USD to KYD Exchange Value: 0.84
USD To GBP: 0.76214
USD To CAD: 1.27998
USD To CNH: 6.3209

Last week we reported strategies to follow before shopping for your first house. Liz Pulliam Weston with MSN Real Estate suggests the following timeline as an ideal one for someone purchasing their first home and for the most part, we agree with her. This week we will continue our discussion about more immediate strategies. 

3 months out 

1. Reduce your credit utilization. If you live in a country that implements scoring formulas like FICO in the US, you available credit will be reflected in your credit score. Obviously, less is better. Even without a FICO credit score available, lenders will want to see copies of your statements. A good rule of thumb is to keep your credit card balance below 30% of the amount available. 

2. Don't open or close any new accounts. Avoid taking actions that harm your credit rating such as opening new accounts or closing old ones. Keep up your old, good habits until the mortgage is processed and you are living in your new home. 

2 months out 

1. Get an idea of the mortgage rate you can expect. This is easy enough done. Most banks post rates for mortgages in their lobby. Or go on-line to A bank may or may not be the best place to get a mortgage. They will offer the fewest options. A mortgage broker on the other hand will have a wide array of mortgage alternatives available (including your bank's). Don't make application yet, and don't give anyone permission to pull your credit. You're just shopping the market. 

2. Understand the effect of mortgage shopping on your score. Again if you are in a country the uses credit scoring, any time you allow a lender permission to check your credit, a 'hard inquiry' dings your score. When you're ready to be a serious home shopper, that's the time to be certain about your mortgage. 

3. Get your mortgage approved ahead of time. Getting pre-approved is different than pre-qualified. Pre approval requires a 'hard inquiry' and the lender issues a letter that states you are pre-approved to obtain a mortgage. In a sense, you now become a cash buyer and you will command a stronger bargaining position with the seller. 

4. Consider a mortgage broker. Ask for referrals from friends and relatives. You can also get a referral from the National Association of Mortgage Brokers. 

5. Begin researching neighborhoods and look for an agent. Check internet listings, attend open houses and view web sites. Most large real estate companies include useful neighborhood information on their sites. On for example, you can search for neighborhoods based on population density, age, income, etc. You can search for school information the same way. A REALTOR will provide you with all of the information you need to proceed. Ask for a 'Buyer's Estimated Closing Costs' sheet from the agent. It will be similar to a GFE obtained earlier but now more detailed and specific to the transaction awaiting you. 

Once you�ve found a home and your offer is accepted. 

1. Shop for a mortgage (again). Just because some lender wrote you a letter of pre approval, doesn't mean you have to ultimately take out your mortgage with them. A lot may have changed since you were pre-approved so it is wise to check around once again. 

2. Arrange for an inspection. You will want to make an inspection a condition of the offer for two reasons: One, to discover hidden defects that if disclosed, might have caused you to bypass this property. Two, you will want to become familiar with your new home by finding out where the fuse boxes are, shut off valves, etc. Unless there are major, unfixable defects, most sellers will agree to fix leaky pipes or faulty switches to complete the deal.  

3. Confirm how much money you will need at closing. The lender or your agent will arrange for appraisals, title insurance and other inspections. There will be a charge for these, however but by now thanks to the GFE and your agent you should be getting pretty savvy about the process.  

4. Get homeowner's insurance. The lender will require it but you will want to have it regardless. Ask about umbrella policies and personal liability policies as well. And shop insurance companies- you'll be glad you did. 

Enjoy your new home!

USD to KYD Exchange Value: 0.84
USD To GBP: 0.76214
USD To CAD: 1.27998
USD To CNH: 6.3209

The annual Cancer Society's Stride Against Cancer Walk/Run is scheduled for 25 January at the Public Beach in Grand Cayman. 

Foster's Food Fair and Progressive Distributors have been named as the main sponsors. Others sponsors include Kris & Associates and Maples & Calder, A number of companies will be assisting by providing water stations, among them Fidelity, Appleby, Stepping Stones and the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. 

The race is open for all participants, both in a competitive and non-competitive environment. For those who want to have the competitive section the race will start at 6:00 am. Others can do the six and a half kilometre stride. 

The registration will be $25 per person. Persons interested in registering can call 949-7618 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

USD to KYD Exchange Value: 0.84
USD To GBP: 0.76214
USD To CAD: 1.27998
USD To CNH: 6.3209

Ritz-Carlton #116 

This is perhaps the best rental suite at the Ritz Carlton Resort. Front row, ground floor, right on the beach. Great space and all the amenites of the world class Ritz-Carlton Resort. Perfect beach, golf course, 4 restaurants and the famous "white glove" service. Spacious oceanfront suite. Fantastic PIP Ritz rental program with guaranteed income, and no costs to the owner. Exquisite furniture package. Lifetime golf membership and all the amenities of the Five Star Ritz Resort. Come see for yourself. Unbeleivable value now reduced ! 


3 Bedrooms, 3.5 Bath, 3050 sf 
Unique lock-out suite potential for rental 
Guaranteed 35% of gross rental income 
Ritz's famous PIP programme 
Fabulous ground floor location right on the sand 

USD to KYD Exchange Value: 0.84
USD To GBP: 0.76214
USD To CAD: 1.27998
USD To CNH: 6.3209

It has certainly been a turbulent year. It's hard to get through a conversation these days where someone doesn't comment on how the 'meltdown' has affected them personally. It primarily takes the form of tangible things like the slimming of their securities accounts and retirement funds, but often there's the unexpressed and pervasive fear of the unknown effect these circumstances will have on their future. 

The avenue of least resistance is certainly to get buried under these fears, and there certainly have been cataclysmic and life-changing events that have affected millions of people. In our microcosm of the Cayman Islands, we have noticed people's moods shift often to anger--the aggressive form that fear takes. 

I know that this seems a bit too serious for a seasons greetings email from your real estate professionals in a tropical paradise, but I think it's important to acknowledge 
the up-front-and-center feelings not buried very deeply in the holiday glitter. 

We at Coldwell Banker feel that it's our mission to be part of the solution by making sure we are completely up-to-date with market conditions, including services that affect the market - like the availability of mortgage money, the appraisal process and where to reach out to buyers. We are not budget-cutting like others by decreasing our marketing, but instead we're finding new ways to reach out to those savvy people with resources who recognize that this is a good time to buy. 

As everyone's favorite wealth guru, Warren Buffet said to shareholders, "The most common cause of low prices is pessimism - sometimes pervasive, sometimes specific to a company or industry. We want to do business in such an environment, not because we like pessimism but because we like the prices it produces. It's optimism that is the enemy of the rational buyer." 

We want to be ready for you when you're ready to make your real estate move, by exceeding your expectations 
with our knowledge, our service, our enthusiasm and passion for what we have to offer in the Caymans. You'll experience terrific value, better inventory than we've had in quite a long time and certainly last but not least, a true tropical paradise. 
Now, more than ever, it's important to think long-term. 

We hope all your wishes come true in the coming year. And if we can help with those, call us!

USD to KYD Exchange Value: 0.84
USD To GBP: 0.76214
USD To CAD: 1.27998
USD To CNH: 6.3209

Last week we reported long term strategies to follow before shopping for your first house. Liz Pulliam Weston with MSN Real Estate suggests the following timeline as an ideal one for someone purchasing their first home and for the most part, we agree with her. This week we will talk about more immediate strategies. 

Learn about mortgage options. While the mortgage market has settled back to more 'normal' conditions it can still be confusing tangle of unfamiliar terms and acronyms. ARMs, FHA, VA, LIBOR, are all a part of the mix. The author recommends sticking with the traditional 30 year fixed rate. But be aware that even though the interest rate is fixed, increasing costs for insurance and taxes will cause even a fixed rate payment to increase over time. Don't rule out adjustable rates. In today's market no lender is going to let you borrow more than you can afford. Shop for a mortgage without mortgage insurance. Usually a lender requires you to provide mortgage insurance with a down payment of less than 20%. Less than 20% down means more risk to the lender and mortgage insurance protects them against an eventual default.  

Start calculating how much house you can afford. Your housing expense should not exceed 25% of your gross income. That includes your principal and interest payment, taxes and insurance. Once you have decided how much you can afford you can always opt to pay taxes and insurance separately, assuming your lender will allow that. Think of it this way they accumulate money on a monthly basis for annual payment of taxes and insurance. And they don't pay you interest. If you're a good saver, then put the money to use yourself. Of course, if your habit is to live paycheck to paycheck you'd better let the bank take care of it. 

Research all of the costs of owning a home. When you purchase a home there are so-called 'closing costs' associated with the transaction. These can take the form of origination fees paid to the lender for providing the funds. Origination fees are actually pre-paid interest and are a variable proportionate to the interest rate you pay. Documentary stamps, title insurance, proration of taxes, title insurance, you can expect to pay anywhere from 1-3% (of the mortgage) over and above your down payment. Drop into the local bank and ask for a Good Faith Estimate (GFE). Find out what utilities will cost in your new home. You can always ask the current owner for copies of their bills, but be aware that this can only be done after a property is selected and no two families will use utilities identically.  

Attend a home buyer's seminar. Many banks or banks in association with real estate firms will put on free seminars for first time buyers. Obviously they are hoping to obtain your business but it is usually a low pressure non threatening atmosphere in which to learn more about the process. 

Adjust your saving strategies. By now you've begun to save for your new home. But what you've learned may cause you to increase your savings. A bigger down payment means you can afford more home and may mean you can avoid buying mortgage insurance. It also means lower payments and more discretionary cash.  

Next Week: 3 months out