Exterior of single level house with trees and a garden out front.

Buying

Buying a home can seem like an exciting and yet daunting prospect. After all, a home is often times the most emotional and usually the largest investment anyone will ever make.

That is why it is imperative for buyers to work with a real estate professional they trust to guide them through the entire process, to provide them with important information and to be available to answer all of their questions – from the very beginning until the very end and any time thereafter. It may seem simple, but many fail to realize how important it is to have a good understanding of the process and a genuine interest in a buyer’s needs and wants.

Couple sitting and embracing in-front of home

First-Time Home Buyers

24 k diamond ring on table with reflection

Newlyweds

Pregnant woman being embraced by man

Upsizing (Career Change)

Couple discussing plans in kitchen

Downsizing (Retireers & Empty-Nesters)

Grandfather and grandson playing

Lifestyle Change

The Process

The Initial Consultation

Think of this as a relaxed and friendly conversation in which we can get to know each other, and I can gain a clear understanding of what you need and want most. In this initial conversation, I will explain the process of buying, in detail, as well as prepare you for what to expect. I will consult with you regarding all aspects of the process and your finances to be able to advise you accordingly.

Financing

Determining your purchasing power is key to the home-buying process. Naturally, the first order of business will be to speak to a qualified lender. Prior to that, however, I’ll happily explain how the financing process works, help you prepare to engage your preferred lender and discuss what you may expect to encounter throughout the lending process.

Planning

Planning requires I present you with home options and information on the area in which you and your family wish to live. Communication is key, and together, we will identify what features and characteristics you truly need and want most. I’ll prepare you for home tours and advise you on the next steps. You should feel prepared and informed to make a purchasing decision.

Tours and Selection

This is the fun part! I’ll coordinate, and we’ll tour the homes you like most. And when we find the right one, you’ll feel compelled to make an offer, and so begins the real adventure.

Offers and Agreements

There are a number of agreements, forms and disclosures relevant to making a purchase. Rest assured; I will advise you accordingly. I will analyze the value of the home to make sure we’re presenting a fair offer. Then, I will prepare the necessary documents, review them with you and answer any and all questions you may have concerning your offer. I will present your offer, negotiate on your behalf and manage the transaction in its entirety.

Timelines

Adhering to the contractual timelines is critical. There are things we will need to do to ensure we are meeting our end of the legal bargain, and I will be sure to keep you on track. I will also help you coordinate inspections, apply for associations, request insurance quotes and prepare for closing.

The Settlement Date

Closing day! This is the finish line and the beginning of a new chapter. Everything we do and discuss during the course of the transaction will prepare you for this event. I will proudly sit with you at the closing table and be the first to congratulate you on the successful purchase of your new home.

A Smooth Transition

Between dialing your handyman, changing the utilities, scheduling the movers and accepting that you just bought a home, it may seem nearly impossible to keep track of it all or even what to do next. Fortunately, I’ll have you covered. I will remain available to you to provide you with guidance and ensure you have as smooth a transition as possible.

The Impetus to Buy

There are many reasons why any person or group of people would make the decision to buy a home, and each of those reasons is unique to the individuals, their circumstances and goals. Whatever the reason – whether you’re getting married or divorced, growing your family or retiring – I’m interested in knowing…because in understanding you, I’m better able to help you achieve your ultimate goal of homeownership.

Things you should expect in a real estate professional:

  • Honesty & Integrity
  • Professionalism
  • Strong Negotiation Skills
  • Creativity
  • Experience
  • Knowledge
  • Reputation
  • Resourcefulness
  • Frequent & Clear Communication
  • A Plan of Action

“Raquel is one of the best and most professional brokers I have ever met in Miami (and I have dealt with many…) I am 110% convinced that she will be very helpful and you will be extremely happy with her services! I am recommending her with three thumbs UP!”

“As a first time home buyer, you can imagine how nervous I was. Raquel was there for me every step of the way to guide me through the entire process. She was there to answer any questions I had at any time. Raquel did an excellent job in communicating with me and keeping me up to date with the latest information."

“I need to start off by giving a BIG thanks to my sister-in-law for recommending Raquel to my husband & me. Raquel helped us in buying our home. She guided us the whole way through, she answered all our questions and gave us knowledge of what everything entailed.”

“I need to start off by giving a BIG thanks to my sister-in-law for recommending Raquel to my husband & me. Raquel helped us in buying our home. She guided us the whole way through, she answered all our questions and gave us knowledge of what everything entailed.”

What should I consider when choosing a community or neighborhood to live in?

Consider your lifestyle and what is most important to you and your family. Perhaps, you wish to be closer to the city, public services, convenient shopping or a particular school. Perhaps, you simply wish to commute less. Think of the factors that will enhance your quality of life and permit you to do the things you need and want most.

How can I determine what the average home price is for any given neighborhood?

Real estate transactions are a matter of public record, so purchase prices can usually be found online. However, in many instances, there are pertinent details that require further investigation. In any case, it can be a tedious task, which is why I recommend you simply ask me. As a real estate professional, I am able to study the different markets and analyze their trends.

What should I look for when I tour homes of interest?

You should look for those things you simply can’t live without. You will be investing a considerable amount of money, so the house you ultimately choose to live in needs to satisfy your needs. Focus on the important things – size, space, storage, style, amenities, location and restoration. Everything outside of your “must have” checklist should come second. After all, you will likely enjoy spending time turning the house into your private retreat and personalizing every detail.

Should I bring anything along when looking at homes?

Other than a notepad or note-­‐taking device and/or your significant other, may I suggest an open mind? You may find it difficult to see past a certain style or choice of color scheme, but the truth is that, short of bulldozing the structure, you can change nearly everything without having to rebuild. Of course, your budget will dictate whether you can engage in projects that require you to change floors, restore ceilings, renovate kitchens, etc., but often, a little paint and new trimmings will reveal a different.

What can I do to help with the home touring process?

Please, provide as much feedback as possible. Telling me what you liked and disliked about the homes you toured, how you felt and what moved you to consider those or other options ultimately helps me help.

How many homes should I look at before making a decision to purchase?

There is no magic number that will lead to finding the right home. You may fall in love with the first home you see…or not. The key is to provide me with as much detail up front as possible. I will say that there is a downfall to “overlooking,” as having too many options can prove to be counterproductive. And depending on that market’s pace, you may find the second home you liked may have gone under contract before you had the chance to consider the third or fourth option.

Should I consider a new or older home?

Consider both! Honestly, investing in a new or older home is a matter of personal preference. Some prefer a home with character and quaint charm. Others may prefer not to think of making any changes or enhancements to the home for the foreseeable future. The differences usually lie in the architectural style and layouts. Older homes tend to have larger bedrooms; whereas, newer construction generally adds space to the main living areas. Do keep in mind that the older the neighborhood the older the home is likely to be.

What is a home inspection and when does it occur?

A home inspection is a visual (and sometimes operational) examination of a home’s present condition, which is intended to identify deficient, unsafe or terminal components. It should be performed by a licensed and insured home inspection company that will send a certified inspector to check the home’s structure and major systems. A home inspection is always recommended! It should be performed immediately after you go under contract to purchase a property.

Am I required to be present at the home inspection?

No. You’re not required to be present, but it is recommended, as it will help you better understand the inspection report. It will also grant you the opportunity to ask questions and learn about the different components with the help of an objective third party consultant.

When and how do I obtain insurance?

Obtaining insurance is quite easy. Once you’re well on your way to purchasing a home, you will want to contact your local insurance carrier or carriers and request a quote or two. I’ll likely offer to take care of that for you so that you have one less thing to worry about. The insurance agent you select should guide you through the process and provide you with your coverage options. I will then coordinate with you, the insurance agent, the lender and the title company to ensure that you’re insured.

What type of insurance is right for me?

There are different types of insurance policies for the different types of properties and home ownership. A knowledgeable insurance agent will present you with options and will gladly explain the differences in coverage, deductibles and premiums so that you can make the best decision for the safety and insurability of your future home.

What is the difference between “escrowed funds” (or “earnest money”) and a “down payment?”

Escrowed funds or earnest money refers to the money you give in good faith to accompany the offer you have made. This money represents your willingness and seriousness to make the purchase. It is legally held in “escrow” (or trust) by your attorney, a licensed real estate company or title company involved in the transaction. Placing the funds in trust means that the funds are neutral and held until the closing. They can later be applied to your down payment at closing. The down payment represents the amount you are responsible to pay to cover the difference between the purchase price and what your lender commits to lend you for the purchase.

Is there a way I can protect myself against emergency repairs that I was not prepared for?

Yes. Home warranties offer you protection against many problems resulting from the breakdown of home system components and appliances. Though not commonly offered as part of the sale of a home, home warranties may be individually purchased to help protect you from potentially costly problems that may not be covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Home warranties have become increasingly popular due to its cost-­‐effectiveness. Turns out that peace of mind can be relatively inexpensive. Do keep in mind that home warranties do not replace homeowners insurance. In fact, warranties can only protect you from certain issues relating to home system components and the like. For more information, you will need to contact home warranty companies for available plans and coverage options.

What is the benefit of using a moving company?

While it may cost you to hire a moving company, it will save you time and energy that you may need for other things post move. Of course, hiring movers is a matter of budget and personal preference. You may enjoy the laborious task of moving heavy boxes, lamps and furniture.

What financing options, if any, are available to first time home buyers? What about retirees and luxury home buyers?

There are a number of mortgage financing options available to first-­‐ time home buyers. These programs were created to make home purchasing an affordable endeavor. As a result, most of these programs offer smaller down payments and reduced interest rates during the earlier years of the mortgage loan commitment to make the transition financially feasible. The popular VA and FHA-­insured loans are known for their incredibly low down payment requirements and aggressive interest rates. These favorable terms, however, do require mortgage insurance. Additionally, there are varied financing options for retirees. Although qualifying for a home loan in retirement is different, it is not difficult. There are particular financing guidelines that take other pertinent details into consideration, which means you’re not bound to reverse mortgages only. Finally, there is a myriad of options available to those making larger purchases, which may include interest only options. For a detailed explanation of the options available specifically to you, it is recommended that you consult with your preferred lender or financier.

What are FHA and VA mortgage loans and how do I qualify?

Applying for an FHA or VA loan is quite simple. However, FHA-­‐insured loans are reserved for low-­‐to-­‐moderate income buyers while VA-­‐ guaranteed home loans are available only to those serving in the military (or their surviving spouses). Either program requires little to no down payment (0%-­‐3.5%). Although applying is a simple matter, qualifying is an entirely different process. Given that both of these loan programs are government insured/guaranteed, they do require hefty amounts of documentation to ensure credibility. Therefore, the process for obtaining either one of these loans can be lengthy and often times a little burdensome, as you may find yourself providing a lot of information.

How do I know how much I will need for a down payment?

Conventional financing is known to require 20% down payment. However, there are many financing programs available, some of which require as little as 0% or 3.5%. How much is required of you will depend on several factors: your purchasing power, your financial reserves, the price of the home you choose to purchase, and the loan program you ultimately qualify for. A qualified mortgage lender will provide you with this information upon your consultation and application for a home loan.

How does a lender determine how much house I can afford?

A lender will consider several variables in order to determine how much house you can afford (or your “purchasing power.”) The most important things are: your monthly income, your current debt and obligations, and your financial reserves. Simply put, the difference between what you earn and what you spend will yield an amount to cover X mortgage payment (plus taxes and insurance). What funds you have saved will help mostly to determine your down payment. Your credit score is important, too! However, your score and history determine what loan programs and interest rates you will qualify for.

What is APR?

APR stands for annual percentage rate, and it is the amount of interest on the total loan amount paid annually. This is different than your interest rate, which is the “current” rate on the mortgage. The APR is averaged over the full term of the loan and includes the total cost of borrowing those funds. A lower APR translates into a lower monthly mortgage payment, which may seem more comfortable in the long run. However, to obtain that, you may have to pay up front fees or mortgage points to reduce the APR. If you prefer to save on the cost up front, you may choose a higher APR to finance those costs over the life of the loan, thereby freeing up some cash to apply to your down payment or to spend on new appliances, home renovations, etc.

What is a Loan Estimate?

A Loan Estimate is a three-­‐page form you receive from your lender upon completion and submission of your application for a home loan. This document provides you with important information, including the interest rate, anticipated monthly mortgage payments and an estimate of what you may expect to pay in closing costs relative to the loan (only). Please remember that, as a buyer, the bulk of your closing costs will consist of mortgage-­related costs. However, you will also be responsible for certain pro-­‐rated fees and costs associated with the purchase transaction.

What is the difference between a pre­‐qualification, pre‐approval and loan commitment?

A pre-­‐qualification is merely a confirmation from your lender that you have applied for a mortgage loan. More specifically, a pre-­‐qualification letter states that you seem to be qualified for a certain loan based on the assets, income and expenses you stated or provided. A pre-­‐ approval is a lender’s statement that, based on the verification of your income and credit score and history, they were able to determine your eligibility for their financing program(s). Though this is a step further into the process, it is by no means a lender’s approval or commitment to lend you funds. A loan commitment is a lender’s written promise or commitment to lend you the funds at a specified rate and terms. This is what you need as a guarantee to obtain financing. This document is issued once the loan has been approved.

What will my mortgage payment consist of?

A standard mortgage payment consist of principal and interest, meaning a portion of the payment is applied to the total amount you borrowed while the other portion goes to the interest (or the cost of financing.) Of course, the majority of your payments in earlier years will be applied to the interest. In many instances, a lender may require you to pay what is known as PITI, which stands for principal + interest
+ taxes + insurance. With a PITI payment, you also contribute to the property’s annual property taxes and insurance. In this case, the bank places the allocated funds in an escrow account to then pay for the taxes and insurance on your behalf. This is a lender’s way of protecting the collateral, while making it easier for you to budget those items. If you have opted for an interest only loan, then you will only be making interest payments until the payment structure changes or the principal becomes due.

Am I allowed to pay my mortgage loan off early?

The short answer to this question is yes. However, you will need to discuss that with your lender as some loan programs penalize you for doing so. In most cases, you are allowed to make additional payments towards your principal or a full payment of the loan without a penalty, but it’s better to be safe and confirm. Some lenders do structure prepayment penalty timelines.

When do I know what my closing costs will be?

If you’re financing the purchase of your home, you should receive a Loan Estimate from your lender shortly after completing and submitting your loan application. However, the lender will only provide you with an estimate of the costs association with obtaining the financing. The title company or attorney handling the closing will provide all parties will an accurate statement reflecting the amounts due at least 3 business days prior to the closing date. This disclosure will provide you with everything you need to know before you close, including your closing costs.

What is a homestead tax exemption and how can I apply for it?

The homestead exemption is a tax-­‐saving exemption made for primary homeowners. It is meant to protect the taxable value of your home and offer you some property tax savings in return. You can request the exemption in the same tax year if you purchase a home and submit the application prior to March 1st. Otherwise, you may apply to receive exemption benefits for the following year. You can now apply online by visiting: http://www.miamidade.gov/pa/exemptions_homestead.asp.