If you are a first-time home buyer, you may not know exactly where to start. It can be an exciting as well as overwhelming experience, but just think about how it is going to feel getting your new set of keys and entering your very own home for the first time – what a milestone! Try not to stress; check out our top 5 first-time home buyer tips for making the process as smooth as possible.
1. TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR CREDIT
Unless you are in a financial situation where you can pay cash for a house all at once, you will likely need to get a mortgage in order to pay for your new home. Prior to house hunting seriously, check your credit scores by pulling reports from all three credit reporting companies: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. If you don’t have “good” credit (in the 690 to 799 range) or “excellent” credit (above 800), you’ll want to spend some time bringing your credit up, if possible.
While there is not one specific credit score that would exclude you from all lenders, generally speaking, the lower your credit score, the less likely it is that you can find a lender to give you a mortgage. Additionally, if you do find a lender, the APR (annual percentage rate) will likely be significantly higher – which costs you more over time.
If your credit score is less-than-stellar, try not to fret. You can make some changes to your spending habits and see slight improvement in as little as a month. If your credit is quite low, it may take several years to bring up. But you can do it!
Home-buyer tip: Make it a habit to maintain good credit throughout the home-buying process as most lenders continue to check your credit even after pre-approval.
2. DECIDE ON A BUDGET
The advice that you should buy as much house as you can afford is a myth – especially for your starter home. Try and set a budget that is less than you can afford to set you on the path to homeowner success. Even if you could be approved for a mortgage that maxes out your monthly earnings, remember that getting a mortgage loan is undertaking a long-term financial commitment.
Keep in mind that if, after paying for your mortgage and other bills, your monthly budget for the rest of your living expenses is razor thin, then you are putting your financial health at risk. If you lose your job, get sick, or face any other unexpected expenses … how would you manage?
Home-buyer tip: Expect to spend around 2% of your home value on maintenance and home repairs each year for standard modern homes. Older homes, or those with expensive features or amenities to maintain, will require a higher “other expenses” budget.
3. GET PRE-APPROVAL FROM A LENDER
Search for lenders who will offer you the best rates and terms for your mortgage. Once you’ve found the lender you’d like to use, get an official pre-approval – a letter that says exactly how much the lender will loan to you – that you can take with you on your property prowl. This letter will put you in a stronger position when you are ready to make an offer on a house and make it easier to go through the process of getting a loan if your offer is accepted.
Home-buyer tip: Let the budget lead the house hunt – not the opposite. A pre-approval letter will help your real estate agent stick to searching for properties that are within your predetermined budget.
4. FIND A REAL ESTATE AGENT
A good real estate agent can help you find your dream home in your dream location for the budget that you’ve determined. They are experienced in the real estate market and can help you when it comes to negotiating prices and completing the vast amount of paperwork you will need for your new home. A quality agent can give you even more tips for buying a house, including considerations about location and proximity to amenities.
Home-buyer tip: The best way to find an agent is to ask for recommendations from friends, family, and other people in your area.
5. MEET WITH YOUR INSURANCE AGENT
Once you’ve dialed in your home options, schedule a meeting with your local, trusted insurance company to discuss your homeowners insurance options. You can also peruse information online about how to approach homeowners insurance as a first-time home buyer.
Homeowners insurance policies offer coverage for your dwelling, personal property, and liability and can be tailored to meet your specific needs. Your insurance agent can act as your homeowners insurance guide, set you up with a policy built for you, and help you find the most affordable solution so you can stick to your budget.
If you don’t already have a life insurance policy and you are purchasing a home with a spouse or dependent, you should consider getting one to help make sure they aren’t left with financial hardship or inability to pay the mortgage if you pass away. Your insurance agent can you with that, too.
At Independent Insurance Associates, we’re excited you are considering the wonderful world of homeownership! Contact us with any insurance coverage questions or get a free quote today.