Posts Tagged ‘how much home should I buy’

School Districts, Property Values, and Covid

August 11, 2020

Historically, the quality of the local school district has had a significant impact on home values.   The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported over a quarter of 2019 home buyers considered school quality as an important factor when buying a new home, and also reported that over one half of home buyers with children move based on school districts alone.

Is Covid causing any new trends?  Well, according to a recent HousingWire article, virtual learning in our pandemic world could significantly reduce the impact of school quality on a home’s value.  According to the article, home buyers now give greater weight to other non-school factors due to COVID-19.  As mentioned in a previous post, 2020 home buyers focus more on outdoor space and home office space.  We will have to see how permanent this trend becomes, but right now given virtual school and virtual work, proximity to school and work is no longer as important as before.

One San Francisco Realtor noted that school quality was a consideration in 100% of 2019 home purchase transactions.  To repeat, school was important in every transaction regardless of the buyer’s age and stage in life.  That same Realtor says that now, school quality is not coming up anymore.  “Like zero.  People aren’t even talking about schools.”

A Massachusetts Realtor reported that now, his clients are focusing on suburbs and homes with yards.  He reported that with a focus on yards and home offices, home buyers are willing to compromise regarding the area schools.  The trend, for now, is a focus on space, not school district.

Does the pandemic make you want a nice yard to entertain friends (social distancing of course), or do you need a home with more room for a home office and virtual learning?  If you answered “Yes,” and you live in Georgia, give me a call.  Interest rates are at historic lows, so now is a GREAT time to buy a home.  I will work with you and your Realtor to give you the best possible mortgage experience, getting you into a pandemic-friendly home as soon as possible.

COVID Could Negatively Impact the Rental Market

June 18, 2020

It’s fascinating to see studies about how the pandemic could impact the future residential real estate market.  The latest Mortgage Blog post noted that many city dwellers are now considering a move to the suburbs.  Here’s another impact:  A recent renters survey showed that 35.9% of all renters say they likely will not renew their lease, while another 38% are not sure or are somewhat likely to renew their lease.  Most striking is that 41.6% of renters who pay $1,750 or more per month say they will likely not renew their lease.  The article states that apartment fitness centers, pools, and clubhouses closed due to the pandemic contributed to this renter sentiment.

As someone who likes growing my net worth, I must say this survey makes sense to me.  At today’s historically low interest rates, it is possible for someone in the Atlanta area to buy a $300,000 home with a 5% down payment, and have a mortgage payment of only about $1,750 per month.  (This assumes a 3.5% interest rate.)  With a monthly rent payment, the entire amount is an expense.  Renters do not build wealth from their residence.  But a home buyer begins building her net worth with her first mortgage payment.  For the scenario mentioned here, the very first mortgage payment includes $448.53 of principal, or equity in the home.  So only $1,302 is an expense.  That seems like a better use of money to me.

And, given recent home price appreciation, it is reasonable to assume that an owner’s home will appreciate over time, building additional wealth.  So home owners build wealth with appreciation over time and with each payment.  My question is, “Why would someone pay $1,750 in monthly rent when they could own a $300,000 home instead?”  I suppose I can understand if people love their apartment’s amenities or if they don’t want to deal with home maintenance issues.

But many people believe myths that make them think they cannot buy, when they actually can.  One myth is that a buyer must make a 20% down payment.  I have closed many mortgages where the home buyer made only a 3% down payment.  And I’ve closed VA loans where the borrower paid $0 down.  To fund 3% down payment a buyer can get a gift from a relative or perhaps borrow from a 401K account.  Another myth people believe is that they must have “great” credit.  Even in the pandemic world, we can close mortgages for people with a 620 credit score.  And there are ways to improve a credit score over time.

Would you like to grow your wealth every month with homeownership in Georgia instead of making an expense-only rent payment?  If yes, contact me today.  We can start planning now to help you buy a home as soon as possible.

 

 

Moving to the suburbs?

June 16, 2020

Another change in sentiment from Covid is the possibility of people moving from the city and into the suburbs. A recent Harris poll stated about a third of those surveyed are considering moving to the suburbs in light of the pandemic.

Larger lots… more green space… less population density… easier to get to grocery stores… these are essential items for those surveyed considering moving out from the city. Couple this with the my recent post detailing an increased desire for dedicated home office space, we have definite trend changes in home buying due to Covid.

Homes are going fast right now. I’m seeing my clients getting under contract on homes just hitting the market. How does one set their offer apart from such a competitive field. Consider either:

  1. Making a non-contingent offer. If one qualifies to carry two mortgages, it makes the offer more appealing to the seller when they see the offer to buy their home is not contingent on the sale of the potential buyer’s home.
  2. Getting pre-underwritten. Using a “TBD” underwrite strategy is great for potential offers. The seller knows the potential buyer’s credit file (credit score, income, assets) has been reviewed and approved. This gives the seller more confidence the potential buyer’s offer will close.

Using either one (or both) of these options can set an offer apart from others in such a crowded market.

The purchase market is definitely hot right now. If you are buying in the state of Georgia, contact me today. We can get you prequalified and on your way to a “TBD” underwrite to help make your offer more competitive and stand out in the crowd.

Furloughs, layoffs, and low rates

June 9, 2020

The Covid-19 virus created a = interesting dynamic in the housing market (and also for those looking to refinance). The impact on the economy helped push interest rates down to record/near record levels. Covid also caused unemployment to jump for record lows to around 15% (before improving some from the May jobs report).

This combination is interesting for home buyers and home owners. Yes, rates are low (super low). Yet millions of people considering a home loan find themselves either temporarily furloughed and/or laid off from their jobs. The income needed to qualify to take advantage of these super low rates is now missing.

How does one qualify when furloughed/returning to work. It is not as bad as one may think:

  • for those who received a temporary reduction in pay, an updated pay stub showing the new income. Also an updated verification of employment from HR stating the new pay. As long as the buyer still qualifies at the reduced pay, then no need to wait for their salary go back to normal.
  • for those who are furloughed, so far all that is being required is an updated pay stub showing normal income and documentation from HR (such as a letter or an updated Written Verification of Employment) stating the employee is no longer furloughed and back to work full time.
  • for those laid off and finding a new job, if the new job is a W2 salaried position, the first pay stub at the new job.

One doesn’t need to worry about a job gap at this time. When out of work for 6+ months, additional requirements could apply. Considering furloughs/lay offs began in mid March, we are well inside of the 6 month time frame for being unemployed.

I’ve even helped someone buy a home who was furloughed and the brought back to work at 75% of their normal salary. As long as one qualifies at the reduced level, we are good to go.

Two areas I did not touch on that are very important – self employed and those who took advantage of mortgage forbearance. My colleague Rodney Shaffer posted on these topics last month, and you can find those posts here (for self employed) and here (for forbearance).

Covid-19 causing problems for your home buying plans? Impacted by being furloughed, laid off, or a reduction in pay? This doesn’t mean buying a home in 2020 is no longer an option. Contact me today! If buying a home in the state of Georgia, we can run some numbers and see where everything stands. You may be able to buy a home faster than you think!

Pandemic baby boom?

May 26, 2020

Recent comments coming from the Mortgage Brokers Association point to another potential increase to housing demand. The theory is pretty simple based on most of population being asked to stay at home:

  • toward the end of this year/early 2021, there will be a baby boom.
  • there will more than likely be an uptick in divorce filings.
  • many families will want homes with better home office space.

If extremely low inventory wasn’t frustrating enough, the market could see even more buyers coming into it for the reasons listed above. How can one make their offer stand out in such a competitive market?

As mentioned on this blog in previous posts, the best way to make an offer on a home is with a credit approved offer letter. Simply apply for the loan with a “TBD address.” We’ll collect bank statements, pay stubs, tax returns, and submit the file for an underwriting review.

Once approved, the offer letter to the seller will say the file has been reviewed and approved by underwriting. All in the way of getting a loan approval is an appraisal, home insurance, and clear title. Doing this will set your offer apart from others.

Ready to buy in the delayed but not hopping spring market? Want to set your offer apart from others? If buying in the state of Georgia, contact me today! We can get started, pre-underwrite your file, and help you make a strong offer to purchase your next home.

Will home values drop?

May 12, 2020

Will home values drop? Many, many people want to know as the housing market is a major economic indicator for the U.S. If a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is true, we may not experience much of a decline in values.

While home buyers hope values will reduce given the Covid-19 situation, the NAR survey seems to indicate values will hold steady for a few reasons:

  • available homes for sale are lower than normal due to the pandemic impact on the market. A lower supply of homes will mitigate a dramatic drop of home values.
  • NAR expects the normal Spring market activity will shift to later in 2020 as the country/economy/our lives/etc. shift back toward “normal.”
  • with forbearance and most people who filed for unemployment benefits in the “furlough” and not “laid off” category, there is not the concern over high numbers of foreclosures.

So far sellers are holding firm to their list prices with roughly 70% saying they have not lowered prices to attract buyers. About 60% of sellers in the survey admit Covid is only delaying them selling their home this year at their originally intended list price.

In the same survey, about 60% of buyers felt home values would drop due to less competition of people out looking to purchase homes. While the demand for those looking may be down, the supply of homes is also down. As I mentioned earlier in this post, the lack of available homes may mitigate any drop of home values.

What should a buyer do? This is a national survey, so let me address more of the local market.

My advice to buyers is always this… if you find the home meeting your needs, go ahead and make an offer on the home. You cannot always count on the next home being there, or hoping values drop, or hoping mortgage rates stay low. If the home is the right one, go for it!

Buyers are heading back out into the market place. Over the past two weeks, I’ve had several clients go under contract to purchase their new home. The homes under contract went for near, at, or more than the list price. Some of my clients were involved in multiple offer situations.

In other words, in metro Atlanta, it appears recently listed home values are holding and buyers are headed back out into the market. I had one agent tell me there is one home for every three buyers in the metro Atlanta market. If the statement is true, it is still a seller’s market and home values may not come crashing down as some hope (at least not in the near term).

Looking to get out into the delayed Spring market? The housing market is coming back to life! If you are buying in the state of Georgia, contact me today! We can get you prequalified in a few minutes, and you’ll be ready to purchase your new home!

More changes due to Covid

April 21, 2020

I know… I know…. we’ve had our fill of Covid related news. I hear you! I know your head is probably spinning trying to keep up. Mine too! To compensate, let’s get straight to the point!

A post from earlier in April detailed changes in the mortgage industry. One of the changes focused on the increased scrutiny of continued employment due to many layoffs/furloughs throughout the country. Since the post, we’ve experienced more changes.

  • Year to Date Profit and Loss statements are often being required for self employed borrowers. This is to show stable income in the time of Covid.
  • Those getting temporary or permanent salary reductions can still qualify for a home loan. So long as we can show the updated income (pay stub reflecting the reduced pay), and the borrower still qualifies for the loan with the reduced pay, then we can proceed as normal.
  • Investment accounts had a mandatory manual reduction of 50% from the statement balance due to the losses in the stock market (if an investment account shows $200,000, then we could only use $100,000 toward the loan). With the rebound in stocks, the manual adjustment is now 30%.

While the entire experience right now can be frustrating, underwriting has shown some flexibility:

  • P&Ls: I had a client closing where half of their income is earned in the 4th quarter. If you took the first quarter earnings and multiplied by 4 to get a yearly total, the pace would be way off! I had my client compile a P&L from the first quarter in 2019 to compare it to year to date 2020 to show income is similar when compared to the same time last year. The loan was approved.
  • Normally when there is a reduction of income/hours, we need to show the reduction has been in place for a period of time (not just one pay period). Well, we have successfully closed clients after one pay period of the reduced pay so long as they still qualify for the loan with the reduced pay.
  • Updates are happening in relatively real time as the investment account requirement updated as market conditions improved.

I feel underwriting is trying to work with us during this tough time while still meeting the agency guidelines. I’ll work with my clients to present the best case for continued stability of income for those who are in the loan process and being impacted by the fallout from Covid.

Thinking of getting a home loan right now? Rates are still low for those looking to refinance… people are still out looking for homes to purchase. The housing market is still very active. Contact me today, and we can talk about how Covid will impact your ability to purchase a home (if any impact at all). If you are looking to get the loan on a property in the state of Georgia, I can gladly help you with the loan!

How Relatives Can Assist Home Buyers…

April 16, 2020

A recent survey of 1,045 adults found that 77% of the Gen Z and Millennial cohorts expect their parents’ financial assistance when purchasing their first home.  Of the young people surveyed, 38% expected help funding a down payment, 31% expected parents to co-sign on their mortgage, and 24% percent expected help covering closing costs.  From the lender’s perspective, this is all very doable as long as the needed documentation is delivered and all other lending criteria (e.g., credit scores and debt to income ratios) are carefully met.  Documenting financial assistance from relatives can be challenging if the borrower does not plan in advance, so here are some suggested “best practices” for home buyers who expect this help.

The “gifts of cash” concept covers help covering both down payments and closing costs, as mentioned in the survey.  Parents and other relatives can give cash to cover all aspects of the buyer’s cash to close – down payment, closing costs, and prepaid escrow.  To be approved, such gifts need to come from documented relatives, which includes parents, grandparents, siblings, and even aunts and uncles, along with spouses, domestic partners, and fiancés.  From experience, I can report that underwriters will likely not approve gifts from nieces or nephews and not from ex-spouses, as the relationship has been legally terminated.

Underwriters expect gifts to be carefully documented.  This includes a gift letter signed by both giver and buyer.  The letter states that the money given is a gift, and not a loan.  Loans to help buyers are prohibited.  If the giver makes the gift using a check, the underwriter will want to see a copy of the check.  And if the gift occurs before closing, the underwriter will want to see bank statements from the giver and the buyer showing the funds coming out of the giver’s account and into the buyer’s account.  For some loan types, the giver may have to show proof of funds and document the source of any “large deposits” into the giving account.  My preference for conventional loans is to have the giver wire the funds directly to the closing attorney’s escrow account.  When this is done for a conventional loan, the only documentation typically required for the buyer and giver is the gift letter itself.  It’s much simpler and less time consuming, so I recommend this approach when possible.

Relatives and even friends can co-sign mortgages along with the home buyer.  (Yes, friends can co-sign…I recently verified this for a potential client.)  To do this, we combine loan files for the buyer and the co-signer.  As long as the combined file meets all underwriting criteria (credit scores, available cash to close, and combined debt to income ratio), underwriting will approve mortgages including the “non-occupant co-borrower.”

Do you know a young person who wants to end her expense-only monthly rental cost?  Ask her if she is expecting an income tax refund this year.  Then connect her with me.  I’ll help her explore how best to fund a home purchase with that refund and assistance from family, if necessary.

Covid-19 creating more changes in mortgage industry

April 2, 2020

Covid-19’s reach extends everywhere in the world. The scope of the impact is staggering. It seems like every day there is something new. Lets try and cover some of the impacts to the mortgage industry.

If you are tired of Covid coverage, then how about something completely unrelated. Who can resist watching hamsters eat burritos!

 Previous posts touched on how Covid impacts mortgage rates and changes for appraisals and foreclosures. Today, let’s touch on more changes.

  • Verification of Employment: there is no standard policy across the board right now. Just know with all of the furloughs and layoffs across the country, documenting continued paid employment is emphasized. This can range from providing additional pay stubs (even if the loan is already approved) to multiple verbal verifications of employment up to the closing date. One good thing is employers are allowed to be called on their mobile phones for these verbal verifications. This is a great change as many offices are closed and everyone is telecommuting.
  • Government loans experienced a change to qualifying credit scores. Most banks increased the minimum credit score for government loans (FHA, VA, USDA) from 580 to 660.
  • Some banks have put caps on the amount of equity that can be taken out during a cash out refinance. Not everyone has made this change. Those who implemented the cap set a limit of $50,000 maximum cash out.
  • Many banks stopped offering Jumbo loans (a Jumbo loan is a loan amount over $510,400).
  • Almost all banks offering non-Qualified Mortgages (non-QM) have stopped funding closings altogether. A non-QM loan is any loan not backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae (FHA/VA/USDA loans).
  • The CARES Act contained language and the option for home owners impacted by Covid to request loan forbearance on their mortgage payments from their loan servicers.

A forbearance is pretty much like deferring a student loan payment. Payments do not need to be made, but interest accrues. For example, let’s say the monthly interest on a mortgage payment is $750, and six mortgage payments are deferred. This means the principal balance of the home loan is increased by $4,500.

Who qualifies? It is designed for home owners who have been directly impacted by Covid. The forbearance provision isn’t really designed for people in this category. Given the increase to one’s principal balance, forbearance also isn’t something one should use unless desperately needed.

Do you qualify? There is so much misinformation out there, be careful when investigating. I cannot stress this enough. To see if you qualify, contact your loan servicer (who you make your mortgage payment to each month). They will let you know more about applying/qualifying.

So… that is a lot!… and that is only this week. Stay tuned as The Mortgage Blog will put up more information as things unfold.

Still looking to buy a home? People are still buying and selling real estate. Looking to take advantage of historically low interest rates? If the property is in Georgia, contact me today. In a few minutes, I can get you qualified and ready for your new home loan.

Made it this far? Need a laugh? Enjoy…

Home inventory hits record lows

March 11, 2020

About that last post… seems with new data coming out, the housing inventory levels will not be as good as initially thought.

Last time on The Mortgage Blog, I discussed a report with forecasts of more inventory in 2020 and a more balanced market in 2021. This may no longer be the case.

As we move into the latter part of the first quarter, all of the stats/numbers are in, finalized, and reviewed from the fourth quarter 2019. The fourth quarter wound up being a busier time than normal as home buyers purchased more homes than usual. They took advantage of stabilized home prices and lower mortgage rates. An already limited inventory selection got even worse.

In fact, inventory levels hit a record low, according to a study by realtor.com. National housing inventory fell by 13.6% in January, the sharpest year-over-year drop in more than four years. With the volume of newly listed properties down by 10.6% since last year, the housing crunch shows no signs of abating in the near future.

The news is bleaker in the metro Atlanta area where builders are way behind on new construction due to all the rain. What can a buyer do in this ultra competitive market?

The best strategy isn’t a prequalification letter… nor a pre-approval… the strongest offer letter one can give is a credit approval letter. This means the file is underwritten prior to making an offer. All the client would need to close is a satisfactory appraisal, clear title, and insurance on the home.

Going this extra step lets the seller know this buyer has been thoroughly vetted and approved pending getting under contract to buy a house.

If you are looking to purchase in the state of Georgia, contact me today. We can get you prequalified for a home loan in 10-15 minutes, and we can also start down the road of getting your file underwritten so you can make a strong offer on your new home!