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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 

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


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 

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

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

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

4 Good Reasons to Not Get a Mortgage Online

by Amy McLeod Group


Applying for a mortgage these days can be accomplished entirely online—no need to schlep to a bank and suffer hand cramps filling out paperwork.

Instead, you can punch some basic info into an online mortgage site, and up pops a bunch of loan choices. An industry renowned for being slow and cumbersome is now wooing customers with the promise of ease, speed, and transparency. Rocket Mortgage, Quicken Loan's online platform, for example, promises qualified customers approval in as little as eight minutes.

 
 
 

But taking out a six-figure loan is one of the most complicated and substantial financial transactions most people will ever make. Does it really make sense to handle it by pushing a few buttons on your smartphone?

Maybe for those with a typical 9-to-5 job and good credit.

"If you are a salaried employee with no overtime, no bonus—no funky income, if you will—just a plain-vanilla borrower, then sometimes the online mortgage does work," says Brian Minkow, a divisional vice president and loan originator at Homebridge Financial Services, a non-bank lender. "You know: You have a five-year work history, you're putting 20% down, and have an 800 FICO score."

But then there's everybody else.

Here are some of the many reasons why those borrowers might consider taking more time with the process, including consulting with an experienced loan officer or mortgage broker.

1. You want to shop around for the best loan

First and foremost, it's always in a borrower's best interest to comparison shop on rates and fees, says Keith Gumbinger, a vice president at HSH.com, a mortgage information website. Speed and convenience alone do not always translate into a better price for borrowers.

"You should invest some time in it, do your research," Gumbinger says. "Also, do your diligence on your credit. And think about how long you're going to be in your home." The reason? The length of time you estimate you are likely to be staying in the home can be a factor in whether you apply for a fixed or adjustable rate loan.

Gaining an understanding of different loan programs is a smarter approach than just "going online and filling out things," says Minkow. "A lot of people really don't know if they're getting the right loan program, the right interest rate, the right down payment."

The research process may ultimately lead you straight to the speedy online mortgage site as the best option anyway. But, Gumbinger says, "You won't know that unless you go out and take a look around."

2. You're a first-time home buyer

Researching all your options is especially important if you've never purchased a home before, advises David Weliver, founder of MoneyUnder30.com, a personal finance advice site. First-time buyers should always talk through important details like rates, points, and closing costs with an expert. "After you've been through the process once, you have a better idea of what to expect and what information you'll need to provide to make the process go smoothly," he says.

Even those who have borrowed before may want to consult with someone if there is anything about their circumstances that might make qualifying more difficult. For example, Weliver says, "a real person could be a helpful advocate" for borrowers who are buying a second home or rental property, have spotty credit, or have inconsistent income.

3. You're self-employed

About 15 million Americans are classified as self-employed, according to the Pew Research Center. While salaried workers generally only have to show the lender their W-2 tax forms to prove their income, self-employed workers "should expect that they will have to provide the lender with more income documentation, such as tax returns from the last few years," Weliver says.

The fact is, some online lenders are more strict about documentation requirements than federal guidelines require, because they want to reduce their risk, says Minkow. That can make qualifying even tougher for a borrower who is already perceived as a higher risk—for example, applicants who have only been in their current job for a few months, or those who want to include overtime pay as evidence of their buying power. The lender will want to see proof that the overtime pay is consistent. "Certain guidelines say you have to show you have it for 12 months or 24 months—it depends on the loan," Minkow says.

4. You want some extra handholding

Working with someone one on one may also help prevent last-minute problems when it comes time to buy that house. "I can't tell you how many clients who have come to me after they'd gone online and gotten a pre-approval from a lender," Minkow says. "Then they go to purchase a house, and halfway through the transaction, the online lender says all of a sudden, 'You can't get approved.' The client freaks out. And that's when they get ahold of someone like myself."

Finally, there is the matter of personal preference. Not everyone likes the impersonal approach. Before applying for a loan, borrowers might consider whether they are the kind of person who appreciates a lot of help and attention in other shopping experiences. "If you like a hands-on environment, like a Macy's, you're a different kind of shopper than someone who enjoys going to a warehouse club," says Gumbinger. "Your expectations going in will influence how satisfied you are with the process."

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

By and Photo credit: Realtor.com, Lisa Prevost

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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.