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13 Important First-Time Home Buyer Questions


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Buying your first home is an exciting milestone, but it can also be a daunting process. In my time as a first-time millennial home buyer, from flipping houses, to now working in real estate, I've seen how many important questions there are to consider before making such a significant investment. From determining how much you can borrow to learning the ins and outs of the total process, being well-informed is key to making the right decision. In this post, we will explore those important first-time home buyer questions to ask to ensure a smooth and successful home-buying experience.

Frequently Asked Home Buyer Questions

1. How much can I afford to spend on a home?

My best resources on how to calculate affordability are here and here.

2. What type of mortgage is best for me?

From the FBL archives:

  1. What is a mortgage note?
  2. An overview on the main types of mortgage loans
  3. 4 types of home loans in Georgia
  4. What is a rehab loan?
  5. What is a home construction loan?

3. What are the current interest rates?

This is a question more for your lender or mortgage broker, but did you know that interest rates can fluctuate daily? I like to look at what they are on Bankrate, but keep in mind, that the interest rate you'll be offered when you prequalify for a mortgage will vary by lender and your credit score.

4. What are the property taxes in the area?

Your real estate agent will be able to help you track down this information, and you are right to ask because it does impact affordability! Most listings in the MLS system will have information on current tax rates within the listing itself.

Your lender will also be able to calculate this for you and you can determine if you want to save on your own and pay property taxes yourself annually, or (for ease) if you'd like to include taxes in your monthly mortgage payment, which the lender will pay on your behalf when taxes become due.

5. Are there any homeowners association fees?


If a community offers shared amenities, particularly if the home you are purchasing is a condo or townhome, there will likely be an additional monthly payment to make to the homeowners association. Depending upon the amenities and the monthly cost, this can substantially impact the amount you'll pay each month and affordability.

6. What is the condition of the home and are there any potential maintenance issues?

To answer these questions, always do a home inspection, even if you are buying the house “as is.”

7. What is the neighborhood like in terms of safety, schools, and amenities?

To get a true sense of a neighborhood, you will need to do additional research on a home. Some of this can be conducted via internet research, but I also recommend to my clients to look at police activity in the area (often found online, especially if you live in a bigger city), and drive by the home at different times of day — morning, afternoon, both AM and PM rush hour, and at night.

Only by doing these drive-bys can you get a sense of the true “vibe” of a neighborhood.

8. How long has the home been on the market?

Again, your real estate agent can provide this information, but what “time on the market” means will vary by location. Ask your agent what the average time on the market for the area is to get a true sense if the home has been “sitting too long” or if it is well within the normal/average time frame for the given market.

9. Are there any upcoming developments or construction projects in the area?

An internet search can help identify if there are any developments in your area — which can either be a positive or negative, depending upon its impact on the environment, traffic etc, employmnet opportunities, etc.

Especially if you are buying in a condo or townhome with an HOA, ask the association for the minutes of their last four meetings so you can see if there is any forthcoming developments they have been made aware of.

10. What is the resale value of the home?

To answer this question, lean on your real estate agent or do a home appraisal, as estimators like Zillow aren't always the most accurate.

Important First-Time Home Buyer Questions Continued

How long does it take to buy a house from start to finish?

This is hard to answer because the search part of the home-buying process could take weeks, months, or years, depending on what you're looking for. Most typically, the process can take anywhere from 60-90 days (30/45 days for the search, 30-45 days to close the transaction), but it could be longer or shorter depending on individual circumstances and closing timelines.

How much does buying a home cost?

Generally, everyone accepts a few expenditures as part of the home-buying process: the down payment, closing costs, homeowner's insurance, and the like.

But there are also lots of other fees that can be associated with buying a home, particularly if you are buying a foreclosed home, getting an FHA loan, or lumping renovation costs in with a mortgage via a 203k loan (which is also what I used). Here's an example of the fees I paid during my first time home purchase:

  • Earnest Money ($500-$1000)
  • Home Inspection ($300-500)
  • Home appraisal ($4-500),
  • a HUD Consultant fee (If buying a foreclosure and doing a 203k renovation loan, this is typically $4-500 paid at the outset of the renovation),
  • $250 in document preparation fees to an attorney at closing
  • $15 for a home buyer's education class
  • $30 in cashiers check fees and postage.
  • 1% in closing costs

For more on fees related to buying a house, check out this lengthy post I wrote for Opendoor. 

How can I make home buying less expensive?

Look into Down Payment Assistance Programs

This is my favorite home-buying tip, especially for first-time buyers looking to get into their primary residence; it’s how I was able to save so much on my closing and then turn around and use the extra cash towards renovating the house

Finding assistance programs is as easy as googling “[state] down payment assistance” – so why wouldn’t you? And much like college scholarships, there are other avenues of assistance, depending on your situation. Are you a single mother? A veteran? You could qualify for even more funds!

Take the Time to Go to Credit Rehab

Knowing your credit score is so important to potential homebuyers. This little number will be what mortgage brokers look at when determining how much you can borrow – and what interest rate you’ll pay. 

If you’re looking to buy a home but don’t have great credit, consider taking time to pay down your debts before you make a huge investment like a home. Having good credit can open up your options as far as mortgage rates and even help you afford a down payment. 

Put the full 20% down

Once you agree to borrow more than 80% of the home’s value, you’ll typically have to pay for private mortgage insurance (or PMI). PMI is an extra monthly charge that is a protection for the lender in the event you default on your loan.

To avoid tacking on an extra PMI payment to your loan, try to save up at least 20% of the home's purchase price. Even though it’s difficult to save up the full 20% as a first-time buyer, it will save you SO MUCH money over the long term.

The TL:DR

Asking the right questions as a first-time home buyer is crucial in making informed decisions and ensuring a smooth home-buying process, especially when it is your first time. By considering factors such as affordability, location, and maintenance, you can set yourself up for success in purchasing your first home. Remember to seek guidance from real estate professionals (including, yours truly) and do thorough research to make the best choices for your future. Happy house hunting!

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