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HOMEBUYER’S GUIDE APRIL 25, 2014

MOVE ON,

MOVE UP Don’t sit on the fence: It’s time to find your dream home

MEET YOUR MATCH The perfect real estate partner for you

PLUS: STAGING TIPS | FOUR STEPS TO YOUR BIG MOVE

INSIDE: Understanding new mortgage rules


Amateur’s guide to home staging Top five tips to make sure a home is dressed to impress when it goes for sale CTW FEATURES

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on’t take it personally. Some buyers simply won’t like the way your space looks. That’s why staging a home can make a big difference. If you can’t get expert help to stage your home (some real estate agents provide staging services), consider hiring a stager or enlisting the help of a friend to view your home through a stranger’s eyes. In the meantime, follow these five basic rules to market your property to potential buyers.

IN ON 1 CASH ‘CLEAN’ Clean, tidy homes are enormously more attractive than cluttered spaces. Especially for people who’ve lived in their space for a long time, accumulated clutter can obscure the value of a home by making it look smaller, dirtier and less functional. Either embark on a decluttering mission or commit the majority of your possessions to storage (or a relative’s home) in order to remove all extraneous details.

CTW photos‌

For essential items, store behind closet doors or inside decorative baskets. With so few items in place, it might not look natural, but that’s fine. You’re aiming for the look of a catalogue or furniture storeroom.

homey feeling. Use those beautiful vases for fresh flowers, which will smell great and brighten the room. Just remember to refresh them when they start to droop. Most importantly, don’t go out and buy a new set of décor just for staging, unless you intend to use them in your new home.

2 MAXIMIZE LIGHT

Once your place is clean, you shouldn’t be shy about throwing light into every corner. Open all the windows and blinds and have at least two sources of light available in every room.

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Nothing’s worse than an empty room lit by a single overhead light. It makes a space feel sterile and small.

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Buy or borrow standing lamps to fill corners with light. Move table lamps to maximize the light they cast in a room. Use the illumination as a tool to highlight features in the home, such as a reading corner or a task area in the kitchen.

WHAT 3 USE YOU HAVE

Take that assortment of vases, set of fine china and candle collection out of storage and put them to use. While you don’t want to increase clutter, a well-placed design touch on empty countertops and tables could provide a

miscellaneous items should be emptied.

TRUE TO 5 STAY THE ‘HOOD

Most real estate agents will recommend home sellers stick with neutral colors and furnishings. While that’s true most of the time, there are certain locations and neighborhoods that attract cerSHOW tain buyers. POSSIBILITIES For instance, in an artThe aim is not to create ists’ enclave, colorful walls and large displays the perfect model home, of artwork can play well. but rather to showcase These listings tend to all the possibilities of attract buyers who are the space. interested in art. Make note of features Keep in mind, the that could be selling money you spend on points that you don’t neutralizing your home personally use. Clean an could have a low return on unused grill or put some investment. In a study by bar glasses by an enterJohns Hopkins University taining sink. in March 2012, people did You may need to edit down your furniture. Most not significantly value a home with a neutral wall homes have too much. Place the remaining pieces color over a home with in functional ways by cre- “unattractive” wall colors. In that case, keeping an ating a conversation area adjacent to the kitchen or interesting design choice a sitting area on the patio. could help your home stand out in the midst of Any room that you’re property viewings. using mostly to store

4


‌THE HOMEBUYERS

31

‌THE MARKET

Homeownership rate in the U.S.

Average age of a first-time homebuyer

Real estate 2014: By the numbers

Get a sense of the housing market by looking at the hard numbers COMPILED BY MAGGIE FLYNN, CTW FEATURES‌

Sources: 1 National Association of Realtors, 2013 Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers, November 2013 | 2 U.S. Census Bureau report, Nov. 5, 2013 | 3 Zillow. com, Real Estate Predictions 2014, Dec. 2013 | 4 HOAUSA.com, About section | 5 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, guidelines for Qualified Residential Mortgage | 6 Mortgage Bankers Association, Forecast Commentary, Dec. 2013

10

Number of homes the typical homebuyer views in a 12-week period

42

Percentage of buyers who find an agent through friends or family

65.3%

3%

Projection of how much U.S. home values are expected to increase in 2014

53

Percentage of owneroccupied households in U.S. with homeowner associations, which are essential when getting a loan approved

THE MORTGAGES

4.9% 43%

Expected average The debt-to-income ratio cap mortgage rate in 2014 for borrowers set by CFPB

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Page 3  Friday, April 25, 2014  Special Section


It’s time to move on & up

Home equity is rising, the economy is stabilizing and many regions are seeing sustained growth; this may be the time to sell your property and move on to your dream home ERIK J. MARTIN CTW FEATURES‌

‌The good news is that residential real estate values increased impressively in 2013. The even better news is that, if you’re eager to trade up to a bigger, better home, but have been waiting for market conditions to improve, 2014 is shaping up to be a great year to make that move. Just consider the numbers: Property prices in 20 key cities rose 13.6 percent from October 2012 through September 2013, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index — the biggest 12-month jump since February 2006. What’s more, recent data released by the Federal Reserve indicates that net equity in household real estate increased $2.2 trillion from the third quarter of 2012 to the third quarter of 2013. Rob Levy, principal broker with Keller Williams Realty Professionals in Portland, Ore., says now is an ideal time for a move-up purchase for several reasons. “In most cases, more expensive move-up homes have dropped more in value than more modest or average homes,” Levy says. “Also, many larger homes are owned by Baby

Home equity: Page 4  Friday, April 25, 2014  Special Section

Boomers who are now downsizing, so there are more of them available or becoming available on the market.” At the same time, the starter homes that many move-up buyers come from are in high demand from first-time buyers and investors looking for rental properties. Moreover, would-be move-up buyers sitting on the fence may never again get such opportune timing. “This may be the last time [a move-up purchase]

is this affordable for many. As mortgage interest rates and prices increase, it becomes increasingly less affordable,” says Bruce Ailion, broker and attorney with RE/MAX Greater Atlanta in Marietta, Ga. “Consider that the approximately 4.5 percent interest rates of today remain historically very low,” he says. “Almost universally, economists and analysts expect rates to rise to 5 percent by the end of 2015, and prices to continue to increase.”

‌ he difference between a property’s current value and the amount T owed on any mortgage. Properties where the value is less than the amount of debt owed are known as “underwater.”


Good timing How to schedule your purchase and sale for a harmonious transition

‌N

Mortgage matters

Be prepared: Getting a home loan will be different your second time around ‌Decided to sell your current home to upgrade to a new one? Shopping around for the right residence is only one part of the process. You’ll also need to shop around for the right mortgage deal to finance that bigger, better house you’ve been dreaming about. If it’s been a few years since you’ve applied for a mortgage loan, be prepared for changes. That’s because banks and lenders today have to abide by tighter financial restrictions and are much pickier about whom they approve. “If you purchased your current home before 2008, there’s a good chance that you really didn’t have to provide much documentation when applying for a mortgage,” says Dan Gjeldum, senior vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate in Chicago. “The current mortgage environment is heavy on documentation, and mortgage professionals review every buyers’ ability to repay the loan carefully before granting a mortgage now, so be prepared for that.” That means doing some extra homework. To be ready, gather at least three years of tax returns plus several months of bank statements and pay stubs.

Also, check your credit report and make sure your FICO credit score is better than it was the last time you applied for a loan, Portland, Ore.-based broker Rob Levy says. While you can always try financing your new mortgage with your current mortgage lender, it pays to compare loan offers from several different lenders and to compare total loan costs – including rates, points, fees and closing cost – carefully. “Using the same mortgage representative or broker makes sense if you had a positive experience,” says Marietta, Ga.based broker/attorney Bruce Ailion. “When comparing the rates you are quoted, they should not vary more than an eighth of a percent.” For a referral to a reputable mortgage broker or lender, ask your real estate agent, family, friends and other people you trust. Lastly, “make sure you are pre-approved for a mortgage before you list [your current home for sale], which is different than getting pre-qualified,” says Ken Maes, northwest divisional vice president for Skyline Home Loans in Clackamas, Ore. — CTW

obody wants to get saddled with paying two mortgages. That’s why people prefer to sell their current home before completing the purchase on a move-up property, the experts say. But real estate transactions – like life – don’t always proceed smoothly and according to preferred timetables. Keep in mind that many lenders require homeowners to sell their residence or make an offer contingent on its sale before purchasing another home, which makes matters fairly cut and dry for most sellers. On the other hand, those who have the earning power and resources to qualify for two mortgages are afforded a lot more flexibility. Consider that, in markets favorable to sellers, many sellers would select an offer from a party without any contingencies, rather than accept an offer in which they’ll have to wait for the buyer’s former residence to sell. However, move-up buyers have some leverage for their own home sale. They can make the sale of their house contingent on finding a home to purchase, and they can include a rent-back agreement in the contract that enables them to reside in their old house while they get ready to move. Renting briefly from a buyer not only grants extra time to find a new residence, it means the

seller will not have to move twice (although lenders limit the rentback term to no longer than 60 days). How do you carefully time such a complicated dual transaction within a limited window of opportunity? Enlist the help of an experienced team of real estate professionals, including a savvy agent, trusted mortgage broker/ lender, and a responsive property attorney, says Ken Maes, with Skyline Home Loans in Clackamas, Ore. “Make sure you are pre-approved for your next mortgage before you list your home, look at move-up homes well ahead of time and not after you get an offer on your current home, and have everything ready to move,” Maes says. “Also, structure your closing date for as long away as possible to give yourself extra time.” The best circumstance is to have simultaneous closings on your sale and purchase properties, which a good real estate agent should be able to facilitate, says Bruce Ailion, broker/attorney in Marietta, Ga. “You may also want to be prepared to lease your former home to avoid paying two mortgages.” Dan Gjeldum, at Guaranteed Rate in Chicago, says a simultaneous closing involves structuring the contracts to occur on the same day, “which is typically set up as a morning sale and an afternoon purchase.” — CTW

Special Section  Friday, April 25, 2014  Page 5


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The big move Changing addresses can be stressful beyond the real estate transaction itself; take these four essential steps to make your big move as smooth as possible

pack up each room in turn so you are not putting away items that you’ll need before you move. Taylor recommends leaving the kitchen for last, since it’s always the hub of your household activity. When packing, beware the common mistakes of over-stuffing boxes and not adequately wrapping the items, Taylor says. Get the proper packing material for each item. Roll up paper into balls and put it on the bottom and top of each box for additional protection of valuable items. If you are moving a long distance, pack a suitcase for each family member with items he or she will need for the next few days, including clothes, toiletries and medications, McHolm suggests.

YENA LEE CTW FEATURES‌

A

fter the negotiation and closing, homebuyers might breathe a big sigh of relief. But don’t get too comfortable. Moving can be a huge stressor. To streamline your moving process and get it under control, follow these four steps.

1 PLAN AHEAD Summer and the end of each month are high-demand periods for most moving companies. Prices are more expensive, and it can be difficult to hire a truck or a moving company at these times. Consider moving during the “shoulder” season — spring or fall — when weather is good and there’s less competition, recommends Diane Schmidt, moving adviser at About.com. To hire a reliable mover, you should do research first on the company’s reputation. Ask friends for recommendations. Check reviews on websites such as the Better Business Bureau, Yelp or Angie’s List. If you decide to move yourself, research truck rental companies first. Calculate the right size of truck and make sure some trustworthy friends are available to help you on moving day. Remember to ask the rental truck

4 LAST-MINUTE TIPS agency for extra tools like a dolly and moving straps, Schmidt adds.

Angeles. Extra clothes, home accessories, decorations or media can be gifted to neighbors or friends. If you have more DECLUTTER time and patience, arrange to sell them AND GIVE AWAY at a garage sale. Another option, if the Here is a golden rule to decide whether items are in good condition, is to donate them to a local charity. to keep or throw your stuff: “If you haven’t used it in the last year, toss it. A PACK pair of jeans you’ve never worn or a set WISELY of weights you swore you’d use regularly — everything adds up,” Schmidt says. Set aside at least two weeks before For a long-distance move, get rid of moving day for packing. Lisa Taylor, junk you’re not using to save money, vice president of Florida-based Taylor & since moving companies usually charge Sons Moving, recommends only doing a by weight. couple of hours a day because the work Giving away your stuff can be another can be hard on your back. way to declutter, advises Laura McHolm, Start from the least-used room like a co-founder of NorthStar Moving in Los guest room or laundry room, and then

2

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3

You’ve heard the axiom that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. McHolm says that the best way to be prepared is to plan, plan and plan more. Here’s a brief checklist of just some of the things you’ll need to do to be prepared for the truck’s arrival: √ Go over to your new house a day before and check if it is clean and ready to greet a new family. √ Make sure your moving truck has a good place to park at your old home and new. √ Measure all walls and furniture and have a layout in mind for your new house. If you have a huge piece of furniture, check if it can make it through doorways and up stairways. √ Lastly, don’t forget to change your address, McHolm adds.


New year,

new rules

The much-discussed, oft-misunderstood ‘qualified mortgage’ rules primarily impact banks, not buyers

MAGGIE FLYNN CTW FEATURES‌

‌To make lenders more accountable, the mortgage application process is getting more stringent. According to regulations stemming from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, mortgage lenders must be more thorough in their documentation of loans and limit risky lending behavior. As of Jan. 10, 2014, lenders must follow the qualified residential mortgage rules; otherwise, they cannot make a loan and sell off their stake in the secondary loan market, which is their preferred practice. The QRM rules align closely with the “qualified mortgage” rules released earlier last year by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Because of this precedent, many banks already adhere to the requirements. CFPB Director Richard Cordray estimated that 95 percent of loans in the current market qualify. The rules are as follows: zz ‌Fees and points — additional charges that increase the cost of the loan — can equal at most 3 percent of the loan, except loans less than $100,000. zz ‌The CFPB will not qualify loans with risky features such as negative amortization, interest-only and balloon payments. zz ‌The loan term can be no more than 30 years. zz ‌Lenders must obtain extensive paperwork to verify that borrowers have the ability to repay loans by the Ability to Repay Rule. A borrower’s total debt-to-income ratio can be no more than 43 percent. This last point is the most impactful, and it puts more burden upon banks to ensure a borrower is in sufficient financial health to repay the mortgage. For homebuyers, those at extreme ends of the income scale are likely to feel the pinch. Low-income borrowers and those with debt or credit problems may be denied mortgages that they could have obtained in the free-wheeling financial years preceding the housing crisis.

CTW‌

To make lenders more accountable, the mortgage application process is getting more stringent.

High-net-worth individuals seeking large mortgages for luxury properties may also find it difficult to meet the debt-toincome requirement. However, the new mortgage rules are not more stringent than the majority of current mortgage loans, so the average homebuyer is less likely to feel immediate differences in the housing market. And, the qualified residential mortgage rules don’t apply to loans from federal programs such as the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration.

Essential mortgage lingo ‌Pre-qualified: Often received via mail or phone call, pre-qualifications are based on the most basic financial information about a potential borrower and do not commit a lender to any loan details. Pre-approved: After providing a banker with thorough documentation of finances, a pre-approval will state how much the bank is willing to lend and at

what interest rate. This is an essential step before going to a real estate agent. Loan committal: This occurs after a buyer has been pre-approved and chosen a home. The loan committal is dependent on several factors including an appraisal or review of homeowner association, if one exists, to ensure the loan is a smart choice for both borrower and lender. — CTW

Special Section  Friday, April 25, 2014  Page 9


Meet your match A real estate agent is a sounding board who guides you through selling or buying a home; here’s what you need to know about finding the perfect (real estate) partner

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“With the Internet, it’s easy to find properties that match your needs today,” says Bob Larson, real estate agent with First Weber Group in Milwaukee. “The value of a real estate agent or broker is to get through all the paperwork and negotiations, working with lenders, inspectors,

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Page 10  Friday, April 25, 2014  Special Section

From FOR SALE to SOLD!


a few different agents and asking if they can contact some of the agents’ past clients.

√ TO-DO LIST

GETTING CHOOSEY “Look for an agent who is making the client’s priorities their priorities, not one who is just looking for commission,” Larson says. “One who actually gets satisfaction from helping people accomplish their dreams.” The top real estate agent might not always be the best fit. Like any business relationship, a good synergy between the two parties is key. Conversely, buyers should be wary of picking professionals simply because they are friends or family, says Kelly Marsh, a real estate professional with Atlantabased Keller Williams Realty. There needs to be a balance of personal connection and professional experience, as well as room for honesty.

STAYING LOCAL The general consensus is that buyers should also go local when it comes to real estate agents. “Oftentimes in San Francisco, we’ll have an agent come in who is not familiar with San Francisco homes and values,” says Patrick Barber, president of Pacific Union International’s San Francisco region. “I’ve heard of so many people overpaying for properties.” Instead, the most valuable real estate agent is one who is familiar with the specific market in which the buyer is looking, he says, and can negotiate for the best price. “There’s so many pieces to this puzzle of purchasing the largest investment these people are making,” Barber says. “It’s crucial you have an advocate.”

To make the most of their time with a real estate agent, prospective homebuyers will need to do a little homework. Get pre-approved: Real estate professionals say the first step is to consult a reputable mortgage lender for a loan pre-approval. Once buyers know the price range they qualify for, Atlanta-based real estate professional Kelly Marsh suggests people evaluate their financial comfort levels. What you can pay on a house can differ from what you should pay. Understand your limits: Buyers should have a thorough understanding of their financial situation and their limits before any planning begins. A mortgage lender will need verification of your assets and

income to issue you a loan. Also, homebuyers need to know how much they’re willing to spend. It’s best to begin with a conservative price range so there is some room to increase the allowance if the available properties aren’t up to par. “Many people will qualify for a certain amount and then go to the top of that range,” Marsh says. “Sometimes their payment is more than they’re comfortable with.” Decide on a time frame: Financials aside, buyers should also share with their real estate agent the time frame in which they’re hoping to move and clearly communicate their expectations. Separate ‘needs’ from ‘wants’: Patrick Barber, president of Pacific Union

International’s San Francisco region, says he asks his new clients to create a “need” list and a “wish” list before beginning the house search. Having this separation of crucial characteristics from desires written down on paper from the get-go can keep buyers grounded later on. “Those two things can sometimes conflict,” Barber says. “When we’re looking at a property, we can say, ‘hey, pull out the list… does it meet all your needs? Does it have some on your wish list?’ That keeps them from an emotional standpoint a little more centered.” With the pre-planning out of the way, Barber says, then “you can really enjoy the act of finding a home.” — CTW

Five questions for a potential real estate agent How do you know if a real estate recommends Bob Larson, with First Weber Group, Milwaukee. agent is the right fit? Real estate professionals recommend you start by asking these questions How many houses did

1

Why are you a real estate agent?

“I would find out what that person’s value system is,” says Kelly Marsh, with Atlanta-based Keller Williams Realty. “You don’t want to work with someone who’s just doing it because they think they can make a lot of money; you want to hire someone who loves what they do.”

2

Will you be representing me, the buyer, exclusively?

3 you sell last year?

“The answer you’re looking for is not necessarily how many houses they sold, but what they say about how many houses they sold,” Marsh says. If their numbers are lower because they’re not a full-time agent, that could mean the buyer won’t get the time and attention he or she wants.

4

Those houses that you sold, what parts of town were they in?

Especially in bigger cities, buyers will want an agent who For agents representing both the is not just local, but hyperlocal. buyer and the seller, it can be dif- They will benefit the most from a professional who has worked ficult to get the optimal price for and sold homes in the specific both parties. “Always understand area of the city in which the who the agent is representing,”

buyer is looking, Marsh says.

5

How will you keep me updated throughout this process? Does the buyer want to be contacted once or twice a week? By phone or text message? Setting these expectations will keep both

parties happy. “The number one thing we know to be important in any service industry is communication,” says Elizabeth Mendenhall, RE/MAX Boone Realty, Columbia, Mo., and regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors. “It’s critical in a complex real estate transaction.” — CTW

SPECIAL SECTION Friday, April 25, 2014 Page 11


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Homebuyer's Guide  

Move On, Move Up

Homebuyer's Guide  

Move On, Move Up

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