Owing to the high costs, property purchase often remains once-in-a-lifetime activity for many individuals. It may seem like the closing process is a lot of complex work, it is worth the time and effort to get things right instead of hurrying up and signing a deal that you don’t understand. Be wary of the pressure created to close the deal fast by the involved agents and entities who are there to help you for their cut, but may not be really responsible for the problems you may face in the long run from a bad deal.
First-time home buyers tend to pay more than experienced buyers would pay for the same house, according to research conducted by two economists with the Federal Housing Finance Agency. In their analysis of appraisal data from more than 1.7 million home sales, FHFA economists Jessica Shui and Shriya Murthy concluded that first-timers overpay by an average of 0.79%, which was nearly $2,200 per house, according to the data set they examined.

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. 
Beyond pride of ownership, it's important to realize another benefit. First, real estate moves in cycles, sometimes up, sometimes down, yet over the years, real estate has consistently appreciated. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight tracks the movements of single-family home values across the country. Its House Price Index breaks down the changes by region and metropolitan area. Many people view their home investment as a hedge against inflation.
You'll probably have an ideal location, but keep an open mind as you see how much house you can buy in different areas. Homes and land are less expensive the farther they are from a metropolitan area. On the other hand, imagining that the long commute won't matter that much is an easy trap to fall into. The stress and costs of a long commute can undermine marriages, finances and mental health. Use the calculator in step 1 to see what that extra trip could add to your monthly bill.

Your agent will send listings to your cellphone. You'll also pick up House For Sale magazines and read classified ads in your local newspapers. You'll probably spend an inordinate amount of time surfing the Internet for homes. You might even plan afternoon drives to preview neighborhoods. Those are all excellent ways to see what's available. Here are some tools to help you narrow your home buying search.
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.
Once you’re ready to start home buying, it’s offer time. Here’s where you’ll thank yourself for working with a real estate agent. They’ll help you determine the right offer to make for a particular house, including things that go beyond the dollar amount. For instance, offering an accelerated closing date or to buy and lease back to the buyer if they can’t move right away may be a smart move in some situations. When you make an offer on a house, the seller may accept it or counter-offer, and then your agent will help you decide how and if to negotiate. Once you arrive at a deal everyone likes, you’re considered under contract to buy the house.
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.
The home buying process can take anywhere from one month to a few years, depending on the unique experience and expectations of the home buyer. On average, a home buyer can spend one to two months searching listings, several weeks to negotiate and close a deal, and then make the first mortgage payment several weeks after that. With these variations in mind, a home buyer can realistically expect for the home buying process to take roughly three months.
Your agent may generally know which home you are going to choose, due to experience and intuition. However, make sure that you don't feel your agent is trying to steer you toward any specific property, and choose the home without interference from the agent because it's your choice as the buyer alone to make. Keep in mind, however, that real estate agents are required to point out defects and should help buyers feel confident that the home selected meets the buyer's stated search parameters.
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.
To your initial savings for a $300,000 home, it's also wise to add enough to ensure that any unexpected twists and turns are accounted for after you move into your new house. A sensible goal is to think of that buffer as a half-year of mortgage payments. That would be $10,572 for the buyers in our initial $300,000-at-10% model -- a total of $46,572-$48,072 in the bank before closing a deal.
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.

Note that if our home buyers had saved $60,000 for the down payment, their monthly bill would drop to some $1,600, eliminating the need for mortgage insurance. But in our model, mortgage insurance accounts for just $1,356 annually over 6.5 years in the $60,000-down-payment case -- or $8,800 total. Turns out that's a lot less than saving the additional $30,000 to hit the 20% down-payment mark. And so, if savings are an issue, first-time buyers might take on the insurance in exchange for a lower down payment.
Turning back to the Midwest for the remaining four Best Affordable Places, this western Michigan metro area costs residents little, with just 25.36 percent of the blended annual household income going toward housing and utilities. Like Fayetteville, Grand Rapids also lands in the top 20 of the overall Best Places to Live ranking, with a strong job market and high college readiness scores among high school students.
Consumers who carry credit card balances cannot deduct the interest paid, which can cost as much as 18 percent to 22 percent. Equity loan interest is often much less and it is deductible. For many homeowners, it makes sense to pay off this kind of debt with a home equity loan. Consumers can borrow against a home's equity for a variety of reasons such as home improvement, college, medical or starting a new business. Some state laws restrict home equity loans.
There are rules lenders follow to determine what you can borrow, such as the 28/36 rule, which says that a homeowner should spend no more than 28 percent of their gross monthly income on housing expenses, and no more than 36 percent on overall debt. But buying a home also comes with significant upfront costs, such as the down payment and closing costs, so you’ll want to make sure you have savings left for emergencies and other unexpected expenses after you close on your new home.
"This investment shouldn’t be entered into without someone who knows the market, the neighborhood, local trends, specific values, and how to navigate the process," says George Lawton, licensed real estate agent with RE/MAX Over the Mountain in Birmingham, AL. "A Realtor who is your advocate and is looking out for your needs can simplify this process and make it enjoyable. But don’t just hire your neighbor’s mom who does this part time for Christmas money. Interview a few that are recommended by friends and family and see who you feel most comfortable with. You may be working together for months, and you want it to be a good relationship."

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.
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.
Being under contract means you can still back out if you learn anything unexpected about the house. And a home inspector is the one who finds any potential surprises. It’ll cost around $300 to $500 for your home inspection, but it’s well worth saving you from buying a house with a major problem. Your agent can often help you find an inspector, or you can go through the American Society of Home Inspectors.

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.
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!
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.
Buying your first home can be a daunting task. But millions of people have been there before you and survived. If you do your homework, you'll have the best possible chance of finding a place you can afford for a price you can handle. The big surprise for many first-timers is that they need to finish the first five steps on this list before they can even begin to look for a home.

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.
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.

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.
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.
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.
If you want the smallest mortgage payment possible, opt for a 30-year fixed mortgage. But if you can afford larger monthly payments, you can get a lower interest rate with a 20-year or 15-year fixed loan. Use our calculator to determine whether a 15-year or 30-year fixed mortgage is a better fit for you. Or you may prefer an adjustable-rate mortgage, which is riskier but guarantees a low interest rate for the first few years of your mortgage.
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.
When you’ve selected a Realtor, start searching in earnest for your new home. Your real estate agent will find properties that he or she thinks you may like, but you can also search on your own. Check out internet listings, drive around and look for yard signs, and ask around to learn about houses that may be available in the neighborhoods you want. In a seller’s market, where available properties may be limited, try to exhaust all your options—not just Trulia, Zillow, and whatever your Realtor sends your way.
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]
The title company and escrow company will also send you documents to review. The title company will send you the title insurance commitment showing that the party who has title is in fact the seller, in addition to any liens on the title. You should review this document and so should your attorney if you have one. The escrow company will also review it to make sure it says what it should say.
Some first-time home buyers are naive. Overly optimistic, they think nothing could possible go wrong. If a home has a few problems, they view them as easy fixes and are unrealistic when it comes to the cost and time it takes to fix up the home. Some naive buyers will move to a neighborhood on the wrong side of town, forgetting that you can fix up a house, but you can't change your neighborhood or location without moving.

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.


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You will have to provide proof of employment and proof of income to qualify for your mortgage. This shows the lender that you are creditworthy. It’s usually not great to quit your job during the home-buying process for this reason. Some lenders may ask for employment verification later in the home-buying process, so your approval could actually change if you take a lesser paying job during the home-buying process.
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.

Arrange for a home inspector to look over the property. The real estate agent can help locate a reputable inspector for the task. A qualified inspector will check the foundation of the home, plumbing, electrical systems, the roof, walls, and visible insulation. An inspector will also look for signs of mold, asbestos, and pests. A home inspection is generally one of the steps to buy a house that is being resold.


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.
When you’ve selected a Realtor, start searching in earnest for your new home. Your real estate agent will find properties that he or she thinks you may like, but you can also search on your own. Check out internet listings, drive around and look for yard signs, and ask around to learn about houses that may be available in the neighborhoods you want. In a seller’s market, where available properties may be limited, try to exhaust all your options—not just Trulia, Zillow, and whatever your Realtor sends your way.
The largest metro area to make the Best Affordable Places to Live list, Houston residents spend 26.47 percent of the median blended household income on housing. The Texas metro area also sees a relatively low cost of living despite the significant number of people moving there. Houston's population grew by 6.84 percent between 2011 and 2015 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Once you’re ready to start home buying, it’s offer time. Here’s where you’ll thank yourself for working with a real estate agent. They’ll help you determine the right offer to make for a particular house, including things that go beyond the dollar amount. For instance, offering an accelerated closing date or to buy and lease back to the buyer if they can’t move right away may be a smart move in some situations. When you make an offer on a house, the seller may accept it or counter-offer, and then your agent will help you decide how and if to negotiate. Once you arrive at a deal everyone likes, you’re considered under contract to buy the house.
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