Signing a Buyer/Broker Agreement ties you to that specific Broker- regardless. In essence, you are committing to that agent's broker (the "selling" agency) that they'll get paid regardless of who shows you the home, no matter who, how, or when. If you've signed one, you either need to cancel or commit to letting that agent/broker do their job and find your new home.
When it comes to mortgages, remember this- You have a lifestyle (clothes, date nights, movies, clubbing, whatever). You should consider how much your lifestyle is paid from your income and then budget for your home, and maintain your lifestyle (or way of living). A really good REALTOR will always consider your lifestyle into the equation...we want you living a good life and being a homeowner- not working your bottom off to be a homeowner...Find a good, honest REALTOR who will work hard to protect you from the pitfalls of home buying- it can be daunting. Also, learn as much as possible about mortgages, invest the time in it because the most perplexing part about buying a home is in the details- and mortgages are all about the details. Sometimes you'll think; "Why do they need to know that?". The answer is because it is in the rules of lending, always has been, hasn't really changed all that much- lenders were allowed to get a little less diligent before 2007.
PS- You're going to need 3.5% (roughly) of the purchase price to pay for expenses. On a home that goes for $100,000 that's $3500, plus the appraisal and home inspection (the last 2 are not in the percentage quoted) but your EMD does. Many agents say to get the seller to contribute $$ helping you cut costs, but don't count on the seller agreeing. Right now, its considered to be a "seller's market" (low inventory drives up sales prices- part of supply and demand). A "buyer's market" is when there are many homes for sale and not enough buyers (high inventory can drive prices down- again, supply and demand).
Remember, its real estate- anything can happen (and it usually does!)
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I would recommend getting pre-qualified first. Reason being that you want to know what you qualify for and that you are comfortable with the terms (payment, interest rate, etc.). Once you have your pre-qualification you can do your research as to what agent you want to work with. Make sure you ask questions of the loan officer as to financing types offered and what is the process for switching loan types. For example, switching between an FHA 203b and 203k or conventional product. The more products a loan officer has to offer, the better chance you have to finding the home you want at the best terms.
I hope that helps. Good luck, and let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Secondly, I would be cautious about signing a buyer-broker agreement unless you are absolutely sure of the agent. Although many fine agents use these agreements, there are still plenty who do not use them...
My feeling is that it's hard to sign up for 'going steady' unless you've had a few good dates first!!
I've written a best selling book called Buying a Home: Don't Let Them Make a Monkey Out of You. It'll teach you how to buy a home and get a mortgage without getting ripped off. Follow the link below.
Best of luck!
If you figure out what cities/zip codes your considering, minimum number of bedrooms and the maximum payment/price your looking to achieve you can be set up to receive automatic daily emails to fit your search criteria. It only takes a few dozen questions to qualify, go over your options and email you listings to study and compare.
Here are some blogs to study such as Zero Down Payment programs, Which loan is right for me, Down payment and closing costs hurdles and Pre-approval in minutes.
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I also highly recommend that you have a discussion with your tax guy regarding what impact a home purchase will have on your tax situation. Neither a broker nor a mortgage lender are qualified to advise you on tax and personal financial planning.