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What You Need To Know Before You Buy In A Planned Community

A particularly active spring storm season left pockmarked roofs and tumbled fences throughout North Texas this year, including many in my master-planned community, thanks to an EF0 tornado that blew its way through the neighborhood (thankfully missing my house – this time). The process of repairs and replacements was as fickle as the tornado itself. Some homeowners received immediate or at least prompt approval from the community Homeowners’ Association (HOA) and its Architectural Review Committee (ARC), while others were forced to wait and wait and wait – which would be frustrating, even if this weren’t the wettest June in 13 years. In one case, a homeowner’s approval was inexplicably delayed so long, even though she was only looking to replace her damaged roof with the exact same roof, that she suffered leaks and damage to the interior of her home.

That’s one of the rubs of living in a community that is governed by an HOA: You need approval to do stuff to your house, even if that stuff is going to be an improvement over what it currently looks like. It’s not the only potential downside, but there are also plenty of advantages associated with an HOA. And with more than 40 million U.S. households “or 53% of the owner-occupied households in the America” living with an HOA, according to HOA-USA – a number that’s on the rise with new construction, of which more than 60% have an HOA – it’s something you might have to deal with. Get to know the pros and cons so there won’t be any surprises.

Pro: An HOA protects your investment. “HOA rules and regulations help ensure homeowners keep their homes well maintained and in compliance with overall appearance standards,” said Signature Homes. “Combined with proper care of amenities and common areas, the value of your home is more protected than one that does not have HOA oversight.”

Con: Limits your creativity and individuality. HOAs may offer limited options when it comes to updates. Older neighborhoods may have a small color palette available to owners and may be reluctant to expand it to current trends.

Pro: You won’t have to deal with neighbors painting their house pink or letting their grass grow to armpit height. “Homes within an HOA must meet the standards set by the association or face a fine, so you’re less likely to see unkempt lawns, peeling paint or a garishly painted house,” said Realtor.com. “Some HOAs have a design review board with the power to approve any changes to your home’s exterior.”

Con: Those restrictions can be Confining. An HOA demands that you ask permission before making any changes to your home – even if you’re just talking about staining your fence the very same color. Depending on how finicky your HOA is, you might also get fined because your landscaper took the week off or because the basketball net in your driveway is torn (true story).

Pro: File this under the umbrella of “protecting your investment.” Many HOAs have stipulations about how many cars, or what type, can be parked on your property, or even where they can be parked. That can help ensure that the neighbor down the street doesn’t turn his lawn into an auto body shop with multiple non-functioning cars up on blocks.

Con: Looking to park your RV or boat in your driveway? An HOA may nix that idea. Be sure you check ahead of time to make sure this is allowed.

Pro: An HOA decision may not be final. Get a rejection from the HOA on your submitted request to make changes to your landscaping? You can always appeal and state your case.

Con: Deciding to “ask for forgiveness instead of permission” rarely goes well, so, if you decide to go ahead with changes despite not receiving an approval from the HOA, beware: You might be fined.

Pro: Some HOAs take care of things like your front-yard landscaping and trash removal, which means you don’t have to pay for it or worry about it.

Con: That also may mean strict restrictions about what you can and can’t plant in your front yard. You may have to reconsider those rose bushes.

Pro: You might not have to put in a pool because there’s one in the community that you’re helping to pay for through your HOA dues, but don’t have to maintain.

Con: When the pool needs to be redone, it’ll be you and all your neighbors that are on the hook to pay for it – even if you never use it.

Pro: A pool is just the beginning. Planned communities with an HOA can have golf courses, tennis courts, clubhouses, playgrounds, and even private lakes for fishing and recreation.

Con: The more amenities you have, the more you’re likely to pay in HOA dues. In a large masterplan with a couple of pools, a playground, and a tennis court, you can pay as little as $50 per month. The more homes that are added, the more the overall cost is spread out. A more “typical range” is $200–400 per month, said Investopedia, adding that, “The more upscale the building and the more amenities it has, the higher the homeowners’ association fees are likely to be.” In some condos, the fees may be higher if parking and security are considerations, and, especially, in a luxury building with amenities including a fitness center and concierge. “Hollywood’s fancy Sierra Towers condo building, which is filled to the brim with amenities like 24-hour concierge service and valet parking. They charge residents of a 3,400-square-foot condo about $4,000 per month in HOA fees,” said Realtor.com.

Pro: You’ve got a built-in mediator. “Involved in a tiff with your neighbor over that big oak tree that’s losing limbs? You can settle some confrontations with your neighbors by taking your grievances to the HOA’s board or management company,” said RISMedia.

Con: Maybe you’re the type that wants to “handle” grievances in your own way?

Pro: Some HOAs allow you to pay monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Con: Falling behind on HOA dues can lead to foreclosure. “This is another reason you’ll want to make sure those HOA fees are in your budget,” said Credit.com. “An HOA can move to foreclose on your property if you fail to pay its dues and/or associated late fees. Laws can vary by state. A few, for instance, place limits on when an HOA can move to foreclose. So if you’ve fallen behind on payments, you may want to consult a local attorney about your best recourse.”

Pro: Part of what you’ll pay to the HOA every month goes to a reserve fund, which can be used for neighborhood repairs and emergency needs.

Con: The reserves may not be enough to cover large expenses. “In addition to monthly fees, if a major expense such as a new roof or a new elevator comes up and there aren’t enough funds in the HOA’s reserves to pay for it, the association may charge an extra assessment that can run into thousands of dollars,” said Investopedia.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Protectecting Yourself During a Move

“I can’t wait to move!”

How often do you hear someone say that? What they mean is they can’t wait to be in their new place, all unpacked and organized and enjoying their new surroundings.

What they don’t mean is, “I can’t wait to spend a month packing up everything I own and hauling it into a truck we’re going to drive across country when I’ve never driven anything larger than a mid-sized sedan, only to have to haul it all out, and into that new house. The new house that has two flights of stairs and narrow hallways. Don’t get me started on unpacking boxes.”

And what they REALLY don’t mean is, “I can’t wait for the movers to break a bunch of my things and lose a bunch of stuff.” Pretty sure they also don’t mean, “I can’t wait for dishonest movers to delay my delivery and charge me quadruple my quote and then hold all my stuff hostage while I sit here helpless.”

Think that could never happen to you?

“Last year, Massachusetts officials sued one moving company and New Jersey officials sued two for providing low-ball estimates and then grossly inflating fees after loading the trucks,” said Consumer Reports. “One of the companies had threatened to auction the possessions of customers who didn’t pay.”

Added MarketWatch about the possibility of mover fraud: “Typically, a mover gives you an extremely low estimate over the phone or Internet without ever actually seeing what needs to be moved. You agree, they show up, load the truck with all your worldly possessions and then tell you it will actually cost a lot more. Then, they hold everything you own hostage on their truck until you cough up the extra cash.”

Yes, moving can be fraught with challenge and frustration and even heartache. So how do you protect yourself? Here are some tips for a safe and fraud-free move.

Do your research

Proper preparation can help you ward off many of the issues that can turn a move into a nightmare, and that’s starts with a healthy dose of research. You always want to ask for a referral rather than using an unknown. And not just anyone is qualified to give a referral, according to MSN.

“Ask your real-estate agent. The general consensus among moving professionals is that word of mouth is the best way to find a good mover,” they said. “Real-estate agents know the ins and outs of the housing industry and are the most reliable sources. Realtors want to make sure that your (moving) transaction is a good one.”

There are also websites dedicated to moving scams. “MovingScam.com maintains a ‘black list,'” they said, as well as a “message board filled with consumer experiences, bad and good.”

Verify licensing and look for complaints

MSN recommends people who are moving investigate the companies they are looking at using. Interstate movers must be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

“Check with your area’s Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed and whether there are reliable,” they said.

Protect Your Move also provides info on whether a mover’s license is current “and if the company has ever had a federal complaint.”

Watch out for the lowball bid

“You get what you paid for” is often a dangerous reality when it comes to moving. To protect yourself against unethical movers, get several estimates and make sure to weed out any that seem too low. Yes, the desire to save money is strong. But an unusually low bid is often a red flag.

“When shopping for movers, it’s best to get at least three estimates, ” said MSN. “If you’ve got one that’s really, really low compared to the other two, you’re going to know something’s up.”

Have a contingency plan

No matter how well you prepare, the unexpected can still happen. What if the truck doesn’t show up on time? Are you prepared to live without your things for a few days, or longer? Make sure you pack a bag of essentials you can have with you while the rest of your stuff is stuck on the truck.

Protect yourself

The Better Business Bureau suggests paying a little extra for peace of mind.

“Consider accepting full value protection. It may cost a few dollars more up front, but it can eliminate headaches after your move,” they said. “Purchasing full (replacement) value protection from your mover means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made to repair the item or to replace it at its current market value, regardless of age. The cost of full value protection must be included in the initial estimate you receive for an interstate move.”

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

How to Get Denied for a Mortgage After Preapproval

You’ve done the work to clean up your credit score, scrape together a down payment and pry a preapproval letter from your mortgage lender. Cheers!

Getting preapproved is a smart move, especially in a seller’s market characterized by tight inventories and, in some regions, bidding wars. Having a lender’s letter in hand signals to sellers that you’re a legit buyer whose offer merits serious consideration.

Even so, a preapproval letter is just a conditional commitment. It can be withdrawn if your financial situation changes in a way that makes your lender nervous.

The best advice? “Maintain the status quo,” says Scott Schang, branch manager at BuyWise Mortgage in Anaheim, California.

There are a few surefire ways to get rejected after you’ve been preapproved. Among them:

Quitting your job

There’s nothing wrong with leaving a job to take a similar or better-paying position at another company, so long as you remain a full-time employee who gets a W-2 form at the end of the year.

“If you’re going from a W-2 job to a W-2 job, that’s fine,” Schang says. However, taking a significant pay cut will raise red flags. So will switching from a salaried job to a position where you’re compensated mostly on commission. And quitting your job to launch a new venture is a no-no, at least when it comes to keeping your mortgage approval.

Lending guidelines are much stricter for self-employed borrowers, and lenders typically want to see a two-year track record of self-employment income, says Mathew Carson, founder and broker at West County Mortgage in San Francisco.

The best play: Wait until after you’ve closed on your house and started paying your mortgage to quit your job and pursue your entrepreneurial dream.

Loading up on debt

This is an obvious bit of advice, but one well worth heeding. In the weeks or months after you get preapproved and before you close on your home, keep your spending impulses on lockdown. That means no new credit cards, no car loans and no big-ticket purchases of any kind. Ignoring this rule of thumb is likely to bring scrutiny from your lender.

Running up a balance on a new credit card will lead your lender to re-examine your debt-to-income ratios, Carson warns. If you were on the borderline before your shopping spree, the new bills could kill the deal.

Paying down old debt

Say you have a preapproval letter but realize you could get a better mortgage rate with a higher credit score. Don’t make the mistake of trying to be a hero — it’s likely to backfire, Carson and Schang say.

Paying off delinquent debt, settling up with creditors who have charged off an old debt, canceling credit cards — all might seem like responsible moves, but they’ll hurt your credit score.

“That’s one of the backwards things with the credit scoring system,” Schang says. “If you cancel a card, that will drop your credit score significantly for 60 to 90 days before it starts to creep up.”

It’s unclear exactly how much your score will fall if you cancel a card, but the hit could amount to as much as 40 points. Paying down an old balance presents a similar quandary. You think you’re cleaning up your finances but your lender just sees more available credit, Carson says, and you could be jeopardizing your credit score.

And when it comes to credit scores, not all debt is created equal. Before you close on a home — and ideally before you seek preapproval — you’ll need to pay off any liens, old tax bills or current debts in collection. However, if a debt has already been charged off — that is, the creditor isn’t expecting any more payments — paying it will vault your old debt to a “current” status and actually lower your credit score.

So the rule of thumb for retiring charged-off debt is the same as the guideline for taking on new debt: Wait until after you’ve closed on your home.

Moving large sums of money

Down payments are a challenge for first-time buyers, and many hit up relatives for help. However, receiving any sum that amounts to more than half your regular paycheck is likely to draw scrutiny from your lender, Carson says.

Banks want to make sure you aren’t laundering money. They also want to be certain any sudden windfalls are in fact gifts and not loans. “If money is moving around, that’s going to be a red flag for an underwriter, and they’re going to pull out the magnifying glass,” Schang says.

The good news is that receiving a gift doesn’t need to kill your preapproval. But your bank likely will require you to provide a paper trail that includes a letter stating the money is a gift and two months of bank statements from the gift giver. “It can be a little tedious,” Carson says.

The wiser move, Schang says, is to have your benefactor wire the down payment gift directly into your escrow account.

The bottom line

Keep in mind credit scores are based on complex calculations, and every borrower’s situation is different. In general, though, your overall financial situation matters.

If you have a gold-plated credit score and enough income to comfortably afford your loan, a new store credit card probably won’t kill your deal. But if you have a borderline credit score and you’re stretching to qualify, even a small hiccup could hurt your chances.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Easy Ways to Make Your Patio Look Great This Summer

Summer is the perfect time of year to be outside with family and friends. The cold weather, snow and rain are gone, and you see bright, sunny days ahead of you. If you’re getting ready for a season full of pool parties and barbecues, here’s everything you need to make your patio look great:

Update Your Furniture

It’s a new season with new trends, so you might be in the market for new patio furniture, or your old furniture just needs some updating. Chances are your cushions and pillows are looking faded, worn out and tattered from last year, so replace them with new cushions or fabric covers to match the rest of your decor. Don’t be afraid to go with bold and bright colors or big designs because they won’t dominate the area since it’s an open space.

You also need enough furniture and seating to fit your family and friends. Get a large round table or a long rectangular table for your guests to eat, snack and set down their drinks. Add extra chairs or a love seat around your table so you can add more people than your immediate family when you host a party. Go for items that are easy to clean so dust, dirt and spills don’t permanently ruin your furniture.

Make Some Shade

The summer sun can be intense, so you need shady areas to give yourself and your guests a break. Get a table with an umbrella in the middle to provide some shade while you’re eating dinner on the patio. Or add an umbrella on the top step of your pool or behind lounge chairs to stay cool.

If you want a larger shady area, set up a pavilion with a canopy roof in a section of your yard. Add chairs, side tables and a reading area underneath. You also can build a pergola and cover the top and sides with growing vines or climbing plants. This will add some color and nature to your patio as well as provide you with shade.

Light It Up

Transform your patio into a summer wonderland by lighting it up at night. Once the sun goes down and the temperature drops, you’ll want to relax on your patio with a nice cocktail or dessert with a lovely glow around you. For a touch of glamour, install an outdoor chandelier or light fixture over your patio table and chairs. String up hanging lights from the roof and side of your pergola to light up your ivy or plants. Put a few candles in translucent vases on side tables surrounding your other furniture or in the middle of your table. This is a great place for you to include some of your accent colors and add a delicate touch to sometimes bulky furniture.

Make It Party Ready

Now that you have the necessities, it’s time to get to the fun part. You want people to see your beautiful summer patio, so give them an excuse to come over for a party. Set up a grill, cooler for drinks and counter space to prepare and display your summertime treats. If it tends to get cool at night, get a table with a fire pit in the middle or build your own fire pit where you can roast s’mores and tell ghost stories. You also should invest in some lawn games and board games that you can play well into the night.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Phoenix Real Estate Market Report ~ May 2017

The current real time market profile shows there were approximately 10,513 new listings (up 155 listings from last month) on the market in May 2017 and 9,859 sold transactions (up 494 listings from last month). The overall inventory of homes on the market in May 2017 is 21,230 homes (down 576 listing from last month) which is down -26.2% as compared to the number of home on the marker in May 2014. In May 2015 there were 24,410 homes, in May 2014 there were 28,776 homes and in April 2013 there were 19,462 homes for sale on the market. Due to the large spike in the number of sold transactions and the decline in average days on market this shows buyer’s demand is strong where inventories may continue to be low and drive up prices.

Since November 2016 after our new president took office the average sales price has increased from approximately $281,000 to $300,000 or an appreciation rate of 6.8% and the number of sold transactions has increased from approximately 6,898 to 9,859 transaction or an increase of 42.9%. From April to May the average sold price has increased approximately 2.8%. The number of sold transactions usually starts to decrease in July due to summer vacations but we will have to see next month if buyer demand will continue to follow the usual trend. Since June 2016 (12 months ago), the average sold price has increased +6.3% (up from last month), the average days on market has decreased approximately -5.4% (down from last month) and the number of sold transactions has decreased approximately +9.8% (up from last month).

The volume of foreclosure purchases since June 2016 (12 months ago) has decreased approximately -29.4% and the volume of short sales decreased of approximately -19.5%. The current percentage of foreclosure sales and short sales sold is only 2% of the market which indicates a healthy market. Unfortunately, there are still some homeowners who bought between 2005 and 2007 that are still up-side-down as shown in the yearly average sold price chart above.

Since June 2016 (12 months ago), the number of homes for sale on the market have decreased approximately -8.9% or 23,298 homes for sale on the market to a gradual decrease of 21,230 homes (Down 576 homes from last month). The total number of listings is low as compared to 29,308 listings in August 2014. This decrease in the number of homes for sale indicates we are currently in a seller’s market (low supply and increased demand).

Real estate prices are still relatively low (near 2008 prices), interest rates are planned to increase in 2017 and the macroeconomic market is improving both in terms of prices and the overall economy. Give us a call to discuss your best buying or selling strategy, TODAY!!

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

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