First-Time Home Buyer Guide
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Buying a home can be an incredibly exciting (and stressful) venture, and you may not know where to begin. But don’t worry... we’ve compiled a list of steps you should take!
Planning to Buy
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When you buy a home, you’ll need cash set aside for expenses such as your down payment and closing costs. But you’ll also need to have funds for the things most people don’t consider: moving expenses. You may need to pay utility deposits, buy furniture, window coverings and more, not to mention the cost of physically moving your household. Have a nest egg to use during this time.
Decide How Much You Can Afford
When determining your budget, keep more than the cost of the property in mind. Items like HOA fees, taxes and insurance, and utility costs add up quickly. You may also be approved for more than what you can comfortably afford. Use tools like our Home Affordability Calculator to determine your price range based on factors such as income, debt, down payment, monthly bills and property tax.
Get Your Credit in Check
Knowing your credit score and having a clean – or as best as you can get – report is vital when purchasing a home. Borrowers are allowed one FREE credit report per year, and you can sign up for credit monitoring services. Be sure to monitor your credit for any irregularities or delinquencies that could cause a denial or higher interest rate. If you identify errors, work to correct them before applying for a loan. An identity protection service is a great tool to monitor your credit and stay safe from identity theft.
Choosing Your Mortgage
Research and Explore Your Options
Mortgage lingo, terms and calculations can be difficult to understand, especially when it’s your first home. Using an online resource like BALANCE or Apple's video library can help you get started. There are several types of mortgages, so find out what will best fit your goals, needs and lifestyle. Be sure to explore all your options and seek out the lowest rate and best terms for you. Our knowledgeable Loan Originators would be happy to answer any questions you may have. You don’t have to do this on your own!
Having a pre-approval letter shows sellers and real estate agents that you're a serious buyer, and this may give you an edge over buyers who have not yet taken this step. The market can be competitive, so you don’t want to wait until after you’ve found your dream home, or it may be too late. When shopping for a good rate, it won’t affect your credit to obtain a pre-approval from more than one lender, as long as you’re applying within a short time frame such as 30 days.
Choose the Right Real Estate Agent
Finding a good agent and determining compensation is important. You should be aware that if you visit homes with an agent before signing a contract, the agent may consider there to be a verbal contract in place, as they are taking the time to show you a home. Commissions are generally negotiable and do vary geographically. The total commission – for both the buyer’s agent and seller’s agent – is typically paid by the seller at closing. Use our Find An Agent tool and earn an average of $2,000 in Cash Rewards when you use Home Advantage to buy or sell your home!
Stick to Your Budget
You set your budget, now stick to it. As mentioned before, you may qualify for a higher mortgage than what you determined was comfortable for yourself. It can be tempting to accept the full amount when you feel pressure to beat another buyer’s offer. Remember to give yourself wiggle room and look at properties below your personal limit so you can make a competitive offer while staying within your budget.
Purchasing a Home
Make Your Offer
You’ve found the right house, now it’s time to make your offer. You’ll need to determine how much you’re going to offer. Is the asking price fair? Is this house in high demand? Your agent will know if the house is listed in a fair range with comparable homes in the area, and if they think this home will sell fast. If the home has been listed for some time, you may be able to offer a little less than what they are asking.
Pay for a Home Inspection
Professional inspectors look for potential problems to allow you to make a more informed decision about buying the property. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Typically, a standard inspection won’t test for things like radon, mold or pests. Understand what other potential inspections you might need.
- Make sure the inspector checks all parts of the house, including the roof and any crawl spaces.
- Traditionally the buyer attends the inspection. By following the inspector around, you can get a better understanding of the home and ask questions on the spot. If you can't attend the inspection, review the report carefully and ask any questions you have.
The power you have to negotiate will depend largely on the local market. If anything came up in the inspection, you could ask the seller to pay for needed repairs or lower the price to cover any repair costs. Talk to your real estate agent to determine how much negotiating room you have on a specific property. And, don’t be afraid to walk away if repair costs are too high and the seller won’t budge.
Finally, get ready to move and settle into your new home!
When you’re ready, use our Search for a Home feature to view current listings.