It is a great time to buy for many would-be homeowners. The market offers historically low interest rates, as well as affordable home prices.
Here are 10 steps that buyers can take to make home dreams a reality!
1. Savings. You may already know how much monthly payment you can support (experts recommend no more than 1/3 your monthly income), but the buying process will also include upfront costs, such as a downpayment and closing costs.
2. Downpayment options. Do you qualify for downpayment assistance programs? Will you be able to get an FHA loan and pay 3.5 percent down? Do you have a relative that would like to make a downpayment gift? Many financial experts recommend a downpayment of 20 percent, so be sure to explore your options!
3. Check Credit Report. Your credit report says a lot about you. Lenders use it to evaluate your risk potential and to inform themselves on how responsible of a borrower you are. They use this report and subsequent score to figure your interest rate. The more stellar your report, the better your score and thus lower your rate. Be sure to check your report for accuracy, and report any errors to the credit reporting agencies.
4. Get Prequalified. It's time to talk to a lender! Pre-qualification will give you a ballpark figure of how much the bank would be willing to lend you. Are you looking for a $100,000 house or a $300,000?
5. Get Preapproved. This is the official letter from the lender that says they will be willing to lend you money. Many sellers look for buyers who are preapproved.
6. Affordability. The bank may tell you that you can afford a home worth $300,000. This does not mean you want to borrow to your max. A more modest home may fit better in your financial plans.
7. Housing Criteria. You have a budget, now develop a list of what you need and want. This can include anything from "must have 3 bedrooms" to "hardwoods" or "granite".
8. Neighborhood choice. Location strongly affects prices. A 3,000 square foot home in rural Kansas costs a fraction of one in New York City. Decide what neighborhoods and areas are the best fit for you. This will help narrow your home search.
9. Hire an agent. An agent can help you navigate the entire process from searching, putting in offers, to where to hire an inspector or general contractors.
10. Start the search! The MLS is a wonderful place to begin your search. Eighty-four percent of buyers now start their search online, so you'll be in good company.