7 Things First Time Homebuyers Should Know

Buying a home for the first time stirs plenty of emotions. You’re elated to be purchasing your first home, but a little wary of the buying and mortgage process. As you’re shopping and searching for your house and your mortgage loan, keep these things in mind.

You shouldn’t make an offer on a home until you’ve been pre-approved.

Know that there’s a difference between getting pre-approved and pre-qualified. Pre-qualified means you’ve been given an estimate based only on information you’ve told the lender. Pre-approved means your credit and income have been checked and you’re more likely to get a loan for that amount. If you make an offer before you get pre-approved, your offer may be higher than what a lender is willing to loan you.

You can negotiate.

Depending on the credit and down payment, you may be able to get your mortgage to reduce your interest rate by half to a full point. Lowering your interest rate usually results in a lower monthly mortgage payment. Be careful though, some lenders will lower your interest rate, but add the interest back into the mortgage, so you’re really not saving any money in the long run.

Your credit influences your mortgage loan.

How you’ve been paying your bills in the past, if you’ve been paying them at all, has a direct influence on whether you get approved for a mortgage loan, the amount you’re approved for, and your interest rate. Check your credit report and credit score to see where you stand so you won’t be surprised at what the lender tells you.

The down payment isn’t the only cash you’ll need.

Before you move into your new home, you’ll go through a process known as closing. This is when you sign the loan documents and get the keys from the seller. You’ll have to pay several fees at closing that can total $3,000 to $7,000 depending on the amount of your mortgage. Your lender should give you a good faith estimate upfront that estimates how much your closing costs will be. You can sometimes negotiate to have the seller pay some of the closing costs. Otherwise, you’ll be responsible for the full balance.

It’s ok to shop around for the best mortgage loan.

In fact, it’s better to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best interest rate. Don’t worry about your credit being hurt because you’re shopping around. The credit score calculation has a buffer built in to keep mortgage inquiries from affecting your credit score within a certain window of time. Do your shopping between 30 and 45 days and you’ll be fine.

Your mortgage payment may be more than your home.

Monthly mortgage payments include four things. First, there’s the principal on the home. This is what you borrowed to purchase the house. Then, there’s interest, which the lenders fee for loaning money to you. Homeowners insurance is included to protect your property in case of a fire or other hazard. Finally, your property taxes are added. You can eliminate insurance and property taxes from your mortgage payment by finding your own homeowners insurance company and paying taxes on your own. Your lender may require you to send proof that these have been paid.