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.