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What Is Escrow? How It Keeps Home Buyers and Sellers Safe

by Amy McLeod Group


What is escrow? In real estate, an escrow account is a secure holding area where important items (e.g., the earnest money check and contracts) are kept safe by an escrow company until the deal is closed and the house officially changes hands.

Escrow is also a contractual arrangement in which a third party—usually the escrow officer—maintains money and documents until the deal is done.

How escrow works

The escrow agent is a third party—perhaps someone from the real estate closing company, an attorney, or a title company agent (customs vary by state), says Andy Prasky, a real estate professional with Re/Max Advantage Plus in Twin Cities.

The third party is there to make sure everything during the transaction proceeds smoothly, including the transfers of money and documents. Escrow protects all the relevant parties in a real estate transaction by ensuring that no funds from your lender and property change hands until all conditions in the agreement have been met.

Along the way, proper documentation is filed with the escrow agent or the escrow company as each step toward closing is completed. Contingencies that might be part of the process could include home inspectionrepairs, and other tasks that need to be accomplished by the buyer or seller. And every time one of those steps is completed, the buyer or seller signs off with a contingency release form; then the transaction moves on to the next step (and one step closer to closing).

Once all conditions are met and the transaction is finalized, the money due to the sellers is transferred from your lender to them. Meanwhile an escrow officer clears (or records) the title, which means the buyer officially owns the home.

How much does escrow cost?

That varies—as well as whether the buyer or seller (or both) pays—with the fee for this real estate service typically totaling about 1% to 2% of the cost of the home.

The earnest money deposit

Earnest money—also known as an escrow deposit—is a dollar amount buyers put into an escrow account after a seller accepts their offer. The escrow company will hold onto that money for the duration of the transaction.

Another way to think of earnest money is as a "good-faith” deposit into an escrow account that will compensate the seller if the buyer breaches the contract and fails to close.

Can you borrow earnest money from your lender?

Earnest money can be borrowed from your lender, but there are certain rules involved. First-time buyers are most likely to need to go to their lender for their earnest money. Your lender will ultimately count your earnest money as part of the down payment on the house.

What is an escrow account?

When you make your monthly payment to your lender, part of it goes toward your mortgage and part of it goes into your escrow account for property taxes and insurance premiums such as homeowners insurance or mortgage insurance. When those bills are due, your lender will use the funds in your escrow account to pay them.

How escrow protects you

Escrow may seem like a pain, but here's how it can work in your favor. Let's say, for example, the buyer had a home inspection contingency and discovered that the roof needed repairs. The seller agrees to fix the roof. However, during the buyer's final walk-through, she finds that the roof hasn’t been repaired as expected. In this case, the seller won’t see a dime of the buyer’s money until the roof is fixed. Talk about a nice safeguard!

Sellers benefit from escrow, too: Let's say the buyers get cold feet at the last minute and bail on the transaction. This may be disappointing to the seller, but at the very least, buyers have typically ponied up a sizable chunk of change for their earnest money deposit. This money, often totaling 1% to 2% of the purchase price of a home, has been held in escrow. When buyers back out with no legitimate reason, they forfeit that money to the seller—a decent consolation for the sale's failure.

Escrow, in other words, is the equivalent of bumpers on cars, keeping everyone safe as they move forward in a real estate transaction. Odds are, no one's trying to swindle anyone. But isn't it nice to know that if something does go wrong, escrow is there to cushion the blow?

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

By: Realtor.com, Cathie Ericson

The famous quote by Walt Whitman, “A man is not a whole and complete man, unless he owns a house and the ground it stands on,” can be used to describe homeownership in America today. The Census revealed that the percentage of homeowners in America has been steadily climbing back up since hitting a 50-year low in 2016. The homeownership rate in the first quarter of 2018 was 64.2%, higher than last year’s 63.6%.

Chief Economist, Dr. Ralph McLaughlin, in his VUE Blog gave these new homeownership numbers some context:

“The trend is clear: the homeownership rate has been ticking up for five consecutive quarters, and the number of new renter households has fallen for four consecutive quarters. Owner-occupied households grew by 1.345 million from a year ago, while the number of renters actually fell by 286,000 households.

The fact that we now have four consecutive quarters where owner households increased while renter households fell is a strong sign households are making a switch from renting to buying. This is a trend that multifamily builders, investors, and landlords should take note of.”

In a separate article comparing the rental population in America to the homeowner population, Realtor.com also concluded that the gap is now shrinking:

“The U.S. added 1.3 million owner households over the last year and lost 286,000 renter households, the fourth consecutive quarter in which the number of renter households declined from the same quarter a year earlier. That could pose challenges for apartment landlords, who are bracing this year for one of the largest infusions of new rental supply in three decades.”

America’s belief in homeownership was also evidenced in a survey conducted by Pew Research. They asked consumers “How important is homeownership to achieving the American Dream?”

The results:

  • 43% said homeownership was essential to the American Dream
  • 48% said homeownership was important to the American Dream
  • Only 9% said it was not important

Bottom Line

Homeownership has been, is, and always will be a crucial part of the American Dream.

Contact The McLeod Group Network today to find your dream home! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: KCM Crew

NOT Owning Your Home Can Cost You a Lot of Money!

by Amy McLeod Group

Owning a home has great financial benefits, yet many continue to rent! Today, let’s look at the financial reasons why owning a home of your own has been a part of the American Dream for as long as America has existed.

Realtor.com recently reported that:

Buying remains the more attractive option in the long term – that remains the American dream, and it’s true in many markets where renting has become really the shortsighted option… as people get more savings in their pockets, buying becomes the better option.”

What proof exists that owning is financially better than renting?

1. In a previous blog we highlighted the top 5 financial benefits of homeownership:

  • Homeownership is a form of forced savings.
  • Homeownership provides tax savings.
  • Homeownership allows you to lock in your monthly housing cost.
  • Buying a home is cheaper than renting.
  • No other investment lets you live inside of it.

2. Studies have shown that a homeowner’s net worth is 44x greater than that of a renter.

3. Just a few months ago, we explained that a family that purchased an average-priced home at the beginning of 2018 could build more than $44,000 in family wealth over the next five years.

4. Some argue that renting eliminates the cost of taxes and home repairs, but every potential renter must realize that all the expenses the landlord incurs are already baked into the rent payment– along with a profit margin!!

Bottom Line

Owning a home has always been, and will always be, better from a financial standpoint than renting.

Let’s make your dreams of homeownership a reality! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: KCM Crew

Be Thankful You Don’t Have to Pay Your Parents’ Interest Rate!

by Amy McLeod Group

Interest rates hovered around 4% for the majority of 2017, which gave many buyers relief from rising home prices and helped with affordability. In the first quarter of 2018, rates have increased from 3.95% up to 4.45% and experts predict that rates will increase even more by the end of the year.

The rate you secure greatly impacts your monthly mortgage payment and the amount you will ultimately pay for your home. Don’t let the prediction that rates will increase stop you from purchasing your dream home this year.

Let’s take a look at a historical view of interest rates over the last 45 years.

Bottom Line

Be thankful that you can still get a better interest rate than your older brother or sister did ten years ago, a lower rate than your parents did twenty years ago, and a better rate than your grandparents did forty years ago.

Let The McLeod Group Network help you evaluate your ability to purchase a home in today’s market! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: KCM Crew

The Benefits of Homeownership Go Beyond the Financial

by Amy McLeod Group

Homeownership is a major part of the American Dream. As evidence of that, 91% of Americans believe that owning a home is either essential (43%) or important (48%) to achieving that “dream.” In a market where some people may be unsure about the benefits and possibilities of buying a home, it is important that we remember this.

Homeownership is NOT just about the money. In fact, some of the major benefits are non-financial. Here are a few of those benefits as per the National Association of Realtors:

  • Consistent findings show that homeownership does make a significant positive impact on educational achievement.
  • Several researchers have found that homeowners tend to be more involved in their communities than renters.
  • Early studies of homeownership and health outcomes found that homeowners and children of homeowners are generally happier and healthier than non-owners, even after controlling for factors such as income and education levels that are also associated with positive health outcomes and positively correlated with homeownership.

Bottom Line

Homeownership means something more to people and their families than just the financial considerations.

Let The McLeod Group Network help you achieve your dream of homeownership. 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: KCM Crew

Buying a Home Can Be Scary... Unless You Know the Facts

by Amy McLeod Group
Buying a Home Can Be Scary... Unless You Know the Facts [INFOGRAPHIC] | MyKCM
 

Some Highlights:

Many potential homebuyers believe that they need a 20% down payment and a 780 FICO® score to qualify to buy a home, which stops many of them from even trying! Here are some facts:

  • 40% of millennials who purchased homes this year have put down less than 10%.
  • 76.4% of loan applications were approved last month.
  • The average credit score of approved loans was 724 in September.

Buying a house with McLeod Group Network isn't scary! Contact us today to start your search! 971.208.5093 or [email protected] 

By: KCM Crew

Looking for Your Dream Home? Know What You Want vs. What You Need

by Amy McLeod Group
Looking for Your Dream Home? Know What You Want vs. What You Need | MyKCM

In this day and age of being able to shop for anything anywhere, it is really important to know what you’re looking for when you start your home search.

If you’ve been thinking about buying a home of your own for some time now, you’ve probably come up with a list of things that you’d LOVE to have in your new home. Many new homebuyers fantasize about the amenities that they see on television or Pinterest, and start looking at the countless homes listed for sale through rose-colored glasses.

Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen to be happy with your home choice? Would a two-car garage be a convenience or a necessity? Could the ‘man cave’ of your dreams be a future renovation project instead of a make-or-break right now?

The first step in your home buying process should be getting pre-approved for your mortgage. This allows you to know your budget before you fall in love with a home that is way outside of it.

The next step is to list all the features of a home that you would like, and to qualify them as follows:

  • ‘Must-Haves’ – if this property does not have these items, then it shouldn’t even be considered (ex: distance from work or family, number of bedrooms/bathrooms).
  • ‘Should-Haves’ – if the property hits all of the ‘must-haves’ and some of the ‘should-haves,’ it stays in contention but does not need to have all of these features.
  • ‘Absolute-Wish List’ – if we find a property in our budget that has all of the ‘must-haves,’ most of the ‘should-haves,’ and ANY of these, it’s the winner!

Bottom Line

Having this list fleshed out before starting your search will save you time and frustration, while also letting The McLeod Group Network know what features are most important to you before starting to show you houses in your desired area. 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: KCM Crew

4 Reasons to Buy a Home This Fall!

by Amy McLeod Group
4 Reasons to Buy a Home This Fall! | MyKCM

Here are four great reasons to consider buying a home today, instead of waiting.

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6.7% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 5.0% over the next year.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage have hovered around 4%. Most experts predict that rates will rise over the next 12 months. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting that rates will increase by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way, You Are Paying a Mortgage 

There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It's Time to Move on With Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide if it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If purchasing a home for you and your family is the right thing for you to do this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

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

BY: KCM Crew

Sellers: Your Home is an Oasis in an Inventory Desert

by Amy McLeod Group

First-time homebuyers are flocking to the real estate market by the thousands to find their dream homes in order to make their dreams of homeownership a reality. Unfortunately for many, the inventory of starter and trade-up homes in the US has struggled to keep up with demand!

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the inventory of homes for sale dropped 7.1% year-over-year to a 4.3-month supply and is down for the 25th consecutive month.

Some homeowners may be hesitant to list their homes for sale because they are worried that they will also have a problem finding a home to buy and move in to. This is a legitimate concern; no one wants to sell their home quickly and not have anywhere to live.

But there is good news! If you are thinking of moving up to a luxury or premium home, there is more inventory available in these markets and you may even get a great deal on a home that has been on the market for a while.

If you are the owner of a starter home and you are looking to move into a trade-up home, or if you are just looking to relocate to a new area in a home of the same size, there is still hope!

In many markets, homeowners are building contingency plans into their contracts. This means that the homeowner builds in extra time before they close in order to find their dream home and they are upfront about the contingency with any buyers who come to see the house.

Your home is an oasis to buyers who are searching for homes in today’s market. The right buyers will sympathize and wait for you and your family to find your next home.

Bottom Line

Don’t let the fear of not finding a home to move in to stop you from moving on with your life. Meet with The McLeod Group Network to discuss ways to set expectations with potential buyers from the start. 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: KCM Crew

Homeowner’s Net Worth Is Still Greater Than a Renter’s

by Amy McLeod Group
Homeowner’s Net Worth Is Still Greater Than a Renter’s | MyKCM

Every three years, the Federal Reserve conducts their Survey of Consumer Finances in which they collect data across all economic and social groups. The latest survey, which includes data from 2010-2013, reports that a homeowner’s net worth is 36 times greater than that of a renter ($194,500 vs. $5,400). 

The latest survey data, covering 2014-2016 will be released later this year. In the meantime, Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors’ Chief Economist estimates that the gap has widened even further, to 45 times greater ($225,000 vs. $5,000)! 

Put Your Housing Cost to Work for You

As we’ve said before, simply put, homeownership is a form of ‘forced savings.’ Every time you pay your mortgage, you are contributing to your net worth. Every time you pay your rent, you are contributing to your landlord’s net worth.

The latest National Housing Pulse Survey from NAR reveals that 84% of consumers believe that purchasing a home is a good financial decision. William E. Brown comments:

“Despite the growing concern over affordable housing, this survey makes it clear that a strong majority still believe in homeownership and aspire to own a home of their own. Building equity, wanting a stable and safe environment, and having the freedom to choose their neighborhood remain the top reasons to own a home. 

Bottom Line

If you are interested in finding out if you could put your housing cost to work for you by purchasing a home, let’s get together and evaluate your ability to buy today! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: KCM Crew

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 17

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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.