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8 Tips for First Time Home Buyers

8 Tips for First Time Home Buyers

When it comes to searching for a new house, especially if you’re a first time home buyer, there are many things that should be considered. Owning a home is a huge responsibility, both financially and otherwise. If you’re ready to make the move and dive into the wonderful world of homeownership, you want to make sure you’re more than well-prepared. Thanks to the power of the Internet, and a little help from yours truly, researching the location of your future home can be as easy as apple pie!

Considerations When Buying a Home

  1. Getting a Mortgage: How much can I actually afford? Ah, the all-important question you should be asking yourself long before you ever start looking. Sadly, many people don’t heed this advice and wait until they’ve found their dream home, only to realize they can’t afford it…#bummer. Don’t be that guy! Begin examining your finances and exploring your mortgage options (seriously, we can’t emphasize this enough!) before you begin your search for a new home! If possible, try and get pre-approved for a mortgage, so you will know exactly what your price range is up front. Getting a pre-approved mortgage at a Wilkes-Barre or Hazleton credit union will also help you to determine your down payment, which in turn factors into the overall amount you have to take out. Have we said this is really important? It’s also a great way to show the seller you’re serious about buying the house, as it saves both parties from wasting time on a deal that will never actually happen… *

*Not sure where to turn for such a pre-approval? We’ve got you! Choice One Community Credit Union in Wilkes-Barre, Plains and Hazleton offers our members low, fixed rate mortgages with flexible terms to fit any budget! For more information, visit Choice One online. Our lenders will be happy to meet with you to answer your questions, discuss mortgage rates and terms, and help get you and yours into the house you’ve been dreaming of!

  1. Location, Location, Location and Housing Prices, of course: Once you know how much you can afford, it’s time to see what it actually costs for a home in the neighborhood you’re looking to join. It’s not only the ‘sticker price’ of the home that you need to take notice of, but the taxes as well (ugh, taxes!). Just like step one, unfortunately; a lot of people don’t take property taxes into consideration when searching for a home and are shocked when they realize they’ve gotten in WAY over their heads! So, what do you do to avoid this trap? Set your priorities! If location is your top priority, because you want a great school district or a short commute, then you need to give on something else. You may need to look for a smaller home than originally anticipated or for a fixer-up in that ideal location that will better fit your budget. While everyone loves a home that’s straight off HGTV or move-in ready, you can oftentimes find a better deal on one that just needs a little work and a little love!
  1. Stay in School: Whether you’re a newly married couple looking for your first ‘starter’ house or a family with school-aged children, school districts and other schooling options should be a top consideration when making a move. If you’re looking for a home locally, and therefore are familiar with local schools, this will be a bit easier, obvi. However, when you’re searching out of the area, you really want to do your research well in advance and dig deep to learn as much as you can about those schools. We’re talking more than a few quick Google searches here! Oftentimes, it is a particular school district that’s make or break for would-be homeowners, so make sure you’re keeping that in mind before you start planning your life in that specific location. After all, education is the keystone to a better future!
  1. Check Out the Demos: Statistics about the population of the area you are considering is usually an overlooked part of the decision-making process. It really shouldn’t be, though! See, demographic data, including age, race, gender, income, crime risk, and population growth can all have a significant impact on a neighborhood, especially over a long period of time. Is it an area with a lot of young families like yourself or more of a retirement neighborhood? Is the neighborhood safe? These, among others, are very important questions, and certainly ones you should be asking. What will the neighborhood be like 5, 10, 20 years down the road? Is it on the upswing or slowly spiraling downward? Understanding the demographics may open your eyes to potential problems you otherwise may never even have considered. The Census Bureau is a great starting point for demographic information.  Our friends over at Realtor.com also have a handy “find your neighborhood tool” that can provide information on schools, crime rates and other important information, so that when you find your forever home, you’ll know it truly is forever!
  1. Beware the Fees: It costs much more to buy a house than simply the cost of the home. There are many fees involved, including loan application fees, homeowner’s insurance, title insurance, appraisal fees, home inspection, transfer taxes, closing fees and so on and so forth. As you’re probably seeing, there’s a theme here: Do your homework, so you know what to expect! This is something to speak to your mortgage lender about in advance, so you can, as the Boy Scout motto states, be prepared!
  1. Real(tor) Talk: Once you’ve done your homework, it’s time to enlist a qualified realtor to help with your search. Your realtor can walk you through the process and help do a lot of the searching for you, as they may have an inside ear on available homes, you otherwise wouldn’t know about. There are many local realtors from which to choose. In fact, in this area alone, there are hundreds. A quick glance through a local real estate publication and you’re sure to find you someone you know. Don’t be afraid to interview potential realtors and have them provide references, if it helps put you at ease. This is the person you’re trusting (and paying) to find you a great home, so don’t just choose any average Joe!
  1. Go with the (Experienced) Pros: In addition to hiring an experienced realtor, once you do find a home, you’ll want to hire a highly-qualified, licensed home inspector. A knowledgeable home inspector will help spot any potential problems with the home now and in the future. There’s nothing like moving into that new home, only to find a million little problems that your (cheap/ unlicensed/ pick an adjective) inspector missed and you have to pay (even more) for now…
  1. Patience is a Virtue: Understand that searching for a home may take longer than you anticipated. Think more like a year or two, instead of a month or two. It’s one the most important purchases you’ll ever make, one you’ll have to live with for a long time, so you want to make sure your buying the right home for your family. Don’t rush this, trust us!

Handy Tools when Searching for a Home:

Once you’ve determined what you can afford, you can do some advanced research from the comfort of your current home, with these handy online home search resources. Many of those we mention below have apps as well, for easy use on any mobile device. Here are just a few of our favorites:

  • Trulia  – search for homes, get an overview of a city where you are searching, read though a selection of accessible informational guides and more. Trulia also gives you an idea of what’s nearby a home, such as restaurants, stores and other businesses.
  • Zillow – search for homes, get home design ideas, find an agent and much more. Zillow’s “zestimate” is their estimated market valuation for a home. The site also offers a price and tax history of a home.
  • Realtor.com – this site provides a wealth of information, news and insights. Guides on first time home buying, a home affordability calculator and information on housing trends, just to name a few.
  • Homes.com – Find a home, an agent or read though many home “how to” guides, such as how to prepare to buy a home or how to understand your credit, etc.
  • Local Multiple Listing Service – Your best bet locally is dealing with a realtor who can access the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Your realtor can search and set up alerts based on specific criteria.

It’s important to keep in mind when searching for home values on sites such as Trulia and Zillow, that they are not as accurate as having an actual appraisal performed. They can give you an idea of the worth of a home, but an appraisal will be exact, so make sure you don’t skip on that!

Buying a new house can be a worthwhile, yet overwhelming experience, which is why we are always here to help! Call us toll-free at (800) 610-2788 or stop by any one of our three conveniently-located branches today and get into that home sweet home!

For more information like this, follow Choice One Community Credit Union on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and keep on eye out for our Choice Words blogs every week for more topics of interest.

Happy House Hunting!