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Let’s face it. House hunting is the fun research that most people think of when contemplating buying a home. You learn about neighborhoods. You decide on numbers of desired bedrooms and bathrooms, look at the condition of the property and weigh the importance of finishes. School districts and nearby amenities may sway your decision. You research real estate agents and the value of working with a professional or taking your chances on your own. You envision yourself living in the new home with endless sunny days filtering in through those nice big windows. Then the question comes: “Are you pre-qualified?”

Unless you plan to pay the entire amount yourself, you’re going to need to get a mortgage loan to help with your home purchase. And this, folks, is where the confidence in what to research next often runs out. At what point do you get pre-qualified? How do you judge which is the right mortgage company? What kind of mortgage program should you ask for? How much money do you need to have saved? What are the fees? Does a good interest rate require negotiation skills? How long does it take to get approved and what if you get rejected? Can you just show the mortgage company an app on your phone and walk out the same day with keys to your new home?

In this series we’ll examine 5 steps to turning yourself into a more successful mortgage candidate.

Step One: Research

The Benefits of Research

The more you understand entering into your mortgage pre-qualification, the more comfortable you’re bound to be through the mortgage approval process. Following are some areas of focus that should help you get underway.

First Things First… Where to Start

The first step in house hunting ought to be mortgage pre-qualification. Real estate agents and home owners are likely to ask you whether you’re pre-qualified because they don’t want to waste time showing you the house, or talking offers, until they know that you’re deemed capable of making a home purchase.

Understand Your Needs

The best chance a mortgage company will have of meeting your needs is if you can clearly state what they are. You don’t have to become an expert on every mortgage product out there, but you are an expert on your personal situation. That is exactly what your loan officer is looking to learn from you so they can turn around and give you solid professional guidance.

They’ll want to understand:

  • Your debt load compared to your income.
  • Your credit history.
  • What amount of monthly mortgage payment you would be able to pay consistently and comfortably.
  • How much money you have already saved to cover closing costs and down payment.
  • What is most important to you: low interest rates; low monthly payments; low down payment; using your VA benefits; not having to pay monthly mortgage insurance; not having to pay any mortgage insurance; getting assistance to buy your first home; seeing the house as a short term investment; planning to stay in the home for as long as possible; downsizing; upsizing; paying the loan off as fast as you can, etc.

It’s Okay. Play.

Mortgage calculators range from simple to complex, depending on where you look and how involved you want to get. Play around. Take a look at different ideas and get a feel for what that would mean for your wallet. It’s a good idea to keep in mind that mortgage calculators are broad brush estimating tools and may not take all of the facts into consideration. Still, in playing around, you may pick up on trends in one mortgage product or another that will help you to know what you’re looking for or inspire good questions to ask.

Mortgage Payments Calculator
Payments Calculator

How much will my payments be?

 

Affordability Calculator
Affordability Calculator

How much should I borrow?

 

Rent vs. Buy a Home Calculator
Rent vs. Buy

Should I think about buying a home instead of renting?

The more informed you are when you enter into your mortgage pre-qualification, the more you’ll be able to help get the kind of results you want. Poke around. Read up. And the next step and topic for next week… Ask Questions!