Real Estate Information Archive

Blog

Displaying blog entries 1-4 of 4

Know Your Buyer Responsibilities

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI
Your role during the escrow process should be an active one. Don’t wait for the seller to volunteer information – stay on top of it yourself and take reasonable care, along with me, your agent, to protect yourself.

For example, when you review the Transfer and Disclosure Statement, TDS, keep an eye out for questions answered "unknown" or left unanswered. Ask about them until you are satisfied with the answers.

Let's talk about your specific concerns or plans for the property. Concerned about the open parcel behind the house? Ask about it!

You may also wish to investigate the following non-physical conditions, including:

  • Governmental zoning, requirements and limitations
  • Governmental permits, inspections or certificates
  • Limitations, restrictions and requirements affecting use of the property
  • Rent and occupancy control
  • Schools
  • Proximity and adequacy of law enforcement, crime statistics, proximity of registered sex offenders (see section on Megan’s Law) and other criminals
  • Proximity to fire, police and other services
  • Proximity to commercial, industry or agricultural activities
  • Existing and proposed transportation, construction and development, which may affect noise, view or traffic, airport noise, or odor
  • Wild and domestic animals, other nuisances, hazards or circumstances
For Further Protection – Home Warranties: Home warranties have become a more popular option on homes for sale. For protection you may wish to have a home warranty that either you or the seller pays for. (It’s negotiable.) Warranties range in price from $300 - $600 and, for a fixed rate, generally cover limited aspects including plumbing, electrical, pest control and a host of other related areas. If you have a problem, generally you’ll pay $35-$50 to have a professional come out inspect and fix problems that are covered. Warranty agents typically are on hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take your calls in emergencies.

The Challenges of Pricing Your Home

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI
Why is it that some homes sit on the market for a year while others sell like hot cakes?

Frustrated sellers will blame a bad market, while a good real estate professional will tell you that many times, a slow sale is often attributed to the listing price.

If a home is overpriced, buyers will stay away. But, if the price is competitive with similar homes in the area and “shows” better than the competition, it will have a better chance of being sold quickly.

The secret is perfecting a technique that’s as American as apple pie: comparative shopping.
Although comparing houses with different styles, square-footages and locations is challenging, real estate professionals still feel it’s one of the best methods to use when determining a home’s market value.

A responsible real estate agent will effectively evaluate a home’s worth through a process known as Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). Taking a look at assets, such as a swimming pool, bigger than normal living spaces, a fantastic view, adjacent city parks and other attractions, the agent will begin to compare your home with similar properties, called “comparables,” that have sold in the area within the last six months. Typically, it is a realistic price range that will ensure you top dollar and a reasonably quick sale.

However, factors such as the amount of time needed to sell your home can affect the agent's price recommendation dramatically.

I can determine the typical duration that listings are on the market and can explain that the marketing “norms” vary with prices and properties. Based on this criteria, we will be able to sell your house for a price that both you and the buyer will be happy with. However, if you’re under time constraints because of unexpected job changes or moving agreements you’ve made on another property, this will narrow your chances of selling the home for top dollar in the market.
Assuming you have sufficient time to market the home, here are a few small steps you and your agent can take to finding the right price for your property.

The best comparisons can be made with similar homes that have been sold within the last 45 days as opposed to the standard six months. Any longer, and other factors, such as the economy, could cloud your view of how much your home is really worth.

Another good benchmark is to review the selling prices of homes that have just been sold and are pending closes. Most MLS services provide information on deals pending that most real estate agents should be able to share with you.

A good rule of thumb before setting a price is to make 20 comparisons of comparable properties within a one-mile radius of your house. Once completed you can feel comfortable that the price you’ve picked is a good gauge of the home’s worth and won’t discourage qualified buyers.

Being open and honest about what you see as the home’s greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses will also help your agent get a better feel for how to best evaluate (or assess) and market your home. Think of your home as if you were the buyer. If your home is listed at the right price, you’re well on your way to a speedy and fruitful sale.

The Pre-Approval Letter - What It Really Means

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI
Though you may be willing to spend a certain amount, the real determination of how much house you can afford is driven by how much a lender calculates you can afford. So before you begin to search for the perfect house, it is very important to begin the home buying process by getting pre-approved. Getting pre-approved for a home mortgage loan will provide you with a preliminary statement on the size of loan for which you can qualify. Knowing this, you can then focus your home search.

In general, lenders allow your total monthly housing costs to go as high as but not more than 30 percent of your gross monthly income. The second requirement is that not more than 36 percent of your gross monthly income can be tied up in the total monthly house payment and payments on long-term debt.

Lenders use slightly different formulas for determining the "total monthly house payment.” These costs generally include the mortgage principal and interest payment, property taxes as a monthly sum, and hazard insurance as a monthly sum. These four items are referred to as PITI (principal, interest, taxes and insurance). Other costs may be included in this calculation if your down payment is less than 20 percent or if you are responsible for homeowner’s association dues. The calculations may vary from lender to lender, but will provide you with a gauge.
The Preapproval Letter

Your friends and family may know you to be reliable, dependable and someone who pays bills on time, but all others in a real estate transaction will require you to prove it. That’s where preapproval comes in. A preapproval letter is more reliable than a pre-qualification letter. In the preapproval process, a lender will examine your finances and will make a preliminary statement on the size of the loan for which you’ll qualify.

Preapproval is an involved process. The lender will take all pertinent information regarding your finances and perform an extensive check on your current financial status. This procedure will ultimately give you the exact loan amount that you will be eligible for (depending on what type of loan you decide to select.) Being preapproved lets the seller know that you have gone through an extensive financial evaluation and there should be no unexpected obstacles to buying the home. It makes your offer much more powerful.

Preapproval gives you a very good indication of:

  • How much down payment you’ll need
  • Your closing costs
  • Your monthly payment (including PITI: principal, interest, taxes and insurance)
  • The type of loan for which you qualify and which best suits your needs; and,
  • Special programs for which you may be qualified, including those for veterans, first-time buyers, teachers, etc.
  • To become preapproved you will need to provide a lender with the following:
  • Your employment and income history (including recent pay stubs)
  • Your monthly debts
  • The amount and source of cash available for the down payment and closing costs
Pre-approval letters are not binding on the lender, they are subject to an appraisal of the home you want to purchase and are time sensitive. If your financial situation changes, interest rates rise or a pre-determined date passes, the lender will review your situation and recalculate your maximum mortgage amount accordingly. You can research lenders yourself and ask them to pre-approve you.

Examining Your Credit History

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

As indicated earlier, your credit report and history are key to obtaining your home loan. We encourage you to view your credit report yourself, prior to the lender’s viewing of it, by contacting one or all three of the major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. All you have to do is call and request it. Once you receive it, check the "high credit limit," "total loan," and "past due" columns. It is a good idea to get copies from all three companies to assure there are no mistakes since any of the three could be providing a report to your lender. Fees, ranging from $5-$20, are usually charged to issue credit reports.

Credit reporting companies:

You can also get a copy of your credit history at the following online locations:

www.freecreditreport.com
www.creditreports.com

What if I find a mistake in my credit history?
You can correct simple mistakes by writing to the reporting company, pointing out the error, and providing proof of the mistake. You can also request to have your own comments added to explain problems. For example, if you made a payment late due to illness, explain that for the record. Lenders usually understand about legitimate problems.

What about my overall (or FICO) score? What does it mean?
Prior to the late 1990s, credit scoring had little to do with mortgage lending. When reviewing your credit worthiness, an underwriter would make a subjective decision based on past payment history. Then things changed.

Lenders studied the relationship between credit scores and mortgage delinquencies and found a definite relationship. Almost half of those borrowers with FICO scores below 550 became ninety days delinquent at least once during their mortgage. On the other hand, only two out of every 10,000 borrowers with FICO scores above eight hundred became delinquent.

When can I stretch the percentages?
Depending on your area's housing market, lenders sometimes will allow you to stretch their allowable debt ratios. One of the best ways to encourage your lender to do so is to increase your down payment, as indicated in the following chart:

Allowable Monthly Housing Expense

Underwriters sometimes also will stretch the ratios for other "compensating factors," including:

  • Strong cash reserves after close of escrow
  • A new payment that’s only slightly higher than current rent or mortgage payment
  • A history of increasing earning capabilities
  • A history of an ability to save money
  • A large cash down payment

Displaying blog entries 1-4 of 4

Share This Page

Contact Information

Photo of Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, SRES, SFR Real Estate
Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, SRES, SFR
Iowa Realty
3521 Beaver Ave.
Des Moines IA 50310
515-240-2692
Fax: 515-453-6404
 

 

 

Licensed in the State of Iowa