Nancy Jean-Louis' Blog
If this is your first time buying a home, you might be worried that you aren’t asking enough questions. Or maybe you’re concerned you’re not asking the right questions--the things that matter the most when making a financial decision as important and life-changing as buying a home.
While everyone’s situation is unique when buying a home, there are some questions that all buyers could benefit from asking. These questions will help you learn more about the home, how competitive the house is, and how much work you’ll need to put into it.
Since time is usually of the essence for people buying a home, it makes sense to ask questions early on so that you don’t waste too much time exploring an option that isn’t ideal for your situation.
In this article, we’re going to give you 5 important questions to ask when you talk to a seller and their agent so that you can be prepared to make the best decision for you or your family.
1. How flexible is the asking price?
While few sellers or agents will outright tell you if they’d accept a lower offer, it’s still a good idea to ask this question, as it will open up a conversation about the seller’s feelings toward the home and whether they’re pricing high with the hopes of receiving slightly lower offers.
2. How many offers has the home received?
It may seem counterintuitive, but most agents and sellers will be quite happy to tell you if they’ve received other offers. They know that once you know the current offer you’ll have to either come up with a higher offer or move on. It’s a win-win for you and the seller, as it equips both of you with information you need to make the best choice.
3. Why are the sellers moving away?
This question can be personal, so if you receive an answer that suggests it’s a family matter, don’t press for too many details. However, some sellers and agents will let you know exactly why the house is for sale. From this simple question, you can learn the seller’s timeline for making the sale, details about the schools or neighborhoods, and any other reason that might drive someone to move out of the neighborhood.
4. Are there any problems with the house that you know of?
Although you’ll have an inspection contingency in your contract if you do decide to make an offer on the home, it’s better to know if there are any issues with the home before going through the bidding process.
Most sellers understand this and will be upfront about any problems with the home, including repairs that need to be made now or will need to be made soon after you move in.
5. What is the average cost of utilities?
Buying a home comes with a lot of added costs and fees. However, many people forget about the changes in the cost of utilities that comes with buying a home--especially if you’re moving from an apartment where some utilities may have been included.
The seller will be able to give you a good estimate on the cost of electricity, garbage removal, internet, heat, and more.
It's easy to get stuck without a mortgage approval or with a smaller home loan than you want, just because you don't understand how your credit score works. Most of the things you've done to prepare: budgeting your income, balancing your bank accounts and saving up for a down payment, aren't reflected in your FICO credit score. It doesn't even show how much you can afford.
So what’s the point of your credit score?
It tells your lender what you’ve done with your previous credit. Whether anyone has been willing to lend you money, how long you’ve kept it and whether you pay it back on time. They keep the actual algorithm at FICO secret, but there are two main factors that you can affect.
These are easy to understand and fix. Ready? Pay them on time. That’s it. Each time you are late on a debt payment, whether it’s a credit card, school loan, mortgage, or car loan it dings your credit score. That’s the easy part. Now for some finance math.
Debt to Credit Ratio
Surprisingly, you are in complete control of this part of your score too. While it sounds like this is a ratio of how much you owe to how much you make, it's not. The debt-to-credit ratio shows how much you owe based on how much credit you currently have available. That means if you have a $5000 credit card, and your friend has a $2000 credit card, and you both OWE $2000, you will have a higher score than your friend because your ratio ($2000/$5000) is lower than hers ($2000/$2000). The higher this ratio gets, the less likely lenders are to give you more credit. Most professionals suggest you try to keep your usage below 30%. That means your balance on that $5000 credit card should stay below $1500. This practice works better for you as well, keeping some cushion in your accounts for emergencies.
Managing your Debt-to-Credit Ratio
There are a few tricks beyond merely using less of your credit to help keep this number under control. First off, pay off as much of your debt as possible. You want to keep that used debt down as low as possible when trying to apply for new debt. Second, don't close your paid-off accounts. While it may seem like the optimal thing to do, remember that total credit number? You want to keep that number high so that your used credit appears lower. So, you've paid off that credit card? Great! Now chop it up or put it in a hidden drawer and keep that available credit without using it. Lastly, be careful about opening new accounts. While it lowers your debt-to-credit ratio as long as you don’t actually spend from them, your score also reflects the age of your accounts. The longer ago you applied for and got credit, the more likely it is you will qualify for new credit. Don’t waste that new credit qualification on anything else besides your home loan.
Want to know the best lenders to apply with once you've got the best score? Ask your real estate agent for their top recommendations for your situation and use their expertise to ease the qualification process.
If you’re searching for a home and are looking for a deal, you may turn to homes that are listed as “For Sale By Owner.” These homes tend to be a great deal for the sellers, but not necessarily the buyer. This makes it all the more important that you hire a buyer’s agent for yourself. Your agent can check a bit of the work that the owner is doing without hiring a real estate agent for himself. When buying a for sale by owner property you’ll want to do all of the same things that you would do if you were buying a property that was for sale through a realtor including:
- Check the asking price through comps
- Get a property inspection
- Make an offer and complete contract negotiations
- Check how long the home has been on the market
Just because a home is for sale by an owner, there’s no need to give up on the normal procedures that one goes through in buying a home. You have the right to have a buyer’s agent represent you in the transaction. Beware though as some for sale by owners are not willing to pay commission to any agents including buyers‘ agents. Be sure that the contracts are clear in this area so that you don’t fall in love with a home only to find out that you can’t use your agent in the transaction.
Other Points To Consider In A For Sale By Owner Transaction
You may need to hire an attorney, especially for an estate sale or short sale.
You still need a home inspection and have the right to back out of the sale if something isn’t satisfactory about the home. The home inspection is important because it can reveal serious problems with a home such as high levels of radon, issues with the furnace, or a possible plumbing disaster waiting to happen.
You may want a C.L.U.E. Report
This type of report tells you what kind, if any, insurance claims have been made on the property in the past 5 years. The report will detail the date of the claim, the cause (if a natural disaster) and the amount that was paid to fix the damage.
You should still get pre-approved
Getting pre-approved before buying a home is just something that should be automatic for buyers. It really lets the seller know that you’re serious about purchasing a property.
Buying a for sale by owner home is the same as purchasing any other property. You’ll just need to be an informed buyer through the process in order to make sure you’re doing what’s right for you.
Looking to add your house to the real estate market? Ultimately, becoming the "perfect" home seller can make a world of difference, and perhaps it is easy to understand why.
The perfect home seller understands what it takes to list a home in a buyer's or seller's market. As such, this home seller will be able to promote his or her residence to the right groups of property buyers at any time. Plus, the perfect home seller will know how to get the best price for his or her residence – without exception.
Believe it or not, becoming the perfect home seller can be simple – here are three tips to help you do just that.
1. Learn About the Real Estate Market
Although many home sellers have a "basic" understanding of how the housing market works, the perfect home seller will go above and beyond the call of duty to get the ideal results. Therefore, he or she will learn about the intricacies of the real estate sector and map out the home selling journey accordingly.
To learn about the real estate market, it often helps to look at some of the homes that are currently available in your city or town. This will enable you to establish a price range for homes that are similar to your own.
Also, don't forget to look at the prices of recently sold houses in your area. With this housing market data at your disposal, you may be able to determine whether you're preparing to operate in a buyer's or seller's market.
2. Understand Your Home's Strengths and Weaknesses
Your home may seem great, but it never hurts to get a second opinion from a property expert. Fortunately, if you complete a home appraisal, you can learn about your home's strengths and weaknesses and take steps to enhance your residence before you add it to the housing market.
A home appraisal usually requires just a few hours to complete, but the evaluation's benefits may last a lifetime.
After a home appraisal, you'll receive an in-depth report that describes any problem areas in your home. Then, you can allocate the necessary time and resources to transform any weaknesses into strengths and perform assorted home improvements as needed.
3. Work with an Real Estate Agent
The perfect home seller understands the importance of getting plenty of support at each stage of the home selling journey. As a result, this home seller is likely to work with a real estate agent who can help simplify the process of listing and promoting a house.
A real estate agent can help you take the guesswork out of selling a residence. He or she will set up home showings and open houses and negotiate with property buyers on your behalf. Plus, a real estate agent will provide honest, unbiased home selling recommendations to help you make informed decisions.
Streamline the home selling journey – use the aforementioned tips, and you can become the perfect home seller in no time at all.
It’s a good financial practice to check your credit report and score periodically. You want to be sure that no one has stolen your identity and that all the information on the report is correct. It may sound simple to check your credit, but there are so many sources that you can get it from and so many options that it can be a dizzying process. Read on to learn more about the basics of checking your credit and credit score.
Your Credit Score Comes From Different Sources
You can check your credit score from one source and find that the score varies from place to place. Why? There are a few different scoring models that are used to calculate scores. There could be as much as a 50 point difference between sites. There are also three credit reporting agencies. Each one uses a different method to calculate credit scores. Each method provides lenders with different information to allow them a picture of what type of borrower you will be.
Checking Your Score
Many different apps allow you to check your credit score. These enable users not only to see their scores but to see what can be done to improve the user’s credit report and score. You can’t see your credit report on these apps, but you can always head to annualcreditreport.com to check the full scope of your report. This is the only official site to pull your credit report fro the credit bureaus. Finding the right app to check your credit score is simple, it only takes a few minutes to sign up.
How Are Credit Scores Calculated?
Your credit score is calculated using a few different factors. Each credit bureau uses the formula a bit differently. Scores range from 300- 850. It’s pretty rare to see perfect credit at 850. Anything over 700 is considered “good” or excellent” credit. You need at least a score of 600 to obtain loans in most cases. The higher your score, the better the interest rate will be.
When Is The Best Time To Check The Score?
Before you apply for any large loan, it’s a good idea to check your credit rating. Taking a peek will allow you to see where you stand. You don’t want to apply for a loan and end up being surprised by problems with your credit. Many apps allow you to check your score on a monthly basis. It’s easy to stay on top of your credit score and especially important to know where you stand when you buy a home.