The Seattle – Bellevue – Everett area named as a Top 5 Place to Sell Your Home

Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch has named the Seattle – Bellevue – Everett area as one top five markets in the nation for selling your home. From the article:

Homes are flying off the market in Seattle. Listed properties spent a median of 56 days on the market as of January, down 38% from a year ago, according to Realtor.com. That’s almost half the median time homes are listed nationally….

….buyers have been left with a smaller number of homes to bid on, which in turn encourages multiple offers on properties that can push the purchase price higher than the asking price, experts say. There were fewer than 4,000 homes for sale in the Seattle metro area as of January, down 44% from a year prior, according to Realtor.com.  

This morning’s S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index also provides some positive data revealing that the Greater Seattle’s prices are up 8.2% year-over-year.

For hopeful home buyers, this means they need to make sure they have their ducks in a row before making an offer on a home. Home buyers in competitive markets like Seattle, Bellevue or Everett should contact a mortgage professional early on to start the preapproval process. The preapproval process typically only takes a day or two once the home buyer provides all the necessary supporting documentation. However it pays to get started early just in case there are situations that could be improved (such as credit scores, savings, etc.). 

The FHFA released their report on mortgage interest rates showing that rates trending higher since late November 2012 for the 30 year fixed conforming mortgage. If you’ve been following my rate quotes on Twitter, you may have realized this trend. Although rates are still very low, they are trending higher and have been for a few months.

If you are considering selling your home in the greater Seattle area, please don’t rule out buyers who are approved with FHA or VA financing. FHA and VA loans are much easier to underwrite and process in today’s market. In fact, they’re pretty much like a conventional mortgage. Plus buyers who qualify for FHA or VA loans are able to have higher loan amounts than conforming in our area.

Loan Limits for Seattle – Bellevue – Everett

Conforming: $506,000

FHA: $567,500

VA Jumbo: $1 million. $500,000 is the loan limit if the Veteran is looking for a zero down home. After $500,000, the down payment is 25% of the difference between the $500,000 limit and the sales price.

NOTE: Congress has been discussing rolling back loan limits. This is another reason to consider selling now if you have a home that would be impacted with reduced loan limits.

By the way, I have been in the real estate industry for just shy of 27 years. My first fourteen years were in the title and escrow industry and for the last 13 years, I have been a mortgage originator at Mortgage Master Service Corporation. I’ve worked with many real estate agents over my career and I’m happy to recommend one to you if you are considering selling or buying a home.

The biggest issue with buying a home today in Seattle

Yesterday I met for coffee with one of my clients who is hoping to buy a home in a Seattle area neighborhood for around $600,000. They have already taken one of the most important steps in the home buying process by getting preapproved for a mortgage.

The preapproval process required they complete a loan application and provide me with documentation that supports the information provided on the loan application (such as W2s, paystubs and bank statements). After having a complete application, I am able to run their credit reports and run the scenario through automated underwriting, which provides us with an approval and conditions to that approval.

Here’s a bit from our conversation with a few of their questions.

Is it challenging to qualify for a home in Seattle?

It’s really not that hard to qualify. Presently our underwriting guidelines will allow:

  • a low-mid credit score of 640 for FHA
  • a minimum down payment of 3.5%, which can be gifted by a family member. NOTE: FHA Jumbo’s will soon have a minimum down payment of 5%. In the greater Seattle area, FHA Jumbo’s are loan amounts from $417,001 to $567,500
  • VA home buyers can have a low-mid credit score of 620 with zero down payment up to $500,000. A $600,000 sales price would have a down payment of $25,000 with a VA Jumbo.
  • Home buyers need a two year employment history (sometimes your college education may count as an employment history)
  • Income must be documented and consistent. NOTE: if your self-employed, paid commission or hourly (vs. salary), you will need a two year history and income will be averaged.  NOTE: If you are planning on using your 2012 income, you may want to consider filing your income taxes as soon as possible.
  • Down payment and funds for closing must be documented with complete asset account statements. 

What are the biggest “hiccups” in a transaction?

  • borrowers need to continue providing paystubs and bank statements. Do not toss or shred anything that has to do with your assets or income.
  • large deposits (typically this is anything over $1000) must be documented…so if your Great Aunt Nelly is giving a wad a cash or a check for a birthday present at the time you’re getting ready to buy a home, keep documentation or proof of where the cash came from.
  • if you are planning on using 2012 income for qualifying, you need to file your 2012 tax returns as soon as possible. Lenders re-verify income (beyond W2s or 1040 – tax returns) with tax transcripts from the IRS via Form 4506. As we near “tax season” it takes the IRS longer to process and provide this information.
  • days prior to closing, employment is re-verified. If there are changes to employment or the employer is difficult to reach, this may cause a delay.
  • a “soft” credit pull is done prior to closing as well to make sure no new debts have been acquired by the buyer. If there are new debts, the buyer will need to be re-approved factoring in the debt payments.
  • If the credit report is getting ready to expire prior to closing, a new credit report will be obtained. This may have additional impacts to the transaction if there are changes to debts or credit scores. 

What is the BIGGEST issue with buying a home today in Seattle?  INVENTORY!  

This probably comes to no surprise to Seattle area home buyers in the $300,000 – $700,000 price range hoping to find a non-distressed home to make an offer on. 

If you have been considering selling your home, NOW could be an excellent time to consult with a real estate agent…and I’m happy to recommend one to you! 

As always, if you’re looking to buy a home or refinance your mortgage on a home located anywhere in Washington state, please contact me. I have been originating mortgages at Mortgage Master Service Corporation since April 2000 and I’m happy to help you!

How much can Sellers contribute towards Closing Cost?

If negotiated in your purchase and sales agreement, a Seller may agree to chip in towards some or all of your bona fide closing costs, prepaids and reserves.  They cannot contribute towards your down payment.  The amount the seller can contribute varies depending on the program type and the amount of home buyer’s down payment. The percentage is based on the sales price and if the credit exceeds the closing cost, the mortgage originator can often use it towards discount points to buy down the interest rate.

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FHA Financing Not Available on a Listing? BIG MISTAKE

Someone recently landed on my blog by entering the phrase:

Why are so many homes not FHA approved?

It's an interesting question.  I'm assuming the person doing the research on the internet is a home buyer and that they're looking at a stand-free home and not a condo…pure assumption on my point.  (If it is a condo, that's another story).

I'm wondering if the person is finding that sellers are not promoting that they will accept FHA financing on their listed homes…which is a huge mistake.

FHA loan amounts in the Seattle and Bellevue area goes up to $567,500 for a single family dwelling and currently allows a down payment as low as 3.5%.   FHA is also more flexible with credit and some underwriting guidelines.

FHA loans are more popular than ever with the ever tightening guidelines and risk based pricing that conventional loans have.  Many of my FHA home buyers are putting down more than the minimum required investment of 3.5%. 

Some might be selecting FHA for their purchase because they're converting their existing home to a rental property and FHA does not have the same reserves conventional guideline requiring 6 months of mortgage payments (PITI) for EACH property owned (or buying) if the converted home has less than 30% equity (which is often the motivation for turning the home into a rental).

Some select FHA financing because they plan on selling their home in the future and are hedging that mortgage interest rates will be higher in the future.  They know that their current low rate FHA mortgage may be assumable to a future buyer in a higher rate environment.

I've had well established clients opt for an FHA mortgage because FHA treats alimony payments different than conventional financing.

FHA is not the same mortgage that it was a few years ago.  At the end of 2005, appraisals became more "common sense" allowing minor conditions to exist, focusing  more on the safety and soundness of the property.  FHA appraisals are very similar to conventional these days.

FHA transactions do not take longer to close nor are their higher closing cost for the seller than a conforming loan

My point is, there are many reasons sellers should accept FHA financing.  If a seller or real estate agent is steering away from an FHA approved buyer, they're really reducing the potential of excellent buyers for their home.