Q & A with Dottie Herman

Q & A with Dottie Herman

» Featured Columnists | By Dottie Herman | April 27, 2012 8:30 AM ET

Q1 - My friend applied for a mortgage and the bank told her she didn't have to do an appraisal.  I applied for a mortgage with the same bank and they told me I had to pay $370 for an appraisal.  Why do I need an appraisal?

A - A real estate appraisal is used to help lenders, buyers and sellers of property come to an understanding of how much a home is worth, or its market value. An appraiser will visually inspect the home and compare it to similar homes in the area that have sold. He or she will research the area and take note of issues, such as crime rate and quality of schools, access to highways, and availability of public areas. You can't change which neighborhood your home is located in or how well it was constructed.

Q2 - My husband and I really like a house that we saw at an open house and were told that we should spend approximately $500 to have the house inspected.  Is a home inspection really necessary?

A - In most cases a traditional home inspection is optional. Yet, the wise homebuyer has one, and I'll tell you why. An unbiased, expert examination of the property is invaluable. Your home inspector not only has the expertise to identify major defects, but he or she is probably the only person in your entire transaction who has absolutely nothing to gain by whether you purchase the property or not.

Q3 - My brother is an attorney and said he could represent me during my home buying process.  Should I hire a real estate attorney?  What should I ask my real estate attorney before I hire him?

A - It is a good idea to have an expert in real estate handle these complex transactions.  If your brother doesn't practice real estate law, you may want to hire someone who practices real estate regularly.  Some questions you may want to ask a real estate attorney are:

  • How long have you been practicing?
  • What portion of your practice is dedicated to real estate?
  • Will you be at my closing?
  • Who else will be handling my file?
  • How will you bill me?
  • What are the steps to this transaction and how will they be handled?
  • What are some of the issues I should be concerned about?

Q4 - My husband is a veteran and we were told he could get VA loan.  How is a VA loan different from a conventional loan?  We may need a co-signer to purchase our first home.  Can we add my father to the loan?

A - VA loans are guaranteed by the Veterans Administration and some allow for no money down and easier qualification most of the time, and usually no mortgage insurance.  VA guidelines will only allow a spouse to be a co-signer.  You can obtain a conventional loan and add a co-signer.

If you have a real estate question for Dottie, please send it to;

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