Prospective home buyers have a lot of questions about buying their first – or next – home. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I hear from home buyers.
1. How do I get started? What’s the first step?
Choose a Realtor®, not just a real estate agent, to help you from the very first steps through the closing of your home. An experienced Realtor® can tell you what’s first, next and last, and there will be many steps. Start by asking friends and family for referrals. Then interview a few Realtors to see which best meets your needs and that you feel really understands what you want in a home. Is she easy to talk to, responsive and available? Is she a solo agent or does she have a team? How many homes has she sold in the last year? How long has she been a Realtor? All good questions.
2. How long does it take to buy a home?
It depends, but usually 30 to 60 days from the time a home buyer signs a contract to purchase a home, according to Homes.com. This does not include time to shop for a home, make an offer, get the offer accepted or to apply for mortgage pre-approval.
3. What type of credit score do I need to qualify for a home loan?
Again, the answer depends on what type of loan you are applying for. For an FHA mortgage loan, FHA.com says a FICO score of 580 or higher will allow you to make a down payment of 3.5%. A credit score lower than 580 will require a 10% down payment. For a conventional loan, Credit Sesame says home buyers need a minimum score of 620. We recommend you ask your mortgage broker, mortgage lender or your Realtor for the latest requirements, which can change. Bottom line: the higher the score, the better your chances for mortgage approval and the lower your interest rate.
4. How much of a down payment do I need?
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.
5. Are there other mortgage loan programs besides a conventional mortgage?
Yes! There are special home financing programs available including specialty, government-based financing programs like FHA, VA and USDA loans. Learn more about them here.
Next week, we’ll cover the next 5 top frequently asked questions by home buyers. Have your own questions? Type them in the comments below or reach out to an experienced Realtor you know and trust to answer your questions.
Thanks for reading!