Now that you know what you qualify for, the fun of looking for homes with your real estate agent can begin. Save time and emotional energy by narrowing your search to homes that fit your financial criteria. Preview property online, and have your real estate agent show you only listings that are right for you. When you find a match, your agent can help you make an intelligent, informed offer. If it is accepted, a purchase contract is drawn and typically contains a good-faith deposit (“earnest money”) that you are willing to put in escrow to show your commitment.
The journey to homeownership can have its ups and downs. But for most, the ride is well worth it. According to the Bank of America 2017 Homebuyer Insights Report, nearly three-quarters of first-time buyers say their home has had a positive, long-term impact on their finances. Hop on to learn the process inside and out—from creating a budget to prequalifying for a mortgage to closing the loan on a home of your own.
Alternatively, you can put less money down with other options, like an FHA loan through the Federal Housing Administration, which requires less money down and a less impressive credit history but typically comes with a higher interest rate. Veterans are able to take advantage of VA loans, backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which require no money down but have additional fees.
Buying a home takes a lot of time -- likely more time than you figured. Exhibit "A" in this case is the "saving for a new home period." This timetable starts well before you see your dream home for the first time. To act fast on a great home purchase opportunity, you're going to need cash, and the more the better. Your chances of buying a home are greatly increased if you can show a lender you have plenty of cash saved up, and that you can meet the seller's likely demand that you can bring the cash needed to buy a home to the negotiating table. That means saving money early and often -- and starting well before you set eyes on that dream home.
This is the fun part! As a buyer, you can peruse thousands of real estate listings on sites such as realtor.com, then ask your agent to set up appointments to see your favorites in person. Since the sheer number of homes can become overwhelming, it's best to separate your must-haves from those features you'd like, but don't really need. Do you really want a new home or do you prefer a fixer-upper? Make a list of your wants and needs to get started, and whittle down your options.
Closing is a formal process where all parties sign the necessary paperwork to complete the transaction and transfer the property’s title from the seller to you. The seller receives payment for the home, and you receive the house keys! From the amount credited to the seller, the title representative subtracts the funds to pay off the existing mortgage and other transaction costs. Deeds, loan papers and other documents are prepared, signed, and ultimately filed with local property record office.
P&I is the principal and interest you pay your lender each month. The principal is the amount of money being borrowed. The interest is the cost of borrowing the principal. Principal and interest account for the majority of your monthly payment, which may also include escrow payments for property taxes, homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance and other costs.
1) Get your credit in as good shape as possible. Your credit score can make a big difference in your mortgage interest rate. You can use sites like creditkarma.com (which uses TransUnion and Equifax) and freecreditscore.com (which uses Experian) to get free credit scores from all three credit bureaus, free credit monitoring to alert you of any changes to your credit, and advice on how to improve your credit scores. The key things are to make sure you make your debt payments on time, pay off as much of your debt as possible (except perhaps car and student loans, which tend to have relatively low interest rates), and be careful of closing credit card accounts. If you have a credit card that is charging you an annual fee, see if you can convert the card into a no-fee card rather than close it.
In a quick conversation with you about your income, assets and down payment, a lender can prequalify you to buy a house. Getting preapproved takes a little more work. A lender will need to verify your financial information and submit your loan for preliminary underwriting. But it pays off when you begin your home search because a preapproval letter shows that you’re a serious buyer.
Once you’ve made sure the property is in the agreed-upon condition, you’ll set a date to meet with the required parties. Different areas have different requirements as to who must be present, so you might meet one or all of the following: the escrow or closing agent, the attorney — who could also be the escrow agent, someone from the title company, the mortgage lender, and the real estate agents.
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, 78% of home buyers believe neighborhood quality is more important than the size of a home. And 57% of buyers would opt for a shorter commute over a larger yard.(4) So make sure you factor neighborhood quality and location into your decision.
This experience happens to many first-time homebuyers. Say that you need a new pair of red shoes, so you go to the mall. At the first shoe store, you find a fabulous pair of red shoes, and they fit perfectly. Do you buy them? Of course not! You go to every other store in the mall trying on red shoes until you are ready to drop from exhaustion. Then you return to the first store and buy those red shoes. Do not shop for a home this way. When you find the perfect home, buy it.
Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make in your life — and one of the largest sources of stress for many first-time buyers is the financing process. Unless you’ve done a ton of research, getting a mortgage can feel confusing or even a bit overwhelming. The good news is you can have a smoother and less stressful experience by avoiding these common mistakes:
My tip – STICK TO YOUR PRICE RANGE! We looked at 10 houses in our price range and one house just north of our price range. Of course – the more expensive house looked better. We fell in love with it and we stretched our budget to afford it! We didn’t have a chance to view any other prices in that higher price range either so didn’t know if our offer was too high (it was in hindsight). Just a tip!
Find out how familiar the agent is with the areas you want to look at. If they have little expertise and no network in the neighborhood, then you won’t get the agent advantage of being the first to see a house (sometimes even before it’s listed) or getting expert advice on price. Plus, neighborhood knowledge saves the buyer time because an agent will likely know exactly where to look and what houses to show based on your needs.