You're neither rich nor poor, and you're ready to buy your first home. You look around. All those homes on the market! All seemingly priced out of reach! Cheer up. You're not alone. With some solid real estate counseling and some help from lenders and/or sellers and others, you can not only get your toe in the door, but you can own the house too. It just takes some creativity, a few inside tips and a bit of homework. For starters: Examine your goals, How ironclad are your dreams? Can your ideal of a formal dining room or a hot tub on a redwood deck be postponed? Must you have a two-car garage? Lowering your expectations and starting out modestly (in decent housing that meets your needs) can lead to owning those dreams -- in time.
Get your priorities straight. Without taking all the fun out of life, what's more important to you, weekends on the road and dinners out or stashing away at least part of your down payment? (Most lenders want to see that some of the money you invest is your own.)
When you go mortgage shopping, lenders will be looking over your payment records. Don't let a late-payment habit rise to haunt you. (Reformed late-payers can request creditors to erase the blots on their records -- for a small fee.)
Your parents and other relatives may be able and willing to give you gifts that will get you over the down payment hurdle. (Loans from relatives will be counted as debts and will lower the amount of mortgage payments your lender will allow you to carry.)
Parents, relatives (and unrelated investors) can either co-sign a loan or share the ownership of your home. With shared ownership, you'll be the resident but your co-investor may share specified expenses (plus tax advantages and equity accrual), and will share in your profit on sale.
Qualifying for a mortgage can be managed in several ways to fit your down payment and monthly-payment abilities. FHA and VA loans come with low down payment requirements, and lenders offer ARMs (adjustable-rate mortgages) at initially low interest rates. (Look for an ARM that can be converted to a fixed rate should rates drop.)
Also, new-home builders and other sellers may offer buy-downs that lower your interest rate in the first few years of a mortgage, thereby making a home more affordable. Balloon loans (if they have at least a 7-year term) can often bridge gaps and give you time to accumulate equity and/or cash to pay them off. Home sellers can sometimes help you financially -- with a lease-purchase arrangement or a take-back loan. Lenders and sellers are constantly creating new ways to help buyers buy homes. We can help you check them out.
Once freed of the vision of "instant dream home," you can look for housing that will start you on the equity-building path to realizing your dream. Condominiums and town-houses are often much less expensive than detached houses and buying one now can serve well as a stepping stone.
If you're handy with tools, a fixer-upper home gives you the opportunity to buy inexpensively, fix up and, in a few years, trade up. And if you're adventurous, auctioned properties in suitable neighborhoods can also be good values. If you don't mind a longer commute to work, outlying areas frequently offer homes at lower prices than those found close to town. Whatever route you choose toward buying your first home, keep cool. It may take time to find the right combination of elements, but there is a home out there for you and a way to obtain it.
We'll be most happy to help you create your path to its door.