Retirement In Connecticut

Retirement in Connecticut is often seen as an expensive choice for many.  With high tax burdens, including taxable pension income, coupled with expensive property taxes and general cost of living expenses, many people choose to move out, come retirement time.  Florida is the stereotypical destination, but North Carolina and other states are certainly up-and-comers as well.

Some articles lately have challenged this “conventional” wisdom, however.  Reminding people of the metro-NYC location and/or New England location, the services available, the style of living, and more, these articles point out that living in Connecticut after retirement may be worth it, after all.

Published yesterday, April 2nd, 2014, this MarketWatch article by the Wall Street Journal is a good, if quick, read: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/retire-here-not-there-connecticut-2014-04-02?pagenumber=1

Adding some statistics and a lot of information about active retirement communities, TopRetirements.com provides more: http://www.topretirements.com/state/connecticut.html

Finally, Connecticut Magazine gives a breakdown of good towns to retire in: http://www.connecticutmag.com/Connecticut-Magazine/May-2008/20-Great-Places-to-Retire/

Creditworthiness – Don’t Hurt Yours

There’s one simple rule you need to listen to when you’ve applied for a loan: DO NOT CHANGE YOUR CREDIT PROFILE.

Whether you’re refinancing or purchasing, there is no easier way to cause problems for your mortgage loan officer, your bank, and the approval of your loan than to play with your money too much.

What does this mean?  Some of it is obvious:

-       Continue to pay your bills as normal

-       Do not buy another property

-       Do not hide assets or, especially, debts.  This includes hiding fully paid off properties – make sure you’re upfront about them.

But there’s a lot more to it than that.  Almost everything we do in the modern American world affects our creditworthiness, so here’s a list of other things to keep in mind.

-       Credit cards: Don’t apply for a new one, don’t cancel and old one, and do not increase your credit limits

-       Employment: Don’t change jobs, even for one for more money, without talking to your Loan Officer about it first.  This is especially true if you do not have regular employment (in other words, you’re a “Freelancer,” “Contractor,” “1099 employee,” or some other such description).

-       Co-signing: Just don’t do it.  Whether it’s your kid’s student loan or your mother’s car loan, it’s going to affect your credit profile.  Once you apply for a mortgage, do not do this.

-       Vehicles: Another big “nope.”  Don’t buy a new car, truck, van, boat, airplane, or spaceship.  Don’t do it even if you’re buying in cash.

-       Banks: Don’t change your bank.  Don’t close accounts.  Don’t open accounts.  Don’t move large amounts of money between accounts.

-       Documentation: Document everything you do, especially if it involves large sums of cash.  Keep a list of all of your open bank, credit, loan, etc., accounts.  Document all money going in and out of them.

-       Purchases: Similar to what I said for vehicles, just don’t make large purchases.  Large amounts of cash moving in or out of an account look suspicious and require significant documentation.

-       Down payments, cash at closing, inspection costs, bank costs, etc.: Large amounts of money ARE going to move out of your accounts during the process.  Make sure they relate to the loan, and document both where the money is going to and where it came from.  Do not deposit a large amount of money shortly before closing – the lender will want documentation on where that money came from.  You cannot use someone else’s money for cash at closing without the approval of the lender.  If you’re taking money from your 401k or from investments prior to pay the amount you owe at closing, do it ahead of time and tell your lender about it.

-       Other properties: Disclose them.  Even if they’re completely paid off, your lender needs to know about them.

Purchasing a house – or refinancing your existing one – is one of the largest transactions most people will make in their lives.  Pay attention what you’re doing, and to these rules, and don’t be caught unawares.  If you’re looking for a new bank or loan officer, contact us today for a referral!

We really are everywhere!

In 2013, the Hamad Law Firm, LLC, performed closings in at least 139 different towns, villages, cities, and areas of Connecticut, including:


Amston
Andover
Ansonia
Ashford
Avon
Beacon Falls
Berlin
Bethany
Bethel
Bloomfield
Bolton
Branford
Bridgeport
Bristol
Broad Brook
Brookfield
Brooklyn
Burlington
Canton
Chaplin
Cheshire
Clinton
Colchester
Cos Cob
Coventry
Cromwell
Danbury
Danielson
Darien
Deep River
Derby
Durham
East Granby
East Hampton
East Hartford
East Haven
East Lyme
Eastford
Easton
Ellington
Enfield
Fairfield
Farmington
Glastonbury
Goshen
Greenwich
Griswold
Guilford
Hamden
Hebron
Killingworth
Lebanon
Litchfield
Madison
Manchester
Mansfield Center
Marlborough
Meridan
Middletown
Milford
Monroe
Mystic
Naugatuck
New Britain
New Canaan
New Hartford
New Haven
New Milford
Newington
Newtown
North Branford
North Granby
North Haven
Northfield
Northford
Norwich
Oakville
Old Greenwich
Old Saybrook
Orange
Oxford
Pawcatuck
Plantsville
Pomfret Center
Portland
Preston
Prospect
Redding
Ridgefield
Rocky Hill
Sandy Hook
Seymour
Shelton
Somers
South Glastonbury
South Windsor
Southbury
Southington
Southport
Stafford Springs
Stamford
Stonington
Stratford
Suffield
Thomaston
Tolland
Trumbull
Unionville
Vernon
Vernon-Rockville
Wallingford
Waterbury
Waterford
Watertown
West Granby
West Hartford
West Haven
West Simsbury
West Suffield
Westbrook
Weston
Westport
Wethersfield
Willington
Wilton
Windsor
Windsor Locks
Winsted
Wolcott
Woodbridge
Woodstock
Yalesville

Banks

We’re often asked what banks we work with.  The basic answer is… almost anybody!  But here’s some examples from the last year.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  No matter who you’re using, talk to the Hamad Law Firm, LLC, first!

Atlantic Home Loans, Inc.
Berkshire Bank
Caliber Funding, LLC
Customized Mortgage Solutions
EverBank
First Niagara Bank, N.A.
First Place Bank
Hartford Funding Ltd
HomeQuest Mortgage
Investors Home Mortgage
iServe Residential Mortgage
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
Mortgage Master, Inc.
Newtown Savings Bank
NMA FCU
People’s United Bank
Pleasant Valley Home Mortgage
RBS Citizens, N.A.
Santander Bank
Savings Bank of Danbury
Sovereign Bank, N.A.
Total Mortgage Services, LLC
TriState Mortgage Corporation
Washington Trust
Webster Bank, N.A.
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
Liberty Bank
T.D. Bank, N.A.
McCue Mortgage
CertusBank, N.A.
CitiBank
Discover Loans
East-West Mortgage Company
Gladewater National Bank
Independent Bank
LYC Mortgage
NationStar
Poli Mortgage Group, Inc.
Quicken Loans
Roundpoint Mortgage Company
United Wholesale Mortgage

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from our family at the Hamad Law Firm, LLC.

Mortgage Rates Continue to Rise

It had to end sometime.  This year’s historically low mortgage interest rates, at least for the time being, have come to an end.  Rates have continued to rise for the 3rd week in the row, now passing 4% (for a conventional 30-year fixed-rate loan) in Connecticut and 3.74% nationally.

What does this mean?  Interest rates below 4% have become very hard to find, but if you asked anyone five years ago about 4% rates, they’d have laughed at you – it wasn’t even imagined!  So rates are still very good, they’re just not at historic lows.  If your rates are higher you should still consider refinancing.  Even a small reduction in your rate can add up to significant amounts over time.

If you are looking to refinance, get your paperwork ready.  You don’t have to submit it immediately – you might want to see what happens to rates over the next couple weeks – but you’ll want to be able to jump on a rate when you’re ready to move.  Remember, you’ll need tax returns, bank statements, information on previous addresses and recent credit inquiries, changes in marital status such as divorces, and more.  It’s a lot of paperwork.  You should be prepared to provide details about everything that has any affect on your money residency.

As mortgage rates rise, mortgage volumes have fallen off.  Both purchase and refinance activity has declined, with refinance activity declining significantly to 74% of total national market volume (as of May 23, 2013).

For More Information:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/where-we-live/wp/2013/05/23/mortgage-rates-are-trending-upward/

http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/05/23/mortgage-rates-rise-for-3rd-week-in-row/

How to choose a Realtor®

Every day we hear horror stories about Realtor’s:  Client’s Realtor’s aren’t responding to them; they’re not showing the house; they’re not finding houses worth seeing; they aren’t working very hard; they’re driving up purchase prices to make more commission; they’re not setting up property viewings as requested.

Not all complaints are valid in all situations, but enough are that finding the right agent is a proper concern.  You need to find somebody that knows your area and that works the way you work.  Do you like e-mail?  Make sure the Realtor regularly uses e-mail.  Do you want constant updates on what is going on?  Make sure they are someone that is going to keep you informed.  There’s a hundred variables and a hundred risks when you sign on with anyone, including a Realtor.  It’s a very personal service and you need to be sure that you will enjoy the experience and profit from it.

So what does that tell us?  How do you find the Realtor that is right for you?  There is no easy answer to the question.  At the Hamad Law Firm, LLC, we can often point you in the direction of Realtor’s that we have used before and that we know will work well with you, but that’s only one answer.  Personal referrals not just from us but from anyone you know are very important.  Looking at someone online can only tell you so much – find out what your friends, your relatives, your business associates know about Realtor’s in your area.  If you don’t get good leads from that, go to the internet, see what you can find, and most importantly talk to the Realtor before you commit to dealing with them.

If you’d like a recommendation, be sure to contact the Hamad Law Firm, LLC, today.

We’ve Moved!

We’re proud to announce that we’ve moved our offices to 131 Dwight Street, New Haven, CT!

What is Title Insurance & Why Do I Need It

Lenders today require title insurance to protect their interest in property that they lend on.  If you have a mortgage loan or are taking a mortgage loan, it’s a sure bet that you will be required to purchase title insurance.

What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance protects the insured party against losses related to the title of the property.  Well what does that mean?  Property in the United States has its title recorded in the land records of the local area.  In Connecticut, these land records are managed by the town clerk of each individual town, and are stored at the town hall.  Unlike a car, you never physically hold the title to your property.  Rather, as each lien (such as a mortgage) becomes active, a mortgage deed is recorded showing it.  When each lien is released, a release of lien is recorded.  Over time, each properties record’s become more and more complicated.  This can be a source of error when a title search is done on the property, and may result in damage to your (and your mortgagor’s) claim to the property.  Title insurance can also protect against fraud in transfers – for instance, perhaps the last person to sell the house forged a signature on the deed.  Real estate taxes and other liens can also be title insurance issues, among a great deal of other items.

When do I purchase title insurance?

Title insurance can be purchased at any time, but is most commonly purchased immediately upon the purchase of a property or the closing of a loan.  When you close a loan you will see the cost of the title insurance listed on the settlement statement.  The loan-taker typically pays the entire premium, even though the title insurance protects either only the lenders interest, or both the lender and the purchaser’s interest.

Why do I need a new insurance policy when I refinance?

When you purchase a property you typically take out two title insurance policies – a “Loan Policy” that protects the interest of the lender, and an “Owner’s Policy” that protects your own interest in the property.  These policies last until the protected party no longer has an interest in the property.  In the case of the Owner’s Policy, it will not need to be repurchased no matter how many times you refinance.  Unfortunately, when you refinance, the lender for your previous loan no longer has an interest in the property, and therefore the previously purchased Loan Policy no longer exists.  Even in the case of a same-lender refinance, when one loan is paid off and a new loan taken, a new policy must be purchased.  Discounted title insurance rates ARE available in Connecticut when you are replacing one loan policy with another.

Where do I buy title insurance?

In Connecticut you must be an attorney to be a title agent and thus to sell title insurance.  Typically, when you choose the attorney that will close your loan, they will write the title insurance policy and bill you for it.  Title insurance is almost never shopped for by Connecticut purchasers individually, but rather by their attorneys.  It should be noted that in other states, such as New York, the title insurance agent and the closing attorney/agent are not always the same, and in many cases, cannot be the same.

In summary, title insurance protects interests in property from errors and fraud related to title.  The Hamad Law Firm, LLC, of New Haven, Connecticut, is a title agent and writes for reputable title insurance companies that do business in Connecticut.

It’s Time To Buy Real Estate

Over the past few years we at the Hamad Law Firm, LLC, have watched as the real estate market – both residential and commercial – plummet from its heights to lows we never thought we’d see.  As you might imagine – and might be experiencing – this has scared away prospective property purchasers.  Homes and other buildings have sat on the market for months and years at a time, with buyers and sellers unwilling or unable to agree on a price that satisfies both, as well as any mortgage-holders.  Buyers don’t want to get involved, fearing further drops, and unwilling to pay even what sellers are willing to settle for.  With all of this going on, the market may be starting to turn – and you can get in on it early.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that buying property right now is a sure thing – it never is.  But if you’re careful, if you study your opportunities, you can buy newer, nicer homes now for less money than ever before possible.  Don’t plan on flipping property (though it can be done), but rather on long-term ownership.  If you’re planning on buying for the long term, todays prices (and more importantly, interest rates), make the real estate market a good place to put your money.

Some points to consider:

First, as mentioned, consider what current interest rates are.  A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage can be had for under 4% right now – with no points.  If you’re looking at an FHA 30-year loan you may be able to reach as low as 3.75%.  A 15-year loan can be had as low as 3.25%.  If you are looking at short term investing, a 5/1 ARM product can be had as low as 2.75%.  At these rates, borrowing money has become so cheap it actually makes up a good portion of the savings on a home.

Consider this: At an interest rate of 6%, a conventional 30-year loan of $300,000 costs a total of over $647,000.  At 4%, this same loan costs about $132,000 less over 30-years – that’s almost half the amount of principal!  In monthly terms, the loan drops from $1798 to $1432, about $368 per month in savings.  That’s the incredible difference between interest rates of a few years ago, to interest rates now.

Now loans HAVE become more difficult to come by.  You do need to be well qualified (especially to get the best rates), and the more money you can bring to closing, the better.  But loans – many of them – are still being closed every day.  You can get loans with low credit scores (at least down to 620) and with almost no money to put down, if necessary.

Second, if you are currently renting a home (or office/business space), you’re paying somebody to, yes, handle things such as repairs for you, but you’re also paying for their profit margins.  With real estate prices so low, why do that?  If you have a steady job and you’re going to be in the same place for a number of years, you can settle yourself into your own home or space.  You no longer have to deal with the whims of a landlord or the risk of price increases.  In fact, rental vacancy rates are very low and going lower right now.  That is to say, so many people are renting rather than buying that it’s relatively hard to find available rentals, and when it is, prices are high and going higher.

Third, the market is weak.  This relates to pricing, which I think we can agree is obvious, but it also relates to the amount of choices you have.  There is a LOT of real estate on the market.  You can skip the real estate that requires fixing up, or has a bad roof, or whatever else.  You can have the place that you love, in the location that you love – not that you have to settle for.

In summary, if you have the ability to purchase real estate – for whatever purpose – now may be the time to do so.  A combination of low prices, low interest rates, and a large amounts of choice, makes this a great time to buy for certain purchasers.  Contact us today if you need help buying or selling a property, or even if you just need advice as to who to talk to in the mortgage market, the Realtor market, or anything else.

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