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Property Buying Tips
Now that you've decided to investigate home ownership, the best way to approach your purchase is as an educated Property Buyer. It is very important to educate yourself on the process and requirements before you begin looking for a home.
For example, many people believe that renting is cheaper than buying, or that you need an exorbitant down payment to buy a house. The reality is that the costs of renting may almost be the same as that of a down payment for a house.
Last Updated - 16th October 2005
Preparing Yourself for the Buy
Your Real Estate Professional
Choosing to buy a home is one of the most important decisions of your life and should not be taken lightly. That's why it is in your best interest to associate yourself with a good real estate agent who has experience, who works in the area where you would like to live, and with whom you feel comfortable.
It is important to develop a financial plan so that you not only save money for the down payment, but for other costs that will come along later like the credit check, the mortgage application and the closing.
Having an established credit history is an important step in a smooth home buying process. Build a good credit history by trying to diversify how you pay for things and don't pay for everything in cash. Pay your bills on time, limit your debt, reduce the amount of credit cards you have and use them responsibly. It is also important to review your credit report - a record of past and current debt that states when, how and if you paid. Make sure that the information contained in your credit report is accurate. You will have the opportunity to correct any errors.
Your credit history is one document that gives the mortgage lender confidence in you. The better your credit history, the better your credit score; and the better your credit score, the higher the trust level of the lender, which may translate into more mortgage options for you.
The best approach in buying a home is to gain an understanding of how a home is financed, the process of obtaining financial assistance toward your home ownership dream and the costs that you should be prepared for. There are crucial elements to be aware of: (1) Mortgage Pre-approval, (2) the Down Payment, (3) Mortgage Options and (4) Closing Costs.
A pre-approval is a simple calculation that tells you the amount you'll be able to finance through a loan and what your monthly payment will be. A pre-approval also provides the "seller" some comfort that you have the financial means to purchase their home.
Once you know the amount of money the bank will lend you, you will need to determine how much cash you should save for the down payment. This will help define the types of homes that are within your budget. Bear in mind that your monthly costs not only consist of mortgage payments, but will also include at a minimum real estate taxes, homeowner's insurance and utilities.
Securing mortgage financing is an important step in the real estate purchase process. There are lots of options to explore to find the fit that's right for you.
The Down Payment
A down payment is generally the money you pay up front toward your new home. Typically, the more cash you pay as a down payment, the less you will have to pay each month on the mortgage, and the lower the interest costs will be over the life of the mortgage. Many people make a down payment of 5, 10 or 20% of the sales price of the home, but the right percentage for you depends on many factors. There also are certain loans available for down payments of under 5%. One thing that is certain is that saving the money for the down payment can be a challenge. This is why there are so many mortgage options available.
The types of home financing options available to you toward the attainment of your new home are varied, depending on your personal financial situation and unique needs. As a general overview, here are some typical financing examples:
- Adjustable Rate Mortgage: in general terms, this is a type of mortgage in which the interest rate is tied to a certain economic index and may adjust at certain times. Overall, your monthly payment may go up or down at intervals specified in the disclosure associated with this type of mortgage, depending on the current interest rate.
- Fixed Rate Mortgage: in general terms, this is a type of mortgage in which the interest rate does not change during the entire term of the loan. This means that the monthly payments for principal and interest are also fixed for the life of the loan.
- Conventional mortgages: generally, mortgages that are not part of a government-housing program and are not insured by the government.
- Jumbo mortgages: generally, mortgages that typically exceed $322,700 and are not insured by the government. These loans usually command higher interest rates.
Closing and other additional costs
Closing is when ownership of your new home is officially transferred from the seller to you. Sometimes sellers will pay closing costs. If not, you need to be prepared to pay this additional cost, which can range to be an additional two to five percent of the home purchase price. These costs can vary from place to place.
Some other cost that you can gather more information on, as well as general estimates, to prepare your personal finances, typically include:
- Good faith deposit: This deposit shows the sellers that you are really interested in buying their home and that you are willing to make them an offer. This deposit can vary between 1 and 10% of sales price depending on the market and can be applied to the down payment.
- Mortgage application and credit report fees.
Narrowing your home search down with knowledge about how much you can afford to spend is only one factor to consider, having an idea of what specific features you want versus need in your new home, can also help your Real Estate Professional in guiding you through the process to a successful and happy outcome. With this information in hand, your Real Estate Professional can give you information on houses for sale and will take you to see those that interest you.
It's always good to ask yourself the following questions:
- What features are most important to me? Number of bedrooms? Number of bathrooms?
- Does it have special features like a garden, a fireplace, a yard or a garage?
- Do I want a newly constructed house or a house that has been lived in before?
- Is it most important that the house be near a specific school, my job, or public transportation?
- What is the school district like?
- Are there kids in the neighborhood who are the same age as my own?
- Does this house need a lot of repairs?
When you find your perfect home you will need to make the seller an offer in writing. Your offer is often the first step toward negotiating a sales contract with the seller and is much more complicated than simply determining a price. Because of the large amount of money involved, both the buyer and the seller should protect their investments and limit their risk. Therefore, when you make an offer, typically you not only specify the price you are willing to pay, but also the details of the purchase such as:
- How you intend to finance the home
- Amount of the down payment
- Who pays the closing costs
- What inspections will be performed
- Whether personal property is included in the purchase
- Terms of cancellation
- Any repairs you want done
- Date you will take physical ownership and possession of the property
- How to settle disputes should they occur
Contingencies generally allow you to anticipate potential problems so that if something goes wrong, you can cancel the contract without penalty. If you cancel a contract without having agreed upon conditions and contingencies, you could find yourself forfeiting your good faith deposit and the money you spent to inspect the property, as well as other damages. For this and other reasons, it is highly recommended that you retain an attorney. Your attorney will advise you as to what you should include in your offer to protect yourself.
Before making an offer, thoroughly evaluate the property (including but not limited to the following):
- Property Conditions
- Your Real Estate Professional can tell you how the property compares with the rest of the neighborhood.
- Home Improvements
- Take note of what the previous owners have done to the house to determine if these improvements warrant the asking price and/or were done correctly.
- Market Conditions
- If the market is "hot" it is often considered a "seller's market". This may give the buyer less room to negotiate his/her ideal price because there may be other people willing to pay more for the home.
- If the market is "slow" then it is considered a "buyer's market". In times like these, houses often sit for longer periods of time without receiving acceptable offers, so when reasonable offers do come in, sellers may be more willing to negotiate.
- Seller Motivation
- If an individual needs to sell quickly due to their personal situation, they may be more willing to negotiate.
Once you have submitted your offer, you must await the response of the seller. The seller could accept, reject or ponder your offer. Often, the seller will counter your offer with higher amount. This begins the process of price negotiation that may continue until both parties either agree on a price or decide to go their separate ways.
The Good Faith Deposit
Along with your offer you must provide the amount of your "good faith" deposit that is designed to, among other things, demonstrate to the seller the seriousness of your offer. This is one of the additional costs mentioned earlier. This money is only deposited once the offer has been negotiated and accepted by both parties.
The Inspection - When there is a serious interest in a property and an offer has been made, an inspection is often ordered. The seller should have the property available for inspection by a professional.
In a typical inspection, experts examine the existing conditions of the property. Inspections may be required by law, but the elements of an inspection may vary according to region and state and/or your agreement.
The most common type of inspection is the General Home Inspection. A home inspector can provide you with a complete service, which may cover many areas of the home - from the basement to the attic, as well as the exterior of the home, walls, chimneys, and fixed appliances such as refrigerators and stoves.
Other specific elements that can be included in an inspection are the following (this is not a complete list):
- Termite inspection
- Water Quality
- Septic Tank
Before a mortgage company will approve your lending arrangement and allow you to close on your new home, they will typically ask you to show proof of title, title insurance, and homeowner's insurance. Your mortgage representative can help explain the details, and your real estate attorney can provide counsel on title issues and title insurance.
The Final Visit
Before the closing takes place and the property is transferred, visit your future house with your family. The "walk-through" provides a valuable opportunity to ensure that the house has been left in the expected condition.
You should take this moment to make sure that all the items the owner agreed to leave behind are still there, such as kitchen appliances, and even furniture and accessories, depending on the details of the final sales contract. Discuss any problem with your attorney. In some cases, you "as the buyer" can ask for a discount or credit at the closing to cover any missing item or last-minute damage to the property.
Ask your attorney to go over the elements of the "closing" so that you can be fully prepared. The closing process varies according to the area of the country (and can even vary within the same state).
Generally, the seller is required to provide clean title to the property at closing. Your mortgage lender representative and your real estate attorney/legal counsel can best guide you through this process, making sure that all documents are provided and steps followed
Disclaimer: The Property Buying Tips / Information presented and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Tips And Treats . com and/or its partners.
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