Stephen Katz – First Home, First Loan Helping to make home ownership a pleasant reality Wed, 04 Oct 2017 21:00:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Renters And Homeowners Agree: Now Is A Good Time To Buy Wed, 04 Oct 2017 21:00:18 +0000 The share of current renters who believe that now is a good time to buy has jumped to 62 percent. That’s a two percent increase from this time last year and a 10 percent increase from last quarter.

Homeowners agree, saying that 80 percent of higher income households within the Midwest and Southern regions are optimistic about buying a house. Eighty percent of homeowners also believe that now is a good time to sell. That’s a 13 percent jump from this time last year and a five percent increase from last quarter.

So why does the housing market seem to be at somewhat of a standstill? The issue is not with the amount of buyers, but rather with the amount of homes for sale. Potential buyers are also intimidated by down payments, considering the housing market prices are incessantly rising.

However, there are reasons to remain optimistic. One reason being that the economy is continuing to improve. “Jobs are plentiful, wage growth is finally showing signs of life, home values are up considerably in the past five years and the stock market is at record highs,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. Overall, most potential buyers think that their financial situations will improve within the next six months.

Still intimidated by rising house prices? Ask your relatives or employers. We offer loan programs that allow you to use “gift money” to buy a house. However, be prepared to provide a letter from the gift giver stating that it is, in fact, a gift, not a loan. We may also need a bank account statement from the giver.

Not comfortable with that? You can also take money from your 401k or IRA. Some accounts even let you pull this money out for free in order to use the funds as a down payment.

Our best advice? Adjust your budget. Owning a home will save you money overall, so saving extra money in the meantime will help you in the long haul.

When you’re ready to take that next step, give us a call! We can also offer advice on how to afford your dream home.

The Most Common Buyer Mistakes Wed, 27 Sep 2017 20:09:21 +0000 Today we will be talking about some common mistakes that we often see buyers making. Hopefully, by alerting you to these potential downfalls, you can avoid them yourself when it comes time to buy. Here are the 5 most common mistakes we’ve been seeing:

1.  Not getting pre-approved. Getting pre-approved by turning in all of your financial documents to a lender is essential. Without one, your offer won’t be as good in the seller’s eyes, and you really have no idea what kind of home you can actually afford. A pre-approval gives you a great view of your financial picture.

2. Bidding aggressively on the perfect home. If you find the perfect home, that is not the time to bid aggressively. If the home is in good condition and appears to be priced correctly, bid closer to that price. Look to your Realtor for pricing guidelines.

3. Not bidding on the perfect home when they have the chance. If you have the chance to make an offer on your dream home, do it. You’ve got 10 days to do your due diligence on the home to make sure it actually is the perfect one for you. If it’s not, oh well. At least by making an offer, you have a chance to get the home. If you don’t make the offer, you may miss out on it, which has happened to a lot of our clients.

4. Expecting the home to be perfect. Understand that the home is complex. People have lived in it and there is always going to be a little wear and tear on any home. Usually it’s nothing major, just little cosmetic things. The important thing is making sure the home is structurally sound.

5. Not understanding their mortgage. Sometimes buyers don’t realize how much money they actually need until the last minute. We, the lender, will go over the actual costs with you, so you know exactly what you are going to have to have on hand as far as cash goes.

If you have any questions for us about this topic, or if you are thinking of buying a home yourself, give us a call or send us an email. We look forward to speaking with you!


Can You Really Trust Zestimates? Wed, 20 Sep 2017 20:10:46 +0000 Today we are talking about a topic we get a lot of questions about: Zestimates. Zestimates are Zillow’s automated home value system that will tell you what your home could sell for in the market. Is this the best way to determine value, and should you trust it? The answer is maybe, but it might not be a good idea.

Zillow themselves have disclosed that their Zestimates can be anywhere from 5-15% inaccurate. They use a basic algorithm to determine value that takes into account square footage, bedrooms, and bathrooms, but not much else. They also use sales data from their site, but that is often inaccurate as well. 

So please don’t look at your Zestimate as the exact figure your home will sell for. To truly determine your home’s market value, you need to hire an agent who has boots on the ground and understands what buyers are looking for.

There are a lot of things that go into determining your value that aren’t calculated in Zillow’s algorithm. Things like absorption rates, inventory, and interest rates can all change from one price range to the next. 

With that being said, there are a lot of agents out there that don’t have a ton of experience. It’s easy to get your real estate license, but it’s much more difficult to get to the point where you have the experience needed to accurately assess the value of the home. Agents should do a pre-appraisal to get yet another valuation for your home. 

So, be careful on Zillow, and don’t make your decisions based on that valuation. If you have any questions for us or are looking to buy or sell, give us a call or send us an email today!

The Best Place To Start Your Home Search Wed, 13 Sep 2017 20:01:39 +0000 Today, we’ll discuss how to effectively and efficiently start shopping for your next home. After you’re pre-approved and have your criteria figured out, what do you do?

There’s nothing wrong with taking a Sunday afternoon drive in an area where you want to live and start calling the Realtors on the For Sale signs. However, that’s not the most effective way to go about your home search, and with the price of gas these days, it can be very costly.

Most people begin searching online, using sites like Zillow or Trulia. While these sites provide a lot of information, I recommend using your Realtor’s home search site. The Realtor’s site will have a live feed to the listing service.

Other sites just give you a snapshot of homes on the market at one point in time, and don’t update often enough. Some properties listed on Zillow or Trulia actually sold two and a half years ago! If you want to use the most updated and accurate resource, use your Realtor’s website.

When looking for a home, you also need to know if it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market. It’s extremely important to understand the dynamics of the market you’re in so that you know what to expect in your own transaction. A seller’s market has low inventory, and the seller has more power. A buyer’s market has high inventory, and the buyer has more control of the transaction.

The last thing I want you to keep in mind is to never write an offer until you see a market analysis from your agent. Don’t assume that the seller has priced their home based on current market dynamics. Some listing agents go along with whatever the seller wants to price the home for just so the agent can get a listing. You want to make sure the home is priced correctly so you don’t overpay.

If you have any questions, give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you!

The First Step In The Home Buying Process: Getting Pre-Qualified Fri, 25 Aug 2017 18:35:57 +0000 Have you ever wondered what the first step in the home buying process is?

Before you even start looking at homes, the first thing you need to do is get pre-qualified. The process is simple! Just give us a call, talk to us about what you want to do, and then we will take your personal information, income, and assets to figure out what kind of loan you will qualify for.

A pre-qualification is different from a pre-approval. The pre-qualification is more of a preliminary step. A pre-approval is when the we go through and verify the information you provided during the pre-qualification.

The documents you need to provide to the lender include 30 days worth of paystubs, your W-2s from the last two years, two years of tax returns if you have investment income or are self-employed, bank statements from the last two months, and a photo ID.

The whole process lasts about 30 days from getting approved to taking the loan to closing. You may even qualify for more than what you can afford. We allow you to borrow as much as our guidelines will allow, but that might be more than you can afford. Budget out your monthly mortgage payments in order to know what you can actually afford to spend on a home.

As always, questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We look forward to hearing from you!

How Home Inspections Benefit Buyers And Sellers Wed, 09 Aug 2017 20:20:50 +0000 Today, we’ll discuss the home inspection process. The home inspection is a crucial part of the process for both the buyer and the seller, although it is designed primarily to protect the buyer.

When you’re looking at a house, you want to be able to focus on whether or not it’s the right house for you. You don’t want to worry about the nuts and bolts of the home. Once you have your house under contract, there will be a contingency that allows you to have an inspector examine the nuts and bolts for you.

Inspectors keep an eye out for safety concerns and things that will affect the home value. The inspector will climb up into the attic and check insulation, and look out for wiring issues as well, among other things.

It’s important to choose the right inspector. You want someone thorough, but also someone who won’t cause unnecessary alarm. If there is a major issue with the home, and the seller won’t fix it, you do have the option to back out of the house.

From a seller’s standpoint, it’s important to understand that you should designate some money for inspection repairs. No house passes an inspection 100%. An inspector will find something, and it’s smart to have a budget set aside. Some sellers even have an inspection ahead of time so that they can make the repairs before an offer has even been made.

The most important thing is to choose the right inspector. Listen to your real estate agent, because they will have an inspector they know and trust to work with you. If you have any questions, give us a call or send us an email. We look forward to hearing from you!

What Are the Benefits Of Working With A Local Lender? Fri, 04 Aug 2017 20:36:55 +0000 We have been in business for over 20 years here in Atlanta and are local. If you want to close your loan on time, it’s best to work with a local lender, like us! We have local staff and will ensure your deal gets closed on time.

Availability is the most important aspect of any company’s customer service experience. If you have questions or needs about your loan, you can call, text, or email your agent, even if it’s after hours. They are available when clients are out looking at houses and whenever else they are needed. Additionally, they explain the whole process, so that everyone understands exactly what they’re getting into. Well, why should you expect any different from your lender? The answer is, you shouldn’t. You should receive the exact same respect and we pride ourselves on that!

One of the biggest changes in the lending world in over 20 years occurred on October 3. Things that have been around for 50 years are no more. You’ll no longer hear about the Good Faith Estimate, which is replaced by the Loan Estimate, and there is no more HUD-1, as it has been replaced by the Closing Disclosure. In addition, new hard stops and timeframes have been instituted and have to be met before a loan can be closed. These changes are to ensure the consumer knows what their loan is before it closes and to make sure there are no surprises.

To make sure the process moves smoothly, it’s crucial to understand that the days of closing a loan in 10 days are over. If you plan on buying a home, whether you’re a first-time buyer or a luxury buyer, it’s never too early to talk to a lender. You can reach us at 770-824-9777 if you have any lending questions. Or send us an email at


What Causes A Loan To Fall Through? Wed, 26 Jul 2017 20:04:28 +0000 Today, we’re going to talk about why some loans fall apart before they get to the closing table.

1.    Misinformation. Now, the client is not misleading anyone on purpose. Once you’ve made an offer on a home, we will start to verify the information you submitted for your pre-approval. Let’s say you have a catering business that you do on the side, and it’s on your tax return but you forgot to mention it to the loan officer. That could be the difference between the loan working out or not working out.

 2.    Timely information. You will have to get a lot of information to the loan officer, to your agent, to home insurance companies, and more. It is important that you submit the information as soon as possible. If your loan officer asks you for pay stubs, get the pay stubs over that day or the next day. There’s a lot of things going on, so getting things in on time is crucial.

 3.    Uncontrolled factors. Appraisals, CondoCerts, home inspections, and job loss are the main four. If the appraisal comes in low and the listing agent doesn’t want to negotiate, the loan could fall through. CondoCerts make sure the condo is warranted by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to protect the consumer. If you get a home inspection back and the repairs cost more than what you are approved for, the loan would fall through. If you lose your job, you could lose your loan if you don’t have an offer for another job.

 One thing that is in your control is major purchases. Don’t go and buy a new car or a boat before you close on the home. The loan will fall through.

Any other questions or concerns? Feel free to reach out! We’ve got you covered.


How To Determine How Much House You Can Afford Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:01:10 +0000 Are you a first time home buyer? Are you trying to determine your budget? We (lenders) are more than happy to help you find your answer(s), but here are some tips to get you started:

One of the first things that you’ll want to look at is your credit. If you do not have any credit established, you’re going to need to start there. You can establish credit by opening up a credit card (for first timers, I have heard great reviews about the Chase Freedom Unlimited card). Once you’ve been approved, it’s going to take at least a few months to build up a credit score. They will start by allotting you a certain limit (example: you can only spend $700 a month). It is best to keep your utilization under 30%. Therefore, if your limit is $700, then try not to spend more than $210 a month on your credit card. Most importantly, NEVER be late on your payments. This will negatively impact your score in a big way. Another factor that will impact your credit is a loan (student loans, car loans, medical bills, etc.). This will be taken into account as well, which includes your payment history for each individual loan. Sites such as Credit Karma can help to give you an idea of your current score, however, your lender will pull a report that is much more accurate. Don’t be surprised if they are different.

The next item you will want to look at is your debt. As mentioned previously, this involves any loans that you currently have open in your name, as well as any unpaid credit card bills. Even something as simple as a medical bill can affect this. Have you ever had to go to the ER? Did you pay off every bill from that visit? Luckily, your credit report will show any delinquent bills that you may not be aware of. Make it a priority to pay off any debts in question.

Once you’ve built up a decent credit score and have paid off all your debts, you’re going to need to look at your salary. Lenders will only ask for your gross salary, however, you will also want to keep in mind some other important factors, such as: what your salary is after taxes, how much you spend monthly on bills, etc. To play it safe, you’ll want to use THIS number (what you get after subtracting bills, taxes, etc.) to ensure that your home purchase will not be putting you into debt. You will typically want to place your max budget as 3x your gross salary.

Lastly, you will need to save up for a down payment. If you search the internet, I’m sure that most places will say that you need 20% down. While 20% is ideal, most people on average only put 3-5% down. You will need a minimum of 3% down (unless you use a VA loan), but realistically, try to stick to 5-10%. Therefore, if you’re looking for a house that’s $200,000, then be prepared to put about $10,000 down (that’s 5%).

Feeling overwhelmed? Start here with Zillow’s free house affordability calculator. It might not be 100% accurate, but it can at least point you in the right direction.

Give us a call today! We can help you through the entire process, including helping you raise your credit score, offer financial advice, and everything in between! 770-824-9777

Home Purchase Process For First Time Buyers Thu, 13 Jul 2017 18:32:56 +0000 Are you looking to buy your first home? Well look no further, because I’m here to walk you through the entire process!

Step 1: Determine if you are ready to purchase a house. This is something that only YOU can decide, however, here are two key points to keep in mind:

–          Why do you want to buy a house? Are you looking for a faster commute? Somewhere to plant your roots or start a family? These questions will also help you to narrow down specifics such as location, neighborhood, home style, etc.

–          Are you financially ready? This requires a decent credit score, a good bill payment history, a low debt-to-income ratio and money saved up for a down payment. Zillow and NerdWallet offer two basic affordability calculators, which will give you a good idea. For an exact estimate, give me a call! I can help. Low credit score? I can help with that too.

Step 2: Once you’ve determined that you’re ready, you’ll want a realtor. It’s important to find someone that you’re comfortable with and who you can trust. We have plenty of great realtors that we can recommend, so don’t be afraid to reach out!

Step 3: You will need to get pre-approved for a mortgage. That’s where I come into play! Most sellers in the Atlanta area require this, so give me a call today. I will be happy to walk you through the entire process.

Step 4: Look at homes. This is when you will start spending a lot of time with your realtor, which is why it is important to work with someone you trust. They will help you to find your dream home!

Step 5: Choose a home. Make sure to choose a house within your budget and desired location. Please note that people often have to make compromises during this process, such as a townhome versus a single-family home, the condition of the home itself, etc. Just make sure that you’re still extremely happy with your choice, as you will most likely live here for the next 3-5 years at least.

Step 6: Obtain your loan. This is where I come back into the picture. My team and I are dedicated to helping you every step of the way!

Step 7: Make an offer. Your realtor will be a great help during this step. Please keep in mind that you may need to make an offer slightly above asking price if the house is in a high-demand area.

Step 8: Buy home insurance. Typically, this is required and it is also something that I (your lender) will help you with. Options include:

–          Title Insurance

–          Homeowners Insurance

–          Flood Insurance

–          Home Warranties

Step 9: Closing. This is when everything becomes finalized and the house is officially yours! Final payments are made, paperwork is proofread and turned in, deeds and other documents are prepared, etc. You may want to walk through the home one last time to make sure that there were no additional material changes you were unaware of.

Step 10: Move in! The last and most exciting step. All that’s left is for you to move in and make your new house a home.


Let me help you to reach step 10! Give me a call today at 770-824-9777 or email me at