Five basic steps to making a house your home

 

Owning a home remains a key element of the American Dream. In fact, a recent survey by TD Bank revealed that 84 percent of young renters (ages 18 to 34) intend to buy a home in the future. While it is exciting, home buying can be overwhelming and complicated if you don't have a general knowledge of the process. 
 
Equipping yourself with the right tools will allow you to navigate the complexities of the home-buying process. Here are five helpful steps to follow on your way to homeownership.
 
Step 1: Learn the home-buying ABCs: Build your homeownership knowledge by participating in a first-time homebuyer class at a local non-profit agency in your community to answer any questions you may have. Staying well-informed will help you feel confident and in control of this major financial decision and nip any initial questions in the bud.
 
Step 2: Get out your calculator: Owning a home requires a large investment of time, energy and money, so make sure you are careful when making the decision to buy. If you're like 43 percent of survey respondents, staying within budget is the top consideration. It is important to determine how much you can afford – you don't want to fall in love with a house out of your reach. When applying for a mortgage, the bank will assess your debt to income ratio. By looking at your income and current monthly debts, you can determine your ideal monthly payment. From there, you'll be able to narrow the focus of your house search to homes in your price range. Be sure to include down payments and other upfront costs in your calculations.
 
A few free, helpful online tools can help you determine just how much you could potentially afford. For example, visit TDBank.com and check out its mortgage calculator.
 
Step 3: Shop wisely: Condo? Single-family home? A fixer-upper or new construction? Once you know how much you can afford, determining your housing needs – and selecting a qualified real estate professional – before you start looking, will help make finding your perfect home much less time-consuming. In addition to being able to answer any questions that come up during the process, a real estate professional will work on your behalf to pre-screen houses and guide you through negotiations.
 
Step 4: Pick your perfect match: According to the survey, acquiring a mortgage and making a down payment is the most preferred method of payment for those who intend to own a home. With the variety of mortgage products that exists today, it's essential you choose the right one for your needs. How long do you plan on living in this house? Do you plan on making improvements to the home? Answering these types of questions will help you hone in on your financial strategy. Finding the right mortgage is about more than a rate and terms – it's about finding the right financial partner. Don't get led down the wrong path by choosing a bank that doesn't provide flexible options. Look for a bank that offers a hassle-free mortgage guarantee to ensure your first home purchase is as smooth and worry-free as possible.
 
"As a portfolio lender, we are able to set our own lending guidelines and interest rates," says Michael Copley, executive vice president for retail lending at TD Bank. "This allows us to provide our customers with the most adjustable and affordable financing options to suit their borrowing needs."
 
Step 5: Sign on the dotted line: Once your home has been inspected, your contingencies have been met and your mortgage has been approved, it's time to close the deal. In most cases, a closing officer and your attorney will be present during closing. As the buyer, you should make sure to bring a binder for homeowner's insurance (document proving you have adequate homeowner's insurance), a paid receipt for the first year's premium and a certified or cashier's check for your down payment and closing costs. Before the closing begins, review your mortgage, mortgage note and settlement statement documents to ensure there are no errors or red flags. Remember to ask questions during the closing, as the closing officer is there to help.
 
After you've signed all documents and paid your closing costs and down payment, the closing is finished. Congratulations and enjoy your new home.
 
  To get more information and to download your free TD Bank First-Time Homebuyers' Kit, visit esecure.tdbank.com/net/firsttimehomebuyers/default.aspx.

Three questions to answer before you buy a home

 

Preparing to buy a home requires more than just a down payment. Before you purchase property, take time to understand your available mortgage options and balance your debt load. Thorough planning and smart budgeting now can help you avoid running into high debt or repayment problems down the road.
 

Farhaneh Haque, director of mortgage advice at TD Canada Trust, says that first time home buyers should answer three important questions before they start hitting any open houses this season.
 

• Do I understand the process? It never hurts to meet with a mortgage specialist to learn more about the home buying process and the different mortgage options available, such as fixed versus variable rate mortgages, flexible repayment schedules, and even mortgages that offer cash back. Before falling in love with a home, consider getting pre-approved so you know what you may be able to afford and avoid getting disappointed by falling in love with a home that is outside your price range.
 

• What is my personal debt load? If you have other obligations like a car payment or student loan, ensure you are taking on a mortgage that you can manage within your total budget. Try using an online debt management calculator to help determine how much debt you can reasonably take on based on your income, current debt payments and expenses.
 

• Can I afford my mortgage and save for the future? Sometimes home buyers take on more debt than they can manage and quickly find themselves "house poor" – with no money left for future savings or a rainy day. Before you take the leap into homeownership, crunch the numbers to ensure your budget reflects the lifestyle you want after you move into your new home, and you are clear on what sacrifices you may need to make to continue to live comfortably and save for your future.

Selling your home? Make it more appealing to buyers

 

"The most important thing you can do is to make your home look welcoming when people drive by," says Kimber Powell, Realtor and sales manager for Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group in Altoona, Iowa.

"You want to invite them in. Make sure your front door looks nice. Trim and landscape your yard. Accent your entryway with a new door mat and pots of flowers that contrast with the color of your home," she says.

Follow these tips to position your house for a successful sale:

Enhance curb appeal

A well-maintained house appeals to more buyers and can sell faster and may sell for a higher price, according to Realtor.com.

Maximize your home's exterior appearance. Keep the lawn and landscaping edged, cut and watered. Inspect doors, windows, trim, foundation and siding for peeling paint. Repaint and replace items as needed. Clean out gutters and replace missing caulk and shingles.

Declutter inside

Make your home look bigger by removing clutter and storing personal items and extra furniture before prospective buyers arrive. Make repairs where needed, Powell advises.

"Repairs are ongoing maintenance needs that show your home has been well-cared-for and kept up-to-date," she says. "Most potential buyers want turn-key homes that are easy to move into."

Repaint dingy or stained walls with a neutral shade of paint. Repair cracks or holes in walls, ceilings, tile and woodwork. Replace broken items and consider updating worn-out cabinet knobs, dated curtains and battered bath and kitchen hardware.

Show lifestyle possibilities

Create a lifestyle story to help buyers envision themselves living in your home. Have a small kitchen but a big deck? Focus on outdoor entertaining by adding lights, comfy cushions and showcasing grilling areas, Powell recommends. If you love your neighborhood, highlight a front porch with wicker furniture and window boxes.

"You want to show buyers the ways they can use the entire home and yard," Powell says. "If you don't have outdoor furniture or decorations, work with a stager to borrow those items." Or consider borrowing items from friends or family to get your home staged for sale.

Highlight quality brands

If your home features or you've replaced items with high-quality brands, like Pella Windows and Doors, include their names in your home's sell sheet, Powell says.

"People are very conscious of name brands and high-quality products. They also want to know about energy-saving benefits and warranties that may transfer to them," she says.

Windows, door replacement

Projects like window and door replacements can recoup more than 70 percent of their cost at resale, according to the National Association of Realtors and Remodeling magazine's Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report.

Whether you're preparing your home to sell, or updating it to live in longer, Pella offers low-maintenance, energy-efficient vinyl, wood, and fiberglass replacement windows and doors that can help improve your home's curb appeal, and help lower utility bills.

"Stylish exterior doors that look like wood, with the minimal maintenance of fiberglass, are popular replacement options," says Kathy Krafka Harkema, Pella spokesperson. "Plus, fiberglass offers exceptional energy efficiency, weather resistance and outstanding durability."

Pella fiberglass entry doors offer many prefinished options, as well as custom colors so you can design a door that truly reflects your home's style.

Five things before purchasing a house

 

One of the main purchases you are going to make is buying a house. You have to think through all of your options before making the decision. Here are some of the things you need to know before you buy a house:

1) It is essential that you have good credit. You will most likely obtain a loan to buy a house. Thus, you should ensure that your credit is good for a smooth sailing application. It would be better to check your credit history frequently for your own security as well.

2) Prepare for long-term debts. Keep in mind that it will take years before you will be able to pay for the house completely. Ensure that you will be able to manage payment for the mortgage. Having a financial cushion is significant. Since the debt is long-term, anything can occur.

3) Most loans need a document from the appraiser so it is better to get their opinion when you see a potential house. The appraisers are experts in giving values to properties depending on the location, structure, features, and added extras to the house. This will stop any sales representative from over pricing the house.

4) It is very attractive to buy a beautiful house at a very cheap price. Before you decide on purchasing the beautiful house, ensure that it has a safe environment. Take note that one of the factors that make a house costly is good location. If you think that the price is much cheaper than it looks, the locations may not be that attractive. Ask the appraiser why the value is low. It could be that the neighborhood is not safe. These factors are very important in your decision-making.

5) Make sure that the house you choose suits your lifestyle. No matter how beautiful the house is, if it does not coincide with your behavior, you will not be comfortable in it. When you choose a house, make sure that it makes you feel at ease.

Your financial state is most important when planning to a buy a house. This makes it essential to monitor your credit on a regular basis. Finally, you have to learn as much as you can about the home before purchasing it.

by: Sheldon Kalnitsky

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