HomeOwner's 101: Basics for 1st Time Home Buyers

Thank you Capital One Home Loans for sponsoring this post. This is a paid endorsement. To learn more about how Capital One Home Loans tools can help simplify your home-buying process, visit CapitalOneSmartHomeLoans.com.

The journey I have been on in the last few years has taught me just how big a fallacy it is to assume that everyone has the same experiences in life or learns the same lessons.

I have now successfully purchased two homes.

One was a starter home - a brand-new build where we where we were able to choose every detail from the ground up.

The other was a foreclosure that involved going through a difficult, tedious process which ultimately netted us a home in need of a lot of work but also with a lot of equity very quickly.

However, in my line of work, I regularly deal with people who are saving up for down payments, buying homes, selling homes, refinancing homes, investing in rental properties. It's exposed me to a much wider array of home buying experiences than I would ever be able to have personally.

And it has taught me there are some basic lessons that not everyone has had the opportunity to learn in life, and everyone beginning the process of buying a home should know right from the beginning.

#1 - Know what you can afford.

This might be one of the biggest steps that just gets glossed right over. Or maybe everyone assumes they know. One of the best ways to figure it out is to use a calculator like the Capital One Home Loans Mortgage Loan Calculator. You can adjust the price, the down payment and the loan type to help you approximate what your monthly payment would be.

#2 - Don't assume your loan payment is the total cost of owning a home.

I can't tell you how many prospective first-time homeowners think they can buy much more house than their budget will actually support because they think the final number from the loan calculator is the sum total of what their month cost will be.  Thankfully, the Capital One Home Loans Mortgage Loan Calculator also figures in your approximate taxes and insurance so you get a good idea of the full monthly payment.

Make sure you create line items in your budget for an increase in utility payments if the square footage of the home is bigger than what you are coming from or the rental agreement covered any of your utilities. If you don't have at least 20% of the home value to put as a down payment, you also need to factor in Private Mortgage Insurance. And, last but not least, make sure you allot funds for repairs and maintenance. Whether your house is shiny and new or has a list of problems to fix from the get-go, it will cost you more than you think. Don't let all of the planning and cost to go to waste because you can't keep the house in good repair.

#3 - Get your credit in as good of shape as possible. 

Once you know what you can afford, then you need to make sure you get the best interest rate possible. It matters . . . seriously. Getting your interest rate lowered even by .5% can save you as much as $20,000 on a $300,000 loan financed over 30 years. So invest the time to make sure you get as good a rate as possible. Do some basic things - pay down as many credit balances as possible (don't close them!), pay for everything on time, don't do anything that will make people run your credit.

#4 - Pre-qualify before you go house shopping.

In today's market, this almost goes without saying . . . except that it doesn't, because some new home buyers don't even know what "pre-qualifying" is, let alone that it should be done before they go house shopping. Here's the deal, though, if you go house shopping and you find one that you love - then what? You make an offer, right? But if you haven't been pre-qualified you don't actually know if the bank is going to lend you enough money for that house. And if someone else already did, guess who's going to already have that house under contract before you can even get a return phone call from the loan officer. Just trust me, get pre-qualified.

In today's era, you can do almost all of the qualification process online. For example, Capital One Home Loans now has the availability for you to qualify in practically minutes. You can apply online, upload documents and digitally track the progress of everything from your application through closing.

#5 - Don't ever make the mistake of thinking you have found the ONLY house that will ever work for you.

My dad taught me this lesson early on when we were house shopping for our family and I was a young child. I generally say whatever comes to my head - so if I hated it, everyone with us was aware and if I loved it, they were also aware. But my dad pulled me aside and told me to stop saying all of the positives out loud in front of the agent. Every house can be walked away from. There's always another one. He's famous for saying, "You're not married to any of them." and "You were looking for a house when you found this one. You can go right back to looking."

There is a lot of truth in that though. If you ever set your mind on a certain house at the expense of all else, it will likely cost you "all else" and maybe more. You may very well settle for paying too much, over-committing your budget dollars, ignoring red flags, and hurrying through one of the most important decisions you will make in regards to your financial future.

BONUS: The earlier you can settle into a house that you can adapt for your future needs without having to sell and move, the more financial freedom you will have. In fact, paying an extra $100 or $200 towards the principal each month can not only save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest but also free up funds earlier in life for you to invest so that you can put it to work for you and be able to retire comfortably.

If you want to read more about the home buying process, read Capital One Home Loans "What to Expect Brochure."

Also, if you live in the Dallas Metroplex, you can attend a FREE, open-to-the-public Open House Event with HGTV’s Love It or List It, Too stars, Jillian Harris and Todd Talbot, on Saturday, December 12 at the Stonebriar Centre mall in Frisco, TX.

During the event, they’ll share even more DIY tips and tricks for simplifying the entire home buying and owning process. For more information, visit SmartHomeLoans.com.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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