Tag Archives: closing costs

9 Steps to Take Now to Buy a Home Next Year

9 steps to buying a home in 2018You and your family are thinking of buying a new home – or your next one – in 2018. There are things you can do now to prepare yourself. Here are seven steps to get you ready for this exciting move!

  1. Check your credit score. Target a credit score of 740 or higher to get the best mortgage rate. See mistakes on your credit report? Because this process can sometimes take months, you’ll want to start doing that now.
  2. Follow the real estate market and interest rates. What is the market doing in your area? Is inventory low? What about interest rates – are they inching up? You’ll want to lock in the lowest interest rate you can to lower your monthly mortgage payments and long-term financial outlay.
  3. Save, save, save. We can’t stress this enough. Make sure you have enough to cover a down payment, closing costs, moving expenses, etc. Read our article on closing costs to get a better idea of what those might run.
  4. Don’t use your credit cards or rack up more debt. Obviously, you don’t want to open any new credit cards before you apply for a mortgage, but it is just as important not to use the existing credit you already have. Banks will look at your debt to income ratio, so you want that debt figure to be as low as possible.
  5. Don’t overspend during the holidays. It can be tempting to spoil your loved ones during the holidays, but this could make it harder to get a mortgage – particularly if you use your credit cards for holiday shopping. Instead, get creative. Offer services (e.g., dog walking, babysitting, home organizing, handyman skills) or experiences (gourmet meals, outings, etc.)  instead of giving gifts.
  6. Meet with two to three potential Realtors. We say “Realtor” instead of “real estate agent” because “Realtors” have different and a code of ethics to abide by. Real estate agents are held to a lesser standard. Talk to friends, family and co-workers to get recommendations, and do your research before scheduling no obligation appointments to interview. In addition, check their online reviews on Facebook, Zillow, LinkedIn and other sites to see what they’re clients are saying about them.
  7. Shop for a lender. Just like you would shop for a Realtor, explore your mortgage lending options. Check with your bank, local credit unions and mortgage brokers to see where you can find the best deal and the best long-term relationship.
  8. Gather your documents. When you meet with a mortgage lender, you’ll need to provide tax returns and W-2s for the last two years, pay stubs for the last few months, proof of your current living expenses, a list of debts and other expenses, etc.
  9. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Once you’ve selected a mortgage lender and have pulled together all of your documentation, it’s time to get pre-approved! This will help you determine what your interest rate will be and how much home you can afford. Read more about getting pre-approved here.

Not sure what’s next? Have questions? Call Team Marti  at 253-859-8500. We’d be happy to help you prepare to buy your next home in the New Year!

 

FTC: Protect Your Mortgage; Beware of Scammers

FTC: Beware of Mortgage ScammersDuring National Home Ownership Month (June), the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors issued a warning to homeowners, advising them to protect their mortgage closing from scammers. According to the FTC blog post, scammers sometimes use emails to steal closing costs and personal information from homebuyers.

Here’s an edited excerpt from the FTC:

Here’s how the scam works: Hackers break into the email accounts of homebuyers or real estate professionals to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. The hacker then sends an email to the homebuyer, posing as the real estate professional or title company. The bogus email says there has been a last-minute change to the wiring instructions, and tells the homebuyer to wire closing costs to a different account. But it is the scammer’s account. If the homebuyer takes the bait, their bank account could be cleared out in a matter of minutes.

If you’re buying a home and get an email with money-wiring instructions, STOP. Email is not a secure way to send financial information. Instead:

  • Contact the company through a number or email address you know is real. DON’T use phone numbers or links in the email.
  • Don’t open email attachments, even from someone you know, unless you’re expecting it. Opening attachments can put malware on your computer.

If you’ve already sent money to a scammer, act quickly.

  • If you wired money through your bank, ask them right away for a wire recall. If you used a money transfer company, like Western Union or MoneyGram, call their complaint lines immediately.
  • Report your experience to the FTC and to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. Report as soon as you can and give as much information as you can. If your bank asks for a police report, give them a copy of your report to ic3.gov.

Learn more about protecting yourself from phishing and what to do if your email is hacked. If you gave your information to a scammer, visit IdentityTheft.gov.

Team Marti’s Top 10 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Team Marti's Top 10 Tips for First-Time HomebuyersA seller’s market can be a tough place for first-time homebuyers to purchase their first home, but don’t despair. It is certainly doable. Educate yourself on what’s needed to succeed in a seller’s market and work with an experienced Realtor who will give you world-class, 24/7 service. Here are our top 10 tips for first-time homebuyers. Good luck!

  1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage. We recommend doing this before you begin shopping a home, so you know how much home you can afford and what type of credit you have, which will ultimately impact your loan terms, including the interest rates.
  2. Begin your home search online to get an idea of what’s available. Check out Realtor.com, Zillow, Northwest MLS or your favorite Realtor’s website.
  3. Work with a Realtor early on in your process. A talented Realtor can help guide you through what can be a very complex process, and offer advice specific to your situation. Get recommendations from friends and colleagues, and be sure to check out the referrals online before you meet with them. Read their online reviews and testimonials and their LinkedIn profile to see how long they’ve been selling real estate. You might also interview a couple of different agents to see who might be a good fit for you.
  4. Know the difference between your wants and needs in a first home. List all the features you want in a home and categorize them as ‘must haves,’ ‘should haves,’ and ‘absolute wish list.’ Learn more here.
  5. Check out the neighborhood and schools. The features of your home will be very important to you, but the neighborhood where you want to buy should also play a factor. Are there similar homes in the neighborhood? Are they well maintained? What amenities are nearby (e.g., parks, restaurants, shopping)? If you have a school-age child, or will be starting a family, what schools will your child attend? Visit the neighborhood at different times of day, if possible.
  6. Attend open houses. This is a great way to tour homes on the market to see what’s available. Keep in mind though that in a HOT real estate market like this one, a new listing may receive multiple offers the day of the open house. If you fall in love with a house you are touring, you’ll want to act on it right away.
  7. Write a winning offer. In a seller’s market, you need to bring your best offer to the table with as few contingencies as possible. Work with your Realtor to offer a fair but attractive price.
  8. Understand that your offer might get rejected. Competition is tough these days, so you may not get the first home you put an offer in on. Be patient. It will happen.
  9. Be prepared to cover closing costs. In a seller’s market, the seller tends to have control, so prepare to cover your own closing costs which will be on top of your down payment. Here are some additional guidelines.
  10. Don’t expect any home to be perfect. Sure, you have your heart set on a dream home with all of the desired features, but that is unrealistic. Realtor.com suggests you focus on three main factors: price, size and location. If you get all three, great, but getting two is more likely.

Good luck, and let us know if Team Marti can help!

[Sources: Inman, Realtor.com and CNN Money]

Homebuyer FAQs: Mortgage and Closing Costs

What You Need to Know about Mortgage & Closing Costs

Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned homeowner ready for your next home, it is important to understand mortgage and closing costs. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you better understand your options.

Buying a Home: Homebuyer FAQs re Mortgage Costs and Closing CostsQ:  What factors impact a mortgage interest rate?

A:  There are many factors involved when determining a homebuyer’s interest rate including credit score, loan type, home price, down payment and mortgage costs (for example, points, mortgage insurance and closing costs).

Q:  What other credit-related factors are important when financing a home?

A:  The better your credit, the lower your interest rate for a home loan is likely to be. Mortgage lenders consider your overall credit score, but they also consider your credit history with them, the amount of debt you already have, how much money you have in savings, your total assets and your current income. Learn more about credit reports and scores here.

Q:  What are points?

A:  Also called discount points, points lower your interest rate in exchange for a fee paid at closing. When you choose to pay points, you pay more at closing, but you lower your interest rate and pay less for the home over time. Points are related to the loan amount, and one point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. For example, on a $200,000 mortgage loan, 1 percent of the loan amount would be $2,000. Points are listed on your loan estimate and on the closing disclosure.

Q:  What is mortgage insurance?

A:  Many lenders require mortgage insurance for borrowers who put less than 20 percent down on the purchase of a home. The mortgage insurance lowers the risk to the lender, making it easier for you to qualify for a home loan. The cost of the mortgage insurance is included in your monthly mortgage payment, increasing your monthly mortgage payment. The cost of private mortgage rates varies depending on the borrower’s down payment and credit score.

Q:  What closing costs will I have to pay?

A:  Closings costs, the amount of money you’ll need to pay when you close on the purchase of your home, vary. Sometimes these costs are paid out of pocket, but some lenders will roll these costs into the total loan amount of your mortgage. Certain closing costs may also be negotiated with the home seller and the home seller’s agent. Common closing costs include appraisal fees, title insurance, government taxes, tax service provider fees, and prepaid expenses (for example, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and interest between the time of closing and the time your first payment is due).

For more information on interest rates, credit, points, mortgage insurance, closing costs and more, download this free home loan toolkit offered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It has some great information and checklists to help you through the home buying process. An experienced Realtor® can also answer these questions and guide you as you make decisions about buying a home.

Good luck!

Sources: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

6 Costly Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home

house-and-magnifying-glassWhether it is your first home or your third one, you don’t want to make costly mistakes when buying a home. Here are six mistakes that you can avoid with a little time, effort and knowledge:

  1. Not checking your credit score. If you don’t know to expect with your credit history, it’s likely that buyers and lenders may not take you seriously. Looking at listings and pre-planning is fine, but you need your credit score to provide accurate information about your credit history. Review your score a few months before you’re ready to start shopping for a home. This gives you time to ensure everything is accurate and to dispute mistakes. As an added bonus, if you have a high credit score, the pre-approval process will be easier, and you’re likely to get a lower interest rate.
  2. Forgetting about hidden costs. Sure, you’ve budgeted for your mortgage payments and your monthly bills (e.g., utilities, insurance, etc.), but don’t forget about property taxes, homeowner’s association fees, closing and moving costs. These could set you further back if you’re not prepared. You can learn more about closing costs here.
  3. Creating a long-term budget. Budgeting is critical when buying a house. You should think about what you can afford on a monthly basis for the length of the mortgage with a focus on the here and now. No more than a third of your monthly income should go toward housing expenses. If the house you’re considering will cause you to go over that, work with your Realtor to find something that’s closer to your price range. Bottom line: If you can’t afford it now, it won’t matter if you will be able to afford it five to 10 years from now.
  4. Not working with trained professionals. Some people choose their real estate agent blindly, and that works to their disadvantage. Ask for referrals, do some research, and make an appointment to interview a couple of Realtors. Look for someone who has your best interests in mind, and is willing to work with you and your budget to find a home perfect for you. Ideally, choose someone who has been in the real estate business for a while, is familiar with the community where you wish to live, and listens to your wants and needs.
  5. Falling in love with a home before someone inspects it. You may have found your dream home, but sometimes even dream homes have hidden flaws. Before you get your heart set on a home, have someone thoroughly inspect it. This could possibly save you additional time and money, and you’ll know if a house is going to be more work than it’s worth. Find an inspector that is independent from the real estate broker you choose to avoid a conflict of interest.
  6. Failing to research. You may love a home but not the neighborhood. Research the area to make sure it will be a good fit for you. If you want to live in an area with good schools, research before you look at homes. Look into the resale value of your home. If you decide to sell it later on, will you be losing money should you try to sell it?

Talk to all your Realtor about all of these potential pitfalls, and she’ll be able to help you avoid them.