Team Zabar-Shulkin | Swampscott Real Estate, Nahant Real Estate, Salem Real Estate


Let's face it – the homebuying journey may prove to be an expensive experience. If you're not careful, you risk overspending to acquire your dream house. On the other hand, if you purchase a home without identifying underlying structural problems, you risk costly home repairs down the line.

Ultimately, it helps to establish a budget for the homebuying journey. If you have a budget in place, you can increase the likelihood of having the necessary funds on hand to overcome many potential homebuying hurdles.

You should have no trouble creating a homebuying budget, either. In fact, here are three tips to help you put together a budget for the homebuying journey.

1. Assess Your Financial Situation

If you intend to purchase a house in the foreseeable future, you'll want to take a close look at your finances. By doing so, you may be able to reduce your monthly spending and use your savings to accelerate the homebuying journey.

It often helps to assess your daily, weekly and monthly expenses. Then, you may discover bills that you can cut from your everyday budget.

For example, you may enjoy dining out regularly, but cooking at home may prove to be more cost-effective. And as you reduce your dining expenses, you can save money that you can use toward the down payment on a new house.

2. Obtain Your Credit Score

Believe it or not, your credit score can make a world of difference in your quest to acquire a house. If you check your credit score, you may be able to find ways to improve your credit score prior to kicking off a house search.

You are eligible to receive a free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). Take advantage of this perk, and you can learn your credit score in no time at all.

Remember, your credit score may have a major impact on your ability to land a favorable mortgage. And if you find that you have a below-average credit score, you then can pay off outstanding debt to improve it before you start your search for a new home.

3. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Pre-approval for a mortgage is ideal. With a mortgage in hand, you can enter the real estate market with a budget for buying a house.

To get pre-approved for a mortgage, you should meet with banks and credit unions. These financial institutions can offer insights into a variety of mortgage options and help you make an informed mortgage selection.

Lastly, as you prepare a homebuying budget, you may want to collaborate with a real estate agent. This housing market professional can help you hone your home search to residences that fall within your price range. Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent will make it simple for you to avoid spending too much to acquire your dream house.

Get ready to buy a house – use the aforementioned tips, and you can establish a successful homebuying budget.


Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Zoning laws have been in place in the United States for many years. They serve communities in a number of ways. As a home buyer, it is important to know and understand the zoning laws that cover any property you consider purchasing. 

Structures

Generally, residential zonings laws indicate what kind of structures can be built in a particular area. Some residential zones are restrictive and allow for only single-family homes within a neighborhood, other locations may welcome multi-family complexes. Some commercial zones allow space for both businesses and housing in the same area. If the home you are considering is in a location like this, be prepared for businesses to change and grow, potentially impacting the neighborhood.

Business

If you run a business from your home or plan to do so, be aware that this activity can be restricted within a residential zone. The general aim of this restriction is to keep traffic issues at bay as well as to limit noise or other disruptions within a neighborhood. Even if your business is conducted virtually, it’s still wise to check with your local zoning board to gain an understanding of the rules specific to your community.

Animals

Perhaps your dream is to raise goats or maybe you plan to move a flock of chickens with you when you relocate. Residential zones can have different rules that govern animals on your property. In some cases, farm animals are not allowed at all while other zones may limit the number of animals you can keep within a certain amount of acreage. 

It is possible to request a zoning change in some cases but the process can be difficult and long drawn out. With that in mind, it is best to know and understand local zoning laws before entering into an agreement to purchase.


Photo by Free-Photos via Pixabay

For some, house hacking is the key to getting started in real estate; for others, it's just a smart way to build cash flow into an otherwise uncooperative rental market. Wondering how to get your foot in the door? Here's what you need to know. 

What is House Hacking? 

The term "house hacking" was coined by Bigger Pockets, but in general, the practice has been going on for as long as people have been owning and renting properties. House hacking refers to renting out a part of your primary residence. Generally, that means owning a duplex, triplex, or quadruplex, living in one unit, and renting out the rest. For some, it means renting out one or more rooms of a single-family residence. In an ideal scenario, house hackers can essentially live for free--allowing the rental income from the space they rent out to pay for the mortgage and maintenance of the entire property. 

Why is House Hacking a Smart First Investment? 

As with any investment, the viability of house hacking depends on the market in your area. But for many who want to get into real estate investing but haven't yet taken the plunge, it's a smart step. 

  • Owner-occupants enjoy the best financing terms. When you plan to use the property as your principal residence, you'll get lower down payments (as low as 0-5%, in the case of VA and FHA loans) and lower interest rates. 
  • House hacking serves as training for managing more tenants. Because you'll be living in close proximity to your tenants, it will be easier to keep an eye on your property and address repairs and other issues as they arise. It's a great way to earn a few notches in your landlord belt before purchasing more rental properties in the future. 
  • When you decide to move out, you can rent out the final unit (or the primary house) and enjoy the full benefits of positive cash flow thanks to your low-interest-rate home. 

An Accessible Way to Start Small 

Step one: talk to a lender. If you can get pre-approved for a single family residence, you can get pre-approved for a duplex (or larger).

Already own a home? Consider renting out an extra bedroom, or finishing the basement to rent out as an ADU. And even if you don't net massive positive cash flow at first, you'll massively offset your own cost of living, while gaining valuable experience as an investor and property manager. 


In the quest to find a new home that you love, there are two fundamental things you must know: how much you can realistically afford to spend and what you need to be happy.

Qualifying for a mortgage is one of the first hurdles on the road to home ownership, but loan approval doesn't necessarily mean you can comfortably afford a house you have your eye on.

There are other expenses to factor into the equation, such as closing costs, the down payment, school and property taxes, possible HOA fees, and maintenance costs.

If a house you're considering needs a lot of repairs, updating, and decorating, for instance, those projects could take a big bite out of your bank account and household budget. First-time home buyers and growing families moving into larger homes often have to consider the cost of furniture, new window treatments, and painting supplies. People moving from an apartment or condo to a house may also need to buy a lawnmower, tools, and property maintenance machinery (weed whackers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, etc.)

Once you've determined that you can absorb all those costs without being "house poor," the next step is creating a list of requirements, preferences, and lifestyle goals. For example, if privacy is important to you, you'll need to narrow your search to homes that have a sufficient amount of frontage and space between neighbors and streets. Fences, privacy hedges, and mature trees could also help provide you with the kind of living environment you're looking for.

While the emotional appeal of a house is an important aspect of home-buying decisions, the location of a property and the amount of living space it provides will play a central role in your level of satisfaction. In addition to having enough bedrooms, bathrooms, and storage space, you may also want to consider things like the home's architectural style and whether the floorplan is to your liking.

Many families prioritize the quality of the school district, the look and feel of the neighborhood, and the distance from shopping centers, recreation, and needed services. Also highly desirable is a daily commute to work that isn't too grueling or time consuming!

Since everyone has different goals and needs when it comes to finding the ideal home, there's no one-size-fits-all strategy for zeroing in on the house of your dreams. Although there are a lot of websites that provide great ideas on everything from flooring and countertops to cabinetry and room color, having your real estate agent show you houses that match your specifications is the most productive thing you can do.

Getting out there and physically viewing and walking through houses in your price range will eventually lead you to the home that's just right for you and your family. It's a process in which you need to immerse yourself, but with a little persistence and a clear idea of what you want, you're sure to find the home that checks off most (if not all) of the boxes on your priority and wish lists!


If you’re in the market to buy a home, you’re probably learning many new vocabulary words. Pre-approved and pre-qualified are some buzz words that you’ll need to know. There’s a big difference in the two and how each can help you in the home buying process, so you’ll want to educate yourself. With the proper preparation and knowledge, the home buying process will be much easier for you.  


Pre-Qualification


This is actually the initial step that you should take in the home buying process. Being pre-qualified allows your lender to get some key information from you. Make no mistake that getting pre-qualified is not the same thing as getting pre-approved.


The qualification process allows you to understand how much house you’ll be able to afford. Your lender will look at your income, assets, and general financial picture. There’s not a whole lot of information that your lender actually needs to get you pre-qualified. Many buyers make the mistake of interchanging the words qualified and approval. They think that once they have been pre-qualified, they have been approved for a certain amount as well. Since the pre-qualification process isn’t as in-depth, you could be “qualified” to buy a home that you actually can’t afford once you dig a bit deeper into your financial situation. 


Being Pre-Approved


Getting pre-approved requires a bit more work on your part. You’ll need to provide your lender with a host of information including income statements, bank account statements, assets, and more. Your lender will take a look at your credit history and credit score. All of these numbers will go into a formula and help your lender determine a safe amount of money that you’ll be able to borrow for a house. Things like your credit score and credit history will have an impact on the type of interest rate that you’ll get for the home. The better your credit score, the better the interest rate will be that you’re offered. Being pre-approved will also be a big help to you when you decide to put an offer in on a home since you’ll be seen as a buyer who is serious and dependable.  


Things To Think About


Although getting pre-qualified is fairly simple, it’s a good step to take to understand your finances and the home buying process. Don’t take the pre-qualification numbers as set in stone, just simply use them as a guide. 


Do some investigating on your own before you reach the pre-approval stage. Look at your income, debts, and expenses. See if there is anything that can be paid down before you take the leap to the next step. Check your credit report and be sure that there aren’t any errors on the report that need to be remedied. Finally, look at your credit score and see if there’s anything that you can do better such as make more consistent on-time payments or pay down debt for a more desirable debt-to-income ratio.




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