first-time buyer to do?

Here are five tips for finding a starter home:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A strategic phone call might help, too.

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

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

© 2018 Bankrate.com
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Categories: Real Estate

5 Tips for Buying a Foreclosed Home

June 28, 2018 - 3:01pm

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

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

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

There is little, if any, room for negotiation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2018 Bankrate.com
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Categories: Real Estate