Advice for First-Time Home Buyers
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‘Experience is the teacher of all things’-Julius Caesar.
And some might argue that’s the best way to learn—from your mistakes.
But what if you could help avoid the hard lessons of a specifically large, life-changing purchase? Like purchasing a house? Let’s face it, home buying is stressful enough, so I went to work at chipping away the unknowns, by collecting first-hand experiences from home buyers.
I asked friends to share what they learned by purchasing a home.
The criteria? They had to either have recently purchased a home (within the last 5 years) or just had extremely memorable situations to share with us. I’m not a homeowner yet, but their advice has made me feel more at ease when I’m ready to start the search for my first home, and I hope you get something out of their advice and shared experiences, too.
Here’s what my new and not-so-new homeowner friends had to say:
Patience is key.
“My fiancé and I just purchased our first home. My advice would be to make a realistic checklist of what you want vs. need for your house, and don’t settle. It’s so exciting when you first start looking for a house, so you might want to put an offer on the first one you see. Be patient until it marks off everything on your list—the right home will come along!”—Lauren B., Missouri
Speak up when you need answers.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you can’t sleep at night because you have no idea what escrow is…call your Realtor or lender—they will explain it to you. I could have saved myself so much stress and anxiety if I wasn’t so scared of asking questions right away. As a first-time home buyer, I felt like someone was speaking a foreign language to me through most of the process. Try to get past it and ask them whatever is on your mind.” -Mandi R., Pennsylvania
Make sure you and your partner are on the same page.
“Be on the same page if you’re purchasing a home as a couple. I really think that’s what saved us. Also, have a list of what you can’t live without and a list of what you’re willing to be flexible on.” –Kaite M., Illinois
Take time looking for the right home loan for you.
“See if your home qualifies for any other loan besides a traditional, 30 year home loan. For example, my house qualified for a USDA home loan due to it being in the county and having more than 3 acres of land. If you have an HOA or community well, make sure the contract is up to date and has been notarized. Finally, expect for the lending company to want to see your work history, W2s and bank statements dating as far as 12 months previous to purchase.” –Brandon C., Missouri
Ask the sellers to make the house accessible for inspection.
“Request the prospective sellers remove EVERYTHING from basement walls and create space for the home inspector to see as much of the home as possible. This was a learning experience for us, because our sellers blocked the walls where water started leaking in once the snow thawed…” –Ryan O., Minnesota
Ask your house inspector to check for things you can’t see…and ask the sellers if they’ll leave something behind.
“Always get a full house inspection, including a radon test. When my wife and I were looking at the house we’re in now, the radon test came back showing the [radon] levels in our basement were four times EPA-recommended levels. We made sure the seller installed a radon abatement system, and demonstrated it was effective, as part of our purchase contract.
And don’t be afraid to ask the seller to leave appliances and other household stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily think to ask for. The previous homeowner had a large tv wall-mounted above the living room fireplace. We asked that if be left with the house. Surprisingly, they agreed to leave it!” –Daniel R., Illinois
Keep track of all your documents for closing.
“We found it useful to keep a copy of everything that we were asked for and kept it all in a secure box. When it came time to go to our closing, we brought all of our documents to the signing. In my previous profession I had heard too often how paperwork was missing at the closing.” –Laura L., Illinois
Check your emotions before buying.
“Buying a new house can be exciting and people often let their emotions guide their decision making, which is totally understandable. So think it through before considering paying more than the asking price. ‘Is it really worth it? Can I really afford it?’” –Mike M., Missouri
Leave wiggle room in your budget for upgrades.
“My biggest advice would be to purchase a home lower than you budget and to have money set aside for repairs/renovations prior to moving in. It’s easier to complete tasks for the home that way. We needed to get water lined to the basement and the floors refinished, but we tapped our budget buying the home, so the repairs had to be put on hold. Now, it will cost us even more to complete repairs because we’ll have to move furniture and stay somewhere while the floors get done (and the basement is a never-ending work in progress). –Kara D., Illinois
Research, relax, and reprioritize.
“Try to learn the ins and outs of a mortgage and how it really works—especially interest rates and amortization. Everyone was saying it was such a great investment, but what I realized is that in the short term you are making very little headway on the actual principal on your mortgage. I may have decided differently if I knew that at the time.
Another thing, is that it all feels very high pressure in the moment when it’s all happening, so you can feel pressured to make some quick decisions, so I would make sure you’re committed to purchasing a home.
Third, make a firm list of what you want in a home and what is most important to you so that you avoid “shiny object syndrome” on certain features and let that make you compromise on the things that are most important to you. Anything that bothers you when you are looking at a home initially will typically only bother you more in the long run.”—Rebekah W., Illinois
Finding the perfect home might feel overwhelming at times, but if you make a need vs. want list, approach house-hunting with flexibility, and research the best loans for first-time buyers in your area, you can feel more at ease with the process.
What kind of home loan should you be looking for?
For many first-time home buyers, there are quite a few options for home loans. Here are a few the credit union offers:
Community Contributor Mortgage: Are you a teacher, firefighter, law enforcement officer, reserve/active duty military member, civil service worker, healthcare or an emergency medical professional? This mortgage may be the perfect match for you.
What are the benefits?
Up to 97% financing (3% down payment)*
No private mortgage insurance (PMI)
First-Time Home Buyer Mortgage: If you’re looking to purchase a home for the first time, the first-time home buyer mortgage could be exactly what you need.
What are the benefits?
Up to 100% financing (0% down payment)*
No private mortgage insurance (PMI)
No origination fees or lender closing costs
Not quite what you’re looking for? The credit union offers a wide range of mortgage options.
Want the details of home buying? Here’s the Complete Guide to Home Buying.
Have more questions? Talk to one of our experienced, knowledgeable Mortgage Loan Officers today.
The credit union could help your dreams of homeownership come true. Become a credit union member today.
*Membership eligibility required. All loans subject to approval. American Eagle Credit Union is a division of Anheuser-Busch Employees’ Credit Union, an independent financial institution chartered by the state of Missouri, which is owned and operated by its membership. The credit union is not a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. or its affiliates. We do business in accordance with the Federal Fair Housing Law and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. NMLS #638621.
The credit union is an equal opportunity lender.