Fort Lauderdale Home Buying Strategies: Our Best Advice

Fort Lauderdale home buying strategies can be vital as you enter the market this spring in search of a new home. While a home search is always an exciting and challenging one, in what is currently a sellers’ market, it can be especially daunting. Chances are pretty good that a seller will have his choice of buyers and offers from which to choose. That makes it a little more difficult in the event you find “the” home that’s right for you and your family. If you’ve bought a home before, you know the feeling. You’ve searched high and low and visited numerous open houses and finally found that “just right” home that meets all your needs – and is perfect for your budget, too. But, what happens if the seller isn’t as excited about you or your offer as you’d like for him to be? Then what? Let’s look at five Fort Lauderdale home buying strategies that may help you deal with a seller who doesn't necessarily like you or your offer for his home.

Here are some of our recommended Fort Lauderdale home buying strategies

First, remember a seller can refuse a prospective buyer for any reason. While it’s unusual for people selling their homes to be finicky or fickle, it’s not unheard of. Plus, as mentioned above, in a sellers’ market they may be able to afford to be a little more stubborn when it comes to the sales price, the terms, any contingencies, or the closing and move-out date.

Consider these tips in working with a seller in that position:

Hit Them With Your Best Shot.  No, not literally, even though it may be tempting, we’re not advocating violence! What we’re suggesting is that if you submit an offer and suffer through the back-and-forth of counter offers, it could be time to stop playing games and wasting time. Cat and mouse can be fun and challenging, but we're talking about a home here. If you like the home and want it, make your very best offer. At that point – win or lose – you’ve done all you can do – and now the proverbial ball is in the seller’s court to accept or reject your best deal. While they may reject your offer and hold out for a better one from another potential purchaser, sometimes they may rethink your offer a few weeks later.

Keep on Keeping on.  Another of our recommended Fort Lauderdale home buying strategies is to “cut your losses and move on.” While doing so is difficult and often heart-wrenching, sometimes it’s necessary. If the seller isn't open to working with you or negotiating, it could be time to throw in the towel and move on to the next listing. Wasting time, talent, energy and desire on wanting the seller to see the deal the same way you do may mean you’ll lose out on the next “perfect’ home out there – and trust us, there’s always another one waiting.

Live and Learn.  The best coaches in the country – no matter the sport or the level of competition – will say, "…other than preparation and execution, learning from mistakes in competition is very important for the next game." So, when things don’t go exactly as you planned, take a little time to try to figure out what went wrong – and learn from it for the next negotiation on the next house. The more you understand about what worked and didn’t work, the more likely your next transaction will be more successful. Just like most things in life, it’s critical to live and learn.

Don’t Overthink This.  While you’re performing your analysis on the experience you’ve had in negotiating with or trying to work with a seller in buying their home, be careful not to overthink the seller. As is the case with most people – even close friends and family – nobody really knows what goes on inside a seller’s head. Maybe they’re not really ready to let go of their home. Maybe they’re holding out for every single dollar they can squeeze out of the deal. Perhaps they aren't prepared to move and are dragging their feet in an effort to buy time. Whatever the reason, don’t waste precious time trying to figure out the seller and his motivations or desires. Move on to the next property and concentrate on it.

Self-Analysis Can be Healthy.  Fort Lauderdale home buying strategies can be useful – but only if you use them to your advantage and to accomplish your necessary goals. So, remember this: If you keep trying to work with sellers that refuse to cooperate, maybe you’re the problem, not them. Identify a seller who is both motivated and serious about selling his home. Work with them and make the best deal you can. Don’t waste time pining over the “one that got away,” as there are other fish in the sea. Keeping a positive attitude and a feeling of optimism in the face of rejection or disappointment may mean the difference between finding the right home and becoming frustrated. Stay positive and get what you want.

Read more about home buying advice in the section of articles on Fort Lauderdale Home Buying Tips just below our Fort Lauderdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Valuable Fort Lauderdale Home Buying Advice and Tips

Fort Lauderdale home buying advice is usually limited to ideas and tips to help you begin the house hunting process and what to do during each step of that process. Let’s take a look at several things to consider after you’ve found a home and are preparing to close the deal.

So, you signed the contract to buy your home and all that’s left to do now is sit back and wait for the closing day to get here. Right? Well, not exactly. There are a few important considerations to remember on the road to becoming a homeowner – regardless of whether it’s the first time or the fifth!

Don’t let your rate expire

Until your loan is closed and the papers are signed, the interest rate your lender quoted you won’t last forever. Mortgage interest rates can and do change daily. Normally, a bank or lender will lock-in your interest rate for a reasonable period of time in which to close your loan – usually between 45 and 60 days. If the lock expires, you may have to renegotiate and pay a higher rate. Keep a watchful eye out for hindrances along the way that may prevent your loan from closing during the rate-lock period. Keep in touch with your attorney during the preparation of the closing paperwork and let him or her know to alert you if there are any title issues as soon as possible.

Another piece of Fort Lauderdale home buying advice: - it's not your house, yet.

It’s not your house just yet

In some markets, a walk-through of the home before final closing is more prevalent than others. Most real estate sales contracts allow for a walk-through up to 24 hours prior to the closing of the sale. Another piece of Fort Lauderdale home buying advice: take advantage of the walk-through. For your own peace of mind, visit the home with your real estate agent – just to make sure everything’s as expected.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over

The often tedious and time-consuming mortgage process isn't over until the loan is officially closed. Even though you’ve received mortgage loan approval from your lender, in today’s more cautious credit lending environment some mortgage lenders choose to re-verify income, credit or other qualifications just prior to the loan closing. Our Fort Lauderdale home buying advice, therefore, is to not make substantial changes to your financial situation until the closing is over. For example, don’t immediately go out and buy a brand new car for your brand new garage. And, don’t apply for new credit cards or other credit accounts or take a new job – without talking to your mortgage loan professional first. Sometimes even the slightest change to your financial status can alter your creditworthiness or disqualify you from being approved for a mortgage.

Do your homework

When you close the sale of your home, it’s all yours – for better or worse. In most states across the U.S., the law tends to favor the home buyer and requires the seller of the home to disclose any issues with the home and to confirm they have been resolved. In other states, “caveat emptor” – or let the buyer beware – prevails. As such, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to make sure the seller has taken care of any loose ends like closing out building permits, released any liens from the real estate title report and, resolving any other issues that may affect clear title and conveyance of the home to a new purchaser. Our Fort Lauderdale home buying advice… do your homework and know what’s expected in your state.

The anticlimactic closing of the sale

The actual closing of the sale can occur in one of two ways. Most of the time, the two parties – the sellers and the purchasers – may not need to be in the same room to close the deal. The purchasers sign all the loan documents in an attorney’s office or lending institution, and the sellers sign the deed at the title company or attorney’s office.

Some closings, however, occur at a table designed to accommodate the buyers, the sellers, the real estate agents, the attorneys and maybe others who pass the papers around to be signed and witnessed. This process is thought by many to be outdated and old-fashioned in today’s fast-paced, electronic world.

Whichever closing method you experience, just remember with all the hype and build-up that has preceded the day of the closing, the actual closing itself is relatively uneventful, mundane and can be anticlimactic.

Make the process smooth and seamless

So, you've read the Fort Lauderdale home buying advice we’ve provided so far. What else is there to know, to do, or be prepared for? To ensure the smoothest, most seamless and least stressful closing of the sale, do some research and keep an eye peeled for those pesky red flags. With the professional assistance of trusted team members working with you, you can avoid a number of pitfalls that could delay or halt the closing of the sale. Having a qualified real estate agent is a great start. Your agent can refer and recommend you to the mortgage lenders, attorneys, title insurance companies, home inspectors and others. That's the power of using professionals in the real estate industry. They have a network of people and companies they’ve worked with over time in which they have confidence and trust. Tapping into that network will not only save time and money, it will give you the importance of peace of mind and the feeling of accomplishment that should accompany buying a home.

Fort Lauderdale home buying advice is valuable and should be listened to carefully – especially if it comes from experienced, knowledgeable real estate professionals who have your shared interests in mind – to make your home purchase as enjoyable and as successful an endeavor as it can be.

After all, should it really be any other way?

Read more about home buying advice in the section of articles on Fort Lauderdale Home Buying Tips just below our Fort Lauderdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

3 Fort Lauderdale Homebuying Mistakes You Need to Avoid

There are a number of Fort Lauderdale homebuying mistakes that need to be avoided. Let's look at three very important tips that will help you avoid common pitfalls associated with buying your first home. Anticipating your needs will go a long way in assisting you in the process you're about to undertake. In addition, it will help make the experience a potentially fun and rewarding one.

We're reminded of a true story about one first-time homebuyer who had scrimped and saved diligently for several years to accumulate a down payment. However, because he was self-employed he worried whether he would have enough for a sufficient down payment and if he would be able to qualify for a mortgage since he didn't earn a "traditional" salary like most young borrowers who work for somebody else.

Unfortunately, stories and concerns like these occur all too often and can fall into the category of Fort Lauderdale homebuying mistakes to avoid – especially among prospective first-time buyers. The Economic and Strategic Research Group of Fannie Mae recently conducted a survey to better understand what consumers know about mortgage qualification criteria. The findings revealed that roughly 40% of potential borrowers did not know when asked about minimum down payment requirements. In addition, 54% and 59%, respectively, were not aware of minimum credit scores and maximum debt-to-income ratios to qualify for a mortgage loan. The lack of knowledge in these basic areas of mortgage qualification is both surprising and disconcerting. Furthermore, it can contribute to common mistakes first-time homebuyers may make as they try to avoid Fort Lauderdale homebuying mistakes. Now, about those tips:

Fort Lauderdale homebuying mistakes you need to avoid at all costs.

Seek professional advice
The above story about the first-time buyer, we're glad to report, did have a happy ending. The prospective homeowner sought help from a local HUD-approved housing counseling agency who reviewed his credit score, advised him on making some minor changes, and provided him assurance he could qualify for a HomeReady mortgage through Fannie Mae. The HomeReady program allows borrowers to pay as little as 3% for the down payment. In addition, it requires completion of an online education course. With the help of a professional, our first-time buyer was able to qualify for a low down payment mortgage – with his self-employed income – and purchase the home he wanted.

Understand the loan process
Lack of knowledge can be the single most detrimental problem to overcome for any first-time homebuyer. Fear of the unknown is likely the cause of many young buyers remaining on the sidelines when it comes to participating in the homebuying market and avoiding Fort Lauderdale homebuying mistakes. The irony, however, is that in today's informational age there is a wealth of knowledge available to prospective homeowners with just a click of the mouse. Virtually every reputable real estate company and hundreds of publications – both in print and online – provide easy to follow guidelines concerning how to go about searching for a home to buy and financing the home you choose.

Armed with a basic understanding of what is involved in shopping for a home, how to obtain information on homes for sale, and the various financing options available a first-time home buyer can and will have an advantage that comes with knowing what to expect. The old adage, "Knowledge is power" certainly rings true when it comes to avoiding Fort Lauderdale homebuying mistakes.

Avoid these typical pitfalls
There are three major issues that can thwart first-time homebuyers during the process of buying and/or financing their home purchase:

• Going rogue
While it's both enlightening and educational to do some preliminary online home shopping, it's probably not a good idea to strike out on your own and visit homes you like. As we've mentioned above, talk with a housing counseling agency, a real estate professional, or a mortgage lender to help you better understand if you're fiscally ready to buy a home or continue renting. Statistics provided by the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report show that just 46% of buyers were able to buy the first home on which they issued an offer. This confirms that in a fast-paced real estate market, competition and disappointment go hand-in-hand. It's probably a good idea – and good business – to enlist the aid of a professional to better enhance the outcome.

• Shopping for homes outside your price range
Many real estate professionals recommend first-time buyers get pre-approved before they begin the home buying process. Pre-approval can include the completion of a mortgage loan application and the submission of pertinent supporting documentation such as tax returns, W-2s, or pay stubs to verify income. In addition, a preliminary credit report can be ordered for those prospective applicants concerned about their credit scores preventing them from qualifying for a home mortgage. In addition, real estate agents and mortgage lenders advise first-time home shoppers that just because you're approved for a certain price range doesn't mean you should necessarily spend the entire amount. We suggest using your pre-qualification amount as a guideline to demonstrate what you may be able to afford and compare that to what you can comfortably afford to pay each month – taking into consideration your other monthly expenses. The bottom line here is, look at only those homes that are in your price range and that you can comfortably afford. This is a better plan for avoiding Fort Lauderdale homebuying mistakes financially.

• Not comparing mortgage quotes and notes
Recent research cited by Fannie Mae shows just two-thirds of prospective borrowers actively received more than one mortgage interest rate quote. Comparison shopping for the best interest rates, terms and conditions will give you a better selection from which to choose, and will ultimately give you peace of mind knowing you considered other mortgage options. In addition, if you don't take the time to shop around, you could be spending thousands of dollars more than you need to over the life of your mortgage.

Read more about home buying tips in the section of articles on Fort Lauderdale Home Buying Tips just below our Fort Lauderdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Fort Lauderdale Home Buying Tips for Renters

Here are a few Fort Lauderdale home buying tips for renters to consider if you're ready to take the big step toward home ownership. In addition to the basics like saving up for a down payment and deciding on a housing budget, there are other important considerations to address.

Renters have become accustomed to paying a fixed amount of money during their rental term. For the most part that amount rarely changes until it’s time to renew the lease. For homeowners, it can be a slightly different story. There are four major components that comprise a homeowner’s monthly house payment. The monthly payment is made up of principal, interest, taxes and insurance, or PITI. Let’s take a brief look at each.

Grasp the entire cost of owning a home

Our Fort Lauderdale home buying tips looks at the true cost of owning a home.

mortgage payment is the combination of principal and interest – the principal is the actual dollar amount borrowed from the mortgage lender, and the interest is the cost that’s charged for the money borrowed. On a home mortgage loan, the principal portion of the monthly payment reduces the outstanding balance of the loan. The interest is charged on the amount of principal still owed as the loan is slowly reduced. For a more in-depth look, search online for a mortgage loan calculator for an amortization schedule showing what portion of the monthly payment will be applied to principal and what amount goes toward paying interest.

The taxes in the PITI acronym are real estate property taxes. The property taxes are determined and assessed by the county or municipality in which the home is located. While real estate taxes vary throughout the country, most experts agree the average tax bill equates to between 1%-1.5% of the value of the home. Real estate taxes are payable annually, however, depending on the type, amount and loan-to-value ratio (LTV) of the mortgage lenders may require you to include 1/12 of the estimated property taxes in each monthly payment. When the taxes are due and payable, the lender will pay the taxes out of the escrow fund.

Insurance coverage is a requirement by most every mortgage lender. The lender will require the borrower to have sufficient coverage to repair or rebuild the home – their collateral, or security for the principal they loaned – in the event of a fire or other peril. As is the case with real estate taxes, insurance premiums can also be required by the mortgage lender to be paid monthly into an escrow account.

Lastly, here’s another of our Fort Lauderdale home buying tips designed to help understand the full cost of home ownership. If a prospective purchaser is considering buying a condo, there most likely will be an additional component to the PITI mentioned above: Monthly Homeowners Association (HOA) dues. The HOA fees help pay for those areas of the condo complex that are for the benefit of all the owners or residents. Examples are parking lots, landscaped areas, pools and clubhouses. In addition, the fees collected are designed to pay for routine maintenance such as painting the building’s exterior or replacing the roof. While most HOA fees are for condo complexes, more and more neighborhoods with common areas requiring upkeep and maintenance are forming homeowners associations, which will require dues.

Understand the tax benefits of owning a home

One of the most important Fort Lauderdale home buying tips to be aware of involves your income taxes. Aside from the annual appreciation most homes enjoy, the most popular advantage of homeownership is the tax savings. Mortgage loan interest and real estate property taxes can be deducted from your adjusted gross income on your income tax returns each year. That, of course, reduces your taxable income – and your resulting tax liability.

Know the comparison math

A popularly used relationship – and argument for buying a home versus paying rent – is the cost comparison of what a homeowner pays in PITI and what a tenant pays in monthly rent. While in theory the concept is good, the most accurate comparison is to analyze the after-tax savings of owning a home versus renting. For example, a $300,000 home may cost (after taxes) $1,215 PITI each month. Compare that to an apartment or home that rents for $1,200. On the surface the math may imply purchasing a home is a better investment. However, remember this illustration is based on a down payment of 20%, or $60,000.

Understand mortgage options and programs

Among vital Fort Lauderdale home buying tips is how to best and most affordably finance the purchase of a home. While 20% has traditionally been the amount most Americans assume is needed for a down payment, it’s largely a misconception. There are loan programs available today for borrowers with as little as a 3% down payment.  As mentioned above, depending on the type of mortgage loan and the LTV ratio, a borrower will have to pay their property taxes and insurance premiums each month into an escrow. In addition, if the down payment is less than 20% or if the LTV ratio is more than 80%, private mortgage insurance will be required. Mortgage insurance protects the lender against the borrower defaulting on the monthly payments. Annual mortgage insurance premiums cost roughly .85% of the mortgage amount, so that needs to be figured into the monthly payment in addition to PITI.

Using the example of the $300,000 home above, the monthly PITI (and mortgage insurance) would be roughly $1,995 with a 3% down payment with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage based on current interest rates. After taxes and all deductions, the total monthly housing cost would be around $1,600. Best of all, the down payment would only be $9,000 – plus whatever loan closing costs the purchaser would be required to pay.

Know you credit score inside and out

Since credit scores are very important when it comes to qualifying for the lowest interest rates on home mortgages, it’s important for prospective homebuyers to know as much about their credit as possible. If you’re a first time homebuyer and only have a few accounts, consider opening one or two new accounts. Be aware, however, that your credit score may decrease from 10-15 points when you open an additional account. Over time, though, as you demonstrate a good repayment history the score will increase. Just understand, this takes time, it doesn't go up in a week or a month.

Read more about home buying tips in the section of articles on Fort Lauderdale Home Buying Tips just below our Fort Lauderdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right. 

Hidden Costs – A First-Time Fort Lauderdale Home Buying Tip

Here's an important Fort Lauderdale home buying tip. A home search can often be fraught with unexpected costs – not only for first-time buyers, but even for the most seasoned home purchasers. If you’re in the process of looking for your first home, there are a few things you should know to keep hidden or surprise costs to a bare minimum. Unexpected costs can catch you completely off guard. More importantly, they can very quickly leave you under water on your new purchase right from the start. Let’s take a look at a few of these costs and how to best avoid them.

Fort Lauderdale Home Buying Tip: Keeping Costs Down

Of course, there’s really only one sure-fire way to be completely prepared for all the hidden costs of buying your first home – expect the unexpected and have enough cash to pay for the surprises. However, that’s easier said than done.

One Fort Lauderdale home buying tip - expect the unexpected

As you're probably aware, first-time home buyers should know the money they will spend on the purchase of their home won’t be limited to just the down payment. On top of the down payment are costs like homeowners insurance and loan closing costs. While they are a little easier to plan for since they’re an integral part of the home buying and mortgage lending process, others are less obvious.

For example, let’s say the previous owners of your home moved out and took the refrigerator with them. You have to have a refrigerator, so you’ll likely buy one to replace it. Unless you negotiate specifically what items are included in the sales transaction ahead of time, you could be caught unaware. In addition, you could be on the hook for certain immediate home improvements that must be made. And while a few hundred dollars here and there may not seem like a lot individually, collectively the cost can add up fast – especially considering you plunked down most of the cash you had on the down payment and closing costs.

To make the situation even scarier, the relatively minor costs mentioned above could be the least of your financial concerns. When you buy your first home – or any home – you should hire a home inspector to give your home a thorough walk-through. A trained home inspector will look for foundation problems, rotten wood, and electrical or plumbing issues. The good news is if a home inspection uncovers a potential problem, you’ll at least be aware of it and can get a cost estimate to repair it – if you decide to continue your plans to purchase the home. If the repair costs are a deal-breaker and you're unable to negotiate with the seller to pay for them, you can usually back out of the contract.

Often, first-time home buyers elect to feather their new nest with all the creature comforts they want in their first home. If you enjoy cable television, for example, make sure your home is wired for cable. In addition, seemingly little things like new drapes or window treatments can be costly, so take them into consideration when it comes time to think about how to decorate favorite rooms in your new home. Lastly, if it’s your first home you’re probably migrating from being a tenant to being a homeowner, which means you’ll probably be faced with higher utility bills. Your new, modest 1,800 square foot home will likely cost more to heat and cool than the two-bedroom second floor apartment you moved from. Plus, you’ll probably be paying for other utilities your old landlord may have paid before, such as water, garbage pickup or homeowner’s association dues.

The absolute best way to be ready for unexpected expenses is this Fort Lauderdale home buying tip: Plan ahead. The first step is to come up with a budget before you begin your home search. If you’re looking for homes within your budget that may require improvements, find out what those improvements will cost and determine if you can afford them. Many first-time home buyers have been disappointed – or downright shocked – when they discover a home improvement project they thought could be performed for a few hundred dollars may actually end up costing several thousand. Another Fort Lauderdale home buying tip:  There’s no limit as to how prepared you can be. For example, say you find a home you like that’s priced considerably lower than others in the neighborhood because of its age. While you may save a good bit of money on the listing price, you may end up paying more in the long run due to nagging, needed improvements that may occur, or the realization your homeowner’s insurance is higher because of the home’s age.

That’s why it’s best to be prepared. Do some research on homeowner’s insurance and comparable sales in the neighborhoods you’re interested in. Decide how much you can comfortably afford for a down payment, then assess how much cash you may have left for any improvements or incidental costs. Then – and only then – will you know whether you can afford a slightly higher-priced home that may require some additional work, new carpet or new kitchen appliances.

So, before you enter the market, remember this Fort Lauderdale home buying tip:  Know what to expect. That alone will give you a tremendous advantage when it comes time to weigh the pros and cons of buying a particular house, and what the costs may be to either repair it, improve it, or make it comfortable and acceptable for your own individual tastes. Planning ahead will not only protect you from unexpected monetary surprises, it will make your home buying experience more enjoyable and more profitable in the long run. Remember, buying a house is an important financial move, but it’s not worth depleting all your savings to the point where you can’t enjoy your new home.

Read more about home buying in the section of articles on Fort Lauderdale Home Buying Tips just below Fort Lauderdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.