First Home 101

By: Evan Fitzgerald
By: Evan Fitzgerald

Donna Hill found her dream home right in Staunton, but it wasn't easy.

"I was actually surprised at finding what I have found. I thought it would be something much less," Hill said.

With interest rates as low as they are right now it could be the perfect time to become a first time home buyer, but there are definitely some things to know before you head to the loan office.

One of the best tips is to visit a loan officer before you even start looking for a house.

"That's one reason to have a pre approval, you don't want to show someone a house that they can't afford," said Debbie Shickel, a realtor for Bishop Realty.

Getting pre-approved allows you to know exactly how much you'll have available to spend, but it also means you need to be ready with a decent credit score.

"Anything this day and age is credit score driven, whether you are buying a house, a car, or even insurances," said loan officer Vickie Painter.

You'll need a credit score of about 620 to qualify, but most lenders will help guide you if your credit history is a little rocky.

And if you don't have that nest egg ready to make a down payment, don't worry.

"Whether through Virginia Housing Authority or we have some programs here that will allow you to put down as little as $500 of your money, and still buy that house," said Anita Beckman of Wachovia.

And many programs allow the seller to take care of the closing costs as well. One rule of thumb says your mortgage payment should be about 1/3 of your total monthly income.

"If you have to figure out how to eat at McDonald's a month in advance, you don't want the house," said Shickel.

While you might not be able to afford a mansion, don't give up.

"Especially with a first time home buyer, I'm trying to focus on their future. It's an investment for them," said Kat Messer, a realtor for Remax.


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