Archive for Austin Real Estate

Borrowers to Pay More for FHA Loans!

FHA has announced a major change to its loan program which allows borrowers to cancel the mortgage insurance premium (MIP) when their unpaid balance reaches 78% of the original purchase price. While no specific date has been set for the change, sometime in 2013, new FHA loans will require the mortgage insurance for the life of the loan.

At existing rates, the monthly MIP on a $168,875 mortgage is $178.99 per month. Under the current rule with normal amortization, the MIP would no longer be required in 9 years and 9 months. However, under the new rule, it would last for the entire 30 year term.

They also announced that the annual MIP will also be increased from 1.25% to 1.35% at some point in the near future. HUD, the parent agency for FHA, is making the changes to restore the capital reserves of the program that are needed to fund failed loans.

People that can close a FHA loan before the change takes place will fall under the old rules for canceling MIP and the lower rates. Since no date was announced, it is not known exactly when the changes will take effect.

While this information will probably not make the evening news, it will have a big impact on borrowers planning to use an FHA loan. Please pass it on to anyone you know who might be considering purchasing or refinancing with a FHA loan.

Dripping Dollars!

Conserving water to be green while lowering your monthly bill to save green is a beneficial combination. Little things can contribute significantly to a large water bill.

  • Leaky faucets can waste over 1,000 gallons a year
  • Leaky toilets can waste 7,000 gallons a month
  • A five-minute shower saves more water than a tub bath
  • Water running while you brush your teeth or shave
  • Sprinkler heads need to be adjusted to spray on the yard only
  • Install a rain sensor on sprinkler system
  • Pool equipment can be a hidden source of wasted water
A larger than normal water bill can be your first indication you have a leak. Then, you’ll need to track it down.
  1. Turn off all the water faucets and appliances; don’t forget the ice maker.
  2. Open the water meter, usually located near the sidewalk in the front of the house. You may need a water key that can be purchased from a home improvement store or possibly borrowed from a neighbor.
  3. Locate the dial indicating water usage. It should not be moving since all of the water is off. If it is still moving, verify that you have turned off anything that might be using water.
  4. If it appears to be still, make a mark with a Sharpie and wait 15 minutes. If the flow indicator has moved, you probably have a leak.
  5. Now that you’ve confirmed that you have a leak, you may need help in locating it. A plumber or leak specialist may be able to help you track it down and repair it.

What is the Point?

Pre-paid interest, sometimes called “points”, is generally tax deductible when a person pays them in connection with buying, building or improving their principal residence. When points are paid on a refinance, they are not a current deduction but have to be taken pro-rata over the life of the mortgage.

For instance, if $3,000 in points were paid on refinancing a 30 year mortgage, deduction of $100 per year is allowed. When the loan is paid off or replaced by refinancing again or the home is sold and the mortgage paid off from the proceeds, the balance of any un-deducted points may be taken in that tax year.

Your tax professional needs to be made aware of any of these situations so that he can accurately reflect the deduction in your return. Currently, the most common situation is where homeowners may be refinancing their home for the second, third or even fourth time. If there are points that have not been completely deducted, they need to be treated in the year of refinancing.

For more information, see points in IRS Publication 936; there is a section on refinancing in this publication. For advice considering your specific situation, contact your tax professional.

Changing a Lock is Key!

There are times when you need to change the locks on your home to protect your family and possessions. It should always be considered when you move into a new home; when keys are lost, stolen or unreturned; or a cleaning or other service provider hasn’t returned the key.

Replacing the lockset would give you a totally new mechanism that should work better and if you go back with the same manufacturer, you’ll probably avoid any carpentry. You can order the locks online and have them work with the same key at no extra charge.

Another alternative is to have a locksmith rekey them. The locksmith can easily make all of the locks work with the same key. Compare the cost and decide which would be a better expenditure.

While you’re considering your security, a key safe might be a very convenient addition. Most makers say that it is much easier to break into a home than a key safe. The cost is reasonable and you can attach it to your exterior wall. Generally, they’re combination locks that would allow you access if you or another family member forgot their key. It’s also convenient to give a house keeper the combination and can be easily changed if necessary.

Rent or Buy??

The question plaguing every tenant who wants a home of their own is whether they should continue to rent or is it the right time to buy?

The combination of good prices and low mortgage rates make it considerably cheaper to own than rent in most markets. Assuming a person is qualified with a down payment and won’t be moving for several years, there may not be a better time to buy a home.

In the example below, the total house payment is $1,281.01 compared to $1,500 to rent the same home. Before you consider any of the financial benefits attached to home ownership, it’s cheaper to own than to rent.

The net cost of housing falls to $764 or just more than half the house payment when you consider the principal reduction due to normal amortization, a modest appreciation and the tax savings along with a reasonable maintenance expense that a tenant would not have to pay.

One of the biggest benefits is the growing equity. As the value goes up, the unpaid balance goes down. A favorable leverage causes their low down payment to grow to $40,609 in a short seven years based on a modest 1% appreciation.

There’s an expression often heard in real estate circles: “Whether you rent or buy, you pay for the house you occupy.” You’re either buying it for yourself or you’re helping the landlord buy it.

Check out a Rent vs. Own to see how your numbers will compare to this example or call me to do it for you.

Who Do You Call ?

While the Internet is a great resource to locate information about food, travel and a number of other things, it isn’t necessarily the best place to find a local service provider.

Sure, you can run the search, get quick results and may even see some fairly impressive websites. The problem is that sometimes, those sites are run by companies that sell the leads to providers who may not be as experienced as you’re expecting.

Instead of taking a chance on a total stranger, a personal recommendation could yield you more satisfactory results. Most real estate transactions require some work to be done to the house either in preparation prior to the sale or to meet requirements from the buyer or inspector after the sale is made.

Looking for a service provider on the Internet is easy. Contact me for a recommendation is easier still and you can trust that they’ll be reputable and reasonable. I want to be your personal source of real estate information.

Refinancing Too Soon?

Some people believe they shouldn’t refinance more often than once every two years. The determining factors are if you’ll lower your payments and plan to stay in the home long enough to recapture the cost of refinancing. If so, you should consider refinancing.

Interest rates have actually come down significantly in the past 12 months and even more in the past 24 months. According to the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, rates on a 30 year fixed rate mortgage are down to 3.6% in August, 2012 compared to 4.27% one year earlier.

Refinancing in the example below would save the homeowner $67.04 per month and they would recapture the cost of refinancing in 3 years and 9 months based on approximately $3,000 of closing costs.

Click Here to make your own projection on a Refinance Analysis calculator.

FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium Release

FHA loans require mortgage insurance premium to cover a possible loss to the lender if the property has to be foreclosed and sold. The premium is substantial and eliminating the MIP would reduce the payment considerably.

The MIP must remain in effect for five years but after that, when the balance is 78% of the original purchase price, FHA will release the requirement and your monthly payment will go down. Since amortization is affected by interest rates, the normal time to reach this 78% point could be from 9 to 12 years at today’s interest rates.

In the example below, the MIP would be released in 9 years 6 months with normal payments. An extra $100 a month would allow the borrower to reach the release point in 7 years 1 month. To reach the release point in the minimum five years, the borrower would have to make an extra $268.04 per month principal contribution.

Releasing the MIP in this example would save the borrower $177.67 per month. The borrower would also save interest, build equity and shorten the term of their mortgage. Once the MIP is released, the borrower could continue the same payment schedule to further accelerate the debt reduction.

To make some projections on your mortgage, click here.

Safety and Security at Home

A quick once-over of the items on this list may improve the safety and security of your home and could protect your family and friends. It is important to periodically pay attention to these things because things change over time.

Securityhouse-padlock.png

  • Does each exterior door have a deadbolt?
  • Does the lock on each window work?
  • Have you added pins or clips to your windows for additional security?
  • Do you have dowels or broom sticks in the track of windows and sliding glass doors?
  • Do you have security company labels or signs displayed prominently?
  • Do you have an alarm system? Is the system monitored?
  • Do you have a dog that barks when strangers approach the home?
  • Are emergency numbers posted near the telephones?

Fire

  • Do you have smoke detectors near all sleeping areas?
  • Do you check the batteries monthly and change them annually?
  • Do you have two carbon monoxide detectors?
  • Do you have an escape ladder for upper floors?
  • Do you have fire extinguishers near exits and in the kitchen?
  • Do you have an emergency escape plan and is the family familiar with it?
  • Are any outlets or switches warm to the touch?
  • Are kitchen ventilation systems working properly?
  • Is the dryer ventilated to the outside and is the exhaust free of lint?
  • Is the furnace cleaned and serviced yearly?
  • Is the space around the hot water heater clear of combustible materials?

Falls

  • Are all electrical and phone cords out of the flow of traffic?
  • Are rugs and runners slip resistant?
  • Is your step-stool sturdy and in good condition?
  • Are stairs clear of objects that could cause a fall?
  • Are all entrance ways, exits, halls and walks well lighted?
  • Do bath tubs and showers have non-skid strips or suction mats in them?

Other

  • Do you keep drugs and medicines out of reach and sight of small children?
  • Are interior doors designed so small children cannot lock themselves in rooms?
  • Are pool and play areas fenced to keep small children in and uninvited guests out?
  • Are firearms kept out of reach and sight of children?
  • Is a well-stocked first aid kit available for emergencies?
  • Is there one member of your family trained in first aid, CPR and the Heimlich maneuver?

Neighborhood Eyesore!

It can be unsightly and upsetting when a home in a neighborhood isn’t being maintained like the others. It might be an overgrown yard, a fence in need of repair, paint peeling on the home or even a car parked in front of the home that hasn’t moved in weeks.

I believe most people want to be good neighbors and may be willing to correct the issue once it is brought to their attention. In some cases, they may not agree with the same urgency and it might be necessary to seek other remedies.

The most expedient solution may be to contact the responsible person and describe your perception of the problem. An owner-occupant may be sympathetic to the neighbors and more than willing to correct the issue.

However, if you suspect that it is a rental property, check with the county tax records to identify the owner. They may be unaware of the situation and would actually welcome the “heads-up” to protect their investment.

The next step might be to notify the homeowner’s association if there is one. The covenants or bylaws will specify how properties must be maintained and the association can enforce them.

The final step would be to notify the city for a possible code violation. Most cities have a separate code and neighborhood services division and some cities have 311 for non-emergency assistance.