Purchasing a first home is an exciting time. The saving, researching, comparing, and final closing, followed by the excitement of the move-in, are experiences first-time homebuyers long remember.
However, it is helpful for first-time buyers to exercise extreme caution with each step of the process. Selecting a professional Realtor in advance to help advise and guide you through the process is the best option for all homebuyers.
Here is a list of seven essential recommendations to help first-time homebuyers.
#1 Start Saving
Buying a home is often the most significant investment an individual makes. A first home purchase requires a down payment and a home loan or mortgage. A higher down payment can mean lower monthly mortgage payments and sometimes even lower borrowing rates.
Besides the down payment, homebuyers often save for closing costs and moving expenses.
#2 Calculate How Much You Can Afford
While saving as much as possible, prospective homebuyers can calculate how much they can afford to pay each month once they own the home. Begin by calculating your net monthly income and subtracting your monthly expenses for food, gas, vehicles, insurance, utilities, clothing, and any additional monthly expenses. Then apply the remaining amount to mortgage principal and interest, property taxes, and homeowner’s insurance premiums.
#3 Check and Upgrade Your Credit Rating
Lenders rely heavily on credit scores and history to make loan decisions for prospective homebuyers. Free credit reports and FICO scores are available. Be sure to challenge any incorrect information in your credit report.
Meanwhile, pay all bills on time and try to reduce existing credit card debt. It is a good idea to keep those zero-balance credit accounts open since this helps to keep the percentage of available credit usage down.
#4 Mortgage Selection Options
A vital part of the homebuying process is the mortgage or loan. The total cost of the mortgage depends on the type of loan, the terms, and the interest rate the lender charges. Qualified homebuyers have several options for financing, including:
- Conventional Mortgages are offered to first-time homebuyers with good credit, often with less than a 20% down payment.
- FHA Loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration and allow down payments as low as 3.5% of the purchase price.
- USDA Loans guarantee rural or farm property mortgages with no down payment.
- Veterans Administration Loans are available to veterans and active-duty military and may require no down payment.
Mortgages for greater than 80% of the home’s purchase price often require mortgage insurance, which the borrower pays with the monthly mortgage payment.
#5 Look for First-Time Homebuyer Assistance Programs
Many states and local governments seek to help citizens become first-time homeowners by offering consumer-friendly programs with low-interest-rate mortgages.
#6 Compare Mortgage Offers Carefully
Each lender is different. Lending decisions are based mainly on the borrowers’ credit history, net worth, and accumulated savings. First-time homebuyers should compare interest rates and origination fees built into each offer before making a final decision.
Lenders sometimes offer a range of interest rates based on discount points or fixed fees to reduce the interest rate upfront.
Variable-rate mortgages are also available. In this instance, the prospective buyer may lock in a lower-than-market interest that may adjust up or down after three, five, or ten years as calculated by a predetermined formula.
#7 Have a Preapproval Letter from the Lender
This all-important document lets the Realtor know how much the buyer can spend and helps focus the search only on homes and neighborhoods in your price range. Furthermore, a preapproval letter is as close as a homebuyer can get to confirming creditworthiness without a purchase contract.