Buying your very first home? Congratulations! Home ownership is an exciting milestone; after all, there’s nothing like having your new set of keys in hand and opening the door to your very own home. Here are a few ways to be proactive in your homebuying search.
All Homes Are Not Created Equally
It’s important to decide what kind of home you’re going to live in. Think about what your life might look like in 3-5 years. Is there anything you'll need to change in this home to make it work for your life then?
Here’s another thing to consider. Are you open to buying a new home, or do you prefer a resale home? Do you love pulling up old carpet and finding great hardwood floors? If so, then maybe the DIY (Do It Yourself) aspect of a resale home is the right choice for you. Or do you not have time to take on renovation projects? Maybe rolling up your sleeves and diving into a home project isn’t your thing. If that’s the case, you may want to go the DIFM (Do It For Me) route by buying new.
Decide what you want out of the whole homeownership experience, how you want to live in your home, and then make choices that line up under those priorities. Can you live with compromises? Do your research and make a list of compromises you are, and are not, willing to make. Which home will get you closer to what you want?
Pro Tip: When looking at a resale home, be sure to take into account the age of the home and all of the potential costs of repairs and upgrades.
Getting Your Ducks in a Row and Finding Your Mortgage Partner
Once you’ve made a decision about the kind of home you want to buy, then it’s time to reach out to lenders to find out what kind of mortgage loan you qualify for. You want to be comfortable with who you choose as your mortgage lender, so it’s important to compare a few different lenders. After all, this is likely one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make. (Note: When you do decide on a mortgage lender, you have the option to shop different banks without negatively impacting your credit score.)
After you and your mortgage partner decide how much you can spend, start planning for your down payment. You may be surprised by how much you need to save for a down payment. Think you have to put down 20 percent? Not always. There are many programs available right now to help first-time homebuyers, and not all of them require you to save 20 percent of the home’s value. Often, first-time homebuyers can get a 3 percent down payment, especially when they have a good relationship with a mortgage broker. Also, research FHA-backed loans when shopping for payment options; they could mean a down payment as low as 3.5 percent and more competitive mortgage rates. However, keep in mind that a down payment of at least 20 percent may relieve you from carrying private mortgage insurance.
When it comes to buying a home and saving for a down payment, it’s important to reign in frivolous spending and avoid making unnecessary purchases. Be focused and have a plan – you can do it!
Pro Tip: If you’re planning to buy new, most builders have a pre-approved lender. These affiliated lenders offer special incentives, discounts and tips when you purchase a new home directly from the home builder. It’s like a one-stop shop! There are also special loan programs for those who qualify that offer down payment assistance.
It’s Closing Time
You’ve chosen your loan offer and are already imagining unpacking and settling into your new home. Be patient; the closing process can take longer than expected, and there can be unforeseen costs. So, it’s important to be flexible during the closing process. Extend your current lease/house contract for longer than you think it will be, so that you have plenty of time to move into your new home.
Pro Tip: The beauty of buying a new home is that you have a dedicated new home service professional who will help guide you through the whole process. And, if you’re buying resale, it’s the Realtor® and the lender who guide you.
You Did It!
Did you make it through all the above steps? Then, congrats! You’re a homeowner. You can walk into your new, dream home and know that it is your very own.
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