Southwest Florida Real Estate and Community News

Native of SW Florida, Realtor® blog

Oct. 16, 2018

Open House Three Oaks

Welcome to one of the most desirable and convenient areas of south Fort Myers, Islands at Three Oaks. Soon as you walk through the front door, standing in the foyer you will notice the rustic shiplap on the feature wall and the straight thru view to the newer installed pool (3yrs approx) with sun shelf within a screened lanai. Home has tile in the wet areas, laminate in the entry and dining room and carpet in the bedrooms and living room. Built-in shelving, soaring cathedral ceilings in the living areas. Updated kitchen with granite tops, all appliances convey, including washer and dryer, and eat in kitchen area along with dining area. Laundry is located within the home. The roof was replaced within last 3 yrs approx. also. Master bedroom has a trey ceiling and a comfortable master bathroom with dual vanities, separate tub & shower, also separate toilet closet. Master is downstairs, balance of bedrooms are upstairs and another full bath. Lanai has under-truss area and brick pavers. NOTE: PLASTIC STORAGE SHED OUT BACK - DOES NOT CONVEY


#openhouse #islandsatthreeoaks #threeoaksopenhouses #17900bermudadunes #jimjonesrealtor #thejimjonesteam #swflrealestate #jamescjonesrealtor #capecoral #fortmyers #naples #veterans #estero #bonitasprings #realestate #vabenefitstobuuyahome #swflnative #tomlocascio #buyahome @swflnativerealtor

Jim Jones, Tom LoCascio, Rita Jones

The Jim Jones Team

Cornerstone Coastal Properties

SW FL Native, Full-time Realtor, specializing in assisting Veterans with home ownership.

Posted in Buying a Home
Jan. 22, 2018

Battery-powered homes becoming a reality

NEW YORK – Jan. 22, 2018 – Your clients may one day live in a battery-powered home – a closer reality for homeowners in New York, California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont and Arizona. Many municipalities in those states are revamping electrical grids and turning to batteries to make them more efficient.

However, the average homeowner likely won't notice the change. Most plans call for batteries to be tucked into a sort of neighborhood junction box or behind a fence in a substation, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Batteries can harness renewable energy sources and make utility companies less reliant on more expensive forms of electricity when demand runs high.

"Without batteries and other means of energy storage, the ability of utility companies to deliver power could eventually be threatened," according to the Journal. "Solar power, especially, tends to generate electricity only at certain times – and it's rarely in sync with a home's needs."

In the aftermath of recent hurricanes, companies such as Sonnen and Tesla helped keep homes powered using batteries, demonstrating the importance of freeing people from total dependence on the electrical grid during emergencies. They found that battery power worked particularly well when combined with rooftop solar panels.

Real estate developer Mandalay Homes has announced plans to build up to 4,000 ultra-energy-efficient homes, which will feature 8 kilowatt-hour batteries from German manufacturer Sonnen. The bulk of the homes will be built in Prescott, Ariz. The development could be the largest home energy storage project in the country, Sonnen Senior Vice President Blake Richetta told the Journal.

In Vermont, Tesla Energy and Green Mountain Power have teamed up to offer 2,000 homeowners a Tesla Powerwall for $15 a month. The 13.5 kilowatt-hour batteries, which retail for $5,500, can be used when the electrical grid is strained at maximum capacity, saving utility companies from having to use pricier forms of electricity. Those savings could then be passed on to consumers.

Source: "Your Next Home Could Run on Batteries," The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 15, 2017) [Log-in required.]

© Copyright 2018 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved. 

Posted in Real Estate News
Jan. 12, 2018

Average 30-year mortgage rates rise to 3.99%

WASHINGTON (AP) – Jan. 11, 2018 – The cost of borrowing money to buy a home rose slightly this week, but remains historically low.

The average rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 3.99 percent, from 3.95 percent last week, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said. This week's rate matches a 5-month high set two weeks ago. A year ago, the 30-year rate averaged 4.12 percent.

The low rates – anything below 4 percent is low by historical standards – are some consolation for home buyers dealing with rising prices amid a shortage of supply.

The interest charged on U.S. Treasury notes has risen, causing mortgage rates to tick up in response. The yield on the 10-year Treasury reached its highest level since March at one point Thursday before pulling back.

The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, popular among homeowners who are refinancing, increased to an average 3.44 percent from 3.38 percent in the prior week. The 15-year rate averaged 3.37 percent a year ago.

The average on five-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 3.46 percent from 3.45 percent last week. Average rates on 5-year adjustable-rate mortgages were 3.23 percent last year at this time.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.

AP Logo Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press, Matt Ott. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.  

Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved. 


Posted in Real Estate News
Jan. 8, 2018

Flood insurance expires again on Jan. 19 – or not

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Jan. 5, 2018 – A press release from FEMA went out this week reminding property owners of the importance of flood insurance. But it's unlikely anyone in the St. Augustine area needs the reminder. With significant flood damage in the last two hurricane seasons, there can't be many residents who fail to understand the potential for losses due to flood.

What they might not realize is the precarious state of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Shortly before Christmas, the program received another short-term extension through Jan. 19. A similar extension was set to expire Dec. 22.

What that means is those who want flood insurance – and those required to have it by their lender – can currently obtain it.

As Doug Wiles of Herbie Wiles Insurance in St. Augustine said, "For right now, it's status quo."

But those in the insurance and real estate businesses are wondering when a long-term decision is going to be made on the future of the program.

The recent damage from Hurricane Irma underscored the importance of the program as well as the potential for huge payouts that could threaten its solvency. As of Dec. 26, FEMA reported that more than 27,690 NFIP claims for damage from Irma had been filed and that about 80 percent of those are closed. More than $609 million has been paid to policyholders.

Even the FEMA website acknowledged the need to come up with a plan to keep the program viable.

As the FEMA website states: "As affected communities begin recovering from the devastating impacts of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, a timely, multi-year reauthorization is critical for insured survivors and businesses. NFIP policyholders need confidence not only that FEMA can pay flood insurance claims, but also that it will have the ability to sell and renew policies to help them protect against future flooding."

Dan Alexander, vice president of ThompsonBaker in St. Augustine, said companies are still issuing policies through NFIP, which is good for customers. Without NFIP, there are options for some buyers but not everyone.

"There are some private companies that will write coverage, so long as a property qualifies," Alexander said in an email to The Record. "However, most will not write if there has been a prior loss. This could make a number of properties ineligible due to the effects from Matthew and Irma."

FEMA is urging property owners to buy flood insurance this year with a reminder that policies do not go into effect until 30 days after purchase.

Floods are the most common and costly natural disasters in the United States, FEMA notes. While there are currently more than 1.7 million NFIP policies in force in the state, about 50 percent of Florida homeowners inside Special Flood Hazard Areas had insurance against flooding before Irma made landfall on Sept. 10.

Almost 25 percent of flood insurance claims come from low-to-moderate risk areas, and they receive one-third of all federal disaster assistance for flooding, FEMA said in a release.

© Copyright, 2018, The St. Augustine Record, Stuart Korfhage. All Rights Reserved.

Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved. 

Posted in Real Estate News
Jan. 2, 2018

Florida consumer confidence broke records in 2017

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jan. 2, 2018 – Consumer sentiment in December fell both nationally and among Floridians, dropping 1.4 points month-to-month in Florida to 95.9, according to the latest University of Florida (UF) consumer survey. However, the average monthly index in 2017 surpassed 2016 by an average 4.6 points.

Among the five components that make up the December index, one increased and four decreased.

Opinions as to whether it's a good time to buy a big-ticket household item rose 3.5 points, from 101.1 to 104.6. Perceptions of one's personal financial situation now compared with a year ago dropped 1.3 points from 90 to 88.7.

"This drop was not found among men, those aged 60 and older, or those with an income under $50,000. It's worth noting that the biggest drop regarding current personal finances was among respondents with an income of $50,000 or greater," says Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The three components representing expectations of future economic conditions all declined in December. Expectations of personal finances a year from now dropped 2.9 points, from 105.4 to 102.5; anticipated U.S. economic conditions over the upcoming year decreased 2.5 points, from 96.9 to 94.4; and expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years showed the biggest drop, down 3.6 points from 93 to 89.4.

"Most of the pessimism … comes from unfavorable expectations about the state of the U.S. economy over the next five years. Remarkably, these negative perceptions are shared across all demographics in Florida and are strongest among those with an income level over $50,000. Additionally, the pessimism may reflect concerns over daily financial debates by the U.S. government this month," Sandoval says.

Year-to-year improvements

Florida began 2017 with a three-month, record-breaking increase in consumer sentiment. March 2017 reported the highest consumer sentiment level since March 2002, contributing to an average of 96.1 in the first half of the year. Consumer sentiment readings generally fell every month after August though the average consumer sentiment for the second half of 2017 was 96.3 points, two-tenths of a point higher than the first half.

"Notably, the average consumer sentiment in 2017 is 4.6 points higher than last year's average, and it's the highest average since 2000. Overall, Floridians are far more optimistic in 2017," Sandoval said.

Economic indicators in Florida have remained favorable throughout 2017. The labor market experienced solid job gains and a decreasing unemployment rate. The latest figure available shows the monthly unemployment rate in Florida dropped two-tenths of a percentage point to 3.6 percent in October.

The Federal Reserve's December decision to raise interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point reflects their confidence that nationwide economic activity will continue expanding at a moderate rate and that the labor market will remain strong.

"As the year ends with an overall high level of consumer sentiment and a positive economic outlook among Floridians, there are good financial prospects for 2018. We expect consumer sentiment in January to remain around the average 2017 levels," Sandoval said.

Conducted Dec. 1-18, the UF study reflects the responses of 427 individuals who were reached on cellphones, representing a demographic cross section of Florida. The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.

© 2018 Florida Realtors  

Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved. 

Dec. 26, 2017

Fla.’s home sales, listings, median prices up in Nov.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dec. 20, 2017 – Florida’s housing market continued its positive track in November, with more closed sales, more new listings, more pending sales and rising median prices according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 19,990 last month, up 1.3 percent compared to November 2016.

“In November, Florida’s housing market reflected the trends we’ve grown accustomed to seeing throughout this year,” said 2017 Florida Realtors President Maria Wells, broker-owner with Lifestyle Realty Group in Stuart. “More owners decided to put their homes up for sale. New listings for single-family existing homes rose 1.8 percent year-over-year, while new listings for existing condo-townhouse properties rose 5.9 percent. However, even with the increase in new listings, inventory was still tight and buyer demand was great. Homes continued to sell quickly, resulting in increased pending sales – up 5.5 percent for single-family homes and up 9.3 percent for condo-townhouse units.

“In a fast-moving market like Florida, the best resource for consumers is a local Realtor, who will help successfully guide them through the complex process of buying or selling a home.”

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $240,000, up 9.1 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Thestatewide median price for condo-townhouse properties in November was $176,000, up 8.6 percent over the year-ago figure. November was the 71st consecutive month that statewide median prices for both sectors rose year-over-year. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in October 2017 was $248,300, up 5.4 percent from the previous year; the national median existing condo price was $236,800. In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in October was$546,430; in Massachusetts, it was $375,000; in Maryland, it was $281,466; andin New York, it was $249,900.

Looking at Florida’s condo-townhouse market, statewide closed sales totaled 8,235 last month, up 5.8 percent compared to November 2016. Closed sales data reflected fewer short sales and foreclosures last month: Short sales for condo-townhouse properties declined 21.8 percent and foreclosures fell 41.7 percent year-to-year; short sales for single-family homes dropped 36 percent and foreclosures fell 45.9 percent year-to-year. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

“How did Florida’s home resale market fare in November? Florida Realtors’ November statistics paint a picture of a market that looks a lot more like what we were seeing throughout 2016 and in 2017 prior to the hurricane, at least at the statewide level,” said Florida Realtors® Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor. “Through November, total statewide dollar volume across all residential property types is sitting at about 105 billion dollars, compared to about 96 billion dollars at this time last year.

“How did we do it? Certainly not due to sales growth – thanks to Hurricane Irma, only one-and-a-half percent more homes have sold so far in 2017 compared to this point last year. The obvious driving force here is the continuing upward march of home prices.”

November’s for-sale inventory remained tight with a 3.8-months’ supply for single-family homes and a 5.7-months’ supply for condo-townhouse properties, according to Florida Realtors.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.92 percent in November 2017, up from the 3.77 percent averaged during the same month a year earlier.

For the full statewide housing activity reports, go to the Florida Realtors Research & Statistics section on Realtors also have access to local market stats (password protected) on Florida Realtors' website.

© 2017 Florida Realtors®

Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved. 

Posted in Buying a Home
Dec. 18, 2017

Housing and mortgage trends to watch for in 2018

WASHINGTON – Dec. 15, 2017 – The housing picture is likely to improve in 2018. Why? Home prices are expected to climb, but not as fast.

Plus, more houses could be for sale toward the end of the year, giving homebuyers a greater selection to choose from, while homeowners will have more equity to borrow from.

Yet in other ways, 2018 might continue to be challenging, especially for homebuyers. Mortgage rates are likely to rise, reducing affordability.

Here are 10 housing and mortgage trends to expect in 2018.

1. Home prices decelerate

Good news for first-time homebuyers: Home-price appreciation is expected to cool down in 2018 after a torrid couple of years.

Home prices rose 6.3% in 2016, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. They're on track to exceed 6% in 2017, too. But for next year, the median forecast among six industry and lender groups is for a 4.1% increase in existing home prices nationwide.

Why the slowdown? One factor is home construction. Economists expect the construction of single-family houses to rise sharply in 2018, based on building permit applications. The median estimate has single-family housing starts rising about 8% in 2018, to roughly 912,500 new houses.

2. More homes for sale

Homebuyers are struggling to find houses for sale. The shortages are especially acute for the kinds of homes that first-time buyers tend to get. Among the reasons for the tight supply:

·Many baby boomers are content to age in their homes instead of downsizing

·Investors bought millions of homes after the housing bubble burst, and they're making too much money as landlords to sell

·Home builders make more profit from expensive houses than entry-level houses, so that's what they're constructing

But there's some hope for 2018: predicts that the housing supply pinch will begin to ease late in the year.

"It looks like we could get to a point where we're seeing growth in inventory sometime in the fall of 2018," says Danielle Hale, chief economist for

3. Home sales could rise

Resales of existing homes are expected to rise modestly in 2018. The median estimate is that existing home sales will rise 2.5%, to 5.6 million units.

Meanwhile, sales of new homes are expected to rise a median of 7%, to 653,500 newly built single-family houses.

According to, cities in the South will show the most sales growth in 2018. Hale says she expects 6% existing home sales growth, particularly in markets such as Dallas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Charlotte, North Carolina. Hale says those places are not as "regulation constrained," they have strong regional economies and developers have plenty of vacant land to build on.

4. Mortgage rates head up

Mortgage rates are expected to rise in 2018. CoreLogic, a data provider for the real estate industry, averaged six forecasts of mortgage rates, arriving at a consensus view that the 30-year fixed will average 4.7% in December 2018. In November 2017, the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.07%.

"Not only are mortgage rates higher, but mortgage rates will be at the highest level since 2011," Nothaft said at the Urban Institute symposium. "So we're looking at an environment, going forward, where this era of cheap mortgage rates will largely be behind us."

Interest rates are notoriously resistant to prediction, though. At the beginning of 2017, most people expected mortgage rates to rise steadily throughout the year. And they did rise - for a few weeks. The average 30-year fixed peaked in mid-March 2017 at 4.58%, according to NerdWallet's daily survey. Then it declined, dipping slightly below 4% a few times in the summer, before moving upward slightly in the fall.

5. Affordability declines

If, as expected, home prices and mortgage rates go up in 2018, homes will be less affordable.

For example, if mortgage rates rise to 4.7% toward the end of 2018, and the median price of existing homes rises by 4.1%, then monthly mortgage payments for a typical house would rise substantially.

But according to an Urban Institute analysis, middle-class families in much of the country still have some financial wiggle room if rates and prices rise in 2018. Most home buyers don't appear to stretch to the limits of affordability, the Urban Institute wrote.

6. More equity, more HELOCs

As home values rise, homeowners gain equity. And banks expect millions of homeowners to borrow against that equity.

About 1.6 million homeowners are predicted to get new home equity lines of credit in 2018, a 16% increase over 2017, according to a recent TransUnion study. The credit bureau says 67% of homeowners have enough equity to get HELOCs, and 80% of those borrowers have high credit scores.

TransUnion forecasts that 10 million homeowners will get HELOCs from 2018 through 2022, double the number of new lines of credit in the five years before that.

7. Security headaches continue

Thieves are stealing down payments from homebuyers by combining email hacking with wire fraud. And there's no sign of it slowing.

Complaints of this type of wire fraud skyrocketed by 480% in 2016, according to the 2016 annual report (the latest available) from the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. Lenders and title companies say the problem worsened in 2017, and that they fend off this form of fraud constantly.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim: When you receive emailed instructions for wiring money, call your agent to verify. The email may be a fake, designed to trick you into wiring money into a thief's account.

8. More options for people with credit issues

A few specialty lenders are focusing on nontraditional mortgages. For example, Angel Oak Mortgage Solutions in Atlanta targets the borrower 'who has had a life event, so they lost their house or had to file bankruptcy or things got really bad, but they've now got their feet back on the ground and they're ready to buy their next house,' says Tom Hutchens, the lender's senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Several lenders offer interest-only mortgages, and even loans with limited income documentation. These mortgages are dubbed 'non-QM' because they don't meet Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's plain-vanilla 'qualified mortgage' rules. One prominent non-QM lender, Impac Mortgage Holdings, plans to begin securitizing these loans early in 2018.

9. Lenders embracing automation

Mortgage lenders continue to pour money into automating the loan-application process. The best-known example is Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. But Quicken isn't the only lender that embraces automation. Some lenders, such as loanDepot, cook up their own automation in-house, while software providers such as Blend and Roostify help large and small banks to automate applications. Now a few lenders want to use automation to guide borrowers to loan products that best suit them.

10. Tax reform could affect buyers and owners

Lawmakers were still working on tax reform as this article was being written. Preliminary House and Senate versions limited the number of home sellers who would benefit from the home capital gains exclusion, and they treated the mortgage interest tax deduction differently. It's too early to know how a final tax reform bill would affect home buyers and homeowners, but we will keep you posted.

Copyright © 2017 Newton Press Mentor; Holden Lewis, a writer for NerdWallet. The article 10 Housing and Mortgage Trends to Watch for in 2018 originally appeared on NerdWallet. All rights reserved.

Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved. 

Posted in Buying a Home
Dec. 15, 2017

U.S. 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rate slips to 3.93%


WASHINGTON (AP) – Dec. 14, 2017 – The rate on 30-year fixed-rate U.S. mortgages slipped to 3.93 percent this week.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the benchmark 30-year home loan rate was down from 3.94 percent last week and 4.16 percent a year ago.

The rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, popular with those refinancing their homes, was unchanged this week at 3.36 percent. It was 3.37 percent a year ago.

The rate on five-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 3.36 percent from 3.35 percent last week and 3.19 percent a year ago.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates for the third time in 2017. "The market had already priced in the rate hike, so long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates, hardly moved," said Len Kiefer, a Freddie Mac economist.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was unchanged at 0.5 point. The fee on 15-year home loans also remained at 0.5 point. The fee on an adjustable five-year mortgage was unchanged at 0.3 point.

Copyright © 2017 The Associated Press, Paul Wiseman, AP economics writer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved. 

Posted in Buying a Home
Dec. 6, 2017

Want to raise your FICO credit score? Pay off bills

NEW YORK – Dec. 5, 2017 – A credit score can have a big impact on a person's ability to buy a house. A low score can put a kink in finalizing a loan agreement. Consequently, homebuyers need to know their credit scores and how to raise them before applying for a home loan.

Brad D. Yount, senior vice president and senior manager of consumer and real estate lending at CoreFirst Bank and Trust, Kelly Drummond, loan officer and military mortgage specialist at Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp., and Capitol Federal senior mortgage consultant Tim Murray provide some information about credit scores that may be helpful.

What is a credit score? What does it reflect?

Drummond: It is a numerical representation of your statistical likelihood to repay credit that is extended to you. (It reflects) your payment history, the current balances of your loans, how long you have had your credit, and what type of loans you have – installment, revolving, collections.

Why is a credit score important?

Drummond: A credit score helps determine what type of loan you are eligible for, if you are eligible for a loan and what interest rate you will receive.

Murray: Credit scores are used by lenders, credit card companies, insurance companies and even some employers as a way to assess risk based on historical performance. Interest rates, insurance premiums or even employment may be determined based on the risk level associated with the score.

If a person is looking to buy a home, what score do they need?

Yount: Most loan programs have a minimum credit score requirement. It can vary from lender to lender and from one loan program to another. There are lenders and loan programs that will grant credit with a credit score as low as 580. Generally though, an applicant needs to have a score of 640 or above to qualify for most programs.

Some government programs, such as VA (Veterans Administration) and FHA (Federal Housing Administration), will grant credit with a lower score.

How can a person raise their credit score?

Yount: The best way to raise your credit score is to pay your monthly debts on time.

Payments that are over 30 days late are reported to the credit bureau and have a significant negative impact on your score.

Also, using credit wisely will help you raise your score. This would include not taking out too many credit cards and not maxing out the cards you do have.

How can someone check their score? Is there a fee to do so?

Yount: There are a number of ways to check your credit score. Some are free, and others charge a fee or require you to sign up for a monthly service, which may include a fee, before they will provide you with a "free" score.

Others will provide you with your score monthly in exchange for your permission to market your credit information to lending partners.

You'll get your credit score every month along with product recommendations from the company.

Murray: The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – to provide a person with a free copy of their credit report upon request, once every 12 months. Visit to obtain a free copy.

Yount: The (free credit) report (from the three major credit reporting repositories) will not include a credit score, but it will allow you to review all of the history of your past and present credit. It will also allow you to see who has inquired into your credit history.

The site will allow you to dispute any information you feel has been incorrectly reported.

What other things should one know about credit scores?

Drummond: Typically, it takes credit to get credit, so it is very important you actually have a score. Having high credit card balances, recent late payments, collection accounts, tax liens and bankruptcies can be damaging to your credit score.

Murray: Not all credit scores are the same. Not all creditors report to all three bureaus, which can create different credit files.

A mortgage lender is looking specifically for a FICO score from each credit reporting company and will generally use the middle score of the three for each borrower for decision making purposes (often referred to as a Tri-Merge score).

A FICO score is a type of credit score created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. More information can be found at

Scoring high

Here are some tips on how to maintain favorable credit scores:

  • Monitor your credit. Order a copy of your free credit report from each of the three major bureaus annual at
  • Pay all bills on time or early. A 30-day late notice on a small credit card can have a negative impact on your scores.
  • Don't co-sign loans. The other person's late payments will negatively impact your credit scores.
  • Don't close old revolving accounts that are no longer in use. It helps your scores when accounts are open with zero balances.
  • Don't open new accounts unless necessary.
  • Report fraud immediately. Contact the credit bureaus, your credit card companies, banks and the Federal Trade Commission at't extend or open new credit accounts while in the mortgage application process to purchase or refinance a home.

Source: Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation

Copyright © 2017, Topeka Capital Journal, Jan Biles  

Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved

Posted in Buying a Home
Dec. 4, 2017

IRS wants to know: Is that a second home or vacation home?

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dec. 4, 2017 – If vacation has been so much fun that you don't want it to end, a second home might be for you. Think carefully about all the issues surrounding owning a second home, however, because there can be major financial implications.

Investment property vs. vacation home

The most important decision is whether your home will primarily be an investment or a true second home. How you use the home throughout the year will determine how it is classified by the IRS. A true second home is one that only you and your immediate family use.

It's tempting to help cover your expenses by renting out the home to other vacationers while you're not using it, but in the eyes of the IRS, you may have just become a real estate investor.

Tax implications

You can't write off the mortgage interest on an investment property in the same way you do your primary residence, and you must report the rent you receive as income. In certain situations, you may be able to offset the rental income with deductions for interest, taxes, depreciation and home maintenance.

The catch is that the IRS is very interested in the number of days you use the home for personal use each year. If you use the home frequently, you can deduct only the expenses that are proportional with the amount of time you rented out the home. Also, if you rent the unit below market value to friends or family members, the IRS might consider that to be personal use.

As you can see, your tax situation can get complicated in a hurry. Consult a tax adviser before you buy, so you can be sure you understand how the new home will affect your bottom line at tax time.


Financing a second home also can get complicated. If you have an FHA loan on your primary residence and took advantage of the low-downpayment option, prepare to cough up more cash for a second home than you may be expecting. Because private mortgage insurance won't cover a second home or investment property, you'll need to put down at least 20 percent.

FHA only insures loans on primary residences, so your second home loan will have to be a conventional loan. This means tighter lending standards, particularly when it comes to whether you can afford the payments. Lenders will look closely at your income vs. housing expenses on both homes and may require strict adherence to debt-to-income ratios. Be prepared to show that your income is sufficient to keep both homes afloat.

Other considerations

Add up all of the costs before putting in an offer. Don't forget utilities, home maintenance costs and overhead that can add up, such as furnishings and decor. Also think about how much it will cost to travel back and forth to the home.

If you will rent out the home while you're away, don't forget about property management fees, and be sure to research average local occupancy rates so you're prepared for periods with no revenue.

If you get in over your head, your "dream" vacation home could become the stuff of nightmares.

© Copyright 2017, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, VA, Anna Changyen

Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved. 

Posted in Buying a Home