Linda D. Dempsey - KELLER WILLIAMS REALTY


Buying your first home is a big decision; one that involves a lengthy process of saving money, building credit, and planning the next phase of your life. However, owning a home comes with one major payoff: home equity.

Simply put, home equity is the amount of your home that you’ve paid off. However, it does get more complicated when we bring in factors like the market value of your home and how it shifts over the years.

In this article, we’ll discuss home equity and what it means for you as a homeowner. This way, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when you finally make that last payment on your home or when you decide to sell.

Home equity and market value

As I mentioned earlier, home equity is more than just the amount you’ve paid toward your mortgage. Like most markets, the housing market shifts over time.

Most homes slowly increase in value over time. In the real estate world, this increase in value is called appreciation.

However, that doesn’t mean that your home is simply going to increase in value indefinitely until you decide to sell. As you will find out (if you haven’t yet already), owning a home can be expensive. Houses age and require upgrades. If you fail to keep up with the maintenance of your home, its value can diminish.

How to build equity

The most important thing you can do to build equity is to make on-time payments to your mortgage. Making extra mortgage payments will help you build equity even faster.

One method of paying extra on your mortgage that many people are adopting is to make bi-weekly payments. Twenty-six bi-weekly payments comes out to 13 full payments per year, the equivalent of making one full extra monthly payment.

The second method of building equity is something that you have less control over: appreciation. However, if you stick to a maintenance schedule for your home and keep it in good repair, you’ll most likely benefit from appreciation over the lifespan of your mortgage.

What can I use home equity for?

The most common way to use home equity is as a down payment or full payment on your next home. First-time buyers who don’t have a 20% down payment saved often buy a starter home and then later upgrade as their family grows and their needs change. In the years that they own their first home, they build enough equity to make a full down payment on their second home, avoiding fees like mortgage insurance.

Many homeowners planning on retiring in the near future use their equity toward their retirement home, often turning a profit in the process. If you plan on downgrading for retirement and have fully paid off your mortgage, you can often use your equity to pay for your next home in cash.


Buying a house should be a fast, seamless process. However, problems sometimes may arise that prevent you from acquiring your dream house in a timely fashion.

Ultimately, it is important to be proactive to minimize the risk of encountering time-consuming hurdles during the homebuying process. Fortunately, we're here to help you identify and address such problems before they can slow you down.

Let's take a look at three tips to help you avoid delays as you pursue your dream residence.

1. Enter the Housing Market with a Plan in Hand

An informed homebuyer is better equipped than others to enjoy a successful homebuying journey. In fact, this buyer should have no trouble narrowing his or her homebuying criteria to speed up the homebuying cycle.

When it comes to purchasing a house, it helps to consider what you want to find in your dream residence. That way, you can enter the housing market with a list of homebuying criteria in hand and tailor your house search accordingly.

Remember, it is your duty as a homebuyer to do everything possible to find your ideal residence. If you narrow your house search, you can focus on finding a home that matches your expectations. And once you discover your dream house, you can quickly submit a competitive homebuying proposal.

2. Get Your Home Financing in Order

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage can make a world of difference for a homebuyer. If a homebuyer receives pre-approval for a mortgage, this individual will know exactly how much he or she can spend on a residence. As a result, this buyer can explore residences that fall within a specific price range, increasing the likelihood of a fast homebuying journey.

To obtain a mortgage, a homebuyer should meet with several banks and credit unions. These financial institutions can teach a homebuyer about a broad array of mortgage options. Perhaps most important, each lender can help a homebuyer weigh the pros and cons of assorted mortgage options and ensure a buyer can make an informed mortgage decision.

3. Collaborate with an Expert Real Estate Agent

There is no need to let problems escalate that otherwise could slow down the homebuying journey. Fortunately, if you hire an expert real estate agent, you can get the help you need to accelerate the homebuying cycle.

An expert real estate agent understands the ins and outs of buying a house, and as such, will make it simple for you to streamline the homebuying process. He or she will offer lots of recommendations as you pursue your dream house. Plus, when you discover your ideal residence, a real estate agent will help you submit a competitive offer right away.

The homebuying journey can be long and complex, particularly for a homebuyer who chooses to work alone. But if you employ an expert real estate agent, you can receive plenty of support as you navigate the homebuying journey.

Ready to acquire your ideal residence? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can reduce the risk of encountering time-intensive obstacles as you search for your dream home.


If you’re getting ready to buy a home, you know it will be one of the most significant purchases of your entire life. However, are you fully prepared for all of the expenses that buying a home will bring? You don’t want to buy a house to find out that you can’t afford it after all.


Many expenses go into buying a home that you can plan for ahead of time. Other costs aren’t as exact that you will need to add in your budget. Read on to learn more about many of the expenses that throw first-time home buyers for a loop. 


Closing Costs


Closing costs encompass a whole bunch of expenses that you’ll incur buying a home. These include:


  • Taxes
  • Application fees
  • Attorney fees
  • Title insurance
  • Reimbursements
  • Recording fees

No matter what the closing costs include, you should plan for these expenses to be about 2-5 percent of the price of your home. Costs can vary widely, but it’s good to have a bit of extra cash on hand.


Maintaining Your Home


While most homebuyers are prepared for the initial costs of buying a home, they don't know how much it costs to maintain a home. Each year, things will come up on your property that needs to be addressed continually. These tasks include:


Cleaning

Yard care

Gutters

Pressure washing


These routine tasks are independent of other costs like replacing a stove or fixing a furnace. Homeowners need to be prepared for these expenses as well.


Taxes


Taxes can increase or decrease for any given year. You can lookup taxes in the area where you’re planning to buy a home in order to prepare yourself. You should make sure that your property taxes are comparable with that of other homes in your area.

Utilities


Utilities are what your home runs on. Depending on the climate you live in the number of utilities you pay can vary. Take into account these things:


  • Heat
  • Air conditioning
  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Phone
  • Cable
  • Internet

Most neighborhoods have one or two choices for services, so you can ask people in the neighborhood what providers they [refer and how much their bills are each month.         



Insurance


You’re required to have homeowner’s insurance when you get a mortgage. Even if you don’t take out a mortgage and pay cash for a home, it’s a wise decision to protect your investment. Estimate how much a yearly policy will cost you ahead of time. 


This insurance will protect your property from things like theft and fire. You can shop around for the best rates based on policies that suit your needs. It’s easy to price out policies online. See where you can save including discounts for security systems or multiple policy discounts. 


If you live in an area where floods or earthquakes are prevalent, you should be aware. You’ll find you need additional policies to cover damage in the event of these disasters. The most important thing about your homeowner’s insurance policy is that you check the details for all of the fine print.       



For those who want to buy a house, it helps to consider your options closely. That way, you can make an informed home purchase.

Now, let's take a look at three factors to consider as you prepare to conduct a home search:

1. The Local Housing Market

Assess the local housing market before you dive headfirst into a home search – you will be glad you did. If you analyze the housing market in towns and cities where you want to live, you can determine if a buyer's or seller's market is in place. Then, you can map out your homebuying journey accordingly.

To differentiate a buyer's market from a seller's market, you should find out how long recently sold houses were available before they were purchased. You also may want to track houses as soon as they become available and see how long it takes them to sell. If residences linger on the housing market for many weeks or months, the real estate sector likely favors buyers. Or, if houses are purchased shortly after they become available, the real estate sector may favor sellers.

2. Your Home Must-Haves

Think about the features you want to find in your dream house. This will help you hone your house search to residences that match your expectations.

Oftentimes, it helps to enter the housing market with a list of home must-haves. This list can be updated throughout your house search and may help you simplify your quest to find your dream residence.

As you craft a list of home must-haves, be sure to include any house amenities you simply cannot live without. For instance, if you require a home that boasts a state-of-the-art air-conditioning system, you can search for a residence that offers this amenity. On the other hand, if you need a home that is located just minutes from your office in the city, you can search for a house in or near the city itself.

3. Your Homebuying Budget

You may have only a finite amount of money to spend on a house. If you get pre-approved for a mortgage, you will know precisely how much money is at your disposal. You then can search for a house that corresponds to your budget.

To get pre-approved for a mortgage, you should meet with a variety of banks and credit unions. These financial institutions can teach you about your home financing options and help you select a mortgage that suits you perfectly.

Lastly, as you get set to embark on a house search, you may want to hire a real estate agent. This housing market professional can offer expert insights into the homebuying journey. Plus, he or she is ready to respond to your homebuying concerns, at any time.

If you want to streamline the process of finding and buying a wonderful residence, it helps to plan ahead for the homebuying journey. Thanks to the aforementioned tips, you can review your options and boost the likelihood of enjoying a successful homebuying experience.


As you prepare to embark on the homebuying process, you may encounter a variety of homebuying myths. And if you believe these myths, the risk increases that you may be forced to deal with many problems along the homebuying journey.

Now, let's take a look at three common homebuying myths, along with the problems associated with these myths.

1. Buying a house is a quick, stress-free process.

The homebuying process may prove to be long and arduous, particularly for a first-time homebuyer. Fortunately, real estate agents are available to help you simplify the process of acquiring a top-notch residence at a budget-friendly price.

A real estate agent understands the challenges associated with buying a house. As such, he or she can help you identify and address these problems before they escalate.

Typically, a real estate agent will learn about what you want to find in your dream house and help you plan accordingly. With this approach, a real estate agent will ensure that you can enjoy a fast, worry-free homebuying experience.

2. Getting a mortgage won't take long at all.

There are many factors that will dictate your ability to acquire a mortgage that matches or exceeds your expectations. For instance, your credit score, income and outstanding debt will impact a lender's decision to provide you with a mortgage. And if you have experienced financial problems in the past, they may impact your ability to acquire a mortgage today.

It generally helps to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you enter the housing market. Because if you have a mortgage in hand, you can narrow your house search.

Also, it may be beneficial to shop around for a mortgage from several banks and credit unions. If you explore all of the mortgage options at your disposal, you can select a mortgage that suits your finances perfectly.

3. The first home that you see in-person likely will be the house that you'll end up purchasing.

The homebuying process offers no guarantees. And if you expect to buy the first home that you view in-person, you ultimately may be disappointed with the final results of your home search.

Oftentimes, it is a great idea to check out a wide range of houses. By conducting an in-depth home search, you can select a house that fulfills all of your homebuying demands.

As you search for a home, you may want to work with a real estate agent too. This housing market professional can set up home showings and keep you up to date about open house events.

Furthermore, a real estate agent is happy to provide homebuying recommendations and suggestions. He or she will do whatever it takes to help you find a terrific residence, as well as negotiate with a seller's agent on your behalf to ensure you won't have to pay too much to acquire your ideal house.

The aforementioned myths can be harmful to any homebuyer, at any time. If you hire a real estate agent, however, you can learn the ins and outs of the housing market and avoid potential hurdles throughout the homebuying journey.