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Should I be buying or leasing in this market? – some things to remember and help you with your decision.

I have asked myself this question a lot lately, A lot of factors may play into your decision. Even if you have saved up for a down-payment and are ready for a loan there are some other factors you need to consider. Keep reading… Even if you aren’t making a real estate decision now, this is helpful to remember in the future as well:

April buying advice: Remember closing costs and fees

As the home buying season begins to heat up, don’t forget there’s more to paying for a home than its list price. Plus, we provide some resources that could help you determine if now is the right time to buy.

By Melinda Fulmer of MSN Real Estate

Remember closing costs and fees (April homebuying advice) (© Rolf Bruderer/Masterfile)

© Rolf Bruderer/Masterfile

MSN Real Estate is social

As we spring forward into the traditional home buying season, there are plenty of bargains to be had, thanks to continued low-interest rates and sliding prices. But do you have enough in your account to handle closing costs? We’ll look at who pays for what at closing and how buyers can manage these costs. (Bing: What’s the average closing costs you can expect to pay?)

We’ll also ask experts to take the temperature of the market, and show you how to do your own real-estate research before taking the big home buying plunge. 

Who pays for what?
You know where you want to live, you’ve saved up a nice down payment, you’re pre-approved for a loan and you’re inching ever closer to finding the right house.

But how much do you know about the purchase transaction itself? There’s more than just price to consider, says Adam Brett, a real-estate agent in Fullerton, Calif. There are a slew of fees to pay, plus taxes, insurance and inspections.

What’s your home worth? – I can give you this info as well.

“The sellers typically pay for the majority of closing costs,” Brett says. But it can vary widely depending on the region and the seller. And in today’s buyers market, many are subject to negotiation.

Here’s a general breakdown of what buyers and sellers are expected to pay:

Buyer

  • Escrow fees.
  • Title insurance, to assure the lender that the property has a free and clear title.
  • Home inspection and any other inspections such as chimney, roofing or geological.
  • Fire-insurance premium for the first year.
  • Recording fees and notary fees for documents.

Seller

  • Termite inspection and remediation of infestation or damage.
  • Escrow fees.
  • Real-estate commission.
  • City and county transfer fees.
  • Title insurance, to assure buyer of free and clear title.
  • Homeowners association transfer fees and any unpaid balance.
  • Home warranty.
  • Any bonds, assessments or tax liens.
The tab for closing costs can vary widely, from about 1% of the purchase price to 3% for Federal Housing Administration loans that require a mortgage-insurance premium and additional lender fees.

Read:  What to expect at closing

Many buyers are now asking sellers to help cover these steeper FHA fees, in essence lowering the purchase price of the home, Brett says.

“They are playing hardball with the attitude that ‘I am here to get you [the seller] out of trouble,'” Brett says. Indeed, he says, he has even seen some buyers ask for six months of seller-paid property taxes.

There’s not as much room for expense negotiation with bank-owned properties. In fact, most don’t provide a home warranty, and many don’t cover termite work, Brett says. Of course, the tradeoff is that these homes are often priced at a discount to traditional listings.

A great time to buy?
Just when you thought the market’s slide was over — it’s not. After six consecutive months of decline, prices in the 20 markets comprising S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Composite Index edged down an additional 3.1% in January, compared with the same month a year earlier.

In fact, 11 cities, including Atlanta, Detroit and Chicago, posted new post-bubble lows, making that oft-talked-about double-dip price recession a reality.

“There’s still not enough demand relative to supply,” says Maureen Maitland, S&P Indexes vice president.  “The homebuyer tax credit just masked the extent of the recession for a while.” 

The only cities posting a year-over-year increase were San Diego, at 0.1%, and Washington, D.C., with a healthy 3.6% growth rate.

Read:  How real-estate agents sell their homes for more

So should homebuyers wait on the sidelines a bit longer? Not necessarily, Maitland says.

Although prices in most areas are expected to remain weak for the foreseeable future, no one, she says, is expecting significant further price drops, especially because prices in the 20-city index are already down 31.8% from their peak in the summer of 2006.

Professional Services
Find local plumbers, electricians, contractors and more. (lbesserer@briggsfreeman.com)

“Perhaps we are not at the bottom, but have another 5% to go,” Maitland says.

The latest home-sales data
The news was even more erratic in February: The National Association of Realtors says existing-home sales dropped 2.8% from February 2010 and 9.6% from January, a number that many in the industry think is overstated.

Its February Pending Home Sales Index, which measures home contracts, not closings, ticked up 2% from January, enough to make NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun almost cheery.

“We may not see notable gains in existing-home sales in the near term, but they’re expected to rise 5% to 10% this year, with the economic recovery, job creation and excellent affordability conditions providing confidence to buyers who’ve been on the sidelines,” Yun said in a statement.

What do you think? Are you as optimistic as he is? Is it a good time to buy?

Make an ‘educated’ home buying decision
Want to learn more about how healthy your market is? Homebuyers can tap into a number of free resources to find out more about their local economy, home prices and the surrounding rental market – all factors that will affect the value of their investment.

Read:  Buyers’ and sellers’ worst enemies? Themselves

“These (resources) can help answer such questions as, ‘Should I rent or buy?’ ‘Has the market hit bottom?’ ‘How much value has my local market gained or lost?’ and, ‘Is there a high potential for future home price declines?'” says Ingo Winzer, president of forecasting firm Local Market Monitor.

Here are a few Web resources that LMM uses to make its home-price predictions and a little instruction on how to pull this information from these often-bewildering government sites. Use them to draw your own conclusions about when and where to buy.

  1. Job growth: Halfway down the page you will find “Employment, Hours and Earnings — State and Metro Area.” Click on “One-Screen Data Search,” select your state and metro area, then select total nonfarm and all employees. 
  2. Home prices: Near the top of the page, click on the drop-down menu for “House Price Index,” then “Downloadable Data.” The “All Transactions Index” for metro areas shows quarterly pricing information for local markets.
  3. Unemployment: Near the bottom of the page is “Unemployment.” Find “Local Area Unemployment Statistics” and click on the “One Screen Data Search.”
  4. Income growth: Click on “Interactive Tables” then on table “CA1-3.” Select “Per Capita Personal Income ” and “Metropolitan Statistical Area.”
  5. Vacancy rates: Look at tables Nos. 4 and 5 for rental and homeowner vacancy rates in about 75 metros across the country. 

And don’t forget, the number of foreclosures will play a big role in how your market does in the next several years. Data firm RealtyTrac provides free quarterly information on foreclosure rates in more than 200 U.S. cities.

One caveat: To understand economic statistics and; therefore, the direction of the market, LMM says homebuyers should always compare them to historical data, data for other markets or state and national averages.

Remember: Your questions are welcome, I would love to help answer them or help you in your decision making process. I am going through this as well now and even as a real estate agent, I realize how hard of a decision this can be. Luckily I am a realtor and have access to the best tools. Aside from Lisa Besserer, the (home buying advice guru) we have amazing tools ane people at our office (Briggs Freeman) that can help with this.

 If you are just curious about where you stand and want to talk to someone about your finances, the best person to turn to is our friend, Jonathan Doddridge. He is amazing. He has helped several of my friends and clients figure out where they stand financially and what kind of mortgage they can qualify for. I highly recommend him. If you need this kind of advice, please don’t hesitate to contact him at this email address:  Jonathan.R.Doddridge@ascentfs.com

I would love to hear your opinion as well, feel free to comment on your personal experiences.

– Bonnie Besserer

bbesserer@briggsfreeman.com

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