Welcome to Phoenix Realty, Inc. - Buyer's Guide
Serving the triangle area which includes Wake County, Orange County, Durham County, and Chatham County. Specific cities are Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Apex, Morrisville, Holly Springs, Fuquay Varina, Pittsboro, Hillsoboro.
Congratulations! - Planning to Purchase A Home
You are about to embark on a journey that will alter your life. The commitments you make here will have great ramifications for the years to come. However, the journey of purchasing a home is a wonderful experience. You will get to view many homes in the area; visit different neighborhoods; meet many professionals in real estate that can assist you in the process; and your agent will be guiding you all the way.
Before spending precious time looking for your dream home, review the following subjects below that will aid you in preparing for the purchase. The process of answering these items will help you better understand what your needs, desires and capacity are for purchasing your dream home.
1. Purchasing A Home
2. Your Lender & Mortgages
3. Your Finances
4. Your Taxes
5. Misc. Topics
1. Purchasing A Home
A Few Notes on Local Etiquette & Market:
Compensation to your Realtor is normally paid by the seller.
Basement homes are not common in the Triangle area.
New construction homes usually come with a washer/dryer and a refrigerator in today's market. Resale is 50/50. It all depends on the seller. It is good practice to always ask.
It is not necessary to work with a Realtor in North Carolina when purchasing a home. You are free from any representation if you choose. So don't let any Realtor mislead you into thinking you have to have their service in order to purchase a home.
Realtors earn their keep by demonstrating their deep knowledge of the area real estate and helping you have a smooth closing.
Purchasing for investment? Let us help. We help our clients identify the property, acquire the property, and smoothly convert it to a rental. Our Property Management Services group can assist you.
6 Creative Ways to Afford a Home
1. Investigate local, state, and national down payment assistance programs. These programs give qualified applicants loans or grants to cover all or part of your required down payment. National programs include the Nehemiah program, www.getdownpayment.com, and the American Dream Down Payment Fund from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, www.hud.gov.
2. Explore seller financing. In some cases, sellers may be willing to finance all or part of the purchase price of the home and let you repay them gradually, just as you would do with a mortgage.
3. Consider a shared-appreciation or shared-equity arrangement. Under this arrangement, your family, friends, or even a third-party may buy a portion of the home and share in any appreciation when the home is sold. The owner/occupant usually pays the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance costs, but all the investors' names are usually on the mortgage. Companies are available that can help you find such an investor, if your family can’t participate.
4. Ask your family for help. Perhaps a family member will loan you money for the down payment or act as a co-signer for the mortgage. Lenders often like to have a co-signer if you have little credit history.
5. Lease with the option to buy. Renting the home for a year or more will give you the chance to save more toward your down payment. And in many cases, owners will apply some of the rental amount toward the purchase price. You usually have to pay a small, nonrefundable option fee to the owner.
6. Consider a short-term second mortgage. If you can qualify for a short-term second mortgage, this would give you money to make a larger down payment. This may be possible if you’re in good financial standing, with a strong income and little other debt.
8 Tips to Guide You in Your Home Search
1. Research before you look. Decide what features you most want to have in a home, what neighborhoods you prefer, and how much you’d be willing to spend each month for housing.
2. Be realistic. It’s OK to be picky, but don’t be unrealistic with your expectations. There’s no such thing as a perfect home. Use your list of priorities as a guide to evaluate each property.
3. Get your finances in order. Review your credit report and be sure you have enough money to cover your down payment and closing costs. Then, talk to a lender and get prequalified for a mortgage. This will save you the heartache later of falling in love with a house you can’t afford.
4. Don’t ask too many people for opinions. It will drive you crazy. Select one or two people to turn to if you feel you need a second opinion, but be ready to make the final decision on your own.
5. Decide your moving timeline. When is your lease up? Are you allowed to sublet? How tight is the rental market in your area? All of these factors will help you determine when you should move.
6. Think long term. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in this home for a longer period? This decision may dictate what type of home you’ll buy as well as the type of mortgage terms that will best suit you.
7. Insist on a home inspection. If possible, get a warranty from the seller to cover defects for one year.
8. Get help from a REALTOR®. Hire a real estate professional who specializes in buyer representation. Unlike a listing agent, whose first duty is to the seller, a buyer’s representative is working only for you. Buyer’s reps are usually paid out of the seller’s commission payment.
Deciding Your Neigborhood
Remember, buying a house is more than picking the house you want. For many, it entails these factors:
Proximity to work & your community
Type of neighborhood
Convenient to family & friends.
When do you plan to move?
Ideally, when do you plan to move if the right house is found? If you have only a 30-60 days window to move, this should invite you to move quickly to identify the neighborhoods/area you want to be purchase and with an assistance of an agent, screen out the available homes. A 30-day closing is average assuming you are borrowing money from the bank. Hence, this leaves you 4-5 weeks to have an accepted offer contract. If your moving window much larger and/or flexible, this invites a different approach - a more strategic search, careful planning, and if appropriate, screening the market online can save time. Your agent should help you develop a plan to best fit your needs and schedule.
Common First-Time Home Buyer Mistakes
1. They don’t ask enough questions of their lender and end up missing out on the best deal.
2. They don’t act quickly enough to make a decision and someone else buys the house.
3. They don’t find the right agent who’s willing to help them through the homebuying process.
4. They don’t do enough to make their offer look appealing to a seller.
5. They don’t think about resale before they buy. The average first-time buyer only stays in a home for four years.
Source: Real Estate Checklists and Systems, www.realestatechecklists.com.
2. Your Lender & Mortgage
10 Questions to Ask Your Lender
1. What are the most popular mortgages you offer? Why are they so popular?
2. Which type of mortgage plan do you think would be best for me? Why?
3. Are your rates, terms, fees, and closing costs negotiable?
4. Will I have to buy private mortgage insurance? If so, how much will it cost, and how long will it be required? (NOTE: Private mortgage insurance is usually required if your down payment is less than 20 percent. However, most lenders will let you discontinue PMI when you’ve acquired a certain amount of equity by paying down the loan.)
5. Who will service the loan — your bank or another company?
6. What escrow requirements do you have?
7. How long will this loan be in a lock-in period (in other words, the time that the quoted interest rate will be honored)? Will I be able to obtain a lower rate if it drops during this period?
8. How long will the loan approval process take?
9. How long will it take to close the loan?
10. Are there any charges or penalties for prepaying the loan?
Used with permission from Real Estate Checklists & Systems, www.realestatechecklists.com.
Lender Checklist: What You Need for a Mortgage
W-2 forms — or business tax return forms if you're self-employed — for the last two or three years for every person signing the loan.
Copies of at least one pay stub for each person signing the loan.
Account numbers of all your credit cards and the amounts for any with outstanding balances.
Copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements for both checking and savings accounts.
Lender, loan number, and amount owed on other installment loans, such as student loans and car loans.
Addresses where you’ve lived for the last five to seven years, with names of landlords if appropriate.
Copies of brokerage account statements for two to four months, as well as a list of any other major assets or value, such as a boat, RV, or stocks or bonds not held in a brokerage account.
Copies of your most recent 401(k) or other retirement account statement.
Documentation to verify additional income, such as child support or a pension.
Copies of personal tax forms for the last two to three years.
How Big of a Mortgage Can I Afford?
Not only does owning a home give you a haven for yourself and your family, it also makes great financial sense because of the tax benefits — which you can’t take advantage of when paying rent.
The following calculation assumes a 28 percent income tax bracket. If your bracket is higher, your savings will be, too. Based on your current rent, use this calculation to figure out how much mortgage you can afford.
Multiplier: x 1.32
Mortgage payment: _________________________
Because of tax deductions, you can make a mortgage payment — including taxes and insurance — that is approximately one-third larger than your current rent payment and end up with the same amount of income.
For more help, use Fannie Mae’s online mortgage calculators.
Loan Types to Consider
Brush up on these mortgage basics to help you determine the loan that will best suit your needs.
Mortgage terms. Mortgages are generally available at 15-, 20-, or 30-year terms. In general, the longer the term, the lower the monthly payment. However, you pay more interest overall if you borrow for a longer term.
Fixed or adjustable interest rates. A fixed rate allows you to lock in a low rate as long as you hold the mortgage and, in general, is usually a good choice if interest rates are low. An adjustable-rate mortgage is designed so that your loan’s interest rate will rise as market interest rates increase. ARMs usually offer a lower rate in the first years of the mortgage. ARMs also usually have a limit as to how much the interest rate can be increased and how frequently they can be raised. These types of mortgages are a good choice when fixed interest rates are high or when you expect your income to grow significantly in the coming years.
Balloon mortgages. These mortgages offer very low interest rates for a short period of time — often three to seven years. Payments usually cover only the interest so the principal owed is not reduced. However, this type of loan may be a good choice if you think you will sell your home in a few years.
Slight variations in interest rates, loan amounts, and terms can significantly affect your monthly payment. For help in determining how much your monthly payment will be for various loan amounts, use Fannie Mae’s online mortgage calculators.
Specialty Mortgages: Risks and Rewards
In high-priced housing markets, it can be difficult to afford a home. That’s why a growing number of home buyers are forgoing traditional fixed-rate mortgages and standard adjustable-rate mortgages, and instead opting for a specialty mortgage that lets them “stretch” their income so they can qualify for a larger loan.
But before you choose one of these mortgages, make sure you understand the risks and how they work.
Specialty mortgages often begin with a low introductory interest rate or payment plan — a “teaser”— but the monthly mortgage payments are likely to increase a lot in the future. Some are “low documentation” mortgages that come with easier standards for qualifying, but also higher interest rates or higher fees. Some lenders will loan you 100 percent or more of the home’s value, but these mortgages can present a big financial risk if the value of the house drops.
Specialty Mortgages Can:
Pose a greater risk that you won’t be able to afford the mortgage payment in the future, compared to fixed rate mortgages and traditional adjustable rate mortgages.
Have monthly payments that increase by as much as 50 percent or more when the introductory period ends.
Cause your loan balance (the amount you still owe) to get larger each month instead of smaller.
Common Types of Specialty Mortgages:
Interest-Only Mortgages: Your monthly mortgage payment only covers the interest you owe on the loan for the first 5 to 10 years of the loan, and you pay nothing to reduce the total amount you borrowed (this is called the “principal”). After the interest-only period, you start paying higher monthly payments that cover both the interest and principal that must be repaid over the remaining term of the loan.
Negative Amortization Mortgages: Your monthly payment is less than the amount of interest you owe on the loan. The unpaid interest gets added to the loan’s principal amount, causing the total amount you owe to increase each month instead of getting smaller.
Option Payment ARM Mortgages: You have the option to make different types of monthly payments with this mortgage. For example, you may make a minimum payment that is less than the amount needed to cover the interest and increases the total amount of your loan; an interest-only payment, or payments calculated to pay off the loan over either 30 years or 15 years.
40-Year Mortgages: You pay off your loan over 40 years, instead of the usual 30 years. While this reduces your monthly payment and helps you qualify to buy a home, you pay off the balance of your loan much more slowly and end up paying much more interest.
Questions to Consider Before Choosing a Specialty Mortgage:
How much can my monthly payments increase and how soon can these increases happen?
Do I expect my income to increase or do I expect to move before my payments go up?
Will I be able to afford the mortgage when the payments increase?
Am I paying down my loan balance each month, or is it staying the same or even increasing?
Will I have to pay a penalty if I refinance my mortgage or sell my house?
What is my goal in buying this property? Am I considering a riskier mortgage to buy a more expensive house than I can realistically afford?
Be sure you work with a REALTOR® and lender who can discuss different options and address your questions and concerns!
Learn about the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Housing Opportunity Program at www.REALTOR.org/housingopportunity. For more information on predatory mortgage lending practices, visit the Center for Responsible Lending at www.responsiblelending.org.
5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score
Credit scores range between 200 and 800, with scores above 620 considered desirable for obtaining a mortgage. The following factors affect your score:
1. Your payment history. Did you pay your credit card obligations on time? If they were late, then how late? Bankruptcy filing, liens, and collection activity also impact your history.
2. How much you owe. If you owe a great deal of money on numerous accounts, it can indicate that you are overextended. However, it’s a good thing if you have a good proportion of balances to total credit limits.
3. The length of your credit history. In general, the longer you have had accounts opened, the better. The average consumer's oldest obligation is 14 years old, indicating that he or she has been managing credit for some time, according to Fair Isaac Corp., and only one in 20 consumers have credit histories shorter than 2 years.
4. How much new credit you have. New credit, either installment payments or new credit cards, are considered more risky, even if you pay them promptly.
5. The types of credit you use. Generally, it’s desirable to have more than one type of credit — installment loans, credit cards, and a mortgage, for example.
For more on evaluating and understanding your credit score, visit www.myfico.com.
Credit Score Chart:
720 - 850 - Excellent – The best financing terms and represents the best score range
700 - 719 - Very Good – qualifies to receive favorable financing
675 - 699 - Average – will qualify for most loans
620 - 674 - Sub-prime – May qualify but will pay higher interest
560 - 619 - Risky – Might have trouble getting a loan
500 - 559 - Very Risky – You need to work on improving your rating
3. Your Finances
Get Your Finances in Order: To-Do List
1. Develop a household budget. Instead of creating a budget of what you’d like to spend, use receipts to create a budget that reflects your actual spending habits over the last several months. This approach will factor in unexpected expenses, such as car repairs, as well as predictable costs such as rent, utility bills, and groceries.
2. Reduce your debt. Lenders generally look for a total debt load of no more than 36 percent of income. This figure includes your mortgage, which typically ranges between 25 and 28 percent of your net household income. So you need to get monthly payments on the rest of your installment debt — car loans, student loans, and revolving balances on credit cards — down to between 8 and 10 percent of your net monthly income.
3. Look for ways to save. You probably know how much you spend on rent and utilities, but little expenses add up, too. Try writing down everything you spend for one month. You’ll probably spot some great ways to save, whether it’s cutting out that morning trip to Starbucks or eating dinner at home more often.
4. Increase your income. Now’s the time to ask for a raise! If that’s not an option, you may want to consider taking on a second job to get your income at a level high enough to qualify for the home you want.
5. Save for a down payment. Designate a certain amount of money each month to put away in your savings account. Although it’s possible to get a mortgage with only 5 percent down, or even less, you can usually get a better rate if you put down a larger percentage of the total purchase. Aim for a 20 percent down payment.
6. Keep your job. While you don’t need to be in the same job forever to qualify for a home loan, having a job for less than two years may mean you have to pay a higher interest rate.
7. Establish a good credit history. Get a credit card and make payments by the due date. Do the same for all your other bills, too. Pay off the entire balance promptly.
Budget Basics Worksheet
The first step in getting yourself in financial shape to buy a home is to know exactly how much money comes in and how much goes out. Use this worksheet to list your income and expenses below.
4. Your Taxes
5 Property Tax Questions You Need to Ask
1. What is the assessed value of the property? Note that assessed value is generally less than market value. Ask to see a recent copy of the seller’s tax bill to help you determine this information.
2. How often are properties reassessed, and when was the last reassessment done? In general, taxes jump most significantly when a property is reassessed.
3. Will the sale of the property trigger a tax increase? The assessed value of the property may increase based on the amount you pay for the property. And in some areas, such as California, taxes may be frozen until resale.
4. Is the amount of taxes paid comparable to other properties in the area? If not, it might be possible to appeal the tax assessment and lower the rate.
5. Does the current tax bill reflect any special exemptions that I might not qualify for? For example, many tax districts offer reductions to those 65 or over.
Tax Benefits of Home Ownership
The tax deductions you’re eligible to take for mortgage interest and property taxes greatly increase the financial benefits of homeownership. Here’s how it works.
$9,877 = Mortgage interest paid (a loan of $150,000 for 30 years, at 7 percent, using year-five interest)
$2,700 = Property taxes (at 1.5 percent on $180,000 assessed value)
$12,577 = Total deduction
Then, multiply your total deduction by your tax rate.
For example, at a 28 percent tax rate: 12,577 x 0.28 = $3,521.56
$3,521.56 = Amount you have lowered your federal income tax (at 28 percent tax rate)
Note: Mortgage interest may not be deductible on loans over $1.1 million. In addition, deductions are decreased when total income reaches a certain level.
Things NOT to do before purchasing a home:
1. No Major Purchase of Any Kind
Any purchase that creates a debt of any kind is a flag. This includes furniture, appliances, electronic equipment, jewelry, vacations, expensive wedding, and automobiles.
2. Don't Move Money Around
When a lender reviews your loan package for approval, one of the things they are concerned about is the source of funds for your down payment and closing costs. Most likely, you will be asked to provide statements for the last two or three months on any of your liquid assets. This includes checking accounts, money market funds, certificates of deposit, stock statements, mutual funds, and even your company 401K and retirement accounts.
If you have been moving money between accounts during that time, there may be large deposits and withdrawals in some of them.
The mortgage underwriter (the person who actually approves your loan) will probably require a complete paper trail of all the withdrawals and deposits. You may be required to produce cancelled checks, deposit receipts, and other seemingly inconsequential data, which could get quite tedious.
Perhaps you become exasperated at your lender, but they are only doing their job correctly. To ensure quality control and eliminate potential fraud, it is a requirement on most loans to completely document the sources of all funds. Moving your money around, even if you are consolidating your funds to make it "easier," could make it more difficult for the lender to properly document.
So leave your money where it is until you talk to a loan officer.
Oh…don’t change banks, either.
5. Other Topics
Pre-Qualify vs. Pre-Approval
These are two different animals. In today's environment, get pre-approval before going shopping. Your agent should advise you of this on the phone before you step into the first house.
Getting pre-approval is not that difficult. Fill out an application for a mortgage. The application asks information about your employment history, income, debt, assets, etc. The result is you will know exactly what the maximum loan amount will be. Getting pre-approved gives you credibility in your offer and helps narrow down the homes your agent will show you. This saves everyone's precious time and especially angst (for you) to keep you from falling in love with a house that you cannot afford. An agent who tries to get you to house shop beyond your financial means is not a responsible agent. This agent is not looking after your well being. He or she is just wanting to make a big sale and get that commission.
Watch Your Credit Card
If you consider buying a home, consider curbing your credit card spending three to six months ahead of the purchase. Credit card spending impacts your borrowing amount. Some figures have shown for every $100 you credit to your plastic card, it could curb your mortgage borrowing by $10,000. A lease payment for a car of $259/month could lower your borrowing by $25,900. This is independent of your down payment on the house or your savings.
Consider a Buyer's Agent
We think it is very important that you choose an experienced agent who is there for you. A Buyer's Agent will be actively finding you potential homes, scheduling & promptly showing you the homes, keeping you informed of the buying process, and negotiating furiously on your behalf to get you the lowest price and best possible terms.
Get An Inspection
Don't buy a house without having it inspected. Your Buyer's Agent will remind you of it and schedule it for you. If he or she does not, you need to look for another agent. It is well worth the $250 or so you will spend. Expect findings in the reports. This is the inspector's job. There is no such thing as a house with no problems. The trick is to make sure the faults found are within the range that you expect and can compensate for. Otherwise, the offer contract can be rescinded under the contingency clause.
Lastly, make sure the inspector is ASHI certified. Again, your Buyer's Agent should know this.