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If You Have the Option of Putting More Money Down, Should You?

With the exception of the VA and USDA programs, along with certain down payment assistance programs, most every residential loan program does indeed require some sort of a down payment. Many borrowers want to come to the closing table with as little cash as possible and as the down payment amount is the largest chunk of change needed, the lowest down payment is often the request. A conventional loan can ask for a down payment of just 5.0 percent with certain first time buyers loans asking for a 3.0 percent down payment. FHA loans need a minimum down payment of just 3.5 percent of the sales price. But if you have more money to put into the transaction, should you?

Many times, this additional cash comes from the sale of a previous residence but of course it doesn’t have to. While conventional loans do have low down payment options, with a down payment of less than 20 percent of the sales price, private mortgage insurance will be required. Making a down payment of 20 percent or more eliminates the need for PMI. A larger down payment obviously results in a lower monthly payment which is another factor to consider.

Making a large down payment will also affect liquidity. A down payment is instant equity in a real estate transaction, the only way to get the money back is either through the sale of the property or an equity loan of some sort. Putting more money down often means tapping into a retirement account such as an IRA or pulling funds from any investment or savings account. When those funds are removed, interest is lost. A larger than required down payment could also mean the funds would be put to use in a better way such as paying down consumer debt or paying off student loans, for example.

Considering an existing mortgage, loan programs today allow you to pay the loan down. Perhaps retirement is soon coming into the picture and paying down a mortgage is a solid financial plan. One thing to note however is that with a loan carrying a fixed interest rate, the payment will not change, just the loan amount will be lowered. With an adjustable rate loan however, the monthly payments will change as the loan amounts are reduced.

Coming in with a large down payment is a personal financial decision and for most that means it’s time for a talk with a financial planner and your loan officer. There are multiple considerations when paying extra on a mortgage or coming to the settlement table with a larger-then-required down payment which means seeking advice from a professional.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Scary Issues That Can Kill Your New Home Joy

Be afraid. Be very afraid. That new home you’re thinking of buying might not be as perfect as you think. Danger lurks behind every wall. Or maybe just one. Either way, it’s probably something you should know about.

Buying a home is full of challenges, and the one that might be the most frustrating of all is finding out there’s something wrong after you’ve already closed escrow. In many cases, you may have recourse against the seller if there is an issue that wasn’t disclosed, or against the home inspector if he or she missed something serious. But even recompense, you’re still left with a problem you have to deal with when all you want is to be enjoying your new home.

Here are eight things to look for before signing on the dotted line.

It smells moist
If you tour a home on a rainy day, don’t automatically think that the moist smell is because of the weather. If it smells moist inside, you’ll definitely want to make a return trip when the rain has passed to make sure there’s no moisture issue in the house.

There’s a telltale pet odor
That could mean damage to carpet or floors. It might be something you can work out while negotiating, but you definitely want to be aware of what you’re dealing with so that there are no surprises later on, like pet urine that has seeped down through the wood floors into your sub floor, costing you thousands.

The neighborhood is iffy
Maybe there’s more crime than you’re comfortable with or too much of a commercial presence. It’s all about what’s acceptable to you.

Neighbors’ homes are unkempt
If you’re not looking in an area that has a homeowners’ association, pay special attention to what the neighbors’ homes look like. If you’re seeing curious paint choices, cars on the lawn, and grass that’s waist-high, you might want to think hard about whether this is the neighborhood for you. Some buyers appreciate the character of a neighborhood but doesn’t have the strict rules governing what they can and can’t do. But a neighborhood without an HOA can also have issues when neighbors don’t take care of their homes, and this can affect your property values.

It took you a long time to get there
Have a serious conversation with yourself about how much is too much when it comes to the commute. If it took you an hour and a half to get there from work, is this something you can live with every day?

It’s dirty
There are times when a home goes in the market and it’s clear the seller didn’t make the effort to get it in shape prior to listing. It’s not just about a lack of updates but a lack of upkeep, as well. While you may not know the circumstances behind the home, and while it may seem like a great deal if you can get it for a good price, be cautious. A home that is in bad shape on the surface may have a bunch of issues you can’t see.

It’s dark in the house
Sellers will typically open up all shades and blinds and turn on all the lights for showings, but nothing is stopping you from flipping those light switches off to see what the natural light situation is really like. If the place is dark even with all the blinds open and lights on and natural light is really important to you, it might not be the house for you.

It’s too perfect
A home that’s really well staged can look super appealing. But buyers have to train themselves to look at the home, not the furniture and furnishings. What will the house look like without that staged furniture? Does the floorplan work for you? Are the pieces scaled for the room or for real families? Are there any curious configurations like a chair blocking access to a fireplace. Getting past the stager’s tricks to see the house for what it is will help you to decide if it’s really for you.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

New Appraisal Rule: What Does It Mean for You?

A new home appraisal rule just went into effect—the first time in 25 years that “federal regulators have increased the property value limit of the homes that require an appraisal as part of the selling process,” said REALTOR® Magazine. The rule exempts some home sales priced at $400,000 and below from requiring an appraisal. That figure was previously capped at $250,000. “The new rules likely apply to about 40% of home sales, regulators estimate.”

So how will this affect home buyers and sellers? First, it should be noted that those homes that do receive the exemption still have to be evaluated “to provide an estimate of the market value of real estate collateral,” said Housingwire. “The agencies state that the evaluation must be ‘consistent with safe and sound banking practices.’ To that point, the rule establishes that an evaluation “should contain sufficient information and analysis to support the regulated institution’s decision to engage in the transaction.”

Also, the new exemption is not applicable for homes using FHA, HUD, VA, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac financing, which eliminates a huge percentage of homes right off the top.

If you are in a position to buy or sell a home that no longer needs an appraisal, should you still proceed with one? Here’s why you may want to consider it.

What is an appraisal?
“A home appraisal is an unbiased determination of the fair market value of the home by a professionally-trained third party,” said Forbes. “While that may sound complicated, all it means is that it’s a chance for someone who’s not personally involved in the sale of the home to give a true representation of the home’s worth. It’s worth noting that an appraisal is entirely separate from a home inspection. The former deals with the financial value of your new home. The latter is an inspection of the functional quality of your home’s systems, like HVAC and plumbing.”

There are a number of factors that contribute to that fair market value. “In a purchase-and-sale transaction, an appraisal is used to determine whether the home’s contract price is appropriate given the home’s condition, location, and features,” said Investopedia. While the evaluation process is intended to provide guidance when it comes to pricing, it is unknown at this point how those evaluations will compare to appraisals, if they will carry the same weight in terms of establishing home value, if they will disproportionately favor the lender, etc.

Value protection
Buyers and sellers each have a vested interest (literally) in knowing how much the home they are buying or selling is worth. For sellers, an appraisal can help inform the listing price, and may also be able to help a seller justify a higher listing price because of improvements they have made to the home.

On the other hand, if a home appraises for less than the sales price, buyers have a negotiating tool. “An appraisal is important because it protects your investment,” said Forbes. “It’s there to ensure that, as the buyer, you don’t pay more than the home is actually worth. It’s also important for securing financing. In today’s mortgage industry a bank will only give you a loan up to the fair market value of the home. Therefore, if an appraisal comes back lower than the purchase price, the lender may only issue you a loan for the appraised amount.”

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Understanding the Hidden Fees and Costs of Selling Your Home

Your home is likely the largest and most lucrative investment you’ll ever make. But as the saying goes, it takes money to make money. Maximizing the value of your investment is going to require putting some sweat equity, as well as literal cash equity, into it before it hits the market.

On top of that, there’s an avalanche of transaction costs, surcharges, fees, and various taxes that can take home sellers by surprise. In fact, the average cost of selling a home is just over $15,000. Knowing what to expect before you actually start the home selling process can be the difference between a satisfying, stress-free selling experience, and what can feel like a frustrating, draining “death by a thousand cuts.”

Let’s go over some of the obvious and less obvious costs of selling your home.

Expected Costs of Selling a Home
Realtor Commission
The first thing that most people think of when they hear the phrase “costs of selling your home” is the real estate commission. Traditionally, a real estate commission comes to 6% of the final sale price. How much is that in practical terms? The median home value in the U.S, according to Zillow, is $229,000. If you sold a home at that price, the commission would come to $13,740, which is no small amount of money.

So where does it go, and what does the seller get for that 6% payout? Generally, the listing agent and the buyer’s agent split the commission, with each of them taking home 3%. The idea behind the commission is that, by pegging your agent’s compensation to the final sale price of the house, you’re incentivizing them to get the highest price possible. The more you make, they more they make.

Does it work? In general, yes. Agent-assisted sales consistently sell faster, and for more money, that non-agent-assisted sales. According to an analysis by NAR, the median value of agent-assisted home sales is $250,000, while the median value of FSBO (for sale by owner) listings is only $190,000. The real estate commission is one of the biggest costs of selling your home, but it also brings some of the highest value.

Closing Costs
Closing costs is a catchall term that includes many smaller costs, from the owner’s title insurance fee, to half of the escrow fee (the seller splits it with the buyer), to prorated utility costs, document preparation fees, transfer taxes, and prorated property taxes.

How much are they? It’s hard to say, since they can vary from state to state and even from city to city. But generally, sellers pay 1% to 2% of a home’s sale price in closing costs.

Moving Expenses
It can be tempting to think you’ll just pack all your stuff into boxes you’ll get for free from the grocery store, and drive it over to the new house in your car. But when you’re in the middle of actually selling your home, you’ll probably find that you simply don’t have the bandwidth to deal with moving yourself.

Your options when hiring movers range from a single truck, to a full-service interstate shipping company. Depending on what level of services you opt for, you can expect to pay between a few hundred dollars and several thousand.

Hidden Fees and Costs
Let’s be honest; few sellers are likely to be taken by surprise by a real estate commission or moving costs. But the expenses listed below are more obscure, which is all the more disturbing when you consider that some of them can potentially dwarf the expenses we’ve already covered.

Renovations and Repairs
You’ve probably spent years living in your home, and as with a favorite old t-shirt or a significant other of several years, you even see its flaws as endearing. This probably won’t be the case with strangers. The scuffed hardwood floors and quirkily painted walls in your house will end up being liabilities when your home hits the open market, and any experienced real estate professional will advise you to renovate before you have that first showing.

How much it costs will depend on whether you just need a fresh coat of paint, or a new roof and refinished floors. But nearly every house will benefit from a refresh, so you can expect to invest several hundred dollars, at least, in pre-sale renovations.

Landscaping
“Curb appeal” refers to the very first impression your home makes on a potential buyer, as they get out of their car or walk up your driveway. And the features that surround your house have as much impact on your home’s curb appeal as the home itself. Just as you wouldn’t show up to a job interview in a new suit, but with uncombed hair and dirty nails, your property should be thoroughly landscaped before it’s listed. That means trimming the lawn, hedges, pruning trees, and even planting flowers.

How much this costs is going to depend on the size of your lawn, and how much maintenance it needs. But make no mistake, a manicured lawn can help a home sale as much as a new kitchen.

Staging
Where landscaping is about the external presentation of your property, staging is all about making the inside of your home as appealing as possible. In this context, staging can include everything from decluttering your shelves to buying a new dining set.

Fundamentally, staging is about showing your home in the best possible light, sometimes literally. You’ll want to allow as much flattering natural light as possible to penetrate into your home, which means removing heavy drapes and window coverings. Visual clutter is distracting and can even cause low levels of anxiety, so you’ll want to take all your family photos and collectible plates, and put them in storage. Worn or shabby furniture can make the rest of your home seem equally threadbare, so you may need to get rid of old furniture, and possibly buy new furniture.

Your agent can advise you on staging, and there are even professional home staging experts who you can hire to prepare your home for open houses. Sellers can expect to spend a few hundred dollars on staging their home or, if they opt for a professional home stager, a fee in the low four figures. The median amount of money spent on staging in 2018 was $400.

Professional Photography
In 2019, the reality is that before a prospective buyer even sets foot in your home, they’ve already looked at photos of it online. That means that including high quality photos with your home listing is of the highest importance. And as anyone with an Instagram account knows, taking a good, flattering photo is much harder than it seems.

The data is unambiguous; listings with high-quality photos sell faster than listings with mediocre photos, and the more photos a listing has, the better. A professional photographer isn’t cheap, but it’s a great investment.

Capital Gains Taxes
If your home sells for more than you bought it for, you may owe capital gains taxes to the federal government. This can be an extremely significant amount of money; a 20% bite out of your profits from capital gains wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in a room full of tax professionals.

But luckily, many home sellers will be able to exclude up to a quarter million dollars of profit (or a half million, for married couples filing jointly) from tax liability. The only conditions on this are that the home has to be have been your primary residence for two out of the previous five years, and you can’t have used the capital gains exemption on another home sale in the previous two years.

Saving When Selling Your Home
Surveying this list, it’s clear that some of these expenses are reducible, while others aren’t, or shouldn’t be.

Anything involving taxes is going to be hard to bring down. Property taxes, title fees, and transfer taxes are generally non-negotiable. There’s an exemption for capital gains taxes, but there are restrictions on how often it can be used. Sellers looking at a large capital gains tax bill could consider delaying their home sale, so they can take advantage of their exemption.

Some expenses, though, can be cut down. Staging, landscaping, and renovations can be done cheaply, especially if you enlist family and friends to help paint, mow, buff, and polish. Even moving can be done cheaply, if you don’t count sweat and time as expenses.

That brings us to the real estate commission. There are certainly low commission agents out there, but sellers should keep in mind that they’re usually getting less services by paying less money. If you save $13,000 by not using an agent, but your home sells for $40,000 less than it would have in an agent-assisted sale, you haven’t actually saved a penny.

However, there are a growing number of companies offering a full service selling experience for a flat fee. (Full disclosure: we’re one of them.) These companies allow sellers to partner with top agents in their markets, and get all the benefits of their expertise at a fraction of the usual price. Why, you might ask, would a top agent sell one house for a flat fee, if they could be making 6% on another house? Well, the agent’s getting high-quality leads from the referral company, which means much less time and effort spent hustling on the front end. It’s a true win-win. Considering that the 6% commission is usually the largest single cost of selling a home, flat-fee real estate companies are probably the best way for home sellers to bring their costs down.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Can’t Afford to Buy a Home? Have You Looked Into Down Payment Assistance?

What’s the No. 1 reason renters fear taking the leap to homeownership or don’t even think the leap is possible? That pesky down payment. Even with an FHA loan that requires a minimum of only 3.5% down, the idea of setting aside several thousand dollars is daunting at the least (and, in many cases, darn near impossible).

A survey from Apartment List shows that most millennial homebuyers can’t come up with the funds for a down payment. “Seventy-two percent of millennial renters who plan to purchase a home cite affordability as a reason that they are delaying homeownership, with 62 percent pinpointing a lack of down payment savings specifically,” they said. “Forty-eight percent of millennial renters have zero down payment savings, while just 11 percent have saved $10,000 or more.”

Down payment assistance programs can fill in the gap, but many buyers don’t even know they exist. “Down payment assistance can come from many different sources— including federal, state, county, city and nonprofit agencies—and aren’t always well-publicized,” said U.S News & World Report. Anyone who is interested in down payment assistance is encouraged to check with their real estate agent or lender, but doing your own research is key.

In Texas this week, Wells Fargo & Co., NeighborWorks America, and the Business & Community Lenders of Texas rolled out the NeighborhoodLIFT program, a new down payment assistance program promoting sustainable home ownership in the northern part of the state. This program is so new that some industry professionals might not even know it exists.

NeighborhoodLIFT offers up to $15,000 in down payment assistance plus homebuyer education to eligible families in Dallas as well as Tarrant County. Eligibility is based on income. In addition, “Military service members and veterans, teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians may reserve down payment assistance grants of $17,500 and earn up to 100% of the area median income,” said NBCDFW.

How to find down payment assistance:

1. Do a national search.
You’ll be surprised how many programs you can find. “Do you even know that down payment assistance (DPA) programs exist? You’re in good company if you don’t,” said The Mortgage Reports. “These programs help homebuyers with loans or grants that reduce the amount they need to save for a down payment. And there are more than 2,000 of them nationwide.”

2. Check out statewide programs.
From the HUD site, you can search by every state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to see which programs are available for you.

3. Now take it local.
Don’t forget to check for programs in your city. The City of Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department (HCIDLA) offers up to $90,000 in financial assistance for first-time, low income homebuyers. In Memphis, there is a zero-interest deferred loan that provides funding for first-time homebuyers’ down payment and closing costs for eligible homebuyers through its Division of Housing and Community Development (HCD). In Miami, you may be able to get a forgivable zero-interest deferred MDEAT Homeownership Assistance Program (HAP) loan; the program was designed “to increase the number of first-time home purchases for low-to-moderate income residents living in Miami-Dade County.”

4. Search by your profession.
If you’re a current or former member of the military, you likely already know about VA loans. Did you know they require no down payment?

The Neighbor Next Door Program is another good one. This program for law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and teachers requires only a $100 down payment for eligible homebuyers. Because the program is tied to the idea of revitalization, homes in these communities are offered to eligible buyers at a 50% discount. Buyers must commit to living in-home for at least three years.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

5 Very Important Checklist Items Before Selling Your Home

Before selling your home, you’ll want to make sure it is ready to be seen by potential buyers. Follow the next five steps to ensure that your house sells for the maximum value.

First Step: Paint
First, make sure that the paint is up to date. You may need to skim coat your walls. Skim coat, also called mud, is a thin layer of seam compound that can be used to repair or smooth damaged walls. You may need a skim jacket if you want to repair cracks, fill in joints, or flatten the area with an existing flat surface. Use a spatula or drywall knife to lay a layer of skim coat on rough walls or ceilings to form a flat surface for painting or wallpaper. Usually, two to four layers need to be applied before the surface is smooth. Examine the walls and ceiling for damage. If there is a lot of damage (notches, cracks, large holes), you have to fix them first. You may only need to complete the connection between the new plasters, maybe you have to complete the broken plaster or plaster-gypsum board joints, or you have many years of settlement or vibration Plan to repair plaster that will begin to break down.

Skim coating is a texturing technique used to smooth walls. Drywallers use this technique to hide imperfect taping work and give the wall only a plaster-like appearance and the smoothest surface. Non-oiling coatings are the only way to achieve class 5 drywall completion and many industry groups, including painting contractors, recommend them.

Second Step: Repairs
Some of these tips are quite simple, while others may need more elbow grease. But once the buyers have begun to show up at your location, you will benefit. When you are ready to sell, check your home for damaged parts, broken equipment, and spaces that need cleaning or exhilaration. Our home maintenance checklist will guide you through common home repairs that may affect your family’s value, especially when you are examining each area. Taking an assessment can also help you decide what needs to be corrected. The total cost of repair depends on the condition of your home. Once you have listed the repairs you need, decide for yourself what you can do and where you need expert help. Compare quotes from multiple contractors so that you can consider the price range. Look at the whole house and consider if you need to make some improvements.

Third Step: Check the Foundation
Concrete is essentially a very porous material. It absorbs moisture naturally. Cracks in the concrete floor are completely expected and not a structural problem, but be sure to check the foundation with a specialist.

Fourth Step: Landscaping
Be sure that your yard looks good. Hire a professional to keep everything neatly trimmed. This includes mowing the lawn and keeping shrubs and trees manageable. Also, be sure to clean off your patio.

Fifth Step: Cleaning
Finish by sweeping, mopping, and dusting the whole house clean. This includes making sure that there are no signs of dirt or stains. Countertops, sinks, showers and toilets are the main places to keep clean. Roll up your sleeves and go to work. Save some money by using homemade cleaning products.

Next, plant the “for sale’ sign in your front yard and discuss with your realtor. Then, you’ll be all set to start showing your property.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Why the Fall May be the Best Time to Buy a Home!

If you still think that the best time to buy a home is either spring or summer, you might miss out on what makes buying a home in fall such a great idea. While it is true that the buying frenzy is usually during spring and summer, taking advantage of the many holidays during fall can finally land you your dream home.

Best Time to Buy a Home
Are you aware that October is the best month for snagging home buying deals? This is backed by RealtyTrac’s data over a period of 15 years and 32 million home sales during that time period. More so, their data showed that those who purchased homes in October ended up paying 2.6% less than the estimated market value for the homes they purchased. That’s thousands upon thousands of savings!

Think about it, a home worth $500,000’s 2.6% is $13,000. You can use that $13,000 for purchasing really good appliances or have a vacation. Think this ‘discount’ is out there? Just wait until the 8th of October because homes purchased on that date averaged 10.8% less than their market value estimates. That’s beyond a good deal! That’s a steal!

Take Advantage of Less Competition
For those with kids, the start of fall is usually a very busy time as people get back to their daily lives after all the fun of summer. Those who were home hunting in spring and summer have either grown weary or already bought homes. Though it is true that sellers also typically drop out of the market during fall and usually resurface after the New Year, keeping an eye out for new listings can give you a beautiful new home before the holidays.

Make the Holidays Work for You
The holidays are just around the corner come fall and people are either hurrying to sell so they can move to another home or that they’ve taken a time out from buying as they get busy for the holidays. This factor can come in handy when you spot a new listing knowing that the owner would want to vacate their old home as soon as a deal is finalized.

Your Real Estate Broker Will Have More Time for You
Because there are generally less listings and less buyers in fall, your real estate broker will have more time to show you homes that fit what you are looking for plus answer all questions you may have. They’d also be more motivated to make lots of sales as the end of year nears and holidays approach.

Bargain Home Improvement Season
Fall is generally the time of the year when appliances are at their most affordable and new models are being launched. This is also the best time to purchase cookware, patio furniture, TVs, and sometimes, pay for home improvement services.

All of the above that point to why fall is the best time to buy a home are great, but year-end tax credits might be one of the best incentives for you. It is possible that you’ll be able to score quite a significant tax deduction come tax season.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

How Lenders Evaluate the Self-Employed Borrower

One of the primary factors when issuing a loan approval is to make sure the borrowers can afford the new mortgage payment along with other monthly credit obligations. This is accomplished by comparing monthly payments with monthly income.

For someone who receives a pay check on the 1st and 15th it’s relatively easy to figure out how much money someone makes. But for those who are self-employed and make money when their clients pay their bills, it’s not so easy. Lenders do have a method to properly calculate qualifying monthly income for the self-employed, they just take a few extra steps.

These borrowers must show proof they’ve been self-employed for at least two years. For those who receive a regular pay check from their employers, they too must demonstrate they’ve been in the workforce and receiving a regular pay check for at least two years. This is one of the reasons lenders ask for the last two years of W2 forms.

But self-employed folk don’t have W2s, they have 1099s sent to them by their clients. Self-employed borrowers can demonstrate they’ve been at it for at least two years with copies of their federal income tax returns. Borrowers will submit these returns and also sign a form called the IRS 4506-T. The 4506-T is an authorization form that allows the lender to independently receive copies of tax transcripts for the last two years. Upon receipt, the lender compares the returns provided by the borrowers with the information provided directly by the IRS.

Borrowers will also be asked to provide a year-to-date profit and loss statement. To calculate qualifying income, the lender will average the two years of self-employed income plus the year-to-date amount. The result is the qualifying income lenders use when evaluating a loan application for someone who is self-employed.

When reviewing the year-over-year income, the lender also wants to see some stability. If year one the income shown on the tax returns is $60,000 and in year two the income is $70,000, the lenders will average these two amounts along with year-to-date totals. On the other hand, if the income is $70,000 in year one and $60,000 in year two, that can be a red flag. In this example the income dropped by more than 10% in one year.

Is the business doing okay? Does the P&L also show declining income? In this instance, the lender will want an explanation for the declining income. If there is too much of a decline, the lender can make the determination the income is not likely to continue into the future. The continuation guideline is typically for at least three years.

Note, it’s a judgment call by the lender because no one can see that far into the future but if the person has been self-employed for the minimum amount of time and the business has demonstrated not just stability but growth, the lender can reasonably determine the business and the income that goes along with it will continue.

Lenders understand that self-employed income will be received at different times during the month. That’s why an average is used. And, more importantly, it’s not how much the business is bringing in this month or last or even this year. If you’re self-employed, keep this in mind. And if you’re not sure about your qualifying income, it’s time for a phone call to your loan officer.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

3 Ways to Reduce Your Closing Costs

Most loans today require some amount of a down payment. But they all require closing costs. There are lender fees, common ones are loan processing and underwriting fees, and there are non-lender fees. Non-lender fees include items such as an attorney fee or title insurance premiums. It’s the non-lender fees that can really add up as mortgage loans require services and documentation from multiple players in the real estate world.

Saving up for a down payment is probably the biggest challenge, especially for first time home buyers, but closing costs also need to be addressed. Here are three ways buyers can reduce or eliminate these costs.

The first way is to have your lender quote you an interest rate that provides a lender credit toward your closing costs. When your lender quotes rates and fees to you, you’ll get a range of rates from lower to higher. Lower rates will require upfront interest in the form of a discount point. One discount point equals one percent of the amount borrowed. On a $300,000 loan, one point is then $3,000.

For example, if your lender offers 4.25% with no points on a 30 year loan you might also be able to get a 4.00% by paying one point upfront. The lender really doesn’t care if you pay points or not, it’s completely your call. You have the option of paying interest upfront in the form of a point or you can pay the interest over the term of the loan without paying a point.

If you take that 4.25% rate one step further, say to 4.50%, the lender may offer a one point credit. Your monthly payment goes up by a little, but you also saved on closing costs. On that same $300,000 30 year loan, the 4.50% rate gave you a $3,000 credit at the settlement table. There is some math involved to determine which rate is best in your situation and your loan officer will walk you through the process.

Another way to reduce your closing costs is to have the sellers pay them for you. This involves you and your real estate agent making an offer that asks the sellers to pay for all or some of your fees. Your offer might include verbiage that asks the sellers to pay a certain percentage of the sales price, say 1% or 2% of the sales price or you might ask for a specific amount, such as $3,000.

Different loan programs place certain limits on how much the sellers can pay so you’ll need to check with your loan officer before making the offer. Most such limits are rarely reached however. The maximum seller contribution for a VA loan for example is 4.0% of the sales price. Taking a $300,000 sales price would then provide up to $12,000. Closing costs are nowhere near that.

Finally, if the sellers decide to decline your request, you can adjust the sales price upward. If the sales price is $300,000 and closing costs are $3,000, you can offer $303,000 while then asking the sellers to pay $3,000 of your costs. The sellers net the same amount at the closing table and you don’t have to come up with an additional $3,000 for closing costs. One potential issue with this method is making sure the property will appraise at the higher amount, but a one percent increase usually won’t cause any problems. And yes, when making a higher offer that also means your loan amount will also go up the difference in monthly payment is barely noticeable.

Closing costs will need to be addressed just as a down payment needs to be. Your loan officer will provide you with an initial cost estimate that will generally match up with your final settlement, so you’ll know what to expect. You can adjust your rate upward, have the sellers pay for them as part of your offer, or increase your offer slightly to include an amount reflecting your expected settlement fees.

Think Curb Appeal When Remodeling to Sell

With home prices up in some areas, the return on remodeling investments at resale can be good. Making little changes can have big impacts when it comes to remodeling your home to sell.

Some updates will return as much as they cost in hotter markets, but unless your home is in a rapidly inflating city, you may not get enough bang for your buck.

But the lesson isn’t to avoid remodeling your home. It’s to rethink your expectations. Do you want to enjoy your updates for a few years? Or do you want to make your home more immediately appealing to homebuyers?

If you’re remodeling for your own household, updating a home has a legitimate purpose that is unquantifiable. When you add square footage, update systems and fixtures, or rearrange traffic flow, you improve the functionality of your home. Refreshing wall colors, window coverings, and flooring adds to the beauty and enjoyment of your home. Many would consider that money better spent, and if you decide to sell in a few years, you’ll be ahead of the game in terms of updates that will appeal to homebuyers.

But if you’re remodeling strictly for the next buyer, there’s some risk. Will you choose the right elements to appeal to the next buyer? What if they don’t share your taste or appreciate the areas where you allocated your remodeling budget?

Start with what absolutely has to be done, whether you plan to stay in your home or not. You may be tempted to put off replacing the roof for an average of nearly $20,000, because Remodeling Magazine says it will only return approximately 72 percent of costs. But a new roof could make the difference in whether or not an FHA or VA buyer can buy your home and pass government inspection.

Otherwise, stick to smaller updates that can yield big impacts in terms of curb appeal, safety and building integrity. The top five cost-to-value projects that netted the most return are:

  1. Replacing the front door with a 20-guage steel door – 102 percent.
  2. Manufactured stone veneer — 92. 2 percent
  3. Fiber-cement siding — 84.3 percent.
  4. Garage door replacement — 82.5 percent
  5. Wood window replacement — 78 percent.

As you can see, the most lucrative projects for resale were all about curb appeal. Seal the deal with a new welcome mat, new sconces to complement the new steel door, and potted plants for color. Wow your buyers on the outside and they’ll be more likely to choose your home over the competition.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

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