Being a first-time home buyer is an exciting step in anyone’s life, but it could also be overwhelming and stressful if you’re not prepared. Buying your first home is a big financial commitment, and there are a lot of factors to consider before moving forward. Below we’ve compiled five oft-overlooked considerations for first-time homebuyers.
Get Pre-Approved Before Looking at Homes
It’s a good idea to have a pre-approved mortgage before you start looking for your first home. It will help you recognize any barriers to acceptance; such as having too much debt or a poor credit histroy. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage will also help you determine the price range you will want to stay in while house hunting. Being pre-approved will also make you more competitive on the market compared to other buyers who have not been pre-approved. With that being said, getting a mortgage is like any other expensive purchase – it pays off to shop around and compare. Mortgage interest rates will differ from lender to lender. In addition to this, fees such as closing costs and discount points will vary with different lenders as well. That’s why we suggest it’s a good idea to apply with multiple mortgage lenders.
Look for First-Time Home Buyer Programs & Loans
As a first-time home buyer, you may be aware that there are first-time home buyer programs and options that you may qualify for. Some first-time buyers make the mistake of assuming that they need to delay buying a home because they need more time to save for a down payment. There are a number of low down payment loan options out there. Depending on your state, there are programs that offer down payment assistance and competitive mortgage rates for first-time home buyers. Ask your lender about first-time home buyer options and seek out programs in your state that you qualify for. On a federal level, you may also qualify for a U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan, the Department of Veterans Affairs loan, or a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan.
Budget and Spend Accordingly
There are a lot of expenses that goes into a home purchase that many first-time home buyers don’t realize. Remember that you’ll need to account for homeowner association (HOA) fees, taxes, insurance, etc. The general rule of thumb is that you should be spending no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay to pay for your living expenses. Also, keep in mind that along with paying for your down payment, you’ll also need to pay for your closing costs. Closing costs account for a small percentage of the purchase price of your home, and pays for important steps in the buying process such as the appraisal, home inspection, attorney fees, homeowner’s insurance, and home warranty. In additional to all of these expenses and fees, remind yourself that your new home will not be invincible from system/appliance breakdowns and routine maintenance- this is where a home warranty can help save you money and stress down the road. Work this into your budget as well so you are not blindsided by the costs of home repairs.
School Districts Will Affect Home Value
Paying attention to the school districts in the areas you are looking for a home is important, even if you do not have kids. This is because an area with a heavily sought-after school district raises your property value and taxes. Even if the school district is sub-par, properties closer to schools tend to have a higher home value. Schools with a good reputation attract families with school-aged children that creates a demand for nearby real estate and drives up property values. If you are thinking about having kids in the future, it may be a good idea to factor this in when purchasing your first home. Although buying a home near a good school district can be initially expensive, these homes tend to hold their value and even increase in value over time. For this reason, buyers who want homes near good school districts may be more willing to pay more and go above their budget, or even compromise on certain features they originally wanted.
Making a Competitive Offer
So, you have found the perfect home that is within your budget and feel you are ready to make an offer. Make sure you are completely committed to the purchase before submitting an offer, as you may be risking the loss of your deposit- typically known as a “good faith deposit”. You aren’t obligated to put in a good faith deposit, but it does increase your chances that the seller will accept your offer. Think about a good faith deposit as a way to tell the seller that you are serious about this purchase. The seller is taking a risk by accepting an offer because if the sale does not go through, the seller may incur financial losses through additional mortgage and insurance payments, taxes on the property, and reducing the price of the home to interest new buyers in the event that the original sale with you did not go through. Your real estate agent will help advise you on how to best proceed and making a competitive offer.