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If you're a first time home buyer, here are some tips!  Buying a home for most of us is probably the biggest expenditure you will ever make.  

1. Pay Off All Debt and Build an Emergency Fund!  Owning a home is expensive—more expensive than renting, even if your monthly house payment will be similar or cheaper than your current rent amount. When you own a home, you’re responsible for all the maintenance and upkeep costs.  So, before you even think about buying your first home, make sure you’re debt-free and have an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses in place.  When you get into a home with no payments (besides the mortgage) and have a nice big emergency fund. Once you’re debt-free, try to stay that way.

2. Determine How Much House You Can Afford- Before you get emotionally attached to a beautiful house, check your monthly budget to determine how much house you can afford. You need to leave room in your budget for other things, so make sure your monthly housing costs (including HOA fees, taxes, insurance, etc.) are going to be no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay. 

3. Save a Down Payment- If saving up to pay the total price of a house in cash isn’t reasonable for your family’s timeline, at least save for a down payment of 20% or more. Then you won’t have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects the mortgage company in case you can’t make your payments and end up in foreclosure. PMI usually costs 1% of the total loan value and is added to your monthly payment.  Discuss this with your lender. If you need to find a good one, just let me know.  

 4. Save for Closing Costs- Along with your down payment, you’ll also need to pay for closing costs. If you’re a first-time home buyer, you may be wondering how much it costs to close on a house. On average, closing costs are about 3–4% of the purchase price of your home.(2)Your lender will give you a specific number so you know exactly what to bring on closing day. These fees pay for important steps in the home-buying process, including: Appraisal, home inspection, Credit report, Attorney,Homeowner’s insurance.

5. Get Pre-approved for a Loan- Once you’re confident you have enough cash saved to pay for closing costs and 20% of your home, you’re ready to handle the other 80% by talking to a mortgage lender. You should get pre-qualified for a loan before you even get started looking. A Pre-approval letter shows the sellers that you are serious, and will give you a competitive edge if you need it during the offer process.

6. Find a Home for Sale in Your Price Range - Most people find homes they like online and send them to your real estate agent so they have a good idea of what you’re looking for. Then they can use the multiple listing service (MLS) to find homes that meet your criteria in your desired areas. The MLS is established and paid for by the local Realtors in order to help buyers have a large pool of properties to view.

7. Research Neighborhoods for Best Fit- After you’ve found some homes for sale in your price range, be careful not to make a decision based on the property alone. Ask your real estate agent for information on crime rates and the quality of schools around your prospective neighborhoods. Calculate your new commute times to see if they seem manageable. Visit the neighborhood at different times and days to check for traffic conditions, noise levels, and if people are comfortable being outdoors. Only choose a neighborhood that you and your family feel good about.

8. Attend Open Houses and Think Long Term- Once you’ve narrowed down the neighborhoods, attend a few open houses. Looking at homes that are for sale—even if they’re not a perfect fit for you—is a great way to learn more about the area. When you eventually do find a house you love, you’ll know how your place compares to better or worse homes in that neighborhood. 

9. Make a Competitive Offer - Let’s say you found the home you want and can afford. Since you’re already preapproved for a loan, you’re ready to make an offer. If you’re a first-time home buyer, it may be hard to know how much you should offer. That’s when you can rely on the expertise of your real estate agent. Ask your agent to help you make sure your offer is competitive but also within your budget and the home’s value. 

10. Prepare for Closing -Once a seller accepts your offer, the closing process will begin. Keep things running smoothly by knowing what to expect when closing on a house. The average closing process takes 41 days, which gives you plenty of time to tackle closing items.  A real estate agent will schedule the remaining steps, from home inspection to final walkthrough, and keep you informed about any road blocks.