Incline Village Real Estate and Community News

July 1, 2016


Homebuilder confidence in June reached its highest since January 2016, according to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index. Their outlook on current sales conditions, sales expectations in the next six months, and buyer traffic were all positive.

The reason might be groundbreaking on single-family homes. The Commerce Department reported May Housing Starts on single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, rose 0.3 percent. Housing Starts on multifamily units declined. Building Permits, a sign of future construction, also rose 0.7 percent in May.

Home prices also continue to heat up. Data analytics firm CoreLogic reported that home prices rose 6.2 percent from April 2015 to April 2016, while month-over-month saw a 1.8 percent gain. This trend may level out with more homes available on the market.

Fed Doubles Down on Dovish Stance

Although housing continues to be a bright spot in the economy, other aspects have not consistently faired so well.

After weeks of talking up the economy, Fed Chair Janet Yellen was dovish following June's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. She noted economic growth was "relatively weak" in late 2015 and early 2016, job creation had slowed markedly, and household spending slowed despite increased household income and consumer sentiment.

And if that weren't enough, speculation and uncertainty leading up to Britain's June 23 vote to exit or remain in the European Union caused volatility in markets around the world.

On a positive economic note, Retail Sales grew for the second straight month, rising 0.5 percent in May, above expectations. Sales at clothing stores, online retailers, restaurants and bars all grew solidly. And Retail Sales were up 2.5 percent from a year ago.

The Bottom Line

The economy is important for homebuyers and homeowners. When the economy is doing well, investment dollars usually move into the more risky Stock markets, so investors can take advantage of gains. When the economy is not doing well, investment dollars typically are moved to the less risky Bond markets. Mortgage Backed Securities are a type of Bond tied to home loan rates. When Bond prices improve, home loan rates can as well. The reverse is also true.

For now, home loan rates remain near historic lows. If you have any questions about loan rates or products, please contact me.

Posted in Real Estate News
June 27, 2016


After months of divisive rhetoric about Britain's exit from the European Union, voters took to the polls and said "no" to staying with the 28-country economic and political partnership.

Investors had been playing it safe for weeks, moving their dollars into less risky Bond markets as speculation over the potential economic fallout amped up. Why is this important? Home loan rates are tied to a type of Bond called Mortgage Backed Securities. When Bond prices improve, home loan rates tend to improve as well, like they have in recent weeks. The reverse is also true. Markets around the world will likely be volatile for some time as they digest this news, and Bonds and home loan rates could continue to benefit from the uncertainty .

May home sales were a mixed bag. Existing Home Sales remained solid while New Home Sales suffered quite the setback.

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that May Existing Home Sales rose by 1.8 percent to an annual rate of 5.53 million, above the 5.50 million expected. The median home price jumped 4.7 percent from a year ago to $239,700. Existing Home Sales also were up 4.7 percent from May of 2015.

On the other hand, May New Home Sales fell from an eight-month high due to weakness in the South, Northeast and West, the Commerce Department reported. New Home Sales fell 6 percent from April to an annual rate of 551,000 units, below the 560,000 expected. April's figure was revised lower to 586,000 from the 619,000 originally reported, but was still the highest amount since February 2008.

Posted in Market Updates
June 20, 2016


Incline Village and Crystal Bay real estate sales have been moving along at a solid pace this year. Sales of single family homes in particular have been unusually strong.

During the first 5 months of 2016, sales of houses in units are up nearly 30%. Sales of condos and freestanding condos are about even with the pace of 2015, and that was an exceptionally big year for those 2 categories.

As of this writing, a total of 63 houses have closed escrow as compared to 52 in 2015. The median price of houses that have sold this year is $980,000.

The sweet spot in 2016 is for houses priced between $750,000 and $1.7 million. The inventory for lower-priced single-family homes is rapidly disappearing.

We have seen 20 sales of houses priced under $800,000, and there are only 16 homes in that price range currently listed for sale on the MLS.

In 2015, there were 54 sales of houses under $800,000. With demand remaining strong and lower-priced homes getting snapped up, it is becoming increasingly difficult for bargain-hunting buyers to find anything that meets their criteria.

Long-time owners of houses less than 2,000 sq. ft. may wish to consider putting their properties on the market while demand is high and the supply is low.

The condo market is also suffering from a relative shortage of inventory. There have already been 72 sales of condos in 2016 and there are just 78 condos for sale at the present time.

Prices continue to march slowly but steadily upward for this segment of our market. Half of the condos that have sold this year had final sale prices between $280,000 and $485,000. We anticipate seeing more activity for condos in the $500,000 to $800,000 price range as we get further into summertime.

There is still a shortage of 3 bedroom condos with a garage at low elevation. While we have seen a couple of properties come on the market in Skylake and Third Creek, a few of these sellers have been testing the waters at prices that are above where we thought we might see sales at this point in time.

However, a beautifully remodeled condo in Third Creek came on the market at 789K and got an accepted offer fairly quickly. Whether more units in the complex will follow suit is yet to be determined.

With over 60 properties currently in escrow and sales activity continuing at a solid pace, we feel the market will continue to show strength during the busy summer season.

Lake Tahoe is finally above the natural rim, which means the boat ramps that were closed last summer will be in full swing this year. Vacation rental bookings are excellent and we expect to see a larger numbers of visitors this year than at any time since 2012.

If you are considering purchasing a property in Incline Village or Crystal Bay, it’s to your advantage to write an offer during the month of June rather than waiting until the crowds arrive in July and August.

As a buyer, you will have less competition during the next couple of weeks. We are seeing more multiple offer situations in 2016 than at any time since we came out of the recession. This trend is likely to accelerate as we move into the peak season for real estate sales this summer.

Posted in Market Updates
June 2, 2016


We spend a lot of time scrutinizing the factors and financial decisions that affect our credit scores, but we realize it’s important to educate consumers what WON’T hurt their credit scores. But as you go down this list, remember that there are different credit agencies and scoring models that treat things differently, and we always advocate paying all of your bills and debts on time. That being said, here are 15 things that WON’T hurt your credit score:

1. Debit cards

Some people get confused because debit cards might have a Visa or MasterCard logo on them, but in fact they have nothing to do with loans and therefore don’t affect your credit score.

2. Income

While you may be asked how much money you make every time you fill out a loan or credit card application to determine your debt-to-income ratio, your income is not reported to the credit bureaus and has no bearing on your score.

3. Where you live or work

Where you live, where you work, and for whom is not a factor in your credit scoring, although you will find that information on your credit report.

4. Your age, race, religion, marital status, or sex

It’s against federal law to consider age, race, religion, marital status, or sex when making lending decisions – and that includes all credit scoring models. One distinction is that the federal CARD Act of 2009 does make it harder for people less than 21 years of age to obtain a credit card, as they were trying to curb rampant advertising and targeting of college kids.

5. Checking your credit report

So many people are reticent to check their own credit report because they’re worried about their score going down, but that’s an absolute myth. In fact, an inquiry made by the consumer is a soft inquiry, and doesn’t factor into their score at all. Side note – you also don’t have to pay for your credit report, as each of the three big credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax, allow you to access a free credit report once a year.

6. Your taxes

How much you owe the Internal Revenue service - and even if you pay your taxes late - won't damage your credit. However, if you are so delinquent that the IRS files a tax lien, it will wreak havoc on your credit score (and probably your life!)

7. Going to jail

We certainly hope you don’t land behind bars, but it’s worth noting that incarceration has no affect on credit scoring. But remember that civil judgments of any kind – including bankruptcies, judgments, and other liens do show up on your credit report.

8. Public assistance and welfare

Receiving food stamps, disability, welfare, or any other form of public assistance is not reported to the credit bureaus and won’t impact your scores.

9. Paying rent

Sending a big check to your landlord on time the first of every month makes you a responsible tenant – but it doesn’t make your credit score better. However, like many of the items on this list, if you fail to pay your rent and get sued by a landlord or creditor, or the debt is sent to collections, it will show up on your report and sink your score.

10. Utility payments

The same applies for utility payments of electricity, heat, water, etc. – they don’t report to the credit bureaus unless you don’t pay and they go to collections.

The same is true for cell phones, insurance premiums, and other common bills.

11. Your net worth

Your income isn’t reported to the bureaus, and neither is your net worth. That means that you could hypothetically have a million dollars cash in the bank but it makes no difference at all to your credit score (but it will help you immeasurably when applying for new loans!)

12. Shopping for a loan in a short time frame

The credit bureaus realize that when consumers are looking to buy a home, car, applying for student loans, etc. they will most likely “shop around,” filling out applications with multiple lenders to get the best rate and terms. But as long as you do this responsible in short time frames, it won’t hurt your score. That window is reportedly 45-days for the new FICO scoring model, but only 14 days for VantageScore.

13. Small debts

The latest version of FICO doesn’t factor in debts less than $100, and with VantageScore 3.0, even collections less than $250 won’t hurt your score.

14. Bank account overdrafts

Did you bounce a check or overdraft your bank account? Don’t panic because it typically doesn’t affect your credit score at all (unless you were making a loan payment with that bank account, in which case you’ll have a late payment!)

15. Child support and alimony

According to both FICO and VantageScore, any obligation reporting as child or family support does not factor into credit score calculations. But of course you have to pay on time to avoid liens, collections, and your score dropping accordingly.

Posted in Community News
May 11, 2016


All home sellers hope their place will fetch a big, fat price. And while you can’t control everything that determines a house’s market rate—like, say, the state of the stock market or the quality of your local school district—there are plenty of things within your power that can nudge that number higher. A lot higher, in fact.

Granted, manipulating your home’s selling price will take some work, and usually some money. But time and again, these proven strategies make a big difference in final sales prices. Try a few, then prepare to do a victory dance on the big day you get your offer(s).


Yes, overall renovations to your home will nudge up the price, although not always as much as you might hope: According to Remodeling magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report, you’ll get back an average of 64% on whatever upgrades you paid for. But that ROI varies widely based on what type of improvement you do. The most profitable upgrade is—drum roll—insulating your attic. It may not be all that sexy, but you’ll recoup 116.9% of your costs. It’s the only home reno in the report that redeems more money than you spend!


You Realtor® has probably already told you: One surefire way to jack up your sale price is to knock ’em dead before they even reach your front door. So spend some time and do it for real. Improving your home’s curb appeal can increase your sale price by up to 17%, a Texas Tech University study found. Basic landscaping such as trimming hedges, pulling weeds, and pruning trees is a must.

You can add pops of color by planting flowers in the front yard and placing potted plants on each side of the front door, says Kimberly Sands, a broker at Coldwell Banker Advantage in Apex, NC. Consider installing white panel lighting along railings, fences, or doorsteps to make your home’s exterior visually appealing for evening showings. Other low-cost projects to improve your home’s appearance include putting a fresh coat of paint on the front door, updating the house numbers, and adding porch furniture.


It goes without saying that a higher square footage fetches a higher sum, but you can’t do anything about that, right? Not so fast: Your home’s actual specs don’t matter as much as how spacious rooms look when you’re standing in them. So be sure to create an open, inviting space. That entails removing large pieces of furniture such as the oversize coffee table (it might look nice, but it could be blocking foot traffic).

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Not enough room in the garage to stow everything? Look into renting a storage unit, says Jennifer Baxter, associate broker at Coldwell Banker RMR in Suwanee, GA. If your home has beautiful hardwood floors, show them off by removing large rugs, and clear off your kitchen’s counter space by putting away blenders, coffee makers, toaster ovens, and other small appliances, she advises. Buyers are particularly attuned to closet space, so move off-season clothes into storage. “You want to give the illusion that your closet is so large that you can’t fill it,” she says.


Have “eclectic” design tastes? Your personal aesthetic might put off some buyers, so move all your knickknacks into storage and hire a home stager. It’s true that these professionals—who tweak your space to make it more appealing to buyers—aren’t cheap, but they can be well worth it.

On average, staged homes sell for a whopping 20% more money than nonstaged ones. Staging may be particularly important if you’re in the process of moving, and some rooms are vacant. Make sure your living room and kitchen are fully furnished, since they’re the most important rooms to buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors®’ 2015 Profile of Home Staging survey.


Maybe you painted your daughter’s room pink, or thought lime green was perfect for the master bedroom. (We all make mistakes!) However, boldly colored walls can turn off buyers, says Katie Wethman, a Washington, DC–based Realtor and founder of the Wethman Group. So consider hiring a professional to repaint the house throughout in a neutral color such as off-white or beige. Or if you have the time, you can cut costs by painting it yourself.

Posted in Selling Your Home
May 9, 2016


Getting a mortgage is a daunting prospect, which explains why so many people seem eager to pat your hand and say, “Let me give you a little advice.” Sure, those pearls of wisdom may come from an ocean of good intentions, but the suggestions might not necessarily be right for you. In fact, they could be dead wrong.

So before you take some friendly outside counsel as gospel, be sure to check it against our list of the worst mortgage advice people often give.


Why you might hear this: Hey, you’ve barely begun shopping for a home! There’s no need to get all serious about mortgages just yet. And besides, a mortgage pre-approval isn’t real anyway— your application isn’t reviewed by an underwriter, so it’s no guarantee you’ll get approved for a mortgage later. So why bother?

Why it’s bad advice: While a pre-approval might not be “official,” it will help you avoid major problems down the road.

“Getting pre-approved by a bank is one way to avoid the heartbreak that comes from falling in love with a house you can never buy,” says Maryalene LaPonsie of MoneyTalks. “It may also give you an edge if there are multiple offers for the same property. A seller will feel more confident selecting a bid from someone with a mortgage pre-approval rather than a person who hasn’t even begun the process.” ———


Why you might hear this: When it comes to convenience, you just can’t beat the bank you’re already using. Plus, since you have an existing relationship with it, it’ll give you the best rates, right?

Why it’s bad advice: You already know to shop around for a home. You need to do the same with your loan.

“Even though the big bank where I keep my checking and savings accounts claims they’ll give me better service and an easier application process, that may not always be true,” says Albert Tumpson, a banking and real estate attorney who owns several properties and refinances them every couple of years. “I’ve found more favorable terms with other venues. Always go with the most favorable terms.” ———


Why you might hear this: Because actually perusing all that mortgage paperwork will drive you insane! And besides, this is the standard contract that everyone gets. Just sign here, here, and here—and you’ll save yourself a ton of headaches.

Why it’s bad advice: Because that fine print contains some clauses that could cost you serious money!

“Take your time and go over every last word with a fine-toothed comb,” says Jamie, a homeowner who purchased her second home two years ago. She was astounded when her lender asked her to sign a mortgage contract involving hundreds of thousands of dollars without “bothering” to read the details. Jamie ended up taking several hours to go over the contract and found several items to dispute. So what if the process took a little longer? It was well worth the wait. ———


Why you might hear this: A lower interest rate means lower monthly payments. Duh.

Why it’s bad advice: Lower interest rates can have all sorts of strings attached—often in the form of an adjustable-rate mortgage.

ARMs are not always a bad thing, but just be on the alert when someone suggests an interest-only ARM, says Shant Khatchadourian, president of SKR Capital Group. “Interest-only ARMs can result in significant payment shock, especially if rates increase down the line and amortization kicks in.” In the past, as interest rates were dropping and home values were rising rapidly, interest-only ARMs worked well for some people—especially those who didn’t plan to stay in the home beyond the length of the loan’s first term. But although interest rates are low, they’re likely to rise soon, so beware. ———


Why you might hear this: Who doesn’t want a bigger and better house? Besides, a bank wouldn’t approve you for all that money unless you could afford to pay it back, right? Right?

Why it’s bad advice: It’s always wise to live slightly below your means, since you never know when life might pitch you a financial curveball, such as a layoff or medical problem.

“You can qualify for monthly payments up to 50% of your income these days,” says Khatchadourian. “But half of your gross income seems like quite a bit for most people, especially when they factor in taxes and insurance.”

So be sure to make a budget, decide what monthly payment you’re comfortable with, and stick to it.

Posted in Buying a Home
May 1, 2016


If you’re weighing the pros and cons of these two mortgage types, the first step is understanding exactly how they differ

Here’s what you need to know to evaluate your financing options.

Homebuyers have many decisions to weigh: Good school district in Fort Mill, SC, or an extra 2 acres of land 25 miles away? Gray or white paint in the living room? Should you ask the sellers to include the refrigerator or let it go with the sellers? But from a financial perspective, there’s one big decision you need to make first — and unlike an unfortunate paint color, if you make the wrong choice, it’s not a quick fix: You’ll have to decide whether you want a fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). If this is your first time buying a house, those may be foreign terms to you. If you’ve purchased a home in the past, the type of loan you got last time may not be the best option for this purchase.

Here’s how to decipher the differences between a fixed-rate mortgage and an ARM. Once you’ve gained a working knowledge of each option, use Trulia’s calculator to dig a little deeper into making a decision.

What is a fixed-rate mortgage?

A fixed-rate mortgage is the one you’re probably most familiar with: This type of mortgage lets you lock in your interest rate, so with a few minor exceptions, your monthly payment will remain the same over the life of the loan. Because of this predictability, if you have trouble budgeting, a fixed-rate mortgage might be your best option. “For some people, stability is important,” says Sylvia Gutierrez, a loan officer and author of Mortgage Matters: Demystifying the Loan Approval Maze.

So what’s the downside? You’ll probably have a higher interest rate on a fixed-rate mortgage than you would with an ARM. “If you want certainty, you are going to pay for it,” says Heather McRae, a senior loan officer at Chicago Financial Services Inc.

But you can save money with a fixed-rate mortgage if you can land a low interest rate. Your credit score and usage influences what interest rate you’re offered: The higher your score, the better your rate. Those with a credit score of 700 or above typically get the best interest rates on their mortgages. Finally, with fixed-rate mortgages, you have two main options: a 15-year term or a 30-year term. In most cases, a shorter term offers a lower interest rate, says Gutierrez. If you want a fixed-rate mortgage and you’ve had credit issues in the past, you might benefit from consulting a credit-counseling agency to help you repair your credit. Granted, it may take time to raise your score.

What’s an adjustable-rate mortgage?

An ARM is a mortgage that offers a lower fixed interest rate and payment for the initial period, but the rate can change over time, depending on market conditions. Since these loans are subject to changes in the market, an ARM borrower is essentially agreeing to unknown factors. “It’s a gamble,” says McRae. If you’re comfortable with payment flexibility and absorbing potentially higher rates, this could be your best option. McRae says ARMs can be ideal for investors who are interested in maximizing their property’s cash flow. “Since [ARMs] can provide a low monthly payment, they can ensure the investor receives the greatest margin between the monthly mortgage payment paid and the rent collected from their tenant,” she says.

An ARM may also be well-suited for buyers who plan to occupy the property as their primary residence only for a short time. A five-year ARM, for example, might be a good option if you’re planning to sell the property before that five-year period is up. The biggest drawback of this type of mortgage is that the rate can (and often does) increase after the fixed-rate period ends. The good news is, there are limits on just how high the rate can go. “The caps are an integral piece to choosing which adjustable-rate mortgage to go with,” says McRae. To see whether an ARM is right for you, ask the loan officer to provide a “worst-case scenario” for interest rate fluctuations, advises Staci Titsworth, regional manager of PNC Mortgage in Pittsburgh, PA. That can give you an idea of the highest amount you could have to write a check for — and then you can decide if your budget could cover it.

How do I choose between an ARM and a fixed-rate mortgage?

Now that you understand the differences, you can crunch some numbers to determine what type of loan is best for you. For example, if you get a 30-year fixed mortgage on a $200,000 loan at 4% interest, you’ll pay $955 per month and $107,804 in interest by the time those 30 years are up. Buy that same home with a seven-year ARM at an initial 3% interest rate, and your monthly payment drops to $843 for the first seven years of the loan. If you opt for the seven-year ARM and sell the home in five years, you would save $6,720 altogether — but if you stay in the home past seven years and the interest rate spikes, you could end up paying more in the long run.

Bottom line: Choosing an ARM over a fixed-rate mortgage can help you score a lower interest rate — and reduce your monthly payment — but only if you’re prepared to sell or refinance if interest rates start to have a negative impact on your finances

Posted in Buying a Home
April 19, 2016


To most of us, a credit score seems like a random trio of numbers determined by a complicated algorithm, but it represents much more to a lender who’s considering whether to approve your mortgage loan. A low credit score can indicate you’re a risky borrower, while a high score can significantly upgrade the mortgage terms you’re offered.

If you’re considering making the leap to homeownership, there’s more to think about than the curb appeal of those Springfield, IL, homes for sale — the health of your credit score tops the list. But even if your score teeters on the edge of dismal, there are steps you can take to speed up the credit repair process and improve your chances of landing a home with manageable loan terms.

What’s the minimum credit score for a mortgage?

The minimum credit score required to receive a loan depends in large part on the type of loan you’re considering. FHA loans have some of the lowest credit score requirements, at 580 with a 3.5% down payment. However, that doesn’t take other applicants out of the running; FHA lenders allow lower scores with a down payment of 10% or more. Veterans Affairs (VA) loans are a bit trickier. While the VA doesn’t have a minimum credit score requirement, VA lenders do — and that number varies by lender. Some lenders require a score of 620, while others might be at 640. The good news? Getting a “no” from one lender doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. For conventional loans, most lenders will look for at least a 620 credit score, according to Chris Hauber, a mortgage loan originator with Hallmark Home Mortgage in Denver, CO. Ideally, however, applicants would need to have a 660 credit score to land a better rate and avoid jumping through additional hoops.

What is a good credit score?

Beyond approval for a mortgage, the range your credit score falls within can drastically change the interest rate you can lock down — and the amount you’ll pay in private mortgage insurance (PMI), if applicable. For instance, the approximate difference in rates for a conventional loan with a 680 credit score versus a 740-plus credit score could be 0.25% to 0.0375%, Hauber says. But the PMI premium in this scenario would double.

“Once you’re over 740, you’re considered to be in the ‘perfect’ range for mortgages,” adds Hauber. “If you put less than 20% down, however, you’ll need PMI. For PMI, the high bracket in terms of credit score is 760-plus — meaning you’ll pay less in monthly premiums with this score or higher.” In simple terms, a credit score below 700 is likely to be considered “fair” in the world of mortgages. The perfect credit score would be 760 or higher, unless you’re able to put down 20% and skip the PMI, in which case a score of 740 or more would suffice.

How to improve your credit score

Whether your score is too low to secure a mortgage or you’d rather use available funds to fix your financial situation (instead of putting it toward a larger down payment), there are steps you can take today to start improving your credit score right away. Many credit score problems are the result of a high credit utilization ratio, according to Hauber. (“Credit utilization ratio” refers to debt that is high in comparison to the credit available.) Many experts use the 30% rule of thumb: Charges to your credit card shouldn’t exceed 30% of your available credit limit. It’s important, because this factor alone comprises 30% of your credit score. One of the easiest ways to improve your score is to pay down credit card debt, keeping this ratio in mind.

Another huge factor in the health of your credit score is your payment history, or your ability to make on-time payments to your creditors. If you see a recent late payment on your report, one solution is to talk to the creditor and ask for a deletion. While this likely won’t work for a serial late-payer, it could be granted for a one-time offender. If the creditor agrees to the deletion, they will send a letter to the credit bureau requesting that the negative information be removed from your report.

While these fixes normally take a month or two to be reflected in your credit score, your lender can speed up the process by doing a rapid rescore. This requires gathering up pertinent documents to show the changes made — like a new credit card statement or letter of deletion — and using the lender’s credit company to request an updated score from the credit bureaus. This could lead to an updated score in days instead of months, which can make all the difference when you’re trying to get preapproved for a home loan in a competitive market.

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Posted in Buying a Home
March 20, 2016


You? Buy a home? If that prospect sounds as unlikely as your becoming the next U.S. president—well, this campaign season has shown us that anything can happen.

Sure, amassing the funds and slogging through the necessary paperwork for your own piece of the real estate pie can be daunting, especially if you’re a less-than-stellar loan candidate. Still, if you just assume there’s no way you could buy a home, without doing any research, you could be missing out.

Here are some oft-cited reasons people don’t buy a home, and the reality checks showing why they shouldn’t give up hope.


This is probably the most common justification for not making the leap into homeownership. After all, few people have a huge chunk of cash lying around—and you need 20% down to buy a home, right? Wrong.

“Needing a 20% down payment has lingered as a myth for years and causes many potential home buyers, including those in the millennial generation, to miss out on getting into a home,” says Christina Bartning with National MI, a private mortgage insurer in Emeryville, CA.

AJ Smith, a personal finance expert at SmartAsset, points out that with a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration or Department of Veterans Affairs, you can usually get by with a down payment of 3% to 5%.

In addition, “grants are an excellent way for young buyers with good credit and stable employment to subsidize their down payment,” says Realtor® Mike Murray of the Murray Home Team at Coldwell Banker in Annapolis, MD. “These can typically be obtained by taking homeownership courses or purchasing in designated community development areas.”

However, if you do put down less, keep in mind you’ll need private mortgage insurance until you pay down the loan to the 20% threshold.


“Some people don’t realize the amount they pay in rent is more than if they had a mortgage,” says Realtor Kenneth Cagan of the Cagan Team in Coral Springs, FL. “Landlords are trying to recoup their taxes, insurance, maintenance fees and still make a profit. When you buy, you’re investing in yourself.”

To find out if renting or buying makes more sense in your neighborhood, try‘s Rent vs. Buy Calculator.

For first-time buyers with low to moderate incomes, organizations such as Neighborhood Housing Services of Richmond have plenty of experience in helping.

“Laniesha, a young mother of two, gave us every excuse in the book as to why she couldn’t purchase a home, from ‘I don’t make enough money’ to ‘I am not married,’” says Samuel Robinson, NHSR’s marketing and public relations officer. “After explaining that none of these issues could stop her, we worked with Laniesha to pay off her debts and raise her credit score. She’ll be purchasing her new home in 2016.”


So you’ve made some late payments, or have other skeletons in your past that have dinged your credit score. That doesn’t put a mortgage out of reach.

“If you’ve paid down your credit cards and kept a steady job, your application may be approved,” says SmartAsset’s Smith. “Potential home buyers with bad credit can also explore options like lease-to-buy programs, financing through the seller, and loans from private lenders.”

Get this: Some private mortgage insurance programs allow for credit scores as low as 620, Smith says.

Meanwhile, you can slowly improve your credit score by paying your bills on time and keeping your balances and inquiries low, says Murray. A licensed loan officer should be able to set up a one-year outline to get your credit on track.

But there’s one substantial caveat: Typically, mortgages for people with a lower credit score do come with a higher mortgage rate. And a very low score may require a higher down payment.


Even without a credit card, there are ways to build credit history, says Anne Postic of

“If you’re a renter, ask your landlord about reporting your payments to establish a history. Experian makes it easy for your landlord to report your payments, or for you to do it yourself.”


“Work history is important,” says Jeremy David Schachter with Pinnacle Capital Mortgage in Phoenix AZ. “But even if you recently changed jobs and have only been there for a month, you can get qualified depending on your income and field.” A letter from your boss or place of employment will go a long way, so be sure to ask if you fear your relatively brief employment history might be an issue.


“People often think they have to buy their last home first,” says Fort Myers, FL, Realtor Angeline Sackett. But making a dream home a reality takes time. After all, they call first homes “starters” for a reason, right?

Posted in Buying a Home
March 18, 2016


In all, the luxury market over $2 Million in Incline Village has remained steady for the past year. There have been three stand-out sales, one mountainside sale last May at $12 Million, and two lakefront sales this winter at $10.7 and $25.25 Million. Of note, sales for the upper end of our Incline Village and Crystal Bay market occurred fairly evenly throughout this past year, with one or two sales in every month since the end of 2014. One reason for this may be new Nevada residents benefiting from tax status for purchasing around the beginning of the year. Inventory tends to rise in the spring and summer, dropping in the winter, so there are fewer homes available on the market in the winter month for buyers actively looking to purchase.


Posted in Market Updates