Buying your first home can be a long, difficult, and frustrating process. Yet, with a little research and effort to educate yourself, you can make the process of buying your first home a little easier.
Pay Off Debt First
A common mistake among future home buyers is to save as much as they can for a down payment without paying off other debts first. Before you consider purchasing your first home, use all your extra cash to pay off other debts, such as credit cards. The interest on a fixed mortgage is (typically) much less than that of high-interest loans.
Set a Budget
Determine how much you can afford for 1) a down payment and 2) the monthly mortgage payment. Also factor in closing costs, which can account for anywhere from 3% to 5% of the home's total value.
Don't Over Borrow
You want a house but you certainly don't want to be house poor, so keep in mind that just because you qualify for certain loan amount doesn't mean you can afford it. Stick to your budget!
Beware of Adjustable Mortgages
An ARM (adjustable rate mortgage) is a mortgage in which there is a term where the interest rate is fixed. This term can range anywhere from one month to five years. ARM loans can be ideal if you only plan to stay in the home temporarily; however, you run the risk of a higher interest rate if you are unable to sell and forced to refinance.
Choose a Mortgage Term that's Right for You
The term of your mortgage is an important factor to consider when choosing a mortgage program. The longer the term (i.e. 30 years), the lower your monthly payments; however, you will pay more in interest given the longer term. A shorter term like 15 years means larger monthly payments, but you'll put more money towards principle and pay off the home much quicker.
Pay off your Mortgage Early
Once you've secured a home, if you're looking to reduce interest and save money long-term, find ways to pay down the principal of your mortgage. Send in extra money (i.e. bonuses, tax returns, etc.) separate from your monthly payment and indicate you would like it put towards the principle. Or try a bi-weekly payment program, in which you make payments twice a month, resulting in 13 payments a year, instead of 12. Beware though, many mortgage programs only offer bi-weekly payments for a fee. If you struggle with fiscal responsibility, you may want to look into an accelerated mortgage program.