Amazing Real Estate Tips, Trends & Ideas

Amazing Real Estate Tips, Trends & Ideas for the Greater Seattle market: Local real estate news in the Greater Seattle market: Home prices and trends in Seattle, on the Eastside, and across the Puget Sound region. By Dave McFarland, Broker with RSVP Real Estate.

Oct. 9, 2019

What FICO® Score Do You Need to Qualify for a Mortgage?

What FICO® Score Do You Need to Qualify for a Mortgage? | MyKCM

While a recent announcement from CNBC shares that the average national FICO® score has reached an all-time high of 706, the good news for potential buyers is that you don’t need a score that high to qualify for a mortgage. Let’s unpack the credit score myth so you can to become a homeowner sooner than you may think.

With today’s low interest rates, many believe now is a great time to buy – and rightfully so! Fannie Mae recently noted that 58% of Americans surveyed say it is a good time to buy. Similarly, the Q3 2019 HOME Survey by the National Association of Realtors said 63% of people believe now is a good time to buy a home. Unfortunately, fear and misinformation often hold qualified and motivated buyers back from taking the leap into homeownership.

According to the same CNBC article,

“For the first time, the average national credit score has reached 706, according to FICO®, the developer of one of the most commonly used scores by lenders.”

This is great news, as it means Americans are improving their credit scores and building toward a stronger financial future, especially after the market tumbled during the previous decade. With today’s strong economy and increasing wages, many Americans have had the opportunity to improve their credit over the past few years, driving this national average up.

Since Americans with stronger credit are now entering the housing market, we are seeing an increase in the FICO® Score Distribution of Closed Loans (see graph below):What FICO® Score Do You Need to Qualify for a Mortgage? | MyKCMBut hang on – don’t forget that this does not mean you need a FICO® score over 700 to qualify for a mortgage. Here’s what Experian, the global leader in consumer and business credit reporting, says:

FHA Loan: “FHA loans are ideal for those who have less-than-perfect credit and may not be able to qualify for a conventional mortgage loan. The size of your required down payment for an FHA loan depends on the state of your credit score: If your credit score is between 500 and 579, you must put 10% down. If your credit score is 580 or above, you can put as little as 3.5% down (but you can put down more if you want to).”

Conventional Loan: “It's possible to get approved for a conforming conventional loan with a credit score as low as 620, although some lenders may look for a score of 660 or better.”

USDA Loan“While the USDA doesn't have a set credit score requirementmost lenders offering USDA-guaranteed mortgages require a score of at least 640.”

VA Loan: “As with income levels, lenders set their own minimum credit requirements for VA loan borrowers. Lenders are likely to check credit scores as part of their screening process, and most will set a minimum score, or cutoff, that loan applicants must exceed to be considered.”

Bottom Line

As you can see, plenty of loans are granted to buyers with a FICO® score that is lower than the national average. If you’d like to understand the next steps to take when determining your credit score, let’s get together so you can learn more.

Oct. 9, 2019

Certain home sales of $400,000 and below will no longer require an appraisal, under a new rule that takes effect today.

Certain home sales of $400,000 and below will no longer require an appraisal, under a new rule that takes effect today. Homes that qualify for the appraisal exemption can receive an evaluation instead.

This is the first time in 25 years that federal regulators have increased the property value limit of the homes that require an appraisal as part of the selling process. Federal regulators cited price appreciation in residential real estate transactions for the change.

The new rules likely apply to about 40% of home sales, regulators estimate. For properties that do qualify for the exemption, the agencies require institutions to obtain an evaluation that provides an estimate of the market value of the real estate property.

The new exemption does not apply to loans sold or guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac; all will still require an appraisal.

The previous rule stated that appraisals were not required on home sales of $250,000 and below. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve approved the new threshold over the last two months, and the rule appeared in the Federal Register this week, making it official on Wednesday.

The National Association of REALTORS® has advocated that any loan limit related to an appraisal exemption be tied to specific markets rather than a blanket number for the whole country. A $100,000 limit might be reasonable in some parts of the country, and a $500,000 limit might be reasonable in others, depending on average housing values, NAR says.

Oct. 6, 2019

A Simple Trick for Saving on Your Energy Bill

4 Tips to Improve Your Home and Save on Your Energy Bill | MyKCM

As a homeowner, it’s important to keep your home running efficiently, not only to save money, but also to help the environment thrive. October 2nd is Energy Efficiency Day, a perfect time to think about making some key upgrades that will improve the efficiency of your home. If you’re looking to sell your house and increase the pool of potential buyers in your market, the upgrades below are truly a must.

According with Wallet Hub,

“In the U.S., energy costs eat between 5 and 22 percent of families’ total after-tax income.”

What should you spend on utilities?

Money Management says,

“If you’re working with a budget, and trust me, you should be, your utility costs should be no more than 8-10 percent of your monthly income.”

How can you make your home more efficient?

EnergyEfficiencyDay.Org provides some handy tips that can help you improve the energy efficiency of your home. Here are a few simple ones to consider, and how to make them happen:

1. Make the Switch to LED

LEDs are a great example of how innovation and technology can make your life easier. They last at least 25 times longer and consume up to 90 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs.

Tip: By switching five of your home’s most frequently used bulbs with ENERGY STAR® certified LEDs, it’s possible to save $75 on energy costs annually.

2. Seal Those Leaks

On average, heating and cooling account for almost half of a home’s energy consumption. In fact, all the little leaks can be equivalent to leaving open a 3-foot-by-3-foot window.

Tip: Take simple steps like caulking windows, sealing leaks around chimneys and recessed lighting, and sliding draft guards under your doors to save up to 20% on heating costs.

3. Heat and Cool Efficiently

Don’t waste money heating or cooling an empty home. Install a programmable thermostat and in colder weather schedule your home’s heat to lower when you are away or asleep and increase when you are returning home or waking-up. In warm weather, schedule the thermostat to raise the temperature when you are away or asleep, and lower it at other times.

Tip: Follow the U.S. Department of Energy recommended temperatures and be energy-efficient all year. 

4. Maintain Your HVAC System

Make sure to clean or change your furnace filters regularly. A dirty furnace filter will slow down air flow, making the system work harder to keep you warm (or cool) and costing you more money.

Tip: Consider getting a winter tune-up. Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a semi-annual or yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can be vital to improve efficiency, saving you money and making your home more comfortable. 

Bottom Line

By making a few key upgrades to your home, you’ll save on your utility bills and improve the energy efficiency of your home. When you’re ready to sell your house, these key features will make it even more attractive to potential buyers. Let’s get together to discuss what buyers are looking for when it comes to energy efficiency options in our area.

Oct. 4, 2019

Create Wealth: Move Up Now!!



Create Wealth: Move Up Now!! | The KCM Crew

Our team is always discussing a variety of topics such as real estate as an investment, the movement on mortgage interest rates and reasons to buy now instead of waiting. 

The opportunity that exists in real estate today is there for everyone... especially "move up buyers!"

The family that already owns a home might be thinking that, if they wait, their home could be worth more next year than it is now. And that may cause them to delay moving up to the home of their dreams thinking it makes good financial sense. Actually, the opposite is true. This is the best chance a family has to buy up into the home that makes sense for their family right now.

We tell people that whatever percentage of value you gain on your current house will also be gained on your dream home.

Let’s assume your current home is worth $500,000. Your house will be worth $520,000 next year if prices rise by 4% over that time (a number projected by the Home Price Expectation Survey).

However, the $750,000 home you are hoping to move into will also appreciate by about that same 4%. That means next year it will be valued at $780,000. You wouldn’t make $20,000 by waiting. You would actually be losing $10,000 ($30,000 - $20,000).

And, you will pay a lower interest rate on the mortgage than you probably will next year.

Let us plug in the numbers that apply to your house and the home you are longing to buy and see what the bottom line turns out to be for you.

That is how wealth is built in this country - by purchasing real estate at the right time, at the right price and at the right terms.

Go out and find your family's dream house and buy it! Ten years from now, you will be glad you did!  Call Dave McFarland at 425-330-0663 for a short, no obligation conversation.

Oct. 4, 2019

Are You Ready for the ‘Black Friday’ of Real Estate?

Real estate markets ebb and flow, just like the seasons. The spring market blooms right along with the flowers, but the fall market often dwindles with the leaves — and this slower pace has always been good for our buyer clients.

If you’re in the market for a home, now can be a great time to buy.  In fact... 

Are You Ready for the ‘Black Friday’ of Real Estate? | MyKCM

Every year, ‘Black Friday’ is a highly anticipated event for eager shoppers. Some people prepare for weeks, crafting and refining a strategic shopping agenda, determining exactly when to arrive at each store, and capturing a wish list of discounted must-have items to purchase. But what about buying a home? Is there a ‘Black Friday’ for the home-buying process? Believe it or not, there is.

According to a new study from realtor.comthe week of September 22 is the best time of year to buy a home, making it ‘Black Friday’ for homebuyers.  We sort of consider it the "Black Friday of Homebuying Season!"

After evaluating housing data in 53 metros from 2016 to 2018, realtor.com determined that the first week of fall is when buyers “tend to find less competition, more inventory, and the biggest reductions on list price.

The report explains,

“During the first week of fall, buyers tend to face 26% less competition from other buyers, and they are likely to see 6.1% more homes available on the market compared to other weeks of the year...nearly 6% of homes on the market will also see price reductions, averaging 2.4% less than their peak.”

What’s so different about the first week of fall?

George Ratiu, Senior Economist with realtor.com says,

“As summer winds down and kids return to school, many families hit pause on their home search and wait until the next season to start again…as seasonal inventory builds up and restores itself to more buyer-friendly levels, fall buyers will be in a better position to take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates and increased purchasing power.”

Learn more about how prices, listings, and buyer competition stack up during the first week of fall in any neighborhood with our advanced home finder system.

Bottom Line

If you want to take advantage of the "Black Friday of Homebuying Season!", let Dave and his team show you the benefits of making your next move this fall.

Oct. 3, 2019

How Does the Supply of Homes for Sale Impact Buyer Demand?

Looking at the “stats”, it’s easy to see why prices are appreciating in many areas of the Puget Sound area. Until the supply of homes for sale starts to meet buyer demand, prices will continue to increase. 

How Does the Supply of Homes for Sale Impact Buyer Demand? | MyKCM

The price of any item is determined by supply, as well as the market’s demand for the item. The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) surveys “over 50,000 real estate practitioners about their expectations for home sales, prices and market conditions” for their monthly REALTORS Confidence Index.

Their latest edition sheds some light on the relationship between seller traffic (supply) and buyer traffic (demand).

Buyer Demand

The map below was created after asking the question: “How would you rate buyer traffic in your area?”How Does the Supply of Homes for Sale Impact Buyer Demand? | MyKCMThe darker the blue, the stronger the demand for homes is in that area. The survey shows that in 3 of the 50 U.S. states, buyer demand is now very strong; only 2 of the 50 states have a ‘weak’ demand. Overall, buyer demand is slightly lower than this time last year but remains strong.

Seller Supply 

The index also asked: “How would you rate seller traffic in your area?”How Does the Supply of Homes for Sale Impact Buyer Demand? | MyKCMAs the map below shows, 18 states reported ‘weak’ seller traffic, 29 states and Washington, D.C. reported ‘stable’ seller traffic, and 3 states reported ‘strong’ seller traffic. This means there are far fewer homes on the market than what is needed to satisfy the buyers who are looking for homes.

Bottom Line

Looking at the maps above, it is not hard to see why prices are appreciating in many areas of the country. Until the supply of homes for sale starts to meet buyer demand, prices will continue to increase. If you are debating listing your home for sale, let’s get together to help you capitalize on the demand in our market now.

If you are debating listing your home for sale, let’s get together to help you capitalize on the demand in our market now.  Call Dave McFarland at 425-330-0663 for a short conversation about your goals.

Sept. 25, 2019

Should You Fix Your House Up or Sell Now?

Should You Fix Your House Up or Sell Now? | MyKCM

With the fall season upon us, change is in the air. For many families, children are growing up and moving out of the house, maybe leaving for college or taking a jump into the working world. Parents are finding themselves as empty nesters for the first time. The question inevitably arises: is it finally time to downsize?

If you’re pondering that thought, you may also be wondering if you should fix-up your house before you sell it, or go straight to the market as-is, allowing a potential buyer to do the updates and remodeling. If you’re one of the many homeowners this camp, here are a few tips to help you decide which way to go.

1. Analyze Your Market

A real estate professional can help you to understand your market and the potential level of buyer interest and demand for your home. Are you in a seller’s market or a buyer’s market? This can change based on the price range of your home, too. A professional can also give you some insight on what you can change or remodel, and how to declutter your house to make it attractive to buyers in your area.

2. Get an Inspector

Right now, the average length of time a family stays in a home is between 9-10 years. That’s a little longer than the historical average, so if you’ve been living in your home for a while, it might be time to make some significant improvements. Think: electrical system, HVAC units, roof, siding, etc. An inspector can give you a better idea of the condition of your home, if it is up to current code standards, and recommendations on how to have your house ready before you put it on the market.

3. Decide If You Need to Remodel

You may also be thinking about driving buyer appeal with something like a kitchen or a bathroom remodel. If so, first dig into the market value of your home, and compare it to the actual cost of the remodel. A local real estate professional can help you determine your home’s market value, and you’ll want to get a few quotes from contractors on the potential remodel pricing as well. Once you have those two factors narrowed down, you can to decide if a remodel will give you a return on your investment when you sell. Oftentimes, it is actually more advantageous to price your house to sell, list it competitively, and then let the buyer pick the colors they want for their bathroom tiles and the type of countertop they prefer. The 2019 Cost vs. Value Report in Remodeling Magazine compares the average cost for remodeling projects with the value those projects typically retain at resale.

Bottom Line

Nationwide, inventory is low, meaning there is less than the 6-month housing supply needed for a normal market. This drives buyer demand, creating a perfect time to sell. If you’re considering selling your house, let’s get together to help you confidently determine what will be the best choice for you and your family.

Sept. 21, 2019

What Buyers Need to Know About HOAs

What Buyers Need to Know About HOAs | MyKCM

When searching for a home, you may end up selecting a property in a community with a Homeowners Association (HOA). Before you buy, it’s important to know how an HOA works and what they mean for you.

According to a recent article on realtor.com,

“In a nutshell, an HOA helps ensure that your community looks its best and functions smoothly…The number of Americans living in homes with HOAs is on the rise, growing from a mere 1% in 1970 to 25% today, according to the Foundation for Community Association Research.”

An HOA is governed by a board nominated by those living in the neighborhood. It is designed to make sure the residents have a support structure to maintain the value of the community while abiding by a set of guidelines called Common Restrictive Covenants (CC&R),

“Simply put, CC&Rs are just the rules you'll have to follow if you live in that community. Unlike zoning regulations, which are government-imposed requirements on how land can be used, restrictive covenants are established by HOAs to maintain the attractiveness and value of the property.”

It's important for homeowners to understand that each HOA is a little different, and they usually have monthly or quarterly fees required for homeowners. These fees can vary based on property size, number of residents, amenities, and more. There may be additional fees charged to homeowners if the reserve fund for the HOA cannot cover a major or unexpected cost, like severe storm damage.

The fees, however, also help maintain common areas such as swimming pools, tennis courts, elevators (for high-rise buildings), and regular wear and tear. Although they are an added cost to the homeowner, an HOA can be a major benefit when it comes to maintaining the value of your neighborhood and your property.

The same article continues to say,

“After your offer to buy a home is accepted, you are legally entitled to receive and review the community's CC&Rs over a certain number of days (typically between three and 10)…If you spot anything in the restrictive covenants you absolutely can't live with, you can bring it up with the HOA board or just back out of your contract completely (and keep your deposit).”

Most lenders will factor your HOA fees into your loan package, ensuring the amount of the loan is appropriate for what you can truly afford.

There are some great benefits to having an HOA oversee your neighborhood, and it’s important to understand what fees, structures, and regulations will come into play if there is an HOA where you’d like to live.

Bottom Line

When you’re looking at a potential property to buy, let’s get together so you have a professional who can help you understand the neighborhood’s HOA structure and fees. This way, you’ll feel confident and fully informed when buying a home.

Jan. 28, 2019

Why It Makes No Sense to Wait for Spring to Sell

The price of any item (including residential real estate) is determined by the theory of ‘supply and demand.’ If many people are looking to buy an item and the supply of that item is limited, the price of that item increases.

The supply of homes for sale dramatically increases every spring, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). As an example, here is what happened to housing inventory at the beginning of 2018:

Putting your home on the market now, rather than waiting for increased competition in the spring, might make a lot of sense.

Bottom Line

Buyers in the market during the winter are truly motivated purchasers and they want to buy now. With limited inventory currently available in most markets, sellers are in a great position to negotiate.

 

Jan. 25, 2019

3 Things To Know About The Shifting Seattle Area Real Estate Market

Whether you are thinking of selling your house or buying a home, today’s real estate headlines can be confusing – perhaps even concerning. What is actually happening with mortgage rates? Are home values dropping or are they just rising at a slower pace? What impact will the economy have on the housing market?

If you are either a buyer or seller (or both), you need to know what it will mean to your family if you go ahead with the move. You need to understand three things:


1. What is happening in the housing market right now?

Consumers must get past those fear-mongering headlines and gain a deep understanding of what is truly happening. How strong is buyer demand right now? How much competition do listings have today compared to what they will have in the spring? People want to make an educated decision on what is probably their family’s greatest financial asset.

2. Why is it happening?

Understanding the individual pieces that impact the sale or purchase of real estate is important. Understanding how those pieces impact each other is critical. How does the amount of a down payment impact the mortgage rate a buyer will be offered? Can you still price your house a ‘little ahead’ of the market and still be sure it will sell?

3. How do the first two affect your local market?

Basically, you want an understanding of the overall housing market and a simple and effective explanation of how it will impact your personal real estate goals.

Here's the Bottom Line

The best way to get all three is to work with a professional who understands this shifting real estate market and can expertly guide you on the journey to reach your housing goals. Let’s get together to discuss what today’s market means for you.