Homebuying season is hitting high gear, so we would like to share some tips to help you make the best homeownership choice in 2018: strengthen credit, shop wisely for a mortgage, choose the right house and negotiate the best price.

Register for an upcoming First Time Homebuyer Class

Check your credit score before looking for a mortgage.  Look at your finances before you start the search for a home. You need to understand your credit score, and what kind of home you can afford. Many people make the mistake of falling in love with a certain house then realize it doesn’t make sense financially. Make sure your credit is strong. Since finding the right house takes an average of one to three months, it could pay off to use the time to strengthen your credit score, especially if it means getting a lower mortgage rate.

First-time buyers, in particular, need to be prepared for all of the steps in the homebuying process. According to a recent study conducted by online loan marketplace LendingTree, nearly one out of every ten mortgage applicants gets denied. The primary reasons for denial were credit history (which includes credit score) and debt-to-income ratio. Each of these factors was responsible for 26 percent of denied loans. Other causes included collateral at 17 percent and incomplete applications at 14 percent.

Working with a housing counselor from Nuestra Comunidad can help resolve credit errors or other concerns, boost your credit score and also provide other financial guidance while shopping for a home.

Shop around for the best mortgage. Proactively compare services and costs. First-time homebuyers often realize they have choices and resources available to them. Doing your homework can help you choose wisely and save you money. The price of failing to do so may create a financial disadvantage after several years. The average borrower could save $1,500 over the life of the loan by obtaining an extra rate quote when applying for a mortgage, according to new report from Freddie Mac. More than $3,000 could be saved by getting five quotes.

As important as it is to obtain the best mortgage rate, it’s also crucial to be aware of fees charged by mortgage lenders. These fees go by various names, which is another reason to work closely with a housing counselor from Nuestra Comunidad throughout the process.

Choose your house carefully. With a mortgage-approval letter in hand, it’s time to find your home. A market with low housing supply requires a buyer to look for a “diamond in the rough”—a not-so-perfect house that could be rehabbed to make it suitable. That doesn’t mean you should settle for a house that doesn’t meet your basic needs. Keep your list of must-haves front and center, but make sure they are not really “nice-to-haves.” Many housing counseling organizations such as Nuestra Comunidad can provide a starter list of lenders from whom to choose.

Negotiate. Even when you’re buying in one of the most competitive markets, there is always room for negotiation. Here’s where selecting the right group of experts (lender, realtor, attorney, insurance company, home inspector) pays off. Whether it’s the price of the house (probably the most important item to negotiate), the portion of closing costs to be paid or whether a warranty for major appliances is included, presenting the seller with a list of requests is important. Negotiating any needed repairs will also be an important discussion. Remember, the seller wants to sell and you want to buy. Home purchases that are mutually beneficial are made in the middle.

Following these tips and working with the team at Nuestra Comunidad will help you successfully find your home.

Register for an upcoming First Time Homebuyer Class