Monday, November 5, 2018

Getting the "Right" Home

Finding the right home is still the biggest challenge buyers are faced with in today's market as is shown in the latest Confidence Index Survey.  Assuming the buyers find the "right" home with determination, perseverance and the help of a real estate professional, 88% of all transactions last year required financing to get the buyer's address on the home.  93% of first-time buyers needed financing.
Pre-approval is an essential step that needs to be handled before buyers begin searching for a home.  The benefits to the buyer fall into the category of confidence.
PRE-APPROVAL GIVES YOU CONFIDENCE
  • Knowing the amount you can borrow  
    the mortgage amount decreases as interest rates rise
  • Looking at the right priced homes
    price, size, amenities, location
  • Comparing and identifying the best loan
    rate, term, type
  • Uncover issues early that could affect the most favorable loan terms
    time to cure possible problems
  • Bargaining power to negotiate with the seller and possibly, competing buyers
    price, terms, & timing
  • Settlement can occur sooner after contact is acceptedverifications have already been made
Items Needed for Pre-Approval
  • Photo ID
  • Two months current pay stubs
  • Last two year's W2s
  • Complete copies of checking and savings statements for last three months
  • Copies of statements for IRAs, 401k, savings, CDs, money market funds, etc.
  • Employment history for last two years with addresses and contacts
  • Proof of commissioned or bonus income
  • Residency history for last two years with addresses and contacts
  • Assets for down payment, closing costs, and reserves; must provide paper trail
  • If self-employed, last two years tax returns, current profit and loss statement and balance sheet; copy of partnership/corporate tax returns for last two years if owning more than 25% of company
  • FHA requires driver's license and social security card
  • VA requires original certificate of eligibility and DD214
  • Other things may be required such as previous bankruptcy, divorce decree
Contact us at (256) 705-0733 or Bob@BobGifford.com if you'd like a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Start Early and Live Happily Ever-after


As storybooks go, the character is introduced, they meet their love interest, a villain thwarts their intentions, true love overcomes, they marry and live happily ever-after.  It's a very familiar formula.
Similarly, there is a formula that couples follow in real life.  They go to college, get a good job, rent a home, fall in love, get married and buy a starter home.  They start a family, move into a larger home, save for their children's education, start planning for their retirement and if they live within their means, they invest their surplus funds.
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An alternative to this might be to start investing in rental homes early in their adult life before their standard of living becomes so expensive that they don't feel like they have the money to purchase rentals.  There are infinite possibilities but let's say a single person, after getting a good job, buys a small three or four-bedroom home with an owner-occupied, minimum down payment.  They move into the home and possibly, rent out the bedrooms to other singles who need a place to live.
At some point, they decide to buy another home to live in with a minimum down payment and either rent out their bedroom in the first home or rent the whole home to a tenant.  And they repeat the process again with the second home.
This could continue until they acquired several homes.  Let's say, that in the meantime, they have met their love interest, decide to get married and together, they buy a starter home for them to live in.
This concept advances the investment in rental homes from the latter part of their lives to the early part of their life.  The early investment gives them more time for appreciation and wealth accumulation.  A simple principle of investing is that sooner is better than later.  By delaying gratification to own your "dream home" early, a person may be able to accumulate more net worth in the same period of time.
Buying a property initially as owner-occupied permits a lower down payment of 3.5% compared to a typical down payment for non-owner-occupied properties is 20%.  By using more borrowed funds, leverage can increase the yield on the investment.
It may be too late for some people reading this article to adopt this strategy but if they have kids in college, it may be something for them to consider.

Monday, October 22, 2018

It's Not Just the Tax Benefits


When the standard deduction for married couples filing jointly was increased from $12,700 to $24,000 for 2018, there was some speculation that the bloom was off the rose of homeownership.  The thought was that if the tax benefits from being able to deduct the property taxes and interest was less than the standard deduction, that maybe, the buyer would be better off continuing to rent.
With mortgage rates as low as they have been for the past eight years, payments have been lower and so has the amount interest that was paid.  This and the fact that sales and local taxes, which include property taxes, are limited to $10,000 a year on the Itemized Deduction form have made it harder to reach the increased standard deduction.
The reality of the situation is tax benefits are only one of the components that make a home an excellent investment and it probably contributes the least of the top three benefits.  Principal reduction and appreciation build an owner's equity in an automatic way that is like a forced savings account.
In today's market, it is common for the total house payment to be lower than the rent a first-time home buyer is currently paying.  As a homeowner, the buyer would have additional expenses like maintenance and possibly, a HOA. 
To illustrate the net effect, let's look at a purchase price of $275,000 with 3.5% down payment on a 4.75% 30-year FHA loan.  We'll assume the home appreciates at 3% annually and the buyer is currently paying $2,000 a month rent.
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The total payment is $2,115 including principal, interest, property taxes, property and mortgage insurance. However, when you consider the monthly principal reduction, appreciation, maintenance and HOA, the net cost of housing is $1,181. It costs $819 more a month to rent than to own. In a year's time, it would cost $9,831 more to rent than to own which is more than the down payment required to buy the home.
In seven-years, the $9,625 down payment would grow to over $58,000 in equity.  The equity build-up far exceeds the tax benefits which some people would have as an additional incentive. Use this Rent vs. Own to see what the net cost of housing would be using a home in your price range or call me at (256) 705-0733 and I'll do it for you.

Monday, September 24, 2018


How to Clean Gutters

The gutters and downspouts on your home are intended to channel rainwater away from your home and its foundation.  When they're blocked and not functioning properly they can lead to the gutters coming loose, wood rot and mildew, staining of painted surfaces, and even worse, foundation issues or water penetration into the interior of the home.
Most experts recommend cleaning the gutters at least once a year.  More often might be necessary depending on the proximity of leaves and other debris that could collect.
If this is a task that you feel comfortable about tackling yourself, there are few things to consider.  If the debris is dry, it will be easier to clean the gutters.  Safety is important, and precautions should be taken such as using a sturdy ladder and possibly, having someone hold it while you're on the ladder.
Other useful tools will be a five-gallon plastic bucket to hook on the ladder to hold the debris; work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges of the gutters; a trowel or scoop and a garden hose with a nozzle.
?         Start by placing the ladder near a downspout for the section of gutter to be cleaned.
?         Remove large debris and put it into the empty bucket. Work away from the downspout toward the other end.
?         When you're at the end of the gutter, using the water hose and nozzle, spray out the gutter so it will drain to the downspout.
?         If the water doesn't drain easily, the downspout could be blocked.  Accessing the spout from the bottom with either the hose with nozzle or a plumber's snake, try to dislodge the blockage.
?         Reattach or tighten any pieces that were removed or loosened while working on the downspout.
?         Flush the gutters a final time, working from the opposite end, as before, toward the downspout.
There are specialized tools at the home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot that can make this job easier.  Check out their websites and search for "gutter cleaning".

Monday, September 10, 2018


No one wants to waste water or money.  For that reason, take a few minutes every other month to do the following inspections:
  1. Check to see if cutoff valves on sinks and toilets are working properly.
    Many times, builders will put individual cutoffs on supply lines to sinks and toilets.  It is reasonable to expect them to work but after some time, they can corrode which prevents opening and closing.  It is a good idea to test them occasionally before you need them in an emergency.

  2.  Fill each sink with a few inches of water to see if they drain in what you feel is a normal time.
    A slow-draining sink can be an indication of a clog that builds up around the insides of the pipe.  Common causes are food, grease, hair and soap scum.  Plunging can take care of some slow-running sinks.  After partially filling the sink with water, seal the plunger over the drain and pump it up and down a few times.

  3.   Inspect each toilet to see if they are leaking water from the tank into the bowl.
    Toilets that continue to run after being flushed can use a large amount of water in a month's time.  Generally, the problem comes from a flapper that doesn't seat properly.  Sometimes, the chain is keeping it from closing properly or the flapper itself may need to be replaced.
    Another issue could be that the flush valve needs to be replaced.  These can be purchased at Lowe's or Home Depot for about $20.00 and are relatively easy to change out.  There are lots of instructional videos on the internet and it can save money if you give it a try.
If you need a recommendation for a good plumber to take care of something you discover, please feel free to call me at (256) 797-3747.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Act Decisively

Whether it is hesitation or procrastination due to uncertainty, it can cost buyers by having to pay more for both the house and the financing.  This is one of those markets where most of the experts expect interest rates and prices will continue to rise through 2019.
The National Association of REALTORS? reports there is currently a 4.2-month supply of homes for sale which is close to the same as last year's inventory.  Normal inventory is considered to be a 6-month supply.
If during the period you're waiting to buy, the price of the home goes up by 5% and the mortgage rate increases by 1%, the payment on a $275,000 home with a 95% mortgage could be $233.80 more each and every month.  Over a seven-year period, the delay to purchase would total close to $20,000.
To act decisively, you need good information; a confused mind will not generally make a decision.  In today's market, you need to know exactly what price home you can qualify for and you need to know what kind of home you can expect for that price. 
You'll want a housing and a mortgage professional you can trust to give you the information you need to make good decisions for yourself and your family.  We'd like to be your real estate professional and can recommend a trusted mortgage professional.
To get a better idea about what it may cost you for a home in your price range, use the Cost of Waiting to Buy calculator.  If you have any questions, call me at (256) 705-0733.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Moisture & Mold

Moisture is mold's best friend and it thrives between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit which is why it is commonly found in homes.  Mold spores float in the air and can grow on virtually any substance with moisture including tile, wood, drywall, paper, carpet, and food.
Moisture control and eliminating water problems are key to preventing mold. Common sources of moisture can be roof leaks, indoor plumbing leaks, outdoor drainage problems, damp basements or crawl spaces, steam from bathrooms or kitchen, condensation on cool surfaces, humidifiers, wet clothes drying inside, or improper ventilation of heating and cooking appliances.
  • Control the moisture problem
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces using soap and water or other cleanser; dry completely
  • Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces
  • Discard porous materials with extensive mold growth
  • Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold
  • Periodically, inspect the area for signs of moisture and new mold growth
The EPA suggests that if the moldy area is less than ten square feet, you can probably handle the cleanup yourself.  If the affected area is larger than that, find a contractor or professional service provider. 
Increasing ventilation in a bathroom by running a fan for at least 30 minutes or opening a window can help remove moisture and control mold growth.  After showering, squeegee the walls and doors. Wipe wet areas with dry towels.  Cleaning more frequently will also prevent mold from recurring or keep it to a minimum.
A simple solution to clean most mold is a 1:8 bleach/water mixture.  Since homes have thermostatically controlled temperatures and water is used all day long in the kitchen and bathrooms, the environment is conducive to mold. 
See Ten things you should know about mold written by the EPA.
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