1. Know You’re Ready
You must be ready to buy a home physically, financially and emotionally. Your own home is a great freedom, but also a great responsibility. If you have a steady income for over two years that is reliable, have paid your bills on time and have a good record, have few large, long term debts such as a car or boat, have a credit score that qualifies you for a decent loan that will not make you pay too much in interest, have money saved up for a down payment, and have the ability to pay a monthly mortgage payment plus additional costs that come along with owning your own home.
These costs may include gardening, maintenance, home-owners fees, trash, water, and other bills associated with day to day living in a home. You may say, well I am paying many of those bills now and I’m renting, so I should be able to afford a home. Keep in mind that when you are a home owner, you are completely responsible for all aspects of the home, and you will not have a land lord to turn to fix major problems or maintain the grounds.
Some first time home buyers do not realize how much effort and money can go into a home especially if they want to make upgrades, decorate according to individual tastes, or simply furnish a third room that was not in an apartment. However, if you have been able to cover all these issues and realize the responsibility that comes with owning a home, then you are ready to buy!
2. Decide How Much You Can Afford
Deciding how much you can afford can be tricky, especially since you must consider interest and the costs associated with a mortgage. Your monthly payment will depend on the type of mortgage and the interest rate. Of course, the better your credit, the better loan you will be able to get.
A financial advisor can help you determine how much you can really afford a month according to your current income, total expenses, the amount of money you can put down, and of course the loan terms you can qualify for. Although it is better to get a good mortgage with a lower interest rate, there are options for every home buyer.
Be sure to contact your local bank or financial professional for assistance. There are also many tools on-line that can assist you in finding how much you can afford. For example, a mortgage calculator and figure monthly payments, interest, and principal payments quickly.
3. Locate Your Community
When buying a home, it is important to live in a community that fits your every day to day lifestyle. For example, if you enjoy peace, quiet and small local stores and friendly relationships, a rural city would be best for you. However, if you enjoy the hustle and bustle of walking, driving and meeting new and different people on a daily basis, the big city might be right for you.
Many people know exactly where they want to live so go with your instinct and find things in the community that you feel are important, such as good schools, great restaurants, libraries, fishing, terrain to ride horses, surfing, and so much more. Talk to people who live in the community you are considering and see what they like and dislike about the area they live in. Above all, you should feel comfortable and happy where you live which may seem obvious, but this step is one of the most important when buying a home and some people don’t pay enough attention to it.
3. Scan the Environment for Homes
You have to start somewhere when you begin your house search. I do not recommend that you hire a real estate agent right away, but rather check out local listings in the newspaper, take a drive in different neighborhoods if close enough, and get a feel for the different areas to live within the community. Check out the style of the homes, what condition they are in, what houses are selling, and surrounding shopping centers, stores, and services.
It is important to see asking prices of the homes you are considering to make sure they are within your budget. There is no sense in looking in areas you know you can’t afford. Instead, focus on finding beautiful properties in the areas you can afford. No time will be wasted and you will have a good idea as to what type of home you want and in the area that is best for you.
5. Get a Real Estate Agent
After you have done your own preliminary work, and feel you could use the help of an agent, go for it. They can assist you further by giving you inside real estate and community information that can only strengthen or deter your decision to buy a home in that specific area.
Also, agents can intensify your search by showing properties they know of or may be coming on the market soon. They can keep an eye out for properties they know will meet your already decided qualifications. The more specific you can be when going to an agent, the better help they can be to you. If you are going to buy a home, get exactly what you are looking for, or know you can easily change it by some upgrades or individual style. Don’t settle if you know what you want is out there.
To find an agent, ask for referrals from trusted sources such as friends, family, and co-workers. Your agent should be friendly, trust-worthy, have the right credentials, which include a license and exclusive agreement with a broker, and of course be willing to listen to you and what it is you want. Don’t let them show you homes that are not within your price range or not what you are looking for. They are working for you, so be sure to stay in a dominating, but friendly position.
6. Look at Homes
This can either be great fun, or grueling work! It depends on your specifications and well, how picky you are! Have fun looking at properties, but be sure to always be inspecting the foundation, the condition of both the interior and exterior. You need to play detective to make sure the home is in good condition and there are no major problems with it.
The agent and seller must disclose all information to you about ht property including both the positive and negative aspects about the home. This includes any plumbing problems, water damage, termites, soil problems, mold, and so on. So while you are enjoying the homes, be sure you ask about these things that may need repair or even replacement.
You need to also be looking as such things as the floor plan, space that is adequate for both the present and the future, the number of bathrooms and bedrooms, if there is an office or bonus room, the size and quality of the kitchen, and if the home will be pleasant all year around, if there is snow, rain or sunshine. Is there a yard that is big enough, a dog run, pool, spa, or patio that will be great for a Saturday afternoon lounge or BBQ. Make sure your basic qualifications are covered, and then look for the bonuses! Almost every home has them.
7. Choose a Home
So you found the home that meets all your needs, in the community that best fits your lifestyle, at a price you feel is negotiable. The next step is to negotiate a deal. Now, I am not going to get into negotiation, because the price paid for a house depends on many factors such as market value, appraisals, upgrades, local comparable properties, and personal assessment. However, your agent can help you determine an offer that will make both you and the seller happy. Always remember the offer is negotiable, so negotiate! You can always submit multiple offers until accepted.
8. Get a Mortgage
You should have already tested the water with this when determining if you were ready to buy a home. Remember? You should already have a good idea as to the loan you could both get and afford. Once again either your financial advisor or broker can help with this. Now that you have chosen the home, know the purchase price, and have a certain amount of money to put down, you can actually get the loan and purchase your house!
There are many places to find home loans, including banks, lending institutions, both private and public, and mortgage companies themselves. This can take some searching and effort to find the best deal, so you may want to have your agent and broker help you with this. That is what they are there for use them! There are so many options you will no doubt find a situation that is right for you individual circumstance.
This is also the time to purchase home owner’s insurance. This will be required at the signing of the papers. Do not forget this, because you must have documentation at signing that you have paid your home insurance premium.
9. Offer and Loan Accepted- Sign the Papers
On closing day you will present your home owner’s insurance policy and the closing agent will list the money you owe the seller which my include the down payment and prepaid taxes. The seller will then present you with proofs of inspection, warranties, and any other documentation that is pertinent to the sale of the home.
After carefully reviewing all the documentation, and checking all disclosure agreements very carefully, you can sign the papers and mortgage, promising to pay your monthly mortgage based on the terms you and the lender agreed upon. You will most likely pay all closing cots and be provided with a record of where all your money went as well as the deed to the property. The deed will be recorded in the State Registry of Deeds, and you are officially a home owner!
Make sure you are clear on all terms, conditions and have read all parts of the sales agreement. Don’t rely solely on your agent, because ultimately, you are responsible for the agreement. If you nee assistance, you can always hire a lawyer to review the contract, especially if there are special terms.
After everything has closed and cleared, you can move into your new home! You have successfully bought your first home and will enjoy all the benefits of your very own, private home.
I hope you use these 10 tips as a good guideline for purchasing your first home. Always be ready for unexpected events, as things do not always go as we plan. Also, if you need assistance in any area of buying your home, know that there are many resources available to you including financial advisors, agents, on-line tools and books. Don’t do anything you do not understand or are not sure about. Good luck and have fun!