Demystifying the Homebuying Process

The homebuying process can seem intimidating, but there’s no better time to explore the benefits of homeownership than now. The best place to start is with a little education.

Did you know that there are 48 individual steps to buying a home? No wonder so many potential buyers can find the process a little intimidating – even if they’ve done it before.

From exploring your lending options to making an offer, mortgage approval to moving day, the purchase of a home is one of the biggest financial decisions most people will probably ever make. With so many recent changes in lending, credit, and home values, it can be difficult for the average buyer to keep up.

However, with home prices low, interest rates on the rise, and a federal tax credit for first-time buyers available through November, there’s truly no better time to explore the benefits of homeownership than now.

With rates and requirements changing all the time, it’s vital to find a team you can trust – professionals such as a realtor, attorney, credit professional, and a lender who are willing to share their knowledge, educate you on the process of homebuying and guide you to the solution that fits your financial and lifestyle needs.

Unfortunately, there are far too many companies out there that don’t exactly have your best interests in mind. So-called “credit repair” agencies can do just the opposite – damaging your credit while charging you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in fees. Some unscrupulous lenders never look at your overall financial picture and push you to the loan that puts the most money in their pocket instead of the one that best meets your needs. Others host seminars or workshops that are thinly disguised, high-pressure sales pitches for their services.

That’s why we were delighted when a local event company asked us to be a part of their “Home Sweet Home” homebuyer seminars. Held every month, their free two-hour sessions connect homebuyers with area experts – from real estate attorneys and credit experts to home inspectors, accountants, realtors, and financial planners. Best of all, these seminars are 100% “no selling allowed.” The professionals in attendance are there for just one reason – to educate attendees and answer their questions so you leave feeling comfortable and condiment about every aspect of the homebuying process.

For example, during a recent seminar, an attendee asked about the new federal tax credit. The accountant at the event was able to give her detailed information on income guidelines and how she might qualify for the credit, which can be worth up to $8,000 for first-time buyers.

Many questions at the seminars revolve around personal credit – from understanding your FICO score to taking steps to improve it or disputing inaccuracies on your credit report. The first step is to sit down with your lender to review your credit history. A reputable lender will provide this service free of charge to mortgage applicants, as it helps them better understand your financial position and guide you to the loan that’s the best fit for your needs.

If you’re in the market for a new home, the best place is to start with a little education. Look for a seminar that focuses purely on information, not sales. Talk to people, ask questions, and gather as much knowledge as you can to become an informed homebuyer. Even experienced homeowners can benefit from attending an educational session or two. With so much changing in the worlds of credit and lending, it may be very different process from the one you remember.

Arm yourself with information and you’ll find the process of obtaining financing and buying a home is suddenly a lot less intimidating and a lot more rewarding.