In real estate terminology, you may hear about various ratios and where you need to fall within the ratio to qualify for the home you want. A ratio simply expresses a relationship between two values: they compare two things, so a student/teacher ratio might be shown as 18:1, or one teacher for every 18 students. Different ratios apply to residential home buyers, investors, sellers, and lenders, but here are a few that might apply to you.
Loan-to-value or LTV
A comparison between the amount of a mortgage loan and either the home’s purchase price (for new buyers) or its appraised value (in a refinance) is its loan-to-value ratio. Lower LTVs typically qualify a buyer or homeowner a lower interest rate because there is less risk of default to the lender. So, a conforming mortgage with 20 percent down often garners a lower rate than an FHA loan with only five percent down.
Higher LTVs place more risk on the lender so if the market drops, the home could be “upside-down” or worth less than the amount of the mortgage.
Debt-to-income ratio or DTI
More important to home buyers is the debt-to-income ratio. Also called a debt-service ratio, it expresses how much money the borrower makes monthly compared to the monthly ongoing debt payments and obligations. A lender uses this figure to determine how high a mortgage payment you can handle. The first number is your income (gross) from your job, plus any other income that can be counted such as child support or a trust disbursement that you can use to make your mortgage payment plus taxes and insurance, and if applicable, association dues.
The second number uses the same calculation as the first plus any long-term debt such as a vehicle or school loan and consumer debt. This amount is the percentage of your income used to pay housing and long-term debt. So, a ratio of 30:37 (also written 30/37) means you spend 30 percent of all your income on housing with no more than seven percent obligated to debt service. That leaves you with 63 percent of your income for food, auto insurance, medical bills, clothing, and other expenses. Qualifying ratios adjust over time, but the Federal Housing Administration lists the qualifying ratio and the formula to determine it to qualify for an FHA loan.
Your DTI comes from your personal debts and income, and the LTV comes from a specific home's value, but the price-to-income ratio expresses the affordability of housing in a given locale. Most often, it is the ratio of the median home price to the median household disposable income. This ratio helps you determine if the home you want to buy is overpriced (it will be hard to sell) or under-priced (super good deal) for its geographical location. Lenders use this ratio as one additional factor in determining risk for that specific home.
To learn where your ratios fall and to determine if an area is right for your household budget, let your local real estate professional guide you.
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It can feel like real estate has its own language. After all, there is a reason agents take courses and need to become licensed!
And for a first-time buyer, I understand that it can be overwhelming and very confusing to keep track of all of this new information on top choosing the home of your dreams and planning a move.
Which is why I’ve created this quick and dirty list of real estate terms every first time home buyer needs to know.
Let’s get started:
A kick-out clause gives the seller the option to continue showing a house after a buyer has made their offer but is slowing down the process with the sale of their own home. The seller can then “kick out” that offer if someone else puts in a more desirable, and readily available, one.
A title-search is simply a search to pull up relevant information to the title of a house. It helps to determine the history of the home and if there are existing regulations in place that affect the property.
Escrow is a neutral third party used to handle transactions throughout the buying/selling process. They hold all related documents and funds until the day of the sale.
Earnest money is usually held in an escrow account and represents your commitment to the sale of a house you have made an offer on. Typically, the amount out down is between 1-3% of the asking price. It is also called “good faith money”.
An appraisal determines a property’s market value. Only a licensed appraiser can pull a report of this information for you. This is the report a lender will use to determine whether or not to lend money to a borrower.
Closing costs are paid at the actual sale of the house. The “closing” is when the title is transferred from the seller over to the buyer. The cost covers all of the fees that were incurred throughout the buying and selling process. A few examples of these fees are the home inspection, appraisal, and escrow.
A comparative market analysis or CMA is a report pulled from a database your real estate agent has access to. This is then used to determine the offering and asking price of homes.
A contingency is when in order to move forward with a sale there are specific requirements the buyer must complete first. Common contingencies are: waiting on an inspection, pre-approval or signing.
Disclosures are required by law. But what are they? A disclosure means a seller has to inform potential buyers of and problems that would affect the value of the property.
Due diligence is doing the work of fully understanding the property you are interested in before buying it. This includes obtaining insurance, reviewing all documents carefully and walking the property.
During a home inspection appliances, plumbing and electrical work are tested. The heating and cooling system are also inspected. This doesn’t affect the monetary value of your home. This is a way for you to determine what state a home is in and if it is worth the financial investment to you.
While buying a home is an exciting time, many buyers actually regret their home purchase. One of the biggest regrets that people have is the size of the house they purchased. People either pick a home that’s too large or too small. It may be hard to imagine that you can make a mistake on the size of the home that your purchase. You go into the home buying process knowing how many bedrooms you need and what type of home you might like. Once you begin living in the house, you could find a different story. You may not have enough space for all of your family’s belongings. On the flip side, you could find the amount of space in your home as overwhelming.
Buying a home isn’t like buying most other things. You can’t easily return it, and there’s quite a bit of an upfront investment that must be made in order to make the purchase. It’s not simple to make a change if you buy the wrong house. The wrong purchase could set you back in making a move for years to come.
The best thing to do when shopping for a home is not only to see the home in its current state but what type of potential the house has. Can you add on to the home? Would you be able to make use of all the space the home has? Is there enough storage in the house? Are there ways to quickly add storage? These are a lot of things to consider when shopping for a home but they’re all important questions. Once you move into the home, other than doing a complete overhaul, you may be out of options to improve it without looking for these areas. Of course, the ideal situation is to find a home that already has everything you’re looking for in it.
Don’t Buy Until You’re Ready
Another mistake that people make is they try to go from renting to owning before they’re ready. Living in an apartment or rental allows for a bunch of advantages that owning a home may not afford you. Owning a home takes commitment, and some people just aren’t ready. Just because it’s widely known knowledge that buying a home is a smart financial decision, doesn’t mean it’s always the best decision for you. You may not be able to afford a house that’s the right size for your family. You may not even know what the right size home will be for you. When these questions remain, you could end up buying a property that’s the wrong size. Don’t worry if you need to take a few more years to save up for a house. On the contrary, don’t worry if you don’t think buying a home is the right decision for you at all.