Or better yet, decide how much you’re willing to pay. Just because you can qualify for a larger mortgage doesn’t mean you want to have that kind of payment each month. Use the mortgage affordability calculator to help determine what you can afford. Now is also a good time to research your housing market and start going to open houses in your prospective neighborhood to give you a good sense of what your money will get you.
Now you're getting into serious home buying territory. Once a bank or mortgage lender gives you a price range for a home mortgage, you can go ahead and attempt to get pre-approved for a home loan. In a pre-approval scenario, a mortgage lender will dig deeper into your personal finances. You'll fill out a mortgage application (and pay a fee to do so), undergo an extensive credit check and answer any questions a mortgage lender may have about your ability to repay a mortgage on time, and in full. If you're approved, you'll receive a conditional commitment from a mortgage lender to green light a home loan for a specific loan amount and with a specific interest rate range. A pre-approval document from a lender is pure gold for a home buyer, as it shows a demonstrated ability to procure an actual mortgage, and shows a home seller that you're a serious buyer.
In order to purchase a home, people must have cash for a down payment. Unfortunately, many people have other obligations and debts that make it difficult to save the type of money that is needed. This is why one of the first steps to buying a home is to save for the down payment. In most cases, lenders require a twenty percent down payment. Buyers may choose to open a savings account in advance, or the down payment may be given as a monetary gift from a family member.
If your available cash doesn't cover your needs, you have several options. First-time homebuyers can withdraw up to $10,000 without penalty from an Individual Retirement Account, if you have one, though you must pay taxes on the amount. You can also receive a cash gift of up to $15,000 a year from each of your parents without triggering a gift tax.

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.)
Some other things home buyers can do to turbocharge their scores is to bring any past-due credit card balances current and stop using credit cards altogether — but don’t close the accounts once you pay off the balance. It looks good for you to have established and available credit, as long as you don’t use it. That means keep that Old Navy card and Visa gas card open, even if you no longer use them. The longer you’ve had the account, the more it enhances your score.
All too often it feels like the problems in a home have a snowballing effect, but you don’t have to go broke tackling them all at once. “Day one, [homeowners] won’t have to tackle all those projects,” Hunter says. “They can use the list of items found by the home inspector as a checklist and prioritize the items on that list and create a budget.” You should immediately address those problems that create a health or safety issue, such as a broken step or leak in your roof that could lead to mold. But replacing an older dishwasher can wait until next year, when you have more room in your home repair budget.
 “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.
Closing costs: These are fees you have to pay when you close on your mortgage. They’re based on the individual purchase, but can vary from 2% to 7% of the purchase price of the home, but they’re often split between the buyer and seller. According to Realtor.com, buyers typically pay 3% to 4% in closing costs and sellers typically pay 1% to 3% (you can try to negotiate who pays which closing costs). With some closing costs, you have to use a certain service, but with others, you’re allowed to shop around for a better price. Here are some common closing costs.
How to avoid this mistake: Ask a mortgage lender about your first-time home buyer options and look for programs in your state. You might qualify for a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan or one guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs that doesn’t require a down payment. Federal Housing Administration loans have a minimum down payment of 3.5%, and some conventional loan programs allow down payments as low as 3%.
A preapproval is based on our preliminary review of information provided and limited credit information only and is not a commitment to lend. We will be able to offer a loan commitment upon verification of application information, satisfying all underwriting requirements and conditions, and property acceptability and eligibility, including appraisal and title report. Preapprovals are subject to change or cancellation if a requested loan no longer meets applicable regulatory requirements. Preapprovals are not available on all products. See a home mortgage consultant for details.
As a buyer, you have the right to a professional home inspection before you purchase the house, and you would be crazy not to do it! This is one of the most important precautions you can take before purchasing a home because it keeps you from being blindsided by structural issues or expensive repairs. If the inspection reveals major problems with the home, you can ask the seller to fix the problem, reduce the price, or cancel the contract.
Do some research online, but work with a live person who can review your situation, answer questions and, if necessary, suggest how you can improve your credit.“Online calculators do not always include insurance and taxes or PMI [private mortgage insurance required if the down payment is less than 20%] and are not always an accurate picture of what the payment or actual fees for the loan are,” says Anita Wagoner Brown, director of sales and marketing for Home Creations, the largest new home builder in Oklahoma.
The good news? There is a tried-and-true formula, involving multiple good financial steps and habits, that can lead you directly to the purchase of your dream home, and on a fast schedule, too. The downside is simple and direct -- if you don't follow the home buying formula, your chances of landing a new home are significantly reduced, if not completely eliminated.
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.

When you get a mortgage, your lender may require you to set up an escrow account. A monthly escrow amount is added to your mortgage payment. The escrow payments goes toward real property taxes and insurance that you would otherwise have to pay once or twice a year. Instead, you generally will pay a monthly payment and the money sits in escrow to be paid by your lender when it’s due. This escrow payment is above the principal and interest portion of the mortgage payment and is required. 
In addition to saving for a down payment, you’ll need to budget for the money required to close your mortgage, which can be significant. Closing costs generally run between 2% and 5% of your loan amount. You can shop around and compare prices for certain closing expenses, such as homeowners insurance, home inspections and title searches. You can also defray costs by asking the seller to pay for a portion of your closing costs or negotiating your real estate agent's commission. Calculate your expected closing costs to help you set your budget.

First-time home-buyers are sometimes surprised when they see how closing costs can add up. The average amount is 3% to 6% of the price of the home. Given that range, it's a wise idea to start with 2%-2.5% of the total cost of the house, in savings, to account for closing costs. Thus our $300,000 first-time home buyer should sock away about $6,000-$7,500 to cover the back end of their buying experience. Tallying the recommended savings so far, the amount comes to $36,000-$37,500.
Begin by house hunting online, whether your agent is sending you homes listed on the market through the local multiple listing service, or you're checking out consumer-facing marketing sites like Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com or Redfin. It’s easy to narrow your online searches by setting boundaries around the neighborhood or general part of the city you hope to buy in.
Try also to get an idea about the real estate market in the area. For example, if homes are selling close to or even above the asking price, that shows the area is desirable. If you have the flexibility, consider doing your house hunt in the off-season -- meaning, generally, the colder months of the year. You'll have less competition and sellers may be more willing to negotiate.

Let the serious shopping begin! By now you’ve talked things over with your agent and you both know what you really want and need in a home. Armed with this, your price range and knowledge of the local area, look at listings online and with your agent, who will come up with properties for you to tour. Chances are you’ll discover some new things to love or hate about homes and refine your search.
Once the property enters escrow, the purchase should be contingent upon it passing a home inspection. Once your offer is accepted, arrange to have an inspector visit the property and identify anything that needs to be fixed. Both you and the seller should receive a copy of the inspection report, after which you can renegotiate with the seller in case anything needs to be fixed. In worst cases, the contingency also protects you in the event that you would like to withdraw your offer.
Moving and other expenses: Moving expenses can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on how much you’re moving and how far away your new home is from your current place. To help with budgeting, you can call moving companies in your area for quotes ahead of time. If you plan to make updates to your home—like repainting, installing blinds, or buying new furniture—you’ll need cash for that too!

The fastest-growing metro area in Arkansas takes the No. 5 spot. Residents spend 25.47 percent of the blended annual household income on a mortgage or rent and utilities. Also coming in the overall Best Places to Live list at No. 5, Fayetteville is seeing significant population growth, plus a short commute time and low crime rate contribute to its appeal among the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S.
You can buy a home without a Realtor, but there’s really no reason to do so. Because in most cases, the seller of a home pays the real estate commission. So, as a buyer, you have nothing to lose. (Some real estate firms do charge a fee to buyers; if you don’t want to pay for their services, look for a Realtor that charges sellers exclusively.) And having a Realtor on your side can help you all the ins and outs of buying a home, which can be confusing.
Mortgage insurance terms: In general, home buyers who pay less than 20% in their down payment have to pay mortgage insurance until their loan-to-value ratio is 80%. So, if you borrowed $270,000 on a $300,000 home -- in other words, your down payment came to 10% -- your LTV ratio (that is, the loan amount, $270,000, divided by the price of the house, $300,000) would be 90%. Your monthly payments on that policy would continue until you paid your mortgage down by another $30,000 to a balance of $240,000, or 80% of the full price.
Sounds hard to believe, but it’s not rare for new homeowners to be late with their first monthly payment, or to miss it altogether, says Neil Garfinkel, a real estate attorney with Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson in New York City. “Maybe you didn’t fully understand the process. You thought it was being auto-deducted but it’s not being auto-deducted. You didn’t get the bill in the mail. Whatever. Those first couple of payments, from a credit perspective, are really, really important,” he says.
Home inspection, a physical examination of the condition of a real estate property, is a necessary step to not only know about any problems with the property, but also get a look and feel of the surroundings. If you find a serious problem with the home during the inspection, you'll have an opportunity to back out of the deal or ask the seller to fix it or pay for you to have it fixed (as long as your purchase offer included a home-inspection contingency).
Once the offer has been approved, the buyer will need to secure the mortgage. This is done by complete the mortgage application. If a person has not been pre-approved or pre-qualified, it will likely take longer to complete this process. Ideally, a buyer should "shop around" for the best rates and terms. Most buyers choose fixed rates rather than adjustable rates.
3) Save for upfront costs. Ideally, you would be able to put down 20% of your home's purchase price to avoid having to pay PMI (private mortgage insurance). If you can't put down 20%, mortgage companies will usually offer you a smaller "piggy back loan" to help bridge the gap but those loans have higher interest rates. You may also need between 2% to 5% of the purchase price for closing costs plus whatever you want to spend on moving, furnishings and renovations.

Or better yet, decide how much you’re willing to pay. Just because you can qualify for a larger mortgage doesn’t mean you want to have that kind of payment each month. Use the mortgage affordability calculator to help determine what you can afford. Now is also a good time to research your housing market and start going to open houses in your prospective neighborhood to give you a good sense of what your money will get you.
Prior to the closing date, the buyer will want to verify with his or her agent, lender, and escrow company that all of the necessary documents have been signed and terms met. If they have not this should be taken care of immediately to ensure that there are no last-minute problems. The buyer will also want to verify what forms of payment are acceptable. On the closing date, closing costs and fees will be paid.
Before you close on your new house, your lender will require you to buy homeowners insurance. Shop around and compare insurance rates to find the best price. Look closely at what’s covered in the policies; going with a less-expensive policy usually means fewer protections and more out-of-pocket expenses if you file a claim. Also, flood damage isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, so if your new home is in a flood-prone area, you may need to buy separate flood insurance.

What's clear is that home buyers have options, and while the savings required to get a first home can climb to the neighborhood of $50,000, they can also come in around the mid-twenties. There are also assistance plans available from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, featuring 3%-5% down payments, and each comes with it own pros and cons. First-time home-buyers should also look into state and local plans. The research you invest in your process ahead of time can greatly affect what you have to save up before turning the key to your new front door.

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.

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“The time to confirm that the Bank of Mom and Dad is ready, willing and able to provide you with help for your down payment is before you start home shopping,” says Dana Scanlon, a realtor with Keller Williams Capital Properties in Bethesda, Maryland. “If a buyer ratifies a contract to purchase a home with an understanding that they will be getting gift money, and the gift money fails to materialize, they can lose their earnest money deposit.”

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.

You'll want to know in advance that you likely qualify for a home loan, and that's where a credit check can prove invaluable when you buy a house. Your credit check will track your financial health using data from the three primary credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Your credit score from each agency can range anywhere from 350 to 800. The higher the credit score, the more likely you'll be granted a home loan, and the more likely you'll pay a lower interest rate when securing a home mortgage (that's because a high credit score will be viewed by a mortgage lender as a lower-risk loan proposition). In your run-up to your credit check, avoid taking out any loans or credit -- that will raise your credit risk level in the eyes of lenders -- and make sure you pay down any debt owed, and ensure you've got a good track record of paying your bills on time.
When you’ve made an offer that’s within your budget, your Realtor will prepare the paperwork for you to sign and will submit it, along with your pre-approval letter and your earnest money, which is a good-faith deposit of about 1 percent of the purchase price. All this usually happens quickly, especially if other buyers are interested in the same property.
If your available cash doesn't cover your needs, you have several options. First-time homebuyers can withdraw up to $10,000 without penalty from an Individual Retirement Account, if you have one, though you must pay taxes on the amount. You can also receive a cash gift of up to $15,000 a year from each of your parents without triggering a gift tax.
Ask your real estate agent for information on crime rates and the quality of schools around your prospective neighborhoods. Calculate your new commute times to see if they seem manageable. Visit the neighborhood at different times and days to check for traffic conditions, noise levels, and if people are comfortable being outdoors. Only choose a neighborhood that you and your family feel good about.
One of the ways your lender makes sure you and your house are a good bet is with a home appraisal. This is when someone does a professional evaluation of how much your home is worth. If the appraisal ends up higher than your offer, go celebrate. If it’s not, you may either have to make a larger down payment, get a second opinion, or renegotiate the price. Or you may decide to walk away from the deal.​
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