Dealing with Financing – An overview

Dealing with Financing – An overview

As the events of the last few years in the real estate industry show, people forget about the tremendous financial responsibility of purchasing a home at their peril. Here are a few tips for dealing with the dollar signs so that you can take down that “for sale” sign on your new home.

Get pre-approved. Sub-primes may be history, but you’ll probably still be shown homes you can’t actually afford. By getting pre-approved as a buyer, you can save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can’t afford. You can also put yourself in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Unlike pre-qualification, which is based on a cursory review of your finances, pre-approval from a lender is based on your actual income, debt and credit history. By doing a thorough analysis of your actual spending power, you’ll be less likely to get in over your head.

Choose your mortgage carefully. Used to be the emphasis when it came to mortgages was on paying them off as soon as possible. Today, the debt the average person will accumulate due to credit cards, student loans, etc. means it’s better to opt for the 30-year mortgage instead of the 15-year. This way, you have a lower monthly payment, with the option of paying an additional principal when money is good. Additionally, when picking a mortgage, you usually have the option of paying additional points (a portion of the interest that you pay at closing) in exchange for a lower interest rate. If you plan to stay in the house for a long time—and given the current real estate market, you should—taking the points will save you money.

Do your homework before bidding. Before you make an offer on a home, do some research on the sales trends of similar homes in the neighborhood with sites like Zillow. Consider especially sales of similar homes in the last three months. For instance, if homes have recently sold for 5 percent less than the asking price, your opening bid should probably be about 8 to 10 percent lower than what the seller is asking.

Start your pre-Approval process. Here is one source I recommend. Southeast Bank 423-504-3366 Chad Nash cnash@southeastbank.com

Curb Appeal – Make a Good First Impression

Curb Appeal – Make a Good First Impression

In most markets across the country, supply still outweighs demand when it comes to home sales. While the focus is often on what can be improved on the interior of the house, many sellers neglect the outside of the property. Most buyers form an opinion whether they like a house or not before they step foot in the front door. The work you do to the kitchen or the fixtures in the bathroom may be great, but by that time it may be too late. If you want to maximize your properties’ value, you need to focus on improving the curb appeal.

First impressions make a difference when it comes to selling your home. Improving the exterior of a property may not be as exciting as trying to figure out what to do with the kitchen, but in many ways it is more important. At first glance, you want your property to have a wow factor. At a minimum, it shouldn’t turn off a large majority of buyers. Your curb appeal should start with the condition of the grass, landscaping and any trees or bushes near the front of the property. If you have old, dying shrubs near the front entrance, they threaten to set a negative tone for the rest of the property. Plants on the front stairs, flowers in the garden, fresh mulch and updated shrubs are all easy fixes that have a big return. If your grass is old and there are dirt patches, you can either lay down some sod or start the seeding process months before your house is ready. Little things like cleaning leaves out of the gutters or hosing the driveway may seem insignificant, but if a buyer feels like the house is home before they walk in you are already ahead of the game.

In addition to improving the landscape, you should also look at the physical condition of the property. If the roof is old and only has a few years left, you will get a good return on your money by replacing it and trying to sell for a higher amount. Buyers do not want to come out of pocket after they get into a home unless they are getting a great deal. If they know they will need a new roof in a few years, they will most likely submit a low-ball offer.

In addition to the roof, you also have to look at the siding and exterior of the property itself. Siding, new paint, updated trim, new shutters and fresh gutters can all make a huge difference. You can start with a good power washing of the house and see what kind of impact it has before you look to paint or update the siding. Just by changing the color of the shutters and adding a fresh coat of trim around the doors and windows can make it look like a new house. A new matching front door can also have a big impact. The front door is one of the first things that anyone notices when they enter a house. If the door is old and the handle is rusted, the rest of the house will suffer.

Another area that is often overlooked is the driveway. For an area that gets used every day, it would make sense to make the driveway as appealing as possible. If there are cracks, weeds and other noticeable flaws, improving the driveway will dramatically increase curb appeal. Paving over a stone or rock driveway will make the house more livable and may take a buyer off the fence. You never know which feature will attract or turn off a buyer, but many times it has to do with the exterior of the property. Grass and weeds in a driveway is one of the things that is very unappealing and doesn’t take much time or money to fix.

Finally, you should assess which items around the house are in need of updates or need to be removed. You may have bought the house with a pool, but if it is old and in a bad location, it should be taken down. Pools do not offer as much bang for the buck as you might expect, especially in areas that will only use a pool during the summer months. If there is minimal back yard space, it may make more sense to take the pool down and open up the yard. It is also a good idea to take down any old basketball hoops or other items that are dated and aren’t doing anything to improve the value. If you have a deck or patio, you should throw a fresh coat of paint on the wood to give it a nice, updated feel.

There are many things you can do to improve the curb appeal of your property. Some of these things may be more costly than you imagined, but they can have a huge impact on your sales price. If you are wondering which items should be updated, ask a friend to drive to the house and tell you the first thing they think of when they pull up. This will give you an honest assessment and a starting point for your work. Spending time and money on the interior is important, but it will all be for naught if the exterior of the house is a mess.

Why Mortgage Preapproval is Important

Why Mortgage Preapproval is Important

If you’re in the market for a mortgage, you probably know that lenders won’t just shower you with money when you show up at their office with a smile and a heart-warming story about how you’ve found the perfect home. Nope, they want to know that if they give you a home loan, odds are good you’ll pay them back. And that’s where mortgage pre-approval comes in. Here’s everything you need to know about this crucial stage and how to ace it without a hitch.

What is mortgage pre-approval, anyway?

Mortgage pre-approval is that step in the process where a lender probes deep into your financial past, checking out your income, debts, credit score, and other factors that help it determine whether or not to give you a home loan—and how much money you stand to get. And that helps you set your sights on the right price range for a home.

“You need to know your buying power,” says Ray Rodriguez, New York City regional mortgage sales manager at TD Bank. Indeed, finding out your price range now can save you a lot of time and energy in the future.

“It’s emotionally crushing to find a home that you love and not be able to afford to purchase it,” he says.

Pre-approval vs. pre-qualification: What’s the difference?

Mortgage pre-qualification entails a basic overview of a borrower’s ability to get a loan. You provide a mortgage lender with information—about your income, assets, debts, and credit—but you don’t need to produce any paperwork to back it up. As such, pre-qualification is relatively easy and can be a fast way to get a ballpark figure of what you can afford. But it’s by no means a guarantee that you’ll actually get approved for the loan when you go to buy a home.

Getting pre-approved, in contrast, is a more in-depth process that involves a lender running a credit check and verifying your income and assets, says Rodriguez. Then an underwriter does a preliminary review of your financial portfolio and, if all goes well, issues a written commitment for financing up to a certain loan amount; this commitment is good for up to 90 or 120 days. So as long as you find your dream house and officially apply for your loan approval in that time period, you’re good to go!

Moreover, getting pre-approved is typically free, says Staci Titsworth, regional manager of PNC Mortgage in Pittsburgh. Expect it to take, on average, one to three days for your application to be processed.

Why pre-approval is important

A letter of pre-approval from a mortgage lender is akin to a VIP ticket straight into a home seller’s heart. Why? It’s proof you are both willing and able to purchase the home. Consequently, many sellers will accept an offer only from a buyer who has been pre-approved, which makes sense given that without pre-approval, there’s basically no guarantee whatsoever that the deal will go through.

What documentation you need

To get pre-approved, you’ll need to provide a mortgage lender with a good amount of paperwork. For the typical home buyer, this includes the following:

  • Pay stubs from the past 30 days showing your year-to-date income
  • Two years of federal tax returns
  • Two years of W-2 forms from your employer
  • 60 days or a quarterly statement of all of your asset accounts, which include your checking and savings, as well as any investment accounts such as CDs, IRAs, and other stocks or bonds
  • Any other current real estate holdings
  • Residential history for the past two years, including landlord contact information if you rented
  • Proof of funds for the down payment, such as a bank account statement. If the cash is a gift from your parents, “you need to provide a letter that clearly states that the money is a gift and not a loan,” says Rodriguez.

Don’t make this pre-approval mistake!

Each time you apply for a new credit account—including a home loan—you trigger a “hard inquiry” on your credit, which dings your credit score, says Bill Hardekopf, a credit expert at LowCards.com. Your score can drop as little as a few points or up to 14 points, depending on your credit history and the number of other loans or credit accounts you’ve applied for in the past 90 days, says Jeremy David Schachter, mortgage adviser and branch manager at Pinnacle Capital Mortgage in Phoenix, AZ.

Because hard inquiries hurt your credit score, you will want to avoid applying for pre-approval with multiple lenders; otherwise, your score could decline to the point where you get locked out of buying a home. Still, it’s beneficial to meet with several lenders to explore your options conversationally, since some lenders offer more competitive interest rates and better service than others.


Shopping for a home before getting preapproved for a mortgage is the equivalent of walking into a grocery store without a wallet. Yet, many homebuyers don’t get a loan preapproval before the house hunt. So, what is a preapproval? For one, a preapproval is different from a prequalification.

Preapproval: The lender verifies the borrower’s information and documentation to determine exactly how much it would be willing to lend to that borrower.

Prequalification: The lender relies on information provided by the buyer to estimate how much the borrower could qualify for.

“The documents to get preapproved are the same documents that you would need to get a mortgage,” says Jordan Roth, mortgage specialist with Guardhill Financial Corp. in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

Documents like:

  • Pay stubs.
  • Last two years’ W-2s.
  • Last two federal tax returns.
  • Two months’ worth of bank statements of all types of accounts.
  • Your credit report.

A preapproval is not a loan commitment, but it helps speed up the underwriting and loan approval process, Roth says.

Here are three reasons it’s better to get a mortgage preapproval before you go house hunting.

No. 1: The competitive market

Buyers often are eager to start looking at homes and tend to leave what they view as the boring, bureaucratic part of the homebuying process for last, says Michael Highfield, professor of finance and head of Mississippi State University’s department of finance and economics.

“But in this competitive market, any serious buyer should pursue a preapproval from a lender in advance to beginning a home search,” he says.

No. 2: No preapproval, no accepted offer

Real estate and loan professionals say it’s common to come across buyers who skip the preapproval process.

“It happens every day,” says Patty Da Silva, a real estate agent and owner of Green Realty Properties in Davie, Florida. “I can’t believe I still get offers today without a preapproval.”

As with many other agents and sellers, Da Silva says she rejects offers from buyers who don’t have preapproval letters from their banks.

“You have to have a preapproval and it must be a real preapproval where the lender has verified not just your credit, but bank statements, tax returns — and I call the lender to verify that,” she says.

No. 3: You need to know where you stand

Some buyers put off the loan application because they fear a lender may not approve them for the amount they plan to spend to buy the house, Highfield says.

“It’s like when people don’t go to the doctor for their annual checkup when they are afraid to find out what’s wrong with them,” he says. “That’s the same thing with getting preapproved.”

Others simply don’t want to share an abundance of private information with a lender until they actually find the home they want, he says.

You are beyond compare

Even if you pay your bills on time and earn about the same as the friend who just got that $300,000 mortgage, don’t assume you qualify for the same loan.

“A credit score difference of 700 to 680 can severely affect one’s ability in terms of down payment,” Roth says.

Getting preapproved before you shop for a loan also allows buyers time to fix unexpected errors on their credit reports.

Best Renovations to Help Sell Your Home

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The data relating to real estate for sale on this web site comes in part from the Greater Chattanooga Association of REALTORS®. Real estate listings held by brokerage firms other than Keller Williams Realty are marked with the IDX logo and detailed information about them includes the name of the listing brokers.

 

All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed and should be independently verified. All properties are subject to prior sale, change or withdrawal. Neither listing broker(s) nor Keller Williams Realty shall be responsible for any typographical errors, misinformation, misprints and shall be held totally harmless.

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