Essential Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Tips for first-time home buyers

In 2023, 32% of people in the US bought their first homes. In comparison, 2022 saw a lower number, with only 26% of Americans managing to purchase their first property.

Even though 2024, according to experts, is a challenging time to buy a house, many potential first-time home buyers are expecting to receive their keys this year.

If this is you, you are probably looking for actionable advice that will help you navigate the process smoothly. That is why we have prepared this guide that will cut through the complexities and offer tips on how to grasp your finances, choose the right mortgage, negotiate effectively, and more.

Understanding Your Financial Situation

The initial step in buying a house is comprehending your financial situation. It is the foundation upon which your home buying experience will be built. It is not merely about how much you earn, but how you manage your money.

This includes analyzing your budget, improving your credit score, and saving for a down payment.

Analyzing your budget

A key aspect of financial planning is budget analysis, which involves understanding how much you can afford to spend on a home without overextending yourself. To help with this, many financial experts recommend adhering to the 28/36 rule. This rule advises that you spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on housing expenses and no more than 36% on total debts.

Evaluating your household income, monthly debts, and savings for a down payment is necessary to estimate mortgage affordability. Obtaining a mortgage preapproval can also help in determining what price range is safe for a home purchase. Tools like NerdWallet’s home affordability calculator can assist in this process.

Improving your credit score

The role of your credit score is pivotal in your home buying journey. Mortgage lenders use it to determine your eligibility for a home loan and the interest rate they will offer you. The average FICO score for homebuyers is 716, but don’t fret if your score is lower. There are several strategies you can employ to boost it. These include:

  • Becoming an authorized user on a responsible user’s account
  • Paying down debt promptly
  • Avoiding opening new accounts
  • Ensuring bills are paid on time

Remember, a good credit score is a reflection of good financial health, so it is worth investing the time and effort to improve it.

Saving for a down payment

Repeat home buyers put down 17% of the home price for their down payment. First-time home buyers, on the other hand, pay around 6%.

Amassing savings for a down payment often proves to be one of the biggest hurdles. However, with a bit of discipline and strategic financial planning, it is certainly achievable.

  • Create a detailed budget to track and manage your income and spending. This way, you can identify areas where you can cut costs or save more.
  • Move to a more affordable place.
  • Cut unnecessary expenses such as dining out or impulse purchases.
  • Explore side hustles.

By implementing these strategies, you can start saving for your down payment and move closer to achieving your goal of homeownership.

Exploring Mortgage Options

Having evaluated your financial situation, you can now explore various mortgage options. The type of mortgage you will choose can greatly impact your long-term financial health, so it is important to do your research. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to choose from. We will examine three primary types of loans: conventional loans, FHA loans, and USDA loans.

Conventional loans

Conventional loans are offered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and they often come with lower down payment requirements. This can be particularly beneficial for first-time buyers with limited savings. Another advantage of conventional loans is that you can cancel your private mortgage insurance (PMI) after achieving 20%-22% equity in your home. This is a financial incentive that isn’t available with some government-backed loans.

Conventional loans are recognized for their higher borrowing limits compared to government-backed loans, with the potential to loan amounts reaching up to $2 million in certain markets.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans can be a great option for first-time homebuyers with less-than-perfect credit. FHA loans offer lower down payment requirements, often as low as 3.5% of the purchase price. This can make homeownership accessible for those with limited savings.

Bear in mind, however, that FHA loans necessitate a mortgage insurance premium to safeguard the lender. This premium is consistent regardless of the borrower’s credit score.

USDA loans

USDA loans are targeted at rural and some suburban home buyers, offering 100% financing by providing lenders with mortgage guarantees. This means you can buy a house with no down payment, which can be a huge relief for many first-time home buyers.

To be eligible for a USDA loan, you need to meet certain requirements, such as having a credit score of 640 for automated underwriting and the financed property must be your primary residence in a designated rural area.

Working with a real estate agent

Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

If you think that looking for a house to purchase is time-consuming, tedious, or both, then it is worth hiring a professional. Identifying a good real estate agent is a major element in your home buying journey. A professional can make all the difference, providing expert advice, negotiating on your behalf, and guiding you through the complexities of the entire process.

Finding a realtor begins with conducting interviews with prospective candidates and choosing the most suitable one.

Interviewing potential real estate agents

Interviewing potential real estate agents is a crucial step in finding the right fit. It is your opportunity to ask about:

  • Their experience with first-time homebuyers
  • Their approach to finding homes
  • Their communication and negotiation strategies
  • If they specialize in certain home types or price points

Selecting the best fit

Selecting the best fit among potential real estate agents is about more than just experience. It also involves finding a professional who understands your needs and represents your interests. Clear communication is key. You want an expert who will keep you informed every step of the way and who is open to answering any questions you may have.

House Hunting Strategies

Sometimes people don’t want any help and look for a home to buy themselves. And this has its pros, because it is often the most exciting part of the home buying process. It is when you get to explore different houses, imagine your life in them, and ultimately find the one that feels like home.

Wondering where to begin? We will discuss some effective strategies for house hunting.

Online resources

In today’s digital age, online resources have become a go-to for many homebuyers. Real estate apps and websites offer a wealth of information, including:

  • Property listings
  • Neighborhood reviews
  • Market trends and prices
  • Virtual tours and 3D floor plans
  • Mortgage calculators
  • Real Property Tax Act information

These platforms can help you get a feel for the local market, compare prices, and make informed decisions when buying a home.

Open houses and private showings

Attending open houses and scheduling private showings are great ways to get a closer look at potential homes. Open houses provide a casual environment for you to explore the property, while private showings allow for a more focused and personal viewing experience. Both options give you the opportunity to assess the property’s condition, layout, and overall feel.

Making an Offer and Negotiating

When you locate a house that meets all your criteria, you can proceed to make an offer and initiate negotiations. This can be a nerve-wracking process, especially for first-time homebuyers. But with the right strategies, you can navigate this stage with confidence.

Crafting a compelling offer

Making a compelling offer entails more than merely settling on a price. It is about researching the market, considering the seller’s motivations, and making a respectable offer based on comparable properties.

It is also about showing the seller that you are serious about buying the property and that you are capable of completing the purchase by providing an earnest money deposit.

Negotiation strategies

Negotiation holds a significant role in the home buying process. Effective negotiation strategies can help you secure a better deal and make your home buying experience smoother. These strategies can range from using home inspection results to negotiate price adjustments or repairs to understanding the seller’s motivations and using them to your advantage.

Navigating the Closing Process

The closing process represents the final obstacle in your home buying journey. It involves the following:

Home inspection

A detailed home inspection forms an integral part of the closing process. It provides an assessment of the property’s condition and can inform negotiations for repairs or price adjustments. It is also a good opportunity to ask any final questions and to ensure that everything in the house is as expected.


Another vital step in the closing process is the appraisal. It provides an unbiased professional opinion on the value of the home, ensuring that the sale price aligns with the actual market value. This step is necessary to assure the lender that the loan amount isn’t exceeding the home’s value.

Final walk-through and closing

The final walk-through grants you the last chance to verify that the property’s condition aligns with the agreed terms prior to finalizing the purchase. Once you are satisfied, it is time to complete the closing process. This involves signing mortgage documents, paying the remaining down payment and closing costs, and finally, receiving the keys to your new home.

Moving into a new house

Final Step: Making Your New Place Feel Like Home

Now that you are a proud home owner, it is up to you how to manage the whole process. But one thing is certain: you will want to feel comfortable in a new place. This involves arranging furniture, hanging pictures, doing a deep clean, etc.

One of the most important things, however, is to introduce yourself to your new neighbors. Get to know those who live nearby by reverse searching their addresses. With a few clicks of a button, you will find your neighbors’ names, ages, contact details, social media profiles, and interests, which will help you start a conversation with them.


Buying a home might seem daunting at first. But with a clear understanding of your financial situation, the right real estate agent by your side, and a strategic approach to house hunting, you can navigate the process with ease.

Remember, buying a home isn’t just a financial investment, but an investment in your future. So take the plunge, enjoy the journey, and before you know it, you will be opening the door to your new home.


What should I know before purchasing a house?

Be sure you are ready for the commitment, don’t skip the preapproval, maintain a good credit score, understand your loan options, and save for a down payment. Working with a real estate agent can also be beneficial.

What are the most important things to consider when buying a house?

The most important things to consider when buying a house are location, budget, and the condition of the property. It is also crucial to research the neighborhood, potential resale value, and any additional costs associated with homeownership.

Is it better to buy or rent?

It depends on your situation. However, a house is an investment, and after making monthly payments for a certain period, you will have your own property. Renting, nevertheless, doesn’t provide the same results.

What is the 28/36 rule in budget analysis?

The 28/36 rule suggests not spending more than 28% of your gross monthly income on housing and 36% on total debts. It is a helpful guideline for budgeting.

Should I look for a house myself or hire a real estate agent?

If you don’t know where to start, it is better to hire an experienced real estate agent. Buying property isn’t always easy. You can get wrapped up in the house hunting process, which involves property taxes, interest rates, property values, home prices, and other things that are hard to deal with alone. On the other hand, if you know where to begin and where to search, looking for a house yourself is also possible.

Eugene Kirdzei
Eugene Kirdzei

Chief Technical Officer at Nuwber
With nearly two decades of experience in the IT industry, Eugene possesses comprehensive knowledge across his professional field, including in data management, data protection, and information search. Through his writing, he aims to provide valuable insights and practical advice on how to safely explore the online environment and leverage digital tools to enhance people’s lives.