5 Easy Ways to Save Up for a New Home

Saving for a house might seem difficult, especially as the economy continues to fluctuate. However, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your home buying dreams! If you want to take your first steps towards homeownership, we have a few simple tricks that can help you build your savings account.

How to Save Up for Your Perfect Place

Before you begin saving, consider how much you’d ideally like to put down on a house. Your down payment will likely be your largest upfront cost, and most buyers put down around 20% of a home’s value. However, there are some loans that require as little as 0% down, so be sure to explore all of your options.

It can take years to save up for a home. Nevertheless, if you plan ahead and follow these tips, you’ll soon be on a path to success.

Create a monthly budget…and stick to it

Woman creating a budget

Having a budget can help you set spending limitations and savings goals each month, but it’s crucial to stick to it if you want to make progress. Start by documenting all your sources of income, then subtract your monthly expenses. This shows you what you’re paying for housing, food, utilities, and extra expenses, as well as how much you have left over. From there, you can set spending goals and designate a certain amount of money towards your house fund every month.

Cut unnecessary spending

Person using a credit card

As you craft a new budget, consider cutting out any expenses you can live without. You might have to make some sacrifices, but if you’re serious about saving for a home, your hard work will pay off in the long run. The more you save, the more house you can afford!

Consider getting rid of any unnecessary recurring payments, like streaming services or magazine subscriptions. Cooking at home, buying generic brands, and putting off that big vacation can also save you thousands every year. If you put that money directly into your savings, you won’t even miss it…because you were already spending it.

Pay off your debt

House with coin stacks

If you’re like many would-be homebuyers, lingering credit card or student loan debt might be keeping you from making a move. Before you start saving for a home, try to pay off debts or reconsolidate them into a smaller monthly payment with a lower interest rate.

Not sure where to start? Consider talking with a financial advisor about any underlying debt that needs to be paid off. It might take a while, but it’s better to take on a mortgage with more manageable payments.

Put your retirement savings on hold

House fund coin jar

While it is crucial to save for retirement, buying a home is also an important step in your life—so it’s okay to temporarily divert some of your savings towards your down payment. However, it’s not a good idea to take money out of your existing retirement accounts. You could get saddled with taxes and unwanted early withdrawal fees if you dip into your IRA or 401(k)!

Start a side hustle

Personal trainers exercising

Even during these challenging economic times, it’s still possible to make a quick buck doing what you love. Starting a side hustle can help you rake in some extra cash on the weekends and evenings—and even a little money can add up over time.

Looking for suggestions? Pet sitting, ride sharing, personal training, and photography are just a few possibilities. Who knows…your passion could turn into a profitable second income!

Ready to Start Your Buying Journey?

Looking for more home buying advice? We’ve got you covered! Just reach out to Linda Craft & Team for more tips and tricks, and let us know when you’re ready to take your next steps. We’re always here to answer any questions you might have, especially as the market continues to change.

How COVID-19 Is Impacting Real Estate

If you’ve been thinking about buying or selling a home in the near future, the unprecedented events of the last few weeks might have left you feeling a bit uncertain. COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected all of our lives, but that doesn’t mean you need to press pause on your real estate dreams.

We want to set the record straight about how these changes to everyday life affect buyers, sellers, and agents…and how you can protect yourself while continuing to pursue your goals.

How Will COVID-19 Affect the Real Estate Market?

Our way of life has changed dramatically within the course of just a few weeks, and the real estate market has shifted, too. Have a few questions? It’s hard to predict what will happen in the future, but here’s what we know right now.

Expect some major market shifts

Person studying COVID-19 graph

As we adjust to a new normal, it’s clear that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on every industry in the country—including real estate. However, this doesn’t mean that investors aren’t still buying and selling homes. A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors shows that 61% of sellers plan to keep their houses on the market, and over half of buyers will continue to shop for a home.

Although we’ll likely see a reduced number of sales in the coming weeks and months, record-low interest rates and a continuously low supply of homes might help to prevent any drastic price drops. Many economists also believe that another housing market crash is unlikely due to new regulations and stricter mortgage qualifications.

Buying and Selling a Home During COVID-19

As of early April, agents are continuing to help their clients buy and sell homes—but you can expect to see some changes aimed at keeping everyone safe and healthy.

Essential Tips for Sellers

Cleaning supplies

Selling a home during the COVID-19 outbreak is definitely uncharted territory, but as we’ve seen in the last few weeks, it’s not impossible. Many sellers and their agents have worked together to pioneer new marketing strategies…some of which might last even after life returns to normal. Before you start scheduling those virtual showings, here are some tips to consider.

Make sure you’re healthy

First and foremost, it’s crucial to ensure that every member of your household is healthy before and during the selling process. Alert your agent right away if you’re feeling sick so they can halt in-person showings.

Sanitize your home

As a seller, your main priority should be ensuring that your home is germ-free, especially before a showing. We recommend wiping down all surfaces with disinfectant wipes and sprays and offering hand sanitizer to potential buyers. Reduce unnecessary touching by pre-opening any doors, cabinets, or drawers and turning on all lights before a showing.

Capitalize on digital marketing

If you still plan on selling soon, have your agent use the latest digital marketing techniques to really showcase your listing. Open houses and showings might be out, but virtual tours and showings via video sharing platforms are in—and it’s important to capitalize on these techniques to draw in potential buyers.

Essential Tips for Buyers

Person using a tablet

Believe it or not, it’s still possible to buy a home during these uncertain times—and modern technology is making everything easier than you might expect. Here’s how to stay safe and healthy throughout the entire buying process.

Make sure you’re healthy

If you’re feeling ill, it’s important that you stay home, practice social distancing, and avoid any showings. However, you can still continue to tour homes virtually and chat with your agent via online meetings.

Use virtual homebuying technology

Thanks to new innovations, it’s easier than ever to explore listings from the comfort of your couch. If you don’t want to attend a showing, many agents provide in-depth virtual tours and personal walkthroughs through video platforms like FaceTime and Zoom.

It’s also possible to complete the entire closing process remotely. Chances are, most documents can be signed electronically, which adds another layer of convenience and safety. Some states even allow you to virtually notarize your paperwork!

Take extra precautions during in-person showings

Want to see a home in person before making an offer? If your agent still offers normal showings, there are a few extra steps you should take to keep yourself (and the sellers) safe. Carry hand sanitizer with you and try to refrain from touching any surfaces. This might be difficult, but it’s the easiest way to mitigate the spread of germs. If your community has a shelter-in-place order, you may have to postpone any in-person showings until restrictions are lifted.

Have More Questions?

As we navigate the changes inflicted upon the market by COVID-19, it’s crucial to consider your individual needs and follow local guidelines. Linda Craft &Team are constantly on the lookout for new ways to assist our clients, and we’re determined to protect your health and safety while helping you meet your goals. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us and check out our virtual resources for more information.

The Top 10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Buyer’s Agent

When buying a home, who you choose to work with matters more than you think. Finding the right agent can make or break your entire experience, so it’s important to interview a few candidates before settling on “the one.” Not sure where to start? Here are a few must-ask questions to consider before you pick your buyer’s agent.

How long have you been an agent?

Agent and client talking at a table

Unless you mesh well with a newer agent, it’s usually better to go with someone who has at least a few years of experience under their belt. They’ll have the knowledge you need to navigate the ins and outs of the entire buying process.

Are you a full-time or a part-time agent?

When you’re buying a home, would you rather work with someone who puts in part-time or full-time effort? It’s best to go with a full-time agent that can devote more attention to you and your specific needs.

What experience do you have in my preferred areas?

People talking at a table

If you already know where you want to move, consider collaborating with a real estate pro that has plenty of experience in your target areas. They’ll have the inside scoop on the most popular neighborhoods, price trends, and all the other details you need to know before you buy.

How many clients are you working with right now?

It may seem tempting to use a popular agent—they must be the best if they have a lot of clients, right? This might be true, but you also want to make sure they have the time to take on another buyer. The last thing you want is an agent that has a hard time scheduling showings or returning your calls.

How can I get in touch with you?

Woman texting on a cell phone

Communication is key in the world of real estate, and every agent has a different way of connecting with clients. Be upfront about which method works best for you, and confirm that your agent is willing to reach out in a way that you’re comfortable with.

What’s your availability?

Even if an agent is able to take you on as a client and is willing to communicate, they might have a lot of other things going on in their personal and professional lives. Make sure they’re honest with you about their availability…and that they aren’t jetting off on a 2-week European vacation anytime soon!

What are the conditions of your contract?

People signing a contract

Some buyer’s agents require you to sign a contract before you start touring homes, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, you shouldn’t agree to anything without reading all the terms and conditions, and if you have any concerns, bring them up during the interview.

What’s your commission policy?

Traditionally, the seller pays most (if not all) of your agent’s commission, but it’s still crucial to familiarize yourself with their policies. You don’t want any surprises to come up during the closing, especially if they’re in the form of unexpected fees.

Can you connect me with other professionals?

Women at a table

You’ll work with more than just a real estate agent when you buy a home. If you’re looking for a good home inspector, lender, real estate attorney, repairman, or cleaner, having an agent with a broad professional network is a major plus.

Can you provide any references?

A great agent should have plenty of references, and they’ll probably be happy to share them with you. If they seem hesitant, try searching for testimonials online or consider going with someone else. You want to choose someone that’s honest and has plenty of 5-star reviews!

Looking for a Top-Notch Agent?

If you’re looking for the right real estate agent to suit your needs, we’d love to offer you our expertise! Feel free to give Linda Craft & Team, REALTORS® a call to learn more about the tools we offer our buyers—we’re always here to lend a helping hand or answer any lingering questions.

4 Tips to Ace Your First Home Purchase

If you ask a homeowner what it was like to buy their first home, they’ll probably mention a few things they’d change if they could do it all again. While it’s impossible to know everything about the home-buying process beforehand, you can still prepare yourself for what lies ahead—and figure out how to avoid some potential pitfalls. Not sure where to begin? Here are some key pointers to keep in mind before starting your search.

You’re Buying More Than a House

Neighborhood

We all know the phrase “love at first sight,” and it can certainly apply to homes, too! Even if you step inside a home and instantly fall in love, it’s crucial to step back and consider the whole picture before making a purchase.

When you buy your first property, you’re investing in more than just four walls. It’s worth paying attention to things like a home’s location, neighborhood, and physical condition, too. Even if you find that open concept kitchen you’ve been dreaming of, it might not be the right fit if it’s in the wrong community or if the rest of the house requires out-of-budget repairs. It’s best to stay realistic and listen to your agent’s (and home inspector’s) advice. Remember, this is likely one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, so spend your money wisely!

Down Payments Are Different for Everyone

Piggy bank and house figure

So many would-be buyers are scared of homeownership for one reason: the down payment. Traditionally, you’d put down around 20% on a home and spend anywhere from 10 to 30 years paying your lender back. However, you actually have more flexibility than you might expect.

Depending on your credit history, location, and occupation, you could be eligible for loans that require as little as 0% down. However, making a larger down payment means you’ll pay less interest to your lender in the long run. Be sure to shop around for the right fit and reach out to your agent with any questions—they’re always available to help you out.

Prepare for Extra Expenses

House fund coin jar

Homeownership often comes with unexpected expenses, especially right after you move in. When you’re setting a budget for your big purchase, consider adding some wiggle room to allow for any additional and long term costs. You don’t want to realize that you can’t afford your home after you’ve purchased it!

Wondering what kinds of expenses can come up? Inspections, homeowner’s insurance, prepaid taxes and other various closing costs, HOA dues, and repairs are just a few possibilities. You’ll pay for some of these before or at the closing, but certain recurring costs will have to be factored into your monthly budget.

Get Pre-Approved Before You Start Searching

Tax forms with phone and coffee cup

Once you’ve made the decision to buy, it’s tempting to start looking at listings right away. However, you might want to press pause and complete an essential step before you start scheduling showings. Getting pre-approved for your loan will show sellers and agents that you’re serious about buying—and it can tell you exactly how much you can afford to spend.

Ready to start the pre-approval process? First, you’ll want to get your finances in order and shop around for the right lender. Be sure to have all of your important documents on hand, such as your W-2 tax form, paystubs, and social security card. Most lenders allow you to apply online, and within a few business days, you’ll know whether you’ve been approved or not, as well as the conditions of the loan.

Are You a First-Time Buyer?

Buying your first home is a big deal, and it’s important to have the right agent by your side throughout the process. If you’re ready to start your search, feel free to reach out to Linda Craft & Team, REALTORS® with any questions. We can’t wait to help jumpstart your journey to homeownership!

Keep Calm and Move On: How to Tackle a Long-Distance Relocation

Whether you’re heading down the street or to a new town, moving is always a tough transition. However, relocating across the country presents a whole new set of challenges you might not have considered. Picking up your life can be an exciting change, but it’s also a bit overwhelming.

Need some help navigating the process? Take a deep breath and get ready—we’ve got some quick tips for you!

Stay on Top of Your Schedule

A monthly planner

Sometimes a cross-country move can come out of nowhere, especially if it’s due to a job or major life change. Even if you’ve been planning your relocation for a while, it can still be exhausting. Before you start tearing your hair out, it’s crucial to start planning ahead of time.

Once you’ve figured out your moving date, be sure to stay on top of your calendar. It’s easy for your schedule to fill up with appointments, going-away parties, and other obligations. It might help to create to-do lists or invest in a good planner (digital or paper!). However, as you get busier, be sure to plan some time for yourself, too. Tackling a move is impossible without some self-care!

Declutter & Organize

A woman organizing cabinets

Let’s face it—organizing everything you own and moving it thousands of miles is no easy feat. Start lightening the load right away, and get rid of things you won’t need once you move. You might even want to have a garage sale or donate your gently used objects to charity. Remember, if you don’t use it regularly, you should probably lose it.

Looking for a simple way to tackle the decluttering process? Try going room by room and sorting things as you go. It’s easy to get overwhelmed as you pare down your possessions, so having a system will help ease the burden.

Pack Everything Up

A pile of moving supplies

When it comes to packing, it’s essential that all of your belongings are secure. Check that all boxes are reinforced, and invest in some heavy duty tape and wrapping materials. Moving supplies don’t have to be expensive, though—check social media or local stores to find a bargain on some good quality boxes.

Your stuff is in for a long haul if you’re moving across the country, so you might want to take extra steps to prevent any damage.  If you’re looking for some good padding, old t-shirts and socks will do the trick in a pinch! Don’t be afraid to get creative—jewelry boxes, small containers, and extra suitcases can help you save some space.

Make Travel Arrangements

Person packing luggage

When you’re making a move across the country, getting to your new home is one of the most difficult parts of the process. Be sure to make travel arrangements in advance—this means you should research hotels, book rentals, and reserve plane tickets ahead of time. As you’re packing, be sure to set aside any essentials that you might need as you travel to your new place.

Wondering what you should keep on hand? Think of it like packing for a vacation—you’ll want toiletries, extra clothing, medication, and all your other “must-haves.” Don’t forget to keep important paperwork, such as birth certificates and passports, with you in case you need them.

Connect with a Local Agent

Two people shaking hands

Unless you have a friend or family member in your new city, it can be tough to scope out the area. Nobody will know your future home quite as well as a local, and connecting with the right real estate agent can help.

Aside from helping you find a home, your agent can also help you navigate your new surroundings with ease. Working with an area expert comes with a lot of perks, including relocation packages, personalized guidance, and specialized tools…not to mention the local knowledge to recommend anything from the top school district to the best pizza joint! When you’re choosing a real estate agent, be sure to do your research and reach out to a few before making your decision. You want to make sure you gel with whomever you choose!

Ready to Conquer Your Move?

Although relocating can be stressful, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think, especially when you work with a team of trusted local professionals. Remember, staying organized and prepared will make the entire process that much easier! If you’re new to the area or are looking for some long-distance buying resources, feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to ease the burden of your cross-country move!

Here are 4 Tricks to Choosing a Neighborhood You’ll Love!

Aerial shot of neighborhood

If you’re thinking about buying a home, you’ve probably heard, “location, location, location!” on repeat. Finding the perfect city or town is one thing, but you’ll need to take it a step further.

The right neighborhood matters more than you think, so before you start your search, we have some tips to help you find the perfect spot!

Do Your Research

Man exploring neighborhoods on tablet

Before you start driving through prospective neighborhoods, you’ll want to do some research at home. Finding the right place to live can be time-consuming, but some quick online searches can help narrow down your options. Many agents also spotlight certain neighborhoods on their website and tend to offer more in-depth guides—as well as more listings and home-buying tips.

After doing your initial research, you’ve probably narrowed your list down to a few neighborhoods. Now it’s time to delve deeper and look at these places by the numbers. It’s worth looking at stats like crime rate, HOA fees, and average property taxes. You might want to start your search with sites like Neighborhood Scout and City-Data—these sites give you localized data on demographics, schools, and more.

Scope Out What’s Around

Man researching on laptop

While the actual neighborhood might seem perfect, what’s around matters a lot, too. Remember, you’re buying more than just a home—you’re finding a new place to thrive. If you’re looking for convenience, a community far-removed from amenities you love might not work. Be sure to take your commute into account, as well as the driving distance to places you frequent.

School districts also play a big factor in which area you choose, especially for your kids. Even if you don’t have children, home prices in good districts are consistently higher than others, so it’s still something you should take into account. Want the inside scoop? Compare options by looking up which schools serve a community and exploring their ratings on sites like Niche.com.

Take a Stroll

Couple walking around a downtown area

Now it’s time for some field research! Once you’ve picked some neighborhoods that seem like a good fit, go do some exploring—you’ll want to do more than just drive around, though. Get out of the car and take a stroll during different times of the day! This is a fantastic way to meet potential neighbors and see the condition of homes.

You’ll want to ask yourself some crucial questions during each visit. How well do residents maintain their homes? Do you see a lot of people outside, or does everyone seem to keep to themselves? Is there any common space or amenities you’ll want to use? This is the best way to picture yourself living in an area before actually committing to a home.

Narrow Down Your Options

Person listing out pros and cons in  a notebook.

If you don’t have a clear winner in your head after you visit each community, it’s time to down and weigh the pros and cons. You should also evaluate the market—there might not be a home for sale that suits your needs in the neighborhood you love, so consider all of your options. Maybe it’s best to wait until there’s a home you absolutely love!

If you have any other questions, be sure to reach out to  your local real estate professionals. They’ll use their expertise to help you make an informed decision, and can also show you spots you might have missed!

Ready to Find the Neighborhood of Your Dreams?

No matter where you are in your home search, Linda Craft & Team REALTORS ® would love to help make the process easier. We’ve got you covered, whether you’re still searching for the right community or are ready to look at homes. Give us a call today so we can chat—we can’t wait to get started!

Tiny Houses: How These Small Homes Have Made a Big Splash

Tiny houses parked with a bench and a tree.

You’ve seen the shows on HGTV, the brand new series on Netflix, the craze on sites like Pinterest and Instagram—tiny houses are all the rage. These smaller spaces come with gigantic opportunities—if you’re looking for an incredibly versatile and stylish home, you may want to look into one of the hottest housing trends of the past year. We’ve got all the details you need to understand the ins and outs of tiny homes—and maybe even buy your own.

What is a Tiny Home?

Tiny house on the lake

Less than 1,000 square feet and often towable, tiny homes allow their owners to be economical, environmentally-friendly, and enjoy life on the move.

These small abodes are built with an emphasis on organization and maximizing space. You’ll often see stairs repurposed into cabinets, smaller appliances, and loft areas for beds. However, many tiny homes are quite luxurious, with some featuring full sized appliances, bath tubs, and multiple floors. This is proof that “tiny” doesn’t necessarily mean bare bones!

An Inside Look at the Lifestyle

Tiny houses interior with windows, dog, and desk.

Where did tiny homes come from? Well, it turns out they aren’t just a recent trend—they’ve been around since the 1970s. The tiny house “movement” is becoming increasingly popular, especially due to shows on tiny house living and construction.

Many tiny home dwellers are fully committed to this unique lifestyle, but it takes some getting used to. The most difficult part is paring down what you own, as these tight spaces don’t come with the same amount of storage as a normal home.

However, you don’t have to give up everything you love. Many residents say that living in a tiny home allows them to tour the country and live without clutter. Additionally, a well-built tiny house will allow you to have plenty of space for privacy, hobbies, and even pets.

Discover Diverse Design Options

Tiny houses kitchen with woman drinking beverage

While tiny-home living might seem pretty straightforward, there are actually quite a few variations between homes.

One major option for tiny homes is towing ability. Having a towable tiny home means you can live wherever you’d like and move at any time, but a stationary tiny house is often larger and features more amenities like multiple floors and screened-in porches.

In addition, there are many different size variations and exterior designs to choose from. Some builders even make custom designs for each homeowner. Nowadays, tiny homes are even being built in shipping containers!

Are They Here to Stay?

Man, woman, and dog enjoying tiny houses

Tiny homes may seem like a trend, but the number of homes being built are on the rise. In 2017, the tiny home industry saw a 67% jump in sales, with numbers steadily increasing. Tiny homes also remain easy on the wallet despite rising home costs. On average, a tiny home can cost from $15,000 – $150,000, which is significantly lower than the average home cost of $218,000.

As millennials begin purchasing their first homes, tiny houses are becoming increasingly popular. This is because many millennial buyers are choosing smaller houses and prioritizing travel, making tiny homes the perfect mobile option. They’re also a terrific choice for downsizing after retirement.

Tiny homes don’t seem to be going anywhere, and as more and more people are embracing this unique way of living, tiny home designs are becoming even more elaborate. Even Amazon has started selling tiny homes, so you can order one with just a few clicks!

Ready to Make a Move?

Hand with key

No matter what kind of home you’re looking for, you’ll always need a real estate agent to help guide you through the process. Whether you’re buying or selling,  Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® have the resources you need to lighten your load.

Ready to make your move? Give us a call and let’s chat—we’d love to help you make your real estate dreams a reality!

Is a Home Inspection Really Necessary? Why You Shouldn’t Skip This Important Step

Picture this: you’ve finally found the home of your dreams. It’s got all the features you’ve been searching for, and it’s in the perfect neighborhood. There can’t possibly be anything wrong with it…right?

Though technically optional, a home inspection is highly recommended by most realtors, as it can save you thousands of dollars—or even prevent you from making a costly mistake all together. Here are some reasons why you need a home inspection before you move in—even if you don’t see anything wrong on the surface.

You Could Avoid Expensive Repairs

Person making repairs with an electric drill.

This is probably the biggest advantage of a home inspection. Certain problems can cost thousands to fix and may not be immediately visible. Wondering what kind of issues a home inspector can find and how much they’ll cost? Here are some of the biggest issues uncovered during home inspections (and typical costs to fix):

HVAC replacement: $4,000 – $12,000

Leaky roof: $300 – $2,000 for basic repair, $4,000 – $20,000+ for advanced repair

Foundation issues: $4,000 – $10,000

A great home inspector will fully sweep the home and point out any problems or potential issues. If there are any big-ticket expenses, you may want to reevaluate your purchase.

You’ll Protect Your Wallet

Person calculating expenses and creating a graph.

Buying a home is one of the biggest investments you can make, and a good investment will generate more capital than what you initially paid. While a well-maintained home in a prime location can be a fantastic investment, expensive repairs can turn it into a financial disaster.

Once you have an inspection report detailing all of the issues with the home, you can evaluate the cost of repairs to determine if it’s a good deal. If you aren’t satisfied, you can walk away without losing much money.

You Gain a Negotiation Tool

People with laptop exchanging a folder.

While not all properties will require major repairs, even new construction homes may have issues you’ll want to take care of before moving in. You can use your inspection report as a negotiation tool to potentially lower the price of the home.

There are a few directions you can go from here. One option is to ask for money off of the price of the home so you can complete the repairs yourself. On the flip side, you can also ask the sellers to make the fixes as a condition of the sale. Either way, you’ll be saving yourself money in the long run.

You Get the Full Picture

Roof of red house with window.

While you may be in love with a home, it’s hard to know what potential issues to look for if you’re not a licensed professional. Think of a home inspection like a check-up, and the home inspector like a doctor—it’s the perfect opportunity to learn about the health of a home, from the roof down to the foundation.

The inspector can diagnose all kinds of problems and tell you what needs to be fixed (and for how much). After the inspection, you’ll be handed a comprehensive report that gives you a full picture of the home’s condition, allowing you a more realistic look at the details that you might not have noticed before.

Ready to Buy Your Next Home?

Buying a home can be a difficult decision, so make sure you have the tools you need to make a well-informed decision. For tips on smooth sailing during the buying process, give us a call so we can chat. Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® have got the resources you need to make the right choice.

Haven’t started the buying process yet? Check out our specialized search tool to find the home of your dreams, and let us know when you’re ready to get started.

Mortgage 101: What To Know Before You Apply

Everybody loves talking about mortgages. They’re fun, easy to understand, and a great icebreaker, right?….Wrong. Thanks to their lengthy process, technical jargon, and confusing options, mortgages have a bit of an intimidating reputation—but it doesn’t have to be that way!

If you’re in the process of buying a new home and dreading the mortgage application process, here’s what you need to know to keep things running smoothly.

Know How Much You Can Spend

A person holding up money.

If you’re feeling antsy about getting started and want a general idea of how much loan you might qualify for, consider the 28/36 rule, or the Debt-to-Income ratio—AKA what most lenders use to help calculate your mortgage.

Essentially, the 28/36 rule means that your monthly mortgage payment shouldn’t be more than 28% of your gross income. Additionally, your outstanding debts—like mortgage, car loans, student loans—shouldn’t account for more than 36% of your gross income.

Get Your Finances in Order

Statistics on a laptop.

Not seeing the numbers you were hoping for after calculating your Debt-to-Income ratio? Then, hopefully, you’ve given yourself a little time to shift things in your favor. Paying off loans, improving your credit score, avoiding big purchases—these will all help you change those numbers.

Of course, completing those tasks is a little harder to do in practice than in theory, so you may have to take a look at your budget and see where you can cut out some extras—at least temporarily!

What You’ll Need to Apply

Paperwork.

In the weeks before you plan on applying for a mortgage, you should start collecting all of the documents you need. Since a lender will be telling you exactly how much money they’re willing to loan, they’ll need a comprehensive understanding of your finances beforehand. Start gathering things like:

  • W2s/tax returns
  • Photo ID
  • Your two most recent pay stubs
  • Current and prior addresses
  • Asset information (retirement funds, 401(k), stocks and bonds, other investments)
  • Gift letters

Depending on the lender you choose, you may need additional documents, so consider calling in to double-check beforehand.

Find the Right Mortgage

Three women pointing at a laptop.

Once it’s time to start thinking more concretely about applying for a mortgage, you have several options to consider. While all the mortgage options out there could easily fill a whole blog post on their own, here’s a quick rundown to give you a general idea:

  • Conventional/Fixed-rate:  The interest rate of a fixed-rate loan won’t change over time, making it a popular choice for its predictability. Conventional loans typically require a 20% down payment or mortgage insurance for smaller down payments.
  • Adjustable-rate: The interest rate of adjustable-rate mortgage will fluctuate over time, sometimes lower than fixed-rate, sometimes higher. There is a cap in place so the rate doesn’t get too out of control, but ARMs are typically more popular with those who plan to refinance.
  • FHA: If you are struggling to come up with a down payment, you may have options with an FHA mortgage. Provided by the Federal Housing Administration, these loans come with a low down payment requirement and built-in mortgage insurance.
  • USDA: Live in a rural area? Then check out your USDA eligibility! A surprising amount of areas qualify for USDA loans, even if you aren’t living in the countryside. Plus, USDA loans don’t require a down payment and offer lower insurance premiums.

These aren’t the only options you’ll have, just the most common. If none of these sound right or you aren’t sure which to choose, just ask your lender!

Choose the Right Lender

When it comes time to decide who to work with, you’ll have to do your research. Each lender is different, meaning they’ll likely offer you different rates, charges, and loan options.

Luckily, we’ve been working in real estate around the area for years, so we know exactly which lenders are right for which buyers. If you need a few suggestions before you kick off your search, just let us know!

Still Have Questions?

That’s okay—we get it. Applying for mortgage is confusing and challenging, especially if it’s your first time. If you have any questions about the process, we’re here to help.

Ready to start looking at a few homes in your price range? We can help with that, too! Check out our specialized search tool to narrow down your options, and give us a call to start seeing a few in person!

The Four Most Common Red Flags to Look for During Your Walkthrough

A new home is a big financial investment. Not only will you likely be pouring a lot of your savings into the purchase, but you’ll also be choosing a place to call home for years to come. The last thing you want is to spend all of that time and money only to discover a costly maintenance or structural issue.

Even though you’ll get a professional inspection done, there are certain red flags that you should specifically be looking out for during the first walkthrough. By recognizing these problem areas right away, you can put emphasis on them during the inspection. Save yourself time, money,  and stress, and know these major home-buying warning signs.

Foundational Flaws

A vase of flowers in front of a cracked window.

It’s not like you can pull the house up from the ground and get a closer look at the foundation, so how do you tell if there are any issues? A few surefire signs of a faulty foundation include sloping floors, swinging and sticking doors, visible cracks above window frames, and cabinets separating from the walls.

Faulty foundations can go on to cause major damage in the home, and like most problems, the longer it goes unrepaired, the worse it will get. Minor cracks will only cost around $500, while major repairs could total up to $10,000. These are expenses you don’t want—and shouldn’t have—to get saddled with, so keep an eye out during the walkthrough and get a professional opinion from the inspection.

Signs of Amateur Repairs

A man patching up a wall.

Lots of homeowners choose to DIY repairs for a variety of reasons, from budget issues to scheduling conflicts. If they know what they’re doing (or the project is something relatively simple), then there shouldn’t be any issues. But if they, say, looked up a video tutorial on how to wire electricity to a new outlet—having never done electrical work before—then you might have some problems down the road.

Even small things that seem unimportant, like light switches wired to the wrong lights, leaky faucets, or shoddy tiling work, can be signs of larger problems elsewhere in the home. If you run into things like this, then you might ask your home inspector to take a deeper look into other areas of the house that have been recently repaired.

Concealed Damage

A half-painted wall.

Speaking of amateur repairs, some problems might seem a little too big (or expensive) to fix. That’s when homeowners might try to cover it up instead of paying for repairs. For example: a fresh coat of paint is to be expected in many homes on the market. But if the paint only covers a small section of the wall or is dotted around the ceiling, that could mean the owner is trying to hide water damage. Depending on how extensive the damage is, it will cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to repair. And if it sneaks past the inspection, it could be on your dime.

In the same vein, things like candles and air fresheners are also expected during showings. But if you notice that the scents are a little too strong, then the sellers could be trying to cover up mold or mildew odors, smelly pets, or damage from smoking. A home is a huge investment, so don’t be afraid to really look into that dry wall and make sure it’s mold-free.

Roofs in Disrepair

The roof of a house.

Remember those spots of fresh paint? If you notice those in a house, then there’s a pretty good chance that the water is coming from the roof. Other major signs of a damaged roof include curling or missing shingles, signs of buckling, discoloration or stains, and leaning or loose chimneys and gutters.

While a home inspector will likely check the roof, if you notice any of the above signs, you may want to ask for an extra in-depth look. After all, roof repairs can cost anywhere from $200 to several thousand dollars, so even though the roof is out of sight, always keep it in mind.

Need Some Help Searching?

Buying a home is a huge investment, and you want to make sure you’re spending your money wisely. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the walk through process, don’t worry—Linda Craft & Team REALTORS® is here to help. Not only can we point out any issues we see with the home right away, but we can also recommend top inspectors and help with negotiations for repairs.

Explore our free home-buying resources, and give us a call when you’re ready to see a few homes!