Tag Archives: buyer

Should You Go Big With Your First House or Stick to a Starter Home?

For a majority of people, buying your first home is financially daunting. Beyond the paperwork and negotiating, there’s that big mortgage looming. Taking on such a substantial financial responsibility is enough to leave you wondering if you can even afford it. And if you’ve figured out that you can, there’s still the question of just how much house you can afford. The question inevitably looms: Even though it’s your first piece of property, should you extend your budget and reach for something a little bigger, shinier, and newer?

It’s certainly not a case in which you want to throw caution to the wind. First and foremost, you have to set a realistic price range.

“The most important factor in your success as a first-time home buyer is to live within a budget,” says Michele Lerner, author of “Homebuying: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time.” “It’s crucial to look realistically at your assets and your current and future income to evaluate what you can comfortably afford.”

Take it to the limit

There are some cases in which pushing your budget a bit could be a good idea. If you’re absolutely certain your income will rise—for example, if you’re about to finish medical school and know your salary as a doctor will be substantial in coming years—you might be a little safer stretching to your maximum purchase price.

If you do decide to go big from the get-go, keep in mind the costs you’ll incur beyond your mortgage payment. Lerner says you should include space in your budget for home repairs and maintenance (about 1% to 2% of the cost of the home you purchase), and you should have emergency savings for three to six months.

“It’s tempting to spend down to your last dollar to get the home you want, but that’s a risky proposition,” she says. “Owning a home can bring some unexpected surprises that renting doesn’t, such as a plumbing bill or a leaky roof.”

“I always try to get first-time buyers into manageable homes for them,” says Sean Keene of the Keene Group in Oregon. “It is no fun being house poor.“

Buy now or buy later?

If you determine that your needs won’t be met in a less-expensive home, or you’ll grow out of it quickly, you might want to wait until your income increases or you have more funds for a down payment.

Typically, it’s best to stay in a home for five to seven years in order to recoup your investment and build equity, Lerner says. That means looking ahead to see if the house you’re buying now is a good fit down the road.

In some markets, however, it makes sense to get into a hot market even if the house isn’t quite right, says Kathryn Bishop, a Realtor® in Studio City, CA.

“Buy the smaller house and get into the real estate market,” says Bishop. “Even if you don’t remodel it, it can appreciate in value faster and higher than interest from your bank.”

How to up your buying power for your first home

There are several down payment assistance programs for first-time home buyers.

If you’re considering buying a smaller home and remodeling it to meet your needs, Lerner suggests talking to your lender about financing your purchase and renovations with one loan. Home improvement loans may include the FHA 203(k) loan program and Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle loan program.

It can be tempting to extend your budget to get the house of your dreams but don’t get into a nightmare situation by stretching it too far.

Article courtesy of realtor.com

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6 Financial Perks of Being a First-Time Homebuyer

From mortgage points to PMI, unlock the essential info about how homeownership affects your tax burden.

Hours after we closed on our first house, my husband and I sat in our empty new living room and stared at the walls. He was the first to speak, saying simply, “I thought it was painted.”

We learned a lot about that old house over the next 15 years. While we knew to expect some of the work, other tasks, such as needing to paint the walls, we figured out as we went along. One of the changes we didn’t anticipate was needing to make some adjustments to our tax forms.

The forms you fill out when you buy your house are just the beginning. We quickly understood that first-time homeowners have years of mortgage and insurance paperwork to look forward to. Then, of course, there are the taxes. To help you sort through that pile of paperwork and ensure you’re saving as much money as possible we did some research into tax benefits that can come from buying.

Six Tax Benefits for New Homeowners

1. You can deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage.

The home mortgage interest deduction is probably the best-known tax benefit for homeowners. This deduction allows you to deduct all the interest you pay toward your home mortgage with a few exceptions, including these big ones:

  • Your mortgage can’t be more than $1 million.
  • Your mortgage must be secured by your home (unsecured loans don’t count).
  • Your mortgage must be on a qualified home, meaning your main or second home (vacation homes count too).

Don’t assume that if you are married and file a joint tax return, you have to own your home together to claim the interest. For purposes of the deduction, the home can be owned by you, your spouse, or jointly. The deduction counts the same either way.

And don’t worry about keeping track of how much you’re paying in interest versus principal each month. At the end of the year, your lender should issue you a form 1098, which reports the amount of interest you’ve paid during the year.

Warning: Since, as a first-time homeowner, you pay more interest than principal in the first few years. That number can be fairly sobering.

2. You may be able to deduct points.

Points are essentially prepaid interest that you offer upfront at closing to improve the rate on your mortgage. The more points you pay, the better deal you get.

You can deduct points in the year you pay them if you meet certain criteria. Included in the list (and it’s a long one): Points must be paid on a loan secured by your main home, and that loan must be to purchase or build your main home.

Pro tip: Points that you pay must also be within the range of what’s expected where you live — unusual transactions may cause you to lose the deduction.

3. Depending on the year and your income level, you may be able to deduct PMI.

Private mortgage insurance, or PMI, protects the bank in the event you default. PMI may be required as a condition of a mortgage for first-time homebuyers, especially if they can’t afford a large down payment.

For most years, PMI is not generally deductible, but the specific rules around it change annually. In 2016, if you made less than $109, 000 a year as a household, you could claim a tax deduction for the cost of PMI for both their primary home and any vacation homes. Check to see if the PMI deduction is a possibility as you are working on your taxes.

4. Real estate taxes are deductible.

Real estate taxes are imposed by state or local governments on the value of your property. Most banks or other mortgage lenders will factor the cost of your real estate taxes into your mortgage and put those amounts into an escrow account.

You can’t deduct the amounts paid into the escrow, but you can deduct the amounts paid out of it to cover the taxes (you’ll see this amount on a form 1098 issued by your lender at the end of the year).

If you don’t escrow for real estate taxes, you’ll deduct what you pay out of pocket directly to the tax authority.

And don’t forget about those taxes you paid at settlement. If you reimburse the seller for taxes already paid for the year, you get to deduct those too.

Those amounts won’t show up on a form 1098; you’ll need to check your settlement sheet for the totals.

5. Your other tax deductions may matter more.

To take advantage of these tax benefits, you have to itemize your deductions on your tax return.

For most taxpayers, this is a huge shift: in many cases, you’re moving from a form 1040-EZ to a form 1040 to list expenses on Schedule A.

In addition to interest, points, and taxes, Schedule A is where you would report deductions for charitable donations, medical expenses, and unreimbursed job expenses.

For itemizing deductions to make good financial sense, you generally want to have more total deductions than the standard deduction (for 2015, it’s $6,300 for individuals and $12,600 for married couples). Most taxpayers don’t reach those numbers — unless they’re homeowners.

The home mortgage interest deduction, in particular, tends to tip most homeowners over the standard deduction amount, making those other deductions (such as medical expenses) that might otherwise go unclaimed more valuable.

6. You’ll get capital gains tax relief down the road.

I know you just bought your home, but admit it: Resale value is something you considered when you chose your home. And different from other investments for which you’re taxed on the full value of any gain, you can exclude some of the gain attributable to your home when you sell.

Under current law, you can avoid paying tax on up to $250,000 of gain ($500,000 for married filing jointly) so long as you have owned and lived in the property for two of the last five years (those years of owning and inhabiting don’t have to be consecutive).

Gain over that amount is taxed at capital gains rates, which are generally more favorable than ordinary income tax rates.

 

Post courtesy of trulia.com

How Much House Can You Really Afford?

Just because a lender approves you for a mortgage doesn’t mean you can comfortably afford it.

If you ask Google “how much house can I afford,” you’ll find a number of online tools and mortgage calculators to help you find a fast answer. You might also find quick but somewhat confusing advice like “your mortgage payment shouldn’t take up more than 35% of your monthly income.”

Quick. Do you know what 35% of your monthly income is? If not, you’re not alone. While online housing tools are a helpful starting point for the early stages of your house hunt, it’s important that you understand how the pieces all fit together, and that you take your personal financial situation into account.

Why a calculator can’t tell you how much house you can afford

  1. 1. Financial rules of thumb may not apply to you

    While 35% seems like a straightforward figure, your financial picture is a lot more complicated than that number would make things seem. Your ideal monthly housing costs could vary depending on things such as debt and other monthly payment obligations — not to mention how much you’ve saved for a down payment.

    If you have high credit scores and a clean financial background, a mortgage calculator can be a great starting point for mortgage shopping. You’ll get a much better sense of what your price range might be instead of a blanket rule of thumb. But they’re only as accurate as the information you provide, so if you forget to add regular budget line items such as food, day care, or gas costs, you won’t get a complete picture.

  2. 2. Your lender may approve you for more than you can realistically afford

    Lenders are now legally required to ensure borrowers can “reasonably afford” to repay a loan before they approve a new mortgage. But there’s a difference between being able to reasonably afford something and being able to realistically afford something.

    When looking at what’s reasonable, lenders account for your income and any current debts that you need to repay each month. If you make $5,000 per month after taxes and need to pay $500 toward your car loan each month, a mortgage payment of $1,500 may seem perfectly reasonable.

    In this (extremely simplified) example, you’d have about $3,000 per month left over to handle all your other expenses. And perhaps you can afford your living expenses on this budget.

    But what about the other goals you want to achieve? What about saving for retirement or investing for your future?

    If you commit to a large monthly mortgage payment, you may find yourself squeezed to make your remaining money cover your living expenses, plus monthly bills and loan repayments. While a lender can give you a mortgage you can reasonably afford, it could mean not being able to handle other financial priorities.

  3. 3. You’re the only one who can determine what’s comfortable

    Only you can examine your life and values to determine what you are willing to spend on your mortgage budget — and what you’re not.

    You might be perfectly happy to take on a larger monthly mortgage payment in exchange for reducing meals out, cutting back on vacations, or sticking with your old phone instead of going for the upgrades just because you can. Or you may decide that renting makes more sense for you because you can mitigate costs, take on less financial responsibility, and enjoy more flexibility.

    Either way, you need to determine what you feel comfortable with. You need to decide what works within both your budget and your long-term plans to reach goals that matter to you.

  4. 4. Ask yourself these questions to decide how much house you can really afford

    Once you set your financial priorities, here’s where you’ll need to do the math:

    • What’s my current income? What are my basic living expenses? What are my fixed costs?
    • How much do I want to put away each month into savings or investments?
    • How much will it cost to maintain my new home?
    • What kind of down payment do I have? (The more you put down, the smaller your monthly mortgage payment will be.)

    Now you can factor a mortgage into all of the above, and see how much you can really afford. When doing so, don’t forget to count both the mortgage principal and interest — along with property taxes, homeowners’ insurance, and other extras such as HOA fees.

Post courtesy of trulia.com

What You Need to Know About Buying a House This Summer

Planning on buying a house this season? Go in prepared with advice from the pros.

Summer brings longer days, warmer weather and more people out house-hunting — particularly families hoping to get settled before the school year begins in September. But there aren’t necessarily more houses on the market—and this year that’s truer than ever. “Inventory is the lowest I’ve ever seen it,” says Denver, CO, agent Susie Best. Recent Trulia research bears this out, showing inventory falling for 8 consecutive quarters. The reasons are varied: investors bought up homes during the crash and are renting them out now; prices have risen so much that homeowners can’t afford to trade up; or some homeowners are still underwater and can’t afford to sell yet. This means “multiple offers are driving up prices,” says Best. How to up your chances? Here’s what agents are advising buyers to do in this hot market — at the hottest time of year.

7 Tips for buying a home in the summer

  1. 1. Research trends based on your market location

    While many markets are red hot in the summer, that isn’t true across the board. For example, Chicago winters are long and many families seize the all-too-brief summers for vacation, so single-family home sales slow down a bit from June to September. “Right now we’re really a tale of two markets,” says Jennifer Ames, a Chicago, IL agent and a broker with Coldwell-Banker. “There’s a home surplus at the high end; the starter homes are where the competition is. I tell buyers, ‘Understand the dynamics of your particular market.’ They’re not all the same.” You can use Trulia Maps to check out historical pricing trends in the housing market where you’re looking.

  2. 2. Line up your financing

    This one applies year-round. And although interest rates will probably keep creeping up, “it’s still relatively cheap to borrow,” says Ashley Kendrick, an agent in Kansas City, MO. Even so, sellers are much more apt to consider buyers who present a loan preapproval letter up front. And make it from a known lender like a bank—not an application completed online.

  3. 3. Be clear with yourself on what matters most

    Make a list of your must-haves, your wants, and your it-would-be-nices so you’re ready to decide right away. “This is no time to be a lookie-loo,” Best says. “There’s no more, ‘Let me see if I qualify for this and come back.’” Know what you can live with and what you can’t live without.

  4. 4. Don’t quibble on price

    As the inventory for starter and trade-up homes continues to shrink, the competition for what’s available on the market is fierce. In markets where this is happening, “the price is never the price,” says Anthony Gibson, an agent from Austin, TX — buyers may need to offer more to stand out. “A healthy down payment always appeals,” Kendrick adds, since it suggests you’d have cash to cover any difference between appraised value and a higher asking price; you may be asked to sign a waiver agreeing to that. That’s not raising the overall price, Best notes—just how much you’d pay outside the loan.

    A bigger earnest-money payment (the good faith deposit you pay to a seller to show you’re serious) could also provide an edge, says Jennifer Ames. “A typical initial check might be $1,000; I might advise a buyer in competition to start with $5,000.”

  5. 5. Get your own real estate representation

    Particularly when timing is everything, a house-hunter needs the right agent. “Make sure yours can provide accurate information the minute a home hits market—for example, whether the seller is reviewing offers as they come in or after the weekend,” Best says. And do get your own agent to represent you: This is no time to try enticing a listing agent to handle both sides of the deal in an effort to curry favor with the sellers. With competing bids flying, you want someone fully focused and advocating on your behalf.

  6. 6. Craft a strong offer

    Top bid doesn’t always mean highest price. For sellers, flexible terms may be what clinches the deal—say, letting them pick the closing date, or a generous leaseback period that lets them stay put until they close on buying a home. Be sure not to load up your offer with unnecessary contingencies. “It’s important owners know they’re getting what they want,” Gibson says. And don’t forget the personal touch: “A letter to the seller always helps,” Kendrick suggests.

    Need some inspiration for that a letter to the seller? Here are three offer letter templates to get you started.

  7. 7. Don’t sweat it if it doesn’t happen by August

    Even when deals fizzle, the waiting and offering will probably pay off. “I tell my buyers, ‘You’ll find a house,’”  Kendrick says. “It’s a patience game.”

Post courtesy of Trulia,

10 Tips for Spring Home Buyers

Follow these 10 tips to make the home-buying process a happy one.

The arrival of spring means it’s time to start fresh. Along with pulling out your warm-weather wardrobe and tackling spring cleaning, you may have a bigger project on your to-do list: buying a new home.

Before you start on your home-shopping journey, check out these 10 home buying tips to save you both time and money.

Find the right agent

Real estate expert Joe Manausa says the key to happy spring home buying is finding the most qualified agent to guide you through the process.

With reviews available at your fingertips, finding a real estate agent you trust can be easy — provided you take the time to do some research.

Check for agents with the best reviews, and give them a call. They’ll relieve some of the pressures of home buying, and walk you through all the necessary steps.

Think location

Sure, the three things that matter most in real estate are “location, location, and location.” Nonetheless, some buyers end up purchasing a home in a location that’s not right for them, simply because they make their choice for all the wrong reasons.

“They’re looking at a house in the wrong area or the wrong school district, but they buy it because they like the kitchen,” Manausa says.

Use the new open house

The internet has completely changed the home-buying process, making it easier to choose which homes to go see in person.

With 3-D tours available on the web, buyers can tour a home from their mobile device or a computer. Eighty-seven percent of home buyers use online resources during their home search, according to the Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends.

Buy a home, not a project

Buyers who purchase a fixer-upper can end up spending the same (if not more) than they would on a new home.

“When buying a home, pay close attention to the ‘bones’ … and avoid getting caught up in the cosmetic features,” advises Dan Schaeffer, owner of Five Star Painting of Austin.

If the kitchen cabinets are in good shape, but you want the space to be brighter, adding a fresh coat of paint is easier and less expensive than replacing all the cabinets.

Ka-ching! Be a cash buyer

Sellers are more likely to choose the buyer who already has money in hand over an offer that’s contingent on a mortgage loan.

But if you can’t pay cash, getting pre-qualified for a loan can help the seller feel more confident that you’ll be able to secure financing.

Avoid disaster — get a warranty

The last thing you want after buying a home is for something to go wrong. You protect your car, so why not your home? Manausa recommends purchasing a home warranty: “[They’re] very affordable, and cover all the things that go wrong.” Your wallet will thank you.

Make inspection time count

Small problems eventually turn into big problems. The wood could rot, drains could leak, or the electrical panel may not be up to code. “Hire experts, and always get your home inspected,” adds Nathanael Toms, owner of Mr. Electric of Southwest Missouri.

If the inspection reveals issues, be sure to deal with them effectively. For example, “it’s very important that a licensed electrician makes sure all circuits work properly,” say Dana Philpot, owner of Mr. Electric of Central Kentucky.

Put safety first

No matter the neighborhood or the home, your family’s safety should always be the number one priority after purchasing a home.

“Even if the previous owner promised to return the copy of every key, it’s always a good idea to change the locks throughout the exterior of the home,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman. “If the house has an alarm system, remember to change the code — and don’t forget the garage door.”

Fix common repairs

Repairs may come in the form of patching up small nail holes or weatherproofing electrical outlets. Whatever the need, Schaeffer recommends fixing the repairs before moving in your belongings. “An empty house is easier to maneuver and clean,” he says.

For bigger jobs, find a professional to complete the repairs. Sites such as Neighborly can help you find home services providers.

Add the finishing touches

The best part about buying a new house is making it a home. Change the color of the walls, update the lighting, or add a more personal touch with a photo gallery wall.

“It’s important to find the right gallery layout by measuring the wall space, which determines the size of photos you can use,” Sassano says. “Lightweight frames are the safest option, especially when hanging on drywall.”

Courtesy of zillow.com

Fall Might Be the Best Time to Buy a Home: Here’s Why

Photo credit: Andy Dean Photography / shutterstock.com

Buying a house is one of the biggest investment a person can enter into. A home offers shelter and security to the family and a majority of people consider it a very important purchase. Buying a home comes with spending some good money towards it. For buyers, you are looking at getting the best house at the best possible price. A person who wants to buy a house should always ask himself the best time he or she will be able to get the best deal.

There is always a discussion about the time of the year best to buy a house. A good number of real estate expert believe that fall is the best time to buy a house. Below are the reasons why fall is the best time to buy a home:

1. Less competition.

Competition for houses during fall always drop off but the houses are still available for sale. Due to less competition, the buyers are in a great position to negotiate for the home prices.

2. Sellers are tired.

Most sellers who had placed their houses out for sale during the prime season of property sale are very exhausted in fall. After not having made a deal in the summer and winter, most sellers are always ready to get a deal at a possible price reduction. This favors the buyers.

3. More time with your real estate agent.

There are always fewer buyers during fall meaning a buyer at that time has the full attention of the real estate agents compared to summer or winter period. A person is able to ask questions with the real estate agent and get clarifications easily.

4. There are home improvement bargains.

There will be some improvement needed when you buy a house. It is always good to coordinate the house purchase with home improvement. It is said that fall is the best time to buy most household goods. It is important to take advantage of the low prices during this time.

5. Holidays around the corner.

Most sellers are not only worn out from the summer sale but they are looking forward to holidays. This preholiday time always affects the willingness of the sellers to dispose of their property.

6. Year-end tax credit.

It is always necessary to understand the advantages of having a home in regards to a person’s income tax. By buying a house, a person will be able to qualify for tax deductions.

In conclusion, it is not just about buying a house, it is more about getting a house at a good deal. Knowing the right time to purchase a house is very important for a potential home buyer.

7 Ways To Compete With Cash Buyers In A Seller’s Market

If you really, really want the house, here’s how to play ball.

The old adage “money talks” rings true in real estate. After the stock market crash in 2008, homebuyers with all-cash offers quickly became sellers’ most sought-after suitors. All-cash, after all, means no mortgage, and no loan means no need to rely on lenders. So now that the market has heated up again, bidding wars are the new normal, from Alexandria, VA, real estate to homes for sale in San Angelo, TX. Unfortunately, it’s common for a seller to favor an all-cash offer over an offer from a buyer whose deal hinges on a mortgage approval.

“If you’re shopping for a home, there’s a good chance you’ll be competing with all-cash offers,” says John Lazenby, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. “As of February 2014, 43% of all offers were all-cash! Couple that with the fact that it’s a seller’s market out there, and it can be very difficult — and competitive — to get the house you want.” So what’s a homebuyer to do? Here are seven ways to compete with all-cash buyers in a seller’s market.

1. Put your best foot forward

Don’t wait to submit your best offer. If you want a specific house and it’s a competitive market, you need to put in your very best offer first. “Assume that you will not have the opportunity to negotiate on price, so make your best offer upfront,” advises Lazenby. Adds Ross Anthony, a real estate agent with Willis Allen Real Estate in San Diego, CA: “If you are afraid of overpaying for the home, make sure you look at the current appreciation rate for the market. You may pay a little extra today, but if prices keep increasing and you keep getting outbid, you may find yourself priced out by the end of the year or paying significantly more for the same property anyway.”

2. Go a little higher

The highest offer doesn’t automatically mean a sale — but in many cases, it can’t hurt to inch your price up a bit, says Anthony. “It sounds obvious because it is, but this is often the most important thing to consider when offering on a home in a competitive seller’s market. More often than not, cash buyers are investors and investors want to increase their margins as much as possible by getting the property for as little as they can,” he explains, and that gives you a little negotiation power. “You must understand that in order to make your offer more attractive, you will most likely have to beat out the competition on price. Make sure your agent takes a close look at the comparable sales and can justify the purchase price, but also adjust your expectations of getting a home for less than it’s worth. Sometimes as little as an extra $1,000 on top of the list price can be the determining factor in the seller’s eyes.”

3. Find out the seller’s terms

“When telling agents that I might be coming forward with an offer, I first ask them what terms the seller is looking for,” explains Heather Witt, a real estate agent with Partners Trust in Los Angeles, CA. “Does the seller need extra time in the property to find a new home to live in? Are they looking for a quick close? Do they want to control who processes escrow and title? Do they already have those services picked out so that I might write an offer that won’t need to be countered?” Having a real estate agent who can handle this early negotiating on your behalf can mean the difference between landing a home and losing it.

4. Be flexible

“In any market, the buyer who is financing must be creative when up against all-cash buyers,” says David Dubin, a real estate broker with Douglas Elliman in New York, NY. One key to creating a winning offer? Emphasize your flexibility. If your agent can find out the sellers’ desired terms, you can sweeten the deal by letting the sellers drive the timeline and some of the specifics. “The more flexible and accommodating the buyer is, the more a buyer’s bid will pique the interest of the seller,” says Dubin. Simple things such as being accommodating with the closing date, offering to rent the house back to the sellers while they continue to hunt for their new home, or requesting minimal repairs can go a long way when competing with an all-cash offer.

5. Be thorough

“If you have already done your homework and know the seller’s specific needs, make sure every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed in your offer,” says Ross Anthony. “The fewer items that the seller will have to include in a counteroffer will make them more likely to sign and accept your offer.” Don’t forget to include things such as an updated pre-approval letter. You could even offer “to put them in touch with your lender if they would like added assurances of your ability to follow through with the purchase,” adds Anthony. “If the lender is confident and can convey this to the seller, it will help put their mind at ease.”

6. Show some personality

“I always recommend my buyers write a sincere letter to the seller to include with their offer that shows a genuine love and interest in the home,” says Anthony. “If you are just starting your family and let them know you can already imagine your future children playing in their beautifully manicured yard, then the seller is likely to imagine this too. Tug at their emotional heartstrings! Some sellers may not take this into consideration at all, but it certainly can’t hurt your chances and it takes very little effort.” Whatever you do, make sure your offer letter is memorable so that it will stand out from the crowd.

7. Throw in the “as is” offer

What could be more attractive to a seller than an offer that states the buyer will take the home “as is”? “Putting in an offer that says you’ll buy the home without asking for any repairs or any extra money to fix something that pops up in inspections can make a noncash offer way more alluring,” explains Anna Marie Simpliciano, a real estate agent with Hilton & Hyland in Beverly Hills, CA.

Courtesy of trulia.com