Can You Use a VA Loan to buy a CONDO in New York?

 First Time Homebuyers, The Affordable Home, Uncategorized, Veterans  Comments Off on Can You Use a VA Loan to buy a CONDO in New York?
Jan 172017
 

Yes it is possible to use a VA loan to purchase a condo in New York. BUT…the condo must be a VA approved condominium. If the condo is not on the list, you cannot use a VA loan to purchase the condo.

Find VA Approved Condos HERE.

Everyone wants an affordable home…but there are other considerations you must take into account when considering a Condo.

As an advocate for First Time Buyers, I always give this advice to clients who are considering purchasing a condo. First, consumers often have the mistaken impression that condos are “cheaper” or have lower monthly payments than you would have for a home purchase, say of a Single Family Home.

While this may be true on the overall price of the property, in terms of the monthly payment, a condo can often be nearly equal to that for a single family home. This is because the monthly expense for a condo is not only Principal, Interest, Insurance and property taxes (and mortgage insurance depending on the loan program if other than VA), but also the monthly expense for the Homeowners Association. This “HOA” cost can be prohibitively expensive. When I prequalify a client for a condo in NY Metro area, I use an average monthly HOA expense of $650. Obviously HOA fees vary from one condo to another, but this is a fair average cost based on my experience.

So,when factoring that $650 into a monthly housing expense, the overall monthly expense for a condo can be almost or exactly equal to that of a single family home.

Therefore, I advise first time buyers to look at the other aspects of condo living to make a determination as to whether this is a good “fit” for their home buying experience. If a condo is considered as a “starter home” experience, then I would caution a first time buyer that a single family home is probably a more reasonable property to accomplish that goal.

Other factors to consider with condos:
When real estate markets turn “down” Co-Op, Condo, and 3 & 4 Family homes tend to suffer first in the potential for resale. So, if you own one of these properties, and you MUST sell, but the market has turned south, you will face significant challenges in getting your home sold.

-Living in a condo means you will often be living “up close and personal” with your neighbors. Very much similar to living in an apartment building, even if the condos are townhome style properties.

Condo living comes along with restrictions—more often than not—on what you can and cannot do to your property.

Overall costs for a condominium can increase dramatically if the condo is poorly-managed, or if an unexpected major incident—such as a heating system failure or roof collapse—occurs and winds up costing the condo monies in excess of their “capital reserve” account. If a condo association needs to increase its capital reserve account for any reason, this means a special assessment for the individual condo owners, maybe as much as several hundred dollars a month.

I often say to first time buyers that Condo living differs from owning a single family home not in the monthly payment, but rather by asking this question: “Do you mind shoveling snow?”

BOTTOM LINE: Approach a CONDO purchase by reviewing ALL variables in the experience and don’t focus solely on cost.

Read about the Basics of VA loans HERE.

Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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Happy House Hunting!

May 182015
 

inspector 1You definitely want to be present at the inspection; budget anywhere from 2 to 5 hours for the inspection. Dress as if you might get dirty; bring a flashlight. You’ll go through the house side by side with your Inspector. After the inspection, your Inspector will discuss with you any major issues you need be aware of to discuss with your Attorney. You’ll get a written report shortly after the inspection day.

Typically your Home Inspection will alert you to problems in five key areas, and these key areas directly relate to the contract of sale in a New York home purchase:

1. Foundation: sound and solid
2. Roof free of leaks
3. Plumbing working and leak-free
4. Heating system sufficient and operating
5. Electrical system sufficient and up to code

image w definitions

If there is a serious problem with any of these five items, typically the Seller has a responsibility under the terms of the contract of sale to repair the problem at their expense, not the Purchaser’s expense. Sometimes a Purchaser will receive a credit at closing to repair one of these items (assuming the home and the defective issue has not compromised the Lender’s appraisal). When the Purchaser receives a credit at closing, the amount of the credit is based upon legitimate estimates for repair and negotiations between the Attorneys representing each party.

Other items you discover are in need of repair/upgrade (i.e. dishwasher not operating properly; air conditioner on second floor inoperable, etc.) can be negotiated for a repair credit or replacement at the Seller’s expense. Again, these negotiations are typically handled by the Attorneys.

It is not as common as you might think that a purchase price is reduced due to repairs from a Home Inspection. Best to consult with your Attorney for more detailed information in this area.

 

 
Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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Happy House Hunting!

Apr 132015
 

tax refundIt’s tax time and many homeowners receive large tax refund checks. Here’s some advice I’ve put together for you on different ways to use that money.

This article is part of my series “The Affordable Home.”  In the series I seek to focus on the intangible benefits of homeownership by making them, well, tangible.  I believe the affordable home is the sensible and proper approach to homeownership; so many new homebuyers today specifically focus on the affordability of the mortgage loan instead of the “HGTV” aspects of a house. I find this attitude refreshing for two reasons.

First, it’s an “old” attitude: in decades past the idea of buying a home revolved around diligent budgeting to save up the down payment and the concept the monthly payment should be affordable.

1950-oct-28-crop

The features of the house—granite countertops, high end appliances, paved driveways—were minor considerations and certainly did not make for sound decision-making when buying a home.  Those features could be added later, if one so desired, and those “old-timers” (I was once one of them) knew that.

Second, during the past decade, during the “Boom” the focus was on something I considered completely nuts: buy a home, an amazing home packed with big rooms, big features, and big monthly payments, at any cost.  Affordability be damned.  I struggled as a mortgage professional during those years to try to talk sense into people.

Since it’s tax-time, the advertising from folks who want your refund checks are everywhere.  There was the TV advertisement: “Just in time for your tax refund we’ve received a new stock of bamboo flooring!”

bamboo

It occurred to me that this is the time of year when many people, especially homeowners, get large tax refunds and the sharks start circling looking to take a bite out of that refund check.  To this I say, “STOP!  Take a minute to reflect on what you should do with your money!  You worked hard for it, and you bought an affordable home so you could get that refund, don’t throw it away without giving it due consideration.”

Here are my suggestions to spend your tax refund wisely:

1. Consider investing the money for your future.  My pal Nick, the owner of the Westside Steakhouse  was at one time a stock broker.  Here’s his take on wisely using your money:: “Never spend more than you make and save some money every week.”  Awesome advice and I believe that fits very handily into my concept of the affordable home.   Especially in this day and age of doubt over pensions, we consumers must be smarter and more responsible with our planning for retirement.  Follow Nick’s advice and invest your tax refund to begin or supplement your savings plan.

The New York Times “Your Money” section featured a wonderful piece recently about a new vehicle that makes it easier for us to create a sound investment strategy without all the costly bells and whistles.  Here’s the link to that article:  Financial Advice for People Who Aren’t Rich

I have long advised my clients to consider retaining a Financial Advisor to provide counsel on all things finance-related: investing, budgeting and insurance.  You can find a local Financial Advisor in the your area here:  National Association of Personal Financial Advisors

And here is sound advice from a CPA about investing not just your refund, but investing throughout the year and the tax benefits/ramifications: Fund Your Retirement Or Your Child’s College?

2. Create an Emergency Reserve.  Take some or all of that refund check and put together your emergency reserves.  Park the money somewhere it’s inaccessible by debit card!  You’ll need ease of access, but putting it within reach of a debit card is a surefire path to disaster.  pile of cash

3. Pay down debt.  This tends to be the long held standard amongst many homeowners I’ve known over the years.  I believe this is an admirable activity, but I believe taking your tax refund to pay down debt should be part of a comprehensive plan for debt management.   To take a page out of my friend Nick’s finance playbook: don’t spend more than you earn.  I advocate tending to your credit use respectfully and as part of your total family budget every month.  This way you won’t necessarily have to take your hard won refund check and pay down a credit card balance.  Of course, if, during the year you experienced an emergency and needed to access your credit to assist with that emergency, then paying off that debt at tax time is a sound strategy since it’s a one time event.

I’ve found that Consumer Action is the best site on the ‘net for sound advice on all things credit related, including how to obtain lower credit card rates and fees and great counselling on preparing and maintaining a family budget.  Find them here: Consumer Action

 Another Smart Strategy for The Affordable Home: Take home more money in your paycheck; get a smaller refund at tax time.

I hope my suggestions are useful to you at this exciting time of year.  Of course, I also advocate that you really shouldn’t get such a large refund at tax time if you’re a homeowner.  I’ve long believed that you should incorporate into your homeowners’ “network of advisors” a great tax professional or CPA.  By doing so, you can lean on your tax professional/CPA to advise you on the correct withholding throughout the year to increase your take-home pay, reduce your end of the year tax refund (and prevent having to pay!), and enjoy the benefits of homeownership every month instead of once a year. Here’s the IRS page on how to calculate correct withholding, but I recommend you do this only under the guidance of your tax professional/CPA:  IRS Withholding Calculator

Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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The Affordable Home: Washing the Dishes

 The Affordable Home, Uncategorized  Comments Off on The Affordable Home: Washing the Dishes
Nov 252013
 

I believe in The Affordable Home.

dishmasterI’ve debated for many years with various folks, friends and family members over washing the dishes, not that I mind the household chore, rather the expense of hand-washing dishes versus using a dishwasher.

Thanks to the National Resource Defense Council, I’m both wrong and I’m right!

They say that using a newer Energy STAR efficient washing machine is the least expensive way to wash your dishes. But they make a good case for “efficient” hand-washing. A new Energy STAR efficient dishwasher uses 3-5 gallons of water and 1kWh energy. dishwasher

Efficient hand-washing, where you use separate tubs to soap the dishes and wash them by hand then rinse in a separate tub thereby not running the water the whole time is nearly as efficient with 8 gallons and 1kWh. More efficient than an older dishwasher which can use up to 15 gallons and 2-3 kWh!

Make your home more affordable: either invest in a new Energy STAR efficient dishwasher or get more efficient in the way you wash your dishes by hand.

More on the NRDC website HERENational Resource Defense Council

 

oldendays-420x0

Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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Key Points for VA Loans

 First Time Homebuyers, The Affordable Home, Veterans  Comments Off on Key Points for VA Loans
Sep 052013
 

veterans 1More Veterans are using their Veterans Benefits to buy homes today with VA Loans.  The problem many of them encounter is this: Mortgage Loan Originators (MLO) don’t have sufficient experience with VA Loans.  This can make for some troublesome times when a Veteran is buying a home.  You definitely want to work with an experienced MLO, someone with at least 15 years experience.   Take some time when shopping for your VA Loan to interview the MLO before you make a decision.

Some key points for you to know when you interview a Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator (MLO) for your VA Loan:

VA Funding Fee is 2.15% of the Loan Amount (and is always financed) for Active Duty Veterans with at least 180 Days active duty. No Funding Fee for Disabled Veterans.

The Funding Fee is different for other service types/periods, including Reservists.

A Veteran can finance 100% of the purchase price of the home.modern home 191

A Seller can pay all of a Veteran’s Closing Costs, and more.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about VA Loans and your MLO will need to be available to explain and reassure the Seller and the real estate agents of the VA process. For example, many Sellers and/or real estate agents believe that VA Loans take “a LONG TIME” to approve and close. Not true. (My average closing time on VA loans is about 6-8 weeks compared to 3-4 weeks for FHA). They also believe that VA Appraisals ALWAYS slash the value of the house. Not true. I’ve only seen one VA Appraisal come in slightly less than purchase price in the last couple of years, and, in that case, both the Listing Agent and I suspected the value might be tight before. Bottom Line: your MLO has to have clear communication to make it easier for you to negotiate with Sellers when competing against other Buyers with different financing terms.

If your MLO asks you for your DD-214 right away, then you know you’re dealing with someone with experience. You don’t need the Certificate of Eligibility or COE as we MLO’s can obtain that directly from VA on your behalf.

thank you veteransFor a New York Purchase you’ll need some cash for your “Good Faith Deposit” when you sign the contract of sale. It’s the rare Seller who will sign a contract with a Buyer who doesn’t at least put $10,000 on the contract (refundable to the Veteran at closing due to the 100% financing). Not that it’s impossible (I’m working with 3 Veterans right now who have less than $5,000 to put down), but it will require serious negotiating on the part of your MLO, real estate agent, and Attorney.

VA Condos: few and far between because the VA just doesn’t approve enough Condos, so focus on Single Family Homes. Find VA Approved Condos

Two Family Homes: unless you have experience in property management (and can prove it), you’ll have to qualify with your own INCOME for the purchase; rental income will be excluded from the qualifications.

You’ll need a Termite Report but YOU CANNOT PAY FOR IT, the Seller must pay.

We qualify Veterans’ Income two ways: a percentage of monthly gross income, or “Debt to Income Ratio” AND a residual income method which is similar to doing a family budget, so it’s a pretty cool way to qualify you. idyll

 

Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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You Need To Build Credit: Where to Begin

 All You Need To Know About Credit, First Time Homebuyers  Comments Off on You Need To Build Credit: Where to Begin
Aug 232013
 

You need to build more good credit. I recommend opening the following accounts as a way to build credit:pile of cash

  • Sunoco http://www.gosunoco.com/ways-to-save/gas-credit-cards/
  • CareCredit: available at your Dentist. http://www.carecredit.com/apply/landing.html
  • CapitalONE secured credit card http://www.capitalone.com/creditcards/mastercard-secured-credit-card/

A secured credit card works like this: you deposit with the credit card company a pre-determined amount, say, $500. This amount is your credit limit. You swipe and use the card same as a regular credit card; the secured card activity gets reported on your credit report thus building your credit history. My advice: open the account and use no more than 50% of your “limit.” Then make MINIMUM monthly payments; don’t replenish the total amount! This type of activity gets much better results on a credit report.

  • Bank Debit/Credit Card: If your bank offers a card attached to your checking account that can be used as either credit or debit, then you should use the card as credit. Check with your bank to see if they offer this type of card AND if they report the activity to the credit bureaus when you use the card as a credit instead of debit.

Visit my Useful Links page for other great websites that provide accurate and honest advice on building credit.

 

Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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Definitions: Earnest Money Deposit or EMD

 Definitions, First Time Homebuyers, The Affordable Home, Veterans  Comments Off on Definitions: Earnest Money Deposit or EMD
Aug 192013
 

Earnest Money Deposit or EMD

When you sign a contract to purchase a home, you’ll provide an “earnest money deposit” to be held until closing in an escrow account by the attorney for the homeowner. If you are purchasing a HUD Home the EMD check is presented with your Offer by the HUD Approved Broker in the bidding process.

If you’re applying for an FHA loan, the EMD usually equals your 3.5% down payment. If you apply for other types of financing—-VA or Conventional—then your  Real Estate Agent or Attorney will guide you as to the amount requested by the Seller.

There is no “set” or required amount for the EMD, although many Sellers’ often request 10% of the purchase price. This is a matter of some negotiations between your Real Estate Agent/Attorney and the Seller’s Agent/Attorney.

For example, what if you’re closing out a CD for your entire down payment but you only have $10,000 cash on hand for the EMD today? It’s important to discuss with your Real Estate Agent/Attorney before you come in to sign the contract the amount of the EMD.

Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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It’s a Long Ride on a Short Sale

 Definitions, First Time Homebuyers, Veterans  Comments Off on It’s a Long Ride on a Short Sale
Aug 162013
 

Definitions: Short Sale

The definition of a short sale is when a homeowner owes more to their current mortgage lender than they can sell the house for on the open market and sells the house for the market price
after negotiating with their lender to accept less.

For example, Henrietta and John own a single family house. The balance on their current mortgage is $267,000. John lost his job and they wish to sell the house to relocate to another state for better employment opportunities. They invite local Realtors to make a “Listing Presentation” as to how much Henrietta and John’s house could sell for under current market conditions. The consensus among these Realtors is a price range of $195,000-$220,000.

Henrietta and John owe more than the house can be sold for. They retain the services of a local attorney who specializes in negotiating short sales. Their attorney then negotiates with their existing Lender to accept less than the $267,000 owed on the house and basically to accept payment based on whatever Henrietta and John can sell the house for.

The negotiating of the short sale is a complicated and difficult process. Henrietta and John’s attorney will need to present comprehensive income documentation to their Lender. The Lender will in turn conduct it’s own analysis of the value of the house and the merits of accepting Henrietta and John’s offer of less money rather than conducting a foreclosure proceeding.

Thanks to recent Federal Government initiatives, the process to negotiate a short sale has become easier. What used to take nearly a year to accomplish can now be negotiated in as little as 45 days, although the average processing time for a short sale approval is probably closer to six months.

When Henrietta and John receive the approval for their short sale, there will be some fundamental conditions in place.

1. Their Lender will receive ALL proceeds of the sale AFTER Henrietta and John have paid customary closing fees for their locale and real estate commissions and legal fees to their attorney.

2. They will not be allowed to receive any funds in their pocket.

3. Their Lender may reserve the right to obtain a “deficiency judgment” against Henrietta and John for the amount of the mortgage loan left unpaid by the approved short sale.

What does a short sale mean for a Homebuyer?

1. Be PATIENT. You may have a considerable waiting period from the time you sign a contract of sale to the point when the short sale is approved on the house you are buying.

2. Get your Mortgage Approval and MAINTAIN your financial status. Once your mortgage loan application is approved and your Lender issues a loan commitment, be sure your Income, Assets, and Credit stay the same as when you made your loan application. Because it may be some time before you close, your Lender will update your documentation used for the loan approval. If your financial situation changes, you may lose your approval altogether.

3. You can’t get Something For Nothing. Don’t think you can get a house in a short sale situation for “fire sale” prices. After all, the house didn’t get burned in a fire, the Homeowner simply owes more than current market prices will bear. If you offer substantially below the market price, chances are the Lender approving the short sale for the homeowner may counter your offer to a higher price. This is based on their independent analysis of market prices for similar homes in close proximity to the house you are buying.

Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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Sunday Dinners

 First Time Homebuyers, The Affordable Home  Comments Off on Sunday Dinners
Aug 152013
 

Sunday Dinners

I was speaking to one of my clients yesterday. She has been shopping with her husband since January for the right house. They had two houses locked down in contract only to discover in both cases the Sellers had problems that prevented my clients from closing, even though their mortgage loans were approved.

I have learned one thing in my 23 years helping First Time Homebuyers and I shared that one thing with my client yesterday as a way to help her maintain her energy and optimism.

I told her, “Someday soon in your new house, when you are sitting down to a Sunday dinner with your family at your dining room table you will remember all the hard work, disappointment, crazy sellers, and challenges you had to overcome in order to buy your first home. You will look around that Sunday dinner table and think to yourself, ‘All that hard work was worth it.’”

It’s true: the thing I learned a long, long time ago, through my early experiences as a mortgage professional and through the challenges I faced buying my first home, the thing I learned is that all the hard work pays off. To sit down with your family to that traditional Sunday dinner in YOUR dining room in YOUR own house, oh yes, that’s when you truly reap the rewards from your hard work shopping for that house.

I encourage all of you to stick with it. You will find shopping for that home to be challenging, arduous, and filled with nail-biting anxiety. But it’s all worth it in the end.

Paying rent just isn’t worth it in the long run; 

owning something that’s yours really is worth the work.

Think of your future Sunday dinners next time you are feeling

blue about the home buying experience.

Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

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Nov 222011
 

Wow, 27+ years as a Mortgage Banker! I have seen the occasional short appraisal! I started in November 1989 because I wanted to become a Homeowner so I chose a path which would get me there: Mortgage Professional.

Times were tough back in that market.  Interest rates were high and property values had dropped dramatically.  The employment picture for many Americans wasn’t very promising.  There were a lot of foreclosures and homeowners had a hard time refinancing their mortgages due to lost equity.  Sounds very similar to our recent post-meltdown market with the exception of the interest rates (11% in 1989!!!).

I received a valuable part of my education early on in my career as I dealt with purchase transactions where the appraisal came in for less than the purchase price.  Buyers, Sellers and their respective Realtors are all “IN IT TO WIN IT” and make the deal happen.

How you see your house!

I carry that education with me to this day when my HomeBuyer clients ask me at application time, “What happens if the appraisal comes in for less than the Purchase Price?”   I know many HomeBuyers may think it’s a NO-BRAINER: the Seller will automatically reduce the price.  But that is NOT the case right out of the gate.  Here’s what I learned all those years ago about appraisals that come in short:

How the Appraiser sees your house

When the bank appraisal comes in for less than the contract price

there are FOUR ways to proceed with the transaction.

 

  1. The Purchaser comes up with the difference in cash. If the appraisal is less than the Purchase price, the Seller basically assumes the Purchaser wishes to buy the house according to the terms of the contract, including the agreed upon Purchase Price. Therefore, the Seller assumes the Purchaser will come up with the cash necessary to complete the transaction.
  2. The Purchaser and the Seller meet in the middle. The Purchaser comes up with some cash but the Seller also agrees to reduce the price enough to meet the Purchaser somewhere “in the middle.”  Both sides want to complete the transaction and so they work it out.  This is compromise at its best.
  3. The Seller reduces the Purchase Price to equal the Appraised value. This is the least likely scenario, but not an impossible one.  Sellers often want to complete the purchase transaction on the original terms of the contract, including the price. But a determined Purchaser working with a great Realtor, by digging in and working hard to negotiate can often make it happen.
  4. Nothing happens and the deal is cancelled. The Purchaser either cannot or will not come up with the extra cash and the Seller refuses to reduce the price completely or even a little bit to meet the Purchaser.  In this case the transaction is cancelled, the Down Payment is returned, and everyone goes home unhappy.  The Purchaser has to begin all over again and the Seller has to put the house on the market and try to find a new Purchaser.

In the end, the motivations of all parties to make the deal happen and close the transaction rule the day.  Those motivations drive everyone to find a solution and get the deal closed.  Or not.

Do you have questions?  Click on ASK TREVOR and I’ll respond to any and all inquiries, even if you’re not buying a home in New York State.

Check out my Trulia profile HERE

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Happy House Hunting!