Date Archives: February 2022

Fivestar Lakeshore Blog Home

Subscribe and receive email notifications of new blog posts.




rss logo RSS Feed
Buying A Home | 2 Posts
Holland, MI | 20 Posts
Home ideas | 6 Posts
Mortgage | 36 Posts
Uncategorized | 113 Posts
West Michigan | 6 Posts
February
25

14 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time

  1. Focus on the sale potential of your existing home first.

The Bay Area is a unique housing market because it's so competitive. For sellers, the high demand for housing works in your favor: the sales cycle is relatively fast in the Bay Area compared to other parts of the country. However, market conditions fluctuate here as they do in other locations, so you'll want to be conservative when it comes to estimating how long – or how quickly – it's going to take for your existing home to sell.

In the Bay Area, where all-cash and preemptive offers are not uncommon, you need to be prepared that your home could sell faster than you expected it to, so you need a plan for where you and your family will live if the new owners want the house right away and you don't have a new home to move into yet.

At the same time, you want to be prepared for your home to take longer to sell than you might think. The key is understanding the market conditions for your neighborhood, which an experienced real estate professional can help you with.

Sellers, often, provide a home warranty to buyers to give them peace of mind. These warranties last for one year and help reduce the cost of unexpected repairs from normal wear and tear of appliances and systems. Then, the buyer can renew the home warranty by paying the annual fee.

Create a list of must-haves, non-negotiables, and like-to-haves.

Compromising on certain things is inevitable, so it's important to be clear before you begin this process on what things are must-haves, what are non-negotiables, and what are like-to-haves.

For example, on your home sale, you may need the profits from the sale for a downpayment on your new home. In this case, you'll want to be clear ahead of time on a bottom price that you'll be willing to sell the home for. You may also have a sell-buy date, such as before the new school year starts.

 When it comes to the new home you want to buy, be clear on your needs, such as no remodeling required, in a good school district, three bathrooms, etc. Furthermore, consider the highest price you can afford if your existing home sells at the lowest price you'll accept.

Setting these types of parameters, and sharing them with your real estate agent, will make decision-marking easier while lowering the odds that you'll experience seller's or buyer's remorse later on.

  1. Get your current home ready to sell ahead of time, so there are no surprises

It's easier to sell an apology-free house or condo than one with issues. In addition, you want to reduce your risks as much as possible ahead of time. The last thing you want is a surprise costly repair to come up when you're trying to close on the sale of your existing home so you can buy your new one. For this reason, do a thorough inspection of the property before you plan to sell and get repairs done well ahead of time.

 

In addition to repairs and maintenance, focus on the aesthetics of the home. Get rid of clutter, add a fresh layer of paint, install new carpeting, clean up your landscaping, etc. Real estate experts say that curb appeal of the home is one of the most important features when it comes to selling a house, as we wrote about in our post on this topic. So, be sure the exterior of your home is show-place ready before you plan to put it on the market.

  1. Create a timeline.

Be clear about what needs to happen when, and where you're flexible on dates. Creating a rough schedule of when certain things need to happen will help everyone stay on task. For instance, if you need to install a new garage door on the current home, when will this happen? If you need to be in your new home in the new school district by a certain date, what has to happen before then? How long will you have before you need to find your new home? Getting things down on paper, in a spreadsheet, or task management software will bring a dose of reality to the project and help to ensure you stay on course. 

  1. Work with one experienced agent whom you trust.

Navigating the complexities of selling and buying a home at the same time will be far easier if you work with an experienced real estate agent whom you trust. Professional agents are managing these kinds of transactions every day, so they know the ups and downs of what could happen and how you can pivot in certain scenarios.

Your agent will also be able to guide you based on current market trends. For example, they can tell you if the market is so hot that contingencies are simply not an option. In the Bay Area, many homes and condos are sold without any contingencies, so you can miss out on getting the home you want if your offer has them while other buyers' offers do not.

It's also a good idea to use one agent for both your sale and the home you're buying. This way, they'll be fully cognizant of the complexities of both deals that are on the table and can negotiate in your favor. If you would like to talk to an experienced agent about your specific circumstances, don't hesitate to contact Intempus. We can advise you on all matters related to buying and selling a property in the Bay Area. 

  1. Get your financial house in order.

These two transactions are likely the largest you will have ever handled, so you want to get everything lined up ahead of time. Here are some items to consider:

  • The cost of repairs, fixing up, and staging your current home to get it ready to sell.
  • Setting up a cash reserve to cover the cost of potentially paying two mortgages for a set period of time.
  • Making sure you have 6-9 months in a cash reserve to cover expenses for you and your family.
  • Budgeting for maintenance for the new home you'll buy. If you're upsizing, consider how much more you might spend for yearly maintenance on the new home.
  • Budget for remodeling, new furnishings, landscaping, etc. for your new home. What will you need to do right away and what can you live with for a while before upgrading?
  • Cost of renting for a year if you decide to sell your home before you have a new home to move into. 

As mentioned above, set a benchmark on the lowest amount that you're willing to sell your existing home for, and the top limit for the purchase price of your new home. One of the biggest regrets that homeowners say they have about buying a home is the unexpected costs of maintenance and repairs. So, be sure you have a realistic plan for what you can afford well before starting these two transactions. 

  1. Determine what size mortgage you can qualify for now.

Real estate expert Dave Ramsey cautions that it will be more challenging to qualify for a new mortgage if you're relying on the sale of your current home for the down payment on your new one. 

In addition, the market and mortgage rates will have changed since you bought your current home, and thus the size of mortgage you qualified for at one point in time may be a very different picture from what you can qualify for now. Understanding where you stand will bring clarity to what you can afford and what is out of range. 

  1. Discuss with your agent whether contingencies will be possible in the current market.

As mentioned above, an experienced licensed agent can tell you if asking for a purchase contingency that involves the sale of your existing home will be acceptable in the current real estate market.

In the Bay Area, it's common for sellers to receive multiple offers for their homes and condos, and buyers with too many contingencies, or just one, can lose out to buyers who have none. So, if a purchase contingency is not realistic, you'll want to be prepared for how you'll purchase the new place, even if the current home has not sold yet. 

  1. Don't expect that you'll be able to close on the two homes on the same day.

While it would be great to have your current home sale close on the same day that you close on your new home, the odds are that this won't happen, so you'll want to be prepared. 

According to Dave Ramsey, closings can be delayed for any number of reasons, such as a home inspector finds issues in your new home or your buyer runs into problems with their financing. You want to minimize the gaps between these two dates, but also be prepared that you may have to keep paying the mortgage and other expenses on your current home while starting to pay on your new home. In addition, you'll need a plan for when movers need to arrive and where your family, including pets, will stay during the gap, if there is one, between your move-out and move-in dates. 

  1. See if you can negotiate on the settlement date.

It's important to remember that everything is negotiable. Tara Mastroeni, a contributor to Forbes, recommends negotiating for the settlement dates you need if you want to move directly from your old home into your new one. If this kind of transition is one of your must-haves, perhaps you can negotiate with your buyer and seller on this matter, meanwhile making concessions in areas that are important to them. 

  1. Be prepared that you may not have the option of a rent-back on your current home.

Rent-back agreements are not uncommon in the Bay Area. In such a situation, you negotiate with the buyer of your current home that you can stay in it for a set amount of time, paying them rent or covering the mortgage for that period until you're able to move into your new home. 

Buyers in a competitive market may be all-too willing to do this. However, you need to keep in mind that if you took the best offer on your home, you may not be in the position to negotiate a rent-back. The buyer may want to start remodeling right away, or even move in right away. So, while rent-backs are common in the Bay Area, you need to be prepared that a rent-back may not be a possibility. 

  1. Beware of bridge and HELOC loans.

Dave Ramsey cautions homeowners who are selling and buying at the same time to be wary of lenders offering bridge or HELOC loans. 

A bridge loan lets you use the equity in your current home to fund the downpayment on your new home vs. using cash you have on-hand. A bridge loan is a short-term loan that you have to repay quickly. The risk of this type of loan is that payments, penalties, and fees are higher than they are on longer term loans. 

With HELOC, or Home Equity Lines of Credit, loans, in which you also your home's equity for the down payment, you may have to repay the full loan within one-to-three years, on top of paying your regular mortgage payments. Thus, it's critical that you understand the true costs of these types of loans. It may make more financial sense to sell your existing home and rent a place until you find your dream home. 

  1. Consider renting for a while.

In the Bay Area's competitive market, it can take a long time to find the perfect home that you can afford. While moving twice and signing a year lease on a rental might seem like a pain, renting can take a lot of pressure off both the selling and buying process while giving you the time you need to handle both transactions to your advantage.

  1. Don't close on a Friday.

A final tip on handling these two transactions is to try to avoid closing the sale on your new home on a Friday. The reason is, the county recorder works on business days. So, your loan may close and you start accruing interest, but you still don't legally have access to your new place!

February
23

Homebuyer tip:

You may qualify to borrow more money than you are comfortable spending on a home. But that doesn't mean you have to spend more. It's a good idea to limit your home search to houses priced at an amount you can comfortably afford. Explore the mortgage amount that best fits into your overall budget by using Bank of America's Home Affordability Calculator

What is mortgage prequalification?

Prequalification is an early step in your homebuying journey. When you prequalify for a home loan, you're getting an estimate of what you might be able to borrow, based on the information you provide about your finances, as well as a credit check.

Prequalification is also an opportunity to learn about different mortgage options and work with your lender to identify the right fit for your needs and goals.

What is mortgage preapproval?

Preapproval is as close as you can get to confirming your creditworthiness without having a purchase contract in place. You will complete a mortgage application and the lender will verify the information you provide. They'll also perform a credit check. If you're preapproved, you'll receive a preapproval letter, which is an offer (but not a commitment) to lend you a specific amount, good for 90 days.

Homebuyer tip:

Expect surprises! Lenders look at every detail of your finances when granting preapproval. You might be asked about a car loan payment you made with a credit card, for example. Be prepared to answer lender questions as soon as they come up.

Getting preapproved is a smart step to take when you are ready to put in an offer on a home. It shows sellers that you're a serious homebuyer and that you can secure a mortgage – which makes it more likely that you'll complete your purchase of the home.

How long does prequalification or preapproval take?

Aside from their distinct roles in homebuying, prequalification and preapproval can take different amounts of time. Prequalifying at Bank of America is a quick process that can be done online, and you may get results within an hour. For a mortgage preapproval, you'll need to supply more information so the application is likely to take more time. You should receive your preapproval letter within 10 business days after you've provided all requested information.

What information do I need to provide?

PREQUAL PREAPPROVAL
Income information Copies of pay stubs that show your most recent 30 days of income
Credit check Credit check
Basic information about bank accounts Bank account numbers or two most recent bank statements
The down payment amount and desired mortgage amount Down payment amount and desired mortgage amount
No tax information required

W-2 statements and signed, personal and business tax returns from the past two years

Which is right for me?

First-time homebuyers are more likely to find that getting prequalified is helpful, especially when they are establishing their homebuying budget and want an idea of how much they might be able to borrow.

Preapproval can be extremely valuable when it comes time to make an offer on a house, especially in a competitive market where you might want to stand out among other potential buyers. Again, a seller will be more likely to consider you a serious buyer because you have had your finances and creditworthiness verified.

Ready to prequalify, get preapproved or apply? Get started with the Digital Mortgage Experience.

PREQUALIFICATION VS. PRE-APPROVAL COMPARISON

  PREQUAL PREAPPROVAL
Benefits You can start house-hunting knowing how much you might be able to borrow You'll be ready to make an offer with confidence—and gain a competitive advantage
Process Provide basic information to a lender and quickly get a prequalification amount After submitting documentation to a lender, you should receive a decision within 10 business days
Documentation Answer questions for this process, plus a credit check Provide proof of financial details, plus a credit check

February
21

Holland State Park Beach, Holland, Michigan

Holland State Park Beach, Holland, Michigan

Holland State Park Beach, Holland, Michigan

Holland State Park is well known for its enormous sandy beach on Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa. Popular among locals and tourists alike, the beach is perfect for any beach activity you like, from sunbathing and volleyball to building sandcastles, surfing, or just relaxing. Holland State Park has two large campgrounds, a number of picnic tables, grills, and fire pits.

It also has beach volleyball courts and a small beach house. If you like to fish, the walkway and pier along the harbor channel are the best spots for it. You can also enjoy watching the passing sailboats, waiting for the sunset, or taking photos of the Big Red lighthouse. There is a concession stand if the kids get hungry from all the activities. Holland State Park Beach is one of the best things to do in Holland, Michigan.

2215 Ottawa Beach Rd, Holland, MI 49424, 616-399-9390

Fun day trip ideas close to me, things to do this weekend, small towns, best weekend getaways: Getaways in CaliforniaEast Coast beachesNC quick tripRomantic weekend getaways

Holland State Park Beach, Holland, Michigan

February
21

If you're not used to cooking seasonally, now is the time to start! Here's how you can pick the best ingredients throughout the year.

If you love cooking at home, the best way to eat fresh all year long is by cooking seasonally. Seasonal cooking means creating meals and menus around ingredients as they come into season. Seasonal ingredients taste delicious and are less expensive, and the best part is that you're supporting local farmers, businesses, and the community when you add them to your meal plans.

Click Here to Read More...

February
18

How to buy a house in 2022

What to consider

Is now a good time to buy a house?

Yes and no. Mortgage rates reached record lows in early 2021 and have stayed low by historical standards throughout the year even as they fluctuated.  However, strong demand for homes pushed prices up and frustrated many potential homebuyers. According to the CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index, property prices rose by 18 percent between September 2020 and September 2021. Time may be running out to lock in an affordable mortgage because experts predict interest rates will continue to trend upward this year. In many areas of the country, Realtors reported intense competition for homes last year, with some properties getting dozens of offers and going into contract within days of being listed.

That reality has created inevitable concerns about buying at the peak. Home values go up over time, but there is a possibility that prices in some places have hit a plateau.

"I would be careful about buying near the top of the market, especially if I want to be in the home for only a few years," says Ken H. Johnson, a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University and co-author of the Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent Index. "If you look to buy, bargain aggressively and be willing to walk away. Real estate most definitely is a good investment, but don't just buy now because that's what everybody else is doing."

Should I buy a house?

Taking the leap to homeownership can provide a feeling of pride while boosting your long-term financial outlook, if you go in well-prepared and with your eyes open.

When thinking about buying a home, consider whether you want to put down roots or maintain flexibility with your living situation. How secure is your job, and can you comfortably budget for home repairs and maintenance on top of monthly housing payments? Are you ready to stay in one place, and do you have kids or family members to consider?

When should I buy a house?

In normal times, spring is the traditional start of the home-buying season, with many listings typically hitting the market. The market still hasn't quite returned to normal since the coronavirus upended that schedule, however.. This winter should be relatively slow for buying, but with low housing inventory, it will still feel competitive compared to pre-pandemic off-seasons. 

At any rate your own financial readiness is more important than the time of year. This means having your finances organized and your credit in order so that you'll be able to smoothly secure a reasonable mortgage.

In addition to a down payment, potential homebuyers should have enough money set aside to cover closing costs, which can range from 2 percent to 4 percent of the purchase price.

When budgeting for your monthly mortgage payment, factor in not only the principal amount and interest, but also property taxes, homeowners insurance, homeowners association fees (if applicable), plus private mortgage insurance if you're putting down less than 20 percent. Don't forget to set aside money for ongoing maintenance and those unexpected repairs that are bound to pop up, too.

Here's a step-by-step guide on buying a house:

1. Understand why you want to buy a house

Purchasing a home is a major decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. If you're not clear on why you want to buy a house, you could end up regretting your decision.

How to get started: Define your personal and financial goals. "Buyers should think about things like when they intend on moving, what they want in a home (such as) amenities, ideal location and how long it could take them to save for a down payment," says Edwence Georges, a sales associate with RE/MAX in Westfield, New Jersey. "These are all important to help define the goals they would like to meet."

Key takeaways:

2. Check your credit score

Checking your credit score will help you determine your financing options; lenders use it (among other factors) to set your loan pricing and see if you're able to repay your mortgage. The better your credit history, the better the chances you'll have of securing financing with the best terms and rates. 

How to get started: You can get your credit report and score from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, for free once a year. Your bank or credit card company might offer free access to your score or credit report, too.

Key takeaways:

  • Consider how different credit score ranges impact your interest rate, monthly payments and total interest. In general, the lower your credit score, the more expensive your mortgage will be.
  • Pull your credit reports from each of the credit bureaus for free every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you discover any discrepancies, contact each agency and report the error.
  • Learn other ways to get your free credit report and score from Bankrate.

3. Create a housing budget

Setting a realistic budget for your new home will help inform what you can afford and how much your all-in costs will be.

How to get started: The purchase price isn't the whole picture. Carefully factor in other expenses to determine what you can afford.

"Buyers tend to forget to factor in other costs like (homeowners association) fees and setting money aside for maintenance costs. Just because you can afford a mortgage and a down payment doesn't mean you can afford those long-term costs after you move."

– Paige Kruger, Realtor, Founder, Signal Real Estate, Jacksonville Beach, Florida

Key takeaways:

  • Determine the maximum loan you qualify for.
  • Decide how much you can set aside for a down payment, plus a buffer fund for ongoing or unexpected maintenance costs. 
  • See if your monthly budget can handle the mortgage payment along with other bills such as day care, tuition, utilities, groceries and more.

4. Save for a down payment

To avoid private mortgage insurance, or PMI, you'll need to save at least 20 percent of the home's purchase price for a down payment. Some lenders offer mortgages without PMI with lower down payments, but expect to pay a higher interest rate.

How to get started: Research the down payment requirements for the loan you want so you know exactly how much you'll need. If a friend, relative or employer has offered to provide a down payment gift, initiate a conversation early on to learn how much they plan to contribute and if there's any shortfall you'll need to cover — and secure a gift letter from them well in advance, too.

Key takeaways:

  • If you don't have much saved for a down payment, consider options backed by the federal government. FHA loans, insured by the Federal Housing Administration, require just 3.5 percent down, while VA loans and USDA loans have no down payment requirement.
  • Conventional loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac require just 3 percent down.
  • Look into a local or state first-time homebuyer assistance program to help with closing costs or your down payment.

5. Shop for a mortgage

Getting preapproved for a mortgage is helpful when you make an offer on a house, and it gives you a firmer handle on how much you can afford.

How to get started: Shop around with at least three lenders or a mortgage broker to increase your chances of getting a low interest rate.

Key takeaways:

Sign up for a Bankrate account to determine the right time to strike on your mortgage with our daily rate trends.

6. Hire a real estate agent

An experienced real estate agent can save you time and money by helping you find your dream home and by negotiating with the seller on your behalf. 

How to get started: Contact several real estate agents and ask to meet with them for a conversation about your needs before choosing one. "Someone with knowledge of an area can also tell if your budget is realistic or not, depending on the features you desire in a home," Kruger says. "They can also point you to adjacent areas in your desired neighborhood or other types of considerations to help you find a house."

Key takeaways:

  • Before hiring a real estate agent, find out about their track record, knowledge of your desired neighborhood and what their workload is like. You don't want someone who is over-scheduled.
  • Agents can refer you to other professionals like home inspectors, contractors, appraisers and title companies; however, you should still shop around and compare fees from other professionals.

7. See multiple homes

Simply viewing listing photos isn't a substitute for visiting homes in person — with appropriate precautions in the pandemic — and getting to know the neighborhood and its amenities.

How to get started: Let your real estate agent know what specific kinds of homes you want to see, or search for homes online yourself. Your agent can create your profile in the local multiple listing service (MLS), a database of homes for sale, and set up automatic searches for those that meet your criteria. You may not be able to check off everything on your home amenity wish list, so you'll want to prioritize what's most important to you aside from location.

Key takeaways:

  • Drive through neighborhoods you like to see what's for sale, and attend open houses for homes that pique your interest. Remember to keep notes on each property you visit. After a few showings, it's easy to forget which homes you liked and why.
  • Keep your schedule open so you can pounce when a great home is listed, especially in a competitive seller's market. You could gain an edge over other buyers the sooner you see it and put your offer in.

8. Make an offer

Understanding how to make an attractive offer on a home can help increase your chances the seller will accept it, putting you one step closer to getting those coveted house keys.

How to get started: Once you find "the one," your real estate agent will help you prepare a complete offer package, including your offer price, your preapproval letter, proof of funds for a down payment (this helps in competitive markets) and terms or contingencies.

Key takeaways:

  • Sellers might counteroffer on your price, terms or contingencies. You can respond to the counteroffer if you wish, or reject it and move on.
  • Once an offer is accepted, you'll sign a purchase agreement that includes the price of the home and estimated closing date. You'll need to pay an earnest money deposit, typically 1 percent to 2 percent of the purchase price. The seller may have a right to keep the money if you back out.
  • Contingency clauses are designed to protect the buyer and typically include appraisal, financing and home inspection. If a home inspection report shows major problems, you can often back out of the contract and get a refund.

9. Get a home inspection

home inspection helps you get an overall picture of the property's mechanical and structural issues. The home inspection will help you determine how to proceed with the closing process. You might need to ask the seller for repairs, or you might decide to back out of the deal if you have a contingency in the contract.

How to get started: You can get recommendations for home inspectors from your real estate agent, but also be sure to do your own homework before choosing one. Depending on your contract and state of residence, you'll generally need to complete a home inspection 10 to 14 days after you sign a purchase agreement. As a buyer, you're usually responsible for paying the home inspector, and while the fees can vary, you'll pay an average of $270 to $400, according to HomeAdvisor by Angi.

Key takeaways:

  • To make sure the home inspector has enough experience, read online reviews, ask for past client references and look at their credentials.
  • Look at the home inspection checklist to understand what is and isn't covered.

10. Negotiate repairs and credits

Your home inspection report may reveal major or minor issues. Major problems will likely need to be dealt with before your mortgage lender will finalize your loan, while minor issues can often wait till you take possession of the home.

How to get started: Enlist your agent's help to negotiate with the seller. Ask for the seller to either do the repairs or give you a credit at closing.

Key takeaways:

  • If there are hazards like structural damage or improper electrical wiring, your lender might not approve your loan. Likewise, you might not have the budget or desire to handle such repairs after buying the home.
  • Some sellers won't agree to extensive repairs, and that's why a home inspection contingency is a good idea — to give you a way out of the purchase if the home isn't in ideal shape.

11. Secure your financing

Getting final loan approval means you need to keep your finances and credit in line during underwriting. Once you're ready to close, you won't want to open new credit lines or make other major purchases until the paperwork is signed.

How to get started: Respond promptly to requests for more documentation and double-check your loan estimate to ensure all the details are correct so there are no hiccups later. You may need to submit additional paperwork as your lender completes the underwriting process, such as:

  • Bank statements
  • Tax returns
  • Additional proof of income
  • Gift letter or written statements explaining major deposits into your bank account

Key takeaways:

  • A preapproval doesn't mean you're in the clear until a lender has given the final stamp of approval. Keep your finances and credit in good shape from preapproval until closing day. If you can, avoid changing jobs before closing on your new home, too.

Also, avoid running up credit cards, taking out new loans or closing credit accounts. Doing any of these things can hurt your credit score or impact your debt-to-income ratio, and that can imperil your final loan approval.

12. Do a final walk-through

final walk-through is an opportunity to view the property before it becomes yours. This is your last chance to view the home, ask questions and address any outstanding issues before the house becomes your responsibility.

How to get started: Come with your home inspection checklist and other documents, like repair invoices and receipts for any work the owner conducted, to ensure everything was done as agreed upon and that the home is in move-in ready condition.

Key takeaways:

  • Ask your real estate agent to be there so they can act as a witness and help answer any questions you may have.
  • If repairs or issues haven't been addressed, have your agent communicate immediately with the seller and your lender. Your closing date might have to be delayed to ensure those issues are remedied first.

13. Close on your house

Once all contingencies have been met, you're happy with the final walk-through and the closing agent has given the green light to close, it's time to make it official and close on your home. In this final step, your lender will issue you a "clear to close" status on your loan.

How to get started: Three business days before your closing date, the lender will provide you with a closing disclosure that outlines all of your loan details, such as the monthly payment, loan type and term, interest rate, annual percentage rate (APR), loan fees and how much money you must bring to closing. At the closing, you (the buyer) will attend, along with your real estate agent, possibly the seller's agent, the seller, in some cases, and the closing agent, who may be a representative from the escrow or title company or a real estate attorney. This is also the time where you'll wire your closing costs and down payment, depending on the escrow company's procedures.

Key takeaways:

  • Before closing, review the closing disclosure carefully and compare it to the loan estimate to ensure closing fees and loan terms are the same. Ask questions about your loan and correct any errors (like your name or personal details) before you sign closing paperwork.
  • On closing day, review all of the documents you sign carefully, and ask for clarification on anything you don't understand.
  • Make sure you've been provided all house keys, entry codes and garage door openers before leaving closing.
  • You'll leave closing with copies of the paperwork (or a digital file) and your new house keys. Be sure to store your paperwork in a safe place for future reference.

Once all of the paperwork has been signed, the home is officially yours and you'll get those house keys. Congratulations! Now comes the fun part: moving in and making the house your home.

February
16

Today's mortgage and refinance rates

Average mortgage rates rose modestly yesterday. It was the ninth consecutive business day on which they've increased. So, fearsome February continues.

This morning, markets are fairly quiet, despite better–than–expected retail sales figures. And mortgage rates today might be unchanged or barely changed. But, as always, things might turn out differently as the hours pass.

Find your lowest rate. Start here (Feb 16th, 2022)

Current mortgage and refinance rates

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed 4.196% 4.219% +0.01% 
Conventional 15 year fixed 3.431% 3.461% +0.02% 
Conventional 20 year fixed 3.954% 3.986% +0.02% 
Conventional 10 year fixed 3.477% 3.543% Unchanged
30 year fixed FHA 4.309% 5.095% +0.16% 
15 year fixed FHA 3.644% 4.211% -0.05% 
30 year fixed VA 3.905% 4.109% -0.14% 
15 year fixed VA 3.38% 3.711% -0.13% 
5/1 ARM VA 4.75% 3.86% Unchanged

Should you lock a mortgage rate today?

It's been an extraordinarily bad couple of weeks for mortgage rates. Of course, they're bound to fall again sometime.

But, unless that's triggered by some huge event, you should probably expect any decreases to be limited and relatively brief. I'd be surprised if they recovered more than a fraction of the ground that these rates have lost recently.

So my personal rate lock recommendations remain:

  • LOCK if closing in 7 days
  • LOCK if closing in 15 days
  • LOCK if closing in 30 days
  • LOCK if closing in 45 days
  • LOCK if closing in 60 days

Market data affecting today's mortgage rates

Here's a snapshot of the state of play this morning at about 9:50 a.m. (ET). The data, compared with roughly the same time yesterday, were:

  • The yield on 10-year Treasury notes fell to 2.03% from 2.05%. (Good for mortgage rates.) More than any other market, mortgage rates normally tend to follow these particular Treasury bond yields
  • Major stock indexes were lower. (Good for mortgage rates.) When investors are buying shares they're often selling bonds, which pushes prices of those down and increases yields and mortgage rates. The opposite may happen when indexes are lower. But this is an imperfect relationship
  • Oil prices moved up to $93.56 from $91.42 a barrel. (Bad for mortgage rates*.) Energy prices play a large role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity
  • Gold prices rose to $1,865 from $1,854 an ounce. (Neutral for mortgage rates*.) In general, it is better for rates when gold rises, and worse when gold falls. Gold tends to rise when investors worry about the economy. And worried investors tend to push rates lower
  • CNN Business Fear & Greed index – inched higher to 38 from 37 out of 100. (Bad for mortgage rates.) "Greedy" investors push bond prices down (and interest rates up) as they leave the bond market and move into stocks, while "fearful" investors do the opposite. So lower readings are better than higher ones

*A change of less than $20 on gold prices or 40 cents on oil ones is a fraction of 1%. So we only count meaningful differences as good or bad for mortgage rates.

Caveats about markets and rates

Before the pandemic and the Federal Reserve's interventions in the mortgage market, you could look at the above figures and make a pretty good guess about what would happen to mortgage rates that day. But that's no longer the case. We still make daily calls. And are usually right. But our record for accuracy won't achieve its former high levels until things settle down.

So use markets only as a rough guide. Because they have to be exceptionally strong or weak to rely on them. But, with that caveat, mortgage rates today might hold steady or nearly steady. However, be aware that "intraday swings" (when rates change direction during the day) are a common feature right now.

Find your lowest rate. Start here (Feb 16th, 2022)

Important notes on today's mortgage rates

Here are some things you need to know:

  1. Typically, mortgage rates go up when the economy's doing well and down when it's in trouble. But there are exceptions. Read 'How mortgage rates are determined and why you should care'
  2. Only "top–tier" borrowers (with stellar credit scores, big down payments and very healthy finances) get the ultralow mortgage rates you'll see advertised
  3. Lenders vary. Yours may or may not follow the crowd when it comes to daily rate movements – though they all usually follow the wider trend over time
  4. When daily rate changes are small, some lenders will adjust closing costs and leave their rate cards the same
  5. Refinance rates are typically close to those for purchases.

A lot is going on at the moment. And nobody can claim to know with certainty what's going to happen to mortgage rates in coming hours, days, weeks or months.

Are mortgage and refinance rates rising or falling?

To me, the prospects for mortgage rates look grim. Yes, they're bound to fall sometime. But there seems to be little prospect of their doing so in a worthwhile and sustained way.

The current main hope that they'll fall further and for longer relies on yesterday's announcement by Russia – that it's started to withdraw troops from the Ukrainian border – being a feint. Such deception is certainly within President Vladimir Putin's playbook.

But wagering your next mortgage rate on his duplicity seems unwise. And I certainly wouldn't make such a bet.

The Fed

While the Ukrainian situation is being resolved (or not), mortgage rates might move up and down with news from the region. But, overall, they are likely to continue higher, though, with luck, more slowly than recently. That's because markets fear the Federal Reserve's reactions to high inflation, which are likely to drive all interest rates higher.

In an e–newsletter this morning, Jeff Sparshott of The Wall Street Journal summed up the situation admirably:

"[Fed Chair Jerome] Powell responded to the pandemic by doubling down on strategies developed by his predecessors to combat prolonged high unemployment and very low inflation. When the labor market healed rapidly and high inflation emerged as the bigger threat, he and his colleagues were caught by surprise. No Fed chairman since Paul Volcker in the early 1980s has had to grapple with inflation this high. The risk now is that his fight against inflation will cause a new recession, as Mr. Volcker's did."

No doubt Mr. Powell is well aware of all this and will do everything he can to avoid a new recession. And many economists believe that current inflation is structurally very different from what Mr. Volcker faced. But, as long as the current Fed is seen to be acting decisively to counter inflation, the pressure on mortgage rates to rise will continue.

For a more detailed look at what's happening to mortgage rates, read the latest weekend edition of this report.

Recently

Over much of 2020, the overall trend for mortgage rates was clearly downward. And a new, weekly all–time low was set on 16 occasions that year, according to Freddie Mac.

The most recent weekly record low occurred on Jan. 7, 2021, when it stood at 2.65% for 30–year fixed–rate mortgages.

Since then, the picture has been mixed with extended periods of rises and falls. Unfortunately, since last September, the rises have grown more pronounced, though not consistently so. So far in 2022, rises have been appreciable and relatively consistent.

Freddie's Feb. 10 report puts that weekly average for 30–year, fixed–rate mortgages at 3.69% (with 0.8 fees and points), up from the previous week's 3.55%.

Expert mortgage rate forecasts

Looking further ahead, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) each has a team of economists dedicated to monitoring and forecasting what will happen to the economy, the housing sector and mortgage rates.

And here are their current rate forecasts for the four quarters of 2022 (Q1/22, Q2/22, Q3/22, Q4/22).

The numbers in the table below are for 30–year, fixed–rate mortgages. Fannie's were published on Jan. 19 and Freddie's and the MBA's on Jan. 21.

Forecaster Q1/22 Q2/22 Q3/22 Q4/22
Fannie Mae 3.2% 3.3%  3.3% 3.4%
Freddie Mac 3.5% 3.6%  3.7% 3.7%
MBA 3.3% 3.5%  3.7% 4.0%

Personally, I was surprised that Fannie Mae only slightly increased its rate forecasts in January. It believes that rates for 30–year, fixed–rate mortgages will average 3.2% over the current quarter. But, on the day its figures were published, we reported those for conventional loans were already up to 3.87%.

Do Fannie's economists expect those rates to plummet later this month or in February or March and remain lower in the following quarters? If so, they know something that I don't. And that their peers in Freddie and the MBA's teams don't, either, though I'm less optimistic than any of them.

Of course, given so many unknowables, the whole current crop of forecasts may be even more speculative than usual.

Find your lowest rate today

You should comparison shop widely, no matter what sort of mortgage you want. As federal regulator the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says:

"Shopping around for your mortgage has the potential to lead to real savings. It may not sound like much, but saving even a quarter of a point in interest on your mortgage saves you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan."

Show me today's rates (Feb 16th, 2022)

Mortgage rate methodology

The Mortgage Reports receives rates based on selected criteria from multiple lending partners each day. We arrive at an average rate and APR for each loan type to display in our chart. Because we average an array of rates, it gives you a better idea of what you might find in the marketplace. Furthermore, we average rates for the same loan types. For example, FHA fixed with FHA fixed. The end result is a good snapshot of daily rates and how they change over time.

February
14

Craft Brews, Spirits, and Wines

Bringing local flavor to your beverage!
handcrafted passport] |
In a state known for its award-winning breweries, microbreweries, and brewpubs, Holland can hold its own.  We are home to several breweries that pride themselves on creating fantastic craft beer, artisan spirits, and locally made wine using the finest locally-grown ingredients. We even have our own Hops Farm that supplies our local brewers with the finest Michigan-grown hops!  From tasting rooms to tours, locally-grown hops and grapes to handcrafted cocktails and ciders, you will be sure to find the perfect pour!

Handcrafted Passport

Check out our "Handcrafted Passport" featuring breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cideries in the greater Holland area.


With the 'handcrafted' and 'keeping-it-local' scene becoming increasingly popular, the passport offers an opportunity for an adventure, to sit and hear the individual establishment's story, and to learn about their unique handcrafted product.  Having a 'passport' (that includes a place to jot down tasting notes), provides a handy reference for visitors and locals alike!  

The passport is free and available to anyone (21 and over) who enjoys artisan beverages. Passports can be picked up at the Holland Area Visitors Bureau (78 East 8th Street) or can be mailed within the continental U.S.

February
9

Today's mortgage and refinance rates

Average mortgage rates just edged higher yesterday. That was a relief after much sharper increases last Thursday and Friday. Yes, we're looking at the highest rates in nearly 30 months. But those 30 months saw the lowest rates in history. And all we're seeing now is a return to normal.

First thing this morning, markets were signaling that mortgage rates today might rise again. But any increase is likely to be moderate. And you need to be aware that the current volatility makes those markets even less predictable than normally.

Current mortgage and refinance rates

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed 3.972% 3.994% Unchanged
Conventional 15 year fixed 3.118% 3.148% +0.02% 
Conventional 20 year fixed 3.694% 3.728% -0.03% 
Conventional 10 year fixed 3.221% 3.284% +0.02% 
30 year fixed FHA 4.04% 4.847% +0.02% 
15 year fixed FHA 3.244% 3.851% -0.09% 
30 year fixed VA 3.908% 4.108% +0.02% 
15 year fixed VA 3% 3.328% +0.11% 
5/1 ARM VA 4.611% 3.689% +0.16% 

Should you lock a mortgage rate today?

Following fairly sharp rises in mortgage rates on the last two working days of last week, I've been talking about a time when they're likely to briefly plateau or dip a bit. If this Thursday morning's employment data are worse than expected, those rates might resume their climb. But, if they're better, we could see a longer plateau or even some worthwhile falls, depending on what the figures say.

I doubt these rates will continue increasing as quickly as they have over the last four months. But I also doubt they'll fall very far unless some dramatic and unlikely event intervenes.

So my personal rate lock recommendations remain:

  • LOCK if closing in 7 days
  • LOCK if closing in 15 days
  • LOCK if closing in 30 days
  • LOCK if closing in 45 days
  • LOCK if closing in 60 days

Market data affecting today's mortgage rates

Here's a snapshot of the state of play this morning at about 9:50 a.m. (ET). The data, compared with roughly the same time yesterday, were:

  • The yield on 10-year Treasury notes rose to 1.97% from 1.93%. (Bad for mortgage rates.) More than any other market, mortgage rates normally tend to follow these particular Treasury bond yields
  • Major stock indexes were mixed. (Neutral for mortgage rates.) When investors are buying shares they're often selling bonds, which pushes prices of those down and increases yields and mortgage rates. The opposite may happen when indexes are lower. But this is an imperfect relationship
  • Oil prices fell to $89.67 from $91.32 a barrel. (Good for mortgage rates*.) Energy prices play a large role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity
  • Gold prices edged up to $1,823 from $1,815 an ounce. (Neutral for mortgage rates*.) In general, it is better for rates when gold rises, and worse when gold falls. Gold tends to rise when investors worry about the economy. And worried investors tend to push rates lower
  • CNN Business Fear & Greed index – climbed to 35 from 28 out of 100. (Bad for mortgage rates.) "Greedy" investors push bond prices down (and interest rates up) as they leave the bond market and move into stocks, while "fearful" investors do the opposite. So lower readings are better than higher ones

Caveats about markets and rates

Before the pandemic and the Federal Reserve's interventions in the mortgage market, you could look at the above figures and make a pretty good guess about what would happen to mortgage rates that day. But that's no longer the case. We still make daily calls. And are usually right. But our record for accuracy won't achieve its former high levels until things settle down.

So use markets only as a rough guide. Because they have to be exceptionally strong or weak to rely on them. But, with that caveat, mortgage rates today might rise. However, be aware that "intraday swings" (when rates change direction during the day) are a common feature right now.

Find your lowest rate. Start here (Feb 9th, 2022)

Important notes on today's mortgage rates

Here are some things you need to know:

  1. Typically, mortgage rates go up when the economy's doing well and down when it's in trouble. But there are exceptions. Read 'How mortgage rates are determined and why you should care'
  2. Only "top–tier" borrowers (with stellar credit scores, big down payments and very healthy finances) get the ultralow mortgage rates you'll see advertised
  3. Lenders vary. Yours may or may not follow the crowd when it comes to daily rate movements – though they all usually follow the wider trend over time
  4. When daily rate changes are small, some lenders will adjust closing costs and leave their rate cards the same
  5. Refinance rates are typically close to those for purchases.

A lot is going on at the moment. And nobody can claim to know with certainty what's going to happen to mortgage rates in coming hours, days, weeks or months.

Are mortgage and refinance rates rising or falling?

This week

There's nothing in the news so far today that's likely to affect mortgage rates much. And nothing's changed since I laid out this week's agenda in yesterday's edition of this rate report.

So click that link if you're catching up. Otherwise, I've nothing new to tell you.

For a more detailed look at what's happening to mortgage rates, read the latest weekend edition of this report.

Recently

Over much of 2020, the overall trend for mortgage rates was clearly downward. And a new, weekly all–time low was set on 16 occasions that year, according to Freddie Mac.

The most recent weekly record low occurred on Jan. 7, 2021, when it stood at 2.65% for 30–year fixed–rate mortgages.

Since then, the picture has been mixed with extended periods of rises and falls. Unfortunately, since last September, the rises have grown more pronounced, though not consistently so.

Freddie's Feb. 3 report puts that weekly average for 30–year, fixed–rate mortgages at 3.55% (with 0.8 fees and points), unchanged from the previous week.

Expert mortgage rate forecasts

Looking further ahead, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) each has a team of economists dedicated to monitoring and forecasting what will happen to the economy, the housing sector and mortgage rates.

And here are their current rate forecasts for the four quarters of 2022 (Q1/22, Q2/22, Q3/22, Q4/22).

The numbers in the table below are for 30–year, fixed-rate mortgages. Fannie's were published on Jan. 19 and Freddie's and the MBA's on Jan. 21.

Forecaster Q1/22 Q2/22 Q3/22 Q4/22
Fannie Mae 3.2% 3.3%  3.3% 3.4%
Freddie Mac 3.5% 3.6%  3.7% 3.7%
MBA 3.3% 3.5%  3.7% 4.0%

Personally, I was surprised that Fannie Mae only slightly increased its rate forecasts in January. It believes that rates for 30–year, fixed-rate mortgages will average 3.2% over the current quarter. But, on the day its figures were published, we reported those for conventional loans were already up to 3.87%.

Do Fannie's economists expect those rates to plummet later this month or in February or March and remain lower in the following quarters? If so, they know something that I don't. And that their peers in Freddie and the MBA's teams don't, either, though I'm less optimistic than any of them.

Of course, given so many unknowables, the whole current crop of forecasts maybe even more speculative than usual.

Find your lowest rate today

You should comparison shop widely, no matter what sort of mortgage you want. As federal regulator the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says:

"Shopping around for your mortgage has the potential to lead to real savings. It may not sound like much, but saving even a quarter of a point in interest on your mortgage saves you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan."

February
7

Grand Haven shops have the perfect gifts for this Valentine's Day. Here's where you can find the best chocolate and candy.

Regardless of your relationship status, Valentine's Day is the perfect opportunity to show love for those you care about the most. There's no better way to do so than with a sweet gift.

If you're looking to get out and do some last-minute Valentine's Day shopping, finding the right gift is easy in Grand Haven. We have so many wonderful local businesses serving up delicious chocolate, candy, baked goods, and more. Here are seven recommendations from our real estate agents:

Click Here to Read More...

February
4

4 Tips for Buying a Home in 2022

A happy couple looks sitting on the floor between moving boxes and drinking coffee.

There are plenty of good reasons to buy a home -- financial stability, building equity in a place of your own, and not having to follow a landlord's rules. If you're eager to buy a home in 2022, here are four important tips to help make that happen.

1. Research home prices ahead of time

Home prices have soared this year due to high buyer demand and limited housing inventory. Come 2022, those circumstances could remain unchanged. It makes sense to research different neighborhoods in advance and see which ones have home prices within your financial reach.

Some buyers embark on a home search before looking at numbers. But it's better to take the opposite approach -- first figure out where you can afford to look, and then start driving out to see different homes in person. If you go the opposite route, you might fall in love with a home or town you can't afford.

2. Work on boosting your credit score

Chances are, you don't have the money to buy a home outright next year. Rather, you'll probably need a mortgage. The higher your credit score is, the more likely you'll be to get approved not only for a home loan, but for an affordable interest rate as well.

You can boost your credit score in a number of ways. First, make sure to pay all of your bills on time. Next, if possible, pay off a chunk of existing credit card debt, especially if you're carrying a high balance relative to your total credit limit across all of your cards. Finally, check your credit report for errors and correct those that could be dragging your score down.

3. Sock away extra money for a down payment

Because home values are so inflated, you should expect to pay up in 2022. And if you want to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), you'll need to bring a 20% down payment to the table for a conventional loan. If you don't have that much saved yet, work on boosting your cash reserves. A good way to do so is to get a side gig on top of your main job.

4. Be prepared for competition

Though housing inventory may pick up in 2022, there's no guarantee that will happen. It could also take months for enough inventory to hit the market to satisfy buyer demand. That's why if you're aiming to buy a home next year, you'll need to prepare to duke it out with other buyers. Now is a good time to read up on different strategies for winning a bidding war.

One step worth taking in this regard is getting a mortgage pre-approval letter. That sends the message you're a serious home buyer whose finances have already been vetted. And it may prompt a seller to accept your offer over a comparable one.

Though 2022 may end up being a challenging year to buy a home, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of success. Be sure to check off these boxes if your goal is to become a homeowner over the next 12 months.

A historic opportunity to potentially save thousands on your mortgage

Chances are, interest rates won't stay put at multi-decade lows for much longer. That's why taking action today is crucial, whether you're wanting to refinance and cut your mortgage payment or you're ready to pull the trigger on a new home purchase.

Our expert recommends this company to find a low rate - and in fact he used them himself to refi (twice!).

February
2

PERFECT DAY TRIP FOR COUPLES: HOLLAND, MICHIGAN

You may have heard of Holland, Michigan for its Tulip Festival in May, but it's a great town for couples to explore year-round, especially while staying at our bed and breakfast near Holland, MI.  With two lakeshores (Lake Michigan & Lake Macatawa), and six blocks of shops and restaurants, Holland makes for a perfect day trip destination during your stay at Castle in the Country. Located within a 30-minute drive from our Allegan, MI B&B, the downtown area has a variety of boutique shops, home accessory stores, outdoor outfitters, and bicycle shops. After shopping, you can duck into any one of a number of cafes, restaurants, or brewpubs where you can recharge with a cup of coffee or sip a glass of Michigan craft beer or wine.   Window-shopping or just people-watching is a favorite pastime along 8th street and heated sidewalks make this the perfect nearby city to enjoy during any season of the year.

Some of our favorite recommendations for couples to do in Downtown Holland are:

– Fustini's Oil and Vinegar specialty shop for tasting and buying a variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegar infused with many different spices, herbs, and fruits.

– The Seasoned Home where you can find shelves upon shelves of spices from around the world and a knowledgeable staff that is ready to offer advice on which spices to use to add spectacular flavor to any dish.

holland-mi-farm-market-rs

-The Holland Farmer's Market is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the months of May-December. Find an assortment of fresh produce from the area, fresh flowers, pumpkins and gourds for fall. During the holidays, visit the Christmas market to find gifts for loved ones and, of course, yourselves.

 Warner's Wine Tasting Room where guests have a chance to taste some of the 22+ wines made by the oldest winery in Michigan.

– New Holland Brewing Company – Brew Pub & Restaurant to enjoy an artisan craft beer including, but not limited to, their very own "Dragon's Milk". On Saturday afternoons, go on an educational tour of their production facility, or enjoy their outdoor Bier Garden.

Ten local Art Galleries – many couples think of Saugatuck when they think of art in Southwest Michigan, but Holland is home to plenty of art galleries as well. Many of them are on 8th Street right in the main downtown area, but there are also a few scattered about the town as well.

butchs

Restaurants we recommend:

 Butch's Drydock offers a fine-dining experience for a romantic dinner while celebrating the union between food and drink. Today Butch's is one of fewer than 800 restaurants worldwide to hold the Wine Spectators Best of Award of Excellence. Have a glass with your meal or browse the shelves of the wine cellar, stocked with more than 700 wines from around the globe, and purchase a bottle to enjoy back in your suite at Castle in the Country.

 Curragh's Irish Pub offers hearty Irish fare in a relaxed environment that encourages great conversation either indoors or outdoor patio dining.

– Boatwerks, located right on the waterfront of Lake Macatawa, has good food and an even better view. The outdoor seating is a huge patio with umbrella tables overlooking the water during the warmer months, but couples can't go wrong dining inside either as there is still a perfect view through the massive floor-to-ceiling windows lining the waterfront.

After you've wandered, shopped, satisfied your hunger, and quenched your thirst, come back to your whirlpool/fireplace suite at Castle in the Country, the premiere bed and breakfast near Holland, MI where a romantic and relaxing evening awaits you.

Login to My Homefinder

Login to My Homefinder