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7 Reasons to Buy a Home

by The Mike Parker Team

Some people don't need a reason to buy a home, they just want it.  That can be enough justification by itself.  Other people need some solid logic before they're ready to make the commitment.  The following reasons might help you to make a decision.

  1. Pride of ownership ... among the most popular reasons given by homebuyers is that they want a place they can call their own and decorate and improve it the way they want.  It is a place to feel safe and secure and a place for their family.  They can share it with their friends and enjoy living in it.
  2. Good investment ... Homeowners have a 80 times greater net worth than renters.  By investing in a home that appreciates over time, it contributes to an increasing equity.  The high loan to value mortgages that are available combined with the low mortgage rates also contribute to the investment through leverage which has been described as "using other people's money" to control an investment.
  3. Interest and property tax deductibility ... Homeowners can deduct their qualified mortgage interest and up to a maximum of $10,000 of their property taxes as itemized deductions on their federal income tax return.  In some instances, the standard deduction may benefit them more, but they can elect to choose either method each year, whichever helps them the most.
  4. Capital gain exclusion ... A single homeowner can exclude up to $250,000 of capital gain and if married filing jointly, can exclude up to $500,000 of gain on their principal residence.  The need to have owned and occupied it as their home for two of the last five years.
  5. Cash out refinance ... Generally speaking, a lender will allow an owner with good credit and income to borrow the difference in their current unpaid balance and 80% of the fair market value.  This money can be used for any purpose and is not a taxable event.
  6. Equity buildup ...The difference in the value of the home and the unpaid mortgage balance is called equity and it increases with each payment made.  It is like automatic savings.
  7. No landlords ... Instead of dealing with landlords who may impose restrictions on things like painting, improvements and pets.  Owners are not concerned about rent increases and will have a fixed principal and interest payment for as long as they have a mortgage.

A bonus reason to buy a home now are the low mortgage rates available. The lowest rate recorded by Freddie Mac is 3.35% in December 2012.  Today's rates are 3.75% on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and 3.21% on a 15-year fixed rate mortgage.  So, they are certainly very close to all-time lows.

The highest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 18.45% in October 1981.  When you put today's rates in perspective, they are an incredible bargain.  Many industry experts expect that they will not remain as low as they are now.  Locking in a low rate can keep your housing costs low.

A $275,000 mortgage at 3.75% for 30 years has a principal and interest payment of $1,273.57.  If the rate goes up by 1%, the payment would increase to $1,434.53 or $160.96 per month for the 30-year term. Check the Rent vs. Own to see how the numbers look in your situation.

What's the Difference in Pre-Qualification and Pre-Approval?

by The Mike Parker Team

Before looking for a home, you need to know how much you can afford. While you may have a number in your head, the lender has the final say. Securing a pre-approval from a lender helps make the home buying process easier and helps to avoid delays.

Many buyers confuse the terms pre-qualification and pre-approval. They mean two different things. In simple terms, a pre-qualification is an estimate of what you can afford. A pre-approval is a conditional approval based on the proof you provide.

The pre-qualification is a preliminary step some borrowers take to get a feel for what price home they can afford. Based on your income, assets, and estimated credit score, lenders can estimate what you can afford.

It's important to know, there's nothing binding about a pre-qualification. It's simply a starting point.   When you are serious about buying a home, though, you want a pre-approval.

Before you shop for a home, meet with a recommended lender to get a pre-approval letter. Sellers and/or Realtors value this letter because it shows you are likely to secure the necessary financing and serious about buying a home.

Lenders meet with you in person to create the pre-approval. You'll provide the lender with all the following:

  • Permission to order your credit report
  • Paystubs, W-2s and/or tax returns to prove your income
  • Asset statements, investment statements or any other proof of assets
  • Proof of employment
  • Any other miscellaneous documentation required by lender

Lenders evaluate the documents and determine your conditional approval. The letter will state the mortgage amount you qualify for, the loan's terms, and any conditions the approval is contingent upon. 

Normally, final approval is contingent on a fully executed sales contract of the property to be purchased, a satisfactory appraisal and clear title on the property.

Once a purchase contract is signed, the lender completes the underwriting on your loan. They will confirm that the property meets the necessary requirements. The lender will also re-confirm your income, assets, employment, and credit information before closing on the loan.

Securing a pre-approval prior to beginning the home buying process will give you confidence and can help your negotiations with the seller. Your REALTOR® can provide you more information in an Buyers Guide and recommendations of trusted lenders.

Buy Your Retirement Home Now

by The Mike Parker Team

Maybe you're not ready to move into it but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't take advantage of the present opportunities to acquire the home you want to live in during retirement. The combination of the low mortgage rates, high rental rates, positive cash flows and tax advantages can help you get it paid for by the time you're ready to move into it.

Your tenant could literally buy your retirement home for you.  One idea would be to finance it with a 15-year loan that will have a lower rate than a 30-year loan and it will obviously be paid for in half the time. With every monthly rental check from your tenant, you make the payment on the mortgage which includes a portion that reduces debt and builds equity. Even if you don't have the home paid for by the time you retire, your equity will be larger. 

Consider you sell your current home which could be paid for by then when you are ready to move into this retirement home .  Taxpayers can exclude up to $500,000 of tax-free gain for a married couple. That profit could be used to fund your retirement.

Even if you don't retire to this home, it could be a placeholder to control the costs of the home you do move into.  For example, you could buy a home in a destination location now, rent it out and build equity in it until you're ready to use it as your principal residence.  That home would have kept pace with other homes in the area so that you would not be priced out of the market you want to retire to.

With home prices and mortgage rates certain to rise, this may be one of the best decisions you can make. We want to be your personal source of real estate information and we're committed to helping from purchase to sale and all the years in between.

Contact us if you'd like to talk about the idea or if you need a recommendation of real estate professional in another city.

Time for a Toilet Upgrade

by The Mike Parker Team

Whether it is a cosmetic or a mechanical reason for upgrading a toilet, you may not know all the choices that are involved to choose the right one for your home.  The current toilet may have cracks or leaks in the bowl or tank.  It could be the aggravation of constant clogging or inefficient flushing.  Maybe there is damage in the porcelain bowl or built-up mineral deposits that are clogging the inlet holes or syphon tube.

If frequent repairs have you on a first name basis with the plumber, it may be time to consider replacing the toilet.  There are a lot of things to consider and the following list may help you sort through the choices.

  • Round, oval or compact oval ... There are two basic shapes of toilets: round and oval.  The round bowl requires less space and are less expensive.  The oval or elongated tend to be more comfortable but require more space from the wall than round ones.  Most manufacturers produce a compact oval model also.
  • One-piece, two-piece and wall hung ... Manufacturers make one-piece models that mold the tank and bowl into one unit.  These can be a little more expensive, but they take up less space.  The two-piece with separate tank and bowl are more common.  The wall hung requires less space and make the room look larger, but installation will be more expensive. 
  • Height ... Standard toilet height is 15 inches.  An alternative to the standard is a comfort height which is more like a chair at 17-19 inches tall.  This can be an advantage for older and taller people as well as those with a mobility problem. 
  • Trapway - The trapway is a channel from the bottom of the bowl to the drainpipe that also keeps gas entering the home from the sewer.  While the trapway shows on the outside of most models, there are skirted or concealed models available for a more aesthetic appearance.
  • Single or dual flush ... Single flush toilets use the same volume of water each time it is flushed.  Dual flush toilets have two options for flushing liquid or solid waste.  This gives the user the ability to conserve water when appropriate.
  • Water per flush ... In an effort to save water, in 1995 the Department of Energy required toilets to use 1.6 gallons per flush.  Since then, California and Georgia, increased the restriction to 1.28 gpf which saves 20% more water.
  • Gravity-feed or pressure assisted - For four hundred years, gravity has been used to move the water through a flushable toilet bowl to eliminate the waste.  As water restrictions were added, pressure assisted toilets were introduced to assist the lower volume of water.  A sealed cylindrical tank inside the ceramic toilet tank provides the additional pressure.  These types of toilets are nosier than conventional flush types.

Once you've decided on what features are important, you can shop brands that fit your needs.  If you're curious to what kind of a job it is to install it, there are lots of videos on YouTube that will show you in detail what to expect.  Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, you'll understand the process more.

To Do Lists for Better Homeowners

by The Mike Parker Team

Checklists work because they contain the important things that need to be done.  They provide a reminder about things we know and realize but may have slipped our minds as well as inform us about things we didn't consider.  Periodic attention to these areas can protect the investment in your home.

  1. Change HVAC filters regularly.  Consider purchasing a supply of the correct sizes needed onlineand they'll even remind you when it's time to order them again.
  2. Change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors annually.
  3. Create and regularly update a Home Inventory to keep track of personal belongings in case of burglary or casualty loss.
  4. Keep track of capital improvements, with a Homeowners Tax Guide, made to your home throughout the year that increases your basis and lowers gain.
  5. Order free credit reports from all three bureaus once a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com
  6. Challenge your property tax assessment when you receive that year's assessment when you feel that the value is too high.  We can supply the comparable sales and you can handle the rest.
  7. Establish a family emergency plan identifying the best escape routes and where family members should meet after leaving the home.
  8. If you have a mortgage, verify the unpaid balance and if additional principal payments were applied properly.  Use a Equity Accelerator to estimate how long it will take to retire your mortgage.
  9. Keep trees pruned and shrubs trimmed away from house to enhance visual appeal, increase security and prevent damage.
  10. Have heating and cooling professionally serviced annually.
  11. Check toilets periodically to see if they're leaking water and repair if necessary.
  12. Clean gutters twice a year to control rainwater away from your home to protect roof, siding and foundation.
  13. To identify indications of foundation issues, periodically, check around perimeter of home for cracks in walls or concrete.  Do doors and windows open properly? 
  14. Peeling or chipping paint can lead to wood and interior damage.  Small areas can be touched-up but multiple areas may indicate that the whole exterior needs painting.
  15. If there is a chimney and fires are burned in the fireplace, it will need to be inspected and possibly cleaned.
  16. If the home has a sprinkler system, manually turn the sprinklers on, one station at a time to determine if they are working and aimed properly.  Evaluate if the timers are set properly.  Look for pooling water that could indicate a leak underground.
  17. Have your home inspected for termites.

Instead of remembering when you need to do these different things, use your calendar to create a system.  As an example, make a new appointment with "change the HVAC filters" in the subject line.  Select the recurring event button and decide the pattern.  For instance, set this one for monthly, every two months with no end date.  You can schedule a time or just an all-day event will show at the top of your calendar that day.

By scheduling as many of these items as you can, you won't forget that they need to be done.  If you don't delete them from the calendar, you'll continue to be "nagged" until you finally do them.

If you have questions or need a recommendation of a service provider, give us a call at (859) 647-0700.  We deal with issues like this regularly and have experience with workers who are reputable and reasonable.

Reasons Rental Homes Rank Highest

by The Mike Parker Team

Single family homes offer the investor an opportunity to borrow large loan-to-value loans at fixed interest rates for long terms.  Lenders will loan 75-80% of the purchase price at 5.5% to 6.5% interest rate for thirty years.  Compare that with other popular investment alternatives like precious metals, commodities, stocks, and mutual funds and it will be hard to find financing available at all. 

There may be some short term, one-year, loans at a floating rate tied to prime plus with no guarantee that it will be renewed.  Some of those loans require you to have a 50% margin of equity and if the value goes down, you'll have to put up additional cash or be forced to sell.

The advantage of having long-term mortgages is that an investor could find the optimal time to sell the property instead of needing to sell it because the term is due, and no other financing is available.   Supply and demand cause the real estate market to be higher and lower and a long-term mortgage provides options to sell when the price is optimal.

Single family homes enjoy distinct tax advantages.  If the rental or investment property is held for more than 12 months, the gain is taxed at lower, long-term capital gains rates rather than ordinary income rates.

Another advantage of rental homes is that the improvements can be depreciated over a 27.5-year life.  This is a non-cash deduction that reduces income and shelters income.  The accumulated depreciation taken over the life of the property is recaptured when the property is sold.

Since rental homes provide income that other investments may not, tax would have to be recognized on the annual income.  IRS allows normal operating expenses like interest, property taxes, insurance, repairs, and management to be deducted including the annual depreciation.

Rental and investment property are eligible for tax-deferred exchanges to avoid paying tax at the time of disposition.  Real estate also enjoys stepped-up basis which means that when an heir inherits a property, instead of having a potential gain from the value the decedent had purchased it for less depreciation taken, the heir's basis becomes the fair market value at time of death.  All potential gain may be permanently avoided.

Appreciation is a much-anticipated benefit of real estate because value tends to go up over time.

Another big benefit is the control that an investor has with rentals that is not available with other investments like stocks, bonds, or commercial real estate.  It takes a relatively small amount of cash to control the entire investment in a home that wouldn't be available in other investments without partners or publicly traded companies.

Single family homes are an investment that homeowners understand because they are essentially the same as the home they live in.  They're used for rental purposes but the maintenance is the same, the service providers are the same, and the neighborhood are the same.  Most homeowners understand rentals far better than alternative investments.

Contact me at (859) 647-0700 if you'd like to know more about rental property.

Do You Know the Way?

by The Mike Parker Team

Fear of the unknown is common among all ages.  Kids, at night, imagine monsters in their closets or under their beds and adults are unsure of what the future might bring.

It may be natural for first-time buyers to be unsure of the process because they haven't been through it before but even repeat buyers need to know changes that have taken place since the financial housing crisis.

The steps in the home buying process are very predictable and generally follow the same pattern every time.  It certainly makes the move stay on schedule when you know all the different things that must be done to get to the closing.

  • In the initial interview with your real estate professional, you share the things you want and need in a home, discuss available financing and learn how your agent can represent you in the transaction.
  • The pre-approval step is essential for anyone using a mortgage to purchase a home to assure that they're looking at the right price of homes and so they'll know what they can qualify for and what the interest will be.
  • Even with lower than normal inventory, it is difficult to stay up-to-date with the homes currently for sale and the new one just coming on the market.  Technology has simplified this process, but the buyer needs to implement them.
  • Showings can be accommodated online through virtual tours, drive-bys and finally, a personal tour through the home.  Your real estate professional can work with you to see all the homes in the market through REALTORS, builders or for sale by owners.
  • When a home has been identified, an offer is written and negotiation over price, condition and terms takes place.
  • A contract is a fully negotiated, written agreement.
  • Escrow is opened to deposit the earnest money from the buyer as a sign they're acting in good faith.  The title search is also started so that clear title can be conveyed from the seller to the buyer and that the lender will have a valid lien on the property.
  • 88% of home sales involve a mortgage.  The lender will require an appraisal to be sure that the home can serve as partial collateral for the loan.  If the buyer has been pre-approved, the verifications will be updated to be certain that they're still valid.  The entire loan package when completed, is sent to underwriting for final approval.
  • When the contract is completed, at the same time the title search and mortgage approval are being worked on, the buyer will arrange for any inspections that were called for in the contract.
  • After all contingencies have been completed, the transaction goes to settlement where all the necessary papers are signed, and the balance of the buyer's money is paid.  This is where title transfers from the seller to the buyer.
  • Possession occurs according to the sales contract.

One of the responsibilities of your real estate professional is to make sure that things are done in a timely manner so that the transaction will close according to the agreement on time and without unforeseen or unnecessary problems.

Even if you're not ready to buy or start looking yet, you need to be assembling your team of professionals.  Let us know and we'll send you our recommendations, so you can read about them on their websites.

If you have any questions, download this Buyers Guide and call us at (859) 647-0700; we're happy to help.  Informed buyers lead to satisfied homeowners and that is better for everyone involved.


Depends If You Can Afford It

by The Mike Parker Team

Affordability, stability and flexibility are the three reasons homebuyers overwhelmingly choose a 30-year term.  The payments are lower, easier to qualify for the mortgage and they can always make additional principal contributions.

However, for those who can afford a higher payment and commit to the 15-year term, there are three additional reasons: lower mortgage interest rate, build equity faster and retire the debt sooner.

The 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is the loan of choice for first-time buyers who are more likely to use a minimum down payment and are concerned with affordable payments.  For a more experienced buyer who doesn't mind and can qualify making larger payments, there are some advantages. 

Consider a $200,000 mortgage at 30 year and 15-year terms with recent mortgage rates at 4.2% and 3.31% respectively.  The payment is $433.15 less on the 30-year term but the interest being charged is higher.  The total interest paid by the borrower if each of the loans was retired would be almost three times more for the 30-year term.

Let's look at a $300,000 mortgage with 4.41% being quoted on the 30-year and 3.84% on the 15-year.  The property taxes and insurance would be the same on either loan.  The interest rate is a little over a half a percent lower on the 15-year loan, but it also has a $691.03 higher principal and interest payment due to the shorter term.

The principal contribution on the first payment of the 30-year loan is $401.56 and it is $1,235.09 on the 15-year loan.  The mortgage is being reduced by $833.53 more which exceeds the increased payment on the 15-year by $142.50.  Interestingly, over three times more is being paid toward the principal.

Some people might suggest getting a 30-year loan and then, making the payments as if they were on a 15-year loan.  That would certainly accelerate amortization and save interest.  The real challenge is the discipline to make the payments on a consistent basis if you don't have to.  Many experts cite that one of the benefits of homeownership is a forced savings that occurs due to the amortization that is not necessarily done by renters.

Use this 30-year vs. 15-year financial app to compare mortgages in your price range.  A 15-year mortgage will be approximately half a percent cheaper in rate.  You can also check current rates at FreddieMac.com.

When It's Important - Find the Facts

by The Mike Parker Team

 

Most parents don't put a lot of credence in the statements "Everyone is doing it" and "No one does that anymore."  They'll dig a little deeper and get the facts of the situation.  Interestingly, when it comes to buying a home, similar common myths continue to prevail surrounding what it takes to buy a home.

One of the most common myths is that it takes 20% down payment to get into a home.  Certainly, an 80% mortgage might have the most favorable interest rate. It won't require mortgage insurance and qualifying requirements might be a little less but there are alternatives.

"88% of all buyers financed their homes last year and consistent with previous years, younger buyers were more likely to finance their home purchase.  In 2018, the median down payment was 13% for all buyers, 7% for first-time buyers and 16% for repeat buyers." Stated by the 2018 NAR Profile of Buyers and Sellers.

  • Qualified Veterans are eligible for zero down payment, 100% mortgage loans without mortgage insurance.
  • Conventional loans are available with as little as 3-5% down payments.
  • FHA mortgages have a 3.5% down payment.
  • USDA mortgages for rural housing have two major products: one does not require a down payment and the other has a 3% down payment.  Maps, based on population numbers, are available to determine if the area you're interested in purchasing in is eligible for a USDA mortgage.

We've come to believe that facts can be instantly verified by searching on the Internet.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of things on the Internet that are questionable and certainly, that includes some information on mortgages.  Specifically, some loans are not available in certain areas and to a particular persons based on their income and credit history.

The best approach, when it comes to buying a home, is to get the facts from a knowledgeable and trusted loan professional before you begin the home search process.  Contact me at (859) 647-0700 for a recommendation.

 A website may not provide relevant information for your individual situation.  Purchasing a home is a large investment and taking the time to find out the facts is worth the effort.

 

When It's Important - Find the Facts

by The Mike Parker Team

 

Most parents don't put a lot of credence in the statements "Everyone is doing it" and "No one does that anymore."  They'll dig a little deeper and get the facts of the situation.  Interestingly, when it comes to buying a home, similar common myths continue to prevail surrounding what it takes to buy a home.

One of the most common myths is that it takes 20% down payment to get into a home.  Certainly, an 80% mortgage might have the most favorable interest rate. It won't require mortgage insurance and qualifying requirements might be a little less but there are alternatives.

"88% of all buyers financed their homes last year and consistent with previous years, younger buyers were more likely to finance their home purchase.  In 2018, the median down payment was 13% for all buyers, 7% for first-time buyers and 16% for repeat buyers." Stated by the 2018 NAR Profile of Buyers and Sellers.

  • Qualified Veterans are eligible for zero down payment, 100% mortgage loans without mortgage insurance.
  • Conventional loans are available with as little as 3-5% down payments.
  • FHA mortgages have a 3.5% down payment.
  • USDA mortgages for rural housing have two major products: one does not require a down payment and the other has a 3% down payment.  Maps, based on population numbers, are available to determine if the area you're interested in purchasing in is eligible for a USDA mortgage.

We've come to believe that facts can be instantly verified by searching on the Internet.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of things on the Internet that are questionable and certainly, that includes some information on mortgages.  Specifically, some loans are not available in certain areas and to a particular persons based on their income and credit history.

The best approach, when it comes to buying a home, is to get the facts from a knowledgeable and trusted loan professional before you begin the home search process.  Contact me at (859) 647-0700 for a recommendation.

 A website may not provide relevant information for your individual situation.  Purchasing a home is a large investment and taking the time to find out the facts is worth the effort.

 

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 387

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Photo of Mike Parker - CRS Real Estate
Mike Parker - CRS
HUFF Realty
60 Cavalier Blvd.
Florence KY 41042
859-647-0700
859-486-3300