Home & Family
First Steps for First-Time Homebuyers
4/1/2019 1:00:00 PM

First-Time Homebuyers

Home ownership has long been held up as the cornerstone of the American dream.  But how do you know if you are ready to make the dream a reality? 

"Do your homework - literally,” says Laurie Bonsall, mortgage loan officer with Lakeside Bank’s Mortgage Services. "When you think you are ready to get serious about buying a home, there are a number of things you need to consider to determine if you are actually ready, and to make sure the mortgage process is as hurdle-free as possible.” 

Bonsall says the first and most important step on the road to home ownership is to get your financial house in order, including organizing your income and tax records, and checking your credit report. Some lenders may require more information, but this is typically the minimum. The American Bankers Association recommends that potential homebuyers obtain their credit score at least six months before a mortgage application. "This gives you enough time to dispute any errors or resolve any outstanding debts that could affect your loan application,” she adds.

Next, Bonsall says you should choose your lender before you even start looking at homes and take the time to get pre-approved for a loan. "This decision is just as important as choosing your real estate agent. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your lender and counting on them to be with you through this entire process. You want someone who understands you and your situation, and with whom you communicate well.” 

The pre-approval process can save you time and disappointment during your home search. "For most people, a lot of time is invested before an offer is ever made on a home. Imagine how frustrating it would be to spend weeks searching for a home, only to learn that you don’t qualify for the loan to buy it,” says Bonsall. "It’s helpful to know, up front and with certainty, how much you can borrow for your home in order to know what you can afford.”

Once you get your pre-approved loan amount, Bonsall says the single most important thing she can recommend for potential home buyers is to shop in the middle of the range you were given.  "If you shop at the top of the range, you may find a home you can buy, but odds are you’ll be stretching your budget to the limit. Remember, a new home comes with other new expenses besides a mortgage. You have to include insurance, taxes and all the things you are going to want and need to buy for your home in your calculations. You don’t want to get into a situation you’re overextending yourself just as your mortgage payments are beginning.” 

When it comes to loans, it’s also vital that you scout your options. "That’s another reason working with a trusted lender who knows the local market is so important,” says Bonsall. "There are some really affordable loan options available for first-time homebuyers.  At Lakeside, we work to customize a loan to put the least amount of stress on the home buyers and set them up for long-term financial success.” 

Once you’ve completed all this homework, it’s finally time for the fun part. "Get out there and find a house you love and become a homeowner!” says Bonsall. 

For more information about mortgage options for first-time homebuyers, call Lakeside Mortgage Services at (337) 474-3766. Lakeside is a member of FDIC and is an equal opportunity lender. 

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