If you’re like a lot of people, you learn by doing. When it comes to buying a home for the first time, a lot of learning takes place in the form of mistakes. Purchasing a home is a major investment, and first time buyers are more educated than ever thanks to the internet and other technology. Still, you don’t know what you don’t know, and first time buyers don’t always know the right questions to ask, sometimes causing home buying newbies to miss out on useful information. Here are a few tips from first time buyers who will do things differently next time.
Talk to a mortgage broker long before you are ready to buy.
If you make great money, have cash in the bank and an excellent credit score, you are probably well on your way to buying that first home. If you aren’t sure of your credit score, whether you have enough credit, or whether your household income is sufficient to help you qualify for the type of home you’d really like to live in, talk to a mortgage pro now, before you need them. If buying a home is out of your grasp for any reason, a qualified, experienced mortgage professional can guide your next steps and help you gear up to qualify for a home loan; this beats finding out by surprise that you can’t buy a home 3 months down the road, even though your lease will be up and you’d really like to buy at that time.
Talking to a mortgage broker will help clarify items like:
- How much money should you have in the bank?
- Are your student loans in good standing?
- Is your debt to income ratio acceptable? If not, how can you fix it?
- Is your income adequate?
- Do you have enough/too many lines of credit open?
If you’re on the fence, buy sooner – not later.
In many cases, renting your home is akin to throwing money away; you are basically paying your landlord’s mortgage, and not getting anything more than shelter out of the deal. If you can buy, do it. Invest wisely, but don’t wait to buy if you know you’ll be in a particular area for 3-5 years or more. Many first time buyers wish they’d pulled the trigger sooner.
Get prequalified for a loan before you shop.
Even if you are starting your home search online, as many buyers do, you’ll want to be prequalified before you begin searching in earnest for your first home. It is heartbreaking to find the perfect $350,000 home only to learn you qualify for a maximum loan of $275k. A realistic home search is the right home search for you, and you’ll enjoy the process more (and waste less time) when you know you are looking at homes in your price range. The key term is PREQUALIFIED, not preapproved. A preapproval letter is informal and doesn’t offer the official status of prequalification, which means you are qualified by a bank or other lending institution to borrow up to a certain amount.
Work with an experienced Realtor.
An experienced Realtor will provide helpful tips on the search process, aides in negotiating the deal, and handles all the details of your transaction. Especially in a fast-moving marketplace, it is vital to have a professional representing your interests in the transaction. Even if you are planning a purchase a year or two from now, it doesn’t hurt to interview Realtors in your area to find the right professional to assist in your home search. Most Realtors can keep an eye out for homes that match your specifications and email you property matches on a regular basis so you can keep an eye on the marketplace as you prepare for your future purchase.
Conduct a home inspection – and ask a lot of questions.
The home inspection is a chance to test drive your future home. Bring a notebook and a pen and don’t be afraid to ask the inspector questions or clarify anything he/she says during your inspection. Before the inspection, confirm whether the inspector will get up on the roof or go into the attic. Hire an experienced inspector, not a newbie and not the cheapest guy you can find. Home inspection is imperative for first time or 10th time buyers. Even if the seller is unlikely to make repairs, I wouldn’t recommend any buyer purchase a home (even new construction) without a detailed home inspection. Make notes about items you need to learn more about and improvements or repairs the inspector recommends, then follow through. You should receive a detailed report afterward; ask the inspector to include notes about recommendations he/she has made about systems within the home, landscaping concerns (such as improper soil grade away from the home for drainage), condition of electrical or plumbing, etc.
Purchasing a home is the most significant investment most people will make in a lifetime, and buying your first home is sure to be a meaningful transaction. Prepare thoughtfully for success and your diligence will pay off.
The Meyers Group