Archive for the ‘Buyer Assistance’ Category

Tales of a Home Buyer – part 4

May 26, 2011

Written by Shawn DeVries

After getting the purchase agreement signed I again pulled the needed documents for my Loan Officer.  (Yes, all 4,000 pages because 3 months had passed and updated information was needed.  We really do understand what buyers are feeling.) My information was entered into that program again that analyzes the data and based on preset criteria makes a decision on whether or not to approve my loan.  This “little” program can really freak you out sometimes, and all for no apparent reason.  

Ironically the same feelings can occur when you are refinancing your home.  These transactions are big deals and are a significant portion of your personal financial status.  It is no surprise that a borrower will feel some angst that is in direct proportion to their emotional investment to the home.  Highly emotional people will be highly invested into the process.  (I would like to say at this point that in case you have not guessed, I am a passionate person.  My mom will probably describe me in other words, but let’s not get her anymore involved than she already is, okay?)  Fortunately, these results came back just fine too on my loan.   

The next part was to develop my case in order for my Loan Officer to submit my file to an underwriter.  At this point in the home buying process your lender has gotten to know you fairly well.  They understand your financial situation and know what your goals and dreams are.  At least your lender should want this home for you as badly as you do.  If not, find out why.  The underwriter however does not know you.  All they have in front of them are numbers to compare and analyze.  The documents you submit need to tell your story for you.  Share what you need to support their decision so they see you as a low credit risk. 

Shortly after my offer was accepted and the paperwork fun began, I had a full inspection of the home done.  I was relieved to know there were no major issues to resolve or problems to fix.  For a home that was over 45 years old it was in amazing condition.  Getting an inspection is a crucial step in buying a home.  You want an expert without emotional ties to give you an unbiased opinion of what you are buying.  Follow them on the inspection.  Look at what they are looking at, poke where they poke and ask lots of questions.  A good inspector will tell you what needs attention and what is good with the house.  They should be able to also tell you how serious an issue is.  Telling you your furnace is getting old isn’t very helpful.  Letting you know the average life expectancy of a furnace and verifying the age of your unit is helpful.  Letting you know where your unit is beginning to show signs of wear is also beneficial.  Take good notes while on the inspection, but also get their findings and recommendations in writing.

Title work is another major piece in the process.  The title agent confirms that there are no liens against the property that would prevent the house from being sold.  It also confirms who the rightful owner(s) currently is (are), that property taxes are current, and prepares the paperwork so that there is a smooth transfer of ownership (among many other steps).  Title agents are also a great partner to have when buying a home from a trust (like I did), out of a foreclosure or short sale or any other transaction that may involve a bit more documentation.

The third significant step that happens at this point is having your home appraised.  Your lender wants to know the true market value of the home you are buying.  This doesn’t mean they are checking on how well you negotiated and if you got a good deal.  They are looking to protect their investment in you.  This house will be the collateral on the loan.  A lender does not want to lend more than what the property is worth.

After a slow start in finding my dream home, the loan process went very smoothly.  Supporting financial documents?  Check.  Good inspection?  Check.  Appropriately appraised home?  Check.  Title clear and without liens?  Check and check again.

Tales of a Home Buyer – part 3

May 20, 2011

Written by Shawn DeVries

Not long after, that call did come.  A friend of a family member was selling her parent’s home and was looking to her contacts first for potential buyers.  Fortunately, besides just looking online and in papers, I had told my family and friends that I was shopping for a house.  I also told them what I was looking for and to keep their eyes open for me.  When those big steps in life come up, it is important to enlist the help of those who know you best.

The sellers were selling the property by themselves without a realtor. (A For Sale By Owner.)  Had I not been employed by a lender I probably would not have considered this prospect.  I wondered how much experience they had in selling a home.  I wondered if they had any help lined up to handle this transaction. Yet, while I had some serious concerns I also figured that at this point I was only looking at the place.  So off I went. 

Remember that houses have personalities all their own?  This one was warm and inviting.  This place had character and charm.  This house could easily become my home.  I let them know I was interested but left myself an out.  With spring break coming I would be out of town.  So we made arrangements to talk again after my vacation and that if any other offers came in they would call me to see if I really wanted the place.

During my vacation I could not get that house out of my mind.  By the time my short hiatus was done, I had the place re-carpeted with new laminate flooring, fresh paint and my furniture all neatly placed inside.  This was all in my head of course, but I was hooked.  Again we set an appointment to meet and I made them an offer.  While they remained cool and asked for time to deliberate I was given a good feeling when I left. 

They called first thing the next morning to ask where to fax the signed agreement.  I was screaming with excitement!  I had found a house.  (I was actually screaming inside since I was at work, but I was still really, really excited.)  Now the real work began.

Tales of a Home Buyer – part 2

May 17, 2011

Written by Shawn DeVries

From all I have read and been told this was my market.  Houses are in large supply, foreclosures are around every corner, prices have come way down; I would have a huge selection to choose from.  Or so I thought.  While there were plenty of homes on the market, not all of them fit my criteria or needs. 

Now let me stop just a moment and say that there is a significant difference between needs and wants when buying a home.  I may want something from the pages of Better Homes & Gardens, but I need a roof over my head that won’t fall over at the slightest breeze.  I may want a master suite with garden tub and walk-in closet, but what I need are three bedrooms and toilet that won’t leak.  You understand.  Dream about that perfect house and go for it, but make sure your dreams align with reality.

Ok, so off I went to start shopping, real shopping.  Up until now I had been just window shopping – looking on line, driving through neighborhoods, leafing through the newspaper.  Now was my time to go inside the houses and really take a good look.  I was crushed!  I was looking at mostly foreclosure homes and expected some dirt and debris in these vacant places.  What I found was absolute filth, half-completed and poorly constructed projects, and plain shock as I wondered how anyone could live this way.  Didn’t their mother ever show them a broom?!  What were these banks thinking in even listing a house in this condition?  These were not just small projects to make a house my home.  I was looking at major repairs perfect for the HGTV shows like “Over Your Head” and “DIY Disasters” where some poor home owner has bitten off way more than they could chew.  Uuugh!

However I was determined.  (Remember I am living with my parents so being a motivated buyer doesn’t even come close to describing my drive to get this accomplished.)  As I looked, I started to expand my criteria; and searching online makes this process very simple to do.   In adding condos to my list of options, I soon found one that seemed to fit.  I made an appointment to see the property and fell in love.  While I would need to make some slight modifications, it would work for me.  Best of all, I could actually picture myself in the place. 

It sounds a little odd to say, but houses (and condos) really do have personalities.  When you walk into a place for the first time there’s a certain feeling that you receive.  Some places feel cold and sterile, others warm and inviting.  There are properties that exude formality and structure, and others that say this place knows how to throw a good party.  This condo seemed to work for me.  So I wrote an offer. 

My offer was admittedly low.  However, being in the industry I knew about some limitations some lenders have on properties being flipped as this one was.  So I made my offer supported with documentation and waited to see what would happen.  The wait, while only a few hours, was excruciating.  What are they thinking?  Do they understand my offer?  Can they see that I am a good buyer?  Why would they not accept my offer?  Are there other offers being considered? 

The answer came back swiftly with a simple, “pass”.  The response felt like a sucker punch to the gut.  But why?!  This makes perfect sense to me.  What’s your problem anyway Bub?!  Regardless of my feelings, this place was not the one I would eventually call home.  So my search continued.

I found another condo in the development that offered a bit more of what I wanted on my wish list, and another offer was made.  This offer felt different.  I was more guarded to the response.  I was hopeful, but prepared for a “no”.  I liked this place too, but was not nearly so in love with it.  Maybe I was preparing myself for rejection yet again.  Maybe I was starting to get desperate.  I hoped not.  The offer came back.  Again it was declined, but at least this rejection offered a rationale.  Another offer had been submitted earlier in the day and the seller had already accepted that offer.

At this point, I was beginning to doubt of whether my dream of home ownership would ever come true.  Where was the place I would call home?  Whoever had it, needed to call me…soon.

Tales of a Home Buyer – part 1

May 11, 2011

Written by Shawn DeVries

Let me start by saying that this was not my first time.  Not only have I purchased a home before, but I have obviously been on the selling side of the process.  I have experienced a refinance and even rented for a period in my life.  I now work in the lending industry and know the process of buying a home and what to expect.  Yet, I still experienced the same stress, fear, anxiety, worry, excitement, joy, anticipation and ultimate relief that every other home buyer and owner experiences when going through this process.  My emotional range may have something to do with me doing this as a single buyer this time, but I felt it all just the same.

If you are considering purchasing a home, you may wonder just what this journey is all about.  I thought you might like to know.  If you fully understand this process please don’t disregard this series, for I know you will find warm memories and at the very least some great humor as I relate my story to you.

My story really begins nearly three years ago.  After a divorce I relocated back home to start my life over again.  Let me set the stage very clearly by adding that “moving home” was taken quite literally by moving back into my parent’s house.  Oh yeah, I did it.  God bless my parents, for despite their honest intentions and good will, I really don’t think either of us knew what this would all entail.  Most of my belongings were packed into storage with the remaining pieces finding basement corners and emptied closets.  I was prepared for this journey to start over to take some time, but not quite this much time.  Let the fun begin.  Oh, did I mention I have two children in tow?  (I told you my story would have humor.  Ha!)

Fast forward now through the past three years as I find a new career, pay off debt, and save some money all in preparation of buying my own home.  When January of this year finally came, I was ready to go home shopping!  I thought this day would never come.  I knew to take care of my credit over this time and felt it was in great shape.  I had money set aside for the down payment, plus some for reserves.  I had crunched the numbers and knew not only what I could afford, but what I wanted to afford.  Yes, I am a little anal about details sometimes, but I was preparing to buy a home and I wanted no surprises.

Knowing that the first step in buying a home is to get pre-approved I started by gathering my documents (yes all seemingly 4,000 of them) and verifying the information (just short of the blood work) for my Loan Officer as he prepared to pull my credit report.  Despite having a good clue of what to expect, that 15 seconds between him hitting “submit” and seeing the actual report can feel like eternity.  What are my scores?  Did I really behave?  Will that oops from 5 years ago show up now?  What surprises will he find?  Oh please, oh please let my score be above that golden 640 so that I can shop for a house.  See?  Even people who work for lenders have real emotions and understand the angst our clients endure.

Well the report appeared.  Great scores, good behavior paid off, no glaring marks, no surprises, and above the benchmark score needed.  Whew!  My information was then entered into a program that analyzes the data and based on preset criteria makes a decision on whether or not I could be approved for a loan.  However to the borrower the answers feel like: go away you are only kidding yourself; we had better have someone else take a look at this because we’re not so sure; or yeah, we can do that… provided nothing weird happens.  I was relieved to learn that my information was approved.  My pre-approval was then written and off I went to find my house.  This would be a snap.

Repair Escrows – a nice solution

December 8, 2010

What is a repair escrow and why would you need one?

When purchasing a home there are certain expectations and requirements for living conditions that must be met.  Most of these requirements address the overall health and safety of the home.  Different loan programs have different standards.  For example, homes purchased through an FHA or Rural Development program require that any and all health and safety repairs be completed prior to closing on the home.  If you are purchasing a home from a private party this can usually be negotiated, scheduled and resolved before the closing date. 

However, making repairs before the closing date can sometimes create a challenge.  For example, repairing brick work on a home can be a bit of a challenge with a foot of snow on the ground.  A repair escrow can easily resolve this challenge; and most lenders offer this option. 

However, a larger challenge can occur with the purchase of a foreclosure home.  With a foreclosure sale the seller is an institution who most likely has never seen the property.  For liability reasons, the seller does not allow access to the property for repairs to be completed prior to closing.  Plus you may not want to make repairs on a home you do not own yet.  Awareness Home Funding is a unique lender that offers you a repair escrow in this situation also.

A repair escrow is a temporary account with funds specifically set aside to pay for any required repairs that a licensed inspector has deemed necessary, and that must be completed within a certain timeframe.

How does it work?

When an appraisal is done on a home, the appraiser will include repairs that will need to be corrected.  Since the appraiser is not an inspector, he may require an inspection be done for certain areas, i.e., roof, electrical, etc.  The inspector will give a detailed report of the problem(s) that will need to be corrected.

Once you have this list of repairs, 2-3 quotes from a licensed contractor must be obtained for each area of expertise (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, general contracting).  The estimated cost of the repairs will determine the amount needed to set up your repair escrow.

An agreement will be drafted to be signed at close.  Funds for the repair escrow will be part of your cash-to-close.  Repairs must be completed within 30 days from your closing date, unless otherwise noted in the agreement.

What happens next?

After you have closed on your home the next step is to start on the repairs.  There may be repairs that are minimal that you can correct yourself, such as scraping and painting, replacing outlet covers, etc.  Please note:  any repairs that do not pass re-inspection will have to be repaired again, which can cost you more money.  It is always best to hire a licensed professional for any repairs that you are not completely familiar with and know how to handle.

Once all the repairs have been completed, contact your Home Loan Specialist at Awareness Home Funding.  We will request a re-inspection of the work required.  You will need to submit any invoices that are to be paid, which will be forwarded to Polaris Home Funding for payment.  Once Polaris has received the approved re-inspection report, invoices will be paid within three to five business days.  Any funds left over from the repair escrow account will be returned.

Additional Factors

  • There is a maximum limit on repairs of $5,000.
  • Individual bids or a combination of bids for different repairs totaling more than $5,000 are considered major structural and must be completed prior to the closing of the loan.
  • Roof “repair” is acceptable, but roof “replacement” is considered major structural and will not be allowed.

 If you have additional questions on repair escrows or any other home loan question, please contact us at Awareness Home Funding.  We are here to help you.

First-time Home Buyers Still have Options

May 13, 2010

The home buyer’s tax credit program has ended.  While many were able to take advantage of the savings; we also know that many more did not.  Perhaps the timing of the program didn’t fit with your current financial picture.  Do you feel left out and like the opportunity to buy your dream home is gone for good?  While this particular program may be over, what if something else existed to help?  Wouldn’t you want to know?  Fortunately one does!

The Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program is a Federal tax credit on the mortgage interest you pay on your home loan over a calendar year.  It effectively reduces the annual interest rate on your loan. 

This is not a limited life program or something offered for just a set period of time.  The MCC credit remains in effect for as long as your home continues to be your primary residence and the original mortgage loan remains in place.  Only if you refinance your home loan, sell your home or purchase a second home that becomes your primary residence, will the credit end.  Plus in select targeted areas you do not need to be a first-time home buyer to qualify.

Unfortunately this program is not offered in all states.  In the 5 states we currently do business only Michigan and Indiana offer the MCC program.  (This would be a great question to ask your state senators and representatives about if your state does not offer this program.)  Even more amazing though is that not all lenders participate in this program.  Awareness Home Funding does and will continue to do so for every state we conduct business in when available.   

If you are looking to purchase a home, now or in the future, ask us about the MCC program.  We are very familiar with how the program works and more importantly, how it can work for you.

No Time like the Present

March 1, 2010

There are many things in life where timing matters.  In order to gain the benefits involved, we need to take action within a specific timeframe or the opportunity is gone.   You could be the one who finds out a little too late that you missed the opportunity to recoup some significant money.  The offer referred to here is the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit, and the amount of savings involved could be as much as $8,000.  If you are thinking of buying a new home this spring, your opportunity to act is now

This incentive program has been making headlines and front stories for some time, but perhaps you still wonder if this applies to you.  When the federal government extended the program last fall, they also expanded the criteria to qualify making this a widespread opportunity.  The general guidelines contain two parts: first-time homebuyers and existing homebuyers. 

First-time homebuyers have been traditionally defined as those who have not owned a home in the past three years.  For these buyers, you may be eligible for a tax credit of 10% of the purchase price of your newly acquired home, up to $8,000.  (Consult with a tax professional for specific details on meeting this program’s qualifying criteria.)

One of the most significant additions to the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit program was to extend the credit to existing homeowners.  The general criteria are that you must have lived in the same home as your primary residence for any 5 consecutive years out of the past 8 years.  Existing homeowners purchasing a new primary residence home may also be eligible for a credit of 10% of the purchase price, up to $6,500.  (Again, consult your tax advisor for the exact qualifications of the program.)

The crucial point is to act now.  This program ends April 30, 2010.  Your purchase agreement must be fully executed by both buyer and seller by this date to qualify.  Take the first step to get pre-approved for a home loan by calling 866-982-9273.  We also have a secure on-line application on our website to get you started.  This is one event where being a split second off the timing means the difference between a nice rebate and nothing at all.

The Other Side of the Coin

February 2, 2010

As your parents most likely told you growing up, there are two sides to every coin; and therefore two sides to every story.  On one side we have the home buyer’s tax credit with up to $8,000 available for first-time home buyers and up to $6,500 available for existing home owners.  This has been a great program that has helped many buyers.  Some of our clients have used this to essentially recoup their closing costs.  Others have used this to update or furnish their new homes.  However they are choosing to use the credit, there is money coming their way.

So, what’s the catch?  The other side of this coin is what it takes to actually receive the tax credit.  In mid-January, the Internal Revenue Service released the new Form 5405 for the credit that needs to be included with the buyer’s return.  Along with the form, buyers also need to include proof of residency, the signed HUD-1 statement from the closing, and a copy of their driver’s license.  “Great!” you say.  Not a problem.  However there is one little catch.  Because of this extra documentation, filing electronically will not work – the IRS e-file system is not equipped to handle these pieces.  That means taxpayers with these claims must file a paper return and that means filing via mail.  Filing by mail means it will take time.  For your 2009 taxes this can mean up to 8 weeks for the refund, up to 16 weeks for an amended 2008 return.

 Why the extra hoops here?  The short story is the IRS is requiring more documentation to stop those individuals who have already taken advantage of a good thing and cheated the program.  So now, you need to prove you purchased a home and that this is indeed your home.  Bottom line, the credit is available and a significant value, just don’t spend it before you have it.  Your parents probably told you that one too.

For more information, click here for a link to instructions for Form 5405.

Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) Program

February 1, 2010

Home ownership is a great source of pride and personal satisfaction.  At Awareness Home Funding we enjoy helping our clients reach this goal.  And with the Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program, we have another tool to assist you. 

The MCC program is a Federal tax credit on the mortgage interest you pay on your home loan over a calendar year.  While this does not reduce your monthly mortgage payment, it is a dollar for dollar reduction from the amount of your Federal Income Tax liability.  To date, for the five states we conduct business, only Michigan and Indiana have this program.  (Kansas does not have this program and Florida stopped the program due to lack of funding.)

The beauty of the program is that it effectively reduces your annual interest rate. 

For example: In Michigan the program offers a full 20% tax credit on the amount of annual interest paid.  On a $100,000 mortgage at 6% interest, the approximate annual interest amount is $6,000 for the first year.  At the full 20% tax credit, $1,200 can be deducted from the amount of Federal Income Tax you owe.  ($6,000 x 20% = $1,200; making your effective interest rate 4.8%) 

The MCC credit remains in effect as long as your home continues to be your principle residence and the original mortgage remains in place.  If you refinance your home loan, sell your home, or purchase a new home as your primary residence, the credit program will end.  For most homeowners who participate in this program, there really is no need to even consider a refinance since their effective rate is already reduced.

 The benefits of this program are significant! 

  • In many areas of Michigan and Indiana, you do not need to be a first time homebuyer to qualify.
  • In Michigan, up to 20% of your mortgage interest can be credited on your Federal tax return.  Plus, the remaining 80% of mortgage interest paid will continue to qualify as an itemized deduction on your Federal tax return. 
  • In Indiana, 20-35% of your mortgage interest can be credited on your Federal tax return dependant upon the size of your mortgage loan amount.  Again, the remaining 65-80% of interest paid will qualify as an itemized deduction on your Federal tax return.
  • Since the MCC is applied after all other credits are subtracted, any unused portion may be carried forward against future Federal Tax returns for up to 3 years.  (See your tax advisor for specific federal credit criteria.)
  • The program is effective for the life of the original mortgage.
  • The program may also be applied to individuals with current non-taxed income, but who have the potential for taxable income in the future.
  • Most mortgage loan programs apply.

Talk to one of our Home Loan Specialists today for how this program can work for you!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.