Everyone is being affected in some manner by the outbreak of Covid-19 coronavirus. During this time, buyers will have more questions than normal about the home buying process and their ability to buy a new home. While we can’t predict what the next few weeks and months will bring, the more we can educate ourselves, the better we can help buyers navigate the buying process smoothly during the pandemic. Here are a few common buyer questions as they related to the Coronavirus outbreak and real estate answered.
1. Can we still go see home listings in person? – This is the hardest question to answer and it will depend on the home, the seller, the agent and any fast-changing governmental policies put in place. Agents should be able to offer a Skype or Face Time home tour virtually. Talk to your agent to find out what they have available for the buyers to prescreen the home virtually before setting up the visit; they might have virtual tours already available which can help rule out those that don’t suit their needs.
2. How can I stay safe while visiting homes? – Everyone’s health has to be the priority; this includes the buyers, sellers, and agents. If you are going to see a home in person during this time, carry hand sanitizer and wipes to use before, during and after the tour. Drive separately from your agent & meet at the homes. During the tour, designate one person to open doors, drawers, and closets and use disposable gloves during the showing.
3. What happens if I lose my job during the escrow period? –Most real estate contracts include, and California is no exception, a contingency that protects the buyer in the event they can’t get final loan approval and close the loan. Typically during the process, this contingency is removed after a set time frame, or after receiving the loan approval. Since every aspect of real estate is negotiable, consider asking for the contingency deadline to be extended and in place until the close; talk through this aspect with the seller and their agent in advance to set the right expectation.
4. Will I still have access to the home during the escrow period? – It’s very common for the buyer to have easy access to the home during the escrow period; home inspections, appraisals and just measuring are all common reasons to visit the home during escrow. Consider grouping these activities whenever possible. In most cases, these 3rd party vendors have their own protocols in place to help facilitate each activity in the safest manner possible.
5. Will I get a better deal if I wait to buy a new home? – We all know there’s no crystal ball, but with everything that’s going on, sellers on the market should be very motivated to sell. There are also historically low-interest rates on home loans. There is no way to predict the future, so if the right home comes along, it makes sense to consider it.
The Covid-19 outbreak is causing some uncertainty among home buyers, sellers, and even agents. However, with the use of technology and following best practices, you can still find the home you’ve been waiting for during this time.
If 2020 is the year for you to buy a home, consider making these 5 New Year’s resolutions to help you be as prepared as possible to become a homeowner.
1. Cut down on monthly subscriptions.
With each month, there is a new subscription service out there. What starts as convenience turns into an endless list of subscriptions that we often don’t use enough to justify the costs. Sit down and go through your monthly/yearly subscriptions and cancel whatever you don’t use. Set aside that extra money with the rest of your savings so your down payment can continue to grow.
2. Build a better credit history.
Paying bills on time and paying off debts will help create a solid credit history. Make sure you have some utilities or rent in your name so that you can pay them on time and continue to build a solid credit history.
3. Avoid changing careers.
Alongside income, your employment history will be a major factor during your mortgage application evaluation. While a new job could be a good career move, most evaluators are looking for a steady job history with little to no gaps in your employment over the last few years.
4. Check your credit.
If you don’t know where your credit is at currently, now is the best time to check. Most credit sites will tell you what is impacting your credit, and you can use those tips to change your choices heading into the new year. If large debts are negatively impacting your credit, get started on a pay off plan so your score can improve in the new year.
5. Avoid large purchases.
Your debt-to-credit ratio makes a major impact on your mortgage approval. If you buy a brand new car or fund a large vacation, that ratio could sway in the wrong direction. If you want your lender to be willing to give you the maximum amount possible, make sure you aren’t making any large purchases heading into the new year.
Newlyweds are saying “I do” to each other, and equate to over half of first time home buyers that are also saying “I do” to their dream homes. It makes sense! When you put two hearts together, the time comes to find a home to nourish that love. A home that brings two of your places together, and makes it one. If you and your spouse are ready to fall in love with the perfect house together, here are five tips to make sure the process goes smoothly, and you come prepared.
1. YOUR WEDDING BUDGET: Your wedding is a one-time event that shouldn’t be less than what you’d imagine. It’s a beautiful time to put all of your dream pieces together. However, it’s best to sit down and find out ways you can shift the budget to help with your down payment for a home, if you plan to purchase. The average couple spends a little over $20,000 on their wedding. Even a savings of $5000 from your wedding budget can help with owning the perfect home.
2. WEDDING GIFTS: Wedding bliss comes with wedding gifts. Let’s admit, one of our favorite times during the wedding season is all of the gifts that come pouring in! Have any friends or family pitching in cash? Save that to put towards your down payment. And depending on the generosity of your gifts, you can even open an account dedicated to your down payment, that friends and family can gift to.
3. GET PRE-APPROVED: One of the least brought up conversations in relationships is the credit and financial history of your soon-to-be spouse. Get together with a lender to go over both of your histories to know what needs to be done to put you guys in a position to own together. In some cases, only one person can get approved, while the other can’t. If you want to put both of your incomes toward the cost of the house you want, talking to a lender early on can ensure you are prepared to make the right moves.
4. THE RIGHT AGENT: That’s where I come in! For starters, I can connect you with a lender to ensure you guys are being watched over from the best recommendations. And it’s an absolute joy to take the stress out of buying a home for my newly wed couples. We all know how stressful, although joyous, a wedding can be. To then jump into buying a house shortly after, well, it’s certainly a lot to get through. But I can guide you through all of the steps to make sure you end up with a house you love. Just think of me as a wedding planner, but for homes.
5. NOW THERE’S TWO: Although some spouses are a match made in heaven, loving and adoring the same exact things, often times that’s not the case with most couples. You still are your own persons, and have your own tastes. This is where the first step to comprise really begins. Spending a good bit of money on a place you both will love and call home. A happy marriage starts with a happy home, so be sure you both are considerate of each other’s wants and needs in style and location, so you both are happy with the home you end up getting. I have a unique process to help you and your new spouse find THE home that is the best fit for both of you!
Finally ready to make the transition into home ownership? That’s awesome, and in this exciting time you can be turning to friends and family for an insight into the process. However, there seems to be a circulation of misinformation spreading around, so we’re here to clear up a few myths.
1. THE FIRST STEP IS SEARCHING FOR A HOME
You know the saying, “Don’t put the cart before the horse,” well that’s important to remember when it comes to buying a home. You don’t want to start looking for a house until you have gotten to sit down with a lender and discuss what the bank will qualify you for. If you fall in love with a house that’s $250,000 and come to find out you’re only qualified for $200,000 you can get your hopes crushed and waste a lot of time. Don’t start the process on the wrong foot and make sure the numbers line up.
2. YOU DON’T NEED A REAL ESTATE AGENT
Real Estate agents look out for your best interests and help navigate and avoid potentially costly mistakes. Especially in markets where competition is high and inventory is low, having an agent may mean the difference between finding and getting your offer accepted or not. Having a real estate agent on your side means you’ll get to see homes that aren’t as readily available on public searches, you avoid outdated listings and scammers (there are lots of them), and you have protection when it comes to navigating the legalities of contracts and buying a home. Why wouldn’t you want an awesome negotiator working to ensure you get the best from the transaction?
3. YOU CAN’T BUY A HOME WITH BAD CREDIT
Fortunately for some, this is a myth. Lenders and banks come by the hundreds of thousands and all though there are a few loan options, a lot of lenders can work with credit scores down to the low to mid 500’s. Get in touch with an agent to help you connect with the right lender who can help you potentially approved. There is a lot of factors that go into approvals, but your credit doesn’t have to be a sore thumb during the process. However, you will be doing yourself a favor if you connect with a credit repair specialist to at least get those numbers in the 600’s. A better score will lower you interest rate.
4. YOUR DOWN PAYMENT HAS TO BE 20%
Think you have to sell an arm and a leg to buy a home? Not at all! An FHA loan only requires 3.5% while a conventional only requires 5%. There are a lot of programs that can potentially help you with down payment assistance or be 0% down mortgage. USDA and VA loans are the most popular 0% down programs. If you qualify, this can take a big chunk off the amount of cash you have to bring to the closing table.
5. DOWN PAYMENTS ARE THE ONLY UPFRONT COST
This is one of the biggest misconceptions. There is a lot of cost that goes into buying a home, and that includes upfront costs. One of the mandatory ones are a termite and appraisal. If you are getting a mortgage, the home will have to appraise and get a letter stating there are no termites in the home. Termite can range between $25-$75 dollars. An appraisal can range from $300-$700 dollars. Aside from your down payment, you then have to pay for closing costs. And NO, they are not the same thing. Closing costs can range anywhere between 3-6% of the purchase price. In certain markets, this can be negotiated for sellers to cover by rolling into the offer price, but whether that decision is smart to do or not when it comes to landing your dream home will need to be discussed with your agent.
Now that you have some knowledge to get the process started, get in touch with an agent who will help you get through the process as smoothly as possible.
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Are you ready to buy a home and considering going the route of new builds? It may seem like an easy enough process, where you get to call the shots of how you want your dream home to be, but there is a lot of risk when it comes to new construction if you are going in blindly. It’s unfortunately not as trouble free as we’d like to hope, if you don’t have the right representative by your side to help with the things that need to be looked out for from a professional’s eye. Below, we’ll dive into the many reasons you need a professional buyer’s agent representing you in the sale. They are, after all, on your side. And it’s their role to ensure you aren’t taken advantage of by the builders and their representatives in the transaction.
1. HIRING THE RIGHT BUILDER
The most important part of finding an agent is having a professional’s perspective to finding a builder with a great reputation. You get to benefit from your agent’s network of vendors, lenders, and home builders. They have the industry expertise to connect you with a builder that matches your needs, and more than likely, have already had experience with the builder with a past client. Or, if they haven’t worked with a builder you want to use directly, they can gather person-to-person recommendations from other agents to know the expected experience with said builder. They will help you find one, that not only delivers exactly what their clients want, but in a timely fashion.
2. THE RIGHT LOT IN THE RIGHT NEIGHBORHOOD
The lot you choose to go with in a new build can either be a positive to your new home, or detrimental. In the excitement of the process, we tend to overlook important features of a property. It’s important to have a professional to ensure you make a purchase that will best serve you. They’ll be able to find a neighborhood that best fits your lifestyle and a lot that has a location that works for you. Whether you’re single with pets, or a family with children, the lot location can really make a huge impact. Especially when it comes time to selling it in the future. These are important things your agent will be able to help walk you through, so your decisions work in your favor in the long term, as well as now.
3. UPGRADES AND PLAN MODIFICATIONS
Not only will your agent be able to ensure you get the upgrades and modifications that will best suit your lifestyle, but will also help you make decisions that will increase the value of your home in the long term. They are working for your best interest long term, and with an agent’s guidance, you can be sure to make changes that end up benefiting you.
4. HANDLING CONTRACTS AND PAPERWORK
Your agent will handle the contract and all of the paperwork, and they will be sure to review it to ensure that it is in your best interest. They will be able to help you break down the best loan types, purchasing processes, and steps to take that benefit YOU, not the builder. They are, after all, working for you. They’ll make sure there are no overlooked terms in a builder’s contract that could end up hurting you after you move in. Or even during the building process. You want to make sure you have a professional who is experienced with the paperwork and contracts and knows how to make revisions that work in a way that make you happy.
It is imperative in the purchasing process to have an agent that is able to represent you and negotiate for you. The building process is so much more than having the builder put in your favorite counters and floors. They will be able to get you a price that actually benefits you – not the builder. They will be able to run a comparative market analysis to ensure you are paying a fair price for the property. You don’t want to end up overpaying for the home – it could put you in a tough spot when it comes time to sell. They’ll also be able to negotiate terms around building time frame, closings costs, and so many other aspects of a contract that you may otherwise overlook.
6. BUILDER’S AGENT REPRESENTS THEM, NOT YOU
It may seem easy just to pop into an office of a new build, or a builder’s office, and use the onsite agent. But keep in mind that this agent works FOR the builder, NOT for you. So they will be working to make sure the builder gets the best deal at the end of the day. By having a buyer’s agent of your own, you can ensure there is a professional on your side that can walk you through the process and avoid being taken advantage of during the transaction. They will also have a better handle on things when you hit bumps along the way. If you end up working with a builder who isn’t holding their end of the deal, they will have the power to make connections that ensure the builder holds their end of the contract terms.
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Home buyers tend to have a lot of questions about home inspections. Are they required? How are they different from appraisals? When does it take place? Here are answers to these and other common questions.
1. Home inspections aren’t required, but they’re worth it.
There is no law that says you have to have an inspection when buying a house. It’s an option that is generally left up to the home buyer. But while you’re not required to have a house inspected before purchasing, it’s generally a wise idea to do so. Unless you are a licensed contractor or builder, you probably don’t have the experience necessary to evaluate the structural aspects of the home. Home inspectors specialize in that very thing.
2. It’s different from a home appraisal.
Home appraisals and inspections are similar procedures, but they have two very different goals in mind.
- A home inspector will alert you to any potential repair issues, or other problems with the structure and installed systems.
- A home appraiser, on the other hand, is primarily focused on determining the market value of the house.
If you are planning to use a mortgage loan to finance your purchase, there’s a good chance the mortgage lender will require you to have a home appraisal. They do this to determine how much the house is worth. But the inspection is usually optional, and it focuses on the condition of the home. They are two different things.
3. It usually happens soon after the contract is signed.
As far as the timeline goes, a home inspection typically takes place shortly after the buyer and seller have agreed on the purchase price and signed a contract. At that point, the buyer will often hire an inspector to perform a complete home inspection.
The seller does not need to be present for the inspection. In most cases, the seller will actually leave the premises so the inspector can come in and do what he/she needs to do. Home buyers are almost always present during this process. The seller’s listing agent might grant the inspector access to the home. Or they might put a lockbox on the door. But as far as the timing goes, it typically takes place soon after the purchase agreement has been signed.
4. It helps you uncover any serious issues with the house.
The inspector will closely examine almost every aspect of the house. That includes the foundation, the roof, the electrical and plumbing systems, HVAC and more. He will provide you with a detailed report of any repair issues or other problems that he finds. This kind of report is invaluable to someone buying a home, especially when you consider how much money is on the line.
5. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Home inspections typically range from $250 – $400, depending on the size of the house and other factors. When you consider the amount of money you are going to put into the home – and the amount you might be borrowing from a lender – it’s a relatively small price to pay for peace of mind.
If you’re in the market for a new home, contact me today to help you navigate the process!
Home buyers tend to have a lot of questions about the house hunting and buying process. This is particularly true for first-time buyers who have never navigated their way through it before. This article lays it all out for you, from start to finish. Here are seven steps you should take when buying a home.
1. Review your credit situation.
Credit scores are an important qualifying factor for home buyers who need mortgage financing. The FICO score, in particular, is the one most commonly used by mortgage lenders. According to industry experts, home buyers generally need a credit score of 600 or higher to qualify for a loan. But that number is not set in stone, and some loan programs are more flexible than others.
You can order your credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, and then review them for errors. You can also order your credit scores (different from your reports) to see how you stack up against the national average. A higher score could help you qualify for a better mortgage rate.
2. Determine your monthly housing budget.
A mortgage lender cannot tell you how much of a monthly payment you can comfortably afford. They can only tell you the amount you qualify for. You should determine your home-buying budget for yourself, before shopping for a loan. The idea is to get a basic budget on paper, including the most you are comfortable spending each month toward your housing costs. This will come in handy later on.
3. Get pre-approved for a mortgage loan.
If you’re planning to pay cash for a home, you can obviously skip this step. But if you’re like most home buyers, and you need mortgage financing to complete your purchase, you can benefit from getting pre-approved.
Pre-approval is when a mortgage lender reviews your financial and credit history to determine your “creditworthiness.” When you get pre-approved for a specific loan amount, you’ll be able to narrow your house search to that price range.
Having a pre-approval letter also shows sellers that you are serious about (and capable of) purchasing their home. This can make a big difference in active real estate markets, where the seller may receive multiple offers from competing buyers.
4. Find a real estate agent to help you.
All home buyers can benefit from having professional help from an agent. This is especially true if you are buying a home for the first time, or in a new city you’re not familiar with. An agent can help you find a home that meets your needs, evaluate the seller’s asking price, put together a strong offer, and negotiate effectively based on current market conditions.
5. Start house hunting.
House hunting is the most exciting part of the home buying process. This is where you and your agent visit homes to find one that matches your needs. If you have a smart phone, be sure to bring it along so you can take pictures. And focus on the more permanent features of the home, such as the location, the lot, the square footage, etc. Don’t worry about the paint or the decor — you can always change those things.
6. Make a smart offer based on market conditions.
Once you’ve determined that the seller’s asking price is fair and reasonable, you are ready to make an offer on the property. In most cases, it’s wise to make the offer contingent upon the home inspection. It gives you a way to back out of the deal if the inspector uncovers an issue you’re not comfortable with. Your agent will help you prepare an effective offer. It’s one of their core skills.
7. Attend closing to sign your paperwork — and get your keys!
Once you’ve made it through the inspection stage, you’re ready to attend the closing. (It’s also called “settlement” in some parts of the country.) This is when the title to the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer. You’ll also be signing a lot of paperwork and paying any other fees that are due.
If you are ready to start your home-buying journey, contact me today to schedule your Buyer Empowerment Consultation!
Home prices in the U.S. have risen more or less steadily over the last few years. In many cities, home values are now at their highest point in history — even higher than the last housing boom.
But what determines the “market value” of a home? How do sellers determine their list prices, and how can buyers evaluate a listing based on current market conditions. Here’s a crash course in determining market value, for sellers and buyers alike.
The Definition of ‘Market Value’
Let’s start off with a quick definition. In a real estate context, the “market value” is the most likely price a home will sell for within a reasonable amount of time. It is based on local housing market conditions and recent sales activity.
You’ll notice this definition does not mention the original price paid by the homeowner. Unless they bought the home a month ago, the original purchase price is likely irrelevant to the current market. Likewise, the market value of a home has nothing to do with the homeowner’s current mortgage balance. Some sellers list their homes for the amount needed to pay off their mortgage loans. But that doesn’t always line up with the current market value of the property.
How to Determine Market Value
So, with that introduction out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the matter. How do you know the market value of a home you’re thinking about buying? Or the value of your own property, when listing it for sale?
The first thing you’d want to do is track home sales in the area. The longer you do this, the better. It gives you a good base of knowledge with regard to asking prices versus selling prices (hint: it’s the latter of these two that determines market value).
Next, you’ll want to review sales data on homes that are similar to the one you’re considering. This is what real estate agents refer to as comparable sales, or comps. The more alike the two properties are, the more accurate the pricing comparison.
Try to find as many comparable home sales as possible. This will help you support your offer amount, by showing the seller you’re using actual market data from recent sales in the area. Remember, home prices can change over time. So recent comps will give you a better idea of what’s happening now, in the current real estate market.
When you determine the market value of a home, you also need to take any unique features into account. For example, let’s say I’ve found sales data for two colonial-style homes that are 2,000 square feet. The home I’m considering is also a colonial with 2,000 square feet. But it has a completely renovated kitchen, a pool, and sits on a more spacious corner lot with a great view. The other houses lack these qualities. So the house I’m considering will likely sell for more than the two comps, despite the fact that the homes are similar in size and style.
Here’s a good “formula” to keep in mind when considering the market value of a home in a particular area:
Comparable sale prices + unique features = a good asking price
An Easier Way: Work With a Real Estate Agent
This is just a basic overview of market value within the context of real estate sales. There’s more work involved to properly evaluate the value of a particular property, especially when the market is changing constantly. And that’s where real estate agents come into the picture.
Real estate agents undergo extensive training in this area. Much of their education has to do with real estate market cycles, home prices and values, and related topics. So whether you’re buying or selling a home, you could save yourself a lot of time and energy by having an agent on your side! It would be my pleasure to be your advocate through your home-buying journey! Contact me here!
Steady demand. Limited supply. That’s what we are seeing in real estate markets across the country right now. Inventory is particularly tight within the lower price ranges. “The starter house is nearly missing in some markets,” according to Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communication for the National Association of Realtors.
Of course, conditions can vary from one city to the next. But the overall trend in housing markets across the country is that supply is still falling short of demand.
Given these conditions, it’s important for home buyers to make a strong, smart offer when the right house comes along. Here are five tips for doing exactly that.
1. Understand the supply and demand situation in your area.
According to housing experts, a so-called “balanced” real estate market has five to six months of supply. This means, in theory, that it would take five or six months to sell off all homes currently listed for sale, if no new properties came onto the market.
Many real estate markets across the country have less than a three-month supply right now. And some cities have less than a two-month supply.
The first step to making a strong offer is to understand the supply-and-demand situation in your area. We are still seeing sellers’ market conditions in many cities, as of spring 2018. And this could persist for some time.
2. Study recent sales prices in your area.
This is something a real estate agent can help you with, but you can do some of it for yourself. The idea here is to get a good understanding of recent sales prices in the area where you want to buy.
This will help you in a couple of ways. It will save you time during the house-hunging process, by eliminating the need for repetitive research and pricing “sanity checks.” It will also help you make a strong, realistic offer backed by recent sales trends. And speaking of offers…
3. Make a strong and timely offer, backed by comparable sales.
In a slow housing market, where sellers are ready to jump on the first offer that comes along, home buyers have the luxury of taking their time. A buyer might start off with an initial offer below the asking price, just to open negotiations. The seller would probably come back with a counteroffer, or accept the first offer.
But it doesn’t work that way in a more competitive real estate market with limited inventory. In a tight market, buyers are better off making their first offer as competitive as possible. Otherwise, the house could go to a competing buyer.
4. Make yourself more “marketable” as a buyer.
As mentioned above, in a tight market, buyers may be competing against many other buyers for the same house. In a market such as this, buyers need to set themselves apart from others by increasing their purchasing power. Sellers are looking for the best price along with a quick closing, which usually means cash buyers will reign supreme. Therefore, as much as they can, buyers need to make their offer as strong and attractive as a cash buyer’s offer.
5. Get an agent on your side.
It’s always a good idea to have help from a local real estate agent. It’s even more important in a tight market with limited inventory. An agent can help you move quickly, putting together a strong offer that’s supported by recent sales data and increases your marketability as a buyer.
If you are in the market for a new home, contact me to learn more about my strategies to help you increase your purchasing power!
When you apply for a home loan, the mortgage lender will conduct a thorough review of your income situation. Income is one of the most important factors to a lender, along with your credit score and debt level. This article answers a common, income-related question that home buyers often ask: How much income is needed to qualify for a mortgage loan?
The first thing to know is that mortgage lending standards and requirements can vary from one lender to the next. For example, if I approach a handful of lenders about a certain home loan, and my income level is on the “border” of acceptability, one company might approve me for the loan while others turn me down. That’s because they have their own business models and assessment procedures.
In addition, your household income level is only one piece of the mortgage qualification process. Lenders will review other things as well, including your credit score and your total amount of debt. Remember, your debt takes away a big part of your income — so the two things are usually reviewed together.
How Much Income to Qualify?
These days, most lenders set the bar somewhere around 43% to 45% for the total debt-to-income ratio, or DTI. This means that if your recurring monthly debts use up more than 45% of your monthly income, you might have trouble qualifying for a loan. On the other hand, a borrower who only uses about 35% of her income to cover the monthly debts should be in good shape, as far as lenders are concerned.
These numbers are not set in stone. Some lenders may allow total DTI ratios above 45%, especially when there are certain “compensating factors.”
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):
“Larger lenders may still make a mortgage loan if your debt-to-income ratio is more than 43 percent … But they will have to make a reasonable, good-faith effort, following the CFPB’s rules, to determine that you have the ability to repay the loan.”
So, where do you stand? What’s your total debt-to-income ratio? You can find plenty of calculators online to help you calculate your DTI level. That’s a good place to continue your research.
Applying for a Mortgage Quote
When you’ve done the necessary research, and feel that you’re ready to take on a mortgage loan, the next logical step is to apply for quotes from lenders. The good news is that this process is easier than ever, thanks to the internet. You can apply online and get information sent to you by email.
Granted, you’ll have to fill out a more complete application at some point, along with plenty of supporting documents (tax records, bank statements, etc.). But the initial online application is a good way to get the ball rolling.
Don’t Overstretch Your Income
The last point I want to make is that a mortgage lender cannot tell you what you can afford. They can only tell you what they are willing to lend you, in terms of a loan. You must determine your own affordability limits, before you even start talking to lenders.
Doing some basic budget math up front could help you avoid financial issues down the road. So take a good, hard look at your current debt and income situation — and decide what you’re comfortable paying each month in the form of a mortgage payment.
Contact me to start your home-buying journey!!