Starting the Home-Buying Process
Updated: Jun 5
I remember my first purchase - a condo. I was clueless I had no idea what I was doing or what I was really getting myself into. Thankfully, a good friend of mine was my Realtor and she walked me through everything so that I was comfortable. So comfortable in fact that I decided I wanted to be a Realtor as well. I got my license in 1991 and enjoyed a real estate career through 2017 when I retired. This site is all about sharing my real estate knowledge with my readers.
Many people dream of owning their own home. However, it can easily turn into a nightmare if a first-time buyer/couple is not prepared.
A recent survey mentioned that most renters would prefer to own a home. However, these renters believe that they must have at least 20% saved for a down payment…Wrong!!!
There’s a steep learning curve in terms of everything that needs to be done and what paperwork will be required. Getting the right professionals to assist you is extremely important.
Your first step is to determine how much cash you have on hand for a down payment. The more you have for a down payment, the better terms you can get for your mortgage. But let’s not be too hasty. There are a lot of other financial concerns you might not be aware of.
Any mortgage lender will want to see 3 to 6 months’ worth of paystubs and bank account statements. This will help determine whether or not you are able to afford the mortgage payments.
Check Your Credit Score
The higher your credit score, the better the terms will be for your mortgage. Some lenders stipulate a minimum score of at least 620 before they will consider approving a mortgage.
If you are thinking of buying a house, pare down any unnecessary expenses for several months. Don’t start buying a lot of things for your new home and then discover cash is very tight.
Armed with your personal paperwork, you can shop around for mortgages and get a pre-approval. This will be a rough estimate of the top limit you will be allowed to borrow. Then it will be a case of finding the right home within your price range.
Note that "pre-approved" is different than "pre-qualify." Pre-qualification is a quick and simple process, while pre-approval requires more paperwork, time and energy. Pre-approval, however, carries more weight and may make your offer stand out if the seller receives multiple offers. Don't lose out on a home because you weren't prepared.
There are 4 residential loan types to consider:
FHA requires 3.5% a down payment
Conventional requires a 5% down payment
Rural Development requires no down payment but there are fees associated with their loan.
VA requires no money down, but you must be Active Duty or a Veteran to qualify. You will also be paying a funding fee which can be rolled into the loan or paid for up front.
Be clear about everything you need to pay in total before committing to anything.
Other Paperwork and Fees
There will be various legal fees involved as well, such as title deed search, surveying the property to ensure it does not need major repairs, legal assistance with the paperwork, and so on.
Do your research to find out how much these might add up to. You might also ask someone you know who has purchased a home recently to get an idea of costs involved.
Beware of Predatory Lending Practices
Some people actually sign a loan agreement in order to get the down payment for the house - the equivalent of two mortgages on the same property. Others don’t ever see the entire "bottom line" of what it will cost per month until it is almost too late. They are congratulating themselves on the great "bargain" until they see the grand total of all taxes, insurance and so on.
Get professional assistance and be very sure you know what you are getting yourself into before signing anything.
Before Making an Offer Visit the Property Multiple Times
There’s nothing wrong with bidding on the first house that you see. However, plan to visit the property at least twice before submitting your offer.
After the initial visit to the property, go home, pray and sleep on it, then re-visit the home during the weekends and evenings. Are the neighbors rowdy? Are the neighbor’s yards and homes kept up? Are people hanging out?
Checking out the neighborhood when the majority of the residents are home can help you determine whether the area is a good fit for you and your family. Remember, once you sign the closing papers, there’s no turning back.
Buying a house is a stressful and nerve-racking time, regardless if this is your first or tenth home. Unexpected problems will pop up, usually within 30 days of your purchase. Buying a house can sometimes be an unpredictable process, but the more you know about the process, the easier it is to avoid serious mistakes.
What mistakes did you make when buying your home?