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PMI, FHA, LTV … OMG!

But keeping them straight can save you money

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Much like in the world of texting, acronyms abound in real estate. But in a real estate transaction, acronyms can have profound financial implications.

For example, PMI, or Private Mortgage Insurance, is a monthly charge that can be hundreds of dollars when buyers have most loans that exceed 80 percent of the property’s appraised value (80 percent Loan to Value, or LTV). Nobody wants to pay that fee, since it’s there only to protect the lender in the event of borrower default, and especially since it could be paying your cell phone bill instead (and maybe your cable bill too!).

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans are attractive to many buyers with low cash on hand because the interest rates are very competitive and the minimum downpayment is only 3.5 percent. However, all FHA loans have a mandatory monthly PMI payment for five years, even if the original LTV (Loan To Value, remember?) is lower than 80 percent and even if, over time, the loan value drops below 80 percent by appreciation or increased equity from making payments against the principal.

In addition, FHA loans also have a UFMIP, or Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium, which is currently 2.25 percent of the loan amount but will drop to only 1 percent on Oct. 4, and which is generally added to the loan amount. It can be paid off “up-front,” hence the name, but usually buyers lump it into the loan and forget it’s there, until they want to sell and need to get that much more money for their home to pay it off. The Oct. 4 date is no early Christmas present, however, as the monthly PMI payments will nearly double under the new program.

VA (Veteran’s Administration) loans are similar to FHA because both are loans on properties that have to be approved by HUD and both are government-backed. VA loans have a “funding fee” similar to the UFMIP, but it is 1.25 percent to 3.3 percent depending on downpayment and repeated use of eligibility, but it is waived for qualified disabled veterans or surviving spouses of vets killed in service.

Conventional loans (i.e., non-FHA, Fannie/Freddie loans) also will charge you PMI for an LTV greater than 80 percent but will allow you to re-appraise the home after a shorter period to show the greater equity and remove the PMI requirement. Conventional loans also do not have the 2.25 percent or 1 percent upfront premium. However, nearly all conventional loans require at least 5 percent downpayment, and some require 10 or 15 percent, depending on the bank, the type of property and some other qualifications. For condos in buildings that have more than 30 percent tenant-occupants, many banks require 20 percent down or more.

PMI payments can be avoided by taking a higher-interest-rate loan, which is typically called a “Lender-Paid MI option,” but most opt against this since they can lock in a lower rate and eventually eliminate their PMI payment with increased equity. The only good candidates for LPMI are those whose incomes are too high for them to deduct PMI payments from their taxable income.

All this may be TMI depending on your ETA to buy your HOC, but it pays to get a mortgage vocabulary primer ASAP if you’re considering a purchase or refinance. To help you navigate these important and complex decisions, talk to your Realtor or a qualified lender so you don’t let too much of your money go AWOL.

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Real Estate

Investing in real estate: What you need to know

From REITs to flips, tips for getting started

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In many cases, buying or selling a home is a very personal experience. Many people buy a home with the intention of living there – making memories, building a family, becoming part of a community. The same is true of sellers. Selling a home, in many cases, is simultaneously difficult and exciting – it means the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. While the majority of buying and selling experiences may be personal – increasingly, others in the market are interested in real estate not just to find a home, but also to make a great investment.

In our current market, it’s easy to see why real estate can often end up being quite a profitable investment. In 2021, sellers often saw huge profits on the sale of real estate – but even in years where profits aren’t quite as significant as this year, real estate has often proven to be a sound and reliable long-term investment strategy. Real estate investments can add diversification to your portfolio, and a very successful venture, particularly if you buy and sell when the circumstances are right.

Over the last several years, many gay neighborhoods around the country have shown steady appreciation, leading investors, and particularly LGBTQ investors, to consider whether the time is right to consider adding real estate to their investment portfolio. For those considering real estate as an investment strategy, here are a few helpful tips:

• Consider REITs: For those just getting started with real estate investment, Real Estate Investment Trusts, or “REITs” for short, might be a good option. These provide the opportunity to invest in real estate without owning the physical real estate yourself. They are often compared to mutual funds, and you invest in a company, a REIT, which owns commercial real estate like office buildings, apartments, hotels, and retail spaces. Generally, REITs pay high dividends, which make them a popular investment in retirement, as well as for investors not wanting to own one particular piece of property.

• Consider investing in rental properties: Rental income can often be a steady, reliable source of income if you do your due diligence researching the property itself, the surrounding neighborhood, and the potential community of renters. While maintaining a rental property will certainly require some investment of time and energy on your part, it can be a profitable long-term investment and one that is appealing to many people.

• Put your skills to work: If you have a skill set that includes being able to renovate and upgrade homes – or if you know a trusted person or team of people who does, flipping a home that could use some renovation can be quite a profitable investment indeed. Getting a home that could use some extra TLC at a good price and updating it can result in a sales price that is significantly higher than the purchase price. This can certainly be a very good investment – and a fulfilling project too.

• Be willing to listen and learn: When trying something new, it is almost always helpful to talk to those with experience in that area. Investing in real estate is no different. Having a mentor who can give you some tips and advice from their own experience is invaluable.

• Get to know the neighborhood: When making any real estate decision, whether you’re going to live in a home yourself or purchase property for investment purposes, knowing the neighborhood and community you’re interested in is important. A key part of that will be finding a real estate agent who knows and loves the community that you’re interested in, and who understands the market in that area. This can make all the difference between a smooth and successful process, and a stressful one.

(At GayRealEstate.com, we are dedicated to our mission of connecting LGBTQ home buyers and sellers with talented, knowledgeable, and experienced real estate agents across the country who can help them to achieve their real estate goals. Whether you’re interested in buying or selling a home that you live in personally, or buying and selling for investment purposes, we can connect you with an agent who knows and loves the community, and who can help you achieve your goals. Contact us at any time. We look forward to helping you soon.)

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at
303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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Real Estate

Dining without a dining room

Today’s hosts are likely more casual than in the past

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The large formal dining room is a thing of the past. Here are some tips for a more modest Thanksgiving set up.

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, you may be thinking about gathering your loved ones and kindred spirits to celebrate the positive things in your life, praise your higher power, pay homage to indigenous people, or just stuff your face and fall asleep in front of the television at the traditional Thanksgiving after-party: the football game.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. The elegant table in the formal dining room was adorned with a crisp, white tablecloth, “the good china,” sterling silver place settings, a variety of serving dishes for the forthcoming bounty, and a cornucopia centerpiece containing dried fruits and vegetables.

My dad, Ozzie, would carve the turkey and my mom, Harriet, would bring out the pecan and mincemeat pies for dessert…wait a minute…did I really grow up in a 1950s sitcom? Yup, I did, although Ozzie was Don and Harriet was Grayce.

Sometimes we would visit my maternal grandparents in Maine, whose formal dining room was less so – an extended part of the living room in the 1940s version of an open floor plan in their three-bedroom apartment over the general store and gas station that my grandfather owned.

On occasion, we would go to Massachusetts to spend a day or two with my paternal grandmother and her extended clan. There was nothing “formal” about the dining room there. Dinner took place on a litany of card tables set up on the jalousied porch off the kitchen.

When dinner was over, my grandmother would rise from the head of the table and declare, “I made the dinner. Now you do the dishes.” My father and his sisters would scurry like baby chicks to adhere to her demand.

As I grew older, I rarely lived near family. Every so often, I would be invited to dinner as the obligatory guest – the girlfriend of whatever young man I was seeing at the time. Later, I would become part of the restaurant holiday dining crowd.

For several years, I had a standing date with a good friend for dinner and a movie on Thanksgiving Day. We would choose restaurants that advertised dishes like Lobster Thermador, Champagne Ravioli, or Boeuf Bourguignon, but would invariably select the traditional turkey dinner with dressing and all the trimmings from the prix fixe menu.

Fast-forward to 2020 and we may not have gathered at all, content to have Whole Foods or Door Dash deliver Thanksgiving dinner to be eaten in front of the television while watching Hallmark movies.

Now here we are. The formal dining room has gone the way of the good china and the sterling silver. For most of us, they are simply not necessities in our lives any longer. So how do you host a dinner party when there is no room specifically designated for dining?

First, you don’t need to purchase things you have no room to store later. Although “rent” can be a four-letter word to a real estate agent, a party rental company’s website allows you to select items online and have them delivered and removed at a fraction of the cost.

Are you trying to seat a large group for dinner? Let’s start with the premise that all your guests do not need to be at a banquet table. Consider having several tables for two or four placed around the room. It will give you the ambiance of your favorite bistro and still allow for conversation among your guests.

You can also rent folding chairs, linens, place settings, and stemware. Once your order arrives, just set the tables and add candles or your favorite centerpieces to complete a festive look.

If you have no room for a seated event, you can order standing cocktail tables. Your breakfast bar or kitchen counter will make a perfect buffet line.

Better yet, have an open house, inviting guests at slightly different times so you see everyone without feeling like you’re in the middle of a crowded concert.

Is your style even more casual? Rather than worrying about recycling plastic cups and sporks, pick up a bunch of Oftast dinner or dessert plates for 79 cents each at Ikea. Add a 6-pack of Svalka wine glasses and cutlery service for four from the Mopsig collection for $5 each. Pull out some pillows and eat while sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by family and friends.

Some of us may have trouble getting back up, but we’ll be in perfect position to fall asleep during the football game.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Real Estate

How has the meaning of ‘home’ changed during COVID?

People want peace — a place to get away from it all

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Many buyers are still looking for space in a new home.

During the pandemic, “Home” must have taken on different meanings for many people.  As was reported often in the news, many people found themselves dissatisfied with the home they bought before the pandemic, and now, several months or a year and a half later, the home that was meant to be for dinner, sleeping, and the occasional breakfast was now frequently central operations for a squad of 4-6 people, 24 hours a day, all working, zooming, streaming, in class, learning how to cut their own hair online, looking up recipes online because they were tired of the same five meals they have had for four months at a time, and the balcony that was nice to have for a Friday evening glass of Sauvignon Blanc at sunset was now not enough for Mom, Dad, the 3-year-old and the baby on the way.  

So off they went to find a new “home” and then put the old home on the market. But now that older home is sitting, getting showings but no offers. Did they make a mistake? Are they now going to have two mortgage payments? Well, probably not indefinitely. What I am seeing is that home purchasers were quick to pull a trigger and go aggressively after the new home that was going to be the solution to all their woes, but the buyers for the first home are much slower.  Less rushed. They are entering the market maybe. Taking advantage of lower interest rates. They are not feeling rushed and are not competing as much for properties. One agent reported multiple offers, but after the place was on the market for almost a month. Again, people are taking their time.  

Basically, what I am seeing is that people want space in their new homes. They want room to relax, spread out. They might even want a relaxing environment. A quiet night’s sleep.  Many people in the past year have reported higher anxiety levels than at any point of their lives.  A good night’s sleep can mean the difference between sailing through that meeting or appointment the next day or feeling like you have to cancel everything and call your therapist.  People want peace. Our lives are spent arguing online and hearing news headlines that are more “breaking news” than they were an hour ago. It’s natural to want a refuge. A place to feel you can get away from it all.  They don’t want sirens and people wandering the alleys at night.  They don’t want fixer uppers as much. They want to move and move now into something they can feel comfortable in.  That’s what I am seeing.  

People want a place they can work in, but still feel at home. They don’t want to feel that their work lives and their home lives are literally on top of each other – they want some separation. Whether it’s a separate room, or an entire floor that is dedicated to work, they want to feel they can step away from it when they need to.  

I also have a homebuyer seminar on Zoom next Thursday evening at 6 p.m. Feel free to contact me to get the access link. 

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with The Rutstein Group of Compass. Reach him at [email protected] or 703-587-0597.

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