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Exploring Salem Oregon: Oregon’s 160th Birthday Celebration

by Amy McLeod Group


Saturday, February 16, 2019 - 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Come celebrate Oregon’s 160th birthday this Saturday!  There will be costumed interpreters, covered wagons, blacksmithing, native cultures, the Oregon Pioneer, children’s activities, and free birthday cake!  Learn about the history of this beautiful state and celebrate the day it entered the union.

Free parking on weekends!

Oregon State Capitol
900 Court St. NE
Salem, OR 97301

503-986-1388

Event Website

Courtesy of Amy McLeod, The McLeod Group Network

Photo Credit: travelsalem.com

Happy Valentine's Day!

by Amy McLeod Group

5 Things Every First-Time Home Buyer Needs to Know

by Amy McLeod Group


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

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 

Exploring Salem Oregon: West Salem Jazz Fest 2019

by Amy McLeod Group


Saturday, February 9, 2019 - 8:30 AM to 9:00 PM

Join us for the West Salem Jazz Fest!  Sixty bands from forty Oregon and Washington middle and high schools will jam on three stages for adjudication and awards. Guest artist is renowned trombonist Wycliffe Gordon!

West Salem High School
1776 Titan Dr. NW
Salem, OR 97304

503-381-0603

Event Website

Courtesy of Amy McLeod, The McLeod Group Network

Photo Credit: travelsalem.com

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

by Amy McLeod Group


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

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

Exploring Salem Oregon: Salem Winter Brewfest

by Amy McLeod Group


January 30 - February 1

Join us for Oregon’s premiere winter party - a 4-day festival for the 21 and over crowd.  There will be live music, a huge variety of cold beers and ciders on tap, wine, cocktails and yummy food!  Ticket prices range from $5.00 to $25.00.

State Capitol State Park
900 Court St, NE
Salem, OR 97301

Event Website

Courtesy of Amy McLeod, The McLeod Group Network

Photo Credit: travelsalem.com

That's So 2018! The Most Outdated Home-Selling Advice You Should Now Ignore

by Amy McLeod Group


There's one thing more scary than buying a house, and that's selling a house.

There is so much pressure to list your house and sell it quickly—and for a great price—that you probably find yourself turning to those who've been there before for advice.

But here's the problem: The housing market changes on a dime, meaning whatever worked for them might not necessarily work for you. In fact, it may backfire, big-time! Here are some of the most outdated words of wisdom you might hear that you may be better off ignoring.

Wait for spring to sell your home

Odds are you've heard that the best time to sell your house is in the spring, because that's when the buyers are out and about. But it also means you'll be competing against a slew of sellers.

"Listing in the spring means you are positioning yourself to compete with several other homes. So as a seller in the spring, you have to price and market your home flawlessly to show buyers that your home is more desirable than the house next door," says real estate agent Cheyanne Banks, of Nest Seekers International in Jersey City, NJ. "Because buyers have more choice in the spring market, they’re more likely to negotiate a lower price."

In fact, Banks now advises her clients to list in the summer and winter, when there's less competition.

Price your home high

Not too long ago, it was a seller's market—meaning competition was so fierce between buyers that you could still almost guarantee a sale if you priced your home over market value. According to Daniel Martinez, real estate agent and founder of HOULIVING, a boutique real estate company located in Houston, that's not the way it works these days.

"We are seeing homes on the market last longer and listings become stale one after another," says Martinez. "In today’s market, we need to be realistic about what is selling for what dollar per square foot and adjust, because the market decides what it’s willing to pay for a home. Not you or me."

And if you think you're going to start it at a higher price just to test the market, you should think again.

"Testing the market with an above-market price means your home will not fly off the shelf, and the longer it’s on the shelf the more potential buyers wonder what’s wrong with it," warns Phyllis Brookshire, president of Allen Tate Realtors in the Carolinas. "This results in more carrying costs for you and dramatic price reductions later."

Leave room to negotiate

Another reason sellers were pricing high was to leave room for buyers who were eager to negotiate, but real estate broker Gill Chowdhury, with Warburg Realty in New York City, says today's buyers won't play that game.

"With supply higher than it was a few years ago, if you're not priced at market, or at least very close, you're not going to get that many people in the door to begin with," she says. "Price your property to sell."

Sell your home as is

As recently as just a few years ago, sellers were often told not to invest too much into remodeling, as buyers would want to customize themselves. Why worry about it when they're going to do it anyway, right? Well, not only has the market changed, but so have the buyers.

"With many millennials entering the housing market, one of their biggest desires is to have a turn-key home, meaning they don't want to have to make changes or repairs, such as modernizing appliances and amenities—essentially the home is move-in ready," explains Nick Giovacchini, head of client services at AlphaFlow. "Not updating an older home could leave sellers at a disadvantage, especially if other homeowners have updated their homes before selling, even if the unimproved home is priced at a discount compared to more updated homes in the area."

Even though home prices are going down, the  buyers that remain are willing to pay a premium for homes that look the part, so put in some elbow grease before you put up that "For Sale" sign.

Amateur photos of your house are fine

If you've ever sold a home before, you probably remember the real estate agent coming in and snapping a few quick photos of your home to place with your listing. Heck, you may have even taken the photos yourself. We're sorry to say that's just not going to fly this time around.

"How your property looks online will have a direct impact on the number of buyers who will be interested in purchasing your home," says Nancy Wallace-Laabs, a real estate broker with KBN Homes, in Frisco, TX. "Hiring a professional photographer and adding drone pictures are an increased cost to a seller, but well worth the investment."

In fact, it may be a good idea to take it even further, says Mark Cianciulli, real estate agent and co-founder of the CREM Group in Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA. "For instance, the benchmark has become getting professional photos taken of the property, creating high-quality videos for your property that allow buyers to see different perspectives inside and outside the home, as well as 3D tours of the home that allow buyers to navigate though the home at will and in any direction they choose," Cianciulli explains.

So much for just snapping a few pics with your smartphone.

Holding an open house is a must

There was a time that hosting an open house (featuring freshly baked cookies, of course!) was a near guarantee that your house would sell before the weekend was over. Unfortunately, open houses aren't the shoe-in that they used to be.

"In my experience, those attending open houses are just putting their toes in the water and seeing what's out there—or they're just your typical nosy neighbor. Serious buyers will be out looking at the houses they want any chance they can get and not waiting until an open house to submit an offer," says real estate agent Heather Carbone, of Heather Carbone Team Big River Properties in Boston.

"Real estate agents like open houses because they create good opportunities for them to find unrepresented buyers, or to create a frenzy around the listing. Ultimately, an open house should be just one small piece of a bigger marketing plan for the property," says Carbone.

The McLeod Group Network is here to assist with all your home-selling needs!  971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Whitney Coy

Why It Makes No Sense to Wait for Spring to Sell

by Amy McLeod Group


The price of any item (including residential real estate) is determined by the theory of ‘
supply and demand.’ If many people are looking to buy an item and the supply of that item is limited, the price of that item increases.

The supply of homes for sale dramatically increases every spring, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). As an example, here is what happened to housing inventory at the beginning of 2018:

Putting your home on the market now, rather than waiting for increased competition in the spring, might make a lot of sense.



Bottom Line
Buyers in the market during the winter are truly motivated purchasers and they want to buy now. With limited inventory currently available in most markets, sellers are in a great position to negotiate.

Let The McLeod Group Network evaluate the demand for your house in our market971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

 

By: KCM Crew

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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.