Make Yourself at Home in Tucson – May 2017

Here we are in May already, with celebrations galore! May 1 is “May Day” an ancient celebration to honor the goddess of flowers, Flora. Did you ever dance around the Maypole? In a few days is Cinco de Mayo, a favorite celebration of those with Mexican heritage, and close behind is the Kentucky Derby. Do you dress up and watch this race each year with a mint julep? Then there is Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. How will you celebrate this month?

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What I love is this time when all the trees and plants begin to leaf out and bloom. Here is a photo of the desert willow in my backyard. I planted it five years ago when it was just a “whip” about four feet high and a finger’s size in diameter. I enjoy watching the hummingbirds visit the lavender flowers all summer.

In case you would like to enhance your yard and provide some shade and a cooler place to sit outside, you can get your own trees from Tucson Clean and Beautiful. They offer a variety of indigenous trees that know how to grow in the desert, and at a reasonable cost. Many HomeOwner Associations require plants and trees that are indigenous to the area. These trees are the perfect choice. Check them out!

Word of the Month:  Listing – In the Real Estate world this word means that a property (building or land) has been placed on the real estate market for sale. This month I have two listings, one in Avra Valley with four bedrooms and three baths on one acre, and one in the Tres Pueblos neighborhood of Tucson, a townhouse with two bedrooms and two baths. If you or someone you know is looking for a home in either of these areas, please contact me.

News About Tucson and the Region:

  • If you live in the Rita Ranch or Vail areas, or if you would like to live here, visit this new park that is opening on May 3. This park provides a wonderful amenity to the residents of these communities.

Pima County Park

This Pima County park located on the southeast side of Tucson and named for a historic Southern Pacific Railroad stop opens on Wednesday, May 3. The 274-acre Esmond Station Regional Park will serve Vail and Rita Ranch area residents, offering a walking trail, five separate fitness stations with exercise equipment, and a ramada. For more information, visit the link.

  • A Reminder to Tucson residents and visitors:  Beginning May 1, 2017 it is against the law to use a hand-held device while driving. The Mayor and Tucson City Council voted in March to approve the ban. Violation of the new ordinance will be considered a secondary offense, meaning you must be pulled over for another reason before police can cite you. Texting while driving already is banned in the city, but the new rules expand that ban to phone calls and the use of other hand-held mobile communication and electronic devices. See this link for more information.
  • Historic Preservation Awards – Individuals and organizations that have contributed significantly to historic preservation in Tucson and Pima County will be recognized at the annual Historic Preservation Awards Ceremony hosted by the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission (T-PCHC). The ceremony will be held Saturday, May 13, from 9:30 a.m.-noon at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, 160 S. Scott Ave. The Commission’s purpose is to foster awareness and preservation of historic sites, structures, districts, and character in our community. The Mayor and Tucson City Council, City of South Tucson, and Pima County Board of Supervisors appoint its members.

I am here to walk you or anyone you may know through the real estate process, even if you just need a few questions answered. Please contact me or visit my website. Remember, I’m never too busy for your referrals and I’d love to hear from you.

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You can locate homes for sale, open houses, find commute times, and more from my Long Realty App. Visit http://longrealtyapp.com/suswanne from your mobile device. Updated every 15 minutes.

What to Do a Year Before Buying Your First Home*

A real yard. Closets bigger than your average microwave. The freedom to decorate however you darn well please! Making the switch from renting to owning is exhilarating, but many rookie homebuyers find the process trickier to navigate than they expected.

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This is why we created our First-Time HomeBuyer Checklist. The 12-month timeline will help you sidestep common mistakes, like paying too much interest or getting stuck with the wrong house. (Yep, it happens!)

12 Months Out

Check your credit score.Get a copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com. The three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are each required to give you a free credit report once a year. A Federal Trade Commission study found one in four Americans identified errors on their credit report, and 5% had errors that could lead to higher rates on loans. Avoid last-minute bombshells by checking your score long before you’re ready to make an offer. And work diligently to correct any mistakes.

Determine how much you can afford. Figure out How Much House Can You Afford?Lenders are happy to lend you as much as your debt load allows. But will that amount make you house poor? Ask yourself, how much house do I really want to afford?Read More In 5 Ways You Didn’t Know You Could Save for a Down Payment how much house you can afford and want to afford. Lenders look for a total debt load of no more than 43% of your gross monthly income (called the debt-to-income ratio). This figure includes your future mortgage and any other debts, such as a car loan, student loan, or revolving credit cards.

budgetThere are plenty of calculators on the web to help you determine what you can afford. If you’re pushing the limits, start reducing your debt-to-income ratio now. To get a reality check on what you may actually be spending every month, use this worksheet.

Make a down payment plan. Most conventional mortgages require a 20% down payment. If you can swing it, do it. Your loan costs will be much less, and you’ll get a better interest rate. If, however, you’re not quite able to save the full amount, there are many programs that can help. FHA offers loans with only a 3.5% down payment. But they require mortgage insurance premiums, which will drive up your monthly payments. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a list of nonprofit homebuying programs by state. Also check with credit unions; and your employer might even have an assistance program.

As you’re planning your savings strategy, keep in mind that banks like you to “season” your money. That is, they like to see that you’ve had stable funds in your account for 60 to 90 days before applying for a loan. Don’t worry: You can still use a financial gift from a family member or bonus received near the time you buy.

9 Months Out

Prioritize what you most want in your new home. What’s most important in your new home? Proximity to work? A big backyard? An open floor plan? Being on a quiet street? You’ll make a much better decision on what home to buy if you focus on your priorities. If it’s a joint decision, now is the time to work out any differences to avoid frustration and wasted time. Perhaps most important: Know what trade-offs you’re willing to make.

Research neighborhoods and start visiting open houses. But now’s when the fun begins, too. Use property listing sites, such as realtor.com, to find out about neighborhoods, public transport, and cost of living.

neighborhoodStart visiting open houses to get an idea of what kind of homes are in your price range and what neighborhoods appeal the most. Seeing potential homes will also keep you motivated to continue reducing your debts and saving for your down payment.

Budget for miscellaneous homebuying expenses. Buying a home has some miscellaneous upfront costs. A home inspection, title search, propery survey, and home insurance are examples. Costs vary by locale, but expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars. If you don’t have the cash, start saving now.

Start a home maintenance account. Speaking of saving, start the good habit now of putting a little aside each month to fund maintenance, repairs, and home emergencies. It’s bad enough to have to call a plumber. It’s worse if you’re paying credit card interest on that plumbing bill.

6 Months Out

Collect your loan paperwork. Banks are very particular when it comes to mortgage loans. They demand a lot of paperwork. What they’ll want from you includes:

  • W-2 forms — or business tax return forms if you’re self-employed — for the last two to three years
  • Personal tax returns for the past two to three years
  • Your most recent pay stubs
  • Credit card and all loan statements
  • Your bank statements
  • Addresses for the past five to seven years
  • Brokerage account statements for the most recent two to four months
  • Most recent retirement account statements, such as 401(k)

If you start collecting these documents now, it’ll lessen the stress when it’s time to get your loan. Bonus: Looking closely at your loan documents each month will also help you stay focused on saving for your down payment and keeping your debt-to-income ratio low.

realtor-logoResearch lenders and REALTORS®. Start interviewing REALTORS®, specifically buyers’ agents. A buyer’s agent will work in your best interest to find you the right property, negotiate with the seller’s agent, and shepherd you through the closing process. Your agent also can be instrumental in finding a lender who’s familiar with first-time home buyer programs.

Even better, look for a mortgage broker, who will shop for a competitive loan rate for you among multiple lenders, unlike a bank, which can only offer its own products.

3 Months Out

Get pre-approved for your loan. At this point, if you’ve been following this timeline, your credit score, paperwork, and down payment should be on track. You’ve done your research on lenders and buyers’ agents. Now it’s time to start working with them. First you’ll need to get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Make an appointment with your lender or mortgage broker and bring all your paperwork. He’ll run a credit check on you and tell you how much of a loan you’re approved for. It often makes sense to borrow less than the maximum the lender allows so you can live comfortably. Draft a budget that accounts for mortgage payments, insurance, maintenance, and everything else you have going on in your life.

fheo75Start shopping for your new home. One you’re pre-approved, the buyer’s agent you’ve chosen will be able to target homes that meet your priorities in your price range. This way you won’t be wasting time looking at homes you can’t afford.

2 Months Out

dollar-signMake an offer on a home.It usually takes at least four to six weeks to close on a home. So if you have a firm move-out date, allow enough time to deal with any hiccups that can delay closing.

Get a home inspection. One of the first things you’ll want to do after an offer is accepted is have a home inspector look at the property. If the home inspector finds something that needs repair, that’s a common example of something that can delay closing.

In the Last Month

Triple-check that all your financial documents are in order and review all lending documents before closing. You’re in the home stretch! If you’ve been keeping your documents up to date, and your down payment is in reserve, these final steps are the easiest. Reviewing the mortgage documents is probably the most difficult. Your agent can help guide you through them.

Get insurance for your new home. Don’t forget to secure insurance before closing. You’ll need to bring proof of insurance to closing.

Do a final walk-through. Do a final walk-through of your new home, usually a day or two before closing, to make sure the home is in the shape you and the seller have agreed upon.

Get a cashier’s check or bank wire for cash needed at closing. Make sure you get an exact amount of cash needed for closing. You’ll get that number a few days before closing so you can secure a cashier’s check or arrange to have the money wired. Regular checks aren’t accepted.

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That’s it. Congratulations!

 

*Copyright NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.

Note:  Photos added by Su Swanne

 

Now is the Time! Talk to Me!

Whether you want to sell your home or buy a home, NOW is a good time to do it in Tucson!

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For beginning home buyers the mortgage rates remain low, and although the inventory is down, there are homes out there for you.

For sellers the time is right as well. There are buyers seeking their homes.

So don’t wait. If you are on the edge about either buying or selling, decide today. Prices and rates will be going higher.

Future

If you are renting it’s possible that your rent, too, will be going up. The trend is that rents are going up faster than wages can keep up. If you can qualify to purchase a home, you might want to explore the possibility of putting your money into a more permanent situation.

Here is an article by Trulia about the pros and cons of buying now. Be Smart. Be educated about the home-buying process. Talk to a Realtor! Talk to me!