What Happens When a One-of-a-Kind Home Needs a New Owner?

It’s essential to have the right marketing plan, pricing strategy and real estate agent.

When shopping for a home, it’s not uncommon to come across one that truly stands out. It’s not because the home is an old fixer-upper or that it’s a newly renovated home with a designer kitchen. It’s a home that’s architecturally significant or in some way conveys a “different” attribute. For instance, it might be a castle, a church or even a fire station that has been converted into one or more living spaces.

With an unusual home, pricing and marketing can be a challenge. Here are three things to keep in mind when either buying or selling a truly unique property.

1. Buyers should be cautious

As crazy as it sounds, a would-be buyer may want to reconsider purchasing an offbeat home. While it may be a home you love, it is also an investment. A home with a unique, unchangeable structural feature will likely alienate a large portion of the market.

If you’re faced with the opportunity to purchase a unique home, don’t get caught up in the excitement of it all. Think long term. Understand that when it comes time to sell, it may be a burden, particularly if you try to sell in a slow market.

2. When selling, don’t assume buyers will love what you love

As the owner of an interesting or different home who is considering a sale, be aware that not everyone will have the same feeling about the home as you did when you bought the place. While you’re likely to get lots of activity, showings and excitement over your property, a lot of that may simply be curious buyers, nosy neighbors or tire kickers.

Time after time, sellers with unique homes believe that since they fell head over heels, another buyer who might feel the same. But that person could be hard to find.

3. Hire the right agent and have a serious marketing/pricing discussion

A unique home requires a unique marketing plan and pricing strategy as well as a good agent. The buyer may not even live in your local market, and instead might be an opportunist buyer open to a unique property. So you should consider advertising outside the mainstream circles. Media and press can help get the special home the attention it may need.

The buyer may not want to live in your town but is fascinated by an old church or castle. The more you get this out there, the better your options for finding the specific buyer.

If you get lots of action but few offers, you may need to drop the price below the comparable sales to generate interest, particularly if you really need to sell. Just like a home with a funky floor plan, on a busy intersection or with a tiny backyard, the market for your unique home is simply smaller.

With online home listings, blogging and real estate television shows, unique homes stand out and get more exposure than ever. But selling a distinctive or offbeat property requires out-of-the-box thinking early on, and with a top agent. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Be certain to price the home right, expose it to the masses and have a strategic plan in right from the start.

Top image from Zillow listing.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published October 10, 2014.

Source: zillow.com

Home Prices vs. Gas Prices

Last updated on August 27th, 2018

With mortgage rates hitting 2015 highs last week, one might worry that the housing recovery will lose steam.

The 30-year fixed climbed to 4.08% per the latest survey from Freddie Mac, up roughly half a percentage point from the lowest levels seen earlier this year.

Clearly this reduces home buying affordability, and could make it more difficult to both buy and sell a home.

But as I’ve mentioned before, if you can’t afford a home you’re interested in thanks to an interest rate fluctuation, you might want to reassess the entire decision.

The good news is that there doesn’t seem to be a strong correlation between homes prices and mortgage rates.

In other words, just because rates rise doesn’t mean home prices will go down or stop going up. There’s actually data to support this.

Should We Look at Gas Prices Instead?

Perhaps a better indicator of home prices is what you pay at the pump, as evidenced by a recent study from Florida Atlantic University and Longwood University.

The collaborative effort, which used data spanning over 10 years, found that for every $1 decrease in gas prices, the average selling price of a home climbed by 2.4%.

That’s about $4,000 more per sold property included in the study.

Additionally, homes seem to sell more quickly when gas prices are low. Again, for that $1 per gallon decrease in gasoline price, the average time to sell a property falls by 25 days.

There’s also a better chance of closing a sale when gas prices are lower. Indeed, that same $1 decrease was also shown to increase a seller’s chances of closing the sale by about 20 percent.

So if you want homes to fly off the shelves at higher prices, lower the price of gas, not interest rates.

If you’re wondering why gas prices matter, just consider consumer confidence.

When prices at the pump are lower, consumers have more disposable income, which equates to a larger pool of prospective home buyers.

That larger pool of buyers means a home has a better chance of selling and at a higher price.

Bennie D. Waller, Ph.D., professor of finance and real estate and director of the Center for Financial Responsibility at Longwood University, also noted that the effort put forth by the listing broker increases as gas prices fall.

The idea being that they have more money to spend on marketing a home, and maybe it’s cheaper to drive clients around town.

Over the past year, gas prices have fallen about $1 per gallon despite a recent uptick during the past two months, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Gas prices this summer are also expected to be the lowest they’ve been since 2009.

Don’t Rely on Gas Prices to Determine Housing Affordability

Interestingly, gas prices are very volatile and certainly not locked in. We don’t prepay for gas.

So consumers may think they’re better off for a few months while shopping for a home but if and when gas prices rise that supposed benefit quickly disappears.

You can almost liken it to an adjustable-rate mortgage, which may start at a low interest rate but eventually adjusts higher and could land a borrower in a home they can’t really afford.

That’s the strange thing about the data. A low fixed interest rate truly matters long-term since it’s what you’ll be paying for years to come, whereas low gas prices can be very short-lived and not really that beneficial.

And let’s face it; gas prices are never going to stay put so choosing to buy a home on that basis isn’t very wise.

But this might tell us when it’s a better time to sell your home, knowing there are more anxious buyers out there willing to pay top dollar.

Perhaps you can even snap up a relative bargain when gas prices are high.

About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for nearly 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

What Can Go Wrong on Closing Day – and How to Prevent It

Some surprises are great. An unexpected bonus or a hotel upgrade can make your day. But when it comes to closing on a home, a surprise is almost never a good thing.

Paperwork tedium will give way to terror if there’s an unexpected delay in financing or error in a title document. But you can avoid closing problems and delays, or at lease minimize them, by understanding what might go wrong and monitoring it well ahead of your closing date.

What happens at closing is the culmination of more than a month of gathering and preparing documents. For closing to go off without a glitch, your closing officer, your lender or loan officer and your real estate agent have to work together to get everything in order and processed correctly. These folks are professionals and they absolutely should know what they are doing. But they are also human beings working on a lot of files, not just yours.

If your closing gets pushed back a day, that just means they do it on Tuesday instead of Monday. It really isn’t an emergency in their world. You, however, have a moving truck scheduled and deadline to vacate your current home. Your loan commitment has an expiration date and so does your escrow. All of this means it’s more critical to you than it is to anyone else to get the deal completed on time, so it’s wise for you to stay on top of things.

With that in mind, here are a few common closing problems as well as ways to prevent them.

Problem: Errors in documents

One of the most common closing problems is an error in documents. It could be as simple as a misspelled name or transposed address number or as serious as an incorrect loan amount or missing pages. Either way, it could cause a delay of hours or even days.

Prevention: Preview everything
Go ahead and ask to see every piece of paperwork as far in advance as possible. Pay special attention to loan documents. By law, you will get your Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure forms three days before closing. Look at them carefully and immediately. The sooner you spot a problem the faster you can get it fixed and keep your closing on track. If something seems odd or you just don’t understand it, this is the time to ask questions. Double-check the loan and down payment amounts, interest rates, spellings and all personal information.

Problem: Mortgage delays and last-minute requests

When you set a closing date and communicate that with your lender, you probably assume they will let you know in plenty of time if there are problems with meeting that deadline. You would be wrong. Understand that in a hot real estate buying or refinancing market, lenders can be inundated. Without periodic calls from you and your real estate agent, who also has a vested interest in closing the deal on time, your file could easily fall to the bottom of the pile while the loan officer deals with more urgent loans. By the time your loan is at the top of the priority list, it might be too late to get that missing document in time. Lenders sometimes ask for more information at the last minute – copies of a rental agreement, a canceled deposit check, the original hazard insurance payment – that can leave you scrambling and lead to closing delays.

Prevention: Check in with everyone
Early on, find out exactly what documents the lender needs to complete your file and write you loan. Between bank statements, tax returns and other documents, there are ample opportunities for items to go missing or be forgotten about until the last minute. Once you know what they need to write your loan, call or email periodically to make sure they have everything. (Your real estate agent may also be doing this so check with them as well.) How often? That depends on how much is missing from your file. But a weekly check-in isn’t out of hand until they confirm your file is complete. If there are problems or several missing documents, check in more often. Always make sure they are aware of your anticipated closing date.

Several days before closing, check in with your closing agent to make sure they are in communication with your lender and that they have everything they need. If there is something you think they might possibly need but no one has mentioned it, bring it to the closing meeting.

Problem: Cash flow

You go to the bank the day before closing and arrange to have your down payment transferred directly to the closing agent. You’re good to go. Unless the transfer falls through due to some bug in the bank’s system and the money either doesn’t get there in time or what comes through is less than the amount you need.

Prevention: Bring it

You can avoid this issue entirely by bringing your down payment in the form of a certified or cashier’s check. (You can’t use a personal check, so don’t even try that.) Or, simply arrange the wire or bank transfer of funds so it reaches the closing agent a couple of days early. If you don’t yet know the exact amount needed at closing, have more than enough money transferred. You’ll get a refund later.

Problem: Title isn’t exactly clear

Maybe the title company discovers that the seller never paid the contractor for the backyard fence or hasn’t paid property taxes for five years and there is a lien on the property. Or perhaps the home is the subject of a lawsuit between bickering relatives. Interesting as that may be, the bottom line is that you, the buyer, have a problem. You need to insist on a clear, unclouded, problem-free title before closing. Your lender will insist on it, too.

Prevention: Read the title report

Shortly after escrow opened, the title company completed a preliminary title report. That often goes directly to your lender, but you can get a copy either from the title company or your lender. Get it as soon as possible and read it carefully. At closing you’ll buy title insurance to protect yourself in case the title company missed anything in its search, but that policy is only effective from the day of closing forward.

Problem: Something’s amiss at your walk-through

It’s the day before closing and you’re doing a final walk-through of what is almost your home. The seller has punched a hole in the wall and ripped down the fixtures they were supposed to leave.

Prevention: Jump on it right now

Your agent should work with the seller’s agent to solve the problems. First, figure out what’s acceptable, how much it might cost and how to make the seller pay. One way would be to negotiate a credit on your closing fees, meaning the seller pays more at closing. Another would be to have the appropriate amount from the seller’s proceeds placed in escrow until the problems are fixed.

The point is, don’t wait until closing to bring up any issues. Get them resolved beforehand. If you can’t, you’ll have to postpone the closing while you work it out. In some cases, you may prefer to just accept responsibility for the problems rather than delay closing, but that’s up to you.

Source: zillow.com

Do You Qualify for Treasury Down Payment Assistance?

A home of your own could be within your reach.

It’s spring, and some renters’ thoughts may turn to home buying. Then reality hits: Between paying off student loans, paying rent, and keeping up with other bills, they haven’t saved for a down payment.

Renters cite down payments as one of the biggest roadblocks to homeownership. So, if you’re a low- to moderate-income home shopper in California, Florida, Rhode Island, Tennessee, or Kentucky, you’ll want to pay close attention. These states (and a few others) have Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) money available from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which helps eligible buyers with down payment assistance (DPA).

Each state DPA program has income, credit score, occupancy, property value, and location requirements. But they share a common goal: revitalizing hard-hit communities.

“Our goal is to stabilize the neighborhoods and housing markets in Tennessee that have not recovered as fast as other areas across the state,” says Ralph M. Perrey, executive director of the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, which offers $15,000 in down payment assistance to draw home buyers to 55 ZIP codes across the state.

Innovative offerings

Housing agencies in 18 states and the District of Columbia have been administering HHF money since 2010. Participating states were chosen either because they struggled with unemployment rates at or above the national average, or they experienced home price declines greater than 20 percent since the housing market downturn.

In the beginning, programs focused on homeowners in some type of mortgage distress. “Now, to help these communities, we’ve developed programs for other issues we face,” says Cecka Rose Green, communications director at Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

Florida, California, Oregon, and Michigan have made HHF available to seniors who can’t pay property charges on their home equity conversion (reverse) mortgages. Illinois is now using HHF to help underwater homeowners refinance to more affordable loans. And several states have launched HHF DPA programs.

Florida’s $188.4-million HHF DPA program has assisted 7,481 first-time borrowers across 11 targeted counties. Borrowers can request up to $15,000 for down payment, closing cost, and prepaid assistance toward a home purchase.

“With the housing market improving, helping people buy homes is strengthening demand in hard-hit areas, stabilizing home prices, and preventing future foreclosures,” says Green.

“These agencies are being creative and resourceful in working with the Treasury to continue to serve their markets,” adds Mark Spates, a Fannie Mae director. Fannie Mae is the leading purchaser of loans underwritten by state housing agencies.

When the money runs out

States have until the end of 2020 to spend HHF money — but how they allocate funds varies from program to program.

The Arizona Department of Housing has a $76-million Pathway to Purchase DPA program, which has helped more than 2,600 buyers in 17 targeted cities.

But on March 29, 2017 — approximately 12 months after launch — Pathway to Purchase ran out of money, and the agency will not refund it. However, buyers can still apply for DPA from the state’s self-funded program, notes Dirk Swift, homeownership programs administrator for the Arizona Department of Housing.

Don’t wait!

California, Florida, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Kentucky, and a few other states still have HHF DPA money for renters hoping to buy — for now.

“We’re not in a situation where we’re about to run out of DPA funds,” advises Green. “But they’re going pretty fast.”

If you plan to purchase in an HHF state or want to learn more, contact your state housing finance agency, or visit the Hardest Hit Fund website to learn about local opportunities.

Looking for more information about mortgages? Check out our Mortgage Learning Center.

Top photo from Zillow listing

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com

Preparing To Buy a House in 8 Simple Steps

In life there are some situations a person simply can’t prepare for, like locking the keys in a car full of groceries or having a head full of shampoo when the smoke alarm goes off. Luckily, purchasing a home doesn’t have to be one of those moments.

Buying a house is probably one of the biggest financial decisions many people will make in their lifetime, and the process can be lengthy and complex. From getting a bird’s-eye view of their overall financial picture to calculating housing costs and securing loan pre-approval, there are many actions for home buyers to take as they get ready to purchase a home.

With the right resources and a solid strategy, however, purchasing a house can be a smooth process.

8 Steps to Prepare for a Home Purchase

1. Determining Credit Score

A home buyer’s credit score can impact their ability to secure a mortgage loan with a desirable rate. It can also affect how much they’ll be required to pay as a down payment when it’s time to close.

In a recent report from the National Association of Realtors , home buyers who had debt said it hindered their ability to set aside funds for a down payment by a median of four years.

Credit score can be influenced by a variety of factors, from payment history to amount of debt (a.k.a. credit utilization ratio) to age of credit accounts, mix of credit accounts, and new credit inquiries.

Payment history is the main factor that affects a person’s credit score, accounting for 35% of an overall FICO® score. Missing a payment on any credit account—from unpaid student loans to credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages—can negatively impact a person’s credit score.

By making on-time payments, limiting the number of new inquiries on their credit file, and working to pay down outstanding balances, home buyers could potentially boost their credit score and qualify for a lower mortgage rate.

Is There a Credit Score “Sweet Spot?”

Many buyers wonder whether there’s a desired credit score range or “sweet spot” to obtain a mortgage. The 2020 Q1 Federal Reserve Report on Household Debt and Credit found that the median credit score of newly originating borrowers increased to 773 in the first quarter for mortgages—up 14 points from 2019.

That’s not necessarily to say a credit score of 773 is a must for securing a mortgage, but the difference between a credit score in the 600 range and one in the 700 range could amount to about half a percent less interest on a mortgage loan and add up to a lot of money over time.

Credit scores can also affect the amount of the down payment itself. Many mortgage lenders require at least 20% of the house’s sale price be put down, but might offer more flexibility if the buyer’s credit score is in the higher range. A lower credit score, on the other hand, could call for a larger down payment.

Whether home buyers have debt or not, checking credit reports is still a recommended first step to applying for a mortgage. Understanding the information on credit reports is invaluable in knowing whether time is needed to repair credit, which could potentially lead to a higher credit score and possibly lower mortgage loan rate.

2. Deciding how Much To Spend

Deciding how much to pay for a new home can be based on a variety of factors including expected and unexpected housing costs, up-front payments and closing costs, and how it all fits into the buyer’s overall budget.

Calculating Housing Costs

There are several housing costs for home purchasers to consider that might affect how much they can afford to offer for the house itself. The costs of ongoing fees like property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and interest—if the loan does not have a fixed rate—can all lead to an increase in the monthly mortgage payment.

Closing costs are fees associated with the final real estate transaction that go above and beyond the price of the property itself. These costs might include an origination fee paid to the bank or lender for their services in creating the loan (typically amounting to 0.5% to 1% of the mortgage), real estate attorney fees, escrow fees, title insurance fees, home inspection and appraisal fees and recording fees, to name a few. To get an idea on how this can impact your budget, use this home affordability calculator to estimate total purchase cost.

Last year, the average closing costs for a single-family property were $5,749 including taxes, and $3,339 excluding taxes, according to a recent report from ClosingCorp .

In addition to closing costs, expenses that potential home buyers might want to consider are repairs and updates they might want to make to a home, new furniture, moving costs, or even commuting costs.

Finally, unforeseen costs of a major life event like a layoff or the birth of a new child might not be the first expenses that come to mind, but some buyers could find themselves making a potential home buying mistake by not getting their finances in order to prepare for the unexpected.

Making a list of these estimated expenses can help home buyers calculate how much they can feasibly afford and create a budget that could help them avoid being overextended on housing costs, especially if they might be paying other debt or saving for other financial goals.

3. Saving for a Down Payment

Saving money for a house is one of the biggest financial goals many people will have in their lifetime. And how much they’re able to offer as a down payment can significantly impact the amount of their monthly mortgage payment.

A larger down payment can also be convincing to sellers who see it as evidence of solid finances, sometimes beating out other offers in a competitive housing market.

The average down payment on a house varies depending on the type of buyer, loan, location, and housing prices, but, according to Zillow’s 2019 Consumer Housing Trends Report , 56% of buyers put down less than the typical 20% down payment, 19% put down 20%, and 20% of home buyers put down more than 20%.

For first-time home buyers, 20% of the price of the home can seem like a daunting figure. Many buyers find that cutting spending on luxury or non-essential items and entertainment can help them save up the funds.

Other tactics could include getting gifts and loans from family members, applying for low-down-payment mortgages, withdrawing funds from retirement, or receiving assistance from state and local agencies.

For buyers who were also sellers, proceeds from another property could also fund the down payment.

4. Shopping for a Mortgage Lender

There are many mortgage lenders competing for the business of the 86% of home buyers who finance their home purchases. These lenders offer a variety of mortgages to apply for, with a few of the most common being conventional/fixed rate, adjustable rate, FHA loans, and VA loans.

Buyers might not realize they can—and should—shop around for a lender before selecting one to work with. Different lenders offer different variations in interest rates, terms, and closing costs, so it can be helpful to conduct adequate research before landing on a particular lender.

Mortgage lenders must provide a loan estimate within three business days of receiving a mortgage application. The form is standard—all lenders are required to use the same form, which makes it easier for the applicant to compare information from different lenders and make sure they are getting the best loan for their financial situation.

5. Getting Pre-Approved for a Loan

While it might seem like a bit of a nuance, getting prequalified for a loan versus pre-approved for a loan are two different things.

When a buyer is prequalified for a loan, their mortgage lender estimates—but does not guarantee—the loan rate, based on finances provided by the buyer.

When a buyer is pre-approved, the lender conducts a thorough investigation into their finances that includes income verification, assets, and credit rating. This pre-approval gives a guarantee to the buyer that they will be able to obtain the loan and breaks down exactly what the bank is willing to lend.

Having a pre-approval letter in hand can help some buyers get ahead by appealing to the seller as a serious intention of purchase and a lender’s guarantee to back that purchase up.

6. Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

According to the National Association of Realtors 2020 Generational Trends Report :

•  89% of all buyers purchased their homes through a real estate agent.
•  The primary method most used to find that agent was referral.
•  All generations of buyers continued to utilize a real estate agent as their top resource for helping them buy a home.

While the internet and popular real estate search websites have made it easier for home buyers to hunt for a house online, most buyers still solicit the help of a real estate agent to find the right home and negotiate the price and purchase.

Also, many realtors are experts in their particular housing market, so for buyers who are searching in a specific location, a real estate agent may be able to offer valuable insights that might not be revealed online.

7. Exploring Different Neighborhoods

By researching neighborhoods where they might want to purchase a property (both in-person and online), home buyers can get a better sense of what living in their future community could look like.

Many real estate websites provide comparable listings to help determine a reasonable offer amount in a given neighborhood.

Check out housing market
trends, hot neighborhoods,
and demographics by city.

They may also highlight nearby school ratings, price and tax history, commute times, and neighborhood stats like home value fluctuations or predictions, and walkability ratings.

All of this information can help paint a picture of life in the area a home buyer chooses to settle in. Doing a deep dive into a desired neighborhood can help inform a more realistic decision on where to buy a house.

8. Kicking off the House Hunt

Once the neighborhoods are whittled down, the loan is secured, the real estate agent has been signed, and the savings are set aside, the official house hunt can begin.

For 55% of buyers, the most difficult step in the home buying process was finding the right property. Some had to undergo a considerable process before making the final purchase, with most searching for 10 weeks and seeing a median of nine homes first.

With the help of a trusted real estate agent and a housing market with adequate inventory, most home buyers can begin to book showings, attend open houses, and formally put down an offer on a house they like.

In particularly “hot” markets, houses could receive several offers, so home buyers might want to be prepared to go through the bidding process with a few properties before they get to that glorious final sale.

Home buyers might wish they could snap their fingers and move into their dream house as quickly and painlessly as possible. While that is not realistic, SoFi can help simplify the mortgage loan process.

Without any hidden fees or prepayment penalties, a SoFi home loan could be the right option for many homebuyers. For questions about buying a home, SoFi offers home loan resources, guides, and tips to steer future homeowners through the process. There are a lot of steps, but managing them can be easier with a helping hand.

Learn more about how SoFi home loans make the mortgage process as quick and painless as possible.



External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’swebsite .
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Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.

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Source: sofi.com

Can I Get a Mortgage With Student Loan Debt?

Do you remember your college experience? More Americans than ever before are attending college or university, but there’s just one little cloud that rains on that parade: debt.

The unfortunate reality is that many young Americans who are beginning to think about buying a house or starting a family are still on the hook for at least some portion of their student loans. This has the potential to make buying a house difficult, and many analysts believe that this has contributed to the overall decline in millennial homeownership. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to limit the impact your student loan debt has on your housing prospects.

Buying a house is definitely possible, even with student loan debt! Today, we’ll talk about how student loan debt affects the home buying process, and how a supportive loan company like Homie Loans™ can help you overcome these potential obstacles.

The Challenges of Getting a Mortgage With Student Loan Debt and How to Overcome Them

There are many reasons why having a large chunk of student loan debt can be a challenge during the home buying process. Primarily, it has to do with debt, savings, and your credit score.

Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio (also known as DTI) is a metric that lenders use to evaluate your finances when they’re looking at offering you a home loan. It can be calculated by taking all your incoming money (salary, investments, etc.) and comparing that figure to your total existing debts. The higher your DTI ratio, the riskier a lender will consider your loan.

Your student loan debt is considered in your DTI by looking at your monthly payment or your total outstanding balance. Remember, student loan debts have different requirements, standards, and deadlines. A certain percentage of those, no matter their circumstances, will be counted toward your DTI.

Cut Down on Debt

You don’t need to be entirely debt-free to buy a home, but you should definitely have your debt under control, and preferably under the standard 28% debt-to-income ratio. To lower your DTI, you can either look for ways to elevate your income, or you can pay off some debt – preferably both! When paying off debt, look for the debt with the highest monthly interest rate, and pay that off first.

Some people choose to refinance their student loans, which is a way to negotiate a new monthly payment and a corresponding lower interest rate. If you can refinance responsibly, this is a good action to take.

The Price of a Down Payment

Even if you do have a good DTI, chances are it’s more difficult to save when you have to put money towards your student loan debt every month. Every $100 that gets repaid is $100 that you can’t put into your own savings. Many people with student loan debt find saving challenging for this reason.

Look Into a Loan

There are a lot of things that younger buyers don’t know about the home buying process. One of the most important things to realize is that in some circumstances, there are loans available that can help with either your down payment, or your mortgage. These programs include down payment grants (great for lower-income buyers), forgivable second mortgages, and matched savings programs.

Your Credit Score

Another way that student loan debt affects your ability to buy a house is through your credit score. If you haven’t made your payments on time, or if you’re relying on multiple credit cards and lines of credit to make ends meet while paying off your debts, this will negatively affect your credit score. The lower your credit score, the harder it will be to get a good interest rate on your mortgage.

Improve Your Credit Score

There are a lot of factors that go into determining your credit score. Healthy financial habits will help keep your credit score high. These include paying off debts on time and using a smaller percentage of the credit that’s available to you. It’s also a good idea to avoid new debts like a car loan if you’re planning on buying a house in the near future. It will also help you to pay your payments on time, this is an easy way build credit.

Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage in Advance

Another great way to make the home buying process easier, especially if you have student loans, is if you get pre-approved for a mortgage in advance. That way, you’ll know your budget going in, and there’s no rush to secure a mortgage in the middle of the house-hunting process.

When you’re pre-approved, it can also help sway sellers, because they know you’re serious about your purchase and have taken the time to come in with all your documentation ready to go.

Make the Home Buying Process Easier With Homie Loans

Having some student loan debt doesn’t mean the housing market is closed to you. With some careful financial planning, you can continue paying off your student loan while searching for your dream home.

If you want a partner in the process that can also offer substantial savings on a great mortgage rate, try Homie Loans. You can take advantage of our great rates even if you’re not buying with a Homie agent! If we can’t offer you the best locked loan rate, we’ll give you $500 in cash.*

Read more about preparing your finances for homeownership!

Tips for Affording Your First Home
Common Home Buying Fears and How to Overcome Them
What Are Closing Costs?

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Source: homie.com

Mortgage vs. Cash: Which Is the Better Option When Buying a Home?

Last updated on November 21st, 2020

It’s been about eight months since my last mortgage match-up, so let’s give it a whirl again.

Today, the focus will be on taking out a mortgage versus simply using cash when purchasing a home.

Of course, it’s not that simple for the majority of the population to throw a few hundred thousand dollars (or more) down on a property. So for many, this won’t even be an option.

But it’s worth visiting regardless to see how even the very rich often opt for a home loan when they’ve got plenty of cash to spare.

Buying a Home with Cash Has Its Benefits

cash vs mortgage

  • Cash buyers are more attractive to home sellers
  • The home buying process can be a lot faster without a mortgage
  • Don’t need to abide by any mortgage lender’s rules
  • No property restrictions or inspections to worry about
  • Don’t have to pay interest to the bank for several decades

First let’s talk about buying a home with cash. This is almost certainly the favored approach of real estate investors and perhaps the mega-rich, though billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg still take out mortgages.

And investing gurus like Warren Buffett think the low mortgage rates are a great deal…

But for a large swath of the population, this either/or question doesn’t even get any consideration because most of us can’t afford to buy a home (or even a small condo) with cash.

Still, there are some advantages to buying a home with cash as opposed to taking out a mortgage.

The most obvious is that you don’t pay any interest when you buy with cash. That’s right, no mortgage, no interest payments.

Additionally, you don’t have to make any payments to principal either, seeing that you own your home free and clear right off the bat.

However, that doesn’t mean you won’t have recurring costs. You’ll still need to pay homeowner’s insurance (unless you’re really brave), along with property taxes and possibly HOA dues depending upon where the property is located.

The insurance thing becomes optional when you own your property outright. Not so if you have a mortgage because you don’t really own your home. Your lender does, until that loan is actually paid off in full.

Another plus to paying with cash is the negotiating power you gain when making an offer. If you’re going up against some other would-be buyers that need to finance the purchase, you’ll have the upper hand in pretty much every situation.

Sure, you could get outbid by another buyer willing to offer more for the home, but your cash offer should be king if all else is equal. And it may still be king even if you offer less than the competition.

Once your offer gets accepted, you won’t have to worry about dealing with a bank or mortgage lender. That means it doesn’t matter if your credit score is in bad shape, or if you don’t have the necessary income to qualify for a mortgage. Or if you’re a foreign national who might otherwise have difficulty getting a loan.

There is still a process to purchasing the home, but you can cut out the middleman, otherwise known as the lender. And that means you won’t have to pay lender fees, including a costly loan origination fee, or lender’s title insurance, underwriting fees, and so on.

But you might not want to skimp on the appraisal, even though it’s not a requirement. It’ll buy you some time to determine if the house is in good shape and worth what you agreed to pay.

That lack of a mortgage also means you’ll be able to move in sooner, or rent out the property sooner. Speaking of renting it out, you won’t have to worry about occupancy issues, or a higher mortgage rate because it’s an investment property.

Taking Out a Mortgage, Even If You Don’t Have To

  • A lot of very rich people take out mortgage loans
  • Not because they have to, but because they know home loans are cheap
  • Instead of tying up all their money in a single property
  • They put their hard-earned cash to work in other investments that can yield better returns

On the other hand, there’s the traditional approach to buying a home, with the help of a mortgage.

This is kind of the default option more out of necessity than preference. As I alluded to earlier, most of us can’t afford to buy real estate with cash. We need a mortgage to get the deal done.

In fact, many Americans need a sizable mortgage to get the job done, with practically zero-down FHA loans a popular choice for a large number of prospective home buyers.

So like it or not, a mortgage is often just a fact of life.

The number one downside to a mortgage is all that interest. On a $200,000 loan set at 4.5%, the total amount of interest due over 30 years is close to $165,000. Y

eah, you pay nearly double what you agreed to pay for the home. Sounds pretty rough, doesn’t it?

But like I said, this is the price of not having a substantial amount of money to put down. Along with that, you also have to pay a bunch of lender fees, which can certainly add up.

If you put down a very small amount, you’ll also be subject to paying mortgage insurance premiums, possibly for life if you go with an FHA loan and never refinance.

Oh, and you don’t just get a mortgage. You need to qualify for a mortgage, and not everyone qualifies for countless reasons. Having the lender pry into your personal and financial life may also be extremely annoying and frustrating, but if you need hundreds of thousands of dollars, they’ve earned that right.

The good news is that you write off that mortgage interest as long as you itemize deductions and they exceed the standard deduction.  So some of that interest can result in a lower tax bill each April, which lessens the blow pretty significantly.

Additionally, mortgage rates are dirt cheap compared to just about every other type of loan out there. Yes, you pay a lot of interest, but it’s only because the loan amounts are so large.

That means there’s a decent chance you can invest the money that would be locked up in your home (if you paid cash) at a better return elsewhere.

Having a mortgage on your home also means you’ve got more liquidity and less at risk, assuming something goes wrong.

Imagine something devastating happens to your home that isn’t covered by insurance. Would you rather have 20% invested, or 100%?

Also consider the recent housing bust – a lot of homeowners were able to walk away from their homes relatively unscathed because they didn’t have much invested.

Those who purchased all-cash could cut their losses, but they couldn’t walk away without losing a lot of money. There’s also that old saying about putting all your eggs in one basket.

If you don’t have money in other places, it certainly shouldn’t all be tied up in your home.

[Mortgage affordability calculator]

Can You Get the Best of Both Worlds?

  • Most home buyers put down a small amount of cash and take out a mortgage
  • The sweet spot might be a 20% down payment
  • This allows you to avoid costly mortgage insurance and obtain a low mortgage rate
  • You can invest your excess funds elsewhere or prepay the mortgage if that’s your goal

Absolutely. Most people buy homes with cash and a mortgage, not just either or. In other words, when you put 20% down on a house, you’re paying a decent chunk of cash and financing the rest.

As a result, you avoid the requirement for mortgage insurance, you get a lower rate of interest, and you have an equity investment.

Putting down 20% or more should also put you in a pretty good position when it comes to a bidding war, though an all-cash buyer willing to make a good offer will always have the upper hand.

Additionally, you can always pay your mortgage off earlier than planned seeing that most mortgages don’t have prepayment penalties anymore.

Sure, you will subject yourself to the closing costs associated with a mortgage, along with the qualifying process, but you don’t have to pay off your mortgage over 30 years.

If you decide your money isn’t earning as much as you’d like, you can move more of it towards the mortgage balance.

Got plans to retire in 10 or 15 years? Start prepaying the mortgage faster so you’ll be free and clear by the time you’re on a fixed income.  Or go with a 15-year fixed mortgage instead.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be an either/or discussion. You can make adjustments based on your financial standing as time goes on. With cash, you can also pull equity via a cash out refinance. So both options provide flexibility.

Advantages to Buying a Home with Cash

  • No need to qualify for a mortgage
  • No need to shop for a mortgage
  • No mortgage payments (good if you lose your job or are close to retirement)
  • No interest due
  • No lender fees
  • Homeowner’s insurance isn’t required
  • You don’t need to pay for an appraisal
  • More negotiating power when making an offer
  • Lower purchase price possible
  • Faster closing process
  • Could be a better return for your money than a low-yielding CD or bond
  • Set it and forget it investing (don’t have to manage your investments)
  • Can tap home equity if and when needed
  • Can always sell or take out a mortgage
  • Less hassle overall (one less thing to manage)
  • Sense of security because it’s your home!

Disadvantages to Buying a Home with Cash

  • Most of us don’t have the money required to buy a home with cash
  • Mortgage rates are a cheap source of financing
  • Real estate is an illiquid asset (not easy or free to sell)
  • The property could lose substantial value
  • You could lose a lot of money if your home is destroyed and not covered by insurance
  • You miss out on the mortgage interest deduction
  • Your return on investment might be poor relative to other options
  • Poor diversification if a lot of your money is in one single property
  • House rich and cash poor if savings get depleted

Advantages to Buying a Home with a Mortgage

  • Mortgage rates are very low
  • Mortgage interest is tax deductible
  • Inflation should make future monthly payments “cheaper”
  • You only need to bring in a small down payment
  • More cash on hand for anything else
  • Getting a mortgage isn’t really that difficult
  • A mortgage can actually improve your credit score
  • You can prepay your mortgage whenever you want in most cases
  • You can invest your money elsewhere for a better return
  • Your money is more liquid
  • Forced savings each month
  • Less risk if something happens to your home or if values drop

Disadvantages to Buying a Home with a Mortgage

  • Tons of mortgage interest must be paid
  • 30 years of monthly payments (maybe less, but still a long time!)
  • You need to shop for a mortgage
  • You need to get approved for a mortgage
  • You could get declined
  • More (lender) costs associated with a mortgage
  • Closing process more work and more time
  • You may buy more house than you should (get in over your head)
  • Harder to sell the property if little or no equity
  • You can lose your home if you fall behind on payments
  • You don’t actually own your home

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

10 First Time Home Buyer Mistakes To Avoid

Buying a home of your own may make good long-term financial sense, as it is usually cheaper to own than to rent in the long term. However, buying a place for the first time is not without its challenges and problems.

And if you don’t do your homework or your due diligence before buying your house, you may end up paying too much for the property, or buying a property with all kinds of problems.

In no particular order, here are 10 common first time home buyer mistakes and how to avoid them.

If you are interested in comparing the best mortgage rates through LendingTree click here. It’s completely free.

>> MORE: 5 Signs You’re Not Ready to Buy a House

First Time Home Buyer Mistakes To Avoid

1. Not knowing your credit score before you start the home-buying process.

A big factor in determining whether you’ll be qualified for a mortgage largely depends on your credit score. Obviously, the higher your credit score, the better is your chance to get pre-approved for a mortgage loan.

However, fist time home buyers often make the mistakes of completely ignoring their credit score.

So, before you start looking for a home, it makes sense to review your credit report to know where you stand. If you have a not so stellar credit score, take steps to improve it.

Related Resources

  • Get Pre-qualified for a Mortgage Online Now
  • Compare Mortgage Rates All in One Place
  • Check Your Credit Score For Free

Your credit report should be the first place to start. Your credit report will list all the “bad stuff” that you’ll need to work on. For example if you have too much credit card debts, try to pay them off.

Click here to get a free copy of your credit report.

2. Failure to research the neighborhood.

“One of the important aspects of buying a home is learning all you can about the neighborhood. Those who live there already are a great resource,” says Bill Gassett of Max Real Estate Exposure.

Indeed, the neighborhood might look “ok” to you during the day, but “bad” at night. There might be a bar at the corner where there is a lot of noise at a certain time of the night.

You might find later, after you purchase the house, that the neighborhood is ridden with crimes. This potential for surprise is why you must research.
So, never buy a home without thoroughly understanding the overall vibe of the neighborhood.

Related: Due Diligence for Home Buyers: What You Need to Check

3. Not seeking professional advice.

Buying a home is a major financial commitment. You’re taking a significant amount of money in the form of a loan to finance the property. Every month you’ll be required to pay a certain amount of mortgage. Plus, you may have other debts that you’re paying on a monthly basis, like a car loan, student loan, etc…

Therefore, it makes sense to speak with a financial advisor before you start the home buying process. A financial advisor can review your financial situations and help you determine whether buying a home can impact your finances.

Use this financial advisor matching tool to find financial advisors in your area.

4. Not getting pre-approved for a mortgage.

Many people, especially first time home buyers, start looking for homes before they even meet with a mortgage lender. They visit properties, find the right home, and fall in love with it. But they realize later that they will not get the place, either because they can’t afford it or because they don’t have a pre-approval letter.

Because you might be competing with other buyers shopping for the exact same house, it makes sense to speak with a mortgage lender about getting pre-approved for a home loan.

Plus, having a pre-approval letter tells the seller that you’re serious and you are able to finance the property.

>> MORE: Get Pre-approved for a Mortgage.

5. Overlooking foreclosure homes.

Many first time home buyers when they’re buying a place is usually to live in. However, situations may arise (whether it’s divorce or you’re moving to another state) where you have to sell your home. But why not make a profit along the way.

And one of the best ways to maximize your chances to earn a good profit if you do decide to sell your house is to buy the property at foreclosure. Properties in foreclosures are a better value than a conventional purchase. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not risky.

Foreclosed properties are sold ‘as is’ and some may therefore have serious defects. But if you’re willing to face the risks, and have extra cash to go towards repairs, you may earn a good return on your investment.

So because you never know what your situation may be in the future, you should not overlook foreclosure properties.

6. You only get one mortgage rate quote.

Some first time home buyers unfortunately make the mistake of working with only one mortgage lender. This is a big mistake that can cost you a significant amount of money over the life of your loan. In fact, mortgage rates vary from lender to lender.

So, when you shop around for several lenders, you have the opportunity to compare several and different rates. Thus, you get to choose the best rates, which could save you thousands in mortgage interests.

Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. It’s completely FREE.

7. Not taking advantage of FHA loan.

Gone are the days where you’re required to put 20% down payment on a house. Nowadays, you can make a down payment as low as 3.5% of the property purchase price, thanks to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

Now, it’s better if you have 20% down payment, as you can pay your loan faster and have more equity in your home. And also by putting 20% down payment, you can avoid paying private mortgage insurance. But the reality is that, not too many first-time home buyers can come up with all that cash.

In this case you should not overlook the FHA loan program. In fact, “FHA loans are pretty desirable for most home buyers, because of the favorable terms they offer, including small down payments, competitive interest rates and lower closing costs than standard mortgages,” says Gassett.

He explains that “you need to have a credit score of 580 or above to get the best terms of the loan, including a down payment as little as 3.5%.” If your credit is lower, he continues, “you will need a 10% down payment.”

>> MORE: How to Save for a Down Payment on a House

When you’re renting, you’re only paying the monthly rent. That’s it. However, as a home owner, you will be responsible when things need to be fixed, like changing a heater. And if you don’t have extra money saved up, you might find yourself in a hole.

So to avoid this mistake, try to save as much money as possible. This way, you can be prepared when emergencies present themselves.

9. Applying for new credit before closing on the house.

A first time home buyer might get pre-approved for a mortgage loan, and to learn later, just before closing, that they did not get the loan. Or that they found that the mortgage rate and fees they had received in the pre-approval letter are changed.

That usually occurs when those home buyers apply for new credit between the approval and closing period. Indeed, when you apply for new credit, it not only lowers your credit score (because a new inquiry is added), but it also increases your debt.

And mortgage lenders also based their decisions on your debt-to-income ratio. So, before you add on new credit accounts or loan, wait until after closing .

Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. It’s completely FREE.

10. Overlooking state and federal housing programs.

Another first time home buyer mistake is a failure to look into their local government agencies to see if they have any first time home buyer programs for which they might qualify. If you don’t look, you’re just leaving money on the table.

There are several first time home buyer programs designed specifically for first-time buyers. Depending on your state, these programs assist with down payment, repair costs, closing costs, etc… All you need to do is to check your city or state housing programs to see if you qualify.

In summary, being a first time home buyer is quite exciting. But it is an expensive and daunting process. Luckily, if you follow the tips and avoid the mistakes mentioned above, the process will be much smoother.

Working With The Right Financial Advisor.

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

Related resources

Get Pre-qualified For A Mortgage Online Now

Compare Mortgage Rates All in One Place

Check Your Credit Score For Free

Source: growthrapidly.com

5 Ways Home Buyers Make Their Agent’s Job Harder

Not only do these behaviors ruin your agent’s day, but they can ultimately work against you, too.

Buying a home can be a long and challenging process. It’s a big, expensive and infrequent transaction that can cause lots of stress and anxiety.

Some buyers take years to complete a purchase, and they require a lot of hand-holding and make lots of requests. Others are more self-sufficient, and only bring in the agent from time to time.

Good real estate agents can accommodate any buyer at any time — as they should. We’re in the service business, and I always say the customer is always right.

But let’s face it: All buyers (and all agents) are not created equal, and since buyers don’t pay for the agent’s time, there can sometimes be a disconnect.

Here are five buyer behaviors that can make life tough for agents.

Planning a (secret) price swap

It’s one thing for a buyer to ask a seller for a credit if the final home inspection uncovers a problem. But after you have a deal, planning to negotiate the price down without telling your agent is a big no-no. It adds stress and ill will among all parties involved, during what could already be a difficult transaction.

It’s better to be upfront about your intentions. If the deal is not meant to be, it’s better to not go down the path at all.

Making unjustified lowball offers

The seller’s property is on the market for $400,000, and it’s worth close to that, based on recent comparable sales. And yet, a potential buyer offers $300,000 and won’t budge on the price.

It’s not because the home is grossly overpriced or there’s something seriously wrong with it, but simply because the buyer wants a bargain.

Unjustified lowball offers can be a waste of time for everyone involved. The seller isn’t going to swallow $100,000 for no reason, even if the property has been on the market a while.

In fact, a lowball offer will likely just help the listing agent get a small price reduction, thus opening the window of opportunity to another buyer.

It’s certainly okay to offer less than the asking price, but be realistic.

Requiring too much during the showing

It’s typical for a potential buyer to view a property during an open house, then ask for a private showing — even two or three times. That’s par for the course.

However, it’s frustrating when a buyer arrives to a showing with a designer, architect, contractor or just some friends, then spends an hour or two at the home checking out and measuring each room. This is counterproductive, particularly if you do it at one home after another and never make an offer.

Some buyers have even been known to bring their psychic, who, after making a big splash with tarot cards and numerology charts, declares that the property has “negative energy” and isn’t a good fit, mainly based on the numbers in the property address. Did the psychic really need to see the property in person to figure that out?

Buyers typically give themselves an opportunity to gauge their own reactions to a property before bringing in friends, family or hired consultants. To go over a home inch-by-inch on the first or second visit is often a waste of everyone’s time.

Demanding loads of attention early on

Some people are just beginning to think about buying a home. That’s fine; buyers have to start somewhere.

Unfortunately, sometimes buyers are a year or two away from being ready to pull the trigger, yet they make a lot of demands on the agent’s time.

Asking an agent to research city building permits on a house just because you’re curious — and even though the property doesn’t fit your requirements — is probably not a fair request.

Agents can’t be as effective with their active clients if they’re spending lots of time researching tax records or city permits for clients who are years away from being ready to purchase.

Changing your mind repeatedly

It’s fine to shift course based on what you learn during the home shopping process. This is a common part of the buyer evolution process.

Many buyers set out for X but end up with Y after learning the market and seeing where their dollar goes. By the time you’re ready to start making offers and moving in the direction of acquiring a home, you will be laser focused.

But if you find yourself moving around and you’re uncertain about the object of your search, it’s possible you just aren’t ready to buy. That’s fine. Take your time and learn the market.

The home-buying process is a journey, and a good local agent, brought in at the right time, can add so much value. Be mindful that agents work for free until a buyer or seller closes. Agents should be leveraged as a huge resource — when the right time comes.

Related:

Originally published May 23, 2014.

Source: zillow.com

First-Time Home Buyer Confessions: ‘How We Beat 32 Offers and Got the House’

First-time home buyers have it harder today than ever. Caught between high real estate prices, low housing inventory, and a pandemic that has many of us nervous about leaving our house, home shoppers might be wondering: Is it even possible to buy right now—and how?

If you’re curious about what it takes to purchase property in today’s marketplace, look no further than this new series, “First-Time Home Buyer Confessions.” We’ll profile home buyers who’ve successfully navigated a variety of obstacles to close a real estate deal during these challenging times. We’ll also hear what they’ve learned in the process that might inspire other hopeful first-time buyers to get out there and follow in their footsteps.

Our first tale from the trenches comes from Julie Migliacci, a virtual events planner near Boston, and her husband, Mark, a banker who specializes in affordable housing. In June, they beat out 32 other offers (yes, 32!) and purchased a 1,627-square-foot, three-bedroom house in Wakefield, a Boston suburb. Here’s how they pulled it off, along with the many mistakes and lessons learned along the way.

The Migliaccis paid $50,000 over asking price for their first home.
The Migliaccis paid $50,000 over asking price for their first home.

realtor.com

Location: Wakefield, MA

House details: 1,627 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths

List price: $599,000

Price paid: $650,000

What made you decide to buy a house in the middle of a pandemic?

Three years ago, Mark and I moved from New York City to Boston and rented a 900-square-foot apartment in Belmont with our two daughters, Chloe and Rose.

We’d always known we wanted to buy a home. But once COVID-19 hit and we were all working and schooling from home, our tiny apartment felt like nothing anymore.

At one point I looked at my husband and said, “I love you, but I really don’t like being with you right now.” So we agreed to put our house hunt in hyperdrive.

The Migliaccis' rental, a second-floor apartment in Belmont, MA, was affordable enough that they were able to save to buy a house.
The Migliaccis’ rental, a second-floor apartment in Belmont, MA, was affordable enough that they were able to save to buy a house.

Julie Migliacci

How much did you put down on the house—and how’d you save for it?

We put down 20%. We’d been saving for three years. We’d made sure our rent was low enough that we could really sock a lot away. We could have paid higher rent for a bigger place, but wanted every extra cent we had going to our house fund.

The Migliacci daughters, Chloe and Rose
The Migliacci daughters, Chloe and Rose

Julie Migliacci

What were you looking for in a house?

COVID-19 definitely shifted what we were looking for in a home. We always had a goal of finding a place with about 1,700 square feet. But now I found myself wanting a yard more than ever. I’m a city kid, so originally I never thought that was something I needed. I also wanted to find a house that was close to the city, in case we ever needed to commute back in.

The back of the home with a large yard.
The back of the home with a large yard.

realtor.com

How many homes did you see in person?

Starting in April, over the course of five weeks, we visited about 10 homes—alone, in masks, with plenty of hand sanitizer of course. With COVID-19, there were no open houses.

How many offers did you make before you had one accepted?

We put in offers on five different houses.

Why do you think your first four offers didn’t pan out?

At the beginning, we had this HGTV idea of what a home-buying experience would be like. We thought we’d go $10,000 above asking and be fine. But what we realized is we weren’t even in the running. It was a waste of time and paper. I was surprised at how competitive the market is right now because of COVID-19. We kept making offers on houses after seeing them for just a few minutes, and we still kept getting outbid. I guess you could say our learning curve was steep.

Every time we got denied, we asked who won the house instead. The offers that kept winning were those that waived all contingencies. So we did what everyone tells you not to do: We waived the financing contingency and the home inspection in order to even have a shot. We crossed our fingers, read all of the disclosures very carefully, and hoped it would all work out.

How did you know this house was the one?

We thought this house was nuts! It has a two-story rock formation out front that, at first glance, looked like a death trap for my two kids.

The rock formation at the Migliacci home
The rock formation at the Migliacci home

Julie Migliacci

At the time we put in an offer, we’d actually had an offer in on another house as well. That house checked all the boxes, but needed a bit more work. This house, despite the rock, was move-in ready.

As we waited to hear back on these offers, we actually tried to talk ourselves out of the house. We kept saying, “It’s an empty-nester home, not a home for a family.” And then, of course, that’s the house we ultimately got. We’re really happy, though. It’s definitely our dream home now.

The Migliacci family all smiled when they first entered this home.
The Migliacci family all smiled when they first entered this home.

Julie Migliacci

How’d you manage to beat out 32 other offers on this house?

I don’t know honestly! In addition to waiving contingencies, we were very aggressive with our price point, offering $50,000 over the asking price. And that wasn’t even the highest offer!

It may have also helped that I wrote a very heartfelt letter to the sellers. I wrote letters to every house we put an offer on, where I described a tiny detail that I thought would resonate with the owners. For the house we ultimately bought, I wrote a letter where I joked that our whole family smiled when we first walked into the home, except for our fish. My husband was against using that line, but I think it worked!

Their heartfelt offer letter may have helped them get the house.
Their heartfelt offer letter may have helped them get the house.

Julie Migliacci

What surprised you about the home-buying process?

I think it’s crazy that we’d see a house for five or 10 minutes before deciding to put in an offer. With houses staying on the market for a matter of days or even hours, we knew we had to act as fast as possible.

Yet after our offer was accepted, the process slowed down, a lot. We closed in 30 days. I was surprised that it was considered lightning-fast. I wanted to move right away! It takes a few hours to buy a car.

Although they now have a lot more space, they still sometimes work at the same table—old habits are hard to break!
Although they now have a lot more space, they still sometimes work at the same table—old habits are hard to break!

Julie Migliacci

What’s your advice for aspiring home buyers?

If you decide to buy during COVID-19, I’d recommend doing as much research as possible. Get to know the neighborhood. Because once you find a house you like, you’ll likely have to jump on it as soon as possible.

Some markets right now are aggressive, and if you aren’t ready for that, then it’s going to take you a long time to find the right home. So be ready for a lot of heartache. If you’re crazy enough to be a buyer right now, then that must mean you’re motivated—which is good!

The newest member of the Migliacci household seems to like his new digs, too.
The newest member of the Migliacci household seems to like his new digs, too.

Julie Migliacci

Source: realtor.com