Need a real estate agent? Here’s how to pick the right one

real estate agent

Let’s face it, if you’re a first-time homebuyer, you have a lot of questions about the home-buying process. That’s what real estate agents are here for.

Almost 90% of buyers recently used a real estate agent or broker to purchase their home, according to the National Association of Realtors. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or this is your fifth house, it’s a good idea to use an agent to ensure you make a smart decision. 

A real estate agent is a licensed professional who can guide you through the homebuying process. Not only do they find homes you’ll like at your price-range but they are also skilled agents that possess negotiating skills. An agent can keep you calm and informed, so you’re never in the dark when it comes to closing costs. But not every real estate agent is a match for every homebuyer. 

When choosing an agent, you have to be careful and do your research. Make sure you’re working with someone experienced and who actually cares about what you want. 

Find a real estate agent who:

1. Understands Risk Management

Most homeowners don’t know the ends and outs of the mortgage industry. That’s why they hire real estate agents. When looking for an agent, it’s important to find someone who understands the risks of buying and can explain those risks to you. 

They should be able to provide real-time data when discussing the neighborhood’s performance and what the long-term impact of purchasing in that area would be. The last thing you want is to buy a home and its value significantly drops a year later. The right real estate agent can help you mitigate those risks, so you make the right decision. 

2. Comes With Good Referrals 

We live in a digital world where looking for a real estate agent can be done completely online. But does that mean it should be? 

As a first-time homeowner, it’s a good idea to work with a real estate agent you have a connection with. Ask a friend or family member, who owns a home, if they’d recommend their real estate agent. You should also consider asking people who live in your ideal area and who purchased the type of home you’re looking for. Chances are, you’ll be able to find someone quickly and better suited for you through word of mouth versus looking through a real estate app. 

3. Has The Right Experience

Once you have a list of potential real estate agents, do some research before choosing one to work with. Look at review sites and confirm the agent does in fact have a license, and check to see whether they’ve received any complaints. You can also interview agents, and ask about their experience and any other concerns you may have. 

4. Matches Your Budget

Real estate agents charge a commission, somewhere between 5% to 6% of the home’s price. As a first-time homebuyer, you might be under the impression that sellers are the ones who pay this fee. But in actuality, the commission is included in the overall home price that the buyer ends up paying in the monthly mortgage.

When choosing an agent, find one with reasonable fees so you’re not paying for their services well after you’ve closed on your home.

5. Understands What You Want

When working with a real estate agent, it’s important to be very clear about what you’re looking for. An agent can only provide the right options if they know what kind of home you want. 

That said, if you’ve been transparent, and your agent still isn’t bringing you good options, it might be time to cut ties. Unfortunately, some agents only provide their clients with homes that will benefit them in the long-run. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to move on to someone else. 

The post Need a real estate agent? Here’s how to pick the right one appeared first on HousingWire.

Source: HousingWire Magazine

Agent Disclosures and “Reasonable Diligence” – Lawsuit that Started it All

>> See Past News Editions >> Click to Print >> RE Agent / Broker E&O Insurance >> Am I a Working RE Subscriber? Editor’s Note: Ever wonder about the legal precedents that underlie modern day disclosure and due diligence practices of real estate agents/brokers?  Read on to learn more about a landmark litigation case that […]

The post Agent Disclosures and “Reasonable Diligence” – Lawsuit that Started it All first appeared at Working RE Magazine.

Source: Working RE Magazine

The title insurance arms race heats up

hands holding a picture of a house

The first time Lawyers Title of Arizona Sales Executive Sarah Perkins walked through an acquisition was 2006. The market was growing; it was exciting; companies were fighting to increase market share; hope for the future was high. 

But that wasn’t the only acquisition Perkins had seen during her 17-year career. During her second acquisition in 2008, the story was much different. “The sky was falling,” Perkins said, describing the environment of fear as companies were acquired, layoffs were rampant and bankruptcies were common. “There was a lot more fear involved than excitement,” she said. 

But today, the market has come full circle as mergers and acquisitions once again begin to pick up. Perkins said the environment is reminiscent of 2006, when spirits were high and the market was in growth mode. In fact, the feeding frenzy for title companies is just getting started.

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The post The title insurance arms race heats up appeared first on HousingWire.

Source: HousingWire Magazine

Mortgage underwriting challenges in the pandemic

In December, AmTrust Title Insurance Company announced the hiring of seasoned underwriter Mary Shelley as its midwest region agency underwriter. We took the opportunity to talk to Shelley, who has 35 years experience in the field, about the challenges underwriters have faced during this pandemic period.

“The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a lack of access to information and official processes at all levels of government,” Shelley said. “Patience and perseverance were the challenges and the solutions.”

Along with other industry branches, underwriters felt the effects of a world that went mainly virtual thanks to the pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown. Real estate agents began transitioning to virtual home tours and online closings, brokers joined the online verification game and even some appraisal companies transitioned to online avenues.

For mortgage underwriting, credit scores became more important than ever in 2020 when dealing with lenders. Not only were mortgage rates high for borrowers with under-700 credit scores, many lenders began charging “discount points” for low credit. Underwriters began verifying employment up until the date of closing, and turnaround times in general increased across the board.

Roadblocks continued popping up: Investors in the secondary mortgage bond market had no appetite for borrowers with under-700 credit scores, and manual underwriting on VA and FHA loans were completely halted by most mortgage companies.

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Shelley, though, said much of underwriting can’t be outsourced. Speaking for herself, she said she’s kept grinding throughout the pandemic and has had plenty to do.

“Technology has certainly increased the pace of transactions, but the underwriting is still the same,” she said.

Michael Frederick, regional agency manager covering Ohio for AmTrust, said the company recently closed an $800 million commercial transaction. Experienced underwriters like Shelley, he said, are invaluable in big transactions such as those.

“She is a welcome addition to the team,” Frederick said. “As our agency base grows, so too does the need for experienced underwriters that can handle all sorts of transactions on AmTrust Title paper, from residential purchases to commercial.”

Shelley worked as escrow office and examiner for National Commercial Services at Stewart Title for five years, and at Precision Title from 2008 to 2015 as senior title officer.

Keeping a level head in all aspects of underwriting – even prior to the unpredictability of 2020 – has been key to her longevity, she said.

“You have to stay cool in the hot seat,” she said. “You have to have determination and the ability to ‘find a way.’”

As the housing industry awaits funding from President-elect Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, announced last week, underwriters like Shelley are watching to see what “normal” becomes in the industry in 2021. Until then, Shelley said she’ll keep working and forging ahead.

“Analyzing documents and making a judgment call cannot be outsourced,” she said.

The post Mortgage underwriting challenges in the pandemic appeared first on HousingWire.

Source: HousingWire Magazine

Prepare for the rise in mortgage rates

U.S. Treasury

As the calendar flipped to 2021, it didn’t take long for the rise in mortgage rates. Just two weeks into the new year, Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates climbed 14 basis points to 2.79%, a dramatic contrast to 2020, a year in which mortgage rates set record lows 16 times.

Economists across the housing industry believe the era of extreme low rates could be coming to a close, but the transition might be a slow burn.

Freddie Mac’s quarterly forecast estimates that the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will be 2.9% in 2021 and 3.2% in 2022. However, the factors that will drive mortgage rate movements are still up for debate.

HousingWire spoke to several economists in the housing industry to get their take on how high mortgage rates will climb in 2021, how lenders will respond, and what impact this will have on the housing market.

What the Fed giveth, can also taketh away.

As the coronavirus pandemic began to ravage the economy, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell announced in March the central bank would make “unlimited” mortgage backed securities purchases, pushing the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate down to 3.5% by the end of the month. It was the best option to prevent a credit crunch and jolt the economy by making borrowing cheaper, Powell reasoned.

Now, at an average of $120 billion a month — split between $80 billion in Treasuries and $40 billion in MBS — Fed holdings have surpassed $7 trillion, and Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida doesn’t see a pullback anytime this year.

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Source: HousingWire Magazine

Three reasons there won’t be a 2021 housing market crash


2020 came, and with it COVID-19. Five weeks into the crisis, demand in the U.S. housing market bottomed and then after about nine weeks, began to climb again, with purchase applications making a full V-shaped recovery by early June. The housing bubble boys had those five glorious weeks when it finally looked like the market would succumb to their dire predictions of a housing crash. That is not much time to hawk a book, website, newsletter or what-have-you, but I guess one has to make hay where the sun don’t shine – or however that goes.

Now, in the first weeks of 2021, it’s like de ja vu all over again. Our friendly neighborhood bubble boys are hawking a 2021 housing crash, citing as evidence the moderation of some housing data metrics that inevitably follow parabolic increases. But they see these moderations back to trend as the harbingers of a housing crash that will send home prices back to 1996 levels in a short time.

Remember, all housing bubble boys have to believe that prices go back to the start of the original bubble, hence the marketing of housing bubble 2.0. 

But it takes more than the housing data moderating back to trend to crash the market. Home prices would need to fall 68% to get back to the interim low. Considering where we are now, with home prices rising at the “too-fast” rate of over 6%, this seems unrealistic at best. But let’s put that aside for now and imagine what factors could come into play to crash the market based on historical precedent.

1. We would need a lot of forced selling and foreclosures. 

Most forbearance plans were scheduled to end at the beginning of 2021.  This could have, in theory, caused some homeowners to consider selling if they were unable to resume paying their mortgage due to job loss or reduction in income. 

But there are two important reasons why this would not crash the market. First, the Biden administration has proposed extending the national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until the end of September 2021. If the economy has not sufficiently recovered by this time, it seems likely that this deadline will be extended once again.

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The post Three reasons there won’t be a 2021 housing market crash appeared first on HousingWire.

Source: HousingWire Magazine

Biden nominates Rohit Chopra to head CFPB

President-elect Joe Biden announced several appointments Monday, including FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Chopra is a CFPB veteran, having previously served as assistant director, where he was the bureau’s top student loan watchdog. In 2011, the Secretary of the Treasury appointed him to serve as the CFPB’s student loan ombudsman, a new position established in the financial reform law. As one of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., first hires as she constructed the CFPB, Chopra was on the ground floor as the bureau was built. He has also served as special advisor at the U.S. Department of Education.

Chopra was confirmed unanimously by the Senate in 2018 for his current position at the FTC, where he pushed for aggressive remedies against lawbreaking companies.

“Our administration will hit the ground running to deliver immediate, urgent relief to Americans; confront the overlapping crises of COVID-19, the historic economic downturn, systemic racism and inequality and the climate crisis; and get this government working for the people it serves,” Biden said of Monday’s nominees. “These tireless public servants will be a key part of our agenda to build back better — and I am confident they will help make meaningful change and move our country forward.”

While there has been talk that Republicans could challenge Biden’s right to fire CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger and also appoint a new director to the role, with the Democrats holding a slight majority in the Senate, the nomination is likely to be confirmed.

Chopra’s appointment signals the Biden administration could be preparing for a return to a more aggressive regulatory regime. In his previous roles, together with state and international law enforcement partners, he has worked to, “increase scrutiny of dominant technology firms that pose risks to privacy, national security and fair competition.”

“Commissioner Chopra has long fought for financial markets that are fair for consumers, including student loan borrowers,” said Ashley Harrington, Center for Responsible Lending federal agency director and senior council.

“We are encouraged that the CFPB will now return to its mission of protecting people’s finances, which has heightened significance in this economic downturn, and which includes a strong fair lending program. Chopra is the latest in a series of impressive federal agency and department nominees, which includes former Federal Reserve Chair [Janet] Yellen, Congresswoman [Marcia] Fudge, and Connecticut Education Commissioner Cardona. We look forward to working with them all,” Harrington said.

The post Biden nominates Rohit Chopra to head CFPB appeared first on HousingWire.

Source: HousingWire Magazine

Biden taps FTC’s Chopra as CFPB chief, Gensler as SEC chairman

The nominees, strongly backed by progressive Democrats to lead two key Wall Street watchdogs, signal that the Biden administration is planning tough oversight after four years of light-touch policies under appointees of President Donald Trump.
Source: American Banker

Capital One fined $290M for ‘willful’ anti-money-laundering failures

The McLean, Va.-based company admitted that it failed to file suspicious activity reports even in cases when it knew about criminal charges against specific customers. The misconduct took place in a unit that served check-cashing businesses and was later shut down.
Source: American Banker

Incoming Citi CEO Fraser signals major changes ahead

Weeks away from succeeding Michael Corbat, Jane Fraser said she’d consider streamlining some units or divesting others as part of her effort to kick-start return on equity.
Source: American Banker