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REALTORS® aren’t just agents. They’re professional members of the National Association of REALTORS® and subscribe to its strict code of ethics. This is the REALTOR® difference for home buyers:

  1. Ethical treatment. Every REALTOR® must adhere to a strict code of ethics, which is based on professionalism and protection of the public. As a REALTOR®’s client, you can expect honest and ethical treatment in all transaction-related matters. The first obligation is to you, the client.
  2. An expert guide. Buying a home usually requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal, and avoid delays or costly mistakes. Also, there’s a lot of jargon involved, so you want to work with a professional who can speak the language.
  3. Objective information and opinions. REALTORS® can provide local information on utilities, zoning, schools, and more. They also have objective information about each property. REALTORs® can use that data to help you determine if the property has what you need. By understanding both your needs and search area, they can also point out neighborhoods you don’t know much about but that might suit your needs better than you’d thought.
  4. Expanded search power. Sometimes properties are available but not actively advertised. A REALTOR® can help you find opportunities not listed on home search sites and can help you avoid out-of-date listings that might be showing up as available online but are no longer on the market.
  5. Negotiation knowledge. There are many factors up for discussion in a deal. A REALTOR® will look at every angle from your perspective, including crafting a purchase agreement that allows enough time for you to complete inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase.
  6. Up-to-date experience. Most people buy only a few homes in their lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each purchase. Even if you’ve done it before, laws and regulations change. REALTORS® handle hundreds of transactions over the course of their career.
  7. Your rock during emotional moments. A home is so much more than four walls and a roof. And for most people, property represents the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you stay focused on the issues most important to you.

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Buying your first home is a big step! It’s wonderful to dream dreams, and it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of searching property sites like realtor.com. Before going too far, however, it’s a good idea to hit the “pause” button and consider these more serious points.

1. Know when the time is right. Do some soul searching and make sure you want to buy a home because you genuinely want a home—not because you need an investment or simply think it’s “time” to settle down. Homes require a great deal of time, money, and energy to purchase and maintain. You want to love your home. If the timing isn’t right, you may regret the decision.

2. Review your credit score and get a credit report. You can (and should) request a free report once a year, at annualcreditreport.com. Review your report for any inaccuracies or disputes. It will take time to fix any issues, so start early.

3. Address any weaknesses in your credit history. If you have outstanding credit card or other consumer debt, start paying it off. If you are debt free but have very little credit history, you may need to start establishing a solid credit record. Important caveat: Do not apply for a new line of credit or a credit card if you plan to buy a house right away. Mortgage lenders are interested in a borrower’s well-established track record but may view a new credit line as a “red flag.”

Once you’ve been extended credit, use it and pay it off every month to establish a good record of managing credit obligations and debt. Don’t close old accounts, since they are a part of your history. Instead, use them occasionally – paying them off in full, so they remain active. To show credit worthiness, it’s best to have three or four open accounts, in good standing.

4. Start saving. Buying a home requires saving for a down payment on the purchase price. The more you save towards a down payment (in terms of a percentage of the purchase price), the better your mortgage terms can be. You also need to save money for closing costs. Many first-time buyers are not financially prepared for the cash required at the closing table. Closing costs vary, but on average, you can expect to pay between two and five percent of the purchase price of the house.

Working with your banker to set up a savings plan will help foster a good relationship and may provide a valuable resource when you are ready to apply for a mortgage loan. Let your banker know your plans and your timeline, and ask for their advice on preparing, financially, to purchase your first home.

5. Recognize the responsibilities. Your living costs will probably increase when you shift from renting to owning a home. You will no longer be able to call a landlord when something goes wrong. You are now the landlord, and will have to fix, or pay to repair, anything that goes wrong. Aside from household systems (air conditioning, heat, plumbing, electrical), you may also need to buy or replace major appliances. But the home will be yours-the rent won’t go up unexpectedly or have to mve because they property is now for sale.

The cost of insuring a house is also much higher than renter’s insurance because you aren’t simply insuring the contents of the house—you’re also covering the structure and any liability for visitors who may get hurt while on your property. Additionally, you’ll have to pay property taxes, which is a pretty hard hit for any homeowner, but can be especially challenging for new owners.

6. Get educated. Before you begin looking at houses, educate yourself about the buying process, what to expect, and what to avoid. Do your homework before you start looking to be an informed consumer.

7. Interview buyer’s representatives. Buying a house is a big deal, so you’ll want to select a qualified real estate professional to represent you in your transaction—someone who is both knowledgeable and will look out for your interests.

As a first-time buyer, you may not know there are differences in buyer’s representatives. If you select an Accredited Buyer’s Representative, you can be assured you’re working with someone who has received special training in representing buyers and has already established a track record with buyers. Find out who serves your area.

Once you start the home search, please don’t make any major purchases. No cars, no music systems, no appliances, no vacations, etc. They can change your income to debt ratio and can keep you from getting the better interest rate or even qualify for the loan. I once had a couple who were so excited about purchasing their first home that they bought a washer & dryer 3 days before closing. It almost cost them their dream. Luckily, the store let them put the washer & dryer on hold for 3 days until after closing. So they did move into their first dream home.

Interesting. Unfortunately, it makes sense when woman still make less than men in so many occupations.

home-buying-tips-for-single-income-women

SEATTLE – April 23, 2018 – Real estate website Estately recently conducted a study showing how America’s gender wage gap affects home affordability and ownership for women.

http://www.floridarealtors.org/NewsAndEvents/

To find out, Estately used 2016 U.S. Census data to compare men’s and women’s median salaries in the 50 most populated U.S. cities. Based on those salaries and assuming a monthly mortgage payment of 28 percent of the gross monthly income, the site used a mortgage calculator to determine the maximum home price each salary could afford.

Armed with this information, Estately reviewed the homes currently for sale in major cities across the country and identified the percentage of homes men versus women could afford.

The results in some urban centers were bleak. Seattle, for instance, has the biggest wage-based housing gap. Men can afford nearly 150 percent more homes than women.

Colorado Springs, Miami, San Diego and San Jose also topped the list with significant gaps. For instance, in Colorado Springs men can afford 122.5 percent more homes than women, while further down the list in San Diego, the difference is still a significant 68.5 percent.

With these results in mind, we asked real estate and personal finance experts to share their top tips for single women seeking to purchase a home.

Don’t let the down payment scare you away
Coming up with the funds to make a down payment on a home can often seem impossible, particularly when so many Americans have sizeable student loan bills and more.

Andrina Valdes, division president at Cornerstone Home Lending, urges buyers not to let this part of the process discourage them.

“Over and over again, potential home buyers report saving for the down payment as the biggest hurdle to homeownership. When you’re relying on one income to save up for it, the problem can seem insurmountable,” says Valdes.

The good news is there are all kinds of down payment assistance programs that can help individuals get into a home for less money down.

The Federal Housing Administration loan is popular among first-time and single-income home buyers thanks to its 3.5 percent down payment requirement. There are also programs offered by the Veterans Administration and also USDA loans that may require no down payment at all, says Valdes.

Line-up a guarantor or co-purchaser
The reality is that many single income households, whether they’re run by men or women, need assistance in buying a home in today’s market.

Experienced agent Julie Gans of Triplemint suggests lining up a qualified guarantor, co-purchaser or someone who might be able to gift money for your home purchase.

Consider a fixer upper
A growing trend among home buyers with limited means has been buying older properties and rehabbing them, says Ralph DiBugnara, president of Home Qualified.

“There are a few mortgage products in the market right now that make that easier,” said DiBugnara. “Fannie Mae has a loan called Home Style and FHA has what’s called a 203k loan. They both allow you to not only finance the purchase price but also construction costs in the loan to help your home look new.”

Look at homes well below your means
Real estate analyst Julie Gurner, of FitSmallBusiness.com, says it’s critical that single income households buy properties that are well below the amount they’ve been pre-approved for.

“You see that gorgeous home at the top of your range? Pass on it, and you’ll be glad you did,” said Gurner. “Single women and single income families have to be especially mindful to buy a home below their means … It gives them an additional expense cushion every month. Things come up. Doctor visits, your car breaks down, or your furnace breaking can be a big financial hit if you don’t have the ability to absorb it. On months where nothing goes wrong, you have the ability to save.”

As a single income earner, it’s important to protect yourself financially and be able to provide the necessities that make life stable. Having a home below your means can give you both and a great place to live.

House hunt during the right season
When it comes to finding an affordable home, time of year can make a big difference.

That means shopping during the right seasons, when prices traditionally are more negotiable and inventory is better, says Valdes.

Recent data from Trulia shows that there’s a 7 percent spike in starter home inventory during the fall, making it an ideal time to find a good deal. On the flipside, starter home inventory drops by more than 20 percent during the summer, making the warmer months a less appealing market.

Minimize credit card debt
As you embark upon your housing search, it’s critical that you reduce existing debt. This helps on a variety of levels.

For instance, not only does it make you a better mortgage applicant, it will also help once you’re in your new home dealing with a whole host of new expenses.

Gans, of Triplemint, suggest tackling credit card debt in particular.

“Pay off all credit cards prior to purchase to lower your income to debt ratio,” advises Gans. “This reduces your liability and makes you look more appealing to a seller.”

http://www.floridarealtors.org/NewsAndEvents/

Copyright © 2018 North Jersey Media Group Inc. This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Florida's Tampa and Orlando Housing Markets Ranked First and Fourth Best U.S. Cities for First-time Buyers

(Ariel photo of downtown St Petersburg, in the Tampa Bay area of Florida)

According to Zillow’s 2018 Best Markets for First-Time Buyers Analysis, first-time buyers in the U.S. looking for an affordable home without much competition may have the best luck in the State of Florida, with both Tampa and Orlando ranked high in the Top 10 best cities for first-time home buyers in 2018. Texas also had 3 cities ranked high on the same list.

Residential News » Tampa Edition | By Michael Gerrity | March 2018

Zillow ranked the 35 largest U.S. housing markets based on where first-time buyers have the best chance to find an affordable home with little buyer competition and strong forecasted home value appreciation. First-time buyers make up 42 percent of all buyers, according to the 2017 Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends.

Orlando-pic.jpgThe U.S. housing market is competitive for all buyers, as there are not enough homes for sale to meet today’s strong buyer demand. In January, inventory of the least expensive homes was down 17.1 percent annually, compared to a 9.7 percent decrease for all homes. In 2017, nearly a quarter of home sales were above the listed price. This puts first-time buyers at a disadvantage this home shopping season because they won’t have the capital from a previous home sale to help fund a down payment or keep up with bidding wars. Saving up for a down payment is the most commonly cited barrier to homeownership.

New buyers will have it easiest in the Southeast, especially Texas and Florida. Five of the top 10 markets for first-time buyers are in those two states. Homes in those markets require a smaller down payment, and buyers are more likely to encounter price cuts.

First-time buyers are likely to face the most difficulty in pricy West Coast markets, especially California metros. Not only are homes expensive, but inventory is especially limited, and it takes longer to break even on a home purchase.

Ten Best Markets for First-Time Homebuyers in 2018

1.   Tampa, FL
2.   Indianapolis, IN
3.   Houston, TX
4.   Orlando, FL
5.   San Antonio, TX
6.   Saint Louis, MO
7.   Philadelphia, PA
8.   Atlanta, GA
9.   Las Vegas, NV
10. Dallas, TX

“More and more millennials are reaching the point in their lives where they are ready to buy a home, but they are entering a highly competitive housing market that has been plagued by low inventory, especially among entry-level homes,” said Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas. “Southeastern markets will be easiest for new buyers, where homes are more affordable and there’s less competition. People planning to buy for the first time in some of the tougher markets should be prepared to face a more competitive environment, but that doesn’t mean they should count out buying entirely.”

Zillow’s list of the best markets for first-time buyers is based on five metrics:

  • Low median home value that requires a smaller down payment
  • Strong forecasted home value appreciation
  • High inventory-to-household ratio, to indicate available supply
  • Short Breakeven Horizon, which is the time it takes for buying to be financially advantageous compared to renting
  • High share of listings with a price cut

 

Homeownership: “The Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated”

The famous quote by Mark Twain in the title of this article can be used to describe homeownership in America today. Last week, the Census revealed that the percentage of homeowners in the country increased for the first time in thirteen years

Homeownership: "The Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated" | Keeping Current Matters

story in the Wall Street Journal gave these new homeownership numbers some context:

“The annual increase marks a crucial turning point because it comes after the federal government reined in bubble-era policies that encouraged banks to ease lending standards to boost homeownership. This time, what’s driving the market is a shift in favor of owning rather than renting.

‘This is market, market and market…There’s no government incentive program in sight that is having this effect,’ said Susan Wachter, a professor of real estate and finance at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, ‘This is back to basics.’”

In a separate report comparing the rental population in America to the homeowner population, RentCaféalso concluded that the gap is now shrinking.

“Undoubtedly, the recession had a great impact on homeownership…However, it looks like it takes more to discourage Americans from buying a house than that.

As the years go by, it seems more and more certain that the fact that renting has seen a sudden gain in popularity is more a reaction to the economic crisis than a paradigm shift in the Americans’ attitude toward housing.”

America’s belief in homeownership was also evidenced in a recent survey by Pew Research. They asked consumers “How important is homeownership to achieving the American Dream?”

The results:

  • 43% said homeownership was essential to the American Dream
  • 48% said homeownership was important to the American Dream
  • Only 9% said it was not important

Bottom Line

Homeownership has been, is and will always be a crucial element of the American Dream.

*Pictured Above – Mark Twain’s home in Hartford, Connecticut.
from Keeping Current Matters

Buying a Home? Do You Know the Lingo? | Keeping Current Matters

Buying a home can be intimidating if you are not familiar with the terms used during the process. To start you on your path with confidence, we have compiled a list of some of the most common terms used when buying a home.

Freddie Mac has compiled a more exhaustive glossary of terms in their “My Home” section of their website.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) – This is a broader measure of your cost for borrowing money. The APR includes the interest rate, points, broker fees and certain other credit charges a borrower is required to pay. Because these costs are rolled in, the APR is usually higher than your interest rate.

Appraisal – A professional analysis used to estimate the value of the property. This includes examples of sales of similar properties. This is a necessary step in getting your financing secured as it validates the home’s worth to you and your lender.

Closing Costs – The costs to complete the real estate transaction. These costs are in addition to the price of the home and are paid at closing. They include points, taxes, title insurance, financing costs, items that must be prepaid or escrowed and other costs. Ask your lender for a complete list of closing cost items.

Credit Score – A number ranging from 300-850, that is based on an analysis of your credit history. Your credit score plays a significant role when securing a mortgage as it helps lenders determine the likelihood that you’ll repay future debts. The higher your score, the better, but many buyers believe they need at least a 780 score to qualify when, in actuality, over 55% of approved loans had a score below 750.

Discount Points – A point equals 1% of your loan (1 point on a $200,000 loan = $2,000). You can pay points to buy down your mortgage interest rate. It’s essentially an upfront interest payment to lock in a lower rate for your mortgage.

Down Payment – This is a portion of the cost of your home that you pay upfront to secure the purchase of the property. Down payments are typically 3 to 20% of the purchase price of the home. There are zero-down programs available through VA loans for Veterans, as well as USDA loans for rural areas of the country. Eighty percent of first-time buyers put less than 20% down last month.

Escrow – The holding of money or documents by a neutral third party before closing. It can also be an account held by the lender (or servicer) into which a homeowner pays money for taxes and insurance.

Fixed-Rate Mortgages – A mortgage with an interest rate that does not change for the entire term of the loan. Fixed-rate mortgages are typically 15 or 30 years.

Home Inspection – A professional inspection of a home to determine the condition of the property. The inspection should include an evaluation of the plumbing, heating and cooling systems, roof, wiring, foundation and pest infestation.

Mortgage Rate – The interest rate you pay to borrow money to buy your house. The lower the rate, the better. Interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage have hovered between 4 and 4.25% for most of 2017.

Pre-Approval Letter – A letter from a mortgage lender indicating that you qualify for a mortgage of a specific amount. It also shows a home seller that you’re a serious buyer. Having a pre-approval letter in hand while shopping for homes can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.

Primary Mortgage Insurance (PMI) – If you make a down payment lower than 20% on your conventional loan, your lender will require PMI, typically at a rate of .51%. PMI serves as an added insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage and can be cancelled from your payment once you reach 20% equity in your home.

Real Estate Professional – An individual who provides services in buying and selling homes. Real estate professionals are there to help you through the confusing paperwork, to help you find your dream home, to negotiate any of the details that come up, and to help make sure that you know exactly what’s going on in the housing market. Real estate professionals can refer you to local lenders or mortgage brokers along with other specialists that you will need throughout the home-buying process.

The best way to ensure that your home-buying process is a confident one is to find a real estate professional who will guide you through every aspect of the transaction with ‘the heart of a teacher,’ and who puts your family’s needs first.

re-posted from:

7. Kitchen3

1766 Maryland Ave NE, St Petersburg, Florida

When a homeowner decides to sell their house, the number one thing that they want is, of course, the best possible price!! Right? Next, is that they want the least amount of problems to receive this price. Most sellers don’t realize all of the steps required to reach their goal. Marketing is more than sticking a sign in the yard, placing an add on Craig’s list or posting some photos on Facebook. Does the seller know how to stage the house to show it’s best appeal to the most buyers? Is the seller willing to answer phone calls 24/7, literally? Yes, at 2 in the morning when a buyer is searching the Internet! Does the seller know if the buyer is a serious buyer with their mortgage in place or are they pre-approved? In order to know all of these things & much more, a seller really needs to hire a real estate professional.

Technology has changed the buyer’s behavior during the home buying process. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2016 Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, the percentage of buyers who used the internet in their home search increased to 94%. However, the report also shows that 96% of buyers who used the internet when searching for homes purchased their homes through either a real estate agent/broker or from a builder or builder’s agent. Only 2% bought their homes directly from a seller that they didn’t know. Most of the buyers who bought homes directly from sellers (For Sale By Owner) still used a Realtor to represent them. Buyers start their search for a home online but then depend on an agent to find the home they will buy (50%), to negotiate the terms of the sale (47%) & price (36%), or to help understand the process (61%). There is so much information out there, either through the Internet or family & friends that more buyers are now reaching out to real estate professionals to help them through the very complicated process. The percentage of buyers who have used agents to buy their homes has steadily increased from 69% in 2001.


Sooooo, if you are thinking of selling your home, don’t underestimate the role a real estate professional can play in the process. The vast majority of buyers have realized that they actually need a Realtor in order to purchase their new home correctly. The laws regarding real estate change constantly & a professional Realtor will know the latest requirements & forms, as well as have a much larger audience with which to present your home in the best light.

This post below has some great information on how to choose an inspector when purchasing your next home. I would also add to schedule your home inspections as soon as possible after your offer is accepted. You want to allow enough time for repairs to be completed before closing. If there is too much wrong with the house, you will want to move on quickly to find the right house for you.

So you made an offer, it was accepted, and now your next task is to have the home inspected prior to closing. More often than not, your agent may have made your offer contingent on a clean home inspection.

This contingency allows you to renegotiate the price paid for the home, ask the sellers to cover repairs, or even, in some cases, walk away. Your agent can advise you on the best course of action once the report is filed.

How to Choose an Inspector

Your agent will most likely have a short list of inspectors that they have worked with in the past that they can recommend to you. Realtor.com suggests that you consider the following 5 areas when choosing the right home inspector for you:

  1. Qualifications – find out what’s included in your inspection & if the age or location of your home may warrant specific certifications or specialties.
  2. Sample Reports – ask for a sample inspection report so you can review how thoroughly they will be inspecting your dream home. The more detailed the report, the better in most cases.
  3. References – do your homework – ask for phone numbers and names of past clients that you can call to ask about their experience.
  4. Memberships – Not all inspectors belong to a national or state association of home inspectors, and membership in one of these groups should not be the only way to evaluate your choice. Membership in one of these organizations often means that there is continued training and education provided.
  5. Errors & Omission Insurance – Find out what the liability of the inspector or inspection company is once the inspection is over. The inspector is only human after all, and it is possible that they might miss something they should have seen.

Ask your inspector if it’s ok for you to tag along during the inspection, that way they can point out anything that should be addressed or fixed.

Don’t be surprised to see your inspector climbing on the roof, crawling around in the attic, and on the floors. The job of the inspector is to protect your investment and find any issues with the home, including but not limited to: the roof, plumbing, electrical components, appliances, heating & air conditioning systems, ventilation, windows, the fireplace & chimney, the foundation and so much more!

Bottom Line

They say ‘ignorance is bliss,’ but not when investing your hard-earned money in a home of your own. Work with a professional you can trust to give you the most information possible about your new home so that you can make the most educated decision about your purchase.

http://www.keepingcurrentmatters.com/2017/01/29/what-to-expect-from-your-home-inspection/

Annalisa Weller, Realtor®, Certified International Property Specialist

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