Tips for First-time Homebuyers

Today’s first-time homebuyers face a variety of hurdles when trying to enter the real estate market. While interest rates have declined recently and there are signs that more inventory may be coming onto the market, many buyers continue to feel frustration in finding and financing a home.

Additionally, high levels of student loan debt and entry-level jobs not paying as much as expected have made homeownership financially difficult for some Millennials.

Although being a first-time homebuyer is exciting, it can also be overwhelming. Whether you’re purchasing a home for yourself, with your spouse, or because you’re growing your family, there are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure a smooth process and happy outcome so you don’t have to delay your decision to buy a home.

Explore what you can afford. It’s important to purchase a home that is within your means, but it’s often difficult to know what you can actually afford. Start by using the Shop by Payment feature at Vylla. If you know what you can afford for rent, use that as a guide for your search to see how it translates into monthly mortgage payments. Many renters are surprised to find out they can become homeowners for about the same monthly amount they’re currently paying their landlord.

Save for closing costs. There are some “hidden costs” associated with buying a home. Closing costs, or fees included at the closing of a real estate transaction, can include a number of charges such as appraisal and attorney fees, recording fees, title and escrow charges. Buyers and sellers often split closing costs, and buyers can typically expect to pay 3 to 4 percent of the cost of the home in closing costs. That means if you buy a $200,000 home, estimated closing costs will be between $6,000 and $8,000. Working with a transparent real estate and mortgage company will also help you manage costs to ensure there are no surprises along the way.

Manage debt and down payments. You may have heard that you need to eliminate debt and save 20 percent down to purchase a home. Although those are good goals, there are more flexible loan products available today for many types of borrowers. Many lenders have loan programs that make it possible for borrowers with some debt or less-than-perfect credit to qualify for mortgage loans, eliminating some of the barriers first-time homebuyers face. You may be able to qualify for a loan with a down payment of just 3.5 percent.

Research neighborhoods. Housing varies greatly from city to city, and even block to block. It’s important to research the areas you want to live in to ensure you’re happy and making a good investment. This will be unique to each homebuyer, but it may be important for you to consider school boundaries, population demographics, crime rates, access to resources like public transportation and commute times to work.

Streamline to reduce stress. Many homebuying steps are disconnected, which can cause a lot of stress. Consider a one-stop platform like that seamlessly integrates the mortgage process with home search and home purchasing steps to provide everything under one roof. Plus, you can work with a single point of contact who works with real estate agents, title and escrow services and more for a seamless experience.

Think long-term. Although your first home won’t likely be your last, it’s important to think long-term when making such a big investment. According to the National Association of Realtors, the average amount of time a homeowner stays in a house is 10 years. You want something that you plan to live in for at least the next few years, as well as something that suits your future plans. Don’t just think about what you want now; try to visualize your life down the road and make sure this house fits the vision as much as possible.

A few smart steps can make the first-time homebuying experience easy and stress free. With a little proactive planning and a few good resources, you’ll have keys to your home in hand in no time.