Know when it's time to buy or bail on your home

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) Whether you're looking to rent an apartment, or are ready to take the plunge and buy a home, there are some great deals to be had.

But, before you sign anything, whether you're buying or renting, once you sign that lease or mortgage, you are liable no matter what.

So, experts say you need to do your homework first.

Carefully scope-out the neighborhoods adjacent to where you're looking and quiz people who already live there and get all the information you can.

Purchase price is the single biggest factor in someone choosing to buy or not. Right now, interest rates are historically low, hovering around five percent.

"Our inventory is still very high, so you're going to see prices falling, so right now, if somebody's going to get into home ownership, it's a fantastic time to do it," said realtor Libby Hunter.

Twenty percent used to be the standard down payment, but not any more.

"FHA loans are three and a half percent down. I'd say the large majority of our business, probably over 80 percent right now, are FHA buyers," said Hunter.

Hunter says there are good loans out there to be had and credit scores even in the high 600s will work.

The foreclosure market has also been a game-changer.

"Realtors as of January, determined 40 percent of homes currently on the market were bank-involved so either after foreclosure, or pre-foreclosure, so we're seeing it everywhere and it does de-value properties," said Hunter

Upscale addresses are doing very well. But as a homeowner, you will still have to juggle a mortgage payment, renovation costs, maintenance costs, property taxes and homeowner's insurance.

"I do a lot of work in urban neighborhoods, and walkability is a huge factor for our buyers now," said Hunter.

You also have to hold onto your home longer to see a return on your investment.

"Five years is going to be a safer bet probably, with the market being down and we don't know yet if we're quite out of the bottom of the trough," said Hunter.

Whether it's buying or renting, everyone is looking for a deal.

"They usually ask if there are any specials you're offering," said Corey Paytes with Fourth and Plum Lofts.

Initial costs are the rent plus your security deposit.

"$300 for the deposit and $35 usually for an application fee, which we will waive those from time to time, depending on what kind of special we are running," said Paytes.

And most places will require renter's insurance.

Paytes said it's a renter's market right now. A normally slow winter was busy.

Property manager Alene Annan sees a lot of people coming back for convenience and with rising gas prices, being closer to downtown is definitely a plus.

"It has a lot to offer, a lot of restaurants, a lot of shopping, it's just a real vibrant area to live in," she said. "We have many residents who walk to work, they park their car and sometimes they use it once a week, sometimes, not even that much."

Some apartment buildings even offer a pool, which is great because if you're renting, you don't have to pay for the upkeep of something like this if you're a homeowner.

"I will tell you, it is an attraction and it will be crowded on the weekends, there's a lot of good, pool-friendly people up there," said Annan.

You also don't pay taxes on rent like you do with a mortgage.

"We have people here who sold their houses years ago and they just got tired of all the upkeep," said Annan.

If you are going to rent, be sure to never rent an apartment unseen and it's also a red flag if the deposit is more than one month's rent.

Buyers should know, "Particularly the neighborhood's health, you want to work with your realtor to understand sales and the values," said Hunter. "Property values are down right now, everywhere, but you want to make sure you're not in a particularly hard hit neighborhood, so you can realize a little bit better increase in value over the coming years."

Related Stories:

  Pay your 30-year mortgage off early and live a debt free life before you're too old to enjoy it! Here are a few popular strategies that homeowners use for paying down their mortgage early.
Are a few easy mistakes standing between you and a quick, easy, and financially rewarding home selling experience?

Copyright 2011 WMBF News. All rights reserved.