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Once your offer on your dream home is accepted, it doesn't mean you can just grab the keys and move in. If you need a mortgage, securing this home loan takes time. The good news is that it's faster now than ever.

According to a recent three-year study by LendingTree, the length of time it takes to get a mortgage—aka closing—is an average of 40 days in 2019. That's down from 51 days in 2018, and 74 days in 2017.

And here's some good news for homeowners who've already moved in: The time it takes to refinance a mortgage is also dwindling. Refinancing takes an average of 38 days in 2019, down from 43 in 2018, and 55 days in 2017.

Home buyers should be thrilled to hear that the mortgage process is speeding up—who doesn't want to move into their new home as quickly as possible? Earlier closing times can also save home buyers money, especially if they are paying high rent or having to find temporary housing while waiting to move into the new home.

Why it takes less time to get a mortgage today

The digitization of the mortgage process is the main reason for the shorter closing times, according to the LendingTree report. The mortgage industry has become increasingly digital since the 2008 financial crisis, when companies operating in the paper-centric system of the past lost or misrecorded some details from their clients, causing problems and legal issues during the foreclosures that often followed.

Since then, some lenders have created new mobile-friendly products to speed up the mortgage-approval process. For example, Quicken Loans launched the app Rocket Mortgage in 2015 to help borrowers close earlier than the industry standard, reportedly sometimes as quickly as eight days.

Another factor contributing to shorter closing times is that mortgage volumes have been decreasing, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree. However, he says that given the recent drop in interest rates, “that’s kind of reversed itself a little bit, but we’re still seeing shorter times than in 2018.”

The LendingTree study also found that loans for smaller amounts took longer to close. Loans of under $150,000 averaged 47 days, versus 39 days for those above the conforming loan limit, which is $484,350 in 2019.

“You'd think something being more valuable or bigger risk for the lender, they might take a little bit more time with it, but it's the exact opposite,” Kapfidze says. One possible reason is that lenders may require a more extensive appraisal for lower-priced homes, which might have some type of damage or other problem.

How to get a mortgage fast

So what can consumers do to reduce as much as possible the length of time it takes to get a mortgage? To speed up the closing process, Kapfidze urges home buyers to choose a lender with a more digital, less paper-driven process. Before signing on with any lender, ask if the company can digitally link to a borrower’s bank, the IRS, or other institution to get information to process the mortgage, since this is the key to a speedy approval.

Online lenders make it easier for borrowers to compare mortgages, and they often offer better rates and faster approvals, but they come with less customer service, so they may not work well for complex home loans. Mortgage industry experts suggest that borrowers look over the application process, check out online reviews of the company, and make sure it is registered with the Better Business Bureau before they sign up.

Here's more on how to get a mortgage fast:

Work on your credit score

Before starting the home-buying process, make sure your credit score is in check. According to the LendingTree study, consumers with higher credit scores saw shorter closing times.

People with a credit score of above 760 have an average 38-day closing time in 2019, while closings take an average of 45 days for those with scores of below 720.

Have your financial documentation in order

“A lot of the delay in closing times is just the back-and-forth between the lender and the borrower,” Kapfidze says. He suggests having all documentation well-organized and easy to access, so that it doesn’t take long to send it to the lender.

Also, make sure that all the information that you provide is accurate, he says. If a mortgage lender goes to verify something and finds a discrepancy in what a borrower provided, that can slow things down.

The exact documentation that borrowers need to provide depends on the type of loan they’re seeking, but generally, the required documents relate to a borrower’s income, assets, and employment, such as a W-2 form, pay stubs for the previous 30 days, and bank statements. Borrowers also need valid identification, a loan application, a contract for the home purchase, and homeowner insurance contact information.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Many loan experts urge home buyers to get pre-approved for a mortgage before they start shopping for a home, especially if their financial situation is complex. A pre-approval helps buyers better understand what type of home they can afford and can shorten closing times.

“You're going to have to go through this process at some point anyway, so you might as well get it out of the way upfront as quickly as you can,” says Hayden Hodges, a Dallas-based mortgage loan officer at U.S. Bank. “I would want to know what my ceiling is, what my conditions are, as quickly as I can, as opposed to perhaps getting into unnecessary fire drills towards the end of a transaction.”

Lenders can work quickly to get borrowers pre-approved. Borrowers can speed up the process even more by providing all the documentation needed for pre-approval, Hodges says.

Make sure you have cash on hand

Having cash available to supply earnest money and to pay closing costs can help you close faster, Kapfidze says. Some closing costs need to be paid in cash, so make sure you can easily access the funds.

“You don't want to get to closing, and it's like, ‘Hey, you need to have a $12,000 check,’ and then realizing your money's not liquid," he says.

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

By: Realtor.com, Erica Sweeney 


The empty-nest drill used to go something like this: As your kids move up the rungs of the educational system, you and your partner wonder whether to move to a condo in Boca, a bungalow in the Carolinas, or another relaxed-living locale. (Let’s overlook the fact that most of us can’t afford to retire.)

But times are changing. More and more 50-plus Americans are going the urban route. Stats from the National Association of Realtors® indicate that the percentage of 50-something home buyers purchasing property in cities is edging upward. And another study found that boomers are seeing a massive uptick in renting versus owning—which makes sense if they're moving to a big city.

About those renters of over age 50: I’m one of them! When we were in our 30s, my husband and I fled the city and bought a house in the suburbs. The main reason was that our two sons had hit school age in an overcrowded public school system, and were quickly outgrowing the small bedroom they shared. So we headed to a tree-shaded town in a well-regarded school district, where our kids could enjoy separate bedrooms and a yard where they could get their ya-yas out (Stones fans, am I using that correctly?).

And so it went—and went well—until the kids grew up and skedaddled, leaving me and my husband alone in a lovely house with shriveled social connections (the days of blabbing with neighbors about that overly tough AP History teacher were over) and feeling way isolated. We both worked in the city, and without the school system anchoring us, why were we commuting, we wondered? And why were we paying that hefty school tax bill now that our kids had flown the coop?

So we decided to sell our family home (sorry, boys!) and move. For us, it was a great decision. Here’s why:

1. Boosting our bank account

At least for the moment, my husband and I are happy not to have money tied up in real estate. As you may know, the current tax laws don’t incentivize having a mortgage the way they used to. We don’t feel the imperative to own a home in order to get that deduction come April 15, so why not feel a little unencumbered and mobile for a while?

2. Getting off the train schedule grid

Now that we are not running home after work to make dinner and supervise algebra homework (as if I could be of any use on that), my husband and I can reclaim our evenings, which feels a lot more fun in the city. We can take a walk by the river, try a new rooftop bar, or stop by a gallery opening without doing commuter math, which goes something like, “If the train is at 10:30 p.m., that means I need to leave here by 10. … Then, let’s see, I should get to the station at home at 11:30, drive for 15 minutes, and be in bed by midnight.” For a couple trying to reinvent our life after two decades of kid focus, freedom from the commuting schedule is a very good thing.

3. Jettisoning all that home maintenance

Praise the Lord, I no longer need a contact list full of electricians, roofers, masons, tree-stump grinders, landscapers, the highway department (responsible for pickup of garbage over a certain size), pest-control specialists (wasp nests, gah!), HVAC folk, etc. All of the homeownership stuff, so long! And the winter drama of nor’easters, tree limbs flying down, power going out, and frantic efforts to find somewhere—anywhere—to do a load of laundry are over.

4. Enforced downsizing

City life is apartment life, and it’s forcing me to go minimalist. There’s no basement, attic, or other place to hide the accumulated stuff of life, so I need to get rid of it. Or at least I’m trying to. I have a storage unit holding the contents of my former attic, having been unable to Marie Kondo my way to lean-and-mean status pre-move. But our lack of storage is making us think twice about accumulating any more crap.

5. Urban adventuring

In the city, quirk and culture abound. While I miss the sound of the wind whispering through the pine trees and the squirrels and birds darting around my yard, the city has a seductive pulse of discovery. There’s an aura of possibility that makes life feel more exciting, even if I just sit on my butt at home. Knowing that a midnight cheese-tasting event or a mermaid parade are just a quick subway ride away brightens my day in a big way. Yes, I’ve forsaken space, fresh air, peace and quiet. But I feel as if I’m sharing an amazing and varied human experience with fellow urban explorers.

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

By: Realtor.com, Janet Siroto


Buying a foreclosure home, also known as a distressed property, might seem like a less expensive way to get into your next place. These homes usually sell for about 15% below the home's actual value. But buying a foreclosure property isn’t always what it seems. While it may look like a bargain, it could end up being more expensive (and more trouble) than it’s worth.

“On the surface, foreclosed homes can seem awfully appealing,” says Beatrice de Jong, consumer trends expert at Opendoor. “However, costs can be extremely unpredictable, and underlying damages could make a property undesirable.”

With big risks associated with foreclosures, a buyer could end up with a money pit, rather than an affordable new home. That's why you should always budget for the worst-case scenario.

"It's better to be pleasantly surprised than to not have the funds to solve the problem," says Avery Boyce, a real estate agent with Compass Real Estate in Washington, DC.Gt Pre-ApprovedFina lender who can offer competitive mortgage rates and help you with pre-approval.

Here are some of the hidden costs you need to look out for when considering a foreclosure home.

Home repairs

Foreclosures are likely to need some work—and the list of needed repairs and renovations can be long indeed. The worst part is, you might not even have a ballpark estimate of what repairs are needed until you receive the keys.

“The bank will be limited on the disclosures they can provide regarding the condition of the home and previous repairs done," says de Jong.

In some cases, you can get a home inspection before finalizing the sale, but often, a foreclosed house is sold as is.

“Keep in mind that if the previous owners couldn’t make their mortgage payments, they likely also fell behind on regular maintenance," de Jong says. "The home may have foundation problems, need a roof replacement, and require a heavy workload to bring the home up to code."

The property could have also been sitting there, uncared for, for a while. You might have to factor in the additional costs from overgrown lawns, graffiti, weather damage, and more.

Paying too much in a bidding war

Buyers—especially those purchasing a home for the first time—should be careful to not get stuck in an expensive bidding war. Why? They could end up paying too much for a house that they can't afford to fix.

There can be a lot of competition from other eager buyers, real estate developers, and flippers.

“For damaged homes that are priced well below market value, you will probably be competing with developers who plan to rip out everything anyway, and can afford to solve big unknown problems,” Boyce says.

Steer clear of a bidding war and avoid busting your budget on a home that needs more work than you can afford. Before making an offer, set your upper limit, and stick to that number. There will be other houses later on, and it's often better to play it safe when it comes to foreclosures.

Challenges in getting funding

Even if you can get a great price on a foreclosure property, many buyers will still need a loan to help them purchase it. Before you make an offer on a foreclosure, don't bank on being able to get a mortgage.

Some lenders simply won’t offer funding for foreclosure properties. The most common reason: The house is in such bad condition, it can't pass an inspection.

“To get traditional financing, the home needs to be in really good shape,” Boyce explains. “All the utilities need to be on and testable, there can't be holes in the drywall or floors, and there can't be water inside the home.”

Plus, most banks favor all-cash offers on foreclosures because they have already lost money on the property and they don't want to end up in the same situation again.

If you can’t do all cash upfront, it is likely to help to get pre-approved, and it also helps to be willing to put down 20% or more. This way, at least the bank knows you’re serious about buying the house and paying the mortgage.

No room for negotiation

When buying a home the traditional way, the seller may be willing to negotiate on the price. You submit an offer, the seller might counter, and in the end, you could end up paying less than the asking price.

“Dealing with the bank is a more formal and corporate process than dealing with a seller, so expect limited flexibility, if any, when negotiating on the offer price,” de Jong says. “Banks are not likely to budge on the price, since they are mostly concerned with recouping the costs from their investment.”

However, if you'd like to test the waters, Boyce suggests you ask your agent to search for past sales by the bank to see whether the sale price is lower than the list price.

"That will give you some insight into whether it's worth submitting a lower offer,” she says.

Property tax increases

If, after learning about all these hidden fees, you’re still seriously considering a foreclosure, you'll be aware that some properties will need to be overhauled. And while you might be ready to put some serious cash into the project, know that there’s an extra fee associated with a major home makeover: increased property tax. Fixing the house up will increase its value, and in most places, that means your property tax bill will go up.

This may seem like a no-brainer to some seasoned homeowners, but it’s important to remember this tax increase when budgeting for repairs. Don’t get stuck going all in on a home and finding yourself strapped for cash when it’s time to pay taxes.

Let The McLeod Group Network help you find your new home !971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com,  

Is Renting Right for Me?

by Amy McLeod Group


If you’re currently renting and have dreams of owning your own home, it may be a good time to think about your next move. With rent costs rising annually and many helpful down payment assistance programs available, homeownership may be closer than you realize.

According to the 2018 Bank of America Homebuyer Insights Report, 74% of renters plan on buying within the next 5 years, and 38% are planning to buy within the next 2 years.

When those same renters were asked why they disliked renting, 52% said rising rental costs were their top reason, and 42% of renters believe their rent will rise every year. The full results of the survey can be seen below:

It’s no wonder rising rental costs came in as the top answer. The median asking rent price has risen steadily over the last 30 years, as you can see below.

There is a long-standing rule that a household should not spend more than 28% of its income on housing expenses. With nearly half of renters (48%) surveyed already spending more than that, and with their rents likely to rise again, it’s never a bad idea to reconsider your family’s plan and ask yourself if renting is your best angle going forward. When asked why they haven’t purchased a home yet, not having enough saved for a down payment (44%) came in as the top response. The report went on to reveal that nearly half of all respondents believe that “a 20% down payment is required to buy a home.”

The reality is, the need to produce a 20% down payment is one of the biggest misconceptions of homeownership, especially for first-time buyers. That means a large number of renters may be able to buy now, and they don’t even know it.

Bottom Line

If you’re one of the many renters who are tired of rising rents but may be confused about what is required to buy in today’s market, let The McLeod Group Network help to determine your path to homeownership. 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: KCM Crew


Considering buying a foreclosed home? Any home buyer looking to pay below market value should be paying attention to foreclosure listings. But the process of buying a repossessed home is full of misconceptions—and we're here to help separate the false stereotypes from the reality.

These are some common myths that need to be set straight.

Myth 1: The house must be bought in cash

That all depends on what stage a foreclosure property is in, says Bill Gassett with Re/Max Executive Realty in Hopkinton, MA. If the home is in pre-foreclosure or “short sale,” the buyer does not need to shell out an all-cash offer.

“They can procure a mortgage just like any traditional sale,” Gassett says.

If the bank sells a property at public auction, the mortgage holder usually does require that the home is bought with cash and mortgage contingencies are not allowed in the sale.

If you don't have a lot of cash on hand but know you'd like to buy a home in foreclosure, Bobbi Dempsey, author of "Idiot’s Guide to Buying Foreclosures," suggests drawing from a line of credit obtained using current property.

When the foreclosure is a bank-owned property, Gassett says the bank is usually actively looking for an end buyer.

“The purchaser of a bank-owned property is almost always able to procure a mortgage as part of the contract with the bank,” he says.

Myth 2: Buyers forfeit their right to have a home inspection

Definitely not true! Buyers have the right to do a home inspection and ask for repairs, but banks or sellers aren’t required to make them, says Rob Jensen, broker and president of Rob Jensen Co., in Las Vegas. But home inspections are actually encouraged since nearly all banks sell their foreclosed homes in as-is condition, and want to avoid liability down the line.

“It is common for structural, electrical, and plumbing issues that pertain to the safety and integrity of the home to be repaired, but there's no guarantee,” says Jensen. “Every bank and every deal is different.” However, don't count on the bank to fix those cosmetic issues.

Jensen says paint, carpet stains, and other minor blemishes are not likely to be addressed.

Buyers considering a foreclosure should make sure the sales contract has a contingency clause that requires a passing home inspection. This way, buyers can either choose to accept any issues with the home or back out of the contract.

With courthouse sales, however, homes are sold as they are, with no inspection.

Myth 3: Foreclosure homes require huge overhauls

It's incorrect to assume that all homes in foreclosure are in shoddy condition. A large percentage of foreclosures are the result of job loss, illness, death, divorce, or even fluctuations in the real estate market, which means many of these homes were well maintained and may need only minor touch-ups.

“It quite often depends on the attitude of who last owned the property and whether or not they went out of their way to destroy the place,” says Jensen.

Myth 4: Foreclosures sell at heavy discounts

A common belief is that a foreclosure home will sell for at least half of its original value. But remember, the bank still wants to make a profit. Buying a foreclosure home can save you green, but the seller will hold out for the maximum price possible.

Home buyers often make a beeline to foreclosures because they think they can get a home for pennies on the dollar. But, Jensen says, by the time they factor in the time and renovation costs, they may reconsider.

“Foreclosures can provide opportunity to save, but you usually need time and extra cash to take advantage of it,” he says.

Myth 5: Foreclosure homes carry hidden costs

The fear of hidden costs may send would-be buyers running, but it’s not necessarily a worthwhile concern.

"A lot of the costs involved are typical for any real estate purchase—things like inspections, appraisals, transfer fees, etc.,” says Dempsey.

Yes, repairs or liens on a foreclosure can prove costly, but a home inspection will reveal any potential problems during escrow (this is where that inspection contingency comes in handy).

Also, the property deed can be researched on a foreclosed home. And, buying a HUD home or REO (or real estate–owned property) means the Department of Housing and Urban Development is required to clear the title of liens before it resells the home. Lenders will usually clear them, too, but buyers should make sure of that before they purchase.

“Generally speaking, there are not any more hidden expenses in purchasing a foreclosed home than there would be in a traditional sale,” says Gassett.

Myth 6: Foreclosures lose value faster than regular homes

Foreclosed homes actually tend to rise quickly in value. With any home, there’s no guarantee it will deliver increases, but buying a foreclosure sold below market value can provide instant equity. And any extra work done to the home can only increase the value.

“There are a variety of factors that influence home values, including economic conditions, local market conditions, and the overall condition of the property,” says Andrew Leff, senior vice president and head of strategic alliance programs at Wells Fargo in New York City.

Myth 7: Buying a foreclosure is risky

Let’s be honest. Any real estate purchase comes with risk. Gassett says the only scenario where there’s some extreme risk is when buying at auction, since you are buying the property as is. Buyers are not able to conduct a professional home inspection and often not even able to see the inside of the property. Plus, they will be inheriting whatever came with the home.

“For example, if there is a lien on the property, you could become responsible for it. When buying a home at auction, it is essential to do a title search first,” says Gassett.

Leff says buyers should be informed before entering into any type of real estate transaction. This means aligning themselves with resources that can help them navigate the purchase and financing process with confidence.

“A knowledgeable real estate agent and lender can help ensure that a buyer is making an educated decision so that the property and any resulting financing is the right fit for them,” says Leff.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your real estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Anayat Durrani

Do You Get Your Earnest Money Back at Closing?

by Amy McLeod Group


Do you get your earnest money back at closing? If you're buying a house and planning to finance the purchase with the help of a mortgage, the question is bound to come up. The short answer is: You don't usually get your earnest money back at closing.

But hold on! Sometimes earnest money is returned at closing. What? Read on to find out what happens to your earnest money at closing.

What is earnest money, anyway?

So you've heard the term "earnest money" thrown around during the purchase process, and you're not quite sure what it means? Sometimes called "good-faith money" or a deposit, earnest money is a sum that home buyers put down when they make their offer on a house, to show they're committed to the purchase.

Earnest money (typically about 1% to 2% of the amount you plan to pay for the house) is put down by a buyer within five days of an offer being accepted by a seller. The money is then deposited into an account by an escrow agent.

Maybe you've heard it called "going into escrow"? That's because the escrow officer will set the earnest money aside while you continue the steps of buying a house, such as getting an appraisal so your bank will approve the purchase or sending a home inspector to the house to ensure there are no reasons you should back out of the deal. They can't touch that money during that time, and neither can the seller!

Do I get my earnest money back at closing?

If the appraisal comes through at a price that makes your lender happy, and the home inspection doesn't turn up anything alarming, eventually you'll get to closing—the end of the home-buying process—when you pay the seller and walk away with keys to your new castle.

This is when your escrow agent is going to pull your earnest money out of escrow. What happens with it next is typically dependent on the sort of earnest money that was put down, says Keith Lucas, broker and owner of the Charleston Real Estate Company, in Charleston, SC.

If you put down cash (which is nearly always the case), the earnest money is traditionally applied to closing costs or toward your down payment—the portion of the sale price that buyers pay on their own in conjunction with a mortgage.

But there are times when you might get the earnest money back. Maybe you have secured a loan with no down payment required, such as a Veterans Affairs loan or a mortgage backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If that happens, the earnest money will be applied to closing costs instead of down payment. If there's money left over after the closing costs are paid, you will get the surplus back.

But sometimes the earnest money isn't actually money at all.

Wait a second. How can there be money that isn't, well, "money"? It turns out, sometimes that good-faith deposit can just be something of "good and considerable value."

"There are cases where a watch, car, boat, real estate, or precious metals have been used as an earnest deposit," Lucas says. "In that case it might be returned to the buyer or liquidated by the seller and put toward the purchase price at closing."

Bottom line: Even if you don't get your earnest money back at closing, don't worry! That big chunk of change you put down at the beginning of the home-buying process hasn't disappeared. It's been used to help pay for your brand-new house.

Starting the search for your new homeContact The McLeod Group Network for all your real estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Jeanne Sager

2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers

by Amy McLeod Group


Freddie Mac
 recently released a report entitled, “Perceptions of Down Payment Consumer Research.” Their research revealed that,

“For many prospective homebuyers, saving for a down payment is the largest barrier to achieving the goal of homeownership. Part of the challenge for those planning to purchase a home is their perception of how much they will need to save for the down payment…

…Based on our recent survey of individuals planning to purchase a home in the next three years, nearly a third think they need to put more than 20% down.”

Myth #1: “I Need a 20% Down Payment”

Buyers often overestimate the funds needed to qualify for a home loan. According to the same report:

22% of renters and 31% of homeowners believe lenders require 20% or more of a home’s sale price as a down payment for a typical mortgage today. And,

“If a 20% down payment was required, 70% of those who were planning to buy a home in the next three years said it would delay them from purchasing and nearly 30% indicated they would never be able to afford a home.”  

While many believe at least 20% down is necessary to buy the home of their dreams, they do not realize programs are available which permit as little as 3%. Many renters may actually be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined!

Myth #2: “I Need a 780 FICO® Score or Higher to Buy”

Many either don’t know or are misinformed concerning the FICO® score necessary to qualify, believing a ‘good’ credit score is 780 or higher.

To debunk this myth, let’s take a look at Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report, which focuses on recently closed (approved) loans.

As indicated in the chart above, 52.4% of approved mortgages had a credit score of 600-749.

Bottom Line

Whether buying your first home or moving up to your dream home, knowing your options will make the mortgage process easier. Your dream home may already be within your reach.

Starting the search for your new home? Let the professionals with The McLeod Group Network help you find your dream home! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: KCM Crew

The Feeling You Get from Owning Your Home

by Amy McLeod Group


We often talk about the financial reasons why buying a home makes sense. But, more often than not, the emotional reasons are the more powerful and compelling ones.

No matter what shape or size your living space is, the concept and feeling of home can mean different things to different people. Whether it’s a certain scent or a favorite chair, that feeling of safety and security you gain from owning your own home is simultaneously one of the greatest and most difficult to describe.

Frederick Peters, a contributor for Forbesrecently wrote about that feeling, and the pride that comes from owning your own home.

“As homeowners discover, living in an owned home feels different from living in a rented home. It’s not just that an owner can personalize the space; it touches a chord even more fundamental than that.

Homeownership enhances the longing for self-determination at the heart of the American Dream. First-time homeowners, young or old, radiate not only pride but also a sense of arrival, a sense of being where they belong. It cannot be duplicated by owning a 99-year lease.”

Bottom Line

Owning a home brings a sense of accomplishment and confidence that cannot be achieved through renting. If you are debating renewing your lease, let’s get together before you do to answer any questions you may have about what your next steps should be, and what is required in today’s market!

Starting the search for your new home? Let the professionals with The McLeod Group Network help you find your dream home! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: KCM Crew


Buying a home is a complicated process that involves sharing sensitive information with multiple people. And the latest major data leak highlights the risk consumers take on when they share that information.

Roughly 885 million mortgage-related files stretching back over a decade were exposed by First American Financial Corp., one of the country’s largest title insurance companies, thanks to a flaw in the design of a website that stored the files.

The files, which could accessed if someone had the proper URL, contained a wide array of personal information for parties to thousands of real-estate transactions, including bank-account numbers and statements, mortgage and tax records, Social Security Numbers, wire-transaction receipts, and driver’s license images.

The data leak was first reported by the watchdog website KrebsonSecurity.com.

First American confirmed that the information was leaked and said it rectified the situation once it was notified of it. The company also said it has hired an outside forensic firm to investigate whether any customer information was compromised due to the security flaw.

So far it does not appear that there was any large-scale access to the information, according to the company, but if that changes First American said it will notify consumers and provide credit-monitoring services.

“We deeply regret the concern this defect has caused,” said Dennis J. Gilmore, chief executive officer at First American Financial Corporation. “We are thoroughly investigating this matter and are fully committed to protecting the security, privacy and confidentiality of the information entrusted to us by our customers.”

This is not the first time this year that a data breach involved mortgage documents. In January, news site TechCrunch revealed that some 54,000 mortgage borrowers had their financial data exposed by Ascension, a financial data firm that converts paper documents into computer-readable files. Among those affected included past customers of Wells Fargo, Citigroup,  and Capital One.

While major data breaches like these attract headlines, many consumers nationwide have fallen victim to much simpler, email-based scams, which involved hacked or spoofed email accounts, losing thousands of dollars in the process.

In some cases, scammers will pose as real-estate agents requesting money for a down payment. In other instances, they will dupe unsuspecting consumers into handing over the money for closing from their escrow account by pretending to be a title insurance firm or hacking into their systems.

“Business email compromise can happen to anyone involved in the transaction,” said Katie Johnson, general counsel and chief member experience officer at the National Association of Realtors.

Here are steps that consumers can — and should — take when buying a home to ensure their personal information and money are protected.

Make sure your cyber house is in order. A lot of sensitive information will be shared throughout the process of buying a home and getting a mortgage. Now is a good time to ensure that all of that information is well-protected, Johnson said. This includes changing passwords to make them more secure and enabling two-factor authentication whenever possible. And since you can’t freeze your credit during the mortgage process, it’s not a bad idea to sign up for credit-monitoring or identity-theft protection services.

Ask every company how they will protect your data. Not all companies have the same policies when it comes to cybersecurity — while banks may be subject to stringent federal oversight, the same is not true of smaller mom-and-pop real-estate agencies or title insurers. Before going with a certain company, consumers should find out how they protect information — for instance, do they store documents in encrypted databases?

Avoid sending documents or other sensitive information over email. Many wire-fraud schemes involve hacked or spoofed email addresses. If a real-estate agent, lender or insurer asks for sensitive information over email, consumers should call them to double-check the email is really from them, Johnson said. If possible, consumers should opt to deliver information in person, verbally over the phone or through a secure online portal rather than over email.

Starting the search for your new home? Let the professionals with The McLeod Group Network help you find your dream home! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: Realtor.com, Jacob Passy

Can Home Buyers Contact a Listing Agent for a Home Showing?

by Amy McLeod Group


It's bound to happen: You're browsing real estate listings and one day spot a house you'd love to see in person. Should you contact the listing agent directly for a home showing?

After all, most real estate listings (unless they're for sale by owner) mention a listing agent, along with an invitation to contact the agent if you're interested in the property.

If you're already working with a buyer's agent, your first move should be to contact this pro—after all, she's representing you and won't appreciate your doing an end run around her. But if you haven't yet partnered with a buyer's agent, what then?

Here's how to navigate this stage of the home-buying process.

Can buyers contact a listing agent directly?

Technically—yes. The only people who may frown upon contacting a listing agent are buyer's agents, who make their commissions based on representing buyers. But there is no law or rule saying a buyer cannot contact a listing agent.

If you're not actively looking to buy and are just curious about the house, simply be clear about that with the listing agent. Say you're in the early stages of the home-buying process and haven't yet employed the services of a buyer's agent. Ask when the listing agent will be in the neighborhood and would be able to show you the property, says Jane Jensen with Century 21 New Millennium in McLean, VA.

Do buyers need to sign an agreement to see a property?

Touring a property doesn't require signing any documentation. If a listing agent does ask you to sign something, make sure you thoroughly read it. Most likely it is a disclosure about agency, which is required by some local laws. Agency refers to whom the agent represents—in this case the seller—and expectations you should have of the agent's professional responsibilities in regard to showing a property.

However, some agents may be asking you to sign an exclusivity agreement saying they represent you—for this particular property, or all properties you might see in the future. This is rare but possible, so you should make sure you're clear on what you're signing before you move forward.

Do buyers need to find their own agent to see a property?

Checking out a home doesn't require representation, says Shawn Breyer, owner of Breyer Home Buyers, in Atlanta. The listing agent is usually present at the property simply for the security of the homeowner. Think of it this way: Viewing the property individually is the same as attending an open house. And you don't need a buyer's agent to attend open houses.

When do buyers need their own agent?

As a buyer, the option to be represented by an agent is yours. However, if you are actively looking for a home, consider getting a buyer's agent. The listing agent represents the best interest of the seller, says Michael Chadwick, a real estate agent with Citi Habitats in NYC. While a buyer's agent represents the best interest of, yep, the buyer.

In most markets, the seller pays the entire commission fee (usually about 5% or 6% of the sale price of the home)—which includes both the seller's and buyer's agents' fees. So by retaining an agent, you'll have a seasoned professional in your corner who won't cost you a dime.

"But not having an agent could leave you without invaluable help about negotiating, say, inspections that uncover issues," says Larry Simons, a real estate professional with Century 21 Maselle & Associates in Brandon, MS.

Let's get together to discuss your current situation and how The McLeod Group Network can help! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry

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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.