For first-time buyers, the process of purchasing a house might be complicated. After all, there are a lot of moving parts, things to do, and prerequisites that need to be met, and you may be worried about making a costly mistake. However, there are several benefits tailored specifically to first-time homeowners that exist to entice people into the housing market. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), first-time homebuyers may benefit from state programs, tax benefits, and federally supported loans.
Here is an overview of what you need to think about before you buy, what you can anticipate from the purchasing process itself, and recommendations to make life simpler after you buy your first house to simplify the process so you can get the most out of your purchase.
Qualifications of First-Time Buyers
Who is a first-time home buyer? A first-time homebuyer is defined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as someone who satisfies any of the following criteria:
- A person who has not owned a primary residence for three years. If you’ve previously owned a property but your spouse hasn’t, you may buy a home jointly as first-time homeowners.
- A single parent who formerly owned a house with a prior spouse.
- A displaced spouse who has only lived in one house with their partner.
- An individual who has only owned a principal residence not permanently affixed to a permanent foundation in accordance with applicable regulations.
- An individual who has only owned a property that was not in compliance with state, local, or model building codes—and that cannot be brought into compliance for less than the cost of constructing a permanent structure.
That wide definition may make it simpler for you to qualify as a first-time buyer and get some of the advantages that come with purchasing a house for the first time.
Questions to Consider Before You Buy a Home
The first thing you should do is think about the big picture and how buying a property fits in with your plans. Or maybe you just want to stop “wasting” money on rent and start building equity with your monthly mortgage payments. It’s also possible that the prospect of becoming a landlord appeals to you, and that property is a symbol of your freedom. Furthermore, real estate may be a sound financial investment. Defining your long-term plans for purchasing a house can help you get started in the correct path. Some key questions to consider are below.
How Is Your Financial Situation?
Before you look at online listings or fall in love with your dream home, you should do a serious financial audit. You need to be ready for both the costs of buying a home and the costs of keeping it up. The results of this audit will tell you if you’re ready to take this big step or if you need to do more to get ready.
Look at your savings. Don’t even think about buying a home until you have three to six months’ worth of living costs saved up in case of an emergency. When you buy a home, you’ll have to pay a lot of money up front. This includes the down payment and the costs of closing. Not only do you need to save money for these costs, but you also need to save money for an emergency fund. Lenders will require it.
One of the hardest things to do is to keep your savings in a way that is easy to access, relatively safe, and still gives you a return so that you can keep up with inflation.
If you have between one and three years to reach your goal, a certificate of deposit (CD) may be a good choice. You won’t get rich from it, but you won’t lose money, either (unless you get hit with a penalty for cashing out early). The same idea can be used to buy short-term bonds or a fixed-income portfolio, which will not only give you some growth but also protect you from the volatile nature of stock markets.
If you have between six months and a year, keep the money accessible. A savings account with a high rate of return could be the best choice. Make sure it is covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which is coverage most banks have. That way, if the bank fails, you can still get up to $250,000 of your money back.
Look over your expenditure. You should know exactly how much you spend each month and where that money is going. With this method, you can figure out how much you can put toward a mortgage payment. Make a list of everything you spend money on, including utilities, food, car maintenance and payments, student loans, clothing, activities for the kids, entertainment, savings for retirement, regular savings, and anything else.
Look into your credit. To get a home loan as a first-time home buyer, you usually need to have good credit, pay your bills on time, and have a debt-to-income ratio (DTI) of no more than 43%.
Lenders usually want a borrower’s housing costs (principal, interest, taxes, and homeowner’s insurance) to take up no more than 30% of their gross monthly income. However, this number can change a lot depending on the real estate market in their area.
Which Type of Home Will Best Suit Your Needs?
A single-family home, a duplex, a townhouse, a condominium, a co-op, or a multifamily complex with two to four units are all available to you as residential property options. You need to select which sort of property will help you achieve your objectives as a homeowner, since each has advantages and disadvantages. Buying a house that needs work might save you money on the purchase price in any area, but you should be aware that the time, labor, and money invested in making the property habitable may be much more than you anticipated.
How Much Mortgage Do You Qualify For?
Before you make an offer on a house, you should think about being pre-approved for a mortgage. The majority of the time, sellers will not even consider an offer that is not supported by a pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender. To do this, you will need to submit an application for a mortgage and complete all relevant paperwork. It is to your advantage to look around for a lender and to evaluate different interest rates and costs by making use of a mortgage calculator or by searching for information on Google.
When looking to buy your first house, it is essential to have a good sense of the amount of money a lender is willing to offer you. You may believe that you are able to purchase a house that costs $300,000, but lenders may believe that you are only good for a home that costs $200,000 due to considerations such as the amount of other debt you have, your monthly salary, and the length of time you have been working at your present employment. In addition, the majority of real estate brokers are unwilling to spend time with customers who have not specified the maximum amount that they are able to invest in a property. Hence, pre-approval is a great strategy for a smoother negotiation with your seller.
Look at the entire price of the home, not just the monthly payment, when choosing how much of a loan to apply for. Think about the closing fees, the insurance premiums, the annual cost of upkeep and any planned renovations, and the property taxes in the area you’re interested in.
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You may work with a real estate agent and mortgage broker to find properties that fit your criteria and are within your price range. Once you’ve decided on a house, these experts can help you through the rest of the purchasing process, from placing an offer to acquiring a mortgage and all the associated paperwork. If you choose a reliable real estate agent and a separate mortgage broker, they will be able to steer you clear of potential pitfalls. Commissions for agents are often taken out of the seller’s net profit. In our second article for first-time home buyers, we will be covering all of the different types of loans and programs available to first-time home buyers.