Homeownership Terms to Know: Rent-Back Agreement, Joint Tenancy & More

From the outside, buying a home may seem like a zero-sum game: the seller relinquishes ownership of a property to the buyer in exchange for money and the buyer becomes the property’s new outright owner. However, there’s more nuance to homeownership than meets the eye. The following homeownership agreements provide alternatives to a traditional home purchase. These options may be right for you when searching for your next home.

Homeownership Terms to Know

Rent-Back Agreement

A rent-back agreement (also known as a sale lease-back) is tailor-made for homeowners who are buying a home while selling their current one. Buying a home and selling a home are both significant undertakings in their own right, but when combined, everything is heightened. For all your planning, successfully executing both transactions is predicated on a variety of factors, including the local market conditions in both places.

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. The agreement will include the length of the rental period and the seller’s rental costs, while spelling out the responsibilities of each party during the transition.

These agreements are mutually beneficial to buyers and sellers. Not only do sellers buy themselves time to find their new home, they collect proceeds from the sale of their current one, which can be used to help fund their new home purchase when the time comes. The money collected from sellers’ rent payments is an obvious bonus for buyers. And in a competitive market, making an offer that gives the seller flexibility in their moving timeline may help it stand out amongst the competition.

 

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Joint Tenancy

When two or more people purchase a property together, Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS) requires that all co-buyers hold an equal interest in the property and that they all come into ownership through the same title at the same time. If one co-owner dies, ownership passes to the other co-owner—this is known as Right of Survivorship.

This form of co-buying a home presents an opportunity to prospective home buyers who may not yet have the means to purchase a home on their own by combining their buying power with that of their co-buyer. However, entering a real estate transaction with a co-buyer means that you’re financially tied together, which opens the door for added risk.

Tenancy In Common

When co-buyers hold a title as tenants in common, shares of the property can be divided equally or unequally. But even with a disparity in ownership percentage, no one owner may claim sole ownership of the property. When a tenant in common passes away, their ownership is bequeathed to their designated heir.

Tenancy In Severalty

Unlike Joint Tenancy and Tenancy in Common, Tenancy in Severalty represents an agreement in which one individual, corporation, or entity owns the property and does not share ownership with anyone. 

To learn more about the homeownership options available to you, and for help searching for your next home, connect with a local, experienced Windermere agent:

 

 


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The Importance of Working with an Experienced Equestrian Real Estate Agent

Equestrian properties are not your typical residential homes. The land serves a purpose beyond addressing the homeowner’s needs, and everything on the premises revolves around making sure the horses are at their best. And horses are not your average domestic pets. Tending to them is a full-time job that consists of constant hard work. When it comes to buying and selling these properties, it’s important to work with an agent who understands these facets of equestrian life and everything they entail.

The Importance of Working with an Experienced Equestrian Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents who either grew up around horses or have many years’ worth of experience working with equestrian buyers and sellers are uniquely qualified to understand your needs as a buyer or seller of an equestrian property.

A particular region’s climate, for example, will present unique challenges for equestrian buyers looking to build out their property to accommodate their specific riding discipline. Only an experienced equestrian agent can provide the proper guidance on property additions and maintenance, as well as how those recommendations align with local zoning regulations. For those looking to sell their equestrian property, it’s imperative that they work with a listing agent who understands the property and how to market it to the right buyers.

Equestrian advisors also understand the emotions that come with equestrian property ownership. Taking care of horses is a significant undertaking, financially and emotionally. Buyers and sellers may set logic to the side and make decisions based on emotions, rightfully so, given how heavily invested they are in the wellbeing of their animals. Equestrian advisors know how to interpret the emotions behind these decisions and guide their clients toward logical solutions throughout the buying/selling process.

 

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Helpful Questions to Ask an Equestrian Real Estate Agent

Finding the right agent to sell your equestrian property or finding the right buyer’s agent takes time, but you can set yourself up for success by knowing which questions to ask. The following list of questions will help you identify a candidate with equestrian experience.

  • Did you ride / were you around horses growing up?
  • Do you have experience working on an equestrian property?
  • Do you currently own horses?
  • What are your real estate certifications and designations?
  • Could you share testimonials from past clients?

For assistance planning an equestrian property sale or purchase, or for answers to your questions, connect with an experienced Equestrian Advisor:

Windermere Equestrian Advisors

 


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How to Save Money to Buy a House

It’s no secret that buying a home is a serious financial undertaking, but aspiring homeowners are often left wondering what the methods behind the process actually look like. One of the telltale signs that you’re ready to buy a home is having substantial savings to use toward the purchase. The following information goes under the hood of the buying process to explain how much you need to save and some useful methods of saving money.

Making a Down Payment on a Home

The down payment is a large payment made by the buyer upfront to help fund the purchase of a home. Although a down payment of 20 percent of the home’s purchase price will avoid the need to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI), down payments of this size are not the norm. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, in 2021, the typical down payment was seven percent for first-time home buyers and 17 percent for repeat buyers (NAR)1.

So, how long does it take to save up for the down payment? The answer is unique to each buyer. It depends on your needs as a homeowner, whether you have a deadline, and what you’re able to afford. Your mortgage will factor into the equation, too. Different mortgage types have different down payment requirements, with certain loan products requiring as little as 3% down to qualify. Remember that in general, a higher down payment equates to a lower interest rate and lower monthly payments for your mortgage.

To get an idea of what’s affordable, use our free Home Monthly Payment Calculator by clicking the button below. With current rates based on national averages and customizable mortgage terms, you can experiment with different down payment amounts to get estimates of your monthly payment for any listing price.

 

 

Adult man calculating finances in his home office as he prepares to buy a house

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How to Save Money to Buy a House

No matter where your savings stand, these strategies can help to beef up your savings account as you prepare to buy a home.

  • Reduce Debt: Carrying extra debt can weigh you down throughout the home buying process. And even if you make progress on your savings, you’ll be stuck in limbo if you’re not able to qualify for a mortgage. Consider refinancing existing loans and explore ways to reduce credit card debt to set yourself up for success. This will also put you in a better position when you enter the pre-approval process for your mortgage.
  • Rethink Your Budget: Are your streaming subscriptions piling up? Is now the best time for that five-star vacation you had planned? Saving up to buy a home doesn’t mean you need to abandon all your leisurely expenses, but it is worth it to look at them from a new perspective to find ways you can save. It’s also a good time to examine your bills and self-audit your current living expenses.
  • Increase Your Savings: Once you go through your expenditures with a fine-toothed comb, you may find there’s ample opportunity to increase your savings. Regularly contributing to a high-yield savings account will put you on the fast track to pile up your extra funds and ensure that you’re setting them aside.
  • Additional Streams of Income: If you’ve ever thought of using your unique skills to generate some extra dollars, now is the time to act. Whether it’s teaching music lessons, offering tutoring classes, selling your handmade goodies at the local farmer’s market, etc., the extra revenue from a side hustle can help you purchase a home.

Budget for Additional Home Purchase Costs

Once you’ve got your head wrapped around the down payment and formed your saving strategy, you can shift your financial preparations toward the remaining costs of buying a home. Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Closing Costs: Closing costs for buyers typically range anywhere between 2% and 6% of the home loan amount but vary by transaction.
  • Homeowners Insurance: Lenders will usually require that your purchase a homeowners insurance policy, which covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and living expenses if you are unable to live in your home temporarily because of an insured disaster.
  • Repairs and Remodeling: The home you end up buying may very well be in need of repair, and you may have certain remodeling projects in mind. These costs can stack up quickly, so be sure to carve out ample room in your home buying budget accordingly.
  • Homeowners Association (HOA) Fees: If the home you’re purchasing is governed by a Homeowners Association (HOA), you will be required to pay monthly HOA fees on top of your existing mortgage monthly payment.

For more information on preparing to buy a house, visit our Guide to Buying a Home:

 

 


­­­­­­1: National Association of REALTORS® (2021) Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

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What Is an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)?

An integral part of the formula to successfully buying a home is securing the correct amount of financing. Once you’ve found the home you’d like to pursue, one of your primary tasks is exploring different loan products to see which best fits your situation. Eventually, you’ll come to a fork in the road where you’ll need to decide between a fixed-rate mortgage and an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). The following information will help you gain a better understanding of ARMs to help you decide whether they’re right for you.

What Is an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)?

After your down payment, your mortgage will finance the remainder of your home purchase. Whereas fixed-rate mortgages allow you to lock in a specific interest rate and payment for the life of your loan, adjustable-rate mortgages’ interest rates will fluctuate over time, thus changing your loan payment. It’s typical for ARMs to begin with a low introductory interest rate, but once that first stage of the loan has passed, they will begin to shift up and down. ARMs generally have a cap that specifies the maximum rate that can occur for that loan.

Let’s say you secure an adjustable-rate mortgage with 30-year terms, the first five of which are at a fixed rate. When the variable interest portion of the loan kicks in, your mortgage’s fluctuations will be measured against an index. If the index is higher than when you secured the loan, your rate and loan payment will go up—and vice versa. How often your ARM rates change depends on your agreement with your lender. Talk to your mortgage broker to learn more about the characteristics of adjustable-rate mortgages.

 

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Different Types of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs)

Payment-Option ARM: You’ll have flexibility to choose your monthly payments with a payment-option ARM, including interest-only payments and minimum payments that don’t cover interest. These loan products can get home buyers into hot water quickly when rates increase.

Interest-Only ARM: With an interest-only ARM, you pay just the interest on the loan for a specified introductory period, then the principal payments kick in on top. The longer the introductory period, the higher your payments will be when the delayed principal payments enter the equation.

Hybrid ARM: As outlined above, a hybrid ARM begins with a fixed-rate introductory period followed by an adjustable-rate period. Typically, a hybrid ARM’s fixed-rate period lasts anywhere between three to 10 years, and its rates adjust at an agreed-upon frequency during the adjustable-rate period, such as once every six months or once a year.

Pros and Cons of an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM)

 

Pros

Cons

  • The low introductory rate allows you to save money and plan for when the adjustable-rate period kicks in.
  • If you plan to live in the home for a long time, a fixed-rate mortgage may be a better option.
  • If you plan on selling in a few years, you can use the proceeds to pay back your mortgage before the fixed-rate period ends.
  • Without knowing what will happen to interest rates, your monthly payments could become unaffordable.
  • If the index decreases over time, you could end up with a lower interest rate and monthly payments.
  • Financial planning is more difficult with an ARM, since there’s no telling what your monthly payments will be one year to the next.

 

Home Monthly Payment Calculator

To get an idea of how your mortgage payment will fit into your budget, use our free Home Monthly Payment Calculator by clicking the button below. With current rates based on national averages and customizable mortgage terms, you can experiment with different values to get an estimate of your monthly payment for any listing price.

 

 

For more information on financing your next home purchase, connect with an experienced, local Windermere agent.

 

 


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Making a Down Payment on a Home

Imagine the process of financing a home purchase as a relay race. From start to finish, the baton must be passed several times between interconnected transactions. The down payment plays an important role in the relay race and will help you cross the finish line, but how much money do you put down? And when do you make the down payment? Understanding its characteristics will help you see where it fits in the home buying process.

What is a down payment?

The down payment is a large payment made upfront to help fund a home purchase. Unlike the financing obtained through a mortgage loan, the down payment comes out of the buyer’s pocket, not from a lender.

For example, let’s say the house you want to buy is priced at $500,000. If you put $25,000 down, or five percent of the purchase price, that would leave $475,000 you’d need to pay for with a mortgage. If you put down $100,000, or 20 percent, that would leave a $400,000 mortgage principal. In general, a higher down payment equates to a lower interest rate since that financial structure is viewed as less risky by lenders. It also means your monthly payments will be lower since your loan balance is smaller.

However, making a large down payment isn’t feasible for everyone. In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers1, the typical down payment was seven percent for first-time home buyers and 17 percent for repeat buyers in 2021. If you’re not able to put down 20 percent of the home’s purchase price, your lender will typically require that you obtain Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), which protects them against the possibility of a mortgage default. The benefit of PMI is that it creates a pathway to homeownership by allowing you to move in and start building equity right away.

Different loan products have different down payment requirements. Conventional loans have a minimum down payment requirement of three percent, while government-backed loan products like VA loans or USDA loans may allow you to purchase a home with no money down if you qualify.

Down Payment: Home Monthly Payment Calculator

As you prepare to buy a house, it’s helpful to see what you can afford. Your down payment will have a direct impact on your loan terms and your monthly mortgage payment. Use our Home Monthly Payment Calculator to experiment with different down payments, principal amounts, interest rates, taxes, and more for any listing price.

 

A man and a woman shake hands with their real estate agent at their kitchen table

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How to Save for a Down Payment

Though your lender will need to verify that you have the funds available to make your down payment early on in the mortgage approval process, the down payment is officially due at closing. Saving up for such a payment may seem like a daunting task, but with the right planning, you’ll make steady progress. Having a strategy in place for compiling your down payment is a telltale sign that you’re ready to buy a home. Here are some methods of generating savings to consider:

  • Consider downsizing to reduce your living expenses and increase your savings over time.
  • Reduce your debt before applying for a mortgage to give yourself a better shot at favorable mortgage terms—i.e., a lower down payment requirement and reduced interest rates.
  • Explore down payment assistant programs to see if you qualify.
  • Ask family members for support.

If you’re in the process of selling your current home while looking for a new one, know that you can use the proceeds of the home sale to help finance your new home purchase.

For more information on financing a home purchase, helpful tips on the buying process from start to finish, and more, visit our Home Buying Guide.

 


1. ­­­­­­National Association of REALTORS® (2021) Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

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Making a Contingent Offer: Common Real Estate Contingencies

Imagine a home-buying scenario where you make an offer, the seller immediately accepts, and the two of you move through closing without any hiccups until you have keys in hand. It’s possible, but a more likely home buying experience is marked by negotiation, counteroffers, and a back-and-forth dialogue between both parties to reach a deal. And in some cases, the deal can fall through.

Contingencies protect buyers and sellers against these natural characteristics of the home buying process and any problems that may arise before a home sale is finalized. They help to shape a buyer’s offer and can be used strategically to make it more appealing. Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or you’ve bought before, you should be aware of common real estate contingencies and the role they play in making an offer on a home.

Making a Contingent Offer on a Home

After you and the seller agree on the price of a home, both parties have certain duties to finalize the transaction. Buyers are responsible for securing financing, having the home inspected, and getting the property appraised. Sellers are responsible for prioritizing the offer on the table and opening their doors to the home inspector when the time comes. The agreed-upon contingencies included in the contract protect the buyer and seller against any issues that may arise during this time.

Contingencies present a spectrum of options to home buyers, allowing them to walk away from a real estate transaction with their earnest money intact or renegotiate the contract. While their inclusion offers protection and negotiating leverage, sometimes their exclusion can be just as effective.

In a seller’s market, competition amongst buyers is high. Escalation clauses, bidding wars, and all-cash offers become commonplace as potential home buyers compete for a limited number of listings. To sweeten their offers in such market conditions, buyers will typically waive their contingencies. This presents added risk due to a lack of protection, but with so much competition around them, buyers are left with no choice but to maximize their offer’s appeal.

 

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Common Real Estate Contingencies

Home Inspection Contingency

After you’ve made an offer, you’ll have a home inspector thoroughly examine the home before the deal is final. If they discover issues with the property, this contingency allows you and your agent to present the seller with a new offer that accounts for the home’s lessened condition, or to cancel the contract entirely.

Financing Contingency

Also known as a “mortgage contingency,” a financing contingency gives the buyer a specified period of time to secure adequate financing to purchase the home. Even if you are pre-approved for your mortgage, you may not be able to obtain the right loan for the home. If you are unable to finance the purchase, this contingency allows you to back out of the contract and recover your earnest money, and the seller can re-list the home.

Appraisal Contingency

An appraisal contingency states that the home must appraise for, at minimum, the sales price. It allows you to walk away from the deal if the property’s appraised value is lower than the sales price, and typically guarantees that your earnest money will be returned.

Home Sale Contingency

If you’re buying a new home while selling your current one, you may want to include a home sale contingency in your offer. This contingency specifies the date by which you’ll need to sell your current home in order to move forward with your offer. If you don’t sell your home by the specified date, the contract is terminated. Home sale contingencies are financially appealing in that they allow buyers to use the proceeds from their home sale to fund their new home purchase. However, these contingencies force sellers to wait until the buyer’s current home sells, which means they likely won’t accept such offers in competitive markets. 

Title Contingency

Before the sale of a home goes final, a search will be performed to ensure that any liens or judgements made against the property have been resolved. A title contingency allows you to raise any issues you may have with the title status of the property and stipulates that the seller must clear these issues up before the transfer of title can be complete. If an unpaid lien or unpaid taxes turn up in the home’s title search, this contingency also allows you to back out of the deal and look for another home.

To learn more about preparing a winning offer, connect with a local, experienced Windermere Real Estate agent.

 


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What Is a Homeowners Association and How Much Are HOA Fees?

Becoming a homeowner comes with many responsibilities, but if the home you’re purchasing requires you to be part of a Homeowners Association (HOA), you’ll have to follow additional guidelines and pay additional fees. As you’re looking for homes, talk to your agent about whether purchasing a home that’s part of an HOA is right for you.

What is a Homeowners Association (HOA)?

A Homeowners Association is an organization that governs a community of homes. Homeowners within the governed community must follow certain guidelines for property upkeep and maintenance and will face restrictions on their ability to make additions and/or changes to the property. These rules exist to maintain a standard level of quality amongst the community to maximize property value. 

Different HOAs may have different stipulations based on the type of housing they govern. For example, an HOA may oversee a community of detached single-family homes, but they are commonly found in communities of condo or townhome housing styles where there is a shared, communal living style. Each HOA has a Board of Directors in charge of enforcing rules, collecting fees, and managing the funds, and certain associations may hire a third-party management company to help the Board of Directors carry out their operations. The members of an HOA are the residents who live in that community. Here are some examples of typical HOA property restrictions:

  • Exterior paint color choices must be submitted for approval
  • Grass must be mowed regularly
  • Flower beds must be kept weed-free
  • Noise regulations and/or noise curfew
  • Pet restrictions (type of animal and/or number of pets per household)

Homeowners Association (HOA) Pros and Cons

Living in an HOA community means your property will maintain its curb appeal and you can live with the knowledge that systems are in place to protect property values. However, the benefits come with additional restrictions on your freedoms as a homeowner while increasing your monthly payments.

 

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How much are HOA fees?

If you buy in a development governed by a Homeowners Association, you will be required to pay HOA fees on top of your monthly mortgage payment. Typically paid monthly, HOA fees go toward the neighborhood’s shared spaces, property maintenance, and amenities. Homeowners Association fees vary greatly depending on the particulars of that community’s agreement. These fees often cover landscaping costs, parking, community security, garbage pickup, maintenance and repair, insurance, and other amenities, such as a shared pool or gym. If the home is your primary residence, your HOA fees are not tax-deductible.

HOA fees are an additional expense you’ll have to budget for when buying a home. To get an idea of what you can afford, use our free Home Monthly Payment Calculator by clicking the button below. With current rates based on national averages and customizable mortgage terms, you can experiment with different values to get an estimate of your monthly payment for any listing price, accounting for any HOA fees you may incur.

 


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How to Win a Bidding War When Buying a House

In a seller’s market, many buyers are competing for a limited number of homes. This creates fierce competition amongst buyers and ideal selling conditions for sellers. Sellers will commonly receive multiple offers for their home, often over their original asking price. As the offers stack up, bidding wars will ensue, since only one buyer can ultimately win.

So, how can a buyer rise to the top in these highly competitive situations? First and foremost, it’s important to work closely with your agent to discuss your strategy when buying in a seller’s market. If you find yourself in a bidding war, the following methods may help you secure the home you’re after.

How to Win a Bidding War When Buying a House

Get Pre-Approved for a Loan

Not only is getting pre-approved for a mortgage an important step early on in the buying process, but it’s also a prerequisite for having your offer considered in a bidding war. Without pre-approval, your offer is likely to fall to the bottom of the stack of offers the seller is considering if not tossed aside entirely. Pre-approval gives you credibility as a buyer. It shows that, should your offer be accepted, you have the necessary financing in place to successfully purchase the home. This assurance is key to sellers prioritizing your offer. Pre-approval also helps to speed up the closing process, allowing you to move swiftly through mortgage approval and onto other steps to finalize the transaction, such as the home appraisal and home inspection.

Put More Money Down or Pay Cash

Putting more money down on your offer is one way to differentiate yourself during a bidding war. This may be just what sellers are looking for to put one offer over the top of the others. If you’re able to make an all-cash offer—meaning you have the funds available to purchase the house in a liquid account—you stand to seriously strengthen your candidacy. Because an all-cash buyer can make the purchase without having to go through the process of securing a home loan, it streamlines the buying process, reduces risk, and may persuade the seller to select their offer.

Be Flexible About the Inspection and Your Contingencies

In highly competitive markets, buyers are more likely to waive contingencies to sweeten their offer. So, if you find yourself in a bidding war, you may have to consider doing so to keep up with your competition. If you’re buying and selling a home at the same time, know that making an offer contingent upon the sale of your current home—what is known as a “sale contingency”—won’t be as appealing to sellers during a bidding war, since other buyers will likely be waiving contingencies left and right.

When it comes to the inspection, being lenient can give you a leg up on your fellow bidding war buyers, but it can open you up to added risk as well. Waiving the inspection requirement entirely is an even riskier proposition, as you could end up purchasing a home that needs serious repairs that may not be evident at first glance. When forming your offer strategy with your agent, take time to discuss how you’re willing to modify your inspection requirements.

 

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Escalation Clause

Imagine an auction where multiple buyers are going back and forth, upping each other’s offers. The auctioneer accepts each new price, only for it to be surpassed by the next offer that comes flying in seconds later. This is the essence of an escalation clause in real estate. This clause states that if the seller gets a higher offer, the buyer will raise theirs. The specifics of this clause will spell out how much the buyer is willing to go over the higher bid, as well as their price limit. Including an escalation clause in your offer shows you’re willing to participate in the bidding war, so it’s important to understand what you’re signing up for beforehand. In highly competitive markets, escalation clauses can lead to homes selling for significantly higher than their listing price.

Closing Date Flexibility

Showing that you’re flexible when it comes to the closing date may help put your offer over the top. Remember that the best offer for a seller isn’t just about the price; it’s about which offer removes risk and aligns with their goals. For example, let’s say the seller is in a pinch trying to find a new home. If another buyer’s offer comes in higher than yours, but they are rigid when it comes to the closing date and you’re willing to give the seller more time to find their new home, the seller very well may choose your offer, simply because it works better for them.

Appraisal Gap Guarantee

Sometimes there can be a gap between a home’s appraised value and its purchase price. Many real estate contracts will contain an appraisal contingency, which states that the buyer can back out of the contract. In these situations, an appraisal gap guarantee may be helpful in making your offer stand out. Including an appraisal gap guarantee means that, if there is a gap between the appraised value and the price of the home, the buyer will cover the difference.

 

For more information on understanding competitive markets and what they mean for both buyers and sellers, read our blog on seller’s markets:

What is a Seller’s Market?

 


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The Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a Mortgage Broker

Throughout the course of buying a home, you’ll work with a variety of professionals, all with specific training to help you through each stage of the process. With such a cast of specialists around you, it’s helpful to know everyone’s responsibilities and which questions to ask whom. One important distinction to be made is the difference between your real estate agent and your mortgage broker. The following information is a guide to understanding where they differ and how each of them helps you to buy a home.

Real Estate Agent vs. Mortgage Broker

Both real estate agents and mortgage brokers are licensed professionals who play a pivotal role in the home buying process by bringing parties together to get a deal done. However, that’s about where the similarities end.

Real Estate Agent

Your real estate agent will represent you throughout the buying process. Their access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) allows them to search the widest network of available homes to find the ones that match your budget and criteria. They’ll also receive alerts on open houses and are usually the first to know when new listings hit the market.

Once you’ve identified a home you’d like to pursue, they’ll assist you in putting together your offer, negotiating with the listing agent representing the seller, and guide you through the counteroffer process (should there be one). Once the seller accepts your offer, your agent will help you negotiate any final repair requests found in the home inspection and assist you through closing until you’ve received the keys to your new home.

The point is: your agent will be with you throughout your home buying journey, from start to finish. They are an invaluable resource for local market knowledge and real estate expertise. Though they will not execute the financial aspects of a home purchase for you, (that’s where your mortgage broker comes in), they can recommend trusted lenders with whom you can apply for and secure a home loan.

For more information on working with an agent, visit our Home Buying Guide:

 

Mortgage Broker

Mortgage brokers work on the financial side of a real estate transaction, representing buyers to find them favorable mortgage terms when shopping for a home loan. They connect borrowers to lenders by researching the various fees and rates associated with obtaining a mortgage, accessing the buyer’s financial creditworthiness, and coordinating paperwork. Mortgage brokers are not responsible for loaning any money. Once they’ve found the right lender and loan product for their client, they hand the baton to the lender, who will then disburse the funds at the appropriate time.

Working with a mortgage broker can save you time and money. In some cases, they may be able to get the lender to waive certain fees and are experts at finding the best deal for their clients among a vast array of loans and lenders. Mortgage brokers are instrumental in getting your financing for your home purchase secured and provide guidance on which loan products may work best for you.

For more on the financial aspects of a home purchase, read the following:

 

Two women discussing the terms of a mortgage application

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Questions to Ask Your Real Estate Agent and Mortgage Broker

Now that you know a bit more about the respective responsibilities of real estate agents and mortgage brokers, here are a few common questions to ask when conducting interviews: 

Real Estate Agent

Mortgage Broker

  • How do you help buyers to make their offer stand out?
  • What is the required down payment for this loan?
  • What’s the difference between fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages?
  • How many clients are you working with currently?
  • Which costs are attached to this loan?
  • What is the best way to contact you?
  • How high does my credit score need to be?
  • How long have you been an agent in the local market?
  • What is the interest rate for this loan?
  • Do you represent both buyers and sellers?
  • Do you have recommendations for mortgage brokers, home inspectors, etc.?
  • Is there a prepayment penalty?

 


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What Happens After Making an Offer on a House?

Making an offer on a house feels like a reason to celebrate. You’ve applied for financing, worked with your agent to search for available listings, put in time attending open houses, and have found the place you’re ready to call home. However, celebrating at this stage in the buying process could leave you heartbroken if your offer isn’t accepted.

So, what happens after you make an offer on a house? Revealing what goes on behind the curtain in this critical stage of the buying process will help you understand what to expect next. First, let’s take a look at the three ways a seller can respond to your offer.

What Happens After Making an Offer on a House?

The seller rejects your offer:

If a seller rejects your offer, your agent may be able to relay information from the listing agent as to why it was insufficient. This can serve as a learning opportunity for the next time you prepare an offer.

The seller makes a counteroffer:

Counteroffers can make buying a home feel like a chess match. This is an indication that your offer has piqued the seller’s interest. Once you receive a counteroffer, it’s a matter of ironing out the finer details to reach a deal. Sellers will typically request alterations like a higher price, a modification to your contingencies, or an adjustment of closing dates.

You can accept or reject the counteroffer or come back with a counteroffer of your own, which may continue for multiple rounds until the two parties reach an agreement. Prepare for counteroffers ahead of time with your agent by discussing your price limit, how much you’re willing to budge on your contingencies, your flexibility around closing dates, etc.

The seller accepts your offer:

The smoothest result after submitting your offer is the seller accepting it, but that doesn’t mean you’ve crossed the finish line yet. Once the seller formally accepts your offer, you’ll be “under contract,” meaning both parties have agreed to move forward with the deal. Before closing, any contingencies attached to the offer must be met.

This explains why you’ll occasionally see properties listed as “under contract.” It means the seller has accepted an offer and there’s a good chance the deal will go through, but because the sale is not yet final, the property is technically not off the table. Other interested buyers will make backup offers in case the first offer falls through.

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: Ridofranz

 

After your offer has been accepted, you’re officially in the homestretch of the buying process. Once the purchase agreement is signed, it becomes legally binding. Backing out of a real estate transaction has varying consequences, depending on the timing of the withdrawal and its level of compliance with the attached contingencies. Learn more here:

If you intend to move forward with your purchase, finalizing the deal is a matter of completing the following steps before you can claim your new home:

The Home Buying Process: Closing

  • Next, you’ll deposit your earnest money in an escrow account. This deposit of funds lets the seller know you’re serious about closing on the home. In return, the seller agrees to take the home off the market. When the sale closes, the money goes toward the down payment or closing costs.
  • The timeline for inspections during the closing process vary state to state. Getting the home inspected allows you to ask the seller that certain repairs be made, request seller concessions, and renegotiate your offer. If you included an inspection contingency in your contract, you could walk away from the deal with your earnest money if you decide the property’s issues are too much to handle.
  • Contact your mortgage lender to relay the final details of the purchase so you can go about securing financing. Getting pre-approved early on helps to streamline this part of the closing process.
  • A title search will generate a report for you and your lender detailing the history of the home you’re buying to ensure there are no legal barriers against purchasing it.
  • Now you’re ready to close! Several legal documents are prepared, leading to the transfer of ownership from seller to buyer. You’ll also pay closing costs at this time. Once closing is finalized and the funds in escrow have been distributed, the home is yours!

For helpful information on the buying process from start to finish, tips on working with an agent, moving checklists, and more, visit our home buying guide:

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