Take your time
My number one and most important suggestion when deciding to buy your first home is to take your time. Buying a home, in my opinion, is one of the most stressful times in your life. At least for me it was.
Random fact about me: At the time, I was 8 months pregnant and taking 6 classes in order to graduate early. In a little over a month I had graduated from college, closed and moved into my home, and gave birth to my second child.
Anyway, in my case, I felt like I was rushing. Did I mention Christmas was quickly approaching? We wanted to be in our house before Christmas so our then 3 year old could have a normal holiday. Christmas came and while we weren't unpacked or had all of our furniture, at least we had a tree up.
Stress comes with the buying process, but at least if you're not rushing, it should take some of that stress away.
Know Your Deal Breakers
You should come up with a list of deal breakers and add these to it. Most of these can be avoided with a good home inspection, but check with your realtor to be sure.
What are your must-haves? What are things you don't want?
The Roof: How old is it? Are the gutters in good working condition? Do you notice any dry rot?
Flood Zone: Being in a Flood zone can increase your insurance cost and make it more difficult to resale in the future.
The Plumbing: Look for water stains, sagging floors, and mildew.
Future Upgrading/Improvements: Do you plan to add another room or floor? Check with zoning to make sure it's even possible.
The Electrical System: Old and outdated wiring can create a fire hazard and replacing it can be very expensive.
Know the Buying Process
There are multiple steps to finding and buying a home. From deciding to buy, to getting pre-approved for a loan, to getting a home inspection once you've put an offer and it's been accepted by the seller. Check out my article "10 Steps to buying a Home" for a full list of steps you'll need to follow.
Get Your Finances in Order....Credit and Savings Really Matter!
The higher your credit score, the lower your monthly payments. A credit score below 660 or 680, you're either going to have to pay sizable fees or a higher down payment. Pull your credit reports and ensuring you're not being unfairly penalized for old, paid or settled debts. Stop applying for new credit a year before you apply for financing. Applying for credit adds to the number of inquiries on your report.
I can't stress it enough how important it is to have savings! Not only do you need to have a down payment and closing costs, but you also need a nice emergency fund. You will no longer be able to depend on your landlord to fix things for you. I would suggest having a dedicated account for home repairs, replacing appliances, etc. You can never be too prepared.
I really hope this tips are helpful. If you're a homeowner, share your tips in the comments section. Let me know what you think!!