Buying a home is probably the single most expensive investment of your life, but it doesn’t have to be the most stressful! If you are a first-time homebuyer, we have a few tips to make the process easier and less stressful.

  1. Compile all your questions in one place.

Keep a notebook for all your questions for the lender, the real estate agent, the insurance company, and everyone else involved in the process. Do you know what origination points are? What are the benefits of hiring a real estate agent? Don’t be afraid to ask questions! This is one time when there are truly no bad questions.

  1. Choose a lender you trust.

Get recommendations from friends and family. Look at your personal contacts. Your bank may seem like the logical choice since you already have a relationship with them. However, another lender may be hungry for new business and will offer you better terms. Shop around and see who will give you the best deal.

  1. Know what you can afford and what you want to spend. And know that those may be two different amounts.

The actual price of the home you are looking at is only a part of what you will pay. Here are some of the additional costs:

  • Consider how much of a down payment you can afford. A higher down payment should mean a lower monthly payment.
  • What are the yearly property taxes?
  • Does the home need any immediate work or renovations?
  • How much is the insurance on the house?
  • Does your lender require mortgage insurance?
  • What will monthly maintenance fees be?
  • Are there other costs you will now have like alarm monitoring, lawn cutting or electricity, gas, water, or sewer?
  • How much are agent fees, inspection fee, and closing costs?

Be honest about your debt and your monthly spending. Will you have to change your spending habits to buy this house? Do you have big changes coming that could change how much money you have to spend, like a new baby or university fees?

And remember just because your lender tells you how much you can borrow, you don’t have to go all out and get every penny they offer. Choosing a smaller, cheaper home may be satisfying if you want to spend more on travel, education, or other expenses.

  1. Once you have found your dream home, please find a qualified inspector to check it out.

Some lenders will require this. Remember it is the inspector’s job to find every single thing wrong with the entire house, and it is your job to pay attention to the inspection. Don’t get discouraged if there is a long list of problems. Again, you are paying the inspector to find ALL the problems. You can ask the seller to fix some of the more serious items, but you don’t want to lose your dream house because the toilet seat is loose. You have to choose what is important to you and what you can live with. A few things that can make a difference are…

  • Basic structure including the foundation and roof
  • Signs of water dampness and damage
  • Faulty wiring
  • Rotten timber
  • Hazardous materials like lead paint or asbestos.
  1. Be ready but be patient!

Have your documents ready. Have your lending secured. Have your mind ready to make a decision. It will be one of the biggest decisions of your life, so you want to be as ready and as relaxed as possible. Now, you must be ready, but you must also be patient. If any of it does not feel right to you (the house, the neighborhood, the amount of money, anything) you can say no. Up until the contract is signed, you can say no thanks. If this doesn’t feel right to you, then wait until the next one comes up. Keep looking until you find the perfect home for you.