Fixer-uppers are all the rage these days, as many homebuyers are willing to take on renovation projects in exchange for a slightly lower price tag. But when budgeting for your renovations, leave plenty of room for the discovery of existing problems once your contractor looks behind the walls. The HomeAdvisor survey found 51 percent of homeowners spent more time on home projects than they expected. “Even if you have a fully vetted, well-reviewed contractor … they still might uncover issues that maybe a previous contractor left incomplete,” Hunter says. He recommends leaving around 10 percent extra space in your budget for surprise problems of any kind.
Find out how familiar the agent is with the areas you want to look at. If they have little expertise and no network in the neighborhood, then you won’t get the agent advantage of being the first to see a house (sometimes even before it’s listed) or getting expert advice on price. Plus, neighborhood knowledge saves the buyer time because an agent will likely know exactly where to look and what houses to show based on your needs.

Beyond pride of ownership, it's important to realize another benefit. First, real estate moves in cycles, sometimes up, sometimes down, yet over the years, real estate has consistently appreciated. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight tracks the movements of single-family home values across the country. Its House Price Index breaks down the changes by region and metropolitan area. Many people view their home investment as a hedge against inflation.

Unicorns do not exist in real estate, and finding a perfect property is like finding a needle in a haystack. Looking for perfection can narrow your choices too much, and you might pass over solid contenders in the hopes that something better will come along. But this type of thinking can sabotage your search, says James D’Astice, a real estate agent with Compass in Chicago.
When it’s over—which could take a few hours, so plan on taking the day off from work—you’re a homeowner. Depending on your agreement, you might get the keys and be able to move in that day. Certain counties won't let you move in until the title's been recorded with the local government, which can take a few days, but your Realtor should know that law and brief you beforehand, if that's the case.
You’re almost home. Once your mortgage is approved and at least three business days before you close, you receive a closing disclosure. It lists the fees you must pay, which typically total 2 to 5 percent of the home price. Read this closely and tell your lender if anything seems off. Know what to bring to your closing—such as your ID and any payments that are due. If you have a cosigner, that person needs to be there. Most of the time is taken up carefully signing forms. Once the loan closes—which may take a couple days—the funds go to the seller, you get handed the keys and the home is yours!
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at [email protected]

Getting prequalified is the first step in the mortgage process (it’s usually pretty simple). You give your lender your overall financial picture, the lender evaluates your information, and then the lender gives you an idea of the mortgage amount that you will qualify for. Note, that prequalification is not a done deal – you may not in fact qualify for the loan for which you are preapproved (it’s a general idea).


Further prepare by taking advantage of a first-time homebuyer education course, often offered by local Realtors’ offices, banks or even your county at a community center. Many courses stress the importance of financial preparedness and getting ready to go through the rest of the home purchase process, and a class will help you get ready for what’s ahead.
| |RateShield Approval locks your initial interest rate for up to 90 days on 30-year conventional, FHA and VA fixed-rate purchase loan products. Your exact interest rate will depend on the date you lock your rate. Once you submit your signed purchase agreement, we’ll compare your rate to our published rates for that date and re-lock your interest rate at the lower of the two rates for an additional 40 to 60 days. Quicken Loans reserves the right to cancel this offer at any time. Acceptance of this offer constitutes the acceptance of these terms and conditions, which are subject to change at the sole discretion of Quicken Loans. This is not a commitment to lend. Additional conditions or exclusions may apply.

Fixed rate mortgages are just what they say they are -- mortgage loans that allow borrowers to "lock in" a fixed interest rate over the complete loan period (typically 15-to-30 years.) There are upsides and downsides to fixed-rate mortgages, depending on the direction of interest rates. If rates spiral downward, the loan borrower is stuck paying the higher interest rate stated on the mortgage loan contract. On the other hand, if interest rates climb, the borrower's fixed interest rate insulates them from paying the added costs linked to mortgage loans with soaring interest rates after the mortgage is signed.
First-time homebuyers are often moving from rentals that use less energy (gas, oil, electric, propane, etc.) and water than a larger new home will. It is easy to be ambushed by soaring rates when your new house has ceilings higher than your rental – or older windows that leak air. Then there are unexpected utilities, such as buying gas to power a lawnmower. These costs can blow a budget.

Alternatively, you can put less money down with other options, like an FHA loan through the Federal Housing Administration, which requires less money down and a less impressive credit history but typically comes with a higher interest rate. Veterans are able to take advantage of VA loans, backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which require no money down but have additional fees.
Escrow is an account held by a third party on behalf of the two principal parties involved in a transaction. Since home sale involves multiple steps which takes time that can span weeks, the best way to mitigate the risk of either the seller or the buyer getting ripped off is to have a neutral third party hold all the money and documents related to the transaction until everything has been settled. Once all procedural formalities are over, the money and documents are moved from the custody of the escrow account to the seller and buyer, thereby guaranteeing a secure transaction.
While getting pre-approved for a mortgage is not necessary to close a deal, it can help you close the deal quicker. In turn, being pre-approved can give you more bargaining power when negotiating as it signals to the seller that you have strong financial backing. Getting pre-approved for mortgage also allows you to know the limit up to which you can go for purchasing a property. It helps in saving time and effort while searching for the properties that fit into your budget.
Buying a house across the street from a high school didn’t seem like such a bad idea when you saw how nicely renovated it was. But when you don’t have kids and Friday night football games are keeping you up later than you would like, you realize you should have made a pros-and-cons list regarding the location. Don’t let a charming interior override a location you dislike or a lot that will give you flooding problems. “If you don’t like your lot, don’t buy the house, because you cannot change that,” says Kim Wirtz, a Realtor for Century 21 Affiliated in Lockport, Illinois.
Interest rates are the term used to describe the percentage you'll pay your lender to borrow the money you'll need to buy your home. By and large, your mortgage will be paid off either at a 15-year or 30-year timetable. As far as interest rates go, the shorter the time you'll need to pay off the mortgage, the more favorable your interest rate. The lower your interest rate, the less your monthly mortgage payment will be. Consequently, job one when you go shopping for a mortgage lender is to compare interest rates -- and choose the loan where those rates are the lowest you can find.
While 20 percent is ideal, you don’t necessarily need that large of a down payment to buy a home. There are loan programs that cater to first-time home buyers, such as the FHA loan, which allow for down payments as little as 3.5%. Even some conventional loans allow for down payments as low as 3 percent. And certain loans, such as VA loans for veterans and military or USDA loans for buyers in rural areas, don’t require a down payment at all.
Don't dip too far into your savings though. Try to keep at least 3-6 months of expenses set aside for emergencies. After all, you will be responsible for maintenance and repairs now. If you don't have enough money available in your regular accounts, you can access up to $10,000 without penalties from IRAs for a first-time home purchase and your employer's retirement plan may allow you to borrow from your retirement account with a longer time period to pay off home loans. There's always the "family and friends" route too.
Once the offer has been approved, the buyer will need to secure the mortgage. This is done by complete the mortgage application. If a person has not been pre-approved or pre-qualified, it will likely take longer to complete this process. Ideally, a buyer should "shop around" for the best rates and terms. Most buyers choose fixed rates rather than adjustable rates.
As a first-time home buyer, you’re probably accustomed to the monthly cost of renting, which usually includes your rent payment, some of the utilities, and your internet and cable bills. As a homeowner, you’ll be responsible for additional monthly costs that may have been covered by your landlord. That includes things like water, sewer and garbage bills, monthly HOAs (if you’re buying a condo) and the cost of lawn care. You’ll also be responsible for paying property taxes and homeowners insurance. And don’t forget the cost of maintenance. It’s recommended that you set aside 1-3 percent of the purchase price of the home annually to cover repairs and maintenance.
You'll probably have an ideal location, but keep an open mind as you see how much house you can buy in different areas. Homes and land are less expensive the farther they are from a metropolitan area. On the other hand, imagining that the long commute won't matter that much is an easy trap to fall into. The stress and costs of a long commute can undermine marriages, finances and mental health. Use the calculator in step 1 to see what that extra trip could add to your monthly bill.

Try also to get an idea about the real estate market in the area. For example, if homes are selling close to or even above the asking price, that shows the area is desirable. If you have the flexibility, consider doing your house hunt in the off-season -- meaning, generally, the colder months of the year. You'll have less competition and sellers may be more willing to negotiate.


A title search and title insurance provide peace of mind and a legal safeguard so that when you buy a property, no one else can try to claim it as theirs later, be it a spurned relative who was left out of a will or a tax collecting agency which wasn't paid its dues. A title search is an examination of public records to determine and confirm a property's legal ownership, and find out what claims, if any, are on the property. If there are any claims, those may need to be resolved before the buyer gets the property. Title insurance is indemnity insurance that protects the holder from financial loss sustained from defects in a title to a property, and protects both real estate owners and lenders against loss or damage occurring from liens, encumbrances, or defects in the title or actual ownership of a property. 

If you already own a home, simply call your insurance agent and let them know you’re buying a new home. They will handle writing a new policy. If you don’t have an insurance agent, now’s the time to find one because your lender will require homeowners insurance. Even if you don’t have a mortgage, insurance is a critical part of protecting your investment. You’ll also want to give utility companies your move-in date to establish service. There’s nothing like moving into a cold, dark house because you didn’t get an account with the power company!
The home buying process can take anywhere from one month to a few years, depending on the unique experience and expectations of the home buyer. On average, a home buyer can spend one to two months searching listings, several weeks to negotiate and close a deal, and then make the first mortgage payment several weeks after that. With these variations in mind, a home buyer can realistically expect for the home buying process to take roughly three months.

Turning back to the Midwest for the remaining four Best Affordable Places, this western Michigan metro area costs residents little, with just 25.36 percent of the blended annual household income going toward housing and utilities. Like Fayetteville, Grand Rapids also lands in the top 20 of the overall Best Places to Live ranking, with a strong job market and high college readiness scores among high school students.


Your agent will send listings to your cellphone. You'll also pick up House For Sale magazines and read classified ads in your local newspapers. You'll probably spend an inordinate amount of time surfing the Internet for homes. You might even plan afternoon drives to preview neighborhoods. Those are all excellent ways to see what's available. Here are some tools to help you narrow your home buying search.
A real estate agent isn't always a necessity when it comes to buying a home, but he or she can be an invaluable tool for those who do work with one. An agent will understand the real estate market and lead homebuyers to the homes that they want to see. As a result this will save the home buyer time and frustration. The recommendation of friends or family members is one of the best ways to choose a real estate agent. If there are no recommendations, choose a real estate agent or agency that has a good reputation in the area. The agent should be a buyer's agent dedicated to working in the best interests of the buyer. The agent should also be someone who listens and has no problem answering any questions that are asked of him or her.
When determining how much mortgage you can afford, base this amount on what you are earning today. That is, the income that you and your spouse earn from stable sources. If you're in your last year of law school, for instance, don't assume that you will be earning much more money in a year or two, so you can afford a larger payment. If your wife is expecting a big promotion, don't base your mortgage payment off of her potential salary increase. No one can predict the future, and although you may very well be in a better financial situation a year down the road, there is no guarantee.
Turning back to the Midwest for the remaining four Best Affordable Places, this western Michigan metro area costs residents little, with just 25.36 percent of the blended annual household income going toward housing and utilities. Like Fayetteville, Grand Rapids also lands in the top 20 of the overall Best Places to Live ranking, with a strong job market and high college readiness scores among high school students.
Although it may not always be feasible if you live in an expensive real estate market, try to keep your total housing payment under 30 percent of your gross monthly income. When you spend much more than that on your mortgage, you risk becoming “house poor” — you might live in a beautiful home but find it difficult to save or even cover other monthly expenses.
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