Avoiding Financial Stress
By asking the right questions, and knowing exactly what your needs are, you can find the right loan for you. There are certain approaches that you can take while mortgage shopping that can cost or save you money.
It is still true that the better qualifications you have, the lower your interest rate will be. However, there are mortgages available for almost everyone; it's the interest rates or the down payments that vary.
Before speaking with a lender, know what monthly dollar amount you feel comfortable committing to. Then when you discuss mortgage pre-approval with your lender, it is easier for you to determine the monthly amount and what value of home the monthly amount translates into. Do not put yourself in the position where you will be paying more each month than you intended simply because the dream home requires it.
Do your research on the types of mortgages available to you and find the one that best suits your needs. There are a number of considerations to be made in terms of finding the best mortgage for each individual:
• What type of market are you in? Are the interest rates falling or rising?
• Do you want a fixed mortgage rate, where you will always know what your payment is going to be?
• What are your long-term goals? Do you intend to resell the property? Do you only need the mortgage for a short time?
Build a Plan of Action and Get Ready
Finding the Right Seller
The best seller is one who is highly motivated. A highly motivated seller is more likely to sell at a price that is less than his or her house is actually worth. And it matters that you find out why. Learning the reason why can help you get the price you want and help the seller get what they want: a timely sale.
When given the opportunity to meet with sellers, ask them why they are selling. The reason could be anything, such as a job change to a new location or financial problems. If you can solve their problem, whether it is cash related or time related, do so. For example, if the sellers are highly motivated because they need to move quickly, give them a fast sale - and a lower price. If you can make an offer, even a low one, that gives them cash in a short time, they are more likely to accept.
There are also some sellers that you should avoid. Not every seller is as genuinely motivated as they make themselves to be. Some possible hints:
• they stall on having the home appraised or inspected
• they are unable to clear up liens against their property
• they do not own 100% of their property
• they push back the move-out date
• they do not have a replacement property or back up plan
It is impossible to find the perfect seller. But it is possible to find out which sellers are legit and which ones aren’t.
Getting a Legitimate Lender and Getting Pre-Approved
It used to be that buyers could go house shopping and when they have found their dream home, then they go to get pre-approved. However, in today’s market, that has proven to be one of the least effective methods in landing the dream home.
Most lenders can pre-qualify you for a mortgage over the phone. Based on general questions about your income, debt, assets, and credit history, lenders can estimate how much mortgage you qualify for. However, being pre-qualified and pre-approved are different things. Pre-approval means that you have applied for a mortgage; you have filled out the mortgage application, received your credit report, and verified your employment, assets, etc. When you are pre-approved, you know exactly what the maximum loan amount will be.
A pre-qualified letter is not verified and in essence, does not count for much if you are competing with other buyers who are pre-approved. When you are pre-approved, you and the seller know exactly how much house you can afford. It gives you credibility as an interested buyer and lets the seller know immediately that you will qualify for a loan to buy their property.
In addition to being pre-approved, it’s important to be pre-approved with a legitimate lender. Legitimate lenders include: banks, mortgage bankers, credit unions, savings and loan associations, mortgage brokers, and online lenders.
Some lenders to avoid: those who lose a form or misplace a file, those who gather information from you in an unorganized manner, those who are not informed about interest rates, points or costs, and those who cannot provide you with the right information.
Hot, Normal, and Cold Markets
This is an extremely competitive market and is advantageous to the seller. Sometimes, homes will sell as soon as they are listed or even before homes are listed. Typically, during a hot market, multiple offers will be made on each home and more often than not, homes will sell for more than the asking price. It is even more crucial to be prepared and to be ready as a buyer when the market is hot. It can be easy to get caught up in the bid for a home, but if you are prepared (pre-approved, solid in price range, realistic about your needs), it is easier to remain focused on your housing needs and price range.
In a normal market, there is a fairly large number of homes available and an average number of buyers. This market does not necessarily favor the buyer or the seller. A seller may not have as many offers on their home, but he or she may not be desperate to sell either. Again, it is the buyer’s responsibility to be prepared. During a normal market, the chances to negotiate are higher than in a hot market. As a buyer, you can expect to make offers at lower than the asking price and negotiate a price at least somewhat less than what the sellers are asking.
In a cold market, houses may be listed for more than a year and the prices of houses listed may drop considerably. This market is advantageous to the buyer. As a buyer, you have the time to make an offer that works to your best interest. It is not uncommon to low-ball and to find that sellers are accommodating to meet your needs. Keep in mind that even though this market is a great time for buyers, you do not want to lose your dream home by being unrealistic. Your goal is to get your dream home at the best possible price.
Importance of Inspection
As a buyer, you are entitled to know exactly what you are getting. Don’t take anything for granted, not even what you see or what the seller or listing agent tell you. A professional home inspection is something you MUST do, whether you are buying an existing home or a new one. An inspection is an opportunity to have an expert look closely at the property you are considering purchasing and getting both an oral and written opinion as to its condition.
Beforehand, make sure the report will be done by a professional organization, such as a local trade organization or a national trade organization such as ASHI (American Society of Home Inspection). Not only should you never skip an inspection, but also you should be present with the inspector during the inspection. This gives you a chance to ask questions about the property and get answers that are not biased. In addition, the oral comments are typically more revealing and detailed than what you will find on the written report. Once the inspection is complete, review the inspection report carefully.
You have to demand an inspection when you present your offer. It must be written in as a contingency. If you do not approve the inspection report, then do not buy the home. Most real estate contracts automatically provide an inspection contingency.
Is Buying a Home Still a Smart Plan?
With the burst of the housing bubble, credit crisis, and millions of foreclosures across the country, you may wonder if buying a home is such a good idea after all. However, it’s important to consider all of the facts. The important message to take away from these events is not that buying a home is a bad idea, but that you must be smart about buying your home.
The housing market, like every type of market, unavoidably has its ups and downs. That doesn’t mean buying a home is a bad investment. As a long-term investment, homeownership is still one of the best investments for individual households. Historically, real estate has consistently increased in value, despite shorter periods of depreciation due to local markets and/or national economic conditions. The data shows that homes generally appreciate about 5% per year.
Savings & Investment
Five percent may not seem like a great return on investment, but you have to think about it in the context of the situation. For example, let’s say you put 10% down on a $200,000 house. That’s a $20,000 down payment, or initial investment. At a 5% annual appreciation rate, your $200,000 home would gain $10,000 in value during the first year. Earning $10,000 on an investment of $20,000 is a whopping 50% return.
For further perspective, let’s say instead of spending that $20,000 on a down payment, you invested it in the stock market. With a 5% return, you would gain only $1,000 in profit.
So now you’re saying that a home may have a higher return, but that’s before you consider all of the costs of home ownership, such as taxes, etc. Well, think of it this way: your property taxes as well as the interest on your mortgage are both tax deductible. You can deduct those costs from your income, thus reducing your overall taxable income. In other words, the government is subsidizing your home.
It’s easy to get carried away with all of the economic reasons for home ownership, but it’s important to remember that not every reason is financial. Have you ever wanted to paint the walls of your apartment? Well when you’re renting, you can’t. Has anything in your apartment ever needed updating, but the landlord refused to do it? When you own a home, you can make the space yours in almost any way you want. And you benefit when you do home improvements, both financially and psychologically. Homes generally have more space, for storage, living, etc. than other living arrangements. Not to mention that you have space outdoors for barbecuing, pets, and kids. Owning your home carries with it a sense of pride, accomplishment, and even an elevated social status.
So when you’re considering buying a home, consider the broad range of benefits that owning a home can have. And always make sure you have an experienced real estate agent and loan officer to help make sure you’re getting a home that is right for you, both financially and psychologically.
Thinking About Buying a Foreclosure?
With the housing bubble burst and the subprime mortgage crisis, millions of homeowners found themselves unable to make their mortgage payments. Many found themselves owing more on the house than the home was worth. Many just walked away from their homes. As a result of these complicated issues, millions of homes were foreclosed.
While this isn’t the only reason for which homes are foreclosed, it has been a widespread one. With all the foreclosed properties, there has also been extensive interest in buying these properties at a bargain price.
It is true that foreclosed properties can be priced at a significant discount, but they are also a much riskier investment. Before making an offer on a foreclosed property, do your due diligence.
Things you must do before buying a foreclosure:
• Do a title search - make sure that when you purchase a foreclosure that you are the only person who has any ownership claim
• Check for liens - find out if there are any liens against the property because you will be responsible for paying them
• Check for a second mortgage - you don’t want to be surprised by an extra mortgage that you will need to pay
• Know how good of a “bargain” you’re getting - foreclosures are sold “as is” and in many cases you will not be able to do a proper inspection. You may end up paying thousands of dollars repairing the property before it is fit to be lived in.
It is also important to consider that there are different types of foreclosure properties and each type comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. The different types of foreclosure purchases are:
3. Real Estate Owned (REO), also called “bank owned”
A pre-foreclosure is when you buy the home directly from the homeowner, before the bank officially forecloses. This type of purchase does not require as much capital as other foreclosures. Also, since you are purchasing straight from the homeowner, you will be able to gather all of the necessary information, such as inspection reports, title information, etc. that may not be available with other foreclosure properties. Once you take over the mortgage, you will be responsible for all future payments as well as any overdue back payments.
A foreclosure property will usually end up at an auction. Real estate auction practices vary by state but common practice is for the auction to be held on courthouse steps, in front of the foreclosed home, or at the county clerk’s office.
Real estate auctions offer the best chance for a great deal but also hold the greatest risk. Auction properties are sold as is, with no opportunity for potential buyers to perform inspections. When buying a home at auction, the buyer must pay cash, usually a cashier’s check. It is also possible that there may still be tenants living in the home. In such a case, you would be responsible for the often costly eviction process.
Once a foreclosure has gone to auction and failed to sell, it becomes a Real Estate Owned, or bank owned, property. Most homes do not sell at auction, most fail to even get any bids.
An REO property is the least likely of the foreclosure properties to represent a bargain, but it is also the least risky. The property can be fully inspected, any title issues can be found and dealt with, and the sale can be subject to a mortgage. REO properties also tend to be in better condition than other foreclosure properties.
Another thing to keep in mind when purchasing a foreclosure is that some states have a redemption period that allows the original owner to buy back the property by paying the remaining balance owed. You may be able to have this redemption period waived, so check the state laws on this topic before purchasing.
Still interested in buying a foreclosure property? If so, always do your research before purchasing!
Use a Buyer’s Agent
It’s important that you choose an experienced agent who is there for you. Your agent should be actively finding you potential homes, keeping you informed of the entire process, negotiating furiously on your behalf, and answering all of your questions with competence and speed.
First, find an agent who represents you and not the seller. This is beneficial during the negotiation process. If you are working with a buyer’s agent, he or she is required not to tell the seller of your top choice. In addition, he or she is also focused on getting you the lowest asking price.
Also, when you use a buyer’s agent, you will see more properties. Not only are they plugged into their Multiple Listing Service, but they are also actively finding homes that are listed as FSBO, or homes that sellers are thinking about listing.
Why You Should Not Make Any Major Credit Purchases
Don’t go on a spending spree using credit if you are thinking about buying a home, or in the process of buying a new home. Your mortgage pre-approval is subject to a final evaluation of your financial situation.
Every $100 you pay per month on a credit payment could cost you about $10,000 in home eligibility. For example, a car payment of $300/month could mean that you qualify for $30,000 less in a mortgage.
Even if you have accumulated enough savings, you should consider not making any large purchases until after closing. The last thing you want is to know that you could have purchased a new home had you curbed the urge to spend.