Buying a home is a big decision that comes with lots of additional – and often unexpected – expenses. If you aren’t prepared, you might wind up paying much more than you expected. The following tips will save you money on some of the biggest costs associated with buying a home.
Save on Your Mortgage
As we learned from the housing crisis, perhaps the worst thing you can do is take out a mortgage you can’t afford. Unless you have a ton of cash tucked away somewhere, chances are you’re going to have to take out a mortgage. If your credit isn’t good, there are other options. Many PerkStreet customers recommend getting a manually underwritten mortgage that doesn’t involve your credit score. Here are 2 ways to save money when getting a mortgage:
- Don’t let yourself get talked into a mortgage you can’t afford. Make the decision about what you can afford for yourself.
- Shop around just like you would for any other major purchase. Different lenders will offer different rates. Try LendingTree.com and BankRate.com for a quick comparison.
Save on Home Appraisals
Once you find a home you love and want to buy, the next step is to have the property appraised. The appraisal is important to assess the worth of the property in the current market, for property tax purposes. An appraisal will accurately calculate the property’s true value, dictate where the property lines lie, and could potentially lower your real estate taxes. Here are 3 ways to save money when getting your house appraised:
- In the contract, ask the house’s seller to pay for the appraisal costs.
- Request a Comparative Market Analysis report from different real estate agents.
- Find your home’s worth and get a free home value report from ValueMyHouse.com.
Save On Property Inspections
A home inspection is always the responsibility of the buyer. While it costs money up front, getting a proper inspection can save you thousands on repairs and maintenance later. Depending on where you live, a home inspection will generally cost a few hundred dollars. There may also be additional add-on expenses, so be sure to get a quote before committing to an inspection. Here are 3 ways to save money on getting an inspection:
- Do your own quick inspection with this checklist, but remember the risk involved in not having a proper home inspection.
- Ask your real estate agent for their top choices for inspectors and compare quotes from several different inspectors.
- Hire a certified friend or family member inspect the property at a discounted price.
Avoid Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
If you’re getting a traditional mortgage loan, the lender will require the property to be covered under a homeowners insurance plan for the life of the loan. There are ways to lower your regular insurance costs, but there is one type of insurance that should be completely avoided: Private mortgage insurance.
Private mortgage insurance (PMI) kicks in when you have an 80% loan-to-value ratio, and on average costs 0.5% of the loan. This means, if you aren’t able to put at least 20% of the overall cost down, you will incur an additional monthly expense until the value of your home reaches more than 80% of the loan value. PMI is a complete waste of money and should be avoided if possible. Here are 3 ways to avoid paying private mortgage insurance:
- Save for a down payment of 20% or more.
- Borrow the down payment (and pay off the loan immediately).
- Get two loans, one for less than 80% of the home’s value and the second for the remainder.
Save On Closing Costs and Fees
When I bought my first house, I was very surprised at how many additional costs and fees came my way on closing day. The brokers and lenders charged me for things such as document preparation fees, survey fees, and loan origination fees. If you aren’t careful, they’ll “fee” you till you’re broke. Here are 4 ways to avoid closing costs and fees that come with buying a home.
- Ask for a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and view the fees line-by-line.
- Negotiate any non-third party fees (application, document or title fees).
- Research for the cheapest home owners/hazard insurance companies.
- Get your free credit report/score before closing day.
Save On Real Estate Agents and Brokers
Using a real estate agent to help you find the right house is essential. Unless you’re up-to-date on the industry, have researched the local properties, and have access to the right databases, having a broker on your side will save you a ton of time and energy. But real estate agents do charge a small commission fee. In general, you and the seller will pay the agent 6% of the sale price in commission fees. Here are 4 ways to lower your broker’s commission charges.
- Try to negotiate for a smaller percentage commission fee.
- Use the seller’s agent and split the cost.
- Ask if doing some of the work and/or research yourself will lower the fee.
- Take advantage of a real estate off-season.
It’s possible to buy a house, even on a budget. Use these tips, do as much work and preparation as you can, and you’ll find its easier to get the kind of deal you want than you previously imagined. Research and review quotes, fees, and alternatives before making any final decisions. If you’re always awake to ways to save, you can be a frugal homeowner before you know it.
Are you a homeowner? Where did you find places to save money when you were buying your first home? Please tell us about it in our comments section below.
Carrie Smith is a PerkStreet Customer Columnist who has worked as a freelance Certified Bookkeeper for nine years and as a Tax Specialist for four. She specializes in small business and oil and gas accounting. She has written several finance and accounting articles at Hubpages.com, and also writes regularly on her own blog CarefulCents. Follow her on Twitter @applecsmith.