As a recent graduate, you may be thinking of purchasing a home for the first time. Here are a few things I learned along the way as a first-time buyer:
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1. Know your finances before beginning the process.
Unless you are able to pay in cash, you will need to compare different loan programs and lenders. A lender will determine your readiness to purchase a home by taking a thorough look at your finances.
- Expect to share a complete financial snapshot with your lender, including all account balances - checking, savings, credit, loans and investments.
- In addition to account balances, you may be asked to provide recent pay stubs and tax information.
- Other factors to consider are the amount of credit you have established, your debt-to-income ratio, and your employment history (particularly how long you have stayed at your current job or in the same field).
- Save time by locating all pertinent financial information, either hard copy or online, prior to shopping lenders and loan programs.
2. Consider working with a real estate agent.
An experienced buyer’s agent will serve as an advocate for you, the buyer, throughout the buying process and will help you make the most informed decisions. In many cases, your buyer’s agent will not charge you a fee for their services, but the assistance they can provide is valuable.
- Make sure your agent is a great fit for your needs. My agent knew all the right questions to ask the seller that I would not have thought to ask as a first-time buyer.
- Remember that your agent may even be able to negotiate with lenders, builders or sellers on your behalf. Be sure to use them as a resource in pursuing options such as seller-paid closing costs and price reductions.
- Identify what matters most to you in a home and communicate those details to your agent. At the beginning of our search, my agent encouraged me to make a wish list of features (prioritizing items of highest importance). While there is no perfect home, it was helpful to establish which option checked the most boxes.
3. Watch your expenditures while you are under contract.
You will most likely need more than a few items to outfit your place as a new homeowner. Resist the urge to purchase appliances and furnishings (or a new car!) before your closing.
- Once you are working with a lender and are under contract, it is recommended to not open any new credit accounts or make large purchases until after you close.
- Plan ahead! Set aside funds in the event that you will need to bring money to closing.
Looking back at my experience, one of the most helpful things my agent told me was to be patient. Buying a home required patience before, during and after the search. Having the right information on hand and the right people on your side can make the process run efficiently and with minimal stress.
About the author...
Brooks Hearn is a two-time graduate of the University of South Carolina. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications in 2007 and her Master of Public Administration in 2009. Brooks now resides in Summerville, SC (utilize this experienced home buyer's tips!) and currently serves on the Young Alumni Council.