5 Tips for Home Buyers to Find the Best Interest Rate

When the time comes and you’re finally ready to buy a home in Woodstock or Roswell, topics like mortgage interest rates may feel overwhelming and start giving you cold feet. Take a breath. At Frank Pallota Law, we are here to help you navigate the convoluted real estate market in Metro Atlanta.

A high interest rate could be the one thing between you and your dream home. So we’re going to take you through a few things you can start TODAY to ensure you will get the best rate once the time comes to apply.

Because there are a few components that determine your rate, you can’t anticipate a certain rate by simply asking your neighbors even though their home is in the same area and, most likely, comparable in price. So spend less time asking around and more time doing these 5 things…

1. Have the Highest Credit Score Possible

Needing a high credit score to get the best interest rate seems like a given for obvious reasons, however, there are a few things you can do to get a leg up! Pay down your credit card balances as much as you can each month without closing them. The goal is to get into the habit of only spending as much as you’re bringing in each month without building any unnecessary debt. Having a history of responsible credit usage will work in your favor when applying for a mortgage rate.

2. Have a Large Down Payment at Closing

As you prepare to make your home purchase, you want to start saving as if you already have a mortgage payment. Put that extra money into a savings account to apply towards your down payment. The larger the down payment at closing, the better the interest rate!

3. Lower Your Debt to Income Ratio

When applying for a mortgage interest rate you typically want a debt-to-income ratio smaller than 36%, with 28% (or less) of that debt going towards your mortgage. To figure this out, simply take your total debt amount and divide it by your income. If your debt totals up to $1,000 per month and your monthly income equals $4,000, your DTI is $1,000 ÷ $4,000, or 25 percent.

4. Pay Bills ON TIME

A history of how you manage your credit plays a significant role in the outcome of your interest rate. With a high credit score, a large down payment and a reasonable debt-to-income ratio, the lender will see you as a trusted borrower thus approving you for a great interest rate.

5. Avoid Adding New Lines of Credit Until After Closing

Try holding off on opening any new lines of credit until after those closing documents are signed, sealed & delivered! Adding new lines of credit make it more difficult for the lender to get an accurate sense of how you manage your finances. The more predictable you are in regards to your financial behavior, the greater confidence the lender will have in your ability to pay your mortgage on time.

If you have more questions or concerns about locking in your interest rate before closing, we’re here to help! Give us a call today and let our expert team guide you through the process.

Selling Your Home During the COVID-19 Outbreak

The term “new normal” has been used a lot lately when describing the rippling effect the Coronavirus, COVID-19 has had on our country and the world. But there is nothing normal about empty parks, clear roads or long-term school closures. And there is certainly nothing normal about selling your home when you literally can’t be anywhere else.

So far, the real estate market in Metro Atlanta remains open for business but gone are the days of running to Starbucks to pass the time while potential buyers tour your home.

All the medical experts will advise you that the safest route right now is to hold off on putting your home on the market. The rules of the past regarding the best times to sell your home, currently do not apply.

Life, however, isn’t always that simple and you may be facing circumstances that require you to move forward with your home selling process regardless of a shelter-in-place order from your city.

It’s time to get creative and flexible…

1. Create a Video Walk Through of Your Home

Clean the house, turn on all of the lights, organize closets, remove any clutter, pick up the rugs and take down any personal photos… then start filming! You’ll want to film in a “POV” (point of view) style using a DSLR camera or the newest smart phone you have. If you’re using a phone, remember to hold it horizontally while filming.

If your realtor doesn’t have the equipment or experience to do this for you, there are so many resources available online to help guide you through the process. Here’s a great example to get started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWtK4berZ2s

2. Teleconference Live Virtual Tours with Realtors & Buyers

Technology is playing the biggest role in keeping our economy afloat while we navigate through this current health crisis. Be open to giving potential buyers as many virtual home tours as they request until they feel ready to make an offer. At that time discuss with your realtor about a plan for physical home showings. Discuss a plan that allows sanitizing between appointments and precautions you would like the buyers to take when in the home; i.e. No shoes inside the house, no touch policy unless wearing gloves, only the essential people attend (no children) and if anyone is having symptoms of any kind, they do not attend.

3. Move Out, If Possible

Moving out before your home sells is not an option for everyone unless you have the financial means or a generous friend or family member that can offer you a place to stay without adding any extra risk to either one of you (i.e. someone in the house is a health worker and you are immune compromised or vice versa).

If you have a parent or a grandparent who could use the extra company, it’s a win-win for the both of you! What sounds better than spending some precious time with grandma while your empty house remains open for potential buyers?

Now once you move onto the closing process, we can take it from there! All of us at Frank Pallotta Law are working day and night with real estate agents in Cherokee and neighboring counties to ensure business continues for our clients. You can read more about the steps we are taking to keep your closing process moving forward while also maintaining everyone’s health and safety in our Message To Our Clients About COVID-19 and check out our Facebook for updates as things progress.

A Message to Our Clients about COVID-19

All of us at Frank Pallotta Law Firm want to take a moment to express our care and concern for every single one of our customers during this time of uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus. Amidst school closures and overall daily life disruptions, we remain. We will continue to give our clients, friends and family the class A service that you have come to expect.

And while it’s not business as usual, it is still business and we are prepared to be flexible. Whether it’s changing an in-person meeting to a virtual one or a previously scheduled appointment to a different date, there’s nothing we can’t work out if we continue to communicate and help each other!

If all parties wish to continue with the closing process, we are prepared to deliver a clean and safe environment or adjust our closing locations and procedures as needed to maximize safety and comfort.

Before any customers and/or visitors come to the closing appointment, we ask that you go through a quick self assessment to monitor your symptoms, if any. Below are a few questions to ask yourself. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of them, please stay home and call your doctor. Access to our offices will be denied to anyone showing symptoms so we ask that you simply alert us in advance so we can make other arrangements.

1. Have you had close contact with or cared for someone diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 14 days?

2. Have you returned from a cruise trip or any of the countries with travel restrictions from the CDC site in the last 14 days?

3. Have you experienced fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath in the last 14 days (symptoms can also include sore throat, respiratory illness, difficulty breathing)?

If you have any concerns, please give us a call and let us know how we can customize your closing experience.

Everyone at Frank Pallotta Law Firm will be doing their part to ensure your health and safety.

Be well,

Frank B. Pallotta, Attorney at Law

Best Months to Sell Your Home – RANKED

When to sell? When to buy? When to close? If you’re in the beginning phase of putting your home on the market, you’ve most likely already been told that it’s a seller’s market out there. Lucky for you, right?! Yes, as long as you have a wise real estate agent and a thorough closing attorney by your side.

Although the current real estate market is in favor of home-sellers, you still need to find the right season for homebuyers. We’ll take you through the top 4 months to put your home on the market based on the demographic that your newly listed home in the Metro Atlanta area will appeal to!

1. July 

There are so many factors that make July the #1 month to sell your home. The obvious one being BEAUTIFUL weather! What better way to showcase what your home has to offer on the inside and outside than a beautiful summer day? The second biggest reason July is the top month to sell your house is children are on summer break so your home buyers have more time and convenience to move, change school districts and get settled all before the kids start their next school year.

2. August

August is ranked 2nd best month to sell your home for many of the same reasons that make July the hottest month for homebuyers to be shopping the real estate market! Although listing your home in August could be a little riskier than July, due to the school year quickly approaching, but if you know you’re in a desired real estate location like Woodstock, GA, then you could set yourself up for the perfect bidding war. In this “seller’s market” we see a lot of homebuyer bidding wars that result in homes selling above list price. MAJOR WIN!

3. September

I know, we said to sell while the kids are out of school but September could still work for the young families on the search! Young growing families with children who are not yet in the school system will be searching while the weather is still nice. So if you have a home near a good school district, listing your home in September could motivate a lot of homebuyers to close before the holidays begin!

4. October

If your home is more the bachelor pad type or a retirement community, you don’t have to work around the general school schedule. However, you will want to get your home listed before the Holiday Season and FLU season begins! No one wants a lot of foot traffic in and out of their homes during this time (not to mention, where will you hide all of the presents?). List your home at the beginning of the fall season so you can have it sold before the Christmas trees are up and the germs are out!

If you’re ready to sell your home and need to be connected with a team that will know the in’s and out’s of the real estate market, we’re here to help! Give us a call today and let our expert team guide you through the process.

Refinancing Myths (and Why You Shouldn’t Believe Them)

“Refinancing” is a scary word for many people, but it doesn’t have to be. For many homeowners, refinancing can not only lower your monthly payments and help with your monthly budget, but it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

YOU’RE NOT TOO LATE.

For years now, we’ve been hearing that interest rates will be on the rise, and although there have been some small increases, you’re still in a great position to drastically lower your interest rate. The general rule is if your mortgage interest rate is more than one percent above the current market rate, you should consider refinancing.

IT’S NOT TOO TIME CONSUMING.

Don’t brush off refinancing just because it seems like a long and daunting process. An informational call with a lender to see how rates compare will only take a few minutes. There are also some programs for streamlining the application process. And besides, isn’t the amount of money you could save worth the time and effort?

ARMS CAN BE REFINANCED, TOO.

Seeing your Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) increase after the introductory period can be incredibly stressful and place a squeeze on your budget. Many people assume they’re stuck, but ARMs can be refinanced, just like fixed-rate mortgages. You can even switch to a shorter term fixed-rate mortgage, such as 15 or 23 years. The longer you’re planning to stay in the home, the more sense it makes to look into refinancing.

If you have more questions or concerns about refinancing your mortgage, we’re here to help! Give us a call today and let our expert team guide you through the process.

How You Can Finance Your Home Renovation

Outdated kitchen. Overrun backyard. Unusable basement space. If you have a home renovation project on the mind, the first thing you have to consider is how you are going to finance it. Here are the most common options to make your dreams become a reality.

Cash 

Paying in cash is the most straightforward financing option, just save until you have enough money to cover the expenses. This will help eliminate spending outside your budget; however, it can also extend your timeline.

Mortgage Refinance 

If you’ve been making payments on your home for a few years and your interest rate is higher than current market rates, you may be eligible for a mortgage refinance, reducing your payments and freeing up some money.

Cash-Out Refinance 

You can tap into your home equity and borrow up to 80 percent of your home’s value to pay off your current mortgage, plus take out more cash to cover the renovations. This option is encouraged only when you’re making improvements that will increase the value of your home, as it can add a lot of interest and fees.

Home Equity

Getting a home equity line of credit allows you to borrow money against the value of your home. You receive usually up to 80 percent of your home’s value, minus the amount of your loan.

Retirement Funds 

Homeowners can consider pulling money from a 401K or IRA account, even though they aren’t specifically meant to cover a home renovation. This option might incur additional penalties or tax payments, but may be worth it when making improvements that will benefit you financially in the long run.

If you do decide to refinance your mortgage to cover renovation costs, we’re here to help! Give us a call today.

What Should You Fix Before You List?

When you’re getting ready to list your home, you want to be sure you’re showing it in the best light. Taking time to highlight its strengths (and fix up some of its possible weaknesses) can make a big difference in how fast it sells. Here are our top five recommended repairs to make before selling your home.

Repaint walls.

Giving your home a fresh coat of paint is one of the most cost effective ways to spruce it up, and generally, it can be a DIY project. Make sure to cover any walls with scratches and chips and consider updating any accent walls with a more neutral coat.

Repair floors.

Hardwood floors are a very desirable feature in a home, so you want to be sure yours look their best by fixing scratches or dull areas. If your carpet is worn or stained, consider replacing them. And don’t forget the tile in your kitchen or bathrooms — re-grouting can go a long way in making dingy tile work look brand new!

Refresh the landscaping.

Show buyers your home is the full package by dressing up the outside as well as the in. Clean walkways and driveways, plant seasonal flowers and plants, trim hedges and trees, install outdoor décor pieces and fill in mulch and gravel.

Fix your fixtures.

Leaky faucet? Rusted drains? Loose drawer handle? Making these small fixes can make a big difference to potential buyers with detailed-orientated minds. Improve your kitchen. An outdated kitchen can be a real eyesore in a home. Updating cabinetry, repairing or replacing countertops, and installing new faucets and sinks may be worth the investment

These small improvements can make a major difference in your home’s appeal. If you’re ready to sell your home, we’re ready to help make it official. Give us a call today!

Real Estate Terms Explained: Short Sale and Foreclosure

As unfortunate as it can be when homeowners fall behind on mortgage payments and must face the possibility of losing their homes, short sales and foreclosures provide them options for moving on financially. The terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different, with varying timelines and financial impact on the homeowner. Here’s a brief overview.

A short sale comes into play when a homeowner needs to sell their home, but the home is worth less than the remaining balance that they owe. The lender can allow the homeowner to sell the home for less than the amount owed, freeing the homeowner from the financial predicament.On the buyer side, short sales typically take three to four months to complete and many of the closing and repair costs are shifted from the seller to the lender.

A foreclosure occurs when a homeowner can no longer make payments on their home so the bank begins the process of repossessing it. A foreclosure usually moves much faster than a short sale and is more financially damaging to the homeowner. After foreclosure the bank can sell the home in a foreclosure auction. For buyers, foreclosures are riskier than short sales, because homes are often bought sight unseen, with no inspection or warranty.

Neither of these are an ideal situation for any homeowner to find themselves in, but understanding the difference is important to know you’re making the best financial choice for yourself. If you’re thinking of selling your home in a short sale, or interested in buying a foreclosed property, give us a call today

Should You Make a Smaller Down Payment?

You’ve most likely heard the rule: save for a 20-percent down payment before you buy a home. The logic behind saving 20-percent is solid. It shows that you have the financial discipline and stability to save for a long-term goal, and helps you get favorable rates from lenders.

But there can be financial benefits to putting down a smaller down payment—one as low as three percent—rather than parting with so much cash up front, even if you have the money available.

THE DOWNSIDE

The downsides of a small down payment are pretty well known. You might have to pay private mortgage insurance, which is a type of insurance that is typically required for buyers with a conventional loan and less than 20-percent down payment. The lower your down payment, the more you’ll pay. You could also be offered a lesser loan amount than borrowers who have a 20-percent down payment, which will eliminate some homes from your search.

THE UPSIDE

The national average for home appreciation is currently a little less than five percent. The appreciation is independent from your home payment, so whether you put down 20-percent or three percent, the increase in equity is the same. If you’re looking at your home as an investment, putting down a smaller amount can lead to a higher return on investment, while also leaving more of your savings free for home repairs, upgrades, or other investment opportunities. 

THE HAPPY MEDIUM

Of course, your home payment options aren’t binary. Most borrowers can find some common ground between the security of a traditional 20 percent and an investment-focused, small down payment. As always, it’s best to work with a team of trusted experts that can provide some answers as you explore your financing options.

Ready to close on your dream property? Give us a call today!

What Should You Negotiate?

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned veteran, negotiations on a property purchase can be a little daunting and stressful. That’s why you should always work with trusted experts (like us). So, what should you negotiate when buying a home? 

Closing Costs 

Your closing costs are determined by a variety of factors, but you can expect it to be between 2% to 5% of the purchase price. Ask the seller to cover some or all of the closing costs upfront, or request a closing credit that can be used to make specific updates and fixes to the home.

Furnishings

Love how the seller has furnished and decorated the home? Buyers often negotiate keeping couches, fixtures, landscaping items, patio furniture, appliances, and more. Many sellers will agree, because they want to make the home more appealing and get the deal they’re looking for.

Inspection & Closing Timing 

Offers that include a quick inspection and closing timeline are often more attractive to sellers, especially those who have been going through the process for a long time. Just make sure you aren’t moving too quickly — even with quick turnarounds, you need to allow yourself ample time to get your financing in place and conduct proper, thorough inspections.

Home Warranty

Sellers will often agree to pay the premium on the home warranty at closing and then hand it off to the new homeowner, who is responsible for the deductible on any future claims.

Repairs

Your inspection may uncover small or large repairs needed to bring the home up to standard. You can negotiate to have these items fixed before closing or ask for a price reduction to cover the costs.

Whenever you’re ready to start negotiations on a new property, make sure you’re working with the right team of experts. We’re dedicated to making sure your closing is quick, efficient and as cost-effective as possible. Give us a call today!