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How to's and money-saving tips from resident homeowner and mortgage professional, Cathy West

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Understanding options in the housing market

Understanding options in the housing market

When people are thinking about getting into the housing market – especially for the first time – they likely have a large number of questions. Issues such as how much house is reasonably affordable based on an individual's financial situation, how to get a mortgage that makes sense and the process of shopping for a property are all pressing.

Many of these problems can be exacerbated for those who are self-employed. They may run into far more stringent financial checks put in place by lenders wary of unpredictable income and, therefore, how likely such a person will pay mortgage bills each month.

Nonetheless, for those looking to get into the market today, there are some common paths regardless of their employment situations. The first is for would-be homeowners to examine their finances and determine if they have the down payment savings and credit scores necessary to qualify for a mortgage, according to Hawaii-based real estate agent Lorie Am Rhein.

After that, they should also think about what they want from their homes in terms of features that are "must-haves" versus "nice-to-haves," Rhein noted. Doing so can help them determine the reasonable price range for such a property and what that figure means for their ability to afford such a property.

What comes next?
Once people have determined the kinds of homes they want, they will likely also need to look into what's available in their areas, or properties to which they may now be considering moving, according to agent Brenda Hansen. For instance, those who have children will certainly want to think about the quality of the school district into which they are moving, among other issues, and it may also be wise to talk to a real estate professional about other factors such as resale prices, pending infrastructure changes that could alter the property's value and so on.

It may also be important to consider the economic situation in the town or neighborhood. If there is a chance prices could drop, that shift might negatively affect would-be buyers at some point in the future, especially if they're using this property as a means of building equity so they can trade up in a few years.

Reviewing the options
As it relates to must-haves and nice-to-haves, agents can advise clients about what's likely to be available in a target price range, but it's also important for shoppers to be flexible with their demands, according to Norhill Realty. If a home has a handful of must-haves but doesn't tick every box on a buyer's list, that shortfall might not be reason enough to move on, especially in today's competitive market.

Staying in close contact with an agent throughout the process will help keep first-time buyers in particular grounded and ensure they understand everything they need to know throughout the sale and into their time as homeowners. That might be particularly important for self-employed shoppers, simply because their mortgage application process is likely to be far more complicated than what other people will likely have to face.

For more information about this article, call 866-614-5959.

How to get the most from your agent or broker

How to get the most from your agent or broker

Millions of Americans may now be considering buying a home for the first time in their lives, and while they may have plenty of enthusiasm, they don't have a lot of experience with the housing market. As a result, many of them rely on a real estate agent or broker to help guide them through the process, which can help them glean plenty of expert insight into the homebuying process. That, in turn, will help them make the most informed decisions possible when it comes to finding properties that meet their needs.

Perhaps the best way for would-be buyers to approach this process is to talk with a few agents to find one who seems best suited to working with them throughout the process, according to The Balance. In much the same way shoppers shouldn't just accept the first mortgage offer they receive, sight unseen, they shouldn't work with the first agent they speak with no matter how competent they seem. Getting a number of different opinions – from agents themselves and by checking out reviews from past clients – will be key to making the right decision about an agent.

Getting it right

Once an agent has been selected, it's important to strategize about how best to go through the home search process, the report said. Agents will be able to give inexperienced buyers great advice about how they should approach open houses, such as how they shouldn't ask questions about the seller or their motivations for putting their houses on the market, and how to proceed when it comes to communicating with listing agents on an ongoing basis, particularly if shoppers may want to investigate the homes in question.

Buyers' agents will typically be well-versed in what homes in the area are worth and, therefore, what shoppers should expect to pay for them, according to The Washington Post. That, in turn, may help buyers make the most informed decisions about not only whether to bid for a home, but also what to bid, and whether they should make repeat bids past a certain point. Agents will also be able to let shoppers know what to expect if they get into a bit of a bidding war.

What to keep in mind
When finding a buyer's agent, shoppers should keep in mind that those real estate professionals are obligated to look out for that client's interests first and foremost, according to Nerdwallet. In some cases, however, agents might try to sell shoppers on houses being listed by their own agency, which can be a bit of a conflict of interests. In these cases, it may be wise to move on from those agents as a means of ensuring would-be buyers will be able to get the best possible deals on the homes they want.

As with anything else in real estate, the more research that can be done well in advance by hopeful homeowners, the better off they will be when it comes to getting a home and mortgage that fits their needs for years to come.

For more information about this article, call 866-614-5959.