If you are ready to buy your first home then chances are you are feeling intimidated and overwhelmed! While buying your first home is the biggest purchase you have ever made you don’t have to feel intimidated and overwhelmed! I have my top 10 tips for buying your first home!
1. Make a list of wants and needs BEFORE house hunting
Make a quick list of the things you want/need in your first home. This list will help you stay focused during your home search. This list will also keep you at your budget when you begin looking at houses. Sure, a 6 bedroom home is going to look great during an open house but if your list was for a 3 bedroom/2 bath house then 6 bedrooms is probably unnecessary.
This list can include
- # of bedrooms
- # of bathrooms
- stairs/ no stairs
- School district
- Yard size
- Kitchen layout
- Square footage
2. Communicate clearly with your agent
Take your list with you when you go meet with your agent. You want to be as clear as possible with your agent about the features you need in a home. Tell your agent exactly what you want. The more specific the better!
“A lot of the features that might turn you off as a potential home might be superficial fixes that will be easy and cheap to update.“
3. Get Pre-Approved with a lender before house hunting
Time to find out how much money you qualify. This is called pre-qualification and it is the first step in the loan process. You will talk with a loan officer and answer certain questions such as marital status, income, debt, credit score, etc. They will determine how much money you qualify.
4. Be prepared to act quickly.
Today’s market is a seller’s market. Inventory is low and so bidding wars are common. You need to be prepared to act quickly when you find a home that you like. In order to act quickly be sure that you are pre-approved for a mortgage, have a down payment saved, and have communicated urgency with your realtor.
5. Keep an open mind when viewing homes
It can be hard to see past an ugly paint job or outdated light fixtures. But it is extremely important to keep an open mind when home shopping. A lot of the features that might turn you off as a potential home might be superficial fixes that will be easy and cheap to update.
6. Have your budget written down and well thought out
At some point, you need to write down your budget. This is a critical step that many buyers often forget. Just because you have been preapproved for a certain dollar amount does not mean you can actually afford that. Be sure that you have your ENTIRE budget written down on paper. You need to know exactly where your money goes each month so that you can be certain you can afford your mortgage and any other costs that may incur.
7. Buy the home you will need in 5 years not the home you need now
Be sure to think about your future when buying your first home. It can be easy to buy a home that fits your needs now but you want to also think about what you will need in 5 years. Are you planning on having kids? Working from home? Getting a dog? All of these can influence the type of home you buy. Make sure to buy a home that will meet your needs for the next 5 years.
8. Have your agent walk you through the process
Sit down with your agent and have them walk you through the entire home buying process. Buying a home is complicated and overwhelming so you want to be sure that you understand the whole process. Your agent will be able to give you a tentative timeline and go over everything you need to know before you start your home buying search!
9. Ask questions!
Your agent is a home buying EXPERT! Use their expertise to answer any and all questions you might have. You aren’t expected to know everything! That’s why you have an agent! So use their wealth of knowledge and start asking away! Contact me if you are looking for an agent in the Santa Barbara area.
10. Know your credit score
When you want to buy your first home it is critical that you know your credit score and improve it as much as possible! Cleaning up and improving your credit score will increase your chances of getting approved and lock in the best interest rates possible!
Steps to Improve Your Credit Score
- Check your credit reports–This gives you a chance to see if there is anything hurting your credit. Check all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. While they are similar they might have slightly different information that you want to be aware of before applying for a mortgage. You can get a free credit report here!
- Dispute Inaccurate Information--Get rid of any inaccurate information by disputin git with the credit bureau.
- Pay Off Delinquent Accounts–Delinquent accounts include, late accounts, charge-offs, bills that are in collections, and judgment. Pay off any and all accounts that are currently delinquent BEFORE applying for a mortgage.
- Make Payments on time— You should always be establishing a pattern of timely payments before you try to get approved for a mortgage. If you haven’t been doing that, START NOW! But wait at least 6 months before applying for a mortgage if you have had delinquent accounts or late payments.
- Reduce your Debt-to-Income Ratio— Your monthly debt payment should be no higher than 12% of your total income. But the lower, the better.
- Check your FICO score–Your FICO score should be at least 720 to get a decent interest rate on a mortgage.
- Don’t take on any new debt–when buying a home you are taking on a HUGE amount of debt. BE sure that you stay below 12% of your income and do your best to not incur any additional debt.