Starting the Search for Your Dream Home? Here Are 5 Tips!

Starting the Search for Your Dream Home? Here Are 5 Tips! | MyKCM

In today’s real estate market, low inventory dominates the conversation in many areas of the country. It can often be frustrating to be a first-time homebuyer if you aren’t prepared.

In a realtor.com article entitled, “How to Find Your Dream Home—Without Losing Your Mind,” the author highlights some steps that first-time homebuyers can take to help carry their excitement of buying a home throughout the whole process.

1. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Before You Start Your Search

One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search. Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing whether or not your dream home is within your reach.

This step will also help you narrow your search based on your budget and won’t leave you disappointed if the home you tour, and love, ends up being outside your budget!

2. Know the Difference Between Your ‘Must-Haves’ and ‘Would-Like-To-Haves’

Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen to be happy with your home choice? Would a two-car garage be a convenience or a necessity? Could the ‘man cave’ of your dreams be a future renovation project instead of a make-or-break right now?

Before you start your search, list all the features of a home you would like and then qualify them as ‘must-haves’‘should-haves’, or ‘absolute-wish list’ items. This will help keep you focused on what’s most important.

3. Research and Choose a Neighborhood You Want to Live In

Every neighborhood has its own charm. Before you commit to a home based solely on the house itself, the article suggests test-driving the area. Make sure that the area meets your needs for “amenities, commute, school district, etc. and then spend a weekend exploring before you commit.”

4. Pick a House Style You Love and Stick to It

Evaluate your family’s needs and settle on a style of home that would best serve those needs. Just because you’ve narrowed your search to a zip code, doesn’t mean that you need to tour every listing in that zip code.

An example from the article says, “if you have several younger kids and don’t want your bedroom on a different level, steer clear of Cape Cod–style homes, which typically feature two or more bedrooms on the upper level and the master on the main.”

5. Document Your Home Visits

Once you start touring homes, the features of each individual home will start to blur together. The article suggests keeping your camera handy to document what you love and don’t love about each property you visit.

Making notes on the listing sheet as you tour the property will also help you remember what the photos mean, or what you were feeling while touring the home.

Bottom Line

In a high-paced, competitive environment, any advantage you can give yourself will help you on your path to buying your dream home. We are here to be part of your support system! Let’s get you setup on a listing alert so you are notified when any potential homes in your price range hit the market.

Call/text us at 703-242-3975 with any questions or email us at info@thebeltteam.com.

Text BELT to 59559 to see the latest listings in your area.

Slaying Home Buying Myths

We get questions from first-time homebuyers like this all the time:

  • Do I have to have a perfect credit score?
  • Do I need 20% cash for my down payment?
  • Aren’t interest rates really high?
  • Can I really afford to buy?

Check out what Keeping Current Matters has to say about the myths related to buying a home:

Slaying Home Buying Myths [INFOGRAPHIC] | MyKCM

Some Highlights:

  • Interest rates are still below historic numbers.
  • 88% of property managers raised their rent in the last 12 months!
  • The credit score requirements for mortgage approval continue to fall.

The Belt Team has a Buyer Specialist whose expertise is First-Time Homebuyers. If you’re looking for someone to walk you through each step of the process, call Beth Dadisman at (703) 577-1144. Or click here to schedule a FREE consultation.

Search our FREE State-of-the-Art Search Site

Here’s how you might feel after you buy your first place! We helped these first time homebuyers find their dream home and go to settlement just last week! The Belt Team is ranked in the Top 20 Real Estate Agents in the State of VA (out of 30,000 agents). Don’t you deserve the BEST?!

The Belt Team Specializes in First Time Homebuyers

Taking the Fear out of the Mortgage Process

We get a lot of questions from people thinking about buying a home – whether for the first time or for the first time in a long time. Here’s a great article from Keeping Current Matters that will demystify the process.

You might also want to read our post “Budget Like It’s 1999 and Other Tips for First Time Homebuyers”!

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Taking Fear Out of the Mortgage Process

A considerable number of potential buyers shy away from jumping into the real estate market due to their uncertainty about the buying process. A specific cause for concern tends to be mortgage qualification.

For many, the mortgage process can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be!

In order to qualify in today’s market, you’ll need to have saved for a down payment (the average down payment on all loans was 11% last month, with many buyers putting down 3% or less), a stable income and good credit history.

Throughout the entire home buying process, you will interact with many different professionals, all of which perform necessary roles. These professionals are also valuable resources for you.

Once you’re ready to apply, here are 5 easy steps that Freddie Mac suggests to follow:

  1. Find out your current credit history & score – even if you don’t have perfect credit, you may already qualify for a loan. The average FICO Score of all closed loans in September was 731, according to Ellie Mae.
  2. Start gathering all of your documentation – income verification (such as W-2 forms or tax returns), credit history, and assets (such as bank statements to verify your savings).
  3. Contact a professional – your real estate agent will be able to recommend a loan officer that can help you develop a spending plan, as well as determine how much home you can afford.
  4. Consult with your lender – he or she will review your income, expenses, and financial goals in order to determine the type and amount of mortgage you qualify for.
  5. Talk to your lender about pre-approval – a pre-approval letter provides an estimate of what you might be able to borrow (provided your financial status doesn’t change), and demonstrates to home sellers that you are serious about buying!

Bottom Line

Do your research, reach out to professionals, stick to your budget, and be sure that you are ready to take on the financial responsibilities of becoming a homeowner.

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Email The Belt Team for our list of trusted lenders. They can walk you through the process in great detail and explain each step along the way, estimate monthly payments and tell you how much cash you’ll really need to have.

Contact us to set up a FREE Buyer Consultation. We will show you our “7 Steps To Your Dream Home”!

Search The Belt Team’s state-of-the-art home finder site.

“Kiss Your Landlord Goodbye” – Interactive Seminar

Homebuyer Seminars Northern VA

Special Millennial Edition Class for First-Time Homebuyers

September 30th at 6:30PM in McLean

Register here    Download Flyer

Today is a great time to enter the real estate market! Why throw money away on rent when you can be your own landlord? Freedom rocks. And so does putting money in your OWN pocket instead of your landlord’s! Mortgage rates are low (for now!) and you may even be able to pay less by owning than renting. Not sure how the process works? We’ve gathered these local experts to share their knowledge with you:

¨ Aaron Gagnon, Loan Officer, Apple Federal Credit Union

¨ Brad Pace, Loan Officer, EverBank

¨ Chris Melnick, Owner, Double Eagle Title

¨ Several local millennials who recently bought their first home

¨ The Belt Team, nationally recognized Top 100 Team with Keller Williams Realty

Here’s what the class will cover:

  • How much money do I need to save?
  • Could I actually pay less by owning than renting?
  • Do I qualify for a mortgage?
  • What would my payment be?
  • What about closing costs?
  • What about inspections?
  • Overview of the market.
  • Search tips & tricks.
  • Best apps to use.

Register FREE before Sept 15. Register here. Seating is limited.

(Note: If you cannot make one of our scheduled classes, we are more than happy to meet for coffee and do a quick, no obligation overview with you.)

Search for homes on our state-of-the-art site

Platinum Sponsor: Double Eagle Title

First Time Homebuyers“This was our first time looking for a home to own and Kevin really guided and took all of our requests and preferences to heart. He made sure all of our worries were alleviated from day one and we couldn’t have asked for a better agent to work with.”

Ben & Lara Kaplan

 

First Time Homebuyer Seminar - The Belt Team“As first time buyers we really appreciated that Tom Reilly respected all of our questions, no matter how elementary. If he didn’t have the answer, he got it for us, ASAP. We worked with another agent earlier in our home search, and Tom was much more attentive and helpful!”

Heather & Doug Roemer

“Budget Like Its 1999” and Other Tips for First Time Homebuyers

Terry Belt and Chris Melnick

Your son or daughter graduates from college. And they move back home. It’s all good for a while. They were away at school for 4 years (5 in our case!) and it’s really nice to have them around.

Then, all of a sudden, you both start thinking about the day when they move out again.

That’s what happened to us last year. Our daughter Melissa graduated from college, moved home and got her first job (as a teacher at a Catholic school). She made it through her first fall of teaching and as the new year arrived, she started thinking about moving out. While teaching is very rewarding, the rewards are not financial in nature. So she began looking into apartments and rentals.

Since I have been in real estate for almost 30 years, this just killed me. I just couldn’t imagine her throwing away money at rent. But I also knew her finances were tight. Less than a year later, she bought her own condo and became a first time homeowner. Here’s how we made it happen.

3 Tips For Prospective First Time Homebuyers (And Their Parents)

1. BUDGET LIKE ITS 1999

As a young married couple, we wanted to move from our small condo to a single family home. The best advice our parents gave us was to create the budget we would need after we moved into the house and live on it for a year BEFORE we bought the house. That way we would know whether it was realistic and where we could cut corners. So we did the same thing with Melissa. She created a budget on the Mint.com app and lived on it for almost a year before she moved. She included things like a mortgage payment, utilities, home repairs & insurance. Since these were not “real” expenses yet, she took that money each month and banked it in her savings account.

Here are examples of what to include in your budget:

  • Mortgage
  • Taxes
  • Insurance
  • HOA/Condo Fee
  • Utilities (Electricity, Water, Gas, Internet, Cell, Cable)
  • Tithing
  • Saving
  • Home repair/Maintenance
  • Car Payment
  • Groceries
  • Eating Out
  • Pets
  • Clothing
  • Gas
  • Car Repair/Maintenance
  • Medical (Checkups, Prescriptions, Ilnesses)
  • Personal (Haircuts, gifts, vacations, subscriptions)
  • Entertainment/recreation
  • Student Loans

2. WIN-WIN INVESTING

Like many first-time homebuyers, Melissa’s biggest challenge was the down payment and closing costs. Today’s young people are used to a certain standard of living (think Starbuck’s & sushi). It’s really not their fault. They were raised by the generation who wanted their kids to have “more than we had”. We, on the other hand, were raised by post-Depression era parents – and we learned to be frugal, save money and not to buy things on credit. To incent Melissa and encourage her to save – we set up a matching plan. We matched her dollar for dollar over a certain time period up to a set amount of money. This got her into the “Saving Habit” as she was able to see substantial accumulation of her funds. And she continued that habit as a permanent life change. (This not only set her in good stead for saving towards a down payment, it set her up for success going forward.)

That still wasn’t enough though. So we came to an agreement. We would be 50/50 owners. We contributed 50% of the downpayment & closing costs. And we would each make 50% of the monthly payments. (Melissa found a roommate to cover our half of the payments.) When the condo is sold, Melissa will reimburse our 50%. And we will split the profits in half. Win-win. A nice investment for us. And home ownership, equity and a tax write off for Melissa. (Contact your CPA for details regarding how to set this up.)

If you want to buy your first place and don’t have enough cash, don’t give up – you might find that if you present a win-win situation, there are people in your life who would be excited to help you: parents, grandparents, siblings.

3. GET REAL

After living on a budget for a year, Melissa had a “real” number of what she could afford in terms of a monthly payment. The number was $800 net. (So $1,600/mo for the mortgage, taxes, insurance & condo fee – with a roommate to pay half).  She talked with a Loan Officer, got pre-approved for a loan. And only then did she start looking. (Side note: Even though Melissa had no outstanding debt, because she is a teacher with such little income, she still needed co-signers for her loan. Many first-time homebuyers can qualify income/debt-wise, but if not – make sure you talk to your Loan Officer in depth about this because FNMA & FHLMC have different guidelines as to what is required.)

Melissa initially had a LONG wish list for her first place. This was another area in which she had to “get real”. She made a list of “must haves”, “wants” and “dreams”. We started out online. Melissa first started out using our competitor’s “apps” – Zillow, Red Fin, etc. But each time she showed me a listing, it turned out the place was already sold. So she went to our state-of-the-art site and set up a search. (Our site is updated faster than others and this solved the problem of not having current info,)

Next up was open houses. This was a great way to see neighborhoods, check commuting times and narrow down the options. (It also was interesting to experience the less than professional behavior of many Realtors – some who pressured Melissa to act quickly because they had “multiple contracts coming in”. Funny thing is – we’re still getting emails from one agent who has reduced the price three times on the unit with “multiple offers”.)

Melissa’s initial list encompassed condos in Reston, Fairfax, Herndon, Vienna & Oakton. She soon determined she wanted to sacrifice space for time. While the condos in Reston may have been larger, a condo in Oakton meant being 20 minutes closer to work – priceless to someone who who arrives at 7:45 AM and leaves around 6 PM.

Then it was time to get serious. Melissa called Uncle Terry. (Terry Belt, CEO of The Belt Team). Terry’s Realtor perspective was invaluable. At each showing he asked questions, shared knowledge and educated not only Melissa, but us. Despite being in the business on the marketing side for almost 30 years – I learned a lot about what things to consider when buying. Terry pointed out potential costs, resale pluses and minuses, and other issues that never would have crossed our minds. And he negotiated an amazing deal for Melissa when she found her dream place. On the market for $264,000 – Melissa paid $255,794.

Contact Terry Belt & The Belt Team at (703) 242-3975 for more tips for first-time homebuyers. Our mission is “Changing Lives For The Better” and it would be a pleasure for OUR family to help YOUR family make the RIGHT move!

Thank you also to Chris Melnick with Double Eagle Title. And to Keith Kelly with Churchill Mortgage. Your expertise and personal commitment were stellar. And it’s why we are thrilled when our clients choose you.