Steps to Prepare for Home Ownership

  1. Decide how much home you can afford. Generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between two and three times your gross income.

  2. Develop a wish list of features you would like your home to have. Then, prioritize the features on your list.

  3. Select three to four neighborhoods in which you would like to live. Consider items such as schools, recreational facilities, area expansion plans and safety.

  4. Determine if you have savings sufficient to cover your down payment and closing costs. Closing costs, including taxes, attorney’s fees and transfer fees average between 2 and 7 percent of the home price.

  5. Money matters. If you’re considering a mortgage, shore up your credit and get a copy of your credit report.

  6. Consider your resale value. Even if you don’t have school-aged kids, a strong school district is a good thing.

  7. Determine how large a mortgage for which you qualify. Also, explore different loan options and decide what is best for you.

  8. Organize all the documentation a lender will need to preapprove you for a loan. This includes past income tax returns, recent pay stubs, bank statements, etc.

  9. Do research to determine if you qualify for any special mortgage or down payment assistance programs.

  10. Calculate the hidden costs including property taxes, insurance, maintenance and association fees, if applicable. These can impact your wallet over time.

  11. Do your homework. Bid based on sales trends of similar homes in the neighborhood.

  12. Get help. Consider hiring a REALTOR® to get the most for your money. It pays to have someone looking out for your interest.

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the National Association of REALTORS®. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.