Eight Important Questions to Ask Your Agent

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Qualifications are important. However, finding a solid, professional agent means getting beyond the resume, and into what makes an agent effective. Use the following questions as your starting point in hiring your licensed, professional real estate agent:

  1. Why did you become a real estate agent?
  2. Why should I work with you?
  3. What do you do better than other real estate agents?
  4. What process will you use to help me find the right home for my particular wants and needs?
  5. What are the most common things that go wrong in a transaction and how would you handle them?
  6. What are some mistakes that you think people make when buying their first home?
  7. What other professionals do you suggest we work with and what are their credentials?
  8. Can you provide me with references or testimonials from past clients?
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Eight Steps To Buying Your Home

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1. Decide to buy.
Although there are many good reasons for you to buy a home, wealth building ranks among the top of the list. We call home ownership the best “accidental investment” most people ever make. But, we believe when it is done right, home ownership becomes an “intentional investment” that lays the foundation for a life of financial security and personal choice. There are solid financial reasons to support your decision to buy a home, and, among these, equity buildup, value appreciation, and tax benefits stand out.

Base your decision to buy on facts, not fears.

  1. If you are paying rent, you very likely can afford to buy
  2. There is never a wrong time to buy the right home. All you need to do in the short run is find a good buy and make sure you have the financial ability to hold it for the long run
  3. The lack of a substantial down payment doesn’t prevent you from making your first home purchase
  4. A less-than-perfect credit score won’t necessarily stop you from buying a home
  5. The best way to get closer to buying your ultimate dream home is to buy your first home now
  6. Buying a home doesn’t have to be complicated – there are many professionals who will help you along the way

2. Hire your agent.
The typical real estate transaction involves at least two dozen separate individuals – insurance assessors, mortgage brokers and underwriters, inspectors, appraisers, escrow officers, buyer’s agents, seller’s agents, bankers, title researchers, and a number of other individuals whose actions and decisions have to be orchestrated in order to perform in harmony and get a home sale closed. It is the responsibility of your real estate agent to expertly coordinate all the professionals involved in your home purchase and to act as the advocate for you and your interests throughout.

Seven main roles of your real estate agent

A Buyer’s Real Estate Agent:

  1. Educates you about your market.
  2. Analyzes your wants and needs.
  3. Guides you to homes that fit your criteria.
  4. Coordinates the work of other needed professionals.
  5. Negotiates on your behalf.
  6. Checks and double-checks paperwork and deadlines.
  7. Solves any problems that may arise.

Eight important questions to ask your agent

Qualifications are important. However, finding a solid, professional agent means getting beyond the resume, and into what makes an agent effective. Use the following questions as your starting point in hiring your licensed, professional real estate agent:

  1. Why did you become a real estate agent?
  2. Why should I work with you?
  3. What do you do better than other real estate agents?
  4. What process will you use to help me find the right home for my particular wants and needs?
  5. What are the most common things that go wrong in a transaction and how would you handle them?
  6. What are some mistakes that you think people make when buying their first home?
  7. What other professionals do you suggest we work with and what are their credentials?
  8. Can you provide me with references or testimonials from past clients?

3. Secure financing.
While you may find the thought of home ownership thrilling, the thought of taking on a mortgage may be downright chilling. Many first-time buyers start out confused about the process or nervous about making such a large financial commitment.

From start to finish, you will follow a six-step, easy-to-understand process to securing the financing for your first home.

Six steps to Financing a Home

  1. Choose a loan officer (or mortgage specialist).
  2. Make a loan application and get preapproved.
  3. Determine what you want to pay and select a loan option.
  4. Submit to the lender an accepted purchase offer contract.
  5. Get an appraisal and title commitment.
  6. Obtain funding at closing.

4. Find your home.
You may think that shopping for homes starts with jumping in the car and driving all over town. And it’s true that hopping in the car to go look is probably the most exciting part of the home-buying process. However, driving around is fun for only so long – if weeks go by without finding what you’re looking for, the fun can fade pretty fast. That’s why we say that looking for your home begins with carefully assessing your values, wants, and needs, both for the short and long terms.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. What do I want my home to be close to?
  2. How much space do I need and why?
  3. Which is more critical: location or size?
  4. Would I be interested in a fixer-upper?
  5. How important is home value appreciation?
  6. Is neighborhood stability and priority?
  7. Would I be interested in a condo?
  8. Would I be interested in new home construction?
  9. What features and amenities do I want? Which do I really need?

5. Make an offer.
When searching for your dream home, you were just that – a dreamer. Now that you’re writing an offer, you need to be a businessperson. You need to approach this process with a cool head and a realistic perspective of your market. The three basic components of an offer are price, terms, and contingencies (or “conditions” in Canada).

Price – the right price to offer must fairly reflect the true market value of the home you want to buy. Your agent’s market research will guide this decision.

Terms – the other financial and timing factors that will be included in the offer.

Terms fall under six basic categories in a real estate offer:

  1. Schedule – a schedule of events that has to happen before closing.
  2. Conveyances – the items that stay with the house when the sellers leave.
  3. Commission – the real estate commission or fee, for both the agent who works with the seller and the agents who works with the buyer.
  4. Closing costs – it’s standard for buyers to pay their closing costs, but if you want to roll the costs into the loan, you need to write that into the contract.
  5. Home warranty – this covers repairs or replacement of appliances and major systems. You may ask the seller to pay for this.
  6. Earnest money – this protects the sellers from the possibility of your unexpectedly pulling of the deal and makes a statement about the seriousness of your offer.

6. Perform due diligence.
Unlike most major purchases, once you buy a home, you can’t return it if something breaks or doesn’t quite work like it’s supposed to. That’s why home owner’s insurance and property inspections are so important.

A home owner’s insurance policy protects you in two ways:

  1. Against loss or damage to the property itself
  2. liability in case someone sustains an injury while on your property

The property inspection show expose the secret issues a home might hide so you know exactly what you’re getting into before you sign your closing papers.

  • Your major concern is structural damage.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Things that are easily fixed can be overlooked.
  • If you have a big problem show up in your inspection report, you should bring in a specialist. If the worst-case scenario turns out to be true, you might want to walk away from the purchase.

7. Close.
The final stage of the home buying process is the lender’s confirmation of the home’s value and legal statue, and your continued credit-worthiness. This entails a survey, appraisal, title search, and a final check of your credit and finance. Your agent will keep you posted on how each if progressing, but your work is pretty much done.

You just have a few preclosing responsibilities:

  1. Stay in control of your finances.
  2. Return all phone calls and paperwork promptly.
  3. Communicate with your agent at least once a week.
  4. Several days before closing, confirm with your agent that all your documentation is in place and in order.
  5. Obtain certified funds for closing.
  6. Conduct a final walk-through.

On closing day, with the guidance of a settlement agent and your agent, you’ll sign documents that do the following:

  1. Finalize your mortgage.
  2. Pay the seller.
  3. Pay your closing costs.
  4. Transfer the title from the seller to you.
  5. Make arrangements to legally record the transaction as a public record.

As long as you have clear expectations and follow directions, closing should be a momentous conclusion to your home-searching process and commencement of your home-owning experience.
8. Protect your investment.
Throughout the course of your home-buying experience, you’ve probably spent a lot of time with your real estate agent and you’ve gotten to know each other fairly well. There’s no reason to throw all that trust and rapport out the window just because the deal has closed. In fact, your agent wants you to keep in touch.

Even after you close on your house, you agent can still help you:

  1. Handle your first tax return as a home owner.
  2. Find contractors to help with home maintenance or remodeling.
  3. Help your friends find homes.
  4. Keep track of your home’s current market value.

Attention to you home’s maintenance needs is essential to protecting the long-term value of your investment.

Home maintenance falls into two categories:

  1. Keeping it clean: Perform routine maintenance on your home’s systems, depending on their age and style.
  2. Keeping an eye on it: Watch for signs of leaks, damage, and wear. Fixing small problems early can save you big money later.

A Good Week for Housing

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DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2012

The housing recovery showed signs of strengthening this week, as two new reports showed home sales and prices on the upswing.

Existing-home sales have soared nearly 8 percent from a year ago, the National Association of REALTORS® reported this week. Meanwhile, the new-home market also is showing signs of recovery, with starts rising 29.1 percent over year-ago levels, according to the Census Bureau.

What’s more, home builders are getting more confident about the market with recent sales, future sales, and buyer traffic. Homebuilder confidence reached its highest level since the housing-boom time of June 2006, according to this month’s index of homebuilder sentiment.

Also this week, fixed-rate mortgages this week were at all-time record lows or near it, helping to keep home buyer affordability high, Freddie Mac reported in its weekly mortgage market survey.

With a drop in inventory of for-sale homes nationwide, many markets are also seeing an increase in home prices. The median home price is $187,400, a 9.5 percent increase over year-ago levels. Also, “that marked the sixth consecutive month of price increases, the first time that has happened since May 2006, near the very peak of the housing price boom,” CNNMoney reports.

“We have a real housing recovery taking root, and that has positive implications for the broader economy,” Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, told the Associated Press. “If home prices continue to rise, so, too, will household wealth and consumer confidence.”

Source: “Housing Recovery Blossoms,” CNNMoney (Sept. 19, 2012) and “Housing Recovery Stirs in August,” Associated Press (Sept. 19, 2012)

Mortgage Rates Fall Back to Record Lows

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DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2012

Fixed-rate mortgages are back at all-time record lows or hovering near them, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey. For those who can qualify for a loan, the ultra-low mortgage rates are pushing housing affordability higher.

“Following the Federal Reserve’s announcement of a new bond purchase plan, yields on mortgage-backed securities fell, bringing average fixed mortgage rates to their all-time record lows, which should aid in the ongoing housing recovery,” says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Here’s a closer look at the national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending Sept. 20:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.49 percent, with an average 0.6 point, matching its all-time low. A year ago at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.09 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 2.77 percent, with an average 0.6 point, setting a new record low this week. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 3.29 percent.
  • 5-year adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.76 percent, with an average 0.6 point, rising from last week’s 2.72 percent average. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.02 percent.
  • 1-year ARMs: averaged 2.61 percent this week, with an average 0.4 point, holding the same as last week. A year ago, 1-year ARMs averaged 2.82 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Rising home prices lift 1.3 million out from underwater

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CoreLogic: 5 percent price gain would give another 2 million equity in their homes

BY INMAN NEWS, WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2012.Inman News®

Rising home values helped 1.3 million homeowners get out from “underwater” in the first half of the year, and another 2 million would get equity if national home prices increase by another 5 percent, data aggregator CoreLogic said today.

CoreLogic estimates that 22.3 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage were worth less than what was owed on their mortgages at the end of June, down from 23.7 percent at the end of March.

That translates into 10.8 million homeowners who owed more than their homes were worth at the end of June, down from 11.4 million at the end of March and 12.1 million at the end of 2011, CoreLogic said.

“Surging home prices this spring and summer, lower levels of inventory, and declining REO sale shares are all contributing to the nascent housing recovery and declining negative equity,” CoreLogic Chief Economist Mark Fleming said in a statement.

Nevada had the highest percentage of mortgaged properties that were underwater (59 percent), followed by Florida (43 percent), Arizona (40 percent), Georgia (36 percent) and Michigan (33 percent).

Those five states accounted for 34.1 percent of the $689 billion of negative equity in the U.S.

Equity share by state

Right-click chart to enlarge. Source:CoreLogic.

Most of that negative equity is concentrated in the low end of the housing market, CoreLogic said. About 32 percent of homes worth less than $200,000 are underwater, compared with 17 percent of homes valued at more than $200,000.

Borrowers with second loans on their homes tend to be more deeply underwater. About 39 percent of underwater borrowers (4.2 million homes) had second loans, and the average loan balance among that group was $300,000 — about $84,000 more than their homes were worth, on average.

Among the 61 percent of underwater borrowers without second liens (10.2 million homes), the average mortgage balance was $216,000, about $51,000 more than their homes were worth on average.