THE SECOND STORY | November 12th, 2019

What’s the Difference in Pre-Qualification and Pre-Approval?

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Before looking for a home, you need to know how much you can afford. While you may have a number in your head, the lender has the final say. Securing a pre-approval from a lender helps make the home buying process easier and helps to avoid delays.

Many buyers confuse the terms pre-qualification and pre-approval. They mean two different things. In simple terms, a pre-qualification is an estimate of what you can afford. A pre-approval is a conditional approval based on the proof you provide.

The pre-qualification is a preliminary step some borrowers take to get a feel for what price home they can afford. Based on your income, assets, and estimated credit score, lenders can estimate what you can afford.

It’s important to know, there’s nothing binding about a pre-qualification. It’s simply a starting point. When you are serious about buying a home, though, you want a pre-approval.

Before you shop for a home, meet with a recommended lender to get a pre-approval letter. Sellers and/or Realtors value this letter because it shows you are likely to secure the necessary financing and serious about buying a home.

Lenders meet with you in person to create the pre-approval. You’ll provide the lender with all the following:

  • Permission to order your credit report
  • Paystubs, W-2s and/or tax returns to prove your income
  • Asset statements, investment statements or any other proof of assets
  • Proof of employment
  • Any other miscellaneous documentation required by lender

Lenders evaluate the documents and determine your conditional approval. The letter will state the mortgage amount you qualify for, the loan’s terms, and any conditions the approval is contingent upon.

Normally, final approval is contingent on a fully executed sales contract of the property to be purchased, a satisfactory appraisal and clear title on the property.

Once a purchase contract is signed, the lender completes the underwriting on your loan. They will confirm that the property meets the necessary requirements. The lender will also re-confirm your income, assets, employment, and credit information before closing on the loan.

Securing a pre-approval prior to beginning the home buying process will give you confidence and can help your negotiations with the seller. Your REALTOR® can provide you more information in an Buyers Guide and recommendations of trusted lenders.

THE SECOND STORY | November 7th, 2019

Autumn…. and real estate….and daylight savings…

Autumn is definitely here.

In the autumn…there’s not so much competition and there are ‘for real buyers’ out there and there are ‘for real sellers’ out there.

Many folks think they need to sell when it’s spring or summer (kids are out of school, it’s a good time to make new friends, it’s vacation time).

These days…maybe not so much. There are year-round schools and vacations are divided up into smaller chunks of time (not 3 months: more like a 1 week here, 2 weeks there, a month somewhere else).

My mom thought canned goods were great. I get it…it made life simpler AND she had 4 squirrelly kids. I look at what I’ve got in my kitchen cabinets/drawers…not too much-canned stuff.

I may be on the older side…but we didn’t live on farms and we certainly didn’t harvest any crops. But I certainly appreciate those who harvest our food.

We also didn’t have any local Farmer’s Markets. But now we do! Food is fresher. And the fruits and veggies reflect the actual season that we’re in! Plus, most folks that I know do grow some types of veggies/fruit – especially if they grow food as part of a co-op.

I was remiss this past year. However, I took advantage of my lemon tree/bush (which is mostly year-round) and I shared those Meyer delights with others.

And a couple of years ago I needed to have Sal, my gardener, chop down our apple tree. It was undermining the carriage house concrete floor. And that carriage house was Carl’s domain, with all of his shop/tools/toys turning nothing into something beautiful.

And daylight savings? Um,  I think I like to be in one time zone all year long. None of this changing- clocks around.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Definitions:

MLS=Multiple Listing Service 

AC= active contingent=the buyer needs to sell something before s(he) can complete the transaction. In this instance, another buyer might write a back-up offer. If the primary buyer can’t meet the contract deadlines, it’s bye-bye to the first buyer. And the back-up offer moves into the primary position. Be sure your agent explains all of this to you! You do NOT want to lose your deposit to the Seller.

BOM=back on the market (could be that the buyer had some conditions in the contract that s(he) couldn’t meet in a timely manner.)

PCH= price change (seller either raised or dropped the price)

PSB=pending sale (seller & agent wants backup offers)

Market Stats this week for sold listings

Days on market = 18 high

Days on market = 0 low (2 were off-market listings

Average Days on market = 8

Median Day on market = 8

Buh bye! Maybe see you on Sunday?

best, marilyn

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Broker Tour Tues 10

43 Active (including 1 incl 1 BOM and 1 PCH)

48 Pending (including 6 PSB)

11 Sold 

I’ll be at 1404 Sherman St. (corner of Central and Sherman), this Sunday, holding an open house, 2-4pm! It’s bigger than most houses (1569 sf), and 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths, with an in-unit laundry room, a lovely garden/patio, and a 2 car underground parking garage with a 300 sf (per the Seller) storage space! Yep! This is a 4 unit condo project built in 1980! Anderson windows throughout keep it quiet and not hot and not cold, and it has that ‘open concept’ kitchen, dining area, living area. And …Come by and check it out!

best, marilyn

THE SECOND STORY | November 5th, 2019

Buy Your Retirement Home Now

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Maybe you’re not ready to move into it but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take advantage of the present opportunities to acquire the home you want to live in during retirement. The combination of the low mortgage rates, high rental rates, positive cash flows and tax advantages can help you get it paid for by the time you’re ready to move into it.

Your tenant could literally buy your retirement home for you. One idea would be to finance it with a 15-year loan that will have a lower rate than a 30-year loan and it will obviously be paid for in half the time. With every monthly rental check from your tenant, you make the payment on the mortgage which includes a portion that reduces debt and builds equity. Even if you don’t have the home paid for by the time you retire, your equity will be larger.

Consider you sell your current home which could be paid for by then when you are ready to move into this retirement home . Taxpayers can exclude up to $500,000 of tax-free gain for a married couple. That profit could be used to fund your retirement.

Even if you don’t retire to this home, it could be a placeholder to control the costs of the home you do move into. For example, you could buy a home in a destination location now, rent it out and build equity in it until you’re ready to use it as your principal residence. That home would have kept pace with other homes in the area so that you would not be priced out of the market you want to retire to.

With home prices and mortgage rates certain to rise, this may be one of the best decisions you can make. We want to be your personal source of real estate information and we’re committed to helping from purchase to sale and all the years in between.

Contact us if you’d like to talk about the idea or if you need a recommendation of real estate professional in another city.

THE SECOND STORY | October 31st, 2019

Halloween

Here are 3 Winners of the Week for Halloween costumes


This kid was a dinosaur.

This kid came as an outhouse. Genius.

 

This kid was a robot, complete with lights.

 

When the big kids come begging for candy, I always say ‘I’ll give you a trick, and then if you complete it, you’ll get a treat!” I usually say, “I want 5 high-kicking legs” for the girls. And I’ll say to the guys…”I want 10-15 jumping jacks.” It surely makes them work for the treats.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Definitions:

MLS=Multiple Listing Service 

AC= active contingent=the buyer needs to sell something before s(he) can complete the transaction. In this instance, another buyer might write a back-up offer. If the primary buyer can’t meet the contract deadlines, it’s bye-bye to the first buyer. And the back-up offer moves into the primary position. Be sure your agent explains all of this to you! You do NOT want to lose your deposit to the Seller.

BOM=back on the market (could be that the buyer had some conditions in the contract that s(he) couldn’t meet in a timely manner.)

PCH= price change (seller either raised or dropped the price)

PSB=pending sale (seller & agent wants backup offers)

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Broker Tour Tues 8

Active 44   incl 4 PCH

Pending  49 incl 6 PSB

Sold 9

Stats for Sold data this week:

Average Days on Market 14

Highest days on market 27

Lowest days on market 3

Median days on market 13

Alrighty…this says it all! I loved that kid who showed up as an outhouse. 

Questions? Answers? I may not know the answer, but I may have a clue….

best, marilyn

Check out my ‘for fun’ blog

Boomer-Chick-Musings.com

 

THE SECOND STORY | October 29th, 2019

A Good Time to Buy a Home

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You may have noticed that REALTORS® seem to always think now is a good time to buy and they can usually justify it with solid reasoning. While it can be true in general, a good time to buy has more to do with the individual than anything else. There are four things to consider.

It is a good time to buy a home when you have good credit. Since the Great Recession and the housing crisis, lenders have been required to be sure that the borrowers have good credit. This actually benefits not only the lenders but the borrowers because no one wants to buy something that they cannot afford and run the risk of losing it to foreclosure. FHA has the most lenient FICO credit score of 580+. VA requires a little higher at 620 while Fannie Mae guidelines on conventional mortgages require a 700 score.

It is a good time to buy a home when you have a good job that gives you the income to qualify for the mortgage and the likelihood that you’ll continue to be employed in the future. Two years of steady employment in the same industry with no significant gaps is a measure that lenders consider.

Lenders use qualifying ratios to make a determination. The total house payment, principal, interest, taxes and insurance, should not exceed 28% of the borrower’s monthly gross income. Their total monthly debt including the house payment should not exceed 45% of monthly gross income. There is some flexibility in the ratios for the right circumstances.

It is a good time to buy a home when you have the available funds for the down payment and closing costs plus a little cushion for the unexpected. The down payments can range from 0% for VA loans to 3.5% for FHA and 3% to 20% for conventional.

In addition to the down payment, borrowers will have closing costs that can range from 2 to 3.5% depending on the loan type. It is possible for the seller to pay the buyer’s closing costs but it needs to be negotiated in the sales contract. The lender’s underwriter wants borrowers to have cash available for unexpected expenses related to the house and their normal living expenses.

It is a good time to buy a home when you have stability … In addition to employment, stability applies to not moving soon, marital status, children and unanticipated expenses. Market or economic conditions could also affect stability.

So, the answer to the question “is it a good time to buy a home” depends on several things that are relative to the buyer. While it might be a great time to buy for one buyer, it may not be the best time for another buyer.

Make a self-assessment to the best of your knowledge on these issues and then, schedule an appointment for a live interview with a trusted mortgage professional to get their opinion based on what underwriting will look at. Call me at (510) 908-9021 if you’d like a recommendation. After you determine it is a good time to buy a home, it is time to meet with your real estate professional.

THE SECOND STORY | October 24th, 2019

S. Cal and N. Cal there is a difference….

…not about the weather, but how agents do biz.

My go-to property/pest inspector told me about the inspections that he performed last Tuesday morning, before we met at a client’s house.

 

Robert told me that the agent flew up from S.Cal to be present at the inspections, as did her buyers. They wanted to know immediately what was wrong with the house…because they said they needed to remove the inspection contingency, along with other contingencies that day. I believe the property was in the hills somewhere. I believed it was listed for 3 million bucks.

Robert held his ground, saying that while he takes extensive notes..it will take him about 3 days to think about the property, type up his observations, and look at the photos (which he includes in the report).

And remember, Robert is a licensed General Contractor. Few in the property inspection biz have a pest license as well  (WDO – wood destroying organisms).

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that he built his 5000 sf house in Moraga, while doing home/pest inspections).

As he told me this, his thought was that they had ALREADY written an offer and that it was accepted…and now they wanted to get their licks in and knock down the price.

IMHO…a southern California agent has no business writing any offer in N. CA. (and the reverse, as well). The purchase contracts can be different, a title company does the title research, and the escrow company conducts the escrow. Plus, various locations have varying disclosures, rent-control issues, and more.

He was intuitive enough (and had been around the block a few times) to guess what the buyers were trying to do.

So Ms. S. CA….you may be walking your way into a lawsuit. OR you may be walking away from the transaction because the Sellers are being represented by a local agent. Just give a local qualified agent a referral, at leave it at that.

Just thinkin’.

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Definitions:

MLS=Multiple Listing Service 

AC= active contingent=the buyer needs to sell something before s(he) can complete the transaction. In this instance, another buyer might write a back-up offer. If the primary buyer can’t meet the contract deadlines, it’s bye-bye to the first buyer. And the back-up offer moves into the primary position. Be sure your agent explains all of this to you! You do NOT want to lose your deposit to the Seller.

BOM=back on the market (could be that the buyer had some conditions in the contract that s(he) couldn’t meet in a timely manner.)

PCH= price change (seller either raised or dropped the price)

PSB=pending sale (seller & agent wants backup offers)

BrokerTour Tues 9

Active listings 46 incl 5 PCH

Pending listings 45 incl 12 PSB

Sold 16

Stats for Solds this week 

Average Days on Market 104

Lowest Days on Market 4

Average Days on Market 23

Median Days on Market 13

That’s a wrap…call me and allow me to refer you to an agent(s) if you are thinking about moving out of town/area/state! I belong to the RES (Certified Residential Specialist), SRES (Seniors Residential Specialist) and those are comprised of excellent agents to make/give referrals to!

Stay cool!

best, marilyn

Check out my for fun blog….Boomer-Chick-Musings.com

THE SECOND STORY | October 22nd, 2019

Time for a Toilet Upgrade

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Whether it is a cosmetic or a mechanical reason for upgrading a toilet, you may not know all the choices that are involved to choose the right one for your home. The current toilet may have cracks or leaks in the bowl or tank. It could be the aggravation of constant clogging or inefficient flushing. Maybe there is damage in the porcelain bowl or built-up mineral deposits that are clogging the inlet holes or syphon tube.

If frequent repairs have you on a first name basis with the plumber, it may be time to consider replacing the toilet. There are a lot of things to consider and the following list may help you sort through the choices.

  • Round, oval or compact oval … There are two basic shapes of toilets: round and oval. The round bowl requires less space and are less expensive. The oval or elongated tend to be more comfortable but require more space from the wall than round ones. Most manufacturers produce a compact oval model also.
  • One-piece, two-piece and wall hung … Manufacturers make one-piece models that mold the tank and bowl into one unit. These can be a little more expensive, but they take up less space. The two-piece with separate tank and bowl are more common. The wall hung requires less space and make the room look larger, but installation will be more expensive.
  • Height … Standard toilet height is 15 inches. An alternative to the standard is a comfort height which is more like a chair at 17-19 inches tall. This can be an advantage for older and taller people as well as those with a mobility problem.
  • Trapway – The trapway is a channel from the bottom of the bowl to the drainpipe that also keeps gas entering the home from the sewer. While the trapway shows on the outside of most models, there are skirted or concealed models available for a more aesthetic appearance.
  • Single or dual flush … Single flush toilets use the same volume of water each time it is flushed. Dual flush toilets have two options for flushing liquid or solid waste. This gives the user the ability to conserve water when appropriate.
  • Water per flush … In an effort to save water, in 1995 the Department of Energy required toilets to use 1.6 gallons per flush. Since then, California and Georgia, increased the restriction to 1.28 gpf which saves 20% more water.
  • Gravity-feed or pressure assisted – For four hundred years, gravity has been used to move the water through a flushable toilet bowl to eliminate the waste. As water restrictions were added, pressure assisted toilets were introduced to assist the lower volume of water. A sealed cylindrical tank inside the ceramic toilet tank provides the additional pressure. These types of toilets are nosier than conventional flush types.

Once you’ve decided on what features are important, you can shop brands that fit your needs. If you’re curious to what kind of a job it is to install it, there are lots of videos on YouTube that will show you in detail what to expect. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, you’ll understand the process more.

THE SECOND STORY | October 18th, 2019

The natives have claimed their land back….

I took a bit of a working vacation….drove to Newport Beach with my bike on the back of my car. I stayed there for 5 nights. Had some lovely bike rides.

Then I drove to San Diego for a 3-day class to prep for renewing my real estate Broker’s License but stayed in SD for 5 nights. Had nice visits and a bike ride in SD with my son, his wife, and my 2 grandkids.

Then I drove from San Diego to Lodi (that’s a long drive)! Stayed there for 2 nights. Got home on Thurs eve..and now am writing my blogs on Friday eve.

 

Alameda Real Estate this Week

Definitions:

MLS=Multiple Listing Service 

AC= active contingent=the buyer needs to sell something before s(he) can complete the transaction. In this instance, another buyer might write a back-up offer. If the primary buyer can’t meet the contract deadlines, it’s bye-bye to the first buyer. And the back-up offer moves into the primary position. Be sure your agent explains all of this to you! You do NOT want to lose your deposit to the Seller.

BOM=back on the market (could be that the buyer had some conditions in the contract that s(he) couldn’t meet in a timely manner.)

PCH= price change (seller either raised or dropped the price)

PSB=pending sale (seller & agent wants backup offers)

Broker Tour Tues 12

Active listings 51 including 1 BOM ad 5 PCH

Pending 9 including 3 PSB

Sold 18

Text, em, call me if you have questions about this market. Note how many Alameda properties have price reductions this week….that alone tells me about the market.

All good! It’s getting so dark so soon!

best, marilyn

check out my “for fun’ blog….Boomer-Chick-Musings.com

THE SECOND STORY | October 15th, 2019

Interior Condensation Solutions

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Condensation occurs when the air has too much moisture in it which is felt as high humidity. The water deposits on various surfaces that are cooler than the air itself. Several things can contribute to the high humidity such as cooking, dishwashers, clothes dryers, bathing and long showers.

If the home has a crawl space under the floor, inadequate ventilation or insulation can cause moisture in the home. There seems to be a difference of opinions about whether to vent or not vent. First, determine if you are having a problem and then, weigh the options available to find the best solution.

Condensation that forms on windows and other surfaces in your home can cause damage to window trim, frames, drywall, floor coverings and sub-floors as well and the interior framing.

To reduce condensation in a home, the moisture saturating the air needs to be reduced. Just as steam from a shower can fog a mirror, warm air holds more moisture. When the air cools, it releases the moisture. There are other things that can be done to reduce the moisture and the condensation.

  • Adjust humidifier
  • Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans
  • Circulate the air; ceiling fans can help with this
  • Open windows to release warm air
  • Raise temperature
  • Add weather stripping
  • Window insulation kits
  • Storm windows
  • Move plants that release moisture in the air

The average life of a bathroom exhaust fan is about ten years with kitchen fans lasting about fifteen years. Regular cleaning can increase the life of the fans. Bathroom exhaust fans should be vented to the outside and should be run for 15-20 minutes after using the bath or shower to remove the moisture that causes mold and mildew.

Regulating the humidity in a home can protect against damage but it also promotes comfort in the form of breathing, relieving dry skin, sinus problems and sickness in general. Breathing is easier and the air feels more pleasant.

THE SECOND STORY | October 8th, 2019

Selecting an agent

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When a whole lobster was presented at the table of a restaurant, the customer noticed there was only one claw on it. He asked what happened to the lobster and the waiter said, maybe he lost a fight with another lobster. The customer replied to the explanation by saying “then, bring me the winner.”

There are approximately 1.3 million REALTORS® in the U.S. The July 2019 Existing Home Sales annualized about 5.4 million units with a listing side and a selling side that totals 10.8 million transactions. That means that the average number of units sold per agent is 8.

In any given market, 20% of the agents are selling 80% of the homes. 260,000 agents are selling 8,480,000 or an average of 32 transactions sides. Some markets are dominated by 10% of these successful agents selling 90% of the market. If that were the case, 130,000 agents are selling 9,720,000 or an average of 75 transactions sides.

The question you should ask yourself is who do you want representing you in the purchase or sale of the largest asset that most people have? Do you want an average agent, or do you want a powerhouse agent who can provide you the best advice, avoid issues that can cost time, and maximize the results that you expect and deserve?

Finding the right property is listed as the most difficult experienced by buyers (56%), according to the Home Buyers and Sellers Profile, together with the paperwork (20%) and understanding the process and steps (16%) makes these the most important areas of expertise needed when evaluating your agent.

An agent provides valuable services for buyers and sellers during the transaction that can make a difference in finding the “right” home or buyer, negotiating the best terms, and closing on time. The answers to the following questions can help you decide who to work with in your next purchase or sale.

  • Describe your experience in real estate?
  • What are your personal sales stats compared to the market? (For sellers, list price to sales price ratio, days on market; for buyers, average # of houses shown and closure rate)
  • Describe your strategy to accomplish my needs?
  • Do you have references and/or reviews?
  • What makes you different than your competition?
  • Can you help me find the other professionals and vendors?
  • What is your fee and who pays it?

For more information, download the Sellers Guide and Buyers Guide.