Buying a home has reached a level of unaffordability not seen in several decades. Mortgage interest rates are the highest in more than 20 years, and the average cost of a new home has jumped 29% over the past three years.
So that’s the bad news. But the good news is that people buy homes in all sorts of economic situations, and the steps that have helped get people into homes have mostly stayed the same; it may just take more time to get there.
If you’re planning to buy a home by age 30, here are some tried-and-true steps you should follow, according to Chase Bank.
1. Get your credit in good shape
Having good credit is an important factor in getting a mortgage loan and securing the best rate possible.
Repairing bad credit can take some time, so it may be best to get your credit in good shape as soon as possible. Chase Bank says improving your credit score takes at least six months.
You may be able to get a mortgage with bad credit, but improving your score will make it much easier. To get your credit score in the best shape possible, you should pay your bills on time, pay off any past bills that have gone into collections, and don’t apply for any new credit if you’re getting close to closing on your house.
More: Check out our picks for the best mortgage lenders
If you have credit card debt, it’s crucial to pay it down. Mortgage lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio, so the lower your monthly debt payment, the better your chances of getting a mortgage loan and better interest rate.
2. Decide on location for your needs
This may change depending on how long it takes you to save up to buy a home, but having a location in mind is a good way to help set a budget for buying a home.
There’s no set formula for figuring out where to live, but it may help to determine why people are currently considering moving to help you decide whether these things matter to you. For example, here are the top five reasons people consider moving, according to Redfin:
- To have more space
- To be closer to family
- For a lower cost of living
- To get a better deal on a home
- To be in an area that shares their social values
According to the U.S. Census Bureau data, the average American moves about 12 times in their lifetime, so it’s statistically unlikely that you’ll pick a location, buy a house, and stay there forever. Still, it’s worth spending some time figuring out what’s important to you right now and the possible locations to meet those needs.
3. Save up for a down payment
This may be the hard part. The general rule is to try to put 20% down when buying a house, which will allow you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), but that may not be possible for everyone.
The good news is that there are several different types of mortgage loans, with varying down payment requirements. Here are a few you want to consider.
According to Rocket Mortgage, these typically require a down payment of 3% or more of the price of your home to get the loan. You also need a credit score of 620 or higher and may have to pay private mortgage insurance if you put down less than 20%.
FHA mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and allow you to buy a home with as little as 3.5% down. You’ll need a credit score of at least 580 and have to pay a monthly mortgage insurance premium.
This type of mortgage is only available to eligible veterans and is guaranteed by the Veterans Administration. The great news for veterans is that there’s no minimum down payment requirement for VA mortgages, and you don’t need to pay for mortgage insurance. But you will most likely have to pay a funding fee, which is a one-time payment that offsets some of the costs associated with the VA guarantee. The amount of the fee depends on how much your down payment is and if you’ve had a VA loan before. You can view current funding fee percentages here.
And finally, there are loans backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA
mortgages are for home buyers looking for homes in rural areas and generally don’t
have a down payment requirement. USDA loans can sometimes have lower interest
rates than conventional loans, and don’t have PMI requirements, though you may
need to pay a 1% fee upfront.
There’s a lot to consider when planning to buy a home. Buyers often have different needs and financial situations, which makes each home-buying situation unique. No matter where you are in the process, just remember that planning ahead will help put you in the best position possible to find the right home for you.