Ari Koufos
REALTY EXECUTIVES | 617-799-8948 | ari@arikoufos.com


Posted by Ari Koufos on 1/22/2019

Buying a home is a process that can seem daunting and even a little scary to most first-time buyers. After all, being a homeowner is a huge financial and personal responsibility.

To make this lengthy process a bit more approachable, we’re going to break it down into five steps. While these five steps may be somewhat different for each person, depending on their own unique situation, they do comprise most home buyer’s experience.

If you’re interested in learning the steps you’ll need to take before owning your first home, read on.

Step 1: Know your long-term goals

Before you buy a home, you’ll want to have a clear understanding of what you, your spouse, and your family want from the next five or more years. You’ll want to make sure the area you’re moving to can provide things like career advancement and opportunity, good schools for your children, and so on.

These questions may seem obvious, but it’s an important conversation to have before making the long-term commitment of owning a home.

Step 2: Your budget and your needs

It might be tempting to hop online and start shopping for houses, but first you should get a clear idea of the size and cost of the house you’re looking for. This involves determining your budget, thinking about your credit and planning for your down payment.

Step 3: Mortgage pre-approval

Getting preapproved for a mortgage can be a great way to gauge the interest late and loan amount you’ll be approved for. You’ll need to gather paperwork, including income information (pay stubs), tax returns, and W-2 forms.

Be aware that lenders will run a detailed credit report. Since credit reports count as an inquiry, they can temporarily lower your credit score by a few points.

Applying to several lenders within a short period of time can make a significant impact on your score. However, it will start to rise again within a few months if you don’t open any new credit accounts or take out other loans.

Step 4: Get an agent

Real estate agents know the ins and outs of the home buying process better than anyone else. They’ll be able to guide you through the process and provide you with information that you can’t get anywhere else.

Step 5: Pick the right home for you

Now it’s time to start home shopping. However, before you begin, remember that getting approved for a loan doesn’t mean you must or should seek to spend the full amount on a home.

Plan for your needs, and keep the future in mind. Someday you might decide to upgrade, but in the meantime you can be building your credit and building equity in a smaller or more frugal home.





Posted by Ari Koufos on 1/1/2019

The US government has been helping Americans achieve their goal of homeownership for decades. Through programs offered by the Federal Housing Authority, the USDA, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, millions of Americans have been able to afford a home who would have otherwise struggled.

The focus of today’s post is one such service: loans offered through the USDA Rural Development program.

If you’re hoping to buy a home in the near future but are worried about being able to save up enough for a down payment or build your credit score in time, USDA loans could be a viable option.

Let’s take a look at some of the common questions people have about USDA loans:

Do I have to live in the middle of nowhere to get a USDA loan?

The short answer is “no.” rural development loan eligibility for your area is laid out on a map provided by the USDA. Most of the suburbs outside of major cities, as well as nearly all rural areas, are covered by the rural development program.

Can I qualify for a USDA loan if I’ve previously owned a home?

Yes. You may be eligible for a loan as long as you’re not the current owner of a home that was purchased through the rural development program. So, for example, if you own a home financed through the USDA and wanted to buy a second home and rent out the first one, you wouldn’t be able to finance your second home through the USDA.

How does the USDA loan guarantee work?

When you buy a home, a lender asks you to make a down payment. If you don’t have a down payment, the government (USDA, VA, or FHA) insures the down payment on your home rather than you paying it up front.

Will I have to pay mortgage insurance?

Unlike other subsidized loans, rural development loans require a “guarantee fee” rather than PMI (private mortgage insurance). The guarantee fee is 1% the total mortgage amount and this can typically be financed into the loan (so you don’t have to pay up front). In addition to the guarantee fee, USDA loans also charge an annual premium for the lifetime of a loan.

What are the qualifications for a USDA loan?

To find full eligibility information, complete the survey on the USDA’s eligibility website to find out if you qualify. However, the general qualifications are:

  • U.S. citizenship

  • Buying a home in a qualifying area

  • 24 months of income history

  • A credit score of 640 or higher for streamlined processing

  • Income high enough so that your monthly payments do not exceed 29% of your monthly earnings

What is the direct loan program?

The USDA really offers multiple urban development loans. The guarantee program, for which most single families utilize, and the direct loan program. Direct loans are designed for families who have the greatest need. You can also find out if you’re eligible for a direct loan by filling out the questionnaire on their website.







Posted by Ari Koufos on 12/11/2018

As a homebuyer, it is important to set high expectations. At the same time, a homebuyer must act reasonably, or he or she risks missing out on a golden opportunity to acquire the perfect residence.

Ultimately, becoming a reasonable homebuyer can be quick and easy – here are three tips to help you do just that.

1. Establish Realistic Expectations for the Homebuying Journey

The homebuying journey sometimes can take weeks or months to complete, and a homebuyer should plan accordingly. By doing so, a homebuyer can prepare for any potential homebuying pitfalls.

For example, a homebuyer may submit an offer on a home and receive a "Yes" from a home seller. But if a home inspector discovers myriad problems with a residence, a homebuyer may need to walk away from the house and restart the homebuying journey.

In the aforementioned scenario, a homebuyer may become frustrated and annoyed, and for good reason. Conversely, if a homebuyer understands the challenges associated with buying a house, he or she can plan for the best- and worst-case scenarios.

2. Search for Homes That Fall Within Your Price Range

Have you established a budget for your home search? If not, you may wind up focusing on houses that you won't be able to afford.

Get pre-approved for a home loan – you'll be glad you did. With a home loan in hand, you can enter the real estate market with a homebuying budget. Then, you'll be able to narrow your home search to houses that fall within your price range, thereby speeding up your search for the ideal residence.

It won't take long to get pre-approved for a home loan, either. In fact, if you meet with local banks and credit unions, you can instantly learn about a variety of home loan options.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

Although you know that you want to buy a house, you have no idea what to expect during the homebuying journey. Fortunately, if you hire a real estate agent, you can learn what it takes to stay calm, cool and collected as you search for a house.

A real estate agent is a housing market expert who takes pride in his or her work. As such, a real estate agent will be available to respond to your homebuying concerns and questions, ensuring that you can make an informed home purchase.

Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent will go above and beyond the call of duty to eliminate homebuying hurdles.

For instance, a real estate agent is happy to negotiate with a seller's agent on your behalf, guaranteeing that you can avoid the stress of negotiating a home price. Or, if you need help finding a qualified home inspector, real estate attorney or other local professionals, your real estate agent can provide honest, unbiased recommendations.

Be reasonable as you kick off your search for your dream residence. That way, you can seamlessly navigate the homebuying journey and improve your chances of acquiring a house that matches or exceeds your expectations.




Categories: Buying a Home   buying tips  


Posted by Ari Koufos on 11/13/2018

The kitchen is one of the busiest rooms in a home. Not just a place to cook meals it’s also often the entrance to a home and where families gather together at the end of the day. Arguably, it’s also the most important room in the home and the one home buyers should be most astute of.

The kitchen is one of the most expensive rooms to remodel ranging between $20,000 and $50,000. Whether you’re eager for some renovation projects or looking for a move-in ready home, you’ll want to assess the level of work this room will need as your shop potential houses.

Start with perhaps the most obvious - is the room large enough for your daily needs? Is there plenty of counter space or room to expand cabinetry? Do you have a lot of kitchen tools that call for plenty of storage space or perhaps prefer an island to prep dinner at? Know what your ideal kitchen space ahead of time, especially if it is a priority, so your realtor can help you find the perfect fit.

Check that all appliances to ensure they are in working order as per the disclosure statement claims. Appliances are a big expense and you’ll want to have a good idea of what will need replacing or to be installed. Consider if they are an easy color to match when it comes time for replacement and if any are under warranty.

You’ll also want to examine the cabinetry. Check to ensure all drawers and cabinets are properly aligned and open smoothly. If they are wooden cabinets you can easily swap out hardware or change the color if you’re not a fan of the current style. However, other materials are not as convenient so consider replacement costs if you’re unhappy with the current installation.

Countertops can be another major expense. Have the granite countertops been properly taken care of? If they are laminate are they scratched or chipped? If this isn’t an upgrade you’re looking to make, be sure to look closely at what each home already has in place.

Kitchens are one of the busiest rooms in your home, especially if you love to cook. Check flooring for loose tiles, discoloration or poorly maintained wood flooring. This tells you a few things. Firstly, the quality of the materials used to build the home. And secondly, how well the house has been maintained over time.

Remodeling isn’t on everyone's list when house shopping. And with kitchen’s being one of the most expensive to renovate, this is one room you want to pay extra attention to as you view each potential home. Happy house hunting!





Posted by Ari Koufos on 10/9/2018

If you plan to buy a house, it helps to take an honest approach to the homebuying journey. In fact, there are many reasons to remain open and honest throughout the homebuying journey, including:

1. You can set realistic expectations for the homebuying cycle.

If you're honest with yourself, you can determine exactly how much that you can spend on a residence. Then, you can tailor your home search accordingly.

Furthermore, an honest approach is ideal to ensure you can maintain realistic expectations as you pursue houses. No house is perfect, but an honest homebuyer will realize this before he or she embarks on a home search. As a result, this homebuyer may be better equipped than others to discover a terrific house that matches his or her expectations.

2. You can resist the temptation to spend beyond your means.

Oftentimes, it helps to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you enter the housing market. If you pursue houses with a mortgage in hand, you can establish a price range for your home search, thereby reducing the risk of spending too much on a house.

When it comes to getting a mortgage, you'll need to be honest with prospective lenders. These financial institutions will perform their due diligence to ensure you are qualified to receive a mortgage. And if you are dishonest with lenders, you are unlikely to get the mortgage you need to acquire your ideal house.

3. You can speed up the homebuying journey.

The homebuying journey may prove to be a long, drawn-out process if you're not careful. Fortunately, with an honest approach to buying a house, you can limit the risk of encountering time-consuming homebuying hurdles.

For example, if you are honest with yourself about where you want to live, you can refine your home search to particular cities or towns. This will enable you to keep track of available houses in certain areas, resulting in a fast, efficient home search.

The aforementioned list highlights some of the key reasons to be honest with yourself and others as you pursue a house. Of course, if you need extra assistance as you search for your dream home, you may want to hire a real estate agent too.

A real estate agent is a homebuying expert who will be direct and forthright with you throughout the homebuying journey. As such, a real estate agent can help you take the guesswork out of purchasing a house.

Usually, a real estate agent will meet with you and learn about your homebuying criteria. This housing market professional then can tailor a home search to help you identify your dream residence. And if you have any homebuying questions, a real estate agent can respond to these queries immediately.

Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent will provide honest, unbiased recommendations as you proceed along the homebuying journey. This housing market professional will simplify the homebuying process, ensuring you can acquire a top-notch house that you can enjoy for years to come.




Categories: Buying a Home   buying tips