How to Search for a Home: Buying Guide

The right home is out there, you just have to find it. This may seem like an oversimplification of the home search process, especially for first-time home buyers who haven’t been through it before. But once you’ve figured out your budget and discussed your needs with your real estate agent, you’ll be off and running. Here is a quick guide to help you get started on your home buying journey.

How to Search for a Home

Which houses can I afford?

Before you go perusing pages and pages of listings online, you’ll want to know your budget. Remember that while a home’s listing price is the main character in the list of home buying expenses, it’s not the only cost you’ll encounter. Knowing the full spectrum of the costs associated with buying a home will help you paint a clear picture of what you can afford. Once you’re familiar with these costs, you can strategize ways to save money to buy a house and plan to make a down payment.

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.


Mortgage Pre-Approval

Another way you can supercharge your home search efforts is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Pre-approval has several benefits for prospective home buyers. It helps you understand the different types of home loans available to you and what interest rate you can expect when the time comes to lock in your mortgage. It also streamlines the home buying process once you’ve found the property you’d like to pursue.


A young heterosexual Caucasian couple view real estate listings on their laptop at the dining room table. The home is decorated with modern furniture and house plants.

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How do I find the right home?

Understanding your needs as a homeowner will help you narrow your selection pool. Before you start your home search, make a list of must-have and nice-to-have home features. This will inform your discussions with your real estate agent. Once they know what you consider a dealbreaker, they can pinpoint the right candidate homes.

So, where can you find available homes? Yes, driving around your neighborhood looking for “For Sale” signs is one way to go about it, but a vast majority of home shopping occurs online. Real estate websites like have advanced home search tools that allow you to filter by location, price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc., plus helpful features like virtual tours, professional photography, maps, and more. Use our online search tool to get started:


What are the different house styles?

Familiarizing yourself with the different architectural styles will help to inform your home search. Understanding the differences between a Craftsman home and a Cottage home can make a big difference when you’re house hunting. Each style has its own unique characteristics, perspective on space, and flair. Knowing what kind of architecture and home design you’re drawn to will also help your agent conduct more efficient home searches.

Working with a Real Estate Agent

Your real estate agent will be your greatest resource during your home search. They have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), the largest network of homes on the market. Your agent will use the MLS to create customized searches for available listings and can easily connect with sellers’ agents to coordinate next steps.

For answers to your home buying questions, connect with an experienced, local Windermere agent today:



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How to Reduce Your Interest Rate: Mortgage Buydowns

This blog post contains contributions from Penrith Home Loans.

When mortgage rates are up, prospective buyers can often feel like they’re at a disadvantage as they go about securing a home loan. Fortunately, there are ways to lower your interest rate to make your monthly mortgage payments more affordable.

What are mortgage buydowns?

A mortgage rate buydown is a form of financing that allows you to secure a lower interest rate on your mortgage by paying more money upfront in the form of discount points, also known as mortgage points, at closing. Each discount point is equal to one percent of your total loan amount. Especially attractive in times of high mortgage rates, buydowns are offered by sellers, builders, or lenders depending on the transaction. There are two main types of mortgage interest rate buydowns: permanent and temporary.

Permanent Mortgage Buydowns

With a permanent interest rate buydown, typically the borrower, seller, or builder will contribute to the cost of buying down the rate permanently. In this situation, the borrower qualifies at the bought-down rate for the life of the loan.

Temporary Mortgage Buydowns

A temporary interest rate buydown provides cash flow for the borrower during the temporary period, but they still qualify at the higher note rate. Typically, the seller or builder will contribute to the cost of buying the rate down temporarily.

Use our Home Monthly Payment Calculator to experiment with different down payments, principal amounts, interest rates, taxes, and more for any listing price.


How do temporary mortgage buydowns work?

Temporary mortgage interest rate buydowns have their own unique structure. Below are three common types:

  • 1-0 Buydown Mortgage: The borrower gets a 1% discounted interest rate for the first year.
  • 2-1 Buydown Mortgage: The borrower gets a discounted interest rate for the first two years of the loan. The first year, the interest rate is 2% lower, decreasing to 1% lower the second year.
  • 3-2-1 Buydown Mortgage: The borrower gets a 3% discounted rate the first year, dropping to 2% in the second year and 1% in the third year.

Although they share certain characteristics with adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), temporary mortgage buydowns are slightly different. ARMs initially have a fixed interest rate period. Once the adjustable-rate period kicks in, both the interest rate and monthly payments are subject to change. With buydowns, the buyer’s interest rate doesn’t change; either the seller or lender covers part of the interest payments as outlined by the buydown’s structure.


A man and woman homeowner couple discuss the terms of a mortgage buydown program with their mortgage broker in a modern office setting.

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Should I permanently buy down my mortgage?

Though buying down your mortgage interest rate permanently can make the payments more affordable, if you are contributing to this cost, make sure you can withstand the heavier financial load before proceeding. It also depends on how long you plan to live in the home. For example, if you plan to move shortly after buying, the short-term savings on your mortgage may not yet break even on your upfront costs by the time you’re ready to purchase again.

Pros of Mortgage Buydowns

  • Savings on monthly mortgage payments
  • A lower rate means you could qualify for a higher loan
  • Discount points = prepaid mortgage interest, which is often tax-deductible

Cons of Mortgage Buydowns

  • Higher upfront costs of buying a home
  • If payments increase, higher risk of foreclosure
  • Less cash available for remodeling, home improvements, etc.


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How much can I save with a mortgage buydown?

Here’s an example of the savings you could see with a 3-2-1 temporary mortgage buydown. Let’s say you qualify for a 30-year mortgage with a $400,000 loan amount at an interest rate of 7%. With a 3-2-1 buydown, you’d pay a 4% interest rate the first year, 5% the second year, and 6% the third year. From year four on, you’d pay 7%.


Purchase Price Down Payment Loan Amount Interest Rate APR Loan Term
$500,000 $100,000 $400,000 7% 7.125% 30 years

3-2-1 Temporary Mortgage Interest Rate Buydown


Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Years 4-30
Interest Rate 4% 5% 6% 7%
Number of Payments 12 12 12 336
Monthly P&I Payment $1,909.66 $2,147.29 $2,398.20 $2,661.21
Total PITI Payment $1,909.66 $2,147.29 $2,398.20 $2,661.21
Monthly Reduction $751.55 $513.92 $263.01

  • Calculations provided by Penrith Home Loans
  • Temporary buydown cost as % of purchase price 3.67%


With this structure, you’d save $9,018.60 the first year, $6,167.04 the second, and $3,156.12 the third, for a total three-year savings of $18,341.76.

Thinking about buying a home? Connect with a local, experienced Windermere agent to begin your home buying journey:



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What is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?

In the process of buying or selling a home, you’ll frequently come across the term “MLS.” The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a group of regional databases of homes for sale accessible only to real estate agents and brokers. Their ability to access the MLS makes it easier for buyers to find the right home and for sellers to market their listings.

What is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)?

The purpose of an MLS is to facilitate real estate transactions by connecting real estate agents and making it easy for them to share information about active listings and sold home data. For buyers and sellers, your agent’s access to the MLS means you’ll be connected to the largest network of homes and listing information on the market. 

Each MLS shows the homes for sale in a particular geographic area. Listing agents add their clients’ listings to the database—providing photos and detailed information about the property—so buyer’s agents can show them to their clients. The MLS allows for customizable searches, which agents use to easily identify the homes that match their clients’ criteria. The vast amount of historical data available on the MLS is what your agent will use to conduct their Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to competitively price your home. The listing data in the MLS is fed to real estate brokerage websites, such as, so that buyers can search for homes on their own as well.


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Benefits of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

Selling a home is a numbers game. The more potential buyers you can reach, the more likely you are to find the right buyer in a timely manner. After your agent conducts their CMA to determine the value of your home, they’ll upload the listing to the MLS. Here they can add additional information beyond what you would find in a typical listing description, such as showing times, contact information, and more. The MLS provides maximum visibility for sellers by connecting them to buyer’s agents who are actively searching for listings. The MLS has also helped to make the industry more equitable. Small real estate brokerages have access to the same MLS info as large companies, putting everyone on a level playing field.

What is an MLS number?

An MLS number is a unique code for each home listed on the market. It makes it easier for agents to communicate regarding a specific property. To learn more about the MLS, or for answers to your buying and selling questions, connect with a local, experienced Windermere agent today:



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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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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.


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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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Managing Expectations as a First-Time Home Buyer

There’s a first time for everything. As a first-time home buyer, navigating the uncharted territory of the home buying process can be challenging to say the least. Although every home purchase is unique, there are certain knowns that can help you manage your expectations. Once you’re ready to buy, knowing a bit more about how to approach the market will have you well on your way to getting the keys to your first home.

Managing Expectations as a First-Time Home Buyer

Local Market Conditions

Your local housing market conditions will loom large in the buying process. In a competitive market (i.e. a seller’s market), prices are being driven up by demand, sellers have the leverage during negotiations, and it may take a long time to find the right home. In such a market, you can expect to compete against multiple buyers where everyone is trying to sweeten their offer to make it stand out. This usually takes the form of waived contingencies, escalation clauses, and all-cash offers. Buying in a competitive market is challenging for any buyer, let alone a first-time home buyer. Having greater buying power and getting pre-approved for a mortgage are two key paths to bolstering your financial standing and improving your chances of submitting a winning offer.

Though finding the right home is never a cakewalk, the conditions of a buyer’s market will be in your favor. In such market conditions, sellers are competing for the attention of a limited pool of buyers and are more flexible during negotiations. With less competition around you, you can afford to be more patient and selective when pursuing available listings.

7 Signs You’re Ready to Buy a Home

Which homes can you afford?

It’s easy to fall in love with a home based on its listing photos, but one look at the price tag can break the spell. By knowing which homes are in your budget, you’ll be able to focus your time and effort on listings that are financially feasible. And remember, there are a myriad of costs to buying a home beyond the listing price to include in your budget.

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 home price. By using the Home Monthly Payment Calculator, you can make a well-informed estimation of whether it’s the right time to buy.


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Working with Your Agent

Fortunately, you don’t have to take on the home buying process on your own. A buyer’s agent will help to manage your expectations from start to finish by helping you look for homes, make an offer, negotiate with the seller and their agent on your behalf, and provide clarity on the closing process. Beyond their ability to get down to brass tacks and help you purchase a home, your agent will be there to answer your questions, validate your emotions, and connect you to their network of helpful resources.

To begin the process of buying your first home, connect with an experienced, local Windermere agent today:

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The Different Types of Home Loans for Buyers

Financing terms are the nuts and bolts of a successful home purchase. Once you’ve decided you’re ready to buy a house, it’s a matter of making the numbers work. So, which home loan is the right one for you? Knowing the different types of mortgage loans available to you will allow you to pinpoint the one that best fits your needs and is financially viable.

The Different Types of Home Loans for Buyers

Conventional Loans

Conventional loans are the most popular type of home loan issued to borrowers. Offered by private lenders, they are not backed by the government. Conventional mortgages divide into two subsets: conforming loans; which adhere to Federal Housing Financing Agency (FHFA) guidelines, and non-conforming loans; which do not. Due to the added risk taken on by the lender, non-conforming loans typically have higher rates. A jumbo loan is an example of a non-conforming loan, due to its loan amounts being higher than the amount limits laid out in the underwriting guidelines. The two most common conventional loans are 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages.

15-Year and 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgages

The terms of your loan will drastically impact all aspects of your mortgage. With a 30-year mortgage, you’ll have lower monthly payments and a higher interest rate than you’d have with a 15-year mortgage, meaning you’ll pay more in interest over the life of the loan. With a 15-year mortgage, you’ll pay less interest, but you’ll have a higher monthly payment. Compared to a 30-year mortgage, a 15-year mortgage can save you money over the life of the loan, simply because you’re in debt for half the time; however, the higher monthly payments may be unaffordable for some.


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Government-Backed Loans

Whereas conventional loans are not backed by a federal entity, there are several unconventional loans that are backed by the U.S. government. These unconventional loans can often provide a path to homeownership for borrowers who don’t have the credentials to qualify for a conventional loan.

FHA and USDA mortgages are two common types of government-backed loans. Instead of having to make a 20% down payment on a conventional loan to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), an FHA loan allows buyers to qualify for a mortgage with a down payment as little as 3.5%. USDA loans enable buyers to purchase a home with reduced interest rates. VA loans offer several benefits for active service personnel and veterans looking to buy a home, including not having to purchase mortgage insurance.

Fixed-Rate vs. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

Fixed-rate mortgages allow you to lock in a specified interest rate for the life of the loan. With an unchanging monthly mortgage payment, a fixed-rate mortgage makes financial planning easier. Adjustable-rate mortgages’ interest rates will go up and down based on market conditions. Many ARMs will start with a fixed-interest rate period followed by a variable interest rate until the loan amount is paid off. Keep in mind that a sudden change in your financial situation could make your monthly ARM payments unaffordable, which could result in a loan default.

Other Home Loans

There are other more niche financing options available for prospective home buyers. For example, a construction loan can be useful if you’re planning on building a home. Balloon mortgages and sub-prime mortgages can make homeownership feasible for those who aren’t financially prepared for the typical repayment structure of a mortgage. These loans, however, come with greater risks. Talk to a mortgage broker to understand the terms of these agreements before making a final decision.


For more information on financing your next home purchase, read our blog post on bridge loans:

What is a Bridge Loan?

The post The Different Types of Home Loans for Buyers appeared first on Windermere Real Estate.

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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