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What Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Know

Money Girl answers 6 common questions from first-time home buyers. How to know when you should buy your first home and how much money you will need.

By
Laura Adams, MBA
Episode #333
First Time Home Buyer

Buying a home is a big decision. Not only is it a huge financial investment, but it’s a place where you’ll become a part of the community, interact with neighbors, and perhaps raise children.

In this episode, I’ll answer 6 common questions from first-time home buyers. You’ll find out how to get started, what you can afford, and how to navigate important parts of the home-buying process.

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Question #1: Why should I buy a home, instead of renting?

Most of us start out as renters because it doesn’t require a big upfront financial investment. But the downside to renting is that your monthly payments are a pure expense. In other words, once you make them, they’re gone forever.

On the other hand, when you own a home, there are some nice financial perks, such as:

  • A portion of each payment reduces your outstanding loan balance each month, if you have a fixed-rate mortgage.
  • Your mortgage interest and property taxes can be deducted from your taxable income each year.
  • The market value of your home may rise over time, allowing you to build equity.

See also: Should You Rent or Buy a Home?

Additionally, when you own a home, you can have the lifestyle you want, spread out, and express your personal style. However, you’ll be responsible for maintenance and many unexpected expenses.

Question #2: When should I consider buying a home?

The right time to consider buying a home is different for everyone. But here are a few important questions that you should ask:

  • Do I have good credit?
  • Can I demonstrate 2 to 3 years of steady income from a job or business?
  • Can I afford to pay a mortgage, taxes, and insurance every month?
  • Is my current income likely to continue or increase?
  • Do I have enough saved for a down payment? (See more about this below).

If you answer “yes” to these questions, you’re probably in a good position to seriously consider buying a home.

Question #3: How much down payment money will I need?

How much down payment you’ll need depends on several factors, including the price of the home, the type of mortgage you get, and customary closing costs for buyers in your market.

In general, you need enough cash in the bank to cover 3 costs:

  1. Earnest money – this is the good faith deposit you make on a home when you submit an offer. The customary amount varies depending on the market, but might range from 1% to 3% of the offer price. If your offer is accepted, the funds are applied toward your closing costs. If not, your earnest money is returned to you.

  2. Down payment – this is the percentage of the home price that you must pay at closing. The more you put down, the lower your mortgage payments will be. Some loans require you pay 10% to 20% of the purchase price. Other loans designed for first-time home buyers, such as an FHA loan, may only require 3% down or less.

  3. Closing costs – these are fees you must pay at the settlement, such as lender charges, an appraisal, survey, inspections, attorney fees, taxes, title insurance, and any other processing expenses. You should receive an estimate of your total closing costs from your lender, so you aren’t caught by surprise.

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About the Author

Laura Adams, MBA

Laura Adams received an MBA from the University of Florida. She's an award-winning personal finance author, speaker, and consumer advocate who is a trusted and frequent source for the national media. Her book, Debt-Free Blueprint: How to Get Out of Debt and Build a Financial Life You Love was an Amazon #1 New Release. Do you have a money question? Call the Money Girl listener line at 302-364-0308. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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