A Good Time to Buy a Home

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You may have noticed that REALTORS® seem to always think now is a good time to buy and they can usually justify it with solid reasoning. While it can be true in general, a good time to buy has more to do with the individual than anything else. There are four things to consider.

It is a good time to buy a home when you have good credit. Since the Great Recession and the housing crisis, lenders have been required to be sure that the borrowers have good credit. This actually benefits not only the lenders but the borrowers because no one wants to buy something that they cannot afford and run the risk of losing it to foreclosure. FHA has the most lenient FICO credit score of 580+. VA requires a little higher at 620 while Fannie Mae guidelines on conventional mortgages require a 700 score.

It is a good time to buy a home when you have a good job that gives you the income to qualify for the mortgage and the likelihood that you’ll continue to be employed in the future. Two years of steady employment in the same industry with no significant gaps is a measure that lenders consider.

Lenders use qualifying ratios to make a determination. The total house payment, principal, interest, taxes and insurance, should not exceed 28% of the borrower’s monthly gross income. Their total monthly debt including the house payment should not exceed 45% of monthly gross income. There is some flexibility in the ratios for the right circumstances.

It is a good time to buy a home when you have the available funds for the down payment and closing costs, plus a little cushion for the unexpected. The minimum required down payment can range from 0% for VA loans to 3% for conventional to 3.5% for FHA.

In addition to the down payment, borrowers will have closing costs that can range from 2 to 3.5% depending on the loan type. It is possible for the seller to pay the buyer’s closing costs if that can be negotiated in the sales contract. The lender’s underwriter wants borrowers to have cash available for unexpected expenses related to the house and their normal living expenses.

It is a good time to buy a home when you have stability … In addition to employment, stability might relate to an expectation of not moving again very soon, relationship/marital status, considerations involving dependent children, and any other major impending expenses anticipated. Market or economic conditions could also affect stability.

So, the answer to the question “is it a good time to buy a home” depends on several things that are relative and somewhat subjective to the individual prospective buyer. While it might be a great time to buy for one buyer, it may not be the best time for another buyer.

Make a self-assessment to the best of your knowledge on these issues and then, schedule an appointment for a live interview with a trusted mortgage professional to get their opinion based on what underwriting will look at. Call me at (316) 337-5154 if you’d like a recommendation. After you determine it is a good time to buy a home, it is time to meet with your real estate professional.

Time for a Toilet Upgrade

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Whether it is a cosmetic or a mechanical reason for upgrading a toilet, you may not know all the choices that are involved to choose the right one for your home. The current toilet may have cracks or leaks in the bowl or tank. It could be the aggravation of constant clogging or inefficient flushing. Maybe there is damage in the porcelain bowl or built-up mineral deposits that are clogging the inlet holes or syphon tube.

If frequent repairs have you on a first name basis with the plumber, it may be time to consider replacing the toilet. There are a lot of things to consider and the following list may help you sort through the choices.

  • Round, oval or compact oval … There are two basic shapes of toilets: round and oval. The round bowl requires less space and are less expensive. The oval or elongated tend to be more comfortable but require more space from the wall than round ones. Most manufacturers produce a compact oval model also.
  • One-piece, two-piece and wall hung … Manufacturers make one-piece models that mold the tank and bowl into one unit. These can be a little more expensive, but they take up less space. The two-piece with separate tank and bowl are more common. The wall hung requires less space and make the room look larger, but installation will be more expensive.
  • Height … Standard toilet height is 15 inches. An alternative to the standard is a comfort height which is more like a chair at 17-19 inches tall. This can be an advantage for older and taller people as well as those with a mobility problem; but of course may be disadvantageous for toddlers and young children.
  • Trapway – The trapway is a channel from the bottom of the bowl to the drainpipe that also keeps gas from entering the home from the sewer. While the trapway shows on the outside of most models, there are skirted or concealed models available for a more aesthetic appearance.
  • Single or dual flush … Single flush toilets use the same volume of water each time it is flushed. Dual flush toilets have two options for flushing liquid or solid waste. This gives the user the ability to conserve water when appropriate.
  • Water per flush … In an effort to save water, in 1995 the Department of Energy required toilets to use 1.6 gallons per flush. Since then California and Georgia increased the restriction to 1.28 gpf which saves 20% more water.
  • Gravity-feed or pressure assisted – For four hundred years, gravity has been used to move the water through a flushable toilet bowl to eliminate the waste. As water usage restrictions were added, pressure assisted toilets were introduced to assist the lower volume of water. A sealed cylindrical tank inside the ceramic toilet tank provides the additional pressure. These types of toilets are nosier than conventional flush types.

Once you’ve decided on what features are important, you can shop brands that fit your needs. If you’re curious to what kind of a job it is to install it, there are lots of videos on YouTube that will show you in detail what to expect. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, you’ll understand the process more.

Note: Many toilets are caulked around the base, but you may want to consider not caulking around the base so that in the event the wax ring between the toilet base and floor should leak, then water can escape the base of the toilet rather than being contained beneath it and possibly doing sub-floor damage long before the leak is evident.

Interior Condensation Solutions

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Regulating the humidity in a home helps with comfort in the form of breathing, relieving dry skin, sinus problems and sickness in general. Breathing is easier and the air feels more pleasant. It can also contribute to the health of the home itself. Condensation occurs when the air has too much moisture in it, high humidity. Water may then deposit on various surfaces that are cooler than the air itself. Several things can contribute to high humidity besides the weather outside, such as cooking, dishwashers, clothes dryers, bathing and long showers.

If the home has a crawl space under the floor, inadequate ventilation or insulation can cause moisture in the home. Rainfall draining towards, rather than away from the foundation, can also collect in the crawl space. Sufficient crawl space ventilation can help keep a crawl space dry, but in some cases installation of a sump pit and pump and possibly even drain tile to collect and funnel water to the sump pit could be necessary. If you’re having a problem, weigh the options available to find the best solution.

Condensation that forms on windows and other surfaces in your home can cause damage to window trim, frames, drywall, floor coverings and sub-floors as well and the interior framing.

To reduce condensation in a home, the moisture saturating the air needs to be reduced. Just as steam from a shower can fog a mirror, warm air holds more moisture. When the air cools, it releases the moisture. There are other things that can be done to reduce the moisture and the condensation:

  • Adjust humidifier setting in heating season. (Turn humidifier off in cooling season.)
  • Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans
  • Circulate the air; ceiling fans can help with this
  • Open windows to release warm air
  • Raise temperature
  • Add weather stripping
  • Window insulation kits
  • Storm windows
  • Move plants that release moisture in the air
  • Use a dehumidifier during cooling season

The average life of a bathroom exhaust fan is about ten years with kitchen fans lasting about fifteen years. Regular cleaning can increase the life of the fans. Bathroom exhaust fans should be vented to the outside and should be run for 15-20 minutes after using the bath or shower to remove the moisture that causes mold and mildew. (Note: In the Wichita metro area, many homes have been constructed with bathroom exhaust fans expelling into the attic rather than terminating at a roof or side wall vent, and this can also result in condensation forming inside the attic.)

Selecting an agent

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When a whole lobster was presented at the table of a restaurant, the customer noticed there was only one claw on it. He asked what happened to the lobster and the waiter said, maybe he lost a fight with another lobster. The customer replied to the explanation by saying “then, bring me the winner.”

There are approximately 1.3 million REALTORS® in the U.S. The July 2019 Existing Home Sales annualized about 5.4 million units with a listing side and a selling side that totals 10.8 million transactions. That means that the average number of units sold per agent is 8.

In any given market, 20% of the agents are selling 80% of the homes. 260,000 agents are selling 8,480,000 or an average of 32 transactions sides. Some markets are dominated by 10% of these successful agents selling 90% of the market. If that were the case, 130,000 agents are selling 9,720,000 or an average of 75 transactions sides.

The question you should ask yourself is who do you want representing you in the purchase or sale of the largest asset that most people have? Do you want an average agent, or do you want a powerhouse agent who can provide you the best advice, avoid issues that can cost time, and maximize the results that you expect and deserve?

Finding the right property is listed as the most difficult experienced by buyers (56%), according to the Home Buyers and Sellers Profile, together with the paperwork (20%) and understanding the process and steps (16%) makes these the most important areas of expertise needed when evaluating your agent.

An agent provides valuable services for buyers and sellers during the transaction that can make a difference in finding the “right” home or buyer, negotiating the best terms, and closing on time. The answers to the following questions can help you decide who to work with in your next purchase or sale.

  • Describe your experience in real estate?
  • What are your personal sales stats compared to the market? (For sellers, list price to sales price ratio, days on market; for buyers, average # of houses shown and closure rate)
  • Describe your strategy to accomplish my needs?
  • Do you have references and/or reviews?
  • What makes you different than your competition?
  • Can you help me find the other professionals and vendors?
  • What is your fee and who pays it?

For more information, download the Sellers Guide and Buyers Guide.

Price It Right the First Time

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The Internet has empowered all buyers with information and home buyers are no exception. The amount of information available to public includes details on size, (sometimes the theoretical) condition, sales history, current inventory, recent sales, photographs, videos, school info, drive-times, entertainment and much more.

When a seller realizes that buyers are educated with facts, it becomes unlikely that they will pay more than a home is worth.

If a home is priced too high in the beginning, it may stay on the market longer than normal which could adversely affect the ultimate sales price. It is a natural reaction for people to theorize that something must be wrong with a home that doesn’t sell in a reasonable time for that market.

The seller is entitled to maximize the equity in their home and pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to achieve that. Overpricing can reduce the number of prospective buyers drawn to look at a property because they assume that the best homes are purchased soon after offered for sale and if one has been on the market longer than normal, there must be a problem with it. Similarly, sales associates may come to the same conclusion.

After buyers have seen a few homes in a certain price range, they begin to expect similar amenities in each home they look at. If a home is overpriced, it will not compare favorably with the other homes that are being viewed. Sometimes, the buyer may even conclude that another home is a relative bargain because it offers more for the same price as the overpriced listing. In other words, the overpriced listing contributes to its competition selling first, even though that buyer might very well have preferred the overpriced listing had its list price been reasonable.

Shopping the market means looking at the homes that meet a buyer’s wants and needs and selecting the one that gives them the most, whether it is in price or amenities. The overpriced listing doesn’t compete well, and it extends the market time. Professional experience teaches that the longer a home stays on the market, the lower the selling price is highly likely to be.

It is essential that a seller receive factual information to price their home to compete favorably in the current market. Some of the obstacles can include:

  • Failure to objectively compare the current and sold homes with theirs
  • Neighbors who misreport how much they got for their home
  • Fear of “leaving money on the table” and thinking they can start high and always lower the price
  • Rationalizing that a high price isn’t a deterrent since a buyer “can always make an offer”.
  • Loss of perspective because the seller is emotionally involved
  • Expecting the home to sell for more than fair market value because they need the money
  • Agents who will accept a listing at any price in order to tie up the property until the seller realizes the price is too high

What a seller paid for the home or the cost to rebuild it today do not affect market value. Neither does the amount spent by sellers on certain improvements that were made for their own pleasure and enjoyment. Even two homes on the same block of nearly identical size and construction quality can have remarkably different levels of market appeal due to differences between the floor plans, design features, updates or the lack of updates, lot characteristics, etc.

It is unrealistic to expect a buyer to pay more than market value for a home. The seller sets the price of a home but the buyer determines the value. If the home is priced properly in the beginning, it is more likely to sell for a higher price, after fewer days on the market and get from purchase contract to closing on a smoother road.