8 things to know about buying a home today

Use mortgage preapproval to your advantage

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted May. 14, 2012

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Use mortgage preapproval to your advantage

Dian Hymer
Inman News®

The home-sale market is showing signs of life. More buyers are confident now than they were a year ago that now might be a good time to buy. Interest rates are near all-time lows and home prices in some areas are back to 2002-2003 levels.

Some analysts are finally suggesting that we may be headed for recovery. If you have a secure job, plan to stay put and feel this is the right time for you to buy a home, consider the following.

In most places in the country, home prices are still declining. It has only been recently that the market picked up and it's too soon to know if this will result in a sustainable increase in prices.

The recent home sales in areas around California's Silicon Valley defy the norm. Significant job growth in the area combined with a low inventory of good homes for sale has resulted in multiple offers with buyers bidding the price up sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars over the asking price.

In other high-demand, low-inventory areas, you may find yourself bidding against other buyers, perhaps even more than once. This doesn't necessarily mean that the price will be bid up significantly over the asking price. This will vary from one listing to the next depending on property location, condition and price.

It's important to research the local community where you want to buy. Find out what homes are selling for, if multiple offers are common and if listings are selling for more than the asking price. This will help you make a realistic offer that might be accepted when you find a home you'd really like to buy. It helps to work with an experienced local real estate agent.

Some sellers in high-demand niche markets intentionally list their home at a low price hoping to stimulate multiple offers. If you see such a listing and there are a lot of buyers wanting to make offers, you will be better able to know how high your offer would need to be to win the contest if you have done your due diligence.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Whether you're anticipating competition or not, you should be preapproved for the mortgage you'll need to complete the purchase before you write an offer. In competition, this will make a big difference, particularly if everyone else who is offering is preapproved. It also lets you know what you can afford. And, it puts you in a good bargaining position with the seller.

Buyers aren't the only participants in the housing market that have heard the news that the market has improved. Some sellers are putting their homes on the market because they've been waiting for a better time to sell. This is good news for buyers looking in low-inventory markets.

You should expect that you will have to negotiate. Many of today's sellers are selling for less than they paid. Even though the market has improved a bit, sellers may be disappointed with the current market value of their home. Be prepared to negotiate, not just the initial price, but after inspections are completed if items come up that you hadn't anticipated.

Include realistic contingency time frames in your purchase contract for loan and appraisal approval if you're applying for a mortgage. The recent uptick in the market means that lenders are suddenly overwhelmed.

In mid-March, buyers in Oakland, Calif., who were seeking approval for a jumbo loan were told they could close a transaction in 21 days. Not only could they not close in 21 days, it took more than 21 days for loan approval due to lender backlog.

THE CLOSING: Underwriters could require that additional conditions be met before you can be approved. Act quickly to avoid further delay.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years' experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide."

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