The Power of Being Pre-Approved

Janet speaks with McKenzie Kelly of Prime Lending who explains the difference between being pre-qualified for a loan vs pre-approval of loans.

Find out why pre-approval makes you a stronger buyer and strengthens your bid for your new home.

SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate

What Buyers and Sellers need to know about FHA FINANCING

Over the next several weeks I’ll be doing a series of posts addressing what sellers need to know about both VA and FHA financing in order to make their homes more sell-able.

The first of this series will be FHA Financing which is a fairly popular loan in our area.

FHA financingAccording to the FHA Single Family Housing Policy Handbook, “HUD requires every property to be Safe, Sound, and Secure to be eligible for FHA Insurance.” There are MPR (Minimum Property Requirements) and MPS’s (Minimum Property Standards) that each property must contain in order to comply with HUD.  These basic requirements and standards are the basis for identifying the deficiencies of the property.  FHA appraisers are required to note these deficiencies within their appraisal form and must be addressed by the mortgagee prior to closing.

Examples of some property deficiencies and adverse conditions may include: Evidence of dampness, defective construction,  evidence of settlement, leakage, pests or wood destroying insects, decay/wood rot, peeling paint, environmental hazards, exposed or defective electrical wiring, double strapped water heaters, defective overhead garage door openers, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors or anything that affects the health & safety of the occupants, collateral or structural integrity of the dwelling.

In order to make the property comply with HUD’s MPR the appraiser must require repairs of all noted deficiencies, including an estimated Cost to Cure that has been properly developed and applied within said report.  Cost to Cure is based on the cost of local licensed contractors to complete repairs not the home owner’s cost of completing repairs themselves.

Many cosmetic repairs may be reported by the appraiser and considered when rating the overall condition and valuating the property. Minor or Cosmetic repairs may include minor plumbing leaks such as a dripping faucet as long as it doesn’t show damage, holes in window screens, cracked window glass,  missing handrails that don’t pose a threat to safety, or  defective interior paint surfaces in housing constructed after 1978.

As a guideline to assist my clients in expediting the appraisal process, I recommend the following repairs are completed prior to scheduling an FHA appraisal Inspection:

  • Repair (sand, scrape, fill, prime & paint) all defective paint surfaces
  • Repair all leaks (roof, foundation, HVAC system, & plumbing)
  • Repair all structural/foundation settlement
  • Repair all defective roofing
  • Repair/Secure/Install defective/missing handrails
  • Repair all defective/exposed electrical wiring
  • Install safety items such as Smoke & Carbon Monoxide detectors ,GFCI outlets, H20 safety straps & relief valves.
  • Repair/Replace broken or inoperable windows & doors as well as their locks
  • Repair/Replace inoperable overhead garage door openers (make sure the safety stop functions)
  • Repair/Replace broken stairs or uneven walkways, floors, or driveways.

SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate

How would you like to save over $25,000?

Did you know that all of Lewis County is elgible for USDA Rural Development loans?

That’s right, the entire county is eligible as long as the property itself meets the USDA guidelines, even residential properties may qualify.
Qualifying for a USDA Home LoanDan Keller with New American Financing tells us how new guidelines for USDA home loans may save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.
Thank you Dan for this valuable tip for home buyers.

SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate

10 No-No’s When Applying for a Home Loan

  1. Applying for a home loanDon’t change your job prior to closing ~ Lenders want stability so now is not the time to quit your job or become self -employed. Stable buyers are less likely to default on their loans & lenders like that.
  2. Don’t change banks ~ Keep the same bank, much like your employment you’ll want your banking history to show stability too.
  3. Don’t take out any new loans ~ Purchasing a vehicle or taking out any other form of loan, effects your Debt -to -Income ratio and can adversely affect your home loan application.
  4. Don’t charge large amounts to your credit card ~ Big-ticket items such as new furniture or kitchen appliances are tempting to purchase on credit. Charges like this increase your debt-to-income ratio & again will affect your loan application. Save these purchases till after the transaction has closed.
  5. Don’t make payments late ~ Keep a clean & consistent track record of timely payments, lenders like to see that you can manage money wisely.
  6. Don’t make large deposits into your bank accounts ~ Lenders like “Seasoned” monies so don’t make any large deposits without a good explanation and a papertrail. It’s best to have your down payment monies in your account for at least 2 months prior to loan application. The same goes for any closing costs you may incur.
  7. Don’t lie on your loan application ~ This sounds like a “NO BRAINER” right? You’d be surprised at how many people leave out some of their debts or liabilities or fudge on their income. Don’t do it, It’s fraud.
  8. Don’t co-sign a loan for anyone ~ I know it’s hard to say NO but Co-signing a loan increases your debt-to-income ratio, even if you’re not making the payments on this loan.
  9. Don’t apply for new credit cards ~ When your credit inquiries are related to your mortgage search, usually it doesn’t affect your credit score. Most lenders assume that you’re rate-shopping & they understand that, but opening credit accounts within a short period of time represents some risk, and your credit could take a hit. Although inquiries are probably not a big factor in calculating your ability to repay a loan, but why take a chance?
  10. Don’t spend money you’ll need for closing costs ~ When purchasing a home, part of the loan fees are closing costs, and you will have some responsibility for paying them. Be sure you’ve budgeted & saved for your portion.

SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate

Preparing to Make a Home Loan Application

Getting a Home Loan Application may seem like it’s out of reach, but it’s not that hard and there are ways you can improve your odds.

Home Loan ApplicationPut your best foot forward and put on your game face, You need to be as tantalizing as possible to lenders if you want to get the best mortgage deal. Here are 16 top tips on how to increase your chances of getting the deal you want.

Don’t expect every lender to be enthralled by you

Every lender has its own style of deciding whether you’re a candidate for the loan programs they offer. It’s much like a beauty pageant and lenders are judging you against their ideals. If you’re found to be a good fit for a lender’s criteria, you’ll probably be accepted quickly. If don’t meet their standards, you’ll most likely be rejected.

 Lender’s use a scorecard that is based on several factors, such as:

  • The size of loan you want to take out
  • How much you’ve saved as a deposit
  • Your employment status and income
  • Your credit rating
  • Your outgoings
  • Your existing debt

If you pass you’re likely to be approved, but nothing is guaranteed.

Check your credit score before they do

One way lenders investigate you, is by getting your credit report. This is done by searching your credit records to find out if you’ve a good repayment history. You need to prove to lenders that you’ve got the financial discipline required to pay back your mortgage.

Your credit file lists all of your accounts that were open for the past 6 years. They include your past credit cards, loans, overdrafts, mortgages and even mobile phone and utility payments.

Correct credit score errors immediately

If you discover errors on your credit report, you have a right to do something about it – get it corrected as soon as possible.


Register to vote

Even though you may have a perfect credit score without being a registered voter, it’s still nearly impossible to get a mortgage without being registered. Lenders use electoral roll data to do identity checks (this way they can ensure YOU are who you say you are, and YOU live where you say you live, also that you’re not laundering money).

Your credit file will say if you’re on the electoral roll or not, you can always check yourself at your local county court house.  Do this as soon as possible, most of the time you can be added quickly but during late summer and early Fall it can take longer to register.

Your ex partner’s score can wreck yours

If you’ve ever been financially linked to someone else by sharing a bank account, holding credit cards or applying for a loan together and now you’ve separated or divorced, then you need to DE-LINK yourself from them. Remember that all late payments or misdemeanors they’ve committed will have adverse effects on your credit rating. Write a letter to the credit agencies and request a notice of ‘disassociation’.

You could still be linked to old room-mates if you held joint accounts for utilities or rental payments.

Even if the person you’re linked to has a good history now, you’re still at risk if  they miss future payments.

Carefully manage your available credit

This is all about your available credit limits available on your credit cards and overdrafts. It’s the difference between your combined debit balances on your cards/ bank accounts and your combined credit limits/overdraft limit.

It’s vital that you strike a balance between not having too high of a credit limit — as lenders think you run the risk of racking up more debt by spending it all — and not getting too close to your limits, which may appear as if you’re at the edge of your finances.

According to Experian if you have debts, lenders prefer that they total less than half your available credit. So if you’ve a combined limit of $10,000, they suggest you use less than $5,000 of it.

If you are using a considerable proportion of your available credit, avoid lowering your limits so you’re suddenly close to the edge. Similarly, don’t increase the amount available credit unnecessarily — lenders may get nervous thinking  you could suddenly be far more indebted than you currently are.

Each lender views the amount of credit you should have differently, I recommend to stay below 50%. Of course, any time you have the ability to “PAY OFF” at debt… do it.

Close old, inactive accounts

If you’re not using an account, you should consider closing it. Anytime you have an inactive account, it increases your risk for fraud and it the account details may be incorrect & need updating.

However, when applying for a mortgage, longer, established credit relationships are more of a positive. In other words, if you have 2 revolving credit cards, one of them has been with you for years while the other was just recently opened, your older card will be the one you’ll want to keep it shows stability.

ALWAYS pay ALL your bills on time

This is a NO BRAINER—Just do it.

All missed & late payments count against you on your credit file.

Most defaults will count against you for at least a year, and they remain on your file for six years.  Even if you iss just one mobile phone payment, it could mean the difference between getting a mortgage or being declined.

By setting up a direct debit on all accounts it will ensure these payments are made on time.

Don’t apply for credit shortly before a mortgage

Avoid applying for credit in the three months prior to getting a mortgage – it may hinder your score or worse yet, lead to rejection. In order to absolutely safe, I recommend a 6 month gap.

Lenders search your credit file every time you apply for a loan, credit card, or even a mobile phone or utility contract. This search appears on your credit file, even if you didn’t take out the contract.

The more searches over a short time that appear on your credit file, the less likely you are to be granted credit.

Limit your spending before making your mortgage move

Lenders are now requiring a lot of details about your outgoings, and will want to see your bank statements to verify what you’ve told them. It’s kind of like  a lender “Stress Test”.

Don’t panic, they won’t hook you up to wires to check if you’re telling the truth – it’s just a method of  checking your ability to afford your mortgage even  if rates increased.

The lender will review your last 3- 6 months of bank statements prior to making loan application to verify your income and pay stubs match and to familiarize themselves  with  your spending habits.

It’s definitely worth tightening your belt in the months before you apply. Avoid un-necessary spending such as  buying  a round of drinks in for everyone or spending every Saturday night in the casino.

Living with frugality may just pay off during the months prior to buying your first home. The costs to move are forever increasing, so every penny you save means a bigger budget to meet unexpected costs.

Never overdraft

If you’re in overdraft, maybe you’re not ready for a mortgage.

If you’re incurring overdrafts, this will be seen as living close to the edge of your finances, most lenders will not tolerate overdrafts at all, especially in the last three months prior to loan application.

Sort your paperwork to speed things up

Lenders have to see proof of your income before they can offer mortgage application, so get your paperwork together in advance. Having all the paperwork together to send in one batch speeds up the process and reduces the chances of your application being reviewed by multiple people.

Many lenders require original statements & documents, request originals for these a few weeks in advance in allowing ample time to receive them.

Your lender may want to see some or all of the following:

  • Your last three months’ bank statements
  • Your last three months’ pay stubs
  • Proof of commissions or bonuses
  • Your latest W-2 tax form (showing income and tax paid from each tax year)
  • Your last three years’ accounts or tax returns
  • Proof of deposits (eg, savings account statements)
  • ID documents (usually a passport or drivers license)
  • Proof of address (eg, utility bills or credit card bills)
  • Gift Letter – If you’re getting help from friend or family member, the lender needs to know it is a gift (not a loan), and that the giver won’t part own the home.

Complete your application form correctly to avoid delays

Here are some tips for filling out the paperwork.

  • DO state your income exactly. Don’t round up.
  • DO give your FULL NAME – even middle names are necessary.
  • DO declare ALL your debts. The lender will find them anyway and withholding the info can mean a quick decline.
  • DO get your three-year address history exactly right, including zip codes.
  • DO give honest answers when asked about how much you spend.

Test drive your mortgage chances

Once you’ve completed all the steps above, your finances should be in great shape. Ask your lender for a “Prequel” to test your mortgage strength.

This is a conditional approval saying you may be approved for a loan, based on a quick check of your income and, probably, your credit file.  It offers no guarantees and should not be confused with loan approval.  Having a “Prequel Letter” accompany your offer to purchase a home, greatly boosts a sellers’ confidence that you’ll be able to complete the sale, so it may enhance the chances of having your offer accepted.

Don’t worry – just as a “Prequel” doesn’t tie the lender in to lending to you, it doesn’t mean you have to borrow from that lender either. You may find a better deal with another company but at least you know you’re on track if they’ll provide you with the letter.


Beware –  too many checks in a short space of time can harm your credit rating if the lender does a credit check and marks it on your file. This may damage your credit score.

Some lenders offer a ‘soft’ search option, which won’t be visible to other lenders (but will show up for you). Talk to the lender to clarify what type of credit check they’re doing before agreeing to one.

Rejected? Throwing yourself at the next lender’s feet will only make it worse

If you’re rejected – FREEZE! Don’t automatically apply again with a different lender. Too many applications can wreck your credit score.  Instead, check your credit file again, could you have missed something?

If there is an error discovered, get it corrected immediately before re-applying.

If there were no errors found and your credit file is still looking good, it could just be that the lender you applied to had its own reason for rejecting your application. It’s worth asking the lender why. They should be able to tell you the main reason you were turned down – and will tell you if that was your credit file.

SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate

5  Mistakes Sellers Make While Negotiating

You have decided to put your home on the market with high hopes of getting top dollar & a quick sale. These are the goals of most sellers!

NegotiationUnfortunately, listing your home for sale is just the start of what can become a long and unpredictable process. Often, negotiating can be the key in speeding up or slowing down the process of selling your home.

Negotiating is one of the most crucial steps in determining the success or failure of the deal. It has a direct impact on how quickly your property sells and your return on investment (if any) you will see. Without an open mind, a Seller may stall or impede the progress in reaching a closing of the sale.

It’s important for both buyer and seller to come away from the negotiating table feeling like it’s ended with a Win/Win. When negotiations are handled by competent real estate professionals who remain emotionally un-attached, everyone can come away feeling victorious. Here are 5 negotiating mistakes often made by sellers.

Inconsistency between Reality and Expectations

Almost everyone takes pride in their home. That is why we tend to overlook and forgive its little flaws. Sometimes these little imperfections remind of us a certain event, (like teething marks on door frame) and we become attached to them.  Don’t let your sentiments blur your vision. Home buyers will be examining your home with a critical eye using these against you when negotiating. Put yourself in the buyers shoes, honestly look at your home, you know its positive assets and its setbacks. This will assist you in determining a fair market price.

Keep in mind buyers are the ones who determine the demand, so stay flexible. Whether you like it or not, buyers often have the last word, even more so when its a “buyers market” .  Remember, your expectation of what you “NEED” out of the sale may not align with actual market value.

What’s next ?

As a seller, there are a few things you can do to educate yourself on current market conditions. Hire a trusted local Real Estate Professional that is knowledgeable about the area and comes with references & recommendations. Have your agent prepare a Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) then drive by & view the properties used in this analysis. Don’t let your desires be the guide in determining the price of your home, instead let your decision be data based. Once a listing price has been established, you may find that you can’t afford to sell right now, if that’s the case renting may be an option or waiting until market conditions improve.

Never Underestimate the value of a Good Real Estate Professional

A good real estate broker can provide you with a clear understanding of current market conditions adding an invaluable resource during the negotiation process. Occasionally sellers tip their hand, divulging too much information, or decline a reasonable offer because emotions get in the way. By letting your broker lead the way, they can help you avoid making costly mistakes & sabotaging the chances of selling your home. They do this for a living, they are professionals, and should have your best interests in mind during any discussions they have on your behalf.

What to look for in a Broker?

Choose your broker wisely! Picking the wrong broker can cost you time & money. Check their track record of successfully negotiating sales through to closing, it should be proven and verifiable. They should be familiar with their market area & know the conditions effecting the market. Consider their background, are they educated & experienced in negotiations? Find out their marketing plan both on and offline. Check to see if the broker holds any designations such as GRI (Graduate of Real Estate Institute) or CNE (Certified Negotiation Expert). Some brokers have obtained additional education & training to enhance their abilities to assist their clients.

Us vs. Them Attitude

NegotiatingDuring the negotiation process, it’s important to rely on your brokers knowledge & experience but also think for yourself, create  your own mindset. Emotions can run high during this process, try not to let those feelings take over and cloud your good judgement or impair your ability to make decisions.   Placing yourself in the buyers shoes can help, be empathetic to their point of view. This doesn’t mean you have to concede to their demands, it just provides the opportunity to see what’s truly important and opens up a fair “Give & Take” dialogue during the negotiation process.

What Can You Do?

Try to recognize the needs of the other party and understand their position. You’ll easily find a solution that will satisfy both parties when you know what’s important to them. This also helps change your attitude, acting antagonistic will get you nowhere fast.  Simply having the buyer believing they are on  equal footing & feeling that you are on their side positively impacts negotiations. Often just taking interest in the motives of the other side may end up with stunning results.

Be Careful rejecting too quickly

If the offer you receive is less than satisfying at first sight, the initial tendency is to outright refuse it. Stop right there, take a deep breath & let your emotions subside. Don’t feel pressured to respond right away, this doesn’t have to be a fast deal.

At this stage, seek the council of your broker, this is a good time to re-evaluate current market conditions & then formulate an effective counter-offer.

Many buyers make ridiculously low offers as a result of not understanding current market trends. Don’t take this personally, even a low ball offer opens the door to find common grounds. Without an offer, there are no negotiations.

Let the professional handle the negotiations, work with your broker to come up with a reasonable counter-offer. This shows the buyer you are serious about selling your home but not willing to accept an unreasonable price.

Final Thoughts

NegotiationWith so much on the line, negotiating can be an intimidating process. Let your real estate broker put their expertise to work for you, they understand the nuances of the local market. This is the time to rely on your broker & let them professionally handle the process, the results should be an acceptable sales price with terms you are comfortable with.

There really is no substitute for using an experienced real estate professional!

SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate

What Does Interest Rate Hikes Mean, Really?

The Feds raised interested rates .25% on Wednesday. The first rate increase in 9 years!

So, what does interest rate hikes mean? And how will this one affect your home buying power in 2016?

What does Interest rate hike meanLike some of you, I was very interested in seeing what the interest rate hike would do to the real estate market in our area and more importantly, what baring would it have…if any, on your ability to buy a house.

Talking with my lender, I was quickly and quietly assured this rate hike would not be that Earth shattering! In fact, most of the markets responded quite favorably to the news.

This latest news got me thinking, “If interest rates go up and down all the time, what does an interest rate hike by the feds mean?”

My lender told me folks looking to make big purchases like cars and homes don’t need to necessarily run out tomorrow and make their purchase. But, it’s a clear ‘wake up call’ to be prepared for their pending purchase.

In particular, home buyers want to be diligent in know exactly what their interest rate will be for their loan and how this recent hike will make a difference in what they can afford should they wait until late Winter or early Spring to buy. He said, “Talk to a lender now…even if you do not (or can not) plan to buy for another 3 months.” It’s never too early to get your finances in order! He also told me it’s those buyers who are well aware and educated in the process that ultimately have the strongest buying power! Made sense to me!

The folks who will see the affects of the interest rate hike are credit card holders and those folks with IRA’s just to name a few.

So, What Does Interest Rate Hikes Mean?

Well, in this case, it appears to mean the economy is moving in the right direction and the Feds are confident enough that a .25% interest rate hike can only help and strengthen said economy. Reports that the Feds main interests where to encourage investment and job creation, and to control inflation with this hike seems to indicate their intent.

In my humble point of view, I’m only interested in how this impacts my clients and their overall happiness. Selfishly, I want things to stay on the same tract it’s been on and see my buyers and sellers continue to achieve their real estate goals. If this recent action by the Feds does nothing to alter how my folks reach their dreams of home ownership in 2016…then I’m AOK!


SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate

Changes Coming to Real Estate Closings…GET READY!

What is TRIDStarting next week…October 3rd to be exact, (Yes, I know that’s a Saturday) a whole slough of new rules, regulations and disclosures will be rolling out intended to give the real estate consumer more protection and safeguard them against a bunch of bad stuff.

So, What is TRID?

TRID stands for TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure. And just for clarity, TILA stands for the Truth in Lending Act and RESPA stands for Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and the CFPB…Geez, another government acronym…Consumer Protection Protection Bureau  has determined these 2 acts need to be consolidated into one  easier for the consumers to understand procedure that is going to throw every home buyer and seller for a loop!

Why is this Happening?

Essentially, this is a consumer protection movement due in (very) large part to what caused the real estate meltdown of 2008! Predatory lenders and the under qualified buyers getting loans they knew could never get repaid!

Also, consolidation of some forms including doing away with standards like the HUD-1 Settlement form.

Here are some noticeable changes you can certainly expect with the new TRID changes:

  • 45 days (or longer) to close
  • Lots of extra paperwork for the buyers during the loan application process
  • Increased scrutiny in the appraisal process
  • New disclosures and waiting periods

I have a number of lenders who I work with who are all very good at what they do so if you are thinking of buying or selling after October 3rd, I would strongly encourage you to contact me so I can get you in touch with one of these outstanding professionals. They are the authority on all this and have been trained on the new forms and procedures going into effect starting next Saturday!

SimonsI am passionate about Real Estate and eager to answer all of your real estate questions! Text or Call me at 360-880-2356 or email me directly to ask about Buying, Selling or Investing in today's Real Estate Market - serving Lewis County & Thurston County, WA.

Janet Simons | Certified Residential Specialist | Real Estate Broker
Mountain Valley Real Estate