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Couple_WComputer3When many people start the process of buying a house they assume putting 20 percent down is required. However, this is not the case and many lenders and mortgage brokers offer options for borrowers looking for mortgages that have a small down payment. Don Frommeyer, CRMS, President of NAMB (The Association of Mortgage Professionals), shares his advice for potential homeowners searching for mortgages with less than 20 percent down payment.   "There are a couple of things you'll want to make sure you have before researching mortgages, including solid credit standing and a steady income," says Frommeyer. "The options are out there and exist to make sure that people have the ability to buy and invest in real estate, even in today's competitive housing market and tight credit environment." Frommeyer suggests the following tips when buying a house with a low down payment: - Maintain a Strong Credit Score: Credit score is one of the first things lenders look at when determining who is a qualified borrower. Make payments on time and keep in mind that even small mistakes may take some time to clear from credit scores. - Look Beyond Your Local Banks: There are many options available outside of traditional bank mortgages. Mortgage brokers offer a wide range of mortgage loans with zero down payments; an example is VA Loans. Veterans of the military and qualified retired veterans are eligible to use this benefit for a 100 percent loan. They also offer FHA loans to qualified borrowers for as little as 3.5 percent down. And in rural areas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers low down payment options with financing to 100 percent. A good mortgage broker will have all of these options available and will have a variety of lenders that they can put these through to stay competitive in the market. And even conventional loans have the ability to do loans with 5 percent down payment. - Document Income and Assets: Lenders look for a steady income and sufficient savings to ensure borrowers can meet monthly payments. Make sure to have all account statements ready to establish proof of funds; lenders look for savings accounts that indicate the borrower will be able to cover a few months of payments. In addition, hold jobs for at least two years or within the same industry to demonstrate longevity and stability. - Be Prepared to Pay More Monthly: When you do loans with limited funds down, most will require some sort of mortgage insurance to complete the loan. Conventional loans require Private Mortgage Insurance on loan to values above 80 percent. FHA loans have Mortgage Insurance on all of their loans and the VA only has a funding fee. - Explore Options: Frommeyer suggests going to at least two lenders to be able to compare good-faith estimates. This allows you to look at two completely different options and this will help talking to more than one source when looking for a mortgage. Compare the fees, estimates, closing costs, etc. thoroughly before selecting any loan. Published with permission from RISMedia.

Common Myths about Appraisals in the Home-Buying ProcessWe often encounter misperceptions about the appraisal process in real estate transactions – from how an appraisal is ordered and carried out, to the type of communication permitted with appraisers. As a result, we have compiled the most common myths that we hear from lenders, borrowers, real estate brokers, and homebuilders. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer or a real estate professional with years of experience, you may be surprised.     Lenders: Myth: A lender and an appraiser cannot communicate before, during, or after an appraisal is complete.
  • Fact: Not only are lenders permitted to talk to appraisers, they must. Communication is essential for the exchange of appropriate information, including the intended use of the appraisal, the scope of the work necessary for credible assignment results, and more.
Myth: Nothing can be done if a lender has concerns or questions regarding a completed appraisal.
  • Fact: If there are questions or concerns with an appraisal, there are concrete steps lenders can take, like submit additional comps for the appraiser to consider, request the appraiser correct errors in the appraisal report, and ask the appraiser to provide further detail to explain his/her conclusion.
Myth: Lenders must use an Appraisal Management Company (AMC) to order an appraisal.
  • Fact: Lenders are entitled to engage an appraiser directly. However, to avoid any potential undue influence on the appraiser, certain safeguards are required (e.g. in most cases the person at the lending institution selecting the appraiser cannot be the same person approving the loan).
Myth: AMCs are necessary to ensure that appraisers aren't influenced by lenders.
  • Fact: Regardless of whether an AMC is used, lenders are not permitted to influence the value of a home, and licensed and certified appraisers are required by law to follow strict guidelines (i.e. the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) that guarantee an unbiased and meaningful analysis of value.
Borrowers: Myth: An appraiser is hired by the borrower.
  • Fact: Even though the borrower may be responsible for the cost of an appraisal, appraisers are hired by lenders. Appraisers provide an analysis of the collateral, so that lenders understand the value of a property when making the loan decision.
Myth: The money put into a home translates dollar-for-dollar into a higher appraisal. o Fact: The cost put into a home improvement project may very well add value to a home; however, the value of any improvements are based on what the market is willing to pay for them, and may not necessarily correlate to the cost. Not all renovations positively impact property values. Myth: Appraisers set the value of a home.
  • Fact: Appraisers don't set the value of a home, nor do they confirm a home's sale price. Their role is to produce a credible opinion of value which reflects the current market.
Myth: Appraisers and home inspectors perform the same function.
  • Fact: Though both provide crucial information, their roles are very different. An appraiser provides an objective, unbiased analysis so the lender can better understand the value of a property. An inspector is typically hired by the borrower and performs an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house to ensure the structural integrity of the property.
Real Estate Brokers: Myth: Real estate brokers are prohibited from communicating with appraisers.
  • Fact: Brokers are permitted to communicate with an appraiser and to provide them with additional information as long as the communication is not intended to unduly influence the outcome of the appraisal. The exchange of relevant information- including terms of the sale, relevant comps, and home improvements-can help an appraiser develop a more credible opinion of value.
Myth: Nothing can be done if a broker has concerns or questions regarding a completed appraisal.
  • Fact: If there are questions or concerns with an appraisal, there are concrete steps brokers can take through the lender, like submit additional comps for the appraiser to consider, request the appraiser correct errors in the appraisal report, and ask the appraiser to provide further detail to explain his/her conclusion.
Myth: Appraisers request copies of the purchase agreement from brokers simply so they'll know how much to appraise the home for.
  • Fact: Appraisers are required to review the purchase agreement (if available during the ordinary course of business) to fully understand the terms of the transaction. Appraisers don't simply look at a pending sale price and try to "justify" the transaction. The perform research and analysis to provide their own opinion of value.
Homebuilders: Myth: Homebuilders are prohibited from communicating with appraisers.
  • Fact: Builders are permitted to communicate with an appraiser and to provide them with additional information as long as the communication is not intended to unduly influence the outcome of the appraisal. The exchange of relevant information- including construction features, details, and upgrades, as well as relevant comps-can help an appraiser develop a more credible opinion of value.
Myths: Nothing can be done if a builder has concerns or questions regarding a completed appraisal.
  • Fact: If there are questions or concerns with an appraisal, there are concrete steps builders can take through the lender, like submit additional comps for the appraiser to consider, request the appraiser correct errors in the appraisal report, and ask the appraiser to provide further detail to explain his/her conclusion.
Myth: Appraisers only rely on comparable sales and do not take into account the cost to build a home.
  • Fact: Appraisers do need to consider the cost to build a home and, at times, must perform a cost approach to deliver a credible appraisal. However, because cost does not always equal value, appraisers cannot simply look at what it costs to build a home to provide an opinion of value. They must perform research and analysis to determine what the marketplace is willing to pay.
David S. Bunton is the President of The Appraisal Foundation. Published with permission from RISMedia.

If it's been a while since your last move, you probably don't realize how much stuff you truly own. There's all your furniture, personal items, kitchenware, clothes, toys, tools, bikes, books and every little thing in your home. Not only does it take time to box up all your belongings properly, you'll also want to be sure that you have the most reliable movers transporting your stuff.   Here are some things you can do to prepare for a stress-free move: Avoid Moving Day Woes by Getting a Jump Start on the ProcessEliminate Possessions: Like most people, you probably hold an inordinate amount of knickknacks and other junk that you don't want to part with, but moving offers the perfect opportunity to do away with items you really don't need. Start off on the right foot in your new home by eliminating all the stuff you don't use before you even get to the house. Hold a garage sale, donate to charity or just simply throw it away.   Hire a Reputable Moving Company: Don't hire a moving company simply because they offer the lowest price. More often than not, movers will charge more than they originally advertised and some aren't too careful with your possessions. Before you make a final decision, ask friends and relatives-and even your REALTOR®-for recommendations. It's also important to get a quote in writing and make sure the company is insured before hiring them for your move.   Change Your Address: This is something that people often think about too late. Not only do you want to file a change of address card with your local post office, you also want to make sure all your bills-and any magazines you're subscribed to-are being sent to your new address. You can take care of many of these items online, or with a quick phone call.   Get Records: If you're moving to a new city and will be seeing new doctors, make sure to get copies of medical and dental records for everyone in the family, including any pets. Prepare time to get your children's school records as well.   Miscellaneous: Return any library books you may have and cancel any services that you might get on a weekly or monthly basis (such as a cleaning woman or dog walker).   Follow these guidelines and you'll eliminate any unnecessary stress from the equation, leaving plenty of time to enjoy your new home.   For more information about preparing for a move, contact our office today. Published with permission from RISMedia.

(MCT)-As banks tighten lending standards, demand has increased tremendously in recent years for Veterans Affairs mortgages, known as VA loans.   5 Things to Know about Getting a VA MortgageThe VA loan remains one of the few mortgage options for borrowers who don't have down payments. Available to more than 22 million veterans and active military members, VA loans are somewhat easier to qualify for than conventional mortgages.   The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is not a direct lender. The loan is made through a private lender and partially guaranteed by the VA, as long as guidelines are met.   The VA has guaranteed nearly 500,000 loans this year, says John Bell, assistant director of loan policy at the VA. That's 30 percent more than the number of VA loans issued last year and nearly three times the number of VA loans issued in 2008.   If you think you may be eligible for a VA loan, here are some must-knows about the program.   ELIGIBILITY: Most members of the military, veterans, reservists and National Guard members are eligible to apply for a VA loan. Spouses of military members who died while on active duty or as a result of a service-connected disability may also apply.   Active-duty members generally qualify after about six months of service. Reservists and members of the National Guard must wait six years to apply, but if they are called to active duty before that, they gain eligibility after 181 days of service.   "Most reservists are qualifying under active duty," says Michael Frueh, loan guaranty director for the Department of Veterans Affairs.   Reservists, members of the National Guard and active-duty members generally are eligible after 90 days of service during war periods.   "If you were on any type of foreign soil, more than likely you are eligible," says Grant Moon, a veteran and president of VA Loan Captain Inc., a loan referral company.   Potential borrowers must obtain a certificate of eligibility before applying for a loan. The form can be submitted online.   ADVANTAGES OF A VA LOAN: The days of no-down-payment mortgages are long gone, but not for veterans. Loans guaranteed by the VA can be obtained without any down payment.   "That's a huge plus," Frueh says.   Another plus: A VA loan doesn't require mortgage insurance, as do Federal Housing Administration and conventional loans with less than 20 percent down payment. The benefit translates into significant monthly savings for VA borrowers. For instance, a borrower who takes a $200,000 FHA-insured mortgage pays more than $200 a month for mortgage insurance alone.   "And with a VA loan, you don't have to save all the money you would have to save for a conventional loan," Moon says.   FEES: Although the costs of getting a VA loan are generally lower than other types of low down payment mortgages, they still carry a one-time funding fee that varies, depending on the amount of the down payment and the type of veteran.   A borrower in the armed forces getting a VA loan for the first time, with zero down payment, would pay a fee of 2.15 percent of the loan amount, Frueh says. The fee is reduced to 1.25 percent of the loan amount if the borrower makes a 10 percent down payment. Reservists and National Guard members normally pay about a quarter of a percentage point more in fees than active-duty members pay.   Those using the VA loan program for the second time, without a down payment, would pay 3.3 percent of the total loan amount.   "And if you receive disability compensation, the fee is waived," Frueh says.   UNDERWRITING REQUIREMENTS: Veterans Affairs does not require a minimum credit score for a VA loan, but lenders generally have their own internal requirements. Most lenders ask for a credit score of 620 or higher, Moon says.   "There are players that would go lower, but they would probably charge a higher interest rate," he says.   Borrowers must show sufficient income to repay the loan and shouldn't have excessive debt, but the guidelines are usually more flexible than for conventional loans.   "We always tell underwriters to do their due diligence, but this is a benefits program, so there is some flexibility," Frueh says.   VA guidelines allow veterans to use their home-loan benefits a year or two after bankruptcy or foreclosure.   "We look at the whole credit picture, what was the reason for the credit bankruptcy, and where the borrower is now," Bell says.   VA loans are available only to finance a primary home. A VA loan cannot be used to purchase or refinance vacation and investment homes.   The limit on VA loans vary by county, but it's $417,000 in most parts of the country and up to $1,094,625 in high-cost areas.   WHAT IF I STOP PAYING THE MORTGAGE? Another advantage of a VA loan is the assistance offered to struggling borrowers. If the borrower of a VA loan can't make payments on the mortgage, the VA can negotiate with the lender on behalf of the borrower.   "We have dedicated staff nationwide committed to helping veterans who are experiencing financial difficulty," Bell says.   VA's financial counselors can help borrowers negotiate repayment plans, loan modifications and other alternatives to foreclosure, he says.   Last year, the VA helped about 73,000 veterans avoid foreclosure, he says.   Regardless of whether they have VA loans, veterans who are struggling to make their mortgage payments can call 800-827-1000 for assistance. ©2014 Distributed by MCT Information Services Published with permission from RISMedia.

(MCT)-Remodeling's on the upswing, with homeowners investing in projects that enhance efficiency and comfort. Among the trends for 2014, according to highly rated remodelers and interior designers:   Remodeling trendsOpen space between the kitchen and other rooms. Removing walls to create flow between rooms makes smaller homes seem larger. It also creates a warm atmosphere in which household members can do many things, from cooking and eating to homework and socializing. Options include placing an island between two previously separate rooms and creating continuity between spaces by using hardwood flooring instead of tile in the kitchen.   Customization. Projects include turning unused rooms into places for specific purposes, such as dens, offices, hobby spaces and playrooms. Also, remodelers report increased requests for custom charging stations for phones and computers. Ideas include adding stations to existing cabinets so wires and gadgets are hidden or installing electrical outlets with built-in USB charging ports.   Eclectic combinations. A shiny stainless-steel fridge might pair with an antique farmhouse sink. Or a modern bookcase may be lit with a vintage light fixture. Remodelers also report increased demand for incorporating recycled building materials into newer spaces.   Efficient eco-friendliness. Projects aimed at reducing energy waste include installing home automation systems and replacing outdated light bulbs with LED lights, shower heads and toilets, windows and doors. Reupholstering rather than replacing furniture can help preserve natural resources.   Universal design. This concept aims to make homes usable by people of all ages and ability levels. Projects include widening halls, enlarging doorways and keeping appliances at countertop height. Bathroom-specific ideas include zero-threshold showers, comfort-height toilets and safety grab bars that increasingly feature less-utilitarian designs.   Boosting the bathroom. The emphasis is on comfort and luxury, with heated radiant flooring, music systems, furniture-grade cabinets, standalone tubs, and standup showers that feature multiple water options, including rain heads, handheld sprayers, jets and stationary heads.   Before moving ahead on a project, talk to several well-regarded contractors. Provide each with identical information so you have an apples-to-apples comparison of estimates. Clarify whether subcontractors will be used and get proof of insurance, bonding and any necessary licensing.   When checking references or reading online reviews, note whether customers report delays or problems, including with communication and site cleanup.   Your contract should include a detailed project description as well as specifics about who'll pull permits and submit paperwork for any necessary inspections, start and finish dates for phases and overall, payment amounts and due dates, and warranties and guarantees. Also, ask for lien waivers so you aren't held responsible if the contractor doesn't pay subcontractors or suppliers.   ©2014, Distributed by MCT Information Services Published with permission from RISMedia.

In the wake of the housing bubble's collapse, FHA loans have taken on renewed importance for today's mortgage borrowers. Simply stated, an FHA loan is a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration, a government agency within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Borrowers with FHA loans pay for mortgage insurance, which protects the lender from a loss if the borrower defaults on the loan. Because of that insurance, lenders can-and do-offer FHA loans at attractive interest rates and with less stringent and more flexible qualification requirements. Here are seven facts all buyers should know about FHA loans. Less-than-perfect credit is ok: The FHA doesn't mandate a minimum credit score, according to Vicki Bott, HUD deputy assistant secretary for single-family housing. Instead, each borrower's creditworthiness is considered in context. Some leeway is allowed, even for borrowers who've filed for bankruptcy. That said, however, lenders can overlay their own requirements on top of the FHA's guidelines. Some lenders might require a minimum credit score. Ask prospective lenders about such a requirement if your credit is less than perfect. "Lenders underwrite FHA loans to ensure that the customer has the willingness and capability to repay the loan, but we do have flexibility beyond pure credit score to look at the borrower's financial situation," Bott says. Minimum down payment is 3.5 percent: The FHA requires a down payment of just 3.5 percent of the purchase price of the home. That's a fraction of the percentage typically required on most other loans and a "huge attraction," says Dennis Geist, vice president of government programs at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Carlsbad, Calif. Borrowers can use their own savings to make the down payment. But other allowed sources of cash include a gift from a family member, or a grant from a state or local government down payment assistance program. Closing costs may be covered: The FHA allows home sellers, builders and lenders to pay some of the borrower's closing costs, such as an appraisal, credit report or title expenses. For example, a builder might offer to pay closing costs as an inducement for the borrower to buy a new home. Lenders typically charge a higher interest rate on the loan if they agree to pay closing costs. Borrowers can use the good faith estimate of closing costs - commonly known as the GFE - to compare interest rates and closing costs on different loans and figure out which option makes the most sense. Lender must be FHA-approved: Because the FHA is not a lender, but rather an insurance fund, borrowers need to get their loan through an FHA-approved lender (as opposed to directly from the FHA). Not all FHA-approved lenders offer the same interest rate and costs - even on the same FHA loan. That's another reason Bott says borrowers should shop around. "We encourage consumers - from a cost, service and underwriting standard-to shop around many lenders or mortgage brokers to make sure they understand what the best fit is for their particular situation," she says. Mortgage insurance is a must: Two mortgage insurance premiums are required on all FHA loans: The upfront premium is 2.25 percent of the loan amount, and the annual premium is 0.55 percent of the loan amount. The upfront premium must be paid when the borrower gets the loan but can be financed as part of the loan amount. The annual premium is paid in chunks of 1/12th of the total along with each month's mortgage payment. "The perception is that that sounds expensive," Geist says. However, he added, borrowers need to compare the FHA-insured loan to a loan that's not FHA-insured (and consequently requires a much larger down payment). In many cases, the FHA loan is still the best choice, he says. Extra cash available for repair: The FHA has a special loan product for borrowers who need extra cash to make repairs to their homes. The chief advantage of this type of loan, called a 203(k), is that the loan amount is based not on the current appraised value of the home but on the projected value after the repairs are completed. A so-called "streamlined" 203(k) allows the borrower to finance up to $35,000 in nonstructural repairs, such as painting and replacing cabinets or fixtures, Geist says. Financial hardship relief allowed: FHA insurance isn't intended to be an easy out for borrowers who feel unhappy about their mortgage payments. But loan servicers can offer some relief to borrowers who have an FHA-insured loan, have suffered a serious financial hardship and are struggling to make their payments. That relief might be a temporary period of forbearance, a loan modification that would lower the interest rate or extend the payback period, or a deferral of part of the loan balance at no interest. Marcie Geffner writes about mortgages and banking for ©2014 Distributed by MCT Information Services Published with permission from RISMedia.

Due to pending snow storm, the deadline to file Assessment Challenges has been extended until Friday, March 7th. If you own property in New York State, you are eligible for formal review of your assessment. Before pursuing formal review of your assessment, you should first determine if you are assessed fairly: Step One: What is the assessor's estimate of the market value of your property? You'll find this information on the assessment roll. If your municipality is assessing at 100% of market value, your assessment and the assessor's estimate of market value will be identical. If assessments are not at 100% of market value, you can use this formula to calculate the assessor's estimate of market value:
  • assessment ÷ level of assessment = assessor's estimate of market value
Step Two: Develop an estimate of the market value of your property Generally, if the assessor's estimate of the market value of your property reflects roughly the amount for which you could sell your property, then your assessment is fair. Step Three: If your assessment is too high Often, an informal discussion between a taxpayer and an assessor can result in a sharing of information beneficial to both parties. If such a discussion does not result in a reduction in your assessment, and you still feel as though your assessment is too high, you may wish to contest your assessment. Rather than determining that your assessment is too high, you might find that your property is assessed based on its market value, but the rest of the community is assessed at a lower level of assessment. Again, you should discuss this with your assessor. For example,
  • Your property is worth $100,000 and your assessment is $100,000. However, properties in your town are assessed at 90% of market value. Your property is overassessed - your assessment should be $90,000.
If you are assessed fairly, but you feel that your taxes are too high Assessors do not determine your property taxes. If you feel as though your assessment accurately reflects the market value of your property, but you still feel that your property taxes are too high, you may wish to address this matter with the taxing jurisdictions that impose taxes in your community - school board, county legislature, city council, town board, fire district and other special districts. The assessor cannot assist you with tax matters, but only with matters pertaining to the assessed value of your property. Also Find more information from these videos. Video: Contest an assessment Video: Is your assessment fair? Source:

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