8 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers
Over renting? We get it. But we know the idea of buying your first home can be nerve-wracking, so here are some of our best tips for first-time home buyers.
#1: Start saving for a down payment early and explore your down payment and mortgage options.
It's common to put 20% down for conventional loans, but there are other programs available if you don't have 20% cash to put down. There are programs for veterans, doctors, pharmacists, etc. you can look into.
Keep in mind that if you do put less than 20% down, you'll have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance and your monthly mortgage payment will be higher.
We partner with some of the best professionals in the mortgage industry, and they can help you figure out which program is best for you.
#2: Figure out how much house you can afford.
While you're talking to a lender, they can help you figure out what you want your monthly payment to be and from there can help you figure out how much house you can afford. They'll also take into account your debt-to-income ratio among other things. This is great information to have before you start looking at homes so you're only looking at homes you can truly afford.
#3: Get a pre-approval letter.
One of the best things you can take with you when looking for home is a pre-approval letter from a lender. They will thoroughly review your finances and determine how much they're willing to lend you. Having this letter in-hand will help you look more serious to sellers, and will make your offer look more attractive to accept.
#4: Do some research on where you'd like to live.
Before you go out looking, we'd recommend you do some research on areas that work for you price range, commute, etc. Other things you may want to look at are community amenities, nearby retail, parks, restaurants in the area, etc. This is a big investment you're about to make, so you want to make sure you love where you live!
A great tip is to drive through neighborhoods and areas you like at different times of the day to get a feel of traffic, activity levels, noise, etc.
#5: Figure out what features are important for your home to have.
Everyone's "must-have" list looks different. Yours might even look different from your significant other's. Sit down and hammer out what items are most important and are so-called "non-negotiables" and which items you may be willing to relent on.
Common must-haves we hear are: first-floor master suite, open floor plan, pool, and large kitchen.
Also remember that there are some items that are easy to update after you move in, even if they don't look how you want when you buy. We recommend putting greater weight on structural items than cosmetic items. Cosmetic things can easily be changed later down the road. And believe it or not, it's actually fun to have projects to look forward to and to feel like you're making your house your own.
#6: Save enough money for moving and post-moving expenses.
When figuring out how much house you can afford, make sure you're leaving yourself enough cash for moving expenses and expenses that will come up after you move in like buying furniture and appliances, making updates to the home, painting, landscaping, and more.
Also keep in mind expenses that will come later on down the line like maintenance, taxes, and utilities.
#7: Think about what living in a home will look like 5-7 years from now.
Especially when buying your first home, it can be easy to think about buying a home that will work for your immediate needs but may not meet your needs in 5-7 years. Think about how much space you might need in the coming years, how much yard you'll want to have for a dog and/or kids, and what the resale value of your home could look like when it does come time to sell.
#8: Hire a great real estate agent to work with (like us).
When you're not quite sure what you're getting yourself into, having a great real estate agent on your side is a major plus. We have lots of experience working with first-time home buyers and can help negotiate for you, help you navigate the process, and connect you with mortgage, title, and insurance professionals who can also help you through the process with as much ease as possible.