Let the serious shopping begin! By now you’ve talked things over with your agent and you both know what you really want and need in a home. Armed with this, your price range and knowledge of the local area, look at listings online and with your agent, who will come up with properties for you to tour. Chances are you’ll discover some new things to love or hate about homes and refine your search.
The steps to buying a house might seem complicated at first—particularly if you're a home buyer dipping a toe into 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!
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Your state and perhaps local governments may offer down payment assistance programs as well. For instance, in my native Minneapolis, the Minnesota Homeownership Center has a handy Down Payment Assistance finder that tells prospective homeowners about down payment financing and non-financial assistance resources available in their areas. In California, Golden State Finance Authority provides direct, need-based grants (with some strings attached) worth up to 5% of the loan amount – not an insignificant sum in pricey California metro areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
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.
You need to worry about common closing costs such as your home inspection, lender appraisal, and title insurance. Taken together, these expenses are nothing to sneeze at – depending on your situation, they can amount to anywhere from 3% to 6% of the total purchase price. In buyers’ markets, you might have luck convincing your seller to pay some closing costs, but that’s far from guaranteed.
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"Down payment": It's amazing that these two little words have such a profound influence on your homeownership process—and your life! Ask most people what is an acceptable down payment on a house, and nine times out 10 they'll tell you it's 20% of your home's selling price. So you do the math, figure you'd have to put down $50,000 on a $250,000 house, and break out in hives when you realize that the chances of your getting out of that tiny one-bedroom apartment are slim.