Narrowing your search for the perfect home can be a little easier if you start with a few neighborhoods and work your way out. Keep in mind access to shopping, schools and your more travelled routes.
Because many buyers prefer to move in the spring or summer, the real estate market starts to heat up as early as February. Families with children are anxious to buy so they can move during summer vacation, before the new school year begins. The market slows down in late summer before picking up again briefly in the fall. November and December have traditionally been slow months, although some astute buyers look for bargains during this period.
Many of your questions should focus on potential problems and maintenance issues. Does anything need to be replaced? What things require ongoing maintenance (e.g., paint, roof, HVAC, appliances, carpet)? Also ask about the house and neighborhood, focusing on quality of life issues. Be sure the seller's or real estate agent's answers are clear and complete. Ask questions until you understand all of the information they've given. Making a list of questions ahead of time will help you organize your thoughts and arrange all of the information you receive.
Payments increase or decrease on a regular schedule with changes in interest rates; increases subject to limits. Types: Balloon Mortgage - Offers very low rates for an initial period of time (usually 5, 7, or 10 years); when time has elapsed, the balance is due or refinanced (though not automatically). Two-Step Mortgage - Interest rate adjusts only once and remains the same for the life of the loan; ARMS linked to a specific index or margin. Advantages: Generally offer lower initial interest rates; Monthly payments can be lower; May allow borrower to qualify for a larger loan amount.
A credit bureau score is a number, based upon your credit history that represents the possibility that you will be unable to repay a loan. Lenders use it to determine your ability to qualify for a mortgage loan. The better the score, the better your chances are of getting a loan. Ask your lender for details.
Now an agency within HUD, the Federal Housing Administration was established in 1934 to advance opportunities for Americans to own homes. By providing private lenders with mortgage insurance, the FHA gives them the security they need to lend to first-time buyers who might not be able to qualify for conventional loans. The FHA has helped more than 26 million Americans buy a home.
When looking for a house, be sure to check out the local schools, even if you don't have school-age children. Research has shown that properties near good schools appreciate faster in strong markets and hold their values better during weak markets.
Some people buy a vacation home with the idea of turning it into a permanent retirement home down the road, which puts them ahead on their payments. Another benefit is that the interest and property taxes are tax deductible, which helps to offset the cost of paying for a second home. A vacation home also can be depreciated if you live in it less than 14 days a year.
If possible, take photographs of each house: the outside, the major rooms, the yard, and extra features that you like or ones you see as potential problems. And don't hesitate to return for a second look.
An ARM may make sense if you are confident that your income will increase steadily over the years or if you anticipate a move in the near future and aren't concerned about potential increases in interest rates.