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Wendy Dowling's Blog

By Wendy Dowling | Agent in Sarasota, FL
  • Homebuyers Move off the Fence as Mortgage Rates Drop Yet Again

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Sarasota County, Home Buying in Sarasota County, Financing in Sarasota County  |  February 2, 2012 11:09 AM  |  1,408 views  |  No comments

    If you’ve been considering buying your first home or moving up to a larger home, conditions have once again turned in your favor. According to Bankrate.com's weekly national survey, mortgage rates hit yet another record low, with the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate falling to 4.12 percent. The average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.29 discount and origination points.

    Meanwhile, the average 15-year fixed mortgage retreated to 3.34 percent, while the jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage slid to 4.55 percent. The average 5-year and 7-year adjustable mortgage rates dropped to 3.02 percent and 3.24 percent, respectively. All of these are record lows.

    This most recent drop in rates was just announced by Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve, along with a pledge to keep short-term interest rates on hold until late 2014. However, given the continued volatility in the market, along with the unpredictable nature of a presidential election year, if you’re considering a home purchase or a refinance, act quickly to take full advantage of low rates.

    Bankrate points out just how significant these historic rates really are. Think about this: The last time mortgage rates were above 6 percent was November 2008. At the time, the average 30-year fixed rate was 6.33 percent, meaning a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,241.86. With the average rate now at 4.12 percent, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $968.72, a difference of $273 per month for anyone refinancing now.

    Here are other important specifics from Bankrate's national weekly mortgage survey:

    • 30-year fixed: 4.12 percent - down from 4.25 percent last week (avg. points: 0.29)
    • 15-year fixed: 3.34 percent - down from 3.45 percent last week (avg. points: 0.30)
    • 5/1 ARM: 3.02 percent - down from 3.09 percent last week (avg. points: 0.31)

    If you’d like to take advantage of these incredible market conditions, remember to do the following before embarking on your home search:

    • Make sure your finances are in order and your credit is in good shape.
    • Research homes in neighborhoods you’re interested in online first to help narrow your selection. This will save time when viewing homes in person, allowing you to place a bid faster.
    • If you need to sell your current home first, contact a real estate professional right away to find out what repairs/improvements you might need to make before putting your home on the market.

    As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I have a wealth of real estate and homeownership information that may be of help to you. Feel free to contact me any time to learn more about this important information, and be sure to forward this article on to any friends or family that may be interested as well.

  • What You Need to Know Before Refinancing

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Sarasota County, Financing in Sarasota County  |  January 26, 2012 11:55 AM  |  1,368 views  |  2 comments

    During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Barack Obama called on Congress to approve new legislation that would give all homeowners who are current on their mortgages the opportunity to refinance at record-low mortgage rates.

    While details of the program have yet to emerge, the new legislation - in theory - is designed to give responsible homeowners a reasonable chance to refinance without running into roadblocks from lenders. This would also give homeowners an opportunity to take advantage of today’s continued, record-low interest rates.

    According to CoreLogic, a company that tracks national mortgage activity, an estimated 28 million homeowners could cut the interest rates on their loans by more than one percentage point if they could refinance. If you’re one of the many homeowners considering a refinance, here are some important facts you need to know first. Be sure to consult with your real estate agent and/or financial advisor, as well.

    1. Make sure you are in good standing on your mortgage. As the President emphasized, refinances will be considered for those homeowners who have a good payment history and are current on their mortgages. If you’re currently underwater, a refinance is probably not an option for you. Consult your real estate professional about other options, including loan modifications and short sales.
    2. Check your current credit score. Refinance candidates need to demonstrate steady income and good credit. Make sure your credit rating is up to snuff and see what immediate measures can be taken to improve it if it’s not.
    3. Examine how much longer you plan to live in your home. If you are planning to put your home on the market in the near future, refinancing probably doesn’t make sense. You need to make sure you’ll be living in your home long enough to recoup the closing costs of the refinance.
    4. Consider the length of the loan. Where you’re at with your current mortgage can play a significant role in your decision to refinance. If you’re close to retirement, for example, and your loan is almost paid off, refinancing could result in extending the life of your loan, ultimately costing you more. Also, if you're several years into a 30-year mortgage, your goal should be to refinance into a 15- or 20-year mortgage instead. Otherwise, you’re extending the number of years in which you’ll pay interest. Your refinancing goals should be short-term and long-term savings.
    5. Find out the costs involved. Before you plunge into a refinance, find out the costs involved. Weigh these fees against the money you will save (contingent upon how long you plan to stay in your home) to make sure refinancing is the right step.

    As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I have a wealth of real estate and homeownership information that may be of help to you. Feel free to contact me any time to learn more about this important information, and be sure to forward this article on to any friends or family that may be interested as well.

  • 3 Tips for First-Time Investors

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Sarasota County, Financing in Sarasota County, How To... in Sarasota County  |  September 15, 2011 5:06 PM  |  788 views  |  No comments

    3 Tips for First-Time Investors

    There isn’t a worker in America who doesn’t know he or she should be saving money—especially given today’s economic conditions. Whether you're saving for a home down payment, college tuition or a retirement nest egg, investing in the future is a wise financial decision. Understandably, the two most pressing questions usually are: “How much can I afford to save?” and “What is the best way to make my money grow?”

    Financial experts agree that long-term investing is the surest way to build savings—and also that you do not need a lot of money to get started. What is critically important, however, is that you save on a consistent basis.

    There are classes you can take, books you can read, and experts you can consult in order to learn the finer points of investing. To begin with, however, there are three fundamental steps you must take:

    1. Determine your savings goals.
    You need to know what your savings goals are in order to figure out how to get there. Let’s say you want to retire at age 65 with the same standard of living you have now. You can find retirement calculators online to help you determine how much money you will need in order to reach that goal.

    2. Evaluate the stock market.
    Guaranteed investments and savings bonds are great for reaching short-term goals. They generally return about 2% to 5% at best. But if you have some time to reach your goal, investing in the market will likely be your best approach. Averaged out over the last 25 years, despite some trying times, DOW returns have paid around 9% or 10%. Here’s the difference: Over 25 years, a $10,000 investment at a 3% rate of return will grow to $26,000. A 9% return will give you $86,000.

    3. Understand that time is money and plan accordingly.
    To be successful at saving money, it must be approached as a long-term plan—get-rich-quick schemes rarely, if ever, work. Therefore, the earlier you start to save, the more money you will have down the road. In these scenarios, assume a 10% rate of return compounded annually:

    • Begin investing $100 per month at age 30 until you reach age 65. At that point, you will have about $345,000 in investments. You will have put in $42,000 over the 35 year span. The other $303,000 is from the growth of your money over time.
    • Begin the same $100-per-month saving plan at age 20. At age 65, you will have about $916,000. You will have invested $54,000. The other $862,000 is from the growth of your money over time.

    As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I have a wealth of real estate and homeownership information that may be of help to you. Feel free to contact me any time to learn more about this important information, and be sure to forward this article on to any friends or family that may be interested as well.

  • How to Choose the Right Home for Your Family

    Posted Under: Quality of Life, Home Buying  |  July 29, 2011 2:37 PM  |  411 views  |  No comments


    You’ve probably heard more than once that today’s perfect storm of low prices, high inventory, and affordable interest rates are making this the right time for you to buy that home you’ve always wanted. As you begin to shop around, however, there are several important criteria to consider in order to make the best choice for you and your family.

    Discuss the following with your real estate agent before you begin looking for a home. This will help narrow down the choices and shorten the search process:

    Type of home: One-story or two, single-family, duplex or condo? How will paying homeowner dues affect your overall buying power? Will a swimming pool be a bonus or a hindrance? Making these decisions in advance will help you focus on the right types of home to look at.

    New or existing: A new home is all shiny and clean, but will carry with it some hefty initial costs such as landscaping and window coverings. Many builders are offering great deals on new homes that aren’t yet in move-in condition. Weigh the potential bargain against the costs involved in completing the home on your own. While these factors don’t come into play with existing homes, you need to assess its general condition, which will also impact your budget.

    Features: Weigh the costs of gas vs. electric heating and cooling, the possible need for fencing, etc. How important is a fireplace? Does the home have enough bedrooms and bathrooms to support your family in the coming years?

    Ease of maintenance: What is the condition of the roof? The appliances? Will you have to paint the interior or exterior and/or replace the carpeting? Be sure to factor in such costs in your budget and your negotiations.

    Location: For many of today’s home buyers, it’s all about lifestyle. Do you want to be in the city or in the country? Nearer to libraries, parks and entertainment or set among tall trees and lakes? What about the need for public transportation? Nearby hospitals and schools?

    Crime rate and public schools: Check with local enforcement and local residents to get a feeling for statistics and quality. Your real estate agent should be able to run detailed crime and school reports for your perusal.

    Economic stability: Whether an area is growing or not can affect its future property value – as will the economic stability of the area.

    Property tax: Examine the annual amount of real estate taxes and other assessments levied in the neighborhoods you are considering.

  • How a Mortgage Can Help Your Finances

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Financing  |  June 14, 2011 1:00 PM  |  354 views  |  No comments
    These days, the national media is full of stories about foreclosures and homeowners who are “underwater” with their mortgages. Amidst all the doom and gloom, however, there are still countless Americans who enjoy the advantages of responsible homeownership and the financial benefits of having a mortgage. I see this all the time among my many clients and the clients of my colleagues across the country in the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®.
    While some fortunate homeowners have the option of paying off their mortgage, others actually benefit from having a mortgage.
    For starters, mortgage interest is tax deductible. While this very benefit is being debated in Washington at the moment, traditionally, the mortgage deduction affords those with high-value homes significant tax savings.

    Having a mortgage is also one of the best vehicles for bolstering your credit rating—especially during this timeframe when credit-score criteria are so steep. A long-term installment loan in good standing, such as a mortgage, commands respect more than any other form of credit, and will lead to better interest rates on other loans.

    Even if you do have the funds to pay off or pay down your mortgage, you need to consider if you’re better off saving that money for future needs that may arise (no one is safe from the prospect of unemployment these days), or investing it in a more lucrative avenue. If you’re in such a fortunate position, speak with a trusted financial advisor about the best course of action for your particular circumstances.
  • How a Mortgage Can Help Your Finances

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Financing  |  June 9, 2011 4:34 PM  |  340 views  |  No comments

    These days, the national media is full of stories about foreclosures and homeowners who are “underwater” with their mortgages. Amidst all the doom and gloom, however, there are still countless Americans who enjoy the advantages of responsible homeownership and the financial benefits of having a mortgage. I see this all the time among my many clients and the clients of my colleagues across the country in the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®.
    While some fortunate homeowners have the option of paying off their mortgage, others actually benefit from having a mortgage.
    For starters, mortgage interest is tax deductible. While this very benefit is being debated in Washington at the moment, traditionally, the mortgage deduction affords those with high-value homes significant tax savings.

    Having a mortgage is also one of the best vehicles for bolstering your credit rating—especially during this timeframe when credit-score criteria are so steep. A long-term installment loan in good standing, such as a mortgage, commands respect more than any other form of credit, and will lead to better interest rates on other loans.

    Even if you do have the funds to pay off or pay down your mortgage, you need to consider if you’re better off saving that money for future needs that may arise (no one is safe from the prospect of unemployment these days), or investing it in a more lucrative avenue. If you’re in such a fortunate position, speak with a trusted financial advisor about the best course of action for your particular circumstances.

  • How to Qualify for a Mortgage in Today's Credit Crunch

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Sarasota County, Financing in Sarasota County, Property Q&A in Sarasota County  |  March 31, 2011 3:33 PM  |  537 views  |  1 comment

    There may have never been a better time to buy a home than right now. Earlier this month, interest rates dropped again -- the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.79% from 4.93%, according to loanrateupdate.com -- and there is still plenty of inventory, keeping home prices relatively low in our area.

    Those positive factors, however, are often offset by tighter lending standards, causing many to shy away from applying for a mortgage. As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, however, I have learned that it really boils down to four main factors that will impact a lender's decision:

    • Your ability to make a downpayment - usually between 3% and 20% of the purchase price -- of course, the larger the downpayment, the better your odds of securing the mortgage.
    • Two years of steady employment - at the same job or in the same field.
    • Good (but not necessarily perfect) credit score - these days, around 660 may do it.
    • Monthly income between two and three times the estimated monthly mortgage payment.

    I have had many clients, however, who have qualified for a mortgage without completely meeting the above criteria ... so don't rule yourself out too soon. There are several other steps you can take to secure a mortgage, such as these ideas from BusinessWeek:

    • Meet with a lender anyway. You may find out that you qualify after all, and if not, the lender can tell you exactly which areas to focus on in order to qualify in the near future.
    • Ask your real estate agent if they work with a particular lender or mortgage broker. An experienced agent works with many lenders and may even offer in-house mortgage services.
    • Get a co-signer. This isn't easy, because if you default on a loan, the co-signer will be responsible for paying it. But if you know someone with good credit who has great faith in your ability to pay, a co-signer could be a workable option.
    • Plan for the future. If it turns out you cannot qualify for a home loan right now, have your real estate agent help you map out a plan for improving your credit qualifications over the coming months. If you make homeownership a serious goal, you should be able to qualify in the not-too-distant future.

    For more information about applying for a mortgage, please feel free to contact me. And be sure to share this email with family and friends who might also be considering a home purchase -- this market is just too good to miss out on!

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