Buyer

Should Homebuyers Get Pre-Qualified or Pre-Approved?

If you’re a buyer, a pre-approval is far more standard than a pre-qualification in today’s market, and it’s what you should much rather have.

Thinking of buying a home?  Search the local MLS here.

Thinking of selling your home?  Get a home valuation here.

Want to see our inventory of homes?  View our listings here.

What’s the difference between a pre-qualification and a pre-approval? 

According to Terry Schenck, our preferred lender from Prosperity Home Mortgage, a pre-qualification is simply a letter a lender provides you that details your preliminary information you’ve given verbally but they haven’t verified yet. This includes bank statements, pay stubs, and W-2s. This letter isn’t very strong and is typically frowned upon by sellers. Sometimes pre-qualification letters come with a credit check, but often they don’t.

A pre-approval letter is standard in today’s market. With this letter, the lender actually pulls your credit and verifies your documentation. The lender also puts you through an automated underwriting system, which gives you a much stronger letter and allows you to go much farther in the marketplace. 

"A pre-approval letter is standard in today’s market."

Sellers in today's market prefer for their buyers to have a pre-approval. If you're in the market to buy a home, getting one is a no-brainer.

Prosperity Home Mortgage can also take your pre-approval one step further with their buyer advantage program. In addition to the pre-approval, they can also submit you to their underwriting team for a full review before you even start looking at houses. There is no cost or obligation with this program, and it can strengthen your offer tremendously. 

Competition is fierce among homebuyers in our current market because of low inventory, so I recommend you take advantage of this opportunity. 

If you’re interested in this program or you have any other questions for Terry, you can email him at terry.schenck@phmloans.com or call him at (703) 408-3978.

(Terrence V. Schenck NMLSR ID 193123 Senior Loan Officer, Prosperity Home Mortgage 13135 Lee Jackson Mem Hwy, suite 100 Fairfax, VA 22033 Phone (703)408-3978 | Fax (703) 293-4298 terry.schenck@phmloans.com)

If you have any other questions or real estate needs, don’t hesitate to reach out to me and my team. We’d be happy to help you.

 


 

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What Is Actually Covered by Your Condo's Master Policy?

 

Thinking of buying a home?  Search the local MLS here.

Thinking of selling your home?  Get a home valuation here.

Want to see our inventory of homes?  View our listings here.

 

Today I’m speaking with Austin Head, who is the Long & Foster insurance guru. Austin is going to give us some insight into the subject of condo insurance.

With condo insurance, owners are usually only responsible for the interior of the building. This is because the condo association holds a master policy over the exterior. 

But recently, Austin says he’s been seeing many master policies that are covering not only the exterior, but also the interior of the unit. 

This sounds like a good thing at face value, but it is still important to be aware of what is covered. For a better understanding of this, Austin always recommends obtaining a copy of the master policy and taking it to your insurance agent. 

The master policy may state that the interior is only covered up to builder’s grade materials. So, if you lived in a very nice condo and it happened to burn down, it may be rebuilt using builder's grade material. 

"If you lived in a very nice condo that was covered by a master policy and it happened to burn down, it may be rebuilt using builder's grade material."

If you spent a lot of money upgrading your living space with high-quality amenities and something were to happen to require them to be replaced, the replacements would be installed with a much lower grade of material. 

Even if the interior is covered by a master policy, Austin highly advises that you get additional condo insurance to cover any upgrades. 

If you have any other questions or would like more information, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you soon. 
 


 

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Who Pays Real Estate Commissions in Virginia?

 

Thinking of buying a home?  Search the local MLS here.

Thinking of selling your home?  Get a home valuation here.

Want to see our inventory of homes?  View our listings here.

 

The No. 1 question we get from folks who are either new homebuyers or new to buying homes in Virginia is this: “Who pays the commission of the buyer’s and seller’s agents? How does it work?” To show you, I’ll use this example.

I recently met with a client who contacted me through Zillow at a house. When I met him, we started to chat and I found that he was looking at a bunch of different houses with a bunch of different agents. I was curious about this. 

He felt very strongly that he needed to interview multiple agents. I agreed with him, and think it’s a great idea. However, his reasoning was that he was going to be paying them a 3% commission, so he wanted to make sure to hire someone he trusted. 

"It’s extremely important to interview multiple agents."

In Virginia, commissions work a little differently. The sellers are actually the ones who are responsible for the commission for both agent's. However, the amount they spend on the buyer’s agent commission is usually reflected in the sale price.

Whether you’re looking to buy or sell, it is extremely important that you interview multiple agents and find one with the experience, communication skills, and business savvy to help you accomplish your goals.

If you have any questions for us, don’t hesitate to give us a call or send us an email. We look forward to hearing from you.


 


 

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What Should You Know About Appraisals?

Thinking of buying a home?  Search the local MLS here.

Thinking of selling your home?  Get a home valuation here.

Want to see our inventory of homes?  View our listings here.

Download your free Residential Appraisal Guide here.

 

I wanted to just take a moment of your time to talk about appraisals. First, let’s discuss what an appraisal is because a lot of homeowners are confused about the difference between an appraisal and a county assessment. 

An appraisal is a qualified appraiser’s assessment of a home’s current value based on recent sales data.

A county assessment, on the other hand, is also based on recent sales but is not a true picture of your home’s total value. It doesn’t take the true picture of your home’s value into account, so you can’t make a direct market value based on this.

Here’s the situation as to why sellers dread appraisals and buyers love them: If you’re a seller and your home is being appraised, the appraiser will look at comparable sales over the last 90 days within a few miles of your home. It can be a little frustrating for homeowners if there is a great comparable property that’s five miles away or one that sold 100 days ago.

"Each situation is different." 

Why do buyers like appraisals? It’s kind of a double check for them. If they feel like they’ve overpaid for a house and the appraisal shows the same thing, it keeps them in check to make sure they aren’t spending more than the home is worth.

If an appraisal comes in low, there are three options if you want to proceed with the sale:

1. The seller reduces the price to the appraised value.
2. The buyer pays the difference between the sale price and the appraisal in cash.
3. The buyer and seller meet in the middle.

Each situation is different, but we’re usually able to work things out one way or another. If you have any questions about appraisals or anything else related to real estate, give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.
 


 

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We'll Help You Meet Your Northern VA Real Estate Goals

Thinking of buying a home? Search the local MLS. 

Thinking of selling your home? Get a home valuation.

View our listings. 

 

Since 2003, I’ve proudly served my community as a licensed Realtor ® with Long & Foster Real Estate. At Cristina Dougherty & Associates, our job is to take care of the details so that our clients can go on with their lives and trust us with the details.

We help our clients find reliable contractors, stagers, lenders, and title companies. We want every transaction to be worry-free for our clients.  

As a former Fairfax County public school teacher and a mother of three, I’m very involved in the local schools and our community. I truly know the area and can guide you to the home you want.  

For the past three years, we have been recognized by Washingtonian magazine as top-producing Realtors in the D.C. area. Over 60% of our business comes from referrals, which speaks to the lasting relationships we build with our clients.

"We create a worry-free transaction for our clients." 

We feel that knowledge, communication, and service will guarantee a successful transaction. Our tireless work ethic and high level of expertise will help you find the home of your dreams.

Don’t just take it from me!  You can hear more details from a few of our clients in this video. Ultimately, the basic message is that I love what I do. I get so much joy out of helping people get from Point A to Point B.  

At the end of the day, being a Realtor ® is not about buying and selling homes; it’s about building relationships.  

If you have any questions or need any help buying or selling a home, just give us a call. We would be happy to help you!
 


 

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Introducing Our Home Buying Webinar

Are you thinking about buying a home in the near future? Have you ever just been curious about the home buying process?

We’ve recently put together a 45-minute webinar about the home buying process that we think you’ll really like.

The webinar addresses the entire home buying process from the different kinds of loans to different kinds of documentation you need to how to search for a home to strategies for buying a home.

You can watch the full webinar here.

“If you want to buy a home, this will be a valuable resource for you.”

If you’ve never bought a home or it’s been a long time since you bought your last home, this will be a very valuable resource for you. I teamed up with Terry Schenck from Prosperity Mortgage to cover all the important preliminary information you should have before taking the leap into homeownership.

We’ll publish more informational webinars monthly, and the best way to get regular updates about them is to ‘like’ our Facebook page.

If you have any questions about our webinar or about buying or selling a home in the northern Virginia area, you can always give us a call or send us an email. We’d be happy to help!

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Learn About the Latest Market Trends & a Great New Loan Program

How is the market doing? Let’s take a look at the numbers for Fairfax County and Loudoun County. There is also a great new loan program available for homebuyers right now.

In January of 2017, the housing inventory in Fairfax dropped 20% year over year. The average days on market also dropped by 12% down to 50 days.

June of 2015 and June of 2016 were the peak months for settlement. That means that these houses went on the market in April and sold in June. Based on these numbers, we can expect this June to be one of the busiest months in the real estate market.

In Loudoun, housing inventory is down by 29% and the average days on market is at 48, which is a 20% drop from the previous year.

What does that mean for you?

Our market heavily favors sellers right now. Buyers out there don’t have much inventory to choose from and often wind up in multiple offer situations. If that’s the case for you, check out our previous blog post for a few tips to help you get your offer accepted.

The good news for buyers is that interest rates are still low. Government loans have 3.75% interest rates, conventional loans are at 4%, and jumbo loans range between 3.75% and 4.5%. Rates are fairly stable right now.

Not only that, my friend Terry Schenck at Prosperity Home Mortgage has a fantastic loan program available for buyers. The Home Ready Plus loan is only available at Prosperity Home Mortgage. You can get a Home Ready loan at other lenders, but only Prosperity Home Mortgage has Home Ready Plus.

(Terrence V. Schenck NMLSR ID 193123 Senior Loan Officer, Prosperity Home Mortgage 13135 Lee Jackson Mem Hwy, suite 100 Fairfax, VA 22033 Phone (703)408-3978 | Fax (703) 293-4298 terry.schenck@phmloans.com)

Home Ready is not a first-time buyer program, but buyer education is required. Education will help you figure out your budget. It’s a very useful class that you can do online or in person.

The Home Ready program is a conforming loan through Fannie Mae with a 3% down payment. Home Ready also has more flexibility than other loans. For example, you can use extended income household. That means that non-borrower income can be considered as part of the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio. That means that you don’t need to have another person on the loan to help you qualify.

The Home Ready program also reduces mortgage insurance, which essentially means lower rates for the buyer. With Home Ready, you can get anywhere from one-eighth to a half-point reduction in your interest rate.

“The Home Ready Plus loan program is only available at Prosperity Home Mortgage.”

Home Ready Plus will be available on loans locked through May 31st. What’s unique about Home Ready Plus is that you will get a 1% origination credit towards closing costs. Since this is a seller’s market, buyers are more likely to have to cover closing costs, so that 1% can be a huge help.

Now, this is not a gimmick. A lot of people launch loan programs and build that credit into the pricing. However, this is a true 1% credit from Prosperity Home Mortgage. You will not get a higher interest rate because of that credit.

With Home Ready Plus, you can also get an additional $500 if you attend one-on-one HUD counseling.

Another major aspect of the Home Ready Plus program is that you may be eligible for job loss protection, which will pay your mortgage for up to six months.

Home Ready Plus is a phenomenal program that helps people with credit scores as low as 620. Home Ready Plus is only available through May 31st, so make sure you get in touch with Terry at www.OwnWithLoans.com if you are interested.

That said, the Home Ready program is not going away. If you have any questions about income limits or qualifying for Home Ready or Home Ready Plus, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Terry. As always, if you have any real estate questions, don’t hesitate to give me a call or send me an email. I would be happy to help you!

Which Mortgages Are Available to My Clients?

Today, I’m joined again by mortgage lender Terry Schenck of Prosperity Home Mortgages to talk about the most common home loans my clients can get.

(Terrence V. Schenck NMLSR ID 193123 Senior Loan Officer, Prosperity Home Mortgage 13135 Lee Jackson Mem Hwy, suite 100 Fairfax, VA 22033 Phone (703)408-3978 | Fax (703) 293-4298 terry.schenck@phmloans.com)

First, there are loans for first-time home buyers. You don’t necessarily have to be buying your first house to be a first-time buyer. You also would fall into this category if you haven’t had any interest in homeownership for three or more years.

So why would someone get a government loan versus a conventional loan? You should always start by talking to a loan officer and have them go over each program that you qualify for, including the pros and cons. Many people use government loans like a VA loan because they don’t require a down payment and come with a competitive interest rate and no mortgage insurance. FHA is another program with a low down payment (only 3.5%) that doesn’t ding you on your interest rate if you don’t have great credit.

“Talk to a loan officer as soon as you start thinking about buying a home.”

Both government and conventional loans have varying term lengths. The most common term is a 30-year fixed rate, but you can also get a 15-year, 20-year, or 25-year loan. Buyers can also get ARMs, or adjustable rate mortgages. Each category has its own set of pros and cons.

If you’re thinking about buying a home, Terry says it’s never too early to meet with a lender. He recommends doing it as soon as you start thinking about buying a house. Terry even works with a lot of buyers who are as far as a year or two out from buying. If nothing else, they can start you on the right path to obtaining a home loan.

If you have any questions for Terry, you can call him at 703-408-3978 or you can email him at terry.schenck@phmloans.com.

If you’re thinking about buying or selling a house in northern Virginia, give me a call, send me an email or visit our website. We’d be glad to help.