12 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers
Buying a home is an exciting time. It’s also full of a lot more steps than a lease signing. Before you put up the “sold” sticker with your real estate agent, make sure you’ve considered these tips so you’re truly ready to take the plunge into homeownership.
#1: Pick a reputable mortgage lender
This is probably one of the most important steps in a homebuying process because it will impact your interest rate and ability to close in a timely manner on a home. Asking friends and reading reviews is always a good place to start. So is choosing a mortgage lender that’s a Fortune 100 company or referencing reliable resources. That way, you’ll know they have the financial backing and credibility to help you with one of the most important purchases of your life.
#2: Know your interest rate
Mortgage interest rates have averaged around 3.24% to 4.06% since August 2015. However, they fluctuate so regularly that it’s important for you to do some research on market trends before you decide on a lender. Interest rate is what you’ll be paying on top of your mortgage for 15 to 30 years, so finding the lowest possible number will save you a ton in the long run.
#3: Familiarize yourself with “loan estimate”
You’ll find that there are a lot of extra fees involved in buying a home. Asking your lender for a loan estimate will include the APR and all of the points and fees you’ll be paying in addition to interest rate, so you’ll know exactly how much your dream home will cost you.
#4: Know the difference between fixed and adjustable
A fixed rate mortgage means you won’t ever have a higher or lower interest rate over the course of your loan. An adjustable rate means it can go up and down with the market. Fixed rate mortgages are often more expensive since they safeguard you from rate hikes, however, you can save big time if the market skyrockets. On the other hand, adjustable rates are less expensive and can benefit you if the market rates drop. But don’t do it if you aren’t comfortable with the possibility that your interest rate could grow 10% or more depending on the market.
#5: Get a home inspection!
It may be tempting to agree to buy a house without a home inspection if it’s a competitive market, but this is a huge no-no. During home inspections, a licensed inspector examines your foundation and roof and looks for red flags like water damage. If they find something significantly bad in a home inspection, you can negotiate that the seller pay some of the cost to fix it before you move in. And if it’s really severe, you can back out. Otherwise, the whole price tag of fixing damage is on you.
#6: Shop in a neighborhood that will appreciate
Buying in an established neighborhood means that you’ll have great neighbors and steady equity, but you’ll be paying more for that. If you buy in an up-and-coming neighborhood, you’ll get a lower purchase price on your home and will most likely be able to gain equity over the years as it appreciates with the positive growth of the neighborhood.
#7: Know the difference between an HOA and non-HOA neighborhood
A Homeowners Association is a community that has fees on top of your mortgage to provide you with luxuries like landscaping, a pool, community center, and more. These neighborhoods are beneficial because they ensure your equity will stay steady because of the high quality of the community. However, they come with a set of rules and dues you might not want to be stuck with.
#8: Have about 20% to put down
A down payment of 20% is almost mandatory these days. If you’re buying a $250,000 home, that’s $50,000. To first-time buyers, this can be incredibly intimidating, but the more you put down, the less you’ll have to take out in a loan—and pay interest on.
#9: Don’t waste money when you don’t have to!
If you can put 20% down, you can also avoid paying thousands of dollars in private mortgage insurance. There are also a ton of other ways you can save money as a new homeowner including skipping landscaping, deciding against installing a pool, and more.
#10: Don’t forget about closing costs
When you’re coming up with your maximum budget for a home, don’t forget about closing costs. While some brokers can negotiate closing costs into the final selling price of the home, most cannot. Closing costs are usually 2-5% of the cost of the home, so be prepared to negotiate, factor this into your mortgage, or pay out of pocket.
#11: Get the proper homeowners insurance
Once you’ve invested so much in a piece of property, you’ll want to make sure it’s safe from fire, natural disasters, theft, and other unfortunate events. There are so many insurance companies out there that offer homeowners insurance, but with different premiums and unique coverage options. Make sure you find the cheapest homeowners insurance quotes by consulting the experts at Obrella.
#12: Be prepared for a lengthy process
Unfortunately, buying a home isn’t quick. Mortgage approvals can take several weeks to months due to document signings, appraisals, and more contract signing. Ask how long your lender will take before you work with them so you know your timeframe exactly.