By Paul Mulligan, Senior Vice President, Consumer Lending
Buying a home can be a stressful experience. Even if you’ve done it before and are looking to move, upgrade, or downside, it takes some work. If you’re a first-time buyer, it’s likely to be an even more nerve-wracking experience because you don’t know what to expect. Whether you’re ready to start shopping for a home now, or if it’s part of your future plans, here are a few things to consider that can help make the process a little smoother for you. Especially in the current environment, with fewer houses on the market, being prepared can make it easier to act quickly on the house you want.
Down payment – Look at how much you have saved for a down payment. If you haven’t started, that may be the first place to start. Putting more down on your home initially will reduce your monthly mortgage payments, but you want to make sure you don’t drain your bank account completely, because there are always things that seem to come up when buying a home, whether it’s repairs, additional furniture, or other things. Also look into how different down payment amounts might change your interest rates, mortgage insurance, and other variables.
Know your costs – There are any number of additional expenses that can come up during the home buying process. In addition to your regular monthly expenses, make sure you know what to expect in terms of insurance, inspections, legal fees, and other costs you might incur during the process. Some are small, but others can be larger expenses that could impact your down payment or savings. Don’t forget moving expenses.
Assistance programs – The local bank in the area you’re looking to buy a home may have first-time home buyer programs that might provide a number of benefits. The Milford Bank, for instance, offers an application fee refund, discounted interest rates, prequalification certificates, and low down payment options. Milford, Stratford, West Haven, and Orange and eligible for the first time homebuyer program.
Check your credit report – One of the first things your lender is going to do is check your credit report. Make sure your report isn’t showing any inaccurate or fraudulent activity. If there is something suspicious, you will want to give yourself enough time to address it. You may also want to avoid opening new lines of credit before applying for a home loan, since that could impact your credit score. The truth is, you should check your credit report regularly. Since each of the three major credit agencies is required to give you one free credit report each year, you can easily do it three times a year without incurring any cost.
Compare lenders – There are plenty of lenders out there. Do your homework, don’t overlook your local bank, and consider more than rates. Local institutions, such as The Milford Bank, often offer more personalized service and are certainly much more easily accessible if you have questions or if problems come up. They can also provide easy access to additional financial services, including future home equity loans when you’re looking to make larger improvements or renovations.
Plan ahead – As you start thinking about and looking for homes, think about your future plans. For instance, if you’re also thinking about starting a family, you may want to make sure you have enough space without having to immediately move again. That could mean giving up a few nice-to-have features in exchange for a little more space, in order to stick to your budget. On the other hand, if you’re serious about relocating when you start a family, or for any other reasons, you may want to consider a slightly smaller home that will allow you to save a little more
The fact is, if you’re currently renting, you may find you can get into a home of your own for something very close to what you’re paying in rent – or less – especially if you’ve prepared well and planned ahead. You’ll also have the added benefit of being able to deduct mortgage interest from your federal income tax. But, don’t go into it without having all the information you need. Talk to your bank’s mortgage specialists professionals and your tax planner. They can help answer any questions you have, including how much you can reasonably afford to spend on a home.