Think you are ready to "take the leap" and buy your first home? Here's things you need to think about and do as you get ready to make your biggest investment.
Buying your first home counts as one of life's rites of passage. It's an exciting time, but it's also fraught with some legitimate concerns. It's best to deal with those concerns before you get too involved in the process. This allows you to make better decisions overall. Here are some factors to keep in mind as you're moving through the pre-buying process.
Determine Your Price Range
Probably the biggest factor in your home-buying venture is price. You'll have to determine how much money you can afford to pay for a home mortgage each month. While it's natural to want to dream a bit when you're buying your first home, it's easy to get carried away with these feelings. If this happens, you could wind up trying to buy a home you can't afford. It's better to find a home that doesn't force you to pay more than you currently do for rent. It's even better if you find a home that costs less.
Mortgage and Down Payments
Many banks require you to have at least 20% of the home's purchase cost to put down before they even think about lending you money. However, that can be a significant amount for someone to put aside. For example, if you want to buy a home worth $300,000, you're looking at a $60,000 down payment. If you find yourself in this predicament, you may want to look for a lender who will work with you and accept a down payment closer to 5%.
There are several advantages of a 5% down-payment, but determine what's right for you. Here's a look at a few of them. First, you don't have to wait quite as long to build up savings if you pay 5% down. On a $300,000 home, that's $15K instead of $60K. That's a much easier amount to set aside. Second, if you get into a home quicker, then you're paying to own a home instead of paying rent. You're contributing to an investment. Finally, paying this amount also allows you to keep more money in savings, which can come in handy come home improvement time. Keep these advantages of placing a 5% down-payment in mind.
Get Your Credit in Order
Unless you're paying for a house outright, you're probably going to have to borrow money. Start getting a handle on your credit score long before you start the buying process. It isn't unreasonable to plan on working on your credit for a year or two if you have some problems
with your credit.
While this thought may seem like a lot of work, it'll be worth it come buying time. A solid credit score will only help you, especially if you want to pay a lower amount down. A banker will be more inclined to lend you money if they know that you have a good payment history.
Buying your first home comes with a lot of challenges. Factors like home prices, down payment and credit scores all play a role. Your best bet is to do your research and start getting your finances in order. Doing this will help you regardless of where you are in the home-buying process.
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Your home is the most significant investment for almost every American. Do you know how to choose the right coverage for you and your family? Here's tips how.
How to pick the right homeowners insurance
(BPT) - If you're like many Americans, your home may be your most valuable asset. That's why it's so important to protect it with homeowners insurance. Plus, it's probably a requirement of your mortgage. Setting up your coverage the right way starts with understanding the major parts of a homeowners policy.
Consider the following information and tips from the USAA Home Learning Center:
This protection covers the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home if it's damaged or destroyed. When you select the amount, keep in mind the cost to rebuild your home is different from its market value.
It's important to get the dwelling coverage right and to monitor it over time to make sure it keeps up with construction costs to rebuild. Under most homeowners policies, if you file a claim and have underinsured your home, your payout may be reduced.
Some insurers will help you estimate the rebuilding cost. They take into account the features, materials and finishes that make your home unique.
Personal property protection
This protection covers your furniture, clothing and pretty much everything else inside your home. Most policies set the amount of personal property protection as a percentage of the dwelling coverage.
It may not be enough, though. Homeowners plans set limits on certain high-value items. If you own expensive jewelry, art, guns, stamps, furs, cameras, computers, silver or collectibles, you'll want to consider buying valuable personal property insurance. This is sometimes called a "personal articles floater."
When you set up your homeowners policy, you may have to make an important choice about how to reimburse losses. There are two approaches:
To make your recovery from a loss as smooth as possible, replacement cost coverage is recommended.
This is one of the most important and least appreciated forms of protection offered through homeowners coverage. It protects you if you're found to be at fault for someone's injury or property damage. It even covers you for non-automobile incidents away from your home. Generally, it also covers your legal costs associated with such claims against you.
As a rule, your liability coverage should at least be equal to the total value of your assets for both your homeowners and auto insurance. If your assets are higher than the maximum coverage allowed under the policy, consider purchasing umbrella insurance to cover the difference. This is important to protect the savings and other assets you've worked hard to acquire.
As with other types of insurance, a deductible is the part of a loss that you're responsible for covering out of your own pocket. The higher your deductible, the lower your monthly premium.
Choosing a higher deductible can save you money with a lower monthly premium but increases the risk you take. Consider the amount of cash you typically have on hand in your emergency fund or checking and savings accounts. Make sure you can cover the deductible amount comfortably.
What may not be covered
Your policy's basic coverage won't cover some special risks.
For additional information on protecting your home, visit USAA.com/Homeowners.
(BPT) - Your most valuable asset is around you all the time. It’s above you, it’s below you and in many cases you don’t realize how much it can do for you.
According to the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., “Americans have a staggering amount of untapped equity in their homes.” How much? Altogether, $11,030,000,000,000. That’s 11 trillion, 30 billion dollars.
Yet despite this huge wealth possessed by homeowners, using it isn’t as simple as writing a check. You have to capitalize on your home’s equity.
What Is Home Equity?
Your home’s equity represents the difference between its current market value and the money that you owe on it.
Let’s say, for example, your home has a market value of $200,000, you made a down payment of $40,000 and you took out a $160,000 mortgage. At that point your equity is $40,000. You can always calculate this number by taking your home’s initial price and subtracting the amount you still owe.
Now, let’s say 10 years later you have paid off $60,000 of your $160,000 mortgage. At this point you still owe $100,000 on your home’s initial price of $200,000 so your equity is $100,000, assuming the home's value has remained the same.
A little at a time
Each month when you make a mortgage payment, some of your money goes toward interest, some goes toward real estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance (if the lender is collecting for these and making the payments on your behalf), and some goes toward paying off the mortgage itself. This last portion grows your equity because it subtracts from the amount you still owe.
Your home equity can also grow if your home increases in value because the amount you still owe has not changed. A rise in value may be due to increased home prices in your area and/or improvements you make to the home.
Market home prices may rise and fall from one year to the next but given enough time, most real estate tends to increase in value. For example, current economic forecasts from CoreLogic project a 4.8 percent increase in home prices year over year in 2017.
Gaining access to your equity
Now that you understand what equity is and how much equity you have, your next question may be “How do I use it?”
Your first step is to contact a knowledgeable mortgage professional. They will be able to answer your questions as well as show you loans that use your home as collateral. You’ll want to do your research to determine which type of loan is best for you. You should also take the time to compare interest rates, offers and loan features.
And if you are age 62 or older, you are also eligible for additional home equity options such as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), which is an FHA-insured Reverse Mortgage loan. This loan may be taken as a lump sum, a line of credit, through fixed monthly payments or a combination and the loan can never be frozen or reduced.
The equity in your home empowers you with several financing options and the specifics of each loan may vary from lender to lender, so ask questions and do your own research. Once you understand all your options you’ll be able to determine which loan offering allows you to make the most of your most valuable asset.
To learn about HECM Reverse Mortgage loans and other special home-equity options available to homeowners 62 and older, visit www.reversemortgage.org/HomeEquity.
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