What First-Time Home Buyers Need to Know Today

Jocelyn Retz, 1st Vice President—Home Loans jretz

There’s a first time for everything. When it comes to home buying, having a resource who can show you the ropes and guide you through your financing options isn’t just helpful—it can save you money.

You Have Options…Lots of Options

First-timers have choices. Each of the mortgage programs serving first-time home buyers in our area have different terms, benefits and uses. Some are more appropriate for new construction, while others can provide added benefits if you are buying a fixer-upper.

Probably the most familiar option is the Federal Housing Administration FHA mortgage. These often have less stringent standards than most conventional lending programs. However, not all homes will qualify. While FHA-insured loans used to be the choice for those seeking to make a low down payment (with a 3.5 percent minimum), some conventional loans now offer an even lower down payment option for borrowers with good credit at just 3 percent.

Veterans have access to even more flexible programs with no down payment requirement. The further away you are from the Chicago Metropolitan area, the likelihood increases that you may be able to borrow through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which offers another zero percent down payment program with attractive terms for those settling down in rural areas.

The State of Illinois, through the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), is another source of financing for first-time home buyers who work with Old Second. Its 1ST Home Illinois mortgage offers generous down payment assistance to working class families.

While a lot of buyers today look to their friends and family members for advice, the features and requirements of some of the better known mortgage programs have changed recently. By working directly with a community-based lender who participates in a wide variety of programs—not every lender does—you can make a more informed decision about what would be most advantageous for your financial situation. In particular, you can find out how much it will cost you over time.

Don’t Just Get a Mortgage—Get Advice

While many lenders now take applications online and communicate via text and email—Old Second included—having a person to talk to as your application makes its way through the review process can help you understand how it works and what additional requests for information mean. That said, the mortgage process isn’t as complicated as most people think. Compared to what borrowers go through to receive and repay a student loan, for instance, this can be much simpler.

Many of the conventional mortgages Old Second makes continue to be serviced by us after they close. Some clients find it reassuring that after the effort they make to choose the right lender, they will have an ongoing relationship with that same lender over the life of their loan. That is not typical outside of a community-based bank. However, the way we see it, our reputation as a bank, as employees and your neighbors is on the line when we work with you. We want to be there for you from the beginning of the process through your closing—and for the party to celebrate your paid-off mortgage!

For more information on how we work with our first-time home buyers, visit us here or call 1-877-966-0202. We can’t wait to talk to you about what we can do to help you succeed with your first big move.

 

How to Prepare for the Spring Home-Buying Season

William Schumann, 1st Vice President—Mortgage Sales 

William Schumann, First Vice President, Head of Mortgage Sales

William Schumann, First Vice President, Head of Mortgage Sales

Ready to make your move? Whether you are trading up, downsizing or taking your first plunge into home ownership, preparation makes for a more efficient process and, ultimately, more livable results. What you’re preparing for is more than a financial transaction—it’s a purchase that will influence your overall lifestyle.

Choose a Neighborhood

A good real estate agent can help you understand what a neighborhood offers and how it might match up with your lifestyle preferences. There are also a variety of apps you can download to help you get acquainted with an area’s walkability, its schools, and how well it will serve your daily needs.

Determine What “Home” Looks Like

Once you decide where you want to look, consider the type of home you are looking for. Many online listings now have walk-through videos to provide previews. Although, until you start walking through homes, knowing what will feel comfortable may be hard to gauge, especially if this is your first purchase.

Find Your Financial Comfort Zone

Once you develop a feel for your preferences, it’s time to start thinking about what you are comfortable with financially. You should consider where you are today, given your current income and debt levels, and where you expect to be in a few years.

For an approximate idea of what will be affordable, you can take a DIY approach and use the calculators that banks like ours offer to help you run the numbers. However, it’s typically more helpful to sit down and talk to a banker. A banker can also prequalify you, which will improve your understanding of how much of a mortgage you can comfortably afford, giving consideration to both the monthly payment as well as the total loan amount.

Speaking with a mortgage professional also alerts you to any programs you may qualify for. Currently, there are programs with special incentives for first-time buyers. There are also programs that make buying a property that will need immediate fixing up more affordable.

Spring Ahead

Spring is considered the kickoff to the home-buying season. This year, however, there is some incentive for starting to prep for buying a bit earlier.

Recently, mortgage rates increased. The rise was not dramatic, and though additional increases are anticipated in 2017, mortgage rates are expected to remain at the low end of their historical range. However, each increase adds to the cost of buying.

Another reason to start preparing now is that home values in many areas have recovered to their prerecession levels. Realtor.com forecasts that prices in our area could rise another 1.95 percent this year.[1]

For more information on how we can help you prepare for your home purchase, visit us here or call 1-877-966-0202. We can’t wait to talk to you about what we can do to help you make your next move.

Sources:

[1] Joe Kirchner, “Realtor.com®2017 National Housing Forecast,” Realtor.com, posted Nov. 30, 2016, retrieved Jan. 4, 2017.

 

 

Interest Rates Are Expected to Move. Should You?

William Schumann, First Vice President, Head of Mortgage Sales

William Schumann, First Vice President, Head of Mortgage Sales

Interest rates are at historical lows—you’ve probably heard this before. It’s still true, but sources indicate not for much longer. Even the U.S. Federal Reserve, which influences the direction of interest rates, has indicated rates will be going up.

If you are thinking about purchasing a home, buying before rates rise could lower your overall cost of ownership. Being able to lock in a low rate of interest lowers the amount of your monthly payment.

The current real estate environment has also created another factor those considering making the move to homeownership should be aware of—in some of the markets our bank serves, the selection of homes for purchase is much better than the selection of rental units.

Most homeowners are also able to deduct their mortgage interest on that home. There are no comparable deductions available to renters. Having access to this deductibility can significantly lower the after-tax costs of homeownership by lowering your income tax bill each year.

An additional advantage for home ownership is the opportunity it offers to build equity. You spend money on rent, but a mortgage payment represents both an expense (interest) and an investment in your asset (home equity). As equity builds, so does your personal wealth.

While the aspect of financial benefit figures significantly in the decision to buy instead of renting, homeownership also offers the ability to create a space of one’s own, to customize it to your liking and needs. And, it can provide stability, as well as a place you and your family can refer to as home for years to come.

If you do decide to take advantage of the current interest rate environment, it’s a good idea to “know” before you “go.” Visit your lender first to determine how much house you can afford so that you are only shown options in your price range. It helps make your decision and your home-buying experience go more smoothly.

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