Giving Back-Santa Clarita Senior Center

Several years ago, when I was working with a nationally known real estate company, we were challenged to go out into the community every Spring and donate our time to those who needed it. My good friend Deanna and I decided that we would like to spend time with the Senior Community at our local Senior Center.

 
After we started our own company, one of the cornerstones of our philosophy was to re-invest in the community with our time. Because we had such a good experience with our Senior community, we decided to keep it going. Years ago we found out that simply an ice cream desert was something the folks there looked forward to.

I somehow have been able to bypass the actual work of scooping and assembling the bowls-with ice cream, chocolate syrup, cream topping & sprinkles. I, instead, love to deliver the bowls to the Seniors and relish seeing their smiles when a simply made dish is served to them.
 
On my first visit years ago, I was introduced to Tommie-an elegant and enthusiastic lady who formerly lived in Albany, GA. We connected over our Southern roots, and I look just as forward to seeing her each year as she sees us. It is a highlight of my day to spend time with this remarkable lady.
 
The director, Robin, has been so gracious and accommodating to us while we are there. I wish we could spend a few days each week there and capture that feeling of helping someone else out that is so rewarding.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

What rising rates mean to homebuyers and how to prepare yourself

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After what seems like years of teasing us with the possibility of rising rates, the Federal Reserve finally made their move with a quarter-point jump last week. Economic conditions, led by a strong job market, triggered for the first rate rise since June 2006. The move is a sign of confidence in the economy (that’s a good thing!), albeit one that is feared to slow down economic growth (not so good!) and potentially scare off buyers who were just starting to feel OK about getting into the L.A. real estate market (bad, very bad!).

So what does that mean for homebuyers and owners? And what can you do to prepare yourself for rising rates? A lot, actually.

Accelerate your home search

Were you planning on waiting until spring to buy a new home in The Valley? You’ll have company. It’s not called the spring buying season for nothing.

But predictions that rates will continue to rise in quarter-point increments throughout the next year may make you want to change those plans. Buying a home in L.A. now at a lower rate can flat out save you money—consider that a rate that’s one point higher translates to about a 10 percent rise in your monthly payment. Not to mention the other advantages of buying a home in winter: namely, less competition and the possibility of getting a better price.

“If you’ve been on the fence about refinancing or buying a home, vacation home or rental property, now is the time to act,” said Huffington Post. Once interest rates start trending up, the borrowing costs for your real estate investment will rise.”

Huffington Post used a $200,000 loan example to illustrate the difference in payments between today’s rates and a rate that’s one point higher (A difference of $115 per month doesn’t seem like a lot. But if you wait to borrow, in one year you’ll pay an additional $1,380. Multiply that $1,380 by the 30-year term, and the delay in snaring a mortgage costs you more than $40,000.”), but let’s extrapolate that:

  • On a $400,000 loan, that’s $230 more per month, $2,760 more in one year, and more than $82,000 over 30 years.
  • On a $600,00, loan, it’ll cost you $345 additional per month, $4,140 in one year, and more than $124,000 after 30 years.

Get locked in now

If you’re playing with the idea of buying a new home, get on the phone with your lender and lock in your interest rate.

That will protect your rate for a period of time—usually 30 days, but could be up to 60—so you won’t be impacted by further rate increases that take place while you’re in escrow.

Refinance

The ability to lock in a lower interest rate than you currently have is the No. 1 reason to refinance before rates tick further upward.

“Examine the terms of your existing mortgage and calculate the damage if the rates rose two or three percent,” said Consumer Reports. “If you plan to stay in your home longer than three or four years and haven’t already refinanced into a 15- or 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, do it now.”

But there are a few other refi scenarios worth considering, according to mortgage resource HSH.com:

  • You want to get rid of your adjustable rate.
  • You want a shorter term—“If you’ve been paying down a $300,000, 30-year fixed-rate loan at 5 percent for 10 years, your balance is now $236,736. Refinancing that balance into a 15-year loan at 3.5 percent will raise your monthly payments by just $82 and shorten your loan term by five years,” they said.
  • You want to wrap a first mortgage and a home equity line into one loan.
  • You want to get rid of Private Mortgage Interest (PMI)—If you have at least 20 percent equity, you can qualify.

Pay back your home equity line of credit

Your home equity line of credit (HELOC) is perhaps most impacted by rate changes and could rise dramatically if rates continue upward—especially relevant if you consider that this first rise isn’t a standalone and could signal a pattern of rising rates. “You could be looking at a 50 to 100 percent increase in your payment,” warns Consumer Reports.

Reconsider any real estate investment trusts (REITs)

These real estate focused, high-yield mutual funds may not look so good with higher rates. It might be time to reevaluate your investments.

“There’s an inverse relationship between REIT prices and interest rates: When interest rates go up, the value of REIT funds tends to drop,” said Huffington Post.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

Winning tips for writing a winning offer

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You would think in this real estate climate that the easiest part of buying a home in Los Angeles would be submitting an offer. After all, finding a home that is the right size in the right place at the right price that somewhat matches your style (or at least doesn’t completely offend you) is usually the biggest challenge in the always-tight L.A. real estate market, right?

Not necessarily. One of the most frustrating trends I’m seeing right now: Deals getting derailed over something stupid like lack of preparation or lack of effort.

Recently, I was working with a seller on a home in the Santa Clarita Valley, and when it came time to show proof of funds—which has become typical during a home sale—the seller’s agent was…well, less than cooperative. Instead of getting us the required financial information to review, we received a screen shot of an account showing random balances and credits—no account holder information or even the name of the bank.

Whether it was game-playing or laziness, I can’t really say. But this agent definitely knew better. And the behavior created an inconvenience and a delay for the seller—one that quite nearly left the buyer out of luck.

Remember that when a Realtor writes an offer, they are painting a picture to the seller of how ready, willing, and able their client is to buy a house. That means you, as a buyer, are probably going to have to share some financial information.

It’s not enough today to just throw a number out there. You’re up against other numbers. Some may be stronger than yours, some may not, but the one that has verified financial information behind it is the one that tends to stick. Buyers will want to see that you can afford the house, that you don’t just have the money to buy the house, but that you’re financially stable overall, and that you can close on time.

MonopolyGuyHere are a few more things you can do to make sure your offer is the one chosen:

  • Be as transparent as possible—Financial abnormalities, job history issues, and credit score questions are all going to come up during the approval process. It’s best to be upfront about anything that could become problematic later on and/or take the time to improve your financial situation before starting the homebuying process.
  • Get your credit in order—If you’re not completely ready to buy, get there before you waste anyone’s time. A 3.5% down payment combined with a low credit score may get you approved, but it might not get you the place you want if you’re in a competitive market.
  • Don’t lowball—An offer that’s way too low might turn off the seller, causing them to reject it altogether instead of negotiating.
  • Be first—Coming in with a strong offer before others have had a chance to see a property can be a winning strategy.
  • Give yourself extra help—I’ve personally helped a buyer secure a home thanks to a good offer and the extra incentive of a personal letter she wrote to the seller expressing her family’s sincere desire to buy the home and make memories there. Don’t expect a letter like this to make up for a crappy offer, but it could help your good offer catapult over other good offers. Never underestimate the power of an honest emotional connection.
  • Know what to do in a multiple offer situation—When you’re up against other offers and want to make sure you come out on top, talk with your Realtor about things you can do to distinguish yourself: shorten contingency time periods, waive the home warranty, or increase your earnest money deposit.
  • Work with a respected agent—Someone who has the respect of his or her peers is far more likely to be able to get you the house you want at a fair price.

As a home seller, you’re not expected to know all the details involved in selling your home. That’s what your Realtor is for, and it underscores the importance of working with a good one.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

Cash Is King: Where Loan Is A Four-Letter Word

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So you’ve scrimped and saved and that five percent down payment is burning a hole in your bank account. You better fasten your seatbelt. It’s going to be a bumpy night.

Or season.

Or year.

Seriously, it could take a while to find a place.

The truth is, in some areas in and around our fair city of Los Angeles, it doesn’t matter how much you have socked and stashed away for a down payment. If you’re not a cash buyer, you’re not a buyer—period.

Curbed reported last year that “One in three home buys in SoCal is now made all in cash.

And this trend is only growing. Now, we’re not talking about the elusive, too-good-to-be-true foreclosure, or a shoebox condo that needs a toe-to-sole reno, or new construction in one of Southern California’s few remaining affordable spots (read: in a location that will test the limits of your good humor on your hours-long daily commute).

We’re also not talking ONLY about investors and foreign money, although those two groups make up a chunk of the all-cash craze. In areas from Culver City to Miracle Mile to Sherman Oaks, it’s millennials and families who are walking into open houses primed to plunk down up to a million-plus.

If you’re flush with cash, it’s hard to argue against forgoing a mortgage, but if you want to debate it, you can check out Investopedia, The Truth About Mortgage, or nerdwallet. The obvious advantage is not having a mortgage payment, although this is minimized by interest rates that are still near historic lows (Imagine weighing the benefits of buying with cash versus taking out a loan when rates were up over 18 percent in the early ‘80s!).

All-cash buyers obviously also have a tremendous advantage with sellers. I can’t personally remember too many instances when I presented a cash offer that was rejected, as long as the offer price and conditions were right. So how do buyers compete with that? Here are a few tips:

  • Up your offer—For a house you really want, you might have to consider going over asking price. The seller still may choose to go the cash route, but, in the end, more money is still more money.
  • Drop your contingencies—A seller is not likely to accept an offer from a buyer whose offer is contingent on the sale of their existing home when they have other options.
  • Try for a quick closing—Anything you can do to sweeten the deal for the seller will work in your favor, and hungry lenders might be willing to help streamline the process.
  • Be flexible—“Sometimes a line of credit on another investment property, or a home-equity line of credit, can help make your offer look even better,” said MarketWatch. “It may not be all-cash, but more-cash is better than less-cash.”
  • Write a letter to the sellers—Yes it’s old school, but it also works. Letting someone into your world and allowing them to have a peek at who you are and why you love their house might help you to leap over the coldness of cold hard cash.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

How to Save Money on Closing Costs

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Buying a home is expensive. Whether you’re looking for something simple and off the beaten path or a modern condo firmly ensconced in the bosom of the Silicon Valley, you’re likely going to be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not more) for your home. With prices like that, saving up for the down payment can (and often does) take several years. Unfortunately, many would-be homeowners don’t take into account the closing costs of the deal, and find themselves having to save a little longer before they can buy their new home. Luckily, there are ways that you can lower your closing costs and make buying a new home that much easier. Here are a few of them:

  • Find out if your bank has a loyalty program. Some banks will assist their customers with the closing costs if the mortgage is obtained through the bank.
  • Close at the end of the month. When a deal closes at the beginning of the month, per diem interest must be paid through the whole month. When a deal closes at the end of the month, like the 30th, then per diem interest for that month will not accrue.
  • Work the closing costs into the loan. The loan from the bank will not need to be paid off for years, and having the closing costs included in that loan can make it much easier to handle than forking over several thousand dollars right away.
  • Lastly, why not get the seller to pay the closing costs? Negotiating this into the deal can be a net-positive for both parties involved. The buyer is able to save a little money and the seller can deduct the closing costs from their taxes.

For information and a free consultation, please feel free to give me a call.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

Are you Ready for Your First Home?

NewHome

Buying your first home can be an exhilarating experience. After renting for years, you’re finally going to own your own home. One of the questions most people ask themselves when they begin to think about buying their first home is if they can afford it. There is another question, though, that you might want to ask yourself and it isn’t as obvious. That question is: am I ready to buy my first home? In order to figure that out, you may need to take a few of the following under consideration.

  • Do I plan to stay in this area? People move all the time, and buying a home doesn’t necessarily preclude moving at some point in the future. But, if you move too quickly, you likely won’t have built up enough equity in the home and could very well take a loss when and if you choose to sell it.

  • Am I ready for the responsibility? One of the wonderful things about renting an apartment is that the renter is not responsible for much, apart from paying their rent on time. If something breaks, maintenance can fix it. If the grounds need manicuring, the rental company has landscapers that will take care of it. When you own your own home, all of this responsibility is on you. Appliance repairs, lawn, and building maintenance can be a lot of work for someone who isn’t ready.

This blog is by no means designed to scare you from buying your first home. The peace and comfort of walking into a house that is yours, and yours alone, can make the added responsibility more than worth it. The point is just to bring to light the many things one must consider before finally making their first purchase.

For information and a free consultation, please feel free to give me a call.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

Home Not Selling? Re-List!

ForSaleSign

Think back to when you were in school. Were you ever the last one picked during gym class? If so, then you know it’s no fun. Nobody likes to be the last one picked; not in school, and definitely not in the real estate market. When a home sits for too long with a “For Sale” sign on the lawn, it can garner a negative reputation. If you feel your home has been on the market for too long, it might be time to pull it from the market, reassess the situation, and eventually re-list it.

Re-listing a home after a certain amount of time (it will vary from state-to-state) will allow it to be tagged as a “new listing” once again, and be rid of any previous reputation, if it had one. However, simply re-listing a home that’s been on the market for a while may not be enough in and of itself to attract new buyers. When your home is off the market, you may want to rethink the price and make sure that the price you’re asking for is near the market value of the home. Also, re-listing the home with a new feature can draw some much-needed positive attention to the home.

Lastly, pay attention to the photos of your home. Were they taken on a cloudy day? If so, retake them when it’s sunny because clouds can often make rooms seem too dark. Do the photographs of the rooms contain furniture, books, or other things that could be considered “clutter?” Make sure the photos of your home look inviting, and don’t contain too many of your personal items. You want prospective buyers to imagine their own things in the home.

For information and a free consultation, please feel free to give me a call.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

Buy A Home in 2015 and Enjoy Tax Breaks!

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Mortgage rates are still in a good place, and there are a lot of homes available for prospective buyers. If you need any additional incentive to purchase a home in 2015, how about these 3 tax breaks?

  • Deductible Points are a pretty standard tax break, but in 2015 it might be a good time to buy some points. One point can lower your interest rate by about .25%, and with interest rates around 3.6% for a 30-year loan, purchasing a couple points can bring your interest rates even lower. Additionally, points are considered a type of interest, and thus they are tax-deductible.

  • In an era in which the country is trying to be more energy-efficient, home buyers in 2015 can write off 30% of the cost of any upgrades on energy-saving systems they install in their homes. The Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, as it’s called, includes geothermal heat pumps, solar panels, wind turbines and fuel cell properties.

  • Lastly, there’s the fact that you no longer have to rent a home. Renters don’t get anywhere near the tax breaks that homeowners do. Apart from that, rent has the tendency to fluctuate – and by fluctuate, I mean rise, from year to year. As a matter of fact, The Wall Street Journal noted that rent has generally gone up nearly 16% in the last 5 years alone. A mortgage, on the other hand, is much easier to deal with.

For information and a free consultation, please feel free to give me a call.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

What Type of Home is Right for You?

When you’re looking for a place to live, it’s important to find the right kind of home for YOU. What works with your lifestyle?

There are several different kinds of homes to choose from and knowing what you’re looking for beforehand can save you and your real estate agent a lot of time. Here are a few common terms and definitions that might help you narrow your search.

Single-Family Home

A single family home is labeled such because it stands on its own and is not connected to any other houses the way condos or duplexes are. There are many different styles of single-family homes, from ranch-style to castles.

Multifamily Home

Multifamily homes are exactly what they sound like: homes set up to house more than one family. These are homes that will have separate living areas, bathrooms, kitchens, etc., but they’re all located under the same roof. An old home that has been divided into several smaller apartments is a good example of a multifamily home. If you value peace and quiet and privacy, you might consider something else.

Duplex

Duplexes are different from multifamily homes in that they are, for all intents and purposes, separate houses except that they share a wall. Duplexes can be built side by side, or one on top of the other.

Condominium

Condos are more or less like living in an apartment, except you own the home. Perks to living in a condo instead of a single-family home are that many communal areas are maintained by a homeowners association. Unfortunately, the down-side to living in a condo can be the homeowners association. Some HOAs can be extremely picky, and are often capable of fining residents for infractions.

Know what you want before you begin your search. You’ll be happier and your real estate agent will be able to locate the type of home that’s best for you.

For information and a free consultation, please feel free to give me a call.

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292

TOP OF YOUR TO DO LIST: Qualify An Appraiser

Whether you’re interested in purchasing a home, or you’re selling one of your own, an appraiser can be an indispensable tool.

The appraiser’s job is to determine the value of the property and there are a lot of factors that can influence the outcome. The appraisal takes a few hours, and if you want to get top-dollar for your home or ensure that you’re not overpaying for one you want to buy, hiring a good appraiser is key. Don’t leave it to guesswork!

What is it?

So, how do you know an appraiser is qualified? If you’re a buyer, your lender will usually choose an appraiser from a list of qualified individuals that they work with. If you’re a seller, make sure that the appraiser you’re hiring is properly licensed and certified. Not every state requires certification and a little research can go a long way.As far as paying your appraiser goes, most loan agreements include a fee that covers an appraiser for individuals looking to buy a home. In cases where a loan agreement does not cover the cost of an appraiser, the buyers will pay the appraisal fee in the closing costs.

For those selling a home, it is often wise to pay an appraiser out-of-pocket to back your selling price. As far as price goes, the fee for an appraiser can run anywhere between $300 and $600, but you could lose thousands if you devalue your property!

Tripp Jones Real Estate for Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys, Call 661-733-4555 or 818-527-6292