Buying your first home can be an exciting process, or it can be a daunting one. It all depends on your level of preparation. But not to worry! We’re sharing some simple strategies to help make your first home purchase as seamless (and enjoyable) as possible.
- Get your finances in order. Generally speaking, the higher the credit score, the lower the mortgage rate. Therefore, it’s best to reduce or eliminate debt before applying for a home loan. It’s also wise to start saving for a down payment (typically a minimum of 3.5% to 5% of the home’s purchase price) and closing costs (generally between 3% and 5% of the home’s purchase price). In addition, you’ll probably want to set aside three to five months’ worth of funds so you’re covered in the event of an emergency.
- Get pre-qualified for a loan. Pre-qualification means that the lender has determined you will likely be approved for a home loan up to a certain amount, based on your current finances. This can help with budgeting (see below)—and save you from falling in love with a home that is out of your price range. You can typically submit your information online or by phone—just have your social security number, bank statements and most recent pay stubs on hand when you do so!
- Set your budget. Lenders and mortgage programs vary, but a general guideline is to cap your housing costs at 31% of your gross income. Depending on your other expenses (e.g., car payment, child care, etc.), even that amount could be too high. Make a list of your regular bills to help determine how much you feel comfortable applying toward your mortgage each month. Download our First-time Homebuyer Guide for a handy budget checklist.
- Research builders and neighborhoods. After you have determined how much house you can afford, it’s time to start scouting out potential homebuilders and communities. At this point, many people choose to enlist the aid of an experienced real estate agent who can help with everything from recommending potential neighborhoods to scheduling home tours and assisting with paperwork. Many buyers begin their house hunt online at sites like RichmondAmerican.com (where they can learn about amenities and home features, explore floor plans, etc.) and narrow down their options before visiting communities in person.
- Be realistic. Although many new homes include lavish standard features, like spacious kitchen islands, walk-in pantries and master suites with private baths, chances are, you’re going to have to make some compromises. A first home often means separating your wants from your needs, so decide which home features are non-negotiable (e.g., three bedrooms, a dedicated home office) and which are nice to have (e.g., natural stone countertops, a walk-in shower). Remember, you can always upgrade in the future as your budget allows!
Ready to start your new home search? Call 888.500.7060 to speak with a New Home Specialist today!