Two often confused terms in the home buying process are a mortgage loan pre-qualification and a home loan pre-approval. Even some loan officers and real estate agents will use the terms incorrectly, so here's what you really need to know about each one.
A mortgage loan pre-qualification is simply an estimate of how much house you can afford and how much money a lender would be willing to loan you. The best time to get a pre-qualification is right at the beginning of your home buying process, before you even start looking at houses. This involves either sitting down with a lender or talking with one on the phone, and providing information on your income, assets, debts, and a potential down payment amount. The lender would then provide you with a ballpark figure in writing of how much he thinks you could afford to pay for a monthly mortgage. There is no cost involved and there is no commitment on either side. This estimate is just helpful in helping you figure out if buying a home is a viable option, and if so, what your price range would probably be.
Getting pre-approved means that you have a tentative commitment from a specific lender for mortgage funding. In this case, you provide a home loan lender with actual documentation of your income, assets, and debts. This process typically requires an application fee as well, since the bank will run a credit check and work to verify all your employment and financial information. Once you are approved, the lender will give you a letter of commitment, stating how much money her bank is willing to loan you for a home purchase. With a pre-approval in hand you can start your shopping - real estate agents and sellers will take you much more seriously when they see you have your mortgage funding in place.
It is important to understand, however, that even a pre-approval is not a guarantee that you will be approved for a mortgage loan. The funding will only be given when the property appraisal, title search, and other verifications check out on the home you have chosen to buy. Neither is the pre-approval binding; you can still obtain a mortgage from a different lender. If you do stick with the same company that pre-approved you though, the application process will be much shorter once you find the right house.
As concrete shrinks during the curing process, vertical cracks form in the concrete or block, some so small they can hardly be seen. This generally does not affect the basement wall structurally, but could allow moisture to enter if the outside wallâ€™s waterproofing isnâ€™t flexible enough to span the crack. If moisture is seeping through, you might consider having a basement waterproofing contractor review the leakage. Often a concrete crack can be injected with a sealer to limit further moisture infiltration.
Basements may have hairline to 1/16 in wide vertical cracks. Prominent vertical cracks 1/8 in wide or larger could be a sign of distress that may need reviewing.
Sometimes a concrete or block basement wall will bow inward and develop a horizontal crack mid-height; this is where the wall feels the maximum stress from the force of the earth pushing against it. If the wall is plumb (straight up and down and not tilting inward), you can potentially monitor it to see if the size of the crack changes. If the crack continues to enlarge or the wall is out of plumb, a structural engineerâ€™s review is recommended. Again, call the foundation contractor for estimates if it's not out of plumb.
There are several common types of diagonal cracks in basement walls. One of the most common is when the crack begins at the top of the concrete basement wall and moves diagonally down to a corner. This is usually accompanied with inward tilting of the top of the foundation wall. It can be caused by the earth pushing against the basement wall and an inadequate connection (i.e. missing anchor bolts) between the basement wall and the first floor framing.
Another type of diagonal crack can appear anywhere in the wall and is usually wider at the top and tighter at the bottom. This type of crack is usually caused by the foundation settling.
A third type of diagonal crack appears at the corner of a window or door opening. This can have several causes, but one of the most common is concrete shrinkage similar to that described in the vertical cracks section.
There is no quick rule for diagonal cracks or for your foundation wall tilting inward. If you are experiencing these in your basement walls, we recommend a review.
Stair stepping cracks are very similar to diagonal cracks except stair stepping cracks occur in concrete block basement walls and diagonal cracks occur in concrete walls. Causes are similar to the diagonal crack issues listed above.
These spaces typically have more shallow depth foundations than basements and are more affected by soils that dry and shrink during extended dry summer weather. If there are interior cracks in the drywall or in the foundation wall that open in the summer and close in the winter, then the foundation wall might need additional support. A structural engineer can assess the situation and make recommendations.
Most houses with brick veneer have triangular shaped cracks on both sides of at least one corner of the foundation wall â€“ occasionally the concrete corner will pop off. This is caused when the brick veneer expands and the concrete foundation below contracts, which is normal. Typically no engineer review is necessary for this situation.
When concrete cures (dries and hardens) it shrinks and wants to crack into relatively square sections; this is why you see control joints on sidewalks to provide weak spots where the concrete can crack without affecting the aesthetics, strength or safety.
Cracks may form with or without control joints. Tight cracks are not considered a structural problem. However, because basement and garage slabs are supported by the ground, Â¼ in wide or larger cracks, vertical displacement at a crack line (the slab on one side of the crack line is higher than the other), or slab settlement can be a sign of a failure of the ground below and a review is recommended.
Cracks may be harmless or may be an indication of a significant structural problem. It is important to pay attention to your home and monitor any changes to existing cracks or the development of new cracks in your basement walls.
If you are one of the many homeowners looking to list your home for sale, how do you stand out to the millions of pet parents searching for their dream home?
Whether a dog person, a cat person, or someone who prefers the company of another pet species, 99% of pet owners say that they consider their animal to be family. When finding a home, 95% of animal owners believe it is important that a housing community allows animals.
A study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that there are many aspects of the home buying, selling and owning experience that have been greatly impacted by our love for our pets.
This should come as no surprise, as $72 billion was spent on pets in the U.S in 2018. NAR’s PresidentWilliam E. Brown shed some light on the impact of pet owners and their home search.
“It is important to understand the unique needs and wants of animal owners when it comes to homeownership. REALTORS® understand that when someone buys a home, they are buying it with the needs of their whole family in mind; ask pet owners, and they will enthusiastically agree that their animals are part of their family.”
New home builders have actually begun installing retractable pet gates that tuck away neatly inside door jams as a highly requested feature in new homes to attract pet-parents.
So, if you are a homeowner looking to sell in today’s pet-friendly environment, point out the features of your home that will attract pet owners:
An appraisal is an important part of many real estate transactions. An appraisal is typically done if a buyer requires a mortgage loan to purchase a property. The appraisal is done by an appraiser (who is licensed), and it's based on multiple data gathered during an inspection by the appraiser. When it comes to appraisals, there are many myths or misconceptions around them. Whether you're looking to buy a home, looking to refinance a current mortgage, or you're looking for more information about all that goes into real estate transactions, here are some of the most common myths when it comes to appraisals.
Assessed Value, Appraised Value and Market Value are all the Same
For many properties and in many states, the idea that the assessed value, appraised value and the market value are equal is understandable. But, in many areas and instances, this isn't the case. Assessed value is determined by an assessor (who works for a city, town or county) and is usually used to levy taxes; if the assessor doesn't actually physically inspect the property, s/he won't know if any improvements (remodeling projects, interior updates, additions, etc.) have been done. The same can also be said if nearby properties have not been reassessed for a long period of time or they don't reflect the area's current real estate market. Appraised value is determined by an appraiser, and is a result of a detailed physical inspection of a property and research done on the neighborhood and any nearby recently sold properties. Market values are consumer-driven and can be influenced by a buyer - if a buyer is willing and able to pay more for a property, then the market value is what the buyer is willing to pay. While all three values can be similar, all three also have the chance of being vastly different.
The Appraisal Varies Whether it's For the Buyer or Seller
Typically, an appraiser has no vested interest in the price of a property - s/he doesn't represent any particular person. The appraiser should complete an independent and objective appraisal, simply performing the service of determining a property's appraised value. Appraisals can be done for a number of reasons: insurance, home loans, tax losses, estates, liquidation and net worth. Because of this, depending upon the purpose of the appraisal, the market value and appraised value can vary, but the appraiser does not complete an appraisal in favor of the seller or the buyer.
Here are two articles and excerpts that make this point:
“It has been an excruciatingly long time coming, but the housing sector in the United States is finally getting healthy. Thank millennials and thank homebuilders who are starting to produce more of the starter houses young people demand.”
“Interest rates are so low now that a family can buy the median-priced U.S. home on income of less than $45,000 a year -- about $11,000 less than the median household income. And half of America's houses are cheaper than that.”
“The havoc during the last cycle was the result of building too many homes and of speculation fueled by loose credit. That’s the exact opposite of what we have today.” (emphasis added)
In today’s market, with home prices rising and a lack of inventory, some homeowners may consider trying to sell their home on their own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO). There are several reasons why this might not be a good idea for the vast majority of sellers.
Here are the top five reasons:
Recent studies have shown that 95% of buyers search online for a home. That is in comparison to only 17% looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home. Do you?
Where did buyers find the home they actually purchased?
The days of selling your house by just putting up a sign and putting it in the paper are long gone. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.
Here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to For Sale By Owner:
The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 8% over the last 20+ years.
The 8% share represents the lowest recorded figure since NAR began collecting data in 1981.
Many homeowners believe that they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real estate agent’s commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.
A study by Collateral Analytics revealed that FSBOs don’t actually save anything, and in some cases, may be costing themselves more, by not listing with an agent. One of the main reasons for the price difference at the time of sale is:
“Properties listed with a broker that is a member of the local MLS will be listed online with all other participating broker websites, marketing the home to a much larger buyer population. And those MLS properties generally offer compensation to agents who represent buyers, incentivizing them to show and sell the property and again potentially enlarging the buyer pool.”
If more buyers see a home, the greater the chances are that there could be a bidding war for the property. The study showed that the difference in price between comparable homes of size and location is currently at an average of 6% this year.
Why would you choose to list on your own and manage the entire transaction when you can hire an agent and not have to pay anything more?
Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, sit with a real estate professional in your marketplace and see what they have to offer.
Remodeling? Recoup Your Investment When You Sell
Before you pour your savings into a new kitchen and a rainforest shower for the master, think about whether or not you'll be able to recoup your investment when it comes time to sell.
If you have equity in your home, you can make improvements, but don't go over the limit of what other buyers can spend for a home similar to yours in your neighborhood.
While it's tempting to make your home more beautiful, you have to consider the rest of your neighborhood. If most residences in your neighborhood are three-bedroom single-story homes, buyers are unlikely to shop in your area for two-story four-bedroom homes.
Buyers want to shop for a home where there is the most selection of homes that fit their criteria. If they want a swimming pool, they're going to look in neighborhoods where many homes have pools. They won't be aware of your home if you have the only pool in your subdivision.
That's why over-improving for the neighborhood is a bad idea. Not only will you not get your money back for some updates, your home my be harder to sell because of them.
Another reason buyers don't tend to pay as much for updates as you might think is broad differences in taste. Your updates may include choices your buyer wouldn't have made because of several reasons:
You only improved one or two rooms, leaving the rest of the home looking unfinished.
Your updates were too radical, such as cold minimalism in a traditional setting.
Your updates masked a problem but didn't solve it, such as a kitchen that's too small. If the kitchen is still too small after you've put in granite counters, don't expect buyers to care.
You failed to do necessary repairs and updates that were less visible than the new décor but buyers noticed anyway.
Your updates are beautiful but require a lot of cost and upkeep.
Buyers want to make a home their own, and don't want to be distracted or confused by design statements that they don't agree with. Enjoy your home while you can, but make sure your new look can be easily depersonalized when it comes time to sell.
Don't expect to set a listing price based on what you've put into your home no matter how long you own it. Your home will be worth market value no matter when you sell, whatever the value is for that point in time.
All the improvements in the world won't change that basic fact. Your home and the improvements you make are only worth what willing buyers say they will pay.
Before you begin renovations, talk to your Realtor and your lender. They will help you develop a reasonable plan for updates that will add value to your home.
You don't need to know everything about buying and selling real estate if you hire a real estate professional who does. Henry Ford once said that when you hire people who are smarter than you are, it proves you are smarter than they are. The trick is to find the right person. For the most part, they all cost roughly the same. Why not hire a person with more education and experience than you? We're all looking for more precious time in our lives, and hiring pros gives us that time.
Agents take the spam out of your property showings and visits. If you're a buyer of new homes, your agent will whip out her sword and keep the builder's agents at bay, preventing them from biting or nipping at your heels. If you're a seller, your agent will filter all those phone calls that lead to nowhere from lookie loos and try to induce serious buyers to immediately write an offer.