Buying a House After the Sub Prime Squeeze

By: Scott Baxter

The days of easy lending are clearly over. At this time last year, the money flowed. Predatory lenders signed people up for mortgages without paperwork, gave out loans that covered 100% of the home's value and weighed them down with outrageous payments that exceeded their income. The fallout has been tremendous, leaving the banks scrambling to clean up a mess of foreclosures and defaults in the aftermath.

They've also tightened the purse strings - especially when it comes to the subprime market. Lenders are demanding documentation, downpayments and turning back to more traditional methods of qualifying loans. Those with a long history of paying bills on time won't be affected, but first time buyers or buyers with spotty credit histories need to get their paperwork in order.

The good news is that there's no great trick to it. With a good realtor, lender and a bit of financial diligence you can realize your dream even if you're not a prime borrower. The right home and mortgage are out there for you.

FIVE WAYS TO MAKE YOUR REAL ESTATE DREAMS COME TRUE

1. Find a banker or mortgage broker you can trust

2. Improve your credit rating: even if you're a year or more away from making a purchase, it's never too early to start. Don't kid yourself - anyone can do it

3. Clean up your report: scrub any problems or errors on your credit report clean

4. Educate yourself: learn the terms and take time to build your team

5. Work with a REALTOR: a good realtor will always save you time and money in a real estate transaction

NURTURE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MONEY

There are a wide variety of loan types out there and you should never settle for the first one you see. While interest rates are usually the first consideration, the terms of a loan can be equally important to your long term financial well being. Sorting through the options will be easier and far more effective when you have a strong relationship with a banker or mortgage broker you can trust. That's why it's more important than ever to shop around for this key member of your real estate team. In most cases, this should be the first step in your search for a home.

A loan officer at a bank will be able to provide you with the range of lending options available through their institution. There is no charge for this service, though loan officers often work for commission. Banks often have a local advantage and a better understanding of the property you are interested in purchasing.

A mortgage broker on the other hand, is not limited to products from a single institution. The broker works for a fee, most often taken They will shop around to find a loan that suits your needs and will work with the chosen lender until the deal closes. Brokers can often find a lender for a loan that most banks would refuse.

WORK WITH A REALTOR

Your realtor knows the local market and who plays in it. Remove some of the guesswork from your search by taking advantage of their expertise and connections. They may be able to recommend a reputable financier, give you additional information on areas or properties you're interested in, or even help you find an interior designer when the deal is done.

Buying a home will probably be the single biggest financial investment you'll ever make but it doesn't have to be your biggest risk. With the right real estate agent, financing, information, and financial management, you will be the path to a brighter future of home ownership.

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