Kristen Meleedy, CBR's Blog
Many home buyers have lots of questions as they go through the buying process, especially first-time buyers. Whether you’re looking for a $50,000 house or a multi-million dollar luxury home, the questions are often the same.
How Much House Can I Afford?
Lenders use several factors in determining whether to loan you money, including your credit score, loan-to-value and debt-to-income. If you are self-employed, you could make $400,000 per year and still not afford a $150,000 home. Lenders look at your income, and if you are self-employed like many luxury home buyers, you use tax deductions and expenses to your benefit. However, doing that lowers your adjusted net income. If your adjusted net income plus depreciation doesn’t meet the debt-to-income bar for the lender, you won’t qualify for the loan. People in this situation need to find a lender who will lend based on bank statements instead of tax returns.
How Convenient Is This Location?
Luxury home buyers often have location concerns. You travel more and have more people — friends and relatives — visit. That means you need a home location that is convenient for travel. If travel convenience is a concern, ask your real estate agent about the distance to the airport, the ability to rent limos, and other travel concerns.
How Much Down Payment Do I Need?
Most loans require 20 percent down if you do not want to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). However, if you are buying a multi-million dollar luxury home, that might be difficult if you don’t have liquid assets. Before you start looking, get a pre-approval from a jumbo lender, including the amount the lender requires with and without PMI. You can adjust the amount you are willing to spend or take the time to liquidate assets to get the down payment if you have your heart set on a home that requires a high down payment.
What Does My Credit Score Need to Be?
Conventional loans have a cap, which changes depending on your location and whether the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) increases that cap. If your mortgage is going to be higher than that cap, you will need to take out a jumbo loan unless you put enough down so that you are financing an amount below the cap. When you take out a jumbo loan, you are at a higher risk to the lender, so you have to jump through more hoops, including having a higher credit score.
If you are applying for a conventional loan, especially a loan backed by the VA, Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac, your credit score could be as low as 500. However, with a jumbo loan, your score must be at least 680. Some jumbo lenders require scores as high as 720.
Your credit score is a fundamental component of a mortgage lender’s decision to approve you for a loan. It can also affect the interest rate and loan amount you can secure.
Along with your income history and down payment, a solid credit score is one of the three most important things you’ll need when it comes to buying a home.
Credit scores themselves, however, can be a complicated business. And finding out what score you need to buy a home and how to achieve that score can also be a complex topic.
So, in this post we’re going to break down some credit score basics as they relate to buying a home.
Types of credit scores
You may have heard of the three main credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Each of these bureaus keeps a detailed credit history for everyone in America (except for those who have yet to open a line of credit or take out a loan).
Since each credit bureau may have slightly different information available data to draw from, your credit scores from each company may vary.
However, when it comes to buying a home, most lenders use a standard scoring model called a FICO score to ensure that all mortgage applicants are treated fairly when they seek a loan.
Things are further complicated by the fact that there are several different FICO scoring models designed for different types of credit. So, if you’ve seen your FICO score when applying for an auto loan, it may be a different score than you will see when applying for a mortgage.
Build credit; raise your credit score
All of the types of credit scores and scoring models can be confusing. But what you mostly need to worry about is how to boost your score.
Your credit score will be based on five main factors:
Making on-time payments
The percentage of available credit (not maxing out your cards)
Having diverse types of credit (auto loans, student loans, credit cards, etc.)
Not opening new lines of credit frequently (a red flag that you’re struggling financially)
The length of your credit history, or how long you’ve been consistently paying your bills
What score do you need to buy a home?
There are several different mortgage types available for buyers. First-time homeowners, veterans, people seeking to buy a home in a rural area, and any other number of circumstances can help you qualify for mortgages even if you have a low credit score.
A general rule, however, is that it’s always better to apply for a mortgage with a high credit score to help you secure the best possible interest rate.
Some programs do have minimum credit scores that they will accept for a mortgage. FHA loans are one common example. The Federal Housing Authority guarantees loans for people across the country who are hoping to buy their first home (or who haven’t owned a home in the last three years). Their guarantee is what enables lenders to safely approve mortgages for borrowers with low credit scores. The current requirement for an FHA loan is a credit score of 580 or higher for a mortgage with a 3.5% down payment. You can secure an FHA loan with a lower credit score, but you’ll have to make a larger down payment.
There are several other options available for hopeful homeowners when it comes to mortgages. But, if you aren’t planning on moving in the next few months and your credit score could use some work, now is the time to start focusing on building credit.
Whether you’re shopping for your first house or your next house, finding a listing you love is exciting. You browse the pictures, check out the property facts, share the link to your significant other, and maybe even schedule a showing.
With the exciting prospect of owning a new home that has all or many of the features you’re looking for, it can be easy to forget about certain details that matter. Most of us look for similar things in a house--close proximity to work, enough bedrooms, an upgraded kitchen, and so on.
In this article, we’re going to give you a list of things to investigate about the house you’re looking at to get a better idea of whether or not it’s the perfect match for you and your family.
1. Re-read the listing
If you’re like me and get lost in the photos of a home and forget to make note of the details, be sure to go back and check out the listing a second time. It will likely give you important details of the house that you overlooked on your initial visit.
Look for things like the year the house was built, information of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, and the total acreage of the lot and square footage of the home. These things are hard to accurately represent in the listing’s pictures, but will likely be important to your decision of whether or not you should view the home.
2. Do your online research
The number of things you can learn about a home and neighborhood on the internet is astounding. We suggest that before you go to visit a home, you spend 10-20 minutes on Google researching the following topics:
School district ratings. If you have or plan to have school-aged children, you’ll want to know what your options are for your child’s education. It’s often a good idea to check out the local schools’ websites to see what
Commute times. With Google Maps and similar sites, you can plan out what your new commute will be and see how long it will take. You might find different routes that will save you time or avoid traffic (we could all use those extra few minutes in bed every morning). Google Maps isn’t always accurate when it comes to morning traffic estimates, but it’s a good place to start.
Amenities. Having moved into a neighborhood that has no grocery stores within a 20-minute drive, trust me--you’ll want to know what’s in the area. Use Google Maps to find stores, gas, schools, parks and trails, hospitals, and other things you’ll want close by.
Street view. While we’re on Google, use street view to take a remote look around the neighborhood. You’ll be able to see how the infrastructure looks--if the neighborhood is taken care of and if there are sidewalks that offer a safe place to walk or jog.
Crime ratings. Don’t get too caught up in this section. Crimes happen everywhere, but this is a good way to see if the area you’re moving to is a safe place
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
If, after all of your online research, you decide you want to go view a home, don’t be shy when you arrive. It’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to be a burden in someone else’s home. But remember--if you’re considering living there someday you’ll want to know as much as possible before making an offer.
Test the plumbing, ask about average utilities, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to neighbors and ask them questions about the community. The more you know, the better. Happy sleuthing!
The weeks and days leading up to a home closing can be stressful, particularly for a homebuyer who is already trying to do everything possible to secure his or her dream residence. Fortunately, we're here to help you simplify the process of getting to your closing date.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to ensure you can enjoy a fast, easy home closing.
1. Get Your Paperwork Ready
It often helps to get all of your homebuying paperwork ready before you pursue a residence. That way, you can minimize the last-minute stress associated with searching far and wide for pay stubs, tax returns and other documents that you'll ultimately need to get financing for a residence.
Furthermore, you should meet with local banks and credit unions as soon as you can. If you can get approved for a mortgage prior to starting a home search, you may be able to speed up the process of acquiring your ideal residence.
2. Be Prepared to Cover Your Closing Costs
Although you might have financing to cover your monthly mortgage payments, it is important to remember that you may need to pay closing costs to finalize your home purchase. As such, if you begin saving for your closing costs today, you can guarantee that you'll have the necessary funds available to purchase your dream residence on your scheduled closing date.
Also, you should be prepared to present a cashier's check or wire funds when you close on a house. If you plan ahead, you should have no paying off your closing costs when your complete your home purchase.
3. Schedule Your Final Walk-Through Before Your Closing Date
When it comes to a final walk-through on your dream house, why should you leave anything to chance? Instead, set up the final walk-through at least a few days before you're scheduled to close on a house.
If you find problems with a house during a final walk-through, you'll want to give the seller plenty of time to address these issues. Thus, if you schedule a final walk-through several days before your closing date, you can ensure that any home problems can be corrected without putting your closing date in danger.
For homebuyers who are worried about a home closing, there is no need to stress. In fact, if you work with an expert real estate agent, you can receive plenty of support throughout the homebuying journey.
Typically, a real estate agent can explain what you should expect in the time leading up to your closing date. If you have any concerns or questions before a home closing, a real estate agent is happy to address them. Plus, when your closing date arrives, a real estate agent will help you remain calm, cool and collected as you purchase a home.
Ready to streamline the process of closing on a house? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can reap the benefits of a quick, seamless home closing.
For those who want to buy a home, it generally is a good idea to remain open to negotiating with a seller. That way, you can acquire your dream residence without delay.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you streamline a negotiation with a home seller.
1. Be Flexible
There is no telling how a home negotiation will turn out. Fortunately, if you maintain flexibility, you will be able to go with the flow throughout a negotiation with a seller.
Remember, a homebuyer and home seller share a common goal: to ensure a seamless transaction. If you are open to negotiating with a seller, both you and this individual can work together to achieve results that satisfy all parties.
Don't forget to maintain open lines of communication with a seller during a negotiation as well. By doing so, you and a seller can keep in touch with one another throughout a negotiation and avoid potential miscommunications that otherwise could slow down or stop a home purchase.
2. Establish Realistic Expectations
A home negotiation may work out in your favor or a seller's favor. Or, in the best-case scenario, you and a seller will come to terms that fulfill the needs of both sides. On the other hand, in the worst-case scenario, you may need to walk away from a home purchase altogether.
As a homebuyer, it is important to prepare for all possible scenarios. If you establish realistic expectations as you enter a home negotiation, you can plan accordingly. Then, you and a seller can work together to accomplish the optimal results.
You may want to study the housing market closely too. In fact, you can review the prices of available houses that are comparable to the one you want to buy to ensure your offer to purchase falls in line with the current housing market's conditions.
3. Work with a Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent is well-equipped to help you handle a homebuying negotiation. Thus, if you work with a real estate agent, you can get the assistance you need to acquire your dream house at a price that matches your budget.
Typically, a real estate agent will learn about your homebuying goals and help you discover your ideal residence. Once you find a house you want to buy, a real estate agent will help you submit a competitive offer to purchase this home. Next, if a seller wants to negotiate the terms of a home transaction, a real estate agent is ready to negotiate with this individual on your behalf.
A real estate agent also will keep you informed throughout a home negotiation. Plus, if you ever have concerns or questions during the homebuying journey, a real estate agent is prepared to respond to them.
Want to acquire your dream house as quickly as possible? Take advantage of the aforementioned tips, and you should have no trouble handling a home negotiation with any seller, at any time.