You might be a bit afraid or intimidated by the whole process of buying your first home. As a top Horseshoe Bay, Kingsland and Marble Falls real estate expert, it's my job to guide you, from beginning to end. 

I will take the time to go through each and every step of the buying process. There are no dumb questions! 

Together, we will consider: 

- How much can you really afford? 

- How to qualify for a mortgage. 

- How much cash you should put down. 

- How to buy a home with little or nothing down. 

- What it takes to get approved for financing. What banks and other financial institutions are looking for. 

- How much your payments will be. 

- The tax advantages of buying. 

- Is renting or buying better for you? 

Tell me a bit about your situation below. I'll get right back to you. There is absolutely no charge, and I offer this to you with no strings attached. 

A Buyers Market

Is the real estate section of your local paper filled with stories about how the real estate market in your area is slowing down? Is it taking months to sell the homes on the market? If this description fits your area, and you have been waiting for the right time to buy a house, it may be time for you to make a move.

This kind of market is referred to as a "buyers' market" for good reason--it is an opportunity for buyers to select from a large number of homes that could satisfy their needs. Everyone involved is ready to bend over backwards to make it possible for you to buy your dream home. Most sellers are highly motivated and so are the local real estate agents, loan officers, title companies, and other professionals involved in the transaction. It is important to remember that the real estate market runs in cycles, and conditions can change without a lot of warning. This could be the perfect time to contact a good real estate agent to discuss your needs and to explore the possibilities available to you.

A Good Start

When a real estate agent begins to work with a new buyer, we will sit down with you, ask a number of questions, and listen carefully to your answers. Our purpose during this initial interview is to get a clear idea of what kind of property you are looking for and your approximate price range. We explain how we will function as your representative, what the local market is like, and what we can do to help you locate that perfect home.

It is important for you as a prospective buyer to be as clear as possible about your needs. After we have talked and you have decided how much you can comfortably spend, we will know how to facilitate your home search. We won't take you through a three-story colonial with a top floor master suite if you want to avoid climbing up and down stairs! Establishing clear communication with our clients helps us save you hours of unfocused house hunting.

A Great Opportunity

Home ownership may seem like "the impossible dream" to first-time buyers who have to stretch in order to purchase their first home. Many younger buyers can afford the monthly mortgage payments, but may have to get creative to cover the down payment and closing costs.

Contact a real estate professional if you are thinking about buying your first home. For those whose funds are limited, there may be possibilities you have not considered, such as local or federal loan programs that can help get you moved into your new home. There are many flexible new mortgage loans available to first-time buyers. Sellers are sometimes willing to extend a small loan to help cover closing costs in order to complete the sale.

You can also consider the many housing options available. There are beautiful condominiums and townhouses with desirable amenities and prices that are designed to appeal to first-time buyers who cannot yet afford a single-family detached home.

A Matter of Timing

Buying real estate can sometimes involve tricky timing. For example, you may have found the perfect house and are thinking about making an offer, but are feeling pressured to make a decision just when you want time to consider the matter. The agent tells you that another party is thinking about making an offer, so you shouldn't hesitate if you really want the house. What should you do? Trust your agent!

It is natural to feel some pressure from even the most easy-going real estate agent--and some uncertainty about making an offer. If you really like a house, there is always the possibility that someone else will share your enthusiasm for it. Whether your local market is active or sluggish, it is sensible to assume that another offer is likely to come in. Perhaps you can afford to "sleep on it", but moving as quickly as possible will minimize the possibility that the house will go to another buyer.

A Realistic Evaluation

Your real estate agent's job is to find you the perfect home, in the right location, with all the amenities you want--and at the right price. It is the home inspector's job to find any skeletons in the closet -- or in the plumbing, wiring, roof, basement and beams.

The inspector won't pass or fail a home based on what he or she finds, but will go over the house thoroughly to help you understand the condition of the property you are buying. If there are any serious problems, your inspector can give you a realistic idea of how much the repairs will cost. If there are material defects that were not reflected in the asking price, you will have the opportunity to re-open negotiations with your sellers before you commit to the purchase. A good inspector will also explain the operation of the basic emergency systems such as the main water cut off valve and the circuit breaker box, and will go over items that will need routine maintenance.

If you are buying a house, we recommend that you make a professional home inspector part of your home purchase team.

Affording A Home

Are you getting ready to buy your first home? It is important to know how much you can afford before you begin looking at properties. Talking with a lender and getting pre-approved for a loan puts you in a stronger negotiating position with sellers.

As a rule, your monthly housing costs should not exceed 28% of your monthly pre-tax income. These costs include the mortgage payment, real estate taxes, and insurance. If you have long-term debts, such as student loans or car payments, your monthly payments, including your housing costs, should be less than 36% of your pre-tax monthly income. Some loans, such as VA and FHA loans, are more flexible with these basic guidelines.

Depending on which type of mortgage you select, you can consider houses in various price ranges. An adjustable-rate mortgage will usually enable you to qualify for a higher loan amount. Your real estate agent can help you make the basic calculations. Remember that buying at the top end of your price range gives you more time to outgrow your home, and can save you money over the long term.

Bargaining

You have done everything that your agent recommended to make your home look wonderful and you have cut your asking price to the bone. Even so, an offer comes in which is so low that you are offended! Is it possible to reconcile your differences and reach a meeting of the minds when presented with such an offer?

It may not take many concessions on your part to make the transaction work if the people who love your house also love to bargain. Even though it may seem that you are far apart in dollar amount or terms of sale, the real distance may not be all that great. Your real estate agent can help you determine if the buyers are ready, willing and able to carry through with the transaction. If they are qualified, the next step involves evaluating your differences. Look for areas where you have some flexibility to negotiate. You may have to go back and forth several times in order to make the transaction work. The trick is to be patient and to not take the process personally!

Choosing A Lender

When you are buying a new home or refinancing your present one, it is wise to do some comparison shopping among lenders. A low interest rate isn't the only criterion by which to evaluate a loan. You should also consider the terms of the mortgage, what your closing costs will be and the reputation of the lender.

Real estate agents are a good source of information about loans and lenders, whether you are buying a home or just refinancing your present home. We routinely assist buyers when they need a mortgage in order to purchase a home. We know what loan packages are available and the qualifying requirements. The companies with the lowest rates sometimes have very conservative underwriting guidelines, and may not be willing to make loans on certain types of property or to buyers who are marginally qualified. We can tell you which companies and loan officers will go the extra mile to provide excellent service to make sure that the transaction closes.

Credit Card Common Sense

If you are buying a home for the first time, you need to establish a reasonably good financial foundation before a lender will approve you for a mortgage loan. Lenders look for a good credit rating, sufficient funds to make the initial down payment and pay the closing costs, and a stable employment situation.

People who have just qualified for a mortgage loan are usually in better-than-average financial shape. If you have recently purchased a new house, don't be surprised if you receive numerous offers from retail stores and other credit card companies offering you pre-approved revolving credit.

Be careful about accepting these offers! New home owners often use most of their savings in the process of financing the transaction, and they need everything from linens to furniture to get settled in the home. With all of the immediate credit available, it may be very tempting to just say "charge it." If you're not careful, you could be "up to your ears" in debt very quickly. It takes discipline to reach the goal of home ownership--and it takes that same kind of discipline to maintain financial health after you leave the closing table.

Credit Card Traps

It is not unusual for first-time buyers to be free of debt. They have been saving for their first home for many months or even years. But after they move into their new home, the new homeowners are often deluged with pre-approved credit card applications from banks and stores offering credit lines. Before they realize what is happening, they can be overwhelmed with debt.

The consumer credit agencies know that mortgage companies do thorough checks before approving a loan, and those who have passed through that process are considered good credit risks. They also know that new homeowners often need to make major purchases of furniture and appliances at a time when they have depleted most of their savings accounts. After years of disciplined savings, new owners may be faced with a tremendous temptation to just say "charge it" for the things they need.

If you have just purchased a home, be aware--and wary--when those credit card applications start pouring in!

Determining A Price Range

If you are working with a real estate agent to find a new home, the agent will probably ask a lot of questions about your income, liquid assets, and debt situation. The real estate agent needs such information to help you determine your price range.

Whether you are buying your first home, or moving up, your agent can give you solid advice on how to maximize your buying power. With so many mortgage alternatives available, you may find that you can buy more than you thought. Your individual situation might make some types of mortgages or financing more of a risk than you really want to take. Each buyer's situation is unique, and real estate agents understand the importance of finding you the perfect home and the perfect financing to enable you to afford it.

Finding A Loan

There are two important steps preliminary to becoming a homeowner. First you must find the right home and negotiate the price and terms with the sellers. Then you come to one of the most difficult parts of the transaction--finding the perfect loan.

You should do some comparison shopping among lenders. Your real estate agent can refer you to several reputable lending institutions which should be able to complete the loan process before your proposed financial approval date. The loan officer will take your application and have you sign all the necessary papers to authorize credit and employment verifications. You and the real estate agent should get periodic progress reports to make sure that all of the details are taken care of. Such reports will help to ensure that any potential problems are discovered and addressed before they can hinder the transaction.

Finding A Real Estate Agent

Finding an experienced, reliable real estate agent whom you like and trust is the first step in locating your new home. Here is an approach to finding the right agent.

Call or stop by a real estate office and ask to speak with the manager. Describe the type of home you are looking for. The manager can refer you to an agent who knows that market very well. You might also use weekend "open houses" as opportunities to look for a real estate agent, as well as a new home. It is really a matter of chemistry! If you meet someone who is knowledgeable and with whom you feel comfortable, call that person!

Once you establish a strong working relationship with a real estate agent, your agent can show you a number of homes for sale, even if they are listed with other companies. Often the agent can show you a property as soon as it is placed on the market. Many of the best homes never even make it to the weekend classified section of the newspaper!

First Time Buyers

People who are selling their homes should know something about the market group from which their buyers are likely to appear. Many homes are perfect for a first-time buyer. First-time buyers are making a major purchase they have never attempted before, and may be unusually subject to the inevitable stress and anxiety that goes with buying a home.

First-time home buyers are usually younger (between 25 and 34 years of age) and have distinct buying patterns. First-timers are often looking for homes that are smaller, and perhaps older, than repeat buyers. The median home size for first-time buyers is about 1450 square feet. Approximately four in ten first-timers will buy homes built before 1960, compared to two in ten repeat buyers.

First-time buyers are in the process of developing a clearly defined sense of what they want in a house. They may not have enough money to buy their ultimate dream home at first, but seventy-four percent say they like their new home better than their previous residence.

First Time Loans

Most first-time buyers can qualify for a mortgage loan, but they may need help from parents to make the down payment or closing costs on their home. There are loan programs that minimize the down payment and closing costs for first-time buyers. These programs usually require that 3 to 5 percent of the purchase price come from the buyers' funds, not from a loan or gift. Most lenders ask for the last three months' bank records. The borrower will be asked to reveal the origin of any large deposits. If the money comes from the homebuyer's parents, the lender may not consider those funds when qualifying the buyers.

Parents who are planning to help their children finance a home should transfer any funds several months before the house-hunting process begins. If it is a loan rather than a gift, a formal re-payment agreement should be drawn up between parents and children to eliminate potential misunderstandings or future complications with either estate.

Getting Organized

Looking at homes can become overwhelming for many prospective buyers. The properties start to run together, and you have trouble remembering which homes you liked a lot and which ones you didn't. Real estate agents use a few tricks that can help you remember what you have seen.

Usually the real estate agent will give you a copy of the listing with all the pertinent information. Write down one distinctive feature on the listing sheet that will help you remember the house. Maybe the house had unusual moldings in the dining room, a red door, or unusual wallpaper. If the house was particularly interesting to you, put a big star on the top of the page to remind yourself that you would like to see it again or even perhaps make an offer. If there are features for which you have a strong preference, or if you eliminate a house from consideration for any reason, be sure to tell the agent why.

Communication between you and the real estate agent is key. This will save you a lot of time and effort in your search because the agent will show you only the homes that meet your particular needs.

Good Faith Estimates

Several years ago the U.S. Congress tried to protect consumers from a few unscrupulous lenders by requiring all lenders to calculate and disclose the annual percentage rate (APR) you pay on your mortgage loan. But most homebuyers will learn more by directing their attention to the Good Faith Estimate of Settlement Costs (GFE). Although Congress meant well, in practice the APR is not helpful and may be confusing.

If you are looking for a good way to understand your costs of borrowing and/or to compare one lender's costs to another, the GFE is your best bet. Get your lender(s) to provide a written GFE before you commit your mortgage business. When reviewing a GFE, keep in mind that the lender actually controls only a certain portion of the disclosed costs. Other parties typically control costs of appraisal, settlement, title insurance, recording fees and taxes, survey, and the "prepaid" expenses of homeowner's insurance, mortgage insurance, real estate taxes, etc. Review these origination fees, discount points, etc. and you will have the ability to understand the full costs of your proposed mortgage loan.

House Hunting Tips

If you are house-hunting, you may spend hours looking at homes only to have them all blend into one giant blur at the end of the day. Which house had that beautifully designed great room? Was it the same one with the small master bedroom? You can remember what is important about each of the many properties that you saw by using the little tricks developed by real estate agents to help them identify the thousands of properties they see.

Carry a notebook with you when you are house-hunting, and give each house its own page. At the top of the page, note the address and price. Write down the exterior construction, style and color, as well as the color of the living room carpet and walls and any other major feature that will jog your memory later. You can nickname the houses--"the cow mailbox house" or "organic garden house"--anything to help you retain a mental picture of the property. This will enable you to recap the day and give your real estate agent important feedback that can speed up your search for the perfect home!

Inspection Contingencies

Many of today's purchase offers include a contingency clause that allows the buyers to hire a home inspector or professional expert to inspect the property. If there is a significant defect in the property, the buyer can cancel the contract without losing the earnest money deposit. Contingencies are excellent procedures that protects both the buyer and the seller.

The time period for inspection contingencies is negotiable. In most parts of the country, the buyers have about a week in which to cancel the contract if the structural inspection reveals a serious and consequential defect. The positive side to such contingencies is that the inspection usually addresses--and overcomes--the buyers' misgivings, and confirms their decision to move ahead with the purchase.

Insuring Your Home

Many home buyers are concerned about whether they have an insurable interest in the property before the actual closing. The answer is an unqualified "yes". Although the buyer is not yet the recorded owner of the property, he or she has an insurable interest in the property as soon as the agreement of sale is executed by both the buyer and seller.

Should you get hazard insurance before the closing? It depends. Buyers do not usually insure a property until the title passes to them from the seller. However, it's wise to know what the agreement between you and the seller stipulates with regard to insurance.

Most agreements state that the property will be insured for a specific amount. This is very important to both parties. From the buyer's point of view, it is also critical that an adequate sum or full replacement value be stipulated. Watch out for agreements which read "as now insured". This is an all-too-common practice which usually indicates that the seller does not to want to increase inadequate insurance coverage.

Locate Your Lifestyle

If you are looking for a new home, it is important to communicate with your real estate agent about any special aspects of your lifestyle that will influence your choice. This information will help your agent to locate the perfect home for you and your family.

Are you a gourmet cook who loves giving lots of parties? Do you want space to accommodate hobbies such as painting, photography, or woodworking? Will your decision be influenced by the accessibility of a community gym, a golf course or tennis courts? Does your son need space to rehearse with his rock band? Do you need a home office? Are you planning to enlarge your family? Is there someone in your household who cannot climb stairs?

Knowing the significant factors that will influence your housing decision helps the agent to narrow the selection of homes on the market.

Making Your Dream Home Come True

Is it time to initiate the purchase of your first home? You may be starting a family and outgrowing your small apartment. If the time seems right to seriously consider buying a house, but you are afraid you don't have enough cash, don't worry!

Real estate agents are experienced in helping first-time buyers locate the financial resources to make such a move. The first step is to sit down with an agent who is familiar with available loan programs. You will need money for the down payment, and your income must be high enough to meet the lender's qualifying standards.

Real estate agents may be able to minimize the amount of cash needed with a little help from either the sellers or the loan company. You might be able to include some of the closing costs in your mortgage. The sellers might consider a lease/purchase agreement which would allow you to rent for a few months while accumulating the funds you need. If you are ready to buy your first home, let your real estate agent assist you in making your dream a reality.

More Down Payment Help

One of the most common deterrents to first-time home buyers is the lack of a down payment. However, the home loan industry has practically re-created itself in the last ten years, making it easier than ever to obtain a mortgage, and new mortgage programs are always cropping up.

Some states sponsor loan programs that allow buyers to purchase a home without putting any money down. A parent or other relative can guarantee repayment of ten percent of the loan if the buyer defaults. The only cash needed is for the closing costs, which typically run about three percent of the loan. Parents can also give their children down payment help through a personal note or second trust deed. The terms can be set up for monthly payments or annual payments amortized over a period of time. You could pay the interest only, and have the payoff due when the property is sold.

With so many alternatives, doesn't it make sense to call your real estate agent for a free consultation? You may be closer to home ownership than you think.

Preferences of Buyers

Although every purchase of a home involves a degree of compromise, the process begins with the buyer's preferences. When you are working with a real estate agent, it is important that you give your agent a clear idea which of your criteria are flexible and which items you really must have in your new home.

If you prefer a specific location, for example, discuss why you want to live in that neighborhood. The agent might be able to suggest alternatives areas which offer the same amenities or convenience to your office. How important is size? Do you really need four bedrooms or would three bedrooms work, if there is a den for your home office? How much are you willing to correct with redecorating or remodeling? Are you willing to expand your price range by using an adjustable rate mortgage to increase your buying power?

The agent will ask you a lot of questions so that they can use your time most efficiently by showing you houses that meet your criterion as a buyer.

Questions from Real Estate Agents

Real estate agents begin their professional relationship with buyers by asking numerous questions about the buyer's personal and financial situation. The answers to these questions will give the real estate agent a clear idea about the buyer's housing needs and price range. It is a waste of time for an agent to show a buyer homes they can't afford, and it can be disheartening to consider unrealistic possibilities.

In order to do a great job finding you a home, your real estate agent needs to have some basic information about your income, debts, and the amount of cash you have available for a purchase. Your agent also needs to know something about your lifestyle. How large is your family? Where do you work? Do you have school-age children? Do you enjoy entertaining? What hobbies would you like to accommodate?

The real estate agent who helps you find your new home will get to know you very well, so it is very important that you feel comfortable with that person and free to communicate openly.

Services from a Real Estate Agent

It's an old adage that "the best things in life are free." One of these things is extremely valuable to home buyers -- the advice of an experienced real estate sales professional.

In the traditional home sale, it is the seller who pays the commission that is divided among the various sales professionals involved in the transaction. Unless you are hiring a buyer's broker, the buyer gets several free services from the real estate agent: 1) Target marketing that locates the homes you can afford; 2) Loan pre-qualification that saves you time; 3) Guidance in obtaining the best mortgage terms.

The marketing professional knows that if there is no financing, there is no purchase. Most real estate agents have become quite expert in the mortgage market. Please contact a real estate professional if you are seeking advice about buying or selling a property.

Structural Contingency

If you have a house for sale your buyers will probably include a structural inspection contingency in the contract. This allows them to have an expert check out the house, the major systems and the appliances.

A professional structural inspector can help buyers to "know" the house and to feel comfortable with it, but the inspection does not result in a pass or fail grade. The buyers will learn important facts about the house, such as where the water cutoff valve is located, in case of an emergency. The inspection may also help buyers set up a budget for repairs and determine if they want to invest in cost-effective measures to increase energy efficiency.

Buyers rarely back out of a sale after a structural inspection. Even if there are problems, you have the opportunity to negotiate a compromise and to avoid any obstacles that could seriously threaten the sale.

Termites

Most home purchase agreements have clauses that deal with termites. After the agreement is ratified, a termite inspection is arranged. Before the closing can occur, the sellers must be able to produce papers signed by a licensed exterminator stating that the house is free of infestation and that any termite damage has been repaired.

Before you sign an agreement to buy or sell a home, you should read the termite clause and be sure that you understand it. Who selects the exterminator and pays for the inspection? If bugs are found, who pays for the treatment? Are the sellers obligated to repair any damage and have they placed a limit of the dollar amount they will spend on those repairs? If treatment is required, the buyers may want a chance to discuss the options with the pest control company, especially if someone in the family is sensitive to the chemicals used to control the termites. Ask about the exterminator's guarantees or service contract options.

The Buyer Interview

The first step toward matching you with the perfect home usually involves an in-depth interview with the real estate agent who will help you establish a price range and determine the features that you need in a home.

The agent will ask a lot of questions, and many of them will seem very personal. What is your income and debt situation? Where do you work? Are schools an important factor? Do you have children or pets? Do you have hobbies that will create special needs?

The more information your real estate agent has, the easier it will be to eliminate the homes that will not work for you and show you the ones in your price range that should fit your needs. A good agent can be a tremendous resource in this process, providing you with information about the homes that are available, shopping facilities, community services, and public transportation. The best real estate agents are excellent listeners and counselors.

The Down Payment

Perhaps no single decision in a real estate purchase has more variables than "How much money do I put down?" Conventional wisdom centers around either putting down as much as you can or as little as the lender allows.

If you put down a large payment, you get some leverage with the lender, such as little or no mortgage insurance, a good equity position, and perhaps a preferred mortgage deal. You will also have lower mortgage payments. One potential disadvantage of a large down payment is that you will be using after-tax dollars on which you could be earning interest. You will also have less tax-deductible interest.

When you buy a home with a low down payment, you will have more tax deductible interest, and your investment value percentage will increase faster. You will have little equity at the outset, and your monthly mortgage payments (and perhaps your interest) will be higher. However, you will also keep more of your own money in hand to potentially earn more interest in other investments.

The Elements of Location

When you are in the market for a home, how should you evaluate the properties that appeal to you? There is an old cliché about the three most important factors of a piece of property--location, location and location.

Some neighborhoods have a certain distinction that attracts buyers, but there are other factors to take into account. A house in the best part of town may have a few points subtracted if it is located on a busy street. There are buyers who would like to be close to schools, shopping, and churches, but don't want to live across the street from these facilities. You may want an easy commute to your job, but would not consider a location close to the "on" ramp for the major route into town. A location close to a airport could be convenient if you are a commercial pilot, but could make it difficult to sell even the most wonderful house.

As you balance all of the factors, remember that a location liability which gets you a great house at a reasonable price will probably require you to pass a similar savings on to future buyers.

The Perfect Home

When we help prospective buyers locate a new home we listen carefully to their goals. What are their criteria for selecting a neighborhood, what style of house do they prefer, what price range and floor plan meet their needs? Will any special considerations go into making the homebuying decision? When we have a good picture of what the buyer wants, we will go to work to find the best property on the market that will accommodate those needs.

Our real estate agents succeed when they can make the buyers' goals their goals. Finding the perfect home is a collaborative effort. The buyers communicate what they want, why they want it, and where compromise might be possible, and the agent listens carefully and selects the homes that come as close as possible to meeting the needs expressed. When there is trust and communication between the buyers and the real estate agent, miracles can happen! Creating these miracles for buyers and sellers is "Job #1" for us.

The Perfect House

Home buyers must often deal with deferred maintenance or repairs. For example, you may have found a terrific house and like many competent home buyers, you included a structural inspection contingency in your purchase agreement. What happens when you find out that your "perfect" house needs some work? Do you ask the sellers to pay for the repairs? Before you answer "yes", there are some important considerations.

Some contracts require that all of the home's systems, such as plumbing, heating, electrical and central air conditioning, be in working order. In this case, the sellers may be obligated to repair any problems with these systems. Leaky roofs, damp basements, or other structural problems may not be covered, however. If you ask the sellers to make these types of repairs, you may void the contract by doing so. The sellers might prefer to negotiate the repairs to keep from losing the sale. If there are other buyers waiting in the wings with back-up contracts, you run the risk of losing the home.

The Real Bottom Line

An important part of buying a house is sitting down with your real estate agent or a mortgage lender to get a clear idea of how much you can afford. They will add up all of your monthly expenses, the mortgage payment, insurance, real estate taxes, homeowners or condo association fees--and the grand total can throw you into shock!

The important thing to remember is that the grand total isn't really the bottom line. When you add your tax savings to the equation, you may be pleasantly surprised. During the early years of your loan, almost all of the mortgage can be deducted from your state and federal income tax. The same is true of your real estate taxes. If you use part of your house as a home office, you may be able to qualify for additional tax savings. In some areas, homes with ground floor apartments are popular for offsetting part of the mortgage and offering even more tax savings.

When you make calculations about the monthly costs that include the tax savings, you may find that owning your own home is less expensive than renting a house or apartment of comparable size.

The Rewards of Home Ownership

People buy a home for a lot of different reasons. They may want to put down roots in a community and create a sense of stability in their lives. Then there are the financial considerations and the "forced" savings that builds up in the form of equity. In addition, the monthly cost of owning a house is usually much more stable and predictable than renting.

If you are considering the possibility of purchasing a home, contact a knowledgeable real estate agent in your community. An important part of our job is to educate prospective buyers about the potential benefits and responsibilities of renting versus owning a home. We can help you determine your purchasing power and show you the best homes in your price range. We can also give you a side-by-side comparison of the costs of owning a home compared with what you pay for rent. When you fix up your home to suit your needs and taste, you benefit from the added value of the improvements instead of the landlord!

The Seller May Pay

The costs of buying a home may be daunting. For example, you may have finally saved enough for a down payment on your first home, with a little left over to buy the furniture you will need. Then you hear about having to pay closing costs you weren't anticipating, and this may seem like a real setback.

One way to cover such a shortage is to make the sellers an offer that calls for them to credit you for some of the closing costs. As a rule, the sellers may pay a maximum of 3 percent of the sales price if the buyer is putting five percent down. If the buyer is making a down payment of 10 percent or more, the seller can contribute up to 6 percent of the sales price to cover the buyer's closing costs. Some items, such as prepaid taxes and the first month's mortgage payment, must be paid by the buyers. Sellers may also contribute to paying the appraisal, points, title insurance, settlement attorney fees, state or local transfer taxes and similar items.

Keep in mind that if the credit is included in the price of the house, the appraiser will have to justify the amount, based on sales prices of similar homes in the neighborhood.

Too Many Experts

It can be difficult to make an informed homebuying decision when confronted by advice from too many "experts." If you have just found the house you want to buy, you are probably feeling completely thrilled and confused at the same time. You trust the agent who helped you and feel that the advice you received is solid. But you also want to get opinions about the house from your best friend, your parents, and your Uncle Chuck, who has an inactive real estate license.

If you get input from too many sources, you could find yourself even more confused than you already are. Your best friend can provide moral support, but might not know the market in your area. Your parents may go into shock because they feel that they got so much more house for their money 30 years ago--and it cost them a fraction of the price you are going to pay.

Even though Uncle Chuck passed the real estate exam, his insights won't be as relevant as those of a professional who is currently working the market. It's not that you shouldn't consult your family and friends--just don't go overboard. Rely on the advice of professionals you trust--a structural inspector, loan officer, and a good real estate agent, so that you can feel comfortable about having made an informed decision.

What Can Go Wrong

Real estate transactions are very complex, and difficulties can arise. One common form of interference can come in the innocent guise of helpful advice from family and friends.

When you buy your first home, you want the best advice you can get. You want to show the house to friends and relatives before you commit. They will probably tell you about all of the things that went wrong during their own transactions so you can avoid the same mistakes. These people all have good intentions, but too much advice can put you into a state of high anxiety.

If you are buying your home with the help of a professional real estate agent, your agent will know how to make sure that any minor upsets do not turn into major problems. A real estate agent's expertise is based on formal training and experience in many real estate transactions. Their reputation is on the line with each sale, so they are highly motivated to make your purchase or sale go as smoothly as possible. When you are dealing with a professional real estate agent, you can worry about what might go wrong if you wish, but you don't have to!

When is the Time to Buy

Buying a home for the first time is a major decision that requires planning and preparation. Becoming a homeowner is an exciting process with many complexities that real estate agents are trained to manage.

We are experienced in working with first-time buyers and are well-versed in the creative financing that can make dreams become realities. For those who are low on cash, there may be a mortgage assistance program to help you purchase a home with limited funds. Your real estate agent is familiar with these programs, which have variable guidelines. There are many financing options available in today's marketplace. A little creativity can help you enjoy the freedom and security of owning your own home and building up equity as your property increases in value.

Your Investment

Shelter is a very basic human need which most people accommodate by renting or buying a house or apartment. Rental property is often less-than-perfect. Tenants usually experience a rent increase every year or so and feel somewhat at the mercy of the owner. They don't necessarily feel a strong commitment to the property or the community.

Making a decision to buy a house is a major commitment, and the decision has both economic and emotional implications. Instead of paying the landlord's mortgage every month, homeowners pay their own mortgage and build up equity in their investment. When they paint, plant flowers or make improvements, their family reaps the benefits of a more beautiful environment. Homeowners are much more selective than renters about finding the perfect home, and their sense of personal satisfaction heightens the pride of ownership.

Your Principal Residence

The Federal Tax Code allows married taxpayers to exclude from capital gains taxes up to $500,000 in profits from selling a home (singles can exclude $250,000). In order to qualify for this exemption, you must prove that that the home has been your principal residence for at least two out of the last five years. The establishment of the home as a principal residence depends on the facts of each homeowner's circumstance. Here are two cases to consider.

Homeowner A has lived at 25 Pine Drive for 12 years. Although he stays at his vacation cottage in another town for up to three months out of each year (sometimes more), 25 Pine Drive is his principal residence, where he lives most of the time. When he sells the home, Homeowner A (filing as a single individual) can keep up to $250,000 in tax-free profit.

Homeowner B buys 108 Maple Street, intending to live there. He rents it out while waiting to sell his current home, where he has lived for six years. His principal residence sells at the end of two years. Homeowner B moves into his new house, lives there for three months, and then decides to travel. After a six-month trip, he regrets buying 108 Maple Street and sells it. Even though he has owned the house on Maple Street for over two years, it won't qualify as "owner-occupied", because he only lived in it for a few months. Thus Homeowner B is not eligible to claim the tax exemption when he sells the house on Maple Street.

Shirl A Thornton
Shirl A Thornton
Real Estate Professional