Zillow has been busy. That makes sense – it takes a lot of research activity and media attention to create the massive online presence they have. Their latest release is a data analysis with this headline: “14% of Renters Can Afford to Buy.” It’s human nature to react to headlines, and that’s a statement that can either prompt people to say, “Maybe I can qualify to buy a home!” or “There’s more than an 80% chance I can’t qualify to buy a home.” Outside of an initial reaction to a news story, many renters really do want to know two things: Could I buy a home? Should I buy a home? It’s definitely worth finding out the answer to both of these questions.
The “could” question can easily be answered by talking to a qualified mortgage loan officer. Qualified lenders can tell you what your status is now and help you get prepared to get approved for a loan if you’re not quite ready or have some work or organizing to do with your financing. A loan officer can help you plan and give you a timeline.
The “should” question is a little more complicated. Ultimately, the individual consumer needs to decide that homeownership is for them. Realtors can provide information to help you decide if owning a home will help you move forward with your goals in the short and long term. Housing is the biggest monthly expense most of us have. Advice from a qualified mortgage loan officer and Realtor can help you figure out how to get the best return on that huge monthly investment.
The GCS Title team and I can introduce you to great people who can help you answer the “coulds” and “shoulds” of owning a home. We’re here to help! ~Charlie
I’m surprised to hear that a member of the public knows what title insurance IS, so imagine my reaction when I heard someone “got in a fight about title insurance.” A friend is on the Board of Directors of her condominium association and apparently got in quite the dustup with others on the board over whether or not they needed to buy title insurance on parking spaces the association was buying downtown Minneapolis. Luckily, she was in the majority and the association purchased policies for all of the spaces, but some common perceptions and misperceptions about title insurance came up in the “argument.” Dissenting board members argued the following things:
- Title insurance is expensive.
Well, it does cost money – but the price is nothing compared to the expense of defending yourself against a lawsuit, mechanic’s lien or another hostile claim to the ownership of and equity in your property.
- We’re buying five parking spaces, but we only need title insurance on one.
Wrong! These parking spaces are newly-constructed and the chance of mechanic’s liens popping up is higher than on a piece of property that has been built for many years. Also, every owner of each piece of property generally gets named in the types of suits that these new spaces are vulnerable to. If something went wrong, the only space protected would be the one with a policy.
- Title companies only insure things when there is no risk.
Wrong again. I could tell you so many stories….
There’s a reason lenders require title insurance policies – they need to make sure their interests are protected. Home buyers should do the same. Title insurance protects you against things you never imagined would come up. The lady that went to the mat to convince her condo board to buy title insurance was pushing to spend some of the association’s money – but the amount they paid is well worth what they’ll save if there’s a problem. Got questions? The GCS Title team and I are here – call anytime! ~Charlie
Seems like you can’t look, watch or listen to anything without hearing something about mortgage interest rates, the impact of Brexit an rates and even “more historic lows” and a possible refi boom. There’s a ton of articles, information, speculation and opinion about what homeowners can do and gain during times of low interest rates and a lot of it is interesting and helpful. Here are a couple highlights:
- Save thousands of dollars on the life of their loans by getting a lower rate or shorter term (15 vs. 30 year)
- Pay of a home equity line of credit
- Consolidating debt
- Get rid of mortgage insurance
These can all be great things…the problem is, you can’t know for sure if any of these things are possible and if they make sense for you personally when it comes to costs/fees/savings without getting specific, professional advice. While it looks so available online, it’s not necessarily personalized…a mortgage calculator just doesn’t tell the whole story. At GCS Title, we work with many, many incredible mortgage loan officers. These people are licensed, experienced – and they’re actual, local people who you can reach without going through an automated system – which is a big deal when you’re making choices and decisions that affect such a big part of your finances. Loan officers are happy to discuss your situation and let you know if you have options you didn’t know you had and their findings will be geared to what’s right for you – no obligation. Let us know if we can introduce you to a loan officer who can answer your questions…a refi boom could be a great thing – as long as it doesn’t blow up in your face. ~Charlie
If you read the team bios at gcstitle.com, you’ll notice themes: We all appreciate how every day in this business is different, we thrive on solving problems and we love helping people – not only buyers and sellers who are going through an important transaction that they only do a handful of times in their lives, but the Realtors as well. The 2016 National Association of Realtors member profile came out recently and I noticed that the median gross income for agents with 16 years of experience or more went up $4600 last year – great news for those seasoned pros. Not so great news was the fact that NAR members with two years of experience or less fell $600. Being self-employed and working on straight commission is challenging and we understand the importance of every client and transaction to the Realtors we work with and we consistently work to help agents and loan officers to develop business instead of simply asking them for it.
Closings and everything that goes into them is our business at GCS but we believe our role extends beyond that in the industry and beyond. We also work with our real estate and lending partners to reach out to the buying and selling public, participate in community events with Spare Key, support our veterans through organizations like the American Warrior Initiative. We believe we’re all in this together and we’re always looking for ways to support our partners and community. How can we help you? ~Charlie
A lot of new rules and changes have hit the real estate and mortgage industries in the last few years. Here’s a little background and an update and then we’ll get to what you really need to know.
The intent of a lot of these new regulations – and all the acronyms that go along with them like CFPB and TRID – is to educate and protect consumers. The Dodd Frank Act is responsible for a lot of changes in the way business is done going forward and there are many folks opposed to all or part of the sweeping bill. A congressman from Texas has now introduced what he calls “the Republican plan to replace Dodd-Frank and promote economic growth.” Its name is Financial CHOICE Act— complete with its own acronym that stands for “Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs.” It’s not clear if it will get anywhere – there’s no companion bill in the Senate yet or official reaction from the rest of Washington.
It’s almost impossible to keep track of everything politicians are up to with regard to real estate and mortgage regulation. For now, know this: You need to surround yourself with great professionals who are up to date on the rules, timelines and how to make the transaction go as smooth as possible for everyone involved. At GCS Title, we have an amazing team dedicated to doing just that. Meet our great people here: https://www.gcstitle.com/meet-the-team/
Whether you’re a Realtor, a loan officer, a homeowner or potential buyer, we want you to know “we get it” and we’re here to help. Call us any time! ~Charlie
The summer could be a rollercoaster based on new information from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and online real estate resource Zillow. Sales of existing homes went up 1.7% between March and April and they’re up six-percent year-over-year. Prices are higher too: NAR reports that the median home price has jumped 6.3% from April 2015, making this the 50th consecutive month of annual home price gains. So there’s the highs – the lows have to do with housing inventory. The April Zillow Real Estate Market Report shows there are 3.4% fewer homes on the market today than there were this time last year. There’s an eight-percent drop in the number of homes for sale in the entry level price range, making it even tougher for first-time home buyers than other property categories. So we’ve got a supply and demand situation that’s driving prices up. I’m not bringing this up to scare people, but rather to make them aware. These market conditions mean it’s more important than ever for consumers to make sure they’re working with experience, full-time, qualified real estate and mortgage professionals. When bidding wars are likely, top-notch representation is critical. GCS is here to help home buyers and sellers have a great experience throughout the closing process and we work with outstanding Realtors and loan officers every day. Let us know if you’d like to meet one! ~Charlie
Pretty much everybody wants a pat on the back, but absolutely everybody likes money in their pocket. New home price information doesn’t exactly put money in your pocket – more like in your portfolio. CoreLogic says home prices went up 2.1% between February and March and they’re up 6.7% year over year between March 2015 and 2016. Here’s what CoreLogic’s chief economist Frank Nothaft said:
“Housing helped keep U.S. economic growth afloat in the first quarter of 2016 as residential investment recorded its strongest gain since the end of 2012. Low interest rates and increased home building suggest that housing will continue to be a growth driver.”
To real estate and mortgage professionals, these numbers are encouraging for the market and business. Consumers may take them either way…renters in particular may get nervous and think homeownership is out of their reach before they’ve taken even the most preliminary steps to pursue it. Let’s work together to get the word out that while “timing is everything,” it’s also very individualized. Getting help and guidance from professional Realtors and loan officers will help determine the right time to buy a home and getting into one will help people start building equity. Their pocketbooks will appreciate it. Let’s help them get started! ~ Charlie
A few weeks ago we pointed out that Minneapolis made a Top 10 List for downtowns to buy a home in and this week it’s all about the suburbs. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is constantly conducting surveys and publishing consumer sentiment and preferences. NAR’s latest report found that 85% of current homeowners and 75% of current renters prefer a suburban single-family house versus 15% of homeowners and 21% of renters aiming to buy a residence in an urban area. Anyone who has noticed the number of units being built in our Minneapolis-Saint Paul downtown areas might disagree with this comment from NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun: “The American Dream for most consumers is not a cramped, 500-square-foot condo in the middle of the city, but instead a larger home within close proximity to the jobs and entertainment an urban area provides.”
The last thing I want to do is pit urban lifestyle against life in the ‘burbs – to each his or her own. But that’s just it – we at GCS Title and our Realtor and Loan Officer partners are all about helping you own – whatever type of property best suits your personal taste and situation. Homeownership is still the way many Americans build their worth and financial futures, so don’t let trends, general media reports or anyone else besides a qualified professional help you make the huge decision of what – whether – where or when to buy your own home. Of course we navigate you through your closing, but we also work closely with amazing professionals every day and we’re happy to help you find the right real estate and lending professional to get your questions answered! ~Charlie
On the House
Bulls & Bears in the House
There seems to be a difference of opinion between people who own homes and people who would like to buy them. The National Association of Realtors puts out what they call the Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) Survey every quarter and the latest one shows different attitudes between homeowners and potential buyers when it comes to timing. Check out the differences:
75% of potential buyers believe now is a good time to buy a home
56% of current homeowners believe now is a good time to sell a home – down from 61% during Q4 2015)
These numbers indicate a bigger appetite for buying homes than selling, but confidence is also slipping a bit regarding the economy:
48% of households feel the U.S. economy is improving – down from 50% in Q4 2015
To make a lame Wall Street reference, you could say that the bears own houses and the bulls are renting; but the last stat from the survey seems to show that everyone seems a little uneasy about the economy which is not uncommon in an election year (and this one is turning out to be a doozy). Lack of inventory (homes for sale) in certain price ranges has been an issue and widely reported and discussed for some time. The important takeaway for the public not to make assumptions because market conditions vary – even by neighborhood. We as real estate and lending professionals need to make sure we arm potential buyers and sellers with the latest local information so they can decide whether or not it is in fact a good time for them to buy or sell. ~Charlie
Who doesn’t love to be appreciated? Guess who’s getting a ton of appreciation right now…MN homeowners!
RealtyTrac says that “U.S. sellers so far in 2015 are realizing the biggest gains in home price appreciation since 2007. In June, sellers sold for above estimated market value on average for the first time in nearly two years.” It’s time to reach out to these MN homeowners, our past clients and update them on what their MN homes are worth. Is it possible – or time – to move up, move on or downsize? MN homeowners may have options they didn’t know they had. We know that MN housing inventory is tight in many areas and price ranges, so these latest numbers may be game changers.
Let’s mobilize to help people get moving!
Owner & President