You’ve made the decision to shop for a new home or condo in Hoboken. Planning is a very important part of the process. The first thing you need to do is know what you can afford. If you don’t, and you start by looking at properties that are significantly beyond your means, it’s going to be really hard to like what you can get for less. While it may seem obvious, you’d be amazed how many buyers start the search process without going through the preliminary steps. Here is what you need to do:
1. Check your credit report.
Under New Jersey state law, you are entitled to a free credit report every year from each of the three major credit reporting companies – Equifax, TransUnion and Experion. It’s easy to obtain you need to check it for errors. A bad credit score will hinder your ability to get a mortgage.
2. Count your cash.
This is something you may wish to discuss with your financial advisor, banker and significant other. Be sure the funds are readily accessible and not tied up on illiquid assets. If you are lucky enough to be able to buy a condo for all cash, you can stop reading here. Otherwise, the cash will be your down payment and you’ll arrange for financing for the rest.
3. Get a prequal.
Whether you meet with a mortgage lender in person or do it on-line, you need a prequalification letter. Website like lendingtree.com or bankrate.com have calculators that let you try out different scenarios and even shop for mortgages. All these sites have 800 numbers if you prefer to speak to a person. Going to your local bank is another good idea. They already have access to your financial information and you may have a relationship with them. Whether on-line or in person, you supply basic information about your debt, income and assets. From this, the lender provides you with a letter that states a mortgage amount for which you (probably) qualify. A prequal letter does not bind the lender – they are not obligated to give you a mortgage – and you are not obligated to use that particular lender. But it gives you an important number you need to begin your search. Normally, a prequal is free.
4. Optional – get preapproved.
To get preapproved, you must complete a lengthy mortgage application, supply supporting documentation (tax returns, W-2s) and pay an application fee. Assuming you are really committed to buying, the advantage of getting pre-approved is twofold. You will know exactly what you can borrow so you won’t waste time looking at properties beyond your means.
Getting pre-approved also enables you to move make a very strong offer that is not contingent upon obtaining financing. It lets a seller know your offer is serious. Most sales contracts contain a mortgage contingency and sellers fear a buyer may use it to back out of a deal. With a preapproval you are able to waive that contingency should you need to in a competitive bid situation. It may very well give you the edge over another buyer who is not preapproved, even if their offer is a little higher.
Now you know what you can afford. Next – the search begins.