Acronyms of Real Estate: What Homebuyers Need to Know

Real estate is a regular smorgasbord of acronyms – everything from APR to REO. Here’s a list of the ones you’re likely to run into and what they mean when you’re buying or selling a house:

Acronyms You’ll Hear Associated with Real Estate Professionals

Real estate agents, builders and most other realty-related professions have numerous professional designations, all designed to set them apart from those who haven’t taken advanced courses in their fields. These designations don’t mean that professionals without letters after their names are not as experienced or skilled, but rather only that they haven’t taken the time to further their educations.

Read: How to Build Your Real Estate Team

Let’s start with the letter “R,” which stands for Realtor. A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest trade group. NAR says it speaks for homeowners, and it usually does. But in that rare occasion when the interests of its members and owners don’t align, it sides with those who pay their dues.

Read: A Timeline of the History of Real Estate

NAR embraces a strict code of ethics. There are about 2 million active and licensed real estate agents nationwide, and 1.34 million can call themselves Realtors.

NAR members sometimes have the letters GRI or CRS after their names. The Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation signifies the successful completion of 90 hours of classroom instruction beyond the continuing education courses required by many states for agents to maintain their licenses. After the GRI, an agent may become a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) by advancing his or her education even further.

black family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discriminationblack family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discrimination

Builders can obtain the GBI – Graduate Builder Institute – designation by completing nine one-day classes sponsored by the educational arm of the National Association of Home Builders. Those who pass more advanced courses become Graduate Master Builders, or GMBs. Remodeling specialists with at least five years of experience can be Certified Graduate Remodelers, or CGRs. And, salespeople can be CSPs, or Certified New Home Sales Professionals.

In the mortgage profession, the Mortgage Bankers Association awards the Certified Mortgage Banker (CMB) and Accredited Residential Originator (ARO) designations, but only after completing a training program that may take up to five years to finish. To start the process, CMB and ARO candidates must have at least three years’ experience and be recommended by a senior officer in their companies.

Acronyms Associated with Mortgage Lending

When obtaining a mortgage, you will be quoted an interest rate; however, perhaps the more important rate is the annual percentage rate, or APR, which is the total cost of the loan per year over the loan’s term. It measures the interest rate plus other fees and charges.

An FRM is a fixed-rate mortgage, the terms of which never change. Conversely, an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) allows rates to increase or decrease at certain intervals over the life of the loan, depending on rates at the time of the adjustment.

Female client consulting with a agent in the officeFemale client consulting with a agent in the office

A conventional loan is one with an amount at or less than the conforming loan limit set by federal regulators on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two major suppliers of funds for home loans. These two quasi-government outfits replenish the coffers of main street lenders by buying their loans and packing them into securities for sale to investors worldwide.

Other key agencies you should be familiar with are the FHA and the VA. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures mortgages up to an amount which changes annually, as does the conforming loan ceiling. The Veterans Administration (VA) guarantees loans made to veterans and active duty servicemen and women.

LTV stands for loan-to-value. This important ratio measures what your are borrowing against the value of the home. Some lenders want as much as 20% down, meaning the LTV would be 80%. But in many cases, the LTV can be as great as 97%.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI), is a fee you’ll have to pay if you make less than a 20% down payment. PMI covers the lender should you default, but you have to pay the freight. Fortunately, you can cancel coverage once your LTV dips below 80%.

Your monthly payment likely will include more than just principal and interest. Many lenders also want borrowers to include one-twelfth of their property tax and insurance bills every month, as well. That way, lenders will have enough money on hand to pay these annual bills when they come due. Thus, the acronym PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance).

Real-estate owned (REO) properties are foreclosed upon by lenders when borrowers fail to make their payments. When you buy a foreclosure, you buy REO. Short sales are not REO because, while they are in danger of being repossessed, they are still owned by the borrower.

houses real estate market selling buyinghouses real estate market selling buying

Acronyms You’ll Hear During an Appraisal

There is no acronym for an appraisal, which is an opinion of value prepared by a certified or licensed appraiser (though sometimes other types of valuation methods are used in the buying and selling process).

A Certified Market Analysis (CMA) is prepared by a real estate agent or broker to help determine a home’s listing price. A Broker Price Opinion (BPO) is a more advanced estimate of the probable future selling price of a property, and an automated valuation model (AVM) is a software program that provides valuations based on mathematical modeling.

AVMs are currently used by some lenders and investors to confirm an appraiser’s valuation, but they are becoming increasingly popular as replacements of appraisals, especially in lower price ranges.

Other Terms to Know

If you hear the term MLS, you should know it stands for multiple listing service. An MLS is a database that allows real estate brokers to share data on properties for sale, making the buying and selling process more efficient. There are many benefits to both homebuyers and sellers utilizing an MLS, for more information on how to get your home available through an MLS, work with a real estate professional when selling.

Read: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About Multiple Listing Services

Did you know? Homes.com has some serious MLS partnerships, no joke! When you start your home search on Homes.com, you’ll see accurate property information quickly so you’ll never have to wonder if a home is actually available.

House tourHouse tour

However, not all properties for sale are listed on the MLS. A home may be a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO), if the owner is selling his or her property without an agent and bypassing an MLS listing. In addition, some agents fail to enter their listings in the MLS for days or weeks at a time in hopes of selling to a list of preferred clients.

Read: Advantages of Buying With or Without an Agent

Finally, you may find yourself buying into a homeowners association (HOA) when you purchase a house or condominium apartment. HOAs are legal governing bodies that establish requirements everyone must adhere to in order to keep the community it oversees running smoothly and ensure property values are maintained.


Lew Sichelman

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Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Source: homes.com

The REO Guide: 10 Steps to Buying a Bank-Owned Home

Many potential homebuyers and investors overlook bank-owned properties, but for buyers who take the time to understand the REO process, these homes can be a significant opportunity.

Some homebuyers are intimidated by foreclosed and bank-owned homes because they often require more renovations — and a different type of negotiation — than other options on the market. However, some REO properties come at a significant discount, and, if you’re willing to work through some of the nuances of the post-foreclosure market, you can set yourself up for a great deal.

What is a Real Estate Owned (REO) Property?

REO, which stands for “Real Estate Owned,” is a term applied to foreclosed properties whose ownership has transferred to the bank or lender.

In order to become an REO property, it must go through these general steps:

  1. Loan Default. The homeowner/borrower defaults on (fails to make) their mortgage payments for a certain length of time, with the qualifying amount usually specified in the mortgage terms.
  2. Foreclosure. The lender initiates legal proceedings against the borrower to foreclose on the property.
  3. Auction. The property is then offered to the public at a foreclosure auction and typically sold to the highest bidder. If the property sells to a third party at the auction, the bank or lender recoups some of the cost of the outstanding loan balance, interest and fees from the sale of the property.
  4. REO Status. If the home fails to sell at auction to a third party, possession typically passes to the lender and it becomes a Real Estate Owned (REO) property. The lender prepares to sell it, which may involve evicting occupants and removing outstanding liens attached to the property.

REO properties are attractive to homebuyers or real estate investors for several reasons. In many cases, lenders are motivated sellers who do not want to sit on their REO inventory, and (depending on the bank’s history with the property) these homes may be priced at a discount. However, other factors — like the home being sold “as is” — may affect the ultimate price, so it’s important to work through the process methodically to make sure you account for every variable.

10 Steps to Buying REO Properties

The process for buying an REO home is similar to the standard home buying process, but there are a few key exceptions to keep in mind. Whether you’re buying the home to live in or as an investment, these 10 steps should help set you up for success with bank-owned properties.

Step 1: Browse Available REO Properties

Before you get too far into the process, take a look at the properties available in your target market or price range. There are several ways for prospective homebuyers to browse available REO properties:

  • Bank and lender listings: Lender-specific listings, such as PennyMac REO listings, show all available bank-owned properties from a certain lender.
  • Multiple Listing Service: Lenders and Realtors® often use the Multiple Listing Service to list REO properties, making it easy to find options from multiple lenders in one place.
  • Real estate agent: A real estate agent will be able to find REO offerings from multiple lenders in your desired area.
  • Online services: Other online services, such as Zillow, offer tools to look up foreclosures by certain characteristics or in certain areas. Some of these tools are free to use, while others may charge a fee.

Step 2: Find a Lender and Discuss REO Financing

Once you’ve found a property you are interested in, talk to a lender about your financing options. This is particularly important because of the timing of the REO homebuying process; lenders are motivated to sell and want to get these homes off of their books, so the more prepared you are with financing, the better.

One thing that can speed up the REO homebuying process is getting pre-approved by the lender that owns the home. With this pre-approval, the lender that owns the REO property will know that you are financially qualified to purchase the property, making them more likely to accept your offer.

Step 3: Find a Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Who Knows REO Homes

A buyer’s agent is a great partner to have while you navigate the home buying process. Your buyer’s agent helps make sure you are finding the best properties at the best possible prices, and they will use their experience to guide you through every stage of the process. Your agent should also be able to tell you if you need to hire anyone else, such as an attorney or an inspection service, depending on your state and situation.

If you are specifically interested in REO properties, try to find a buyer’s agent who works with REO properties frequently. This way, your real estate agent knows the ins and outs of negotiating with a lender, how to calculate the cost of necessary repairs, how to work within the lender’s timeline and how to prepare you for what comes next.

Step 4: Refine Your List of Lender-Owned Properties

Once you are working with a buyer’s agent, you can start narrowing down your list of REO properties. Some major characteristics that should be taken into account include the following:

  • Listing price
  • Significant repairs needed (and the overall impact on price)
  • Location (and proximity to a school, workplace, or other desired area)
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Quality of neighborhood and surrounding areas
  • Community resources in the area, such as parks, gyms, places of worship, etc.
  • Lender-specific contingencies or requirements

Once you have taken your “must have” features into account, if you are left with multiple properties, refine your list based on “nice to have“ features like a large yard, a finished basement or an in-ground pool. Share your favorite homes with your agent, who can set up tours for properties at the top of your list.

Step 5: Get an Appraisal on Your Ideal Property

Some REO homes go for a great price, but buying a bank-owned home is not an automatic bargain. An REO property may be discounted based on an undesirable location or severe damage, or it can be overpriced based on comparable sales in the area or the lender’s desire to recoup the money spent. Either way, it’s a good idea to consider getting an appraisal so you know how the true value compares to the asking price.

An appraisal will help you get an objective estimated value, which you can compare to the bank’s asking price to see if the price is fair. During the appraisal, a licensed appraiser will take inventory of major systems (i.e., HVAC, plumbing), the structural integrity of the home, and check the prices of comparable homes in the area.

Note: An appraisal, which tries to estimate true home value, is different from a home inspection, which tries to take inventory of current and potential issues. An appraisal will help you decide whether or not the asking price is fair; an inspection will help you understand the repairs and renovations needed, which is critical for a bank-owned home.

Step 6: Make an Offer

Once you’ve found a property that is right for you, it’s time to make an offer.

Your agent will help you decide what kind of offer is likely to be accepted, put together the offer and submit it to the lender. Depending on the lender, you may need to submit special contract forms or paperwork. It is also common to attach an earnest money deposit check to your offer. This check (commonly 1-2% of the purchase price) is usually held in an escrow account until the purchase is finalized.

Make sure to consider the inspection process as you are making your offer. You may choose to make the offer contingent on inspection so you are protected if the inspection uncovers significant (and potentially dangerous) issues. If necessary repairs are well-documented, you can use that documentation to make your case for a low offer. Talk to your agent to understand your options when it comes to inspection contingencies.

Step 7: Have the Property Inspected

An inspection should be part of buying any home, but it is crucial for bank-owned homes. Real estate owned properties are typically sold “as is,” meaning the homebuyer is on the hook for any repairs — including major structural issues — that need to be fixed. An REO home may have been vacant for weeks or months, it may be neglected due to the homeowner’s financial trouble, or the previous owners may have removed items or damaged the property before vacating. Additionally, it’s possible that the property has gone through non-permitted renovations.

With that in mind, you need to be 100% sure you know what needs to be fixed before finalizing the loan. Having a home inspection done is the best way to take a thorough inventory of what repairs need to be made. The cost of these repairs should be added to the asking price so you have a better idea of what the home will cost you (and whether it’s still a good deal after repair costs are factored in).

In some cases, the lender may conduct an inspection when the home becomes bank-owned. If so, make sure you get a copy of the inspection report and review it thoroughly to decide if it is comprehensive enough to help make your decision.

Step 8: Negotiate Details

For better or worse, negotiating with a lender for a bank-owned home is different from negotiating with a homeowner.

On one hand, dealing with a bank instead of a homeowner means you don’t have to worry about emotional attachments to the home influencing the decision. You are also usually dealing with a very motivated lender who wants to get rid of the property (especially if it’s been on the market more than 30 days).

On the other hand, banks typically take longer to respond to an offer (or a question) than a homeowner because the offer must be reviewed by several individuals or companies. When the lender does respond, they will expect you to respond quickly to keep the process moving.

Working with a lender also means jumping through more corporate hoops. Banks are also more likely to present a counter offer because they must demonstrate they tried to get the best possible price for the property. In addition, the lender may ask you to sign a purchase addendum (which you should thoroughly review with your real estate agent or lawyer) and your final offer may be contingent on corporate approval.

Step 9: Finalize Your Loan

Now that you have submitted an offer, several things will be going on at once: the home inspection, negotiations with the bank, and the finalizing of your loan. During this time, you will be filling out paperwork and sharing information with your lender to ensure your loan is the right fit for the offer you have submitted.

Now is also the time to verify the status of the title. The bank typically clears the title before selling a bank-owned home but you can never assume this is the case. Contact the lender to see if the title has been cleared. If not, the lender may have a title company standing by to perform these services. If you are expected to do so yourself, hire a title company to run a full, insured title search before closing the deal.

Step 10: Closing

Once all of the paperwork is in place, you’ve wired in your down payment and your loan funds are in place, it’s time to close.

Closing on an REO property is similar to any other closing, with a few notable exceptions. If you’re unable to close by a predetermined closing date, the lender may charge a penalty for each day beyond the deadline. (You can try to avoid these delays by getting pre-approved for a loan and getting assurance that your financing will come through by a given date.)

At the closing, you and the lender representative will sign the documents necessary to transfer the house into your name and to finish your mortgage. After you’ve signed everything and the money goes to the right place, you’ll get the keys and a new title: homeowner.

Is an REO Home the Right Fit For You?

A bank-owned home can be a great opportunity for homebuyers or investors to find a good deal — but only if you’re willing to be patient and thorough. Dealing with a lender rather than an individual seller may mean slower response times and a more difficult negotiation, but it can lead to a potentially lower price from a motivated seller that has already handled outstanding taxes.

Browse PennyMac REO listings to see available bank-owned properties from PennyMac, or call a PennyMac Loan Officer to discuss your options today.

Source: pennymacusa.com

What’s the Difference Between 401(k) and 403(b) Retirement Plans?

Investing in your retirement early is the best way to ensure financial stability as you age, especially when it comes to understanding various retirement options. Getting started may feel overwhelming — luckily we’re here to help. We help break down the difference between 401(k) and 403(b) accounts, and how they can impact your financial life.

You may already know the value in adjusting your budget to make saving for a rainy day a priority. But are you also prioritizing your retirement savings? If you’re just getting started in the workforce and looking for ways to invest in yourself, 401(k) and 403(b) plans are great options to know about. And, the main difference between a 401(k) and a 403(b) is the company who’s offering them.

401(k) accounts are offered by for-profit companies and 403(b) accounts are offered by nonprofit, scientific, religious, research, or university companies. To understand the similarities and differences between plans in depth, skip to the sections below or keep reading for an in-depth explanation.

How a 401(k) Works
How a 403(b) Works
The Difference Between 401(k) and 403(b)
The Similarities Between 401(k) and 403(b)
5 Ways to Grow Your Retirement Savings
What is a 401(k) and 403(b)

How a 401(k) Works

A 401(k) is a retirement account set up by for-profit employers for employees to contribute before-tax earnings. Employer-sponsored 401(k) accounts give employees the opportunity to build retirement savings in different forms — including company stocks, before-tax earnings, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Each company’s retirement plans may vary on benefits like employee matching, stock options, and more. In addition, you’re able to choose how much you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis. Keep in mind, both 401(k) and 403(b) plans have a yearly limit of $19,500 with your employer matches. Plus, most retirement funds have required minimum distributions (RMDs) by the time you turn 70. This essentially means you have to take a minimum amount of money out each month whether you want to or not.

In most cases, employers will offer 401(k) matching to encourage consistent contributions. For example, your employer match may be 50 cents of every dollar you contribute up to six percent of your salary. For example, with this employer match on a $40,000 salary, you would contribute $200 and your employer would contribute an additional $100 each month. This pattern would continue until your annual contributions hit $2,400 and your employer contributes $1,200.

Employee matching is essentially free money. You’re monetarily rewarded for your retirement payments. Be sure to pay attention to vesting periods when setting up your employer match. Vesting periods are an agreed amount of time you need to work at a company before you receive your 401(k) benefits. For example, some companies may require you to work for their team for a year before earning retirement benefits. Other employers may offer retirement benefits starting the day you start working with them.

How a 403(b) Works

A 403(b) is a retirement account made by employers for tax-exempt, charitable nonprofit, scientific, religious, research, or university employees. Organizations that qualify for 403(b) accounts include school boards, public schools, churches, hospitals, and more. This type of account is also known as a tax-sheltered annuity plan — they allow pre-tax income to be invested until taken out.

Employers that offer 403(b) retirement plans may offer a pool of provider options that undergo nondiscrimination testing. This allows employers that qualify for this account to shop around for plans that offer the best benefits and don’t discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees (HCEs). For instance, some 403(b) accounts may charge more administrative fees than others.

Employers are able to offer employee matching on 403(b) accounts if they decide to. To cut costs for nonprofit companies, 403(b) retirement plans generally cost less than 401(k) accounts. Costs associated with starting up these accounts may not affect you, but it may affect your employer.

Account Type 401(k) 403(b)
Yearly Contribution Limit $19,500 $19,500
Employer-Issued Packages For-profit employers:
Corporations, private establishments, etc. and sole proprietors
Non-profit, scientific, religious, research, or university employers:
School boards, public schools, hospitals, etc.
Minimum Withdrawal Age 59.5 years old 59.5 years old
Early Withdrawal Fees 10% penalty, tax, and additional fees may vary 10% penalty, tax, and additional fees may vary
Source: IRS.org

The Differences Between 401(k) and 403(b)

Both a 401(k) and 403(b) are similar in the way they operate, but they do have a few differences. Here are the biggest contrasts to be aware of:

  • Eligibility: 401(k) retirement plans are issued by for-profit employers and the self employed, 403(b) retirement plans are for tax-exempt, non-profit, scientific, religious, research, or university employees. As well as Hospitals and Charities.
  • Investment options: 401(k)s offer more investment opportunities than 403(b)s. 401(k) accounts may include mutual funds, annuities, stocks, and bonds, while 403(b) accounts only offer annuities and mutual funds. Each employer varies in retirement benefits — reach out to a trusted financial advisor if you have questions about your account.
  • Employer expenses: 401(k) accounts are generally more expensive than 403(b) accounts. For-profit 401(k) accounts may pay sales charges, management fees, recordkeeping, and other additional expenses. 403(b) plans may have lower administrative costs to avoid adding a burden for non-profit establishments. These costs vary depending on the employer.
  • Nondiscrimination testing: This form of testing ensures that 403(b) retirement plans are not offered in favor of highly compensated employees (HCEs). However, 401(k) plans do not require this test.

The Similarities Between 401(k) and 403(b)

Aside from their differences, both accounts are set up to aid employees in retirement savings. Here’s how:

  • Contribution limits: Both accounts cap your annual contributions at $19,500. In the event you contribute over this limit, your earnings will be distributed back to you by April 15th. If you’re under your retirement contributions by the time you’re 50 years old, you’re allowed to make catch-up contributions. This means that, if you’re eligible, you can contribute $6,500 more than the yearly contribution limit.
  • Withdrawal eligibility: You must be at least 59.5 years old before withdrawing your retirement savings. In the case of an emergency, you may be eligible for early withdrawal. However, you may be charged penalties, taxes, and fees for doing so.
  • Employer matching: Both retirement account options allow employers to match your contributions, but are not required to. When starting your retirement fund, ask your HR representative about potential benefits and employer matching.
  • Early withdrawal penalties: If you choose to withdraw your retirement savings early, you may be penalized. In most cases, you need a valid reason to withdraw your funds early. Eligible reasons may include outstanding debt, bankruptcy, foreclosure, or medical bills. In addition, you may be charged a 10 percent penalty fee, taxes, and other fees. During a downturned economy, as we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, fees may be waived.

5 Ways to Grow Your Retirement Savings

5 Ways to Grow Your Retirement Savings

Contributing to a 401(k) or 403(b) can help grow your investments at a reduced risk. You’re able to grow your non-taxed income to put towards your future goals. The more you contribute, the more you may have by the time you retire. Here are a few tips to get ahead of the game and invest in your financial future.

1. Create a Retirement Account Early

It’s never too late to start a retirement account. If you’re currently employed, but haven’t set up your retirement account, reach out to your HR representative. Ask about retirement plan options and their benefits. When employers offer retirement matches, consider contributing as much as you can to meet their match.

2. Set up Monthly Automatic Contributions

Save time and energy by setting up automatic contributions. You may feel less interested in contributing to your retirement as your payday approaches. Taking time to set up a retirement fund and budgeting for this change may be holding you back. To meet your retirement goals, consider setting up automatic payments through your employer. After a while, you may not even notice the slight budget adjustment.

3. Leverage Employer Matching

Employer matching is essentially free money. Employers may put money towards your future for nothing but your own contribution. This encourages employees to consistently put money towards their retirement savings. Not only are you able to earn extra money each month, but this “free money” will grow with interest over time. If you can, match your employer’s contribution percentage, if not more.

4. Avoid Early Withdrawal

Credit card balances, student loans, and mortgages can be stressful. Instead of withdrawing early from your retirement fund to pay for these, consider other debt payoff methods. If you’re eligible to withdraw from your retirement early, you may face penalty fees, taxes, and administrative expenses. This may hinder your savings potential or push back your desired retirement date.

5. Contribute Your Future Raises and Bonuses

If you’re saving less than $19,500 to your retirement fund this year, consider contributing more. If you earn a bonus or a raise, stick to your current budget and consider increasing your contributions. Ask your employer to increase your retirement payments right before you receive a bonus or raise. The more you contribute, the more interest you’ll accrue over time.

Whether your retirement funds are established through a 401(k) or a 403(b), these accounts offer you the chance to build your financial portfolio. Consistently funding your retirement account may better your financial plan and set you at ease. As your contributions age, so do your interest earnings. You’ll be able to make money on your pre-taxed income and set your future self up for success. Get started by checking in on your budget and carving out a specific amount to put towards your retirement each month.

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Source: mint.intuit.com