What is Title Insurance?

Title Defect

Title insurance is a type of insurance that protects mortgage lenders and homeowners against claims questioning the legal ownership of a home or property. If disputes over title ownership arise after the purchase, the insurance policy pays for any legal fees to resolve them.

Unlike other types of insurance that help cover future mishaps, title insurance is designed to protect the policyholder from any past title discrepancies. For instance, when you buy car insurance, you are protected in case your car is in an accident. When you buy health insurance, you are protected against the cost of future medical care. Title insurance, on the other hand, protects an investment in real estate that might be at risk due to a past event, such as an undiscovered lien against the property.

Title insurance does not just protect you, as a purchaser of the property. Your mortgage lender will likely require you to have title insurance in order to protect their security interest in the property you are buying.

In any real estate transaction requiring a mortgage, the title company runs a public record search to ensure that the home being purchased is free and clear of any liens or ownership disputes. This process confirms the seller’s legal right to sell the home. If any defects in title, also known as “clouds”, are found during the title search, they are the responsibility of the seller. He or she may be able to cure the defects, or you can walk away during the sale. If defects in title are missed, however, you could be on the hook.

For example, a lien travels with the property, not the debtor. For example, let’s say a previous owner of your house had the kitchen remodeled. He failed to pay the contractor the $30,000 owed, and the contractor had a lien against the house for that amount.

If the title search failed to discover the lien, and you purchased the property, the lien would become your problem. Now that it is known, you will have to satisfy it, most likely out of the proceeds of the house if and when you sell it.

While this process usually goes smoothly, title insurance comes into play when disputes arise. Here are some of the more common title issues:

  • Title forgeries
  • Back taxes
  • Filing errors
  • Unknown heirs to the estate who claim ownership
  • Inconsistent or conflicting wills
  • Liens, commonly from unpaid home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) or contractor bills
  • Undocumented easements

There are two types of title policy; a Lender’s policy and an Owner’s policy.

A lender’s title policy is designed to protect the financial institution providing your mortgage from title claims that would put their stake in your home at risk. Lenders almost always require borrowers to purchase title insurance on the lender’s behalf as part of the loan-approval process. It’s considered a closing cost.

The owner’s title policy is designed to protect the homeowner in case of any claims against their ownership of the home. In most cases, owner’s title insurance is not required in a home purchase, but it is recommended. It can be paid for by the seller at closing, so you may want to negotiate for it when you are purchasing a home. Generally, in Michigan, the seller’s real estate agent will choose the Title Company that will provide the buyer’s owner’s policy and that Title Company will conduct the closing. The buyer may use the same Title Company for the Lenders policy, or the buyer can use a different Title Company.

If you are buying a home in cash or your lender doesn’t require title insurance, you can request that the seller provide a warranty of title, which states that they are the sole party with a right to sell the home.

How much does title insurance cost?

Title insurance policy costs often range between $500 and $3,500 for each policy but vary based on the purchase price, mortgage amount, the sales price of the home, and the extent of the coverage.

Your title insurance premium is a one-time charge that’s paid at closing. In addition to the insurance itself, you may be responsible for other related fees, like wire transfer fees, closing fees, and recording with the county (register of deeds).

You should watch out for unnecessary fees from title companies.  Anything outside of the title premium, title closing, recording, and wire transfer are unnecessary fees that you should NOT be paying.

In many states, you can compare the prices of different title insurance companies. But in Michigan all title companies are required to provide the same level of coverage at the same price, so shopping around isn’t required in terms of title premiums.

I hope you found this information informative and helpful. If you have any real estate related questions, I am always happy to talk with you, and I’m available via phone, text, email and social media.

To your health and happiness, Dani

Michigan Principal Residence Exemptions (PRE)

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Michigan Senate Moves Bill to Allow for Principal Residence Exemptions (PRE) Until June 30th

Over the past several weeks Michigan Realtors® has worked with the Legislature and the Department of Treasury to allow additional time for buyers to file their Principal Residence Exemption (PRE) for 2020. With the traditional deadline expiring this past Monday, June 1st, Michigan Realtors® is urging expedited movement on this important legislation to provide buyers with property tax relief and the greatest amount of certainty during the month of June.

Today, the Michigan Senate passed Senate Bill 940, sponsored by Senator Roger Victory (R- Hudsonville) extending the time frame to file a 2020 PRE until June 30th. With the overwhelming support of the Senate and work with the Department of Treasury, it is anticipated that the bill will see continued movement in the Michigan House next week.

While there are no certainties, Realtors® should advise their buyer closing in the month of June to file their PRE before June 30th in order to receive the PRE rate for their July property tax bill.

What is a Principal Residence Exemption (PRE)?

A PRE exempts a principal residence from the tax levied by a local school district for school operating purposes up to 18 mills. To qualify for a PRE on a parcel of land, a person must be a Michigan resident who owns and occupies the property as a principal residence. The PRE is a separate program from the Homestead Property Tax Credit, which is filed annually with your Michigan Individual Income Tax Return.

What this means to a homebuyer: If you close on a property in the month of June and file for the Michigan Principal Residence Exemption by June 30th, your summer tax bill will be lower due to the PRE.

Have questions about this subject, or any other real estate related topics, I’m always available to talk with you!

Dani

The Truth About Skipping Mortgage Payments (And The Consequences)

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Every professional in the housing/mortgage market understands the crushing economic changes for many households as a result of coronavirus.  It makes all the sense in the world for those households to pursue the forbearance option (skipping mortgage payments for 180-360 days) if needed.  But it may make considerably less sense for those who aren’t truly in need.  Either way, the decision should not be taken lightly and its consequences are already being felt.

The CARES Act requires that mortgage servicers grant forbearance without verifying need.  In other words, if you say you have a financial need, your mortgage company can’t ask you to document it.  This has resulted in a much bigger surge in mortgage non-payment than the industry expected.

When people don’t pay their mortgage, the fallout is a bit different than most other things in life.  For instance, if I loan you $100 and you don’t pay me back, I’m out $100!  If you gave me some collateral, I could sell that and try to recoup some of that $100 of course, but I’d still come up short–especially when factoring in time and energy.

The investors fronting money for mortgages don’t have to worry about getting repaid.  There are guarantees in place for that from housing agencies (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, primarily).  But those guarantees only mean the investor will get the principal and interest they otherwise would have received for the time the mortgage existed.  They DO NOT protect the investor from other expenses that can arise when a homeowner isn’t making payments.

That’s typically not too big of a concern because the risk of non-payment is low and stable enough that it can be easily managed.  With the risk now higher than ever and without knowing how long the situation will last, uncertainty reigns supreme among mortgage investors.  Uncertainty has a cost.

For instance, the housing agencies that guarantee a majority of mortgages are now charging 7% of the loan balance to lenders when new loans enter forbearance status too soon after closing.  The time window can be as long as 6-8 weeks in some cases.  In other words, the lender loses $21,000 on a $300,000 loan.  Such costs quickly add up to insolvency for some lenders.

The investors who buy mortgages are accounting for these new risks by charging higher rates and fees, or by simply ceasing to offer certain loan programs altogether.  The greater the number of forbearance risk factors, the higher you can expect the rate to be, EVEN IF you personally don’t agree that the risk factor applies in your case.

Moreover, the industry’s definition of “risk factors” might surprise you.  Case in point, housing agencies won’t buy/guarantee cash-out loans at all if there’s been early forbearance, even with the 7% penalty).  Rather than run the risk of getting stuck with a mortgage that can’t be sold to or guaranteed by the housing agencies, many investors simply aren’t doing cash-out mortgages right now.  Most of those who remain in the game are charging extra fees and/or higher rates.  That means that a borrower with an 800 credit score who wants a cash out loan for half of their home’s value (a stellar credit risk historically) would still pay a much higher rate.

To a large extent, this would be happening regardless of the people opting for forbearances who don’t really need them.  But those people are certainly making things worse for everyone else.  They’re also making it worse for themselves.

If we look beyond the impact on rates and program availability, there are other reasons a homeowner should think twice before requesting a forbearance they don’t need.  As the guidelines currently stand, there is no guarantee that they’d be able to refinance or get a new mortgage with forbearance on their credit report–especially if the forbearance is ongoing.

This is a head-scratcher for those who’ve followed the forbearance and CARES Act news reasonably closely, because the law states that there is to be no adverse credit reporting as a result of forbearance.  While it is true that forborne payments will not be reported as late, the forbearance itself is still reported, and that’s obviously a red flag for the mortgage industry as long as the CARES Act’s guidelines remain intact.

In terms of credit scores, it is true that forbearance will not DIRECTLY impact someone’s FICO, but there’s no way to prevent it from having an indirect impact in some cases.  For instance, certain creditors are lowering available revolving credit limits in the event forbearance shows up on a credit report.  This increases the ratio of debt to available credit, which is a key ingredient in determining FICO score.

In other words, even though the forbearance itself is not affecting FICO scores, it can lead other lenders to make changes that cause scores to drop, and it can absolutely hurt your ability to buy/refi in the future.  Could that be clarified to your advantage in the future?  Certainly, but it’s important to know that’s not the way it is right now.

Source: Level One Bank

Be sure to contact your lender to find out how forbearance will affect your future payments. If you have any real estate related questions or concerns, please contact me via phone, text, email, or social media.

Dani 

The Overlooked Financial Advantages of Homeownership

The Overlooked Financial Advantages of Homeownership | MyKCM

There are many clear financial benefits to owning a home: increasing equity, building net worth, growing appreciation, and more. If you’re a renter, it’s never too early to make a plan for how homeownership can propel you toward a stronger future. Here’s a dive into three often-overlooked financial benefits of homeownership and how preparing for them now can steer you in the direction of greater stability, savings, and predictability.

1. You Won’t Always Have a Monthly Housing Payment

According to a recent article by the National Association of Realtors (NAR):

“If you’ve been a lifelong renter, this may sound like a foreign concept, but believe it or not, one day you won’t have a monthly housing payment. Unlike renting, you will eventually pay off your mortgage and your monthly payments will be funding other (possibly more fun) things.”

As a homeowner, someday you can eliminate the monthly payment you make on your house. That’s a huge win and a big factor in how homeownership can drive stability and savings in your life. As soon as you buy a home, your monthly housing costs will begin to work for you as forced savings, coming in the form of equity. As you build equity and grow your net worth, you can continue to reinvest those savings into your future, maybe even by buying that next dream home. The possibilities are truly endless.

2. Homeownership Is a Tax Break

One thing people who have never owned a home don’t always think about are the tax advantages of homeownership. The same piece states:

“Both the interest and property tax portion of your mortgage is a tax deduction. As long as the balance of your mortgage is less than the total price of your home, the interest is 100% deductible on your tax return.”

Whether you’re living in your first home or your fifth, it’s a huge financial advantage to have some tax relief tied to the interest you pay each year. It’s one thing you definitely don’t get when you’re renting. Be sure to work with a tax professional to get the best possible benefits on your annual return.

3. Monthly Housing Costs Are Predictable

A third item noted in the article is how monthly costs become more predictable with homeownership:

As a homeowner, your monthly costs are most likely based on a fixed-rate mortgage, which allows you to budget your finances over a long period of time, unlike the unpredictability of renting.”

With a mortgage, you can keep your monthly housing costs steady and predictable. Rental prices have been skyrocketing since 2012, and with today’s low mortgage rates, it’s a great time to get more for your money when purchasing a home. If you want to lock-in your monthly payment at a low rate and have a solid understanding of what you’re going to spend in your mortgage payment each month, buying a home may be your best bet.

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to start feeling the benefits of stability, savings, and predictability that come with owning a home, let’s get together to determine if buying a home sooner rather than later is right for you.

Ready to start looking for a new home? Begin your search at https://nexthomevictors.realgeeks.com/dani-hallsell/ .  Have a real estate related question? Call, text or email me; I answer questions for free!

Dani

Three Reasons Why Pre-Approval Is the First Step in the 2020 Homebuying Journey

Three Reasons Why Pre-Approval Is the First Step in the 2020 Homebuying Journey | MyKCM

When the number of buyers in the housing market outnumbers the number of homes for sale, it’s called a “seller’s market.” The advantage tips toward the seller as low inventory heats up the competition among those searching for a place to call their own. This can create multiple offer scenarios and bidding wars, making it tough for buyers to land their dream homes – unless they stand out from the crowd. Here are three reasons why pre-approval should be your first step in the homebuying process.

1. Gain a Competitive Advantage

Low inventory, like we have today, means homebuyers need every advantage they can get to make a strong impression and close the deal. One of the best ways to get one step ahead of other buyers is to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you make an offer. For one, it shows the sellers you’re serious about buying a home, which is always a plus in your corner.

2. Accelerate the Homebuying Process

Pre-approval can also speed up the homebuying process, so you can move faster when you’re ready to make an offer. In a competitive arena like we have today, being ready to put your best foot forward when the time comes may be the leg-up you need to cross the finish line first and land the home of your dreams.

3. Know What You Can Borrow and Afford

Here’s the other thing: if you’re pre-approved, you also have a better sense of your budget, what you can afford, and ultimately how much you’re eligible to borrow for your mortgage. This way, you’re less apt to fall in love with a home that may be out of your reach.

Freddie Mac sets out the advantages of pre-approval in the My Home section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

Local real estate professionals also have relationships with lenders who can help you through this process, so partnering with a trusted advisor will be key for that introduction. Once you select a lender, you’ll need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac also describes the ‘4 Cs’ that help determine the amount you’ll be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or Cash Reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

While there are still many additional steps you’ll need to take in the homebuying process, it’s clear why pre-approval is always the best place to begin. It’s your chance to gain the competitive edge you may need if you’re serious about owning a home.

Looking for a reputable local lender to get your pre-approval started? Call, text, email or PM me today! 

Dani

7 Reasons to List Your House This Holiday Season

7 Reasons to List Your House This Holiday Season | MyKCM

Around this time each year, many homeowners decide to wait until after the holidays to list their houses. Similarly, others who already have their homes on the market remove their listings until the spring. Let’s unpack the top reasons why listing your house now or keeping it on the market this winter may be the best choice you can make.

Here are seven great reasons not to wait:

  1. Relocation buyers are out there now. Many companies are still hiring throughout the holidays, and they need their new employees to start as soon as possible.
  2. Purchasers who are looking for homes during the holidays are serious buyers and are ready to buy now.
  3. You can restrict the showings on your home to days and times that are most convenient for you. You will remain in control.
  4. Homes show better when decorated for the holidays.
  5. There is minimal competition for you as a seller right now. Over the past few months we’ve seen the supply of homes for sale decreasing year-over-year, as shown in the graph below:7 Reasons to List Your House This Holiday Season | MyKCM
  6. The desire to own a home doesn’t stop during the holidays. Buyers who were unable to find their dream homes during the busy spring and summer months are still searching, and your home may be the answer.
  7. Late fall and early winter make up the “sweet spot” for sellers. The supply of listings increases substantially after the holidays. Also, in many parts of the country, new construction will continue to surge and reach new heights in 2020, which will lessen the demand for your house next year.

Bottom Line

It may make the most sense to list your home this holiday season. Let’s get together to determine if selling now is your best move.

Visit  https://www.nexthomevictors.com/cma/property-valuation/ to get an idea of what your home is worth in today’s market!

Dani

Forget the Price of the Home. Cost is What Matters.

Forget the Price of the Home. The Cost is What Matters. | MyKCM

Home buying activity (demand) is up, and the number of available listings (supply) is down. When demand outpaces supply, prices appreciate. That’s why firms are beginning to increase their projections for home price appreciation going forward. As an example, CoreLogic increased their 12-month projection for home values from 4.5% to 5.6% over the last few months.

The reacceleration of home values will cause some to again voice concerns about affordability. Just last week, however, First American came out with a data analysis that explains how price is not the only market factor that impacts affordability. They studied prices, mortgage rates, and wages from January through August of this year. Here are their findings:

Home Prices

“In January 2019, a family with the median household income in the U.S. could afford to buy a $373,900 house. By August, that home had appreciated to $395,000, an increase of $21,100.”

Mortgage Interest Rates

“The 0.85 percentage point drop in mortgage rates from January 2019 through August 2019 increased affordability by 9.7%. That translates to a $40,200 improvement in house-buying power in just eight months.”

Wage Growth

“As rates have fallen in 2019, the economy has continued to perform well also, resulting in a tight labor market and wage growth. Wage growth pushes household incomes upward, which were 1.5% higher in August compared with January. The growth in household income increased consumer house-buying power by 1.5%, pushing house-buying power up an additional $5,600.”

When all three market factors are combined, purchasing power increased by $24,500, thus making home buying more affordable, not less affordable. Here is a table that simply shows the data:Forget the Price of the Home. The Cost is What Matters. |  MyKCM

Bottom Line

In the article, Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, explained it best:

“Focusing on nominal house price changes alone as an indication of changing affordability, or even the relationship between nominal house price growth and income growth, overlooks what matters more to potential buyers – surging house-buying power driven by the dynamic duo of mortgage rates and income growth. And, we all know from experience, you buy what you can afford to pay per month.”

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Thinking about buying a home? Download my free Buyers Guide, “Things to consider when buying a home”.

Dani

The #1 Reason to List Your House in the Winter

The #1 Reason to List Your House in the Winter | MyKCM

Many sellers believe spring is the best time to put their homes on the market because buyer demand traditionally increases at that time of year. What they don’t realize is if every homeowner believes the same thing, then that’s when they’ll have the most competition.

So, what’s the #1 reason to list your house in the winter? Less competition.

Housing supply traditionally shrinks at this time of year, so the choices buyers have will be limited. The chart below was created using the months supply of listings from the National Association of Realtors.The #1 Reason to List Your House in the Winter | MyKCMAs you can see, the ‘sweet spot’ to list your house for the most exposure naturally occurs in the late fall and winter months (November – January). 

Temperatures aren’t the only thing that heats up in the spring – so do listings!The #1 Reason to List Your House in the Winter | MyKCM

In 2018, listings increased from December to May. Don’t wait for these listings and the competition that comes with them to come to the market before you decide to list your house.

Added Bonus: Serious Buyers Are Out in the Winter

At this time of year, purchasers who are serious about buying a home will be in the marketplace. You and your family will not be bothered and inconvenienced by mere ‘lookers.’ The lookers are at the mall or online doing their holiday shopping.

 Bottom Line

If you’ve been debating whether or not to sell your house and are curious about market conditions in your area, let’s get together to determine the best time to list your house.

Visit  https://www.nexthomevictors.com/cma/property-valuation/ to get an idea of what your home is worth in today’s market!

Dani

Taking the Fear Out of the Mortgage Process

Taking the Fear Out of the Mortgage Process | MyKCM

A considerable number of potential buyers shy away from the real estate market because they’re uncertain about the buying process – particularly when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage.

For many, the mortgage process can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be! 

In order to qualify in today’s market, you’ll need a down payment (the average down payment on all loans last year was 5%, with many buyers putting down 3% or less), a stable income, and a good credit history.

Once you’re ready to apply, here are 5 easy steps Freddie Mac suggests to follow:

  1. Find out your current credit history and credit score– Even if you don’t have perfect credit, you may already qualify for a loan. The average FICO Score® for all closed loans in September was 737, according to Ellie Mae.
  2. Start gathering all of your documentation– This includes income verification (such as W-2 forms or tax returns), credit history, and assets (such as bank statements to verify your savings).
  3. Contact a professional– Your real estate agent will be able to recommend a loan officer who can help you develop a spending plan, as well as help you determine how much home you can afford.
  4. Consult with your lender– He or she will review your income, expenses, and financial goals in order to determine the type and amount of mortgage you qualify for.
  5. Talk to your lender about pre-approval– A pre-approval letter provides an estimate of what you might be able to borrow (provided your financial status doesn’t change) and demonstrates to home sellers that you’re serious about buying.

Bottom Line

Do your research, reach out to professionals, stick to your budget, and be sure you’re ready to take on the financial responsibilities of becoming a homeowner.

Ready to start looking for a new home? Begin your search at https://nexthomevictors.realgeeks.com/dani-hallsell/ .  Have a real estate related question? Call, text or email me; I answer questions for free!

Dani

5 Tips for Starting Your Home Search

5 Tips for Starting Your Home Search | MyKCM

In today’s market, low inventory dominates the conversation in many areas of the country. It can often be frustrating to be a first-time homebuyer if you aren’t prepared. Here are five tips from realtor.com’s article“How to Find Your Dream Home—Without Losing Your Mind.”

1. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Before You Start Your Search

One way to show you’re serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage. Even if you’re in a market that is not as competitive, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing whether or not your dream home is within your reach. This will help you avoid the disappointment of falling in love with a home well outside your price range.

2. Know the Difference Between Your ‘Must-Haves’ and ‘Would-Like-To-Haves’

Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen to be happy with your home choice? Would a two-car garage be a convenience or a necessity? Before you start your search, list all the features of a home you would like. Qualify them as ‘must-haves’‘should-haves’, or ‘absolute-wish list’ items. This will help you stay focused on what’s most important.

3. Research and Choose a Neighborhood Where You Want to Live

Every neighborhood has unique charm. Before you commit to a home based solely on the house itself, take a test-drive of the area. Make sure it meets your needs for “amenities, commute, school district, etc. and then spend a weekend exploring before you commit.”

4. Pick a House Style You Love and Stick to It

Evaluate your family’s needs and settle on a style of home that will best serve those needs. Just because you’ve narrowed your search to a zip code doesn’t mean you need to tour every listing in that vicinity. An example from the article says, “if you have several younger kids and don’t want your bedroom on a different level, steer clear of Cape Cod–style homes, which typically feature two or more bedrooms on the upper level and the master on the main.”

5. Document Your Home Visits

Once you start touring homes, the features of each individual home will start to blur together. The article suggests keeping your camera handy and making notes on the listing sheet to document what you love and don’t love about each property you visit.

Bottom Line

In a high-paced, competitive environment, any advantage you can give yourself will help you on your path to buying your dream home.

Are you thinking about buying a home? Download my free Buyers Guide, “Things to consider when buying a home”. And start you home search at mynexthome.com.

Dani