If you’re in the market to buy your first home, you’re probably experiencing a variety of emotions, ranging from excitement to trepidation. Owning your first home is a major accomplishment and lifestyle change, but it also brings with it a lot of responsibility. Not only will you have to make mortgage payments every month and pay property taxes on time, but you can no longer turn to your landlord when the furnace quits or your refrigerator dies. As former U.S. president Harry Truman once said, “The buck stops here.”

Understanding Your Credit Rating

One thing you might want to become acquainted with before diving into a full-fledged house search is your credit report. Your credit score, as determined by the three major credit reporting companies, is a reflection of your ability and willingness to pay your bills on time. Banks and mortgage companies factor in this information when deciding whether to approve you for a loan. Your credit score also has an impact on the interest rate you’re offered. Also called a “FICO” score, this scale ranges from a low of 300 points to a high of 800. The higher your score, the more desirable you’re viewed as a potential loan customer.

If you’d like to find out where your credit score stands, you can get that information for free (once a year) from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Unlike lenders, they don’t take into account factors like income and length of employment. The main things they look at are payment history, amounts owed, and length of credit history. If your credit cards are maxed out or you’ve been late with payments, then that will lower your credit score and make it more difficult to obtain the most favorable interest rates and loan terms. Fortunately, there are a number of commonsense measures you can take to improve your credit score. Side note: Errors may occasionally crop up in your credit report, so it pays to review them on an annual basis and dispute erroneous or outdated information.

Steering Clear of Other Pitfalls

While buying your first home can seem like an intimidating process, an experienced real estate agent can guide you and make the journey a lot easier. A licensed agent can help you get the process rolling, keep you on track, and resolve problems. There are plenty of situations in life where going it alone is a viable strategy, but buying your first home is not necessarily one of them. By working with a real estate agent, you’ll avoid unnecessary frustration, stress, and costly mistakes. You’ll also stand a greater chance of finding just the right home for your needs, desired lifestyle, and budget.

No one should be forced to break the bank to secure a terrific house. However, a first-time homebuyer may be more likely than others to overspend on a residence, particularly if he or she fails to understand the ins and outs of the housing market.

Lucky for you, we’re here to teach you what it takes to browse the real estate market effectively so you can find a house that matches your budget.

Now, let’s take a look at three tips to help a first-time homebuyer purchase an affordable residence.

1. Examine the Housing Market Closely

Many great houses are available, and a first-time homebuyer should review a broad range of residences closely. By doing so, this homebuyer can establish a price range for his or her home search.

Evaluate the prices of residences that are currently available in your city or town. That way, you can find out what it costs to afford a home that may serve you well both now and in the future.

Also, assess the prices of recently sold residences in your area. With this housing market data in hand, you can find out whether you’re about to enter a buyer’s market or seller’s market and plan accordingly.

2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Pre-approval for a mortgage can help you map out a homebuying budget before you enter the real estate market. Thus, getting pre-approved for a mortgage can make a world of difference for any first-time homebuyer, at any time.

To get pre-approved for a mortgage, you’ll want to meet with several banks and credit unions in your area. These lenders can teach you about different mortgage options and help you select one that corresponds with your budget.

In addition, be sure to ask plenty of questions about potential mortgage options before you make your final mortgage decision. This will allow you to understand the differences between fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages and choose a mortgage that can help you avoid the temptation to overspend on a residence.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

When it comes to pursuing a house for the first time, don’t leave anything to chance. Instead, collaborate with a real estate agent, and you can streamline the process of purchasing an affordable residence.

A real estate agent helps take the guesswork out of looking for residences. He or she will keep you up to date about new houses as they become available and set up home showings on your behalf. Plus, this housing market professional will do whatever it takes to guarantee you can obtain an affordable house that surpasses your expectations.

Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent will help you alleviate stress throughout the homebuying journey. And if you encounter challenging negotiations with a home seller, a real estate agent will step in and help you get the best price for a residence – without exception.

Ready to purchase a house for the first time? Use these tips, and you can acquire an affordable residence that you can enjoy for years to come.

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