Buying A Home Virtually

Buying A Home VirtuallyDuring the past few months, everyone has been going through unprecedented times. Every industry has been impacted and this includes the real estate sector. There are lots of people who are still trying to buy and sell a home during an era of social distancing. This can make it hard to look at a prospective property in person. The good news is that there are still ways for people to buy a house virtually. There are a few tips that everyone should keep in mind. 

Go On A Virtual Tour

Of course, everyone wants to take a close look at a home before they decide to buy it. Even though it is challenging to schedule live tours, virtual tours can still be helpful. With virtual real estate software, it is possible to take a virtual, walking tour the home. Furthermore, if tours have been recorded using drones, then a virtual tour might provide everyone with a new perspective on a potential home. 

Ask The Right Questions

It is important for everyone to make sure they ask the right questions. Even if someone is not going on a  tour of a home in person, it is still important to ask the same questions. For example, ask about the age of the roof, the age of the HVAC system, and other pertinent questions to the property. This will help everyone make sure they understand exactly what they are buying. 

Know What Is Not Seen Virtually

When it comes to asking questions, it is also important to think about items that cannot be seen virtually. For example, it might be difficult to judge noise levels outside of the home from a virtual tour. It might also be challenging to figure out where puddles tend to form during thunderstorms. These are important topics that have to be discussed as well. 

Prepare Early To Buy A Home Virtually

Even if people cannot see a property in person, the real estate market can still be relatively active. Therefore, anyone who is looking to buy a house in this market has to make sure they stay on top of their information. This will help them remain competitive when they are trying to buy the perfect house for their needs.

 

The Top Ways To Winter Proof A Home

The Top Ways To Winter Proof A Home

As the temperature continues to drop outside, many people are worried about what is going to happen to their heating bills. Given the challenging economic year, nobody wants to pay more than they have to. On the other hand, there are ways that people can keep their heating bills as low as possible as long as they take steps to winter-proof their homes now. 

Prevent Drafts Under The Doors And Windows

One of the most common reasons why people end up using more heat than they should is that they are losing heat to the external environment. Often, this heat flows through gaps between windows and doors. Therefore, everyone has to make sure their windows and doors are closed when they are not using them. Then, consider adding stopgaps between doors and windows to prevent heat from exiting the home. If the windows are unlikely to be opened during the winter, then it might be a smart idea to seal them. 

Add Insulation To Hot Water Pipes And Tanks

Many people do not realize just how much heat they use keeping their water hot in their homes. It is a great idea for homeowners to add insulation to hot water tanks and pipes. By adding some simple insulation, the hot water heater is not going to have to work as hard to get hot water up to the right temperature. This can save homeowners a significant amount of money on their heating bills. 

Use A Smart Thermostat

Many homeowners run their heater when they do not have to. For example, they might run their heater when they are at work or asleep. This is unnecessary. By using a smart thermostat, everyone can set up a schedule for their heater. That way, their heater will shut off when the home does not have to be warmed to a specific temperature. At the same time, remember to warm the house to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit at all times to prevent water from freezing in the pipes. 

Save Money On Heating Bills This Winter

These are a few of the top ways that homeowners can save money on their heating bills this winter without having to sacrifice their comfort.

 

Important Advice For Locating The Right Neighborhood

Important Advice For Locating The Right NeighborhoodWhen people are thinking about moving, they want to make sure they find the right neighborhood. At the same time, it is not always easy for many homeowners to decide where they are going to live. Particularly if they are not familiar with the local community, there are a few important points that everyone should keep in mind. By thinking about these factors ahead of time, potential homeowners are going to place themselves in a position to be successful when they purchase their next home. 

Consider The Importance Of The Schools

Many people who are moving are looking for a bigger house because their family is getting larger. Therefore, one of the most important factors that families need to think about involve the quality of the schools. Schools are going to play a major role in the pricing of the neighborhood. Think about whether the kids are going to go to public school or private school. For families that are going to send their kids to public school, they need to think about the quality of the public schools and what school system the neighborhood is zoned for. 

Think About The Commute To Work

Another important factor that the family should consider is the commute to work. There are many people who are moving in an effort to shorten their commute or because they are getting a new job. Therefore, it is a smart idea to think about the traffic, the time it will take to work, and how challenging the driving route is going to be. This is going to play a major role and where the family is going to end up settling. 

The Access To Amenities

Finally, it is also important to think about access to amenities. This could include parks, shopping, hiking trails, and even access to the airport. Families need to think about what is important to them and prioritize this during the housing search. It is also a great idea to think about any development that might be taking place in the local area that could influence housing prices in the future. All of these factors should be considered when families are considering which neighborhood they would like to move to.

 

The Importance of Reviewing Your Insurance Policies During The COVID-19 Pandemic

The Importance of Reviewing Your Insurance Policies During The COVID-19 PandemicThe COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm. Millions of people all over the world have been infected and businesses have ground to a halt. During this time, it is important for everyone to take a breath, pause, and look at their insurance policies.

The reality is that the economic crisis is following in the footsteps of the obvious public health emergency. In order for everyone to hold their finances together, it is important to explore all of the options. This includes looking at insurance policies.

Business Interruption Insurance

One of the first policies or riders that everyone has to look for is called business interruption insurance. This is an insurance policy that might be able to assist companies that are struggling with reduced revenue streams due to interruptions in their normal business operations.

For example, if a business is forced to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this might fall under the category of business interruption insurance. This can help businesses bridge the gap until they can reopen again.

Civil Authority Clauses

This is a feature that is common in property insurance. This insurance claim can be triggered if government policies restrict the entry of people onto the property of the policyholder. If this restriction leads to lost income, then the insurance policy can be triggered. Everyone should check their policies to see if this clause is included as this can provide funds to businesses that might not otherwise be able to stay open.

Defensive Policies And Riders

Finally, defensive policies are often put in place to help companies defend against lawsuits that might be filed against the company related to injuries and illnesses. Without a doubt, there will be a slew of lawsuits filed related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Defensive policies can help companies cover legal fees, settlement costs, and other expenses related to these lawsuits.

Defensive policies are also called D&O insurance (Directors and Officers Insurance) as well as General Liability Insurance. It is important to read the insurance policy carefully to see if these policies are included.

Businesses need to explore every available option when it comes to reopening. These insurance policies can help them survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

4 Surprising Things That Might Increase Your Home’s Value

4 Surprising Things That Might Increase Your Home's ValueYou’ve probably heard that living near excellent schools or having curb appeal can boost the value of your home. However, a home’s value is dependent upon a lot of different factors. Some of these things are more obvious than others. Things that might seem insignificant can have an impact on your home’s worth. Here are some surprising things that can affect the existing value of your home or how much a buyer is willing to pay for it.

#1 A Blue Kitchen or Bathroom

Painting your home is an easy and cost-effective way to update your home. Just make sure that you select the right colors. Based on recent research, walls that are painted cool neutral colors like blue are more likely to appeal to buyers. According to a 2017 study by Zillow, homes with blue bathrooms sell for an average of $5,500 more than expected. Houses that had blue kitchens sold for $1,809 more compared to similar homes that had a white kitchen.

#2 How Close You Are To A Supermarket

Being next to a well-known supermarket can increase the value of your home. If the supermarket is considered upmarket, then the increase in value is even higher. According to “Zillow Talk, The New Rules of Real Estate,”  homes that are near a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods grocery store appreciate up to 40 percent faster than other homes. The presence of a popular store like Trader Joe’s has a positive effect on market values over time.

#3 A Joanna Gaines’ Aesthetic

Joanna Gaines’s urban farmhouse aesthetic is more than just chic; it can have a surprisingly positive effect on the value of your home. According to a Zillow analysis of home sale descriptions from 2016, houses that had the keywords “farmhouse sink” and “barn door” sold quicker and at a premium compared to similar homes. Listings that had the words “barn door” sold 57 days quicker and for 13.4 percent more than similar homes. For sale listings that included a “farmhouse sink” sold for 8 percent more. So, if you plan to make interior updates in your home, you might want to watch a couple of episodes of “Fixer Upper” for inspiration.

#4 Your Proximity to Starbucks

Do you live within a quarter of a mile from a Starbucks? If so, then you are in luck? A study released by Zillow in 2015 found that homes that were within a quarter of a mile from the Seattle-based coffeehouse increased by 96 percent on average from 1997 to 2014. This number is well above the average of 65 percent of all U.S. homes.

Whether you are in the process of buying a new home or updating your existing home, think about the above factors as they may play a role in the value of your home.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 29, 2016

Last week’s economic reports included readings on new and existing home sales, a speech by Fed Chair Janet Yellen, and a report on consumer sentiment. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

New Home Sales Rise in July as Pre-Owned Home Sales Fall

Sales of new homes jumped in July to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 654,000 sales, which surpassed expectations of 579,000 sales and June’s downwardly-revised reading of 582,000 sales. This was the highest reading for new home sales since 2008 and represented a 31.30 percent increase since July 2015.

Builders were seen by analysts as addressing the need for more affordable homes; this trend contributes to a healthy housing market by supplying homes for a wider range of buyers. First-time buyers play a vital part in housing markets as their purchases enable current homeowners to buy larger homes or relocate.

Sales of pre-owned homes fell 3.20 percent to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million sales as compared to expectations of 5.59 million sales and June’s reading of 5.57 million sales. Year-over-year, sales were 1.60 percent lower. Limited inventories of available pre-owned homes have narrowed buyer options; increasing prices and narrow choices were seen as factors contributing to lower sales. There was a 4.60 month supply of available homes in July. Real estate pros typically consider a six months a normal reading for homes on the market.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®, noted that a slowdown in home appraisals may have contributed to July’s lower sales reading for pre-owned homes. Low mortgage rates prompted a surge in refinancing which created a backlog in home appraisals. While low mortgage rates may entice home buyers, stricter mortgage requirements can also keep prospective buyers at bay.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen indicated that the stage could be set for a federal rate increase as early as next month. If the Fed hikes its target federal funds rate, interest rates for consumer credit and mortgages can be expected to rise.

Mortgage Rates Hold Steady; New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that fixed mortgage rates for 30 and 15-year loans were unchanged at 3.43 and 2.74 percent respectively. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 2.75 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent.

New jobless claims were lower last week. 261,000 new jobless claims were filed against expectations of 264,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 262,000 new claims filed. Declining jobless claims can indicate strengthening labor markets, but can also indicate that workers are leaving the labor markets.

Consumer sentiment declined slightly in August due to concerns over the upcoming presidential election. Analysts expected a reading of 91.0 for August, but the reading for August was revised from 90.4 to 89.80.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on pending home sales, inflation, construction spending, and consumer confidence. National unemployment, non-farm payrolls, and ADP payrolls are also scheduled.

Benchmark Mortgage

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 22, 2016

Last week’s economic news included the NAHB Housing Market Index, Commerce Department releases on housing starts, and building permits issued. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

Shortages of available single-family homes have driven up home prices and increased competition among homebuyers. Short inventories of homes for sale are affecting affordability in many areas, although buyers seem motivated by lower mortgage rates and some easing of mortgage requirements. Analysts have repeatedly said that the only solution to the shortage of homes is building more homes.

Fortunately, the National Association of Home Builders reported that builder sentiment concerning U.S. housing markets increased in August. The HMI moved up to a reading of 60 in August as compared to July’s reading of 58. Readings over 50 indicate that a majority of builders surveyed are confident about housing market conditions.

According to NAHB, home builders continued to face obstacles including shortages of buildable lots and skilled labor. Regulatory issues were also cited by some builders, but overall, builders remain optimistic about housing market conditions.

Housing Starts Up, Building Permits Issued Slip in July

Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued were mixed. Housing starts rose from July’s reading of 1.186 million permits issued to 1.211 million permits issued in August. July’s reading was the second highest since the recession but was driven by multi-family construction. Building permits were lower in August with a reading of 1.152 million permits issued against July’s reading of 1.153 million permits issued.

Analysts said that under present market conditions, there is little reason for homebuilders to increase single-family home production as current pricing has put many would-be buyers on the sidelines.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, New Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported that average rates for 30-year and 15-year fixed rate mortgages dropped last week while the average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose. The average rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 3.43 percent and the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 2.74 percent. Both readings were two basis points lower than the prior week. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 2.76 percent. Average discount points held steady for fixed rate mortgages at 0.50 percent; average discount points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages were lower at 0.40 percent.

New Jobless claims fell by 4000 claims to 262,000 new claims, which was lower than analyst expectations of 265,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 266,000 new claims. Job security is important to home buyers and signs of strong labor markets can help propel would-be buyers into the market.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes releases on new/existing home sales and consumer sentiment. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released on schedule.

Benchmark Mortgage

How Are Pre-Qualifying And Pre-Approval Different?

How Are Pre-Qualifying And Pre-Approval Different? Watch this video and it’ll make sense.

Pre-qualification is an informal way to see how much you maybe able to borrow. You can be ‘pre-qualified’ over the phone with no paperwork by telling a lender your income, your long-term debts and how large a down payment you can afford. Without any obligation, this helps you arrive at a ballpark figure of the amount you may have available to spend on a house.

Pre-approval is a lender’s actual commitment to lend to you. It involves assembling financial records and going through a preliminary approval process. Pre-approval gives you a definite idea of what you can afford and shows sellers that you are serious about buying.

Understanding Your ‘Debt-to-Income Ratio’ When Getting a Mortgage

Assessing Your Debt-to-Income Ratio and Why This Number Matters When Getting a MortgageIf you are looking to buy a home, you may want to consider shopping for a loan first. Having your financing squared away ahead of time can make it easier to be taken seriously by buyers and help move along the closing process. For those who are looking to get a mortgage soon, keep in mind that the Debt-to-Income ratio of the borrower plays a huge role in the approval of your mortgage application.

What is a Debt-to-Income Ratio?

A debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of monthly debt payments compared to the amount of gross income that a person earns each month. Your gross monthly income is typically the amount of money you earn before taxes and other deductions are taken out. If a person’s monthly gross income is $2,000 a month and they have a monthly debt payments of $1000 each month, that person would have a DTI of 50 percent. The lower the DTI the better. 43 percent is in most cases the highest DTI that potential borrowers can have and still get approved for a mortgage.

What Debt Do Lenders Look At?

The good news for borrowers is that lenders will disregard some debt when calculating a borrower’s DTI. For example, utilities, cable, phone and health insurance premium would not be considered as part of your DTI. What lenders will look at are any installment loan obligations such as auto loans or student loans as well as any revolving debt payments such as credit cards or a home equity line of credit. In some cases, a lender will disregard an installment loan debt if the loan is projected to be paid off in the next 10-12 months.

What Is Considered Income?

Almost any source of income that can be verified will be counted as income on a mortgage application. Wage income is considered as part of a borrower’s monthly qualifying income. Self-employed individuals can use their net profit as income when applying for a mortgage, however, many lenders will average income in the current year with income from previous years. In addition, those who receive alimony, investment income or money from a pension or social security should make sure and include those figures in their monthly income as well when applying for a loan.

How Much Debt Is Too Much Debt?

Many lenders prefer to only offer loans to those who have a debt-to-income ratio of 43 percent or lower. Talking to a lender prior to starting the mortgage application process may help a borrower determine if his or her chosen lender offers such leeway.

A borrower’s DTI ratio can be the biggest factor when a lender decides whether to approve a mortgage application. Those who wish to increase their odds of loan approval may decide to lower their DTI by either increasing their income or lowering their debt. This may make it easier for the lender and the underwriter to justify making a loan to the borrower.

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3 Tips to Help You Secure a Favorable Mortgage Rate

The Summer Buying Season Is Here 3 Tips to Help You Secure a Favorable Mortgage RateThe best way to ensure you get a good rate on your mortgage is to become an informed buyer. The more you know about mortgages, the more you’ll be able to save, and that doesn’t just mean knowing where to find the best interest rate.

While interest rates play an important role in determining the price of your mortgage, there’s always more to a mortgage than just the interest rate. Here are three things you need to know about mortgages to make sure you secure a favorable rate.

Understand The Fees Involved – And How To Avoid Them

Aside from the interest rate, the biggest factor affecting the price of a mortgage is often the fees involved. These fees won’t always be easy to find, so you might have to do some homework if you want to compare fees charged by different lenders.

Sometimes, it’s possible to have these fees waived or removed. For example, if you end up moving your mortgage from one lender to another, the original lender may have some sort of mortgage pre-payment penalty. You’ll want to make sure the terms of your existing mortgage loan don’t include fees like this before you refinance.

Understand How The “Lock-In” Process Can Affect Your Interest Rate

When you get a quote for a mortgage, each lender will offer a “lock-in period” in which the lender guarantees the interest rate for your mortgage stays the same. Because interest rates fluctuate so often, this “lock-in period” ensures that you end up paying the same rate you were initially offered should you choose to take out a mortgage with that lender.

If you need a longer lock-in period of two months or more, many lenders will charge a higher interest rate for that provision. For this reason, it’s a good idea to be sure about the closing date of your sale so you can avoid missing out on the lock-in period or being forced to ask for a rate-lock extension.

Understand How Your Credit Score Affects Your Mortgage Rate

Generally, a better credit score means a better mortgage rate, but it’s important that you don’t damage your score while you’re shopping around for mortgages.

Every lender will want to know your credit score and see your credit history. The good news is that every inquiry of the same tyep (mortgage in this case) will only count as a single inquiry on your score.  However, if you have other types of credit pulled, like furniture or auto financing, many inquiries into your credit history can lower your credit score.  Your best bet is to hold off on any additional financing until your home purchase loan is completed.

Of course, it’s always important to shop around and compare rates when you’re looking for the best mortgage deal. A mortgage rate that looks good at first could end up being a bad mortgage rate in the end because of hidden fees and other cost factors.

To learn more about finding the best mortgage rates, call us today.