New Loan Limits For 2021!


Ask Carolyn Warren

Based on new higher values of homes across America, conventional loans have been increased for 2021. This means that you can get a larger loan without going into the jumbo loan category.

Jumbo loans require a larger down payment and carry a higher interest rate, so this is great news for home buyers!

CONVENTIONAL LOANS

New limit is $548,250 for a regular one-unit home.

In areas where the median price of homes is higher than average — such as some counties in California, Western Washington, New York as well as other states — the new loan is higher.

The High Balance loan limit is $822,375.

Duplexes, tri-plexes, and four-unit properties also have higher limits.

For a chart showing loan limits in all U.S. counties, click here.

For a really cool map where you can scroll over all the counties in the U.S., click here.

HOW TO GET A…

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First Things First


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If you are making a particular meal for the first time, it is essential to have a recipe so that it turns out the way it should. Knowing the ingredients and preparation can guide you through the process.

Buying a home is really no different than making a new recipe. There are certain things that need to be done, many of which should occur in a particular order to save time, money, effort and disappointment.

Your first inclination may be to start searching the Internet for homes and schedule some showings or possibly visit open houses. Even though this is very gratifying, it shouldn’t be done until you have gone through the preliminaries.

Buying a home for the first-time implies you haven’t been through the process before and even though, you may have a rough idea of what needs to be done, selecting the right agent in the beginning will give you the benefit of years of personal and professional experience that can help you avoid some of the common mistakes made when buying a home.

This agent can direct you to find the other team members that are required like the lender, title company, inspectors and others. Each member of the team has an important role to play that if not done correctly, could cause delays and possibly, jeopardize the transaction.

An important step is getting pre-approved so that you’ll know exactly what price mortgage and home you’ll qualify for. This may even allow you to lock-in a mortgage rate before you contract for a home. The pre-approval could also prove very helpful in negotiating with the seller by removing some of the doubt in their mind regarding an unknown buyer. Another advantage to pre-approval is that if you are competing with multiple offers, you have the advantage of being more of a known commodity.

You’ll need to assemble some documents for the lender including pay stubs from the past two months, W-2’s from last year, proof of additional income, tax returns for the past two years, bank statements for the last three months, list of all open credit accounts and balances, copy of driver’s license and history of residence for past two years.

Buying a home is one of the most important decisions in your life and it should be done with care and research. When all the things are done in the right order, finding the “right” home is just like following a recipe. For more information, download this Buyers Guide that includes great information to help you through the process.

More Time at Home


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We are all spending more time at home and will probably need to continue to do so for a while longer. Depending on the makeup of your family, your home is now a home office, a gym, a virtual classroom and considerably more meals have been prepared in your kitchens in the past six months than normal.

Some businesses have undergone a metamorphosis that has shown them that maybe they do not need the big commercial spaces for their employees. They realize that they can be just as productive with their work force offsite which will cut expenses.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it may be worth exploring what moving would look like for your situation. To analyze the options, you will need to know what your home is worth and what the net proceeds will be after selling it.

You will need to know what homes are available with the amenities you are looking for together with the prices and mortgage money. Depending on the interest rate on your current mortgage, there may not be much difference in payment for a larger mortgage at today’s incredibly low rates.

Another option that some homeowners are considering is to not reinvest all the proceeds from the sale of their existing home into the new home. They are reserving some of the cash as a contingency fund for the unexpected. This strategy is providing peace of mind in uncertain times.

It is said that an investor is faced with three decisions every day: buy, sell, or hold. The equity in a home represents, for most people, their largest investment asset. While it is an asset, it is also an amenity.

Prudential thinking would insist on protecting your investments, but it would also suggest that you would evaluate alternatives to avoid missing opportunities. Having the facts available will make the options clearer and possibly, the decisions will become obvious.

We are available to help you assemble the information you need to consider what is best for you.

Using a $0-Down VA Loan to Purchase a Home


Ask Carolyn Warren

If you are a member of the U.S. Military, you may qualify for a $0-down home loan. Details are below, but first, I want to thank and honor all who served our great country.

Highest respect and gratitude to you, our United States Military Veterans and current members of the United States Military!

The Basics for Qualifying for a VA Home Loan

CREDIT

Perfect credit not required. The most recent 12 months are the most important. If you had difficulty in the past, but are back on track paying your creditors on time, now, that is what underwriting wants to see. Old collections and charge-offs might be ignored, depending on the balance and age.

The mortgage lenders pulls a tri-merge credit report with all three credit scores. The lowest score is thrown out. The middle score is used for qualifying. 640 score preferred, but some lenders go lower.

INCOME

Need…

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Moving “Down” in an “Up” Market


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Selling a home and buying a lower priced home that meets your current needs can be to your advantage in an “Up” market like the current one with low inventory. The advantage is that you can maximize the price for the home you’re selling and not have to reinvest it all in your replacement.

Just to illustrate the point, let’s say there is a 10% premium in the sales price of a home currently. If you’re selling a home for $750,000, it would be $75,000. If you replaced the home with a $500,000 home, the premium would be $50,000 which means you’re $25,000 ahead.

Let’s further assume that your home is debt free so that when you sell it, you have a large cash equity. Instead of paying cash for the replacement home, get an 80% loan at today’s low interest rates and reinvest the proceeds to supplement your retirement.

You may be able to get as low as a 2.5% mortgage and earn significantly more on the proceeds in other investments.

Home prices are up significantly over last year and they’re selling on average in three weeks. Inventory is down and there is less competition for your home than normal which can lead to a higher price. Closed sales increased 9% from August to September according to a Zillow report.

Moving down in an “up” market may be to your advantage. It could lower your cost of housing by saving on property taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance while being able to take cash out of your home to reinvest in your retirement.

You’ll be using “other people’s money” to free up your equity that you can reinvest at a rate higher than you’ll be paying on your mortgage. The difference would be profit.

To explore this opportunity, give me a call and we’ll look at your numbers.

Cutting Your Housing Costs in Half


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Cutting the price will generally bring buyers of anything out of the woodwork that were not serious before. Some renters could easily lower their monthly cost of housing by half or more by purchasing a home with all the financial benefits that come with it.

The most obvious thing in today’s market is that the mortgage payment could be less than the rent the tenants are paying. With mortgage rates hovering around 3%, this is a major factor of the savings.

The two other major contributing factors are appreciation and amortization of the mortgage, neither of which benefit tenants continuing to pay rent. According to the FHFA House Price Index, home prices rose 5.4% from July 2019 to July 2020. There were 400,000 less homes on the market during the summer of 2020 than the previous summer which is influencing appreciation.

With each payment a homeowner makes on their mortgage, a portion is used to reduce the principal amount owed. This is like a savings account for the owner because it lowers their unpaid balance and increases their equity.

The equity becomes an asset that can be accessed by doing a cash-out refinance or a home equity line of credit once the equity has reached 80% loan-to-value.

A $300,000 home purchased with an FHA loan at 3% for 30 years would have a payment of approximately $2,013 including principal and interest, taxes, insurance, and mortgage insurance premium. If the tenant were paying $2,400 in rent, this would be a savings of almost $400 a month.

The monthly principal reduction would average $500 a month for the first year which would lower the net cost of housing. The other major item to consider would be the appreciation. Assuming, in this example, the home was appreciating at 3% annually, the monthly appreciation in the first year would be $750 which would further lower the cost of housing.

Rent $2,400
Total House Payment $2,013
Less Monthly Principal Reduction $513
Less Monthly Appreciation $750
Plus Estimated Monthly Maintenance $200
Net Cost of Housing $950

In this example, it would cost over $1,400 per month more to rent than to own.

A different approach to this would be that the equity in this home in seven years would be $121,579 based on appreciation and principal reduction. If the same person continues to rent, there would be no equity build-up.

If you’re curious as to how much you could cut your housing cost, go to the Rent vs. Own or contact your real estate professional.

Some Mortgage Interest May Not be Deductible


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Banks are concerned about making loans that will be repaid not about making loans that are tax deductible for homeowners. It is good business for the bank but how is the homeowner supposed to know?

Most homeowners and potential homeowners are aware there are tax benefits associated with ownership. For instance, mortgage interest and property taxes have been deductible expenses from federal income tax since it was enacted in 1913.

The current law provides that homeowners can deduct the interest on Acquisition Debt which is the amount of debt incurred to buy, build or improve a first or second home up to $750,000. The amount of acquisition debt decreases as payments are made and it cannot be increased unless the additional funds borrowed are used for capital improvements.

It is not uncommon for a homeowner to refinance their home for any number of reasons. It could be to get a lower interest rate that would lower the payments or remove mortgage insurance. However, when additional funds are borrowed for reasons beyond “buy, build or improve”, the excess is considered personal debt and the interest is not deductible according to IRS.

Maybe this is not important if the owner is taking the standard deduction because it is higher than the total of the property taxes, qualified mortgage interest and charitable deductions made by the taxpayer. Currently, it is estimated that 90% of homeowners are electing to use the increased standard deduction implemented with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

A confusing issue that occurs at the end of the year is when the lender reports to the borrower the amount of interest that was paid. While that amount is most probably accurate, the bank doesn’t know if it is qualified mortgage interest for the borrower.

It is the responsibility of the taxpayer to keep track of outstanding acquisition debt and whether part of the balance is considered personal debt.

Another area where it could become important is if the property was lost due to foreclosure, deed in lieu of foreclosure or a short sale. The provisions of the Mortgage Forgiveness Act have been extended through 12/31/20 which exempts the forgiven debt from being considered income and therefore taxable. However, it only applies to acquisition debt. Any part of a mortgage refinance that is considered personal debt could be taxable in that situation.

As an example, let’s say that homeowners originally borrowed $300,000 to purchase a home that they owned for 15 years. During that time, the home appreciated significantly, and they refinanced it twice. Once, they made some improvements and took out cash to pay off personal loans and the second time, it was only a cash out.

Original acquisition debt $300,000
Remaining acquisition debt including improvements 225,000
Unpaid balance on current mortgage $550,000
Personal debt 325,000

In the example above, the personal debt of $325,000 would be considered income on foreclosure and recognizable as income on that year’s income tax return.

If you have never refinanced your home or have refinanced it but never taken any money out of it except to make capital improvements, your unpaid balance in most likely acquisition debt. However, it you have refinanced your home and pulled money out of it for purposes other than capital improvements, those funds may be considered personal debt.

This article is for information purposes. If you are unclear about the current acquisition debt on your home or need advice for your individual situation, contact your tax professional. Additional information can be found in IRS Publication 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction.

Seven Questions to Ask Before You Choose an Agent


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The concern today when putting your home on the market should not be whether you’ll get a contract; it’s whether you are going to recognize the majority your net proceeds without any unnecessary delays.

What you realize from the sale of your home has to do with maximizing the sales price while minimizing the sales expenses. Interestingly, the buyers will be trying to minimize the price they have to pay for your home and possibly, have you pay some of their expenses.

Taking a few pictures with a cell phone and putting a sign in the yard may be enough to get a buyer but successfully selling a home in today’s market requires expert marketing and expert negotiations.

Marketing begins with the preparation of the property to optimize the first impressions it makes to potential buyers. A skilled professional can make recommendations that can help the home sell for the most money and in the shortest amount of time. Cleaning, painting, depersonalizing, removing unnecessary items and possibly staging are a few of the recommendations you might receive.

93% of buyers rely on the Internet to search for properties and information and is something they engage even before they find an agent. Positioning the home so it only can be found effectively in the search is making it appeal favorably and requires careful consideration.

Professional-level photography will make the property look appealing. Experience knowing the right angles, the proper lighting, and having the right lens are only a few of the things can make a property stand out from the competition.

Negotiations plays a huge part in the sale of any home. There will be negotiations during the offer/contract stage with the buyer and the other agent. After that, there may be negotiations regarding inspections, repairs, the appraisal, or anything that might threaten the ultimate closing.

The following are seven questions that you can ask when interviewing an agent to market your home. The answers should help you evaluate and select an agent who can represent you and your interests.

  1. Do you use a professional photographer?
  2. Have you sold homes in this area recently?
  3. Explain your timetable for preparation, “going live” and market exposure.
  4. Describe your efforts during the negotiation process.
  5. Do you have a pricing analysis, showing actives and solds, for my neighborhood?
  6. Which properties will be our strongest competition?
  7. How do you get the most exposure to get competing offers?

On the surface, it may appear that all agents are the same. They are all be licensed to sell real estate and can put your home in the MLS for other agents to find. Experience and skill sets can vary widely among agents and the questions provided in this article can help you determine who can do the best job for you in today’s environment and the market your home is located.

Four Things Sellers Should Do Before the Sign Goes in the Yard


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Just like buyers should be pre-approved before they begin to look at houses, Sellers should have their home pre-approved. The reasons are similar: appeal to the “right” buyers, discover issues with the home early, improve marketability, increase negotiations position and close quicker.

For the seller, there are few things that need to be done before the sign goes in the yard and definitely before prospective buyers see the home. The first is to understand that once you decide to sell the home that it needs to appeal to the broadest base of buyers and that means depersonalizing your home.

Once the home is sold, you will need to pack your things for the new home. Think of this as starting the process early. Get moving boxes and make decisions on what you intend to give away or discard in each room and closet. Identify and pack those items before the home goes on the market. This will be the first wave of making your home more marketable.

When your home hits the market, it needs to be a neutral commodity and not “your” home. A good rule of thumb is to remove items that involve religion, hunting and sports. That means removing personal items like family photos or collections displayed in the room.

Next, in round two, go through every room to remove the items that make too large of a statement or take up too much room. Pool tables may be appropriate in a game room, but they are not in a dining room or a living room.

Personal collections may have taken you years to accumulate and you’re proud of them but the people who come to see your home will either not appreciate them or they will become distracted by looking at them instead of the home. The livability of your home needs to be the focal point. The buyers need to visualize themselves living in the property that will become “their” home.

The four most important rooms to address are the primary bedroom, kitchen, living room and dining room. These rooms have a major influence on buyers when determining whether “it is the right home.” Bright colors, possibly used as accent walls, should be neutralized.

After you have depersonalized the home and removed non-essential items that could make the rooms or closets look small, you might want to consider another technique referred to as staging. Rearranging furniture so the room shows to its best advantage is simple and doesn’t cost a thing. You might decide that a coffee table or statement piece would be nice and your REALTOR® or stager can suggest a place to rent it rather than buying it.

Once the home is depersonalized and staged, you are ready to have a professional photographer take the pictures that visually describe your home to potential buyers long before they ever look at the home physically. These will be used on websites, portal sites, MLS, and social media. Anyone with a point and shoot camera thinks they are a photographer but a pro with the correct wide angle lens, who understands lighting and has an “eye” for what makes a great picture is worth every dime you’ll spend.

One more consideration should be to have the home inspected before it goes on the market. It won’t replace the buyer’s inspections but it will discover any items that need repair and they should be done before the home goes on the market. This will probably save you money because it might cost less to repair them than they’ll want in second round of negotiations when their inspector finds it.

Another benefit is that if their inspector identifies a problem area that your inspector did not, you have a basis for legitimate disagreement that could just be personal opinion instead of a “fact.”

While the process of depersonalizing should take part before you put the home on the market, you’ll want you have the benefit of your real estate agent’s experience to help you with the process. At age 18, a person can expect to move nine more times but by age 45, they may only expect to move another 2.7 times. Your REALTOR®’s experience can be valuable not only in saving your time and money but actually, make the difference in a successful sale.

Selling or Buying Smart Homes


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More and more homeowners are employing smart home technology within their homes. It may start with a video doorbell or lights and progress to other devices. The smart-home device market is rapidly growing and Forbes research expects it to grow from $55 billion in 2016 to $174 billion in 2025.

The popularity of these high-tech features will require a few additional steps to consider when selling a home. The seller should determine which items will and will not stay with the sale of the home and identify them in the listing agreement.

Confusion can arise when a home’s marketing mentions its smart-home technology and is unclear if a piece like the hub, which is easily considered personal property but is integral to the working of the system. Some might consider it an accessory and others a component.

A smart home can contain multiple technology devices connected to the Internet that allow them to be controlled or accessed from computers, tablets or most commonly, on mobile apps. Many of the devices can also be accessed through a hub like an Amazon Echo or Google Home.

Thermostats and lights may have been some of the first such devices but the video doorbells added a new level of WOW factor by being able to see and talk to the person at your door and even get a video recording. Porch pirates are now seeing their images on social media caught in the act thanks to these devices.

Homeowners sometimes start with one item like a smart sprinkler system control. When they find out how cool it is and that it actually saves them money not to mention how convenient it is, they starting planning their next smart-home device purchase. Some of these items absolutely are permanent and become real property and others, border between personal and real property.

If the seller is including smart devices with the sale of the home, they should have administrative access and any personal information removed and return the devices to the default settings. The seller should also review the privacy settings and delete the permissions for their personal mobile devices. For the benefit of the buyer, any manuals or warranties should be left for the new owner.

Equally as important, the buyer should verify that the smart devices have been returned to their factory settings and no longer coupled with the seller’s mobile devices. The buyers can create their own account to register the devices in their name. Then, as security updates are available, they will be notified. At the same time, the buyer will want to create new access codes and preferences.

Smart Sprinkler Controller


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It seems like most homes have sprinkler systems and if they do, they have some form of controller to automatically turn the water on and off for the time and days you feel necessary. It seems like basic functionality and if it isn’t broken, you may not feel the need to replace it.

Today, there are so many smart home devices that are not only convenient, but they’ll end up saving you enough money to pay for the upgrade. There are different manufacturers, but you should at least consider the Rachio if for no other reason than the easy installation procedure.

The process is simple. Unplug the old controller and disconnect the wires being sure to label which wires went to which stations. Using the Rachio template, mark three spots on the wall, drill holes in the drywall, insert the anchors into the holes and screw the new controller to the wall.

This model has convenient wire connectors that do not require crimping a wire around a screw. It is quick and easy to put the numbered wires in the corresponding slot. The directions are simple and easy to follow. When complete, connect the power source and plug it into a wall socket.

Now, install the Rachio app to your phone and continue following the instructions to connect the controller to the Wi-Fi. In minutes, you’ll be sitting in a lawn chair making adjustments and seeing what it will do.

Some of the features you’ll find very convenient are the multiple schedules that can be created and easily switched from one to another. As you set up each zone, you can take a picture of the area and be able to identify with a glance which area you want when individually selecting one.

Another thing you might like is that when you’re trying to track down a broken head or just need to adjust it, you can turn on a zone from your phone while looking at the yard. When you identify which head is the culprit, turn the water off from your phone, make the adjustment or repair and turn the water back on to test it without having to go back and forth to wherever your controller is located.

Rachio will even monitor the weather to skip a scheduled cycle in case of rain, high wind or freezing temperatures. You could literally be anywhere in the world where you have an Internet connection and you’ll be able to adjust your watering cycle. This device really does save time and money while being fun to operate.

How Does It Measure Up?


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People are always looking for a “down and dirty” way to determine the value of a home and square footage seems to be one of the most common things used by people whether they are buyers, sellers or real estate agents. While it seems straight forward, there are several variances that can lead to inaccurate determinations.

The market data approach to value uses similar properties in size, location, condition and amenities to compare with the subject to arrive at a price. Differences in any of these things can affect the price per square foot. Appraisers are trained and licensed to make these adjustments but the differences are not necessarily objective and that is where opinions start to influence the value.

Even if a person were to make accurate adjustments, they would be based on the assumption that the square footage of the comparable properties is correct. That leads to the next area of concern: how was the subject property measured.

It is commonly accepted to the measure the outside of the dwelling on detached housing. Is it customary in this area to include porches and patios under roof and if so, do they get full value or only partial value? Is there any value given to the garage since it isn’t living area? What about other areas that do not have HVAC coverage?

Some areas don’t give consideration to basement square footage at all. Others might give some value if it is finished or has access directly to the outside like a walk-out basement. Similarly, attic space could be finished and under HVAC but if the ceiling height is not standard for the home, it may not receive value.

The problems become exacerbated when different comparables are not treated consistently and yet the common denominator ends up being an average of the square foot price of each. This is calculated by taking the sales price and dividing it by the number of square feet being quoted.

The source of the square footage should be listed to help determine the accuracy. It could be what the builder said it was to the original purchaser. If there is a set a plans available, that might seem credible but it is not uncommon for the builder to make changes while the home is being built which could increase or decrease the square footage.

Another source is the tax assessor. In many cases, they don’t actually measure the home but take the word of the builders or appraisers for it. If permits were obtained to add on to the home since it was built, it should be reflected in the square footage. However, sometimes permits are not secured properly.

After reading this, you may think that more doubts have been introduced than solutions and you are correct. It takes diligence on the part of all parties to determine the correct amount. The most highly trained person will be the appraiser and they should be measuring the home in its “as is” condition but understand that even a competent person can inadvertently make a mistake.

The Saga of the 2020 Refinance Fee By Stuart Gaston NMLS 1992605 OR/WA


When the initial announcement was made on the evening of Aug 12th, the FHFA ‘adverse market’ LLPA refinance fee caused shockwaves in the industry:

  1. Many trade organizations took issue with the fee itself.  The California Association of Realtors felt it was “taking advantage of the current economic crisis” to raise additional revenue. Some have called it a tax 
  2. The relatively short notice was an unforeseen burden on lenders and consumers alike. The Mortgage Bankers Association called it ill-timed and misguided

Let’s first explore what exactly the fee does and then we’ll review the complex timeframe.

What is the fee?

The Loan-Level Price Adjustment (LLPA) is a fancy acronym for a fee applied to conforming loans that meet the funding limits of the FHFA and the guidelines of the GSEs (Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac).  Conforming loans represent the vast majority of mortgages.  The fee has never applied to nonconforming Jumbo loans over $510,400 nor to VA, USDA and FHA loans.

The -0.50% fee (or 50 bps, pronounced ‘bips’) is for refinances only.   For a $300,000 mortgage that is an extra $1,500.  It’s on top of any “points” someone might be paying at origination. 

They have clarified that the refi fee does not apply to any mortgage under $125,000 nor certain affordable housing programs like Home Ready.

The FHFA says the fee is to offset an estimated $6 billion in losses due to forbearance and foreclosure.  With forbearance numbers around 7%, the GSEs will continue buying conforming loans in forbearance through the end of Sept.  To give some perspective, last year that number was around 2%.

Timing

The fee would have taken effect on Sep 1st – only about two weeks after announcement.  Record low interest rates were already fueling both a refi bonanza and the purchase market.  Even though lenders prioritize purchase transactions, the ‘pipeline’ of underwriting and funding was getting clogged.  65% of those loans were refinances.  The ubiquitous ’30 day lock’ was being pushed over the limit.  Newly locked loans were at 45 or even 60 days.

Here’s the rub: the fee was applied to loans already in the funding pipeline as they pass to the GSEs.

This timing meant that even if a loan was applied for and locked in early July, it would have the fee added as it was delivered to Fannie Mae in September.  The lenders didn’t have any idea in July that this fee was coming and their price sheets were therefore unadjusted.  The banks were caught flat-footed in August and were about to eat a ton of fees come September.

On the morning of Aug 13th originators were scrambling.  Meetings were postponed and phones were ringing off the hook.  Loan officers were locking loans of most prospects to help them avoid the fee, even those who were on the fence.  Sure enough, within hours lenders across the nation started adding the -0.50% fee to their pricing sheets.  Of course any consumer unfortunate enough to be floating a loan without a lock was now having to deal with the fee at closing.  

Then what happened?

The MBA lobbied to have the fee reversed entirely, but on Aug 23rd FHFA acquiesced only partially and the fee was postponed to Dec 1st.  Within days most lenders removed it from their pricing sheets – for a little while.  The -0.50% refinance fee is coming back faster than you think

That’s because Dec 1st is a sneaky date, and here’s why:

  • It’s still the date for the fee to be applied upon delivery to Fannie and Freddy at the end of the multi-month funding pipelinenot the beginning
  • The lenders are determined not to be caught by surprise once again.  Some lenders are already re-implementing the fee on Sep 15th for the consumer

An Aug 28th article in Forbes points out that you shouldn’t delay.   In two words: apply immediately

“Can I refinance after the fee hits?” you ask

Yes, of course.  Folks with an old mortgage at 3.75% or higher can probably still benefit from a refinance at currently low rates, even with this fee.  Please remember Jumbo loans, loans under $125k, or FHA/VA loans don’t get hit with the fee regardless.  There’s no telling when the fee will go away.  If you were considering a refinance anyway, now is the time to apply and get a lock.  You have only few days left to avoid the fee.The opinions expressed on this article are solely those of its author. Stuart Gaston NMLS 1992605 OR/WA stuart@rootmortgage.com

Stuart Gaston
Root Mortgage
Mortgage Advisor
NMLS 1992605
E. stuart@rootmortgage.com  C. 503.913.3285

It’s Worth Digging a Little Deeper


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There are hundreds of thousands of people who believe, for one reason or another, they cannot afford to buy a home currently. Some people may not for any number of reasons but it would be very surprising to know how many who can buy but have gotten some bad information along the way. It’s worth digging a little deeper to find out the facts.

John and Karen have been renting a home for the last five years at $2,000 a month. During that time, the value of the home they were renting went up by $30,000 in value while the unpaid balance decreased by $18, 400. Even though they were fortunate enough the rent remained constant over the five years, they missed out on close to $50,000 of equity that the owner realized instead of them.

Another thing to consider with today’s low interest rates, it is quite common for a mortgage payment to be lower than a tenant is paying rent for a similar property. So, in this example, John & Karen paid more to rent than a house payment would have been and missed out on the equity build-up that occurred due to appreciation and amortization.

The simple fact is when tenants like John and Karen pay their rent, the landlord is the beneficiary of the rent received as well as the equity earned. Over time, the rent paid by John and Karen and other tenants will pay for the landlord’s rental. It a great concept and a good investment.

True, not everyone can afford a home. A buyer needs money for a down payment and closing costs. They also need to have income and good credit to qualify for the mortgage. Some of these may seem insurmountable but instead of imagining that buying a home is not in the cards at the current time, talking to a real estate professional is a better route to take.

There are lots of low-down payment mortgages available including 100% financing for qualified veterans and USDA eligible buyers. It is sometimes more difficult to find sellers willing to pay all or part of a buyers closing costs when inventory is low, but lenders do allow it. It is a matter of finding the willing seller.

The source of the down payment could be a gift from a family member as long as there is no repayment expected. It’s amazing how many parents or grandparents might be willing to help a relative get into a home. Funds for a down payment may be available as loans or withdrawals from qualified retirement programs like IRAs or 401k plans. It’s worth investigating based on what retirement programs you have.

Good credit is necessary to qualify for a loan but buyers should not assume that theirs is not adequate. A trusted mortgage professional can assess a situation and may be able to suggest some things that will not only raise the score enough to be approved but possibly, even raise the score enough to qualify for a better interest rate.

There are a lot of misunderstandings about whether a person can or cannot qualify for a home at this time. Instead of relying on second hand information or something that might be floating around on the Internet, spend some time with a real estate professional who can give you the facts, assess your situation and if necessary, point you in the right direction to get help from a trusted mortgage professional. Call (503) 289-4970 to schedule an appointment where we’ll help you dig deeper to determine whether you can buy a home now.

Download our Buyers Guide to give you more information.

Grilling Safety


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More people grill in July, June & August than any other months and correspondingly, there are more injuries, as well as fires, due to grilling accidents in those months. Even though Labor Day is in September, we still need to be aware of safety.

Close to 20,000 patients per year visit the emergency room due to injuries involving grills. Approximately half of the injuries involving grills are thermal burns. If you are around fire, there’s a chance of getting burned.

About 2/3 of American households own at least one outdoor barbecue, grill or smoker. Interestingly, gas grills contribute to more fires than charcoal grills. In addition, there are over 10,600 home fires started by grills each year.

While grilling is associated with celebrations, good food, fun and friends, it is important to make sure that accidents don’t interrupt your activities.

  • Only use BBQ grills outdoors and in ventilated areas
  • Place the grill away from home or anything that could be flammable
  • Keep grill stable
  • Keep fire under control
  • Keep children away from grill
  • Never leave the grill unattended
  • The grill lid should always be open before lighting it.
  • Grease should not be allowed to build up in the grill
  • Use long-handled utensils

Gas/Propane

  • Check the tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year by using a light soapy water solution to see if bubbles appear.
  • You should not smell gas when the grill is lit. Move away from the grill and call the fire department.
  • If the flame goes out, turn off the gas for 15 minutes and open the lid before re-lighting it.

Charcoal

  • Never add any starter fluid or other flammable liquid to a fire
  • Only use charcoal starter fluid and not gasoline, kerosene or other flammable liquid.
  • Keep starter fluid away from heat sources and out of reach of children.
  • Electric starters have a coil that ignites the charcoal.
  • When finished cooking, close off the grill vents to suffocate the fire and save some of the remaining charcoal.

Practice safe grilling and enjoy any occasion to cook outdoors and share time with your family and friends.