Buying your first home should be an exciting time – but it can also be a stressful time, especially if you are not prepared to purchase a home when you find one that you love and want to put an offer in on. In order to try to make the home buying process as smooth and stress-free as possible, we’ve compiled a list of Top 5 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers:
- Determine what you can comfortably afford.
Mortgage lenders will determine how much they are willing to lend to you, based on your income, your assets and liabilities and your credit score. However, they may not take into account monthly expenses you have that don’t report to your credit bureau, such as daycare or private school tuition, and they don’t take into account savings goals you may have each month. Therefore, it’s important for you to figure out how much you are comfortable paying each month, taking into account all of your expenses and any planned savings or retirement goals.
- Determine how much you have to use as a down payment, and where that money will come from.
How much will you put down, and where will your down payment be coming from? If a parent or other family member will be gifting you some or all of your down payment, they may be required to sign a form stating that the money they are giving is a gift, and not a loan, so you’ll want to know ahead of time so you can inform your lender and find out what their requirements are for gifted money.
- Is your credit ready for a home purchase? Can you work on your credit?
Borrowers with higher credit scores, generally 720 and above, will have the easiest time working with lenders. If your credit score could use a little work, talk to your lender. They may have suggestions on how to clean up your credit, or ways to boost your credit score before you apply for a mortgage loan.
- Determine your wants vs. needs in a home.
This one is a fun one. Going into the home buying process with some parameters will make it easier for you, and your real estate agent, to find you your perfect home. Are you only interested in certain neighborhoods? Do you need 2, 3 or more bedrooms? What about lot size, square footage? Determining a few “needs” as well as a few “wants” will narrow the scope of homes you look at to only those that will truly interest you and be the right fit for you and your family.
- Look, look, look – and get pre-approved so you are ready to move!
The more homes you see, the more you’ll be able to narrow down exactly what works, and doesn’t work, for you and your family. Don’t be afraid to go to open houses, or to ask to see homes that are for sale. Getting pre-approved for a home loan by a lender is also another quasi-requirement of home buying these days. Many sellers will not accept offers on their homes where the prospective buyer hasn’t already been pre-approved for the mortgage, so it’s in your best interest to know you’ll be approved for a home loan before looking for the home of your dreams.