First Time Buyers

Many people buying their first home are afraid lenders don’t really want to work with
them.  In fact, that’s simply not true.  Without you, there would be no
mortgage lending business… lenders want to help you buy your first home!

Lots of people don’t even consider buying a home because they are afraid they can’t
afford it.  But, for most people, home ownership is within reach – especially with some
of the special programs available just for first-time buyers.  In fact, for many people,
home ownership is as affordable as renting…and in some cases even more affordable!
Others who are currently renting a house or apartment believe they could never afford
a home of their own simply due to the fact that they don’t have the adequate savings
for a down payment on a mortgage – or perhaps they are experiencing credit problems.

My advice is to “Stop paying your landlords’ mortgage and speak with me!”  There are
many special programs designed for first-time home buyers…and that can make getting
a first mortgage easier.  Some of the better known national programs are:

  • FHA (Federal Housing Administration)
    Loans are government-insured mortgages primarily for first-time home buyers.  These loans allow you to buy a home with a lower down payment, and come with guidelines that let more people qualify.  They’re available from most mortgage lenders.  There may be specific benefits and restrictions to FHA Loans in your area – your mortgage lender will be able to discuss them with you.
  • VA (Veterans Administration)
    Loans are available to veterans of the armed services, those currently on active duty or in the reserve, and their spouses.  A VA loan can make it possible to purchase a home with no money down.
  • There are many other loan programs that offer homebuyers low down payments and have guidelines that let more people qualify.  They may be administered by state or local governments, or other organizations.  Be sure to ask your mortgage lender what other programs are available in your specific area especially for first-time buyers.

Now That You’ve Taken The First Step, What To Do Next?

Step 1, Get Your Finances in Order
Many potential home buyers are very worried about this issue.  In fact, most people don’t
need to worry (too much) about the effects of their credit history.  However, since your
credit report could contain errors, it’s wise to obtain copies from all three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) six months prior to applying for a home loan.  Under federal law,
you have the right to challenge items on your report – and the bureau then has 30 days to
decide whether that item should be removed.  As long as we’re on the subject of credit
reports, do you know what the term “credit score” means?  According to a recent survey,
44 percent of Americans have no idea, yet it is important that you know because lenders
often use this score when sizing you up for a home loan.  Basically, a credit score is a three
digit number that sums up your credit report.  The average score in the country is 678 – if
your score is 720 or above, you’re in great shape credit wise.  When your score falls below
620, you are considered “sub prime.”  Help increase your score by paying your bills on time
and decreasing the amount of debt you have.

Step 2, Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
Do you know how much house you can afford?  Probably not unless you’ve talked with a
lender.  Choosing that lender can be as important as choosing your home.  If you’re
comfortable with your mortgage lender, getting your mortgage – and your home – will be
a less stressful and more pleasant experience.  Many first-time home buyers shop for a
mortgage lender by shopping for different mortgage rates.  However, be aware that
mortgages with the same nominal interest rate can end up costing different amounts,
because of additional costs such as origination and application fees…so, shop for more
than just rates.  Your Realtor has probably worked with many different mortgage lenders –
and should be happy to recommend several to you.

Step 3, Determine Your Wants and Needs – and Learn to Work with an Agent
Buying a house isn’t as difficult as you might think, even if you’re short on funds, but the
process will go smoother if you get familiar with your real estate market and narrow down
your wants and needs.  Make your wish list – focus on the features you want in a home.
Think about how many bedrooms & bathrooms you need…whether or not you require a basement…if you have school-age children, you’ll want to evaluate the school systems.
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to choose a Realtor – talk to several and
find someone you think you’ll be comfortable working closely with.

Step 4, Make an Offer and have the Home Inspected
Working with your Buyer’s Agent, make an offer on the house of your dreams.  Some of
the items that should be addressed in the offer include *What comes with the house?,
*Contract considerations, *How much to offer, *Home inspection clause – and how to
address any shortcomings that might surface, *When does possession change hands?, etc.

Step 5, Avoiding and Correcting Last Minute Problems
As your closing date nears, everyone involved in your real estate transaction should
check its progress on a daily basis, because staying on top of things means you’ll know immediately if there’s a problem that must be dealt with.

Step 6, You’re on the Way to Closing
Most of the problems are behind you now and you’re on your way to closing, also called settlement, the event that transfers ownership of the property to you.

Closing Thoughts
The steps outlined here are a general guide.  You will encounter issues specific to your transaction, issues that can best be explained and handled by your real estate agent.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions!  Ask as many questions as necessary to help you understand
the entire home buying process.  You are making a long term commitment and spending a major amount of money – you’ll feel much better about the transaction if you stay informed and understand what’s happening every step along the way.