5 Steps for Success When Buying a New Home

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Buying a new home can be thrilling or frustrating, depending on how well prepared you are for the search. Following these 5 steps for success when buying a new home will help minimize the hassles of deciding which home to buy and getting to the closing table.

Know how much house you can afford

As exciting as it is to tour new home models or houses for sale, you need to know what’s realistically within your means before you start your search. Depending on who you ask, a good rule of thumb is to limit your total home expenses—from the mortgage to maintenance—to no more than 28%–30% of your monthly income. An online mortgage calculator like this one can help you figure out what you can comfortably afford.

If you have a bit of time to prepare before you buy, it’s a great idea to set aside the difference between your current living expenses and what you expect to pay once you’re in your new home. You’ll have the chance to adjust to your new budget while building a savings cushion you can use toward your down payment or other expenses when you’re ready to buy.

Boost your credit score

A strong credit score makes it easier for you to get home financing, and reduces the amount of interest lenders will require you to pay. Improving your credit score can take at least 6–12 months, so start as early as you can. For specific tips, check out our earlier post on How to Make Your Credit Score Better.

Get pre-approved

While the housing market is making a strong recovery, recent events have made home financing a more involved process than it was five years ago. You can save considerable time and reduce your chances for disappointment by working with a lender to get your financing in order before you set foot in your first house. Shopping around to get the best deal and getting all the paperwork together ahead of time will give you the peace of mind to start your search with confidence and minimize your risk of losing your dream home to a better-prepared buyer.

Make a wish list

As you consider new home options, it’s important to know what you need, what you want, and the difference between the two. Make a list of “need-to-have” and “nice-to-have” options and use it to refine your search. Your list should include features of the house itself, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, what kind of kitchen you want, if a garage for one care or two is needed and other amenities. You’ll also want to weigh the benefits of the school district, local community, and other aspects related to its location.

Look beyond the price tag

It’s temping to make apples-to-apples comparisons based on the sale price, but be sure to consider other factors that will affect the long-term cost of living in your new home. Is the location convenient to your work, school, shopping, and other amenities? Newly built homes have many advantages over re-sales; such as, having new major appliances instead of ones that are likely to need replacement in a few years? Also, new homes are usually much more energy-efficient than homes just a few years old. Will property taxes, association fees, or other costs significantly increase your annual costs? Is the house ready for your lifestyle on your closing date? Factor these items into your plan before you buy.

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