After all the preparation, hard work, saving and planning, buying your first home is easily the most important and exciting purchase of your life thus far. However, once you start the process of buying a new home or condo, you’re going to quickly realize that the entire process can be difficult, confusing and at times totally overwhelming. All the more reason you need every tool at your disposal to ensure that everything goes smoothly. To that end we have assembled a short list of tools that all first-time home buyers should make use of.
Free Credit Reports
Knowing your credit score, if you’ll be able to qualify for financing and for how much is obviously the most important starting place for potential first time homebuyers. Many who haven’t been through this process before have no idea what their credit score is and just assume that the info on their report will be accurate and good enough to secure a loan. Not so. It’s vital that you know exactly what is and isn’t included on your report and what your score is. Free credit report sites like FreeScore.com and FreeCreditReport.com are great resources (and free!) that will give you a clear understanding of what potential lenders are going to see when determining your credit worthiness. While paid services will give you a more detailed look at your score, free services such as these are more than enough and certainly get the job done.
After what the Real Estate Market and the nation in general has gone through over the past 5 years due to the mortgage meltdown, knowing and really understanding the various types of mortgages available to you is vital. There is a wealth of information online regarding mortgages and doing a quick search will bring up thousands of results. You can weed through these for a few weeks or make it a lot easier and visit Mortgage101.com instead. In addition to information about the various home loans types, here you’ll also find lender directories (including bad credit lenders, VA and FHA home lenders), current mortgage rates and help finding a Realtor.
Licensed Realtors and Buyer Agents
While Do It Yourself in home repairs and upkeep has become the norm and can be very rewarding, DIY Real Estate is a road fraught with danger and should always be the road less travelled. Licensed Realtors and Buyer Agents are a vital part of the home buying process, and for good reason. First and foremost a Realtor or Buyers Agent is solely representing you the buyer, NOT the home seller. They know the market better than you, they know local laws and regulations that relate to home ownership better than you, they are paid by the owner when the house closes and thus cost you NOTHING, and if you hit any type of snag throughout the process, a Realtor can best help you deal with any situation that arises.
Programs and Assistance
The Real Estate Market has changed quite a bit over the past few years due to the economy. Getting financing for a new home or condo is more difficult now and higher down payments are now the norm. This puts additional financial burdens on the first-time home buyer, thus knowing what programs and other assistance is out there and available to you is so vital. Take a little time to familiarize yourself with any and all home buying credits and/or home buyer grants that are available to you in your particular state. HUD’s Local Home Buying Programs is a great place to start.
A tool that is indispensable to all homebuyers with children is the ability to easily check out available schools in a particular area. If buying a home in a given school district or close to a specific school is important to you (football parents here in Austin know exactly what I’m talking about), then the School Finder at Education.com and wealth of info at GreatSchools.org will certainly be of great help. From district and school stats, rankings, test scores, area maps, student-teacher ratios, and full contact info for all, both of these sites are a must to all first-time homebuyers with kids.