Biggest mistake homebuyers make in trying to get a good deal

The process of buying a house requires an investment of time as well as money. So, if you want to get a good deal, doing your homework is crucial.
The fallacy is that ‘getting a good deal’ is all locked in at the initial transaction, on the purchase price or the initial loan.
In reality, that assumption is not always true. When you become a homeowner, the money you had been putting toward rent not only goes toward a mortgage, but to insurance, repairs, maintenance and upgrades.
You have to think of homeownership not just as a one-time event, but as a process over the life of you owning this asset that you’ll be able to manage it wisely and make smart choices with it.
Say you negotiate the purchase price down 5 percent from what the seller is asking and are able to get the loan you want at a quarter point below market rate. Sounds like a great deal, right? Well, not so much if the reason the seller is willing to decrease the price is because the home needs repairs or renovations.
If you’re saving $10,000 on the purchase price but you have to spend $30,000 gutting the kitchen, the home might not be much of a deal.
Don’t be fooled by the sticker price. It’s only the beginning.
For buyers who have saved up and worked toward buying a home for years, it can be overwhelming to think about all the abstract costs associated with homeownership. Think of it like buying a car: You might be able to afford a $300 a month payment on its own, but how much does it cost once you add the price of gas, insurance, oil changes and other maintenance?
It’s a misconception as a car owner to think that it’s the down payment on the car and the monthly cost, and that’s it. Ditto for homeowners. You should not think, ‘Oh I got an interest rate of 3 percent, I got a good deal!’ or ‘The home is being offered for $950,000 and I got it for $930,000. I got a great deal!’
In the context of owning your home, if you plan to live there for the next seven to 10 years — or for the rest of your life — knowing whether or not you got a good deal depends on how well you managed the overall homeownership process.
Homeowners can expect to pay around 3 percent of the of the closing price per year on hidden costs, such as repairs and utilities, although your expenses will vary depending on your location and the size and quality of your home.
I also recommend researching home warranties, which can provide another layer of financial protection.
If you’re trying to get the best possible deal on a home, you need to think long-term. In addition to the initial price of each home, consider the investments you’d need to make years down the line. Being aware of the big picture now could help you save big now — as well as later.

 

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

5 Surprising Benefits Of Buying Or Selling Your Home In The Fall

Seeing fewer for-sale signs now that summer is over? That can be great news for buyers who are looking to score a new home and buyers who want to get rid of their place and buy a new one. If you think you missed the boat on making your move this year, we’re here to tell you why buying and selling in the fall can work for you.

Less competition

Yes, there may be fewer homes on the market, but there are also fewer buyers out there competing for the same home you want. That gives buyers an important edge. Families on a mission to move into a new home before school starts are out of the picture. Competition for houses drops off in the fall, a time many people consider to be off-season in real estate. But there are still homes for sale – and in some cases, there’s just as much inventory as there was during the spring and summer.

The benefit to sellers is that those buyers who are out there tend to be more serious, which means your REALTOR® can key in on the real buyers without having to sift through the riffraff.

Tax breaks

If you’re a buyer who closes escrow before December 31, and you may get a nice write off on your taxes. Property tax and mortgage interest are both deductions you can take for your whole year’s worth of income, even if you closed on your home in December. Any payments that are made prior to the closing of the loan are tax-deductible. This can make a serious difference in the amount you owe the government at the end of the year.

There are also potential tax breaks for home sellers. You can include all sorts of selling expenses in the cost basis of your house. Increasing your adjusted cost basis decreases your capital gain because this is what’s subtracted from the sales price to determine how much of a gain – or loss in some cases – you’ve realized. If you have less of a gain, you’re more likely to fall within the exclusion limit, and if you’re gain isn’t excluded, you’ll pay taxes on less. And that’s just the beginning. Closing costs and home improvements may also be write offs for sellers.

Home for the holidays

Buy or sell early in the fall and you could be nicely situated in your new home in time for the holidays. Moving during a calmer time of year also means you may have better access to movers and other necessary resources than during the busier spring and summer seasons.

The right price

Did you list in the spring or summer with an exorbitant number that you thought you’d have no trouble getting because it was a hot market? That’s pretty common these days. Whether you’ve had a revelation about the price you should be asking or have made updates to your home to justify a higher price, you’re probably in better shape to get your (realistic) asking price in the fall. If you’re a seller and you establish a smart pricing strategy, you could find your home standing out in the crowd and selling while others sit on the market under a blanket of snow.

Buyers also may have a better time getting a home that’s within their budget because when there is less competition for homes, there is less chance of bidding wars and over-asking-price sales.

 

Great deals on stuff to fix up your home

Coordinate the timing right, and those items you need to fix up your home for sale in the fall or update and upgrade after a purchase might be priced to your advantage. Check Consumer Reports for a full list of the best times of year to buy everything, and keep in mind holiday and Black Friday sales. You could score some great deals at this time of year.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

7 first-time homebuyer mistakes to avoid

It’s tough being a first-time buyer in today’s housing market.

Home prices are hitting record highs in many parts of the country, often selling for more than the asking price.

Don’t make it even harder (or more expensive) for yourself by making these common mistakes:

1. Assuming you won’t get approved for a mortgage

Ideally, you’d like to have as little debt as possible, an impeccable credit score, and a 20% down payment before borrowing money for a home. However, even borrowers with less can get loans in today’s market, thanks to options like Federal Housing Authority loans, which are meant to help first-time buyers.

2. Interviewing only one lender

The fees and rates offered by lenders may vary substantially, and they all offer different service levels and different loan products. Be sure to at least chat with a big bank, a regional bank or credit union, and an online lender.

3. Not getting pre-approved early on

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage serves two important purposes: First, it gives you a realistic understanding of how much you can spend on the house. Second, it shows sellers that you’re serious and gives you slightly more standing if you’re competing for homes with all-cash buyers.

Make it less stressful by gathering up relevant financial documents like bank statements, tax returns, and pay stubs, and by checking your credit report for errors in advance. Given the competitive interest rate environment and the competitive housing market, it’s a good idea to be prepared and organized before you start the process.

4. Maxing out your mortgage limit

Just because a lender says that you can borrow a certain amount, doesn’t mean you should borrow that much. Staying below that limit will give you more financial flexibility to cover the added expenses that come with purchasing a home, as well as long-term changes to your income.

Create a budget that includes how much money you can spend on housing costs each month, and then use those numbers to figure out what your “real” limit should be.

5. Letting your emotions control your decisions

Buying a home can be a long and frustrating process. These days, starter homes go quickly, and it’s common for first-time buyers to experience rejection on the first offers they make. In that kind of environment, it’s easy to fall in love with a house that’s out of your budget, or get caught up in the heat of a bidding war and end up paying more than you expected.

It’s OK to get excited when you think you’ve found your house, but you don’t want to put yourself in a bad spot.

6. Waiving contingencies without understanding the risks

In highly competitive markets, it’s becoming increasingly common for buyers to make offers that aren’t contingent on financing or inspection. While waiving contingencies can make your bid more desirable to a seller, it can make the transaction much more risky for you. Have a conversation with your realtor and a lawyer before opting out of contingencies in your contract. In a worst-case scenario, you may end up losing your deposit.

7. Allowing your credit score to change before the close

A pre-approval letter is not a guarantee of funding, and if your credit score or income levels change drastically between the pre-approval and the closing of the loan, lenders may change their terms or rescind the offer entirely. While you’re home shopping, be sure to pay all your bills on time and steer clear of new credit accounts, even if that means you have to wait to pick out your furniture. If possible, try not to switch jobs until after you close, particularly if you’re moving into a new industry.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

3 Questions to Ask If You Want to Buy Your Dream Home

If you are debating purchasing a home right now, you are probably getting a lot of advice. Though your friends and family will have your best interest at heart, they may not be fully aware of your needs and what is currently happening in the real estate market.

Ask yourself the following 3 questions to help determine if now is a good time for you to buy in today’s market.

1. Why am I buying a home in the first place? 

This is truly the most important question to answer. Forget the finances for a minute. Why did you even begin to consider purchasing a home? For most, the reason has nothing to do with money.

For example, a survey by Braun showed that over 75% of parents say “their child’s education is an important part of the search for a new home.”

This survey supports a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University which revealed that the top four reasons Americans buy a home have nothing to do with money. They are:

  • A good place to raise children and for them to get a good education
  • A place where you and your family feel safe
  • More space for you and your family
  • Control of that space

What does owning a home mean to you? What non-financial benefits will you and your family gain from owning a home? The answer to that question should be the biggest reason you decide to purchase or not.

2. Where are home values headed?

According to the latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median price of homes sold in December (the latest data available) was $232,200, up 4.0% from last year. This increase also marks the 58th consecutive month with year-over-year gains.

If we look at the numbers year over year, CoreLogic forecasted a rise by 4.7% from December 2016 to December 2017.

What does that mean to you?

Simply put, with prices increasing each month, it might cost you more if you wait until next year to buy. Your down payment will also need to be higher in order to account for the higher price of the home you wish to buy.

3. Where are mortgage interest rates headed?

A buyer must be concerned about more than just prices. The ‘long-term cost’ of a home can be dramatically impacted by even a small increase in mortgage rates.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the National Association of Realtors, and Fannie Mae have all projected that mortgage interest rates will increase over the next twelve months, as you can see in the chart below:

Bottom Line

Only you and your family will know for certain if now is the right time to purchase a home. Answering these questions will help you make that decision.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

Open Floor Plan Still Popular

Open floor plans continue to reign. Eighty-four percent of builders say that in the typical single-family home they build, the kitchen and family room arrangement is at least partially open. Fifty-four percent say it’s completely open, according to responses from a September 2016 National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.

“Completely open” essentially means the two areas are combined into the same room. Partially open signifies areas separated by a partial wall, arch, counter, or something less than a full wall.

Seventy percent of recent and prospective home buyers say they prefer a home with either a completely or partially open kitchen-family room arrangement; 32 percent say they prefer the arrangement completely open, according to an NAHB survey.

Only 16 percent of buyers say they want the kitchen and family rooms in separate areas of the house.

As demand continues to increase for open floor plans, homeowners of existing-homes are also looking to open up their kitchen and family room areas. Professional remodelers report that 40 percent of their projects involved making the floor plan more open by removing interior walls, pillars, arches, etc., according to first quarter of 2016 data in the Remodeling Market Index.

Source: “Builders Satisfy Demand for Open Floor Plans,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (Jan. 11, 2017)

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

How to Avoid House-Hunting Drama

Horror stories often abound when house hunting enters the conversation. Whatever you’ve heard, it’s natural to feel a little apprehensive when making what could be one of the biggest purchases in your life.

Moving is one of the most stressful situations that a person can go through. It’s one of the most rewarding, but also one of the most stressful. So if you’re in the market for a house, follow these tips to drop the drama at the door during your search for a home.

Know What You Want

The first step to avoid house hunting drama is to really sit back and think about what is most important to you. What are your non-negotiables? Location? Educational opportunities? Price? Daily commute? Once you have determined what is important to you and your family, then begin your home search.

Stick to Criteria

Be sure to check that the communities in which you are conducting your search include homes that align with your values. This will narrow down your scope so you are not looking at hundreds of homes, just the ones that fit in your criteria. If you do your research ahead of time, you can be more confident that what you want is available in the area that you want. Looking in an area that’s not going to provide the home type that you want is going to cause frustration.

Get Preapproved

The search for the right home can take long enough, let alone with extra interruptions. Avoid paperwork hiccups by submitting all of the necessary documents to make sure your loan is completely preapproved. So if there is any issue, it is identified early on in the process and not the moment that you’re trying to submit a contract on the property.

Remember that you don’t make your monthly payment to the price of the home. Price is relative to the mortgage you are able to obtain. So be sure to get your numbers locked down so you know what price range you are most comfortable with.

Choose the Right Person

When choosing a real estate agent, do your research. Meet with them to make sure you are a fit. Give them your expectations and make sure they have the ability to get the job done.

Hiring the right home inspector could also ensure a smoother home buying process.

It’s all in the reports that they provide. The ideal reports by inspectors include detailed explanations as well as photographs. Unfortunately, some reports consist of a two- to three-page checklist. This can create frustration on the buyers and the sellers part because you don’t have clear enough documentation on what the problem is.

Communication is Key

Communication is the antidote for any drama disease. The more open the client is with the agent, the less drama is going to present itself in the transaction. You have to trust your agent and relate to them as a confidant, as an ally.

Be open about your biggest stressors and fears in the home buying process with your real estate agent. If you are prone to anxiety and stress, don’t be embarrassed by that, but bring that to your agent.

Know Your Personality

Let’s face it. Most of us have at least one drama queen in our lives. And some of us might just be one. Be true to yourself. If you know that you’re a drama-filled person, then embrace that. A good real estate agent will have experience in working with all different kinds of people and family dynamics. If that’s your personality type, make your agent aware.

Don’t Wait

Procrastination causes drama. If you have a deadline, many real estate professionals recommend beginning four to six months ahead of time to start educating yourself on the process. Do some research on your local housing market. For example, find out the average amount that is negotiated in your community. Have the right expectations, or else you’re setting yourself up for frustration. A little preparation will go a long way in helping your assumptions stay reasonably accurate.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

The Fed Raised Rates: What Does that Mean for Housing?

You may have heard that the Federal Reserve raised rates last week… But what does that mean if you are looking to buy a home in the near future?

Many in the housing industry have predicted that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the policy-making arm of the Federal Reserve, would vote to raise the federal fund’s target rate at their December meeting. For only the second time in a decade, this is exactly what happened.

There were many factors that contributed to the 0.25 point increase (from 0.50 to 0.75), but many are pointing to the latest jobs report and low unemployment rate (4.6%) as the main reason.

Homebuyers shouldn’t be particularly concerned with last week’s Fed move. Even with rates hovering over 4 percent, they’re still historically low. Most market observers are expecting a gradual rise in home loan rates in the near term, anticipating mortgage rates to stay under 5 percent through 2017.

Bottom Line

Only time will tell what the long-term impact of the rate hike will be, but in the short term, there should be no reason for alarm.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

4 Reasons to Buy Your Dream Home This Winter

As the temperature in many areas of the country starts to cool down, you might think that the housing market will do the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Here are 4 reasons you should consider buying your dream home this winter instead of waiting for spring!

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6.3% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 5.2% over the next year.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates are Projected to Increase

Your monthly housing cost is as much related to the price you pay for your home as it is to the mortgage interest rate you secure.

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage are currently at 4.08%. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac & the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting that rates will increase by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way You’re Paying a Mortgage

There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide whether it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

Ready to Make an Offer? 4 Tips for Success

making-offer

So you’ve been searching for that perfect house to call a ‘home’ and you finally found one! The price is right, and in such a competitive market you want to make sure you make a good offer so that you can guarantee your dream of making this house yours comes true!

Here are the 4 Tips they covered along with some additional information for your consideration:

1. Understand How Much You Can Afford

While it’s not nearly as fun as house hunting, fully understanding your finances is critical in making an offer.

This ‘tip’ or ‘step’ really should take place before you start your home search process.

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and will allow you to make your offer with the confidence of knowing that you have already been approved for a mortgage for that amount. You will also need to know if you are prepared to make any repairs that may need to be made to the house (ex: new roof, new furnace).

2. Act Fast

Even though there are fewer investors, the inventory of homes for sale is also low and competition for housing continues to heat up in many parts of the country.

According to the latest Existing Home Sales Report, the inventory of homes for sale is currently at a 4.7-month supply. This is well below the 6-month supply that is needed for a ‘normal’ market. Buyer demand has continued to outpace the supply of homes for sale, causing buyers to compete with each other for their dream home.

Make sure that as soon as you decide that you want to make an offer, you work with your agent to present it as soon as possible.

3. Make a Solid Offer

Freddie Mac offers this advice to help make your offer the strongest it can be:

“Your strongest offer will be comparable with other sales and listings in the neighborhood. A licensed real estate agent active in the neighborhoods you are considering will be instrumental in helping you put in a solid offer based on their experience and other key considerations such as recent sales of similar homes, the condition of the house and what you can afford.” 

Consider ways of making your offer stand out! Many buyers write a personal letter to the seller letting them know how much they would love to be the new homeowners. Your agent will be able to help you figure out if there are any other ways your offer could stand above the rest.

4. Be Prepared to Negotiate

It’s likely that you’ll get at least one counteroffer from the sellers so be prepared. The two things most likely to be negotiated are the selling price and closing date. Given that, you’ll be glad you did your homework first to understand how much you can afford.

Your agent will also be key in the negotiation process, giving you guidance on the counteroffer and making sure that the agreed-to contract terms are met.

If your offer is approved, Freddie Mac urges you to “always get an independent home inspection, so you know the true condition of the home. If the inspection uncovers undisclosed problems or issues, you can typically re-negotiate the terms or cancel the contract.”

Bottom Line

Whether buying your first home or your fifth, having a local real estate professional who is an expert in their market on your side is your best bet to make sure the process goes smoothly.

 

Happy House Hunting!

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com

6 Home Improvement Flubs That Cause Inspection Headaches

jul16_HD_inspections

Do-it-yourself household projects have become increasingly popular, but home inspectors are finding a host of safety problems caused by overconfident home owners seeking shortcuts. Home owners now see these DIY TV shows, which make these household remodeling projects look easy. They can go to a big box store and easily get the materials too. They think: ‘How hard can it be?’” But home safety is a top priority for home inspectors. They look for loose carpeting, uneven steps, and water temperature extremes, among other common risk factors. Here are additional concerns noted by home inspectors:

Wobbly decks

Look for: insecurely attached railings and wobbling or improperly sized posts.

Decks shouldn’t move. Wood decks can collapse if they’re not properly attached to the house or if they rely on the house too much for support. Fasteners can corrode, which could result in failure of the deck. Many times owners are unaware all these problems exist.

Incorrectly removed walls

Look for: sagging roofs and ceilings.

Open floor plans are appealing, but not when they overlook structural issues, which can happen when home owners fail to identify load-bearing walls. Pay attention to the age of a home. In newer construction, homes tend to have greater side support, which can accommodate open floor plans. Older homes relied more on the center for stability, which can mean trouble for amateur wall-busters.

DIY plumbing

Look for: wrong pipes used for connections.

A common error home inspectors see in plumbing jobs comes from home owners who purchase a sink and cabinet from a big-box store and handle the installation themselves. Using the wrong pipes often results in costly water damage. Home inspectors commonly see flexible, accordion-shaped pipe under the sink for the drain, even though they do not comply with residential plumbing codes. Pipes should be smooth and unridged to prevent clogs or waste buildup.

Missing garage door sensors

Look for: sensors missing or not facing one another.

Garage doors can pose a big safety threat if improperly installed. The safety sensors must be connected and aligned correctly for the garage door to go down, and if it doesn’t, the owner may just uninstall them. Additionally, a poor connection could be the culprit of the sensor malfunction. Home inspectors often see the safety cable being threaded incorrectly, which could cause it to break and send the garage door door crashing down.

Disarmed alarms

Look for: missing batteries or disconnected alarms.

Home inspectors aren’t always required to test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, but many do. Municipalities often suggest installing them within 15 feet of the primary entrance to each sleeping room. Home owners often remove them if they start chirping or disconnect them to prevent false alarms as they cook. Many times home inspectors find the battery is gone. And that is a big safety concern.

Faulty electrical

Watch for: exposed wiring and overloaded circuits.

Electrical problems often emerge when an addition has been made to a home, such as a basement or attic remodel. Home owners may add two wires to one circuit breaker where there should be only one. Or some  amateurs use a wire that’s too small in the breaker, which could pose a fire hazard.

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Jon Mahoney

Director, Luxury Homes Division

Professional Financial Planner

Keller Williams, Santa Barbara

(805) 689-0532

BRE# 01269717

info@JonMahoney.com

www.JonMahoney.com