Pam Spiros' Blog
You may have heard the term “escrow” in your experience with real estate. You might know it’s an account, but what exactly does it do for you as a buyer? An escrow account is what your lender uses to make payments on things like property taxes, insurance, and more. The lender collects your monthly mortgage payment, and part of that cash goes into an escrow account.
This type of account is an excellent option for homeowners because your bills relating to being a homeowner will all be paid without you having to do anything. It makes budgeting a breeze because there aren’t any complicated calculations involved. Every month, your lender collects 1/12 of the estimated tax bill and insurance cost for the home. The rest of your mortgage payment covers the principal and interest on the loan of the house.
Are Escrow Accounts Mandatory?
You’ll find that most lenders require you to have an escrow account. The purpose of the account is to keep the home safe as collateral for the loan. The bank has an interest in the proper insurance behind the property. The taxes also need to be paid on time in order to keep the property in good standing. If the taxes aren’t paid, a tax lien will be placed against the house.
Everything In One Place
You’ll receive an annual statement from your lender that will show you how much money was collected and placed in your escrow account. Escrow payments often change because insurance premiums and taxes tend to change quite frequently. The amount being put into escrow may change a few times throughout the year. The lender keeps track of all this for you, saving you some time.
Bills That Need To Be Paid
Whether you have an escrow account or not the bills that are included must be paid one way or another. It’s a good idea to speak with your lender before you buy a home to find out that bank’s procedures around these insurance and tax payments. Property tax and home insurance are items that you’ll need to budget for regardless of how your lender does things. An escrow account can be much more convenient for many buyers.
Escrow is just another one of the many essential terms that you’ll come across as a homebuyer. Knowing the advantages and purpose of the account helps you to be informed as you dive into the home buying process.
For those who want to acquire a house, it helps to get your finances in order. That way, you can quickly and effortlessly navigate the homebuying journey without having to worry about how you'll afford your dream house.
There are many quick, easy ways to straighten out your finances before you embark on the homebuying journey, such as:
1. Assess Your Credit Score
Your credit score ultimately can play a major role in your ability to secure a great mortgage. If you understand your credit score, you may be able to find ways to improve it prior to conducting a home search.
It is important to remember that you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Request a free copy of your credit report today, and you can take the first step to evaluate your credit score.
If you find that your credit score is low, there is no need to worry. You can always pay off outstanding debt to improve your credit score over time.
Also, if you identify any errors on your credit report, you'll want to address these mistakes immediately. In this scenario, you should contact the agency that provided the report to ensure any necessary corrections can be made.
2. Look Closely at Your Monthly Expenses
When it comes to buying a house, it generally helps to have sufficient funds for a down payment. The down payment on a house may fall between 5 and 20 percent of a home's sale price, so you'll want to have enough money available to cover this total for your dream residence.
If you evaluate your monthly expenses, you may be able to find ways to save money for a down payment on a house.
For example, it may be beneficial to cut out cable TV for the time being and use the money that you save toward a home down payment. Or, if your dine out frequently, cooking at home may prove to be a substantial money-saver that could help you speed up the process of saving for a down payment.
3. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
With pre-approval for a mortgage, you can enter the housing market with a budget in hand. Then, you'll be better equipped than ever before to narrow your search to houses that fall within your price range.
To get pre-approved for a mortgage, you'll want to meet with banks and credit unions. These financial institutions can teach you about different mortgage options and help you assess all of the options at your disposal.
Furthermore, don't hesitate to ask banks and credit unions about how different types of mortgages work. This will enable you to gain the insights that you need to make an informed decision about a mortgage based on your financial situation.
If you need extra help as you prepare to pursue a house, you may want to hire a real estate agent as well. In fact, a real estate agent can help you find a high-quality house at a budget-friendly price in no time at all.
Finding and purchasing a home sometimes can be difficult, particularly for an individual who encounters assorted challenges throughout the property buying journey. Lucky for you, there are several shortcuts that a homebuyer can use to streamline the property buying process. These shortcuts include:
1. Narrow Your Home Search
If you know you want to buy a home, you should consider where you want to reside and what features you want in your ideal residence. That way, you can avoid the danger of committing time and resources to analyze houses that fail to meet your expectations.
Oftentimes, it helps to craft a list of preferred cities and towns. This list will help you hone your home search to specific areas and ensure you can accelerate the homebuying journey.
Think about what you want to find in your dream house and create a list of home must-haves and wants too. With this list in hand, you can further accelerate your search for your ideal home.
2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
Some homebuyers apply for a mortgage after they find their dream residence, but doing so may prove to be problematic. Because if a buyer submits an offer to purchase a home without a mortgage at his or her disposal, this individual likely will need to move quickly to get home financing. Or, if a buyer provides a homebuying proposal but cannot secure a mortgage, this individual risks missing out on the opportunity to acquire his or her dream house.
To get pre-approved for a mortgage, you can meet with banks and credit unions and explore a wide range of mortgage options. Then, once you select a mortgage, you can kick off your home search and know exactly how much you can spend to purchase your ideal residence.
3. Hire a Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent is a homebuying expert who will guide you along the property buying journey. He or she can help you identify potential homebuying hurdles and overcome these issues before they escalate. Best of all, a real estate agent will do everything possible to ensure you can acquire a great home at a budget-friendly price.
In addition, a real estate agent will work with you throughout the property buying journey. He or she first will learn about your homebuying goals and help you craft an effective property buying strategy. Next, a real estate agent will help you put your homebuying plan into action and ensure you can discover a house that matches your expectations. And once you discover your ideal home, a real estate agent will help you put together a competitive offer to purchase this residence.
As you prepare to kick off the homebuying journey, you should try to plan ahead as much as possible. By taking advantage of the aforementioned shortcuts, you can prepare for the homebuying journey and speed up the process of finding and purchasing your dream residence.
Finding the house of your dreams is a process that requires a lot of clarity, diligence, and patience. While it is possible for the first house you look at to be the ideal choice, it's a lot more likely you'll have to look at a dozen or more houses before finding the one that matches your requirements and feels like home.
Whether you're searching for your first home or your tenth, your decision will primarily be based on four factors: affordability, practicality, emotional appeal, and prevailing market conditions.
Affordability is a vital element in the mix because it's difficult to enjoy a beautiful new home if you're always stressed out about whether you'll be able to make the next mortgage payment! Developing a realistic and well thought-out budget is one of the first preliminary steps involved in launching a full-fledged search for your next home. In addition to being able to cover your current expenses and the cost of mortgage payments, you'll also want to ensure that there's a cushion in your budget for things like home maintenance, repairs, improvements, HOA fees (if applicable), property taxes, school taxes, and homeowner's insurance.
As far as practicality goes, your new home should -- at the very least -- live up to your basic needs and expectations. Ideally, all systems should work properly and be in good condition. Proximity to key locations, such as your job, shopping, and essential services can also have a direct impact on your quality of life. Long commutes, cramped quarters, or being buried by an avalanche of repair bills can definitely take some of the pleasure out of home ownership!
The majority of houses you'll look at will probably need some degree of updating, decorating, or repairs, but ideally, you'll want to tackle those projects over the next couple of years, rather than the immediate future! Having an experienced home inspector do a thorough inspection of the home you're interested in will help ensure you're not buying a home riddled with flaws, headaches waiting to happen, and other problems.
Although cost and practicality are vital aspects of buying a new home, you can't (and wouldn't want to) ignore factors such as aesthetics and emotional appeal. If you can't imagine you and your family living in and enjoying a house you're considering buying, it might be time to continue your search elsewhere! The house you ultimately choose should support your lifestyle, provide sufficient space for your family to grow and thrive, and be situated in a neighborhood in which you feel comfortable and safe.
To make the most of your available time and money, find an experienced real estate agent who's responsive to your needs and knowledgeable about the local real estate market. They will help you streamline your search, find houses that meet your criteria and negotiate the best possible price on your behalf.
The amount of money you will need to ensure you can purchase a house varies based on a number of factors. For example, if you want to purchase a house in a big city, you may need to save more money than you likely would require to buy a residence in a small town. Meanwhile, your decision to choose a fixed-rate mortgage over an adjustable-rate mortgage – or vice-versa – can impact your monthly housing costs. And let's not forget about the costs of home utilities like electricity and water, either.
Ultimately, it helps to put together a homebuying budget before you embark on a house search. Because if you know how much money you have at your disposal, you can map out your house search accordingly. And as a result, you can minimize the risk of spending too much to acquire your dream residence.
Let's now take a look at three tips to help you craft an effective homebuying budget.
1. Evaluate Your Current Expenses
An in-depth assessment of your current monthly expenses is key. If you conduct an expense evaluation, you can find out how much you spend on various must-haves and wants. You then can take steps to reduce your monthly expenses and increase your savings for a new home.
It also never hurts to consult with a financial planner. If you have a financial planner at your side, you can gain expert insights to help you evaluate your current expenses. Plus, you can work with a financial planner to determine the best course of action so you can eventually buy your dream residence.
2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
Meet with a variety of banks and credit unions and explore your mortgage options – you will be happy you did. If you assess your mortgage options closely, you can find one that complements your finances. And once you get pre-approved for a mortgage, you will know how much you can spend on a house.
Generally, it is beneficial to meet with as many banks and credit unions as you can. If you consult with myriad lenders, you can receive extensive insights into many mortgage options. Best of all, you will be better equipped than ever before to find the lowest-possible interest rate on a mortgage.
3. Consider Your Down Payment Options
The down payment required for a home purchase varies, but it commonly ranges between 5 percent and 20 percent of a house's total price. If you account for a down payment as you craft a homebuying budget, you can use this total to plan ahead for the property buying journey.
Lastly, you may want to collaborate with a real estate agent as you prepare to launch a home search. In addition to helping you find your dream residence, a real estate agent can put you in touch with potential lenders and offer plenty of guidance throughout the property buying journey.
Ready to pursue a home? Use the aforementioned tips, and you create a successful homebuying budget.