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How to Select a Home Lender in Baton Rouge

by Pat Wattam

One of the first steps in thinking about purchasing a home is to select a lender.  That can be a daunting prospect if you have never purchased a home before.  Every lender will have different criteria, such as credit scores, that they will accept to do a home loan. Each lender may have different programs than others.  Others are mortgage brokers who shop for the best deal for you.  So where do you start?

1.  If you have a REALTOR, ask them for names of lenders they have worked with whom they liked.   If they like the lender, I guarentee you the loan closed and they had happy buyers.

2.  Ask friends for recommendations.  Your friends who have bought more than one house may have more than one recommendation for you.

3.  On line lenders - STAY AWAY FROM THESE!  Especially if you are a first time home buyer or have any issues, you want someone you can talk to face to face, someone who is easy to reach (most local lenders give you their cell phone number).

How do you select the one you want to work with?  Remember, it isn't always about who has the best rate.  The difference of 1/8th percent isn't really a deciding factor.  You want to work with the lender that you feel a connection with, one that explains the process and stays in touch timely. 

At the Pat Wattam Team we have a number of lenders we regularly refer business too.  Give us a call and we'll help you get started!

Taking Advantage of the 'Flooded' Market in Baton Rouge Area

by Pat Wattam

Since the August 2016 flood many investors have flocked to our Greater Baton Rouge Real Estate Market to take advantage of the many homes that flooded.  They have the crews to come in and do the work so some will flip these homes and pocket the profit, others will keep the homes as rentals, and a few may actually make some of these their own new homes.  These investors come to town with cash so that they don't have to deal with any lender regulations regarding who can be the contractor on the repairs.  Unfortunately, the average home buyer doesn't have the cash available to buy one of these properties outright and then put in the sweat equity to turn it into a home with lots of equity.  However, there are several loan types available to homebuyers that DO allow you to buy one of these flooded houses and finance the cost of the remodel.  The catch is typically that you have to already have a bid from a contractor - one  that can complete the work within 6 months.  This is not as hard as it would have been 4 months ago.  I find many contractors now have the time to make bids and to complete the work timely.  There are also banks that will do loans for you to purchase a flooded house and then when you have the work completed, you can get a regular loan for any lender.  This would allow you to do some of the work yourself.  You also might find a contractor who would also allow you to do some of the work.  I highly recommend using a contractor that someone you know has also used and is happy with.  

This is a great opportunity for the right buyer to get instant equity in a home.  Doing your homework on the front end for a contractor will allow you to take advante of our market. If this is something that interests you, give us a call and we can help you find a lender to help you finance your dream home! 

What Is a Buyer Counseling Interview?

by Pat Wattam

Many times you will hear an offer for a FREE Buyer Counseling Interview or a Free Buyer Consultation.  What EXACTLY is that?  Let's say that you are ready to buy a house but don't know where to start.  And you hear about a FREE Consultation.  You figure, why not give it a try!  Sometimes it's just a gimmick to get you to  meet with a REALTOR and sign a buyer contract, with you agreeing to pay that agent whenever you find any house.  BUT, with the Pat Wattam Team, a Consultation or a Buyer Counseling Interview is just that - a real consultation or an interview for YOU to get to INTERVIEW US!  Yes, we welcome your interview.  We want to meet with every buyer - whether first time or a someone who has purhcased several homes.  Rules and regulations in our industry are constantly changing and part of our Consultation is to aquaint you with the current requirements to purchase and/or get a loan.  To help you with the process we have a Home Buyer Handbook that we have put together full of the information a lot of our clients have asked us about through the years - it's grown into it's own handbook and continues to evolve as people ask us new questions. 

At this meeting we will go over not only qualifying for a house but try to help you determine where you want to live and what price range you are comfortable with.  Part of our job is to educate you about our real estate Market so that your have realistic ideas on what your money can buy.  Sometimes your budget just doesn't work in your favorite location but many times, we can show you what you want in a different area!  For instance, my husband used to work at LSU.  We had never lived hear his job so when we purchased our last house I started out looking up and down Highland Road.  And you know what, we saved over $50K by not buying in that location.  Roger ended up having a bit of a drive to work but the savings were worth it to get a practically new home!  That was our choice.  I have other clients who would have made the exact opposite choice.  That's why these consultations are so important.  The more we understand about what is IMPORTANT TO YOU, the better we are able to help make that a reality for you!  

A side benefit of the Consultation is that you get a chance to know us.  Typically, after you spend 30-45 minutes visiting with someone you know whether or not you want to give this person your trust to find you a house.  You won't really know until you get into the negotiations but you have a pretty good feel.  We want you to come away from that meeting feeling like you know we are listening to you and that we have the skills to help you find the home that is right for you.  

So, when you are ready, give us a call at 225-298-6900 and let's set up that interview!  

Start of a New Year - Time to Make a Move?

by Pat Wattam

The start of a new year is a time to reflect on the past and decide where you want to be in the future.  Many times that will include making a move - either from a rental to home ownership, or moving up to a larger home or downsizing, buying a new home,  or investing in real estate.  All of these possible scenarios should start with a serious conversation with your REALTOR.  The Pat Wattam Team prides itself on taking the time to REALLY listen to what our clients needs are and help the clients really understand what THEY want to do.  Sometimes it takes an outside person asking a lot of questions to help a client figure out what they really want to accomplish.  We also have a nice selection of VIDEOS to download for free that might also help you!  

It's the start of the new year.  Why not give us a call now for a FREE consultation!  225-298-6900

Credit Reporting for Mortgages Changes

by Pat Wattam

It was reported in today's Advocate newspaper that there has been an update on credit reporting for mortgages for home loans.  In the past, whether you paid the minimum monthy payment on your credit card or if you paid it off in full, it was all the same from the credit bureau and to the lender.  In the past, I was told it was best to have a balance that you paid each month to show that you paid timely.  That showed a lender you were able to manage your finances.  Now two of the credit reporting agencies are sending 'trending' data to your loan officer.  This shows if you pay the minimum amount, more than minimum, or pay off in full each month.  Now, your credit score is still the biggest factor in securing a loan; however, if you are borderline on qualifying, and you pay more than the minimum or, even better, pay off your credit card loan in full each month, this may be just the thing for the lender to decide you are a good credit risk.  This trending data line started in September so it's relatively new.  If you are shopping for a home in the next few months, it would be a good idea to pay off as much credit card debt, as always, or increase your payment on every card to show you pay more than minimum.

Speaking of credit cards, in this economy, it would be wize to keep that credit card debt to zero and only use it for emergencies or large purchases - which means you don't use it again until you pay it off.  Carrying a lot of credit card debt does not help you in the long run.  I remember when we decided to go to a 'cash only' basis in order to pay off all the credit cards and not get any new ones that it took a lot of discipline and a lot of delaying purchases that we didn't really need.  Once we got a handle on that (less than 2 years) it's amazing how fast your savings can grow!!!  We pay off all our credit cards at the end of the month.  And, we use credit cards instead of cash to get bonuses.  You have to REALLY be disciplined if you go that direction but if you can, think of all the extras you can get from your credit card companies.  We fly practically free on first class to Europe and fly free when traveling in country too.  There are companies that give you cash back too - which you can use to save up for your new home!!   Just another idea!

As always, if you have any questions, please call the Pat Wattam Team at any time for more advice.  225-298-6900

The Real Estate Market Post Flood in Baton Rouge Area

by Pat Wattam

Real Estate Update Report and the August 1016 Flood

Everyone wants to know how the Market is doing since the flood in August.  Here’s a little update on what we have seen. 

1. There are some homeowners, who have gutted their houses, own them outright, have flood insurance and want to sell.  Those homes are selling for just under half what they were worth before the flood.  Those numbers actually work pretty well for the person who wants to make a move to a new home.  Investors are buying these homes to fix and flip, or maybe even rent. 

2.  There are other homeowners with no flood insurance who are getting some FEMA money.  The FEMA money is not enough to fully repair a house, but it’s a start.  Some people, again, who own their homes and have no mortgage, are still opting to sell their house, especially if they have a place they want to go.  These homes are selling just like the example above.  FEMA $$ can only be used to repair the house and if audited, you will have to provide receipts, from what we have been told.   Consult your accountant or tax attorney if you’ve opted to apply for FEMA aid and are planning to sell.

3. Some people are taking the FEMA money and fixing the house as far as the money will go and then selling it at that point in hopes of recouping the FEMA money.  Again consult a tax professional for advice.

4.  And then, some homeowners are repairing the house to live-in condition (whether with insurance or FEMA dollars) and will either sell the house or move back in.  Just depends on each individual situation.  There are also special loans available through FHA and Conventional mortgages that work much like a new construction loan and can be used to repair a house.  Rates run about a half percent higher than regular rates

5.  And the last category we are watching are the homes that were for sale before the flood and the ones coming on the market now.  We have not seen a big price increase like we saw after hurricane Katrina.  The market is a little sluggish but has started to pick back up.  As lives slowly return to normal then the real estate market will follow. 

The Pat Wattam Team at RE/MAX First has been busy meeting homeowners in various situations to help them crunch the numbers and  see what will work best for them.  No one knows what the market will look like in 6 months as these homes start to be lived in fully again, either with the homeowner, new owners, or tenants.  My outlook is that we will have neighborhoods with practically brand new homes and if the people REALLY update them, then that should get past the stigma caused by the flooding.  My thought process is that if a buyer has a choice between a 30 year old home that has not been updated and the same home, same size, and price that has been beautifully updated, I think they will pick the updated one.  Now, if the buyer’s choice is between a house that flooded and one that didn’t and they are the same price and same condition, they will buy the one that did not flood.

I believe it is crucial to really upgrade flooded homes if the sellers plan to sell in the next couple of years.   Back in 1983, when we had that big flood and so much of Old Jefferson flooded, buyers didn’t want to buy those houses for the longest time.  But then, years went by with no flooding and it once more became a very popular subdivision.  I believe the Great Flood of 2016 is a different story because it was caused by an anomaly in the weather – and, in my opinion, also man made (which can be corrected). 

If you or any of your friends or family have questions on how to proceed, please don’t hesitate to have them contact us.  Our direct line is 225-298-6900.

 

Pat Wattam

Debbie Hanna

Bill Arey

Blake Hanna

Erin Simoneaux

Roger Wattam

What is Happening in Baton Rouge After the Flood

by Pat Wattam

People are all wondering what is going to happen with our Baton Rouge Real Estate Market after the flood.  No one knows for sure but what I am seeing so far is some investors purchasing homes to flip, some people staying in their homes and doing the repairs, and others still undecided on what to do.  It all comes down to money for every person.  The FEMA money is usually not enough to rehab a house back to a living standard.  The people who had flood insurance actually will get enough to fix the house.  Those that did not have content insurance have really lost a lot, just like the people who had no insurance.  

What are the flooded neighborhoods going to look like?  Will the homes that are flipped really be nice or just cheaply done?  My suspicion is that the invesors will make the houses look really nice in order to get the highest possible price. If the investors are landlord types, then the houses will be done as inexpensively as possible - but all investors who have purchased my Listings are going to flip them.   I think most of these subdivisions will take more than 6 months to be complete.  I think the investors will get their homes up pretty fast as they have their own crews.  The people who are rehabbing their homes may take up to 9 months to finish - depending on the damage.  And for the subdivisions to totally be complete again could take over a year since a lot of areas that flooded were in our modest homes and those are the homeowners who will really struggle to fix their homes unless they had flood insurance.  The biggest thing that has to happen to move all of us back to normal is for all the debris to be picked up.  Once that is gone the subdivisions will start to take on their own look.  Of course, if it would quit raining every day it would definitely help!!

The city of Denham Springs has a lot farther to go with all the businesses that are damaged.  Some will never reopen.  Others will be open in time for the holiday season - I'll bet Juban Crossing is back in business by then!!  Again, money is the issue for most of Livingston Parish.  There just isn't enough money to help everyone.  Hopefully the government will pass out more money soon.  We have schools that need to be back up and running so that kids aren't doubled up in schools - but at least school is back in session so that gives the kids some normalcy.

Ascension Parish also was damaged and I haven't seen what is happening in the flooded subdivisions there yet.  People are still in shock and still gathering information so they know how to proceed.

This is a great time to pick up a nice property if you would like to be an landlord.  Unless you are an experienced investor with a crew to rehab a house - or if you are very handy - I would not jump into this market.  Another good piece of information is that we don't see a lot of price gouging happening with the homes that are did not flood and are up for sale.

If you need help weighing your decision on what to do with your flooded house, please don't hesitate to call 225-298-6900 and we will share information with you as watch our real estate market develop.

All About FLOOD INSURANCE in Baton Rouge, LA

by Pat Wattam

I spoke with my insurance agent, Andy Redpath at Baton Rouge Insurance Agency, and asked him what were some of the misconceptions people have about flood insurance.  I LOVED his response - these are the actual statements people have made to him.  I do believe this will clear up some of the confusion on when to buy and who should buy flood insurance.  I am adding my two cents in RED to what Andy has provided.  This is from my experience as a REALTOR and an investor who's rental property flooded during the GREAT FLOOD of 2016.

10 Misconceptions About Flood Insurance

 

1)    Buy it today because it’s raining. (Other than a mortgage closing when coverage is mandated, there is 30 day waiting period on new policies).  SO BUY IT TODAY anyway in case it rains again next month (this is Louisiana after all!)

2)    Buy it today because there is a storm in the Gulf and the rates are going up. (Rates are rates until the NFIP changes them, which they do periodically)  And if there is a named storm in the gulf you can't buy regular homeowners insurance either until the storm has passed.

3)    All flood policies have contents coverage just like homeowners (Contents coverage is a separate coverage under a flood policy).  That's interesting because when I got my flood insurance, the company that Andy selected had a policy that had contents coverage attached.  I have lots of clients who did not have contents insurance since they were in a low hazard area and the area had never, ever flooded.  I'm glad Andy didn't give me that choice because I would have probably selected that too!

4)    I’m a renter so I can’t buy flood insurance or don’t need it. (Renters do need flood insurance and can purchase it to protect their belongings).  Ask my tenants who lost everything in the flood in our rental property.  And if I had had flood insurance, it would NOT have covered their belongings.

5)    I’m not in flood zone. (All properties are in a flood zone and can buy flood insurance. Some zones are designated a hazardous zone and a mortgage company can mandate a policy).  My husband said the same thing.  $45,000 later, he wishes we had purchased it.

6)    I’m not in hazardous zone, so I don’t need flood insurance. (In many floods it’s estimated 30% of the properties that flood had never flooded before and were not in a hazardous zone). IN the GREAT flood of 2016, home that were not in a hazardous area flooded.  2 of the homes in my subdivision flooded over 2'.  The rest of us were fine.

7)    It can’t happen again. (Just wait and see).  Yeah, my husband said that too.  But we now have flood insurance.  Can't be too safe.

8)    My homeowners policy has a rider that covers flood insurance. (Homeowners insurance does not cover flood. Never…ever…ever!)  NEVER EVER EVER EVER!!!

9)    My flood policy has coverages just like my homeowners policy. (Flood policies cover structure and contents and are very limited compared to a homeowners policy)  Ditto

    10) FEMA will take care of everything. (Maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on it.).  Ask anyone who have been through the GREAT FLOOD OF 2016.  FEMA gave one person $7500.  That won't ever cover the flooring.  Another got $22,000 on a $125,000, with a $105K mortgage balance and a cost of $40K to fix it up.  Where is this single lady going to get the extra money.  And another person was turned down for a SBA loan because they had good credit, and good income.  They were told to go get a regular loan from someone.

3 Great Listings Ready to Go

by Pat Wattam

Doesn't a home that's high and dry with a pool sound good right now? All three of these homes are ready to go - just waiting for a new owner - from White Oak Estates to Santa Maria to the Lakes at LSU. Call The Pat Wattam Team at RE/MAX First or your REALTOR for more information. Priced from $325K - $1.82 Mil. 225-298-6900

17421 BEACHWOOD AVE
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70817
For the person who wants something just a little different, this Mediterranean home is for you! This home and setting is perfect for the person who loves to entertain. The large backporch flows onto the large courtyard/patio surrounding the pool area. With the open floor plan inside, it is easy for your guests to flow from inside to outside! Read more here...

19461 OAK PARK CT
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70809
NO FLOOD! Custom home w/GUNITE pool & lushly landscaped backyard. Refinished wood floors & stacked crown in the foyer, living & dining rooms. Amazing kitchen features a beamed ceiling, slab granite counters, tons of cypress cabinets, corner sink w/ window, 8ft. island with slab granite & prep sink, S/S appliances, ice maker, 6-burner Wolf gas stove, pot filler, large walk-in pantry. Read more here...

2052 ESTATES RD
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70808
Located on a cul-de-sac, with views of LSU lakes, this remodeled home with a POOL has space for everyone. The views are breath taking from the large, WRAP AROUND front porch or most rooms inside the house!! The home has high ceilings, WOOD FLOORING throughout, and slab granite counters. Read more here...

 

Updates from the City of Baton Rouge

by Pat Wattam

We have compiled the latest information from the City of Baton Rouge regarding debris removal, a list of disaster recovery centers, and Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) information.

Debris Collection

For a map detailing flood debris collection status by zip code, please click here. We have also included a link here to a helpful infographic on how to prepare debris for collection.

The following information courtesy of the City of Baton Rouge website

Disaster Recovery Sites

DRC Sites currently open in EBR - 8:00AM - 6:00PM

New Hope Outreach Center
5925 Greenwell Springs Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70806

Second Baptist Church
914 North Acadian Thruway West
Baton Rouge, LA 70802

Zachary's Men Club
5746 Rollins Road
Zachary, LA 70791

St. Louis King of France Catholic Church
2121 N. Sherwood Forest Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70815

There is also one mobile disaster recovery center:

City of Central Parking Lot
13421 Hooper Road
Central, LA 70818

Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP):

Four Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) sites will begin operations Monday, August 29, 2016 through Saturday, September 3, 2016 from 8:00AM - 4:00PM.

Council on Aging Activity Center
6955 Florida Blvd.
Baton Rouge, LA 70806

F.G. Clark Activity Center
798 Harding Boulevard
Baton Rouge, LA 70807

Gloryland Baptist Church
6745 Greenwell Springs Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70805

Louisiana Leadership Institute
5763 Hooper Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70811

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Photo of Pat Wattam Real Estate
Pat Wattam
RE/MAX First, Independently Owned and Operated
4750 Sherwood Common
Baton Rouge LA 70816
Office Direct: 225-298-6900
Office Main: 225-291-1234
Fax: 225-295-1234

RE/MAX First
Each Office Independently Owned and Operated
Main: 225-291-1234

Licensed by the Louisiana Real Estate Commission