May 2010 Vol. 5 No.5
• 4 Simple Steps to Speed Up Your Mortgage Process • May's Home Value Improver • About Us

4 Simple Steps to Speed Up Your Mortgage Process

The home buying process can be painfully slow. Doing "drive-bys," going to open houses, and scheduling appointments can drag on for months - even years. There is no perfect house. One home may have everything you want, but no garage and or master bath. Another home may be in a great location, but is too small and has no room to add on. And then of course there is the "perfect" house that is too expensive.

If you are like most of my clients, once you find that perfect home, you want it now. You don't want to have to wade through stacks of paperwork when you're anxious about inspections, closing dates, and showings. But there is this little thing called "the bank" that enters the picture, and there is no way you can have that new house without it. The bank wants to know more about your personal life than your primary care physician.

With a bit of preparation, you can speed up the loan process so you're ready when you find the perfect home.

  1. Get pre-approved. Before you even head out to open houses, have a good, solid idea not only what you can afford each month, but what you will get approval for from a bank. Remember that the two can be dramatically different. What a bank is comfortable loaning you may be a lot more than you are comfortable spending each month and vice versa. However, the right mortgage broker will be able to help you figure out what you can and cannot afford. Knowing ahead of time if you can jump up to a different price range will be extremely helpful if you don't what you are seeing. The mortgage company will contact your employer and make sure you have all the necessary information and are ready to go. If two parties are bidding on a house and one is pre-approved and the other is not, the smart seller will go with the one who is pre-approved.

  2. Have all your documents ready to go. The paperwork necessary to get a bank to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars is enough to make any procrastinator dizzy. To get yourself started, be sure you have:
    • Past few years of addresses
    • Past two years of W-2s
    • Employment information for past two years
    • Bank and investment information (names, account numbers, etc.)
    • All income information
    • Debt information (how much you owe to credit cards, student loans, car loans)

  3. Don't be a stranger to your real estate agent and mortgage broker. If the night your offer on a home is accepted is the first time your real estate agent mentions the term "mortgage" to you, you're in for a longer wait than necessary. Keep in contact with the professionals so that everyone is on the same page, and can easily be able to help you.

  4. Know what you can afford. Allow me to use one of my client's experiences as a cautionary tale. When she and her husband were looking around for a house in the $750,000 to $800,000 range, they continued to be outbid. A real estate insider told them that there were 40 families in their city looking in the same price range. My client and her husband decided to "peek" at what was available if they went up a little over $825,000. They snapped up the first house they saw at $825,000 and are still feeling the pinch of a big mortgage payment five years later.

Shopping for and buying a house is an emotional process. When houses are so expensive, it can seem casual to throw around terms like "just another $100,000." But, remember that no matter how much a house cost relative to another house, the price you pay still comes out of your bank account every week.

May's Home Value Improver

5 Easy Steps to Make Your Home More Environmentally Friendly

Yes, I purposely left the word "green" out of this headline. You are probably tired of hearing about "green this" and "green that." Instead, I just want to share five easy steps to making your home more environmentally friendly. After all, we humans are organic creatures and deserve to live a good life.

  1. Light the Way! Perhaps the easiest step you can take when trying to save energy in your home is changing your light bulbs to the energy efficient ones. They are more expensive than traditional light bulbs, but experts say that one energy efficient light bulb can save up to $100 per year. You can find these in any hardware or grocery store. Speaking of which, I hate to sound like your dad, but turn the lights off when you leave a room! Get your family trained to do the same. One client's father used to come home and say: "This place is lit up like Las Vegas," when someone would leave the light on. Let the lights of Vegas stay in Vegas, and shut them off.

  2. Compost your food waste. If you are like a lot of people, joining the "green" movement was easy when it meant simply tossing your papers and cans into a different bin. Wouldn't saving food scraps be messy and complicated? Not really. While a google search for "composting" will provide you with links for hundreds of sites that tell you how best to compost, don't make it harder than it needs to be. Just toss your food scraps (especially coffee grounds, tea, and vegetable peelings) in a bin on your counter during the day, and dump it into the compost bin at the end of the day. That's it. You don't have to do anything else. The food will just turn into compost, and you can empty it twice a year or so, and just toss it in your garden or flower beds.

  3. Keep the temps regulated. Almost half of your home's energy costs come from heating and cooling it. Keep your furnace filter clean, keep the temps at a reasonable rate, and shade your house as much as possible in the heat.

  4. Reuse bags. You can buy reusable bags for the grocery store or other retail locations for about $1. They not only help you spare the environment, they also save you the hassle of collecting all those crinkly bags, and many of the reusable ones are easy to throw over your shoulder.

  5. Cut out the chemical cleaners. The ingredients in many household cleaners seem to freak out the environmental crowd. Could they be on to something? Apparently, a lot of these cleaners can be pretty toxic. If you are so inclined, do a google search for "making your own household cleaners," and you will save money, reduce your cleaning product costs, and feel oh-so virtuous at the same time!

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I'm in the potty training trenches with my daughter, Hannah, and I'm learning a lot that - believe it or not! - relates to the process of financing a real estate purchase.

First, these things take time. You have to lay the groundwork, create a strategy and get the information you need to implement it successfully. Do the necessary homework and your likelihood of success will increase.

Second, you need a strong team of supporters. Just like you need a team of financial advisors you can trust when financing real estate, you also need a team you can trust when potty training. If your spouse, childcare provider and grandparents are not on the same page, your efforts can be stymied significantly.

Finally, you have to control what you can and let the rest go. Hannah will train when she's good and ready, when the time is right for her. Likewise, a successful real estate investment will come to fruition when all the pieces fall into place and the time is right for all involved.

When I'm not doling out "good job" stickers in the bathroom with Hannah, I am available and happy to answer any of your mortgage-related questions.

Best regards,
Debbie Siegel
Westchester Mortgage

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