Preparing to purchase a home can be a period of nerve-racking anxiety for any homebuyer.  As a first time homebuyer you have a course in front of you that is sure to include uncertainty, excitement, confusion and frustration – at times all in the same day, maybe even in the same hour.

By arming yourself with preparation and knowledge you’ll have a much better chance of having a positive home buying experience by ultimately reaching your goal of fulfilling ‘The American Dream’ owning your own home.   

Follow these 7 steps and you’ll be well on your way to owning your own home.

1) KNOW YOUR CREDIT:  The first and perhaps the most important step of preparing to buy your first home is to know and understand your credit.  Reach out to the three big credit bureaus (TranUnion, Experian, Equifax) for a free copy of your credit report, which you’re entitled to, for free, once a year.

First, familiarize yourself with your credit history and make certain that everything is reported thoroughly and accurately.  This should be an ongoing responsibility that you start well before you even think you’re ready to buy a home.  By starting early, you’ll be able to take the time to make any corrections and continue to improve your credit score.

2) TEAMWORK:  Buying a home requires a team of dedicated professionals.  Perhaps the two most important are the REALTOR® you’ll choose and the Lender.

REALTOR®:  Choosing the right professionals is critical.  Certainly an inexperienced first time home buyer should not have an inexperienced agent helping them through the process.  Look for an individual that is imbedded in the local community where you want to live.  He should have professional designations that indicate a pursuit for higher professional standards.  Your REALTOR® should be respected within the local real estate community as most transactions require the cooperation of at least two REALTORS®.

Friends and Relatives DO NOT make the best agent.  Sure there is a loyalty factor that needs to be considered as commissions are in the thousands of dollars.   Some of the worst transactions I have ever witnessed have had emotional attachments of an agent that was too close to the transaction.  It’s personal enough for the buyer and seller, your professionals should not be emotionally attached as well.

Remember, ALL real estate is local, and you’re REALTOR® should be too…for sooooo many reasons.

LENDER:  There are a number of good ways to find a good lender.  You’re Bank or Credit Union probably offer a home purchase loan.  There are lots of discount guys that advertise on the radio and TV and then there are those who come recommend by your REALTOR®.

A successful real estate transaction requires a lot of behind-the-scenes communication and coordination between the REALTOR® and Loan Officer so it may be best to consider your REALTORS® advice and check out one of their lenders of choice.  The lender will value the relationship with the REALTOR® and go above and beyond to make certain the REALTOR® is happy with their performance so they continue to receive referrals.  When you find a lender on your own, you are a one shot commission and may not receive the same level of service.

3) PREAPPROVAL:  The actual process of buying your first home DOES NOT start with searching for your dream home…unless you have the cash to buy outright.  Experience tells us though that most first time home buyers will require a home loan to complete the transaction.

It’s important to be ‘Pre-Approved’ by a lender before you start house-hunting.  The worst thing any home buyer can do is look at the ‘perfect’ home that they believe they can afford only to find out that the bank won’t loan them that much, for one reason or another.

The difference between a ‘Pre-Qualification’ and a ‘Pre-Approval is huge.  A ‘Pre-Approval’ is the process of the lender gathering all necessary documentation and verifying all aspects of the credit application.  This will allow the home buyer and REALTOR® to focus on homes they know they can afford.

4)  BUDGET:  Just because you’re approved for one amount does not mean you have to spend every dime you’re approved for.  Perhaps, with your credit score, income, down payment and debt to income ratio has you qualified for one amount that stretches your budget.  Find a payment that makes you comfortable and stick with it.

Remember, the cost of paying for your new home is not just the principal and interest mortgage payment there will be property taxes and insurance and maybe even Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

5)  YOUR LEASE:  Are you currently leasing a house or apartment?  Know when your lease expires and what the penalties are if you broke the lease.  Buying a home is stressful enough and not having to worry about your current living arrangement is priceless.

Have the conversation with your landlord that you are in the process of shopping for and wanting to buy your own home.  Perhaps, your landlord may be willing to sell you the home you are currently renting.

6)  DOWN PAYMENT ASSISTANCE (DPA):  Many perceive these programs to only be available to low income buyers, but many are available for the mid-level income buyers as well through local and state housing authorities.

Some programs offer no-interest loans or grants, with a few conditions attached. When researching the various programs, be sure to ask for a list of lenders who will participate in the programs, as not all lenders will.

7)  INSPECT EVERYTHING:  When you make the commitment to buy a home there is typically an inspection contingency that allows you to inspect every aspect of the home.

You’ll want to know that the roof is good, the plumbing and electric systems are all to code and functioning properly.  Check the foundation for cracks and leaks.  Mold is a big issue, look for any signs of water damage where mold may be growing behind the walls.  Appliances and fixtures all need to be in working order.  So many variables with any home, it’s important that you take the time and invest in good inspectors who will give you an unbiased opinion of the condition of the home you now have in escrow, because of all of your hard work in getting here.

Take the time to plan your purchase and you should be very happy with the outcome.  Rush any of the steps and you’re certain to have regrets.

Call us today at (951) 296-8887, and get educated! 

For questions regarding available inventory and/or other real estate matters please contact,  Mike Mason, Broker/Owner of MASON Real Estate Cal. BRE: 01483044, Temecula Valley resident for 30+ years, Board of Director (since 2011) Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors® (SRCAR).

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