Home Buying Q & A
Why should I buy, instead of rent?
A home is an investment. When you rent, you write your monthly check and that money is gone forever. But when you own your home, you can deduct the cost of your mortgage loan interest from your federal income taxes, and usually from your state taxes. This will save you a lot each year, because the interest you pay will make up most of your monthly payment for most of the years of your mortgage. You can also deduct the property taxes you pay as a homeowner. In addition, the value of your home may go up over the years. Finally, you’ll enjoy having something that’s all yours a home where your own personal style will tell the world who you are.
Should I use a real estate broker? How do I find one?
Using a real estate broker is a very good idea. All the details involved in home buying, particularly the financial ones, can be mind-boggling. A good real estate professional can guide you through the entire process and make the experience much easier. A real estate broker will be well-acquainted with all the important things you’ll want to know about a neighborhood you may be considering…the quality of schools, the number of children in the area, the safety of the neighborhood, traffic volume, and more. He or she will help you figure the price range you can afford and search the classified ads and multiple listing services for homes you’ll want to see. With immediate access to homes as soon as they’re put on the market, the broker can save you hours of wasted driving-around time. When it’s time to make an offer on a home, the broker can point out ways to structure your deal to save you money. He or she will explain the advantages and disadvantages of different types of mortgages, guide you through the paperwork, and be there to hold your hand and answer last-minute questions when you sign the final papers at closing. And you don’t have to pay the broker anything! The payment comes from the home seller – not from the buyer.
How much money will I have to come up with to buy a home?
The answer to this depends on a number of factors including the cost of the house and the type of mortgage you get. In general, you need to come up with enough money to cover three costs:
earnest money – the deposit you make on the home when you submit your offer, to prove to the seller that you are serious about wanting to buy the house
down payment - a percentage of the cost of the home that you must pay when you go to settlement
closing costs - the costs associated with processing the paperwork to buy a house.
When you make an offer on a home, your real estate broker will put your earnest money into an escrow account. If the offer is accepted, your earnest money will be applied to the down payment or closing costs. If your offer is not accepted, your money will be returned to you. The amount of your earnest money varies. The more money you can put into your down payment, the lower your monthly mortgage payments will be. These costs cover various fees your lender charges and other processing expenses. When you apply for your loan, your lender will give you an estimate of the closing costs, so you won’t be caught by surprise.
How do I know if I can get a loan?
A broker will know what kinds of mortgages the lenders are offering and can help you choose a lender with a program that might be right for you. Ideally, you will want to get pre-qualified for a loan. That means you go to a lender and apply for a mortgage before you actually start looking for a home. Then you’ll know exactly how much you can afford to spend, and it will speed the process once you do find the home of your dreams.
How do I find a lender?
You can finance a home with a loan from a bank, a savings and loan, a credit union, a private mortgage company, or various state government lenders. Shopping for a loan is like shopping for any other large purchase: you can save money if you take some time to look around for the best prices. Different lenders can offer quite different interest rates and loan fees; and as you know, a lower interest rate can make a big difference in how much home you can afford. Talk with several lenders before you decide. Most lenders need 3-6 weeks for the whole loan approval process. Your real estate broker will be familiar with lenders in the area and what they’re offering.
In addition to the mortgage payment, what other costs do I need to consider?
Well, of course you’ll have your monthly utilities. If your utilities have been covered in your rent, this may be new for you. Your real estate broker will be able to help you get information from the seller on how much utilities normally cost. In addition, you might have homeowner association or condo association dues. You’ll definitely have property taxes, and you also may have city or county taxes. Taxes normally are rolled into your mortgage payment. Again, your broker will be able to help you anticipate these costs.
So what will my mortgage cover?
Most loans have four parts:
principal - the repayment of the amount you actually borrowed
interest - payment to the lender for the money you’ve borrowed
homeowners insurance - a monthly amount to insure the property against loss from fire, smoke, theft, and other hazards required by most lenders
property taxes - the annual city/county taxes assessed on your property, divided by the number of mortgage payments you make in a year.
Most loans are for 30 years, although 15 year loans are available, too. During the life of the loan, you’ll pay far more in interest than you will in principal – sometimes two or three times more! Because of the way loans are structured, in the first years you’ll be paying mostly interest in your monthly payments. In the final years, you’ll be paying mostly principal.
When I find the home I want, how much should I offer?
Again, your real estate broker can help you with this. But there are several things you should consider:
1) Is the asking price in line with prices of similar homes in the area?
2) Is the home in good condition or will you have to spend a substantial amount of money making it the way you want it? You probably want to get a professional home inspection before you make your offer. Your real estate broker can help you arrange one.
3) How long has the home been on the market? If it’s been for sale for awhile, the seller may be more eager to accept a lower offer.
4) How much mortgage will be required? Make sure you really can afford whatever offer you make.
5) How much do you really want the home? The closer you are to the asking price, the more likely your offer will be accepted. In some cases, you may even want to offer more than the asking price, if you know you are competing with others for the house.
What if my offer is rejected?
They often are! But don’t let that stop you. Now you begin negotiating. Your broker will help you. You may have to offer more money, but you may ask the seller to cover some or all of your closing costs or to make repairs that wouldn’t normally be expected. Often, negotiations on a price go back and forth several times before a deal is made. Just remember – don’t get so caught up in negotiations that you lose sight of what you really want and can afford!
So what will happen at closing?
Basically, you’ll sit at a table with your broker, the broker for the seller, probably the seller, and a closing agent. The closing agent will have a stack of papers for you and the seller to sign. While he or she will give you a basic explanation of each paper, you may want to take the time to read each one and/or consult with your agent to make sure you know exactly what you’re signing. After all, this is a large amount of money you’re committing to pay for a lot of years! Before you go to closing, your lender is required to give you a booklet explaining the closing costs, a “good faith estimate” of how much cash you’ll have to supply at closing, and a list of documents you’ll need at closing. If you don’t get those items, be sure to call your lender BEFORE you go to closing. Be sure to read our booklet on settlement costs. It will help you understand your rights in the process. Don’t hesitate to ask questions.