Tips for Home Buyers: Part 1

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Real Living GreatWest

With all that’s been going on with our economy real estate industry, there has been a lot of talk about now being the perfect time to buy a home. For many people, this is correct. Although lending guidelines are stricter than in the past, if you have decent credit, you can still get a great loan. There is a huge surplus of great homes for sale, prices are discounted and mortgage rates are at record lows. Because of these reasons, there are also a growing number of first-time home buyers hitting the market so I think it is a good time to go over the steps involved with the home buying process.

When trying to determine if you are ready to buy a home, ask yourself the following questions:

-Do you pay your current bills on time?

-Do you have steady income that is reliable?

            -Can you afford more monthly expenditures?

-Do you have savings for a down payment?

            -Do you have very little long-term debt? (i.e. car loan)

If you answered yes to these questions, you are most likely ready to buy.

To start the process, you must figure out what you need. Think about the size, area, and style of home you want. You should do some research online to see what is available and for how much money. You also need to figure out how much you can afford. This number may be lower than what the bank is willing to loan you, but you need to make sure your payments will not be so high that you cannot keep your other obligations.

When you apply for a mortgage, the lender is going to use two primary ratios to determine the maximum home you can afford. These are the Debt to Income ratio and Housing Expense to Income ratio. Your housing expense to income ratio is calculated by dividing your monthly mortgage payment by your gross monthly income. Gross income is your income before tax deductions and the ratio should not be more than 29%. Debt to income ratios are calculated by dividing your total reoccurring monthly debs by your gross monthly income. Those debts include credit card payments, personal loans, car payments, cell phone bills, alimony/child support, insurance and any other fixed bills which are paid every month. Your total debt should not be more than 41% of your gross income.

It is important to note, that these percentages are just guidelines and are not set in stone. Other factors which have influence are the down payment amount and overall net worth. Your net worth is the value of all your assets minus all your debts. If you have a high net worth, lenders will likely be very flexible when it comes to the ratios.

Next, you need to find the right real estate agent. Friends and family are a great source for finding agents. You should also look online; well-known agents should be easy to find through search engines like Google and Bing. Also check which does a good job of pairing clients with agents. Once you have a list of possible agents, you should start calling them. The best agents will have good knowledge of the area and will have many resources for finding you the right home. You want an agent who listens to you, not one who tries to make you change your mind a lot. The most important thing, however, is that you are comfortable and trust your agent. This is the best way of insuring you have a pleasant experience.

The final step, before actually looking for homes, is figuring out what you want and need from a property. Make a list of characteristics which are important to you. There should be two categories on the list; one for “must haves” and one for “wants”. This will make comparing houses easier. Think about the location, schools, size, yard, and age or anything else you think is important. Remember, this house is for you and your family. It is important to get what you want out of it.

So now you have some information to help get you started in the home buying process. You know how to figure out if you are ready to buy, what you can afford, how to choose a Realtor, and you have a list of what is important to you. Now is the time to get online and start doing some research. Check out as many websites as you can. You want to have some knowledge of what is on the market and what prices are like before you start visiting homes.

Next time I will go over how to find the perfect home for you; including what to look for in a community, where to get school info and evaluating comparable homes.

As always, feel free to leave a comment or question below and I will answer as soon as I can. Thanks and have a great rest of the week.

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