You’ve been dreaming of a new home, spent hours scouring listings, and even done a little decorating in your mind. But have you taken the necessary steps to prepare financially?
A mortgage is likely the largest and longest loan you’ll ever have. To help you understand and better navigate the process, these steps can help prepare your finances (and your sanity) to ensure that your home buying process goes as smoothly as possible.
Six steps for success
Identify your wants and needs. As you consider size, location and amenities, keep other short-term and long-term financial goals in mind as well. Do you plan to stay in the house for a while and grow your family, or do you anticipate moving again within a few years? As you review your priorities, make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves.
Determine how much house you can afford. In addition to your mortgage payment, keep in mind that owning a home is likely more expensive than you anticipate. Be sure to budget for ongoing maintenance and upkeep costs, utilities, property taxes and homeowners insurance.
Review your credit report. A strong credit history is critical to qualifying for a home loan and for getting the best possible interest rate. Review your report for errors and correct them right away. It’s also a good idea to postpone any major credit action, like opening or closing accounts or making large purchases, until you sign your new home loan.
Get pre-approved by a lender. Home sellers prefer pre-approved buyers since their credit background has been reviewed by a lender who has deemed them qualified for a specific loan amount. A pre-approval also gives you an edge by showing sellers that you’re ready to buy.
Review your savings. How much money have you saved for a down payment? Keep in mind that the more you can afford to pay upfront, the less you may have to borrow. And remember to account for one-time home buying expenses like appraisal fees and closing costs.
Organize documents. When applying for a mortgage, lenders typically request recent pay stubs, bank statements, W2s and tax returns. Having these documents easily accessible will prevent last-minute scrambling.
Smart tips for home sellers
If you’re selling your home, it’s crucial to convey a strong first impression to engage prospective buyers — and to reassure them that your home has been well maintained. Start by going from room to room and taking note of any areas showing wear or damage. And consider these small, relatively inexpensive fixes that can give a big boost to your resale value:
Tips for selecting a Realtor
Buying a home is an expensive and time-consuming investment. An experienced realtor can not only help you find a home in your price range that meets your needs, but can guide you through the entire purchase process, as well. To find a realtor, ask friends, family and co-workers for referrals. Or, use online search engines like the one on the National Association of Realtors website.
Buying a home is a major investment — both financially and emotionally. By doing your homework and preparing in advance, you’ll be better positioned to move into the home of your dreams — at a price you can afford.
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