Archives: March 2012

The Best Way Home – How to Buy A Home In The Pacific Northwest!

“It’s not far, if you know the way.” Maybe it is an obvious statement but there are some definite steps that will improve your success in buying a home in today’s market.

  1. Know you credit score – the best mortgage rates are available to borrowers with the highest scores. Unless you know what your credit score is at all three major bureaus, you don’t really know what rate you’ll have to pay.
  2. Clean up your credit – it is estimated that about 90% of credit reports have errors. Some are not serious but others could affect a borrower from getting the best loan terms. It is your responsibility to know what is on your different reports and correct them if possible. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year from Experian, Trans Union and Equifax.
  3. Get pre-approved – Taking the time to make a loan application with a qualified lender even before you start looking at homes will provide peace of mind, make sure that you are looking at the “right” homes and may help you negotiate the best price on the home you select.
  4. Do your homework – when you find the home that meets your needs and desires, research the tax assessments, school ratings, crime activity, possible zoning changes and comparable sales in the area.
As your real estate professional I can definitely help you with these important strategies to invest in a home to call your own, raise your family, feel safe and secure and share with your friends. Call for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional; there really is a difference.

When Mortgage Debt Is Cancelled…

The Mortgage Forgiveness Relief Act of 2007 was passed by Congress to avoid additional financial hardship that some homeowners might experience due to a foreclosure or short sale. The law affects mortgage relief that occurs from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2012.


Normally, IRS considers partial or total debt forgiven by a lender to be treated as ordinary income. This not only affects foreclosures but even short sales where only part of the debt is forgiven would trigger additional taxes for the homeowner. There are exceptions that apply such as bankruptcy and insolvency.


The forgiveness is only applicable to taxpayers’ principal residence and only acquisition debt used to buy, build or improve the home. The additional cash taken out when refinancing a home will not be eligible for the relief unless it is used for capital improvements.


The lender is required to submit a 1099 form to IRS and provide the homeowner a copy who will file the forgiven amount on Form 982 as part of their 1040 tax return. How this affects your individual situation may differ due to other circumstances and advice from a tax professional is recommended.

Another Indication – The Right Time To Purchase A Home In The Pacific Northwest…

The Housing Affordability Index was developed over thirty years ago to help consumers determine when it is a good time to buy a home. It’s considered advantageous to the buyer when the index is over 100 because a median income family can qualify for a median price home.


Recent figures released by the National Association of REALTORS’ economic department show that the 2011 index of 184.5 is the highest annual average since it has been calculated. The most recent month released, December 2011, was 194.9. The index is also broken down into four regions of the country.


The two major components that contribute to the index are home prices and mortgage interest rates which are lower than they’ve been in the last five years which account for the dramatic rise in the index since 2006.


The Housing Affordability Index is another indication that this is a good time to buy a home for people who have good credit, a down payment and want a home. It may be the best time we’ll see in our lifetimes.

Home Buyers! One Size Doesn’t Fit All – PNW Style!

Rarely, does one size fit everyone and the same goes for advice. The following suggestion is not right for everyone. However, for people with job security and who don’t own a home; for people with good credit and enough savings for a down payment, there may never be a better time to buy a home.

Homes have had a significant price correction but in many markets, they have started to rise again. The lower prices combined with historically low interest rates make this an opportune time to buy a home if you can afford it.

One of the reasons homes are an attractive investment is the fact that you can use a small down payment and finance the balance for 30 years. The principle, called leverage, allows you to earn a return on the value of the home rather than the actual cash investment. Small appreciation can create a large rate of return on the initial investment of the down payment and closing costs.

The following example is a projection at the end of five years for a $175,000 home with 3% closing costs and a 5% interest rate for a 30 year term. The rate you see in each column is an annual rate of return based on the equity of the home at the end of the five year period due to both appreciation and amortization of the loan.

The nature of positive leverage will cause the returns to be higher with a smaller down payment. As you see in the table, the return is higher on the 3.5% down payment than with the 10% or 20% down payment.

If you’re curious to see if this advice might fit your situation, you really need to sit down with a knowledgeable real estate professional who can help you assess your position. It’s worth the time because there may never be a better opportunity than now.

Attention Pacific Northwest Homeowners, Family & Friends’ Mortgages – The Ins & Outs…

It all seems perfectly reasonable: one person is not satisfied with what he can earn currently in the market and another wants to find the most attractive mortgage to purchase their home. It can be a good match but the IRS has specific rules that govern the transaction.

 

The loan must be done in a business-like manner with a written note specifying the loan amount, interest rate, term and collateral. IRS requires that the mortgage be a recorded lien in order to allow the interest deduction.

Sometimes, these friends and family situations have a less than normal interest rate on the mortgage. However, the rate charged in the note is regulated by the minimum applicable federal rate which is published monthly by IRS according to current Treasury securities. For October 2011, the rate is 2.95% for terms over nine years.

The seller must report the interest paid to them along with the name, address and Social Security number on schedule B when the buyer uses the property as their principal residence.

A mortgage between family and friends can be good for both parties. It may allow the borrower a slightly lower rate without the expenses of a traditional lender while giving the note holder a higher rate than they can earn in available investments. Your tax professional can guide the transaction whether you’re a buyer or seller and your real estate professional can help arrange to have the documents drawn and filed.

The IDEAL Investment: For Pacific Northwest Home Buyers…

Rental homes can be the IDEAL investment in today’s market because they offer a much higher rate of return than alternatives without the volatility of ups and downs in the stock market.


IDEAL serves as an acronym to identify the advantages of rental properties:



  • Income from the monthly rent contributes to paying the expenses and a return on the investment
  • Depreciation is a non-cash deduction that contributes a tax shelter
  • Equity grows monthly as the mortgage amortizes due to some of each payment being applied to the principal
  • Appreciation is achieved as the value of the property goes up
  • Leverage can increase the return on investment by using borrowed funds to control a larger asset


The combination of these characteristics working together makes rental real estate a very good investment for today’s economy and years to come. Increased rents, high rental demand, good values and low non-owner-occupied mortgage rates contribute to positive cash flows and very favorable rates of return.


Contact me for more information about actual opportunities in our local market.

Great Investment! Attention Pacific Northwest Home Owners…

If you invest in a savings account, you’ll make less than 1% and will have to pay income tax on the earnings. On the other hand, contribute something extra to your house payment on a regular basis and you’ll essentially, earn at the mortgage interest rate which is certain to be more than you’re earning in the bank.


Making additional principal contributions on your mortgage will save interest, retire debt and build equity. An extra $100 a month in the example shown will save thousands in interest and short the term of the mortgage as well.



Reducing your cost of housing is another way to improve the investment in your home. Becoming debt-free is a worthy goal that is achieved with discipline and good decisions. Suggestions like this are part of my commitment to help people be better homeowners when they buy, sell and all the years in between.

Pacific Northwest Home Owners – Fix It Anyway…

“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” is certainly popular advice, but if you’ve ever had a serious plumbing leak, you certainly wished you had taken care of the problem earlier.


Washing machines, like all appliances, are supposed to work and when they don’t, it’s time to have them fixed or replaced. However, there is a critical connection from your water supply that may even be older than your washing machine itself.


Ask someone whose hose broke while they were asleep or out of town and you’ll hear stories of how quickly the water can damage walls, flooring and furniture. Almost anyone can replace the hoses with a pair of pliers for under $30.00 to avoid this potential catastrophe.


As you’re shopping for the replacement hoses, consider the braided stainless steel connectors. The advantage is that the stainless steel offers additional protection should a soft spot develop in the hose beneath. They’ll cost a little more but offer considerably more protection for a nominal price.

FHA Fees Going Up April 1st

FHA has raised the annual Mortgage Insurance Premium to 1.25% beginning April 1st.  MIP is required on all FHA loans and used to fund losses by lenders for borrowers who default on their mortgages.  As of June 1st, FHA loans in excess of the standard maximum of $625,500, in high-cost areas, will have a premium of 1.5% of the loan amount.


In addition to the increase in the annual MIP, FHA also announced it plans to raise the fee on the up-front MIP from 1.00% to 1.75%.  No date was reported for its implementation.


The bottom line will result in a borrower’s payments going up.  However, it might not be restricted to the MIP.  Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed that both 30 year and 15 year mortgages have gone up too.


One way to avoid the increase is to have a completed sales contract and have your lender order the FHA commitment prior to April 1, 2012.  If you plan on buying a home this spring, there is a reason to do it earlier rather than later.

Yours or Theirs – Can You Afford To Buy A New Home?

It takes money to buy a home: yours or theirs. If you’re not going to pay cash for a home, you need to find out exactly what you can borrow and what it will cost before you start looking at homes.

The mortgage process is not as clear cut a path as it was a few years ago. It is certainly more complex, takes longer and assumes that you’re credit worthy. If you have less than stellar credit, a trusted mortgage professional can advise you how to improve your individual situation.

You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get a copy of each from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Read the reports to determine if they’re accurate. Surprisingly, about 90% of all reports have errors.

You can try to correct them directly with the credit bureau, but a trusted mortgage professional can help you with this process too. They have tools that are not available to individuals. Some errors may not be serious but others will keep a person from qualifying.

Housing affordability is at a near record height due to the incredibly low interest rates and low home prices. Some areas are experiencing absorption of the inventories which could impact price. If you’re going to use “their” money to buy a home, the first step is to talk to a trusted mortgage professional. Call me for the name of a trusted mortgage professional.