Archive for Austin Texas Home Buyers

American Dream

The American Dream of owning a home is still alive. People still want a place of their own; where they can raise their family; share with their friends; feel safe and secure. Homeownership creates emotional and financial benefits.

The government supports that dream by allowing deductions for mortgage and home equity interest as well as property taxes. The capital gains exclusion on profits from a home is incredibly generous and a low long-term capital gains tax rate applies to excess profits.

It’s reported that some of the social benefits of owning a home include higher voter participation, better physical health, higher student test scores, lower teen delinquency, neighborhood stability and pride in the community.

If for no other reason, the decision to buy a home should be considered when it costs much less to own a home than it does to rent. With the unusually low available mortgage rates, the payment is generally less than comparable rent. However, the decision becomes more obvious when the other benefits are considered like amortization, appreciation and tax savings.

It’s not uncommon for the net cost of housing to be half of the actual mortgage payment. In most cases, it is significantly more to rent than to own which could amount to more than the down payment in the first year alone.  Calculate your cost of Renting vs. Owning.

Homeownership Rules to Live By!

Most people agree that homeownership rules! When asked, people say they want a home they can call their own, to raise their family, share with their friends and to feel safe and secure. It also accounts for the majority of most people’s net worth.

These rules can help protect your investment and make homeownership more enjoyable.

  1. Don’t overpay for your home
  2. Maintain your home’s condition
  3. Minimize your assessed value to lower property taxes
  4. Make extra principal contributions to save interest and build equity
  5. Validate the insured value of improvements and contents
  6. Stay current on surrounding property values
  7. Make mortgage interest payments deductible
  8. Invest in capital improvements that increase market value
  9. Don’t over-improve the neighborhood
  10. Keep records of capital improvements and other maintenance
We want to be your personal source of real estate information and we’re committed to helping from purchase to sale and all the years in between.

Which Value Do You Use?

What your home is worth depends on why you ask the question. It could be one value based on a purchase or sale and an entirely different value for insurance purposes.

Fair market value is the price a buyer and seller can agree upon assuming both are knowledgeable, willing and unpressured by extraordinary events. This value is generally indicated by the comparable market analysis done by real estate professionals.

Insured value is determined for the proper insurance coverage. Replacement cost could actually exceed the cost of new construction when additional expenses are incurred for demolition and the added complexities of matching existing construction.

Homeowners are generally more familiar with their home’s market value. Since it can be lower than the replacement cost, owners should review the insured value with their property insurance agents periodically. Under-insuring could invoke a co-insurance clause that may limit the settlement and increase your out of pocket expenses.

Buyer Pre-Approval

The benefits of buyer’s pre-approval are without question; it is good for the buyers, the sellers and the agents. It saves time, money and removes the uncertainty of knowing whether the buyer is qualified. The direct benefits include:

  • Amount the buyer can borrow decreases as interest rates rise
  • Looking at “Right” homes – price, size, amenities, location
  • Find the best loan – rate, term, type
  • Uncover credit issues early – time to cure possible problems
  • Bargaining power – price, terms, & timing
  • Close quicker – verifications have been made

There a big difference in sitting down with a trusted mortgage professional compared to going through calculators on a website. The cost of being pre-approved is a bargain and generally, limited to the cost of the credit report.

Even if you have been pre-approved, a suggestion that can’t hurt but may help is to get a second opinion from a different lender. It will either verify that you have a good deal or you’ll discover that you can improve it. Either way, it works to your advantage. Contact me if you’d like a recommendation.

Before You Call the Repairman

Have you ever had a service company to your home to repair something and find out that it really wasn’t “broken”? It probably conjured up ambivalent feelings of joy that it wasn’t something serious and frustration that you had to pay a service call for something so simple.

Before you call the repairman next time, keep these things in mind to see if it is something simple:

  • Disposer not working – check to see if the reset button has been thrown. It is usually on the bottom of the disposer. If the disposer is making a humming sound, the blades may be stuck. While the disposer is turned off, use a wooden broom handle as a lever to gently rotate the blades. Remove the broom handle and turn on the disposer to see if it works properly.
  • Air conditioner not working – check to see if a breaker has thrown on your electric panel. You might need to flip the breaker completely off and flip it back on.
  • Electrical outlets not working – Electrical plugs in bathrooms or outside, especially on a porch or patio, are many times connected to a ground fault interrupter. The GFI will be a wall outlet and it may be located in the garage. Locate the outlet and reset the button that may have tripped.
  • Clogged drain – a simple way to correct a slow or clogged drain is to use the water pressure from a garden hose. You’ll need a helper to turn on the water full-blast once you have safely placed the hose in the drain and are holding a hand-towel around the hose to direct the water to the drain. Be prepared to tell your helper to turn off the water when needed.

Whether it’s preparing a home to market or arranging repairs required by the sale, REALTORS® know reputable, reasonable and reliable service contractors. We’re here to share our contacts with you to help make home ownership better.

FHA Fees Going Up April 1st

FHA has raised the annual Mortgage Insurance Premium to 1.25% beginning April 1st.  MIP is required on all FHA loans and used to fund losses by lenders for borrowers who default on their mortgages.  As of June 1st, FHA loans in excess of the standard maximum of $625,500, in high-cost areas, will have a premium of 1.5% of the loan amount.

In addition to the increase in the annual MIP, FHA also announced it plans to raise the fee on the up-front MIP from 1.00% to 1.75%.  No date was reported for its implementation.

The bottom line will result in a borrower’s payments going up.  However, it might not be restricted to the MIP.  Freddie Mac’sPrimary Mortgage Market Survey showed that both 30 year and 15 year mortgages have gone up too.

One way to avoid the increase is to have a completed sales contract and have your lender order the FHA commitment prior to April 1, 2012.  If you plan on buying a home this spring, there is a reason to do it earlier rather than later.

Risk Determines Rate

Regardless of what a lender quotes on mortgage rates, the actual rate paid by a borrower is based on a number of variables. Lenders determine whether to loan money and at what rate based on the risk involved with the transaction.

Factors that increase the risk that the loan will be repaid will proportionately increase the interest rate charged to the borrower. If the risk becomes too high, the loan will not be approved.

  • Loan amounts – conventional loans for more than the conforming limits set by Fannie Mae are considered jumbo loans and generally have a higher interest rate.
  • FICO score – the lowest interest rate is reserved for the highest credit scores; the lower the score, the higher the rate borrower will pay.
  • Occupancy – borrowers occupying a home as their principal residence are considered a better loan risk than second homes and investment properties.
  • Loan purpose – purchase transactions generally have the lowest interest rate while refinancing a home is generally higher.
  • Debt-to-Income ratio – a borrower’s monthly liabilities divided by their gross monthly income develops a ratio that helps lenders to assess the borrower’s ability to repay the mortgage.
  • Loan-to-Value ratio – the lower the percentage of the loan to the appraised value of the property will generally lower the interest rate.
Any combination of these factors could limit a borrower’s ability to secure a mortgage at the rate initially quoted. Being pre-approved by a trusted mortgage professional is the best way to know what rate you can expect to pay. Please call for a recommendation.

In search of an honest man

Similar to Diogenes’ search for an honest man, homeowners want someone to do quality repairs at a fair price.  The task appears reasonably easy but if you’ve ever tried to locate someone to fix something, you know just how difficult it is.

Finding a list of companies from a phone book doesn’t mean they’ll be reasonable and reliable, it just means they have a phone and are willing to pay for an ad.  Searching on the Internet may direct you to a website that appears to be a local company but really is a marketing company who will sell the lead to a repairman or company who will pay a referral fee.

There are consumer organizations like Angie’s list who rate repairmen and contractors but they usually require an annual membership fee to be able to access the information.  There are also services like Renovation Experts or Service Magic that are registries for contractors but they may not be the most competitively priced.  

Your best recommendations are going to come from friends, family and neighbors you trust who have actually used the repairmen before and would use them again.  The problem here is that you might have to make multiple calls before you can find a friend who can recommend the type contractor you need.

Repairs are a normal part of selling homes and we certainly come in contact with lots of contractors.  This experience leads us to understand who is reputable and reasonable as well as who to avoid.  As part of our commitment to helping you be a better homeowner from the time you buy your home until you sell it, we’re more than happy to make a recommendation of good repairmen or other professionals you might need.  Give us a call…we want to help.

Deductible Points?

Points refer to prepaid interest on a home mortgage and can be fully deductible by the buyer in the year paid if the right conditions exist. The points must be used to buy, build or improve a taxpayer’s principal residence but not all fees charged by the lender are necessarily deductible.

According to IRS Publication 936, “The term ‘points’ is used to describe certain charges paid, or treated as paid, by a borrower to obtain a home mortgage. Points may also be called loan origination fees, maximum loan charges, loan discount, or discount points. A borrower is treated as paying any points that a home seller pays for the borrower’s mortgage.”

If you purchased a home in 2011, have your tax professional evaluate your closing statement to see if there are loan fees that may be used as a deduction on your tax return regardless of whether you or the seller paid them.

Refinancing a principal residence or purchasing an investment or income property require that points must be deducted ratably over the term of the mortgage rather than deducting them fully in the year paid. Borrowers in these situations should consider the benefits of lower interest rates from paying point to higher interest rates without points.

This article is meant to provide information that can be discussed with your tax professional about your specific situation and is not to be considered tax advice.

The “Right Size” Home

Work hard, buy a home, start a family and continue to upgrade your home until everyone has enough room. This has been the blueprint for lots of homeowners for the last fifty years but there is certainly a shift in thinking that could change all of that.

Interestingly, Americans live in much larger homes than most people in other countries throughout the world. The U.S. Census reported in 2006 that the average single family home completed had 2,469 square feet which was 769 feet more than in 1976.

Once the children are grown and have moved out, homeowners are finding they have too much room. Even if their home is paid for, they have higher property taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance on the larger home than they’d have if they were living in the “right size” home.

Some homeowners state that they’re keeping their larger home because it has luxury features that smaller homes don’t have. There’s a movement that seems to have started in the United States to find the “right size” home with the amenities and convenience that homeowners want.

This philosophy has been expressed by Sarah Susanka in her book Creating the Not So Big House. It proposes a house that “values quality over quantity with an emphasis on comfort and beauty, a high level of detail, and a floor plan designed for today’s informal lifestyle.”