Probably like many of you, we’ve had it with 2021 and are glad it’s almost over. On the other hand, we’re looking forward to 2022! And if you think 2022 might be the year you say goodbye to your status as a renter and instead say hello to your new life as a homeowner, we’re excited for you, too!
But where do you begin? Taking the first steps as a first-time home buyer can be daunting and confusing, so we’ve compiled these nine tips to help make your first-time home buying process a smooth and successful one.
Even if this is not the first time you’re buying a home, keep these tips in mind if you’re thinking of making a new home purchase, whether you’re upgrading to accommodate a bigger family, downsizing as you transition to an empty nest or looking for a vacation home.
Without further ado, here are our top nine tips for buying a new home in 2022!
1 – Determine where you want to be
First things first: Take a hard look at yourself and determine where exactly you see yourself thriving. An urban setting? More suburban? How about rural? Urban areas offer bustling sidewalks and concierge convenience with fun social life, cultural events and career networking opportunities. Suburban towns typically require a set of wheels. They’re ideal places to raise a family and connect with a local community. Rural landscapes offer more privacy and vast parks and wooded areas to explore. Think about the general style of area you’d like to make a home in first and then narrow it down to the neighborhoods within that area. Drive around and get to know the communities. Visit at various times of the day and days of the week and check out the nearby grocery stores, schools, retailers and restaurants that might be of interest. This type of research is hard work, but it’s also fun, so have at it!
2 – Know what you can afford
To get the most out of your home search, you really must carefully examine your budget and determine what you can afford — because you don’t want to be house poor! There’s more to consider than just a downpayment and making monthly payments: there’s property taxes, repairs and maintenance, utilities to budget in, homeowners insurance fees — it all adds up, so be sure to account for all possible expenses before deciding if becoming a homeowner is the right move for you at this time.
3 – Calculate your potential downpayment
Saving up 20% of a purchase price is the first thing that comes to mind when buying a home. But there are other down payment options available and various loan programs for different credit levels. Some government-backed home loan programs offer borrowers a 3.5% or even a 0% down option for veterans and active military personnel. Rural programs can also offer low down payments. It’s important to note that most loans that accept less than a 20% down have additional insurance premiums to add to the monthly payment. Here’s how to save.
4 – Find a Realtor
Not just any realtor. You need a buyer’s agent — one who represents the buyer’s needs and helps you locate the property that best fits what you’re looking for. Seek out an agent with extensive experience in that neighborhood. They’ll be the ones to have insight into local taxes, schools, new developments, recent sales, as well as a fair market value for the properties you might be considering. Finding a realtor you can partner with will help alleviate any uncertainties or stress and make the buying process much more efficient.
5 – Get credit ready
Buying your first home will probably be one of the most significant financial decisions you’ve ever made. Don’t take it lightly; you’ve been prepping your whole life for this! Find out your credit score and get a copy of your current credit report to see if you’re totally ready to move forward. Then, identify any discrepancies and get them fixed — if possible — before you talk to a lender. Here’s more on knowing, improving and repairing your credit!
6 – Hit the brakes on any major purchases
Need a bit of time to save up that downpayment. No problem. That’ll give you time to take heed of our next tip. Before purchasing a home, don’t even think about taking out any loans or adding significant debt to credit cards. Big moves — like a vacation, a car lease or a PlayStation 5 Console — can really negatively impact your DTI, or debt-to-income ratio. If your DTI goes off the rails, it could affect your ability to qualify for the loan amount you’re going to need to buy that dream home. Likewise, don’t open or close any credit card accounts. Just pay them down as much as possible and leave them be until after you’ve closed on the home and moved in. Here are other money tips.
7 – Get yourself a great lender
Most people reach out to a lender once they’ve found the home they want to put an offer on or after they’ve made an offer. That’s way too late, in our opinion. You shouldn’t really shop for a home unless you know how much you can actually afford. And unless you are flush with cash, you’ll need to meet with a home financing lender to accurately determine that number. And don’t just get pre-qualified; get pre-approved. There’s a huge difference.
And remember that credit score we discussed in a previous tip? Here’s where it comes in handy: borrowers with a high credit score — around 700 to 720 — will typically be offered a lower rate and more mortgage options, like a conventional loan. That could mean a smaller monthly payment. Those with lower credit scores — around 640+ — may be presented with a higher interest rate on the money they borrow due to the bigger risk the lender is taking on. Still, there are many great options available for buyers of every type. We recommend that you contact a Movement Mortgage loan officer near you to get started.
8 – Spring for a professional home inspection
Once you fall in love with the home, make sure there are no significant faults or potential problems with the property! Most states require the home seller to reveal all problems — including existing structural issues — but they may not always be aware of everything going on and won’t be able to give you a full disclosure. The only way to truly know what’s what is to secure the services of a reputable home inspection service. These guys are not emotionally attached to the property — like you or the seller — so they will give you an honest assessment. The price will fluctuate, obviously, depending on the size and age of the home, but expect to pay at least $473, the nationwide average according to the home service booking website Angi. Considering that a proper inspection could save you thousands if the home isn’t up to code or has major issues, that doesn’t seem too high a fee.
9 – Clear title and cover-up
Your mortgage loan officer will guide you to make certain the title on the property is clear. Once that’s done and you’re confident that there are no problems with you taking ownership, be sure to purchase homeowner’s insurance. If something happens to your home or belongings, there’s no landlord or management company to reach out to. The issues are yours and yours alone. Ask for quotes from at least three three insurance companies. And don’t just look for the lowest cost; shop around for the best value and coverage.
There you have it. The nine things you need to know if you’re planning on buying a home in the New Year. Cheers to you finding the home of your dreams! Reach out when you’re ready to discuss financing!