Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cash for Buying a House

For the past two weeks or so, there have been rumors galore that first time home buyers will be able to borrow their federal tax credit in order to use that money for closing costs and down payment towards the purchase of a home. The details have not yet been worked out but I think this is going to happen. There are some technicalities that have to be worked out because basically you are not suppose to borrow money in order to have the funds necessary to qualify for a mortgage. Hopefully this will be worked out soon because there is not a lot of time left in order to qualify for the tax credit. The purchase must be closed before December 1, 2009.


I have also heard rumors of homebuyers amending their 2008 tax returns to claim the credit before they close on a home in order to get the money early and use it at closing. I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice BUT I don’t recommend you doing this. Lying to the federal government so that they will send you thousands of dollars doesn't seem like a prudent advice for individuals that enjoy the simple things in life, like freedom.

Anyway, I’m working with plenty of first time home buyers right now and questions keep coming up about the disbursement of money, i.e., when and how much. Here are some general guidelines.

When you write a purchase offer for a property, you need to be willing and able to make a good faith deposit within 48 hours of when your offer is accepted. Deposits are a minimum of $1000 and are made payable to the listing broker. That money is held in escrow (not given to the seller), is refundable if the contract is canceled due to contingences, and is used towards the closing costs or down payment of the property.

Generally, the buyer has up to one week to conduct inspections of the property and these are done at the buyer’s expense. Inspections include a home inspection ($300 to $500), radon test ($150 to $200), mold inspection ($200 - $500), chimney inspection ($125 0 $200) ect. In addition, if the house is on septic system and/or has a well, they will need to be inspected. It is not unusual for the seller to pay for these inspections but occasionally the buyer will prefer to pay for these themselves just so that the inspector works strictly for the buyer. Well inspections and water testing can run from $35 to $250 and septic pumping and inspection is $200 to $400.

The next outlay of cash is usually to the mortgage lender. Some lenders will collect an application fee at the time the mortgage application is made ($200 - $300). Nearly all lenders will require that the appraisal be paid up front ($250 - $400).

Things get quiet after mortgage application and the next big expense is homeowner’s insurance. Mortgage companies require that you pay for the first year of insurance up front and that the insurance binder is faxed to your attorney before closing. Insurance premiums are based on the replacement cost of the property plus there is consideration of personal possessions, so I won't dare to quote a range for homeowner’s insurance, but do encourage you to shop around.

The day before closing, you will receive a call for your attorney’s office telling you how much money to bring to closing. Hopefully, any surprises with this phone call are good ones, as you will have received and signed a “Good Faith Estimate” at the time of mortgage application. Some of the language on the GFE is confusing to the layman. The GFE will give a total of closing costs, prepaid items which includes interest and mortgage insurance and the down payment. The GFE should include “Total Estimated Funds Needed to Close” and this should be fairly close to what you are asked to bring to the attorney’s office.


I hope this helps clarify how much money is needed when in the home buying process. If you’d like more information or a consolation, don’t hesitate to give me a call.
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