Tag Archives: Home Buyers

Mortgages Made Easy: How to Choose the Right Home Loan

Key Takeaways:

  • As mortgage rates continue hovering near historic lows, many potential buyers are eager to make a move—but it can be hard to know which type of loan is best.
  • There are dozens of different mortgage options available today, and some even have low down payment or credit score requirements. This can help a variety of buyers finally achieve their real estate goals. 
  • Need help finding a lender or choosing the right mortgage for your needs? We’d be more than happy to offer a few recommendations.

Home Financing 101: The Most Common Types of Mortgages

Let’s face it—understanding mortgages can be the most complicated part of buying a home. Even experienced buyers sometimes have trouble deciding between lenders or shopping around for the best interest rate. And because there are so many options, it can be difficult to track down the mortgage that best meets your needs.

There are a variety of factors you should consider before committing to a loan, such as your income, debt, financial history, and how long you plan on staying in your new home. But if you play your cards right, you could end up scoring a great deal. Here are some of the most popular types of mortgages, as well as their pros and cons.

Fixed-rate mortgage

Mortgage scrabble tiles

A fixed-rate mortgage is the most basic and reliable type of home loan you can get. Your interest rate and monthly payment will stay the same for the entire duration of the mortgage, and you’ll likely have to put at least 20% down and have an established financial history to get approved.

Typically, fixed-rate mortgages are broken down into 15- or 30-year terms. If you want predictability and don’t plan on moving for a while, this is probably the best option for you.

Adjustable-rate mortgage

house, coin stacks, and clock

Unlike their fixed-rate counterparts, adjustable-rate mortgages offer the initial benefit of a lower rate and down payment. However, ARMs fluctuate with the market, which means your interest rate and monthly payments could increase or decrease over time.

While there is more risk involved with an adjustable-rate mortgage, it can be worth it if you plan on living in your home for a shorter period of time. Generally, ARMs have a capped introductory interest rate for the first few years, which can save you quite a bit of money compared to a fixed-rate loan.

VA loans

Member of the military

If you or your spouse are an active, retired, or veteran member of the military, you could be eligible for a VA loan. Backed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, this unique type of mortgage lets you buy a home with little to no down payment or mortgage insurance.

Because VA loans are guaranteed (but not financed) by the government, they do have stricter requirements than other mortgages. The loan can only be used towards a primary residence, and the house you intend to buy has to meet minimum property requirements. This means you’ll have to undergo additional inspections and appraisals. 

FHA loans

Couple moving in

Backed by the Federal Housing Administration, the FHA loan is designed for first-time or lower-income buyers. While most mortgages typically require a down payment of 20% or more, the FHA loan allows buyers to put down as little as 3.5%; that equals out to around $9,000 for a $250,000 house.

FHA loans come with a fixed interest rate and can offer a path to homeownership for buyers who don’t have enough saved for a traditional loan. However, you will be required to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI) every month, which typically costs around 1% of your total loan amount. It’s also important to remember that the government does not issue your loan—you’ll still have to shop around for the right FHA-approved lender.

USDA loans

Farmland

The USDA loan is a government-sponsored mortgage program that targets buyers in more rural areas. While the USDA does have stricter credit and income requirements than the FHA, they’ll fund up to 100% of the purchase price for an eligible home. That means you won’t have to put any money down, and you may even enjoy a lower-than-average interest rate. 

Additionally, USDA loans require mortgage insurance, and you won’t be approved if your debt-to-income ratio exceeds 41%. Before applying, you should also check the USDA’s eligibility map to see if your area qualifies for the program. 

Other loans

House on a calculator

This is hardly an exhaustive list of all the mortgages used by today’s home buyers! Depending on your financial situation, you could qualify for a more niche loan, such as a balloon mortgage, bridge loan, or jumbo loan. Many banks, lenders, and state governments also have their own programs or incentives that are worth exploring. You can even combine different types of loans to create a financing plan that’s tailored to your needs.

If you don’t have time to research all of your options, it might be beneficial to work with a mortgage broker or ask your agent for recommendations. They’ll have the knowledge to guide you in the right direction!

Want to Learn More About Mortgages?

If you’re in the market for a new home, we’d love to discuss your financing options or recommend some top-rated lenders. Contact us today to learn the ins and outs of the home buying process, from finding a loan to finally getting the keys to your new place. We look forward to helping you start your next chapter!

Busting the Biggest Home-Buying Myths of 2020

This year has been difficult for just about everyone, but if you were (or still are) thinking about buying a home in 2020, you might be feeling more than a little overwhelmed. An ongoing pandemic, the subsequent recession, and general uncertainty have forced many house-hunters to put their real estate dreams on hold. However, despite all these potential obstacles, homeownership is still a very attainable goal.

Don’t Let These Myths Keep You From Buying a Home!

Buying a home is a huge decision, and it’s one you shouldn’t make without careful planning. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding the home-buying process and the real estate market as a whole, especially as the nation continues to navigate an unpredictable year.

Still unsure about making a move during 2020? Here are four of the most common myths that deter today’s buyers—and why you shouldn’t believe them.

It’s not a good time to move

Family packing up for a move

On the surface, this myth may seem true. Towards the beginning of the year, a majority of sellers chose not to list their homes, while many buyers didn’t feel comfortable moving during quarantine. This caused the national real estate market to experience an unusual spring slump. The good news is that the market has made substantial progress since March—actually, real estate has become one of the most stable investments you can make in 2020. 

Pent-up buyer demand has helped the market recover in record time. In fact, the number of mortgage applications, closed sales, and pending sales are up by double-digit percentages compared to last year. And if you’re still hesitant to buy during a pandemic, you’ll be happy to learn that most agents now offer virtual tours and have put social distancing measures in place to keep clients safe.

Homeownership isn’t affordable

Piggy bank and house figure

Does it seem like houses are getting more and more expensive these days? You aren’t just imagining things—home prices are about 6.5% higher than they were last year. This means a home that was worth $250,000 in 2019 could now sell for nearly $270,000.

While this may seem like bad news for buyers, you shouldn’t be deterred by rising prices. Historically low interest rates have helped to make homes more affordable, even as they continue increasing in value. Although a small change in interest rates may not seem drastic, it can actually save you tens of thousands of dollars over the lifespan of your loan.

If you already have a bit saved up in the bank for a down payment, buying a home can even be more affordable than renting. Today’s average mortgage payment of $1,275 is $188 less than the average monthly rent. That equates to a savings of over $2,200 per year!

You need a 20% down payment

Saving for a down payment

You’ve probably heard that you need at least a 20% down payment to buy a home. While there is merit to putting down as much as possible, you can still purchase your own place with as little as 0% down by using the right loan.

According to a recent study by the National Association of Realtors, the median down payment for all buyers in 2019 was just 12%, and first-timers only put down an average of 6%. You might also qualify for an FHA or VA loan, which offer down payments as low as 3.5% or 0%, respectively.

It’s worth researching different types of mortgages, as well as down payment assistance programs available in your area. They could provide the financial boost you need to finally buy a home!

You can’t buy if you have debt or bad credit

Calculating and reducing debt

The average American has accrued $38,000 in personal debt, excluding home mortgages. Even if you don’t owe quite that much, any kind of debt or a low credit score can seem like a pretty big roadblock if you’re trying to make a move. However, there are still a few options that can get you on the path to homeownership.

The easiest way to boost your credit score is to pay off your debts; consolidating your loans into one monthly payment could help you reduce your debt-to-income ratio. There are also a variety of loans tailored to buyers with lower credit scores, such as FHA, VA, or balloon mortgages.

It can take time to pay off debt and rebuild your credit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work towards buying a home. If you have any questions about your individual situation, it’s best to contact your agent or financial advisor. They’ll have plenty of resources available to guide you in the right direction!  

Take Advantage of a Hot Market

Are you thinking about buying a home before the end of the year? Contact us today to get the ball rolling on your real estate journey! We look forward to teaming up and finding you a place that checks all the boxes.

Need to sell before you buy? We can help with that, too!

What Increasing Home Prices Mean for Today’s Buyers and Sellers

To say that 2020 has been a bit of a whirlwind would be an understatement. And as we get closer to the end of the year, many buyers and sellers are wondering if it makes financial sense to enter the market. Although the warmer months are typically considered the best time to move, buyer demand continues to surge into fall, while the available supply of homes just keeps dwindling. This has caused home prices to skyrocket to one of their highest points ever.

Need some advice before breaking into today’s competitive housing market? We have a few details to consider before making any big decisions.

Buying or Selling Soon? Here’s How Rising Home Prices Will Affect Your Move

Real estate has always been about supply and demand. For example, during the housing market crash of 2008, home prices plummeted partially because of low buyer interest. Today, though, we’re seeing the opposite—prices are increasing due to waning supply and rock-bottom mortgage interest rates.

This is fantastic news for anyone looking to sell their home and cash out on their hard-earned equity. Buyers, on the other hand, may have to do more to stand out from the competition.

Why have home values increased?

Increasing home values

Even amidst a pandemic and national recession, buying a home is still a top priority for many Americans. In fact, according to a newly released report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the number of existing home sales reached a 14-year high this August. A similar report by Bloomberg states that if current demand holds strong, we could run out of housing inventory in around three months.

Wondering why so many people are clamoring to buy this year? Even in the face of rising home prices, low mortgage rates have enticed buyers to make a move. While record-shattering rates have helped to expand purchasing power, this intense desire for homeownership has caused prices to jump by a whopping 8.2% year-over-year.

Buyers can take advantage of lower interest rates to afford a more expensive home

Family buying a home

If you’re thinking about buying a home soon, you’ll need to be prepared to navigate a cutthroat market. Ever since rates started decreasing in late 2019, more and more buyers have decided to start searching for a home. Unfortunately, this means you could get caught in a bidding war or might have to make some compromises to secure a place of your own.

Although prices have soared dramatically since last year, buying a home is still an attainable goal. In fact, when mortgage rates sunk below 3% this summer, buyers found themselves with an extra $15,000 in purchasing power.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by today’s market, you’re not alone—and reaching out to an agent can help you get the answers you need. Consider contacting a real estate professional before you start looking for homes. They can provide the expertise you need to find your perfect place!

Sellers should expect to sell quickly and for top dollar

Today’s sellers are in a better position than ever before. Nationally, the housing market has struggled to keep pace with buyer demand for the last few years, but this deficiency has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. By listing now, you could take advantage of fierce rivalry amongst buyers, high home prices, and low competition from other sellers.

Despite the ongoing recession, home prices have actually climbed throughout most of 2020. Between May and July, existing properties appreciated in value by a whopping 2%, which is the highest month-by-month increase in three decades. If you’ve lived in your home for at least a few years, you could be sitting on six figures of equity.

Even if you aren’t interested in selling, there’s never been a better time to check on your house’s current value. A top-rated local agent should be able to perform a full home analysis and tell you how much you could sell for if you listed today. 

Bottom Line: Now Is the Time to Talk with an Agent

Buying a home

Whether you’re thinking about buying or selling your home, you shouldn’t wait to connect with an agent who has plenty of experience in your desired area. They can help you keep up with today’s ever-changing market and answer any questions you might have.

Not quite ready to move? It’s still worth talking with an agent about your current home’s value, especially as we continue to see such dramatic price increases!

Ready to Take Your Next Steps?

No matter what your real estate needs might be, we’re here to help you every step of the way. Get in touch with us today and let us know what we can do for you. We can even conduct a comparative market analysis on your home to see how much equity you’ve gained over time!

Buyer Beware: 6 Red Flags That Could Spell Trouble for Homebuyers

Picture this: you’ve found a seemingly perfect home in just the right neighborhood. It has every single one of your must-haves, plenty of space, and even all of the features you want. But on the tour, your agent spots a few big problems, like a crack in the foundation or signs of water damage. Should you walk away from what seems like your dream house?

Unless you’re looking to tackle a fixer-upper, you may want to proceed with caution if you run into any of these red flags during a showing.

Watch Out for These 6 Red Flags During a Showing

As you tour homes, it’s important to remember that a seller may not always disclose (or know) the whole truth about their house. If you ever have any questions about a home’s condition, make sure to ask your agent. They’ll often be able to spot problems that you may not see yourself, and they can also help you decide whether or not a certain issue is a dealbreaker. 

And even though a property may appear well-maintained, there could be some lingering imperfections that aren’t visible to an untrained eye—here are a few examples.

Foundation issues

Foundation crack

A faulty foundation is one of the biggest and costliest problems you can encounter in a home. If you spot any foundation cracks (both outside or inside) bigger than one third of an inch, it could mean a property has major structural defects.

Other signs of potential foundation issues include sticking doors, gaps around window frames, or sagging floors.

Outdated electric and plumbing systems

Tools and electrical supplies

A leaky faucet or ungrounded outlet may seem like a quick fix, but they could signal a much larger problem. If you’re touring an older home, have your agent ask about the age of the plumbing and electrical wiring. It’s essential (and expensive) to bring these systems up to code to prevent potential floods or fires.

An old roof

Old roof shingles

Typically, roofs should be replaced every 12 to 15 years. So if you notice some missing or curling shingles, it could mean that a home’s roof has reached the end of its lifespan. If you’re not sure about a roof’s age, be sure to ask your agent—they can get in touch with the seller’s agent for more information.

Water damage

Water damage on a ceiling

Take a look at a home’s ceiling and floors—do you see any dark spots? If so, this could be a sign of water damage, which is often a pricey fix. Be sure to check out a home’s drainage situation, too. A yard that isn’t properly graded could cause water to seep inside after a heavy rainstorm.

Homes that have basements are more prone to leaks than those that don’t, so don’t forget to head downstairs to look for water damage!

Unwelcome critters

Mouse trap

Bugs, mice, and other pests can spell big trouble for a house, especially if the infestation is widespread. Termites in particular should be a huge red flag, as they can destroy a home’s entire structure before being detected.

If you see an overwhelming number of critters wandering around during your tour, you may want to move on right away. You should also check for mud tubes, hollow or rotting wood, and bug droppings, as these are common indications of termites.

Unpleasant odors

Spraying air freshener

Notice a less-than-pleasant scent during a showing? These aromas could be signs of mold, mildew, water damage, pests, improper ventilation, and countless other issues. You should also be wary if a seller seems to be covering up smells with heavily scented candles or air fresheners.

Bottom line: Always have a home inspection

Home inspection report

Even if you don’t spot any of these problems, it’s always best to have an inspection after your offer is accepted. A qualified inspector can spot problems both large and small and will provide a detailed report of everything that needs to be fixed.

From there, you can try to renegotiate the price of the home with the seller or ask them to complete the repairs. However, if a home is being sold “as-is,” you may be stuck doing the work yourself. 

Thinking About Buying Your Next Home?

When it comes to finding the right home, it pays to have an expert agent on your side to handle all the details. Give us a call today to learn more about the premier services we offer to our buyers. We’d be more than happy to answer any of your real estate questions, and we can also help you sell your current home, too!

A Pet Lover’s Guide to Buying a Home

If you have dogs, cats, or other pets in your home, you probably consider them to be part of your family. And if you’re thinking about making a move soon, that means you’ll want to take their needs into consideration, too. Here’s our ultimate guide to finding the perfect place you and your furry friend will love!

The 4 Factors to Consider When Buying a Home with Pets

According to a recent survey by CNBC, 79% of pet owners who recently purchased a home said they would have passed up a seemingly perfect property if it didn’t fit their pets’ needs. So it’s no surprise that pet-friendly features—like large, fenced-in yards and proximity to parks—are now in high demand with today’s buyers.

Are you searching for a home with Fluffy or Fido in tow? If so, here are four factors you should consider before making a move.

Local Pet Laws

Dog in the grass

Believe it or not, every state, county, town, and even some neighborhoods have specific rules about pets, so you’ll need to read up on any local laws before committing to a home. You’ll often find regulations regarding pet types, breeds, vaccinations, and leash requirements.

If you choose to move to a condo or community with a homeowners association, pet restrictions may be a bit tighter. Some neighborhoods place limits on the number of pets allowed per residence, and they often have noise ordinances to curtail more boisterous animals. If you have any questions about what is and isn’t allowed, don’t be afraid to ask your agent or the HOA for more information.

The Neighborhood

Cat in the grass

Choosing a location is one of the most important parts of the home buying process, especially if you have a pet. Some neighborhoods are more pet-friendly than others and may even have special amenities for four-legged residents, so you’ll want to spend some time scoping out the area to see what’s around.

If you have a dog, consider moving to a community with plenty of sidewalks or a nearby park. You may also want to steer clear of busy streets, especially if your pet likes to sneak out on unchaperoned adventures. Don’t forget to track down the closest pet supply stores and veterinarians, too!

Outdoor Spaces

Puppy running in grass

For most pet owners, having a large, fenced-in yard is a must if your furry friend loves to spend time outside. However, you’ll want to be sure that your outdoor space offers more than just room to roam. Make note of any potential safety risks, like poisonous plants, water features, and holes in or under the fence. If the house next door also has animals, confirm that they won’t be a hazard to your pets.

If a home doesn’t already have a fence, you may need to factor that cost into your budget. Some neighborhoods have restrictions on fences (or don’t allow them at all), so do your research first!

Interior Features

Cats looking out the window

When it comes to finding a new place for you and your pets, the inside matters just as much as the outside. As you tour a potential home, start by taking a look at the floors—hardwoods usually fare better with pets, as they’re easier to clean and restain. You’ll also want to ensure that your new home has ample room for all of your pets, as well as their litter boxes, toys, and crates. Bonus points if a space has some pet-approved upgrades, like doggie doors or built-in feeding stations!

If you plan on staying in your next home for more than a few years, consider your pets’ changing needs as they age. Common features like stairs or a closed-in floorplan can become obstacles for older animals, but if your pet has specific needs, you may be able to make accommodations.

Making a Move with Your Pets?

Buying a home with pets doesn’t have to be hard if you work with the right agent! Contact our team today to learn more about making a move with Fluffy and Fido. We’d love to help you find a place that suits you and your companions’ needs!

The Pros and Cons of Living in a Neighborhood with an HOA

As you search for your next home, you’ll probably encounter more than a few neighborhoods that have their own homeowners associations. Often abbreviated as HOAs, these groups usually consist of a few elected residents, although they may also be run by an outside management company or developer.

While they tend to get a bad rap, HOAs actually have quite a few benefits you might not have considered—but they aren’t always the right fit for everyone.

Should You Buy in a Neighborhood with an HOA?

In a nutshell, an HOA’s job is to act as a governing body for a neighborhood. They typically set rules, maintain the community, and may offer certain amenities, like pools or landscaping. However, these perks don’t come free—homeowners have to pay dues to cover an HOA’s services.

Not sure if you want to live in a community with a homeowners association? Here are a few pros and cons to keep in mind before making a move.

Pro: Increased resale value

Neighborhood with an HOA

Believe it or not, an HOA can significantly impact a home’s resale value when you move again. On average, single family homes that are part of a local association sell for 4% more than ones that aren’t—for a home worth $300,000, that’s a gain of $12,000.

Con: More rules to follow

Side view of a home

Perhaps the biggest gripe that many homeowners have about HOAs is having to follow certain rules, especially when it comes to your home’s appearance. In order to maintain property values and a uniform look to the neighborhood, HOAs often restrict personalizations like paint colors, fences, or landscaping.

Associations may also have certain limitations on pets, noise, yard signs, home improvements, or trash removal. Violating the rules can sometimes result in hefty fines, so be sure you read up on an HOA’s restrictions to avoid any penalties.

Pro: A beautiful neighborhood

A pretty community

All those rules may seem irksome, but they do serve a purpose. HOA regulations are designed to make your neighborhood a beautiful and desirable place to live. You’ll never have to deal with eyesores like an overgrown lawn or lingering litter anymore, either!

Con: Additional fees

Paying HOA dues

Most associations charge dues that vary depending on the services and amenities they provide. It’s not uncommon to see fees of over $1,000 per year—definitely an expense you’ll want to factor into your monthly budget.

Wondering what these dues cover? They usually go towards maintenance, an emergency fund, or amenities. If you live in a condo or active adult community, they can also cover utilities and exterior maintenance.

Pro: Extra amenities 

Community pool

If you want to live somewhere with plenty of amenities right at your doorstep, an HOA neighborhood may be a great fit. Many homeowners associations pay to maintain community pools, tennis courts, playgrounds, and much more. Larger subdivisions may even have their own golf courses, restaurants, or clubhouses that are for residents only! 

Con: Risks of poor management

Woman stressed by an HOA

Almost every HOA is governed by residents, sometimes with the help of a management company. Unfortunately, a poorly managed association can be a nightmare for homeowners, especially if the HOA is responsible for maintaining major aspects of the community.

Homeowners associations also have the authority to increase dues without warning—and if they don’t have the money to pay for a big expense, they may even order a special assessment to cover the costs.

Bottom Line: Do your research!

In a recent survey by the Community Associations Institute, a whopping 85% of homeowners said they had a positive experience living in a community with an HOA. However, it’s still crucial to consider your own individual circumstances before making a decision. 

Be sure to read an association’s rules or bylaws, and take a good look at the neighborhood before you buy. If you have any questions, just ask your agent!

Take Your Next Steps

If you’re ready to make a move, we’d love to guide you through every step of the buying process! Just get in touch with us today to get started—we look forward to teaming up and helping you find your next dream home.

Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter: Which Home Buying Season Is Best?

You’ve probably heard that spring and summer are the best seasons for home buying. After all, there’s more inventory on the market, and the warm weather is ideal for showings. However, the ongoing global health crisis has shattered the idea of the “peak home buying season” and left many potential buyers wondering if now is still the right time to make a move.

The Merits (and Downsides) of Buying a Home During Each Season

Most real estate markets fluctuate from month to month, as do prices and inventory. Before you decide when to buy, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each season and ask a local agent about trends in your area. Here are a few benefits of buying during every season…as well as a few drawbacks.  

Spring: Gorgeous homes, but higher prices

House with landscaping

Traditionally, spring is one of the hottest seasons for home buying, and it’s easy to see why. As temperatures thaw out in March, April, and May, the number of new listings seems to multiply every day. Homes also tend to look their best during spring—after all, who doesn’t love blossoming flowers or lush landscaping after a long winter?

Although you’ll have more inventory to choose from during these warmer months, you won’t be the only one searching for a home. Spring buyers usually have to face more competition, which can result in inflated prices and bidding wars. If you’re getting ready to buy during spring, be prepared to make a quick offer and don’t expect many concessions from sellers.

Summer: Lots of listings, but more competition

Aerial shot of a neighborhood

Summer is another extremely popular home buying season, especially for households with children. Many sellers also decide to list during June, July, or August, which means you’ll benefit from an even broader selection of houses. To top it all off, you can even schedule evening showings as the days get longer.

Unfortunately, summer home buying often comes with problems similar to spring: tons of buyers, higher prices, more bidding wars, and less time to make a decision. And if you wait until July or August, you could actually see a dip in inventory as sellers go on vacation!

Fall: Motivated sellers, but inventory could dwindle

House in autumn

There’s so much to love about autumn: the falling leaves, the cooler temperatures…and the fantastic home prices. Fall is easily one of the most underrated times to buy a house, since you can take advantage of strong inventory, less competition, and lower prices. Many sellers will also be more motivated to make a deal, particularly if they weren’t able to attract buyers during the summer. 

As you plan your autumnal move, it’s crucial to time it just right. It’s not uncommon to see a slight dip in inventory at the beginning of a new school year, which is usually around late August or early September. If you wait until late October or November, sellers might also start pulling their homes from the market due to the impending holidays. 

Winter: Less competition, but fewer choices

Houses in winter

Historically, winter is the slowest season for real estate—but that shouldn’t deter you from starting your home search in December, January, or February. The most obvious benefit of winter buying is decreased competition, which often leads to some of the lowest prices of the year. Real estate agents will also have fewer clients during the colder months, so they can spend much more time helping you. 

Of course, buying in the middle of winter also comes with some challenges. It can be difficult to plan a closing around everyone’s schedules during the busy holiday season. Diminished inventory also means there are fewer listings to choose from, so your search may take a bit longer than expected.

Need Help Planning Your Move?

Whether you choose to move in spring, summer, fall, or winter, you can trust us to help you navigate every aspect of the buying process! Just give us a call today to learn more about our home buying resources, and let us know when you’re ready to take your next steps.

5 Easy Ways to Save Up for a New Home

Saving for a house might seem difficult, especially as the economy continues to fluctuate. However, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your home buying dreams! If you want to take your first steps towards homeownership, we have a few simple tricks that can help you build your savings account. 

How to Save Up for Your Perfect Place

Before you begin saving, consider how much you’d ideally like to put down on a house. Your down payment will likely be your largest upfront cost, and most buyers put down around 20% of a home’s value. However, there are some loans that require as little as 0% down, so be sure to explore all of your options.

It can take years to save up for a home. Nevertheless, if you plan ahead and follow these tips, you’ll soon be on a path to success. 

Create a monthly budget…and stick to it

Woman creating a budget

Having a budget can help you set spending limitations and savings goals each month, but it’s crucial to stick to it if you want to make progress. Start by documenting all your sources of income, then subtract your monthly expenses. This shows you what you’re paying for housing, food, utilities, and extra expenses, as well as how much you have left over. From there, you can set spending goals and designate a certain amount of money towards your house fund every month.

Cut unnecessary spending

Person using a credit card

As you craft a new budget, consider cutting out any expenses you can live without. You might have to make some sacrifices, but if you’re serious about saving for a home, your hard work will pay off in the long run. The more you save, the more house you can afford! 

Consider getting rid of any unnecessary recurring payments, like streaming services or magazine subscriptions. Cooking at home, buying generic brands, and putting off that big vacation can also save you thousands every year. If you put that money directly into your savings, you won’t even miss it…because you were already spending it.

Pay off your debt

House with coin stacks

If you’re like many would-be homebuyers, lingering credit card or student loan debt might be keeping you from making a move. Before you start saving for a home, try to pay off debts or reconsolidate them into a smaller monthly payment with a lower interest rate.

Not sure where to start? Consider talking with a financial advisor about any underlying debt that needs to be paid off. It might take a while, but it’s better to take on a mortgage with more manageable payments.

Put your retirement savings on hold

House fund coin jar

While it is crucial to save for retirement, buying a home is also an important step in your life—so it’s okay to temporarily divert some of your savings towards your down payment. However, it’s not a good idea to take money out of your existing retirement accounts. You could get saddled with taxes and unwanted early withdrawal fees if you dip into your IRA or 401(k)!

Start a side hustle

Personal trainers exercising

Even during these challenging economic times, it’s still possible to make a quick buck doing what you love. Starting a side hustle can help you rake in some extra cash on the weekends and evenings—and even a little money can add up over time.

Looking for suggestions? Pet sitting, ride sharing, personal training, and photography are just a few possibilities. Who knows…your passion could turn into a profitable second income!

Ready to Start Your Buying Journey?

Looking for more home buying advice? We’ve got you covered! Just reach out to us for more tips and tricks, and let us know when you’re ready to take your next steps. We’re always here to answer any questions you might have, especially as the market continues to change.

How COVID-19 Is Impacting Real Estate

If you’ve been thinking about buying or selling a home in the near future, the unprecedented events of the last few weeks might have left you feeling a bit uncertain. COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected all of our lives, but that doesn’t mean you need to press pause on your real estate dreams. 

We want to set the record straight about how these changes to everyday life affect buyers, sellers, and agents…and how you can protect yourself while continuing to pursue your goals. 

How Will COVID-19 Affect the Real Estate Market?

Our way of life has changed dramatically within the course of just a few weeks, and the real estate market has shifted, too. Have a few questions? It’s hard to predict what will happen in the future, but here’s what we know right now.

Expect some major market shifts

Person studying COVID-19 graph

As we adjust to a new normal, it’s clear that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on every industry in the country—including real estate. However, this doesn’t mean that investors aren’t still buying and selling homes. A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors shows that 61% of sellers plan to keep their houses on the market, and over half of buyers will continue to shop for a home.

Although we’ll likely see a reduced number of sales in the coming weeks and months, record-low interest rates and a continuously low supply of homes might help to prevent any drastic price drops. Many economists also believe that another housing market crash is unlikely due to new regulations and stricter mortgage qualifications. 

Buying and Selling a Home During COVID-19

As of early April, agents are continuing to help their clients buy and sell homes—but you can expect to see some changes aimed at keeping everyone safe and healthy.

Essential Tips for Sellers

Cleaning supplies

Selling a home during the COVID-19 outbreak is definitely uncharted territory, but as we’ve seen in the last few weeks, it’s not impossible. Many sellers and their agents have worked together to pioneer new marketing strategies…some of which might last even after life returns to normal. Before you start scheduling those virtual showings, here are some tips to consider.

Make sure you’re healthy

First and foremost, it’s crucial to ensure that every member of your household is healthy before and during the selling process. Alert your agent right away if you’re feeling sick so they can halt in-person showings. 

Sanitize your home

As a seller, your main priority should be ensuring that your home is germ-free, especially before a showing. We recommend wiping down all surfaces with disinfectant wipes and sprays and offering hand sanitizer to potential buyers. Reduce unnecessary touching by pre-opening any doors, cabinets, or drawers and turning on all lights before a showing.

Capitalize on digital marketing

If you still plan on selling soon, have your agent use the latest digital marketing techniques to really showcase your listing. Open houses and showings might be out, but virtual tours and showings via video sharing platforms are in—and it’s important to capitalize on these techniques to draw in potential buyers.

Essential Tips for Buyers

Person using a tablet

Believe it or not, it’s still possible to buy a home during these uncertain times—and modern technology is making everything easier than you might expect. Here’s how to stay safe and healthy throughout the entire buying process.

Make sure you’re healthy 

If you’re feeling ill, it’s important that you stay home, practice social distancing, and avoid any showings. However, you can still continue to tour homes virtually and chat with your agent via online meetings.

Use virtual homebuying technology

Thanks to new innovations, it’s easier than ever to explore listings from the comfort of your couch. If you don’t want to attend a showing, many agents provide in-depth virtual tours and personal walkthroughs through video platforms like FaceTime and Zoom. 

It’s also possible to complete the entire closing process remotely. Chances are, most documents can be signed electronically, which adds another layer of convenience and safety. Some states even allow you to virtually notarize your paperwork! 

Take extra precautions during in-person showings

Want to see a home in person before making an offer? If your agent still offers normal showings, there are a few extra steps you should take to keep yourself (and the sellers) safe. Carry hand sanitizer with you and try to refrain from touching any surfaces. This might be difficult, but it’s the easiest way to mitigate the spread of germs. If your community has a shelter-in-place order, you may have to postpone any in-person showings until restrictions are lifted.

Have More Questions?

As we navigate the changes inflicted upon the market by COVID-19, it’s crucial to consider your individual needs and follow local guidelines. We’re constantly on the lookout for new ways to assist our clients, and we’re determined to protect your health and safety while helping you meet your goals. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

The Top 10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Buyer’s Agent

When buying a home, who you choose to work with matters more than you think. Finding the right agent can make or break your entire experience, so it’s important to interview a few candidates before settling on “the one.” Not sure where to start? Here are a few must-ask questions to consider before you pick your buyer’s agent.

How long have you been an agent?

Agent and client talking at a table

Unless you mesh well with a newer agent, it’s usually better to go with someone who has at least a few years of experience under their belt. They’ll have the knowledge you need to navigate the ins and outs of the entire buying process.

Are you a full-time or a part-time agent?

When you’re buying a home, would you rather work with someone who puts in part-time or full-time effort? It’s best to go with a full-time agent that can devote more attention to you and your specific needs.

What experience do you have in my preferred areas?

People talking at a table

If you already know where you want to move, consider collaborating with a real estate pro that has plenty of experience in your target areas. They’ll have the inside scoop on the most popular neighborhoods, price trends, and all the other details you need to know before you buy.

How many clients are you working with right now?

It may seem tempting to use a popular agent—they must be the best if they have a lot of clients, right? This might be true, but you also want to make sure they have the time to take on another buyer. The last thing you want is an agent that has a hard time scheduling showings or returning your calls.

How can I get in touch with you?

Woman texting on a cell phone

Communication is key in the world of real estate, and every agent has a different way of connecting with clients. Be upfront about which method works best for you, and confirm that your agent is willing to reach out in a way that you’re comfortable with. 

What’s your availability?

Even if an agent is able to take you on as a client and is willing to communicate, they might have a lot of other things going on in their personal and professional lives. Make sure they’re honest with you about their availability…and that they aren’t jetting off on a 2-week European vacation anytime soon!

What are the conditions of your contract?

People signing a contract

Some buyer’s agents require you to sign a contract before you start touring homes, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, you shouldn’t agree to anything without reading all the terms and conditions, and if you have any concerns, bring them up during the interview.

What’s your commission policy?

Traditionally, the seller pays most (if not all) of your agent’s commission, but it’s still crucial to familiarize yourself with their policies. You don’t want any surprises to come up during the closing, especially if they’re in the form of unexpected fees.

Can you connect me with other professionals?

Women at a table

You’ll work with more than just a real estate agent when you buy a home. If you’re looking for a good home inspector, lender, real estate attorney, repairman, or cleaner, having an agent with a broad professional network is a major plus. 

Can you provide any references?

A great agent should have plenty of references, and they’ll probably be happy to share them with you. If they seem hesitant, try searching for testimonials online or consider going with someone else. You want to choose someone that’s honest and has plenty of 5-star reviews!

Looking for a Top-Notch Agent?

If you’re looking for the right real estate agent to suit your needs, we’d love to offer you our expertise! Feel free to give us a call to learn more about the tools we offer our buyers—we’re always here to lend a helping hand or answer any lingering questions.