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Ask Annie about Real Estate Where can I buy my first home affordably?
by Annie Christian
Sep 02, 2011 | 1145 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s Christmas come early for first-time homebuyers in this buyer’s market. Low interest rates, a wide selection of available homes and a variety of assistance programs can make the dream of being a homeowner a reality.

But where should the first-time homebuyer start when it comes to scoping out the most affordable homes in our area?

Q: How many three bedroom homes in Sparks are under $150,000 and 10 years old or younger?

A: Eighty-eight homes, usually in newer subdivisions with access to schools and shopping.

Q: How many of these homes have monthly association dues?

A: More than 80 percent of these newer homes require a monthly association due. The association maintains the common areas, mailboxes, some landscaping and snow removal. Their policies keep the community looking great and prevent home values from going down over time. To avoid paying these monthly dues, look at older homes.

Q: Can I get into these homes without any down payment?

A: Yes. There are many down payment assistance programs available in the form of a small second loan. Local loan officers can qualify you for these programs and provide specifics. My column on Aug. 26 provided general guidelines for several such programs.

Q: Where can I find a home on a larger lot?

A: Spanish Springs features newer homes on one-third of an acre of land or more. Homes in Spanish Springs on one acre or more are zoned for horses. Lemmon Valley and Golden Valley both have homes on a minimum of one acre and are zoned for horses; these homes might be on septic and propane systems. Palomino Valley offers homes on 40- to 80-acre lots, with most on septic and propane heating.

Q: Where are the homes priced $100,000 or lower?

A: There are 38 homes in Sun Valley and Stead with three bedrooms and just under 10 years old. More than 80 percent of them require monthly association dues to maintain the common areas and some landscaping, making Sun Valley and Stead very affordable for first-time homebuyers.

Q: I prefer to buy a three-bedroom home closer to town in Sparks. How much do the older homes here cost?

A: There are 51 three-bedroom Sparks homes listed on MLS for less than $100,000. Some of these homes are not in the greatest shape, which can complicate your home purchases. For instance, most banks cannot mortgage a home with a damaged roof, broken windows, out-of-order plumbing or a missing kitchen or bathroom.

Q: If I want to get into a home by Christmas, should I avoid short sale homes?

A: Yes. Sixty-five percent of the current market is short sales, but purchasing one can be a much longer process. Look for a home that is both affordable and in decent condition in an area you prefer.

Q: There are more than 7,000 homes listed on MLS in Reno/Sparks. Why can’t I make a low offer and get the house?

A: Many buyers think they are doing the banks a favor by taking the property off their hands but that’s not always how the banks see it. As a short sale specialist, I regularly interface with banks in these transactions, and believe me they have short sale completion down to a science.

Here’s how the short sale process typically unfolds: Realtors list the property at fair market value. Offers reflecting the fair market value are accepted by the homeowners and are submitted to the bank.

The bank will then appraise the property before responding to the offer. Usually, the bank that services the loan on a particular property does not own the loan. The true owner of a home loan, called the silent investor, can be Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or even another bank. Banks are not the decision makers for short sale homes. The investor ultimately responds to an offer and provides final approval for the buyer to complete the short sale purchase.

Q: Where are the best deals in Reno/Sparks?

A: It is where you are willing to call home. Buyers who are willing to pay more to suit their lifestyles buy a newer home with less maintenance in the newer subdivisions. Buyers on a limited budget often settle for an older home that better fits their pocketbook.

Wherever your house might be, it is a legal steal in this buyer’s market. Start by consulting with a loan officer to learn how much house you can afford. Then your house shopping will be easy and fun. Happy house hunting.

Annie Christian is a real estate broker and owner of The Annie Christian Real Estate Group. She helps with everything from buying and selling to foreclosure and short sale. To submit a question, call 351-5117. Her website is
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