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6 Things You'll Love—and Hate—About Buying a Home This Spring

by Amy McLeod Group


Welcome to the best—and worst—time to buy a home: spring! Yes, it's peak home-buying season. However, it’s no bed of roses.

Knowing what to expect is half the battle, and can help you use these highs and lows to your advantage!

So consider this an essential prep course. Ready to dive into the best of times and the worst of times for home buying?

You’ll love: All the inventory

One of the best things about buying a house during the spring is that you have a lot more options to choose from.

“New listings tend to flood the market in April and May,” says Kimberly Sands, a real estate broker in Carolina Beach, NC. Just keep in mind that with so much inventory out there, you’ll want to make sure to stick to your search and price parameters to avoid getting overwhelmed.

You’ll hate: All the competition

Busier times mean more buyers and, thus, more competition—which explains why bidding wars are more common during the spring, says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis.

As a result, you have to act fast when the right listing pops up, says Seth Lejeune, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Collegeville, PA. Signing up for instant alerts, so you can see homes as soon as they hit the market, can help you stay a step ahead.

That being said, don’t expect a computer to do all the work for you. In hot markets, listings may be scooped up before they are even posted online, which is why most housing experts suggest working with a real estate agent throughout the home-buying process.

You’ll love: All the open houses

More homes on the market mean more open houses for you to attend. That’s exciting news for buyers who relish ogling homes in person. Going to more open houses means you’ll get a better feel for the neighborhood you’re interested in, while also giving you the opportunity to size up the other home buyers you’re going up against.

But with so many open houses to hit, make sure to plot out on a map the ones you want to see, with the times they're open, in order to maximize your time.

You’ll hate: The time pressure

Great listings get snatched up quickly year-round, yet home buyers are under even more pressure when there's more competition among buyers. You have to be prepared to make an offer fast, since indecision could potentially cost you your dream home. That’s why it’s crucial to zero in on what type of home you’re looking to buy and what your price range is before you start seriously looking, Dossman says.

Moreover, you should get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start your home search. Plus, having a letter from a mortgage stating that you’ve been pre-approved for a loan will speak volumes to a home seller, says Linda Sanderfoot, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker in Neenah, WI.

“Sellers want reassurance that you’ll be able to obtain a home loan,” says Sanderfoot, “otherwise the deal can fall through.”

You’ll love: Shopping in warmer weather

You can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the season’s warmer weather makes for a more enjoyable house hunting experience. After all, who enjoys trudging through snow or suffering through cold weather to look at houses? No one! Also, clearer skies and warmer temps make for better moving conditions.

You’ll hate: Higher prices

Home buyers generally have more wiggle room to make lowball offers during the slower seasons, since there’s less competition. However, buyers have less negotiating power during the spring. Therefore, “be prepared to pay full list price for a house, assuming it’s been priced at fair market value,” says Lejeune.

Also, if possible, be prepared to offer a seller something that other buyers won’t, such as a longer closing period or a rent-back agreement so that the seller has extra days to move out. This is where having a great buyer’s agent comes in; a savvy agent will talk to a listing agent to find out what the seller is looking for—giving you the ability to make a more attractive bid.

The bottom line

Spring home-buying season has its pros and cons, but by preparing for them you’ll be in a much better position to clinch your dream home. And, if you don’t manage to buy a house this spring, summer is still a great time to buy a house, too.

Contact The McLeod Group Network to find your new home! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz

7 Things To Avoid After Applying for a Mortgage!

by Amy McLeod Group


Congratulations! You’ve found a home to buy and have applied for a mortgage! You are undoubtedly excited about the opportunity to decorate your new home! But before you make any big purchases, move any money around, or make any big-time life changes, consult your loan officer. They will be able to tell you how your decision will impact your home loan.

Below is a list of 7 Things You Shouldn’t Do After Applying for a Mortgage! Some may seem obvious, but some may not!

1. Don’t change jobs or the way you are paid at your job! Your loan officer must be able to track the source and amount of your annual income. If possible, you’ll want to avoid changing from salary to commission or becoming self-employed during this time as well.

2. Don’t deposit cash into your bank accounts. Lenders need to source your money and cash is not really traceable. Before you deposit any amount of cash into your accounts, discuss the proper way to document your transactions with your loan officer.

3. Don’t make any large purchases like a new car or new furniture for your new home. New debt comes with it, including new monthly obligations. New obligations create new qualifications. People with new debt have higher debt to income ratios… higher ratios make for riskier loans… and sometimes qualified borrowers no longer qualify.

4. Don’t co-sign other loans for anyone. When you co-sign, you are obligated. As we mentioned, with that obligation comes higher ratios as well. Even if you swear you will not be the one making the payments, your lender will have to count the payment against you.

5. Don’t change bank accounts. Remember, lenders need to source and track assets. That task is significantly easier when there is consistency among your accounts. Before you even transfer money between accounts, talk to your loan officer.

6. Don’t apply for new credit. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new credit card or a new car. When you have your credit report run by organizations in multiple financial channels (mortgage, credit card, auto, etc.), your FICO score will be affected. Lower credit scores can determine your interest rate and maybe even your eligibility for approval.

7. Don’t close any credit accounts. Many clients have erroneously believed that having less available credit makes them less risky and more likely to be approved. Wrong. A major component of your score is your length and depth of credit history (as opposed to just your payment history) and your total usage of credit as a percentage of available credit. Closing accounts has a negative impact on both those determinants of your score.

Bottom Line

Any blip in income, assets, or credit should be reviewed and executed in a way that ensures your home loan can still be approved. The best advice is to fully disclose and discuss your plans with your loan officer before you do anything financial in nature. They are there to guide you through the process.

Let The McLeod Group Network assist you in finding your new home! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: KCM Crew

4 Reasons to Buy a Home in the Spring

by Amy McLeod Group


Spring has sprung, and it’s a great time to buy a home! Here are four reasons to consider buying today instead of waiting.

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest U.S. Home Price Insights reports that home prices have appreciated by 4.4% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 4.6% over the next year.

Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage came in at 4.41% last week. Most experts predict that rates will rise over the next 12 months. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting rates will increase by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way, You Are Paying a Mortgage

Some renters have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. 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 an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It’s Time to Move On with Your Life

The cost of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Examine the actual reason you are buying and decide if it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, greater safety for your family, or you just want to have control over renovations, now could be the time to buy.

Bottom Line

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

Let The McLeod Group Network assist you in finding your new home! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: KCM Crew

Top 10 Questions to Ask a Mortgage Lender: Do You Know Them All?

by Amy McLeod Group


What are the best questions to ask a mortgage lender before you lock in a home loan? If you want to find the very best mortgage for your needs, it pays to not automatically go with the very first lender you see.

“You need to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best interest rate and loan terms,” says Peggy Yee, supervising broker at Frankly Realtors, in Vienna, VA, who recommends that home buyers meet with at least three lenders before they pick.

So how do you compare and contrast your options effectively? Ask these 10 questions below to get a sense of who's right for you.

1. What types of home loans do you offer?

Some lenders offer a wide range of mortgage products, while others specialize in only one or two types of home loans. Finding a lender that offers the type of mortgage you need is a must. These are the most common types of home mortgages:

  • Fixed-rate loan: True to its name, a fixed-rate mortgage means that the interest rate you pay remains fixed at the same level throughout the life of your loan (typically 15 or 30 years).
  • Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM): An ARM offers a low interest rate for an introductory period. After that period—typically two to five years—the rate becomes adjustable up to a certain limit, depending on market conditions.
  • FHA loan: Geared toward low-income home buyers, a Federal Housing Administration loan lets borrowers put down as little as 3% on a house.
  • VA loan: If you or your spouse serve or served in the military, you may qualify for a Veterans Affairs loan. Under this program, the VA guarantees the loan—reducing the risk to the lender—and allows you to finance up to 100% of the house's cost, so you won't have to come up with any money for a down payment.
  • USDA loan: Another type of government-backed mortgage, this loan is offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development in towns with populations of 10,000 or less. USDA loan borrowers can have down payments as low as 0%.
  • Jumbo loan: If you live in a pricey housing market, you may end up with a jumbo loan—a mortgage that's above the limits for government-sponsored loans. In most parts of the country, that means loans over $417,000; in areas where the cost of living is extremely high (e.g., Manhattan and San Francisco), the threshold jumps to $625,000.

2. What type of mortgage is best for me?

A mortgage lender should be able to answer this question once you’ve completed a loan application and the lender takes stock of your employment, income, assets, credit, debt, expenses, down payment, and other information about your finances.

3. What are your closing costs?

For home buyers, closing costs—the fees paid to a lender and other third parties that help facilitate the sale of a home—typically run about 3% to 4% of a home’s sales price. So on a $250,000 home, your closing costs as a buyer would amount from $7,500 to $10,000. The good news is some closing costs are negotiable: attorney fees, commission rates, recording costs, and messenger fees.

Your best approach is to submit loan applications with several lenders so that you can receive good-faith estimates(GFEs), which contain an itemized list of a lender’s closing fees.

4. How much time do you need to complete a mortgage?

One recent study found that closing times take, on average, 50 days. But, if you’re buying in a hot housing market, you may need to find a lender who can turn around a mortgage quickly—30 days or less.

The caveat: Some types of loans often take longer to process. The entire FHA loan process, for example, may take 30 to 60 days from the time you apply for the loan to the day you close, since the house must pass an inspection conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. And if the house requires certain repairs in order to pass inspection, they must be completed before the sale can go through.

5. Do you do underwriting in-house?

Underwriting—the process in which mortgage lenders verify your assets to get a home loan, check your credit score, and review your home appraisal—can last as little as two to three days, but typically takes over a week to finish. All loans must go through underwriting before the lender can issue you the funds for a home purchase.

Some lenders do underwriting in-house, while others farm out to third-party underwriters. Though there are plenty of good lenders that outsource their underwriting, finding lenders that do theirs in-house could help speed up the process, since the underwriter would have direct access to your loan officer. (Communication between a loan officer and an outside underwriter might take longer.)

6. What documents do I need?

Proof of income and assets, personal identification, and information about your credit history are the big three. It can be a lot of paperwork, so start now by getting your paperwork in order.

7. Do you participate in any down payment assistance programs?

Need help making a down payment? There are many down payment assistance programs across the country which can help. One study found that buyers who use down payment assistance programs save an average of $17,766. The challenge, though, is not all mortgage lenders participate in these programs—but if you need down payment assistance to buy a house, you’ll need to find a lender that does.

8. Do you charge for an interest rate lock?

mortgage rate lock is a commitment by a lender to give you a home loan at a specific interest rate, provided you close on your home in a certain period of time. This rate lock offers protection against fluctuating interest rates—useful considering that even a quarter of a percentage point can take a huge bite out of your housing budget over time.

Most lenders will offer a 30-day rate lock at no charge to you, but some lenders do charge for rate locks. This fee can be as high as 1% of your total loan amount. On a $300,000 mortgage, that means paying up to $3,000 to secure your rate—that’s not chump change.

9. Who will be the title and escrow agency or attorney?

You don’t have to leave the selection of the title company up to the lender. See how much your mortgage lender’s recommendation will cost, then shop around and see if you can save any money.

You can do the same for an escrow agency and attorney.

10. How do you communicate with your clients?

A great mortgage lender will stay in close contact with you, giving you updates on key steps in the mortgage approval process (e.g., the home appraisal and underwriting), says Yee. Additionally, you want to find a lender that you could reach easily when you have questions. Some loan officers work only during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, which can be a big disadvantage if you need help on a weekend.

Let The McLeod Group Network assist you in finding your new home! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Craig Donofrio 

The Home Appraisal Process: What to Expect as a Buyer

by Amy McLeod Group


The home appraisal process is just a formality when buying real estate, right? You've found the house you love and put in a good offer, and it was accepted! It's time to break out the Dom Pérignon White Gold? Sorry, not yet.

If you've applied for a mortgage, your home-to-be still has to undergo a comprehensive appraisal of its worth—and an unfavorable home appraisal can kill a real estate deal. Yikes! It can be a nerve-racking ordeal, but it's actually good for you. Allow us to demystify the process.

Appraisals estimate a home's value with fresh eyes

Just because you and the sellers have agreed on a price doesn't mean it's a done deal—your lender needs to be on board, too. After all, it's the lender's real estate investment as well. To get a mortgage, you'll need a home appraisal because the home serves as collateral for your lender. If for some reason you end up unable to make your mortgage payments, the lender will have to foreclose on your home, then sell the property to recoup its costs. So your mortgage lender will have to know the value of your home before handing over that large chunk of change.

While the home appraisal process is somewhat similar to getting comps—as you did to determine a fair price—the appraiser delves in deeper to determine the home's exact value.

An appraiser will investigate the condition, the square footage, location, and any additions or renovations. From there, he or she will appraise the home and determine its value.

An appraiser is trained to be unbiased, says Adam Wiener, founder of Aladdin Appraisal in Auburndale, MA.

“I don't care what anybody wants the home to be worth," he says. “As an appraiser, I'll give you the answer. You may not like it, but it's the answer."

Off-site, the appraiser may also evaluate the current real estate market in the neighborhood to help determine the value of the property.

Usually, the lender or financing organization will hire the appraiser. Because it's in the best interest of the lender to get a good home appraisal, the lender will have a list of reputable pros to appraise the home.

Whoever takes out the mortgage pays for the home appraisal, unless the contract specifies otherwise. Then the buyer pays the fee in the closing costs. If a seller is motivated, he may pay for the home appraisal himself to back his asking price, which benefits the buyer by reducing closing costs.

You'll get a copy of the home appraisal, too

An appraiser sets out to determine if the home is actually worth what you're planning to pay. You might be surprised by how little time that takes; the appraiser could be in and out of a home in 30 minutes, and that's not a reason to panic.

An appraiser doesn't have the same job as a home inspector, who examines every little detail. While they'll pay particular attention to problems with the foundation and roof, the home appraisal process includes noting the quality and condition of the appliances, plumbing, flooring, and electrical system. With data in hand, they make their final assessment and give their report to the lender. The mortgage company is then required by law to give a copy of the appraisal to you.

Appraisers work for your lender—not you

As the buyer, you'll be paying for the home appraisal. In most cases, the fee is wrapped into your closing costs and will set you back $300 to $400. However, just because you pay doesn't mean you're the client.

“My client is the lender, not the buyer," Wiener says. This ensures that appraisers remain ethical—in fact, it's a crime to coerce or put any pressure on an appraiser to hit a certain value. Appraisers must remain independent.

“Anything less, and public trust in the appraisal is lost," says Wiener.

They protect buyers from a bad deal

In essence, the home appraisal process is meant to protect you (and the lender) from a bad purchase. For instance: If the appraisal comes in higher than your asking price, it's generally fine. Sure, the sellers could decide they want more money and would rather put their home back on the market; but in most cases, the deal will go through as expected.

If your appraisal comes in lower than what you offered, this is where things get tricky: Your lender won't pony up more money than the appraised price. So if you and the sellers agree on $125,000 but the appraisal comes in at $105,000, it creates a $20,000 shortfall. What's a buyer to do? Read on.

A curveball appraisal isn't necessarily the end

If the appraisal process happens, your appraisal comes in low, and your contract with the seller was contingent on an appraisal, you could walk away and have your earnest money returned.

If you prefer to buy the home anyway (or waived your appraisal contingency), there are some other paths you can pursue:

  • Come up with the cash to cover the difference between the appraisal and offer price.
  • Ask the seller to cover the difference.
  • Challenge the appraisal, and pay for a second opinion.

Keep in mind, though, that your new report could come out identical. Also keep in mind that if you do choose to walk away, that's actually good news, although it may not seem like it at the time. Why? Because the appraisal kept you from paying too much for your home.

Once your appraisal is done, you're still not ready to close without another nerve-racking step called a home inspection.

Let's get together and find your dream home! Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com. 

By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe 

What Is Escrow? How It Keeps Home Buyers and Sellers Safe

by Amy McLeod Group


What is escrow? In real estate, an escrow account is a secure holding area where important items (e.g., the earnest money check and contracts) are kept safe by an escrow company until the deal is closed and the house officially changes hands.

Escrow is also a contractual arrangement in which a third party—usually the escrow officer—maintains money and documents until the deal is done.

How escrow works

The escrow agent is a third party—perhaps someone from the real estate closing company, an attorney, or a title company agent (customs vary by state), says Andy Prasky, a real estate professional with Re/Max Advantage Plus in Twin Cities.

The third party is there to make sure everything during the transaction proceeds smoothly, including the transfers of money and documents. Escrow protects all the relevant parties in a real estate transaction by ensuring that no funds from your lender and property change hands until all conditions in the agreement have been met.

Along the way, proper documentation is filed with the escrow agent or the escrow company as each step toward closing is completed. Contingencies that might be part of the process could include home inspectionrepairs, and other tasks that need to be accomplished by the buyer or seller. And every time one of those steps is completed, the buyer or seller signs off with a contingency release form; then the transaction moves on to the next step (and one step closer to closing).

Once all conditions are met and the transaction is finalized, the money due to the sellers is transferred from your lender to them. Meanwhile an escrow officer clears (or records) the title, which means the buyer officially owns the home.

How much does escrow cost?

That varies—as well as whether the buyer or seller (or both) pays—with the fee for this real estate service typically totaling about 1% to 2% of the cost of the home.

The earnest money deposit

Earnest money—also known as an escrow deposit—is a dollar amount buyers put into an escrow account after a seller accepts their offer. The escrow company will hold onto that money for the duration of the transaction.

Another way to think of earnest money is as a "good-faith” deposit into an escrow account that will compensate the seller if the buyer breaches the contract and fails to close.

Can you borrow earnest money from your lender?

Earnest money can be borrowed from your lender, but there are certain rules involved. First-time buyers are most likely to need to go to their lender for their earnest money. Your lender will ultimately count your earnest money as part of the down payment on the house.

What is an escrow account?

When you make your monthly payment to your lender, part of it goes toward your mortgage and part of it goes into your escrow account for property taxes and insurance premiums such as homeowners insurance or mortgage insurance. When those bills are due, your lender will use the funds in your escrow account to pay them.

How escrow protects you

Escrow may seem like a pain, but here's how it can work in your favor. Let's say, for example, the buyer had a home inspection contingency and discovered that the roof needed repairs. The seller agrees to fix the roof. However, during the buyer's final walk-through, she finds that the roof hasn’t been repaired as expected. In this case, the seller won’t see a dime of the buyer’s money until the roof is fixed. Talk about a nice safeguard!

Sellers benefit from escrow, too: Let's say the buyers get cold feet at the last minute and bail on the transaction. This may be disappointing to the seller, but at the very least, buyers have typically ponied up a sizable chunk of change for their earnest money deposit. This money, often totaling 1% to 2% of the purchase price of a home, has been held in escrow. When buyers back out with no legitimate reason, they forfeit that money to the seller—a decent consolation for the sale's failure.

Escrow, in other words, is the equivalent of bumpers on cars, keeping everyone safe as they move forward in a real estate transaction. Odds are, no one's trying to swindle anyone. But isn't it nice to know that if something does go wrong, escrow is there to cushion the blow?

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Cathie Ericson

What Is a Good Credit Score to Buy a House?

by Amy McLeod Group


If you're hoping to buy a home, one number you'll want to get to know well is your credit score. Also called a credit rating or FICO score (named after the company that created it, the Fair Isaac Corporation), this three-digit number is a numerical representation of your credit report, which outlines your history of paying off debts.

Why does your credit score matter? Because when you apply for a mortgage to buy a home, lenders want some reassurance a borrower will repay them later! One way they assess this is to check your creditworthiness by scrutinizing your credit report and score carefully. A high FICO rating proves you have reliably paid off past debts, whether they're from a credit card or college loan. (Insurance companies also use more targeted, industry-specific FICO credit scores to gauge whom they should insure.)

In short, this score matters. It can help you qualify for a home, a car loan, and so much more. Which brings us to an important question: What type of score is best to buy a house?

Inside your credit score: How does it stack up?

A credit score can range from 300 to 850, with 850 being a perfect credit score. While each creditor might have subtle differences in what they deem a good or great score, in general an excellent credit score is anything from 750 to 850. A good credit score is from 700 to 749; a fair credit score, 650 to 699. A credit score lower than 650 is deemed poor, meaning your credit history has had some rough patches.

While FICO score requirements will vary from lender to lender, generally a good or excellent credit score means you'll have little trouble if you hope to score a home loan. Lenders will want the business of home buyers with good credit, and may try to entice them to sign on with them by offering loans with the lowest interest rates, says Richard Redmond at All California Mortgage in Larkspur and author of “Mortgages: The Insider’s Guide.”

Since a lower credit score means a borrower has had some late payments or other dings on their credit report, a lender may see this consumer as more likely to default on their home loan. All that said, a low credit score doesn't necessarily mean you can't score a loan, but it may be tough. They may still give you a mortgage, but it may be a subprime loan with a higher interest rate, says Bill Hardekopf, a credit expert at LowCards.com.

How a score is calculated

Credit scores are calculated by three major U.S. credit bureaus: ExperianEquifax, and TransUnion. All three credit-reporting agency scores should be roughly similar, although each pulls from slightly different sources. For instance, Experian looks at rent payments. TransUnion checks out your employment history. These reports are extremely detailed—for instance, if you paid a car loan bill late five years ago, an Experian report can pinpoint the exact month that happened. By and large, here are the main variables that the credit bureaus use to determine a consumer credit score, and to what degree:

  • Payment history (35%): This is whether you've made debt payments on time. If you’ve never missed a payment, a 30-day delinquency can cause as much as a 90- to 110-point drop in your score.
  • Debt-to-credit utilization (30%): This is how much debt a consumer has accumulated on their credit card accounts, divided by the credit limit on the sum of those accounts. Ratios above 30% work against you. So if you have a total credit limit of $5,000, you will want to be in debt no more than $1,500 when you apply for a home loan.
  • Length of credit history (15%): It’s beneficial for a consumer to have a track record of being a responsible credit user. A longer payment history boosts your score. Those without a long-enough credit history to build a good score can consider alternate credit-scoring methods like the VantageScore. VantageScore can reportedly establish a credit score in as little as one month; whereas FICO requires about six months of credit history instead.
  • Credit mix (10%): Your credit score ticks up if you have a rich combination of different types of credit card accounts, such as credit cards, retail store credit cards, installment loans, and a previous or current home loan.
  • New credit accounts (10%): Research shows that opening several new credit card accounts within a short period of time represents greater risk to the lender, according to myFICO, so avoid applying for new credit cards if you're about to buy a home. Also, each time you open a new credit line, the average length of your credit history decreases (further hurting your credit score).

How to check your credit score

So now that you know exactly what's considered a good credit rating, how can you find out your own credit score? You can get a free credit score online at CreditKarma.com. You can also check with your credit card company, since some (like Discover and Capital One) offer a free credit score as well as credit reports so you can conduct your own credit check.

Another way to check what's on your credit report—including credit problems that are dragging down your credit score—is to get your free copy at AnnualCreditReport.com. Each credit-reporting agency (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) may also provide credit reports and scores, but these may often entail a fee. Plus, you should know that a credit report or score from any one of these bureaus may be detailed, but may not be considered as complete as those by FICO, since FICO compiles data from all three credit bureaus in one comprehensive credit report.

Even if you're fairly sure you've never made a late payment, 1 in 4 Americans finds errors on their credit file, according to a 2013 Federal Trade Commission survey. Errors are common because creditors make mistakes reporting customer slip-ups. For example, although you may have never missed a payment, someone with the same name as you did—and your bank recorded the error on your account by accident.

If you discover errors, you can remove them from your credit report by contacting Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion with proof that the information was incorrect. From there, they will remove these flaws from your report, which will later be reflected in your score by FICO. Or, even if your credit report does not contain errors, if it's not as great as you'd hoped, you can raise your credit score. Just keep in mind, regardless of whatever credit-scoring model you use, you can't improve a credit score overnight, which is why you should check your credit score annually—long before you get the itch to score a home.

The McLeod Group Network can help you find your new home! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz 

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

by Amy McLeod Group


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

Excited About Buying A Home This Year? Here’s What to Watch

by Amy McLeod Group


As we kick off the new year, many families have made resolutions to enter the housing market in 2019. Whether you are thinking of finally ditching your landlord and buying your first home or selling your starter house to move into your forever home, there are two pieces of the real estate puzzle you need to watch carefully: interest rates & inventory.

Interest Rates

Mortgage interest rates had been on the rise for much of 2018, but they made a welcome reversal at the end of the year. According to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey, rates climbed to 4.94% in November before falling to 4.62% for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage last week. Despite the recent drop, interest rates are projected to reach 5% in 2019.

The interest rate you secure when buying a home not only greatly impacts your monthly housing costs, but also impacts your purchasing power.

Purchasing power, simply put, is the amount of home you can afford to buy for the budget you have available to spend. As rates increase, the price of the house you can afford to buy will decrease if you plan to stay within a certain monthly housing budget.

The chart below shows the impact that rising interest rates would have if you planned to purchase a $400,000 home while keeping your principal and interest payments between $2,020-$2,050 a month.

With each quarter of a percent increase in interest rate, the value of the home you can afford decreases by 2.5% (in this example, $10,000).

Inventory

A ‘normal’ real estate market requires there to be a 6-month supply of homes for sale in order for prices to increase only with inflation. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), listing inventory is currently at a 3.9-month supply (still well below the 6-months needed), which has put upward pressure on home prices. Home prices have increased year-over-year for the last 81 straight months.

The inventory of homes for sale in the real estate market had been on a steady decline and experienced year-over-year drops for 36 straight months (from July 2015 to May 2018), but we are starting to see a shift in inventory over the last six months.

The chart below shows the change in housing supply over the last 12 months compared to the previous 12 months. As you can see, since June, inventory levels have started to increase as compared to the same time last year.

This is a trend to watch as we move further into the new year. If we continue to see an increase in homes for sale, we could start moving further away from a seller’s market and closer to a normal market.

Bottom Line

If you are planning to enter the housing market, either as a buyer or a seller, let’s get together to discuss the changes in mortgage interest rates and inventory and what they could mean for you. 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: KCM Crew

4 Huge Mistakes You Might Make Moving From a City to the Suburbs

by Amy McLeod Group


There comes a time in many people’s lives—usually when the words “baby” or “school district” become a regular part of the vocabulary—when people flee the glamorous city to the charming suburbs. Only where, exactly, should you go? How do you find that perfect place where your neighbors seem simpatico rather than psycho?

Alison Bernstein once struggled with these same questions when contemplating moving her own family outside New York City.

“We made the quintessential buyer’s mistake,” says Bernstein. “We picked the perfect town, or so it seemed, based on our checklist. But the problem is, you very seldom know what you should look for, and you don’t consider vital intangibles. So we, like so many people, made a bad decision."

They picked a suburb that, looking back, "was great, but just not a good personality fit for us," she says. In short, it was too big. "I grew up in a small town, and I wanted to recreate that," she explains. "I wanted people to know my name at the local coffee shop. I wanted the pizza place to know my kids, and what they liked. Things that mattered to us—like having our kids get to know others the same age—weren't so easy, since there were so many schools in the district.”

So Bernstein and her family picked up and moved to a smaller town that feels just right, 45 minutes north of the city. She founded Suburban Jungle, a business that matches city clients with the right suburbs and partners with various local agents in every town who have been vetted, selected, and trained to work with their team. She began the advisory firm in New York City, but has since expanded to include Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC, placing thousands of happy families in their new communities.

“I realized the things we had been focused on when we moved weren’t the key elements," she explains. "So my company makes certain that people ask the right questions and make the best decisions for their family.”

Everyone starts out with the same wish list—a great school district, a short commute, low taxes—but there’s a better way to approach your next-home hunt.  Here, Bernstein shares some of the key mistakes parents make when moving to the 'burbs.

1. Focusing on the house rather than the whole neighborhood

When picking a new home, most people (understandably!) focus on the property itself—how many bedrooms, bathrooms, how big is the lot? After all, who can resist poring over floor plans and listing photos of sun-flooded kitchens? But no house is an island: It’s part of a community, as you will be, too. To make sure you fit in, get a feel for the community and whether it offers the lifestyle and kinds of neighbors you are looking for.

Bernstein's advice: "Don’t just visit the well-known towns—what we call the brand-name towns that most people aspire to. Just because a lot of people have heard of a town doesn’t mean it’s right for you." She recommends taking as much time as you can to hang out in different ’hoods.

Try on a couple of towns—check out their cafés, their parks. Are the playgrounds full or empty on a Saturday afternoon? Are the kids there with parents or au pairs?

"Have dinner in the town. See what the people are like, what the mood is like," Bernstein suggests. Think about whether this feels comfortable and a good fit. It's only when you settle on a place that does that you are ready to start comparing whether you like a bungalow better than a Colonial.

2. Finding a 'good school district' that's not a good fit for your kids

Let’s be real: Education is one of the top motivators for a move to the ’burbs, Bernstein says, "Everyone talks about wanting a 'good school district,' but the key thing here is, what does that mean for your family? A school that ranks well on standardized tests may be a pressure-cooker that your child won’t thrive in, or it may not have much of an arts program."

Getting hung up on class size is another rookie move. While no one wants their child in a class of 50, also look at the total school enrollment. Would your child do well in a school that typically has a total of 1,000 kids per grade, even if the class size is acceptable? Do you want a district with one elementary school (small-town living) or are you looking for something with several elementary schools and possibly some specialized schools attuned to your child’s interests and talents?

Here’s another tip from Bernstein: As you narrow your choices, "go to a local school at the a.m. drop-off time and take a look. Who is dropping off the kids—nannies? Moms and dads en route to the train station? Yoga-pants-wearing at-home parents? This will also help you see if this community reflects the lifestyle you are seeking."

3. Thinking about commute time rather than quality

Before decamping for the ’burbs, most people lock in on a commute time—say, "I won’t be on the train for more than 40 minutes each way." But that can cause you to overlook a lot of the intangibles, says Bernstein. "Ask yourself, Would you rather be on a packed, standing-room-only local train for 40 minutes a day … or, what if you could be seated on an express train for 45 minutes a day?"

You won’t be able to really evaluate the commute unless you, well, commute. Bernstein suggest you do just that, at rush hour, and see what you are getting yourself into. Sure, it takes time, but can help you avoid locking into a “dream house” that comes with a surprise commute from hell twice daily. (Note: A little research will also yield info on a train line’s “on-time” record—another good bit of data to know.)

While you are doing a dry-run commute, scope out the parking situation, too. Many “hot” towns have packed parking lots with waiting lists and with prized parking permits costing thousands a year. Call the town office and inquire about the details, so you’re prepared.
Bernstein has another great tip for sussing out towns based on commutes.

"Pull out an area map and scan it carefully," she suggests. "There are wonderful small towns—hidden jewels, even—that don’t have their own train station." These villages tend to be overlooked by people moving to the suburbs, but are worth your attention. (Ask your real estate agent for help with this, too.) You might be able to move to one of these places and walk or drive three minutes to a neighboring town’s train station.

4. Assuming you'll easily find child care nearby

Most people moving out of the city do so for the sake of children (current or future), but you can’t assume the child care options are the same in the suburbs as in an urban setting. If you are a two-career couple, see what options exist nearby.

"Few suburbs are truly walkable. If you need day care, how far a drive would that be, and how long would it take during the a.m. rush hour?" asks Bernstein. What time at the end of day do they close, and what happens if you are running late? Is the town one that has a strong au pair network, or are most moms home with their kids? This info doesn’t just let you envision your daily schedule—it will tell you a lot about the community and whether it will be a good fit for your family.

Thinking about making a move? The McLeod Group Network is here to help! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Janet Siroto

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The McLeod Group Network
Keller Williams Capital City
1900 Hines St SE #220
Salem OR 97302
971-208-5093
Fax: 971-599-5229

**Disclaimer: Amy McLeod, and her team, do not initiate, process, or service mortgages.  And provide this information only as a service.  You should confirm information here with your Licensed Mortgage Lender.