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Otto Belyaev
Otto Belyaev

Thinking About Buying A House For The First Time



Here are the basic home-buying steps: Determine how much house you can afford, get preapproved for a mortgage, find an experienced real estate agent, research neighborhoods for best fit, go house hunting, make a competitive offer within your budget, finalize your financing, and prepare for closing.




thinking about buying a house for the first time


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Buying a house can take as little as a few days if you're buying in cash, or can take years if you're counting the amount of time it takes you to save money for a down payment and decide where to live. In a competitive housing market, you may put in multiple offers on homes before one is accepted. Conversely, mounting worry over a housing recession could lead more sellers to pull their homes from the market, making it more difficult to find a suitable property. If you already have your money saved and have a good idea of the neighborhoods and type of home you want, the process will probably take you two to six months. Ask a local real estate agent for a more accurate timeline based on your local market conditions.


There are multiple parties involved when getting a mortgage and buying a house. Your real estate agent is your representative in the home purchase transaction. Your agent will look out for your best interests by finding homes that meet your criteria, get you showings, help you write offers and negotiate.


Only you can decide which property is right for you. Make sure you see plenty of homes before you decide which one you want to make an offer on. Like much of the home buying process, you can do a great deal of your house hunting online.


When you apply for a mortgage, most lenders will want one or two months of paystubs, two years of tax filings, three to six months of bank account statements, information about any retirement savings, and other documentation specific to your financial situation, such as explanations of any recent large deposits or withdrawals from your bank account. It can be overwhelming to pull together so much information in a short timeframe, so start early. By getting these documents in order at the beginning of your house hunting journey, you give yourself time to ensure you have all of the documents the lender requires.


Another one of the most important first-time home buyer steps? Seeking pre-approval from a lender for a home loan. This is where you meet with a loan officer, ideally a few at various mortgage companies.


A home inspection is where you hire a home inspector to check out the house from top to bottom to determine if there are any problems with it that might make you think twice about moving forward. Think: termites, faulty foundation, mold, asbestos, etc. Sure, a lot can go wrong, but rest assured that most problems are fixable.


When thinking about buying a home, consider whether you want to put down roots or maintain flexibility with your living situation. How secure is your job, and can you comfortably budget for home repairs and maintenance on top of monthly housing payments? Are you ready to stay in one place? Do you have kids or family members to consider?


But before you begin this journey as a first-time homebuyer, you should invest in some logistical groundwork. Doing your homework ahead of time will better prepare you for the homebuying process, especially when the housing market is hot and competition fierce.


You may be able to access grants and down payment assistance programs that can help you pay for your home. There are first-time homebuyer programs in every state; most are developed through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).


Start saving by slashing expenses and creating a budget to help you reach your goal. You also could ask family members if they can help out. If money is an issue, check out loans with small down payments such as FHA and VA loans to find options that fit your situation. Additionally, some government programs help first-time buyers with down payments (see Tip 7).


A good start for exploring different mortgages is to compare conventional loans to FHA loans. An FHA loan for first-time home buyers, for example, allows lower qualifying credit scores and a lower down payment than conventional loans do. A conventional loan, however, can have fewer restrictions. If you are an active-duty service member or veteran, another option is VA home loans. These have generous benefits and terms.


In general, first-time home buyers are the wrong borrowers for risky loans. If you have a lender who is trying to steer you to one of these products, then you have to ask yourself some hard questions: what price house can I really afford and is this the right lender to help me get there?


2. Remember that a house purchase involves a contract. When you're buying a house, there are papers to sign. And more papers to sign. Many of those papers - which are actually contracts - look like "standard" home buying contracts with no room for negotiation. That isn't true. Contracts are meant to be negotiated. You don't have to sign a standard agreement. If you want more time to review your inspection, wish to waive a radon test or want to make a purchase subject to a mortgage approval, you can make that part of the deal. That's where a savvy realtor can help. See again #1.


3. Don't necessarily buy for the life you have today. Chances are that buying a house will be one of the bigger financial commitments you'll make in your lifetime. Before you agree to buy what you think might be your dream house, consider your long-term plans. Are you planning on staying at your current job? Getting married? Having kids? Depending on the market and the terms of your mortgage, you may not actually pay down any real equity for between five and seven years: if you aren't sure that your house will be the house for you in a few years, you may want to keep looking.


4. Think about commitment. I'm not talking just about your mortgage. When you get married, the laws of your state generally determine how your assets are treated - and ultimately how they're distributed at divorce. The same rules don't necessarily apply when you're not married. That means you need to think long term. When you buy a house with your significant other who is not your spouse, make sure you have an exit plan if things don't go the way you hope. It's a good idea to have an agreement in place with respect to titling, mortgage payments and liability, repairs and the like: it's best to get it in writing (and yes, I'd recommend getting a lawyer).


5. Look beyond paint. It's often the case that your dream house has that one room that you're already fantasizing about changing. Willmes says to remember that it's fairly inexpensive to fix cosmetic issues (a bit of paint or some wallpaper) but making changes to kitchens and baths can be expensive. She says, "People tend to focus on the cost of cabinets, appliances and counters but sometimes forget about the cost of labor which can double to triple the cost." That doesn't mean that you should give up on a house in need of a significant fix but you should factor in those costs when determining whether you can afford to buy.


6. Buy the house you know that you can afford. This can be different from the price that your mortgage company believes that you can afford. When my husband and I bought our first house, we were approved for a mortgage of about three times more than we ultimately ended up spending. Fresh out of law school and working for established firms, our finances looked good on paper. But we dialed back our expectations because we weren't convinced that our income and expenses would remain at those levels. We were right: two years later, we started our own business just as the economy turned south. The less expensive house meant that we could still make our payments even with less income in pocket. So what's the best ratio to use? Some lenders suggest that you can afford mortgage payments totaling about 1/3 of your gross income but others suggest closer to 28% for housing related costs including mortgage, insurance and taxes. There are a number of factors including your projected income, interest rates, type of mortgage and the market. Ask your mortgage broker to help you understand what's in play.


7. Don't fixate on the purchase price. The purchase price is just one piece of owning a house: be sure to consider all of the costs associated with your potential new home. That includes the cost of insurance, homeowner association fees and real estate taxes - depending on where you live, those can quickly add up. And it's not just home improvements that can cost money: maintenance costs dollars, too. It's a good idea to ask questions about upkeep for extras like swimming pools, fancy heating and cooling systems and out buildings. Finally, Willmes suggests that you make sure you're comparing apples to apples: a condo with a large fee that's priced low may be more costly than a higher priced one with lower fees while a cheap home with high taxes may cost you more a month than a more expensive one with lower taxes.


9. Don't get carried away by the home mortgage interest deduction. Many taxpayers are tempted to buy more house than they can afford by figuring that they'll save enough with the home mortgage interest deduction to make up for it. The mortgage interest deduction is only deductible if you itemize on your Schedule A: only about 1/3 of taxpayers claim the itemized deduction. You itemize if your deductions exceed the standard deduction: for 2015, the standard deduction rates are $12,600 for married taxpayers filing jointly and $6,300 for individual taxpayers (those rates stay put for 2016). Assuming that you do itemize, remember that your out of pocket will still be more than your tax savings (if you're in a 28% bracket, paying $5,000 more in interest will only "save" you $1,400 in taxes). And you can't count on the same level of savings forever: mathematically, the longer you own your house, the less you will owe in interest. That's good for building your equity but it means a smaller deduction come tax time. 041b061a72


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