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Tips for Buying in a Tight Market

Increase your chances of getting your dream house in a competitive housing market, and lower your chances of losing out to another buyer.

1. Get pre-qualified for a mortgage. You ll be able to make a firm commitment to buy and your offer will be more desirable to the seller.

2. Stay in close contact with your real estate agent to find out about the newest listings. Be ready to see a house as soon as it goes on the market  if it s a great home, it will go fast.

3. Scout out new listings yourself. Look at Web sites such as REALTOR.com, browse your local newspaper s real estate section, and drive through the neighborhood to spot For Sale signs. If you see a home you like, write down the address and the name of the listing agent. Your real estate agent will schedule a showing.

4. Be ready to make a decision. Spend a lot of time in advance deciding what you must have in a home so you won t be unsure when you have the chance to make an offer.

5. Bid competitively. You may not want to start out offering the absolute highest price you can afford, but don t go too low to get a deal. In a tight market, you ll lose out.

6. Keep contingencies to a minimum. Restrictions such as needing to sell your home before you move or wanting to delay the closing until a certain date can make your offer unappealing. In a tight market, you ll probably be able to sell your house rapidly. Or talk to your lender about getting a bridge loan to cover both mortgages for a short period.

7. Don t get caught in a buying frenzy. Just because there s competition doesn t mean you should just buy it. And even though you want to make your offer attractive, don t neglect inspections that help ensure that your house is sound.

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

How to Get an Offer on Your Home

1. Price it right. Set a price at the lower end of your property s realistic price range.

2. Prepare for visitors. Get your house market ready at least two weeks before you begin showing it.

3. Be flexible about showings. It s often disruptive to have a house ready to show at the spur of the moment. But the more amenable you can be about letting people see your home, the sooner you ll find a buyer.

4. Anticipate the offers. Decide in advance what price and terms you ll find acceptable.

5. Don t refuse to drop the price. If your home has been on the market for more than 30 days without an offer, you should be prepared to at least consider lowering your asking price.

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

Does Moving Up Make Sense ?

These questions will help you decide whether you re ready for a home that s larger or in a more desirable location. If you answer yes to most of the questions, it s a sign that you may be ready to move.

1. Have you built substantial equity in your current home Look at your annual mortgage statement or call your lender to find out. Usually, you don t build up much equity in the first few years of your mortgage, as monthly payments are mostly interest, but if you ve owned your home for five or more years, you may have significant, unrealized gains.

2. Has your income or financial situation improved If you re making more money, you may be able to afford higher mortgage payments and cover the costs of moving.

3. Have you outgrown your neighborhood The neighborhood you pick for your first home might not be the same neighborhood you want to settle down in for good. For example, you may have realized that you d like to be closer to your job or live in a better school district.

4. Are there reasons why you can t remodel or add on Sometimes you can create a bigger home by adding a new room or building up. But if your property isn t large enough, your municipality doesn t allow it, or you re simply not interested in remodeling, then moving to a bigger home may be your best option.

5. Are you comfortable moving in the current housing market If your market is hot, your home may sell quickly and for top dollar, but the home you buy also will be more expensive. If your market is slow, finding a buyer may take longer, but you ll have more selection and better pricing as you seek your new home.

6. Are interest rates attractive A low rate not only helps you buy a larger home, but also makes it easier to find a buyer.

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

Your Property Wish List

What does your future home look like Where is it located As you hunt down your dream home, consult this list to evaluate properties and keep your priorities top of mind.

Neighborhoods

What neighborhoods do you prefer

Schools

What school systems do you want to be near

Transportation

How close must the home be to these amenities:
Public transportation
Airport
Expressway
Neighborhood shopping
Schools
Other

Home Style

What architectural style(s) of homes do you prefer
Do you want to buy a home, condominium, or townhome
Would you like a one-story or two-story home
How many bedrooms must your new home have
How many bathrooms must your new home have

Home Condition

Do you prefer a new home or an existing home
If you re looking for an existing home, how old of a home would you consider
How much repair or renovation would you be willing to do
Do you have special needs that your home must meet

Home Features

Front yard
Back yard
Garage ( __ cars)
Patio/Deck
Pool
Family room
Formal living room
Formal dining room
Eat-in kitchen
Laundry room
Finished basement
Attic
Fireplace
Spa in bath
Air conditioning
Wall-to-wall carpet
Wood floors
Great view

Other notes:

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

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.

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