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VA Loans: Making Homes for the Brave Achievable [INFOGRAPHIC]

VA Loans: Making Homes for the Brave Achievable [INFOGRAPHIC].

VA Loans: Making Homes for the Brave Achievable [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights

  • VA Loans can help make homeownership possible for those who have served our country.
  • These loans offer great benefits for eligible individuals and can help them buy a VA-approved house or condo, build a new home, or make improvements to their house.
  • Homeownership is the American Dream. One way we can honor and thank our veterans is to ensure they have the best information about the benefits of VA home loans.
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VA Loans Can Help Veterans Achieve Their Dream of Homeownership

VA Loans Can Help Veterans Achieve Their Dream of Homeownership.

For over 78 years, Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans have provided millions of veterans with the opportunity to purchase homes of their own. If you or a loved one have served, it’s important to understand this program and its benefits.

Here are some things you should know about VA loans before you start the homebuying process.

What Are VA Loans?

VA home loans provide a pathway to homeownership for those who have served our nation. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs describes the program like this:

“VA helps Servicemembers, Veterans, and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners. As part of our mission to serve you, we provide a home loan guaranty benefit and other housing-related programs to help you buy, build, repair, retain, or adapt a home for your own personal occupancy.”

Top Benefits of the VA Home Loan Program

In addition to helping eligible buyers achieve their homeownership dreams, VA loans have several other great benefits for buyers who qualify. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs:

  • Qualified borrowers can often purchase a home with no down payment.
  • Many other loans with down payments under 20% require Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). VA Loans do not require PMI, which means veterans can save on their monthly housing costs.
  • VA-Backed Loans often offer competitive terms and mortgage interest rates.

A recent article from Veterans United sums up just how impactful this loan option can be:

“For the vast majority of military borrowers, VA loans represent the most powerful lending program on the market. These flexible, $0-down payment mortgages have helped more than 24 million service members become homeowners since 1944.”

John Bell, Acting Executive Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Loan Guaranty Service, also explains why this program is so powerful:

“It provides early ownership for many people that would not have that opportunity to begin with. Since there’s no down payment, it allows people to hold their wealth and it gives them the ability to have long term financial security by being able to own a house and let that equity grow.”

Bottom Line

Homeownership is the American Dream. Our veterans sacrifice so much in service of our nation, and one way we can honor and thank them is to ensure they have the best information about the benefits of VA home loans. Thank you for your service.

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Taking the Fear out of Saving for a Home

Taking the Fear out of Saving for a Home.

If you’re planning to buy a home, knowing what to budget for and how to save may sound scary at first. But it doesn’t have to be. One way to take the fear out of budgeting is understanding some of the costs you might encounter.  And to do that, turn to trusted real estate professionals. They can help you plan your finances and prepare your budget.

Here are just a few costs experts say you can expect.

1. Down Payment

Saving for your down payment is likely top of mind as you set out to buy a home. But do you know how much you’ll need to save? While each situation is different, there’s a common misconception that putting 20% down toward your purchase is required. An article from the Mortgage Reports explains why that’s not always the case:

“The idea that you have to put 20% down on a house is a myth. . . . The right amount depends on your current savings and your home buying goals.”

To understand your options, partner with a trusted real estate professional to go over the various loan types, down payment assistance programs, and what each one requires.

2. Closing Costs

Make sure you also budget for closing costs, which are a collection of fees and payments made to the various people involved in your transaction. Bankrate explains:

Closing costs are the fees you pay when finalizing a real estate transaction, whether you’re refinancing a mortgage or buying a new home. These costs can amount to 2 to 5 percent of the mortgage so it’s important to be financially prepared for this expense.”

The best way to understand what you’ll need at the closing table is to work with a trusted lender. They can provide you with answers to the questions you might have.

3. Earnest Money Deposit

If you want to cover all your bases, you can also consider saving for an earnest money deposit (EMD). An EMD is money you pay as a show of good faith when you make an offer on a house. According to realtor.com, it’s usually between 1% and 2% of the total home price.

This deposit works like a credit. It’s not an added expense – it’s paying a portion of your costs upfront. You’re using some of the money you already saved for your purchase to show the seller you’re committed and serious about their house. Realtor.com describes how it works as part of your sale:

It tells the real estate seller you’re in earnest as a buyer, . . . . Assuming that all goes well and the buyer’s good-faith offer is accepted by the seller, the earnest money funds go toward the down payment and closing costs. In effect, earnest money is just paying more of the down payment and closing costs upfront.”

Keep in mind, an EMD isn’t required, and it doesn’t guarantee your offer will be accepted. It’s important to work with a real estate advisor to understand what’s best for your situation and any specific requirements in your area. They’ll help you determine what moves you should make in the homebuying process to have the greatest success.

Bottom Line

Budgeting for your home purchase doesn’t have to be scary. Let’s connect so you’ll have an expert on your side to answer any questions you have along the way.

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Four Things That Help Determine Your Mortgage Rate

Four Things That Help Determine Your Mortgage Rate.

If you’re looking to buy a home, you probably want to secure the lowest interest rate possible for your home loan. Over the last couple of years, that was easier to do as the housing market saw record-low mortgage rates, but this year rates have risen dramatically.

If you’re looking for ways to combat today’s higher rates and lock in the lowest one you can, here are a few factors to focus on. Since approval opportunities can vary, connect with a trusted lender for customized advice.

Your Credit Score

Credit scores can play a big role in your mortgage rate. Freddie Mac explains:

When you build and maintain strong credit, mortgage lenders have greater confidence when qualifying you for a mortgage because they see that you’ve paid back your loans as agreed and used your credit wisely. Strong credit also means your lender is more apt to approve you for a mortgage that has more favorable terms and a lower interest rate.”

That’s why it’s important to maintain a good credit score. If you want to focus on improving your score, your trusted advisor can give you expert advice to help.

Your Loan Type

There are many types of loans, each offering different terms for qualified buyers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says:

There are several broad categories of mortgage loans, such as conventional, FHA, USDA, and VA loans. Lenders decide which products to offer, and loan types have different eligibility requirements. Rates can be significantly different depending on what loan type you choose.”

When working with your real estate advisor, make sure you find out what’s available in your area and which types of loans you may qualify for.

Your Loan Term

Another factor to consider is the term of your loan. Just like with location and loan types, you have options. Freddie Mac says:

When choosing the right home loan for you, it’s important to consider the loan term, which is the length of time it will take you to repay your loan before you fully own your home. Your loan term will affect your interest rate, monthly payment, and the total amount of interest you will pay over the life of the loan.”

Depending on your situation, the length of your loan can also change your mortgage rate.

Your Down Payment

If you’re a current homeowner looking to sell and make a move, you can use the home equity you’ve built over time toward the down payment on your next home. The CFPB explains:

In general, a larger down payment means a lower interest rate, because lenders see a lower level of risk when you have more stake in the property. So if you can comfortably put 20 percent or more down, do it—you’ll usually get a lower interest rate.”

To learn more, connect with a lender to find out the difference a higher down payment can make for your new mortgage.

Bottom Line

These are just few factors that can help determine your mortgage rate if you’re buying a home. The best thing you can do is have a team of professionals on your side. Connect with a local real estate professional and a trusted lender so you have the expert advice you need in each step of the process.

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Saving for a Down Payment? Here’s What You Should Know.

Saving for a Down Payment? Here’s What You Should Know..

As you set out to buy a home, saving for a down payment is likely top of mind. But you may still have questions about the process, including how much to save and where to start.

If that sounds like you, your down payment could be more in reach than you originally thought. Here’s why.

The 20% Down Payment Myth

If you believe you have to put 20% down on a home, you may have based your goal on a common misconception. Freddie Mac explains:

“. . . nearly a third of prospective homebuyers think they need a down payment of 20% or more to buy a home. This myth remains one of the largest perceived barriers to achieving homeownership.”

Unless it’s specified by your loan type or lender, it’s typically not required to put 20% down. According to the latest Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. There are even loan types, like FHA loans, with down payments as low as 3.5%, as well as options like VA loans and USDA loans with no down payment requirements for qualified applicants.

This is good news for you because it means you could be closer to your homebuying dream than you realize. For more information, turn to a trusted lender.

Down Payment Assistance Programs Can Be a Game Changer

A professional will be able to show you other options that could help you get closer to your down payment goal. According to latest Homeownership Program Index from downpaymentresource.com, there are over 2,000 homebuyer assistance programs in the U.S., and the majority are intended to help with down payments.

A recent article explains why programs like these are helpful:

These resources can immediately build your home buying power and help you take action sooner than you thought possible.”

And if you’re wondering if you have to be a first-time buyer to qualify for these programs, that’s not always the case. According to an article from downpaymentresource.com:

“It is a common misconception that homebuyer assistance is only available to first-time homebuyers, however, 38% of homebuyer assistance programs in Q1 2022 did not have a first-time homebuyer requirement.

There are also location and profession-based programs you could qualify for as well.

Bottom Line

Saving for your down payment is an important first step on your homebuying journey. Let’s connect today and make sure you have a trusted lender to help explore your options.

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Homeownership Could Be in Reach with Down Payment Assistance Programs

Homeownership Could Be in Reach with Down Payment Assistance Programs.

A recent survey from Bankrate asks prospective buyers to identify the biggest obstacles in their homebuying journey. It found that 36% of those polled said saving for a down payment is one of their primary hurdles to buying a home.

If you feel the same way, the good news is there are many down payment assistance programs available that can help you achieve your homeownership goals. The key is understanding where to look and learning what options are available. Here’s some information that can help you.

You Can Qualify Even if You’ve Purchased a Home Before

There are several misconceptions about down payment assistance programs. For starters, many people believe there’s only assistance available for first-time homebuyers. While first-time buyers have many options to explore, repeat buyers have some, too. According to the latest Homeownership Program Index from downpaymentresource.com:

“It is a common misconception that homebuyer assistance is only available to first-time homebuyers, however, 38% of homebuyer assistance programs in Q1 2022 did not have a first-time homebuyer requirement.

That means repeat buyers could qualify for over one-third of the assistance programs available. And if you’re a repeat buyer, you may still be able to take advantage of some first-time homebuyer programs, depending on your personal situation. That’s because downpaymentresource.com also notes many of the first-time homebuyer programs use the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of a first-time homebuyer. Under their definition, you could qualify as a first-time buyer if you’re:

  • Someone who hasn’t owned a primary residence in 3 years.
  • A single parent who’s only ever owned a home with a former spouse.

That means no matter where you are in your homeownership journey, there could be an option available for you.

You May Be Eligible for Programs Based on Your Location or Profession

In addition to broader options available for repeat and first-time homebuyers, there are other types of down payment assistance programs that you could qualify for based on your location. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR):

“Many local governments and non-profit organizations offer down-payment assistance grants and loans, targeted to area borrowers and often with specific borrower requirements.”

Plus, there are programs and special benefits for individuals working in certain professions or with unique statuses, including teachers, doctors and nurses, and veterans.

Ultimately, that means there are many federal, state, and local programs available for you to explore. The best way to do that is to connect with a local real estate professional and your lender to learn more about what’s available in your area.

Bottom Line

Down payment assistance programs have helped many homebuyers achieve their dreams, and if you qualify, they could help you too. Let’s connect today so you can begin exploring your options.

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Three Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Three Tips for First-Time Homebuyers.

Buying your first home is a major decision and an exciting milestone. Even though it can feel daunting at times, it has the power to change your life for the better. If you’re looking to purchase your first home, you may be wondering what’s happening in the housing market today, how much you need to save, and where to start.

Here are three things that can help give you the information you need to confidently pursue your dream of homeownership.

1. Consider All Options When the Number of Homes for Sale Is Low

Today, there are far more buyers in the market than there are homes available for sale. When that happens, it’s a good idea to do what you can to increase your pool of options. That could mean expanding your search to include additional housing types. For first-time buyers, considering condominiums (condos) and townhomes can be an excellent way to increase your choices. According to Bankrate:

“Townhomes often cost less than single-family homes of a similar size in the same location.”

In another article, Bankrate also says:

“Buying a condo can be a great way to dive into homeownership without worrying about the upkeep that comes with single-family homes and townhouses.”

Condos and townhomes are both great entryways into homeownership. When you buy either one, you can start building equity which increases your net worth and can fuel a future move.

2. Know Your Down Payment Could Be More Within Reach Than You Think

Saving for a down payment can feel like one of the biggest obstacles for homebuyers, but that doesn’t have to be the case. As the National Association of Realtors (NAR) says:

One of the biggest misconceptions among housing consumers is what the typical down payment is and what amount is needed to enter homeownership.”

Data from NAR shows the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. The graph below breaks down the median down payment by age group for recent homebuyers according to the 2022 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report from NAR (see graph below):

Three Tips for First-Time Homebuyers | Simplifying The Market

Based on the data above, the median down payment for all homebuyers is only 13%. That’s well below the common misconception of 20%, and it’s even lower for younger buyers. This could mean you may not need to save as much for a down payment as you initially thought.

There are also down payment assistance programs available for many buyers. Not to mention, some loan options require as little as 3.5% (or even 0%) down for buyers who qualify. While there are advantages to putting 20% down, especially in today’s competitive market, know that you have options.  To get more information on how much you may need to save and the help that’s available, talk with a professional.

3. Work with a Trusted Real Estate Advisor Throughout the Process

Finally, no matter where you’re at in your homeownership journey, the best way to make sure you’re set up for success is to work with a real estate professional.

If you’re just starting out, they can help you with the initial steps, like educating you on the process and connecting you with a trusted lender to get pre-approved. Once you’re ready to begin your search, a real estate professional can help you understand your local market and search for available homes. And when it’s time to make an offer, they’ll be an expert advisor and negotiator to help your offer stand out above the rest.

Bottom Line

Knowledge is key to succeeding on your homebuying journey. Knowing market trends, what you need for a down payment, and what options you have as a buyer today can give you the confidence you need to buy a home. Let’s connect so you have an expert on your side who can help you navigate the homebuying process.

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Things That Could Help You Win a Bidding War on a Home

Things That Could Help You Win a Bidding War on a Home.

With a limited number of homes for sale today and so many buyers looking to make a purchase before mortgage rates rise further, bidding wars are common. According to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), nationwide, homes are getting an average of 4.8 offers per sale. Here’s a look at how that breaks down state-by-state (see map below):

Things That Could Help You Win a Bidding War on a Home | Simplifying The Market

The same report from NAR shows the average buyer made two offers before getting their third offer accepted. In this type of competitive housing market, it’s important to know what levers you can pull to help you beat the competition. While a real estate professional is your ultimate guide to presenting a strong offer, here are a few things you could consider.

Offering over Asking Price

When you think of sweetening the deal for sellers, the first thought you likely have is around the price of the home. In today’s housing market, it’s true more homes are selling for over asking price because there are more buyers than there are homes for sale. You just want to make sure your offer is still within your budget and realistic for the market value in your area – that’s where a local real estate professional can help you through the process. Bankrate says:

Simply put, being willing to pay more money than other buyers is one of the best ways to get your offer accepted. You may not have to increase it by a lot — it’ll depend on the area and other factors — so look to your real estate agent for guidance.”

Putting Down a Bigger Earnest Money Deposit

You could also consider putting down a larger deposit up front. An earnest money deposit is a check you write to go along with your offer. If your offer is accepted, this deposit is credited toward your home purchase. NerdWallet explains how it works:

A typical earnest money deposit is 1% to 2% of the home’s purchase price, but the amount varies by location. A higher earnest money deposit may catch a seller’s attention in a hot housing market.”

That’s because it shows the seller you’re seriously interested in their house and have already set aside money that you’re ready to put toward the purchase. Talk to a professional to see if this is something you can do in your area. 

Making a Higher Down Payment 

Another option is increasing how much of a down payment you’re going to make. The benefit of a higher down payment is you won’t have to finance as much. This helps the seller feel like there’s less risk of the deal or the financing falling through. And if other buyers put less down, it could be what helps your offer stand out from the crowd.

Non-Financial Options To Make a Strong Offer

Realtor.com points out that while increasing these financial portions of the deal can help, they’re not your only options:

. . . Price is not the only factor sellers weigh when they look at offers. The buyer’s terms and contingencies are also taken into account, as well as pre-approval letters, appraisal requirements, and the closing time the buyer is asking for.”

When it’s time to make an offer, partner with a trusted professional. They have insight into what sellers are looking for in your local market and can give you expert advice on what levers you may or may not want to pull when it’s time to write an offer.

From a non-financial perspective, this can include things like flexible move-in dates or minimal contingencies (conditions you set that the seller must meet for the purchase to be finalized). For example, you could make an offer that’s not contingent on the sale of your current home. Just remember, there are certain contingencies you don’t want to forego, like your home inspection. Ultimately, the options you have can vary state-to-state, so it’s best to lean on an expert real estate professional for guidance.

Bottom Line

In today’s hot housing market, you need a partner who can serve as your guide, especially when it comes to making a strong offer. Let’s connect so you have a trusted resource and coach on how to make the strongest offer possible for your specific situation.

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What You Need To Budget for When Buying a Home

What You Need To Budget for When Buying a Home.

When it comes to buying a home, it can feel a bit intimidating to know how much you need to save and where to find that information. But you should know, you’re not expected to have all the answers yourself. There are many trusted professionals who can help you understand your finances and what you’ll need to budget for throughout the process.

To get you started, here are a few things experts say you should plan for along the way.

1. Down Payment

As you set your savings goal for your purchase, your down payment is likely already top of mind. And, like many other people, you may believe you need to set aside 20% of the home’s purchase price for that down payment – but that’s not always the case. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says:

One of the biggest misconceptions among housing consumers is what the typical down payment is and what amount is needed to enter homeownership. Having this knowledge is critical to know what to save . . .”

The good news is, you may be able to put as little as 3.5% (or even 0%) down in some situations. To understand your options, partner with a trusted professional who can go over the various loan types, down payment assistance programs, and what each one requires.

2. Earnest Money Deposit

Another item you may want to plan for is an earnest money deposit. While it isn’t required, it’s common in today’s highly competitive market because it can help your offer stand out in a bidding war.

So, what is it? It’s money you pay as a show of good faith when you make an offer on a house. This deposit works like a credit. You’re using some of the money you already saved for your purchase to show the seller you’re committed and serious about their house. It’s not an added expense, it’s just paying some of that up front. First American explains what it is and how it works:

The deposit made from the buyer to the seller when submitting an offer. This deposit is typically held in trust by a third party and is intended to show the seller you are serious about purchasing their home. Upon closing the money will generally be applied to your down payment or closing costs.”

In other words, an earnest money deposit could be the very first check you’ll write toward your purchase. The amount varies by state and situation. Realtor.com elaborates:

The amount you’ll deposit as earnest money will depend on factors such as policies and limitations in your state, the current market, what your real estate agent recommends, and what the seller requires. On average, however, you can expect to hand over 1% to 2% of the total home purchase price.”

Work with a real estate advisor to understand any requirements in your local area and what they’ve recommended for other buyers in your market. They’ll help you determine if it’s something that could be a useful option for you.

3. Closing Costs

The next thing to plan for is your closing costs. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines closing costs as:

The upfront fees charged in connection with a mortgage loan transaction. …generally including, but not limited to a loan origination fee, title examination and insurance, survey, attorney’s fee, and prepaid items, such as escrow deposits for taxes and insurance.”

Basically, your closing costs cover the fees for various people and services involved in your transaction. NAR has this to say about how much to budget for:

“A home costs more than just the sale price. For example, closing costs—which make up about 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price—are a major added expense…Lenders provide a Closing Disclosure at least three business days prior to closing on a mortgage. But buyers will need to budget for these added costs ahead of time to avoid sticker shock days before closing.”

The key takeaway is savvy buyers plan ahead for these expenses so they can come into the process prepared. Freddie Mac sums it up like this:

“If you’re in the market to buy a home, your down payment is probably top of mind. And rightly so – it’s likely the biggest cost of homebuying. However, it is not the only cost and it’s critical you understand all your expenses before diving in. The more prepared you are for your down payment, closing and other costs, the smoother your homebuying journey will be.”

Bottom Line

Knowing what to budget for in the homebuying process is essential. To make sure you understand these and any other expenses that may come up, let’s connect so you have reliable expertise on what to expect when you buy a home.

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