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Mortgage Timeline 101

by Melissa Thompson


Buying your first home, while exciting, is also likely to be the biggest and most complex purchase you will have made up to this point in your life.  But there is no need to let yourself get overwhelmed. Take the time to educate yourself about the process and it will be a lot less stressful.  Let’s start with your mortgage loan.  If you have never acquired one before, you may not realize that from start to finish, it can take from about three to five months to complete the process.  Let’s take a look at the approximate timeline for a mortgage:

  1. FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD (TWO WEEKS)

This is the time when you will determine the type of mortgage you will apply for, find out what your credit rating is, and figure out how much you can afford for a monthly payment.While it can probably be done pretty quickly, give yourself about a week so that you can take your time.The second week will be for getting your pre-approval letter. 18 Ways to Check Your Credit Score for Absolutely Free

  1. START YOUR HOME SEARCH/FIND YOUR HOME/MAKE AN OFFER (THREE TO EIGHT WEEKS)

Now, the fun begins! Once you have procured a preapproval, you can start looking for the right home for you and your family. Depending on the market and availability of homes that fall in your price range and appeal to you, this step can go pretty quickly, or it can take a while.Once you’ve found the right home, your Realtor will help you come up with an offer and will submit it to the seller’s agent. Avoid these Seven Mistakes When Making an Offer onHouse

  1. FIND A MORTGAGE LENDER/GET HOME INSPECTION & APPRAISAL (FIVE TO SIX WEEKS)

Once the seller has accepted your offer, it’s time to finalize your mortgage offers and get loan estimates. It’s smart to get rate quotes from at least three lenders so you can compare and find the best one for you. This may take about a week and the appraisal may take three to four weeks. Before you close on your home you need to order a home inspection to ascertain the condition of the home.Your lender will also schedule a home appraisal to confirm the home’s value. The Home Appraisal Process

  1. COMPLETION OF MORTGAGE OVERWRITING AND CLOSING (TWO TO FOUR WEEKS)

If all goes well with the inspection and the appraisal is complete, you are ready to proceed.The mortgage lender will verify your income, assets, debt, and home value details.When all has been cleared to close, you will receive a closing disclosure which will sum up the terms of your loan and what you will owe at closing.You will be given at least three days to review it.Once you’ve determined that everything is as it should be, you are ready to close on your new home! What You Should Expect When Closing on a House

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor Melissa Thompson and let her help you with all your real estate needs! Give her a call today at 901-729-9526!

Be Prepared to Pay Closing Costs

by Melissa Thompson


When you make an offer on a home and it gets accepted, you have every reason to be excited. Becoming a homeowner is making an investment in your own future; likely the largest financial investment you will make.  However, it is prudent to be aware that there are other costs involved in purchasing a home other than your down payment and monthly mortgage payments.

Closing costs are an expense you may not be aware of if you are a first-time homebuyer.  These costs must be paid prior to closing on the home. They include property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, title search fees, and appraisal fees.  In addition, the closing costs provide the funds that pay the people who have performed services throughout the loan process, like the appraiser and your real estate agent.

Your closing costs will be itemized for you and provided at your closing. But it’s important that you look over them closely and take the time to ask any questions you may have before you sign any documents.  If there is something you don’t understand, your mortgage banker or Realtor can explain it to you.

The homebuyer can negotiate with the seller to determine who will cover the closing costs, but every loan has different guidelines about how much a seller can pay.  Your mortgage banker can provide you with your options. How to Negotiate Who Pays Closing Costs

Whether you end up paying for all or just some of your closing costs, it’s crucial for you to include the amount you will have to pay into your budget.  You can estimate the cost by calculating 2% to 6% of your purchase price.  For example, if your loan is $200,000, your closing costs will range anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000.  You will also receive a document from your mortgage banker after you apply for your loan that will list the anticipated closing costs.  They may change a little during the process, but it will give you a good idea of what to expect.

So, while saving for a down payment is an obvious necessity, you may want to also set aside some cash each month to go toward other expenses associated with buying a new home. What it Really Costs to Buy a Home

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor Melissa Thompson and let her help you with all your real estate needs! Give her a call today at 901-729-9526!

Photo Credit: huffpost.com

How to Find a Dog Friendly Neighborhood

by Melissa Thompson


When beginning your home search, you want to be sure to look in neighborhoods that are a good fit for everyone in the family, including your dog. You will likely be looking for a nice yard, but it’s important to look beyond the property line. The type of neighborhood you end up in can make a huge difference in the quality of life for you and your fur babies. Here are a few signs that you have found a dog friendly environment:

  • - There are more groomers in a two-mile radius than hair salons…walk-in appointments welcome!
  • - Restaurants and shops have water bowls and treats for visiting pups.
  • - Pet waste stations are abundant.
  • - The local dog park is always busy with happy pooches frolicking with friends.

Here are some more serious things to think about when considering the home and neighborhood that will work best for you and your pups:

  • NEIGHBORS WITH DOGS.  They will be more understanding if your dog occasionally barks and are more likely to be helpful should you need someone to let your dog out or walk them while you are away from the house.
     
  • PET SHOPS. Areas with a lot of pets mean that there will be pet shops conveniently available.
     
  • SIDEWALKS. A neighborhood with sidewalks is ideal for dog-walking.  Bonus point if they have waste stations too.
     
  • DOG PARKS. These are especially nice for urban areas. Check if there are off-leash hours or dog runs, or at least grassy areas where pups can run and play.
     
  • MEET-UP GROUPS. Check and see if there are local meet-up groups available for playdates with other families with dogs. This is a great way for you to make friends as well!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs! Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Photo Credit: thespruce.com

Buying or Renting - Which is Better?

by Melissa Thompson


With interest rates still relatively low but predicted to start rising, buying a house right now is less expensive than renting in many places, including Memphis, TN.  Now is a great time to lock into a rate.

Buying is often considered to be financially better than renting over the long run because your mortgage payments build equity in your home, which you will eventually own, while rent only goes toward the upkeep of your home and the wallet of your landlord.  That is just one reason buying is better than renting. Here are some others:

  • You can do what you want with your property. Making home improvements will be your choice, from the colors to paint the walls, to light fixtures, to types of floors and more. You won’t need permission from a landlord to make changes.
     
  • Tax benefits. Tax deductions are a great perk of home ownership. Homeowner Tax Benefits 2019
     
  • Stable monthly payments. Rents can go up, but with a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly payments won’t change.
     
  • Forced savings.  Renting might seem less expensive, but would you save the money you don’t spend on rent?  Since your mortgage payments are building equity in your home, which you can later sell for profit, it’s like a forced savings.

Using a Rent vs. Buy Calculator you can see how buying is a better financial option right here in Memphis. For example, after 2 years the cost of homeownership (down payment, mortgage, taxes, etc.) for a $85,800 home in Memphis would be $40,187. The total cost to rent the same house for that period would be $25,683.  Renting would leave you with $14,503 in your pocket (including the money you didn’t spend on a down payment).  So, it would seem that renting would be better financially, right?  But wait…not so fast.  Let’s look at what you gain over the same 2-year period if you buy.  After 2 years, your home will have $28,418 in equity. However, if you instead rent and invest your down payment and other money you save at a 6% return rate, it will earn around $1,743 in 2 years.  So, if you look at your gross costs, equity and investment potential, it’s better for you to buy than rent if you plan to live in your home for more than 1 year and 6 months.

The bottom line is, if you’ve been thinking about buying a home in the Memphis area, don’t wait! Start investing your money in your own home vs that of a landlord today!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Unmarried but Buying a Home Together - What You Should Know

by Melissa Thompson


A couple doesn’t have to be joined in matrimony to buy a home together, but it’s important to understand that you are still making a huge commitment.  And being unmarried does present some challenges for home buyers.  So, before you begin your home search, here are some important things for you to consider:

SHARING FINANCIAL INFORMATION

If you’re going to buy a home together, then you need to be transparent with each other regarding your finances.  You don’t want to meet with a lender only to be blindsided by something that your partner didn’t share with you.  So, it’s vital that you review all of your financial history with your partner, including your Credit Score, income, and any debts that are tied to your name.  By doing this, you will not only be able to determine if you both have good credit, but you will also get an idea of how much house you can afford together.

HOW YOU’RE GOING TO SPLIT EXPENSES

You might already be living together, in which case you may have a system in place for who pays what living expenses.  But things can be more complicated with a mortgage in the picture.  You need to discuss this before you start the home buying process.  The first thing you need to figure out is how you’re going to split the down payment and closing costs when you buy a home together.  And if you will be living together for the first time, it would be smart to discuss how you will split the monthly bills including your mortgage, utilities, and home maintenance. What if there is need for a costly, emergency repair?  You may want to consider opening a joint bank account that exists only to cover home expenses.  It’s also a good idea to meet with a real estate attorney so you can get everything in writing and have a legally binding contract just in case things don’t work out down the road. Property Agreements for Unmarried Couples

EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT OWNERSHIP OPTIONS

You are buying a home together and splitting the expenses, but who’s name is going to be on the title?  This is something that requires serious thought because it can have a significant impact on your future.   There are three options to choose from:

     - Joint Tendency - Property is owned equally and if something happens to one owner, the second owner automatically inherits the other’s stake and becomes sole owner of the property.

     - Tendency in Common - Each partner owns a pre-determined percentage of the property. Should something happen to one or the other, the ownership interest would go to whomever is specified in a living will, will, or trust. If none of those are in place, the interest in the property would go to the next of kin and not to the significant other. Living Will vs Living Trust

     - Sole Owner - For some couples it might make more sense for one person to have full ownership of the home even though you are splitting expenses. For example, if one person has poor credit and won’t qualify for a mortgage loan, then the person getting the loan would be the sole owner of the home.

Determining ownership should not be taken lightly.  It’s probably the most important decision you will make when buying a home with someone you aren’t married to.  Keep in mind that if you are splitting the costs of the home, but you aren’t on the title, you probably won’t be able to enjoy the tax perks of being a home owner.

LOOK FORWARD

Whether you are married or not, everyone should think about where you see yourself in 3 to 5 years.  There is a lot to consider.  Do you have job stability?  Is it possible you will need to move soon?  Do you want to start a family?  These are just a few questions to ask yourself before taking on the commitment of home ownership.  It’s crucial that you have a heart-to-heart talk with your partner about your future before you start your home search!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Photo Credit: bankrate.com

Home Closing 101

by Melissa Thompson


Congratulations!  You’ve found your dream home; the inspection has been completed and all your ducks are in a row.  Now your just one more step to get through before you are officially a homeowner.  The closing.  The name sounds ominous, but you don’t have to worry.  If you have everything in order, your home closing should go smoothly.  Here is what you should expect on your big day:

CHOOSE THE RIGHT DATE FOR YOUR CLOSING

When you are thinking about when to schedule your closing, there is a lot to think about. For example, you want to keep in mind that it might take longer than an hour, so don’t try to schedule it on a lunch break from work. Consider taking half a day off or even just a few hours at the end of the day so that you will have plenty of time and won’t feel rushed.  In addition, you will want to think about what time of month you want to close.  Many people want to close as close to the end of the month as possible to save on up-front cash because the later you close, the less interest is owed to the lender.  However, closing late in the month has its disadvantages too. Because so many people are doing it, everyone is rushed -  from escrow companies, to appraisers, to surveyors, to insurance agents and even lender. They are all pushing to get a lot of work done in a short period of time.  And when people are rushed, mistakes are made.  Also, the later in the month you close, the sooner your first full mortgage payment will be due. So, you will want to keep all that in mind when deciding on your closing date. Closing Early Has Its Advantages

DO A FINAL WALK-THROUGH

Buyers are usually allowed to do a final walk-through before closing.  This isn’t a Home Inspection. Your home inspection should already be complete by now.  But a final walk-through will allow you to be sure that the property is in good condition and that nothing has changed or been damaged since the last time you saw it.  The final walk-through is generally arranged by your Realtor to happen anywhere from one week to 24 hours prior to closing.  Check the property thoroughly and bring a checklist with you to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Buying a House? Here's Your Final Home Walk-Through Checklist

CLOSING DAY PARTICIPANTS

Not sure who will be present at your closing?  There may be several people there in addition to the home buyers:

  • The seller and their Realtor
  • A representative from the title company
  • Attorneys (yours and your lender’s, if you have one)
  • A closing agent who conducts the meeting
  • Sometimes your lender will be there, but not always

DOCUMENTS

There are lots of documents involved in the mortgage process, and sometimes they can be overwhelming.  The bulk of your closing will be reviewing and signing various documents.  You should bring any documents you have received throughout your home buying process, including proof of home owner’s insurance, a copy of your inspection reports and any other documents your lender requested during the approval process.  Also, be sure to bring a photo id and a cashier’s check or certified check for down payment and closing costs. 

You will also receive many documents the day of your closing. The seller will sign documents that transfer the property ownership to you.  You will also get documents that pertain to your mortgage agreement and property ownership. 

Real estate transfer documents include:

  • A deed, which transfers the property from seller to buyer
  • A bill of sale
  • Transfer tax declarations

Mortgage loan documents include:

  • A mortgage note, which is your promise to repay the lender
  • A mortgage agreement that puts the property as collateral in case you can’t repay your loan
  • A loan application to review for accuracy
  • A loan estimate and closing disclosure

It’s vital for you to have an understanding of your closing documents prior to your closing so that you will understand what you are reading and signing.  Review them ahead of time and you will be ready to go on closing day.

Once you have reviewed and signed all the necessary documents, you will receive your keys and officially be a home owner. That’s another reason to take time off work…because now it’s time to celebrate!!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Photo Credit: realtor.com

A How-To Guide to Finding Your Dream Home

by Melissa Thompson


With interest rates and home prices expected to rise in 2019, now is the time to start your search for a new home. Here are some tips to help you find your dream home:

  • Make a list of priorities. Ideally, your dream home would have everything you want in it, but it’s still a good idea to make a list of what you want in order of importance to you. What are you most concerned about?  Location? Square footage?  Private backyard? You may have to give up one thing to get another, so you want to be prepared with your priorities so you will know what is non-negotiable for you.  Also, think about desires verses needs when making your list.  For example, a home might not have the vaulted ceilings that you love, but meets your needs and wants in every other way. Those vaulted ceilings are a “want” more than a “need”.
     
  • Think ahead.  How long do you plan to live in the home?  If you are single or newly married you may want a starter home that you will only stay in for a few years while you save for a larger home.  But if you are expanding your family or planning to work from home, make sure you factor in the space that you will need.  Don’t buy a house that will only suit your needs for a year if you think you may live there for ten years.  There is always the chance that things will change, but plan for what you know for sure now.
     
  • Decide on your “most lived in” spaces. Where do you spend the most time in your current home?  If you love to cook, chances are the kitchen is going to be the most important room for you.  If you are a homebody who likes to kick back and watch movies, your den or family room might be the room to focus on.  It might be challenging to find a home where you love every room, but you can give a little on the others if the one you use the most is perfect for you.
     
  • Stick to your budget. While searching for your dream home, it may be tempting to extend your budget a bit. Don’t do it. A standard goal is to keep your mortgage payment (with taxes and insurance included) at around 25% of your monthly household income.  Make sure that you have looked at your overall monthly budget to see what you can truly afford, and then limit your house hunting to properties in your price range.  Refrain from looking at houses 1-2 price ranges above yours. You don’t want to get excited about a property that you can’t afford. In addition, once you have seen them, the houses that you can afford won’t look as good in comparison.  The exception is that if it is a buyer’s market, you might be able to negotiate a lower price, so it is ok to look at homes just slightly above your budget. How to Budget for a New Home
     
  • Decide if you want to do renovations or if you want a move-in ready home.  If you are handy, you might see a diamond in the rough that you want to fix up yourself.  Make sure if you do this that you are not shopping at the top of your price range because you will need extra funds for doing the renovation.
     
  • Try to see through the “ugly”.  It’s easier said than done for some people, but try not to just pass on a home because of cosmetic reasons.  Look at the bones of the house and imagine its potential. Focus on layout and flow rather than paint and décor.  If it’s the right home for you, cosmetic changes are easy and will give you the opportunity to make the home your own.
     
  • Don’t give up!  It might take a while to find exactly what you want.  Be patient and don’t settle for something just because you’re tired of looking.  You never know when just the right house will go on the market.  It will be worth the wait when you move into the home of your dreams!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Who’s Who in the Home Buying Process

by Melissa Thompson


Buying a home is not something you do alone. There are a lot of players that participate in the process.  You will work together with several people who will use their professional expertise to guide you along the way to home ownership.  It might seem a little overwhelming, but once you understand the role each of these individual’s will play, you will realize the benefit of having them on your team.  Are you wondering who these people are?  Here is a “who’s who” list of the professionals you will meet along the path of your home buying journey:

  1. Mortgage Lender - Meeting with a mortgage lender is something you can and should do prior to even starting your home search.  Getting a pre-approval for a mortgage loan is a great way to make yourself stand out to sellers.  Your mortgage lender could be an independent lender, a credit union, or a bank.  Meet with several so you can choose the one that suits you best.  Once you choose, you will work with an individual Mortgage Banker who will be your guide through home loan process.  Your mortgage banker will help you determine how much you can afford to spend and assist you in filling out your loan application.
     
  2. Realtor - Navigating the home buying process will be much easier with an experienced Realtor on your side. A professional Realtor will not only help you find the perfect home, she will also be your advocate throughout the whole process; before, during and after you close on the home.  Take the time to interview several Realtors to find the one whom you feel comfortable with.
     
  3. Home Inspector - Trust me when I say that you don’t want to skip the home inspection. No matter the age of your future home, having it inspected can save you from buying a one that has issues that could cost you a lot of money in the long run.  A Home Inspector is trained to carefully check the home’s structure, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and roofing among other things in order to provide you with a detailed report on the condition of the home.  This report will have an impact on your decision to continue with the purchase of the home and may help you negotiate for repairs by the current owners before the sale is completed.
     
  4. Appraiser - The home appraiser plays a crucial role in the home buying process.  This is the person who will make sure that you are not overpaying for your new home. He or she will look at the condition of the home and make a comparison to similar home sales in the area to come up with the fair market value. Guidelines for Home Appraisals
     
  5. Title Searcher - A Title Searcher will review public records for your property to make sure there are no issues that will be problematic for the home sale.  The research things like overdue taxes, zoning restrictions or liens against the property that prevent the issue of a clean title on your new home. The title company facilitates the closing on the home and provides the documents involved.  Finally, they will make sure that the new home’s title records are appropriately filed.
     
  6. Insurance Agent - As a home owner, it is required that you have home owner’s insurance when you obtain a mortgage.   This insurance will financially protect you and your home should there be a disaster.  Be sure to do your research prior to submitting your mortgage application so that you can find the best insurance policy for your needs.

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Now is a Great Time to Buy a House! Here are 5 Reasons Why

by Melissa Thompson

Buying a home during the holiday season might sound like a crazy idea, but the truth is now is a great time to purchase a home!  Here are 5 reasons to purchase a home during the holidays:

  1. Less Real Estate Market Activity: With lots of family, school, and work activities happening during the holidays, fewer real estate transactions are taking place.  Because fewer people are looking for houses, there is less competition for buyers.  And with less competition, buyers have more leverage when negotiating purchases.  People selling homes during the holidays must often lower asking prices or make other concessions to sell.  So, if you buy this time of year, you might get a bargain!
     
  2. Highly Motivated Sellers:  If someone is selling their house at the end of the year, it’s because they need to.  Usually sellers avoid the end of the year due to shorter days and cold weather, so if they are selling this time of year they are likely under pressure and motivated to make a deal. Motivated Sellers
     
  3. Lower Interest Rates: Because of limited demand during the holiday season, there is greater competition among lenders so there is a general trend of lower rates. 
     
  4. Tax Perks: Buy a house before the end of the year and you can deduct any points you paid upon closing.  You can also deduct property taxes and mortgage interest.  Learn about the tax benefits of purchasing a home and find out if it is to your advantage to buy before year’s end. While your decision to buy a home shouldn’t be made solely for tax reasons, you certainly want to take advantage of the perks that exist! Tax Benefits of Buying a Home
     
  5. Faster Closings: Everybody involved in the home buying/selling process has incentive to complete transactions before the end of the year.  Lenders want to close their books; Realtors want to receive their commissions before the new year and sellers are anxious to move on.  Since everyone is so motivated, and there is less real estate activity, closings should happen quickly and efficiently.

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today

Photo Credit: realtor.com

Tips for Buying a Home FAST!

by Melissa Thompson

If you are in the market to purchase a home right now, I am sure you would like to be moved in and settled by the time the holidays arrive.  Does that sound too good to be true?  Well, no promises, but there are steps you can take to buy a home fast.

Whether you are buying a house for the first time, or you have navigated the home buying process before, chances are you know that it can be lengthy and complicated.  But there are certain strategies you can use that will speed things up. Here are some tips to help you get started:

           - Chose the right type of house.  There are certain types of homes you will want to avoid if you’re in a hurry.  Co-ops, for example, can be problematic because it can take six to eight weeks to get a board interview scheduled, finalized and approved.  You should also avoid bank-owned homes or foreclosures, which generally take much longer to close.  The fastest way to go is to focus on condos or new developments. Closings for condos and new developments can take as few as three to four weeks to happen.

           - Get pre-approved for a mortgage.  This is a strategic move that will give you a head start so that when you do find a house you want to purchase; you will already be approved for a mortgage loan and can make an offer right away.  This will also help you to stay within your budget when looking at homes because you won’t want to waste time looking at properties that cost more than what you are pre-approved for. 5 Things You Need to Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

           - Have your documents in order and ready to go.  Get all the paper work that you will need organized so that it is ready and waiting when you find the right home.  Generally, a home buyer will need the following: federal tax returns for the past two years, supporting information such as W-2, 1099, or other tax forms for the past two years, two months’ worth of bank statements for your checking, savings, 401K, retirement and other accounts, and pay stubs from the past month. Closing Day: What a Buyer Needs to Do and Bring

           - Find the right Realtor to guide you through the process.  You will want an experienced, professional Realtor who knows the area well and can use their expertise to get you into a home quickly.

           - Offer to shorten contingency deadlines.  Don’t risk waiving home inspection or financing contingencies, but consider a shorter time frame to effect a faster closing.

           - Be prepared for your move.  Don’t wait until you have closed on your new home to start packing and preparing for your move.  Start early so that as soon as you close, you are ready to go!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

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Melissa Thompson
Crye-Leike Realtors
6525 N Quail Hollow Road
Memphis TN 38120
(901) 729-9526
(901) 756-8900
Fax: (901) 435-0620