Lynn Rand's Blog
Buying your first home is undoubtedly a long and complex process for someone who has little to no experience in the subject. Your average first-time homeowner learns as they go, with the help of their real estate agent and mortgage lender.
But, even so, first-time buyers often make many mistakes along the way that they could have avoided with prior knowledge and preparation.
In today’s article, we’re going to cover 5 of the most common mistakes that first-time homebuyers make when purchasing a home. From the first house you look at up until closing on your first home, we’ll cover common mistakes from each step of the way to give you the knowledge you need to make the best home buying decisions.
1. Shopping for homes preemptively
Once you decide that you’re interested in potentially buying a home in the near future, it’s tempting to hop online and start looking at listings. But, searching for your dream home at this stage is a poor use of your time.
It’s best to use this time to start thinking about the bigger picture. Have you secured financial aspects of owning a home, such as a down payment, a solid credit score, and two years of steady employment history?
You’ll also need to have a clear picture of what you want your life to look like for the next 5-7 years. Will you still want to live in the same area, or will your job lead you elsewhere?
These are all questions to ask yourself before you start house hunting that will inform your process along the way and make your hunt a lot easier.
2. Not knowing your budget
It’s a common mistake for first-time buyers to go into the house hunting process without a clearly mapped budget. You want to make sure that after all of your expenses (mortgage payment, utilities, bills, debt, etc.) that you still have leftover income for savings, retirement, and an emergency fund.
Make a detailed spreadsheet of your expenses and determine how much you can afford each month before you start shopping for mortgages.
3. Borrowing the maximum amount
While it may be tempting to buy the most expensive house you can get approved for, there are a number of reasons this might be a bad idea for you, financially. Stretching your budget each month is putting yourself at risk for not being able to contribute to savings, retirement, and emergency funds.
Furthermore, you may find that the extra square-footage you purchased wasn’t worth having to cut corners in other areas of your life, like hobbies, entertainment, and dining out.
4. Forgetting important expenses
If you’re currently renting an apartment, you might be unaware of some of the lesser-known costs of homeownership. Your chosen lender will provide you with an estimate of the closing costs, which you’ll have to budget for.
However, there are also maintenance, repairs, utilities, and other bills that you’ll have to figure into your monthly budget.
5. Waiving contingencies or giving the benefit of the doubt
While it may seem like an act of goodwill to give the seller the benefit of the doubt when it comes to things like home inspections, it’s usually a bad idea to waive contingencies.
The process of purchasing a home, along with a purchase contract, have been designed to protect both your interests and the seller’s interests. It isn’t selfish to want to know exactly what you’re getting into when making a purchase as significant as a home.
The concept of a starter home is an American tradition that has existed for decades. Buying a starter home makes it possible to achieve homeownership, financial independence, and to build equity and credit while you transition to a larger home.
However, your first home doesn’t need to be a tiny, one-bedroom house with none of the amenities that you want.
In today’s post, we’re going to look at some of the things that are desirable in a first home or starter home, so that you can make the best financial decision now that will help you save more in the long run.
Top things to look for in your first home
1. Resale value
Perhaps the most important thing to think about when buying your first home is the day that you eventually decide to sell it and upgrade. There’s a lot that goes into the purchase value of a home. But, if you maintain the home or even make some upgrades, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to sell it for more than you paid.
Other factors that affect resale value are the location and real estate market trends. While you may not be able to change the economy, you can choose to buy a home that is in a location others will find desirable in the coming years.
The cost of your first home will be determined by its location, as mentioned before, but another huge factor will be the size or square-footage of the home and yard.
If you don’t plan on having children in the next few years and don’t currently have kids at home, having several bedrooms and a large backyard probably aren’t huge priorities. This means you’ll be able to save by buying a small home on a small property.
Similarly, if it’s just you and a significant other living in the home, you may be comfortable with just one bathroom for the next few years. These omissions can save you a ton of money on your first starter home.
3. Transportation and proximity
Typically, when people buy their first home they are just getting settled into their career and may still change jobs a few times. Most workers in today’s economy change jobs between 10 and 15 times throughout their career and do so more often toward the beginning.
This means it will make sense for you to buy your first home within commuting distances to companies in your industry.
4. DIY and fixer-uppers
Homes that are in need of repairs or renovations can be a great way to save money and see a return on your investment when you decide to sell. Of course, there are limits to how many repairs are reasonable while still getting your money’s worth from a home.
You’ll know from your home inspection or by doing a walk-through with professional contractors how much work is required to bring the home up to standards. Use those resources to ensure that you’re making a sound financial decision for your first home.
If you’ve been considering taking the next step toward homeownership, you’ve likely heard about FHA loans. Offered by the Federal Housing Administration (hence, “FHA”), these loans are great for a number of people hoping to purchase a home but who don’t have a large down payment saved.
There are many misconceptions about FHA loans since they’re often advertised by large, private mortgage lenders but are technically a government program. In order to clear up some of the confusion, we’ve provided answers to some frequently asked questions regarding FHA loans.
Read on to learn about FHA loans and how they might help you purchase a home.
Who issues an FHA loan?
FHA loans aren’t issued by the government. Rather, they’re issued by private lenders but insured, or “guaranteed,” by the government.
Since lenders want to make sure they’ll see a positive return from lending to you, they typically want you to have a high credit score and a large down payment (typically 20%). However, not everyone is able to meet those requirements. In this situation, the FHA is able to help you acquire a loan by giving your lender a guarantee.
Are there different types of FHA loans?
Yes. In fact, there are nine distinct types of loans guaranteed by the FHA. These include fixed rate mortgages, adjustable rate mortgages, refinance loans, reverse mortgages, VA loans, and more.
What do you need to qualify for an FHA loan?
It’s a common misconception that you need to be a first-time buyer to qualify for an FHA loan. However, if you have previously owned a home that was foreclosed on or if you’ve filed for bankruptcy, the foreclosure and bankruptcy have to be at least three years old.
You’ll also need to demonstrate a stable employment history, usually including two years of employment with the same employer.
Finally, the FHA will ask you for your current and previous addresses, the last two years tax returns, and the W-2 forms from any of your recent jobs.
What is the most I can borrow with an FHA loan?
The FHA sets mortgage limits on loans depending on the state and county you’ll be living in. For a single-family home, the limit ranges from $275,000 to $451,000. So be sure to check the limits for your state and county.
Can you refinance an FHA loan?
Refinancing a loan is a great way to receive a lower interest rate or to shorten the term of their mortgage to save in the total number of interest payments. In fact, the FHA typically only allows refinancing when it will result in lower interest payments on a loan.
What is the minimum credit score needed to qualify for an FHA loan?
While you don’t need excellent credit to qualify for a loan, the FHA will require you to have a score of at least a 580. You can check your score for free online from a number of companies, such as Mint or Credit Karma. Be aware, however, that scores vary between credit bureaus. So, it’s a good idea to check your FICO score once per year, which is the score used by mortgage lenders.
While buying a home is a huge decision that should entail a lot of planning and preparation, applying for a mortgage can be surprisingly easy. Just like with other lenders and creditors, a mortgage lender will want to know that letting you borrow money will be a safe investment. Applying for a mortgage is all about ensuring just that.
In today’s post, we’re going to breakdown the home loan application process to help you have the best chances at a smooth and successful mortgage approval. We’ll also define some of the common terms used in mortgages that might leave you scratching your head so you have a better idea of what your options are.
Prequalification and Preapproval
Getting prequalified and preapproved for a mortgaged can both be helpful steps toward securing your home loan. The two terms mean two entirely different things, however.
In order to be prequalified for a mortgage, you typically need to only fill out a simple form (sometimes directly through a lender’s website). On this form, you won’t need to provide specifics or official documents.
Why is this process so simple? Well, that’s because getting prequalified for a loan doesn’t ensure that you’ll actually receive one. Rather, it is simply the first step toward finding out what type of mortgage and interest rates you could receive.
The next step after prequalification is preapproval. To get preapproved, you’ll have to fill out an official mortgage application. Your lender of choice will request a few pieces of information from you, including tax returns, proof of employment for the last two years, and a list of your debts. The lender will also perform a credit check to determine your loan eligibility.
At this phase, lenders will also run your credit report. This is a type of “hard credit inquiry” that details your payment history, the number of accounts you have open, and other factors that help make up your credit score.
To secure the lowest interest rate possible, it helps to have a high credit score. So, in the years and months leading up to your mortgage application, focusing on building credit will pay off.
To increase your credit score, you’ll need to focus on paying your bills on time each month. You should also avoid opening new accounts within a few months of applying for a mortgage because this will count as a new credit inquiry. New credit inquiries--including applying for a mortgage--lower your score temporarily, so it’s best to avoid them when possible.
Additional paperwork required for mortgage applications
Not every mortgage application will be the same. Depending on the type of income you receive, you may need to provide different forms of income verification.
Each person will also have to claim different debts and assets. When buying a home with a spouse or partner, it’s important to consider your debts, assets, and credit scores to determine if it’s better to apply jointly or separately.