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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


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 


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

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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.