Addie Finley's Blog
Buying a home, especially for the first time, might feel a little scary—notably if you've learned the home you’re considering for purchase is a zombie property. Even a pro at buying property may flinch when they initially hear this term.
No worries, a zombie property is not as frightening as it sounds. It’s a common term used in the housing industry, originating back to the 2007-08 housing crisis when tens of thousands of these homes were left behind because their owners couldn’t afford to make their mortgage payments.
What is a Zombie Property?
A zombie property creeps up when no one retains accountability for it. It usually occurs when homeowners leave their homes after receiving a foreclosure notice and incorrectly believe they must immediately vacate the property. They often don't realize there is an entire foreclosure process, one that doesn’t happen overnight. In most instances, they believe the lender that sent the notice will take over responsibility for the property, so they move out. In some cases, they do know they can stay but choose not to delay the inevitable and cut loose in search of greener pastures.
Meanwhile, the lender, for whatever reason, doesn’t complete the foreclosure process they initiated and the property stands abandoned. Since the homeowner has already walked away not realizing they still technically own the property, and the lender also doesn’t assume ownership, no one takes responsibility for the home. It essentially sits in a state of limbo—hence it being referred to as a “zombie.” Its ownership is not quite alive (abandoned), but not yet dead (foreclosed upon) either.
Pros of Purchasing a Zombie Property
The primary benefit of purchasing a zombie property is the price. Most of these properties are typically sold below market value, sometimes at rock bottom prices. Because some of them are eyesores, or have the potential to become attractive to squatters, municipalities and towns are eager to get these homes rehabbed and inhabited. This means buyers who are handy with repairs or who have the investment money available to fix up and flip the home for a profit can make out handsomely with this type of sale.
Cons of Purchasing a Zombie Property
While the financial benefits associated with zombie homes are lucrative, there are some potential pitfalls to be careful of when considering a purchase. In most instances, the original owner still retains the title to the home, so this legal detail will need to be addressed. Buyers also have to consider these homes may have deterioration, unsafe conditions or be unsanitary. This is especially a concern for properties that have been abandoned for a long period of time. Additionally, it takes more effort to navigate a zombie property purchase than a traditional foreclosure since no one is actively involved with the property.
Many potential buyers intentionally or inadvertently overlook zombie properties, but if you’re in the market, it’s not an option you should automatically discount. Don't let the zombie moniker fool you. If you perform your due diligence and find ways to mitigate any drawbacks, you could potentially land yourself a great home, rental investment, or profitable house-flip.
Buying a home will likely be one of the largest financial decisions you will make in your lifetime. While this may seem scary at first, it’s worth noting that buying a home can also be a valuable financial investment.
When it comes to preparing to buy a home, many people just wait until they run out of room in their apartment before deciding that they need to upgrade to a home. A better approach, however, would be to start planning for your first home a year or more in advance.
Saving for a down payment is a vital step to making the best long-term financial decision. A larger down payment can help you pay off your home sooner, pay thousands or tens of thousands less in interest, and start using your home equity as an asset.
But, saving for a down payment is easier said than done. So, in this post, we’re going to talk about some of the ways you can aggressively save for a down payment so that, when the time comes, you can achieve long-term financial security from your investment.
Setting your savings goals
The first thing you should be thinking about when saving for a down payment is what your goals are in a home. Setting realistic goals in this phase will make saving for your down payment more feasible and less discouraging.
Think about what you really need from a home at this point in your life and compromise where you can.
Remember that on top of your monthly mortgage payments, you’ll likely also be paying for taxes, insurance, utilities, homeowners association fees, and more.
Save on a timeline
When setting your savings goal, make sure you’re aware of the timeframe you’re working with. If you want to buy a home next year, you’ll need to focus on short-term savings options. However, if you’re okay with renting for the next 5 years, investing your money could be a better option.
Lock away your savings
Treat your down payment savings like an emergency fund. Open a separate account, automatically deposit a portion of your pay into the account, and never withdraw from it. To do this, you will, of course, need to already have an emergency fund with a month’s expenses in it.
However, once you’ve established your emergency fund, start immediately depositing into your savings account.
Pay off credit cards
It may seem like saving for a down payment is more pressing than paying off old debt. However, the numbers will show that making interest payments on your credit cards is essentially throwing away money that could have been used toward your down payment savings.
Adjust your spending habits
While it isn’t easy to start spending less once you’ve built a standard of living, there are ways to spend less money and still lead a fulfilling life. Think about where your money goes each month, including bills and services you might pay for.
Now could be the best time to cut the cord and start using a service like Hulu to save $50 or more each month.
Time for a raise?
If it’s been some time since your last pay raise, now could be an ideal time to speak with your employer. To improve your chances of success, don’t discuss reasons outside of work that might be influencing your decision to ask for a raise (such as saving for a down payment). Rather, back up your request with evidence of your accomplishments at work.
If you're like many Americans, your home is your biggest asset. And if you're thinking of selling your home to use the profits for a new home, sending the kids off to college or simply adding it to a retirement fund, there are a few things you may want to avoid to make sure your home sells.
Setting the Price too High
Some sellers make the mistake of thinking their home is worth more than comparable properties. A lot of times, living in the home and becoming attached to it may cause an overestimation of the value of upgrades or dismissal of the lower price tag of similar homes with similar features.
When you price a house too high, though, the property may stay longer on the market and go through several price reductions before it finally attracts interested buyers. And if you happen to be in a new home already, you might be paying two mortgage payments while waiting for a buyer to place an offer. Putting the right price on your home helps ensure buyer interest and a quick sale.
Neglecting to Order a Pre-inspection
Some buyers are open to fixing problems, but your cost during the negotiation phase may be significantly higher than it would have been if you hired a contractor to fix any preexisting issues.
A way to solve this problem is to order your own inspection before you put your house on the market. This is also a great way to establish buyer trust, showing that you are transparent about the house's issues when you give them the report or show the report of the issues being fixed.
Going Overboard on Presale Renovations
You love your home, and you want to prove to the buyer that it is a gem. But sinking too much money into presale renovations can mean spending money that you may not get back during the negotiations. You also want to be careful that you're not spending your renovation budget on cosmetic enhancement when the house needs structural improvements. That is another excellent reason to invest in a home inspection prior to putting your house on the market.
Failing to Choose the Right Agent
The real estate agent you choose to sell your home makes all the difference -- and with buyers' agents requesting up to 6 percent in closing fees, it's important to make sure you find someone who will work hard for you.
What should you look for? Good chemistry tops the chart, since you need to be able to trust your agent to act in your best interest. Other important factors are familiarity with the local market, experience selling houses in your price range, access to good marketing databases, and evidence of a strong network.
Ready to get started with the home selling process? Contact me, and we'll get the ball rolling!
FHA loans have long been a valuable resource for Americans who want to fulfill their goal of homeownership but who don’t have the benefit of a lengthy credit history and equity.
If you’re hoping to buy a home in the near future but want to explore all of your options in terms of financing, this article is for you.
Today we’re going to talk about FHA loans and how to know if you qualify for one.
What are FHA loans?
FHA loans are issued by private mortgage lenders across the country, just like regular mortgages. The difference, however, is that an FHA loan is “guaranteed” by the federal government.
Lenders decide your borrowing eligibility, and how much you can borrow, by determining risk. If you don’t have a sizable down payment (oftentimes 20% or more) and you have a low credit score, most mortgage lenders will see you as a risky person to lend to.
When you get an FHA loan, however, the federal government assumes some of that risk, allowing you to secure the loan anyway.
This means you can buy a home with a low credit score, a smaller than usual down payment, and save on some closing costs.
How do I qualify for an FHA Loan?
To find out if you qualify for an FHA loan, you’ll head to the same place as a traditional mortgage--a mortgage lender. Oftentimes, you can simply call or visit the website of lenders to get the process started.
As with all things, it’s a good idea to shop around for a mortgage lender. Their offerings will be largely similar, but there might be minor differences that make one better than another for your particular circumstances.
Down payment requirements
To secure an FHA loan, you will need to make a down payment of at least 3.5%. However, this low down payment comes with a price. You’ll typically be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) fees on top of your accruing interest for your loan.
Credit score requirements
While you can often secure a mortgage with a lower credit score through an FHA loan, there are still some requirements. To secure a loan with the lowest possible down payment (3.5%), you’ll need a credit score of 580 or above.
Previous homeowners and FHA loans
A common misconception about FHA loans is that they are only for first-time homeowners. However, you can still qualify for an FHA loan if you’ve owned a home before as long as it has been three years since you’ve had a foreclosure or two years since filing for bankruptcy.
If you meet these three conditions, you should be able to secure an FHA loan through a traditional mortgage lender.
Every winter, your home faces harsh weather, and it may benefit you to examine your home during the warmer months for any areas that may need maintenance to avoid excessive and costly repairs to your home during or after the winter. Here are few things to check before the snow starts to fall.
1. The Roof: Excess snowfall on the roof during winter adds weight to the structure, which is why it's imperative to check its integrity often. Thoroughly examine it for leaks and erosion. Check the soffits and eaves for damage. Look on the ground for loose shingles. If you see any, have the roof inspected by a qualified roofer and schedule repairs as soon as possible. Correcting potential issues early could prevent any catastrophic emergencies later on.
2. The Garden: It is a known fact that the winter is unfavorable for most flowering plants. Check your garden for any plants that may need to be pruned or given any special attention before the cold months hit. Remove dead trees; add hardy hybrids and be sure to give your garden enough attention to watch it flourish even through the winter months.
3. The Garage: Even though your garage is well-secured and covered, you'll still want to maintain its upkeep during the winter. Your cars may bring in snow, mud, deicer, sand and debris. Be sure to keep the floors cleaned and check the walls and corners for any place that may house rodents or other pests.
4. The Pipes: Your water pipes are another essential thing to check after winter. During winter, pipes are prone to freezing and can split, crack, or burst, which becomes a hard problem to fix. Ensure they are in good condition before winter and recheck them after the season to fix any issues as soon as possible.
5. Chimney: Take a cursory look at your chimney after winter. There's a good chance it may have been damaged during the season. Ice can be very destructive, especially to your chimney's mortar and flashing where the chimney joins the roof, and may cause problems in the long run. Check your fireplace to ensure proper ventilation and cleanliness to avoid fire and smoke damage. Make sure to clean the creosote from the fireplace after seasonal use to promote your fireplace's longevity and maintain safety standards.
6. Garden Shed: For people that have a separate building for their garden tools, it is vital that you check this place after winter. Ensure that the ice and excessive wind haven't caused damage, and just as you did for your primary home, check the roof, eaves and flashing for damage.
Check all these places after each winter season and before the summer heat drives it from the forefront of your mind. You may want to dedicate at least one day to checking your home for early signs of damage or for areas that may need to be updated and reinforced. Your Realtor® may have a few other suggestions for maintaining your home or preparing for any regional hardships that may arise during the winter.