Talk to a Lender Before Starting Your Home Search

 

Searching for a new home can be fun and exciting, but it’s important to make sure there aren’t any financial obstacles in your way before you embark on the home buying journey.

 

The Dream

 

Imagine finding your dream home. It has everything that you want – a big open floor plan, an updated kitchen, a view of the water and plenty of room for your growing family. The only hitch? Lots of other buyers are interested in the house too, and you find yourself in a multiple offer situation. You haven’t spoken with a lender yet, and you haven’t obtained preapproval for a loan. What happens next? You’ll likely lose out to a buyer with solid financing in place.

 

 

 

The Moral of the Story?

 

Speak with a lender BEFORE you start searching for a home so that you understand (1) what loan options are available to you and (2) how much money you can afford to borrow. A good lender will ask you for lots of information before providing you with answers to those questions. They’ll ask you about your employment history, your borrowing history and your credit history. They’ll also help you understand what NOT to do before getting a loan for your new home purchase (i.e. financing a new car). Once you’ve provided your lender with all the necessary information and you’ve received a solid preapproval letter, you’ll be ready to start shopping for your new house – and you’ll be glad you did your homework. In a competitive housing market like this one, it’s common for listing agents to contact a prospective buyer’s lender to make sure the lender has done a thorough job vetting the buyer’s finances. You’ll want to make sure your lender can respond to that call with a firm YES.

 

When you’re shopping for a lender, a recommendation from a Realtor that you trust is always a good place to start. Picking a lender is a little bit like picking a doctor. You want someone with experience, someone who makes you feel comfortable and someone you trust. You’ll also want to make sure the lender that you’re considering has a loan program that’s right for you and a good record for closing on time.

 

 

 

If you have any questions about the home buying process and/or if you’d like more information about reliable lenders in the area, give me a call.  I’m here to help.

 

 

Miles Eaton is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere Professional Partners, specializing in residential real estate in Tacoma, Gig Harbor, University Place and Lakewood.

 

Miles Eaton: (253) 355-5862

MilesEaton@Windermere.com

Posted on June 4, 2019 at 8:57 am
South Sound Property Group | Category: Buying A Home | Tagged , ,

Buying a New Construction Home

If you’re thinking about purchasing a new construction home as opposed to an existing home, it’s important to recognize that each option has benefits and drawbacks.  With some help from Zillow and Trulia, I’ve compiled a short list of pros and cons for those thinking of purchasing a new construction home.

WHAT ARE THE PROS?

  • MODERN FLOOR PLANS – Newly constructed homes are designed for the way in which we live today with big kitchens, open entertaining spaces, large master suites, bonus rooms and extra storage. You also have a choice of floor plans, allowing you to pick the one that best meets your particular wants and needs.
  • FINISHES AND UPGRADES – If you purchase a home before construction begins, you can typically choose your finishes and upgrades – paint colors, counter tops, cabinetry, flooring, lighting and air conditioning.
  • EFFICENCY – In most cases, newly constructed homes are more energy efficient than older homes. They have more efficient windows, HVAC systems and lighting. Insulation standards are also higher now than they have been in the past.
  • TECHNOLOGY – New homes can be “smarter” than old homes. Many come with a standard suite of new technology that can include alarm systems, speakers, high-speed internet cabling, high-tech thermostats and lighting packages.
  • MAINTENENCE COSTS – If you want to avoid unexpected repair costs, new construction may be right for you. Everything is new and typically warrantied so maintenance is limited and significant repairs costs are unlikely for years.

WHAT ARE THE CONS?

  • SMALLER LOTS – Newly constructed homes are generally found in developments that have relatively small lots with limited outdoor space. There are certainly some exceptions to the rule, but large yards are hard to come by.
  • LANDSCAPING – More often than not, new developments lack mature or distinctive landscaping compared to older, more established neighborhoods. Shady, tree-lined streets are in short supply.
  • EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK, YOU SEE YOUR HOUSE – New developments have a limited number of floor plans and color schemes, making it difficult to distinguish one house from another.
  • COSTLY UPGRADES – Model homes are designed to make you fall in love so they generally feature upgrades that aren’t included in the base price for a particular floor plan. Fancy lighting and technology packages, high end appliances and high quality cabinetry and flooring are great, but they can add as much as $50-75K to the advertised base price of a home.
  • REMOTE LOCATIONS – Most newly constructed homes are located in developments at a distance from city centers and/or amenities. If a more established location is important to you, you may want to consider purchasing an older home and remodeling it to suit your needs.

When my buyers are considering new construction versus an older home, I encourage them to focus on their priorities.  Does new construction check off more of the boxes on their list than an older home or vice versa?  Does one make the most sense to you?

 

Miles Eaton is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere in Tacoma specializing in the purchase and sale of historic and luxury homes.  Click here to e-mail Miles or feel free to give him a call at (253) 355-5862.

 

 

Posted on September 19, 2018 at 9:04 am
South Sound Property Group | Category: Buying A Home

Low Levels of Inventory in Tacoma’s North End Fuel Prices in the 2nd Quarter

Posted on July 28, 2018 at 4:17 pm
South Sound Property Group | Category: Buying A Home, North Tacoma, Tacoma Real Estate

What does the Building Moratorium in Gig Harbor Mean for Home Owners?

In response to increasing buyer demand for housing in Pierce County and a persistent shortage of inventory, developers have been building new homes in Gig Harbor at a rapid rate.  The Gig Harbor City Council recently responded to this development boom by passing a building moratorium on new residential development applications, forcing developers to put upcoming projects on hold.

I’ve had questions from several clients about what this moratorium means and whether or not they should be concerned about what that does to their plans to buy and sell property in Gig Harbor. As a result, I’ve decided to share the information here that I’ve recently been discussing with them.

 Why did GHCC use a moratorium and what does it entail?

In a recent Tacoma News Tribune article, Gig Harbor council member Michael Perrow said the council had instituted the moratorium because they felt the “rapid pace of development has created vast concern” among community members and that vesting of certain permit applications would be “detrimental to public health”. The ordinance imposes a six month moratorium upon the receipt and processing of subdivision applications and applications for building permits and other land use development approvals associated with residential development.  Click here for the full article.

What does this mean?

The city council is concerned that current zoning regulations may no longer be appropriate and/or sufficient in light of recent growth.  Applications for new developments are coming in so rapidly that the city wants to take some time (6 months) to figure out what changes might need to be made to ensure that the infrastructure can handle this explosion of new residential development, and to determine how to slow down growth if necessary. 

 You already bought land and have submitted your applications.  Now what?

There are exceptions to the moratorium:

  • Any valid permits that were filed before the moratorium passed and simply need to be processed.
  • Permits for repair, remodeling, restoration or additions to existing single-family dwellings.
  • Replacement of any existing single-family dwellings.
  • Permits and applications for “accessory uses and structures associated with existing residential dwellings units.”
  • Applications for final plats or short plats.
  • Any site improvements or utility extensions that are necessary to obtain approval for final plats, final short plats or preliminary plat applications submitted before the moratorium was imposed.

 

If you were thinking about purchasing land for construction in Gig Harbor, should you forget about it?

In my opinion, it’s safe to continue looking for vacant land in Gig Harbor if you are considering single-family new construction. According to The City of Gig Harbor, permits for a single-family home on an existing recorded lot will still be processed.  If you are thinking about developing a subdivision, that is a different story.  I would recommend taking a pause, because zoning and density regulations may end up changing in the near future.   If the moratorium continues beyond the six months, we could see the prices for existing homes in Gig Harbor inflate more rapidly than they would without the building stop, which could be good for current home-owners.  For full details on the Gig Harbor moratorium in the City’s own words click here.

How long will this moratorium last?

Mayor Kit Kuhn said that the city will need to entertain official public comment on the moratorium at the March 26th regular city council meeting before any timing decisions are finalized.  Though temporary in nature, this moratorium is expected to last for at least six months.

 

Miles Eaton is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere in Tacoma specializing in the purchase and sale of historic and luxury homes.  Click here to e-mail Miles or feel free to give him a call at (253) 355-5862.

 

Posted on March 20, 2018 at 3:09 pm
South Sound Property Group | Category: Buying A Home, Gig Harbor Real Estate, New Construction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Talk to a Lender Before You Start Your Home Search

Image result for mortgage brokersThe number of buyers searching for homes in Tacoma’s North End far exceeds the number of homes for sale, which often results in multiple offer situations that require buyers to compete for the house of their dreams.  For buyers who plan to finance their home purchase, obtaining loan pre-approval before submitting an offer is critical.  We actually encourage our clients to obtain loan pre-approval before they even begin house hunting in earnest to avoid scrambling when the right house comes along.  Getting your financing squared away before starting to look at houses can also give you a more accurate understanding of exactly how much home you can afford.  Sometimes buyers can afford more than they thought, sometimes less.  Sometimes issues arise during the pre-approval process that buyers need to resolve before moving forward.  Whatever the circumstances, it’s always helpful to have your ducks in a row and to know your true capacity to purchase before you begin looking at homes.

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that we have relationships with (and can recommend) lenders who can help you with the pre-approval process, many times over the phone.  Then, once you’ve selected a lender, you’ll simply need to provide them with documentation of your assets, your debts, your credit history, your employment history.  Many potential buyers overestimate the down payment and credit score needed to qualify for a mortgage today.  You may be pleasantly surprised at what you can afford.

Mark Pinto is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere in Tacoma specializing in the purchase and sale of historic and luxury homes.  Click here to e-mail Mark or feel free to give him a call at (253) 318-0923.

Posted on January 18, 2017 at 2:29 pm
South Sound Property Group | Category: Buying A Home

Severe Lack of Home Appraisers is Complicating Real Estate Transactions

Home inspectorDiana Olick of CNBC recently wrote an article that sums up the reason for frustration for many home buyers and sellers in the South Sound region.  Olick notes, 

“Housing demand is rising rapidly, but a key cog in the wheel to homeownership is in deep trouble. The people most needed to close the deal are disappearing. Appraisers, the men and women who value homes and whom mortgage lenders depend upon, are shrinking in numbers.

That is causing growing delays in closings, costing buyers and sellers money and in some cases even scuttling deals.

The share of on-time closings has dropped from 77 percent last April to 64 percent today for loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance. Appraisal-related issues in these delays jumped by 50 percent in that time.”   (Read the full article here)

Our advice to our buyers and sellers is to factor in a minimum of 2-3 additional weeks time from what we would consider a normal 30 day closing.  It’s important to note that it’s become an even bigger problem for specialty properties such as waterfront, luxury and historic homes and for properties located in outlying areas such as southern Pierce and Thurston counties.  With lenders being forced to pay premiums for appraisals, we’re hopeful it will lead to more qualified appraisers being attracted to enter the field.  However, that transformation will not happen quickly enough to satisfy those of us that counsel home buyers and sellers every day.

 

Jeff Williams is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere in Tacoma specializing in the purchase and sale of historic and luxury homes.   Click here to email Jeff or give him a call at 253-303-1135.

 

Posted on September 29, 2016 at 9:20 am
South Sound Property Group | Category: Buying A Home, Selling Your Home | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Five Major Considerations When Buying an Old House

As a commissioner for the City of Tacoma's Landmarks Preservation Commission and a former board member of Historic Tacoma, I've had a lot of experience with historic properties.  I've also been buying, renovating and selling historic homes myself for more than twenty years (45 houses and counting).  Not surprisingly, clients often seek my advice when they're thinking about buying an older house.  With the busy spring home buying season upon us, I thought it might be a good time to share some thoughts about what to consider when buying a historic home.  Below, I describe some of the “big ticket” replacement and repair costs that you may incur during the restoration of an older home.  It's important to note that there are loan programs and tax credits available to help defray some of these costs if you are buying a historic home in Tacoma.

 

1.  Not all old houses are created equal.  In my experience, houses built before 1900 were generally more poorly constructed than those built from 1900-1950.  The exception to this rule would be what I call the "robber baron" homes.  These turn of the century mansions were built with higher quality materials and engineering practices than more modest cottages built at the same time.  The grander homes are standing the test of time well.  The worker cottages, less so.  Smaller Victorian (pre-1900) homes were often built on posts and piers or loose rock/brick and mortar foundations.  In some instances, these foundations were later replaced or supplemented with concrete or block foundations, and settling issues are common.  This isn't necessarily a deal breaker.  Newer technologies allow for the levelling and repair of these foundations without breaking the bank.
 

 

 2.        Old houses aren’t usually insulated.  Builders didn't really begin insulating homes until the late teens and early twenties, and even then they generally just added cellulose (paper pulp) to the exterior walls and attics at very low insulating levels.  If you’ve ever demolished the ceiling in an older home, you'll know what I’m talking about.  You’re probably still discovering bits of the pulverized paper in your hair, ears and clothes.  If you’re doing a major remodel to a home, it makes sense to strip off the old interior plaster down to the studs so that the wiring and plumbing can be updated and insulation can be added.  If you’re not doing a major renovation, my advice would be to simply add insulation to the attic and underneath the first floor to increase the insulation value as much as possible.    Learn more about insulation at energy.gov.

 

3.      Are the mechanical systems up to date?  When buying an old house, people often encounter things like knob and tube wiring, galvanized and lead pipes, oil burning furnaces the size of a Winnebago and broken sewer lines.  Older systems aren't necessarily a problem, but a thorough pre-purchase home inspection can identify failing systems in need of immediate attention.  Be sure to factor the cost of plumbing, electrical and heating system upgrades into the purchase price of a home before you make an offer, and make sure you can afford to repair or replace these systems as it becomes necessary during your ownership.

 

 

4.       Original windows and doors are great.  Leave them alone!  Nothing frustrates me more than buyers who immediately think they have to replace all of the original doors and windows in a house.  It is significantly more cost effective to repair original windows and doors and install storm windows.  They’ll be just as energy efficient and will last exponentially longer than their cheap vinyl counterparts.  For more details regarding wood windows versus vinyl, check out my blog post regarding that subject here. 

 

 

 

5.       How many layers are on the roof?  Many older homes in Tacoma originally had wood shingle roofs with no underlayment to support a modern roof.  Over time, home owners have simply shingled over the original roof.  If a roof has three layers or more, it's no longer a candidate for re-shingling.  The roof will have to be completely torn off, and an underlayment of plywood or particle board will need to be installed before the new roofing material can be added.  Tear offs are three times as expensive as simple re-shingling so it's helpful to know how many layers a roof has before writing an offer to purchase an older home. 

 

 

 

Jeff Williams is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere in Tacoma specializing in the purchase and sale of historic and luxury homes.  Click here to email Jeff or give him a call at 253-303-1135.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on April 2, 2014 at 3:18 pm
South Sound Property Group | Category: Buying A Home, Historic Homes, Home Remodel, Investing In Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

List of Considerations When Buying or Selling Horse Property

As a Realtor who also happens to be President of the Washington State Quarter Horse Association, I’m often asked to help clients who are purchasing or selling a horse property.  Buying or selling a horse property involves a special set of considerations above and beyond those associated with a typical real estate transaction.  Below is a list of things that I believe are critical to consider, things that can significantly affect a horse property’s value.

1.  Is the property impacted by wetlands?  Most counties in Washington State prohibit grazing animals on, building on or clearing of wetlands.  The presence of wetlands can also be an indicator of potential flooding.  If you’re searching for a home during the summer months, wetlands may not be readily apparent.

2.  If the property is served by a well, does the well produce enough water to accomodate the needs of a horse facility?  Making sure there is an adequate year round supply of water is critical.  It’s also important to verify that the water is not contaminated.

3.  Is the property zoned within its jurisdiction for the quantity of animals you intend to maintain?  If you plan to board horses for other people or run a tack shop from your farm, are those commercial activities allowed by the county?

4.  Is the land you intend to use for outbuildings and pasture cleared?  In Washington State, there are regulations regarding tree removal that can differ from county to county.

5.  How does the house interact with the barn and arenas?  In my experience, potential buyers don’t like it if the barn is sited too close to the house or too far away.

6.  Think about equipment storage.  The last thing you want to have to do is leave your tractors, trailers and tools outside in the elements, especially in Washington State.  Make sure the property can accomodate equipment inside or at least in a covered shed.

7.  Is the fencing sound?  Wood fencing is beautiful and we all love it for safety and appearance, but replacement and maintenance costs can be crazy expensive.

8.  Is the hay storage sufficient?  The last thing you want to coordinate is a monthly shipment of hay.  In Washington State, having a dry storage spot for hay is critical.  Fog and moisture in the air can easily mold perfectly dry hay.  Having a heated tack room is also important to help prevent molding of leather tack.

9.  Check on manure disposal regulations before you buy.  Many counties regulate manure disposal and storage, and this can be an added expense for the property owner.  I’ve seen some properties that require disposal in dumpsters.  You can imagine the costs associated with that.

10.  If additional residences for farm workers are located on the property, is the property zoned for multiple residences and can the septic systems legally accomodate those dwellings.  I’ve seen a number of properties where illegal septic systems have been installed to accomodate a mobile home for barn help because the zoning doesn’t allow multiple residential dwellings on site.

11.  Look for rot everywhere!  Poorly maintained structures that have improper wood to earth contact are frequently rotted.  Don’t buy a pole barn that is sitting on rotted posts.

12.  Consider the roads leading to the property.  I’ve seen lots of properties on poorly maintained dirt or gravel roads that are lined by trees.  Wind and rain are constant issues in Washington State so be sure that you can get a truck and trailer in and out during a storm and that emergency vehicles can get to you.  Otherwise, tree fall could leave you trapped at your property for days.

13.  Is the property wired for a generator?  If you’re dependent on electricity at the property, be sure you have a propane fueled back-up generator.  Losing your electric well pump and heat for the house after a major storm could become dangerous for you and your horses in fairly short order.

14.  Are the barns and outbuildings legally built?  By their nature, horse properties require barns, sheds, pump houses, etc.  I’ve often seen structures that have been built without permit and that are considered illegal by county officials as a result.  With these types of violations, you could be forced to remove the structures.   Make sure all outbuildings, especially covered arenas, were built with permits.

15.  Not so fast on adding that indoor arena!  Very few counties in western Washington allow large free-span covered arenas to be built in an area that’s typically zoned residential.  Check the codes before you buy a property with the intent to expand.

16.  Does the property qualify for or is it currently tax assessed as an agricultural business?  If the property is eligible for Ag status or if that is its current property tax designation, it can mean a significant property tax savings for the owner, but there are strings attached.  Be sure you understand what qualifies the farm for its agricultural designation.  If you’re selling an Ag designated property and the new buyer doesn’t continue that use, you may be responsible for property tax penalties when you sell.

17.  Lastly, is your Realtor a horse person?  Horse properties require specialized expertise so working with a Realtor who doesn’t understand the language and needs of equestrians will put you at a very real disadvantage.  There are a number of marketing tools that I use to get my equestrian listings sold quickly.  A Realtor who’s not familiar with equestrian properties won’t be able to offer you the same tools.

 

 

Jeff Williams has been riding and showing American Quarter Horses since childhood and is a top producing Realtor with Windermere in Tacoma, Washington.  To learn more about Jeff’s equestrian background visit his website Jeff Williams Quarter Horses.

Posted on November 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm
South Sound Property Group | Category: Buying A Home, Horse Property, Selling Your Home | Tagged , ,

Words of Advice for First Time Home Buyers

If you’ve been thinking about buying your first home, you may be experiencing a whole host of emotions.  Excitement, fear and confusion tend to top the list.  The process can admittedly be daunting, particularly for first time home buyers, but it’s important to keep things in perspective.  Step one – take a deep breath.  Step two – recognize that timing the market “just right” is almost impossible.  Let that go.  Trust that there will be a time that’s right for you to buy, which may or may not be the right time for someone else.  Just make sure the timing is right for you and the rest will fall into place.  Step three – recognize that buying a house (like most things in life) involves compromise.  Sometimes you have to compromise with the person you’re buying the house with.  Sometimes you have to compromise with yourself.  But something’s generally got to give, whether your price cap is $200,000 or $750,000.  The first home you buy may not have a water view, but it could have a great backyard or an awesome two car garage.  The goal of the exercise is to make sure the home has all of your “must haves” and as many of your “nice to haves” as you can afford.  Understanding the difference between a “must have” and a “nice to have” makes things a lot easier.  Step four – make sure you’re working with a realtor you trust.  If you trust your realtor, the fear and confusion will diminish, which leaves more room for the excitement.  Step five – enjoy the excitement.

-Mark Pinto of South Sound Property Group in Tacoma, WA has been successfully advising first time home buyers since 2003 

Posted on September 30, 2013 at 11:27 am
South Sound Property Group | Category: Buying A Home