Laina Regan Kaplan's Blog
Buying a home is a complicated process with a lot of opportunities to make costly mistakes. There’s no high school class to prepare you for buying a home but there probably should be. If you’re a first time homebuyer and you came across this article looking for advice, congratulations--you’re already doing the most important thing you can when making a big financial decision: the research.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common mistakes that first time homebuyers make when entering the real estate market. We’ll break it down by the three main phases of home-buying: saving for a home, hunting for a home, and signing a mortgage.
Saving for a home
One of the first lessons that all first time homeowners quickly learn is that being able to afford your monthly mortgage payments doesn’t mean you can afford a home. Many first time buyers are often coming from living situations where certain utilities are included (water, heat, electricity, etc.). Aside from those obvious expenses, there are also things like property tax and home insurance to budget for, both of which may increase. Finally, when you’re living in an apartment and your faucet breaks, you simply call the landlord. When you own a home, especially an older home, be prepared to spend on repairs and to start learning basic maintenance skills that will save you money.
The hunt for your first home
Now that you’re aware of the costs, it might be tempting to jump in and start looking at homes. Another common mistake first time homebuyers make is to waste time looking at homes before they’ve met with a real estate agent or have gotten pre-approved for a loan. Start there, then once you know the scope of your home search, you’ll have a much more relaxing hunt for your new home.
Another mistake that first time homebuyers make is to underestimate the time and commitment it takes to find a home. When you work with a real estate agent, make sure you are available at all times. Keep your phone nearby, stick to your schedule for viewing homes, and keep a list of each home you’re considering. Showing initiative and dedication won’t just help you stay organized, it will also show your agent and the home seller that you are worth their time.
One of the most common mistakes that buyers make when it comes to their mortgage is to fail to shop around for a lender. In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that only half of all buyers considered more than one lender for their home.
Buyers, first time and repeat, often think their credit report is set in stone. What they don’t realize is that the three main credit Bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) can all make mistakes on your credit. Check your detailed credit reports and fix any errors long before applying for a mortgage to increase your chances of getting a good rate.
If you avoid these common mistakes and continue to do your research along the way, you should be able to save yourself some headaches and some money in the long term.
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Buying a home is one of the more complicated purchases that you’ll make in your lifetime. It’s not something that you can just open your wallet, pull out a wad of cash and buy. There’s a warm-up period for a house hunt. You need to prepare before you even start the process of the purchase. There’s a lot of different things that you should do to ready yourself to buy a home. You’ll need to organize your finances, find a real estate agent and ready yourself. If you’re looking to buy a home in the near future, it’s time to get busy!
Keep Your Credit Score In Check
Your credit score is so important for so many reasons. The highest your credit score can be is 850 and the lowest it can be is 300. You’ll get a really good interest rate on a home if your credit score is 740 or above. A lower interest rate can save you a lot of money over a year’s time.
The good news is that you can spend time repairing your score. This will include paying down debt, asking for credit limits to be raised and correcting errors that may be on your credit report. You want to be sure that you’re using 30% or less of your total available credit. As always, if your bills are paid on time, it will help you to keep that score up. Also, stay away from opening new credit cards, as this can bring your score down due to frequent credit checks.
Put Gifts To Good Use
Whenever you get a financial gift, whether it be for a wedding, a Christmas bonus, or a birthday gift, make sure that you save it for your home purchase. You’ll need quite a bit of capital between closing costs, fees and down payments. You’ll be glad you saved the money once you start the home buying process. You’ll also want to make sure that you have and emergency fund built up. You don’t want to buy a home without some sort of a financial cushion behind you.
Research Real Estate Agents
Your real estate agent will be your right hand person when it is time to buying a home. You’ll want to know that your agent is knowledgable and can help you in this big decision. Your real estate agent is the person who will help you reach your goals, and you want to feel comfortable with them. Ask for recommendations and do your research.
Sellers love buyers who have been preapproved. This shows that they’re reliable and financially able to buy a home. A preapproval can be done a few months in advance of buying a home. It will take an in-depth look at your finances including:
- Proof of mortgage or rent payments over the last year
- W2 forms for the past 2 years
- Paycheck stubs for the past 2 months
- List of all debts including loans and court settlements
- List of all assets including car titles, investment accounts and any other real estate you may own.
Buying a home is a big deal but with the right preparation, you’ll be on the road to success and ready to secure a home purchase.
There’s a lot of things to think about before buying a home--some financial, others personal. Most people tend to focus on one or the other. However, both are instrumental in choosing the right house and buying at the right time.
In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the ways you can determine if you’re ready for homeownership. We’ll discuss things like credit scores and down payments, but also important life factors like your career and future plans.
Getting your finances in order
There are a few simple things you can do right now that will help you understand if you’re financially secure enough to start looking at houses. First, you’ll want to look up your credit score.
Lenders strongly consider your credit when determining how much risk is involved in lending to you. A higher credit score can not only get you approved for a mortgage, it can lower your interest rate and make you eligible to borrow without having to pay private mortgage insurance.
The amount of money this saves seems trivial in the short term, but over the lifespan of your loan it can save you tens of thousands of dollars. So, read a free credit report and if your credit is lower than 700 start finding ways to improve your credit.
In the meantime, you’ll want to save for a down payment. While it’s possible to buy a home with a small or no down payment, it can come back to haunt you in the form of interest as you pay off your loan. Furthermore, many lenders won’t pre-approve you unless you make a down payment of a minimum amount (often 20% of the loan).
If you have a high credit score and you’ve saved for a down payment, another thing to check off your list would be proving your stable income. This can be difficult for the self-employed, contract workers, or people who have recently changed jobs.
Lenders want to see that you have a stable income history to ensure that you’ll be able to pay your mortgage each month. If you recently changed jobs or are in between jobs, it could be to your benefit to wait 3-6 months before getting pre-approved. In that time, you can continue to raise your credit and save for a down payment, further increasing your chances of getting a low-interest loan.
Preparing for homeownership
While the financial aspects of homeownership are important, so are the personal aspects. You’ll want to consider several life factors before buying a home.
First, think about your longterm goals. Do you want to live in the same area for the next 10 to 30 years? Will your career bring you to different regions or will you attend school somewhere else? These questions will help you decide if it’s a good time to buy or a better investment to save money while renting.
If you have a family (or plan on having one soon), you’ll also have to find a way to balance all of your living needs.
Finally, ask yourself if you have time for homeownership. Many people who are used to renting aren’t aware of the amount of time and money it takes to maintain a home. You’ll have more bills, you’ll have to mow your own lawn, and you’ll be responsible for maintenance of your home.