1. What elements are must-haves in your home and what can you forgo? When house hunting, decide on a few elements you can't live without and let the rest go. You'll be able to look at houses with your needs more clearly in mind.
2. Can you commit to staying in one place for a few years? If you plan on moving in a year or two, home ownership may not be for you. Experts say a minimum 5-year stay will allow you to gain back the value from your home. Any time before that and you risk losing money.
3. How much home can I really afford? The costs that go with buying a home expand far beyond the monthly mortgage payment. Take the time to figure out what you can afford per month, including property taxes and insurance. And what you can afford for a down payment, closing costs and all the other extra fees involved.
4. How do you plan to find an agent? The relationship between you and your agent is important, do your research and find someone who can really help you navigate the process.
5. Do you know different markets and neighborhoods? Know what you want from the area you live in and do research to learn about the areas you are interested in. Research school systems and crime rates and shop around in the market you're looking in. Find out what other houses are going for and how long they have been on the market—this will give you a point of reference when you search and for what properties you look at are worth.
6. How does the home buying process work? Sure, you've heard family and friends throw around words like "appraisal" and "closing costs" but do you truly understand the process? Don't be afraid to ask questions, knowing what you're in for can help you make smart decisions along the way.
7. Do you know your credit score? You need to know if you are mortgage-worthy and it starts with your credit score.
8. Where will you be getting your mortgage from and what options are available to you? Knowing the different types of mortgages available to you is important. Look at all the options and programs till you find one that works for you.
9. Are you preapproved or prequalified? These are two very different things. Pre-approval is a written agreement from a lender saying they will give you a certain amount of money to buy your home under specified conditions like the interest rate and length of the loan. A prequalification is an estimate of how much you may be able to borrow. Both should be done before house hunting and will allow you know your price range. It will also help you go through the buying process quicker once you make an offer.
10. How much do you plan to save for a down payment? How much do you need? The usual is 20% but there are loans available with less down. The larger the down payment the more equity you will have in your home and the lower your monthly payments will be. It can also help you get a better loan with the bank.
11. How much will you pay for closing costs? What is the going rate? Typically 2-5% of the price of your home, closing costs are an important factor to think about. They are largely based on where the property you buy is located and comprise of multiple fees involved with the purchase.
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