Here are the top six things that a first-time home buyer needs to know before getting started:
1. Get pre-approved: You'll often hear people say that it's not important for them to get pre-approved. They feel like they've done their research; they know what they need. In fact, getting pre-approved is the key to success in home buying. Many realtors won't even show a buyer around to houses without a mortgage pre-approval that guarantees that they can afford the houses that they're looking at.
2. Tax credit options: There are a lot of tax credits that you might qualify for as a homeowner. These can range from mortgage interest credits to homestead credits. The federal government and most states offer credits to home buyers. There are also mortgage credit certificates and more that you can get.
3. Nothing's perfect: You will never find the perfect home unless you build it yourself, and building for yourself is usually not in the cards for a first-time home buyer. Look for a home that meets your most important needs. The "cool things" might not all be available, so be prepared to compromise.
4. Know your down payment options: Most people get into a new home with an eight to 10 percent down payment. Meanwhile, many people think they need 20% to put down. Make sure you're clear on your down payment options before you begin shopping. It's possible that you can pay a lot less in a down payment on some houses, but others might require a higher down payment.
5. Choose the right real estate agent: Choose the right person to help you find a home. The right buyer's agent can make all the difference. You want someone who knows the neighborhood you're searching in and can help you find the right house for your needs. If you find an agent that keeps taking you to houses that are twice the price you can afford, they're wasting your time and just looking for a big commission.
6. Study the house: Don't skimp on inspections. Take a very close look yourself. You are going to spend more on this house than you spend on almost anything else in your life. A few hundred dollars for inspections can save your thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars in the future.
Take your time. Know the facts and you'll do great. Millions of people buy houses every year. You can do this.