FinancingFor BuyersFor SellersMortgagesReal Estate August 24, 2011

Should Buyers Be Required to Put 20% Down to Get The Best Rates for a Home?

How does the government fix the mortgage meltdown mess to ensure nothing like this happens again?

Should buyers be required to have a 20% minimum down payment in order to purchase a home?  Is this the answer?   Lawmakers in the other Washington, not here in Seattle, are looking into this issue.   Congress is currently looking at the Quality Residential Mortgage issue:

As federal regulators wrestle with setting the definition of a qualified residential mortgage (QRM)–which under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act would be exempt from risk-retention rules–a bi-partisan group of U.S. House and Senate lawmakers urged regulators not to be rigid in setting the rules.

Some people might think a large down payment provides more insurance that a buyer can handle the mortgage.  After all, if the buyer had the discipline to save a significant amount of money, then the buyer should have the discipline to make mortgage payments.  This is true, discipline is required to save a substantial down payment.

But was the lack of a 20% down payment the main source of failed mortgages and the housing meltdown?

From the truth about mortgage blog:

Mortgage default is not related as much to a high monthly payment, but to the depreciation of home values and higher unemployment.

A report released by the Boston Fed last week found that home price depreciation is a leading cause of mortgage default, challenging common arguments that attribute rising delinquencies to unaffordable mortgage payments.

“We find that the DTI ratio at the time of origination is not a strong predictor of future mortgage default,” the report said.   “A simple theoretical model explains this result.”

“While a higher monthly payment makes default more likely, other factors, such as the level of house prices, expectations of future house price growth and inter-temporal variation in household income, matter as well.”

The economists estimated that a 10 percentage-point increase in the debt-to-income ratio increases the probability of 90-day delinquency by just seven to 11 percent.

Conversely, a one percentage-point increase in unemployment rate raises this probability by 10-20 percent, and a 10 percent fall in house prices raises it by more than half.

From Senator Johnny Isaksen:

“We don’t have a down payment problem in this country, but rather an underwriting problem. I strongly urge regulators to rework their overly rigid down payment requirement for QRM. If left as is, it would make recovery in the housing market almost impossible.”

Here are a few thoughts on the issue from a Houselogic blogger:

Mortgage rate and down payment should be based on someone’s overall creditworthiness: credit history, income, employment history, and existing debt.

What happens to those who wish to buy a home, but don’t have the down payment?

Federal regulators have proposed a rule that would require most borrowers to come up with a 20% down payment on a home purchase. Buyers with less than 20% to put down would have to choose between higher fees and rates — up to 3 percentage points more — compared with folks who have the 20% or a 16-year delay while they save up the necessary down payment.

That’s how long it would take the typical American family to save enough money for a 20% down payment and closing costs, according to estimates of 2010 median income and home prices from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and the 2010 national savings rate.

When I read the excerpts from these other blogs, I’m seeing declining house values, unemployment, and bad underwriting as the causes for the financial meltdown.  My vote goes to bad underwriting as the main culprit.    I’m not seeing a low down payment as the culprit.  Everyone knows that changes  are still needed for our financing rules, but is the 20% down payment the answer?  If you think, no, then please alert your congressional representatives in Washington.

Here in Washington State you can contact:

Senator Patty Murray

Senator Maria Cantwell

Rep. Jay Inslee

Rep. Rick Larsen

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler

Rep. Doc Hastings

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Rep. Norm Dicks

Rep. Jim McDermott

Rep. Dave Reichert

Rep. Adam Smith

For BuyersFor SellersReal EstateReal Estate Opinion June 23, 2010

Are Some Home Buyers More Demanding in Today's Real Estate Market?

Demanding home buyers? The New York Times had an article about home buyers being more demanding. I’ve seen it in action on Seattle’s eastside.

In recent home sales, not only do the buyers want a good price for the home, which is expected the way the real estate market has been, but some home buyers don’t want to buy a home unless the systems are all new or newer. Buyers have asked for a new furnace when the furnace worked fine and money to cover a future roof replacement that would not be happening in a condo complex for at least five years.  Buyers are asking for replacements for systems that are older, but still working.

Are you seeing the same thing happen with some home buyers?

Bellevue Real EstateFor BuyersFor HomeownersFor SellersMake More Money Selling Your HomeReal EstateReal Estate OpinionSeattle real estate June 7, 2010

Make More Money Selling Your Home, Part 6, Replace Your Carpet

Mr and Mrs. Home Seller ask: “Why don’t we let the buyers pick out the new carpet?  We don’t know what color they may want.”

New carpeting updates a home

New carpeting Creates a Fresh, Clean Look

This is one of the most common sentiments I’ve heard over the years from home sellers.  Sellers often think it’s best to leave the old carpet, offer a carpet allowance if needed, and let the buyer choose their own carpet.

Is this right?  Do buyers want to choose their own carpet?

NO.  Not in the Seattle-Eastside real estate market.  Buyers DO NOT want to choose, pay or replace carpet when buying a new home.  In this area, Seattle’s eastside cities of Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, and Issaquah, etc., buyers want to buy a home that’s move-in ready.

On Seattle’s eastside,  the typical buyer is a very busy person(s) who may work a lot of hours.  Most buyers aren’t looking to do structural or cosmetic updates to a home. They don’t have the time or the inclination. They want to move in and continue on with their lives with the least amount of disruption. They don’t want to be replacing carpet. Besides, there are lots of Seattle-eastside homes to choose from and many of the other homes have been updated and are ready to go.

Most home sellers don’t want to replace carpet either, but think about it.  The buyers don’t have to replace your carpet because they don’t have to buy your home.  They have other homes to buy.  However, as the seller, you have only one home to sell and so you’ve got to do it.   Remember, if you feel like you don’t want to replace the carpet, the buyer probably feels the same way. The catch is, they don’t have to do it, they can buy another home.

So if you want to get an offer to buy your home and make the most money while selling your home, replace your carpet if it’s worn, discolored, has stains, you name it.  Make sure it looks fresh and clean, otherwise it will cost you money in the sales price for your home and it could even cost you getting a buyer.

Should you spend a lot for expensive carpet?  Absolutely not. You should put in a good grade of carpet, but one that is similar to what builders install in new construction.  Make sure you pick a neutral color and install a good 8 lb. pad underneath the rug. A thin pad with new carpet won’t work.  It’s easy to tell that either the carpet or the pad are thin the minute you step on it. It feels like you’re on cement.

Looking for some other tips to get the most money when selling your home? Read Parts 1-5, planting some “green,” when to set the sales price, yard clean up dressing up a front door, and replacing moldings and doors.  Pick what your home needs to get it “dressed up” to sell in the competitive Seattle real estate market.

For HomeownersFor SellersReal EstateRemodeling and style trendsSeattle real estate May 12, 2010

Make More Money Selling Your Home, Part 5, Moldings and Doors

Make more money selling your home is my series on getting your home sold, not just getting it ready to sell, but getting it sold. These posts are a series of suggestions for things you can do to update your home before you sell it.  Updated homes sell faster and for more money than homes in need of work. Better yet, if you want to do some of these things while you’re still enjoying your home, go for it.

You may not do everything, but if you read all the posts, you’ll have a good idea of what home updates will get you more money. You can decide how best to spend your money and what works for your budget.  Read Parts 1-4, planting some “green,” when to set the sales price, yard clean up, and dressing up a front door and the rest of the series (coming soon), to pick what your home needs to get it “dressed up” to sell in the competitive Seattle real estate market.

Spending some money updating your home will help you make more money selling your home.  In the Seattle real estate market, particularly on the eastside, most buyers are looking for homes updated and ready to go. There’s a very small pool of buyers looking to fix up a home on Seattle’s eastside.

Today’s topic:  moldings and doors. Clean, fresh white moldings and doors.  Some homes will have a theme and look better with wood doors and moldings, but many homes will look great with white woodwork.  If you’re starting from scratch, you can pick from many different door styles.  In today’s home market, doors can be anywhere from two to 6 panel, with the two panel doors growing in popularity.

New Doors Dress Up a Home for Sale

New Doors Dress Up a Home for Sale

Before you pick the style of door, think about the type of neighborhood where your home is located. If it’s an upscale, high-end neighborhood, buyers will expect top quality.  You’ll throw your money out if you go with inexpensive finishes.  If the home is situated in a starter neighborhood, then go with hollow core doors, so you’ll save money.  Solid doors are far more expensive.   Pick something simple that matches your decor.  Be practical and spend the least amount of money, while getting something that looks good and is the quality to fit your neighborhood and style of your home.

Moldings:  Does your home have those skinny, outdated flat moldings from the 60’s or the 70’s?  If so, it’s time for a change.  Go with thicker baseboard moldings to dress up a room.  Moldings finish a room off, making the overall finished look richer and better. Again, keep it simple and buy pre-painted moldings, if available.

Updating Moldings in a Home

Thick Baseboards Add A Quality Look to a Home

For the high-end neighborhood, maybe it’s repainting existing moldings so they look fresh and clean.  Maybe it’s adding more crown moldings or chair rails in different parts of the house.

Dressing Up a Room By Adding Chair Rails

Dressing Up a Room By Adding Chair Rails

Don’t have the money to replace all the doors and moldings? Then paint them white, so they look fresh and clean.    Make sure to use the right painting tools and paint. If you’ve never painted doors and moldings, then find out how to paint them so the surfaces will be smooth.  Use a semi-gloss paint and it will help make the moldings pop.  It will also help keep the moldings clean when done.

If painting is not your thing,  it’s probably better to hire someone who knows how to paint these surfaces.  Again, don’t throw your time and money out by doing a poor paint job.

Whatever your budget allows, the doors and moldings should be fresh and clean when you sell your home.  If they’re not, it will cost you time and money in the sale of your home.

Do you have any other ideas about making doors and moldings look good?

For SellersHome maintenance tipsMake More Money Selling Your HomeReal EstateReal Estate Opinion April 30, 2010

Make More Money Selling Your Home, Part 4, Dress Up the Front Door

You’re a home buyer out looking at homes. You pull in front of a home that looks kind of interesting.  You stand by the front door as your agent gets the key out of the key box to open the door.  You look around the entrance and notice dirt and scuff marks on the front door.  The brass plate is all tarnished, there are scratches by the key hole and the door mat is dirty.  It looks like there’s been years of wear and tear and you haven’t even been inside. 

A dirty front door and scratched hardware is not a big deal, or is it?

Buyers, what do you think?

Tarnished door handle

Tarnished front door handle

Dinged front door key hole

Scratched front door key hole

I heard from past buyers that it raises a lot of questions. Mostly, the buyer is wondering how well the home has been maintained if something so obvious sticks out when you first walk up.    Will this buyer be taking a closer look at the house?  Will the buyer start wondering if there might be maintenance issues.  Possibly.

A nice front door and shiny hardware make a big difference. It keeps the level of positive energy and interest up.  It’s like seeing a blind date for the first time, you want that person to look good from the “get go,”  not with messy hair or dirty clothing.

Dressing up the entrance to a home for sale

A Beautiful Front Door Creates a Great First Impression

Put flowering plants by the front door to dress it up

Flowers By The Front Door Add a Nice Touch

So home sellers, stand out in front of your home by the front door, just as a buyer would.  Look at what the buyer would be looking at when standing at the front of your home.

  • Is your front door dirty?
  • Is it in need of paint?
  • Is the hardware gleaming and fresh or is it scratched?
  • Are the railings in good shape?
  • Are the steps neat and clean?
  • Do you have flowers providing color by the front door?
  • Is the doormat, fresh and clean?
  • Do the house numbers look clean and stand out?

None of the fixes for the above should cost a lot of money.  It can actually cost you more money if these items are not in good condition. Here are some more suggestions for creating that great curb appeal.

So before you sell your home, think of it like getting ready for a date or going to a party hoping to meet someone.  In this case, your home is meeting a potential buyer.  The buyer has a lot of options to choose from, like you might at a party.  Help the buyer to choose your home by getting it ready for the party, oops, I mean to sell.

2010 Home buyer Tax CreditFinancingFor BuyersFor SellersReal Estate January 25, 2010

The Clock is Ticking on the Real Estate Trifecta

Who knows where the time goes? (“Who Knows Where the Time Goes”- written by Sandy Denny, but made famous by Judy Collins) Sometimes it seems like the past has gone in the blink of an eye.  Ironically, it feels exactly the opposite when we think of the future.  It’s human nature to think there’s all the time in the world, whereas the past seemed to happen in the blink of an eye.

We have the real estate trifecta here in the Seattle area right now and it could be gone in the blink of an eye. If you’re someone whose thinking of buying or selling, if you wait too long to act, the trifecta could be a thing of the past. The trifecta is a boon for both buyers and sellers.

So what’s today’s real estate trifecta?

  1. The home buyer tax credit.

Attention home shoppers!  The April 30th deadline for home buyers to find a home, be in contract, and receive the $6500 tax credit is coming fast, and it’s coming faster than you think. There’s less than 100 days to have an accepted offer on a home and obtain the home buyer tax credit.

home buyer tax credit

home buyer tax credit

Remember, the $8000 tax credit still exists for first time home buyers, but many people don’t realize almost all home buyers are eligible for a $6500 tax credit. This is an important deadline for home buyers and home sellers, not just the buyers.  Home buyers who are serious are out shopping and buying homes.

  1. Low interest rates.

The low interest rates, which are low,  won’t be here forever. Rates for a 30 year fixed mortgage dropped below 5% last week.

  1. Good number of homes for sale.

There’s a lower number of homes on the market in King County,  but there’s still a healthy amount of good homes to choose from. (Yes, home buyers,  there’s a number of great houses out there.)  It’s a more evenly balanced real estate market between buyers and sellers, which means some homes will sell right away if they are priced right and stand out from the competition and others will take longer to sell and will sell with more negotiation in price.

Number of King County Properties for Sale

Number of King County Properties for Sale, 1-18-10

So home buyers and home sellers get out there now and take advantage of the real estate trifecta.  April 30th is not far away.