By doing your homework before you buy, you’ll feel more content about your new home.
Most potential homebuyers are a smidge daunted by the fact that they’re about to agree to a hefty mortgage that they’ll be paying for the next few decades. The best way to relieve that anxiety is to be confident you’re purchasing the best home at a price you can afford with the most favorable financing. These seven steps will help you make smart decisions about your biggest purchase.
1. Decide how much home you can afford.
Generally, you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Remember to consider costs every homeowner must cover: property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care if you plan to have children.
2. Develop your home wish list.
Be honest about which features you must have and which you’d like to have. Handicap accessibility for an aging parent or special needs child is a must. Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances are in the bonus category. Come up with your top five must-haves and top five wants to help you focus your search and make a logical, rather than emotional, choice when home shopping.
3. Select where you want to live.
Make a list of your top five community priorities, such as commute time, schools, and recreational facilities. Ask a REALTOR® to help you identify three to four target neighborhoods based on your priorities.
4. Start saving.
Have you saved enough money to qualify for a mortgage and cover your downpayment? Ideally, you should have 20% of the purchase price set aside for a downpayment, but some lenders allow as little as 5% down. A small downpayment preserves your savings for emergencies.
However, the lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for, and if you still qualify, the higher your monthly payment. Your downpayment size can also influence your interest rate and the type of loan you can get.
Finally, if your downpayment is less than 20%, you’ll be required to purchase private mortgage insurance. Depending on the size of your loan, PMI can add hundreds to your monthly payment. Check with your state and local government for mortgage and downpayment assistance programs for first-time buyers.
5. Ask about all the costs before you sign.
A downpayment is just one homebuying cost. A REALTOR® can tell you what other costs buyers commonly pay in your area — including home inspections, attorneys’ fees, and transfer fees of 2% to 7% of the home price. Tally up the extras you’ll also want to buy after you move-in, such as window coverings and patio furniture for your new yard.
6. Get your credit in order.
A credit report details your borrowing history, including any late payments and bad debts, and typically includes a credit score. Lenders lean heavily on your credit report and credit score in determining whether, how much, and at what interest rate to lend for a home. The minimum credit score you can have to qualify for a loan depends on many factors, including the size of your downpayment. Talk to a REALTOR® or lender about your particular circumstance.
You’re entitled to free copies of your credit reports annually from the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Order and then pore over them to ensure the information is accurate, and try to correct any errors before you buy. If your credit score isn’t up to snuff, the easiest ways to improve it are to pay every bill on time and pay down high credit card debt.
7. Get prequalified.
Meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter that says how much house you’re qualified to buy. Start gathering the paperwork your lender says it needs. Most want to see W-2 forms verifying your employment and income, copies of pay stubs, and two to four months of banking statements.
If you’re self-employed, you’ll need your current profit and loss statement, a current balance sheet, and personal and business income tax returns for the previous two years.
Consider your financing options. The longer the loan, the smaller your monthly payment. Fixed-rate mortgages offer payment certainty; an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) offers a lower monthly payment. However, an adjustable-rate mortgage may adjust dramatically. Be sure to calculate your affordability at both the lowest and highest possible ARM rate.
More from HouseLogic
By: G. M. Filisko
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Don’t give up. There may be a solution for down payment assistance in Florida as well as nationwide. It’s important to get pre-qualified for a mortgage before you start looking for a home. Your lender may have to be an approved lender for some of the programs but you should definitely ask and perhaps move to a lender that is approved if you need to.
There are over 2,000 down payment assistance programs for home buyers today. And many of them are available to residents of Florida and Sarasota County.
Of course there may be income limits and credit score requirements along with some required contribution from the buyer. But these are by no means limited to “first-time homebuyers.”
There is actually a “Dream 100” program that covers 100% of a mortgage. This program available in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina applies to US citizens and permanent resident aliens is for a buyer that has no owner interest in other property. The credit score requirement is only 680 but the borrower must have a squeaky clean credit history. Other requirements for income, documentation, and buyer education apply.
My daughter was able to purchase a home with no money down using the USDA Loan program. There is a geographical requirement and the she didn’t have to be a first-time home buyer or have a very low income limit.
FHA has a First-time home buyer down payment assistance bond program (FTHB). The assistance is in the form of a 0% interest or low, fixed rate second mortgage. You can receive up to $7,500 interest free Florida bond money that does not require a payment until the house is sold. There are credit history requirements but if you are 2-3 years past an issue you may qualify if you meet other income limits and have a small contribution to bring to closing, along with a few other requirements.
There are programs designed specifically for first responders and teachers.
Always ask, and start with your Realtor and find out if they know of an applicable program. Or call me, Susan Phelps at 941-726-2227 to get you pointed in the right direction for assistance.
Lakewood Ranch’s only age restricted community and will consist of 1300 homes once completed.
They will be offering 10 floor plans that will range from 1,289 sq. ft. up to 3,656 sq. ft. and include both Paired Villa and Single Family options. Prices can expected to be in the mid $200’s to $500’s.
COMMUNITY FEATURES WILL INCLUDE:
•Heated Resort-Style Pool and Spa
•State-of-the-Art Fitness Center
•Tennis, Bocce and Pickle Ball Courts
•Clubhouse with Activity Rooms, Craft Room, Library, Catering Kitchen & WiFi Cafe
•Outdoor Barefoot Bar
•Outdoor BBQ Grill
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
The builder is currently in the early stages of the project with hopes to begin sales in late 2015- early 2016 depending on land development schedules. Between now and the opening I can email you new information as it becomes finalized such as clubhouse renderings, site maps, floor plans and more! Pricing will be released when they are ready for sale.
ABOUT THE AREA
Located near the Sarasota-Bradenton area, Lakewood Ranch is ranked as one of the top-10 selling and most desirable master planned communities in the U.S. With nearby white sand beaches, tropical weather, an abundance of outdoor activities including golf course, polo and cricket clubs. Also, most recently we have the addition of world-class shopping and dining located in The Mall at UTC. The community will be 6 Miles East of I-75 off E. State Road 70.
If this lifestyle appeals to you, please give me a call or drop me a line at Sarasotasuze@gmail.com so that I can put you on the “interest list.” I’ll keep you updated when there are updates available.
Have you seen the new kids playground? It has some of the coolest playground stuff I’ve ever seen. And the ground is covered in a safe kid friendly mulch. Have you seen the cool cement lounge chairs? They swivel! While lying back watching the kids you can keep you eye on everything. There is even a lawn with green growing grass.
The new concession is all the chatter. The menu is extensive and not your average beach fare. You can sit on the deck and view the beach from afar. It’s a great scene. Lunch at the beach anyone??