How to be the buyer every seller wants to deal with

 

So how do you ensure you not only land the home of your dreams, but get the best possible price from the seller and the best possible mortgage deal from your lender? By becoming the buyer every homeowner wants to sell to a financially stable, credit-worthy, pre-approved purchaser.

"Just as lenders consider many factors beyond your credit score, when deciding whether to finance your home loan, sellers consider more than just the offering price when evaluating potential buyers," says Barrett Burns, president and CEO of credit score model developer VantageScore Solutions. "Buyers who can move quickly and decisively, who walk through the door with their financing lined up and their credit in good shape, are best positioned to stand above the competition this year."

Steps toward being a better buyer

You can be a better buyer – one that will appear attractive to both lenders and sellers – with some simple steps.

First, understand your credit score and the role it plays in the home buying process. While a good credit score can ease the borrowing process for home buyers, it's not the only factor lenders will use to gauge whether to approve you for a loan, Burns says.

"A credit score predicts the likelihood of whether a borrower might default in the first 24 months of a loan," he notes. "But lenders will also consider how much of a down payment you bring to the table as a percentage of the purchase price, your income and your debt-to-income ratio when considering a mortgage application."

Remember that lenders will pull your score from all three major credit bureaus, so it pays to check your credit report and score with all three. Reviewing your report and score allows you to catch and correct errors, and have a better idea of how potential lenders might view your credit worthiness, and rest assured that obtaining this information does not impact your credit score.

Understanding your credit score is a more complex process than you might expect. You can test your knowledge about credit scores at www.CreditScoreQuiz.org, a website created by VantageScore Solutions and its partner, Consumer Federation of America.

When you have a handle on your credit, consider other factors that can make you a better buyer, including how much you have to put down on a house.

The days of no-money down mortgages are virtually over, industry experts say. Today, even FHA borrowers will likely need to make a down payment. How much you need will depend on many factors, including the loan program you apply for and the price of the house you're buying. Generally, it's a good rule of thumb to save 20 percent of the purchase cost for a down payment.

Keep in mind, the more you put down, the more instant equity you'll have, the lower your monthly payment, and the better your chances of not needing private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can add hundreds of dollars to your monthly payment. If you're able to put down more than a lender requires, a mortgage company may be willing to give you a pass on other issues on your application, such as a less-than-stellar credit score.

"Lenders and sellers are all looking for buyers who are 'the complete package,'" Burns says. "While you should take care of your credit score, you shouldn't obsess over it. Instead, look at it as an important part of the overall package of assets that can make you the kind of buyer everyone wants to work with."

Design a stunning backsplash without the whiplash

 

(BPT) – The kitchen is the heart of the home and a top-selling feature with home-buyers. Does yours convey style and functionality? Whether you've just completed a remodel or you're looking for ways to upgrade your existing kitchen, a tile backsplash will instantly transform the space into an eye-catching masterpiece.

"Tile backsplashes are timeless, providing the ideal transition between the cabinetry and the countertop," says Kirsty Froelich, design director for The Tile Shop. "It's one of the number one ways homeowners can add value to their kitchen while adhering to their personal design preferences. Best yet, the process can be simple and enjoyable."

Froelich offers her top tips for designing a stylish backsplash for your kitchen without headaches or stress:

1. Determine your style profile and take action
 Start by looking at Houzz, Pinterest and home magazines to see what styles you're drawn to. Are you more contemporary, vintage or transitional? It can help to see backsplashes in person to get a true idea of how different materials look, feel and reflect light. For up close and personal inspiration, attend your local Parade of Homes, or visit a showroom environment like The Tile Shop to view multiple styled vignettes.

2. Follow your vision
 When exploring tile or stone, think about whether you want the backsplash to be a focal point or more subdued. Subway tiles in neutral tones are timeless for those who prefer a muted backsplash. If you're looking to make a statement, clean and tumbled white marble is trending right now. Slate is comforting and earthy where metallic offers a more eye-catching and contemporary look. For added personality, consider designs with color, patchwork or patterns. "Pop art" is also really hot right now (e.g., incorporating Andy Warhol visuals into the backsplash design).

3. Consider product type and maintenance requirements
 A backsplash isn't necessarily maintenance-free, so know how much time you're willing to spend before making a final design decision. If you prefer low maintenance, the best route is ceramic tile. If you are drawn to the beauty of natural stone, keep in mind that there's minimal annual maintenance, including resealing the surface to ensure the product's integrity and beauty last.

"One of my current favorite backsplash looks is a new globally influenced Decor Mayflower pattern featured in The Tile Shop's 2015 Spring Design catalog," says Froelich. "It coordinates with the Treviso solid ceramic tiles that are available in three beautiful colors. Each piece has a handmade look and feel inspired by classic looks from long ago. This collection will definitely add a wow factor to your backsplash."

"Another collection I love is the Devonshire Cararra marble. It's crisp, clean and particularly elegant when set in herringbone pattern by itself or when paired with a picture frame design incorporating polished mosaic and marble profiles."

4. Know your budget 
 Before digging into any home improvement project, it's important to know your budget. Convey your visions and cost parameters to any experts you work with, such as a contractor or interior designer. Bring a sample of your cabinetry and countertop, or a picture of your kitchen, to the designer or showroom you're working with. It will help them maximize your budget while achieving your vision.

5. Add personal touches
 When finalizing your design, consider adding unique characteristics. Above the sink or cooktop are good places to do something more decorative. If appropriate, you might decide to add a niche with a cutout that has tile on the interior that matches the exterior tile or create a picture frame design using a completely different style of tile and stone that complements the backsplash to make a statement. Additionally, if you are doing a backsplash in a bar area, it's a great place to have fun with materials and shapes.

"Adding a backsplash does so much to dress up a room and complete the space," says Froelich. "The most common mistake I see homeowners make is letting indecisiveness cause the project to be delayed. Alas, the above tips will help create a clear path toward a backsplash design they can feel confident in and admire for years to come."

 

Home improvements that make your home more valuable

 

Curb appeal

When it comes to first impressions, house hunters first notice curb appeal, or lack thereof. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, curb appeal is important to 71 percent of homebuyers. So beautify the outdoor space to attract possible buyers by focusing on small exterior improvements that'll pay off big like planting seasonal shrubs, painting the front door, refreshing a rusty mailbox or replacing old porch lighting with updated fixtures. These minor details will make a major and lasting statement. At the very least, you should clean the yard of any debris, trim trees and spread mulch in planting beds.

Take outdoor renovations to the next level by transforming the look of your home completely with a fresh coat of paint. Be mindful of your home's location when selecting paint colors. Bold or bright colors might be the norm in Florida but wouldn't look right in a region like the Pacific Northwest where neutral earth tones are popular.

You can also increase the value of your home by giving your siding material an overhaul. Remodeling magazine suggests replacing aluminum and vinyl siding with a durable fiber-cement mixture, which will recoup about 88 percent of its cost upon resale. It resists fire, rotting, moisture and termites – all potential hazards that could otherwise end up costing thousands.

"Let your insurance agent know whenever you complete a renovation project to make sure any new upgrades to your home are properly covered under your existing policy. If not, your agent can work with you to make sure you get the coverage you need," says Erie Insurance Vice President and Product Manager Joe Vahey. "In addition, some home improvement upgrades may entitle you to discounts, especially if renovations make the home safer or more secure." For example, Erie Insurance offers discounts for installing smoke alarms or a central station alarm. Erie also provides a discount for installing sprinkler systems in your home.

Bed, bath and beyond

As house hunters head indoors, there are a few things that are likely to increase a sale. Most tend to look at kitchens and baths first. Experts recommend timeless fixtures instead of trendy ones since they hold their own over time and appeal to buyers who favor both contemporary and classic looks. Don't waste your money on fancy fixtures and features – they rarely make or break a sale.

Most people seem to think that a huge kitchen overhaul is necessary to snag interested buyers. However, Remodeling Magazine reports that you'll actually recoup 8.5 percent more of the costs of a minor kitchen renovation compared to a major kitchen renovation. So instead of redoing the kitchen completely, accomplish a few minor DIY kitchen updates like changing out faucets and lighting fixtures, painting cabinets, adding new hardware to drawers and cabinets, and replacing old appliances with newer (and often more energy-efficient) models.

Experts also say that adding an attic bedroom and finishing the basement are two of the largest renovations that give you the best return on your investment, allowing you to recoup more than 84 percent and nearly 78 percent of the cost, respectively.

Before jumping into complicated or expensive DIY projects, take a moment to assess which ones are worth your time and money. Test your knowledge of which home improvement projects give you the most bang for your buck at www.eriesense.com.

No matter what updates you end up doing, it's always a good idea to regularly assess the value of your home. This will assure you're asking for an appropriate return on investment when you finally decide to put it on the market.

Busting first-time homebuyer myths

 

(BPT) – When buying a first home, most people are making one of the biggest purchases of their lives. Without home buying experience, it's hard to separate fact from fiction.

"Buying a first home can be exciting and stressful for most young buyers, especially the financing process," says Clete Thompson, vice president at imortgage, a division of loanDepot LLC. "There's a lot of paperwork, many choices, and sometimes budgets don't stretch very far. Our licensed loan officers specialize in helping first-time buyers navigate the home finance process, which can be stressful if you're not working with a seasoned professional."

To help first-time buyers, the experts at imortgage are uncovering prevalent myths about financing a home purchase:

Myth: It takes a 20 percent down payment to buy a home.

Reality: Required down payment amounts vary by type of loan and they are on average much smaller than people think. Last year, the median down payment for all first-time buyers was 6 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. One reason is that many first-time buyers use FHA loans, which require down payments as low as 3 to 3.5 percent. VA loans require nothing down for qualified veterans or active military personnel. If you want to take out a conventional loan, many lenders do require 20 percent down, but you can lower that percentage with private mortgage insurance. There are also hundreds of down payment assistance programs that eliminate or reduce down payment requirements for qualified borrowers.

Myth: If you owe a lot of student loan debt, there is no way you can get a mortgage.

Reality: Don't assume that having a lot of student loan debt automatically disqualifies you from getting a mortgage. The key factor is not necessarily the size of your loan obligation, but the amount of your total monthly debt payments compared to your monthly income. This is called DTI. imortgage, for example, has approved thousands of loans to first-time buyers whose monthly student loan payments were as high as $300, and many more could qualify by increasing their monthly income.

Myth: If your credit score is low, you should not even try to get a mortgage.

Reality: Millions of potential buyers assume they will not be approved for a mortgage even though many could qualify, according to a national survey commissioned by loanDepot LLC. Today, median FICO scores for mortgages to buy a home are 683 for FHA loans and 754 for conventional loans. But hundreds of thousands of buyers with scores lower than those are getting mortgages if they have good income and low levels of debt.

Myth: Buying a home isn't a good investment.

Reality: Real estate, like other assets, rises and falls based on supply and demand. Over the past two years, home values in most markets have been rising. While all real estate is local, if you bought a home in March 2012, by August 2014 the national median home price as measured by Case-Shiller had risen 29.6 percent.

Myth: The mortgage-interest tax deduction is going away.

Reality: Though the deduction has its critics, most observers believe it is unlikely that Congress will eliminate the mortgage interest deduction any time soon. Many states also allow homeowners to write off the interest they pay on their mortgages from their state income taxes. Check with your accountant or CPA on if you can qualify for this type of tax deduction.

Myth: I'm about to get married and the wedding is so expensive I won't be able to buy a home.

Reality: According to TheKnot, the average wedding has 138 guests who typically give a gift valued at $100 each. That's $13,800 in spatulas, baking pans and other things. If every guest contributed to a Down Payment Fund, you could have enough saved for a down payment on a $276,000 home in San Diego.

"These are just a few of the myths about home buying that surface frequently in our conversations with first-time buyers," says Thompson. "I always advise potential buyers, especially first- time buyers, to get in touch with one of our local imortgage loan officers if they're interested in straight answers to specific questions about financing a home. We are here to help."

 

5 upgrades for under $5,000 to put your home at the top of every buyer’s list

 

(BPT) – It's a sobering truth of real estate that sellers often have to spend money to make money. Even if your home is relatively new, you still face costs associated with getting it ready to show, such as repainting interior rooms or hiring professional cleaners and stagers. If your home could use some TLC and updating, spending as little as $5,000 on key upgrades could improve its appeal for buyers – and ensure a speedier sale at a better price.

Here are five upgrades you can make for under $5,000 to help put your home at the top of every buyer's must-see list.

 1. Upgrade your entryway – Replacing an old, dated or worn entry door can be a cost-effective way to ensure buyers get a good first impression when they walk in your house. Whether you choose a fiberglass, wooden or steel model, installing a new entry door can cost a few thousand dollars, yet the return on investment at the time of resale can be significant. A fiberglass entry door returns about 72 percent of its investment, while a steel door recoups more than 100 percent of its value, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report.

Enhance your new door with attractive plantings, fresh paint and clean windows around the entryway to create a memorable, attractive entry for just a few thousand dollars.

2. Increase natural light – More buyers are becoming aware of the mood- and productivity-enhancing benefits of natural light, and homes with big, bright windows have always been in demand. Adding windows to a room can be a costly, time-consuming affair. Not so with adding a skylight. For well under $5,000 and in just a day or two, a professional can install an Energy Star qualified, solar powered no-leak fresh-air skylight, like those from Velux America. Professional installation costs nationally ranges from around $900 to $2,325, with an average of $1,400, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

The low installation cost will leave you plenty of budget to enhance the skylight upgrade even further with energy efficiency-boosting solar-powered blinds. The skylight and blinds are operated by remote control and the blinds are available in designer colors and patterns to enhance your décor. The products, as well as installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit to further reduce the cost of the improvement.

The most popular rooms in the home for fresh air skylights are baths, where they provide privacy in addition to natural light, and kitchens, where they vent cooking odors and humidity naturally while brightening this much-used workspace. Visit www.veluxusa.com to learn more.

3. Beautify a master bathroom – Bathrooms and kitchens sell homes. Making a few cosmetic upgrades to even a small master bath can help increase a home's appeal and value. For less than $5,000 you can easily repaint, upgrade faucets, replace old cabinet hardware and add decorative touches like designer towels.

If you've already done all that, take a look at the floor or countertops – two cost-effective upgrades that can wow buyers. Since counters don't make up that much square footage in most bathrooms, replacing them with granite can cost just a couple thousand dollars. Tile flooring is also a relatively inexpensive way to improve a bathroom's look and usability.

4. Heat things up in the kitchen – Kitchen remodels can offer high ROI for sellers, but a full remodel may be outside your budget. If you've already done the obvious – like repainting and decluttering – it's time to look for a few more cost-effective improvements that will appeal to buyers.

Just as in the bathroom, swapping old faucets and cabinet hardware with new designer options can enhance the appeal of a kitchen. Shabby, outdated appliances can hinder a speedy sale, so consider replacing them with new ones. You don't necessarily need to install top-of-the-line, high-priced appliances to make a good impression, either. Newer, Energy Star qualified appliances represent savings for buyers down the road.

5. Lavish landscaping – No single aspect of your home has a greater impact on a buyer's first impression than the landscaping. A great front yard sets the tone for the rest of the home, appealing to buyers on a number of levels, including beauty, practicality and savings.

With $5,000, you can accomplish a lot in terms of landscaping. You can sod a small front yard, add decorative planting beds to a lush lawn, or even install shade trees that will both beautify the yard and enhance the home's energy efficiency in summer. Decorative concrete stamping of walkways and driveways is another cost-effective way to improve a home's curb appeal.

Whether it's a buyer's market or a seller's market, no one wants to see their home linger long before selling. A few simple upgrades can help ensure your home gets plenty of attention this season.

Remodeling for resale vs. impressing your friends

 

It's one more area where we can show our sophistication and good taste. We can, and often do decorate to impress and make a statement about how successful we are.

It's an ego thing. It makes us feel good to show our financial success.

And in one way it's often men who go over the top the most. We can argue about it if you want.

They want imported everything including granite or marble, architectural designs, custom finishes and expensive kitchens and baths, along with lots of garage space for luxury cars.

But some luxury cars hold their value far batter than houses do.

A good many sports stars have bankrupted themselves buying this stuff.

A really unique house may only appeal to one person, the person who remodeled it or built it.

There are several problems when a house like this goes to resale.

1. The really expensive finishes and decorating are too individual to work well at resale. The owner might like orange granite, but no one else does.

2. The costs of certain types of décor can never be recovered at resale. It's something the owner wanted that no one else wants or will pay for.

3. The house may be over improved for the values in the neighborhood. For example fashionable granite that has gone into kitchens all over the country. The stuff costs several thousand dollars to install but houses no longer sell for enough money to recoup the cost.

4. Custom paint is a turn off to buyers when houses go to resale. It's ALWAYS the wrong color. The wrong color, meaning any color that is not neutral, just won't sell.

5. The décor that the owner has spent so much time and money on does not appeal to buyers. Often it might even turn them off and they run from the property to the next one. Decorating styles can really be a disadvantage at resale.

6. Custom houses usually only appeal to the owner/ builder. No one else wants the floor plan that has all the kids sleeping in a one-room dorm or the workshop in the bedroom wing. A poorly done remodel can mess up a perfectly good house plan, too.

7. It can be very difficult to sell a house in an area if it is very different from the other houses in the neighborhood. In the southeast for example, most buyers prefer traditional exteriors. A hard contemporary or mid century modern may take way longer to sell than something more traditional. It's the reason neighborhoods have architectural review boards. They don't want anything really different.

So if you expect to have to resell your home any time in the near future control your spending. Only spring for the expensive stuff that will move with you when you go. The house may still represent something important for your ego without being so individual you can't sell it. Resale means you want to appeal to as many buyers as you can so you can sell a house quick.

That means the property has to be sort of average.

It might be more fun to impress your friends with great food and a feeling of simple luxury. 5 stars for comfort can trump the most outrageous décor with your friends and guests.

by: Paula Stone

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_4809.shtml

One smart update can upgrade your entire home

 

(BPT) – If your home is 10 years old or older, your garage door is probably a plain-Jane raised-panel steel door that adds little or nothing to the overall design of your house.

So why not make an improvement? In the last decade, the garage door industry has generated stunning new designs that can transform the curb appeal of your home from boring to exciting.

Large area = big impact

When something consumes such a large part of the front of the house, it should not be generic; it should be special. It should improve the looks of the house, not detract from it, right?

A better-looking garage door can actually parlay into a more-valuable home. One nationwide study of real estate professionals by StrataMark revealed that an attractive new garage door can add as much as 4 percent to the home's selling price. That adds $10,000 to the value of a $250,000 home, which means that a new garage door can easily pay for itself.

Two new designs that dazzle

Two new garage door designs that are hot right now: woodgrain prints and carriage house styles.

A woodgrain print is a steel garage door that looks so much like wood, you need to thump on it to realize it's actually durable steel. This technological breakthrough by steel coating companies brings big benefits for garage door buyers.

"The rich wood-look of these doors is gorgeous," says Long. "Plus, since they're made of steel, they're incredibly durable and require almost no maintenance."

The other popular new design is the carriage house style. These attractive doors open just like your old door, but they look like the side-hinged, swing-out doors of the charming carriage houses of yesteryear.

Quick design tips

Since both of these new designs come in dozens of attractive styles, here are a few tips to select the one that integrates best with the personality of your home. Design experts advise you to select a door that matches with three exterior features of your home: colors, lines, and shapes.

The color of your garage door should complement the overall house color as well as the window trim colors. Then look at the lines on your home exterior. Are they horizontal, vertical, diagonal, or curved? Today's garage door styles can provide excellent matches for any of these architectural features.

Finally, consider the shapes of elements on your home, particularly the window panes. Are they arched, square, or small rectangles? Matching the panes on the house with the garage is not that difficult, given the wide variety of garage door window designs now available.

Cool choosing tools

Thanks to new technology, you don't need to guess at the right door design. Most garage door manufacturers now offer door designer tools on their websites. Many door dealers also have similar software on a computer tablet they bring to your home. You just upload a photo of your own home and drop in any of hundreds of door designs to see exactly how it would look on your home.

A good starting place is GarageWowNow.com, a non-commercial website that features dozens of garage door photos from many manufacturers. It also includes a find-a-dealer function that helps you find qualified dealers in your area.

Your new garage door is not only a perfect home improvement project, it's a smart investment. Celebrity designer Chayse Dacoda says, "You are investing in the single largest moving part on your home, which is going to affect its appearance for at least the next 20 years."

 

Smooth moves: Tips to take the hassle out of moving day

 

Select super supplies

It's no secret that high-caliber products produce the best results, so be sure to select good quality supplies to save you time and money during the moving process. When it comes to your valuables and your memories, don't take risks – start with new, clean and sturdy boxes rather than relying on old, reused boxes. Make sure you have a variety of sizes on-hand.

When sealing boxes, something as simple – and frustrating – as losing the tape end on your packaging tape can waste time and cause unneeded stress. Choose a quality packaging tape, which offers Frustration Free technology. This makes it easy to start with every use and ensures you never lose the tape end. Packaging tape is available in clear, as well as a variety of fun prints, meaning it's also great for organizing. Use it to color-code your boxes, assigning a different print to each room.

Smooth%20moves%3A%20Tips%20to%20take%20the%20hassle%20out%20of%20moving%20dayOrganize, don't agonize

Packing isn't just about putting your belongings in boxes and heading on your way. Getting organized at both ends of your move will save you, and anyone helping you, time and hassle once everything arrives to its new destination. 

Before you pack, think about the must-have items you need to function on a daily basis to ensure you have them within reach. And, create a survival kit of items you'll need for your first night – this way, you won't be forced to unpack everything at once.

On top of your physical belongings, don't forget to organize the things that make your home and life function. Fill out change of address forms early, and keep track of any important bills or paperwork that can't be lost. Know who to contact to turn off utilities at your old location and how to turn them on when you move into your new place.

If you already know how you'd like furniture arranged at your new place, create diagrams and written instructions for those helping you unpack. Foresight here will help get your home looking "homey" much faster and prevent helpers from guessing where each item should go.

Have help on hand

While relocating is exciting, it also means a lot of heavy lifting. There's no need to go it alone. Recruit friends and family to help with packing and unloading on moving day – often the promise of pizza and snacks is the only reward necessary for a hard day's work. If you want professional assistance, hire a reputable moving company.

Make it easier on helpers by packing boxes smartly. Large boxes with heavy items are difficult to move and have a much greater chance of being dropped, damaging the valuables inside. Instead of cramming many items into one box, pack heavier items, like books, CDs and dishes, in small boxes; light items, like pillows, drapes, clothes and linens, in bigger ones. For extra protection for easy-to-break belongings, have some Bubble Wrap cushioning nearby. Bubble Wrap comes in an array of sizes and formats to help safeguard delicate items. Wrap items bubble-side in for best results.

Finally, for ease of organization, clearly label boxes so you know where they go when you arrive. And, consider keeping a detailed list of contents to help keep track of your belongings.

While no move will ever be completely stress-free, organization, some assistance and the right tools can help alleviate many common moving frustrations. 

How to get your offers accepted to buy properties

 

The biggest challenge facing most real estate investors is making acceptable offers, especially when buying properties is the basic foundation of real estate investing.

Unless you buy properties, you cannot make any money.

Here is how to make offers that get accepted.

The offer you make depends on the type of property you are buying.

1) Buying from motivated sellers

If you buy houses from motivated sellers, it is necessary to have the following pieces of information:

a) Market Value

Do your due diligence to find out conservatively how much the house would be worth in perfect condition. You must have this information before you can make any offer.

b) Mortgage balance

You must get this information before you can make an offer. A seller who is not willing to disclose this information is not motivated enough. Move on to a motivated seller.

The mortgage balance must allow you to buy the house and still leave you with a profit. It must allow you to make a profit and own it free and clear.

c) Repairs needed

It is possible to estimate repair costs with the information provided by the seller.

You must know how much you need to fix up the house before you can make an offer. Of course, I like to see the house and do my own repair estimates.

d) Asking price

If the owner is asking for too much money given the above 3 pieces of information, the deal might never happen.

A good asking price must take into account the market value, mortgage balance and repairs. You can then make an offer based on the asking price. Make an offer if the mortgage balance allows you to make a profit.

Even though it is necessary to consider the seller's needs, no offer can be too low. If they are facing foreclosure, then they probably need some money to move, or their asking price might be just enough to get away from the property.

If the mortgage balance is too high compared to the value of the house, it does not make sense to make an offer. Move on to the next deal.

There is no bad offer, except the one you have not made. Always make the offers that make sense to you. You'll be surprised how many get accepted.

2) Buying foreclosed properties

The asking price and repairs are the only important considerations to make in this case. Banks selling these properties are willing to negotiate.

Most REOs are listed below market value. Depending on your exit strategy, if the numbers are close to making sense, by all means make an offer.

Lastly, remember to make your offer lower than the asking price.

by: Simon Macharia 
http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_6984.shtml 

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.