Buying your first house is exciting but it can also be overwhelming. It’s a huge commitment so you want to be sure that you’re making the best decision possible. Then there’s all the paperwork and stress that comes with applying for a mortgage, waiting to see if your offer is accepted if the inspection goes through and more. In fact, when Homes.com conducted a survey of 2,000 homebuyers in the U.S., one in three said the process reduced them to tears.
While it’s likely to cause some stress, these tips can help to minimize that.
Make Sure You Have Enough Cash for a Down Payment
While the common advice is to put 20% down on a home, many lenders do permit much less, and a first-time homebuyer program may allow for as little as 3% down if you qualify. The problem with putting down less than 20% is that you’ll have to pay mortgage insurance and your monthly payments will be higher too. Aim to save as much as you can before you begin the home-buying process – keep in mind that even a small down payment is rather hefty – 5% down on a $300,000 house is $15,000. If you don’t have much saved, create a plan – you might put all overtime money you earn into a savings account, along with bonuses, tax refunds and unexpected windfalls, along with a regular amount that’s deposited via an automatic savings plan.
Get Your Credit in Tip-Top Shape
If you have poor credit, you’ll want to work on improving it before considering a home purchase. A low credit score means you’re unlikely to get approved, and, even if you are approved it will likely require a higher interest rate and significant down payment. If you can, wait until your score is at least 740 to get the best interest rate. For an FHA loan, a minimum of 620 is typically required, but the higher the better.
Getting your credit in shape also means reducing your debt as lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio when considering whether or not to approve you. The amount you pay on monthly debts should be less than 36 percent of your gross monthly income. In this case, the lower the better.
Research Mortgage Options and Compare Interest Rates
There are many types of mortgages available, each of which comes with some pros and cons. If you don’t have a lot to put down, consider a conventional mortgage, an FHA loan or a VA loan. Research local and state programs too – first-time homebuyers may be able to receive closing cost and down payment assistance as well as discounted interest rates and tax credits.
Get mortgage rate quotes from several lenders as it could save you significantly over the first five years of the loan. Experts advise getting at least three quotes, comparing fees and rates.
Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage First
Before you start looking for a home, get pre-approved for a mortgage. Doing that will definitively answer that all-important question: “How much home can I afford?” After all, you don’t want to waste time touring homes that you’ll never be able to buy. It provides peace of mind, and it can also give you more of a competitive advantage by making your offer more credible.
Find a Good Buyer’s Agent
Once you’re pre-approved, find a reputable buyer’s agent that’s knowledgeable about the area you plan to buy in – it could be your biggest edge in finding the right home at the right price.