Tony Lee - Realtor - Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. Fairfax VA, Arlington VA,Woodbridge VA


Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or someone who has previously owned a home at some point in their life, you most likely know how expensive buying a house can be.

Fortunately, there are many organizations who would agree and who seek to help qualified buyers. There are a number of programs available at the state, local, and federal level designed to help certain buyers purchase a home.

There are also a number of myths around these programs, such as what the term “first-time homebuyer” really means.

In this article, we’ll talk about some of the programs you can look into to get help paying for a home.

Who Qualifies as a First-Time homebuyer?

Contrary to what it sounds like, you can still qualify as a first-time homebuyer if you’ve owned a home in the past. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has been helping people achieve their goal of homeownership since the 1930s. The FHA connects first-time homebuyers with lenders if the buyer meets certain criteria. Those criteria are:

  • Someone who hasn’t owned a home in the time previous three years. This includes spouses.

  • A single parent who previously owned a home with a former spouse, or a “displaced homemaker” who has only owned a home a former spouse.

  • People who have only owned homes that didn’t meet building code or a residence not fixed to a foundation.

The way the FHA helps buyers secure an affordable home loan is by insuring the mortgage. This makes it safer for lenders to approve you for a better rate for your home loan.

Veteran, Rural, and Native American Loan Programs

Aside from FHA loans, you might also qualify for a VA loan, a USDA program, or the Section 184 Indian Home Loan program.

VA loans from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs help veterans secure low-interest loans with affordable down payments. They will also help repeat veteran home buyers who have had financial difficulties in the past such as foreclosure and bankruptcy.

The Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program works similarly to an FHA loan in that the federal government insures the loan so that the buyer can receive a better rate and lower down payment.

This program is designed for American Indian and Alaska Native families. However, not every state is eligible for the loan.

The United States Department of Agriculture is another federal department that offers mortgage assistance. You don’t need to be a farmer or have agricultural aspirations to be approved for a USDA loan. Rather, these loans are designed to help develop rural areas by offering loans with no down payments.

State, Local, and Private Programs

Each state in the United States offers various buyer’s assistance and incentive programs. Be on the lookout for programs specific to your area to find low-interest rates and affordable down payments.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other companies work with lenders to create affordable lending programs throughout the country. Remember to shop carefully when dealing with private lenders and look out for hidden costs.


For many people, Florida is the ideal place to own a vacation home. With warm weather year-round and endless waterfront areas to choose from, there are a number of ways to score the perfect second home in the Sunshine State.

Furthermore, with the cost of real estate rising, owning a home in Florida could become an excellent investment and asset down the road. So, how do you get started with buying a Florida vacation home? Read on to find out.

1. Tour the state

A good way to get to know the diverse locations in the large state of Florida is to plan a vacation (or two) during which you travel some of the areas you’re considering.

Many people who buy vacation properties in Florida buy in the area that they’ve grown to love. And while that’s an excellent way to ensure you’ll love your home, you might be missing out on areas that you like even more.

3. What are you really looking for in a home?

Having priorities when home shopping is important, even if it’s your second home. If your top priority is to have a solid investment, then you might be okay if the house isn’t near your favorite golf course or restaurant.

However, if your home is all about having a place to relax, you might choose amenities over resale value.

2. Have a plan if you want to rent your home

Many people buy second homes in Florida as a way to earn income while they aren’t using the property. However, renting out a home comes with considerable responsibility. As a property manager, you’ll need to maintain the property and be available when something goes awry. Those expenses can add up easily.

Similarly, some communities have rules around renting out your property, so ensure you’re allowed to rent your property before closing on the house.

3. Don’t rush your purchase

You already have your own home, so you don’t need to worry about having a roof over your head. Wait it out and make sure you find the best home for the best price.

4. Learn the market

Home prices in Florida can vary drastically depending on location. Median prices in Miami Beach are around $500,000, whereas Sarasota prices hover around $270,000 or nearly half the cost.

5. Consider buying with others

If you want to buy a second home in Florida but are turned off by the prices, sharing the property could be a good alternative. However, just like renting an apartment with friends, difficulties can arise.

To avoid conflict or financial headaches, make sure you have an agreed upon plan for situations that might come up, such as:

  • Determining who gets the house during which weeks out of the year

  • Deciding how the costs will be split

  • Decide what will happen if someone wants out of the contract

6. Use an experienced agent

When you’re buying a house in an area you’re not familiar with, and where you can’t be at all times, it pays to have boots on the ground who you can trust. A real estate agent will be able to ensure things go smoothly for you so that your house is ready when you arrive to seal the deal. 


Shopping for a home is an exciting time for any hopeful homeowner. After weeks of scouring listings looking for the perfect home in the ideal location for you and your family, it can seem like you’ve found the needle in the haystack.

When it’s time to go visit that home, it’s easy to put on rose-colored lenses and overlook issues that should, at the very least, be taken into consideration when it comes to deciding whether or not you should make a bid on the home and how much you should offer.

Today’s post is all about preparing you for that first viewing. We’ll give you tips on what to look out for and how to factor these things into your equation when it comes to making an offer.

Check the listing for omissions

Even if a home looks perfect on paper (or on its website listing), it’s still quite likely that there are things you’ll want to know about before considering an offer. A home listing should attempt to address several questions you might have. But ultimately, it’s main goal is to attract interest in the home.

So, what type of things should be in the listing that the seller might leave out?

  • Poor street conditions, heavy traffic, and blind driveways are all things that will factor into your decision but most likely won’t be mentioned in a listing

  • Odors of any kind can be off-putting and difficult to remove. Some homeowners may not even know that their home has an offensive odor if they’ve become used to it.

  • Room omissions. If the home is listed as having two bathrooms but there are only photos of one, this could be a sign that there are problems with the second bathroom that the seller doesn’t want you to see quite yet.

Top dollar home repairs

A professional home inspection will be able to give you an idea of the kind of money you’ll need to spend on renovations in the coming years. But why wait? When touring a home, ask questions about the last time important renovations and repairs were made.

Roofs, septic systems, and electrical work are just a few of the things that are expensive to repair or replace. If the previous homeowner has a small family or lives alone and you plan on moving in with a houseful of kids, you might find that your impact on the septic and electrical systems of the home are too much for the house to handle. You’ll want to take this into account before considering a bid on the home.

Utility costs

The cost of heating a home in the winter and keeping it cool in the summer can be hefty if the home isn’t properly sealed and weatherproofed. Ask the current homeowner what they spend per month on utilities to get an idea of what you might be spending.

Then, take a look at the windows and doors. Cracks, malfunctioning locks, and worn weatherstripping are all signs that the home will need some work to be energy-efficient.

Don’t ignore the little things

Small fixes may not seem like a big deal when viewing a home. They can even deceive you into thinking that you’re getting a good deal by buying a fixer-upper for a price that’s lower than the market average.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that small fixes around the house are a sign that bigger problems are also being neglected. Don’t be too quick to assume the house will be a good deal before getting it professionally inspected.


Keeping up with household chores and maintenance is difficult, especially when juggling them along with a full-time job or childcare. Luckily help is likely sitting right in your pocket or pocketbook.

Smartphone apps for organization and productivity have come a long way in a few short years. With features like scheduled reminders, syncing between devices, and sharing with family and friends, it has never been easier to use your phone to help you keep up with household tasks.

There is one problem, however--there are hundreds of apps to choose from.

How can you find the right app in the App Store (or Google Play for Android users) without wasting hours downloading and trying out each one?

We’ve done the legwork for you. In today’s article we’re going to cover the best productivity apps to help you out around the house with things like cleaning, maintenance, and everyday tasks.

1. Wunderlist

Wunderlist is a productivity app that lets you create, share, and sync between multiple devices. It’s good for people who bounce around between using their phone, iPad, or laptop, or even smart watches.

In Wunderlist you’re able to create deadlines and automatic reminders. This is great for remember things like bringing the garbage bin out, or cleaning tasks that you only do once a month or so, like cleaning windows.

Another great feature that Wunderlist uses are subtasks. Say you want to clean the bathroom on Tuesday. To make sure you remember everything, you can add subtasks for things like “clean the bathtub,” “scrub the toilet,” “mop the floor,” etc.

2. Chorma

Chorma is a great app to motivate everyone in the family involved in household maintenance. It lets you create rewards for each user. As users perform chores and check them off, they’ll earn points. Once they get a certain number of points, you’ll be notified and they can earn their reward.

Things like a new book or video game, or a trip out for ice cream are all great motivators for getting kids to complete chores.

3. Todoist

Todoist is much like Wunderlist in that it allows you to create, manage, sync and share tasks. However, it goes a step further when it comes to creating teams. If you live in a big household and want to split up chores, creating teams could prove to be helpful.

Todoist also incorporates a simplistic and elegant interface that is easy to navigate. Plus, at the end of the day you get to see how many tasks you completed.

4. Hours

Hours is first and foremost a time tracking app. If you’re the type of person who needs to constantly know where their time is going, Hours is the best app for you. Once you start a task, simply press the clock button and you’ll begin tracking time. This is a great app for people who work from home or anyone trying to control how much time they spend on each task.

A great feature incorporated within Hours are the detailed reports. They’ll tell you how much time you spend on each task in the form of simple charts and graphs. If you have a maintenance or home improvement project that you’re working on and want to spend at least an hour each evening, Hours will let you know if you’re meeting your goal.


What should you expect after you make an offer on a residence? There are several steps that will take place between the time you submit an offer on a house to the date you finalize a purchase agreement, including:

1. Acceptance or Rejection of Your Initial Proposal

A home seller will have a short period of time to accept or reject your initial offer.

If a home seller accepts your proposal, you'll be able to move forward in the homebuying process. Conversely, if he or she rejects your offer, you may be forced to restart your home search.

On the other hand, a home seller may counter your offer as well. In this scenario, you likely will be given a set amount of time to accept or reject the counter-proposal. Or, you may be able to further negotiate with a home seller in the hopes of finding common ground.

The time between when you submit an offer on a home and receive a home seller's response to your proposal can be stressful. Fortunately, working with an experienced real estate agent ensures that you'll be able to stay up to date. This real estate professional will even help you put together a competitive offer on any home, ensuring that you can boost your chances of getting an instant "Yes" from a home seller.

2. Completion of a Home Inspection

Although a home seller has accepted your initial proposal, you'll still want to conduct a thorough home inspection to identify any major property issues.

For example, if a house has a faulty roof or defective hot water heater, an expert home inspector will be able to uncover such problems immediately. That way, you can learn about issues that may impact the long-term value of a home as part of an inspection.

If you find out about major issues with a home during a property inspection, you can rescind your initial offer and walk away from a house. Comparatively, if you still want to buy a home in spite of problems that were discover during an inspection, you can ask the home seller to complete home repairs or upgrades. You also may want to consider asking for a price reduction if major home repairs or upgrades are needed.

Ultimately, a home inspection will help you make an informed homebuying decision. After a home inspection, the ball is in your court, and you can choose to move forward with the purchase of a home, revise your initial offer or remove your proposal altogether.

3. Relocation to Your New Address

The final step of the home selling process involves closing on a home and relocating to your new address. At this point, all you'll need to do is pack up your belongings from your current location and move them to your new home.

Purchasing a home may seem impossible at times, but the homebuying process often gets easier as it progresses. Plus, homebuyers who collaborate with an experienced real estate agent can receive plenty of support as they navigate each stage of the homebuying journey.




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