Tips For Finding Your New Home

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Couple & Realtor in front of house

1.  Know thyself.

Understand the type of home that suits your personality. Do you prefer a new or existing home? A ranch or a multistory home? If you’re leaning toward a fixer-upper, are you truly handy, or will you need to budget for contractors?

2.  Research before you look.

List the features you most want in a home and identify which are necessities and which are extras. Identify three to four neighborhoods you’d like to live in based on commute time, schools, recreation, crime, and price. Then hop onto REALTOR.com to get a feel for the homes available in your price range in your favorite neighborhoods. Use the results to prioritize your wants and needs so you can add in and weed out properties from the inventory you’d like to view.

3.  Get your finances in order.

Generally, lenders say you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Create a budget so you know how much you’re comfortable spending each month on housing. Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to investigate financing.

Gather your financial records and meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter spelling out how much you’re eligible to borrow. The lender won’t necessarily consider the extra fees you’ll pay when you purchase or your plans to begin a family or purchase a new car, so shop in a price range you’re comfortable with. Also, presenting an offer contingent on financing will make your bid less attractive to sellers.

4.  Set a moving timeline.

Do you have blemishes on your credit that will take time to clear up? If you already own, have you sold your current home? If not, you’ll need to factor in the time needed to sell. If you rent, when is your lease up? Do you expect interest rates to jump anytime soon? All these factors will affect your buying, closing, and moving timelines.

5.  Think long term.

Your future plans may dictate the type of home you’ll buy. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in the home for five to 10 years? With a starter, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you plan to nest, be sure your priority list helps you identify a home you’ll still love years from now.

6.  Work with a REALTOR®.

Ask people you trust for referrals to a real estate professional they trust. Interview agents to determine which have expertise in the neighborhoods and type of homes you’re interested in. Because homebuying triggers many emotions, consider whether an agent’s style meshes with your personality.

Also ask if the agent specializes in buyer representation. Unlike listing agents, whose first duty is to the seller, buyers’ reps work only for you even though they’re typically paid by the seller. Finally, check whether agents are REALTORS®, which means they’re members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR has been a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.

7.  Be realistic.

It’s OK to be picky about the home and neighborhood you want, but don’t be close-minded, unrealistic, or blinded by minor imperfections. If you insist on living in a cul-de-sac, you may miss out on great homes on streets that are just as quiet and secluded.

On the flip side, don’t be so swayed by a “wow” feature that you forget about other issues — like noise levels — that can have a big impact on your quality of life. Use your priority list to evaluate each property, remembering there’s no such thing as the perfect home.

8.  Limit the opinions you solicit.

It’s natural to seek reassurance when making a big financial decision. But you know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. If you need a second opinion, select one or two people. But remain true to your list of wants and needs so the final decision is based on criteria you’ve identified as important.

Email Regina@ReginaWallace.com to get started.

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5 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Sale

 

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Working to get your home ship-shape for showings will increase its value and shorten your sales time.

Many buyers today want move-in-ready homes and will quickly eliminate an otherwise great home by focusing on a few visible flaws. Unless your home shines, you may endure showing after showing and open house after open house — and end up with a lower sales price. Before the first prospect walks through your door, consider some smart options for casting your home in its best light.

1.  Have a Home Inspection

Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. For $250 to $400, an inspector will warn you about troubles that could make potential buyers balk. Make repairs before putting your home on the market. In some states, you may have to disclose what the inspection turns up.

2.  Get Replacement Estimates

If your home inspection uncovers necessary repairs you can’t fund, get estimates for the work. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home and the repairs. Also hunt down warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for your furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items you expect to remain with the house.

3.  Make Minor Repairs

Not every repair costs a bundle. Fix as many small problems — sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, dripping faucets — as you can. These may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression your house isn’t well maintained.

4.  Clear the Clutter

Clear your kitchen counters of just about everything. Clean your closets by packing up little-used items like out-of-season clothes and old toys. Install closet organizers to maximize space. Put at least one-third of your furniture in storage, especially large pieces, such as entertainment centers and big televisions. Pack up family photos, knickknacks, and wall hangings to depersonalize your home. Store the items you’ve packed offsite or in boxes neatly arranged in your garage or basement.

5.  Do a Thorough Cleaning

A clean house makes a strong first impression that your home has been well cared for. If you can afford it, consider hiring a cleaning service.

If not, wash windows and leave them open to air out your rooms. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate cooking odors, smoke, and pet smells. Wash light fixtures and baseboards, mop and wax floors, and give your stove and refrigerator a thorough once-over.

Pay attention to details, too. Wash fingerprints from light switch plates, clean inside the cabinets, and polish doorknobs. Don’t forget to clean your garage, too.

Email me to help you get started: Regina@ReginaWallace.com

Negotiate Your Best House Buy

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Negotiate Your Best House Buy home-for-sale-sign
By: G. M. Filisko
Keep your emotions in check and your eyes on the goal, and you’ll pay less when purchasing a home.

Buying a home can be emotional, but negotiating the price shouldn’t be. The key to saving money when purchasing a home is sticking to a plan during the turbulence of high-stakes negotiations.

A real estate agent who represents you can guide you and offer you advice, but you are the one who must make the final decision during each round of offers and counter offers.

Here are six tips for negotiating the best price on a home.

1. Get pre-qualified for a mortgage
Getting prequalified for a mortgage proves to sellers that you’re serious about buying and capable of affording their home. That will push you to the head of the pack when sellers choose among offers; they’ll go with buyers who are a sure financial bet, not those whose financing could flop.

2. Ask questions
Ask your agent for information to help you understand the sellers’ financial position and motivation. Are they facing foreclosure or a short sale? Have they already purchased a home or relocated, which may make them eager to accept a lower price to avoid paying two mortgages? Has the home been on the market for a long time, or was it just listed? Have there been other offers? If so, why did they fall through? The more signs that sellers are eager to sell, the lower your offer can reasonably go.

3. Work back from a final price to determine your initial offer
Know in advance the most you’re willing to pay, and with your agent work back from that number to determine your initial offer, which can set the tone for the entire negotiation. A too-low bid may offend sellers emotionally invested in the sales price; a too-high bid may lead you to spend more than necessary to close the sale.

Work with your agent to evaluate the sellers’ motivation and comparable home sales to arrive at an initial offer that engages the sellers yet keeps money in your wallet.

4. Avoid contingencies
Sellers favor offers that leave little to chance. Keep your bid free of complicated contingencies, such as making the purchase conditional on the sale of your current home. Do keep contingencies for mortgage approval, home inspection, and environmental checks typical in your area, like radon.
5. Remain unemotional
Buying a home is a business transaction, and treating it that way helps you save money. Consider any movement by the sellers, however slight, a sign of interest, and keep negotiating.

Each time you make a concession, ask for one in return. If the sellers ask you to boost your price, ask them to contribute to closing costs or pay for a home warranty. If sellers won’t budge, make it clear you’re willing to walk away; they may get nervous and accept your offer.

6. Don’t let competition change your plan
Great homes and those competitively priced can draw multiple offers in any market. Don’t let competition propel you to go beyond your predetermined price or agree to concessions—such as waiving an inspection—that aren’t in your best interest.

More Renters Want to Become Homeowners

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Americans have favored buying over renting, even during the recent Great Recession, and this year is no different. The 2013 National Housing Pulse Survey, by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, found Americans overwhelmingly believe owning a home is a good financial decision, and a majority of renters say homeownership is one of their highest priorities for the future.

During the recession, much media coverage of homeownership focused on the idea that lots of people thought renting was much smarter than buying. But that wasn’t necessarily the case as a look back shows.

You can interpret that dip two ways. Some would say homeowners were resilient as prices declined. Others would say the recession was a wake up call for investors who viewed the real estate market as a short-term investment.

Regardless of which way you see it, most of us have returned to the much more realistic viewpoint that real estate is a solid, if long-term, investment.

For more information on owning or renting your next home:  

Contact me at 708.966.9065 or Regina@ReginaWallace.com

 

 

Prospect Equities, Inc.

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How To Buy A Home

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Get Ready To Buy That New Home!

  • Want to find more opportunities in the Real Estate market?
  • Do you know what you need in order to buy in this market?
  • How much down payment do you need?
  • What type of financing is available?
  • What is the lender underwriting process and how do they evaluate you?
  • How do you get pre-approved for a mortgage loan?
  • What are the steps in the buying process?

Contact me for assistance:

Regina Wallace, Real Estate Broker

Prospect Equities Infiniti

Regina@ReginaWallace.com

http://www.ReginaWallace@Realtor

Taking out a Mortgage Next Year? Plan for a Bigger Pile of Paperwork

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If you’re refinancing your home or getting a mortgage to buy one, your lender will likely ask for more documentation of everything you claim on your loan application.

The New Lending Rules: Qualfied Mortgages

The new rules they were discussing, called the qualified mortgage or ability-to-repay rule, protect consumers from unscrupulous lending practices and provide creditworthy homebuyers with access to safe mortgage financing. That mean lenders must look deep before making a mortgage loan.

Lenders can still make any loans they like, but if they go outside the qualified mortgage rules, they lose protection against borrower lawsuits claiming that the loan was unfair or inappropriate. Many lenders have faced lawsuits filed by state attorneys general and class actions over loans made before and during the housing crisis.

To make a qualified mortgage, the lender will have to follow exact steps to prove eight things beginning in 2014:

1. Your current income or assets.

2. Your current employment status.

3. Your credit history.

4. The monthly payment for the mortgage.

5. Your monthly payments on other mortgage loans you get at the same time.

6. Your monthly payments for other mortgage-related expenses, such as property taxes.

7. Your other debts.

8. Your monthly debt payments, including the mortgage, compared with your monthly income and how much money you have left over each month after paying your debts.

Kevin Watters, CEO of mortgage banking for JPMorgan Chase, agreed that low- and moderate-income buyers, as well as self-employed buyers who don’t have a consistent flow of income, might have a tougher time in the new lending environment. “We need to work together to help first-time buyers into affordable housing options,” he said.

Cash vs. Mortgage
The new guidelines worry REALTORS® who see homebuyers who use a mortgage being passed over by sellers who accept offers from cash buyers (most cash buyers are investors and about one- third of recent existing- home sales involved investors).

I can’t blame sellers for taking cash deals. If I were selling my home, I might not want to wait for a buyer to go through a lengthy mortgage approval if I could quickly close the deal by accepting a cash offer from an investor.

Will It Take Longer to Get a Loan?

Since the rules aren’t in place yet, we won’t know how long it’ll take to process loan applications using the qualified mortgage until after January.

Regardless of whether you apply for a mortgage now or after the qualified mortgage rules start, your best bet is to:

Assume the loan process will be slower than the last time you got a mortgage, so don’t let it stress you out.

Make a copy of every piece of paperwork you give to your lender. That way, if you’re asked to send it again, you’ve got it ready to go.

Discuss lender choices with your REALTOR®. She’s watching local people go through the mortgage application process every day and knows what lenders are really doing versus what their loan officers say they’re doing.

Don’t lie on your loan application. All the new verifications mean you’re just going to get caught and then you won’t get your loan.

Regina Wallace – Prospect Equities~Infiniti – Real Estate Specialist
Call or Text: (708) 966-9065- E-fax: 800-654-4904 – Email: Regina@reginawallace.com

 

Rules Loosen to Buy a Home After Foreclosure, But Lenders May Balk

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FHA and Fannie Mae are making it easier for homeowners who lose a home to foreclosure or short sale to buy again, but it might not make much difference if lenders don’t go along with the changes — since they don’t have to.

First, here’s what’s new at FHA and Fannie:
FHA rules now let you apply for an FHA mortgage 12 months after a foreclosure, short sale, or a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure if you meet two conditions:
1. Your loss was caused by economic conditions beyond your control.
2. You complete housing counseling.

Note: Mortgage lenders have traditionally made you wait two years after a short sale or deed-in-lieu and seven years after a foreclosure to apply for a mortgage.

Once you’ve met the conditions, you’ll still have to meet all the usual mortgage loan rules and guidelines that lenders use for everyone — like having enough income (and not too much debt) to afford the refinanced mortgage.

Fannie Mae credit reporting fix: Fannie, meanwhile, has cleared up a credit reporting issue that was holding back former homeowners who sold their homes for less than what they owed on the mortgage (a short sale) or signed over their deed to the lender to avoid foreclosure (a deed-in-lieu).

In theory, homeowners who work with the lender on a short sale or deed-in-lieu are supposed to take less of a hit to their credit than homeowners who lose a home to foreclosure. In reality, credit bureaus haven’t distinguished short sales and foreclosures on consumers’ credit reports.

Fannie Mae resolved the credit reporting issue by telling lenders to add a special code in the case files of consumers whose short sales or deeds-in-lieu are recorded in credit histories as foreclosures.

Starting Nov. 16, 2013, the Fannie Mae loan underwriting system will automatically ignore the foreclosure and correctly recognize the transaction was a short sale when the code appears. Until then, your lender will have to manually underwrite your loan to take advantage of the change.

Lenders Don’t Always Follow the Rules
This is all good news. But it remains to be seen whether these new rules will make a big difference for you if you’ve had a foreclosure, short sale, or deed-in-lieu.

“Most of the overlays have to do with adding basis points to the loan fee and to the price,” Frommeyer explains. They can also:
Increase the required downpayment.

Decide you have to wait two years instead of one.
Ask you to prove you’ve corrected your financial problems.
“They’ll probably ask for a written letter from the consumer to explain the previous problems and what they’re doing to solve the previous problems,” he says.

Credit Score Could Hold You Back
Regardless of the changes, if you were hurt by the recession you still may not qualify for a new mortgage because your financial troubles, especially a foreclosure, likely lowered your credit score.

How low is too low? In July 2013, the average FICO score for all closed first mortgages was 737, while the average credit score on denied loans was 702, according to Ellie Mae, which sells electronic mortgage origination systems. Credit scores go up to 850.

If you’re ready to become a homeowner again:
1. Check your credit reports for free.
2. Pay about $20 to get your FICO score. Credit scores aren’t included in your government-mandated free credit report, and the score you pay for may not even be the exact credit score lenders see. But it can help you decide if your credit will hold you back from getting a mortgage.
3. If your score is too low for you to get a mortgage right now, fix any mistakes.
4. Work to improve your credit score.

Call/Text or Email or Me For More Details: 708-966-9065 – Regina@ReginaWallace.com

More Renters Want to Become Homeowners

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Americans have favored buying over renting, even during the recent Great Recession, and this year is no different. The 2013 National Housing Pulse Survey, by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, found Americans overwhelmingly believe owning a home is a good financial decision, and a majority of renters say homeownership is one of their highest priorities for the future.

During the recession, much media coverage of homeownership focused on the idea that lots of people thought renting was much smarter than buying. But that wasn’t necessarily the case as a look back shows.

The decline in home prices and turmoil in the housing markets did influence consumers’ perception of housing as a sound investment — but not by nearly as much as the media made it appear.

From 2007 to 2011, based on earlier Pulse surveys, the share of people who thought buying a home was a good financial decision dropped from about 85% to 73% and the share of people who were “not so strongly” positive grew. By 2013, we’re back to 80% thinking homeownership is a sound financial decision.

You can interpret that dip two ways. Some would say homeowners were resilient as prices declined. Others would say the recession was a wake up call for investors who viewed the real estate market as a short-term investment.

Regardless of which way you see it, most of us have returned to the much more realistic viewpoint that real estate is a solid, if long-term, investment.

For more information on owning or renting your next home, please contact me at 708.966.9065 or Regina@ReginaWallace.com

8 Tips For Finding Your New Home

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House hunting is just like any other shopping expedition. If you identify exactly what you want and do some research, you’ll zoom in on the home you want at the best price. These eight tips will guide you through a smart homebuying process.

1. Know thyself

Understand the type of home that suits your personality. Do you prefer a new or existing home? A ranch or a multistory home? If you’re leaning toward a fixer-upper, are you truly handy, or will you need to budget for contractors?

2. Research before you look

List the features you most want in a home and identify which are necessities and which are extras. Identify three to four neighborhoods you’d like to live in based on commute time, schools, recreation, crime, and price. Then hop onto REALTOR.com to get a feel for the homes available in your price range in your favorite neighborhoods. Use the results to prioritize your wants and needs so you can add in and weed out properties from the inventory you’d like to view.

3. Get your finances in order

Generally, lenders say you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Create a budget so you know how much you’re comfortable spending each month on housing. Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to investigate financing.

Gather your financial records and meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter spelling out how much you’re eligible to borrow. The lender won’t necessarily consider the extra fees you’ll pay when you purchase or your plans to begin a family or purchase a new car, so shop in a price range you’re comfortable with. Also, presenting an offer contingent on financing will make your bid less attractive to sellers.

4. Set a moving timeline

Do you have blemishes on your credit that will take time to clear up? If you already own, have you sold your current home? If not, you’ll need to factor in the time needed to sell. If you rent, when is your lease up? Do you expect interest rates to jump anytime soon? All these factors will affect your buying, closing, and moving timelines.

5. Think long term

Your future plans may dictate the type of home you’ll buy. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in the home for five to 10 years? With a starter, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you plan to nest, be sure your priority list helps you identify a home you’ll still love years from now.

6. Work with a REALTOR®

Ask people you trust for referrals to a real estate professional they trust. Interview agents to determine which have expertise in the neighborhoods and type of homes you’re interested in. Because homebuying triggers many emotions, consider whether an agent’s style meshes with your personality.

Also ask if the agent specializes in buyer representation. Unlike listing agents, whose first duty is to the seller, buyers’ reps work only for you even though they’re typically paid by the seller.

7. Be realistic

It’s OK to be picky about the home and neighborhood you want, but don’t be close-minded, unrealistic, or blinded by minor imperfections. If you insist on living in a cul-de-sac, you may miss out on great homes on streets that are just as quiet and secluded.

On the flip side, don’t be so swayed by a “wow” feature that you forget about other issues—like noise levels—that can have a big impact on your quality of life. Use your priority list to evaluate each property, remembering there’s no such thing as the perfect home.

8. Limit the opinions you solicit

It’s natural to seek reassurance when making a big financial decision. But you know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. If you need a second opinion, select one or two people. But remain true to your list of wants and needs so the final decision is based on criteria you’ve identified as important.

For Help Getting Started: contact me at:

Regina@ReginaWallace.com 

http://buysellorrentchicagohomes.com/

Is Your Mortgage Lender Treating You Right?

New mortgage rules favor you, the home owner. We explain the rules, plus give you tips to ensure your lender treats you fairly.

House on top of stack of money

Companies have to offer you good customer service and set up procedures to ensure employees do their jobs correctly. 

The fact that federal legislators put this in the law tells you a lot about how frustrated consumers have gotten with mortgage lenders and servicers.

Servicers (the companies that collect your mortgage payments on behalf of the lender or investor who owns your loan) are now officially required to set up their operations so that employees can actually find information about your loan, respond to your questions, and help you if you have a problem paying your mortgage.

The servicer has to answer your questions and respond to your mortgage problems and questions pretty quickly. 

How fast?

  • Within 5 days, it has to admit it got your letter.
  • It has 30 to 45 business days to fix an error, send you the info you need, or explain why it can’t do either of those things.

Tip: You have to report errors and ask for information in writing. Calling doesn’t trigger the protections, nor does jotting a note on the payment coupon. You have to write a letter and send it to the right address for complaints. Check your lender’s or servicer’s website for directions about where to send correspondence and keep copies of your letters for your records.

Looking to buy or sell your next home? I can help make it a smooth transaction!

Email me at: Regina@ReginaWallace.com

www.SearchChicagoHomesForSale.com