HVAC is one of the most important component of your home. It pays to take care of it.

Heating and air-conditioning are frequently referred to as the “comfort systems.”  If one has gone out in the dead of winter or the heat of summer, lack of comfort becomes a primary concern.  Regular maintenance with a HVAC checklist is something that homeowners can do themselves to ensure that the units operate properly.

Periodically

  • Change your filter every 90 days; every 30 days if you have shedding pets.
  • Maintain at least two feet of clearance around outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps.
  • Don’t allow leaves, grass clippings, lint or other things to block circulation of coils.
  • Inspect insulation on refrigerant lines leading into house monthly and replace if missing or damaged.

Annually, in spring

  • Confirm that outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps are on level pads.
  • Pour bleach in the air conditioner’s condensation drain to clear mold and algae which can cause a clog.
  • Avoid closing more than 20% of a home’s registers to keep from overworking the system.
  • Replace the battery in the home’s carbon monoxide detector.

While using this list will provide some things that may impede the comfort system’s proper performance, it is recommended that you have your units serviced annually by a licensed contractor.  Furnaces should also be inspected for carbon monoxide leaks. Preventative maintenance may help avoid costly repairs.

Discount Buyer Companies

There are an increasing number of real estate companies, termed iBuyers, like Open Door, Offerpad, Zillow, Knock and others that market a service that has an appeal to homeowners.  The pitch for these quick cash offer companies will include some variation of “let us buy your home in days without the normal hassles of listing.”

This approach attempts to provide an alternative to selling a home in a normal manner at the expense of not realizing the full equity a homeowner is entitled. There is no fiduciary relationship requiring the broker to put a seller’s best interest above their own interest.  An iBuyer does not represent a seller and does not owe client-level services like loyalty, obedience disclosure among other things required by most state license laws.

The offer is based on an automated valuation model, many times, without a physical inspection of the home.  In some cases, a contract is written but there are provisions that allow iBuyers time to possibly “flip” the property to an investor or use an “out” in the contract to void the sale.

The reality is that a company cannot stay in business if they pay too much for the property.  The iBuyer becomes the Seller who now must be concerned with pricing the home properly to cover the normal selling expenses as well as repairs, improvements, and holding costs that will be incurred until the property sells.

There could be circumstances that make it necessary for a homeowner to sell their home at a discount.  The seller could be in a distressed situation needing immediate cash.  They might need a quick sale and don’t want to be bothered with repairs or marketing efforts.  Or possibly, they may have found their next home   and need to act quickly. The instant liquidity comes at a cost to the seller in lower proceeds from the sale.

To realize the maximum possible equity, a real estate professional in your area can advise you about the fair market value of your home, a reasonably expected sales price, the costs involved and how long it will take.  Before accepting a price to sell your home to a wholesaler, you owe it to yourself and your family to find out what you can expect if you take a conventional sales route.

LOVE IT OR HEAVE IT!!!

Periodically, you need to rid yourself of things that are taking up you time and space to make room for more of what you like and want.

There’s a frequently quoted suggestion that if you haven’t used something for two years, maybe it isn’t essential in your life.

If you have books you’ll never read again, give them to someone who will.  If you have a deviled egg plate that hasn’t been used since the year your Aunt Phoebe gave it to you, it’s out of there.  Periodically, go through every closet, drawer, cabinet, room and storage area to get rid of the things that are just taking up space in your home and your life.

Every item receives the decision to keep or get rid of.  Consider these questions as you judge each item:

  • When was the last time you used it?
  • Do you believe you’ll use it again?
  • Is there a sentimental reason to keep it?

You have four options for the things that you’re not going to keep.

  1. Give it to someone who needs it or will appreciate it
  2. Sell it in a garage sale or on Craig’s List.
  3. Donate it to a charity and receive a tax deduction
  4. Discard it to the trash.

Start with your closet.  If you haven’t worn something in five years, get rid of it.  Then, go through the things again and if you haven’t worn it in two years, ask yourself the real probability that you’ll wear it again.

Another way to do it is to move it from your active closet to another closet.  If a year goes by in the other closet, the next time you go through this exercise, those clothes are on their way out.

If the items taking up space are financial records and receipts, the solution may be to scan them and store them in the cloud.  There are plenty of sites that will offer you several gigabytes of free space and it may cost as little as $10 a month for 100 GB at Dropbox, to get the additional space you need.  It will certainly be cheaper than the mini-storage building.

Purchase and Upgrade the home with the same loan.

The FNMA HomeStyle conventional mortgage allows a buyer to purchase a home that needs renovations and include them in the financing.  This facilitates the purchase of the home and the renovations in one loan rather than getting a separate second mortgage or home equity line of credit.

The combination of these loans should save closing costs as well as interest rates which would typically be higher on a home improvement loan.

The borrower will need to have an itemized, written bid from a contractor covering the scope of the improvements.  Any type of renovation or repair is eligible if it is a permanent part of the property.  Improvements must be completed within 12 months from the date the mortgage loan is delivered.

15 and 30-year fixed rate and eligible adjustable rate loans are available.

Typical FNMA down payments are available starting as low as 3% for a one-unit principal residence to 25% for three and four-unit principal residence and one-unit investment properties.

Borrower must choose his or her own contractor to perform the renovation.

Lender must review the contractor hired by the borrower to determine if they are adequately qualified and experienced for the work being performed. The Contractor Profile Report (Form 1202) can be used to assist the lender in making this determination.

Borrowers must have a construction contract with their contractor. Fannie Mae has a model Construction Contract (Form 3734) that may be used to document the construction contract between the borrower and the contractor.

Plans and specifications must be prepared by a registered, licensed, or certified general contractor, renovation consultant, or architect. The plans and specifications should fully describe all work to be done and provide an indication of when various jobs or stages of completion will be scheduled (including both the start and job completion dates)

Up to 50% of the renovation funds may be advanced for the cost of materials after the closing of the loan.

This mortgage does have a provision for the borrower to do a portion of the work themselves if it doesn’t exceed 10% of the total project and it must pass inspection on completion just as the contractor’s work.

It is recommended that borrowers thoroughly research this program before they commit to a loan.  For detailed information, see FNMA HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage and Selling Guide Announcement SEL-2017-02.   It is important to work with a mortgage officer who is familiar with these loans who can guide you through the process.

15 or 30 Year Loan, Which is the Best?

Affordability, stability and flexibility are the three reasons homebuyers overwhelmingly choose a 30-year term.  The payments are lower, easier to qualify for the mortgage and they can always make additional principal contributions.

However, for those who can afford a higher payment and commit to the 15-year term, there are three additional reasons: lower mortgage interest rate, build equity faster and retire the debt sooner.

The 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is the loan of choice for first-time buyers who are more likely to use a minimum down payment and are concerned with affordable payments.  For a more experienced buyer who doesn’t mind and can qualify making larger payments, there are some advantages.

Consider a $200,000 mortgage at 30 year and 15-year terms with recent mortgage rates at 4.2% and 3.31% respectively.  The payment is $433.15 less on the 30-year term but the interest being charged is higher.  The total interest paid by the borrower if each of the loans was retired would be almost three times more for the 30-year term.

Let’s look at a $300,000 mortgage with 4.41% being quoted on the 30-year and 3.84% on the 15-year.  The property taxes and insurance would be the same on either loan.  The interest rate is a little over a half a percent lower on the 15-year loan, but it also has a $691.03 higher principal and interest payment due to the shorter term.

The principal contribution on the first payment of the 30-year loan is $401.56 and it is $1,235.09 on the 15-year loan.  The mortgage is being reduced by $833.53 more which exceeds the increased payment on the 15-year by $142.50.  Interestingly, over three times more is being paid toward the principal.

Some people might suggest getting a 30-year loan and then, making the payments as if they were on a 15-year loan.  That would certainly accelerate amortization and save interest.  The real challenge is the discipline to make the payments on a consistent basis if you don’t have to.  Many experts cite that one of the benefits of homeownership is a forced savings that occurs due to the amortization that is not necessarily done by renters.

Use this 30-year vs. 15-year financial app to compare mortgages in your price range.  A 15-year mortgage will be approximately half a percent cheaper in rate.  You can also check current rates at FreddieMac.com.

First Time Homebuyers

 

Fear of the unknown is common among all ages.  Kids, at night, imagine monsters in their closets or under their beds and adults are unsure of what the future might bring.

It may be natural for first-time buyers to be unsure of the process because they haven’t been through it before but even repeat buyers need to know changes that have taken place since the financial housing crisis.

The steps in the home buying process are very predictable and generally follow the same pattern every time.  It certainly makes the move stay on schedule when you know all the different things that must be done to get to the closing.

  • In the initial interview with your real estate professional, you share the things you want and need in a home, discuss available financing and learn how your agent can represent you in the transaction.
  • The pre-approval step is essential for anyone using a mortgage to purchase a home to assure that they’re looking at the right price of homes and so they’ll know what they can qualify for and what the interest will be.
  • Even with lower than normal inventory, it is difficult to stay up-to-date with the homes currently for sale and the new one just coming on the market.  Technology has simplified this process, but the buyer needs to implement them.
  • Showings can be accommodated online through virtual tours, drive-bys and finally, a personal tour through the home.  Your real estate professional can work with you to see all the homes in the market through REALTORS®, builders or for sale by owners.
  • When a home has been identified, an offer is written and negotiation over price, condition and terms takes place.
  • A contract is a fully negotiated, written agreement.
  • Escrow is opened to deposit the earnest money from the buyer as a sign they’re acting in good faith.  The title search is also started so that clear title can be conveyed from the seller to the buyer and that the lender will have a valid lien on the property.
  • 88% of home sales involve a mortgage.  The lender will require an appraisal to be sure that the home can serve as partial collateral for the loan.  If the buyer has been pre-approved, the verifications will be updated to be certain that they’re still valid.  The entire loan package when completed, is sent to underwriting for final approval.
  • When the contract is completed, at the same time the title search and mortgage approval are being worked on, the buyer will arrange for any inspections that were called for in the contract.
  • After all contingencies have been completed, the transaction goes to settlement where all the necessary papers are signed, and the balance of the buyer’s money is paid.  This is where title transfers from the seller to the buyer.
  • Possession occurs according to the sales contract.

One of the responsibilities of your real estate professional is to make sure that things are done in a timely manner so that the transaction will close according to the agreement on time and without unforeseen or unnecessary problems.

Even if you’re not ready to buy or start looking yet, you need to be assembling your team of professionals.  Let us know and we’ll send you our recommendations, so you can read about them on their websites.

If you have any questions, download this Buyers Guide and call us at (830) 708-7199; we’re happy to help.  Informed buyers lead to satisfied homeowners and that is better for everyone involved.

Myths or facts about Mortgages

Most parents don’t put a lot of credence in the statements “Everyone is doing it” and “No one does that anymore.”  They’ll dig a little deeper and get the facts of the situation.  Interestingly, when it comes to buying a home, similar common myths continue to prevail surrounding what it takes to buy a home.

One of the most common myths is that it takes 20% down payment to get into a home.  Certainly, an 80% mortgage might have the most favorable interest rate. It won’t require mortgage insurance and qualifying requirements might be a little less but there are alternatives.

“88% of all buyers financed their homes last year and consistent with previous years, younger buyers were more likely to finance their home purchase.  In 2018, the median down payment was 13% for all buyers, 7% for first-time buyers and 16% for repeat buyers.” Stated by the 2018 NAR Profile of Buyers and Sellers.

  • Qualified Veterans are eligible for zero down payment, 100% mortgage loans without mortgage insurance.
  • Conventional loans are available with as little as 3-5% down payments.
  • FHA mortgages have a 3.5% down payment.
  • USDA mortgages for rural housing have two major products: one does not require a down payment and the other has a 3% down payment.  Maps, based on population numbers, are available to determine if the area you’re interested in purchasing in is eligible for a USDA mortgage.

We’ve come to believe that facts can be instantly verified by searching on the Internet.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of things on the Internet that are questionable and certainly, that includes some information on mortgages.  Specifically, some loans are not available in certain areas and to a particular persons based on their income and credit history.

The best approach, when it comes to buying a home, is to get the facts from a knowledgeable and trusted loan professional before you begin the home search process.  Contact me at (830) 708-7199 for a recommendation.

A website may not provide relevant information for your individual situation.  Purchasing a home is a large investment and taking the time to find out the facts is worth the effort.

I want to be your Real Estate go to person.

Being a better homeowner is a full-time job.  It takes good information to make good decisions not only when you buy and sell but all the years you own a home.

Think of times when you need advice on financing, taxes, insurance, maintenance, finding reasonable and reliable contractors and lots of other things.  Imagine how nice it would be to have a real estate information line you could call whenever you have a question.

Our objective is to move from a one-time sale to customers for life; a select group of friends and past customers who consider us their lifelong real estate professional.  We believe that if we help you and your friends with all your real estate needs, we can earn the privilege to be your real estate professional.

Throughout the year, we’ll send reminders and suggestions by email and social media that enhance your homeowner experience.  When we find good articles to help you be a better homeowner, we’ll pass them along.  You’ll discover new ways to maintain your property, minimize expenses and manage debt and risk.

We want to be your “Go-To” person for everything to do with real estate.  We’re here for you and your friends…now and in the future.  Please let us know how we can help you.

Home Equity

Here’s the scenario: you have a project and need to borrow some money, but you want to do it in the most economic manner.  You’ve got a low rate on your existing first mortgage and don’t want to do a cash-out refinance and pay a higher rate.  Is a home equity loan an option?

Prior to 2018, homeowners could have up to $100,000 of home equity debt and deduct the interest on their personal tax return.  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated the home equity deduction unless the money is used for capital improvements.

Regardless of the deductibility, lenders will still loan money to owners who have equity in their home and good credit.  The most common reasons people borrow against their home equity are:

  • Consolidate debt with higher interest rates
  • Make improvements on their home
  • Refinance an existing home equity line of credit
  • Down payment for another home or rental investment
  • Creating reserves or available access for potential needs

One available loan is a fixed-rate home equity loan, commonly referred to as a second mortgage.  It is usually funded at one time, with amortized payments for terms that could range from five to fifteen years.

Another option is a home equity line of credit or HELOC, where a homeowner is approved for up to a certain amount at a floating-rate over a ten-year period.  The borrower can draw against the amount as needed and would pay interest every month and eventually, pay down the principal.

The amount of money that can be borrowed is determined by the equity.  Lenders generally will not exceed 80% of the value of the home.  If a home was worth $400,000, the 80% ceiling would be $320,000.  If the homeowner had an unpaid balance on their first loan of $240,000, an amount up to $80,000 would be possible.

The next variable is the borrowers’ credit score which will determine the rate of interest that will be charged.  The higher the score, the lower the rate the borrower will pay.  And the converse is true, the lower the score, the higher the rate.

Another common variable considered is the borrowers’ total debt to income ratio.  Ideally, the combination of regular monthly debt payments should not exceed 43% of their monthly gross income.

If you have good credit and an adequate amount of equity, your home could be the source of the funds you need.  There is a lot of competition among lenders and shopping around can make a difference.

Call us at (830) 708-7199 for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.  If you have questions about whether the interest on the loan will be deductible, talk to your tax professional.

Home Inventory

 

Generally speaking, when you need an inventory of your personal belongings, it is too late to make one.  Sure, you can reconstruct it but undoubtedly, you’ll forget things and that can cost you money when filing your insurance claim.

Most homeowner’s policies have a certain amount of coverage for personal items that can be 40-60% of the value of the home.

Homeowners who have a loss are usually asked by the insurance company for proof of purchase which can come in the form of a receipt or current inventory of their personal belongings.

The most organized people might find it difficult, if not impossible, to find receipts for the valuable things in their home.  Think about when you’re rummaging around a drawer or closet looking for something else and you discover something that you had totally forgotten that you had.

An inventory is like insurance for your insurance policy to be certain that you list everything possible if you need to make a claim.  Systematically, make a list of the items by going through the rooms, along with the drawers and closets.  In a clothes closet, you can list the number of shirts, pants, dresses and pairs of shoes but higher cost items should be listed separately.

Photographs and videos can be adequate proof that the items belonged to the insured.  A series of pictures of the different rooms, closets, cabinets and drawers can be very helpful.  When video is used, consider narrating as it is shot and be sure to go slow enough and close enough to see the things clearly.

For more suggestions and an easy to use, interactive form, download a Home Inventory, complete it, and save a copy off premise, either in a safety deposit box or digitally in the cloud if you have server-based storage available like Dropbox.