Buying a home for the first time can be a very overwhelming experience. After all, we were once first-time home buyers, and we remember buying our first home. Add our personal experiences to the experience we’ve had helping first-time buyers, and you’ve got quite a bit of useful information. So, we’ve made a list of tips for those of you considering buying your first home.
1) Weigh the pros and cons of renting versus buying a home. Since there is a ton of information available on this point alone, we’ll only do a quick run through of things to consider. Remember that when you rent, you typically only pay the bills, the rent, and maybe renters’ insurance. When you buy a home you can expect to pay the bills, the “permanent rent” (A.K.A. “mortgage”), homeowners’ insurance (and, depending on where you live, you may need to get additional insurance policies for your home), and property taxes. Also, you’ll have closing costs to pay when you buy the home, and these costs will be at least four or five thousand dollars (even if you have a $0 down payment). Plus, you’ll need to pay for the upkeep of the home and any needed repairs.
2) A non-financial point to consider is how long you plan to live in the area. If you plan on moving in the next couple of years, you should probably think about renting. If you plan to stay for three or more years, you may want to consider buying.
3) Use your current budget to determine how much you think you can pay for the mortgage every month. If you know that the amount you pay for rent now is about as much as you feel comfortable paying, then make a note of that. When you talk with a home loan officer, he or she will probably ask how much you want to pay every month for your mortgage.
4) Talk with home loan officers to find out what size loan you’ll be able to get. There is no way to know what price range you’ll be qualified for until you talk with lenders. And, be sure to talk with several loan officers (we recommend talking to at least three). Since you’ll be a first-time home buyer, you’ll find a range of possibilities for financing. Some home loan officers even specialize in helping first-time home buyers. Sometimes first-time home buyers are pleasantly surprised at how much a lender is willing to lend. This is why I said for you to find an amount you’re comfortable with before talking with the lender. If you’re not comfortable with the monthly payment you’ve received, be sure to talk with your loan officer so that you don’t spread yourself too thin!
5) Be sure to get a “good faith estimate” from the loan officers that breaks down all of the costs of your mortgage. Looking at these estimates can help you to compare loans. You can also use the estimates to work in the estimated mortgage payment into your budget. Would you be able to comfortably afford your mortgage payment?
6) Be sure to think about your needs versus your wants. Although you may want a house with three bedrooms, two baths, 1800 square feet, and stainless steel appliances, remember that this is going to be a first-time home. Depending on where you live, you may not be able to afford everything that you want. So, don’t get discouraged if you can’t find the home of your dreams – you can work up to that home in the coming years. For now, you may find a two bedroom townhouse in a great neighborhood with other first-time home buyers like yourself.