Going Solo: Home Buying Tips for One

Going Solo: Home Buying Tips for One

The stereotypical picture of the happy home buyer includes kids and/or a spouse. But plenty of singletons take the home buying plunge as well.

Homeownership can offer benefits at any stage of life. But there are things you might consider if you’re single and buying a home for yourself.

Do some research on home buying

This is good advice for anyone thinking of home ownership for the first time, or someone moving to a new market—perhaps even after relocating for a job.

Talk to friends or acquaintances about their home buying experiences. Get recommendations and advice, on everything from neighborhoods to REALTORS®.

Borrow books, search for information online, attend seminars and look at the various lenders and the programs they offer.

Know what you want when home buying

Condos and townhouses are popular for singles, who don’t need all the room of a house, and appreciate the lower mortgage and heightened security. Smaller properties may also mean less upkeep––a timesaver if otherwise it would be just you doing all the mowing, painting and other chores.

But don’t hesitate to ponder the future.

If you’re planning to stay in an area for years, would your new place have room to include additions to your life? A studio might be all you need now, but if you could afford a one-bedroom, perhaps that’s an investment in the future worth making.

Going into your search with definite ideas about exactly what you want will help keep you from buying more house than you have the time—or inclination—to handle solo.

Resale value

You might not have kids, but a home in a good school district might retain its value better than a home near a lesser school. The same goes for recreation areas.

On the flip side, if you live in a heated market and aren’t worried about school districts, you might find your money goes farther in an area where parents aren’t angling for the right schools: you might get more square footage, modern upgrades, or maybe a lower price point.

Condos and townhouses might feel right for your lifestyle, but they also may not hold their resale value, depending on the market.

Privacy and security

If you’re single, it’s likely your privacy and safety feature high on your list of needs for home buying.

The type of things to look for could include these priorities:

  • A neighborhood with a low crime rate
  • A home with an alarm system
  • A fenced-in yard
  • Secure windows and doors
  • An attached garage accessible from inside your home with an electronic door

For example, condos often offer a high level of security, such as gated entrances, a concierge and underground parking.

Financial strategy for home buying

Developing a detailed financial strategy will assist you in your home purchase decision.

It should include an assessment of your existing and potential financial worth, information about your financial and associated lifestyle goals, and how your home purchase will meet your goals to fit within your financial capabilities.

Your budget will need to take account of expenses such as mortgage repayments, property taxes, insurance premiums, household bills, utility bills and maintenance costs.

Should something happen to your income—a job loss, an injury—you’ll want to consider how to keep paying the bills if you don’t have a partner’s income to help.

Just remember to take it slowly and consider all the relevant factors before proceeding with home buying.

 

The Caton Team loves working with first time buyers or those venturing off on their own.  We are patient and are happy to take each step with you on the journey to becoming a home owner.  Let The Caton Team know how we can help you!

 

I read this article at: http://www.realtor.com/advice/going-solo-home-buying-tips-for-one/?cid=eml-2014-09-bob-blog_6_buying_solo-blogs_buy&MID=2014_09_BoB_2013&RID=9851214

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE#70000218/ Office BRE# 0149900

 

New VA Loan Limits

New VA Loan Limits

The Department of Veteran Affairs announced new Veteran Administration (VA) loan limits effective January 1, 2014.

VA loan limits are determined by the median home price in each county as reported by the Federal Housing Administration. For 2014, some limits increased, some stayed the same and a few decreased.

VA loans can help eligible borrowers purchase owner-occupied homes often without requiring a down payment or private mortgage insurance. A variety of VA home loan guaranty programs, including a refinancing option, are offered for active duty servicemembers, veterans, surviving spouses of veterans who died in active duty or as a result of military service, and National Guard and Reserve members.

VA Loan Benefits Include:

Cash Out Refinance Loans let buyers take cash out of their home equity to take care of concerns like paying off debt, funding school, or making home improvements. Learn More.

Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRL), also called Streamline Refinance Loans, can help buyers obtain a lower interest rate by refinancing an existing VA loan. Learn More.

The Native American Direct Loan (NADL) Program helps eligible Native American Veterans finance the purchase, construction, or improvement of homes on Federal Trust Land, or reduce the interest rate on a VA loan. Learn More.

Adapted Housing Grants help Veterans with a permanent and total service-connected disability to purchase or build an adapted home or to modify an existing home to account for their disability. Learn More.

Other Resources: Many states offer resources to Veterans, including property tax reductions to certain Veterans. Learn More.

I read this article at: Ray Avanzino of Prospect Mortgage

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE#70000218/ 01499008

2014 – What will the Real Estate Market be like?

It’s on my mind – maybe it’s on your mind – but I enjoyed this article about the 2014 market forecast. Enjoy!

The housing recovery hit high gear in 2013 with bigger than expected price gains and solid home sales. This year isn’t likely to be as exciting. Rising mortgage interest rates will price out some potential buyers. Instead of double-digit price gains, look for single-digit ones, economists say, while existing home sales remain at last year’s level.
Sound boring? “You want boring in the housing market,” says Svenja Gudell, Zillow director of economic research.
Here’s what’s ahead for:
• Home prices. They were the highlight of the 2013 housing market, up 12.5% in October year over year, CoreLogic says. Prices are now 20% off their 2006 peaks after falling more than 30%, shows the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index.
Economist John Burns looks for a 6% gain in 2014. Many others see smaller increases ahead. Zillow forecasts just a 3% rise.
Prices will likely rise more slowly as more homes come on the market, fewer investors bid for homes and higher ownership costs — including interest rates and home prices — take a bite out of housing affordability, housing experts say.
Still, U.S. housing remains 4% undervalued when compared with other economic fundamentals, such as consumer incomes and the cost to rent, says Jed Kolko, Trulia economist. At their 2006 peak, home prices were 39% overvalued based on the same metrics, Kolko says.
•Existing home sales. They’ve started to slow. In November, they were down year over year for the first time in 29 months, National Association of Realtor data show.
The dip was driven by higher interest rates and a tight supply of homes for sale. It doesn’t mean the housing recovery has come off the rails, because home prices and housing starts continue to improve, says Capital Economics economist Paul Ashworth.
Existing home sales, which came in at a 4.9 million seasonally adjusted pace in November, are expected to be about 10% higher in 2013 than 2012 and stay about the same at 5.1 million in 2014, NAR forecasts. That’s roughly back to 2007 levels but below the inflated levels preceding the housing crash.
New-home sales, which make up a smaller part of the market, have more room to grow. They hit an annual pace of 464,000 in November, up almost 17% from a year ago but still below the 700,000-a-year pace generally considered healthy.
The new year will be different for home buyers, though.
Look for fewer bidding wars and a less frantic market, says Glenn Kelman, CEO of brokerage Redfin. Its data show bidding wars recently falling to one of two offers handled by Redfin agents, down from three of four at the peak in March.
Homes are taking longer to sell, and more sellers are also reducing prices to win sales, Kelman says. At the same time, the supply of existing homes for sale edged up to 5.1 months from 4.9 months in October, NAR says. That’s still below the six-month supply that Realtors generally consider to be a balanced market for buyers and sellers.
Supply should get closer to that level in 2014, Kelman says.
Donaee and Jeff Reeve hope he’s right. The couple sold their Seattle-area home in just 10 days amid a hot June market. They’ve been renting as they search for a new home with a few acres. Meanwhile, prices have risen. The lack of suitable homes for sale is “discouraging,” says Donaee Reeve, 36, a dental hygienist.
• Housing construction. This part of the housing recovery has been a laggard.
November’s data showed an improvement, with housing starts topping 1 million on an annual basis, the Commerce Department says. That was up almost 30% from a year earlier, but it’s still far below the norm. Starts averaged 1.5 million a year before the mid-2000s housing boom.
Construction won’t return to normal this year, but it will strengthen enough to be the main driver of the housing recovery as home price gains shrink, says investment manager Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
It sees housing starts increasing 20% a year for the next several years as household formation picks up with the strengthening economy.
More home construction means more jobs for construction workers, plumbers, civil engineers and others in the building trades, as well as related industries such as furniture manufacturing, it says.
Construction alone will add 300,000 to 500,000 jobs a year to the nation’s job base for the next three years, GSAM predicts. That’s up from about 100,000 in 2013.
“The construction revival is primarily a matter of when, not if,” says Tom Teles, GSAM head of securitized and government investments.
• Mortgage rates. Sarah and Andrew Katz know home prices are going up, and mortgage interest rates, too. But they’re still convinced it’s a good time to buy a first home. They’ve set their sights on spring.
“We’re banking on interest rates staying under 5%, but they are what they are,” says Sarah, 29, who works in public relations in Manhattan.

We’re banking on interest rates staying under 5%,

— Sarah Katz
The couple better not wait too long, economists warn.
Average rates for a fixed 30-year mortgage will rise to 5.5% by the end of 2014, says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. Rates have already risen about 1 percentage point in the past year as the economy has strengthened. They’ll be pushed up further as the Federal Reserve winds down its $85 billion monthly bond-buying program.
Each percentage point increase in mortgage rates makes homes about 10% more expensive in terms of higher housing payments.
Another factor could weigh on borrowers. Starting in January, lenders must make home loans that meet new federal qualified mortgage standards or face greater liability from borrower lawsuits, should the loans go sour.
At least 5% of mortgages extended in 2013 wouldn’t meet the new standard, Yun says. More than that will likely face additional scrutiny from lenders as they implement all parts of the new rule, says Brian Koss, executive vice president of lender Mortgage Network.
He says the higher rates and tighter rules will likely drive some home buyers out of the market or into lower-priced homes than they could have afforded last year.
“People have gotten spoiled,” Koss says. Higher rates and home prices will test the strength of the housing recovery in 2014, he says.

I read this article at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/01/01/home-prices-2014-housing-starts/4181021/#!

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Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.
Email Sabrina & Susan at: Info@TheCatonTeam.com
Call us at: 650-568-5522 Office: 650-365-9200
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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:
http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com
Thanks for reading – Sabrina
The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors
Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE#70000218/ 01499008

San Mateo County Quick Real Estate Update

I am so happy to share that our real estate market is improving – if you didn’t already notice. Enjoy this update.

The numbers show that the market has stabilized in most geographic regions and is about ready for “a long winters nap.” But, something was definitely happening in San Mateo County. Single family home sales were UP from September. Comparatively, single family home sales, inventory and average days on market were fairly stable in other regions. San Mateo County showcased a 28% increase in single family sales rising to 453 in October. Most notable was a 78% increase in sales in the $3-5 million price range and a 61% increase in sales in the $1.2-1.4 million range.

Single family inventory remains substantially lower than the same period from a year ago, but there is increasing progress in closing the gap. Compared to October 2012, there is a significant increase for single family median prices in all counties. Single family sales are still coming under pressure compared to October 2012. Median prices increased in San Benito County by 45%, Monterey County by 31%, Santa Cruz County by 29%, and both San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties by 12%.

I read this article at: http://www.mlslistings.com/NewsRoom/market-data-reports/current-month?utm_source=MLSListings+Real+Estate+%26+Housing+Update+-+October+2013&utm_campaign=October+2013+Market+Indicators&utm_medium=email

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Email Sabrina & Susan at: Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors
Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE#70000218/ 01499008

Keep Your Home Purchase on Track

Keep Your Home Purchase on Track

I love finding great articles to share – I’ve added my 2 cents in itatlics – enjoy – Sabrina

You’ve found your dream home. Make sure missteps don’t prevent a successful closing.

1. Be truthful on your mortgage application

You may think fudging your income a little or omitting debts when applying for a mortgage will go unnoticed. Not true. Lenders have become more diligent in verifying information on mortgage applications. If you fib, expect to be found out and denied the loan you need to fund your home purchase. Plus, intentionally lying on a mortgage application is a crime.

You might get away with your fib when you apply for your loan, but once you find a home and have an accepted offer.  Your lenders underwriter will comb through every bit of your financial life.  One fib will open a huge can of worms and you could find yourself in hot water.  Because not only have you harmed your chances at getting a loan – you’ve held up a seller who is working in good faith with you and has pulled their home off market waiting for you to remove your contingencies and close escrow.  DON’T LIE!

2. Hold off on big purchases

Lenders double-check buyers’ credit right before the closing to be sure their financial condition hasn’t weakened. If you’ve opened new credit cards, significantly increased the balance on existing cards, taken out new loans, or depleted your savings, your credit score may have dropped enough to make your lender change its mind on funding your home loan. 

Although it’s tempting to purchase new furniture and other items for your new home, or even a new car, wait until after the closing.

The only thing you should be doing is saving your pennies until you close escrow on your new home.  People of lost their dream home because they spent money before closing.  Not my clients though – I remind them constantly about the big picture!

3. Keep your job

The lender may refuse to fund your loan if you quit or change jobs before you close the purchase. The time to take either step is after a home closing, not before.

Amen – well said!

4. Meet contingencies

If your contract requires you to do something before the sale, do it. If you’re required to secure financing, promptly provide all the information the lender requires. If you must deposit additional funds into escrow, don’t stall. If you have 10 days to get a home inspection, call the inspector immediately.

There is a clause IN the Real Estate Purchase Contract (in California) that states – Time is of The Essence!  We are not kidding.  Time is contractual – do what you said you would do.  Your mother will be proud! 

5. Consider deadlines immovable

Get your funds together a week or so before the closing, so you don’t have to ask for a delay. If you’ll need to bring a certified check to closing, get it from the bank the day before, not the day of, your closing. Treat deadlines as sacrosanct.

We take each deadline deadly serious.  Could there be delays?  Yes of course, so much of the real estate purchase process is beyond your Realtors control – so make sure you’re doing what you should be doing when you should be doing it – it will streamline an already difficult transaction. 

By: G. M. Filisko

Got questions – I am here to help – call or click – info@theCatonteam.com

I read this article at: http://members.houselogic.com/articles/keep-your-home-purchase-track/preview/

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Negotiate Your Best House Buy

Negotiate Your Best House Buy

I love to share articles I find interesting – I’ve added my 2 cents in italics…

Keep your emotions in check and your eyes on the goal, and you’ll pay less when purchasing a home.

Here are six tips for negotiating the best price on a home.

1. Get prequalified for a mortgage

Getting prequalified for a mortgage proves to sellers that you’re serious about buying and capable of affording their home. That will push you to the head of the pack when sellers choose among offers; they’ll go with buyers who are a sure financial bet, not those whose financing could flop.

This is so much the first step towards home ownership – any Realtor worth their salt won’t even take a buyer out until they are pre-approved and understand their budget and constraints.  In the San Francisco Bay Area – don’t bother writing an offer until you have a pre-approval in hand – or proof of cash.

2. Ask questions

Ask your agent for information to help you understand the sellers’ financial position and motivation. Are they facing foreclosure or a short sale? Have they already purchased a home or relocated, which may make them eager to accept a lower price to avoid paying two mortgages? Has the home been on the market for a long time, or was it just listed? Have there been other offers? If so, why did they fall through? The more signs that sellers are eager to sell, the lower your offer can reasonably go.

The Caton Team also finds out the big picture so we can tailor each offer for the best fit.  When faced against multiple offers – information is key and structuring your offer is imperative. 

3. Work back from a final price to determine your initial offer

Know in advance the most you’re willing to pay, and with your agent work back from that number to determine your initial offer, which can set the tone for the entire negotiation. A too-low bid may offend sellers emotionally invested in the sales price; a too-high bid may lead you to spend more than necessary to close the sale. 

Work with your agent to evaluate the sellers’ motivation and comparable home sales to arrive at an initial offer that engages the sellers yet keeps money in your wallet.

The Caton Team will provide a buyer with a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) when we sit down to write the offer.  We take into account the current state of the market, what homes have sold for in the recent past, what they are going for now, and the amount of competition for each home.  Try to maintain an open mind when writing your offer. 

4. Avoid contingencies

Sellers favor offers that leave little to chance. Keep your bid free of complicated contingencies, such as making the purchase conditional on the sale of your current home. Do keep contingencies for mortgage approval, home inspection, and environmental checks typical in your area, like radon.

Contingencies are what protect the buyer.  Talk closely with your Realtor on which contingencies should stay in and which you can omit to improve your offer.  Each client and offer is different.  That’s why it is so important to work with a Realtor you trust. 

5. Remain unemotional

Buying a home is a business transaction, and treating it that way helps you save money. Consider any movement by the sellers, however slight, a sign of interest, and keep negotiating. 

Each time you make a concession, ask for one in return. If the sellers ask you to boost your price, ask them to contribute to closing costs or pay for a home warranty. If sellers won’t budge, make it clear you’re willing to walk away; they may get nervous and accept your offer.

This strategy works great when you are the ONLY offer.  So much time is wasted by buyers who think they hold the reigns in negotiations.  In the San Francisco Bay Area we have low inventory right now and high demand.  Setting the stage for a Sellers Market. Each listing will entertain multiple offers.  So it is best to write your best offer up front because chances are you will NOT get a counter offer or the chance to change your offer once submitted.  It is imperative you work closely with a Realtor you trust.  Each offer opportunity is unique and will require a new strategy. 

6. Don’t let competition change your plan

Great homes and those competitively priced can draw multiple offers in any market. Don’t let competition propel you to go beyond your predetermined price or agree to concessions—such as waiving an inspection—that aren’t in your best interest.

Great advice.  The Caton Team will not push our clients to do anything they are not comfortable with.  I would rather change our purchasing strategy and shop in a different market or price point than overextend our clients reach just because the housing market is competitive.

Buyers must be aware that they cannot control the market or the volume of competition.  All a buyer can do is educate themselves on the market, understand their budget and their max and shop within their parameters.  Nobody said it would be easy – but The Caton Team does strive for a smooth overall experience. 

By: G. M. Filisko

I read this article at:  http://members.houselogic.com/articles/negotiate-best-house-buy/preview/

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

A Cinderella Story – Michael and Two Condos

A Cinderella Story – Michael and Two Condos

With 25+ years of combined Real Estate experience, The Caton Team is blessed with working with our clients one home after the other.

When Michael bought his first condo with Susan years ago – it was only natural for him to call her again now that he was ready to buy his next home.  By now Susan & I had teamed up and I had the joy of working with Michael as well.

Such a professional and patient gentlemen, we started our journey early in 2013.  Faced with limited inventory and competition we took our time to find choice properties and enjoyed finding the right condo complexes that would fit his lifestyle.

Finally on a sunny Tuesday we found a great 2-bedroom 2-bath condo in San Mateo.  It was a short sale but we were up for the task.  Offer in, up against three other offers – we were so happy to let him know his offer was accepted.

Then the wait begins.  For a short sale, the seller has a long to-do list.  Great clients do what they need to do to get a short sale approved.  Other types of people brush their responsibility off.   We knew short sales take time to get approved.  We knew short sales are a LOT of work. Each week we checked in with the seller’s agent and received short and useless updates.  We grew suspicious and Susan hit the Internet to do some investigating.  Much to our surprise, the unit was set for foreclosure auction the following day!  Quickly The Caton Team reached out to the seller’s agent to implore the urgency of a true update.  Sadly, not all Realtors are created equal and this particular agent brushed us off again.  We did all we could do as the buyer’s Realtor and the following day, with baited breath, we watched the auction site to see if it would be postponed.  Right before our eyes the unit was sold at auction.  When we called the sellers agent to get a handle on this situation – she kindly hung up the phone.

Without missing a beat Susan called Michael and we hit the ground running looking for a new home.  It didn’t take long, another unit, very similar to the one we just lost, was for sale – but they were taking offers the following day!

Michael is a trooper; he met Susan at the home the next morning, saw it, wrote the offer and submitted by the deadline.  By that evening we had the joy of telling him is offer was accepted!  Within less than 24 hours we went from bad news to fantastic news.

It ain’t over till it’s over though – that is a fact.  As the escrow proceeded we had a hiccup – the unit did not appraise for our offer price….which was less than the last sale of an identical unit.   When interest rates went up – the market had turned from a sellers market early in the year to a different market in a matter of weeks.  The appraiser was cautious – and we can’t blame him for being prudent.  No one wants another bust!  Thankfully both the listing agent and the sellers understood the situation and we were able to re-negotiate a win/win deal that evening.

The best feeling in the world is handing over the keys.  Though it was a long and bumpy ride, The Caton Team was able to get our client a better home and in the end Michael is happy – and that makes everything worthwhile.

How can The Caton Team help you?

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call The Caton Team at 650-568-5522

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-city

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina