How to avoid this mistake: Talk to a mortgage professional about getting pre-qualified or even pre-approved for a home loan before you start to seriously shop for a place. The pre-qualification or pre-approval process involves a review of your income and expenses, and it can make your bid more competitive because you’ll be able to show sellers that you can back up your offer. (See what a pre-approval is and why it matters.)
You will have to provide proof of employment and proof of income to qualify for your mortgage. This shows the lender that you are creditworthy. It’s usually not great to quit your job during the home-buying process for this reason. Some lenders may ask for employment verification later in the home-buying process, so your approval could actually change if you take a lesser paying job during the home-buying process.
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.
Moving and other expenses: Moving expenses can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on how much you’re moving and how far away your new home is from your current place. To help with budgeting, you can call moving companies in your area for quotes ahead of time. If you plan to make updates to your home—like repainting, installing blinds, or buying new furniture—you’ll need cash for that too!
The home buying process can take anywhere from one month to a few years, depending on the unique experience and expectations of the home buyer. On average, a home buyer can spend one to two months searching listings, several weeks to negotiate and close a deal, and then make the first mortgage payment several weeks after that. With these variations in mind, a home buyer can realistically expect for the home buying process to take roughly three months.
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.
Next, review exactly how much you’re spending every month – and where it’s going. This will tell you how much you can allocate to a mortgage payment. “Make sure to account for every dollar you spend on utilities, kids' activities, food, car maintenance and payments, clothing, entertainment, retirement savings, regular savings, miscellaneous little items, etc., to know how and where a new mortgage payment fits into your budget,” says Liz Recchia, owner/broker at We Sell Real Estate, LLC, in Phoenix, Ariz., and author of “HELP! I Can't Make My House Payment!”
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.
Your property taxes are a fixed percentage of your home’s value based on the tax assessor’s appraised value of your home. Property taxes are paid to township or county in which the home is located. You will pay this tax annually, semiannually or as part of your monthly mortgage payments (the tax portion of the payment will go into your escrow account). The local tax assessor’s office can provide you with a specific property tax rate.
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.
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.
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.”
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.

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You most likely deposited earnest money when you signed the purchase agreement, which is a deposit made to a seller indicating the buyer's good faith, seriousness and genuine interest in the property transaction. If the buyer backs out, the earnest money goes to the seller as compensation. If the seller backs out, the money is returned to the buyer.
Pride of ownership is the number one reason why people yearn to own their home. It means you can paint the walls any color you desire, turn your music up, attach permanent fixtures, and decorate your home according to your own taste. Home ownership gives you and your family a sense of stability and security. It's making an investment in your future.
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.)
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.
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.
Ask to be present during the inspection, because you will learn a lot about your house, including its overall condition, construction materials, wiring, and heating. If the inspector turns up major problems, like a roof that needs to be replaced, then ask your lawyer or agent to discuss it with the seller. You will either want the seller to fix the problem before you move in, or deduct the cost of the repair from the final price. If the seller won't agree to either remedy you may decide to walk away from the deal, which you can do without penalty if you have that contingency written into the contract.
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.
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A lender or broker will assess your credit score and the amount you can qualify for on a loan. He or she will also discuss your assets (savings, 401(k), etc.) and debt, as well as any local programs that might be available for down payment assistance. That's where your homework on first-time homebuyer programs can help. If you think you qualify, look for a lender that handles the program you hope to get.
In order to purchase a home, people must have cash for a down payment. Unfortunately, many people have other obligations and debts that make it difficult to save the type of money that is needed. This is why one of the first steps to buying a home is to save for the down payment. In most cases, lenders require a twenty percent down payment. Buyers may choose to open a savings account in advance, or the down payment may be given as a monetary gift from a family member.
When it’s over—which could take a few hours, so plan on taking the day off from work—you’re a homeowner. Depending on your agreement, you might get the keys and be able to move in that day. Certain counties won't let you move in until the title's been recorded with the local government, which can take a few days, but your Realtor should know that law and brief you beforehand, if that's the case.
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.
P&I is the principal and interest you pay your lender each month. The principal is the amount of money being borrowed. The interest is the cost of borrowing the principal. Principal and interest account for the majority of your monthly payment, which may also include escrow payments for property taxes, homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance and other costs.

Keep your options open. Some homes might be listed as a two-bedroom, but if the square footage is in the same range as three-bedrooms you’ve been looking at. This could be a sign that it’s a hidden gem with a “secret” third bedroom. Secret bedrooms are often sunrooms that can be easily converted into a bedroom or an extra-large master that could be divided with some drywall.
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