1. Start saving for a down payment early
It’s common to put 20% down on a home but many lenders now permit much less, and first-time homebuyer programs allow as little as 3% down. Putting down less than 20% may mean higher costs and paying for mortgage insurance. It’s important to remember that even a small down payment can still be hefty. For example, a 5% down payment on a $200,000 home is $10,000.
Play around with this down payment calculator to help you land on a goal amount. Some tips for saving for a down payment include setting aside tax refunds and work bonuses, setting up an automatic savings plan and using an app to track your progress.
2. Set a budget.
Calculate a monthly home payment that takes into account how much home you can afford, then discuss this amount with your lender. Making sure you can meet your projected future home payment is probably the most important part of successful homeownership.
3. Research mortgage programs that might be available to you.
There are a lot of programs out there that help first-time buyers get a home. You could very likely be eligible for one or more of them. There are the standard conventional mortgages available to anyone with decent credit, but there are also programs that cater to specific groups like veterans (VA Loan) and those buying in rural areas (USDA Loan). These programs can make it much easier to buy your first home by giving you more favorable interest rates, lower down payment options, and more.
A reputable real estate agent will be able to help you find loan programs that you are eligible for. More than likely, they will put you in touch with a mortgage broker they have been doing business with for quite a while.
You can also do some research online to find programs that might match your financial needs. Just make sure you start looking sooner rather than later. The kind of mortgage program you choose can influence your home buying process, like determining how much house you can afford.
Here are some excellent first-time home buyer mortgage tips to follow.
4. Get a pre-approval letter
You can get pre-qualified for a mortgage, which simply gives you an estimate of how much a lender may be willing to lend you based on your income and debts. But as you get closer to buying a home, it’s smart to get a pre-approval, where the lender thoroughly examines your finances and confirms in writing how much they’re willing to lend you, and under what terms. Having a pre-approval letter in hand makes you look much more serious to a seller and can give you an upper hand over buyers who haven’t taken this step.
» MORE: Get Pre-Approved For A Mortgage
5. Hire the right buyer’s agent
You’ll be working closely with your real estate agent, so it’s essential that you find someone you get along with. The right buyer’s agent should be highly skilled, motivated and knowledgeable about the area.
6. Do your due diligence.
One of the most critical first time home buyer tips is making sure you’ve done your due diligence. Looking at houses can be awesome. It is exciting and lots of fun to be touring incredible homes. Thinking about being a homeowner for the first time can be overwhelming but if you take the right steps to do right, it can make a huge difference.
7. Research neighborhoods for the best fit
After you’ve found some homes for sale in your price range, be careful not to make a decision based on the property alone. According to a NAR survey, home buyers are more willing to compromise on a home’s condition (20%) and size (17%) than on the quality of its neighborhood (6%) and distance from a school (2%). So make sure you factor neighborhood quality and location into your decision.
Ask your real estate agent for information on crime rates and the quality of schools around your prospective neighborhoods. Calculate your new commute times to see if they seem manageable. Visit the neighborhood at different times and days to check for traffic conditions and noise levels and to see if people are comfortable being outdoors. Only choose a neighborhood that you and your family feel good about.
8. Attend open houses and think long term
Once you’ve narrowed down the neighborhoods right for your family, attend a few open houses. Looking at homes that are for sale—even if they’re not a perfect fit for you—is a great way to learn more about the area. When you do eventually find a house you love, you’ll know how your place compares to better or worse homes in that neighborhood.
When it comes to buying, a good strategy is to find the most affordable house in the best neighborhood. If you buy at the bottom of the price range in a good neighborhood, you’ll have more room to build home value.
For instance, let’s say you find a home that’s the only one on the block without wood floors and granite countertops. If you have the cash to make those upgrades, you’ll be able to add instant value to your home!
Have questions about purchasing your first home? Call us at 509-828-2668