Monday, November 30, 2015

Easy Steps To Help Build Your Credit

If you’re considering buying a home next year, it’s never too early to be thinking about your credit, according to Danny Gardner of Freddie Mac. Whether you’re hoping to buy a home in spring 2016 or looking further out, this article offers some simple steps you can take between now and then to help build and maintain good credit.  Full Article

Having good credit is no accident. It’s the result of discipline and planning. Start today, and by the time you’re ready to become a homeowner, your good credit will pay off with better loan terms, lower interest rates, and greater financial opportunities in the future.

A good credit history increases the confidence of lenders and creditors when they loan money to you. When they see that you’ve paid back your loans as agreed, lenders are more likely to extend credit again. With good credit, you can borrow for major expenses – like a home – and you can borrow money at a lower cost, ultimately saving you money.

Your FICO credit score is one tool lenders use to gauge your creditworthiness. FICO scores can range from about 300 to 850 points – and your goal is to aim high. How high?  Well, to give you an idea how much having good credit matters, in the third quarter of 2015, the average borrower of a loan bought by Freddie Mac had a FICO score of 751. That represents a slight drop since the peak of the housing crisis, but still means we’re in a lending environment where having a good credit score is incredibly important. Here are some steps you can take.

Open a checking and savings account. When you open a checking and savings account, try to stay above your minimum balance, never bounce checks, and make regular deposits.

Use credit cards carefully. Credit cards are convenient and easy to use, but using them recklessly can hurt your credit. If you allow your credit cards to reach high, unpaid balances, they can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest alone. On the other hand, if you pay them in full and on time each month, credit cards can help you build excellent credit and reap the benefits that follow.

Establish credit independently. It’s important for both partners in a marriage or a relationship to establish their own credit to help achieve financial goals and to protect against unforeseen circumstances like death, divorce, or other life changes. Partners should regularly discuss household and personal expenditures to ensure that neither has an excessive amount of charges that cannot be repaid.

Honor your promise to pay. It’s essential that you honor your promise to make your credit payments on time and in the amounts scheduled. That includes your credit cards, auto and student loans, utility bills, medical bills, etc. Contact your lender or creditor immediately if you are having trouble making payments.

Know what's in your credit report. Check your credit report at least once each year at to ensure its accuracy (Federal law requires that the three consumer credit reporting companies give you a free credit report annually – you just have to ask for it). If you’re planning a large purchase, check your credit report before it’s time to buy to avoid any surprises and to allow you plenty of time to correct any errors.

Take steps to restore your credit if you've had a financial setback. Contact former creditors with whom you've had a good payment record – they may be willing to help you re-establish your credit. You don't want to acquire too many credit cards, so carefully review any credit card offers you receive. And above all, avoid disreputable credit "repair" companies that promise a quick and easy fix – they could end up costing you money and dragging you further into debt. Instead, take advantage of the services provided by a local Consumer Credit Counseling Service or a HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agency.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

That's Why My Home Didn't Sell

Many homeowners often have no idea why their home isn’t selling and then when their listing eventually expires they ask themselves; why didn’t my home sell? What was I missing? For the experienced, trusted Real Estate professional it’s easy to know why a home doesn’t sell, yet unfortunately when a homeowner chooses the wrong Real Estate Agent to sell their home, they only learn through trial and error. Full Article

What are the most common reasons that homes don’t sell?

1. Wrong List Price   A proven pricing method that entails reviewing recent closed sales and pending sales, typically within a 3 month, sometimes 6 month period, by comparing similar homes within a nearby radius of your home and then making any plus/minus adjustments for such things as updates, features, condition and location and how they compare to your home, a fair market value can be determined. Then they will also look at homes currently active for sale, your competition, to determine at what ideal price point should your home be placed to get your home sold.

When you list your home for sale above market value, you are missing a whole pool of Buyers well qualified to buy your home; these Buyers aren’t even looking at your home because they’re looking at your true competition where your home should be priced. With your home being priced above market value, your home is being overlooked as the Buyers in this price range where your home is priced are able to find homes priced right in this price range that will be larger with better features. So again, you’re missing Buyers. As time goes by, you agree to a price reduction, yet now your home has lost it’s fresh appeal as is present when a home first hits the market for sale. As your home lingers, it has become almost tainted as Buyers wonder why your home hasn’t sold. Tainted homes can be seen as fire sales. Offers may now come, but they can likely be at discounted prices. You don’t want to accept such a low offer, so you reject the offer and your home sits and doesn’t sell.

2. No home selling preparation  There aren’t any shortcuts when it comes to selling a home. It takes time and effort to prepare a home for sale. Preparation will almost always result in your home being sold for the most money. Such things as, cleaning, decluttering, making minor repairs or major repairs/updates when the budget allows, sets the stage for your home to be revealed in its most favorable light. If your Real Estate Agent didn’t advise you on what to do to prepare your home for sale, this can be a huge factor in why your home didn’t sell. How much preparation did you do in getting your home ready? What did your Agent recommend? “Nothing”, you say. I was afraid you’d say that.

3. Ghastly photos and/or few photos  I can’t even tell you the number of times that I’ve come across a home for sale where the photos are simply ghastly! The photos reveal dark and dingy rooms. People and pets in photos, toilet lids up, clutter and mess everywhere. I’ll also see homes that have just a few photos for prospective Buyers to see. Buyers want to see photos, lots of photos and high quality photos otherwise, they’ll skip right over your home. Did your Real Estate Agent show you your home’s online marketing presentation where photos are displayed? “No”, you answer. That’s what I thought. Most homeowners aren’t even aware of how poorly their home is being presented over the internet otherwise, they would have fired their Agent.

4. Your home wasn’t splashed in front of prospective Buyers  92% of Buyers search for homes for sale over the internet and if your home wasn’t marketed by being splashed across the internet, your home will be missed being seen by prospective Buyers. The Agent you hired should have a strong online internet marketing presence. They should know how to market themselves well, in order to market your home for sale. Try Googling their name to see what comes up? You should see pages of their presence. If they can’t market themselves how will they every market your home for sale? If they have a strong online presence this means that your home will be seen by more prospective Buyers simply by them being splashed all over the internet. In essence, you’ll be using their strong Real Estate brand to attach your listing to and be seen; it can be very powerful. Do you know if your home was marketed well? I hate to hear your answer, yet I’m sure I know the answer by now.

5. You didn’t believe in being harmonious  When there are so many parties to a Real Estate transaction it’s important to be harmonious as possible. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree to every demand, it simply means that you need to communicate well and understand that there will be a little give and take. When your Real Estate Agent calls, emails or texts you, it’s important to respond in a timely manner; the contact could likely have a contractual deadline attached to it. When you request something of the Buyer and they agree, remember this when they request something of you. There should be balance and not everything your way or the highway. If this is your style, it’s best to bottle it while selling your home and feel free to let it out after you sold your home. I certainly can’t tell you how to live your life, but only guide you during the selling of your home to meet your objective of selling your home for top dollar in the shortest amount of time.

Knowing these 5, all too common, reasons that are experienced by home Sellers when their home’s do not sell can educate you for the next time you sell your home. Or if you’re thinking about selling your home, these reasons discussed here can provide you with valuable insight before you embark on selling your home.

Savvy Lane - How flat fee mls works

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Down Payment Quandary: Trying to Save 20 Percent

After the down payment hurdle is cleared, mortgage payments tend to be lower than rent. Full Article

The crimp that high rents are putting in people’s budgets has a direct impact on how able they are to save for a down payment.  Rising home prices compound the problem, requiring an even larger heap of cash to reach the 20 percent mark, the amount typically required to avoid mortgage insurance.

People used to get there with second jobs, but lenders don’t see this as much since the recession.

“Instead, what you see is somebody graduates from college, they move back home to pay off debt and save money, and they work 50, 60 hours a week at the job that they found,” said Staci Titsworth, a regional manager for PNC Mortgage in Pittsburgh.

There are also more double-income households, and more first-time buyers waiting to buy homes where they can stay more than 5 years and possibly raise families, she said.

People are also coming in below 20 percent, which typically requires paying mortgage insurance.

Even with mortgage insurance tacked on, people tend to have lower monthly payments for mortgages than for rent. Indeed, homeowners in general can expect to spend about 15 percent of their monthly income on mortgage payments (without mortgage insurance) for a median-valued home, while renters can expect to spend 30 percent on rent.

Borrowers in pricey markets have taken the lower down payment route for years.

That’s how Sara Clarke, an editor at U.S. News & World Report, and her husband landed their first home: a townhouse in Alexandria, VA, that cost $299,500. They put down 5 percent, money saved from a childhood paper route and fast-food jobs, plus a little help from a relative.

By the time they sold it about 10 years later, they had accrued the 20 percent down payment they needed for a single-family home in Fairfax County. They even had money left over to replenish a savings account depleted by upgrades on their first kitchen, bathrooms, roof and “redoing everything we could redo.”

Assistance from parents remains a common way to get a foot in the door of your own home. Loans and gifts from family and friends rose from 8 percent to 21 percent during the recession, and was down to 13 percent last year.

JPMorgan Chase has also seen first-time buyers becoming more disciplined about spending and tapping into 401(k)s, said Sean Grzebin, the bank’s head of retail mortgage lending.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wanna beat the home buying crowds? Winter is the time

Now that the U.S. has regained its job-creation mojo, as the October employment report showed, the demand for housing is only going to grow.  Full Article

After all, when people have jobs they can break off and form new households—ditching the roommates behind or finally moving out of Mom and Dad’s basement—and that’s what fundamentally drives home purchases.

Most of the households created over the past two years have been renting households, but based on U.S. Census data for the third quarter of this year, it appears that homeownership has started to recover.

This especially makes sense now that it is cheaper to own than rent in more than three-quarters of the counties in the U.S. And it’s not getting better— rents are rising year over year at twice the pace of listing prices. Meanwhile, mortgage rates remain at near record lows but appear poised to increase over the next year. And home prices are rising, too.  So if you qualify for a mortgage and have the funds for a down payment and closing costs—and if you intend to live in a home long enough to cover the transaction costs of buying and selling—you will be better off financially if you buy as soon as you can. After all, if you are tired of your current home now, you won’t feel better about it in six months.

The top factors driving home shoppers this summer were pent-up demand and recognition of favorable mortgage rates and home prices. These drivers will likely remain well into next year.

Yet demand for housing is extremely seasonal. In most markets in the country, we are conditioned to believe that we should buy homes in the spring and summer. So come each October, plans to purchase shift to the spring. While the school calendar and weather do influence the ideal time to move, many buyers would benefit from buying this fall and winter rather than waiting until next spring.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The 7 Steps to Buying a Home

You’ve finally found the home you love. Now what? Though every market is different, you can expect to follow these seven steps, from offer to closing. Full Article

1. Making an offer  If you’re sure the home you love is right for you, it’s time to make your move. This means writing up a formal purchase offer and signing a real estate contract.  Even though it’s early in the buying process, you still must sign a legally binding contract. With your signature, you’re committing to moving ahead with the seller. Keep in mind you can add contingencies to many real estate contracts. For example, most real estate buying offers will be contingent on a property inspection, as well as disclosure review, loan approval, appraisal and other matters. Such contingencies enable buyers to opt out of the contract if unexpected problems or concerns pop up.

2. Disclosures  In most states, sellers are legally required to provide buyers with disclosure documents, a preliminary title report, copies of city reports and any specific local documents. In California, for example, an earthquake hazards report or a geological survey is required as part of the disclosures. In some areas of the South, especially near the Gulf Coast, buyers usually receive flood maps and reports relevant to the property being considered.  In addition, sellers must disclose any known issues that might affect the property’s value or habitability. Usually, in a transfer disclosure statement, sellers must answer a series of “yes” or “no” questions about the property, the neighborhood and their experience there. If there have been leaky windows, violations from the city, work done without permits or plans for a major nearby development, the seller must disclose them. If there are significant issues, the seller’s agent would likely have brought them up before the contract signing. But if something is disclosed here that is a negative factor for you, it is your “out” of the contract.

3. The appraisal  Most buyers put a certain amount of money down toward the purchase price. The balance will come in the form of a bank loan (usually). But a bank isn’t going to hand over that money without due diligence. An appraisal is the financial institution’s way of making sure the contract price is the right price. So the lender sends out a third-party appraiser, which the buyer pays for, to confirm that the contract price is in line with the neighborhood’s comparable sales. If it’s not, the bank can deny the loan or change the terms.

4. Inspections  As part of the real estate contract, you have the right to a property inspection. The most common is a “general” property inspection, in which the inspector checks the home from the foundation to the roof and investigates all major systems and components. As the buyer, you should follow along with the inspector to learn more about the property. For example, you’ll want to know about the components (such as the water heater) and have a plan in place for maintenance.  After the general property inspection, the inspector may suggest having a specialist come out. This could be a roofer, electrician, HVAC specialist or even an engineer. Listen to the inspector and have any recommended follow-up inspections. Remember: This is your one chance to approve the property from top to bottom. If issues arise, you may be able to negotiate a fix or credit with the seller. If something major arises and it’s not what you signed up for, you can exit the contract via your inspection contingency.

5. Loan approval or commitment  In addition to making certain the property appraises at no less than the contract price, the bank will want to fully approve your credit, debt and income history. The bank will also want to approve the property’s preliminary title report to make sure there are no liens recorded against the property that might affect its value. The bank can take up to 30 days to complete its review, which should result in a loan commitment or full loan approval. Once that’s completed to the bank’s satisfaction, you’re guaranteed a loan, and you’re one step closer to closing.

6. Final walk-through  Just before closing, you should walk back through the property to make sure it’s in the condition it was when you last saw it. Make sure the seller didn’t remove any fixtures, make modifications or leave behind garbage or debris. You also want to be sure any fixes you negotiated with the seller have been completed.

7. The closing  Depending on the market, the closing may happen at an attorney’s office or with an escrow officer at a title company. In some jurisdictions, the buyer and seller don’t ever meet. Each goes in to sign their closing papers separately. In others, the buyers and sellers sign the closing documents together. Also, thanks to current technologies, some closings can now happen remotely using wire transfers and overnight delivery of documents.

Regardless of how a closing happens, if you’re a buyer and getting a loan, plan on signing dozens of documents at closing. You’ll need to show photo ID, as your signature will be notarized. Prior to the closing, your real estate agent, attorney or escrow officer should send over a closing statement to review. The statement details your final closing costs and the money you need to bring to the closing. The funds can be wired in or paid with a cashier’s check on closing day. Be sure to ask for the statement early, so there aren’t any last-minute surprises.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Why Real Estate Must Adapt to Fast-Changing Technology

The technology sector, which tends to advance rapidly in game-changing shifts, has long provided a glaring contrast to the real estate industry, which is based on long-lived assets and evolves slowly. Full Article

But that dichotomy will soon fade, according to a panel of real estate and tech leaders at ULI’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco. Along with the rest of society, real estate inevitably will be transformed by the ascendance of e-commerce, innovations such as driverless vehicles, and the rise of a new, sharing-oriented economy in which players collaborate to improve efficiency, panelists said.

The industry needs to alter its business model in order to serve tenants whose needs are different than they were in the past, said Patrick L. Phillips, ULI global chief executive officer, who led the discussion. Real estate executives need to develop more flexible leasing arrangements, which would enable companies to scale up and down to adjust to market changes, he said. The industry also needs to look at building more flexibility into building design and land use. And given the rise of collaborative relationships in the digital economy, real estate developers should look at developing closer relationships with tenants—possibly by becoming equity partners in their businesses.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Money Back Guarantee

We are confident that our home selling services are effective, which is why we offer our money back guarantee program.

How it Works

1. If you are having trouble selling your property call us for recommendations on how to improve your chances.

2. If we confirm that working with a full service real estate agent is your next move, then we will connect you with a Top Producing broker/agent in your area. If you are not satisfied with the broker/agent we selected, we will help you find another one.

3. Once your property has successfully sold using the agent we have recommended, send us the HUD statement and/or closing documents and Savvy Lane will refund the flat listing fee that you have paid.

Doing An Annual Financial Checkup Can Help You Save

If there's one lesson from this year's wild ride on Wall Street, it's this: Stuff happens, and it's better to have a plan in place before unexpected events turn your financial life upside down.  Full Article

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and the hectic holiday season is coming soon, so there's no better time to get your money matters in order and nail down a 2016 game plan.

Here's a checklist of what your annual financial checkup should include:

1. Do a "risk tolerance" profile. Were you a basket case when the stock market cratered this summer, suffering its first 10%-plus drop in four years? If so, your portfolio might be too risky for you. The fix: "Perform a personal stress test to determine if you can stomach, say, a 25% loss in your portfolio," McMahon says.

2. Rebalance your portfolio. Is your mix of stocks, bonds and cash out of whack? Now's the time to make sure you have the proper helpings of stocks and other financial assets, says Nancy Coutu, co-founder of Money Managers Financial Group, a financial planning firm based in Oak Brook, Ill. The fix: "Rebalance and get back to your allocation," Coutu says.

3. Conduct a "debt inventory." If you owe too much money, map out a plan to pay down debt. "Debt can creep up on you," McMahon says. The fix: "Develop a debt elimination strategy," he says.

4. Bolster retirement savings. Nurture your nest egg, Coutu advises. The fix: Take advantage of a Roth individual retirement account, she says. Roth IRAs, while funded with post-tax income, don't tax gains. Coutu's recommendation: Fund your 401(k) first, but only up to the amount needed to get all of your company's match. Next, fund your Roth IRA. If any funds are still available to save, direct those dollars into your 401(k), which is funded with pre-tax income but is subject to taxes on gains. "Most savers contribute the maximum to their 401(k)s and forget to contribute to Roth IRAs," Coutu says.

5. Grade your kid's college fund. Buying and forgetting 529 college investment savings plans isn't an A+ strategy, McMahon says. Why? If your kid is within a year or two of college and the 529 plan is 100% in stocks, a market downturn could erase savings at precisely the wrong time. The fix: "Check how 529s are invested and whether it's appropriate," McMahon says. If the 529 plan is too stock heavy, pare risk back by shifting to more cash and bonds.

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

US home values and rents steadily rising in a resilient housing market

Home values and rental prices are steadily rising, fueled by strong demand and a tight supply of available properties, a pair of reports Tuesday showed. The solid demand drove sales growth early this year and spurred additional construction.  Full Article

In September, median rents nationwide rose a seasonally adjusted 3.7 percent from a year ago, according to real estate data firm Zillow. As with home prices, the pace of rent increases appears more stable than the sharper increases earlier this year.

Still, while three years of solid hiring and low mortgage rates have bolstered real estate, further gains will likely require better pay for workers. Increases in home values continue to exceed average annual earnings, which have risen just 2.2 percent from a year ago.

For now, homes in tech hubs with a high concentration of good-paying jobs appear to be the main beneficiaries of rising prices. S&P reported that San Francisco and Denver both enjoyed a 10.7 percent year-over-year jump in home values, the largest of any city. Portland, Oregon's annual gain of 9.4 percent was the third-largest.

Those same metro areas were among the leaders in the rental increases tracked by Zillow. At the same time, those high rental prices sparked some new construction, which has created more apartments and tempered the rental-price appreciation in recent months.

The median rent in San Francisco was $3,348 last month, a yearly increase of 13.3 percent. The year-over-year increase in August was even higher — 14.2 percent.

The housing market's overall gains are defying the impact of a sluggish global economy. Falling commodity prices, weakened growth in China, a struggling Europe and tumult in emerging economies such as Brazil have hampered a world that is still battling its way out of the 2008 financial crisis.

Not every area of the United States is benefiting. Rental price growth has slowed in areas at the epicenter of the oil and natural gas industry, according to Zillow. Average oil prices have nearly halved in the past year to $44 a barrel. Houston's rental costs are up 5.8 percent over the past 12 months, down from annual growth above 6 percent. Price appreciation has also slipped in Dallas and Tulsa.

Overall in the United States, the housing sector has expanded for much of 2015. Sales of existing homes jumped 4.7 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.55 million, the National Association of Realtors said last week.

The pace of home construction rose in September and is up 12 percent so far this year compared with 2014. But the bulk of the growth has been fueled by condominiums and apartment buildings. Single-family-home construction — the heart of the housing market — was flat in September.

That reflects a greater preference for renting rather than home-buying since the Great Recession, which has reduced the percentage of Americans who own homes to nearly a 48-year low of 63.7 percent.

Home values are rising largely because few properties are being listed for sale. The number of existing homes for sale has fallen 3.1 percent in the past 12 months. In September, the number of available homes was equal to just 4.8 months' of sales, below the six months' supply that is typical of a balanced market.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day

On this Veterans Day, let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free. - Dan Lipinski

Top 10 Reasons to List Flat Fee

1. Commission Savvy Lane is a Flat Fee MLS Real Estate Brokerage and does not collect the customary 3% listing commission. Pay a ONE TIME flat fee to get your home on the MLS for local and national internet exposure to all buyers and agents. Our discount MLS listing service and our discount real estate service will save homeowners thousands in real estate commissions.  

2. Customer Service We answer our phones and emails promptly, no phone maze! Our professional, licensed staff is ready to answer any real estate questions to make selling your own home easy. We have worked with traditional home sellers and For Sale by Owner sellers (FSBO) for many years. We have a great reputation of being helpful and informative read the Testimonials from our past clients. See our helpful pages on pricing your home, home selling tips, open house tips, or please call with any questions regarding our discount real estate service. Our customer service hours are Monday-Friday 9 am-6 pm, Saturday- Sunday 9-5

3. Internet Exposure Our internet exposure is not limited by price. Listing with Savvy Lane, a leading Flat Fee MLS Real Estate Brokerage, will give all sellers Local and National internet exposure by utilizing the MLS and other major Real Estate sites. Don’t settle with other FSBO listing sites or flat fee brokerages that limit the exposure based on price. All our listings will be displayed on the local MLS,, and many more...  

4. 24 Hour Listing Access We offer 24 hour access to a secure online account that allows traditional home sellers and FSBO sellers to be in control of their listing. Our sellers may manage the price, photos, description, etc. to their listing through our innovative website.  

5. List Online Home sellers can choose from our Flat Fee MLS service packages from above and list their home online in one easy step. Once the online listing is completed the documents are emailed instantly. Please see How To List My Home and How Flat Fee MLS Works for more information.  

6. Turn-around Time Savvy Lane will list a house on the MLS within hours of receiving the signed documents. All new listings and changes take a few hours to propagate to all local and national real estate websites.  

7. CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) Upon request, Savvy Lane will provide sellers a free CMA report. We give sellers all the tools to effectively price & sell their home. Other flat fee brokerages, FSBO MLS listing and FSBO listing sites, do not offer professional market analysis. Majority of for sale by owner listing sites do not offer a CMA, thus making it difficult for sellers to effectively price their home for the best result.  

8. Post & Sign Savvy Lane offers more than just a listing on the MLS. With our Extended, Full and Premium Packages we provide a custom sign and post. Our sign has the owner’s phone number and MLS# printed on directly! NOT with a marker! This inspires consumer confidence that the home is listed professionally.  

9. Tools We offer the same tools that any traditional agent would in selling a home: Electronic MLS Key Boxes, All Documents, Signs, Flyers, CMA, Assistance from our licensed MLS agents, and much more... Many for sale by owner listing sites do not provide these tools.  

10. Knowledgeable Staff Savvy Lane strives to serve For Sale by Owner and traditional home sellers through knowledge, service, marketing and support. We look over all documents prior to listing a home on the MLS to ensure accuracy and the best outcome.   Savvy Lane, a top discount real estate brokerage, allows savvy home owners to sell their home without paying a 3% listing commission fee, maximizing local and national internet exposure through the MLS (State Accredited Multiple Listing Service), and stay in control of the home selling process. Savvy Lane provides the tools and customer service to FSBO sellers (For Sale By Owner) that will effectively sell a home and maximize the owner’s equity.  

 FLAT FEE MLS WORKS! See some of our recently SOLD listings.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

You Can Negotiate Your Mortgage Closing Costs

The costs related to homebuying continue to increase, meaning it's more important than ever to shop around. The Loan Estimate, introduced in October 2015, is intended to ease that process for borrowers like you, who want to make the mortgage transaction more affordable.  Full Article

The Loan Estimate is given to you within 3 business days of turning in a mortgage application. It outlines the various terms attached to the loan, including your interest rate, estimated monthly payments and the cash you need to close.

What to look for on Page 2 Page 2 of the Loan Estimate gives you an idea of how much it may cost to close on your mortgage, including the origination fees charged by the lender and other estimated closing costs.  

The first 2 sections on Page 2 -- sections A and B -- are the most important for borrowers to understand, says Vicki Bott, senior vice president of credit strategy for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Here, you'll find the estimated lender fees, also known as "origination charges," and costs for third-party services that the lender will secure as part of the loan transaction.

You cannot shop around for the services listed in Section B. The amounts may vary by lender. These costs include the appraisal, credit report, flood certification and tax services.  Both sections answer the question: "What costs is this specific lender I'm shopping with charging?" Bott says.  

Shop around and save on these services Section C details the costs over which you have the most control -- you can comparison-shop for the services listed.

"There is opportunity for the borrower to go out into the market and determine if there is a vendor or company who may provide a more competitive fee," Bott says.

One major service you can and should shop around for is title insurance, though where you live may determine whether you're able to do so. For example, in Texas, the cost of title insurance is regulated, so all title companies charge the same price.

Lender fees: Any room for negotiation? The lender's fees are believed to be fixed but there could be some wiggle room, Polychron says.

 "Origination fees vary based on a number of factors, but may be negotiable both as a dollar amount or an offered interest rate."

One way to negotiate the lender fees is to ask if any of the fees may be waived, such as the application fee.  Your lender may also offer you a credit to offset some of your closing costs, but it comes with a price, usually in the form of a higher interest rate on your mortgage.  

Monday, November 9, 2015

Why Do I Have to Pay My Real Estate Agent 6%?!

Selling a house can be expensive. Not only are you probably going to have to lay out some cash to spruce it up so you can get top dollar, you also have to plan on paying a real estate commission, which usually runs 6% of the sales price. On a $300,000 home that’s $18,000 — not a small chunk of change. Full Article

So why 6%? Why not 3%? Why not a flat fee of $2,500?  In the 1940s and ’50s, the National Association of Realtors required its members to set commissions at a certain level — and also required its members to either work full time or have enough customers to earn a living as a Realtor — in order to join (only members had access to the Multiple Listing Service). In 1950, the Supreme Court ruled that requiring certain rates was illegal. (After that it became a “suggested” rate, some sources say.)

How it became 6%, however, no one seems to know.

Is the 6% Commission Outdated?  One thing to keep in mind is that real estate services are generally bundled. Services on the seller side may include marketing, advertising, open houses and help during the negotiation process. On the buyer side, real estate professionals may spend a lot of time finding and showing houses to prospective buyers, as well as helping them navigate the purchase. Similar to other bundled services, like Internet, cable or phone service, however, bundling sometimes requires consumers to purchase services they don’t need.

More and more, consumers are seeking (and finding) an “unbundling” of such services. Years ago, potential homebuyers talked to an agent, seeking advice on areas with good schools and public transportation, or low crime — now they may research it themselves. In addition, they may be checking online for homes for sale and contacting agents about a house that just went on the market, instead of looking to a real estate agent to find them a home. Furthermore, sellers may not want open houses, or to pay for services they won’t use.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Before You Buy a House, Ask Yourself These 5 Questions

A home can be a wise purchase, but don't get in over your head. Too many people jump into buying a house without giving it enough thought, simply because it seems like the next "thing to do" on their life checklist. Full Article

#1: Should You Buy, Rent or Rent-to-Own? 
First of all, should you buy a home? Or are you better off renting? There's a pervasive myth that people who rent are "throwing money away," but that's a gross oversimplification.

Take a good look at your one-, five- and ten-year plans. Ask yourself how long you plan on staying in your area. After all the transactional costs that come with home buying (closing costs, realtor commissions, inspections and appraisals), it might be cheaper for you to rent, if you think you may be moving soon.

If you're not sure, you can always rent-to-own. This is officially called a "lease purchase," or a lease with the option to buy down the road. (To use a stock market or business analogy, it's like having a "call option" or a "first right of refusal" on the property.) 

#2: How Much of a Down Payment Can You Afford? 
Making a significant down payment can eliminate your private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is tacked on to each mortgage payment you make. 

PMI is a lender's way of protecting themselves in case you default on your mortgage. This mandatory insurance can cost an extra $40-$50/month for every $100,000 you borrow. 

If you're able to put down 20 percent or more of the purchase price of the home, you'll avoid this extra fee.

#3: Do You Know How Much You'll REALLY Be Paying?  
Your principal and interest aren't the only numbers you need to estimate when buying a home. You want to get a grasp on other ongoing costs like real estate taxes and homeowner's insurance. Different areas have different tax rates, so take that into consideration when looking at neighborhoods. 

Bear in mind the county can always raise taxes, and your insurer can always raise rates, so you don't want to be too close to the brink when it comes to how much you can afford. Leave yourself a little "wiggle room" for future increases and stay away from those homes that are in the tip-top of your budget.

#4: Can You Afford the Upkeep?  
 Even brand-new homes need repairs and maintenance. If you get a reputable home inspection, you should hopefully avoid buying a money pit, but you'll still have to deal with occasional repairs and the everyday upkeep of lawn maintenance, snow removal, gutter cleaning, tree-pruning, HVAC tune-ups and even the higher utility costs that come from moving from an apartment to a house.

#5: How Soon Will You Sell? 
When you buy a home, you'll need to pay for a huge heap of closing costs. These include real estate agent commissions, title insurance, attorney fees, recording fees, surveys, excise tax, points to the lender, inspection fees, warranties -- the list feels interminable. 

In theory, closing costs are negotiable. You can ask the seller to cover some of these expenses. But "negotiable" is not a guarantee of anything. The seller might reject your offer. Or they might counter with a purchase price that's higher than they otherwise would have granted. One way or another, those closing costs will get paid.

In the End
  Purchasing a home can be a savvy financial move, as long as you manage it well. Make sure to ask yourself the above questions before signing on the dotted line, and your dream home can bring you joy for many years to come.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Join the Savvy Lane Revolution

Savvy Lane has rebuilt real estate from the ground up by combining For Sale by Owner and the traditional process. Using our flat fee MLS service will save you thousands of dollars by eliminating the traditional 6% commission. By having your property listed on the MLS and hundreds of real estate websites you will increases your exposure tenfold.

Today 98% of buyers start their search online, make sure your property is seen on as many sites as possible with our flat fee MLS options. As a licensed brokerage Savvy Lane will provide access to the MLS, forms, yard signs, lock boxes and support to help you sell like the pros. Our proven technology has transformed the selling process.  

Savvy Lane has helped thousands save millions on commissions. Join the revolution and let us help you today.

Your finances: 3 things to get started on now

This is the time of year when certain money issues come more into focus, including those related to income-tax planning, charity scams and checking up on the financial health of family members. Full Article 

 Tax planning isn't shaping up as anything remarkable over the waning weeks of 2015. Congress hasn't passed any blockbuster legislation affecting individuals this year and, with gridlock on Capitol Hill, might not. That leaves the fate of several popular tax provisions dangling. These "extenders" must be acted on fairly soon or they won't be in force for the coming tax-return filing season.

In any year, investors are wise to determine paper gains and losses in taxable accounts, with an eye on realizing or harvesting losses before year's end. If losses exceed gains, up to $3,000 of the excess can be used to offset ordinary income, and additional losses can be carried forward to future years. 

Otherwise, taxpayers generally would be wise to defer taxable income to next year, if possible, while accelerating deductions so they can be taken in 2015. But that strategy doesn't necessarily hold if you expect to have much larger deductible expenses next year, as with a pending medical procedure, for example. 

In that case, it might pay to bunch deductions into either this year or next, if you might not qualify to itemize both years. Charitable donations are one type of deductible expense for which the timing is easy to control.

CHARITY CAVEATS: Now also is a prime time for charitable donations, and non-profit groups — and scammers — know it. Americans make about one-quarter of their charitable donations over the waning weeks of the year, according to one study. That makes it critical to give money wisely, without getting so caught up in a feel-good moment that you drop your vigilance.

Another option is to search through the "exempt organizations select check" section at (, though this database can be cumbersome. If you donate to a non-profit that isn't legitimate and claim a tax deduction, your deduction could be disallowed, and it might trigger an audit.  

In fact, consider whether you can take advantage of a charitable tax donation. Roughly two in three Americans don't itemize and thus won't get the deduction. An alternate option, especially if money is tight, might be to donate your time instead of your cash.

FAMILY MATTERS: Holiday get-togethers offer an opportunity to check the financial health of friends and family members — elderly relatives especially. Many seniors are affluent yet susceptible to giving away their money for reasons that could involve fear, loneliness, cognitive problems and others.

Strangers account for more than half the financial fraud committed against the elderly, but family members, friends and neighbors sometimes can cause problems, too.  

Wells Fargo suggests watching out for several telltale signs that things might be amiss. Some are obvious, such as large, unexplained loans taken out by an elderly person or personal belongings that have gone missing. Also, watch for wire transfers or large credit card charges, gifts to a caretaker, utility or other routine bills not being paid, and changes to the person's will or other estate-planning documents.

(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Selling Your Home: Why It Pays To List In Winter

According to a study from Redfin, homes listed for sale during winter are more likely to sell within six months than homes whose owners held off until spring. This article from Daniel Bortz of TIME offers helpful suggestions on how to sell your home faster this winter.  Full Article 

 Spring may still be peak home-shopping season, since most families want to move when the kids are out of school. Yet it actually pays to list in the winter, when buyers tend to have more urgency: A study by online brokerage Redfin found that average sellers net more above asking price during the months of December, January, February, and March than they do from June through November, even in cold-weather cities like Boston and Chicago. And homes listed in winter sold faster than those posted in spring.

Should you put your home on the market now? Unless you need to sell (say, you’ve purchased your next home or are relocating for a job), “timing always depends on supply and demand,” says Indianapolis real estate agent Christine Dossman.

To understand your local climate, check the number of days on the market for current and recently sold listings. If most are sitting for more than 60 days, it’s safer to wait until spring, when more buyers will emerge. Yet “if properties are selling quickly, take that as a green light to list,” says real estate broker Peggy Yee of Vienna, Va.

If you do move forward, these strategies will help make your home a hot seller this winter.

Price it right. The quieter winter market brings special pricing considerations. Unlike in spring, when there are more shoppers – and it may make sense to price low to try to generate a bidding war – you’re less likely to receive multiple offers. Winter is also a bad time to test the market and list high. If the house doesn’t sell, you may need to drop below market value to nab a buyer before new properties appear in spring and make yours look stale by comparison.

Schedule a tune-up. Winter buyers are particularly attuned to issues related to heating and maintenance. Get your furnace, HVAC, and roof inspected, and make any necessary repairs. Also on your to-do list: Clean the gutters, change air filters, and weather-strip the windows.

Brighten your home. Snow and gray skies make for a gloomy first impression. Warm up curb appeal with basic landscaping, and add inexpensive cool-weather plants like holly to invigorate outdoor space. Fix chipped paint, caulk windows, and repair cracked window seals, which can cause condensation that freezes over and creates an eyesore.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Thinking of renting a home? Don't.

Based on home prices from last month, it's about 23 percent cheaper to buy a home than rent one in America's 100 major real estate markets, if you're a "young buyer" looking for your first place. Full Article

A new report from real estate group Trulia analyzed the cost difference between buying a home and renting one, with a special focus on buyers ages 25-34. Trulia examined current housing prices under the assumption that "young buyers" will move every five years and can only afford a downpayment of up to 10 percent. The "Rent vs. Buy" report also assumed a 3.85 percent mortgage rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan, itemized federal tax deductions and a 25 percent tax bracket. Even so, the conclusions are hugely encouraging: Out of America's 100 biggest housing markets, only two -- Honolulu and Silicon Valley -- showed a higher price for buying a home vs. renting one. Everywhere else, the costs tipped in favor of buying a home.

Researchers credit a changing economy for the good news: Interest rates are nearing record lows, and the housing market continues to rebound from financial letdown. Trulia estimates that this is the best time to buy a house since 2012, since the gap between the cost of renting and the cost of buying is huge in many metros, especially in Southern and Midwestern markets. How huge? Check out Trulia's 10 markets where buying is much better than renting (assuming buyers are staying for five years and putting down less than 10 percent):