Home Truths: Be Savvy to be Competitive

You’re ready to make the move. Farewell, apartment life. Farewell (and thanks) to the folks for letting you live at home longer than any of you really wanted. It’s time to buy a house.

Good thing you’re tenacious. In today’s sellers’ market – one that spreads across at least most of New Hampshire’s southern tier – the competition for homes under $300,000 is fierce.

With a limited inventory of affordable homes in this price range, you could easily find yourself in a bidding battle with other buyers.

Prospective Seacoast homebuyers Kylie and Brian talk with Bank of New Hampshire loan officer Mary Ellen McKenney about down payments and first-time homebuyer programs.

Let’s Talk Tactics

The key to making a bid attractive in a competitive market, says Lisa Capicchioni, a senior loan officer with Residential Mortgage Services in Bedford, is to ask the seller for as little as possible. If you’re ready with a 10% downpayment, and waive inspections, you’ll tend to look more promising to a seller.

Downpayments are usually the biggest hurdle when buying a house. Capicchioni advises exploring all options, from tapping savings, to asking relatives to help out, to borrowing from a 401(k) retirement fund. She recently worked with a canny Manchester couple who tapped various funding tools to buy their first home.

Since the house needed significant repairs, they qualified for a federal FHA 203k loan that covered both the home improvements and purchase. They also received a downpayment grant from New Hampshire Housing. And they’ll get a long-lasting benefit: a special federal mortgage tax credit that reduces their taxes for as long as they own the house.

USDA Rural Development also offers good options in eligible areas for low-income households.

Perfect Is Not Always Best

What else can you do to be competitive in a tight market? Andrew Cadorette, a program manager in New Hampshire Housing’s Homeownership group, talks with real estate professionals and loan officers around the state, and leads the agency’s homebuyer and education events.

“Find a lender and real estate agent who regularly work with borrowers in your price range,” advises Cadorette. They will know how to structure an offer to your advantage. And be prepared to move quickly on an offer when that perfect home comes on the market.

And consider Capicchioni’s tip: “Sometimes the best home is not the ‘perfect’ home. Be prepared to be flexible.”

As always, we’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions for housing-related topics to cover. You can reach us at home@stayworkplay.org.

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