Hiring the Right Professionals for Your NJ Real Estate Purchase

When it comes time to purchase a home, whether you’re a first-time home buyer or an experienced home buyer, you want to put together a superior professional team. In doing so, you will give yourself the best chance at landing the home of your dreams within your price range and ideally, within your desired timeframe.

Living in the technology era makes it extraordinarily easy to access information regarding almost any topic – and this includes the real estate market. While any tech savvy home buyer can access a home’s stats, asking price and any other information associated with the listing, does this mean that you don’t need to hire a realtor? And while were at it, who else do you need to hire help you bring this thing “home?”

Real estate professional/agent

While it’s true that you can easily access listing information about virtually any property that is listed on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), it is imperative that you take the time to research, interview and select the right real estate agent.

Real estate agents have so much more to offer you than what you can find with the click of your computer mouse, namely: experience. The right real estate agent for you will become your advocate and will help you get the best deal possible. Experienced real estate professionals can also make the home buying process more effective by helping you narrow down specifically what you are looking for in a home.

While it is possible for you to go it on your own without a real estate agent, it is not advisable unless you have solid experience in the real estate field yourself.

Lending agent/mortgage company

Naturally, you’re likely going to need to mortgage this significant purchase, and choosing the right mortgage company can make a big difference in your overall satisfaction with the home buying process.

Look for a lender who is highly reputable in your area and has solid reviews from customers as well as a good BBB rating. The ideal lender will present you with a variety of different mortgage programs and down payment options. They should be able to tell you rather quickly how much house you can afford. Quick response time and a history of in-house processing, underwriting and funding are also important factors that many home buyers find invaluable.

Real estate attorney

The process of buying a home is a very serious transaction with a plethora of details and minutiae. A financial decision as large as buying real property has many legal issues that only an experienced New Jersey real estate attorney is qualified to answer properly. No real estate agent should be giving you legal advice about your home purchase. Everything from translating legalese within the purchase contract to tax obligations and any existing or surprise property liens is best handled by your lawyer.

Working with a real estate attorney is especially crucial if you are purchasing a home via NJ short sale or Sheriff’s Sale (foreclosure). The added legal implications surrounding these types of home buying cement your need for a New Jersey real estate attorney who also specializes in foreclosure defense.

Title agent/company

Most experienced real estate attorneys can also perform title searches, but title companies have one job and one job only: making sure the home that you purchase has a clear title search. You will probably still want to purchase title insurance, as there is no guarantee that long-lost liens on the property will pop up in the distant future, but this is a decision that your real estate attorney can help you make along with your title agent.

Home inspector

Soon after you sign a purchase contract, you will be given the opportunity to do a professional home inspection on the property before the contract becomes official. In order to avoid making a significant financial blunder in purchasing a house that is wrought with problems, it is essential that you hire a home inspection company or professional home inspector who has substantial experience under his belt. Your home inspector will be able to discover any existing structural problems with the home that either weren’t disclosed by the seller or weren’t known to the seller. You will then be able to work with your real estate agent to either negotiate to have repairs made (at the seller’s expense), or, cancel the transaction if a satisfactory compromise cannot be made.



Home Ownership & Student Loan Debt: How They’re Connected


Applying for a mortgage loan is akin to putting all of your financial cards on the table. Because the amount being borrowed is so high (in most cases), lenders will scrutinize all of your money decisions with a fine tooth comb. With that being said, it is best to wait to apply for a mortgage loan until such a time when your other financial obligations are low and your credit score is good.

However, everyone knows that life doesn’t always go as planned, and many millions of Americans are finding themselves paying off student loan debt years, sometimes decades after they have finished college. Many of these people may have in fact defaulted on their student loans, which can result in a legal judgment from the court.

Understandably, lenders are very wary of giving a loan to someone who has already defaulted on a loan in the past. They’d rather not take the risk of losing big-time money, and may pass you over for the next borrower ‘standing in line.’

So, what is a person to do if they are working hard to make good on an old student loan judgment? Must they wait until their loan is 100% paid off to pursue their dream of owning a home?

The real answer to this question is “maybe.” While that answer may not seem very encouraging, it’s better than an outright “no.” Lenders are going to look at more than just an outstanding student loan judgment (even if you are currently making steady payments on that loan via wage garnishment).

Another big factor that mortgage lenders are going to take into account is your overall credit score and your credit report. If you haven’t taken a look at your credit report recently, take advantage of the free report available to you at annualcreditreport.com. If you want to know your actual score, you will simply have to pay an extra $10.

If your score is at least fair, (above 630), that is proof that your student loan has not put a permanent albatross on your credit score, and moving ahead with applying for a mortgage loan is definitely within the scope of reasonable actions for you at this time.

If, on the other hand, your credit score is less than 630, you probably won’t get approved for a mortgage loan immediately, but you do have several options to help yourself move toward that goal.

First, make contact with your student loan lender(s). By reaching out to them personally, you’ll likely have a better chance of getting out of student loan debt much faster than you will on your current payment schedule. Many lenders have a rehabilitation program that helps debtors get back on track. If your lender is not amenable to speaking with you or negotiating with you, contact a New Jersey attorney who has experience dealing with both student loan debt and real estate. The right NJ attorney can negotiate your outstanding debts down to a much more manageable level – so much so that the fees associated with hiring an attorney will seem like a drop in the bucket.

Another thing you can do is apply for three secured credit cards and begin using them as soon as you receive them in the mail. Pay off the balances consistently every month for the next six months. This action alone will boost your credit score and help put you in position to get that mortgage loan, and get into the home of your dreams.

To get additional information and help negotiating your student loan debt, contact our office now for a free consultation. (732) 852-7295

Image credit: Chie

My Home Needs Repairs I Can’t Afford!

10490268956_c4b84777e4Image courtesy of Denis P

It’s one thing to dream longingly of replacing your worn out carpeting with stunning hardwoods throughout your home. It’s another beast entirely to be living in a home with damage that could be dangerous or hazardous to your (and your family’s) health.

But what is one to do when the cost of repairing the damage is far above and beyond what you can afford? The answer for many is simple: just live with it. In fact, according to the National Center for Healthy Housing, in 2013, 35 million homes in the U.S. have at least one safety or health hazard that needs attention. That’s forty percent of U.S. homes! Water leaking through roofs causing damage and mold formation in the walls, holes in the foundation or exterior walls that allow mice and rodents inside, water leaks inside the home due to faulty pipes and miscellaneous roofing issues are just some of the issues homeowners are facing.

These millions of homes are left in disrepair because their owners simply don’t see a financial solution that makes sense for them. Living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make ends meet, barely able to make the minimum monthly payments on their credit cards already, most people just don’t think there’s any way to fix their houses until (and if) they somehow come into more money, or get that tax return, or a promotion, etc.

And all too often, it just feels like there is something more pressing to spend extra money on. So, the home repairs go unattended, and the problems they’re causing get compounded, which makes what may have started out as a relatively small fix, into something significant.

The good news is that there actually are programs to help people who find themselves in need of repairs to their homes. That being said, the need must be necessary and not a luxury like those gorgeous wood floors mentioned earlier. The value of the home needs to be higher after the repair to get help, too.

If you meet those qualifications, and are a low or middle-income family, you can seek out a non-profit agency called NeighborWorks America for assistance. NeighborWorks was initiated by Congress, and helps aid community development in the U.S. by matching homeowners in need with organizations that do non-profit work and offer loans for just such a purpose. You can find them online at www.nw.org.

Secondly, if you feel like the work involved to fix the place up to living conditions would just be too much, consider contacting a realtor. If your mortgage is paid off, or nearly so, putting your home on the market at a low, low price may be a good idea. There are always people looking for home projects to ‘flip’ – and your house may be the perfect one! Some potential homeowners may look at your home and then ask to qualify for an FHA 203K loan – a mortgage that covers the cost of the home and the cost of fixing it up to make it livable. After you sell, get yourself an affordable apartment where the landlord handles repairs.

There are additional options available to you that an attorney who is experienced with real property matters can help you through. Things like loan modification (to allow you to afford the repairs), bankruptcy and foreclosure are real options to homeowners in trouble. They don’t have the stigma that was associated with them in years past. For some people, they’re the long-awaited answer to all of their money problems. If you’re living in a money pit and need help tunneling out, call the team who can help today.

Applying for a Mortgage? Read the Fine Print!

With mortgage rates plummeting to an unbelievably low rate right now, many former renters are deciding to buy a home, and others are refinancing their original loans.  Dropping to such an impressively low rate will mean smaller monthly payments and the ability to draw some money out of the equity that many homes have accrued. The allure can be so intoxicating that many borrowers rush to sign before reading all of the nitty gritty details. And, if you remember, it wasn’t long ago that our economy nearly crumbled, so be careful of hidden traps that may ultimately cause you to lose your home.

To ensure that you’re really getting what you need out of your mortgage, it is of the utmost importance that you understand what you are signing.  Unfortunately, the only way to do that is to actually read all of the words.  Even then, some or most of the language can be extremely confusing. Many people should consider contacting an attorney or paralegal experienced in loan modifications to have a look over the documents and explain them to you, if needed.

Things you need to look for in your mortgage paperwork include:

  • Is your loan fixed (rate will remain constant for the entire duration of loan) or variable (interest rate and payments will vary and can skyrocket toward the end of the loan)?
  • Does it include mortgage insurance?  It can be extremely helpful if something happens to you and you are unable to pay, but read the details. How long will the coverage last, how much are they charging, and does it help you or the lender?
  • Are there any hidden fees?  Your attorney will know how to find the fees that are nonsense, like a ‘mortgage account fee’.
  • Are there any penalties for paying your loan off early?
  • How far are they stretching out your loan terms (if refinancing)?  While this can almost always lower your monthly payments, be sure that you are aware of the new length of your loan.
  • What fees are involved?  The loan officer who does all the work arranging your new loan has to get paid, right?  There are definitely fees written into your loan somewhere – they may be wrapped into the loan amount, which is great if you are ok with that. Just be sure that the fees are reasonable, and if you’d rather pay them up front, make sure that is something they will allow you to do.
  • Is there a balloon payment clause?  Will you have to pay a large payment at a certain point in order to pay the loan off in full?

It is definitely possible to get an honestly good deal today when it comes to new and refinanced mortgages. You just have to be knowledgeable about what to look for. Asking around among your network of professional friends is a good way to find a reputable mortgage lender, and be sure to have your loan documents reviewed by an attorney or paralegal before signing. As long as you know what you are signing up for, congratulations, homeowner!

*Photo provided by Mark Lennox