My Contact Information

You can reach me at any of the following:

Cell Phone: 240-483-7556
Office: 301-384-8700
Email:
Coni@ConiOtto.com
Website:
http://www.talk2coni.com/
Facebook:
www.facebook.com/ConiSells


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Mortgage Closing Scams



The American bank robber, Willie Sutton, was asked why he robbed banks and his answer was "because that is where the money is."  During his 40-year career, he stole about $2 million but Internet scammers are stealing many times that amount in phishing schemes preying on unsuspecting home buyers.

These crooks know where the money is because buyers have the down payment and closing costs and are expecting to transfer it to the close the sale of their home.  The FBI, in their 2018 Internet Crime Report, stated victims lost over $149 million and the CFPB estimates the losses at over $1 billion as a result of fraud in real estate transactions.    The scammers want to take advantage of the situation while it is still in the buyer's account.

Commonly, during the closing process, scammers will send spoofed emails to homebuyers from someone they expect to hear from regarding the transaction like the real estate agent or the settlement agent.  They will include false instructions for the closing funds.

Following these suggestions can help to protect you and possibly, avoid scams:

  • Call before you click to verify the wiring instructions to transfer funds.  DO NOT use the phone number or email in the email request.  Use a trusted source, preferably, in person, of contact information.
  • Confirm everything independently with your real estate agent and closing officer.   Confirm the actual instructions with the bank before transferring money.
  • Verify immediately, within four to eight hours, with the title company and real estate agent that the money was received.  If it has not been received, notify the bank immediately to determine if it can be cancelled.

If you believe you have been the victim of a phishing scheme, call your bank immediately and ask them to issue a recall notice on the money transfer.  File a complaint with the FBI at www.IC3.gov and report it to your local FBI office.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released two documents in an effort to inform consumers about wire fraud scams that commonly occur during closings: Mortgage Closing Checklist and Mortgage Closing Scams.

This is for information purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

What Buyers Can Do While Staying at Home



While you're isolating at home, there are things you can do to help buy a home now or in the near future.  Instead of spending time surfing the Internet looking at homes, do the groundwork necessary to be able to purchase the home that you find.

  • There is a lot of documentation necessary to qualify for a mortgage and to be approved.  This part of the homebuying process can be done in advance, long before you even start looking at homes much less finding the one that you want.
    • Assemble all documents to make a pre-approval
    • Photo ID
    • Two months current pay stubs
    • Last two years' W2s
    • Complete copies of checking and savings statements for last three months
    • Copies of statements for IRAs, 401k, savings, CDs, money market funds, etc.
    • Employment history for last two years with addresses and contacts
    • Proof of commissioned or bonus income
    • Residency history for last two years with addresses and contacts
    • Assets for down payment, closing costs, and reserves; must provide paper trail
    • If self-employed, last two years tax returns, current profit and loss statement and balance sheet; copy of partnership/corporate tax returns for last two years if owning more than 25% of company
    • FHA requires driver's license and social security card
    • VA requires original certificate of eligibility and DD214
    • Other things may be required such as previous bankruptcy, divorce decree
  • Get pre-approved giving you the confidence
    • Determining the amount you can borrow - decreases as interest rates rise
    • Looking at "Right" homes - price, size, amenities, location
    • Finding the best loan - rate, term, type
    • Uncovering issues early - time to cure possible problems
    • Creating bargaining power - price, terms, & timing
    • Being able to close quicker - verifications have been made
  • If using a gift as a down payment, construct your gift letter
    • The donor's relationship to borrower
    • State the dollar amount is a gift and not a loan
    • State that no repayment is required
    • Signed and dated by the donor and borrower
    • Include all contact information
  • Build your homebuying team
    • REALTOR® - this person will coordinate the efforts of the other team members to make the transaction move smoothly, without unnecessary delays to close on time.
    • Lender* ... consider a trusted professional you can meet with face-to-face
    • Title company* ... guaranteeing the title and closing on time is important
    • Inspector* ... more than a flashlight and a clipboard

*Your agent can recommend these professionals based on their experience and having worked with them in the purchase and sales of other homes.  This can keep you from getting hooked-up with someone that may not be familiar with the type of home, area, or loans that you might be considering.

Additional information about the buying process and things that you can be doing while you're waiting to look at homes can be found in the Buyers Guide.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Showing Procedures During Covid-19



During these unsettling times, sellers and buyers are concerned about staying healthy and virus-free as we all are.  To keep all parties safe, new procedures should be considered regarding the procedure for showing houses.

Agents are reporting that they are selling homes where the buyers have not physically been in the home and base their decision on the virtual tour found online.  Some states have suspended showings because they are not considered essential services and other states have not addressed the subject.

In the spirit of stepping up to do what is necessary, the following suggestions should be considered:

  • Buyers should view the pictures online first to see if the home meets their needs.  Most listing agents upload enough pictures to get a good idea of what a home looks like.
  • Buyers should ask their agent questions that the photos don't address.  Then, their agent can go through the listing agent to ask the seller direct.
  • It may be possible for the agent or owner to do a Facetime walk-through which would allow the buyers to ask questions and direct the agent or owner where to point the camera.
  • When possible, buyers can make an appointment to see the home through their agent.  They should meet the agent at the home in their own car.  No children should attend showings.
  • Recommended safe distances will be maintained between the owners and listing agent, if present, the buyers and their agent.
  • Transfer is almost inevitable, and all precautions should be taken.  Buyers should carry their own sanitizing wipes and or gloves and avoid unnecessarily touching surfaces.  Allow their agent to open doors and cabinets.
  • They should be disposed of in a trash bag in their car after they exit the home.

The social distancing and isolation could present some buying opportunities due to a lack of competition.  At the same time, the lack of inventory in many markets could keep prices high.  Overall, home prices nationwide are stable and, in many cases, continuing to rise which makes it a far less volatile alternative to investing in the stock market.   

With mortgage rates being at historic lows, there will probably never be a cheaper time to finance a home. 

Thank you again for looking at our listings and let us know if we can help you in anyway.

Please stay safe; wash your hands; practice social distancing and follow all the guidelines necessary to promote good health. We're all in this together!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Why have a mortgage during retirement?



You don't have to watch TV for long before Tom Selleck, Henry Winkler or Robert Wagner will tell you why seniors should consider a reverse mortgage.  However, there are a seniors who are resisting the conventional wisdom of having their home paid for and opting for a mortgage with payments on their home.

In some cases, seniors will downsize into a smaller home and have a large amount of equity to pay cash for the new home.  In other situations, they may have their home paid for and decide to do a cash-out refinance which will require making payments.

The logic behind either of these examples could be motivated by the fact that since mortgage rates are so low currently, the owners can reinvest the money at a higher yield and make money on their equity.  This will give them more money for their retirement income.

A common question that is asked by owners considering such a strategy is whether they'll be able to qualify for the new mortgage since they may no longer be employed.  The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination against borrowers based on age.

All borrowers, whether they are working or not, need to show that they have good credit, reasonable debt and enough stable income to repay the mortgage.  Lenders cannot base their decision on loan term based on an applicant's life expectancy, so a 30-year loan is possible regardless of the borrower's age.

Fannie Mae, one of the largest purchaser of mortgages on the secondary market, is concerned on income that is stable, predictable and likely to continue.  Retirees' income can come from Social Security, pensions, or distributions from retirement accounts like IRAs, 401(k)s, Keogh or other plans.  Lenders will analyze these sources to estimate how long it will last. 

Other investments can be considered like stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities.  Based on the type and the volatility of the investment, lenders may be restricted from considering 100% of the income.

Getting the facts as it pertains to you as an individual is important to be able to know if you are eligible and how much you can borrow.  A trusted mortgage professional who understands this type of borrower is very important to help you determine the right mortgage vehicle and provide information to decide if this option is right for you.  Call me at (301) 384-8700if you would like a recommendation.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Shopping for a Mortgage



A lower rate will not only result in a lower payment, it will amortize the loan quicker.  A $250,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years will have a $1,266.71 principal and interest payment.  At 4%, the same loan will have $1,193.54 payment saving $73.18 a month and the unpaid balance would be $1,776 lower at the end of five years.

Mortgage lenders tend to price their mortgages based on the credit score of the borrower.  The higher the credit score, the lower the mortgage rate.  There is an inverse relationship that the lower the credit score, the higher risk and therefore, a higher rate is needed to balance the risk.

In order to get a valid rate that will be available to you with your credit score, you need to be pre-approved. The process of making a loan application before you find a home, allows the lender to verify your credit, income, and ability to repay the loan.  Lenders usually only charge the cost of the credit report for this type of service.  Be aware that pre-approval is not the same thing as pre-qualification which is simply a loan officer's opinion.

When you shop for a mortgage with multiple lenders, the credit bureaus count them as a single credit inquiry if they are done within a two-week period. On the other hand, restrain yourself from applying for other credit such as cars, furniture or credit cards until after you have closed on the purchase of your home because those inquiries can negatively affect your credit score.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends that you let lenders know that you are shopping the mortgage for the best rate and fees.

Instead of going to the Internet and Googling mortgage lenders, start with recommendations for a lender from your real estate professional.  They see the good, the bad and the ugly and can save you a lot of time.  Another reliable source would be from a friend who has recently purchased a home.

There are lenders who bait unsuspecting borrowers with lower rates and fees into making an application and after critical time has lapsed, try to switch them to a different program.  By that point, many buyers feel they don't have any choice but to accept what is offered.

Another confusing factor is the way that loans are priced to the public.  They are usually quoted at a rate with a certain amount of points.  A point is one percent of the amount borrowed.  An example would be a quote for a loan at 4.5% with 1 point or at 4% with 2.5 points.

The points combined with the rate affect the yield the lender will earn, and you will pay.  A simple way to make this an apple to apple comparison is to have the lender quote the loan as a "par-value" loan with no points involved.  Then, the lowest rate will produce the lowest cost to you.

Another way to compare loans will be to uses a financial app called Will Points Make a Difference.  You can plug in the rate and points to calculate the lowest yield over a projected holding period or the full term.

The lenders do not want to make it easy for you to compare.  Mortgage money is a commodity and shopping will be worth the effort. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Get Ready to Garage Sale



A well-planned garage or yard sale can give you extra space in your home, get rid of unused items and make some money but it needs some of the same considerations that any business needs to be successful. 

  • Start early to research and plan
  • Promotion is key
  • Display items attractively
  • Price items right
  • Organize checkout

Determine the date of your sale, remembering that there are exceptions, but Saturdays are generally the best day.  Experienced garage-salers believe that a well-planned one-day event will do as well as a multi-day event.  Serious purchasers will look for the "new" sale and most people don't come back multiple days.

Recognize that the first day of the sale will have the most people.  Everyone will be looking for a bargain but some of them actually want to purchase things for them to resell at their own sales.

Advertise in local newspapers and free online classified sites like Craigslist.  If several families are going together for the sale, mention that in the ad; it will be a big draw.  Mention your bigger-ticket items like furniture, equipment and baby items.

Garage sale signs can be purchased or you could have them made at Office Depot or FedEx Office.  Signs need large lettering so they're easy to read without too many words on them.  Remember that people will be driving when they see them.  Most important info: Garage or Yard Sale, address, date and time.  Directional signs are also important along with balloons and streamers to attract attention.

Consider using the service Square so that you can take credit cards.  The cost is 2.6% + 10¢ per swipe and you can do it on your smartphone or iPad.  You'll need to sign up at least two weeks in advance to receive your reader.

You will be amazed at what sells and what doesn't.  If your goal is to get rid of some things regardless, put those items in the sale and at the end of the sale, donate what you can to Goodwill and the balance goes to the dump.  If you can't bear to do that, box them up and try again next year or possibly, at one of your neighbors' sales.

Other supplies you'll need will be:

  • Labels and markers for pricing items.
  • Newspaper and clean, grocery bags to wrap breakables.
  • Tables to display the items.

Unless you're having an estate sale, keep your home locked.  You don't want people wandering through your home while you're outside.  If you start to accumulate a lot of money, take some of it inside.  Don't discuss how much money you've made during the sale or how successful it has been.

People will want to bargain; it's the nature of the game.  Consider this strategy: less negotiations early in the sale and possibly, more toward the end of the sale.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

What kind of properties are these?



It is the way the property is used that determines the type of property it is, not what it looks like.  Based on the intent of the owner, the property could be a principal residence, income property, investment property or dealer property.

A principal residence is a home that a person lives in.  There can be only one declared principal residence.  It is afforded certain benefits like deducting the interest and property taxes on a taxpayers' itemized deductions, up to limits.  Up to $250,000 of gain for a single taxpayer and up to $500,000 for a married couple filing jointly can be excluded from income if the property is owned and used as a principal residence for two out of the previous five years.

An income property is an improved property that is rented for more than 12 months.  The improvements can be depreciated based on a 27.5-year life for residential property or 39-years for commercial property.  This is a non-cash deduction that shelters income.  When the property is sold, the cost recovery is recaptured at a 25% tax rate.

An investment property could be an improved property or vacant land that does not produce income and is not eligible for depreciation or cost recovery.  The gain on both income and investment properties are taxed at a lower, long-term capital gain rate and are eligible for a tax deferred exchange.

Second homes are properties that a taxpayer primarily uses for personal enjoyment but is not their principal residence.  For IRS purposes, it is treated as an investment property in that the gain is taxed at preferential long-term rates if it is held for more than 12 months.   However, it is not eligible for exchanges because personal use properties are excluded from that benefit.

Properties that are built or bought to make a profit are considered inventory and are labeled dealer properties.  The gain is taxed at ordinary income rates and they are not eligible for section 1031 deferred exchanges.

The financing available differs considerably based on the intent of the owner which determines the type of property.  Owner-occupied homes, used as a principal residence, are eligible for low down payment mortgages like VA, FHA, USDA and conventional ranging from nothing down to 20%.

A second home, in most cases, requires a minimum of 10% down payment.  Investment and Income properties, generally, require 20% or more in down payment with some possible exceptions.  There is not any long-term financing available for dealer property.