Wednesday, February 13, 2019

5 Things Every First-Time Home Buyer Needs to Know

Here's what every first-time home buyer needs to know to dive into house hunting with confidence—and with as few curveballs as possible. Whether it's getting a mortgage, choosing a real estate agent, shopping for a home, or making a down payment, we lay out the must-knows of buying for the first time below.

1. How much home you can afford as a first-time home buyer

Homes cost a bundle, so odds are you'll need a home loan, aka mortgage, to foot the bill, along with a hefty down payment. Still, the question remains: What price home can you really afford? That depends on your income and other variables, so punch your info into realtor.com®'s home affordability calculator to get a ballpark figure of the type of loan you can manage.
In general, experts recommend that your house payment (which will include your mortgage, maintenance, taxes) should not exceed 28% of your gross monthly income. So, for example, if your monthly (before-tax) income is $6,000, multiply that by 0.28 and you'll see that you shouldn't pay more than $1,680 a month on your home mortgage.
But online mortgage calculators give just a ballpark figure. For a more accurate assessment, head to a lender for mortgage pre-approval. This means the bank will assess your credit history, credit score, and other factors, then tell you whether you qualify for a loan, and how much you qualify for. Mortgage pre-approval also puts home sellers at ease, since they know you have the cash for a loan to back up your offer.
You can also decide if you're going to apply for a loan through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
"An FHA loan is a great option for a lot of home buyers, particularly if they're buying their first home," says Todd Sheinin, mortgage lender and chief operating officer at New America Financial in Gaithersburg, MD.
An FHA loan will have looser qualification requirements than a traditional mortgage, but there are still certain prerequisites borrowers must meet like getting private mortgage insurance and having a minimum credit score of 500.

2. Pick the right real estate agent

You buy most things yourself—at most, sifting through a few online reviews before hitting the Buy button and making a payment. But a home? It's not quite so easy. Buying a home requires transfer of a deed, title search, and plenty of other paperwork. Plus there's the home itself—it may look great to you, but what if there's a termite problem inside those walls or a nuclear waste plant being built down the block?
There's also a whole lot of money involved. (You know, a down payment, loan, etc.)
All of which is to say, before you make a massive payment, you will want to have a trusted real estate agent by your side to explain the ins and outs of the process. Make sure to find an agent familiar with the area where you're planning on purchasing; to her credit, the agent will have a better idea of proper expectations and realistic prices, says Mark Moffatt, an agent with McEnearney Associates in McLean, VA.
"Finding a Realtor is not hard, but finding one that is best suited for you and your purchase is a challenge," he adds.
You can search on realtor.com/realestateagents to find agents in your area as well as information such as the number of homes sold, client reviews, and more. Make sure to interview at least a couple of agents, because once you commit, you will sign a contract barring you from working with other buyer's agents—this ensures the agent's hard work for you pays off.

3. Know there is no such thing as a perfect home

It's your first home—we understand if you've dreamed about the ideal house and don't want to settle for anything less. We've been there! But understand that real estate is about compromise. As a general rule, most buyers prioritize three main things: price, size, and location. But realistically, you can expect to achieve only two of those three things. So you may get a great deal on a huge house, but it might not be in the best neighborhood. Or you may find a nice-size house in a great neighborhood, but your down payment is a bit higher than you were hoping for. Or else you may find a home in the right neighborhood at the right price, but it's a tiny bit, um, cozy.
Such trade-offs are par for the course. Finding a home is a lot like dating: "Perfect" can be the enemy of "good," or even "great." So find something you can live with, grow into, and renovate to your taste.

4. Do your homework

Once you find a home you love and make an offer that's accepted, you may be eager to move in. But don't be hasty. Don't purchase a home or make any payments without doing your due diligence, and add some contingencies to your contract—which basically means you have the right to back out of the deal if something goes horribly wrong.
The most common contract contingency is the home inspection, which allows you to request a resolution for issues (e.g., a weak foundation or leaky roof) found by a professional.
Another important first-time home buyer addition: a financing contingency, which gives you the right to back out if the bank doesn't approve your loan. If they believe you'll have trouble making a payment, a mortgage lender will not approve your loan. A pre-approval makes the possibility of having your loan application rejected much less likely, but a pre-approval is also not a guarantee that it'll go through.
You also might want to consider an appraisal contingency, which lets you bail if the entity who is giving you a loan values the home at less than what you offered. This will mean you will have to come up with money from your own pocket to make up the difference—a tough gamble if cash is already tight.

5. Know your tax credit options

The first-time home buyer tax credit may be no more, but there are a number of tax breaks new homeowners may not be aware of. The biggie: Mortgage interest deduction is a boon for brand-new mortgages, which are typically interest-heavy. If you purchased discount points for your mortgage, essentially pre-paying your interest, these are also deductible. Some states and municipalities may offer mortgage credit certification, which allows first-time home buyers to claim a tax credit for some of the mortgage interest paid. Check with your Realtor and local government to see if this credit applies to you.
The McLeod Group Network can help you find your new home! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com
By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Sitting on the Sidelines? 4 Reasons to Get Up and Buy a Home This Year

The housing landscape of the past several years hasn't exactly been friendly to buyers: the bidding wars, the eye-popping prices, the houses that sold before a "For Sale" sign even went up. It's enough to make any of us put our search on hold until we have a fighting chance at landing a home—without draining our bank accounts.
If you've been sitting on the sidelines, we've got good news and we've got bad news: Things are finally slowing down. But they might not slow down fast enough for your liking.
Don't despair, though—this year still stands to look better than last for aspiring home buyers.
"If your resolution is to buy a home in 2019, you’ll have some challenges to contend with, but also some opportunities," says Danielle Halerealtor.com's chief economist.
The devil's in the details, though, and there are quite a few factors that could dictate whether this is your year to buy. Here are the four biggest reasons to take the plunge now

1. There will be more available homes—or at least, not fewer

Tight home inventory has sidelined would-be buyers for several years now. Even if you could afford a home, too few of them were hitting the market to keep up with demand. Or, when they did, there was a good chance they were snapped up before you could even call your real estate agent.
House hunting felt especially bleak last winter, when nationwide inventory hit its lowest level in recorded history. By the end of 2018, though, things finally started looking up, and in 2019, experts predict more opportunities—and less frustration—for buyers.
But there's a catch: Not everyone will be able to afford those opportunities. That’s because the markets seeing the most increases in available homes tend to be more expensive, Hale says.
“For buyers, there is going to be more inventory. So that’s a bright spot," she says. "The downside of that bright spot is it might not be in their price range.”
If you don't have big bucks, though, all is not lost. The news is still good—just tempered. The supply of affordable homes for sale (under $300,000, which is about the median home price right now) might not be growing dramatically just yet, but it's certainly not decreasing anymore.

2. Skyrocketing prices will slow their roll

While inventory went down, down, down over the past few years, home prices did the opposite. Will we still see staggering dollar amounts throughout 2019?
It's another mixed bag here: Expect home prices to continue to rise (blah), but at a slower pace than they have been (yay). Hale predicts a 2.2% increase in home prices this year—compared with a nearly 5% increase last year.
That's not nothin'. And if you can get in the market before those moderate increases, all the better.
"We do still anticipate rising home prices, particularly for below-median-priced homes, so buyers in that price range may have some incentive to buy sooner rather than later," Hale says.
And there's a silver lining to those climbing home prices, too—again, for some of you.
"As rising costs raise the bar to homeownership, some would-be buyers will be knocked out of the market, so that remaining buyers may have less competition to contend with than they saw in 2018," Hale says.

3. Mortgage rates are lower than expected

There was a lot of discouraging talk at the end of 2018 about increasing rates—and there was good reason to be nervous. Rates on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the most popular home loan, were approaching 5%—and expected to trend upward throughout 2019.
But that hasn't happened.
In fact, rates have been falling—perplexing the pros but creating a prime opportunity for home shoppers. Rates did tick up slightly last week—for the first time in 2019—to 4.46%. But that's still historically low.
"That’s definitely a huge opportunity for buyers because it drastically improves affordability," Hale says. "And I think that if these low rates persist for a little while, then we’ll actually see stronger sales than we originally forecast."
"Lower mortgage rates will get buyers off the sidelines," adds Ali Wolf, director of economic research at Meyers Research. "Consumers should take advantage of the returned purchasing power, and in fact, we're already seeing early 2019 data that suggest they are."
But don't get complacent, Hale warns: "I do think that the long-term direction of mortgage rates is going to be back up. We’ve still got a strong economy."

4. Rents are rising—and won't be falling anytime soon

Buying a home is a scary-expensive endeavor in the best of circumstances, and when prices are climbing, it can be downright soul-sucking.
But bear this in mind: Rents are rising, too. In fact, they very rarelydecline, Hale says. And while buying a home is generally going to cost you more in the short term than renting, you have to look at the bigger picture. Buying means you're building equity—and not forking over your hard-earned dollars to a landlord.
"The challenge will be finding a home that fits needs, some wants, and still stays within the monthly budget," Hale says.
If you can afford to buy now, you'll thank yourself in the long run—and whenever your friends get their annual rent increases.
The McLeod Group Network can help you find your new home! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com
By: Realtor.com, Rachel Stults

Monday, February 4, 2019

Whose Mortgage Do You Want to Pay? Yours or Your Landlord’s?

There are some people who haven’t purchased homes because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. However, everyone should realize that unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As Entrepreneur Magazine, a premier source for small business, explained in their article, “12 Practical Steps to Getting Rich”:

“While renting on a temporary basis isn’t terrible, you should most certainly own the roof over your head if you’re serious about your finances. It won’t make you rich overnight, but by renting, you’re paying someone else’s mortgage. In effect, you’re making someone else rich.”

With home prices rising, many renters are concerned about their house-buying power. Mike Fratantoni, Chief Economist at MBAexplained:

“The spring homebuying season is almost upon us, and if rates stay lower, inventory continues to grow, and the job market maintains its strength, we do expect to see a solid spring market.”

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings,’ which allows you to build equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee the landlord is the person building that equity.

As mentioned before, interest rates are still at historic lows, making it one of the best times to secure a mortgage and make a move into your dream home. Freddie 
Mac’s latest report shows that rates across the country were at 4.46% last week.

Bottom Line
Whether you are looking for a primary residence for the first time or are considering a vacation home on the shore, now may be the time to buy.

The McLeod Group Network is here to help! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: KCM Crew

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Ready to Remodel? These Home Renovations Will Pay Off the Most (and the Least) in 2019

New year, new home renovations? Whether you're getting ready to transform your entire kitchen into a farmhouse-chic dream (hello, shiplap and apron sink!) or maybe just to add some new wood floor for the foyer, it pays to know what kind of return on investment your home renovation might deliver. According to Remodeling magazine's annual Cost vs. Value report, not all home remodeling projects deliver the same bang for the buck. Far from it, in fact.
So which projects give you the biggest return on investment these days? This year (like last), the No. 1 finisher was garage-door replacement. While not as fabulous as a full-kitchen remodel, this project essentially pays for itself, earning you a whopping 97.5% of your money back.
For this report, now in its 32nd year, researchers analyzed 22 popular home improvements in 136 markets nationwide. The magazine polled contractors on how much they charge for these jobs, as well as real estate agents on how much they think these features would boost a home's market price. They then used those figures to calculate what percentage of its cost each project might recoup—or not.
As it turns out, the price of a few key projects skyrocketed from the last year, while their value dropped, says Clayton DeKorne, chief editor of the JLC Group (which includes Remodeling magazine) and manager of the report. In other words, Americans might spend more on certain renovations and get back a lot less of the money they spent.
So what's going on?
According to DeKorne, President Donald Trump's new import tariffs on steel, lumber, and other building materials are destined to jack up renovation costs all round, leading to thinner margins on their return. Plus, as the housing market wobbles towards a peak in market prices, homeowners are less likely to renovate their homes, and real estate professionals predict that the renovation market will tighten.
"The economy is a little chaotic right now, and homeowners are holding their breath," says DeKorne. "People are very cautious to enter the market, which affects the willingness [of] people [to] pay for projects big and small."
Overall, the report found that in 2019, Americans should expect to make back 66.1% of the money they spend on renovations—a slight bump from last year's 65.8%.
And the report found that for some projects, the ROI is really worth it, especially those improvements that the whole neighborhood can see—in front of your house.
"The primary points of the evidence show us that curb appeal projects add to overall value of the house more than interior projects," DeKorne notes. "It's all about first impressions."
The chart below gives a full rundown of the top renovations, including how much they cost, their value at resale, and the percentage that can be recouped. After garage doors, the top finisher was manufactured stone veneer, with a 94.9% return on investment. Glamorous? No. Valuable? You bet.
A new project on the list this year speaks to another decidedly unsexy but invaluable trend: installing metal roofing. Compared with asphalt shingles, metal roofing costs significantly more, but offers much greater durability. And while metal roofs only yield a 60.9% ROI, DeKorne predicts their value will increase.
"This is the first year we've included metal roofing, and it's gotten a lot of interest," he says. "It's more expensive, but you'll get a better value over time than a common asphalt roof."
And if you're absolutely dying to renovate something indoors this year, DeKorne suggests keeping it in the kitchen. While most of the projects with the highest returns are exterior replacements, a minor kitchen repair cracks the top 10, with an 80.5% recoup.
"When buyers are looking at a house, they want to know the kitchen is something they can live with," says DeKorne.

A look at return on investment for popular home renovations. 
Remodeling magazine
A look at return on investment for popular home renovations.
Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com
By: Realtor.com, Allison Underhill 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Selling Your Home? Make Sure the Price is Right!

If you’ve ever watched “The Price is Right,” you know that the only way to win is to be the one to correctly guess the price of the item you want without going over! That means your guess must be just slightly under the retail price.
In today’s shifting real estate market, where more inventory is coming to market and home values are projected to appreciate at lower rates, homeowners will not be able to price their homes as aggressively as they were able to just last year.
They will have to employ the same strategy: be the closest without going over!
As we have explained before, pricing your home at or slightly below market value actually increases the number of buyers who will see your home in their search!
Over the last six months, more inventory has come to market while the months’ supply of inventory available has dropped. This means that the demand for homes to buy is still very strong throughout the country!
Homeowners who make the mistake of overpricing their homes will eventually have to drop the price. This leaves buyers wondering if the price drop was caused by something wrong with the homes when in reality nothing was wrong, the price was just too high!
Bottom Line
If you are thinking about listing your home for sale this year, let McLeod Group Network properly price your home from the start! 971.208.5093 or 
admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: KCM Crew

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

There Goes the Neighborhood: Watch Out for These 7 Red Flags When Buying a Home

Finally, you've done it: You've scoured the market for available homes—and then some—and found one you can't stop thinking about. It's time to make an offer!
But before you put your money on the line, take a peek around the neighborhood. We won't use a certain cliché, but there is a reason the pros emphasize location when buying real estate. You can change your house—but you can't change the neighborhood. And if your hood is on the decline, you just might have a helluva time offloading your home when you decide to sell.
A bad neighborhood isn't always obvious, though; sometimes you need to do a little digging to know if a community is worth buying in. Luckily, we've identified seven red flags that should give you pause before you sign on the dotted line.

Red flag No.1: Too many houses are on the market

There's nothing wrong with two or three listed houses on the same street. But if you see an army of "For Sale" signs, consider looking elsewhere.
"This points to illiquidity in the market and pricing pressure, which is a risk for buyers," says Alison Bernstein, the founder of Suburban Jungle, which helps families find their ideal suburb.
Of course, the hue of this particular red flag depends on the reason for those "For Sale" signs. Perhaps the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying and longtime residents have decided to cash in. Or maybe there's a more sinister explanation, like increasing crime rates. Your agent can help you assess the situation before making any big moves.

Red flag No.2: The schools are enrolling fewer students

Schools in healthy communities should be steadily increasing their enrollment—or at least keeping the population steady, if there's no physical room to grow.
"Shrinking class sizes are a red flag," Bernstein says.
There are a number of reasons enrollment might decrease. Your local school might have a reputation for poor management, sending parents fleeing to charter or private options. Or perhaps residents are staying put as their kids grow up, leading to older neighbors and fewer close-by pals for your kids. That may or may not be a deal breaker, but it's certainly something to consider.

Red flag No.3: The area leans industrial

A nearby strip of cute boutique stores might be a nice selling point, but reconsider the purchase if the closest commercial influences lean toward the industrial.
"Be mindful of any kind of commercial influence on the block, such as close gas stations or anything that could be undesirable health-wise," says Ralph DiBugnara, the vice president at Residential Home Funding.
Any nearby industrial plants should automatically nix a neighborhood, and think long and hard before buying across from a car dealership or auto body shop, which attract a lot of car traffic.

Red flag No.4: There are lots of empty storefronts

Don't just stop at counting boutiques versus gas stations. Are the stores actually thriving, or are there lots of retail spaces for rent?
"Empty storefronts can tell you a lot," Bernstein says. "They point to less disposable income of residents than clearly there once was."
Why does that matter? Decreased disposable income indicates a neighborhood on the decline. If homeowners don't have money for dinner out, they probably don't have cash for upkeep. Shabby homes drag down property values. Meager cash flow can also lead to future foreclosures—and a foreclosed-upon home is a neighbor that no one wants.

Red flag No. 5: The Stepford style is in full force

You might love the homogenous, well-groomed suburban look (and there's nothing wrong with that!). But take a moment to examine it more closely. Are there any unique decorative doodads dotting each garden, like aluminum chickens or wind chimes? Or is the front porch furniture identical?
If all the neighborhood's homes (and landscaping) look suspiciously similar, "explore how restrictive the homeowners association is," says Susanna Haynie, a Realtor in Colorado Springs, Co. "It could be an issue."

Red flag No.6: There's no parking

Sure, the property may have a one-car garage—but where will your friends park, and where can you keep your spouse's car? If the streets have bumper-to-bumper traffic, think twice about buying in the neighborhood—especially if the home lacks a garage or carport.
"I'm always on the lookout for a lack of parking," DiBugnara say. "It's best to visit at night or on weekends to really, truly tell what will be available to you once you live there."
Unless you commute primarily by foot or bike—or you're OK spending your weekends circling the block—the neighborhood may not be a good fit for you.

Red flag No.7: Surrounding homes aren't well-maintained

A street in shambles might seem like an obvious red flag. But you also might have heard that buying the best house in the worst neighborhood is a prime opportunity for profit.
Tread lightly here: A street full of run-down homes with overgrown yards and broken fences should set off warning signals. And this has nothing to do with wealth; lower-income neighborhoods can be just as well-kept as more expensive ones. It's about pride. Neighbors with no pride in their home's appearance and upkeep decrease property values for everyone.
Plus, problems with the homes next door can indicate that the house you want might have bigger issues than meet the eye. Look at every house on the block for issues such as water pooling in the yards, or flickering porch lights.
"If there are problems such as water pipes or electrical issues, you will tend to see more than one home showing damage," DiBugnara says. Fixing these major problems "could be a major expense, hassle, or detriment to your value later on."
Ready to buy a home? Let The McLeod Group Network help - 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com
By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe