Should First-Time Home Buyers Use a Realtor When Purchasing a New Home?

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As a first-time home buyer, it can be incredibly confusing navigating the world of real estate, because let’s face it: buying a home is a very complex process. From financing options and contract terms to negotiating prices and closing costs, new home-buyers have a sea of confusing terms and legalities to work through before they can pack their bags and boxes and move into their new home. A realtor can be greatly beneficial to buyers looking for assistance with sorting through these things. While traditionally realtors also help clients sell their current home, many first-time buyers are opting to use realtors to walk them through the process of buying their first home to make the process as painless and easy as possible. But is a realtor always the best solution? This article will cover the pros and cons of hiring a realtor to ensure that you, as a first-time home buyer, are completely satisfied not only with your new home but also with your experience buying it.

Pros and Cons to Realtors

As a first-time homebuyer you should be aware of the pros and cons associated with hiring a real estate agent.

The Pros of Using a Realtor

– Realtors are trained professionals who know the real estate world inside and out. They can compile a list of features you want in your new home and find a floor plan that matches it perfectly. On the legal side of things, a realtor knows all about health and safety codes and inspection requirements to ensure you buy a home that meets all laws and government regulations. Realtors are also familiar with all forms of financing options, contract terms and other costs involved in home buying, and can help you choose options that will benefit you best. Additionally, when looking at new construction homes, such as those built by LGI Homes, a realtor is likely familiar with the building company and can vouch for their professionalism and construction quality.

– A realtor can minimize the time it takes to sort through the paperwork involved in buying your first home, and will ensure that you fully understand all of the “small print.”

– Realtors are well-acquainted with the areas they work in, and can help by pointing out nearby positive features surrounding the community or by raising your awareness to any downsides near the home you are looking at.

The Cons of Using a Real Estate Agent

– A small percentage of real estate agents may not always put your needs before their paychecks. When looking for affordable housing options, a real estate agent may push you toward other homes out of your means to ensure a higher commission check for themselves upon sale.

When weighing the pros and cons of hiring a realtor as a first-time buyer, the choice is ultimately up to you. If you decide to hire one, make sure to research their background fully and read testimonials from previous clients to ensure you are hiring an agent who is qualified and has professional integrity. If you decide against employing a realtor’s services, be sure to spend plenty of time researching the legal and financial sides of buying so that you can best represent and assess your options as a buyer.

Growing Old Garden Roses

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Nothing is as rewarding as growing beautiful roses. Richly scented, they turn a fenced backyard into a romantic, relaxed retreat. In such a setting, you can be a Scheherazade to your own cranky king.

How to grow roses in your garden

1. Roses are not fussy. Many people believe that roses are difficult to grow. This is incorrect. The secret is to first select roses suitable to your plant hardiness zone. The USDA publishes a map, which lists the zones down to the county level. Most of East Texas, for example, ranges from zones 7b to 9a. A good portion of Arizona is zone 6a, but Arizona has a broad temperature range. Higher elevations mean the potential for lower temperatures. Even within a county, there are likely micro zones, but don’t worry about these. Stay within the general range, and your roses should be fine.

2. A good rose begins with a good hole. Roses at risk of freezing need to be planted deeper than those grown in more temperate zones. If you are in zone 6 or lower, make sure you plant the “knot” of the rose at least three feet below the surface. Add ash from your outdoor fireplace as well as horse manure to the hole. You can buy a lot of fancier products, but these will do the job. Spread some woodchips on the top to keep the weeds down and preserve moisture in the ground.

3. Buy own root from a knowledgeable nursery. You can buy your rose from a reputable nursery or a local discount store. If you buy from a specialty nursery, you may get more support when you are first starting out. On the other hand, large box stores may well have very experienced staff. You won’t know unless you ask. Most likely, you’ll pay a little more for expert advice. Get yourself “own root” roses. They’ll stay true to the stock.

4. Choose color, scent and size. Most people have color preferences. Indulge yours. You want what’s pleasing to your eye. No matter how big your lot, eventually you will need to decide which roses you want the most. Consider shape, color and scent. You can usually get all three in one plant. Thornless roses are available, but there are lovely roses worth the occasional scratch. Wear gloves when tending your roses.

5. Antique or nearly wild? Roses that are nearest to wild may bloom less often but are easier to grow. Look for antique roses or David Austin roses. Austin took old English garden roses and worked to make them ever blooming and hardy. Some are quite large. Your rose specialty nursery should have climbers, small and gigantic shrubs, and roses than can tolerate shade.

6. Read a little about the history of roses. Did you know that, while Napoleon was off waging war, Josephine was negotiating with a British agent for a rose for Malmaison? Gertrude Jekyll, a famous English garden designer, made beautiful rose gardens. You’ll find many books on roses in the library. They’ll give you more growing advice as well as suggestions on companion planting. From the sultans of Persia to the priests of Christianity, roses have had an important symbolic history. The Little Prince features the love of a rose. “The Yellow Rose of Texas” was penned as a tribute to a Black woman from Connecticut.

One of the real joys of home ownership is gardening, and no gardening is more rewarding than growing roses.

Some Down Payment Strategies for First Time Homebuyers

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Prior to 2008, sellers could contribute up to six percent of the purchase price as a kind of down payment for buyers. That option and a number of down payment assistance programs that were formerly available for homebuyers are now, by law, forbidden.

Learn how to buy a new home with no money down.

First-time buyer assistance

1. Save! Obviously, the first option for any homebuyer is to accumulate savings toward that home purchase. You should have savings not only for the down payment but also for emergencies, which will certainly happen once you are a homeowner. Calculate the mortgage, taxes, interest and repair fund for a home in the price range you want. If that amount is more than your monthly rent, start saving the difference. This will build your down payment and act as a kind of test for whether you are prepared to give up the morning coffee, dining out or other extras to be a homeowner.

2. Gifts. If you can’t earn it, maybe someone can give it to you. The money that might have been spent on a big wedding could well be used for a down payment on a new home. Gifting has tax advantages for the giver and recipient according to a New York Times article, which acknowledged that lack of a down payment is the biggest obstacle to first time buyers’ home purchases. The Times reported that an individual could receive up to $13,000 of nontaxable income in a calendar year. That means that you and your partner could receive $26,000 (even $52,000 if you both had relatives to make contributions) in nontaxable income. In the alternative, you could borrow the money from family at micro interest and have it forgiven later, but you will be taxed on any amount forgiven over and above the $13,000 per year. People generally gift like this to avoid estate taxes later.

3. Borrowing from a 401(k). If you have a 401(k), you may well be able to borrow from those funds for a down payment for your new home. The risk is that you might leave your job before you repay the funds. Then, within a short window of time, the withdrawal will be considered a distribution potentially subject to taxes, penalty and interest, depending on your age at time of separation.

4. Withdrawing from your Roth or Traditional IRA. When you contribute to a traditional IRA, you defer taxes on the contribution. You pay taxes on Roth contributions. The difference is reflected in withdrawals for down payments. You may be able to withdraw up to $15,000 from a Roth IRA before age 59 ½ for a home purchase without penalty or taxes. The limit on a traditional IRA is $10,000, and you’d have to pay taxes on the money withdrawn.

5. All of the Above. Obviously, if you can do one, you have the potential to do all of the above. Then, you will spread or reduce your risks.

Please be sure to consult an accountant before you make tax-related decisions.

5 Common First-time Home Buyer Mistakes: What They Are and How to Avoid Them

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As a first-time home buyer, it’s easy to let the excitement of owning your own space cloud your vision when it comes to focusing on formalities and practicalities. As you tour potential homes, you may find yourself dreaming of wall colors and accent rugs rather than mortgage qualification or neighborhood crime rates. Many first-time buyers find themselves unintentionally making some pretty large mistakes, all of which are completely avoidable. This article will help you, as a first-time buyer, become aware of common mistakes other buyers have made and help you avoid making them yourself on the road to owning your first home.

First-time homebuyer advice

Mistake 1: Skipping Mortgage Qualification
As a first-time buyer, it is likely you are planning to use financing options to pay for your home in the form of a mortgage. It is important to keep in mind that what you think you will qualify for and what a bank is willing to lend to you may be entirely different. A common mistake first-time buyers make is neglecting to get pre-approved for a home loan before choosing the home of their dreams. Doing so can result in a buyer not qualifying for a loan large enough to pay for the home and a waste of the seller’s and their own time.

How to Avoid it:
Meet with potential lenders and have them run your credit and financial background to see what dollar amount they are willing to lend before you even visit your first potential home. Mortgage qualification and pre-approved loans will expedite your home buying experience by giving you a set monetary amount you have to work with. This way, you will not waste time looking at homes outside of your price range and can instead focus on more realistic options.

Mistake 2: Putting Price Before Practicality
The price may seem right, but is the house practical? As a first-time home buyer looking for a steal, you may be considering buying a “fixer-upper” home that needs a lot of work or is far from the area you originally intended to move, all for the sake of “saving money.” While on the surface this may seem like a good idea, it’s actually impractical and can result in you spending more money in the long run on home improvements and gas if you are facing a hefty daily commute.

How to Avoid it:
Ask yourself if the house is really practical in relation to the price before you even think about putting in an offer. Estimate the additional costs you think the house will bring and add it to the cost of the home. Take that figure and look at other houses at that price before making your decision. For example, you may find a $60,000 house in need of $20,000 worth of improvements. Before making your final decision, you could very well end up finding a house for $80,000 that is a far more practical investment.

Mistake 3: Not Researching the Neighborhood
When renting a home, people tend to be less concerned with the area they live in because they know it’s more than likely a temporary arrangement. If you rented in the past, you probably figured you could deal with noisy neighbors or the occasional crime because your lease was only six months to a year in length and then you would have the option to relocate if the area wasn’t working out. Home ownership, however, doesn’t work that way, and you can’t simply up and move when unfortunate things happen in your surroundings. The neighbors you have when you own a home will likely be your neighbors for years.

How to Avoid it:
Research the area as much as possible before the deal is sealed. Look into crime rates for the area and surrounding areas, speak with current residents as possible, look at what kind of features are nearby and base your decision off of that. You want an area that you will feel comfortable living in long-term, and you want to avoid any and all surprises about the neighborhood after moving in.

Mistake 4: Forgetting About Additional Expenses Involved in Home Buying
If you’ve rented before, you are more than likely used to having a team of maintenance workers at your disposal when your sink broke and an on-site dumpster to take care of your waste, all at no extra cost to you. When you own a home, those things go away. If something breaks, you will be footing the bill for someone to fix it. You may have a trash barrel, but you also have a new monthly bill to pay for those services. Home ownership is an ongoing investment, and many first-time buyers forget about these additional costs when looking at homes.

How to Avoid it:
Research common costs home owners face and reassess your budget. Make a list and estimate the monthly cost of each and analyze what you can spend on home monthly while also being able to afford these extras.

Mistake 5: Ignoring the Future
You may be single now, but you might not be forever. While a one bed, one bath house may provide all of the space you need in the present, add ten years and two kids to the equation and suddenly you’re looking at either an incredibly crowded house or going through the entire moving process all over again. Many first-time buyers stick themselves into the “now” mentality and completely disregard how quickly things can change in life.

How to Avoid it:
Look for a house you can grow into. This doesn’t mean you need to go all out and purchase an eight bedroom house with a four-car garage, but you should look for a house that fits your future goals. If you know you want children or more children in the future, buy a house that supports that plan.