Buying a first home is a right of passage for many Americans. It’s not unusual for customers to feel both excited and a bit nervous about the homebuying process. This milestone marks the most expensive purchase you will likely ever make. With smart budgeting and responsible decision-making, buying your first home can be a positive, low-stress experience. At AMNB we love helping our customers achieve their dreams of homeownership. We’ve compiled this first-time homebuyers guide to lead you through the homebuying process and answer the most common mortgage questions.
Determine what you can afford
If your first instinct is to start browsing the MLS for new home listings in your area, you could be wasting hours of time. Until you know how much house you can afford, there’s really no reason to start house hunting. In fact, with interest rates at an all-time low you may be able to afford a more expensive house than you initially imagined. Buying a house means budgeting for more than just a mortgage payment, though, so you’ll want to take into account other expenses such as:
- Utility payments
- Internet and cable bills
- Repair costs
- HOA fees
- Property Taxes
A community lender can discuss local trends regarding a down payment, taxes, closing costs, and more. Closing costs can add thousands of dollars to your home purchase. Typical closing costs include third-party fees, title insurance, a title search, taxes, escrow fees, government fees, loan origination fees, appraisal fees, and survey fees. While a local lender can give you the best insight into what your new home will cost both upfront and each month, AMNB offers a free online mortgage calculator if you’d like to experiment with the numbers on your own.
Know your credit score
Your credit score is determined based on your credit history, how much credit you are using, your payment history, your mix of different types of credit, and the number of recent credit inquiries in your name. Good credit is usually measured by a score of 680 – 739, and excellent credit is considered a score of 740 – 850. A higher credit score will get you a lower interest rate on your mortgage so it’s important to maximize your score before you apply for a loan. If your credit score isn’t where you would like it to be, don’t panic. American National has a free Credit Score app built into our digital banking platform which can provide instant access to your credit score, help you identify weak spots and alert you to changes in your score. Once you see what factors are bringing your score down, you can work to correct those areas.
Another important number to understand is your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Your DTI tells banks a lot about your financial health. If your debt-to-income ratio is 30 percent, it means that 30 percent of your monthly income goes towards paying off debt. Mortgage lenders prefer applicants with DTI’s of less than 36 percent. If your current debt-to-income ratio is high, you may want to hold off on a home purchase. It’s hard to enjoy a new home if your mortgage payment requires living paycheck to paycheck.
Compile documentation and apply
Applying for a mortgage is the best way to learn how much house you can afford. A knowledgeable loan officer can help you assess your finances and get pre-approved for a mortgage loan. Once pre-approved, you can begin your house hunt with confidence. In order to prepare for your application, you’ll need to gather some financial documents to share with the bank. The most common financial records needed for a loan application include:
- Pay Stubs
- Income Tax Returns
- Alimony or Child Support Records
- Bank Statements
- Retirement Account Statements
- Proof of Timely Rent Payments
- Government Issued Identification
- List of Assets and Debts
Find a home that fits your budget and needs
Here comes the fun part, finding your new home! Now that you have a realistic price range, you can browse local real estate with confidence. Identify the neighborhood where you want to live and consider if your needs will change much over the next few years. Often starting a family or even adopting a pet can increase your need for space inside the house and outside in the yard. Online real estate listing sites like Zillow make it easy to browse homes for sale in North Carolina and Virginia. According to realtor.com, the average home price in Greensboro, NC is $229,900 while the average home sale is around $212,500 in Roanoke, Virginia.
Research mortgage loans in Virginia and North Carolina
When it comes to home loans in Virginia and North Carolina, community banks offer faster decision-making than national banks. That’s because lending decisions are made locally. AMNB’s mortgage lenders have expert insight into the local real estate market and use their experience to provide the best loan options for your needs. A qualified mortgage lender will sit down with you to explain the differences between mortgage options and how they might affect your payments. A few of the mortgages offered by American National Bank & Trust Company include:
Conventional Loans – Classic mortgage loans offering fixed interest rates and stable monthly payments
VA, FHA, & USDA Loans – Federally-insured mortgage programs offering special benefits to eligible veterans, rural residents, and general homebuyers looking for a lower down payment option
Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) – Mortgages with interest rates that often start low and adjust up or down periodically over the life of the loan
Jumbo Loans – Mortgages covering a higher dollar amount than conventional mortgages but with stricter eligibility requirements
Take the next step towards your dream home
At American National Bank & Trust Company, we know that getting the right mortgage is just one small step towards building the life of your dreams. You’re not just looking for a new house; you’re looking to build a home. At AMNB, our mortgage lenders live and work in your neighborhood, supporting the financial health of your community. With multiple banking locations in Virginia and North Carolina, we are proud to be your community’s hometown mortgage lender. Contact us online, give us a call at 1-800-240-8190, or stop by one of our convenient AMNB locations. We can’t wait to turn your dream of homeownership into a reality.