After months of deliberation, you’ve finally decided to stop renting and start owning. Congratulations! Buying a home is a huge decision and can be both thrilling and nerve wrecking. It can be difficult for seasoned homebuyers to navigate the buying process, so coming in as a first-time buyer can be incredibly daunting.
Thankfully, the homebuying process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Once you’ve determined how much home you can afford to buy and what type and features you want in your home, follow these steps to help make the process smoother.
Check your credit
Your credit score is the key metric for loan qualification. Lenders use your credit score to determine your creditworthiness and your mortgage rate. The higher your credit score, the more likely you’ll be able to secure a loan at a good rate.
Need to repair your credit? It’s a lengthy process so start at least six months before you begin house hunting. Start by reviewing your credit report for errors or unpaid accounts. If there are any unpaid accounts or other debt, take steps to pay off those debts.
Your job’s not over once you’ve eliminated your debt. Maintain your credit score by keeping your credit utilization rate low (creditors like to see a ratio of 35% or less).
Determine how much you can afford
Break out the calculators to find out how much home you can afford with your current budget. Review your budget to see what’s coming in and out each month. While there isn’t a fixed debt-to-income ratio requirement, a ratio of 36% or less is ideal, with no more than 28% going towards mortgage payments.
Figure out your down payment
It takes time and effort to save a down payment for a house. Make a plan for how you’ll save up the necessary down payment and research assistance programs.
Research lenders and get preapproved
Not all lenders are the same. Take time to research and shop around for the best mortgage rate and terms. If you’re looking to purchase a new construction home, check to see if the builder has preferred lenders for they work with. Once you’ve chosen a lender, take the extra step to get preapproved for a loan. Preapproval is where the lender takes a thorough look at your finances and gives you the exact amount they’re willing to lend you. Because this takes extra effort, having a preapproval letter makes you a serious buyer and may give you the upper hand during the offer stage.
Stay under your preapproval limit
Just because your lender approved you for a specific amount doesn’t mean you have to spend the full amount. Consider that your debt ceiling and aim to look for homes below that. That will give you a little extra cushion to cover any unexpected costs.
These five steps will set you up to navigate the homebuying process.