Pre-approval requires the lender to pull the credit information (see Step 1) and assess your financial situation. The lender will then give you a letter that states the amount they would be willing to lend you. If you get in a multiple-offer scenario, being pre-approved may give you an edge because the seller will have more confidence that you will be approved for a loan large enough to purchase their home.
The last step in securing a home mortgage, and ultimately buying a home, is getting an official loan commitment for a specific home and for a specific sales price. Once again, you'll undergo a credit check, so make sure you don't take out any loans or new credit cards right up to home closing date - that could impact your mortgage loan in a negative way. At this point, you don't want to raise any "red flags" to lenders, so keep your personal balance sheet clean during the mortgage loan approval process. Once you've cleared this hurdle, you'll get a loan approval letter for the specific home you want to buy.
Your agent may generally know which home you are going to choose, due to experience and intuition. However, make sure that you don't feel your agent is trying to steer you toward any specific property, and choose the home without interference from the agent because it's your choice as the buyer alone to make. Keep in mind, however, that real estate agents are required to point out defects and should help buyers feel confident that the home selected meets the buyer's stated search parameters.
Before submitting a purchase offer, request the energy bills from the past 12 months to get an idea of the average monthly cost, suggests Marianne Cusato, an award-winning designer based in Miami, Fla., and co-author of "The Just Right Home." Most utility companies can provide a homeowner copies upon request. “If you are in love with a house and everything else works but the energy bills, have an audit preformed to assess what your options are for making it more energy efficient,” says Cusato. “In many cities the electric company will come out and do the assessment for free.”
Pride of ownership is the number one reason why people yearn to own their home. It means you can paint the walls any color you desire, turn your music up, attach permanent fixtures, and decorate your home according to your own taste. Home ownership gives you and your family a sense of stability and security. It's making an investment in your future.
Need help finding an expert you can trust with such an important purchase? Check out our Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) program. We only recommend real estate agents who close 35 home transactions per year or close more home transactions than 90% of the agents in their market (among other qualifications). Trust me, these pros are the best! Find an agent now!

While getting legal aid is optional, it is always better to get a professional legal opinion on your closing documents. The complex jargon often mentioned in the property documents is difficult to understand even for the well-educated individuals. For an appropriate fee, opinion from an experienced real estate attorney can offer multiple benefits, including hints of any potential problems in the paperwork. In some states, an attorney's involvement may eventually be required by law to handle the closing.
Getting pre-qualified for a home loan is a critical step in the mortgage process. Do so by approaching a mortgage lender or a bank and provide them with the necessary loan document information to get approved for a home loan. That includes your annual income, your household debt and your household assets -- and in some cases, your tax returns (especially if you own your own business.) Once you provide this information to a lender, they'll review your data and come back with a mortgage amount you're likely qualified to obtain. Normally, there is no cost to you for a mortgage pre-qualification, and you won't likely undergo a credit check -- not yet, anyway.
Wirtz says one of the things in a home that seems to always break or have issues within the first year of its purchase is the air conditioner. But it’s not always because it breaks down – she says it simply might not be as effective as the new homeowner wants it to be. “It may not be cooling like they’re used to,” Wirtz says. You can either learn to deal with a little less cooling, bring in an HVAC pro to inspect and fix any problems or research any DIY fixes that might get it cooling better – like air conditioner cleaning spray.

2) Figure out how much home you can afford. Remember, just because the mortgage company will loan you the money doesn't mean you should take it. There are rules of thumb like not spending more than 28% of your income on mortgage payments, but every person's situation is different. Two people may have the same income, but one may need to save more for retirement or choose to make large private school tuition payments for their kids. Take a look at your current saving and spending needs to see how much you can realistically afford to pay each month and don't forget to leave some room for the potential "hidden expenses" of home ownership like utility bills, HOA fees if applicable, repairs and maintenance.
A pest inspection is separate from the home inspection and involves a specialist making sure that your home does not have any wood-destroying insects, like termites or carpenter ants. The pest problem can be devastating for properties made primarily of wooden material, and many mortgage companies mandate that even minor pest issues be fixed before you can close the deal. Even a small infestation can spread and become very destructive and expensive to fix. Wood-destroying pests can be eliminated, but you'll want to make sure the issue can be resolved for a cost you find reasonable (or for a cost the seller is willing and able to pay) before you complete the purchase of the home. Pest inspections are legally required in some states and optional in others.
As a buyer, just keep in mind that mortgage pre-approval is different from mortgage pre-qualification. Pre-qualify, and you're undergoing a much simpler process that can give you a ballpark figure of what you can afford to borrow, but with no promise from the lender. Getting pre-approved is more of a pain since you'll have to provide tons of paperwork, but it's worth the trouble since it guarantees you're creditworthy and can truly buy a home.
Pre-approval requires the lender to pull the credit information (see Step 1) and assess your financial situation. The lender will then give you a letter that states the amount they would be willing to lend you. If you get in a multiple-offer scenario, being pre-approved may give you an edge because the seller will have more confidence that you will be approved for a loan large enough to purchase their home.
Many renters think they can’t afford to buy a house because they haven’t saved enough to pay a 20 percent down payment. But you might be surprised to see what kind of house you could potentially buy based on the amount you spend every month on rent. Try plugging some numbers into an affordability calculator to get a better sense of what you need — and how much you have. Or, you can talk to a lender and find out what you might qualify for.
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).
Even for the millennial generation, which has been slower to become a major part of the homeowner pool than previous generations, buying a house remains a key goal in life. In a study released earlier this year on expectations for aging, skilled nursing and assisted living company Aperion Care surveyed 2,000 millennials, of which 85 percent say they expect to own a home in their lifetime.

The last step in securing a home mortgage, and ultimately buying a home, is getting an official loan commitment for a specific home and for a specific sales price. Once again, you'll undergo a credit check, so make sure you don't take out any loans or new credit cards right up to home closing date - that could impact your mortgage loan in a negative way. At this point, you don't want to raise any "red flags" to lenders, so keep your personal balance sheet clean during the mortgage loan approval process. Once you've cleared this hurdle, you'll get a loan approval letter for the specific home you want to buy.


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.

1. Credit history. Run a credit report on yourself – which is free to do once a year and doesn’t affect your credit by going to annualcreditreport.com and receiving a report from each the three major credit-reporting agencies – and focus on the areas you can improve. You may have credit card balances to pay off, or a few missed student loan payments from a couple years ago. You may also simply need more time to pass from a recent borrowing mistake. The more time that passes from the last blemish on your credit report, the less likely a lender is to consider it a red flag to give you a loan.


As long as you have lived in your home for two of the past five years, you can exclude up to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for a married couple of profit from capital gains. You do not have to buy a replacement home or move up. There is no age restriction, and the "over-55" rule does not apply. You can exclude the above thresholds from taxes every 24 months, which means you could sell every two years and pocket your profit—subject to limitation—free from taxation.

In addition to saving for a down payment, you’ll need to budget for the money required to close your mortgage, which can be significant. Closing costs generally run between 2% and 5% of your loan amount. You can shop around and compare prices for certain closing expenses, such as homeowners insurance, home inspections and title searches. You can also defray costs by asking the seller to pay for a portion of your closing costs or negotiating your real estate agent's commission. Calculate your expected closing costs to help you set your budget.
Let the serious shopping begin! By now you’ve talked things over with your agent and you both know what you really want and need in a home. Armed with this, your price range and knowledge of the local area, look at listings online and with your agent, who will come up with properties for you to tour. Chances are you’ll discover some new things to love or hate about homes and refine your search.
"This investment shouldn’t be entered into without someone who knows the market, the neighborhood, local trends, specific values, and how to navigate the process," says George Lawton, licensed real estate agent with RE/MAX Over the Mountain in Birmingham, AL. "A Realtor who is your advocate and is looking out for your needs can simplify this process and make it enjoyable. But don’t just hire your neighbor’s mom who does this part time for Christmas money. Interview a few that are recommended by friends and family and see who you feel most comfortable with. You may be working together for months, and you want it to be a good relationship."
Speaking of mortgages, Gilmour recommends that payments generally not exceed 28% of your monthly gross income—but if you have other high costs, such as private school tuition, it can be wise to pare down this percentage even more. If you're not sure what's realistic, consider seeking help from a financial professional, who can help walk you through an appropriate breakdown, based on your individual situation.
Interest rates, including those offered on mortgage, can be volatile and subject to change. A 0.25 percent rise in interest rate can significantly increase your repayment amount, repayment tenure or both. It is advisable to lock the interest rate for the loan in advance, instead of being at the mercy of the market fluctuations which can be a big risk if the rates rise before you finalize your property purchase. Pre-approved mortgage offers the facility to offer you a rate lock, which means that you can secure a favorable interest rate for the loan. Though chargeable rates are subject to multiple factors, like applicant’s credit score, geographic region, property and the type of loan applied for, attempts to lock in at favorable rates can be beneficial.
Variable rate mortgages are also known as adjustable rate mortgages, float up and down on a regular basis, based on the movement of U.S. Treasury bonds. Treasuries are tied closely to the overall U.S. economy, and ebb and flow based on the health of our nation's economy. Variable rate mortgages typically come with lower interest rates up front, but with the potential of seeing those rates rise after an interim period of five-to-seven years after the mortgage loan is signed.
The home buying process is a considerably high-stakes endeavor, especially for first-time home buyers. According to the National Association of Realtors, buyers under the age of 36 have made up the largest proportion of home buyers in the U.S. over the last four years. Of this proportion, 66 percent of the buyers purchased a home for the very first time. Whether you are a first time home buyer or someone in need of a refresher, this comprehensive guide to the home buying process is just for you.
The winning bid isn’t always about price – the seller wants to feel confident about the entire transaction at the end of the day. If your bid includes your preapproval letter as opposed to a competing buyer’s prequalification, or you’re willing to let the seller take a little more time to move out, your offer might be the package the seller chooses.
Throughout the process, your mortgage lender will likely request various documents from you, such as updated pay stubs, current tax records, and other items that may have changed since pre-approval, as well as information about the home insurance policy you plan to purchase. Try to respond as quickly and accurately as you can, providing the needed information as soon as possible. Your promptness will help move your loan through the process faster and help ensure you can close on time.

You'll want to know in advance that you likely qualify for a home loan, and that's where a credit check can prove invaluable when you buy a house. Your credit check will track your financial health using data from the three primary credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Your credit score from each agency can range anywhere from 350 to 800. The higher the credit score, the more likely you'll be granted a home loan, and the more likely you'll pay a lower interest rate when securing a home mortgage (that's because a high credit score will be viewed by a mortgage lender as a lower-risk loan proposition). In your run-up to your credit check, avoid taking out any loans or credit -- that will raise your credit risk level in the eyes of lenders -- and make sure you pay down any debt owed, and ensure you've got a good track record of paying your bills on time.
Congratulations, you’ve made it! On closing day, your team (AKA you, your Realtor, lender, and attorney) will meet with the sellers and their attorney to make things official. Your lender or attorney will let you know in advance the total amount of money you’ll need to bring to the closing meeting for your down payment or any closing costs. Bring that amount in the form of a cashier’s check, then sit back and get ready to sign your name—over and over and over.

How to avoid this mistake: Talk to a mortgage professional about getting pre-qualified or even preapproved for a home loan before you start to seriously shop for a place. The pre-qualification or preapproval process involves a review of your income and expenses, and it can make your bid more competitive because you’ll be able to show sellers that you can back up your offer.


How to avoid this mistake: Talk to a mortgage professional about getting pre-qualified or even pre-approved for a home loan before you start to seriously shop for a place. The pre-qualification or pre-approval process involves a review of your income and expenses, and it can make your bid more competitive because you’ll be able to show sellers that you can back up your offer. (See what a pre-approval is and why it matters.)
A mortgage is defined as a secured loan that uses your home as collateral. The key here is to identify what monthly mortgage payment you can afford without losing any sleep at night. Expect that figure to be around 15%-to-30% of your monthly income (depending on your local tax rates and the amount of your homeowner insurance). This step ties into step one -- the more money you save, the less you'll have to pay on your mortgage loan interest (see next step below.)
Sounds hard to believe, but it’s not rare for new homeowners to be late with their first monthly payment, or to miss it altogether, says Neil Garfinkel, a real estate attorney with Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson in New York City. “Maybe you didn’t fully understand the process. You thought it was being auto-deducted but it’s not being auto-deducted. You didn’t get the bill in the mail. Whatever. Those first couple of payments, from a credit perspective, are really, really important,” he says.
Once the buyer has found the perfect home, it is time to make an offer on the property. This is an area in which a real estate agent is invaluable. He or she will base the offer price off of comparable homes that have sold recently in the area. The agent will draft a contract that is agreeable to the home buyer. The contract will include the price of the offer, as well as terms that the seller and the buyer will need to meet in order to achieve a successful transaction. The agent will ensure that the contract meets all of the necessary legal requirements.

What to do instead: Focus on what monthly payment you can afford rather than fixating on the maximum loan amount you qualify for. Just because you can qualify for a $300,000 loan, that doesn’t mean you can afford the monthly payments that come with it. Factor in your other obligations that don’t show on a credit report when determining how much house you can afford.
Homeownership is one of the core concepts of the American Dream. When a person is ready to make that dream a reality there are certain steps to buying a home that must be followed. These steps ensure that the person is prepared to actually own his or her own home, that the right location and home are selected, and that the actual purchase of the house proceeds with as few problems as possible. The process of buying a house can be complicated, even for those who have previously owned a home. The following guide will help navigate home buyers through the necessary steps.
Buying your first home can be a daunting task. But millions of people have been there before you and survived. If you do your homework, you'll have the best possible chance of finding a place you can afford for a price you can handle. The big surprise for many first-timers is that they need to finish the first five steps on this list before they can even begin to look for a home.

“Realtors do a lot of your groundwork up front for you by contacting listing agents to set up showings and help you negotiate the purchase,” says Brandon Gentile, CEO of the Legacy Group Real Estate Team in Clarkston, Mich. “The best part is, a buyer doesn’t pay for working with a realtor. The service is free for a buyer, as sellers pay all the commission.” For more, see How to Find the Best Real Estate Agent.
How to avoid this mistake: Figuring out how much to save is a judgment call. A bigger down payment lets you get a smaller mortgage, giving you more affordable monthly house payments. The downside of taking the time to save more money is that home prices and mortgage rates have been rising, which means it could become more difficult to buy the home you want and you may miss out on building home equity as home values increase. The key is making sure your down payment helps you secure a payment you’re comfortable making each month.
The type of home that a person prefers is another factor to take into consideration when determining where to live. Things to consider include buying a new home versus a resale home. Home types include single-family detached homes, semi-detached homes, duplex homes, town houses, or even condos. When determining what type of home is the best fit, a person should take into consideration the lifestyle that he or she lives, current needs - such as rooms - and future needs of the family if it should grow.
To find someone, interview several buyers' agents—this means they exclusively represent you, and not the seller, as well—until you identify someone who understands your needs and makes you feel comfortable. As a final step, check your state's real estate licensing board's website to ensure they're registered, and don't have any complaints or suspensions logged against them.
Before you close on your new house, your lender will require you to buy homeowners insurance. Shop around and compare insurance rates to find the best price. Look closely at what’s covered in the policies; going with a less-expensive policy usually means fewer protections and more out-of-pocket expenses if you file a claim. Also, flood damage isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, so if your new home is in a flood-prone area, you may need to buy separate flood insurance.

Home ownership is a superb tax shelter and our tax rates favor homeowners. Sometimes the mortgage interest deduction can overshadow the desire for pride of ownership as well. As long as your mortgage balance is smaller than the price of your home, mortgage interest is fully deductible on your tax return. Interest is the largest component of your mortgage payment.
Once you’ve made sure the property is in the agreed-upon condition, you’ll set a date to meet with the required parties. Different areas have different requirements as to who must be present, so you might meet one or all of the following: the escrow or closing agent, the attorney — who could also be the escrow agent, someone from the title company, the mortgage lender, and the real estate agents.
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