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!
With acute shortages of homes for sale in so many markets throughout the nation, getting a preapproval for a home loan is more important than ever. Cash buyers used to give sellers confidence that a deal would close quickly, but fewer cash buyers are shopping right now. And when houses weren’t in such short supply, buyers didn’t face the pressures of intense seller’s markets.
FHA Loans – FHA loans are the most popular type of home loan used by first-time homebuyers. This is because they are easier to qualify for and have a low 3.5% down payment. FHA home loans allow for higher DTI ratios making it easier to qualify for a home loan with low income. They also have the lowest credit score requirement of any mortgage, you need just a 580 credit score with 3.5% down.
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.
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.
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.
While 20 percent is ideal, you don’t necessarily need that large of a down payment to buy a home. There are loan programs that cater to first-time home buyers, such as the FHA loan, which allow for down payments as little as 3.5%. Even some conventional loans allow for down payments as low as 3 percent. And certain loans, such as VA loans for veterans and military or USDA loans for buyers in rural areas, don’t require a down payment at all.
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.

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.
A title search and title insurance provide peace of mind and a legal safeguard so that when you buy a property, no one else can try to claim it as theirs later, be it a spurned relative who was left out of a will or a tax collecting agency which wasn't paid its dues. A title search is an examination of public records to determine and confirm a property's legal ownership, and find out what claims, if any, are on the property. If there are any claims, those may need to be resolved before the buyer gets the property. Title insurance is indemnity insurance that protects the holder from financial loss sustained from defects in a title to a property, and protects both real estate owners and lenders against loss or damage occurring from liens, encumbrances, or defects in the title or actual ownership of a property. 
Once the seller accepts your offer, it’s time to apply for a mortgage. You typically have 45 to 60 days to fulfill your purchase contract, so you need to move fast. Within three days of submitting your application, your lender sends you a loan estimate, including your approximate interest rate, monthly payment and closing costs. Review this document carefully. To move forward, you need to verify your income and assets. This requires extensive documentation, which is necessary for the lender to ensure you’ll be a successful homeowner who can handle loan payments over the long term.

Many first-time buyers wait until they’ve found a home they want to buy before taking to a lender, but there are many benefits to getting pre-qualified early. Pre-qualification can help you shop in your price range, act fast when you find a house you want to make an offer on, and catch — and correct — any errors on your credit report before they cause a problem with your loan. This could help save you thousands in the long run because an error on your credit report could result in a lower credit score, leading to a higher interest rate.
For most buyers, this is when the butterflies really show up. Once you’ve found a home you want your agent will work with you to craft an offer. Remember, the listing price is only a starting point. Your agent will understand the market and help guide you to make the most attractive offer, whether it’s below, at or above listing price. Are there any contingencies to your offer? Will you require an inspection? These are all things your agent will help you with. Once you’ve submitted the offer you get to wait. It will seem interminable. You may get neither a simple yes or no but a counteroffer to consider. It can be something of a dance. If you get a solid “no,” it’s back to Step 5. If you get to a “yes,” celebrate!
Preapproval is the second step in the mortgage process. You complete a mortgage application and provide detailed information to the lender (although you will not yet have a house picked out most likely, so the property information can be left blank). The lender will approve you for a specific amount and you will get a better idea of your interest rate. This puts you at an advantage with a seller because the seller will know you’re one step closer to getting a mortgage.
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.
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.

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.
The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial, tax or investment advice. Bank of America and/or its affiliates, and Khan Academy, assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional and tax advisor when making decisions regarding your financial situation.
You can also order a free copy of your credit reports from each of the credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com as long as you haven't done so in the last 12 months. One study showed that about 70% of credit reports have errors in them so check to see if there are any in yours that could be hurting your credit score and if so, be sure to have them corrected. It’s bad enough to suffer from your own mistakes. You don’t want to suffer from someone else’s too. Finally, you may want to put a security freeze on your credit reports to protect you from identity theft.

Before you even look at a single property, you need to know exactly how much you can afford. There are several online calculator tools you can use, but these tools are only estimates. Use these tools as a guide, but then adjust the amount based on your individual situation. How much is your current rent payment? Did you meet that payment each month with ease, or was it a bit of a struggle each month? The payment you can afford right now is a good indicator of what you'll be able to afford in your new home.
How to avoid this mistake: Figuring out how much to save is a judgment call. A bigger down payment lets you get a smaller mortgage, giving you more affordable monthly house payments. The downside of taking the time to save more money is that home prices and mortgage rates have been rising, which means it could become more difficult to buy the home you want and you may miss out on building home equity as home values increase. The key is making sure your down payment helps you secure a payment you’re comfortable making each month.
Fixer-uppers are all the rage these days, as many homebuyers are willing to take on renovation projects in exchange for a slightly lower price tag. But when budgeting for your renovations, leave plenty of room for the discovery of existing problems once your contractor looks behind the walls. The HomeAdvisor survey found 51 percent of homeowners spent more time on home projects than they expected. “Even if you have a fully vetted, well-reviewed contractor … they still might uncover issues that maybe a previous contractor left incomplete,” Hunter says. He recommends leaving around 10 percent extra space in your budget for surprise problems of any kind.
In addition to having a down payment, a first-time home buyer will need a decent credit score. This three-digit number is a numerical summary of your credit report, a detailed document outlining how well you've paid off past debts like for credit cards and college student loans. A lender will check your score and report in order to estimate the odds that you will deliver your monthly payment to them, too. In turn, they will use this info to decide whether or not to loan you money, as well as how much, and at what interest rate.
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.

Paperwork forms the most critical steps of closing a property deal. Despite there being a heap of papers filled with complex legal terms and jargon, it is highly recommended to read it yourself. In case you don’t understand certain terms or portions, one can look up for explanation on the Internet or consult a real estate attorney. Although you may feel pressured by the people who are waiting for you to sign your papers - like the notary or the mortgage lender - read each page carefully as the fine print will have a major impact on your finances and your life for years to come. In particular, make sure the interest rate is correct and all other agreed terms, like no prepayment penalty, is clearly mentioned. More generally, compare your closing costs to the good faith estimate you were given at the beginning of the process and throw a fit about any fees that may appear off.


"Building equity in a home can be a good way to grow your wealth, but it's important that you do so in a way that doesn't stretch your finances too thin," he cautions. "Things can get really ugly when the housing market declines, so it may be a good idea to take out a 30-year mortgage but accelerate your monthly payments as if you had a 15-year mortgage. If you ever need to lower your payment in the future, you'll still have that option."

When you find the home you want—and you will—it’s time to make an offer. Talk to your agent about the right price to offer; it's common to make the first offer below the listed price, but in a very competitive market, you may need to offer the asking price or even more. Your real estate agent can help you gauge this, and often can get the scoop on how much competition there is for a certain home.


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.
Right from an escrow account to real estate attorney, all involved services and entities cost money which can snowball into a big amount. Many such services take advantage of consumers' ignorance by charging high fees. Junk fees, a series of charges that a lender imposes at the closing of a mortgage and is often unexpected by the borrower and not clearly explained by the lender, are a big cost. They include items like administrative fees, application review fees, appraisal review fees, ancillary fees, processing fees and settlement fees. Even fees for legitimate closing services can be inflated. If you're willing to speak up and stand your ground, you can usually get junk fees and other charges eliminated or at least reduced.
Getting pre-qualified for a home loan is a critical step in the mortgage process. Do so by approaching a mortgage lender or a bank and provide them with the necessary loan document information to get approved for a home loan. That includes your annual income, your household debt and your household assets -- and in some cases, your tax returns (especially if you own your own business.) Once you provide this information to a lender, they'll review your data and come back with a mortgage amount you're likely qualified to obtain. Normally, there is no cost to you for a mortgage pre-qualification, and you won't likely undergo a credit check -- not yet, anyway.
In a seller’s market, experts advise buyers to overlook cosmetic issues, such as loose fixtures, water stains (as long as it’s not the symptom of a larger problem), failed window seals and cracked tiles. However, some buyers might be in the position to negotiate these repairs with the seller. One option is to ask for a cash-back credit at the close of escrow. This will save you some money and you can oversee the repairs yourself.
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