Buying a house, especially for the first time, can sometimes be an intimidating endeavor. It seems there are a lot of things to consider. If it’s also the home-buying season, home values tend to increase a lot, bidding wars are common, leaving first-time buyers clueless as to how to survive this ordeal.
We’ve gathered together the most common questions first-time buyers should ask themselves:
1. What’s your credit score?
Mortgage interest rates remain low but unless you have a pretty great credit score, you really cannot take advantage of that.
Your credit score is the single most important factor in determining your rate. Mortgage lenders look at your score to assess your creditworthiness, that is, the chances of you making good with your payments.
So, this gives you a clearer picture of what to prioritize financially. When you have several obligations, including the goal of saving up for a downpayment. You might be better off (in the long term) if you pay existing debts first before saving up for a downpayment.
2. What’s your plan for the future?
How long are you going to stay in it? This question is important because it determines which payment term suits best for your planned purchase.
Longer terms will certainly grant you the flexibility as far as monthly payments are concerned but interest-wise, it’s not the best option.
3. How much do you have for a down payment?
This is also an important question because it affects your interest rates too. The bigger down payment you can put, chances are, you can negotiate for a lower overall mortgage rate.
Loan programs through the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration allow you to make small down payments — 3.5 percent for FHA loans, and nothing down for VA mortgages. However, those loan programs carry higher fees.
4. Can you handle the costs of insurance, property taxes, and maintenance?
Owning a property means spending not just for the purchase of the house itself but also for other miscellaneous fees such as insurance and property taxes (add to that lawn care, HVAC maintenance, plumbing, etc). Be sure to consider these things before committing because you don’t want to be caught off guard.
Homeowners’ insurance varies widely by location. In some states, the amount is negligible and you barely notice it. While other areas, especially those in calamity-prone areas, insurance premiums can be costly. Property Taxes also work the same way. Some states will cost you more than $10,000 while others will cost you less than $1000.
5. Are you ready to do some homework?
The first 4 questions are the basics. If you have a clear answer to them then good, you’re halfway there. The next thing you have to do is to do a lot of research on the property you’re planning to buy.
Familiarize yourself with the market: prices, location, similar properties, usual offers, including the paperwork involved, the entire process. It’s not advisable to purchase the property right away just because you like it and it fits the budget. Most often than not, there are other similar properties and it works to your advantage to wait and see rather than jumping the gun right away.
Also, the easiest way to be “ripped off” when it comes to property purchases is to dive in right away without doing any kind of research.
6. Do you need it now?
The real estate market, much like any form of business, functions in cycles. If there’s an increase in demand (versus supply), you can expect to pay a premium on certain properties. If it’s the other way around, supply > demand, then you can see a reduction in prices.
So, depending on your reason for purchasing such property, that is, if you’re not in a rush, then you might be better off on the sidelines and wait for a better offer.