Keeping Kids Entertained at Open Houses

Family Opening Door And Walking In Empty Lounge Of New Home

If you’ve ever had children tag along with open house visitors, you know it can sometimes be difficult to keep them entertained while touring a house. Here are a few ways to conquer kid-size boredom, keep the parents’ attention, and extend time to engage with the family.

Give kids something to do. Scope out a low-traffic station for snacks, coloring or play dough. Hold a contest for the best drawing of the home and offer a prize that winners can pick up at your office. This gets kids involved in the spirit of house hunting and creates additional contacts with prospects.

Give kids something to take home. Inexpensive coloring books and a pack of crayons, a pick-a-prize toy box, or a small goody bag handed off at the end of the visit can add a little extra patience to kids’ reserves. Your level of understanding in the situation will also translate well with parents.

Create a digital playground with a few iPads or a dedicated “kids only” laptop loaded with simple and fun-to-play games, like “My PlayHome” or “Make a House.” Gearing media toward real estate reinforces interest in the parents’ activity and helps them explain the process to little ones.

Ask kids’ opinions. While older kids may not be as finicky, they can distract parents and push to speed things up. Be ready with clipboards and opinion checklists that ask to list their top three likes and dislikes about the home. Send a branded house hunting checklist home with parents.

Kids can be an opportunity to develop a relationship with real-estate-minded parents. Don’t miss out!

Source: Inman

What Can I Expect from My Home Inspection?

Home inspector examines architectural, asphalt shingled roof.

Home inspections are 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.

A home inspection is one of the most important things you can do to make your home purchase a good one. Don’t skip this step!

What is a Mortgage Rate Lock?

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The mortgage lending world is full of terms that may not be familiar to you but are important to understand if you are considering buying a home or refinancing. One of those terms is mortgage rate lock. 

A mortgage rate lock is an arrangement between a lender and a borrower in which a mortgage’s interest rate is locked for a certain period of time. Typically, the locked-in rate will be the current market interest rate.

Some lenders choose to charge borrowers a lock fee if they choose to lock in the interest rate. Also, it’s common for lenders to start at a higher rate in case the homebuyers do not exercise their options to lock in a rate.

When a borrower and lender agree to a mortgage rate lock, it is important that both parties are bound by the agreement. This agreement would mean, for example, that the borrower could not unlock the rate because the market interest rate had lowered. Interest rates will usually be locked from the moment that the mortgage is offered until it is closed.

Unless a change occurs to the loan application, the interest rate will stay the same and will not be affected by market changes. Changes to the mortgage application, such as an increased loan amount or an updated credit score for the borrower, can result in the interest rate changing. Interest rates can also change if the home is appraised at a higher or lower amount than expected, or the borrower changes the type of mortgage for which they are applying.

Mortgage rate locks have some drawbacks from the borrower’s standpoint. For example, if the market rate falls during the term of the mortgage, a borrower would not be able to take advantage of these lower rates. The same would be true for lenders if the market rate rises.

A lock deposit can be a good way to make sure that both the borrower and the lender hold to the terms of the mortgage lock agreement. This deposit shows that both parties are committed to upholding the agreement. A loan estimate and a rate lock can be issued at the same time, and the period of the mortgage rate lock can be between 10 and 60 days. A longer rate lock period typically means that the borrower and lender have agreed to a higher interest rate.

Questions about mortgage rate locks or anything related to home mortgages? Please contact us today. 

Your Offer Can Beat a Cash Offer!

couple in front of new house

The word on the street is that the sellers’ market is slowing down. But that doesn’t mean cash offers are a thing of the past. For a seller, cash offers may mean a faster closing, but they also may mean a lower offer and extra demands in the deal. Here are some ways you can still “win the deal,” even if you’re not paying cash.

1. Prove you are ready to buy: Get a Performance Guarantee with Universal Lending. Our Performance Guarantee is a conditional loan commitment that guarantees your earnest money up to $10,000. Essentially, you’re putting in an offer that has already gone through underwriting. Other homebuyers may offer a pre-approval letter, but a Performance Guarantee is even better.

2. If you don’t have a Performance Guarantee, get a pre-approval letter. Your pre-approval letter says that you are qualified to buy a home. Other buyers will have this letter, so if you don’t, you are at a disadvantage.

3. Choose a lender that can get deals done quickly. Universal Lending is known as a quick-closing lender and our loan officers would like to help your offer beat a cash offer.

4. Make a higher offer. Even if your buyers are eager to sell, more money may sweeten the deal. Cash buyers often offer less for the home, in exchange for the fast closing, but at the end of the day, they are still hoping to get as much money as they can. You may be surprised that you don’t have to offer thousands of dollars to beat the cash offer; a higher offer of just $1,000 may be enough of an incentive.

5. Offer a bigger down payment or more earnest money. The more you put down, the more serious you seem about your offer.

6. Make your best offer your first offer. Assume that there will be little or no negotiation on your offer and make your best offer right off the bat.

7. Learn what the seller’s terms are. A good real estate agent will find out what the seller is looking for. Does the seller need to stay in the home until they find a place to move? Are they looking to sell quickly and move out right away? Knowing this information ahead of time will help you make an offer that has a better chance of getting accepted.

8. Be flexible. Can you be accommodating on a closing date? Can you ask for fewer repairs? A little flexibility may go a long way.

9. Get another vote of confidence from your lender. An updated pre-approval letter is a great start. A phone call or video email from your loan officer is even better. One final push saying how strong of a buyer you are may be the key that helps you close the deal. A confident lender will instill confidence in the sellers.

When you’ve found your dream home, you want your dream home! Make sure you give it your best shot when you make your offer. Happy homeownership!

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.

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.

Consider it Sold – To You! Get Your Offer Accepted on Your Dream Home.

Family with Sold Home

It’s been a long, hard journey. But you’ve made it. You have found your dream home. However, your dream home is the dream home of a lot of other people, too. Offering asking price isn’t  enough – Your offer needs to stand out from the crowd. Let us help you with a few ways to get your offer accepted so you can move into your new home.

1. Get a Performance Guarantee with Universal Lending. Our Performance Guarantee is a conditional loan commitment that guarantees your earnest money up to $10,000. Essentially, you’re putting in an offer that has already gone through underwriting. Other homebuyers may offer a pre-approval letter, but a Performance Guarantee is the next best thing to a cash offer.

2. If you don’t have a Performance Guarantee, submit your pre-approval letter with your offer. Other buyers will have this. so going in without a pre-approval letter will put you at a disadvantage.

3. Work with a real estate agent. You may think “you’ve got this,” but an agent who is familiar with the neighborhood you are buying in, knows how to help buyers stand out in a seller’s market, and who is a genuine champion of buyers will be ready to get you into your home.

4. Have your lender go the extra mile. Can your lender vouch for your ability to close this loan? Your agent can reach out to your lender and ask for a video or testimonial about your offer and ability to pay. A Universal Lending loan officer sent a video testimonial to her borrower’s agent, who sent it to the sellers, and it was the ticket to an accepted offer. Encourage your team be creative!

5. Offer a fast close. Make your offer stand out by offering a shorter closing date. Universal Lending prides itself on the ability to do quick, clean closings – another reason we stand out.

6. Offer above the asking price. Now is not the time to low ball. Check comps in the neighborhood to see what a strong offer was on the homes that have sold most recently.

7. Make a good, clean offer. If you’re trying to sell a property, making the purchase of this home contingent on selling another home may not work in a seller’s market. It’s also going to be difficult to ask for additional concessions such as help with closing costs.

8. In fact, you may want to offer to pay the seller’s portion of closing costs.

9. Don’t ask for extras to be thrown in. Lawn furniture? A grill that’s not staying with the house? A painting that you “must have.” Asking for extras may be just the thing that moves you down the list of accepted offers.

10. Put down a larger down payment than is expected. Putting more down on the house shows that you are serious about making this purchase.

11. Include an escalation clause in your offer. An escalation clause means that your offer will outbid other offers up to a maximum price. This means that you make an offer saying you will pay X price for a home, but if a higher offer is received, you will increase your offer to Y price.

12. Offer one month of free occupancy. When purchasing a home with a mortgage, your payment doesn’t come due until a month after you close. A seller could very well need that time to figure out where they are going and offering to pay their “rent” for a month could strengthen your offer.

Don’t lose your dream home. Be prepared when the time comes to make an offer and make your offer stand out.