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Congratulations, you’ve made the decision to purchase your first home and it’s an exciting time. You’re about to embark on one of the biggest financial decisions you will make in your lifetime so it’s important you understand what it is you’re about to take on. 

 

Information is power and educating yourself on one of the most important purchases beforehand will give you a clear understanding of what you’re getting yourself into before you actually do. The home buying process has a language of its own and taking the time early on to understand will put you ahead of the game when you officially begin your search. Don’t wait until it’s time to sign the contract to educate yourself on the process. 

 

Even if you’ve purchased before, it’s still a good idea to re-educate yourself and discover any new changes that have taken place in the real estate market. It’s a lot to wrap your head around but if you know what to expect then it doesn’t have to be as scary as you may think. 

 

Before you begin the search, it’s a smart idea to start saving early. Having a strong down payment is important. Not only does it lessen the amount of the loan, in some instances, the stronger the down payment, the better your chances of your offer being accepted, especially in such a competitive market. 

 

It’s also a good idea to find out your credit score and clean it up if need be. Credit scores typically range from 300 to 850 and while you don’t need a perfect score to get the best mortgage rates, there are certain credit score requirements you will need to meet in order to obtain a mortgage.  

 

To qualify for the best interest rates, prospective home buyers should aim to have a score of 760 or greater. However, the minimum credit score requirements vary based on the type of loan you’re going for along with who is insuring the loan so speak to your loan officer to find out where you need to be in order to secure funding.

 

Along with putting money aside early and cleaning up your credit, there are additional things to keep in mind as you prepare to jump into the home buying market. 

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How much can you afford? – A common mistake potential buyers make is house-hunting before knowing how much they can actually afford. 

 

“First they should get pre-approved so they know what they can afford,” explains Barbara LaBarca, Director at Brooklyn MLS and Broker/Owner at Coldwell Banker LaBarca.

 

Obtaining a pre-approval ahead of time is essential to the process. Why? Because you need to know the maximum loan amount you qualify for. You don’t want to have your heart set on a house only to find out you’re unable to afford it. Knowing the maximum amount you can spend will allow your agent to search for the homes in your range and save your time from viewing the ones that aren’t.  

 

And second, without a pre-approval in hand, it’s difficult to make an offer. Most real estate agents will not accept an offer to purchase without an accompanying pre-approval, especially in this competitive market. You need to come in strong, and that includes providing the documentation needed to show you can back up the offer you’ve made. 

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Choosing the right realtor – Chemistry is key.  You’re going to spend a lot of time with your agent so you need to mesh. You’re about to embark on one of the biggest purchases of your life and you want to have a trusted real estate agent by your side. Your agent should be able to explain the ins and outs of the home-buying process, be familiar with the area(s) you’re looking to purchase in, as well as understand exactly what it is you’re looking for. Overall, they need to be immersed in the local market.

 

Referrals are a great way to find an agent. Ask around, talk to people you know who have already gone through the real estate process and ask them to give you an honest opinion on what their experience was like. 

 

And mostly importantly, you need to find an agent you can trust. Are they honest, and do they have your best interest at heart? It’s always a good idea to speak to at least three agents before choosing someone to work with. Once you find the right agent, remember to be honest and transparent about what it is you’re looking for so that from day one they can being finding you the right options.

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There is no perfect home – It’s your first home and you’ve more than likely dreamed about the ideal place to put down roots. You don’t want to settle but before you start looking, it’s a good idea to write down the things you want out of your new home. 

 

What are non-negotiables and what are the aspects you can compromise on? No home is perfect and going into your search understanding that will make things easier. 

 

Maybe the home you fall in love with isn’t in the specific neighborhood you had hoped to move to, or the home in your chosen area is a bit smaller than you originally planned. Knowing what your deal breakers are ahead of time will make it easier to accept that the home buying process, and the home you choose, may not be 100% perfect, and that’s ok. 

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Do your homework – Ask yourself, what type of home fits your needs, what are your homeowner goals, and what type of property will best fit your lifestyle. Once you have the answers, start reading up on the different neighborhoods, taxes, schools, local attractions. Anything that is going to impact your life in a direct way once you settle down in a specific home / area, should be a part of your overall search. 

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Understand the buying process – There are a lot of moving parts to the home buying process so having an understanding of each is important. Even before you start looking, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the different financing options available. Being informed could help you save money on interest, fees, and even your down payment. 

 

Knowing the different types of loans available will prove helpful when you sit down with your lender. Along with the conventional mortgage most people know about, other types of loans include the FHA, VA, USDA, Jumbo, and Adjustable Rate Mortgage loans. Each one has its pros and cons, and while they may not be right for everyone, understanding what is available will be helpful to the process.

 

“Besides their mortgage payment, buyers should consider that they will need to pay bills like 

their water bill, electric, and gas,” explains LaBarca. “Taxes and insurance are included in the mortgage.”

 

Choosing the right loan officer is as important as choosing the right agent. After your offer has been accepted, they will become the person you talk to often as they guide you through the next phase of the home buying process.

 

Whether you are obtaining funding directly from your bank, or working with a mortgage broker who serves as the middleman between lenders and borrowers, they should be able to help you in understanding the loan best suited for you, along with providing you the guidance needed when the application process begins. 

 

After you find a home, there are multiple steps (i.e home inspection, appraisal) that need to be completed before moving forward. This is when having a knowledgeable real estate agent is important. They will be able to explain these processes and continue to put your best interest first while these next steps take place. 

 

Buying a home can be overwhelming with many first time buyers dropping out of the market because they believe it’s going to be too difficult. The process does have its challenges, but with the right team in place, it doesn’t have to be as stressful as you envision. Working with the right people and educating yourself right from the beginning can make all the difference. 

As we prepare to wrap up a record-breaking year for real estate, potential homebuyers are wondering if 2022 will bring more of the same.  Despite the fact there were sellers a bit apprehensive to make a move during the pandemic due to economic volatility, the real estate market in 2021 saw a record setting boom.

Sales were at an all-time high while mortgage rates were at an all-time low. The combination of the two created a favorable sellers’ market with tighter competition amongst buyers. With interest rates expected to remain low in the upcoming year, homebuyers looking to make a move in the coming months should start preparing sooner rather than later.

Being one step ahead of the competition is a good idea especially if inventory remains low. While the housing market may pick up with additional inventory right after the new year to satisfy buyer demand, there’s no guarantee.

One way to stay on top of the real estate market is to work closely with an agent. Buying a home is not as simple as we’d like it to be, but the process doesn’t have to be as stressful as you might believe it will be. While buying a home is no simple task, working with a real estate agent offers you overall support each step of the way. Their knowledge of the local market coupled with the skills to get you where you need to be will alleviate some of the stress that often comes along with buying a home.

Before starting the home search and teaming up with a local real estate agent, there are a few questions to ask yourself so that when you do find the right place to call home you’ll be ready to move forward.

Credit Score

Ask yourself, is my credit score in good shape? If it isn’t, take the necessary time needed to boost it up to where it should be before you begin applying for a mortgage. Your credit score is an important factor when it comes to obtaining a loan. Not only does it affect whether you’ll get approved, it also affects the rate at which you’ll qualify.

The higher the score, the more likely you are to get approved at a more favorable interest rate. There are different types of mortgages, each with their own credit score requirements. It’s a good idea to talk with a mortgage lender ahead of time to gather information on all of the various loan requirements. That way, once you obtain your credit score, you’ll know exactly where you stand.

Boost your credit

Once you obtain your credit score, there may be a chance you’ll need to boost it up. Make sure all bills are paid on time and if possible, pay down as much of your existing credit card debt (if not all) before starting the mortgage process.

If you plan to purchase a home in the near future, resist opening any new lines of credit as this will affect your credit score. While the discount many stores offer with the opening of a new credit card may sound enticing, resist the urge to apply. You may save a few dollars today, but long-term this can hurt you when applying for a mortgage.

And lastly, when looking over your credit report, check it carefully for any potential errors. If anything looks incorrect or even suspicious, you’ll want to correct and/or rectify it before starting the mortgage application process.

Save, save, save

With home prices being on the higher end of the spectrum, agents and their buyers are seeing sales for over asking price, whether it be the result of a bidding war or anxious buyers offering higher to secure an acceptance.

To remain in the game in such a competitive market, having a strong down payment shows a strong interest in the property and a commitment to get the deal done. While there isn’t a specific number required to put down, many times buyers hope a larger number will help them get their offer accepted over the competition.

Plenty of lenders will allow you to put down less but on a conventional mortgage you’ll be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI).  While mortgage insurance isn’t a bad thing, it’s an additional expense homebuyers tend to try and avoid especially with home prices being falling on the higher side. Why add to your monthly payment if you don’t have to?

Research different neighborhoods

Before heading out with an agent, conduct a bit of research on home prices in the different neighborhoods. This will give you a better idea of which areas are more feasible. Together with your real estate agent you can create a game plan and focus on the properties that fit within your budget. There’s nothing worse than falling in love with a home that exceeds your finances.

After a long, cold winter, springtime is back and bringing with it bright sun, breezy filled days, and a breath of fresh air. People feel energized and ready to tackle the tasks of cleaning and decluttering.

Spring is long considered the best time to sell a home, but before contacting your local real estate agent, you’ll want to ensure your home is squeaky clean. This goes beyond the general housecleaning chores—you’re going to want to do a deeper dive which is sure to make a huge difference to potential buyers.

Like the saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and when it comes to your home, you’re going to want to “wow” potential buyers from the moment they arrive.

The outside of a home is just as important as the inside and oftentimes, buyers will have already formed an opinion before they’ve made it to the front door. Which is why landscaping, even if it’s minimal, of the front and back property should be on your to-do list.

Whether you’re looking to put your home on the market now, or just want to clean away winter’s mess, we’ve put together a list of tips to help you get started.

 

Outside Cleanup 

Stage the Backyard

Steam Clean Carpets

 

Let in the Light

Deep Clean Kitchen and Bathrooms

Declutter & Organize

 

 

Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s always a good idea to ask your potential real estate agent a couple of questions first before deciding who is the best person to help you with your real estate needs.

 

As 2021 is underway, many people are thinking about their next move. For almost a year, they’ve been working from home, and as of now, they continue to do so. And as we move forward in coming out on the other side of this pandemic, there will likely be changes in where people ultimately decide to reside due to both their interests and needs.

 

While some people attempt to tackle real estate on their own, it’s best to leave things in the hands of a professional. Not only are licensed agents experienced, they know the market and will work hard for their clients.

 

In seeking out an agent, you’ll want to join forces with someone who is trustworthy and transparent. A good listener is another important quality in an agent. Whether you’re buying or selling, having someone who will listen to your wants, needs, and concerns, plays a big part in the overall process.

 

And it is a process that often takes time, which is another reason why it’s key to connect on both a professional as well as personal level. Working with an agent is like entering into a relationship; true partnership works both ways. You want to not only feel comfortable in being able to express your thoughts freely, you also want to feel heard.

 

Regardless of the side of the table you’re on, the whole real estate process can be overwhelming at times; having a real estate agent who can shoulder some of that stress is priceless.

Each agent has their own working style, their own personality. No two are the same and what it ultimately comes down to is finding the “right fit.”  You want to feel confident when you’re signing a contract; choosing the right agent will make a world of difference in your overall experience. To help you get started, we’re compiled a few basic questions to ask potential real estate agent.

 

  1. How Will You Market My Home?

As a seller, one of the reasons for hiring a real estate agent is to retain their marketing expertise. The various marketing tools agents employ aides in gaining the most exposure with prospective buyers as well as real estates agents within the area. Inquire as to what successful sales strategies they employ. Will they help prepare your space for the best possible photos and will those be professionally taken? Do they utilize social media marketing and if so, in what way? The market is a competitive one and it’s important to know just how the agent plans to make you’re home stand out amongst the rest.

 

  1. How Much is the Commission Fee?

When selling your home, it’s important to know before signing a contract exactly what percentage fee the real estate broker charges. The commission fee total is dependent upon the final sale which is taken out at closing. Keep in mind that different real estate agencies may charge a different percentage and the lowest fee does not always mean its the right choice.

 

If you are on the buying side, it’s also a good idea to know how this works. We know agents don’t work for free so understanding where their commission comes from is always helpful.

 

  1. What precautions are you taking during COVID?

Regardless of whether you’re selling or buying, you want to know what safety precautions are being taken during this time. For sellers, the thought of people coming in and out of your home can be stressful, so knowing ahead of time how an agent plans to ensure your safety is important.

 

The same goes for perspective buyers. Entering into another person’s home and potentially coming in contact with multiple individuals can be a bit unsettling for some people; knowing ahead of time the safety measures that have been put in place can ease your mind,

 

  1. What percentage of your clients are buyers? How many are sellers?

Whether buying or selling, it’s a good idea to find someone who has experience in the particular process you’re currently pursuing. Agents who work with both offer an additional value. Not only can they help in finding you a new home while trying to sell your current residence, they can provide you valuable assistance when transitioning from one place to another.

 

  1. How quickly can you help me view a home?

In popular areas, homes can fly off the market as fast as they’re listed. When you see homes you love, how quickly will the agent be able to accommodate your request? What is their schedule like and does it align with yours? Are they available to work with you full time, or only part-time? Make sure the real restate agent can accommodate your day to day needs and that your overall timeline aligns with their availability to help you get there.

 

  1. How many clients are you currently working with?

You want to be sure your agent isn’t overwhelmed and he/she has the time to dedicate to providing you the time needed. For example, if you’re selling, will your agent be available on weekends to host an open house? On the buying side, what is their availability when it comes to going out to look at homes?

 

  1. In what way will you keep in touch with me and how often can I expect updates?

Whether it’s a phone call, email, or text, make sure the agent is comfortable using the communication tool that works best for you. When it comes to signing documents, do they utilize electronic signing to make the process quicker? Time is always of the essence especially in a hot real estate market. You should also make your expectations on updates clear. Buyers and sellers often become frustrated when their agent doesn’t communicate with them as often as they’d like.

 

  1. Do they offer a recommended vendor list?

One of the many challenges in buying or selling, is knowing who you can trust for help. From lenders, to inspectors, to lawyers, a good agent has a strong network of professionals that can help you. Keep in mind that while an agent can offer suggestions, they are not requirements. Buyers and sellers have the right to choose whomever they want to work with.

 

  1. What questions do you have for me?

A good agent will ask you questions as well. They should inquire as to what your real estate goals are and be able to repeat them back to you along with an explanation as to how they’re going to help you achieve them. You want to work with an agent who understands your needs and will take all of your requests seriously.

 

Referrals are always a good starting point when looking to hire a real estate agent but in the end you must feel comfortable with whomever you choose. There is no magic number of questions to ask nor are there any right or wrong ones.  What it eventually comes down to is chemistry and connection, trusting your gut will be the deciding factor in choosing a real estate agent.

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