UC Riverside Tops Time Magazine List

UCR: Time magazine puts campus at top

UCR Primary-Athletics-Logo1

With graduation rates, affordability and access equally weighted, UC Riverside is the top university in the country.

At least, it comes out that way in a new ranking by Time magazine.

Time used an algorithm based on data pulled from the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Schools were evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Six-year graduation rate;
  • Percentage of full-time, first-time undergraduates receiving Pell grants; and
  • Net cost for students receiving aid, and whose families’ annual incomes were below $110,000.

The White House announced the rating system last year, aiming to create a simple way to evaluate schools and the value they offer their students.

Criteria for those assessments include tuition cost, graduation rate and the percentage of students who receive federally funded scholarships for lower-income students.

Time wondered how such a plan might work, so they collected information for 2,500 college and universities and ranked them according to the Obama administration’s method.

The online article allows readers to change the importance of each metric — and the schools rankings change accordingly.

“We’ve left it to you to adjust how important each of those metrics should be,” the Time story said, urging readers to “adjust the sliders, and watch the schools reshuffle” in the rankings.

Before readers’ own adjustments, with each criteria weighed equally, UCR topped the list, followed by UC San Diego, City University of New York/Bernard M. Baruch College, UC Irvine and CUNY Brooklyn. Cal State San Bernardino ranked 30th.

UCR spokeswoman Kris Lovekin said officials at the campus were pleasantly surprised, including her.

“It was beyond even my high expectations for this campus,” Lovekin said. “Hard work by the faculty accounts for that.”

While UCR has struggled to increase its graduation rate, Lovekin said that when the disproportionate number of low-income and first-generation college goers is factored in, the school is doing better than average.

“We’re beating the odds,” she said.

And topping at least one list.

10 Reasons Being a Homeowner Wins

rent-vs-buy

From AOL Real Estate 4/21/14

Homebuying has earned a bad rap in recent years: The subprime mortgage crisis and ensuing economic meltdown left many homeowners underwater, unable to pay their mortgage and even facing foreclosure. Homeownership rates fell throughout the recession and got down to about 65 percent, compared with almost 70 percent before the recession, according to the Census Bureau. While record low interest rates helped entice homebuyers, the bureau reports that the homeownership rate remains relatively low, at 65.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.

If you’re among those struggling to decide whether to buy versus rent, consider these 10 reasons to take the plunge into homeownership:

1. You can ramp up energy efficiency. Energy-efficient improvements, from adding insulation to upgrading your air-conditioning unit, can reduce your monthly utility bill, says Jane Hodges, author of the book “Rent vs. Own.” While renters can make plenty of green improvements on their own, from unplugging appliances to turning off lights, homeowners can make bigger changes, such as “Lock in a low monthly payment, and you’ve just taken a huge step in protecting your family against inflation.” adding solar panels or installing an energy-efficient roof. (Of course, a renter living in a one-bedroom apartment likely uses far less energy than a homeowner in a three-bedroom house, so size can trump energy improvements.)

~There are also programs available through the city and state to help minimize the costs, or the HERO loan program which helps you to make those kinds of energy efficient upgrades~

2. You can customize your space. Whether you need to knock down a wall to make a larger master bedroom or redo the bathroom to reflect your art deco tastes, owning the space you live in means you have the freedom to do so, without worrying about losing your security deposit.

~I for one love color on my walls, they aren’t crazy neon colors, but I would not be content to live with just white as an option~

3. Homeowners buy less furniture. “Often when you’re renting you need custom furniture that fits the space,” Hodges says, such as room dividers for a loft or miniature furniture to fit into a basement apartment. “When people move a lot, they can end up buying a lot of furniture,” she says. If you buy a home and settle in for the long haul, you can likely purchase a few pieces that will stick around.

4. Owning a home forces you to save. The so-called “forced savings” argument is a widely-held one: Since homeowners have to pay their mortgage every month, they are routinely putting money away (and into their house, which they own), instead of squandering it on new shoes or fancy meals. Then, if you eventually sell your home after the mortgage is paid off, there’s a good chance that “you’ll walk away with a payoff,” even after subtracting the costs of ownership, Hodges says. (Of course, homeowners who face foreclosure or declining home values often find themselves without such equity to show for their monthly mortgage payments.)

5. Homeownership allows you to build a second income stream. From taking in a renter in a spare bedroom to renting out driveway space to commuters, Hodges says homeowners are increasingly finding ways to monetize their homes. In cities with scant green space, some homeowners even rent out small patches of grass for people who want to grow vegetables.

6. No landlord can kick you out. Renters can face an unexpected eviction notice if their landlord suddenly decides to sell the home, rent to someone else or otherwise end the lease. That’s one reason Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff says that for older people with a fixed income in particular, he recommends homeownership (and a paid-off mortgage). “It’s important for older people to be in a home that they own as security against a landlord,” he says.

~This is unfortunately something a couple of my have experienced. They weren’t completely caught unawares I was able to research the situation and they were able to move without being forced by an outside source~

7. In fact, you don’t have to speak to a landlord, ever again. Landlords can take ages to fix a broken dishwasher, let the air vents fill with dust and particles, or leave pesky messages about repairs. If you’re the homeowner, then you’re in charge – which means you have to be home when the plumber calls, but the plumber reports to you. (And, of course, you also have to pay the plumber.)

8. Unlike rent, a fixed mortgage can’t go up (even if inflation does). Fixed mortgage rates don’t go up, even if the cost of everything else does. To protect yourself, Jack Otter, author of “Worth It … Not Worth It?” suggests making a 20 percent down payment and taking out a 30-year fixed mortgage to lock in today’s low interest rates. “Mortgage rates haven’t been this low since GIs were heading home from France. Lock in a low monthly payment, and you’ve just taken a huge step in protecting your family against inflation,” he writes in his book.

9. Homeowners can take tax deductions. The chief tax benefit of homeownership is the ability to deduct mortgage interest payments, but the perks don’t stop there. Homeowners can also deduct eligible expenses (certain energy-efficient improvements, for example) and in some cases can avoid federal taxes on earnings from the sale of a home.

10. You can take advantage of currently low interest rates and prices. Despite creeping back up, interest rates remain relatively low from a historical perspective, and at the same time, home prices in many areas remain soft. That can make for an appealing buyer’s market. Of course, buying isn’t for everyone. If you might move soon or you want the flexibility to upgrade your digs with just a month’s notice or your job outlook is uncertain, then renting can be ideal. Hodges says potential buyers should first consider the transaction costs of homeownership, which can add up quickly, especially if a buyer doesn’t plan to stay put for very long.

“During the bubble, people were looking at homes as a tool to make money,” Hodges says. Now, they just see them as a place to live.

Is a 20-year mortgage right for you?

From Yahoo Homes 4/25/14

Does a 30-year mortgage seem excruciatingly long? Well, it does for many homeowners, but luckily, it’s not your only option. Whether you’re looking to purchase or refinance your home, you could reap huge savings by going for the under-the-radar 20-year mortgage.

It’s not as popular as the 30-year mortgage, which offers the lowest monthly payment, says Jered Helton, vice president of the Oregon Mortgage Bankers Association. Nor is it as popular as the 15-year mortgage, which draws homeowners who want to aggressively pay down their debt.

But while it’s not as common, the 20-year mortgage does have its own advantages. So, how do you know whether a 20-year loan is the best option for you? Keep reading to find out the important factors to consider regarding this rare but potentially beneficial mortgage.

The Interest Rate
Although 20-year mortgages are considered a rare breed, industry experts say homeowners are attracted to them due to their interest rates, which typically are lower than those attached to 30-year loans.

How much lower? The interest rate on a 20-year fixed-rate mortgage is typically about .25 percent lower than its 30-year counterpart, says Helton.

That may not sound like it’d make much difference, but this example proves otherwise: A homeowner who takes out a 20-year fixed mortgage for $300,000 at a rate of 4 percent will save nearly $95,000 in interest over the life of the loan, compared to a 30-year fixed mortgage at a rate of 4.25 percent.

The Monthly Payments
If you’re looking to refinance, you might wonder, “Why not go for the 15-year mortgage since it has a lower interest rate?” It’s true, the drop in the interest rate going from a 30-year to a 15-year loan typically is around .75 to 1 percent, says Helton, which could offer huge savings when compared to a 20-year loan.

But “the advantage of a 20-year loan over a 15-year is that the payment is lower,” says Nelson Otero, president of the Southern Los Angeles chapter of the California Association of Mortgage Professionals.

To illustrate this point, Helton brings up this example: “On a $200,000 loan, the difference between a 20- and 15-year loan would be about $190 a month. For most people, that would impact their housing budget, and they might not be able to pay that extra $190.”

For people who might find it difficult making higher monthly payments with a 15-year refinance, opting for a 20-year loan is an affordable solution to paying off your mortgage faster than a 30-year loan, adds Otero.

Veronica Ondrejech, president of the Central Coast chapter of the California Association of Mortgage Professionals, agrees. She says homeowners could discover that refinancing to a 20-year mortgage can help them reach their financial goals in a full decade less than traditional 30-year home loans.

“If they can pay that extra $300 a month for a lower interest rate in the 3’s, that could sway them to refinance and pay off a loan in 20 years instead of 30,” Ondrejech says.

At the end of the day, of course, deciding between a 15-, 20-, or 30-year term will come down to what you can comfortably afford on a monthly basis.

“Make sure it fits your longtime goal,” Helton says. “Ask about a 20-year loan option, and if the payment is right for you with current and future expenses, then it’s the right term for you.”

The Right Candidate for a 20-Year Loan
So what kind of borrower typically refinances to a 20-year mortgage? According to Helton, you may be a good candidate for a 20-year loan if you can still keep your monthly payments close to the same amount as on your 30-year mortgage.

Thanks to interest rates falling to record-setting lows the past couple of years, Brenda Miller turned out to be one such candidate.  A 47-year-old marketing specialist, Miller shortened her 30-year mortgage to a 20-year fixed rate mortgage in 2012 to help achieve an important personal and financial goal: Owning her home by retirement age.

Miller purchased her condo in 2001 with a loan for $126,000, which included closing costs, near San Pedro, a port area of Los Angeles.

“Although it was not my preferred location, it was a wonderful gated complex with running streams, waterfalls, and lots of wildlife,” Miller says. “And it was in my budget.”

Miller was always smart about what she could and couldn’t afford, which is why it took her so long to consider a 20-year loan. She already refinanced twice before (in 2004 and 2008), both times to a new 30-year term. During her second refinance, she took out $50,000 for home improvements.

Then, in 2012, when mortgage rates hit historic lows, Miller discovered she could shorten her loan term to 20 years with an interest rate at 3.65 percent. With such a low interest rate, Miller knew she could refinance to a shorter-term and still stay within her budget.

“I am keenly aware of my budget and what I can afford,” Miller says proudly. “Since I purchased my condo, I have always paid between $900 and $950 a month, never more than that.”

Miller’s advice to other people considering a 20-year mortgage would be to make sure they know whether loan terms meet their specific financial needs.

“However, the most important thing someone can do is to create their own family budget, including everything that is important to them,” Miller says. “If cable television, weekly manicures, gym memberships, or dining out are important, make sure they’re included in the budget.”

Travelers Pick Top US Destinations for Vacation

From CNN.com 4/8/14

In the United States, the South makes a strong showing in 2014, with Austin, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; and Nashville, Tennessee, breaking into the top 25 this year.

Here are the top cities from the Travelers’ Choice U.S. list (see the top global destinations in the gallery):

1. New York, New York
2. Chicago, Illinois
3. San Francisco, California
4. Las Vegas, Nevada
5. New Orleans, Louisiana
6. Los Angeles, California
7. San Diego, California
8. Seattle, Washington
9. Washington, D.C.
10. Orlando, Florida
11. Honolulu, Hawaii
12. Houston, Texas
13. Charleston, South Carolina
14. Boston, Massachusetts
15. Portland, Oregon
16. San Antonio, Texas
17. Palm Springs, California
18. Austin, Texas
19. Branson, Missouri
20. Atlanta, Georgia
21. Phoenix, Arizona
22. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
23. Saint Louis, Missouri
24. Nashville, Tennessee
25. Miami Beach, Florida

Lucky for us we live with in an hour or two from these gems in CA. Plus we are only about a day’s drive from 7 others!

 

Is Your Commute a Mortgage Killer?

From Daily Real Estate News 4/23/14

Most home buyers know they’ll pay for desirable locations, whether it’s conveniently near their workplace or pleasantly distant from it. But a recent look at commuting costs by Credit.com reminds buyers to put the figures into stark black and white, even if the lender doesn’t require it.

Many lenders, according to Credit.com’s survey, examine commuting costs only if the commute is especially long. These “megacommutes” of at least 90 minutes and 50 miles are faced by some 600,000 full-time workers, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

A lender looking at these figures would take the 10 miles each way above the allowed 50 and assign a dollar value. A figure of $10 per day would result in extra commuting costs of $216 per month, which Credit.com says may be large enough to affect a buyer’s debt-to-income ratio. “Commuting costs could also shrink residual income, another important financial metric for VA and, soon, some FHA borrowers,” according to the article. This could force buyers with less-than-ideal credit to accept a lesser loan amount.

While most situations won’t put buyers into a make-or-break position, it’s still important to know the figures, according to writer Chris Birk. “Any new costs that could impact your monthly mortgage payment are worth a closer look,” he concludes.

VA Frequently Asked Questions and Tips For Home Buyers

From Free Resources for CA Real Estate Agents November 2013

There are over 2.3 million veterans now living in California alone, with a large percentage of these based in San Diego, so VA financing plays a huge role in the CA housing market. I believe VA financing is the best purchase product available in the market today, as the VA makes it easy for their members to purchase a home with 100% financing and No monthly mortgage insurance. This list of VA frequently asked questions and VA tips will help you understand the in-and-outs of how the VA mortgage program works. I also included 4 tips below too that you can use to help get your VA offer accepted.

VA Loan Frequently Asked Questions

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Who is eligible for VA financing?

A veteran is eligible for VA financing if he/she served on active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard and was honorably discharged after 24 continuous months of active duty, or the full period for which called, or ordered to active duty, but not less than 90 days (during wartime) or 181 continuous days (during peacetime).

Can VA Buyers Purchase With $0 Down?

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Yes, VA buyers can get 100% financing here in San Diego to $500k? VA financing is still the only loan program that allows 100% financing in any area (FYI the USDA allows 100% financing, but this is strictly for rural properties).

As the FHA still requires a 3.5% down payment, and most conventional loan programs require down payments anywhere from 5% to 20% depending on the credit profile of the buyer, this is still putting home ownership out of reach for many buyers.

What is the Minimum Credit Score to Qualify For VA Financing?

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Most VA lenders only need a 620 credit score to offer 100% VA financing. There are at least  2 VA lenders that will offer 100% financing with a 580 credit score. Also some VA lenders allow a buyer to qualify up to a 57% debt to income (DTI) ratio on VA loans, Fannie Mae is now capped at 45% in most cases.

Most banks have easier qualifying and credit guidelines for VA buyers. Because many first time buyers typically don’t have a lot of established credit, getting qualified for a conventional loan can be more difficult.

Do VA Buyers Pay Any Monthly Mortgage Insurance?

Another huge advantage for VA buyers is that they do not have to pay any monthly mortgage insurance (MI) on their loans, as VA loans are backed by the government. Remember all FHA loans require mortgage insurance. So having no monthly mortgage insurance allows VA buyers to have a lower monthly mortgage payment or purchase a bigger home.

What is the Maximum VA Loan I can Qualify For?

The VA offers financing based on county loan limits. For example, the VA offers 100% financing up to $527,500 for buyers in San Diego, and $668,750 for LA county and Orange County, and $417k for Riverside county.

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*To borrow over the county loan limit, (which would be > purchase price of $527,500 in San Diego), there is a formula the VA uses to calculate what a VA buyers down payment requirement is.

How Are VA interest Rates Compared to Other Loan Programs?

VA mortgage rates are usually the lowest in the industry. For example, as of April 2014, we can get a buyer 3.875% with no points on 100% financing up to $417k (which is the VA conventional loan limit), or a rate of 4.25% comes with a lender credit that will cover ALL of a buyers closing costs. *Many Lenders Offer Assistance with the buyers closing costs.

Because the VA insures the loans for their members, they are able to offer lower rates to buyers. They are usually between .25%-.375% lower than conventional rates.

What is the VA Waiting Period after a Foreclosure, Short sale or Bankruptcy?

Short Sale: It is only 2 years before a buyer can repurchase again using VA financing.

Foreclosure: It is only 2 years before a buyer can repurchase again using VA financing.

Bankruptcy: For a chapter 7 Bankruptcy it is 2 years and 1 year for a chapter 13, before a buyer can repurchase again using VA financing.

Can I Buy an Investment Property With VA?

No, you can only purchase a primary residence using VA financing, no second or vacation homes either. But if you already own a home with VA financing on it, you can qualify again to purchase a new home with a VA loan.

I Support Our Troops, Let Me Help You Buy A Home

Because of the large number of veterans that are living in California, helping VA buyers plays an important role in the local housing markets.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Make These Seller Mistakes

From Trulia.com 4/24/14

Here are five potholes you, literally, can’t afford to stumble into this spring:

1. Demand “Dumbification”
It’s bad when a client can’t see beyond their emotional attachment to a home. It’s even worse when sellers ignore the facts about what’s making today’s buyer’s fall in love. ~Don’t forget that even though this is a sellers’ market right now that your home still needs to be in it’s best condition and that just placing a sign on the home does not mean that you are going to get top dollar~

According to a recent National Association of Home Builders survey, the top features that will help your home compete with new listings that are hitting the market are:

Walk-in Master closets
Energy efficient windows and appliances
Laundry room and
“Great” rooms that are multi-purpose for the family
Instead of highlighting key features like these, many time sellers just want you to focus on emphasizing the features that mean the most to them.

~Remember that I keep on top of the market and can advise you the areas that will help your house shine the most~

2. Over-meditation
Spring buzz means busy buyers who are looking to make a move fast. Long before an offer, buyers deliberate on which home is their best choice. And, while your listing may be option one; there’ s always an option two, three, and four who are ready to close now.

Prior to listing with me we will sit down and discuss important questions like these to prepare for likely scenarios:

What is your ideal sale price?
What is the lowest price you’re willing to accept?
What repairs, improvements, or concessions are you willing to make?
What other important factors, like closing date, are high priority for the transaction?
Knowing and documenting these answers up front can save a lot of time during negotiation. Ensure your sellers don’t end up with withdrawn offers over something as simple as a slow or an unreasonable response. In this market, the best way to negotiate is to think ahead.

3. Hidden Gems
After living in a house for 20, or even three, years sellers can forget some of the most important reasons they love to call the place home. These missed selling points can make a real difference in moving a home in days verses months. To jog the your memory and make sure you have a full list of selling points to share on the MLS, social media, and everywhere else you advertise,

4. Un-staging
We led off this year with a 25 percent surge in visits to real estate websites across the nation according to a recent Inman News article. That makes every piece of online listing content even more valuable and important.

Online shoppers want to see themselves in a home; and let’s face it, imagination is easier when someone else does the work.

Also we will:

Visit well-staged homes,
Clicking through photos of other blank rooms online, or
Show you past staging talents with in my portfolio.
~A few small tweaks can make a world of difference when trying to get buyers to see the potential in a home~

5. The Sure Shot Mindset
Yes, spring is typically a hot season when it comes to home sales. However, this year hasn’t shown to be the magic turnaround some were hoping.

According to Trulia’s Chief Economist, Jed Kolko, “Spring home buyers might be surprised that national housing data have pointed to a recent market slowdown…nationally new construction starts and existing home sales have been sluggish.”

In fact, the National Association of Realtor’s March Home Sales Report showed existing home sales were almost flat from February to March.

The sure-shot mindset that a home is “guaranteed to sell” this spring is probably the most dangerous of the potholes. The truth is, a home sale isn’t a guarantee until buyers have closed and have the keys. That means you need to be prepared to compete in every way possible including making renovations, being flexible with showing times, and doing whatever else you advise to move their home into a new buyer’s hands.