Insurance Binder

So, you have finally found your DREAM home, the ink is dry and you are excited to move towards closing!  CONGRATULATIONS!  Your mortgage is preapproved and the anticipation and race to the finish line is on!   
When you signed your contract, one of the contingencies named is relative to obtaining insurance on your home.  It’s very important to start this process early on, as you will find different companies will quote different rates, and having an insurance “binder” is going to be a lender requirement to complete your loan process.  Also, in the Northwest MLS Insurance Addendum that we include with your contract, the boilerplate designates a contingency period of 5 days after mutual acceptance to apply for insurance, and then 15 days after mutual acceptance to obtain a binder that is acceptable.
So….what’s a binder? Simply put, it’s proof of insurance your lender requires as evidence that your new home is covered against any loss, fire, theft, damage, etc.  It does take some time for your insurance agent to put this together, so save them some stress of rushing and try to have them begin working on this as soon as possible, so you have adequate time to verify your coverage is what you want and also allowing them enough time to supply the copy of the binder to your lender to pay the premium at closing.
Once you have decided WHO will be your insurance provider, it’s easiest to have your loan officer contact them to obtain what they need for closing. The insurance premium will be calculated into your closing costs, and your lender will collect monthly escrow funds that are saved over the year to be disbursed when the next annual premium is due.
It’s that simple! 

 

Keeley Wagner is a licensed Realtor with The Connors Group at Windermere Group One and a former Licensed Closing Agent.  Check out http://www.aprilconnors.com for more information.
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What NOT to do when buying a house

Buying a house can be a mix of emotions, especially if its your first time. Here is some suggestions and tips on what NOT to do when you are getting ready to purchase a new home.

  1. Do not change jobs – Job Hoppers Beware!  Lenders like to see a consistent job history which proves to them you’re going to remain employed and able to pay on your mortgage!  If you switch to a new job in the same field, it’s not usually as big of a deal, but at all costs, try and stay where you are until your loan closes.  Always check with your lender!
  2. Do not use your credit cards excessively or allow current accounts to fall behind – if you spend too much money, then how will you afford your payments?  If you don’t make payments on time, how will the bank trust that you’ll repay your mortgage?
  3. Do not go buy a new car – This is a HUGE NO-NO for various reasons.  It can drastically throw off your Debt-to-Income Ratio, and will also show new credit inquiries on your credit report thus lowering your score and POSSIBLY disqualifying you for a great rate and oftentimes disqualifying you for your home loan.
  4. Do not open any new credit accounts – See #2 & #3
  5. Do not switch bank accounts or banking institutions – Lenders are required to source funds for your down payment, your income, and your earnest money.  Changing banks makes their job way harder, and is a HUGE pain in the rear if they cannot verify where your money came from.  This can delay your closing significantly.
  6. Do not spend savings that is designated for your down payment and closing costs.  Period.  No down payment – no house. No closing costs – no closing.
  7. Do not buy furniture on credit – See #2, #3, & #4
  8. Do not make large deposits or cash deposits without first asking your loan officer – See #5 – Cash deposits during a certain timeframe cannot be sourced and are not considered “good funds” that can be utilized as a verifiable down payment.
  9. Do not be a co-signor for someone else – Bad move.  THEIR debt becomes YOUR debt.  This can scare off a bank that is doing your mortgage because WHAT-IF the person you co-sign for fails to pay (worst-case-scenario) …and then you are stuck paying on it so it doesn’t ruin YOUR credit – or – if you choose NOT to pay, they will send you to collections, file judgements against you, and ruin your life.  On the lighter side, being a co-signor will throw off your Debt-to-Income Ratio and show as a liability on your credit that might affect  your credit-worthiness/score.
  10. Do not get married during your loan application without notifying your lender of the impending marital status change and name change ☺  It will life easier on the people working on your loan docs if they know ahead of time!

Keeley Wagner is a licensed Realtor with The Connors Group at Windermere Group One and a former Licensed Closing Agent.  Check out http://www.aprilconnors.com for more information.

Beware of Wire Fraud

It’s undoubtedly going to happen that your phone will ring, you will answer and it’s going to be someone you’ve never even heard of.  John WHO?  Sally say what?  When you are first contacted by an escrow agent (or any party asking for sensitive info), email or call your real estate broker to make sure that person is who they say they are. You broker will know who reached out to you and can verify if they are a valid party to your transaction or not. Before you wire money ANYWHERE make sure to call your broker or your closing agent to obtain their instructions on how to wire the money to make sure it’s going to a legit source.
 
Don’t become a wire fraud victim – it STINKS!!   We have got YOUR back and want to make sure you know how to keep yourself safeguarded from a scam. Millions of people are targeted for wire fraud every year. Whether you’re a buyer or a seller it CAN happen to you – so please make sure to follow these simple steps to protect yourself while you’re transacting the largest investment in your life – YOUR HOUSE! 
 
Really – it’s fairly simple:

·Call your agent to verify the requesting source

·Call the escrow company and directly request their wiring instructions, and once you receive them, call them back to verify they are authentic to their branch.

·Sometimes hackers will monitor accounts waiting for the time you are going to be wiring funds. Most of the time no one knows the account is even being monitored by a hacker.  Those guys are good so remain defensive!

·Hackers will sometimes impersonate the Escrow agent or your Broker and ask you to wire funds immediately. They will send you wire instructions for an account that is being controlled by the hacker and create a sense of urgency to wire funds. They will tell you that your broker can’t be reached by phone, so you must only email them. IMMEDIATELY stop and call your broker, you have been hacked. Your Broker would never email you and ask you to wire funds. You can always pick up the phone and call you Broker.

·You should NEVER respond to an email that asks you to wire money. Always call before you wire money to keep yourself protected. 

·Finally…. Sometimes your gut intuition can be your best warning, so listen to that small voice telling you if something feels amiss!

Good luck and we hope this helps you to never fall victim to wire fraud!

 

Elizabeth Lutz is a licensed Realtor with The Connors Group at Windermere Group One and specializes in the team’s social media marketing.  Check out http://www.aprilconnors.com for more information.

What Happens When We Reduce the Price

So you have just reduced the price on your home!  How do people find out?

We consider a price reduction a re-launch of your home, when your home price is reduced we take the following action:

  • Change the Price in MLS – which automatically links to third party sites, like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com
  • Update Flyers
  • Place New Flyers in Your Home
  • E-Blast the Reduction to ALL agents in our MLS
  • Create Price Adjustment Social Media Content and Place Social Media Ads
  • Personal Email or Phone call to ALL agents who have previously shown your home

April Connors is part of the Connors Group at Windermere Real Estate and is a licensed Real Estate Broker in Washington State.

 

How to Get Ready for Photos 📷

You decided that you are going to sell your home and now you must get it in tip-top shape. It is critical that your home be perfect for photos because you want to make the first impression count. The photos will make people want to come see your home and hopefully buy it!

The majority of people will start their home search online viewing sites such as Zillow or REALTOR.com or your Agent Website. Here are some tips for making your home perfect for photos.

Interior of the Home

  • Start by giving your home the best deep clean its ever had – clean means you have taken great care of  your home – thoroughly clean whole house (vacuum carpets, mop hard floors, clean countertops, clean windows)

On Photo Day

  • Turn all overhead lights and lamps on
  • Replace all burned out light bulbs
  • Use bulbs of the same temperature (ALL incandescent or ALL compact fluorescent) – if you home on the darkish side…consider daylight bulbs, they significantly brighten any home!
  • Turn all ceiling fans OFF
  • Turn all TVs OFF
  • Turn all computer screens OFF
  • Open blinds/window treatments to let in outside light
  • Remove personal photographs (or replace with general landscape/object photographs)
  • Make all beds
  • Remove small floor rugs to reveal actual flooring
  • Place all shoes/jackets in closet
  • Hide garbage cans in pantry or closet
  • Remove dishes from sink, place in dishwasher
  • Clear table, dust and polish the table top
  • Use decorative place setting if available
  • Feature one center piece such as a bouquet of flowers
  • Straighten all chairs and space them evenly
  • Remove child seats/booster chairs
  • Remove stacks of magazines, papers, mail, etc.
  • De-clutter fireplace mantel/hearth
  • Clean interior of fireplace and re-paint if needed
  • Fluff and arrange furniture pillows
  • Remove kid’s toys
  • Clear nightstands of all personal items including chargers and Kleenex boxes
  • Store away phone/tablet charging cables
  • Remove all clutter from top of dressers
  • Clean under bed, removing items that may show in the photos
  • Clear countertops completely. No soap, toothbrushes, medications, deodorant, etc. (only leaving decorative items)
  • Put toilet seats down
  • Fold toilet paper…like you see in a hotel
  • Close closet doors
  • Remove shampoo, soap, loofahs, etc. from showers and tubs
  • Remove dirty towels – leave out only new, unused towels
  • Remove floor mats

Exterior of Home

Curb appeal is so important, this is the first thing potential buyers see when they pull up. You also want your backyard to be seen as a relaxing space, make sure it is picked up!

  • Close garage doors
  • Remove cars from driveway and front of home
  • Clean up landscaping (mow, trim shrubs, clear leaves)
  • Remove empty planters
  • Use broom to remove cobwebs from eaves and door frames
  • Remove visible water hoses
  • Remove toys, sports balls, basketball goals, soccer goals, etc.
  • Clean porch, tidy up outdoor tables/chairs/cushions
  • Pillows/cushions should be fresh, not faded
  • Clear out kid’s toys, balls, frisbees, etc.
  • Clean pool
  • Remove pool vacuum/cleaner hose
  • Hide pool cleaning supplies
  • Turn on pool fountains/water features
  • Remove trash cans
  • Sweep or hose down patios

Pet

  • Place food and water bowls in pantry or closet
  • Place pet beds/toys in pantry or close
  • Use lint roller on furniture to remove pet hair
  • Contain pets in hidden crate or outside
  • Clear back yard of pet waste/toys

What to Expect During the Photo Shoot

When the photographer arrives, your house should be photo shoot ready! He usually has a full schedule that day and will need to be able to photograph without interruptions to make sure he does the best possible job for you.  To make sure that he gets all the shots that you would like, please have the home “open house ready.” Plan for extra family members (including pets) to be away from home.  Park your extra vehicles down the street. Our photographer will be in your home approximately 2 hours.  It usually takes 24-48 hours for the photographer to finish editing the photos and send them to us.  Upon receipt, we will share the link with you to view all the images.  The last step (uploading photos!) for getting your listing up and running on the MLS!

Elizabeth Lutz is a licensed Realtor with The Connors Group at Windermere Group One and specializes in the team’s social media marketing.  Check out http://www.aprilconnors.com for more information.

VA “Escape” Clause

The FHA/VA Amendatory & Escape Clause is a lender document that each party in the transaction must sign stating that the mortgage being applied for is the only loan being financed on the property; there are no “secret” loans or down-payment sources being made under the table.  The Escape Clause – in layman’s terms – notifies all parties that if the appraised value comes in LOWER than the agreed to purchase price, that the buyer is under no obligation to move forward with the purchase.

Keeley Wagner is a licensed Realtor with The Connors Group at Windermere Group One and a former Licensed Closing Agent.  Check out http://www.aprilconnors.com for more information.

Broker’s Open House – What Is It?

Open House

We all know what an Open House is!  An event scheduled to bring in potential Buyer’s to your home, typically held on a Saturday or Sunday for a specific period of time and advertised online!

What is a Broker’s Open House

What is that, exactly? The biggest difference is the invite list, this open house is not open to the public or the nosy neighbors, only real estate professionals.  Typically a Broker’s Open House is held during a weekday or week night and Agents will be viewing the home for potential clients.

Once your Agent schedules a Broker’s Open,  it should be advertised to industry professionals. Typical forms of advertising are Facebook private events, flyers and picking up the phone to invite in person. Usually a free lunch is involved as an incentive to show up. On the day of the event, the other agents typically enjoy lunch, mingle with colleagues (from all different companies) while viewing the home and providing feedback on the property.

Why Consider a Broker’s Open?

A chance to target industry professionals to actually look inside your home, rather than viewing photos and video online.

A chance for professionals to take a moment to stop and think if your house matches any of their clients needs in their Contact Management System.

It provides valuable critique on value, staging and other items that might make your home more desirable.  Realtors are generally more open to providing positive and negative feedback at these events.

I’m a Little Bit Country…

Tired of the hustle and bustle of City life, dreaming of building that home in the Country?  Who hasn’t thought of fields of flowers, wide open spaces and quiet living.  Remember buying rural property is a lot different than purchasing a city lot.  We are hoping to help you with some of the items that you may wish to consider during your buying feasibility study.

What is a Feasibility Study

A feasibility study is a timeframe the land owner or developer will give to the potential Buyer to determine if the property is “right” for them.  It is the Buyer’s opportunity to explore all facets of the property before moving forward with the purchase of the land.

What Are you Looking For?

  • Livestock in your future?  Horses, cattle, 4-H projects? horse-1617857__480
  • Hobby Farm – thinking of trying your hand at growing wine grapes?
  • Just a acre or two for a pool and shop?

Make sure to consider the neighborhood carefully and how the adjoining properties are currently zoned, what is common for the area and how development could impact the future of your property.

Take a Walk!

You found the property!  We suggest taking your homebuilder to walk the site. You will need to carefully evaluate the following:

Property Boundary Lines – Find the boundary lines for the property to ensure they are clearly marked and there are no encroachments on the property.  If you are buying a parcel of land that is not in a new development you should always consider hiring a professional surveyor to locate boundary lines.

flooding-2048469__480Floodplain – Wetlands –  Are there wetlands on the property, make sure to verify.  Building in a floodplain may require flood insurance, your due diligence should include calling your insurance agent before the end of  your feasibility study to inquire if you need flood insurance and to understand the costs of extra flood insurance.  In Washington State the Department of Ecology provides this Flood Map Search – make sure to check out your potential property.

Home Site – Is the property suitable for all of the things you want to accomplish?  Home, shop, pasture….make sure to understand any easements on the property.   Make sure to check with the county on any building requirements.

Items on the Property – Inspect the property for hazards such as garbage dumps, buried or leaking fuel tanks, chemicals or other issues that may have significant costs associated with clean up.  Make sure your offer includes the developer or owner to take care of any debris or hazards on the lot you would like cleaned up.

Understand Your New Neighborhood!

Location, location, location.  Your neighborhood is uber important when considering any property and this is especially REALLY true for rural properties. . Much of the land in the country is used for agricultural purposes. Commercial farming may be present, including fertilizer, crop dusting, and livestock to name a few.  Take a drive around and understand what is around you!

CC&Rs

Most rural developments have Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions.  Make sure during your feasibility period that both you and your builder review and understand the CC&Rs fully.  A few of things you might find in the CC&Rs can include the style and size of home and shop you can build, view protection clauses, type of fencing you can use, and if animals are allowed, etc.  Grab a highlighter and spend some time reviewing these carefully.

Is there Irrigation Water?

Make sure to understand if there is irrigation water provided to your property.  This is a very important feature of rural property.  Without irrigation water you are limited on the amount of water your can draw from a private well to water your lawn or pasture, in Washington State you are limited to 1/2 acre.  Check out other water rights restrictions here.

Final Plat

Carefully review the face of the recorded final plat and any associated documents for other items you may not be aware of that are listed on the plat.

Where is EVERYTHING?

Moving to the country may mean a longer commute especially to schools, gas stations, school-bus-698473__480grocery stores, etc…are you prepared for that? Make sure to check out:

  1. School Bus Service
  2. Garbage Service
  3. Private vs. County Roads
  4. Cable and Internet Service.  Is high speed available, what are the other options?
  5. Emergency Services….where is the closest fire station…hospital?

Thirsty?

So how much does it cost to drill a well?  Well…it can be substantial, the deeper you drill the more expensive it can get…and it is the Buyer’s responsibility to check with local well drillers and the Department of Ecology to determine if you can…start your research here  Washington State Wells.  Make sure to check well logs Washington State Well Logs close by to see how deep the other wells in the area are to get a sense of how far you may have to drill.   Check in with your County Health Department to find recommended local well drillers.  Also, there is a recent Washington State court decision on wells…make sure you understand your County’s standing on the court decision of Whatcom County vs. Hirst, Futurewise, et al and follow along with Senate Bill 5239 that is proposed to ensure that water is available to support future development.

Public Sewer…Probably Not!

Most rural properties don’t have access to public sewer and require an on-site septic system.  The systems are typically approved by the County, in our case the Benton-Franklin Health Department is a great place to start…check them out here. The type of septic system you can install depends on the soil of the property.  It is super important that you evaluate and understand this expense.

You can evaluate by performing a PERC test which requires digging holes on the property  near your home site.  Once the holes are dug the Health Department Official takes samples and analyzes the soil to see how quickly water drains in the ground to support the septic drainfield.

Review Zoning, Taxes, and Land Use

Check with your county assessor’s office to answer these questions when considering building on a rural property:

  •  How is the property currently zoned?
  • What is the tax basis for the property?
  • Does the current zoning allow residential development?
  • Will the tax basis change if a residence is constructed?
  • If zoned agricultural, does the zoning and agricultural tax status transfer with the sale of the property?
  • What are the requirements to maintain an ag exempt status on (minimum acreage size, annual income requirement, etc.)?

An ag exemption preserves the legal use and tax status of the property, however, some counties may have requirements which must be adhered to in order to maintain these benefits.

  • What paperwork must be completed to maintain the ag exemption prior to the transfer of the property?

Got Power?

strommast-2291381_1920If the propery does not have power this can be a SIGNIFICANT cost when developing rural property.  Make sure that power is available at the road or close to the homesite.

If the power is not to the property make sure to contact the public utility service during your feasibility study to estimate the cost to bring and install power to the lot.

Old McDonald Had a Farm

Not all properties are farmed, however, if they are you need to consider these items during you feasibility period:

  • Are there any leases?  If the property owner is leasing out the ground to a local farmer to maintain and harvest the crops make sure you understand the terms of the lease agreement including but not limited to length of lease, terms, obligations and conditions.
  • Water Rights – Some farm properties are irrigated from a lake, stream, river, deep well or irrigation district.   Water rights are highly regulated and an integral part of the property’s value. Verify the water rights transfer with the land and consider some of these questions during your feasibility period.

Thanks for reading along!   We know there are many more items you will need to consider in your feasibility study, we are hoping that this article helps get your started!

April Connors is part of the Connors Group at Windermere Real Estate and is a licensed Real Estate Broker in Washington State.

What You Need to Know About Appraisals?

Congratulations!  You are through the grueling inspection process.  So…what’s up next?  The BIG hurdle in the home selling process…the APPRAISAL…house-307216_1280

Why is it Needed?

An appraisal determines the value of your  home AND more importantly determines how much the Buyer’s mortgage lender will lend you for your home.   The value is established by a licensed Real Estate Appraiser, they are third-party contractors that are generally hired by the Buyer’s Lender. Appraisers establish the price the property on factors relating to neighborhood growth, housing trends and market conditions.

money-256319__480Who Pays?

Appraisals typically cost a bit over $500 in our market, and typically the Buyer pays the fee at closing as part of their closing costs.  There are exceptions so please discuss with your Realtor.

How Do I Prepare?

 

The Appraiser will  call your agent to schedule a time to view your home.  In our market we like our Sellers to actually let the Appraiser in their home and suggest they have a  list handy of any upgrades they have made to the home that they feel could add value to it. While preparing, think about showing your home to a prospective Buyer….SHOW READY with lights on, great smells, blinds are open!  The Appraiser is setting the value on your home, make it SHINE!

The appraiser will sketch your home to determine accurate square footage and take photos of your house while searching for any code violations that you will have to repair or fix prior to the lender approving you loan.  IMPORTANT in Washington State carbon monoxides detectors are REQUIRED if they are not installed at the time of the Appraisal site visit, the Appraiser will have to return to your property…THIS may delay closing and there WILL be an additional fee.    Ask your Realtor how many C02 detectors you may need and where they should be located.

How Does the Appraiser Formulate Value?

Besides neighborhood growth, housing trends and market conditions mentioned above, the Appraiser will review all recent comparable sales in your neighborhood to determine value, these are the same “comps” your agent hopefully used to establish the value of your home.  The Appraiser will also adjust the the price of property up or down when comparing to the other homes based on such items as:

  • Location
  • Garage Bays
  • Outbuildings
  • Lot Size
  • Curb Appeal
  • Swimming Pools
  • Construction Quality
  • Condition
  • Age
  • Square Footage
  • Swimming Pools
  • View
  • Updates within the Last 15 Years
  • Number of Rooms including Bathrooms

 

Lender Approvalcalculator-428294_1280

The Appraiser typically delivers their report back to the Lender within 7-10 business days of conducting the appraisal.  In our market the Buyer is allowed to see the report.  They Seller will hopefully hear the magic words….”the appraisal is in at value with no work orders”  which means the Appraisal is complete and Buyer and Seller can move to the next stage of the process.

April Connors is a licensed Real Estate Broker with The Connors Group at Windermere Real Estate located in Southeast Washington State.

 

 

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