7 Home Buyer Challenges
& How to Avoid Them


1. Not figuring out how much house you can afford

Without knowing how much house you can afford you might waste time. You could end up looking at houses that you can’t afford yet or visiting homes that are below your optimal price level. For many first-time buyers, the goal is to buy a house and get a loan with a comfortable monthly payment that won’t keep them up at night.
How to avoid this mistake: Sit down with a mortgage professional to help determine what price range is affordable, what’s a stretch and what’s aggressive.

2. Getting just one rate quote
Shopping for a mortgage is like shopping for a car or any other expensive item: It pays to compare offers. Mortgage interest rates vary from lender to lender, and so do fees such as closing costs and discount points. But according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, almost half of borrowers don’t shop for a loan.
How to avoid this mistake: Speak with multiple mortgage lenders. All mortgage applications made within a 45-day window will count as just one credit inquiry.

3. Not checking credit reports and correcting errors
Mortgage lenders will scrutinize your credit reports when deciding whether to approve a loan and at what interest rate. If your credit report contains errors, you might get quoted an interest rate that’s higher than you deserve. That’s why it pays to make sure your credit report is accurate.
How to avoid this mistake: You may request a free credit report each year from each of the three main credit bureaus. You may dispute any errors you find.

4. Ignoring VA, USDA and FHA loan programs
A lot of first-time home buyers want to or need to make small down payments. But they don’t always know the details of government programs that make it easy to buy a home with zero or little down.
How to avoid this mistake: Learn about the following loan programs:
• VA loans are mortgages guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They’re for people who have served in the military. VA loans’ claim to fame is that they allow qualified home buyers to put zero percent down and get 100% financing. Borrowers pay a funding fee in lieu of mortgage insurance.
• USDA loans can be used to buy homes in areas that are designated rural by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Qualified borrowers can put zero percent down and get 100% financing. You pay a guarantee fee and an annual fee in lieu of mortgage insurance.
• FHA loans allow for down payments as small as 3.5%. What’s more, the Federal Housing Administration can be forgiving of imperfect credit. When you get an FHA loan, you pay mortgage insurance for the life of the mortgage, even after you have more than 20% equity.

5. Emptying your savings
If you buy a previously owned home, it almost inevitably will need an unexpected repair not long after. Maybe you’ll need to replace a water heater or pay a homeowner’s insurance deductible after bad weather.
How to avoid this mistake: Save enough money to make a down payment, pay for closing costs and moving expenses, and take care of repairs that may come up. Lenders will give you estimates of closing costs, and you can call around to get estimates of moving expenses.

6. Shopping for a house before a mortgage
It’s more fun to look at homes than it is to talk about your finances with a lender. So that’s what a lot of first-time home buyers do: They visit properties before finding out how much they are able to borrow. Then, they are disappointed when they discover they were looking in the wrong price range (either too high or too low) or when they find the right home, but aren’t able to make a serious offer.
How to avoid this mistake: Talk to a mortgage professional about getting pre-qualified or even preapproved for a home loan before you start to seriously shop for a place. The pre-qualification or preapproval process involves a review of your income and expenses, and it can make your bid more competitive because you’ll be able to show sellers that you can back up your offer.

7. Miscalculating repair and renovation costs
First-time home buyers are frequently surprised by high repair and renovation costs. Buyers can make two mistakes: First, they get a repair estimate from just one contractor, and the estimate is unrealistically low. Second, their perspective is distorted by reality TV shows that make renovations look faster, cheaper and easier than they are in the real world.
How to avoid this mistake: Seek more than one estimate for expensive repairs, such as roof replacements. A good real estate agent should be able to give you referrals to contractors who can give you estimates. But you also should seek independent referrals from friends, family and co-workers so you can compare those estimates against ones you receive from contractors your agent refers.

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