There are a lot of potential first-time home buyers that delay getting a mortgage simply because it seems like a long and daunting process.
But, qualifying for a home loan doesn’t have to be intimidating.
There are new mortgage programs available in 2018 that make it easier to qualify for a loan then ever before.
This article is going to show you show you everything you need to know to qualify as a first-time home buyer.
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10 First Time Home Buyer Tips Infographic
1. Get a Copy of Your Credit Reports
The first thing you need to do is get a copy of your credit report from all three major credit bureaus. You can get a free copy of your report at annualcreditreport.com. This is a Government run site that allows consumers to get a free copy of their credit reports once per year.
You will also need to know what your credit scores are. You can do this by going to these websites that give you your reports and credit scores completely free.
Check Your Report for Errors
Once you have pulled all three reports you need to go through each report to make sure there are no errors. If you find any errors you should contact the credit bureau immediately to file a dispute.
Errors to Look For
- Incorrect employers
- Current and previous phone numbers and addresses
- Inaccurate account information
- Accounts that do not belong to you
- Late payments that should not be there
- Credit injuries that you did not authorize
You can dispute inaccurate information on your report by contacting the credit bureau directly by phone, online, or in writing.
Tips for disputing your credit report with all 3 credit bureaus
2. Check Your Credit Score
Your credit score is one of the most important factors when it comes to getting approved for a mortgage so it’s important to make your score is as high as possible before applying.
Here are a few tips to help you increase your credit score quickly.
Pay down credit card balances – Your credit utilization ratio is the amount of available credit you’re using, it accounts for 30% of your overall FICO score. Try to pay your balances to less than 10-15% of the cards limit.
Do not apply for new credit – Do not apply for new lines of credit, credit cards, or loans. When you apply for credit a hard credit inquiry is reported to the credit bureau which will lower your score, you’re also adding debt to your report which can negatively affect your scores.
Pay all your bills on time – It is always important to pay your bills on time, every time. But when you’re going to be applying for a mortgage soon it’s imperative you do not have any new late payments. Set up auto pay which all your bills so you ensure you stay on top of your bills.
3. Get Pre-Approved Before House Hunting
Before you start house hunting you need to get pre-approved for a mortgage. In order to get pre-approved for a loan you need to speak to a lender. A loan officer will check your credit and verify your income and assets with your W2’s, tax returns, bank statements and paycheck statements.
Most realtors will not even start showing your houses before you have a pre-approval letter in hand. Most sellers won’t accept offers that do not come with pre-approval letters. The process is quick and easy, usually you can be pre-approved in a matter of minutes.
Documents You Need to Get Approved
- 2 years of tax returns
- W2’s and Paycheck stubs
- 2-3 months of bank statements
- Proof of down payment
4. See if You Qualify for an FHA Loan
FHA loans are perfect for first-time buyers because they have less strict requirements making them easier to qualify for. They are the most popular type of loan for first-time buyers because you just need a low 3.5% down payment with a 580 credit score to qualify.
FHA Loan Advantages
- 580 minimum credit score
- Low 3.5% down payment
- Down payment can be a gift
- Down payment assistance programs available
- Low interest rates
- Higher debt-to-income ratios accepted
5. Know Your Down Payment Options
The amount of the down payment needed to buy a house will depend on the type of mortgage you get.
First time homebuyers typically have less money in savings which is why low and no down payment home loans are so popular. FHA loans require just 3.5% of the purchase price as a down payment making them an attractive option for first-time buyers.
If you do have at least 20% for a down payment then you can avoid mortgage insurance by using a conventional mortgage.
Below are the down payment requirements for each type of home loan
- FHA Loans – 3.5% with a 580 credit score
- VA Loans – No down payment
- USDA Loans – No down payment
- 203k Loans – 3.5%
- Conventional Loans – 5% – 20%
- Conventional 97 – 3%
6. Hire an Experienced Real Estate Agent
Some first-time buyers believe they can save money by not hiring a Realtor. Don’t make this mistake, your real estate agent is paid by the buyer, the cost is already figured into the price of the home.
An experienced realtor will not only help you through the home buying process, they will negotiate on your behalf and look out for your best interest.
7. Budget for All Homeownership Costs
There are many costs invoiced in getting a mortgage besides the house. There’s homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, closing costs and HOA fees.
Mortgage insurance, or MIP is required for FHA loans regardless of how much money you use for your down payment. MIP on FHA loans is between 0.80% – 1% depending on the size of the loan and the amount you put down.
If you have at least 20% to put down you should look into a conventional loan. Conventional loans do not require private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you put 20% or more down.
To find out how much house you can afford use our calculator.
8. Know Your Debt-to-Income Ratio
DTI is your debt-to-income ratio, it is the amount of your monthly income compared to your monthly debt payment obligations. This includes items such as credit card payments, car loans and all other loans.
Front-end DTI ratio is your ratio of income to debt payments before adding a mortgage loan.
For example if your gross income is $5,000 per month and your total payments comes to $1,000 per month you have a front-end ratio of 20%. The max this ratio should be is 28%.
Back-end DTI ratio is your income compared to your debt payments after factoring in the monthly mortgage payment.
For example if your pre-tax income is $5,000 and your debt payments including your mortgage loan comes to $2,000 your back-end ratio is 40%. This should be 41% or lower, however in some cases this ratio can be as high as 50%.
9. Check for First-Time Buyer Programs and Grants
There are many down payment assistance programs and grants for first-time homebuyers available. HUD has many local state programs that offer first-time home buyers down payment assistance programs to buy a home.
You can also find local programs on your city or counties website. Some of these programs may require you to take a homebuyer education class to be eligible.
Editor’s Note: First-time homebuyers tax credit is no longer available.
10. Know the Types of First-Time Buyer Loans Available
As a first-time home buyer you have more loan options than just an FHA loan. Depending on your situation you may qualify for some other loan programs that offer advantages over an FHA home loans.
Conventional Loans – If you have at least a 20% down payment then you should consider a conventional mortgage. FHA requires mortgage insurance regardless of how much money you put down. If you have 20% down then you would not be required to carry PMI saving you thousands of dollars per year.
VA Loans – If you’re a Veteran then you may qualify for a VA loan. VA loans require no down payment or mortgage insurance making them the cheapest type of mortgage available today.
USDA Loans – The US Department of Agriculture has the USDA mortgage program that helps low-income buyers in rural areas of the country save money on a mortgage. If you’re in a USDA eligible location then you may qualify with no downpayment and low mortgage rate of just 0.35%.
203k Loans – If you’re interested in buying a fixer-upper then there is a renovation FHA loan called a 203k loan. Where you can buy a home in need of repairs and get a loan for both the purchase of the property and the cost of repairs and home improvements.
Fannie and Freddie 3% Down Loans – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the two largest buyers of mortgage loans. In order to compete with FHA loans they launched a 3% down payment program called a conventional 97 mortgage.
FHA Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) – The Energy Efficient Mortgage Program helps borrower finance the purchase of a home plus get additional funds to make energy efficient improvements.
HUD Programs for First-Time Home Buyers
Good Neighbor Next Door Program – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development created The Good Neighbor Next Door Program (GNND) to help teachers, law enforcement, emergency and medical technicians become homeowners by offering 50% off the list price of HUD homes on hudhomestore.com.
One Dollar Program – The dollar home program is offered by HUD that allows local Government to purchase HUD homes listed at $25,000 or less that have been on the market for more than 180 days for one dollar. These homes can be offered to low-income families to help revitalize neighborhood.
First Time Home Buyer FAQ
Wh0 is Considered to be a First-time home buyer?
In order to be considered a first time home buyer you must not have had ownership in a home in the past 3 years.
Do first time buyers need a down payment?
There are some programs that require no down payment, such as VA and USDA loans. However, these are not restricted to first time homebuyers. There is no type of loan specifically for first time buyers that does not require a down payment.
Which loan is best for first time home buyers?
There is no one size fits all home loan for first time buyers. But the most popular type of home loan used by first time buyers are FHA loans. This is because of their low down payment requirement and most relaxed guidelines to qualify.
What credit score do I need for an FHA loan?
The Federal Housing Administration will insure a mortgage if the borrower has a 500 or higher credit score and a 10% downpayment. If a borrower has at least a 580 credit score they will insure the loan with just a 3.5% down payment.
Buying a house for the first time doesn’t have to be scary, follow these 9 tips and make sure you work with a great realtor and loan officer and the process should run smoothly.
Check your credit score, hire a good realtor, compare loan offers from multiple lenders and don’t apply for new credit during the home buying process.
As long as you follow all the tips in this article you can achieve the American dream without any headaches.
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