Browsing Category

Guide

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Veteran and Military Home Buyers Make

August 23, 2019

Craig McCausland/iStock

Having a place to call your own—whether you’re going to be there for four years or forever—is an essential part of the American dream. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers plenty of great programs to help those who have served in the military get a home loan, but the process isn’t foolproof. First-time home buyers aren’t the only ones who make buying mistakes. Even people buying their second home, or their 10th, can be thrown off course when buying a new home and dealing with lenders.

You can avoid your own buyer’s tale of woe (or headbanging frustration) by avoiding those mistakes before you start your home search. We asked VA-savvy real estate agents to tell us which missteps they see the most—and how you can avoid them when you apply for and get a VA loan.

Mistake No. 1: Not using a VA-savvy real estate agent

If you’re getting a VA loan, make sure you work with a real estate agent who understands the VA home loan process.

“I see a lot of people go with an agent who doesn’t understand the VA system,” says Katie Fraser, a Realtor® with Trident Realty Group Northwest in Seattle. “The VA won’t underwrite [just] any house. It is a huge, huge, huge deal to use an agent who understands the VA home loan system, the VA appraisal process, and what that all really looks like.”

When you’re buying through the Veterans Affairs department, you’ll need to find a home that meets VA home loan property requirements. A VA loan program appraiser will have specific criteria (e.g., fixer-uppers, and even some newer homes, won’t qualify). An agent experienced with home loans for veterans will also know about VA loan limits, the debt-to-income ratio lenders will expect you to have to qualify for a home loan, and other essential information.

Save yourself the headache of making an offer on a house that may not get approved, or for which you may not qualify for a VA loan, and work with a VA-experienced real estate agent from the start. Ask another veteran for a referral, or get help from Veterans United Realty to find the right real estate agent.

Mistake No. 2: Not communicating with your lender

Veterans have access to arguably the most powerful home mortgage option on the market, but about 33% of home-buying veterans don’t know they have a home mortgage benefit, according to the VA.

When you first meet with your lender, be sure to discuss your service member status so you can be informed about all of the potential advantages for veterans.

One of the biggest benefits you’ll get with a VA loan is the ability to buy with a 0% down payment (yes, we’re totally serious). Not having to make a down payment can make it possible for veterans  to buy a first home, often years sooner than if they had to save up for a down payment first.

VA loans also come with low-interest-rate mortgages, don’t require mortgage insurance, and have more forgiving credit eligibility requirements.

“Veterans should ask their lender if they offer any incentives for veterans,” adds Alissa Gerke, broker and owner of Select Realty Group, in Columbia, MO. “I’ve seen lenders waive appraisal fees, offer a waiver of origination fee if the veteran has a certain credit score, or other lender credits.”

Pretty much everything will get easier as soon as your lender knows your eligibility for veteran status, so speak up!

Mistake No. 3: Forgetting about all upfront home-buying costs

While you’ll have a ton of financial advantages with your VA loan, you will have some borrower costs to deal with.

“Probably the biggest mistake I see is active-duty members coming into the home-buying process and not knowing there are other closing costs and fees necessary for buying a home,” Fraser says.

When you’re buying a home, even if you have little or no down payment, you’ll likely have to plunk down a bit of cash for things like a home appraisal and inspection. It might not cost much in the large scheme of things, but it’ll help speed things along if you come prepared knowing what you’ll have to shell out for.

Mistake No. 4: Not thinking of your home as an investment

Maybe you think there’s no sense in buying if there’s a chance you might be relocated in the next few years. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy; in fact, that home could end up being a smart investment.

By searching in high-demand areas or choosing a popular home style and size (say, 1,500 to 2,000 square feet), you’ll give yourself a better chance at resale if you need to move later. Or, you can hang on to it and rent it out.

My clients and I “often go out and look for their first rental home, not just a home for their family,” Fraser says. “With so many in transition, they’re able to purchase a home and it becomes an investment property for them when they go on to their next duty station or they move.”

Don’t like the idea of becoming a landlord? A VA loan is assumable (meaning you can transfer the loan and the property to another vet), or you can just sell the home to a nonmilitary buyer. And don’t forget: You can use your VA home loan benefits again and again, so you can own a rental property and a new home. You can even refinance a VA loan if you are an active-duty service member. You may want to refinance if you have a non-VA loan, to increase your loan amount and tap into your home equity, or if you can get a better interest rate with a new VA loan.

Mistake No. 5: Making other big purchases before closing

Once home buyers find a home and their offer is accepted, they can be excited about moving in and making it theirs. Maybe you have an eye on a new big-screen TV, and you’re looking into financing a new living room set you love. But don’t do that until you’re really a homeowner, even if your lender has approved your mortgage loan.

It’s easier to get a VA loan than a conventional, non-VA loan, but you still must meet lender requirements.

“Opening a line of credit or making a big purchase after mortgage approval is a common mistake,” Gerke says. “This can oftentimes change the veteran’s credit score and make them ineligible for the loan.”

Wait until after closing to make any other financial moves, just to be on the safe side and to keep your loan on track.

———

Watch: Housing Chief Gives Update on Growth of VA Home Loans

The post The 5 Biggest Mistakes Veteran and Military Home Buyers Make appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Here’s How to Buy a House: A Step-by-Step Guide for the First-Time Home Buyer

February 15, 2019

steps to buy a house

The steps to buy a house might seem complicated at first—particularly if you’re a first-time home buyer dipping a toe into real estate for the very first time. Between mortgage rates, property taxes, negotiating with sellers, and closing the deal, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There’s so much at stake!

Still, if you familiarize yourself with what it takes to buy your first home beforehand, it can help you navigate the real estate market with ease. So let’s get started! In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn what it takes to buy your first home from beginning to end. Whether it’s your first time in the real estate market or you’re an experienced homeowner who wants to brush up on their skills, this list has you covered.

Step 1: Start gathering a down payment

The very first step every first-time home buyer should tackle is to figure out their finances. Buying a home (particularly for the first time) requires a mortgage, where a lender fronts you the money and you pay them back over time. However, in order to get a mortgage, you’ll need to put down some sort of down payment.

So how much do you need? Ideally a down payment on a mortgage should be 20% of the home’s price to avoid added fees, but if you don’t have that much, don’t worry. A mortgage down payment can be as low as 10%, 5%, or even 0% for certain types of mortgages like VA loans or a USDA loan.

Step 2: Check your credit score

In addition to having a down payment, a first-time home buyer will need a decent credit score. This three-digit number is a numerical summary of your credit report, a detailed document outlining how well you’ve paid off past debts like for credit cards and college student loans. A lender will check your score and report in order to estimate the odds that you will deliver your monthly payment to them, too. In turn, they will use this info to decide whether or not to loan you money, as well as how much, and at what interest rate.

If a lender sees some late payments or other blemishes in your credit report, this can lower your odds of getting a loan with a great interest rate, or perhaps even jeopardize your chances of getting any loan at all. So, it’s essential to know your score, and take steps now if necessary to bring it up to snuff. Here’s more on how to check your credit score and what number is best to buy a home.

———

Watch: 3 Things You Should Never Say When Buying a Home

———

Step 3: Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Before you head out home buying, you should seek pre-approval from a lender for a home loan. This is where you meet with a loan officer, ideally a few at various mortgage companies. Each mortgage lender will scrutinize your financial background—such as your debt-to-income ratio and assets—and use this info to determine whether they’re willing to loan you money, and what size monthly payment you can realistically afford. This will help you target homes in your price range. And that’s good, since a purchase price that’s beyond your financial reach will make you sweat your mortgage payment and puts you at risk of defaulting on your loan.

As a buyer, just keep in mind that mortgage pre-approval is different from mortgage pre-qualification. Pre-qualify, and you’re undergoing a much simpler process that can give you a ballpark figure of what you can afford to borrow, but with no promise from the lender. Getting pre-approved is more of a pain since you’ll have to provide tons of paperwork, but it’s worth the trouble since it guarantees you’re creditworthy and can truly buy a home.

Before they even meet with a lender, one step home buyers can take to begin understanding what they can afford as a monthly mortgage payment is to plug their info into an online home affordability calculator. This will calculate the maximum amount you can afford as a monthly payment.

Step 4: Find a real estate agent

Want a trusty home-buying guide by your side? Most first-timers will want a great real estate agent—specifically a buyer’s agent, who will help you find the right houses, negotiate a great real estate deal, and explain all the nuances of home buying along the way. The best part? Their services are free to first-time home buyers (since the seller pays the sales commission). Here’s how to find a real estate agent in your area.

Note: There is a subtle difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor®; the latter is a member of the National Association of Realtors® and adheres to a code of ethics. Consider having a Realtor additional insurance that you’ll get the help you need to ace the home-buying process.

Step 5: Go home buying!

This is the fun part! As a buyer, you can peruse thousands of real estate listings on sites such as realtor.com, then ask your agent to set up appointments to see your favorites in person. Since the sheer number of homes can become overwhelming, it’s best to separate your must-haves from those features you’d like, but don’t really need. Do you really want a new home or do you prefer a fixer-upper? Make a list of your wants and needs to get started, and whittle down your options.

Step 6: Make an offer

Found your dream home? Then it’s time to make an offer to the seller. Here’s more on how to make an offer on a house that a seller can’t refuse.

Step 7: Get a home inspection

A home inspection is where you hire a home inspector to check out the house from top to bottom to determine if there are any problems with it that might make you think twice about moving forward. Think: termites, faulty foundation, mold, asbestos, etc. Sure, a lot can go wrong, but rest assured that most problems are fixable.

Step 8: Get a home appraisal

Even if you got pre-approved for your home loan, your lender will want to conduct a home appraisal. This is where they check out the house to make sure it’s a good investment. It’s similar to a home inspection, but for your lender. Here’s more about the home appraisal process and what to expect as a buyer.

Step 9: Head to closing

Closing, which in different parts of the country is also known as “settlement” or “escrow,” brings together a variety of parties who are part of the real estate transaction, including the buyer, seller, mortgage representative, and others.

Closing is the day you officially get the keys to your new home—and pay all the various parties involved. That will include your down payment for your loan, plus closing costs, the extra fees you pay to process your loan. Closing costs can be sizable, averaging anywhere from 2% to 7% of the home price. Here’s more on closing costs for home buyers.

Step 10: Move in!

Done with closing? Got your loan? Congratulations, you’ve officially graduated from a buyer to a homeowner! See, the home-buying process wasn’t so scary after all, right? Now it’s time to kick back and enjoy the many benefits of becoming a homeowner.

The post Here’s How to Buy a House: A Step-by-Step Guide for the First-Time Home Buyer appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.