Wednesday, November 7, 2018

With every passing day, Chris and I are getting closer & closer to owning our own home. We're currently hard at work paying off the remainder of our student loans, and then we'll be saving every extra penny for a down payment. When you're looking to buy a home--especially your first home, you want to make sure that you are prepared for what's to come. The first couple of times Chris and I began the home buying process, we were left super discouraged, because we either couldn't find anything we liked, the prettier homes were out of our budget, or the one that gets most people--we had too much debt to income.

Today, I wanted to chat about a few steps that Chris and I are taking that are helping the home buying process this go-around. They always say third times a charm, right? Well, this will be the third time we're starting this process, and this time, we're doing it right, so we actually end up in our own home!!

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One // Pay off debt

First things first, I highly suggest paying off all of your debt first! It might seem like a super daunting task, but in September, I partnered with my friends at Allstate to write a post on: How We're Paying off over $50K of Debt in One Year. I broke it down and talked about the steps we're actually taking, and my friends, they are working! In just a few months of attacking our debt, we've killed over $9K!

In this post, I also give you a free resource that you can download to help kill your debt completely. Like how I'm using such violent words towards debt? If you're angry enough at it, you'll want it gone immediately.

Paying off your debt has so many benefits before buying a home. You'll have so much more income free each month that you can put towards fun home projects, renovations if needed, and the guaranteed broken appliance. When buying a home, you'll need as much income free as possible for any unexpected expenses. There's no landlord to come fix it if something breaks.

Not having debt also looks so much better to lenders. Think about it--would you want to lend to someone with a ton of debt money?! I don't think so--you'll want someone who is responsible and diligent with their money, because you want to make sure you get your payment each month. The same goes for the lenders--this will also keep your interest rate down. Hello--no brainer on that one!

Two // Save a down payment

Want to avoid paying extra money each month--aka PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance)? You'll want to save up a down payment for sure. Most homes on average cost over $200K, so you'll need about $40K-$50K saved before looking for a home. You can purchase your first home with first home-buyers loans, but honestly, in the end, it's not worth it. You'll end up spending so much unnecessary money on the PMI that your payments will hardly go towards paying off the principal on your loan. I know for some that have bought a house when they are in their early twenties with a first home buyers loan regretted it, because even though they got better jobs and could more than afford the mortgage payments, they had to continue paying the PMI until 20% of the principal was paid. That can take years--like upwards of ten years! If you can wait to avoid a PMI, it's worth it until you've saved a down payment.

If you're at a place in your life where you're ready to start saving for a down payment, check out this awesome Mortgage Payment resource from my friends at Allstate. It helps you calculate what your mortgage payment will be--along with any property taxes and insurance costs.

Three // Research and watch the market with a realtor you can trust + visit homes to get an idea of what you like and don't like

Researching the market is so important, because it's always changing. Homes that I've looked at have fluctuated almost $50K in less than 6 months. It's all about which neighborhoods and cities are in demand at the time and the time of year. Home prices change all the time, so make sure you're on top of those changes. You'll also want to find a realtor that you can trust so you can start visiting homes. When Chris and I first started looking at homes, we would look at pretty much anything that we could so that we could figure out what we liked, hated, wanted, and needed in a home. There are so many things to consider and you need to make sure you find something that will fit your current and future needs.

The more you visit homes, the quicker you will be able to point out any flaws that need to be addressed by the seller before you'd even think about purchasing it--water damage in the ceiling below bathrooms, a flooring allowance to rip up the carpet if it wreaks of wet dog, or even simply asking the average utility bill of that home address. Home buying usually doesn't come on the first house you look at--if it does, consider yourself lucky, but prepare for practicing to buy homes after looking at a few, you'll feel more and more prepared as your dream home nears!

If you've never worked with a realtor before, it can be a little intimidating. I love this resource from Allstate: 6 Tips For Choosing A Realtor. It's not a process you want to rush into, because you will trust them with your income, your finances, and your future home. Do your homework and make sure that they are highly recommended, trusted by others, and specialize in the price range of real estate that you are interested in. If they're used to selling multi-million dollar homes, they might not be the best person to show you the fixer upper you plan to turn into the next Chip & Jo farmhouse.

Overall, find a realtor that is the best out there for you, and don't be discouraged if you have to look at many, many homes before finding the right one. Something I always tell myself is if I find something wrong with it, there's a reason. The right home will always be there when you need it the most, and you will feel at home when you walk in. You want to envision your family growing in that home, hosting dinner parties with your friends, and hosting Thanksgiving with your family. Your home will excite you and will feel like home.

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Four // Research the best insurance options

You definitely want to make sure you're researching for the best insurance option out there for you and your home. Allstate gives tips here on buying and insuring a home. You'll want to know all of the options that you have for insuring your home, so that you can find the best option for you and your budget. Allstate can definitely help you in this area. When you're ready to start shopping for insurance, they'd be more than happy to help walk you through the insurance options and what each policy can and will cover.

Five // Get pre-approved for a loan

Yay! You're almost ready to finally purchase your first home!! One of the biggest mistakes you can make while buying a home is not getting pre-approved for a loan. It's so important when actually shopping, because sometimes you'll need to act fast when purchasing. If you're pre-approved for a loan, then your realtor knows exactly what you can afford, and you're all ready to get your home!

I remember when we first started looking at homes, we fell in love with a home, but because we weren't pre-approved, we lost the house. I also feel like a realtor will take you more seriously if you are pre-approved--especially if you are young like my husband & me. I feel like we were looked down upon, because we wanted to buy a house so young. Well, just because you are young does not mean you can't buy a house. It just means you need to have your ducks in a row and do your #adulting checklist before you get others involved.

You'll also want to know your credit score. This will help lenders know your credit history, which will determine your interest rate on your home loan. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate. Ever since Chris and I started crushing our debt, the higher our scores rose. It's almost exciting to see it keep rising each month. Definitely be aware of your credit score during this process!

Additional Resources //

Here are two articles from my friends at Allstate that I found so helpful. They go over things I would have never thought of, so I want to share them with you!

Keys to Homeownership: Tips for First-Time Homebuyers
House Hunting Tips: Things to Look At Before You Buy

I can just feel the home buying process getting closer with every word I type! I'm so excited for all of you who are in this home buying journey reading this. We'll definitely get our homes soon. Just stay focused on the end goal, and you'll be in your home before you know it.

This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. As always, thoughts and opinions are my own. As the nation's largest publicly held personal lines insurer, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most, but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day. Thank you for supporting ACF!

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