Four Things to Know Before Buying Your First Home

Buying your first home can be a confusing and intimidating process at first. And that’s only natural, since you’ll probably be spending more money than you’ve ever seen in your life. But keep a few things in mind, and the it can be relatively painless. Here are four things to know before buying your first home.  

Not all mortgages are equal

Chances are, you’ll be getting a mortgage in order to buy your first home. But not all mortgages are equal. The better prepared you are to buy, and the more you shop around, the better deal you are likely to get. And that can make tens of thousands of dollars difference.

To get better rates, be sure you have a good down payment, extra savings, AND a good financial history. Having a good financial history usually translates onto having good credit, but you can also use a company that does manual underwriting if you’re in good shape money-wise but not a believer in living for your FICO score.

Compare the deals you are offered carefully, and avoid taking any with a prepayment penalty unless you have a very good reason for doing so. Most people move or refinance long before their mortgage is paid off. Don’t be afraid to ask the people trying to sell you a mortgage for a better deal, either. 

The mortgage people are not your friends

You’ll be working with people from the mortgage company, bank, or credit union. While those people are likely to be friendly, it’s important to remember that they are not your friends.

It’s probably more apparent now that lending has tightened up, but their job is to keep the best interest of the company they work for (and by extension, themselves) in mind. Not your best interest. 

That means that YOU have to be proactive in figuring out what you can truly afford to take on (including the cost of taxes, insurance, HOA fees, and other associated homeowner expenses). You can’t just assume that their guidelines and rules of thumb will apply to your life. In fact, they probably won’t. You’ll also need to make sure that you understand and agree with the fees that are added (which should be on your good faith estimate) and that they are correct.

Look at houses carefully

When searching for your home, be careful to only look at houses that are within or below your price range. Trust me, if you look above your price range you’ll be tempted to stretch into more than you can afford, and that’s a bad idea. Just ask all the folks who lost their homes after the housing bubble burst.

You don’t have to furnish it all at once

Once you do get settled in your new home, remember that you don’t have to furnish it all at once. It’s ok to have completely empty rooms, even. Of course you’ll want your family and friends to see your new house, but that doesn’t mean you have to overspend on decorating. Do it gradually instead, and you’ll probably be happier in the end because you’ll spend wisely AND have a house that’s grown with you decor-wise over time.

Remember, the home buying process can be a little overwhelming at first, but keep focused and you’ll find that it can also be fun. It’s great to end up with a place to call your own.

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8 comments

  • The mortgage people definitely are NOT your friends. They are trying to make a living after all :) I think your point on not having to furnish your house all at once is a big point too. I moved into a 4 bedroom rental once (cheapest good alternative at the time) and i left a room or two empty the whole time I was there.

    • Yeah I think a lot of people buy a house and them immediately think of many, many things that they “need” to fill it up. You might really need a few things, but most things can wait.

  • I have to disagree with you on the “don’t shop over your price range” advice. Today’s real estate market (my house has been on the market 5 months today) is in such a state of chaos in many places that some homeowners (me! me! me!) would be willing to sell even to a lowball offer… meaning if your budget were $150,000 and I was listing for $155,000, it’s likely I’d sell for $145,000 just to move on – and bringing you under budget!

    • That’s a good point that some folks might be willing to accept a lowball offer. I guess I was thinking of sticking within your price range as a way to avoid temptation, because it’s easy to justify spending more than you should in order to get the “perfect” house.

  • I would also think that going “over” your limit would be possible if the more expensive home had an opportunity of generating wonderful, passive rental income. I know a couple who bought a larger house than they could afford. They moved into the basement (separate entrance) and rented out the upper portion. Great post :)

  • Yes, that’s a possibility too. But I think the majority of people who look out of their price range just end up overspending and being house poor.

  • KDB

    Buying a house is no different than buying anything else – you need to protect you own interests. So shop around, talk with a couple of realtors, a couple of mortgage brokers, a couple of inspectors, and hire the ones that fit your needs. You might get lucky if you use the first one you find, but with such a big purchase, every step you can take to find the people to help you can save you a bundle!