First Time Home Buyer's Checklist

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Starting your First Home Search

When it comes to getting ready to buy a new home, first-time home buyers often don’t know where to start. There can be many questions from affordability, to lending and how to find the right real estate agent that can make the experience seem overwhelming. However, if you’re one of the many first-time homebuyers who are eager to enter the housing market, then this guide to beginning the home buying process is just for you.

The First-Time Home Buyer’s Checklist

1. Check your Credit Score – After you’ve decided it's time to start looking for a home, but before you start looking at potential homes online there are some very important financial steps to take. The first is getting a copy of your credit score. This will help you determine the interest rate you’ll be paying on your home loan. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate. You should check your credit score as early as 12 months out, and start adjusting as necessary to ensure your credit is as intact as possible. 

2. Calculate your Budget – Figure out how much you can and want to afford. You can determine your monthly mortgage payment by adjusting for your current down payment, mortgage type and current interest rates.  Lenders will analyze your debt-to-income ratio when determining how much to lend and will look for a total debt load of no more than 43 percent of your gross monthly income. Ultimately, this figure will also include any other debts along with your future mortgage payment.

3. Get Pre-Approved – When it comes to the mortgage pre-approval process, you’ll need to compile all the necessary proof to show the bank that you can pay back what you borrow. You’ll need to send the following paperwork before getting pre-approved: W-2 forms, personal tax returns for the past two years, recent pay stubs, credit card and loan statements, bank statements, addresses for the past five years, brokerage account statements for the most recent two months and most recent retirement account statements. This may sound like a lot, but being pre-approved shows sellers you’re a serious buyer and that you've already taken the necessary expenses of home ownership into consideration.

4. Create your Wish List – Now that you know what you can afford, it’s time to prioritize what you want most in your new home. Consider things like location, size, and amenities. This will help you separate what you need in a house versus what you want. Remember no house is perfect, so keeping your wish list handy will help you keep perspective and will ultimately help you to know when to compromise and when to stand firm.  

5. Find an Agent – The right real estate agent can make the home buying process easy and enjoyable. That’s why it’s important to work with a top agent in the neighborhood you’re interested in moving to. They’ll have the experience and understanding of both your needs and the existing offerings of the community your house hunting in to help you find the home you’re looking for.

6. Browse Online – With your wish list in hand, start searching online to begin narrowing down your options. Your agent will also help you look for potential homes and will send you listings they feel are a good fit based on your new home wish list. They’ll also have access to the newest listings as they become available. However, it never hurts to take some time to do your own research and see what’s currently available on the market.  

7. Visit Open Houses – Seeing your favorite homes in-person is a must. If the home’s you’re interested in are showing an upcoming open house, stop by and take a look. Remember to take your time at each house, walking through every room and trying to visualize what it would be like to live in the home. Also, be sure to take photos and notes so you remember what you liked and disliked about each specific home you visit. If you’re really interested in seeing a home and an open house is not mentioned on the listing, ask your agent to reach out and schedule a private showing for you.

8. Start Budgeting for Miscellaneous Home Buying Expenses – As you continue your house hunt, start a savings for home maintenance costs and miscellaneous home buying expenses. Start budgeting for furniture, appliances and remodeling projects as these are among the biggest expenses for new homeowners who spend an average of $10,600 in their first year of homeownership. By saving ahead of time, you can make sure that these upfront costs don't come as a surprise after you move in. 

Buying in Orange County

Are you ready to find your new home? Add these tips to your home buying checklist and start your house hunt on the right foot. If you’re looking to buy your first home in Orange County, I can help you move. With more than 18 years of exceptional service and experience in both Orange County and the Ladera Ranch community. Call me at 949-285-3215 to learn more and get started.

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