Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Whether you’re looking to purchase a home for the first time, or it’s been a decade or two since you’ve purchased a home, the process can be intimidating. The good news is that there are resources available to help you through it, and steps you can take to put yourself in the best position to enjoy it.

  1. Get pre-approved. Not only is it important to know where you stand financially, i.e. how much house you can afford, but more often than not, your offer on a house will not be accepted unless you’re pre-approved for a loan.
  2. Know your credit score, and consult a lender. Even if you have negative marks on your credit, a lender should be able to advise you on whether your credit history will prevent you from qualifying for a home loan, or steer you toward the specific type of loan that will work best for your situation.
  3. Secure a down payment. Requirements vary depending on the type of loan, but assistance programs exist that may loan or grant you the funds necessary for the down payment. Find out which programs are available in your area.
  4. Don’t forget about closing costs. Closing costs are charges for services related to the closing of your real estate transaction. They include, but are not limited to:
    1. Escrow fees charged by the company handling the transaction
    2. Title policy issuance fees charged by the title insurance company
    3. Mortgage insurance fees
    4. Fire and homeowners’ insurance
    5. County Recorder fees for recording your deed
    6. Loan origination fees
    7. Get an actual estimate of these costs, as well as information about loan programs which can assist in financing your closing costs
  5. Select your mortgage type. Whether you should get a fixed rate or adjustable mortgage depends on whether mortgage rates are at a high or a low point when you purchase, and on how long you plan to live in the home.
    1. If rates are high, an adjustable rate might be beneficial since subsequent rate drops could reduce your monthly payments.
    2. If rates are low, a fixed rate can protect you against the possibility of rising interest rates.
  6. Find out if you’ll need to pay mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance protects the lender from potential loss if you should default on your mortgage loan payment. Generally, conventional loans that require larger down payments do not require mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance is always required on FHA mortgage loans.
  7. Get educated. Home loan counseling and classes are available to prospective homebuyers. Topics covered may include home selection, realtor services, lenders, loan programs, homeownership responsibilities, saving for a down payment, and other important pieces of information. In some cases, homebuyers are required to attend these types of classes to be eligible for selected programs.
  8. Expect the unexpected. Take steps to prepare yourself for unforeseen expenses and circumstances.
    1. Set aside a percentage (suggested: 2%) of the purchase price to cover these costs.
    2. Hold a number of mortgage payments (suggested: 6) in the bank to cover yourself in case of emergency.
    3. Save money by doing it yourself. Depending on the results of the home inspection, you may want to purchase the house as-is and perform any necessary repairs yourself, according to your own timeline and budget.

Buying a home can be – and should be – an exciting, rewarding experience. Be prepared so that you can get the most out of it!