Buying a house is complicated. First-time homebuyers often don’t do enough research or accept well-intended but misguided advice from family and friends that leads to costly mistakes.
Not Knowing What You Can Afford
Before you start looking for a house, figure out how much you can afford so you can avoid wasting time looking at listings that are too expensive. A mortgage affordability calculator can help you estimate your monthly mortgage payments with various purchase prices, down payments, interest rates and terms.
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage can help you shop with confidence. A firm approval for a loan can help you know immediately whether a house is in your price range and make an offer quickly when you find the right property.
Not Comparing Rates
Interest rates can vary widely from one lender to another. Many first-time homebuyers only submit an application to one lender and accept the interest rate offered. By applying to several lenders, you could secure a loan with much more favorable terms and save tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage.
Not Checking Your Credit Report
Credit reports often contain erroneous information that could cause a lender to offer a higher interest rate than the borrower deserves. Before you submit a mortgage application, check your credit report. If you find any errors, contact the company in question and the credit bureau to have the information corrected before you apply for a mortgage.
Choosing the Wrong Down Payment
A 20 percent down payment is not always required. In many cases, people can buy homes with much less. Programs specifically for first-time homebuyers, as well as ones offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Agriculture, and the Federal Housing Administration, could allow you to put much less or even no money down. A low down payment could make homeownership more attainable, but the lender might charge you a higher interest rate, which could leave you with higher monthly loan payments that could stretch your budget.
Making Large Purchases Before Closing
Sometimes homebuyers are so excited about finding the right house that they rush to buy furniture and appliances. The lender will likely check your credit again shortly before closing. If you have made large credit card purchases since your mortgage application was approved, your credit score could go down and your debt-to-income ratio could increase. The lender might raise your interest rate or fees or cancel your mortgage.
Not Considering Other Costs
Many people focus so much on buying a house that they don’t adequately consider the costs of ownership. Property taxes, homeowners insurance, maintenance, repairs and utilities can quickly add up. If you don’t factor those into your budget, you could struggle to keep your head above water financially.
Do Your Homework
Buying a house for the first time is exciting and confusing. Speaking to professionals can help you understand how the process works and what lenders are looking for, so you can make the right decisions.