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Serving South Florida

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For over 35 years

Home Financing

Planning for 2023 As Mortgage Rates Rise

Mortgage Rates

If you’ve been house-hunting in recent years, you’ve really been through it. Maybe you were waiting out the market, hoping the rocketing prices would start to flatten. Now, of course, they have — but between 2021 and 2022, mortgage rates have more than doubled, from less than 3 percent to more than 7 percent.

If you are renting and trying to save for a down-payment, the cost of your rental has likely increased as well.

Sellers who are sitting on low mortgage rates are not listing their homes for sale and supply shortages, cost of land, and cost of lending, along with higher labor and building costs have slowed down new construction.

All these factors contribute to a continued shortage of desirable inventory and home prices are staying propped up and not decreasing as one would expect.

Buyers need to adjust their expectations…Every buyer needs to do a gut check on how much house they can afford now. That might seem daunting, but higher mortgage rates don’t have to derail your dream of buying a home. In fact, historically, today’s rates are not considered particularly high.

Review your Budget: When you review your budget, keep in mind that newly built homes typically come with builder and manufacturer warranties and new energy-efficient appliances. Those advantages of a new home can lower your monthly housing costs. That’s especially true if you currently own an older home that needs repairs and has inefficient appliances.

Raise More Cash: Another option to buy a home with a higher rate is to spend more cash up-front. You can use cash to increase your down payment as a percentage of your loan amount, pay for builder upgrades in cash, or buy down your loan’s interest rate. You should work with your lender on the best use of your cash to achieve the lowest ongoing expenses to home ownership.

Evaluate Loan Options: A third strategy is to get a hybrid loan. This type of mortgage has a fixed rate that resets at the end of a specified period and is then fixed or adjustable for the remainder of the term. An example is a 7/1 hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). This type of loan has a lower fixed rate for the first seven years. After that, the rate is adjusted annually (that’s the “1” part) for the remainder of the 30-year term.

Hybrid loans can be more affordable since the initial rate is usually lower. But there’s a risk: If you don’t refinance or sell your home before the rate resets, your payment could rise significantly for the rest of the term. If you can’t afford the higher payment, you could lose your home.

Rethink Your Needs and Wants:   Buying a less costly home is another way to cope with higher rates. Less costly doesn’t have to mean a home you don’t like or that doesn’t fit your needs.

Reconsider Your Timing: Interest rates fluctuate, sometimes dramatically, over time. If you postpone buying a home, rates might be lower in the future, making the home you want more affordable. Or they could be higher, putting the home you want further out of reach. Experts are predicting the latter. The question for homebuyers is whether waiting and hoping makes sense. The answer is never as clear as a crystal ball.

Experts recently polled project average 30-year mortgage rates to fall between 5-9.31%in 2023. No one is expecting a move downward in the next 5 years. Several factors could lead to unexpected rate movements in the coming year.

Owning a home has certain benefits that renting doesn’t offer. Renting means no control over future [home price or interest rate] increases, no accumulation of equity through price appreciation, no tax deduction for property taxes and mortgage interest if you itemize your deductions, and no benefit for improvements you make to the property. Waiting to buy while you hope rates move lower means forgoing those benefits.

The lost opportunity of not buying due to a fear of higher rates far outweighs the benefits of homeownership. It’s best to take advantage of what the rates are today and build equity sooner rather than later.

Shop for a Mortgage as Rates Rise

It is always advisable to shop for a mortgage, but as rates rise the savings can be significant. Each lender offers different loan programs and sets different borrower requirements. It’s important that you get quotes from several types of financial institutions, mortgage lenders, and brokers to find one that offers the best loan program for you.
Banks
Banks are for-profit financial institutions that typically offer several different products such as mortgages, credit cards, checking and savings accounts, and more. Many large banks have branches nationwide or throughout a specific region where you can get in-person support, and they also might offer a wider selection of mortgage products.
One downside to banks is that they tend to charge slightly higher interest rates on home loans compared to credit unions, according to a side-by-side comparison by the National Credit Union Administration.
Credit Unions
Credit unions are nonprofit organizations that offer banking services to their members. In addition to offering lower interest rates on mortgages and other financial products, credit unions have historically earned the highest customer satisfaction ratings.
However, you’ll need to join a credit union to get a mortgage. Some credit unions are open to anyone, but others may require you to work in a certain industry or live in a certain area.
Mortgage Lenders
You might also find a home loan with another type of lender. For instance, online lenders, such as Rocket Mortgage, offer an end-to-end digital process. You may be able to get pre-approved, upload loan documents, and close on the loan all online. By saving money on overhead costs, online lenders may also be able to offer lower rates or special discounts.
Mortgage Brokers
Mortgage brokers are licensed to act as a go-between with you and your lender. When working with a mortgage broker, you’ll have access to a variety of residential loan programs from different lenders. The broker doesn’t make a loan. Instead, the broker has a variety of lenders they work with.
In general, a mortgage broker will have a lot of knowledge of different home loan programs, and a good idea of what you might qualify for, including what interest rate you’re eligible for.
Shop For Best Rates
Getting rate quotes from multiple lenders and comparing offers is one of the easiest ways to save money on your mortgage. That’s because the interest rate is one of the key components of the mortgage’s total cost, and rates can vary considerably with each lender. Despite this, about half of homebuyers skip shopping for the best rate.
To find the best loan for you, research all costs of the loan. Knowing just the amount of the monthly payment or the interest rate isn’t enough. Even more important than knowing the interest rate is knowing the APR — the total cost you pay for credit, as a yearly interest rate. The interest rate is a very big factor in calculating the APR, but the APR also includes costs like points and other credit costs, like mortgage insurance. Knowing the APR makes it easier to compare “apples to apples” when considering mortgage offers.
When you’re shopping around, you may see ads or get offers claiming to have rates that are very low or fixed. But they may not tell you the true terms of the deal as the law requires. The ad may feature buzz words that are signs that you’ll want to dig a little deeper.
  • Low or fixed rate. A loan’s interest rate might be fixed or low only for a short introductory period — sometimes as short as 30 days. Then your rate and payment could increase dramatically. Look for the APR: under federal law if the interest rate is in the ad, the APR also should be there. Although it should be clearly stated, you may instead need to look for it buried in the fine print or deep within a website.
  • Very low payment. This might seem like a good deal, but it could mean you would pay only the interest on the money you borrowed (called the principal). Eventually, though, you would have to pay the principal. That means you would have higher monthly payments or a “balloon” payment — a one-time payment that is usually much larger than your usual payment.
You also may find lenders that offer to let you make monthly payments where you pay only a portion of the interest you owe each month. The unpaid interest is added to the principal that you owe. That means your loan balance will increase over time. Instead of paying off your loan, you end up borrowing more. This is known as negative amortization. It can be risky because you can end up owing more on your home than what you could get if you sold it.
Find out your total payment. While the interest rate determines how much interest you owe each month, you also want to know what you must pay for your total mortgage payment each month. The calculation of your total monthly mortgage payment considers these factors, sometimes called PITI:
  • principal (money you borrowed)
  • interest (what you pay the lender to borrow the money)
  • taxes and
  • homeowners’ insurance
“Mortgage rates rose again as markets continue to manage the prospect of more aggressive monetary policy due to elevated inflation,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Not only are mortgage rates rising but the dispersion of rates has increased, suggesting that borrowers can meaningfully benefit from shopping around for a better rate.”

Contract Contingencies Are Returning for Home Buyers

Spiraling mortgage rates on top of record-high and still-rising home prices are leading many experts to predict the real estate market is on the verge of a correction—if it isn’t already in one. They anticipate home prices will flatten, or even go down a bit, in certain markets.
The result is that new buyers would be paying about 50% more for the same home compared with a year ago in their monthly mortgage bills. And that’s greatly diminishing the buying power of many Americans—especially during a time when inflation has hit a 40-year high, gas prices have spiked, and even rent levels are nationally hitting new highs.
However, experts don’t believe the market is in a bubble or a crash is in the cards, like during the Great Recession. The nation is still suffering from a housing shortage that has reached crisis proportions at a time when many millennials are reaching the age when they start to consider homeownership. That’s likely to keep prices high.
In addition, lenders are giving mortgages only to the most qualified borrowers. These buyers are less likely to wind up in foreclosure. And prices aren’t expected to plummet unless another wave of foreclosures and short sales sweeps through the nation.
The real estate market nationwide is slowly shifting back to a more normal market and may be a Buyers’ market in some areas. In the past couple of years buyers have removed contingencies to woo sellers and win bidding wars.
Price is becoming more negotiable and the need to waive contingencies is hopefully becoming a thing of the past.
As the market has started to shift toward a more neutral market, buyers are regaining some power again and able to use contingencies to better protect themselves. As the market shifts, even in red hot markets, more contingencies are likely to appear as part of the process.
Mortgage and inspection contingencies are likely to become more negotiable in included in contracts for the Buyer’s protection, but contracts contingent on the sale of your current home is still not in the cards for most buyers.

Using Home Equity To Buy  Another Property

Interest rates are rising and so it the equity in your current real estate holdings. There are alternatives to financing a second home or investment property other than a traditional mortgage. If you have a large amount of equity in your first home, you could obtain enough money through a Home Equity Loan to pay for most—if not all—of the cost of a second home.
Using a home equity loan (also called a second mortgage) to purchase another home can eliminate or reduce a homeowner’s out-of-pocket expenses. However, taking equity out of your home to buy another house comes with risks.
If you’re interested in using home equity to purchase a new home, the value of your house will need to be high enough to support the loan, and you’ll have to meet your lender’s requirements. Here’s how to get a second mortgage to buy another house.
1. Determine the amount you want to borrow. Before taking equity out of your home to buy another house, decide how much you want and need. Home equity loans limit how much you can borrow. In most cases, you can only access up to 85% of the equity in your home.
2. Prepare for the application process. Your approval for a home equity loan will depend on multiple factors. The value in your home will determine the maximum amount of equity available, and your financial information will determine how much of that equity you can borrow. In addition, your lender will look at your credit score, income, other outstanding debts and additional information.
3. Shop around for a home equity loan. When taking out a home equity loan for a second home, you can use any lender. The loan does not have to be with your current bank or mortgage company. So the best way to get a competitive interest rate is to shop around and get quotes from multiple lenders. As you compare, look at the interest rate, loan terms, fees and estimated closing costs. You can also negotiate with the lender on the rate or a particular term.
4. Apply to the loan with the best terms. Once you’ve determined the loan with the best terms, you’re ready to apply. You’ll submit the application and provide the requested information. Your lender will order an appraisal of the home or determine the value using another method.
5. Close on the loan. After you go through the underwriting process, your loan will be ready to close. Before finalizing the loan, make sure you understand the terms carefully. Also, know that the Three-Day Cancellation Rule allows you to cancel a home equity loan without penalty within three days of signing the loan documents.
Before you use a home equity loan for a second home, consider the pros and cons of taking equity out of your home to buy another house.
Pros:
·      You’ll reserve your cash flow. Using home equity to buy a second home keeps cash in your pocket that you would otherwise use for the home purchase. This increased cash flow can result in a healthier emergency fund or go towards other investments.
·      You’ll increase your borrowing power. Buying a house with equity will allow you to make a larger down payment or even cover the entire cost — making you the equivalent of a cash buyer.
·      You’ll borrow at a lower interest rate than with other forms of borrowing. Home equity products typically have lower interest rates than unsecured loans, such as personal loans. Using home equity to purchase a new home will be less expensive than borrowing without putting up collateral.
·      You’ll have better approval chances than with an additional mortgage. Home equity loans are less risky for lenders than mortgages on second homes because a borrower’s priority is typically with their primary residence. This may make it easier to get a home equity loan to buy another house than a new separate mortgage.
Cons:
·      You’ll put your primary residence at risk. Using a home equity loan to buy a new house can jeopardize your primary home if you’re unable to handle the payments.
·      You’ll have multiple loan payments. Taking equity out of your home to buy another house means you’ll potentially have three loans if you have a mortgage on both your primary residence and the second home in addition to the home equity loan.
·      You’ll pay higher interest rates than on a mortgage. Home equity products have higher interest rates than mortgages, so you’ll be borrowing at a higher total cost.
·      You’ll pay closing costs. When using equity to buy a new home, you’ll have to pay closing costs, which can range from 2% to 5% of the loan amount.
Other options for buying a house with equity
Using a home equity loan to buy another house is just one path borrowers can take. Here are a few additional options for using equity to buy a new home.
Cash-out refinance
A cash-out refinance is one way to buy another property using equity. A cash-out refinance accomplishes two goals. First, it refinances your existing mortgage at market rates, potentially lowering your interest rate. Secondly, it rewrites the loan balance for more than you currently owe, allowing you to walk away with a lump sum to use for the new home purchase. Taking equity out of a home to buy another with a cash-out refinance can be more advantageous than other options because you’ll have a single mortgage instead of two. However, interest rates on cash-out refinances are typically higher than standard refinances, so the actual interest rate will determine if this is a good move.
Home equity line of credit
A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is another option for using home equity to purchase a new home. HELOCs are similar to home equity loans, but instead of receiving the loan proceeds upfront, you have a line of credit that you access during the loan’s “draw period” and repay during the repayment period. This method of using equity to buy investment property can be helpful if you’re “house flipping” because it allows you to purchase the property, pay for renovations and repay the line of credit when the property sells. However, interest rates on HELOCs are typically variable, so there is some instability with this option.
Reverse mortgage
Homeowners 62 or older have an additional option of using equity to buy a second home — a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). Commonly known as a reverse mortgage, a HECM allows borrowers to access home equity without making payments. Instead, the loan is repaid when you leave the home. Reverse mortgages provide a flexible way of using equity to buy another home, as borrowers can choose between receiving a lump sum or a line of credit. However, keep in mind that while you won’t make payments with a reverse mortgage, interest will accrue. This causes the loan balance to grow and can result in eating up all the home’s equity.
 Alternate forms of financing for purchasing a second home include:
  • Private money lenders
  • Seller financing
  • Peer-to-peer lending
  • Hard Money Loans
  • Personal Loans

Florida Closing Cost Primer for Buyers

Florida Closing Costs

Closing costs are inevitable when you’re buying or selling a property. While they vary from state to state, the amount you’ll pay in Florida depends on both the property and the county it sits in. As a buyer, you’ll have to cover most of the fees and taxes.  In Florida, you’ll also have to post a fee for documentary stamps (or doc stamps), which is a percentage of the sales price. Then there are the taxes. You’ll likely be subject to property and transfer taxes.

Neither party is responsible for 100% of the closing costs in Florida, which includes fees, taxes, insurance costs and more. The buyer typically pays between 3% to 4% of the home loan’s value and is responsible for the bulk of the fees and taxes. The seller usually pays between 5% to 10% of the home’s sale price. Closing costs also vary among counties.

Condos are regulated by the Florida Condominium Act. The legislation lays out your rights to the property and gives you an “undivided interest” in all the common areas of the building. You’ll have to pay a monthly maintenance fee or a yearly homeowners association fee to cover the servicing of those areas that fall under the “undivided interest.” The fee isn’t tax-deductible.

If you are getting a mortgage The fees shown on the Good Faith Estimate can be difficult to understand but can be broken down into five sections.

One-time fees

  • Appraisal fee
  • Reinspection fee
  • Credit application, credit report and credit supplement fees
  • Mortgage origination fee
  • Lender’s title insurance policy (optional owner’s title insurance)
  • Escrow fee
  • Home inspection fee (optional)
  • Closing attorney fee
  • Courier fee
  • Bank processing fee
  • Recording fee
  • Notary fee
  • Loan discount points

Recurring fees

  • Homeowners insurance
  • Property taxes and tax servicing fees
  • Mortgage insurance premiums
  • Flood certification fee (in some areas)

Appraisal fees

Lenders typically require an appraisal as part of the underwriting process, before financing a home purchase. Appraisals will vary in price depending on the location and size of the property. The lender hires an appraiser to provide the fair market value of the home, and the buyer pays the lender.

Mortgage origination fee

Every lender will charge a mortgage origination fee, which covers their service and administrative costs. The average loan origination fee is 1% of the total loan amount. Buyers should shop for lenders with both experience and low origination fees.

Title insurance policy fees

Lenders typically require borrowers to purchase insurance to protect the financial institution from future title claims. This policy is called lender’s title insurance and the cost depends on the location and size of the property.

Owners title insurance protects the Buyer from future claims against the title.  The customary party that pays for the Owners Title Policy varies by County in Florida.  In Sarasota,Collier, Miami-Dade and Broward County, the Buyer pays for title insurance and chooses the title company.  In all other counties, it is the Seller’s responsibility.

Escrow fees

During the purchase and sale transaction, your funds will enter a holding account managed by a third party — an escrow company. When the transaction is complete, the escrow representative will disperse your down payment, fees, and loan proceeds to the appropriate individuals.

Home inspection fee

A home inspection is a common contingency for a home purchase. As the buyer, you can hire an inspector to evaluate the condition of the home and its systems prior to purchase. Home inspection costs vary depending on the size and age of the property. You will pay the inspector for their service out-of-pocket, and this amount is separate from the purchase and sale transaction.

Attorney Fees

Florida is a Title Theory state and does not require that an attorney be used to close a real estate transaction.  Private real estate attorneys, or borrower’s attorneys, are an additional and optional cost for buyers who want a specialist to assist them with contract-related issues or professional advice beyond the scope of their agent’s abilities. Private real estate attorneys charge by the hour or charged a fixed rate for the transaction and rates vary based on their level of expertise and services provided.

Documentation fees

During a financed home purchase, several institutions need to process information and create official records.

  • The courier fee allows lenders to send your documents to necessary parties
  • The bank processing fee pays the bank for handling the necessary loan documentation.
  • The lender uses the recording fee to pay the county to file a public record of the transaction.

Loan discount point fees

When locking your interest rate with your lender, you’re allowed to buy down the rate. To do this, you pay “points” — essentially, paying interest in advance. One point is equal to 1% of the loan; but that does not translate to a 1% drop in interest rate. Not all buyers choose to buy down their interest rate, but when they do, the rates vary by lender.

Homeowners’ insurance

As a stipulation of your financing, you will be required to purchase homeowners’ insurance. You will continue to pay the insurance premium on a yearly or twice-yearly basis directly to your insurer, or monthly via an escrow payment that is part of your monthly mortgage payment to your loan servicer. Homeowners insurance policy fees range based on the amount of coverage and the size of the property.

Property taxes

Your property taxes will be prorated based on your closing date. Some buyers pay their taxes in lump sums annually or biannually. If you don’t pay this way, you might escrow the taxes, which means they would be included as an escrow line item in your monthly mortgage payment to your loan servicer. Property taxes are paid in arrears in Florida.

 

Mortgage insurance premiums

If your loan amount is more than 20% of the value of the home, you are typically required to pay insurance to protect your lender’s investment. Mortgage insurance is generally escrowed but may vary from lender to lender. Some lenders will also charge a one-time application fee for mortgage insurance.

Flood insurance

Depending on the location of your property, you may also be obligated to purchase flood insurance to help protect your lender’s investment. Flood insurance policies range by risk level, based on location and are a Federal Program and the pricing cannot be competitively shopped for.

What are the closing costs for cash buyers?

Cash buyers are still required to pay for things like notary fees, property taxes, recording fees, and other local, county and state fees. Unlike a buyer who is using financing, cash buyers won’t have to pay any mortgage-related fees. But most cash buyers still opt to pay for things like appraisals, inspections, and owner’s title insurance.

Closing costs can vary depending on where you live in Florida, the type of property you buy and how much it sells for. While the seller forks over some money, the buyer pays for the bulk of the fees and taxes, which typically add up to 2.5% of the average sale price depending on the time of year you close ( proration sensitive).

What is An Appraisal Gap and Appraisal Gap Coverage Clause?

An appraisal gap is the difference between the fair market value determined by the appraiser and the amount you agreed to pay for the home.
An abnormally high number of homes across the United States are being appraised below their agreed-upon sales prices, causing some deals to implode.With home prices soaring in recent months, buyers often pay above asking price to win bidding wars. As a result, CoreLogic estimated that about 13% of appraisals came in below the contract price in August.
A home appraisal is an evaluation and report performed by a licensed appraiser to determine a home’s fair market value. Lenders require a home appraisal to ensure the amount you agreed to pay for the home is equal to or less than the appraised value. To create a home appraisal, appraisers normally rely on factors like data from recent closed and pending sales. But since sales usually close a month or two after going under contract, rapidly increasing home values can sometimes skew appraisals that rely on home values recorded months earlier.
In today’s hot market, many prospective buyers will get into bidding wars and possibly waive the appraisal contingency or offer an appraisal guarantee up to a certain amount. In both cases, the buyer would have to come up with the difference in cash between the appraisal and the sale price, or their appraisal guarantee and the sale price.
The disparity underscores the risks buyers face in the current market, especially those stretching their dollars to win a bidding war. Mortgage lenders will typically offer only enough to cover the appraised value of a home, forcing buyers to either provide the balance, renegotiate, or terminate the deal if an appraisal comes in below the contract price.
Using An Appraisal Gap Coverage Clause:
If you want your bid to outshine the others, an appraisal gap coverage clause may be necessary. An “appraisal gap clause” is used in a sales contract to guarantee that the home buyer will cover the monetary gap between the appraisal and the sales contract if an appraisal gap becomes an issue.
The clause states how much of an appraisal gap you’re willing to cover. Since there’s no guarantee an appraisal will match the agreed-upon sales price, it’s often something sellers look for to know the offer will still stand even if the appraisal comes in a little low.
The main thing that needs to be noted is the monetary value of your appraisal gap guarantee. It’s not wise to state that you will cover an unlimited amount between the sales price and the appraised value. I recommend always putting in the maximum amount that you are willing to cover.
What Should You Do When The Appraisal Is Less Than The Offer?
You have several options when the appraisal is less than the offer including walking away from the sale, but that doesn’t work in every situation.
Here’s what to consider:
Pay The Difference
If the seller won’t negotiate to lower the purchase price, you’ll be on the hook to pay the difference unless you have an appraisal contingency in your contract. The appraisal contingency gives you a way out of the contract without losing your deposit. Without it, you must buy the home or risk losing your the money you have already put down into escrow.
Without a lower sales price, you’ll have to pay more for the home. Since lenders base your loan amount on the appraised value, you’ll need your agreed-upon down payment plus the difference between the sales price and appraised value.
What if you don’t have the cash?
Ask for gift letters from family members or leverage your investments. You may be able to use some retirement funds without paying a penalty. Talk to your 401(k) administrator or tax advisor to see what options you have. If you own other real estate, consider tapping into the equity and using the funds to cover the appraisal gap.
Renegotiate The Offer     
If you have an appraisal contingency on your sales contract, you may be able to work with the seller. Start by requesting the seller to lower the price to the appraised value. This would eliminate the appraisal gap and your financial issues in buying the home.
Asking the seller to renegotiate can be risky in a seller’s market, so be careful. If the seller has a kick out clause, they could accept another offer that comes through. They still must give you the time to remove your appraisal contingency and seal the deal, but they can choose the other offer if you don’t.
Dispute The Appraisal
You can dispute the appraisal, asking for a reconsideration of value. However, this is not easy to do as you’ll need plenty of evidence to prove the appraisal is inaccurate.
You must prove one of the following:
  • The appraiser didn’t use appropriate comparable sales, and you have proof of more accurate options
  • The appraiser missed features or upgrades in the subject property
  • You found mistakes in the report
  • The appraiser only conducted a drive-by or exterior appraisal
Walk Away from the Sale
It’s not the most pleasant choice, but if you’re worried about paying more than a property is worth, sometimes walking away from the sale is the best option. If you’ve unsuccessfully renegotiated with the seller and disputed the appraisal to no avail, it may be best to look for another property.
Before you do this, talk to your attorney. If you didn’t include an appraisal contingency in your contract, you might risk your deposit. Sometimes other contingencies still help, though, especially a mortgage financing contingency.

How To Win A Bidding War!

A bidding war is when at least two prospective buyers have made legitimate offers for a home that are similar and the Seller wants to select the best offer and terms for themselves. Bidding wars are common—in most of 2020, over half of home offers presented have faced competitive bids, according to Redfin’s study. Although historically low interest rates have sparked buying activity recently, some neighborhoods are always sought-after and attract multiple offers whenever a home comes up for sale.  Exclusive Buyer Agents are experts in winning bidding wars and getting credits during the due diligence period.

Expect to be in a bidding war In a hot housing market, it’s often not enough to quickly make an offer on a house but to have the highest price and best terms.

Here are a dozen ways you can get an edge on the competition.

  1. Offer to Pay in Cash

If you have the ability to offer an all-cash bid, you gain a distinct advantage because you eliminate the possibility of a mortgage falling through before closing. Buying with cash will make the process go quicker because you won’t need to go through the approval process with a lender, who would also request an appraisal. If you can’t cover the entire purchase price in cash, you could agree to a larger down payment on the house, which increases your approval odds and might make your bid more attractive.

  1. Get Pre-Approved

Pre-approval is a step most buyers will take anyway, but it’s absolutely essential for anyone in a competitive bidding situation. Pre-qualification is not enough, as it doesn’t show that the lender conducted the same amount of due diligence—such as checking your earnings and doing a hard credit check—that a pre-approval would require.

  1. Know Your Financial Limits

When you’re preparing for a bidding war, think of it like an auction—you need to know how much house you can afford before you actually bid. Once you know the maximum amount you’re willing to bid, you can include an escalation clause in your purchase offer to ensure you can instantly counteract any other bid. An escalation clause lets you increase your bid to avoid being outbid by another buyer up to a specified amount.

  1. Provide More Earnest Money

Buyers typically provide 1% to 5% of the purchase price as earnest money—a form of a security deposit—in a purchase contract, which gives sellers the assurance that you will follow through with the purchase. If you bail out on the contract without citing a contingency, you will likely lose the earnest money. If you put down more than the typical earnest money amount, it will tell the seller that you’re determined to follow through to the closing.

  1.  Be open to making offers sight-unseen

Speed is key in a seller’s market as competitive as this one. If you’re interested in a home but live far away or just haven’t been able to tour it, you can still throw your hat in the ring. Video tours and 3D walk-throughs have made sight-unseen offers much more feasible. Almost two-thirds (63%) of people who bought a home last year made an offer on a property that they hadn’t seen in person.

  1.  Remove Some or All Contingencies

When you make an offer to purchase a house, you know the deal could fall through for numerous reasons, and you don’t want to lose your earnest money because of it. That’s why you include contingencies in the purchase contract; if the home inspection uncovers major problems or you can’t sell your current home in time to close on the new one, you can get out of the contract without penalty. Almost no offers contingent on the sale of a home will win a bidding war. Sell your home, rent and then start trying to get a home under contract. Simultaneous closings are so 1990’s.

If you can’t waive contingencies, sweeten them for the seller. Opt to expedite the contingency timeline.

  1. Be Flexible on the Move-in Date

First-time home buyers and those who have already sold their previous home might be in a position to be flexible with the sellers on their move-in date. A seller might ask for more time if they have concerns about potential delays for a new home build. In this case, they could go through the closing and then rent the home back from you for a few weeks or a month. This flexibility could be as valuable—if not more valuable—than a higher bid on the house.

  1.  Start low, bid high

A lot of successful buyers today win by making an offer that exceeds the asking price…in fact it is expected. This also means that a lot of buyers end up exceeding their budgets. To prevent this, only search for homes that are listed 10-15% below what you can afford, so that you can make an over list price offer.

  1.  Offer to pay some of the seller’s costs

Home buyers can make their offers more competitive by offering to pay for expenses that are typically covered at least partially by the seller.

  1. Write a Personal Note

Home sellers, especially ones who have lived in a home for a long period of time, can sometimes be swayed by a personal note that explains why you believe this is the home of your dreams. For example, you might know that the current owner raised a family in the home, and you can discuss how you hope to do the same. It might seem a bit over the top, but it’s certainly worth a try when not much separates your offer from others. And yes—sometimes it works.  Avoid putting any personal information in the letter that may expose the Seller of real estate agents from violating Fair Housing laws.

  1.  Prepare to lose before you win 

With more than half of offers facing competition these days, it’s more likely than not that you’ll get into a bidding war if you’re in the market for a home. It’s also wise to know when to walk away. It’s OK to put your search on hold if you reach the point where you’re not comfortable making the aggressive offers that are often necessary to win in today’s market. You don’t want to end up with buyer’s remorse, after all.

  1.  Use an experienced Exclusive Buyer Agent that has been successful with winning bidding wars and speak with their references. Be prepared to ask to be in a Back Up position if you lose the bid. The market is too competitive and offers move too fast for novices to be effective at winning bidding wars in a multiple offer situation.

Tips for Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market

Seller's market
Seller's market

Buying a home in a Seller’s market always has its challenges. But when you’re trying to do it in a seller’s market, the difficulty can reach a new level. When the market favors the seller, time is of the essence. Multiple offers happen with more regularity in a seller’s market than a buyer’s market, because a seller’s market is defined in part by low inventory and a surplus of home buyers. A beautiful home that is priced well can attract more than one offer.

In a seller’s market, you should always assume you’re competing against several other offers. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a new home in a seller’s market, when there are more buyers than homes, and sellers can afford to hold out for higher offers. You just need to make sure you do it right and arm yourself with the right information:

Here are a few things to consider as you prepare your offer when buying in a seller’s market:

Choose an Experienced REALTOR: In sports and in business, it’s important to have the best players on your team when facing fierce competition. In a seller’s market, that means choosing a real estate agent who not only has proven expertise in the neighborhoods you’re interested in but is also highly responsive and efficient. Make sure to use an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent that owes you a fiduciary and works in your best interest.

Demonstrate Credit Worthiness: You should get Pre-Approved for a home mortgage with a local lender before touring homes if you need to get financing. By obtaining a pre-approval for a mortgage before you start home shopping, you’ll know how much buying power you have. Your offer may have far more credibility than competing ones where buyers didn’t take this step.

Lower Your Expectations: When the inventory of homes is limited, you probably can’t afford to wait for the perfect house to hit the market. Prepare yourself to adjust your expectations. It makes the most sense to make exceptions to your criteria for things that can be changed. For example, you can renovate or add a bathroom someday, but you can’t change the home’s location or lot size.

Make your Best Offer first, be Ready to Bid: Make your best offer but be prepared for it not to be your final offer. High home prices can lead to home appraisals that don’t climb as fast, leaving lenders to not fund the loan. Home buyers should have money set aside the pay the difference between a contracted purchase price and the appraisal.

By Prepared to Make Concessions: Your relative lack of power in a seller’s market doesn’t just affect the question of price. It carries over to every other aspect of the deal, too. Shorten the inspection period, be flexible on closing dates; you should be prepared to accommodate the seller’s needs even if it is an inconvenience to you.

Don’t be that buyer who wants to wait until the weekend to view a home in a seller’s market. By the weekend, that home could be sold. Try to be one of the first showings. Sellers usually don’t enjoy having buyers come through their homes at all hours of the day, so most would like to see their home sold quickly. If you write a good, fast, and clean offer, your chances of acceptance are far better than those of a buyer who is unprepared or is unrealistic on price.

Finally, don’t get carried away with the pressure to buy, even in a seller’s market. Remember that a home decision has a long-term impact on your financial future. It may be better to let a house go than make a poor decision that’s expensive to change.

Should You Refinance During The COVID-19 Situation?

Covid-19 and Refi

Covid-19 and Refi

Rates are lower than ever; when a refinancing is done right, it can save you thousands of dollars. But not every potential refi makes the cut. Sometimes the expenses just don’t justify the potential savings.

It is time to refinance your home mortgage if the terms lower your mortgage interest rate, pay off their mortgage years earlier, or saves thousands in interest over the life of the loan. You can save serious money by refinancing your mortgage. But due to refinancing fees and expenses, not every refi makes financial sense.

COVID-19 is creating changes with lenders and how they are doing business. This is resulting in refinancing taking longer and getting stricter than it has been in the past. Although the mortgage process is considered essential as a financial transaction, depending on where you live, there may be changes related to COVID-19  involving your appraisal, rate lock and closing process.

Rates are quite low and because your home is your biggest financial investment, the equity can be very useful as a resource in times of trouble. But if you’re thinking of financing your home loan there are several steps you should take to make sure that it’s the right move for you.

How Long Do You Plan On Being In Your Home?

Being able to answer this question will help you figure out the term length you want on any refinanced mortgage; but there’s another reason asking this question …

If you plan on moving within the next 5 – 10 years, it could be worth your while to look at an adjustable rate mortgage ( ARM).  You get a lower rate initially with an ARM because the rate can adjust after the teaser period. But if you move before the end of the fixed-rate time frame, you don’t have to worry about whether the rate is going up and down in the end. Additionally, your payment will tend to be lower because most adjustable rate mortgages are based on 30-year terms.

Age Of Current Loan

The age of your current loan sometimes plays a role in whether you can refinance. Even if you can refinance, it does not always make sense.  When you refinance you have to pay closing costs.  If you are not planning on staying in the house past the breakeven point when the savings and the additional expenses paid starts to net to overall reduced costs for home ownership, the it is not the time to refinance.  You may want to accelerate buying a new home to realize the saving from lower interest rates.

Plans For Monthly Savings

If you determine that you’re going to save money by refinancing based on the rate and term you can get, make sure that you have a plan for what you’re going to do with the monthly savings in order to put yourself in a better financial position. No one knows exactly when COVID-19 is going to end and how long it will take for the economy to recover. If you can save money now, you can work on establishing the savings need should the vaccine be delayed or we continue with a longer recession

You could use your savings to build up an emergency fund. Maybe you choose to allow yourself to save money in the future by paying off high-interest debt now. You can also use this to catch up on saving for retirement if you stopped contributing temporarily while dealing with the situation caused by the virus.

It’s a very volatile market right now, so we advise all of our clients to rely on the advice of their Home Loan Expert and Financial Advisors at all times.

The Mortgage Refi Process

Approving a mortgage is a complicated process, one that requires a lender to validate a borrower’s income, check the value of the home being used as collateral and scrutinize the title history of the property.

Just as refinancing applications picked up, the coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed the way everyone in the mortgage industry works. Loan officers no longer go to the office. Appraisers stopped walking through houses. And no one gathers around the title company’s closing table. The process is a little slower because everybody’s working from home right now. Things that would take an hour to do are taking a day sometimes.

It is more difficult to verify a borrower’s employment. A task once dispatched with a quick call to the borrower’s human resources department now means leaving a voicemail and waiting a day or two for a response.

Meanwhile, homeowners looking to refinance may have to get in line behind buyers who need a mortgage so they can close on a house which are a priority with lenders.

The mortgage industry already had been digitizing, and lenders quickly adapted to many changes. One stumbling block, though, is that most lenders still require some documents to be signed in the presence of a legal witness and notarized.  Florida allows for mobile notaries and they are busier than ever.

Sometimes, documents are being signed remotely and online and mobile notaries are not allowed yet.  You need to allow time for in person notarization and overnight mailing of documents.  Digital closings may be the way of the future, but we are not there yet.

What You Can Do to Secure a Smooth Refinance

Here are a few ways you can make the refi process as smooth as possible:

— Get your paperwork in order. Don’t let something simple like a missing document delay your refinance. Collect PDFs of financial documents, including pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns and retirement accounts.

— Make sure the lender will honor your rate lock. In normal times, lenders extend rate locks for 30 to 60 days, meaning you won’t have to pay more if rates go up before your loan closes. These aren’t normal times, though, and many refinances aren’t closing within 30 to 60 days, so make sure your lender is willing to extend your rate lock if your deal is delayed.

— Keep your credit score tight. Now isn’t the time to miss a payment, take on new debt or otherwise do anything to lower your credit score. Lenders are being especially strict about borrowers’ credit histories.

 

COVID-19 Real Estate Home Buying Process

Real Estate Process
Real Estate Process

COVID-19 Real Estate Home Buying Process

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has labeled residential and commercial real estate as an essential business. Yet, COVID-19 has changed how real estate is conducted not only with how Realtors are showing properties but also how real estate transactions are closed.
One thing is certainly sure: being an “essential” business does not necessarily mean business as usual.
Pre-Closing
The New National Association of Realtors (NAR) guidelines follow and strictly adhere to all CDC safety guidelines. NAR supports and encourages that all brokerage firms order their agents to shelter in place and avoid all social interaction.
Such stay at home mandates and social distancing regulations have pushed real estate agents to become creative. Instead of having open houses, real estate agents are using virtual property showings, and Facebook live open houses. There are programs for customers to even design their home using digital tools, watching videos of the construction as their property is being built. Realtors are doing initial showings over video chat services like Face Time, Skype or Zoom.
Contract
Perhaps the real challenge COVID-19 poses to home buying is not necessarily shopping for the home—rather, it is closing on one.
Issues with contracts focusing on force majeure clauses, or clauses that provide for a delay or opportunity to get out of underlying obligations in the event of unforeseen or uncontrollable events have been an emerging issue during this pandemic.
The development of the COVID-19 Extension Addendum to Contract allows for time periods and dates to be extended as a result of the Corona-virus pandemic.
Closing
Once contract issues are overcome, the closing itself has evolved due to this crisis.
Make sure that you or the Seller only use an escrow and Title company that is capable of handling the closing. Specifically ask whether they use online or mobile notaries. Also determine if the local recorder’s office uses electronic recording and whether the title company is equipped to record the deed electronically.
Many documents in the closing process require a notary, and notarization is normally required to be done-in person. The Florida legislature and Governor signed into law effective January 1, 2020, a new law that allows for what is called remote online notarization (RON). This is a huge game-changer in the State of Florida, particularly in the area of real estate closings. No longer do parties all have to get together at a certain set time around the conference room and execute documents. Now, from the comfort of your own home, provided that you have your own laptop or smart phone, you can execute documents online and remotely and have those documents notarized. While the technology is new, it is not that new. It is the same technology that is used to validate your passport or driver’s license when you go through security at an airport. This validation technology is now being used for remote online notarization (RON).
If, for example, you are in another state and are closing on real estate located in Florida, or, perhaps, you are in a profession (such as being a doctor and on call) that makes it difficult to attend a closing, you can now remotely video into the closing and notarize your documents from the comfort wherever you might be. Documents are produced online for your review, and at the point that you are prepared to execute those documents, you can do so remotely. A notary is present at the time online, not physically with you, and that notary is then able to confirm and validate that you executed the documents without any duress or coercion.
There is a caveat, however, and that is that while remote online notarization, in theory, should work all over the world, it really is more of a domestic service for people within the United States. It is difficult for the technology, at this stage, to validate foreign credentials.
Appraisals and home inspections are other aspects of residential real estate closings are evolving during this pandemic. The Federal Housing Finance Agency is allowing alternative appraisal methods such as “drive by” appraisals where appraisers drive through the neighborhood and walk around a property without going into it. They are also doing “desktop” appraisals using public data to generate property values.
The loan process will likely take longer than in the past and I am encouraging my buyers to agree to no less than a 60 days closing if a loan is needed. You need to take this into consideration with your home buying timeline if you need to close on a property by a certain date.
Moving during a Pandemic
 I recently published an entire BLOG article on this subject which you can read here along with other articles that you may find informative.