7 Things to Never, Ever Do When Buying a Home

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Buying a home is exciting and terrifying. After all, this is the biggest financial move most people ever make. As such, there’s a lot of room for error, and even tiny mistakes can translate to tens of thousands of dollars.

The lesson here: Even the most intrepid home buyer should get some guidance not only on what to do, but also what not to do. Look no further than this list, which highlights the most common mistakes buyers make so you can avoid the same fate.

1. Don’t shop for homes without an agent

By all means, start out by looking online at pictures of pretty houses—the more the better. It’s a vastly useful way to get the lay of the land. But when it comes time to get serious about buying a house, you should find a professional to help you out.

Think of a buyer’s agent as a fairy godparent who’s here to turn your homeownership dreams into reality. This person will guide you through every step of the home-buying process—from finding the right property and writing a winning offer to negotiating home inspection repairs and sailing through to closing.

“You want an advocate who is going to look out for your best interests in the transaction,” says Bellevue, WA, real estate agent Holly Gray.

2. Don’t meet with just one mortgage lender

Once you’ve found a real estate agent, your next step should be to get pre-approved for a home loan. To do that, you’ll have to meet with a mortgage lender and provide a good amount of paperwork, including two years of W-2 forms, two years of tax returns, and proof of funds for the down payment (among other documents).

That mountain of forms is one of the things that prompts many to meet with only one lender, says Richard Redmond, mortgage broker at All California Mortgage in Larkspur and author of “Mortgages: The Insider’s Guide.” That’s a potentially big mistake!

Redmond recommends getting at least three quotes from different lenders so that you can survey your options and find the best loan for you. If you don’t feel like doing the legwork of shopping around yourself, you can use a mortgage broker—basically an intermediary who presents you with options from a variety of lenders. The caveat is that you’ll likely have to pay a broker’s fee for the person’s service (usually 1% to 2% of the total of the loan).

3. Don’t understate your budget

It might sound strange, but a number of home buyers make the mistake of hiding their true budget from their real estate agent.

“Some people are afraid that their agent is going to make them buy the most expensive house that they can afford, so they understate their price range,” says Daniel Gyomory, a real estate agent in Northville, MI.

However, if you’re not upfront with your agent about your price range, you might miss out on a great house.

“If you tell me your budget is $300,000 maximum but you’re actuallywilling to pay $400,000, I may not send you listings that could actually be a good fit for you,” Gyomory explains.

4. Don’t hold out for the ‘perfect’ house

People throw around the words “dream home” a lot. (Heck, we’re guilty of it.) However, here’s the not-so-harsh truth: “There’s no such thing as a perfect house,” says Gyomory. And that’s why he has clients create a list of “musts” and “wants” to identify their criteria and focus on what really matters to them.

5. Don’t make ridiculously lowball offers

You obviously want to get a bargain, but you could lose out on a home that you love by making an absurdly low offer. In fact, a recent survey from Inman found that 15% of real estate agents say the third-largest mistake people make when buying a home is offering too little for a property (that’s behind not talking to a lender first and waiting too long to make an offer).

“When you overlook market data and make a lowball offer, you’re pretty much slapping the seller in the face,” says Gyomory. And if you offend the seller, the person might not even be willing to make you a counteroffer.

Bottom line: Trust your agent to help you assess the value of a house and write a winning offer, says Karen Elmir, a luxury real estate agent in Miami.

6. Don’t forget to budget for closing costs

The home seller will chip in some money at settlement; however, as the home buyer, you have the (unfortunate) pleasure of shouldering the lion’s share of the closing costs. Your mortgage lender should be able to give you a rough estimate of your closing costs once a seller accepts your offer, but as a rule you can estimate that they typically total 2% to 7% of the home’s purchase price. So on a $250,000 home, your closing costs would amount to anywhere from $5,000 to $17,500.

7. Don’t make big purchases before you close

Once you have found the right house and get the seller to accept your offer, your loan still needs to go through underwriting in order for you to obtain the mortgage. One thing underwriters do is look at your credit score from the three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—to make sure your credit hasn’t changed since you were pre-approved.

Therefore, you’ll want to avoid taking on any new debt while you’re in the process of buying a house. Purchasing a car with an auto loan or maxing out your credit cards, for example, could hurt your credit score, which could potentially raise your loan’s interest rate or—in the worst case—get your mortgage application rejected. (In other words: Bye-bye, new house.)

 

Posted by Daniel Bortz on realtor.com

3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy Your Dream Home

If you are debating purchasing a home right now, you are probably getting a lot of advice. Though your friends and family will have your best interests at heart, they may not be fully aware of your needs and what is currently happening in the real estate market.

Ask yourself the following 3 questions to help determine if now is a good time for you to buy in today’s market.

1. Why am I buying a home in the first place? 

This is truly the most important question to answer. Forget the finances for a minute. Why did you even begin to consider purchasing a home? For most, the reason has nothing to do with money.

For example, a survey by Braun showed that over 75% of parents say, “their child’s education is an important part of the search for a new home.”

This survey supports a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University which revealed that the top four reasons Americans buy a home have nothing to do with money. They are:

  • A good place to raise children and for them to get a good education
  • A place where you and your family feel safe
  • More space for you and your family
  • Control of that space

What does owning a home mean to you? What non-financial benefits will you and your family gain from owning a home? The answer to that question should be the biggest reason you decide to purchase or not.

2. Where are home values headed?

According to the latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median price of homes sold in May (the latest data available) was $252,800, which is up 5.8% from last year. This increase also marks the 63rd consecutive month with year-over-year gains.

If we look at home prices year over year, CoreLogic is forecasting an increase of 5.3% over the next twelve months. In other words, a home that costs you $250,000 today will cost you an additional $13,250 if you wait until next year to buy it.

What does that mean to you?

Simply put, with prices increasing each month, it might cost you more if you wait until next year to buy. Your down payment will also need to be higher in order to account for the higher price of the home you wish to buy. 

3. Where are mortgage interest rates headed?

A buyer must be concerned about more than just prices. The ‘long-term cost’ of a home can be dramatically impacted by even a small increase in mortgage rates.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), NAR, and Fannie Mae have all projected that mortgage interest rates will increase over the next twelve months, as you can see in the chart below:

Bottom Line

Only you and your family will know for certain if now is the right time to purchase a home. Answering these questions will help you make that decision.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Home Buying Myths Slayed [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • Interest rates are still below historic numbers.
  • 88% of property managers raised their rent in the last 12 months!
  • The credit score requirements for mortgage approval continue to fall.

Posted by The KCM Crew

How Long Does It Take to Buy a House? Use This Handy Timeline to Plan Ahead

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How long does it take to buy a house? It’s a big question, especially for people who hope to time their home purchase with when their rental lease is up. Or before the start of school. Or when you’re closing on the sale of your old home. Or any number of other time-sensitive situations you’re trying to manage. While timing a home purchase is tricky and will vary based on a variety of factors, many experts estimate that you should expect the home-buying process to take a minimum of four months.

Talk about a long slog, eh? Yet there are good reasons why buying a home is no impulse purchase. To help illuminate what’s going on, here’s a rundown of the various stages you’ll encounter to help you time your house hunt just right.

Stage 1: Getting mortgage pre-approval

Your first step shouldn’t be toward all those exciting open houses; it should be to a lender, presuming you need a mortgage to make your home-buying dreams happen.

“You’ll want to speak to a mortgage broker to start the loan process early so there are no surprises,” says Realtor® Beverley Hourlier with Hilltop Chateau Realty, in San Diego.

There are a couple of reasons for this: One, unless you’re really organized, it will take you a while to gather all the documents you need to show your lender, including pay stubs and tax forms. Two, if the lender finds out that your finances are less than ideal for homeownership—because of, for instance, a poor credit score—it can take months to clean up your finances so you’re in better standing.

If your finances are in good shape, you can get pre-approval, which is a guarantee that the bank will lend you a certain amount of money. Having this guarantee in hand is a major asset when home shopping, because it shows sellers that you can afford their home and mean business.

If your financial circumstances don’t change much by the time you close the deal, you can ask a lender to extend that promise for an additional 90 to 120 days or longer; you can also lock in a great interest rate so it doesn’t rise by the time you’re actually buying a home.

Stage 2: Finding the right home

While looking at real estate listings online is fun and easy, things slow down once you get to the point where you’re visiting houses in person. After all, you can’t just pop in whenever you want; you can visit only during an open house (often only on the weekends), or schedule individual appointments at times that work for the seller.

So in the same way you have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding a prince, you’ll likely need to see a lot of homes before you find one you love. On average, people see 10 houses before they make an offer, but that number can be much higher.

According to Realtor® Melanie Atkinson with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, in Tampa, FL, “The last thing you want is to feel rushed or make a decision in haste that you will later regret.”

Stage 3: Closing the deal

Once you’ve found the right house and made an offer that’s been accepted (which can typically happen in a few days), the waiting game really begins. On average, it takes around 50 days to close on a loan, from the time lenders pre-approve your mortgage application to the day you sign all the documents and get the keys.

Can you see now why getting pre-approval early is so important? In fact, securing financing is the most common holdup in buying a house. Even with a pre-approval, it can still take 30 days for the lender to do its due diligence by conducting a home appraisal to make sure it’s a good investment (since after all, the lender’s money is on the line).

Meanwhile, it will also take time for you to do your own due diligence to make sure the home isn’t hiding some glaring flaw you’ll regret inheriting. You can do this by checking the sellers’ property disclosure statements for any problems they’re aware of, and also hiring a home inspector to check out the house from top to bottom for any problems. All of this takes time.

Bottom line: As much as people complain about how long the home-buying process takes, it’s all in the interests of making sure you’re happy once you move in. So when in doubt, start now! If you’re worried you’ll find your dream house too soon, there are ways to negotiate with a seller so that it all works out.

Posted by Cathie Ericson on realtor.com

5 Reasons Why Buying an Old House Is a Great Idea

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We understand the appeal of moving into a newly constructed home. After all, it’s hard not to be enticed by brand-new appliances, floors, and heating, cooling, and electrical systems. Plus, buying an old place that needs work can be intimidating, especially for those of us whose only brush with restoring a house has come from watching reruns of “Fixer Upper.”

However, home buyers can see all the beauty and potential in older houses. What some view as eyesores, others see as charm—four walls full of history that can’t be duplicated. Besides the nostalgia factor, an old house can be a smart purchase for the sake of your wallet.

Take a look at the top reasons why buying an old house might just be the best decision you’ll ever make.

1. Old homes are cheaper than new homes

What classifies as an older home? In general, if a home does not use or contain modern materials such as high-performance concrete, it qualifies as “old.” Normally, these homes would have been built before 1970.

Shelley Cluff, a real estate broker and owner of Park Place Homes, in Midland, MI, explains that an older home gives you substantially more bang for your buck.

“On average, a comparably sized new construction can sell for 10% to 20% more than an older, updated home,” she says. While newer homes might cost less to maintain, they are also built with different materials such as energy-efficient products that drive up the cost of building them and, by extension, the cost of buying them.

2. Old homes have better-quality construction

The saying “they don’t build ’em like they used to” is generally true. Established houses are built to last, and many aspects of the construction cannot be reproduced today. Older homes might be built with wood made from old-growth trees (trees that attained great age by not being significantly disturbed) and therefore more resistant to rot and warping.

Even the walls are likely different. In an older home they’re probably built with plaster and lathe, making them structurally stronger than the drywall construction of modern homes. These older materials also provide a better sound barrier and insulation.

3. Old homes are often in established locations

When choosing a neighborhood, home buyers weigh a number of factors—including the school district, crime rate, and walkability. If you’re looking at buying an old house, chances are it’s in a well-established, and probably stable, area. This is a good thing. 

4. Old homes have more character

See that mature oak tree towering over the front yard that took decades to reach such heights? You’re not going to get that kind of curb appeal from a new construction.

Some older homes have managed to maintain the amenities that are characteristic of the era it was built in—for example, original crown molding, herringbone-patterned hardwood floors, and built-ins.

While newer homes will reflect the trends of current times, they won’t satisfy other eclectic tastes. Victorian homes with authentic stained-glass windows or a midcentury sunken living room can’t be found in modern houses. While many designers do emulate these characteristics, you might prefer to go for the real thing.

5. Lot size tends to be larger with old homes

Newer homes might come with newer amenities, but on the outside (specifically in the backyard) things aren’t as remarkable. According to data from CoreLogic, new constructions tend to have a larger house with a smaller lot.

“The median size of a new home increased from 1,938 square feet in 1990 to 2,300 square feet in 2016, but lot sizes during this same period decreased from 8,250 square feet to 6,970 square feet.”

In an effort to keep the cost of new homes down and bring in more revenue, homebuilders have favored building larger homes on smaller lots. Why?

“When home prices appreciate at a fast pace, the land value rises even faster, which in turn drives the cost of homes higher,” according to CoreLogic.

So if a big backyard is on your list on nonnegotiables, you’re most likely to find that in an older home.

Posted by Niko Vercelletto on realtor.com

What Would You Sacrifice to Save For Your Next Home? [INFOGRAPHIC]

 

Some Highlights:

  • 95% of first-time homebuyers are willing to sacrifice to make homeownership a reality.
  • The top item that buyers sacrifice is new clothes, at 54%.
  • Even repeat or experienced buyers say they sacrificed taking a vacation or buying a new car to buy their last home.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Is 2017 the Year to Move Up to Your Dream Home? If So, Do It Early!

If you are considering moving up to your dream home, it may be better to do it earlier in the year than later. The two components of your monthly mortgage payment (home prices and interest rates) are both projected to increase as the year moves forward, and interest rates may increase rather dramatically. Here are some predictions on where rates will be by the end of the year:

Freddie Mac

While full employment and rising inflation are signs of a strong economy, they also have the potential to push mortgage rates and house prices up. The higher rates and higher prices create significant affordability concerns, which may continue to characterize the housing market for the rest of 2017.”

Lynn Fisher, Vice President of Research & Economics for the Mortgage Bankers Association

By the time we get to the fourth quarter of this year, we will still be under 5 percent – we are thinking 4.7 percent…Something north of 5 percent by the time we get to 2018, and by the time we get to 2019, we show fourth-quarter rates hitting 5.5 percent.”

Mark Fleming, First American’s Chief Economist

Despite some regional disparities, title agents and real estate professionals do not expect increasing mortgage rates to have a significant impact on the housing market this spring. Continued good economic news, increasing Millennial demand and confidence that buyers will remain in the market even if rates exceed 5 percent bode well for 2017 real estate.

Len Kiefer, Deputy Chief Economist for Freddie Mac

We will probably see rates higher at the end of year, around 4.5%.”

Bottom Line

If you are feeling good about your family’s economic future and are considering making a move to your dream home, doing it sooner rather than later makes the most sense.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew