By: Anne Patterson, RE/MAX Gallery
For many younger Americans, the dream of owning their first home is alive and well. But for others, it’s still an elusive dream.
Only five years ago, it was relatively easy to finance a home, but the Great Recession and the mortgage market’s meltdown have made it difficult for many people to qualify for home loans. The shifting state of home values and prices has complicated matters. In some markets, values have plunged by more than 40 percent. While that has created once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for younger people to enter the real estate market, others have taken a more cautious approach, waiting to see if prices will continue to fall.
Whether you’re ready now or will be down the road, buying your first home takes preparation. Here are some tips from FindLaw.com, the nation’s leading website for free legal information, on how to get started.
Save aggressively for your down payment. Many first-time homebuyers seek a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Association, which insures loans made by lenders for qualifying homebuyers. The program allows buyers to put down as little as 3.5 percent of a home’s cost. However, if the home you want to buy doesn’t qualify for the program, you’ll need to obtain a conventional loan, which will require you to put down anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the purchase price as a down payment to qualify for a mortgage.
Get your finances in order. Lenders are now taking a closer look at debt-to-income ratio (percentage of monthly income that goes toward debt payments) and housing-to-income ratio (percentage of monthly income that goes toward housing payments). In general, responsible lenders follow the 28/36 percent rule – no more than 28 percent of your monthly income should go to housing costs, and no more than 36 percent of your monthly income should go to debt (including auto loans, credit cards and other loans).
(NewsUSA) – Foreclosures and high maintenance costs mean that new homes go up for sale faster than you can say “down market.” And what is great for buyers – more homes to choose from – means that sellers need to distinguish their properties from the rest of the crowd.
Home staging, or temporarily redesigning a home to appeal to buyers, can give homeowners an edge in an overcrowded market. Staged homes look bigger, newer and warmer. They invite buyers to see themselves living in the home.
Staging projects include inexpensive tasks, from rearranging furniture, to renting contemporary living room sets. Here are some tips for staging homes:
- Declutter. When buyers see overcrowded book shelves and wrinkled towels, they focus more on the dingy details than the architecture. But staging means more than a thorough cleaning – sellers should also remove personal items, like family photographs. Buyers should picture their families living in the home, not yours.
- Make things look new. A little paint can go a long way. Light colors make rooms look larger and brighter, so use them to make your home appear spacious. Wooden floors and cabinetry make big impressions, so make sure that they shine. If any wood looks dry or dirty, apply an orange oil for a quick restoration job. Touch of Oranges Wood Cleaner and Restorer s small scratches and removes build-up, fingerprints and grease from cabinetry, wood floors and fixtures.
Hard water stains on glass shower doors and windows look unattractive, so remove them with a specialized product like CLR, Lime Away or Bring It On Cleaner, which uses oxygen bleach to clean minerals from glass and tile. Some hard water stains will often yield to scrubbing with white vinegar and a non-scratch pad. If you find that vinegar is ineffective, a paint scraper or razor blade can be used to remove the bonded stains before resorting to harsher chemicals.
- Add small details. In the kitchen, bowls filled with fresh fruit create an attractive, colorful eyepiece. Place vases filled with fresh flowers in the bedrooms and dining room. Put candles in the bathroom. Small touches make homes feel more inviting.