June 17, 2018

Retiring and thinking of downsizing your home?

When the last time you bought a home was far enough back that your mortgage is paid off, or nearly so, can we give you some advice? A lot has changed in the real estate industry since the 1980s, in both the selling and buying process.

First, you’re no longer looking for areas with good schools for the kids or a strong job market for Mom and Dad. So, your priorities have changed as well and you have far more freedom now to live where you want and how you want.

It’s liberating, isn’t it?

If you’re considering downsizing your home, read on.

Right now, half of the “most viewed” articles on AARP’s website deal with romance, sex and vacations. Retirees — or those contemplating retirement — don’t have a one-track mind though.

When they aren’t reading about hooking up, or the birds and the bees, they think about their finances. And downsizing a home isn’t just a way to save on home maintenance costs but also a way to free up all that equity you’ve built up to use during your retirement.

Whether you’ll be shopping for another, albeit smaller, single-family house or a condo, downsizing doesn’t really differ that much between the two. Since it’s a major life event, however, it’s a bit scary, “like having an empty nest after the children leave,” says gerontologist Karen Owen-Lee.

Be that as it may, baby boomers are a hardy bunch and it takes a lot to frighten them off what they truly want. In fact, of the 14 percent of Americans age 65 and older who say they plan on moving in the next five years, 67 percent say their priority is to move to a smaller home.

My best advice to you is to first consult with your accountant or financial adviser before taking any concrete steps toward that new future. Armed with his or her good advice you’re in a far better position to make this move, sans the emotions.

Then, you’ll need to consider whether you want to try to time the sale of your current home with the purchase of the new one. It’s a tricky process but we’re happy to walk you through it.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages

With the home paid off, you’re in a far better financial position than many retirees but you should still consider the costs of selling a home. You’ll pay real estate fees, perhaps concessions to the buyer and mortgage fees. These can add up to a big chunk of money.

The advantages to downsizing, however, may just offset those costs

First, if you don’t pay cash for the new home, you’ll have a mortgage payment. Since you’ll be buying a smaller home, however, your payments may be far lower than they were when you had a mortgage on the current home.

And, because the home will be smaller, you’ll save money on utility bills and, if you choose a condo, home maintenance chores may be picked up by the HOA.

But, before you can make a plan for the future, you’ll need to consider both sides of the issue, the good and the bad.

Yes, there are disadvantages

In a perfect universe there would be perfect timing in all that we do. Selling your current home would coincide with a hot sellers’ market which would magically morph into an equally fiery buyers’ market when you look for the new home.

Ah, that dratted universe – nothing is perfect

And, the late Steven Hawking agrees. “One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist … without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist,”

The upside to this, however, is that one of the markets will prevail so you are ensured of saving money on at least one of your transactions.

Next, consider that condo living offers many advantages (low maintenance, amenities you might not find in a single family home community, etc.) but it has drawbacks as well. Chief among these are the HOA fees and any special assessments which may crop up in the future.

It’ll work with a good plan

My advice is to plan on selling your home as soon as possible. We are still in one of the best sellers’ markets we’ve seen in decades, but interest rates may hike again this year, locking many buyers out of the market.

To make the most money possible on the sale of your current home, get it on the market soon

Then, to really get the most bang for your home-buying buck, consider moving to a less expensive community. AARP’s Shelley Emling compared the “best places to retire” cities from both Forbes and USA Today and found that both lists had three cities in common:

  • Iowa City, Iowa
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Columbia, Missouri

Both publications’ rankings used a variety of criteria, but of the three, the city for retirees on a tight budget appears to be Iowa City.

There, you’ll pay no state income tax on your Social Security income and receive a tax break on what your pension brings in. The median home price there, by the way, is $204,000, according to Emling.

Downsizing, coupled with a move to a less expensive city or even a cheaper community right here in our hometown, may just mean all the difference, financially, during your retirement.

When considering downsizing, it’s important to consider not only the type of neighborhood and home in which you want to live, but the financial aspects of the move as well.

Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to seek counsel from your financial planner or accountant before making any decisions. Then, call me and we’ll get started on the real estate part of your plan.

May 21, 2017

Buying a Condo with an FHA-Backed Loan

Most home sales go through without a hitch but there is always a chance that one will hit a snag somewhere along the line. Many of these are minor irritants, some are downright disappointments.

Few of the latter compare to falling head-over-heels for a condo only to learn that the community isn’t HUD-approved so you can’t use your FHA-backed loan for the purchase.

In reality, if you’re working with the right real estate agent, this shouldn’t happen; he or she should be checking the condo complex’s approval status before even showing you the home.

When it does happen, however, it typically leaves the buyer dazed and confused. Let’s take a look at what FHA requires of condo buyers that differs from its single-family home requirements.

The Basic FHA Requirements

Lenders have a tough job, especially when it comes to buyers using an FHA-backed loan to purchase a condo. Not only must it determine if the borrower is a decent credit risk, but it must also take into account the risk of loaning money for a home that is governed by a homeowner association. And, regardless of your credit worthiness, if the HOA has problems, the lender and/or FHA will deny the loan.

Some HOA problems that FHA frowns upon include:

  • A high number of rentals in the community. FHA rules demand that, at minimum, 50 percent of units must be occupied by the homeowner. In 2016, HUD changed the minimum to 35 percent, under certain circumstances. Learn more about those circumstances at HousingWire.
  • The homeowner association fee delinquency rate must be lower than 15 percent of the budget.
  • No investor/entity may own more than 50 percent of the units in the community, but only if half of the units in the community are owner occupied. So, if Warren Buffet or some random Saudi Prince decides to snatch up 52 percent of the homes in a condo community, the complex will be denied HUD approval.
  • FHA will not guarantee loan repayment on a condo community that is in litigation. Once the litigation is settled (which can take years), the community can be considered for certification. Litigation examples run the gamut from the HOA suing the developer for construction defects to the famous cases of homeowners suing the HOA for the right to fly an American flag and the proper disposal of pet waste.
  • The HOA’s cash reserves must be equal to or in excess of one-years’ worth of the association fees. FHA wants to see that the HOA has sufficient reserves to cover expensive repairs or replacements.

This is by no means the entire list of requirements, but represents some of those we most frequently come across. They are quite demanding – so much so that in 2013, about 60 percent of U.S. condo complexes seeking certification were denied, according to John McDermott of National Mortgage News.

Sure, it’s tedious, but the FHA process has advantages

Any home purchase requires a certain amount of due diligence. The buyer’s legal duty is to thoroughly inspect the property and the paperwork that goes with it, before going through with the purchase. Typically, the onus for this due diligence is on the buyer, but in the case of an FHA-backed loan for a condo, HUD does a lot of it for you.

Yes, you still need to read and understand every word on every document included in the HOA documents provided to you before you close on the home. While you’re trying to wrap your brain around covenants, conditions and restrictions, however, FHA will be poring over the financial solvency of the HOA. While they may just find something distasteful in these documents, knowing that they’re scrutinizing the HOA’s budget and other financials should bring you peace of mind.

Becoming HUD-certified isn’t a one-off task, either. The association must reapply every two years.

Finally, owning a home in a HUD-certified community makes it easier to sell down the line.

Avoid Disappointment

If you’re toying with the idea of buying a condo with that FHA-backed loan, do yourself a favor and check out HUD’s list of certified communities. Then, avoid looking at those that aren’t on the list. You’ll find the online database, here.

Posted in Buying A Home
April 1, 2017

Why Pre-Approval Should Be Your First Step

In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes greatly outnumbers the amount of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, knowing your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach. 

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the My Home section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.” 

Freddie Mac describes the 4 Cs that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so as well.

Posted in Buying A Home
March 10, 2017

Buying and Selling in a Competitive Market

In many areas of the country, the housing market is growing and its strength has lead to a competitive market for buyers and an easier market for home owners looking to sell. In the South Florida market, first time home buyers looking at homes in the price range of $200,000 to $275,000 are facing extremely stiff competition from other buyers who happen to all be in the same boat. It's not uncommon for the top homes in this category to sell within 3 days of being listed, at asking price or even above! Below are some top tips for those looking to enter the property and also for those looking to sell in today’s competitive market.

Seller Tip: Know your property well and be prepared for multiple offers

Sellers are in a position of strength in today’s market.  Often times, they have multiple offers from which to choose, and are able to pick the top offer, not only in terms of price, but in other very important categories, such as conventional financing vs FHA/VA vs all cash. Buyers are being asked to submit their best and highest within 24 hours, and are told to look at absolutely everything in their offer, including down payment amounts, amounts being held in escrow, inspection time periods, mortgage commitment days, DU approvals, compressed closing timeframes, and minimal if any seller concessions, even after inspections. 

Buyer Tip: Be ready to close a deal and move

Be alert to property listings and ready to arrange a viewing as soon as something interesting comes up. There will be lots of buyers looking for the same property as you, so when a great house is listed on Tuesday it may be off the market by the weekend. Serious buyers are ready to make an offer and close a deal quickly.

Seller Tip: Have an organized process for receiving offers

There is no golden rule on whether to accept the first offer you receive or to leave your property on the market waiting for a more attractive offer. It depends on the time of year, the town, the state and other factors that your real estate agent will be able to discuss with you, and help you come up with a plan. In some areas it can be a great idea to jump on the first good offer you receive, whereas in other areas, it is best to wait and have more showings before reviewing all the offers you have received at once.

Buyer Tip: Buying your dream home won’t be easy

It’s very rare that a buyer closes a deal on the first property they like and make an offer on. The process takes time and with lots of competition you can easily lose out on a property if you don’t act fast or your offer is too low for the seller to accept. If you miss out on a home, it’s important to stay hungry and keep driven to find the right property next time. First time buyers are often inexperienced, every home you see and every offer you make is helping you learn more about the market and become more comfortable with how the whole process works. Missing out on a property is not always a bad experience, as the home you thought was perfect a week ago does not seem half as suitable as the property you find a week down the line.

Seller Tip: Hire a strong Real Estate Professional 

A seller should hire a strong and knowledgeable Real Estate Professional to assist them in putting their home up for sale. Your Real Estate Professional will study the other properties for sale in the area, even arrange a few viewings, before putting your home on the market. Your Real Estate Professional will know your competition and how to price your property to receive the most attention from buyers. Every property is different, but he or she should know your own property inside and out and how it compares to the competition. Although the house for sale down the street may have a brand new bathroom and kitchen, you can price your property as an attractive alternative with great value for buyers that want to do their own home improvements. Well priced homes attract the attention of buyers and lead to faster sales and increased competition, which boosts prices.

Buyers and Sellers Tip: Preparation and staying alert

The housing market can be stressful for both buyers and sellers. In a competitive market, things can move along very quickly and both sides of the market need to be attentive if they want to successfully buy or sell a property. Sellers have the upper hand as they can put in weeks of preparation before entering the market, something sellers should definitely make use of to maximize their success. Buyers have to be on their toes and ready to react to listings and be prepared to make an offer and move as soon as they find the right property. A competitive market is fast moving and can be very exciting for both buyers and sellers, so try to enjoy the ride.

Nov. 29, 2016

Mortgage Interest Rates Just Went Up… Should I Wait to Buy?

 Mortgage Interest Rates Just Went Up… Should I Wait to Buy? | Keeping Current Matters

Mortgage interest rates, as reported by Freddie Mac, have increased over the last several weeks. Along with Freddie MacFannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors are all calling for mortgage rates to continue to rise over the next four quarters.

This has caused some purchasers to lament the fact they may no longer be able to get a rate less than 4%. However, we must realize that current rates are still at historic lows.

Here is a chart showing the average mortgage interest rate over the last several decades.

Mortgage Interest Rates Just Went Up… Should I Wait to Buy? | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

Though you may have missed getting the lowest mortgage rate ever offered, you can still get a better interest rate than your older brother or sister did ten years ago; a lower rate than your parents did twenty years ago and a better rate than your grandparents did forty years ago.

Posted in Buying A Home
Nov. 11, 2016

3rd Annual Lagoon Fest

Celebrating Lake Worth Lagoon

You are invited to celebrate Lake Worth Lagoon at the third annual LagoonFest along the West Palm Beach Waterfront on November 12, 2016.

The purpose of LagoonFest is to encourage the public to discover the marvels of Lake Worth Lagoon and the importance of protecting this urban estuary.

WHAT: LagoonFest - Celebrating Lake Worth Lagoon

WHERE: West Palm Beach Waterfront 101 South Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach, FL 33401

WHEN: November 12, 2016 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information, visit www.LagoonFest.com.Lagoon Fest

Oct. 11, 2016

Beginner's Guide to Owning Rental Property

Sept. 22, 2016

5 Stats that Prove the Real Estate Market is Getting Stronger

5 Stats that Prove the Real Estate Market is Getting Stronger | MyKCM

Whenever there is talk about an improving housing market, some begin to show concern that we may be headed toward another housing bubble that will be followed by a crash similar to the one we saw last decade.

Here are five data points that show the housing market will continue to recover, and that a new housing crisis is not about to take shape.

1) Mortgage availability is increasing, but is nowhere near the levels we saw in 2004-2006.

A buyer’s chances of being approved for a mortgage have increased over the last three years; That’s good news for the market. This is not a precursor to another challenge, as many experts maintain that it is still too difficult for many buyers to attain house financing.

As Jonathan Smoke, the Chief Economist of realtor.com, recently explained:

“The havoc during the last cycle was the result…of speculation fueled by loose credit. That’s the exact opposite of what we have today.”

2) The Housing Affordability Index, which measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home, based on the most recent price and income data. The current index shows that it is more affordable to buy a home today than at any other time between 1990 and 2008. With median incomes finally beginning to rise, houses should continue to remain affordable and housing demand should remain strong.

3) Home prices are well within historic norms. Prices have increased substantially over the last several years; However, those increases followed the housing crash of 2008 and national prices are still not back to 2006 levels. If there were no bubble (and subsequent bust), today’s prices would actually be lower than if they were measured by historic appreciation levels from 1987-1999.

4) Demand for housing, as measured by new household formations, is growing.The Urban Land Institute projects that 5.95 million new households will be formed over the next three years. Even if the homeownership rate drops to 60%, that would be over 3.5 million new homeowners entering the market.

5) New home starts are finally beginning to increase. This helps eliminate the number one challenge in the industry – lack of inventory. And it does so in two ways:

  1. Some first time buyers will, in fact, purchase a newly constructed home.
  2. Many current homeowners will move-up (or move-down) to a new construction and then put their current home on the market.

This means that there will be an increase in both new construction and existing home inventories.

Sept. 9, 2016

Home Prices Up >8% Across Florida!

Home Prices Up 5.61% Across The Country! [INFOGRAPHIC] | MyKCM

Aug. 30, 2016

Whether You Rent or Buy, You’re Paying a Mortgage

Whether You Rent or Buy, You’re Paying a Mortgage | MyKCM

There are some people that have not purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent free, you are paying a mortgage - either yours or your landlord’s.

As The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University explains:

“Households must consume housing whether they own or rent. Not even accounting for more favorable tax treatment of owning, homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord plus a rate of return.  

That’s yet another reason owning often does—as Americans intuit—end up making more financial sense than renting.”

Christina Boyle, a Senior Vice President, Head of Single-Family Sales & Relationship Management at Freddie Mac, explains another benefit of securing a mortgage vs. paying rent:

“With a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, you’ll have the certainty & stability of knowing what your mortgage payment will be for the next 30 years – unlike rents which will continue to rise over the next three decades.”

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ which allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee the landlord is the person with that equity.

Interest rates are still at historic lows, making it one of the best times to secure a mortgage and make a move into your dream home. Freddie Mac’s latest report shows that rates across the country were 3.43% last week.

Bottom Line

Whether you are looking for a primary residence for the first time or are considering a vacation home on the shore, now may be the time to buy.

Posted in Buying A Home