Buy or Rent? How to Make the Best Decision

The rent vs buy dilemma is something that Americans have been facing for decades. Both options have their benefits, and it’s really a matter of timing and preferences when it comes to choosing which is best for you.

However, there are a lot of things to consider before making this decision. So, in today’s post we’re going to break down some of the benefits of renting an apartment and of buying a home. That way you can make your decision with a clearer picture of what each situation looks like.

One thing to note first, however, is that it isn’t always as simple as buy vs rent. Some living situations draw on the pros of each type of living. For example, living in a condo might be a good option for people who want the privacy and independence of owning their own home, but who also don’t have the time or desire to keep up with maintenance.

So, as we compare buying and renting, keep in mind that the features of each are not mutually exclusive.

Renting an apartment

Most people who are living on their own for the first time start off renting. For younger people just out of school, renting offers the first taste of independence without the prerequisites of homeownership.

When you rent your first apartment, you’ll learn the skills associated with budgeting for your monthly expenses, making your rent payments on time, and will start learning some of the skills that it takes to run a household.

In terms of monthly costs, apartments can vary greatly. Depending on where you live (and how luxurious the apartment is) you could end up having rent and utility payments that are much lower or much higher than mortgage payments for a house.

However, apartment leases often come with the benefit of utilities, trash removal, and other expenses built in. They also typically require the landlord to maintain the apartment and the land it sits on.

Live in the northern part of the country and hate shoveling snow? Make sure your lease specifies that your landlord will provide snow removal.

One technique that many renters take is to find an apartment that is small and affordable while they save up for a home. In this case, it’s worth living with fewer amenities if your end goal is saving for a down payment.

But, what if you want to own a home someday but haven’t quite decided where you want to settle down? Maybe your work keeps you moving from place to place or you’ve always wanted to move away to somewhere new.

Renting is typically a better option for those who aren’t quite sure what their plans are for the next coming years. They can have a stable place to live while they figure things out and plan their next move.

Buying a home

Once you’ve rented a home for a while, you might become increasingly aware that you want more space and more control over your home.

You’re also likely noticing how much money you spend on rent each month that is essentially a net loss.

When you buy a home, your mortgage payments might be going to the bank, but someday the money you’ve paid toward that home will be yours in the form of equity. You can then use this as a down payment for another home.

This financial benefit cannot be understated. Since house values dependably increase over time, owning a home is a great investment toward your future.

So, those are the main pros and cons of renting vs buying a home. Think about your circumstances and determine which one makes the most sense for you right now. Then, start planning for the future.

Closing Costs 101: A Breakdown of Home Loan Closing Costs

Closing costs are usually an unavoidable part of buying a home. While there are ways to reduce some closing costs and fees, they are an expense you will likely have to consider when it comes time to save for a home.

On average, buyers can expect to pay between 2 and 5 percent of the purchase price in closing costs and fees.

In this article, we’re going to break down those costs and talk about some ways to plan for, or limit, the fees associated with closing on a home.

A breakdown of closing costs

Most closing costs in a real estate transaction are paid for by the buyer. When getting approved for a mortgage, your lender is required to provide you with an estimate of the closing costs. This is called a “Closing Disclosure statement” which overviews the details of your loan.

Different lenders will charge varying amounts in fees. Some are even willing to waive certain fees. But, we’ll discuss that later.

For now, let’s focus on the closing costs buyers typically have to pay:

  • Attorney fees – a flat-fee or hourly rate depending on the attorney

  • Origination fees – an upfront fee charged by the lender for processing your mortgage application

  • Prepaid interest or discount points – a payment for the interest that will accrue on your mortgage from the time you close until your first mortgage payment is due

  • Home inspection fee – the fee that a professional home inspector charges to inspect a home

  • Escrow deposits – Usually split with the seller, this is the fee charged by an escrow agent

  • Recording fees – fees for legally recording the new deed and mortgage

  • Underwriting fees – fees paid to the lender for researching your mortgage case and determining whether or not to approve your application

These are just some of the many fees that can be due upon closing on a home. Depending on where you live, which lender you choose, and the type of mortgage you secure, your closing costs will vary, so it’s a good idea to shop around for a lender and mortgage type with reasonable closing costs.

Reducing closing costs

Some lenders offer no-cost, or low-cost mortgages. However, these savings often come with a higher interest rate which, over the lifespan of your loan, can cost you more in the long run.

You should also be aware of the different loan types that you may be eligible for. FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans are all designed for buyers hoping to make lower down payments on their home.

Each loan type provides different amounts due at closing. Fortunately, your mortgage lender will be able to give you an estimate of costs for each loan type.

Want to get an estimate of the closing costs you’ll have to pay when you buy a home? You can use this online calculator to see an average.

Why Detached Garages Are A Huge Benefit

Many buyers are searching for a home with an attached garage. It helps to keep cars out of the sun, rain, and snow. An attached garage allows you to walk directly from your vehicle into your home without worry. 

Garages used to be detached. These structures offered many benefits to homeowners that seem to be forgotten. As cars became more popular and larger, families began to own two cars at their properties. When this became common, so too di the attached garage.  

While an attached garage is seen as a luxury and often a necessity, the good points a detached garage have shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Attached garages can be converted into living spaces. This affords you as a homeowner much more room without the need to move. Homeowners can then build a detached garage for storage or the placement of a vehicle. 

Other Advantages To Detached Garages

A detached garage adds character to a home. Many buyers complain of tired suburban architecture, where the garage often becomes somewhat of a focal point for the front of the home. Detached garages can be more pleasing to look at.

You’ll also have a bit more wiggle room as to how you design your home. If you build a detached garage, it can be placed at an angle on the property. The garage can also be hidden in the backyard, or designed to look like a smaller version of the larger house. A path can even be built through the yard to the garage to bring a design to the entire yard. 

Another advantage to a detached garage is that toxic fumes from your vehicle won’t get into the house. Homes with detached garages can often receive green points for environmentally friendly building practices. There’s also less of a risk posed to you and your family for things like carbon monoxide poisoning. You can’t leave a vehicle running very long in an attached garage without that risk.   

A detached garage also affords the possibility of adding living space above the garage. It can be a great play space for kids or a game room for adults. You can even build a home office in the upstairs portion of the garage. The area will indeed be quiet if placed strategically. If the attached garage is new construction, you can run wild with it. The design is up to you and the possibilities are truly endless. 

While many buyers search for a home with an attached garage, detached garages can have many pros and allow great flexibility to you as a homeowner.           

Is Your Offer to Purchase Competitive?

As a homebuyer, it is important to do everything you can to find your dream residence. Once you discover your ideal house, you should be ready to submit a competitive offer to purchase this home.

Ultimately, there are several factors to consider as you try to put together a competitive offer to purchase your dream house. These factors include:

1. A Home’s Age and Condition

Examine a house closely before you craft an offer to purchase – you will be glad you did. Because if you leave no stone unturned in your quest to learn about a residence, you can create an offer to purchase that accounts for a house’s age and condition.

If you have questions about a house, you should reach out to a seller’s agent. That way, you can address these questions before you submit an offer to purchase.

Also, it is important to remember that there is no such thing as a “bad” question to ask about a house. A home purchase may be one of the biggest transactions you will complete in your lifetime. And if you devote time and energy to learn about all aspects of a house, you can ensure you are ready to purchase this home. Perhaps best of all, you can identify potential home problems that otherwise may prove to be costly and time-intensive down the line.

2. The Current State of the Housing Market

Differentiating between a buyer’s market and seller’s market is key, particularly for those who are ready to submit an offer to purchase a house. If you assess the local housing sector, you can find out whether a buyer’s or seller’s market is in place and submit an appropriate offer to purchase your dream residence.

In a buyer’s market, homes may remain available for many weeks or months after they are listed. Thus, a seller may be willing to accept an offer to purchase, even if it falls below his or her initial home asking price.

Comparatively, in a seller’s market, there is a shortage of quality houses available. And in this market, the best houses sell quickly, which means you likely will need to submit a competitive offer to purchase to secure your ideal home.

To determine if a buyer’s or seller’s market is in effect, take a look at how quickly houses are selling in your city or town. You also should find out if homes are selling at or above their initial asking prices. With this information in hand, you will be better equipped than ever before to submit a competitive offer to purchase your dream house.

3. Your Homebuying Budget

There is no need to overspend to buy your ideal house. Therefore, you should try to submit an offer to purchase that accounts for your homebuying budget.

Oftentimes, it helps to meet with banks and credit unions before you embark on a home search. This will allow you to get pre-approved for a mortgage and enter the homebuying journey with a budget at your disposal.

As you navigate the homebuying journey, you may want to hire a real estate agent, too. Because if you have a real estate agent at your side, you should have no trouble crafting a competitive offer to acquire your dream residence.

Capitalize on a Buyer’s Market

A buyer’s market typically is a dream come true for those who want to find a high-quality and affordable house. In fact, there are many things you can do to capitalize on a buyer’s market to ensure you can purchase a house that you’ll be able to enjoy for years to come.

Now, let’s take a look at three tips to help you get the most out of a buyer’s market.

1. Narrow Your Home Search

Consider where you want to live and what you want to find in your dream home – you’ll be glad you did. If you hone your house search, you can avoid wasting time and resources on homes that fail to meet your expectations.

As you evaluate potential home destinations, think about your day-to-day activities. For example, if you work in the city, you may want to search for houses that are in or near the city itself. On the other hand, if you have kids, you may want to explore residences near parks and other family-friendly attractions.

In addition, it often helps to make a list of home must-haves. Once you know what features you want in your dream home, you can conduct an in-depth search to discover a house that will suit you perfectly.

2. Get a Mortgage

A mortgage is crucial, particularly for individuals who want to take advantage of a buyer’s market. Because if you enter the real estate market with a mortgage in hand, you can map out your home search based on your budget.

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage generally won’t take long. Banks and credit unions are happy to teach you everything you need to know about home financing and help you select the right mortgage. Furthermore, these financial institutions employ mortgage specialists who can respond to your home financing concerns and queries.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

If you want to streamline your search for a home in a buyer’s market, you should work with an expert real estate agent. That way, you can receive homebuying tips and recommendations you may struggle to receive elsewhere.

A real estate agent understands what it takes to complete a successful house search in a buyer’s market. As such, he or she will work with you to make your homeownership dream come true.

For instance, if you want to purchase a top-notch house as quickly as possible, a real estate agent can help you do just that. Or, if you want to buy a house at a low price, a real estate agent can help you discover a terrific residence that matches your pricing expectations.

As you get set to enter a buyer’s market, it helps to prepare as much as you can. Thanks to the aforementioned tips, you can simplify your home pursuit in a buyer’s market. As a result, you can find a wonderful residence that is sure to serve you well both now and in the future.

3 Questions to Consider After You Attend an Open House

You’ve attended an open house – now what? Ultimately, there are many questions for homebuyers to consider after they attend an open house, and these include:

1. Did the home match or exceed my expectations?

It is important to understand whether a home is one that you could enjoy both now and in the future. And if you found that you liked a home after an open house, you may want to proceed with an offer on this residence.

Usually, it is a good idea to carry a checklist of your homebuying wants and needs that you can use throughout an open house. With this list in hand, a homebuyer can identify a house’s strengths and weaknesses.

If you ever have concerns or questions during an open house, don’t hesitate to find the listing real estate agent for assistance too. By doing so, you can gain the insights you need to determine whether a particular house is a viable long-term investment.

2. What would life be like if I purchased the home?

An open house can bring out a broad range of emotions in homebuyers, particularly if these individuals see things that they like in a residence.

For example, a homebuyer who sees a large outdoor deck may envision summer barbecues with family members and friends. Or, a homebuyer who views a spacious kitchen might picture dinner parties that he or she could host in the future.

If a home brings out positive feelings, it may be a keeper. As such, a homebuyer who feels good about a home after an open house may want to move forward with an offer.

3. Am I ready to submit an offer on the home?

Submitting an offer on a house can be tricky. On the one hand, you don’t want to overspend to acquire a residence. Conversely, you want to submit a competitive offer that matches the home seller’s expectations.

After an open house, it never hurts to meet with a real estate agent. Then, you can outline your homebuying goals and determine whether now is a good time to submit an offer on a residence.

If you decide to proceed with an offer, ensure that the proposal is fair and is submitted in a timely fashion. In all likelihood, the home seller will have 24 to 48 hours to accept, decline or counter your proposal. Once you receive a home seller’s decision on your offer, you can determine the next step on your homebuying journey.

Lastly, if a home seller rejects your offer, there is no need to worry. With an expert real estate agent at your side, you can check out other open house events in your area. And as a result, you should have no trouble accelerating the process of going from homebuyer to homeowner.

Alleviate stress as you decide how to proceed after you attend an open house – consider the aforementioned factors, and you can determine whether a particular residence is right for you.

Tackle Homebuying Challenges

The homebuying journey may prove to be difficult, and assorted challenges may arise that make it tough to quickly find and buy your dream house. Whether it’s encountering problems during a home inspection or negotiating a house price with a property seller, there is no telling what may happen during your pursuit of your dream home. However, if you know how to handle homebuying challenges that come your way, you’ll be better equipped than ever before to enjoy a seamless homebuying experience.

Now, let’s take a look at three tips to help you tackle various homebuying challenges.

1. Stay Patient

When you are faced with a homebuying hurdle, it is important to remember that every problem has a solution. Thus, if you take a calm, cool and collected approach to a homebuying issue, you can find the best way to alleviate this problem.

A patient homebuyer usually is a successful homebuyer, and for good reason. If you maintain patience as you navigate the homebuying journey, you can analyze problems that come your way and allocate the necessary time and resources to solve them. And as a result, you may be able to speed up the homebuying journey and acquire your dream residence in no time at all.

2. Consider Your Options Closely

As you encounter homebuying hurdles, you should consider your options closely. That way, you can weigh the pros and cons of potential homebuying decisions and make informed choices as you try to buy your ideal residence.

Sometimes, it may be beneficial to consult with family members and friends too. If you reach out to loved ones for support, they may be able to help you make the best-possible decisions throughout the homebuying journey.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

When it comes to purchasing a home, you may require expert assistance. Lucky for you, real estate agents are available in cities and towns nationwide, and these housing market professionals can help you overcome property buying issues.

A real estate agent is committed to your homebuying success, and as such, will work with you to make your homeownership dream come true. Therefore, if you want to acquire a city residence as quickly as possible, a real estate agent can help you do just that. On the other hand, if you want to purchase a small town home at an affordable price, a real estate agent will help you accomplish your desired result.

Let’s not forget about the comprehensive guidance a real estate agent can provide as you search for your dream residence, either. A real estate agent can teach you everything you need to know about the housing market. By doing so, he or she can help you identify and resolve homebuying problems before they escalate.

For those who want to streamline the homebuying journey, it helps to prepare. Thanks to the aforementioned tips, you can reduce or eliminate homebuying hurdles and purchase your dream house without delay.

Three Important Things To Investigate About The House You Want To Buy

Whether you’re shopping for your first house or your next house, finding a listing you love is exciting. You browse the pictures, check out the property facts, share the link to your significant other, and maybe even schedule a showing.

With the exciting prospect of owning a new home that has all or many of the features you’re looking for, it can be easy to forget about certain details that matter. Most of us look for similar things in a house–close proximity to work, enough bedrooms, an upgraded kitchen, and so on.

In this article, we’re going to give you a list of things to investigate about the house you’re looking at to get a better idea of whether or not it’s the perfect match for you and your family.

1. Re-read the listing

If you’re like me and get lost in the photos of a home and forget to make note of the details, be sure to go back and check out the listing a second time. It will likely give you important details of the house that you overlooked on your initial visit.

Look for things like the year the house was built, information of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, and the total acreage of the lot and square footage of the home. These things are hard to accurately represent in the listing’s pictures, but will likely be important to your decision of whether or not you should view the home.

2. Do your online research

The number of things you can learn about a home and neighborhood on the internet is astounding. We suggest that before you go to visit a home, you spend 10-20 minutes on Google researching the following topics:

  • School district ratings. If you have or plan to have school-aged children, you’ll want to know what your options are for your child’s education. It’s often a good idea to check out the local schools’ websites to see what

  • Commute times. With Google Maps and similar sites, you can plan out what your new commute will be and see how long it will take. You might find different routes that will save you time or avoid traffic (we could all use those extra few minutes in bed every morning). Google Maps isn’t always accurate when it comes to morning traffic estimates, but it’s a good place to start.

  • Amenities. Having moved into a neighborhood that has no grocery stores within a 20-minute drive, trust me–you’ll want to know what’s in the area. Use Google Maps to find stores, gas, schools, parks and trails, hospitals, and other things you’ll want close by.

  • Street view. While we’re on Google, use street view to take a remote look around the neighborhood. You’ll be able to see how the infrastructure looks–if the neighborhood is taken care of and if there are sidewalks that offer a safe place to walk or jog.

  • Crime ratings. Don’t get too caught up in this section. Crimes happen everywhere, but this is a good way to see if the area you’re moving to is a safe place

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

If, after all of your online research, you decide you want to go view a home, don’t be shy when you arrive. It’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to be a burden in someone else’s home. But remember–if you’re considering living there someday you’ll want to know as much as possible before making an offer.

Test the plumbing, ask about average utilities, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to neighbors and ask them questions about the community. The more you know, the better. Happy sleuthing!

Why Employment History Matters When Buying A Home

There are so many factors that go into buying a home. How much money do you have saved up? What is your debt amount? Hw much money do you make each month? Can you afford the neighborhood that you’d like to live in? All of these questions are swirling around the minds of all first-time homebuyers. Did you know that how long you have been at a job is just as important as your income as a factor in getting approved for a mortgage? 

Your ability to repay is why the lender is looking at so many different numbers and factors about your financial situation. Employment overall plays a large stake in the mortgage application. Lenders will look at your past employment history along with the job that your currently have. They are also concerned with your future employment status. Your lender will get an idea of your overall plan for your career and employment through looking at your history. 

As a first-time homebuyer, you most likely don’t have the employment history of more seasoned homebuyers. Generally, most people who are buying a home for the first time are pretty young in their careers. As a rule of thumb, lenders will look at your employment history over the past two years. The lender wants to see your industry focus. Maybe you have stuck with one career direction, or maybe you have hopped around a bunch. As a hint, jumping around from job to job and field to field doesn’t look very good to mortgage lenders. Job floaters tend to appear as if they have no plans for the future. 

Good Career Moves

Staying a software engineer, but moving from the medical industry to the financial industry is an acceptable and smart move in the eyes of lenders. Yet, leaving your stable job in accounting to pursue a career in acting would not be looked upon favorably in the eyes of a mortgage lender.

It doesn’t matter how much money you have saved up, often, without employment history, a lender may not consider you as a dependable buyer. Your lender wants to see that your income is stable for a period of at least three year’s time.

Income Matters 

You won’t have the same work history as a first time homebuyer as you would if you were a bit more seasoned. When lenders look at your income history, not having a lot of work history can be a detriment to many factors. If your income is an annual salary, for example, your lender will divide that salary by 12 in order to get a monthly income. If you haven’t been at the job for a full year or took a pay cut during times of training, those numbers will be affected.

For hourly employees, overtime may be a problem as it may not be factored in with the equation if there isn’t a history of at least two years on the job. 

While it isn’t impossible to buy a home with a short employment history, it’s advisable to wait until you have some significant time under your belt before you dive into the home buying process.

Homebuying Tips: Look Beyond the Price of a Home

Buying a home represents a life-changing decision. As such, you’ll want to look beyond the price of a residence as you search for your dream house.

Ultimately, there are many factors beyond price that you should consider as you pursue your ideal residence, including:

1. A Home’s Location

For most homebuyers, a house’s location is the number one factor when they explore the real estate market, and perhaps it is easy to understand why.

Finding a home in a location that is convenient for you is priceless. And if you know how to conduct a comprehensive home search, you can quickly discover a high-quality home in a wonderful location.

As you prepare to kick off your home search, consider whether you’d like to live in a city or town. This will enable you to narrow your home search.

You also may want to consider homes that are located near work or school. By doing so, you can ensure that you won’t have to travel too far to get to destinations that you frequently visit.

2. A Home’s Condition

A home may look like a great investment at first, but its condition may have deteriorated over time. Thus, you’ll want to take a close look at a house’s condition before you finalize a home purchase.

Typically, a homebuyer will complete a property inspection after a home seller accepts an offer on a residence. This inspection will enable a homebuyer to perform an in-depth assessment of a residence and learn about its strengths and weaknesses. Then, a homebuyer can determine whether to move forward with a home acquisition.

If a property inspector discovers myriad issues that impact a home’s condition, a homebuyer may want to reconsider his or her offer. At this point, a homebuyer can still walk away from a home purchase. Or, a homebuyer can ask the home seller to complete various home improvements as well.

On the other hand, a homebuyer who falls in love with a house may choose to proceed with a home purchase, regardless of the residence’s condition. If you choose this option, however, it is important to consider the potential long-term ramifications of your decision.

3. Your Future

It is paramount for a homebuyer to find a house that he or she can enjoy for years to come. Therefore, a homebuyer should consider his or her future before finalizing a home purchase.

For example, if you plan to settle down and start a family, you may want to evaluate houses that are close to schools. Conversely, if you eventually want to work in the big city, you may want to consider homes that will make it easy to commute into the city day after day.

Don’t forget to hire a real estate agent to help you during the homebuying journey too. With a real estate agent at your side, you should have no trouble examining a broad range of top-notch houses that won’t force you to break your budget.