First-Time Homebuyer's Guide

Buying a home is one of the biggest investments a family can make. There are many factors that go into the purchase. Navigating the loan, negotiating the price, settling on homeowner’s insurance and signing the closing paperwork can be a daunting task—especially for a first-time homebuyer. Here are a few tips from the experts:

home by fiser

home by fiser


 It’s springtime and houses are beginning to flood the market. If you are interested in taking the plunge to buy a home, it’s a great idea to get a head start by getting pre-approved for a home loan. If you find yourself in a bidding war, being pre-approved can give you an advantage over another buyer.

“There are so many loan options available to fit your specific needs, some programs don’t even require a down payment. If a down payment is required, you may have additional options, such as down payment assistance programs. In some circumstances, the seller may pitch in on closing costs. I always recommend talking to your loan officer to get prequalified and make the process smoother,” said Amanda Herman, Corporate Marketing Director at Bank of England Mortgage.

What Type of Loan is Best for You? Answered by Regions Mortgage:

A down payment of 20 percent has been the industry standard for a new mortgage. However, there is a big difference between an industry standard and a set-in-stone requirement. In fact, there are several ways you can buy a house with less than 5 percent down. Each loan product has different aspects that might be more attractive than others. Here are four of the most popular low or no down payment loan options:

• The Regions Affordable Loan is a specialty “niche” product created by Regions. It is an in-house loan with zero down payment. In order to qualify for this loan, the borrower has to make less than 80 percent of the HUD median income for the area (approximately $50,240 per year in central Arkansas), or they have to be purchasing a home in a HUD designated LMI census tract. If the borrower meets the income requirements, has at least a 680 credit score and does not own another property, then they are prime candidates.

• The FHA loan is a great product to use if you had a lower credit score (580-640), and still need a minimum down payment loan. It requires a 3.5 percent down payment, with an upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1.5 percent that is added to the loan amount.

• If you are a qualified veteran, you might qualify for a VA Loan that can finance up to 100 percent of the purchase price at a very great interest rate, and accommodate credit scores ranging from 580-800. Some veterans would also have a Funding Fee that is added to the base loan amount.

• The USDA/Rural Housing product is a flexible, zero down payment, government-guaranteed program that is designed to promote homeownership to residents in rural communities with low to moderate incomes. If the property is located in an eligible area as defined by the USDA Eligibility website, and the customer meets the income requirements as well, this is a great loan product.

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First time homebuyer's guide

How Do You Narrow Your Search and Find the Perfect Home? Answered by Crye-Leike Realtor Staci Medlock:

Homebuying is an emotional process. It may seem impossible, but ideally a buyer should set aside all their emotions when evaluating a house. Instead, make a checklist of your must-haves, nice-to-haves and other essentials, then print copies of this checklist. Every time you visit a house take the checklist along with you, and take photographs so you can cross each item off your list. If you fall in love with a house, and your checklist shows that the house has none of your must-haves, it will at least help you to pause and think.

Also, think long-term and think resale. Are you planning to have kids? Will you be taking care of elderly relatives? These are questions that will drastically affect your long-term plans. You might be planning to live in your first home for only a few years.

In that case, who is your target audience when it comes time to sell the house? If you buy a house in a very bad school district, or a house on a very busy street, when you are ready to sell the home, most families with children will be out of your list of potential buyers.

And, finally, make sure you are comfortable and can trust your realtor. Your agent should be able to guide you through the entire process, and look out for your best interests.

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How Do I Negotiate? Answered by realtor Allison Pickell, GRI, ABR, SRS, with Coldwell Banker RPM Group:

There are many different scenarios that come into play when purchasing a home. Having a realtor in your corner can make a big difference! If a home is priced right, in the current market, it tends to sell quickly. When a home has just come on the market and has lots of interest, the sellers are unlikely to reduce their asking price. If a home has been on the market for a long time, the sellers may be more likely to lower their price.

Realtors can use many negotiating tactics to get the buyer close to the price they have in mind. When a buyer doesn’t have enough money to pay his own closing cost, he can offer a higher price for the home and ask the seller to pay closing costs. Other concessions a seller may entertain with the right offer would be for the seller to pay for a home warranty or a survey. And, after a home inspection, if there are repairs that need to be made, a seller will in some cases reduce the price of the home in lieu of repairs. Then the buyer can have the repairs done after closing. The type of loan product a buyer is using will determine whether or not repairs can be done after closing.

For the seller, it is all going to come down to what her net proceeds will be. If a buyer has sincere interest in a property, the buyer has nothing to lose in having his realtor present an offer. And if the buyer and seller don’t agree, then the buyer can move on to another property. I have found that when buyers didn’t get the first or second home they made an offer on, when they finally had a house under contract, they tend to realize they will actually be happier with the house they purchased, than the one they previously made an offer on!

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How Can You Reduce Homeowner’s Insurance Premiums? Answered by Pryor Robertson with Farmers Insurance:

1. Raise your deductible, especially the wind and hail deductible. Wind and hail are the primary causes of claims for homeowners. The higher deductible you can afford, the less homeowner's premium you will pay. For homes under $150,000, I recommend a 1 percent of dwelling value deductible. For homes over $150,000, I suggest you start out with a $1,500 deductible and raise the deductible by $1,000 for every $100,000 of dwelling value.

2. When you replace your roof, get with your insurance agent. Here at Farmers, we give a very nice discount for newer roofs. Make sure you have the documentation to prove the age of the roof, or when it was installed. If you are purchasing a home, ask the previous owners for a copy of their roof receipt.

3. For older homes that have been renovated (before 1970), provide documentation in the form of electrical, plumbing and HVAC receipts. All these renovations can give you more discounts and make your home safer.

4. Get home security. Many companies offer a discount for a monitored home security system. Your security provider can give you the documentation to get this discount.

5. Sign up for online access to your policies. At Farmers, we give a 2 percent discount for this.

6. Bundle your policies. At Farmers, we offer discounts of 15 percent off your homeowner's insurance for having your auto insurance with us as well. Additional discounts come into play when you have your life, boats, ATVs, second home or business insurance with Farmers as well.

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Fiser home


What if you can't find your dream home in a sea of real estate listings? If you have a very specific floor plan or style in mind and want something brand new, you might consider building. Fiser Development LLC offers a breakdown on what to expect when building your dream home:

1. Always start with a budget and pre-approval from a mortgage lender.

2. Pick a location or lot.

3. Choose a house plan, or use an architect to draw custom plans.

4. Find a reputable builder.

5. Work with the builder and vendors to choose paint colors and finishes.

6. Be ready to make many decisions throughout the process.

7. Keep open lines of communication with the builder from beginning to end.

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