Tag Archives: mortgage

Low Mortgage Rates = Buying Power

Mortgage rates are at their lowest since late 2016, last week nationwide around 3.6%. This is driving homeowners and buyers to their mortgage lenders, for both refinances and new home purchases.

As the chart below shows, just a one-half percent difference in your interest rate makes a huge difference in your monthly payment. For example, when purchasing an $800,000 home with 20% down, a half-point difference is $181/monthly, $2,172/annually, or $65,160 over the course of a 30-year loan.

What does this mean for you?

If you’re a homebuyer, this is the time to get into the real estate market. With interest rates this low, you may be able to purchase more than you think.

If you’re a homeowner and considering a move, whether downsizing or to a new neighborhood or larger home, this is the time to do so. With interest rates so low, you’ll likely be able to afford more than you think.

If you’re a homeowner with no plans of selling in the next couple years and your interest rate is in the upper 4’s or higher, it might be worth talking to a lender about refinancing.

I have several excellent lenders that can help you determine what would be best in your situation, a refinance or a move. I would love to sit down and talk with you about your needs. Give me a call at 206-790-0081 or email me to schedule a time to chat.

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.

Why You Should Buy a House (or Condo) NOW!

I’m not a fan of Fox News, but this story sums up why you should buy NOW!

Mortgage rates have steadily declined with the 30-year fixed-rate bottoming out to 3.82 percent, its lowest level since September 2017, according to the latest figures from Freddie Mac.

Interest rates are about a one percentage point less than it was this time last year … that’s a 10 percent savings on a 30-year mortgage a month.

Lower interest rates, coupled with more inventory in the market, makes the time to buy NOW.

If you’re considering buying a property, let’s talk; give me a call at 206-790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

Market Update

The May housing market was hot. Not as hot as a year ago, but still at it’s strongest for 2019. In fact, in King County 70% of single-family homes sold in 15 days or less and 55% of single-family homes sold at or above list price.

With interest rates at the lowest they’ve been in over a year, at just under 4%, buyers are seeing that this is a great time to be in the market. One lender told me recently that she locked a client into a 30-year fixed loan at 3.75%.

You might have seen a news story recently that Tacoma is the hottest housing market in the Country. It’s not surprising that buyers are going further to find affordable properties – an analysis of NWMLS inventory at the end of May shows only 13.8% of the listings of single-family homes in King County had asking prices under $600,000. That compares to 25.6% in Snohomish County, 31.2% in Pierce County and 35.3% in Kitsap County.

King County prices for single-family homes show a 3.6% decline from a year ago, but are at the highest level ($699,998) since June 2018 when the median price was $715,000. Snohomish nearly matched last year, the highest for the year as well. 

For more information on the market or your particular city or neighborhood, please reach out to me at (206) 790-0081 or Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

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.

The Danger of Waiting

Affordability is one of the major factors driving our real estate market. We saw an increase in interest rates in 2018 from around 4.15% in January to a high of nearly 5% in November and with the year ending around 4.55%. We expect that interest rates could reach 5.75% in 2019. What does this mean if you are considering buying a home (or selling and buying a new home)?

As interest rates increase, your buying power decreases. Let’s say your lender has qualified you for a home purchase of $700,000 with 20% down. Today your monthly payment would be around $2,837 with a 4.5% interest rate. If rates rise as expected in 2019, the payment later this year at 5.5% would be $3,180, or $343/month more. Your lender may no longer qualify you to purchase a $700,000 home but instead more likely around $625,000 to keep your payment around the $2,837/month. If we see a 5% (being conservative) increase in prices this year, your $700,000 home would sell around $735,000 by year end. By waiting, you are likely to decrease the amount you can pay for a home.

If you’re considering buying a property this year, the time to move is now. Give me a call at (206) 790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com so we can talk about your plans and needs. (The chart above shows you various principal and interest payments at different interest rates. However, you should talk with a lender to verify the accuracy of these numbers. I have several wonderful lenders who would be happy to speak with you.)

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.

6th Time is the Charm

I met Steven and Lauren back in January at an open house. They were looking to buy their first home. Steven is an architect, so they wanted to buy a home that needed some work, to create their dream spaces.

By the end of March Steven and Lauren had their financing lined up. Not only were they pre-approved, their lender had put them through underwriting. With 20% down and strong financing, they were the ideal buyer.

But we’re in a competitive market, so getting a house is more than just having all your ducks in a row.

Their first offer was on a beautiful Columbia City home in need of some updates. The sellers received 8 offers and it sold for 25% above list price and beyond Steven and Lauren’s maximum budget. Their 2nd offer was on an incredible mid-century modern in Beacon Hill that was in need of a studs down remodel; Steven and Lauren weren’t willing to pay list price because of the amount of work needed, and they didn’t get that home either.

Next up was a view property in Seward Park, also in need of extensive remodeling. That one sold for $100,000 over list price. They moved on to a home near Alki Beach that also needed extensive work; that one went had 27 offers and went for 33% above list price.

As you can imagine Steven and Lauren were becoming pretty frustrated at this point. All they wanted was a place to call home. Their first anniversary was a little over a week away and they decided that for a present for themselves, they were going to get a house. They toured another 25 homes or so, and found 5 they really liked. They ranked them by offer review dates and decided to do an offer a day until they got one. Offer #5, also in West Seattle, wasn’t accepted either.

It’s now May 21st and their anniversary is just days away. Offer #6 is submitted, and yes, they got a house! Persistence paid off. They took some risks, waiving both their financing and inspection contingencies, and that made a difference. That, and they stretched to their maximum. The sale closed last week and they got their  anniversary present and dream house.

In 2018 I’m donating $500 to the non-profit of the client’s choice in honor of their closed transaction. Steven and Lauren chose for their $500 to go to Habitat for Humanity Seattle/King County. Their purchase of a new home will help another family get into their own home.

Congratulations Steven and Lauren (and Roxy, their dog), you’re going to love living in West Seattle near the Junction.

Interest Rates are Rising

If you’re thinking of buying a property, you should move forward with your plans now. According to one lender I work with, last week she saw an increase in interest rates every day. While most of us have been predicting that rates would hit 5% by the end of year, we have already reached (and exceeded) that percentage.

As interest rates increase, your buying power decreases. Let’s say your lender has qualified you for a home purchase of $700,000 with 20% down. A month ago your monthly payment would be around $2,837 with a 4.5% interest rate. At 5% that payment would be $3,006, or $169/month more. Your lender may no longer qualify you to purchase a $700,000 home but instead more likely around $675,000 to keep your payment around the $2,837/month. If we see a 7% (being conservative) increase in prices this year, your $700,000 home would sell around $750,000 by year end. By waiting, you are likely to decrease the amount you can pay for a home.

If you’re considering buying a property this year, the time to move is now. Give me a call at (206) 790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com so we can talk about your plans and needs.