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Are you still waiting for the government?
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During the first quarter of 2009, the first 100 days of the new President’s term, you are no doubt going to hear a lot of news stories about the economic stimulus plan and the financial rescue package and their possible ramifications to the real estate and mortgage markets.

You’re going to see headlines about new incentives for home buyers and hear stories about 4% interest rates. But the truth is that right now, at the time of the writing of this article, the government already has in place one of the largest tax incentives for qualifying home buyers it has ever offered - up to an $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers, and mortgage rates are within a half a point of being the lowest they’ve been in our country’s history.

The truth is that, while all of this is great news for those looking to buy or refinance a home in 2009, none of it matters if you can’t qualify for financing. None of it matters if you sit on the fence and watch the great opportunity of homeownership pass you by.

Make sure your financial house is in order
If the idea of buying or refinancing a home in 2009 has even crossed your mind, give lender a call. They’ll review your financial situation and see what makes sense for your individual goals.

Remember, because of increased delinquencies and today’s tougher economy, lenders have tightened standards for both new purchases and refis. And while mortgage financing is certainly available and affordable to everyone who qualifies, you’re going to need a solid credit score, you’ll need to be able to document your income, and, if you’re purchasing a new home without a special government program from the VA or USDA, you’re likely going to need a down payment as well – at least 3.5% for an FHA loan. And there’s no stimulus bill or bail-out plan that is going to change this. So, if you’re looking to purchase a new home in 2009, take the time to locate the following items:

• Your W-2s and tax returns for the last two years;

• Your last three months of bank statements; and

• Pay-stubs for the most recent 30 days.

If you haven’t checked your credit in awhile, now is the time to do so. A lot could have changed since the last time you checked it, good or bad, and you don’t want any surprises that might alter your plans. Loan officers will gladly review your credit for you and see if there is anything that needs to be addressed, but don’t wait. It would be a shame to miss out on a great opportunity simply because you didn’t check your credit report.

For homeowners with enough equity to refinance, now may be the time to lock in a low rate. Sure rates could go lower, even to the 4% level you’ve heard about in the news. But rates could just as easily start to rise again, and home values could drop even lower, making it difficult for your house to appraise. In the financial and credit markets, there are no guarantees, and there’s nothing in the stimulus bill or bail-out plan to address mortgage rates. Why lose money waiting around for an opportunity to save a little bit more each month in the future when you can have significant savings every month right now?

Let a lender review your mortgage and see if you can benefit. The worst thing that could happen is you find out that you already have the best mortgage and interest rate possible.