Buying your first home can be one of the most exciting times in your life! Announce to any family or friends that you are shopping for a home, and you're sure to get plenty of advice--where to get financing, what neighborhoods you should consider, how to get a bargain.
But what about those other things--the home-buying facts that no one ever talks about, but you ultimately learn yourself? Here's a head's up on 10 realities of first-time home buying you probably won't hear from anyone else:
1. You shouldn't open or close a credit card or line of credit. It seems to make sense to buy appliances or furniture while you're planning to move to your new home, but making big purchases and using credit can mess with your debt-to-income ratio, which could put your mortgage approval in jeopardy. On the other hand, you shouldn't close any existing cards or lines of credit because it will affect the percentage of available credit used.
2. You need to budget for more than your mortgage payment each month. Online calculator give you an estimate of your monthly mortgage payment, but typically only take principal and interest into account. There are a number of other costs you'll need to tally up as well, including homeowner's insurance, taxes, utilities and potentially, private mortgage insurance. You should also be setting aside some savings each month to cover unexpected repairs.
3. You don't have to furnish and decorate your entire home immediately. If you are moving from a smaller rental, you may not have enough furnishings to fill the home you are moving into. Rather than a heavy cash outlay to get every room complete, focus on main areas and buy necessary furnishings and decor over time. The added bonus? You will have the chance to live in the home, giving you a better idea of what furnishings you want to use.
4. Shop around for a good mortgage rate. Many buyers meet with a lender and stick with them through the home-buying process. But, shopping around a comparing lenders could net you a lower interest rate. While half a percentage point may seem trivial, it can add up to thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.
5. A contractor can help you estimate cost of repairs. Your lender will insist on a home inspection and you should as well. Don't be surprised if the results include a list of recommended repairs. Before negotiating with the seller to complete some or all of the work, bring in a contractor to provide you with estimates. This will help you know if any credit offered is appropriate for the cost of repair.
6. Don't expect a short sale to take a short time. New home buyers often seek out short sales, as they hunt for a good deal on their first home. But, short sales need to go through several levels of approval, so a "short" sale can actually take substantially longer than a traditional sale and, unfortunately, may fall apart in the end.
7. It's wise not to spend your full pre-approved amount. While you may think you can afford spending at the top of your approved loan amount, there will be plenty of other new house expenses during and after the move. Unexpected repairs bills, for example, could make it painful when you are already paying a mortgage at the top of your limit.
8. The neighborhood school is important even if you have no children. If you don't have children and aren't planning to have any, you may not even consider the quality of schools when shopping for homes. But that would be a mistake. Schools can impact your home's value and are a major selling point down the road when you are ready to make your next move.
9. Hire an agent to be your advocate. Hiring a real estate agent to help you through the home-buying process is a no-brainer, since you don't pay the agent's commission. Put your agent to work for you, but always voice your own needs and concerns.
10. You can't call the landlord when things go wrong. If you've been renting very long, you're probably in the habit of calling your landlord when there's a problem like a clogged drain or the A/C goes out. But now, when repairs are needed, it's up to you to cover the costs and oversee the work. It's a good reminder to keep up with monthly savings for a home repair fund.