With 11 years as a Realtor® and 30 years of related industry experience, I’ve heard just about every question you can imagine from first-time homebuyers. Here are some of the most common questions I get along with the answers. I hope you find them helpful.
Why should I buy a home instead of rent?
A home is a long-term investment that gives you secure long-term housing and financial security. When you pay rent, that money goes to pay your landlord’s mortgage. When you make a mortgage payment, however, you are putting money toward your future. You can deduct the cost of mortgage loan interest, as well as property taxes, from your federal income taxes and, in some states, from your state taxes. You’ll also have something that’s yours and that reflects you and your personal style.
How much do I need for a down payment on a home?
A down payment on a home is a percentage of the home’s purchase price that you pay up front. Ideally, you should plan on a down payment of 20%, but depending on a variety of factors, you may qualify for a loan with as little as 3% down. For a conventional loan, if you are putting less than 20% down, your lender may require private mortgage insurance (PMI) which will increase your mortgage payments. The more you put down, the less your monthly mortgage will be. Also, remember that your down payment is not the only amount of up-front cash you’ll need to buy a home. There will be other expenses including closing costs to budget for.
Can I qualify for a mortgage if I don’t have a lot of money for a down payment or closing costs or poor credit?
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers a variety of loan programs to help homebuyers with less-than-ideal circumstances. Learn more here. Click here for more information from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) including advice on buying a home and credit issues.
How do I find the right real estate agent?
I always recommend that prospective homebuyers work with a Realtor® rather than a real estate agent. While Realtors® and agents hold the same state licenses, a Realtor® adheres to the National Association of Realtor’s Code of Ethics and often has additional education. Read more about the differences between Realtors® and real estate agents here. To find the right Realtor®, ask friends and family for referrals and schedule an appointment with a couple of them to get to know them.
You’ll also want to visit their website, see what homes they’ve helped buy and sell recently, and what special qualifications they have, such as continuing education, special certifications or industry awards. Ask about their marketing plan, information about the current market where you plan to buy a home, and see if their communication style complements or conflicts with your own. When you’ve found a good fit, you’ll know!
How do I find a lender?
There are many entities that provide mortgage loans – traditional banks, credit unions, savings and loans, private mortgage companies and government-approved lenders. You can work directly with a lender, or work with a mortgage broker who will charge a fee to help you shop for the mortgage that best meets your needs. To choose the best option, I recommend you get referrals from family and friends and from your Realtor®. Then choose a few lenders to talk to. Ask what mortgage options they can offer, the price range of fees, time line to close, interest rates, etc.
In future posts, we’ll address other commonly asked questions.