1. Shop for a LoanInterview at least three lenders and compare the “good faith” estimates. A good faith estimate is used to compare offers from different lenders or brokers. The process can take as little as an hour, but make sure you tell each the same scenario to compare costs and interest rates apples to apples. They should respond to you quickly. Look for a loan that you’d be comfortable taking on for at least 3 years.
2. Set a Budget
Figure out what you can realistically afford month in and month out. Pay off or lower credit card minimum payments, student loans, and car loans before you take on a mortgage if possible.
3. Improve on Credit
One common misconception is that less than ideal credit will disqualify you from buying a home. If one of you has less than desirable credit, evaluate the one with the lower credit score to see if it can be improved enough to qualify for a loan. If this isn’t possible, you can take out a mortgage using only one of the partners for qualification. This is a common practice in the mortgage world. If only one of you is on the loan, both of you can still be owners in the property. By making on time mortgage payments, whoever is on the loan can improve their credit.
4. Start Early
Don’t wait until you need to move to get the process started. Clear up any financial issues you may have prior to getting approved for your mortgage. Explore all of the options available to first time homebuyers. If you don’t have a ton of cash available for the down payment, there are still several options available to make the upfront costs of buying a home really affordable.
5. Hire a Pro
Ask friends and family for a REALTOR® recommendation. Interview them in person if possible to determine the best fit.
6. Set Realistic Expectations
Talk with your partner about your non-negotiable amenities and identify what you’d be willing to compromise on so that your criteria falls within your budget and your looking at homes that suit both of your needs.
7. Spot Any Issues
Hire a licensed home inspector who can make sure there are no problems. There are no guarantees in home ownership but this at least gives you the peace of mind that you’re avoiding any major issues before buying.
Ask your friends and family where they like living and spend some time in that area of town. Visit the local restaurants, grocery stores, and parks. Meet the surrounding neighbors on either side or across the street from the house you’re considering. You can always change the house or upgrade the finishes but you can’t change the location or who your neighbors are.
9. Enjoy This Time
Don’t take things too seriously. There will always be another home, another neighborhood for you to discover, or another deal around the corner.
10. Be Patient!
Finding the right home is like dating, sometimes you have to go through a few fixers to find the perfect one!