Friday, March 18, 2011

Massachusetts Home Buyer Workshops in Salem

Upcoming Free Real Estate Seminars
Information for Buying Real Estate in Massachusetts

Buying Foreclosures and Short Sales

Date: Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Time: 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Location: Armstrong Field Real Estate Office
281 Essex Street (Crombie Street Entrance), Salem, MA
Cost: FREE
With all the homes that have been taken by banks through the foreclosure process, it's the ideal time to find a home that you can purchase at less than market value. Looking to invest in an income producing property or flip a home... there's no better time to do it than now! Hear from the experts in the field about how to find a foreclosed home or short sale, how to make an offer that will assure you will have instant equity, and how to avoid the issues that can come with these properties.

Home Buyer Workshop

Date: Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Time: 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Location: Armstrong Field Real Estate Office
281 Essex Street (Crombie Street Entrance), Salem, MA
Cost: FREE
It is the ideal time to buy your first home. Mortgage interest rates are still at historic lows, the price of homes has bottomed out and the inventory of homes is great. Despite what you read in the media, mortgages are available for anyone with half-decent credit. Live the American Dream by becoming a home owner! Find out how you can qualify, how to find the home of your dreams, and how to avoid the pitfalls.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Selling your home in 2011? Tips to add value during late winter/early spring months

 Major home renovations can be overwhelming, but there are a few fundamental repairs that can update your home's appearance and increase its value. If you're planning to sell your home in 2011, take advantage of the colder winter months to prepare your home for a spring sale by focusing on a few key projects:

Make a first impression.
The entryway is the first up-close encounter a potential homebuyer will have with your home. Manicure your front yard and update or even replace your front door to complement your home's exterior. Select a rich, dark stained wood or bold white door to draw attention to the main entry and add personality to your home. If your door is already in great shape, consider a simple replacement of weak or older-looking hardware that will impress buyers at first sight.

Get cookin' in the kitchen.
Experts agree that a kitchen can significantly impact a home's perceived value. An outdated kitchen can be a deal breaker for many homebuyers. Naturally, then, it's the place you might spend the most amount of time updating. To increase the appeal of your kitchen, consider investing in updated, matching appliances that match the style of your kitchen. Some manufacturers even offer replacement panels to update the exteriors of older appliances.

Next, if you can't afford to add new cabinetry, change out the hardware so the knobs, drawer pulls and handles match your decor and add a modern flair. Adding technology-driven fixtures, including built-in water filtration systems, garbage disposals and high-tech faucets is another great way to increase the room's appeal. Delta Faucet's Touch2O Technology will impress homebuyers and add a sense of luxury to the room. The technology enables users to turn the faucet on and off with just a touch anywhere on the spout or handle, and is available on a variety of models.

Update and upgrade light fixtures.
Lighting is key. It can drastically change the look and feel of a room, and lighting fixtures are affordable and relatively simple to install on your own. Shop discount stores and home improvement depots to find a statement piece to add spice to your living room. A beautiful ceiling fan with lighting can serve double-duty to update your family room. Remember, well-lit and bright rooms appear larger and more open.

Step on it.
Flooring is one of the first things that potential homebuyers notice. Make sure you dust, vacuum and clean so that you show off the flooring to its best advantage. If you have carpet, consider replacing it with wood floors or wood alternatives. If you already have hardwood floors, polish and protect your flooring so that it gleams when potential buyers step into the home.

Whether you're trying to sell your home this winter or simply want to update its look, you don't have to wait until the spring thaws. When the cold weather drives you inside, take advantage of the time to make attractive upgrades that can increase the appeal and value to your home.

Reprinted with permission from:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why You Should Not Buy a Car

When you get a raise or accumulate some savings, you may find yourself confronted by an innate instinct of modern civilized men and women: The desire to spend money.

It begins simply, by going out to restaurants, then accelerates to purchasing clothing, electronic gadgets, and since North Americans have a special fondness for the automobile, you may even buy a "brand new car."

If you're married or ambitious, a few months later your thoughts eventually turn toward buying your own home.  Or a move-up home, if you are already a homeowner. 

Next, you contact a loan officer to get prequalified for a mortgage loan.  You state your desired price and how much you can put down.  You provide your income and may even supply pay stubs and W2 forms.  The loan officer methodically crunches the numbers (by telephone, in person, or even over the internet).  

"If only you didn't have this car payment...

You see, when determining your ability to qualify for a mortgage, a lender looks at what is called your "debt-to-income" ratio. A debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your gross monthly income (before taxes) that you spend on debt. This will include your monthly housing costs, including principal, interest, taxes, insurance, and homeowner's association fees, if any. It will also include your monthly consumer debt, including credit cards, student loans, installment debt, and... payments.

For example, suppose you earn $5000 a month and you have a car payment of $400. At current interest rates (approximately 8% on a thirty-year fixed rate loan), you would qualify for approximately $55,000 less than if you did not have the car payment.
Even if you feel you can afford the car payment, mortgage companies approve your mortgage based on their guidelines, not yours. Do not get discouraged, however. You should still take the time to get pre-qualified by a lender.

However, if you have not already bought a car, remember one thing. Whenever the thought of buying a car enters your mind, think ahead. Think about buying a home first. Buying a home is a much more important purchase when considering your future financial well being.

Do not buy the car.  Buy the house first.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Home Buyer Workshop Will Show Home Affordabilty - Salem, MA - 51 -

Home Buyer Workshop Will Show Home Affordabilty

A Home Buyer Workshop will be held on March 16, 2011 in Salem, MA. The Wall Street Journal said that with the combination of lower home prices and historically low mortgage interest rates, home affordability is the best it has been in decades.

The workshop will be presented by a Realtor, a mortgage consultant, a real estate attorney, and a home inspector. Each will give pointers on how you can make the best of the current real estate market, and how to avoid any pitfalls along the way.

The workshop is Free, and will be held at the offices of Armstrong Field Real Estate located at 281 Essex Street in Salem, Mass. Preregistration is required. For more information, call 978-740-8700 or go to

Friday, March 04, 2011

Some Common Questions About Buying a Home

If a person is a first time buyer, what are the best steps to take to become a home owner?
The absolute first step to take is to talk with a mortgage person. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, you want to know where you stand financially in regards to qualifying for a mortgage. You will find out how much of a mortgage you qualify for, and how much you can really afford. Many times a bank will qualify you for more than you are comfortable paying each month. We do not want you to be what we call "house poor", meaning, yes, you now have a home, but you don't have enough money left over after paying the mortgage to enjoy life.

The second reason is that if your credit score is a little low, a good mortgage person will explain how you can improve your score... sometimes dramatically. It does take at least a couple of months for any changes you make to trickle down to your credit score. But it could mean paying a lower interest rate, and therefore have a lower mortgage payment, so the wait may well be worth it.

The last reason is that you cannot make an offer without a mortgage pre-approval. No seller will consider your offer if you can't prove you can pay for it. Also, you don't want to waste your time looking at $300,000 homes if you would only qualify for a $250,000 one.

Is there a different pre-qualification process when you are considering a foreclosed home?
No, the qualification is the same, but you may want to look into an FHA 203K rehab loan. This is a specialized mortgage that gives you extra money above what you are paying for the property that you can use for repairs and upgrades. Many foreclosed properties will need work.

What percentage of the purchase price is usually required?
With an FHA mortgage the minimum down payment is 3 1/2% of the purchase price. You will also need around 2% (roughly depending on the mortgage) for closing costs, but we can almost always get the seller to pay for most of that. The are other loans available through Mass Housing and the VA that have low or even no down payment requirements. Again, it depends on your particular financial situation. There are also matching down payment programs in many cities that I can help you with.

Would all these things apply to a short sale as well?
Everything here also applies to a short sale. The major difference is the length of time needed to close. With a regular home sale, including bank owned properties, the closing is typically 4-7 weeks after the offer is accepted. With a short sale you are looking at a minimum of 8 weeks, with 3 to 4 months more common, and 4 plus months not uncommonly seen. The saving you can make is usually worth the wait.
If you have any questions regarding real estate or financing, please contact Jim Armstrong

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Take Advantage of the VA Home Loan Program

Today we have a guest blogger, Matt Polsky, with some information on VA loans (which also happens to be the type of mortgage I have) - Jim Armstrong

Take Advantage of the VA Home Loan Program
            The credit crunch and housing market collapse did not make financing a home any easier. However, a loan program for veterans and active-duty service members still allows these men and women to buy the home of their dreams. For almost seventy years, the VA Home Loan Guaranty program has helped service members become homeowners.
            Taking advantage of your VA loan benefit is rather simple. First, you need to complete a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), a no nonsense form that ensures you meet the initial qualifications for the program. This form is available from VA-approved lenders and the VA website, and takes little time to complete. 

            The Department of Veterans Affairs may take several weeks to process your certificate whereas a VA-approved lender can get your COE processed in minutes. Using the Automated Certificate of Eligibility (ACE) system, lenders can get your COE online. Although the VA Home Loan program aims to abet all military personnel, not every service member qualifies. Military homebuyers who may qualify typically are in one of the three groups:

            -Military members who served on active duty for 181 days during peacetime or 90 days during wartime.
            -Members of the National Guard and Reserves who served for at least six years.
            -Surviving spouses—who have not remarried—of a service member who died in the line of duty or because of a service-related injury.

            Once you earn a VA loan, you’ll be entitled to its arsenal of benefits. Unlike conventional loans, VA loans in Massachusetts come with next-to-nothing down payments. Most VA loan borrowers pay nothing down, while the rest won’t be charged more than 5 percent down. Most of the time, military homebuyers say the tiny down payment is the program’s best perk.

            Other advantages to the program save military homebuyers’ money in the long run, notably the negotiable interest rates. Since the VA backs up to 25 percent of each loan rather than issue them, VA-approved lenders lower the interest rates in return for assuming less risk. The program sweetens the deal for active-duty borrowers, who have interest rate caps.

            Monthly savings further accrue because there is no private mortgage insurance in the VA Home Loan program. Also, closing costs are often lower than other loan types, and sellers may end up covering some of those costs.

Matt Polsky
Mortgage Commentator