Take the first step towards home ownership

By getting 'pre-qualified' not only will you determine how much you can afford, but you will be prepared to write an offer, and a seller will know you are serious.

One of the biggest hurdles in the buyer's purchase is producing cash for a down payment and/or buyer's closing costs.

Even this obstacle is not insurmountable. If you are a veteran, you may be able to obtain 100 percent financing through a VA loan and many lenders offer 95 percent financing. If your income enables you to qualify for the necessary mortgage loan, you may be able to negotiate a contract in which the seller pays your purchase closing costs and adjusts the price upward so that you, in effect, finance your closing costs. But the loan appraisal will still need to support this higher value in order for the loan to close.

A good place to start the entire process is to visit a mortgage loan officer to pre-qualify and establish your maximum loan amount. We can help you determine your affordability level, too, if you don't mind sharing income and debt information. This loan maximum, coupled with your available cash, will determine the price range in which you should look. You should begin shopping by researching community features you want and need, remembering that "location-location-location" is as important as the home itself.

When shopping for a mortgage, look at the overall cost, not just the interest rate.

Generally speaking, the higher the rate, the lower the number of points charged. Make sure you understand any hidden costs or special early payment penalties, which could create problems for you. Look at different mortgage products, such as shorter-term fixed-rate loans or adjustable-rate loans, but be sure you understand what your "worst-case scenario" is if interest rates rise.

Dyanna Chrisman, REALTOR,
brokered by Real Smart Realty

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