Our Top First Time Home Buyer FAQ’s answered

Mortgage-Related

How do I know if it’s time to buy instead of rent?

If you know where you want to live, have a steady and secure income, and are ready for the responsibilities of homeownership, then it’s a great time to invest in property.

How much do I need to save up for a down payment?

A conventional loan down payment is usually 20% of the sales price, but other types of financing require as little as 3.5% to 15%. A mortgage lender can tell you what types of loans you qualify for.

How do I know if I qualify for a loan and how much I can afford?

Contact a mortgage lender to get pre-approval for a loan. The lender will ask you some basic questions about your income and debts and can tell you what amount you can be approved for, and how much your mortgage payments will be.

What does the lender need from me to give me a loan?

Usually, you are asked to provide your last two tax returns to show proof of income. You should also provide recent bank and credit card statements and proof of your current pay rate. You will also be asked for your social security number so they can run a credit check.

What’s the difference between pre-approved and pre-qualified?

While often used interchangeably, these terms don’t mean the same thing. Pre-qualification is an estimate of what you may be approved for based only on the verbal information you provide. Pre-approval means the lender has verified your income and debt information and run a credit check.

How do I know which mortgage option is right for me?

Your mortgage lender is the best person to advise you on this question. Their products and qualifications change from time to time, so they would know best what products are available to meet your needs.

Searching for a Home

What should I do when I see a house online that I like?

Call your buyer’s agent: the agent you are working with to find your home. It’s best that you work with one real estate agent throughout your search because that person learns what you like and dislike and will invest a lot of time vetting properties for you. That person also represents your best interests only. When you call the agent advertising the home, you are dealing with the seller’s agent, so, while they can assist you, they are also trying to get the best price for the seller.

Can you show me a house if it’s not your listing?

Absolutely. As a buyer’s agent, I can show you any house listed in our MLS system, and I will contact FSBO sellers on your behalf. As mentioned above, working with me as your buyer’s agent ensures that your interests are protected.

How do we write an offer?

When you find the property you want to make an offer on, I will run a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to help you determine a fair offer amount. I will also guide you through the additional terms of the contract, such as the escrow amount, closing date, and any additional terms you want to be added to the offer. I will write the offer on a contract form and submit it to the seller’s agent.

What if I want to back out of a contract?

You always have the right to back out of the purchase, but you may lose your escrow deposit. If the contract is contingent on a property inspection, you usually have the right to cancel for any reason during the inspection period. Once the inspection period has passed, you cannot back out and keep your deposit unless the seller agrees, or an additional term has not been met.

What happens if there are other offers on the house I love?

If a seller receives multiple offers on their home, usually their agent will inform the buyer’s that multiple offers have been received and the buyers have another opportunity to alter their original offer to present their “highest and best” offer. Keep in mind that many factors may influence the seller in addition to the offer price, such as the down payment amount, closing date, and inspection terms.

What happens when my offer gets accepted?

Once both parties have agreed on all terms and signed the contract, your escrow deposit must be made and you should schedule the home inspection. Your lender will receive a copy of the contract and will begin processing your mortgage application.

We’re Under Contract!

What does “under contract” mean?

Under contract means that all parties have agreed on terms, have signed the contract, and the signed contract has been delivered to both buyer and seller. Payment of the escrow deposit is expected but is not a requirement to make a binding contract.

What is escrow?

The escrow money, escrow deposit, or good faith deposit is money that is offered with an offer, or as soon as an offer is accepted, to show the seller that you are serious about moving forward with the purchase of the home. Because you forfeit this deposit if you back out of the purchase for any reason not allowed for in the contract, the larger the escrow deposit, the more seriously your offer is taken.

Do I need an inspection?

We always recommend that you have a home inspection done. In the scheme of things, paying a few hundred dollars to have peace of mind that there are no hidden dangers or problems is well worth the money.

How much are inspections?

The cost of the home inspection depends on the size of the house and additional inspections requested, such as swimming pool, septic tank, termites, insurance four-point (HVAC, plumbing, roof, and electrical,) wind mitigation, and radon. An average home inspection, without additional inspections, is about $300.

What if my loan doesn’t get approved?

If you have gone through the pre-approval process and have been forthcoming with all the information requested by your lender, it’s unlikely you will be turned down, but it does happen. Make sure you do not change jobs, purchase big-ticket items on credit, take out a car or boat loan, or open any other new credit accounts while your mortgage is being processed. If your loan does fall through, talk with your lender about changing to a different loan type.

When can I start moving?

When you have the keys! When you are financing your purchase, it takes four to six weeks for your loan to be processed. Once the lender gives the all-clear, closing is scheduled. You will sign your loan documents and both parties will sign documents transferring ownership to you. Unless other arrangements have been agreed upon by both parties, the sellers should have completely vacated the home when they sign the closing papers. You can have your belongings ready to move, and a moving company scheduled before you go to closing. At closing, you will receive the documentation you need to provide utility companies with proof of your new residence.

 

12 Tips for Decorating a Large Wall

Have a large wall space that needs some décor but worried it will cost you hundreds of dollars in art? Not necessarily! Here are some ideas for filling a large wall without emptying your bank account.

  1. Take individual pictures of your family members and have large prints made in black and white. Add to the size of each photo by adding a photo mat, then frame them in inexpensive black frames and hang them in a row across the wall.
  2. Let your kids be the artists. Purchase large canvases and let your children paint their masterpieces. Or take artwork they have already done at school or at home and mat and frame them.
  3. Use floating shelves hung at various heights and topped with photos, vases, ornaments, books, candles, or mementos.
  4. Use plants to fill in empty spaces. You can place potted plants or succulents on floating shelves, use planters or hanging baskets made to attach directly to the wall, or make a DIY vertical garden out of an old wooden pallet.
  5. Use mixed media such as large woven or wooden trays, tapestries, or metal sculptures.
  6. Hang a collection of quirky clocks, different sized mirrors, graphic signs, old album covers, vintage prints, painted empty frames, or crosses.
  7. Stencil your wall with a graphic design, a tree, vines, or a floral pattern, or favorite inspirational quote.
  8. Reduce the wall space and soften the room by framing the wall with false drapery panels hung on either end of a sofa or pair of chairs.
  9. Light it up by attaching LED string lights in a pattern or hanging pretty wall sconces at various heights.
  10. Reduce the wall space by placing a potted tree or folding decorative screen in front of part of the wall.
  11. Search antique malls for vintage architectural pieces that can be hung on the wall, such as old window frames, an antique door, intricate fireplace screen.
  12. Create your own graphic by covering large frames or canvases with patterned fabric remnants and hanging them in a row or collage.

16 Tips for Relocating to a New Town

Moving is always hard work but moving to a new town can be exceptionally hard, even when you are excited about your next chapter in life. If you’re relocating to the Knoxville area, I’d love to help you find a home and provide information about the area. I can also give you referrals for the other services you will need, such as recommendations for hotels, restaurants, child care, and pet boarding while you get settled. If you are leaving the Knoxville area, as your real estate agent, I can also refer you to an agent in your new town to help you find your new home.

To help make the logistics of your relocation as smooth as possible, here are some to-do items you may not have thought about yet.

1. As soon as you know you will be moving, start to organize your belongings, getting rid of things you don’t want to take with you.
2. Collect used packing materials like boxes and bubble wrap to reduce what you will need to purchase.
3. Start packing items you don’t use daily, like family mementos, holiday decorations, books and décor accessories.
4. Get an estimate from moving companies and schedule a tentative date with the one you choose.
5. Visit your new town, if possible, and arrange a driving tour with a real estate agent that can show you different neighborhoods, shopping centers, and the locations of hospitals, schools, churches, and recreational facilities or parks.
6. When you know what school district your children will enroll in, visit the schools your children will attend to meet the principal and tour the grounds.
7. Once you know what neighborhood you will be living in, join Nextdoor or the neighborhood Facebook page to keep abreast of what’s happening there.
8. Locate and pack your important papers and ID’s so that you know where they are at all times.
9. If your company is offering you relocation services, make sure you know all the terms. Often, they will cover items you might not think about, like the cost of shipping your car or professional organizers to help you unpack. They may also be negotiable in what they cover.
10. Save all your moving expense receipts. If you are moving 50 miles or more from your old job to start a new job, your expenses may be tax deductible.
11. Make a list of services you need to terminate in your old town and services you need to initiate in your new town.
12. If you have doctor, dentist, veterinary, or hair appointments scheduled ahead of time, call and cancel them.
13. Remember to transfer subscriptions for things like magazines, food deliveries, and mail-order prescriptions.
14. Change your delivery address on your Amazon, Target, Shipt, or other shopping accounts so you don’t accidentally ship items to your old address.
15. Schedule an appointment to transfer your automobile registration and driver’s license if moving to a new state.
16. Transfer your voter’s registration right away, especially if your move if close to a major election registration deadline.

Tips for Virtual Home Shopping During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much of the way we live right now, home shopping included. Although Stay at Home mandates are starting to lift, we certainly can’t be going in and out of strangers’ homes touching doorknobs, light switches, and appliances.
If you are needing to move soon, however, don’t despair! I can help you find a home and stay safely within the health guidelines. Here are some tips for home shopping during the pandemic.

  1.  Be selective about the homes you choose to visit.  If you are the type of buyer that likes to cast a wide net and see everything in your price range, you may have to change your methodology. Try to narrow down your list of homes to visit to your very top choices.
  2. Start with a virtual tour.  Many sellers are making virtual home tours available for buyers. The technology for virtual has improved greatly in the last couple of years, from simple videos to 3-D tours with floor plans that help you feel what it is really like to walk through the rooms.
  3. Take a Facetime tour with me. If the seller doesn’t offer a virtual tour, I can do one for you. The seller may be more comfortable allowing one person to come in rather than a group of people.  I will be happy to take a video for you or Facetime with you while you tour the home, following proper protocol to limit exposure, of course.
  4. Schedule a live showing. When you find a home you really must see in person, don’t bring anyone with you that isn’t vital to the decision-making process. Besides the fact that sellers probably don’t want a family of six parading around, with fewer distractions you can get a better look and eliminate the need to come back a second time.  Take lots of pictures and measurements so you don’t miss anything.
  5. Put safety first when touring.  You want to safeguard your own heath, and you want the sellers to appreciate the you safeguard theirs as well. Generally, sellers leave the home during tours, but if they are unable to leave, I can work with them to stay in one area of the home, or in the yard, while you look.  Also, ask the sellers to open all the doors, cabinets, and closets so you don’t have to touch anything. Wear a mask and use hand sanitizer before and after you enter the home.

I am still showing and selling houses during the pandemic, so don’t let it discourage you from looking. Most of the process can be handled online now, and what cannot be done digitally, I am taking care of with your health and safety in mind.