Before buying a home, get some tips from the pros

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published May 6, 2015

METRO DETROIT — Embarking on the search for a new home can be daunting, especially for first-time buyers, so C & G Newspapers asked several experts, including real estate agents and a representative from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, for guidance.


John Kurczak, a Keller Williams Realtor, said the best way to start is to find out what you can afford.


“I think getting preapproved is very important,” Kurczak said. “If there are some challenges on your credit, the best thing to do is find how to fix your credit.”


He said a bad credit score could be an obstacle when applying for a mortgage, especially a late payment on a credit report within the past two years, and that there are ways to eliminate them from the report.


“The nice thing about right now is that interest rates are still low and home prices are still a good bargain,” Kurczak said. “The spring market is traditionally the busiest market because people don’t want to interrupt the school year and they have their income tax check.”


He recommended looking for homes around Labor Day weekend, since more people are out of town and unable to place competitive offers on the same homes.


For those interested in homes located north of 26 Mile Road, Kurczak recommended applying for U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development loans for single-family homes, which feature zero percent down.


“Buy a house first, then a car. It’s easy to get a car loan, but harder to get a house loan,” he said. “Don’t be running up credit cards to try to furnish homes. Good things come to people who wait.”


Kathy Coon, owner and broker of Real Living Great Lakes Real Estate, agreed that the first step to owning a home is to get prequalified for a mortgage to gauge the price range that a buyer can afford.


“There have been a lot of changes in the mortgage industry that take a few more people out of the game, but may put a few more people in the game that didn’t realize they could actually buy,” Coon said.


She stressed the importance of retaining a real estate agent, who can help individuals secure a reputable lender.


“It’s always important to be honest with (real estate agents) and let them know what they’re truly looking for, what their needs are and what their hopes are,” Coon said. “The Realtor can then help narrow it down to now only communities that would fit their needs and wants, but also their pocketbook.”


Some examples of things to consider include property taxes, insurance rates, school districts and upcoming community projects that could affect the homeowner.


Darren Montreuil, a business development specialist with MSHDA, said his state-funded organization’s mission is to secure and retain affordable housing for low-income residents.


MSHDA’s website, www.michigan.gov/ownmihome, is a good place to start for those seeking down-payment assistance programs, Montreuil said.


“We have programs to help people who have not been able to save the money to put down a down payment,” he said.


He said MSHDA offers statewide programs for first-time homebuyers, programs for current homeowners in target areas looking to move into new homes, and federal tax credit programs.


“We do require homebuyer education for everybody who participates in our programs,” Montreuil said. “They actually participate in budgeting, home maintenance (and other specifics) to make sure they are prepared and understand the requirements and what’s involved in homeownership.”


He said the MSHDA website offers a list of experienced lenders who have closed loans with the organization in the last six months, and who can explain the process and assist homebuyers beginning their searches.