First Time Home Buying Priorities: 3 Vital Things to Know


What to Know About Your First House Purchase

Buying your first home: It’s an exciting time, and a major milestone to be celebrated. But the road to homeownership can also feel overwhelming — saving for a down payment, getting approved for a mortgage, finding the right home in the right location, and everything in between. 

A successful experience for first-time buyers — one that ends with you holding the keys to your new home — starts with careful planning and smart strategies. Read on to learn more about priorities for first-time home buyers. 

There are many questions to be answered before you’ll be fully prepared.

Sometimes knowing what not to do is just as vital as following sound buying tips.

Priorities of First Time Home Buyers

1. Prepare for Your Home Buying Journey 

Before you start attending open houses, spend some time assessing your finances and getting organized. 

  • Start saving: Not only for a downpayment but also for closing costs and moving expenses. Some first-time home buyers can qualify for conventional mortgages with as little as a 3% down payment, but remember that a 20% down payment will help you avoid the added expense of Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). Use a down payment calculator to set a savings goal, so you can start putting money aside. 
  • Know your credit score: If you’re not sure what your current credit score is, now is the time to find out. You can get a free credit report from any of the three leading credit reporting bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax. Ideally, you should review your credit report at least once a year to ensure your report is accurate and up to date. 

Maintain your good credit score by continuing to pay bills on time. And hold off on opening new lines of credit, applying for loans, or making other major purchases at this time.

Potential lenders want to see consistent financial behavior, so avoid risking final mortgage approval by taking financial chances for now.

  • Get preapproved: A mortgage preapproval letter is different from prequalification.  Prequalification is a baseline estimate of how much of a home loan you may be able to secure, based on an assessment of your income and other information you’ve provided. A mortgage preapproval letter is a document from a lender stating the exact amount of loan they’re willing to lend you, based on a more rigorous process that includes evaluation of your W-2s, bank statements, and credit score. 

Home shopping with a mortgage preapproval letter in hand gives you the ability to make an offer with confidence knowing it’s within your budget. It also demonstrates to a seller that your offer is serious and backed by a lender. 

2. Understand Your Mortgage Options

Mortgage loans have a variety of options, each with its own parameters and eligibility requirements. 

  • Conventional mortgages are the most common type of home loan. Some eligible first-time home buyers are able to obtain a conventional mortgage with as little as 3% down. Conventional mortgages are not guaranteed by the government. 
  • FHA mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Administration and allow eligible buyers with lower credit scores to put down 3.5%. 
  • VA loans are available through the Department of Veterans Affairs for current or veteran military service members or qualified spouses and typically require no down payment. 

A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage means the loan is paid off in 30 years at an interest rate that remains the same over time. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate than a 30-year mortgage, but with a larger monthly payment. 

It’s also important to be clear with your own goals and assess how much house you can afford, according to the bank, and how much house you want to afford.

If you have other debt to contend with such as student loans, car payments, or credit cards, you may choose to spend well under budget in order to keep your debt-to-income ratio in check. 

3. Make Informed Buying Decisions

With your finances in order and preapproval letter in hand, it’s time to give serious thought to home shopping.  

  • Find the right agent: Working with an established real estate agent is a smart choice, especially for a first-time home buyer. A buyer’s agent works on your behalf, helping you find homes that suit your needs and budget, gives advice in crafting an offer and helps to navigate the negotiation process all the way through to closing.   

Depending on your needs, you might consider working with a flat-fee real estate agent or broker which could net you significant savings in commission rates or fees.  

  • Find the right location: The old real estate adage “location, location, location” still holds true. Research neighborhoods you’re interested in and attend open houses, either in person or virtually. Check out the neighborhood’s walkability score, research property value trends, crime rates, and other municipal information like economic trends or planned improvement projects. 

If you’re moving to an area you’re not familiar with, for a job opportunity. For example, make sure you understand the cost of living in the new location.

Use the expertise of a good local realtor who knows the area to help you find the right house in the right location at the right budget. 

  • Find the right home: In contrast to previous generations, many millennial home buyers are prioritizing shorter commutes in walkable communities with better schools and amenities. They’re seeking low-maintenance homes with smaller square footage. While single-family homes are the right fit for some, townhomes and condos offer affordable choices as well. 

You may have a mental list of must-haves for your first home, but zero in on three or four priorities to help you focus your search. What’s most important? Proximity to work? Having designated space to work from home? A home you can “grow into” with an expanding family? Urban setting or quiet suburb? Starter or forever home? 

First-time buyers who are handy and willing to take on a few projects might consider a fixer-upper as an affordable option, particularly if the home is in a desirable area. However, be realistic.

Don’t overestimate your skills, or underestimate the amount of time or money you’re willing to invest in updating an older home.

Make sure you understand the basics of the appraisal process so you don’t end up overpaying for a property or making improvements that have a low return on investment.

Knowing your priorities will help you determine what kind of home fits your goals for the next five years, the amount of time typically recommended when investing in homeownership. Staying put for a minimum of five years decreases your chances of taking a financial hit when it’s time to sell. 

Purchasing your first home is a process that takes planning, patience, and persistence, but it’s all worth it when you’re holding the keys to your new living space. 

Understanding first-time home buyer priorities are your first step to a successful purchase. Best of luck!

New Data Shows Just How Much Income You Need to Buy a Home in 2021


Are you ready to make the big financial leap and purchase your first home? Going from your parent’s home or even a rental property to your own house is a significant financial decision.

There are many questions to be asked, especially when it comes to your finances.

A new research report shows that while U.S. home prices are skyrocketing, income has remained mostly flat, making homeownership for Gen X, millennials, and younger generations more of a dream than a reality.

Since 1965, home prices have increased 7.6 times faster than income, and 3.1 times faster since 2008. Average home values grew from $171,942 to $374,900, an increase of 118%, while median household income grew from $59,920 to $69,178, an increase of just 15%, adjusted for inflation.

Financial experts recommend home buyers use a house-price-to-income (PTI) ratio of 2.6 when estimating how much mortgage they can afford. But from 2019 to 2021 alone, the median PTI ratio increased by 14.9% — from an already elevated 4.7 to 5.4 — meaning homes in 2021 cost 5.4 times what the average person earns in one year.

The PTI ratio crisis in the U.S. may impact both current and aspiring homeowners. Homeowners who paid top-dollar prices when they bought during the pandemic may currently be enjoying high home values, but they could be in trouble if those values plummet in the next housing crash.

Likewise, more home buyers are getting priced out of the market as mortgage rates climb (up from 3.14% to 3.18%), supply remains low, and prices remain high.

Read on for more insights into how these shifts are affecting the U.S. market and how home buyers can determine if they’re ready to get a foot in the door of homeownership.

Income Needed to Buy Home

How Much Income Do Americans Need to Buy a Home?

The median household income is currently $69,178. To afford a home in 2021, a U.S. home buyer needs an average income of $144,192 to afford the current median home price of $374,900.

The current PTI ratio of 5.4 translates to the number of years the average home buyer needs to save in order to purchase a home.

But more than a down payment and closing costs, sky-high home prices also translate to monthly mortgage payments that may be out of reach for some buyers who may already be at the limits of their home-buying budget.

Don’t forget to factor in the monies needed for escrows on taxes, insurance, and mortgage insurance.

Homes that need renovations and other improvements require even more financial considerations.

Housing affordability is a combination of home prices and income, and while the price-to-income problem is widespread with historic highs, it is low-income service workers who are most affected.

Though wages may be higher in larger metro areas, the lack of new affordable housing and exorbitant prices on existing housing stock undermine any wage advantage

The Most and Least Affordable Places to Live in the U.S.

The same research study found that nearly 90% of major U.S. metros have a PTI that exceeds the 2.6 ratio considered healthy by economic experts.

Only six out of the 50 largest major metro areas have a PTI ratio in the recommended range of 2.6 or lower:

  • Pittsburgh (2.2)
  • Cleveland (2.4)
  • Oklahoma City (2.5)
  • St. Louis (2.5)
  • Birmingham, AL (2.5) 
  • Cincinnati (2.6)

California is home to the least affordable housing in the U.S. with exceptionally high PTI ratios:

  • Los Angeles (9.8)
  • San Jose (9.1)
  • San Francisco (8.3)
  • San Diego (7.8)

The gap between soaring home price growth compared to relatively flat income growth touches other corners of the U.S. besides California. New York’s home-price-to-income ratio clocks in at 6.6, Miami at 5.6, Seattle at 5.5, and Salt Lake City at 5.2.

And as home prices outpace income rates nearly everywhere in the U.S. in the 50 most populated cities home values between 2017 and 2021 on average increased 17.8%, while income increased only 6.2% — meaning home prices grew 2.8 times faster than income.

Average home values in America’s 50 most populated cities grew from $271,70 in 2000 to $304,589 by the 2008 housing crisis, to $376,826 by 2021, reflecting the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. housing market.

Not surprisingly, in America’s most expensive cities, housing got more expensive: The average PTI ratio increased 61% since 2000, creeping up to 6.9%. In comparison, cities with the lowest PTI ratio grew just 10% since 2000, averaging 2.3.

More Equity Now Could Sink Homeowners Later

Climbing home prices increased homeowners’ equity from 2015 to 2020, likely a factor for the 54% decrease in underwater mortgages in the largest metro areas, a change of 12.2% to 5.6%.  

The cities with the biggest decrease in underwater mortgages include:

  • Salt Lake City (1081% decrease from 18.5% to 1.6%)
  • Las Vegas (513% decrease from 21% to 3.4%)
  • Phoenix (471% decrease from 16% to 2.8%)
  • Seattle (467% decrease from 10.3% to 1.2%)
  • Tampa, Fla. (315% decrease from 16% to 3.9%)

While homeowners are seeing increased equity now because ofo high home prices, it’s possible they could find themselves underwater in the next housing crash.

The housing crisis that was predicted in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic never happened. Thanks to government aid, low-interest rates, and homebuyers seeking a geographic adjustment to pandemic problems, the housing market took off, sending prices skyrocketing as stock became limited.

In particular, homeowners who bought at the peak could find themselves underwater on their mortgages when the period of high demand and low supply tapers off as it historically does, and the housing bubble pops. And while it might be great for sellers, high home prices create a strain on the market if the pool of home buyers shrinks due to an inability to find an affordable property.

Can You Afford to Buy Right Now? 

Home buyers determined to purchase now should proceed with caution and consider the market and their personal situation carefully. Work with a qualified real estate agent who can help you navigate an uncertain climate.

Some questions to consider before you buy: 

  • Do you have 20% for a downpayment? Not only does a traditional 20% down payment lower your mortgage payment, but it also saves you the cost of private mortgage insurance, which can be anywhere between 0.3% and 1.2% of the balance of your loan.
  • How long do you plan to stay in the home? When the market pops, how likely is it you’ll be underwater on your mortgage? If you’re planning to stay in the home for the long haul, you’ll have time to build back any equity lost in a housing crash. 
  • What’s the post-purchase cost to live in this home? If you’re buying at the peak of the market, can you afford the monthly mortgage, plus taxes, insurance, and maintenance? 

Final Thoughts

Buying a home for the first time is a big deal both financially and mentally. A home purchase should never be ready until you are truly ready. Make sure your financial house is in order before making such a life-changing decision.

You should make absolutely certain you have the income needed to buy a home in 2021 and into 2022.

Would You Buy a Haunted House in This Real Estate Market


Purchasing a Haunted House in 2022

With Halloween just around the corner we thought we would take a look at buying a home that has paranormal activity. Would you buy a haunted house?

If you said yes, you’re not alone. According to new research, 73% of Americans say they’d consider purchasing haunted real estate in a competitive market (but 52% say they wouldn’t pay full market value). 

Read on to learn more spooky stats and freaky findings from the survey.

76% of Americans Believe in the Supernatural in 2021 

Of those supernatural believers, 44% say they’ve experienced more supernatural events since the start of the pandemic. Millennials are 3x more likely than boomers to report an increase in supernatural activity. 

Buy Haunted House

44% of Americans Believe They’ve Lived in a Haunted House 

Perhaps with 71% of Americans with remote-friendly jobs now working significantly more hours from home, there’s more opportunity to observe ghostly comings and goings than in the pre-pandemic days. In 2020, just 24% of Americans believed they have lived in a haunted house. 

Some Things Are Scarier to Homeowners Than a Haunted House

Only 5% of respondents said ghosts were the scariest part of homeownership. Homeowners, instead, are more afraid of:

  • ​​Mold (57%)
  • Foundation issues (56%)
  • Termites (54%)
  • Asbestos (54%)
  • Water damage (54%)
  • Pests (e.g., cockroaches, mice, spiders, etc.) (53%)
  • A leaky roof (53%)
  • Outdated electrical system (51%)
  • Lead paint (51%)
  • A leaky basement (48%)
  • Old plumbing (47%)
  • Radon (44%)
  • A broken furnace (41%)
  • Broken central air conditioning (41%)

Whether you’re buying a home for your family or are an investor taking advantage of a 1031 exchange, there may be worse things than ghosts when it comes to living in or flipping a home.

If the potential for ghosts or other paranormal activity is there it may be one of the questions you ask when buying a house.

Also Scary: Many Americans Lack Basic Safety Features in Their Homes

Although American homeowners fear floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters (54%), fires (49%), and other hazardous threats, many households don’t have basic safety features in their homes. 

For example, many homeowners lack a radon detector (66%), an alarm system (45%), a carbon monoxide detector (40%), fire extinguishers (38%), and smoke detectors (29%). 

Ghosts Are Not a Top Deal Breaker for Most Americans

Nearly half (48%) of Americans would rather purchase a haunted house than live within a mile of a dump or waste management facility. Other deal breakers that top home buyers’ lists include buying a home near the scene of a violent crime (47%), a former meth lab (45%), or within a mile of a prison (44%). 

Many homebuyers are also not interested in property located next to a cemetery (39%), where someone died of natural causes (26%), or with an address featuring “666” (33%).  It might take some sleuthing to know if your potential home has a haunted or notorious history, but if it means you’ll be more comfortable knowing, it’s time well-spent. 

Americans Find a Competitive Housing Market Scarier Than a Haunted House

Buying a home in the 2021 ultra-competitive housing market is tough, and 73% of Americans said they’d consider purchasing a haunted home — up from 59% in 2020 — especially if there were other benefits to offset the occasional paranormal activity. 

A surprising 27% of respondents even said they’d be willing to pay above market value for a haunted house. 

For the most part, though, 63% of respondents said they’d consider a haunted house if it came with a lower price tag. Respondents also said they would consider one if it had: 

  • A safer neighborhood (57%)
  • Friendly ghosts (53%)
  • Modern renovations and/or appliances (41%)
  • A larger yard or more land (39%)
  • More square footage (38%)
  • A better school district (37%)
  • Closer to amenities (28%)

In a competitive market, buyers have less opportunity to be selective based on limited housing stock. 

The tight market could also be why more than 1 in 10 Americans said they wouldn’t move immediately even if they saw signs of paranormal activity. In one survey, 48% of respondents said they’d try to get to know the ghost, 13% said they’d try to get rid of the ghost, 17% said they’d ignore the ghost, while 21% said they would sell their house

Buying or Selling a Stigmatized House in a Competitive Market

Although many homeowners apparently feel comfortable sharing their space with spirits, others said they would put their home on the market immediately under certain conditions, including if objects moved or levitated on their own (45%), they saw a ghost (37%), or their children suddenly behaved strangely in the home (40%).

Others said they’d move if a serious crime was committed nearby (38%) or if they learned about a crime previously committed in the home (34%). 

Buying or selling a stigmatized home in a competitive market can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on which side of the buying/selling coin you’re on. A home might be stigmatized from its reputation for hosting paranormal guests, but it can also suffer from negative associations with infamous crimes, violence or other unfortunate events that may have occurred in or near the home. A famous home featured in movies or TV might also be stigmatized if it attracts an endless stream of tourists or fans. 

Because stigmatized properties are harder to sell — typically they sell for 3% less and take 45% longer to sell — buyers willing to overlook the negative psychological impact of such a home may be able to get a bargain. As a buyer, tell your real estate agent that you’re open to the possibility of a haunted or other hard-to-sell home if it means you can make an offer that allows you to stretch your dollars further. 

Keep in mind that even if the house you’re buying is stigmatized, you still need to do your due diligence, especially if the market is ultra competitive. Make sure your credit score is healthy, your financing is in order, and this is the right house for you. Remember, chances are, you may encounter the same challenges in eventually selling the home in the future. 

Homeowners desperate to unload a stigmatized home and move as quickly as possible should be aware of the disclosure laws in their state. Some states require that sellers inform buyers of any stigmas associated with the property, but 62% of the survey’s respondents said they wouldn’t disclose a haunting to potential buyers if possible, (including 10% who would refuse even if the law required it). 

Work with a broker who can help you frame the sale as an opportunity for buyers looking to make a wise purchase and don’t mind working with, rather than against, the notoriety.

How Does Appraisal Gap Coverage Work When Buying a Home?


When buying a home, things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes, your bank’s appraisal of a house comes up lower than your offer or even the seller’s asking price. If so, do you just walk away from your dream house?

An appraisal gap coverage will help you seal the deal on your dream house in such a situation. Let’s take a look at the meaning and usage of appraisal gap coverage.

The Basics: Appraisals And Offers

An appraisal is an estimation of a home’s value in the current market. Mortgage lenders carry out an appraisal by a licensed real estate appraiser to ensure that the buyer doesn’t overpay for a property. It also guarantees that they’ll be able to sell the property for the same value should you fail to pay the mortgage.

In a competitive market, buyers may offer a higher value than the selling price to get their offer accepted. Sometimes the appraisal value comes up lower than the buyer’s offer, and sometimes even the seller’s price.

Sometimes, sellers don’t do the things they should do to prepare for the real estate appraisal, which can influence how the appraiser perceives the property.

The appraisal gap coverage could be your saving grace when this happens.

Appraisal Gap Coverage

Appraisal Gap Coverage: Explained

The scenario for buying a house is pretty much identical. You find a home that you like, and you negotiate the price. If the property is in high demand, you may offer a higher price than the asking price.

The seller accepts your offer, and then you apply for a mortgage. The mortgage lender then goes to appraise the property. If all goes well, the appraisal and your offer match. But rarely does that happen.

When the appraised value is lower than your offer, the seller and buyer have a few options:

Option A: the buyer convinces the seller to accept the appraised price.

Option B: the buyer covers the gap between the appraised price and their offer.

If neither A or B is possible, the deal will fall apart. However, there is another option—an appraisal gap coverage.

The appraisal gap coverage is the buyer’s assurance to the seller that they will cover a certain amount of the gap between the appraisal and the offer.

For example, if a house is listed at $300,000, the buyer may offer $310,000 with a $5,000 appraisal gap coverage. Then, the property is appraised at $305,000. The appraisal gap coverage then kicks in, so the buyer has to come up with $5,000 in cash to meet the offer price.

What If Your Appraisal Gap Coverage Still Doesn’t Meet The Offer Price?

What happens if the appraisal gap coverage still comes up short of your offer? For example, if you offered to buy a $300,000 at $315,000 with a coverage of $5,000, that is then appraised at $305,000.

With your coverage, the purchase price becomes $310,000. Although the total sale price is lower than your offer, it is still higher than the seller’s asking price.

So, they will still likely agree with this price. Additionally, you get to buy the house at a lower price than you originally intended. So, overall, it is a win-win situation. Thus, you can still push through with the sale.

Why Do You Need Appraisal Gap Coverage?

An appraisal gap coverage gives you an advantage over other buyers. Even if you offer to buy a house way over the asking price, it provides your offer substance through the insurance to cover the gap between the appraised value and your offer.

Including this with your offer makes the seller more likely to accept your offer over, for example, an equal offer without an appraisal gap coverage. This is because, with an appraisal gap coverage, the buyer is less likely to walk away from the deal regardless of the house’s appraised value.

Thus, it guarantees the buyer that they will pay for the property at a higher value than the asking price. Simultaneously, it reduces the chance of deals not pulling through.

How Does An Appraisal Gap Coverage Work With An Offer?

After the seller accepts your offer, you need to put your agreement in writing. This is when you will need to contact a real estate attorney to draw up a real estate sales contract or to review the one provided by the seller. The agreement will state the agreed-upon price, the appraisal gap coverage, and other essential terms of the sale.

Usually, when writing the appraisal gap coverage into the sales contract, you specify a fixed amount that you are willing to cover. Your contract should never state that you will cover an unlimited amount between the offer and the appraised value.

The contract should also state that the appraisal gap coverage should not exceed the agreed-upon amount. So, for example, if the appraised value is at $307,000 and you offered to pay $310,000 with an appraisal gap coverage of $5,000, you will only cover the remaining $3,000.

In any case, the appraisal gap coverage puts you at an advantage as a buyer because it guarantees a win-win situation for both you and the seller.

There are several instances where the explained scenario may not necessarily play out as simply as described. An example might be when the property to be purchased is being done under the auspices of a legal entity like an LLC or corporation or other such business entities, especially those with multiple owners.

In such circumstances, there may, for instance, be specific provisions contained within the operating agreement or bylaws of the entity that stipulates how or what may or may not be permitted in the acquisition of a new property or asset.

When such is the case, it is usually a good idea to ensure that the operating agreement is reviewed by an experienced business attorney to ensure that your appraisal gap offer or the contract you enter into with the seller does not violate any terms contained within.

About the author: The above article on the appraisal gap coverage was written by Kanayo Okwuraiwe. Kanayo Okwuraiwe is a startup founder, an incurable entrepreneur, and a digital marketing professional. He is also the founder of a digital marketing company called Telligent Marketing LLC that provides attorney SEO services to help lawyers grow their law practices.

Should You Buy New Construction or an Existing Home?


Until recently, one tried-and-true assumption about buying versus building held firm: Building a custom home was a drawn-out, messy process that in the end got you more bang for your buck — instant home equity. 

Today, however, you can’t take that for granted. COVID-related supply chain problems have driven building supply prices skyscraper-high and added about $35,000 to the cost of building an average home. 

So, should you build or buy a home in 2021?

What’s Happening to Building Supply Prices?

That said, kinks in building supply inventory are temporary, and lumber prices have been dropping for weeks. The effect of lower prices at the wholesale level has not yet filtered down to builders, who buy at the retail level. 

The good news for aspiring homeowners is that the cost of building should fall back a bit in the upcoming weeks.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), “Depending on the rate and consistency of price decreases and whether prices have stabilized at the lower level, it may take a few weeks to a couple of months for builders to see price relief on the order initially reported in the futures or cash markets.” 

Should I Buy or Build a House

Different Types of Construction

There is more than one way to build a home. You might choose to buy new construction from a developer, have a custom home built to your specifications, or bargain hunt with a fixer-upper and remodel it from the ground up.

You may even consider going with an Eco-Friendly home.

When comparing the cost of building to buying, get a commitment for constructing the custom home you want at current prices. Compare that to a new developer home with similar features, a bargain that requires some fixing, and an existing home in excellent condition with the features you want. 

If price is your primary consideration, go with the property with the lowest acquisition cost — including buying, building, repairing, financing, and closing costs.

Note that construction financing costs more than conventional mortgages. However, there are many other considerations in addition to the cost.

You can avoid additional construction loan financing expenses when buying a spec home and getting a traditional mortgage.

Buying a Home: Pros and Cons

Buying a home is the more popular option. That mainly comes down to three advantages:


It usually takes 30 to 60 days to find, finance, and purchase a home, while building a house takes six to 18 months. People who face deadlines — such as moving for a new job or moving in time to get their children into new schools — don’t always want to rent during the building process, and they don’t relish the “opportunity” to move twice. 

More Choice in Neighborhoods

If you want an established neighborhood with vintage homes and mature landscaping, there may not be empty lots waiting for someone to build. And if you want the community with the best schools, there may not be lots available at all.

Often, new areas with building opportunities are on the outskirts or suburbs, perhaps not your ideal. Your best bet might be a well-built existing house or a fixer-upper if you live with construction chaos for a few months.

Stretch out Costs

You can usually find a cheaper existing home than you’d spend for a brand-new house. It might be more manageable to buy an affordable house and then upgrade it as money comes in.

On the other hand, older homes can have obsolete systems and be energy hogs. And you might not want to look at 1990s-era bleached wood and brass finishes until you can get around to remodeling.

Building a Home: Pros and Cons


The most popular reason for building a home instead of buying is the ability to get exactly what you want — whether that’s energy efficiency, smart home features, or very specific items such as a dog washing room, home theater, or stone pizza oven. 


Another major benefit of building a new home is that your systems are new, up to code, and unlikely to fail. Maintenance costs are much lower for a new home. You’ll also be able to take advantage of manufacturer and builder warranties.

While with a resale home, you’re pretty much stuck with repairs once you close, and the odds of something malfunctioning are much higher. 


Regarding which option costs more, it depends on the project, local housing markets, and labor costs. Note that if you purchase a newly constructed home from a builder/developer, the profit (19% gross and 7% net, according to the NAHB) goes to the builder.

While if you contract for a custom build, you split the profit with the builder and typically gain some equity instantly. And you can cut costs substantially with “creative” building plans — tiny houses, modular homes, and kit homes. 

These are cheaper housing options worth looking into.

You should commission an appraisal for your property — as-is and as completed. Then you can compare the expected build cost with the projected home value and see if building is cost-effective. 

Do’s and Don’ts for Builders and Buyers

Understand what you’re getting in a home. Whether you’re buying or building, make sure everything you need is in your contract. If you want the high-tech refrigerator and hot tub on the deck, make sure the sellers aren’t planning to take those items with them. 

Homebuilders often don’t include things you might consider basics — paved driveway, landscaping, sodding, eavestroughs, or air conditioning, for instance. If you’re considering a newly built home, make sure the features you require are included or price them out to determine if your budget is reasonable. 

Understand that things will take longer than expected and do everything possible to speed things up. Line up your financing and get your mortgage pre-approval before hunting for property.

If you’re effecting a 1031 exchange (legal in all states from California to New York), get your paperwork in order — you normally have 180 days to complete the tax-deferred exchange or face stiff penalties. 

Find a few reputable builders and get bids from each. Builders normally won’t pull permits and start until they have a signed, binding contract and your deposit.

Be certain that any builder you consider is approved by your mortgage lender — that helps you avoid shaky contractors. Expect construction to take six to 18 months, and understand that every change you request once underway will cost you money and add time. 

Splitting the Difference: Buy a Fixer-Upper

Fixer-uppers can provide the best of both worlds. You can find a less-than-perfect home in your dream neighborhood. Purchase your rundown house at a discount and then hire a builder to upgrade the systems, increase energy efficiency, and make it safer and more attractive.

You can finance the purchase and rehab with a single loan. Pay attention to the improved value of the property on your home appraisal. That will tell you if it’s cost-effective to buy used and improve rather than to purchase new.

Make Friends With a Good Agent

Building sites that meet your needs, perfect properties in your chosen neighborhoods, and potentially profitable fixer-uppers don’t stick around long on real estate markets. 

To get an advantage in your search, find a knowledgeable, reputable agent who can quickly locate what you need and perhaps come up with creative solutions. Not using a good agent puts you at a disadvantage in today’s hotter markets.

What Not To Do When House Hunting


Don’t Do These Things When Buying a House

Are you planning to make your first home purchase? When you decide to buy a home, it is easy to get swept away by emotion. The idea of having your own place, where you can choose what to do whenever you want, is empowering.

However, don’t let the emotion take control and allow you to make a decision that you may regret.

Here is a list of the top things NOT to do when house hunting to help you avoid major pitfalls.

Follow the advice along with asking smart home buying questions, and you should find yourself in a much better position when all is said and done.

What to Avoid When House Hunting

Make Sure to Know What you DO NOT WANT as Well as What You Need

People often fall into the trap of buying a home based on one or two things, such as just the price or maybe the location, without considering the house in context.

It is important to avoid homes that have the things you know for sure you do not want.

For example, if you hate yard work and your outdoor tool arsenal consists of a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, buying a home with a large yard and numerous shrubs would likely be a bad idea for you.

Along those same lines, if you are married with two young children and another child on the way, buying a 2-bedroom house or even a 3-bedroom house may not be the best option for you. Your family is growing and will need a lot of space in the coming years.

Before looking at homes, decide on what you must have in a place. These should be non-negotiable things. Then make a list of things you would like to have but could live without.

These 2 lists of features should help you narrow down your selections.

Do Not Look Too Quickly at a Home

Whether it is viewing an Open House or making an appointment with an agent to look at a home, you should take your time.

Walk through the home to identify the major sections. Take time to review the master bedroom, the bathroom, and the closets. These areas can cause quite a bit of stress if they are not large enough or have a bad design.

Stand in the living room and picture your belongings and your day-to-day activities in that space. Walk to the kitchen and take notes as to the size of the area as well as how things are laid out.

Step outside and explore the yard, both front and back. Can you see yourself happily living in this spot? Are there any major problems that would make you miserable if you had this view or regularly heard these noises?

This will be your home for at least a few years. Make sure you are happy now with the place before you ever hang the first picture.

Don’t Get Opinions from Too Many People

It is always a good idea to get input from people that have purchased a home. Whether it is a friend or relative or a co-worker, learning from other people’s home buying mistakes is always a wise move.

However, nobody is going to be exactly like you. Each person you speak to will have their likes, dislikes, and opinions.

If you are married with a small child, the opinions of a permanent bachelor may not line up with your house goals. Ask for input but take the advice with a grain of salt as well.

It is Highly Unlikely You Will Find a Perfect Home

If you are not building the home of your dreams with a contractor, every home you view will likely have at least one or two things you wish to change.

It could be something small, like wanting a double vanity in the master bedroom. Or it could be something vital, like that extra bedroom you need for your family’s size.

As mentioned before, using your list of crucial things for your needs will help you decide on the right house.

Don’t Overlook the Neighborhood

You cannot pick your family, but you can pick your new neighborhood.

You must spend a bit of time getting familiar with the place that you will sleep every night.

Researching the neighborhood is a crucial part of the home buying process.

Are most of the homes tidy and well kept, or do you see many messy properties?

Do you see homes owned by people in a similar life stage as you, or does there appear to be a big age gap?

How loud is the closest neighbor? Can you hear their tv, or worse, can you hear them arguing?

All of this information is something you will have to gather on your own. No smartphone app or website shows the best neighborhoods based on a few specific requirements.

Trying to Find a Home Without a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent can be your most valuable asset when looking for a home.

First of all, they can review your list of needs and weed out homes that simply won’t match what you expect in your new place. They can also locate all the homes that will match your needs within a certain area not to waste time looking at homes in the wrong location.

Mort importantly, they are connected to new listings. When a home becomes available for sale, the agent can notify you and give you a chance to see the home while the sellers are anxious to move the property.

Going House Shopping Before Talking to a Mortgage Lender

We saved the most important step for last in hopes that it will stick with you.

The biggest mistake you will make in shopping for a house is reviewing homes without first talking to your mortgage lender.

You need to know how much home you can afford, plain and simple. Your lender can review your finances, explain your mortgage program options, and provide you with a pre-approval letter.

The pre-approval lets real estate agents know that you are serious about purchasing a house and that your offer can be taken seriously.

It also provides more info for the real estate agent when researching which homes are right for your needs.

Final Thoughts On Things To Avoid When House Hunting

Using these tips should help get you in the right frame of mind when looking at homes. It should also prepare you for the upcoming process and help you to avoid some issues.

Once you’re done with your purchase you can focus on making some nice improvements to bump up the value.

Hopefully, you now have a much better understanding of what not to do when house hunting.

Waterfront Homes: How to Buy on a Budget


What to Know About Buying a Waterfront Home

Are you considering buying a waterfront property? Waterfront homes are highly desirable and with good reason. Living on the waterfront is something that many people desire.

You may imagine waking up listening to the sound of the waves crashing, sitting on your porch drinking a cup of coffee at the beginning of the day. Waterfront properties bring an ambiance that other homes do not have.

You have the windows open in your home, enjoying the cool breeze blowing through your home. This sounds like a dream for many! Waterfront homes are considered luxury homes.

It is possible to enjoy living in waterfront homes on a budget with a little planning. If you already have your ocean or lake house and want to save on expenses, you will find some tips to help you live on a budget.

How to Buy Waterfront Homes on a Budget

Cover Everything When Living On The Water

There can be more costs associated with living on the waterfront. If you live on the oceanfront or anywhere near the beach, the salt air can be very corrosive. There are some budget-saving hacks to consider when living on the water.

You may find that there is much more moisture on your outdoor patio or deck. This can result in the growth of mildew and sometimes even mold. You will need to maintain this, and this is something that you can do yourself by power spraying the deck or patio.

Protect your outdoor furniture. There are conditioners for metal furniture that can be sprayed on it to protect it from the sunshine and air.

Cover the outdoor furniture during the winter months, and if there are removable cushions, bring them inside, or store them in a storage box. This will help you to save on replacing your outdoor furniture every year.

Make sure to cover your barbeque throughout the year as well. The salt air will rust barbeques fairly quickly. It is a good idea to cover it up every time you utilize it.

Be sure to address any deferred maintenance on your home. There are many DIY tips for addressing deferred maintenance that will save a bunch of money.

Choose Economic Aquatic Sports when Living in Waterfront Homes

Depending on where you find your waterfront property will dictate what types of aquatic activities you can have. If the area allows boating, be sure to investigate what types of boats and sizes are allowed.

Having a boat that remains in the water can be expensive and require a lot of maintenance. The bottom of the boat needs to be cleaned regularly, and if there is wood on the boat, that will require maintenance. Anything that requires maintenance costs money.

Some great activities on the waterfront that are more economical include kayaking which might be initially expensive. However, you may be able to find a kayak on Craigs List or any other reseller site! Most kayaks are made of plastic and can be taken out of the water fairly easily, and don’t require maintenance.

Other activities to consider that are more cost-effective include stand-up paddleboarding. Again, this may be expensive initially, but once you have the board and your paddle, you are good to go. And it is a great workout!

Consider Buying a Home Located on an Interior Lot

Consider buying a home on an interior lot but near the water. Ensure that you still have access to the water. An interior lot near the water can literally save you hundreds of thousands of dollars. You may still end up with an amazing view.

Homes that are located on the second row from the beach or the lake are still valuable given the close proximity to the water. And you can still get the benefits of living near the water.

Consider Buying a Waterfront Home That is a Fixer-Upper

Homes that have deferred maintenance or are fixer-uppers may be a great way to buy waterfront homes at a lower price. However, when buying a fixer-upper, you have to plan ahead on how much your renovations will cost. This is true of any home in bad condition.

This needs to be factored in if you are considering purchasing a home that is a fixer-upper. And there are some excellent tips to avoid overspending on a fixer-upper that will help you save some money.

Purchase a Vacant Lot For a Waterfront Home

Consider looking a little out of the area that is trending and hot right now. Look a little further away from where the prices are not that inflated.  Purchasing a vacant lot allows you to have your waterfront property, and then you have the option of building a home.

Before you begin the home building process, you may need to obtain a construction loan. Ideally, you will be able to build the home of your dreams but before you get it designed, be sure to create a needs vs. wants list!

If you are buying a resale, there will be many mortgage programs to choose from as well.

There are many questions to ask when building new construction. If you have ever done a remodel or renovation to your home, it is exciting but also stressful.

Any construction project will likely have delays in the original time period, which can cost money. It is wise to plan ahead and know what to expect with new construction. The reality is that whenever you embark upon new constructions, things may not go perfectly as you have planned.

Inexpensive Landscaping

Generally speaking, the lots that are located on or near the water are smaller in general. So there is not as much area to the landscape.

There are generally planters along the side of your home and front and the rear. There are many creative landscaping ideas that can be done on a budget. You can also use colored pots planted with color to accessorize the home. Planting the area yourself is a great way to save money while adding to the home.

Final Thoughts about Waterfront Homes

You have some options when buying waterfront homes, and be sure to plan ahead. Working with a top Realtor will help you to identify the best areas to buy waterfront homes at a more affordable price.

By being more proactive with the maintenance of the home will also help to save money on a regular basis. It takes a little planning, but it can be done.

Questions to Ask Before Buying a House



What to Know When Buying a Home For The First Time

Buying a home for the first time can be daunting. Before you put down your hard-earned deposit and sign away the next 15-20 years of your lives, there are a few points to clarify, and this is the time to ask the questions.

When you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, there are no questions that are too trivial. If you have a real estate agent, make sure you lean on them for advice. If they are worth their salt, they will be someone to lean on for all the things you’re unsure of.

Having a first-time home buying guide is always useful. You can also seek assistance from family and friends that have already been through the process.

Consider a few of the following points as a first time home buyer. These are great questions to ask yourself as you journey towards owning your first house.

  • How far will you be from work, and how good is the public transport?
  • How long does the commute take?
  • Do you want to live near shops, schools, hospitals, cafes, and parks?
  • Will you be near enough to Mom and Dad so you can drop in for dinner?
  • If you are pregnant, how near is your hospital?
  • Can the kids walk to school? Homes in sought after school districts always sell really well! So even if you are not having children consider this fact from a resale perspective.
  • You want a neighborhood with a good community appeal, where you have a large enough population to support cafes and diverse restaurants, and possibly a good pizza/sub shop.
  • Do you have a dog? You will want an off-leash dog park, to take Fido for a run, and a local vet.
  • You are busy, so look for a home requiring minimal renovation. Major renovations are not affordable when you are in your first home. It would help if you got a bit more equity first. Having said that, even minor renovations require a handy hardware store nearby.
  • Try not to exceed your budget. The lender will look for some leeway in the budget, so when you choose a home, make sure, based on your combined salaries, that you can afford it. You want to keep your housing costs, including insurances, between 25% and 28% of your monthly take-home pay. This is a bit easier for a couple than for a single buyer.
  • Are you eligible for any first home buyer grants or incentives? The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also provides grants to first home buyers. If you apply early in the new financial year, you may be eligible to receive one, important to apply early as the program has limited funds, is soon exhausted, and is not refunded until the following fiscal year. You just may qualify!

Questions to Ask When Buying a Home

Questions to Ask and Things to Do Before Buying a Home

Get a Mortgage Preapproval

Once you have everything in place, try to get your mortgage preapproval in writing from a well-known lender. It is always a good idea to comparison shop a few lenders as well before settling on one.

Be prepared to have your financial information (proof of employment and income) verified for written preapprovals.

These last for about three months and you are then ‘buyer ready.’

Make Sure You Have a Professional Home Inspection.

Have a look to be sure that the roof, foundation, HVAC systems, flooring, and walls are all in good order. Make sure you have a house inspection before closure done by a well respected local professional.

You really want to know before you put the escrow deposit down if there is anything to be done. Home inspections are also a great learning exercise about the property you are purchasing.

The home inspector will go over all the systems, especially the furnace, air-conditioning, and electrical. They will check the basement for dampness and mold. A good inspector will also have a keen eye for evidence of termites, other insects, and rodents.

Getting a home inspection done is especially important when you are purchasing a fixer-upper home.

Is The Home Low Lying?

Is the house near a river or a low lying flood plain. You don’t want to be paying for flood insurance as it is costly. If the area is a flood zone, it might be why the home is cheaper. Once a house is flooded, it is never the same again. So, avoid any possible flood area.

Is The House on a Busy or Noisy Road?

Houses on major roads are usually less expensive. If you decide to purchase on a major road, make sure that the house has insulation, as a major road can be very noisy and polluting. Avoid big thoroughfares if you can, because it won’t have a good resale value.

Think About Using a Buyer’s Agent?

If you are having difficulty sifting through the choices available, you may decide to hire a buyer’s agent. It likely won’t cost you anything as real estate commissions are typically paid by sellers.

A great buyer’s agent will be in your corner working hard to find you the right home. The best agents will not offer any pressure for you to purchase. If you are a busy professional, having someone scouring the multiple listing service for you every day can be a godsend.

Make an Offer Stick

Start attending open houses to get a feel for the market. Are real estate values rising, falling, or stable. If home prices are falling, that will be good news for you. It might be possible to find a house you previously thought to be unaffordable.

When you find the home that makes you happy, you’ll want to pounce on it, especially if it is an excellent deal. Get together with your real estate agent and write the offer. Be prepared to have some give and take, which is often the case. Negotiating is something buyers, and sellers do. Try to make it a win-win if you can.

If the seller has already bought elsewhere, you will probably be in the driver’s seat as there will be some urgency to get a deal done.

On the other hand, if you are in a hot seller’s market, be prepared to move quickly. There could be multiple offers and bidding wars. Unfortunately, there will be less flexibility. To get the house you really want, you’re probably going to need to step up to the plate and give the seller their desired terms.

It is vital to be proactive at this stage, as you want to get into a house before your preapprovals expire. The financial markets are very mercurial, and especially in a rising market, conditions change very quickly.

Prepare For Moving

One of the most arduous tasks when buying or selling a home is moving. The move can not only be physically stressful but mentally as well. There are so many things to get done. Did you change your address with the post office? How about getting one of the best moving companies in the area?

Maybe you have found that hiring professional movers will be too expensive and rent a moving truck instead? Lots of folks choose to rent a moving truck from U-Haul because of the convenience and lower cost.

These are all things that should be thought about well in advance. Proper planning goes a long way when buying your first house.

Final Thoughts on Buying a First House

Once you have the finance approved for your new house, it is important to be ready to recognize and grab a good deal when it comes along. Buying a home for the first time can be a full time and stressful job. You will have a limited amount of time to perform what seems like an endless list of tasks. The good news is, it will soon be over, and you will be in your own home.

Hopefully, you have found some of these first-time homebuyer tips to be useful.