Now that a the home buyer has determined the type of home that he or she is most interested in, the location, and has obtained the services of a real estate agent, it is time to view available homes in the area. Of the steps to buy a house, this is often one of the most enjoyable. The real estate agent will locate and screen homes for the buyer and present him or her with the options that best match the established criteria. The agent can set up a date and time to visit potential homes. During this time the buyer should not feel pressured or make hasty decisions.
First-time homebuyers are often moving from rentals that use less energy (gas, oil, electric, propane, etc.) and water than a larger new home will. It is easy to be ambushed by soaring rates when your new house has ceilings higher than your rental – or older windows that leak air. Then there are unexpected utilities, such as buying gas to power a lawnmower. These costs can blow a budget.
Property tax is the amount of money that you are required to pay based on the property’s assessed value. Property tax can be very costly, depending on where you live. This is something you’ll want to consider when calculating how much you plan on spending on your overall homeownership expenses. Property tax payments are usually due annually, but more often than not, they are divided into and included in your monthly escrow payment.
You can get pre-qualified for a mortgage, which simply gives you an estimate of how much a lender may be willing to lend based on your income and debts. But as you get closer to buying a home, it’s smart to get a preapproval, where the lender thoroughly examines your finances and confirms in writing how much it's willing to lend you, and under what terms. Having a preapproval 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.
And, sure, Jarvis is speaking from the perspective of an agent who has often been close to a sale, only to have a well-meaning relative sabotage it. But chances are, if you start talking to friends who are homebuyers, they'll tell you stories of how a parent or in-law once talked you out of buying a home, and how ever since they've wistfully wondered if they made the right decision.
5) Shop around for a mortgage. Even a slightly higher rate can mean paying significantly more interest payments over the life of the loan so don't just talk to your existing bank. Consider non-profit credit unions, web sites like bankrate.com and eloan.com, and independent mortgage brokers who can shop around from multiple mortgage companies to find the one that can offer you the best deal. Just try to do all of your mortgage shopping within a 30 day period so it doesn’t affect your credit too much. You can then use this calculator to compare the loans.

Your property taxes are a fixed percentage of your home’s value based on the tax assessor’s appraised value of your home. Property taxes are paid to township or county in which the home is located. You will pay this tax annually, semiannually or as part of your monthly mortgage payments (the tax portion of the payment will go into your escrow account). The local tax assessor’s office can provide you with a specific property tax rate.
As well, with student-loan debts high (and, per a recent Federal Reserve study, a deterrent to buying a home), it may be valuable to some first-time buyers that Fannie Mae will back loans to borrowers with debt-to-income levels of as high as 50%. This can mean that first-time homebuyers whose future potential income prospects are good may be able to get home sooner.
 “Transfer documents” refers to the documents relating to the transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer. Most documents will be signed by the seller and delivered to the buyer for your review. Documents include: 1) deed, 2) bill of sale, 3) affidavit of title (or seller’s affidavit), 4) transfer tax declaration, 5) transfer tax declaration, and 6) buyer / seller settlement statement. It’s important that you do your due diligence and read through the transfer documents to make sure everything says what it should say.
And so, on a 30-year mortgage, our homebuyer, given an excellent credit profile, would take on approximately $1,762 in monthly payments (at a 5% interest rate, including 78 mortgage insurance payments of about $113 at 0.5%, and blending property tax into the payments at 1.25%). That's based on an initial savings of $30,000, used as a down payment on a $300,000 house.
Once a person knows how much he or she can afford in terms of a house, it is time to look at the details of where to live. Often people choose a location-based off of factors such as family and work. Although a person may have a general idea of where he or she would like to own a home, it is important to consider all of the options, including urban versus suburban locations. Urban areas are generally in the city while suburban areas are located at the outskirts of the city. People with families may appreciate the suburban areas, which generally have more schools and larger homes and yards. Urban areas are typically more expensive, but because they are at the heart of the city there are more activities, culture, and restaurants. Small towns and rural areas located outside of large cities are also an option and offer more sedate living than larger more urban areas. A person should visit potential locations keeping in mind his or her family's lifestyle and commute.
I often also recommend using the site, LendingTree to quickly get four or five competing mortgage rates from different banks. These rates will be more accurate than the ones you see in advertisements and websites because banks provide real rates based upon your credit profile and the location and value of the home you want to buy. Learn more about getting mortgage quotes and pre-approval from LendingTree.
Having a good real estate agent on your side can help you eliminate the homes that don't meet your unique needs, and hone in on the home that does meet those needs. A savvy real estate agent knows the good homes in the good neighborhoods and communities, and can help you negotiate a better price once you've focused on a single property. A real estate agent will also be there with you when you close on the house, and can steer you away from making any last-minute mistakes, and help you cut down on often-onerous home closing costs.

And so, on a 30-year mortgage, our homebuyer, given an excellent credit profile, would take on approximately $1,762 in monthly payments (at a 5% interest rate, including 78 mortgage insurance payments of about $113 at 0.5%, and blending property tax into the payments at 1.25%). That's based on an initial savings of $30,000, used as a down payment on a $300,000 house.
2. How much house can you afford? How good your finances look from a mortgage lender’s perspective isn’t the only thing to examine. You should also look at savings that can be used toward a down payment and determine how much you’d be able to afford on a monthly basis for your principal mortgage payment, interest, taxes and insurance, which Dabit recommends calculating as 28 percent of your gross income. “That’ll help you figure out how much you can borrow and sustain long-term,” he says.

That’s why Recchia suggests keeping your risk tolerance in mind. “If you find great security in owning your house, save more money for a large down payment and find a loan that works for you. The higher the down payment, the less in debt you will be; the less debt, the better you will be able to weather economic storms and still own your house,” she says.


Most home sale contracts give the buyer about 10 days to complete a home inspection. If you’re getting a mortgage to buy the house, your lender will likely require you to use a certified home inspector. (Even if you’re not required to get a home inspection, it’s best to get one anyway to make sure you’re not buying a house full of expensive problems.)
In the end, more first-time buyers — 34 percent — were left feeling financially insecure after their purchase versus 17 percent of buyers who had done it before. First-time buyers are typically about 30 to 36 years old, according to NerdWallet. In 2017, there were 2.07 million first-time homebuyers, a 7 percent increase from the previous year, according to Genworth Mortgage Insurance.
This is also a prime time to decide whether you'll hire a real estate agent, if you haven't already. While you're under no obligation to do so, there are several potential benefits to working with one. First of all, an agent can provide access to more home options than you'll likely find yourself, as well as set up viewing appointments. Since home-buying can be an emotional process, an agent can also act as a mediator between you and the seller.

As a first-time home buyer, you probably don’t have a ton of money saved up for the down payment and closing costs. But don’t make the error of assuming that you have to delay homeownership while saving for a huge down payment. There are plenty of low-down-payment loan programs out there, including state programs that offer down payment assistance and competitive mortgage rates for first-time home buyers.


When you rent a home, you generally only have one payment — rent — and then maybe renter's insurance, which is optional. When you buy a place, your mortgage payment is only the beginning of an array of costs. Homeowner's association fees can be as low as $0 or as high as a few hundred dollars per month, depending on where you live and the amenities and services offered.
“Realtors do a lot of your groundwork up front for you by contacting listing agents to set up showings and help you negotiate the purchase,” says Brandon Gentile, CEO of the Legacy Group Real Estate Team in Clarkston, Mich. “The best part is, a buyer doesn’t pay for working with a realtor. The service is free for a buyer, as sellers pay all the commission.” For more, see How to Find the Best Real Estate Agent.
While 20 percent is ideal, you don’t necessarily need that large of a down payment to buy a home. There are loan programs that cater to first-time home buyers, such as the FHA loan, which allow for down payments as little as 3.5%. Even some conventional loans allow for down payments as low as 3 percent. And certain loans, such as VA loans for veterans and military or USDA loans for buyers in rural areas, don’t require a down payment at all.
A lender will help you determine exactly what you can afford and, therefore, which houses you should be considering. To arrive at a purchase price, you’ll factor in expenses like homeowners insurance, association dues, and utilities to make sure you can comfortably make your mortgage payments. The lender will then identify the total amount of money it's willing to lend you.
Need help finding an expert you can trust with such an important purchase? Check out our Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) program. We only recommend real estate agents who close 35 home transactions per year or close more home transactions than 90% of the agents in their market (among other qualifications). Trust me, these pros are the best! Find an agent now!
Speaking of mortgages, Gilmour recommends that payments generally not exceed 28% of your monthly gross income—but if you have other high costs, such as private school tuition, it can be wise to pare down this percentage even more. If you're not sure what's realistic, consider seeking help from a financial professional, who can help walk you through an appropriate breakdown, based on your individual situation.
Homeowners insurance is a contract that protects both you and your lender in case of loss or damage to your property. The contract is known as an insurance policy, and the periodic payment is known as an insurance premium. The monthly homeowners insurance premium is often included as part of the monthly mortgage payment, with the insurance portion of the payment going into your escrow account.
In the end, more first-time buyers — 34 percent — were left feeling financially insecure after their purchase versus 17 percent of buyers who had done it before. First-time buyers are typically about 30 to 36 years old, according to NerdWallet. In 2017, there were 2.07 million first-time homebuyers, a 7 percent increase from the previous year, according to Genworth Mortgage Insurance.

Many renters think they can’t afford to buy a house because they haven’t saved enough to pay a 20 percent down payment. But you might be surprised to see what kind of house you could potentially buy based on the amount you spend every month on rent. Try plugging some numbers into an affordability calculator to get a better sense of what you need — and how much you have. Or, you can talk to a lender and find out what you might qualify for.
What to do instead: Don’t open new credit cards, close existing accounts, take out new loans or make large purchases on existing credit accounts in the months leading up to applying for a mortgage through closing day. Pay down your existing balances to below 30 percent of your available credit limit, and pay your bills on time and in full every month.
Need help finding an expert you can trust with such an important purchase? Check out our Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) program. We only recommend real estate agents who close 35 home transactions per year or close more home transactions than 90% of the agents in their market (among other qualifications). Trust me, these pros are the best! Find an agent now!
Unicorns do not exist in real estate, and finding a perfect property is like finding a needle in a haystack. Looking for perfection can narrow your choices too much, and you might pass over solid contenders in the hopes that something better will come along. But this type of thinking can sabotage your search, says James D’Astice, a real estate agent with Compass in Chicago.
Home ownership is a superb tax shelter and our tax rates favor homeowners. Sometimes the mortgage interest deduction can overshadow the desire for pride of ownership as well. As long as your mortgage balance is smaller than the price of your home, mortgage interest is fully deductible on your tax return. Interest is the largest component of your mortgage payment.
This is the day you get your house keys—but first, you have some serious paperwork to do. You’ll set an appointment for closing on your house, and you’ll need to bring your driver’s license, a cashier’s check for your down payment and closing costs (which range from 2 to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price) — and a lot of patience. You will sign and initial dozens of papers.
Paranoid buys are sometimes difficult to work with. They may not believe the price is an accurate assessment of the house's market value. They'll submit low-ball offers and then show frustration when they are consistently rejected. Paranoid buyers don't trust real-estate agents, and may even try to buy their home without an agent, which is generally an unwise choice.
While getting pre-approved for a mortgage is not necessary to close a deal, it can help you close the deal quicker. In turn, being pre-approved can give you more bargaining power when negotiating as it signals to the seller that you have strong financial backing. Getting pre-approved for mortgage also allows you to know the limit up to which you can go for purchasing a property. It helps in saving time and effort while searching for the properties that fit into your budget.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at [email protected]
What to do instead: Ask your real estate agent to help you track down neighborhood crime stats and school ratings. Measure the drive from the neighborhood to your job to gauge commuting time and proximity to public transportation. Visit the neighborhood at different times to get a sense of traffic, neighbor interactions and the overall vibe to see if it’s an area that appeals to you.

Owning a home is expensive—much more expensive than renting, even if your monthly house payment will be similar or cheaper than your current rent amount. That’s because when you own a home, you’re responsible for all the maintenance and upkeep costs. And those can add up fast! So, before you even think about buying your first home, make sure you’re debt-free and have an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses in place.
Your mortgage lender will also be working on the underwriting for the loan, including an appraisal of the property to ensure the purchase price matches its value, based on other sales of similar properties in the area. If the appraiser determines the house isn’t valued at the agreed-upon sale price, you may have to come up with cash to make up the difference, or try to negotiate the price down with the seller. You'll likely have to provide updated proof of income, details on your existing debts and assets, information about your tax return and, of course, the address of the property you're buying along with the price of the house and amount you'd like to borrow.
You can get pre-qualified for a mortgage, which simply gives you an estimate of how much a lender may be willing to lend based on your income and debts. But as you get closer to buying a home, it’s smart to get a preapproval, where the lender thoroughly examines your finances and confirms in writing how much it's willing to lend you, and under what terms. Having a preapproval 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.

LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc., that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other's products, services or policies.

Wouldn't it be great if buying a home were as simple as it is in a game of Monopoly? All you'd have to do is find a desirable neighborhood, hand the bank a few bucks, and you'd receive a house. Of course, the home-buying process is a bit more complicated in real life (especially for first-time home buyers), but it's not impossible. Competition among buyers in many markets has gotten intense, so if you're serious about homeownership, you'd better get your act together. To point you in the right direction, we've prepared a road map of the home-buying process. From choosing the right professionals to signing that final contract, here are the typical steps you need to be aware of.

In a competitive real estate market with limited inventory, it’s likely you’ll bid on houses that get multiple offers. When you find a home you love, it’s tempting to make a high-priced offer that’s sure to win. But don’t let your emotions take over. Shopping below your preapproval amount creates some wiggle room for bidding. Stick to your budget to avoid a mortgage payment you can’t afford.
When you know what you can afford, start limiting your options. Take time to learn the neighborhoods you’re considering: Research the schools and municipal services, and drive through them at various times, day and night, to determine whether you want to actually live there. Do you feel safe walking around the neighborhood? How far is it to the nearest stores and restaurants, and how much does that matter to you?
Qualifying for a loan isn’t a guarantee your loan will eventually be funded: Underwriting guidelines shift, lender risk-analysis changes and investor markets can alter. “I have had clients who signed loan and escrow documents, and 24 to 48 hours before they were supposed to close were notified the lender froze funding on their loan program,” says Recchia. Having a second lender that has already qualified you for a mortgage gives you an alternate way to keep the process on, or close to, schedule
Once a person knows how much he or she can afford in terms of a house, it is time to look at the details of where to live. Often people choose a location-based off of factors such as family and work. Although a person may have a general idea of where he or she would like to own a home, it is important to consider all of the options, including urban versus suburban locations. Urban areas are generally in the city while suburban areas are located at the outskirts of the city. People with families may appreciate the suburban areas, which generally have more schools and larger homes and yards. Urban areas are typically more expensive, but because they are at the heart of the city there are more activities, culture, and restaurants. Small towns and rural areas located outside of large cities are also an option and offer more sedate living than larger more urban areas. A person should visit potential locations keeping in mind his or her family's lifestyle and commute.
Fixer-uppers are all the rage these days, as many homebuyers are willing to take on renovation projects in exchange for a slightly lower price tag. But when budgeting for your renovations, leave plenty of room for the discovery of existing problems once your contractor looks behind the walls. The HomeAdvisor survey found 51 percent of homeowners spent more time on home projects than they expected. “Even if you have a fully vetted, well-reviewed contractor … they still might uncover issues that maybe a previous contractor left incomplete,” Hunter says. He recommends leaving around 10 percent extra space in your budget for surprise problems of any kind.
Don’t hit the open houses just yet. Make sure your finances are in order, so you know what you can realistically afford. Use a mortgage calculator to estimate your budget given your income, debt, savings and other financial obligations. Check your credit score and compare your debt to income. You should be able to comfortably pay your full mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance) each month. And you likely need money up front for a down payment and closing costs. The good news is, most first-time homebuyers put down less than 20 percent.
A lender will help you determine exactly what you can afford and, therefore, which houses you should be considering. To arrive at a purchase price, you’ll factor in expenses like homeowners insurance, association dues, and utilities to make sure you can comfortably make your mortgage payments. The lender will then identify the total amount of money it's willing to lend you.
Each month, part of your monthly payment is applied to the principal balance of your loan, which reduces your obligation. The way amortization works, the principal portion of your principal and interest payment increases slightly every month. It is lowest on your first payment and highest on your last payment. On average, each $100,000 of a mortgage will reduce in balance the first year by about $500 in principal, bringing that balance at the end of your first 12 months to $99,500.
Before you head out home buying, you should seek pre-approval from a lender for a home loan. This is where you meet with a loan officer, ideally a few at various mortgage companies. Each mortgage lender will scrutinize your financial background—such as your debt-to-income ratio and assets—and use this info to determine whether they're willing to loan you money, and what size monthly payment you can realistically afford. This will help you target homes in your price range. And that's good, since a purchase price that's beyond your financial reach will make you sweat your mortgage payment and puts you at risk of defaulting on your loan.
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