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It Takes Preparation to be a Home Buyer

Crofton MD Real Estate Q&A

Q:  Is there anything I have to do to prepare for buying a Crofton home?

A.  The short answer is “no.”  The better answer is “yes!”  

Lots of home buyers walk into a real estate office or model home with no preparation at all, and eventually they succeed in finding and buying a house.  The process is rarely without disappointments, delays and frustrations, however, which might have been avoided with a little preparation.

If you want a more pleasant home-buying experience, here are some suggestions to help you prepare for becoming a home buyer:

1.  Know how much home you can afford before you start looking. 

Loan Pre-approval:  Contact a local lender to be pre-approved for a loan. The lender will require you to provide information for yourself and any additional borrowers before you can be pre-approved:

  • Full name, contact information, social security number, and birthdate.
  • The name and contact information for employer, gross income, length of employment, and employment history for the past several years.
  • The name, address, and account number for all monthly financial obligations including long and short term loans, credit accounts, child support, alimony, and child care.

CalculatorYour lender may ask for additional information, but this list will get you started.

Budget:  Just because a lender says you qualify for a loan, doesn’t mean you want to borrow that much. Sit down with a calculator and evaluate the required monthly expenses you shared with the lender AND your discretionary spending such as hobby-related expenses, private schools for your children, or that annual vacation.  Then you’ll have a more realistic picture of how much you can afford for a monthly mortgage payment, and that can be easily translated into how much you can borrow.

Down payment and closing costs:  How much cash do you have on hand for up-front expenses such as a home inspection, credit report, and appraisal?  How much will you have for down payment and closing?  There are other options besides savings or equity from another home.  Click on this previous blog post, 8 Ideas for Down Payment and Closing Costs.

2.  Know what features you want in a home and community

Make a wish list:  If price were no object, what features would you like to have in your home and community?  Now let’s add a dose of reality to your wish list by separating your “wants” from your “needs.”  For example, you may want 4 bedrooms but need 3. 

Do your research:  Take advantage of the many online home search options to get a preliminary idea of home prices, features, and neighborhoods. You can begin your home search right here, by clicking on the Search for Homes tab at the top of this page.  Homesdatabase.com is is another good resource, since it is the public version of MRIS, the multiple listing service used by real estate agents throughout the Middle Atlantic region, including the greater Crofton area.

3. Choose a real estate agent

How to choose an agent and what to expect at your first appointment are topics for another day.

Let it suffice, for now, to say that it’s never been easier to choose a real estate agent.  You can practically interview them online by visiting their websites, reading their blogs, and checking their reviews on 3rd party websites – not to mention the various social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.  

Well-prepared home buyers are usually happy home-buyers, because there will be fewer delays, disappointments, and frustrations for them during the home-buying process. 

As your buyer’s agent, I will be a tireless advocate and adviser for you.  Why not give me a call?  Click on Contact Margaret to get started.

Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved.

  DISCLAIMER: Information contained in this post is deemed reliable on the date of publication,
but it is not guaranteed and it is subject to change without notice.
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Margaret WodaMargaret Woda, REALTOR and Associate Broker
Direct:  (301)346-2923 or click on EMAIL

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Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc., 2191 Defense Hwy., Crofton, MD 21114 (410) 451–6245

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Crofton Homebuyer Asks “What’s Next?”

Crofton MD Real Estate Q&A

Q. Sale Sign PolaroidNow that my contract on a home has been accepted, what’s next?

A. That’s a question shared by many first-time home buyers, and even some people who have previously purchased a home.  Every transaction is different, so the list may vary from one house to the next, but this will give you a general idea what to expect, including information you will receive and things you must do:

CONTRACT TO CLOSING CHECKLIST FOR HOME BUYERS

If you have any questions about the home-buying process, feel free to contact me.  No cost or obligation, of course.

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What to expect when the landlord lists your home for sale

Sale Sign2Q.  What should I expect, as the tenant in a home that’s going on the market in the near future?

A.  When your landlord decides to sell the home you occupy, it’s probably a business decision that has nothing to do with you. 

And yet, you know it has EVERYTHING to do with you, when it comes to inconvenience. You probably have more questions than answers about the process and what’s expected of you. 

Maybe this list will help:

By co-operating with the landlord and listing broker, you will help facilitate a quick sale and minimze the inconvenience to your household.

There’s a good chance the purchaser may be an investor who intends to continue renting the property.  If so, it’s likely the new owner will rent the property to you and you won’t have to move.  Your current landlord will notify you promptly when there is a contract to let you know if that’s the case, or what to expect in the coming weeks or months.

If you have any questions, contact your current landlord and/or the listing agent for the property at the phone number on the sign. 

Originally posted on MarylandRealEstateBlog.com

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Should I wait to sell my home?

Crofton MD Real Estate Q&A

Q. Should I wait to sell my home until the market gets better?

Sold HomeA. None of the experts are projecting a return to the boom years we saw in 2004–2006 and, in fact, most experts suggest we haven’t yet hit bottom on prices. Today’s price may be higher than we see next year.  I hope not, but who knows?

The truth is that we live in “today” – not yesterday or tomorrow.  Do you have a compelling reason to sell now?  Health, expanding family, job transfer, retirement, etc.?  It’s probably a good idea to make your decision based on that instead of the unknown future real estate market. No one knows for sure when the market will get better, i.e. higher prices and a quicker sale time. 

One thing we do know for sure is that interest rates haven’t been lower in my lifetime. Today’s marketwatch report from Bankrate quoted a 4% interest rate for a 30 year loan and 3.3% for a 15–year loan. Buyers CAN afford to buy a home, if they’re willing and they meet today’s super-strict qualifying guidelines.  About those guidelines… just when it seems they can’t get any stricter, the maximum loan amount is reduced or down payment requirements go up.

If you wait to sell and rates go to 6–7% and/or lenders all require 20–25% down payment, just imagine how many home buyers will lose the ability to buy – not to mention, if rates were to push 10%.  Don’t laugh… some of us remember the 80’s, when mortgage rates were 16–17%. 

You can’t just plop a sign into your yard and expect multiple offers overnight, as sometimes occurred 5–6 years ago, but you can sell your home with the help of an experienced agent and a little patience. 

I wouldn’t wait to sell my Crofton home, because there are no guarantees when the market will show any dramatic improvement for home sellers. We know that today’s rates make home-buying affordable, and that’s important.

(If any home buyers are reading this, take note. You may never have a better time to buy if you factor into your decision today’s mortgage interest rates.)

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What is a HAP Seller?

HAP QuestionsCrofton MD Real Estate Q&A

Q.  What is a HAP Seller?

A.  I recently mentioned on my Facebook page that I was listing another HAP home in the greater Crofton area, and I wished that more active duty military personnel qualified for HAP. A few minutes later, someone asked me this very question.  In Facebook language, the answer was very short:

HAP is the DOD Home Owners Assistance Program for eligible active duty military personnel with PCS orders and some civilians affected by BRAC. By using HAP, eligible sellers can avoid a short sale and move on without financial or credit devastation.

Here’s the longer version:

“HAP” is an acronym for the Department of Defense (DOD) Homeowner’s Assistance Program. Eligible active duty military personnel and certain civilians affected by 2005 Base Re-alignment and Closure (BRAC) qualify for financial assistance if their home is “under-water” or “upside down” –  i.e., they owe more on it than they can sell the property for in today’s market. 

Who qualifies?  Some homeowners who face financial loss when selling their primary residence in areas where real estate values have declined because of a base closure or realignment announcement, active duty service members and DOD employees who are wounded, injured or become ill when deployed, surviving spouses of service members or DOD employees killed while deployed, service member and civilian employees assigned to BRAC 05 organizations, and service members required to permanently relocate during the home mortgage crisis. There are many details further clarifying the qualifications, so let me refer you to the HAP website for more information.  

Date of purchase seems to be the #1 thing eliminating local home owners from HAP:  the property must have been purchased before June 30, 2006. Unfortunately, many service members who sorely need this benefit are ineligible because they acquired their homes later in 2006 or in 2007.  Yet their home value has gone down as much as 30%.  Yes, even here in the greater Crofton area.

If you’re a Crofton area resident and believe that you or someone you know may qualify for HAP, please contact me. 

Two earlier posts on HAP: 

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