Owning a home is expensive—much more expensive than renting, even if your monthly house payment will be similar or cheaper than your current rent amount. That’s because when you own a home, you’re responsible for all the maintenance and upkeep costs. And those can add up fast! So, before you even think about buying your first home, make sure you’re debt-free and have an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses in place.
In a competitive real estate market with limited inventory, it’s likely you’ll bid on houses that get multiple offers. When you find a home you love, it’s tempting to make a high-priced offer that’s sure to win. But don’t let your emotions take over. Shopping below your preapproval amount creates some wiggle room for bidding. Stick to your budget to avoid a mortgage payment you can’t afford.
Down payment: Unless you’re getting a loan backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or U.S. Department of Agriculture, you’ll probably need to put some money down. While there are benefits to putting down at least the old standard of 20% of the home’s purchase price — one of them often being a lower interest rate — some lenders now offer conventional loans for as little as 3% down, and Federal Housing Administration (or FHA) loans allow as little as 3.5% down.

The journey to homeownership can have its ups and downs. But for most, the ride is well worth it. According to the Bank of America 2017 Homebuyer Insights Report, nearly three-quarters of first-time buyers say their home has had a positive, long-term impact on their finances. Hop on to learn the process inside and out—from creating a budget to prequalifying for a mortgage to closing the loan on a home of your own.

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.


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.”
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.
Once the offer has been approved, the buyer will need to secure the mortgage. This is done by complete the mortgage application. If a person has not been pre-approved or pre-qualified, it will likely take longer to complete this process. Ideally, a buyer should "shop around" for the best rates and terms. Most buyers choose fixed rates rather than adjustable rates.
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.
Several years ago I remember a friend advising me to purchase a house before I was ready, and now I have been curious about the repercussions of purchasing a house outside your financial capabilities. I appreciate that you specifically pointed out that you should never stretch to buy your primary residence thinking that you can take cash out or flip it for a quick profit in a few years. Thank you for the advice regarding financial planning in purchasing real estate!
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.
You'll want to know in advance that you likely qualify for a home loan, and that's where a credit check can prove invaluable when you buy a house. Your credit check will track your financial health using data from the three primary credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Your credit score from each agency can range anywhere from 350 to 800. The higher the credit score, the more likely you'll be granted a home loan, and the more likely you'll pay a lower interest rate when securing a home mortgage (that's because a high credit score will be viewed by a mortgage lender as a lower-risk loan proposition). In your run-up to your credit check, avoid taking out any loans or credit -- that will raise your credit risk level in the eyes of lenders -- and make sure you pay down any debt owed, and ensure you've got a good track record of paying your bills on time.
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.
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.

Common contingency clauses include appraisal, financing and home inspection. For example, if the appraisal comes in lower than the sale price, the appraisal contingency allows the buyer to back out of the contract. The same goes for financing and home appraisal. In the event the buyer’s loan doesn’t go through or the inspection report shows significant problems, the buyer can get out of the contract without losing their earnest money.
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