7 Signs You’re Ready to Buy a Home

Making the leap from renter to homeowner doesn’t happen overnight; it requires steady planning to put yourself in a good position to buy your first home. Prospective first-time home buyers can often feel like they’re waiting for a sign to indicate they’re ready to start making offers, when really, it’s a combination of factors. Here are seven signs that you’re ready to buy a home.

7 Signs You’re Ready to Buy a Home

1. You Know Which Homes You Can Afford

To know whether you’re ready to buy, you need to identify your price range. If you’re unhappy with your pre-approval, or need more money for your desired location, there are ways you can increase your buying power. Once you know which homes you can afford, you can work with your agent to find the right home and prepare an offer.

2. You Understand Your Local Market Conditions

The dynamics of the market in which you’re buying will play a role in determining whether you’re ready to buy. The local market conditions will dictate what kinds of offers you can expect to compete against, what tactics other buyers may employ, and whether the buyer or seller will have the leverage during negotiations. Therefore, it’s important to understand the difference between a buyer’s market and a seller’s market so you and your agent can strategize accordingly.

3. You’re Comfortable with the Responsibilities of Being a Homeowner

Having a mortgage instead of paying rent isn’t the only difference between owning a home and renting. You’ll be responsible for maintaining the property, making repairs, and completing remodeling projects. That doesn’t always mean you can’t predict a future need. The best way to prepare for unexpected projects on any home is to get a home inspection before you buy so that you know every inch of the property and can start to save for larger expenses that might come down the road.

4. You Have Funds Available for Home Buying Costs

The costs of buying a home are more than just your down payment and monthly mortgage. Before you move into your new home, you’ll have to pay closing costs, moving expenses, and appraisal and inspection fees, to name a few. Property taxes can sometimes be part of the mortgage and depending on the time of year may need to be paid before you move in. Once you’re settled, homeowners insurance will enter the fold. If you can afford these costs, it’s a sign that you are ready to buy.

5. You’re Making Progress on Your Debt

Having zero debt is not a realistic expectation for every first-time home buyer. But, if you have a plan in place for paying off your outstanding debt and can show evidence of the progress you’re making, it will strengthen your buying credibility. Lenders will factor this into their assessment of your financial health during the pre-approval process.

6. You Have a Strategy for the Down Payment

It is true that lenders view a twenty percent down payment as favorable and won’t require you to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI), but it’s not game over if you can’t make a lump sum payment of that size. With a lower-than-twenty percent down payment, you may incur higher interest and fees over the life of the loan, which could put a greater strain on your finances long-term than waiting until you can pay more principal down. Whichever route you choose, make sure you have a solid plan in place to repay your loan.

7. Your Life Aligns with Buying a Home

Buying a home means you’ll be putting down roots, so it’s important that you and your household are ready to establish yourselves in one area before you buy. There’s financial logic behind this line of thinking, as well; in general, the longer you stay in one home, the more equity you’ll build. Career and income stability also play a role in determining whether you’re ready to buy. Landing a job with long-term prospects may be just the thing you need to green-light your decision to buy your first home.

To learn more about buying your first home, connect with an experienced Windermere Real Estate agent today by clicking on the button below.

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Must-Haves and Nice-To-Haves Lists

Finding your dream home may not be easy, but there are things you can do to make it easier, like creating a “Must-Haves” list and a “Nice-To-Haves” list. These lists allow serious homebuyers to save time, energy, and ultimately, money as they prepare to buy a home.

A Must-Have List is exactly what it sounds like, a checklist of the details that are non-negotiable for your new home. It’s essential to sit down and think about the things you need in order to feel comfortable there for the next 7-13 years.

Your “Nice-To-Haves” list is a checklist of details that you’d like to have, but you can live without. This list is great for those things that you’ve always dreamed of but may be out of reach for reasons such as your budget or location. This list may include things like fireplaces or gas appliances, a pool, or other non-essential items.

Your “Must-Haves” list focuses your search and helps your agent narrow down which homes are worth your time. Your “Nice-to-Haves” list will help you determine what you’re willing to sacrifice, which will ultimately solidify your must-haves.

These lists can also help manage your expectations regarding price. Take your lists to your real estate agent, along with your pre-approval from a lender, and you’ll be able to work together to determine what is a reasonable ask within your budget and your desired location.

Creating Your “Must-Haves” List

The first step is to think about the essentials. If things like location and number of bedrooms and bathrooms are a priority, then you’ll want to include them in your must-haves. Consider where you live now and use that as a starting point; what do you love and what are you missing? You may need more storage space, or an extra room to work remote, or a larger backyard for the newest member of the family.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you build your “Must-Haves” list:

  • Where do you want to live? (Be as specific as you can.)
  • What do you have now that you can’t live without?
  • What are you missing now that you may need for the next several years?

If you’re struggling to determine what it is you need to have, you can start working on your “Nice-To-Haves” list. This can also help you determine what is essential. For example, it may be nice to have five bedrooms when in reality, a three-bedroom house with a flex space that works for an office or guest room would do the trick.

Creating your “Nice-To-Haves” List

While you’re working on your “Nice-To-Haves” list, you’ll be thinking about the parts of a home that would be great to have but aren’t as important for you. You might also want to take into consideration what is reasonable in your area and if it’s a common amenity.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you build your “Nice-To-Haves” list:

  • What home upgrades are you willing to make?
  • What is something you’d like to do in your house more often?
  • What do you have in your current home that you love, but don’t need?

Searching for Your Next Home

These lists will help guide you and your real estate agent as you search for your next home. During this process you might realize some aspects aren’t as important to you as you thought, and vice versa. Keep your agent in the loop as you update your lists so they can continue to search for the perfect home for you.

Looking for a real estate agent who can help guide you through the home buying process? Connect with an Agent:

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Simple Tips to Make Your Move Easier

Your needs as a homeowner change over time, and you need the right home to fit those needs. Accordingly, it’s highly likely that at some point in your future you will experience another moving day. While moving can be challenging, there are resources to make it easier. If you are remaining in your current area, your Windermere agent can continue to be a valuable resource on communities, schools, utilities, transportation, recreational opportunities, and more.

If you are moving out of the area, your agent can help you with a referral to another reputable agent in your new community. Many agents also have relationships with real estate-related service companies in their area whom they can call upon for information regarding title, escrow, mortgages, temporary housing, and moving services. They can also help guide you in your search as you learn more about new communities and relocation services.

You’ve decided to move. Now what?

Once you have reached your decision, it’s time to gather information, start making decisions and get organized. Begin by creating a “move” file to keep track of your estimates, receipts, and other information. If you’re moving for a job, some expenses may be deductible, so you’ll want the paperwork when tax time comes.

If you are moving out of the area, start researching your new community and ask your agent for help in finding a referral agent in your new area. You’ll also want to determine whether you want to rent first or buy immediately. Your new agent should be able to help you with your decision. Once you know where you’re going, you’re also ready to get estimates from moving companies.

Closing one door, opening another

After you have chosen a moving date and either hired a moving company or reserved a rental truck, it’s time to wrap things up in your old neighborhood and start establishing relationships where your new home is located. This is particularly important if you are moving to a new town/city. You may want to ask your current doctors, dentists, etc. if they have any referrals on care providers in your new location. Be sure to check their recommendations on your insurance company’s online provider search list. Once you arrive, you may also want to ask new coworkers, friends or the school nurse for their recommendations.

Contact your children’s school and/or day care and arrange for their records to be sent to their new school district or day care. Call your insurance agent about coverage en route to your new home and also arrange for insurance in your new home. Remember to contact utility companies to disconnect, transfer or end service in your current home and turn on service in your new home.

You’ll want to file a change of address form with the U.S. Postal Service, either online or at your local office. If you don’t know your new address, have them hold your mail at the post office in your new locale. Don’t forget to cancel or transfer magazine and newspaper subscriptions as well.

If you belong to a health club or other association, contact them about ending or transferring your membership. Some clubs require written notice before cancellation. Finally, contact your bank or credit union to transfer or close accounts; if you have a safe-deposit box, don’t forget to clean it out before you leave.

Starting the countdown

With moving day in sight, it’s time to get organized. Here are a few items to check off your list before you start packing:

  • Tie up loose ends. Be sure to send out an email or change of address cards with your new contact information to family, friends, and associates. Return library books and any other borrowed items you may still have.
  • Triage your possessions. Determine what you are taking with you; what you are giving away to friends, family, or a favorite charity; and what is going to the dump or recycling center.  If you have time, you can hold a garage sale or post items on craigslist.org or ebay.com.
  • Clean up. Drain all gas and oil from your mower, other machinery, gas grills, kerosene stoves and lamps, etc., before loading them onto a moving truck. Empty, defrost, and clean your refrigerator at least 24 hours before your move, and prepare other appliances for moving as well.
  • Have your car serviced. This is especially important if you are driving to your new home.

Packing strategies

If you are doing your own packing, start collecting boxes and/or buy them from your movers. It may take a few days to do your packing, so be sure to pack non-essential items first and label them carefully. If you have any valuables, it’s recommended that you take them with you as opposed to packing them. You risk the chance of losing those items if they’re packed away in boxes. It’s also smart to take along a box of essentials, including items such as toilet paper, paper towels, tape, soap, scissors, pens, paper, and your toiletries. That way you won’t have to track these items down once you’ve arrived in your new home.

For more information on how to make your move easier, visit our Moving Tips page here: How can I make moving easier? 

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10 Costs Associated with Buying a Home

Some expenses that come with buying a home are easier to account for than others. Knowing the costs associated with buying a home will not only help you budget accordingly but will also pinpoint which homes are truly affordable for you. In no particular order, here are ten costs you can expect to encounter when buying a home.

10 Costs Associated with Buying a Home

1. Down payment

The down payment is a lump sum paid by the buyer upfront. The exact amount required varies by lender and loan type, but in general, a substantial down payment will help decrease your monthly payments. Making a traditional twenty percent down payment means less risk for your lender, opening the door for lower interest rates and avoiding the need for private mortgage insurance (PMI). But if you can’t come up with that much, it’s not a dead end. PMI and its various alternatives can help close the gap and provide a path to homeownership.

2. Homeowners insurance

Once you’ve purchased a home, there’s no time to delay in protecting it. A standard homeowners insurance policy typically covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and any living expenses in the event of an insured disaster that renders your home unlivable. Homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for the owner(s) living on the property. If you plan on renting out your home or dwellings on your property, you’ll need to purchase separate landlord insurance to cover your tenants.

3. Mortgage payment

There’s a give and take with mortgage payments—the more you pay down your home, the more equity you build. Unless you’re making an all-cash offer, you can expect to budget for mortgage payments. Use the general rule that your house payments should be roughly 25% of your take-home pay. Use an online mortgage calculator to get an idea of what you can afford.

4. Closing costs

Before your home purchase is a done deal, you can expect to pay closing costs, which usually total somewhere between 2-5% of the total mortgage value. The terms of the purchase agreement will dictate how you and the seller will split the closing costs. They include but are not limited to underwriting fees, credit check fees, title insurance and title search, escrow fees, and more. These expenses can add up, so be sure you’re prepared when it comes time for closing day. 

5. HOA fees

For those who are buying in developments governed by a homeowner’s association or are purchasing a townhouse or condo, you’ll likely have to pay HOA fees on top of your monthly mortgage payment. HOA fees, usually paid monthly, go towards maintaining the shared spaces, property, and amenities within the community. Before moving forward with your purchase, determine if the property is under the governance of a homeowner’s association and the cost of the fees. 

6. Property taxes

Your annual property tax is calculated by multiplying the assessed value of your home by the tax rate. This figure is broken down into monthly installments and added on top of your mortgage payment. Because property taxes are based on the assessed value of your home, they are subject to change. If the assessed value of your home increases over time, so will your property taxes.

7. Repairs and remodeling

Unless you’re buying new construction, your new home will likely need repairs. Even after having completed a thorough home inspection, underestimating repairs expenses can be a costly mistake. Certain repairs may require the help of a professional, and while hiring them will ensure your home is in good hands, their services come with a price. If you’re buying with the intention of remodeling, remember to leave room for the other costs on this list before breaking ground on any projects.

8. Appraisal and inspection fees 

Not only will a home inspection allow you to negotiate repairs and concessions with the seller, but it will also help you budget for the home repairs you’ll need to make in the future. An appraisal, carried out by a licensed third party, will determine your home’s appraised value—or in other words, how much the bank thinks your home is worth. Both fees can cost upwards of a few hundred dollars each. 

9. Utilities 

One of the first steps you’ll take in your new home is setting up your utilities. In general, the larger the property the more you can expect to pay in utilities. Electricity, gas, water, sewer, and trash and recycling pickup are just a few of the utilities you can expect to arrange for your new home. Get an early start on this list to avoid a situation where you need heat or running water, only to realize they haven’t been set up yet.

10. Moving costs

Often buyers can be so taken with the prospect of living in their new home that they forget to account for the costs it will take to move there. Set a timeline, take inventory of the items in your home, and stay organized throughout the process to make the moving process as efficient as possible. For more moving tips, read our guide on how to Make Your Move.

Learn more about navigating the home buying process here: 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home. 

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10 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or have purchased a home before, the same mistakes can rear their head at any point in the buying process. By working closely with your agent, you can identify these pitfalls ahead of time and adjust accordingly. Mistakes in the buying process can lead to higher costs, added stress, and even terminated contracts. Here are ten common mistakes to avoid when buying a home.

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home

1. Not getting pre-approved

Getting pre-approved is a key component of the early stages of the buying process and will help to maximize your chances of getting your offer accepted. Getting pre-approved will give you a concrete idea of how much you can borrow, how much house you can afford, the estimated monthly costs of your mortgage and its corresponding interest rates. It also communicates to sellers that you are a serious buyer.

2. Not identifying your price range

Pursuing listings you can’t afford is a surefire way to start your home buying process off on the wrong foot. Buying a home that’s outside your budget will put added pressure on your finances and increases your chances of foreclosing, should your financial situation take a turn for the worse. Use the general rule that your house payment should never be more than 25-30% of your take-home pay, and as you prepare for talks with your lender be sure to account for all the expenses you will incur, including private mortgage insurance (PMI) if applicable.

3. Taking on new credit

Opening new lines of credit at any point in the home buying process will slow things down and can affect your chances of getting a home loan. Adding another credit card to your collection or taking out a loan will change your credit score, causing a ripple effect that can bring the buying process to a halt. Because new credit changes your debt-to-income ratio, lenders will likely want to review your mortgage approval and your risk of non-payment. This forces sellers to wait around for your application while competing buyers speed ahead of you in line.

4. Not purchasing adequate homeowner’s insurance

It’s understood that a home is a valuable asset that needs to be protected, but it is still all too common for homeowners to be under-insured. A homeowner’s insurance policy covers your home, your belongings, living expenses and injury or damage to others that occur on the property in the event of a disaster. Work closely with your insurance broker to make sure you have adequate coverage for the most common risks in your area like flood, earthquake, and more.

5. Not looking for other loans

With a little resourcefulness, you can tap into new sources of financial support that will help to ease the burden of making a home purchase. VA Loans can be a lifesaver for active service and veteran personnel, offering zero down payment and lower-than-average mortgage rates. Other government loan programs such as USDA and FHA loans can greatly aid homebuyers with favorable loan terms. Be sure to thoroughly review the qualifications of these loans before applying.

6. Misunderstanding the down payment

When it comes to down payments, it’s not twenty percent or bust. Granted, with a twenty percent down payment your lender won’t require you to purchase mortgage insurance; but even if you’re short, there are a number of alternatives to private mortgage insurance (PMI) available to you, such as Lender-Paid Mortgage Insurance and a piggyback loans strategy. Work with your agent to identify trusted lenders in their network that can help you secure the right loan.

7. Not working with a buyer’s agent

A buyer’s agent will help you to identify which homes you can afford, work with you on formulating a competitive offer and preparing for negotiations with sellers and listing agents. Buyer’s agents will also handle the paperwork when it comes time to close the deal. A home purchase is an intricate transaction with many moving parts and having an experienced professional by your side who can navigate each step is invaluable. Typically, the buyer’s agent splits the commission of the sale with the listing agent, which is paid by the seller, so generally their services come at no additional cost to you.

8. Underestimating repair and remodeling costs

Regardless of whether you’re buying a fixer-upper or a home that needs a few simple upgrades, you can usually expect some repair and remodeling expenses once the home is yours. Before you start swinging hammers or tearing up drywall, take time to assess the scope of the projects and whether you can do them yourself or need a professional. Talk with your agent about which remodeling projects have the highest resale value for comparable homes in your area.

9. Buying a home without an inspection

Buying a home without having it inspected opens the buyer up to added risk. Without a home inspection, you forego the ability to negotiate repairs and concessions with the seller. Getting a home inspection is a small investment and alerts you of any potential home disasters that may be on the horizon. However, this mistake comes with an aside. In a seller’s market where a high number of buyers are competing for a limited number of available listings, waiving the inspection contingency is a common tactic for buyers looking to make their offer stand out. Work with your agent to figure out what’s best for you and your situation.

10. Forgetting about moving costs

It’s easy to get so focused on the purchase of the home that you forget about what it will cost to move there. Moving expenses can add up quickly, especially if you’ll be traveling across state lines or across the country. If you’re buying and selling a home at the same time, there’s also the question of where you’ll live in between closing on your current home and closing on your new one. If these costs aren’t accounted for, you can quickly be over budget before you set foot in your new home.

 

For more information on how to make the buying process smoother, read about how you can Increase Your Buying Power.

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Making an All-Cash Offer on a House

The more competitive the housing market, the greater the lengths buyers will go to to make themselves stand out amongst the competition. Making an all-cash offer is one such way a buyer can differentiate themselves. In a seller’s market, listings commonly receive multiple offers, often over their original asking price. This will typically lead to bidding wars between buyers, and all-cash offers will often enter the fold. Keep the following information in mind if you’re thinking about making an all-cash offer on a house.

Making an All-Cash Offer on a House

What is an all-cash offer?

When a buyer makes an all-cash offer, it means they have the funds available to purchase the house in a liquid account and won’t need to secure a home loan. Once the buyer has shown they have enough cash to make the purchase, they will put down an earnest money deposit. The remaining amount they owe will typically be wire transferred at a later date.

Whereas financed offers are tied to an approval process with a lender, all-cash offers are not because the buyer has already proven they have the amount required to purchase the property on-hand. This can create a less risky and more streamlined selling process, which sellers may view as favorable.

How do I make an all-cash offer on a house?

First, there’s the question of how to organize the funds you’ll use to make your all-cash offer. Though it is not required, lumping your cash together into one account may help to simplify the offer process. This way, when it’s time to show the seller a bank statement proving you have the necessary funds for the purchase, you won’t have to spend additional time tracking down money from multiple accounts.

Once you’ve found the house you’d like to purchase, work closely with your agent to formulate an offer. Knowing that you’re prepared to make an all-cash offer bodes well for negotiations. Your agent may use the guaranteed money and quick closing times as leverage for driving down the price of the offer. You’ll also be able to handpick your contingencies, which can further sweeten the deal for the seller. This may come in handy in a highly competitive market, where simply making an all-cash offer may not be enough to win out. After the offer has been agreed upon and signed by both parties, it’s on to escrow and closing. All-cash offers often lead to quick sales with short closing times. So, it may only be a matter of days before you have the deed to your new home in hand.

 

Image Source: Getty Images

 

What are the pros and cons of all-cash offers?

Pros: All-cash offers essentially cut out the middleman from the buying process, allowing you to purchase a home without intervention from a lender. You’ll also save on the closing costs that would have stemmed from securing a loan. The closing process will be shorter, which can be helpful for both buyers and sellers who are looking to move quickly. Additionally, an all-cash offer may be the antidote for navigating the challenges of a highly competitive market by increasing your buying power and giving your agent leverage when approaching negotiations.

Cons: The greatest drawback with making an all-cash offer is self-explanatory—you will have less cash available to you once the purchase goes through. This means you’ll be cutting into your reserves for the myriad of expenses that come with homeownership. Before proceeding with an all-cash offer, make sure you’ve properly budgeted for closing costs, taxes, repairs, and any remodeling projects you have in mind.

 

Curious about how you can stay competitive without an all-cash offer? The first step is to get pre-approved:

The Importance of Pre-Approval.

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What is a Buyer’s Market?

Much can be determined about the conditions of a local real estate market by its supply and demand. When the supply of available homes is greater than demand, it’s referred to as a buyer’s market. Reduced listing prices, longer days on market, and an increased number of re-listings are also signs of a buyer’s market. While the current market is far from favoring buyers, it’s still a good idea to understand how a shift in the conditions could impact your search for a new home when the time comes.

 

What is a Buyer’s Market?

A buyer’s market creates ideal conditions for those looking to purchase a home. With more homes on the market than buyers, sellers must compete to gain their attention. In a buyer’s market, inventory is high, which means buyers can take their time in finding the right home as there is simply more to choose from. It’s common for homes to be on the market for longer periods of time. Sellers will sometimes need to drop their price to gain a competitive advantage, a selling tactic that is not nearly as common in hotter markets. To get a gauge of your local market conditions, talk to your Windermere agent about the current home price, sales, and inventory figures in your area.

How to Approach a Buyer’s Market

It’s understood that a buyer’s market favors buyers, but how can they utilize this advantage as they explore available listings? For one, buyers can be picky about finding the right home. Unlike a seller’s market, buyers have the luxury of weighing comparative advantages between homes knowing that time is on their side.

The conditions of a buyer’s market favor the buyer when it comes to negotiations as well. With fewer people buying homes, sellers are willing to be more flexible during the negotiation process, which gives buyers leverage. This underlines the benefits of working with a buyer’s agent. Buyer’s agents deliver significant value to the clients they represent in their ability to find the right home, streamline the buying process, and handle the negotiations and offer phases of a home purchase.

If you are selling a home while looking to purchase, you likely have the opportunity to make your offer contingent on the sale of your existing home, whereas in a seller’s market, there is a low chance of getting a contingent offer accepted. Contingent offers can be tricky, but when done correctly, it means that you don’t have to buy if you can’t sell.

When an agent sees that a home has been on the market for quite some time, that will fuel their ability to negotiate a lower price. In these market conditions, the chances are low that buyers will enter a bidding war or that a home will suddenly sell overnight to a competing offer. However, once buyers have identified their top candidate home, they should work with their agent to form a strategy for making a successful offer.

Sellers will be doing the most they can to make their homes stand out amongst the high number of available listings. It’s common for them to make repairs, upgrades, and other improvements to their homes before placing them on the market to entice buyers. Accordingly, a buyer’s leverage in negotiations carries through to contingencies, where they can work with their agent to negotiate repairs—a proposition that sellers will be more open to, given the limited number of buyers.

 

The conditions of a buyer’s market put the buyer in a favorable position as they go about finding the right home. For more information on how to increase your buying power, talk to your Windermere agent. If you are interested in understanding more about your local market conditions, or are looking to purchase a home, connect with a Windermere agent here:

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Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time

Successfully selling a home and buying a home are significant accomplishments on their own, but when their timelines cross it can be difficult to manage both. If you’re thinking about doing both simultaneously, it’s equally important to understand the steps you can take to make the process go smoothly as it is to have a backup plan in case it doesn’t. Above all, the balancing act required to pull off both deals highlights the importance of working closely with a trusted and experienced real estate agent.

Do I buy or sell first?

One can imagine a perfect world in which the two transactions go through one right after the other. However, this is not usually the case. So, should you list your current home first or start by putting in offers on a new one? There are pros and cons to both.

Selling your current home first allows you to make offers on a new home with cash in your pocket, increases your buying power, and avoids having to juggle two mortgages simultaneously. On the other hand, it creates a gap of residence, often leaving homeowners wondering where they’ll stay until they move into their new home or whether they may need to rent before they can buy again. Sellers may also negotiate a rent-back agreement with the buyers, allowing them to rent the house from the new owners before they move in.

Buying before selling solves the need for any temporary housing and makes the overall moving process much easier. Having a residence established ahead of time means you’ll only have to move once, which can save you some serious stress during this time of transition. Oppositely, buying a new home before you sell your current one will put an added strain on your finances. Having two concurrent mortgages equates to taking on more debt, which could result in less-than-favorable loan terms for purchasing your new home. Without the lump sum generated by a home sale in your pocket, coming up with enough money for a down payment may be a challenge and obtaining private mortgage insurance (PMI) may be in the cards. Finally, buying before selling comes with an obvious assumption—that your current house will sell.

Ultimately, the order of operations depends on your situation. Perhaps you’re moving due to a change of employment, and you need to direct all your energy toward buying a new home by a certain date before you can even think about selling your current one. No matter which route you take, it’s important to communicate your timeline to your listing agent or your buyer’s agent so they can strategize accordingly.

Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time 

Local Market Conditions

Buying and selling at the same time will come with a certain duality: at each step in the process, you’ll have to balance your responsibilities as both a buyer and a seller. For example, when assessing your local market conditions, you’ll be looking at not one, but two housing markets.

  • Seller’s Market: Selling in a seller’s market means that that you’ll need to be prepared to move once you list, since you could be looking at a short selling timeline. However, relying too heavily on the assumption that your house will sell quickly could make things dicey down the road. If you’re buying in a seller’s market, finding a new home may take longer than expected. You could potentially be waiting weeks or months for an offer to get accepted.
  • Buyer’s Market: Selling in a buyer’s market typically means that homes stay on the market longer. If you proceed with a new home purchase just after you’ve listed your current house, know that it may take a while to sell. If you’re buying in a buyer’s market you can afford to be picky, knowing that time is on your side. With fewer people buying homes, sellers will be more flexible, giving you leverage to negotiate your contingencies.

Having a Backup Plan

If only you could wave a magic wand and make both transactions go through as planned. That’s why it’s important to have a backup plan in place to right the ship should things go sideways at any point in the buying or selling process. Talk to your agent about which options may be right for you. Here are a few:

  • Sales Contingency: Buying your new home with a sales contingency allows you to opt out of the purchase contract if your home doesn’t sell by a specified date. Purchasing contingent on the sale is rare in highly competitive markets.
  • Bridge Loan: If your current home hasn’t sold yet and you’re not able to afford the down payment on a new home, a bridge loan may be a fitting solution. Bridge loans can be used to cover the down payment on a new house and are repaid once your existing home has sold.
  • Rent-Back Agreement: A rent-back agreement is a clause in the sales contract that allows the seller to rent their old home from the buyer for an agreed-upon period of time before the buyer moves in. This can be especially helpful in situations when the seller is having trouble finding a new home.

For more information on buying and selling a home at the same time, connect with an experienced Windermere Real Estate agent today by clicking on the button below.

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Understanding Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Buyers are constantly looking for ways to streamline the buying process, whether that’s working with their agent to identify how they can increase their buying power, getting pre-approved, or being as cash-ready as possible. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), though it is an additional expense, can be a gateway to homeownership, and for some buyers, may be their only choice to secure the required financing for a home.

 

What is PMI?

Understanding PMI begins with understanding down payments. A down payment is a lump sum payment made by the buyer early on in the process of obtaining a mortgage. The magic number lenders prefer to see paid down is usually twenty percent of the home’s purchase price. If a buyer doesn’t have that secured, the lender will typically require the buyer to purchase Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), which protects the lender against the possibility of the buyer defaulting on the mortgage.

 

Image Source: Getty Images

 

The Benefits of PMI

Fortunately, it’s not all-or-nothing when it comes to the twenty percent down payment—if you don’t have that amount on-hand, you can still purchase a home. Private Mortgage Insurance creates a pathway to home ownership for buyers who find themselves in this situation. Although PMI can raise the buyer’s monthly costs, it allows them to move in and start building equity immediately. For this reason, PMI may be a saving grace for buyers who are looking to leave their days of renting behind them and become a homeowner.

 

Alternatives to PMI

Saving up enough money to make a twenty percent down payment is the most direct way to avoid private mortgage insurance, but a down payment of this size may not be feasible for some buyers, especially in markets where prices are on the rise. Here are some alternatives:

Piggybacking

A common alternative to PMI is to take out a second loan to pay back the twenty percent down in addition to the primary mortgage. This is known as piggybacking, which rearranges the loan into an 80/10/10 split, where the first loan accounts for 80 percent of the total property value, the “piggyback” or second loan covers the next ten percent, and the down payment covers the remaining ten percent. (There are other loan structures besides 80/10/10, this is just one example.) This can be an effective strategy for those who are ready to purchase a home but do not have the savings to make the full down payment. However, buyers should be aware that the second loan will likely come with higher interest rates.

VA Loans

VA Loans are a helpful resource for active service personnel and veterans looking to purchase a home. Not having to purchase mortgage insurance is included among the list of benefits VA Loans offer to qualified buyers, however, they require a one-time “funding fee” that functions similarly to mortgage insurance.

Lender-Paid Mortgage Insurance

LPMI may be a viable option for buyers in certain cases. Not to be confused by the name, LPMI is a restructuring of the loan in which the lender pays the mortgage insurance premium upfront. LPMI will remain in place for the life of the loan and usually comes with higher interest rates. Buyers should consider the terms of LPMI and how they differ from standard PMI to decide which is right for them.

Other

Other types of loans offer an alternative to conventional mortgages. FHA loans have their own mortgage insurance, as do USDA loans. The mortgage insurance premium (MIP) on FHA loans may be favorable, but buyers should keep in mind that in most cases they will be paying two different insurance premiums—the upfront rate and an annual fee. To be eligible for a USDA loan, there are several requirements that both the buyer and the property must meet.

 

To navigate the process of home financing and learn about the options around obtaining Private Mortgage Insurance, it helps to work closely with a great real estate agent who can help their clients identify lenders in their network that they know and trust to secure the right loan. For more information on purchasing a home, visit the buying section of our blog: Windermere Blog – Buying

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National Homeownership Month – Part Two

In recognition of National Homeownership Month, we’re featuring unique home buyer stories from across our network. Earlier this month, we shared three stories of first-time home buyers and how they worked with their agents to find the perfect home. Here is part two:

 

Jordan Cain

After years of helping clients find their dream homes, Windermere agent Jordan Cain of Windermere Abode and his girlfriend Sami decided it was time to find theirs. And their hearts were set on Tacoma, Washington. Even though Jordan had a deep understanding of the local market conditions, it was important to him to let Sami learn about the home buying process at her own pace.

Looking for a home in the summer of 2021 meant Jordan and Sami were up against some serious competition, including bidding wars and cash buyers. Jordan knew the process could get emotional. As an agent, he has helped calm many clients so they can make educated and calculated decisions. This time around, he leaned on his fellow agents for moral support when he found himself in those same emotional moments.

After putting several offers in, they eventually found the perfect home. For Jordan and Sami, becoming homeowners will allow them to continue to grow in their lives together. For Jordan and his family, owning his first home is deeply significant. Here’s what he had to say: “As the youngest child in my family, I’m the last one of my siblings to purchase a home. I’m even more proud of the fact that four Black siblings, and our mother, have all pushed past systemic racism to pursue one of the pillars of the American dream—owning property.”

 

Danica and Nick – Windermere Agent Ashley Abolafia

It’s been Danica and Nick’s dream to own a home before turning thirty. And this year, they made that dream a reality!

In a competitive market, it’s common for buyers to put in multiple offers and face rejection again and again. Fortunately for Danica and Nick, luck was on their side. With low interest rates and a lack of inventory, their local market in Lake Stevens, Washington was just beginning to heat up when they started the process with their agent, Ashley Abolafia of Team Abolafia. Throughout their home buying journey, they saw Ashley and her team as a guiding light, who they leaned on for her wealth of knowledge.

When they found their dream home, Danica and Nick jumped at the opportunity to make an offer. And to their surprise, it was accepted without having to enter a bidding war! Reflecting on their time with Ashley, and the entire home buying process, Danica and Nick say that owning a home means they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

 

Lauren – Windermere Agent Jana Ross

Being a first-time home buyer, Lauren had no idea what to expect as she prepared to hit the market in Tacoma, Washington. She had a million questions for her Windermere agent Jana Ross, who answered every single one with a level of care and knowledge that put Lauren at ease.

It didn’t take long for the process to pick up steam. Just two days after meeting her agent, Lauren was looking at houses and picking out things she liked and noticing things she didn’t. Jana took notes and found a home for Lauren she thought was perfect. Sure enough, Lauren fell in love, and they put in an offer.

Most of the process from there was routine, but it wasn’t without its bumps. After Lauren took possession of the home, the seller retained access by keeping a key in a contractor box, which they used to access  a garage full of items they left behind after the closing was finalized. Though these complications tested Lauren’s patience, Jana was there the whole time to help keep her levelheaded until move in day. Jana gave Lauren the encouragement she needed and allowed her to keep a sense of humor along the way.

Now that she’s settled into her new home, Lauren is grateful for the stability it provides and appreciative of the support she received from Jana throughout her home buying journey.

 

To begin your own home buying journey, connect with an experienced Windermere Real Estate agent today:

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