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5 Essential Tips for First-Time Homebuyers in Fort Lauderdale 

5 Essential Tips for First Time Homebuyers in Fort Lauderdale Alex Doce The Doce Group

5 Essential Tips for First-Time Homebuyers in Fort Lauderdale 

The Florida housing market can be tough, and it’s not getting any easier.

Nevertheless, it’s more than possible to become a homeowner in Fort Lauderdale. You just need to know what to expect and be prepared.

1) Get Your Financial and Mental House in Order

You’re competing against investors who can buy any home they like for cash. This means you need to be primed to move quickly when you find the house you want.

Start by reviewing your credit history and saving as much money as possible. Even if you take advantage of 0% down payment programs like a USDA loan or an FHA loan, having more money on hand will reduce stress and open up options.

Second, be aware of what you can afford. Your mortgage loan monthly payment should be no more than 40% of your total income. And while your mortgage payment may be less than your rent, other expenses, such as homeowner’s insurance, lawn care, higher cooling costs, and maintenance costs, can eat into those savings. Be realistic and set a budget before you talk to real estate and mortgage professionals. On the positive side, interest on the loan, up to $10,000 in real estate taxes and PMI are generally tax deductible. This represents an about $1500/month savings on a $500,000 loan. Please consult your tax advisor.

Finally, once you’ve set your budget, it’s time to get a pre-approval letter. Note this isn’t the same as a pre-qualification letter. Pre-approval means your mortgage loan is ready to close as soon as you find the right house. Pre-qualified means an algorithm has taken a cursory look at your credit and has made a guess as to what kind of mortgage might be suitable. They’re two totally different things.

2) Watch Your Weather Risks

Most people in Fort Lauderdale live close to a Special Flood Hazard Area. Use FEMA’s flood map tool. While it may be difficult to find a Fort Lauderdale home outside of the flood zone, it’s still wise to know where your proposed home stands so you can plan accordingly.

There’s no escaping potentially severe weather in Fort Lauderdale, but knowing your risks can be helpful. You should also be aware of your risk tolerance, as well as your resources to rebuild after a natural disaster. Be prepared for higher flood insurance rates, and remember that flood insurance must be purchased separately from homeowner’s insurance.

3) Consider Neighborhoods

Every neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale has a unique character, and different neighborhoods will cater to different needs.

For example, families with children may want to consider homes in Dolphin Isles, Bermuda Riviera, Coral Ridge, Galt Mile, Galt Mile North, Sunrise Intracoastal, Central Beach, or Harbor Beach. All of these neighborhoods are known for their excellent school systems.

By contrast, if you want a walkable community in a historic district where you can soak in the art scene, you might want to look at Colee Hammock instead. If the outdoor lifestyle and access to transportation are more important, then you should shop for homes in Victoria Park.

Doing your research here is important. There’s more to a home than its cosmetics. A cute picture or a nice walkthrough won’t help if you find out you hate the neighborhood.

4) Know How to Evaluate an Individual Home

When you’re evaluating a home, it’s easy to get hung up on the wrong things. Falling in love with a picture window or some great interior decorating is all fine and good, but you need to look at the total picture.

  • Trees. Are there any that are too close to the house? You’ll have to pay for removal or trimming eventually or you may have to deal with the disaster if they fall through your roof.
  • The kitchen. Is it laid out well? Are the cabinets and appliances good? Kitchen repairs and upgrades can be expensive.
  • The neighbors. Do you feel like you’ll fit in with others in the neighborhood? Is it easy or difficult to strike up a conversation? Are your neighbors engaged in any activities that could lower your property values? Is there an HOA, and can you live with that?

Finally, always get an inspection. Some realtors will urge you to do without one to make you more attractive to sellers, but doing without an inspection is a good way to put yourself in for a world of regret. You don’t want to buy a home just to discover it has major foundation problems.

5) Work With a Qualified Florida Mortgage Professional

Alex Doce of The Doce Group can give you a true competitive advantage and will help place you in the best possible home loan for your circumstances. Alex has been successfully serving borrowers for over 36 years and is considered an expert in his field.

This means your home will be more affordable overall and you’ll be well-positioned to buy the right home when you find it, without running into last minute glitches that may jeopardize the sale.

Ready to get started? Contact Alex to start evaluating your options today!

Written By:

Alex Doce

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