Janice Walker's Blog
If you're an apartment renter ready to take the plunge into home ownership, there are a lot of reasons to be excited! Owning your own home does bring with it additional work and responsibilities, but the feeling of pride that accompanies it makes it all worthwhile!
Once you get used to the idea that "the buck stops here" and that there's no landlord to handle repairs and maintenance any more, it won't take long to get into the rhythm of being an established property owner. Here are a few tips to help ensure that your first experience with home ownership is a satisfying one.
- Get a good real estate agent. A real estate professional can provide you with valuable guidance, advice, and information about houses you're considering in your desired neighborhoods and price ranges. A buyers' agent can help you avoid many of the potential pitfalls of buying your first home and help you stay within budget. They'll assist you in clarifying your priorities and work on your behalf to find homes that meet your requirements. A service-oriented agent will not only point out the positive aspects of houses you're considering, but they'll also discuss ideas for adapting the home to your specific needs and lifestyle.
- Hire an experienced property inspector. A seasoned home inspector can take a close look at the condition of the house and property you're considering and help make sure there are no major structural defects, safety issues, or operational problems with the home's systems and components. Although every property inspector approaches their job a little differently, their inspection service should include everything from the roof and foundation to the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems. They may also report to you on the condition of the home's insulation, its exterior, and any existing or potential drainage problems on the property. Certain aspects of the house may be excluded from the inspection if it's difficult or unsafe to gain access to them. A top-notch home inspector can also provide useful insights into repairs that need to be made on the house. As a side note, professional property inspectors are often members of The American Society of Home Inspectors and follow the organization's Standards of Practice.
- Visit a lot of different houses for sale before making a final decision. It also pays to have a checklist with you to keep track of how each house stacks up to your requirements and expectations.
Making the decision to buy your first home is a big step. One of the most uncertain parts that’s involved in buying a home is that of securing a first-time mortgage. You’ll need to know what types of programs exist to help you on your journey to homeownership. Even if you have owned a home in the past but are now renting your home, you may be eligible for first-time mortgage benefits.
The first thing you should do is understand your options for getting a mortgage. The Department of Housing and Urban Development often provides you with agents to help you see whether you will, in fact, qualify for a first time mortgage and all the benefits that go along with it. They may also help you to see exactly what programs will work best for you. You can find agencies in your specific area on the HUD website.
Each state and local municipality have its own resources for those seeking to buy a home as well. These programs may get more specific, helping low-income earners, first-time home buyers and people with disabilities. Of course, you’ll need to meet certain eligibility requirements before qualifying for the programs. Your state and local housing offices are other great places to start when you’re searching for benefits for first-time home buyers.
Save, Save, Save!
Even before you think you might be ready to buy a home, you need to start saving. You’ll need a significant down payment, especially if you’re hoping to avoid private mortgage insurance or PMI. If you can’t swing a 20% down payment, there’s good news: First-time home buyers are eligible for loans that require a lower down payment- as little as 3%!
You’ll also need a significant amount of savings to pay upfront for closing costs. These fees can come in somewhere between 3 and 4% of the purchase price of the home. It won’t be very pleasant if your bank account is completely empty by the time you reach the closing table. This is why it’s a wise idea to save long before you even think you might want to buy a home.
Look At Your Finances
In the same light of saving money, you’ll want to keep your financial health in check in order to prepare to secure your first mortgage. First, check your credit score and see where you stand. You can take the time to dispute any discrepancies you may find on your report. Then, start paying off any credit card balances that you may have. Remember that the higher your credit score is, the better your chances are of securing a mortgage and being approved for a first-time home buyer program.
Whether you're looking for your first house, a vacation home, or a retirement condo, there's always an element of excitement in finding a new place you can call your own!
Although buying and selling real estate can be stressful, especially if you've never done it before, being prepared and knowing what to expect can help keep things on an even keel.
Similar to planning a vacation or a cross-country trip, you'll want to avoid missed connections, frustrating delays, and wasted time. When it comes to buying a home, a little research, planning, and expert advice can go a long way toward ensuring a smooth journey. Here are a few specifics:
Check your credit score: Your credit rating has a major impact on your ability to successfully apply for a mortgage and be offered a relatively low interest rate. Knowing your credit rating can help you understand your options, avoid unexpected surprises, and take action to correct errors in your credit report or improve your credit profile.
Prepare a wish list: One of the keys to getting what you want in a new home is to clarify and prioritize the features that matter the most to you. Your checklist can include everything from lot size and architectural style to the reputation of the school district and proximity to stores. Some house hunters also place a high value on features like a fireplace, screened-in porch, and an open floor plan.
Find a good real estate agent: A buyers' agent can provide you with an immense amount of help in finding properties for sale that meet your specifications. They can also provide assistance, advice, and guidance on the many steps involved in going from loan applicant to new home owner. An experienced agent can also negotiate the best possible deal, in terms of price, seller concessions, and other advantages.
Meet with mortgage lenders: A crucial step in preparing to become a homeowner is understanding the mortgage application process, knowing how much banks would be willing to lend you, and determining an affordable price range. Meeting with lenders is also the first step to comparing interest rates and choosing a financial institution that would best suit your needs. Here's a helpful tip from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: "Getting a preapproval letter helps you show sellers that you are a serious buyer – but it doesn’t commit you to a lender."
When it comes to searching for and buying a house, probably the best advice anyone could give you is "stay the course!" Let's face it: It's easy to give up, get discouraged, or settle for a home that's less than what you really want. However, when you adopt a "stay the course" mindset, you'll do a better job of staying motivated, focused, and well organized until you find just the right home for you, your family, and your future!