What Every First-Time Home Buyer Needs To Know Before Getting Started

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If you are considering purchasing a new home, then you probably know now is the best time to buy. In fact, we haven’t seen such incredible market conditions for buyers in as many as sixty years! But there are a lot of details that people may not realize. To help you achieve success during this process and end up with the perfect home, at a great price, in the best location and at a great interest rate – there are some things that we feel you should know before starting.

Buying for the Right Reasons Is Key

In recent years, we’ve seen an influx of property “flips” where a home is purchased at a low price, numerous updates and upgrades are made through a series of renovations and then the property is resold at a premium price. If you’re thinking of buying in today’s market for this purpose, think again. One of the current market conditions that generally holds across the board nationally is declining or low housing values.

If you plan to buy a home for you and your family to live in, it couldn’t be a more perfect time. Also, if there is imminent relocation in the near future you may not want to invest in a home right now. Be sure to plan on living in the property for at least several years before reselling again, in order for it to be a sound investment.

Credit Is More Important Than Ever Before

Having a good credit score was always an important factor in buying a home but nowadays with lenders exercising extreme caution and care before doling out loans (see Subprime Lending Crisis to understand the shift in lending practices) a good credit profile is essential. Where homeowners might once have been able to secure sizable funding to buy a home in the past, lenders completely scrutinize each detail of a potential borrower’s credit history and standing. In fact, there are new credit scoring methods being used by many lenders that may lead to even more difficulty for many homeowners with less than desirable financial practices in obtaining mortgages.

Despite the added scrutiny on credit, many first time homebuyers are successfully obtaining FHA loans, as long as they have a minimum FICO score of about 640. An added benefit of FHA loan programs is that buyers can obtain as much as 6% in seller concessions that goes toward closing costs.

Grant Money Is Available To Ease Closing and Down Payment Costs

Before beginning your search or deciding on a price range for your property, be sure to research whether there are any grants you may be eligible for toward your home. An example is the Community Development Administration’s grant designed to assist homebuyers with down payment or closing costs. Depending on where you live there are other grants available as well.

VA Loans Provide Added Benefits for Military Veterans

Considering the recent changes in Iraq with many veterans returning home and needing to settle down, VA guaranteed home loans are a welcome avenue for countless military first-time homebuyers. With concessions such as reduced or waived lending fees and no down payment – VA home loans are a great option for veterans or honorably discharged military personnel.

Preparation Now Will Save Headaches Later

As you begin searching for the perfect home, it is important to know exactly what you can afford. The most important step in determining that is to have a consultation with a loan officer. You should receive a good faith estimate that will outline exactly how much money would be paid by you out-of-pocket, the amount you may need to obtain from sellers as concessions and also the amount of your monthly payment. Armed with this information you will be in a much better position to bid on homes that are in your price range and those that you know you can afford. Also, when it comes to multiple offers on a home, sellers like seeing a copy of a preapproval letter and prefer to deal with buyers that have already secured pre-qualification. It’s something that can make the difference when competing against other buyers and negotiating a sale.
Congratulations on your decision to buy a home for the first time! We hope that with these tips, the buying process will be fruitful as you get into a home that will provide you and your family long-lasting happiness and security!

Home Inspector to the Rescue!

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You Better Give Sherlock Holmes a Ring!

No, you don't need the fictional detective inspector. However, you do need a home inspector! Think of this as a "pre-emptive strike" to maintain or increase your home's value before you put it on the market. Here are the benefits an inspector provides you:
Benefit 1: The inspector can uncover any problems that need fixing, and you can correct them before any potential buyers enter your home. Such an inspection can prevent your sale from falling through!
Benefit 2: With an inspection, you can show prospective buyers receipts to prove the work has been done. Buyers love proof! In reality and in their eyes, it underpins the value of your home and the asking price.
Benefit 3: You may be able to factor the cost of the inspection into the asking price for your home!
Benefit 4: When you have a pre-sale home inspection completed, you're able to estimate if the discount the prospective buyer is asking is reasonable. In other words, you can refuse unreasonably low offers if you know the value of your house, including the degree of its defects.
So, How Do I Find a Qualified Home Inspector?
I can recommend a certified home inspector who will do a great job for you. However, if you decide you want to do it on your own, make sure he or she is qualified!
Con artists sometimes pose as home inspectors, taking your money and giving you nothing but grief in return. Here's how to know if an inspector is the real deal:
Ask your friends for referrals. If they've had a good experience, go with that home inspector. I’d recommend you interview a minimum of two or three inspectors before choosing one. Make sure they’re full-time professionals conducting several inspections a week.
If possible, select a home inspector who’s a member of The American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors.These association members follow a stated code of ethics. In addition, they’re prohibited from having a professional interest in the sale, repair or maintenance of a property they inspect. They’re also forbidden from using their inspection business as a way to find customers for a handyman service that they “happen” to own. You may want to go on the Internet and use ASHI’s “Find a Home Inspector” link to identify potential candidates in our locality.

As part of the interview process, ask for samples of comprehensive reports (about 20-50 pages in length). The samples should be painstakingly done and backed up with complete details, including photos and diagrams. If an "inspector" refuses to give you a report or provides only a sloppily written 2-to-5 page sample, run the other way!

What Does a Home Inspector Cost?
Frankly, the rates vary. On a national level, the rates fall in the range of $200 to $400. As part of the interview process, I recommend you ask several inspectors for their rates so you can get an idea of the price range. In the end, keep in mind that while the cost of an inspection may seem high, it can actually add several thousand dollars to the value of your home! So, don't think of it as a cost; think of it as an investment!

What Exactly Does a Home Inspector Evaluate?
In general, he or she will look at the following areas:
- Electrical System Wiring, Service Panel and Service Capacity
- Energy Conservation/Safety Items
- Exterior Walls, Siding, Trim
- Floor, Wall, Ceiling, Roof Structures
- Foundation, Footings, Crawl Space, Basements, Sub-flooring, Decks
- Gutters, Downspouts
- Heating & Cooling Systems
- Insulation & Ventilation
- Interior Floors, Walls, Ceilings
- Moisture Intrusion/Mold
- Overall Structural Integrity
- Plumbing Systems
- Property Drainage/Landscaping
- Roof & Shingles, Chimneys, Attic
- Walks and Drives
 - Windows, Doors, Cabinets, Counters, etc. 

Should I Be Present During a Home Inspection?
You bet! A typical inspection takes three hours or more, so I recommend that you be present for at least the first 30 minutes to make sure the job is being done thoroughly. At the end of the inspection, the home inspector should give you a point-by-point summary of what needs to be corrected in order to add value to your home!
Hope you enjoyed this very useful information about home inspection! If you have more questions, please don't hesitate to contact me!