Home Buyer Reports
How to Not Pay Too Much for Your Home
Whether you are buying your first home, or your fifth, the process of buying a home is a detailed, time-consuming venture. At the same time, it’s an emotional period laden with difficult choices. You want to ensure that the home you purchase meets your family’s needs now, and in the future.
Each of these decisions often involves money. When you consider all that money represents, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t pay too much. This article helps you become a savvy buyer, by pointing out some of the pitfalls inherent in the home-buying process. These include such things as knowing what you want before you begin shopping, taking your time to shop, choosing the right realtor, and remaining objective while viewing potential homes. With this information, you’ll be closer to finding your ideal home.
1. Before you shop, develop a needs vs. wants list
Everyone has a picture of an ideal home. This would include all the features you not only need, but have long desired. However, when it comes time to buying a home, the desires cost more. While it’s nice to think about having a beautifully landscaped backyard, or a solarium, perhaps even some built-in appliances, these are usually considered luxury items, which can add considerably to the price of your home.
That’s why it’s a good idea to develop a needs and wants lists. With this list, begin with items you really need like adequate space, garage and number of bedrooms. For most people, basic needs should be considered first. After that, you could consider additional desires, if you can manage these benefits financially.
With such a list in your hands, you’re less likely to be caught up in the excitement of the pursuit. You’ll have a good idea of what you want, within you price range, and if you can afford those additional items.
2. Get pre-approved prior to shopping
Visit your financial or lending institution prior to home buying. Quickly, you’ll know the amount of mortgage you’ll receive. Be sure to get a mortgage commitment in writing. Most importantly, you’ll tell sellers that you are a serious prospect. Depending upon market conditions, a seller may lean towards an unconditional offer. You’ll have less negotiating power if you have to wait for mortgage approval.
Banks and financial institutions have developed many programs especially for home buyers, be that first-time buyers or those with equity in their homes. When you review your needs and objectives with a lending officer, you’ll be one step closer to purchasing your home.
Simple Steps to Ensure a Smooth Home Purchase
Buying a home can be an emotional, time-consuming, and complex process. There are a few things that you can do to help make the process go as smooth as possible:
1. Check your credit.
Before you apply for a home loan, regardless of your credit, it’s a smart idea to obtain a copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus and review the information. If there are errors or things that need to be addressed, it’s easier to address them before you have found a house, than after you have found a house and are trying to close your loan.
If you know that there are a few blemishes on your credit, let your lender know what they are, why they are there, and why you are a still good credit risk. Lenders look at your credit to determine how likely you will pay back the loan. If you had extenuating circumstances – like a loss of a job or medical bills – let them know so that they understand that it is not likely to happen again in the future.
2. Get approved before you buy.
An approval means that a lender has reviewed your credit history, verified your assets and employment, and has approved your loan before you have found a home to purchase. As long as the home appraises for at least the purchase price, the loan should close.
Getting approved also gives you an advantage over other buyers. Your firm approval makes it easier for you to negotiate on the price of a home, than a person who is not approved or is pre-qualified.
While getting pre-qualified may sound official, it is really just getting an idea of what you can afford. Its having a person plug in a few numbers that you give them – your monthly income and your monthly debt – and getting an approximate payment calculated. From the payment, the calculator can approximate the house price range that you can afford. No information is verified. Because your assets, income or credit is not verified, a pre-qualification has little value when purchasing a home.
3. Find a great buyer’s agent.
Traditionally real estate agents represent the sellers in a transaction. When you are not working with a buyer’s agent, they are less likely to negotiate the best price or contingencies for you.
A buyer’s agent’s job and fiduciary responsibility (meaning legal duty) is to you, the buyer. Before working with an agent, establish if they are a buyer’s agent or a seller’s agent. After spending a lot of time with a Realtor, it’s natural to feel like you’re a team. But if they are not negotiating for you, then they are not on your team.
Avoid The Most Common Buyer Errors
Shopping for a new home is an emotional experience. It’s also time consuming and comes with a myriad of details. Some buyers, however, caught up in the excitement of buying a new home tend to overlook some items. Their home purchase turns into an expensive process. These errors generally fall into three areas:
- Paying too much
- Losing a dream home to another buyer
- Buying the wrong home
When you have a systematic plan before you shop, you’ll be sure to avoid these costly errors. Here are some tips on making the most of your home purchase:
Bidding without sufficient information
What price do you offer a seller? Is the seller’s asking price too high? Is it a deal? Without research on the market and comparable homes, you could lose thousands of dollars. Before you make that offer, be sure you have researched the market. A professional realtor, can offer an unbiased opinion on the value of a home, based on market conditions, condition of the home and neighborhood. Without knowledge of the market, your offer could be too much. Or worse, you could miss out on a great buying opportunity.
Buying a mis-matched home
What do you need and want in a home? Sounds simple. Yet, clearly identifying your needs and bringing an objective view to home shopping, leaves you in a better position. Sometimes, home buyers buy a home that is too large or too small. Perhaps they didn’t consider the drive to work, the distance to school, or the many repair jobs waiting for completion. Plan ahead. Use your needs list as a guideline for every home you view.
Before you sign any document, be sure the property you are considering is free of all encumbrances. As part of their services, a realtor can supply you with a copy of the title to ensure there are no liens, debts, undisclosed owners, leases or easements.
Before the purchase is completed, an updated survey is essential. This report will indicate boundaries and structural changes (additions to the house, a new swimming pool, neighbor’s new fence which is extending a boundary line, etc.).
For $300 – $500 a professional inspector will conduct a thorough inspection of the home. This way, you’ll have an idea of the cost of future repairs. Make the final contract subject to a favourable report.
Shopping without pre-approval
It only takes a few days to get financing pre-approval. When you are shopping for a home, this gives you more power. A seller is more likely to consider an offer from a serious buyer.
Thinking About Buying Your First Home?
Thinking about purchasing a home of your own? Keep these critical considerations in mind:
How long you plan to live in the home.
If you purchase a home and get a job transfer or decide to move after only a short time, you may end up paying money in order to sell it. The value of your home may not have appreciated enough to cover the costs that you paid to buy the home and the costs that it would take you to sell your home.
The length of time that it will take to cover those costs depends on various economic factors in the area of the home. Most parts of the country have an average of 5% appreciation per year. In this case, you should plan to stay in your home at least 3-4 years to cover buying and selling costs. If the area you buy your home in experiences an economic up turn, the length of the time to cover these costs could be shortened, and the opposite is also true.
How long the home will meet your needs.
What features do you require in a home to satisfy your lifestyle now? Five years from now? Depending on how long you plan to stay in your home, you’ll need to ensure that the home has the amenities that you’ll need. For example, a two-bedroom dwelling may be perfect for a young couple with no children. However, if they start a family, they could quickly outgrow the space. Therefore, they should consider a home with room to grow. Could the basement be turned into a den and extra bedrooms? Could the attic be turned into a master suite? Having an idea of what you’ll need will help you find a home that will satisfy you for years to come.
Your financial health – your credit and home affordability.
Is now the right time financially for you to buy a home? Would you rate your financial picture as healthy? Is your credit good? While you can always find a lender to lend you money, solid lenders are more skeptical if your credit history is not good. Generally, a couple of blemishes on a credit report will make you a good credit risk and could qualify you for the lowest interest rates. If you have more than a couple of blemishes on your report, lenders like Quicken Loans may still provide you with a loan, but you may just have to pay a higher interest rate and fees.
Some say that you should refrain from borrowing as much as you qualify for because it is wiser not to stretch your financial boundaries. The other school of thought says you should stretch to buy as much home as you can afford, because with regular pay raises and increased earning potential, the big payment today will seem like less of a payment tomorrow. This is a decision only you can make. Are you in a position where you expect to make more money soon? Would you rather be conservative and fairly certain that you can make your payment without stretching financially? Make sure that whatever you do, it’s within your comfort zone.
To determine how much home you can afford, talk to a lender or go online and use a “home affordability” calculator. Good calculators will give you a range of what you may qualify for. Then call a lender. While some may say that the “28/36” rule applies, in today’s home mortgage market, lenders are making loans customized to a particular person’s situation. The “28/36” rule means that your monthly housing costs can’t exceed 28 percent of your income and your total debt load can’t exceed 36 percent of your total monthly income. Depending on your assets, credit history, job potential and other factors, lenders can push the ratios up to 40-60% or higher. While we’re not advocating you purchase a home utilizing the higher ratios, its important for you to know your options.
Where the money for the transaction will come from.
Typically homebuyers will need some money for a down payment and closing costs. However, with today’s broad range of loan options, having a lot of money saved for a down payment is not always necessary – if you can prove that you are a good financial risk to a lender. If your credit isn’t stellar but you have managed to save 10-20% for a down payment, you will still appear to be a very good financial risk to a lender.
The ongoing costs of home ownership.
Maintenance, improvements, taxes and insurance are all costs that are added to a monthly house payment. If you buy a condominium, townhouse or in certain communities, a monthly homeowner’s association fee might be required. If these additional costs are a concern, you can make choices to lower or avoid these fees. Be sure to make your realtor and your lender aware of your desire to limit these costs.
If you are still unsure if you should buy a home after making these considerations, you may want to consult with an accountant or financial planner to help you assess how a home purchase fits into your overall financial goals.
A successful purchase starts with the right representative. In fact, once you’ve selected the best agent to represent you, it is likely that he or she can recommend other professionals to join your team, taking more of the responsibility off of your shoulders.
A bank is not just a bank. Having the right backer can be extremely important – it is your money we’re talking about after all! Make sure that your lender and financial representative is someone with whom you feel comfortable, and be wary of any lender who promises you more than you think you can reasonably afford. Your lenders may or may not require an independent appraisal, and typically will make arrangements for the appraisal themselves.
Your home purchase is far too important a transaction to skimp on legal representation at the risk of leaving yourself open to costly future issues. Find a lawyer who is willing to take the time to answer your questions and who specializes in real estate law.
No home inspection is 100% guaranteed, but a few hundred dollars to catch a major problem now is certainly better than many thousands to correct that ‘surprise’ down the road. Ask your agent for a recommendation.
Planning some renovations? You’re not the only one! The home renovation industry is booming, and in some markets, booking a contractor must be done months in advance (that’s a long time to go without a kitchen). Don’t let finding the right contractor slip through the cracks – planning ahead will almost certainly make your renovation smoother, and you contractor will appreciate the advance notice.
1. Find the right representative
Even if you’re not quite ready to buy, your buyer’s agent can be an absolute wealth of information, and can often offer ‘scoops’ on local developments you might not have know about otherwise. Speak to your agent first and he or she can be helping to guide you right from the start.
2. Find out what your price range is
Online mortgage calculators are a good place to start, but as you get closer to being ready to buy, there is no substitute for a written mortgage pre-approval. Just speaking to your lender is an extremely worthwhile venture – this is the only way to really get an in-depth picture of your overall financial picture and to discover exactly what you can reasonably afford to spend on a home (and possibly on renovating).
3. Find out what your local market looks like
The internet can be incredibly valuable in doing preparatory research. Start with your agent – he or she can direct you to valuable resources and immediately start e-mailing you real estate listings that may interest you (or at least give you a better idea of what your needs and wants are).
4. Find out what your true needs and wants are
Compose a needs/wants list that takes into consideration your local market conditions, your price range, and the advice of your real estate agent.
5. Find your dream home!
Once you’re ready to act, you may be surprised by how quickly you can make a decision. Armed with your pre-approval, a little market knowledge, and your needs/wants list, call your real estate agent, hit the pavement, and when you see ‘the house’, put in an offer.
With the right team behind you, it really can be that easy!
Let us help you find out what you can afford! Our mortgage calculator will help you determine loan amounts, mortgage qualification, or whether you should be renting or buying.