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6 Creative Ways to Afford a Home

1. Investigate local, state, and national down payment assistance programs. These programs give qualified applicants loans or grants to cover all or part of your required down payment. National programs include the Nehemiah program, www.getdownpayment.com, and the American Dream Down Payment Fund from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, www.hud.gov.

2. Explore seller financing. In some cases, sellers may be willing to finance all or part of the purchase price of the home and let you repay them gradually, just as you would do with a mortgage.

3. Consider a shared-appreciation or shared-equity arrangement. Under this arrangement, your family, friends, or even a third-party may buy a portion of the home and share in any appreciation when the home is sold. The owner/occupant usually pays the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance costs, but all the investors’ names are usually on the mortgage. Companies are available that can help you find such an investor, if your family can t participate.

4. Ask your family for help. Perhaps a family member will loan you money for the down payment or act as a co-signer for the mortgage. Lenders often like to have a co-signer if you have little credit history.

5. Lease with the option to buy. Renting the home for a year or more will give you the chance to save more toward your down payment. And in many cases, owners will apply some of the rental amount toward the purchase price. You usually have to pay a small, nonrefundable option fee to the owner.

6. Consider a short-term second mortgage. If you can qualify for a short-term second mortgage, this would give you money to make a larger down payment. This may be possible if you re in good financial standing, with a strong income and little other debt.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Common First-Time Home Buyer Mistakes

1. They don t ask enough questions of their lender and end up missing out on the best deal.

2. They don t act quickly enough to make a decision and someone else buys the house.

3. They don t find the right agent who s willing to help them through the home buying process.

4. They don t do enough to make their offer look appealing to a seller.

5. They don t think about resale before they buy. The average first-time buyer only stays in a home for four years.

Source: Real Estate Checklists and Systems, www.realestatechecklists.com.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What to Have on Hand for the New Owners?

Owner s manuals and warranties for appliances left in the house.
Garage door opener.
Extra sets of house keys.
A list of local service providers  the best dry cleaner, yard service, plumber, etc.
Code to the security alarm and phone number of the monitoring service if not discontinued.
As a courtesy, you could provide numbers to the local utility companies.
If it s a condo, leave information on how to contact the condo board.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Tax Benefits of Homeownership

The tax deductions you re eligible to take for mortgage interest and property taxes greatly increase the financial benefits of homeownership. Here s how it works.

Assume:
$9,877 = Mortgage interest paid (a loan of $150,000 for 30 years, at 7 percent, using year-five interest)
$2,700 = Property taxes (at 1.5 percent on $180,000 assessed value)
______

$12,577 = Total deduction

Then, multiply your total deduction by your tax rate.
For example, at a 28 percent tax rate: 12,577 x 0.28 = $3,521.56
$3,521.56 = Amount you have lowered your federal income tax (at 28 percent tax rate)

Note: Mortgage interest may not be deductible on loans over $1.1 million. In addition, deductions are decreased when total income reaches a certain level.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Pros and Cons of Going Condo

Condominiums and townhouses offer an affordable option to single-family homes in many markets, and they re ideal for those who appreciate a maintenance-free lifestyle. But before you buy, make sure you do your legwork.

These are some of the important elements to consider:

Storage. Some condos have storage lockers, but usually there are no attics or basements to hold extra belongings.

Outdoor space. Yards and outdoor areas are usually smaller in condos, so if you like to garden or entertain outdoors, this may not be a good fit. However, if you dread yard work, this may be the perfect option for you.

Amenities. Many condo properties have swimming pools, fitness centers, and other facilities that would be very expensive in a single-family home.
Maintenance. Many condos have onsite maintenance personnel to care for common areas, do repairs in your unit, and let in workers when you re not home  good news if you like to travel.

Security. Keyed entries and even doormen are common in many condos. You re also closer to other people in case of an emergency.

Reserve funds and association fees. Although fees generally help pay for amenities and provide savings for future repairs, you will have to pay the fees decided by the condo board, whether or not you re interested in the amenity.

Resale. The ease of selling your unit may be dependent on what else is for sale in your building, since units are usually fairly similar.

Condo rules. Although you have a vote, the rules of the condo association can affect your ability to use your property. For example, some condos prohibit home-based businesses. Others prohibit pets, or don t allow owners to rent out their units. Read the covenants, restrictions, and bylaws of the condo carefully before you make an offer.

Neighbors. You re much closer to your neighbors in a condo or town home. If possible, try to meet your closest prospective neighbors.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score.

Credit scores range between 200 and 800, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage.

The following factors affect your score:

1. Your payment history. Did you pay your credit card obligations on time If they were late, then how late Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also impact your history.

2. How much you owe. If you owe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, it s a good thing if you have a good proportion of balances to total credit limits.

3. The length of your credit history. In general, the longer you have had accounts opened, the better. The average consumer’s oldest obligation is 14 years old, indicating that he or she has been managing credit for some time, according to Fair Isaac Corp., and only one in 20 consumers have credit histories shorter than 2 years.

4. How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay them promptly.

5. The types of credit you use. Generally, it s desirable to have more than one type of credit  installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.

For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, visit www.myfico.com.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What Not to Overlook on a Final Walk-through

It s guaranteed to be hectic right before closing, but you should always make time for a final walk-through. Your goal is to make sure that your home is in the same condition you expected it would be. Ideally, the sellers already have moved out. This is your last chance to check that appliances are in working condition and that agreed-upon repairs have been made. Here s a detailed list of what not to overlook for on your final walk-through.

Make sure that:
Repairs you ve requested have been made. Obtain copies of paid bills and warranties.
There are no major changes to the property since you last viewed it.
All items that were included in the sale price  draperies, lighting fixtures, etc.  are still there.
Screens and storm windows are in place or stored.
All appliances are operating, such as the dishwasher, washer and dryer, oven, etc.
Intercom, doorbell, and alarm are operational.
Hot water heater is working.
No plants or shrubs have been removed from the yard.
Heating and air conditioning system is working
Garage door opener and other remotes are available.
Instruction books and warranties on appliances and fixtures are available.
All personal items of the sellers and all debris have been removed. Check the basement, attic, and every room, closet, and crawlspace.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

How Big of a Mortgage Can I Afford?

Not only does owning a home give you a haven for yourself and your family, it also makes great financial sense because of the tax benefits  which you can t take advantage of when paying rent.

The following calculation assumes a 28 percent income tax bracket. If your bracket is higher, your savings will be, too. Based on your current rent, use this calculation to figure out how much mortgage you can afford.

Rent: _________________________

Multiplier: x 1.32

Mortgage payment: _________________________

Because of tax deductions, you can make a mortgage payment  including taxes and insurance  that is approximately one-third larger than your current rent payment and end up with the same amount of income.

For more help, use Fannie Mae s online mortgage calculators.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Closing Documents You Should Keep

On closing day, expect to sign a lot of documents and walk away with a big stack of papers. Here s a list of the most important documents you should file away for future reference.

HUD-1 settlement statement. Itemizes all the costs  commissions, loan fees, points, and hazard insurance  associated with the closing. You ll need it for income tax purposes if you paid points.

Truth in Lending statement. Summarizes the terms of your mortgage loan, including the annual percentage rate and recision period.

Mortgage and note. Spell out the legal terms of your mortgage obligation and the agreed-upon repayment terms.

Deed. Transfers ownership to you.

Affidavits. Binding statements by either party. For example, the sellers will often sign an affidavit stating that they haven t incurred any liens.

Riders. Amendments to the sales contract that affect your rights. Example: The sellers won t move out until two weeks after closing but will pay rent to the buyers during that period.

Insurance policies. Provide a record and proof of your coverage.

Sources: Credit Union National Association; Mortgage Bankers Association; Home-Buyer s Guide (Real Estate Center at Texas A&M, 2000)

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

10 Questions to Ask Your Lender

1. What are the most popular mortgages you offer Why are they so popular
2. Which type of mortgage plan do you think would be best for me Why
3. Are your rates, terms, fees, and closing costs negotiable
4. Will I have to buy private mortgage insurance If so, how much will it cost, and how long will it be required (NOTE: Private mortgage insurance is usually required if your down payment is less than 20 percent. However, most lenders will let you discontinue PMI when you ve acquired a certain amount of equity by paying down the loan.)
5. Who will service the loan  your bank or another company
6. What escrow requirements do you have
7. How long will this loan be in a lock-in period (in other words, the time that the quoted interest rate will be honored) Will I be able to obtain a lower rate if it drops during this period
8. How long will the loan approval process take
9. How long will it take to close the loan
10. Are there any charges or penalties for prepaying the loan

Used with permission from Real Estate Checklists & Systems, www.realestatechecklists.com.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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Daniel Andrade, REALTOR® DRE #: 01849983
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