When you are searching for a new home, chances are you have been to at least a few that are a part of a homeowners association or more commonly known as an HOA. HOA’s may offer great amenities; community pool, children’s playground, fitness center, etc., so it is easy to gloss over the realities of living within the guidelines of the HOA.
What is a Homeowners Association? A homeowners association is an organization founded by a real estate developer in order to manage a community of houses, townhouses or condominiums. According to the New York State Attorney General’s website, this association “is given the authority to enforce the covenants, conditions, and restrictions as well as manage the common elements of the development.” In order to belong to a homeowners association (and, subsequently, live in the community it oversees), you pay dues. Depending on the community, the dues can range from $100 a year to over a $1,000 a month or more. You need to consider if the amenities and benefits are of value to you and whether you are comfortable with the rules associated with that particular development.
The association fees are included in the mortgage lender’s assessment of your monthly mortgage payment, so it is important to confirm that your credit score and debt-to-income ration will support the home development that you choose. Credit scores can be checked for free at credit.com.
Why pay a monthly association fee to abide by rules that potentially do not support your lifestyle or support the cost of the amenities you are unlikely to use? Listed below are some advantages and disadvantages of homeowners associations.
- The HOA maintains the landscape in the common areas as well as community pools, tennis courts, fitness areas, etc.
- The HOA can be utilized to help with conflicts between neighbors such as unwanted vehicles parked in front of your house or unkempt landscaping.
- The HOA can reduce your responsibilities such as snow removal or maintenance you would normally have to pay for yourself.
- Often, HOAs promote a strong sense of community. Friends can gather at the clubhouse or common areas, people get to know their neighbors, and there are usually social functions planned year round.
- There may be rules or regulations in the HOA documents that will dictate what color you can paint your house, or what type of holiday decorations are acceptable.
- The HOA may put restrictions on residents wanting to rent out their home. The association may require potential renters to be screened and approved by the HOA board, how much you charge for rent could also be regulated along with the duration of the rental. Some HOA’s ban rentals altogether.
- An HOA can foreclose on your home.
Texas Homeowners Association recommends before purchasing a property within an HOA or condo community it is very important that you find out how the association is run, how much the monthly association fees are, what the fees cover and how much money is in the reserve fund to cover any large expenses such as replacing a clubhouse roof. Always get a copy of the rules and regulations before you purchase so that you are completely aware of what you can and cannot do within the community. For example, if you purchase within a condo/townhouse community where there are zero lot lines, more than likely you won’t be able to touch the landscaping outside your home. If you are an avid gardener then this is definitely something you will want to consider before purchasing.
I am available to answer any questions about homeowners associations or any other aspect of buying and selling a home. Feel free to call me at 970.393.3424 and please take a moment to make sure you follow me on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest for continual market information.
Buying your first home is an exciting milestone. Buying a home is a multi-step process. The most important step is to insure that your credit score is as high as possible. Your FICO credit score is a three digit number ranging from 300-850. The higher the score, the better interest rate which equates to a lower payment. For a small fee, your credit score is available through myfico.com If your credit is less than stellar there are things you can do to improve it before meeting with a mortgage lender.
- The first step in managing your credit is to familiarize yourself with the credit reports. There are three credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Each bureau will allow you to review your credit report for free once a year. When you are planning on purchasing a home, it is in your best interest to download or print your report from each bureau. If you want to make sure everything is accurate with no intention of buying for a few months or a year, then you should pull your report from a different bureau every few months.
- Once you have reviewed your credit report(s), dispute any incorrect information. Most people find a few discrepancies. It may be as simple as a misspelled name or an account number that has been transposed by mistake. Other discrepancies could be more damaging such as an account or purchase that you never authorized. This could indicate identity theft and should be addressed immediately. Any error could cause your credit score to be many points lower. Using a service like Credit Karma will allow you to review your credit reports, learn your FICO score, and allow you to dispute any discrepancies electronically.
- After you have reviewed your credit reports and reported any inaccuracies, you can begin to build your credit up and improve your score. First and foremost try to pay down or pay off new or high interest credit cards. It can be hard to pay extra on accounts especially when you are short on cash. My best advice is to follow a strict budget, cancel any memberships that aren’t being used or you can go without for a while, and sell items to bring in extra income. The ratio of the balance on your credit cards compared to the credit limit is called your credit utilization ratio. If you have a $1000 limit on a card with a $600 balance, your credit utilization ratio is 60%, which is considered very high. You want to pay down the balances on all of your cards as low as possible. The lower the balances, the higher your credit score will be.
- From this point on make sure you pay every bill on time every month. Even one late/missed payment one month can hinder your credit score.
- Now that you have increased your credit score and cleaned up your credit reports, it is time to meet with a mortgage lender to get pre-approved and start house shopping. The mortgage lender will pull credit reports, verify your income, bank documents and tax filings. We can recommend local lenders that are knowledgeable and can work with individuals with lower credit scores, as well as offer special programs for teachers, police officers, and veterans.
- One last and extremely important tip: Once you have your pre-approval and until you have closed on your new house, do not open any new accounts or make any large purchases. This can hinder the mortgage process and cause you to lose your dream home.
When you are ready to purchase your home, or if you have any questions regarding the home buying process, please give me a call at 970.393.3424 or sign in to my website.
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Happy New Year!!! It is time to gather our 2018 files and prepare to file taxes. If you are a new home owner, you may wonder if a homestead exemption is for you. If so, where do you get an application and how do you file? Allow me to shed some light on this …
In certain states including Texas a homestead exemption will help protect a homeowner’s principal residence from creditors and will also affect your property taxes. Under the homestead exemption, creditors cannot force you to sell your home to satisfy a debt (this does not pertain to mortgage foreclosure or defaulted property taxes). For example, a company financing your car loan cannot force a sale of your home to pay for the defaulted automobile loan. Another advantage of homesteading is it will shield a portion of your home’s value from property taxes. Typically it will shield the first $25,000 to $75,000 of the value from property taxes only requiring you to pay for the remainder of the assessed value. In other words, if your home’s county assessment is $250,000 and your homestead exemption is for $25,000, you are only required to pay property taxes on $225,000.
There are several partial and absolute exemptions available. Some of these exemptions include General Residential Homestead, Over 65, Over 55 Surviving Spouse, Disability Homestead, Disabled Veterans, Charitable, Religious, Freeport and Pollution Control.
For more information on Kaufman County, Texas property taxes click on the following link: http://www.kaufman-cad.org/tax-information/faq/ or google your local county appraisal district.
Applying for the homestead exemption can be done in 4 easy steps:
- Download the application form from your appraisal district’s website–it is free to apply! Note: You must occupy the property by January 1, 2019 to apply.
- Complete the form and attach copies of your Driver’s License. Note: The address listed on your Driver’s License must match the address of the homestead. Check with your local tax appraisal district for further information and requirements before submission.
- Return the form to the Appraisal District by April 30, 2019.
- The homestead exemption will remain in place as long as the owners occupy the property as their homestead. If the owners sell the property or no longer occupy the homestead, they should request a removal of the exemption. Failure to do so may result in the assessment of penalties and interest on the portion of taxes that should not have been exempted.
In the event you wish to dispute your property’s assessed value or would like to know what your home is worth, please feel free to contact me for a free comparative market analysis by clicking on the link below.
Could now be a good time to sell your home?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is just under 25,000. Deputy chief economist Len Kiefer announced a positive economic outlook saying “Treasury yields are higher and the economy has strengthened since December”. As a result, and as I projected in my fall blog, interest rates on a 30 fixed mortgage have gone up; and they’ve gone up 48 basis points since January. When this happens, historically the real estate market slows, however not this time. Coming off of a strong 2017, there still wasn’t enough inventory to meet the demand of the buyer community. “We think the strength of the economy and pent up housing demand should allow the U.S. housing market to post modest growth this year even with higher mortgage rates” Kiefer goes on to say. Along with interest rates and buyer demand, home prices have also been going up, showing an increase of 7.1% over the last year. That means your $350,000 home will now sell for roughly $375,000.
For so many people, the equity they have in their home is a big part of their net worth. I always tell my clients, I don’t determine the price of your home nor does the consumer, the market dictates the price of a home. So we are in a unique moment in time where while rates have increased, so too have the number of qualified buyers and the value of your home; yet inventory remains low. Right now, you have an opportunity to perhaps be one of just a few, perhaps even the only home for sale on your street or in your neighborhood! What does this all spell out? Well, if you’re a home owner that is looking to downsize, now may be a very good time to list. If you are a homeowner and are looking to go bigger, you may also consider listing because rates are still very low, but are climbing. I recently had a client say, “if I list now, I may get more money from the sale of my home, but I’m also going to pay more for my next home!” My response was simple: “use a mortgage calculator and plug in 4.5%, 5%, 6% and 7% because in doing so you will see the impact mortgage rates will have on your decision making. All I’m saying is that if, in the back of your mind you have considered selling, you should have a market analysis done on your home, be presented with the facts and make an educated decision. I’ve seen the cycle of real estate for many years; too many people wait too long, in hopes to max out their equity, which is extremely difficult to project.
So many good people experience times in their lives where they face financial adversity. The 2008 recession in particular impacted millions of people. Throughout the course of my career I’ve had to set many people straight on the topic of old debt that I thought I would blog on the topic in hopes to help more people understand their rights and how to make educated decisions.
Step 1: Obtain your credit report. You can do this for free once per year simply by going to www.annualcreditreport.com
Here you will have what is on the three big credit bureau’s: Equifax, Transunion and Experian.
Go thru your entire report with a highlighter and highlight anything derogatory and all “old debt” items you see. Now, you may be surprised on some of the dates you see. For example, let’s say you had a credit card debt of $10,000 dating back to 2008 and the credit card company turned your account off in 2009 and began their collection process. Now you see that same “old debt” but the date says it’s a debt where they stared collections in 2013. How can that be right? Read on.
Step 2: Find your state’s Statute of Limitations. In short, what this means is how long your creditors have to collect on your debt. So go back to the $10,000 credit card debt from 2009. If your state has a statute of limitations of 6 years, they can only go after you until 2015. But now it’s 2017 and you’re still getting collection calls and/or threatening letters in the mail. So many people ask me, “how can they just adjust the date beyond the statute of limitations”? The answer is they can’t, but in the next point I’ll explain what happens.
Step 3: Find out if a law office or attorney bought your debt! It doesn’t have to be a law firm; in fact, many of these companies are nothing more than sales organizations/credit collection companies that simply try to scare people into paying on a debt the original company sold off to them! These are companies that use in many cases, very aggressive, somewhat shady business practices to scare the lights out of you in an effort to collect. They purchased your debt for pennies on the dollar and set up very aggressive campaigns to frighten you into one of a few things: 1. Admitting you owe the debt. When you do this, they “re-age” or what’s called “park” your debt. This is a big reason people see old debt “within the statute of limitations….again…and again…and again”. An illegal practice, especially when the creditor did not notify you in writing that they intend on re-aging your old debt. 2. Say or may any notion that you intend on paying. This can take you backwards and resurface even the oldest of debts. The easiest way to handle these people is to “hang up” on them.
Should you find yourself fighting an old debt, here is my recommendation:
- Do research on the company coming after you. Are they really a legit law firm or posturing themselves as such?
- Write back to them within 35 days of their initial contact. Request verification of the debt. They legally must show proof that you owe them, proof of the actual sum and proof that they are entitled to collect.
- If they are harassing your cell phone, home phone or mailbox, write them a letter to cease all communications with you. They must comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
- Dispute any “re-aged” actions you see on your credit report directly with them; and not acknowledging in your letter that you owe the money.
- If you don’t see the date removed on your credit report, you can write directly to the three main credit bureaus directly. They legally must remove it if they do not written confirmation.
Over the years, so many people in these situations simply are not educated on their rights as a consumer. As a result, “old debt” prevents many people from moving forward with their plans to get a mortgage and own the home they wish to live in.
If you need help or advice on this matter, I would be happy to help. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.
The information on this website is designed to inform and educate only. The views and opinions expressed herein are simply those of the author and do not reflect the policy of my company.
2017 home sales came out of the blocks strong in January; growing at its fastest rate since 2007. According to the National Association of Realtors®, houses were on the market for an average of just 50 days. In January of 2012, the average turn-around time was 99 days.
Optimism inserts money, primarily investor money, into the marketplace. When investors are optimistic and the stock market rises and shows stability, banks typically loosen their guidelines. Low interest rates, more forgiving mortgage guidelines, low and no down payment mortgage options and rent increases have put the housing market in gear, and it’s just starting to get heated.
Inventory remains the only issue as there is currently just a 3.6-month supply of inventory nationwide; which happens to be the lowest in history. That means if no new houses are listed, by May there would be no existing homes for sale in the market. I expect builders to be licking their chops and that’s a good thing for the housing market. When our country is building, it means people are confident in their futures. Business owners have positive expectations and employees are feeling comfortable with job security which is leading people to look at both new and existing homes. With rental prices increasing, millennials and other first time home buyers are taking advantage of low down and no down payment mortgages.
What about Sellers? Is it a good time to sell?
The simple law of supply and demand tells us that when there is more demand than supply, the value of sellers homes should rise right? Wrong with today’s sellers. Sellers today seem to think the market has reached its peak and prices will be declining. They are acting like we are in an economy on the decline, often taking the first reasonable offer and listing their homes for less than they should. This psychology perhaps is coming from the aftermath of the real estate meltdown as many people are satisfied with “getting out clean” or making very little on their real estate.
If you’re a buyer, you are in POLE POSITION right now; the market favors you. If you’re a seller, consider choosing a Real Estate Agent that properly educates you on real market trends and factual data; you may find that the sale of your home is more lucrative that you think!