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Second Guessing Price

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Second Guessing Price

Imagine a homeowner consulting with their agent about the price to place on their home. The agent suggests that the market data indicates that $200,000 to 210,000 would produce a quick sale by pricing it properly. The owner puts a $210,000 price on the home.

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The first person who looks at the home offers $205,000. When the seller receives the offer, he comments that he thinks he priced the home too low and counters for  full price. The counter-offer is rejected, the home stays on the market and at the end of the first month when based on market conditions, the home should be sold, no other offers have been made.

It may be human nature that when an offer is received so quickly, the first thought to come to mind is that it was priced too low. A more appropriate thought might be that it was priced correctly. In some cases, when a home comes on the market, there is increased competition (real or perceived) among the buyers waiting for the "right" home to come on the market. The home can sell for a higher price than if it sits on the market for several months.

There may be stories of sellers who turned down the first offer and ended up receiving a better offer that would net more money. However,  real estate professionals say the first scenario occurs frequently.

The wisdom of experience advises owners to find a real estate professional that they trust and have confidence. Allow that professional to become familiar with your home and compare it to similar homes in the market that have sold recently and ones currently on the market. Determine the demand for homes in the area compared to the inventory. Decide on a price that will allow the home to sell within a relatively short period of time. And lastly, be satisfied if your home sells quickly near the price you put on it.

FHA Advantages

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

FHA Advantages

The Federal Housing Authority, operating under HUD, offers affordable mortgages for tens of thousands of buyers who may not qualify for other types of programs. They are popular with both first-time and repeat buyers.

The 3.5% down payment is an attractive feature but there are other advantages:

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  • More tolerant for credit challenges than conventional mortgages.
  • Lower down payments than most conventional loans.
  • Broader qualifying ratios - total house payment with MIP can be up to 31% of borrower's monthly gross income and total house payment with all recurring debt can be up to 43%. There is a stretch provision taking it to 33/45 for qualifying energy efficient homes.
  • Seller can contribute up to 6% of purchase price; this money must be specified in the contract and can be used to pay all or part of the buyer's closing costs, pre-paid items and/or buy down of the interest rate.
  • Self-employed may qualify with adequate documentation - two year's tax returns and a current profit and loss statement would be required in addition to the normal qualifying and underwriting requirements.
  • Liberal use of gift monies - borrowers can receive a gift from family members, buyer's employer, close friend, labor union or charity. A gift letter will be required specifying that the gift does not have to be repaid.
  • Special 203(k) program for buying a home that needs capital improvements - requires a firm contractor's bid attached to the contract calling for the work to be done. The home is appraised subject to the work being done. If approved, the home can close, the money for the improvements escrowed and paid when completed.
  • Loans are assumable at the existing interest rate with buyer qualification. Assumptions are easier than qualifying for a new mortgage and closing costs are lower.
  • An assumable mortgage with a lower than current rates for new mortgages could add value to the property.

Finding the best mortgage for an individual is not always an easy process. Buyers need good information from trusted professionals. Call (302) 537-3171 for a recommendation of a trusted lender who can help you.

Standard or Itemized

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Standard or Itemized

Taxpayers can decide each year whether to take the standard deduction or their itemized deductions when filing their personal income tax returns. Roughly, 75% of households with more than $75,000 income and most homeowners itemize their deductions.

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Beginning in 2018, the standard deduction, available to all taxpayers, regardless of whether they own a home, is $24,000 for married filing jointly and $12,000 for single taxpayers.

Let's look at an example of a couple purchasing a $300,000 home with 3.5% down at 5% interest. The first year's interest would be $14,630 and property taxes are estimated at 1.5% of sales price would be $4,500.

The interest and property taxes would provide a combined total of $19,130 which is less than the $24,000 standard deduction. Unless this hypothetical couple has other itemized deductions like charitable contributions that would make the total exceed $24,000, they would benefit more from taking the standard deduction.

If the mortgage rate were at 8%, the combined total of taxes and interest would be almost $28,000 which would make itemizing the deductions more beneficial.

Tax professionals will compare available alternatives to find the one that will benefit the taxpayer most. For more information, see www.IRS.gov and consult a tax advisor.

Inventory Continues to be a Challenge

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Inventory Continues to be a Challenge

In any given market, inventories fluctuate based on supply and demand considering area and price range. The National Association of REALTORS considers a balanced market to be a six-month supply of homes.

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If it takes longer than six months to sell, it is thought to be a buyer's market and less than six months, a seller's market. Most buyers and sellers probably feel a balanced inventory is more like three months' supply of homes.

The inventory of existing homes has been reduced to approximately 1.5 million houses which is 10.3% lower than a year ago. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis there are 5.7 months' supply of new homes currently on the market in the U.S.

Inventory has a direct impact on price. When demand is constant, but inventory is reduced, price tends to increase because the same number of people are trying to buy a smaller than normal number of homes.

As easy as it is to recognize the signs of spring, one should be able to spot the direction prices will be moving. When prices and mortgage rates are increasing, buyers are affected by not being able to afford the same price or size of homes.

Fair Skies on Horizon

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Fair Skies on Horizon

Buyers who have been concerned about what might happen to the tax laws affecting home ownership should feel more comfortable about moving forward with their decision to purchase. The 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act passed by Congress and signed by the President continues to treat real estate as a favored investment.

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Whether it is for a home to live in as your principal residence or to use as rental property, the tax laws are in place but other dynamics to be concerned with are not; mortgage rates are expected to rise as well as prices.

Reasons to buy now:

  1. The mortgage interest deduction is intact for most taxpayers.
  2. The capital gain exclusion for principal residences up to $500,000 remains in place.
  3. Taxpayers can elect annually to take newly increased standard deduction or itemize deductions whichever will benefit them the most.
  4. The house payment with taxes and insurance is most likely cheaper than the rent.
  5. Rents will continue to rise making the difference even greater in the future.
  6. Lock-in the principal & interest payment with a fixed-rate mortgage.
  7. 30-year mortgage terms are available to most borrowers.
  8. Prices will likely increase due to lower inventories and several years of low housing starts.
  9. Section 1031 exchanges, capital gains and depreciation remain the same for rental properties.

For a summary of specific real estate provisions in the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, click here.

Historical Perspective

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Historical Perspective

In 1968, mortgage rates were 8.5%. The next year, rates went down to 7%. Homeowners could buy a 15-20% larger home for the same payments if they could find someone to assume their mortgage.

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FHA and VA mortgages were very popular in certain price ranges and they allowed anyone to assume the mortgage regardless of the credit. If you could find a person to take over your note, you were free to qualify for another mortgage.

In October 1981, mortgage rates reached 18.63%. A $250,000 mortgage had a monthly principal and interest payment of $3,896.46. As astronomical as that rate sounds, people were still buying homes and were good investments.

Four years later, they were still over 12%. The monthly payment was $2,571.53. Believe it or not, people were excited to be paying only 2/3 what they had to pay a few years earlier.

Fast forward to late 1991 when the rates went below 9% and that same payment was to $2,015.16. At the turn of the 21st century, rates were 8.15% and that made the payment $1,860.62. Not much change in rates during that decade.

If we look around the housing bubble, late 2008, the rates were 6.04% and the payment was $1,505.31. By 2009, mortgage rates had fallen below 5%. The lowest mortgage rate was 3.31% on November 2012 with a payment of $1,096.27.

Rates fluctuated for the next few years until now, and most of the experts are expecting them to be above 5% by the end of 2018.  Rates have increased each week for the last six weeks to 4.38% with payments of $1,240.12.

The average mortgage rate for the past 47 years is a little over 8%. The real estate and mortgage markets are cyclical. Rates have been historically low for a long period but will probably continue to rise. Most buyers don’t pay cash and mortgages enable them to purchase now. Based on history, even 8% would be an excellent rate. Until it reaches that point again, everything lower is a bargain.

The "Right" Agent and the "Right" Home

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

The "Right" Agent and the "Right" Home

Some buyers think that finding the right home is the critical part of the buying process and that is how they determine which agent to use. While it is important, there may be a broader skill set to consider when selecting your real estate professional.

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The most recent NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers indicate that 52% of buyers do want help in finding the right home to purchase. There was a time when the public did not have access to all the homes on the market, but the Internet has changed that.

Helping to negotiate the price and terms of sale were identified by almost 25% of the buyers. No one wants to pay more than is necessary and the terms of the sale can be as important as the price.

The next largest area of assistance that buyers value has to do with financing and the paperwork. Even if a buyer has been through the process before, it very likely could have been several years and things have probably changed.

Since the cost of housing is dependent on the price paid for the home and the financing, a real estate professional skilled in these specialized areas can be very valuable in finding the “right” home. An agent’s experience and connections to allied professionals and service providers is equally important.

Ask the agent representing you to specifically list the tools and talent they have available to address these areas.

Rentals are IDEAL

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Rentals are IDEAL

Rental homes are the IDEAL investment because they offer a higher rate of return than other investments without the volatility of the stock market. With certificates of deposit and bonds at less than 2%, people need an alternative investment that they understand and with a reasonable amount of control.

In this case, IDEAL is an acronym identifying the advantages of rental properties.

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  • Income from the monthly rent contributes to paying the expenses and a return on the investment.
  • Depreciation is a non-cash deduction that shelters income for some investors.
  • Equity buildup occurs with amortized mortgages because each payment is composed of interest owed and principal reduction to retire the loan by the end of the term.
  • Appreciation is achieved as the value of the property goes up.
  • Leverage can increase the return on investment by using borrowed funds to control a larger asset.

These individual benefits working together make rental real estate a good investment for today’s economy. Increased rents, high rental demand, good values and low, non-owner occupied mortgage rates contribute to positive cash flows and very favorable rates of return. 

To find out more about how rentals might complement your current investment plans, contact your real estate professional.

Deductible Dilemma

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Deductible Dilemma

The purpose of insurance is to shift the risk of loss to a company in exchange for a premium. Most policies have a deductible which reduces the amount of the claim that is paid by having the insured share in the first part of the loss.

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In the process of managing insurance premiums, policy holders often consider higher deductibles to lower the premium. Lower deductibles mean less money out of pocket if a loss occurs but also results in higher premiums. Higher deductibles result in lower premiums but require that the insured bear a larger part of the loss.

A small fire in a $300,000 home that resulted in $2,500 of damage might not be covered if the policy holder has a 1% deductible. If the homeowner can afford to handle the cost of repairs in exchange for cheaper premiums, it might be worth it. On the other hand, if that loss would be difficult for the homeowner, a change in the deductible could be considered.

Homes in high-risk flood areas with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders require additional flood insurance. However, each homeowner needs to assess the risk of being able to financially sustain a flood loss on their home when flood insurance is not required. The recent events in south Texas and Louisiana are evidence that the unexpected can happen.

It is important to review your deductible and discuss risks with your property insurance agent so that you’re familiar with the amount and make any changes that would be appropriate before a claim is made.  The FEMA website has information and frequently asked questions about flood insurance.

Your Home's Equity Could Be the Answer

by Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS

Your Home's Equity Could Be the Answer

A home equity line of credit, HELOC, is a mortgage loan made to homeowners to be used on an as-needed basis. A lender, such as a bank, will approve a borrower for a specified amount based on the equity in their home and all the necessary paperwork is signed to authorize the loan.

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The line of credit amount is available to the borrower and no interest is due until some or all the money is used. When the money is paid back, the line of credit is again available in full to the borrower.

The specifics of the repayment will depend on the HELOC lender. It may require interest only or it may require amortized payments of principal and interest.

The proceeds from a HELOC can be used to make improvements on the home or anything else such as medical expenses, college tuition or unexpected expenses or other liquidity issues.

Unlike personal credit card interest, the interest on a HELOC may be tax deductible. Your tax advisor will be able to let you know about your situation.

Rates and fees can vary widely on HELOC loans. Borrowers should shop around, compare and get recommendations before deciding on a lender.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 119

Contact Information

Photo of Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS Real Estate
Audrey and Frank Serio, CRS
Keller Williams Realty
33012 Coastal Highway
Bethany Beach DE 19930
Direct: 302.537.3171
Office: 302-360-0300 x 435