Home buying stress? You are not alone!

It is not easy being YOU

          It is another day in your quest to buy a home.  Depending on the length of your current journey, at times you are feeling like that tiny bit of dust caught between a very solid rock and hard spot.  You know all the things that are bothering you and nobody else seems to get it.  You are not alone.

          There is a very old saying “an apple does not fall far from the tree”.  You hear it when folks are describing how children seem to have many of the characteristics of their parents.  People chuckle and give a knowing nod and the moment passes. Most of us do have some characteristics that seem awfully similar to our parents.  Oh sure, we strive to be better.  We secretly fear that we are becoming our mother or father. We all want to be in individual, viewed on our own merits.  But still, we are all slaves to our up bringing and the world that formed us.

          You may be wondering, what does this have to do with your current stress level?  Everything.  You see, the world that you grew up in was as large as the universe you understood and as small as the invisible barriers you did not realize existed.  Your world was shaped at your dining room table.  Dining room table worlds are like snow flakes, no two of them are exactly alike.   Your experience and understanding are what you bring to the home buying process. It may be the biggest piece of the puzzle (after all, you are buying the home), but yours is just one piece that has to some how smoothly interact with all the other pieces.

        

They all apples and none of them are exactly alike.

          Your real estate agent, your lender, your home inspector, your appraiser, your spouse or co-buyer (if any) are all apples in their own right.  They all have fallen close to their own tree.  They bring their background, belief system and personal style to your journey.  Just like you, every single one of them believes what they are saying and doing is the right thing.  Often, they use language from their industry that is comfortable to them but entirely foreign to you. You have to add to the mix that they are interpreting every thing you say based on their understanding of the words and phrases you use.  In the effort  to make sure everyone is on the same page, at the same time, the process may seem to slow down or come to a screeching halt.  It is still moving forward, but it sure can feel like progress is not part of the equation.

          Your stress is a direct result of the difference between your expectations and your perception of the reality of the moment.  Whether anyone wants to accept it or not, perception is your reality.  How well your expectations are being managed will directly impact your stress level.  Something that may be overlooked is the fact that everyone else involved is dealing with perceptions, expectations and stress.  You are not alone.

How do you take all these apples and make the best pie?

          You can’t.  Individually, your agent, your lender, your home inspector, your appraiser, your spouse or co-buyer can not do it alone either.  This is one case where too many cooks can not spoil the broth.  Everyone has to work to understand where each person is in the process.  Even if everyone has an understanding, stress will exist.  You can lower your stress level if you calmly express your concerns and make sure that your concerns are understood. Once your concerns are expressed and understood, you can get answers. If the answer is not understood, ask the question again, and again and again until you hear and understand the answer.  Knowledge can help alleviate the stress.

          Sure, you will get answers that compound your problem at times, but if you know the problem, you can search for a solution.  Seeking a solution will bring stress, but it should be eustress.  Feeling out of the loop only generates distress.

          One thing you can be sure of in your situation.  You are not alone.  If I can be of any help in your home buying journey, I promise you that I will do my part of focus on you and do my best to make sure you understand the process. My direct phone number is 301-509-5111 (I can also be reached via text message at that number)

MacArthur receives J.D. Power Award!

John MacArthur receives J.D. Power Award for customer satisfaction

         RE/MAX Chairman and Co-Founder Dave Liniger offered congratulations saying “It truly reflects your professional excellence, your enthusiasm for education, your commitment to distressed sellers, your individual drive, and many other qualities that serve the interests of your clients. Your efforts change lives, and those people have spoken.”

         Home buyers and home sellers used a 1,000-point scale.  Consumers used the following categories:

  • Overall satisfaction
  • Agent/Salesperson professionalism
  • Variety of additional services
  • Real estate office
  • Real estate company marketing (seller survey only)
         MacArthur is licensed in the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland. His broker is Century 21 New Millennium located in Washington, DC.  Dave Stevens, the former Assistant Secretary – FHA Commissioner shared ” *“John is a true real estate professional who combines passion, integrity, and a deep knowledge of real estate to produce outstanding results”.
         If you are interested in having a JD Powers award winning agent represent you in your real estate transaction, you can contact John at 301-509-5111 or click CONTACT JOHN.

Buyers beware … Fair Housing does not limit your decisions

Buyers beware, Fair Housing does not limit your decisions.  The Fair Housing Act was adopted in 1968 and then modified by amendments in 1988.   The law was part of the Civil Rights Act.  In short, it prohibited discriminating against people based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap, when those people are seeking housing.

The law covers those that are selling, renting or lending money to people.  End of story.

This may be one of the intended goals.

It is far from reality.

         People by nature are more comfortable with people that are from a similar race, color, national origin, or religion. People often prefer to live in an area where their particular chosen lifestyle is accepted.  People, across the board, want to feel comfortable in their new living environment.  It is just my opinion, but that seems to be human nature.

It is not a violation of the Fair Housing Act to assist them in finding a home that THEY want.

         Real estate agents seem to get confused or perplexed when dealing with buyers and/or renters.  They rebuff inquiries about neighborhoods or fall into the “strange mode” of ” I can show you anything based on your criteria, but I can not comment on the racial make up, color make up, predominant national origin or predominant religion in any area.” “I can not tell you about schools, crime or sexual offenders, but I can direct you to websites where you can discover the information your self.  I can not tell you about any potential changes to the community, but I can direct you to the planning office where you can research that information for yourself.”

          When asked, what then is your value Mr. or Ms. Realtor, I guess they can reply “I have access to the homes. I can open the door for you.”

          Oh, now there is justification for the money you earn! 

         It would seem to me that the value of an agent working with a buyer or renter is in part their knowledge of the community.  Clients come to agents and are quite open in their desires.  Should they be left to the whims of the agent? If someone asks to live in a predominantly Asian community, is the agent doing their job when they drive them all over hill and dale (when any agent that actually lives and works in the area knows full well where Asian communities are located).

          If a client wants to look at homes that are within walking distance of a religious location, is the agent doing their job when that drive them all over hill and dale ( when any agent that actually lives and works in the area knows full well where religious locations are located).

         I happen to believe that locating the right home is my job.  If there is reluctance on the part of the seller because of the race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap of my client, well then we shall seek the protection of the Fair Housing Act.  That is what the act exist for…to protect, not hinder those that are buying or renting a home.

          If you happen to be a single woman and the thought of walking through the gauntlet of young men jeering every night when you come home makes you sick,  you do have a right to find a home that may preclude that experience.  If you have a good agent, they should be able to assist you.  Just because testosterone laden cat calls are not illegal, does not mean you have to live where they might well exist.

         The internet is chock full of data that buyers can use. You can go to crime sites and see the crimes reported. You can go to city data sites and see the demographics of a neighborhood.  You can go to school sites and see the demographics of any school, including test rankings, racial breakdown and percentage of free lunch participants.  You can search and juggle data as infinitum.  Your agent should have internet access as well.

The law dictates that you can not be discriminated against on basic criteria.  YOU have the right to discriminate against anything you like when you are buying or renting.  No government can dictate where you choose to live.

          Buyers beware … fair housing does not limit your decisions. Fair housing protects your right to act on those decisions.  The law is a good law, but it is not a guideline for purchase or rental decisions.  Keep that in mind the next time you ask an intelligent question of an agent and get sent to Wikipedia or Google.

Is now a good time to buy a home?

Is now a good time to buy a home? This is another one of those questions that seems to be cropping up everywhere lately. It may be the result of the self serving advertisements run by the NAR and lenders and real estate agents. You have seen them. “Interest rates are at historically low levels”, “Home prices have leveled off”, and the real doozy “Real estate is the best investment you can make”.

I am reminded of an old rock n’ roll song “Don’t believe all those lies, darlin’ just believe your eyes”.  Can we begin with one basic fact.  You are an individual. While some statements above may be true in your case, that are not true for everyone.  You need to make a decision based on your circumstances. Ignore the hype and deal with the facts.

Your decision should not be as hard as it seems.  First, you have to decide if after careful review of all facts, you can buy a home…do you really want to buy a home.  If the answer to that question is no, don’t bother going through the exercise.  You have to want to own a home.  Owning just because you can is not enough. If you want to own a home, there is a good chance you will appreciate the home and you will take care of the home (and when times get rough, you won’t just walk away from the home).

So, you have decided, Yes you do want to own a home.  Let’s try and answer for you, is now a good time to buy a home?  Look at your current living situation.  It does not matter how much you are paying in rent right now. You have to decide how much you are comfortable paying for housing every month.  You have to decide upon a figure that you will pay every month.  The amount should not leave you broke.  You will need to save money from the day you move into the home until the day you retire. Things come up. Appliances wear out, plumbing springs leaks, lawns need maintenance, etc.  Owning is more than eating, sleeping and watching television.

Once you determine how much you are comfortable paying each month, you can do some basic math to see if you should proceed.  Just for general principles, divide the monthly figure you came up with by 6. (eg. 1800 per month divieded by 6 equals 300).  The figure you have now is just about the amount you would pay in principal and interest for a  $300,000  loan.  This is not exact, it is a ball park figure.  It is just to give you a general idea of what you might be able to afford.

Your next step is to sign on the internet and pull up real estate for sale in the price range you have determined. (In the example, you might pull up homes ranging from $275,000 to $300,000.)  Look at what your money might buy and look at what your money might buy in the area you would like to live.  Now you have some information that is useful in determining if now is a good time to buy a home.

Now, if there is nothing you would want to own at this point in your search, you have answered the question. Now is not a good time to buy a home.  If what you are comfortable paying will only cover rent in an area, then you should rent until your situation changes.

You see, it is always a good time to buy a home.  It just may not be the best time for you to buy a home.  All the advertising and slick talking salesmen can not change facts.  It is a good time for you to buy a home when you can comfortably afford to buy a home in the area you wish to live.

If you would like to have me help you analyze your personal situation, CONTACT ME.  I would rather point you in the right direction and help you in the future than lead you down the wrong path and destroy a relationship forever.

Top 10 Reasons … Why buy in Rockville, Md.

Rockville, Maryland is located north of Bethesda, Maryland on both sides of Rockville Pike.  The area of Rockville actually extends as far east as Georgia Avenue and as far west as Darnestown Road. The northern edge of Rockville ends at the intersection of  Shady Grove Road and Rockville Pike.

People that live here, rarely move and those that visit often return to make it their home. It is no mystery why that occurs. There are hundreds of reasons. Let me share the top 10.

  • 10.   Local produce on sale during Spring, Summer and Fall at Farmers Markets  held in two locations in downtown Rockville from May through November. Every Saturday, May 14 through November 19, the Farmers Market transforms itself as different fruits and vegetables become available throughout the season. Your pick of  farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, bedding plants, cut flowers, preserves, honey herbs, baked goods, and more. All items offered are picked fresh daily and available as supplies last.
  • 9.    Red Gate Golf Course is open year round. Red Gate Golf Course is a championship 18-hole par-71 golf course that has been ranked as one of the 10 finest facilities in the Washington metropolitan area by Washington Golf Magazine.
  • 8.    Rockville Town Square is bustling. Enjoy all that downtown offers by visiting our unique locally-owned shops and restaurants, a pedestrian-friendly Town Square, residences, and the seat of county and city government, Rockville’s Town Center is a dynamic and thriving neighborhood to visit and call home.
  • 7.    The F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre has it’s home here. Named for the celebrated author who often visited Rockville, this 446-seat facility for the performing arts is used by both community theatrical groups and professional touring companies. Besides stage performances, the theater and its Social Hall are available for conferences, seminars and other large meetings.
  • 6.    Discount weekend and free parking! There are no parking meters in Rockville. There are parking garages and parking lots as well as free lots.  Every retail location has plenty of parking. Most single family homes have driveways and/or garages.
  • 5.     Cherry blossoms and Azaleas. Local neighborhoods have hundreds upon hundreds of cherry trees.  Springtime in Rockville  is a wonderful, colorful  experience.  There is little need to drive to DC, you have the beauty all around you at home.
  • 4.    Neighborhoods. Town center is surrounded by neighborhoods. These neighborhoods usually have an association that promotes interaction between neighbors.  These are real neighborhoods where people get to know and care about one another.
  • 3.    FIOS. Most neighborhoods in Olney have access to fiber optic internet service.  Folks that work from home or those that need that gazillion baud rate will never be twiddling their thumbs here.
  • 2.    Montgomery College has it’s main campus here. Their mission states that “We are the community’s college.” A variety of activities, programs and facilities are available on each campus to county residents. Take a look at everything Montgomery College has to offer beyond a great education.
  • 1.    Community. Rockville offers community to those that live here. There are fine schools, public and private.  There are year round events where neighbors come together.  There are houses of worship open to all.  There is a sense of caring and community spirit that is very unique.

If you would like to hear more about Rockville, give us a call and we will be glad to share all the information we have on this great community.  If you would like to see what homes are available in Rockville,  just click on the link below.

LINK TO Rockville

Tudela-MacArthur

ReMax Realty Centre

301-509-5111

USDA Loan Changes coming in October

The USDA has just announced changes to their loan programs. The changes will take effect on October 1st, 2011. At that point, loans which are under the Guaranteed Loan Program will have a .003% annual fee. The fee will be added to the monthly loan payment.  There will still be an upfront fee, but it is be cut almost in half, from 3.5% to only 2%.

This change is the result of increase authority that was given to the USDA as part of legislation passed last year which allowed additional funding for the program. The program has been very successful and allowed buyers a very attractive option for purchasing homes in the designated areas.

The question has been asked, do the changes make the USDA option more expensive?  The Federal Government has always demanded that consumers be made aware of the total cost of loans.  In the real world, most buyers cringe if they are asked to focus on the total cost of a home purchase (if all the payments over 30 years are added together).  I know, it is important information, but the real question about changes has to do with “how are buyers impacted today?”.

Is the zero down USDA loan still going to be a good deal?

I think so.  Obviously, you are going to be better off if you have down payment money available.  Every dollar you put into the purchase of a house reduces the principle that you are going to borrow.  That being said, you may only have enough money to cover a bit more than closing costs on the home.  The reduction in the up front fee that will occur when this change takes place is significant.  Under today’s guidelines, you need almost $3,700 for every $100,00 you borrow.  After October, the amount drops to just about $2,000 for every $100,000 you borrow.  The new monthly fee is roughly $25 per month in the first year.  It decreases based on the principle still due each year.  The end result is that you may qualify for a little bit less of a loan (The $25 month per $100,000 will have to factored in, just like a condo fee or HOA fee is factored in).

As always, the amount of money you can borrow is directly related to how much the lender believes you can pay back on a monthly basis.  That is why, when you sit down with a lender they begin talking about your debt to income ratio.  They are only going to allow a certain percentage of your income to be designated as available to pay the loan. The small increase in the monthly payment will reduce the amount of money you can borrow.

If you are willing to accept that there are limits to what you can buy, the new guidelines offer you a clear picture of how a USDA loan might benefit you.  It is a wonderful program if used properly.

If you have any questions about this or any other real estate information, feel free to contact me.

First Time Buyer Grant Money Is Now Available

First time buyer grant money is now available in the DC area.  There are several sources of this money.  The amount can be as high as $7,500. It almost sounds to good to be true!  There must be a catch. Right?  Well, there is no catch, you only need to qualify for a loan from one of the lenders participating in the plan.  This is grant money.  After you live in the home for five years, it is completely forgiven. (If you move prior to five years, it is forgiven on a pro-rated basis).

Who is funding the plan?  Well, actually the Federal Government is supporting the First Time Buyer Grant Money program by funneling the money through designated lenders across the country.  If you wish to make contact with one of the lenders, information is available at Home Buying Help.

When is the money available?  The limited funds for the First Time Buyer Grant Money have been allocated for this year.  Each lender has a specific amount of money for the program.  Once they run out of  funds, they must wait until either a possible re-replenishment  from the government or the funds are released next year. In my experience, the funds usually last until fall.  The lenders that I work with have all reported that there experience has been the same.

What does it take to qualify?  As I mentioned, the first requirement in receiving the First Time Buyer Grant Money, you have to qualify for a loan (this includes FHA loans). There are income limits.  There is a limit to the amount of home you are seeking to purchase. These limits and amounts vary and you need to actually speak with someone to see if you qualify.

Where do I find out more about the First Time Buyer Grant Money that is now available?  Information about the grant is available at  Home Buying Help.

Why haven’t I heard about this First Time Buyer Grant Money before now?  Possibly, you have not had the chance to deal with a real estate agent that understands all the facets of working with a first time buyer.  The choice of a lender, the selection of a home and the process between your offer and closing take skill.  Experienced agents know there is more to helping a buyer than sending them emails of homes and taking them out on weekends.

How do I take advantage of this First Time Buyer Grant Money?  Well, your first step is to speak with one of the local lenders that has access to the funds. ( Contact Now ).  Once qualified, the money can be used for down payment and/or closing costs on your new home.

First time buyer grant money is now available. If you are interested in learning more, contact me at 301-509-5111.

First Time Home Buyers You need a Real Estate Agent … Confused by your choices?

First Time Home Buyers

YOU DON’T NEED

8,230 REAL ESTATE AGENTS.

 

EXPERIENCE THE DIFFERNCE

YOU NEED ONE.

  • Local resident for over 30 years.

  • Represented Buyers (such as your self  in hundreds of transactions).

  • Offers complete representation from initial consultation through settlement.

  • Nationally recognized educator in the industry.

  • Author of  books, articles, blogs and Examiner column.

When asked about John MacArthurDavid H. Stevens, Assistant SecretaryFHA Commissioner at HUD responded,  “John is a true real estate professional who combines passion, integrity, and a deep knowledge of real estate to produce outstanding results”

Don’t leave your largest purchase to chance!

CALL  301-509-5111   TODAY

John MacArthur

Remax Realty Centre


Five Steps to Home Buying

Five steps to home buying is an overview of the home buying process. As time goes by, I will review each of the five steps to home buying individually. I will be the first to agree that it is not rocket science, but I do believe that the process is made much easier with the help of a buyer’s agent. (A buyer’s agent is a real estate agent representing the buyer via a buyer-broker agreement).

The five steps to home buying are:

  1. Honest evaluation of your current situation.
  2. Careful determination of your needs.
  3. Thorough review of possible homes.
  4. Negotiation of  your offer to purchase.
  5. Fulfilling requirements of contract prior to settlement.

The honest evaluation of your current situation will require that you take stock of your finances, speak with a lender regarding a mortgage and decide if that amount you are comfortable paying will be sufficient to carry your loan.  The type loan program you choose will dictate how much cash you will have to have.  In general, FHA loans require a lower amount of down payment ( around 3.5%) and conventional loans will require about a 20% down payment. There are programs that fall in between these amounts. A good lender will be able to direct you.

The careful determination of your needs should include the size, type and location of your new home. The lender will have given you a price range to work with while searching.  Often the decision will be impacted most by location. While you can certainly find bargains close to the city, prices are usually lower as you move farther from the city.  The counsel of an experience real estate agent is very valuable during this stage.

The thorough review of possible homes usually begins with an on line search of possible homes. You may have already discovered that the internet is a well stocked resource of homes. Here is another step that is aided by a good real estate agent.  The wide range of homes that show up on line are not always what they appear to be. An agent can go through listings and give you an accurate picture of homes available.  Following the on line search, you will visit homes that seem to meet your criteria. The eyes and ears and knowledge of  an experienced agent are your best resource in this phase. DO NOT…Let me repeat…DO NOT fall prey to a listing agent. The listing agent CAN NOT represent you and their only goal is to sell the home for their client (They only can represent the seller).

The negotiation of your offer to purchase is one of the most crucial points in the home buying process. In plain language, this is where the rubber meets the road in the purchase of a home. An experienced agent will make certain that your interests are protected in every aspect of the contract.  Less experienced agents may prepare an offer that does not protect you completely.  Again, this is the most important juncture of your purchase. Negotiations will determine what you pay and the condition the home MUST be in when you take possession. Things like appraisals, inspections and possession are covered in the actual offer.  You may think you are saving money by going a discount or rebate route, but you may also be putting the entire process at risk.

Fulfilling the requirements of contract prior to settlement can be a confusing process for the lay person. An experienced agent will have the time table and required actions set in a calendar.  There are many things that must occur between contract ratification and closing the sale. Some things will relate to contingencies in the contract and others will relate to your lender. It is very important that you respond to requests from your lender quickly. They may be requesting information that seems burdensome, but they are only following the direction of the underwriters. In many cases, as closing nears, you will feel the pressure build. An experienced agent has guided many clients through this process and they will gladly “hold your hand” and calm your nerves. Experience makes a big difference.

Five steps to home buying is an overview of the home buying process, but it does offer a general idea of the steps necessary to purchase a home. As you can see, while it is not terribly complicated to those in the industry, it can be confusing to the average person.  You will find other lists and other thoughts on this process if you Google “home buying steps”.  This is based on my years of experience as an agent in the Maryland and DC area.  My clients are all treated the same way and they do experience the difference.

If you have any questions about the process, feel free to contact me, I really do love my job.