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4 Things Smart First-Time Home Buyers Do

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4 Things Smart First-Time Home Buyers Do

Thinking about buying your first home? That’s exciting!

The thing that surprises most first-time buyers is the sheer number of things that need to happen in order to find, fund, and finally move into a new home. There’s a lot that goes into the process. Sure, you’ll be working with a mortgage loan officer and real estate agent, and it’s their job to be an all-around Sherpa, guiding you along the way. They’ll help you navigate all the steps.

However, there are four key items first-time home buyers should know in advance. The following four tips deserve the most attention and will help make sure you have a great home-buying experience.

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1. Get pre-approved.

Without financing, real estate transactions simply don’t happen. Loans make the housing world go ‘round. Getting a loan pre-approval squared away before home shopping is important, as you will see below.

First, pre-approvals involve formal documentation of your credit score, credit history, income, employment, etc. Pre-approvals carry much more weight than pre-qualifications. Pre-qualifications don’t involve any formal documentation, which is why they are essentially meaningless to everyone from real estate agents to sellers.

Pre-qualifications will give you confidence. You’ll know what loan program you want to use such as FHA or VA loans (these very common first-time home buyer programs). There’s a big difference since FHA loans require 3.5 percent down and VA loans are zero down loans. Knowing know your loan program and how much money you’ll need to get the deal done means no surprises later on.

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Pre-qualifications save you time because you will know the mortgage amount for which you qualify. You will shop faster and smarter by searching for homes you can afford. You’ll get better service from real estate agents. In fact, many agents insist that their clients are pre-approved. Everyone involved in this transaction deserves to know that their efforts are leading toward a tangible outcome.

Continuing with that thought, sellers may not let home shoppers view their home without a pre-approval. Furthermore, when you make an offer on a home, sellers will take a pre-approved buyer seriously.

2. Search with focus.

There’s never been a better time — in terms of efficiency — to shop for a home. Online searches, using tools like Zillow or Redfin, are fast and easy. And you can stay focused on properties you are likelier to acquire when you know your pre-approved loan amount.

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After searching for a while, you’ll want to narrow your choices and pick homes to view in person. This the time to leverage you real estate agent’s understanding of the surrounding area. Their input on schools and neighborhoods is invaluable. Modern technology, combined with your agent’s knowledge of the area, will help you determine the short list of homes to visit.

3. Keep your emotions in check.

Stuff happens. Real estate deals can go sideways for a number of reasons, including:

  • Offers rejected by sellers
  • Negotiations wind up going nowhere
  • Appraisals come in too low
  • Lenders need additional documentation
  • Home inspections reveal major issues with the property

A lot of these things are outside of a buyer’s control. This is why keeping emotions in check is important. Going back to the search phase above, having several homes on your short list can prevent buyers from fixating on just one property. Having choices helps reduce the potential for an emotional roller coaster.

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4. Don’t skip the home inspection.

Getting a home inspection before finalizing a deal is important. Surely you’d prefer not to have buyer’s remorse. Don’t skip this step, even if you’re planning on buying and rehabbing a fixer-upper home.

While all purchase transactions will require a property appraisal, some mortgage programs do not require an inspection. An appraisal will tell you and your lender what the home is worth, but an inspection will tell you if it needs any repairs.

There’s pretty good chance an inspector will find some imperfections in the home you want to buy. The good news here is that inspections:

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  • Identify issues with the property
  • Come from a neutral third-party
  • Help create space for you and your Realtor to negotiate with the seller

Asking a seller to fix something before you buy it or come down on the price is pretty typical after an inspection. More importantly, you’ll know what you are buying so the chance of any surprises is very small. The idea here is to prevent you from encountering unforeseen expenses after moving in.

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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

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33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

In a difficult economy, most of us are looking for ways to put more money in our pockets, but we don’t want to feel like misers. We don’t want to drastically alter our lifestyles either. We want it fast and we want it easy. Small savings can add up and big savings can feel like winning the lottery, just without all of the taxes.

Some easy ways to save money:

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  1. Online rebate sites. Many online sites offer cash back rebates and online coupons as well. MrRebates and Ebates are two I like, but there are many others.
  2. Sign up for customer rewards. Many of your favorite stores offer customer rewards on products you already buy. Take advantage.
  3. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. The extra cost up front is worth the energy savings later on.
  4. Turn off power strips and electronic devices when not in use.
  5. Buy a programmable thermostat. Set it to lower the heat or raise the AC when you’re not home.
  6. Make coffee at home. Those lattes and caramel macchiatos add up to quite a bit of dough over the year.
  7. Switch banks. Shop around for better interest rates, lower fees and better customer perks. Don’t forget to look for free online banking and ease of depositing and withdrawing money.
  8. Clip coupons: Saving a couple dollars here and there can start to add up. As long as you’re going to buy the products anyway, why not save money?
  9. Pack your lunch. Bring your lunch to work with you a few days a week, rather than buy it.
  10. Eat at home. We’re busier than ever, but cooking meals at home is healthier and much cheaper than take-out or going out. Plus, with all of the freezer and pre-made options, it’s almost as fast as drive-thru.
  11. Have leftovers night. Save your leftovers from a few meals and have a “leftover dinner.” It’s a free meal!
  12. Buy store brands: Many generic or store brands are actually just as good as name brands and considerably cheaper.
  13. Ditch bottled water. Drink tap water if it’s good quality, buy a filter if it’s not. Get 
      a reusable water bottle and refill it.
    • Avoid vending machines: The items are usually over-priced.
    • Take in a matinee. Afternoon movie showings are cheaper than evening times.
    • Re-examine your cable bill. Cancel extra cable or satellite channels you don’t watch. Watch the “on demand” movie purchases too.
    • Use online bill pay. Most banks offer free online bill paying. Save on stamps and checks, and avoid late fees by automating bill payment.
    • Buy frequently used items in bulk. You get a lower per item price and eliminate extra trips to the store later on.
    • Fully utilize the library. Borrowing books is much cheaper than buying them, but in addition to books, most local libraries now lend movies and games.
    • Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions: Re-evaluate your subscriptions. Cancel those you don’t read and consider reading some of the other publications online.
    • Get rid of your land-line. Do you really need a land-line anymore if everyone in the family has a cell phone? Alternatively, look into using VOIP or getting a cheaper plan.
    • Better fuel efficiency. Check the air pressure in your tires, keep up with proper auto maintenance, and slow down. Driving even 5MPH slower will result in better fuel mileage.
    • Increase your deductibles. Increasing the insurance deductibles on your homeowners and auto insurance policies lowers premiums significantly. Just make sure you choose a deductible that you can afford should an emergency happen.
    • Choose lunch over dinner. If you do want to dine out occasionally, go at lunchtime rather than dinnertime. Lunch prices are usually cheaper.
    • Buy used:  Whether it’s something small like a vintage dress or a video game or something big like a car or furniture, consider buying it used. You can often get “nearly new” for a fraction of the cost.
    • Stick to the list. Make a list before you go shopping and don’t buy anything that’s not on the list unless it’s a once in a lifetime, killer deal.
    • Tame the impulse. Use a self-enforced waiting period whenever you’re tempted to make an unplanned purchase. Wait for a week and see if you still want the item.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask to have fees waived, ask for a discount, ask for a lower interest rate on your credit card.
    • Repair rather than replace. You can find directions on how to fix almost anything on the internet. Do your homework, and then bring out your inner handyman.
    • Trade with your neighbors. Borrow tools or equipment that you use infrequently and swap things like babysitting with your neighbors.
    • Swap online. Use sites like PaperBack Swap to trade books, music, and movies with others online. Also, look for local community sites like Freecycle where people give away items they no longer need.
    • Cut back on the meat. Try eating a one or two meatless meals every week or cut back on the meat portions. Meat is usually the most expensive part of the meal.
    • Comparison shop: Get in the habit of checking prices before you buy. See if you can get a better price at another store or look online.

    Remember that saving money is not about being cheap or stingy; it’s about putting money into your bank account rather than giving it to someone else. There are many ways to save money, some you’ve never thought of, and some that won’t appeal or apply to you. Just pick a few of the ideas that sound doable and watch the savings add up. Save big, save small, but save wherever you can.

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    Featured photo credit: Damir Spanic via unsplash.com

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