Saturday, November 10, 2007

Advice to First-Time Homebuyers

As the sub-prime mortgage market continues its remarkable collapse, it’s only natural that lending practices are getting tighter, particularly for those applicants with weak credit histories. But according to a recent survey by the Federal Reserve, 41% of America’s banks have tightened loan standards for prime borrowers, as well. Translation: Even if you have good credit, it’s becoming much harder to qualify for a mortgage.

The mortgage industry is in shock from the sub-prime disaster that continues to rock our financial markets. Part of the current problem is that too many adjustable rate mortgages were given to too many unprepared or undeserving borrowers. Today’s prospective homebuyers should view this as an opportunity to learn more about the mortgage process, to determine whether homeownership is actually within their financial means.

Unfortunately, we’ve come to regard homeownership as a right, but it’s a privilege to own your own home. Rather than lose that privilege by failing to consider the responsibilities that go with it, consumers need to prepare themselves financially long before they sign a mortgage agreement.

Cambridge offers this advice to those looking to buy their first home:

The monthly mortgage payment quoted by your lender is almost always based on your gross income - your income before taxes and other deductions are taken out. That may help you qualify for a nicer house, but that money isn’t truly available to you for your mortgage or any of your other expenses, either. Instead, you should think in terms of your net income - what you actually bring home.

Your new home will more than likely be bigger than your former living space, so you should expect higher energy bills. Be sure to ask the current occupants what their monthly averages are so you can plan accordingly.

You may need to make significant purchases to furnish the additional living area. Be sure to estimate how much furniture you’ll need and what the cost will be, including delivery.

After you have a good idea of your increased expenses, develop a projected monthly budget. If you find that you’ll be struggling to maintain your obligations or that you’ll be unable to set aside monthly savings (anywhere from 5 to 10% of your net income), you might want to reconsider homeownership at this time.

If you can afford your new home, be sure that you have a financial emergency fund equal to three months’ worth of these new expenses, before you buy. Accidents happen. The American Dream can quickly become a nightmare following an unexpected financial setback, but an emergency fund can help get your family through tough times with your home intact.

Talk with friends and family members about their home-buying experiences. Do some research on the Internet, and consider taking a homeownership course if one is available in your area. The more information you have before you move can make for a better experience when you receive the key to your new home.

No comments: