Stephen Katz – First Home, First Loan Helping to make home ownership a pleasant reality Wed, 29 Nov 2017 19:49:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Five Reasons To Buy A House In Atlanta Now Wed, 29 Nov 2017 19:49:16 +0000 Are you considering buying a house in Atlanta? Read on to find out why we think you should buy now!

1) House values are up by about 10% since last year

This number is based on the data reported by Zillow. Home prices will be higher than they were over the past year or two. Therefore, it is crucial to know exactly how much house you can afford. We can help with that! Once you are certain about your price point, it is important to buy your dream house while you can still afford it.

2) House prices are expected to keep rising

Adding on to the previous fact, house prices are only going to continue rising. Therefore, again, it is important to buy the house that you are interested in as soon as possible. You may not be able to afford it a few months down the road.

3) Atlanta home prices are expected to rise faster than other areas

Earlier this year, a panel of over 100 economists predicted that home prices would rise by 3.65% in 2018. This number puts Atlanta above the national average. Keep in mind that these are all just predictions, however, it is wise to consider them.

4) It’s a seller’s market

As we stated in a previous blog, housing inventory is currently limited. What does this mean for you? It means that you should buy now instead of risk losing your house to another buyer.

5) Mortgage rates are expected to rise

Along with rising values and prices, mortgage rates are also expected to rise. Give us a call today to find out what rate you can be approved for!

How To Get Your Home Search Off To The Right Start Wed, 22 Nov 2017 18:41:42 +0000 Today, I want to share some tips on how to begin the home buying process. It can be confusing, so starting off on the right foot is crucial!

One of the first things you want to do is talk with a lender. Too often, when people want to buy, they are in a big hurry to go out and look at homes; it’s an exciting time and they want to jump right in. However, it’s key to take a look at financing before you start getting excited about homes. There’s nothing worse than falling in love with a home only to find out you can’t afford it.

So, before you get out there and look at homes, don’t forget to figure out what your monthly payments are going to look like! Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would love to help you!

What Should You Avoid When Purchasing A New Construction Home? Wed, 15 Nov 2017 21:48:08 +0000 Are you thinking about building a new home from scratch? If so, take note of these three things you need to avoid! We have a lot of experience in new construction properties and would love to make the process as smooth as possible for you.

  1. Hire a Realtor. An experienced Realtor knows what to look for when buying any type of property. Sure, the new construction builder has a Realtor on site, but that agent is only there to advocate for the seller. For guidance and representation, you need to hire a Realtor who will advocate for you! If any issues arise, you’ll have someone there to help you understand what your options are.
  2. Do your research. This comes back to hiring a real estate professional, as they will know exactly what to look for. For example, an agent will look at property taxes for you, one of the most important things to keep in mind while building a new home. You need to know exactly how much you are going to be paying in property taxes in order to avoid overextending yourself financially.
  3. Find a trustworthy lender. We will make sure you know exactly what rates and fees you’ll be dealing with ahead of time so that you can select the program that will best fit your financial needs.

If you decide to hire a Realtor, make sure you are comfortable with them. You should be able to call, text, or email them at any time in order to stay on the same page and ensure you’re both working toward the same goal. If you have any questions about finding the right agent or avoiding common new construction mistakes, we would love to hear from you!


Six Reasons To Buy A House In The Fall Wed, 25 Oct 2017 20:10:11 +0000 The end of summer typically means fewer “for sale” signs. However, whether you’re a buyer or a seller, don’t fret. This can be great news for the following six reasons:



1)      Less Competition. Fall means that school is back in session. AKA most families who wanted to move into their new home before school started have already done so.

Reason this is good news for buyers: Less homes for sale, plus less families, equals out to the same chances (or better) than you had before.

Reason this is good news for sellers: The buyers who are still in the market are typically more serious about purchasing (versus those in a rush to find a new home before August) which will make your job much easier.

2)      More money in your pocket. Those who close escrow before December 31 may get a nice write off on their taxes.

Reason this is good news for buyers: You can take deductions for your whole years’ worth of income from property tax and mortgage interest. Any payments that you have made before your closing is final are tax deductible.

Reason that this is good news for sellers: Closing costs and home improvements may be eligible for tax write offs. There is an entire list of possible write offs for sellers here.

3)      Nothing like being home for the holidays. Buying or selling in the fall means that you can sit back and relax in your nice, warm home when the winter weather and holidays hit.

Reason this is good news for buyers: Do we have to explain? You’re gifting yourself a new home for the holidays! Plus, since less people tend to move around this time, that means easier access to movers, etc.

Reason this is good news for sellers: Again, do we really have to explain? A sold home means less stress off your plate for the holidays! Check THAT off the to-do list.

4)      This one’s just right. Home prices will be more accurate in the fall than they are in the spring or summer. Since there is a smaller market for houses, prices won’t be raised due to demand.

Reason this is good news for buyers: Your chances of overpaying or having to outbid someone for your home is greatly lessened.

Reason this is good news for sellers: If you’re smart about your asking price, your home will stand out in the crowd and your chances of selling will greatly increase. Plus, gone are the days of trying to perform renovations in order to raise the value of your home. Put that hammer down and grab a cocktail instead!

5)      Fall = less burglaries. Did you know that burglaries happen more often during certain times of the year? July and August are the months during which most burglaries take place.

Reason this is good news for buyers: You can rest easy knowing your home is safer while you are moving in. It also gives you time to set up that new alarm system.

Reason this is good news for sellers: Your home is safer from theft. Again, do we really need to clarify this one?

6)      Deals and sales. Are you thinking, “we have this extra bedroom now, but no furniture for it!” Good news for both buyers and sellers: Black Friday and other holiday sales are right around the corner! Now that you’ve moved into (or sold) your warm, accurately priced, safe home, it’s time to shop and enjoy the holidays.

Give us a call when you’re ready to start the process!

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!