Lisa Westerman - ReMax Professional Associates



 Photo by Tayeb Mezahdia via Pixabay

When you start looking for your dream home, you need to know how much mortgage you will qualify for. Your real estate agent might ask you to get a pre-qualification letter. However, just because you are pre-qualified doesn’t mean that you will get the loan. You need a pre-approval for that, and even then, the mortgage company might not approve your application.

Pre-Qualification

A pre-qualification letter just tells you how much loan you can afford. The lender does not check your credit, your debt-to-income ratio or other factors before issuing a pre-qualification letter. Additionally, a pre-qualification letter is dependent on the information you provide to the lender. The pre-qualification essentially gives you an estimate of how much home you are able to afford so that you do not look at homes that are not within your range.

To get a pre-qualification, you supply the lender with your assets, debt and income. Because the lender bases its decision on the information you provide, rather than information from outside sources, a pre-qualification is not a guarantee that you will get the loan.

Pre-Approval

Getting pre-approved for a loan usually takes longer than getting pre-qualified. The lender pulls your credit report and might ask for additional documents, including tax records and bank statements. To get pre-approved, you must complete a loan application and provide your social security number. The lender might charge an application fee for a pre-approval.

With a pre-approval, you will have a closer interest rate assessment, that is usually not finalized until the loan goes through underwriting. Once the lender pre-approves you, it will send you a conditional commitment for the loan amount. You can look for homes at or below that price.

In a market when buyers bid against each other – a seller’s market – having a pre-approval letter might give you a step up with the seller, who will more likely choose an offer by someone more likely to get the loan. Thus, if you and someone else submit a bid on your dream home, but the other person only has a pre-qualification letter, the seller might accept your offer, even if it is not as good as the other buyer’s offer, simply because you are more likely to get the mortgage.

For a pre-approval, you will need to:

  • Complete the lender’s mortgage application;

  • Possibly pay an application fee;

  • Supply your social security number and allow the lender to pull your credit;

  • Provide financial information to help the lender make a decision; and

  • Tell the lender how much you plan to put up as a down payment.

After you are pre-approved and the seller accepts your offer, you will then have to provide the rest of the documentation to the lender, including the accepted offer, bank statements, retirement account statements, taxes for up to two years, proof of income and other documents that will help the lender come to a concrete decision.


The homebuying journey is rarely problem-free. Fortunately, homebuyers who know how to address challenges throughout the property buying journey should have no trouble making their homeownership dreams come true.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you develop an effective approach to address any homebuying challenges that come your way.

1. Be Diligent

When it comes to homebuying challenges, it helps to be diligent. A diligent homebuyer allocates time and resources to understand problems and address them from every angle. As such, this buyer may be better equipped than others to find the right solution to any homebuying challenge, at any time.

Furthermore, a diligent homebuyer often learns about the housing market and analyzes real estate market patterns and trends. With this information at his or her disposal, a homebuyer can use real estate market data to gain an advantage over rival property buyers. And as a result, a diligent homebuyer can use housing market data to make fast, informed decisions throughout the property buying journey.

2. Understand the Worst-Case Scenarios

No one likes to think about the worst-case scenarios. Yet considering potential challenges that could arise during the homebuying cycle may help a property buyer plan ahead for these problems.

As a homebuyer, it is important to prepare as much as possible for all stages of the property buying journey. If a buyer understands potential challenges, he or she may be able to address such problems without delay. Perhaps best of all, this buyer can minimize the risk of encountering possible hurdles that otherwise may prevent him or her from finding the right house at the right price.

3. Work with a Real Estate Agent

Dealing with a homebuying challenge on your own can cause immense stress. Lucky for you, real estate agents are available who can help you identify and resolve any homebuying challenges before they escalate.

A real estate agent is a homebuying expert who can guide you along each stage of the property buying journey. First, he or she will learn about your homebuying goals and craft a custom property buying strategy. A real estate agent next will keep you up to date about new homes that match your property buying criteria, as well as set up home showings. And once you find a house that you want to buy, a real estate agent will help you submit a competitive offer to purchase this residence.

Let's not forget about the assistance that a real estate agent provides after a seller accepts your offer to purchase a home, either. At this point, a real estate agent will help you schedule a house inspection and ensure that you are fully prepared for closing day. And if you have concerns or questions along the way, a real estate agent is ready to respond to them.

Want to become a confident homebuyer? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can bolster your homebuying confidence and address any homebuying challenges with poise and integrity.


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Most home shoppers do not think about how the property they are considering is zoned. However, depending on certain circumstances, it may prove beneficial to check into zoning restrictions before you purchase a home. First, some homes are built in areas where there is mixed zoning — residential and commercial — which could cause problems when you are searching for a home mortgage. Your real estate agent is obligated to inform you of any special zoning of a property you are considering.

Work from Home Zoning Requirements

Some municipalities have specific requirements for home office work. While those who work from home doing computer coding, telemarketing, or data entry may not have clients or other people coming in and out of their home during business hours, it is still important to verify with the city or town that local business licensing requirements are met.

Other types of businesses that work directly with customers such as pet grooming, hairdressers, nail technicians, or day care providers should make sure their physical location is zoned appropriately. In some cities and towns, having a home business that involves customers come to your house can run afoul of zoning rules. Since your business may create additional traffic, it is something you should consider before you sign a purchase and sale agreement.

Mixed Zoning May Increase Taxes

As a buyer, you should also be aware of how zoning laws impact your taxes. For example, most municipalities have different tax rates for property which is zoned residential and commercial, others may have a different rate for property which is classified as mixed. In nearly all cases, property with a commercial zoning classification means higher taxes. Keep in mind, it is not unusual to find multi-family homes built in commercial or mixed zone areas.

Buyers should be aware there are some municipalities with zoning requirements that can impact their ability to have certain outbuildings on their property including sheds, barns, and decks. Your real estate agent should be able to answer any zoning questions you have and help you determine if they will have an impact on your ability to get financing or use the property in the manner you intend.


Want to relocate to a condo? With assistance from a real estate agent, you should have no trouble moving into the condo of your choice.

Employing a real estate agent with condo experience is ideal, particularly for property buyers who are considering condos for the first time. However, it is important to note that not all real estate professionals with condo experience are created equal, and some stand out for all the right reasons.

Ultimately, there are several factors to consider as you search for a real estate agent to help you find the perfect condo, including:

1. Expertise

How many years has a real estate agent been assisting condo buyers? Does a real estate agent know how to get information from a homeowners' association (HOA)? And can a real estate agent set up condo showings at your convenience? These are just a few of the questions that condo buyers need to consider before they employ a real estate agent.

As a condo buyer, there is no need to settle for a subpar real estate agent. In fact, real estate agents with condo expertise are available across the country. And if you conduct a comprehensive search for the right real estate agent, you should have no trouble finding a real estate professional who can guide you along each step of the condo buying journey.

2. Communication Skills

How does a real estate agent keep in touch with his or her clients? Try to find a real estate agent who provides regular updates throughout the condo buying process. This real estate professional will make his or her clients a priority and do whatever it takes to help them get the best results possible.

Ideally, you should be able to get in touch with a real estate agent via phone, email or text. And if a real estate agent is unavailable, you usually should expect to hear back from him or her within a few hours at most.

A real estate agent who is readily available will be able to provide you with the condo buying support that you need, any time you need it. As a result, this real estate professional can keep you up to date about new condos as they become available, the state of negotiations with a condo seller and much more.

3. Client Satisfaction

Are past clients satisfied with the support that they received from a real estate agent? Ask a real estate agent for client referrals to find out.

Reaching out to past clients can provide you with a better idea about how a real estate agent will assist you during the condo buying journey. That way, you can determine whether you will feel comfortable working with this real estate agent or if you should consider other options.

Dedicate the necessary time and resources to find a great real estate agent to help you find your dream condo. By doing so, you can move one step closer to making your condo ownership dreams come true.


Looking to buy a house in the next few months? Ultimately, a cautious approach to purchasing a residence may prove to be ideal, and perhaps it is easy to understand why.

There are many reasons to err on the side of caution as you search for your dream house, including:

1. You don't want to pay too much for a house.

Although acquiring your dream house may seem priceless, it is important to remember that the costs to purchase a residence can add up quickly. As such, if you're not careful, you risk overspending on a house.

Lucky for you, there are many simple ways to avoid the temptation to bid too much on a residence.

First, analyze the housing market closely and search for patterns and trends. If you discover an abundance of houses is available, you may be operating in a "buyer's" market. As a result, you may be better equipped than ever before to acquire a top-notch residence at a budget-friendly price.

Don't forget to get pre-approved for a mortgage prior to starting your home search too. That way, you can enter the housing market with a mortgage – and budget – in hand.

2. You want to find a house that you can enjoy for years to come.

A home is one of the biggest purchases that an individual will make in his or her lifetime. Thus, it is important to allocate the necessary time and resources to assess a house before you submit an offer on it.

Of course, a home showing is a must prior to the submission of a home offer. A home showing allows you to walk around a residence and envision what life might be like if you purchase this home.

After you submit an offer on a house, you'll likely have the opportunity to complete a property inspection before you finalize your home sale. This inspection is important, as it enables you to learn about any "hidden" problems that may have gone unnoticed during an initial home showing.

If you feel comfortable with a residence after an inspection, you can move forward with a home sale. Or, if you aren't comfortable with a house at this point, you can always submit a counter-proposal or remove your offer entirely.

3. You want your home to retain its long-term value.

Let's face it – buying a home is a tough decision. And if you need extra help determining whether a home purchase is a viable long-term decision, it may be a good idea to consult with a real estate agent.

Typically, a real estate agent can respond to any of your homebuying concerns and questions, at any time. He or she is happy to help you explore high-quality houses, and by doing so, will enable you to take the guesswork out of discovering a residence that will retain its value.

Err on the side of caution as you proceed along the homebuying journey, and you should have no trouble purchasing a residence that matches or surpasses your expectations.