Buying a house will test anyone’s resolve. The process is expensive, stressful, and demanding of your time and energy. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed, especially as a first-time buyer.
Liberty Home Guard works closely with home buyers, sellers, real estate agents, and other home service professionals throughout the United States. We know quite well the mistakes and pitfalls that are liable to trip up buyers who are not yet initiated into the world of real estate. This article covers things to do when preparing to buy a house—and some things not to do. Hopefully, our expertise can relieve some of the stress for people embarking on the home buying process for the first time.
Do’s and Don’ts When Buying a House
1. Do keep an eye on your credit report.
It’s important to consider your credit score as you prepare to buy a home. If your score is low, traditional mortgage lenders are less likely to approve you for a loan. There are ways to secure a mortgage even if your credit score is less than perfect, but you don’t want to be taken by surprise. Have a firm understanding of where your credit stands before you start reaching out to lenders and realtors.
You can obtain a free copy of your credit report by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. To qualify for a conventional loan, you want a score of at least 620, but a higher score will significantly increase your odds of approval. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to use your debt-to-income ratio or work history to argue your case for approval, even if your score is somewhat low. If your credit score is below 620, you can investigate government assistance programs, such as the loan program offered through the Federal Housing Administration. In the meantime, try to boost your score by paying down debt, increasing your existing credit limits, or disputing errors and unjustified derogatory marks.
2. Don’t incur more debt.
Focus on one major purchase at a time. When you’re shopping for a mortgage, you don’t want to surprise lenders by taking out new loans or running up thousands on your credit cards. Increasing your credit utilization could bring down your credit score, and it could communicate, however unfairly, that you’re an unpredictable or rash borrower.
Charging small, everyday purchases won’t cause much of a problem, but wait until your home’s keys are in hand before you take out an auto loan or purchase new furniture.
3. Do get preapproved for a mortgage.
There’s no need to wait until you’ve found a home before you reach out to lenders. In fact, you should do the opposite. Contact your preferred lenders for mortgage preapproval applications. This entails submitting your pay stubs, tax returns, and other qualifying documents ahead of time. Each lender will determine the amount of money you are potentially eligible to borrow.
The preapproval process will give you a realistic idea of home values that you can afford. It will also expedite the closing process and give you a potential bargaining chip to negotiate better rates.
4. Don’t take a new job.
If possible, hold off on significant life changes until after you’ve closed on a home. Even if you take a new job with a higher salary, the transition can cause delays with your mortgage application. Employment probationary periods or insufficient payment data could complicate things with your lender.
5. Do find a good real estate agent.
Finding an experienced realtor is one of the most important things to do when buying a house. Even if you’re legally allowed to manage the real estate process yourself, you may find yourself stymied by obstacles and setbacks that a professional broker would have helped you avoid. A real estate agent will help you stay on top of your responsibilities as a home buyer and negotiate on your behalf to get you a better deal on a home.
6. Don’t budget all your money for the down payment.
One of the most financially important things not to do when buying a home is budgeting exclusively for the down payment. While the down payment does account for the most significant expense, there are a host of other expenses and fees to be mindful of. There are application fees, home inspection costs, brokerage fees and commissions, title insurance, home insurance, moving costs, taxes, and possibly HOA fees. Your lender may also require you to have cash on reserve to guarantee your ability to make your mortgage payments after closing. You should also keep some cash on hand for emergency repairs or maintenance in the months following your home purchase.
7. Do negotiate the terms of your mortgage.
There’s no need to limit yourself to one mortgage lender. Applying for mortgage preapproval from multiple lenders will help you get better interest rates and higher loan amounts. Use the offer from one lender to bargain for better terms from another.
8. Don’t forgo a home inspection.
Of all the home buyer mistakes, avoid buying a home without having a professional conduct an inspection. It might be tempting to expedite a sale and save some money by skipping the inspection, but you could be setting yourself up for a significant financial setback. A home can have all kinds of problems that aren’t immediately visible to someone who isn’t a home professional. Electrical problems, foundation cracks, roof leaks, mold, pest problems, code violations, and plumbing issues are just some of the potential problems that could cost thousands—even tens of thousands—to resolve. The importance of a quality inspection is impossible to overstate.
9. Don’t make rash decisions.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by adrenaline during the home buying process, especially in a hot market. Consider a property carefully before making an offer. Maybe one home has a beautiful kitchen that you fall in love with, but are there other features that will frustrate you or fail to accommodate your family’s needs weeks, months, or years down the line?
Don’t get distracted by flashy designs or luxury features. Sometimes the basics are what make a home suitable for you and your family. How steep are the stairs? How many bedrooms and bathrooms are there? Does the driveway open onto a dangerous road? Is there enough counterspace in the kitchen?
After Closing: How to Protect Your Home
After closing on your home, you become responsible for the upkeep of all your home’s systems and appliances. It’s good idea to be prepared for the possibility of the water heater breaking down or refrigerator malfunctioning. But after the expensive closing process, not all new homeowners have the money on hand to comfortably afford costly home repairs. Home warranty coverage provides a solution to this dilemma.
Liberty Home Guard has a suite of plans to support new homeowners. If something goes wrong, all you need to do is submit a claim on our website. We’ll find a technician to diagnose and resolve the problem, and you won’t have to foot the cost of repairs. Call (866)-432-1283 to talk through our customizable plans with our team. You can also use our website for a free quote.