Buying Your First Home

After saving for a down payment and establishing a good credit rating, you are ready to start looking for your first home. Not so fast! Before you start searching the internet and trolling your favorite neighborhood, take time to educate yourself about the real estate market in your area.

Is are you looking for a home during a buyer’s market or a seller’s market? In a buyer’s market, more homes are for sale than buyers so you have the advantage. You can buy a home for less than the asking price. In a seller’s market, there are more buyers than homes for sale so the seller has the advantage. You will probably have to pay asking price or more to buy the home you choose.

How much can you afford to spend on a home and on monthly payments? Contact your lender to get a customized answer. The amount will depend on your income, job stability, and debts. Also, find out what your monthly payments would be if you took out a mortgage for the full amount. Remember, you can always spend less to buy your first home if you are more comfortable with lower payments. Set your upper limit at a comfortable point for you.

Where would you like to live? While you may have a dream neighborhood, home there may be too expensive. Be willing to consider homes in other areas.

What “must haves” and “wants” are you seeking? Your “must haves” should be the things you really need. The homes you find may not have all of your “wants.” Be willing to compromise on these.

When you are ready to start your search, check out these free apps for hand-held devices designed to make your hunt easier:

  • search results show sale and tax histories, estimated values, rent estimates and data on nearby homes. Information is also available for foreclosures, homes not on the market, and homes for sale by owners. The App also includes mortgage rates with links to lenders and a mortgage calculator. Note: Zillow’s value “Zestimates” and listings may not be current. Links are given to agents who advertise, but not to listing agents. (
  • searches include rentals and open houses, with links to listing agents, homes with price reductions and homes in foreclosure. You will also find links to nearby schools, banks, shopping, and restaurants. Note: Information is sometimes incomplete or out-of-date and does not include sales histories.
  • offers comprehensive listing data with searches that include open houses and links to listing agents as well as rentals. You can search by address, city, zip, neighborhood or Multiple Listing Service Number (MLS#). This site does not include tax or sales histories.

These apps allow you to search using criteria such as location, property type, price, square footage, lot size, age of home, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms. An advanced search allows you to use property details to narrow your search. The site may let you customize how results viewed. All three apps are free. All are available for Apple and Android devices and may also be available for other devices as well. You may also want to check out the apps from other sources such as Century21, ZipRealty, and Redfin.

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