Closing costs and prepaids: Alex Clark, a real estate Endorsed Local Provider whose team closes an average of 100 homes a year in Portland, Oregon, advises his clients to save around 3% of a home’s purchase price for closing costs and prepaids. But that percentage can vary depending on how expensive fees and taxes are in your area. Closing costs are the fees charged by title companies and lenders involved in your real estate transaction. Prepaids cover any prorated property taxes and insurance items.

Before you begin the home-search process, it’s crucial to get a good idea of how much house you can afford. Financial expert and author Dave Ramsey recommends multiplying your monthly take-home pay by 25 percent to determine what your maximum mortgage payment should be. You can then use a mortgage calculator to determine the ballpark home price that will keep your monthly payment under that amount.


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Or better yet, decide how much you’re willing to pay. Just because you can qualify for a larger mortgage doesn’t mean you want to have that kind of payment each month. Use the mortgage affordability calculator to help determine what you can afford. Now is also a good time to research your housing market and start going to open houses in your prospective neighborhood to give you a good sense of what your money will get you.
The fact that the Raleigh and Durham metro area is relatively affordable – with residents spending just 25.85 percent of the blended annual household income on housing and utilities – contributes to the trend in businesses and residents flocking to this North Carolina hot spot. Raleigh and Durham grew by 6.42 percent between 2011 and 2015 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, making it the 10th fastest-growing metro area due to net migration out of the 100 largest in the U.S.

You can get pre-qualified for a mortgage, which simply gives you an estimate of how much a lender may be willing to lend based on your income and debts. But as you get closer to buying a home, it’s smart to get a preapproval, where the lender thoroughly examines your finances and confirms in writing how much it's willing to lend you, and under what terms. Having a preapproval letter in hand makes you look much more serious to a seller and can give you an upper hand over buyers who haven’t taken this step.
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.
A lot can be up for negotiation in the homebuying process, which can result in major savings. Are there any major repairs you can get the seller to cover, either by fully handling them or by giving you a credit adjustment at closing? Is the seller willing to pay for any of the closing costs? If you’re in a buyer's market, you may find the seller will bargain with you to get the house off the market.

Homeowners insurance and property taxes: You’ll typically have to prepay homeowners insurance and property taxes at closing, and you should pay them on an ongoing basis as long as you own the home. The cost varies depending on your home and location. If you have an escrow account set up, these charges are rolled up into your monthly mortgage payment. But if you don’t have an escrow account, you’re in charge of paying them on your own, and you may have the choice of paying them monthly or annually.


How to avoid this mistake: If making a minimal down payment is an accomplishment, the choice is simple: Don’t buy discount points. If you have enough cash on hand, the value of buying points depends on whether you plan to live in the home longer than the “break-even period.” That’s the time it takes for the upfront cost to be exceeded by the monthly savings you get from a lower interest rate.

Closing a property deal can be a long and stressful exercise that involves lots of steps and procedural formalities. Closing occurs when you sign the papers that make the house yours. But before that fateful day arrives, a long list of things has to happen. This article provides important guidelines for a property buyer that must be followed during the closing process from the moment your offer is accepted to the moment you get the keys to your new home.
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.
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.

Each month, part of your monthly payment is applied to the principal balance of your loan, which reduces your obligation. The way amortization works, the principal portion of your principal and interest payment increases slightly every month. It is lowest on your first payment and highest on your last payment. On average, each $100,000 of a mortgage will reduce in balance the first year by about $500 in principal, bringing that balance at the end of your first 12 months to $99,500.


Once all of the above steps are completed, you’ll be on your way to the closing table. This is when the deed to the home is transferred from the seller to the buyer. Every transaction varies, but plan to sign a ton of paperwork. An attorney or settlement agent will guide you through the process. Then you’ll officially be a homeowner and receive the keys to your new home. Congrats!
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.

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.
During your house hunt, you may find a house that looks great at first glance. Then, as you walk through a few of the rooms, you notice problems with the house — maybe the floors squeak or the kitchen island is off-centered. After walking through the house, you come to realize that someone simply put lipstick on a pig, and this house is in questionable shape.
I’m a big proponent of the Dave Ramsey line of thinking when it comes to home ownership – buying a house costs you money in the short term but is an asset in the long term. What does this mean? It means that you need to have money to buy a house. Comparing rent to a mortgage payment is not how you decide whether you should buy a home. In fact, most pros suggest that you have an emergency fund of at least 3-6 months in place and put between 10-20% down when you buy a home.
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.
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

Still, if you familiarize yourself with what it takes to buy your first home beforehand, it can help you navigate the real estate market with ease. So let's get started! In this step-by-step guide, you'll learn what it takes to buy your first home from beginning to end. Whether it's your first time in the real estate market or you're an experienced homeowner who wants to brush up on their skills, this list has you covered.
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.

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.


2) Figure out how much home you can afford. Remember, just because the mortgage company will loan you the money doesn't mean you should take it. There are rules of thumb like not spending more than 28% of your income on mortgage payments, but every person's situation is different. Two people may have the same income, but one may need to save more for retirement or choose to make large private school tuition payments for their kids. Take a look at your current saving and spending needs to see how much you can realistically afford to pay each month and don't forget to leave some room for the potential "hidden expenses" of home ownership like utility bills, HOA fees if applicable, repairs and maintenance.


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.

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.
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.
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.
Following a decline in homeownership after the Great Recession, homeownership rates nationwide are above 64 percent as of the first quarter of 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While homeownership has not returned to its historical peak of 69.2 percent in 2004, it is edging upward again after hitting a 50-year low in mid-2016 at 62.9 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 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.

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.
Alternatively, you can put less money down with other options, like an FHA loan through the Federal Housing Administration, which requires less money down and a less impressive credit history but typically comes with a higher interest rate. Veterans are able to take advantage of VA loans, backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which require no money down but have additional fees.
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.
If saving up to pay the total price of a house in cash isn’t reasonable for your family’s timeline, at least save for a down payment of 20% or more. Then you won’t have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects the mortgage company in case you can’t make your payments and end up in foreclosure. PMI usually costs 1% of the total loan value and is added to your monthly payment.
Interest rates are the term used to describe the percentage you'll pay your lender to borrow the money you'll need to buy your home. By and large, your mortgage will be paid off either at a 15-year or 30-year timetable. As far as interest rates go, the shorter the time you'll need to pay off the mortgage, the more favorable your interest rate. The lower your interest rate, the less your monthly mortgage payment will be. Consequently, job one when you go shopping for a mortgage lender is to compare interest rates -- and choose the loan where those rates are the lowest you can find.

What to do instead: Don’t open new credit cards, close existing accounts, take out new loans or make large purchases on existing credit accounts in the months leading up to applying for a mortgage through closing day. Pay down your existing balances to below 30 percent of your available credit limit, and pay your bills on time and in full every month.
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.
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.
Each month, part of your monthly payment is applied to the principal balance of your loan, which reduces your obligation. The way amortization works, the principal portion of your principal and interest payment increases slightly every month. It is lowest on your first payment and highest on your last payment. On average, each $100,000 of a mortgage will reduce in balance the first year by about $500 in principal, bringing that balance at the end of your first 12 months to $99,500.
For the past 15 years, Williams has specialized in personal finance and small business issues. His articles on personal finance and business have appeared in CNNMoney.com, The Washington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes.com and American Express OPEN Forum. Williams is also the author of several books, including "Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America's Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever" and "C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America"
PMI stands for private mortgage insurance. As part of qualifying for a conventional loan, you will have to get PMI if you put down less than 20%. Once your equity in your home reaches 20%, you can get the PMI removed (lowering your monthly mortgage payment). However, with an FHA loan, the insurance stays on the loan for the life of the loan, regardless of the equity in the loan. The private insurance on an FHA loan is called mortgage insurance premium (MIP). There is no way to avoid MIP on an FHA loan.
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 you also should seek independent referrals from friends, family and co-workers so you can compare those estimates against ones you receive from contractors your agent refers.
Despite the District of Columbia having the fifth-highest cost of living out of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S., the nation's capital is the 25th best affordable place to live. The District’s median blended annual household income – the median total income for households (rather than individuals) that rent or own a home in the area – is more than $95,000. This makes the blended annual cost of living – factoring in mortgage payments, rent, utilities and taxes – of slightly more than $25,000 comparatively affordable.
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. 
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.
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."

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.


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.

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.
In a perfect world, I would love to get a 15 year fixed rate mortgage using a conventional loan where I put down 20% (avoiding PMI altogether) in a great neighborhood close to the city (but not too close) with a white picket fence, red door, and black shutters with a boatload of money in the bank to go with it. But here I am, writing about the process and not buying any homes – I’m just trying to pay off my student loans.
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.
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