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Ten years ago, many homeowners were desperately hoping to hang on to their homes. Others were doing everything they could just to scare up potential buyers. Meanwhile, said buyers were struggling to get financing from newly skittish lenders. Ah, memories. What a difference a decade makes!

It has, in fact, been the most consequential stretch in American real estate history, one that has fundamentally altered the landscape. Cosmopolitan coastal cities are out; affordable midsize cities are in. Baby boomers and Gen Xers are no longer the dominant forces in buying, ceding that turf to millennials. Yet after all this time, it seems that home buyers still can't get much of a break, according to a new report from realtor.com®.

 
 
 

“In 2020, there will be opportunity for buyers, but in many ways the challenges they’ve faced for years are going to persist—challenges like difficulty finding the home that’s right for them, and competing with other buyers, especially in affordable price points," says Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com, whose team pulled together a forecast of housing trends for 2020.

In other words: The more things change, the more they'll stay the same. A lack of homes for sale has been making things difficult for buyers since 2015, and next year, inventory could reach historic lows. And although single-family home construction is expected to increase 6%, it still won't be enough to keep up with demand.

There is a bright side, though: Mortgage rates are expected to remain reasonable, at an average 3.85%.

Let's take a closer look at the biggest factors that will shape the real estate market in 2020.

Affordability, affordability, affordability

OK, it's not as catchy as "location, location, location," but achievable price points will be key in the coming year, especially as millennial buyers solidify their position as America's main home buyers (more on that later).

Now that we've apparently hit the ceiling of crazy price growth, it seems that buyers are just over overpaying.

"Many people would prefer to live in the San Franciscos and [other] big cities, but for the right price they will make the decision to go to another city," says Hale.

Perhaps a city like, say, McAllen, TX, where sales are expected to rise 4.4% and home prices to appreciate 4% in 2020. Compare that with a 9.5% drop in sales for Las Vegas, and 1.1% decrease in home prices.

Texas, Arizona, and Nevada are expected to welcome an influx of home shoppers priced out of California. Meanwhile, would-be buyers from pricey Northeastern markets will likely head to the Midwest or Southeast. There, they can find affordable housing as well as solid, diversified economies.

Millennials mature into home buying

"The largest cohort of millennials will turn 30 in 2020—historically, that's when people tend to think of buying their first home," says Hale. The oldest millennials will be turning 39. By the middle of the year, she says, this generation will account for more than 50% of mortgages taken out in the country. Yes, that's more than all other generations, combined.

Surprised? Well, the popular notion that millennials aren't interested in settling down just isn't proving true as members of this generation, born in 1981 through 1997, partner off and start families.

"Family changes tend to drive home-buying decisions," Hale notes. "Millennials are going to be active in the housing market not just because they're just at the age when they're thinking about becoming first-time home buyers, but they're also in the age range when they're having kids."

But while they may be motivated, they'll face a lot of competition for the scarce homes on the market—from roughly 71 million of their peers nationwide.

Where are the homes?

While millennials are raring to buy, Gen Xers and boomers are pretty comfortable where they are, thank you very much. Boomers are living longer, healthier lives, and staying in their houses longer. Gen Xers often aren't quite done with raising kids or ready to retire, so except for the lucky ones trading up, they also aren't inclined to move.

Since older owners aren't quite chomping at the bit to give up their houses en masse—and with levels of new construction still low in most parts of the U.S.—there just won't be enough housing to meet the demand. And while in previous years this scarcity has driven up home prices, home price appreciation is finally flagging, with predicted growth of just 0.8%.

After the housing crash in 2008, which wiped out quite a few builders, those who remained have largely focused on higher-end developments with bigger profit margins. Although they're finally showing signs of a shift toward building more entry-level homes, faced with overwhelming demand, it will take a few years for a significant number to come to market.

How to buy a home in 2020

Those looking to buy an entry-level home will face a tough search, so they should be prepared for it to take a while—and to act quickly when needed.

"Finding a property that is right for you and snatching it up before someone else does is going to be the primary challenge," Hale says.

Those with a bit more to spend will have more to choose from, less competition, and possibly more motivated sellers.

How to sell a home in 2020

Sellers of entry-level homes should be sitting pretty, as those will continue to be the most in-demand properties next year. If anything, those sellers should be prepared to move out quickly!

Others should brace themselves for a longer wait, especially as the price point moves up. The number of existing-home sales is expected to dip 1.8% next year. Higher-end sellers should do their homework: "They might need to think about the competition and pricing their home competitively," Hale says.

Thinking about buying a home or selling your current home in the new year? Let's get together and discuss your options. Reach us at 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: Realtor.com, Cicely Wedgeworth

Should Retirees Rent or Own? 3 Questions to Help You Decide

by Amy McLeod Group


For many of us, the decision to rent or buy is dictated by our income. If the monthly costs of homeownership take up no more than 30% of your income and you can afford a down payment, then buying a home is likely to make more financial sense.

But for retirees, who are typically on a fixed income, deciding between renting and buying isn't such a simple calculation.

Retirees may choose to relocate for a variety of reasons, including downsizing, being closer to family, or to enjoy a warmer climate.

But no matter what your motivation for moving, you may be wondering if renting or buying a home is the smart choice. If you find yourself in a similar dilemma, ask yourself the following questions.

1. Is your income stable?

When you’re on a fixed income, it greatly helps to have fixed housing costs. That's why taking out a mortgage might make sense for retirees.

“Having to worry about rising rent costs when you’re on a fixed budget can be stressful; owning your home means you have one flat payment every month that is also building equity for the future," says Lori Beardslee, senior branch manager and construction specialist at Silverton Mortgage in Canton, GA.

However, in some markets, renting may be a good financial decision. According to Daniel R. Hill, CFP, AIF and president of D.R. Hill Wealth Strategies in Richmond, VA, the overall cost of renting is typically cheaper than buying—when you leave equity out of the equation.

“It’s also much cheaper to move from one rental property to another than it is to sell a house,” he says. That’s because you don’t have to worry about closing costs, homeowners insurance, a large down payment, and so on.

2. Can you afford routine upkeep?

One major concern for retirees to consider is the upkeep and maintenance that inevitably comes with owning a home. Cutting the grass, painting, and other home maintenance tasks are a hassle for anyone, but they can be downright dangerous for retirees.

Of course, these projects can be outsourced, but that costs money. And major home repairs—like a new roof, plumbing, or HVAC—can run to several thousands of dollars.

One advantage of renting is that the landlord will handle a majority of the home maintenance—some will even change the ceiling lightbulbs for you.

However, there’s another option to consider.

“Owning a condo or living in an HOA-maintained property can make homeownership much easier and maintenance-free for seniors,” says Beardslee. That's why many seniors see condo living as a happy medium.

3. Will you qualify for a mortgage?

If you decide to downsize your home or move to another location, getting approved for a new mortgage may not be as easy as you think.

“If you have not financed a property after 2008, you may not know that the rules have changed since the Dodd-Frank regulations,” says Kevin Leibowitz, founder and mortgage broker at Grayton Mortgage in Brooklyn, NY.

Before 2008, he says you only needed a large down payment and a good credit history to obtain financing.

“Today, one of the most important factors is income, so the money you might be receiving from Social Security or your pension might not be sufficient to qualify you for the mortgage on the property you want to acquire,” Leibowitz explains.

However, Beardslee believes that it might actually be easier for older Americans to get a mortgage.

“A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors® shows that older Americans are the most worried about qualifying for a mortgage, yet have a better shot at being approved over younger generations.”

She says that credit scores and debt levels tend to improve with age, and baby boomers and the Silent Generation tend to have a more desirable debt-to-income ratio. They're also more likely to have a larger down payment from the equity in a previous home.

“This plays a huge role in the mortgage process and gives older individuals a leg up on their loan applications," she says.

If you do plan on buying and relocating during retirement, it might be in your best interest to rent in your new neighborhood first.

“You want to learn the area, and determine if it is truly where you want to be long term,” says Jonathan Bednar II, CFP at Paradigm Wealth Partners in Knoxville, TN. “Renting will allow you to pick up and move if your living situation is not the right fit.”

Thinking about downsizing to a new home? Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] for ALL your Real Estate needs! 

By: Realtor.com, Terri Williams 

6 Crucial Questions to Ask a Title Insurance Provider

by Amy McLeod Group


Shopping for title insurance may not be the most thrilling step in buying a house, but it is one of the most important.

Before you can own a home, or "take title" to a property, most lenders will require a title search of public property records to make sure there aren't any issues in transferring the property into your name.

 
 
 

For example, title issues can crop up due to liens on the property (say, from a contractor who did work on the house but wasn't paid), unfulfilled financial obligations such as unpaid taxes, or claims of ownership from a long-lost heir. In such cases, a home seller may not have the legal right to transfer ownership of the property.

To protect against any financial loss, two types of title insurance exist: lender's title insurance and owner's title insurance. The lender's title insurance policy pays for the expense of researching a claim and any court costs incurred as a result of any disputes they uncover.

Owner’s title insurance, meanwhile, protects you as the homeowner during any future disputes over ownership of the property.

Lenders require borrowers to purchase lender's title insurance. Owner's title insurance, however, is optional—but, given the protections it provides, buying it is a smart move. (Generally, home buyers use the same title insurance company to purchase both policies.)

Unlike homeowner insurance, title insurance is taken care of as a one-time payment that's made when (or shortly before) you close on your house.

Now that we’ve got the basics of title insurance squared away, let’s look at some of the more surprising questions you probably never thought to ask a title insurance provider but totally should. After all, as the home buyer, it's your choice which title company you decide to use.

1. What are your title insurance rates?

Although this might seem like an obvious question, some home buyers forget to ask it. And that can be a big mistake. Why? Because even though the average cost of title insurance is around $1,000 per policy—which covers all upfront work and ongoing legal and loss coverage—the price can vary widely, depending on where you live and the price of your home.

In many states, including Texas and Florida, title insurance premiums are set by the state, meaning that you’ll pay exactly the same amount no matter what title insurance company you choose.

However, some states, like California and New Mexico, do not regulate title insurance fees at all, and rates can vary widely from one title agency to another, says Rafael Castellanos, a managing partner at Expert Title Insurance Agency in New York City. If rates aren’t preset by the state, they’re negotiable.

It's advisable that all home buyers find out what a title insurance company's rates are before they choose an insurance provider.

2. What has been your most challenging title search, and how did you handle it?

Some title searches are easier to clear than others. While there’s no telling how difficult yours will be, you want a title company that can handle complicated problems.

“There are issues that we run into on residential properties that can be complex, and we have to go to great lengths to resolve them,” says Tim Evans, owner of Evans Title Agency in Troy, OH.

Ask how a title company solved their most challenging title search, and you'll gain some valuable insight—and some assurance that the company will be able to troubleshoot issues during your title search if any should arise.

3. How much experience does your title insurance attorney have?

A title company's attorney is the person who is going to determine whether you can legally take title of the property and receive title insurance. Using a title company with a seasoned attorney, therefore, is crucial.

However, “in the early 2000s, it was very common to see people forming their own title insurance agencies after just a few months,” Evans says. “Though that’s less common today, you can still run into title attorneys who have very little experience.”

4. What's your company's ratio of title claims to customers?

Because title searches can be complicated, claims are an inherent part of the business. However, some title companies are more "liberal” than others, Castellanos says, with respect to whom they will—and whom they won’t—issue title insurance.

“Some title companies pay lots of claims, which can put a lot of stress on their clients,” says Castellanos. “You want a title company that is incredibly careful and conservative.”

So, how many title claims are too many? Title insurance claim rates are approximately 5%, according to industry estimates.

As a result, here's a good guideline: If a title company has had a lot of title claims relative to the volume of their business—say, 1 out of every 10 customers—you'll want to continue your search.

5. How long does it take for you to complete a title search, on average?

Depending on the terms of your home sales contract, you may be under a tight deadline to reach settlement, warns Kimberly Sands, a real estate broker in Carolina Beach, NC.

Of course, you won't know that until you actually make an offer on a house. But, since it's a possibility, you'll want to find a title company that can conduct a title search in a timely manner, Sands says.

Typically, the whole process takes about two weeks. If a title company says that it will take significantly longer to complete a title search, using that company could force you to delay closing, which could potentially cause your whole home purchase to collapse.

6. Do you belong to any professional associations?

While being a member of a professional association certainly doesn’t guarantee that a title company is good, title agencies that belong to industry groups are often held to a higher standard, says Evans.

Organizations like the American Land Title Association (ALTA) also offer their members unique education programs, business tools, and industry certifications that will serve clients well. Moreover, membership in an industry group adds a layer of credibility for an insurance provider.

The bottom line

Title insurance can be confusing for home buyers, but it’s an essential protection of homeownership. So, in addition to asking the questions above, take time to read online reviews and talk to your real estate agent before picking your title insurance provider.

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] for ALL your Real Estate needs! 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz


A real estate listing can tell you an awful lot about a home, beyond just the price—essential stats like the year the property was built and the price per square foot. But one of the most important numbers to be aware of is the days on market, or DOM, the amount of time the home has been listed for sale on the multiple listing service. The DOM gives you an idea of how other buyers are reacting to the property and whether it's priced high or low.

Properties with a high DOM are commonly referred to as stale listings, meaning the house has been languishing on the market for a long time. Depending on the specifics of local housing markets, experts consider that a house starts becoming stale around three to five weeks—and it usually causes one of two possible reactions. Some buyers think such homes are a bit tainted, while others believe they'll have more bargaining power and can get the house at a steal. Which is more true?

Buyer beware?

First of all, let’s dispel the myth that there’s always something wrong with the house when it doesn’t sell quickly. There are a lot of factors that could come into play.

For example, Dolly Hertz, licensed associate real estate broker at Engel & Völkers in New York, says there’s a backlog of unsold inventory in the greater New York market—both city and suburbs. Hertz says some homes have languished on these markets for two or even three years.

Shawn Breyer of Breyer House Buyers, in Atlanta, tells us he’s seen a lot of great homes that are simply overpriced.

“As homeowners progressively lower the price on the home, the perception is that something is wrong with it—and this perception sometimes keeps would-be buyers from looking at the house,” he says.

Sometimes, a high DOM may be due to factors out of the seller's control.

“Perhaps the seller accepted a contract at some point, but it fell through because the buyer couldn't qualify for financing,” says Shafaq Chawla, a real estate professional with Compass in Los Gatos, CA.

But the problem could also be the home itself. Outdated interiors or big-ticket items in need of repair can scare buyers away. Some people would never gamble on buying a house with roof damage.

“Buyers are also turned off by homes that need a new paint job, landscaping work, and upgrades to decks, floors, and appliances,” Hertz says.

Location is yet another factor that could stall a home’s sale.

“Houses on busy roads or in a flood zone typically have longer days on market,” says Sarah M. Drennan, at broker/manager at Terrie O’Connor Realtors, in Allendale, NJ.

And, of course, bad listing photos can tarnish buyers' opinion of the house before they even set foot inside.

Deal or no deal

Does a high DOM give buyers more bargaining power? Sometimes.

“Remember, market value is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home, not what a seller expects,” says Chawla. When there is no demand for the home, she says sellers and agents may be willing to accept less than the initial asking price.

“Many deals may be found by salvaging stale listings,” says Michael Kelczewski, a real estate agent with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby's International in Wilmington, DE. “To see if I have any bargaining power, I tend to suggest presenting a low offer to see how the seller will react.”

Just be aware: Sellers aren’t always desperate, regardless of how long the home has been on the market.

“Some are just fishing for the highest price they can get and won't sell unless they get the price that they have in mind,” says Breyer. He recommends asking your real estate broker to find out why the homeowner wants to sell, since this can help you determine if you have any bargaining power.

For example, the sellers may just be testing the market and not desperate to sell, and Drennan says they may not be willing to take less than they’re asking. However, if circumstances dictate that they have to sell the home, you’re dealing with a motivated seller and can negotiate accordingly.

Proceed with caution

Finding a house with a high DOM that actually meets all of your criteria may feel like finding a designer blouse at the bottom of a bargain bin, but don't get excited just yet. You may be able to strike a deal, but the first move is to understand why the house is overpriced.

“Is it the location, a major defect, repairs needed, or difficult sellers?” asks Breyer.

If you do make an offer, be sure to include house inspection contingencies in the contract.

“The house may seem fine, but there may be issues that are not immediately apparent,” Hertz says.

A home inspector will reveal the house's flaw that may cost you an arm and a leg to repair. But a contingency will give you the right to back out of the sale if something looks fishy.

The McLeod Group Network is here to assist in all your home-buying needs. Reach us at 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: Realtor.com, Terri Williams

You'd Better Ask These 5 Crucial Questions Before You Buy a House

by Amy McLeod Group


No matter how many episodes of “House Hunters” or “Love It or List It” you've watched, buying a home inevitably comes with surprises. Though a sharp real estate agent will help you navigate these hidden challenges, before you start shopping for a house, you should take account of some important things that you probably haven’t considered.

Curious what you might be missing? Here are five questions you’d never think to ask yourself but totally should before buying a home.

1. Have I checked my credit report?

When you apply for a mortgage to buy a home, lenders want some reassurance that you’ll repay them later. Of course they do! One way they assess this is to check your creditworthiness, by scrutinizing your credit report and score. Having a high credit rating or FICO score (named after the company that created it, the Fair Isaac Corporation) proves that you have reliably paid off past debts, whether they're from a credit card, college loan, or other forms of debt.

Credit scores can range from 300 to 850; in general, what's considered an excellent credit score is in the range of 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 that your credit history has had some rough patches.

The three nationwide consumer credit-reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—are each required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report annually if you request it. You can order all three at once, or stagger them throughout the year, from one central source: AnnualCreditReport.com.

You should closely examine each report before you meet with a mortgage lender. Why? Because even if you're fairly sure you've never made a late payment, 1 in 4 Americans find errors on their credit file, according to a 2013 Federal Trade Commission survey. The simple truth is that creditors make mistakes reporting customer slip-ups.

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 FICO score.

2. Who's the best real estate agent for me?

Finding the right real estate agent to partner with can be a daunting task. A lot’s at stake, and there’s certainly no shortage of options. Should you go for a savvy veteran agent or eager newbie?

Veteran real estate agents can provide sage advice, based on the breadth of knowledge they've built up over the years. Having dealt with just about every issue that can affect a sale, they can help you navigate any complicated problems that may arise.

However, experienced agents are usually in high demand, working with several clients at once. Because their time is limited, they may not be available to show you as many homes in person, meet you for last-minute showings, or handle other pressing issues.

Rookie agents, meanwhile, bring fresh energy and enthusiasm to their job. And, because beginners usually have fewer clients than more seasoned agents, they may be able to spend more time with you than an experienced agent who's juggling multiple clients.

In short, choosing the right agent boils down to what kind of customer service you’re looking for. Learn more about the professional's with The McLeod Group Network

3. If I get a new job, am I likely to have to relocate?

Your career plans play a pivotal role in determining whether it makes sense for you to buy a house.

“Previous generations planned to get one job, keep it forever, and ultimately retire. Buying into a house because they were looking for a permanent living situation made a lot more sense,” says Chandler Crouch, broker at Chandler Crouch Realtors in Fort Worth, TX. “Now, job-hopping is prevalent.”

Indeed, according to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median tenure of workers of ages 55 to 64 is a whopping 10.1 years, more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34, who stay at a job for 2.8 years on average.

Changing jobs won’t be a big deal if your new gig is in your current city, but if there aren’t a ton of job opportunities in your industry in your area, you may find yourself having to relocate a year or two after you bought your home—in which case you may not be able to recoup the amount of money it cost you to purchase the house.

“It honestly isn't a good idea to buy a house unless you plan on staying there for at least five years,” Crouch says. If you're considering buying a house but already know you are likely to move in that time frame, remaining a renter may be your best choice.

4. Can I afford to pay closing costs?

Getting a mortgage comes with a number of closing fees, which borrowers have to pay when they reach the settlement table. These are out-of-pocket expenses that you need to budget for.

Although buyers and sellers both typically pitch in to cover closing costs, buyers shoulder the lion's share of the load (3% to 4% of the home's price) compared with sellers. So, on a $250,000 home, your closing costs could come to about $7,500 to $10,000.

Typical closing fees include the following:

  • Closing fee ($300 to $600): A representative from the title company will come to your closing to supervise the transfer of title, and you'll have to pay for the service.
  • Lender's title insurance (usually 0.5% of the purchase price): This protects your lender if something was missed in the title search. The cost depends on the size of the policy and is set by the state.
  • Title search ($300 to $600): Your lender will do a search to ensure there are no liens on the property or anything that could prevent you from purchasing it. Sometimes this will be bundled with other title fees in your closing document.
  • Wire or courier fees ($30 to $100): If documents need to be sent overnight or money needs to be wired, you'll pay these fees at closing.
  • Document recording fees for the deed and mortgage ($125 on average): Every time a home is sold, the government must record the change of ownership; this fee is typically paid by the home buyer.

Under federal law, borrowers must receive what’s called a “loan estimate” form (previously called a "good-faith estimate”) that outlines their approximate closing costs from their mortgage lender. When you obtain this information, you’ll be able to gauge whether you can pay for closing costs and truly afford to purchase a home.

5. Am I dead set on finding my ‘dream home’?

People throw around the words “dream home” a lot. (Heck, we’re guilty of it.) However, the honest truth is this: "There’s no such thing as a perfect house,” says Daniel Gyomory, a real estate agent in Northville, MI.

Some home buyers, though, have a hard time accepting this, Gyomory says, and make the mistake of holding out for their ultimate forever home.

If your list of “must-haves” is immensely long (you’re looking for great schools, affordable home prices, easy access to public transportation, good walkability, and lots of shops and restaurants) but you’re not willing to budge on anything, shopping for a house may wind up being a waste of your time.

This is why it’s important to sit down and identify your housing criteria in order to get a better picture of what it is you’re looking for—and whether that kind of home exists.

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] to start the search for your new home! 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz

The Secret to Buying a Foreclosure That Isn't a Dud

by Amy McLeod Group


Who doesn’t love a bargain? Nabbing a great deal on a house is every home buyer’s dream. One way to make it come true is by purchasing a foreclosed home.

The caveat? Buying a foreclosure isn’t like buying an ordinary house. It’s important to understand what, exactly, a foreclosure is, how to find one, and how to pay for it.

Here are six crucial questions to ask yourself before purchasing a foreclosure.

What is a foreclosure, exactly?

When a property enters foreclosure, the homeowners' mortgage lender repossesses the house for lack of payment (i.e., the homeowners defaulting on their mortgage) and then sells it, to recoup some of its money. Foreclosed homes are sold at a public auction to the highest bidder, and the buyer can't even go inside before the purchase. If the house doesn’t sell at auction, it becomes what's known as an REO, or real estate-owned property, where the bank looks for a buyer through traditional means, like advertising the property in the multiple listing service (MLS).

Since banks are often eager to unload these foreclosure properties, they aim to break even with an asking price that's typically the sum of the remaining mortgage note, plus interest, lawyers' fees, and penalties. On average, this ends up at about 15% below the home's actual value, enabling home buyers to score a terrific bargain.

How do I find foreclosures in my area?

The best way to find foreclosures depends on where you live. (Here's where you can search foreclosures in your area.) Foreclosures might also be marked as “bank-owned” or "REO.” If you spot a home you like, contact the real estate agent on the listing as usual.

Am I willing to buy a home 'as is'?

Generally, foreclosed homes are sold “as is,” meaning that the house is being sold in its current condition and cannot be inspected for structural problems, mold, infestations, or other issues before the auction. Buyers of REO properties, though, can perform a home inspection, but the bank usually won’t fix any problems with the house or offer any kind of credit at closing.

Naturally, these conditions can be a deal breaker for some home buyers, says Cathy Baumbusch, a real estate agent with Re/Max Allegiance in Alexandria, VA. “Keep in mind that a foreclosed home sold at the courthouse is bought without warranty, and sight unseen,” Baumbusch cautions.

Read: You have to be willing to assume some risk if you’re going to buy a foreclosure.

Can I qualify for a mortgage for a foreclosure?

Financing the purchase of a foreclosed home can be trickier than getting a regular mortgage. Some lenders don't want to fund the purchase of foreclosure homes, especially if the property requires heavy-duty TLC. This forces home buyers to buy foreclosures with all cash, or to find a mortgage lender that is willing to take on some risk.

To qualify for a mortgage to buy a foreclosure, you’ll have to meet the same credit score requirements that apply when obtaining a mortgage for a traditional home.

A credit score of 620 is generally considered the minimum, says Gaurav Mahajan, vice president of residential lending at Draper and Kramer Mortgage Corp. Many lenders, though, are willing to work with applicants with lower credit scores by offering them Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, which are available to applicants with scores as low as 580.

Not sure what your credit score is? You can get a free 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.

Will I have enough money left over to pay for renovations?

Often, buying a foreclosure means you’re buying a fixer-upper that may require extensive home improvements. Hidden expenses could be lurking beneath the surface, like electrical or plumbing problems. Depending on the house’s condition, you may need tens of thousands of dollars to make these changes.

As a result, you’ll want to have a good chunk of cash in your pocket after the purchase is complete, to pay for home improvements and repairs, so don’t stretch yourself too thin with your offer.

How long am I willing to wait for the sale to go through?

Buying an REO? It can take a while for the foreclosed home to be sold after the bank accepts your offer, potentially several months (as opposed to a traditional home sale, which takes about 30 to 45 days to close).

Why so long? One reason is because asset managers at banks often have backlogs of work, which can make the closing process a lot more time-consuming. It may also be more labor intensive, depending on whether there are liens on the property. Therefore, patience is key.

Bottom line? Buying a foreclosure isn’t a decision to make lightly. It takes careful planning, an honest assessment of your risk tolerance, and finding the right property, if everything is to work out in your favor. Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] to get started! 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz

5 Surprising Financial Lessons I Learned About Paying For My First Home

by Amy McLeod Group


I pride myself on being pretty financially savvy—after all, I’m a personal finance writer. I’m well versed in best practices for saving and spending, the ins and outs of HSAs and IRAs, and the basics of investing.

But when it came time to buy my first house, I had to put my ego aside: I was way out of my depth as I navigated the world of mortgages, closing costs, and escrow.

While all of the Budgeting 101 basics still apply to purchasing a home—top tip: Don’t buy anything you can’t afford!—some aspects of the process can come as a surprise to first-time buyers.

Gearing up to buy a house of your own? Get acquainted with these five lessons that I learned the hard way before you start shopping. Then, you’ll be ahead of the curve when it comes time to make an offer on your ideal home.

1. Don't be fooled by your mortgage pre-approval amount

One of the first steps on the road to homeownership was requesting a mortgage pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender. I was shocked when my husband and I received a letter with a much higher number than we had ever considered spending.

The lender thought we could afford a house that cost how much?!

I quickly learned that a pre-approval letter is just assurance from a lender that the buyer is in good financial standing to take on a mortgage of a certain size. Lenders evaluate your financial history to come up with a pre-approval amount. Don’t confuse that number, though, with your actual budget for buying a house. In other words, just because you’re pre-approved for up to, say, $300,000, doesn’t mean a $300,000 mortgage will fit in your budget.

For us, we knew we didn’t want to stretch ourselves thin with a heftier mortgage, even if we were technically approved to take one out.

2. Closing costs can add up—and be complicated

Closing costs include out-of-pocket expenses like title insurance, notary fees, and the cost of the deed—and they can add up quickly. So when we made an offer on our house, we decided to ask for a credit from the sellers toward our closing costs—a common practice in which, typically, the seller advances an amount in cash that's then tacked on to the purchase price. But I was surprised when our Realtor® urged us not to ask for too much from the sellers at closing.

“Some loan programs only allow a certain percentage of the sale price to given to the buyer as a credit,” says Joe DiRosa, a real estate agent with RealtyTopia in Pennsylvania.

That means that if you’re offering $200,000 for a house and your lender only allows you to accept 2% in closing costs, you shouldn’t ask for $5,000—that would be $1,000 down the drain, since you can only accept up to $4,000 in credit. This type of limit on closing cost credits is especially common with government loans, including FHAs, DiRosa notes.

3. PMI isn’t actually the devil

Private mortgage insurance—PMI for short—is at once a blessing and a curse. Lenders typically require it of buyers who are putting down less than 20% on their mortgage. This puts homeownership within reach for more people, but it also means an additional monthly payment that doesn't add to the new owner's equity.

For that reason, PMI sometimes gets a bad rap—better to shell out the necessary down payment cash (if you can) than waste your money on insurance, right? But in some cases, it’s in your best interest to put less money down and pay the PMI.

That was the case for my husband and me. We decided to hold on to some of the cash we would have put toward a 20% down payment and use that money to renovate our home and pay off other debts with higher interest rates. Our PMI payment has been manageable—we pay about $75 a month—and it's worth it to keep our money in our bank account, where we can use it for projects like replacing the roof, renovating bathrooms, and creating a master suite.

4. You might have to make escrow payments

“Escrow” was a foreign word to me before buying a house. (Confession: I still picture a crow every time I hear it.)

Because we took out a loan with PMI, we were required to pay into an escrow account for our property taxes and home insurance. Escrow simply refers to the separate account where that money is held; basically, our lender sets aside the money for taxes and insurance, which acts as a safety net to ensure that we sock away enough money for those expenses.

While it’s nice to know we’re saving enough for taxes and insurance by paying into escrow, it’s also frustrating for control freaks like my husband and me, who would rather manage our money ourselves—preferably by putting that cash into a high-yield savings account where it can accrue interest. We’re looking forward to canceling our escrow payments as soon as we’ve built up enough equity in our home to remove PMI.

5. You need to budget for surprises (and your own mistakes)

During our home inspection, the inspector ran the dishwasher to make sure it worked—all good. Then, the day after we moved in, we loaded the dishwasher, hit “Start”—and it was dead. After flicking the electrical circuits on and off to no avail, we finally accepted that we would need to replace the dishwasher sooner than we had bargained for.

Several hundred dollars later, we learned that dishwashers are required to have their own wall switch, per local code. It turned out the old dishwasher wasn’t broken after all—the switch was just turned off.

All we could do was laugh, too slap-happy and exhausted from renovating to beat ourselves up much about the mistake. At least we planned to replace the dishwasher sooner or later, and we had enough savings to endure the blow. But the incident was a reminder that costly surprises (and stupid mistakes) are inevitable when you’re new to homeownership—and even when you’re not.

Contact The McLeod Group Network to start the search for your first home! Reach us at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] 

By: Realtor.com, Lauren Sieben

5 Indications That You Could, in Fact, Afford to Buy a House Now

by Amy McLeod Group


So you're ready to ditch your landlord and the noisy neighbors who live above you. But instead of seeking out another place to rent, have you considered (like, seriously considered) buying?

For many people, purchasing a home is one of those bucket-list items—something you'll accomplish down the road—so the idea of starting the process here and now may seem out of the question. But there's a chance you're actually in a better position than you think.

Of course, every local real estate market is different, and your dollar will stretch further in certain cities. Half a million dollars in Waco, TX, will get you a heck of a lot more than $500,000 in San Francisco. Therefore, it's important to be realistic when choosing between renting or buying. In cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles, renting may make more financial sense than buying. Take a look, though, at the average home price in your neighborhood—maybe you can afford to buy after all!

Then, check out the following explanations, which will help you ponder your financial snapshot. You never know: You may be calling yourself a homeowner much earlier than you ever thought possible.

1. Your salary qualifies you for a mortgage

When determining if you can buy a house, your salary is one of the first figures you should take into account. But don't trick yourself into thinking that you can't afford a house simply because you don't make a six-figure salary! Use this quick equation from Lauren Anastasio, a certified financial planner with SoFi in San Francisco, to determine a realistic mortgage amount:

Multiply your annual income by 2.5, and then add your down payment amount to that figure. Your total amount is the max mortgage you should shoot for.

For example, if you make $80,000 a year, you're looking at a safe bet of a $200,000 mortgage, plus whatever you think you can save up for that down payment.

Anastasio says you should also take into account the regular housing expenses that come after the deal is done, including taxes, insurance, maintenance and repair, and homeowners association fees.

2. You can afford to put down at least 3%

Most first-time home buyers are intimidated by the idea of having to put down a large chunk of change. However, the traditional 20% down isn't your only option.

"The ideal down payment amount is 20% of the price of the home, because that's the minimum amount required to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). But that's not realistic for most home buyers, and shouldn't stop them from pursuing homeownership," says Candice Williams, a real estate agent with Re/Max Space Center in League City, TX.

Other paths to mortgages include conventional loans, which require a minimum of 3% down, and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, which can go as low as 3.5% down. And if you're a veteran, you can qualify for a VA loan with no down payment. So take a look at your savings account and browse the home listings in your area. You might just find that your years of saving have actually put you in a position to qualify for a mortgage.

3. You have a little bit of debt

Another common misconception among first-time home buyers is that future homeowners must be debt-free in order to get approved for a mortgage loan. But don't worry—you can still buy a home even if you're still paying off your student loans.

"Lenders like to see a little debt. By paying down a car loan on time, you're showing the bank that you are a responsible borrower," says Andrew Helling, editor at REthority.com.

That being said, Williams points out that while it's fine to have current debts, first-time home buyers shouldn't be looking to add a mortgage if their current debts exceed 7% of their monthly income. That's because most lenders won't approve loans of more than 28% of a borrower's monthly income, and they're legally prohibited from handing out mortgages that are the equivalent of more than 35%.

"Either pay down those debts, or increase your income, in order to get loan approval," says Williams.

4. Your credit score is over 580

Another number lenders look at to determine your creditworthiness is your credit score. A perfect credit score is 850, and any score over 740 is considered to be great, but you don't need to fall in this range to be approved for a loan.

You can "absolutely" get a mortgage, Helling says, "as long as your credit is above 580—the cutoff for most loans—and you have enough money left over to make the mortgage payments and the debt payments."

If your credit score falls below 700, lenders will start to question whether you’re a risky investment as a potential borrower, and getting a mortgage will be more challenging. But, if your score is above 580, there's still hope in the form of an FHA loan or another type of conventional loan. The FHA requires a minimum 580 credit score (and other requirements) to qualify. Having a poor credit score means you'll probably be required to pay PMI, but the benefits of owning a home will far outweigh the negatives.

5. A starter home (if not a forever home) is within reach

Some first-time home buyers make the false assumption that the first home they invest in needs to be their forever home. But don't let that idea deter you from purchasing a modest starter home, even if you soon outgrow your new digs.

After a few years of homeownership, you will hopefully start to build equity, either through an increase in your property's value or by reducing your debt. Then, when your family expands and you need to buy a bigger house, you will have a quantifiable asset that you can use on your next property purchase.

What you shouldn't do is buy a house that you can't yet fill, hoping that your lifestyle later catches up. That can be a recipe for disaster.

"Never buy outside your means," Helling says. "Don't buy a home you can't afford, under the assumption that a promotion you expect in a few years will eventually pay the mortgage."

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] to start the search for your new home! 

By: Realtor.com, Kristine Gill 

5 Crucial Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Fixer-Upper

by Amy McLeod Group


Thinking about buying a fixer-upper? Join the club. Blame it on the popularity of renovation reality TV or just the fact that people are searching for deals, but many home buyers are willing to purchase a property in need of major repairs. One survey by Clever Real Estate found that 67% of millennial home shoppers in the United States said they would put in an offer on a home with serious flaws that need to be fixed.

Purchasing a home that needs serious remodeling, though, isn’t a decision you should make lightly. Here are five questions to ask yourself before buying a fixer-upper.

1. What’s my motivation?

Reviving a rundown home is always a challenge, no matter how many houses you’ve flipped or episodes of “Fixer Upper” you’ve seen—and that's why it’s important to assess your motivations before you dive in, says Joshua Jarvis, founder of Jarvis Team Realty in Duluth, GA.

Simply enamored by what you’ve seen on HGTV? Newsflash: “Reality TV is not reality,” says Jarvis. “I hate to shatter people’s dreams, but there’s a lot more work involved than people think.”

 

Flipping an outdated house in order to make a profit, though, is a sound reason to buy a fixer-upper, Jarvis says. After all, home flips in 2018 returned an average gross profit of $65,000, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.

Purchasing a fixer-upper can also be a good idea if you’re looking to make a home your own without building one from scratch, or if you’re simply looking for a great deal. Indeed, people shopping for a fixer-upper can expect to spend 20% to 25% less than what they'd have to shell out for comparable homes that are move-in ready, says Dan Bawden of the National Association of Homebuilders. (Homes with serious issues—such as cracks in the foundation or a major mold infestation—can command even deeper discounts, Bawden says.)

Fixer-uppers are also good options for DIY buffs—your sweat equity will buy you bragging rights. What’s sweeter than being complimented on your kitchen and being able to say, "Thanks, I did it myself"?

2. Where am I going to live during the renovations?

Unless you’re planning to live in your new home while the renovations are underway, you’re going to need a place to stay until the house is ready. This can be a financial challenge, Bawden notes, since you have to factor in the time you'll be paying the mortgage and bills without being able to live in the home. Read: Six months of paying rent on top of your house payment can quickly eat into what you saved on your "great deal."

3. What’s my remodeling budget?

The best fixer-uppers are ones that mostly need cosmetic updates—things like kitchen and bathroom renovations, new floors, siding repair, or wallpaper removal—since major flaws can quickly eat up your remodeling budget. But, regardless of how much (or how little) work you’re going to put in, you need to have enough money to pay for the renovations.

Need help setting a budget? Have several contractors give you in-person estimates. That way you’ll have a rough but accurate idea of how much it’s all going to cost you. The caveat: You may have to pay the professional a few hundred dollars to walk through a potential home and estimate the renovation costs, but it's worth it.

4. How am I going to pay for everything?

Now that you know how much the renovations are going to cost, you have to figure out how you’re going to pay for everything. Unless you’re sitting on a mountain of cold, hard cash, you’ll need to obtain a home loan that allows you to spend a portion of money on home improvements. The good news: A home that requires major renovations can qualify for a special type of financing called a home improvement loan. There are two main types of home improvement loans.

The first is a FHA 203(k). This is a loan from the Federal Housing Administration that lets you put as little as 3.5% down. There are a couple of restrictions, though. The original foundation must remain, says Suzanne Caldeira, vice president at mortgage lending company Shamrock Financial Corp. Also, the upgrades you make cannot be “luxury” items, like adding a pool or fire pit. Third, the work must be completed within six months.

To qualify for a 203(k) loan, homeowners have to provide a bid from an approved contractor to make the upgrades they want with their loan paperwork. An appraiser reviews the home and the submitted bid, and appraises the estimated value of the home post-renovation. Once the loan is approved, the money for the renovation is put into escrow. After the work is completed—the deadline is six months—an inspector visits to determine that it's been done correctly, and then the money is released to the contractor. In the same way as with traditional FHA loans, you can pay the money back over 15 or 30 years.

The second type of home improvement loan is a Fannie Mae HomeStyle loan. It’s similar to a 203(k) loan, but it requires a down payment of at least 5%. Another difference: There's no limit to the kinds of renovations you can do, as long as everything is permanently affixed to the home and adds value.

Like a 203(k) loan borrower, you will need to hire an approved contractor and submit a bid for the project with your loan paperwork. You then have an appraiser determine what your home will be worth after the renovations. Once you've got that number, you can borrow up to 50% of that appraised value to work on the renovation. As with a 203(k) loan, the money for the renovation is held in escrow until the work is completed and inspected and is then released to the contractor. However, with the HomeStyle loan, you get 12 months to complete the renovation, instead of six. You then pay it back over a period of 15 to 30 years at either a fixed or adjustable rate.

5. Am I prepared to manage this project?

From finding the right house and negotiating a deal, to hiring contractors and securing permits, there will without a doubt be plenty of moving parts for you to oversee during this whole process. That will mean you need to ask yourself whether you have the time and the patience to manage everything.

While hiring a general contractor to oversee the renovations can help lighten the load, reviving a fixer-upper is still a huge commitment, so make sure you know what's required before you dive in.

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] for all your home-buying needs! 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz

Stop Making Excuses! Busting the Most Common Reasons for Not Buying a Home

by Amy McLeod Group


Owning a home means you can build equity, take advantage of tax deductions, and partake in a little something called the American dream. For the past couple of years, the U.S. homeownership rate has hovered around 64%. But there's also a considerably large pool of renters in the country who have plenty of reasons for not buying. And some of those explanations are totally legit: Financial, economic, or personal limitations can prove that now is not the right time to buy. But we know an excuse when we hear one.

We get it—investing in real estate is a huge commitment. It's scary and exciting all at the same time. But what if buying actually is in the realm of possibility?

Think of all of the reasons you've ever given for not getting into the real estate game. Now allow us to poke holes in those theories.

We asked real estate agents to weigh in on the most common reasons people give for not buying a home—along with their counterarguments to these statements. If you do your research and everything checks out, purchasing property could be totally feasible.

'I don’t have enough for a down payment'

According to Jonathan Self, a Realtor® at Center Coast Realty in Chicago, most people who say they don’t have enough for a down payment have no idea how much money they would even need.

“Most people who tell me this have not spoken with a lender—it's rare for people to go to a lender before their agent,” he says.

So, the first step is to find a reputable lender. This can help you set your goals and put you on the path to homeownership.

Yes, there's certainly a chance you won't have enough for a down payment. Yet, on the other hand, you might not need as much money as you think you do. Or, your financial snapshot will qualify for loans that don't require a large down payment. But you’ll never know unless you reach out to a lender.

'I need to save more money'

For some, it makes sense to wait and save for a down payment, future mortgage payments, or home repairs. But as home prices edge higher, so do rent costs. That's why buying might be a better decision than renting.

“The rent you’re paying could be converted to investment in equity,” says John Manning, managing broker at Re/Max on Market in Seattle.

Talk to a lender to see if you qualify for a mortgage. Most agents are willing to match potential buyers with mortgage professionals.

“There are mortgage products for almost every financial scenario,” Manning says.

'I’m locked into my lease'

This is a common excuse, especially among first-time home buyers, according to Heather Sims at Ebby Halliday Realtors in Dallas. “My response is always, 'Let's find out what the penalty is for breaking that lease.'”

She says there’s often no penalty at all if your property management company is able to find a tenant to rent out the unit.

“Other times, it'll be one month's rent. In the grand scheme of things, that's not very much given how much money you're saving (and investing) by buying a home with a reasonable mortgage rate,” Sims says.

In some situations, the sellers will need to lease back the home as they search for a new home. In these instances, Sims says, it’s easy for buyers to recoup the cost of breaking their lease.

'I might move away'

Many of us haven't found our forever town or city yet. That's fine. The possibility of relocation is a valid reason for holding out on purchasing a home—unless you’ve been saying that for years. The truth is, not investing in property could mean you're leaving money on the table.

In some areas, mortgage payments are comparable with paying monthly rent. If that's the case in your neighborhood, it might be wise to buy.

“Even if you have to get out of town before your four to five years of equity has built up to help you break even, you could rent [out] the home and continue to get equity from the tenants," says Self.

'I’m waiting the market out'

It’s a seller’s market. Or is it a buyer’s market?  Buyers often use this confusion as an excuse to wait out buying a house because they believe they'll be able to get a better deal in the near future. Markets are cyclical, and it is usually prudent to purchase when there are more sellers than buyers.

"However, there is a good chance your money isn't doing much for you in your savings account,” Self says. “No one has a crystal ball, but I know people who have been waiting for years so they can jump in at the right time.”

Manning agrees: “Many people will never manage to outsave market appreciation and can lose purchasing power if interest rates trend upward.”

'I’m looking for the perfect house'

Everyone is looking for the perfect home, but if you’ve been searching for years, and you’ve viewed hundreds of homes to no avail, you may need to tweak your expectations. It’s one thing to prefer a move-in ready home over a fixer-upper, or three bathrooms over two, but sheer perfection is hard to find.

“From my experience, buyers who are looking for a perfect house will never find it, because a perfect house doesn't exist, regardless of the price,” says Russell Volk, a Realtor at Re/Max Elite in Huntingdon Valley, PA.

If a house has eight of the 10 features on your wish list, it's seriously worth considering.

Thinking about buying a new home? Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] to start your search today!

By: Realtor.com, Terri Williams

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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.