Buy A Home – Tips To Make It Easier

First-Time Homebuyers
You’ve worked hard to get to a point where you are ready to buy a home. Now let us help.
Our team has worked with many first-time homebuyers, and we understand that every buyer’s situation is different; with that said, we are well versed in guiding you through the various steps of the mortgage process.

Know your complete budget
When determining your home budget, it’s important to consider your income, debt and expenses. When calculating home cost, most consider principal, interest, taxes and insurance. It’s also important t however, to include all of your expenses, such as utilities, cost of commuting, association fees, etc. You can call utility companies and ask for estimates connected to your future home. Once you have a complete list of all your potential expenses, you’ll have a better idea of what you can afford. You can try living for a few months on a “simulated mortgage payment” to make sure you can afford the housing budget you’re considering.

Know your credit score.
After deciding to buy a home, you should get a copy of your credit report to make sure that you are not being unfairly penalized for erroneous, old or settled debts. It is also not a good idea to apply for new credit prior to applying for financing or before you have closed on your home. Typically, the higher your credit score, the lower your down payment and qualifying interest rate; and consequently monthly payments will be. For instance, buyers with credit scores below 650 will most likely need to pay a higher down payment than those with scores above 700 – those buyers see much better deals and rates.

Get pre-approved for your home mortgage.
Before putting in the long hours house hunting, if you want to buy a home, it is advisable to get pre-approved. It eliminates the guess work regarding what you can afford. You will need to provide your lender with documentation and verification of income and assets (e.g. pay stubs, W-2s, tax returns, recent bank statements, your credit report, etc.) so they can determine how much to lend and represent on your pre-approval letter. While not a commitment of how much financing you have secured, a pre-approval letter helps to expedite the underwriting and loan process. Some sellers will only accept offers from buyers with a full pre-approval letter.

Know the housing market that you’re considering.
In recent years, the housing market has experienced many ups and downs with sales & interest rates. When buying a home, it’s probably prudent to be familiar with the current market conditions and how they will affect your home purchase price. Working with a realtor who has a solid understanding of the housing market to help negotiate your home purchase is a wise idea. Don’t buy a home unless you plan to stay in the home for a few years at least.

When looking to buy a home, the general rule is that you should plan to be in the same location for at least five years. If you move prior to five years, you most likely will lose money on your purchase. Between closing costs and the monthly mortgage payments, which are structured so that you pay more interest in the first few years that you own the home; it is best to identify a home where you want to remain for at least five years, thereby paying down the principal of your mortgage.

Look for a home in a good school district.
Excellent schools establish that an area is a good location in which to live. Even if you don’t have kids, homes located in good school districts are generally more expensive, but worth the investment since they tend to appreciate or hold their value, which will be beneficial when considering resale. Houses in school districts that are highly rated are more and in-demand than those in sub-par school districts. Even in a down market, home prices in great school districts fair better than those in districts that are not rated highly.

Work with professionals
Most real estate transactions require the involvement of more than two dozen professionals; mortgage brokers, real estate agents, underwriters, insurance assessors, attorneys and inspectors, all play vital roles in your home-buying process. Each professional has a specific role in educating, advocating and executing for you during your purchase process. Select carefully and work closely with your team.

Don’t skip the home inspection!
A home purchase likely is the single largest investment you’ll make in your lifetime, and a home inspection is well worth the extra cost to ensure that there are no hidden problems in your home. When conducting a walk-thru, you only can see what is visible to you. A good home inspector can see beyond what is visible. Unlike your car, there is no “check engine” light for some potential major repair problems in a home. Home inspectors physically inspect the property from the roof to the foundation. They examine the condition of the roof, plumbing, heating and cooling system and provide their findings in a written report within a few days after the inspection. Your realtor can contact the seller with the information listed on the report for repairs or renegotiate the sale price. A good realtor will most likely have a list of and can recommend reputable home inspectors.

Don’t sign documents unless you read and understand
To buy a home, the process includes an enormous amount of paperwork; but it is advisable to take time to read and truly understand what you are signing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if a document does not make sense, or seems inaccurate. Particularly at closing, it will take some time for you to review documents. Your realtor can be helpful in preparing you for the numerous documents you’ll encounter.


Whether you’re searching for your first apartment, or an experienced renter in need of a new place, looking for a new apartment can be exciting. You may already know what you want in an apartment and the neighborhood.

However, not all aspects of finding an apartment and renting are enjoyable. And while renting an apartment is often cheaper and quicker than buying a home, approval for a rental isn’t always easy. There are a number of things you must keep in mind, as well as steps you must take, to help make the process simpler.
Things to Know Before Renting

1. Most Landlords Require Good Credit History
People with low credit scores often apply for apartment rentals because they can’t be approved for mortgage loan; but the same challenge can exist with apartment managers and landlords. Some apartments place little emphasis on credit scores; in fact, these communities allow renters with recent bankruptcies, foreclosures, and repossessions while other communities have very strict credit requirement. Obtaining your credit report before applying for a rental provides clues as to whether you’ll receive an approval. Credit score requirements vary by landlord; however, 680 or higher is probably a good credit score for consideration. Fixing credit problems, such as improving your payment habits and paying off defaulted accounts, improves your odds of getting a rental. But if you can’t fix bad credit, explain it on your rental application, as some apartment managers may show leniency after a job loss, divorce, or illness, etc.

2. Rent Doesn’t Help Your Credit Score
If you’re looking to improve your credit to qualify for a mortgage loan in the future, understand that rent payments typically don’t help your credit score. Your landlord is a creditor, and you’re obligated to make your rental payments on time. However, the majority of landlords do not report to the credit bureaus (except when you’re delinquent in rent). Thus, your credit report will not reflect your timely rental payments. If you need a credit score boost, getting a credit card or small loan is your best bet. These creditors update credit reports on a monthly basis, and your timely payments helps add points to your score.

3. Your Rent Can Increase
While finding an affordable apartment is great, rent prices aren’t fixed. You may be notified by your landlord of a rent increase
Periodic Rent Increases

Signing a lease guarantees your rate during the lease period. However, after the lease expires, some landlords increase monthly rent payments. If you’re a first-time renter, rent increases can catch you off-guard and affect your personal finances if funds are already tight. Plan for increases by selecting an apartment with a monthly rent that’s below your rental budget, so that you are ready for potential increases.

Income Reassessment
Each apartment complex varies. With some apartments, the manager or landlord reviews your income documents once and never asks for additional information. But if you live in an income-based apartment complex, where your monthly income determines your rental payments; your landlord may ask for copies of your W-2 or paycheck stubs on an annual basis. A job loss, a decrease in income, or salary increase can affect whether you re-qualify for the apartment, and the amount of your monthly rental payment.

4. Co-Signer or Joint Applicants
It’s not unusual for first-time renters to have a parent or friend co-sign their apartment lease, and it’s common for two people to rent an apartment together as roommates. Landlords don’t mind if there are multiple people listed on a lease agreement, since having multiple people on a lease helps tenants qualify because landlords consider both incomes & credit scores.
Understandably, your situation can change within a year. Your roommate can move out of the apartment, or your co-signer may renege and want his or her name taken off the lease. But if you choose to have a co-signer or joint applicant, understand that you can’t easily remove this person from the agreement. Each person that signs the lease remains responsible for the unit and the rent payments until the lease expires.

Before Renting

Get Renters’ Insurance
Most landlords require it; but even if they don’t, it is best to purchase renter’s insurance. If a natural disaster, fire, or flooding from another apartment destroys your apartment; the landlord’s insurance does not cover your personal belongings. Obtain renters’ insurance from any local insurance agent. $20,000 worth of coverage is relatively inexpensive. This insurance covers against theft and damage to your property or damage to other property caused by you. Displacement coverage is also added feature of renters’ insurance.
Evaluate the Property and Neighborhood

You should choose a neighborhood that’s comfortable and safe. Don’t make a hasty decision and sign a lease without fully checking out the area. Don’t rush the rental process. Before committing to an apartment, visit the community during different times of the day; perhaps in the evenings and on the weekends when most of the residents are at home. Is the neighborhood quiet? Do you feel safe? If possible, talk to some of the people in the community and get their opinions of the neighborhood.

Inspect the Property
Once you decide on an apartment, schedule a final walk-through with your landlord and conduct an inspection before signing your lease. Some landlords keep the water and electricity turned on, thus allowing you to test the faucets, the hot water, the shower, the toilets, and the light fixtures. If the electricity is on, make sure the appliances work. Open the refrigerator and freezer; turn on the stove burners and the oven. Check the roof or ceiling for signs of a leak, and inspect for signs of insects or rodents by checking beneath the sinks for droppings. Realistically, the apartment may have some signs of wear and tear, such as scratches on floors or countertops. If you see any damage, take pictures and notify the landlord before signing the lease.

Read Your Lease
Lease agreements tend to be long and boring, but its best to be familiar with entire document before signing. Apartment managers typically go through each page and explain the document. But rather than rely solely on their summary, read the document as well and ask questions if there are things you do not understand. Sign the document only if you’re comfortable with the terms of the agreement. Don’t let eagerness to find a new apartment result in a bad decision. You will be bound by the terms for the year or possibly two year period reflected on the lease. Compared to buying a home, renting an apartment may seem like such a big deal; but it’s still a major decision. The more you know about the process, the easier it will be.

Improving Your Credit Score

A good credit can make life easier, for instance, it gives you a better chance of qualifying for various loans or credit cards, lower interest rates, better car insurance rates, exemption from utility deposits or lower amount & easier qualification for apartments & co-ops.

Let’s say your score is 550, in the range generally considered “bad credit.” Raising it to 700, which generally considered the lower end of the “good credit” range, would affect the way lenders view your credit worthiness; & the “excellent credit” range generally 750 or more, provides even more options not applicable at a lower credit score level.

Three steps can improve your credit score

Fix errors on your credit reports
According to the Federal Trade Commission, about 5% of consumers have errors on their credit reports bad enough to result in a higher price for a financial product or insurance. About 1 out of 4 reports contain errors that might have at least a small negative effect on scores. It is recommended you obtain a credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. It is free, so why not take advantage of that fact. Check for mistakes, such as payments marked late when you paid on time or negative information that’s too old to be listed; & the most egregious, debt on your report not belonging to you
You must dispute all errors to get them removed. Credit bureaus must respond to disputes within 30 business days.

Stay below your credit limit
Your credit utilization — that is, how much of your credit limit you use, has a big impact on your score. Most experts say it’s best to keep balances to 30% – 40% of your credit limits or less. Both your overall debt & per-card utilization count.

You can control balances by making multiple small (micro) payments if possible, during the month to keep balances down. Request credit limit increases. If your limit goes up & your balance stays the same, you lower utilization. Inquire with card issuer if you can make the limit increase request without a “hard” credit inquiry. Some inquiries can temporarily drop your score a few points. Reduce balances on the cards with the highest utilization first. A tax refund or other financial windfall could help. You can reallocate debt. A debt consolidation loan could let you reduce or eliminate card balances, lowering your utilization. Getting a personal loan at a better rate than your credit cards also could save you money in interest. Credit card issuers typically report to the bureaus every month. As soon as your creditor reports your lower balance, the better utilization will be reflected in your scores. If you have a lot of maxed-out credit cards, you could elevate your scores by nearly 100 points by paying them all off.

Pay on time
No strategy to bump up your score will work unless you’re also paying on time. Why? Payment history has the single biggest influence on credit scores. If you’re behind on any accounts, call the creditor, arrange to pay and ask if they will rescind the reported delinquencies so they no longer appear on your reports. Payment history has the single biggest influence on credit scores. Even if the creditor won’t rescind those previously missed payments, it’s worth getting current on the account ASAP. Each month an account is marked delinquent hurts your score, and a 60-day delinquency has a greater effect than a 30-day delinquency. Missed payments can stay on your credit report for seven years but you can start counteracting the effect right away – by focusing on paying all bills on time from here on out, so you offset negative marks with more recent positives.