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Starter Home - A Guide for First-Time Homebuyers

by The Hat Team


Purchasing your first home is a huge milestone…and not one that should be taken lightly.  It’s a big commitment and you want to make sure you get it right.  It’s important that you educate yourself before you begin the home buying process so that you can find the right property and procure the financing for it. 

Here are some things you should know as a first-time homebuyer:

  1. PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE HOME BUYING PROCESS

Entering the home buying process for the first time might feel a little overwhelming. You will have a lot of questions, but don’t worry, there will be people who will guide you through.The first thing to do is to find an . Your Realtor will assist you in finding your starter home, making an offer, and negotiating with sellers. Another person you should meet with prior to starting your home search is a mortgage lender. Your mortgage banker will help you complete your loan application along with determining the amount you qualify for. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is an important step that will set you on the right course for buying your first home. 3 Essential Reasons to Get a Mortgage Preapproval

  1. STARTING YOUR HOME SEARCH

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying in relation to real estate. It exists for a reason. Because location is one of the most important aspects in choosing a home.The first thing you must do when searching for your starter home is determine the area you want to live in.You should take many things into consideration when making this decision. Do you want city, suburban, or country living?What is the reputation of the school system?Are there shopping, dining and entertainment activities nearby?The answers to these questions aren’t just important for you when you’re living there, but may also have an impact on resale value. Remember, this is your starter home; not necessarily your forever home. So, you should take resale value into consideration when choosing the location. Once you’ve determined WHERE you want to look, you can create a list of what you’re looking for in a home.You may have to compromise on some things, but going into your search knowing what you want will make things less confusing. Home Buying Wish List

  1. FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS

When buying your starter home, there may be some expenses that you didn’t anticipate.  Don’t risk being blindsided by unexpected expenses.  Do your research and make sure you know what you are getting into.  Here are some costs you may not have thought of:

  • Closing costs
  • Home inspection
  • Moving expenses
  • Setting up your new house

Remember that your Realtor and Mortgage Banker are there to answer questions you may have, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of their expertise!

If you are considering the purchase of your starter home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 3234-834-1500!

The Top Features to Look for When Buying a House

by The Hat Team

House hunting can be overwhelming sometimes, especially when beginning the search for your first home.  Chances are you might get caught up in the process and important details might slip by you. While the number of rooms, condition of the kitchen, and size of the yard are important, there are other things to consider before you make an offer.  This list of things to look for can help get your search off to the right start.

  1.      Location

They say that the 3 most important things to look for when buying a home are location, location, location.  While a home might not be perfect, loving your neighborhood and neighbors can make all the difference in living with imperfection.  And face it…you can change almost anything about your house, but you can’t change its location or the people living nearby.  When you go house hunting, make sure to consider the home’s proximity to your work, the appeal of the neighborhood, where in the neighborhood the home is situated, ease of access, noise from neighbors, traffic, pets and access to parks, shopping, schools and public transportation.

  1.      Home Placement

Beyond location, look at how the home is situated.  If the home is on a hill does it have a view, a walkout basement, or lots of stairs to climb? Do neighbors' windows look directly into the home? Is the yard suitable for kids, pets, gardening, or other uses? Is their safe access to the home? These are all important questions to ask yourself when determining if it is the right property for you.

  1.      Check Out the Neighborhood

While it’s important for your house to meet your expectations, it’s equally important that the neighborhood meets them too. Take a drive around the development you are interested in on week days and weekends, during the day and in the evening.  Are the homes in good repair? Are yards kept clean and tidy?  Is the neighborhood safe enough for people to walk, run or bike?  Are there children playing outdoors?

  1.       Consider a Home’s Curb Appeal

You want a home that is going to reflect your lifestyle. Do you live a    casual, laid-back life? Then you probably won’t want a formal Victorian or Tudor style home.  A simple, contemporary home might better suit you.  Pay close attention to exterior features.  Think about maintenance.  For example, a brick home is easier to maintain than one with siding.  Do you like working in the yard?  If not, you might not want a house with extensive landscaping.  Is the roof in good condition?  Attention to detail will help you choose the home with the best curb appeal for you.

  1.       Size and Floor Plan

You may be thinking about buying your dream home. But is your dream home practical?  Do you need 4 bedrooms and 4 baths when you live alone? A spacious home may provide the extra room you've always wanted for a home office or a theater room, but you'll pay higher heating bills and have higher taxes. Additionally, it will take more furniture to furnish and money to decorate. Think about how the new home space will be used and whether it will fit your lifestyle now and in the future.

  1.        Bedrooms and Bathrooms

Decide how many bedrooms and bathrooms you will need and only    look at homes that meet that criteria.  You don’t want to fall in love with what is otherwise a perfect house if it doesn’t provide the space needed for your family.  It’s smart to consider counting an extra bedroom in that number so that you have extra space for a home office or guest room. If you think you might add on to the home later, make sure you consult an architect who can advise you on space planning and regulations.

  1.         The Kitchen

For many people, the kitchen is the heart of the home. Don’t settle for a home with a kitchen that doesn’t work for you.  Yes, you can remodel later, but at great expense.  If it’s an easy fix like replacing cabinets or countertops, get a price quote before committing to the house so that you will know if it is within your budget to take that on.

  1.          Closets and Storage

Older homes often have small closets and lack storage space.  As you’re looking at a home ask yourself where you will store your belongings.  Tiny closets don’t have to be a deal breaker.  There are ways to maximize storage without renovations. Newer homes tend to have lots of storage and you may sacrifice living space while having more closet space than you need.

  1.          Windows and Lighting

While looking at a home keep in mind your preferences regarding light and privacy.  Do you want a lot of windows to provider bright, sunny rooms?  Pay attention to the locations of electrical outlets and fixtures to make sure they will meet your lighting needs.

  1.            Finishing Touches

Even a simple home can look spectacular with the right moldings, hardware, and a fireplace.  If elements like these are important to you, look for them while house hunting. 

You may not find everything you want in one house, but keep this list handy and you are more likely to find the home that best suits your needs and desires.  Happy House Hunting!

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Mortgage-Tips-for-First-Time-Homebuyers

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Dont-Be-Afraid-to-Pursue-the-Dream-of-Home-Ownership

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/First-Time-Home-Buyers-and-Unexpected-Expenses

Don’t Be Afraid to Pursue the Dream of Home Ownership!

by The Hat Team

The idea of purchasing your first home is exciting, but can also feel overwhelming.  Before starting your home search, you need to figure out how much you can afford.  If you’ve been hesitant to move forward because you’re afraid you won’t have enough cash for a down payment or that you won’t qualify for a loan, you shouldn’t despair.  There are programs available that can help you!  So, stop padding your landlord’s pockets and take advantage of programs that will assist you in making a sound financial investment in a home of your own.

The Alabama Housing Finance Authority has two programs designed to assist people with purchasing homes:

1.Step Up - Step Up is a homeownership program designed specifically for moderate-income home buyers who can afford a mortgage, but need help with the down payment.  With this program, the money for the down payment is secured by a 10-year second mortgage and is combined with a 30-year, fixed-rate first mortgage.  Since the loans are serviced by ServiSolutions, a division of AHFA, homeowners have only one check to write each month.  Program participants must complete a homebuyer education course to qualify…a small price to pay to become a homeowner!  People who earn less than $97,300 are eligible for the Step Up program, regardless of household size or location.

Step Up+ is a new, temporary program that was just announced by the AHFA in June, 2017.  This mortgage enhancement will pay the upfront split private mortgage insurance premium (up to $1,500) for homebuyers who earn less than 80% of the area median income.  This way, homebuyers will pay a lower monthly premium as part of their mortgage payment. Information and qualifications:

  • HFA Preferred conventional loans only
  • 3% down payment assistance available through Step Up
  • For new or existing homes in Alabama
  • Homebuyers must have a credit score of 620 or higher
  • Must complete homeownership education course
  • Must apply for loan through a participating lender
  • Private mortgage insurance will be underwritten by Genworth or ARCH (no delegated options)

All Step Up+ loans must close by September 30, 2017.

The Step Up program’s standard $97,300 household income limits will NOT apply for Step Up+.

For more information, contact a participating lender.

2.Mortgage Credit Certificates - The Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program gives homebuyers another savings option.  MCCs are available with conventional fixed-rate, FHA, VA, Rural Development and privately insured mortgages.  Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis by a statewide network of participating lenders.  Participants must meet federally established income and sales price limits.

MCCs provide a tax credit to reduce the amount of federal taxes owed by a percentage               of the annual mortgage interest paid each year.  The remaining annual interest may be claimed as a mortgage interest deduction on the homebuyer’s federal tax return.

Qualified homebuyers pay lower federal income taxes or benefit from immediate savings by updating the withholdings on their W-4 form.  MCCs may be paired with AHFA’s Step Up program or any other 30-year, fixed rate, amortizing mortgage offered by a participating lender.

Mortgage credit rates are based on the loan amount:

  • 20% MCC for loans of $150,001 or greater; no cap
  • 30% MCC for loans of $100,001 to $150,000; $2,000 per year cap
  • 50% MCC for loans of $100,000 or less; $2,000 per year cap

The real estate professionals at Homes for Sale in Montgomery Alabama can explain these programs to you and answer any questions that you have.  Contact them and start your home search today!

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/First-Time-Home-Buyers-and-Unexpected-Expenses

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Apartment-Hunting-for-College-Graduates

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Home-Buying-Made-Easy

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