Wednesday, January 28 2015
Despite the improving economic outlook, for many families, finding an affordable house can still be a challenge. According to a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, more than a third of today’s families have had to devote at least 30% of their combined household income to the monthly mortgage payment—and that figure exceeds the generally accepted standard. In other words, even though mortgage interest rates remain pegged at historically low levels, landing an “affordable” house (just as in the rest of the country) can take some doing. Here is one five-step approach that has rewarded house-hunters in the past:
1. Define Affordable House in dollars
The first step to finding an affordable house should be to work out a target budget. The Wall Street Journal currently recommends spending no more than 28% of monthly income on your house). Make sure to include additional fees such as legal fees, repairs, maintenance, and closing costs in your calculation. The bottom line you come up with isn’t one set in stone, but it’s a reasonable goal to have in mind.
2. Set space requirements
Space will be a prime consideration for the entire time you'll be living in your home. If you are planning on expanding the family in the near future, having a spare room is close to a necessity. If it's just something that would be nice to have, it’s not a requirement—and recognizing the distinction can be all-important.
3. Balance travel time against housing costs
Often you can offset the purchase price of a home by expanding your search radius to include a reasonable commute. Get out your pencil: you'll need to compare the savings in the house payment against the additional cost of an extended commute.
4. Include properties that need some TLC
One of the best ways to zero in on an affordable house is to keep an eye out for otherwise-eligible "fixer-uppers." You can avoid any serious structural problems, such as plumbing, electrical, and roof issues, yet still focus on properties that just need a little cosmetic revamp can put you across the affordability finish line.
5. Investigate home buying programs
In a limited number of instances, there are some generally underpublicized home buying programs that might be available. For instance, there is the Good Neighbor Next Door program. For teachers, medical professionals, firefighters, and law enforcement officers looking in revitalization areas, as much as a 50% discount from a HUD-listed property can make a house more than affordable!
Most observers believe residential prices are likely to continue to rise—so it’s not outlandish to suspect that today’s affordable houses may become less so as time passes. Give me a call if you are thinking of taking advantage of this winter’s bargains in our area. You can reach me on my cell phone 812-499-9234 or email: Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com
Monday, January 19 2015
Good investors tend to be cautious souls. For those who prior to 2007 had never ventured into the realm of real estate investments, the ensuing downturn might have been enough to discourage any curiosity about that direction (even if their other investments had also suffered during the global financial crisis).
Nonetheless, at this juncture those same cautious investors might well assume that the value of real estate investments have rebounded so substantially that it’s now too late to bother looking into them. But as National Public Radio has just pointed out, there's an excellent argument to be made that conditions are now highly conducive for real estate—with real estate investments being no exception. I could tick off three solid reasons that immediately leap to mind, but stand corrected: NPR points to four:
1. Employment. Employers are hiring anew, and “when companies are hiring, would-be homebuyers feel more confident about taking on mortgage debt.” Unemployment rates have (finally!) come down to 5.6%, and with employers having added 252,000 jobs in December, consumer confidence is up nearly 20% over a year ago.
2. Prices seem more rational. NPR points out that from January to October, prices rose 4.5% nationally; a “subdued” gain compared with the 11% burst of the year before. They project that the slower price appreciation may have set the stage for a “buying surge in 2015.” From a local real estate investments standpoint, too, gains from last year’s run-up in equities markets combined with mortgage rates still holding below 4% would seem to create the key elements many investors would consider favorably.
3. Demand for rentals is high. There is a healthy demand for rental accommodation across the country due to a tight supply of quality accommodations. USA Today tells us that between 2009 and 2013, the national vacancy rate for apartments dropped from 8% to 4.1%. Over the same period, the effective rent increased by 12% to $1,083. As one potential consequence vis-à-vis real estate investments, new landlords might expect to be more selective about the tenants that they choose. That would mean fewer headaches for landlords with troublesome and slow paying tenants. It is might also portend that investment properties will stand vacant for briefer periods.
4. Millennials are sick of Mom’s basement. NPR points to a Census Bureau report that says only 36% of Americans under age 35 own a home, down from 42% just seven years ago. The recovering employment picture might not enable young people to save up for a down payment for a while yet, but renting quality digs should soon be more doable than was previously the case. That could set the table for a continuing robust rental environment, with real estate investments benefitting proportionately.
NPR’s four reasons for optimism in 2015 are actually only the tip of the iceberg. If you have ever had the thought that it could be worthwhile to take a look at real estate investments, this is a great time of year to give me a call! You can reach me on my cell phone 812-499-9234 or email:Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com
Tuesday, October 21 2014
Despite what just feels like the right answer, buying a home in Evansville can be significantly cheaper than renting one. It’s one of those rare cases where, if you stop and make common sense judgments about the factors at play, the ‘just feels like’ conclusion is the opposite of the one common sense leads you to. Much of the reason has to do with short-term versus long-term considerations (buying a home starts with paying a sizeable down payment, after all); but over the long haul, the amount of cash at stake is so great it’s worth taking a hard look at this fundamental housing choice.
Four leading factors that currently come into play:
· Increased Demand Has Made Rentals More Expensive
After the subprime mortgage mess-between 2007 and 2013—something like 6,200,000 people were added to the number of tenants. That boost created enough extra demand for rental units that owners had no trouble increasing monthly rates. It’s a simple case of too little supply chased by too much demand.
· Low Interest Rates Make Homes Cheaper in the Long-Run
The current unusually low interest rates makes the tradeoff with renting an easier call. This fall, home buyers can expect to find 30 year mortgage packages at rates in the low 4% range. If interest rates rise considerably—which just about everyone expects—rental rates can be expected to rise proportionately as landlords cover the added expense. But those who buy a home lock in the lower interest rate: the ‘price of money!’
When you buy a home, your mortgage comes with a repayment schedule that shows you exactly how much you are required to pay each month until the end of the loan’s term. With a fixed rate mortgage, the monthly payment amount is an iron-clad guarantee of what you will need to budget. With a fixed rate loan, the dollar amount will usually stay the same (or even fall as the mortgage nears its end). Conversely, unless a major change occurs in the rental market, rental prices will continue going up. And the common sense of consumers knows what to expect, reflected in last month’s Mortgage Reports headline:
“Consumers Expect Rents to Rise 2x Faster Than Home Prices in 2015”
· Buying is a Long-Term Investment for Stability
In addition to the price rise factor, renters will have to keep paying rent for a lifetime—while homeowners eventually get to stop making mortgage payments. Anyone buying a home in their 30’s can expect to have paid for it before they reach retirement. That’s very good news, because their living expenses will go down around the same time they start making less money. In contrast, renting just keeps getting more expensive…which can put extra financial pressure on retirees.
If you find yourself on the cusp of renting or buying a home in Evansville, today’s rates should weigh heavily in your decision. If you find that it makes financial sense to buy, the next step is easy: give me a call! You can reach me on my cell phone 812-499-9234 or email: Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com
Wednesday, June 04 2014
Homeowners who had been bracing themselves for sharp rises in mortgage interest rates must now be scratching their heads. As the online Mortgage News Daily put it last week, “…rates have been extraordinarily sideways, and right in line with the lowest levels in 11 months.”
Since historical averages are still significantly higher, it’s no wonder that most observers still believe the greater likelihood is for rate increases. But recent Fed happenings show a crack in their avowed determination to let that happen by tapering off purchases of mortgage-backed securities. The hemming and hawing is notable. It’s all pretty much up in the air.
In any case, one thing I can guarantee is that mortgage holders will benefit if they take advantage of savings opportunities when they present themselves. Among current possibilities—
1. Refinance Your Mortgage
Mortgage holders who haven’t already refinanced should at least consider doing so. Refinancing means taking advantage of the still historically low interest rates—often the most meaningful step in reducing your monthly mortgage payments. Before deciding to refinance, make sure that the mortgage costs involved will be less than the resulting savings. If you agree with the prevailing wisdom that it’s unlikely we will see a significant drop in interest rates in the near future, today’s levels still look inviting.
2. Cancel Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
According to the National Association of Realtors®, mortgage down payments have fallen over the past decade. Their figures show that the average mortgage down payment in 2013 was 10% – compared with 16% just ten years earlier. Homeowners who put down less than a 20% deposit are typically required to take out Private Mortgage Insurance. But once the Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio falls below 80%, homeowners can ask for the PMI insurance to be removed—and they should, because the lender isn’t responsible for keeping track of that for them. If you are close to the 20% threshold, it may be worthwhile to make a one-time payment that will reduce the principal below 80%.
3. Extend the Length of the Mortgage
Many homeowners have made significant reductions in their principal by opting for shorter-term mortgages. But should rising interest rates make a property you are trying to buy unaffordable, extending the length of the mortgage can reduce monthly payments to a more comfortable level. Although over the long term this will end up costing significantly more in interest, moving from a 15-year mortgage to a 30-year can sometimes be the right move—especially when the property at stake represents one of the terrific values currently out there.
While interest rates in Evansville may rise or fall or, as we’ve seen lately, hold surprisingly steady, sudden leaps or plummets are unlikely…and with a little preparation, unpleasant future surprises in interest rates are avoidable. Thinking of buying a home in Evansville this summer? Call me today to start laying the groundwork! You can reach me on my cell phone 812-499-9234 or email Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com
Wednesday, May 28 2014
When Evansville residents hear about floods, images of homes tumbling into the sea or half-submerged along the banks of a raging river probably leap to mind. But the risk of flooding isn’t confined to those headline-grabbing catastrophes—which is why the recent passage by Congress and signing by the President of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HFIAA) will be of interest to many people thinking of buying a home.
Sellers are required by law to disclose if a property is in an officially-designated flood zone; and banks typically check this information as well. While it can certainly be off-putting to be informed of this when buying a home, the availability of flood insurance can keep it from being a deal-breaker. But “available” doesn’t necessarily mean “affordable”—which is where HFIAA comes in.
Many prospective homebuyers are only vaguely aware that flood and water damage are not covered under traditional homeowner policies, something that’s newly relevant when buying a home. Part of the reason is because only 5% of the U.S. population lives in an officially designated “Coastal Flood Plain”—so it’s not a much-discussed issue in most parts of the country.
But the coastal areas that do get attention whenever disaster strikes are not the only kinds of flood plains that are relevant. FEMA assesses and maps areas that are subject to flooding, and assigns them letters denoting the likelihood of flood damage. Some of the provisions of the new HFIAA deal with overhauling those procedures, but the most immediately significant parts deal with (you guessed it) cost.
Here a little history will be helpful. In 1968, the National Flood Insurance program was created to help some property owners secure insurance in areas where it had been prohibitively expensive. But, as one might expect, the cost of the program soon became a problem. That in turn triggered passage of another Act—the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012—intended to allow premiums in covered areas to rise to offset their real costs.
The new HFIAA now partially reverses that yet again, because policy-makers fear the effect on the housing market. The new act delays some of the price rises for four years and allows homeowners who sell their homes to pass the lower premiums on to the new homeowners. It’s also relevant that there are two different types of coverage available: dwelling only and dwelling/property. Although dwelling only coverage is cheaper, as you might expect, there’s a good reason: it doesn’t cover the personal belongings that a flood could destroy.
Some zones, like Zone X, are as inexpensive as a few hundred dollars per year. The zones that flood more regularly can run into thousands…and all flood insurance premiums are in addition to the regular home insurance costs. For those buying a home in an area where properties might be classified as within a flood zone, it’s a good idea to check with one of the local insurance companies that offers flood coverage. When all is said and done, only you can decide if it’s worth the risk or not.
If you are thinking of buying a home in this summer, flood insurance is only one of the details you’ll want to consider. Call me today and we can begin by putting together a list of your search criteria. You can reach me on my cell phone 812-499-9234 or email Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com
Tuesday, May 06 2014
Mortgage rates may rise or fall this spring (lately they seem to be falling!)—but that needn’t prevent you from saving even more money when it’s time to structure your own mortgage. The underpublicized fact is that mortgage rates are only one of the factors that affect how much you wind up paying. No matter what happens to mortgage rates in 2014, here are some keys to making mortgage decisions that result in significant savings:
Tailor the term
Evaluate your budget and see whether it is possible to increase the amount of your monthly payment. By increasing monthly repayments, you reduce the term of your mortgage. Over the course of the loan, this can save tens of thousands of dollars.
Refinance for five years instead of two
The interest you pay on a refi loan isn’t the only cost. The origination and other fees can easily end up costing four figures. It’s a numbers game: simply calculate the anticipated savings from refinancing, then subtract the amount of the fees. The difference tells you your net savings…and demonstrates why one of the easiest ways to grow those savings is to refinance less frequently.
Change to biweekly
Changing to biweekly payments instead of monthly payment can save you more than small change. The reason is on the calendar: there are 52 weeks in a year, but only 12 months. If you make 26 1/2 payments every year, that equates to 13 monthly payments. It’s a stealthy way to make an additional month’s payment every year without really noticing it. When choosing a loan, opt for one where the bank allows you to choose biweekly payments (as long as they don’t want to charge an additional fee). Also request that the extra payments be deducted from the principle.
Improve your credit score
On this count, every mortgage guru sounds like a broken record. Although the average quoted mortgage rate may rise or fall, that’s not necessarily the rate that you pay. Your FICO score is the primary determinant of your mortgage rate. The difference between a good FICO score and a bad one can be significant, so get a copy of your credit card record and challenge any damaging inaccuracies. Lenders want to see a long history of paying on time with a mixed use of credit.
Mortgage rates will almost certainly increase in the future because they’re still well under historical averages. But there are plenty of steps you can take to cut thousands of dollars from your ultimate mortgage costs. And if you are ready to buy a house in this spring, contact me today—I’m ready to show you what’s coming up at your price point! You can reach me on my cell phone 812-499-9234 or email Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com
Monday, April 21 2014
Buying a home in Evansville is sort of a modern day adventure. At first there’s the intrigue of figuring out the advantages and disadvantages between the neighborhoods and listings competing for your attention; then there are all the challenging, sometimes exhausting—then, ultimately, exhilarating steps that lead to home ownership.
But even after the previous owner has handed over the keys, there’s more to come: a few extra steps new homeowners can decide they wish to take. Here are five of those—things you can choose to do after buying a home:
Who knows how many people have a copy of those keys? It’s a good idea to change the locks on all exterior doors, because it’s not just the previous owners who have had access to the property; there may also have been guests or tradespeople with access to the keys. By installing new locks, you can be sure that you are complete control of the keys to your new home.
While the previous homeowners are obliged to leave the home in reasonable condition (usually “broom clean”), consider scheduling a professional cleaning crew before you move in. If your budget and schedule allows, it can be a plus to know some serious deep cleaning has been performed on counters, plumbing fixtures, carpets, etc.
After buying a home, it’s usually possible to transfer utilities into your name without having to live through a break in service. Contacting all utility companies ahead of time will ensure that the transfer is orderly and scheduled in a manner that will be convenient to your move. It’s also an opportunity to be sure that utility bills have been fully paid before closing on the property.
#4 Store the Settlement Papers
At the end of the process of buying a home, a host of details come fast and furious, making it doubly easy to misplace things—even important things, like copies of the papers you execute during settlement. Later, when it’s tax time (or in the future should you sell the property), you’ll save yourself a lot of desperate rummaging if you’ve prepared a secure place to keep them from the start.
#5 Take Photos of Your Household Items
It’s important to keep an accurate list of your household contents in the case of theft, fire or other mishap—records to act as verification of your belongings and their condition. Buying a home is the perfect time to take that inventory. Go from room to room snapping digital pictures of everything you own. It will never get easier!
Like anything worth doing, buying your new dream home probably came with its own set of stresses. But it should stand as one of the most rewarding financial moves you will ever make. If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home in Evansville this spring or summer, do give me a call! You can reach me on my cell phone 812-499-9234 or email Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com
Wednesday, March 26 2014
It just might be that a groundswell is spreading throughout the home-buying public. In Evansville, smaller houses that used to be difficult to sell are rising in popularity, and I can guess why.
First, a little history. Back in 1950, what we would consider smaller houses were the rule: the average square footage came in at just 983 (try to imagine the ‘average’ family with 2 kids, 2 adults and Lassie all shoehorned in there!). By 2006, that figure had blown up to 2,248 square feet—and we all know about the bigger McMansions—just in time for the financial meltdown. Within the next few years, for the first time ever, the upsizing trend had begun to reverse. Only three years later, average square footage was 2,135.
In terms of size, today’s buyers and sellers are meeting in a much more balanced market. Smaller houses are no longer automatically spurned. In fact, smaller houses are the first choice for a growing number of buyers. Why?
When you really analyze it, a surprising amount of housing space is seldom used. Lifestyle changes dictate that formal dining and living rooms are much less frequently occupied. And it’s a fact that we only use a small percentage of the things that we own, so in actuality, some of many homes’ area amount to extremely high-end storage space. By getting rid of some of that unused stuff, the space it takes up can become unneeded.
The old rule of thumb nationally is that property taxes average about 1% of the value of a home. Smaller houses mean lower tax bills.
Maintenance bills can be substantially lower in smaller houses. It varies greatly by age and style, but one estimate has it that annual maintenance bills usually run between 1%-3% of total value.
Whether your hire help or handle it yourself, a smaller home can be much faster to clean. This may be less true when clutter is allowed to take over, but for those who are vigilant clutter-clearers, it means freeing more time for doing the things that you love. If you are paying someone else clean your home, it can easily equate to significant savings over the course of a year.
According to the American Psychology Association, money is the largest single contributor to stress. Nearly three-quarters of Americans admit that financial problems are their biggest source of stress. Purchasing a smaller house with an accompanying smaller mortgage can directly translate into a mellower quality of life.
A smaller house may not be for everyone, but today’s buyers are considering the advantages with a much more open minds. If you are giving some serious thought to buying or selling a home, let’s talk about the wide range of possibilities on the local market today. We are experiencing very low inventories right now. This plays out to the advantage of sellers. You can reach me on my cell phone 812-499-9234 or email Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com