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6 Creative Ways to Afford a Home

1. Investigate local, state, and national down payment assistance programs. These programs give qualified applicants loans or grants to cover all or part of your required down payment. National programs include the Nehemiah program, www.getdownpayment.com, and the American Dream Down Payment Fund from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, www.hud.gov.

2. Explore seller financing. In some cases, sellers may be willing to finance all or part of the purchase price of the home and let you repay them gradually, just as you would do with a mortgage.

3. Consider a shared-appreciation or shared-equity arrangement. Under this arrangement, your family, friends, or even a third-party may buy a portion of the home and share in any appreciation when the home is sold. The owner/occupant usually pays the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance costs, but all the investors’ names are usually on the mortgage. Companies are available that can help you find such an investor, if your family can t participate.

4. Ask your family for help. Perhaps a family member will loan you money for the down payment or act as a co-signer for the mortgage. Lenders often like to have a co-signer if you have little credit history.

5. Lease with the option to buy. Renting the home for a year or more will give you the chance to save more toward your down payment. And in many cases, owners will apply some of the rental amount toward the purchase price. You usually have to pay a small, nonrefundable option fee to the owner.

6. Consider a short-term second mortgage. If you can qualify for a short-term second mortgage, this would give you money to make a larger down payment. This may be possible if you re in good financial standing, with a strong income and little other debt.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Real Estate Economic Update

Last Week in the News


The South Gate Real Estate Market is looking good.

Existing home sales rose 4.3% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million units from a downwardly revised 4.38 million units in December. The inventory of unsold homes on the market decreased to 2.31 million, a 6.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 6.4-month supply in December.

Retail sales rose 3% for the week ending February 18, according to the ICSC-Goldman Sachs index. On a year-over-year basis, retailers saw sales increase 3.2%.

New home sales fell 0.9% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 321,000 units from an upwardly revised rate of 324,000 units in December. The initial December reading was 307,000. The November rate was also revised higher to 318,000 units. At the current sales pace, there’s a 5.6-month supply of new homes on the market, the lowest reading in six years.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted composite index of mortgage applications for the week ending February 17 fell 4.5%. Refinancing applications decreased 4.8%. Purchase volume fell 2.9%.

Industrial production at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities was unchanged in January after advancing an upwardly revised 1% in December. Compared to a year ago, industrial production is up 3.4%. Capacity utilization fell slightly to 78.5% in January from 78.6% in December.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending February 18 were unchanged at 351,000. Continuing claims for the week ending February 11 fell by 52,000 to 3.392 million, the lowest level since August 2008.

Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on pending home sales on February 27, the housing price index on February 28 and construction spending on March 1.

8 Tips for Finding Your New Home

By: G. M. Filisko

A solid game plan can help you narrow your homebuying search to find the best home for you.

House hunting is just like any other shopping expedition. If you identify exactly what you want and do some research, you’ll zoom in on the home you want at the best price. These eight tips will guide you through a smart homebuying process.

1. Know thyself
Understand the type of home that suits your personality. Do you prefer a new or existing home A ranch or a multistory home If you’re leaning toward a fixer-upper, are you truly handy, or will you need to budget for contractors

2. Research before you look
List the features you most want in a home and identify which are necessities and which are extras. Identify three to four neighborhoods you’d like to live in based on commute time, schools, recreation, crime, and price. Then hop onto REALTOR.com (http://REALTOR.com) to get a feel for the homes available in your price range in your favorite neighborhoods. Use the results to prioritize your wants and needs so you can add in and weed out properties from the inventory you’d like to view.

3. Get your finances in order
Generally, lenders say you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Create a budget so you know how much you’re comfortable spending each month on housing. Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to investigate financing.

Gather your financial records and meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter spelling out how much you’re eligible to borrow. The lender won’t necessarily consider the extra fees you’ll pay when you purchase or your plans to begin a family or purchase a new car, so shop in a price range you’re comfortable with. Also, presenting an offer contingent on financing will make your bid less attractive to sellers.

4. Set a moving timeline
Do you have blemishes on your credit that will take time to clear up If you already own, have you sold your current home If not, you’ll need to factor in the time needed to sell. If you rent, when is your lease up Do you expect interest rates to jump anytime soon All these factors will affect your buying, closing, and moving timelines.

5. Think long term
Your future plans may dictate the type of home you’ll buy. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in the home for five to 10 years With a starter, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you plan to nest, be sure your priority list helps you identify a home you’ll still love years from now.

6. Work with a REALTOR®
Ask people you trust for referrals to a real estate professional they trust. Interview agents to determine which have expertise in the neighborhoods and type of homes you’re interested in. Because homebuying triggers many emotions, consider whether an agent’s style meshes with your personality.

Also ask if the agent specializes in buyer representation. Unlike listing agents, whose first duty is to the seller, buyers’ reps work only for you even though they’re typically paid by the seller. Finally, check whether agents are REALTORS®, which means they’re members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR has been a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.

7. Be realistic
It’s OK to be picky about the home and neighborhood you want, but don’t be close-minded, unrealistic, or blinded by minor imperfections. If you insist on living in a cul-de-sac, you may miss out on great homes on streets that are just as quiet and secluded.

On the flip side, don’t be so swayed by a “wow” feature that you forget about other issues-like noise levels-that can have a big impact on your quality of life. Use your priority list to evaluate each property, remembering there’s no such thing as the perfect home.

8. Limit the opinions you solicit
It’s natural to seek reassurance when making a big financial decision. But you know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. If you need a second opinion, select one or two people. But remain true to your list of wants and needs so the final decision is based on criteria you’ve identified as important.

More from HouseLogic
HOAs: What You Need to Know About Rules (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/hoas-what-you-need-to-know-about-rules/)

A Financial Plan for Your Home (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/a-financial-plan-for-your-home/)

When It Pays to Do It Yourself (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/when-it-pays-to-do-it-yourself/)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has found happiness in a brownstone in a historic Chicago neighborhood. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Find the Home Loan that Fits Your Needs

By: G. M. Filisko

Understand which mortgage loan is best for you so your budget is not stretched too thin.

It’s easier to settle happily into your new home if you’re confident you can afford it. That requires that you understand your mortgage financing options and choose the loan that best suits your income and ability to tolerate risk.

The basics of mortgage financing
The most important features of your mortgage loan are its term and interest rate. Mortgages typically come in 15-, 20-, 30- or 40-year lengths. The longer the term, the lower your monthly payment. However, the tradeoff for a lower payment is that the longer the life of your loan, the more interest you’ll pay.

Mortgage interest rates generally come in two flavors: fixed and adjustable. A fixed rate allows you to lock in your interest rate for the entire mortgage term. That’s attractive if you’re risk-averse, on a fixed income, or when interest rates are low.

The risks and rewards of ARMs
An adjustable-rate mortgage does just what its name implies: Its interest rate adjusts at a future date listed in the loan documents. It moves up and down according to a particular financial market index, such as Treasury bills. A 3/1 ARM will have the same interest rate for three years and then adjust every year after that; likewise a 5/1 ARM remains unchanged until the five-year mark. Typically, ARMs include a cap on how much the interest rate can increase, such as 3% at each adjustment, or 5% over the life of the loan.

Why agree to such uncertainty ARMs can be a good choice if you expect your income to grow significantly in the coming years. The interest rate on some-but not all-ARMs can even drop if the benchmark to which they’re tied also dips. ARMs also often offer a lower interest rate than fixed-rate mortgages during the first few years of the mortgage, which means big savings for you-even if there’s only a half-point difference.

But if rates go up, your ARM payment will jump dramatically, so before you choose an ARM, answer these questions:

  • How much can my monthly payments increase at each adjustment
  • How soon and how often can increases occur
  • Can I afford the maximum increase permitted
  • Do I expect my income to increase or decrease
  • Am I paying down my loan balance each month, or is it staying the same or even increasing
  • Do I plan to own the home for longer than the initial low-interest-rate period, or do I plan to sell before the rate adjusts
  • Will I have to pay a penalty if I refinance into a lower-rate mortgage or sell my house
  • What’s my goal in buying this property Am I considering a riskier mortgage to buy a more expensive house than I can realistically afford

Consider a government-backed mortgage loan
If you’ve saved less than the ideal downpayment of 20%, or your credit score isn’t high enough for you to qualify for a fixed-rate or ARM with a conventional lender, consider a government-backed loan from the Federal Housing Administration (http://www.hud.gov/fha/choosefha.cfm) or Department of Veterans Affairs (http://www.homeloans.va.gov/vap26-91-1.htm/).

FHA offers adjustable and fixed-rate loans at reduced interest rates and with as little as 3.5% down and VA offers no-money-down loans. FHA and VA also let you use cash gifts from family members.

Before you decide on any mortgage, remember that slight variations in interest rates, loan amounts, and terms can significantly affect your monthly payment. To determine how much your monthly payment will be with various terms and loan amounts, try REALTOR.com’s online mortgage calculators (http://www.realtor.com/home-finance/financial-calculators/mortgage-payment-calculator.aspx).

More from HouseLogic
Evaluate Your Adjustable Rate Mortgage (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/evaluate-your-adjustable-rate-mortgage/)
Show Your Support for FHA (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/show-your-support-for-FHA/)

Other web resources
How much home can you afford (http://www.ginniemae.gov/2_prequal/intro_questions.asp Section=YPTH)
Why ask for an FHA loan (http://www.hud.gov/fha/choosefha.cfm)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who’s opted for both fixed and adjustable-rate mortgages. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

6 Tips for Choosing the Best Offer for Your Home

By: G. M. Filisko

Have a plan for reviewing purchase offers so you don’t let the best slip through your fingers.

You’ve worked hard to get your home ready for sale and to price it properly. With any luck, offers will come quickly. You’ll need to review each carefully to determine its strengths and drawbacks and pick one to accept. Here’s a plan for evaluating offers.

1. Understand the process
All offers are negotiable, as your agent will tell you. When you receive an offer, you can accept it, reject it, or respond by asking that terms be modified, which is called making a counteroffer.

2. Set baselines
Decide in advance what terms are most important to you. For instance, if price is most important, you may need to be flexible on your closing date. Or if you want certainty that the transaction won’t fall apart because the buyer can’t get a mortgage, require a prequalified or cash buyer.

3. Create an offer review process
If you think your home will receive multiple offers, work with your agent to establish a time frame during which buyers must submit offers. That gives your agent time to market your home to as many potential buyers as possible, and you time to review all the offers you receive.

4. Don’t take offers personally
Selling your home can be emotional. But it’s simply a business transaction, and you should treat it that way. If your agent tells you a buyer complained that your kitchen is horribly outdated, justifying a lowball offer, don’t be offended. Consider it a sign the buyer is interested and understand that those comments are a negotiating tactic. Negotiate in kind.

5. Review every term
Carefully evaluate all the terms of each offer. Price is important, but so are other terms. Is the buyer asking for property or fixtures-such as appliances, furniture, or window treatments-to be included in the sale that you plan to take with you

Is the amount of earnest money the buyer proposes to deposit toward the downpayment sufficient The lower the earnest money, the less painful it will be for the buyer to forfeit those funds by walking away from the purchase if problems arise.

Have the buyers attached a prequalification or pre-approval letter, which means they’ve already been approved for financing Or does the offer include a financing or other contingency If so, the buyers can walk away from the deal if they can’t get a mortgage, and they’ll take their earnest money back, too. Are you comfortable with that uncertainty

Is the buyer asking you to make concessions, like covering some closing costs Are you willing, and can you afford to do that Does the buyer’s proposed closing date mesh with your timeline

With each factor, ask yourself: Is this a deal breaker, or can I compromise to achieve my ultimate goal of closing the sale

6. Be creative
If you’ve received an unacceptable offer through your agent, ask questions to determine what’s most important to the buyer and see if you can meet that need. You may learn the buyer has to move quickly. That may allow you to stand firm on price but offer to close quickly. The key to successfully negotiating the sale is to remain flexible.
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has survived several closings. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Top 5 Craziest Foreclosure Rescue Attempts

Treasure hunting, demolition, forgery–even a telethon. Our picks for the top five most bizarre foreclosure rescue attempts.

Three years after the recession hit, Americans still are losing their homes to foreclosure in record numbers. Not even celebrities are immune. Wanting to do anything you can to avoid losing your home is only natural. There are a wealth of resources on HouseLogic (http://www.houselogic.com/guides/finances-insurance/home-finance/foreclosure-guide) to help you take action. Still, some homeowners have tried other, less-proven methods. Here’s a countdown of some outlandish foreclosure rescue attempts:

5. I pimped my yard to PETA.
This past March, “Octomom” Nadya Suleman was reportedly approached by PETA when word got out about her mortgage woes. The offer: A billboard sign urging pet owners not to let their dog or cat become an “Octomom” in a campaign to raise awareness about controlling the pet population. Suleman ended up letting PETA advertise on her front yard for $5,000. In April, Suleman reached an agreement (

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/15/entertainment/main6399349.shtml ) with the mortgage holder for a sixth-month extension to pay off the $450,000 debt.

4. God made me do it.
Earlier this month, a Montana man, Brent Arthur Wilson, was convicted for removing For Sale signs and forging ownership papers on a foreclosed home in a bizarre effort (

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38242178/ns/business-real_estate/) to keep a roof over his head. During his trial, Wilson claimed that “Yaweh,” or “the creator,” gave him the home. The jury was out for less than an hour before finding Wilson guilty. He now faces up to 30 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced August 19.

3. Buy my T-shirt, save my house.
To raise the $250,000 he needed to avoid foreclosure on his Port Washington, Wis., pad, former Saved by the Bell star Dustin Diamond sold T-shirts (

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,199934,00.html) with his photo and a caption reading, “I paid $15 to save Screeech’s house.” (The extra “e” in “Screeech” was to get around copyright laws.)

The down-on-his-luck comedian turned his money problems into a publicity ploy, telling his story on The Howard Stern Show and even scheduling an online telethon to raise more money. The appearance was canceled moments before it went on the air. Despite all that, it looks like Diamond is still going to lose his home. Wells Fargo started foreclosure proceedings in April.

2. If I can’t live here, no one can.
This past February, Ohio carpet business owner Terry Hoskins decided that he’d rather bulldoze his $350,000 house to the ground (

http://www.wwlp.com/dpps/news/strange/ohio-man-bulldozes-home-to-avoid-foreclosure-jgr_3244918) than let the bank have it. Hoskins also basically confirmed that he’d do the same to his carpet store if he had to. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. Although Hoskins didn’t technically break any laws, the bank did hold a sheriff’s auction of his business property to pay off the $600,000 debt he owed.

1. Superman saved our house.
On a more positive note, a rare comic book (

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/07/27/faster-speeding-bullet-superman-saves-familys-home/) (an Action Comic #1-the issue that introduced Superman to the world) was recently found in the basement of a couple facing foreclosure. Although it hasn’t been valued yet, Stephen Fishler, co-owner of ComicConnect.com, guarantees that the comic will bring in more than enough to pay off the mortgage at auction time. Other rare finds like this have been valued at more than $1 million.

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® is dedicated to providing resources that help families facing foreclosure take every step they can to keep their home. To find out how to (legitimately) fight foreclosure, visit the HouseLogic Foreclosure Resource Guide (

http://www.houselogic.com/guides/finances-insurance/home-finance/foreclosure-guide/).

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Low-Cost Ways to Spruce Up Your Home Exterior

Make your home more appealing for yourself and potential buyers with these quick and easy tips:

1. Trim bushes so they don t block windows or architectural details.

2. Mow your lawn, and turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before the showing to make the lawn sparkle.

3. Put a pot of bright flowers (or a small evergreen in winter) on your porch.

4. Install new doorknobs on your front door.

5. Repair any cracks in the driveway.

6. Edge the grass around walkways and trees.

7. Keep your garden tools and hoses out of sight.

8. Clear toys from the lawn.

9. Buy a new mailbox.

10. Upgrade your outside lighting.

11. Buy a new doormat for the outside of your front door.

12. Clean your windows, inside and outside.

13. Polish or replace your house numbers.

14. Place a seasonal wreath on your door.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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Common First-Time Home Buyer Mistakes

1. They don t ask enough questions of their lender and end up missing out on the best deal.

2. They don t act quickly enough to make a decision and someone else buys the house.

3. They don t find the right agent who s willing to help them through the home buying process.

4. They don t do enough to make their offer look appealing to a seller.

5. They don t think about resale before they buy. The average first-time buyer only stays in a home for four years.

Source: Real Estate Checklists and Systems, www.realestatechecklists.com.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What to Have on Hand for the New Owners?

Owner s manuals and warranties for appliances left in the house.
Garage door opener.
Extra sets of house keys.
A list of local service providers  the best dry cleaner, yard service, plumber, etc.
Code to the security alarm and phone number of the monitoring service if not discontinued.
As a courtesy, you could provide numbers to the local utility companies.
If it s a condo, leave information on how to contact the condo board.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What You Need for a Mortgage Your Lender Checklist

  • W-2 forms  or business tax return forms if you’re self-employed  for the last two or three years for every person signing the loan.
  • Copies of at least one pay stub for each person signing the loan.
  • Account numbers of all your credit cards and the amounts for any outstanding balances.
  • Copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements for both checking and savings accounts.
  • Lender, loan number, and amount owed on other installment loans, such as student loans and car loans.
  • Addresses where you ve lived for the last five to seven years, with names of landlords if appropriate.
  • Copies of brokerage account statements for two to four months, as well as a list of any other major assets of value, such as a boat, RV, or stocks or bonds not held in a brokerage account.
  • Copies of your most recent 401(k) or other retirement account statement.
  • Documentation to verify additional income, such as child support or a pension.
  • Copies of personal tax forms for the last two to three years.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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