Lewiston First Time Buyers Find Multiple Funding Resources

In an improving residential real estate market, first time buyers may flinch at the greater loan amounts that accompany larger price tags. Lending standards have also put some first time buyers through a tougher gauntlet than faced during many previous eras. Although some easing is now beginning to take place, some Lewiston first time buyers can still find it difficult to secure the level of funding they seek. For them, there are a number of alternative funding possibilities that first time home buyers in Lewiston may wish to explore. Here are some of the assistance programs that can serve buyers as they go about buying that first home:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home Loan Guaranty Service is the most well-known of the programs, providing government guarantees for loans to service veterans and those on active or reserve duty. It also provides assistance to widows or widowers of veterans. Some VA loans require no deposit, and although the size of loans are limited and vary by area, the limits aim to make possible purchase of a mid-sized home. The actual loans are made by private lenders; the portion that is guaranteed by the VA protects the lender from losses should the veteran prove unable to repay the loan.

The HUD Basic Home Mortgage Loan 203(b) is a program that provides mortgage insurance to purchase or refinance one-to-four unit principal residences. Applicants who meet standard FHA credit standards and who pay the insurance premiums are eligible for approximately 96.5% financing provided by FHA-approved lenders.

The USDA Rural Development Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program is a rural development grant designed to help low- and moderate-income rural applicants purchase a home. The rural development program works with local lenders to provide 100% financing for eligible home buyers. In order to qualify for the program, an applicant must live within one of the eligible rural areas and have a total household income that does not exceed the established limits for that area.

The Community Development Block Grant is one of the nation’s oldest housing assistance programs. The goal of the CDBG is to make funds available to urban communities to be disbursed to citizens in the low and moderate income range. The money allocated to the CDBG is provided to local government authorities, who have broad latitude in how they allocate the funds to create and upgrade local housing conditions. Examples are shown in the video Role of the CDBG.

Each program has its own specific application format, which may involve completing a grant application package or simply applying for a loan from an approved lender. More detailed information can be found on each relevant agency’s website.

Securing financing is just one step of the home-buying process—though a first time buyer may be excused if they find it an intimidating one. Whether you are a first time buyer in Lewiston or a seasoned homeowner, give us a call: We’re here to help every step of the way!

Buying a Vacant Lewiston Home Can Mean No Disclosures

Suppose that in the course of buying a home in Lewiston, your eye is drawn to a bank-owned home, or a home held in a trust. There are many reasons why you could find yourself buying a Lewiston home that’s currently vacant—which can also mean that the usual owner disclosures are not to be had. There are perfectly innocent reasons why this situation develops. Suppose the sellers of the property have just inherited it. How would they know that water tends to pool under the house during a strong rainstorm? Or that unpermitted repairs were made to the electric wiring in the kitchen?

If thoughts like these cause beads of sweat to pop out all over your forehead, don’t fret. This summer we can find you plenty of alternatives in Lewiston’s traditional housing market. But before you automatically pass on a vacant home because of unknowns in its history, you should know that, with due diligence, you can still end up with a home that is worth your money and a safe place to live!

When you consider a vacant home, the most reliable information will come after you’ve arranged an inspection. The inspector’s report will let you learn what you’re getting into before you buy—and whether it’s in safe and livable condition. Most homes that fall vacant due to circumstances like divorce or a move are well cared-for and in decent shape; others, long abandoned, are more likely to have fallen into disrepair. Without any owner disclosures, you’ll be on your own to discover potentially major issues like leaking pool equipment or pest problems.

Even after you’ve had a thorough inspection, there is still a good chance you will encounter at least some surprises. There are some elements of a home that can’t really be properly inspected—like what lies under the floorboards or behind attic walls. Since there is no former owner to sound a warning, there is always a chance that you could run into unplanned-for expenses. Truth to tell, though, this can also hold true for a traditional home if the sellers have no prior knowledge, either.

Although buying a home with no disclosures can be a great way to get a wonderful deal, it’s still a good idea to leave some extra budget for the most likely potential costs. In addition to things like insurance, unexpected repairs, and maintenance, there are other costs you might also need to cover—such as a vacancy endorsement on your insurance policy if the house will continue to stand vacant for more than 30 days after the sale.

The bottom line? If you’re considering buying a home in Lewiston with question marks in its history, be sure you apply some energetic diligence before signing on the dotted line. You’ll be a lot more relaxed after the fact.

Thinking of buying a Lewiston home this summer? Then it’s time to give us a call!

Lewiston Rental Property Investments—They’re Out There!

When any investor first begins to mull over the idea of acquiring a rental property in Lewiston, it’s usually in competition with an array of other investment types—each with its inherent pluses and minuses. Some of them are new ideas (new technology company stocks; new forms of commercial exchange)—but real estate is definitely not one of those. It may not be innovative, but being a landlord has always been one of the leading sources of passive income.

What is exciting about rental property is why it has always been recognized as a sound investment. When the income from a Lewiston rental property is able to pay for its own underlying mortgage, it self-propels its growing equity. The rental property’s investment value grows as the loan is paid down month by month, year after year. Added to that is any appreciation in its market value.

And with the best Lewiston rental property scenario, when rental income exceeds mortgage and other expenses, it will even throw off an extra income stream. Needless to say, choosing the right rental property in Niagara Falls is worth the effort! Much of that effort involves making a serious effort to map out and project values, income and expense:

  • Neighborhood: Consider how the overall desirability of the neighborhood is likely to affect its appeal to tenants. Are there attractive amenities like parks, shopping and entertainment venues? What do the local classified ads reveal — is the area’s vacancy rate high or low? How do rental prices compare with adjacent neighborhoods?
  • Project Ancillary Expenses: Determine the historical property tax rates, and what future rate changes are being proposed. Likewise, investigate insurance costs and roll both expenses into your total monthly expense projections. You want to be sure that they are low enough that you can still make a profit from the rental.
  • Local Dish: Expert advice from Investopedia is for prospective landlords to speak with renters as well as homeowners in the neighborhood. It’s a good point: “Renters will be far more honest about the negative aspects of the area because they have no investment in it.”
  • Schools: Rental homes in Lewiston featuring two or more bedrooms will attract families—and that means they will likely have children in school. If a school is nearby the home, it’s likely to be that much more popular with family tenants.
  • Crime: Crime-prone neighborhoods can have higher turnover and longer vacancy rates, so a bargain purchase price may be less of a bargain than you’d hope.
  • Commute: Is the property a long commute from the commercial center of town, or a quick drive? Is there public transportation? Many prospective tenants begin their housing search with their workplace as the center point. Renters will consider this before signing a lease—and you should before signing your offer!

If you are thinking of looking at rental property in Lewiston this summer, they’re definitely out there. Call us today to discuss some of the many opportunities!

Moving to Lewiston Means Vetting Reliable Carriers

Moving to Lewiston NY (or moving to anywhere) is adventure enough without including one of the moving company scams that are all too common. It seems hard to believe that unscrupulous carriers can continue to operate, but the fact is, there are a lot of them out there. If you will be moving to Lewiston anytime soon, you don’t have to worry about any of the rip-off artists if you follow some straightforward guidelines:

  1. 1. Check the FMCSA

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration runs a household goods program designed to aid consumers. Their website includes a search feature that records past complaints for known companies…but be aware that only interstate movers are listed. Along with complaint information, it lists company contact details so you will know you’re dealing with the people they say they are.

  1. Check Online Reviews

A search engine search of the company can be helpful: just enter the company name plus ‘reviews’ or ‘ratings.’ You’ll often find Yelp entries, and with luck, recent experiences by customers moving to Lewiston.

  1. Get A Written Estimate

You should be skeptical of any moving company that is willing to provide a quote over the phone or internet. This may not be evidence of a scam, but often means that you are dealing with a broker rather than the company itself. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation red flags any over who doesn’t offer or agree to an on-site inspection of our household goods “or gives an estimate over the phone or internet”…the too-good-to-be-true estimates, demands for large upfront deposits, or failure to hand you the “Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” pamphlet (Federal regulations require Interstate movers do so during the planning stages) are all signs of trouble ahead!

  1. Insurance Issues

Before you hand over your belongings, it is a good idea to check that you’ll be moving to Lewiston with the proper insurance. Ask the movers about their insurance policy and note the policy number. If you have any concerns, you can check with the insurance provider to confirm that they are properly covered.

  1. Use A Mover With A Physical Address

Another sign to watch out for are moving companies that don’t list a physical business address. With a brick-and-mortar base of operations, you know where to head should anything go wrong.

Moving scams can cost a lot of money—not to mention the stress that results when unscrupulous operators have all your stuff! If you’re planning on moving to Lewiston NY this summer, please consider one of us as your local guide to our area. We’re here to offer professional real estate representation—as well as a ton of information about all things Lewiston!

Housing in Lewiston May Be Headed for a Transformation

Of the things Americans take for granted, one of the least questioned is the future availability of familiar housing circumstances: housing that’s ‘like where I grew up.’ For urban dwellers, that might be an apartment or condominium; for others, a single-family home—a house with a yard, or perhaps a farm or ranch house. It may be time to re-examine that whole idea.

Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in multi-generational living arrangements. We read and hear a lot about the housing situation that sees many young adults now living with their parents—but that’s not the whole story. Seniors are increasingly likely to live with their children. The latest census housing data confirms that 9% of seniors now live in a household headed by their children. If you are planning to sell your home this summer, it’s worth thinking how multi-generational living is affecting housing here in Lewiston.

In the past, multi-generational living was the rule rather than the exception. In 1900, 57% of Americans aged 65 years or older lived with other family members. Following World War II, increased education, better access to loans and the GI bill meant that more young adults could buy homes. At the same time, older adults benefited from social security and medical care which let them live longer independently. By 1990, only 17% of people aged 65 years or older lived with their families.

The recession of 2008 created a job crunch that produced the “boomerang kid” phenomenon: many young adults took longer to leave their parents’ home to seek housing on their own. Too, the growth in the aging proportion of the population has meant that many older Americans are living with their adult children. A third contributor is the increase in the number of ethnic minorities with cultural biases for more than one generation to share housing.

It’s not surprising if the result of these trends is to influence Lewiston housing preferences. According to the American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey, there has been a traceable rise in demand for “in-law” suites over the past year. There has also been an increase in demand for homes with a master bedroom and full bath on the ground floor—the layout most popular when older parents will be accommodated. Other features such as ramps, home elevators and non-slip floors are also gaining popularity. Den, attics and basements are all also increasingly being converted into bedrooms and living areas for younger adults and older parents.

Developers are also responding to the same trend by introducing housing best described as “multi-generational-friendly”. In 2011, national builder Lennar introduced their “Next Gen” house plan: a layout that has the capacity to become two houses in one. The attached house has its own entrance, bedroom, kitchen and living space. A connecting interior door can convert the house into one big home—but when closed, the two residences are separate. Apparently, the idea has been a notable success: Lennar now offers 50 different Next Gen floor plans in 120 communities across the country.

The return to multi-generational living seems likely to have a significant impact on the types of Lewiston housing that will be developed in coming decades. Lewiston houses with in-law and young adult-friendly features (such as additional rooms and bathrooms) are likely to grow in demand. Especially if you’re thinking of remodeling your home, don’t hesitate to contact us before you start. We can offer relevant feedback about how your remodel is likely to affect your sales price now—and throughout coming years.

Lewiston Seller Financing Agreements Can Make Deals Happen!

When home prices in Lewiston are on the rise, one side effect is that first-time homebuyers may run into a financing obstacle. Although the stricter lending standards of the past few years have been easing somewhat, it still can be difficult for some folks (younger buyers, especially) to purchase the Lewiston home they have in their sights.

In that situation, an alternative to a traditional bank mortgage is seller financing. Many prospective buyers know little about the details that make up a seller financing agreement, and how it can–or cannot—help them secure a home.

What Seller Financing Is…

It’s as simple as the words themselves. When part or all of the purchase price of a property is carried by the current owner rather than a bank, it is considered to be “seller” or “owner” financed. Buyer and seller reach agreement on the loan details, including the monthly repayments, term of the loan, and interest rate. The security for the loan is the property itself—a fact which is documented on public records for the safety of both parties.

The Benefits of Seller Financing…

For the buyer, the principal benefit of seller financing is avoiding the requirements that are the hallmarks of traditional bank loans. Motivated sellers, who may be anticipating having trouble selling their home in a timely manner, be willing to advance a loan to buyers who do not traditionally qualify for a loan. Another benefit for the seller is having an investment which returns a fixed rate of return—one that is secured by the property. In the case that the buyer defaults on the loan the seller can foreclose on the property. With seller financing of a Lewiston property, the buyer will often compensate for a lower-than-bank-required credit score by agreeing to pay an above-market interest rate (another inducement for the seller).

Financing Part of the Purchase Price…

In some cases, the buyer may be able to secure a traditional loan for only part of the full purchase price. In that case, the buyer can ask the owner if they would be willing to finance the missing piece. Again, the buyer may sometimes offer an interest rate that is above current market rates as an inducement. It’s often possible for the buyer to plan on refinancing the ‘missing piece’ at a later time when the credit picture has improved, hoping to lower the combined interest rate.

But, then…

These advantages are so clear, you might expect that Lewiston seller financing arrangements would be very common. There are several reasons why that’s not true. First, owner financing can only be offered by sellers who own their property outright. Second, should a buyer fail to live up to his or her side of the agreement, foreclosing on the property can be a lengthy and expensive process—during which it’s likely that no money will be paid by the buyer in default.

In Lewiston, seller financing can be a deal-saving alternative for buyers who may not meet lending standards set by banks, but who can nonetheless afford to service a mortgage. Not all sellers will consider owner financing—but for those who are willing to support the added risk, it can meaningfully expand the pool of prospective buyers. Seller financing is just one of many possible strategies. If you are thinking of buying or selling in Lewiston, give us a call as soon as possible to take advantage of this summer’s market opportunities!

Summertime Open House in Lewiston: the Timing is Perfect!

Estimates so far indicate that summer 2014 is likely to be a better than usual season for Lewiston home sales. The past winter threw a wet blanket over all kinds of business activity, creating a perfect scenario for a sales bounce back—and that’s exactly what is beginning to show up in the stats. As Bloomberg News reported last week, sales of homes “climbed in April for the first time in three months…the biggest in six months…”

If you will be taking advantage of the uptick by listing your property for this summer’s market, having an open house in Lewiston NY is a prime way to attract prospective buyers. With a little focus and energy, getting your home in shape can be easier than you might imagine.

The checklist is short:

Landscaping

The place to begin is with the landscaping—it frames the picture that’s the first thing buyers see when they pull up during the warm months. If you don’t have summer flowers planted, that’s okay—improvise! Purchase a few hanging baskets and potted plants. Place them along pathways, the entrance, and other places that could use a little bit of color. Hose the exterior, but if the years have been too tough, you may need a refresher coat of paint or trim. Perk up the lawn with an easy-to-apply lawn food spray; edge where needed; then mow and admire!

Get a Fresh Outlook

Give your windows a good cleaning (outside first)—it’s surprising the amount of sparkle that simple job can add to your Lewiston open house. Air the house thoroughly as you do a deep clean where it’s needed: usually a shampoo of carpets and rugs will accomplish the lion’s share of the work. Add some summer color to your rooms with fresh throw pillows, and as your open house draws near, see where a few well-placed floral arrangements would add bright color to draw the eye.

Last Checks

Before the day of your open house, there are a few more quick checks to be made. Walk around the house. Are the air conditioner units clean? Are the gutters and rain spouts in good shape? Outdoor spaces are great selling points to make your home more attractive to buyers, and a summertime Lewiston open house creates the perfect opportunity to show them off. There are always a few little things you’ve been meaning to attend to…now is the time!

Looking for more open house tips? Call us today if you’re thinking of listing your Lewiston home for sale. We can discuss a marketing plan to get your home S-O-L-D this summer!

A Lewiston Mortgage Application Should Be Smooth Sailing

Everyone expects that finding and buying the right Lewiston, NY home will take a good deal of attention and energy. After all, it’s as important a purchase as we ever make. But when you add in the potential that something on your mortgage application could bring everything to a screeching halt, that’s one detail that has the potential to trigger what could turn everything into a truly harrowing experience.

The average credit score in America is around 688. That might look like a respectably large number, yet it’s considered mediocre when it comes to mortgages. And the truth is that most Americans are blissfully unaware of what is going on with their credit reports most of the time…that is, until they’re presented with a Lewiston mortgage application. Ideally, everybody should take a look at their report well before they are faced with a mortgage application—but if you’re one of the majority who hasn’t done so, there is no need to panic. You may still be able to deal with credit issues that threaten to delay your otherwise smooth transaction.

The most common issue that Lewiston homebuyers come up against during the mortgage application process is one or more late payments that ding the final score. In most cases, these are small amounts that were likely forgotten and can be quickly cured. Schedule an immediate payment—and be sure to record the receipt. Once the bank sees that the account has been brought current, they will most often proceed.

Issues stemming from a stolen identity can be more severe and may take a bit more time and effort to straighten out. First, let the bank know that the charges on your report are not yours; then document the entire process of disputing the charges with the credit bureau and having them removed from your report. The downside is that this typically takes from 1 – 6 months to complete. In most cases, your bank will proceed—but will delay closing until you can furnish proof that the issues have been resolved.

In the event that you have late payments that you cannot afford to bring current, you may be able to make a settlement with the creditor that the bank will accept. The Catch-22 is that they will typically want you to pay off the debt completely. This is when it’s going to be necessary to have a candid discussion with your Lewiston NY mortgage specialist: once you have made the situation clear, he or she will explain your best options.

If you haven’t taken a recent look at your credit report, now is the time to do so. You don’t have to wait until you’re filling out a mortgage application to benefit from identifying potential credit issues…in fact, keeping tabs on your score can pay off in every situation where credit comes into play!

Questions? We’re happy to refer you to one of our great Lewiston mortgage brokers even before you get your house hunt started. Call us!

Lewiston New Home Market Reflects Shifting U.S. Patterns

For decades, the three-bedroom house has been a cornerstone of the American dream. Now, as with the rest of the nation, Lewiston’s real estate profile for new single family homes seems to be changing. And last year we may well have reached a turning point in the national new home market: now four bedrooms seems to have become the new norm!

Last year, a full 48% of new homes—nearly half—were built with at least four bedrooms. That’s quite a jump when you compare it with just four years earlier: in 2009, the figure was 34%. We asked ourselves why the nation’s preferences would have undergone such a sizable shift. A little research revealed some likely answers—and some interesting history behind them.

The Rise of Bigger Homes

The footprint of the average new home built in the U.S. went Yeti in a very short time. In the late 1940s, Postwar America began producing single family homes on a massive scale—with an average size of about 750 square feet. As the economy expanded, so did house sizes until by 1973 the three-bedroom home dominated the new home market (Lewiston included). By 2013, average new home sizes had reached 2,701 square feet according to the Census Bureau.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but at the same time the number of bedrooms was increasing, the size of the American household was heading in the opposite direction. The 3.6-person average of the 1940s had, by 2013, contracted to 2.58. That means the living space for each individual had grown by 80%!

House Sizes Shrink, Then Expand Again

In 2009, as a side-effect of the last decade’s real estate market downturn, single family home sizes had retreated by about 6%. But now the economy’s slow recovery has reversed the reversal. According to the most recent report from the National Association of Home Builders, the average size of a new home built in 2013 was 2607 square feet— a 300-square foot increase over just two years earlier.

Fewer New Buyers = Bigger Homes

One of the reasons for the new home market shift toward larger four-bedroom designs can be ascribed to a decrease in the number of first-time homebuyers. Largely due to previous tightening in lending criteria and rising mortgage rates (both trends have at least momentarily stalled in the Lewiston new home market), the smaller homes favored by first-timers claimed a proportionately smaller chunk of the market.

It’s hard to avoid the general conclusion that what were once considered luxurious additions are effectively today’s norm. The en-suite bathrooms, two-car garages and even three-bedroom homes that would have been out of reach for most of the new home buyers of the past are practically standard fare in 2014. But another fact is that every Western New York area differs from every other. If this has you wondering how your home compares with what today’s buyers are looking for in your own neighborhood—why not give us a call?

Lewiston Mortgage Rates May Rise—But You Can Still Save!

Mortgage rates may rise or fall this spring (lately they seem to be falling!)—but that needn’t prevent you from saving even more money when it’s time to structure your own Lewiston mortgage. The underpublicized fact is that mortgage rates are only one of the factors that affect how much you wind up paying. No matter what happens to mortgage rates in 2014, here are some keys to making mortgage decisions that result in significant savings:

Tailor the term

Evaluate your budget and see whether it is possible to increase the amount of your monthly payment. By increasing monthly repayments, you reduce the term of your Lewiston mortgage. Over the course of the loan, this can save tens of thousands of dollars.

Refinance for five years instead of two

The interest you pay on a refi loan isn’t the only cost. The origination and other fees can easily end up costing four figures. It’s a numbers game: simply calculate the anticipated savings from refinancing, then subtract the amount of the fees. The difference tells you your net savings…and demonstrates why one of the easiest ways to grow those savings is to refinance less frequently.

Change to biweekly

Changing to biweekly payments instead of monthly payment can save you more than small change. The reason is on the calendar: there are 52 weeks in a year, but only 12 months. If you make 26 1/2 payments every year, that equates to 13 monthly payments. It’s a stealthy way to make an additional month’s payment every year without really noticing it. When choosing a loan, opt for one where the bank allows you to choose biweekly payments (as long as they don’t want to charge an additional fee). Also request that the extra payments be deducted from the principle.

Improve your credit score

On this count, every mortgage guru sounds like a broken record. Although the average quoted mortgage rate may rise or fall, that’s not necessarily the rate that you pay. Your FICO score is the primary determinant of your Lewiston NY mortgage rate. The difference between a good FICO score and a bad one can be significant, so get a copy of your credit card record and challenge any damaging inaccuracies. Lenders want to see a long history of paying on time with a mixed use of credit.

Mortgage rates in Lewiston will almost certainly increase in the future because they’re still well under historical averages. But there are plenty of steps you can take to cut thousands of dollars from your ultimate Lewiston mortgage costs. And if you are ready to buy a house in Lewiston this spring, contact us today—We’re ready to show you what’s coming up at your price point!