Buying a home

Are you in the market to buy your first home?

Are you in the market to buy your first home? Do you know where to begin? If not, maybe I can offer you some guidance. You will need to know your budget, get pre-approved, hire a REALTOR® and find a home. Sound easy? It can be if you have the right people working for you. Let us look at the process.

You should get pre-approved with a local lender, in your community, to see how much you can afford. It can be frustrating to look at homes out of your price range. Most lenders can pre-approve you over the phone. You will need to provide some financial documents and your work history, but all of this can be uploaded and emailed. Simple so far?

Next, find a REALTOR®. Ask your friends and family for recommendations. Interview them. Check out their social media and websites. Your REALTOR® is working for you so make sure you have a good relationship and strong communication. You are halfway through the process now.

The fun part? House hunting. I know many of you watch HGTV and those shows are entertaining. Let me tell you something, house hunting is nothing like “as seen on TV”. During the busy market, you are lucky to get to see the house before it has multiple offers, over asking price. So back to the pre-approval? Be prepared. If you see a house, contact your REALTOR® immediately to see if you can view the home.

Time to make an offer! Hopefully, YOU are not in a multiple offer situation and the seller accepts! Make sure your REALTOR® explains the ins and outs of the contract, so you understand the process. There are inspection deadlines that you do not want to miss, or you will not be able to ask for repairs from the seller. Again, ask around and hire a qualified inspector that meets your needs.

Do not forget to keep your bank in the loop. They need a copy of the purchase agreement so they can order the appraisal. The appraisal can be a long process, especially during a busy market season. Try to get all documents requested to your lender as soon as possible.

There are a few takeaways from all of this. Listen to your lender and your REALTOR®. Do not contact the listing agent or seller directly. This can cause you to lose the home and will most likely make someone mad. You will need a Real Estate attorney to do your title search and closing. Ask for recommendations.

Now that all inspections are done and the home appraised, you wait for a clear to close. Don’t make any large purchases like a new car or new furniture until after your closing. The bank may pull your credit one more time and this can affect the loan process. Call the utility companies, find a moving company and schedule to have your mail forwarded to your new home. Best of luck and congratulations on your new purchase!

Have a fantastic week and remember to do good things!

How important is internet connection when buying a home?

How important is internet connection when buying a home? With so many people working from home and children in virtual school, it seems to be especially important. We all need broadband at home. Although it is often available everywhere except the most inaccessible rural areas, speeds can vary enormously from place to place, and even street to street. For some, slow broadband connection would deter them from buying a house.

A good internet connection is now an essential part of modern life. Many of us are largely concerned with broadband speed in our area. It’s not hard to see why! It was recently revealed that the number of subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix last year overtook traditional pay TV services and that fewer young people are watching live TV. Fast connection is important for another reason. Many of us are working from home more and need good broadband for video conferencing, downloading work documents and handling bulky email attachments.

So how does this affect the home buying process? Recent studies show that half of buyers would reject a house that didn’t feature their desired broadband speed, while a third would try and negotiate a lower house price. The best way to test the broadband speed in a home is to ask the homeowner. Most people will know the quality of their internet access and be more than happy to share their information.

Smartphones have become a standard tool for most people. When presenting a home to a potential customer, REALTORS® must now consider an extra home presentation factor: signal strength. There are some factors that could affect the signal strength in a home. Lead paint is known to cause electromagnetic interference that will affect signal strength. If you suspect lead paint may be causing an issue, I suggest hiring a professional to remove it.

If you notice a decrease in cellular signal strength when you enter a home, the materials used in the construction of the home may be the culprits. Older homes tend to have more of an issue with affecting cellular signals. Metal bolts, pipes, tools, and bars can contribute to a loss in cellular signal. While there is not much we can do about the construction of an older home maybe suggest a signal booster to the buyer.

Check out the electronics being used in a home. Items such as microwaves, cordless phones, baby monitors, and Bluetooth devices can affect signal strength and could possibly deter a customer. Many of these devices operate on a similar wave frequency and can interfere with signal strength and Wi-Fi networks. These are just a few items that may interfere with signal strength.

Spring is on the horizon and homes are flying off the market! Now is a great time to buy and sell. Contact your local REALTOR® today! Have a great week and remember to do good things!

Can your REALTOR® represent you in a FSBO transaction?

 For sale by owner, often abbreviated as FSBO, is when a homeowner lists their home without the assistance of a professional real estate agent. When selling on your own, you are responsible for the process from start to finish, including pricing, staging, listing, negotiating, drawing up paperwork, and closing.

Why sell FSBO? Most sellers decide to go it alone to avoid paying the standard 6% commission fee to the real estate agents involved in the sale. While most FSBO sellers are trying to keep more of their profit in their pocket, it is important to note that a local real estate agent likely has more expertise in pricing strategy, so it is possible that the net profit you earn from a FSBO could end up being lower than if you had listed with an agent.

Can your REALTOR® represent you in a FSBO transaction? The answer is yes. If your REALTOR® has been showing you houses and you stumble upon a home that is not listed, do not ditch your REALTOR®. Many private sellers are willing to co-operate with Buyers’ Agents. They know the paperwork will be handled correctly and that the buyers have been properly qualified to make the purchase. If the private seller is unwilling to pay a commission, you will need to pay your Buyers’ Agent. But you can do so with the assurance that he/she is working for you and that the deal will be constructed with your best interests as the foundation.

So how does this work? Your agent approaches the owner and asks for permission to show the property, represent you and get paid by the owner. Your agent should already know this! The seller and the agent will come to an agreement as per commission and if you are ready to make an offer, the agent will process everything as if it was a listed property. Just because the property is not listed, does not mean you cannot get financing, do inspections and have your REALTOR® represent you until closing.

So why would you have your REALTOR® represent you? There are several reasons. They understand fair market value and pricing strategy. They will guide you to make sure you don’t pay too much. They will do all the paperwork, contact the attorney and inspectors. Your REALTOR® will discuss your inspections with you and help you make a list of items that need repaired. They will keep you updated throughout the entire process.

However, if you have the knowledge and expertise in buying real estate you may not need a REALTOR®. You would need to know market value and how to negotiate price. You would need to have a purchase agreement that would protect you. You would need to know which title attorney to hire and which inspector is good. You would need to know if you should do a radon or mold inspection. You would need to do all of this and your day job and make sure you are protected in the process. If this is too much for you, don’t ditch your REALTOR®.

Spring is right around the corner! Let’s have a great week and remember to do good things!

Are you wondering if you should stop renting and buy a house?

Your friends are buying homes. And you are wondering if you should stop renting and buy a house too. Your dog wants a yard, your kids want a playground, and you wouldn’t mind a garage and an office. There is only one problem: You aren’t sure you can afford it.

Hold up! Deciding whether to rent or buy always comes down to what you can afford. Are you financially ready to buy a house? Or is renting still the smarter option? Let’s compare renting vs. buying and determine which is best for you.

So where should you begin? Start with a budget by tracking your spending, reducing unnecessary purchases, and create a plan with a timeline. Are you out of debt? We are talking no student loans or consumer debt. Have you set aside monies in case of an emergency? Experts recommend three to six months of savings in case you lose your job.

The next step? You need to contact a local mortgage lender. They can prepare a pre-approval for you which will give you a better understanding of what you can afford. While a down payment of 20% is not necessary in today’s market, it can keep you from paying PMI (private mortgage insurance). Your lender will make sure the payment isn’t a huge percentage of your income and therefore allowing you to pay utilities, taxes, insurance and other fees associated with your mortgage.

 The advantages of owning your own home include building equity and tax benefits. With each payment you are one step closer to home ownership. You also have the freedom to renovate your house. From the interior to the exterior, it’s a blank slate. Some disadvantages include an increase in expenses like home maintenance. You are responsible for all the plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Make sure you set aside savings for these potential repairs.

Maybe you aren’t ready to buy just yet and that is fine. Renting a place with a lower payment allows you to save money and pay off some debt. If your job requires you to move around a lot, then renting makes sense for you until you settle down. Renting takes away the worry of maintenance. If the furnace stops working, your landlord is responsible for the repair not you. However, most owners will not allow their tenants to make changes to the unit, for example painting, to best fit your taste.

Buying a home is a long-term commitment and you should think through your decision and weigh all options. Deciding whether to buy a house is not an easy choice. That is why it is smart to partner with a pro who can help you navigate your options. Shop local. Find a mortgage lender in the area in which you are going to purchase and interview several REALTORS® before choosing one that best fits your needs.

Whether you buy or rent, do it because it makes financial sense for you and not what your friends and family are doing. Stay warm. We have six more weeks of this white stuff. Remember to do good things!

Technology has rapidly evolved how we do real estate.

More than 70% of today’s buyers search for homes online; technology has rapidly evolved how we do real estate. During this pandemic, I think the use of technology has really come to the forefront in the real estate industry, and it should be used as an opportunity to improve the process and provide the best client experience possible. Whether you are looking to buy, sell, or rent a home, pulling up listings to browse on your phone or tablet is the norm these days. Technology continues to play an impactful role in how both consumers and industry professionals are approaching the market. Technology offers a user-friendly experience when showing homes.

 Going beyond photos, new software allows buyers and sellers to take a 3-D virtual tour of a residential or commercial property, making it feel as if you were walking through the space without having to view it in person. The buyer can see the property in real time and even measure the room to see if their furniture will fit. REALTORS® can conduct the virtual tour via Zoom or Facetime call.

Technology also offers access to websites. Websites make it easy for anyone to view inventory and see what is available. Along with photos and detailed descriptions of the properties, you can find tax and purchase history, school ratings, and other neighborhood information. These sites have apps as well; easily accessible forms of technology that keep you informed without having to do a thing.         

Transaction management is much simpler using mobile technology. With electronic document signing apps and automated emails, we have significantly cut down the time spent on this portion of the sale. The agent-buyer interactions have changed over time as well. Data is easily accessible, making clients more knowledgeable on the topic. Technology allows clients to significantly narrow their searches by choosing the criteria that fits their buying needs.

Technology has been a wonderful addition to the real estate industry, but it has not and will not replace the real estate agent. Agents are highly trained and educated and can provide insight to buyers and sellers about their local markets and communities; you cannot get that personal information from technology. Working with a REALTOR® gives you the confidence that someone is representing your best interests in the transaction.

Technology is a part of everyday life, but it will never surpass the quality of one-on-one assistance you receive when working with a REALTOR®. We have REALTORS® in North Central West Virginia that have the same tools that technology offers in the process of searching for a new home. If you are in the market, and are looking for an experienced REALTOR®, please check out our website: www.morgantownrealtors.com.

Have a great week and remember to do good things.

What is the housing forecast for 2021?

What is the housing forecast for 2021? Will sellers still have the upper hand as buyers struggle with affordability? 2021 will be a robust sellers’ market as home prices hit new highs and buyer competition remains strong. Inventory is expected to make a slow but steady comeback, this will give buyers some relief. However, increasing interest rates and prices will make affordability a challenge throughout the year. This is all according to a Realtor.com study released in December.

So, what does this mean for our area? It could be a continuation of last year, with a lack of inventory and a surplus of buyers. This is a sellers’ market. Prices and demand will rise. Mortgage rates are at an all-time low which will keep stimulating demand. With the uncertainty of our economy, sellers remain skeptical about listing their homes. What if there is a quick sale and they have no place to go? Do they rent? Do they leave the area? These are all concerns weighing on their decision.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, they predict that the first quarter of 2021 will see a relatively high number of transactions. Demand is especially high in neighborhoods outside of downtown city cores, as increasing work from home and virtual learning requirements have driven many homeowners to favor space over on-the-doorstep amenities. They also feel there will be a continued shortage of inventory for sale on the market.

What should you do if you are considering buying? Make sure you are in a strong financial position when putting in an offer on a house, rather than just jumping at something you think is a good deal. If you have been considering buying a home, what is important is having your own financial house in order, and that means taking steps to shore up your credit history and save the necessary funds to purchase. If you have your house in order, absolutely, the first quarter is going to be a great time to buy.

It is a good time to spruce up your home, declutter the basement and talk to your local REALTOR® about selling your home. Most REALTORS® will provide you a market analysis of your property at no charge. What can it hurt? Maybe you are considering downsizing or even upsizing, if so, this is a great time to make the move. If you are a first-time home buyer, contact your mortgage lender to see what programs best fit your finances. Maybe the house payment is cheaper than the rent you are paying. You may be surprised at what you can afford.

Hope you all have a wonderful week! Remember to do good things!

Selling your old home and buying a new one at the same time is a balancing act.

Selling your old home and buying a new one at the same time is a balancing act. That said, it can be done.

Buying a new home before you sell your old one is, honestly, the trickier of the two methods. While it is not impossible, it does require a bit more financial finagling. Sometimes, though, you find your dream home early on in your search. If that happens to you, consider some options.

You can make your offer based on the contingency of your home selling. This contingency allows you time to find a buyer for your old house before you move forward with settling on your new home. If you cannot find a buyer in time, you have the option to try to extend the contract or to back out of the deal.

Are you able to afford both properties? Holding two properties at the same time will undoubtedly be a stretch financially. However, if you can afford to do so, it is also the safest option. This option allows you to submit offers on new homes without having to worry about using a home sale contingency or taking out a new loan.

What if you sell before you buy? Selling your old home before you buy a new one is a more financially secure option. This way, you will know exactly how much money you have to spend on a new property. However, this method is not without its inconveniences, as well. For instance, you may have to deal with the stress of moving twice within a short period of time.

What if none of these options work for you and you need to coordinate the closing of both properties on the same day? If you are like most people, you have accumulated many years of stuff in your home and moving out the same day the buyers move in is nearly impossible. Consult with your REALTOR® and ask about pre-occupancy and post-occupancy; these terms define themselves.

Is it possible that the home you are buying is vacant? If so, then you can ask to move in early, this is known as pre-occupancy. This can alleviate the hassle of moving twice. If the seller is agreeing to pre-occupancy, you may have to pay a “rental fee” for the days you occupy. You are also responsible for insurance and utilities for the property. Post occupancy means that you remain in your property for a period until you can move into your new home. You may also end up paying a fee to the new buyer for staying the extended time.  This allows you more time to move and prepare your home for the buyer.

Moving is not the only thing you need to consider when vacating your home. You need to get all utilities switched out of your name, schedule your insurance to be cancelled after you close, and clean your home so it is ready for the new buyer. It can be stressful but that is why we recommend using a REALTOR®. They can guide you from the beginning to the end.

Have a great week and remember to do good things!

What are closing costs in a real estate transaction and who pays for them?

What are closing costs in a real estate transaction and who pays for them? There are many fees associated with buying or selling a home. It is important to consult with your REALTOR® or local real estate attorney before taking the next step.

Closing costs occur when the title of property is transferred from the seller to the buyer. The total dollar amount of closing costs depends on where the property is being sold and the value of the property being transferred. Homebuyers typically pay between 2% to 5% of the purchase price but closing costs may be paid by either the seller or the buyer. A real estate transaction is a somewhat complex process with many players involved and numerous moving parts. Some states require certain inspections beyond the basic inspection you pay directly to a home inspector of your choice. Then there are property and transfer taxes, as well as insurance coverage and various additional fees.

Laws require lenders to provide a loan estimate that reveals the closing costs on the property. Under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), lenders are required by law to provide this estimate, also known as a good faith estimate, within three days of the lender taking a borrower’s loan application. At least three days prior to the closing, the lender should also provide a closing disclosure statement outlining all closing fees.

The lender will charge an application fee. This is a fee charged by the lender to process your mortgage application. The real estate attorney will charge a fee to prepare and review the home purchase agreements and contracts. They will also do a title history search to make sure the property is clear of liens. Lender’s title insurance is an up-front, one-time fee paid to the title company that protects a lender if an ownership dispute or lien arises that it did not find in the title search. The lender will also charge a credit report fee to pull your credit reports from the three main reporting bureaus.

There are many other fees associated with the transaction that the buyer will pay including flood certification, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, inspection and appraisal costs. Consult your lender and ask for upfront costs so you can determine if this transaction is in your best interest.

Another fee is the real estate commission. Buyers do not pay this fee, though; sellers do. Typically, the commission fee is 5% to 6% of the home’s purchase price, and it is split evenly between the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent. The seller is also responsible for the deed preparation. If applicable they will have a mortgage payoff and any outstanding amounts owed on the property. The seller will pay a real estate transfer tax, sometimes called a deed transfer tax. This is a one-time tax or fee imposed by a state or local jurisdiction upon the transfer of real property.

Before you start your home search, consult with your lender or local attorney so you know the total closing costs upfront. Then contact your REALTOR® and start looking for that perfect home!

Happy 2021 to you all and remember to do good things!

Did you know you can be scammed when it comes to buying or renting real estate?

We have all read the news stories of people stealing packages off porches, scamming the elderly over the phone, and stealing bank cards. But did you know you can be scammed when it comes to buying or renting real estate?

The last thing consumers should worry about is being scammed when they buy or rent a home or refinance a mortgage. Unfortunately, criminals are getting more creative in how they target consumers. This can lead to major financial headaches for their unsuspecting victims.

You get an email, phone call or text from someone claiming to be from the title or escrow company with instructions on where to wire your escrow funds. Scammers

set up fake websites that appear like the title or lending company you are working with, making it seem like the real deal. Before you send money to a third party, go back to the original documents you received from your lender and call the phone numbers or contact your REALTOR® for assistance.

Potential renters can also get scammed. Rental property listing scams typically aim to steal money. They will try to get you to send a check for a security deposit or move-in fee without ever seeing the apartment, and they will keep the money without any intention of renting a unit to you. Be suspicious of anyone that asks for a cash deposit. Do some research on the local county assessors’ site to determine the owner and look for contact information. We have experienced scammers placing a rental ad on Craigslist for a property that is for sale. Just be cautious.

Loan flipping is when a predatory lender persuades a homeowner to refinance their mortgage repeatedly, often borrowing more money each time. These scammers tend to target seniors because its common for them to have a lot of equity in their homes. Elderly homeowners who have cognitive issues should involve a trusted relative or friend in any key financial discussion, especially about tapping home equity.

Some scammers target those in foreclosure, offering relief to capitalize on homeowners’ vulnerability. People have been swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. A scammer will tell you not to talk to your lender, and that is a huge red flag. It is hard to speak to your lender when you are in imminent default or become delinquent because you’re afraid it might speed up losing your home. But you must open the lines of communication with your lender

If I can offer just one piece of advice it would be to be diligent. Question everything. Call someone you trust before making any quick decisions and never give out personal information over the phone unless you trust the caller.

I hope your week is full of peace and happiness. Remember to do good things!