A client recently asked this question and I thought the question and answer were so important that I wanted to share it with you.
Question: My husband and I are beginning to think seriously about house hunting and I think a first step is getting pre-approved for a mortgage (I am really not sure about the whole process)? I was wondering if you have any recommendations about beginning the process and or places to go to?
Answer: Rates are at an all time low and mortgage applications are on the rise. If you are saving for a down payment or have already saved a good bundle but are unsure where to get started, follow this list to get your house hunting process on a financially healthy foot.
1. Do you know where you want to live and how much home costs in that area? Check out home prices on zillow.com and streeteasy.com. I also suggest going to plenty of open houses - even if the home isn't your style or not in your price range, it is the best homework you can do. When I bought my first apartment I looked at nearly 60 homes to get a flavor for the market.
2. How much should you have saved? You should have at least 25% saved for a down payment? Do you have that saved? Are you close? If you want to buy a home for $300,000, you should have at least $75,000 for a down payment. Include an additional $15,000 minimum for closing, moving and move-in costs.
3. What will your mortgage payment be? Use a financial calculator on kiplinger.com/tools or money.com. Your mortgage payment will be higher than your rent (most likely) but you will be able to deduct the mortgage interest therefore will get a higher tax refund back or claim more withholdings to get a bigger paycheck. In our continued example, a $300,000 home value, $225,000 mortgage, 4% 30 year fixed rate mortgage, your mortgage payment will be $1,074.
4. What are your real estate taxes or monthly maintenance if you are buying a co-op or condo? That is part of your new monthly payment. Often, insurance payments are part of your monthly payment as well.
5. Now that you have your numbers together, it’s time to get pre-approved by your local bank or mortgage broker. A mortgage broker can often times get you a better rate than your local bank. You shouldn’t pay any extra because the application fee should go towards your closing costs. Your mortgage broker gets paid by the bank and offers competitive rates.
Keep these tips in mind when you're in the market for a house and you'll be off to a great start!