One of the most crippling headaches to deal with is a monthly mortgage payment you find you can’t quite afford. Lysette Portales, a real estate agent with Century 21 Jim White & Associates in Treasure Island, Florida, says she stresses to clients that they should shop around for a mortgage with multiple lenders and inquire with each about different program options. “A lot of them might be able to do 100 percent [financing],” she says, noting that many homebuyers typically only know about a couple mortgage programs and settle for one without considering what would be most affordable option both now and down the line.
3. Savings for down-the-road expenses. Of course, you also have to take into account maintenance and other potential costs that may come up as a homeowner. If you live in a particularly competitive or pricey market, such as San Francisco or the District of Columbia, it’s reasonable to expect your monthly costs to be higher than 28 percent at the start.
Closing costs: These are fees you have to pay when you close on your mortgage. They’re based on the individual purchase, but can vary from 2% to 7% of the purchase price of the home, but they’re often split between the buyer and seller. According to Realtor.com, buyers typically pay 3% to 4% in closing costs and sellers typically pay 1% to 3% (you can try to negotiate who pays which closing costs). With some closing costs, you have to use a certain service, but with others, you’re allowed to shop around for a better price. Here are some common closing costs.
Next, decide which mortgage makes the most sense for you. There are plenty of different options to consider. Although Gilmour advises choosing one of the most common two: a fixed-rate mortgage, in which your interest rate remains steady for the duration of the loan, or an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), in which your rate fluctuates to reflect market changes.
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.
"Building equity in a home can be a good way to grow your wealth, but it's important that you do so in a way that doesn't stretch your finances too thin," he cautions. "Things can get really ugly when the housing market declines, so it may be a good idea to take out a 30-year mortgage but accelerate your monthly payments as if you had a 15-year mortgage. If you ever need to lower your payment in the future, you'll still have that option."
When you’ve selected a Realtor, start searching in earnest for your new home. Your real estate agent will find properties that he or she thinks you may like, but you can also search on your own. Check out internet listings, drive around and look for yard signs, and ask around to learn about houses that may be available in the neighborhoods you want. In a seller’s market, where available properties may be limited, try to exhaust all your options—not just Trulia, Zillow, and whatever your Realtor sends your way.
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Ask the settlement agent for copies of all the paperwork you'll sign before closing, so you can carefully review them at your leisure. You'll be putting your John Hancock on several items, including the HUD-1 settlement statement, which details all of the costs related to the home sale; the Final Truth-in-Lending Act statement, which outlines the cost of the loan and the interest rate; and your final mortgage paperwork.
You can get pre-qualified for a mortgage, which simply gives you an estimate of how much a lender may be willing to lend based on your income and debts. But as you get closer to buying a home, it’s smart to get a preapproval, where the lender thoroughly examines your finances and confirms in writing how much it's willing to lend you, and under what terms. Having a preapproval letter in hand makes you look much more serious to a seller and can give you an upper hand over buyers who haven’t taken this step.
If a lender sees some late payments or other blemishes in your credit report, this can lower your odds of getting a loan with a great interest rate, or perhaps even jeopardize your chances of getting any loan at all. So, it's essential to know your score, and take steps now if necessary to bring it up to snuff. Here's more on how to check your credit score and what number is best to buy a home.
Once you’re ready to start home buying, it’s offer time. Here’s where you’ll thank yourself for working with a real estate agent. They’ll help you determine the right offer to make for a particular house, including things that go beyond the dollar amount. For instance, offering an accelerated closing date or to buy and lease back to the buyer if they can’t move right away may be a smart move in some situations. When you make an offer on a house, the seller may accept it or counter-offer, and then your agent will help you decide how and if to negotiate. Once you arrive at a deal everyone likes, you’re considered under contract to buy the house.
Living in the city of your dreams might be a nightmare if you can’t afford to live the way you would like. To help determine the Best Places to Live in the U.S. rankings, U.S. News broke down affordability in the 100 largest metro areas in the country. We examined what portion of the median blended annual household income went to the average cost of owning or renting a home, as well as the average cost of utilities and taxes. Read on for the 25 Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2017.
PMI stands for private mortgage insurance. As part of qualifying for a conventional loan, you will have to get PMI if you put down less than 20%. Once your equity in your home reaches 20%, you can get the PMI removed (lowering your monthly mortgage payment). However, with an FHA loan, the insurance stays on the loan for the life of the loan, regardless of the equity in the loan. The private insurance on an FHA loan is called mortgage insurance premium (MIP). There is no way to avoid MIP on an FHA loan.
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.