December 29th, 2018 9:54 AM by Jackie A. Graves
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With the New Year fast approaching, it’s the perfect time to
begin planning if you’re considering buying a home in 2019. Whether you’re a
first-time homebuyer or you’re simply looking to upgrade, there are several
steps you can take now to help ensure a successful home buying experience in
Here are some
suggestions from a few Long & Foster professionals on how you can be
proactive by preparing now.
Check your credit. It is important to know your credit score upfront because it
will help determine whether you’ll be able to secure a mortgage loan and gauge
what your interest rate will be. You can check your credit score through
several free online credit reporting agencies or you can inquire with your
bank. According to Ron Wivagg, national sales support manager of Prosperity
Home Mortgage, LLC, a credit score of 740 and above will generally get you the
best interest rate available.
score is one factor in determining interest rate, there are other criteria that
lenders take into consideration including down payment, debt-to-income ratio
and the type of property being purchased (for example, single family or condo).
If your score is below 640, you may need to work on improving your credit to
qualify or to receive the best rate. Wivagg suggests contacting a local loan
officer as they may have suggestions on how to improve your credit. Prosperity
also has several tools available to its mortgage consultants to help their
clients, including a “What if” simulator, which is offered through Prosperity’s
credit vendors and can provide advice on how to improve a credit score.
Avoid making large purchases. If you’re planning on buying a home in
the near future, hold off on making any other large purchases, such as cars or
jewelry. This can affect your debt-to-income ratio, and in turn, affect your
Consider the down payment amount. While there are a few
lending programs that require zero down payment, most mortgage loans require a
down payment – for example, a conventional loan requires 3 percent down and a
FHA loan requires 3.5 percent down, explains Wivagg. If you’re planning on
buying a home in 2019, calculate how much you’ll need to save for a down
payment and begin a savings plan.
Get preapproved for a mortgage. Before you begin your home search, it is
important to get preapproved for a mortgage loan. This will help determine your
qualification and price point, and it will expedite the financial process at
closing. “The mortgage interest rate you obtain can directly impact the loan amount
for which you may qualify,” said Wivagg. “A lower interest rate can result in a
higher purchase price and loan amount.” If you are seriously considering
purchasing a home in 2019, you should get preapproved for a mortgage now. With
rising interest rates, the sooner the better, suggests Wivagg.
Determine what you’re looking for. What are your exact
wants and needs in a home? Be sure to consider important factors, such as the
type, size, amenities and lifestyle when determining what kind of house you want
to buy, recommends Bob Albanese, senior vice president and regional manager of
Long & Foster in New Jersey. A real estate agent can help you find a home
that matches your lifestyle desires. You can even search for current homes for
sale based on specific lifestyle qualities like a waterfront view or close-by
golf course on LongandFoster.com.
Research neighborhoods and begin your home search. Get a feel for what
you want by looking at homes online or by attending open houses. Your real
estate agent can provide you with a market analysis by neighborhood. “You can
learn a lot about a neighborhood by simply driving through,” suggests Becky
Hatch, manager of Long & Foster’s Harbour Pointe office in Richmond, Virginia.
“This is an easy way to see the activity and amenities a neighborhood has to
offer.” Long & Foster also offers in-depth insights on hundreds of
communities across its market on its website.
Contact your local real estate agent. Going into the winter
months is a great time to meet with a Realtor if you’re interested in
purchasing a home in the upcoming year, suggests Hatch. Your real estate agent
can guide you through the home buying process based on your individual needs.
“They can even sign you up to receive automatic alerts based on specific
criteria, so you’re informed the minute a new home comes on the market,” said
Hatch. To save time and confusion, be sure to articulate your specific home
requirements to your agent upfront, adds Albanese.
currently own a property and are looking to purchase a new home in 2019, get
your home ready for sale now, suggests Albanese. Your real estate agent can
help walk you through what you need to do to sell your house before buying a
was tight in 2018 and selection will likely continue to be limited in 2019, so
if you’re considering buying a home, start looking sooner rather than later,”
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