What You’ll Wish You Knew

by Doris Arnold 01/28/2020

Photo by GaudiLab via Shutterstock

In the rush and excitement to find the perfect home and make it yours, there are some things best learned beforehand rather than through hindsight. Here are some suggestions from first-time homebuyers that would have made the entire process less challenging.

Know where you stand.

If you plan to buy a home, even if it’s a couple years out, you need to assess your current creditworthiness so that you can move the needle to improve your credit score. Making sure that your credit reports show the correct information is not something to leave to chance.

  • Order your credit reports from each of the three major reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian).
  • Review all the entries carefully. Sometimes, credit card accounts have different names on the credit report than on your card, so review your statements to match up accounts with their identifiers.
  • If you find mistakes, request a review with the credit agency. All three have error mitigation instructions on their websites. Follow the instructions carefully.
  • Review any slow pays and rearrange your payment schedules so that you’re up-to-date and on-time for everything.

Create your budget.

While this doesn’t work for everyone, a good rule of thumb is to keep your home price within two and a half times your annual income. That means if you make $80,000 per year, set your budget at $200,000 or less. If your income calculation includes dual partners or spouses, but you intend to add children to the household, consider how you might eliminate that second income. If you calculate your purchase based on one income your budget is more secure.

Determine your down payment.

First-time homebuyers typically qualify for FHA loans with just a 3.5% down payment. Others may be eligible for VA, USDA or Conventional 97 LTV programs too. But with less paid down, your mortgage payments increase because the loan is higher and includes the added cost of Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). If you can put more down to get a better rate and reduce your mortgage payment, consider it. Conventional loans usually ask for a 20% down payment, but you’ll often get better interest rates and lower payments.

Decide on a loan term.

A fix-rate mortgage for 30 years is the norm, but not the only option. You can find loan terms for 8 or 15 years too. If an adjustable rate works for you in the short term, you’ll find those as well, but if you choose an adjustable-rate only because you couldn’t otherwise afford the home, you might want to wait or adjust your budget.

Get pre-approval from your lender.

Your bank looks at all your income, assets, credit history and other aspects. Getting the lender to give you an informal approval helps you determine if you’ll be able to borrow a specified amount of money to buy a home. Use the numbers your lender gives you to refine your budget.

When you’re ready, find a buyer’s agent to represent you in your home search and let the games begin.

About the Author
Author

Doris Arnold

Real Estate is, if nothing else a people business. For me as a leading real estate professional, my work is not so much about buildings, contracts and inspections; it's about people, their dreams, aspirations and the most important place in their world- their home. I am a people person through and through. Simply put, people fascinate me... spend a few minutes with me and you can sense this unique attribute. I listen intently to you and most importantly, I have a genuine interest in what you have to say. Follow me around for a day and you will witness the powerful and positive effect I have on the people around me, whether it's my family, close friends, or a community acquaintance. Undoubtedly, you will see a caring and committed woman who makes a difference in people's lives. If you ask my past clients what they liked about working with me, some would say it was my business savvy and real estate expertise that impressed them, but most of them would comment on how much I cared about them. I really listen to what my clients want and do what I can to anticipate their needs. I always try to stay one step ahead and keep in constant contact. My clients know I am always working for them to keep them informed and up-to-date, and I have a highly organized way of walking my clients throughout the process of buying or selling their home that makes them feel confident nothing will slip through the cracks. I absolutely love what I do and I can tell you "I'm in The Business of People." What that means to me is that I have the privilege of helping my clients achieve their dreams. What that means to you is that you can count on me to care about what matters most to you because I make your real estate needs my top priority.