How to Take the Uncertainty Out of Home Ownership

Buying a home is one of the largest purchases you can make during your lifetime and for many people, it can cause a little bit of apprehension at first. For first time home buyers, there are many unknowns and many questions to be asked: what can I afford? What neighborhood should I live in? What will my property taxes look like? Is buying a home a worthwhile investment? These are just some of the thoughts that can happen throughout the home buying process. We’re here to help answer these questions and make sure you feel ready and excited to start your journey to buying the home you’ve always wanted. Here are some ways to take the uncertainty out of home ownership.

#1: Know what you can afford.
Before you start shopping for a home, talk to an experienced lender to find out what you can afford. They will sit down and talk to you about your income, debt or other financial obligations, and any other factors that will provide the information they need to give you a pre-approval letter with the amount that you can spend. Remember, even though you are given a set price, you don’t have to spend to the limit. If you use your full pre-approved amount, your monthly payment will be higher, and you will need to determine if that is something that you are willing to take on.

#2: Ask questions.
There is no doubt about it – the home buying process can be overwhelming at times. There are a lot of different steps involved and stacks of papers that need to be explained and signed. If there is anything along the way that confuses you, don’t ignore it. Ask questions so you can be sure you fully understand what is going on. This will help take some of the uncertainty out of the future for you. Our team has years of experience with real estate transactions and know the inner-workings of the process of buying a home. If there is anything you are unsure of, we are glad to explain it to you.

#3: Be flexible.
When you start shopping for a home, it can easily become an emotional process. You may feel a sense of urgency to purchase a home before interest rates climb, which can cause you to feel stress, and when combined with finding a house that you really love, it can be difficult to be flexible. While emotions are good to an extent, it’s important to factor a sense of flexibility into the process, too. Understand that you may not get the first home that you fall in love with, and you may need to be flexible in marching onward to find a different house. Talk to us about your feelings along the way and we can help keep reality at the forefront of your home search.

Buying a home is an exciting time. Not only does it mean you get to make an investment that will likely reap great rewards for your future, but it will also allow you to find a place that you can put down roots and enjoy for many years to come. If you are ready to set out on the path toward home ownership, contact us today to get started!

Posted on February 4, 2019 at 6:11 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ways to Increase Your Down Payment

If you have decided to make the leap into home ownership, chances are, you’re thinking a lot about your down payment and what you will need to have saved for it. When you look at the funding needed and break it down into small pieces to see what actions you can take to increase it, you will likely be able to save more than you initially thought. Here are some helpful ways that can help you bulk up your down payment amount.

Know what you need.
Oftentimes, people hear that you’ll need a 20% or higher down payment, but there are other options that allow you to put less down. Lenders don’t generally require 20% down, but rather can structure your down payment to meet your needs, considering that if you put less down, you’ll have a higher payment—both in principal and interest, as well as potential mortgage insurance which protects the lender if you default on the loan at any time. When it comes time to talk to a mortgage professional about your down payment, talk to them about low down payment options that could include FHA loans or VA loans for eligible veterans or active duty military. Most lenders will be happy to sit down and help you look at the info for your total down payment amount, which can then give you a solid goal.

Get creative with saving.
If you get a raise or a bonus at work, or you get money as a gift from a parent or other family member for a holiday or birthday, don’t spend it and instead put it straight into your down payment fund. If you pay off your car, resist the urge to go out and buy a new one with a monthly payment and instead use that money for your house savings. Another helpful idea is to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account into your savings on the same day each month. This is not only convenient and save you the time of manually entering the transfer, but it may make it a little easier to save, too.

If you’re ready to start a conversation about what it takes to purchase a home, contact me. I’ve been helping clients of all kinds for more than two decades. As a Realtor®, I can help you start the process and can provide tips along the way. I am glad to help you with the information you need to start your adventure.

 

Posted on November 9, 2018 at 4:32 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips | Tagged , , , , , , ,

3 Ways To Improve Equity In Your Home

Buying a home is a dream come true for many people and the longer you live in it, the more opportunity you have to build equity. Equity is the difference between what the home’s market value is versus what you owe on it and with each house payment you make, the more equity you gain. Also as your home’s value starts to increase your equity also grows. If you’re looking for additional ways to improve equity in your home, here are a couple of ideas.

#1: Large down payment.
When you’re ready to buy a home, you can get a head start right at the get-go, by making a large down payment. Putting down 20% or more of the property’s value is a great way to not only add instant equity, but it can also keep your house payment lower and it will also allow you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance each month which doesn’t insure you but rather insures the lender against a possible loss.

#2: Shorter mortgage terms.
It’s very common for homeowners to take out 30-year loans on their home, but if you can swing refinancing your home to a 15-year mortgage, you will be able to pile on the equity and help pay off the loan quicker. Your monthly payments will be higher, but the payoff can be significant when your mortgage is paid off in half of the time. If you can’t swing the refinance to a 15-year mortgage, consider paying a little more on the principal of your loan with your payment each month or make one or two extra payments a year and apply it toward the principal. This can help you pay off the loan sooner and will help bolster equity over time.

#3: Home renovations.
There are some remodeling and home improvement projects that can help increase the value of your home and boost the equity. Replacing windows and doors, adding attic insulation, and completing a kitchen or bathroom remodel can all help with increased property value and greater home equity. There are certain home projects that do not add as much value. If you’re not sure, I’m glad to provide advice on which to-dos reap the most return.

If you’re ready to explore the option of buying or selling a home, contact me. I’ve been helping clients of all kinds for more than two decades. As a Realtor®, I can help you start the process and can provide tips along the way. I am glad to help you with the information you need to start your adventure.

 

Posted on October 22, 2018 at 8:37 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Home Maintenance, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Things That Make a Great Neighborhood

When it comes to buying a home, finding one in the right neighborhood is one of the most important considerations to keep in mind. Living in the area you want, in the home you want is the recipe for being a satisfied home buyer, giving you what it takes to live there for many years to come. Here are three main factors that make a great neighborhood.

#1: Schools.
Even for people that do not have kids in the school system, it’s important to know what your neighborhood schools are like. Quality schools ensure that good families want to move to that specific area, which will help increase the value of your property. Southwest Washington public schools are among some of the best in the state. Each school district employs high-ranking, award winning teachers, administrators, and support staff. Our primary districts are:

  • Vancouver School District
  • Battle Ground School District
  • Camas School District
  • Washougal School District
  • Evergreen School District
  • Ridgefield School District
  • La Center School District

#2: Accessibility.
Whether you’re a city person or someone who wants to be surrounded by forested areas in the country, making sure your home is accessible to the things you want is key. Research what places are nearby for public transportation, grocery stores, restaurants, activities, or hospitals. Consider what parks and other green spaces are around and factor in how long you will need to commute to work in your new neighborhood. If you telecommute, be sure you know how you’ll get that done in your new location. All of these are important questions to figure out answers to, so you can be sure you’re spending time at home rather than in your car traveling a long way to the places you need to be.

#3: Pride in ownership.
When you find a neighborhood that demonstrates pride in ownership, it’s obvious. Residents that keep their homes and yards maintained well will generally also value in the neighborhood and the neighbors they meet. A great neighborhood has neighbors that look out for each other, bringing them together for the betterment of the neighborhood as a whole.

If you want to explore the option of buying a home, contact me. I’ve been helping customers of all kinds for more than two decades. As a Realtor®, I can help you start the process and can provide tips along the way. I am glad to help you with the information you need to start your adventure.

Posted on October 9, 2018 at 8:08 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How your credit score affects your mortgage

If you are considering stepping into the housing market to purchase a home, chances are, you are doing some research on mortgage rates and what it takes to obtain a home loan. Figuring out what the mortgage rates are right now and figuring out how you can get the lowest rate possible is an important part of the home purchasing process. There are several things that determine what your mortgage rate is and your credit score is one of the primary things that lenders will look for before they loan you money.

What is a FICO credit score?
This is a credit score that is determined by FICO, a company specializing in predictive analytics, which is used to analyze and predict future happenings. For credit scores, the company uses a variety of credit information to develop scores that will help lenders predict consumer behavior, including how likely it is for the person to pay bills on time and if they are able to handle a large mortgage or credit line. Your credit score is based on several factors including your payment history for all accounts, the amount of debt you currently have, how long you’ve been using credit, and what types of credit you use.

There are several minimum requirements to receive a credit score, including at least one credit account opened for at least six months. If you have a poor credit score, there are several things you can do to help improve it. First, bring active past due accounts current and keep on top of paying things on time. Keep credit card balances as low as possible and limit your applications for new revolving debt such as credit cards. (1)

Can you get a mortgage with a low credit score?
You can generally obtain a mortgage if your credit score is poor, but keep in mind that you may not get the lowest rate available.  However, if your score is below 580, it may be difficult to get a loan approved. The higher credit score you have, the more likely you are to get a lower mortgage rate. Raising your credit score even by 20 points or so can really help in getting a better rate.  For some people it’s best to wait to buy a home and improve your score and work on financial planning before you apply for a home loan.

A home purchase is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make in your lifetime. Maintaining good credit, paying your bills on time and managing your overall finances with responsibility are all important things to have figured out before you take on a large home loan.

When you’re ready to take the leap to home ownership, I have more than two decades of experience as a Realtor® and can help you start the process of looking for a new home and can provide tips on the whole process. I love working with people around Clark County and am glad to help you with the information you need to start your adventure.

  1. American Reporting Company. FICO Source Overview. Accessed via Lynn Posselt, Penrith Home Loans, NMLS#41393.
Posted on July 25, 2018 at 5:21 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ways to Build Home Equity

Image result for home equity

Buying a home is arguably one of the largest investments you will ever make. Home ownership is a great way to build your personal wealth and one of the primary ways to do that is by allowing it to appreciate and build equity. Here are some great ways to build home equity while keeping your budget in mind.

#1: Before buying your home, save for a larger down payment.
Saving for a down payment on your home is key, but the larger your down payment is, the less your mortgage is, which could help when the market increases, and you begin building equity. The tradeoff: if you wait too long to save for a larger down payment, you may miss your window in getting the home you really want for the price you can really afford. A good lender can provide the information you need.

#2: Stay in your home.
Once you’ve found your dream home, stay put for a while. The longer you stay in your home, the more likely you’ll build equity. As the real estate market continues to rise, your equity will improve naturally, and you won’t have to do anything except enjoy your home.

#3: Keep your home maintained well.
Don’t neglect home maintenance. Keep on top of small maintenance tasks to keep the list from getting long and out of hand. For example, make sure you tend to your roof yearly, checking it for leaks or ripped shingles, schedule annual heating and cooling system preventative maintenance appointments, and keep your yard and landscaping trimmed and managed. A home that is well taken care of not only makes it better for you to live in, but it also adds curb appeal, makes your neighbors happy, and will help your home stay competitive, thereby enhancing your equity.

#4: Make extra payments.
A lot of people choose to cut their loan term to 15 years rather than 30 years, to pay off their mortgage debt. Rather than taking a 15-year loan which locks you into a higher payment, make a couple of extra payments a year that is designated to principal, not an upcoming payment. By doing this, you’ll be able to cut your mortgage term down significantly and you’ll be able to build equity faster.

Ready to start on your path to building home equity?  I have more than two decades of experience as a Realtor® and can help you start the process of looking for a new home and can provide tips on what you can do to help increase the value of your home! I love working with people around Clark County, so contact me to help you with the information you need to start your adventure in either buying or selling a home.

Posted on July 10, 2018 at 7:25 am
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Day In The Life of a Realtor

Realtors have a busy job that sometimes looks different from one day to the next. In addition to staying on top of what current real estate regulations and trends are happening within their sphere of work, real estate agents have a multitude of other tasks that come with the job of helping people through the process of buying and/or selling homes. For me, these tasks are part of what makes my job fun, and the different things that transpire week after week, are what keeps things interesting and exciting. Here’s a snapshot of what my days as a realtor looks like.

#1: Driving by homes.
I know that my clients are on the hunt for the right home, so I am on the lookout for homes that could work for active buyers that are in the market for their next space to call home.  Having an idea of what each client wants means that I won’t be bringing them to homes that are clearly not what they want. This saves time for all parties involved!

#2: Handle multiple emails/phone calls.
Aww, the never-ending list of inbox emails and phone messages. A lot of people can relate with this, so I make sure I spend time each day emailing and calling people that have requested assistance. Most of the time, I’m coordinating multiple details regarding showings, closings, offers with clients, escrow, lenders, and more!

#3: Coordinate details for new listings.
Considering selling a house? I work with many people that are not sure if they want to sell yet, so for these people, I work up a Comparative Market Analysis that provides information on recently sold properties in the area. These reports look at houses that are somewhat similar and give real estate professionals an idea of what price a potential client’s home could be listed for.

If you’ve just listed a house, there are a lot of little details that need to come together before it goes “live” to the public. For example, we’ll need to prep for an open house by ordering printed materials and snacks, order a sign for the yard, and put a lockbox on the listing so pictures can happen. These are just some of the things that need to happen before we can start showing the home.

#4: Go over repairs and other mid-sale to-dos.
For clients that have found a home that they’ve put an offer in on, there are often repairs that need to be requested. As a buyer’s agent, to determine a list of reasonable repairs and will advise which items are necessary and which could be left out. As a seller’s agent, I will review and recommend to the seller what the buyers requested, and which ones should be completed.

#5: Coordinate paperwork and financial details.
Once a home is ready to close, there are several pieces of paperwork and other financial details that need to be coordinated. There are often questions on specific terms within the paperwork as well as questions on when things will happen once papers are signed.  Whether it’s leaving a check for the contractor at a pending sale or laying out a schedule before recording for a client who will sign out of town, I work with clients to help make the paperwork process as easy as possible.

My daily responsibilities as a real estate agent require a balance. However, with my two decades of experience and my combined love of meeting with all varieties of clients, real estate is a natural fit for me. Contact me today for information on what it will take to start your adventure in buying or selling a home.

Posted on April 4, 2018 at 6:10 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mortgage Insurance: What Am I Insured Against?

If you’re buying a new house, you’re likely looking at the various terms on your paperwork and have noticed “mortgage insurance” on there. It’s not something that everyone is familiar with, so here is some basic info that can help answer your questions.

What is mortgage insurance?
Mortgage insurance is not a benefit to the home buyer and does not protect them against anything. Actually, it will only protect the mortgage company/bank in the event that the borrower defaults on the loan and doesn’t pay their mortgage. It is required when a borrower puts less than 20% down on the purchase or has less than 20% in equity during the refinance process on a home.

Aaron Hicks, Mortgage Consultant with Homestreet Bank shares that when a borrower is looking to get a mortgage, it can affect the loan approval process. Hicks shares, “It can increase the borrower’s monthly payment, which overall effects a borrower’s debt-to-income qualifications. Mortgage insurance companies require stricter guidelines depending on a borrower’s debt-to-income, credit score, loan to value, and type of property. Sometimes mortgage insurance companies require additional supporting documentation above what the bank may require and/or additional underwriting review.”

What kind of mortgage insurance is there?
Hicks says that there are multiple types of mortgage insurance for conventional loans. There is monthly mortgage insurance, single premium mortgage insurance, or split premium mortgage insurance. There is also lender paid mortgage insurance. For some loans, especially FHA loans, the premium will last for the life of the loan, even when your equity position gets you above the 20% mark. If the homeowner has a conventional financing method, the insurance can be removed once 20% equity in the home is reached. I can do a quick market analysis to determine if borrowers are at the 20% equity mark.  The lender will require a formal appraisal to remove mortgage insurance, which costs $400-$600. So, it is a good idea to verify you’ve reached that point before ‘getting official’ with your request.

Purchasing a home is very involved and requires various steps and attention to detail. Oftentimes, questions and issues will arise, and this is one of the many reasons why it’s critical to work with an experienced Realtor. Whether it’s a question about mortgage insurance or something else entirely, I’m happy to answer your questions and will work with you to help get the answers you need. Contact me for info!

Posted on March 19, 2018 at 10:38 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Q & A with Nancy Johns

I’ve worked in the real estate industry for a long time and I enjoy getting to know people as I work to help them find the best home for their unique needs. Just like I enjoy learning more about people, many of my clients and potential clients want to learn more about me and my specific expertise when it comes to my involvement in real estate. Here, I answer some of the common questions I get about me and my experience.

Q: How long have you been in real estate and how did you get started in it?

A: I got involved in Clark County real estate in 1992 and since 1994, I’ve worked with Windermere.  Before that, I worked in the high-tech industry in marketing management. After transitioning out of that role, I felt like working in real estate was a natural fit for me.

Q: How has your career background helped you with your real estate career?

A: Coming from industries in high tech, I brought experience in management, budgets, and developing complex problem solutions with ‘lots of moving parts’.  All of these have been invaluable as I understand markets, help clients navigate lending and paperwork, and orchestrate all the ‘moving parts’ of every real estate transaction, whether it’s helping people move on from their current home, or helping someone find a home to buy.

Q: How has real estate evolved since you began?
A: The biggest change to Real Estate is technology.  I started when we had a printed book of homes, YIKES!  Thank goodness, now we have much better ways to search for homes, property information and communicate with clients and each other.  Of course, coming from this industry before, I was excited to see the real estate industry evolve.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: Meeting with all varieties of clients is very gratifying. I’ve worked with artists, families, professional musicians, and higher-up company leaders. As a buyer’s agent, each client comes to me with various wish lists and I work closely with them to find what they need. When it comes to selling a home, I use my experience to price your home for a fair sale. Determining the right price from the get-go is important and it can help minimize stress for sellers listing their homes. The combination of these things is what makes the job fresh and rewarding.

Contact me today for information on what it will take to embark on your journey in buying or selling a home.

 

 

Posted on March 8, 2018 at 6:53 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How does my credit score impact my purchasing ability?

If you’ve decided to buy a home this year, you may have some questions about how your credit score will impact your purchase ability. This is a common question for many potential homebuyers, so here, I will discuss some of the primary things that you’ll need to know once you start the homebuying process.

Credit scores and credit reports will affect a borrower’s ability to purchase a home in a few different ways. Credit reports are a footprint that allow banks to review a borrower’s credit history. The information found in these reports will give them the information they need to determine the level or risk they’re taking by loaning money to this person. The higher the credit rating, the lower the risk for the bank. The lower the credit score, the higher the risk for the bank. In addition, remember that your credit score will affect the interest rate of the loan you obtain.

Here are some helpful tips on how to bolster your credit score and secure a good loan on the home of your dreams.

  • Make on-time payments on all borrower accounts
    • Missed or late payments will negatively affect your credit score
  • Satisfy unpaid collections, judgements and tax liens (even if these are medical in nature, it’s ideal to pay them off or settle prior to purchasing a home)
  • Establish a credit history by opening a credit line. We are often taught that credit cards are bad. However, they’re essential for establishing a solid credit rating to borrow future funds. The key is to keep the balance below 30% of the allowed limit, always. It’s ideal to pay the balance off each month as well.
  • Minimize credit iniquities. Too many inquiries can cause credit scores to drop.
  • Don’t close existing revolving trade lines if they’re in good standing. When you close a credit card you lose the on-time payment history which influences your credit rating. (1)

The specific details as to what credit scores are needed to obtain a specific home loan:

– Conventional Mortgage: credit score of 620
– FHA Mortgage: credit score of 580
– Veteran Affairs (VA) Mortgage: While the VA does not have a minimum credit score requirement, Quicken Loans requires a 620 credit score on all VA loans. (2)

The bottom line: the better your credit score, the easier it will be to get a loan for your home. Contact me today for information on what it will take to embark on your journey in buying or selling a home.

 

  1. Information courtesy of: Aaron Hicks, Mortgage Consultant with Homestreet Bank
  2. Information courtesy of: Jevon Domench of Academy Mortgage Corporation
Posted on February 20, 2018 at 5:04 pm
Nancy Johns | Category: Home Buying Tips, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,