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    Benefits and Challenges of Home Ownership

    Owning a home is a common goal for many American families and individuals, both military and civilian. We see happy home owners in television, movies, advertising, and real life all the time, but like anything in life, owning a home comes with both advantages and risks. If you think you’re ready for home ownership, or you think you might be getting close, carefully consider the following.

    Owning your home provides quite a few advantages over renting your home:

    • Control over your own space – When you own a house, you have the freedom to make any decorative and structural changes you’d like. You can make holes in the walls to hang pictures and shelves withouth having to worry about filling them in a few months later when your military assignment changes. You can paint your walls any color you’d like, put up wallpaper, remove carpet, take out a wall, or add a deck onto the back of the house. When you own your home, you can truly customize it to fit your needs and your tastes without having to answer to anyone else.
    • Consistency you can count on – Another advantage is not having to worry about your payments increasing if you live in rental housing. If you obtain a thirty-year, fixed-rate mortgage on your home, your payment amounts will stay constant for three decades, meaning you don’t have to try to predict or plan for a sudden increase if your landlord has another child or decides to buy a sportscar.
    • No more waiting on someone else – Speaking of landlords, you won’t have to rely on anyone else to get things done anymore. Some landlords or base housing offices are excellent about taking care of repairs and other issues as soon as possible, but others may let problems languish, meaning you’re stuck with a broken dishwasher or malfunctioning furnace until such time as they decide to finally get around to fix the situation.
    • Improve your finances for the long term – While taking out a home loan may ding your credit a little bit at first, making consistent payments and building equity in your home will greatly improve your financial picture in the long run. The longer you stay on top of loan payments, the better your credit will be, and the more equity you have, the more flexibility you’ll have to deal with surprises or emergencies down the road. Owning a home also allows you to take advantage of certain tax deductions at the federal and possibly state levels.

    The benefits of home ownership do have to be weighed against the challenges, however:

    • Greater financial responsibility – When you take out a home loan, you naturally become responsible for your monthly mortgage payments. While VA loans make home ownership a good deal more affordable than conventional loans by eliminating downpayments and the need for Private Mortgage Insurance and limiting closing costs and fees, you’ll still have to make sure you can pay the correct amount on your loan each month while still covering other expenses, such as food, clothing, and transportation. Late payments, changes to your loan, and foreclosure can all significantly damage your credit for years to come.
    • Greater responsibility in general – While you won’t have to rely on possibly lackluster landlords or base housing offices anymore, you will have to rely on yourself to handle any repairs or improvements around your home. If the water heater starts leaking or a window breaks, you’ll have to cover any associated costs and either fix the problem yourself or make arrangements for a repair person to do the job.
    • Relocation can be very difficult – This is a point that especially needs to be considered by active-duty military members. If you are transferred to a different part of the country or the world and you rent your home, it’s possible to break your lease without penalty because of your service to our country. However, you can’t just up and break a mortgage and hope to keep your credit and finances in tact. Even if you’re no longer on active duty, relocating can be difficult once you’ve purchased a home. You can put the home back on the market or rent it out, but there are costs associated with both of these scenarios.

    At Fortress VA Loans, our goal is to help you achieve your goals. If you wish to become a home owner, we can help you make it happen. If you think you’re ready to purchase a home, whether or not you’ve owned one in the past, contact us today. We’ll walk you through the pre-qualification processes to help you gain a solid understanding of your financial situation. Our family of VA loan specialists and lenders will be with you from day one until you’re in the home of your dreams.

    What’s the Difference Between a Home Appraisal and a Home Inspection?

    Home appraisals and home inspections are two separate services with two separate purposes, but they’re both important parts of the home-buying process. They’re also both expenses for which buyers should be prepared.

    A home appraisal is required by nearly all home loan lenders before a deal can be closed, and it is definitely required by all VA-approved lenders. In an appraisal, an independent third party verifies the worth of the house, townhome, or condominium to ensure the lender does not approve a loan for more than what the home is worth – this, of course, translates to potential savings for the buyer as well, since the buyer won’t want to pay more than the home is worth. To begin with, an appraiser will walk through your home and around any surrounding property. He or she will be looking for a number of things, including these:

    • Does the home have as many bedrooms as the seller claims, and does each bedroom have a window and closet?
    • Are there any apparentt structural damages?
    • Are there any features that add additional value, such as a finished basement, deck, or pool?
    • Are the nearby homes well-kept?

    Your appraiser may take photos and/or measurements, but they will not perform a complete inspection of the home or any of its systems or features. The walk-through will probably take less than an hour, and you, the buyer, do not have to be present at the time. Then the appraiser will research homes comparable in size, style, and location that have been appraised in the last nintey days to see what they are worth. If there is not enough recent data for your area, comparable home appraisals from further away or longer ago may be consulted as well.

    Using all the information they have collected, the appraiser will determine a value for your home and report it to your lender, who will then approve, deny, or modify your loan application. Although the appraiser is contracted by the lender, you will be responsible for paying for the appraisal, usually as part of the closing costs (which can often be factored into the amount of VA loans).

    A home inspection is not usually required by the lender or any other entity, but it’s highly encouraged by nearly all industry professionals. You, the buyer, contract and pay for the inspection, and if possible, you should be present at the home when the inspection takes place. It will likely last three or four hours. Your inspector will thoroughly examine every accessible part of the home, looking for potential problems that may affect the home’s value now or down the road. While the inspector does not have X-ray vision and cannot see into the future, he or she will be looking for these issues and more:

    • Is there any evidence of pest infestation?
    • Are there any obvious problems with wiring or pipe connection?
    • Are all living areas of the home insulated?
    • Does the dishwasher leak?
    • Are there cracks in the foundation?

    A home inspection is intended to protect you from any damage or danger concealed by an unscrupulous seller or any problems the seller just didn’t realize they had. Any major problems can be taken care of by the seller before closing or negotiated into the value of the home. While it may cost you a few hundred dollars now, it very well could save you that much or more in the future, not to mention accompanying life disruption.

    The family of VA loan specialists and lenders at Fortress VA Loans honors your service to our country and the sacrifices your family has made, and we want to make securing a home loan as easy and as straightforward as possible for you. Contact us now to begin your pre-qualification or to ask any questions you may have about buying a home as a current or former military member.