9 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

9 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Unlock the secrets to a successful home purchase with our tips for first-time home buyers.

Buying your first home is an exciting, albeit daunting, milestone in life. To help navigate this complex process, here are 9 essential tips for first-time home buyers:

Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

1. Assess Your Financial Health

Before diving into the housing market, take a comprehensive look at your finances. This means evaluating your savings, debts, credit score, and monthly budget. A strong financial foundation is key to securing a favorable mortgage.

  • Review Your Credit Score and Report – Your credit score is a vital indicator of your financial health. It affects your ability to borrow money, the rates you get, and even your job prospects. Obtain a free copy of your credit report from the major credit bureaus and check your credit score.
  • Evaluate Your Emergency Fund – A healthy emergency fund should cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses. If you’re falling short, prioritize building this fund to avoid financial stress during unforeseen events.

connect with an agent

Finding a real estate agent that understands your needs is the first step to a successful real estate transaction. Here at SquareFootHomes we take extra care to make sure our clients are completely satisfied.

Connect with one of our agents today so we can get to know one another.

2. Understand the Full Costs of Homeownership

Beyond the purchase price, homeownership involves various other expenses, including property taxes, homeowners insurance, maintenance, and possibly, homeowners association (HOA) fees. Ensure you’re prepared for the full financial commitment.4

  • Mortgage Payments – The most apparent cost of homeownership is the mortgage payment, which typically includes the principal and interest. However, if you put down less than 20%, you may also have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), which protects the lender in case you default on the loan.
  • Property Taxes – Property taxes are a significant ongoing expense for homeowners, varying greatly depending on your location. It’s important to research property tax rates in your desired area and factor these costs into your budget.
  • Homeowners Insurance – Homeowners insurance is essential for protecting your property against damage or loss due to fires, storms, theft, and other unforeseen events. Like property taxes, insurance costs can vary widely depending on the location, size, and value of your home.
  • Maintenance and Repairs – Owning a home means being responsible for all maintenance and repair costs. This includes routine upkeep as well as unexpected repairs.
  • Homeowners Association (HOA) Fees –  If your property is part of a community with a homeowners association, you’ll need to pay HOA fees. These fees cover the cost of maintaining common areas, amenities, and sometimes even certain utilities.

3. Save For a Down Payment

Saving for a down payment on a home is a significant financial goal that requires discipline, patience, and a solid plan. With housing prices on the rise, accumulating enough money for a down payment can seem daunting.

A typical home downpayment is 20%, but you may be able to put down as little as 3.5% of the purchase price as a down payment.

Saving 20% for a downpayment will help you avoid private mortgage insurance.

4. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Mortgage pre-approval gives you a clear idea of what you can afford and shows sellers you’re serious about buying. Gather all necessary documentation and shop around with multiple lenders to find the best rates and terms.

Without a pre-approval, you may have trouble even viewing homes.  Buyers agents don’t want to waste time showing homes to people who may not qualify for the home, and seller may not want people walking through their home for the same reason.

A pre-approval lets everyone know you are serious about buying a home, and that you qualify for the homes you want to see.

5. Make A Clear List of MUST-HAVES and WOULD-LIKE-TO-HAVES

Buyers usually start a search with things they are looking for in a home, but it’s important to distinguish between what is an absolute requirement, and what would be nice to have.

Too often in the home buying process, buyers will eliminate homes they may love based on certain restrictions.

For example, you may ask your real estate agent to only show you homes that have a 3-car garage because you prefer this, but it’s not an absolute requirement.  Then when the agent enters this information into a search for you, you may never even see a home that is otherwise perfect for you.

Communication with your agents is important here.  Make sure your agent knows what you MUST have versus what you would LIKE to have.  There is a huge difference.

6.  Research Where you Want to Live

Location, location, location!  I’m sure you’ve heard this expression before, and there is a reason it’s such a common saying.  You can renovate a home and make it fit your needs, but you cannot move the land it’s on.

Consider factors like safety, school districts, proximity to work, and community amenities. Visit potential neighborhoods at different times of the day and week to get a sense of the area’s vibe and lifestyle.

7.  Hire a Professional Real Estate Agent

A good agent can make a significant difference in your home-buying experience. Look for someone with experience helping first-time buyers in your desired area. Here are the top reasons to hire a real estate agent:

  • Realtors know the process & contracts
  • Data says working with an agent is financially beneficial
  • Realtors help in your search
  • Realtors save you time and stress
First-time home buyers would be ill-advised to try to purchase a home without a real estate agent representing their interests

8.  Inspect Your Home Before You Buy It

Always conduct a home inspection to uncover any potential issues that could cost you down the line. This can also provide leverage in negotiations for repairs or price adjustments. An inspection can uncover many issues such as:

  • Foundation problems
  • Roof issues
  • Mold
  • Pests
  • HVAC issues
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Electrical issues

9.  Understand Your Mortgage Options

Research different types of mortgages to find one that best suits your needs. Options vary widely, from fixed-rate to adjustable-rate mortgages and government-backed loans.

FHA Loans

FHA loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration and are popular among first-time homebuyers for their lower down payment requirements (as low as 3.5%) and less stringent credit score criteria. These loans are ideal for buyers with lower credit scores or those who can’t afford a large down payment.

VA Loans

VA loans are provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for active-duty military members, veterans, and their spouses. They offer significant benefits, including no down payment or private mortgage insurance (PMI) requirements. VA loans also provide competitive interest rates and are available to borrowers with a wide range of credit scores.

Conventional Loans

A conventional loan is a mortgage that is not insured or guaranteed by the federal government, making it one of the most popular types of home loans. Unlike FHA, VA, or USDA loans, which are backed by government agencies, conventional loans are available through private lenders, such as banks, credit unions, and mortgage companies.


Buying your first home is a significant achievement and a worthwhile investment in your future. By following these tips, you can navigate the home-buying process more confidently and make informed decisions that align with your financial and personal goals. Happy house hunting!

Speak with a realtor

Looking for help buying or selling a home?

  • Get advice on buying a home
  • Get top value when selling your home

    Out side us

    Also include Communities with Similar Homes