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Monday, December 8, 2014

Are You Really Pre-Approved for a Mortgage?

Most home buyers will hear these terms during their search for a home:
  • Pre-Qualified
  • Pre-Approved
  • Loan Commitment
Sometimes even real estate agents are confused by the terms, so it's no wonder that home buyers and sellers are, too. Although related, the three terms each signify a different level of approval from a lender.

Pre-Qualified
You can be pre-qualified by a lender, by an agent, by yourself. The term means that someone has taken a general look at your income and expenses and plugged them in to a debt-to-income ratio formula. Loan pre-qualification does not include an analysis of your credit report or an in-depth look at your potential to buy a home.

Bottom Line: Pre-qualifying yourself before you start looking for a home will give you a general idea of the price range you can afford.

Pre-Approval
When you are pre-approved, it means a lender has looked closely at both your credit report and your income. The lender will tell you the maximum amount of loan they will offer, and which loan programs you qualify for. You'll also have a better idea about your interest rate, or you might lock-in a specific rate.

Bottom Line: Now you can go shopping for a home with confidence about your buying power--but it still doesn't mean the bank will approve the loan. Your income and credit report will be checked again before closing, and the home itself must be approved.

Loan Commitment
The bank will not issue a loan commitment until it has approved both the house and you. The home appraisal must meet the lender's guidelines--usually meaning the home must appraise at or higher than the sales price.

The bank may require more information if the appraiser mentions anything the bank feels should be checked.

A comment such as "observed a crack in the foundation and basement appears wet," will raise a red flag to the lender--and likely generate a structural inspection (which you must pay for unless the seller agrees to share or absorb the expense).

If the bank reads "home accessible only with a 4-wheel drive vehicle," you can be sure they'll want to know more about ongoing road maintenance. Where I work, we have thousands of mountain roads that are maintained by groups of home owners. Many lenders verify that there's a written road maintenance agreement before they will lend. Other banks don't seem to care as long as no derogatory comments are made about the road.Other things that affect a loan commitment:
The home's title must be cloud-free, meaning there are no problems associated with it (no outstanding liens that can't be paid at closing; no right-of-way problems; no litigation in progress, etc.).

Your credit profile will be checked again to make sure it hasn't changed in a negative way.Bottom Line: The loan commitment letter is issued only when the bank is sure it will lend, so the commitment date on your contract to purchase should normally be closer to closing than to the date you make the offer. The home seller can demand to see that letter as soon as the date has passed, so question anyone who tries to insert an early commitment date in your contract.

Since terminology sometimes differs in different regions, ask your lender to explain all of the terms associated with their approval process.


If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.



Monday, November 24, 2014

Six Simple Things You Can Do to Ensure a Smooth Home Purchase


Buying a home can be an emotional, time-consuming, and complex process. There are a few things that you can do to help make the process go as smooth as possible:

1.) Check your credit.
Before you apply for a home loan, regardless of your credit, it's a smart idea to obtain a copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus and review the information. If there are errors or things that need to be addressed, it's easier to address them before you have found a house, than after you have found a house and are trying to close your loan.

If you know that there are a few blemishes on your credit, let your lender know what they are, why they are there, and why you are a still good credit risk. Lenders look at your credit to determine how likely you will pay back the loan. If you had extenuating circumstances - like a loss of a job or medical bills - let them know so that they understand that it is not likely to happen again in the future.

2.) Get approved before you buy.
An approval means that a lender has reviewed your credit history, verified your assets and employment, and has approved your loan before you have found a home to purchase. As long as the home appraises for at least the purchase price, the loan should close.

Getting approved also gives you an advantage over other buyers. Your firm approval makes it easier for you to negotiate on the price of a home, than a person who is not approved or is pre-qualified.

While getting pre-qualified may sound official, it is really just getting an idea of what you can afford. Its having a person plug in a few numbers that you give them - your monthly income and your monthly debt - and getting an approximate payment calculated. From the payment, the calculator can approximate the house price range that you can afford. No information is verified. Because your assets, income or credit is not verified, a pre-qualification has little value when purchasing a home.

3.) Find a great buyer's agent.
Traditionally real estate agents represent the sellers in a transaction. When you are not working with a buyer's agent, they are less likely to negotiate the best price or contingencies for you.

A buyer's agent's job and fiduciary responsibility (meaning legal duty) is to you, the buyer. Before working with an agent, establish if they are a buyer's agent or a seller's agent. After spending a lot of time with a Realtor, it's natural to feel like you're a team. But if they are not negotiating for you, then they are not on your team.

4.) Learn about the neighborhood.
Often times the house you find may be in a neighborhood that you're not familiar with, which is ok. It just means that you'll have to do a little more research. If you find a house that you like, ask for a list of the neighborhood properties that sold in the last year. How does your home rank? Is it at the top of the price range? If so, it might be hard to resell. Is it average or on the low end? If so, great - as the other home prices go up in value, they will pull your home's value up as well.

Check out the schools - are they sought after? A good school district means your neighborhood will always be valued by families which is a great reassurance to purchase, not to mention the value-add if you have school-age children.

Next, contact the police station and obtain crime statistics? Are they acceptable to you? Sometimes, if they won't give them to you, it could be a cause for alarm.

Talk to the neighbors. The more people you talk to, the better sense you will get of who makes up the neighborhood and how they will effect your time spent in it.

Check out the location of the shopping, police and fire stations, schools, and air traffic overhead. These are all things that might affect your property value or quality of your life.

5.) Protect Yourself.
Ask your Realtor for a copy of the documents you will be asked to sign if you decide to buy the house. Read them ahead of time so that you'll understand the questions that you will be asked, the things you need to know, and the decisions you will need to make.

6.) Have reasonable expectations.
There is a lot of money at stake. No house is perfect. Understanding and remembering these two statements will help diffuse the negotiation stage, the inspection stage and the closing stage.

Emotions are high for both buyers and sellers. - The seller may have loving memories and years of sweat equity in the house. Maybe they are being relocated and don't want to go. Understanding their motivations for selling will help you appreciate their situation and predicament during these emotional times.

There is a lot of money at stake for all the parties involved (and that includes the realtors) - Just remember that market value (the value of a home) is the price that a willing buyer and a willing seller can agree to. If you can not agree on a price, ask yourself: Is there something you missed? Are there comparables that support the price that they want? Are there motivations that might factor into the price they are demanding? In the end, does it matter? What is the house worth to you today and what do you think you can reasonably sell it for based on the amount of time you plan to spend in it? Think about the answers to those questions before you make your move.

No house is perfect - Always get an inspection. It might be a few hundred dollars, but it's worth it. It's the inspector's job to find any problems with the house that could cost you thousands to repair down the road. Some inspectors have a tendency to over play the importance of their role and the items that they find. Get objective opinions that you trust before making a decision on an inspection report. Likewise, if an inspector says a foundation is cracked but its nothing to worry about - get a second opinion. Ask a handyman for an idea of how much repairs will cost and how complicated they are. The home buying process is an emotional, complex and time-consuming process, but it is worth it. Nothing compares to owning your own home in a neighborhood that you chose.


If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.

www.JulieWyss.com   |   Julie@JulieWyss.com   |   408.687-2026

Monday, November 10, 2014

Thinking About Buying Your First Home?

Many renters are starting to think about purchasing a home of their own. Several factors should be considered when purchasing a home:

How long you plan to live in the home.
If you purchase a home and get a job transfer or decide to move after only a short time, you may end up paying money in order to sell it. The value of your home may not have appreciated enough to cover the costs that you paid to buy the home and the costs that it would take you to sell your home.

The length of time that it will take to cover those costs depends on various economic factors in the area of the home. Most parts of the country have an average of 5% appreciation per year. In this case, you should plan to stay in your home at least 3-4 years to cover buying and selling costs. If the area you buy your home in experiences an economic up turn, the length of the time to cover these costs could be shortened, and the opposite is also true.

How long the home will meet your needs.
What features do you require in a home to satisfy your lifestyle now? Five years from now? Depending on how long you plan to stay in your home, you'll need to ensure that the home has the amenities that you'll need. For example, a two-bedroom dwelling may be perfect for a young couple with no children. However, if they start a family, they could quickly outgrow the space. Therefore, they should consider a home with room to grow. Could the basement be turned into a den and extra bedrooms? Could the attic be turned into a master suite? Having an idea of what you'll need will help you find a home that will satisfy you for years to come.

Your financial health - your credit and home affordability.
Is now the right time financially for you to buy a home? Would you rate your financial picture as healthy? Is your credit good? While you can always find a lender to lend you money, solid lenders are more skeptical if your credit history is not good. Generally, a couple of blemishes on a credit report will make you a good credit risk and could qualify you for the lowest interest rates. If you have more than a couple of blemishes on your report, lenders like Quicken Loans may still provide you with a loan, but you may just have to pay a higher interest rate and fees.

Some say that you should refrain from borrowing as much as you qualify for because it is wiser not to stretch your financial boundaries. The other school of thought says you should stretch to buy as much home as you can afford, because with regular pay raises and increased earning potential, the big payment today will seem like less of a payment tomorrow. This is a decision only you can make. Are you in a position where you expect to make more money soon? Would you rather be conservative and fairly certain that you can make your payment without stretching financially? Make sure that whatever you do, it's within your comfort zone.

To determine how much home you can afford, talk to a lender or go online and use a "home affordability" calculator. Good calculators will give you a range of what you may qualify for. Then call a lender. While some may say that the "28/36" rule applies, in today's home mortgage market, lenders are making loans customized to a particular person's situation. The "28/36" rule means that your monthly housing costs can't exceed 28 percent of your income and your total debt load can't exceed 36 percent of your total monthly income. Depending on your assets, credit history, job potential and other factors, lenders can push the ratios up to 40-60% or higher. While we're not advocating you purchase a home utilizing the higher ratios, its important for you to know your options.

Where the money for the transaction will come from.
Typically homebuyers will need some money for a down payment and closing costs. However, with today's broad range of loan options, having a lot of money saved for a down payment is not always necessary - if you can prove that you are a good financial risk to a lender. If your credit isn't stellar but you have managed to save 10-20% for a down payment, you will still appear to be a very good financial risk to a lender.

The ongoing costs of home ownership.
Maintenance, improvements, taxes and insurance are all costs that are added to a monthly house payment. If you buy a condominium, townhouse or in certain communities, a monthly homeowner's association fee might be required. If these additional costs are a concern, you can make choices to lower or avoid these fees. Be sure to make your realtor and your lender aware of your desire to limit these costs.

If you are still unsure if you should buy a home after making these considerations, you may want to consult with an accountant or financial planner to help you assess how a home purchase fits into your overall financial goals.

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.

  www.JulieWyss.com   |   Julie@JulieWyss.com   |   408.687.2026

Monday, October 27, 2014

10 Things You Shouldn't Do When You're Buying A Home

Your home buying process is well underway. The sellers accepted your offer to purchase. The home is officially under contract and you're counting down the days to closing. The lender pre-approved you, so buying the house is a sure thing, right?

Not quite. Nothing is certain until the keys are in your hands. There are still major hurdles to get past before you close, and your actions between now and closing can create headaches, slowdowns, and even stop the transaction.
 
1. Don't Make a Major Purchase
You've just found out your credit is A+. That's great news, because a new car would look fantastic in the driveway of your new home. But hang on--if you are depending on a mortgage to move in, you'd best wait until after closing to buy the car.

An increase in your debt to income ratio reduces the amount of monthly income available for your mortgage payment.

If you tack on a higher car payment, the bank might decide you cannot afford the home.
Using cash to purchase the car could also create a problem, since banks consider cash reserves when approving your mortgage. If you must make a major purchase before closing, talk to your loan officer before you do it.

2. Don't Change Jobs Unless It's Necessary
Lenders like to see a consistent job history. They aren't usually as nervous if you change jobs within the same field, but it's better to stay put until the keys to the house are in your hand.

3. Don't Give an Earnest Money Deposit Directly to a 'For Sale By Owner' Seller
Your good faith deposit should go into a trust account. Some for sale by owner sellers don't understand that funds are to be applied to your expenses at closing.

I've heard many stories about sellers who spent the deposit money prior to closing. When the transactions didn't take place for valid reasons--such as financing or repair issues, the buyers had to fight for a refund.

Find an attorney or other neutral party who will hold the deposit for you until closing day and make sure your contract dictates what happens to the funds if the transaction doesn't close.

4. Don't Let Your Emotions Take Over

Keep a cool head during the entire home buying process, especially during and after an inspection. Be realistic. No home is perfect, especially older homes. It's not unusual for new owners to take care of some repairs themselves. Don't let the seller's refusal to do a small repair kill the deal on a home you truly love.

On the other hand, don't fall so much in love with the house that you'll buy it no matter what needs to be done--unless you're absolutely sure you can handle it emotionally and financially. Decide what type of repairs you can realistically tackle, and then stick with the decision.

5. Don't Forget to Switch Utilities

That sounds simple, but you'd be surprised how many people forget to apply for utility service at their new home. Call the utility companies as soon as you have a contract. Find out how many days lead time they need to switch the service, and then get back with them when you have a firm closing date. Don't forget to discontinue services at your old home.

6. Don't Wait to Line Up Your Hazard Insurance

A no-brainer, right? But it's another often-forgotten task that buyers scramble to take care of at the last minute. Before closing, your lender will want to see an insurance binder showing you have coverage for the new home. Get it as early as possible so that closing isn't delayed.

In some locations, additional types of insurance coverage might be necessary. Talk to your lender about insurance requirements well before the closing date.

7. Don't Become Best Friends with the Seller
I'll get some flack on this one. It's great to be friendly, but don't get into too many long discussions with the sellers, because personality conflicts often cloud judgments.

Remember, this is their home. You're no doubt excited about moving in, and if you didn't like the house you wouldn't have offered to buy it. But you'll make changes--everyone does. A casual statement about "ripping up that ugly carpet" might be hurtful enough to keep the seller from negotiating with you about repairs or other issues that crop up.

8. Don't Panic if the Appraisal Comes in Low
At least not at first. There are some things you (and your agent) can do to correct the problem. Study your options.

9. Don't Go It Alone
If you're working with an agent, it's the agent's duty to track many of the day to day details that involve the lender, the seller, or the seller's agent.

10. Don't Ignore Lender Requirements
Know what is expected of you and take care of it. For instance, a Certificate of Eligibility is required to move forward on a VA loan. That's something you must handle yourself. Answer lender questions and provide required paperwork as quickly as possible--your closing depends on it.


If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.


www.JulieWyss.com   |  Julie@JulieWyss.com   |   408.687.2026

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Wyss Report: Evaluating Property

Evaluating Property

In the real estate industry, the concept of value is vague. The value of a house (or condo, or co-op, or townhouse) fluctuates often, based on many situations, such as an ever-changing market conditions, the condition of the home, and the costs associated with owning it.

For that reason, it's difficult to answer the question, "How much is it worth?" There is one certainty, however. The answer to true value does not lie in how much the seller wants for his or her home (though that is what the seller and the listing broker want you to believe). In fact, the listing price of a home sometimes has nothing to do with its market value.

Figuring out how much a home is actually worth is a tricky process. You'll have to do your homework, pull out your calculator, and spend some time learning to recognize certain "value markers." Once you've figured out what a property is worth relative to others that are similar in the area, you can begin to compare various homes. Where a home is located (within a city, within a neighborhood, on a particular street, within a single building) is crucial to determining its value. When you begin to compare homes, it's important to factor location into your house valuation formula. First, think about where the house is located in relation to the entire neighborhood. Are shops and various services within walking distance? Is the house close to major forms of transportation and to the schools your children will be attending? Is it too close to any of these amenities?

A good Realtor has access to CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) tools and can help you determine the right value depending on the area and home prices in the last 30-60 days.

Location, Location, Location!

Many families want to be within a few blocks of the local public school, but they prefer not to have their backyards adjacent to the school playground.

Next, think about where the house is located on its block. Is it on a corner, or on the interior row? Is it next to a high-rise building or a three- or six-flat building? Are there many homes just like it on the block? Does the block have a nice residential feel or is it mixed residential/commercial? If you're considering a townhouse, start by asking yourself about the townhouse's location in relation to shopping and service retailers, such as a dry cleaner. If the townhouse is located within a subdivision, compare its location with the premium location within that subdivision.

For example, is it better to be located on the perimeter, or is an interior location better? Are end units more prized, or are middle units preferred? Are you close to the entrance of the subdivision, or do you have to drive several blocks to get there? Do you have to walk far to the garbage drop-off or mail pick-up spot? The location questions for a townhouse apply for condominiums and coops as well. If your condo or co-op is located in a high-rise building you also need to consider where the unit is located in the building. If one side of the building has a fabulous view and another faces a windowless brick wall, you can bet that units with the full view will be more prized than units with a peek-around or no view. Which is more important to you, the lower cost or the better view? If there are two views -- say, a water view vs. an urban view, an east view (sunrise) vs. a west view (sunset), or a high-floor vs. a low-floor perspective --remember that a unit with the best view in a building will generally appreciate faster than a unit with only a so-so view, even if the so-so has more amenities.

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.
  




www.JulieWyss.com   | Julie@JulieWyss.com   | 408.687.2026

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Wyss Report ~ Understanding Your Credit Score

Understanding Your Credit Score


What Is A Credit Score?
When lenders evaluate a loan application, a process called underwriting, they try to evaluate your ability and willingness to repay the loan. They judge the borrower’s ability to repay by reviewing the income and stability of past earnings. This practice helps the lender to determine if the borrower can afford the loan payments. The review of past credit history is used to judge the willingness of the borrower to repay the loan.

Lenders want their evaluation to be as accurate, objective and consistent as possible. To help achieve this goal, home mortgage lenders use credit scores to assist in the underwriting process. Credit scores are numerical values that rank individuals according to their credit history at a given point in time. A credit score is based on past payment history, the amount of available credit, and other factors. According to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two large investors in mortgage loans, credit scores have proven to be very good predictors of whether a borrower will repay his or her loan.

Credit scores are just one of many factors considered in the underwriting process. The lender will review the many components that make up the financial situation of a borrower. Even when a credit score is low, there are other factors that could overcome the negative credit issues and satisfy other underwriting criteria.

What is a FICO Score?
"FICO" scores are a type of credit score developed by Fair Isaac & Company. FICO scores use credit bureau information to obtain a score which indicates how likely someone is to pay their loan payments on time. FICO scores range from approximately 350 to 900. The higher the score, the lower the probability of default on the loan.

How Can Credit Scores Affect the Price of the Loan?
Just as credit scores are one factor in determining loan qualification, they may also be a factor in determining the price of the loan. The price of a loan means the interest rate and the points charged by the lender. The price charged for a loan will be higher or lower depending on various factors.
Credit scores are used in determining the price of a loan because they are believed to be good predictors of a borrower’s ability and willingness to repay the loan. Therefore, applicants with lower credit scores may pay higher prices for their loans because of the higher risk of default and loss on the loan. Many home loans are sold to investors, and investors will pay a more favorable price for loans they feel have a low risk of default.


There are many other factors relating to an individual borrower’s situation that may also affect the price of a loan, often even more than credit scores. These include the type of property securing the loan, the amount of the borrower’s equity in the property, the value of the property compared to property value in the area, the lender’s cost to make the loan and the type of loan selected. For example, a loan secured by a single family residence may have a lower price than a loan secured by a condominium because condominiums may be more difficult to sell than single family residences. Similarly, the price of a loan for which the borrower has made a 20% down payment may be less than a loan for which the borrower has made a 5% down payment because the first borrower has more equity in the property and, thus, a greater incentive to make the payments of the loan.

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Visiting Open Homes

An open house can be an opportunity for you to get information about homes and the housing market. Open houses are a common real estate practice because they give an agent the opportunity to market the home and to meet prospective buyers.

Here are some questions you may want to ask:
Are you the listing agent for this house? Busy agents sometimes arrange for a colleague or assistant to conduct the open house. Don’t assume the person showing the home is knowledgeable about the house or has met the sellers.

How long has the home been on the market? Well-priced homes in good condition generally sell in a short period of time. Unless the local market is weak, you will want to know why a particular home is not selling. Are there hidden defects? Is it overpriced? Are the sellers requiring something that may seem unreasonable as a condition of the sale?

Have the sellers received any offers? If the sellers rejected offers that were too low or had contingencies or conditions, you should find out before you experience the same.

Is any furniture or fixturing being sold with the house? If you’re thinking of buying the home, there is no better time to ask whether the seller would be interested in including the patio furniture or the dining room chandelier.

Are there any special costs attached to the property? Is there a homeowner’s association that has dues or fees? Are there particular tax assessments? Are there any natural hazard issues to be aware of? Are there any hidden costs of owning the home?

How does this house compare to others on this street? The local agent may be able to speak about recent sales in the neighborhood as well as some interior ideas seen in other homes.

If you have a need for a real estate professional, please contact me. I would also appreciate your vote of confidence by passing my name to anyone you may know who would benefit from my services.