True North Title Services is hosting a complimentary CLE seminar on Tuesday May 16th at the Hanover Manor in East Hanover from 4pm to 7pm. The seminar "Real Property Potpourri: Easements, Tidelands, Surveys & Litigation" will be presented by Joe Grabas, CTP, NTP of The Grabas Institute. Please join us for an evening of exciting education, meet our staff, and dinner is included too! Contact email@example.com if you would like to attend.
On Saturday April 29, 2017, True North Title Services was an exhibitor at the Homebuyers Expo held at the County College of Morris. The event was organized by the Housing Partnership and drew a large attendance of over 200 potential home buyers! True North Title was proud to be part of such an exciting event and looks forward to exhibiting again in 2018!
How to Prepare to Buy a Home: First, Use This Checklist
By Cathie Ericson | Apr 7, 2017
As everyone knows, a house is not an impulse purchase; you can't just waltz in and declare "I'll take it!" Long before you get to making that offer (on paper, through your real estate agent)—and even before going to your first open house—there are a ton of things to do and to prepare. Overwhelmed? Here's a checklist of everything you need to do to get ready to buy a home.
Check your credit score
Do not pass "Go," do not start browsing homes until you have checked your credit score. This is the number that mortgage lenders will look at to determine whether you are "creditworthy," and thus dictates the rates you will get. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate—and that's what you're going for. Get a free copy of yours at AnnualCreditReport.com to see where you stand.
Clean up any credit blemishes you can
Any surprises on that report? Credit errors are more common than you might think, so contact the credit bureau to correct any erroneous information. Got credit that's less than stellar? Check out these (totally legit!) tricks to boost your score fast and nab great rates.
Next, make sure you are clear on how much home you can afford. Check out our calculator that lets you determine your monthly mortgage payment, adjusting for variables such as the size of your down payment, your mortgage type, and current interest rates. You can also get an official estimate by following our next tip...
Shop for a mortgage lender
"A prospective home buyer should make one of their earliest stops with a mortgage originator to see if they can qualify for a mortgage and confirm how much of a mortgage they can afford," says Realtor® Steve Ujvagi with Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Partners. Different mortgage shops offer a wide variety of rates and programs, so shop around to find the best rate and mortgage option for you.
Secure mortgage pre-approval
Once you've found the mortgage that's right for you, you'll want to show sellers that you have what it takes to buy their home. In hot markets, a pre-approval is almost required for a seller to take your offer seriously. That's because it spells out exactly how much a lender has agreed to loan you, thus assuring the seller that you're both willing and able.
Save up for a down payment
Find homes for sale on
To get the best rates, you'll need to make at least a 20% down payment on a home. With the current median home price of $306,700, that comes to $61,340. That's a lot of money! Check out these smart ideas to help you save for a down payment. But if that amount is out of reach, don't worry—most people put down less.
Once you're ramping up to buy a home, it's wise to not make any—we repeat, any—major changes in your life or, most important, your finances.
"Do not switch jobs. Do not buy a new car. Do not even buy furniture or apply for a new credit card, which could affect your credit," says Ujvagi. "Just a credit pull alone from a car dealership or a furniture store is enough to affect your credit score and could cause you to lose your dream home."
Find a real estate agent
There's no reason to go it alone—having an agent helping you can make the whole process much easier.
"In times like these, with a limited number of homes on the market, a buyer needs a great Realtor to make sure they find their dream home," says Ujvagi.
Referrals are often a good place to start; check with family and friends, or find out the go-to gal or guy in your preferred neighborhood.
Make a wish list
Of course, this list may be a very long one, but you need to be realistic about what elements are truly "wishes" and which ones are nonnegotiable—such as number of bedrooms, a fenced yard for a pet, a specific school district, walking distance to the bus stop, etc. Sometimes it's helpful to divide your list into three categories: Those nonnegotiable elements, followed by items that would be nice to have (e.g., a bonus room or home office) and your dream features (e.g., in-ground swimming pool).
Browse listings online
If we do say so ourselves, realtor.com® is a great place to start to figure out what properties are available in your area in your price range. Search by price, number of bedrooms, location, and other variables to start narrowing down your options.
Visit open houses
Poring over online listings is one thing; seeing the properties in person is quite another. Take advantage of open houses as a low-stress way to visit several homes in one day. Map your strategy in advance, and while you're in each home, take photos and notes so they don't all run together in your mind. (Now, which one had the in-room fireplace again?)
Check out the hood
You've undoubtedly heard the adage "location, location, location." What that essentially means is that you're not just buying the property you're looking at; you're also buying into the whole neighborhood. That's why you have to be certain that it has the vibe you want. Savvy home buyers know that the best way to find out more about the neighborhood is to meet the neighbors and then visit at various times of the day and night to see what it's really like.
Cathie Ericson is a journalist who writes about real estate, finance, and health. She lives in Portland, OR. Follow @CathieEricson
Interest rates: What you need to know
Russell Price, Senior Economist, Ameriprise Financial
The Federal Reserve appears headed for multiple interest rate hikes this year
Investors often exercise caution during periods of rising interest rates
The Fed's actions reflect a strong economy
The Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise its ultra-short (overnight) interest rate target two more times in 2017, by +0.25% each time. If this projection holds true, it would leave the Fed's overnight lending rate at a mid-point of 1.375% by year-end, versus its 2016 year-end rate of 0.625%. Think of this as the interest rate banks charge when lending funds to other banks; but, more importantly, it greatly influences the broader interest rate environment.
If you are an income-oriented investor, the prospect of higher interest rates may be music to your ears. The benefits to savers, however, often lag the Fed's interest rate hikes. Banks need to make sure they can pass along higher rates to prospective borrowers before they can offer higher yields on savings and other interest-bearing accounts.
Higher rates could rattle equity markets
Of course, higher borrowing costs can be a headwind for economic growth, and it's not uncommon for financial markets to see heightened volatility as the Fed raises rates. The very cautious attitude Fed officials have taken toward interest rates in the current recovery, however, should temper fears of rates rising too soon or too fast, in our view.
We also note that many consumer and corporate borrowing costs have already moved higher, partially in anticipation of Federal Reserve action. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which is the basis for many consumer borrowing costs – particularly mortgages, ended the month of March at 2.40%, as compared to 1.78% a year earlier.
A signal of economic strength
Investors may worry about the impact of higher interest rates on the economy and corporate profits, but higher rates themselves are a consequence of strong economic conditions. Recently, inflation measures have been rising as demand improves and the labor market continues to tighten.
With a dual mandate from Congress, the responsibilities of the Federal Reserve require it to seek full employment in the labor market within the context of stable prices. Maintaining a balance between these objectives is certainly difficult, but if a balance is achieved, it could enable a sound and prolonged period of economic expansion.
Over the last few months stock prices have registered solid gains based on signs of:
Improved economic momentum
Stronger corporate profit trends
Optimistic predictions for lower taxes and higher infrastructure spending tied to the federal government
At the time of this writing, the outlook for fiscal policy remains uncertain, but we believe economic improvements are sustainable – even if interest rates edge higher.
The time is right
We believe the time is right for the Federal Reserve to continue raising interest rates at a moderate pace. The labor market is finally close to full health, and there have been signs that inflation is beginning to percolate.
We note that interest rates are still exceptionally low by historical standards, and rate hikes are likely to come at a slow and economically manageable pace in the quarters ahead.
Nevertheless, turning points in Federal Reserve interest rate policy should be a fundamental consideration for long-term investment portfolios. Although we are optimistic regarding the economy's ability to tolerate higher rates, this policy change has many implications.
We recommend discussing these potential changes with your financial advisor to make sure your portfolio is properly positioned for an environment with modestly higher interest rates.
CHANGES TO THE NJ RECORDING ACT EFFECTIVE 5/1/2017
You will recall that the NJ Recording Act was revised back in May of 2012. As part of that revision, the law implemented an optional cover sheet for all documents to be submitted for recordation (NJSA 46:26A-5(b)). If a document is not accompanied by such a cover sheet, the county shall charge an additional $20.00 for indexing of the document (NJSA 46:26A-5(c)). The law contained a 5 year "phase in" period during which the use of cover sheets or the payment of the additional fee was discretionary. That 5 year period expires next month – May of 2017.
The cover sheet being used in each county is required by law to be posted on that county's website. While the law specifies exactly what information must be included on the Cover Sheet, the format may vary by county. Thus, it should not be assumed that a Cover Sheet which applies in one county may be used in another.
If an office chooses not to use a cover sheet, they must add $20.00 to the recording fee for the additional indexing charge for each document to be recorded. If your office chooses this option, we suggest that the party paying the recording fee be specifically notified of the additional charge.
Offices using e-recording should not need to change their practices as the cover sheet/electronic synopsis should already be a part of the e-recording product.