Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Buyer Agency and Fiduciary Duties: No Nonsense Here

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In a recent blog, I read one person's argument stating that: "fiduciary duties and buyer agency cannot co-exist based on the current method of compensation."

While I can appreciate that this person is expressing his views, I have to say that I totally disagree with this idea, because--as I pointed out to this person--not all real estate agents are the same. Not all will share the same worldviews, values, and norms.

Although Washington state may not require real estate agents to provide fiduciary duties, it does not mean that they cannot, or should not, provide such duties. His blog was based on the quote of a local Realtor--found in a story by the Seattle Times called, "Agent commissions inching upward," that said:

“In a market flooded with unsold listings, she says, a 3 percent co-op split 'is always going to attract more attention than 2 percent. We call [inadequate splits] ‘getting eliminated at the office.'”

My response:

"This is only one agent’s perception–and there may be others that share this view, but this person does not speak for all agents, or brokers. She certainly does not speak for me. I am an Exclusive Buyer’s Broker, and my only concern is showing properties according to what my clients need, and what they can afford. I earnestly make it a point to maintain fiduciary duties with my buyer clients–and because of this–I don’t take listings.

It is not right, nor is it fair, to make sweeping generalizations about buyer agents, because it is a fact that not all real estate agents–let alone buyer agents–operate in the same way, nor do they all maintain the same values."

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Six Essentials of Qualifying for FHA Loans

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While FHA is a very helpful program designed to help Americans achieve homeownership, there are a few helpful things to know about what it takes to qualify for this type of financing. The six main points of pre-qualifying for this type of mortgage program--as described by fha.com--include, as a rule of thumb:

1. Steady employment history, at least two years with the same employer.

2. Consistent or increasing income over the past two years.

3. Credit report should be in good standing with less than two thirty day late payments in the past two years.

4. Any bankruptcy on record must be at least two years old with good credit for the two consecutive years.

5. Any foreclosure must be at least three years old with good credit for the past three years.

6. Mortgage payment qualified for must be approximately 30 percent of your total monthly gross income.

For more information about FHA mortgages, and other helpful homebuying tips, please visit the official web site of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). FHA can help buyers whether they are first time homebuyers, or they are buyers who would like to buy and renovate a fixer. FHA also has a reverse mortgage program for seniors, as well as, programs for buyers of manufactured homes. Information about these different programs can be found by visiting HUD's loan program page.

Basic eligibility requirements for an FHA mortgage can be found through their knowledge base.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Tighter Lending Rules Keep Some Buyers Out

In response to the current situation in the mortgage market, where foreclosure rates are at an all time high, lenders across the board are tightening up their lending requirements, making it more difficult for buyers to qualify for a mortgage.

Gone are the days of 100% loan-to-value mortgages. While some may see this as a barrier to homeownership, it is actually a blessing, because nothing is more financially devastating than a foreclosure on one's credit history. According to Carolyn Said of the San Francisco Chronicle, who interviewed a number of larger lenders, explained that the new standards fall into the following areas:

"Ability to repay. Buyers are no longer being qualified at the low initial rate. They must qualify for the loan payments at rates equal to what the loan would be if it reset at a higher rate."

"Down payment. Lenders want buyers to put some money down, even as little as 5 percent or 10 percent. Loans for 100 percent of the price are very hard to get."

"Credit score. Credit scores range from the high 300s to the low 800s. Borrowers with a credit score above 680 are likely to qualify for a reasonable deal. Between 660 and 680, they may qualify, but the deal could be pricey. Potential borrowers with a score of 620 or less need to raise their scores before they can qualify."

"Income and income verification. Producing proof that a borrower has a job is key; “stated income” loans are much more difficult to get. Also lenders are unlikely to approve a loan in which the home buyer will spend more than 45 percent of his gross income paying off debt, including paying the mortgage."

Cite Source from Realtor Magazine,click here.

While these changes may delay homebuying plans for some buyers, this is actually a blessing in disguise--because these new standards will cause buyers to improve their financial situation before taking on the huge financial burden of taking of a mortgage. It will also benefit buyers in the long term, because these new standards will ensure that they stay on path to a healthy financial future. For buyers who are financially capable of maintaining mortgage payments, but who do not qualify due to credit scores, there are still alternatives available such as lease-to-own.

However, buyers need to keep in mind that a mortgage will come into the picture, at some point in the future. Therefore, buyers who choose this route should plan to financially position themselves during the lease period in order to qualify for a mortgage when the lease period is up. Buyers should also have a decent down payment--at least 10% of the purchase price--to demonstrate financial capability to sellers who would consider lease-to-own arrangements.

Bottom line...

While it is now tougher to qualify for a new mortgage, the path to homeownership is not dead in the water. It just takes more long-term planning and financial considerations on the part of buyers, which will only help to benefit them over the years. It is well worth the peace of mind that buyers will have--knowing that they have made the right moves to make sure they can stay in their homes, and stay on the right path to a secure financial future.