Cheryl Deschenes' Blog
A mortgage pre-approval can be a valuable tool for understanding how much you can afford to spend on purchasing a home. It can also make you seem much more attractive to sellers and help to identify any potential problems that may make it difficult to get a loan. In fact, many lenders claim that if a buyer isn’t pre-approved for a mortgage, they will have a difficult time navigating the real estate market. But what does pre-approval really mean?
What is a Mortgage Pre-Approval?
While it can sound like you’ve got a sure thing locked in when you’re pre-approved for a mortgage, being pre-approved doesn’t promise that you’ll be able to secure a loan for the home that you want to purchase. A mortgage pre-approval simply means that a loan officer has reviewed your finances and decided how much money you're allocated to borrow, what you should be able to pay each month towards your mortgage and what your interest rate will be.
Once, you’ve been pre-approved by a lender, you will get a letter that can be shown to sellers. This letter indicates that you’ve already established a working relationship with a lender. This helps to give sellers peace of mind in knowing that you’re serious about putting in an offer on their home, and they don’t have to risk wasting time with a buyer who isn’t serious.
What Are the Benefits of Getting a Pre-Approval?
A pre-approval doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a mortgage but it does offer a few key advantages during your search for the ideal home. It helps to give you confidence while looking at potential properties, as you look at homes that are within your budget. There’s no need to fall in love with a home that you can’t afford. Additionally, it establishes credibility as a buyer, showing that you have your finances under control and can help to put you on the fast-track to closing once you’ve found the perfect home.
Are Pre-Approval & Pre-Qualified the Same Thing?
Unfortunately, no. These two similar real estate terms are not interchangeable. When you are pre-qualified for a mortgage, this indicates that you have given your lender information regarding your income, debts and assets. Without doing further research, the lender then tells you that you should qualify for a certain mortgage. Pre-approval is a much more in-depth process, requiring your lender to verify the financial information provided by pulling your credit history, as well as verifying your income and assets.
If you’re a first time homebuyer and want to start weighing your mortgage options, you’ll have much to learn. With so much at stake, you’ll want to make sure you choose the best mortgage for you now, and one that will still suit your needs years into the future.
Sometimes, first time buyers are hesitant to ask questions they may consider too basic because they don’t want to seem inexperienced to lenders, agents, or anyone else they’ll be in contact with throughout the home buying process.
So, in this article, we’ve compiled a list of commonly asked mortgage questions that first time buyers might want to ask before heading into the process of acquiring a home loan.
What is the first step to getting a mortgage?
This question may seem straightforward, however the first step can vary depending on your financial situation. For those who already have saved up for a down payment and built a solid credit score, the first step is probably contacting lenders and getting preapproved or prequalified.
However, if you aren’t sure about your credit score and haven’t saved up for a down payment (ideally, 20% of what you hope to spend on the house), then you should address those matters first.
To find a lender, you can do a simple Google search for the mortgage lenders in your area, or you can ask around to friends and family to find out their experience with their own mortgage lenders.
What does it mean to be pre-qualified and pre-approved?
If you think of the mortgage process in three steps, the first step would be getting pre-qualified. This means you’ve given the lender enough basic information for them to decide which type of mortgage you’re eligible to receive.
Pre-approval includes collecting and verifying further details. At this step, you’ll complete a mortgage application and the lender will run a credit check. Once you’re pre-approved, your file can be moved to the underwriting phase.
What are closing costs?
“Closing costs” is an umbrella term that covers all of the various fees and expenses related to buying or selling a home. As a buyer, you are responsible for paying numerous closing costs. These can include, but are not limited to, underwriting fees, title searches, title insurance, origination fees, taxes, appraisal fees, surveys, and more.
That sounds like a lot to keep track of, however your lender will be able to give you an accurate estimate of the total closing costs when you apply for your loan. In fact, lenders are required to give you a list of these costs within three days of your loan application in the form of a “good faith estimate” of the closing costs.
What will my interest rate be?
The answer to this question is dependent upon numerous factors. The value of the home, your credit score, the amount you put down (down payment), the type of mortgage you have, and whether or not you’re paying private mortgage insurance all factor into the interest rate you’ll receive. Interest rates also will vary slightly between lenders.
You can receive a fixed-rate mortgage that does not fluctuate throughout the repayment term. However, you also typically have the option to refinance to acquire a lower interest rate, however refinancing comes with its own costs.
For years, people have believed that their new home purchase is the same kind of investment as their 401k or stock and bonds. Even with the obvious drops in prices during and since the economic crash, many buyers continue letting their home be their only retirement asset. The main property you live in should be left out of your retirement investment math and planning, and you're about to learn why.
So, What’s the Big Deal?
Compared to other types of investments, the long term returns on your home purchase is nearly zero. Between the property taxes, changes due to inflation, interest on your mortgage and the cost of repairs or upgrades to the home you absorb most if not all or even more than the home's property value. Contrary to popular belief, the value of most property doesn't increase faster than inflation, at least according to history so far. Besides, that massive down payment you put together at the outset isn't earning any interest, and the other monies paid in are also tied up in the “investment” but not actually earning anything back.
OK, So Why Buy at All?
Buying a home isn't the best plan for your retirement plan, but there are plenty of other reasons to make a home purchase. You buy in order to have a place that is your own; a base from which to create your community, raise your family and establish your presence in an area for years to come or to have something of your own to pass on to your descendants. Here are some of the most common reasons to buy a home:
- The Joy and Pride of Ownership: Properties lived in by owners often are kept in better condition than those lived in by renters. Owners see the house as part of themselves and improve them regularly by investing in upgrades.
- More Space to Play With: Typically, dollar for dollar, a purchased home has more space for the monthly mortgage cost including outdoor patios and yards than a similarly priced rental property.
- Control Over the Looks: When you own a property, you can customize it how you want. Change the paint color or the windows or landscaping as you like.
- Safety and Security: Many homeowners feel safer in their own property. As the homeowner, you have complete control over the security measures in your home.
Should You Buy a Home?
Buying is a significant step in your life but only do it when its right for your financial circumstances. Make sure you understand the home's value both now and in your future and where all that money is actually going. If you genuinely want an investment property, look into purchasing a second property to use as a vacation home or rental property. Since you don't need that property to live in, it indeed is an investment.
When you think you're ready to buy, contact your local real estate agent to start discussing the particulars. Whether it's your first purchase, forever home or investment property, they are here to help.
If you plan to pursue a home in the near future, there is no need to wait to get a mortgage. Because if you enter the housing market with a mortgage in hand, you'll know exactly how much you can spend to acquire your dream house. As a result, you'll be able to map out your home search based on your property buying budget.
There are many things you can do to ensure you can get a great mortgage prior to launching a house search. These include:
1. Learn About Your Mortgage Options
Banks and credit unions offers a wide range of mortgage options. If you meet with these financial institutions, you can learn about all of the mortgage options at your disposal.
As you assess your mortgage options, it is crucial to weigh the pros and cons of each option. That way, you can make an informed decision about a mortgage and decide which option will serve you well in the years to come.
2. Ask Mortgage Questions
If you are uncertain about what differentiates one mortgage option from another, it is important to remember you are not alone. Fortunately, you can ask mortgage questions to home financing professionals to determine which mortgage option is right for you.
Banks and credit unions employ friendly, knowledgeable home financing specialists who are ready to respond to your mortgage queries. Thus, if you discuss your mortgage concerns with home financing specialists, you can get the guidance you need to choose the best mortgage based on your individual needs.
3. Improve Your Credit Score
Your credit score may have far-flung effects on your ability to get pre-approved for a mortgage. However, if you analyze your credit score, you can determine if you need to take steps to improve this score before you apply for a mortgage.
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Take advantage of this complimentary perk, and you can analyze your credit score at your convenience.
If you have outstanding debt on your credit report, you may want to pay this off as soon as possible. Remember, the sooner you pay off outstanding debt, the sooner you can bolster your credit score.
In addition, if you identify any errors on your credit report, notify the agency that provided the report immediately. This will allow you to correct any credit report mistakes before you submit a mortgage application.
As you get set to apply for a mortgage and conduct a home search, you may want to hire a real estate agent too. A real estate agent can provide expert guidance as you pursue your dream residence. He or she will help you find a house that matches your budget, attend home showings and much more.
Ready to launch a comprehensive home search? Get pre-approved for a mortgage, and you can take the first step to establish a budget for the homebuying journey.
You’ve been a renter for a long time because you knew you had wanderlust and might pick up and move at the end of your lease. Now you've stayed in the same place for a couple of years. You've put down roots and built relationships. You have a sense of community. But are you ready to buy?
Buying a home feels like a big commitment, and it is, so it should! You may not be choosing your forever home just yet, but no matter if it's a starter home or the one you want to raise a family in, buying a home locks you into the community, to a mortgage payment, and to the structure.
Learn all you can
When you rent, you only have your rent and a few utilities to factor into your budget. With a home, you'll have your principle and interest on your mortgage. You'll also have property taxes and insurance. And, depending on your underwriting situation, you may have PMI (private mortgage insurance), too!
Practice making payments
Use one of the many online mortgage calculators to determine your potential principal and interest. Then, check out the county taxes for where you want to buy—some online calculators even have a place to enter this as well as PMI. Add in an average insurance premium for your area. Now that you more closely have an idea of what your monthly payments will be. If it is higher than your current rent, start setting aside the difference now. You need to know that you can make the payment before you get into the house.
Factor in maintenance
The area buyers are most surprised about is the cost of maintenance. The A/C goes down, oops $4000. The roof leaks, that’s another $2500. Plumbing backs up and ruins the carpet? Now you have to pay for both plumbing and flooring. Insisting on a home warranty (that the seller provides) and mitigate some of these costs in the early years, but ongoing they are all yours, baby!
You may be planning to do your own and will have the one-time expense of equipment, but if not, you'll need to add in extra for regular landscaping. If you have a pool, you have to figure extra for pool care.
Since you won’t have a landlord to call, you’ll need to factor in pest control for bugs and rodents.
Ownership is a beautiful thing, but being prepared is more beautiful. Ask your real estate agent about classes or seminars on home ownership that you can participate in to adequately prepare.