Before You Buy
Before you buy real estate, educate yourself about what's involved.

These Real Estate articles are an excellent place to start.
Things to Consider
Planning to move out of the area in a couple of years? If so you may be better off not buying a home now. The cost of selling a house generally falls in a range of 7% - 8% of the sale price which may be more than the appreciation of the house.

Thinking about changing jobs? It might be best to wait until after your purchase.

Look at your work history. Is it sporadic or did you just start a new job? Lenders like to see someone with a steady work history and with job changes in the same line of work.

Lenders will require your work history along with past tax returns.

Look at your credit report before you go to a lender. It is not uncommon to find problems with reports, especially if you have a common last name. If you find a problem, start with the reporting agency to clear it up. It is common to have a late payment at some time or another. These problems can usually be taken care of with a letter of explanation from you to the lender.

Banks/Savings and Loans vs. Loan Brokers
Loan officers at a bank work for the bank.
Loan brokers work for you and have a fiduciary relationship.
Most banks cooperate with loan brokers.
You can go to a broker and obtain a loan through a bank.
Most banks will offer you a menu of programs while a loan broker will offer a menu of lenders. Banks and loan brokers are under different government controls.
A complaint regarding a bank would go to the State Department of Banking.
A complaint regarding a loan broker would go to the State Department of Real Estate.
Contact someone from each source to see what special programs they have to offer.

Loan Pre-Approval
Before shopping for a home, get pre-approved for a loan first.

Getting pre-approved for a loan is a necessary step when buying real estate.

If you are pre-approved first you will save considerable time looking for a property.

You will know how much a lender will commit so you won't waste time looking at property you can't qualify for.

You will have a better chance of having an offer accepted if it is accompanied with a pre-approval letter. The best agents won't work with buyers until they are pre-approved.

A lender will let you know your maximum loan amount after providing them:
- Income from all sources.
- Funds available for a down payment and closing costs.
- Your monthly obligations (auto loans, credit card payments, alimony, child support)
- Price range of homes where you want to locate.

Selecting a Lender
You should pick a lender based on experience, customer service and recommendations. Work with a lender who is experienced in the business, knows the availability of the different type loans and how to handle the demands of processing. Don't make the decision based solely on which lender is offering the lowest rates. If a company is offering a mortgage package that is well below market rates, you should beware.

All mortgage companies generally choose from the same pool of investors.

A company offering abnormally low rates might make up the difference by increasing closing costs or tacking on additional settlement fees.

Determine how long you expect to live in the new home. This decision will not only affect the houses you look at, but also will determine the type and term of loan you choose.

Get everything in writing and a copy of everything you sign.

Ask your lender at application what fees typically are included in the finance charge computation, and what fees may be charged separately at closing.

How Much Can I Qualify For?
Most lenders require your housing payments not to exceed 25-33% (depending on your down payment) of your gross monthly income called "housing expense ratio".

Your total debt payments should not exceed 33-38%, figured on a monthly basis.

This figure is called your "total debt ratio".

Use the mortgage calculators to find out how much you can afford.

How Much Do I Need?
Besides setting aside money for a down payment, you will need money for closing costs. Those costs can range from $3,000 to $10,000, depending on the type of loan, the loan fees and the community the property is located in.

See Buyers Closing Costs to help determine costs.

The smartest and most time efficient thing to do is get pre-approved up front, before you start looking for a home.

Next, find an agent familiar with the area you want to live and you are comfortable with.

Educate your self about local property values and the current market trend.

To find out what prices homes are listed for in the South County area, get signed up with Listing Alert. Once you submit the information, new MLS listings will automatically be emailed to you as soon as they come on the market.

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