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First Home
Savvy Tips & Helpful Hints

Steps To Follow When Purchasing Your First Home

I am so excited to share with everyone that we know that we finally bought our first house… and it has been a long time coming! Seriously it felt like forever for us to find ourselves in a place that would allow us to take this leap but after years of saving…… we got it done and found the perfect home for us. This is the reason I decided to share the steps we took to purchase our first home in the Poconos of Pennsylvania.  Before I share these steps with you, make sure to do your research when deciding on the area you want to buy into. Keep in mind that there are lots of factors to consider such as…. annual taxes, HOA fees, the quality of the schools, crime rate in the area, hospitals and on and on I can go. We chose the area that we now live in for these reasons…. great schools, low crime, low taxes and we are still just under 2 hours from New York City so we are still close to all of the action but you would never know it as it is so quiet and untouched where we live. We see lots of deer and chipmunks on our property and in the summer we have a black bear that passes by at times too. We just love it and I wanted to touch base first and foremost on this as my first tip when buying a new home, especially for first time homebuyers, is to make sure that you love the area that you are purchasing into and that the home you choose fits your needs and desires.

Problems with your foundation can lead to other potential home repairs, so it’s important to get them fixed as soon as possible. Some common causes of problems include tree roots, heavy soil pressing against your foundation walls, poor initial construction, the age of your foundation, settling from the weight of your home on the foundation, deterioration due to time, and shrinkage from the curing of concrete, and more. When this happens, you’ll need to consider foundation repair services.

Garden

Now let’s discuss the home buying process and the many tools and tips that my husband and I have learned along the way to help with the process, including tools to make sure you can afford that new home of your dreams and so that you can know what to expect in terms of your monthly payment and how much ’home’ you can actually afford.

1) Pay Off Your Debts & Build An Emergency Fund

first home

Before starting the home buying process…. get your finances in order. In addition to saving for your down payment, it is super important to get your debt paid down and to get an emergency fund started for you and your household. This is super important as owning a home is expensive, much more expensive than renting, even if the payment is less that your rent amount would be. This is because you are now the one responsible for upkeep, maintenance and home repairs. This can add up fast which is why having no debt or very little debt as well as 6 months worth of emergency expenses, is crucial to have in place when going to buy that new home. 

2) Know How Much House You Can’Comfortably’ Afford 

first home

One thing that really stuck with me while we were going through the home buying process, is to not use those mortgage calculation tools that the realtor listings have on their listing pages. These calculators do not take into account additional factors that may increase your overall mortgage payment amount. When we originally started browsing and looking around at homes and the different price levels, we thought we could afford ‘more’ as the rate calculators they used on the site gave us that impression. We were very wrong though as those platforms are not taking into account the tax rates you will have to pay based on the area that you are looking to live in, as well as insurance fees, PMI and more. This is the reason I did my research to find the perfect online tool that would help me to calculate our monthly payment properly and that would reflect the real numbers that the others do not take into account. This mortgage calculator helped to factor in all of the possible costs associated with our first home purchase and enabled my husband and I to make a more informed decision that we could feel good about.

first home

As I noted above…. there are many factors that have to be added into that monthly amount including HOA fees, taxes, insurance, etc. and you want to make sure that your mortgage payment after all of this is factored in, is going to be no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay. Finding out how much home you can really afford is simple. Keeping in mind that your mortgage payment should be no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay… let’s say you bring home $6000 a month, simply multiply that by 25% to figure out your maximum monthly house payment. 25% of $6000 would be $1500. Now depending on how much you put down…. you can afford a more expensive home. Examples below……

*$180,000 home with a 10% down payment ($18,000)

*$200,000 home with a 20% down payment ($40,000)

The numbers above are an estimate for what someone who makes $6000 a month take-home pay can afford. Please keep in mind though that things like property taxes and homeowners insurance will affect that monthly mortgage payment amount so you will need to factor these in before deciding what your maximum home price budget will be. Property tax rates and homeowner’s insurances vary in price, so make sure to check with your real estate representative and insurance company to get an estimate. This will help you to calculate how much house you can truly afford by factoring those numbers in in advance.

3) Save For Your Down Payment

Now that you know how much house you can really afford, it is time to start saving. You can save up 10%, 20% and even 30 or 40% to put down on the home you want to purchase. It is suggested to save 20% down as that way you will not have to pay for private mortgage insurance or PMI, which protects the mortgage company in the event you cannot make your payments and end up in foreclosure. The more you can put down is beneficial as you will owe less on your loan overall and will pay a lower monthly mortgage payment.

If you are struggling to hit that 20% down mark, you can look into the first-time homebuyers programs that offer single-digit down payments. Only do this though if you have too…. as the loan will only cost you more in the long run. Some options for low-to-no down payment mortgage options are Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs), FHA Loans and VA Loans. These loans allow single digit down payment numbers and some require no down payment at all but the downside to this is that in the event the real estate market shifts, you can easily find yourself upside down on your mortgage.

My husband and I chose to go with a 15 year, fixed-rate conventional mortgage with a 20% down payment. A 15 year, fixed rate mortgage gave us a higher mortgage payment but we will be paying off our mortgage in half of the time plus we have a lower interest rate which is going to save us thousands of dollars on interest. The best part is the fixed-rate conventional loan keeps our interest rate the same for the life of the loan, which protects us from the possibility of higher expenses due to rising interest rates. You can also look into the 30 year mortgage as it will give you a lower mortgage payment BUT when you look at the math between the two options… you will see that you will pay a whole lot more on a 30-year mortgage in the long run. Take a look at the comparison below….

4) Save For Closing Costs

In addition to saving for a down payment on your home, you also need to save for your homes closing costs. Usually, closing costs are about 3 to 4% of the purchase price of your home and your lender will give you the specific number for closing day but keep in mind that you need to factor 4% of the house price for this reason. These fees pay for important steps in the home-buying process, including: Appraisal, Home Inspection, Credit Report, Attorney, and Homeowner’s Insurance.

Using the same number used above for a home priced at $180,000……If you multiply $180,000 by the higher closing cost average of 4%, you will find that you need $7200 for closing costs. Now let’s add that to your 20% down payment amount of $36,000. Together the two equal $43,200. This is the amount you will need to save in order to pay for the down payment plus the closing costs on your first home.

5) Get a PreApproved Home Loan

This is the perfect time to get that PreApproved loan for your house hunting needs. You have saved 20% for your down payment plus closing costs, paid down your debt and have an emergency fund for those ‘What-if’ moments and now it’s the perfect time to get that PreApproved Home Loan. To get pre-approved, you will need all of the necessary documentation to verify your financial information (proof of income, taxes, etc…) and submit your loan for preliminary underwriting. Once approved, you can take that pre-approval letter with you when house hunting and this will show the seller that you are a serious buyer that is ready to make a deal. In this competitive real estate market… that is a must and will give you an edge in the home buying process.

6) Make a Competitive Offer

Once you have found the home of your dreams… you are ready to make an offer, especially since you already are preapproved for a loan. Talk with your real estate agent to get an idea of what a competitive offer would be on the house you love as they are the experts and can give you insight. As a first time home buyer you may not be sure of what to bid, so talk with your agent for tips and tricks to place a bid that sticks as the market is more competitive than ever.

7) Prepare for Closing & To Move In!

Once you have been successful in the bidding process and the seller accepts your offer, the closing process begins. The average closing process takes about 43 days, which gives you plenty of time to tackle closing items. Your real estate agent will walk you through everything when it comes to the remaining steps and will cover everything from the home inspection to the final walk through…. and they will keep you informed of any issues that may arise during the process. As you get ready to close on your new home, make sure you read every document and ask your agent to explain anything that you do not understand or that you are unsure of….especially before you sign the official contract for the home transaction.

Conclusion

A home purchase is possibly the biggest purchase on your lifetime which is why it’s crucial to educate yourself and use the proper tools needed to make sure you know what you can afford when making this big decision. It is also important to find a professional real estate agent that will help you through the process too…. from start to closing. Good luck on your home buying journey ad leave some comment love below!

15 Comments

  • Beth

    I think adding in the “comfortably” to how much house you can afford is key. Just because you CAN afford something on paper doesn’t mean you should go that high. House poor is a real thing!

    • mcushing7

      Yes Beth!!! I know many people that are house poor… trying to keep up with the Jonses I guess…. BUT I would rather go lower so that I can afford it comfortably and maybe pay it off faster… save and actually afford to go on a trip 😉

  • Amber

    You have some great advice here. I remember when we bought our first home. It was a crazy process.

  • Elizabeth Neas

    Your steps to follow when purchasing your first home are very important. People do not realizing how much goes into purchasing a home. Your tips and information are very valuable and will give first time home buyers things to think about before taking that first step.

  • Kathy

    I completely agree with these tips too. Make sure to always have enough for a down payment for sure. It can be fun and scary buying a new home for the first time.

  • Forever My Little Moon

    We followed all of these steps when we got our first home! But we also learned the hard way that sometimes surprises happen and to do every single inspection, no matter how expensive or make sure you have extra money for anything that may come up after you buy. We ended up with plumbing issues in our first home, which we did not budget for. So when we bought our second home, we made sure to have the plumbing inspected.

    • mcushing7

      We are having the waiter main line in our yard today…. I know exactly what you mean……. thank you for the tips!

    • mcushing7

      It is a huge process and a bit stressful for sure 🙂 It is all worth it in the end though!

  • Jona Shares

    We haven’t own a house yet but we are already considering to owning one. I will just make sure to take note of this so that I have some idea when its our time to buy our own.

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