Buying Your Home
Are there standard ways to determine how much a home is worth?
Your real estate agent can provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Reviewing comparable homes that have sold within the past year along with the listing, or asking, price on current homes for sale should prevent you from overpaying.
A certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of a home. After visiting the home to check such things as the number of rooms, improvements, size and square footage, construction quality, and the condition of the neighborhood, the appraiser then reviews recent comparable sales to determine the estimated value of the home.
Lenders normally require an appraisal – which runs between $200 to $300 – before they will approve a mortgage loan. This protects the lender by ensuring the home is worth the money you want to borrow.
You also can check recent sales in public records, through private firms, and on the Internet to help you determine a home’s potential worth.
How do you determine how much a home is worth?
What about appraised value and market value?
Market value is the price the house will bring at a given point in time, once the buyer and seller establish a “meeting of the minds” on price.
What is the difference between list price and sales price?
The sales price is the actual amount a home sells for.
Is it possible to save on closing costs?
- Haggle with the seller. He may pay all or part of the closing costs.
- Nab a no-point loan. You may have to pay a higher interest rate, but if you are strapped for cash and can qualify for a higher interest rate, you may find this type of loan can significantly reduce your closing costs.
- Grab a no-fee loan. Although the fee is usually wrapped into a higher rate loan, it does offer one advantage – you get to save on the amount of cash you would need up-front.
- Secure seller financing. These loans typically avoid the traditional fees or charges imposed by lenders.
- Shop ‘til you drop for the best deal. Every lender has its own unique fee structure; you are bound to find one that works for you.
Is there anything I should know about closing day?
- Keep extra money in your account. Something unexpected can pop up during the closing that will require more money out of your pocket. Take your checkbook. Even better, find out how much you will need to pay and write a certified check for the total amount.
- Take your loan commitment letter. Use it to verify loan approval in case of a mistake or misunderstanding with the lender.
- Take your contract to purchase. Pull it out if something a little suspicious comes up.
- Take your personal ID. A driver’s license or other personal identification will do.
- Do a before-closing inspection. It is always a good idea, when possible, to walk through the property to make a list of any problems.
- Utilities. Arrange in advance to have the water and electric meters read on closing day and the service switched to your name to prevent interrupted service. The same applies to the fuel tank.
What are closing costs?
How do you decide whether to add on to an existing home or purchase a new one?
As designer and builder Philip S. Wenz, the author of Adding to a House: Planning, Design & Construction, notes, an addition is much cheaper than building a new home and can offer a “new” home without the heartache of moving.
- Can you finance the home improvement with your own cash or will you need a loan?
- How much equity is in the property? A fair amount will make it that much easier to get a loan for home improvements.
- Is it feasible to expand the current space for an addition?
- What is permissible under local zoning and building laws? Despite your deep yearning for a new sunroom or garage, you will need to know if your town or city will allow such improvements.
- Are there affordable properties for sale that would satisfy your changing housing needs?
Explore your options. Make sure your decision is one you can live with – either under the same roof or under a different one.
How much can I afford?
Is it best to save for the ultimate dream home or begin with a less expensive starter home?
Home-price appreciation has also been strong, making very solid gains in communities across the country. In fact, home prices are expected to increase 2.5 percent to 3 percent annually over the next five years.
If you purchase a starter home today, you can potentially begin to build value that can lead to the purchase of a larger or more desirable, trade-up home in the future.
What are the advantages of owning a home?
The mortgage interest paid on a home loan is tax deductible, as is the local property tax. If you get a fixed-rate home mortgage loan, you also can invest more wisely knowing your monthly mortgage payment, unlike rent, will not change substantially.
What is the first step to buying a home?
A house needs constant care and attention. Also, ask yourself if your budget will allow for unexpected repairs and upkeep. Once you can honestly answer “yes” to these questions, you are several steps ahead of the game and that much closer to becoming a homeowner.
Do I need to be at the inspection?
How do I select a home inspector?
Should I hire a home inspector?
Always include an inspection clause in your written offer. This clause gives you an “out” from buying if serious problems are detected. It also gives you another chance to negotiate the purchase price if repairs are needed. The clause can even specify that the sellers fix any problem that is uncovered before you settle, or close, on the home.
You also may want to consider hiring experts to inspect the home for a number of health-related risks like radon gas, asbestos, or possible problems with the water or waste disposal system.
What does a home inspector do?
It is not the inspector’s job to determine whether you are getting good value for your money. He does not establish value, only whether the home might collapse in a storm or if the roof might cave in.
A home inspection typically takes place after a purchase contract between the buyer and seller has been signed.
Is private mortgage insurance necessary?
The buyer pays this insurance, usually a small fee at the outset and a percentage of the face amount of the loan that is added to the monthly payment.
What most homeowners do not realize is that the insurance is usually no longer necessary after enough equity has built up in the property. Contact your lender if you meet this requirement.
A precaution: do not confuse PMI with mortgage life insurance. The latter pays all, or a portion, of your mortgage in the event of your death.
What about title insurance?
What does homeonwers' insurance over?
While you are not legally required to purchase homeowners’ insurance, mortgage lenders require you to do so.” or “mortgage lenders stipulate that you must.
If your mortgage is paid up – or you never had one – it is still a good idea to have homeowners’ insurance to protect your home and your belongings.
What is condo and co-op insurance
What kind of home insurance should I get?
You also can increase coverage beyond the depreciated value of personal property such as televisions and furniture by purchasing a replacement-cost endorsement. Home-based business-coverage, once overlooked, is an ever-increasing popular rider. It does not cover liability associated with the business but rather contents such as home office equipment and general liability to cover injuries to clients and employees.
Other considerations: an inflation rider, which increases coverage as the home’s value rises, and getting insurance that is equal to the full replacement value of the home.
Insurance companies usually require an amount equal to at least 80 percent of the full replacement value. Otherwise, only a portion of the loss would be covered.
How does a lease option work?
A portion of the rent is used to make the future down payment. Most lenders will accept the down payment if the rental payments exceed the market rent and a valid lease-purchase agreement is in effect.
Before you opt to do a lease option, find out as much as possible about how they work. Talk to real estate agents, read published materials, and, in the end, have an attorney review any paperwork before you sign on the dotted line.
What is a lease option?
Lease options are common among buyers who would like to own a home but do not have enough money for the down payment and closing costs. A lease option may also be attractive to tenants who are working to improve bad credit before approaching a lender for a home loan.
Can you negotiate interest rates?
You may have more luck when dealing directly with a seller who has agreed to finance your loan. He is likely to be more open to negotiation, particularly when motivated to make a quick sale.
Are low-ball offers a good idea?
Do your homework before making an offer. Compare prices of recently sold homes and new listings in the neighborhood. It also helps to know something about the seller’s motivation. A lower price with a speedy closing, for example, might motivate a seller who must move, has another house under contract, or must sell quickly for other reasons.
Also recognize that while your low offer in a normal market might be rejected at once, it might motivate the seller in a buyer’s market to either accept it or make a counter-offer.
Do I need an attorney to buy a home?
Most homebuyers can generally handle routine real estate purchase contracts as long as they read the fine print and understand all the terms. But pay close attention to any clauses, contingencies, and other special considerations that will allow you or the seller to back out of the contract.
When in doubt, consult an attorney. Ask relatives and friends, or your real estate agent, for recommendations. Call to inquire about their fees and to check their level of experience. Expect that more seasoned attorneys will cost more.
Does the seller take the furnishings once the home is sold?
Is it possible to buy a home below market price?
- foreclosed property
- a fixer-upper
- hard-to-sell new homes in a housing development
- tenant-in-common partnerships.
With the latter, you may be able to buy a partial interest in this form of title to property owned by two or more individuals because the partners often sell at a discount.
However, bargains are easier to come by in a soft real estate market, when the economy is in a recession, and when homeowners, and builders and sponsors of condominium conversions, are desperate to move unsold units.
What are some negotiating tips?
Remember, too, that the listing, or asking, price is what the seller would like to receive for the home. It is not necessarily what the seller will settle for. So know value. Before you make an offer, check recent sales and listing prices of comparable neighborhood homes and compare them to the seller’s asking price.
- Be flexible. Never say, “take it or leave it.” That can sour negotiations and ruin the deal.
- Never show your hand or reveal your next step.
- Each time you increase your offering price ask for something in return, such as repairs, appliances, even lawn furniture.
- If you plan to pay cash or have a tentative commitment for a loan, use your strong financial position as a negotiating tool.
- Don’t let emotions such as pride, fear, love, and anger get in the way of negotiating the best deal. Leave irrational feelings at home.
What contingencies should appear in the offer?
Most offers include two standard contingencies: a financing contingency, which makes the sale dependent on your ability to obtain a loan commitment from a lender, and an inspection contingency, which allows you to have a professional inspect the property.
Without contingencies, a buyer could forfeit his deposit under certain circumstances if he backs out of a deal.
The purchase contract also should include the seller’s responsibilities, such as passing clear title, maintaining the property in its present condition until closing, and making any agreed-upon repairs.
Are impound accounts required for all mortgage loans?
One way to avoid an impound account on an owner-occupied mortgage is to raise your down payment amount slightly. The exact amount necessary to avoid the escrow will vary with the lender.
In some states, lenders let buyers set up separate accounts in which they place specific funds and then pay the insurance and property taxes themselves. These are called pledge accounts, and they must be set up before you close on the home.
An impound account can usually be dropped on an owner-occupied loan once the loan-to-value ratio equals 80 percent or less. But restrictions apply: payments will have to be current and your record of making on-time payments pretty solid. Contact your lender if you meet these requirements and want to drop your impound account.
Are property taxes deductible?
However, escrow money held for property taxes cannot be deducted until the money is actually used to pay the property taxes.
Can I contest my property taxes?
While it is up to a professional assessor to evaluate property value for tax purposes, property owners are usually allowed to contest their assessment until a certain date after they are made public.
Once you contest, you will have to prove why you think your property is worth less – few homeowners contest hoping to pay more taxes! The two most popular ways for determining value are an appraisal and a comparative market analysis. With an appraisal, a professional estimates the property’s market value based on recent sales of comparable properties. A comparative market analysis is an informal estimate of market value performed by a real estate agent based on similar sales and property attributes. Most agents will offer free analyses to win your business.
Contact your local tax assessor’s office for procedures on appealing your property tax assessment.
How are individual tax bills figured?
The real property tax is an ad valorem tax, or a tax based on the value of property.
Ideally, the owners of property of equal value pay the same amount of property taxes, and the owners of more valuable property pay more in taxes than the owners of less valuable property. The tax is calculated using a variety of formulas and is based on a property’s assessed value – its full market value or a percentage thereof – and the tax rate of the taxing jurisdiction, minus any property tax exemptions, such as those offered for the elderly or veterans
What is an impound account?
Lenders like to set up impound accounts to ensure the property taxes and insurance will be paid on time. They typically also collect a two-month cushion for taxes and insurance at the closing. A few states require the lender to pay interest on funds held in these accounts.
Why do homeowners have to pay property taxes?
Re-valuations of the tax are often done periodically, although the time interval varies from state to state or, in some states, from town to town, and can range from annual reassessments to periods of ten years or more.
Are fees and assessments owed a homeowner's association deductible?
Are there tax credits for first-time homebuyers?
An MCC also makes it easier for eligible buyers to qualify for a mortgage loan. The lender can reduce the housing expense ratio – the percentage of gross monthly income applied toward housing expenses – by the amount of the tax savings. Normally, lenders reject loans if the housing expense ratio is too high.
Program requirements for MCCs vary, although most adhere to the following guidelines:
- The buyer must live in the home being purchased with an MCC-assisted mortgage.
- Total household income cannot exceed certain limits.
- The buyer cannot have owned a principal residence within the past three years. This restriction may be waived if a property is purchased within a certain targeted area.
- The purchase price must fall within an established limit.
More information is available by calling your local housing or redevelopment agency, or contacting your real estate agent.
Are up-front fees and closing costs deductible?
The exception is points you pay to purchase your home loan. They are deductible for that year. Points paid when you refinance an existing mortgage must be deducted over the life of the new loan.
Some fees – including loan application, appraisal, document preparation and recording fees – that are assessed when purchasing a home can be recouped by adding them to the adjusted cost basis, the starting point for figuring a gain or loss when selling the home.
Significant home improvements also can be calculated into your cost basis.
How can owning a home pay off at tax time?
And if you use a portion of your home for business purposes, you can take a depreciation deduction as well.
Many federal tax benefits are also available from local and state tax agencies. Contact your local tax agency for more information.
Are buyers protected against housing discrimination?
Can I use an agent to purchase a newly built home?
Builders normally require an agent to be present on your first visit to the site. This is a sensible procedure that allows the agent to be paid a commission should you decide to buy. Otherwise, if you find a development on your own, make a first visit without the agent, and later make a purchase, the builder may refuse to pay the commission – even if, at some point, the agent became involved in the process.
What can I expect from a good real estate agent?
Good agents also adhere to a strict code of ethics. They avoid high-pressure sales tactics, refrain from showing properties that do not fit your needs or goals, and alert you to problems about the condition of the property. And they show respect for other agents and real estate firms by not “bad mouthing” them.