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Archive for the ‘Home Buyer Tips’ Category

Buying Land to Build a New Home On? Don’t Forget These Three Important Considerations

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Buying Land to Build a New Home On? Don't Forget These Three Important ConsiderationsWhen most people talk about real estate, they envision buying an already-built house on already-landscaped property. However, buying vacant land and building a new home is a great way to ensure that you get the home that you want in the location that you want. It’s also a major undertaking, which is why you should take these three considerations into account before you buy any land for your new home.

Location, Location, Location: It’s More Important Than You Think

People often hear the phrase “location, location, location” and it’s a very prudent maxim with buying land. The parcel of land that you buy should be in a good geographic location and on stable ground – which means there shouldn’t be any major water sources nearby (like a swamp) and hills should be minimal. You’ll also want to consider zoning regulations that influence the acreage and other regulations that influence how you can and cannot use the land.

Utility Connections Will Be Your Responsibility

New land tends to not have utilities laid out under or over the ground. If this is the case, you will need to invest in electrical, water, and possibly heat utilities for the home.

This process involves communicating between the municipal government and utility companies so that the proper infrastructure is put in place. These costs and the implementation can be quite a headache depending on how isolated the land is from municipal or regional infrastructure.

Access: Look Up Any Easements on the Land

Many homeowners may not realize how legal access to land can affect their purchase. An easement refers to the legal right of other entities to use your land even though they do not own it. Before you buy land, you and your lawyer should investigate whether or not the land has easements, and whether or not these easements may interfere with your goals for the property.

These are just a few of the major considerations you need to make when you buy land. Purchasing a plot of land is quite a bit more complicated than buying a house, and if you’re not prepared, it can easily turn into a nightmare. When properly planned, though, buying land can give you a great backdrop on which to build the house of your dreams.

Home Buying Tips: Three Items to Watch out for in a Purchase Agreement Contract

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Home Buying Tips: Three Items to Watch out for in a Purchase Agreement ContractThe purchase agreement is a vitally important document that outlines the provisions, terms and conditions for the transfer of property.

It should be read carefully and any ambiguities should be clarified prior to signing. It is a legally binding contract between the buyer and seller.

The purchase agreement may vary depending on the location. Most real estate agents use a form that has been approved by a state realtors association.

The seller may have a different version that was drawn up by an attorney. It should not be assumed that they are all the same.

Typically, the purchase agreement will include an inspection period. This allows the buyer time to verify the conditions stated on the purchase agreement. Three of the most important stipulations in the contract are listed below.

All Owners Must Sign the Purchase Agreement

In most cases, the purchase agreement should be signed by the legal owner of the property.

If there is more than one owner, each owner should sign the agreement. In many states, both parties in a married couple have an interest in a property even if the title is held in one party’s name alone. Therefore, the purchase agreement should be signed by both parties of a married couple.

In the event the property is being sold by a corporation, verify that the person signing the agreement is authorized to commit the corporation to the sale.

List All Fixtures to be Transferred with the Sale

The purchase agreement should list all items that are to convey with the property. “Fixtures” are considered items that are attached to the property.

Legally, they should be included with the sale, but more than a few buyers have been dismayed to find the property stripped of countertops, appliances and window coverings. Any fixtures and personal property that are part of the sale should be included in the purchase agreement.

Verify Zoning Ordinances

The purchase agreement may contain various stipulations. One should include the right to cancel the contract if zoning prohibits the use of the property as planned.

Zoning ordinances may restrict the use of buildings or land. This may prove to be an obstacle for someone who intended to include a workshop on the property. The buyer should be able to withdraw from the contract if they discover that zoning prohibits the intended use.

Lowballing 101: How to Avoid Insulting a Home Seller when Making a Low Offer for Their House or Condo

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Lowballing 101: How to Avoid Insulting a Home Seller when Making a Low Offer for Their House or CondoBuying a home is a huge step for people who are ready to make an investment in their future. Getting a great deal on a home is just as important and knowing how much to offer could be confusing. It is important to make sure the home seller is not insulted by the lowball offer and is ready to negotiate to make sure everyone wins.

Make a List of Necessary Improvements

One of the best ways to validate a lowball offer on a home is to list improvements that need to be made to the property. If the home needs a new roof or a new heating and air conditioning system, these are reasons to offer less than the asking price. Sometimes a home may also need new flooring, paint, or matching appliances which all cost money. The buyer can make a lowball offer stating additional expenses of making sure the home is move in ready.

Explain Any Issues with the Location

Another option when considering a lowball offer is to point out problems with the location. If the home is on a busy street or close to a manufacturing district, the buyer has legitimate concerns. In the offer, list the potential problems of living too close to fast food restaurants, train tracks, or airports. A less desirable location could equal a great buy on a new home.

Provide Pricing for Comparable Homes in the Area

A knowledgeable real estate agent can help compare homes that have sold in the area. When you are writing up a lowball offer, look at the lower priced homes that have sold in the same neighborhood. A seller will quickly realize that if he wants to sell the home, he will need to accept a reasonable offer or risk letting his house sit on the market for weeks or months.

Consider the Seller’s Reasons for Selling

Finally, the seller’s situation can also be key in getting a good deal on a home. If the seller is desperate to sell because of a job relocation or if he has already bought a new home this can be the perfect reason to make a low offer and take the home off the seller’s hands. Without insulting the seller, the buyer can make an offer for less than the asking price and agree to a quick closing.

Experiencing ‘Purchase Anxiety’? How to Calm Your Nerves Before Committing to Buy a New Home

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Experiencing 'Purchase Anxiety'? How to Calm Your Nerves Before Committing to Buy a New HomeWhether this is your first big purchase, or your family is moving to a new location or looking for more space, buying a home has its share of ups and downs.

It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about whether or not you’ve found the right property. Here are some things you can do to make yourself feel more secure with your decision.

Do The Math

You’ve probably already done this, but it’s okay to go over it a number of times to be sure. Factor in your household income and all the bills you expect to pay every month. Add everything up.

It sounds like a stressful activity, but when you look at the numbers and realize that buying a home is actually doable, it can be a liberating feeling.

When you know for sure you can make it as a homeowner without getting underwater, you will feel more confident.

Meet The Neighbors

If you haven’t had the chance to knock on a couple of doors yet, you should spend some time saying hello to people in the neighborhood. The more you can get to talking with families that are just like yours, the more you will be able to picture yourself as a member of the community.

If you have kids, find out if there are other kids the same age nearby. That will help to ease their anxiety about moving as well.

Ask Your Agent

Don’t feel like you are being overly cautious if you ask your real estate agent and or mortgage professional your lingering questions. Make sure you’re getting a good price for the area, and make sure you know about any issues with the condition of the property.

You should be able to trust that your realtor and mortgage professional are excited for your decision.

Familiarize Yourself With The Neighborhood

Take a drive and figure out which stores you’re nearest to, the route you can take to get to work, and which other amenities you might take advantage of. Home buyers often underestimate how important living in a safe neighborhood with plenty of accessible businesses can be.

The more you can imagine yourself living at your new address, the better you will feel.

Remember, never sign the papers on a new home unless you feel one hundred percent secure in your buying decision.

Five Absolute Truths About the Home Buying Process That You Will Need to Come to Terms With

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Five Absolute Truths About the Home Buying Process That You Will Need to Come to Terms WithBuying a home is one of the most exciting times that an individual will undertake in life. However, a property purchase is not without its challenges, and these can cause frustration. In this article we’ll share five potential setbacks that home buyers will need to understand and come to terms with to make a successful purchase.

Homeowner’s Insurance is Necessary

Most lenders will require insurance before financing is approved. To fulfill these requirements, the policy should be for at least one year and proof that the policy has been paid for must be presented. Purchasing the policy is something that must be done before closing can take place, so if you’re sure that this is the home for you, don’t delay.

Some Sellers Are Firm, No Matter What

In an ideal situation, the buyer and the seller come to a mutual agreement very easily. However, in most cases negotiation of some type is likely to be a part of the process. As with most negotiations, to reach success both sides will need to compromise.

Probate Properties Have Special Terms

When the original homeowner has died, there are certain considerations to keep in mind that do not typically apply to other types of property. One is the fact that there is a special process that must be completed before the property can be sold, even though the heirs may advertise the property as being for sale ahead of time. Another factor to keep in mind is that a recently probated property may have been uninhabited for some time and will be sold ‘as is’.

Loan Offers May Not Be Set in Stone

A common pitfall for many buyers is the assumption that home financing will be approved without issue. Unexpected circumstances may arise that cause a mortgage loan to be denied, which can cause an unprepared buyer numerous issues. Many sellers, in anticipation of such problems, have a contingency requirement.

Expect Caution from Sellers

If a seller treats your offer with caution or trepidation, don’t take it personally. Many homeowners have been burned during previous sales, and you have no idea what the seller has been through with potential buyers this time around. If someone is exercising caution, there’s likely a good reason for it.

Buying a House or Condo? Why the Home Inspection Process is One You Won’t Want to Skimp On

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Buying a House or Condo? Why the Home Inspection Process is One You Won't Want to Skimp OnOnce you have found that perfect home with the right price and every little feature you were hoping for, it’s important to keep in mind that the home has been presented in a way that accentuates its highlights and shadows any flaws. For this reason, it is crucial that you get a home inspection before completing a purchase.

Many sellers also have inspectors investigate the home in order to determine its sale value. As such, they should be aware that a prospective buyer will want to request an independent inspection to verify the findings.

Reasons For Home Inspections

If you are the one purchasing the home, getting an inspection is likely to be the most important investigation you need to perform to ensure you are getting the best value. It can also help to know what reasons each party has for requiring a home inspection.

Buyers, for example, feel peace of mind knowing the home in question is safe. They also gain the ability to negotiate in the event a problem arises from inspection, or they can request repairs first. They can also opt out if the problems that arise are too overwhelming to deal with prior to or after the purchase. Finally, buyers can learn about the kind of maintenance and upkeep be required for the home in the long run.

Sellers, on the other hand, want to make the transaction as smooth of a process as possible to prevent issues that could slow down the sale. They can also learn about any problems they need to repair before putting the house on the market, and they can determine the sale price for the transaction. Lastly, this allows the seller to prove their transparency by having an inspection report available, even though he or she should expect that the buyer should be requesting an independent home inspection regardless.

It should be evident, having an inspection conducted is vital for buyers and sellers alike; though the price might seem costly at first, it is merely a small fee that is well worth the effort to solidify a home purchase.

Finding A Home Inspector

The first thing to keep in mind is that most states lack a licensing process for those who inspect homes. If your state does not have such criteria, finding an inspector in good standing with a nationally recognized organization can help as well.

It is very important not to take a seller’s inspection report at face value, no matter what kind of reputation they may have as a person. You might not even want to accept an inspector that someone else hires since they may have a vested interest that can influence the report.

Keep in mind that a general inspector is not typically licensed to check for specific issues like gas or pests. As such, you will need to either seek someone who is licensed for a full inspection or specificaly request inspection for pests, especially for those in high risk areas. 

Three Ways That Your Credit Score Affects Your Mortgage (and Your Chance of Obtaining One!)

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Three Ways That Your Credit Score Affects Your Mortgage (and Your Chance of Obtaining One!)If you’re thinking of buying a home, you’ve probably been thinking a lot about your credit score as well. Credit scores control so much of what we do in the world of finances, but what does your credit score really have to do with your mortgage? Here are three ways that your credit score could impact your mortgage application.

Your Credit Score Affects Your Ability To Get A Mortgage

The first thing your credit score tells a lender is whether they should lend to you at all. In some cases, if you have a very low credit score, you may not be able to obtain a mortgage at all.

Different lenders will have different criteria for determining safe and unsafe lending situations. Typically, if you have a score below the 600 mark, you’ll have trouble obtaining a mortgage.

If you’re worried about a low credit score, don’t despair – you can still get a mortgage, you just might have to work a little harder to get one. Some lenders will still lend to people with lower credit scores (just make sure you’re approaching legitimate lenders and not mortgage scam artists). Or, if time is on your side, you can work toward building up your credit score so that when it comes time to take out a mortgage, your score will be more appealing to lenders.

Your Credit Score Affects What Types Of Mortgages You Can Obtain

The second thing a lender learns from your credit score is which types of mortgages you qualify for. If a lender sees you as a higher risk, they won’t necessarily be willing to offer you just any old mortgage.

In most cases, if you have a credit score of less than 620, you won’t qualify for a conventional mortgage. In addition, if you have a lower credit score, you may have to make a larger down payment in order to qualify for the type of mortgage you want.

Your Credit Score Affects Your Interest Rate

The final thing that a lender learns from your credit score is what type of interest rate they’re willing to offer you. As a general rule, the higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate.

However, just because you have a high credit score, that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get a great mortgage rate. There’s more that goes into the price of a mortgage than just the interest rate, so watch out for additional factors like extra fees, mortgage insurance, lock-in periods, and so on.

Your credit score tells a lender a lot about what type of borrower you are. Ultimately, a higher credit score means that you’ll be able to borrow money at a lower interest rate. But if your score is low, don’t worry – there’s a lot you can do to bring up that score before you apply for a mortgage, so don’t throw in the towel just yet!

Every financial situation is different, so if you want to find out more about how your credit score will affect your mortgage in your specific circumstance, talk to your mortgage professional.

Should I Shorten My Mortgage Term, Important Factors To Consider

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When you first bought your home a few years ago, perhaps you started off with a 30 year mortgage. Now, you are considering refinancing and changing it to a 20 year or even a 15 year mortgage.

Shortening your mortgage term and refinancing can be a smart financial move, but before you make this decision there are a number of factors that you should consider.

Switching to a shorter mortgage will mean that your monthly payments will be higher, but you will be 100% paid off much sooner and you will save thousands of dollars in interest rates. Here are a few of the factors to consider before making this decision:

Has Your Situation Improved?

Perhaps you have moved to a higher paying position, allowing you to earn a higher income and pay off more of your mortgage every month? Or maybe you have received an inheritance, which will help you to make the payments? Perhaps your expenses have gone down and you will have more money left over from your wage?

Whatever the reason, if your financial situation has improved you might want to consider switching to a shorter mortgage. With your spare money, you will be able to make the larger payments and get your house paid off sooner.

Is The Improvement Long Term?

However, it is important to consider whether this improvement will last for the long term. Will your higher wage stay that way for the next several years? Are there any hidden expenses that you are failing to factor in?

You might be set up to repay larger monthly amounts on your mortgage at the moment, but you don’t want to set yourself up for failure in the future if your finances change.

What Are The Refinancing Costs?

Keep in mind that refinancing often comes with costs and fees, so make sure that you subtract these when you are making your calculations. It can sometimes take at least two or three years to recoup the fees, so make sure that you don’t plan on selling your home in the short term.

Can You Get A Better Rate?

One of the advantages of refinancing to a shorter mortgage is that you can sometimes get the opportunity to find a better rate. Perhaps if you have an adjustable rate you will be able to convert it to a fixed rate. Take a look at what is available and ask your financial advisor for help.

These are just a few important factors to consider when it comes to shortening your mortgage term. For more info about your home, contact your trusted mortgage professional.

Dodd-Frank’s Latest Gift: The Qualified Mortgage Rule

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Dodd-Frank's Latest Gift: The Qualified Mortgage RuleThe Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s latest provision – the Qualified Mortgage rule – is going to effect on January 10, 2014.

While, like many of Dodd-Frank’s other features, its ability to protect customers remains to be seen, one of its impacts is already clear. Taking out a home loan just got harder.

The QM rule contains a set of provisions that, if followed, may protect lenders from lawsuits. They will also make it harder for customers to qualify to borrow money to buy a house.

Verifying Incomes

Lenders now have to follow stringent procedures to verify that borrowers can repay their loans. While many home loan lenders are already verifying and documenting borrower incomes, assets and debts, they will have to create additional paperwork to prove that they did their jobs.

DTI Caps

For a loan to be considered a qualifying mortgage, the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio can be no more than 43 percent. This means that if a borrower has $4,500 in gross monthly income, his total debt payments including his new mortgage cannot exceed $1,935 per month.

Previously, some lenders had been willing to go up to 45 percent.

Fee And Term Caps

Lenders will be less able to make creative loans, as well. Loans that meet the QM rule can be no longer than 30 years in length. They also cannot have closing costs and fees that exceed a cap of 3 percent of the loan’s balance.

Who Gets Impacted?

The good news is that the normal borrower taking out the normal loan might not notice the new QM rule. Borrowers that get squeezed are those that need to take out a loan that doesn’t fit the box laid out by the provisions. These include:

  • People in high-cost cities that need 40-year or interest-only mortgages to lower their payments.
  • Self-employed people and contractors that need to be able to borrow money on “stated” income without detailed verification.
  • Borrowers that can afford a loan but have other debts, like student loans.
  • Those that need non-traditional loans with high fees.

While the law still allow a lender to make a loan that isn’t a qualifying mortgage, given that the loan won’t have the same legal protections, its costs remain to be seen. This could end up pricing people with special needs out of the home loan market.

3 Considerations When Making A Down Payment

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3 Considerations When Making A Down Payment One of the challenges you will face when deciding how much money to put down on your new home is whether to put down a larger down payment or to take a bit of money from your down payment and use it to pay “discount points” to lower your interest rate.

There are pros and cons to doing both and each borrower’s situation will be different so it’s important to understand which option is best for your individual need.

Some Factors You Should Consider Include:

  • Cost Of Borrowing - generally speaking, to lower your interest rate will mean you pay a premium. Most lenders will charge as much as one percent (one point) on the face amount of your loan to decrease your mortgage interest rate. Before you agree to pay discount points, you need to calculate the amount of money you are going to save monthly and then determine how many months it will take to recover your investment. Remember, discount points are normally tax deductible so it may be important to talk to your tax planner for guidance.
  • Larger Down Payment Means More Equity – keep in mind, the larger your down payment, the less money you have to borrow and the more equity you have in your new home. This is important for borrowers in a number of ways including lower monthly payments, potentially better loan terms and possibly not having to purchase mortgage insurance depending on how much equity you will have at the time of closing.
  • Qualifying For A Loan – borrowers who are facing challenges qualifying for a loan should weigh which option (discount points or larger down payment) is likely to help them qualify. In some instances, using a combination of down payment and lower rates will make the difference. Your mortgage professional can help you determine which is most beneficial to you.

There is no answer that is right for every borrower. All of the factors that impact your mortgage loan and your overall financial situation must be considered when you are preparing for your home mortgage loan.

Talking with your mortgage professional and where appropriate your tax professional will help you make the decision that is right for your specific situation.