First-time Buyer ABC’s

As a first-time buyer, you have a lot of questions. There is terminology you don’t understand. And there are expenses you need to anticipate. Here are some explanations of just that, to help you on your way to homeownership.

First, what costs should you expect? After you have become “pre-approved” for a mortgage, you will know how much you can spend (aka your “budget”). Pre-approval is done by the bank or lender who will be writing your mortgage. It is accessed by your: credit history, assets, employment history, and financial status. And it guarantees you a loan.

Being pre-approved can quicken the time it takes to close, as well as give you an advantage over buyers who are not pre-approved, should a home garner multiple offers.

Next, figure out how much money you’ll need to put down. Are you looking at an FHA loan with 3.5 percent down? Or are you planning on putting 15 to 20 percent down? Financial expert Suze Orman recommends that in today’s troubled market, you put at least 20 percent down on a house.

Closing costs are what are paid, well, at closing. You should expect to pay for an appraisal, title services, title insurance, transfer taxes, inspections, loan origination, private mortgage insurance, and homeowners insurance, among a host of other charges. The average closing costs are paid, yes, by the buyer. And they average around 2 to 4 percent of the total purchase price of the home. You can, of course, negotiate payment of closing costs with the seller. This is especially true in a market which favors buyers.

What is mortgage insurance? Mortgage insurance, also known as private mortgage insurance (PMI), protects your lender, should you default on your loan. And it can be required when you have made only a small downpayment. It costs around 1 percent of the total loan. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, “Under [The Homeowner’s Protection Act of 1998], mortgage lenders or servicers must automatically cancel PMI coverage on most loans, once you pay down your mortgage to 78 percent of the value if you are current on your loan.”

What is escrow? With a purchase as large as this, it is important that one party doesn’t run off with all the funds! This is where an escrow account comes into play. All necessary and agreed upon funds are put into a third party account. When all terms have been met, then the funds are released to the appropriate parties.

What is an offer? When you have found a home you like, you’ll discuss with your agent what a reasonable price pay is. This will more than likely be less than the price the seller is asking. And it will be based on the condition of the home, the price of home’s in the neighborhood, as well as current market conditions. Remember, your offer is the price you are willing to pay for the property. You have signed the offer and, if accepted, you will be expected to follow through with the purchase of this home!

What are property taxes? Welcome to homeownership! Property taxes are paid each year to your local government at the county level. Some areas of the country charge much higher taxes than others, and the price is a percentage of the value of your property. That means that more expensive the house, the more expensive the taxes.

As a first-time buyer, it is highly recommended you work with a local real estate agent. They not only can answer any questions you may have, but their wealth of knowledge and experience will help guide you in a positive direction for this important transaction.

Looking to purchase your first home? Give me a call, I’ll sit down with you to go over the best options available to you.

Yesenia Ruvalcaba (626) 252-0839 or email me at:

Please visit my website for more info:

By: Carla Hill, Published: September 16, 2010


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