Friday, July 31, 2009

What are FHA Buyers to do? The New FHA 203K Loan Option

First time home buyers are growing frustrated as the number of available homes for sale in San Diego County declines. They can't seem to find a home that will qualify for their FHA loan or they can't seem to beat out the all cash and conventional loan buyers.

FHA loans have strict guidelines on what and won't qualify. Homes that will not qualify include those that are missing kitchen cabinets, heaters, toilets, worn roofs, unpermited garage conversion, or perhaps the seller won't pay for the required termite work.

What are FHA buyers to do? Don't give up. Looking through all those foreclosures and homes with deferred maintenance may now be the way to go. A new loan called the FHA 203K has recently emerged onto the scene. It will give buyers the opportunity to buy a home that may be in need of up to $35,000 in repairs. The repairs can include termite work, a new roof, a new kitchen or bathroom updates, converting back an unpermited garage. Often the seller or the bank won't pay for these improvement. Yet without many of these repairs being addressed the home would be uninhabitable. So there is usually less competition for these homes.

How does the FHA 203K loan work? Buyers still need to meet the FHA loan guidelines and bring in their 3 1/2% down . However, the big difference is the cost of needed renovation or upgrades will be added to the loan. The contractors have to be approved and the repairs must be completed within 6 months following the close of escrow. The added inspections and paper work can extend out the escrow a couple of weeks. While the interest rate may be higher than the traditional FHA loan, some sellers may be willing to help with closing costs to pay down interest rates to keep the loan affordable for the buyer and get the home sold.

So FHA buyers don't despair. There is still time to find that first home and collect the $8,000 tax credit. For more information on the tax credit, see my blog Uncle Sam Giving Money Away to First-Time Homebuyers .

--Virginia Hall, ABR, CRS, e-Pro, GRI
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Direct (619)258-8585

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Raze the Roof

From painting and HVAC to organizing and yard upkeep, there’s so much to think about when it comes to home care that it’s easy to overlook the one thing that protects it all — until it starts to leak.

Your roof is one of the most important parts of your house, and it also happens to take the biggest beating, thanks to the elements and general wear and tear.

A new roof is a hefty investment — it can cost $6,000 to $20,000 or more — so how do you know when to replace it or just repair it? Here are some tips for knowing when to patch and when to overhaul:
• As a general rule, roofs usually last 12 to 20 years, depending on the climate. If your roof is approaching the 20-year mark, shingles are more likely to be worn out, and flashing around chimneys, eaves and skylights might have decayed, leaving your roof prone to leaks.
• If there are a lot of missing or torn shingles, as opposed to just a few, then it’s best to replace the roof. Shingles also curl up and crack as they age, making them unable to resist water and exposing your home to leaks and interior damage.
• Inspect the interior walls that touch the roof. If paint is missing, they are moist to the touch or there are water stains in the house, it’s clear that water has seeped in, and the roof will most likely need to be replaced. But finding one or two leaks in a specific location could mean that a roof patch will be enough to stall any potential damage.
• Extreme weather can wreak havoc on your roof. If prolonged conditions such as rain, hail and direct sunlight have exposed parts of the house from the top, a minor patch will not be enough to protect the interior, and the roof will need to be replaced.
Keeping your roof clean and in good repair should prevent costly replacements for years to come. But before attempting any patch or replacement, talk to an experienced roofer.


Friday, July 10, 2009

FHA & VA Buyers Be on the Look Out--10 Most Common Home Problems

With no more 100% conventional financing available, many first time home buyers are turning to the FHA and VA lending. While the FHA loans require 3.5% down and, if you qualify, the VA loans requires zero down, these loans do have their challenges.

With the interest rates still reasonable, many investors and conservative borrowers are out making their moves on lower end properties that can make the offers from FHA and VA borrowers less appealing because of the stringent property condition requirements and financial volatility of the buyer and their qualifications.

The number of well maintained homes grows limited in San Diego County, increasing the number multiple offers. While it is possible to find a clean home that qualifies for FHA or VA lending and still have the seller pay your closing costs, it is more challenging. When competing with multiple offers, being able to pay some of all of your closing costs will definitely help your position.

However, if you have limited funds and need the seller to help pay for your closing costs, then you should plan to look at homes in a slightly lower price bracket and plan to offer above the asking price, or be prepared to settle for a home that is slightly dated but functional.

While the home condition guidelines for the FHA and VA loans are very similar, they are not always clear cut. The home will be inspected by a specially trained appraiser who will note any safety or health issues that may pose a risk for the buyer and require they be fixed before close of escrow. Below is a list of some of the most common list of repairs that will require attention before having an appraisal for a FHA and VA loan:

1. Any useful components (appliances if present, floor covering, etc.) of the home, especially the roof, should have 2 years of useful life remaining. A roof should not be leaking and have no more than 3 layers of shingles.
2. If the homes was built prior to 1978 , exterior and interior paint that is peeling must be scraped and painted.
3. Must have a functioning heater. Wall heaters must be designed to heat the entire home.
4. Health and Safety Hazards (ie. electric garage door opener won't reverse with resistance; burglar bars, etc. )
5. Broken windows and doors should be replaced.
6. Safety handrails should be installed in open stairwells of three or more stairs.
7. Termite inspections required, as well as any infestations of any kind should be exterminated (ie., insects, mice, bats, etc.)
8. Damaged or inoperable plumbing has to be repaired.
9. Structural or foundation problems must be repaired. Crawl spaces must be accessible for inspection.
10. Electrical box/system should have no frayed or exposed wires.

VA and FHA requires that Condo complexes be approved. Since very few FHA and VA loans were being used when many of the newer developments were being built and some of the developers did not want to pay the extra fees required to get that approval, you may want to check these websites for complexes that are approved . For FHA see and for VA

Sometimes, the buyer can negotiate in the purchase agreement that certain obvious conditions be fixed. However, quite often the sellers may not be able to or won't repair these items. So it may be in your best interest to avoid the problem homes all together.

--Virginia Hall
DRE License 01409760
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

19 Helpful Water Saving Tips

As of June 1, 2009, mandatory water restrictions started for most of San Diego County. A three year drought has reduced the supply from the state water project in Northern California. We are already using reserves for everyday water. For more information about the restrictions, you can visit

Here are 19 tips for conserving water on your own:

In The Bathroom
1. While waiting for hot water to come through the pipes, catch the cool, clean, water in a bucket or a watering can. You can use it later to water plants, run your garbage disposer, or pour into the toilet bowl to flush. (Can save up to 50 gallons a week per person.)
2. Replace your regular showerheads with low-flow showerheads. (Can save up to 230 gallons a week.)
3. Keep your showers down to five minutes or less using a low-flow showerhead. (Can save up to 75 gallons a week per person.)
4. Turn the water off while lathering-up in the shower. Then turn the water back on to quickly rinse. (Can save up to 75 gallons a week per person.
5. Take shallow baths, no more than 3 inches of water. (Can save up to 100 gallons a week per person.)
6. Replace your older model toilets with new ultra-low-flush models. (Can save up to 350 gallons a week.)
7. Check your toilets for leaks. Drop a dye tablet or a teaspoon of food coloring (avoid red) in the tank. If color appears in the bowl after 15 minutes, you probably need to replace the "flapper" valve. (Can save up to 100 gallons a week for each toilet repaired.)
8. Flush the toilet only when necessary. Never use the toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket. (Can save up to 50 gallons a week.)
9. Never let the water run while brushing your teeth or shaving. (Can save up to 35 gallons a week per person.)

In The Kitchen
10. Hand wash dishes just once a day using the least amount of detergent possible. This will cut down on rinsing. Use a sprayer or short blasts of water to rinse. (Can save up to 100 gallons a week.)
11. If you have a dishwasher, run it only when you have a full load. (Can save up to 30 gallons a week.)
12. Scrape food scraps off dishes in the garbage can or rinse them off with very short blasts of water. (Can save up to 60 gallons a week.)
13. Never use hot, running water to defrost frozen foods. Plan ahead and place frozen items in the refrigerator overnight or use the microwave oven. (Can save up to 50 gallons a week.)
14. Rinse vegetables and fruits in a sink or a pan filled with water instead of under running water. (Can save up to 30 gallons a week.)
15. Run your garbage disposer only on alternate days. (Can save up to 25 gallons a week.)

Around The House
16. Repair all leaky faucets, fixtures and pipes both inside and outside your home. (Can save more than 150 gallons for each leak.)
17. When doing the laundry, never wash less than a full load. (Can save up to 100 gallons a week.)

18. Set lawn mower blades one notch higher since longer grass reduces evaporation. Leave grass clippings on your grass, this cools the ground and holds in moisture.
19. Mulch, compost and wood chips are available at the Miramar Greenery.

From the City of San Diego's Water Conservation program.

Join your neighbors and community in conserving water.

---Virginia Hall