Acronyms of Real Estate: What Homebuyers Need to Know

Real estate is a regular smorgasbord of acronyms – everything from APR to REO. Here’s a list of the ones you’re likely to run into and what they mean when you’re buying or selling a house:

Acronyms You’ll Hear Associated with Real Estate Professionals

Real estate agents, builders and most other realty-related professions have numerous professional designations, all designed to set them apart from those who haven’t taken advanced courses in their fields. These designations don’t mean that professionals without letters after their names are not as experienced or skilled, but rather only that they haven’t taken the time to further their educations.

Read: How to Build Your Real Estate Team

Let’s start with the letter “R,” which stands for Realtor. A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest trade group. NAR says it speaks for homeowners, and it usually does. But in that rare occasion when the interests of its members and owners don’t align, it sides with those who pay their dues.

Read: A Timeline of the History of Real Estate

NAR embraces a strict code of ethics. There are about 2 million active and licensed real estate agents nationwide, and 1.34 million can call themselves Realtors.

NAR members sometimes have the letters GRI or CRS after their names. The Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation signifies the successful completion of 90 hours of classroom instruction beyond the continuing education courses required by many states for agents to maintain their licenses. After the GRI, an agent may become a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) by advancing his or her education even further.

black family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discriminationblack family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discrimination

Builders can obtain the GBI – Graduate Builder Institute – designation by completing nine one-day classes sponsored by the educational arm of the National Association of Home Builders. Those who pass more advanced courses become Graduate Master Builders, or GMBs. Remodeling specialists with at least five years of experience can be Certified Graduate Remodelers, or CGRs. And, salespeople can be CSPs, or Certified New Home Sales Professionals.

In the mortgage profession, the Mortgage Bankers Association awards the Certified Mortgage Banker (CMB) and Accredited Residential Originator (ARO) designations, but only after completing a training program that may take up to five years to finish. To start the process, CMB and ARO candidates must have at least three years’ experience and be recommended by a senior officer in their companies.

Acronyms Associated with Mortgage Lending

When obtaining a mortgage, you will be quoted an interest rate; however, perhaps the more important rate is the annual percentage rate, or APR, which is the total cost of the loan per year over the loan’s term. It measures the interest rate plus other fees and charges.

An FRM is a fixed-rate mortgage, the terms of which never change. Conversely, an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) allows rates to increase or decrease at certain intervals over the life of the loan, depending on rates at the time of the adjustment.

Female client consulting with a agent in the officeFemale client consulting with a agent in the office

A conventional loan is one with an amount at or less than the conforming loan limit set by federal regulators on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two major suppliers of funds for home loans. These two quasi-government outfits replenish the coffers of main street lenders by buying their loans and packing them into securities for sale to investors worldwide.

Other key agencies you should be familiar with are the FHA and the VA. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures mortgages up to an amount which changes annually, as does the conforming loan ceiling. The Veterans Administration (VA) guarantees loans made to veterans and active duty servicemen and women.

LTV stands for loan-to-value. This important ratio measures what your are borrowing against the value of the home. Some lenders want as much as 20% down, meaning the LTV would be 80%. But in many cases, the LTV can be as great as 97%.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI), is a fee you’ll have to pay if you make less than a 20% down payment. PMI covers the lender should you default, but you have to pay the freight. Fortunately, you can cancel coverage once your LTV dips below 80%.

Your monthly payment likely will include more than just principal and interest. Many lenders also want borrowers to include one-twelfth of their property tax and insurance bills every month, as well. That way, lenders will have enough money on hand to pay these annual bills when they come due. Thus, the acronym PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance).

Real-estate owned (REO) properties are foreclosed upon by lenders when borrowers fail to make their payments. When you buy a foreclosure, you buy REO. Short sales are not REO because, while they are in danger of being repossessed, they are still owned by the borrower.

houses real estate market selling buyinghouses real estate market selling buying

Acronyms You’ll Hear During an Appraisal

There is no acronym for an appraisal, which is an opinion of value prepared by a certified or licensed appraiser (though sometimes other types of valuation methods are used in the buying and selling process).

A Certified Market Analysis (CMA) is prepared by a real estate agent or broker to help determine a home’s listing price. A Broker Price Opinion (BPO) is a more advanced estimate of the probable future selling price of a property, and an automated valuation model (AVM) is a software program that provides valuations based on mathematical modeling.

AVMs are currently used by some lenders and investors to confirm an appraiser’s valuation, but they are becoming increasingly popular as replacements of appraisals, especially in lower price ranges.

Other Terms to Know

If you hear the term MLS, you should know it stands for multiple listing service. An MLS is a database that allows real estate brokers to share data on properties for sale, making the buying and selling process more efficient. There are many benefits to both homebuyers and sellers utilizing an MLS, for more information on how to get your home available through an MLS, work with a real estate professional when selling.

Read: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About Multiple Listing Services

Did you know? Homes.com has some serious MLS partnerships, no joke! When you start your home search on Homes.com, you’ll see accurate property information quickly so you’ll never have to wonder if a home is actually available.

House tourHouse tour

However, not all properties for sale are listed on the MLS. A home may be a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO), if the owner is selling his or her property without an agent and bypassing an MLS listing. In addition, some agents fail to enter their listings in the MLS for days or weeks at a time in hopes of selling to a list of preferred clients.

Read: Advantages of Buying With or Without an Agent

Finally, you may find yourself buying into a homeowners association (HOA) when you purchase a house or condominium apartment. HOAs are legal governing bodies that establish requirements everyone must adhere to in order to keep the community it oversees running smoothly and ensure property values are maintained.


Lew Sichelman

Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Source: homes.com

Why the Racial Homeownership Gap Exists and How to Combat It

Homeownership is more than a mortgage. For a child, it also shapes their access to education, affects health, establishes a sense of community, enhances the chance of going to college, and promotes a happier family life. For adults, homeownership is one of the strongest tools American households use to build their wealth. Today, the average American homeowner has amassed $119,000 worth of equity in their home and that equity is increasing at a rate of about 4.8% a year. 

Read: Is a Home Equity Line of Credit the Right Choice?

As a wealth-builder, homeownership plays a more critical role for minorities than whites. During the last quarter-century, homeownership equity accounted for nearly half of all Black and Latino wealth, compared to about a quarter for white families’ wealth.

More than three-quarters of white households, 77.3%, own their own homes, and less than half, 44% of Black households own their own homes. The Black-white homeownership gap is 29.70 percentage points, 6.2 points greater than it was 52 years ago when the Fair Housing Act was signed.

black family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discriminationblack family touring a house to buy racial homeownership gap discrimination

Why Racial Homeownership Gaps Exist?

Outside factors such as affordable housing, gentrification, decreases in federal funding and programs for minorities, and discrimination in mortgage lending all directly affect the homeownership gaps amongst white, Black, and other minority households. Recent research by the Urban Institute found three correlating causes for the racial homeownership gap:

Black households are more likely to buy homes later in life than white households. The result is a lower level of equity when owners reach retirement age. Eighty-seven percent of white homeowners bought their first homes before age 35, compared with only 53% of Black homeowners. Not only are Black households less likely to buy their homes young, 18% of them never own a home before turning 60.

Black homeowners are less likely to sustain their homeownership. Among a sample of households that purchased their first home after age 44, 34% of Black homeowner households switched to rental housing, while only 9% of white households did so. Black families who sustained their homeownership carried more than $23,500 higher housing wealth into their 60s than Black households who moved from owning to renting during their lives.

racial homeownership gap discrimination graphicracial homeownership gap discrimination graphic

Black homebuyers purchase less expensive first homes while using more debt. The average first home purchased by Black homebuyers is valued at $127,000, compared with $139,000 for white homebuyers, yet Black homebuyers, on average, have higher mortgage debt ($90,000) than white homebuyers ($75,000). Higher mortgage debt not only lowers current and future wealth, but could make it harder to financially maintain homeownership long term.

How to Combat the Racial Homeownership Gap and Identify Discrimination in Homebuying

In order to lessen the racial homeownership gaps we see today, programs and guidance need to be created and readily available to minority communities. For example, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers created the Two Million New Black Homeowners Program with the intent of helping minimize the gap and protect against homeownership discrimination. And, the NAACP provides a Fair Lending Program to help Black homebuyers receive fair distribution of credit.

stylish Black man sitting in armchair and looking at camerastylish Black man sitting in armchair and looking at camera

Another way to combat the racial homeownership gap is to provide guidance to minorities looking to purchase the home and help them recognize the signs of potential discrimination in their homebuying journey. ConsumerAction, a website that helps consumers make informed decisions, created a downloadable document highlighting the different ways you can identify these discriminatory practices. In short, these are some things you can look for:

  • A developer or agent refuses to sell to someone based on their race. This also includes if the developer or agent doesn’t return your phone calls or ignores offers you put in on the home.
  • Lying about sale terms to place minority buyers out of the market. To protect yourself, always work with an agent you trust who can understand the terms and what the seller is ideally looking for before putting in an offer on the home.
  • An agent who steers clients to or from certain neighborhoods because of race. If you’re a white homebuyer and an agent tells you minorities live in the neighborhood as a way to deter you, then the proper reporting should be made to the Fair Housing Equal Opportunity office.
  • An agent failing to inform and show buyers all available listings in their desired area and price range. As a buyer, it’s your right to be able to view all the available properties that fall under your desired specifications. If an agent refuses to do so, discriminatory practices may be at play.
Portrait Of Couple Looking Over Back Yard FencePortrait Of Couple Looking Over Back Yard Fence

Discrimination can also come from mortgage lending and coverage practices, not just agents, landlords and developers. If you’ve found a home you love and you want to make an offer, or you’re in the process of getting pre-approved, then be sure you’re lender or insurance agent isn’t following the below practices:

  • Denial of a loan or insurance due to location of the home. Lenders and agents are not allowed to deny approval due to the location or neighborhood of your home.
  • Creating different terms and conditions on a loan because of race. Changes in the fees, points, and rates could all be identified as a change in the terms of a loan.
  • Receiving an artificially low appraisal on your property. If you’re a minority looking to sell your home, then make sure you’re not given an artificially low appraisal, get second opinions and compare the appraisal to your home’s current value.

Education is how buyers, sellers and renters can protect themselves from racial discrimination in the housing industry. For a full list of rights and obligations from the Fair Housing Act, you can visit the Fair Housing Equal Opportunity website. If you’ve experienced discriminatory practices during your buying, selling or renting journey, then you can file an official complaint online as well

Looking to Buy a Home?

If you’re looking to buy a home– or sell your current home in order to buy– then you can visit Homes.com’s How To section which includes free, step-by-step guides on the entire buying, selling, or renting process.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

Source: homes.com

How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Helped Women Achieve Their Homeownership Dreams 

The passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left the nation remembering her incredible legacy of service. Justice Ginsburg tirelessly fought for equality, especially for women. To honor her legacy, we wanted to examine how Ginsburg helped transform the housing market into a more equitable sphere for women, allowing them to engage in the market independent of male control. 

woman moving into homewoman moving into home

A Brief History*

Until the mid-1800s, women were generally restricted from owning property or engaging in transactions like the purchase or selling of real estate. Under “common law,” a woman’s property became her husband’s upon marriage, and only the husband had legal authority over most, if not all, decisions regarding the property. In 1848, New York passed the Married Women’s Property Act, which, among other allowances, gave women the legal autonomy to maintain control over whatever property they brought into the marriage, and inspired many states to adopt similar laws.

In 1920, women were granted the right to vote in the U.S., but they still weren’t economically independent, especially if they were married. Even into the 1970s, women could not apply for credit cards, maintain employment upon pregnancy, and often could not manage their own bank accounts without a male co-signer. 

Read: The History of Women’s Homeownership 

From Progress to Freedom, Ginsburg Style

Motivated by her own experiences with sexism, Ginsburg worked for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the 1970s. During this time, she founded the Women’s Rights Project, one of the major arms working towards national women’s equality under law. It was through this initiative she fought for the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which passed in 1974. This law finally gave women the legal authority to apply for bank accounts, credit cards, and mortgages without a male cosigner. 

But, that was only the beginning of Ginsburg’s work. Here are some of the major cases she argued before over the course of her storied career to further women’s legal independence: 

  • 1971 – Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution; Section 214 of IRS Code: Men and women are equally entitled to the same caregiving and Social Security benefits. 
  • 1978 – The Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Employers cannot fire or consider a woman for a job because they are pregnant or have plans to become pregnant. 
  • 1979 – Jury Duty for Women: Overturned the thought that women’s civic duty to serving on a jury should not be lessened and deemed only optional. 
  • 1996 – United States vs. Virginia: During her time on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg led the ruling decision that state-funded schools must admit women. 

The Modern-Day Woman

Thanks in part to Ginsburg’s efforts, more single women than ever before are obtaining homeownership without a partner. In fact, a 2019 survey indicated that single females accounted for 1 out of every 5 home sales. Single women have also outpaced their male counterparts in real estate purchases for almost three decades.

woman in her kitchenwoman in her kitchen

Read: The Growing Number of Female Homeowners  

Thanks to the work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and others who tirelessly fought for female equality, the opportunity to obtain a home is more accessible than any other time in history. Feeling inspired to start your own homebuying journey? The Homes.com How-To can help you navigate the process, start to finish. 

Women still face stigma when buying a home alone, especially at a young age, according to recent homebuyer Alyssa Hanzl which Homes.com interviewed. Nevertheless, they persist and turn their dream into reality. Hanzl recently recounted her homebuying journey as a single, 23-year-old, recent college graduate. Add in the global COVID-19 pandemic and you have a recipe for disaster, yet, she still made it work.

Read: Why I Bought a Home at 23 

The next time you see a post on social media thanking Justice Ginsburg for helping women, now you truly know the history behind her support as it pertains to homeownership.

*Sourced from the Guardian, Encyclopedia of Women’s History, UPenn Law, Britannica, Bureau of Labor Statistics, History.com, Yale School of Management, and Bank of America.


Living the millennial life with my husband and Wheaten Terrier in beautiful Virginia. I document my life on Instagram and am ready to talk all things home-related at a moment’s notice.

Source: homes.com

10 Cities Where Black Americans Fare Best Economically

Where Black Americans Fare Best Economically – 2021 Study – SmartAsset

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Nationwide, when it comes to wealth and personal finance success, Black Americans generally have less. Census data from 2019 shows that the median Black household income is 33% lower than the overall median household income and the Black homeownership rate is 22 percentage points lower than the general homeownership rate. Data on wealth accumulation depicts even starker disparities: Black families’ net worth is 87% lower than that of white families and 33% lower than that of Hispanic families, according to the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances.

Though the national picture is less than encouraging, economic outcomes for Black Americans are better in some places than others. In this study, we determined the cities where Black Americans fared best economically leading up to 2020. We compared 129 cities across six metrics: median Black household income, Black homeownership rate, Black labor force participation rate, poverty rate for Black residents, percentage of Black adults with a bachelor’s degree and percentage of business owners who are Black. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • Six of the top 10 cities are located in Texas, Florida and North Carolina. These cities are Grand Prairie and Garland, Texas; Pembroke Pines and Miramar, Florida; and Charlotte and Durham, North Carolina. In both of the Texas and Florida cities, the median Black household income is higher than $61,000 and the Black homeownership rate is 46% or higher – compared to study-wide averages of about $43,000 and 35%, respectively. Meanwhile, Charlotte and Durham rank particularly well for our education and metro area business ownership metrics. In both North Carolina locales, more than 30% of Black adults have their bachelor’s degree and at least 3% of businesses are Black-owned – compared to study-wide averages of about 23% and 2%, respectively.
  • Preliminary 2020 estimates show that Black Americans have been disproportionately affected by not only the health impacts of COVID-19, but also its corresponding economic effects. The regional economic effects of COVID-19 on Black Americans are difficult to determine due to insufficient localized data, but the available national data paints a grim picture: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows that as of December 2020, the Black unemployment rate was 3.9
    and 3.2 percentage points higher than the white and overall unemployment rates, respectively. Additionally, the Black labor force participation rate was about 2.0 percentage points lower than both white and overall participation rates.

1. Virginia Beach (tie)

Virginia Beach, Virginia ranks in the top 10 cities for four of the six metrics we considered. It has the seventh-highest median Black household income, at roughly $65,600, and the sixth-highest 2019 Black labor force participation rate, at 78.7%. Additionally, Census Bureau data shows that the 2019 poverty rate for Black residents in Virginia Beach is 10%, fourth-lowest in our study. In the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metro area, more than 5% of businesses are Black-owned, the seventh-highest percentage for this metric overall.

1. Grand Prairie, TX (tie)

Grand Prairie, Texas ties with Virginia Beach, Virginia as the city where Black Americans fare best economically. It has the fourth-highest Black labor force participation rate (at 79.9%) and the lowest Black poverty rate (at less than 5%) of all 129 cities in our study. Additionally, more than a third of Black residents in Grand Prairie have their bachelor’s degree and the median Black household income is more than $63,000. The city ranks sixth and 10th out of 129 for those two metrics, respectively.

3. Aurora, IL (tie)

Aurora, Illinois ranks in the top third of all 129 cities for five of the six metrics we considered, falling behind only for its metro area’s relatively low concentration of Black-owned businesses. It has the fourth-highest Black homeownership rate (about 52%), sixth-highest median Black household income (about $65,900) and 10th-lowest Black poverty rate (11.9%). Aurora’s Black labor force participation rate is 73.5%, ranking 15th overall for this metric. Moreover, more than 29% of Black residents in the city have their bachelor’s degree, ranking 26th overall.

3. Pembroke Pines, FL (tie)

Just north of Miami, Florida’s Pembroke Pines ties for the No. 3 spot. Across all 129 cities, it has the second-highest Black homeownership rate – 60.20% – and the sixth-lowest 2019 Black poverty rate – 10.6%. Additionally, incomes for Black households are relatively high. In 2019, the median Black household income was about $61,500, the 11th-highest in our study.

5. Miramar, FL

The Black homeownership rate in Miramar, Florida is the highest in our study, at 68.07%. This is about 26 percentage points higher than the 2019 national Black homeownership rate, which is approximately 42%. Miramar additionally ranks in the top 15 cities for three other metrics: its high median Black household income (about $66,300), its high Black labor force participation rate (74.1%) and its relatively low Black poverty rate (7.9%).

6. Charlotte, NC

Though the median Black household income in Charlotte, North Carolina – at a little more than $46,300 – is relatively low, Charlotte ranks in the top third of cities for the other five metrics we considered. It has the 28th-highest Black homeownership rate (41.45%), the 18th-highest Black labor force participation rate (73.0%) and the 14th-lowest poverty rate for Black residents (13.6%). Additionally, more than 30% of Black adults have their bachelor’s degree and almost 4% of businesses in the larger Charlotte metro area are Black-owned – both of which rank within the top 25 out of all 129 cities in the study.

7. Garland, TX

The Black homeownership rate in Garland, Texas is the fifth-highest in our study, at 50.98%. This city has the 11th-highest Black labor force participation rate, at 75.8%. It also ranks in the top 15 for its median Black household income ($60,030) and the percentage of Black adults with a bachelor’s degree (32.5%). Garland falls the most behind when it comes to the poverty rate for Black residents, which was 23.7% in 2019. That’s 1.2% higher than the national average for Black Americans and the worst of any city in our top 10.

8. Durham, NC

Only about two hours northeast of Charlotte, Durham, North Carolina takes the eighth spot on our list. The city ranks particularly well for its percentage of Black adults with a bachelor’s degree (35.2%) and percentage of Black-owned businesses in the larger Durham-Chapel Hill metro area (4.7%). Additionally, the Black labor force participation rate is the 30th-highest across all 129 cities in the study, at 69.4%. The poverty rate for Black residents is 35th-lowest overall, at 18.9%.

9. Enterprise, NV

Enterprise, Nevada had the fifth-highest 2019 Black labor force participation rate (79.0%), the 16th-highest 2019 median Black household income (about $58,500) and 23rd-best 2019 Black homeownership rate (roughly 43%) of all 129 cities in our study. Enterprise falls behind, however, when it comes to the number of Black-owned businesses in the larger Las Vegas metro area, at less than 2%. The city ranks 67th out of 129 for this metric.

10. Elk Grove, CA

The median household income for Black residents in Elk Grove, California is a little more than $76,300, the second-highest in our study (ranking behind only Rancho Cucamonga, California, where the median household income is almost $92,000). Elk Grove also ranks in the top 10 cities for its relatively high Black homeownership rate (52.51%) and the relatively high percentage of Black adults with a bachelor’s degree (35.1%). But like in Enterprise, Nevada, few businesses in the Elk Grove area are Black-owned. Annual Business Survey data from 2018 shows that less than 2% of employer firms in the greater Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade metro area are Black-owned.

Data and Methodology

To find the cities where Black Americans fare best economically, SmartAsset looked at the 200 largest cities in the U.S. Only 129 of those cities had complete data available, and we compared them across six metrics:

  • Median Black household income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Black homeownership rate. This is the number of Black owner-occupied housing units divided by the number of Black occupied housing units. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Black labor force participation rate. This is for the Black population 16 years and older. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Poverty rate for Black residents. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Percentage of Black adults with a bachelor’s degree. This is for the Black population 25 years and older. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Percentage of business owners who are Black. This is the number of Black-owned businesses with paid employees divided by the number of businesses with paid employees. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2018 Annual Business Survey and is at the metro area level.

To determine our final list, we ranked each city in every metric, giving a full weighting to all metrics. We then found each city’s average ranking and used the average to determine a final score. The city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

Editors’ Note: SmartAsset published this study in celebration and recognition of Black History Month. Protests for racial justice and the outsized impact of COVID-19 on people of color have highlighted the social and economic injustice that many Americans continue to face. We are aiming to raise awareness surrounding economic inequities and provide personal finance resources and information to all individuals.

Financial Tips for Black Americans

  • See if homeownership makes sense. The Black homeownership rate is 22 percentage points lower than the general homeownership rate. Deciding whether or not to buy is often difficult. SmartAsset’s rent or buy calculator can help you compare the costs to see which one makes sense for your financial situation. Additionally, if you want to figure out how much you can afford to buy a house, our home-buying calculator will help you break down the target price for your income.
  • Some kind of retirement account is better than none. The Federal Reserve says that Black Americans are less likely to have a retirement account than white Americans. According to their 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, 65% of white middle-aged families have at least one retirement account, while only 44% of Black families in the same age group have one. Even though 401(k)s are a popular retirement plan because employers could match a percentage of your contributions, an IRA could also be another great opportunity to boost your savings. In 2021, the IRA contribution limit is $6,000 for people under 50 and $7,000 for people age 50 and older.
  • Consider a financial advisor. A financial advisor can help you make smarter financial decisions to be in better control of your money. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors, get started now.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.

Photo credits: ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/LeoPatrizi

Stephanie Horan, CEPF® Stephanie Horan is a data journalist at SmartAsset. A Certified Educator of Personal Finance (CEPF®), she sources and analyzes data to write studies relating to a variety of topics including mortgage, retirement and budgeting. Before coming to SmartAsset, she worked as an analyst at an asset management firm. Stephanie graduated from Williams College with a degree in Mathematics. Originally from Philadelphia, she has always been a Yankees fan and currently lives in New York.
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Mortgage and refinance rates today, Feb. 27, and rate forecast for next week

Today’s mortgage and refinance rates 

Average mortgage rates fell a little or held steady yesterday (Friday). Unfortunately, it was the only glimmer of light in a gloomy week that saw rises — including a sharp one — on every other day.

Right now, there seems to be no end in sight to these rate increases. Of course, we’re almost bound to see an occasional fall, because that’s how markets work. But sustained downward movement appears unlikely, and I’m expecting that mortgage rates will keep rising next week. Read on for more details.

Find and lock a low rate (Feb 28th, 2021)

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed 3.062% 3.065% -0.13%
Conventional 15 year fixed 2.587% 2.596% -0.11%
Conventional 20 year fixed 2.875% 2.882% -0.13%
Conventional 10 year fixed 2.474% 2.493% -0.13%
30 year fixed FHA 2.87% 3.549% -0.1%
15 year fixed FHA 2.539% 3.121% -0.16%
5 year ARM FHA 2.5% 3.213% -0.03%
30 year fixed VA 2.383% 2.555% -0.36%
15 year fixed VA 2.25% 2.571% Unchanged
5 year ARM VA 2.5% 2.392% Unchanged
Rates are provided by our partner network, and may not reflect the market. Your rate might be different. Click here for a personalized rate quote. See our rate assumptions here.

Find and lock a low rate (Feb 28th, 2021)


COVID-19 mortgage updates: Mortgage lenders are changing rates and rules due to COVID-19. To see the latest on how coronavirus could impact your home loan, click here.

Should you lock a mortgage rate today?

If I were still floating, I’d lock my rate right away. Of course, there’s always a possibility of rates falling back. But that currently looks a slim one. And the chances of continuing rises seem much stronger. Read on to discover why.

So my recommendations remain:

  • LOCK if closing in 7 days
  • LOCK if closing in 15 days
  • LOCK if closing in 30 days
  • LOCK if closing in 45 days
  • LOCK if closing in 60 days

However, with so much uncertainty at the moment, your instincts could easily turn out to be as good as mine — or better. So be guided by your gut and your personal tolerance for risk.

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What’s moving current mortgage rates

The forces that are driving rates higher are the same ones we reported last week. The vaccination program and dwindling COVID-19 infection rates are creating optimism that an economic recovery will be upon us sooner than many expected. Indeed, we’re already seeing some better economic data. And a better economy goes hand-in-hand with higher rates.

But what we last week listed as a secondary factor may have now turned into the primary one. And that’s the fear of future inflation.

Unfortunately, such fears also tend to push mortgage rates higher.

Fear of inflation

And you can see why. Imagine you’re an investor who buys a mortgage bond (a mortgage-backed security or MBS) with a fixed rate of 3% for 30 years. That means your yield (income) is fixed, too.

And now imagine how sick you’d feel if next year (or in 10 years’ time) serious inflation took hold, and you were suddenly seeing inflation and interest rates soaring up to 10% or even higher — while you were still getting 3%.

This isn’t impossible fiction. Between 1978 and 1990, the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage never dipped below 10%, measured annually. And, in October 1982, that rate peaked at 18.45%, according to Freddie Mac’s archives.

It’s not hard to imagine how petrified investors are of having their money tied up in fixed-rate securities if there’s any likelihood of future inflation.

Still a slim possibility of falls

Of course, nothing’s certain in markets. And some disastrous news could come out of nowhere and kill both optimism and its accompanying fear of inflation.

Indeed, earlier this week, The New York Times reported on a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) that’s currently circulating in New York City. And some scientists worry that it might prove more resistant to current vaccines than existing strains are.

That research is yet to be peer-reviewed. And it may turn out to be nothing. But it’s an example of the sort of news that could turn markets and mortgage rates around. The trouble is, the chances of such an event arising before your closing date don’t seem high.

Economic reports next week

Next Friday brings the official, monthly, employment situation report. And that’s arguably the most important economic data of all at the moment. So markets may be moved by those figures

They’re less likely to be affected by the other reports this week. However, any data can have an impact if it varies significantly from expectations.

Here are next week’s main economic reports:

  • Monday — January construction spending. Also February auto sales. Plus the February manufacturing index from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM)
  • Wednesday — February ISM services index
  • Thursday — Weekly new claims for unemployment insurance.
  • Friday — February employment situation report, including nonfarm payrolls and the unemployment rate.

Watch out, too, for top Federal Reserve officers’ speaking engagements. The Fed’s walking a fine line at the moment between keeping the recovery on the road and not stoking inflation fears. So investors are paying close attention to their remarks.

Find and lock a low rate (Feb 28th, 2021)

Mortgage interest rates forecast for next week

Unfortunately, I can only predict rising rates this week. The pace of increases may slow and we might even see some small and occasional falls. But, overall, it’s hard to imagine the recent trend reversing.

Mortgage and refinance rates usually move in tandem. But note that refinance rates are currently a little higher than those for purchase mortgages. That gap’s likely to remain constant as they change.

How your mortgage interest rate is determined

Mortgage and refinance rates are generally determined by prices in a secondary market (similar to the stock or bond markets) where mortgage-backed securities are traded.

And that’s highly dependent on the economy. So mortgage rates tend to be high when things are going well and low when the economy’s in trouble.

Your part

But you play a big part in determining your own mortgage rate in five ways. You can affect it significantly by:

  1. Shopping around for your best mortgage rate — They vary widely from lender to lender
  2. Boosting your credit score — Even a small bump can make a big difference to your rate and payments
  3. Saving the biggest down payment you can — Lenders like you to have real skin in this game
  4. Keeping your other borrowing modest — The lower your other monthly commitments, the bigger the mortgage you can afford
  5. Choosing your mortgage carefully — Are you better off with a conventional, FHA, VA, USDA, jumbo or another loan?

Time spent getting these ducks in a row can see you winning lower rates.

Remember, it’s not just a mortgage rate

Be sure to count all your forthcoming homeownership costs when you’re working out how big a mortgage you can afford. So focus on your “PITI” That’s your Principal (pays down the amount you borrowed), Interest (the price of borrowing), (property) Taxes, and (homeowners) Insurance. Our mortgage calculator can help with these.

Depending on your type of mortgage and the size of your down payment, you may have to pay mortgage insurance, too. And that can easily run into three figures every month.

But there are other potential costs. So you’ll have to pay homeowners association dues if you choose to live somewhere with an HOA. And, wherever you live, you should expect repairs and maintenance costs. There’s no landlord to call when things go wrong!

Finally, you’ll find it hard to forget closing costs. You can see those reflected in the annual percentage rate (APR) you’ll be quoted. Because that effectively spreads them out over your loan’s term, making that higher than your straight mortgage rate.

But you may be able to get help with those closing costs and your down payment, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. Read:

Down payment assistance programs in every state for 2020

Compare top lenders

Mortgage rate methodology

The Mortgage Reports receives rates based on selected criteria from multiple lending partners each day. We arrive at an average rate and APR for each loan type to display in our chart. Because we average an array of rates, it gives you a better idea of what you might find in the marketplace. Furthermore, we average rates for the same loan types. For example, FHA fixed with FHA fixed. The end result is a good snapshot of daily rates and how they change over time.

Source: themortgagereports.com

9 Things I Wish I Had Known About Owning My First Home (Before I Bought It)

Years before I ever dreamed of homeownership for myself, I was an HGTV connoisseur. In college, I double majored in “Property Virgins” and “House Hunters” and spent hours glued to the TV with my roommate, ogling other people’s granite countertops.

Fast forward nearly a decade, and the time had arrived for me to purchase my own home. (No granite countertops here—my house was more like the “before” scene in an episode of “Fixer Upper”).

Not surprisingly, TV homeownership didn’t prepare me for the real thing. There are lots of lessons I’ve had to learn the hard way.

If you’re gearing up for your own journey into homeownership, turn off the TV and gather ’round. I’ll fill you in on a few things I wish I had known beforehand, and a few surprises (some happy, some frustrating) that I encountered along the way.

1. A beautiful yard takes work

That lawn's not going ti cut itself
That lawn’s not going ti cut itself

mustafagull/iStock

I never met a succulent that I didn’t kill. Even my fake plants are looking a little wilted right now. But even though I don’t have a green thumb, landscaping and yard maintenance are forever on my to-do list.

Each spring, I spray Roundup with impunity, attempting (and failing) to conquer the weeds. My husband handles mowing and edging.

I’ve slowly started to learn which plants can endure abuse, neglect, and a volatile Midwestern climate. I still have a long way to go in my landscaping journey, but all this work has given me a new appreciation for other people’s lush, beautiful lawns.

When you’re house hunting, keep in mind that those beautiful lawns you see—and that outdoor space you covet—come at a steep price. Either your time and frustration, or a hefty bill for professional landscapers, will be necessary to keep things presentable.

2. You might get a bill for neighborhood improvements

Your property taxes should pay for every improvement to the neighborhood, right? Not necessarily.

When my neighbors came together to petition the city for a speed bump on our busy street, the cost was passed on to us homeowners. It wasn’t covered by property taxes, so we got a bill in the mail a few months later. Surprise!

When you’re preparing to buy a house, make sure you budget for homeownership expenses—not just repair and HOA costs, but those pesky fees that crop up when you least expect them.

3. Brush/trash removal? It works differently in every city

You might not be able to just leave your leaves on the curb...
You might not be able to just leave your leaves on the curb…

Instants/iStock

As a kid, I spent many fall weekends scooping leaves into yard waste bags that we left on the curb for pickup. But when I became a homeowner, I realized that my early brush with brush removal was unique to the suburb where I grew up. Every city handles it differently, if the city handles it at all.

In Milwaukee, where I live, homeowners can put leaves on the curb for pickup on designated days. For big branches, you need to request a pickup, or potentially dispose of them yourself. Check with your city to find the ordinances and regulations where you live.

4. You’ll want to clean (or hire someone to clean) your nasty windows

Window maintenance was never on my radar as a renter, probably because I never had more than a few windows in an apartment. But then I became the proud owner of many, many windows—and all of them were coated in a thick film of gunk after years of neglect.

After we moved in, I started to tackle the cleaning on my own. But I quickly realized I was getting nowhere fast, and there was no way I could safely clean the exterior windows up in the finished attic.

So, I swallowed my pride and hired window washers. It was some of the best money I’ve ever spent.

5. You may feel a sudden urge to stock up on seasonal decorations

I never looked twice at a $50 wreath or decorative gourd before becoming a homeowner. Now, I have a burgeoning collection of lawn ornaments in the shape of snowmen and spooky cats. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am anymore.

6. You’ll need to create a budget for Halloween candy

Stock up...
Stock up…

leekris/iStock

At least I did in my Halloween-loving neighborhood, where the trick-or-treaters come out in droves.

I spent upward of $100 on candy my first year as a homeowner, and most of it was purchased in a panic at the Dollar Store after I noticed that our supply was dangerously low just halfway through the evening.

Now, I stock up in advance and shop with coupons to save a few bucks.

7. DIY renovation is equally rewarding and soul-crushing

Maybe just call someone next time...
Maybe just call someone next time…

neirfy/iStock

For the first few months after we closed on our house, my husband and I spent every free hour after work and on the weekends ripping out carpeting, pulling nails one by one from the hardwood floors, and scrubbing away at generations’ worth of grime in the bathrooms and kitchen. It was some seriously sick stuff.

Being frugal and ambitious means we can accomplish a lot on a small budget. But acting as our own general contractors became a full-time job on top of both of our full-time jobs.

Simple pleasures like “having a social life” or “Friday night with Netflix” became distant memories. It’s easy now to say it was all worth it, but at the time, I daydreamed about winning the lottery and hiring a team of pros to handle our rehab.

____________

Watch: Here’s How Low You Can Go in Making an Offer on a Home

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8. My impulse to check real estate listings lingered for a while

When I started house hunting, I obsessively searched for new home listings every day, poring over MLS descriptions and swiping through photos. Reaching for my phone to refresh the realtor.com app became muscle memory.

But after we closed on our house, my impulse to follow the market didn’t disappear overnight. Even though I was a homeowner, I also had a phantom limb where “checking the real estate listings” used to be.

A friend of mine put it best when she wrote about the sensation of loss she experienced when she “no longer had an excuse to occupy [her] free time with these real estate apps.” It’s surprisingly challenging to turn off your home-buying brain after months of being on high alert.

9. You’ll never want to go back to sharing walls

I like my neighbors. I like them even more because, for the most part, I can’t hear them. Gone are the days of people above me making bowling sounds late at night.

Now, I enjoy the sweet, sweet silence of detached living—no adjacent neighbors blasting music or loudly quarreling. All the yard work in the world is worth it for this level of quiet.

Source: realtor.com

3 questions for homeowner education expert Danielle Samalin

In a new episode of the Financial Planning podcast, the CEO of a homeownership education nonprofit explained the many challenges facing first-time homebuyers.

Danielle Samalin, Framework Homeownership

Danielle Samalin is the CEO of Boston-based Framework Homeownership.

Danielle Samalin is CEO of Framework Homeownership, a Boston-based organization that offers online training for prospective homebuyers and a network of nonprofit counseling partners. She answered the following three questions posed by FP Senior Editor Tobias Salinger:

1. What’s the size of the homeownership gap and what is being done to change it?

2. What are the most important questions for first-time homebuyers?

3. How does the organization work?

Listen and subscribe to the FP Podcast on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get podcasts.

Source: nationalmortgagenews.com

My House Failed Its First Real Estate Inspection—Here’s What I Did To Get Through Escrow

When I was buying my first house, everything seemed too good to be true—at least at the start of the process. I found a home within a couple of weeks, the price was fabulously low, it was in a cute lake community with a style I loved, and funding came through quickly and easily. I even received a first-time home buyer’s bonus for tax time. Plus, I didn’t need much of a down payment.

But it turned out too good to be true. My smooth path to homeownership suddenly became rocky when the inspection report came back with a big fat failure on it. I immediately panicked. What did it mean? Was I still able to buy the house? And if I did, was it going to fall apart?

After a few calls with my real estate agent (who, at that point, had become more of a home-buying therapist), I learned that a bad inspection isn’t that rare. In fact, my new home wasn’t in as bad of shape as I initially feared. We were able to make some repairs and, after a second inspection, the house was appraised and the sale was able to go through.

During the process, though, I learned a lot more than I ever expected about home inspections. Whether you’re a first-time or repeat home buyer, here’s my advice for getting the house you want after a shaky home inspection.

Houses don’t really pass or fail

Though my home inspection appeared to be a failure, homes aren’t actually graded on a pass/fail system.

“There is no such thing as a failed inspection,” said Karen Kostiw, an agent with Warburg Realty in New York. “The inspection just points out small and potentially larger issues that you may not be aware of.”

Sure, some houses can sail through the process and others may fare poorly, but it’s not a “You can never buy this” situation if there are problems with the property.

For me, my mortgage hinged on a solid inspection—so the initial results meant I wouldn’t get the loan unless things were fixed. That being said, if I had enough cash on hand or wanted to try a different mortgage lender, I could have continued with the purchase even with a negative inspection report.

So if the house you’re set on buying ends up having issues, don’t panic. You still have options.

Most inspection issues are small

It’s important to remember every home inspection report will come back with something, according to Kate Ziegler, a real estate agent with Arborview Realty in Boston. My inspection report had noted about 40 fixes. But a lot of times, the problems aren’t as bad as you think.

Keep in mind that the inspector’s job is to call out any trouble spot. Also, all issues noted in the report aren’t equal: Some problems flagged by an inspector can wait.

“The inspector will find defects—sometimes many defects—but that does not mean buyers are not purchasing a good home,” Kostiw says. “The small leak might mean a bolt needs to be tightened, or the dishwasher is not working because the waterline was switched off by accident. These are easy fixes. However, when buyers see a laundry list of items, it can seem as if the home is falling down. This is most often not the case.”

Red flags do exist

Ziegler and Kostiw agree that though most repairs are easy fixes, some items should give you pause if you see them on your report.

Structural problems, antique electrical systems, old windows, unexplained water damage, evidence of termites or wood rot, a bad roof, asbestos, mold, radon, and lead paint are all red flags that can show up during a home inspection. If fixing these problems is impossible or way beyond the means your budget, you may want to reconsider your purchase.

“Whether or not inspection items warrant backing out entirely depends quite a bit on any individual buyer’s experience and bandwidth, as well as personal risk tolerances and financial situation,” Ziegler says. “It’s true that houses don’t stay in good repair on their own. They require maintenance and care, just like your houseplants and your sourdough starter!”

Don’t try to fix things yourself

Unless a repair is something truly minor like caulking a bathroom tub or putting a cabinet door back on its hinges, don’t try to fix anything on your own. You could make things worse or even injure yourself. Hire licensed contractors that you’ve vetted to handle any problems. And try not to leave it all up to the seller—they’re not going to be living in the home. You will be.

“Motivations in this case are not aligned,” Ziegler says. “The seller wants to spend as little as possible to meet their contractual obligations, but [a] buyer should be more concerned with the quality of the repair.”

Work the costs into the sale

At first I worried I would have to pay to fix everything that was wrong with my house. But it’s important to know you can work the cost of repairs—and how long it should take to make them—into the sale.

Say you can’t afford to fix the busted water heater but the seller can. You can raise the offer price by that cost, or you can trade off: The seller fixes one thing, and you fix another. In my case, I only had to add a banister to one stairwell. The sellers were particularly motivated to unload the home so they handled everything else.

Hopefully by the end of this process, every issue will be fixed and you’ll be ready to purchase your home. And you’ll be able to move in with a clear head, knowing everything is really as good as it seems.

Source: realtor.com

People on the move: Feb. 26

DeAndre Lipscomb_headshot.jpg

Lender and servicer Homepoint, based in Ann Arbor, Mich. announced the creation of a new executive leadership role. As the company’s first chief officer of diversity and inclusion, DeAndre Lipscomb will be tasked with developing initiatives that support the company’s corporate social responsibility goals.
Lipscomb most recently served as executive director of the Lake Trust Foundation and as community impact manager for Lake Trust Credit Union. Previous to that, he held executive leadership roles within the healthcare industry, fostering employee engagement, community outreach and enhanced diversity and inclusion strategies in the sector.
“I am impressed by the leadership team’s demonstrated commitment to embedding diversity and inclusion into the company culture,” Lipscomb said in the announcement. “I look forward to working with the team to strengthen communities through financial well-being brought by homeownership and education.”

Source: nationalmortgagenews.com

Mistakes I Made When I Bought My First House At The Age of 20

Are you thinking about buying a house? Do you want to avoid common home buying mistakes?

I bought my first house when I was only 20 years old. Even though that was a little over 11 years ago, I have looked back many times and wondered how I did it.first time home buying mistakes

first time home buying mistakes

I made so many first time home buyer mistakes!

Of course, I was young and had a lot to learn. But, I definitely could have done more research to avoid many of the home buying mistakes I made, like not comparing interest rates or understanding the total cost of buying a home.

I’m not alone in how I approached buying a house. There are many people who simply do not understand everything that goes into buying a house, and that’s something that can negatively impact your finances and cause stress. 

Over the years, I have received many emails about buying a house in your early 20s or when you’re young. I also get lots of questions from people who have been renting and are thinking about buying their first home.

I thought it would be interesting to look back on the home buying mistakes I made and explain how to avoid the same mistakes I made. Hopefully you can be a better prepared home buyer than I was!

The mistakes first time home buyers make can cost you money and may even lead to regret. Perhaps you’re wondering why you even bought your home!

One thing you may not know about me is that the first house I ever lived in was actually my own. Growing up, we always lived in small apartments and rented. I wanted to have a home of my own – moving so often as a child was tiring.

Buying a house and being a homeowner was a completely new thing for me.

I had never done yard work, had to deal with house maintenance, home repairs, or anything like that.

I was as new as could be when it comes to living in a house!

It was a buyer’s market when we started searching. It was back in 2009, so the housing market was coming down. This meant that a monthly mortgage payment wasn’t too much more than rent at an apartment.

I felt like I was ready to buy my first house, and I needed a place to live.

So, buying a house seemed like a logical decision.

I made many home buying mistakes, like I said. While I made it through everything, my mistakes could easily have led to major financial trouble.

Read on below to learn more about mistakes home buyers make and my first-time home buyer tips.

Related content on home buying mistakes:

Here were some of my home buying mistakes.

 

first-time home buyer mistakes

This was our first house.

I didn’t prepare.

I was only 20, so I didn’t really understand how things worked, even though I thought I did at the time.

I found an online mortgage lender, and back in 2009, that was kind of a new thing. The company ended up doing a bunch of odd things and made a bunch of paperwork mistakes. It almost seemed scammy because online mortgages were so new at the time.

While my realtor was great and a family friend, she recommended a mortgage loan officer to me, and I just used that person.

The loan officer was great and very friendly.

But, I didn’t compare interest rates at all, I didn’t try to raise my credit score before I started looking at homes, and more.

Instead, I should have been paying attention to my credit score and worked to increase it before I started looking at rates. Then, I should have applied with multiple mortgage lenders and found the best interest rate.

Basically, I didn’t prepare.

Had I spent time increasing my credit score and shopping around for better rates, I could have gotten a better interest rate and saved money on mortgage payments.

While a small percentage difference in interest may not sound like much, it makes a big difference in how much you pay each month and how much you pay over the course of your loan.

For example, here’s the difference in two 30-year mortgages on a $200,000 home (this is before annual taxes being added in to the monthly payment):

  • With an interest rate of 3.25% your monthly payment would be $870, and you would pay $313,349 over the course of your loan.
  • With an interest rate of 4% your monthly payment would be $955, and you would pay $343,739.

That’s a difference of $85 a month, and you will have paid $30,000 more once your mortgage is paid off.

Looking back, I would have done more research on the home buying process and the factors that impact interest rates.

One of the easiest things you can do to avoid this mistake is to start paying attention to your credit score. You can receive free credit reports and credit scores, and I recommend reading Everything You Need To Know About How To Build Credit to learn more.

I avoided adding up all of the costs because it was scary.

Okay, so I knew that having a house could/would be expensive, and luckily we were fine, but wow, are there a lot of costs!

I avoided adding them all up for a while because I knew they would be higher than I thought. Eventually I did, and I was right – adding everything all together was a doozy.

We didn’t start adding up these costs until we were farther along in the buying process, and this is one of the home buying mistakes many people make. 

There are lots of people who only think about their mortgage payment, but there are so many more costs associated with buying a home

Before we purchased a home, we should have gone through all of the typical costs of owning a house and compared it to our housing budget. Comparing your current budget to your new homeowner’s budget will tell you whether or not you can actually afford to buy a home.

Here are some of the homeownership costs you want to consider:

  • Gas/propane.  Many homes run on gas in order to have hot water, to use the stove, and so on.
  • Electricity. Generally, the bigger your home then the higher your electricity bill will be.
  • Sewer. On average, your sewer bill may cost around $30 a month from what I’ve seen.
  • Trash. This isn’t super expensive either, but it’s still a cost to include.
  • Water. Water bills can vary widely. I know many who live in areas where the average water bill is a few hundred each month.
  • Property taxes. Property taxes can vary widely from town to town. You may find yourself looking at two similar houses with similar price tags, but the property taxes may differ by thousands of dollars annually. That is a LOT of money. While it may seem small when compared to the actual home purchase price, remember that you have to pay property taxes annually and a difference of just $3,600 a year is $300 a month for life.
  • Homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance can be cheap in some areas but crazy expensive in others. Don’t forget to look into the cost of earthquake, flood, and hurricane insurance as well as that can add up quickly depending on where you live – not thinking about these was one of the home buying mistakes I made.
  • Maintenance and repairs. Even if your home is brand new, you may have to pay for repairs, which is something that will come up eventually. No matter how old your home is, repair and maintenance costs will eventually come into play.
  • Homeowners association fees. This can also vary widely. You should always see if the house you are interested in is in an HOA because the fees can be high and there may also be rules you don’t like.
  • Home furnishings. Furnishing your home can be done cheaply, but I know some who buy huge homes but can’t afford to put anything in them, such as a table, a bed, and so on. Why own a $500,000 house if you don’t have any furniture?

 

I probably should have spent less on the actual house.

While the house we bought was less than the amount we were pre-approved for, I definitely think that we could have found a house for even less.

We bought at the top of our budget, and this is one home buying mistake that can really get you in trouble.

Thinking back on it, the amount that we were pre-approved for, as young 20 year olds, was pretty insane. I am very glad that we did not buy a house that was that expensive.

It’s not uncommon to be approved for much more than your budget realistically allows for. Just because the bank approves you for a $350,000 mortgage, for example, does not mean you can afford to buy a house at that price.

We bought at the top of our budget thinking that we would get better jobs eventually. While that worked out in our favor since we were each barely making above minimum wage, it was a decision that could have ended quite badly.

 

We were living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have an emergency fund.

We were young and didn’t have high paying jobs when we bought our house. In fact, we were barely making more than minimum wage at our jobs.

While we never racked up credit card debt, I did accrue student loans and we were living paycheck to paycheck.

Had one major (or even minor) thing happened with our new house, the only option would have been taking on debt. This is not where you want to be if you have just taken out a big mortgage. 

The best way to avoid this first time home buyer mistake is to set some money aside for emergencies before you buy, and to buy a house that fits in your budget. You want to be able to continue saving while making your new monthly home payments.

 

Make sure your home insurance covers what you need.

While I never had to use my home insurance, there were a few things that it did not cover, and I should have at least thought about them beforehand.

One of the biggest coverage issues was flooding. Flooding is a common problem where we lived in Missouri, yet I didn’t realize until a few years after I had already lived in the house that flooding was not covered unless you signed up for an additional policy.

Now, we weren’t in a floodplain – your lender may require you to buy special flood insurance if you live in a floodplain – but basement flooding was still a fairly common issue where we lived. 

Another special insurance consideration are earthquakes. Many normal home insurance policies do not cover earthquakes.

You can avoid this home buying mistake by researching what is the best kind of insurance policy for where you live. Floods and earthquakes aren’t a problem everywhere, but in some places you may want to have that kind of coverage.

 

Have a larger down payment.

We were 20, and we didn’t have a lot of money saved up before we bought our house.

Therefore, we did not put down a 20% down payment. That might sound like a lot, but 20% is the recommended amount to put down if you want to avoid PMI (private mortgage insurance).

A lender charges PMI because putting less than 20% down makes the loan look like a riskier investment for them. PMI protects lenders from borrowers who default on their loans.

PMI is normally around 0.5% to 1% of the mortgage annually, and it’s added to your monthly payment. If you borrowed a $200,000 mortgage, you would likely pay between $1,000 to $2,000 a year until you paid down enough of your mortgage principal to remove PMI.

We put less than 5% down towards our house purchase, and this led to us having PMI.

I don’t remember exactly how much we paid each month for PMI, but looking back, I could have used that money to pay off my student loans faster, save more, and so on.

While having a larger down payment isn’t one of the home buying mistakes I could have easily changed back then, in general, just saving more money instead of frivolously spending it in the beginning would have been a good decision.

Related content: Can You Remove PMI From Your Mortgage?

 

So, what’s going on with the house now?

As many of you know, we sold our house over 5 years ago. We wanted to travel more, and selling our house made more sense than keeping it.

We actually sold it for quite a loss, as the market was further down than when we bought it.

I’m happy that we bought the house – it taught us a lot, gave us responsibility, and gave us a place to live! And, it taught us how to avoid home buying mistakes in the future.

One of the things I haven’t mentioned is what we paid each for our mortgage. Our monthly payments were just under $1,000. 

Where we lived in the midwest is known for being a low cost of living area. I can’t imagine how we would have bought a house in some other parts of the U.S.

But, the low cost of living meant that buying a house at 20 was more doable.

Is it normal to regret buying a house? Is it normal to have buyers remorse after buying a house?

I don’t know what the statistics are on home buyers remorse, but it does happen. Hopefully with the tips before buying a house above, you can avoid that as much as possible.

Also, being realistic when it comes to what to expect when buying a house can help greatly as well.

What home buying mistakes did you make when you purchased your home?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com