5 Things Buyers Should Know About Home Inspections

5 Things Buyers Should Know About Home Inspections

Home buyers tend to have a lot of questions about home inspections. Are they required? How are they different from appraisals? When does it take place? Here are answers to these and other common questions.

1. Home inspections aren’t required, but they’re worth it.

There is no law that says you have to have an inspection when buying a house. It’s an option that is generally left up to the home buyer. But while you’re not required to have a house inspected before purchasing, it’s generally a wise idea to do so. Unless you are a licensed contractor or builder, you probably don’t have the experience necessary to evaluate the structural aspects of the home. Home inspectors specialize in that very thing.

2. It’s different from a home appraisal.

Home appraisals and inspections are similar procedures, but they have two very different goals in mind.

  • A home inspector will alert you to any potential repair issues, or other problems with the structure and installed systems.

  • A home appraiser, on the other hand, is primarily focused on determining the market value of the house.

If you are planning to use a mortgage loan to finance your purchase, there’s a good chance the mortgage lender will require you to have a home appraisal. They do this to determine how much the house is worth. But the inspection is usually optional, and it focuses on the condition of the home. They are two different things.

3. It usually happens soon after the contract is signed.

As far as the timeline goes, a home inspection typically takes place shortly after the buyer and seller have agreed on the purchase price and signed a contract. At that point, the buyer will often hire an inspector to perform a complete home inspection.

The seller does not need to be present for the inspection. In most cases, the seller will actually leave the premises so the inspector can come in and do what he/she needs to do. Home buyers are almost always present during this process. The seller’s listing agent might grant the inspector access to the home. Or they might put a lockbox on the door. But as far as the timing goes, it typically takes place soon after the purchase agreement has been signed.

4. It helps you uncover any serious issues with the house.

The inspector will closely examine almost every aspect of the house. That includes the foundation, the roof, the electrical and plumbing systems, HVAC and more. He will provide you with a detailed report of any repair issues or other problems that he finds. This kind of report is invaluable to someone buying a home, especially when you consider how much money is on the line.

5. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Home inspections typically range from $250 – $400, depending on the size of the house and other factors. When you consider the amount of money you are going to put into the home – and the amount you might be borrowing from a lender – it’s a relatively small price to pay for peace of mind.

5 Tips for Making an Offer in a Hot Real Estate Market

5 Tips for Making an Offer in a Hot Real Estate Market

Steady demand. Limited supply. That’s what we are seeing in real estate markets across the country right now. Inventory is particularly tight within the lower price ranges. “The starter house is nearly missing in some markets,” according to Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communication for the National Association of Realtors.

Of course, conditions can vary from one city to the next. But the overall trend in housing markets across the country is that supply is still falling short of demand.

Given these conditions, it’s important for home buyers to make a strong, smart offer when the right house comes along. Here are five tips for doing exactly that.

1. Understand the supply and demand situation in your area

According to housing experts, a so-called “balanced” real estate market has five to six months of supply. This means, in theory, that it would take five or six months to sell off all homes currently listed for sale if no new properties came onto the market.

Many real estate markets across the country have less than a three-month supply right now. And some cities have less than a two-month supply.

The first step to making a strong offer is to understand the supply-and-demand situation in your area. We are still seeing sellers’ market conditions in many cities, as of spring 2018. And this could persist for some time.

2. Study recent sales prices in your area

This is something a real estate agent can help you with, but you can do some of it for yourself. The idea here is to get a good understanding of recent sales prices in the area where you want to buy.

This will help you in a couple of ways. It will save you time during the house-hunting process, by eliminating the need for repetitive research and pricing “sanity checks.” It will also help you make a strong, realistic offer backed by recent sales trends. And speaking of offers…

3. Make a strong and timely offer, backed by comparable sales

In a slow housing market, where sellers are ready to jump on the first offer that comes along, home buyers have the luxury of taking their time. A buyer might start off with an initial offer below the asking price, just to open negotiations. The seller would probably come back with a counteroffer or accept the first offer.

But it doesn’t work that way in a more competitive real estate market with limited inventory. In a tight market, buyers are better off making their first offer as competitive as possible. Otherwise, the house could go to a competing buyer.

4. Consider writing a love letter to the seller

A house love letter, that is! Recent studies have shown that buyers in competitive real estate markets can improve their chance for success by writing a heartfelt letter to the seller. Sure, real estate is a business transaction. But there’s a personal side to it as well. Writing a personal letter to tell the sellers what you love about their home might just tip the scales in your favor.

5. Get an agent on your side

It’s always a good idea to have help from a local real estate agent. It’s even more important in a tight market with limited inventory. An agent can help you move quickly, putting together a strong offer that’s supported by recent sales data. At NextHome Realty Select we are here to help you find your #NextHome. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you and your family.

Income Needed to Qualify for a Mortgage Loan

Income Needed to Qualify for a Mortgage Loan

When you apply for a home loan, the mortgage lender will conduct a thorough review of your income situation. Income is one of the most important factors to a lender, along with your credit score and debt level. This article answers a common, income-related question that home buyers often ask: How much income is needed to qualify for a mortgage loan?

The first thing to know is that mortgage lending standards and requirements can vary from one lender to the next. For example, if I approach a handful of lenders about a certain home loan, and my income level is on the “border” of acceptability, one company might approve me for the loan while others turn me down. That’s because they have their own business models and assessment procedures.

In addition, your household income level is only one piece of the mortgage qualification process. Lenders will review other things as well, including your credit score and your total amount of debt. Remember, your debt takes away a big part of your income — so the two things are usually reviewed together.

How Much Income to Qualify?

These days, most lenders set the bar somewhere around 43% to 45% for the total debt-to-income ratio or DTI. This means that if your recurring monthly debts use up more than 45% of your monthly income, you might have trouble qualifying for a loan. On the other hand, a borrower who only uses about 35% of her income to cover the monthly debts should be in good shape, as far as lenders are concerned.

These numbers are not set in stone. Some lenders may allow total DTI ratios above 45%, especially when there are certain “compensating factors.”

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):

“Larger lenders may still make a mortgage loan if your debt-to-income ratio is more than 43 percent … But they will have to make a reasonable, good-faith effort, following the CFPB’s rules, to determine that you have the ability to repay the loan.”

So, where do you stand? What’s your total debt-to-income ratio? You can find plenty of calculators online to help you calculate your DTI level. That’s a good place to continue your research.

Applying for a Mortgage Quote

When you’ve done the necessary research, and feel that you’re ready to take on a mortgage loan, the next logical step is to apply for quotes from lenders. The good news is that this process is easier than ever, thanks to the internet. You can apply online and get information sent to you by email.

Granted, you’ll have to fill out a more complete application at some point, along with plenty of supporting documents (tax records, bank statements, etc.). But the initial online application is a good way to get the ball rolling.

Don’t Overstretch Your Income

The last point I want to make is that a mortgage lender cannot tell you what you can afford. They can only tell you what they are willing to lend you, in terms of a loan. You must determine your own affordability limits before you even start talking to lenders.

Doing some basic budget math up front could help you avoid financial issues down the road. So take a good, hard look at your current debt and income situation — and decide what you’re comfortable paying each month in the form of a mortgage payment.

Mortgage Rates Rise to Their Highest Level in Over Four Years

Are you thinking about buying a home in the near future? Do you need a mortgage loan to finance your purchase? Here’s a trend you should know about. This week, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan rose to its highest level since 2013. This is based on the weekly industry survey conducted by Freddie Mac.

Mortgage Rates Hit 4-Year High in April 2018

On April 26, 2018, Freddie Mac published the latest results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS). This survey has been running for decades, and it gives us good insight into various trends. The company describes it as “the foremost reliable, representative source of regional and national mortgage rate trends.”

Here are the results of the survey for the week of April 26, 2018:

•    30-year fixed mortgage loans had an average rate of 4.58%.
•    15-year fixed mortgage loans had an average rate of 4.02%.
•    5/1 adjustable (ARM) loans had an average rate of 3.74%.

Here’s what is truly noteworthy about these latest indicators. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage (the most popular loan product used by home buyers) just hit its highest level in years. To date, the average rate for a 30-year home loan hasn’t been this high since August 2013.

As Freddie Mac officials reported in their April 26 report:

“Mortgage rates increased for the third consecutive week, climbing 11 basis points to 4.58 percent. Rates are now at their highest level since the week of August 22, 2013. Higher Treasury yields, driven by rising commodity prices, more Treasury issuances and the steady stream of solid economic news, are behind the uptick in rates over the past week.”

Buying a Home Now Versus Later

Granted, the interest rates that are actually assigned to home loans can vary from one borrower to the next, and for a number of reasons. Loan type, credit scores, and discount points all play a role. The numbers above are merely averages across all of the surveyed lenders.

It’s the overall trend here that’s most important. And the trend is that average mortgage rates have shot up quite a bit over the last few months.

Home prices, meanwhile, continue to rise in most cities across the country. According to the real estate information company Zillow, the nationwide median home value rose by around 8% over the last year (as of April 2018). And while prices have slowed a down a bit in many areas, they are expected to continue moving north over the coming months — and into 2019.

These are important trends for home buyers, particularly those who need mortgage financing to complete their purchases. Rising rates can chip away at your buying power, as can rising home values. So those who are planning to buy a home in 2018 might want to consider purchasing sooner rather than later.

Homes Expected to Sell Fast in 2018, Like Last Year

Homes Expected to Sell Fast in 2018, Like Last Year

A recent report showed that homes across the U.S. sold faster than ever during 2017. And experts believe that 2018 could be an even hotter real estate market, due to a chronically low level of homes for sale. So buyers should be prepared for competition.

A Fast-Moving Real Estate Market in 2018

Here’s the big message for home buyers and house hunters in 2018: Be prepared to move quickly when you find a house you want to buy. Nationwide, homes sold at their fastest pace on record last year. And this year could match, or even outpace, that record.

According to a recent report from the real estate information company Zillow, it took a median of 81 days to sell a home in 2017. That was nine days faster than the previous year. The fastest-selling month for houses was June of 2017 when it took about 73 days for a home to sell (including the actual closing process). Since it can take between four and six weeks to close a sale, this means the typical home was on the market for around 30 days, before going under contract.

Buyers Still Dealing With Limited Inventory

So here we are in spring 2018, and housing markets across the country are still red-hot. This is largely due to the dearth of inventory seen in many areas. Home buyers in 2018 are facing limited inventory this home-shopping season, which has been the case for the last three years.

According to the latest figures, housing market inventory across the country has declined on a year-over-year basis for 37 months in a row. This leaves fewer options for home buyers while boosting competition and prices. In 2017, nearly a quarter of all homes sold across the U.S. went for more than the list price. This shows that stiff competition could be leading to bidding wars and driving prices higher.

According to Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow, 2018 will be marked by fast home sales.

“As demand has outpaced supply in the housing market over the past three years, buying a home has become an exercise in speed and agility,” Terrazas said in a recent news release. “This [year] is shaping up to be another competitive home shopping season for buyers, who may have to linger on the market until they find the right home but then sprint across the finish line once they do.”

Tips for Buying in a ‘Fast’ Market

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make the house-hunting process more efficient and to make your offer stand out.

  1. Here are five tips for buying in a competitive market:

  2. Review recent home sales in your target area, to get a feel for pricing.

  3. Work with an experienced real estate agent who knows the local market.

  4. Get pre-approved for mortgage financing to help narrow your price range.

  5. Move quickly with a strong offer when the right house comes along.

  6. Keep the big picture in mind; don’t quibble with the seller over “nickels and dimes.”

The fastest-selling real estate markets of 2017 were mostly located in California and the Pacific Northwest, where inventory is most constrained. San Jose, California; San Francisco and Seattle topped the list. But these conditions are affecting many cities and towns across the country, to varying degrees.