The First-Time Home Buyers Guide For 2024 | iTHINK Financial

By: iTHINK Financial | Feb 29, 2024

As a first-time home buyer, purchasing your very first home can feel overwhelming. It's a complex journey between deciphering mortgage terminology, navigating loan options, and understanding closing costs. However, education and preparation are essential; with the support of iTHINK Financial, you will be armed with the correct information to help you make informed decisions.

This comprehensive guide walks you through key steps, equipping you to buy your first home confidently. You’ll learn mortgage basics, like types of loans, interest rates, and payment terms. We’ll outline different costs involved, like down payments, fees, and taxes. You’ll discover how factors like your credit score and debt impact your qualification. With informative sections on financially and logistically preparing, you’ll finish this first-time home buyer guide feeling empowered to begin your journey.

Saving for Your Home

Preparing yourself financially is the critical first step on the path to homeownership. While saving up enough for payments like your down payment and closing costs may seem daunting, laying out a realistic savings plan makes it much more achievable.

Down Payments

Saving up enough for a complete 20% down payment is daunting for first-time buyers. However, iTHINK Financial offers helpful programs to enter homeownership with less money down through financing options up to 100% of the purchase price with no down payment required. This makes your savings timeline more achievable. Learn more about our First Mortgage program here. 

Closing Costs

Beyond your down payment, you need to factor in closing costs like loan origination fees, appraisal fees, insurance, taxes, application fees, and more, which can equal 2-5% of the total purchase price. Having this on hand ensures no last-minute barriers.

Savings Timeline

Gather details on your target down payment, estimated closing costs, and target date to become a homeowner. Building backward, create a monthly savings plan, automating deposits into your home buying fund whenever possible. Review the progress routinely to make adjustments as needed!

Understanding Credit Scores & Reports

Your credit report and scores significantly influence your interest rate and overall qualification for a mortgage. As a first-time buyer, get up to speed on credit reporting and take proactive measures to build your profile.


Why Scores & Credit Matter

Using scoring models like FICO or VantageScore to determine your creditworthiness and risk level as a borrower, lenders analyze your credit report from bureaus like Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. The higher your scores, the better mortgage terms you can secure. Issues like late payments or over 30% credit utilization can negatively impact your rates.

Improving Your Credit

With baseline knowledge of your credit standing, you can now actively work to better your profile, targeting any dings or discrepancies on your reports. Options like disputing errors, lowering credit utilization by paying down balances, or strategically opening new lines of credit help strengthen your position as a home buyer.

Mortgage Basics

Navigating common mortgage terminology and concepts establishes a foundation for evaluating home financing options.

Types of Loans

Understand the core differences between popular mortgages. Fixed-rate loans lock in consistent principal and interest payments for the full term, while adjustable-rate mortgages fluctuate after an initial period. FHA loans require lower down payments but monthly mortgage insurance, while VA loans offer 100% financing to qualified veterans. Conventional loans meet general credit and income requirements. Compare to find your best match!

Interest Rates

The interest rate significantly impacts affordability, dictating the true cost of borrowing principal. Rates vary between mortgages based on factors like your credit, down payment, and type of home. Locking a low rate saves money long-term. Rates can change daily, making a 60-day lock-in strategic.

Payment Terms

No matter what mortgage term length you choose from our flexible options spanning 10 to 30 years, we keep payments affordable through low closing costs and rates with no lender points or fees. Our non-profit status helps us provide exceptional value!

Getting Pre-Approved

Pre-approval is a crucial milestone, providing evidence you’re qualified for a loan amount and locking in key terms ahead of house hunting.

Why Pre-Approval is Key

While pre-qualification utilizes basic financial information, pre-approval involves formally submitting income documentation, credit reports, and assets verification to underwrite your ability to secure a mortgage. A pre-approval letter gives sellers assurance of your financing capacity—making your offer more appealing as the best buyers come to the table fully validated and committed.

Locking in Your Rate

Once you identify the most ideal lending terms and programs, lock in your interest rate for the longest duration possible, ideally 60 days. This protects you from volatility while you house hunt. Monitor market rate changes—if they decrease, you can request your lender drop your locked rate. With preparations in place courtesy of getting pre-qualified, you can shop confidently!

Finding The Right Home

With pre-approval secured, now the exciting search for your perfect starter home truly begins!

Connecting With an Agent

An experienced real estate professional both maximizes home shopping efficiency and advocates for your interests during negotiations. Ask trusted contacts for referrals or research top-rated agents online with specialty working first-time buyers. Interview several candidates about their experience, typical clientele, neighborhoods they cover, and services offered. Chemistry is key - you want an agent who understands your needs and housing vision while providing knowledgeable guidance.

Navigating the Market

Lean on your agent to unlock access to listings plus market data, helping you set expectations around pricing and competition. Drive potential neighborhoods to get a feel for amenities and vibes. Discuss the pros and cons of turnkey homes versus those needing updates given renovation budget and skills. There is no need to see every house in person - ask your agent to prescreen options against your must-have home criteria for a smarter search.

Making an Offer

Found an ideal match? Consult your agent on making your bid shine through optimized terms and a well-crafted letter to the sellers. Remember, pricing competitively and keeping contingencies like financing or inspections reasonable boosts the appeal. Earnest money deposit helps demonstrate serious commitment above more conditional offers. While exciting, try not to get emotionally over-attached before inspections or risk losing negotiation power!

Completing Due Diligence

Congrats, your offer was accepted! While celebrating is in order, there are still a few more steps left in the home-buying process. We’ll explore key aspects of completing due diligence like inspections, contingencies, negotiations, and finalizing finances.

Home Inspections & Assessments

Thoroughly vetting the home's physical condition and mechanical systems safeguards against expensive repairs down the road. Hire qualified professional home inspectors to provide an impartial top-to-bottom examination, calling out any concerning structuring, electrical, plumbing, or material issues. Additionally, consider supplemental assessments like sewer scopes, mold tests, flood risk analysis, HOA document reviews, etc.

Contingencies & Negotiations

Use findings from inspections to renegotiate terms if needed. Insert contingency clauses into your purchase offer allowing you to back out if issues exceeding a certain threshold arise. Be reasonable - minor fixes are common. Consult your agent and attorney on strategies to address more major red flags impacting safety or budget through credits, repair requests, or price drops.

Finalizing Finances

This last stretch before closing also involves confirming final details like your selected mortgage option, interest rate lock, down payment funds transfer, and closing disclosures outlining the total paid. Submitting updated financial records, processing documents, and completing your homebuyer education course keep the financing wheels in motion!

Closing & Move-In

The financing is finalized, the papers are signed - you’re so close! As you count down the days to get those house keys, here’s an overview of what to expect at closing and on move-in day.

Final Walkthrough

Just before closing, you’ll complete one final walkthrough of the property to confirm the condition and working order of inclusions like appliances. Bring your inspection reports to double-check that any negotiated fixes were made. If outstanding issues remain, consider delaying closing until the sellers address them.

Closing Process

At closing, review the settlement statement outlining paid deposits, transaction fees, taxes, prepaid, and the final mortgage total. Sign loan documents, making financing official before receiving your keys! It's also customary for buyers to bring a closing gift for the real estate agents.

Welcome Home!

Congratulations, hand off that final payment, and get ready to start personalizing your first home sweet home! Between decorating, appliance set-up, changing locks, and little fix-ups, soak up the joy and pride of achieving this milestone.

Educational Offerings

Now equipped with the foundation of homeownership knowledge, let us provide ongoing education and exceptional service well after the keys are in hand. From first-time home-buying courses to webinars on refinancing, insurance needs, building equity, and more, we offer complimentary courses so you can continue actively learning about maximizing the value of your investment.

Financial Planning & Future Lending Needs

Our dedicated financial planners help tailor savings and investment strategies, balancing mortgage payments, retirement goals, and other needs through our complimentary consultations. As life evolves and new needs emerge—from home renovations to paying tuition or consolidating debt—allow iTHINK Financial to continue serving you with rates and terms meeting your situation, just as we have from day one!