Tips for Buying a Home in the Current Housing Market

If you are currently in the market for a home, you are probably well aware that the nationwide housing inventory is at a record low, and the shortage is causing a problem for many prospective buyers. The current market can even create problems for sellers, because sellers still need to live somewhere after they sell their home. Between bidding wars, cash purchases, and low available inventory – here are a few strategies to help you navigate the current housing market.

Know where you stand. Being aware of your credit score, borrowing power, and housing budget is the key to security in today’s market. Sit down with your lender, financial planner, or real estate agent to talk about realistically, what can you afford. It’s especially important to know exactly how high you can go in a bidding war, because homes are often selling above value and at record speed.

Get expert advice. A real estate agent familiar with the current housing market conditions can advise you when homes you’re looking at are priced too high, and provide tips and leads you normally wouldn’t be able to get on your own. Agents who are familiar with your target neighborhood may know of possible pocket listings too – homeowners who may want to sell without putting their house on the market. In these instances, you may be able to get a home before the competition ever finds out.

Be first in line. The competition is definitely heating up these days. If you want a home badly enough, you’ll have to be ready to put in an offer as soon as the home is listed. Even if the seller decides to let the public bid on their home, if you’re prepared – you’ll get a chance to tour the home as soon as it’s listed if your buyer’s agent is active in the local area, and be one of the first bids in.

Get pre-qualified by your lender before you shop. Having pre-qualification paperwork to present when you place your offer is impressive to a seller and will get you a step ahead of the process in normal market conditions. In today’s market, having proof that you can afford the home you are bidding on is the bare minimum. Right now being pre-approved for a certain amount is very important in terms of competing offers. You’ll also want to be sure you can provide proof of where the down payment is coming from too.

Show that you want it, but don’t get too caught up in a bidding war. It’s tempting to keep placing higher counter offers if you’re outbid on a house that you love, but don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Stick to your budget and it’s okay to bow out if bids increase drastically above value. You can also send a letter to the owner as well. This tactic frequently works. Sellers are often emotionally attached to their homes and memories they’ve made in it, so it may help your offer get selected by letting them know just how much the home would mean to you and your family.

In the end, you may just have to be patient and try not to get discouraged. You don’t want to get stuck with a mortgage you can’t afford either, and eventually – the housing market will normalize again. When that does happen, you’ll be happy you held out for a home you could comfortably afford.

When you’re ready to take that leap – come talk to First Financial. Take advantage of our great mortgage and refinance rates, easy application process, and we’ll help you get pre-qualified before you shop.* Give our lenders a call, they’ll be happy to answer your questions with no commitment required!

*Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: Moneyning.com

Tips for First Time Home Buyers

Even if you’re not a first time home buyer, looking for and financing a home can be stressful. When you don’t know where to begin or what to do, it can be even more stressful – especially because it probably will be the biggest purchase of your life. Check out these tips for first time homebuyers to get the most out of your home buying experience and keep it as painless as possible.

Determine how much house you can afford and get preapproved.

When you’re ready to look for your first home, it’s important to know how much home you can afford. This will narrow down your home search and will give you a realistic view of the types of homes you can buy inside of your price range. You will also avoid the temptation to purchase a home where you’ll struggle to make the payments.

Save up for a down payment. 

With such a big purchase, having a down payment to invest in your home is important. A good rule of thumb for a down payment is to save 20% of your mortgage. For instance, if you have a $100,000 mortgage, your target down payment is $20,000.

If 20% of your mortgage doesn’t seem feasible, there are other options out there for first time homebuyers that will allow you to save and invest a smaller amount into your mortgage. If you’re wondering how much you need to save to achieve your desired payment, check out one of our mortgage calculators for reference.

Pay off as much debt as possible.

One of the factors that will determine your creditworthiness is your debt-to-income ratio. A debt-to-income ratio measures the total amount of debt you’re paying off each month compared to the amount of income you’re bringing in within the same period. If the amount of debt you’re paying off is considerably more than your income, this will negatively impact your credit score. In turn, this will hurt your chances of being preapproved for and financing a mortgage.

Try to avoid inquiries on your credit report.

When you’re looking to finance your first home, one item that first time homebuyers seem to overlook is avoiding new lines of credit. For instance, getting a new cell phone, adding on television service, or even setting up a utility account will all affect your credit score and your credit inquiries.

Before you buy a house, your focus should be on maintaining and improving your credit score while saving as much as possible for a down payment and avoid building new avenues of credit.

Buying your first home is no easy feat. When you finance your home with First Financial, we’re with you every step of the way and you’ll be well on your way to opening the door to your new home! Contact us today to learn more about the mortgage process, and check out our educational guidebook to happy homeownership.

APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only, are subject to change without notice and may be adjusted based on several factors including, but not limited to, property location, loan amount, loan type, occupancy, property type, loan to value, debt to income ratios, FICO credit scores, refinance with cash out and other variables. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. NMLS CU ID: 685814

 

5 First Year Homeowner Expenses to Prepare For

Most of us are prepared for costs like homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and HOA dues. We can work these predictable expenses into our housing budget as we begin to shop around and start the purchasing process. But what about the other things? Many who share their experience and advice, learned the hard way that certain expenses crop up with surprising predictability the first year you own a home. If you’re not prepared, these expenses could create a budgeting crisis, or even worse — a debt crisis.

1. Appliance Repair or Replacement

Your prospective home’s appraisal will bring to light just about every major and minor repair you’ll need to complete within the next 10 years, whether it’s flooring, roofing, siding, plumbing, electrical, or structural issues.

The appraisal also lists the appliances included with your home, and this is something you’ll want to pay special attention to. Take careful note of how old the appliances are and how heavily they’ve been used, so you’ll have a game plan for repairs or replacements. For instance, are you purchasing from a single person who didn’t use the dishwasher much or a family of five who used it daily? Here’s a list of the usual life expectancy for major appliances:

  • Washers, dryers, refrigerators, and dishwashers: 10 to 13 years (depending on prior use)
  • Gas ranges: 15 years
  • Stovetops: 15 to 18 years
  • Microwaves: 9 to 10 years
  • Water heaters: 10 to 20 years (tankless water heaters last longer)
  • Furnaces: 15 to 20 years

2. Cosmetic Upgrades

During your first few walk-throughs, you probably started brainstorming about the fun projects you want to do, like painting and updating light fixtures or window treatments. These types of things don’t seem expensive, but they can quickly add up when you’re doing several of them at once.

Separate what you need to do from what you’d like to do (the torn window blinds versus the ugly shade of purple in the bathroom), and draw up a cost estimate so you can start preparing for these upgrades before you move in.

3. Additional Furnishings

You may plan to use your current furniture, but typically you’ll need additional furniture items for your new home – especially if you’re gaining a guest bedroom or additional bathroom. Budget for this expense as well, and look for deals on swap sites and apps like CraigsList, Let Go or Offer Up.

4. Setting Up Services

This one is easy to take for granted, especially if you plan to keep the same services you’ve been using (at the same prices). Don’t forget that transferring services like telephone, internet, cable TV and satellite to a new location usually requires an installation and/or equipment fee. To save a little money, treat it as a new negotiation: don’t be afraid to ask about promotional deals and negotiate pricing based on the competition.

5. Re-keying All the Locks

Last, but not least, it’s always a good idea to re-key your home. Why? Unless your house is a new build, there have been multiple owners or even renters who could possess duplicate sets of keys to your house. This isn’t a major expense. Still, it could run as much as several hundred dollars depending on the number of doors and locks you have, so the expense will need to be budgeted to avoid charging up your credit card.

Handling These Expenses

Besides the previous advice, here are three more tips for preparing and handling these first-year home expenses:

  • Buy less house than you can afford to leave some wiggle room for these expenses in the housing category of your budget.
  • If time is on your side, save more than you think you’ll need for first-year expenses.
  • Prioritize these extra expenses and complete them slowly. After all, you plan on being in this house for awhile, right?

Looking to buy a home in the Monmouth or Ocean County area? You saw our last three short financial solutions videos on the benefits of a First Financial mortgage, how First Financial works with our members’ lending needs, and personalized service. Now check out video #4: personalized loan options. If you have questions about the mortgage process or don’t know how to get started, we are here for you. Contact the Loan Department at 732-312-1500, Option 4 or learn more about First Financial mortgages on our website.

*Subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey. See Credit Union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

 Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for moneyning.com

5 Tips for Homebuyers in a Seller’s Market

Just because it’s a seller’s market doesn’t mean buyers can’t get their dream home. It may just take a mix of pre-planning, patience, and timing.

Here are few ways buyers can fast track their way into a new home:

Have your own real estate agent.

It may be tempting to think you can get a better deal working with the listing agent. That’s not necessarily true. Neutrality among listing agents means they can’t help one side over the other. So who is there to help you?

Set a realistic budget.

When you set a budget, make sure you include more expenses than just the monthly mortgage payment, down payment, and closing costs. Have you planned for utilities, insurance, Homeowner’s Association fees, lawn care, pest control, and more? Can you still fund your emergency savings account, college for the kids, and retirement?

Figure out what you want vs. need.

Do you want to be in a specific school district? Do you need a big backyard? It may mean compromising on other home wants such as hardwood floors or stainless steel appliances, which could be addressed later. What are you willing to compromise on? Having a clear idea will help in the homebuying process.

Get preapproved.

Want to show sellers you are a serious, qualified buyer? Take the extra step to be preapproved. A preapproval letter shows a buyer’s creditworthiness and ability to get a loan by the lender. But don’t stop there. Once preapproved, buyers should shop around to find the best deal. Don’t be afraid to review the different offers and negotiate with lenders to get the one that works with your budget.

Make a fair bid.

When there is a shortage of inventory, don’t miss out on your dream home because you failed to make a strong opening offer. If you find a home you love in the right location and price range, don’t wait to make an offer or try to lowball sellers. Buyers should be ready to submit a fair offer quickly, or they may risk missing out on the home altogether.

Looking to buy a home in the Monmouth or Ocean County area? You saw our last two short financial solutions videos on the benefits of a First Financial mortgage and how First Financial works with our members’ lending needs, now check out video #3: personalized service. If you have questions about the mortgage process or don’t know how to get started, we are here for you. Contact the Loan Department at 732-312-1500, Option 4 or learn more about First Financial mortgages on our website.

*Subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey. See Credit Union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

 Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for financialfeed.com

 

Are You Ready to Buy a Home?

The transition from renter to homebuyer is a big one. Owning your own home gives you assurance that your monthly housing costs won’t go up, (assuming you get a fixed-rate mortgage), and that your rent won’t get jacked up when you are least expecting it.

Home ownership also comes with added responsibility. When something breaks in your rental unit, it’s a quick call to the landlord to get it fixed. Homeowners are always on the hook for both making and financing any repairs.

It’s a big financial leap to becoming a homeowner. Experts recommend asking yourself these questions before you start out on the house hunt:

Do you know how much you can afford?

Take the time to calculate how much home you can afford to buy. This isn’t the time to ballpark numbers. Overcommitting to a mortgage payment can leave you house poor, meaning there’s very little money leftover at the end of the month for other things.

Add up all your spending, including current rent, food, transportation and discretionary expenses like travel, eating out and entertainment. Don’t forget to include debt like student loans and car payments. Once you know how much you have coming in and going out each month, determine a number you can afford to spend on housing.

Generally, personal finance experts recommend aiming to spend around 28% of your monthly income on housing. Getting preapproved for a loan will also help give you a sense of your housing budget. But note that just because a bank agreed to give you a loan, doesn’t mean you have to (or should) spend that much.

Do you have a down payment?

You don’t need a 20% down payment to get a mortgage loan. But putting more down can work in your favor. It can help you get better loan rates, beat out the competition in hot housing markets, and will lower the amount of interest you pay over the life of the loan.

You can get a mortgage with as little as a 3.5% down, but anything less than 20% means paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which will increase your monthly payment.

Working to save for a large down payment shows financial responsibility and gets you used to living on a strict budget.

Will you have money left over after closing?

Your bank account shouldn’t be zero after closing. You should still have an emergency savings fund that will cover around three to six months of living expenses, on hand.

In addition to the emergency fund, it is recommended that you have six to nine months of mortgage expenses available. First-time homebuyers are typically looking at older homes because of their lower price point, and they require more work. You should have a back-up fund in savings, in case the A/C or heater goes.

Is your credit in good shape?

You want to get your credit score as high as possible when shopping for a mortgage. The higher the score, the better the lending terms and rates.

A credit score of 750 and up is generally considered excellent and will make you the most attractive borrower.

Have you paid down other debt?

Your debt-to-income ratio plays a major role in the health of your finances.

You can calculate your debt-to-income ratio by adding up all your monthly debt payments and dividing it by your gross monthly income.

The general rule of thumb is your debt should not exceed 43% of your available credit, in order to take out a mortgage.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

If you don’t plan on staying in an area for more than a couple of years, buying a house might not make financial sense.

The huge upfront investment including the price of the home, plus the added expenses like taxes, closing costs, and escrow fees, might take a while to pay off.  Be ready to make a long term commitment to a home and area, if you are taking out a mortgage.

Looking to buy a home in the Monmouth or Ocean County area? You saw our previous short video on the benefits of a First Financial mortgage last time, now check out part 2: how First Financial works with all our individual members’ lending needs. If you have questions about the mortgage process or don’t know how to get started, we are here for you. Contact the Loan Department at 732-312-1500, Option 4 or learn more about First Financial mortgages on our website.

*Subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey. See Credit Union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

 Article Source: Kathryn Vasel for Money.cnn.com

 

It Might Be Time to Adjust Your Home Buying Strategy

You’ve done your research, you’ve prepared your budget, and you’re ready to start your housing search. From the number of bedrooms and bathrooms to the optimum square footage—you know what you’re looking for. But did you know that if your search is too narrowly focused on what you want, you’re hurting your chances of finding the right house at the right price? In a tight housing market, knowing what the seller wants can be a valuable secret to homebuying success.

Apply some high-stakes strategy.

Know what the seller wants. Sounds simple, right? The problem is that most sellers (likely at the advice of their listing agent) rarely tip their hand—at least not on purpose. Like a high-stakes poker game, the winner isn’t always the person holding the best cards. Sometimes a winning housing search requires you to look for a seller’s “tell”—subtle signs that suggest they’re eager to unload the property quickly.

In her Huffington Post article, reporter Ann Brennhoff shares tips for situational house hunting. Based on her suggestions, a discerning eye for detail can help you gauge a seller’s motivation by decoding domestic clues hidden in plain sight. Whether a young family has outgrown their starter home or a retired couple needs to downsize to a more manageable residence, the details of each situation may provide the insights you need to make a successful offer. But if you only focus on your personal checklist, you could walk right by without even noticing.

Flexibility can help you find hidden gems.

To carry the poker analogy a little further, finding a prime deal in a tight housing market can require you to play the cards you’re dealt. Having a list of preferences is fine, but it’s important to stay open to other options. For example: if you’re looking for a home in a popular suburban area but also demanding several acres of land, you’re probably going to be disappointed. When it comes to house hunting goals, the old song lyrics ring true: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.”

Locking yourself into a restrictive search process often results in frustration, and frustration doesn’t lead to sound decision making. If you’re willing to expand your search horizons and embrace a spirit of adventure, you may wind up uncovering treasure in places you never expected. What are a few ways to start thinking outside the proverbial box?

Discover the value of sweat equity. If you’re able to find a structurally sound house, foreclosed houses offer an incredible upside for a smaller initial investment. But even if you don’t pursue a bank-owned property, you can adjust your search criteria to look for houses priced roughly 20% lower than your target. This adjustment increases the chances of finding a solid home that merely needs a little TLC. If you’re willing to invest the time and effort, you could be rewarded with significant equity for a fraction of the price.

If you can’t be first, be patient. In a hot housing market, the demand is higher than the supply. The likelihood of you being the first person to make an offer on a property is pretty low. Instead of making a reactive offer that exceeds your budget, you may benefit from shifting your search to homes that have been on the market for an extended period. The longer a house sits for sale, the more flexible the seller tends to be. This willingness to negotiate can increase your chances of finding more house for your money, or purchasing a home below market value.

Help the odds be ever in your favor. When you approach your home search like an investor, you realize it’s a numbers game. Sure, you’ve heard fantastic stories of buyers falling in love with the first house they see and stumbling across an unbelievable deal in the process. Those scenarios are the exception, not the rule. If you want to increase your chances of finding a home that meets your needs at a price you can comfortably afford, the solution is simple – look at more houses.

Poker players who go all-in on every hand rarely win big. The champions play the long game. Successful homebuyers play by the same rules. If you’re willing to pay attention to sellers’ needs, adjust your search criteria, proceed with patience, and expand your search options, you will increase your odds of success dramatically.

Looking to buy a home in the Monmouth or Ocean County area? First Financial can help! Check out this short mortgage video from our financial solutions series, presented by our Lending Manager. If you have questions about the mortgage process or don’t know how to get started, we are here for you. Contact the Loan Department at 732-312-1500, Option 4 or learn more about First Financial mortgages on our website.

 *Subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey. See Credit Union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.