Category Archives: Home Ownership

Massive Thurston County tax increase proposed for $300 million new courthouse scheme

Thurston County Commissioner and former Thurston County Sheriff Gary Edwards was the lone vote against the massive tax increase

Last week, at the Thurston County Commissioner meeting held at Rochester Middle School, the Thurston County Commissioners, by a vote of two to one approved a massive 39.5% property tax increase to be placed on the April, 2020 ballot for Thurston County (see Board Agenda here – Item 6a). In theory, this tax increase is for a new courthouse project that has been pushed for many years by Thurston County staff, Thurston County judges, and various other special interests. However, in the rush to build a new $300 million (or more) courthouse in the City of Olympia, a lot of questionable steps have been taken, special interests are lining up for their payoffs, and the taxpayers of Thurston County are put far last on the priority list. If you didn’t know this – don’t worry, you are not alone– neither does 64% of the rest of Thurston County according to a recent taxpayer funded survey (see summarized report here, supporting docs here and here).
Independant Commissioner John Hutching’s vote to support the major tax increase was a disappointment to most of his supporters

Independent Commissioner Gary Edwards made an impassioned and well-reasoned speech against the proposal last week. Unfortunately, he was the lone dissenting vote against staff’s proposal. Most observers predicted that recently elected Democrat Commissioner Tye “the High Tax Guy” Menser would support the tax increase because he supports most tax increases. Menser has repeatedly admitted he is a protégé of former Commissioners Sandra Romero and Valenzuela who were also part of the max tax crew in Thurston County. However, it was Independant Commissioner John Hutchings vote to support the tax proposal which disappointed most people, particularly those who voted him into office. It now seems likely that this vote (along with a few notable others) have doomed his reelection chances in 2020. His political career is now in clear jeopardy. Few supporters of Hutchings voted for him so he could ramp up their property taxes for more unnecessary building fiascos in Thurston County.
Tye “The High Tax Guy” Menser was narrowly elected Thurston County Commissioner in 2018, and has been pushing for bloating government at every opportunity – regardless of the cost
Democrat Thurston County Commissioner Tye Menser
A massive tax increase and no guarantees

Several disturbing details surrounding this recent proposed tax increase have come to light. These should concern all who live, pay taxes, and vote in Thurston County. For example:
Thurston County Manager Ramiro Chavez at Commissioner meeting April 30, 2019 in Rochester, Washington

Normally, capital projects like buildings and new facilities are financed through a tax mechanism called “Revenue Backed Bonds.” Read more about these funding mechanisms in state law at RCW 39.46.150 & RCW 39.46.160. These are a predictable method of ensuring that the funding exists for the life of the bonded debt, and it dedicates the funds so that they can’t be diverted to other uses. However, under Washington State’s constitution, this type of debt requires a 60% voter approval. This is due to the fact that future generations are burdened by this decision to increase debt and this higher threshold was chosen to ensure that the projects being proposed are widely supported by the community. Thurston County Manager Ramiro Chavez admitted this would be the normal path to financing a massive building project like this, but staff had determined that 60% of the voters of Thurston County would never support this size of a tax increase. Therefore, staff wanted to push a financing method without this risky 60% voter approval hurdle. Instead, staff wanted to push “General Obligation Bonds” which only have a 50% voter approval threshold (See RCW 84 for state law on property taxes)

Secondly, supporters of this proposed new courthouse admitted, repeatedly during the April 23, 2019 public hearing, that the vote for the proposed tax increase should be held on any special election date EXCEPT during the November 5, 2019 general election date so that fewer voters would participate. Supporters of the tax were demanding this explicitly because they admitted the majority of voters in Thurston County probably wouldn’t support this tax increase. These comments were largely directed at this author’s earlier comments at the same hearing that if the Commissioners were going to put this tax increase on the ballot they should give the largest number of voters the chance to vote on it in November. Supporters of this tax increase are terrified that a large number of voters would vote to reject this proposal. I can’t blame tax supporters for wanting to hide from the voters because they probably would lose at the ballot box if the voters of Thurston County realize what this boondoggle really is. (From a policy standpoint, this is why I’ve always recommended eliminating the special election dates in Washington state law, and instead put all proposed tax increase votes on the November ballot. Making this policy change would reduce the special interest gaming of the current special election system).
This seems to be Thurston County’s staff approach to decision making

Which gets to the most disturbing aspect of this proposed tax increase. The tax increase itself legally has nothing to do with building anything at all. While it is being sold as a funding mechanism for some undefined courthouse project (nobody yet knows the true cost – $250 million? $300 million?), the actual legal language of the tax increase doesn’t require Thurston County to build anything with these funds. At first staff contested this fact, but when confronted by citizen Jon Petit with the actual language of the very proposal staff was pushing on the county commissioners, Thurston County Manager Ramiro Chavez was forced to admit Mr. Petit was correct. There is no obligation that Thurston County build anything. The only legal guarantee is if the voters are suckered into approving this scheme, they will be paying much higher property taxes.
Thurston County staff want to increase the burden on local taxpayers

Another policy impact of this tax proposal, if passed by the voters, is the fact that General Obligation Bonds take funds from the general budget of Thurston County. While this tax proposal is an increase of 39.5% over the existing rate of general obligation funds, it also means that if the staff of Thurston County start down the project path to build this building and they go over budget (a common occurrence in Thurston County), those increased tax dollars will be extracted and diverted from services like the sheriff’s office. It is a near certainty that taxpayers in Thurston County would be blackmailed into even higher tax increases in the near future to pay for the mistakes and the predictable budget fiasco of this undefined “new courthouse” project.
City of Olympia Mayor Cheryl Shelby (D)

Finally, most disturbingly, based on the testimony of the Mayor of Olympia, Cheryl Shelby at the April 23rd public hearing, some type of “partnership” arrangement has been hatched for the undefined courthouse boondoggle (and the taxpayers already have paid $200,000 for this “partnership” according to minutes from the August 14, 2018 commissioner meeting minutes (linked here see item 5a. Note Item 5b was the $300,000 cost of this draft feasibility report linked here) This is terrifying to anyone who has bothered to pay attention to local government in Thurston County. The only Thurston County local government with a worse track record and has demonstrated even more incompetence in building projects and financial mismanagement than Thurston County itself is the City of Olympia. Their bloated, overbudget City Hall (true cost of $52 million) was just the most glaring example, but they also like to give away multi-million dollar buildings for free (to organizations where councilmember spouses work), spend $350,000 on one-stall restrooms, and generally waste taxpayer funds on homeless camps and other fiascos.
The City of Olympia’s investment in Homeless Drug Addict Camps has helped add local flavor to the downtown city experience near the proposed courthouse location

Conveniently, the theoretical location of this “new courthouse” in downtown Olympia will also help the City of Olympia attempt to escape the consequences of their impactful planning policies which have managed to chase businesses away from downtown as fast as business leases expire. Local political “leaders” believe this Thurston County courthouse project might help mask the urban decay and postpone any local political reckoning for the failures of the past and current Olympia City Council. Thurston County voters have every reason to be concerned. In the recent survey – Thurston County voters were almost five times more concerned about the proposed courthouse costs and taxes than they were about any other issue related to this proposed scheme.
Thurston County – A history of building fiascos
Thurston County legal counsel Elizabeth Petrich at the hearing April 30, 2019. Her legal advice has helped Thurston County lose many lawsuits including the record setting $12 million jury verdict against Thurston County in the Maytown case.

Thurston County has a long and colorful history of incompetence, failure, and waste when it comes to building government facilities of any kind. Some have attributed these repeated failures to the planning department, which is often plagued with scandal and questionable leadership. A general government staff infection seems to exist in Thurston County upper management. Some of these failures have also been due to poor political leadership which has afflicted the county on a frequent basis over the years. Another theory involves concerns over the undue influence of special interests who always profit from these decisions like the architecture company and other vendors who stand to profit greatly from the mistakes of Thurston County staff. These special interests also appear to have great influence over the decision making at the staff level and tend to control and direct staff to do their bidding. Conveniently, this bidding always results in hefty sums of taxpayer cash which always end up with these special interests. Regardless of the theory, the result has often been the same –

Let’s look at just a few of the more recent examples:
Former Thurston County Commisioners Romero, Wolfe and Valenzula deserve to be recognized for all they achieved.
Don Krupp, former Thurston County Manager (now county manager in Clackamas County, Oregon)

Thurston County’s jail fiasco made state-wide news for half a decade as the brand new $61 million jail that was rejected by the voters, built by Commissioners Romero, Valenzuela, and Wolfe anyway (under the direction of former Thurston County Manager Don Krupp), and then sat empty for five years because nobody bothered to plan a budget to operate the facility. We’ve written about this fiasco over the years (see here, here, and here). Like most failures of Thurston County “planning,” this one began as an effort to circumvent the voters. A failed effort to build a $102 million jail/justice center was soundly rejected by Thurston County voters in 2004 (see election results here – 61% opposed). An effort to impose a different excise tax was also rejected later. As is frequently the case, Thurston County planning staff was certain they knew best and they colluded with the old Commission, put the debt on future generations by taking out more general obligation bonds without a vote of the people and then built the jail anyway.
While it was empty 5 years, it is finally being used.

Of course, they didn’t call it a “jail,” but instead used the Orwellian term “Accountability and Restitution Center” or “ARC” for short. Once the jail was completed, it sat empty for five years, costing the county $250,000 or more in annual maintenance costs while the county struggled to find some money to run the facility. It wasn’t until the failed Democrat incumbents Valenzuela, Romero and Wolfe were replaced by Independent Commissioners Blake, Edwards, and Hutchings that the empty jail was finally put to use.
3400 building in Thurston County – Thurston County spent $8 million and 18 years to reduce the value of this empty building from $4 million to $2 million

Another classic example of Thurston County’s planning incompetence was the sad saga of the 3400 building (read more written at the time here). This embarrassment existed for many years as another monument to local government incompetence and failure in Thurston County. Originally a commercial fish cannery purchased by Thurston County in 1998 for $3.4 million with the expectation it could be turned into a jail. Those expectations were dashed by reality (nobody at the time bothered to verify whether it could be converted to this use), and Thurston County gradually squandered over $8 million on this empty building. After 18 years during which time the 3400 building sat mostly unused and empty, the brilliant staff of Thurston County found ways to destroy the value even further by giving away the parking lot for a homeless camp project called Camp Quixote, and then finally dumping the failed money pit for a fraction of the purchase cost 18 years earlier.
The last time the Thurston County Courthouse was located in downtown Olympia, it was in this building which was vacated by Thurston County in 1978. (Wikipedia Commons)
Thurston County always seems to need a new courthouse.
Thurston County Treasurer Jeff Gadman bragged at the public hearing on April 23, 2019 about how much the current courthouse facility has been allowed to degrade with staff’s lack of maintenance.

The current Thurston County Courthouse was built in 1978. A casual review of newspaper articles from that era along with a review of archives demonstrates that the promises made to taxpayers back then remain identical to the promises made today for the “new” courthouse in downtown Olympia. The Thurston County Commissioners and planning staff in the 1970s promised that the new courthouse would be energy efficient, have plenty of parking, be sustainable long term, and have the ability and room to expand to accommodate future needs. Staff promised to maintain the facility. Many of those promises went unfilled – particularly the parking plans and building maintenance. However, the need to escape the problems of downtown Olympia like traffic, parking, and other related issues were real to the citizens of the community at the time.

In my next article on this subject, I plan to discuss better alternatives than this proposed fiasco. The biased process used to get this pre-determined outcome also merits more attention. Additionally, the special interests pushing this boondoggle for their own selfish ends, regardless of the harm inflicted on the community should be closely examined and studied.

Based on a 1975 Environmental Impact Statement, which this author found in the state archives, the Thurston County Commissioners at that time were defensive about the public criticism of the high costs for “marble palaces” and they were moving forward with the project regardless. It is worth noting, every Thurston County Commissioner who voted for the proposed courthouse project at the time were removed from office by the voters at the next election. History has a tendency to repeat itself and both Commissioner Tye “the big tax guy” Menser, and Commissioner Hutchings should take note.

Unfortunately, if this massive tax increase is approved, nobody will remember today’s politicians who hurt us, but the taxpayers, including tens of thousands yet unborn will still be paying for it.

How You Can Navigate the Property Market to Find an Accessible Home

Source: Natalie Jones

Buying a home should be an adventure, not a nightmare. Still,
it can be daunting process nonetheless, especially when you’re
looking for something accessible. Thankfully, there are plenty
of ways to help you find the house you need.

Know What You Need

You know better than anyone about what you require from an
accessible home. Check the doorways in every room to make sure
they are wide enough, and remember that hallways need to offer
enough space to be easily navigable. Things like door handles
and faucets can be switched out, but it is nice if they are
already in lever form.

You also want to look for any possible
repair issues. Make sure the floors, especially near the
bathroom, are even, as warping indicates water damage. Plus,
you want an even surface to prevent falls.

Further, there should be no cracks in the walls, as this can mean the home is
poorly constructed. The most important thing, though, is to be
sure you can move through the home comfortably.

Research the Area

Once you have a list of items you need, you can begin to
research a neighborhood. When you buy a home, you are also
getting the surrounding area. If you can go visit in person,
speak to potential neighbors. Ask what they love about the area
but also what needs to be improved.

Examine the paths around
the home, and see if the sidewalk is in good repair. Lastly,
you want to be certain that crime levels for the neighborhood
are low so you can feel safe in your home.

Look at the Community

Just like with the neighborhood, you want to be confident that
the town itself fits your needs. Similarly, look at the
sidewalks throughout the town. Are they even and well-
maintained?

The aisles in shops should be wide enough for you
to easily get through. As well, consider the landscape. You may
not want to live in an area that has rolling hills or steep
inclines.

Is there a hospital close by? Do you need to be near
a school? What about proximity to work? Is there a local
organization that provides help or information to disabled
individuals? If so, they may have insights into the community.
These things impact whether you should make a bid on a home.

Use Your Resources

Finding the house itself can seem daunting. Thankfully, you
have a few options at your disposal. The first is to deal
directly with a realtor. You can give them a full list of your
needs, and they can work with you to give you options.

Additionally, there are websites you can use to expand your
investigation. While many sites have search functions to narrow
down your hunt, there are other pages dedicated to accessible
housing.

You don’t need to feel like you are at a dead end;
these websites deal only with houses that can work for you.

Prepare for the Move Itself

Some exhausting aspects of moving itself are organizing,
packing, and then hauling your goods to a new home. Save
yourself some stress by hiring professional packers. They are
trained in the art of wrapping and packing, and can protect
your things. It will save you time, both from the packing
itself, but also with shopping for supplies.

Just be certain that you do your research and compare companies.

Most importantly, get accurate quotes before you make a decision.
Depending on how far you are moving, you may want to read up on
different companies. A mover can make things easier, but
confirm that they are reputable and fully licensed.

Don’t let the stress overwhelm you. Get the help you need, and
further your chances at success with thorough research. You can
find the home perfect for you and your family.

Organization & Decluttering Tips for the New Year

 

Source: Mark Friedrich, Penrith Home Loans

Organization and Decluttering Tips for the New Year

When you stop to look around your home after the holidays, does it seem as though you’ll never find a place for all the new toys and gadgets? Or perhaps your home is just long overdue for some reorganizing. Fear not! With some simple tips for decluttering and rearranging, you’ll set the tone for the whole year and keep your belongings exactly where they should be.

Declutter First

You’ll need to clear out the clutter before you can move on to getting organized. Let’s start here:
Icon Sort your belongings into Keep, Donate, and Toss piles, which will start the ball rolling as you begin your home’s transformation.
Icon If you got a new one for a holiday gift, get rid of the old one. Clothing with stains or holes should be replaced with updated versions. Sort through your bookshelves to make room for new books, plus, your local library or school will be grateful for a donation.
Icon Be sure to deal with your Toss and Donate piles on the same day you made them — if you leave piles sitting around, it might feel even more cluttered than before you started!
Icon Don’t overwhelm yourself, however: this is not a one-day job. Be realistic about what you can get done. Break it up by room or by area. Living and dining room one day, kitchen and laundry room the next, and then on to the bedrooms.

Organize Next

A place for everything, and everything in its place. That’s important to remember as you move on to organizing: If you can’t find or make a home for it, then it doesn’t belong in your home.

Boxes, baskets, jars, shelves; plastic, wicker, wire, glass: There are so many options for neatening your possessions and ensuring they’re readily accessible. Whatever you choose, here are some basics for keeping them organized and functional:

Icon Put like with like. This seems like a no-brainer, until you realize you have 12 tubes of toothpaste.
Icon Favorites up front. Things you use the most need to be the easiest to get to.
Icon Label everything. If you’re not using clear containers, this is an especially crucial step, but even if you are, you can’t go wrong by labeling them. That way no one in your home will have an excuse for not putting things where they belong.
Icon Break down storage spaces into even smaller units. Drawer dividers separate socks from underwear; under-sink shelves allow you to see how much toilet paper you have left and your cleaning supplies; a table or shelf in your entryway with (labeled!) baskets and bowls will ensure keys, purses, backpacks, and mail can all be found quickly and easily.

If at first you don't succeed, use a hack.

Well, some of these aren’t really hacks, but they are ways to maximize your storage, minimize your clutter, and help you get more organized so you can tackle other projects in your life (like decluttering your desk, or getting the kids to pick up after themselves …).
Icon Look up — and down. Under the bed, over the door, on the side of a cabinet, on the landing: These are all places where a box, hook, shelf, or storage unit can be stashed.
Icon Store neatly. If you have an attic, basement, or garage, be sure you’re (neatly!) storing items there that you use infrequently but need to keep, such as holiday decorations or party supplies.
Icon Think vertically. Cookie sheets don’t have to lie flat. Shelving doesn’t have to stop at eye level. Repurpose a hanging shoe organizer for seasonal clothes like sweaters and tank tops. Or an over-the-door organizer for toiletries, freeing up your linen closet shelves for … you got it! Linens!
Icon Repurpose. A magazine holder full of pot lids. A spice rack full of beauty supplies. An old dresser drawer with wheels attached slipped under the bed. When you think creatively, you can switch storage meant for one item to a completely different purpose.

Pro Tips: Roll towels to take up less space in the cabinet and make an attractive display. Pack all the parts of a bedding set inside one of the pillowcases.

For Special Consideration: Your Home Office

If you maintain an office in your home, these tips can help you keep that area organized as well:

  • Go paperless whenever possible.
  • Color code your files.
  • Label the wires leading from your computer, printer, speakers, etc.
  • Clear your desk of office supplies. Store them all in drawers or in a storage system similar to what you’ve just done in the rest of your home.
  • Set up a bulletin board that holds the day’s priorities.
  • Set aside 10 minutes at the end of the day to reorganize and prep for the next day.

Your productivity will go up as your stacks of clutter go down!

Of course, the most important part of this whole process is to stick to it. If you get it out, put it back. If you open it, close it. If it’s dirty, wash it. If it’s damaged, fix it. If you don’t use it, get rid of it. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”

Whether you’re ready to move or update your current space, I can help you find the home financing to turn your dream house into your actual home. Contact me today to get started!
Mark Friedrich Photo Mark Friedrich
NMLS ID 1266389
Penrith Home Loans/M2
9502 19th Avenue SE, Suite A
Seattle, WA 98208
425-357-9390
EMAIL ME
Visit my websiteFacebookTwitter
Penrith Home Loans/M2 Logo

This letter is for information purposes only and is not an advertisement to extend customer credit as defined by Section 12 CFR 1026.2 Regulation Z. Program rates, terms and conditions are subject to change at any time.

Mark Friedrich, NMLS ID 1266389
Penrith Home Loans/M2 WA-CL 713524, OR-ML 5271
9502 19th Avenue SE, Suite A Seattle, WA 98208

 

How To Age In Place Safely In Your Home

 

Source: Michael Longsdon

Every year, about half of all Americans over 65 suffer a fall. These can be harmless, but they can also cause lasting injuries and even death. As you grow older, it is important to take proactive steps to prevent accidents by making changes to your environment that minimize the risk of falling and enhance your ability to age in place.

Falling risks increased in certain areas

More than half of all senior falling injuries occur inside the home. The bathroom, kitchen, hallway, stairs, and bedroom pose the most risk for a multitude of reasons.

Bathroom and kitchen

According to the AARP, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house for seniors. The kitchen is a close second. This is because water and soap make surfaces slippery, getting in and out of a shower or bath also involves balance, which can tend to deteriorate with age.

The vast majority of injuries in the bathroom could be avoided with the installation of grab bars next to all showers, baths and toilets. You should also place a non-slip rubber mat on the surface or your bath or shower to avoid slipping accidents and always use a bath mat to absorb excess water on the floor. Kitchens should likewise be outfitted with non-slip mats at the sink and fridge, where spills are most likely to occur.

Hallways and stairs

While individual rooms in the house tend to be well-lit, hallways and stairwells can sometimes be neglected as they are rarely used during the night. This means that an older person who, say, needs to use the toilet in the middle of the night, will not be able to see where they are going and are likely to slip and fall.

You should also clear hallways of any potential tripping hazards. This includes carpets and throw rugs, which are one of the most common causes of indoor falls. At the very least, buy some non-slip rug pads, which adhere to the bottom of your rugs to keep it from curling upward and tripping someone over. Stairs may be made safer by installing a gate at the top and increasing the amount of ambient lighting available. Reflective stips may also add to visibility.

Bedroom

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for a variety of reasons including your general physical and mental health, but it can also reduce the risk of falls. You are more likely to injure yourself if you are tired throughout the day and are not paying attention to where you step. Additional falling risks in the bedroom stem from standing up too soon or rising from an unstable surface, such as a sagging mattress.

Many people assume that older people need less sleep, but this is simply untrue. While changes in sleep architecture are normal as we age, sleep deprivation is not. Senior sleep needs are the same as that of a middle-aged adult, but the difference is that they might have a harder time getting the recommended number of hours. If you are not sleeping well, you need to figure out why and tackle the problem right away. Start by ensuring your mattress allows for quality, restful sleep. Mattresses for seniors need to maintain neutral spine alignment and have enough contouring to relieve pressure points. Refer to this guide to learn more about how to choose the best mattress for your specific needs.

Exercise

Start making small changes to your lifestyle as well. For instance, improving your strength and balance through exercise – yoga is a great option – will also greatly help you avoid injury. A combination of environmental and lifestyle changes is the best guarantee for a safe and comfortable old age and it is never too soon to get started.

These small changes will help you age in place by decreasing your risk of injury and increasing your ability to live independently.

A Decade Low in Housing Affordability Won’t Kill the Real Estate Boom

Source: Dr. Steve Sjuggerud, Stansberry Research

I’ve spent years urging anyone who would listen to buy a house…

Folks didn’t want to hear that story back in 2011, when I first began pounding the table. Investors were scared. Nobody wanted to buy.

That’s why housing was such a great deal, though. It was dirt-cheap and hitting all-time levels of affordability.

Plenty has changed since then…

U.S. home prices have steadily climbed, and housing affordability has fallen as a result.

Today, housing affordability is at a decade low. But as I’ll show, that doesn’t mean the boom is dead.

Let me explain…

The idea of housing affordability is simple. When someone buys a home, he doesn’t worry so much about the purchase price… He worries about the monthly payment. If he can afford the payment, he can afford the house.

The monthly payment includes a few numbers… namely the home’s price and the interest rate. Compare that with the person’s income, and you know how affordable (or not) a home would be.

Importantly, these numbers are similar for a lot of folks. So the National Association of Realtors uses median home prices, median income, and mortgage rates to build an overall measure of housing affordability in America.

This indicator tells us if housing is cheap, expensive, or somewhere in between.

Again, things have changed since I first began urging readers to buy real estate. Housing affordability is now at a 10-year low. Take a look…

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A high affordability number indicates housing is cheap… signaling a great time to buy. A low number indicates an expensive market, where folks will have to stretch to buy.

You can see that housing is getting less affordable. It recently fell to affordability levels not seen since 2008. But that doesn’t tell the full story.

Despite a decade low for affordability, we’re now right at the long-term average. Check it out…

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It’s true that the easy money in real estate might be behind us. But affordability hasn’t completely dried up.

We are clearly in the late innings of this boom. The great deals are getting harder to find, but certain markets still have plenty of value remaining.

I’ve personally put a large chunk of my net worth into Florida real estate. I’ve sold some of those properties for big profits… but I’ve been able to find new deals too.

So while affordability is down, I remain bullish on U.S. housing. We’re still near the long-term average for affordability in U.S. housing. And folks can still make money in U.S. real estate.

If you’re looking to put money to work, buying a house is still a solid deal today.

What to Expect on Closing Day

Source: Chris Knox, Sr. Loan Advisor – Fairway Mortgage Co.

When you purchase a home, the most exciting part of the process is the day you finally are handed the keys. But, before this happens, you will need to sign some important papers to close the deal. Closing day is going to be a busy one with your mind on moving into your new home, but it is important to know what will happen at the closing table so that you are prepared.

Generally, the closing will happen at the office of the settlement agent (potentially an attorney, depending on which state you close in), or the closing could take place at one of the real estate agent’s offices or my office. Your real estate agent, the seller’s agent, the title agent and a notary may be there. I will also make my best effort to be there in case you have any last-minute questions.

Be sure to bring your ID (if there is a co-signer, please make sure they have their ID as well). We will have already discussed whether you are wiring the money or bringing a certified check for costs such as down payment, taxes, insurance or other closing costs. Don’t worry; I will make sure you are well-prepared.

You can then read, ask questions about and sign the loan documents that Fairway has prepared for you. Included in this paperwork is going to be your Closing Disclosure (which we will have reviewed together before closing), the promissory note (which says you will repay Fairway for the loan amount that you are borrowing) and the deed of trust (also known as the lien on the property). If you have questions about these, please do not hesitate to ask me.

My goal is to fully prepare you for what will happen at the closing table. We will talk often before then, and I will answer questions you may have and do my best to make this a stress-free process for you.

Chris Knox
Sr. Loan Advisor
NMLS# 129636
WA# MLO-129636
Phone: (253) 905-4810

105 8th Ave. SE, Suite 102
Olympia, WA 98501
http://loansbychrisknox.com/

Everything You Need To Know About Down Payments!

Source: Chris Knox, Fairway Independant Mortgage Corp.

For homebuyers purchasing their first house, the biggest obstacle to overcome is often the down payment. Making sure you fully understand the down payment and closing costs will help you throughout the home mortgage loan process. Many options for first-time homebuyers allow for little or no down payment on your home, and I am here to help answer any questions.

Depending on the loan program, the down payment may not have to come from your savings. A family member can sometimes make a “gift” to you to cover the down payment, or you could choose to pull money from your retirement plan. A mortgage planner can help you understand ways to take money from a retirement plan to buy your first house, without paying any tax penalties. If you choose a down payment of more than 5% but less than 20%, you will have to pay private mortgage insurance. Known as PMI, private mortgage insurance protects the lender in the event the loan goes into default.

In addition to the down payment on your mortgage, closing costs and pre-paid expenses are also involved with a home purchase. You usually must pay lender costs, an appraiser and legal fees associated with transferring the title on the house from the seller to you, the buyer. In addition, you will pay homeowners insurance for one year in advance, and the lender will establish an escrow account, which will take a portion of your monthly payment and save it to pay your future property tax bills and homeowners insurance bills. Most first-time homebuyer loans will require you to have an escrow account to pay for the future tax and insurance bills.

Some first-time homebuyer programs allow negotiation with the seller of the home to have them pay a portion of the closing costs. Doing so can help reduce how much money is needed to purchase your first house. Be sure to talk with your real estate agent before making an offer to negotiate that into the deal. It is always a great idea to talk with a lender first, so you can understand exactly what the closing costs will be and how much you will need the seller to pay.

As qualified FHA, VA and USDA mortgage lenders, the licensed mortgage professionals at Fairway can help you determine the best loan program to use for your first home. I will help you decide which loan program is best for you, the right amount for your down payment and how much the seller should pay for your closing costs, and I will give you other considerations to make sure you get the best financing for your first home purchase. You can trust me to make your home loan as stress-free as possible. Call me today to set up an appointment.

Chris Knox
Sr. Loan Advisor
NMLS# 129636
WA# MLO-129636
Phone: (253) 905-4810

105 8th Ave. SE, Suite 102
Olympia, WA 98501
http://loansbychrisknox.com/

Single Woman’s Guide to a Mortgage-Worthy Credit Profile

Source:  / CreditCards.com

Research shows women often face challenges getting approved for home loans, and financial gender inequality may be to blame.

According to a study conducted by the Woodstock Institute, women are more likely than men to be denied mortgage loans. Typical reasons for mortgage denial include a high debt-to-limit ratio or a poor overall credit history.

The gender pay gap is a big reason why many women struggle for total financial independence. While the large-scale fight for gender equality is long and collaborative, there is something you can do to play a part: maintain a high credit score.

A strong credit score is important for financial equality

Your credit score is a tool lenders use to determine your trustworthiness when borrowing money and answer questions about your financial habits.  Will you max out your credit line? Will you pay your bills on time? Will you pay off your debt in full? Are you a high-risk or low-risk borrower?

Anytime you try to borrow money – whether on a credit card, small business loan, car loan or mortgage – your credit report and overall score will be reviewed to determine if you’re approved or denied and what your interest rate and credit limit will be.

A high credit score can also protect you (and your kids, if you have any) in case of divorce, a spouse’s death, or events that cause your spouse’s credit score to drop.

Gender roles in society have an effect on women and credit

Women sometimes have thin credit files due to traditional gender roles. An example is a household in which the husband is the family’s financial manager and applies for all credit cards and loans in his own name. In this case, his wife will not have an opportunity to build credit unless she obtains other credit lines in her name. If the husband dies or the couple divorces, the woman may find it difficult to strike out on her own.

A relatively low income – perhaps due to gender bias in a workplace – can also hamper a woman’s ability to build credit.

One of the most important factors lenders use to calculate your credit score is credit utilization. Credit utilization indicates how much of your total available credit you’re using. For example, if you have a card with a $2,000 limit and your balance is $1,000, you have a credit utilization ratio of 50 percent. The lower your utilization, the better your credit score will be.

Credit limits are often based in part on how much you are able to pay each month. So, since women typically make less than men (thanks, gender pay gap), that can result in a low credit limit, and a better chance of credit score damage from high utilization.

Establishing your own credit

If you have a thin credit file, there are a few ways to build it up:

  • Become an authorized user. If you don’t have any credit history to work with, you can start by becoming an additional cardholder or authorized user on a friend, family member or spouse’s card.
  • Apply for a secured or prepaid card. These cards are great starter cards for those who are worried about credit card debt, and they generally require no credit history to get approved. Just make sure the card you choose reports to one of the major credit reporting agencies.
  • Apply for a rewards credit cardIf you qualify, cards with no annual fee and a low APR can help you build credit with small purchases that you pay off each month. Plus, rewards cards help you earn points and miles that you can use towards travel or your monthly statement.

Preparing your credit before buying a home

Establishing credit isn’t enough to get a solid mortgage approval; your score must be strong, and your credit habits need to be healthy.

Here are a few ways you can make sure your credit profile is in great shape before you apply for a mortgage:

1.  Check your credit reports

A high credit score and a clean credit report can help you lock in a low interest rate. You can visit AnnualCreditReport.com to pull a copy of your report and look over it. You’re entitled to a free copy once a year from the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Review your reports for errors, no matter how small. Correcting these can help bump your score and ensure you have an accurate profile. All three bureaus handle report disputes online, which helps simplify the process.

2. Stay away from larger purchases and unnecessary credit lines

As you get closer to when you plan on applying for a home loan, avoid making large purchases and opening additional lines of credit. Experts advise limiting the number of hard inquiries into your account and keeping your credit profile “quiet” leading up to the homebuying process.

3. Reduce your utilization

Paying off debt (without draining your savings) can help boost your credit score, helping you land a better interest rate on your home loan.

Keeping your utilization low across your accounts is always a good credit habit to get into, whether you’re planning on buying a home or just want to stay financially healthy.

4. Improve your areas of credit weakness

Do you have a habit of forgetting to make payments on time? Set reminders on your phone or enroll in auto pay. Are you behind on any payments? Talk to your lender or card issuer about getting back on track. Did you find multiple errors on your credit reports? Make every effort to get those corrected.

Take the time you need to get your finances as healthy as possible before applying for that loan application. An extra six months to get your credit score up could mean the difference between being approved with a great interest rate and barely scraping by with a rate that will cost you an exorbitant amount of money down the line.

Protecting your credit

Your credit isn’t only important in the lead-up to buying a home. Credit scores are commonly used as an indicator for your overall financial health. Establishing strong credit habits and protecting your score can help you remain financially independent throughout your entire life.

Monitor your credit score for fluctuations and suspicious activity. Most card issuers have mobile apps, and many have built-in credit monitoring benefits for all cardholders. A lot of card issuers and banks allow you to set up purchase notifications, which can also help you stay on top of spending while watching out for fraudulent charges.

Another way you can protect your credit is by protecting your personal information. Never give out private information like usernames, passwords or account numbers over the phone or through email.

Finally, avoid using your credit cards more than is necessary. Pay them in full each month to avoid incurring interest charges and keep your credit score in good shape.  And maintain a savings account for emergencies and large purchases.

The bottom line

Building and maintaining a strong credit profile is important – both for future loan applications and overall financial gender equality. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward for your future by establishing healthy credit habits, whether you’re a newly single divorcee looking to gain financial independence or a college graduate ready to make your mark on the world.

David Lafferty
CreditCards.com
9430 Research Blvd. | Building 4, Suite 400 | Austin, TX 78759

Become An Excellent Homebuyer in 10 Easy Steps

Source: Chris Knox – Fairway Mortgage

Buying a home can be the start of the best decision you have ever made. However, between finding the right place, securing the loan and moving in, you are likely going to experience some stress. Purchasing a home is a large commitment, and the emotions of making such a personal investment require a great team behind you, which is why Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation is here to help.

Here are 10 tips that will help make you a successful homebuyer:

  1. Have the Right Partners – You will work with your mortgage planner and real estate agent a great deal throughout the process, so working well together is crucial. Take the time to select a great team in the beginning, and your first home purchase will be a pleasing and memorable experience.
  2. Income + Lifestyle = Mortgage Payment – Be open, honest and up front with your real estate agent and mortgage planner when discussing your income level and living expenses. Take in to account future considerations such as children and plans you may have for repairs and upgrades for the house. Your dream home is certainly worth a sacrifice, but don’t mortgage your entire future.
  3. Utilize Your Team – Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your mortgage planner and real estate agent are there to support you and work together for your benefit.
  4. View Several Homes – See multiple properties. With your agent’s help, you should be able to view enough properties to have a good overall perspective of the home market.
  5. Imagine the Property Vacant – Your furnishings and decorations will be the ones filling this residence, so don’t be swayed by beautiful furniture that leaves with the owner.
  6. Be Thorough – Explore all costs and expenses before you commit. These include utilities, taxes, insurance, maintenance and homeowners association dues.
  7. Inspect, Inspect, Inspect! – Ensure that the inspection report was completed by a professional and examine it carefully. For condo purchases, review the bylaws and association fees.
  8. If It is Not in Writing, It Does Not Exist – All promises and discussions should be in writing. Don’t make any assumptions or believe any verbal assurances. Have your real estate agent keep an ongoing log in writing of all discussions and acquire the seller’s written approval on all agreements.
  9. Complete a Final Walkthrough – Visit the property after all furnishings have been moved out, to be sure that there are no surprises. Be certain that the property was left exactly as you agreed upon in the contract. Ensure that all utilities are turned on during your walkthrough, so you can inspect everything in working order.
  10. Plan for Flexibility – Closing dates are not written in stone. Allow for contingencies and have a backup plan. If you or the sellers need a little more time to conclude the final arrangements, do not let delays upset or frustrate you.

Many steps are involved when purchasing a home. While there may be some bumps in the road, I am always here to help in any way I can. Call me today to schedule an appointment to review your financial plans. I look forward to the opportunity to help you make the best home loan decision and show you the path toward homeownership.

Chris Knox
Sr. Loan Advisor
NMLS# 129636
WA# MLO-129636
Phone: (253) 905-4810105 8th Ave. SE, Suite 102
Olympia, WA 98501
http://loansbychrisknox.com/