Kathy O'Neal
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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

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

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on Who Is Exempt From The VA Funding Fee?

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

Dealing with an Empty Nest? 5 Great Reasons to Downsize into a New Condo

Dealing with an Empty Nest? 5 Great Reasons to Downsize into a New CondoThere’s a good chance if your children have recently moved out that your home is feeling a lot larger than it used to, and perhaps you’re re-considering the extra space. If downsizing to a condo is on your mind and you’re weighing the benefits of this kind of move, here are some that might make it worth the switch in size.

A Little Extra Money

With the additional money you should be making off the sale of your home, there’s a good chance that downsizing may provide you with extra assets to sock away for retirement, travel or whatever your heart fancies. If you don’t need the money, it might not matter, but in the retirement years a little extra can be of benefit for many.

Minimize Your Costs

Usually, there are many utility and heating costs that go along with home ownership, but by moving into a condo you can alleviate many monthly payments instantly. Instead of paying for every utility, condo living can help to simplify and minimize the amount you owe each month.

Free Up Your Retirement

Often times it may seem like home ownership is the dream, but many people approaching retirement would rather have the flexibility of renting. Because there are limited responsibilities with a rental, it means you can spend the winter months in Mexico without having to worry about who will take care of your home.

A Condominium Community

The great thing about many condo buildings is that they are built close to amenities like grocery stores, drycleaners and restaurants, so you don’t have to worry about venturing far out. It might not seem important if you’re used to driving to the store to make your purchases, but being able to walk might make you a convert to a different way of life.

Forget About The Maintenance

If you’ve gotten used to all of the maintenance that goes into a home, downsizing can be a great relief in terms of the time you’ll be saving. Instead of a lawn to cut or a multi-level home you’re responsible for, you’ll be able to rely on the building manager to do this for you.

It can be comforting to have a home you’ve bought and paid for that belongs to you, but by downsizing you may be able to save on time and significantly lower your living costs.

By the way, if you are considering either buying or selling a home in the Chantilly or surrounding area, please know we how we can help. We are always here for you. Contact us .

 

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on Dealing with an Empty Nest? 5 Great Reasons to Downsize into a New Condo

Have You Been Denied for a Mortgage? Here Are 3 Reasons Why You’ll Want to Keep Trying

Have You Been Denied for a Mortgage? Here Are 3 Reasons Why You'll Want to Keep TryingIf you’re in the market for a new home, you’ll most likely need a mortgage in order to afford it. But for some home buyers, getting a mortgage isn’t easy. Banks and other lenders are often hesitant to lend money to certain consumers, often for good reason.

But sometimes, lenders’ reasons for declining you aren’t entirely valid. That’s why, if you’ve been denied for a mortgage, you’ll want to keep trying to get mortgage funds. Here are three factors that can influence the likelihood of approval on the second try.

A Second Appraisal Might Change Your Circumstances

Sometimes, a mortgage lender will deny a loan because the property value of the home in question isn’t large enough to back the loan. If your mortgage lender declines you because of a poor loan-to-value ratio, getting a second appraisal could help. A lot of appraisal companies will give wildly different appraisals on the same property, with some brokers reporting valuation differences of up to $1.3 million.

Bear in mind that you cannot get two appraisals through the same lender, so if you choose to have the home appraised a second time, you’ll need to find a new lender.

Cleaning Up Your Credit Report Can Work Wonders

What’s on your credit report will have a large role in determining whether or not you get the mortgage you want. If you’ve been denied because of entries on your credit report, you’ll want to take every step possible to correct those report issues. If you’ve been more than 30 days late on a payment in the past, it will show on your credit report and affect your score – but by calling your creditor and asking them to remove the negative, you can bring your credit report back into good standing.

You’ll also want to pay off any and all past due balances as soon as possible. If you can’t pay what you owe in full, you’ll want to negotiate with your creditor to pay part of the amount. This will result in the debt showing on your credit report as “paid as agreed”, which will boost your credit score.

An Extra Down Payment May Be A Good Idea

Oftentimes, a lender will decline a borrower if the borrower is asking for too much money. If you’re pursuing a mortgage worth more than 95% of the property value, you’ll probably be declined. But if you make an extra down payment, you can lower your loan amount – which may incline your lender to approve your application.

If you’ve been declined for a mortgage, don’t give up. There are steps you can take to get approved. Call your local mortgage professional for more advice on mortgage applications.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on Have You Been Denied for a Mortgage? Here Are 3 Reasons Why You’ll Want to Keep Trying

Did You Know: Here’s Why Buying a New Home Grows Your Wealth Faster Than Renting

Did You Know: Here's Why Buying a New Home Grows Your Wealth Faster Than RentingThere can be many downsides to both renting and buying, depending on what side of the coin you are on, but if you’re leaning towards purchasing a home it can have added benefits for your bank account that renting does not. While renting can certainly alleviate many of the costs that go along with property ownership, here’s why purchasing a home can have positive monetary affects in the long run.

The Good Impacts of Inflation

While inflation is often seen as a dirty word, a real estate purchase can see the positive side of inflation with how your home purchase investment will grow over the years. Putting money into rent will mean that money is gone and out the window once you’ve paid for the month, but investing into a property will come back to you in future gains that are made in the real estate market. While buying a home will be more expensive in the short term, it can also provide you with greater financial flexibility and equity in the future.

Renovations Will Increase Home Value

While changing up the bathroom or the paint on the wall in your apartment isn’t going to add any extra lining to your wallet when you move out, making upgrades to a home that you own will have the very opposite effect! Renovations can certainly be unpopular while they’re taking place, but no matter how small or large, they can mean an easier sell and a higher profit when the home finally goes on the market.

The Opportunity For Rental Property

An apartment you rent won’t offer opportunity for investment if you’re away from your home for an extended period of time, but a home you own may serve as an ideal investment property at some point in the future. With the success of Airbnb and unique modern housing needs that may only require a home rental for a short period of time, being able to use your house as a rental property can be a significant boon for earning money you would have otherwise been without.

Buying a home can require a lot of number crunching in the beginning that rent does not, but it can also provide significant financial benefits down the road that might not exist without such a purchase. If you’re considering purchasing a home in the near future, you may want to contact your local mortgage professional for a review of what would work best for your situation.

By the way, if you are considering either buying a home in the Chantilly or surrounding area, please know we how we can help. We are always here for you. Contact us.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on Did You Know: Here’s Why Buying a New Home Grows Your Wealth Faster Than Renting

Understanding Mortgage Pre-Approvals and How to Avoid Being Declined for One

Understanding Mortgage Pre-approvals and How to Avoid Being Declined for OneThe mortgage process is a long and complicated one, with a number of similar-sounding terms that can easily confuse first-time homebuyers. A pre-approval is not the same thing as a pre-qualification, and it’s important to understand everything that goes into a pre-approval. Being declined during the pre-approval process means you’ll have a hard time getting the funds you need to buy your home, so it’s important that you know what the process is going to look like before going into it.

How does a pre-approval work, and how can you make sure you won’t be declined? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is A Mortgage Pre-Approval?

A mortgage pre-approval is a step that happens somewhere near the start of the home buying process. Being pre-approved means you have a preliminary loan commitment from a mortgage lender. Pre-approval isn’t necessarily a guarantee that you’ll get a mortgage, but rather, a statement that if all goes according to plan, your lender will most likely issue a mortgage to you.

Pre-approvals can make the mortgage process shorter and easier, but they’re not legally binding. If you later find a better mortgage through another lender, you don’t have to take out a mortgage through the lender that pre-approved you.

What Do You Need To Be Pre-Approved?

In order to be pre-approved, your lender will need to evaluate your finances and your ability to pay for your mortgage. You’ll want to meet with your lender and provide them with bank and creditor documents that clearly show your income, your assets, and your debts. You can expect your lender to run a credit check on you in order to determine your employment status and verify that you’ve accurately reported your finances.

If you meet your lender’s criteria, you’ll receive a commitment letter that states what size of a mortgage your lender is willing to give you.

Red Flags: Sure Signs That You’re Destined To Be Declined

You can be declined for a mortgage pre-approval for any number of reasons. If you have a poor credit score, a high debt-to-income ratio, or a low or unstable income, you likely won’t meet the lender’s minimum borrower requirements – and you’ll be declined. To avoid being declined for a pre-approval, you’ll want to ensure you always pay your bills on time, negotiate with your creditors to pay off your debts, or boost your income.

A mortgage pre-approval can help you to narrow your home search and access a mortgage loan. That’s why it’s important to ensure you don’t get declined during the pre-approval. Contact a mortgage professional near you to learn more about the pre-approval process.

By the way, if you are considering either buying or selling a home in the Chantilly or surrounding area, please know we how we can help. We are always here for you. Contact us.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on Understanding Mortgage Pre-Approvals and How to Avoid Being Declined for One

3 Things That Will Absolutely Kill Your Chances for a Mortgage Approval

3 Things That Will Absolutely Kill Your Chances for a Mortgage ApprovalIf you’re about to seek approval for a mortgage, you’ll want to ensure you have a solid credit score and clean financial records to boost your likelihood of being approved. There are certain characteristics that lenders want to see in a mortgage applicant before they agree to give a loan, and you want to prove that you’re a responsible borrower. But certain behaviors can easily tank your application and crush your home ownership dreams.

Before you seek approval, make sure your finances are in order. Avoid these three mortgage-killing habits while your lender evaluates your loan and you’ll quickly find yourself holding the keys to your new home.

Using Up Most Of Your Available Credit

It can be tempting to start buying furniture when your mortgage is about to be approved, but you’re better off waiting on the shopping trip until after you get the green light from your lender. Using a significant amount of your available credit – or applying for new credit – will impact your debt-to-income ratio and change your credit score. You might even end up getting yourself a higher interest rate or reducing your credit score to below the qualifying range – so don’t go credit-crazy until after you’re approved.

Being Late On Your Monthly Bills

Payment history makes up one third of your credit score, so you’ll want to make sure you pay all of your bills on time and in full if you’re looking for a mortgage. A single 30-day late payment on a bill can easily knock 50 to 100 points off your credit score. Even worse, some lenders require a full year of on-time payments before they’ll even consider you for a mortgage.

Co-Signing Someone Else’s Loan

Co-signing on a loan is generally risky under any circumstances, but if you’re trying to get approved for a mortgage, taking on liability for someone else’s debt will change your debt-to-income ratio. Being on the hook for a debt you don’t own makes you look like a risk to lenders – if the primary borrower on the loan you co-signed stops making payments, you’ll need to pay the loan, and that could divert your cash away from your mortgage.

Getting approved for a mortgage is a critical part of the home buying process, but too many would-be homeowners torpedo their own chances of getting a mortgage by making poor decisions. Contact a mortgage professional near you to learn how you can give yourself the best possible chance of getting approved for a mortgage.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on 3 Things That Will Absolutely Kill Your Chances for a Mortgage Approval

Buying or Selling a Chantilly Home This Winter? Keep These Tax Tips in Mind!

Buying or Selling a Home This Winter? Keep These Tax Tips in Mind!With all of the expense that can go into buying and selling a home, it’s good to be aware of what you can claim and how a home can benefit you come tax time. When the New Year rolls around and you’re sitting down to the task of completing your taxes, here are a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind.

Gaining from Capital Gains

In the event that you’ve made money off the sale of your home through a capital gain, it’s possible that you may be able to exclude this amount from your tax filing. If you’ve lived in the home you just sold for at least two of the five years before the sale date, not having to report this amount on your taxes may come as a financial win.

Reporting Your Gain

If you have not lived in your home for two of the five years, you will have to report the sale of your home and the capital gain when you file your taxes. This is necessary whether or not you decide to claim the amount. If this happens to be the case for you, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on ‘Net Investment Income Tax’ before filing your return so you can ensure your claim’s accuracy.

A Two-Year Claim For Capital Gain

While there is definitely a great financial benefit in not having to report your gain in all situations, it’s important to be aware that you can only exclude any gain you’ve received from a home sale every 2 years. So, if it happens to be the case that you’ve moved more than once in the last few years, you will have to report any amount that you’ve made from these home sales.

Selling Your Home At A Loss

The boon of a capital gain is certainly ideal if you’ve made some money on your home, but if you’ve sold your home for less than you paid, you won’t be able to claim this. While the end result may be a bit disheartening, this amount cannot be deducted off of your tax return.

Beyond the benefits of buying or selling your home, there are ways that your tax filing can be more pleasant next year if you know some of these tips. If you have any further mortgage related financial questions, you may want to contact your trusted mortgage professional 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 and/or home sale!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on Buying or Selling a Chantilly Home This Winter? Keep These Tax Tips in Mind!

Refinancing This Winter? Follow These 5 Expert Tips to Get the Most from Your Mortgage

Refinancing This Winter? Follow These 5 Expert Tips to Get the Most from Your MortgageRefinancing a mortgage is a great way to take advantage of historically low interest rates or change your payment terms to be more affordable. And with interest rates at historical lows, there’s never been a better time to refinance your mortgage. If you’re planning to refinance your mortgage this winter, though, you’ll want to make sure you get the best possible deal.

How can you make sure that your mortgage works for you, and not the other way around? Here’s what you need to know.

Know What Your Break-Even Point Is

Your break-even point is the point at which the extra amount you paid out of pocket for the refinance and the amount you saved in a reduced interest rate is equal. In other words, it’s the point at which a refinance actually starts saving you money – and it’s important that you know when that point is. If you pay $5,000 in refinancing fees and your refinance reduces your monthly interest payment by $200, for instance, you’ll break even after two years and one month.

Opt For a Shorter Loan Term, If Possible

Refinancing gives you the ability to turn a long mortgage into a short one. And although a shorter mortgage comes with higher payments, more of your monthly payment is applied to your principal. With a 30-year mortgage, for instance, you’ll be paying mostly interest for the first 16 years – but with a 15-year mortgage, your payments will go mostly toward the loan principal after just five years.

Try To Avoid Prepayment Penalties

A prepayment penalty is an amount of money you pay in order to pay off your mortgage early. If you experience a sudden windfall and can pay off your home in one lump sum, or if you choose to sell your home, you might incur a prepayment penalty. Not all mortgages have these penalties – so talk with your mortgage professional and let them know you are looking for a morgage without a prepayment penalty.

Lock In Your Rate

Mortgage rates are at historical lows right now. One of the biggest reasons why people refinance their homes is to get lower interest rates – which is why, if you’re refinancing your home, you’ll want to choose a fixed rate mortgage. It’ll keep your interest payments low and manageable, so you don’t pay more than you have to.

Know Your Home’s Current Fair Market Value

Housing prices rise and fall over time, which can impact your loan rate when you refinance. Higher-value homes generally get better rates, so make sure you know your home’s fair market value.

Refinancing often means better mortgage terms, so make sure you take full advantage of this opportunity. Call your trusted mortgage professional to learn more.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: Comments Off on Refinancing This Winter? Follow These 5 Expert Tips to Get the Most from Your Mortgage