Our Real Estate Blog
If you’re a first-time buyer, odds are you’ve never seen or heard much about mortgage applications. However, for something as important as buying a home, it pays off to go into the process knowing what to expect.
Mortgage applications aren’t all that complicated in and of themselves. Most of the time, your chosen lender will walk you through the process and answer any questions that arise. However, complications do arise when it comes time to provide documentation on things like your income.
To make things easier for your first application, I’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions that first-time buyers often have about their mortgage application process.
Will applying for a mortgage hurt my credit score?
Mortgage lenders will run a credit inquiry to help determine your lending eligibility. There are two types of credit inquiries: hard and soft. A soft inquiry is a quick credit check that doesn’t affect your credit score. A hard inquiry, on the other hand, does. This means your score will be lowered slightly for a few months and then will bounce back.
Mortgage lenders run both types of inquiries. For quick, pre-qualifications, lenders typically run a soft inquiry. Then, as you progress through the approval process, they’re run a detailed credit report (hard inquiry).
What information should I have available?
Lenders will ask you for various documents. The most common things they will ask for include proof of income in the form of W-2 forms from the previous year and your most recent pay stub. They will also require a record of your other debts, including student loans, auto loans, credit card debt, and any other outstanding debt that you owe. Finally, they will ask for an inventory of your assets. This could include investments, properties, auto titles, and more.
What if I don’t work a conventional job?
People who are self-employed or have unconventional income can still qualify for a loan and will still be required to show proof of income. Lenders may ask for Form 1099 records, tax returns, or any other record or proof of income you have available.
How long does it take to complete an application?
Mortgage applications can be completed as quickly as you gather the required documentation. However, there’s more to getting approved for a mortgage than filling out an application. There will be time needed to process the application, and underwrite your mortgage. This entire process typically takes between 30 and 45 days.
Is it safe to apply for a mortgage online?
Most lenders allow you to start the application process online and their online portals are typically secure. Make sure you check your browser window to ensure that the connection to the site is secured, and you should have nothing to worry about.
Keep in mind that most online applications are designed to get you prequalified and on your way to getting a mortgage. So, if you want to avoid getting calls from the lender, you might not want to enter any data until you know you’re interested in borrowing at this time.
To succeed in the real estate market, a home seller must understand what it takes to promote his or her residence to potential homebuyers consistently. However, transforming this dream into a reality can be exceedingly difficult, particularly for a home seller who is listing a house for the first time.
So what does it take for a home seller to succeed in any housing market, at any time? To find out, let's consider the home seller's perspective and look at three steps that home sellers can take to get the best results during the property selling journey.
1. Examine the Housing Market
Today's housing market may change tomorrow. As such, an informed home seller must go above and beyond the call of duty to understand real estate market trends. By doing so, a home seller can map out his or her property selling journey accordingly.
Take a look at the prices of available homes that are similar to your own. That way, you can better understand how your residence stacks up against the competition.
Don't forget to check out the prices of recently sold houses in your city or town as well. With this housing market data, you can find out whether you're preparing to enter a seller's or buyer's market.
2. Perform a Home Appraisal
You might think that your home will sell just days after it reaches the real estate market. Conversely, most homebuyers might disagree, especially if you failed to maintain your house's interior and exterior over the years.
Ultimately, a home appraisal allows you to learn about your house's strengths and weaknesses. This appraisal enables a property inspector to review your home's interior and exterior. Then, the inspector will provide you with a report that you can use to see whether your residence is housing market-ready.
If you find that your home is in need of serious improvement, there is no need to worry. Instead, you can dedicate the necessary time and resources to upgrade your residence's interior and exterior before you list your house.
On the other hand, if a property inspector gives your home positive marks across the board, you may be ready to add your residence to the real estate market right away.
3. Meet with a Real Estate Agent
No home seller should be forced to enter the housing market alone. Fortunately, you can hire a real estate agent to guide you along each stage of the property selling journey.
A real estate agent understands what it takes to sell a home in any housing market – without exception. He or she will set up home showings and open houses, promote your residence to the right groups of homebuyers and negotiate with property buyers on your behalf. As a result, you can streamline the process of getting the best price for your residence.
Want to add your house to the real estate market? Now that you know all about the home seller's perspective, you should have no trouble optimizing the value of your home.
Sure, it's possible to find a home with a fully equipped exercise gym, an Olympic size swimming pool, or a couple tennis courts on the premises, but who wants to spend that kind of money! Fortunately, there are house features you can look for that will help you stay in shape without having to win the lottery first! Here are a few ideas to consider when searching for the ideal home:
- Proximity to a park: Whether you're looking for a home in the city or nearby suburbia, most communities have bike paths or public parks where you can walk, jog, inline skate, bicycle, take your dog for a stroll, or play tennis. Parks with playgrounds are also a great resource for keeping your kids entertained, physically active, and engaged. Having a park or walking trail located within a mile of your house is ideal because if it's convenient, you'll be more inclined to go there frequently. While it may not be at the top of your house-hunting "wish list," proximity to a park, nature preserve, or walking trail can be instrumental in helping you and your family stay healthier and more energetic. Doctor-approved, regular exercise is also a proven way to counteract the effects of stress, elevate your mood, and maintain a healthy weight.
- Pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods: One of the advantages of buying a home in a quiet neighborhood is that it offers a safe and relaxing environment for taking daily walks. Going for walks near your house can also be a good way to get to know your neighbors and check out the latest yard sales. Although sidewalks can be a nice feature for homeowners who enjoy neighborhood walks, quiet streets with mostly local traffic is all you really need for favorable walking conditions.
- A finished basement or extra room: The problem with putting an exercise machine in your bedroom or even the family room is that, sooner or later, you're going to get sick of looking at it! Until somebody creates a treadmill, exercise bicycle, or elliptical machine that has aesthetic appeal as well as functionality, it's never going to complement your decor! More often than not, exercise machines are an eyesore and a source of clutter. The solution is to create a dedicated exercise space in either a finished basement, a rec room, or a spare bedroom. Half of a two-car garage can sometimes provide a good area for weights and exercise machines, too, but that's only if you're willing to park your second car in the driveway.
Buying your first home is probably one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your life. But, it does come with its advantages. Among them are tax breaks and deductions that you can take advantage of to save money if you play your cards right.
In today’s post, I’m going to cover some of the tax breaks and deductions that first-time homeowners should seek out this tax season to help them lower their tax bill.
While earning points is a good thing on the basketball court, it can be a financial drain on a mortgage. Mortgage points are what buyers pay to the lender to secure their loan. They’re usually given as percentage points of the total loan amount.
If you pay these points with your closing costs, then they are deductible. Taxpayers who itemize deductions on their IRS Form 1040 can typically deduct all of the points they paid in a year, with the exception of some high-income taxpayers whose itemized deductions are limited.
If you’re one of the many people who made a down payment of less than 20% on your home, odds are that you’re going to be stuck with PMI, or private mortgage insurance, until you pay off at least 20% of the loan balance.
The good news is that homebuyers who purchased their home in the year 2007 and after can deduct their PMI premiums. However, the state on premium insurance deductibles is something that frequently comes up in Congress, so homeowners should ensure that these deductions are still valid when filing their taxes.
Mortgage interest accounts for the biggest deduction for the average homeowner. When you receive your Form 1098 from your lender, you can deduct the total amount of interest you’ve paid during the year.
Another deductible that shouldn’t be overlooked by first-time buyers is local property taxes. Save the records for any property taxes you pay so that you can deduct them during tax season.
Home energy tax credits
Some states are offering generous tax credits for homeowners who make home improvements that save energy. There are a number of improvements you might qualify for, including things like insulation and roofs, as well as photovoltaic (PV) solar panels.
Many first-time buyers withdraw from an IRA account to be able to make a larger down payment on their home or to pay for closing costs. In most other cases, withdrawing from an IRA will count as taxable income. However, if your IRA withdrawal is used toward a down payment or closing costs, the tax penalty is waived.
Keep these tax breaks and deductions in mind this tax season to help you save money and get a larger refund.
Pressure washing your home can be an excellent way to increase curb appeal on a budget. A good pressure washer can be used to clean vinyl siding, windows, driveways, decks and sidewalks.
You can buy, rent, or hire a pressure washer. And, there are a number of different types of machines available. So, in this post, I’m going to give you some tips on pressure washing your home to increase curb appeal and discuss which option might be the best for you.
Buying a pressure washer
If your next move is to a new home with vinyl siding and you plan on living there for several years. You may find that buying a pressure washer is the best option for you.
Many pressure washers pay for themselves after 3-5 uses. However, high end washers can be much more expensive.
The first thing to consider when buying a pressure washer is to determine what you’ll need it for and how often you’ll use it.
If you have a deck, sidewalk, or driveway that sit underneath pine trees, you can bet that they’re going to get dirty frequently.
If you find yourself wanting a washer more than once a year, it’s likely a safe investment.
Gas vs electric
Consumer pressure washers come in two main types: gas and electric. Gas-powered washers tend to be stronger (and therefore more dangerous). They’re also noisy and will require maintenance and tune-ups on occasion.
Electric, on the other hand, are better for less heavy duty cleaning. They tend to be cheaper, at around $100 - $250 each (vs $250 - $500 for a gas-powered washer), but you do sacrifice some power at the expense of cost and convenience.
Regardless of which option you choose, it’s important to understand that pressure washers can be dangerous machines if not used correctly. Be sure to fully follow the instructions on your washer and to never point it at yourself, including shoes, or clothing.
Renting a pressure washer
If you don’t want to deal with storage or maintenance, renting is a great option for a one-time job. Perhaps your next home will be a condo or townhouse where you don’t have to worry about exterior maintenance. In these situations, a one-time rental can be a good option.
Power washers can be rented from many hardware stores, including The Home Depot. But, a quick Google search for your area should bring up multiple places to rent nearby.
Hiring a professional pressure washer
Pressure washing your home, driveway, or deck is a lot easier than scrubbing them with a brush. But, it still takes a good deal of time to go out and pick up the rental, return home, figure out how to set up the washer and then clean your entire home.
To avoid the headache (and the potential safety risks), many homeowners hire a local pressure washing company to do the job.
Hiring a company has its advantages; namely, when you hire a professional (one with good reviews on Yelp and Google), you’re going to get the best results.