1. Credit history. Run a credit report on yourself – which is free to do once a year and doesn’t affect your credit by going to annualcreditreport.com and receiving a report from each the three major credit-reporting agencies – and focus on the areas you can improve. You may have credit card balances to pay off, or a few missed student loan payments from a couple years ago. You may also simply need more time to pass from a recent borrowing mistake. The more time that passes from the last blemish on your credit report, the less likely a lender is to consider it a red flag to give you a loan.

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.


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.
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.
Contingency clauses also offer a form of protection. "A mortgage financing contingency clause protects you if, say, you lose your job and the loan falls through or the appraisal price comes in over the purchase price. Should one of these events occur, the buyer gets back the money he used to secure the property. Without the clause, he can lose that money and still be obligated to buy the house," explains Justin Lopatin, a mortgage planner with American Street Mortgage Co., to MSN.

So what is a good credit score? You can expect a good mortgage rate at anything above 720. Home buyers who pursue an FHA loan can usually secure a loan if their credit is 580 or over. FICO scores are available at www.myfico.com for a one-time or monthly fee. Once you know your score, you can find out what interest rate you will likely qualify for by researching interest rates on Zillow.

Williams got his start working in entertainment reporting in 1993, as an associate editor at "BOP," a teen entertainment magazine, and freelancing for publications, including Entertainment Weekly. He later moved to Ohio and worked for several years as a part-time features reporter at The Cincinnati Post and continued freelancing. His articles have been featured in outlets such as Life magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, Cincinnati Magazine and Ohio Magazine.
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.
FHA loan: Depending on property location and other, personal factors, you could qualify for a home loan from the Federal Housing Administration. In most cases, you'd be expected to make a down payment of approximately 3.5% (with a 1.75% insurance premium, and at a 4.25% interest rate). A down payment on our $300,000 model: $10,500. Together with closing costs and a buffer, savings required would be $26,916-$28,416. Notice, however, that you're paying a great deal more than in the non-FHA model when it come to the higher mortgage-insurance premiums -- some $43,485 over 103 months. Still, the FHA plan may be more manageable for some, as the initial down payment is smaller and insurance payments are spread out.

What to do instead: Have a frank discussion with anyone who offers money as a gift toward your down payment about how much they are offering and when you’ll receive the money. Make a copy of the check or electronic transfer showing how and when the money traded hands from the gift donor to you. Lenders will verify this through bank statements and a signed gift letter.
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.

“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.”
As a part of active approval, such contingencies must be removed in writing by certain dates which should also have been stated in your purchase offer. However, in some purchase agreements, contingencies are passively approved (also known as constructive approval), if you don't protest them by their specified deadlines. It therefore becomes important for buyers to understand the approval process and abide by taking necessary actions by the mentioned dates.
Having bad credit is not an uncommon problem for Americans, and it should not discourage you from the home buying process. Saving up for a larger down payment of 20 percent or more will be required with anyone with a credit score below 580, to help demonstrate that you will be able to manage a mortgage. Those with a credit score above 580 can qualify for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, with a down payment requirement of 3.5 percent. Home buyers can also consider taking out a private loan, but should be prepared to pay high fees and interest rates. Finally, taking out a conventional loan is still possible if you are able to demonstrate financial stability, and that you will be able to manage mortgage payments.
I believe some of the best advice is to PREPARE! I hear so many people say “Ok, we wanna buy a house now” and it’s like…WOAH WOAH WOAH…you can’t just go out & get one! There’s several things that need to happen beforehand. Unfortunately, money management is not a strong point for many of us young folks, but I’m getting better at it (and helping my husband do the same!). Thank you! 🙂
The spender in me knows that’s easier said than done. When my husband, Winston, and I moved into our first home, I had so many visions for what our home could look like! It was hard for me to accept the fact that I could only decorate one room at a time, but I knew our future money goals were more important than me spending all our savings at the furniture and home stores.
IRS Publication 530 contains tax information for first-time home buyers. Real estate property taxes paid for a first home and a vacation home are fully deductible for income tax purposes. In California, the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 established the amount of assessed value after property changes hands and limited property tax increases to 2 percent per year or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.

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
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 a person begins the process of buying a house he or she will need to know what they can afford. Typically this comes down to how much of a loan he or she can obtain. One route to take is to get pre-qualified. The pre-qualification process is one in which a mortgage company interviews the home buyer and asks questions about the individuals finances, including debts. An estimate of how much the buyer can afford is given at the end of the interview.
You most likely deposited earnest money when you signed the purchase agreement, which is a deposit made to a seller indicating the buyer's good faith, seriousness and genuine interest in the property transaction. If the buyer backs out, the earnest money goes to the seller as compensation. If the seller backs out, the money is returned to the buyer.
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.
Great article, very helpful. I love how you mention getting both of the partners’ credit scores in shape and saving money for a down payment. You have to start preparing for a new home long before you actually buy one. My husband and I have been working towards it for a few years, and we are finally ready to start looking! I am so excited and nervous at the same time!
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.
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.

Your inspector will provide a detailed report of everything in the home that could be repaired. Some of the items may not be a big deal, but some may be expensive or important repairs, such as the need for a new roof or HVAC system. You and your Realtor can request that the seller make some repairs, and the seller will have a few days to let you know whether they are willing to make the changes or reduce the price of the house. If the inspection uncovers major problems, such as termites or an unstable foundation, it can be your way out of a sales contract.
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. 
Pre-approval is yet another option that is available. For pre-approval a credit check is run and the amount of available down payment is taken into consideration. The lender also looks at any owed debt and even if the person is a first time home buyer. This results in an estimated pre-approved amount that is typically favored over pre-qualification.
Here’s why: The lender’s mortgage decision is based on your credit score and your debt-to-income ratio, which is the percentage of your income that goes toward monthly debt payments. Applying for credit can reduce your credit score a few points. Getting a new loan, or adding to your monthly debt payments, will increase your debt-to-income ratio. Neither of those is good from the mortgage lender’s perspective.
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.

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.
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.
No one loves shelling out money for unexpected expenses, but sometimes that seems like a rite of passage in homeownership. “Most of the time, the unhappy surprises are simply due to people being unaware of the things that can crop up,” says Brad Hunter, chief economist for HomeAdvisor. First-time homebuyers in particular may not know what to expect after closing on a home, and there’s nothing worse than developing buyer’s remorse about one of the largest investments you’ll ever make. Here are eight headaches to prepare for if you’re looking to purchase a house.
8. Secure a loan. Now call your mortgage broker or lender and move quickly to agree on terms, if you have not already done so. This is when you decide whether to go with the fixed rate or adjustable rate mortgage and whether to pay points. Expect to pay $50 to $75 for a credit check at this point, and another $150, on average to $300 for an appraisal of the home. Most other fees will be due at the closing.
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.
To find someone, interview several buyers' agents—this means they exclusively represent you, and not the seller, as well—until you identify someone who understands your needs and makes you feel comfortable. As a final step, check your state's real estate licensing board's website to ensure they're registered, and don't have any complaints or suspensions logged against them.

Once a seller accepts your offer, the closing process will begin. Keep things running smoothly by knowing what to expect when closing on a house. The average closing process takes 41 days, which gives you plenty of time to tackle closing items.(5) A real estate agent will schedule the remaining steps, from home inspection to final walkthrough, and keep you informed about any road blocks.
No one loves shelling out money for unexpected expenses, but sometimes that seems like a rite of passage in homeownership. “Most of the time, the unhappy surprises are simply due to people being unaware of the things that can crop up,” says Brad Hunter, chief economist for HomeAdvisor. First-time homebuyers in particular may not know what to expect after closing on a home, and there’s nothing worse than developing buyer’s remorse about one of the largest investments you’ll ever make. Here are eight headaches to prepare for if you’re looking to purchase a house.
Want a trusty home-buying guide by your side? Most first-timers will want a great real estate agent—specifically a buyer's agent, who will help you find the right houses, negotiate a great real estate deal, and explain all the nuances of home buying along the way. The best part? Their services are free to first-time home buyers (since the seller pays the sales commission). Here's how to find a real estate agent in your area.
McDonald recommends working with a local lender rather than an online or non-local lender, even if the online lender is offering a better rate. "Working with a local lender that's knowledgeable of the local market ensures you a smooth transaction right through to closing," he says. "Local lenders are typically also more readily available to their clients, and many local lenders will match the rates their competitors are offering."
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