Buying a home for the first time can be an exciting time, but it’s not without its stresses. Finding a home, working with a realtor, and securing a loan can all be extremely difficult but ultimately rewarding when you finally get the keys to your own place.
But before you do all of that, you have to determine if you’re ready. Buying a home might sound good in theory, but these 5 tips will help you be prepared for the process.
5 Important Financial Tips For First-Time Homebuyers
Pay down your credit cards
A mortgage lender will scrutinize your finances, looking at not only your paychecks and taxes but also your credit utilization. If you have lines of credit open, paying them down under 20% utilization will dramatically increase your chances of scoring a loan.
You might think that it would be a good idea to pay some cards off entirely, but having a good payment history with under 20% utilization is better. This shows that you’re responsible with credit. Closing your cards and accounts lowers your available credit, which looks worse on an application.
Keep an eye on your credit as well, because there might be accounts open of which you are unaware. If someone else has hijacked your name and has opened false accounts, it could be a huge surprise when you go to apply for any loan, including a mortgage. Websites like Credit Karma is a great tool to keep track of your credit score and how it moves each month.
Establish some extra lines of income
Any additional income will be beneficial for you and your family, but unless it goes back 6 months or more, it will not directly affect your ability to get a mortgage. Lenders are looking for established income history, so their main concern will be your primary job.
Why establish secondary income streams, then? Simple – buying a house entails so much more than securing a loan and finding your cozy spot on the map. Purchasing a home requires moving costs, paint, changing the door locks, and probably landscaping, just to name a few expenses.
Your mortgage will cover the cost of the home and that’s it – all the other stuff is on you. Having an additional income stream for a few months while you look for a home will help you be set for all the incidentals that arise after you buy your home.
Figure out how much house you actually want
If you plan on expanding your family – or just taking in a half-dozen stray dogs or cats – then you would want a bigger home than say, a retired couple. Determining how much home you need is a crucial first step that will prevent you from overspending on 10 bedroom behemoth you can’t afford or maintain.
Using mortgage calculators is a great way to determine the expected monthly price, the minimum monthly income threshold for loan approval, and other critically important variables. Buying the right size house for the amount you can afford will leave you feeling relaxed and excited rather than stressed and unable to enjoy your new home.
Research your state’s first-time homeowner assistance programs
Each state has its own benefits for first-time buyers; everything from help with down payments to vastly reduced property taxes are all possibilities. Check with your city, state, and county as well – there may be overlapping benefits, depending on where you live.
Though the federal programs for first-time buyers have ended, your state almost certainly has something to help you and your family find your dream home.
Understand mortgage insurance
For home buyers that want to get a bit more loan than might normally be in their reach, mortgage insurance is a good option. Essentially this insurance pays the lender if you default on your mortgage, but the premiums go onto your monthly bill. The result is a larger loan and an increased mortgage monthly payment.
These are good for people who need extra help, but they can mean you’re paying a lot more over time. Typically, mortgage insurance isn’t necessary for people who put 20% or more into a down payment, and it usually goes away after you reach that threshold as well.
Do some research before you take the plunge
These are just five simple tips for first-time buyers but they’re going to benefit anyone who wants to buy a home. Take advantage of the programs your local government offers, and use mortgage calculators to find out just how much home you can afford. Keep on top of your credit, pay your bills on time, and utilize some of it from time to time.
Ticking these tips off your to-do list will help you and your family settle into the home of your dreams.