Phase One: Contemplation and Research
I have officially entered the phase of my life where buying a home sounds like an enticing idea. Up until this point, I have been completely happy and satisfied with the lack of commitment and transient ability that comes with apartment living. However, after a decade of job and city changes, I am now living in a city I truly love and I plan to stay for quite a while.
So, naturally like any first-time home searchers, I find myself flooded with questions. I am still in the early stages, but the best thing I did so far was find a Real Estate Agent that I trust completely. The next best thing I did was get pre-approved for a loan. I tend to have champagne taste on a beer budget, so knowing exactly what I can afford has helped me set realistic expectations. Plus it was a free and easy process!
Click to one of our preferred lender's mortgage application right here - Apply for a mortgage
Now the fun begins! I am in the phase of scouring the internet for homes in my area and visiting ones that have potential. My Realtor sends me updates through an MLS system with all of the listings in my price range. I like it because other websites are not always up to date with the availability, status and price. However, I quickly realized that in my price range, I am going to have to be patient. Many of the houses that are currently available are foreclosures or fixer-uppers.
This is why working with a Realtor that I trust has been extremely beneficial and eye-opening. There have been several houses that looked perfect, but turned out to have major issues. I learned that unless you are prepared for a ton of handy-work and investment, never buy a home with a broken foundation! Sounds intuitive, but I never really thought about it before and I am thankful to have a realtor who is knowledgeable about the market and can give me insider scoop.
Also, I have had to be really transparent and honest with both myself and my Realtor. Right off the bat, she started asking me questions that I was a little surprised by:
How much money do you have to put down?
Is this money yours or a gift?
How prepared am I for maintenance issues?
I have learned that all of these and more factor into getting approved for a loan program that suits my needs and ultimately purchasing a house that suits my needs. Personally, I cannot be in a situation where two months after moving in, I have to spend money on a new roof! It has been smart to discuss these little details with her.
It was also interesting to learn that there are a multitude of different loan programs available through credit unions, banks, and government programs. Depending on a person’s income and family size, there are government loan programs that offer the ability to put as little as 3% down. This was something I did not know at all. I had always assumed you must have at least 20% down to purchase a home.
Here is a link to the down payment assistance programs in Minnesota. Of course our preferred lender is well versed in these programs and can help determine which program you qualify for and is best suited for your situation. MN Down Payment Assistance Programs
Lastly, I now understand more than ever that most first-time home buyers have to make compromises and I am no exception. I have been taking my time to think about what is important to me and my family. I find myself thinking:
Do I really care if the garage is attached?
That yard is beautiful, but can I handle mowing 1.5 acres in the summer?
Am I even ready for all of this!?
I have found that being open, honest, and patient has really helped as I journey through this process. I think about how my parents still own and rent their first home and how that is a real possibility for my future as well. I want to make sure my first house is one I will love and cherish for years to come!