First-time home shoppers come to you eager to buy, but there’s a lot they need to do before they start touring listings and submitting offers. Make sure you keep them on track so that the path to closing is smooth. Here are a few items you can remind them to do to make sure their finances are in order.
1. Determine total monthly housing budget.
What can your clients really afford? The total should include estimated taxes and home insurance costs, too. After all, in some places, that can double your mortgage payment. Buyers should be encouraged to talk to an insurance agent to get an estimate of the costs in the areas in which they’re looking to buy. Mortgage financing giant Fannie Mae recommends home buyers spend no more than 28 percent of their income on housing. Buyers may start to struggle financially when housing costs take 30 percent or more of their income, financial experts warn.
2. Factor in the closing costs.
Buyers shouldn’t be blindsided by the cost of a transaction. Be sure you explain everything from origination fees, title and settlement fees, taxes, and prepaid items (such as homeowners insurance or homeowners association fees). They’ll get more precise numbers from their lenders as they get through the paperwork, but a general estimate will help them ensure they’re shopping within their budget from the onset.
3. Examine creditworthiness.
Will your client even be able to qualify for a loan? Buyers should get a free annual credit report and look for any errors or unresolved issues. They should contact the credit reporting bureau immediately if they spot any errors. They also might want to determine their FICO credit score, which many lenders use to help determine an interest rate for financing.
4. Prepare documents.
Buyers will need to be ready to show a lot of documents when applying for a home loan. These include pay stubs, bank account statements, W-2s, tax returns for the past two years, statements from current loan and credit lines and names and addresses of landlords for the past two years. Gathering these together ahead of time will help make the process smoother and faster.
5. Get pre-approved.
This not only helps buyers get a better understanding of what they can truly afford, but it also puts them in a better position to submit an offer when they find a home they love. Also, financial planners say applying to multiple lenders in the same month may help boost a buyer’s chances of getting a loan approved at the best rate possible without dinging their credit score too much.