Caroleann Ohannessian's Blog
There are a number of programs, government-sponsored and otherwise, that are designed to help aspiring homeowners find and get approved for a mortgage that works for them.
Among these are first-time homeowner loans insured by the Housing and Urban Development Department, mortgages and loans insured by the USDA designed to help people living in urban and rural areas, and VA loans, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In today’s post, I’m going to give you a basic rundown of VA loans, who is eligible for them, and how to apply for one. That way you’ll feel confident knowing you’re getting the best possible deal on your home mortgage.
What is a VA Loan?
VA loans can provide soon-to-be homeowners who have served their country with low-interest rates and no private mortgage insurance (PMI).
If you’re hoping to buy a home soon and don’t have at least a 20% down payment, you typically have to take out private mortgage insurance. This means paying an extra insurance bill on top of your monthly mortgage payments. The downside of PMI is that it never turns into equity that you can then use when you decide to move again or sell your home.
Loans that are guaranteed by the VA don’t require PMI because the bank knows your loan is a safer investment than if it wasn’t guaranteed
VA loans may also help you secure a lower interest rate, or give you some negotiating power when it comes to discussing your interest rate.
Finally, VA loans set limits on the number of closing costs you can pay in your mortgage. And, if you’ve ever bought a home before, you’ll know how quickly closing costs can add up.
Who is eligible?
There are some common misconceptions about who can apply for a VA loan? So, we’ll cover all the bases of eligibility.
If you meet one of the following criteria, you may be eligible for a VA loan:
You’ve served 90 consecutive days during wartime
You’ve served 181 days during peacetime
You’ve served six or more years in the Reserves or National Guard
Your spouse died due to their work in the military
There are some restrictions to these eligibilities. For example, your chosen lender may still have credit score minimums.
Applying for a VA Loan
There are two main steps for applying for a VA Loan. First, you’ll have to ensure your eligibility. You can do this by checking the VA’s official website. Be sure to call them with any questions you may have.
Next, you’ll need a certificate of eligibility. The easiest way to acquire one is through your chosen lender. If you haven’t chosen a lender, you can also apply online through the eBenefits portal, or by mailing in a paper application.
Once you have a certificate, you can apply for your mortgage and you’ll be on your way to buying a home.
Buying a home is a process that can seem daunting and even a little scary to most first-time buyers. After all, being a homeowner is a huge financial and personal responsibility.
To make this lengthy process a bit more approachable, we’re going to break it down into five steps. While these five steps may be somewhat different for each person, depending on their own unique situation, they do comprise most home buyer’s experience.
If you’re interested in learning the steps you’ll need to take before owning your first home, read on.
Step 1: Know your long-term goals
Before you buy a home, you’ll want to have a clear understanding of what you, your spouse, and your family want from the next five or more years. You’ll want to make sure the area you’re moving to can provide things like career advancement and opportunity, good schools for your children, and so on.
These questions may seem obvious, but it’s an important conversation to have before making the long-term commitment of owning a home.
Step 2: Your budget and your needs
It might be tempting to hop online and start shopping for houses, but first you should get a clear idea of the size and cost of the house you’re looking for. This involves determining your budget, thinking about your credit and planning for your down payment.
Step 3: Mortgage pre-approval
Getting preapproved for a mortgage can be a great way to gauge the interest late and loan amount you’ll be approved for. You’ll need to gather paperwork, including income information (pay stubs), tax returns, and W-2 forms.
Be aware that lenders will run a detailed credit report. Since credit reports count as an inquiry, they can temporarily lower your credit score by a few points.
Applying to several lenders within a short period of time can make a significant impact on your score. However, it will start to rise again within a few months if you don’t open any new credit accounts or take out other loans.
Step 4: Get an agent
Real estate agents know the ins and outs of the home buying process better than anyone else. They’ll be able to guide you through the process and provide you with information that you can’t get anywhere else.
Step 5: Pick the right home for you
Now it’s time to start home shopping. However, before you begin, remember that getting approved for a loan doesn’t mean you must or should seek to spend the full amount on a home.
Plan for your needs, and keep the future in mind. Someday you might decide to upgrade, but in the meantime you can be building your credit and building equity in a smaller or more frugal home.
Want to add your house to the real estate market? If you're operating in a seller's market, you may be able to generate plenty of interest in your house as soon as your residence becomes available.
A seller's market commonly features an abundance of homebuyers and a shortage of home sellers. As such, a home seller who lists a high-quality residence in a seller's market could earn a significant profit.
Operating in a seller's market offers many opportunities for home sellers who prepare accordingly. Lucky for you, we're here to ensure you can get the best price for your residence in a seller's market.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you optimize the value of your house in a seller's market.
1. Complete a Home Appraisal
A home appraisal will help you understand your house's strengths and weaknesses. That way, you can perform any home improvement projects before you list your residence. You may be able to boost your chances of a quick property sale too.
Typically, a home appraisal requires just a few hours to complete. A home appraiser will visit your residence and inspect it both inside and out. Then, this appraiser will provide you with a report that details your home's condition.
Review the results of a home appraisal report closely. By doing so, you can prioritize various home improvements and work toward transforming your ordinary residence into one that will stand out in a seller's market.
2. Analyze the Housing Market
How does your residence stack up against comparable houses that are currently available? Examine the housing market to find out.
Evaluate the prices of houses that are similar to your own. This may help you establish a realistic price range for your residence.
Also, look at how long recently sold properties were available before they were purchased. This may help you understand how long it might take for you to get the best price for your residence in a seller's market.
3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent
When it comes to selling a home, there is no reason to embark on the property selling journey on your own. Thankfully, real estate agents are available in cities and towns nationwide, and these housing market experts are happy to assist you in any way they can.
A real estate agent can provide details about what to expect before you add your residence to a seller's market. He or she will help you plan ahead and ensure your residence features an awe-inspiring exterior and flawless interior that differentiate your property from others.
Moreover, a real estate agent will help you alleviate stress throughout the home selling journey. This housing market professional can respond to your home selling concerns and questions and provide plenty of guidance to help you make informed decisions.
There is no need to leave anything to chance when you list your home in a seller's market. Instead, take advantage of the aforementioned tips, and you should have no trouble stirring up interest in your house.
If you want to sell your house as quickly as possible, it is important to ensure your residence boasts a dazzling interior. Because if buyers fall in love with your residence as soon as they step inside of it, you may be able to reap the benefits of a quick, profitable house selling experience.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you rejuvenate your home's interior.
1. Eliminate Clutter
Clutter is a problem for many home sellers, and it may make it tough for a seller to show off the full beauty of his or her residence to potential buyers.
Dedicate time and resources to remove clutter from your house – you'll be glad you did. If you have excess items, you can always sell these items or donate them to charity. Or, if you have assorted items you want to keep, you can rent a storage unit to keep these items safe until your residence sells.
2. Depersonalize Your Home
Antiques, paintings and various personal belongings have helped your transform a house into a home. Yet these personal belongings may make it difficult for a buyer to picture what life may be like as the owner of your residence.
Oftentimes, it helps to remove personal belongings from your home before you add it to the real estate market. If you make it easy for buyers to imagine what life could be like if they purchase your home, you may be able to help them decide whether your residence is the right choice.
3. Clean Your Home
Buyers likely will shy away from a dirty, messy home. Conversely, a home seller who cleans his or her residence from top to bottom can boost the likelihood that this house will make a positive first impression on prospective buyers.
Home cleaning should be performed regularly. If you need extra help with home cleaning, you can always hire a professional home cleaning company as well.
As you get set to add your residence to the local housing market, you may want to hire a real estate agent too. A real estate agent can offer recommendations and suggestions about how to improve your residence's interior. Furthermore, he or she will do whatever it takes to help you optimize your home sale earnings.
Let's not forget about the guidance that a real estate agent can provide at each stage of the home selling journey, either. A real estate agent will showcase your residence to prospective buyers, help you analyze offers to purchase your house and much more. And if you ever have home selling concerns or queries, a real estate agent is prepared to respond to them at a moment's notice.
Ready to revitalize your home's interior and enjoy a successful property selling experience? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can improve your house's interior and take a step to distinguish your home from comparable residences in your city or town.
If you're renting a nice house, condo, or apartment, there's a good chance your monthly rent check is almost as much as a mortgage payment. Perhaps you've realized this and have been asking yourself why you're contributing to someone else's nest egg, instead of your own! If that sounds familiar, you may be ready to take the plunge into home ownership.
The other half of the equation is whether you're financially ready, and that would depend on a variety of things, including your credit rating, your debt-to-income ratio, and your ability to make a sufficient down payment on a new home. Although a 20% down payment is a desirable target to aim for, there's often a lot of flexibility on how much you're required to put down on a house.
One of the main reasons a 20% down payment is desirable is that it takes you "off the hook" for having to pay monthly private mortgage insurance (PMI). The second advantage of making a substantial down payment is that it reduces the principal amount of your loan, which, in turn, lowers your monthly payments even more. However, if you're ready to become a home owner, but can't afford a 20% down payment, you can often eliminate PMI payments earlier than scheduled by making extra principal payments. The bank or mortgage company you decide to work with can fully explain their policies and what your options are.
If you are interested in making the transition from renter to home owner, now's a good time to start talking to loan officers. If nothing else, you'll be educating yourself on the intricacies of buying a home. Working with an experienced real estate agent is another way to learn the ropes, so to speak, when it comes to the home buying process.
Other than the financial benefits of building equity in your own home, there are also a lot of practical advantages. If you're currently a renter, for example -- especially in an apartment building, duplex, or townhouse -- you're probably tired of the lack of privacy and the unwelcome noises you can often hear through walls, floors, and ceilings.
Becoming a home owner brings with it a pride of ownership and the ability to plant trees, bushes, and gardens on your own property. Depending on what's available in your price range, you can also enjoy your own private deck, screened in porch, or patio. Options for the kids (if you have them) include swing sets, sand boxes, and room to play backyard sports or run through a water sprinkler during the hot weather.
If you feel like you are ready to take the plunge into home ownership, the first step is to make lists of your requirements, your preferences ("wish list"), and financial resources. The next step is to find a good real estate agent to start showing you homes that fulfill your needs and check off as many items on your wish list as possible!