No matter your age or financial situation, saving to purchase a home can be difficult. For first-time homebuyers, it can be especially daunting, especially for younger buyers who may still be scraping by from paycheck to paycheck. But once you have your mind set on purchasing a home, there are a number of steps to take to make sure that you are able to secure financing for the house of your dreams.
Know How Much You Need
Far before you start looking for the perfect neighborhood near the best school in your area, you need to determine how much house you need, and how much house you can afford. Unfortunately, those numbers are sometimes different, and it’s better to discover gaps in your budget before you’ve begun the process of buying a house. It can seem impossible to plan the next 15 years of your life, but you should try to find a house that will meet your needs down the road.
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Learn Your Options
You don’t need to start talking to banks once you have a financial range in mind, but it’s good to learn the home financing options that you’ll have access to. Most lenders offer first-time homebuyer programs that can help determine the right loan for your needs. For instance, FHA loans require down payments as low as 3.5 percent, but include additional monthly fees and mortgage insurance, while conventional loans have typical down payments as high as 20 percent, but offer security and dependable payments.
Decide If You’re Ready to Own
- Life Status – Always consider that it may not be the right time to buy a home, no matter how badly you wish it was. If you have an uncertain future at your job, a rocky relationship or ongoing financial hardships, it may be best to continue renting.
- Credit Score – Your credit score is often one of the minimum requirements for most mortgages. FHA loans require a score of at least 580, but a credit score of 700+ will be instrumental in securing the best rates for many conventional loans.
- Savings – A larger down payment can help decrease your monthly mortgage payments, but a history of savings can make you more attractive to mortgage lenders and banks. Your first step toward saving for a down payment and raising your credit score should be to pay down any other debt you have to your name.
Map Your Budget
If you’re ready to buy, the next step is to find the money in your finances and make a plan to save for your purchase. It may seem like a pain, but make a spreadsheet of all your monthly expenses and income. Find areas where you can reduce expenses and save as much extra money as possible in an interest-earning savings or checking account. Then make a budget for your finances after you purchase a home – which needs to include new expenses like property taxes, insurance and increased utilities.
Make Saving A Habit, Not a Luxury
Saving money should be one of your top priorities in the months before you start the purchase process. Even if you’re not saving for a 20 percent down payment, having a healthy nest egg will help you unexpected costs that arise during and after your purchase. Make your savings as automatic as possible so that life events don’t interrupt your savings pattern. If possible, try to select savings options with predictable gains or security like money market accounts, US Savings Bonds or insured CDs. Longer term accounts are perfect for buyers who may be more than a year away from buying and can increase your purchasing power.