Kathy O'Neal
Fairfax, VA 22033
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Spring is Almost Here: Planning a Massive Spring Cleaning in Just 4 Easy Steps

Spring is Almost Here: Planning a Massive Spring Cleaning in Just 4 Easy StepsIt may seem like the holiday season has just passed, but it won’t be too long before the flowers begin to bloom in Chantilly as spring peeks out from around the corner. While the tradition of spring cleaning that comes with the season may not be as common as it once was, it can actually be a great way to revive and refresh and prepare for the summer ahead.

Begin With The Bedroom

Start with your bed by washing all of the sheets and linens, and then move on to dusting, making sure that all of the spots missed throughout the year are wiped clean. Since you may find yourself purchasing some extra items in the summer months, take an hour or two to look through your closet and donate or discard any pieces you haven’t worn for two years.

Liven Up The Living Room

As one of the most lived-in rooms, your living room will likely need some extra time with the vacuum or mop, so once you’ve dusted the baseboards and vacuumed the couch, give the floor your undivided attention. Once it’s thoroughly cleaned, dust everything and sort through any books or papers that have been left about so they won’t sit around for another year.

Clear Away The Kitchen Grease

The kitchen can be one of the easiest to spots to sully, so clear out the fridge and wipe down the shelves rigorously, ensuring any food that has expired is composted. Give the floor a good scrub and pull the refrigerator and stove back from the wall so you can get rid of any dust or accumulated grime underneath. Last but not least, wipe the countertops with an all-purpose cleaner for a fresh scent.

Bargain With The Bathroom

If you’ve already cleared away the dirty towels, clean out the drawers and cabinets and ensure any toiletries you no longer use are thrown out. Wipe the mirror clean with a glass cleaner and give the toilet a good scrub. It may also be a good opportunity to get down on your hands and knees and scrub the floor for a clean feel it may not get for a while.

The arrival of spring after the long months of winter is always a welcome occurrence, but it can also be the perfect opportunity to clear away the dust of last year.

And if you are considering curb appeal with an eye toward selling your Chantilly area home, please know we’d be happy to give you a quick estimate of the property’s current market value. Let us know how we can help!

 

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on Spring is Almost Here: Planning a Massive Spring Cleaning in Just 4 Easy Steps

Understanding How Home Equity Works and Why Buying a Home Can Be Your Best Investment

Understanding How Home Equity Works and Why Buying a Home Can Be Your Best InvestmentWhen delving into the world of real estate and investment property, there are many terms that will come up that require further explanation. Whether you’ve never heard the phrase ‘home equity’ before or you have a little familiarity, here are the ins and out of what it means and how this asset can help your financial outlook.

All About Home Equity

Essentially, home equity refers to your portion of the value of your home, and the amount of this figure is important because it is included among your assets when determining your net worth. If this sounds confusing, think of it this way: if you have completely paid off the cost of your home, the value of your home equity is this total amount. Of course, because most people seek a lender to borrow money from when they purchase a home, their home equity would consist of their down payment and whatever amount they’ve paid down on the mortgage since purchase.

An Example Of Home Equity

To provide further clarification, let’s use the example of a house that has been purchased for $300,000. In the case that a down payment of 20% has been provided at the time of purchase, the equity in the home would be $60,000. Since this amount is the percentage and cost of the house that’s been paid down, this is the amount of the house that is actually owned and this will be figured among an individual’s assets.

How Home Equity Works

As you pay the amount that you owe on your home each month, you are paying off your total debt and thereby increasing your equity. Since this amount of money is considered an asset that belongs to you, it can be used down the road to buy another home or invest in other important things like education or retirement. While paying off the amount owed on a home is a considerable investment, if the value of your home increases, this means that you’ll still owe the same on it but your home equity will have automatically increased.

As an asset that is part of your financial net worth and can be used down the road to fund other investments, home equity is a very useful term to know when it comes to purchasing a home. If you’re on the market for a home our Search Tool will help you find and locate properties of interest all over Northern Virginia. Kathy is always available to help you with your home search and/or home sale!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on Understanding How Home Equity Works and Why Buying a Home Can Be Your Best Investment

Everything You Need to Know About Fannie Mae’s New Home Ready Mortgage

Everything You Need to Know About Fannie Mae's New Home Ready MortgageFor our Chantilly Area friends and beyond.  Traditionally, getting a mortgage requires you to have a level of income appropriate to the size of home that you’re buying. But for a lot of low-income and minority borrowers, a simple measure of one person’s income isn’t an accurate measure of whether or not that person can afford a home.

Now, with the Home Ready mortgage from Fannie Mae, multigenerational and extended households can have easy access to mortgage funds. How does the Home Ready mortgage work? Here’s what you need to know.

Flexible Down Payment Requirements Make Home Ownership More Accessible

Traditional mortgages require you to pay 20% of the home price upfront in the form of a down payment, or 5% if you register for Private Mortgage Insurance. And although 5% is a small down payment, it’s still a significant sum of money for a lot of low-income borrowers. But now, with the Home Ready mortgage, qualified borrowers can access financing with as little as 3% down, making it easier to become a homeowner.

Non-Borrower Household Income Is Now Counted As Income

Another big change that the Home Ready mortgage introduces is that lenders may now count all household income when determining affordability criteria (but not qualifying income). There’s no minimum requirement for funds to come directly from the primary borrower, which means that non-borrower members of the household can have their income counted when determining whether a mortgage is affordable. It’s also possible to use non-occupant borrower income – for instance, the income of a borrower’s parent – to be counted as income.

For extended and multigenerational households, this means mortgages are much more affordable as all household income can now be counted as eligible.

Eligibility Requirements: Who Can Qualify For A Home Ready Mortgage?

Home Ready mortgages come with certain eligibility criteria attached that homeowners will need to meet. In order to be eligible, a household must be below a certain percentage level of area median income (AMI) – that is, a household must fall somewhere in the lower half of their area’s income scale.

For properties that are located in “low-income census tracts”, there is no income limit. For properties in high-minority areas and designated disaster areas, borrowers at or below 100% of AMI can access Home Ready financing. And in all other census areas, borrowers can access financing if their annual household income is no greater than 80% of AMI.

The new Home Ready mortgage from Fannie Mae can make it easier for certain households to qualify for mortgages. Your local mortgage advisor can help you to understand how the program works. For more information, call your mortgage professional today.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on Everything You Need to Know About Fannie Mae’s New Home Ready Mortgage

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Feburary 1, 2016

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 1 2016Last week’s economic events included S&P Case-Shiller’s home price indexes, reports on new and pending home sales and the Fed’s FOMC statement. The details:

Case-Shiller Reports Fast Paced Home Price Growth

According to S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indexes, U.S. home prices grew at their fastest pace in 16 months in November. Portland, Oregon led the charge with home prices increasing 11.10 percent year-over-year followed by San Francisco, California at 11.0 percent; Denver, Colorado posted a year-over-year gain of 10.90 percent. 14 cities posted home price gains while four cities posted declines in home prices and two cities posted no change on a month-to-month basis.

David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Index Committee, noted that slumping oil prices and a strong dollar were posing challenges to domestic and international homebuyers. In spite of high demand, the supply of available homes continued to drive home prices up in most cities in the S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index.

In related news, the Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes jumped to a year-over-year reading of 544,000 new home sales as compared to November’s upwardly revised reading of 491,000 new homes sold and expectations of a year-over-year reading of 506,000 new homes sold as of December. The December 2015 reading was 9.90 percent higher than for December 2014.

Analysts cited a shortage of new homes for driving sales; builders are facing obstacles in hiring and finding suitable land for development. Some builders were said to be targeting high-end buyers which leaves a shortage of homes available for first-time and mid-range home buyers.

The National Association of Realtors® reported a minor gain in pending home sales in December. Pending home sales gauge future closings and mortgage activity. December’s pending sales reading was higher by 0.10 percent month-to-month and posted a year-over-year gain of 4.50 percent. December’s gain represented the 16th consecutive monthly gain for pending home sales. Analysts had expected a month-to-month gain of 1 percent, but high demand and a slim supply of affordable homes are leaving would-be buyers on the sidelines.

Fed Holds Off on Raising Rate; Mortgage Rates Lower

The Federal Reserve announced its decision not to raise its target federal funds rate on Wednesday; Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates on Thursday. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 3.79 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell 3 basis points to 3.07 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage were lower by one basis point at 2.90 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.6, 0.5 and 0.5 percent respectively.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on construction spending, ADP payrolls, Non-Farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Feburary 1, 2016

Struggling to Get Approved Because of Your Income? 5 Reasons to Consider a FHA Loan

Struggling to Get Approved Because of Your Income? 5 Reasons to Consider a FHA LoanBuying a home isn’t cheap. But if you’re determined to become a homeowner, the FHA home loan program can help. This loan program, ideal for first-time buyers with low incomes, can help you to build your credit and make home ownership a reality.

So why should you consider an FHA loan? Here are just a few ways you’ll benefit from these government-backed mortgages.

You Can Get Approved With Just 3.5% Down

Traditional mortgage lenders typically require you to pay 20% down on your mortgage, or 5% if you have good credit and agree to pay mortgage insurance premiums. But for a lot of younger people with lots of debt and low incomes, even a 5% down payment is an unrealistic burden. With an FHA loan, you can be approved for a mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5% – which means a $200,000 home can be yours for as little as $7,000 down.

You Can Get A Loan Even With A High Debt-To-Income Ratio

Standard mortgages are difficult to get if you have a high debt-to-income ratio. Typically, lenders will want to see that your mortgage costs will consume no more than 28% of your income, and your total payments toward debts from all sources will be no more than 36% of your income. But with an FHA loan, you can get a mortgage with a 29/41 ratio.

You Can Qualify With A Low Credit Score

If you have a credit score under 700, you’ll pay higher interest rates on typical mortgages – and if it’s below 660, you may not get approved at all. But with an FHA mortgage, you can get approved for a 3.5% down payment with a credit score as low as 580 – or lower, if you agree to a 10% down payment.

FHA Closing Cost Regulations Are Better For Low-Income Buyers

FHA loans have different closing cost regulations than traditional mortgages. With an FHA loan, you can bundle closing costs into the mortgage or even use gift funds for 100% of the closing costs. That means home ownership is more accessible for people with lower incomes.

An FHA Loan Can Help You Find A Good Home

With most mortgages, you’re free to buy any home you wish as long as you stay within a set price range. But with an FHA loan, any home you buy must be habitable, sanitary, and safe – otherwise the FHA won’t approve your loan. That means using an FHA loan will ensure you get a good home.

Buying a home with an FHA loan is a great way to become a homeowner if a traditional mortgage isn’t an option for you. Call your local mortgage professional to learn more.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on Struggling to Get Approved Because of Your Income? 5 Reasons to Consider a FHA Loan

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 25, 2016

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 25 2016Good information for our Chantilly area friends and beyond:

Last week’s scheduled economic news included releases from the National Association of Home Builders, Housing Starts, and Existing Home Sales. Weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates were also released.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes rose to 5.46 million sales on an annual seasonally adjusted basis in December. This reading surpassed expectations of 5.21 million sales and November’s reading of 4.76 million sales. November’s low reading was in part affected by new mortgage rules, which delayed some closings into December. Economic factors pushing housing markets include low driven by falling fuel costs easing consumers’ budgets could provide confidence to move up to a larger home and for first time buyers to enter the market.

Existing Home Sales Up 7.6 Percent in December

There was a 3.9 month supply of pre-owned homes on the market in December; this was the lowest inventory since January 2005. High demand for homes and a slim supply of available homes continued to tighten housing markets. Growing demand for homes coupled with a shortage of homes for sale are driving up prices; the national average price of a pre-owned home rose 7.60 percent in December to $224,100. Rapidly rising home prices present an obstacle to first time buyers and as home prices rise, more buyers will face affordability concerns.

Housing Starts dipped in December to 1.15 million as compared to expectations of 1.23 million and November’s reading of 1.18 million housing starts annually. Builders constructed homes in 2015 at the highest rate since the recession. While December’s reading fell short of expectations, housing starts increased nearly 11 percent year-over-year. While builders cite obstacles such as shortages of land and labor, a growing pace of housing starts is seen as a partial solution to the shortage of available homes.

Building permits issued increased 12 percent in 2015; permits issued gauge future building activity and supply of available homes.

Mortgage Rates Fall for Third Consecutive Week

Average mortgage rates fell last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped 11 basis points to 3.81 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by nine basis points to an average of 3.10 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped 10 basis points to 2.91 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent respectively. Sean Becketti, chief economist for Freddie Mac, cited turbulence in the financial markets as a factor contributing to lower mortgage rates.

New jobless claims rose to a seven week high of 293,000 new claims as compared to expectations of 279,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 283,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of new claims jumped by 6.500 new claims to an average of 285,000 claims. Lingering layoffs of temporary holiday workers were cited as contributing to higher first-time claims.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled events include data on new and pending home sales, the Case-Shiller home price indexes. The Fed will release its latest FOMC statement. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released as usual. Reports on consumer confidence and sentiment will also be released.

By the way, our Search Tool will help you find and locate properties of interest all over Northern Virginia. Kathy is always available to help you with your home search and/or home sale!

 

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 25, 2016

3 ‘Must Know’ Pieces of Advice for First-time Home Buyers

3 'Must Know' Pieces of Advice for First-time Home BuyersWhen delving into the realities of Chantilly home ownership, there can be many factors involved that make it difficult to determine what you need to know and what can wait until later. If you happen to be a first-time buyer who’s looking for the best tips for purchasing a home, look no further than the following three pointers to set you on the right path.

Get Familiar With Your Credit Score

If you haven’t looked at your credit report for a long time, it can be a daunting task to request this information. Fortunately, your credit report is free from AnnualCreditReport.com and it will prepare you for what lenders are going to see. By taking this important step, you will be able to determine any delinquent accounts or balances owing that have gone to collections, and hopefully have these cleaned up before they can become a problem for your mortgage.

Determine The Price You Can Pay

While you may have a price in mind for what you’re willing to pay for a home, it’s important to determine your debt-to-income ratio before putting in an offer. Your DTI ratio can be determined by taking your total monthly costs, adding it to what you would be paying for a home and dividing it by your monthly gross income. If it’s a housing price that will work for you, this amount should equate to less than 43%.

Organize Your Housing History

If you have a good history as a tenant, the next step will probably be the easiest of all, but it’s very important in order to prove you’re a responsible candidate for home ownership. Once you’ve acquired a Verification of Rent from any applicable landlord in the previous year, you’ll want to ensure that you have money in the bank. While RRSP’s can make a good impression, make sure you have liquid assets available so you can convince the lender your home investment is manageable.

There are a lot of things to know when it comes to buying a home, but if you’re a first time buyer the most important thing is to ensure that your finances are organized and that you’re not diving into more house than you can afford. By taking the time to determine your debt-to-income ratio and looking into your credit, you can ensure a positive first-time buying experience. If you’re wondering about homes for sale in your area, you may want to contact your trusted real estate professionals for more information.

By the way, our Search Tool will help you find and locate properties of interest all over Northern Virginia. Kathy is always available to help you with your home search!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on 3 ‘Must Know’ Pieces of Advice for First-time Home Buyers

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 18, 2016

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 18 2016In addition to weekly reports on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims, last week’s economic news included the Fed’s Beige Book report, retail sales and consumer sentiment. January’s Empire State Index showed an unexpected dip and Consumer Sentiment increased for January.

Fed’s Beige Book Shows Diverse Economic Trends

According to the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report for January, the central bank’s business contacts reported strength in housing, while agriculture, energy and manufacturing sectors were struggling. New York’s Empire State Manufacturing Index for January supported this trend with a sharp drop. New York manufacturing has hit its lowest level since the recession and has stayed in negative territory since March 2009. Two analysts said that the Fed’s recent rate hike and subsequent hikes could slow housing markets. Consumer lending rates, including mortgage rates, typically follow suit when the Fed increases its target federal funds rate.

In other news, retail sales posted negative growth of -0.10 percent in December against an expected reading of -0.20 percent and November’s reading of +0.40 percent. December retail sales not including auto motive also posted a reading of -0.10 percent as compared to expectations of +0.20 percent and November’s reading of 0.30 percent.

Mortgage Rates Fall, New Unemployment Claims Rise

Last week’s average mortgage rates fell across the board according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by five basis points to 3.92 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage rate also fell by five basis points to 3.19 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was eight basis points lower at 3.01 percent. Average discount points were 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent respectively.

New unemployment claims rose to 284,000 against expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 277,000 new claims. Analysts said that the jump in claims resulted from job losses related to temporary holiday positions, but noted that last year’s momentum of falling jobless claims has slowed.

Last week’s economic news ended on a positive note; consumer sentiment rose according to the University of Michigan. Lower prices were credited for the boost in consumer confidence in current economic conditions.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic events include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, Housing Starts, Consumer Price Index and Core Consumer Price Index. No news will be released on Monday due to the Martin Luther King holiday.

By the way, our Search Tool will help you find and locate properties of interest all over Northern Virginia. Kathy is always available to help you with your home search and/or home sale

 

 

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 18, 2016

Who Is Exempt From The VA Funding Fee?

Who is NOT required to pay the VA funding fee?

This video could save some veterans thousands. VA loan applicants pay a funding fee – as of 2014, 2.15% of the total loan amount – which can be thousands of dollars. Some veterans and spouses are eligible for exemption.

Broadly speaking, veterans who received disability benefits – current or former and who are NOT currently in debt to the government may be exempt from the funding fee. Some spouses may qualify as well.

The key thing to understand is, exemption from the funding fee is NOT automatic! Borrowers must certify their veteran status, government debt, benefits and active service state on VA Form 26-8937.

It’s important to tell your mortgage company that they need to submit this form EARLY in your home-buying process – if they just look up your records without submitting the form the VA will not begin the review and approval process and your home purchase could be delayed by weeks. Who Is Exempt From The VA Funding Fee

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Owning vs Renting: Why High Rents Are Worse Than a Mortgage over the Long Term

Owning vs Renting: Why High Rents Are Worse Than a Mortgage over the Long TermIf you’re at the stage in life where Northern Virginia home ownership is nearly within your reach, you’re probably wondering whether you should start looking for a home or whether you should just keep renting. Renting is easier, people say, and it gives you more mobility. But over the long term, all that rent money can really add up – and it eventually reaches a point where buying a home is a better deal.

So why is paying a high rent a worse option than buying a house and getting a mortgage? Here’s what you need to know.

Renting Doesn’t Generate Equity

One of the single biggest sources of wealth in the United States is home equity – as you pay down your mortgage, you invest more and more of your money into your property, and it appreciates in value. When you eventually sell that home, you make a profit. The monthly payment is something you’d have to make anyway, whether you rent or own – but when you rent, your monthly rent money lines someone else’s pockets, while when you own, paying down your mortgage actually creates wealth for you.

Renting Doesn’t Give You Access To Homeowner Tax Credits And Deductions

There are all sorts of tax benefits available to homeowners that renters simply can’t access. As a homeowner, you can deduct your mortgage interest from your taxes owing, reducing your taxable income – but there’s no such deduction for renters. You can also deduct property taxes and some closing costs when you buy a home – there are no corresponding tax benefits for renters.

There are also several tax credits available to homeowners that aren’t available to renters. Things like renovations or simply buying a home for the first time can give you tax benefits that renters can’t access.

If You Can Muster Up A Down Payment, Owning Is Cheaper In The Long Run

One of the biggest hurdles keeping young people out of the real estate market is the down payment. It’s not easy, but if you can save up enough money for a down payment, you’re actually better off buying a home than continuing to rent.

According to Trulia, the median home price in metro Houston in Texas is just under $163,000, while the median monthly rent for an apartment is $1,550. That means renting would cost $18,600 per year, while buying a home (assuming a 20% down payment and 30-year term) would cost $9,384 per year in mortgage payments. In other words, owning is about half as expensive as renting in the long run.

Renting may be a good short-term solution, but over the long haul, owning is almost always better. Call a local mortgage professional to learn more.

By the way, our Search Tool  will help you find and locate properties of interest all over Northern Virginia. Kathy is always available to help you with your home search and/or home sale!

 

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on Owning vs Renting: Why High Rents Are Worse Than a Mortgage over the Long Term