Q: Why should I buy instead of rent?
A: You’ll love the feeling of having something that’s all yours – a home where your own personal style will tell the world who you are. A thriving vegetable garden in the backyard, a tiled entryway, a yellow kitchen…when you own, you can do it all your way! But there’s more to owning a home than personal satisfaction. You can deduct the cost of your mortgage loan interest from your federal income taxes, and usually from your state taxes, too. And interest will compose nearly all of your monthly payment, for over half the number of years you’ll be paying your mortgage. This adds up to hefty savings at the end of each year. And you’re also allowed to deduct the property taxes you pay as a homeowner. If you rent, you write your monthly check and it’s gone forever. Another financial plus in owning a home is the possibility its value will go up through the years.
Q: I’ve had bad credit, and I don’t have much for a down payment. Can I become a home buyer?
A: You may be a good candidate for one of the federal mortgage programs that are available. A good place for you to start is by contacting one of the HUD-funded housing counseling agencies. They can help you sort through your options. In addition, contact your local government to see if there are any local homeownership programs that might work for you. Look in the blue pages of your phone directory for your local office of housing and community development or, if you can’t find it, contact your mayor’s office or your county executive’s office.
Q: How do I find lender?
A: You can finance a home with a loan from a bank, a savings and loan, a credit union, a private mortgage company, or various state government lenders. Shopping for a loan is like shopping for any other large purchase: you can save money if you take some time to look around for the best prices. Different lenders can offer quite different interest rates and loan fees; and as you know, a lower interest rate can make a big difference in how much home you can afford. Talk with several lenders before you decide. Most lenders need 3-6 weeks for the whole loan approval process. Your real estate broker will be familiar with lenders in the area and what they’re offering. Or you can look in your local newspaper’s real estate section – most papers list interest rates being offered by local lenders. You can find FHA-approved lenders in the Yellow Pages of your phone book. HUD does not make loans directly – you must use a HUD-approved lender if you’re interested in an FHA loan.
Q: What do I need to take with me when I apply for a mortgage?
A: Good question! If you have everything with you when you visit your lender, you’ll save a good deal of time. You should have: 1) social security numbers for both your and your spouse, if both of you are applying for the loan; 2) copies of your checking and savings account statements for the past 6 months; 3) evidence of any other assets like bonds or stocks; 4) a recent paycheck stub detailing your earnings; 5) a list of all credit card accounts and the approximate monthly amounts owed on each; 6) a list of account numbers and balances due on outstanding loans, such as car loans; 7) copies of your last 2 years’ income tax statements; and 8) the name and address of someone who can verify your employment. Depending on your lender, you may be asked for other information.
Q: How do I know which mortgage is best for me?
A: If you are likely to live in your home for 5 or more years, a fixed interest rate may be your best choice. If your income is erratic, you may want to consider an interest only loan. You can pay more than what is due when your income is steady. During times when money is tight, you will only be obligated to make the interest payments on your loan. If you are not putting any money down, you may not have enough equity to refinance in a few years without out of pocket costs. You may want to consider a fixed rate. You will have the option of refinancing, but you will not be forced to.
Q: What happens at closing?
A: Basically, you’ll sit at a table with your broker, the broker for the seller, probably the seller, and a closing agent. The closing agent will have a stack of papers for you and the seller to sign. While he or she will give you a basic explanation of each paper, you may want to take the time to read each one and/or consult with your agent to make sure you know exactly what you’re signing. After all, this is a large amount of money you’re committing to pay for a lot of years! Before you go to closing, your lender is required to give you a booklet explaining the closing costs, a “good faith estimate” of how much cash you’ll have to supply at closing, and a list of documents you’ll need at closing. If you don’t get those items, be sure to call your lender BEFORE you go to closing. Be sure to read our booklet on settlement costs. It will help you understand your rights in the process. Don’t hesitate to ask questions.
Q: What if my offer is rejected?
A: They often are! But don’t let that stop you. Now you begin negotiating. Your broker will help you. You may have to offer more money, but you may ask the seller to cover some or all of your closing costs or to make repairs that wouldn’t normally be expected. Often, negotiations on a price go back and forth several times before a deal is made. Just remember – don’t get so caught up in negotiations that you lose sight of what you really want and can afford!