It can be an exciting time to purchase a home for the first time. Whether you’ve got new construction or you’re getting a house with some character, it’s a time to celebrate with the people you love.
Although it is fun to reach the end of the home-buying road, you’ve got several steps to take on this journey before you get the keys. Here is what you need to know about this process.
1. Save Money Early and Often
The down payment is the most significant financial barrier that most first-time buyers experience. Although you can get a mortgage with only 3% down, you might end up paying a lot of PMI for that benefit. You’ll want to shoot for 20% – or as much as possible. Don’t forget about the closing costs and moving expenses you’ll also face.
2. Think About Affordability
It’s nice to have a move-in-ready home. How much could you potentially save if you made a few compromises or were willing to fix up some things?
As a general rule, you can think about affording a mortgage payment of the same amount as your rent. Since that means homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and other expenses get rolled into that amount, you might not get as much house as you might hope.
By setting reasonable expectations now, you can look at houses with confidence.
3. Explore Your Mortgage Options
You don’t need to settle for the first mortgage offer you get. Since this is a loan, you can ask for multiple quotes. Although each application can put a small ding in your credit score from a hard inquiry, the potential savings you could receive is worth the effort.
Depending on your circumstances, you could apply for an FHA, VA, USDA, or a conventional mortgage for your new home.
Some lenders let you purchase discount points, which are fees you pay upfront to get your overall interest rate lower. If you plan on staying in your home for a long time, this option might make sense.
4. Apply for Buyer Assistance
Since you are a first-time homebuyer, you can usually work with your city, county, and state government to take advantage of local assistance programs. Some of the benefits might include tax credits, down payment assistance, closing cost help, and a lower interest rate.
5. Get a Preapproval Letter
With many housing markets competitive, most realtors won’t start working with you seriously until you get a preapproval letter for a mortgage. This document is a lender’s offer to loan money under specific circumstances.
6. Find Your Home
It helps to weigh the pros and cons of different homes and neighborhoods. Think about your budget, lifestyle, and long-term needs. You might find a condo is more affordable than a single-family home, but you’ll also have a shared wall and potential covenants to follow.
If your budget is tight, you can often get more houses by purchasing a fixer-upper in a good neighborhood. Your square footage cost will be less, but making some repairs will increase your overall equity.
7. Pay for a Home Inspection
Once you get the home inspection report, view the pictures carefully. Read every description at least twice. If the inspector cannot get to every part of the house, you might consider walking away from the transaction.
8. Negotiate a Better Price
You can sometimes save money by asking the seller to compensate you for repairs or lower the house’s cost to cover the expense on your end. Another option could be to request that they play some of the closing costs.
Once you and the seller agree, your real estate agent, title company, and other support specialists will draw up all of the papers for you to sign. It helps to take the time to read each one carefully, even if that frustrates the people around you. People sometimes make accidental mistakes when creates these documents, but your signature validates what the item says.
After everything is complete and the title changes hands, your real estate agent will facilitate a key transfer. You’ll receive a move-in date based on your negotiations.
9. Buy Home Insurance
Lenders require you to purchase homeowner’s insurance before closing on the house. This policy covers repair and replacement costs if something happens. Most coverage options include protection for your belongings, but you’ll want to document everything you have.
As a new homeowner, you must have liability insurance for your property. Even if a stranger trespassed and got injured, you could be on the hook for their medical expenses. Having the proper protection levels can prevent costly litigation.