Gannon Forrester, an associate broker with Warburg Realty in New York City, says adjusting to the price of properties is the biggest challenge for first-time homebuyers in a pricey market like Manhattan – especially for those who haven’t lived in the area for long: “For someone [coming in] from outside New York, it’s a big culture shock of what the sticker price is.”
When you rent a home, you generally only have one payment — rent — and then maybe renter's insurance, which is optional. When you buy a place, your mortgage payment is only the beginning of an array of costs. Homeowner's association fees can be as low as $0 or as high as a few hundred dollars per month, depending on where you live and the amenities and services offered.
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.
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!
Once a person knows how much he or she can afford in terms of a house, it is time to look at the details of where to live. Often people choose a location-based off of factors such as family and work. Although a person may have a general idea of where he or she would like to own a home, it is important to consider all of the options, including urban versus suburban locations. Urban areas are generally in the city while suburban areas are located at the outskirts of the city. People with families may appreciate the suburban areas, which generally have more schools and larger homes and yards. Urban areas are typically more expensive, but because they are at the heart of the city there are more activities, culture, and restaurants. Small towns and rural areas located outside of large cities are also an option and offer more sedate living than larger more urban areas. A person should visit potential locations keeping in mind his or her family's lifestyle and commute.
You can find for-sale properties through listing websites, local publications and your real estate agent. Start touring homes to develop a sense of what you want and don’t want in your home, as well as what type of inventory is available in your desired neighborhood. Once you find a property that meets your needs, work with your agent to negotiate a fair price with the seller.

This is the day you get your house keys—but first, you have some serious paperwork to do. You’ll set an appointment for closing on your house, and you’ll need to bring your driver’s license, a cashier’s check for your down payment and closing costs (which range from 2 to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price) — and a lot of patience. You will sign and initial dozens of papers.
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

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.


Congratulations, you’ve made it! On closing day, your team (AKA you, your Realtor, lender, and attorney) will meet with the sellers and their attorney to make things official. Your lender or attorney will let you know in advance the total amount of money you’ll need to bring to the closing meeting for your down payment or any closing costs. Bring that amount in the form of a cashier’s check, then sit back and get ready to sign your name—over and over and over.
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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.
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This person will be your lifeline through the process. Not so long ago, people didn’t have much to go on when selecting an agent. A postcard in the mail or a name on a sign might have been all you had to consider if you didn’t have a personal referral. But now it’s a breeze to check reviews online. Go ahead and meet with a few agents and ask some questions. Your agent is your chief advocate, confidante and hand-holder in the process so you want to find a good fit.
To find someone, interview several buyers' agents—this means they exclusively represent you, and not the seller, as well—until you identify someone who understands your needs and makes you feel comfortable. As a final step, check your state's real estate licensing board's website to ensure they're registered, and don't have any complaints or suspensions logged against them.
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.)

As long as you have lived in your home for two of the past five years, you can exclude up to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for a married couple of profit from capital gains. You do not have to buy a replacement home or move up. There is no age restriction, and the "over-55" rule does not apply. You can exclude the above thresholds from taxes every 24 months, which means you could sell every two years and pocket your profit—subject to limitation—free from taxation.

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.
Many realtors will not spend time with clients who haven't clarified how much they can afford to spend. And in most instances, sellers will not even entertain an offer that’s not accompanied with a mortgage pre-approval. That's why – if you don't have all cash (how many first-time buyers do do?) – your next step is talking to a lender and/or mortgage broker.

To complete your purchase, you'll have to deposit additional funds into escrow. Since the original earnest money deposit is generally applied towards the down payment, it is important to arrange for the various payments required at different times, before the deal is closed. Failure to offer the required money in time can lead to the risk of deal getting cancelled, earnest money going to the seller, and you still being charged for the various services you availed.


If your available cash doesn't cover your needs, you have several options. First-time homebuyers can withdraw up to $10,000 without penalty from an Individual Retirement Account, if you have one, though you must pay taxes on the amount. You can also receive a cash gift of up to $15,000 a year from each of your parents without triggering a gift tax.
I just want to say thank you for creating a site geared towards younger people who actually want to do something with their lives. Most people treat young people like myself like aliens or freaks or something. I am 21, my husband is too, and we have a daughter who is almost a year and a half. We are both college students, me about to graduate from a community college and go on to a 4 year university, and my husband in the beginning steps of Engineering. Soon, we are looking to buy a home, but we still have about a year or two’s worth of prep. My credit is non-existent, and when it finally does exist, it won’t really be good due to some think-fast decisions that had to be made. My husband has good credit. We knew about that part, but all the other things we didn’t know about you covered pretty well 🙂 I will be a regular visitor to your site, keep supporting us who are under 30!

This is the fun part! As a buyer, you can peruse thousands of real estate listings on sites such as realtor.com, then ask your agent to set up appointments to see your favorites in person. Since the sheer number of homes can become overwhelming, it's best to separate your must-haves from those features you'd like, but don't really need. Do you really want a new home or do you prefer a fixer-upper? Make a list of your wants and needs to get started, and whittle down your options.

A lender will help you determine exactly what you can afford and, therefore, which houses you should be considering. To arrive at a purchase price, you’ll factor in expenses like homeowners insurance, association dues, and utilities to make sure you can comfortably make your mortgage payments. The lender will then identify the total amount of money it's willing to lend 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.

Take as much time as you need to find the right home. Then work with your real estate agent to negotiate a fair offer based on the value of comparable homes in the same neighborhood. Once you and the seller have reached agreement on a price, the house will go into escrow, which is the period of time it takes to complete all of the remaining steps in the home buying process.
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