5 Helpful Tools for Homebuyers

5 Helpful Tools for Homebuyers

Buying a new home is exciting yet sometimes challenging. When external forces like inflation, rising mortgage interest rates, tight credit, and limited home inventory combine, buyers need all the tools available to help navigate the route to homeownership. Check out these reliable resources as soon as you decide to get on the road to homeownership.


Knowledge is Power

The old adage, know before you go, is important as you begin the process of buying a home. How much house can you afford and how much you should actually spend? Where do I want to live and how much do those houses cost? Mortgage lender, Fannie Mae, offers a course to answer those and questions you didn't know to ask called  HomeView that covers the must-know steps in purchasing a home.

The Alabama Housing Finance Authority (AHFA) has checklists, tips and links to homebuyer tools like mortgage calculators and homebuyer resources from federal agencies. Invest a few hours to learn the basics and perhaps discover programs to help with funding the down payment.


Get Professional Help

For most Americans, a home is their most valuable asset. A REALTOR® serves as a trusted advisor and advocate throughout the search, financing and buying process. It’s wise to involve ab REALTOR® even before the search begins. Harness their expert knowledge of market conditions, area-specific information, financing options and negotiating and closing skills. bankrate.com offers a checklist for finding a real estate agent. High on the list is referrals from friends and family. Recommendations carry a lot of weight, but remember not every real estate agent is a REALTOR®. A REALTOR® subscribes to a code of ethics and is a member of a national, state and local association of REALTORS®. To determine if someone recommended to you is a REALTOR® in Alabama, use this search tool provided by the Alabama Association of REALTORS®.


Down Payment Assistance

For many first-time homebuyers, the biggest challenge is the required minimum down payment. The Alabama Association of REALTORS® was successful this year in reauthorizing Alabama’s First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account program that allows qualified buyers to create a tax-free savings account to be used towards the purchase of a home. Money saved via the program can be used toward a down payment or to pay most closing costs. 

Moderate income Alabamians, who qualify for a mortgage but need help with their down payment, should check out AHFA’s Step-Up program that provides financing for up to 4 percent or $10,000 of a home’s sale price for qualified buyers.


Be Calculating

In addition to the mortgage calculators linked on the AHFA website, an affordability calculator and other tools are available at bankrate.com. Be aware, while mortgage calculators may give a ballpark idea of the monthly payment, many sites do not accurately factor in property taxes, interest rates, homeowners and mortgage insurance and fees for condos and homeowners associations. 


Select a Lender

A mortgage can originate from a variety of sources – primarily by a direct lender or through a broker. There are advantages to each route and bankrate.com describes the types of lenders. The best advice is to shop around taking into account banks, credit unions and online lenders. Compare apples to apples by asking each about down payment requirements, loan terms, closing costs, fees and insurance. 

An area REALTOR® likely has good relationships with lenders and local mortgage brokers and can recommend one or more. 

Equipped with helpful tools, reliable knowledge and professional expertise the road to homeownership will be smooth cruising.