Buying a home for the first time is an exciting period in a person’s life. Deciding to buy a home often indicates buyers are ready to establish firm roots in a community where they can see themselves living for years to come.
The process of buying a home is rarely easy, and first-time buyers may feel overwhelmed at times. Such feelings are perfectly normal and felt by first-time buyers regardless of their budgets or home preferences. But there are a few ways to make buying a home more enjoyable than it is nerve-wracking.
• Examine your finances. The first step toward buying a home has nothing to do with deciding if you prefer a craftsman- or Tudor-style home. Before you even begin your search for a home, carefully examine your finances to determine how much is coming in and how much is going out of your household each month. Figure out how much debt you are currently carrying, be it student loan, automotive, consumer or any other types of debt. Order a credit report so you can see how prospective lenders are likely to see you, and address any errors you find on the report before meeting with any lenders. Peruse past bank statements to track your spending habits, looking for areas where you might be able to scale back if need be.
• Be prepared when visiting lenders. Prospective borrowers can make the home-buying process go smoothly by having all of the necessary documentation ready when visiting potential lenders. Many mortgage lenders will want to see some recent pay stubs (from both borrowers if buying with a spouse or partner), a couple years’ worth of W-2s and tax returns, as well as your recent bank statements. You can always call ahead and ask lenders what they need to see when applying for a loan. Having these materials ready in advance means you will spend less time at the bank and more time finding the right home for you.
• Secure financing before you begin house hunting. Many first-time home buyers might not realize the benefits of securing financing before they begin looking for a home. Mortgage preapproval lets buyers know how much a bank will loan them, meaning they won’t spend time looking at homes they can’t afford. In addition, preapproval means buyers won’t lose out on their dream homes as they scramble to secure financing after making an offer.
• Work with a local real estate agent. Real estate agents are an invaluable resource to home buyers and are especially valuable to those buyers who have never before purchased a home. Agents can help first-time buyers navigate the often confusing and, at times, disappointing process of buying a home. Choose an agent who is established in the area where you want to buy a home. He or she can provide information about local property taxes and schools as well as a multitude of additional issues that first-time buyers may not think of. Agents also know the lay of the land regarding home prices, which can ease first-time buyers’ fears about overpaying for their first homes.
• Talk to friends and family before you start the process. Ask them what problems they encountered so you can hopefully avoid the same pitfalls. Friends and family are also the best place to get referrals for Realtors, home inspectors and insurance agents.
A home is the biggest purchase many people will ever make. First-time buyers may be intimidated as they begin searching for their homes, but there are several ways to make the process go smoothly.