As a metro area straddling two states – Missouri and Kansas – Kansas City keeps the cost of living cheap for residents of both states. With housing and utilities typically costing just over 26.3 percent of the blended annual household income, Kansas City moved up two spots on the Best Affordable Places to Live list this year, when it ranked No. 19 in 2016.
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.
A real estate agent isn't always a necessity when it comes to buying a home, but he or she can be an invaluable tool for those who do work with one. An agent will understand the real estate market and lead homebuyers to the homes that they want to see. As a result this will save the home buyer time and frustration. The recommendation of friends or family members is one of the best ways to choose a real estate agent. If there are no recommendations, choose a real estate agent or agency that has a good reputation in the area. The agent should be a buyer's agent dedicated to working in the best interests of the buyer. The agent should also be someone who listens and has no problem answering any questions that are asked of him or her.
The last step in securing a home mortgage, and ultimately buying a home, is getting an official loan commitment for a specific home and for a specific sales price. Once again, you'll undergo a credit check, so make sure you don't take out any loans or new credit cards right up to home closing date - that could impact your mortgage loan in a negative way. At this point, you don't want to raise any "red flags" to lenders, so keep your personal balance sheet clean during the mortgage loan approval process. Once you've cleared this hurdle, you'll get a loan approval letter for the specific home you want to buy.
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"Many first-time homebuyers will begin to look at properties prior to speaking with a lender, but this is a huge no-no," says Colin McDonald, a licensed real estate agent at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Blake, in Delmar, NY. "Most Realtors or sellers will not start to show houses to buyers until they've actually spoken with a lender and can provide a pre-qualification letter."
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.
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.
As a buyer, just keep in mind that mortgage pre-approval is different from mortgage pre-qualification. Pre-qualify, and you're undergoing a much simpler process that can give you a ballpark figure of what you can afford to borrow, but with no promise from the lender. Getting pre-approved is more of a pain since you'll have to provide tons of paperwork, but it's worth the trouble since it guarantees you're creditworthy and can truly buy a home.
You’re almost home. Once your mortgage is approved and at least three business days before you close, you receive a closing disclosure. It lists the fees you must pay, which typically total 2 to 5 percent of the home price. Read this closely and tell your lender if anything seems off. Know what to bring to your closing—such as your ID and any payments that are due. If you have a cosigner, that person needs to be there. Most of the time is taken up carefully signing forms. Once the loan closes—which may take a couple days—the funds go to the seller, you get handed the keys and the home is yours!

“Home loan documents” refers to the documents relating to the mortgage issued by the lender to you, the buyer. These documents include: 1) note, 2) mortgage, 3) loan application, and 3) Truth-In-Lending Disclosure (TILA). There may be other documents included. It’s always a good idea to read the documents yourself and consider having an attorney read them for you, too.
Once you've got your savings growing, your down payment set, and you are pre-qualified and pre-approved, start the search for your home. Begin by using sites like Zillow.com or Realtor.com to zero in on the home you want and the community you want to live in. Factor in key lifestyle needs -- like good schools, decent commute to your job, manageable property taxes, and ultimately, a home that has a good chance of appreciating in value if you ever want to sell it.
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.
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.
A ways south on the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Louisville’s cost of living consumes a slightly smaller percentage of residents' blended annual household incomes. A consistently declining unemployment rate and modest population growth due to net migration also contributed to Louisville’s No. 43 ranking in the overall Best Places to Live in the U.S. list.
As a buyer, just keep in mind that mortgage pre-approval is different from mortgage pre-qualification. Pre-qualify, and you're undergoing a much simpler process that can give you a ballpark figure of what you can afford to borrow, but with no promise from the lender. Getting pre-approved is more of a pain since you'll have to provide tons of paperwork, but it's worth the trouble since it guarantees you're creditworthy and can truly buy a home.

Property tax is the amount of money that you are required to pay based on the property’s assessed value. Property tax can be very costly, depending on where you live. This is something you’ll want to consider when calculating how much you plan on spending on your overall homeownership expenses. Property tax payments are usually due annually, but more often than not, they are divided into and included in your monthly escrow payment.
Even for the millennial generation, which has been slower to become a major part of the homeowner pool than previous generations, buying a house remains a key goal in life. In a study released earlier this year on expectations for aging, skilled nursing and assisted living company Aperion Care surveyed 2,000 millennials, of which 85 percent say they expect to own a home in their lifetime.
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.
Before submitting a purchase offer, request the energy bills from the past 12 months to get an idea of the average monthly cost, suggests Marianne Cusato, an award-winning designer based in Miami, Fla., and co-author of "The Just Right Home." Most utility companies can provide a homeowner copies upon request. “If you are in love with a house and everything else works but the energy bills, have an audit preformed to assess what your options are for making it more energy efficient,” says Cusato. “In many cities the electric company will come out and do the assessment for free.”

If you're like most first-time home buyers, you've probably listened to friends', family's and coworkers' advice, many of whom are encouraging you to buy a home. However, you may still wonder if buying a home is the right thing to do. Relax. Having reservations is normal. The more you know about why you should buy a home, the less scary the entire process will appear to you. Here are eight good reasons why you should buy a home.
A mortgage is defined as a secured loan that uses your home as collateral. The key here is to identify what monthly mortgage payment you can afford without losing any sleep at night. Expect that figure to be around 15%-to-30% of your monthly income (depending on your local tax rates and the amount of your homeowner insurance). This step ties into step one -- the more money you save, the less you'll have to pay on your mortgage loan interest (see next step below.)

Buying a home takes a lot of time -- likely more time than you figured. Exhibit "A" in this case is the "saving for a new home period." This timetable starts well before you see your dream home for the first time. To act fast on a great home purchase opportunity, you're going to need cash, and the more the better. Your chances of buying a home are greatly increased if you can show a lender you have plenty of cash saved up, and that you can meet the seller's likely demand that you can bring the cash needed to buy a home to the negotiating table. That means saving money early and often -- and starting well before you set eyes on that dream home.
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.
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.
Don’t hit the open houses just yet. Make sure your finances are in order, so you know what you can realistically afford. Use a mortgage calculator to estimate your budget given your income, debt, savings and other financial obligations. Check your credit score and compare your debt to income. You should be able to comfortably pay your full mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance) each month. And you likely need money up front for a down payment and closing costs. The good news is, most first-time homebuyers put down less than 20 percent.
The best way to pay for a home is with cash! Not only does it set you up for building wealth, it streamlines the real estate process. If you did get a mortgage, you’ll have a final step before you can close on your home: getting final approval. Your lender will dig through the details of your finances to finalize your mortgage. Whatever you do, don’t open a credit card, take on more debt, or change jobs once you’re under contract. That’s a stupid idea anyway! Plus any changes in your financial situation can jeopardize your loan process.
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?
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.
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