First Time Home Buyer? Where Do I Start?

First Time Home Buyer? Where Do I Start?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Considering buying a home?  Wondering how to get started in the home buying process?  Or when to start the process? Your stomach gets all tight just thinking about purchasing what could be your biggest financial investment to date.  Understanding the process and having a plan may remove some of those butterflies. The biggest key to a successful stress reduced transaction is to start early and reduce the chances of last-minute surprises, especially when you’re buying your first home.


Up to 1 Year Out from Purchase

  1. Check your credit report. If you have items on your report the earlier, you tackle the issue(s) the more time there is to raise your credit scores.  You can check your credit for FREE through, the only free online credit report authorized by Federal law.
  2. Check your FICO credit score. The FICO score indicates your creditworthiness and determines your interest rates and terms of the loan.  The higher the FICO credit score the more options are open to you as a buyer.
  3. Reduce your outstanding debt. Get your outstanding debt (Credit Cards & Store Cards) below 30% of the approved limit on the credit account and if possible, get it down below 10% of the limit.  Be sure you are paying on time and early if you must use the card, to keep it below these levels before the reporting date.  If you have a large number of cards and balances you might want to meet with a credit counselor, like Joe Camacho with Phenix Group to get a plan together.
  4. Saving! The higher the down payment you have the more options you have with mortgage companies.  So, start saving what you will need now.  You will need to prove you have had your down payment balances in your account’s months in advance of closing as proof of funds.

The above-mentioned items may mean a change in your spending patterns.  You are going to want to look at cutting back on frivolous expenditures, expensive vacations and forgo luxury purchases at least until after closing.  It is so sad to see someone do all this hard work, get approved for their dream home then go out and make a last-minute purchase of furniture or a vehicle.  Then no longer be able to qualify for their home loan.  It, unfortunately, happens more than you would think.


Around 6 Month Point Prior to Purchase

  1. Start researching your mortgage options. There are many different types of mortgages and first-time buyer programs.  We will expand upon these programs in future articles.  Do the research and find out the risks that can incur different types of mortgages?  At this point, you may want to sit down with a FREE consultation with Real Estate + Credit Professionals.
  2. Look into Typical Unforeseen Home Ownership Costs. These can include, but not limited to, Homeowners Associations (HOA) fees, Home Warranty Products, Special Assessment Zones, and Utilities Rates to name a few.
  3. Recheck your credit status and scores. Have you made the progress you need to qualify for a mortgage?  If not, you will need to kick your credit repair into overdrive.  At this point, you need to consider hiring a credit counselor, like Joe Camacho with Phenix Group to assist you in getting to the scores you desire.


3 Month Point – Critical Credit Period

  1. You will need to reduce credit usage. FICO score is affected by how much of your available credit lines you have outstanding.  Learn when your credit provider reports balance outstanding on your card to the bureau.  This typically does not correspond with your debt’s payment date.  Try to pay down any balances before the reporting date.  Keep your balances below 30% and as close or below 10% if possible.
  2. It is very important at this point to not open or close any accounts. You are now close to starting the home buying process and these steps can have a serious impact on your credit scores.  This is critical to remember even after you have a letter from your mortgage lender qualifying you for a home mortgage and up and to and including closing the transaction.
  3. Begin researching neighborhoods and real estate agents. What is considered a great neighborhood is going to be the items important to you like; distance to work, good schools, shopping, parks, activities, and great amenities.  We are adding this suggested task at the 3-month period, but nothing wrong about starting this process much earlier.


The “Home” Stretch – 2 Months Out

  1. You need to be very cautious during this period in having your credit pulled for any type of financial transaction. You should have considered the different mortgage options out there already and only have a limited amount of mortgage companies pull your credit report.  However, if you are shopping mortgage companies do them in a short period of time and they will be counted as one pull
  2. Check mortgage rates and programs like 1st-time buyer assistant programs. Know your FICO score to get mortgage rates, they don’t have to pull your credit to discuss rates with you
  3. Once you have selected your mortgage company you want to get pre-qualified for a mortgage. This way you know how much you can afford. Plus, you will need this letter for your agent to submit offers for you.  The seller wants to know you can afford to purchase the home for the purpose of reviewing and accepting the contract.


You should now be prepared with a better credit score, larger down payment and information on mortgages to go out and find your dream home to make a confident offer on!  Good luck out there.

10 Life Hacks That Will Help You Save Money

10 Life Hacks That Will Help You Save Money

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Saving money isn’t as hard as you might think. These ten life hacks will make saving money just as easy as tying your shoes. Just making small lifestyle changes can snowball into saving hundreds, or even thousands of dollars each year. Wouldn’t you want that extra money in your bank account? Or use that money to help get credit repair? Read on to learn about ten life hacks that’ll save some extra dough.

Brew Your Coffee at Home

Kicking your Starbucks habit can save you loads of money in the long run. Depending on where you get your daily caffeine fix, you’re probably spending anywhere between $1 to $5 dollars on your precious cup of coffee. If you brew it at home, you’d be spending somewhere between 16 and 18 cents. The next time that you’re in need of a boost, look no further than your home kitchen.

saving money hacks

Borrow from the Library

Libraries offer a ton of different services and currently, they’re most technologically efficient than ever. Instead of buying books from a bookstore or an online retailer, try borrowing the next bestseller from the library. You have thousands of books at your disposal and you don’t have to worry that you’re wasting money if you don’t finish them. You can also borrow movies and magazines from the library as well. If you’re looking for some in-home entertainment, make the library your first stop.

Buy from the Thrift Store

If you’re looking to buy clothing, small appliances, or even furniture, try looking at the thrift store first. Your first thought might be to run to a department store or the mall, but if you don’t check out the thrift store first, you could be missing out on the deal of your life at the thrift store. There’s a wide variety of pre-loved items that are available at thrift stores near you. You’ll surely be surprised at the excellent quality that you’re able to find at thrift stores. You can’t find a better deal! Also, since you’re getting a bargain on the item that you’re buying, you might be able to turn it into a DIY project in order to make it perfect for you. There are so many opportunities available when you’re buying from the thrift store.

Carpool with Friends or Coworkers

If you have a consistent commute to work or even an event, try to work out a carpooling schedule with your friends or coworkers. Even if you can only carpool one or two days out of the week it’ll help you both save gas and wear and tear on your car over the coming years. You both can get to know each other, and you may be able to make a new friend in the process. Also, you both are helping save the environment. It’s definitely a win-win situation.

Buy in Bulk

Items like toilet paper, deodorant, or toothbrushes are things that you’re going to need forever. So, why not buy these items in bulk and save about 20% in the process? Also, if you’re looking to buy food in bulk as well, be sure it’s non-perishable. Wasting food is terrible, and it throwing away money instead of saving it. Who wants that?

Buy Neutral Clothing

Buying clothing items in neutral colors (white, black, grey, brown, etc.) will allow you to better use your wardrobe. All of your clothing items will pair with each other well. If you’re looking to add a pop of color, try out lower-cost accessories like jewelry and scarves. That’ll give the appearance of having a larger wardrobe without having to dish out tons of money for endless pieces of clothing.

Buy Generic

Whether it’s groceries, prescriptions, or toiletries, using the generic brand will always be cheaper. Most of the time they’re using the same ingredients anyway, so it’s an easy decision to make. You might think that the brand name tastes or works better, but give the generic a week in your home before you swear it off. You might end up finding your next favorite ketchup or body wash.

Use Coupons

Using coupons can help you save a ton no matter where you go. For groceries, look through your Sunday paper and keep a sharp eye on the deals that are happening in your neck of the woods. You can also look at sites such as Groupon and RetailMeNot to look for coupon codes and offers that are happening with the stores that you’re using every day. There are usually coupons available for most shops that you frequently go to, you just have to take time to research them.

Start a Piggy Bank

Take a note from your younger self and store away your change in a piggy bank or change jar. Every day, when you come back home, take the time to store away your loose change. The money definitely adds up and it sure to come in handy. At the end of the year, you might even have enough to pay an extra bill or help pay off some debt and help with rebuilding your credit.

Drink Water

This is a simple change to incorporate your lifestyle, but it’s saving you money every time you take a gulp. Whenever you get thirsty, take a drink of water instead of grabbing some soda or juice. It’s also better for your health as well, which is saving you money in the long run. If your tap water is less than savory, try to invest in a water filter. They’re easy to install and can be equipped straight to your faucet so you can have beautifully filtered water no matter what. Be sure to keep an ice-cold bottle of water with you wherever you go so you can always have a refreshing drink to enjoy.

Each of these life hacks can help you add a couple of extra bucks to your monthly budget. You’ll be able to save more money and use that money in a variety of different ways. Whether you’re trying to plan a much-needed vacation or just looking to pay your bills, utilizing these life hacks will help you save money for whatever adventures life will take you on. Be sure to incorporate one (or all!) of these life hacks into your daily lifestyle and your bank account will be better because of it.



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