Category Archives: Buyers

Niagara Falls First Time Buyers Find Multiple Funding Resources

In an improving residential real estate market, first time buyers may flinch at the greater loan amounts that accompany larger price tags. Lending standards have also put some first time buyers through a tougher gauntlet than faced during many previous eras. Although some easing is now beginning to take place, some Niagara Falls first time buyers can still find it difficult to secure the level of funding they seek. For them, there are a number of alternative funding possibilities that first time home buyers in Niagara Falls may wish to explore. Here are some of the assistance programs that can serve buyers as they go about buying that first home:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home Loan Guaranty Service is the most well-known of the programs, providing government guarantees for loans to service veterans and those on active or reserve duty. It also provides assistance to widows or widowers of veterans. Some VA loans require no deposit, and although the size of loans are limited and vary by area, the limits aim to make possible purchase of a mid-sized home. The actual loans are made by private lenders; the portion that is guaranteed by the VA protects the lender from losses should the veteran prove unable to repay the loan.

The HUD Basic Home Mortgage Loan 203(b) is a program that provides mortgage insurance to purchase or refinance one-to-four unit principal residences. Applicants who meet standard FHA credit standards and who pay the insurance premiums are eligible for approximately 96.5% financing provided by FHA-approved lenders.

The USDA Rural Development Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program is a rural development grant designed to help low- and moderate-income rural applicants purchase a home. The rural development program works with local lenders to provide 100% financing for eligible home buyers. In order to qualify for the program, an applicant must live within one of the eligible rural areas and have a total household income that does not exceed the established limits for that area.

The Community Development Block Grant is one of the nation’s oldest housing assistance programs. The goal of the CDBG is to make funds available to urban communities to be disbursed to citizens in the low and moderate income range. The money allocated to the CDBG is provided to local government authorities, who have broad latitude in how they allocate the funds to create and upgrade local housing conditions. Examples are shown in the video Role of the CDBG.

Each program has its own specific application format, which may involve completing a grant application package or simply applying for a loan from an approved lender. More detailed information can be found on each relevant agency’s website.

Securing financing is just one step of the home-buying process—though a first time buyer may be excused if they find it an intimidating one. Whether you are a first time buyer in Niagara Falls or a seasoned homeowner, give us a call: We’re here to help every step of the way!

Buying a Vacant Youngstown Home Can Mean No Disclosures

Suppose that in the course of buying a home in Youngstown, your eye is drawn to a bank-owned home, or a home held in a trust. There are many reasons why you could find yourself buying a Youngstown home that’s currently vacant—which can also mean that the usual owner disclosures are not to be had. There are perfectly innocent reasons why this situation develops. Suppose the sellers of the property have just inherited it. How would they know that water tends to pool under the house during a strong rainstorm? Or that unpermitted repairs were made to the electric wiring in the kitchen?

If thoughts like these cause beads of sweat to pop out all over your forehead, don’t fret. This summer we can find you plenty of alternatives in Youngstown’s traditional housing market. But before you automatically pass on a vacant home because of unknowns in its history, you should know that, with due diligence, you can still end up with a home that is worth your money and a safe place to live!

When you consider a vacant home, the most reliable information will come after you’ve arranged an inspection. The inspector’s report will let you learn what you’re getting into before you buy—and whether it’s in safe and livable condition. Most homes that fall vacant due to circumstances like divorce or a move are well cared-for and in decent shape; others, long abandoned, are more likely to have fallen into disrepair. Without any owner disclosures, you’ll be on your own to discover potentially major issues like leaking pool equipment or pest problems.

Even after you’ve had a thorough inspection, there is still a good chance you will encounter at least some surprises. There are some elements of a home that can’t really be properly inspected—like what lies under the floorboards or behind attic walls. Since there is no former owner to sound a warning, there is always a chance that you could run into unplanned-for expenses. Truth to tell, though, this can also hold true for a traditional home if the sellers have no prior knowledge, either.

Although buying a home with no disclosures can be a great way to get a wonderful deal, it’s still a good idea to leave some extra budget for the most likely potential costs. In addition to things like insurance, unexpected repairs, and maintenance, there are other costs you might also need to cover—such as a vacancy endorsement on your insurance policy if the house will continue to stand vacant for more than 30 days after the sale.

The bottom line? If you’re considering buying a home in Youngstown with question marks in its history, be sure you apply some energetic diligence before signing on the dotted line. You’ll be a lot more relaxed after the fact.

Thinking of buying a Youngstown home this summer? Then it’s time to give us a call!

Niagara Falls Rental Property Investments—They’re Out There!

When any investor first begins to mull over the idea of acquiring a rental property in Niagara Falls, it’s usually in competition with an array of other investment types—each with its inherent pluses and minuses. Some of them are new ideas (new technology company stocks; new forms of commercial exchange)—but real estate is definitely not one of those. It may not be innovative, but being a landlord has always been one of the leading sources of passive income.

What is exciting about rental property is why it has always been recognized as a sound investment. When the income from a Niagara Falls rental property is able to pay for its own underlying mortgage, it self-propels its growing equity. The rental property’s investment value grows as the loan is paid down month by month, year after year. Added to that is any appreciation in its market value.

And with the best Niagara Falls rental property scenario, when rental income exceeds mortgage and other expenses, it will even throw off an extra income stream. Needless to say, choosing the right rental property in Niagara Falls is worth the effort! Much of that effort involves making a serious effort to map out and project values, income and expense:

  • Neighborhood: Consider how the overall desirability of the neighborhood is likely to affect its appeal to tenants. Are there attractive amenities like parks, shopping and entertainment venues? What do the local classified ads reveal — is the area’s vacancy rate high or low? How do rental prices compare with adjacent neighborhoods?
  • Project Ancillary Expenses:  Determine the historical property tax rates, and what future rate changes are being proposed. Likewise, investigate insurance costs and roll both expenses into your total monthly expense projections. You want to be sure that they are low enough that you can still make a profit from the rental.
  • Local Dish: Expert advice from Investopedia is for prospective landlords to speak with renters as well as homeowners in the neighborhood. It’s a good point: “Renters will be far more honest about the negative aspects of the area because they have no investment in it.”
  • Schools: Rental homes in Niagara Falls featuring two or more bedrooms will attract families—and that means they will likely have children in school. If a school is nearby the home, it’s likely to be that much more popular with family tenants.
  • Crime:  Crime-prone neighborhoods can have higher turnover and longer vacancy rates, so a bargain purchase price may be less of a bargain than you’d hope.
  • Commute:  Is the property a long commute from the commercial center of town, or a quick drive? Is there public transportation? Many prospective tenants begin their housing search with their workplace as the center point. Renters will consider this before signing a lease—and you should before signing your offer!

If you are thinking of looking at rental property in Niagara Falls this summer, they’re definitely out there. Call us today to discuss some of the many opportunities!

Moving to Lewiston NY Means Vetting Reliable Carriers

Moving to Lewiston NY (or moving to anywhere) is adventure enough without including one of the moving company scams that are all too common. It seems hard to believe that unscrupulous carriers can continue to operate, but the fact is, there are a lot of them out there. If you will be moving to Lewiston anytime soon, you don’t have to worry about any of the rip-off artists if you follow some straightforward guidelines:

  1. 1.      Check the FMCSA  

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration runs a household goods program designed to aid consumers. Their website includes a search feature that records past complaints for known companies…but be aware that only interstate movers are listed. Along with complaint information, it lists company contact details so you will know you’re dealing with the people they say they are.

  1. Check Online Reviews

A search engine search of the company can be helpful: just enter the company name plus ‘reviews’ or ‘ratings.’ You’ll often find Yelp entries, and with luck, recent experiences by customers moving to Lewiston.

  1. Get A Written Estimate

You should be skeptical of any moving company that is willing to provide a quote over the phone or internet. This may not be evidence of a scam, but often means that you are dealing with a broker rather than the company itself. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation red flags any over who doesn’t offer or agree to an on-site inspection of our household goods “or gives an estimate over the phone or internet”…the too-good-to-be-true estimates, demands for large upfront deposits, or failure to hand you the “Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” pamphlet (Federal regulations require Interstate movers do so during the planning stages) are all signs of trouble ahead!

  1. Insurance Issues

Before you hand over your belongings, it is a good idea to check that you’ll be moving to Lewiston with the proper insurance. Ask the movers about their insurance policy and note the policy number. If you have any concerns, you can check with the insurance provider to confirm that they are properly covered.

  1. Use A Mover With A Physical Address

Another sign to watch out for are moving companies that don’t list a physical business address. With a brick-and-mortar base of operations, you know where to head should anything go wrong.

Moving scams can cost a lot of money—not to mention the stress that results when unscrupulous operators have all your stuff!  If you’re planning on moving to Lewiston NY this summer, please consider one of us as your local guide to our area. We’re here to offer professional real estate representation—as well as a ton of information about all things Lewiston!

Housing in Wheatfield May Be Headed for a Transformation

Of the things Americans take for granted, one of the least questioned is the future availability of familiar housing circumstances: housing that’s ‘like where I grew up.’ For urban dwellers, that might be an apartment or condominium; for others, a single-family home—a house with a yard, or perhaps a farm or ranch house. It may be time to re-examine that whole idea.

Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in multi-generational living arrangements. We read and hear a lot about the housing situation that sees many young adults now living with their parents—but that’s not the whole story. Seniors are increasingly likely to live with their children. The latest census housing data confirms that 9% of seniors now live in a household headed by their children. If you are planning to sell your home this summer, it’s worth thinking how multi-generational living is affecting housing here in Wheatfield.

In the past, multi-generational living was the rule rather than the exception. In 1900, 57% of Americans aged 65 years or older lived with other family members. Following World War II, increased education, better access to loans and the GI bill meant that more young adults could buy homes. At the same time, older adults benefited from social security and medical care which let them live longer independently. By 1990, only 17% of people aged 65 years or older lived with their families.

The recession of 2008 created a job crunch that produced the “boomerang kid” phenomenon: many young adults took longer to leave their parents’ home to seek housing on their own. Too, the growth in the aging proportion of the population has meant that many older Americans are living with their adult children. A third contributor is the increase in the number of ethnic minorities with cultural biases for more than one generation to share housing.

It’s not surprising if the result of these trends is to influence Wheatfield housing preferences. According to the American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey, there has been a traceable rise in demand for “in-law” suites over the past year. There has also been an increase in demand for homes with a master bedroom and full bath on the ground floor—the layout most popular when older parents will be accommodated. Other features such as ramps, home elevators and non-slip floors are also gaining popularity. Den, attics and basements are all also increasingly being converted into bedrooms and living areas for younger adults and older parents.

Developers are also responding to the same trend by introducing housing best described as “multi-generational-friendly”. In 2011, national builder Lennar introduced their “Next Gen” house plan: a layout that has the capacity to become two houses in one. The attached house has its own entrance, bedroom, kitchen and living space. A connecting interior door can convert the house into one big home—but when closed, the two residences are separate. Apparently, the idea has been a notable success: Lennar now offers 50 different Next Gen floor plans in 120 communities across the country.

The return to multi-generational living seems likely to have a significant impact on the types of Wheatfield housing that will be developed in coming decades. Wheatfield houses with in-law and young adult-friendly features (such as additional rooms and bathrooms) are likely to grow in demand. Especially if you’re thinking of remodeling your home, don’t hesitate to contact us before you start. We can offer relevant feedback about how your remodel is likely to affect your sales price now—and throughout coming years.

Niagara Falls Seller Financing Agreements Can Make Deals Happen!

When home prices in Niagara Falls are on the rise, one side effect is that first-time homebuyers may run into a financing obstacle. Although the stricter lending standards of the past few years have been easing somewhat, it still can be difficult for some folks (younger buyers, especially) to purchase the Niagara Falls home they have in their sights.

In that situation, an alternative to a traditional bank mortgage is seller financing. Many prospective buyers know little about the details that make up a seller financing agreement, and how it can–or cannot—help them secure a home.

What Seller Financing Is…

It’s as simple as the words themselves. When part or all of the purchase price of a property is carried by the current owner rather than a bank, it is considered to be “seller” or “owner” financed. Buyer and seller reach agreement on the loan details, including the monthly repayments, term of the loan, and interest rate. The security for the loan is the property itself—a fact which is documented on public records for the safety of both parties.

The Benefits of Seller Financing…

For the buyer, the principal benefit of seller financing is avoiding the requirements that are the hallmarks of traditional bank loans. Motivated sellers, who may be anticipating having trouble selling their home in a timely manner, be willing to advance a loan to buyers who do not traditionally qualify for a loan. Another benefit for the seller is having an investment which returns a fixed rate of return—one that is secured by the property. In the case that the buyer defaults on the loan the seller can foreclose on the property. With seller financing of a Niagara Falls property, the buyer will often compensate for a lower-than-bank-required credit score by agreeing to pay an above-market interest rate (another inducement for the seller).

Financing Part of the Purchase Price…

In some cases, the buyer may be able to secure a traditional loan for only part of the full purchase price. In that case, the buyer can ask the owner if they would be willing to finance the missing piece. Again, the buyer may sometimes offer an interest rate that is above current market rates as an inducement. It’s often possible for the buyer to plan on refinancing the ‘missing piece’ at a later time when the credit picture has improved, hoping to lower the combined interest rate.

But, then…

These advantages are so clear, you might expect that Niagara Falls seller financing arrangements would be very common. There are several reasons why that’s not true. First, owner financing can only be offered by sellers who own their property outright. Second, should a buyer fail to live up to his or her side of the agreement, foreclosing on the property can be a lengthy and expensive process—during which it’s likely that no money will be paid by the buyer in default.

In Niagara Falls, seller financing can be a deal-saving alternative for buyers who may not meet lending standards set by banks, but who can nonetheless afford to service a mortgage. Not all sellers will consider owner financing—but for those who are willing to support the added risk, it can meaningfully expand the pool of prospective buyers. Seller financing is just one of many possible strategies. If you are thinking of buying or selling in Niagara Falls, give us a call as soon as possible to take advantage of this summer’s market opportunities!

Summertime Open House in Wheatfield: the Timing is Perfect!

Estimates so far indicate that summer 2014 is likely to be a better than usual season for Wheatfield home sales. The past winter threw a wet blanket over all kinds of business activity, creating a perfect scenario for a sales bounce back—and that’s exactly what is beginning to show up in the stats. As Bloomberg News reported last week, sales of homes “climbed in April for the first time in three months…the biggest in six months…”

If you will be taking advantage of the uptick by listing your property for this summer’s market, having an open house in Wheatfield NY is a prime way to attract prospective buyers. With a little focus and energy, getting your home in shape can be easier than you might imagine.

The checklist is short:

Landscaping

The place to begin is with the landscaping—it frames the picture that’s the first thing buyers see when they pull up during the warm months. If you don’t have summer flowers planted, that’s okay—improvise! Purchase a few hanging baskets and potted plants. Place them along pathways, the entrance, and other places that could use a little bit of color. Hose the exterior, but if the years have been too tough, you may need a refresher coat of paint or trim. Perk up the lawn with an easy-to-apply lawn food spray; edge where needed; then mow and admire!

Get a Fresh Outlook

Give your windows a good cleaning (outside first)—it’s surprising the amount of sparkle that simple job can add to your Wheatfield open house. Air the house thoroughly as you do a deep clean where it’s needed: usually a shampoo of carpets and rugs will accomplish the lion’s share of the work. Add some summer color to your rooms with fresh throw pillows, and as your open house draws near, see where a few well-placed floral arrangements would add bright color to draw the eye.

Last Checks

Before the day of your open house, there are a few more quick checks to be made. Walk around the house. Are the air conditioner units clean? Are the gutters and rain spouts in good shape? Outdoor spaces are great selling points to make your home more attractive to buyers, and a summertime Wheatfield open house creates the perfect opportunity to show them off. There are always a few little things you’ve been meaning to attend to…now is the time!

Looking for more open house tips? Call us today if you’re thinking of listing your Wheatfield home for sale. We can discuss a marketing plan to get your home S-O-L-D this summer!

A Wheatfield Mortgage Application Should Be Smooth Sailing

Everyone expects that finding and buying the right Wheatfield, NY home will take a good deal of attention and energy. After all, it’s as important a purchase as we ever make. But when you add in the potential that something on your mortgage application could bring everything to a screeching halt, that’s one detail that has the potential to trigger what could turn everything into a truly harrowing experience.

The average credit score in America is around 688. That might look like a respectably large number, yet it’s considered mediocre when it comes to mortgages. And the truth is that most Americans are blissfully unaware of what is going on with their credit reports most of the time…that is, until they’re presented with a Wheatfield mortgage application. Ideally, everybody should take a look at their report well before they are faced with a mortgage application—but if you’re one of the majority who hasn’t done so, there is no need to panic. You may still be able to deal with credit issues that threaten to delay your otherwise smooth transaction.

The most common issue that Wheatfield homebuyers come up against during the mortgage application process is one or more late payments that ding the final score. In most cases, these are small amounts that were likely forgotten and can be quickly cured. Schedule an immediate payment—and be sure to record the receipt. Once the bank sees that the account has been brought current, they will most often proceed.

Issues stemming from a stolen identity can be more severe and may take a bit more time and effort to straighten out. First, let the bank know that the charges on your report are not yours; then document the entire process of disputing the charges with the credit bureau and having them removed from your report. The downside is that this typically takes from 1 – 6 months to complete. In most cases, your bank will proceed—but will delay closing until you can furnish proof that the issues have been resolved.

In the event that you have late payments that you cannot afford to bring current, you may be able to make a settlement with the creditor that the bank will accept. The Catch-22 is that they will typically want you to pay off the debt completely. This is when it’s going to be necessary to have a candid discussion with your Wheatfield NY mortgage specialist: once you have made the situation clear, he or she will explain your best options.

If you haven’t taken a recent look at your credit report, now is the time to do so. You don’t have to wait until you’re filling out a mortgage application to benefit from identifying potential credit issues…in fact, keeping tabs on your score can pay off in every situation where credit comes into play!

Questions?  We’re happy to refer you to one of our great Wheatfield mortgage brokers even before you get your house hunt started. Call us!

Wheatfield New Home Market Reflects Shifting U.S. Patterns

For decades, the three-bedroom house has been a cornerstone of the American dream. Now, as with the rest of the nation, Wheatfield’s real estate profile for new single family homes seems to be changing. And last year we may well have reached a turning point in the national new home market: now four bedrooms seems to have become the new norm!

Last year, a full 48% of new homes—nearly half—were built with at least four bedrooms. That’s quite a jump when you compare it with just four years earlier: in 2009, the figure was 34%. We asked ourselves why the nation’s preferences would have undergone such a sizable shift. A little research revealed some likely answers—and some interesting history behind them.

The Rise of Bigger Homes

The footprint of the average new home built in the U.S. went Yeti in a very short time. In the late 1940s, Postwar America began producing single family homes on a massive scale—with an average size of about 750 square feet. As the economy expanded, so did house sizes until by 1973 the three-bedroom home dominated the new home market (Wheatfield included). By 2013, average new home sizes had reached 2,701 square feet according to the Census Bureau.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but at the same time the number of bedrooms was increasing, the size of the American household was heading in the opposite direction. The 3.6-person average of the 1940s had, by 2013, contracted to 2.58. That means the living space for each individual had grown by 80%!

House Sizes Shrink, Then Expand Again

In 2009, as a side-effect of the last decade’s real estate market downturn, single family home sizes had retreated by about 6%. But now the economy’s slow recovery has reversed the reversal. According to the most recent report from the National Association of Home Builders, the average size of a new home built in 2013 was 2607 square feet— a 300-square foot increase over just two years earlier.

Fewer New Buyers = Bigger Homes

One of the reasons for the new home market shift toward larger four-bedroom designs can be ascribed to a decrease in the number of first-time homebuyers. Largely due to previous tightening in lending criteria and rising mortgage rates (both trends have at least momentarily stalled in the Wheatfield new home market), the smaller homes favored by first-timers claimed a proportionately smaller chunk of the market.

It’s hard to avoid the general conclusion that what were once considered luxurious additions are effectively today’s norm. The en-suite bathrooms, two-car garages and even three-bedroom homes that would have been out of reach for most of the new home buyers of the past are practically standard fare in 2014. But another fact is that every Western New York area differs from every other. If this has you wondering how your home compares with what today’s buyers are looking for in your own neighborhood—why not give us a call?

Lewiston Mortgage Rates May Rise—But You Can Still Save!

 Mortgage rates may rise or fall this spring (lately they seem to be falling!)—but that needn’t prevent you from saving even more money when it’s time to structure your own Lewiston mortgage. The underpublicized fact is that mortgage rates are only one of the factors that affect how much you wind up paying. No matter what happens to mortgage rates in 2014, here are some keys to making mortgage decisions that result in significant savings:

Tailor the term

 Evaluate your budget and see whether it is possible to increase the amount of your monthly payment. By increasing monthly repayments, you reduce the term of your Lewiston mortgage. Over the course of the loan, this can save tens of thousands of dollars.

Refinance for five years instead of two

 The interest you pay on a refi loan isn’t the only cost. The origination and other fees can easily end up costing four figures. It’s a numbers game: simply calculate the anticipated savings from refinancing, then subtract the amount of the fees. The difference tells you your net savings…and demonstrates why one of the easiest ways to grow those savings is to refinance less frequently.

Change to biweekly  

 Changing to biweekly payments instead of monthly payment can save you more than small change. The reason is on the calendar: there are 52 weeks in a year, but only 12 months. If you make 26 1/2 payments every year, that equates to 13 monthly payments. It’s a stealthy way to make an additional month’s payment every year without really noticing it. When choosing a loan, opt for one where the bank allows you to choose biweekly payments (as long as they don’t want to charge an additional fee). Also request that the extra payments be deducted from the principle.

Improve your credit score

 On this count, every mortgage guru sounds like a broken record. Although the average quoted mortgage rate may rise or fall, that’s not necessarily the rate that you pay. Your FICO score is the primary determinant of your Lewiston NY mortgage rate. The difference between a good FICO score and a bad one can be significant, so get a copy of your credit card record and challenge any damaging inaccuracies. Lenders want to see a long history of paying on time with a mixed use of credit.

 Mortgage rates in Lewiston will almost certainly increase in the future because they’re still well under historical averages. But there are plenty of steps you can take to cut thousands of dollars from your ultimate Lewiston mortgage costs. And if you are ready to buy a house in Lewiston this spring, contact us today—We’re ready to show you what’s coming up at your price point!

Taking Advantage of Wheatfield Commercial Property Opportunities

This year, it looks as if the busy spring real estate season extends beyond the residential arena. Latest reports show commercial property sales on the rise throughout the nation—and in volumes that make it one of the main contributors to the overall economic upturn.

The most reliable data comes from the National Association of Realtors®, whose latest quarterly survey shows year-over-year sales increasing a full 11% (with prices rising 4%). It’s an encouraging backdrop for businesspeople and individual investors who are gauging the opportunities in today’s Wheatfieldcommercial property market. Despite the vagaries of the tax and political climate (it is an election year, after all), with rental rates increasing and leasing activity up across the nation, the market does invite a closer look by anyone considering a fresh entry into Wheatfield’s commercial property arena.

While working with a buyer’s agent to find and purchase a Wheatfield commercial property isn’t an absolute essential, it certainly can be more efficient to have professional assistance and guidance throughout the process. When you choose a Realtor who has specifically commercial experience in the Wheatfield area, you make the same kind of choice as when you seek expert help in any other area of your business or personal endeavors—an expert’s insight can be priceless!

 Whether you are buying or selling a commercial property, it’s also important to avoid fixating on short-term impacts. Today’s cash flow may be your leading financial factor, but balancing with the long-term impacts is a juggling act worth mastering. Buying or selling a commercial property has long term impacts that spread out well beyond this year’s bottom line. Don’t hesitate to discuss your current business model with your accountant or tax professional. They are sure to have concrete ideas about potential impacts that will be quite real five and ten years from now. The right commercial property in Wheatfield NY will be one that is able to accommodate your needs both now and into the future.

With the right agent and clear-cut financial goals, your search for a Wheatfield, NY commercial property can result in the best financial move you make this year—or for many years to come.  If you’re weighing the value of purchasing a commercial property or placing your own for sale, call us to open the discussion about the opportunities in today’s market.

Some Lewiston Jumbo Mortgages Go Mini

We call them oxymorons: terms with built-in contradictions. George Carlin made fun of ‘jumbo shrimp’; Jerry Seinfeld pointed out the unlikelihood of anything being ‘found missing’ or ‘clearly misunderstood.’

But for some Lewiston homebuyers, there is more reason to smile than laugh over the new popularity of a formerly miniscule part of the home loan market: what I call ‘mini jumbo’ mortgages.

That’s not the name Wall Street Journal writer Lisa Selin Davis used in a fascinating article in their Mansion section earlier this month. She called them ‘starter jumbo’ loans in a nod to their popularity among younger, upwardly-mobile borrowers. But whether you call them that, mini jumbo mortgages, or just jumbo mortgages, Lewiston, NY homebuyers may well find increasing availability for home loans above the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae limits—but still under $1 million.

“Loans at the lower end of the jumbo market are on the rise,” writes Davis, “…driven…primarily [by] the rebounding real-estate market.” Although the issuing of higher-ticket jumbo loans has been on a slight decline since the start of the year, those between $417,000 and $625,000 have jumped from 19% of jumbo loans in 2009 to a full 29% last year.

Corelogic echoes the theme, pointing to the fact that sales of homes between $800,000 and $1 million rose more than 32% from 2012 to 2013. “It’s the safest and most popular part of the market,” according to the publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance; pointing to their appeal both to buyers and lenders.

Lenders see mini jumbo mortgages as a good way to attract new borrowers. Bank of America, who reports that 75% of its jumbo loans were under the million dollar mark, recently lowered its minimum down payment requirement from 20% to 15% to attract such loans.

And for borrowers, the interest payments that accompany big ticket (but not too big ticket) jumbo mortgages can maximize the tax advantages of home ownership. For some Lewiston NY jumbo mortgage candidates—especially those who don’t intend to stay in the same home for 30 years—jumbo mortgages can make irrefutable financial sense. Whether your own plans include regular, mini jumbo, or traditionally-defined jumbo mortgages, the first step is finding the right property…which is your cue to give us a call!

Considerations When Buying a Wheatfield,NY Condo or Townhouse

The lifestyle of condo or townhome living is a great fit for people in all walks of life.  Lower prices for Wheatfield, NY condos and townhomes when compared to single family residences enable first time home buyers to affordable them. Price and ease of social interaction appeal to those who are separated or divorced. Boomers wishing to downsize, but don’t wish to move to a “senior-only” community find them most desirable.

If you think that condo or townhome living is possibly for you it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a lot more to consider than just the condition of the particular unit itself. Take a look around the development and make a mental note of these important items:

  1. Are the common grounds well maintained?
  2. Are the exteriors of the buildings in states of disrepair or are they updated?
  3. Do the residents of certain sections seem to have more pride of ownership than others?
  4. If properties for sale back up to the main road, what kind of a buffer has the association provided to block out the noise from traffic?

 

Talk to residents about the positives and negatives of living there (especially the negatives). Remember, you’re not only buying a home, but you’re also buying into the community as a whole.

Here are things you’ll need to know about the community before you buy:

Are there any pending lawsuits or liens against the association?
Accidents can happen at any time.  This is why associations have insurance.  But if an association has a lawsuit pending the bank may not lend you the money to buy in that development until the lawsuit is settled. Additionally a lawsuit could put the association into fiscal bind, and that will significantly impact resale value.

What percentage of the units are investor-owned?
Banks have a strict limit on the number of investor-owned units that they like to see in a condo or  townhouse development.  Usually this number is around 30%.  If the number of investor-owned units is close to this number (or higher) you might be better off considering another development. The reason for this is that banks negatively view a large population of renters in a community (the theory being that renters don’t take care of a property as well as owners and if the number of renters hits a tipping point, it will bring down property values across the community).

Is the Association fiscally sound?
An association that is financially struggling to keep up with the maintenance and needed improvements will begin to show.  It may have a pool, but can’t afford to open it.  It could have tennis courts but they are in such disrepair they cannot be used.  If you are looking in a development after the pool and/or clubhouse are closed, you need to find out if these things were in fact open and operating well during the summer season.  All of these factors contribute not only to your enjoyment of living in a community, but will affect your return on investment when you wish to sell.  A development that has not been carefully maintained lowers everyone’s property value.

Read the Association Rules and Regulations
One item that many buyers forget to review before purchasing a Wheatfield, NY townhome or condo is the Association’s Rules and Regulations. Here are some examples that could impact your life:

  • Pets – May or may not be permitted.  If dogs are allowed there may be a restriction on size.
  • Parking – Trucks or vans may not be permitted to park in the development.  If you have one, you may have to have alternate arrangements to park somewhere else.  Also in general is the parking situation a free for all or are there assigned parking spaces.
  • BBQ Grills – Many do not permit gas or charcoal grilling.
  • Gardening – You may or may not be permitted to plant flowers, shrubs or other vegetation.
  • Decks or Patios – You may or may not be permitted to add one or the other.
  • Window Treatment Restrictions – Some associations require that all window treatments used have white liners to give the exteriors a uniform appearance.

 

The list could go on and on.  While you may or may not agree, with them, they are the rules and you need to decide if you can live by them. Successful associations in Wheatfield, NY have strict guidelines in place to help retain and improve the values of the homes within the development – but sometimes these rules can impact your ability to enjoy living in the development, which is why it’s imperative to learn all you can in advance.

Overall buying a condo or townhome can be an involved process and you’ll want to ensure you have the best possible real estate agent on your side to ensure there are no surprises. Give us a call, and we can find the ideal Wheatfield townhome or condo for you!

Credit Score Review Pays Off for Frugal Wheatfield, NY Homeowners

Your credit score will have a major impact when it comes to the cost you wind up paying for a Wheatfield, NY mortgage. A buyer with a high credit score of 750 or above will qualify for the most competitive interest rates available; but today’s tightened lending standards mean that some borrowers with scores under 600 may not qualify for a mortgage at all. And no matter what, a low credit score can mean paying an extra 3%-4% interest charge on every payment.

There is nothing permanent about a credit score. Wheatfield, NY homebuyers who realize its importance—and who take early steps to improve their own—can save literally thousands of dollars.

  1. You can’t improve your credit score until you know what you are working with. Your first step is to obtain your credit reports. They are available for free once a year from each of the three major reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
  2. The fastest way to improve your credit score is to correct any inaccuracies. Because this takes time – anywhere from 30 days to as long as six months, the earlier you begin the process, the better. To remove items that are incomplete or inaccurate, verify the correct information using the dispute procedure on the agency’s website. The creditor has 30 days in which to validate the debt; if the credit agency does not receive a response to your claim, they are required by law to remove the entry from your report. Remember that there are three major agencies, so an incorrect item may appear on all three— and all three need to be contacted.
  3. If you have an older credit card that you haven’t been using for a while, it’s a good idea not to cancel it; even to use it now and again, paying the balance in full. This will mean that the issuer keeps reporting information to the credit bureau, which can be valuable. A longer credit history improves your credit score.
  4. A low credit utilization ratio measures how much of your available credit you are using. In order to improve your credit score, keep your credit utilization ratio below 20%. One way to quickly improve a utilization score is to move credit card debt onto cards with higher limits. While this will not make a difference to the amount that you owe, it will alter individual cards’ credit utilization ratios.
  5. Consider a Personal Loan. If you have a family member or friend that you can borrow from, consider taking out a loan in order to pay down a portion of existing debt. By removing some of that debt, you can give your credit score a boost.
  6. Moving away from being measured as a poor credit risk has the biggest impact on whether a future mortgage is approved—and how much interest you wind up having to pay. Your credit score in Wheatfield really matters! If you would like an introduction to a mortgage broker to begin the conversation about the home loan your current credit score qualifies you for, contact us today.

 

Homeowners in Wheatfield, NY Hope to Match National Price Rises

2014 has already given an encouraging start for Wheatfield, NY homeowners who consider national price movements as the best pointers for what we can expect for local real estate. Already in February, median house prices were up 7.6% nationally year over year (that according to the US National Housing Trend Report). It followed a similar 8.3% increase in January. The question many Wheatfield, NY homeowners have is whether this upward movement can be sustained throughout 2014.

Two Years of Historically High Growth
If we look at the historical record, values normally rise somewhere in the area of 3% to 5% annually. But over the last couple of years, gains have been considerably higher. As measured by the Case-Schiller Index, property prices in the 20 largest U.S. cities have increased 21% since they bottomed out. Even considering the depth from which they started, that is still remarkable.

Factors Likely To Influence Home Prices
Among factors which could influence performance in the year ahead, one of the most prominent is the continuing historically low interest rates. According to the leading financial website Bankrate, as of this writing, the average no-point, 30-year fixed mortgage was edging downward again to 4.32%. That may be up from a year ago, but, by way of contrast, the long-term average for a 30-year mortgage is estimated to be 8.56%!
Even considering Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s stated intention to continue the Fed’s expansive monetary policy, most observers consider it all but inevitable that as the economy improves, quantitative easing will be cut back…pressuring interest rates to rise (and last month the Federal Reserve made a $10 billion cut in its economic stimulus program).
Two other factors likely to weigh heavily on future price moves are foreclosures and negative equity. As real estate prices increase, the number of Wheatfield, NY homeowners whose homes register negative equity will steadily decrease. An improving economy will also mean that foreclosure rates continue to decline.

Predictions for the Year Ahead

According to Zillow’s national Home Value Forecast, homeowners can expect residential real estate prices to rise 4.8% across the nation through December 2014. Economists also expects that inventory—the number of homes offered for sale—will increase as more sellers are encouraged by higher prices and new home construction ramps up.
All in all, it’s easy to see why overall expectations are for this to be a solid year for residential home price increases—even taking into account expectations for rises in interest rates and housing inventory. Exactly when is, of course, something that’s impossible to predict. While this year isn’t expected to duplicate the spectacular gains of the past two years, all indications are that it will wind up being another good year for homeowners in Wheatfield, NY.
In case the forecasts have you wondering what your home is now worth, why not contact us today to discuss your own home’s prospects in this spring’s active market?

When Your Lewiston, NY Home Inspection Becomes Priority #1

Congrats! Your offer has been accepted and you are officially in escrow. Now what? Usually the first order of business is to arrange your Lewiston, NY home inspection. When you were house hunting, you were weighing so many factors it was next to impossible to thoroughly examination of every nook and corner of every one of the serious contenders…in fact, it wasn’t necessary. But now that you’re moving forward to a purchase, you want to do more than kick the tires. It’s time to get under the hood!

Here is a taste of just some of the areas you and your inspector will be examining during your Lewiston, NY home inspection:

Plumbing

You will be taking a close look at the tiles around the handles on the bath tub or shower. If they are a different color, it could indicate a plumbing problem. A look under the kitchen sink for stains beneath the pipes can also indicate leaks—something you’ll want to know more about from the seller.

Mold

HGTV’s home inspector Rick Yerger lists water as enemy #1. “Of the many homes I have inspected,” he says, “water damage to the structure has been the most damaging and costly, causing foundation problems, rot and the dreaded mold.” He recommends close examination of exterior grade for sloping (or draining) back toward the home; stucco issues where they’re applicable, and roofing materials.

Inspect the Yard

If there is a yard on the property, take the time to do a thorough walkover. Look at the condition of the shrubs, grass and flowers. Check the irrigation, the lighting. You should also look closely at the fencing and gating: they can be expensive to repair.

Electricity

Exposed wires can result in a house fire or other devastating damage. Open splice wire (where wire is conjoined using only electrical tape and/or wire connectors) is a common do-it-yourself mistake often seen in attics, garages, and crawlspaces. Any issues found with the wiring should be corrected ASAP.

These are only a few of the many areas your Lewiston, NY home inspection will cover, so when you are scheduling the day, don’t make other appointments that might rush the process. Of course you hope that everything will be found to be flawless, and if only minor problems are uncovered, the seller may simply volunteer to correct them. But if the home inspection reveals that a significant amount of work will have to be done to bring it up to an acceptable standard, you and your agent will probably be submitting additional terms reflecting the requirements. As always, if you’re looking for that agent—the one you will want by your side throughout the entire home-buying process—We hope you’ll give us the call!

Lewiston Rental Property Gains Make Selling Tempting

It’s one of the skills a successful Lewiston rental property investor needs to cultivate: if or when to sell. With property prices on the rise, some Lewiston landlords may in fact be asking themselves whether now is the time to cash in. Especially for most everyone whose rental property investment was made during the last few years, it’s already been a profitable gambit. According to the Case Schiller Index, by last year’s close, property prices across the nation had risen at the fastest rate in the previous nine years.

But if—and then when—to sell a Lewiston rental property can be a tough call. As a relatively illiquid investment, it takes a great deal more commitment than the decision to sell a stock or cash in a bond. But sometimes there are circumstances that can make the decision a little easier. For instance:

-Cash flow

One clear reason why you might choose to sell is if the rental property is losing money. The rental may have been vacant for too long, or the rent level may not have been sufficient to cover expenses. In many cases, other real estate investors will be willing to lose money in the short term on a property they believe will appreciate in the future. It’s also possible that a full-time rental property professional may be able to tap economies of scale that are not possible for every individual investor.

-Greener pastures

Your Lewiston rental property may be doing fine—making money and showing substantial value growth—but now an unusually promising alternative investment has appeared. With the strong spring market, it may make sense to sell now to reinvest the profits elsewhere.

-Taxes

Everyone’s tax situation is different, and the tax environment is subject to change. Even if that weren’t the case, there are some years when personal finances mean that a sale would be a much better idea than others. As with any substantial financial decision, your accountant or other financial adviser will have the relevant input.

-“Landlorditis”

Being a landlord is not for everyone. Sometimes a professional property manager can alleviate nearly all the stress for an investor who doesn’t relish the vocation, but even then, there can be other chores: bookkeeping, manager management, a leak-through of tenant personality issues…that prompt a landlord to decide he or she would rather direct energy elsewhere. Opting for more passive forms of investment is always a possibility.

Lewiston has already benefited from some of the fruits of the national real estate recovery – but that alone doesn’t answer whether this spring is an opportune time for you to consider selling your Lewiston rental property. Call us today for a comprehensive property evaluation—the key piece of information that will help you decide!

 

Keeping Youngstown Real Estate Sales on Track

The slick, entertaining formats of HGTV’s many buying and selling programs makes for great entertainment – but, as anyone who has ever actually bought or sold a house knows, they tend to leave some key information on the cutting room floor. Sure, real estate sales in Youngstown can in fact involve elements of creativity, presentation, personality, all of which make for interesting television viewing. But in real reality, successful real estate sales are largely based on contracts, disclosures, inspections, contingencies, and time. They may be less telegenic, but can be dramatic, especially when you’ve done everything in your power to make sure that a deal works out smoothly, only to be faced with last minute surprises that threaten to prevent you from closing (or cost you a bundle!).

 

Here are some of the major issues that can impede Youngstown real estate sales—and how to prevent them from happening:

 

  • Not Weighing the Comps

When you are in the process of making a major decision, it’s natural to seek the opinions of the people who are closest to you. When it comes to real estate sales, however, personal opinions from well-intentioned non-professionals can create distractions that wind up doing more harm than good. In the realm of contracts and negotiations, it’s important to give weight to the opinions of experienced real estate pros. They know how to provide unbiased guidance based on comps and statistics rather than emotion.

  • Verbal Agreements

Whether you are selling or buying, it’s essential to get any agreements about repairs or updates in writing. Parties will often discuss repairs or credits and assume that a verbal agreement will suffice. Not true. Not only can a repair come back to haunt you later, but certain repairs left uncompleted can delay the close of escrow.

  • Last Minute Changes

Whether it’s taking out a loan on a new car or holding one final goodbye party at the house, last minute actions by buyers and sellers have an uncanny ability to hold up a deal. When you are in contract for a property, keep your eye on the prize: if you’re the seller, don’t do anything that increases the risk of damage to the house. If you’re the buyer, don’t make sudden changes in your financial life until you are the legal owner of that property.

 

Buying and selling property is more intricate than a 30-minute TV show, but the end of the episode should feature the same broad smiles and satisfied handshakes—particularly if you don’t let an innocent move derail the purchase. Real estate sales in Youngstown, NY are our business; call us anytime or visit Great Lakes Real Estate!

 

Private Mortgage Insurance in Niagara Falls Bridges Risk Gap

Many of Niagara Falls’ would-be first time home buyers are stopped short when they come up against the need to raise the initial deposit. But just because you don’t have a hefty down payment, it needn’t mean you can’t own your own home. You can still purchase a house with less than a 20% down payment if you are otherwise qualified—that is, if you take advantage of something called private mortgage insurance (“PMI”).

The reason there is a market for private mortgage insurance in Niagara Falls is because lenders face an increased risk when they issue a loan with a low down payment. The simple fact is that the less money a home buyer invests in a property, the greater the possibility that he or she will choose to simply walk away. Someone with 5% equity in a home has a lot less invested than had they plunked down 20%—so if anything goes wrong, it’s proportionately easier for them to just hand the keys to the bank. Mortgage insurance covers the lender in such a default.

The cost of private mortgage insurance in Niagara Falls comes in the form of monthly premiums in an amount set by the PMI issuer. The amount charged depends upon the loan-to-value ratio of the property, factored in with the borrower’s credit score. The insurer guarantees the difference between a 20% down payment and the amount put down by the borrower. For instance, if the borrower puts a 15% deposit on a $200,000 home, but then defaults, the PMI provider would cover the lender for $10,000—the difference between a standard 20% down payment (here that would have been $40,000) and the amount actually made as a down payment ($30,000).

The obligation to continue making PMI policy payments ends once the principal balance on the mortgage falls below 78%, since the borrower’s stake in the property will have risen to 22%—a touch above the 20% threshold. Borrowers can reach this benchmark early by choosing pay extra on their home’s principal balance or by making improvements that result in raising the value of the property: another way to improve the LTV. That route requires a request for PMI cancellation and borrower’s payment for an updated property appraisal (the appraiser will be named by the insurer).

For prospective buyers who are otherwise fully qualified — but for one reason or another can’t supply a 20% down payment — private mortgage insurance makes homeownership possible. No matter what your financial profile, starting the pre-qualification process is your first step. Contact us to get the ball rolling this spring!

Foreclosures in Buffalo Still Available for Careful Buyers

Despite the winter’s chilling effect on all sorts of sales, February saw single family homes, condominiums and townhomes selling nationwide at a full 7% increase over a year earlier. The opposite is true of foreclosures—no surprise, since the health of the market means fewer serious borrower delinquencies, hence fewer foreclosures.

Even so, Buffalo foreclosures are still available, possibly because some of the fiercest competition may be tailing off. Real estate watcher RealtyTrac finds that the institutional investor buying spree appears to be losing steam—which could be very good news for individuals interested in purchasing foreclosures.

Typically, Buffalo foreclosures are listed on an as-is basis — and that means exactly what it says. Whatever is wrong with the property will remain unfixed. Unlike a traditional home sale where you can negotiate with the seller to fix problems or provide credits to counterbalance the expense to have them fixed, when you buy a foreclosed home as-is, that option isn’t available.

When you are up against time pressure to submit an offer, you do have other strategies. One is to hire a qualified home inspector to go over the property, then make your offer contingent on the results of the report. That allows you to know what you are getting into before you commit. If it turns out that the repairs needed are minor, you can choose to go forward with your purchase. If there are too many costly problems, or if there are an overabundance of unknowns, it might be in your best interest to pass. A contingency like this gives you the freedom to weigh your options carefully before you make your decision.

One other issue to keep in mind is the insurability factor. If you believe your offer represents good value even though the property has significant maintenance issues, remember that in most cases you will need to have a home insurance policy in place before you can close. Ask your insurance agent to check the property to determine whether it can be insured. If the first answer is no, you can still check with other companies—but keep in mind that in the world of foreclosures, this can become an insurmountable obstacle.

Buying foreclosures in Buffalo needn’t be overly risky when your approach includes careful evaluation of the target property. Buffalo foreclosures are still out there, and with care and patience, you should be able to find one that is right for you. Interested in discussing further? Contact us today!

 

Google’s Move into ‘Unloved’ Buffalo Homeowner Devices

Right at the start of the year, Google announced a surprising move. It said it was purchasing a home appliance maker most of us had never even heard of…for $3.2 billion in cash! It was a gambit that every Buffalo homeowner should note, because it signals where some very smart money is headed: right where we live!

Remember, Google isn’t just famous for its search engine; it’s also frequently in the news for its forays into any number of futuristic enterprises (those mysterious barges, for instance). The appliance maker that now has Google’s billions in its pocket is called Nest Labs, Inc. Nest makes smart devices that reinvent the traditional ones every Buffalo homeowner has to deal with, like thermostats and smoke detectors. “Unloved but important devices” was how the press announcement put it.

The unique feature of Nest’s products is that they collect “user behavior” data (i.e., homeowner actions) in order to provide a more tailored response. Google CEO Larry Page explained, “They’re already delivering amazing products you can buy right now–thermostats that save energy and smoke/CO alarms that can help keep your family safe.”

The move of Google into the realm of smarter homes is part of a broader trend. In the most recent American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey, there was a dramatic increase in the use of technology solutions in the home. The survey noted an increase in requests for entertainment, security and energy management systems. Energy management systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated as households are given the ability to manage their lighting and temperature over a wireless network. As electronic cars become more prevalent, electronic docking systems in the garage may also become commonplace.

How does this affect the average Buffalo homeowner? As the minimum price of these systems decline, automated homes will eventually become the norm. If today it costs around $2500 to automate your home, it’s all but inevitable that similar features will fall in price (and grow in sophistication). Then, when it comes to buying a Buffalo home or listing your own for sale, the amount of smart automation is bound to become a key selling point—trust Google!

The ability to operate and manage your house from a wireless devices such as your smartphone or laptop is already here…and Nest’s learning technology signals a future where our home and appliances are able to learn from our behavior and predict our needs. Keeping an eye on the future is a good idea for any Buffalo homeowner, especially when you’re thinking of replacing one of those “unloved but important” devices— and most especially when you’re contemplating listing your home anytime soon. If that’s in your future, why not give us a call? As Google is in the habit of demonstrating, it’s never too soon to prepare for the future!