It’s more fun to look at homes than it is to talk about your finances with a lender. So that’s what a lot of first-time home buyers do: They visit properties before finding out how much they are able to borrow. Then, they are disappointed when they discover they were looking in the wrong price range (either too high or too low) or when they find the right home, but aren’t able to make a serious offer.

Throughout the process, your mortgage lender will likely request various documents from you, such as updated pay stubs, current tax records, and other items that may have changed since pre-approval, as well as information about the home insurance policy you plan to purchase. Try to respond as quickly and accurately as you can, providing the needed information as soon as possible. Your promptness will help move your loan through the process faster and help ensure you can close on time.
The home inspection is an added expense that some first-time homebuyers don’t expect and might feel safe declining, but professional inspectors often notice things most of us don’t. This step is especially important if you’re buying an existing home as opposed to a newly constructed home, which might come with a builder’s warranty. If the home needs big repairs you can’t see, an inspection helps you negotiate with the current homeowner to have the issues fixed before closing or adjust the price accordingly so you have extra funds to address the repairs once you own the home.
Escrow is an account held by a third party on behalf of the two principal parties involved in a transaction. Since home sale involves multiple steps which takes time that can span weeks, the best way to mitigate the risk of either the seller or the buyer getting ripped off is to have a neutral third party hold all the money and documents related to the transaction until everything has been settled. Once all procedural formalities are over, the money and documents are moved from the custody of the escrow account to the seller and buyer, thereby guaranteeing a secure transaction.
As you save money for your down payment, avoid the temptation to invest in the volatile stock market with money you hope to use in the next year or two. While you might be tempted to try to earn a greater return on your money than an online saving account paying one percent, the greatest risk is not having your money available when you’re ready to buy a house.
Realize it will be an emotional process. This tip goes for first-time homebuyers especially, Lewis said. Your emotions in the process can range from the excitement of finding a home, the anxiety tied to making an offer or the disappointment of not getting that house. "When you go into the process knowing that you're going to have these huge emotional ups and downs, you can weather them more easily," Lewis said.

A lender or broker will assess your credit score and the amount you can qualify for on a loan. He or she will also discuss your assets (savings, 401(k), etc.) and debt, as well as any local programs that might be available for down payment assistance. That's where your homework on first-time homebuyer programs can help. If you think you qualify, look for a lender that handles the program you hope to get.
How to avoid this mistake: If making a minimal down payment is an accomplishment, the choice is simple: Don’t buy discount points. If you have enough cash on hand, the value of buying points depends on whether you plan to live in the home longer than the “break-even period.” That’s the time it takes for the upfront cost to be exceeded by the monthly savings you get from a lower interest rate.

Don’t let these unknowns deter you. Research and diligence can unlock the mysteries of the process and enable you to buy your first home without feeling too lost or overwhelmed. Plenty of resources exist to explain the process. This tutorial is a great start. We’ll take you through everything from the simple stuff, like finding a place that you like, to the complicated stuff, like applying for a loan.
For the past 15 years, Williams has specialized in personal finance and small business issues. His articles on personal finance and business have appeared in CNNMoney.com, The Washington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes.com and American Express OPEN Forum. Williams is also the author of several books, including "Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America's Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever" and "C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America"
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 “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.
If a lender sees some late payments or other blemishes in your credit report, this can lower your odds of getting a loan with a great interest rate, or perhaps even jeopardize your chances of getting any loan at all. So, it's essential to know your score, and take steps now if necessary to bring it up to snuff. Here's more on how to check your credit score and what number is best to buy a home.

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.
Before you start looking for a home, you will need to know how much you can actually spend. The best way to do that is to get prequalified for a mortgage. To get prequalified, you just need to provide some financial information to your mortgage banker, such as your income and the amount of savings and investments you have. Your lender will review this information and tell you how much we can lend you. This will tell you the price range of the homes you should be looking at. Later, you can get preapproved for credit, which involves providing your financial documents (W-2 statements, paycheck stubs, bank account statements, etc.) so your lender can verify your financial status and credit.
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