Tips for Buyers

Fort Smith Real Estate Advice for Buyers

When you start the home buying process, it can seem a little intimidating. Below you will find answers to some of our most frequently asked questions as well as tips from our home buying experts so you can feel more confident about finding your dream home.

If you have any questions at all about the home buying process, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Before you look, get prequalified for a loan

Banks, Credit Unions, Mortgage Bankers, and Mortgage Brokers make home loans. These lenders will take an application, process the loan documents, and see the loan through to the funding stage.

If you have bad credit, consult your lender

You may be able to qualify for a loan depending on how long ago and what reason(s) caused the bad credit. A lender should be able to advise you on whether your credit history will prevent you from qualifying for a home loan.

You will need a down payment

Down payment requirements vary between 3 to 20% or more depending on the type of loan. Many down payment assistant programs exist. These programs may loan or grant you the funds necessary for the down payment. Consult with a lender about programs available in your area.

You will need funds for closing costs

Closing costs are charges for services related to the closing of your real estate transaction. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Escrow fees charged by company handling the transaction
  • Title policy issuance fees charged by the title insurance company
  • Mortgage insurance fees
  • Fire and homeowners insurance
  • County Recorder fees for recording your deed
  • Loan origination fees

Consult your lender for an actual estimate of these costs, as well as information about loan programs which can assist in financing your closing costs.

Some loans have “points” and some do not

A point is a loan origination fee equivalent to 1% of the loan amount. Together with the interest rate they constitute the yield on your loan for the lender. Some lenders charge a higher interest rate to compensate for charging no points. It is important to comparison shop lenders to make sure your loan is at a competitive yield.

Should you select a mortgage with a fixed rate or an adjustable rate?

The answer to this question depends on whether mortgage rates are at a high or a low point when you purchase, and on how long you plan to live in the home. If rates are high, an adjustable rate might be attractive since subsequent rate drops could reduce your monthly payments. Additionally, lenders may offer a below-market rate during the first few years of an adjustable mortgage to make it appealing to you. If interest rates are low you might want to take a fixed rate to protect yourself against the possibility of rising interest rates.

Be aware of the two main types of loan categories

Conventional Loans. Conventional mortgage loans are available up to a maximum of 97% loan-to-value. Interest rates may be fixed or adjustable for the term of the loan. Loans with high loan-to-value may require mortgage insurance.

Government Loans. These include Federal Housing Administration (FHA) fixed and adjustable rate mortgage loans, and Veterans Administration (VA) fixed rate mortgage loans. FHA loans are available up to 97.65% loan-to-value. Eligible U.S. veterans can receive up to 100% loan-to-value financing through VA loans.

Do you need program assistance?

If you are a low or moderate income home buyer, there are special programs designed to help you. These loans are available through private lenders, as well as local and state housing agencies. Most lenders specializing in real estate mortgage loans are aware of these types of loan programs.

Why might you have to pay mortgage insurance?

Mortgage insurance protects the lender from potential loss if you should default on your mortgage loan payment. Generally, conventional loans that are less than 80% loan-to-value do not require mortgage insurance. For FHA mortgage loans, mortgage insurance is always required. It is referred to as a Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) and is collected regardless of the Loan-to-Value.

Should you get home loan counseling?

Many organizations offer home loan counseling to prospective home buyers. These organizations provide classes for home buyers to cover the steps to home ownership. They will cover home selection, realtor services, lenders, loan programs, home ownership responsibilities, saving for a down payment, and other important pieces of information. Many first-time home buyer programs require home buyers to attend this type of class to be eligible for selected programs.