These four buyers beat the odds of getting a home. Here’s her #1 advice
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2022 will be another tough year for home buying. But with the right information and advice, the dream is still within reach.
“You want to go in with your eyes wide open,” says Farnoosh Torabi, editor-in-chief of CNET Money and host of the award-winning podcast So Money. “This isn’t buying a sweater that’s on sale at Target,” she says. “It’s going to be a really big investment.”
Low inventories and low interest rates have pushed up prices and competition, Torabi says. Therefore, you should expect the best service, care and attention from your lender.
We spoke to four buyers who managed to beat the odds and buy a home that fit their needs and budget. Here’s how they did it, plus their advice for homebuyers.
1. Get recommendations from your friends and family
First-time buyers Tessa Sliwa and her fiancé Benjamin were ready to stop renting and buy a home big enough for their growing family. But they have busy lives, and traditional lenders have consistently required face-to-face meetings and long phone calls to approve a mortgage for them, the couple says.
A personal recommendation led her to Better Mortgage. “We had several friends who bought houses around the same time and said really good things about Better,” says Sliwa.
Better Mortgage made the whole process easy to understand right from the start, says Sliwa, especially thanks to the checklist they provided to guide them through each step. And while the online application process got things moving quickly, the couple say they never felt rushed or pressured. Sliwa said she was also impressed by the better price guarantee, which matches all competitors’ credit estimates.
Busy homebuyers should value efficiency, the couple say. We have the technology for automated approval processes that can be done entirely online, so why bother with fax machines or snail mail?
2. Be clear about your goals
After Teresa Hanni and her husband lost their home to wildfire, they had nowhere to go — and loads of insurance paperwork to do. Luckily, Hanni owned another house, but it was rented out to a tenant and the mortgage payments were starting to feel too expensive.
Crammed into a tiny rented trailer, Hanni and her husband had to align themselves with targets. For them, that meant fast refinancing with good customer service. The couple contacted various lending companies to find a better deal on Hanni’s original mortgage and soon narrowed down a list of three companies they felt could help them.
The couple ultimately chose Better Mortgage because it offered a fast and efficient service – and given their extreme circumstances, working quickly was a top priority.
The bank that Hanni was already using for her checking and savings accounts couldn’t provide the couple with the efficient service they needed: “It took them five weeks to call me back,” says Hanni. “That’s not customer service, and I certainly didn’t have to do that with Better Mortgage.”
When you know, you know – and you rarely have time to wait. Better Mortgage can pre-approve borrowers in minutes and charges no processing fees. The online lender also offers additional incentives to use Better Real Estate and Better Mortgage, as well as a completion guarantee of $2,000 if Better Mortgage does not complete the loan on time.
3. Plan ahead and create a home buying budget
Life is known to have surprises in store, and Dr. Taisha Johnson witnessed this firsthand after witnessing the simultaneous death of her father and the end of her marriage in the summer of 2019.
Amid the loss and grief, Dr. Johnson make a long-term plan. She left her five-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot home and moved into a 1,100-square-foot apartment with her three children.
dr Johnson, a school psychologist and associate professor, has made it his goal to use time in the apartment as an opportunity to get ahead financially. The plan was to improve her credit rating, save money, and buy a permanent home that she and her children could move into once they came out on the other side of their difficult transition.
“Me and the kids just kept an eye on the price,” says Johnson. After a period of saving, research, and budgeting, Johnson was ready to start working with lenders. Traditional lenders saw problems with their medical school student debt, which came as a surprise. Her student loans hadn’t been a problem in the past. Despite this, Johnson decided to improve her credit rating.
4. Choose an online lender
Fred Miller, a 79-year-old Michigan native, had been looking forward to spending more time with his wife, 35, at his home in suburban Detroit. But just as the global COVID-19 pandemic began and stay-at-home orders were being issued, Miller’s wife died.
“I miss her,” says Miller. “She was quite a lady.”
With new plans for what his ideal retirement home would look like, Miller stumbled upon the perfect spot while surfing the internet with his daughter. The house was the smallest house in a good neighborhood, perfect for a single retiree.
There was only one question: could Miller finance a house at his age? What would happen if he asked a traditional lender for a 30-year mortgage?
But Miller’s family informed him that he could take an alternative route and enter all of his necessary personal information on the Better.com website.
Miller quickly received pre-approval for a $300,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a competitive rate through Better Mortgage after verifying his financial accounts, work history and credit report on Better.com’s online application portal.
“It was really a simple process,” Miller said.
In just 30 days, Miller closed a $400,000 home. Better Mortgage also helped set up its homeowners insurance through Better Cover, the company’s affiliated homeowners insurance business. The process was “quick and efficient,” Miller said.
“We did everything you would normally do when you get a mortgage anywhere, and we did everything online,” Miller said.
Buying a home is a big commitment, and it makes a world of difference when you feel like you’re working with a lender who understands your circumstances and is part of your team.
“If there’s one thing that stays the same, no matter how much change we’re seeing in the market right now, it’s that for most people, buying a home is the biggest financial decision of their lives,” says Torabi.
Buyers should never feel rushed into the process or that they haven’t had all their questions answered. Don’t rush things, don’t give in to fear, and don’t take extreme measures like skipping inspections or major contingencies, advises Torabi.
And if you have questions, need advice, or just want to discuss your options, choose a lender that allows you to learn from their expertise.
“Don’t try to change your personality, your temperament, your well-being because that’s what the market dictates right now,” says Torabi.