More Than a Credit Score

Roberta and Jimmy at home in Kerrville

A Blast from the Past- Kerrville, TX

I was updating my home-buyer’s packet, and I reached out to a knowledgeable lender, James Dowis, of Infinity Mortgage here in Austin, to ask him what I need to tell people to prepare before they go home loan shopping. James, being the ever-helpful person he is, promptly responded with these suggestions:

For all pre-qualifications:

 

  • 2016 & 2015 W-2’s and/or 1099’s.
  • If you are a business owner please provide your 2015 and 2016 K-1’s
  • 2016 & 2015 Filed Personal Tax Returns, all pages and schedules
  • Most current 30 days paystubs
  • Most current 2 months bank statements, including account number, name and address, all pages
  • Copy of your driver’s license
  • Copy of your existing mortgage statement and most recent property insurance bill, if you currently own a home and plan on retaining it

 

When I first talk with the borrower I ask questions including if they have been involved in a foreclosure / bankruptcy /divorce and I alter my document requests to possibly include the following:

 

  • Copy of your divorce decree and child support orders, if applicable
  • Copy of the Trustee Deed from when your foreclosure was finalized
  • Copy of your bankruptcy documentation showing your discharge date

 

For underwriting, we would also need:

 

  • Explanations of large non-payroll deposits.  “Large” typically means 25% or more of gross monthly income.
  • Transaction log from bank statement showing the earnest money check was cashed.

 

All deals, every one, require different documents based on the unique scenarios.  If gift funds are received we need documentation on that.  If the borrower is married but the spouse will not be on the loan there are documents needed for that.  So, we collect the basic items, review them along with the application and then ask for the remaining items.

I hope this helps you buyers out there on this “Mathematical Monday”. Thanks, James!

 

If You Really Want to Move Now, “Price It Right”

I’m looking at the March 2017 Austin Board of Realtors Market Report from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University this morning. Focusing on the zip code 78620, which is the Dripping Springs area. Because A&M is using the Austin Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service data, I can look at any zip code I want to in the central Texas counties. If you want different area stats from the ones here, just ask me.

In the existing homes category, there are 2.8 months of inventory. Because a market considered ‘balanced’ in which there are about as many people wanting to sell homes as people wanting to buy homes is about 6 months of inventory, we are clearly still in a seller’s market overall. There are more people who want to buy homes than people who want to sell homes.

OK, class, what does this do to price? Yes, that’s right… the market forces keep the prices up. Existing homes are in demand.

Here’s something interesting: the new builds have an inventory of 9.3 months in this zip code. Also, the average selling price of existing homes is $482,145 vs. $430,550 for new homes.

In no category of home; single-family, townhouse, condominium, both new and existing, does the selling price average equal 100% of the listing price average. The ratio is hovering around 94%-95%. On average, sellers are not getting their full asking price for their houses.

However, if you are clever, you will find a REALTOR® who looks at the statistics for your particular neighborhood or area and finds out what the hyper-local market is doing. Amenities, features, well-considered upgrades, location, and landscaping are all factors! With this knowledge you’ll have a better idea of how to price your house.

Remember, the aggregate of buyers who are looking for your type of home, in your price range, in your market is what determines the likely selling price of your home. And, in turn, the aggregate of buyers is influenced by all kinds of forces, from financial, to emotions about the economy and government, to work opportunities, to weather patterns to local government policies and private sector opportunities. And so on.

To put it a different way, if you want to sell your home in this ‘buyer’s market’, it is best not to get too cocky and think that you can pick your own price. I have watched homes sit on the market for weeks and months without very many showings and zero offers. Why? Price per square foot that looks reasonable for the neighborhood and amenities that look good on paper, BUT the fixtures and finishes are dated, or the layout that was suitable for the wants and needs of a family in 1985 is no longer relevant or desirable, or the amenities are not as glam as a typical buyer in 2017 expects to see. In short, a home that was pretty wonderful 30+ years ago has lost its edge and must be priced to attract a smaller set of real buyers. (Real buyers are the set of people who would REALly buy your home.) This is not personal. This is business!

When you price your home too high for what price the market puts on it, you are selling the home down the street, or around the corner, that IS priced right for its market. Buyers see both homes and immediately realize which is the better bargain. And it’s not yours.

By the way, when you and I interview each other about selling your home, I will ask you what you know about any homes that have sold off market around you. That would be homes that have sold by the owner without ever being on the MLS, and homes that were going to go on the MLS, but the owner accepted an offer from a buyer before the MSL thing happened. Having this information helps me to help you price your home right for your hyper-local market.

2011 04 20 002

 

Cost-savings for Borrowers

I love sending my home buyers who are planning to borrow to an in-person local lender. I love the personal touch. However, in the world of online everything, I do have a great online option for my homebuyers: Keller Mortgage. Keller Mortgage is new, and our Southwest Market Center has been the testing ground. It is licensed only in Texas right now, but will soon expand. The first loans have been closed speedily, with rates equal to, or better than, competitors’ rates.

Keller Mortgage is partnered with Keller Williams agents as a way of producing a product for our clients that is more than competitive. The business model is based on the best of the traditional lender model (talking with actual people) and the best of the internet model (very low brick-and-mortar costs because the loan center is all in one place), plus an advantage of no advertising and marketing costs. This means that Keller Mortgage is able to charge the borrower no fees AND the borrower gets a credit of $1000, which can save the borrower several thousand dollars on a closing. Other lenders may do something similar, but then raise the interest rate on the loan to make up the difference. The Keller Mortgage business model is based on a large volume of loans from the clients of its many agents, as well as the re-sale of the loans after they are closed.

Keller Mortgage is offering other advantages, too, including starting the appraisal process as soon as the home-buying contract is signed. If you decide not to buy the house during your option period, you do not pay the $450 or so for the appraisal; Keller Mortgage does. Also, you can be underwritten for the loan even before a home buying contract is signed, saving you time in the trip through the closing process. (In multiple offers, this can look good to a seller whose home you are hoping to buy!) You can be underwritten in 24 hours from the time you get all the requested documents to the lender.

I have installed the Keller Mortgage app on my phone and I can use it to help you compare rates to make a decision about which lender you are most comfortable using. If I list your home to sell it, a potential buyer using Keller Mortgage for a home loan could financially make the difference for that buyer between being able to buy at your price point or not. It is certainly something to think about.

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AJ Berzsenyi of KW Mortgage explaining the company’s value for clients

Ideas For Getting Into the Home-buying Market

Hello, First-time Home-shoppers, Parents of First-Time Home-shoppers, and Friends of People Who Don’t Have a Lot of Money to Spend!

On Friday, I met with a lender for Guild Mortgage, Joani Wilson, and she gave me the run-down of Austin-specific programs and area loan types that benefit people who are figuring out how to buy a home in the hot Central Texas market.

Joani Wilson and her borrower booklet

A USDA loan (United States Department of Agriculture) has income requirements on the borrower, as well as property location requirements. This is a loan oriented toward middle-income borrowers. USDA loans are meant to keep rural areas developed and thriving, so that is why there is a property location requirement. The maps on the USDA website linked above will be your first stop to see if a property qualifies for this type of loan. 100% financing is available and the seller is allowed to contribute up to 6% of the amount of the loan toward closing costs, so a buyer could make the purchase with virtually no money up front.

There are also various down-payment assistance programs in the area, so it is possible to get into a home using various FHA (Federal Housing Administration), VA (Veteran’s Administration) , and even conventional loans coupled with the DPA program.

Down payment assistance in Austin

Hill Country Home Down Payment Assistance Program for any area in Travis County

From the website:

  • Per FHA guidelines, all homebuyers qualifying for down payment assistance with credit score of 660 or higher will receive 4% of the original loan amount to be used for down payment and closing costs, which includes lender compensation of a 1.5% origination fee.
  • Per FHA guidelines, all homebuyers qualifying for down payment assistance with credit score ranging between 640 and 659 will receive 5% of the original loan amount to be used for down payment and closing costs, which includes lender compensation of a 1.5% origination fee.
  • The origination fee can be paid by the borrower or the seller.
  • This assistance is a gift/grant and does not require repayment at any time.

Southeast Texas Housing Finance Corporation (known as “SETH”)

Right now, from the website:

  • Current Rate / Offerings Lock Rate FICO     DPA     Effective Date 
    GOVERNMENT
    Option 1– FHA 5.50% 660 w/6% 3/9
    Option 2a– FHA 5.00% 660 w/5% 12/15
    Option 2b– FHA 640 or 660 w/Manual UnderWriting 640 or 660 w/4%
    Option 2c– FHA w/Manual UW 640-659 w/3%
    Option 3– FHA 4.875% 660 w/4% 4/10
    Option 4a– FHA 4.50% 660 w/3% 4/10
    Option 4b– USDA-RD, VA  640
     CONVENTIONAL-FREDDIE MAC
    Option 5– HFA Advantage 5.125% 640 w/4% 3/22

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs 

I enjoyed visiting with Joani because she is so enthusiastic about her job, and she obviously enjoys figuring out how to get people into homes.

 

 

Interesting Interest

I asked a broker friend what he thought my topic should be for this day, and he suggested that I should re-visit the extreme home loan rates of the 1980’s and 1990’s. I remember those days, so I got excited about the suggestion and here we are.

Interest rates of 20% or more sounds crazy today, but there was a time when it was reality, and we all took notice when someone found a home loan at only 18%. In a nutshell, the cause of such high interest rates was the Fed’s response to mounting inflationary pressures through the 70’s and 80’s. It kept raising the rates at which banks could borrow money, which trickled down to consumer-oriented loan rates.

The economy was not as global then. A global economy tends to keep a lid on prices because there is always someone willing to do the job or make the gizmo for less, somewhere on the planet. A more insular economy means that prices respond to internal national pressures for higher wages and more expensive products. Rising prices mean inflation. The way the Fed cooled down rising prices in the 80’s was to put a lid on the economy through making the cost of borrowing money to do business higher.

We haven’t seen the super-high interest rates in decades because, due to the different structure of the economy now, inflation hasn’t been much of a threat.

I found one blog associated with a commercial website that did a great job of explaining the 20th Century history of home loans.

In the early 1900’s, a typical loan structure was 50% down, and a 3-5 year payment on interest only followed by the entire principal due at the end of that time. Needless to say, you had to be pretty wealthy to afford a home.

summer home in walpole
Circa 1915. You needed a lot of cash to build this home!

In the 30’s, because of the Great Depression, there wasn’t much money to loan and not very many people could afford a home loan anyway. The federal government decided that more people should be able to buy homes and that this was a good way to promote the health and welfare of families, thereby promoting the health and welfare of the nation. The government gave birth to the Federal Housing Administration, which gave birth to 30-year mortgages and amortization.

Freese ranch house being built.
Home under construction in about 1940. A home loan was entirely possible by then.

The great story of mortgages and increase in homeownership in the U.S. goes on through the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s in which the government and private institutions invented more ways to make money available to those institutions to lend to consumers. There have been perilous instruments such as ARMS and wraparound loans and subprime mortgages that helped some consumers get and keep the homes of their dreams, but created nightmares for many others who defaulted on their loans.

In times of high inflation, it makes sense to borrow money, even at a high rate of interest, to buy the most expensive house you can because the money you are using to pay back the loan is worth less and less as inflation rises. With the relatively flat rate of inflation we’ve been experiencing for some time, this strategy makes no sense, since you are paying back money that is worth about the same as the money you borrowed in the first place.

So, what’s with our gently rising interest rates now? Compared to the past, the current home loan rates of approximately 4 to 4.25% still seems pretty small, don’t they?

Here are a few more websites that are themselves a few years old that I found helpful in explaining the 1980’s that I still remember.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/what-led-to-the-high-interest/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/the-market/remember-when-what-have-we-learned-from-80s-interest-rates/article24398735/

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2010/03/volcker_recession

And, I can’t recommend enough this easy read on the modern history of home loans:

http://bebusinessed.com/history/history-of-mortgages/

New Numbers

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Another happy buyer client. “I love my new back yard with all the sunshine and grass! Thank you, Lynn, for helping my human and me find our beautiful new home.”

The clients of Austin Metrostudy are builders and related industries. “Our survey team drives over 8,500 miles and over 1,000 subdivisions every 90 days to provide you with the valuable information you need on future lots, vacant developed lots, homes under construction, and homes that have been completed.”

A representative of the company made a presentation to a group of REALTORS® on Friday and I will give you a brief report from the 5-county Austin area, and the Dripping Springs/Driftwood area, in particular.

Overall job growth in the Austin area has fallen from 45,000 new jobs/year created in 2015 to 30,000 new jobs/year created currently. However, with growth of 30K annually, it is still a hot job market and demand for homes is up with available inventory down. What does this mean? Rising home prices and a real affordability issue for the City of Austin. For the home-buying population in general, the good news is that annual salaries in the Austin area are $20,000 higher than other parts of the country.

New home builders have caught on to the affordability issue and, not wanting to leave any part of the home-buying field fallow, they are building less-expensive homes in the following ways: the homes are being built on smaller lots to reduce the price of land being used per house; some homes have fewer bells and whistles to make construction less expensive; and subdivisions are being developed farther from the city center where the land is cheaper for the developer to buy.

Builders are now experiencing a decided downturn in available workers, so a new house is taking longer to build, including most custom homes. There are fewer workers available to do the same amount of work.

There are certain pockets that have unique building situations, and my home area, Dripping Springs, is one. The land is hilly, so it is naturally more expensive to build on than flat farming lots are. Also, if you recall from my post about septic systems, neighborhoods in this area need to have their own sewage treatment plant, or each home must have extra acreage to accommodate an individual septic system. More land per home= higher price per home. The other unique aspect of the Dripping Springs area is that it is scenic; many lots have expansive views, which, of course, drives up the home prices.

The observed numbers for 2016, fourth quarter are: 473 new home started, and 378 homes sold/transactions closed. There are 2.9 months of inventory in the area (6 months or so is considered a balanced market, with about the same number of homes on the market as buyers looking for a home.). The number of vacant developed lots (the ‘hood has streets and utilities in place) is equal to a 32.8 month supply. There were 741 new lots in 2016, with 8000 future new lots on the books. 1000 of those have streets in, or excavation has started. The average base price for a new home in the Dripping Springs area is $458,000, and this number has not risen recently.

love to keep track of new homes in this area, whether they are truly luxurious, or less expensive, but thoughtfully planned. One new subdivision with prices well below average is easily in walking distance from the business area of Dripping Springs, as well as from an established historic park. Also, see my post on the truly custom homes in Driftwood.