First-Time Home Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Right Home

Home ownership is still a core part of the American dream. In many ways, home ownership provides a degree of financial security. Homes are assets that tend to increase in value, meaning if you buy today, your property could be worth substantially more tomorrow. However, the process of acquiring a home can be intimidating, especially for a new homeowner.


Preparing to Buy Your First House

As a first-time home buyer, you may not know exactly what to look for when considering a home. With the search for your future home comes a lot of new terms to learn. When searching for the ideal house that suits your lifestyle, a few general tips can help you avoid costly mistakes. 


Important Considerations

From understanding loan programs to closing cost assistance, you probably have questions now that you’re thinking about buying a home. Start by considering the following important factors when building your criteria:

  • Size of the home (square footage, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, garage)
  • Neighborhood and surroundings (commute distance, school system, public parks)
  • Home status and property type (fixer-upper, move-in ready, condo, ranch)
  • Loan requirements and mortgage limits (down payment, household income and budget, credit report)
  • Additional costs (inspection fee, appraisal fee, closing costs, interest rate)

Once you have an idea of what you want in a home, prioritize your criteria. Some criteria, such as the number of bedrooms, are probably essential, whereas other features, such as a fireplace, are just nice to have.

Your budget usually dictates how large a home you can afford. After identifying your desired region, get an average cost of homes that match your criteria to determine the right size home for your price limit.


First-Time Home Buyer Property Checklist

When browsing potential homes, you want to look for telltale signs of expensive problems or undesirable features. Below are some of the most common indicators of a major repair or renovation that’s needed. 

Ask yourself the associated questions to assess the home during your tour.

  • Deferred Maintenance: Is the home untidy or clearly in need of reconstruction or maintenance? 
  • Roof Condition: When was the roof built, and are there any leaks? 
  • Floor Condition: Is the floor worn or warped, or are there indications of water damage or a shifting foundation?
  • Windows: How old are the windows, and what condition are they in?
  • Water and Mold: Is there any water damage or mold in the kitchen, bathroom, or basement that could indicate persistent moisture?
  • Water Heater, Furnace, and Appliances: What is the age and condition of the water heater, furnace, and other essential appliances?
  • Foundation: How stable is the home’s foundation? 
  • Presence of Odor: Is there a persistent aroma of pet urine, mold, or other unidentified odors?


What to Expect When Protecting and Maintaining Your Home

A step-by-step outline is often helpful for first-time home buyers trying to navigate the purchasing process. Keep the following factors in mind when considering home ownership:



When you go to put an offer on a house, prequalification assures the seller that you can afford the terms of your mutual agreement. It also takes into account your financial information, including income, estimated down payment, credit score, and other factors, to give you a reliable estimate for mortgage qualification.


Realtor Advice

Not all real estate agents offer the same services to their customers. Before you get too far into the home-buying process, hire an agent who listens to your needs and preferences without rushing the decision.


Home Inspection

After your offer is accepted, schedule a home inspection for a thorough examination of the home and its structural integrity. A good home inspector will find everything that is potentially wrong with a property and report it back to you.


Homeowners Insurance

This type of insurance intends to cover certain property damages or losses. Not to be confused with mortgage insurance, homeowners insurance policies typically cover personal asset loss, sustained injury, and interior and exterior damage.


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Repairs and Upgrades

Look out for significant structural issues, which could result in high potential costs as a home buyer. These include water damage, cracks in the foundation, or staining on walls or other surfaces. Also consider relatively inexpensive upgrades, such as replacing wallpaper or removing carpeting, to increase the home’s appeal

And remember the cost of regular property upkeep, such as landscaping and lawn maintenance. For reference, expect annual maintenance expenses to cost between 1-4 percent of the home's value.


Property Taxes and HOA Fees

Local government bodies determine their area’s property tax percentage, which varies by state. Usually, homeowners pay this tax, which ranges from 0.29-2.47 percent, once or twice a year. Additionally, those who purchase within a homeowners association (HOA) are responsible for a monthly or quarterly HOA fee, which contributes to maintaining the community. (The same often goes for condominiums.)


Make Sure Your Home Can Support Future Long-Term Plans

You don’t have to commit to living in one place forever. However, it makes financial sense to buy a home that supports your growth as your life changes. If you secure a home that can support you long term, that foresight will pay off in the future.

Home ownership is a significant undertaking. The best way to begin is by assessing what you need and what you can afford. FSCB walks you through the process, so you can purchase a home with confidence and peace of mind. Further simplify this endeavor by browsing The Essential Guide for First-Time Home Buyers.


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