Jonathan Parker & Sharon Kelley's Blog
Whether you're looking for your first house, a vacation home, or a retirement condo, there's always an element of excitement in finding a new place you can call your own!
Although buying and selling real estate can be stressful, especially if you've never done it before, being prepared and knowing what to expect can help keep things on an even keel.
Similar to planning a vacation or a cross-country trip, you'll want to avoid missed connections, frustrating delays, and wasted time. When it comes to buying a home, a little research, planning, and expert advice can go a long way toward ensuring a smooth journey. Here are a few specifics:
Check your credit score: Your credit rating has a major impact on your ability to successfully apply for a mortgage and be offered a relatively low interest rate. Knowing your credit rating can help you understand your options, avoid unexpected surprises, and take action to correct errors in your credit report or improve your credit profile.
Prepare a wish list: One of the keys to getting what you want in a new home is to clarify and prioritize the features that matter the most to you. Your checklist can include everything from lot size and architectural style to the reputation of the school district and proximity to stores. Some house hunters also place a high value on features like a fireplace, screened-in porch, and an open floor plan.
Find a good real estate agent: A buyers' agent can provide you with an immense amount of help in finding properties for sale that meet your specifications. They can also provide assistance, advice, and guidance on the many steps involved in going from loan applicant to new home owner. An experienced agent can also negotiate the best possible deal, in terms of price, seller concessions, and other advantages.
Meet with mortgage lenders: A crucial step in preparing to become a homeowner is understanding the mortgage application process, knowing how much banks would be willing to lend you, and determining an affordable price range. Meeting with lenders is also the first step to comparing interest rates and choosing a financial institution that would best suit your needs. Here's a helpful tip from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: "Getting a preapproval letter helps you show sellers that you are a serious buyer – but it doesn’t commit you to a lender."
When it comes to searching for and buying a house, probably the best advice anyone could give you is "stay the course!" Let's face it: It's easy to give up, get discouraged, or settle for a home that's less than what you really want. However, when you adopt a "stay the course" mindset, you'll do a better job of staying motivated, focused, and well organized until you find just the right home for you, your family, and your future!
When it comes time to attend a home showing, it helps to be prepared. That way, you can check out a house from top to bottom and confirm that this house fits your needs.
Ultimately, there are several important steps that a homebuyer should take before attending a home showing, and these are:
1. Review the Home Listing
Reading a home listing often serves as a first opportunity to evaluate a house and determine whether it could be your dream residence. As such, you'll want to review the listing closely to verify your interest in a house.
Oftentimes, reading a home listing a few times is a good idea. This will enable you to analyze all aspects of the listing and ensure it is worth your time to visit a house in-person.
2. Create a Home Showing Checklist
Although a home listing likely provides lots of information about a house, there may be plenty of unanswered questions that you have about a residence. Fortunately, a home showing gives you the opportunity to ask questions and receive insights into a house that you won't be able to receive elsewhere. And if you craft a home showing checklist in advance, you'll be ready to get the information that you need to fully assess a residence.
Remember, there is no such thing as a "bad" question, particularly when it comes to evaluating a house. If you make a list of questions before a home showing, you'll be able to receive responses that can help you make an informed decision about whether to submit an offer on a house.
Don't forget to include different areas of a home in your home showing checklist, either. In most cases, you'll want to evaluate a house's roof, attic and other areas to determine whether costly, time-intensive repairs may be needed in the near future.
3. Consult with a Real Estate Agent
Preparing for a home showing may prove to be difficult, particularly for a buyer who is attending a showing for the first time. If you consult with a real estate agent, however, you can get the help that you need to prepare for any home showing, at any time.
A real estate agent is a homebuying professional who understands the ins and outs of evaluating a residence. He or she can provide expert home showing preparation recommendations and serve as a guide throughout the showing itself.
Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent is happy to help you at each stage of the homebuying journey. If you have questions before or after a home showing, a real estate agent is ready to answer them. And if you want to submit an offer following a showing, this housing market professional can help you submit a competitive proposal at your convenience.
Don't wait to kick off your search for the perfect home. Instead, follow the aforementioned steps, and you can prepare for a home showing and move closer to acquiring your ideal residence.
Now that you decided to move into a luxury home, you need to determine whether you are going to build one or buy a luxury home that already exists. There are pros and cons to both sides of the coin. Also, in most cases, building is going to be more expensive. Still, you also get to choose materials and have the newest technology built-in instead of having to upgrade on top of the purchase of an existing home.
Buying a Luxury Home
The main benefit of buying a luxury home is that you can be in your home in as little as a couple of weeks if you are doing a cash transaction or in 30 to 60 days if you are getting financing. The cost of buying a home is also less than building in most cases. You might find some areas of the country where building is less expensive, but that would be rare.
The biggest con to buying a luxury home is that people rarely find a home that has everything they are looking for. Most people settle for a home that has almost everything and either do without or add the feature on later. That depends on the feature and whether the feature is a deal-breaker.
Building a Luxury Home
The best part of building a luxury home is that you can choose the location of the home. Find that perfect piece of property, whether you want a small lot or thousands of acres, and then find the perfect place on the property for your home. On larger properties, you might decide to put your home near a lake or pond on the property, or on top of a high hill with a gorgeous view.
Consider your floor plans carefully, and always find a builder that you are comfortable with. It’s easier to work with someone who is open to your suggestions and will do their best to make your dreams come true. When you are going over the plans for your new luxury home, give the builder a good overall picture. For example, if you like to entertain, tell the builder, so he can help you design a house that is good for entertaining.
You can add all of the newest materials to the build, plus have the best technology built into the house, such as a security system, hidden safes, a storm shelter, automation and top-notch appliances.
If you are looking for a smaller lot, be sure to find a lot large enough for landscaping you want, a pool and other outdoor amenities. If you are looking for acreage, space isn’t a factor, unless the piece of property sits on a mountain and the only home site is too small for the house you want. Keep in mind what you want to do with the property, including adding stables or other buildings – you’ll need room for those buildings.
You can ask any homeowner-buying and owning a home is expensive. Mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, and other bills quickly add up.
If you want to buy a home but don’t have a large down payment saved, odds are you’ve discovered something called private mortgage insurance (PMI).
PMI is an extra monthly payment that you make (on top of your mortgage payment) when you don’t have enough to make a large (20%) down payment on your home.
However, if you want to buy a home and don’t want to tack on an extra monthly payment for PMI, you have options. In today’s post, I’m going to talk about some ways to avoid paying PMI on your mortgage so you can save more money in the long run.
Before we talk about getting rid of PMI, let’s spend a minute on what to expect when you do have to pay it.
PMI typically costs 0.30% to %1.15% of your total loan balance annually. That means that your PMI payments will decrease a moderate amount as you pay off your loan.
Furthermore, once you have paid off 22% of your loan, your PMI will be cancelled and you’ll only be responsible for your regular monthly mortgage payments.
Getting PMI waived early
With conventional loans, you can request to have your PMI cancelled once you’ve paid off 20% of the mortgage. However, many buyers with PMI are using some form of first-time buyer loan, such as an FHA loan.
With an FHA loan, you’ll be stuck with PMI for the lifetime of the loan if you don’t make a down payment of 10% or more. That’s a lot of PMI payments, especially if you take out a 30 year loan, and it can quickly add up.
If you have an FHA loan with FHA insurance, the only way to cancel the insurance is to refinance into a non-FHA insured loan. And remember--refinancing has its own costs and complications.
Making it to the 20% repayment mark
On conventional loans, the best way to get rid of PMI is to reach your 20% repayment mark as soon as possible. That could mean aggressively paying off your mortgage until you reach that point.
This can be achieved by making extra payments, or just paying more each month. However, you don’t want to neglect other debt that could be accruing costly interest in favor of paying off your loans. Make sure you do the math and find out which debt will be more expensive before neglecting other debt.
Once you do reach the 20% repayment mark, you’ll have to remember to apply to have your PMI canceled with your lender. Otherwise, it will be canceled automatically at 22%.
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!