DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | TUESDAY, DECEMBER 09, 2014
Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced Monday that first-time home buyers can now qualify for loans with down payments as low as 3 percent. That will expand credit for qualified home shoppers who may have been sidelined the last few years because of higher down-payment requirements, housing analysts say.
Freddie Mac launched Home Possible Advantage, a conventional mortgage with a 3 percent down-payment requirement geared to low- and moderate-income borrowers. It’s a conforming conventional mortgage with a maximum loan-to-value ratio of 97 percent. To qualify, first-time home buyers are required to participate in a borrower education program.
With Fannie Mae’s 3 percent down-payment offering, borrowers must still meet standard eligibility requirements, including underwriting, income documentation, and risk management standards. Any buyer can take advantage of Fannie’s loans as long as at least one co-borrower is a first-time buyer. The loans will require private mortgage insurance.
“Our goal is to help additional qualified borrowers gain access to mortgages,” says Andrew Bon Salle, Fannie Mae executive vice president for single-family underwriting, pricing, and capital markets. “This option alone will not solve all the challenges around access to credit. Our new 97 percent LTV offering is simply one way we are working to remove barriers for creditworthy borrowers to get a mortgage.”
The National Association of REALTORS® applauds the move by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie.
NAR said in a statement that the action by FHFA demonstrates its “commitment to home ownership by serving creditworthy borrowers who lack the resources for substantial down payments, plus closing costs, with a new 3 percent down-payment program that mitigates risk with strong underwriting. The new program ensures that responsible home buyers will have access to safe, affordable mortgage credit.”
Cleaning Your Kitchen Appliances the Easy Way
If Mr. Clean isn’t magically popping into your kitchen to make it sparkle, you still can get that clean satisfaction with these easy appliance cleaning tips.
The space behind your fridge is arguably the dirtiest couple of square feet in your house. It’s a meeting place for dust, water, and a host of other stuff that’s fallen behind the big guy.
Pull out the refrigerator and mop up whatever you find. Most fridges today have wheels that make it easy to push and pull the fridge, but if yours doesn’t, try some furniture moving discs.
Vacuum refrigerator coils behind or beneath your fridge. Doing so will prolong the life of your fridge.
For heaven’s sake, toss that bag of frozen artichoke hearts that’s been in your freezer since forever. Think like it’s your closet: if you haven’t eaten it in a year, or don’t know what the heck it is, throw it out or add it to your compost pile.
Replace door gaskets that have loosened because their inner magnets have lost their pull. You’ll get the added benefit of saving energy, too, with a tighter seal.
Your stovetop and oven
Most ovens have self-cleaning options. We heartily recommend letting the oven do the work for you. But there are few spots the self-clean option doesn’t reach, such as the gunk around door hinges and frames, and the crumb-catching space between double ovens. Once you get those clean, make a habit of wiping them down quickly after using the oven, and you may never have to scrub it again.
To clean your stovetop, fill your sink with hot, soapy water and soak burners, knobs, and hood vents for a couple of hours, then clean. Repeat if necessary. Replace stained, metal drip plates beyond the help of steel wool. Use your vacuum to get crumbs that have fallen in cracks.
You think you wouldn’t need to clean your dishwasher since it’s cleaned every time you use it. But you should check the drain in the bottom of the machine for debris, and clean gaskets around the machine. Deodorize it by placing a bowl of white vinegar on the top rack, and run for a full cycle.
The best way to remove baked-on food is to fill a microwave-safe container with water, microwave it until the water boils, and let sit for a few minutes more while steam to loosens particles. Wipe clean. Ta-da!
Unplug your toaster, pull out and wash its crumb catcher, and shake the machine over the sink to get rid of food. Dry thoroughly before plugging back in.
Your coffee machine
To remove mineral deposits that can clog your machine, pour a 2:1 water:white vinegar solution into the water chamber, insert a coffee filter, and run the solution through the machine. Then run clear water through twice to remove the vinegary taste.
One old-timey way to remove stains from your glass coffee pot — or any vase, pitcher, etc., with stains — is to cover the bottom with table salt, add ice cubes, and when they start to melt swish around for a couple of minutes. Then rinse.
By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon House Logic
By Arielle Kass
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 1/27/2014
Home sales in metro Atlanta rose in December as prices continued to increase, the Atlanta Board of Realtors said.
Sales of homes in the 11-county metro region were up 1.9 percent in December from a year ago. The median sales price of $196,000 was a 21 percent increase over December 2012.
Atlanta Board of Realtors president Todd Emerson said in a statement that the increase in both sales and prices during the traditionally slow holiday season is a “good harbinger” for the spring selling season.
“We expect these statistics to begin rising as the warmer weather arrives, but this reversal of the downward trend established over the last several months is a welcome change,” he said.
You’ve found the house. The bank is in your corner. You’ve got a top notch real estate agent watching your back.
It’s time to pull the trigger. It’s time to buy your house.
Until you’ve been through the homebuying process a time or two, the jump from “prospective buyer” to “buyer” can seem confusing. The process, so long as the bank is in your corner from the start, is actually pretty straightforward.
To whom should I make the check out?
If you’ve hired a good real estate agent, which I’m sure you have, the process will be even easier. Your real estate agent will be your guide as you navigate this jungle.
The first step is to make an offer to purchase. The exact rules and contracts can vary, so lean on your agent to guide you. If the form is endorsed by the National Association of Realtors, then odds are you’re good to go.
Because there is so much variation from state to state and so much nuance to the “Offer to Purchase Contract,” I’ll speak only generally here. Rely on your agent. Remember, the agent is financially rewarded when the house sells. Your agent wants your offer to be accepted, and he or she wants you to be able to afford it. If the bank says no, the agent doesn’t get paid.
The seller will probably negotiate with you. That is to be expected and is totally normal. Remember to stay calm and negotiate from strength. You’ve done your homework, and you know what the home is worth.
Its easy to become emotionally attached at this point. But you have to stick to your financial plan. If the seller is unreasonable, you must be willing to walk away from the deal.
With a little luck, you’re offer will be accepted. Congratulations!
The next step is to notify the bank and formally apply for your mortgage loan. The sooner, the better, as the bank has a multi-step process it must begin and complete before your offer to purchase expires.
The bank will ask you to sign a smorgasbord of government-required disclosures, although the changes in bank regulations over the past few years makes this part of the process much easier.
Pay attention to the disclosures. They are important. Do not let the banker rush you to sign. You’re on the cusp of borrowing a huge sum of money. Understand fully what you’re signing up for.
Other people in the process you’ll need to know
There are a handful of other professionals who will play a part in your journey to homeownership. Again, lean on your real estate agent for help; think of him or her as your project manager.
Your agent can make recommendations of whom to hire and what prices are reasonable, and he or she will coordinate everyone’s schedules.
First, you’ll need to buy insurance for your new home. This is as simple as calling a few insurance agents to price-compare. When you’ve selected one, just notify your bank of your choice, and it will coordinate from there. Pretty simple.
Your real estate agent can also help you select a licensed home inspector to inspect the property for damages, structural integrity, termites, and other issues hiding behind the walls. When the inspection report is finished, there will invariably be something the inspector found that he or she recommends fixing.
The choice is up to you, but it’s usually worth going back to the seller to negotiate for most or all of the fixes to be done before closing the loan. Again, to beat a dead horse, your real estate agent can help you assess the report and advise you on the best course of action.
Your real estate agent can also help you select a lawyer to close the loan for you. The lawyer will take care of filing all the paperwork properly with the government and ensuring that all the loan documents are correct. You will need to notify the bank of your choice so it can coordinate the loan closing with the lawyer.
Meanwhile, back at the bank
While you and your real estate agent are making things happen out in the real world, the bank is hard at work behind the scenes.
The bank will order the appraisal, which generally takes two to four weeks to complete. The bank will give your financial statements and application a final review. They’ll communicate with the insurance company and tax assessor’s office to determine your obligations there.
The bank will ask you if you would like to escrow the payments for insurance and property taxes. What this means is that you will pay the the money to cover insurance and taxes to the bank monthly with your loan payment. The bank holds the money and pays the insurance and property taxes when they are due.
The downside is that you’re giving the bank your money and sacrificing the interest or other value that money could bring to you if it were not escrowed at the bank. To each his own. However, I recommend escrowing. The peace of mind is worth more than the small amount of opportunity cost.
The bank will also calculate all the sources and uses of cash in the loan closing. This includes all the taxes, fees, and other monies you will be required to pay at closing. These fees vary substantially by state and bank, but the bank will disclose an estimate to you upfront. So pay attention to the disclosures!
When the appraisal is complete, the bank will give your loan package one final review and, hopefully, approve the loan.
The closing table
When closing day finally arrives, you will head to your lawyer’s office to sign all the paperwork and receive the keys to your new home.
The lawyer will walk you through all the paperwork and ensure that you fully understand everything you’re signing. If you have questions, ask! You are paying him or her, so don’t get shy. Get your money’s worth!
If you will be bringing any money to closing, such as your down payment, fees, or other closing costs, make sure to bring a certified check from your bank. Most lawyers won’t accept a personal check or card transaction.
When everything is signed, witnessed, and ready to go, you can proudly call yourself a homeowner. The lawyer will file everything officially at the Register of Deeds office for you a day or two later.
Realtor Home Buyer Study Shows Promising Green Trends
December 11, 2013 • By Nathalie Sanderson
A 2013 study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows home buyers are thinking green when it comes to choosing a new residence, spurring much-needed demand in a chilled housing marketplace.
In its annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, NAR found a still-rising premium on eco-friendly homes and communities in the U.S. housing market. Buyers are looking for homes designed or retrofitted with planet-friendly features like high-efficiency windows, water metering, and geothermal heating and cooling.
According to the Profile, the top priorities were heating and cooling costs, energy-saving appliances, and energy-efficient lighting. In the Northeast, nearly 40 percent of buyers said heating and cooling costs were their single greatest concern. The report found that new home buyers also attached importance to solar power, green landscaping techniques, and eco-conscious community perks, like easy community access for less commuting.
A Greener Market
From the world’s most expensive homes, outfitted with satellite-controlled irrigation and solar arrays, to modest LEED-certified granny flats, more and more home buyers are seeking housing with an environmental conscience. Requiring less energy and raw resources, green homes are helping slow the daily juggernaut of garbage bound for overflowing U.S. landfills. In a nod to climate change woes, forward thinking housing also keeps carbon usage to a minimum.
The use of green building materials has continued to climb through the recession. From new builds to remodels, opportunities abound for buyers and sellers to join the movement for sustainable housing. Today’s $116 billion global market is expected to swell above $250 billion by 2020, market analysts at Navigant Research projected this year.
These real estate trends benefit not only the environment, but buyers and sellers, too. Developers are racing to earn eco-credentials like LEED certification to prove their mettle in this greener market. Consumers are responding positively, driving vital demand in a recession and helping to bring down the price of earth-friendly materials.
Serving Human Health
Acknowledging new LEED certification rules, green-minded developers are increasingly introducing features in support of human health. Embracing this theme was last month’s 12th annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, the world’s largest building sustainability event.
Held in Philadelphia, this year’s gathering emphasized non-toxic construction furnishings that promote rather than contaminate indoor air quality, such as low-biocide paints or low-VOC flooring. Echoing this sentiment, the U.S. Green Building Council released its latest round of environmentally friendly construction standards, dubbed ‘LEED v4,’ at the Greenbuild conference.
The LEED v4 updates have drawn attention for a revamped focus on materials safety and transparency. The tough new benchmarks directly take on the human health dimension of environmental health because, noted one LEED VP, there’s no point in creating an airtight, energy-efficient structure only to fill it with hazardous toxic materials.
Sentimentality can be a powerful disincentive to declutter. How could a loving daughter sell her family silver, even though she dislikes the pattern? How could parents ever discard a painting by their young budding Picasso, even though he’s now 30 and hasn’t picked up a paint brush in 20 years?
Most home owners avoid those tough decisions and schlep possessions from house-to-house. But it’s far smarter to shed before moving. Not only does it clear out space to make a listing look its best, it also saves on moving costs to transport less stuff.
1. Study the entire house. Sellers shouldn’t tackle every room in one fell swoop. Advise them to go room-by-room, starting at the front door. Sellers should pretend they’re seeing each room for the first time, says Kammie Lisenby, CEO of The Organizing Experts in Seattle. The goal is to make rooms resemble those in a hotel, says professional organizer Katrina Teeple, owner of Operation Organization in Los Angeles.
2. Make piles. Sellers should organize piles as they clear each room — for example, stack items to keep, give to family or friends, donate to a charity, sell online, get hauled away, and consign. They should bear in mind the size of the home they’re moving to, their degree of sentimental attachment, and the financial value of each item. It’s best to put highly personal items aside in the keep pile, such as family photos they don’t want buyers to see during showings, says Lisenby.
3. Create a spreadsheet. A master list of what rooms will require organizing tasks can be helpful. This will also aid in prioritizing expenses, such as home improvements, paint, and staging elements. To play it safe with finicky buyers, sellers should go neutral in paint and decor, says Teeple.
4. Empty closets. Often becoming a graveyard for all the belongings home owners don’t know what to do with, clean, spacious closets are a coveted feature among buyers. Izsak suggests eliminating anything not worn or used in the last two years. Aim to dispose of 50 percent of wardrobes since most people only wear 20 percent of their clothes 80 percent of the time, he says. The remaining items should be stored on uniform rods, or in labeled, see-through bins, says Teeple.
5. Clear off counters and bookcases. Get rid of books that won’t be reread, particularly now that so many people read online. Add a few home decor items for sparkle. When in doubt, follow the “rule of three,” a mantra among home stagers, by clustering items into threes to create visual appeal. The final effect should reflect a neutral style.
6. Inspect the home’s exterior. Depending on the time of year, sellers may need to hire a professional to clear leaves, snow, or ice, so that they don’t hide a home’s features. Messiness and wear and tear on the outside indicates to buyers that the inside hasn’t been cared for well.
7. Check curb appeal all around. While the front yard is key to making a good first impression, more home owners spend time out back, so sellers should be sure lawns, shrubs, trees, and amenities like a fence and air conditioning condensers are maintained.
8. Spruce up the kitchen. This is the home’s most popular gathering spot and another place where everything gets dumped—backpacks, car keys, cell phones, etc. The rule of three applies here, too. Tell sellers not to stuff anything into a pantry or cabinets; get rid of it if it hasn’t been used in a few years. Also, clean out the refrigerator and freezer.
9. Make bathrooms spotless. Not every seller has a spa bathroom to unwind in, but clean grout, tiles, shower door, and vanity can make a big difference in an average bathroom. Clear out the prime real estate of a medicine cabinet, add crisp white or other neutral towels, fresh soaps, and a plant, Teeple suggests.
10. Purge basements, attics, and garages. These are a home’s purgatories—where stuff goes to never see the bright light of day, says Izsak. Anything that’s been moved at least twice and not opened needs to be reassessed, says Chris Seman, president of Caring Transitions in Cincinnati, a relocation service. Separate the items to be stored in see-through bins to reveal their contents; do so by categories, such as holiday decorations; and be sure bins are labeled clearly and have lids to keep out pests.
11. Professionalize an office. With more home owners working from home, a separate room or corner for an office can boost sales appeal. Have sellers clear up paper piles and file documents—but remember, most home owners only reference 5 percent of their files, says Seman. The work area should include good illumination, a comfortable chair, and clean equipment, says Izsak.
12. Get rid of belongings. Now it’s time for your sellers to rethink what to do with everything in piles. Here are some upsides and downsides to these decisions:
Sell or auction through an online vendor like Craigslist or eBay or at a flea market. Downside: It may take time to get the desired price.
Leave at a consignment shop to get stuff out of a house now. Downside: Proceeds get shared, and it may take a while to sell.
Give away to family, friends, or a nonprofit such as freecycle.org. Some communities let residents leave stuff outside their house with a sign, “Take it!” Upside: It gets rid of things fast. Have a group haul it away such as 1-800-Got-Junk? Upside: This avoids driving it to a dumpster. Donate to a charity. Upside: It gets out of a house, helps someone in need, and provides a deduction. Fill out IRS Form 8283 if total exceeds $500. Organize a yard sale. If time is of the essence, the seller could hire a professional who sets up tables, takes money, and gets rid of what doesn’t sell. Downside: Proceeds get shared.
13. Don’t repeat collector mania. Once sellers move into their new home with fewer possessions, advise them to purchase carefully. Sending organization ideas and decluttering tips is a great way to keep in touch with past clients. Check out HouseLogic’s REALTOR® Content Resource for helpful home staging, maintenance, and organizing articles you can use in your newsletter or blog, or share them on your social networks for free.
OCTOBER 2013 | BY BARBARA BALLINGER