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Digital Showings

Ask any real estate professional if they have sold a house without the buyer having physically seen it and they’ll most likely tell you they have. While it may have been an unconventional sale, it is more prevalent today than it was twenty or even ten years ago. iStock_000060465576_Small.jpg

The digital world of the Internet has changed the process of buying a home. It is evolving as people have become more comfortable with the reliability of the information available.

Getting in a car and driving around all day looking at homes that may or may not fit your needs or wants is not productive for buyers or the agents.

The quality and the quantity of pictures has dramatically improved in the last twenty years. Buyers and agents alike can view a property online and get a fairly accurate idea of the condition and layout of home and whether it warrants a physical visit. Videos can “walk” you through the house to be able to assess if the floorplan will work for you.

The 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reports 89% of all buyers cited an online website as an information source with real estate agents being a close second at 87%. 42% of all buyers looked online for properties for sale as the first step taken during the home buying process.

Interestingly, 87% of buyers in 2015 purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker compared to only 68% in 2001. The agent services deemed most valuable to buyers were help finding the right home to purchase (53%) and help to negotiate the terms of sale (12%) and the price (11%).

A challenge for sellers is to understand that the digital showings are a critical part of today’s process. They save time and money for both buyers and sellers and are convenient because they can be done at any time of day and from anywhere. The difficulty is the seller’s feelings of inactivity when they believe their home is being shown frequently.

Agents can share statistics that show a variety of digital activity like number of unique visitors, length of time spent on the listing site as well as the other features that were accessed. 65% of all buyers walked through the home they purchased after they viewed it online.

Components of a Credit Score

Credit scores are used by lenders to measure the credit worthiness of borrowers. While there are several different companies that offer scores, the FICO, Fair Isaacson Corporation, is the model that is used most often.

There are five key components that determine the overall score or rating. The most emphasis, 35% of the overall score, is placed on payment history which reflects whether the borrower paid on time and as agreed by the terms of the credit. Being late, missing payments or going into default would have adverse effects on this part of the score. FICO score.png

The second largest component, 30%, is credit utilization or the amount owed in relation to amount available. A person might have a $4,000 outstanding balance on available credit of $20,000. This would be a 20% ratio and would be considered acceptable. Owing $15,000 on $20,000 of available credit would be a 75% ratio and would negatively affect this part of the credit score. FICO says people with the best scores average around 7% credit utilization.

The length of time each account has been open and the account’s activity determines 15% of the total credit score. By having a longer credit history, the credit provider has a better indication of the borrower’s long-term financial behavior. Having an open account without activity doesn’t offer a provider much information.

New credit and types of credit each account for 10% of the total score. New credit can adversely affect a score because it is a new obligation without history of how it will affect the borrower’s ability to repay all of their liabilities. Types of credit include both revolving and installment debt. A good mixture of each can indicate less risk for lenders.

The combination of all five areas make up the total score which lenders use to determine credit worthiness. Another confusing issue is that all credit scores are not mortgage credit scores. This particular score determines not only whether the lender will make a mortgage but at what interest rate.

The best place to get your credit score if you’re planning on purchasing a home is from a trusted mortgage professional. This person will be able to suggest things to improve your score if necessary. Buying a home is one of the largest investments in most people’s lives; it is really not a do-it-yourself activity.

Pay Yourself First

The principle to pay yourself first has been referred to as the Golden Rule of Personal Finance.

The concept is that one of the first checks you write each month is for your own savings. The rationale is that if there is no money left after a person pays their bills, there is nothing to contribute to savings or investments that month. pay yourself first - check -300.png

By establishing a priority to save, a person realizes that the balance of their monthly income must cover living expenses and other discretionary spending. This is a much different strategy than saving what is left over from monthly expenses and other spending.

Many financial experts have likened an amortizing mortgage to a forced savings account because a portion of each payment is applied to the reduction of the principal amount owed. Some homeowners have taken that concept further with a shorter term mortgage to build equity faster.

In the example below, a $250,000 mortgage at 4% interest is compared with two different terms. The 30 year mortgage would have payments of $1,193.54 each month with the first payment having $360.20 being applied to the principal. Each payment would have an increasingly larger amount applied to the principal.

The 15 year mortgage would have payments of $1,849.22 each month with the first payment having $1,015.89 being applied to the principal. The $665.68 difference in payments goes toward reducing the loan amount and acts like a forced savings.

A homeowner might opt for the longer term and intend to put the difference in the two payments in a bank savings account each month or make an additional principal contribution to pay the mortgage down. However, as any person responsible for paying household bills knows, there will always be something that comes up that could hijack your intentions.

By committing to the shorter term mortgage, a borrower is committing to make the higher payment each month and the benefit is that it will reduce your principal balance faster.

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Contributing Factors

ImageProxy.mvcRental properties have four primary factors that contribute to a return on investment. Based on market conditions and investor strategies, the individual motivating factor can change for property owners.

There was a time when the benefit of tax savings to offset income from other sources was considered important to some investors. However, in today’s environment, they are more likely valued as incidental benefits.

Some investors expect appreciation to deliver the satisfactory results which can be reasonable over time if a reliable appreciation rate is used. Savvy investors today are using conservative estimates for long-term holding periods.

Leverage occurs when borrowed funds are used to control a larger asset. Positive leverage can actually increase the yield on an investment.

The fourth component that contributes to a property’s yield is the cash flow. When the rents are greater than the expenses of operating the property and servicing the debt, there is a positive cash flow. A property with a good cash flow doesn’t have to go up in value to justify the investment.

The combination of lower prices, incredibly low mortgage rates and rising rents are attracting investors to rental properties that include single-family homes in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods.

Even if you were to ignore the benefits of tax savings, potential appreciation and leverage, the attractive cash flows make rental property a very smart investment alternative. If you’re curious, contact me for more information.

Mortgage Insurance

Private mortgage insurance is necessary for buyers who don’t have or choose not to put 20% or more down payment when they purchase a home.  It is required for high loan-to-value mortgages and it provides an opportunity for many people to get into a home who otherwise would not be able.

The problem is that it is expensive and a homeowner’s goal should be to eliminate it as soon as possible to lower their monthly payment and avoid putting good money down the drain.

FHA loans made after 6/1/13 that have 90% or higher loan-to-value at time of purchase have mortgage insurance premium for the life of the loan.   FHA loans made prior to 6/1/13, can have the MIP removed after five years and if the unpaid balance is 78% or less than the original loan-to-value.

VA loans do not require mortgage insurance.

Conventional loans, in most cases, with higher than 80% loan-to-value require mortgage insurance.  The cost of that insurance varies but with a $250,000 mortgage, it could easily be between $100 and $200 a month.

Your monthly mortgage statement should itemize what your monthly fee is for the mortgage insurance.  Unlike interest that is deductible, most homeowners are not able to deduct mortgage insurance premiums.

If you plan to remain in the home or to stay there for a considerable number of years, the solution may be to refinance the home.   If the home has increased since it was purchased, the loan-to-value at its new appraised value may not require PMI.  You might even be fortunate enough to obtain a lower rate than you currently have.

Rent vs. Own

Whether you continue to rent or decide to buy a home, according to recent Zillow 2014 housing projections, the cost is going up.  Zillow projects home prices to increase nationally by 3%, mortgages to rise to 5% interest rate by the end of the year and rents to go up by 2.5% on average.

If it will cost a person more whether they rent or buy, the conclusion can be made that one way or the other, they will pay for the house they occupy.  The question will be whether they buy it for themselves or their landlord? Will they benefit from the equity build-up and the appreciation?

The following analysis looks at a $200,000 home that can be purchased with a 30 year FHA mortgage at 4.3%.  The assumption uses 3% appreciation and tenant currently paying $1,750 a month in rent.

The house payment, principal, interest, taxes and insurance would be about $1,609 a month.  However, once you consider the benefits of the principal reduction each month, the appreciation and the tax savings and the increased cost of maintenance, the net cost of housing is closer to $630 per month.

Even if you ignored the tax savings, the net cost of housing would only be $919.06 per month.  The tenant would pay considerably more to rent than to own the home.  Over time, the decision to buy a home could result in a considerable financial asset that the tenant will not benefit from.

To estimate your cost of housing, use the Rent vs. Own.

Recent Tax Laws Continue to Value Homes as a Favored Investment

Buyers who have delayed purchasing a home due to concerns about what might happen to the tax laws affecting home ownership should feel comfortable about getting back in the market. The recent legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President continues to value homes as a favored investment.

For a summary of specific real estate provisions in the “Fiscal Cliff” bill, click here.

Whether the delayed purchase is for a home to live in as your principal residence or to use as rental property, taking action sooner is better than later.

Reasons to buy now:

  1. The house payment with taxes and insurance is probably cheaper than the rent.
  2. Rents will continue to rise making the difference even greater in the future.
  3. Lock-in the principal & interest payment with a fixed-rate mortgage.
  4. 30 year mortgage terms are available to most borrowers.
  5. The mortgage interest deduction is intact for the majority of taxpayers.
  6. The capital gain exclusion for principal residences up to $500,000 remains in place.
  7. Prices are going up due to lower inventories and several years of low housing starts.
Contact me about any specific questions you have or information you need.
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