In addition to saving for a down payment, you’ll need to budget for the money required to close your mortgage, which can be significant. Closing costs generally run between 2% and 5% of your loan amount. You can shop around and compare prices for certain closing expenses, such as homeowners insurance, home inspections and title searches. You can also defray costs by asking the seller to pay for a portion of your closing costs or negotiating your real estate agent's commission. Calculate your expected closing costs to help you set your budget.
Buying a home is one of the largest purchases you'll likely make, and it's important to make sure your financial house is in order. Start by reviewing your bank accounts and billing statements to get a handle on how much money you're making and spending each month. If you're planning to buy a house with someone else (like your spouse), review their finances as well, and then ask yourself some questions:
This is also a prime time to decide whether you'll hire a real estate agent, if you haven't already. While you're under no obligation to do so, there are several potential benefits to working with one. First of all, an agent can provide access to more home options than you'll likely find yourself, as well as set up viewing appointments. Since home-buying can be an emotional process, an agent can also act as a mediator between you and the seller.

3) Save for upfront costs. Ideally, you would be able to put down 20% of your home's purchase price to avoid having to pay PMI (private mortgage insurance). If you can't put down 20%, mortgage companies will usually offer you a smaller "piggy back loan" to help bridge the gap but those loans have higher interest rates. You may also need between 2% to 5% of the purchase price for closing costs plus whatever you want to spend on moving, furnishings and renovations.

The home buying process is a considerably high-stakes endeavor, especially for first-time home buyers. According to the National Association of Realtors, buyers under the age of 36 have made up the largest proportion of home buyers in the U.S. over the last four years. Of this proportion, 66 percent of the buyers purchased a home for the very first time. Whether you are a first time home buyer or someone in need of a refresher, this comprehensive guide to the home buying process is just for you.
Ask the settlement agent for copies of all the paperwork you'll sign before closing, so you can carefully review them at your leisure. You'll be putting your John Hancock on several items, including the HUD-1 settlement statement, which details all of the costs related to the home sale; the Final Truth-in-Lending Act statement, which outlines the cost of the loan and the interest rate; and your final mortgage paperwork.
Sounds hard to believe, but it’s not rare for new homeowners to be late with their first monthly payment, or to miss it altogether, says Neil Garfinkel, a real estate attorney with Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson in New York City. “Maybe you didn’t fully understand the process. You thought it was being auto-deducted but it’s not being auto-deducted. You didn’t get the bill in the mail. Whatever. Those first couple of payments, from a credit perspective, are really, really important,” he says.
Unicorns do not exist in real estate, and finding a perfect property is like finding a needle in a haystack. Looking for perfection can narrow your choices too much, and you might pass over solid contenders in the hopes that something better will come along. But this type of thinking can sabotage your search, says James D’Astice, a real estate agent with Compass in Chicago.
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.
Home inspection, a physical examination of the condition of a real estate property, is a necessary step to not only know about any problems with the property, but also get a look and feel of the surroundings. If you find a serious problem with the home during the inspection, you'll have an opportunity to back out of the deal or ask the seller to fix it or pay for you to have it fixed (as long as your purchase offer included a home-inspection contingency).
From this chronological, step-by-step explanation of the home-buying process, you will learn everything you should be thinking about and doing at each point of the process. Sure, the process may still be difficult, stressful and draining at times, but at least you’ll know what to expect and understand what’s happening at every point along the way. You don’t have to rent forever if you don’t want to. (For resources on deciding if you’re ready to be a homeowner, see To Rent or Buy? The Financial Issues and To Rent or Buy? There’s More to It Than Money.)
McDonald recommends working with a local lender rather than an online or non-local lender, even if the online lender is offering a better rate. "Working with a local lender that's knowledgeable of the local market ensures you a smooth transaction right through to closing," he says. "Local lenders are typically also more readily available to their clients, and many local lenders will match the rates their competitors are offering."
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.
The winning bid isn’t always about price – the seller wants to feel confident about the entire transaction at the end of the day. If your bid includes your preapproval letter as opposed to a competing buyer’s prequalification, or you’re willing to let the seller take a little more time to move out, your offer might be the package the seller chooses.
In a quick conversation with you about your income, assets and down payment, a lender can prequalify you to buy a house. Getting preapproved takes a little more work. A lender will need to verify your financial information and submit your loan for preliminary underwriting. But it pays off when you begin your home search because a preapproval letter shows that you’re a serious buyer.

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.
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!
A title search and title insurance provide peace of mind and a legal safeguard so that when you buy a property, no one else can try to claim it as theirs later, be it a spurned relative who was left out of a will or a tax collecting agency which wasn't paid its dues. A title search is an examination of public records to determine and confirm a property's legal ownership, and find out what claims, if any, are on the property. If there are any claims, those may need to be resolved before the buyer gets the property. Title insurance is indemnity insurance that protects the holder from financial loss sustained from defects in a title to a property, and protects both real estate owners and lenders against loss or damage occurring from liens, encumbrances, or defects in the title or actual ownership of a property. 
From this chronological, step-by-step explanation of the home-buying process, you will learn everything you should be thinking about and doing at each point of the process. Sure, the process may still be difficult, stressful and draining at times, but at least you’ll know what to expect and understand what’s happening at every point along the way. You don’t have to rent forever if you don’t want to. (For resources on deciding if you’re ready to be a homeowner, see To Rent or Buy? The Financial Issues and To Rent or Buy? There’s More to It Than Money.)
Once the buyer has found the perfect home, it is time to make an offer on the property. This is an area in which a real estate agent is invaluable. He or she will base the offer price off of comparable homes that have sold recently in the area. The agent will draft a contract that is agreeable to the home buyer. The contract will include the price of the offer, as well as terms that the seller and the buyer will need to meet in order to achieve a successful transaction. The agent will ensure that the contract meets all of the necessary legal requirements.

How to avoid this mistake: Talk to a mortgage professional about getting pre-qualified or even preapproved for a home loan before you start to seriously shop for a place. The pre-qualification or preapproval 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.
In any case, consider picking a mortgage with a fixed rate for the longest time that you think you'll be keeping the home. That's because you could see your monthly payments jump up on a variable rate mortgage if interest rates keep climbing. On the other hand, fixed rate mortgages start with higher interest rates so it may not make sense to pay more to lock in a fixed rate for longer than you need it.

Beyond pride of ownership, it's important to realize another benefit. First, real estate moves in cycles, sometimes up, sometimes down, yet over the years, real estate has consistently appreciated. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight tracks the movements of single-family home values across the country. Its House Price Index breaks down the changes by region and metropolitan area. Many people view their home investment as a hedge against inflation.

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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