The steps to buy a house might seem complicated—particularly if you’re a first-time home buyer trying to purchase real estate for the very first time. Between down payments, credit scores, mortgage rates (both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate), property taxes, interest rates, and closing the deal, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There’s so much at stake with a first home!
Still, if you familiarize yourself with what it takes to buy your first home beforehand, it can help you navigate the real estate market with ease. So let’s get started!
In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn what it takes to buy your first home, from beginning to end. Whether it’s your first time in the real estate market or you’re an experienced homeowner who wants to brush up on your skills, this list has you covered.
Step 1: Start gathering a down payment
The very first step every first-time home buyer should tackle is to figure out their finances. Buying a new home (particularly for the first time) requires a mortgage, where a lender fronts you the money and you pay it back over time. However, in order to get a mortgage, you’ll need some sort of down payment.
So how much do you need?
Ideally a down payment on a mortgage should be 20% of the home’s price to avoid added fees, but if you don’t have that much of a down payment, don’t worry. A mortgage down payment can be as low as 10%, 5%, or even 0% for certain types of mortgages (e.g., VA loans or a USDA loan).
Step 2: Check your credit score
Did you forget to pay off a couple of credit cards? Unfortunately, it’ll affect your credit score.
In addition to having a down payment, a first-time home buyer will need a decent credit score. This three-digit number is a numerical summary of your credit report, a detailed document outlining how well you’ve paid off past debts like for credit cards and college student loans.
A lender will check your score and report in order to estimate the odds that you will deliver your monthly payment, too.
In turn, the lender will use this info to decide whether or not to loan you money, as well as how much and at what interest rate. If a lender sees some late payments on your credit cards or other blemishes in your credit report, this can lower your odds of getting a loan with a great interest rate, or perhaps even jeopardize your chances of getting any loan at all.
So it’s essential to know your credit score, and take steps with those overextended credit cards and high-interest debts to bring your credit score up to snuff. Here’s more on how to check your credit score and what number is best to buy a first home.