Why Winter May Be the Right Time to Buy Your New Home

Daughter and Father near the Fireplace

It may be turning cold outside but fall and winter just may be the best time for you to get a hot deal on a new home. Don’t let the blues of shorter days keep you from house hunting in the fall winter. There are some good reasons that now may be the best time to buy your new home.

Fewer buyers are house hunting.
Most home buyers shop in the spring and summer, when homes pop up for sale like tulips. Because there are so many fewer buyers, winter home buyers are more likely to get a good deal on the house they want.

Lower prices.
With fewer buyers in the market, home sellers often lower prices to attract the buyers who are out there.

Sellers are motivated.
Motivated sellers may be a great thing for home buyers, as they are more willing to negotiate. When you find the house you are looking for, you may be able to negotiate on price, closing costs, repairs, and even items such as appliances or other items you want included in the sale.

Inspections may turn up more or different items in the different seasons.
You will have the opportunity to see the house at work in the winter. Gutters, windows, heating systems, etc. get put to test during the colder months. You may miss some of the curb appeal of the manicured lawn when shopping in the winter, but you’ll know if the plumbing is working at full capacity and able to handle extremes.

Don’t miss out on buying your dream home because it’s cold outside. Seize the opportunity to put the season to work for you.

Q&A about VA Loans

Military Father and Son

VA loans are $0 down payment mortgage options available to veterans, service members and select military spouses. VA loans are issued by private lenders and guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Since its inception in 1944, more than 22 million VA loans have helped veterans, active duty military personnel and their families purchase homes or refinance mortgages.

How does a VA loan compare to a traditional/conventional home mortgage? Read on.

What is the down payment?

  • VA loans: 0% down.
  • Conventional loans: Up to 20% down.

Do I have to pay mortgage insurance?

  • VA loans: VA loans do have a form of mortgage insurance, the VA Funding Fee. It is usually 3.3% and financed into the loan up front. If the borrower separated from the military with a qualifying disability, the funding fee is waived to 0%.
  • Conventional loans: If buyers do put down less than a 20% down payment, they must pay for private mortgage insurance.

Are the interest rates for VA loans competitive?

  • VA loans: The VA backing gives lenders a greater degree of safety, which means the interest rates can be more competitive than non-VA loans.
  • Conventional loans: Without government backing, banks take on more risk with conventional loans, which can result in less-competitive interest rates.

How easy is it to qualify for a VA loan?

  • VA loans: Because the loan is backed by the government, banks assume less risk and have less stringent qualification standards for VA loans, making them easier to obtain.
  • Conventional loans: Conventional loans require stricter qualification procedures that can put homeownership out of reach for some homebuyers.

Can I do a cash out refinance? 

  • VA loans: Borrowers can do a cash out refinance up to 100% of their home’s value.
  • Conventional loans: Borrowers with conventional loans must leave some equity in their home when doing a cash out refinance.

What else should I know about VA loans? 

  • VA eligibility is re-usable. A lot of people think they are only eligible for a VA loan one  time, but they are able to get VA loans more than one time.
  • You can have more than one VA loan at a time. It’s a myth that you can only have one at a time.
  • VA loans are assumable.

 You or someone you know may be the perfect fit for a VA loan. Contact a loan officer today to learn more about VA loans and other types of home loans that may be a good fit for you. 

 

You Can Take Control of Some of What Affects Your Home Loan Interest Rate

House and Percentage Symbol

Interest rates are at the top of everyone’s minds right now, especially if you are in the market for a home. But your interest rate isn’t set in stone. Several factors play into the interest rate on your loan, and you are in control of a lot of what affects it. Here are some of the things that can affect the interest rate on your home loan. Let us know if we can help you determine what your home loan may look like.

1. Credit scores
Borrowers with higher credit scores generally receive lower interest rates than borrowers with lower credit scores. Lenders use your credit scores to predict how reliable you’ll be in paying your loan. Credit scores are calculated based on the information in your credit report, which shows information about your credit history, including your loans, credit cards, and payment history. If you’re considering buying a home now or later, check your credit score and do what you can to get it as high as possible.

2. Home location
Your home loan’s interest rate may be impacted by the in which you are purchasing. Part of this could be due to the health of the housing market in your state or county. If the housing market is healthy, the lender is less likely to risk default on the loan, so the interest rate may be lower.

3. Down payment
The more money you put down on your home, the lower your interest rate will likely be. You don’t have to put down 20 percent to get a loan, but if you do, you may get a better interest rate.

If you cannot put down 20 percent or more, you will be required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI protects the lender in the event a borrower stops paying the loan. The cost of PMI is added to the overall cost of your monthly mortgage loan payment. You may be offered a slightly lower interest rate with a down payment just under 20 percent, compared with one of 20 percent or higher. Why? You’re paying mortgage insurance, which lowers the risk for your lender.

When determining your down payment and subsequent interest rate, keep in mind the overall picture of what you are borrowing. The larger the down payment, the lower the overall cost to borrow. Getting a lower interest rate can save you money over time. But even if you find you get a slightly lower interest rate with a down payment less than 20 percent, your total cost to borrow will likely be greater since you’ll need to make the additional monthly mortgage insurance payments.

Look at the overall loan and payments, not just the interest rate, when getting a home loan.

4. Loan term
The term of your loan is how long you have to repay it. In general, shorter term loans have lower interest rates and lower overall costs, but higher monthly payments.

5. Interest rate type: fixed or adjustable
There are two general types of interest rates: fixed and adjustable. Fixed interest rates do not change over time. Adjustable rates may have an initial fixed period, after which they go up or down each period based on the market.

Your initial interest rate may be lower with an adjustable-rate loan than with a fixed rate loan, but that rate might increase significantly at a later date.

6. Loan type
There are several broad types (categories) of mortgage loans, such as conventional, FHA, USDA, and VA loans, all of which have different eligibility requirements. Interest rates can be different depending on what loan type you choose. Your lender will discuss different options with you and will help you choose the right loan to keep you and your family financially secure.

7. Discount points
Points, or discount points, lower your interest rate in exchange for an upfront fee. By paying points, you pay more upfront, but you receive a lower interest rate and therefore pay less over time. Points may be a good option if you will keep the loan for a long time. There are also tax benefits for discount points for the purchase of your primary residence. Talk to your accountant or attorney about this.

Getting a home loan is about more than just the cost of the house or the interest rate. There’s a lot to understand, and it is our privilege to help you navigate the home buying process. Please contact us if we can answer any questions.

Tips for Helping to Make Moving Easier for Seniors

Collaboration: Grandfather and grandson assembling furniture

Where others may see “trash,” elderly family members and friends may see “treasures.” As America ages, more and more of us are trying to help family and friends move to smaller homes or into independent living communities. Talking to seniors about downsizing and releasing decades of treasures is not easy.

Here are a few tips to help seniors downsize.
Don’t pack away your patience. “Patience is a virtue.” When helping seniors make a move, you will most likely need a lot of patience. Remember, often they are leaving homes they have lived in for decades, are dealing with physical or mental ailments, and are moving out of necessity rather than desire. Helping anyone through a difficult life change takes patience and compassion.

Avoid tackling the whole house at one time. It may be more efficient for you to go full steam ahead, but elderly family members may be stressed emotionally and physically. Think in terms of months rather than days for helping elderly family members move. Tackle one room at a time to make this easier on you and them!

Ask yes-or-no questions rather than open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are more stressful. Rather than asking, “Which pots or pans do you want?” present a manageable question such as, “I have your best frying pan, a large pot and a small sauce pot. Does this work?” This makes it easier for seniors to make a decision faster.

Use the new space as a guide. Find out how much closet and cabinet space there will be in the new home and fill that space only. How big are the rooms? Mark that information off on a diagram to see exactly what space you have to fill and use. There’s no reason to bring too much stuff.

Encourage giving a gift now. Urge your parent not to wait for the next holiday, birthday, or other milestone to bestow; remind him that there’s no space for storage. Ask, “Why not enjoy the feeling of giving right now?” (And if you’re the recipient — just take it, and encourage your relatives to do the same. You can donate the item later, if you don’t want it, but the immediate need is to empty your parent’s house.)

Target recipients and charities for specialty items. It’s time-consuming to find willing recipients for everything, but it may be worth the effort for items that your parent would be relieved to see in a good home. Examples: Schools may welcome musical instruments, old costumes. Auto repair shops and community maintenance departments may take tools and yard tools.

Call on the professionals. A fast-growing specialty, senior move managers specialize in helping older adults and are skilled at both the emotional and practical dimensions of late-life transitions. These experts can defuse a parent-child emotional clash, while handling everything from sorting and packing through hiring movers and unpacking in the new place.

Encourage seniors to focus on their most used items and let the rest go. What seems useless to you may be the most comforting item a senior has. The newest item isn’t necessarily the most favored item. Learn the story behind something…find out why the old plastic tumblers are preferred over new, sparkling glasses.

Aging is a fact of life. Taking a few steps at a time can help make any move easier.

What to Expect from a Home Inspection

Hands with house and magnifying glass, search home concept
Hands with house and magnifying glass, search home concept

Even in today’s hot housing market, you don’t want to skip the home inspection. The home inspection is a standard practice when buying a home. No one wants to make the biggest purchase of their lives, only to discover a weak foundation, shoddy electricity and plumbing that will cost $10,000 to repair. A good home inspection can protect buyers from major expenses when buying their homes.

What does a typical home inspection include?

Generally, a home inspector will look at:

The Foundation: Is there evidence of settlement and/or seepage in the basement or lowest level of the home? Is the settlement uneven or are there cracks? What is the structural integrity of the home? What is supporting the home?

Heating and Air Conditioning: What is the insulation like in the home? Is there enough heating and air for the home? How do the systems operate and are they operating properly? What can the inspector see in the way of potential problems in these systems?

Electrical: What does your electric system look like? Is it safe? Are there potential hazards? Is everything properly grounded and bonded? Are all the outlets working?

Roof: What’s happening on top of the house? Are there any general maintenance issues you should know about? What type of roof is it? Are there skylights that need repair? Are there places that are leaking?

Your home inspector should also check out your:
Lot and landscaping
Plumbing
Hot water supply
Chimney and fireplace(s)
Termite damage/wood damage
Attic
Exterior
Garage

There is a lot of ground for your home inspector to cover, so you want to hire one who will take his time and do a thorough job on your behalf. How do you pick a home inspector? Here are some tips:

1. Don’t trust an inspector simply because the inspector has a state license.

2. Look for an inspector who is associated with a professional inspection organization such as the National Institute of Building Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors or the American Association of Home Inspectors.

3. Don’t only take your agent’s recommendation; ask for three recommendations and then really grill the inspectors.

Remember, no matter how anxious you are to get into your home, a home inspection is not something you want to skimp on. 

Why Fall and Winter May be the Best Time to Sell Your Home

New Home

Summer is saying its farewell. And with cooler temperatures, we usually see a cooling in the housing market. But before you put your intentions to sell your current home on the back burner, take a minute to consider all the reasons now is the RIGHT time to sell a home.

There’s less competition.

No matter where you are, it’s a sellers’ market right now. But in the fall and winter, you’ll have an even bigger leg up on the competition with fewer homes on the market. This may pay off big time, making it easier for you to sell your home at the right price.

Fall and winter homebuyers are ready to make move.

Spring and summer buyers may be easing into the market. They know it’s home buying season, so they stick their toe into the water. But fall and winter homebuyers are serious purchasers. They really are planning to make a move, and in this tight market, that will work out well for the home seller.

Your agent can make different and potentially more accurate plans to market your home.

Because most parents don’t want to move their kids in the middle of the school year, it may be easier for your real estate agent to market more accurately to the true potential buyers – perhaps young professionals with no kids, older adults looking to downsize, people hoping to start a family “some day.” Often, these are the people more likely to make a move in the fall.

Note: This is a great reason to work with a listing agent and not try to sell your home on your own. An agent will know who the most likely buyers of your property are and will know how to reach them.

You could save money.

You won’t be hiring movers during the busiest time of the year, so they may offer you a less expensive rate than “peak moving season.” Everyone likes a bargain, so consider how much money you might save by selling in the fall.

Fall colors are great for curb appeal.

Run a rake over your yard, put out a few fall flowers and a fresh welcome mat, and your house can be read for fall in no time at all. Don’t discount the beauty of the season when it comes to curb appeal. If you’re selling in the winter, make sure you keep your home freshly shoveled and well lit.

Home owners will be home for the holidays.

If you sell in the fall, you’ll be in your new home by the time the holidays roll around, and the new owners of your house will also be home. That’s a big bonus. A lot of homebuyers picture themselves at home and settled in time for the holidays to roll around.

You may find your dream home easier.

You may be able to sell your home easier in the fall or winter, and surprisingly, you may be able to find your dream home in the fall or winter, too. In the summer homes move faster because there are more buyers out looking. In the fall or winter, even in a tight sellers’ market, you may find you have a little more time to make your move.

No matter when you decide to make your move out of your home and into your new home, we encourage you to solicit the help of a trusted real estate partner. A real estate agent can make selling your home easier and more profitable for you. Happy fall and happy house selling!

Scaredy Cat Sellers: You can sell your home and move into your dream home in this market

Arrow Shaped Home For Sale Sign

“I’d sell my house but where would I go?”

In Colorado and across the hottest housing markets in the United States, potential home sellers are asking themselves this very question. “Where will I go when my home is sold?” Scarcity has reared its head, and in turn, is helping to drive housing markets into some of the lowest inventory levels ever seen.

But is burying your head in the sand and waiting for the market to change the best way to make financial decisions that will impact you and your family now and in the future? Perhaps there are ways to put this sellers’ market to work for you as a home seller and a home buyer.

According to some of metro Denver’s Realtors, what you need in a market like this is a good team on your side, a bit of preparation before you begin the process of buying or selling, and a healthy dose of gumption. And they all agree that you can sell and buy a house with those pieces in place.

Why make a move now in this market?

Home prices and mortgage interest rates are continuing to rise. So, although staying where you are and waiting for the market to “fix itself” may seem safe, you’re betting against yourself. As interest rates rise, the amount a buyer qualifies for goes down. As time goes by and home prices rise, buyers may find that they qualify for less home.

“It’s a unique time to make a move in the Denver Metro real estate market,” says Jamie Nevers, Real Estate Advisor with the Legends Team of Your Castle Realty. But selling your current home and buying your next dream home is possible. Sellers can use the equity in their home, buy a home that better suits their needs, and use the equity they have accumulated to put a larger down payment on a home, while keeping their mortgage payments close to what they are accustomed to, she notes.

“Just because you are making a move doesn’t mean that you have to overpay or have a larger mortgage payment to reach your goals,” she says.

Julie Voorhees, a Realtor with Keller Williams Action Realty, echoes Nevers, adding that to forge ahead in this market buyers and sellers must get in the right mindset and have reasonable expectations and a strong team supporting them, whether they are buyers, sellers or both.

“In this market we have been experiencing ‘seller greed’ and ‘buyer fatigue,’” says Voorhees. Now is not the time to enter the market on your own. “The best way to be positioned to buy and sell is to have an excellent Realtor and lender… This is a skills market. Hire someone who has the skills.”

Why do sellers need a Realtor in a market like this?

First and foremost, if homeowners are selling their home with the intention of moving to another, they need to have their “ducks in a row,” before they make a move. They need to be agile and ready. A Realtor is positioned to help them negotiate offers on their current home, find the right home to purchase, and get their offered accepted on the new home, something that can prove challenging. Now is not the time for sellers or buyers to go-it-alone.

But what if a homeowner who wants to move still feels nervous about putting out the “for sale” sign?

Amy Hitch, a Realtor with HomeSmart Cherry Creek, acknowledges that for sellers who want to make a move now, letting go of your current home feels risky. The looming question, “Where will I go?” never disappears.

“I remind them that I am here to help them through the entire process. You never know what a day will bring, and what will be listed and on the market tomorrow,” she says.

She also educates her sellers who are looking to move to their next home about “buy before you sell” programs to ensure homeowners are ready to make a move when the sold sign goes up in their yard.

Voorhees complements this suggestion with other ways that home sellers can make their decision to sell and move less stressful. She reminds her sellers that they can ask for a lease back period of 60 or more days, which gives the sellers time to purchase their next home, or they can ask for a delayed closing, again providing sellers the cushion they need.

Nevers offers yet another approach – She recommends being proactive, having a pre-approval letter from the lender and being ready when your home goes under contract to start looking for your new home immediately. She works with her buyers to be strategic and practice patience.

“Start looking in the areas you are interested in purchasing as soon as possible and educate yourself on what a strong offer looks like in that area. When you do find the perfect home, you can put your highest and best offer in without hesitation,” she concludes.

As with anything in real estate, these professionals all agree that there is no one-size-fits-all approach in this market, but with the right team, the right amount of persistence, and a bit of gumption, there is something for every seller and every buyer, and they can help any scaredy cat seller off the fence and into their new home