3 Things That Affect Your Mortgage Payment

If you are looking for a house to purchase, the best thing you can do to help yourself is to get pre-underwritten. I’ve written another post speaking to pre-qualification, pre-approval, and pre-underwriting.

The reason pre-underwriting is important is the contract can be affected. The contract has two approval processes built into it.

The first is the approval of the borrower. This is where the pre-underwriting comes in. If you are pre-underwritten, it means that the people involved in the loan are fully approved. Their credit, income, employment, debts, etc. has been verified and the lender is confident that the loan is affordable.

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The second approval is for the property. This is where the inspections, appraisal, and general condition of the property is considered and approved. If something comes up during inspections, it doesn’t appraise, or even if a storm comes in and damages the house and it cannot be fixed, the contract could be affected or even terminated.

After you have finally closed on a house, there are many things that can affect the mortgage payment.

Appraisal Value Of A New Construction Home

Every city places a value on your property based on the market conditions in the area. When you purchase a new construction home, sometimes the first year taxable value of the property is based on the price of the land.

Many people get surprised the second year when their mortgage payment goes up several hundred dollars because the city has now attached the house to the appraisal. The year after that, it can happen again.

If you aren’t careful, you can become mortgage poor.

Appraisal Values Go Up

Mortgage Appraisal Values

There haven’t been many times when the value of your property goes down. In 2008, during the housing crisis, property values tanked. People walked away from their properties instead of dealing with the dramatic decrease in value.

Since then, property values have been on a continuous increase in value. The city increases the appraised value of the property. You have an opportunity to dispute the value after notification and then the new value generates additional tax income for the city. This can also contribute to making someone mortgage poor.

Population Increase

Mortgage Appraisal Values

The economy is based on scarcity. The more of something there is, the less expensive it becomes. At least most of the time. When there are not enough of something, the prices go up. This is true for housing also.

Currently, in the DFW Metroplex, many companies and people are relocating to the area. As a result, the inventory of available homes is low which has been raising the prices of homes.

That can be good news or bad news depending on where you are in the market. If you are someone who is selling their home, higher prices means more money in your pocket. If you are buying a home, it will cost more for the home you want to purchase.

Bonus Tip – Interest Rates

Mortgage Interest Rates

St. Louis FED Graphic

Most people are familiar with interest rates – at least a little. It is the cost of borrowing money to purchase something. With credit cards, the interest can be as high as 30% depending on your history. For houses, the interest rates are historically low at this time.

Interest is what it is but you have some control over the amount you pay. Keeping your credit healthy, living within your means, and saving some money for later are all ways you can help get the best interest rates when it comes to purchasing a home.

Remember, there is a difference between a need and a want.

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5 Minor Home Repairs You Can Do Yourself

Every homeowner will tell you that it takes a lot to maintain a home. When it comes time to thinking about selling your home, there are some things you can do quickly and inexpensively to make your home more attractive to prospective buyers.

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Five Things To Consider

  1. New Plantings. Curb appeal matters. People will be looking for a house online first. They will be looking to see about the location, the price and the size before ever walking into the home. While they are looking at the photographs online, they will also be looking at the curb appeal. Planting some colorful flowers and putting down new mulch in the beds will help with the look of your home. Make sure the grass is also cut before photographs are taken.
  2. Fix Minor Things. There’s no reason why you can’t fix a broken outlet cover, a burned out lightbulb, or a missing pull on a drawer. These are very minor fixes with minimal costs but can make a huge difference to someone thinking about purchasing your home. When all these minor things are taken care of, it lets potential buyers know that the house has been taken care of and reduce their anxiety about buying it in the first place.
  3. Clean the Walls and Doors. Nothing says dirty like seeing finger prints on the walls and dirt around the door knobs. Many times, a simple cleaning of these frequently used areas will brighten a room without even getting to the point of having to paint.
  4. Organize. Whether it’s the closet shoes, placing them in clear plastic boxes, or the pantry, getting organized can make a difference. It shows potential buyers that you are meticulous about things. Someone seeing an organized closet or cans in the pantry with the labels facing forward will get the sense that you care about the things you have and therefore, care about the house.
  5. Aroma. I’m not talking about lighting fifty fragrant candles an hour before an open house. I’m talking about a regular clean smell to your home. Eliminate pet odors, clean toilets, and vacuum carpets and let your house speak for itself. If you are trying to cover up odors with other types of smells, people will know.

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Takeaways

Taking care of the little things in your house can make a difference between an “offer to buy” or a “move on.” Not only can it make a difference about whether there is an offer or not, there is also the potential to affect the price. Someone looking to purchase a home will be considering how much work they have to do to the house once they own it.

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Contact me for more information about how to improve the experience of someone looking to purchase your home.

Honoring Our Military

Military - Peace Flag

Thank You

Thank you for your service to our country.

Thank you to your family who has sacrificed their lives as well as you served.

Thank you for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for people they don’t even know.

Thank you for putting yourself in harm’s way for us.

Thank you for moving every few years, up-ending your family to get to a new duty station either in the United States or anywhere else around the world where you are needed.

Thank you for taking those temporary duty stations without your family because the area was too dangerous to have them near.

Thank you for the deployments you went on where you were gone from your family for anywhere from three months to a year.

Thank you for the thankless efforts you provide for some who don’t respect any of that but you do it anyway.

Thank you.

Military - Blue Angels

Let Us Honor You

As a Realtor® with Ebby Halliday, REALTORS® there is an opportunity to offer a thank you to you for your service through a program called “Military on the Move.”

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This program offers rebates to those who have served our country, when they purchase a home in Texas. For information on the extent of those rebates, email me and I can send you a brochure about the program and the range of rebates available.

My partners at Texas Premiere Title have also generously offered to waive their title fees for active duty military and veterans. That’s a considerable savings when purchasing a home.

Military - Ship Mast

There’s More

I have a standard giving offer from every transaction I am involved with regarding the sale or purchase of a property, that I will give $200 to Agape Resource & Assistance Center, Inc. Agape is an organization that offers housing for women and their children who are escaping domestic violence situations and find themselves homeless. There holistic approach allows these women and their children to rebuild their lives.

Let’s make a deal today!

Real Estate Photos

Front House Photo

Why Does It Matter?

When you are in real estate, there are a ton of photos you view each week. You can immediately tell which agents have their client’s best interest at heart just by looking at the photos. Using your phone doesn’t really qualify as a professional photo.

Here’s the reason. When someone comes in to take photos of your home for sale, you are broadcasting to a large number of people, including international buyers interested in purchasing. The photos are their first look at your property. Think about that!

I know what you are thinking – The market is so hot right now, it doesn’t matter what the quality of the photos are. People are buying homes left and right.

Although that may be true, those photos will be in the various systems until your home goes on sale again. That could be years or decades. Since they stay in the system, every agent out there who looks at the property will see the photos and the agent who placed them there.

What NOT To Photograph?

Bathroom Photo

Toilets

Everyone knows you have toilets in your house. Unless this is a very unique toilet, you probably don’t need to waste much time taking a photo. If it happens to be in view when you are taking a photo of the bathroom, well, ok.

Clutter

No one needs to see your dirty socks on the floor or the dishes in the sink. You may have the greatest soda can and bottle collection around but it does nothing for selling your home. Clean off all flat surfaces. Kitchen counters, bathroom counters, bureaus should be clear.

Branded Company Signs

Believe it or not, it is against the rules to have photos of your company signs in the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). It can lead to guiding consumers to your business instead of using the open market. Oops!

How To Take Great Photos

Kitchen Photo

Use a DSLR with a wider angle lens, 20mm or less. Use proper lighting. I heard this trick too. That the same photos at several different exposures and overlap them so that bright spots are dimmed and darker spots are enhanced. Then again, is that manipulating the photos? Hiring a professional photographer isn’t cheap but you can get about 25 photos of a property that will be great quality and show the real estate agent’s professionalism towards their clients.

Take photos of the main areas of the house, bedrooms, bathrooms, media rooms, and the outside areas. If possible, provide a floor plan of the home for people to see the overall layout. Of course, you want a nice, clean shot of the front of the house.

Highlight the favorite areas of your house. If you put a lot of work into your kitchen, take a few extra shots of it. Installed an outdoor kitchen? Make it attractive and snap another shot. Just remember that all improvements are not treated the same. Don’t overdue improvements. You may be wasting money.

Three Things To Improve Curb Appeal

Maintain your yard

Cut the grass, clean up the yard, plant a few new flowers. The first impression anyone has when they physically come to look at your house is the curb appeal. For a few dollars, you can spruce it up nicely so that it stands out on your street.

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Fix Minor Repairs

Fix obvious repairs before accepting any contract. If you make the repairs before people offer contracts, then in some cases, you can fix the issues yourself. Got some window trim that has some water penetration? Fix the caulking yourself and you could save a ton. If you wait until after you accept a contract, then the repairs must be done by a licensed person, not you.

Pool Photo

Pools and Spas

Make sure they are clean and working properly. If the pool or spa is dirty or the pump is not working, it will leave the impression that there are underlying issues with it. A clean and functioning pool and spa appeals as a relaxing oasis for all who come.

Things To Do Inside

Gathering Area Photo

Clean Rooms, Remove Clutter

Make the beds and basically clean out anything from inside the house that you do not need if you are going to still occupy the home.

Look at it this way – you’ll already have some of your stuff packed even before you make the mad dash to get out of there.

Of course, work with your REALTOR® to come up with the best marketing plan for your home. If you don’t have a REALTOR®, I’m available to help. Visit my business website for more information.

Business Planning

Starting With Nothing

Check out this video about entrepreneurship.

Honestly – that should be an inspiration to anyone at any age. I especially liked the one statement near the end where someone stated “So what if you fail! Even if you fail, you can still put it on your resume, college application essay or grad school essay.” The point is to keep learning and learn from your failures until you succeed. I think about all the jobs that are available just in the United States. Something like 80 percent of businesses are entrepreneurial businesses. That means that only 20 percent of the jobs out there are through big corporations.

You don’t even need a formal education to start a business.

Every great idea out there started with the idea popping into someone’s head. How many stories have you heard about people starting businesses in their garage?

You do need a plan though.

Going into business without direction is like trying to drive your car with your eyes closed. More than likely, you’ll end up crashing.

Where To Start

I’ve been in the real estate business now for several months. The first 2-3 months has been all about education. I’ve needed to learn a lot about the legal aspects of real estate, contracts, and a whole gambit of things to keep clients and myself protected. Getting started has been challenging too. How do I get the word out that this is what I’m doing now?

I just ran into someone this morning who I’ve known for about four years now. She noticed my nametag on my shirt stating which Broker I work with. She had no idea that I was in real estate now. That’s a problem. Obviously, I’m not doing enough to get the word out.

Saying I need to get the word out is different than having a plan on how to get the word out. What steps do I need to take in order for the word to get out to as many people as possible? I need a plan.

I also need to know what the competition is doing. Some real estate companies are more like Ponzi schemes than real estate companies. For them, it’s more about getting more and more people selling houses and paying the people above you a portion of your proceeds than watching out for the client. Others are more like family businesses. Still others are internet based with no education available for their agents. This can lead to severe legal ramifications.

Creating The Plan

A business plan does not have to be some elaborate document with graphs, maps, and other things. It can be that, or it could be something you wrote down on a piece of paper. Just keep in mind that the business plan is actually your plan on how you are going to get from starting to being successful.

I’ve had several businesses in my life. My first was a web development company in the late 1990’s. It failed miserably because I was already working somewhere full-time and expected the work to come to me. I never really had a plan for that. Without a plan, I effectively planned on failing.

Another business I started was in graphic design. That’s a tough racket to get into in the first place. I actually had a plan in place for that but got sidetracked and caught up with one client who had expectations that went against my plan. As a result, my plan failed as my clients business started having problems. I left that client but it was too late.

Now I am in real estate and although I am working with a well-established brokerage, I still need a plan. Here’s something you may not know. Every real estate agent out there is actually an independent contractor for the brokerage they work with. As an independent contractor, agents are self-employed and considered entrepreneurs. I have my own business in real estate and it needs to be treated that way. Since this is the case, a business plan for success is something I need to have if I am going to succeed.

Planning Steps

Here is the step-by-step process to create a business plan that will work for you.

Step 1: What are your goals/objectives?

Pretty simple really. What is it you want to accomplish? Do you want to help the blind communicate with others better? Or maybe you want to design something that will help them see. Your plan does not always have to be that bold. Maybe it is designing an eating utensil that works better than a fork or spoon. Have you heard of a spork? You find them at a lot of fast food places. It looks mostly like a spoon but has ridges so it can also be used as a fork.

Spork

One of our daughters had a business editing translated documents from other languages. A company would hire her to take a document that had been previously translated to English from Korean as an example. She would go through and edit spelling and grammar. She did it while she was watching TV in the evening to make a few extra bucks.

The point is that if you have goals lined up for what you want to achieve, then you know where you are going. The next thing would be to figure out how to get there.

For several years, I have been teaching personal finance classes to people who have ended up homeless for one reason or another. The classes are based on a book I wrote about my own experiences with trying to dig out of debt. When I am teaching, the very first thing we cover is writing down goals. If it makes sense to do it with your personal finances, doesn’t it make even more sense if you are trying to start a business?

Step 2: How much money do you need to get started?

A good rule of thumb is to have 6-12 months of financing available to launch your business. But what if you don’t? Then what?

Well, you may have to be creative in generating some kind of income at first so that you have some funds for your real goals. Time takes time as they say. If you incorporate having to make some side money into your plan, you are still working on your plan.

Step 3: Marketing

There are a billion ways to market. Which one is best for you depends on your strengths. I have a colleague who strictly does postcard mailings. They spend thousands every year in postcards and stamps to get the word out about their business. I know another person who is heavy into video offers. Another does a lot with Facebook and other social networks.

What do you do if you don’t have a huge budget for marketing?

Start small.

Work with your sphere of influence. Your family, friends, people at work, at your church, and your neighbors.

Ask for referrals. Offer some things for free such as white papers, brochures, and PDF files with information relevant to your business.

Hopefully, it can take some time to exhaust your sphere. By then, you could have referrals available.

Don’t give up. Keep going. It can take months up to a year before you start seeing real results. It will happen. Be consistent. Don’t stop. Just keep swimming.

Step 4: Update the plan

Your business plan is not a static document. It should be reviewed on a regular basis and updated as you accomplish some of your goals. It is a living document meaning that it should be changing and improving the longer you are in business. Update your goals regularly. Challenge yourself to reach further into your dream. Come up with new directions to spread your business. Drop the ideas that haven’t been working.

If you would like a custom form to set up a basic business plan, fill out this form and it will be on its way.

Who Would You Sell Your House To?

The Situation

Sell Your House

You are down-sizing from your 4 bedroom, 2 ½ bathroom, 2 car garage home that you have lived in for 30 years. You don’t like the stairs anymore or the amount of cleaning and upkeep needed. You’re getting ready to retire and the three kids you had have all moved away and have their own family.

It would be nice to move further away from the city and get a one story home that is newer.

You’ve done a good job updating your home with a new kitchen, updated master bathroom, and some great landscaping.

You reach out to a REALTOR® and ask for help selling your home and finding a new one in another town.

The REALTOR® brings you three people who are very interested in buying your property.

House Keys

John and Sally

John and Sally are both hard-working people with one child. They are planning on growing their family and the apartment they have been living in is just too small. They really like your house and the neighborhood. They are ready to make an offer. Good news! They have a prequalification letter from a bank.

Mark and Susan

Mark and Susan are a little older than John and Sally. They have two kids in grade school. Mark is the main breadwinner and Susan works part-time at the school where their kids go. They grew up in the neighborhood and want to relocate back to where they grew up. Great News again! They have been preapproved by a lender.

Karen

Karen is a single mom of three kids in middle school and high school. Unfortunately, her husband, Dan, passed away from a car accident six months ago. She’s fortunate that they had a will and life insurance so she is ok financially. She needs the room for the stage of life she is in. Great news a third time! Karen has been pre-underwritten from a lender.

Who would you choose?

John and Sally have written you a nice letter. They say they love the upgrades to the house and how much the kids loved it when they went by to look at it. They even included a photo of their family. Oh look – they have the cutest little puppy that the kids wanted so bad. What you don’t know is that they have five credit cards that are maxed out and a loan they defaulted on.

Mark and Susan noticed that there were a few items that needed to be fixed and they don’t want any hassle. They expect the items to be fixed or they may look for another house. They really like the neighborhood though and would love to be back close to family.

Karen just wants something safe and secure. She knows the neighborhood a little and even though there are a few minor repairs needed, she can handle having a contractor come in to have them looked at during the contract option period.

This is a tough call for anyone. They all sound really good for the most part. If you were trying to sell your home what criteria would you use in choosing which buyer you wanted to sell to? Would it be the young growing family, the established family, or the widow? Would you want to make repairs or work with a person who is ok with the small defects in the property?

Definitions

Pre-approved

Thanks to my friend, Paul Nolte from Home Team Mortgage, I have some definitions for you to consider before making your final choice.

Prequalification – A prequalification letter simply states that there has been a discussion between the potential home buyer and a lender or bank. There is a verbal verification of assets and income. A credit report has been pulled and it seems ok on the surface. The credit score is verified but at this point, we are relying on what the potential buyer is saying about the details of their credit report, their job history, and bank account balances.

Preapproved – A preapproval means that all the information provided by the potential buyer has been verified based on what they have said. W-2’s, paystubs, tax returns, bank statements, etc. have been verified. This is done at the local lender level only but there is certainly a better feel for the state of the potential buyer’s finances.

Pre-underwritten – This is the best you can get. It combines all the efforts of the prequalification, preapproval but also the information has been given to an underwriter to make sure nothing has been missed. Work verifications and IRS checks of the tax documents provided have been verified. The potential buyer is qualified to get the loan they need for the purchase. All that is uncertain at this point is the property (title work and appraisal).

Selection

Elderly Couple

With this new information, it’s easy to see that the best choice would be the person who is pre-underwritten. They are qualified. The property still needs to be approved. That includes inspections, repairs, and appraisal but at least you know the person can get the loan.

The second choice would be the preapproved persons. All their information looks right. They should be able to get the loan without an issue but it is unknown if there are IRS issues, back tax issues, or if they are still working where they said they were.

The last choice would be the prequalification letter. There has been little background work done on this potential buyer. Lots of things could go wrong along the way.

Next Steps

If you are in the market to put your house on the market to sell, the next step would be to contact me at Ebby Halliday, REALTORS® and set up an appointment so we can review your property and take care of things that might get in the way of selling your home. If you are looking to buy, again, reach out to me so that we can get you pre-underwritten and be in the best position to move on the property you want as soon as possible.