Home Inspections: What to Expect

Home Inspections

Keeping Current Matters:  So you made an offer, it was accepted, and now your next task is to have the home inspected prior to closing. Oftentimes, agents make your offer contingent on a clean home inspection.

This contingency allows you to renegotiate the price you paid for the home, ask the sellers to cover repairs, or even, in some cases, walk away. Your agent can advise you on the best course of action once the report is filed.

How to Choose an Inspector

Your agent will most likely have a short list of inspectors that they have worked with in the past that they can recommend to you. HGTV recommends that you consider the following 5 areas when choosing the right home inspector for you:

  1. Qualifications – find out what’s included in your inspection and if the age or location of your home may warrant specific certifications or specialties.
  2. Sample Reports – ask for a sample inspection report so you can review how thoroughly they will be inspecting your dream home. The more detailed the report, the better in most cases.
  3. References – do your homework – ask for phone numbers and names of past clients who you can call to ask about their experiences.
  4. Memberships – Not all inspectors belong to a national or state association of home inspectors, and membership in one of these groups should not be the only way to evaluate your choice. Membership in one of these organizations often means that continued training and education are provided.
  5. Errors & Omission Insurance – Find out what the liability of the inspector or inspection company is once the inspection is over. The inspector is only human after all, and it is possible that they might miss something they should have seen.

Ask your inspector if it’s okay for you to tag along during the inspection, that way they can point out anything that should be addressed or fixed.

Don’t be surprised to see your inspector climbing on the roof or crawling around in the attic and on the floors. The job of the inspector is to protect your investment and find any issues with the home, including but not limited to: the roof, plumbing, electrical components, appliances, heating & air conditioning systems, ventilation, windows, the fireplace and chimney, the foundation, and so much more!

Bottom Line

They say ‘ignorance is bliss,’ but not when investing your hard-earned money into a home of your own. Work with a professional who you can trust to give you the most information possible about your new home so that you can make the most educated decision about your purchase.

via The KCM Crew

Neighborly Downtown St Petersburg

Vinoy Club Near Downtown St Petersburg

By Nick Stubbs, Tampa Bay Times:  If you like what big cities have to offer but value quiet, friendly and neighborly communities, then the downtown area of St. Petersburg may have it all.

The city, founded in 1888, is famous for surprising people with its art culture, abundance of historic homes, brick streets, hexagon- paved sidewalks, decorative iron street lamps, and shady oaks. Many of the neighborhoods are a short walk from downtown and are on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. They are easily identified by the word “historic” preceding their names. Their charm and character have wooed many.

A little farther from the downtown hub, but still in biking distance, are neighborhoods like Magnolia Heights and Snell Isle to the north, where many of the homes were built between the 1950s and 1970s. To the souththere’s Bartlett Park, Harbordale and Cromwell Heights, with a mix of mostly older homes. These outliers are nearly asaccessible to downtown, thanks to networks of sidewalks and biking trails. In all directions there are many small studios, larger apartments and condos for rent for those not ready to make the plunge into ownership.

All offer an eclectic city lifestyle without the drawbacks associated with big cities, said Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. It has all the amenities and cultural draws of a big city, but “it works because its scale is not intimidating.” “We are blessed,” he said, adding that St. Petersburg is the ‘largest little city on Earth.”

Steinocher lives in the historic Crescent Lake community just north of downtown. To the east is the Historic Old Northeast neighborhood, established in 1911; to the west is Euclid Place-St. Paul’s, a historic district nearly as old.

What’s great about these neighborhoods is that each has a local park or public green space, and everything downtown has to offer is within biking or walking distance. Steinocher said it’s the reason the area is drawing so many younger residents.

“It’s unlike anything you’ll find anywhere in Florida,” Steinocher said. “It’s a place where you can divorce your car; it’s pedestrian- safe and bike-friendly.”

Katie Shotts, chief operating officer of the Pinellas Realtor Organization, agrees. She bought a home in Shore Acres north of downtown. She can’t part with her car because she works in Clearwater, but gets to downtown St. Pete by the bike route through Snell Isle and merges onto Beach Drive heading south.

Shotts did a lot of research to whittle her dream community down to St. Pete. “I run, bike and swim and this area is extremely pedestrian friendly,” she said. “There’s always a lot of people out (walking or biking) and there is a lot of respect for pedestrians among drivers.”

But there is a lot more about living near downtown that helped close the deal, said Shotts. “It’s a strong community with people who really care about their neighborhoods—people who care about their quality of life,” she said. Socializing with fellow walkers and bikers brings people together, Shotts said, but in addition to all the people to see, there are places to go—plenty of them.

Steinocher notes that the city has six museums, hosts the largest Salvador Dali collection outside Europe and is home tothe Florida Orchestra and Mahaffey Theater. It also is home to the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team and the Tkmpa Bay Rowdies soccer team, and SunkenGardens. Artists are drawn to the “Burg” forits architecture, its “scene” and its scenery.Downtown buildings themselves are art canvases adorned with murals; there’s avibrant nightlife; and

the downtown region is overflowing with microbreweries, restaurants and shops. Some 1,000 events are held every year, drawing as many as 10 million visitors.

Many residents are former visitors who discovered the charm of the downtown area. Some of those areas include:

• Historic Roser Park is just south of downtown. Founded in 1911 by Charles Roser, inventor of the Fig Newton, upon entering the enclave one is transported to another world of rolling hills that emerge like magic from the surrounding flat topography.

• Old Southeast was officially established in the 1950s and has some 1,300 residents. It surrounds picturesque Lassing Park on Tampa Bay.

• Historic Kenwood is a 375acre neighborhood and an artists’ enclave with ornamental street lights and Craftsman bungalows dating from 1913. Many of them have been highlighted in the community’s annual Bungalow Fest.

• The Round Lake Historic District is six blocks west of Vinoy Park. With its 1,000 historic buildings, it was named a U.S. historical district in 2003.

Many other neighborhoods, newer and older, surround downtown. Buyers and renters can expect most single-family homes to date anywhere from around the turn of the century to the 1970s or ’80s. There are limited numbers of new homes and townhomes on the market at any given time, along with newer condos and apartments.

The bad news for buyers? Downtown-area residents are settled into their “forever homes” and availability can be a problem, said Brad Billings, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in St. Pete. “The biggest problem is there just isn’t enough inventory,” he said. “Downtown is exciting and vibrant; those already here don’t want to leave, but buyers keep coming.”

Buyers need to be preapproved, know what they want and be able to pounce when they find it, said Billings. Be prepared for potentially protracted house hunting, he warned. One of his clients is renting while searching for a home, even though it could mean having to pay a penalty for breaking a rental lease when the right home comes along. Another client waited two days to think about a deal and lost out.

The market will likely soften for sellers going forward, and there are a couple of new townhome developments in the works, Billings adds. There also are opportunities to buy older homes that can be approved for demolition to build a new house. He advises working with a Realtor to ensure access to the newest listings, and discourages snoozing.

“Move quickly” when you find what you like, he said. Right now, “the days of thinking about it overnight are over” when it comes to the “hot” downtown St. Petersburg market.

via Tampa Bay Times’ correspondent Nick Stubbs 

Real Estate 2018: What to Expect

Real Estate 2018: What to Expect

As we head into a new year, the most common question we receive is, “What’s the outlook for real estate in 2018?”

It’s not just potential buyers and sellers who are curious; homeowners also want reassurance their home’s value is going up. The good news is that a strong U.S. economy, coupled with low unemployment rates, is expected to drive continued real estate growth in 2018. However, changes on the horizon could significantly impact you if you plan to buy, sell or refinance this year.

HOME VALUES WILL CONTINUE TO RISE

Get ready for another strong year! U.S. home values and sales volume will continue to rise in 2018.

Experts agree that home prices will increase in 2018, but predict a slower rate of appreciation than 2017, which clocked in at nearly 7 percent nationwide. National Association of Realtors (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicts a growth rate this year of 5.5 percent,1 while Freddie Mac’s September Outlook Report forecasts a rate of 4.9 percent. Either way, all indicators point towards continued growth in 2018.2

What does it mean for you? If you’re a current homeowner, congratulations! Real estate proves once again to be a solid investment over the long term. And if you’re considering selling this year, there’s never been a better time. Contact us to request a free Comparative Market Analysis to find out how much you can expect your home to sell for under current market conditions.

If you’re in the market to buy this year, there’s good news for you, too. Although prices continue to rise, the rate of appreciation has slowed. Still, don’t wait any longer. Prices will continue to go up, so you’ll pay more six months from now than you would today. Call us to setup a free, no-obligation property search and get notified about listings that meet your criteria as soon as (or before) they hit the market.

NEW CONSTRUCTION WILL MAKE REAL ESTATE MORE ACCESSIBLE

Lack of inventory in the housing market has been a primary impediment to homeownership for many Americans. “Ten years ago, the problem in the housing market was lack of buyers,” says Yun. “Today, the problem is lack of sellers. Inventory levels are near historic lows.”3

Yun also notes, “The lack of inventory has pushed up home prices by 48 percent from the low point in 2011, while wage growth over the same period has been only 15 percent. Despite improving confidence [in 2017] from renters that now is a good time to buy a home, the inability for them to do so is causing them to miss out on the significant wealth gains that homeowners have benefitted from through rising home values.”1

The good news? Yun expects a 9.4 percentage point increase in single-family new home construction starts.4

Economists at Freddie Mac make a similar prediction. “Existing home sales are unlikely to increase much going forward. Limited inventory will remain a consistent problem … Growth in home sales will be primarily driven by new home sales, which should continue to grind higher with single-family construction.”2

Robert Dietz, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders, agrees. “The markets that are going to grow are ones where builders can add that entry level product.”5

What does it mean for you? If you’ve been frustrated by lack of inventory in the past, 2018 may bring new opportunities for you to find a budget-friendly home that suits your needs. Give us a call to discuss options for new construction in our area.

MILLENNIALS WILL MOVE TO THE SUBURBS

The new entry-level construction will come with a catch though … it will be located in the suburbs, where the availability of land and fewer zoning requirements make it more cost-effective to build. Economists predict that’s where millennials and first-time buyers will flock for the greater variety of homes at affordable prices.6

Rising home prices, a sluggish job market, and an increase in student loan debt made homeownership largely unattainable for many millennials in past years. However, there’s significant evidence that this trend is turning around. For the fourth year a row, the National Association of Realtors’ 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends survey found that millennials were the largest group of homebuyers.7

As millennials age, they are settling down and having families, which has prompted an increasing demand for larger but affordable homes. Thus, many are flocking to the suburbs, with 57 percent of millennial buyers opting for a suburban location.

What does it mean for you? If you’re a millennial who has been priced out of urban living, or is looking for more space for your growing family, a number of suburbs in our area have a lot to offer. We can point you towards the communities that will best meet your needs.

And if you’re a suburban homeowner with plans to sell, give us a call. We know how to market your home to millennials … and can help you sell quickly for top dollar by appealing to this growing market segment! 

BOOMERANG BUYERS WILL RETURN TO THE MARKET

“Boomerang buyers” comprise the nearly 10 million Americans who lost their homes to foreclosure or short sales during the housing recession of 2006 to 2014.

According to MyFico.com, a foreclosure remains on a credit report for seven years. It takes many boomerang buyers at least that long to raise their credit score and save up enough cash to qualify for a new mortgage.8

With this “seven-year window” in mind, RealtyTrac predicts that the largest wave of boomerang buyers – more than 1.3 million – will be eligible to re-enter the housing market in 2018.9

Markets likely to see the highest influx of boomerang buyers are those that had a high percentage of foreclosures AND have remained affordable. The majority of boomerang buyers are middle-class Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. Expect to see even more competition for entry-level homes in those markets.

What does it mean for you? If you’re a boomerang buyer, we understand your unique circumstances. We can help you navigate the real estate process and write competitive offers that will play to your strengths. Contact us to discuss your options.

NEW TAX LEGISLATION WILL IMPACT HOMEOWNER DEDUCTIONS

The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” passed at the end of 2017 nearly doubles the standard deduction, so far fewer Americans are expected to itemize this year. For those who do, however, it could mean less homeowner deductions are available than in the past.

Previously, homeowners could deduct interest paid on the first $1 million of mortgage debt, but that threshold has been lowered to $750,000 for new mortgages. (Existing mortgages will not be impacted.)

Additionally, taxpayers will no longer be able to fully deduct state and local property taxes plus income or sales taxes. The new legislation restricts this deduction to $10,000. It also eliminates the deduction for moving expenses (except for members of the Armed Forces) and interest on home equity loans unless the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.10

It’s yet to be seen how the tax bill will impact the real estate market overall. While some economists predict a price reduction in certain markets, Republican lawmakers project the bill will increase take-home pay and stimulate the economy overall. According to Realtor.com Senior Economist Joseph Kirchner, “Some house hunters—particularly wealthy buyers—will see an increase in after-tax income, making an already tough housing market even more competitive. This increased demand could drive prices up even higher than they are already.”11

What does it mean for you? If you’re an existing homeowner, be sure to consult a tax professional if you’re concerned about the impact the new tax bill could have on you.

And if you’re planning to buy or sell this year, we can help you determine how the tax bill could affect demand in your current or target neighborhood and price range.

INTEREST RATES WILL RISE

No one knows exactly what will happen with mortgage rates this year, but the Mortgage Bankers Association anticipates the Federal Reserve will raise rates three times in 2018, with Freddie Mac’s 30-year fixed rate mortgage reaching 4.8 percent by the end of Q4, up from around 4 percent at the end of 2017.12

Kiplinger.com Economist David Payne also predicts interests rates will rise this year, with short-term rates outpacing long-term rates as the Fed aims to curb inflation in a tightening job market. He predicts the bank prime rate that home equity loans are based on will increase from 4.25 percent to 5 percent by the end of 2018. 13

What does it mean for you? If you’re in the market to buy, act now. Rising interest rates will decrease your purchasing power, so act quickly before interest rates go up. Give us a call today to get your home search started.

And if you’re a current homeowner who is considering refinancing or a home equity loan, don’t wait. We can help you estimate your property’s fair market value so you’ll be prepared before contacting a lender.

 

2018 ACTION PLAN

If you plan to BUY this year:

1.     Get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you plan to finance part of your home purchase, getting pre-approved for a mortgage will give you a jump-start on the paperwork and provide an advantage over other buyers in a competitive market. The added bonus: you will find out how much you can afford to borrow and budget accordingly.

2.     Create your wish list. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? How far are you willing to commute to work? What’s most important to you in a home? We can set up a customized search that meets your criteria to help you find the perfect home for you.

3.     Come to our office. The buying process can be tricky. We’d love to guide you through it. We can help you find a home that fits your needs and budget, all at no cost to you. Give us a call to schedule an appointment today!

If you plan to SELL this year:

1.     Call us for a FREE Comparative Market Analysis. A CMA not only gives you the current market value of your home, it’ll also show how your home compares to others in the area. This will help us determine which repairs and upgrades may be required to get top dollar for your property … and it will help us price your home correctly once you’re ready to list.

2.     Prep your home for the market. Most buyers want a home they can move into right away, without having to make extensive repairs and upgrades. We can help you determine which ones are worth the time and expense to deliver maximum results.

3.     Start decluttering. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by packing up personal items and things you don’t use regularly and storing them in an attic or storage locker. This will make your home appear larger, make it easier to stage … and get you one step closer to moving when the time comes!

WE’RE HERE TO HELP

While national real estate numbers and predictions can provide a “big-picture” outlook for the year, real estate is local. And as local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market, and the local issues that are likely to drive home values in your particular neighborhood. If you have specific questions, or would like more information about where we see real estate headed in our area, please give us a call! We’d love to discuss how issues here at home are likely to impact your desire to buy or a sell a home this year.

Sources:

  1. Inman News –
    https://www.inman.com/2017/11/03/what-to-expect-from-the-2018-housing-market/
  2. Freddie Mac September Outlook Report –
    http://www.freddiemac.com/research/outlook/20170921_looking_ahead_to_2018.html
  3. Marketplace.org –
    https://www.marketplace.org/2017/07/05/economy/tight-inventory-slows-housing-market-down-0
  4. National Association of Realtors Press Release –
    https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/existing-home-sales-to-grow-37-percent-in-2018-but-inventory-shortages-and-tax-reform-effects-loom-300549447.html
  5. Fox Business News –
    http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2017/11/27/entry-level-buyers-drive-solid-new-home-sales.html
  6. Zillow Research –
    https://www.zillow.com/research/2018-predictions-17217/
  7. National Association of Realtors’ Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report –
    https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/home-buyer-and-seller-generational-trends
  8. com –
    https://www.myfico.com/crediteducation/questions/foreclosure-fico-score-affect.aspx
  9. RealtyTrac –
    http://www.realtytrac.com/news/foreclosure-trends/boomerang-buyers/
  10. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.nar.realtor/taxes/tax-reform/the-tax-cuts-and-jobs-act-what-it-means-for-homeowners-and-real-estate-professionals
  11. Realtor.com –
    https://www.realtor.com/news/real-estate-news/tax-cuts-survey/
  12. Mortgage Bankers Association Economic Forecast –
    https://www.mba.org/news-research-and-resources/research-and-economics/forecasts-and-commentary
  13. Kiplinger Economic Forecast –
    https://www.kiplinger.com/article/business/T019-C000-S010-interest-rate-forecast.html#iOf4mkSFvvTmi2wr.99

3 Reasons Home Inspections Kill Deals

It may be tempting to blame a faulty property or an overzealous home inspector when a transaction falls apart after inspection. But there’s more to this common situation than meets the eye.

Home InspectionsVia Realtor Magazine: If I were a real estate agent and I had worked weeks, months, or even years with a client, I would dread home inspection time. Experienced real estate professionals know there are hundreds of ways a deal can fall apart, from credit and financing problems to appraisals to just plain cold feet. But certainly, one of the more common deal killers is the home inspection. But it doesn’t have to be. To help prevent home inspection time from becoming contract termination time, here are a few thoughts from the point of view of an experienced home inspector.

Houses and Home Inspectors Do Not Kill Deals

From my experience, there are three home inspection situations that lead to a canceled transaction. You might be surprised to hear two things are not on this list: the house and the home inspector. Having spent more than a dozen years performing more than 5,000 structural home inspections, I have found that some real estate agents do think that the home or the home inspector is to blame, but let’s step back for a minute and look at what really happens in these situations.

When the findings uncovered in a home inspection significantly alter the buyer’s expectations about what they thought they were buying, this causes problems. You might hear something like, “Gee, I thought I was buying X, but now that we have looked closely, I see the house is more Y” from your client.

From this point of view, the cancellation has everything to do with the client’s expectations coming into the inspection. It might be tempting to wish the home inspector had been less forthcoming about the condition of the house, but that implies that the client should experience some level of deceit or poor communication from the home inspector. The better solution to this common problem is buyers having more realistic expectations before they sign the contract. This is why I wrote my book, The Confident House Hunter—to teach people skills that will help them look at houses and evaluate risk so they are more prepared to make an offer on the right house. Here are the top three reasons buyers cancel a deal after the inspection.

1. Buyers Are Unprepared

There are no classes in college or high school to teach people how houses work or where risk lies in a residential building. Even professional real estate agents have little or no training to help them understand how to look at houses and identify issues; most of these skills are learned on the job through the school of hard knocks. This problem has been exacerbated in recent years by a new generation of home buyers, many of whom who did not grow up working on their houses with their parents.

2. Buyers Have Higher Expectations

Adding another layer of complexity to modern homebuying is how much our assumptions about houses have changed. Most buyers now expect a level of luxury and comfort in a house that consumers could scarcely have imagined as recently as the 1960s. The result is that people are now buying more expensive and more complex homes, yet have less understanding of how they are built or how they work. And in markets enduring tight inventory conditions, your clients have less and less time for decision-making, as multiple offers and spontaneous action become the norm and increase the chances for buyer remorse.

3. Technology Has Dramatically Improved Reporting

Further complicating matters is the reality that home inspections have changed as well. It’s a relatively new industry, and over the past 15 years, I’ve watched computer-generated reports, digital cameras, and other new tools lead to rapid innovation. Today, upon hiring a quality home inspector, a buyer can expect to receive a 40- to 60-page report with dozens or even hundreds of high-resolution color photos, detailed diagrams, and links to additional information. The reality is, your clients have access to more information and receive more data about the home they are purchasing than ever before. However, they often lack the tools to help them digest all of the facts.

A New Motto for Buyers

The number one reason deals fall apart after a home inspection is that the findings significantly change what the home buyer thought they were buying. Many make the mistake blaming the home inspector or the house. That’s why I created a new motto for home buyers: “All houses have problems, but every house is a great house for the right person at the right price.”

I’ve inspected houses that I felt were teardowns, meaning the property would be costlier to fix than it was worth. Upon giving this information to one homebuilder client, he said, “Great! I was hoping to tear it down anyway.” I have inspected other houses that I thought should be torn down, but buyers wanted to renovate them anyway because they were in love with the cabin-like feel of the place and they had the resources to make their dream come true, even if it was not the most cost-effective approach. If an inspection on a teardown can go well, then really any inspection should be able to be successful, right? Looking at property from this point of view, we start to see that “bad houses” are extremely rare, even though unrealistic expectations on the part of buyers or sellers can make them seem like they are common.

I am always surprised when people read my inspection reports and comment something like, “Oh, you hated that house.” I do not hate houses. I am simply doing my best to document the condition of the property so the right person can buy it at what they believe is the right price. I love houses; it is unrealistic expectations that I don’t like.

Are Home Inspectors Sometimes Responsible for Killing Deals?

One of the hardest things for me to hear is the charge that home inspectors are killing deals. I do feel that the industry could do more to train inspectors on both technical and communications skills. In fact, communication training is particularly lacking in home inspection schools and continuing education courses. But I also feel that the real estate industry could do more to prepare agents to teach buyers a better way to look at the “bones” of houses. I am not aware of any requirements for new real estate agents to learn anything about houses to get a real estate license in my home state of Washington, and maybe that should change.

The truth is all houses pose some level of risk, and there are skills everyone can learn to help evaluate that risk and make appropriate offers on the right homes. A more transparent approach could help us all show up to the inspection armed with realistic expectations. This could save everyone a lot of time and heartache, resulting in happier clients, better referrals, and a lot less talk about home inspections killing deals. 

Authored by home inspector Dylan Chalk,  author of “The Confident House Hunter” (Cedar Fort Press), a book to teach home buyers how to look at and understand houses. He is the owner of Seattle-based Orca Inspection Services LLC, and in 2017 he accepted the position of vice president of the American Society of Home Inspectors’ western Washington chapter.

Welcome Home: 10 Tips to Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Hometown Haven

Hometown Haven

“Communities work better (students perform better, crime rates are lower, kids are safer, people live longer) when neighbors know one another better. Knowing your neighbor on a first-name basis…is a surprisingly effective first step.”
Robert Putnam, Harvard Public Policy Professor and author of Bowling Alone

While advancements in technology have made it possible for us to connect with people from around the world, numerous studies show that it has led to a decline in face-to-face interactions.1

Places where we used to strike up casual conversations—such as a doctor’s office waiting room, bus stop or grocery line—are now filled with people looking at their smart phones, barely acknowledging those around them.

Even many families dining together or relaxing in the evenings can be caught spending more time focused on screens than each other. Is it any surprise that we’ve experienced a steady decline in community involvement?

In his book Bowling Alone, Harvard Public Policy Professor Robert Putnam “draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often.”2

How is this shift impacting our overall well being? A study by Oregon Health & Science University researchers found that having limited face-to-face social contact nearly doubles an individual’s risk of depression.3

CONNECTING WITH YOUR COMMUNITY

If you’re considering a move to a new city or neighborhood, you may be worried about replacing the comfort and support of family and friends you’ll leave behind. Or perhaps you have completed a move but would like to meet more people, build friendships and strengthen your support system.

In this blog post, we’ll explore 10 ways you can utilize technology to foster in-person connections with your neighbors, make friends and get engaged in your local community.

  1. JOIN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD’S SOCIAL NETWORK

A growing number of neighborhoods are utilizing private social networks like U.S.-based Nextdoor and Canadian-based GoNeighbour. These platforms are designed specifically to connect neighbors and include an address verification process.

Residents post about a variety of topics, including neighborhood news, recommendations for local businesses, lost pets, etc. These platforms are a great way to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in your neighborhood, but don’t just use them to connect virtually. Extend an invitation to your neighbors to attend an in-person event, such as a park playdate for families, an informal soccer game or a potluck block party.

  1. ATTEND A PLACE OF WORSHIP

If you have a religious affiliation, joining a local place of worship is great way to meet people and get involved in your community. Aside from attending services, most religious institutions also host extracurricular activities to foster fellowship amongst the congregation.

Whether you are looking to join a church, synagogue, mosque or temple, there are a variety of online resources available to help you find a match in your area, including:

To make the most of your affiliation, look for opportunities to meet in smaller group settings. It’s a great way to form interpersonal relationships with people who share your beliefs and values.

  1. FIND AN INTEREST GROUP

Whatever your favorite hobby or pastime, you’re guaranteed to meet people who share your interests when you join an interest group!

The website Meetup.com has over 32 million members in 288,000 groups in 182 countries. You can search for a group in your area that appeals to you … from book clubs to running groups to professional networking, they have it all.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can start your own group for a monthly fee. The site makes it easy to ask (or require) members to pitch in to cover the cost. It also enables you to promote a corporate sponsor on your page, so you may be able to find a local business to cover the cost.

Most people who join Meetup are there for the same reason you are … to meet people who share their interests. So it’s a great place to make like-minded friends in your community.

  1. LEND A HAND

Volunteering your time and talents is another good way to get engaged in your community and meet those who share a similar mission.

Most nonprofit organizations rely heavily on volunteers. Find one with a cause you’re passionate about by visiting VolunteerMatch.

You can search by cause, location and keywords, and filter your results to include opportunities that are suitable for kids, seniors or groups. Another option is to search for volunteer positions that require specialized skills. Perhaps you’re musical or maybe you’re good with computers. There could be an organization in your area that needs your talents or skills.

Lotsa Helping Hands is another site focused on connecting volunteers with those in need. Members can request help or search for opportunities to assist others in their area. Most of the volunteer opportunities involve aiding neighbors who are ill or elderly by delivering meals, offering rides to appointments or just stopping by for a visit. This can be a great way to make a direct impact on your neighbors who need a helping hand!

  1. TAKE A CLASS

Taking a class is a wonderful way to develop a skill while meeting people who share your interests and passion for learning.

Whether you want to brush up on your Spanish, finish your novel, or learn how to tango, most community colleges offer inexpensive, non-credit classes on a variety of topics.

And if you are pursuing a degree, forego taking your courses online. Opt for the traditional route instead. There’s no substitute for being part of a live community of your peers.

To search for a community college in your area, visit the American Association of Community Colleges or SchoolsInCanada.com.

  1. ATTEND AN EVENT

Attending a live event is another way to engage with members of your community. From festivals to fundraisers to retreats, Eventbrite is a great place to search for events in your area. You can filter your search by category, event type, date and price to find something that fits your interests, schedule and budget.

Be strategic about the type of event you choose. For example, while attending a large festival might be a fun way to feel engaged with your community, it might also be harder to meet people. A retreat or a networking event may offer more opportunities for one-on-one interaction.

  1. SHARE YOUR STUFF

Everyone’s talking about the rise of the “sharing economy” with the popularity of Uber and Airbnb. But there’s also been a rise in “sharing communities,” which facilitate the free exchange of goods among neighbors to reduce consumption and keep usable items out of landfills.

Nonprofit groups like The Freecycle Network are made up of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. Members can post “offers” of free items or “wanted” items they need.

The company Peerby has a similar goal of reducing consumption by encouraging neighbors to lend and borrow items they don’t often use. For example, you can offer to share your blender, rake or ladder. Maybe you need to borrow a drill, cake pan or moving trolley. Peerby enables you to request items to borrow from your neighbors and encourages you to register items you are willing to lend.

The Little Free Library is another innovative way neighbors are participating in a sharing community. Stewards build or purchase a box to house the library and fill it with books they are willing to give away. The library is usually placed in their front yard or in a public outdoor space. Visitors are encouraged to take a book they’d like to read, and in exchange leave a book for someone else to enjoy. With over 60,000 libraries in 80 countries, the organization estimates millions of books are exchanged annually among neighbors.

  1. SUPPORT A COMMUNITY GARDEN

 Community gardens have become increasingly popular in both urban and rural areas across North America. Not only do they beautify a neighborhood, they also foster community, encourage self-reliance, reduce family food budgets, conserve resources, and provide opportunities for recreation and exercise.

The mission of the American Community Gardening Association is to build community by increasing and enhancing community gardening and greening across the United States and Canada. The organization’s website enables you to search for existing community gardens in your area. If there isn’t one nearby, you might considering starting one. The site provides helpful tips and resources for organizing a garden in your neighborhood.

  1. CARPOOL WITH A COWORKER

In the spirit of joining a “sharing community,” carpooling offers many similar benefits. It presents an opportunity to form a bond with coworkers and/or neighbors during your daily commute. Additionally, you can save money on gas, reduce wear-and-tear on your vehicle, lower carbon emissions, and in many cities reduce your commute time by taking advantage of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) travel lanes.

The success of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft has spurred a new wave of carpooling websites and apps that aim to revolutionize the way we commute by making it easier and more convenient to carpool. While many of these are still in their infancy stages, they are expanding into new markets and improving functionality at a rapid pace.

Kangaride Local, Scoop and Waze Carpool are just a few examples, and more are popping up every day. They are currently available in limited markets throughout the United States and Canada, but are becoming prevalent in more cities as residents opt-in. Check to see if any of these are available in your local area.

Alternatively, you can try posting on your neighborhood’s social network to see if one or more of your neighbors are commuting to a nearby location. Take turns driving and start benefiting from all that carpooling has to offer!

  1. PARTICIPATE IN WORLD NEIGHBORS DAY

The organizers behind World Neighbors Day promote it as “an invitation to share a moment with your neighbors, to get to know each other better and develop a real sense of community.”

In Canada it’s held on the second Saturday in June, and in the United States it’s held on the third Sunday in September. Participants are encouraged to organize gatherings with their neighbors to build relationships that “form the fabric of our communities.”

You can participate by attending or organizing a gathering in your neighborhood. Examples include: a block party, outdoor movie screening, book exchange, charity bake sale, volleyball game, etc. Anything that brings neighbors together in a fun and relaxed setting is a good choice!

Gatherings can be promoted through your neighborhood’s social media network, blog or listserv, or you can go the old-fashioned route and hand out flyers door-to-door. Whatever you do, be sure to make your gathering inclusive and welcoming to all.

BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR

 As with anything in life, you will get out what you put in. It can take time to build lasting and meaningful friendships with your neighbors, but the effort you make is likely to pay off tenfold.

The tried-and-true way to make friends, expand your circle, grow your support system and get engaged in your community? Be a good neighbor yourself.

What are the best ways you’ve found to meet and engage with your neighbors? Share your success stories or challenges in the comments below!

Sources:

  1. Lengacher, L. (2015) Mobile Technology: Its Effect on Face-to-Face Communication and Interpersonal Interaction. Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences –  
    http://www.kon.org/urc/v14/lengacher.html
  2. Putnam, R. (2000) Bowling Alone. New York: Simon & Schuster –
    http://bowlingalone.com/
  3. Bergland, C. (2015 October 5) Face-to-Face Social Contact Reduces Risk of Depression. Psychology Today
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201510/face-face-social-contact-reduces-risk-depression

5 Ways to Get a Larger Mortgage

 Learn how to get a larger mortgage and buy a house you thought you couldn’t afford.
 
GoBankingRates.com | The process to buy a home is exciting but takes time, research and money. And larger mortgages or mortgages with better rates usually require a high credit score and high income, too. If your credit history or income isn’t up to what most lenders deem acceptable for a home loan, however, it’s time to explore your options.
 

Rebuilding your credit is one way to improve your chances of qualifying for a large mortgage loan, but it can take some time to accomplish. There are several easier alternatives to help you figure out how to buy a house with a large mortgage when you don’t meet certain mortgage requirements.

happy couple meeting real estate
DragonImages / iStock.com

How to Get a Larger Mortgage Even If Your Income Is Low

Before you even start the preapproval for mortgage process, use a mortgage qualification calculator to figure out how much you can afford. Many lenders advise not to spend more than 28 percent of your income on your mortgage.

Here are five ways you can get a large mortgage with low income:

1. Increase Your Qualifying Income

When underwriters look at income, they take a pretty conservative stance. For example, income from your part-time job might not be considered unless you have a history of working more than one job. And if you deduct unreimbursed business expenses on a Schedule 2106, your lender will probably also deduct them from your qualifying income.

However, sometimes the rules work in your favor. Per the Equal Opportunity Act Amendments of 1976, you can use income that you receive from public assistance programs to qualify for a loan if the income will likely continue for three years or more.

Here are other sources of income that you might not have considered:

  • Alimony or child support
  • Automobile allowance
  • Boarder income
  • Capital gains income
  • Disability income — long term
  • Employment offers or contracts
  • Employment-related assets as qualifying income
  • Foreign income
  • Foster-care income
  • Interest and dividends income
  • Mortgage credit certificates
  • Mortgage differential payments income
  • Non-occupant borrower income
  • Notes receivable income
  • Public assistance income
  • Retirement, government annuity and pension income
  • Royalty payment income
  • Social Security income
  • Temporary leave income
  • Tip income
  • Trust income
  • Unemployment benefits income
  • VA benefits income
woman signing paperwork filling document
BernardaSv / iStock.com

2. Choose a Different Mortgage

Some mortgages have more forgiving guidelines than others when it comes to income. VA loans, for example, calculate income two ways: the standard debt-to-income method and the “residual income” method, which is much more generous.

For people with lower incomes, a worthwhile option is Freddie Mac’s Home Possible program. To qualify, you must have a yearly income that’s either equivalent to or less than the area median income for the census tract in which the property is located. The only exception to this rule is if the property is in a designated underserved or high-cost area.

The Home Possible rules state that if the property is in a high-cost area, your annual income can exceed the AMI within certain limits. If the property is in an underserved area, the AMI requirements don’t apply at all.

An FHA loan might be another option to buy your dream home if you have a history of paying your bills on time, even if you experienced a period of financial hardship. FHA loan qualifications state that you might still be able to qualify for a loan, regardless of isolated cases of late or slow payments.

happy young couple making deal with realtor
shironosov / iStock.com

3. Bring in a Co-Borrower

If you’re still wondering how to get approved for a higher mortgage loan, you can bring in a co-borrower — that extra income and equity will likely enable you to qualify for your home. Co-borrowers can be occupants or non-occupants. An occupying co-borrower lives in the home with you. A non-occupant co-borrower is more like a co-signer. This person doesn’t live in the house but is responsible for the payments.

Lenders are more likely to put restrictions on non-occupant co-borrower loans, such as requiring a higher down payment. Government loans typically come with fewer restrictions.

For manually underwritten loans, the income from a non-occupant co-borrower might be considered as acceptable qualifying income. This income can offset certain weaknesses that might be in the occupant borrower’s loan application, such as limited financial reserves or limited credit history.

woman working on computer and writing down her thoughts
DragonImages / iStock.com

4. Get a Subprime Mortgage

The term “subprime mortgage” has a negative connotation because of the housing bubble and financial crisis it’s often associated with, but subprime mortgages can actually be a gateway to home ownership for some people.

A subprime mortgage is a home loan with higher interest rates than their prime mortgage counterparts. The higher interest rates are in place to offset the risk of loan default by subprime mortgage borrowers who are risky customers because of poor credit. These mortgages can be either fixed or adjustable.

The benefit of a subprime mortgage is that people with poor credit don’t have to wait as long to own a home. They can repair their credit by paying their mortgage each month, rather than waiting years to repair their credit and then buy a home.

The obvious disadvantage, besides higher rates, is that closing costs and fees associated with home loans will be usually higher for subprime borrowers. Although credit scorerequirements aren’t as stringent for subprime loans, borrowers must still show proof that they can afford the mortgage payments each month.

 
credit report on a digital tablet with paperwork.
Courtney Keating / iStock.com

5. Strengthen Your Application

It might surprise you to know that income is actually one of the least important underwriting criteria. If you don’t believe it, try calling a few lenders. Tell them you make $1 million a year, but have a 500 FICO score and only 5 percent to put down. You will not get far.

However, people with low-to-moderate incomes get mortgages all the time, especially when they have excellent credit, a decent down payment and money in the bank. Some of the first few steps to buying a house are to establish great credit and substantial savings. It helps to have an emergency fund — enough in the bank to cover two to six months’ worth of bills — and a credit score of 720 or better.

Other compensating factors include low debt, additional savings, a secure job with excellent prospects and documenting extra “unofficial” income. Even if you know you can’t “officially” count some kinds of income, it’s smart to document its existence anyway.

Thank you to Barri Segal for writing this article.

Top 12 Apps for Homeowners and Renters  

Homeowner Apps

More than 77 percent of people own a smartphone.1 The average person checks their smartphone 46 times a day, with people under the age of 24 checking it an average of 74 times a day.1 We check it while we’re waiting in line and during our leisure time, whether we’re scrolling through social media, reading emails or getting up-to-date on the latest news.

Smartphones are not only a useful tool for communication. With the following apps, you can get organized (whether you plan to buy or sell), save money, learn about the homes in your neighborhood and get inspired for your next renovation project. If you’re like 81 percent of people, you have your smartphone with you during most of your waking hours; let it help you stay organized and make your life easier.3

Homeowner Apps: Get Renovation Inspiration

These apps not only offer ideas for your next remodel or home décor project, some of them even give you a preview of what your home may look like once it’s finished. 

1.) Houzz (Free)

The Houzz app is the number one app for home design and it’s no wonder; the app gives you access to all the inspiration, blogs and design ideas from the Houzz site on your phone or tablet. The app features View in My Room 3D, which allows you to view products in your home before you buy. Just take a photo of the space and a 3D version of the product will appear. Browse products, save photos of designs you’d like to view later and connect with local professionals in your area. Whether you’re gathering ideas for your next renovation and décor project or you’re just browsing, the Houzz app will satisfy all your design needs.  (Android, iOS)

2.) iHandy Carpenter ($1.99)

Make sure the photos, shelves, mirrors and other artwork you hang are even and aligned with this helpful app. It’s an all-in-one tool kit that features a plumb bob, surface level, bubble level bar, ruler and protractor. No need to purchase these tools separately; just hold your smartphone up to the wall and the app will take care of the rest.  (iOS, Android)

3.) Color911 ($3.99)

If you’re thinking of changing the color scheme of your home or want to find the right shades for lamp shades, rugs or throw pillows to match your vintage sofa, the Color911 app provides pre-selected color palettes to match any color scheme. Take a photo of the room or the furniture and the app will create a custom palette full of complementary colors. Write notes about your palette and organize it all into folders to share with family, friends or your design professional.  (iOS)

Bonus Apps for Homeowners:

AroundMe (Free)

Hungry and looking for a local hotspot? Meeting friends at a coffee shop nearby? Or just need to find the closest ATM? AroundMe allows you to search for the nearest restaurants, banks, gas stations, book a hotel or find a movie schedule close to where you live. Open the app and start learning more about your neighborhood. (iOS, Android, Windows) 

BrightNest (Free)

From keeping things clean to making them colorful, Brightnest, developed by Angie’s List, is loaded with suggestions on how to make your home a better place to live. With categories of customized tips (money-saving, cleaning, eco-friendly, healthy, cooking, and creative) there are plenty of great ways to pull inspiration from the app. BrightNest will help you tackle important home tasks with easy-to-follow instructions, a personal schedule and helpful reminders. (iOS, Android, Web)

Apps For Sellers: List & Sell Your Home Quickly

Are you a homeowner who is thinking of selling? If you’re preparing to sell, you know there are a lot of tasks to complete before putting your home on the market. These apps help you manage your to-dos so you can list and sell your home more efficiently with fewer distractions.

4.) Homesnap (Free)

Using the Homesnap app, you can snap a photo of any home, nationwide, to learn more about it. When you’re ready to sell, snap a few of the homes in your neighborhood to find out their valuation. This app isn’t perfect, which is why you should always consult with a local real estate agent. However, it can give you a general idea of the value of your home compared to others in the neighborhood. (iOS and Android devices)

5.) Docusign (Free)

Use the DocuSign app to complete approvals and agreements in hours—not days—from anywhere and on any device. Quickly and securely access and sign any documents. The benefit to using the app (over your desktop computer) is you will receive push notifications when a document is waiting for your signature and you can view and organize all your docs on-the-go. Using the easily downloadable app, receive and sign documents for free. You can receive and sign documents for free, but will need a paid account to send documents; pricing starts at $10 a month. (iOS, Android, Windows, Web).

6.) Wunderlist (Free)

Designed for use on the Web and mobile devices, Wunderlist is a well-designed to-do list and task management program that makes it easy to create a list and add tasks, due dates and reminders. Organize your ideas or focus into separate lists or create tasks within one list. You can also email them with whomever you collaborate, such as a spouse or your real estate agent. (Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Web)

Bonus App for Sellers:

Real Estate Dictionary (Free)

Not sure what all those industry specific terms mean? Search thousands of words and phrases from real estate, mortgage, and financial dictionaries for clear, in-depth definitions. This is a handy app for anyone who’s buying or selling and wants to learn more about the process. (iOS, Android)

Apps For Renters: Get Ready to Buy

Not ready to buy a home just yet? These apps will help you get into the perfect rental while you save money, build a budget and get on track for homeownership.

7.) Mint (Free)

Do you know where your money goes each month? Manage your bills, budget and credit score all in one place. Mint is a free app that helps you view your complete financial picture and track your spending. We recommend this app to anyone, but it’s especially useful for renters who need to crack down on their spending in order to save for a down payment. Use Mint to look for areas you can cut spending in order to save a little extra each month. (iOS, Android)

8.) Acorns ($1 a month to start)

Acorns is modernizing the practice of saving loose change with their automated savings tool. The app rounds up your purchases on linked credit or debit cards, then sweeps the change into a computer-managed investment portfolio. Acorns is free for four years for college students and everyone else pays $1 a month until their account balance hits $5,000, then 0.25% of their account balance per year. This is a useful tool for those who have a hard time saving. (iOS, Android)

9.) Neighborhoods & Apartments

Built for the on-the-go apartment hunter, this app from Walk Score takes the hassle out of finding your next home or apartment and helps you live near the people and places you love. They collect listings from top rental listing sites and we like them because they share how walkable each address is, determined by access to public transit, things to do, bike trails, shorter commutes, etc. (iOS, Android) 

Bonus Apps for Renters:

Wally (Free)

Wally is a personal finance app that helps you compare your income to expenses, so you can understand where your money goes each month, and set and achieve goals. Wally lets you keep track of the details as you spend money: where, when, what, why, & how much. We love how simple it is to set a personalized savings target and scan receipts. (iOS, Android)

Credit Karma (Free)
If you’re preparing to buy, boosting your credit score is likely a goal you’ve set. Credit Karma is a free app that allows you to safely monitor your score and receive updates on ways you can improve it over time. They provide financial calculators and educational articles to help you better understand what credit is all about. Check as often as you want, and it doesn’t hurt your score. (iOS, Android, Web)

Apps for Buyers: Find the Perfect Home

When you’re ready to buy, there are several apps that can help you stay on top of the process. Whether you’re browsing online at different neighborhoods and homes and can’t seem to remember where all your saved data and information went or you want to save an important task or a neighborhood or listing clipped from the Web, these apps help you keep it all straight.

10.) Dwellr (Free)

Dwellr is run by the U.S Census Bureau and provides demographic information about the neighborhoods you are considering moving to. You get a variety of education/school, real estate, transportation, and population statistics to give you an idea of what it would be like living there. If you want to get the feel of a potential neighborhood, then Dwellr may just be the app to help you find the best home. (iOS, Android)

11.) Evernote (Free for the Basic version, $34.99 per year for Plus and $69.99 per year for Premium)

Collect ideas, notes and images in one place to access later on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Categorize your notes so you can find them quickly and easily and share them with others in a group notebook. Add the Web Clipper feature to your browser and clip and save articles, blogs and images from the Web. Whether you’re collecting research on a business idea or you’re looking for inspiration for a home renovation, Evernote can help you keep it all together. (Web, iOS, Android)

12.) Mortgage Calculator (Free)

There are a lot of free mortgage calculators available for download that will help you quickly determine what your monthly payment will be while you’re house hunting. We recommend picking your favorite and using it to help you shop in your price range. These numbers should be used as a guide, work with your agent and mortgage professional to learn exactly what type of loan you’ll qualify for. (Web, iOS, Android)

Bonus App for Buyers:

Google Maps (Free)

Google Maps is a must-have for anyone who’s house hunting. When you’re ready to visit a property or check out a neighborhood, you can use Google Maps to give you turn by turn directions to the house. You can use their satellite view to get a good idea how far important things like schools, parks, shopping, bus stops, and restaurants are to a home you are interested in and check out the other houses on the street. (Web, Android, iOS,)

Ready to move beyond the app?

If you’re thinking of buying or selling your home, or know someone who is, keep us in mind because we’re happy to help!

Source: 1. Pew Research Center, January 12, 2017 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/

  1. Deloitte, 2016 global mobile consumer survey: US edition https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/global-mobile-consumer-survey-us-edition.html
  2. Gallup, July 9, 2015 http://www.gallup.com/poll/184046/smartphone-owners-check-phone-least-hourly.aspx

Real Home Value Calculator: Find Your Home Value

Home Value

Understanding a home’s true market value is about more than pictures, software assessments and price-per-square-foot. Whether you’re a current homeowner thinking of selling or are house-hunting, it’s crucial you understand what factors affect home valuation. By partnering with a local market expert, sellers will avoid pricing their house out of the market (the kiss of death in real estate) and buyers will ensure they get a good deal on their next home.

So, how do you accurately calculate a home’s value? After all, the value a home is assigned by its town or county and the one it’s given when it’s listed are often dramatically different from one another. Which one is accurate and what does it all mean? Read on to learn more.

Assessed Value vs Market Value: What’s the difference?

When it comes to home value, you’ll often hear two terms, assessed value and market value.

A home’s assessed value is often the lower number of the two, and is the value given by your municipality or county. Investopedia defines assessed value as “the dollar value assigned to a property to measure applicable taxes.”1 Although property tax laws vary, assessors commonly arrive at this number by taking into account the following:

  • What comparable/similar homes are selling for in your area.
  • The value of recent improvements.
  • Income from renting out a room or space on the property.
  • How much it would cost to rebuild on the property.

A home’s market value, or Fair Market Value, is the price a buyer is willing to pay or a seller is willing to accept for a property. A skilled real estate professional will arrive at the value using a variety of metrics, including:

  • External characteristics, such as lot size, home style, the condition of the home and curb appeal.
  • Internal characteristics, such as the number of rooms and their size, the type and condition of the heating or HVAC system, the quality and condition of construction, the flow of the home, etc.
  • The sales price of comparable homes that have sold in your area.
  • Supply and demand; that is, how many buyers and sellers are in the area.
  • Location; that is, the quality and desirability of your neighborhood and other community amenities.

Why are these values often so different? An assessor usually estimates your property’s market value during a reassessment or if you make a physical change or improvement to it.2 As a result, a property may not be reassessed for many years. While your home’s market value may fluctuate with the market, your home’s assessed value is more likely to remain steady.3

What Determines a Home’s Value?

You’ve likely heard the motto of real estate: “Location, location, location.” This means a home’s value relies on its location. While the home and structures on the property will likely depreciate over time, the land beneath it tends to appreciate. Why? Land is in limited supply and a growing population puts increased demand on the housing supply. As a result, values increase.4

Other factors that affect your home’s value include the function and appearance of the property, how well the home and other structures are maintained and whether the home is a lifestyle property, such as a ranch style with mountain views or beach bungalow.

Ultimately, the best indication of a home’s value is the overall supply and demand of the market. This is why we recommend you partner with a real estate professional who takes all of these factors—the assessed value, local market conditions, home features and has physically walked through and experienced your home— into consideration to determine the most accurate market value.

How to determine if a property is comparable to yours.

Both assessed value and market value are partially determined by the sales price of similar, or comparable, homes in the area. To determine if a home is comparable to yours, look for the following characteristics:

  • Lot size
  • Square footage
  • Home style or similar architecture
  • Age
  • Location

While you may not find a home with the same exact characteristics as yours, you’ll likely find a few that are close. To account for any disparity, adjust the sales prices of the comparable properties. Look at the differences between your property and the one in question and determine if the differences increased or decreased the sales price and by how much. For example, if your home has two bathrooms and a similar home only has three, estimate how much that extra bathroom increased the sale price of the similar home. The adjusted sale price is the estimation of what the property would sell for if the properties were exactly the same.2

Where can you find comparable sales?

Fortunately, you can find comparable home sales in a variety of places.2

  • Your local assessor’s office is able to provide a list of recent sales you can browse and compare or a sales history of a particular house, home style or neighborhood.
  • Your municipality. Many cities keep local sales information in their offices or post it online.
  • Online databases, such as a real estate database
  • Your local newspapers may offer some real estate information in the form of quarterly sales reports in the business or real estate sections of the newspaper.
  • Our office. We regularly do Comparable Market Analysis of homes in our local area.

How to calculate your home’s value.

By answering a few questions about your home, property and the local market, you can begin to estimate your property’s value. We’ve also included a worksheet for you below…

Home Value Questions:

When was your home last assessed?

What was its CMA assessment value?

What is your area’s average sales price?

What is your area’s average price/square foot?

Structure:

  • Is the architecture and exterior structure of the home consistent, superior or inferior to other homes in the area?
  • Does the era or genre (Modern, Victorian, Ranch, Cottage, etc.) add a premium based on current design trends?
  • How does the floor plan and room size proportions of the home compare to other homes on the market?

Interior Structure:

  • How does the kitchen compare to others on the market?
    • Updated or outdated
    • Floor plan
    • Appliance packages
  • How does the Master Suite compare to others on the market?
    • Size
    • First/second floor
    • Updated or outdated
    • Access to Master Bath
  • How does the Master Bath compare to others on the market?
    • Updated or outdated
    • Shower and bath
    • Flooring

Outside Areas:

  • Are there views, outdoor living areas or recreational areas?
    • Pools
    • Ponds
    • Patios
  • How does the landscaping and hard-scaping compare to the market? (e.g., built elements such as walkways, patios, decks, etc.)

Overall Condition of Home

  • What is the level of repair needed to compete with other homes?
  • Does the home need to be staged? How does it show?
  • What curb appeal projects are necessary to be consistent with others on the market?

 Home Assessment Worksheet

Home Value Calculator

If you want to accurately assess a home’s value, it’s crucial to know about the market activity of our local area. We can help! Give us a call to get the scoop on the local market.

Sources: 1. Investopedia http://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/assessedvalue.asp

  1. New York State Department of Taxation and Finance https://www.tax.ny.gov/pubs_and_bulls/orpts/mv_estimates.htm
  2. Realtor.com http://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/assessed-value-vs-market-value-difference/
  3. Investopedia, http://www.investopedia.com/articles/mortgages-real-estate/08/housing-appreciation.asp?lgl=myfinance-layout

What’s Your Home Buying Power?

If you’re in the market for a new home or investment property, one of the first questions you’ll probably ask is, “What can we afford?” Many buyers become so caught up in how much they can afford that they don’t realize their total buying power—that is, the total amount of purchasing potential they actually have.

Buying Power Defined

Your buying power is comprised of the total amount of money you have available each month for a mortgage payment. This means the money you have each month after fixed bills and expenses. Any money you’ve saved for a down payment, the proceeds from the sale of your current home, if applicable, and the amount of money you’re qualified to borrow all impact your buying power as well. When you take all of this into account, you may find you are able to purchase a larger home or a home in a more desirable neighborhood, or you might realize you should be looking for homes in a lower price range.

What About Housing Affordability?

Housing affordability is a metric used by real estate experts to assess whether or not the average family earning an average wage could qualify for a mortgage on the average home.1 Although this figure is essential to creating a comprehensive overview of the real estate market, it’s not a factor you should consider in your home search. What may be considered affordable to you based on your income and other factors may be different than what’s affordable to the average buyer.

Why Buying Power Matters

A common misunderstanding is that a home’s list price determines whether or not you can purchase it. Although it’s important to look at the price tag, it’s essential to consider what your monthly payment will be if you own the home. After all, the purchase price doesn’t include the housing-related expenses, such as annual property taxes, homeowner insurance, associated monthly fees and any maintenance or repairs. Figuring out the payment will prevent you from overestimating or underestimating your buying power. After all, you’ll live with your monthly payment, not the sales price.

Once you have clarity on your buying power, you’ll be able to buy the home you want, instead of settling for a home because you feel it’s the only one you can afford. It will also prevent you from becoming “house poor,” a common term for someone who’s put all their money toward the down payment, leaving them nothing left over for fees outside of their monthly house payment. Both scenarios can negatively impact the lifestyle you want to live. Understanding your buying power can help you get the home you want without sacrificing the lifestyle you desire.

If you haven’t sold your current home yet, a Comparative Market Assessment (CMA) will give you a general idea of how much you may get for your home based on what other homes have sold for in your area. Contact our team for a FREE CMA!

Calculating Your Buying Power

You might be wondering, “How do I know what my buying power is?” Buying power is calculated by adding the money you’ve saved for a down payment and/or the money you made from selling your home (minus fees and mortgage payoff) to all of your sources of income and investments that could be used to make your monthly payment. Make sure to include your monthly pay, commissions or tips, dividends from investments, payments from rental properties or other monthly income you receive as well as the loan amount you’re willing to finance and qualify for.

Most lenders advised buyers to spend no more than 35 to 45 percent of their pretax income on housing, meaning all your income and sources of revenue prior to paying taxes. Make sure you factor in not only your mortgage payment, but also property tax and home insurance to the cost of housing.2 However, other financial experts advise spending no more than a very conservative 25 percent of your after-tax income on your housing expenses.2 Whether you plan to spend the average, play it conservative or split the difference is up to you.

Traditionally, mortgage lenders have targeted the ideal housing expense amount to be a ratio of 28 percent or less.3

However, these figures bring up an important point: you don’t have to spend all of your savings and available monthly income on a mortgage payment. It’s important to set money aside for regular home maintenance, unexpected repairs and monthly fees, such as a condominium or homeowners association fee. While the above ratios are commonly accepted, a lender will look at your total financial picture when they decide how much they’re willing to lend. It may be tempting to take out a large loan in order to purchase the home of your dreams, but keep in mind the less money you have to borrow, the stronger your buying power may be.

4 Things That Impact Buying Power

  1. Credit score. A great score can help you lock into a lower interest rate.
  2. Debt-to-income ratio. The lower the ratio, the better risk you may be to lenders as long as you have an established credit history.
  3. Assets, including the documentation of where the money for the purchase is coming from and the mix of your investments.
  4. Down payment. The more you’re able to put down, the less you will have to borrow. With a down payment of 20 percent or more, you won’t have to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) and you may also be able to negotiate a lower interest rate.

How to Save for a Down Payment

If you’re thinking of buying a home one day, one of the first steps to take is to start saving for a down payment. Here are some tips to make saving easier.

First-time buyers:

  1. Set a savings goal. One way to figure out how much to save is to use the average sales price for homes that are similar to what you want and figure out your target down payment percentage. For example, if homes are selling for $200,000 in your area and you want to put 20 percent down, you’ll have to save $40,000. Set a goal to save that amount within a specific time frame; just keep in mind the longer you save, the more the average selling price will change. Although the majority of buyers saved for six months or less, 29 percent of all buyers (and 31 percent of first-time buyers) saved for more than two years for a down payment.4
  2. Cut back on expenses. Review your monthly expenses and look for ways to save. Twenty-nine percent of buyers cut spending on non-essentials items and 22 percent cut spending on entertainment while they were saving for a home.4 Think about items you can live without or cut back on temporarily while you’re saving.
  3. Look for ways to boost your income. Get a side job or sell items online or at a garage sale to increase your income in a short amount of time. Be sure to save any windfalls you get, including your annual income tax refund or work bonuses.
  4. Check out home-buying programs. Your state, county or local government may offer special programs, such as grants, for first-time buyers to use.
  5. Ask your family. Thirteen percent of all buyers, and 24 percent of first-time buyers, were given money from family or friends to use toward the down payment of their home.4

Repeat buyers:

More than 52 percent of repeat buyers used the proceeds from the sale of their primary residence toward the down payment on their next home.4 Similarly, 76 percent tapped into their savings accounts.4 If you’re thinking of buying another home, here are more ways to save more money, in addition to the tips listed above:

  1. Rent a room. If you have an income flat (or mother-in-law unit) attached to your home, rent it out and channel the income into a high-interest savings account.
  2. Make your money work for you. If you don’t plan to buy for at least five years, invest it and let the compound interest work for you. Discuss this option with your financial planner or broker to see if this is ideal for you and your goals.
  3. Tap into your 401(k). If you have a 401(k) plan, you may be allowed to borrow a portion of it, the lessor of up to $50,000 or half of its value, for your down payment. Remember, it’s a loan so you’ll have to pay it back. If you leave or lose your job before you’ve repaid the loan, you’ll have between 60 to 90 days to repay the balance or face stiff taxes and penalties.

If you want to buy an investment property

Whether you’re buying a second home or a rental property, here are a couple tips to save for a down payment.

  1. Tap into your equity. If you’ve paid off or paid down your mortgage on your primary home, you may be able to tap into your equity to purchase another property. Contact your lender to learn more about a HELOC or home equity loan.
  2. Get a partner. Find a friend or relative who’s willing to purchase property with you. Typically, you’ll split the costs and profits equally. Just make sure to work with an attorney to create a partnership agreement to fit your situation.

Work Out Your Buying Potential

What’s your buying potential? Fill out this worksheet to get an estimate.

Housing Expense Ratio:

1. Monthly income before taxes

$

2. Multiply line 1 by 0.28

X 0.28

3. Monthly mortgage payment (PITI) should not exceed this amount

= $

4. Monthly income before taxes

$

5. Multiply line 4 by 0.36

X 0.36

6. Total monthly payments on all debts (including mortgage) should not exceed this amount

= $

7. Subtract the total monthly payments on all outstanding debts (e.g., car loans, credit cards, student loans, etc.)

– $

8. The monthly mortgage payment should not exceed this amount

$

9. Look at line 3 and line 8. The lower figure is an estimate of the maximum mortgage payment in consideration of your income and debts.

$

10. Multiply line 9 by 0.80

X 0.80

11. This equals portion of your mortgage payment that is the principal and interest only

$

12. Use the table below to see the size of the loan you may be able to obtain with this monthly mortgage payment.

 

Source: Iowa State University Extension, What is your house-buying power?

Monthly Payment on 30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage

Loan amount

3%

3.5%

4%

4.5%

5%

5.5%

6%

$50,000

211

225

239

253

268

284

300

$75,000

316

337

358

380

402

426

450

$100,000

421

449

477

506

536

568

600

$150,000

632

674

716

759

804

852

900

$200,000

842

898

954

1012

1072

1136

1200

$250,000

1052

1123

1193

1265

1340

1420

1500

$300,000

1263

1347

1431

1518

1608

1704

1800

Didn’t see your desired loan amount? Use the table below to estimate your monthly payment (principal and interest) per $1,000 of your loan. To figure out an estimated loan payment, multiply the factor by the number of thousands in the amount of your mortgage.

For example, if you intend to borrow $400,000, with a loan term of 30 years at 4% interest, multiply 4.77x 400 = $1908 per month.

Interest Rate

15-Year Term

30-Year Term

 

Monthly Payment

Monthly Payment

3%

6.90

4.21

3.5%

7.14

4.49

4%

7.39

4.77

4.5%

7.64

5.06

5%

7.90

5.36

5.5%

8.18

5.68

6%

8.44

6.00

Source: HSH.com http://www.hsh.com/mopaytable-print.html)

Don’t forget to factor in property taxes and insurance. These are often added to your principal and interest of your mortgage payment—the money used to pay down the balance of your loan and the charge for borrowing the money. Since these numbers vary, contact your county assessor’s office for the current property tax rate and your insurer for a home insurance quote. Once you have these figures, divide each by 12 to estimate how much they’ll add to the above payment amounts.

Do you want a clearer picture of your buying power? Would you like to see what kind of homes you can get with your buying power? Please give us a call! 727-895-6200 

Sources: 1. National Association of REALTORS https://www.nar.realtor/topics/housing-affordability-index/methodology

  1. Moneyunder30.com https://www.moneyunder30.com/percentage-income-mortgage-payments
  2. Credit.com https://www.credit.com/loans/mortgage-questions/how-to-determine-your-monthly-housing-budget/
  3. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers
  4. Iowa State University Extension, What is your house-buying power? https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/pm1460-pdf
  5. HSH.com http://www.hsh.com/mopaytable-print.html