Ready, Set, Wait! A First-Time Homeowner’s Checklist
May 4, 2021
Congratulations! You’ve reached the point in your life when the dream of buying your own home is about to come true. That’s truly a milestone. But it’s one that first-time homebuyers often approach with some confusion. And not to throw shade on a very exciting moment, but misunderstanding all that’s involved in purchasing and owning a home can result in some unpleasant surprises. That’s why it’s time to take a breath—and take a look—at the steps that precede a successful home purchase. Whether you have your sights set on a rambling Victorian in Montgomery’s Cottage Hill district or you aim to farm oysters on Dauphin Island, we’ve got 5 tips for you to consider before you embark on your home-buying adventure.
Tip #1: Do a Deep Dive into Your Finances
Get your calculator out. Buying your first home is one of the most financially consequential decisions you’ll make in your life and you need to be absolutely certain you’re able to manage the financial commitment it entails.
Alabama makes it easier than some states for you to save money for a down payment through the First Time Homebuyer’s Savings Account program. Open one of these accounts and the principal amount you save and any interest you earn will be deductible on your state income taxes. The more money you have available for your down payment, the more likely you are to get a favorable interest rate on your mortgage. You’ll owe less on your home, too, so your monthly payments will be lower.
Tip #2: Check Your Credit
Download a free copy of your credit report. Lenders base their decision to offer you a mortgage on your credit profile. Your credit score represents how “risky” a borrower you are. Banks offer the best mortgage rates to their most creditworthy applicants. Some set a minimum score you must meet before they’ll even consider lending to you. If your credit report is tarnished, do what you can to polish it up. Some people opt to hire a professional to help rebuild their credit. Credit repair takes time and diligence, but less than it might take you to be approved for a mortgage with poor credit.
Tip #3: Get Prequalified for a Mortgage
For each home you consider purchasing, you need to take into account how much you’ll spend on property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and utilities to get a clear picture of the total amount you’ll be spending to live in your new home. One of the smartest moves you can make even before you start shopping for a home is to work with an Alabama REALTOR®. Your REALTOR®, in cooperation with one or more lending institutions, can help you get a sense of exactly how much home you can afford. He or she can walk you through the mortgage prequalification process whereby lenders tell you how large a loan they’d likely approve for you. That number can make home shopping easier. You won’t waste time touring homes outside a realistic price range.
Tip #4: Explore All of Your Mortgage Options
Choosing the best mortgage for your needs can be complicated. There are fixed-rate and variable-rate mortgages. Conventional mortgages and jumbo mortgages. Then there are the various government-backed loans that may turn out to be your most affordable option. For example, if you’re a veteran or currently serving in the military, a VA loan may offer you the best terms of all, including a low interest rate and the potential to buy a home with no down payment.
Tip #5: Rely on Your REALTOR®
Working with a licensed REALTOR® from the get-go when you’re buying your first house offers multiple advantages. Whatever experience you may lack, REALTORS® have it in spades. Not only can your REALTOR® help you zero in on your dream home, but he or she can also help you secure a lower selling price. Negotiation is a REALTOR® superpower.
REALTORS® can demystify home financing and point you in the direction of a mortgage that suits your budget and positions you for future financial security. REALTORS® understand home repair, maintenance, and construction and can help you anticipate the long-term costs of homeownership. And perhaps most importantly, a REALTOR® can put all the legalese you’ll hear and read during the home-buying process in plain English. It’s hard to overestimate the value of that protection. With a REALTOR® in your corner, you’ll know, before you sign on the dotted line, exactly what you’re signing up for when you move into your fabulous new digs.
Author Bio: Susan Doktor is a journalist, business strategist, and principal at Branddoktor. She writes about a wide range of topics, including finance, real estate, insurance, and historic homes. Follow her on Twitter @branddoktor.
Source: Ready, Set, Wait! A First-Time Homeowner’s Checklist Money.com (May 3, 2021) Susan Doktor