As a first-time homebuyer, you may be wondering how to save money on your mortgage. The best and smartest way to go is by getting pre-approved for a mortgage before you start looking at homes. If you get approved beforehand, it can save time because when selecting homes for purchase, the potential buyer will only need to see houses within their price range or loan limit. Below is more information about pre-approval and its advantages.
When you are first getting started with the loan application process, two steps need to be completed. The first step is pre-qualification. Pre-qualification is a rough estimation of how much money a lender is willing to give you based only on the data they have at hand. This includes your income, credit score, and debts or liabilities.
However, this information may not be complete or up to date. You can continue with the second step which is pre-approval. Pre-approval means that your lender has more access to your financial data and is willing to give you a final number on how much money they will lend you for the house purchase. This is based on the information you provide to the lender.
If you were already pre-qualified with a lender and had been looking at homes from a real estate agent, it is best to request a pre-approval. It can definitely help when you're purchasing a home.
Almost all lenders offer this service today, but it can vary depending on which company you choose. You also have the option of applying with a broker who may find a lender who offers pre-approval with lower interest rates and fees.
The very first step you need to take is to check your credit score. This can be done on a free website. If your credit score falls below the minimum threshold set by the lender, you will have to improve it before applying for a pre-approval.
If you are already meeting the floor price set by the lender, you may proceed to apply. Fill out all required paperwork honestly and completely if you want to improve your chances of being approved.
If you want to get pre-approval for a loan, you need to have decent credit. Many lenders will require a FICO score of 640 or higher before they can approve your request.
Also, to be considered for pre-approval, you'll need to prove that you can repay the loan that you apply for. This can include having a steady income or access to funds through another source. The lender may also ask about what your total debt is compared to how much you make monthly.
Pre-approval for a home loan can help you get the best rates, but it also requires more effort than simply applying for prequalification. You will have to prove that you are serious about purchasing by showing steady income and access to funds. This can be difficult for some people to prove, but your chances of being pre-approved increase dramatically if you do it right.
If you are looking forward to getting a loan preapproval or prequalification so that you can buy a home, reach out to us. We are a team of experienced realtors and we will give you professional advice from preapproval to moving into your new home.
Homeownership has many advantages. It's key to building wealth. That's why for most people, their home is their most valuable asset and represents the majority of their net worth. But owning a home comes with some maintenance costs.
Not only does a home cost a great deal to acquire, but it also costs quite a bit to maintain. Some estimates place the ongoing yearly costs of owning a home at around 5% of its value. For the average home in the US, that works out to over $13,000 per year. There is plenty of uncertainty built into that number. For example, having a major appliance break could add thousands of dollars to that total. And there's no way to know when an unexpected expense will overwhelm your budget.
That's where home warranties come into play.
Home warranties are a popular way for homeowners to try to contain the costs of homeownership and eliminate unexpected expenses. Here's an overview of what they are, how they work, and when they're worth investing in. Let's dive in.
Unlike insurance, it's a service contract designed to cover the cost of the repair or replacement of major household items. In most cases, they cover things like large kitchen appliances and the home's major systems. But home warranties aren't insurance. They only cover costs associated with the normal wear and tear of covered items. So, if, for example, your refrigerator got damaged due to flood – it wouldn't pay to replace it.
That is, in fact, the primary difference between home warranties and a homeowner's insurance policy. The former covers the costs associated with routine maintenance and care for a home's major systems, while a homeowner's insurance policy pays for unexpected damage to property in the home. It protects against losses connected to things like fires, floods, and theft. Together, the two provide comprehensive protection for both the routine and extraordinary costs associated with owning a home.
Although different providers offer warranty plans that cover various items in a home, there are some covered items most of them share. These include:
• Heating / Ductwork
• Hot water systems
• Central or split-unit air conditioning systems
• Ovens, ranges, and cooktops
• Garbage disposal units
• Garage door openers
Depending on the provider, it's often possible to add warranty coverage for other household items like:
• Well pumps
• Septic tanks
• Pool and spa equipment
In most cases, home warranties don't cover the structural components of a home. That means they don't cover things like walls, windows, foundations, and doors. They also won't cover solar panels because they're considered a structural item.
And home warranties also won't cover commercial appliances. That means they don't cover many high-end kitchen items from major brands like Sub-Zero and Thermador. And they also don't cover duplicate items by default. That means homes with a second kitchen would need to purchase additional coverage for all of the items in it – even if they're the same items in their primary kitchen.
But even covered items are subject to certain restrictions, such as a home warranty won't cover pre-existing damage to a covered item. Every item must go through a visual and operational examination before it's eligible for coverage. At that time, a representative of the warranty provider will check for obvious damage to each item and conduct a basic test to see that it's functioning normally.
Even then, most home warranties feature a 30-day waiting period before they go into effect. That way, the company can rule out most undetectable pre-existing problems with covered items. It is designed to prevent a homeowner from purchasing a policy to cover an appliance they know is about to fail.
There are also limits to what home warranties will pay to repair or to replace covered items. Some impose limits on a per-item basis. For example, a policy might specify a maximum of $1,000 for microwave or $3,000 for an HVAC system. Others set a maximum limit that applies to all covered items, which usually represents the maximum replacement cost of the most expensive covered item.
In most cases, home warranties are worth purchasing for anyone buying a secondhand home. This is because it's often impossible to know the true condition of a home's major systems or if they've been put through excessive wear and tear. And because purchasing a home is a significant investment, the last thing a new homeowner would want is a string of unexpected expenses right after they move in.
For the same reason, people selling their homes might purchase coverage to convince would-be buyers that everything in the house is in reasonable working order. Doing so serves as a guarantee to the home's new owners that they're not going to end up paying for the damage done by its previous owners. In that way, homeowners' warranties make an attractive addition to a home that's listed for sale.
The costs of a home warranty are reasonable enough that either party would be well-served by purchasing a policy. The average cost comes in at between $25 and $50 per month, which works out to between $300 and $600 per year. After that, the only other cost is a reasonable service call fee between $75 and $125 when something breaks. So, the first time that a major covered appliance needs replacing, the policy will more than pay for itself.
Buyers of newly-built homes typically don't need home warranty coverage. This is because most homebuilders offer similar coverage for at least a year after a home's completion, and it comes standard with the purchase of the home. Plus, new major appliances come with their own warranties that cover major problems for a year or more after purchase. It wouldn't make sense to purchase coverage until several years into the home's existence in those cases.
Any way you look at it, home warranties are a smart way to manage some of the ongoing costs of homeownership. But they're not for everyone, and anyone buying a policy should do their homework and read all of the fine print before buying coverage. Like insurance, a home warranty can seem costly when you don't end up using it – but it can be a lifesaver when bad luck strikes and multiple appliances break in quick succession.
Get in touch with us for professional help on your real estate investment journey, call 650 550 8646.
Speaking of getting your home on the market, home staging plays a key part to impress your potential buyers. It involves decluttering, rearranging, and remodeling your home. Keep in mind that homebuyers come from various walks of life, thus when staging your property ensure that it is eye-catching to everyone.
There are professional home stagers that you can hire and even experienced real estate agents can do some staging themselves. However, you can also choose to be hands-on and do it yourself. The infographic below will guide you through the home staging process:
The bottom line is that staging can increase your home's purchase offers, but you don't need to stage every room of the house. Focus your efforts on the most usable spaces of the home. Get professional advice from an established real estate group to discuss the best strategy for selling your home and prepare it for a successful open house. Call 650-550-8646 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Whether it’s an investment property, a place to move and build a family, or a space to grow old in, buying a home for the first time is a big step. It’s both a major financial and emotional decision.
A house is likely the most expensive purchase of your life, so it can be a bit overwhelming. It is totally understandable. To help you feel as prepared as possible and eliminate a lot of the stress, we’ve come up with these tips that should guide you through the home-buying process.
Do you have savings? Calculate your monthly expenses and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which should be at a maximum of 43%. It is essential to know where you stand in your finances to strengthen your credit score – this will determine if you qualify for a mortgage. Consider having an emergency fund for three to six months' worth of expenses. When you buy a home, there will be a down payment and closing costs.
Save enough money for a 20% down payment (or more). Your down payment will depend on the type of mortgage you choose and the lender’s terms. Some lenders allow as low as a 3% down payment for first-time homebuyers with excellent credit scores. Also, keep in mind that as a homeowner you will be responsible for all the maintenance and upkeep costs.
What does your dream house look like? Write down specific features and amenities that you need for your ideal home. You can also include the location, neighborhood, and size of the house and lot. You can make a separate list of the home features that are less important, that you can do without upon purchase. This is your first home; you deserve a house that grants most (if not all) of your wishes but be realistic.
Don’t worry about not being able to pay cash for a home because there are a variety of mortgages with varying down payment and eligibility requirements:
By the way, you also have options when it comes to how long you are going to pay a home loan, anywhere from 15- to 30-years.
A mortgage pre-approval determines how much house you can afford. Lenders will take into consideration your financial situation, including monthly income, DTI, and credit score. They will then provide you a statement that you are qualified to take a loan and how much a lender will give you to buy your first home. With a mortgage pre-approval, your home financing is already secured, and it shows the seller that you’re a serious buyer.
Your mortgage pre-approval will give you an idea of how much you can spend for your first home, which will help you narrow down your house requirements. Attend several open houses in the neighborhoods you want to live in to give you the chance to learn more about the area, its facilities, and community culture. Take advantage of home buying assistance programs from local government and realtors.
First of all, hire a trained professional to do an inspection of the property you’re interested in, so you’ll know the condition of your potential new home. This way, you can negotiate your offer with the seller, such as paying for the repairs. You can also ask them to lower the price to cover the cost of repairs. There are instances that the seller will pay some of the closing costs if the offer is right.
An excellent real estate agent knows the ins and outs of the market, finds you homes that match your criteria, and guides you through the entire process. Communicate with your agent regularly. Your home-buying journey will be a lot easier when you’re working with a real estate professional.
Don’t go over budget. As a first-time homebuyer, it is natural to get excited shopping for a perfect house that ticks everything in your checklist, forgetting what you can truly afford. Have enough money for repairs and renovations.
Remember to consider closing costs in your budget. These fees pay for important steps in the home-buying process, including:
Keep the physical copy of your mortgage statements, deed, Closing Disclosure, vendor and supplier receipts, property insurance policy, and other important real estate records. Compile them all together for easier access and lock them in a fireproof cabinet, if possible.
Now back to the first question, are you ready to buy a house? Tap a highly rated real estate agent nearest you; contact us today!
Earlier this year, many economists and market analysts were predicting an apocalyptic financial downturn that would potentially rattle the U.S. economy for years to come. They immediately started to compare it to the Great Depression of a century ago. Six months later, the economy is still trying to stabilize, but it is evident that the country will not face the total devastation projected by some. As we continue to battle the pandemic, forecasts are now being revised upward. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) just reported:
“The U.S. economy and labor market are recovering from the coronavirus-related downturn more quickly than previously expected, economists said in a monthly survey.
Business and academic economists polled by The Wall Street Journal expect gross domestic product to increase at an annualized rate of 23.9% in the third quarter. That is up sharply from an expectation of an 18.3% growth rate in the previous survey.”
Economists have historically cast economic recoveries in the form of one of four letters – V, U, W, or L.
A V-shaped recovery is all about the speed of the recovery. This quick recovery is treated as the best-case scenario for any economy that enters a recession. NOTE: Economists are now also using a new term for this type of recovery called the “Nike Swoosh.” It is a form of the V-shape that may take several months to recover, thus resembling the Nike Swoosh logo.
A U-shaped recovery is when the economy experiences a sharp fall into a recession, like the V-shaped scenario. In this case, however, the economy remains depressed for a longer period of time, possibly several years, before growth starts to pick back up again.
A W-shaped recovery can look like an economy is undergoing a V-shaped recovery until it plunges into a second, often smaller, contraction before fully recovering to pre-recession levels.
An L-shaped recovery is seen as the worst-case scenario. Although the economy returns to growth, it is at a much lower base than pre-recession levels, which means it takes significantly longer to fully recover.
Many experts predicted that this would be a dreaded L-shaped recovery, like the 2008 recession that followed the housing market collapse. Fortunately, that does not seem to be the case.
It’s difficult to speak positively about a jobs report that shows millions of Americans are still out of work. However, when we compare it to many forecasts from earlier this year, the numbers are much better than most experts expected. There was talk of numbers that would rival the Great Depression when the nation suffered through four consecutive years of unemployment over 20%.
The first report after the 2020 shutdown did show a 14.7% unemployment rate, but much to the surprise of many analysts, the rate has decreased each of the last three months and is now in the single digits (8.4%).
Economist Jason Furman, Professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers during the previous administration, recently put it into context:
“An unemployment rate of 8.4% is much lower than most anyone would have thought it a few months ago. It is still a bad recession but not a historically unprecedented event or one we need to go back to the Great Depression for comparison.”
The economists surveyed by the WSJ also forecasted unemployment rates going forward:
The economic recovery still has a long way to go. So far, we are doing much better than most thought would be possible.
With so few houses for sale today and low mortgage rates driving buyer activity, bidding wars are becoming more common. Multiple-offer scenarios are heating up, so it’s important to get pre-approved before you start your search. This way, you can put your best foot forward – quickly and efficiently – if you’re planning to buy a home this season.
Javier Vivas, Director of Economic Research at realtor.com, explains:
“COVID-19 has accelerated earlier trends, bringing even more buyers than the market can handle. In many markets, fierce competition, bidding wars, and multiple offer scenarios may be the common theme in the weeks to come.”
Here are three things you can do to make your offer a competitive one when you’re ready to make your move.
A recent survey shows that only 52% of active homebuyers obtained a pre-approval letter before they began their home search. That means about half of active buyers missed out on this key part of the process.
Buyers who are pre-approved are definitely a step ahead when it’s time to make an offer. Having a pre-approval letter indicating you’re a qualified buyer shows sellers you’re serious. It’s often a deciding factor that can tip the scale in your direction if there’s more than one offer on a home. It’s best to contact a mortgage professional to start your pre-approval process early, so you’re in the best position right from the start of your home search.
In a highly competitive market, it’s common for sellers to pick a date and time to review all offers on a house at one time. If this is the case, you may not have an opportunity to negotiate back and forth with the sellers. As a matter of fact, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes:
“Not only are properties selling quickly, but they are also getting more offers. On average, REALTORS® reported nearly three offers per sold property in July 2020.”
Make sure the offer you’re presenting is the best one the sellers receive. A real estate professional can help you make sure your offer is a fair and highly competitive one.
“Properties typically remained on the market for 22 days in July, seasonally down from 24 days in June and from 29 days in July 2019. Sixty-eight percent of homes sold in July 2020 were on the market for less than a month.”
In addition, NAR notes:
“Total existing-home sales…jumped 24.7% from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.86 million in July. The previous record monthly increase in sales was 20.7% in June of this year. Sales as a whole rose year-over-year, up 8.7% from a year ago (5.39 million in July 2019).”
As you can see, the market is gaining steam. For two consecutive months houses have sold very quickly. Essentially, you may not have time to sleep on it or shop around when you find a home you love. Chances are, someone else loves it too. If you take your time, it may not be available when you’re ready to commit.
The housing market is very strong right now, and buyers are scooping up available homes faster than they’re coming to market. If you’re planning to purchase a home this year, let’s connect to discuss the trends in our current area, so you’re ready to compete – and win.
Earlier this month, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released a special study titled Single-Family Home Price Gains by Years of Tenure. The study estimates median home price appreciation over the last 30 years based on the length of homeownership.
Below are three graphs depicting the most important data revealed in the study.
One of the first measures of the financial benefits of homeownership is the net worth (in the form of equity) an owner can build over time. The study showed the average increase in home values based on how long homeowners stayed in a home.
Another way to look at this is by the percentage increase in value over time, called appreciation:
Today, when we think of markets that have done well over the last decade, we have a tendency to think about San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, and other West Coast cities. Though it is true the West Region showed the highest price growth over the last three decades, we can see how every region of the country did quite well in ten-year increments:This data validates the claim that homeownership is great for building wealth. The importance of this information was highlighted in the study’s first sentence:
“Homeownership is an important source of wealth creation, enabling current homeowners and succeeding generations to move up the economic ladder.”
Homeownership has many financial and non-financial benefits. The accumulation of “housing wealth” through increased equity is a major one. If you’re thinking of buying a home for the first time or moving up to your dream home, the sooner you make the move, the sooner your net worth will begin to grow.
The gap between the increase in personal income and residential real estate prices has been used to defend the concept that we are experiencing an affordability crisis in housing today.
It is true that home prices and wages are two key elements in any affordability equation. There is, however, an extremely important third component to that equation: mortgage interest rates.
Mortgage interest rates have fallen by more than a full percentage point from this time last year. Today’s rate is 3.75%; it was 4.86% at this time last year. This has dramatically increased a purchaser’s ability to afford a home.
Here are three reports validating that purchasing a home is in fact more affordable today than it was a year ago:
“Falling mortgage rates and slower home-price growth mean that many buyers this year are committing to lower mortgage payments than they would have faced for the same home last year. After rising at a double-digit annual pace in 2018, the principal-and-interest payment on the nation’s median-priced home – what we call the “typical mortgage payment”– fell year-over-year again.”
“At the national level, housing affordability is up from last month and up from a year ago…All four regions saw an increase in affordability from a year ago…Payment as a percentage of income was down from a year ago.”
“In 2019, the dynamic duo of lower mortgage rates and rising incomes overcame the negative impact of rising house price appreciation on affordability. Indeed, affordability reached its highest point since January 2018. Focusing on nominal house price changes alone as an indication of changing affordability, or even the relationship between nominal house price growth and income growth, overlooks what matters more to potential buyers – surging house-buying power driven by the dynamic duo of mortgage rates and income growth. And, we all know from experience, you buy what you can afford to pay per month.”
Though the price of homes may still be rising, the cost of purchasing a home is actually falling. If you’re thinking of buying your first home or moving up to your dream home, let’s connect so you can better understand the difference between the two.