Finding and buying a home is an exciting experience—but it can also be challenging. We’ve compiled some information to help Palm Beach County newcomers overcome some of the hurdles encountered in the home-buying process—and point you in the right direction for additional information.
Before you even begin your home search, keep in mind that there are laws to protect you from scams, unnecessary expenses and discrimination in the process of buying a new home. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, handicap (disability) or familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women and people securing custody of children under the age of 18).
The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) makes it illegal for anyone to pay or receive a fee, kickback or anything of value because they agree to refer settlement service business to a particular person or organization. Your mortgage lender is forbidden from paying your real estate broker $250 for referring you to the lender, for example.
Save yourself trouble by taking the time to figure out the mortgage you can afford and then get pre-approved. Keep in mind that you must consider current loan interest rates. Generally, the lower the interest rate, the more expensive a home you can afford to purchase. Also keep in mind that you don’t have to take out the highest loan that you qualify for.
For a general estimate of what type of home you can afford by going to www.ginniemae.gov. You’ll be asked to answer a few questions and then the calculator will provide a general estimate of the maximum sale price you may qualify for under the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veterans Association (VA) and conventional loans. This tool also estimates your down payment, closing costs, total cash required at closing, monthly mortgage payment, other monthly housing costs and your remaining monthly income. Keep in mind that these are only estimates. See a lender for more details.
HIRE SOMEONE TO HELP
The details involved in buying a home, particularly the financial ones, can be mindboggling. The entire process can be made easier by finding a good real estate professional who can guide you through the entire process.
Choose a real estate broker who is well acquainted with your needs and wants for your new home. Make sure they are familiar with the neighborhood you are considering, the quality of schools, safety of the area, traffic volume, and so on. A good realtor will save you hours of time and might have inside tips on houses that are fresh on the market. Realtors can also provide advice and tips when it comes time to make an offer on a home.
DO YOU NEED A CPA?
Sometimes it can be a good idea to hire a licensed certified public accountant (CPA). CPAs can provide you with professional advice on personal finances and other matters, including how to adjust your finances to help you meet your personal goals, such as buying a house and other financial and legal needs.
CPAs can also help you with tax preparation and auditing services, and help you develop an effective accounting system for your personal and household needs. Other services provided by CPAs include advice about how your financial situation will change based on life changes such as marriage or divorce, retirement, college, and more. CPAs will give you useful advice and tips that you might not learn about any other way.
The most important factor of choosing a CPA is that you trust them with your personal financial information. Make sure that your CPA has the proper level of experience and training, and don’t forget that you can ask for references. For additional information or to find a CPA, contact the Florida Institute of CPAs (FICPA) at 800-342-3197 or view its website at www.ficpa.org.
BANKING IN PALM BEACH COUNTY
See our resource article on your banking options in the Palm Beach County area.