Archives For February 2013

Tips When Buying a Home

February 25, 2013 — 10 Comments

Buying a new place, whether it be a condo, house, townhouse, and so on, can be a very long and difficult process.  When we bought our current house that we live in, it was extremely easy. Of course easy is relative, but it sure did seem easy.

We looked at a lot of houses, but we only put a contract down on one and it was accepted (after a couple of negotiations). Our move in date was set for just a couple of weeks after that and we moved in maybe less than one month from the day that we first toured the house. Even our loan officer said he’s never been through a home process as quick and as easy as process was.

However, I have heard others’ stories about how hard their home buying process was. Some have to wait months to sign the papers and move in. Some submit multiple offers just to be outbid by tons of other people.

There are so many things to think about when you buy a new home, and in today’s post I will be listing some of those.

Put 20% down

Putting 20% down has many positives for a home buyer. It will lower your payment in more than one way, mainly that you will take out a smaller home loan.

If you don’t put down at least 20%, then most mortgage companies will require that you pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). This can add an extra $50 to $150 to your monthly mortgage amount, and possibly even more. We made the mistake of not putting 20% down and now have to pay PMI. We definitely won’t be making this mistake with our next house.

Get pre-approved

Getting pre-approved is a big step.  Not knowing what you can “afford” and looking can be a big problem because you might fall in love with something but then no bank approve you for that amount. If you are pre-approved, then you can eliminate houses out of your search that are not possible due to your budget. It will save you a lot of time and the possibility that you will buy way outside of your budget.

Buy what you can truly afford

Now, just because you were pre-approved for a loan, it does not mean that you can truly afford that loan amount. Banks are notorious for approving individuals for MUCH more than they can afford. When we bought our current house, we were pre-approved for much more than could truly afford. Also, you are pre-approved normally on your gross income, not net income. Your gross income is of course much higher than your net and can make it seem like you can afford a house, when in reality you cannot.

Our real estate agent also gave us a little tip: if you are pre-approved for much more than you ever plan on buying a house for, then ask the loan officer to send you a pre-approval letter stating that you are pre-approved for a smaller amount. This way when you put a contract on a house, the seller and/or their real estate agent do not see some crazy number that someone believes you can afford. This way there will be less negotiations as the seller won’t be trying to get you to your top dollar.

Think about the long-term

How long do you plan on living in your home? A lot of people will say that their first home will just be a starter home, but what if that ends up not being the case and you live there for quite some time? You might want to look into the school district there just in case you do decide to have children, make sure the house is something that you would like for quite some time, and so on.

What tips do you have for a potential homebuyer?

My wife and I went to see Spiderman on Broadway last night. It was a great production and to be honest, it was one of the first times I had been so close to so many people in a long time. I really noticed how long it had been when I became aggravated that the people sitting next to us, came back 5 minutes after intermission ended, forcing us to miss a few crucial seconds of the play.

Not only did I notice our tendency to hang out with people in small groups, but I also noticed how individualistic our society is. As I looked around the theater at intermission while chatting with my wife, I couldn’t help but notice the many lights that flickered in the crowd. The mixture of cell phone screen lights could be compared to lightning bugs on a summer night. While somewhat amusing, it’s also interesting to connect the isolation to this visual display. In the middle of the quite social event, most people were in their own individual world. This is how our society is.

While I believe we are typically social creatures, we have created a world where we spend a lot of time alone. Driving in cars, watching TV, playing games on our cell phones, and the list could go on. Unfortunately this has huge repercussions. One of the most obvious is how we treat those closest to us. Western culture has often held a unusual value when it comes to living with relatives, let alone caring for them. As my grandparents get older, I can’t help but think what it will be like taking care of my parents.

We Need to Care for Those Closest To Us

Christianity has often emphasized the need to help others. Selflessly giving oneself for others is a dominant theme with its message(s). Yet, for some reason, we seem to have difficulty caring for those closest to us. In many ways, I don’t know what to expect when it comes to caring for my parents – if I will ever have to. They were the ones who took care of me – it just seems strange to have the roles reversed.

Yet, I know it’s an important thing to do. I would hate to think of my parents alone in a retirement home. When I was growing up, when my grandmother was getting ready to marry for the second time, she lived with us for about a year. I was too young at the time to think through the full implications, but to this day, my father’s sacrifice for his mom still amazes me.

Caring for Others is Difficult

Even though I know it is important for me to take care of those I love, I know it’s not easy. Reading about caregiver burnout is one thing, and the other is the financial burden. There are many days where I feel like I hardly have enough energy to clean my own dishes… how would I take care of someone else?

While I don’t have an answer to some of these questions, I do know that I need to prepare for these unlikely scenarios. In addition to doing some research from authority sites like Genworth, I plan to save a little extra money to both help with care of my parents and for me and my wife. Since we don’t plan to have kids, it’s only likely that there won’t be anyone there to take care of us, especially if we outlive our siblings. While that may be depressing for many people, I know it’s a part of life and you can only do one of two things: prepare for it so that it is significantly more manageable OR ignore it and face the consequences of your action. I choose to do the former. If you have yet to think what life will be like for you or your loved ones in 10 or 20 years from now, take time to think of the worst case scenario so that you can be a little better prepared.

Lately I have been talking about how we want to buy a new house a lot. I think about it everyday and I find myself looking at houses everyday also. I’ve pretty much looked at all of the houses within a 60 mile radius of where I want to be.

I have seen a lot of houses that I like, but none that are perfect. I have literally browsed through thousands of houses. Right now I feel like I’m at the point that if I find a house that I absolutely love, I don’t know if I can wait until the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014 to buy it. I mean, how could I wait? I haven’t found the perfect one yet so I definitely do not want to let the perfect house escape from me.

There are many things that we need to do before we buy, but we especially want to make sure that our credit scores are as perfect as they can be. Right now we are in the mid 700s and it would be higher if we wouldn’t have taken out a couple of 0% loans (we took them out just because they were 0%, we just let the cash sit in our bank because we believe that’s a better gain).

So, since we are focused on increasing our credit score and we plan on buying once the perfect house comes along, we need to really buckle down and make our credit score as good as it can be so that we can be ready to officially start the home buying process. Every little thing helps and even a couple of points higher would make us very happy.

How to quickly increase your credit score:

1. Check and fix any errors in your credit report.

When was the last time that you checked your credit report? You should do this at least once a year and make sure that there are no errors and that all of the information listed is correct. A small error might be drastically affecting your credit score, so check now! I recently ordered both of our credit reports from the 3 major agencies (all for free of course) and found that everything is correct now.

Everything being correct on our credit reports is a big deal because a couple of years ago I found out that someone had bought a house under my name when I was only 13! I had just found out about it because it was buried in my credit report and I had never looked hard enough. Definitely a big mistake.

2. Watch your utilization rate.

Pay down those high balances that you have. The balances that you have on your credit cards account for approximately 30% of your credit score. You want your balance to be below 30% of your total available credit. So if you are allowed to put up to $1,000 on your credit card, do not charge more than $300. It is also said to try and keep this amount below 20% in order to have an even better credit score.

This is something that we are really working on. I recently paid off a ton of credit card balances. We never carry a balance over and we always pay it off completely, but even with that, if you do not keep your utilization rate below 30%, it can still hurt your score even if you are paying your FULL balance off every month.

3. Keep all accounts open.

Recently my fiancé, “W,” was fooled into opened up a store credit card in order to save $25 off of his purchase.

Yes, I said $25 and that was all it took to entice him to sign up.  Trust me, he will never do that again! I thought about closing it immediately but I do know that closing it will only hurt his credit score and our ability to get a great interest rate on a mortgage. So, for now, we just plan on keeping it open and using it occasionally just so that it will help our credit score.

Closing a brand new credit card so quickly will most likely not have a positive effect on our credit score.

Are you trying to increase your credit score? What tips do you have?

A question I hear a lot is whether or not I plan on ever becoming self-employed. This is something that I think about often as well. I made over $6,000 in extra income in the month of January of 2013, so it’s hard not to think about self employment.

Plus, I’m starting to run out of time. Working a full-time job as an analyst in the financial services industry and also doing all of my side hustles including keeping up with my blog, takes up a lot of my time.

I’m still not entirely positive that self employment is for me. There are many positives and negatives of being self employed, and there are also many positives and negatives of working for someone else. Today, we will talk about the positives and negatives of self employment.

I think whether you will be comfortable being self employed is different with each individual person. Someone who needs someone constantly there telling them what to do might not be a good fit for self employment. Also, a person who is bursting at the seams with creativity or has the passion to be self employed, is probably not meant to work for someone else.

Positives of being self-employed:

1. You’re working for yourself.

This is the number one positive for me. You can do what you want and it can all be based on your own schedule. Everything can be done your way. I’m going to guess that if you are going the self-employed route, then you at least somewhat enjoy what you’re doing as well. I really, really enjoy all of my side hustles, and they truly make me happy. It’s like I’m not even working since I do enjoy it so much.

You also get to watch your company grow and see where it goes. Everything that you do affects the company, which can be a great feeling. You’re doing something exciting with your life and every move you make has an impact on your overall company.

2. Scheduling freedom.

Depending on what exactly you do for self employment, you can have scheduling freedom. You’re not a morning person? Well, then work at night.  Yes, yes, I do know that if the majority of your customers are awake only in the morning, then you will probably just be forced into being a morning person though.

If you can do the majority of your work on a computer, then travel while you work! You can do whatever you would like. Make your self employment position work around YOUR family and YOUR life, and not the other way around. Have fun with what you do.

3. Lower or no costs of commuting.

If you are able to work from home, then your commuting costs have significantly decreased most likely as well. You are also saving all of that extra time by not having to drive to and from work everyday. No more stress from having to sit in traffic for you!

Negatives of being self-employed:

1. You might get overworked.

When you’re working for yourself, it’s harder to have a good work-life balance. You are almost always bringing work home (especially if your work is at home), and it might be hard to take yourself away from your business. It almost becomes an addiction because you want to see your business go places.

2. You don’t know when you’ll get paid next.

This might not mean much if you’re already commission at your job, but if you make a salary, you might miss that regular and stable paycheck. You will most likely have to actively look for new clients and the amount of money you make may vary from month to month.

3. No benefits.

At your current job, you may get health insurance, a fitness center, discounts on various products and so on. However, if you work for yourself, then you most likely won’t qualify for these items. Luckily, my fiancé would be able to add me on to his plans, but not everyone is this lucky.

Do you want to be self-employed? Why or why not?