The Woods Team's Blog
Preparing to buy a home is a long and stressful process for many. You’ve spent months, or even years, saving for a down payment, planning your future, and building your credit to ensure you get the best possible interest rate on your loan.
Then you find out, when getting preapproved for a mortgage, that your credit score dropped by a few points. So, what gives?
There’s a lot to understand about how credit scores affect mortgages and vice versa. In today’s post, I’m going to attempt to cover everything you need to know about how applying for a mortgage can affect your credit score so you’ll be prepared when it comes time to buy a home.
Prequalification, preapproval, and credit checks
There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be preapproved or prequalified for a loan. Some of it is due to the jargon that is used in real estate transactions, and some of it is just a marketing technique on the part of lenders.
So, what does it mean to be prequalified vs preapproved?
The short version is that getting prequalified is a quick and easy process to determine whether you’re eligible to lend to and how much you’re likely to receive. It involves a quick review of your finances, and often includes either a self-reported or soft credit inquiry.
A “soft inquiry” is the type of credit check that employers typically use for a background check. It doesn’t affect your credit score, as you are not applying to open a new line of credit. In fact, many lenders’ process for prequalification is a simple online form that doesn’t even require a credit check. We’ll talk more about the difference between soft inquiries and hard inquiries later.
The simplicity of prequalification makes it a simple and easy way to get started. But, it isn’t always accurate in how well it predicts the type of mortgage and loan amount you can receive. That’s where preapproval comes in.
When you get preapproved for a loan you fill out an official application (you often have to pay for these). This will request documentation for your finances and assets, and will ask your approval to run a detailed credit report.
These credit reports are considered “hard inquiries” and are a vital step in getting approved or preapproved for a mortgage. However, they also, at least temporarily, lower your credit score.
Why hard inquiries lower your credit score
When any creditor, be it a bank or credit card company, is determining whether to lend to you, they want to know that you are a safe investment. To determine this, they want to know how frequently you pay your bills on time, how much you owe to other creditors, and how financially stable you are right now.
When you make multiple inquiries in a short period of time, it’s a red flag to lenders that you might be in trouble financially. Thus, hard inquiries will lower your credit score for 1 to 2 months.
Applying to multiple lenders: the silver lining
When borrowers apply for a mortgage, they often shop around and apply to multiple lenders. While it may seem that all of these hard inquiries will add up and drastically lower their credit score, this isn’t the case.
Credit bureaus take into account the source of the inquiries. If they realize that you are applying for mortgages, they will typically recognize this as rate shopping and group these applications together on your credit report, counting them only as a single inquiry. This means your score shouldn’t drop multiple times for multiple mortgage preapprovals that were made within a small time frame.
Now that you know more about how mortgage applications affect your credit score, you can confidently shop around for the best mortgage for you and your family.
Your house is perfect except for one thing: The kitchen is not even close to being large enough. Those who love to entertain and cook will probably agree that even a 15-foot wide by 20-foot long kitchen isn’t large enough, especially if you don’t have an open floor plan. Once you decide how big you want your new kitchen, then you have to figure out where you’re going to get the space from.
Convert a Nearby Room
If you have a room on the other side of a kitchen wall that you are not using, knock the wall out to make the kitchen bigger. You’ll probably upgrade the cabinets, so you can tear those out and either discard them or use them in the laundry room or workshop. You will have to remove some wiring and add more wiring to the newly opened area. If you are familiar with house wiring, you can do this yourself if you plan on keeping your home for at least five years; otherwise, you’ll need to have a certified electrician do it for you. If the room is large enough, you can also build in a pantry or convert an existing walk-in closet into a large pantry.
If it’s not convenient to convert an adjacent room and your kitchen is on one of the outside walls of your house, add on to the house. If you really want to go all out, add on enough for the larger kitchen and an adjoining dining room or breakfast room. You’ll run into the same issue with electric. If you are adding on to the area where the sink is currently located, you’ll also need a plumber to relocate the kitchen plumbing.
If you don’t want to convert a room or add on, but your kitchen feels closed in, you can get additional space by removing walls. Create an open floor plan between the dining room, living room and kitchen. Since you will most likely be upgrading appliances and cabinets, you’ll be able to move things around to make the kitchen more spacious. If you like the idea of an open floor plan, but prefer to keep the kitchen separate, separate the rooms with a bar. This leaves the area open and spacious, gives you more cabinet space and counter space, and it completely changes the look of the kitchen and dining area.
Convert a Laundry Area
If you have a large laundry room that is off the kitchen and need more storage space, wall off the washer and drying into a smaller laundry area. Add floor-to-ceiling shelving or cabinets in the rest of what was once the laundry area to create a pantry. Keep the lower shelves taller so that you can store larger items, such as stockpots and canners bulk food items there.
If you're a first-time homebuyer and you've already started exploring available properties, you might think to yourself, "Why do I even need a buyer agent?" After all, you've been looking at homes for sale and the realtors who showed you the properties were very nice and helpful. But here's the deal: Those realtors are seller agents. They represent the home seller. They are legally, morally and ethically bound to get the best possible deal for the seller -- not for you as the buyer! This is just one of the reasons why first-time homebuyers can really benefit from working with a buyer's agent. Here are some more advantages.
Buyer Agents Work for You -- The Buyer
Once you're prequalified and your buyer agent understands the features you want in your first home, the agent will locate for-sale properties that fit your criteria. Not only that, but the buyer agent will coordinate and schedule showings of those properties for you. You don't have to do all of the legwork. And remember: As your representative, the buyer agent is out to find the best possible deal on a first-time home purchase for you.
Buyer Agents Are Great Negotiators
Every home sale and purchase is bound to hit a snag or two along the way. It's a lengthy process to buy or sell a home, and it's also a highly emotional transaction for buyers and sellers. It is, after all, the largest emotional and financial transaction that most people will make in their lifetime. Therefore, the negotiating skills of a buyer agent will be of great benefit to you as a homebuyer. If something starts to go wrong, they know how to negotiate a fix and they know professionals within their network who can help iron out problems -- from titling companies to real estate attorneys and even contractors to fix unexpected problems with the property.
Buyer Agents Are Property Experts
If you look at a home, do you know all the potential problem spots to examine to ensure that it won't have hidden costs? For example, can you tell if the plumbing is too old and will need major repairs within five years? Can you assess the age and functionality of the furnace, hot water heater and other features? Probably not -- but the buyer agent can because he or she has that experience.
Best of all, buyer agents don't charge any upfront or ongoing fees for their services. They split the commission with the seller agent who works for the home seller. For all these reasons and more, it makes great sense to put the expertise of a buyer agent to work for you!
You can ask any homeowner-buying and owning a home is expensive. Mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, and other bills quickly add up.
If you want to buy a home but don’t have a large down payment saved, odds are you’ve discovered something called private mortgage insurance (PMI).
PMI is an extra monthly payment that you make (on top of your mortgage payment) when you don’t have enough to make a large (20%) down payment on your home.
However, if you want to buy a home and don’t want to tack on an extra monthly payment for PMI, you have options. In today’s post, I’m going to talk about some ways to avoid paying PMI on your mortgage so you can save more money in the long run.
Before we talk about getting rid of PMI, let’s spend a minute on what to expect when you do have to pay it.
PMI typically costs 0.30% to %1.15% of your total loan balance annually. That means that your PMI payments will decrease a moderate amount as you pay off your loan.
Furthermore, once you have paid off 22% of your loan, your PMI will be cancelled and you’ll only be responsible for your regular monthly mortgage payments.
Getting PMI waived early
With conventional loans, you can request to have your PMI cancelled once you’ve paid off 20% of the mortgage. However, many buyers with PMI are using some form of first-time buyer loan, such as an FHA loan.
With an FHA loan, you’ll be stuck with PMI for the lifetime of the loan if you don’t make a down payment of 10% or more. That’s a lot of PMI payments, especially if you take out a 30 year loan, and it can quickly add up.
If you have an FHA loan with FHA insurance, the only way to cancel the insurance is to refinance into a non-FHA insured loan. And remember--refinancing has its own costs and complications.
Making it to the 20% repayment mark
On conventional loans, the best way to get rid of PMI is to reach your 20% repayment mark as soon as possible. That could mean aggressively paying off your mortgage until you reach that point.
This can be achieved by making extra payments, or just paying more each month. However, you don’t want to neglect other debt that could be accruing costly interest in favor of paying off your loans. Make sure you do the math and find out which debt will be more expensive before neglecting other debt.
Once you do reach the 20% repayment mark, you’ll have to remember to apply to have your PMI canceled with your lender. Otherwise, it will be canceled automatically at 22%.
Ready to add your residence to the real estate market? A home appraisal may prove to be a great first step.
With a home appraisal, you'll be able to understand the true value of your house. This comprehensive home assessment enables an expert home appraiser to evaluate every room in your home. Then, a home appraiser will provide details about your home's strengths and weaknesses.
Ultimately, there are many questions for a home seller to consider after a home appraisal is completed, including:
1. What did the home appraiser discover during the evaluation?
A home appraiser boasts in-depth home maintenance knowledge and insights. As such, this professional will do everything possible to identify problem areas with you home that you can repair before you add your residence to the housing market.
Consider the results of a home appraisal closely. By doing so, you can understand your home's strengths and weaknesses and search for ways to transform your house's weaknesses into strengths.
Also, it is important to establish realistic expectations for your residence after a home appraisal.
If a home appraiser discovers myriad problems with your residence, there is no need to worry. You can always repair these issues on your own or hire home maintenance professionals for extra help.
Or, if you decide not to complete home repairs following a home inspection, you should price your residence accordingly. That way, you can be honest with homebuyers about the pros and cons associated with your home and enable these homebuyers to make informed decisions about your residence.
2. Are there major or minor problems with my house?
What differentiates a major home problem from a minor one? The time and resources required to fix a problem often serve as key indicators about whether an issue can cause major headaches over an extended period of time.
For example, an oven light that has gone out can be replaced quickly and effortlessly. On the other hand, your home's obsolete, inefficient furnace may require thousands of dollars to replace.
Simple home improvements can make a world of difference in homebuyers' eyes. Following a home inspection, you may be able to find a variety of quick, easy and effective home improvement tasks that you can complete to enhance your home's appeal.
Be prepared to complete major home improvement projects as well. Remember, if you finish assorted home improvement tasks now, you may be able to help your residence stand out in a highly competitive real estate market down the line.
3. Which home repairs should I prioritize?
Home repairs should help you maximize the value of your residence. Therefore, you should prioritize home maintenance projects that will help you transform your ordinary residence into an exceptional one.
If you need help to determine which home repairs to prioritize, don't forget that a real estate agent may help you do just that. This real estate professional will work with you throughout the home selling process and ensure you can enhance your residence both inside and out.