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Survival Guide Wednesday: Your housing questions

by Frank Mungeam

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

Posted on October 1, 2008 at 5:25 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:35 PM

Mary Low of Iron Gate Realty Group answers your housing market and real estate questions from 5-7 pm and 10-11:30 pm Wednesday.

Just fill out the "comments" form below to submit your question.

kathy said:
We are trying to sell our house. I hear a lot about staging. What is that and how is it done?

Kathy: Staging is today's "lingo" for making your house look and feel the best to a buyer. It can include simple suggestions such as, de-cluttering rooms and closets, fresh paint, sprucing landscape or can include much more elaborate things such as feng shui, and clearing a house out completely and bringing in all new furniture. Your Realtor should be able to give some general suggestions, but there are some wonderful professional stagers that charge may charge a fee to come in and do everything from suugest to do everything for you. Check on line for professional stagers in the area if you're interested.

Teri said:
I had my house up for sell in May and took it off the market in August. I had maybe six couples come through the house. Money is getting tight especially going into the winter. Do you recommend putting it back up on the market in January since in Vancouver January was a good selling month or wait until March? What can I do to help survive through the winter?

Teri: It sounds like you need to sell. If that is the case then yes. Typically we see an increase in production in January, it's after the holidays, many people are thinking ahead and getting a jump on spring, both on the buying and selling end. It is hard to predict where we will be in January. I believe most of the country will be more confident once the economic climate settles and after the election. The important thing to do, when you do put it on, is to make sure your property is priced well. Talk to your Realtor about what the market is doing when you decide to put it back on so that you can price your property to sell. You often will get a better price and a more qualified buyer than if you start high and lower the price.

Tony said:
We have a couple of rental properties, which are rented, but are not turning a profit, because of tenant turnover, maintenance, ect. Is rental property given the current environment still a viable investment?

Tony: As a general statement I would say yes. Logically speaking, we are in a market where loans are more difficult to qualify for and, as such, people who can afford, based on income to make a mortgage payment, for one reason or another, cannot qualify for the loan. The rental market is rapidly increasing because of this. Location and age of home have a great deal to do with "rentability". Remember, holding a property for a period of time as an investment will likely show as appreciation aside from monthly income or loss. Talk with your account, if you haven't already, about making sure you are taking advantage of all you can with your investment properties (i.e. taxes and depreciation).

Nicole said:
My husband and i own our own home and looking into buying another home with more space but want to keep our current home aswell. We qualify to get it but its hard to find a lender now. The owners said they would even carry 20% cause they have another home as well. Is there any advice you could give us and is there any hope we can get this place with the way the housing industry is?

Nicole: I think you are very smart to think about keeping your home as a rental investment. I would pursue the qualification process, if you were approved with a lender find out why you don't qualify now. Without knowing the particulars of your situation I really can't advise on the seller carry back, but I have seen them work. Talk with your lender and your Realtor, they will be able to give you the advise you need to make the best decision for you.

Lou said:
I divorced several years ago and due to the death of a son soon after never refinanced my home to get it in my name. I earn approx. $50,000 and owe about $100,000 still on my home. I have good credit and a home loan with a 5.65% interest on the original loan(no seconds). How difficult will it be to refinance? I have decent credit and no credit card debt. I am looking at retirement within a year and will then work part time to supplement my income. I have $50,000 in savings and a retirement plan. I am supposed to receive a settlement payment from my ex husband in 2 years and plan to pay off the loan then. Are there special hoops to jump through or a certain kind of loan I should go for? As a woman, can I get special consideration or deals as a first time home buyer.... even though I have owned property before while married?
Sorry for so many questions. Thank you.

Lou: First I would recommend you get some professional advice from an attorney regarding your home and how you hold title. Next, I would talk with your bank or a mortgage broker and your accountant about your financing options. I wish I could help you there, but that is not my expertise and there are so many considerations.

Judy Whitson said:
Mary, you look very professional on television. My question is should one with a home equity line of credit be cautious about using it and continuing remodeling projects at this time?

Judy: Thank you. That is probably a better question for your accountant than me, but I would ask you, "what are your goals"? If you plan on moving in the near future, get a market analysis from your Realtor, determine your equity position in your home now, and make sure any remodeling you are doing will increase the value of your home. If you are getting uncomfortably close to owing as much on the property as it is valued, then I would be careful, if between your 1st mortgage and your equity line you still have a reasonable amount of equity, and especially if you plan to stay in the house for an extended period then remodel and enjoy!

Amy said:
My husband and I are first time home buyers. We have good credit, good solid income, but don't have a large chunk for a down payment. I worry that now isn't the time for us to look at buying with the credit market in the state that it's in. Are there still opportunities for first time home buyers with zero down?

Amy: Several programs that you probably have heard about went away as of today, but there are still some great programs and incentives for first time home buyers with good credit. I would talk with your lender. You are the perfect scenario those programs are looking for.

Mark said:
I live in a Condo in Vancouver. The value has dropped from $210,000 to $175,000 in the last 3 months. I still owe $193,000, What should I do since I am unable to sell the home. I have contacted the mortage Co and asking for a reduced payment and have not received the confirmation as of yet.

Mark: You are doing the right thing. Many homeowners are not aware that some lenders in your situation will consider re-negotiating the contract. If you are having trouble making your payment talk to your lender as quickly as possible. You are more likely to be able to re-negotiate early on rather than waiting until the lender runs up a bunch of fees starting the foreclosure process. Keep asking and talking with them, you may have to call back several times to get anywhere.

Sarah said:
My husband and I bought our first home (condo) in December of 2006 in Gresham. A short time later, the market started going downhill and it has since depreciated about 11% (if not more). Being first time homebuyers, we were very discouraged and regretted buying the home even though we love it. We both have excellent credit scores and qualified for a good fixed rate mortgage with 5% down.

How long do you think it will take the market to rebound? We can stay in it for several more years, but eventually we will want to move on to something bigger and I'm worried we won't have any equity.

Sarah: Stay! Stay! Stay! Hunker down, light a fire (if you have a fireplace), grab a cup of cocoa and ENJOY YOUR NEW HOME! Congratulations on your first home! I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you when I think things will settle down and begin to appreciate again, I can't. I compare our market environment right now as similar someone who gets really stressed out watching what each one of their stocks are doing in the market from day to day. If you take a breath and step back you will reap the benefits. Things will settle down, hang there, you will see the benefits of your good decision to buy in the future. When you are ready to move up, consider keeping your first home as a rental, you will have some equity built by then, and may even be able to use it as some additional income.

Dan Anderson said:
My wife and I are thinking of buying a rental in East Vancouver. We live in the rural Orchards area. Our house is payed for and worth $400,000. We think it may be best to buy a 2 bedroom, 1 bath to limit the number of inhabitants. We are two to four years from retirement. Should we buy now or wait in hopes that prices will fall further?

Dan: That is an interesting situation. I can't really answer to the issue of limiting the inhabitants, although I certainly can empathize. I think this is a very good market in which to buy. I always try look at real estate purchases as a "whole picture" scenario. A 3 bedroom, 2 bath home is not only a more desirable home for a potential buyer, but also a renter. Let's say, you move into your new, smaller, more intimate home environment and for some unforseen reason you have to move. You want to make sure you have positioned yourself to handle that situation. Because of the greater number in the pool of buyers or renters for that type of property, you are more likely to sell or rent a 3 bed, 2 bath home more quickly, thus allowing you more flexibility.
Ganell said:
We have a home in St.Johns we are going to sell. Does the area in which your home is located have any affect on the selling

Ganell: Yes, definately location has an affect on the selling. The good news is that your area has an average market time of under 90 days, where the entire Portland area is averaging around 120. The important thing right now is for you to determine the right price. As Realtors, we are looking much more closely at active listings, which is your competition, than we have in the past. Any property that closed more than 3 months ago really is not a good comparable for a property that is currently going to be put on the market, the market is adjusting too quickly. Listen to your Realtor's expertise in your area and understand that in today's market you need to list at or a little under your competition to sell

Tammy said:
I am wanting to refinance to do some remodeling in the spring. My credit rating is 640 should I wait till more about when I need the money or try right now? My current mortgage is at 8.9%

Tammy: This is a question that really needs to be answered by a lender or mortgage broker, they know their loan programs and will be able to look at your entire financial situation and advise you accordingly. Right now will be a difficult time for you to refinance with a score of 640, it may not be impossible, but you will pay more for your rate. The lending industry is nervous right now, their guidelines have become extremely strict. In my opinion, after the government makes a decision about the "bail out" solution and after the election, things will settle down a bit. It will take some time, but I believe the lenders will lighten up a bit on those guidelines and things will balance to a more reasonable level. In the mean time, if I were you I would look at my credit report, make sure everything showing up is legitimate and then work towards repairing that score

Dave said:
Is purchasing land for investment purposes (i.e. for selling it in about 15 years for retirement) a good idea?

Dave: I can't really give advice for your retirement, I would recommend you meet with your financial planner or accountant. As far as purchasing land for investment, it would depend on the location and the purchase price. In most cases in order to purchase raw land you will need cash (unless it is in the form of a construction loan, which is a little different), that is going to tie up quite a bit of your capital, something to consider. That being said, D\depending on your situation, I think it is always smart to look at real estate as part of your retirement portfolio.

Angie said:
Do you feel there are buyers out there that are just waiting for "the bottom" and what advice would you give to any buyer who thinks if they wait just a few more months that they will get a better deal?

Angie: I am always leary of waiting for the "bottom", it's too speculative for me. The problem with waiting for the "bottom" in any situation is that you don't know it was the bottom until it is on the way back up. I think it is more important to evaluate your individual situation and determine if investing in real estate would be a good addition to your portfolio. I do know that if you look at the history of residential real estate in the last 50 years it has undertaken a steady and solid incline (some years more than others). This is an amazing time to invest in real estate in the Portland area. Most seller's and banks (in the case of a foreclosed property) are willing to negotiate, you have more choices than you have in the past, interest rates are very good (inexpensive money) and if you obtain the advice of your Realtor you will have the comparable properties in the area that will show you the best offer price to make.

Ryan said:
We've been hearing for some time that quality houses in favorable geographic locations in OR might escape large price dips. In light of the housing/economy fallout in Bend reported today on, does this change your outlook on the overall housing market?

Ryan: We already are seeing certain areas are more stable than others. The areas in Oregon that had a large amount of new construction over the last 5 years are the areas hardest hit, Bend is one of the largest growth areas in Oregon, so it is not surprising they have been hit by this market so hard.

lawrence said:
How hard is it to get a mortgage given all the banks and mortgage companies in trouble right now?

lawrence: It is more difficult to qualify for a loan than it was, say 6months to a year ago because the underwriting guidelines have increased. But if you have good credit, income, and money for down payment there are still lots of great loan programs available.