May 29, 2019

#4 Looking to the Future as a Homeowner

Rodney Campbell, Broker, License # 613021, Stewart and Campbell Real estate, LLC., Keep Austin Weird Homes LLC., (512)740-6486


Looking to the Future as a Homeowner


All the work you’ve done to prepare for homeownership — all the saving, the research, the applications — should seem worth it when you leave the attorney’s office with your house keys.



Decide what your first meal in your new home will be. Show the kids or your pets around the place. Introduce yourself to the neighbors. Get settled in.


Take time to enjoy the win because, soon enough, you’ll start to become acquainted with the challenges of homeownership. Of course, there’s the huge mortgage balance to get paid off, so we’ll start our “New Homeowner Frequently Asked Questions” here:

Are There Shortcuts to Paying Off the Mortgage?

Yes! The more you pay on your loan’s principal, the less interest you’ll pay in the long run and the faster you’ll be out of debt. You probably saw a “truth in lending” disclosure at your closing. The form should have shown you exactly how much money you’d spend on the loan if you paid on schedule.


For example: If you have a new, 30-year, $175,000 mortgage loan at 4 percent interest, you’d pay about $125,000 in interest charges over the next three decades. So, you’d actually be paying $300,000 to buy your $175,000 house. It’s annoying, I know, but such is the mortgage lending business. Banks don’t help you buy a house for free.


However, by reducing the length of your loan, you can reduce the amount you pay in interest. How do you reduce the length of your loan? By paying extra on the principal of the loan.


“Principal” refers to the actual balance.


In the example above, the $175,000 would be the principal. For this to work you need to pay your scheduled payment which will automatically include interest charges, then make an additional payment on principal. Your lender’s online payment system should offer a way to designate the extra payment to principal. If it doesn’t call the lender to ask about it. Unless the extra payment gets properly designated, you may be simply paying the next month’s scheduled payment.


What is the effect of paying extra on principal?


On the $175,000, 4 percent, 30-year loan from above, by paying an extra $100 a month you’d save about $25,000 over the life of the loan and have the house paid off five years sooner.

Should I Pay Off the Mortgage Right Away?

Like a lot of great questions, the answer here isn’t as simple as you’d think. Yes, your mortgage is a big debt, and yes, it would be better to own the house outright and cut back on some of those interest charges. But a singular focus on paying off the mortgage can also cost you.


For example, you shouldn’t rack up a bunch of credit card debt because you’re making three house payments a month. Or, some people may benefit from saving for retirement each month instead of paying extra on the house.


Even if you can afford to pay down the mortgage quickly without making sacrifices elsewhere, some tax professionals think you can benefit more by writing off your mortgage interest at tax time, which you can’t do after you’ve paid off the mortgage.


Long story short: There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Consider your individual circumstances and ask a financial advisor for help.

What is Mortgage Life Insurance?

The emails and postcards may already be flooding in. Since you’ve bought a house, insurance companies will be offering you mortgage insurance which would pay off your loan if you died.

That way your family wouldn’t have to worry about paying off the house or selling it. It sounds like a sensible precaution, but like a lot of unsolicited offers, you can probably do better.


If you’re worried about protecting your investment and your family’s overall financial security if they suddenly did not have your income, you’re not alone. There’s an entire industry set up to address that need. It’s called life insurance. A term life policy may suit your needs better than mortgage life insurance. Mortgage insurance would pay off the balance of your loan if you died. Term life would pay your beneficiary (your spouse, partner, adult child, etc.) if you died. Your beneficiary could then use the money as he or she saw fit rather than having it automatically go to your mortgage lender.

What About Refinancing?

You’ll also get offers to refinance your loan.

When you refinance, you’re getting a new mortgage on the same house. The new mortgage pays off the existing mortgage, then you start over paying off the new loan under its terms.

If you can get significantly better loan terms by refinancing, then go for it. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Can you lower your interest rate by a couple percentage points? If you’ve resolved some credit issues since buying your home, you may now qualify for a much better interest rate on a refinanced loan. This could save you thousands of dollars.

  • Can you now afford a significantly higher payment? Maybe you’ve gotten a new job or a big raise and can afford a much higher payment then when you first bought the house. If you’re going from a 30-year to a 12-year mortgage, you can save a lot in interest charges by refinancing. (You can achieve a similar effect by simply paying more on principal each month.)

  • Are you worried about your variable rate? Did you get a variable rate mortgage and now you’re coming to the end of the introductory rate period? Depending on the climate for interest rates, you may want to lock in a fixed rate by refinancing.

  • Did you get a subsidized loan and now need more flexibility? Subsidized loans are great, but they can limit how you use your property. If you wanted to turn your home into a rental property, your federal loan may not allow it. Refinancing with a conventional loan can open up more possibilities.

Usually, when you refinance, you need to pay closing costs again. Be sure the new loan will save enough money to justify a second round of closing costs.

What is a Second Mortgage?

To understand how second mortgages work, you need to know about equity. Equity refers to the amount of the house you actually own.If your house is worth $200,000 and you still owe $150,000 to your mortgage lender, you own $50,000 in home equity. You can tap into that $50,000 by getting a second mortgage or a home equity line of credit.

After doing so, you’ll still have your original mortgage to pay and you’ll have a second mortgage to pay each month. A lot of people got into serious financial trouble in the late aughts when the housing market plummeted and their equity, which they’d already borrowed against, vanished. So, don’t overdo it. Save this option for home improvements, even when you’re tempted to pay off credit card debt or a car loan with a second mortgage. By investing your equity back into your home, you can increase the home’s value. But don’t go too far here either. It is possible to invest beyond the value your local market can re-pay.

Your home’s location has a big say in its value. No matter how nice your new appliances and cabinetry may be, your home’s overall value will still be constrained by the local market.

A home equity line of credit works similarly, but rather than having a fixed amount, you can borrow against your equity as needed. Think of it as a cross between a second mortgage and a credit card.

A Big Investment in More Ways than One

When people say your home is your biggest investment, they’re not talking about only money. You’re also investing time, patience, and knowledge. Your knowledge investment can make your financial investment go even further. Knowing how to determine your price range, how to avoid excessive interest charges, and how to interpret a home inspection report, for example, can protect you from costly mistakes.


Knowing how to make an attractive offer and how to back away from a counteroffer will serve you well in your local market. Take your time and learn about the process. Research your loan options, even after you’ve closed on the home. Consider the long- and short-term effects of each option. With the right knowledge, you can do home-buying your way.

May 26, 2019

#3 Ramp up your home search

Rodney Campbell, Broker, License # 613021, Stewart and Campbell Real estate, LLC., Keep Austin Weird Homes LLC.,(512)740-6486,


Ramp Up Your Home Search

You know about financing, interest charges, and fitting a house payment into your budget.

Now for the fun part: shopping for your new home.


  • Drive around neighborhoods you like looking for sale signs?

  • Use real estate Web sites to narrow your search?

  • Check foreclosures in your area for great deals?

  • Hire a Realtor to guide you through the process?

Any and all of these approaches would serve you well. I’d go so far as to recommend using all of them simultaneously to get the most thorough canvass of your market.


  • Think about the future: Will your family grow while you’re living in the new home. Try to think about how you’ll be using the home in five years. Will you need more bedrooms, a home office, a guest room, a three-car garage?

  • Pretend you’re the seller: Eventually, you will likely decide to sell the home you’re thinking now about buying. How hard would that be? If there’s a wacky addition on the back of the house that you’re not crazy about but can live with, future buyers may not be so forgiving.

  • Talk to would-be neighbors: Someone who has lived in the neighborhood a few years has insight even a Realtor may not have. Your would-be neighbors will probably share the ups and downs of the area if asked.

  • Don’t expect HGTV standards: Do you watch “Flip or Flop” or “House Hunters?” Not all houses on the market, depending on your price range, will live up to those standards. If glistening appliances, quartz countertops, and double vanities get your blood pumping, you may want to lean toward new construction.

Should I Get a Real Estate Agent?

Realtors make a living by handling real estate transactions. They are experts on the nuances of their markets. Yet I routinely meet buyers who aren’t all that eager to hire a Realtor. Often, they cite the agent’s commission as an unnecessary fee since they can search up houses online for free. Give this some serious thought before deciding, though. A good agent can be your advocate throughout the buying process, protecting you from issues you may not even be aware of yet. And about that commission: If you’re looking at listed properties (not for sale by owner properties), the seller has an agent who will be earning a commission from what you spend.

When you also have an agent, the two agents will split the same commission. So, you’re going to be paying the same commission anyway. Why not let half of it go to someone who has your back instead of the seller’s?

Offers, Counteroffers, and Contracts

Every real estate market can be different, and your local market will also fluctuate from year to year. Sometimes the market favors buyers; other times it’s sellers who have the most influence over transactions. If you’re shopping for a home in a seller’s market, you may face some fierce competition from other buyers. So how can you make an offer that will get the seller’s attention amidst a flurry of other offers?


  • Have a mortgage pre-approval: The seller will know you’re serious if you already have your financing in order.

  • Make a reasonable offer: You may enjoy some back and forth in your negotiations, but don’t start so low that the seller doesn’t take your offer seriously. If the asking price is $200,000, don’t start with $120,000 unless you think the house really is worth $120,000 or so.

  • Be flexible on closing costs: In a buyer’s market you can get away with drawing the line against paying any closing costs. If it’s a seller’s market, though, a buyer will likely have to take on some, if not all, closing costs.

  • Mix and match: If closing costs are a big issue and you really need the seller to pay them, make a higher offer on the house itself. Or, if you’re making a lower offer, consider taking on the closing costs as a way to sweeten the deal. Again, if it’s a buyer’s market, ask for the moon.

Your Realtor can guide you here by providing specifics about your market. He or she may know in advance how the seller’s agent would be inclined to respond to your offer.

A Counteroffer is a Good Thing

When you’ve made an offer and the seller counters with a higher offer, you know you’ve gotten the seller’s attention. Let the negotiations begin. Discuss with your Realtor whether you should accept the counter offer or make another offer of your own. Once you and the seller agree on terms, it’s time to enter a contract.

Going Under Contract

With a contract, you’re agreeing to buy the house under the agreed-upon terms (from the offer) as long as certain conditions remain true. Likewise, the seller is agreeing not to sell to anyone else while under contract with you. The seller or her agent may ask for earnest money. This is not a down payment on your loan, but it will go toward the purchase of the home assuming you close.


Essentially, the money — usually $500 or $1,000 — shows you’re serious.


If something happens and you do not buy the house, make sure you ask for the money back.

Negotiations Continue While Under Contract

At this point in the process, you’ll need to hire an independent home inspector to explore every corner of the house, from the pillars to the roof vents. Your Realtor, of course, may suggest some home inspectors, but consider finding one for yourself. This is your long-term investment. You stand to gain or lose money. So you’ll want to know for sure that the inspector is looking out for you.

About your home inspection

Read your home inspection report thoroughly. If you’re buying an older home, don’t be surprised if the inspector uncovers some minor problems with the plumbing or the insulation or the duct work. Issues like those shouldn’t prevent you from buying the house, but you may want to consider asking the seller for a concession. You could ask for a $500 discount on the home to fix a problem in that price range, for example.

Or you could ask the seller to fix the problems before closing.

The inspector may also find serious flaws with the home. If the inspector questions the structural integrity of the home, either because of foundation problems or some kind of extensive rot, it may be time to seriously consider moving on to a different property.

The same is true for safety issues. Old wiring or an ancient or poorly installed heating system could spell disaster down the road. Yes, such problems can be fixed, but the cost and the amount of work may prove too big a hassle if you have other home options on your list.

As you can tell, you’ll be plenty busy during these few of weeks between agreeing to an offer and closing on your home. Don’t forget, you’ll also be packing and preparing to move.


And, there’s still work to do at the bank.

Applying for Your Mortgage Loan

Wait a minute. Didn’t we already talk about mortgage loans? Yes, but only for a pre-approval. When you have a house under contract and you fully intend to see the purchase through, you’ll need to make the loan application official. With your pre-approval, the bank would have made some assumptions. Specifically, it assumed the information you shared about your income, your employment, your bank balances, and such, was true.


Now it’s time to prove it.


The lender will ask for documentation to support your application. Expect to share tax forms and recent checking and savings account statements. Don’t be surprised if the lender calls your place of employment. It may feel as though nothing is sacred by the time you finish the application.


Don’t sweat it, though.


As long as your fiscal house is in order and you can document it, you should be fine.As you apply, it’s time to decide about your loan’s terms. Can you afford a 12-year or a 15-year mortgage? Should you play it safe with a 30-year loan? (Scroll up to the types of mortgage session for a refresher on this subject if you need it.)


  • An appraisal: The bank will hire someone to appraise the value of the property you’re buying. If the loan amount exceeds the appraised value of the property, the bank could pull the plug on your loan. Why? The bank is thinking ahead. If it repossessed the property because you failed to pay, the bank would become the property’s seller, and it would need the sale to re-pay your defaulted loan. That’d be harder to do if it loaned you more than the value of the home. (This protects you as well, especially if you needed to re-sell the property within the first few years of the loan.)

  • A title search: The lender wants to know for sure whether the seller owns the house and has the right to sell it to you. To find out, it will hire someone to research the history of the home you’re buying. The search should reveal names of previous owners, dates of ownership, prices paid during previous transactions, etc. The result of this search can be interesting, especially if you’re buying an older home.


If all this, along with your financial documentation, checks out, you should be good to go. The lender will issue a loan commitment, which means you’ve got the financial backing to make your homeownership dream come true.

Preparing for Your Closing Date

Your contract should include a closing date, which may be scheduled a month, or even longer, into the contract period.

Until after the closing, either party could back out of the deal, so people tend to think of closings as stressful.

In reality, you should know days or even weeks before your closing date whether everything will happen as planned.

Call a Lawyer

Your real estate attorney (your Realtor can recommend one or you can hire an attorney yourself) should be experienced and have a knowledgeable staff. When you’re in good legal hands, even the most complicated parts of your transaction will seem easy. Your attorney will find out about any past due taxes on the property and make sure you’re not held responsible for property taxes accrued before closing. Your attorney will do a separate title search and be able to show you any encroachments on your new property.

If a neighbor, for example, has placed a storage building across the property line, you’ll find out.


You’ll hand over your down payment if you haven’t already, and the money from your mortgage lender.


Then, you’ll sign document after document after document until they all begin to look the same.

You Have More Work, Too

Before the closing, you still have a few things to take care of on your own:

  • Homeowners insurance: You will need a homeowners policy in place and ready to go into effect as soon as you make things official at the closing. Shop around for a policy that will meet your home’s precise needs. Your policy will have a big job to do: protecting your new investment from a wide variety of perils.

  • Transferring utilities: If you’re renting, be sure to tell your landlord that you’re under contract on a home of your own. If possible, give yourself a week or two after closing before your lease ends so you can move your stuff without as much stress. And don’t forget to cancel the Internet, water, electricity, etc., at the old place.

  • Hiring movers? Maybe you have a couple friends who own trucks? If you can afford it, though, professional movers can make life a lot easier. Be sure to read reviews on Trustpilot or Facebook before hiring a company. Try to call companies a couple weeks before moving day to get on a schedule, and look into the costs beforehand. You don’t want to be surprised by a $1,000 moving bill.

Opening an Escrow Account

Your closing attorney will most likely mention an escrow account for insurance and taxes. You don’t have to go this route, but many homeowners find it helpful.

Here’s how it works: Each time you make a house payment, part of your payment goes into a separate, escrow account.

The money builds up as the months pass, then when it’s time to pay your property taxes or the insurance premium, you have the money available.

Your lender will maintain the escrow account and even pay the tax and insurance bills.


Other than monitoring it once in a while, it doesn’t require much thought from you.




May 25, 2019

Steps to Home Ownership #2

Rodney Campbell, BrokerLicense # 613021 Stewart and Campbell Real estate, LLC., Keep Austin Weird Homes LLC.,(512)740-6486

Finding Your Home Price Range

Most of us know how much money we can spend this month on groceries or whether we could afford to move into a bigger apartment next year. We may not know exactly how much house we can afford.

Real estate prices vary throughout the country. If you’re buying in Manhattan or San Francisco, the $188,000 median home price may buy you a storage closet. (Shop around enough and you may find one with the light bulb included!) In other markets, $188,000 may get you 2,500 square feet of house on a couple acres.


What matters, though, is this:

Could you afford a $188,000 mortgage?

If not, what is your price range?

How to Find Out How Much House You Can Afford

Everybody faces different financial challenges and has different demands on their monthly budgets. Only you can know for sure about your situation.


However, many financial advisors recommend spending no more than 25 to 28 percent of your annual income on housing.


Let’s take this idea for a spin: We’ll say you earn $96,000 a year.

25 percent of $96,000 = $24,000 a year for housing

$24,000 a year divided by 12 months = $2,000 a month for housing.


Most people like to include homeowners insurance premiums and local property taxes into their housing budget. Let’s go with $200 a month for insurance and $200 a month for property taxes for a total of $400 a month.


$2,000 a month housing budget – $400 for insurance and taxes = $1,600 a month for a mortgage.


You can buy a lot of house in many markets for $1,600 a month.

Remember, though: This 25 percent rule may not work for you if you have significant demands on your monthly budget.


If you borrowed $100,000 to get an advanced degree from an elite university, or if you already have heavy debt from other property purchases, adjust your estimates accordingly.

Your ultimate goal will be to find out how much house payment you can afford, reliably, every month for up to 30 years. Your number may be only 15 percent of your income; it may be 35 percent.


I say “up to” 30 years because you can get mortgages with a variety of terms, and these terms have tremendous influence over how far your house money will go.

We’ll go into these details next.

Knowing the Right Kind of Mortgage

Mortgages vary widely. This can be good or bad for you, the consumer.

It’s good when you have learned about the market and you find a product to fit your exact needs. It’s not so good, though, if you wind up with a mortgage that doesn’t match your needs.

In fact, getting the wrong mortgage can be devastating to your personal finances.

If, for example, your interest rate increases after the first couple years because you got a variable rate, your house payment could suddenly become unaffordable.

Interest rates aren’t the only variables you should know about:

Mortgage Term

You may hear the word “term” when you’re investing, getting a mortgage, or even getting a new life insurance policy. It usually refers to a specific amount of time. In the case of your mortgage, your term is the length of time during which you’ll owe money on your house, assuming you pay it off on schedule. A 10-year mortgage spreads your debt across 10 years. If you take the same debt and spread it across 30 years, you’ll have a lower monthly payment.


But by hanging onto the debt longer, you’ll pay more in interest.

How much more?


Let use $175,000.00 mortgage as an example:

  • 30-year fixed term: At 4 percent interest, you’d pay $835 a month but also pay $125,000 in interest charges over the life of the loan. Your $175,000 house would cost you about $300,000.

  • 20-year fixed term: At 4 percent interest, you’d pay $1,060 a month and pay $79,500 in interest charges over the life of the loan. Your $175,000 house would cost you about $254,500.

  • 10-year fixed term: At 4 percent interest, you’d pay $1,772 a month but pay only $37,615 in interest over the life of the loan. Your $175,000 house would cost you about $212,600.


As you can see, a shorter term costs more in the short run but saves tremendously over time. The difference between a 10-year and a 30-year mortgage in our example above is about $87,400.


Which is why finding the right term matters so much. If you can afford the payments on a 10-year loan, by all means, take advantage of those long-term savings.


If you can afford only a 30-year loan, that’s OK too.


Yes, you’re paying more, but at least you’re getting a foot in the door of a more stable financial future without blowing up your monthly spending plan. Later on, you could refinance with more favorable terms.


Fixed vs. Adjustable Interest Rate

So far we’ve discussed only loans with fixed interest rates. With a fixed rate loan, your interest rate — and, as a result, your monthly payment — remains the same throughout the life of the loan, even if it’s 30 years or longer.


Not all mortgages have fixed rates, though. You can also get a loan with an adjustable interest rate. As your interest rate changes, usually in, response to a specific rate index, your payment will rise or fall accordingly.


This sounds scary, and it can be, but an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) is not a total free for all. With most ARMs, the rate stays the same for a specified amount of time, then begins to change each year.


A 3/1 ARM, for example, keeps its introductory interest rate for three years, then the rate adjusts annually. So it’s not like your mortgage payment would be a moving target month to month.

Even so, not knowing year to year how much you’ll be paying creates too much instability for many homeowners. Sticking with a fixed rate keeps things simple. You may be wondering who would want an ARM, anyway?


Here are some times to consider it:


  • When you plan to sell the property quickly: Most ARMs offer introductory rates below a fixed rate. If you plan to sell the property before the introductory rate expires, you can save month to month while you own the property. This may be the case if you plan to flip the house.

  • When you expect to have more money in the near future: An ARM’s lower introductory rate (and resulting initial lower payment) can help you buy a more expensive house than you may be able to afford with a fixed rate. If you’re expecting to start earning more in the next few years, an ARM can give you this flexibility. An ARM may also be a good fit if you’re about to pay off another loan, creating more flexibility in your monthly budget.

  • If economists expect a decrease in rates on the horizon: These things can be too hard to predict, but if you’re buying a house during a period of high-interest rates and you think rates could be going down soon, an ARM could set you up to enjoy lower rates in future years without having to refinance. You should check with a financial advisor to get the best idea about future rate projections.

Remember, too, that an ARM doesn’t have to leave you completely exposed to the whims of the market. Many adjustable rate loans offer caps on rate fluctuations or caps on payments.

These caps work pretty much like you’d expect. With a cap on your monthly payments, for example, even a skyrocketing interest rate will increase your payment only up to the maximum amount allowed by the loan’s cap.

Be careful with these caps, though. Just because you’re insulated from excessive payments doesn’t mean you’re insulated from the interest charges.

Sooner or later you’ll have to pay those charges. Chances are your bank would add them to your mortgage balance, meaning what you owe could keep increasing even as you make your scheduled payments.

Conventional vs. Government Loan

So far we’ve discussed conventional loans which banks, credit unions, and mortgage finance companies offer. You fill out an application, the loan officer checks your credit score, and you usually need to put some money down.


Not everyone can qualify for a conventional loan. Maybe your credit score isn’t quite high enough yet. Maybe you can’t come up with a five-figure down payment.


Enter the federal government, which helps homebuyers through a variety of programs, giving people with lower credit scores and people with limited financial flexibility another route to home ownership:

  • FHA Loans: With an Federal Housing Administration loan, the federal government removes the risk to the mortgage lender. If you defaulted on your mortgage, the federal government would re-pay the bank. (You’d still lose the house, but the bank wouldn’t lose money.) Because of this guarantee, banks can offer borrowers with lower credit scores lower interest rates, lower down payments, and lower closing costs.

  • USDA Loans: The federal Department of Agriculture also guarantees mortgages, leading to favorable terms for eligible borrowers. These loans often come with income requirements and a higher standard for credit scores than an FHA loan.

  • VA Loans: The Department of Veterans Affairs backs mortgages for active duty military personnel along with veterans and immediate family members of veterans. These loans often require no down payment, no credit minimum to apply, and the ability to negotiate the payment with help from the VA if necessary.  

This list simply hits the high points for government loans. Other programs include loans to help make your home more energy efficient and loans to help Native Americans buy a house. You can find a more comprehensive list here. The question is, should you get help from Uncle Sam to buy a home? When you need the help, it’s a no-brainer. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck and just can’t find a way to save $20,000 for a down payment, these programs can help get you in a home so you can stop paying rent and start building equity.


  • Caps on loan amounts: If you’re spending more than $424,000, you’ll have to go conventional.

  • Private Mortgage Insurance: With a conventional loan you can avoid paying for PMI by putting down 20 percent of the new home’s value. You can also stop paying PMI when you’ve paid off at least 20 percent of the home’s value. FHA loans require PMI for the life of the loan.

  • Must be owner occupied: You couldn’t turn your property into a rental — at least not until you pay off the mortgage — if you got a federally subsidized loan.

  • Condition requirements: If you’re buying a fixer-upper, a federal loan may not approve your purchase because of problems like lead-based paint that may be present in older homes. I’ve heard of home buyers having to get a house painted before the government would OK the loan. Not a deal breaker, but a potential hassle.

When you need help getting into a home, and you plan to live in the home, a federally backed loan program is a great benefit.

If you don’t need the help and you’d like more control over the process, go for a conventional loan first.

Finding the Right Mortgage Lender

Surveys consistently show about 75 percent of recent homebuyers have one thing in common: They applied for only one mortgage loan.


These same new homeowners probably wouldn’t have bought the first smartphone or the first pair of boots they came across in a store.


So why take the first mortgage that comes along?


I have a hunch the answer has something to do with how hard it is to apply for a mortgage. All the paperwork and the income documentation and the disclosure of personal financial records.


Who wants to do that over and over?


Why Does it Matter Who Loans the Money?

Here’s another reason people often apply for only one loan: They think the mortgage lender will sell their loan to another bank anyway.


And they’re right.


Many loans get kicked around between three or four banks before they’re paid off.

To me, though, this is a reason to get the most favorable terms you can find, which you can do by applying for several loans.


Why? Because while your lending institution may change as the years go by, the lending terms will remain the same: your interest rate, your term length, etc.

How to Shop Around for Lenders

Thankfully, the good ‘ole Internet makes comparing mortgages a lot easier. You can find details, get quotes, compare features, etc., without going to all the trouble of applying for the loan.


Many different kinds of financial institutions offer mortgages, so first things first: narrow down your choices.


  • Do you want to sit down and talk about your options? If so try a neighborhood bank.

  • Are you OK handling the transactions entirely online? An online-only bank or lender like Rocket Mortgage can offer great rates.

  • Do you plan to get a federally subsidized loan? Be sure you find a lender authorized to handle such a loan.

  • Do you want to deal with people you already know? Go to your primary bank.

  • Are you searching for the best rates at a neighborhood bank? You may find them by joining a local credit union.

When you know what kind of organization you’d like to deal with, compare three or four different organizations.


Some institutions may have special programs if you’re a first-time buyer, an investor, planning to make the property environmentally self-sustaining. Other places might have promotional rates or may be able to waive the loan origination fee.


Basically, treat your new mortgage with the same scrutiny you’d expend on new curtains or your next summer read.

Getting Pre-Approved for Your Mortgage

After you have found the right lender, it’s time to start the pre-approval process, assuming, of course, you’re ready to move into home ownership.


Some homebuyers skip this step and simply apply for a mortgage after finding the right house. I wouldn’t call that wrong or irresponsible, especially if you’ve bought homes before.

However, if you appreciate more certainty in life, a pre-approval from a mortgage lender will be right up your alley.


Once you’re pre-approved you’ll know how much money your lender will let you spend. You’ll have a much better idea about your monthly payments, too.

For many buyers this can be helpful knowledge as they tour homes and consider variables. For example, if you loved a particular home but it needed a new roof, knowing your pre-approved limit could help you negotiate with the seller.


It’s kind of like grocery shopping. When you know exactly how much money you can spend on food, you tend to make more informed shopping decisions.


Remember this while you’re shopping, though: Your pre-approval amount may exceed your actual budget. Just because your bank says you can finance up to $200,000 doesn’t mean you could afford the payments on a $200,000 loan.

May 24, 2019

Steps to Home Ownership #1 CREDIT

Rodney Campbell




Experiences vary for people in different situations, but the traditional path to getting a home loan begins with something like this:

Get your Credit in Shape

I’ve known a few first-time home buyers who found a great home in the perfect neighborhood. The schools were within walking distance and had great online reviews.

The neighbors were super nice and welcoming. They’d already been invited to the next block party.


Everything was lining up perfectly, until… they applied for a mortgage to finance the home and learned they couldn’t qualify for a loan because of their credit score.

Sometimes, even if you do qualify, a lover than ideal credit score can raise your interest rate, and as we’ll see later, a high-interest rate can place an otherwise affordable home out of your price range.


A solid credit history makes home buying easier, and it opens opportunities to save tens of thousands of dollars, and sometimes more, over the life of your loan.

Why Do Credit Scores Matter So Much?


If you were loaning someone $188,000, which is the median price of a home in the United States this year, wouldn’t you want to know whether he or she would pay you back?


Lenders feel the same way, and since they don’t know you personally, they have to rely on credit scores to determine your approach to personal finances.

The lower your credit score, the higher your risk of non-payment. Banks do not like taking chances on someone with a low credit score.


For someone with an average credit score, a lender may hedge its bets by increasing your interest rate.




  • What type of loan you qualify for: subsidized or private, for example. (We’ll get into this more below.)

  • How much of the home’s buying price you’ll be required to pay up front, usually measured as a percentage of the loan.

  • How much you’ll pay in interest

That last bullet point is a biggy: An interest rate of 4 percent on a $175,000 loan for 30 years means you’d pay a total of $300,000 if you paid the house off on schedule.

Increase that rate to 6 percent and you’re looking at $377,000 over the next 30 years if you pay on schedule, a difference of $77,000.

An extra $77,000 will add about $2,500 a year to your payment even though you borrowed the same amount.

How Can I Fix A Bad Credit History?

You’ll need patience and diligence to increase your credit score and pave the way for a more favorable mortgage loan in the future.


The good news?


It’s easier than ever to find your credit score and start working on improving it.

Apps like Credit Sesame and Credit Karma put your credit score at the tip of your finger, and they offer suggestions for improving your score.


Generally speaking, paying your bills on time and paying down excessive debt, especially credit card debt, puts you on the right track.


Steer your finances in the right direction, then be patient.


It can take months or sometimes years to start seeing your score increase.


Stay on top of it, though. Sometimes a credit reporting error can lower your score. When you’re paying attention, you can identify and fix these kinds of problems right away.

Preemptive Credit Watch


Because it takes a while to repair credit problems, and because your score impacts your mortgage so much, we’ve put “Getting Your Credit Score Under Control” first on this list of how to get a mortgage.

Even if you expect it’ll be a few years until you’re ready to buy a house, you can be super prepared by getting on the road to better credit right now.


With this approach, you’ll be in great shape, credit-wise, when it’s time to apply for that mortgage loan.


June 30, 2016

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Keep Austin Weird homes does not sell your information. If you register for the site, we might call or email you and say hi, and see if you'd like our help. If you ask for our help on Facebook, we will contact you back. We might call and invite you to a party or an event, because we're awesome like that. We're not going to ask you for money, there's no financial obligation for a consult. No lawyer has looked at this privacy policy, y'all!

Posted in Privacy Policy
Feb. 16, 2016

Austin Rental Market and Rates

With the number of people moving to Austin increasing daily - a recent Forbes article noted that our population growth of 2.5% last year was the highest of any area in the United States. In fact, city demographer Ryan Robinson reported last month that 110 people are moving to Austin each day.

Many of these new Austinites will decide to lease - not purchase - their residences upon arrival. Some because they are looking for work and don’t want to commit to a specific area of town, others because their incomes don’t yet align with a home purchase. Whatever the reason, the Austin rental market, like all aspects of the housing market, is very strong in 2014.  (For a map of what constitutes north vs south Austin and current price comparisons, see the map below)

At Keep Austin Weird Homes, we consult regularly with Austin residents who want to take advantage of the strong Austin rental market and purchase an investment property. Attached is a map we recently created for a client so she could familiarize herself with the general rental rates in different areas of Austin. The pre-printed markings (NW, 1N, 8E, etc) correspond to the areas in our Austin Board of Realtors’ system.


We pulled the stats for the properties that had leased in the last 90 days in each area and divided the properties into two types, using a different color ink to note each one: in red are houses, and in purple are condos/townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes. For each area we noted how many units had leased and what the average rental rate is running.

Based on this information, which covers from 12/20/14 - 3/20/14, you can see that the average rents vary a great deal, typically based on how central an area is to downtown. Two “sweet spots” in the Austin Rental Market we’d like to point out are RRW - or Round Rock West - and 10S - the area between S. Mopac and I35 from William Cannon to Slaughter Lane. Both of these areas have high volume of leasing activity, and strong prices as well, with homes leasing for $1,658 per month in RRW and $1,547 in 10S.

Obviously the data can be sliced and diced many different ways, so let us know if you would like to drill down farther on anything. We also offer complimentary consultations with potential investors to assess whether investing in real estate would be a match for your specific financial goals and situation.

To schedule your investor consultation, click here.

- by Rodney Campbell

Rodney Campbel is a member of the Austin Board of Realtors and  with over 35 years of sales experience He loves crunching numbers and helping people understand how to best take advantage of the statistics and trends in a particular neighborhood to build wealth through real estate. If you’d like a professional real estate consultation, click here to schedule an appointment or call 512-740-6486.





Feb. 16, 2016


Many buyers don’t realize that there are several programs available through the state of Texas that provide significant benefits for home buyers. Most people are familiar with the fact that veterans can purchase homes with no down payment. There are other professions that the Texas Homes for Heroes Program grants similar benefits to. If you meet any of the criteria outlined below, you will be able to purchase a home or refinance an existing mortgage and receive up to 5% from the state of Texas in the form of a non repayable grant that can be used for your down payment and closing costs. That’s right, in effect the Texas Homes for Heroes Program program allows you to purchase a home with no down payment and minimal closing costs.

                                        Homes For Heroes Logo

If you’d like more information about the Texas Homes for Heroes Program, or other ways to purchase a home with little or no down payment, please contact us at 512-740-6486 or email We are experienced in helping people navigate programs that make home affordable, and it would be our pleasure to work with you.


Allied Health Faculty Member - a full-time member of the faculty of an undergraduate or graduate allied health program of a public or private institution of higher education in the state of Texas.

Corrections Officer - all full-time employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) who receive hazardous duty pay. Must have a VOE through TDCJ. Call 800-367-5690 to verify.

Emergency Medical Services Personnel - has the meaning assigned by Section 773.003, Health and Safety Code. Emergency medical services personnel means full-time emergency care attendant, medical technicians intermediate or paramedic, or licensed paramedics.

Fire Fighter - a member of a fire department who performs a function listed in Section 419.021.(3)(c), Government Code. Permanent full-time fire department employees who are assigned duties as fire suppression, fire inspection, fire and arson investigation, marine firefighting, aircraft rescue and firefighting, fire training, fire education, and fire administration.

Juvenile Corrections Officer - all full-time employees of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) who receive hazardous duty pay. Must have a VOE through the TJDD. Call 512-490-7130 to verify.

Nursing Faculty Member - a full-time member of either an undergraduate or graduate professional nursing program.

Peace Officer - a person elected, employed, or appointed as a full-time peace officer under Article 2.12, Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 51.212 or 51.214, Education Code, or other law. Peace officers are licensed through Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE). Call 512-936-7700 to verify.

Professional Educator - means a full-time, public classroom teacher, teacher aide, school librarian, school nurse, or school counselor certified under Subchapter B, Chapter 21, Education Code.

Public Security Officer - a person employed or appointed full-time as an armed security officer by this state or a political subdivision of this state. Public security officers are license through TCLEOSE. Call 512-936-7700.

Veteran - a person who served no fewer than 90 cumulative days on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, or US Public Health Service OR who have enlisted or received an appointment in the National Guard or a reserve component of one of the branches listed above OR have completed 20 years in a reserve component as to be eligible for retirement. Must be a bona fide resident of Texas, and not dishonorably discharged. The unmarried, surviving spouse of a Texas veteran who is missing in action or who died in the line of duty or from a service-connected cause may be eligible to participate in the programs.

Rodney Canpbell


Posted in Austin Real Estate
Feb. 14, 2016

Birds of a feather? Now is your time to flock together!

Interested in raising poultry as part of your backyard food system?     Come join one of the many events celebrating raising and growing your food at the April 19th Coop Tour! See the line up on their website, which is also listed on the Austin and Central Texas Backyard Poultry Meetup


With the HUGE interest in raising poultry as part of a backyard food system, this is a great opportunity to see some yards with their twist on raising chickens!  Happy touring from Keep Austin Weird Homes.


- Submitted by Rodney Campbell

Posted in Austin News
Feb. 13, 2016

Austin Home Buying 101 - Your Loan Process

Austin Home Buying 101 - Your Loan Process

In order to have a successful experience buying your Austin home, it is critical to have your financing in place. Most people require a mortgage to purchase their home, and as we all know, lending criteria have become more stringent over the last few years. Here’s an overview of the loan process that we will navigate together to assist you in buying your Austin home.

1. Contact a mortgage professional. We recommend using a mortgage broker rather than going into your neighborhood bank branch because mortgage brokers can match your situation with a wide variety of loan programs, and banks are limited to the programs within their company. If you would like a referral to a reputable Austin area lender, please call Rodney 512.740.6486.

2. Loan Application. Most lenders will allow you to complete this over the phone, in person, or on their websites. You need some basic financial information such as your income and debt amounts.

3. Credit History. At this step, the lender will pull your credit and the credit of anyone else who is going to be on the loan, even if you have a copy of your current credit report. They will use the middle of the 3 credit bureau scores.

4. Collect Requested Items. Based on your loan application, the lender will request a list of items to verify the information. This can range from tax returns to proof of child support income. It is extremely important to get them whatever they ask for as quickly as you can.

5. Review the Loan Programs. Once the lender has verified all of your information, he or she can advise you on the different loan programs you qualify for, and help you make a great decision on which one to select. It’s important to let us know what you’ve chosen, since the terms of the loan program (such as the amount down, etc) will impact how we write the offer on the home you select.

6. Get a Pre-Approval Letter.Pre-Approved This shows that a loan officer has actually reviewed the necessary documentation, put your loan package through an automated underwriting engine, and you have been pre-approved.  This is what a seller expects to see with an offer in a competitive market like Austin’s.

7. Find a Home. This is the fun part!!!  

8. Write a Contract. Again, the team at Keep Austin Weird Homes will have you covered here.

9. Conduct a Home Inspection. We believe it is imperative to have a home inspection in almost every situation. A ballpark price for the Austin area is $450, and we have several extremely thorough inspector’s we can recommend.

10. Order the Appraisal. Once the home has been inspected and you are through your option period, the lender will order the appraisal. An average fee for the Austin area is about $500. Your lender will make these arrangements.

11. Order Title and Survey. Our office, along with the title company, will assist with these items to make sure the property is free of any liens or boundary issues before it transfers to you.

12. Lock Your Loan. Once you have found a property, your lender will contact you to discuss locking your loan. You can do this anytime after a contract has been executed, up to 10 days prior to closing. Once your loan is locked, your rates won’t go up, even if interest rates do in general.

13. Submit to Underwriting. The underwriter will review all the items that have been requested from you as well as the specifics of the property and your loan.

14. Loan Approval...with Conditions. After the underwriter reviews the file, it will either be approved or approved with Mort Loan Approvalconditions the underwriter would like to see more detail on. If any additional items are requested from you at this stage, it is critically important for you to provide them in a timely fashion.

 16. Documents Sent to Title / Closing Statement (HUD) Prepared. Now the loan documents can be prepared and sent to the title company for the final closing statement to be prepared. Once the closing statement is prepared it will be sent to your lender and Realtor for review.15. Clear Conditions. Once the underwriter has reviewed and removed any conditions that were preventing full loan approval, your file can be moved to the closing department.

17. Review Loan Details Prior to Closing. You should speak to your lender immediately before closing to make sure you know exactly what to expect when you go to the title company to sign your papers. You will want to confirm your interest rate, how much cash you need to bring to purchase your home, and any additional items you might need.

-By Rodney Campbell


Feb. 13, 2016

Multiple Offer Negotiations: Guidelines for the HOT Austin Market

Multiple Offer Negotiations: Guidelines for the HOT Austin Market

Perhaps no situation facing buyers and sellers in the hot Austin real estate market is more frustrating, or fraught with the potential for misunderstanding or missed opportunity, than presenting and negotiating multiple, competing offers to purchase the same property. Consider the following dynamics:

  • Sellers want to get the highest price and best terms for their property

  • Buyers want to buy at the lowest price and on the most favorable terms

  • Listing brokers - acting on behalf of sellers - represent sellers’ interests

  • Buyer representatives represent the interests of buyer clients.

Will a seller disclosing information about one buyer’s offer make a second buyer more likely to make a full price offer? Or will that second buyer decide to pursue a different property?

Will a seller telling several buyers that each is being given the chance to make their ‘best offer’ result in spirited competition for the property? Or will it result in the buyers looking elsewhere?

Knowledgeable buyers and sellers realize there are rarely simple answers to complex situations. But some fundamental principles can make negotiating multiple offers in the hot Austin real estate market a little simpler.

Sellers have several ways to deal with multiple offers.

  • A seller can accept the “best” offer

  • A seller can inform all potential purchasers that other offers are on the table and give them all the chance to strengthen their offers;

  • A seller can counter one offer while waiting to respond to the other offers

  • A seller can counter one offer and reject the others

While the listing broker can offer suggestions and advice, decisions about how the offers will be presented - and dealt with - are made by the seller, not by the listing broker.

Purchase offers are not generally confidential. In some cases, sellers may make other buyers aware that your offer is in hand, or even disclose details about your offer to another buyer in hopes of encouraging that buyer to make a “better” offer.

Buyers and sellers need to appreciate that in multiple offer situations only one offer will result in a sale, and the other buyers will often be disappointed that their offers were not accepted. While little can be done to prevent that disappointment, fair and honest treatment throughout the negotiation process, couple with prompt, ongoing and open communication, can enhance the chance that all buyers - successful or not - will feel they were treated fairly and honestly.

- by Rodney Campbell