Are you prepared to help your clients make an informed decision?
Buying a home is a huge investment for first time home buyers – and their inexperience means that they often have a lot of questions.
The good news is you don’t need to do something heroic to get buyers to trust you. You just need to be ready to address their concerns and answer their questions. So below, we answer seven questions first time home buyers may ask their mortgage brokers.
1. “Buying a house is expensive. Is it worth it?”
The first thing you should do is understand the reason why the buyer is thinking of buying a house. Are they buying to build their asset portfolio? Or are they looking for a place to live and settle down in?
If they’re buying a house to build wealth, then yes it’ll be worth it – though you have to be clear that they shouldn’t expect their investment to see immediate growth.
If they’re looking to buy a primary residence, then it depends – after all, the process of buying their dream home could potentially stretch their funds a bit. In that case, you can steer them towards considering a more affordable starter home that they can trade up in the future.
Get to know their reasons first so you can answer honestly and professionally.
2. “I’ve owned a house before. Am I still considered a first-time home buyer?”
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines a first time home buyer as:
- an individual or person who hasn’t owned or bought a principal residence in the last three years;
- a single parent who previously owned a house while still married to their former spouse;
- a displaced homemaker (such as a stay-at-home spouse) who owned property with their former spouse;
- an individual or person who owned a principal residence or property that wasn’t affixed to a permanent place or foundation in accordance with applicable regulations (such as a mobile home); and
- an individual or person who owned a property that was not in compliance with local, state, or model building codes, and whose property can’t be brought into said compliance for less than the cost of building a permanent structure.
As you can see, the term has a bit more leeway than its name suggests. For example, if the buyer has owned a property or house within the last three years but their spouse hasn’t, then both of them can still buy a house as first time home buyers.
This is important because there are many government incentives for first home buyers, especially if they’re part of the remote workforce.
3. “I have a 401(k). Can I use it to buy property?”
The short answer is yes – but should you? That’s the real question.
A buyer can tap into their 401(k) if they’re short of the funds they need. They can do it two ways – either as a straight withdrawal or as a loan.
However, a buyer can only withdraw from their 401(k) after turning 59 and a half years old (or 55 years old if they lost their job or have retired). Younger buyers can still withdraw their funds, but they’ll have to pay an early withdrawal penalty of 10% of the amount they take out. They’ll also owe income tax on the funds they take out, regardless of their age.
Meanwhile, if a buyer opts to borrow from his or her 401(k), then they’ll have to pay it back – with interest. And the repayments won’t count as contributions, meaning no reduction on their incomes.
So, to put it simply, yes they can use their 401(k). But the trade-off isn’t ideal, so it might be better to look for other options.
4. “I have no cash so can I put $0 for down payment?”
Yes, but there could be some work involved.
A first time home buyer can only put $0 down payment if another entity foots the bill. In this case, it’s the federal government through what’s called a government-backed mortgage.
Three US federal agencies can give mortgage assistance to first time home buyers: the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). These agencies will insure all loans given, so lenders are protected in case the borrower can’t pay their debts.
However, you may still have to check if a lender accepts USDA loans. Quicken Loans, for instance, stopped accepting applications since July 2020.
5. “Am I qualified for the $15,000 tax credit?”
The bill hasn’t passed yet, but if it becomes law, the First-Time Homebuyer Act will require participants to be:
- a first-time homebuyer, with the same conditions mentioned above; and
- an individual who doesn’t earn more than 160% of the median income in their area.
Additionally, the price of the house they purchase must not be more than 110% of the median price in their area. The house should also have been purchased after Dec. 31, 2020.
6. “I don’t have a good credit score. Can I still buy a home with bad credit?”
The short answer is yes, you can still buy a home with bad credit.
Lenders often don’t have a minimum credit score requirement because no two credit scores are the same. A buyer might have a credit score of 400 – a poor score according to the main credit bureaus – but the circumstance behind that score is different from what another borrower with the same score has gone through.
Additionally, lenders often take other things into consideration in their decisions – such as the amount of debt accrued, income, debts in collections, and the size of the down payment.
Different lenders have other requirements but having plenty of cash available for down payment is always a plus. The buyer can always repair their credit and refinance down the road.
If you're thinking to refinance a mortgage with bad credit, here are some tips for you.
7. “I’ve heard 2021 is a bad time to buy a house. Should I go for it or just wait?”
Again, it’s best to assess the buyer’s needs and know the reason why they’re looking into buying a home.
They might be thinking of purchasing because the mortgage rates are so low. But you must remind them that the cost of buying a house goes beyond the purchase price. They also need to consider property taxes, insurance, and upkeep costs. Maintaining a house isn’t cheap and so many new homebuyers fail to realize that.
On the other hand, mortgage rates will likely rise once the pandemic eases up. So, if the buyer is looking into buying a house to cater a growing family, they might have to seriously consider buying regardless of market conditions.
The key is knowing your client’s priorities and going from there.
A first time home buyer is eager, but undoubtedly full of questions. They will be leaning on your advice for their final decision. Getting to know them, building a strong rapport, and answering clearly, honestly, and professionally will instill the trust that will help build lasting bridges for years to come.