Thinking of taking the leap from home-renter to homeowner? It might seem like a big jump from responsibility-free to a 30-year-mortgage, but the process really doesn’t have to be that hard! We’ve broken down each and every step for you, from the beginning of the process to the years following the purchase of your first home. Let’s get started!
Before you start searching for a home, it’s important to take some considerations into mind. Start by thinking about your long-term goals—career-wise and location-wise—and why you’re buying a home; are you looking to turn rent payments into equity or perhaps looking for more of a long-term “homey” attachment? Here are a few questions to ask before you start your home search.
What Type of Home Do I Need?
There are a lot of options for homes, and it’s important to think about what you need, what you want, and what will fit into your budget. Here are some choices:
- Single-family home
- Townhome or condo
- New construction
What Size Loan Do I Qualify For?
Yes, before you even start searching for homes, you should start loan-shopping. There’s no point in starting to tour homes if you don’t qualify for a loan or a large enough loan. Here are some lenders you might want to contact for quotes and pricing estimates:
- Your personal bank
- Local banks or credit unions
- Mortgage brokers
- Ask your Realtor for recommendations
Bonus: Don't forget to explore first-time homebuyer assistance programs available in Erie County, which can help buyers purchase homes without a hefty down payment.
What Can I Actually Afford?
Just because a lender tells you that you’re approved for a loan, doesn’t mean you can actually afford that loan. Here are some ways you can ensure you'll be able to afford your mortgage:
- Track your monthly spending to see where your money goes, and what you might actually be able to afford to spend, realistically, on a monthly mortgage payment.
- Consider your employment—are you likely to stay at this job? Is there potential for growth or increased income?
- Keep in mind that the price tag on your dream home is not the final price you will pay. Things like interest, insurance, and home inspections and appraisals will add to that price tag—a mortgage calculator can help you get a good estimate of what you can expect to pay.
Now, the real fun begins! It's time to start searching for that perfect house you'll get to call your own!
Find a Real Estate Expert
Especially as a first-time buyer, it’s important to seek expert advice of an qualified local REALTOR®. Look for an agent who:
- Specializes or has ample experience with first-time buyers.
- Has many years experience buying and selling homes in Erie.
- Can give you the extra time and attention you need as a first-time buyer.
Find the Right Home!
This is the most exciting part of the process! This is where you get to start searching, touring, and imagining yourself in a beautiful new home! Our advanced home search tools can help! Here are some home-search tips to keep in mind:
- Create a list of must-haves, would-likes, and bonus features to prioritize your wants and needs.
- Consider location, including proximity to work, conveniences, and other attractions.
- Consider the size and style of home you'll need or would like.
You've found a home you love! But you can't close just yet. This is the part where you and the sellers get ready for closing.
Finalize Your Mortgage
Once you find a home you love, make sure you're well under way to getting your loan finalized. Work with your chosen lender to:
- Submit financial and banking information.
- Choose the best loan options and interest rates for your situation.
- Determine how much down payment you can afford.
- Get official preapproval.
Make An Offer
Work with your REALTOR® and compare recently-sold homes to determine an asking price for the home you want. Here are some factors to keep in mind:
- What other, similar homes nearby are selling for
- How long the home has been on the market
- The condition of the home
- Competition—how many other buyers are looking?
- Your comfort level. Never offer more than you can afford!
Request a Home Inspection
Assuming that your offer is accepted, the next step is to hire a professional to walk through and inspect every inch of your potential new home. Home inspectors can spot:
- Structural and foundational issues.
- Roofing problems.
- Electric or heating/cooling issues.
- Other hidden or underlying issues that could potentially cost you money down the road.
Tip: Ask your Realtor for a recommendation on a qualified local inspector.
If everything looks good, it's time to sign the paperwork, make final negotiations and payments, and get your keys!
Close on Your New Home
Almost there… just lots of paperwork to get through first! This is another place a real estate agent comes in handy—they can ensure everything is in order while you’re signing away!
After You Buy
Congratulations! You bought your very first home! Time to pack up, move in, unpack, and start the real fun—decorating, arranging furniture, and making the home truly yours. It's a very exciting time, but don't forget:
- A home is a financial investment, one that must be maintained and cared for over the years.
- It's good to keep an emergency fund for unforeseen expenses down the road.
- Give your home some routine loving and maintenance to avoid problems and protect your home value.
Find Your Erie County Home
If you’re a first-time homebuyer in Northwestern PA or Western NY, we are here to help. We love connecting buyers with their perfect homes, and we want to help connect you with your first home. We understand you’ll have a lot of questions, and we’re more than willing to answer each and every one! So give us a call today and let’s get started!