Buying Your First Home: Seven Tips For First-Time Home Buyers

Now that you’ve made the decision to purchase your first home, a hearty congratulations is in order!  Becoming a homeowner, especially for the first time, can stir up some feelings of anxiety and excitement.  With the knowledge that you gain through individual research and the help of your REALTOR®, you will soon begin to feel like a seasoned house hunter.

Tip # 1: Do Your Homework

Did you know that there are a number of incentives available to first-time home buyers?  Everything from a 3-5 percent down payment and interest rates as low as 5.75 percent are just a few of the ways that lenders help to make the dream of home ownership into a reality for many.  An FHA loan, for instance, is especially appealing to first-time home buyers.  The best way to find out what’s available, in terms of down payment requirements and interest rates, is to do your homework by comparing offerings from various lenders.

Tip # 2: Save Money

Although many loans are geared toward offering lower down payments to first-time home buyers, it’s important to save as much money as possible so that you will have enough to provide an earnest money deposit (if applicable), pay for closing costs and still have the funds to furnish and decorate your new home.

Tip # 3: Get Your Credit Profile In Order

When you apply for a loan, the lender will access a copy of your credit report and will use the information to determine your creditworthiness and/or interest rate.  This means that you will want to make sure that the information contained in your credit report is accurate and up-to-date.  You can do this by requesting a copy of your file from each of the three major credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

In addition to past credit history, lenders will also look at your current debt ratio in order to determine whether or not you can afford the home.  This means that you may want to consider paying down some of your existing credit card debt and avoid taking on any new debt before applying for a mortgage.

Tip # 4: Start Your Search

With the World Wide Web being what it is today, it’s no surprise that many potential home buyers start their search online.  A Realtor’s Web site is designed to not only list real estate, but also to educate a buyer as they move through the process of searching for a new home.  In addition, the internet offers a way for consumers to browse through color photos and virtual tours, both interior and exterior, along with information pertaining to the homes themselves.  The convenience of being able to find a home that you like without having to wait is just one of the many benefits to shopping for a house online.  When you are finally ready to meet with a REALTOR®, you will already have one or more prospects in mind.

Tip # 5: Have Patience

Perhaps you will find the perfect house this week, or maybe it will take a little longer.  Some buyers find exactly what they are looking for right away, while others have to do a little more searching to find their dream home.  As a first-time home buyer, it’s a good idea to begin the process with an understanding that good things really do come to those who wait.  You may see a number of homes, take numerous photos and may even make an offer or two, but patience may very well be the key to finding your new home.

Tip # 6: Take Notes

If you see a lot of homes, it will be impossible to remember the features of each.  For this reason, you should consider taking a notebook and writing down each unique or defining aspect that you like or dislike about a particular house.  This information, along with any photos that you take, will help you greatly when it’s time to make a choice.

Tip # 7: Don’t Settle

A home is a big investment and it could, quite possibly, be the largest you will ever make.  For this reason, along with the fact that you will be living in the home every day, make sure that you get what you want.  There could be an instance where you need to make some type of compromise, but you may want to avoid choosing something just because it’s within your price range or you feel as though it’s your only option.  New houses are placed on the market every day and, as a buyer, the next one listed may just be your dream home.

 

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Finding Your Perfect Home

As the old saying goes, real estate is all about location, location, location.  But, there is a lot more to it than just plain geography when it comes to finding your perfect home.  There are a lot of things to consider during the search because, for most, a home is the most significant purchase they will ever make.

Choose A Good Area

When searching for your perfect home, the obvious place to start is with the selection of a location.  If you have children, you may want to choose a home that is close to good schools and is also located in a family-oriented neighborhood.  Many people also look for a home that offers a short commute to and from work.  If you are shopping within a specific price range, you can also narrow the choices by finding an area that offers the best value for your dollar.

Select A Style

The perfect home for you is one that has all of the elements that you want.  Whether it’s a garage, basement, extra bedroom or bath, a large kitchen, fireplace or open floor plan, choosing the style of home that you want is an important first step in finding the perfect place to hang your hat.  You may also want to consider whether you prefer a single-level or two-story home.  Many home buyers also factor in floor plans when searching for a house, including those that offer an open and flowing design.

Get Pre-Qualified

Now that you know what you want and where you want it, it’s important to find out how much of a home you can afford.  Pre-qualification is not the same as pre-approval.  With pre-qualification, your lender will request specific information relating to your income and expenditures and will offer a possible price range for you to keep in mind while shopping.  Pre-qualification does not guarantee that you will receive an approval, but it does give you a good indication of how much you can afford based on your current situation.

Talk To A REALTOR®

Nobody knows the real estate business like a REALTOR®, so let them help you in your search for the perfect home.  They can answer questions relating to the neighborhood, recent inspections on a particular home and any needed repairs.  Because a REALTOR® has access to a number of area homes, they have the ability to show you various choices within your preferred area and price range.

Ask About Amenities

One of the most significant concerns of any home buyer is what a home has to offer.  Utilities, such as water, sewer, cable, phone and electricity are just a few of the things to consider.  If the home is in a subdivision that requires the payment of association dues, how will these funds be used?  What amenities does the home owner’s association offer?  These are all questions to ask your REALTOR® when shopping for the perfect home.

In conclusion, you should know that the search for your perfect home is a journey.  It may be either long or short and with or without some bumps along the way, but the greatest satisfaction will be at the journey’s end and your future’s beginning.

 

The Home Remodels That Will Most Increase Your Selling Price

So you are ready to sell, but you know that there are a few things in the home that could stand some updating in order to increase your selling price.  Your remodel budget is limited, and you are wondering where to spend it.  The good news is that there are some solid answers.  But there are certain remodeling jobs that can increase your selling price more than others.

Whether you are getting ready to sell or simply want to remodel now for the best value when you do sell later, these are the remodels that give you the best return on investment.

The Kitchen

Remodeling the kitchen is one of the most important things you can do in your home, especially if the kitchen is dated.  It is often one of the first rooms a potential buyer will see, and it should make an impression.  The kitchen is often considered the soul of the home, and most people spend a good deal of time here.  Upgrades to countertops, cabinets, and appliances are one of the wisest investments you can make in your home.

The Bathrooms

Second only to the kitchen, the bathroom is the room in the house where dated fixtures or flooring can cost you a sale.  People want a bathroom that is clean, comfortable, and modern, a place of privacy and peace.  Spending money on a bathroom remodel will almost always be the best way to spend your money, and you will see it in your selling price.

Curb Appeal

Getting people in to look at your house is the first step.  Spending some of your remodel money on the exterior of the house and the landscaping is the best way to do that.  Improving the look of the house from the outside means you can bring more people in to look and to buy.  There is no underestimating the importance of curb appeal.

An Addition

With a small house, adding on square footage can mean adding a lot to the selling price.  If you can swing it, an addition is a smart way to make your house worth a lot more money.

Remodeling your house now for a better sale price later is a smart move.  The sooner you do it, the more you will be able to enjoy it before it is time to sell and move on.  With these smart remodels, you will make maximum profit.

 

A Nice Home Or A Nice Neighborhood: Which Matters More?

When you start shopping for a home, you probably have a very specific image of what you would like that home to look like.  You probably also see the perfect neighborhood surrounding that perfect home.  Every buyer sets out with an image of the house they want to own, but in reality compromises are often necessary in order to stay within your budget.

Compromising On The House

There may be certain things that are non-negotiable when it comes to your new home, such as the number of bedrooms or a two-car garage.  But as you take a look at the homes that are within your budget, you may discover that it is not likely you will get everything on your wish list.  But the great thing about owning a home is that you have the power to remodel it at any time.  Once you are in your new home, you can renovate or even add on if necessary to create the home you really want.  And if you have managed to stay below your budget, you will even have the extra money each month to make some of those changes.

Compromising On The Neighborhood

So you’ve found the house of your dreams, but the neighborhood isn’t precisely what you were hoping for.  Too much traffic, some houses that are becoming run down, or many other issues can mar the area your house is in.  In most cases, you will have to accept that you cannot change the neighborhood, and this means that you have to decide if the problems are things you can live with or not.

In some cases, buying in a run-down neighborhood can be a strategic move.  If many people are buying up the houses and improving them, then your home might one day be worth a lot more.  However, you must realize that this is a risk and it might not work out that way.

Another thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to buy the nicest house in the neighborhood, you may have trouble selling it down the line.  If other houses in the area are available for less, why would anyone buy your expensive house to get into the area?

So Which Matters More?

In the long run, when it comes down to choosing between the right house and the right neighborhood, you should choose the right neighborhood.  While you can change your house for the better, you can’t count on your neighborhood changing; in fact, it might get worse.  So choose the best neighborhood you can afford even if the house there isn’t perfect.

 

How Much House You Can Afford

There are a number of factors that can contribute to the affordability of a house and, as a potential homebuyer, it’s important that you know what type of mortgage payments are within your budget.

Debt-To-Income Ratio

As a homebuyer, your first consideration will be the amount of your monthly mortgage payments.  If you owe a lot of debt, lenders may consider you to be a high credit risk, which makes debt-to-income ratio a leading factor in determining how much of a house you can afford.

Most lenders will discount any loans that you will have paid off within one year when determining how much of a home you can afford.  As a general rule, your mortgage payment should not exceed 25-30 percent of your monthly take-home pay.

Loan Term

Although you will end up paying more interest in the long run, you will find that you can afford a more expensive house if you request a loan term of 25-30 years, compared to a shorter term of 15 years.

Interest Rates

When you look at an interest rate, all you see is a number.  Hopefully, it’s a single digit that’s comparable with current market rates.  Most homebuyers already know that their interest rate affects their monthly payment which, in turn, is determined by the borrower’s income.  Lower interest rates mean that you can afford a larger principal loan amount, which means a more expensive house.

Credit History

Because your past credit history will play a large role in determining your interest rates, it will also impact the affordability of a house.  For instance, a buyer who pays six percent interest will save a considerable amount of money over a buyer who pays eight percent interest on their home loan.  It may not seem like much now but, when averaged over time, the savings could be tremendous.

Down Payment Amount

Believe it or not, the amount of your down payment will not only show the lender how serious you are about buying a home, but it will also affect your ability to afford a particular house.  For instance, if you were to qualify for a home loan of $200,000, but your dream home was currently listed for $250,000, a down payment in the amount of $50,000 would get you into the home.

The above scenario is just an example, but it does show how a down payment can affect the price of the home that you are able to afford.  Some lenders may only require a five percent down payment, but you are free to pay as much above that as you wish.  A larger down payment can also reduce the principal loan amount, which thereby reduces the monthly mortgage payments.

 

The Year Ahead. What 2017 might mean to you, your home and your other real estate investments.

What are the experts saying about the new year and what you can take away from it.

First of all, let’s take a look at the value of your home. Now there, I have some good news for you. Prices in most parts of Texas and America are expected to keep rising in 2017. The reason is that there aren’t enough homes for sale. But there are still plenty of buyers out there. So the laws of supply and demand are in your favor if you own a home or plan on selling one. Now, it won’t be a huge increase. The National Association of REALTORS believes that by this time next year the median price of a home in the United States will go from its current point of $232,200 to $241,250. That’s an increase of 3.9%. Now it’s not a spike, but after all, up is up. That’s good news for owners who have even greater equity in their homes and investments. Also for sellers, who will see those profits at the closing table.

Now, that low inventory and rising prices are expected to create challenges for home buyers. Especially first time buyers. But, those buyers do have factors in their favor. For one thing, most mortgage lenders are allowing lower credit scores and lower down payments. Up to now, home buyers have enjoyed record low interest rates. Well that’s about to change. Interest rates have started to rise. Not by that much, but they are on the way up. They’ve gone up about half a point since the summer. By the end of 2017 they’re expected to be a half point higher than that. The days of record lows may be behind us, but even so, the rates will continue to be incredibly low and not a barrier to home ownership.

Experts believe there could be some really good news for buyers coming down the line in 2017. And that is more homes are expected to come on the market. That means more choices, less competition, and all that added inventory should help curb those rising prices. You see, the nations home builders are predicting that in 2017 they’ll finally be on tract to build more than a million new homes. That’s up there from after the slump they had after the downturn. Not up there all the way since the home builders ordinary would put up a million and a half homes. But again, up is up and new home construction is headed in the right direction.

So buyers who hang in there might do okay. Especially if they end up getting a home of their own. That would make 2017 a great year. And even better if they are moving from renting to buying because rents are expected to continue to rise throughout 2017.

So, what’s the bottom line? Well in prices, interest rates, mortgage rates, mortgage availability, and inventory we’re seeing positive changes on the horizon. Not massive, epic changes, but slow, steady movement back to be what could be considered a normal market. A balanced market in which buyers and sellers are on more equal footing without either being at a big disadvantage. You could call that a healthy real estate market. And that’s a pretty great outlook as we approach 2017, the year ahead.

5 Things to do on the Riverwalk

Hello again,

Today I want to share some great information with everyone and some of the things to do in San Antonio & the Riverwalk.

San Antonio is one of the top tourist destinations in the country because of our rapid growth and our diverse culture. There are many exciting things to do while visiting the Riverwalk downtown from Entertainment to Fine Dining. The riverwalk offer a unique and fun prospective for all age groups.

Here is a list of top 5 things to do at the Riverwalk,

1.) Eat, Drink & Be Merry
Over fifty restaurants, bistros, cafes, clubs, bars — most with quaint outdoor patios — line the River Walk as it meanders its way through downtown San Antonio. There is everything from stellar Tex Mex to haute cuisine and locally-owned spots as well as popular international names like the Hard Rock Cafe. Find the right spot to eat.


2.) Land & Art Scapes
Few visitors venture beyond the downtown River Walk but it’s well worth it. Explore the Museum Reach, north of downtown, and watch for the  twelve art installations on the river banks. Stop along the way at  the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Southwest School of Art, then the boat ride ends at the 125-year-old Pearl Brewery complex, now home to restaurants, an outdoor amphitheater, a Saturday farmers market, eclectic shops and the Culinary Institute of America — San Antonio. If you go south from downtown, the south fork of the river meanders through the stately King William Historic District  all the way to the Blue Star arts complex, an eclectic enclave of creative souls, unusual shops and galleries, public art scattered about, and a brew pub.


3.) Sunset Cruise
Lots of folks take a tour of the River Walk aboard a river cruiser, but few know that you can take asunset taxi ride from downtown, along the Museum Reach, to the Pearl Brewery. Only in the dark will you be able to appreciate the full impact of  the art installations that line the banks, all of which use light in creative ways. They were created by some of the most interesting names in the art world. Museums, schools, residences and commercial buildings often are lit in startling and unusual ways.


4.) Secret Places To Shop
Don’t leave without a pink cowboy hat of course — pick one up at any of the River Walk curio shops. Less obvious but also right on the River Walk:  La Villita Historic Arts Village;  The Pearl BrewerySan Antonio Museum of Art Store and Southwest School of Art Gallery Shop. For major mall goers, the Rivercenter Mall— with over 60 stores — hugs the banks of the River Walk lagoon.


5.) Run, Walk, Hike, Bring Your Dog
The River Walk is a long linear park, beautifully landscaped, with great sidewalks. The less congested places are perfect for serious exercising or romantic strolls. The River Walk is eight miles long. In a few years, it will be a 15-mile masterpiece that weaves the city’s past and future together, starting north of the city at Brackenridge Park (San Antonio’s Central Park) and traveling south all the way to the four Spanish colonial missions south of downtown.

ImageScott Myers

Broker/Owner of Century 21 Scott Myers

(210) 479-1222 or Toll-Free (888) 868-1222

email: Scott.Myers@Century21.com