Hunting Season is about to Start – (Home) Hunting

If you are thinking that this is the year to purchase your dream home, it’s time to get ready for the “season”.  Just like hunting or fishing season, there are checklists and things that normally need to be completed before the big Opening Day arrives.

Start by talking to a real estate professional – a Realtor® at the Coup Agency.  Many of our professionals have been guiding home buyers through the “process” for years.  Any Realtor® worth his salt will ask you to first talk to a mortgage lender to be pre-qualified for a loan.  Why?

It’s all about the financing.  Most of all of us need to finance the purchase, as we do not have the means to pay cash for our new home.

Why is the financing the first step?  First, it’s important to know how much money you have in your wallet to start your “shopping”.  Secondly, the type of financing will sometimes dictate type of home or the repairs that may need to be made to qualify for a particular financing program.  Your Realtor® will need to be aware of the financing, to be able to point out repairs that may be required to obtain the financing.  Third, if you are lacking in down payment money or needing assistance with the “closing costs” involved with financing, your real estate professional needs to know that so that when the Agreement of Sale (your offer to purchase) is written, all terms and conditions need to be contained in the offer and this would be one of them.

Fourth, a seller is going to want to know that the offer that you have presented to them (or actually your Realtor® has presented) is legitimate – that you can actually purchase the property.  For this reason, they will require that you submit a Pre-Qualification letter from a lender stating the type of financing and the amount that you have been qualified to purchase with contract.  Sellers are not interested in taking their home off the market for 4 or 5 weeks to find out if you have the financial means to purchase their home.  Thus to write the offer, this letter will need to be submitted with the contract.

There are many prospective buyers who call or come into our office and are ready to look at homes and are frustrated with our real estate professional’s response to refer back to the last paragraph, first, before we can proceed with looking for homes.  If you like a home and don’t have your Pre-Qualification letter, the whole process of making an offer will be slowed down until you have done the necessary steps – see the fourth point above.

It’s fine to start searching for homes online and letting your agent know of your interest in some homes, as long as you have done the first step – talked to the lender about financing.

Should you not have a bank/lender in which you have a current relationship, our Realtors® will have suggestions.  Rate is not the only thing to consider in choosing a lender.  Many lenders have great rates to entice you but their service and performance in getting the mortgage approved can be horrible.  Your real estate professional will be able to assist you in knowing which lenders are superior lenders that will make your “process” as easy and effortless as possible for you and explain everything to you.

Whether you are cleaning or sighting in your gun, getting the hunting clothes out, making sure you have the right lures, getting your waders ready or making sure you have enough beer along for the trip, there are always specific steps that need to be taken for any “season”.  The House Hunting Season is upon us – our Realtors® are ready to be your “guide” through the wild world of real estate and to help you “wade through” the process and paperwork.  Use them, ask them questions and rely on their knowledge.

Here’s hoping that you “catch” a great one!

Winter Snow Tips

You and the Snow on Your Roof:

To Shovel or Not to Shovel?

 

Here are some winter snow tips, thanks to Hancock Inspection Services.

Snowstorm after snowstorm, you watch the snow piling up on your roof, inch by inch, and foot by foot. You have icicles upon icicles hanging from the eaves.  Should you get up on the roof and shovel it off?  A very good question.  You must first understand the potential dangers of having excessive snow and ice on your roof. There are two primary areas of concern.

 

The first is structurally related damage created by the excessive amounts of wet heavy snow.  On older roofs there is an even greater danger of structural issues.  Excessive snow weight can also cause structural damage such as cracked walls and weakened framing.  Cracking of walls and unusual noises within the structure are also signs of a structurally stressed building.  In this case, immediate snow removal is required.  Obviously, lower sloped roofs are more susceptible to this kind of damage, than steeper roofs.  Older homes are also more susceptible to this kind of damage, since they were built prior to today’s more stringent building and engineering codes.  Whenever you are in doubt, you should contact a professional engineer or home inspector to review the situation.

 

The second area of concern, is the ice on the eaves of the roof.  Ice dams are often caused by the ice build up the gutters.  Heat loss through the roof of the house melts the snow close to the roof and a dam is created.  This water now freezes and thaws through the temperature changes of night and day.  This thawing and freezing activity creates abnormal wear and tear on the shingles and can cause leaks into the home as water backs up underneath the shingles.

 

Both areas of concern, are excellent reasons for removing the snow from your roof.  The decision to remove snow from the roof area should be done so with safety as the primary concern.  This choice to venture up onto a snow and ice covered roof, should be made understanding this is a very dangerous situation and certain precautions taken.  You should always ensure that someone else will be home while you are on the roof.  This is in the event an accident does occur.   When you are on steeper roofs of over a 6/12 pitch you should ensure your safety, by tying yourself to a large roof object capable of supporting your weight, such as a chimney.  If you choose to hire an individual to do the work, be sure they are carrying the proper insurances.  You may even choose to have them sign a waiver of release of liabilities in the even of an accident and prevent a potential lawsuit.

 

Wear the proper clothing to include rubber-soled boots.  Rubber soled boots will provide the proper footing while on the roof.  Utilize plastic shovels, over metal shovels as they have less of a tendency to rip and tear asphalt and fiberglass shingles.  Always shovel using top to bottom strokes.  The reverse will cause you to catch the edges of the brittle shingles and cause permanent damage.  Never chip or forcefully lift ice from the roof, as this is yet another great way to cause permanent damage to the roof.  Remember the purpose of shoveling the roof is to remove the excessive weight and expose the ice to a natural melting condition.  Always ensure that the ladder you are using to access the roof is secured to the house to prevent a falling incident while accessing or exiting the roof. The ladder should also be free of ice and snow to prevent a slipping hazard.  Use extreme caution when exiting the roof as your muscles will most likely be stressed and tired.  These are just a few of the most common areas often overlooked when venturing up onto the roof.

 

Again, if you are unsure about when and how your roof should be cleaned, the best thing to do is hire a professional who is experienced in this line of work.

Know Before You Owe

By: Santander Mortgage Development Officer, Derrek Fink

What is KBYO? New text speak? No – new mortgage speak!

Know Before You Owe – and here’s what you need to know!

For more than 30 years, we have been hampered by the “twos” under Federal law:

  • Two separate disclosure forms (Good Faith Estimate and Truth in Lending disclosure) when applying for a mortgage; and
  • Two separate forms (Final Truth in Lending disclosure and HUD-1 Settlement Statement) at or shortly before closing on the loan; and
  • Two different government agencies created these forms separately, under two federal statutes – RESPA and TILA

Because the language in these forms was sometimes inconsistent and in some areas covered the same information, consumers found them confusing and as lenders and realtors we often found them hard to explain.

We all admit applying for a mortgage can be daunting and sometimes confusing, so the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, (CFPB) as required under the Dodd Frank Act, set out to create new forms, in effect taking the information in four previous forms and whittling it down to two new disclosures that are intended to be much simpler for consumers to understand. These two new disclosures are the Loan Estimate, which must be provided to customers no later than three business days after they submit a mortgage application, and the Closing Disclosure, which must be provided to customers at least three business days before closing.

The CFPB also sought to ensure that the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure are designed to work with each other. Both disclosures are written in language that is clear and concise, and the overall layout is easier for the customer to navigate through to locate the interest rate, monthly payment amount and the actual costs of the mortgage loan they are seeking. One of the CFPB’s goals was to provide all of the financial information to the customer in the least amount of forms which would allow them to clearly decide whether they could ultimately afford the loan. These forms also make it easier for them to compare several offers side-by-side.

KNOW BEFORE YOU OWE!

Specific benefits:

  • Four forms merged into two concise ones – less paper = less confusion
  • Clear language and format that is easy to read and navigate through to find all important information – interest rate, monthly payments, total closing costs
  • Spelling out important information about taxes, insurance and how payments could potentially change in the future
  • Clearly highlighting any potential applicable penalties – such as early loan payoff
  • Explaining cost estimates for such services as appraisal or pest inspection fees

Requiring that the customer is provided the Closing Disclosure at least three business days before closing on the mortgage loan, should alleviate the anxiety caused when the consumer receives this information at closing! The three days will give consumers time to review and better prepare them for settlement.

Effective date

This rule is effective August 1, 2015. The final rule applies to applications submitted on or after August 1, 2015.

Go to these links to see the new Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure

http://www.consumerfinance.gov/f/201311_cfpb_kbyo_loan-estimate.pdf

http://www.consumerfinance.gov/f/201311_cfpb_kbyo_closing-disclosure.pdf

A Checklist for First Time Buyers

RomigChrisOur thanks to Chris Romig, who is a Residential Mortgage Banker Team Leader Susquehanna Bank for writing this article for us. 

As a first time homebuyer, the entire process of buying a home can be overwhelming!  You will get a lot of advice from parents, friends, professionals, and even random people at the supermarket.  How can anyone possibly sort through all the information and make a sensible decision on what to buy, where to buy it, and who to use for financing?  Hopefully a few tips can help you through this process.

  1. Do your homework.  Before looking at homes and getting preapproved, do your own budgets.  I always tell my clients—“I can approve you for this number, but you need to be comfortable because you are the one making the payments.”  YOU need to know what you can afford.
  2. Get preapproved.  This is where you should make initial contacts with banks and determine where you feel most comfortable.  Rate is important—but the comfort you have with the person on the other side of the desk means a lot too!  Whatever bank you choose should be able to explain multiple options to you and put your mind at ease as you start the home buying process.  Getting multiple preapprovals is never necessary.

Your buyer’s agent is also going to want to see a copy of your preapproval letter for several reasons.  One is that the type of financing you are qualified for, may affect the type of home that may fit into that mortgage program.  Also, offers being submitted on a property need to be accompanied by a copy of your preapproval letter so that the seller and their agent know that you have the ability to purchase the home at your offering price.  This will be especially be true in a multiple-offer situation, which many times happens in a “hot market” or newly listed property.

  1. Choose a realtor.  Again, just as with the bank, do your due diligence and select an agent that you feel most comfortable with.  I don’t recommend calling a different agent depending who has the sign in the yard.  A buyer’s agent will answer all your questions, understand your home needs, and even more importantly, know your financing requirements.
  2. Be patient.  The entire process can be lengthy and frustrating at times.  With good people by your side (bank and realtor), you can feel comfortable guiding your way to that right fit in a home.  Buying a home is never a race—and the last thing you want to do is make a decision based upon a short sided need.  The right house is out there for everyone!
  3. Ask questions.  Never feel a question isn’t important.  If you don’t understand something, ask.  Whoever is your professional in the transaction should welcome all of your questions and want to make you feel secure in what you are doing.

Hopefully, these five tips can assist you as you enter the realm of homeownership.  Again, it can be quite a frightening endeavor and a huge financial commitment.  Having the right mindset and the right professionals on your side will make buying a home a happier experience!

Fed: Interest Rate Hikes Likely, SOON

The National Associate of Realtors (NAR) is reporting that the Federal Reserve is indicating that interest rates are about to tick upwards.

Per NAR, the Federal Reserve is signaling that it will likely take action on increasing interest rates in two months, despite recent data that shows a weakened economy. This would be the first rate increase since 2006.

How to address buyer concerns: ‘I’m Worried About Mortgage Rates’
Two central bank officials said Wednesday that disappointing job growth, manufacturing activity, and retail sales over the winter had pushed rate hike expectations to later in the year. For more than six years, the Fed has held rates near zero. But June is being viewed as the likely month for the Fed to start its rising of rates.

“I could imagine circumstances where a June rate hike could still be in play,” says William Dudley, New York Fed president, and a voting member on the Fed’s policy committee. “If the economy’s strong, the unemployment rate is dropping, wages are rising, and the outlook is good, you could conceivably get to that point. The bar is probably a little bit higher” for a June hike given recent data.

The minutes from the Fed’s mid-March policy meeting, which were released Wednesday, also indicated that June would be a likely start time for Fed officials to start hiking rates. The Fed also indicated that once they did start raising rates, they would do so gradually.

But even a slight rate hike could have ripple effects throughout the economy. The most obvious impact to the housing market would be a rise to mortgage rates. Rates have been near historical lows for years. An average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.70 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac. “The Fed cut rates to historic lows in 2008 in part to reboot the housing market, which collapsed when the housing bubble popped,” CNNMoney reports. “When the Fed likely raises rates this year, it will push mortgage rates and auto loans up. That said, it’s uncertain if that will cause home or car buying to slow down.”

Source: “Fed Officials Say June Rate Hike Still in Play, Hinges on Data,” Reuters (April 9, 2015) and “What an Interest Rate Increase Means for Real People,” CNNMoney (March 19, 2015)

Coup Agency Updates their Website

The Coup Agency recently updated their website (www.MiltonPaRealEstate.com) to assist buyers and sellers with their real estate needs.  The most notable change is to their Home Search tab and page.

Rick Coup, Broker, noted that “we are really excited about our new searching capabilities on our website.  Searchers will have many choices to make it easier to find the right property.”  Some of those search features include the ability to search by: community/area, school district, address, Multiple Listing (MLS) number, Coup Agency listings, foreclosures, short sales, price ranges and rentals.

Visitors will also be able to search by the type of property, such as: single family, multi-family, land, farms, commercial, and condo/townhouse listings.  “As soon as a property goes on the market, with any Realtor, it will be available on our website. Our website is so much more timely than the national websites that many use to search for real estate,” according to Coup.

The site also has the capability to search for all the new area listings for the last 24-hour period, as well as a weekly “Hot Sheet” that features all properties that came on the market in the past week.

Those that would like additional features will be requested to register for the ability to save searches and listings, get updates on new listings and price changes, add messages, and to track your favorite listings.  A person will have the ability to bypass the request to register for those additional features if they are not wanted.

Visitors to the site will also have the ability to sign up for the Agency’s monthly newsletter and can read testimonials regarding of the services of the Coup Agency real estate agents from their clients in their own words.  The agency’s blog discusses many different insurance and real estate topics to help buyers and sellers as well as the general public have better insight to the real estate and insurance practices.

These are just a few of the new features on the website.  For all your real estate needs, visit our website.

Most Popular Days for Closings

Fridays and the last business day of the month tend to be the busiest for closings, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Researchers at NAR analyzed the top closing days of 2014 based on existing-home sales data.

The top seven closing days in 2014 were:

  1. Mon., June 30
  2. Fri., May 30
  3. Fri., Aug. 29
  4. Wed., April 30
  5. Thurs., July 31
  6. Tues., Sept. 30
  7. Fri., Feb. 28
  8. Fri., June 27
  9. Fri., Oct. 31
  10. Fri., Aug. 15

“Spring and summer days figure prominently in the top of the list, but all seasons are represented,” researchers note on NAR’s Economists’ Outlook blog.

The data confirms that, based on existing-home sales data, June and July were the top months for home sales in 2014, followed by August and May. June and July alone accounted for more than 20 percent of the sales that occurred in 2014.

Source: “Part 1: EHS in 2014 by the Numbers – Popular Closing Dates,” National Association of REALTORS® Economists’ Outlook Blog (Jan. 12, 2015)

What your Buyer’s Agent Can Do for YOU

Home For Sale Sign in Front of Beautiful New Home

If you are thinking that NOW is the time to start looking for a new home, you are probably right!  There are many reasons for this quick answer, but some of them are: low interest rates, supply, and the availability of your buyers agent’s time.

If you are in hopes of moving this spring or summer, it probably is the right time to start, but how should you start?  Step one is to starting working with one of our agents, by sitting down with him or her and discussing your situation, wants, and needs.  This should be done as a face-to-face meeting and will require about 45 minutes to an hour of your time, but will be time well-spent.  The agents at the Coup Agency are very experienced and have the expertise to work with new home buyers as well as seasoned buyers.

The purchase of a home is a process and many steps need to be followed.  We can help you navigate through those steps and can assist in assuring that the steps are followed in the right order to make the most efficient use of your time.  Doing the steps out of order can actually delay the purchase of your dream home and disappoint you in the process.  Many want to start looking at homes immediately and when they find something they like, then get started with the “details” of house hunting.  Our experienced agents will let you know why that is not the best way to get started and what the pitfalls of such an actions might be.

If after sitting down with an agent and listening to the benefits, you may decided to “hire” that agent to represent you through the entire process.  That is done with some forms that will be thoroughly reviewed with you, so you know what you are signing.  If you do “hire” the agent, please know that they are then bound to have YOUR best interest at heart throughout the entire process.

Here is a list of just some of the tasks and events that a buyer’s agent can do for you:

Help arrange financing.

  1. Assist in locating sources of mortgage loans.
  2. Help you examine how much you can afford but how much you may want to spend.
  3. Assist in comparing different financing options.
  4. Provide information on purchasing incentives that may be available.
  5. Educate and discuss the differences, between being pre-qualified and pre-approved for a mortgage.

Assist in finding the right property.

  1. Identify your needs and wants in a property.
  2. Find appropriate available properties.
  3. Be able to discuss a property and how it may or may not qualify for the type of financing that you are approved for.
  4. Set up an automated email alert system that immediately notifies you of properties that fit your requirements, thus saving you the time to constantly search for new listings.  Our website will also assist you to search for homes.
  5. Sort through inaccurate information about homes in the area.
  6. Provide ready access to all MLS-listed properties.
  7. Preview properties prior to showing.
  8. Help select for viewing only those homes that fit  your needs.
  9. Aid in narrowing your search until you have identified your top choices.
  10. Assist in analyzing the pros and cons of each property.
  11. Disclose all known latent material defects and assist in securing experts that can provide answers to those defects.
  12. Assist you in evaluating properties for suitability, affordability, and resale value.
  13. Assist with the many aspects of negotiating the terms of purchase for your new home.  (It’s more than just price!)

Educate you on market conditions.

  1. Educate you on whether it is a buyers’ market or a sellers’ market.
  2. Show statistics on what percent of list price the sellers are currently receiving.
  3. Show trends, current average days on market, current absorption rate, and/or current months of inventory.

Sometimes Humor Brings the Point Across

Flood Insurance Cartoon - Bill Raup #2

Local Artist Bill Raup  posted these two cartoons in his building on Broadway regarding the

Flood Insurance Cartoon

plight of many property owners in Milton and surrounding river towns with regard to Flood Insurance.  Maybe humor will get the attention of our legislators!

Please take the time to communicate your concerns to your legislators.  It’s the only way things are going to change for many river town communities as well as other areas subject to flooding.

Will Flood Insurance Reform Effect Real Estate?

If you live in a special flood hazard area, the short answer is YES.  Please read our previous blog article about the drastic changes to flood insurance to get a background.

As flood insurance rates rise almost 10-fold, many river communities such as Milton, Bloomsburg, Hughesville, Muncy, Jersey Shore and even Harrisburg are going to feel the effects of these new flood insurance reform.

By law, anyone who purchases a property in a special flood hazard zone and will be taking a mortgage on that home (or business), is required to purchase flood insurance on it.  Since 70% of the homes and businesses in the country finance the purchase of real estate, most will be effected by this reform.

When the full increase goes into effect, the cost of the flood insurance will be higher than most people’s principal and interest payments, making the purchase of a property in a special flood hazard area nearly impossible.  Unfortunately, these higher rates go into effect immediately for any new policies, thus if the buyer of real estate purchases a home or business in the flood area after October 1, 2013, they will pay the 10-fold increase immediately; there will be no phase-in period.  With this significant cost burden, buyers will choose not to look  at any property in the special flood hazard area, thus 70% of the potential buyers for these properties will no longer be potential purchasers of their homes or businesses.  With that said, real estate market values for homes or businesses in the special flood hazard area will drop significantly.  This will have a very dramatic effect starting October 1st of this year.

For those homeowners who currently own their home in the flood area, they will be unable to pay the increased cost of the flood insurance in a few years (25% increase each year) plus their principal and interest payments and will begin to walk away from their homes and let the banks repossess them, thus increasing the number of properties on the market and driving the real estate market down even lower.

Because the market values will have dropped significantly, a homeowner will be applying to their county’s assessment office for a re-assessment of their property.  All the government taxing bodies shall see a significant drop in their taxable values.  It is a total snowball effect that this act has on any property owners in the special flood hazard area.

We don’t profess to have the answers, but can only predict that this act will be the total demise of river towns such as Milton and any other communities that have significant flood plains.

We do know that after a flood, real estate market values do drop somewhat for several years after and people start to “forget” about the river and flooding.  That will no longer be the case — market values are about to drop significantly and for most homeowners (and business owners) their home/building is one of their largest assets.  Not any more.

Our US Senators Casey and Toomey need to hear from you and hear your concern on this issue as well as our local House of Representative Tom Marino.  It is important that you contact all of them, not just one, so they all hear your concerns.  Here are they links to their websites:

Senator Pat Toomey:  http://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=contact   Phone: 717-782-3951

Senator Bob Casey:   http://www.casey.senate.gov/contact/         Phone: 202-224-6324

House Representative Tom Marino: https://marino.house.gov/contact-me/email-me                Phone: 570-374-9469