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Buying you First Home

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Although the experience of owning your first home can be fulfilling and exciting, the actual financing and buying process can be quite overwhelming. From choosing the right neighborhood for your lifestyle to reviewing your financing options, there are a lot of important decisions that you need to make to buy a home. Understanding the home buying process and the financing options available to you should bring you some peace of mind, while helping you make informed financial decisions.

Tax Benefits
As a home owner, you can deduct your monthly mortgage interest and your property taxes on your income tax. Certain costs incurred during the purchase of a home are also tax deductible. Be sure to save all of your closing documents. It is best to contact a tax professional to receive more detailed information on what deductions you may be eligible to receive.

Building Wealth
Owning a home can help you build wealth in two ways – growth in equity and appreciation. Growth in equity happens as you pay down your mortgage. A certain percentage of each mortgage payment goes towards a reduction in the total amount owed. Typically, payments in the first few years of the mortgage are primarily applied to interest on the loans. As time passes, however, more and more of each payment is applied to the outstanding loan amount and your equity in your home increases.

Appreciation is when the value of a property builds over time. Historically, real estate market values tend to grow over time. Updating features or remodeling a home can also help increase a home’s value.

Financial Stability
Fixed-interest home loan payments remain stable year-after-year, as opposed to rent payments, which may increase year after year. Since salaries generally rise over time, the fact that mortgage payments remain steady over time can help you manage, plan and grow your wealth.

Home Buyer Advice and Education

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors housing counseling agencies throughout the country that can provide you with advice on buying a home and resolving credit issues. These services are offered at little or no cost to you.

To find a provider near you, visit http://www.consumerfinance.gov/find-a-housing-counselor/

Once you’ve made the decision to buy a home, you may ask yourself “What should I do first?

Here’s the process:

These items include:

  • Job History
  • Income records
  • Documentation of assets

A lender may evaluate these records to determine your financial stability, credit worthiness and ability to repay the loan.

  • PITI
  • Total Debt-to-Income Ratio
  • Credit Score

A lender may evaluate these records to determine your financial stability, credit worthiness and ability to repay the loan.

PITI
When evaluating your future housing expenses, it’s important to take into consideration the entire housing expense, not just the mortgage payment. Mortgage lenders use PITI calculation (Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance) to determine the total monthly housing expense. HOA (Home Owner Association) fees will also be added to the calculation when applicable. The PITI calculation will be used as one of the components of the Debt-to-Income ratio.

Total Debt-to-Income Ratio
When evaluating your ability to repay the loan, the lender will calculate your debt-to-income ratio or DTI. The DTI is your total minimum monthly debt (proposed PITI, credit cards, student loans, car payments, etc.) divided by your gross monthly income. The lower your debt-to-income ratio, the higher the likelihood of getting the home loan terms you want.

Credit Score
A credit score is generated by a credit reporting agency and is calculated from several pieces of data in your credit report. Both positive and negative information is considered in the calculation, including payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history and types of credit used. The higher the score, the better your loan rates are likely to be.

Evaluating your home loan options

Your mortgage professional can help you:

  • Identify any credit issues that may hinder a loan approval,
  • Guide you through the loan application and closing process,
  • Help you determine a home purchase price that you can afford,
  • Help you compare different loan programs so you can choose the best one for your financial needs,
  • Manage and address any issues that may come up along the way

When choosing a mortgage, there are many factors to consider which would affect your monthly payments, closing costs, amount of cash needed at closing and total amount paid for your loan.

These factors include:

  • Whether the loan is Fixed or Adjustable Interest Rate,
  • Number of years (or term) that you’ll be making payments,
  • Down payment amount,
  • Mortgage insurance options and
  • Fees.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions so that you can fully understand the impact of these factors on your home loan.

What’s the difference in monthly payments between a 15-year term and a 30-year term?” While a 15-year term will result in a higher monthly payment, you may qualify for a lower interest rate. Plus, you would be finished paying for your home in half the time, saving a significant amount on interest payments.

“What interest rate would I qualify for if I chose an Adjustable Rate mortgage?” Usually, adjustable rate mortgages have a lower starting interest rate, resulting in a lower initial monthly payment. But adjustable rates tend to increase over time. However, if you plan on staying in the home for only a few years, this may be a viable option.

“How would mortgage insurance affect my monthly payment and how long would I have to pay it?” Mortgage insurance reduces the down payment requirements for the borrower, but it will increase your monthly payments. Depending on the type of loan and the specific insurer, you may be able to eliminate the mortgage insurance payments once your balance drops below a certain level.

The house hunting stage can be fun and exciting, but it’s important to keep your priorities in mind when evaluating potential homes.

For example, perhaps you’ve found a beautiful, large home, but the school district is rated poorly. Is a smaller house in a better school district a better fit? This depends on your family’s unique needs.

You may have to look at dozens of homes before you find one that:

  • Is in a neighborhood that suits your lifestyle,
  • is within your budget and
  • has all the features (i.e. bedrooms, bathrooms, modern kitchen, back yard) that your family desires.

You should be prepared to readjust your priorities to find a home within budget that fits all of your needs.

A real estate agent can be a great asset in helping you find your dream home. Real estate agents generally have access to home sale listings that you may not be able to access on your own.

A good real estate agent can help you by:

  • Reviewing your wish list and researching potential homes,
  • Making arrangements to show the homes that fit your requirements,
  • Researching neighborhoods, schools and tax rates,
  • Negotiating a purchase price and making the offer. This is important because the seller wants to get the maximum amount for their home, while you will want to pay the lowest cost possible.
  • Assisting in the purchase and closing process.

Once you find the perfect home for you, it’s time to make an offer, finalize the mortgage loan process and close the sale.

Making the Offer
Your Real Estate Agent can prepare the offer on your behalf. The official offer will include information about you, the seller, the property, any special provisions, the purchase price being offered and any contingencies. Your offer will be accepted or rejected, or you may receive a counter-offer.

Your offer will likely include a deposit which will be held by the seller’s real estate agent or lawyer until the sale closes. Your deposit is usually applied to your down payment at loan closing. If you change your mind about the purchase once your offer has been accepted, you may lose your deposit. There are circumstances, such as an unacceptable inspection, when you would not lose your deposit. Be sure to have your real estate agent explain the terms of the deposit to you. If your offer is not accepted, your deposit will always be returned.

The Sales Contract
Once the sales offer is accepted, a sales contract is drawn up. The sales contract is a legal and binding obligation on the part of the buyer to purchase the property if the contingencies are met. It outlines the details of the transaction, including: a description of the property, the selling price, the date of closing, the possession date and any applicable contingencies.

Closing the Sale
Once your offer is accepted, you begin the process of “closing” the sale. This involves several important steps, any of which can hold up or even prevent the purchase of your new home. It is critically important to remain in contact with your real estate agent and mortgage professional so that you can respond to any requests for information or additional documentation as quickly as possible.

Contingencies
There are contingencies that will need to be met before the sale can close. These are itemized in the sales contract and can include things like the buyer securing financing and an acceptable home inspection, among other things.

Home Inspection
In a home inspection, a professional conducts a thorough examination of a property to assess its structural and mechanical condition, catching any potential problems that a buyer might not detect. This process is a cost that you will have to pay at the time of the inspection. It is a very important part of the home buying process for you as a buyer.

Often, an inspection will turn up problems that may become part of the negotiating process. You may want the seller to fix the problem or discount the price to allow you to fix it. Your real estate agent will guide you through this part of the purchase experience.

Settlement Statement
The settlement statement documents all the funds paid at closing, including itemization of all the fees and charges that the homebuyer and seller face in the sales transaction. Also known as a HUD-1, this is a standard form developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It’s important to check this document carefully for accuracy and ask questions if there is anything on the form that you don’t understand.

The total amount of closing costs vary, but may include: a loan origination fee, an appraisal fee, the cost of a credit report, a lender’s inspection fee, the cost of title insurance, a mortgage broker fee, taxes and a fee for document preparation, among other things.

Various Closing Documents
Closing documentation consists of various standard documents that must be completed before a sale can close. This can include a title search to confirm the title is clear, title insurance to protect the buyer and the lender from an error resulting in a claim on some aspect of the property and an application for homeowner’s insurance.

After all the above items are completed, it’s time to close the sale. You’ll be asked to attend a closing meeting, which usually takes place at a title company or an escrow office. At the meeting, you will sign all of the closing documents. There will be many documents to sign, and the title or escrow company will be happy to answer questions you may have.

Questions?

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