New Features vs. Character

We are often asked, “Which is the better buy, a newer or older home?” Our answer: It all depends on your needs and personal preferences. We decided to put together a list of the six biggest differences between newer and older homes:

The neighborhood

Surprisingly, one of the biggest factors in choosing a new home isn’t the property itself, but rather the surrounding neighborhood. While new homes occasionally spring up in established communities, most are built in new developments. The settings are quite different, each with their own unique benefits.

Older neighborhoods often feature tree-lined streets; larger property lots; a wide array of architectural styles; easy walking access to mass transportation, restaurants and local shops; and more established relationships among neighbors.

New developments are better known for wider streets and quiet cul-de-sacs; controlled development; fewer aboveground utilities; more parks; and often newer public facilities (schools, libraries, pools, etc.). There are typically more children in newer communities, as well.

Consider your daily work commute, too. While not always true, older neighborhoods tend to be closer to major employment centers, mass transportation and multiple car routes (neighborhood arterials, highways and freeways).

Design and layout

If you like VictorianCraftsman or Cape Cod style homes, it used to be that you would have to buy an older home from the appropriate era. But with new-home builders now offering modern takes on those classic designs, that’s no longer the case. There are even modern log homes available.

Have you given much thought to your floor plans? If you have your heart set on a family room, an entertainment kitchen, a home office and walk-in closets, you’ll likely want to buy a newer home—or plan to do some heavy remodeling of an older home. Unless they’ve already been remodeled, most older homes feature more basic layouts.

If you have a specific home-décor style in mind, you’ll want to take that into consideration, as well. Professional designers say it’s best if the style and era of your furnishings match the style and era of your house. But if you are willing to adapt, then the options are wide open.

Materials and craftsmanship

Homes built before material and labor costs spiked in the late 1950’s have a reputation for higher-grade lumber and old-world craftsmanship (hardwood floors, old-growth timber supports, ornate siding, artistic molding, etc.).

However, newer homes have the benefit of modern materials and more advanced building codes (copper or polyurethane plumbing, better insulation, double-pane windows, modern electrical wiring, earthquake/ windstorm supports, etc.).

Current condition

The condition of a home for sale is always a top consideration for any buyer. However, age is a factor here, as well. For example, if the exterior of a newer home needs repainting, it’s a relatively easy task to determine the cost.  But if it’s a home built before the 1970’s, you have to also consider the fact that the underlying paint is most likely lead-based, and that the wood siding may have rot or other structural issues that need to be addressed before it can be re-coated.

On the flip side, the mechanicals in older homes (lights, heating systems, sump pump, etc.) tend to be better built and last longer.

Outdoor space

One of the great things about older homes is that they usually come with mature tress and bushes already in place. Buyers of new homes may have to wait years for ornamental trees, fruit trees, roses, ferns, cacti and other long-term vegetation to fill in a yard, create shade, provide privacy, and develop into an inviting outdoor space. However, maybe you’re one of the many homeowners who prefer the wide-open, low-maintenance benefits of a lightly planted yard.

Car considerations

Like it or not, most of us are extremely dependent on our cars for daily transportation. And here again, you’ll find a big difference between newer and older homes. Newer homes almost always feature ample off-street parking: usually a two-car garage and a wide driveway. An older home, depending on just how old it is, may not offer a garage—and if it does, there’s often only enough space for one car. For people who don’t feel comfortable leaving their car on the street, this alone can be a determining factor.

Finalizing your decision

While the differences between older and newer homes are striking, there’s certainly no right or wrong answer. It is a matter of personal taste, and what is available in your desired area. To quickly determine which direction your taste trends, use the information above to make a list of your most desired features, then categorize those according to the type of house in which they’re most likely to be found. The results can often be telling.

If you have questions about newer versus older homes, or are looking for an agent in your area we have professionals that can help you. Contact us here.

Posted on March 21, 2018 at 9:00 am
Windermere Windsor | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , ,

6 Powerful Reasons to Consider a Short Sale Instead of Foreclosure

If you are unable to make your mortgage payments, you may be considering what to do next. One option is a short sale. Another option is foreclosure. There are many benefits to choosing a short sale over foreclosure.

Before you make a decision, make sure you know the facts. Our partner, Lambros Politis, Lead Counsel and debt settlement specialist at Ark Law Group, points out six powerful reasons to consider a short sale instead of foreclosure:

Selling your home can be a tough choice. It’s an emotion-packed decision that affects your whole family. Often homeowners feel that selling short is a catastrophe – even when it’s almost impossible to make their mortgage payments.

short sale can be the first step to a financial freedom. The relief from getting out from under an unaffordable mortgage can be exhilarating. It really is the beginning of a new life.

Foreclosure is a far worse alternative to a short sale. If you keep hoping something will change – you’ll get a windfall or a huge raise – and it doesn’t happen, at some point you’ll have to stop paying your mortgage. When you go into default, your bank will foreclose. And that’s very bad news.

If your mortgage payments are too much for you to handle and you’re at risk of losing your home, I want you to consider these reasons for choosing a short sale.

1.In a short sale, all debts will be settled or re-negotiated.

With a foreclosure, your home will almost certainly sell for less than what you owe. Your mortgage lender then might have the right to sue you for the rest of the debt or garnish your wages to get the money you still owe. The nightmare isn’t always over just because you lost your property.

Washington State allows non-judicial foreclosure on a lien. If your lender chooses non-judicial foreclosure, they can’t collect any remaining balance from you after they auction off your home. However, if you have other liens against your property – a second mortgage, a HELOC, or other debts secured by your home – those lenders still have the right to sue you, garnish your income or take money out of your bank account.

With a short sale, we will work with your mortgage holder to get a deficiency waiver, so the balance of your debt is forgiven. We will also work with any other lender to remove their lien from the property. This has to happen or the short sale can’t proceed. Our negotiator will also try to get a better deal for you, if the lender won’t forgive the debt – such as a reduced payment plan.

As a rule, we’re able to get full settlements for 90% to 95% of our clients while negotiating a short sale.

2.Foreclosure has a bigger impact on your credit than a short sale.

If you stop making payments on your home, that’s a big deal to lenders. That’s why a foreclosure is noted in your credit report for seven years. Even if you recover financially, have a down payment saved and great income, you’re very unlikely to be able to buy a new home for at least a few years.

A short sale is also kept in your credit record for seven years – and will also lower your credit score. Following a short sale, the waiting period before you can qualify for a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan is much shorter than if you go through foreclosure. And without delinquent payments, your credit score will be higher. If you’re hoping to get an FHA loan, you may qualify for consideration even sooner.

3.Foreclosure is public information.

There is some stigma to foreclosure. If the bank plans to auction off your home, they’ll put notices on your door and in your yard. Your neighbors will know you aren’t able to make your mortgage payments.

From the outside, a short sale looks like any other real estate transaction. No one needs to know. You’re in good company. As recently as March 2015, 10% of all home sales were short sales.

4.With a short sale, you may qualify for generous government cash incentives to help with relocation.

If you meet HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives) requirements you may get up to $10,000 when your short sale closes. While it’s called “relocation assistance,” you can use the money for anything. To qualify, you need to be using this home as your primary residence.

Even if you don’t qualify for HAFA relocation assistance, you have other options. If you have a Fannie Mae loan, you may qualify for up to $3,000 in assistance at closing. FHA and VA lenders may offer $1,500.

Not all lenders participate in these programs. We find that our clients get this assistance in about 70% of the sales we help with.

5.You don’t have to go it alone.

When you work with a team of professionals, you know that you have smart people on your side, working to get you everything you’re eligible for. You don’t have to talk to your lender yourself – we’ll take care of it. Nothing falls through the cracks. You don’t have to be the expert. All your questions are answered.

In the end, it’s always better to know you did everything possible to get the best outcome.

6.After a short sale, you can start fresh.

This is what people tell me is the biggest benefit of a short sale. It comes back to what I said at the beginning. A foreclosure only gets rid of your mortgage payment. Other lenders will still need to be paid.

We work very hard to resolve ALL your debts when we negotiate your short sale. You can let go of that stress and move forward with the rest of your life.

Richard Eastern is a Windermere broker in Bellevue, WA and co-founder of Washington Property Solutions, a short sales negotiating company. Since 2003 he has helped more than 900 homeowners sell their homes. A Bellevue native and a University of Washington grad, Richard is an avid sports fan and a devoted Little League and basketball coach. You can learn more about Richard here or at www.washortsales.com.

Posted on March 20, 2018 at 9:00 am
Windermere Windsor | Category: For Buyers | Tagged , , ,

Short Sale FAQs: Understanding the Short Sale Process

What Is A Short Sale?

short sale is the sale of a property for less than what the owner still owes on the mortgage. A short sale is an alternative to foreclosure when a homeowner needs to sell and can no longer afford to make their mortgage payments. The lender agrees to accept less than the amount owed to pay off a loan now rather than taking the property back by foreclosure and trying to sell it later. Lenders agree to a short sale because they believe it will net them more money than going forward with a lengthy and costly foreclosure process.

Can Any Real Estate Agent Effectively Handle My Short Sale?

No. A short sale is a very complicated real estate transaction and one that has very important implications for you. More than any other type of residential real estate transaction, a short sale should be handled only by a real estate broker who has substantial experience with the short sale process , and a strong track-record of success in negotiating short sales for their clients. You wouldn’t have your family doctor perform heart surgery. And, you shouldn’t expect any real estate broker to be qualified to handle this highly complex real estate transaction for you.

Why Should I Choose A Short Sale Over Foreclosure?

Whether you should do a short sale or let your property go to foreclosure depends on several factors. In most instances, a short sale makes more sense than foreclosure. In general, when you want to obtain a loan to purchase a property in the future, more opportunities will be available to you if you do a short sale. And, contrary to popular belief, you can be current on your payments and still do a short sale. In fact, if you are current on your mortgage through a short sale, you can qualify for an FHA loan afterwards without any waiting periods. The same option will not be available following a foreclosure.

While doing a short sale will negatively affect your credit, there are many benefits to choosing a short sale over foreclosure. With a short sale, you are in control of the sale, not the bank. You may sleep better at night knowing who is buying your home, and you can spare yourself the social stigma of foreclosure.

Every homeowner’s situation is different, so we always recommend that you speak with a real estate attorney that can advise you on the legal and tax implications for your circumstances.

How Do I Know If I Qualify For A Short Sale?

If you owe more than your house is worth and can’t afford your mortgage payments, you may qualify for a short sale. Every situation is unique, but in general the basic criteria for qualifying for a short sale are:

  • You need to sell your home.
  • You owe more on your mortgage than your home is worth.
  • You have a personal financial hardship that will prevent you from making future payments. (Examples of hardship include loss of job, divorce, death of a spouse and medical emergency or illness.)

When calculating if your house is worth less than the amount owed on the loan, you should deduct out what you would pay in real estate commissionsclosing costs, and state excise taxes to sell your home.

Will I Get Any Money From The Sale?

Unless specifically authorized through a federally-sanctioned program such as HAFA, when a lender approves a short sale, they typically require that the borrower (seller) not receive any money from the sale of the property since the lender is going to take a loss on the loan.

How Long Does A Short Sale Take?

The short sale process is complicated and time-consuming. It can take several weeks, or even months, to get a short sale approved. Many lenders have several layers of management, insurers, and investors that will have to be satisfied before a short sale is approved. As a homeowner, it is important to be patient during this long process. It is also critical that you work with a short sale negotiator who is familiar with the various requirements of individual lenders to ensure that the process moves as quickly as possible.

Is There Enough Time To Do A Short Sale Before A Foreclosure?

Maybe, maybe not. Just starting a short sale will not automatically stop a foreclosure. However, many times a lender can be convinced to postpone the foreclosure to let a short sale negotiation take place. So, while there are no guarantees, it does not hurt to try.

Does A Short Sale Always Work?

No, there is no guarantee that this will work. Once you fall behind on your loan, the lender can proceed to foreclosure if they choose to. But typically, lenders prefer not to foreclose and, if effectively presented with smart alternatives, they will often agree to a short sale rather than foreclose. If a short sale is attempted but doesn’t work, your house will likely go to foreclosure.

I Have More Than One Mortgage On My House. Can I Still Do A Short Sale?

Yes. Each mortgage can be negotiated individually. However, multiple mortgages make a short sale more complicated and time-consuming. Not only do you need the cooperation of the first lender, the second mortgage holder needs to agree to a short sale as well.

What Is A Release?

A lender may offer to “release” its security interest against the property in exchange for less than the total amount of the note. A release will allow the property to be sold without paying off the obligations of the note. However, the note is not satisfied. The advantage of a release is it allows the property to be sold and helps you avoid a foreclosure. The disadvantage is the remaining debt on the property (sometimes called a deficiency) still exists. You are still liable for the note. In other words, you still owe the money. In reality, it’s not likely that the lender will pursue the deficiency unless you have other significant assets. Furthermore, if you don’t attempt a short sale and the property goes to foreclosure, you can be liable for the full amount of remaining debt on any additional mortgages beyond your first mortgage.

What Is A Satisfaction?

A lender may agree to accept less than it is owed as complete and total satisfaction of the debt and release its lien against the property. Your note and obligation to the lender are satisfied for less than you owe. When the property is sold, the debt is paid off completely. Sometimes short sale negotiations are successful in obtaining complete satisfaction. Sometimes all that can be obtained is a release.

Are There Tax Consequences?

When a lender cancels or forgives your debt, the tax laws may consider the forgiven debt as taxable income. If a lender agrees to a satisfaction, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 provides that debt forgiveness of up to $2 million is not considered taxable income if:

  • The house has been used as your principal place of residence for at least two of the previous five years.
  • The debt has been used to buy, build, or make substantial improvements to the home.

Home equity loans where the money was not used to buy, build, or improve the home do not qualify for the exclusion. Neither do mortgages for second homes or rental properties. The law has been extended to include debt forgiven through 2013.

There are additional tax considerations to keep in mind. A debt cancellation will affect your property’s cost basis. Insolvency or bankruptcy may also alleviate some of the tax burdens of a debt cancellation resulting from a short sale. You should always confirm tax matters with your tax professional.

Can I Keep The House Through A Short Sale?

The purpose of a short sale is to get the property sold, so you do not keep the house. Just as in a normal sale, you will be moving, typically when the sale closes. Some sellers choose to move before the house closes. You will not be allowed to remain in the house. If your intention is to remain in your house, you should consider other options besides a short sale.

Download a copy of Short Sale Frequently Asked Questions [PDF].

Richard Eastern is a Windermere broker in Bellevue, WA and co-founder of Washington Property Solutions,a short sales negotiating company. Since 2003 he has helped more than 900 homeowners sell their homes. A Bellevue native and a University of Washington grad, Richard is an avid sports fan and a devoted Little League and basketball coach. You can learn more about Richard here or at www.washortsales.com.

Posted on March 4, 2018 at 9:00 am
Windermere Windsor | Category: For Sellers | Tagged , , ,

Is Buying a Short Sale Right For You?

ForSale

If you’re shopping for a home, you may have noticed that a large number of the homes that are currently on the market are short sales. A short sale occurs when a homeowner owes a lender more than their home is worth, and the lender agrees to let the owner sell the home and accept  less than what is owed. Lenders may agree to a short sale because they believe it will get them more money than going forward with a lengthy and costly foreclosure process.

Short sales do differ in a number of ways from conventional home sales. Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about buying a short sale property.

    • Short sale homes sell for less, but not significantly less than market value.

Buyers hoping to snap up a home for half the market value will be disappointed. The selling price for short sales average about 10 percent less than for non-distressed properties. The bank is looking to recover as much of the value of the home as possible, so they will not accept offers that are significantly under market value. That being said, with savings that can equal tens of thousands of dollars, a short sale is a great way to get more house for your money.

    • Short sale properties are sold “as is”.

The lender will not be making repairs to the home. Any improvements that need to be made are most likely going to be the responsibility of the buyer. A savvy buyer’s agent/broker will get contractor bids for any necessary repairs and use those to help negotiate a lower sales price with the bank.

    • A short sale will take longer than a conventional home sale.

Once you and the seller have mutual acceptance on an offer, you need to allow 60 to 90 days for the lender approval process. There are often long stretches when the offer is slowly winding its way through the bank’s system, so buyers need to be patient.

    • If you have to sell your home first, a short sale is probably not the best fit.

Lenders generally will not take contingent offers on a short sale.

    • A short sale is one real estate transaction that you shouldn’t attempt on your own.

Short sales are complicated transactions that involve a different process and significantly more paperwork than a standard real estate sale. An agent/broker that is unfamiliar with short sales can write an offer in such a way that they inadvertently cause their buyers to lose the deal. An experienced short sale agent/broker will protect your interest and help the process move forward smoothly.

The bottom line: As long as you can be patient, and are working with an agent/broker who understands the process, buying a short sale is a great way to purchase the house you want at a price you’ll love.

EasternRichardRichard Eastern is a Windermere agent in Bellevue and co-founder of Washington Property Solutions, a short sales negotiating company. Since 2003, he has helped more than 600 homeowners sell their homes.  A Bellevue native and a UW grad, Richard is an avid sports fan and a devoted Little League and basketball coach. You can learn more about Richard here or at www.washortsales.com.

Posted on February 28, 2018 at 9:00 am
Windermere Windsor | Category: For Buyers | Tagged , ,