There’s no question that buying a home is a lofty new year’s resolution—it’s certainly more intense than “drink more water” or “keep a journal.” So how do you start the process of buying a home in the new year?
Step One: Understand WHY you want to buy a home
Purchasing a home is a monumental step in anyone’s life, and it’s important to devote plenty of time and thought to the decision. Ask yourself the necessary questions: why do I want to buy a house? Am I in a suitable financial position to buy a home? How long do I plan to live in this home? For the most part, these questions aim to help you answer more general questions, like “can I buy a home right now?” and “should I buy a home right now?”
Step Two: Check and strengthen your credit
Your credit plays a massive role in your loan eligibility—some home loans are only available for borrowers with a certain credit score range. Be sure to keep an eye on your credit score, and remember you can always improve it!
Implementing healthy spending habits, like paying your bills on time, saving up money whenever you can, and avoiding racking up credit card debt, can work wonders. Keep in mind, you won’t see changes in your credit score overnight—credit reports typically update every 30 to 45 days.
Total Mortgage always offers educational resources to our clients—check out the video below for some credit tips!
Step Three: Check your DTI
Your debt-to-income ratio, technically speaking, is all of your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income—that is, the percentage of your gross monthly income that goes towards payments for rent, mortgage, credit cards, and other debt. This is how lenders measure your ability to manage the monthly mortgage payments to repay the money you’ll be borrowing.
To calculate your debt-to-income ratio, add up your monthly debts—this includes car payments, credit cards, mortgages, and student loans. Divide this amount by your monthly gross income, and you’ll get your DTI ratio.
For reference, the standard maximum DTI for conventional loans is 45%, and for FHA loans it’s 55%. Of course, the maximum DTI depends on the home loan.
Step Four: Start saving for a down payment
The down payment requirement on a mortgage can end up costing a considerable chunk of change, so it’s always beneficial to start saving as soon as you can. Down payment requirements can be as low as 3%, or as high as 20%, depending on the mortgage. Making a larger down payment has its advantages—usually you’ll have more mortgage options, a smaller monthly payment, and a lower interest rate.
Always factor your closing costs into your budget. While closing costs will vary depending on the home, it’s a good idea to plan for a fee of 3% to 6% of the home’s value.
If you’re looking for a creative way to save up money, try the 52-week savings challenge! To take part in the challenge, you should deposit an increasing amount of money each week for one year. The amount corresponds with the week number (i.e., on week one put away $1, week two put away $2, and so on). It’s not too late to start—even if you start on week 6, you’ll still end up with over $1,300.
Step Five: Determine your housing budget
One of the most important parts of the home-buying process is determining how much house you can afford. Homeownership comes with several costs that you didn’t need to pay as a renter. In addition to your monthly mortgage payment, you’ll need to pay property taxes and maintain some form of homeowners insurance. Factor these expenses into your household budget when determining how much house you can afford.
Step Six: Speak to a mortgage professional
By far the best way to determine if you’re ready to buy a home is to speak with a mortgage professional. They can walk you through the home-buying process, and give you an overview of the various home loan options.
Here at Total Mortgage, we offer a personalized experience for each borrower—and we have branches throughout the country! Contact your local Total Mortgage branch today to get started. Click here to find your branch!
It’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed by the home-buying process, but if you think you’re truly ready, don’t let yourself be discouraged! Your loan officer will guide you through each step, setting you up for success as a homeowner.