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Preapproved for a Loan? Don't Blow It With Holiday Shopping 2015-11-28 06:04:00
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Filed under: Buying, FinancingShutterstockBy Kayla AlbertAfter receiving the preapproval on your home loan -- the anxiously awaited first big step toward homeownership -- you likely breathed a sigh of relief that the official "proving yourself" part of the process was over.Not so fast, if you're searching for a home during the holidays.Before you get swept up in the tide of frantic holiday shopping, it's important to know that going overboard on gifts for friends and family can impact the total loan amount you're ultimately approved for, and it could even kill the approval entirely.Here are a few ways you can ensure you make it all the way from preapproval to purchase with no hiccups en route.1. Don't apply for new credit or rack up new debt.When you reach the cash register with your arms full of holiday gifts, it's easy to entertain the idea of opening a store credit card. Just fill out the application, add your John Hancock, and you could be walking away with a significant amount off your total purchase.However, opening this line of credit requires a hard credit inquiry -- one that could ding your credit in the process. In addition, you could impact your debt-to-income ratio or signal to the lender that you are a greater risk than they previously thought.Tammi Robson, a mortgage broker at Metro Lenders in Denver, tells her clients about the importance of being debt-free or keeping debt levels stable during the home-buying process. This means avoiding major purchases such as a car or that new dining-room set until the entire home-buying process is complete."Most lenders do 'debt monitoring' during the loan process, meaning they pull internal credit reports," Robson says. "If new debt shows up or credit scores go down, it will affect loan qualification."2. Don't move around large amounts of money.While constantly shuttling funds back and forth might be how you manage your money, it can create a huge headache for lenders, who must be able to track the movement of funds from account to account. If they cannot track the funds, the money movement could appear suspicious -- a red flag signaling undocumented funds or money troubles they hadn't seen before.In addition, if your family is all about doling out the cash for the holidays, you could be putting yourself in a precarious position. Lenders will also be scouring your accounts for any unusual deposits -- those that are 50 percent or more of your monthly income -- or any unusual cash withdrawals. These will need to be thoroughly explained to maintain your approved status.It's all about keeping the status quo between preapproval and closing -- something that can be more challenging during the holiday season.3. Don't ignore your bills.A recent study by Neighborworks determined that one in three American adults has no savings on hand. Pair this with an expected holiday spending rate of $805 per person, and it's no wonder bills become a heavy burden to bear come January.Unfortunately, even if your holiday spending gets out of hand, loan preapproval isn't a pass to be less diligent about maintaining a spot-free bill payment history. In fact, it's more important than ever to make sure all bills are paid on time and in full.Payment history makes up 30 percent of your credit score, and even one late payment can have devastating effects. How much exactly? According to, if your payment is over 30 days late (the typical grace period given by lenders), it could lower your score anywhere from 60 to 110 points -- a substantial amount even if you're starting with a high score.If that late payment is on an existing mortgage, a lender could opt to deny your loan altogether. Even if it's not a complete denial, you'll need to explain in writing why the late payment occurred.Here's the bottom line.If you've been preapproved for a mortgage, you've successfully cleared one substantial hurdle -- a bank or lender has looked at your overall financial health and stamped you as a qualified candidate.But preapproval is not the same as approval, and now, as holiday sales are calling, it's important to keep the finish line in sight. After all, you wouldn't want a few financial missteps to make your dream of homeownership come to a crashing halt. Permalink | Email this | Comments

Buying a 100-Year-Old House? Know What's Behind Those Walls 2015-11-26 06:04:00
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Filed under: Buying, Home ImprovementShutterstockIn New Orleans' French Quarter, much of the housing stock dates from the first half of the 19th century.By Geoff WilliamsIf you like old homes, you may have aspirations of living in a century-old farmhouse or perhaps a row house constructed in the 1800s. It's not for everyone, but for some people there's something charming and almost whimsical about living in a house that's been around longer than your grandparents. It's the history, it's the look and it's certainly the construction. They just don't build them like they used to.That's meant as a compliment, but it's possible to purchase a house that's 100 years old -- or even 200 years or older -- and eventually long to live in a cookie-cutter home that looks like every other residence on the block. As Kent Owen, an insurance agent from Silverhill, Alabama, puts it: "Older homes may look nice at first glance, but think of them like a person who has been divorced a few times. You might be able to make it work, but you'll be finding problems from the past in there somewhere."That might be fine with you, especially if you enjoy do-it-yourself projects. But if you're thinking of buying a century-old house, you want to know what you might be in for -- and get out your wallet. These are some issues century-old homes tend to have in common.Faulty, Dangerous or Old WiringHere's the good news. If you're buying a house that is 100 years old, the wiring probably has been replaced, says Welmoed Sisson, a home inspector with Inspections by Bob, headquartered in Boyds, Maryland.Sometimes, Sisson says, she and her husband will find houses with the original wiring, "and it's almost never in good working order."Here's a fun fact: "Old houses with electricity frequently had knob and tube wiring, which relied on exposed wires running through porcelain tubes and around porcelain knobs," Sisson says.If you hear a homeowner or realtor refer to K&T wiring, they're referring to knob and tube wiring. And a not-so fun fact: "Many insurance companies will not issue coverage on homes with K&T," Sisson says.Corroded Water PipesA major problem for city governments around the country is that water lines have to be replaced. They don't last forever. In fact, the American Water Works Association's 2015 State of the Water Industry report says that replacing aging water lines is currently the most important item on the industry's to-do list. Not surprisingly, if you have a house that's 100 years old or older and previous homeowners haven't replaced the pipes, that job will fall to you.Heather Brewer, who has a public relations firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says she owns a beautiful craftsman house built in 1919 (OK, just shy of a 100-year-old house), and water issues have often been a problem from the beginning."Once, as I was cleaning out my desk, my almost-3-year-old son saw my checkbook, pointed to it and said, 'That for the plumber.' Literally, the only time he ever saw me write checks was to the plumbing company," says Brewer, whose son is now almost 4 and likes to pretend he's a plumber when he plays with his toys.There are many reasons for water problems, according to Randal Weeks, a designer, architect and founder of Aiden Gray Home, a home furnishings and decor manufacturer in McKinney, Texas. "Houses like this have been occupied and not throughout the years. That resting water damages and decays the pipes, thus leading to leaks and basically dirty water that takes time and may or may not flush out," Weeks says.And water issues that come with a 100-year-old home won't likely be covered by insurance, Owen points out. Not if those problems have been festering for years, anyway."Preexisting conditions and slow damage that is preventable over time isn't covered," Owen says.Limited BathroomsAt least you'll know this going in, and it won't be a surprise. But it could take some getting used to."Most old homes only have a single bathroom. Having multiple bathrooms in a house is definitely a modern creation," says Rob Williams, a real estate agent at DC Home Buzz, a real estate brokerage in the District of Columbia.Sagging FloorsIt isn't an issue you would typically think about, but you'll find it in a lot of old homes, says Tracy Abriola, a marketing and communications professional who lives in Philadelphia. She and her husband, a real estate agent, are living in her second 100-plus-year-old house."A lot of times," she warns, "you're spending a great deal of money to refinish the hardwood floors, but then find added expense addressing uneven flooring."Lilli Keinaenen agrees. A freelance graphic designer in San Francisco, she owns a house built in 1908, and says that if the floors aren't always even, something else may not be either."It came as a pretty big surprise when we noticed our room ceiling heights aren't the same," says Keinaenen, who is still renovating. "But also, the floor height between one side and the other vary, too, due to one part of the house having been a porch at some point. So our master suite will have odd steps, ups and downs. That's all part of the charm, we hope."Landscaping IssuesThat's right. Your old house may have problems beyond the house. If there are 100-year-old trees near the home, for instance, those may need serious pruning or need to come down, Abriola says.Of course, none of this means you shouldn't buy house that's a centenarian. It does mean that if you're looking for a starter home, make sure your 100-plus home has been maintained well over the years, or be prepared for a lot of updates.That wasn't exactly the case with Keinaenen's home. She and her husband have had to replace their home's foundation, roof, wiring and plumbing over the last few years. They replaced the entire sewer lateral line, rebuilt the front and back stairs, repaired windows, painted the outside and the inside, added water heaters -- and will soon be involved in kitchen and bathroom renovations.Keinaenen says she has no regrets. But you may, if you have big dreams but a small budget. You don't want a starter home to finish you off. Permalink | Email this | Comments

U.S. Home Prices Rising on Short Supply 2015-11-25 06:25:00
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Filed under: Design, Buying, Selling Getty Images/iStockphotoSan Francisco, Denver and Portland led 20 U.S. cities as home prices moved upward at the fastest pace of 2015. By Christopher S. Rugaber AP Economics Writer WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home prices rose in September from a year earlier at the fastest pace in 13 months as a lack of houses for sale has forced buyers to bid up available properties. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, increased 5.5 percent in September compared with a year ago, the largest annual gain since August 2014. Steady job gains and low mortgage rates have propelled a solid rebound in home sales, which are on track to reach the highest level since 2007. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent in October as employers added the most jobs since December. Borrowing costs have ticked up but remain below 4 percent, a low level historically. San Francisco reported the largest annual home price increase, at 11.2 percent, followed by Denver at 10.9 percent. Portland had the third largest gain, at 10.1 percent. All 20 cities surveyed reported higher prices than a year earlier. On a monthly basis, prices rose 0.2 percent in September from August. Prices rose in seventeen of 20 cities from the previous month. They fell in Chicago, Cleveland and Washington, D.C. Sales of existing homes, while improving, have been volatile this year. They slipped in October after a healthy jump the previous month, according to the National Association of Realtors. Overall, home sales have increased 3.9 percent in the past 12 months. At the same time, the number of available homes has fallen 4.5 percent. That squeeze has pushed up prices. The typical home sold for $219,600 last month, up nearly 6 percent from a year ago, the Realtors group said Monday. That is the highest median price for the month of October since October 2005, at the height of the housing bubble. Home prices are rising at more than double the pace of inflation and much faster than wages, pricing many Americans out of the housing market. That has also pushed up rents as Americans increasingly stay in apartments. Still, home prices are rising at a much slower pace than the double-digit gains seen in most of 2013. David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Dow Jones Index Committee, said that the higher prices aren't out of line with rising rents. That's a change from the housing bubble, when home prices soared much higher than rental costs. Several factors are likely holding back the supply of available homes. Many Americans still don't have much housing equity and as a result would profit little from a sale. That may be delaying them from listing their homes. In addition, the average rate for a 30-year mortgage has picked up in the past three years. It is currently almost 4 percent, which is still low. But millions of Americans have refinanced their mortgages at much lower rates and may be reluctant to trade up to a new home because doing so would require taking on a higher mortgage rate. Developers are also building homes at a historically modest pace. Construction of single-family homes dropped 2.4 percent in October compared to the previous month, the Commerce Department said last week. The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The September figures are the latest available.  Permalink | Email this | Comments