A Guide to VA Loans

Military

Image source: Shutterstock

VA loans provide a path toward homeownership for active service and veteran personnel and their families. The following serves as a guide to understanding what they are, who they are available to, and what types of loans are available to them.

VA loans can be confusing, so talk with your Windermere agent as you prepare to discuss your options with your lender. “Even people in the military have misconceptions about (VA loans),” said Windermere agent and Veteran Gervon Simon in a recent episode of our “Ask An Agent” series.

 

What are VA Loans?

The VA loan program was established by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help active service members, veterans, and surviving spouses become homeowners. VA loans are backed by the federal government yet provided by private lenders such as banks and mortgage companies. VA loans can be used to buy, build, or improve a home, or to refinance a current home loan.

 

How do VA Loans work?

VA loans have appealing characteristics for homeowners including lower-than-average mortgage rates, zero down payment on the purchase price, no-prepayment penalties, limited closing costs, and no Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). They are typically easier to qualify for than standard home loans. With VA-backed loans, they guarantee a portion of the loan from a private lender. This means less risk for the lender, often resulting in more favorable terms for the homeowner. You do not have to be a first-time homebuyer to receive a VA loan. VA loan limits vary by county, so be sure to work with your Windermere agent to determine the limit in your area.

 

Which loans are available?

 

Purchase Loan

  • VA-backed purchase loans may be used to buy a single-family home, condo, manufactured home, or land. They also may be used to make energy-efficient changes to your home. Additionally, you can use a purchase loan to build a new home.
  • They offer no down payment, as long as the home’s sales price does not exceed its appraised value.
  • There is no need for PMI or mortgage insurance premiums (MIP).

 

Native American Direct Loan (NADL)

  • For Veterans who are either Native American or have a Native American spouse, the NADL can help to buy, build, or improve a home on federal trust land.
  • Beyond basic requirements of eligibility and credit standards, to be considered for the loan your tribal government must have an agreement—or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)—with the VA. For more information on MOUs, visit this page: MOU Info

 

Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL)

  • The IRRRL is a refinancing tool for those with VA-backed home loans that are looking to reduce their monthly mortgage payments.
  • The IRRRL replaces a current loan, giving homeowners the ability to stabilize their repayment plans.
  • A VA funding fee may be required. Loan interest and closing fees will be charged by your lender but including these costs in your IRRRL will help you avoid paying the costs upfront.

 

Cash-out refinance loan:

  • The cash-out refinance loan allows homeowners to take cash out of their home equity or refinance a non-VA loan into a VA-backed loan.
  • In addition to your Certificate of Eligibility (COE), you’ll need to provide additional federal income tax information to your lender.
  • A home appraisal will be ordered by your lender. Similar to an IRRRL, a VA funding fee may be charged at closing. Follow their closing process and pay all closing costs.

 

For more information on the different types of VA Loans, eligibility, and more, visit the Veterans Affairs website here: VA Loans

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Buyer Beware: Is That House For Sale Haunted?

Haunted House

Image Source: Canva

A trope as old as horror movies: a family moves into a beautiful house that they bought for well under market value. They’ve put all their savings into the move, and they’re looking for a fresh start. When they meet the neighbors and other townsfolk, they quickly learn that there’s a history to the home that they weren’t aware of.

When they start to experience the abnormal, it’s easy to brush off as new home jitters. The children who hear noises in the closet, and a husband who starts sleepwalking, are chalked up to stress and anxiety from the move. It’s only when the experiences escalate beyond control that the family finally realizes the extent of the haunting.

While sharing a home with the supernatural can be a selling point for some buyers, it’s quite the opposite for others. In fact, a 2017 survey by Realtor.com found that 33% of people were open to living in a haunted house, 25% would consider it, but 42% said it was a deal-breaker. So how do you make sure you’re fully informed about a home’s history? Knowing the right questions to ask is the first step:

 

Ask to see the seller disclosure form

In the famous 1991 case Stambovsky v. Ackley, the new homeowner, Jeffrey Stambovsky, won a lawsuit against the previous owner for not disclosing the history of hauntings.

In this case, the previous owner had published stories about the family’s experiences in Reader’s Digest and their local newspaper. In her writings, she explained several interactions with ghostly beings in the home, including finding that her children had been given rings, which would later disappear, bed shaking, and conversations with the floating specters.

The court took this evidence and ruled the “defendant is estopped to deny [the ghost’s] existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.” Setting a new standard, this case created a basis for future seller disclosers. In this instance, they found that the history of the home, and the seller’s experiences in the home, would have influenced the marketability, and therefore, omitting these facts was unfair to the buyer.

Fast forward to 2019, there is not a specific section on seller disclosure forms for hauntings or ghostly sightings, but thanks to Stambovsky v. Ackley, sellers in many states are obligated by law to disclose things that affect a house’s marketability.

 

Ask Google about the history of the home

In 1991 when Mr. Stambovsky bought his haunted house, search engines didn’t exist. Today, we’re lucky enough to have things like Google which would have found the previous home owner’s stories in mere seconds. Search keywords like the address or town name, and words like “haunted” or “ghosts”, as well as “murder” or “news report” should help you start your dive into the history of the home.

 

Ask the neighbors and your agent  

This is where nosey neighbors come in handy. When you find a place you’re serious about, contact the neighbors to see what they know about the home’s history. The same goes for your real estate agent; he or she can reach out to the listing agent to see if there is anything haunting you should know about prior to buying. While many states don’t require sellers to disclose paranormal activity or deaths in the home, if asked, all real estate agents must, by law, answer truthfully.

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The Remote Worker’s Home Buying Process

Home Office

Image Source: Getty Images

The pandemic’s influences on home life are far-ranging, prompting buyers to look at homeownership through a new lens. Remote work has created a paradigm shift in the wants and needs of homebuyers. Here’s what the remote worker should keep in mind when looking to buy.

Location

The location, location, location cliché has taken on new meaning for homebuyers who work from home. Because remote work gives us the opportunity to work from anywhere, home searches are expanding. Work commute times typically play a significant role in the home buying process; however, many buyers now have the option to view homes further away from their places of work.

Those who previously dreamed of the quiet life, but didn’t want the commute that came with it, are now able to make a move toward a more suburban environment. If you prefer to be away from the hustle and bustle of a downtown area but don’t want to feel isolated, search for properties in the suburbs with active town centers.

The proper space

When COVID-19 began sending workers home in the early months of 2020, homeowners worldwide discovered their varied level of preparedness for remote work. Some had spacious home offices and were able to make the transition easily. Others had to create makeshift workspaces out of living rooms or bedrooms. What we have learned is that a dedicated workspace is paramount to productive remote work, its importance emphasized by the unknown timeline of a return to working in-person in many parts of the country.

Before you buy: 
  • When searching for homes, understand that a home office situated in an open floor plan is more prone to distraction.
  • Look for features such as an additional bedroom, finished basement, or bonus room that offer ample space to create your remote work environment.
  • Having a designated space you can associate solely with work will not only drive your focus but helps to balance your home and work life. It allows you to wrap up the workday, leave your home office, and easily transition back into the goings-on of your household.
After you buy: 
  • Light it up: You’ll want plenty of light in your home office to stay fresh throughout the workweek. If you are next to a window, let in as much natural light as possible. Add in desk and floor lamps to brighten your space.
  • Work comfortably: While working at home, it’s easy to sit in one place for hours on end. Shop for comfortable desk chairs that provide proper lumbar support. Explore alternatives to desk chairs like yoga balls and standing desks.
  • Personalize: Adding personal touches will help to make your home office feel comfortable. Inspirational quotes, your favorite artwork, and pictures of loved ones are all types of décor that will keep you inspired in your remote work.

For all these considerations and more, talk with your Windermere agent about how your remote work is shifting where you’re looking for a home and what you’re looking for when it’s time to move there.

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Buying with Your Pets in Mind!

Pets

Image source: Canva

For many of us, pets play a central role in our home life, so taking into account what is best for them when buying a home is important for both their happiness and that of your entire household.

Your neighborhood

When looking for homes that are well suited to both you and your furry companion, consider the area surrounding the home. If your pet is an indoor/outdoor animal, it’s important to examine the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood. If your pet spends time outside, a busy neighborhood could be dangerous, and depending on the level of traffic, he or she may need to be on a leash at all times.

How conducive is the neighborhood for taking your pet on walks? If you frequently walk your pet, look for neighborhoods with sidewalks. If your pet enjoys being off-leash, consider prioritizing homes with green belts, parks, trails, or designated off-leash areas nearby. It’s also a good idea to identify where the local emergency pet centers and veterinarian clinics are to insure there is sufficient medical care for your pet in proximity to where you live.

Your House

  • Size: Is the house big enough? Depending on the type of pet, or breed of animal, space may be the most important factor in picking a pet-friendly home. If you are moving into a bigger space than you were in previously, understand your pet will likely take to the additional room differently. On the flip side, if you are downsizing, be mindful of how it might impact your pet.
  • Yard: If you have a pet that spends time outside, it’s important to pay particular attention to the yard. Is it large enough? Does it have a secure fence? Is there easy access between the home and the yard?
  • Flooring: Pet-friendly flooring can be tough. Surfaces that can be repaired or refinished when scratched are typically the best options for homes with pets. Sealing additional layers will build up the resistance to damage from paws, claws, and general pet wear and tear.
  • Carpet: Cats are notorious for clawing and scratching at carpet, and dogs are infamous for bringing the outdoors in with them. Consider carpeting of a lesser quality in the area where your pets spend most of the time, or search for carpets that are stain-resistant and easy to clean.
  • Stairs: Older pets and multileveled homes are at odds. Consider the age of your pet and how active you expect them to be so that you don’t find yourself in a position where you’re having to carry your pet between floors.

HOA?

When looking at a home, ask whether or not it is a part of a Homeowners Association and what restrictions may apply to the property. For instance, certain HOA developments limit the number and/or type of pets per household.

Most pet owners take the needs of their pets seriously. In fact, in a recent Realtor.com survey, 75 percent of the respondents said they would not accept an otherwise perfect home if it didn’t meet the needs of their pet. When it comes down to it, prioritizing your pet when buying a home not only insures your pet’s well-being, but that of your household, as well.

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Questions to Ask During Your Virtual Home Tour

Thanks to COVID-19, the new reality is that many open houses and home tours are being conducted virtually. For prospective home buyers, this new territory brings an added element to prepare for in the home buying process. Some of the questions that should be asked in a virtual home tour parallel those of in-person tours, but others are unique to today’s virtual world.

 

Could you zoom in?

  • Sometimes it can be difficult to get a true glimpse at what you want to see in a room. Asking the agent to zoom in on specific features is commonplace in virtual home tours, and they understand this is part of the viewer experience. Don’t hesitate to ask multiple times. Getting a better look at everything you want to see will help you feel like you’ve gotten the most out of your virtual tour.

 

How many square feet are in this room?

  • Virtual tours can slightly distort space, making it tough to gauge the size. The room-to-room square footage is information the agent is sure to have handy. Since you can’t be there in person, it will help you piece together the virtual visuals with the sense of physical space that we’re all accustomed to feeling in the places we live.

 

What color is that?

  • In the smartphone era, and computer era at large, we have come to understand that digital representations of color are not always true to the eye. Ask the agent to confirm specific colors so you can plan accordingly. Have a color swatch on hand or look the colors up online as you go through the tour.

 

When were the appliances last updated?

  • The importance of this question rings true in past, present, and future. Knowing the state of the home’s appliances, and the likelihood and timing of when they will need replacement, is vital information for both assessing the move-in readiness of the home and understanding what costs might lie ahead.

 

Has the seller provided an inspection?

  • This is another example of a critical question, whether your home tour is virtual or physical. If the seller has already done an inspection, ask the agent to lead you to any areas of concern based on the inspector’s findings. If there is anything that has not yet been addressed by the seller, have your agent ask what their plan is for making the necessary repairs/updates.

 

When is the offer review date?

  • Understanding the seller’s timeline for reviewing and accepting offers will help guide your decision-making process and allow you to strategize based on the timeline.

 

Whether your home tour is physical or virtual, getting the information you need to make an informed decision remains paramount. Although there is no substitute for physically being in the home you are looking to buy, keeping these questions in mind will position you well as you progress through the home buying journey.

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Coronavirus Protections for Home Sellers

 

Before you decide to sell, be sure to seriously consider the risks of putting your home on the market right now. Talk with your Windermere agent to discuss your options.

 

❱ While open houses generate interest and traffic, groups are hard to control, and we want to practice “social distancing” when we can. We recommend only allowing showings by appointment; this ensures that only serious buyers enter your home, reducing possible spreading of the virus.

 

❱ Consider vacating the property from list date to offer review date by staying with family or friends or at a short-term rental.

 

❱ Wipe down surfaces following every showing of your home.

 

❱ If you start to feel sick or have knowledge that you have been in contact with someone suspected to have COVID-19, take your home off the market immediately.

 

❱ Ask your agent to pre-screen buyers before they enter your home to ensure they aren’t ill and have not potentially been exposed to the virus.

 

❱ Place a placard in the entry of your home requesting that any person who has recently been ill or may have been in the company of someone who is suspected to have COVID-19 to not enter your home.

 

❱ Provide hand sanitizer throughout your home.

 

❱ It’s common for sellers to provide protective booties for buyers who tour the home; consider also providing disposable gloves.

 

❱ Leave interior doors open so that buyers who tour the home don’t have to touch the handles when entering rooms.

 

❱ Disinfect your home with proper cleaning supplies after every open house.

 

Find our Coronavirus Protections for Home Buyers here:

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Coronavirus Protections for Home Buyers

 

As the situation develops with the COVID-19 pandemic, Windermere Real Estate is dedicated to taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus while continuing to work with home buyers. To help with this process, here are some ways you as a home buyer can keep yourself and others safe during the buying process.

 

WHEN TOURING HOMES

❱ Only tour the property if you feel healthy.

❱ Ask your Windermere agent to show you the property instead of attending an open house.

❱ Drive separately from your agent to the property.

❱ Be considerate of the seller’s home and wash or sanitize your hands before entry, touching as little as necessary. While many sellers will likely provide it, bring your own hand sanitizer and use before and after you tour the home. You might also consider wearing disposable gloves for further safety.

❱ Ask your agent to confirm with the seller’s agent that they have not recently been sick or in contact with someone suspected of having COVID-19.

❱ Sellers often ask you to take off your shoes when you tour their home or wear protective booties that have been provided. Consider bringing your own booties and throwing them away when you’ve finished touring.

❱ Be mindful of how much you touch things in the home and minimize contact with doors and hand railings.

❱ Reduce the amount of time spent with other people in the same room. This “social distancing” practice can curb person-to-person spread.

DO NOT TOUR HOMES IF

❱ If you are currently self-quarantined because of illness or other reasons, you should not tour homes in person. Ask your Windermere agent to video chat with you while they tour the home so you can see it virtually.

❱ Do not view homes when you’re sick, feeling like you’re about to be sick, or getting over an illness.

❱ We do not recommend touring homes after returning from international travel or travel that exposed you to a large group of people in close quarters, like large events.

 

Find our Coronavirus Protections for Home Sellers here:

The post Coronavirus Protections for Home Buyers appeared first on Windermere Colorado REALTORS.

Coronavirus Protections for Home Buyers

 

As the situation develops with the COVID-19 pandemic, Windermere Real Estate is dedicated to taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus while continuing to work with home buyers. To help with this process, here are some ways you as a home buyer can keep yourself and others safe during the buying process.

 

WHEN TOURING HOMES

❱ Only tour the property if you feel healthy.

❱ Ask your Windermere agent to show you the property instead of attending an open house.

❱ Drive separately from your agent to the property.

❱ Be considerate of the seller’s home and wash or sanitize your hands before entry, touching as little as necessary. While many sellers will likely provide it, bring your own hand sanitizer and use before and after you tour the home. You might also consider wearing disposable gloves for further safety.

❱ Ask your agent to confirm with the seller’s agent that they have not recently been sick or in contact with someone suspected of having COVID-19.

❱ Sellers often ask you to take off your shoes when you tour their home or wear protective booties that have been provided. Consider bringing your own booties and throwing them away when you’ve finished touring.

❱ Be mindful of how much you touch things in the home and minimize contact with doors and hand railings.

❱ Reduce the amount of time spent with other people in the same room. This “social distancing” practice can curb person-to-person spread.

DO NOT TOUR HOMES IF

❱ If you are currently self-quarantined because of illness or other reasons, you should not tour homes in person. Ask your Windermere agent to video chat with you while they tour the home so you can see it virtually.

❱ Do not view homes when you’re sick, feeling like you’re about to be sick, or getting over an illness.

❱ We do not recommend touring homes after returning from international travel or travel that exposed you to a large group of people in close quarters, like large events.

 

Find our Coronavirus Protections for Home Sellers here:

The post Coronavirus Protections for Home Buyers appeared first on Windermere Colorado REALTORS.

Finding Your New Home in Four Steps

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or you currently own and are looking for a new home, the ideas below will help you better navigate that all-important first step: Finding a property that is both appealing and affordable.

 

The search for a new home always starts out with a lot of excitement. But if you haven’t prepared, frustration can soon set in, especially in a competitive real estate market. The biggest mistake is jumping into a search unfocused, just hoping to “see what’s available.” Instead, we recommend you first take some time to work through the four steps below.

 

Step 1: Talk to your agent

Even if you’re just thinking about buying or selling a house, start by consulting your real estate agent. An agent can give you an up-to-the-minute summary of the current real estate market, as well as mortgage industry trends. They can also put you in touch with all the best resources and educate you about the next steps, plus much more. If you are interested in finding an experienced agent in your area, we can connect you here.

 

Step 2: Decide how much home you can afford

It may sound like a drag to start your home search with a boring financial review, but when all is said and done, you’ll be glad you did. With so many people competing to buy what is available, it’s far more efficient to focus your search on the properties you can afford. A meeting or two with a reputable mortgage agent should tell you everything you need to know.

 

Step 3: Envision your future

Typically, it takes at least five years for a home purchase to start paying off financially—which means—the better your new home suits you, the longer you’ll most likely remain living there.

Thinking of your near future, what life events do you anticipate in the next five or six years? If you’re planning to add to the family or change careers, or even rent out a portion of your home to others, share this information with your real estate agent. They will be able to help you evaluate your current and future needs to help find the best home that you can grow into.

 

Step 4: Visualize your ideal home

When it comes to this step, be realistic. It’s easy to get carried away dreaming about all the home features you want. Try listing everything on a piece of paper, then choose the five “must-haves,” and the five “really-wants.”

For more tips, as well as advice geared specifically to your situation, connect with an experienced Windermere Real Estate agent by clicking here.

The post Finding Your New Home in Four Steps appeared first on Windermere Colorado REALTORS.

Finding Your New Home in Four Steps

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or you currently own and are looking for a new home, the ideas below will help you better navigate that all-important first step: Finding a property that is both appealing and affordable.

 

The search for a new home always starts out with a lot of excitement. But if you haven’t prepared, frustration can soon set in, especially in a competitive real estate market. The biggest mistake is jumping into a search unfocused, just hoping to “see what’s available.” Instead, we recommend you first take some time to work through the four steps below.

 

Step 1: Talk to your agent

Even if you’re just thinking about buying or selling a house, start by consulting your real estate agent. An agent can give you an up-to-the-minute summary of the current real estate market, as well as mortgage industry trends. They can also put you in touch with all the best resources and educate you about the next steps, plus much more. If you are interested in finding an experienced agent in your area, we can connect you here.

 

Step 2: Decide how much home you can afford

It may sound like a drag to start your home search with a boring financial review, but when all is said and done, you’ll be glad you did. With so many people competing to buy what is available, it’s far more efficient to focus your search on the properties you can afford. A meeting or two with a reputable mortgage agent should tell you everything you need to know.

 

Step 3: Envision your future

Typically, it takes at least five years for a home purchase to start paying off financially—which means—the better your new home suits you, the longer you’ll most likely remain living there.

Thinking of your near future, what life events do you anticipate in the next five or six years? If you’re planning to add to the family or change careers, or even rent out a portion of your home to others, share this information with your real estate agent. They will be able to help you evaluate your current and future needs to help find the best home that you can grow into.

 

Step 4: Visualize your ideal home

When it comes to this step, be realistic. It’s easy to get carried away dreaming about all the home features you want. Try listing everything on a piece of paper, then choose the five “must-haves,” and the five “really-wants.”

For more tips, as well as advice geared specifically to your situation, connect with an experienced Windermere Real Estate agent by clicking here.

The post Finding Your New Home in Four Steps appeared first on Windermere Colorado REALTORS.