Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving in Six Days? Yikes!

Sellers often choose to forgo listing their home until after the holidays. It is understandable since most of us would like to take this time of year to spend with family and such. Having a home on the market can be most disruptive. But inventory remains tight, especially in the bottom half of the price range.

People that are out looking for homes during the holiday season are generally pretty darn serious buyers. Looky-loos and tire-kickers are doing the whole holiday thing. Having a home listed during the holidays can yield strong offers from serious buyers. Really, who is out in the rain and snow looking at houses when they could be inside hanging out with family and friends or at the company party? Real buyers, that's who!

I have offered up tips in the past about prepping a home for a holiday sale, you can look through the archives of Novembers and Decembers past to find useful information on the matter. In general, keep the clutter to a minimum, keep the leaves off the walkways, out of the rain gutters, and off the drive way. If it snows, be sure to keep snow and ice off the walkways and driveway.

Keep pet orders under control. Burn a scented candle with a holiday theme, bake some cookies, and if possible have a fire going during peak showing times. Some people are looking for a very specific house. If your house isn't it, then chances are no amount of warm and fuzzy presentation will sway them. But most buyers are less picky. If your house feels like home, they might just write it up!

I find buyers to be more focused and serious about their purchase during the holidays. Sellers are wise to keep that in mind when making the decision about whether to list now or wait till next year.

Happy holidays, may yours be warm and fuzzy all around.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Two Hundred Thousand Dollar House is Elusive, But Not Dead Yet

975 SF, 3 bed 1 bath, $199k
Here in Clark County, Washington the housing prices have been robust. Maybe just a little too robust, but none-the-less homeowners that were once underwater to the bank are now finding themselves free to sell and move up or down as the case may be. Interestingly enough, sellers are sitting tight on their homes, and this has created a flush demand for entry to mid-level homes locally.

The $200,000 dollar price point is beginning to vanish in this market. Sure there are fixers and super tiny homes as well as condos and townhouses, but the single family detached dream is getting tight at $200k. I have a young man interested in buying his first home. He is looking to keep it around $200k and wants to use the USDA lending program. This loan program is designed to serve rural areas but there are a few here in Clark County.

1506 SF, 3 bed 1 bath $199k 
The bottom line is that buyers can still find some properties in good shape under this thresh hold. In close to the city, here in Vancouver, these will be fixers or really small houses. In the outlying areas such as Washougal and Battleground there are still opportunities for a decent sized home around 1100-1400 squares either modern and attached or older and detached. Many of these properties will qualify for a variety of financing options. Buyers need to be aware that most of the government sponsored loan products, FHA, VA, USDA, etc. have requirements that may exclude a "fixer" type house. There are other programs designed specifically for fixing up a troubled house, those a bit more complex and buyers should consult with a qualified loan officer about how they work.

This entry level housing market is almost always in demand. During the recent hard recession (2009-2012) I sold a great deal of homes in the entry level price range. The tough market conditions created a whole new class of buyers in a much more modest income bracket. Back then, I wrote articles about two minimum wage earners qualifying to buy a real house! These buyers are now sitting pretty with a nice chunk of equity in the homes they paid $125-150k for now valued at $200-250k.

The entry level buyers are the most vulnerable during an upswing in values. They can easily be priced out of the market by either rising home prices or rising interest rates. The whole new class of buyers I mentioned above are already priced out of this housing market. The window has closed locally for two minimum wage earners to buy a detached single family. Buyers in the higher prices ranges may not get priced out, but they can get priced down, meaning they may have to downsize the dream if they sit on the fence too long.

Sellers are in a prime zone right. Selling in the middle of an upswing can be good for the move up housing market. Sellers can let that entry level home go, use that equity to buy up to the larger home and still enjoy some market appreciation. Waiting too long, like people did in 2007-08 can result in being "stuck" for a few years when the market dips down. In my book 'Don't Panic', the whole theme is to buy low and sell high. We are running slim on the buy low opportunities so don't sit on that entry level house much longer. Sell it and grab your new house while their is still strong upside potential on the value.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Veterans Day around the Corner, VA Loan still the Best!

I am on an out of town business trip this week so I thought I would once again reach out to our veterans and talk about the wonderful VA Home Loan!

I originally posted this in 2013 on this blog. It has been slightly updated this time. The author is not affiliated with any government agency and is providing general information about available products in the real estate marketplace. 

Vets can check the VA website here
Are you a veteran? If you served honorably in the armed forces there is a good chance you qualify for a VA loan. The VA loan is probably the best mortgage loan product available. And it is for our veterans only.

What makes the VA loan so good? It is not any one thing but rather the whole package. The VA loan is a ZERO down program. The veteran does not need to save up a down payment for the house. VA loans are typically priced with the some of the lowest interest rates in the market. The VA loan does not have monthly mortgage insurance. These are strong features that make a VA loan hard to beat.

The VA loan does have a few minor drawbacks. It has a "funding fee" that runs around 2.25%. (funding fee may be waived for qualifying disabled vets) The veteran may finance that fee so the loan remains a truly no down product. The Veterans Administration requires that the property pass not just a standard appraisal, but a special VA appraisal that looks more closely at the quality of the property being financed. This can lead to the veteran having to be a little more selective with offers.

In the current low interest climate, the VA loan has another great feature. VA loans are assumable. A veteran buying a home now will likely have a great low interest rate. In the future when the vet wishes to sell, rates may not be so low. The veteran's ability to allow another veteran to "assume" his loan may make his property more marketable in the future. With rates currently hovering in the mid threes, it is likely this will be a great rate well into the foreseeable future.

Loan products have many variables. If you are a veteran of the US Armed forces I would strongly encourage you to talk to a lender and find out what is available for you. A qualified loan officer can give you all the details about what is required and how the program works. Our veterans have served this country with honor and they deserve an opportunity to own a home without excessive burden. The VA loan is a big step to making that a reality.

Disabled veterans often qualify for additional benefits. I run in to many people some veterans and some not who don't think they can buy a home. All too often they in fact can, and many times for a savings over comparable rent.

If you are veteran look into the VA benefits and the VA Home Loan today. It may be the best thing you ever do.