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.
Buying a home is exciting, especially when you're buying for the first time. In the midst of all of the excitement, it's easy to become blinded by beautiful back-splashes, granite and quartz counter tops, hardwood floors, and fenced-in backyards. While looking at homes that are completely perfect from top to bottom, you may begin to rationalize a larger purchase than you had originally planned for — "This house is perfect for me; it's worth $50,000 extra dollars for me to have a house with enough space in a perfect location," or "We were planning on spending a little bit of money on painting; we can spend $50,000 extra on this house because it doesn't need any work."

2. How much house can you afford? How good your finances look from a mortgage lender’s perspective isn’t the only thing to examine. You should also look at savings that can be used toward a down payment and determine how much you’d be able to afford on a monthly basis for your principal mortgage payment, interest, taxes and insurance, which Dabit recommends calculating as 28 percent of your gross income. “That’ll help you figure out how much you can borrow and sustain long-term,” he says.
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 know what you can afford, start limiting your options. Take time to learn the neighborhoods you’re considering: Research the schools and municipal services, and drive through them at various times, day and night, to determine whether you want to actually live there. Do you feel safe walking around the neighborhood? How far is it to the nearest stores and restaurants, and how much does that matter to you?
While getting legal aid is optional, it is always better to get a professional legal opinion on your closing documents. The complex jargon often mentioned in the property documents is difficult to understand even for the well-educated individuals. For an appropriate fee, opinion from an experienced real estate attorney can offer multiple benefits, including hints of any potential problems in the paperwork. In some states, an attorney's involvement may eventually be required by law to handle the closing.
Seek more than one estimate for expensive repairs, such as roof replacements. A good real estate agent should be able to give you referrals to contractors who can give you estimates. But also seek independent referrals from friends, family and co-workers so you can compare those estimates against ones you receive from contractors your agent refers.

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.

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 might have some empty rooms for a little while, but your budget and your future selves will thank you! And if you find yourself thinking, Oh well, I’ll just put it on credit—stop right there! Debt is dumb. Plus, taking on new debt in the middle of buying a house could delay your approval for a mortgage and make you miss out on the perfect home. Don’t do it!

Unicorns do not exist in real estate, and finding a perfect property is like finding a needle in a haystack. Looking for perfection can narrow your choices too much, and you might pass over solid contenders in the hopes that something better will come along. But this type of thinking can sabotage your search, says James D’Astice, a real estate agent with Compass in Chicago.
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.
One of the most crippling headaches to deal with is a monthly mortgage payment you find you can’t quite afford. Lysette Portales, a real estate agent with Century 21 Jim White & Associates in Treasure Island, Florida, says she stresses to clients that they should shop around for a mortgage with multiple lenders and inquire with each about different program options. “A lot of them might be able to do 100 percent [financing],” she says, noting that many homebuyers typically only know about a couple mortgage programs and settle for one without considering what would be most affordable option both now and down the line.

Once the buyer has found the perfect home, it is time to make an offer on the property. This is an area in which a real estate agent is invaluable. He or she will base the offer price off of comparable homes that have sold recently in the area. The agent will draft a contract that is agreeable to the home buyer. The contract will include the price of the offer, as well as terms that the seller and the buyer will need to meet in order to achieve a successful transaction. The agent will ensure that the contract meets all of the necessary legal requirements.
Like any other loan, a cosigner on a mortgage means that the person is binding himself to be legally obligated to make the debt payments should you default. So, if you have your mom cosign on your mortgage and you default, she’s on the hook legally and will have to make payments. Similarly, if she wants to get off your mortgage, she can’t do so without you refinancing. If a cosigner is required, the lender is effectively saying that your financial history isn’t good enough and they want someone else to be on the hook, too.
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.
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.

Your mortgage lender will also be working on the underwriting for the loan, including an appraisal of the property to ensure the purchase price matches its value, based on other sales of similar properties in the area. If the appraiser determines the house isn’t valued at the agreed-upon sale price, you may have to come up with cash to make up the difference, or try to negotiate the price down with the seller. You'll likely have to provide updated proof of income, details on your existing debts and assets, information about your tax return and, of course, the address of the property you're buying along with the price of the house and amount you'd like to borrow.

In any case, consider picking a mortgage with a fixed rate for the longest time that you think you'll be keeping the home. That's because you could see your monthly payments jump up on a variable rate mortgage if interest rates keep climbing. On the other hand, fixed rate mortgages start with higher interest rates so it may not make sense to pay more to lock in a fixed rate for longer than you need it.


What to do instead: Focus on what monthly payment you can afford rather than fixating on the maximum loan amount you qualify for. Just because you can qualify for a $300,000 loan, that doesn’t mean you can afford the monthly payments that come with it. Factor in your other obligations that don’t show on a credit report when determining how much house you can afford.

Buying a home is one of the largest purchases you'll likely make, and it's important to make sure your financial house is in order. Start by reviewing your bank accounts and billing statements to get a handle on how much money you're making and spending each month. If you're planning to buy a house with someone else (like your spouse), review their finances as well, and then ask yourself some questions:
×