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Why Do You Need Title Insurance

Title Insurance.

It’s a term we hear and see frequently – we see reference to it in the Sunday real estate section, in advertisements and in conversations with real estate brokers. If you’ve purchased a home before, you’re probably familiar with the benefits and procedures of title insurance. But if this is your first home, you may wonder, “Why do I need another insurance policy? It’s just one more bill to pay.”

The answer is simple: The purchase of a home is most likely one of the most expensive and important purchases you will ever make. You, and your mortgage lender, want to make sure that the property is indeed yours – lock, stock and barrel – and that no individual or government entity has any right, lien, claim to your property.

Title insurance companies are in business to make sure your rights and interests to the property are clear, that transfer of title takes place efficiently and correctly and that your interests as a home buyer are protected to the maximum degree.

Title insurance companies provide services to buyers, sellers, real estate developers, builders, mortgage lenders and others who have an interest in a real estate transfer. Title companies routinely issue two types of policies – “owner’s”, which cover you, the home buyer; and “lender’s”, which covers the bank, savings and loan or other lending institution over the life of the loan. Both are issued at the time of purchase for a modest, one-time premium.

Before issuing a policy, however, the title company performs an extensive search of relevant public records to determine if anyone other than you has an interest in the property. The search may be performed by title company personnel using either public records or more likely, information gathered, reorganized and indexed in the company’s title plant.

With such a thorough examination of records, any title problems usually can be found and cleared up prior to your purchase of the property. Once a title policy is issued, if for some reason any claim which is covered under your title policy is ever filed against your property, the title company will pay the legal fee involved in defense of your rights, as well as any covered loss arising from a valid claim. That protection, which is in effect as long as you or your heirs own the property, is yours for a one-time premium paid at the time of purchase.

The fact that title companies work to eliminate risks before they develop makes the title insurance decidedly different from other types of insurance you may have purchased. Most forms of insurance assume risks by providing financial protection through a pooling of risks for losses arising from an unforeseen event, say a fire, theft or accident. The purpose of title insurance, on the other hand, is to eliminate risks and prevent losses caused by defects in title that happened in the past. Risks are examined and mitigated before property changes hands.

This risk elimination has benefits to both you, the home buyer, and the title company: it minimizes the chances adverse claims might be raised, and by so doing reduces the number of claims that have to be defended or satisfied. This keeps costs down for the title company and your title premiums low.

Buying a home is a big step emotionally and financially. With title insurance you are assured that any valid claim against your property will be borne by the title company, and that the odds of a claim being filed are slim indeed.

Isn’t sleeping well at night, knowing your home is yours, reason enough for title insurance?

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Different Types Of Mortgage Lenders

Mortgage Bankers
Mortgage Bankers are lenders that are large enough to originate loans and create pools of loans, which are then sold directly to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, jumbo loan investors, and others. Any company that does this is considered to be a mortgage banker.

Some companies don’t sell directly to those major investors, but sell their loans to the mortgage bankers. They often refer to themselves as mortgage bankers as well. Since they are actually engaging in the selling of loans, there is some justification for using this label. The point is that you cannot reliably determine the size or strength of a particular lender based on whether or not they identify themselves as a mortgage banker.

Portfolio Lenders
An institution that lends their own money and originates loans for itself is called a portfolio lender. This is because they are lending for their own portfolio of loans and not worried about being able to immediately sell them on the secondary market. Because of this, they don’t have to obey Fannie/Freddie guidelines and can create their own rules for determining credit worthiness. Usually these institutions are larger banks and savings & loans.

Quite often only a portion of their loan programs are a portfolio product. If they are offering fixed rate loans or government loans, they are certainly engaging in mortgage banking as well as portfolio lending.

Once a borrower has made the payments on a portfolio loan for over a year without any late payments, the loan is considered seasoned. Once a loan has a track history of timely payments it becomes marketable, even if it does not meet Freddie/Fannie guidelines.

Selling these seasoned loans frees up more money for the portfolio lender to make additional loans. If they are sold, they are packaged into pools and sold on the secondary market. You will probably not even realize your loan is sold because, quite likely, you will still make your loan payments to the same lender, which has now become your servicer.

Direct Lenders
Lenders are considered to be direct lenders if they fund their own loans. A direct lender can range anywhere from the biggest lender to a very tiny one. Banks and savings & loans obviously have deposits with which they can fund loans, but they usually use warehouse lines of credit for drawing the money to fund the loans. Smaller institutions also have warehouse lines of credit from which they draw money to fund loans.

Direct lenders usually fit into the category of mortgage bankers or portfolio lenders, but not always.

Correspondents
Correspondent is usually a term that refers to a company that originates and closes home loans in their own name, then sells them individually to a larger lender, called a sponsor. The sponsor acts as the mortgage banker, re-selling the loan to Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac as part of a pool. The correspondent may fund the loans themselves or funding may take place from the larger company. Either way, the sponsor usually underwrites the loan.

It is almost like being a mortgage broker, except that there is usually a very strong relationship between the correspondent and their sponsor.

Mortgage Brokers
Mortgage Brokers are companies that originate loans with the intention of brokering them to lending institutions. A broker has established relationships with these companies. Underwriting and funding takes place at the larger institutions. Many mortgage brokers are also correspondents.

Mortgage brokers deal with lending institutions that have a wholesale loan department.

Wholesale Lenders
Most mortgage bankers and portfolio lenders also act as wholesale lenders, catering to mortgage brokers for loan origination. Some wholesale lenders do not even have their own retail branches, relying solely on mortgage brokers for their loans. These wholesale divisions offer loans to mortgage brokers at a lower cost than their retail branches offer them to the general public. The mortgage broker then adds on his fee. The result for the borrower is that the loan costs about the same as if he obtained a loan directly from a retail branch of the wholesale lender.

Banks and savings & loans usually operate as portfolio lenders, mortgage bankers, or some combination of both.

Credit Unions usually seem to operate as correspondents, although a large one could act as a portfolio lender or a mortgage banker.

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Hot, Normal, And Cold Real Estate Markets

Hot Market

This is an extremely competitive market and is advantageous to the seller. Sometimes, homes will sell as soon as they are listed or even before homes are listed. Typically, during a hot market, multiple offers will be made on each home and more often than not, homes will sell for more than the asking price. It is even more crucial to be prepared and to be ready as a buyer when the market is hot. It can be easy to get caught up in the bid for a home, but if you are prepared (pre-approved, solid in price range, realistic about your needs), it is easier to remain focused on your housing needs and price range.

Normal Market

In a normal market, there is a fairly large number of homes available and an average number of buyers. This market does not necessarily favor the buyer or the seller. A seller may not have as many offers on their home, but he or she may not be desperate to sell either. Again, it is the buyer’s responsibility to be prepared. During a normal market, the chances to negotiate are higher than in a hot market. As a buyer, you can expect to make offers at lower than the asking price and negotiate a price at least somewhat less than what the sellers are asking.

Cold Market

In a cold market, houses may be listed for more than a year and the prices of houses listed may drop considerably. This market is advantageous to the buyer. As a buyer, you have the time to make an offer that works to your best interest. It is not uncommon to low-ball and to find that sellers are accommodating to meet your needs. Keep in mind that even though this market is a great time for buyers, you do not want to lose your dream home by being unrealistic. Your goal is to get your dream home at the best possible price.

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Importance of a Home Inspection

As a buyer, you are entitled to know exactly what you are getting.
Don’t take anything for granted, not even what you see or what the seller or listing agent tell you. A professional home inspection is something you MUST do, whether you are buying an existing home or a new one. An inspection is an opportunity to have an expert look closely at the property you are considering purchasing and getting both an oral and written opinion as to its condition.

Beforehand, make sure the report will be done by a professional organization, such as a local trade organization or a national trade organization such as ASHI (American Society of Home Inspection). Not only should you never skip an inspection, but also you should be present with the inspector during the inspection. This gives you a chance to ask questions about the property and get answers that are not biased. In addition, the oral comments are typically more revealing and detailed than what you will find on the written report. Once the inspection is complete, review the inspection report carefully.

You have to demand an inspection when you present your offer. It must be written in as a contingency. If you do not approve the inspection report, then do not buy the home. Most real estate contracts automatically provide an inspection contingency.

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Is Buying A Home Still A Good Plan

With the burst of the housing bubble, credit crisis, and millions of foreclosures across the country, you may wonder if buying a home is such a good idea after all. However, it’s important to consider all of the facts. The important message to take away from these events is not that buying a home is a bad idea, but that you must be smart about buying your home.

The housing market, like every type of market, unavoidably has its ups and downs. That doesn’t mean buying a home is a bad investment. As a long-term investment, homeownership is still one of the best investments for individual households. Historically, real estate has consistently increased in value, despite shorter periods of depreciation due to local markets and/or national economic conditions. The data shows that homes generally appreciate about 5% per year.

Savings & Investment
Five percent may not seem like a great return on investment, but you have to think about it in the context of the situation. For example, let’s say you put 10% down on a $200,000 house. That’s a $20,000 down payment, or initial investment. At a 5% annual appreciation rate, your $200,000 home would gain $10,000 in value during the first year. Earning $10,000 on an investment of $20,000 is a whopping 50% return.

For further perspective, let’s say instead of spending that $20,000 on a down payment, you invested it in the stock market. With a 5% return, you would gain only $1,000 in profit.

Tax Benefits
So now you’re saying that a home may have a higher return, but that’s before you consider all of the costs of home ownership, such as taxes, etc. Well, think of it this way: your property taxes as well as the interest on your mortgage are both tax deductible. You can deduct those costs from your income, thus reducing your overall taxable income. In other words, the government is subsidizing your home.

Other Benefits
It’s easy to get carried away with all of the economic reasons for home ownership, but it’s important to remember that not every reason is financial. Have you ever wanted to paint the walls of your apartment? Well when you’re renting, you can’t. Has anything in your apartment ever needed updating, but the landlord refused to do it? When you own a home, you can make the space yours in almost any way you want. And you benefit when you do home improvements, both financially and psychologically. Homes generally have more space, for storage, living, etc. than other living arrangements. Not to mention that you have space outdoors for barbecuing, pets, and kids. Owning your home carries with it a sense of pride, accomplishment, and even an elevated social status.

So when you’re considering buying a home, consider the broad range of benefits that owning a home can have. And always make sure you have an experienced real estate agent and loan officer to help make sure you’re getting a home that is right for you, both financially and psychologically.

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Are you Thinking About Buying A Foreclosure?

With the housing bubble burst and the subprime mortgage crisis, millions of homeowners found themselves unable to make their mortgage payments. Many found themselves owing more on the house than the home was worth. Many just walked away from their homes. As a result of these complicated issues, millions of homes were foreclosed.

While this isn’t the only reason for which homes are foreclosed, it has been a widespread one. With all the foreclosed properties, there has also been extensive interest in buying these properties at a bargain price.

It is true that foreclosed properties can be priced at a significant discount, but they are also a much riskier investment. Before making an offer on a foreclosed property, do your due diligence.

Things you must do before buying a foreclosure:

  • Do a title search – make sure that when you purchase a foreclosure that you are the only person who has any ownership claim
  • Check for liens – find out if there are any liens against the property because you will be responsible for paying them
  • Check for a second mortgage – you don’t want to be surprised by an extra mortgage that you will need to pay
  • Know how good of a “bargain” you’re getting – foreclosures are sold “as is” and in many cases you will not be able to do a proper inspection. You may end up paying thousands of dollars repairing the property before it is fit to be lived in.

It is also important to consider that there are different types of foreclosure properties and each type comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. The different types of foreclosure purchases are:

  1. Pre-foreclosure
  2. Auction
  3. Real Estate Owned (REO), also called “bank owned”

Pre-Foreclosure

A pre-foreclosure is when you buy the home directly from the homeowner, before the bank officially forecloses. This type of purchase does not require as much capital as other foreclosures. Also, since you are purchasing straight from the homeowner, you will be able to gather all of the necessary information, such as inspection reports, title information, etc. that may not be available with other foreclosure properties. Once you take over the mortgage, you will be responsible for all future payments as well as any overdue back payments.

Auction

A foreclosure property will usually end up at an auction. Real estate auction practices vary by state but common practice is for the auction to be held on courthouse steps, in front of the foreclosed home, or at the county clerk’s office.

Real estate auctions offer the best chance for a great deal but also hold the greatest risk. Auction properties are sold as is, with no opportunity for potential buyers to perform inspections. When buying a home at auction, the buyer must pay cash, usually a cashier’s check. It is also possible that there may still be tenants living in the home. In such a case, you would be responsible for the often costly eviction process.

REO

Once a foreclosure has gone to auction and failed to sell, it becomes a Real Estate Owned, or bank owned, property. Most homes do not sell at auction, most fail to even get any bids.

An REO property is the least likely of the foreclosure properties to represent a bargain, but it is also the least risky. The property can be fully inspected, any title issues can be found and dealt with, and the sale can be subject to a mortgage. REO properties also tend to be in better condition than other foreclosure properties.

Another thing to keep in mind when purchasing a foreclosure is that some states have a redemption period that allows the original owner to buy back the property by paying the remaining balance owed. You may be able to have this redemption period waived, so check the state laws on this topic before purchasing.

Still interested in buying a foreclosure property? If so, always do your research before purchasing!

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Using A Buyer’s Agent

It’s important that you choose an experienced agent who is there for you during the transaction. Your agent should be actively finding you potential homes, keeping you informed of the entire process, negotiating furiously on your behalf, and answering all of your questions with competence and speed.

First, find an agent who represents you and not the seller. This is beneficial during the negotiation process. If you are working with a buyer’s agent, he or she is required not to tell the seller of your top choice. In addition, he or she is also focused on getting you the lowest asking price.

Also, when you use a buyer’s agent, you will see more properties. Not only are they plugged into their Multiple Listing Service, but they are also actively finding homes that are listed as FSBO, or homes that sellers are thinking about listing.

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Don’t Make Any Major Credit Purchases when buying a Home

Never go on a spending spree using credit if you are thinking about buying a home, or in the process of buying a new home. Your mortgage pre-approval is subject to a final evaluation of your financial situation.

For every $100 you pay per month on a credit payment could cost you about $10,000 in home eligibility. For example, a car payment of $300/month could mean that you qualify for $30,000 less in a mortgage. Wait till after buying a home to buy your next car.

Even if you have accumulated enough savings as a down-payment, you should consider not making any large purchases until after closing. The last thing you want is to know that you could have purchased a new home had you curbed the urge to spend.