Buying a home can be an exciting step towards financial security, but sometimes the process can be stressful. Here are some tips to help navigate the process and make the benefits of homeownership become a reality.
Find a lender you can trust:
One of the largest investments many individuals will make in their lifetime is purchasing a home. It is important to find a lender who will guide you through the lending process while providing a professional lending experience. Competitive rates and a variety of loan options are all important, but the key factor starts with the dedication and expertise of your loan officer. A good loan officer…
1) Communicates: The loan officer will ask you questions and listen to your answers before suggesting loan products.
2) Educates: The loan officer will clearly explain the mortgage lending process and present you with loan programs and rates that fit your specific needs.
3) Has your best interest at heart: The loan officer will work to find a loan product and loan amount that you are comfortable borrowing.
Know your credit score:
Your credit score can determine if you qualify for a loan, the interest rate you are offered, and how much you are able to borrow. The credit score needed to qualify is determined by the loan product. For example, FHA loans allow borrowers to have a credit score as low as 580 to qualify and conventional loans require a score of 620.
If you are looking for ways to improve your credit score, work towards paying down your credit card balances and make sure all payments are made on time. Consider paying down the highest interest cards first, but maintain minimum payments of your other accounts. Setting up payment reminders may help, too.
You can get a free copy of your credit report and credit scores from annualcreditreport.com.
Have enough cash to close:
A common misconception is that you need to put 20% as a down payment to finance your new home, but that is not true. The down payment is determined by the loan program and typically runs between 3% and 20% of your home’s sale price. However, if your down payment is less than 20%, it may mean you pay a higher interest rate and pay for mortgage insurance. Be sure to talk to your loan officer to compare loan scenarios.
In addition to your down payment, you will need cash to close. This amount typically runs between 2%-5% of your loan – start saving early! Consider saving tax refunds, overtime pay and setting up an automatic savings plan.
There are also state and federal down payment assistance programs that help qualifying borrowers with their closing costs, tax credits and/or down payment assistance. Each program has its own guidelines for participation and the grant programs often have limited gift funds.
Keeping the lines of communication open with your loan officer will help ensure a positive and efficient lending experience.