Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for the 'Mortgage & finance' Category

Improve your credit score before you buy that Pinellas County home

     What’s your credit score?
     You’re going to need to know the answer to that question if you are planning on buying a house anytime soon. The rules that govern mortgages and lenders have changed a lot in the past few years, and if you think getting a mortgage is going to be an easy process, you may end up disappointed.
     We all know that the relaxed lending practices during the middle of the last decade were a factor in the housing collapse. Lenders have tightened their procedures a great deal in response to that, and they are paying a lot more attention to the credit scores of prospective borrowers.
excellent credit      If you don’t have a credit score of 620 or better and at least a 10 percent down payment, you may be out of luck. A 720 credit score may not even be good enough.
     So, do these tighter rules make the Federal Reserve happier? You would think so, but that ain’t necessarily so. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently told bankers that  “current standards may be limiting or preventing lending to many creditworthy borrowers.”
     So let’s say you have a credit score of 720, which is pretty good but not great. If your loan application for a 30-year, $300,000 mortgage is approved, you can expect an interest rate of around 3.70 percent. But if your credit score is more like between 620 and 639, your rate may be more in the range of 5.07 percent rate. And that rate will mean a monthly payment that is $242 more than at the 3.70 rate.
     Those REALLY low interest rates that you see advertised are not going to be available to you unless your credit is really good.
     But don’t despair. There are things you can do to raise your credit score, as much as 100 points in just one year.
     The first thing you should do, if you haven’t done it already, is do a little research into your credit score. 
  all three   There are three major credit score reporting companies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can get your credit reports from all three from It’s free if you don’t request it more frequently than once a year.
     Study those credit reports for errors, or for things that may have been left out. Next, you may want to sign up for a first-time homeowners class that is recognized by HUD (the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
     The two biggest factors in a credit score are payment history and the amount owed. Payment history accounts for 35 percent of the credit score, and amounts owed accounts for 30 percent.
     So raising credit card balances will raise your score. (NOTE: Don’t bother paying off credit cards that are already in collection – the notation that the account is in collection is what will lower your score.)
    HUD Late payments may stay on your credit report for up to seven years. But if you are apply for a mortgage, make sure there are no RECENT late payments – those can be killers.
     Also, you may get some of your creditors to report to credit bureaus. Landlords or utilities may have good things to say about your payment history, but they may not be reporting to credit bureaus. Make sure that they do.
      It may take anywhere from three months to 18 months to actually make improvements in your credit scores. But doing so can mean money in your pocket when you get your new mortgage.

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Planning on buying a Pinellas County home? Check your credit

If you are planning on buying a home this spring, and you expect to finance the purchase with an FHA loan, here is something you need to know:

fha logoThe Federal Housing Administration has a new rule – if credit bureaus show unpaid collection accounts in your name that total more that $1,000, your loan application will not be approved.

Previously, the FHA was fairly lenient about such things, preferring to base your loan approval on your overall credit history and performance. Now, however, an unpaid account of more than $1,000 (or several smaller accounts that add up to $1,000) will shoot your application down.

What kind of unpaid accounts are we talking about here? Medical bills, overdue student loans, or any and all sorts of retail credit accounts that are delinquent are good examples.

What if a mistake was made and you don’t really owe the money that the credit bureau says you owe? Too bad – the FHA still won’t approve your loan. So the best advice about that is to check your credit bureau report and take steps to clean it up if it contains erroneous negative reports.

Critics blamed the FHA for too-lenient lending when the home finance market melted down. Obviously, the FHA is trying to address those criticisms.

The new policy went into effect April 1.


If you are planning on buying a home anytime soon, we should talk about your home buying plans AS WELL AS your plans for financing your purchase. As a former mortgage loan officer, I can help you with both of those things. Get in touch — 727-643-7100 or [email protected].

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That new Pinellas County home just got more affordable, thanks to historically low interest rates

     What is it with interest rates? They just seem to get lower and lower. Today’s rates are at historic lows. Is that stimulating home sales? It doesn’t seem so – not that much, anyway.
 intderest rate art    How low are interest rates? Right now they are as low as 3.90 percent, or even a bit lower. Last year at this time the average rates for a conventional 30-year mortgage loan were a little over 5 percent, and we thought that was breathtakingly low.
     It is the lowest that interest rates have ever been in this country.
     Just for comparison, rates four years ago were around 7 percent, and we thought that was pretty darn good.
     So, should you actually consider refinancing if you bought your house a year ago? Maybe so.
     Let’s say you bought your house last February, and you financed $200,000 at 5.05 percent. That would make your principal and interest payment $1,079.76.
     Refinance that same $200,000 amount now at 3.87 percent, and your principal and interest payment would drop to $939.90. That’s a monthly saving of $139.86, or 13 percent. Not bad.
     I spent many years in the mortgage business, before I returned to my first love, real estate sales. I know a lot about the ins and outs of home financing. If you have questions about your plans for buying and financing a home, get in touch and we’ll talk – 727-643-7100, or [email protected] .

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Rates down, but down payments up for Pinellas County real estate (and real estate everywhere)

I’ve mentioned here a number of times how low mortgage interest rates are, and how they – along with the lowest home prices in at least a decade – make homes really affordable right now.

But to be fair, there is another side of the coin (isn’t there always?) which makes home-buying more of a challenge than it was in the rock-n-roll days.

down paymentI’m talking about down payments.

Home prices may be down, and interest rates may be at historic (or near-historic) levels, but the demand for more substantial down payments is up. It’s all part of the tougher underwriting standards; lenders want to see buyers begin the home buying process with a bigger personal stake in the transaction, and that means larger down payments.

Just a few years ago, it seemed like down payments were going to become a thing of the past. Nothing-down and little-down mortgages were all the rage, and you could buy expensive homes and finance them with big mortgages without having to come up with actual cash – or not much of it, anyway.

Great interest rates are available now, as I’ve written about in the past. But if you really want that rock-bottom rate, you’d better be ready to come up with a 20 percent down payment.  It’s still possible to get a mortgage and put less than 20 percent down, but the rates are going to be higher.

LendingTree came out with a report last week that listed state-by-state average down payments, and the average of all of them was 12.29 percent.

lendingtree(I know you’re wondering what the average rate is for Pinellas County real estate. Actually, LendingTree didn’t get that fine on rates, but the company DID say what the average down payment is for the state of Florida: 13.16 percent.)

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac want at least 10 per cent down.  If you want the very best rate, you’re going to have to also pay for private mortgage insurance – not part of the down payment, but an upfront cost you can’t avoid.

A Lending Tree spokesperson said, “The reality is when you put less than 20 percent down, you have to pay for some kind of insurance to protect the lender from the higher risk that you’ll default…but private mortgage insurers these days aren’t always willing to do business with low down payments.”

There is some speculation out there that if we are going to continue to have record low interest rates, the mortgage industry may increasingly move toward that 20 per cent down payments.

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Joblessness down, but not enough to inspire the price of Pinellas County real estate sales

Here’s some good news: The national unemployment rate in November was down to 8.6 percent, a nice drop from the 9 percent registered in the previous month. So, does that mean that we may see a corresponding modest increase in home prices?

If you want a one-word answer to that question, here it is: No.

iStock_000016449443XSmallStill, it’s good news for the overall economy, and the strength of the economy (or lack of it) is what will ultimately drive home prices up and stimulate the market. It’s all about confidence, and no one has an awful lot of that right now when it comes to the economy, or visions of the future.

Nationally, the unemployment rate peaked in October of 2009, at 10.1 percent (according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics). It’s been settling back downward at a snail’s pace ever since, keeping pace with an agonizingly slow economic recovery.

If the economy was really starting to boom, a .4 percent single-month drop in the unemployment rate might be cause for celebration – and for a mini-stampede of home buyers wanting to take advantage of low home prices and historically low interest rates.

Instead, we have an economic recovery that is just creeping along. It doesn’t inspire much confidence about the future, and confidence about the future is what drives home sales.

Rates keep on tumbling – in Pinellas County and elsewhere

Do you think of yourself as a nervy risk-taker? Steely-eyed, firm of hand, able to discern real opportunities when they come along?

If so, and you have a mortgage on your home, you may be starting to think about refinancing. After all, interest rates are at historic lows. Just about 10 days ago, Freddie Mac reported the average rate for 30-year fixed mortgages had dropped to 3.94 percent, which was the lowest rate in history.

So why wouldn’t you take advantage of that unbelievably low rate and refinance the old ranch?

graph downWell, because a lot of experts are saying that mortgage rates might go even lower, that’s why. That’s where the steely eyes and the firm hands come into play.

You could re-finance now and take advantage of great mortgage interest rates. OR, you could wait a little longer and (perhaps) take advantage of even lower interest rates.

Rates may vary a little bit in different areas around the country. But rates are WAY down almost everywhere you look, and the end of falling rates may not be in sight yet.

Why do these rates keep coming down? There are several reasons:

The Federal Reserve has been buying up mortgage-backed securities in hopes of forcing interest rates down.

President Obama is trying to strengthen the Home Affordable Refinance Program, which helps home owners refinance their properties – even properties with little or no equity.

The idea behind all this is that if lots of people refinance their mortgages, it could have a stimulating effect on the economy at large.

With current rates hovering around (or even below) four percent, it’s tempting to think about refinancing now. After all, how much lower can the rates go?

Many industry observers believe that you should be able to cut at least one percent off your rate when you re-finance. If you can’t do that, they say, closing costs and fees could counteract the benefits of the refinance.

But if you can talk the lender into waiving many of the fees associated with a refinance, then it may make sense to refinance, even if the new rate is only a half-percent better than the old one.

So… do ya feel lucky? Well, do ya?

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What’s the outlook for first-time homebuyers in the Pinellas County real estate market?

One bright spot in the recent residential real estate market has been the opportunities that first-time homebuyers have been able to enjoy. Falling home prices have made it possible for a lot of first-time homebuyers to finally enjoy the benefits of home ownership.

mortgage-loan-app-picThe Obama Administration’s first-time home buyer tax credit (remember that?) contributed to the opportunity, and quite a few people who had never owned a home before were able to buy. In the second quarter of 2010, 46 percent of homebuyers were first-timers.

So what’s happened?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Ready to buy some Pinellas County real estate? Mortgage rates are lowest in 20 years

If the sale of Pinellas County real estate was simply dependent on interest rates, we should be seeing a stampede of homebuyers, because rates are the lowest they have been in 20 years.

freddie-mac-pic-2221According to Freddie Mac, rates for 15-year fixed-rate home loans dropped last week from 3.66 percent to 3.54 percent, the lowest those rates have been since 1991.

Rates for other mortgage profits dropped as well. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 4.39 percent, the lowest rate for a 30-year mortgage this year.

Why are real estate mortgage interest rates so low in Pinellas County and elsewhere when there is so much economic uncertainty? Those uncertainties are part of the reason. Mortgage rates follow yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes. Weaknesses in the economy have led investors to take money out of the stock market and put it into Treasury bonds. That lowers the yield on the Treasury bonds, and that leads to lower mortgage interest rates.

Congress established Freddie Mac in 1970 to provide liquidity, stability and affordability to the nation’s residential mortgage markets. It provides mortgage capital to lenders.

Do those unbelieveably low interest rates make Pinellas County real estate ownership look more attractive to you? Why don’t you give me a call, and we’ll take a look what those rates can mean to you in terms of low monthly mortgage payments.

Call me anytime – 727-643-7100, or [email protected]

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Why the increase in home sales contract cancellations?

Why do home purchase contracts get cancelled?

You spend weeks or even months searching for just the right home. After a lengthy search, and after kissing a lot of frogs, you find your prince of a home and make an offer. You and the seller finally agree on a price and terms; at last you have a contract!

But instead of everything moving forward smoothly, something happens, and you end up with a cancelled contract.

After all your careful work, how can that be?

real estate contract pictureCancelled real estate contracts are one of the side affects of this very difficult real estate market, and they can happen for a multiude of reasons. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported this month that real estate sales slipped during the month of June for the third straight month, and one of the reasons was an increase in the number of cancelled sales contracts.

What’s the reason?

No one really knows for sure, but the NAR points out that tighter credit standards might be one reason. If a loan application is unexepectedly rejected because of credit issues, you can say goodbye to your sales agreement. Likewise, tighter appraisals might be a contributing factor; if a home doesn’t appraise for the agree-upon selling price, that can mean another sales contract that ends up going nowhere.

However, economic uncertainty and the federal budget debacle may be causing hesitation among some consumers or lenders.”

Other possible reasons, according to the NAR: general uncertainty about the nation’s economy, and about the federal budget. That uncertainty may affect home buyers and sellerds as well as mortgage lenders.

Lower limits on loan amounts are scheduled to go into affect on October 1. That is several months off, but some lenders may be applying those lower limits already, anticipating that same current sales may not close before the end of September. That could be having an impact, too.

If you are planning on buying a home in the near future, you may want to call me soon so we can discuss ways of making sure your sales contract stays together until the closing.

I’m always available for a chat at 727-643-7100, or via e-mail at [email protected]

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Adjustable rate mortgages on the rise again in Palm Harbor

One of the casualties of the real estate market “collapse” was the adjustable rate mortgage. ARMs were hugely popular just a few years ago, when home prices were at their highest and borrowing cheap money was easy. But many home buyers went back to the sensible old 30-year fixed-rate home mortgage when more conservative financing seemed like the right way to go.

mortgage loan app picBut not everyone shied away from ARMs. Even though the total number of adjustable rate mortgages was way down in the first quarter of 2011, the total market share of ARMs actually rose to its highest point since 2008. Inside Mortgage Finance, a mortgage trade publication, reports that ARMs actually accounted for 12 percent of all home mortgages in that first quarter of 2011.

Why is that?

Mortgage rates are really low, and the rates for ARMs are REALLY low, and some buyers simply have a hard time resisting that fact. ARMs are especially attractive when mortgage money is expensive, but people really like those rock-bottom rates no matter what the prevailing rates are.

Adjustable rate mortgages are usually written for one, five or seven years, and their rates can go either up or down at the end of the mortgage term. It’s hard to imagine that the rates on new ARMs will be going anywhere but up, current rates being as low as they are.

But for some home buyers, that fact is not all that important. Some people buy homes knowing that they will be turning around and selling their new properties in just a few years – well within in the term of the ARM. In a case like that, there really isn’t much of a down side, or risk of an escalating mortgage rate.

Also, some people don’t like debt and have serious plans to pay off their mortgages in just a few years. If you are one of those people, once again the risk of getting caught with an escalating ARM isn’t very high.

The danger lies in getting an adjustable rate mortgage simply because of the more attractive rate, with no thought given to how you will cover your mortgage payment if the rate goes up in a few years. If you plan to stay in your home for a long time, an ARM may not be a very good strategy for you.

What’s the best mortgage strategy for you? Why don’t you give me a call and we’ll discuss your own special needs and strategies – 727-643-7100.

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