By BECKY GILLETTE
In many metro areas of the state, the home-buying market is relatively competitive and is favoring sellers. You might find the home of your dreams only to learn you aren’t the only person bidding on it. Particularly in cases like that, it behooves buyers to have financing lined up even before making an offer, said Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR) President Adam Watkins, who is an agent with All-Star Team, Realtors, Hattiesburg.
“Do a personal financial assessment,” Watkins said. “What makes sense financially? What are your goals? Even if you have money to make a purchase, you need to provide proof of that to the seller. Don’t let a request for that catch you off guard.”
Most people are going to be financing the home purchase. So it is important to shop around for the best loan terms, and know how much home you can afford. You need information about how much payments will be and what loan terms you can expect.
Watkins said many people like to shop online for loan products. But in his experience, it is much better to find a lender who is in the local market where you are planning to purchase.
“You can interview several of those lenders or reach out to a Realtor experienced in that area who is able to provide suggestions for a lender,” he said. “They will know which ones will are able to close on time and perform as expected. In general, we don’t see people getting better interest rates outside the market. Money is being loaned at essentially the same rate. When you make an offer with a seller and have a pre-approval or pre-qualification letter from a local lender who has a good reputation, it adds credibility to the buyer. That can translate in better terms or, if you are competing with another buyer, that might help you be successful.”
Watkins said there are a number of advantages to working with a Realtor who has knowledge of the markets, your budget, and how the loan closing process works.
“Select a Realtor you trust to guide your through the purchase process,” Watkins said. “Create a relationship with the agent who is going to represent you, and partner with you to secure the best terms for property that meets your needs with the budget you have outlined. Realtors can help make you be realistic.”
Do not rush the process unnecessarily and be somewhat methodical in looking at homes, said MAR President-elect Keith Henley, owner, RE/MAX Elite, Tupelo.
“Looking at too many homes in one day is usually information overload and allows frustration to set in, therefore making a very important decision difficult and unpleasant,” Henley said. “Once you’ve identified your ‘needs and wants’ in a new home, share these with your Realtor, let the professional go to work for you searching current listings, upcoming listings and canvassing unlisted properties for you to view.”
If it is your first home purchase, Henley recommends taking advantage of Mississippi’s new First Time Homebuyer Savings Account (https://firsthomems.org/). This account allows individuals/couples to deposit up to $2,500/$5,000 per year into an interest-bearing savings/money market account. Deposits and interest earned is tax deductible from state income tax. This money can be used for down payment and or closing costs.
While finding affordable housing can be a challenge. Henley said due to the strong economy, lower interest rates and a low inventory of homes on the market for sale, affordable housing isn’t as readily available as before. Some communities are aware of this trend and have been taking steps to ensure that affordable housing options are available.
Lower interest rates mean people can afford more house. Henley said that from lower priced homes to “mega mcmansions,” low interest rates help everyone.
MAR Past President Karen Glass, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Alfonso Realty of Gulfport, said purchasing a home is often the largest and most complex financial transaction a person ever makes. She said when purchasing a home, you will likely work with at least four experts who will help guide you: your real estate agent, the mortgage loan officer, a home inspector and a closing attorney.
While affordable housing is not plentiful, it can be found in many communities throughout the state. Glass said workforce conditions play a part in the cost and availability of housing.
“If the community is populated primarily by factory workers, teachers, city employees or other lower-paying job employees, there will be a big demand on affordable houses and they may be harder to find,” Glass said. “On the Coast, we have workers from a variety of industries at all wage levels, as well as investors and second home/resort buyers. Consequently, our housing needs range from low- to high-end homes.”
To purchase an affordable home requires the buyer to be patient and persistent. “There might be a lot of competition for one house and we have seen many houses listed that go into multiple offer situations due to the high demand for that price range,” Glass said.
Central Mississippi Realtors President Gary Parker, who is an agent with Better Homes Realty in Flowood, said whether you are single or married, it is important to make a list of those things you just cannot live without. Don’t be tempted to go looking at home you can’t afford, which can be frustrating and a waste of time.
“Your Realtor can help you stay within your budget,” Parker said. “It’s a one-step-at-a-time process and a Realtor has the expertise to help you reach those goals your family or your mind has envisioned. A Realtor adheres to a very strict code of ethics and laws. Unlike what most people think, a Realtor is there to protect the client and owes his or her fiduciary responsibility to their client. Second, always have a licensed home inspector look at your Home to make sure your purchase is solid and everything is working properly. Also. check into a home warranty, which can save you big bucks if any future repairs are needed. Things happen and it’s just better to be prepared for the unknown.”
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