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10 Questions to Ask About the Home
You Want to Buy
Although your head will probably be in the clouds once you've found your dream home, make sure to take the time to really think about the purchase. Here are 10 important questions to ask your real estate agent before you make an offer:
1. How long has the home been on the market? If the home is new to the market, you may have to act fast. If the home has been on the market for a while, that may be a sign that there are problems with the home.
2. Why are the owners selling? Although you'll probably get one of the usual answers--needing more space, a job relocation, etc.--a different answer could be a red flag.
3. What is the sales history of the home? You'll want to know if the home was leased in the past or if it was ever a bank-owned property. Also, as a general rule, the fewer number of owners, the better the overall upkeep and maintenance.
4. Are there comparable sales in the neighborhood? By looking at comparable sales in the area, you can get a good idea if the list price is fair and get a good starting point for negotiations.
5. Is the home a good investment? The area around your new home will be critical to how much your home rises (or declines) in value. Ask about future development, such as shopping and transportation.
6. Are all of the systems in good shape? It's important for you to know if and when home systems will need to be repaired or replaced. Key areas include heating and air conditioning, roofing, appliances, and electrical systems.
7. What will the maintenance be like? Affording a new home isn't just about your monthly mortgage payments. Ask your experienced agent if they think there are any high-cost maintenance areas that you may have to deal with.
8. Are there any noise concerns? Is there a highway close by? Is the home in an airport's flight path? Is the home close to a school, playground or heavily-used park?
9. What is included in the sale? Window treatments, lighting fixtures, washers and dryers, sheds, and outdoor play equipment may or may not be included in the sale, so make sure to check with your agent.
10. Is there anything else I should know about the home? The seller will be required to disclose certain things--such as structural problems--but ask this question in case you missed something such as a special feature of the home, homeowners' association regulations, etc.
A final bonus question: Ask your agent to ask the seller what they like most about the home and the neighborhood. You'll probably get an answer that will help you enjoy your new home even more.
Staying the Course: Avoid Losing
Your Loan Approval
Congratulations! After months of improving your credit and keeping a close eye on your finances, you were approved for a mortgage. You can finally relax, right?
Not so fast.
The time between approval and closing is still critical because any changes to your financial status and credit situation could result in losing your loan approval. To help ensure this doesn't happen to you, you'll need to continue to monitor your finances and not make any changes to what allowed you to be approved in the first place.
Here are a few things to avoid following your loan approval:
Making any major purchases. Major purchases--such as a new car or new furniture--can drastically change your financial situation and, ultimately, your loan approval status. A sudden drop in your bank account balance or an increase in your debt-to-income ratio may be a red flag to your lender.
Changing your job status. Similarly, a change in your income could be cause for you to lose your loan approval. Although a termination may be out of your control, there are other things you can control such as quitting your job, changing jobs or taking on a new position that is commission-based.
Moving around large sums of money. Not only should you not move large amounts of money between bank accounts (such as transfers from checking accounts to savings accounts, etc.), but you should also not make any changes to investment accounts. Any changes in balances or contribution amounts will change the information on your loan application--after the fact.
Opening new lines of credit. Much like avoiding major purchases, you should also avoid opening new lines of credit, namely credit card accounts. Since available credit is a factor in the loan approval process, getting a new credit card--even one with a low credit limit--is not a good idea.
Accepting cash gifts. Accepting a cash gift to be used as a down payment is fine--as long as you have the proper documentation (such as a gift letter) to back it up. Without it, a cash gift might be perceived as a suspicious spike in your bank account balance.
Being late on any payments. Although this should go without saying, paying your bills on time is important, even after you're approved for a mortgage. You'll need to continue to make all of your payments on time and be extra vigilant about any late payments. If you can, pay your bills early.
Even if you haven't been approved for a loan as of yet, these six "don'ts" can help you get approved. In the end, keep in mind that getting--and keeping--a loan approval takes some hard work.
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