Category Archives: mortgage

Appraisals Explained

Appraisals are one of the most confusing aspects of buying or selling real estate. When a buyer and seller agree on a sales price, it can be frustrating to hear that the appraisal came in with a value too low. It’s not enough for the buyer and seller to agree to the price, the appraisal is the lender’s way to ensure they are not loaning money over the actual market value of the property.

The appraised value is reached by a licensed professional who looks at the real estate market in which the target property is located. They start with the target property and then look for recent sales in the area of comparable properties. These comparable properties will be located within a short distance of the target home. They should also be of comparable size and often fall within the same housing development.

Once these homes are identified, the appraiser will adjust for the specific differences. For instance, does the target home have an upgraded kitchen or swimming pool? They add or subtract value based on such things as location, view, lot size, upgrades, additions, condition, and many other factors. They can then arrive at a valuation for the target home.

Once the appraisal has been completed, the lender is notified of the value. At this point, the loan amount is either confirmed or declined. If the appraisal comes in too low, the buyer and seller can choose to make up the difference in the sales price, lower the sales price, or cancel the transaction.

An experienced real estate broker will help you manage the appraisal process. By learning about recent sales in your area ahead of time, you can price your home appropriately up front; then the appraisal should come back as expected.

5 Reasons to Get Pre-Approved

Mortgage rates have recently been at a 12-month low. Depending on your credit and financial situation, you might currently be able to get a mortgage at around 4%. Here are some reasons why it’s critical you get pre-approved for your mortgage. I have a list of wonderful mortgage lenders, please drop me an email and I’ll be happy to forward to you.

On-Line Security

I recently have had several credit cards compromised. On one, there were fraudulent charges. On another, someone called in to the credit card company and was able to be approved as an additional authorized user and was sent a credit card. This last one has scared me. The person who called in knew enough about me to convince the person at the bank that they were me. They knew my social security number (or at least last 4 digits) and my birthday.

So much information is online – someone could probably figure out my best friend’s name (from Facebook), where I was born (by searching public records), what high school I went to (again from Facebook), my mother’s maiden name (also in public records), and a host of other words I would use in security questions.

Here’s what I’m doing to protect myself.

  • Changing my user name and password on all websites
  • Making up a new BFF
  • Talking to the credit bureaus about protecting my ID
  • Making sure my privacy settings on Facebook and other social media sites are at the highest level possible
  • Purchasing a new wallet with RFID protection

If you have other ideas of things I or others can do, please let me know.

When you go to buy a home, your credit is critically important, don’t let it get messed up by people affecting your accounts. If you’d like further information, please call me a (206) 790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

Down Payments – How Much Do You Really Need?

Gone are the days when anyone could buy a home with just a promise and signature. No documentation loans allowed virtually anyone to buy a house with no money down with just a simple credit check. After the mortgage meltdown, this all changed. Lenders tightened guidelines and down payments were back.

But how much do you actually need? Must you always find 20% down? The answer might surprise you; there are many ways to buy a home with less than 20% down payment.

  • 0% Down – There are still two loan programs which allow one to buy a home for no-down payment; the VA loan and the USDA loan. The VA loan requires the borrower to be a qualified service person or veteran and the USDA loan is for certain areas under the Department of Agriculture.
  • 5% Down – Conventional loans with loan limits can allow one to buy a home with as little as 5% down. These loans do have PMI (Private mortgage insurance) which can be eliminated when the loan amount falls below the 20% threshold.
  • 3 ½ % Down – FHA offers first time home buyers a good home loan for only 3.5% downpayment. Again these loans have loan limits and PMI but offer a faster entry into the housing market. Buying a home doesn’t always mean 20% loan. If you’re considering buying a new home, talk to your lender about your options.

If you’re thinking of buying, give me a call at (206) 790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com. Let’s talk about your needs. I can also refer you to excellent local mortgage lenders.

Home Buying Class

This Thursday, April 26th, Julia Eaton of Axia Home Loans, and I will be teaching a class on learning to buy a home. Topics include: steps in the home purchase process; understanding today’s real estate market; options for financing your purchase including how to obtain a mortgage; and why it might be in your best interest to buy sooner rather than later.

Thursday, April 26, 2018, 6:00-8:00pm at the Phinney Neighborhood Association, Blue Building, Room 3

To reserve your space or with questions, please email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com or call/text 206-790-0081.

Don’t Listen to the Media!

“Is the housing market ready for a crash?”

“Will I ever be able to afford a house?”

“Zillow says my house is worth $________.”

These are headlines that both the Seattle and national media are spreading. Here’s the reality:

Housing prices are appreciating at record rates. However, if we go back to 2007, when the market was at it’s peak before the crash, prices have increased 52% – that comes out to 5% a year appreciation over the 10 years.

Buying a home is within reach for many. The media often says it’s hard to get a mortgage, but that’s not the reality. The two most important factors for getting a mortgage are your credit score and the amount of debt you have. Only a lender can tell you if you qualify or not.

The “Zestimate” from Zillow is not an accurate representation of what your home will sell for. Zillow is an automated valuation, there are other companies who provide similar numbers. Because it’s automated, the algorithm has no idea of the special features of a home, the quality of the finishes or view, and any updates that have been done without permits. Even Zillow admits that their numbers are not accurate – the last time I looked Zillow said their Zestimates typically are off 10-20%.

So didn’t listen to the media! Talk to a real estate professional to get your questions answered. You can reach me at 206-790-0081 or mailto:jamie@jamieflaxman.com.

 

New Changes Coming to Buying and Selling Process – What You Need to Know

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a Congress-established agency with regulatory control over federal consumer protection laws. Their goal is to make rules in our various financial markets more effective and consistent to protect consumers. Recently the CFPB created some new rules aimed at helping buyers and sellers have a better understanding of the borrowing process. Below are some of the changes you can expect to see beginning August 1, 2015.

Buyers buying their home with a mortgage will receive a standardized Loan Estimate document from the lender which outlines variables such as the type of loan, payment schedule, interest rate for the mortgage, information about prepayment penalties and other terms of the transaction (such as balloon payments or mortgage insurance), costs to close the loan, and State Law provisions. This document is provided to the loan applicant no more than three days after the buyer submits a loan application.

In addition, Buyers will receive a Closing Disclosure no less than three days before the loan is scheduled to close which reiterates the above variables.

The mandatory three day review period for both of these documents was put in place to allow borrowers the time they need to read through them and have a thorough understanding of exactly what they are committing to. Furthermore, these documents include instructions to the borrower to compare the Loan Estimate to the Closing Disclosure verifying the two documents have the consistent information.

The biggest impact of these changes is that the lender will need more time to process your loan and turn documents over to escrow. At a minimum, it is likely buyers will need 3 more days, but more likely it will be 5-10 days.

The forms themselves have been streamlined and are easier to understand. The interest rate, monthly payments, and the total closing costs are clearly indicated on the first page of the documents for easy reference and to make it easier to compare loan products with different lenders.

Both the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure are used for closed-end mortgages, meaning they are not used for home equity lines of credit, reverse mortgages, or for any loan not attached to land. Furthermore, these rules do not apply to creditors who produce fewer than five loans per year.

These new policies will make the process easier and more transparent to borrowers. If you are buying or selling a home this summer and expect the contract for purchase and sale to come in around the end of July, remember that these policies may impact your transaction as lenders and closers navigate through the new documents and timelines. I have attended several workshops on the changes and would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please give me a call: (206) 790-0081 or send an email to :jamie@jamieflaxman.com.

Sources:

http://www.consumerfinance.gov/

http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201503_cfpb_tila-respa-integrated-disclosure-guide-to-the-loan-estimate-and-closing.pdf

http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201506_cfpb_factsheet_will-the-new-mortgage-disclosures-delay-my-closing.pdf

 

Market Update

I have been so busy over the past week that I barely have time to write this post. Any question about how hot the market is? Here’s a story for you. Yesterday I submitted an offer on behalf of a client for a wonderful Phinney/Greenwood home. There were 9 offers including ours, and I believe all but one conducted pre-inspections. As one of the other brokers submitting an offer said, it was going to be a “blood bath.” Many of the offers had escalation clauses – and boy did it escalate. I can’t disclose how high it went until after the transaction closes, but my buyer did not have the highest – we came in 3rd. The offer that had the highest dollar amount had weak financing and wasn’t willing to do anything to change the financing situation; the next offer was only a few thousand more than ours but also had weak financing. MY CLIENT GOT THE HOUSE because she had strong financing (30% down and the lender talked with the listing agent) and my buyer was willing to come up a few thousand dollars more.

The bottom line. Financing is as important as price. And who the lender is may make a difference. My client’s lender was willing to go above and beyond to advocate for the client. On-line lenders and big banks often won’t do this. With them, you’re just one of hundreds of mortgages – personal relationships make a difference.

The bottom line. The market is still hot. A colleague had 11 offers on another listing. Inventory is low demand is still high.

Contact me at jamie@jamieflaxman.com or 206-790-0081 to discuss putting your home on the market or buying a home.

 

FICO Credit Score Changes and Mortgages

If you are considering a move and will be applying for a mortgage, you may be biting your nails wondering what your FICO (Fair Isaac Corp.) score means for your ability to borrow. Your credit score determines if you are given preferred interest rates, will have to pay more due to missed payments or a high debt to income ratio, or are able to qualify for a loan at all. The FICO credit score ranges between 300-850 and weighs payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, new credit, and types of credit used according to myFICO.com.

Shockingly, one-third of Americans struggle to pay their medical bills each month and medical is the number one leading cause of bankruptcy in this country according to Forbes. Medical bills have affected the credit scores of millions. In fact, Forbes indicates 64 million Experian credit bureau consumers have medical collection on their credit report which impacts their credit score and their ability to get a loan. According to Anthony Sprauve, FICO’s director of public relations, 50% of all unpaid collection debt is medical debt.

Under the new FICO 9 credit scoring formula which is set to be implemented this fall, the impact of medical debt will be reduced and the average credit score will increase a median 25 points per person with medical debt but who are otherwise financially responsible with their bills. Additionally, medical debt that has been paid in full will not affect the credit score negatively at all.

The rationale for this change is that having one-time medical debt is much different than chronic credit card debt. However, more than 11 million Americans use credit cards to take care of medical debt each year. Under the new FICO rules, doing that would hurt their credit more than if they made a payment plan directly with the medical facility or medical collection agency.

Another change in the FICO scoring model is that past, closed debt associated with collection companies will also have a lesser-impact.

Steve Brown, President of the National Association of REALTORS®, welcomed the change, indicating it will “make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans, who have been shut out of the housing market or forced to pay higher mortgage interest rates…since the housing crash, overly restrictive lending has been the greatest obstacle to homeownership.”

FICO 9 will change the credit scores of many.  While these changes seem like a step in the right direction, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and a host of other lenders are still using older FICO scoring methods and have been slow to adopt changes in credit-scoring conventions. Therefore, although you may benefit from a better credit score under the new FICO 9 formula, your lender may or may not take the new formula into consideration when you apply for a loan. Additionally, some lenders already discount medical debt when determining someone’s creditworthiness.

If you have questions or concerns about your credit score, the time to talk with a financial professional who can get you on the right track to homeownership is now. I have lenders I can refer you to. Please give me a call: (206) 790-0081 or send an email to jamie@jamieflaxman.com.

Sources:

http://www.realtor.org/news-releases/2014/08/new-credit-scoring-calculation-will-improve-access-to-homeownership-say-realtors

http://www.forbes.com/sites/christinalamontagne/2014/08/26/medical-debts-will-soon-weigh-less-on-your-credit-score-but-theyre-still-a-problem/

http://www.housingwire.com/blogs/1-rewired/post/31236-adopting-fico-9-could-increase-first-time-homeownership

http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2014/09/10/what-fico-new-credit-score-formula-means-for-home-buyers/

http://www.myfico.com/crediteducation/whatsinyourscore.aspx

 

 

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