Northern Virginia Real Estate and Community News

Aug. 17, 2017

Be Careful Not to Get Caught in The Rental Trap!

Be Careful Not to Get Caught in The Rental Trap! | MyKCM

There are many benefits to Northern Virgina homeownership. One of the top benefits is being able to protect yourself from rising rents by locking in your housing cost for the life of your mortgage.

Don’t Become Trapped 

A recent article by ConsumerAffairs addressed the continuous rise in rents, stating:

“The cost of putting a roof over your head continues to go up. Not only are home prices still rising, but the cost of rent rose 0.5% in June.”

Additionally, in the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University’s 2017 State of the Nation’s Housing Report, it was revealed that,

“Despite a slight improvement from 2014, fully one-third of US households paid more than 30 percent of their incomes for housing in 2015. Renters continue to be more likely to face cost burdens…the number of cost-burdened renters (21 million) considerably outstrips the number of cost-burdened owners (18 million) even though nearly two-thirds of US households own their homes.”

These households struggle to save for a rainy day and pay other bills, including groceries and healthcare.

It’s Cheaper to Buy Than Rent 

As we have previously mentioned, the results of the latest Rent vs. Buy Report from Trulia shows that homeownership remains cheaper than renting with a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage in the 100 largest metro areas in the United States.

The updated numbers show that the range is an average of 3.5% less expensive in San Jose (CA), all the way up to 50.1% less expensive in Baton Rouge (LA), and 33.1% nationwide!

Know Your Options

Perhaps you have already saved enough to buy your first home. A nationwide survey of about 24,000 renters found that 80% of millennial renters plan to eventually buy a house, but 72% cite affordability as their primary obstacle. Aside from affordability, one in three millennial renters have concerns about their credit scores, and another 53% said that a down payment is an obstacle.

Many first-time homebuyers who believe that they need a large down payment may be holding themselves back from their dream homes. As we have reported before, in many areas of the country, a first-time home buyer can save for a 3% down payment in less than two years. You may have already saved enough!

Bottom Line

Don’t get caught in the trap that so many renters are currently in. If you are ready and willing to buy a home in Northern Virginia, find out if you are able. Let’s get together to determine if you can qualify for a mortgage now!

Posted in Buying a Home
Aug. 10, 2017

Top 7 Must Read Blogs for Back To School

School is getting ready to start all around the Northern Virginia area. Do you and your family have everything set and ready to go? Here are some of our favorite blogs and websites for gearing up. 

101 Back to School Tips for Kids and Parents

This comprehensive list covers all sorts of "family" tips and rules. Pack lunch before bed. Lay your clothes out the night before.......... the things that will make life easier when the big day comes.

VA School Supply lists

If your students are headed back to Northern Virginia schools, here is a link to the requested school supplies. Don't forget the tissues!

8 Back to School Tips Every Student Should Know

Contrary to your teen's popular belief, it's NOT all about what to wear the first day. The reason for the season is actually to learn. Here are some great tips to getting organized and ready for a great year. My favorite tip is #6 Get Involved. So many kids just go to school, do their work and leave. By getting involved in something on campus, not only are they increasing their learning potential but they are learning to deal with other people in PERSON and not just via their phones.

12 Study Tips for Back To School

And, speaking of learning, this blog will help set your student up for academic success with some great study tips. I found #1, Don't just have one study space, interesting. I had always thought that your space was your space and that it was sacrilegious to change. But, the article makes the good point that changing scenery now and then can be inspiring.

Tips for Happy Lunch Boxes

We scoured the web for some of the best back to school lunch recipes ever. Be sure to check them out on my "Favorite Recipes" Pinterest board.

Back to School Outfits for teen girls

If you're like me, when growing up, I couldn't wait until that back to school issue of Seventeen magazine came out. Girls everywhere still seem to rejoice but now they read it online and can click right there to buy their first-day outfit. Me, I had folded tabs, sticky notes, and lists galore. Do kids today even know what sticky notes are?

Back to school must have gadgets 

In my school days, our "gadgets" consisted of a calculator or, if you were REALLY cool, a calculator watch. Now, there are things like note taking pens, the Echo Dot and wireless everything. This list will give you a start on what the kids might be pushing for.

 

Have you seen any good blogs or tips for back to school? If so, please share in the comments below.

Posted in Community Events
Aug. 3, 2017

Don't Get Scammed by a Wire Fraud Scheme

Today we have a guest blog from our friend Keith Barrettat Vesta Settlements regarding Wire Fraud. This post originally appears on their blog. 

 

wire fraud

 

Several attempts have been made recently in the real estate industry to divert funds from both Buyers and Sellers during the closing process. The fraudulent schemes typically involve the hacking of public domain email accounts (e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL etc.) and/or the creation of a similarly named account through which the perpetrator creates a separate thread of communication. In these cases, hackers monitor the emails of agents, buyers, and sellers in an effort to gain information regarding transaction details. They then use this information and the hacked email account to direct transaction funds to their own bank accounts. Once the funds are wired pursuant to the fraudulent instructions, there is little or no chance of those funds being recovered.

These emails can appear genuine and can even contain the logos or branding of the title company, agents or lender. In most cases, the emails are written with a sense of urgency that the wire must be made as soon as possible, prior to the closing date. These emails often contain poor sentence structure, grammar mistakes, and the use of different fonts but this is not always the case.

Vesta Settlements takes necessary measures to protect personal, non-public information through appropriate information security and privacy management policies and procedures.

However, despite these efforts, cyber crime will continue and evolve – vigilance and consistent attention from all parties to a transaction are crucial.

Steps you can take to prevent Wire Fraud on your own transactions:

  • Don’t use public domain email accounts for business purposes
  • Use encrypted email for emails that contain sensitive information
  • Sellers should bring wire instructions to closing instead of emailing them to the title company prior to closing
  • Buyers should confirm all wire instructions directly with the title company on the phone ahead of closing or before making a wire transfer
  • Be Cautious. Scrutinize all emails pertaining to transaction funds. If you think something seems slightly “off”, pick up the phone and speak directly with the parties involved in your transaction.
  • If you are a real estate agent, provide a copy of this alert to all of your clients

To download a PDF copy of this blog post, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Real Estate News
July 27, 2017

Rising Home Prices Mean Great News for Northern Virginia Homeowners

Rising Home Prices Mean Great News for Homeowners | MyKCM

Recently there has been a lot of talk about home prices and if they are accelerating too quickly. As we mentioned before, in some areas of the country, seller supply (homes for sale) cannot keep up with the number of buyers who are out looking for homes, which has caused prices to rise.

The great news about rising prices, however, is that according to CoreLogic’s Homeowner Equity Report, the average American household gained over $14,000 in equity over the course of the last year, largely due to home value increases.

The map below was created using the same report from CoreLogic and shows the average equity gain per mortgaged home during the 1st quarter of 2017 (the latest data available).

Rising Home Prices Mean Great News for Homeowners | MyKCM

For those who are worried that we are doomed to repeat 2006 all over again, it is important to note that homeowners are investing their new-found equity in their homes and themselves, not in depreciating assets.

The added equity is helping families put their children through college, invest in starting small businesses, pay off their mortgages sooner and even move up to the home that will better suit their needs now.

Bottom Line

If you are a Northern Virginia homeowner looking to take advantage of your home equity by moving up to your dream home, let’s get together to discuss your options!

Posted in Buying a Home
July 20, 2017

Your Opportunity to Achieve the American Dream Keeps Getting Better!

Your Opportunity to Achieve the American Dream Keeps Getting Better! | MyKCM

Forbes.com recently released the latest results of their American Dream Index, in which they measure “the prosperity of the middle class, and…examine which states best support the American Dream.”

The monthly index measures several different economic factors, including goods-producing employment, personal and commercial bankruptcies, building permits, startup activity, unemployment insurance claims, labor force participation, and layoffs.

The national index score was rounded out to 100.0 in January as a baseline for comparison and it rose the fourth straight month in a row to 101.8.

Alaska, coming in at 89.4, represented the lowest score on the index due in part to the recent collapse in oil prices. In contrast, Wyoming came in with the highest score at 115.1. The full results can be seen in the map below.

Your Opportunity to Achieve the American Dream Keeps Getting Better! | MyKCM

Forbes Senior Editor Kurt Badenhausen explained why many states saw a boost in the index last month:

“The American Dream Index rose for the fourth straight month to 101.8 propelled by gains in goods-producing jobs and building permits, as well as declines in unemployment claims and mass layoffs.

Goods-producing jobs (manufacturing, mining, construction and agriculture) were up for the ninth straight month in May…Building permits rose for the fourth straight month compared to the prior year.”

Bottom Line

The American Dream, for many, includes being able to own a home of one’s own. With the economy improving in many areas of the country, including Northern Virginia,  that dream can finally become a reality.

 

If you'd like to look at your options for "achieving the dream," feel free to contact me. I'd be happy to assist you.

 

July 13, 2017

Top Apps for Finding A Home & Moving

 

Thinking of jumping into the Northern Virginia housing market?  There is so much to consider when thinking about moving…neighborhoods, school districts, affordability, hiring movers, packing, unpacking...but take a deep breath, and let technology help!

Searching for a new home, buying a new home, and moving can not only be time-consuming but also very stressful.  Thankfully, there are many low-cost or free apps to help you navigate your way through this complex process.  These apps can help you search for homes based on your criteria, compare neighborhoods, compare school districts, and calculate mortgages to see if homes are affordable for you.  

 

If you are searching for a new home, start by checking out these 3: Dwellr, Homesnap, and realtor.com.

 

  1. Dwellr is run by the U.S. Census Bureau, so it is great to check out for accurate information on your potential new home and community before you decide to buy.

  2. Homesnap allows you to get detailed information about a property based on a photo you take of the property.  You can also use this app to share information with your realtor, aiding in the communication process when comparing homes and organizing your search.

  3. Some apps, such as realtor.com, will even update you when there are new listings, price drops, open houses and home sales to keep you informed in this dynamic market.  

 

Once you have made that big decision of which new home is right for you and your purchase plans are in place, then it’s time to turn your attention to your actual move.  Relocation apps can provide valuable help and advice when moving to a new area.

 

For your moving plans, be sure to look into these helpful relocation apps: Moveadvisor, Moveatlas, Sortly, and Unpakt.

 

  1. Moveadvisor can help you take an inventory of your home, find movers around you, establish a timeline for your move, and get free quotes from moving companies.

  2. Moveatlas provides users with checklists, packing lists, a planner for organizing all of those time-sensitive tasks of moving, and even a moving day checklist.

  3. Sortly is another one for those who love to take photographs.  This app helps you track your property by sorting and inventorying your possessions through photographs to help simplify the packing and unpacking process.  Need to find that coffee mug the morning after the move?  No problem...you’ll know which box to check!

  4. Need to find a reputable moving company?  See prices and reviews with Unpakt.  With this app, you can compare moving companies and see guaranteed price quotes based on the list of items you actually plan to move.  You can also access a moving timeline for the weeks before you move so you can plan effectively, stay on track, and hopefully help reduce the last-minute stress of the big move.

 

Bottom Line


Remember, apps are great but you still need a Realtor to guide you through the process. Be sure to ask them what apps they suggest.

Apps can help you find a new home per your most important criteria, decide if it’s affordable for you, and then assist you with planning your big move.  You can stay on track with your moving process and keep your belongings organized - all with the help of these creative apps.  So, take out some of the guesswork, uncertainty, and stress of moving with the technology you have available to you at your fingertips...you’ll APPreciate the apps! And, when you're ready to take that leap on a Northern Virginia home, give me a call. I'd be happy to help.

Posted in Buying a Home
July 6, 2017

Pre-Approval Should Always Be Your First Step

Pre-Approval Should Always Be Your First Step | MyKCM

In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes greatly outnumbers the amount of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your Northern Virginia dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, knowing your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the My Home section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.” 

Freddie Mac describes the 4 Cs that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so as well. Give me a call and we can chat about it. 

Posted in Buying a Home
June 29, 2017

2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers

2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers | MyKCM

In Realtor.com’s recent article, “Home Buyers’ Top Mortgage Fears: Which One Scares You?” they mention that “46% of potential home buyers fear they won’t qualify for a mortgage to the point that they don’t even try.”

Myth #1: “I Need a 20% Down Payment”

Buyers overestimate the down payment funds needed to qualify for a home loan. According to the First Quarter 2017 Homeownership Program Index (HPI) from Down Payment Resource, saving for a down payment was the barrier that kept 70% of renters from buying.

Rob Chrane, CEO of Down Payment Resource had this to say,

There are many mortgage-ready renters today, but they don’t know it. Often, homebuyers remain sidelined for years due to the down payment.

Many believe that they need at least 20% down to buy their dream home, but programs are available that allow buyers put down as little as 3%. Many renters may actually be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined with new programs that have emerged allowing less cash out of pocket.

Myth #2: “I Need a 780 FICO® Score or Higher to Buy”

The survey revealed that 59% of Americans either don’t know (54%) or are misinformed (5%) about what FICO® score is necessary to qualify.

Many Americans believe a ‘good’ credit score is 780 or higher.

To help debunk this myth, let’s take a look at Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report, which focuses on recently closed (approved) loans.

2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers | MyKCM

As you can see in the chart above, 53.2% of approved mortgages had a credit score of 600-749.

Bottom Line

Whether buying your first home or moving up to your dream home, knowing your options will make the mortgage process easier. Your Northern Virginia dream home may already be within your reach. Contact me today and we can talk about your personal situation. 

Posted in Buying a Home
June 22, 2017

Buying Is Now 33.1% Cheaper Than Renting in the US

Buying Is Now 33.1% Cheaper Than Renting in the US | MyKCM

The results of the latest Rent vs. Buy Report from Trulia show that homeownership remains cheaper than renting with a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage in the 100 largest metro areas in the United States.

The updated numbers actually show that the range is an average of 3.5% less expensive in San Jose (CA), all the way up to 50.1% less expensive in Baton Rouge (LA), and 33.1% nationwide!

Other interesting findings in the report include:

  • Interest rates have remained low and, even though home prices have appreciated around the country, they haven’t greatly outpaced rental appreciation.
  • With rents & home values moving in tandem, shifts in the ‘rent vs. buy’ decision are largely driven by changes in mortgage interest rates.
  • Nationally, rates would have to reach 9.1%, a 128% increase over today’s average of 4.0%, for renting to be cheaper than buying. Rates haven’t been that high since January of 1995, according to Freddie Mac.

Bottom Line

Buying a home makes sense socially and financially. If you are one of the many renters out there who would like to evaluate your ability to buy this year, let's get together to find your dream home.

Posted in Buying a Home
June 15, 2017

Summer Home Safety Tips

Summer is the time for fun and relaxation whether it's a big trip or a stay-cation. But, it's also when many injuries occur. Here are some tips we've pulled together for summer safety around the home.

Beware of Poison Ivy- The old saying "leaves of 3 let them be" is important when working out in the yard and clearing weeds. Wearing long sleeves and garden gloves are step one in preventing poison ivy but also be sure to always wash up well and even consider showering after working in the yard to get any leftover weed remnants off. 

Sunburn- Need we say it? Wear sunscreen! Even on cloudy days, the sun can get through and still cause a burn. Most people forget to put sunscreen on the back of their neck and the tips of their ears so make sure to get those covered. A hat or even some of the newer sun blocking clothing can also be helpful. And, speaking of the sun, protect your eyes with some good, dark sunglasses.

Pools- While pools offer the most summer fun you can have in your yard, they are also potentially dangerous. Make sure that no one ever swims alone. Be sure to remind people not to run or dive where they shouldn't. Be certain that a cell phone is nearby in case of emergency. And, if you own the pool, it would be in your best interest to take some safety and CPR classes from the local Red Cross or YMCA. While swimming, also be sure to keep an eye on that sunburn. See above for more on that. 

Backing Out of your driveway- Summertime is when kids seem to run rampant in the neighborhood and not all of them are well-supervised or trained on safety. When backing out of your driveway or garage, be sure to take extra precaution to look around the vehicle to know what is going on in your surroundings. Don't just count on mirrors and video to do the job for you. 

Grills/firepits- Nothing says "summer" like an amazing burger on the grill or some marshmallows roasted over the fire pit. Be sure to keep these things far enough away from the house so as not to catch your eaves on fire. Also, beware of dry grasses underneath or dry leaves above. As with the pool, it's a good idea to keep a cell phone handy when fire is part of the fun. Also, a fire extinguisher would be handy to keep around.

Bug bites/ticks- Summer sun brings all sorts out for the fun, including mosquitoes and ticks. Using either a natural or store bought bug repellent will help keep them at bay. If it's not too hot, thin long sleeves and pants are also helpful. Upon going back indoors, be sure to do a quick "tick check" on yourself, your kids and your furry friends.

Fence closed- Though it seems a little odd to bring it up, be sure to remind older kids to keep your gate closed if you have a fenced in yard. Not only does that help to keep predators and stray animals out of your yard, but it will help keep your smaller children and animals where they belong inside the fence.

All these tips aside, the most important tip to remember in the summer time is to have fun. This is the time that many of the best home memories are made. Enjoy the season and each other. 

 

 

Posted in Community News