Applying for a Mortgage? DON’T Do These 7 Things!

Three adults meeting at a table to discuss their mortgage loan.

If you’re currently searching for a home to buy in Raleigh, chances are you’ve already thought about applying for a mortgage.

Obtaining a mortgage loan is a huge part of the buying process, as it has an enormous impact on how much you can afford and how much your monthly payments will be.

As such, it’s important to be extra cautious with your finances—and your credit—while you’re applying for a mortgage in Raleigh. Time and time again, we hear from clients about the mistakes they’ve made while waiting for their mortgage loan to finalize. We want you to make decisions that guarantee financial success—which is why we want to share with you the following list of things to avoid after you’ve applied for a mortgage:

Don’t Change Jobs or Get a Demotion at Work

While this may sometimes be out of your control, do everything in your power to maintain consistent employment during the approval process.

Changing from salary to commission, or deciding to go freelance, should really wait until after you’ve closed on your home.

Avoid Depositing Large Sums of Cash Into Your Account

Hand pulling several hundred dollar bills out of a wallet.

Cash is untraceable, and during the approval process your loan officer will be taking a close look at your checking account.

They want to make sure your cash flow is accounted for and traceable, so if you do need to deposit cash into your checking account make sure you talk it over with your bank first.

Do Not Make Any Huge Purchases

This includes buying a car, expensive furniture, or anything else that’s going to put you in any more debt! Hide your credit cards from yourself if you must.

If you go into too much debt during the approval process, you may no longer qualify for that loan amount. This happens if your ratio of debt to income becomes too debt-heavy.

Don’t Volunteer to be a Cosigner

A man about to sign a stack of paperwork.

When you cosign on someone’s loan, you’re then obligated for their loan if they default. This affects your debt-to-income ratio which may then disqualify you from the loan that you’ve applied for.

Don’t Change Bank Accounts

Remember, your loan officer needs to be able to track your sources of income and spending. Having a consistent bank account and transactions makes this ten times easier.

Don’t Apply for New Credit Cards or Loans

A pile of money next to a checkbook.

Don’t apply for any new credit accounts! Hard inquiries on your credit may negatively affect your FICO score.

If your score drops too much in a short amount of time, you may no longer qualify for your loan.

Don’t Close Any Accounts

Closing a credit account also negatively impacts your score! Your credit score is based upon both the length and depth of your credit history.

Closing an account affects that depth. Your credit score is essential to your mortgage loan interest rates, so it’s critical to keep them as high as possible when applying for a mortgage!

Still Shopping for a New Home? Our Team is Here to Help With That

From showing you “Coming Soon” listings that haven’t even hit the Raleigh market yet to offering guidance and advice on applying for your mortgage, Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® are here to help.

Give us a call today to discover your home-buying options in the greater Raleigh area!

The 5 Most Important Things to Do After Buying a Home

So, you bought a house. First of all, congratulations! The search is over, no more weekends filled with open houses and showings, and you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Phew.

But your work isn’t quite done yet. Once you buy a house, there are a few things that need to happen before and after move-in day. Check out our list of to-dos, and get prepared for what comes after closing—trust us, your future self will thank you.

Do a Deep Clean

A vacuum.

When you first buy your home, there won’t be any heavy dressers blocking off corners, couches and beds to clean under, or stacks of boxes covered in cobwebs in the attic. Your house will never be this empty again—well, until you sell it, that is—so take advantage of the wide-open space.

Whether you want to hire professional cleaners or DIY, you should pour some serious TLC into your new house. Dust, vacuum, mop, scrub, polish—look up a few cleaning checklists for inspiration—and put in some elbow grease.

Change Your Address

A painted mailbox.

This process will be a little tedious, but it has to be done. First, you should fill out a change of address form from your post office, so any mail sent to your old address will get forwarded to your new one—although these days you can even complete the process online!

Next, get in touch with credit card companies, your cell phone provider, and anyone else who will need to continue sending you bills. Big fan of online shopping? The last thing you want is for your package to get dropped off at your old house, so be sure to update your Amazon info, as well.

Set Up Utilities & Security

A door with various locks.

Running water, electricity, internet…all things you probably want working when you move in, right? If you already have a provider, you’ll need to communicate the change address to them, stop service to your old address, and set up a date for service to continue at your new address.

While you’re getting things installed, you should also consider setting up a security system. These days you’ll have plenty of affordable and high-tech options, so be sure to browse what’s available. At the very least, consider changing your locks, since old copies of the keys from the past owners could still be floating around.

Keep Your Documents Organized

Once you’ve closed on your home, you’re going to have a lot of important documents to keep track of, and moving is going throw everything into chaos (although hopefully organized chaos) for a bit. As soon as you’ve closed and before you move in, collect all of the documents you used for your mortgage loan, as well as any copies of closing papers.

You never know when you might need some of them again, so invest in a secure storage system to keep them organized and around at all times.

Say Hi to the Neighbors

People talking in a group outside of a home.

Even if you’re a little shy, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the neighbors once you move in. After all, close neighbors can help with anything from lending you an extra cup of sugar to watching your pets while you’re out of town.

You don’t have to organize a mixer or bake cookies for everyone, but just saying hello while you’re out and about can go a long way in establishing those important relationships.

Ready to Buy Your Dream Home?

Now that you know what to do after you’ve closed, let’s get started with your home search! From guiding you around the area to helping you navigate your mortgage options, Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® is here to help you reach your real estate goals—and answer all of your questions along the way.

If you’re ready to get started or have a few questions, just give us a call today!

Greater Raleigh Real Estate: Homeownership is More Attainable than Ever

A happy couple excitedly touring their new home.

After the housing market crash of 2008, homeownership rates throughout the country have decreased dramatically. At one point prior to the crash, the homeownership rate was over 69%. In the years following, it dropped to its lowest point at 63.7%.

As homeownership in Raleigh continued to decrease throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s, many began to wonder if it was no longer an essential part of the American dream.

Here’s our take on it:

Homeownership Will Always Be a Cornerstone of the American Dream

A row of suburban homes with American flags displayed outside.

Owning a home is as American as apple pie and baseball. According to a recent report by the Census Bureau, the home ownership rate has actually increased steadily over the last two years.

Today, it stands at about 64.8%. That’s a 1.1% increase from its lowest point in 2015. While it’s still not nearly as high as it was at its peak, this growth is a good thing! It shows that buying a home is still a huge financial goal to many.

The Desire for Homeownership is Strong Across All Generations

Modern kitchen.

With millennials poised to take over the real estate market, we’re expecting homeownership rates to continue rising steadily in the following years.

After all, there are so many benefits—both financially and emotionally—to buying a home. We’ve written about it extensively, but owning a home improves your life in more ways than one. It gives you financial security, allows you to grow your wealth by building equity over the longer term, and provides you a stronger emotional attachment and investment in your community.

If you’ve long been thinking about joining the ranks of homeownership, now is the time to act!

It’s a Great Time to Become a Raleigh Homeowner

With the summer real estate market gearing up in Raleigh, now is a great time to make your Raleigh homeownership dreams come true. The current inventory of homes for sale in Raleigh has never been better.

Here at Linda Craft & Team REALTORS®, we have a ton of resources to help you locate the home of your dreams. In addition, allow us to use our expertise to help you negotiate the best possible price, navigate your relocation with ease, and achieve all of your real estate goals.

Give us a call today to learn more!

Good News for Buyers: Bidding Wars are Decreasing!

Two story brick home in a suburban setting.

If you’ve been in the market for a new home, you’ve likely seen (or been a part of) a bidding war. This is fairly common when you’re in a market like ours; one that’s seller-focused due to a discrepancy between housing inventory and demand.

In short, a bidding war is when two or more parties consistently outbid each other as they compete to purchase the same thing—in this case, a home for sale in Raleigh.

Over the past several years, as inventory decreases and demand goes up, bidding wars have become all the more common. But, if you’re a buyer looking for your dream home in Raleigh, we’ve got some good news!

Bidding Wars are Decreasing

In January of 2018, 53% of houses sold included a bidding war before a final price was agreed upon. In January of this year, that number went down to just 13%.

This is good news for buyers! It means the real estate market is slowly returning to “normal.” While it is still a highly advantageous time for sellers in Raleigh, the scales are tipping a little more favorably towards buyers as well.

Inventory is Increasing

Aerial shot of suburban neighborhood.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a steady increase in Raleigh’s housing inventory. More homeowners are choosing to list their homes, because they want to take advantage of the great seller’s market!

This influx of homes being listed is a good thing for buyers. It means they’ll have more options to choose from, and they won’t have to worry about a stressful bidding war breaking out over their dream home.

It’s Still a Good Time to Sell Your Home

If you’ve long been considering selling your home, now is still a great time to list! Although inventory is steadily increasing, it’s still nowhere near enough to match buyer demand.

With the current level of housing inventory for sale, it would take about 3.7 months for all the homes listed to sell if no additional listings came to the market. Whenever this supply amount falls under 6 months, then you’re in a seller’s market.

Whether You’re Buying or Selling, Rely on Linda Craft & Team REALTORS®

Navigating the Raleigh real estate market can be tricky. That’s why it’s so important to have a professional REALTOR® on your side.

When you work with Linda Craft & Team, you’re enlisting the help of local experts with years of experience buying and selling unique properties in the greater Raleigh real estate market. From pricing your home to showing you hidden listings and more, Linda Craft and her team of agents will be there for you every step of the way.

Give us a call today to learn more!

The Top Tax Deductions & Credits for Homeowners in 2019

Taxes are confusing, which is why many people in the U.S. choose to hire an expert to do their taxes for them. After all, there are so many numbers to know, forms to have ready, records of income and expenses, W-4s, 1099s, 380-Ts—we could’ve just made that last one up, and there’s no way of knowing!

Even though taxes might be complicated, they (sometimes) have a few perks. And if you own a home, those perks could mean a major bonus on your return. If you’re thinking of buying a home before next year’s taxes are due, here’s everything you need to know about how making a home purchase can affect your returns.

A calculator app on an iPhone.

Deductions vs. Credit

Before we kick off the fun stuff, it’s important to know a little jargon—namely, the difference between a deduction and a credit.

When it comes to credits, think of them like tax-related coupons that reduce your dollar-for-dollar total. A few major tax credits include child tax credits, adoption credits, education or retirement credits, or credits for energy efficient homes and cars. Depending on the credits you qualify for, you could get anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars taken off of your tax liability.

Deductions are a little different: they reduce your taxable income, which can then adjust the total that you owe. Claiming certain deductions means that that part of your income is exempt from being taxed. Knowing which deductions to claim is key when filing, especially for homeowners.

Tax Benefits for Homeowners

Buying a home is expensive, but when it comes to tax time, here are the ways you can make some of that money back.

Various tax documents.

Mortgage Interest

One of the reasons that taxes for homeowners are so confusing is because they tend to change based on federal standards. Over the past few years, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act pretty drastically altered the tax benefits for home ownership.

The most important change to know this year has to do with mortgage-related deductions. Previously, the tax deduction for home mortgages was limited to interest paid on $1 million debt for jointly filing married couples and single filers and $500,000 for married couples filing separately. Now, the numbers look more like $750,000 for the former and $500,000 for the latter. Additionally, interest paid during closing can also be counted towards this number.

Property & State Taxes

Did you know that the amount you pay in property taxes, state income taxes, and local sales tax is also deductible? If you pay property taxes through escrow, your lender will need to get the amount for you on your 1098 form, otherwise you should be able to find it in your personal records. The latest tax laws have instituted a cap at $10,000, but every little bit counts!

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Believe it or not, tax deductions on PMI are a hotly contested subject. Until recently, buyers were able to deduct the payments they made on Private Mortgage Insurance, but as of 2017, that ability expired. If you did buy your home before 2017, then your yearly income will determine how much you can deduct.

There’s no timeline on when deductions for PMI could return, but, unfortunately, if you’re a more recent home-buyer with these payments, those perks aren’t currently available.

Credits

We talked a little bit earlier about the difference between deductions and credits, so what sort of credits can you get as a homeowner? One of the biggest tax credits that homeowners can cash in on is having energy-efficient homes. In fact, if you installed geothermal heat or solar energy, you could be entitled to credit for up to 30% of the installation fee.

Other energy-efficient features, like storm doors and added insulation, can net you a few hundred dollars in credit, as well.

A person holding several one hundred dollar bills.

Tax-Free Profits

While many parts of the tax law have changed in the past few years, one aspect has stayed the same: tax-free profits. Selling your home not only means a big profit after the sale, but a large portion of the money you make won’t even get taxed—meaning you get to pocket more.

Married homeowners who sell their homes won’t have to pay capital gain taxes on up to $500,000 from the sale, while single filers can keep half of that as non-taxable income.

While there are some guidelines—like the home must have been a primary residence for at least two of the past five years—it’s a big plus when it comes to selling.

Want to Explore More of the Benefits of Home-Owning?

Believe it or not, there are a lot more benefits to owning a home than tax deductions.

If you need help navigating the ins and outs of the home-buying and home-owning process, Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® is here to help. With years of local experience and Raleigh real estate expertise, we have the skills and resources necessary for home-buying and selling success.

Ready to learn more? Just give us a call.

Home Prices are Not Crashing, They’re Coming to a Soft Landing

Luxury two story stone home.

Over the last several years, home prices have increased substantially throughout the country. Many homeowners are worried that this means we’re headed towards another housing crash.

Luckily, that’s not the case. We’ve written about it at length, but the real estate market is not heading towards a crash. While it’s true that home values are not increasing as dramatically as they have in the past five years, they’re by no means crashing or even declining.

Here’s What’s Going On

It’s not that the average price of homes in the market are decreasing. Rather, the appreciation of home values is slowing down.

This is because the market is shifting from an advantageous sellers market, to a more “normal” market where the intense demand of homes is matched by its inventory. That doesn’t mean we’re headed towards a crash!

The real estate market is stronger than it’s ever been.

This is Different than the 2008 Crash

A woman looking at a tablet that has market information displayed.

The last real estate market crash was caused in large part to extremely lenient mortgage standards. This created an artificial demand for new homes.

When this demand faltered, a rush of homes hit the market. Many of these properties were in distress or suffering from foreclosure, so they were heavily discounted.

Plus, mortgage standards are much stricter today than they were in 2008. In addition, foreclosures today are lower than they have been since 1996.

Home Prices are Leveling Up

And that’s a good thing! It means the market is returning to “normal,” which is good for buyers and sellers.

Want to Learn More About the Greater Raleigh Real Estate Market?

Then it’s time to give Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® a call. We have the area expertise and the real estate resources you need to make a wise financial decision in this highly competitive market.

Please reach out to us today so we can get started on achieving all your real estate goals.

Homeowner Perks: The Many Benefits that Come with Buying a Home in Raleigh

A gorgeous kitchen with hardwood floors and a white interior.

If you’re planning on buying a home in Raleigh soon, you’ve probably already started weighing the pros and cons. While buying a home is a huge transaction, and an even bigger investment, it will improve your lifestyle, finances, and overall well-being for years to come.

In fact, there are a myriad of benefits—both financial and emotional—you can expect to receive after you’ve closed on your home. Some of these perks might even surprise you!

Let’s take a minute to explore the three big ways owning a home is going to change your life for the better.

It Will Improve Your Finances

business man showing a graph that reflects rising rates in the economy.

For many years, owning a home has been considered one of the biggest parts of the American Dream. As such, it’s no surprise that it can help you improve your finances for the long-term.

Look at buying a home as making a big investment. In truth, it’s also a forced savings account. When you pay off your mortgage, month-by-month and year-by-year, you’re building equity. Eventually, when you pay off your mortgage completely, you’ll own your home outright, as well as all the equity you’ve put into it.

When you live in an area that’s constantly in demand, much like Raleigh, you can expect your home value to increase substantially long after you’ve purchased it. What does that mean for you? More money, increased savings, and a secure financial future.

And Increase Your Net Worth

On average, a homeowner’s net worth is usually about 44 times that of a renter!

Plus, owning your home means more stability. If you opt for a fixed-rate mortgage, you won’t have to worry about constantly increasing rent payments every year!

It Improves Your Quality of Life

Happy active adults walking through a park.

Owning a home means so much more than just having a place to sleep at night. It guarantees stability, shelter, and long-term happiness! After all, your home is so much more than just a house: it’s a place where you go to feel comfortable, safe, and protected.

In that spirit, here are some of the biggest emotional perks that come with owning a home in Raleigh.

Community Involvement

When you own a home in a community, you’re truly able to put down roots and invest in what’s going on. You also have a network of neighbors and friends to depend on when you need help.

Lifestyle Security

There are a number of unique benefits associated with owning a home! For example, homeownership may have a positive impact on a child’s education, specifically in math and reading.

Homeowners are also more likely to have substantial health advantages over renters.

Creative Freedom

You have complete freedom to decorate and upgrade your home as you see fit! Whether this includes unique paint jobs, tearing down a wall to create a more open floor plan, or installing a pool in the back yard, you can do whatever you like!

Ready to Buy a Home in Raleigh?

We’re ready to help. At Linda Craft & Team REALTORS®, we possess a unique expertise when it comes to the greater Raleigh real estate market. Feel free to browse our complimentary home-buying resources and guides, and let us know if you have any questions.

Give us a call today to learn more about the Linda Craft & Team Advantage!

No, We are Not Headed Towards a Housing Crash: Here’s Why

In the past few months, you may have heard whisperings about an incoming housing market crash. We’re here to put you at ease: we are not headed towards a crash!

A lot of this concern comes from average home prices slowing in growth across the country. We wrote a blog about it last week, but this is not a bad thing! It just means the market is shifting back towards normal.

The Three Most Important Factors

A luxury home interior with a fireplace.

Today’s market is wildly different than the pre-crash housing market of the late 2000s. We’re going to show you why and how using three important metrics that measure the Raleigh real estate market.

Home Prices

Beginning in 2008, average home prices in the U.S. dropped almost 29% over a four year period. That’s drastic, and it’s what spurred the housing market crash!

Today’s average home prices are not depreciating. It’s just that the level of appreciation is slowing down. Over the last year, homes have increased by more than 4%.

While this is less than the 6-7% prices appreciated over years prior, it in no way indicates that we’re headed towards a crash!

Mortgage Standards

A white table with a checkbook and small stack of money.

In the current real estate market, it’s considered easier to get a loan from the bank than in years prior. Many are concerned that these “lenient standards” will contribute to a housing crash.

However, the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center released a quarterly index that details the percentage of home purchase loans that are likely to default. When this rate is very low, it indicates that lenders are unwilling to tolerate defaults. This makes it much harder to get a loan.

When that percentage is higher, it indicates that lenders are more lenient so it is easier to get a loan.

In another report called the Housing Credit Availability Index, the Urban Institute also revealed that there is still ample space to expand the housing market credit box. Even if the current risk of default was twice what it currently is, it would still be well within the pre-crisis standard of 12.5%.

Foreclosure Rates

In the last 10 years, foreclosures and short sales have made up 35% of all home sales. That’s huge!

At the end of the fourth quarter of 2018, the percentage of loans in the foreclosure process was just 0.95%. It hasn’t been that low since 1996!

Ready to Explore the Raleigh Real Estate Market?

Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® is ready to help. Give us a call today to learn more about the best way to buy a home in the greater Raleigh market.

Rely on our expertise, our extensive resources, and our proven track record with buying homes in Raleigh. We’ll guide you towards a successful outcome in the Triangle, guaranteed.

Up Your Home’s Resale Value with These 5 Outdoor DIY Projects

Spring is here, and summer is closer than ever. That makes it a great time to get outside and spruce up your home’s exterior!

If you’re planning on selling your home soon, a little outdoor maintenance can go a long way. In fact, here are five outdoor projects you can do yourself that are sure to add resale value to your home.

Install a Fire Pit

Fire burning in a backyard fire pit.

Imagine spending a warm summer evening out back with your friends, sipping cool drinks and roasting marshmallows over an open fire. The truth is, installing a fire pit is easier than you might think!

A fire pit is made out of fireproof materials and should sit on a flat surface at least 15 feet away from your home and any trees. Here’s a how-to guide for building a backyard fire pit.

Remember, check your local building codes before beginning any type of construction!

Don’t have a yard for a fire pit? Turn your balcony into a cozy dining area instead!

Add Some Outdoor Lighting

Transform your backyard space for summer with lights that add both ambience and security. You can safely add low-voltage lighting to your front or backyard by yourself, even if you don’t have extensive electrical experience.

Whether you opt for motion-activated LED lights or hanging fairy lights, you have some great options to consider for your yard!

Have a nice back deck or balcony? Add some lights to make it a great place to gather any time, day or night.

Fix the Front Door

A front door with a key in the lock.

Your front door should be clean, bright, and welcoming! After all, it’s the first thing potential buyers will see when they enter your home.

There are a couple of different options to freshen up your front door. If it’s very old or damaged, you could replace it altogether. Other options for sprucing up your door include painting it a different color,touching up the paint job, or replacing the doorknob or knocker.

Live in a condo with an interior front door? You can still spruce up your entryway with a nice welcome mat and some potted flowers.

Power Wash the Exterior

Dirty siding on your home can make it look old and neglected, which can be a major turn-off for buyers! A simple solution to get your home’s exterior looking like new is to rent a power washer to take care of any dirt. We recommend renting a heavy-duty, gas-powered pressure washer, as these are the most efficient.

Depending on your home’s specific material (vinyl, stucco, brick, etc.), you will need to obtain a specific type of detergent to power wash your home. Be sure to opt for an environmentally friendly version!

Refresh Your Landscaping

The front exterior of a home that's been manicured with trimmed shrubs and flower beds.

Taking the time to properly maintain your landscaping—and adding a few new features here and there—can both increase your home’s resale value and attract more buyers. After all, real estate is all about the curb appeal!

Installing an attractive stone walkway, mulching your flowerbeds, planting new flowers or shrubbery, and planting trees are all great ways to improve your home’s landscaping.

Don’t have a yard? You can still spruce up your entryway and outdoor areas with potted flowers or hanging planters.

Looking for More Home-Selling Strategies?

Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® can help you increase your home’s value and get it sold fast.

Contact our team today to learn more.

The Real Estate Market is Returning to “Normal:” Here’s Why That’s a Good Thing

In the past couple of months, we’ve written about how the Raleigh real estate market is primed for sellers. That’s because of a discrepancy between housing demand and housing supply.

When there aren’t enough homes for sale to satisfy buyer demand, home prices rise. In fact, over the past few years, home price appreciation has averaged around 6% across the country. These conditions are known as a “seller’s market.”

So What’s Changing?

A spacious, luxurious kitchen with a huge island in the center.

The market is starting to level out a bit. Home price growth has begun to cool down, with a recent report by CoreLogic showing that prices have only risen by 4.7% over the last year.

While housing prices have by no means stagnated, many buyers and sellers are still worrying that this recent activity means another housing crash is on the horizon.

Don’t Worry, the Market is Doing Just Fine

A business professional showing a client shifting trends in market activity.

Sure, the market is cooling off a bit, but that’s not a bad thing! It also does not indicate that we are headed for a crash.

It means that the real estate market is returning to “normal.” The inventory of homes for sale is growing to meet buyer demand, so housing prices aren’t increasing dramatically.

This is good for buyers: it means that housing prices aren’t skyrocketing, so more people will be able to afford homes in their preferred neighborhood.

Will Housing Prices Go Up Again?

Sold house sign in Midwest suburban setting. Focus on sign.

Most likely, yes! The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University estimates that over 30 million new households will enter the market from now through 2040.

Is Now the Right Time to Buy a Home in Raleigh?

Yes! If you’re interested in buying a home in Raleigh, or anywhere else in the NC Triangle, now is the time to act. Here at Linda Craft & Team REALTORS®, we have the resources and expertise to assist.

Just give us a call today to learn more! You can also browse our home-buying resources, see what homes are currently going for in Raleigh, and explore specific communities in the Triangle.