First-time home buyers shouldn’t wait to get started on buying a home.
“Interest rates are at historic lows,” says Mark A. Jones, co-CEO of Amerifirst Home Mortgage.
“If you can find that right property, it’s an outstanding time to buy because affordability is also at an all-time high.”
Right now, it’s a seller’s market, with limited inventory and multiple prospective buyers bidding on the same property. He cautions buyers not to wait to get in the market because interest rates and property values may go up.
“For every quarter percent increase in interest rate, you’re going to lose purchasing power,” says Jones. “You’re going to lose appreciation if you don’t act now.”
The pandemic has changed the housing market.
“It’s actually pushed a lot of people from the heavily urban areas, out into the suburbs,” says Jones, who co-founded Amerifirst Home Mortgage in 1983 with David Gahm. “They want more space, they want larger homes, and more property around them. People are fleeing a lot of the urban centers to get out to the suburbs.”
Properties in rural areas are a great move-in opportunity for first-time buyers.
“If you’re buying your first home, you’ll find some of your most attractive financing in rural areas,” he says, explaining that the USDA has a zero down payment program for those who qualify.
While the properties need to be in specific rural areas, it’s not just farm country. In Michigan for example, Amerifirst is the No. 1 USDA lender in the state.
According to a 2020 National Association of Realtors (NAR) Home Buyers and Sellers Report, 81 percent of buyers said owning a home was a good financial investment. That report found 33 percent of all homebuyers were first-time buyers.
But getting started can feel intimidating.
“If you’re buying your first home, find a lender that you trust and talk with them,” says Jones, who with his team, is focused on helping first-time homebuyers achieve the American dream.
Many lenders like Amerifirst are full service, meaning they secure the loan and service it for the length of the loan. A lender can pull your credit report, review your income and down payment sources, and give you all your financing options, including explaining closing costs, contracts, and alternate funding like gift funds.
Affordability is a significant concern for homebuyers. According to a survey of 1,000 millennials by industry data firm Clever Real Estate, 48 percent say saving for a down payment is their biggest barrier to buying a home; 31 percent report having too much debt, and 30 percent say bad credit impacts their ability to qualify for a mortgage.
Jones says the biggest misconception about first time home buying is that you need 20 percent down to buy a home. But that’s not necessarily the case. For example, for a typical FHA mortgage, buyers only need 3 percent down, plus closing costs.
Often buyers worry about their credit scores and debt ratios.
“A lot of first-time homebuyers may have had a credit blemish that they think ruined their credit. But once you pull the credit report, you’ll find it dinged them a few points but it’s not something that’s going to prevent them from buying a home today,” says Jones.
If a customer does have credit score problems, the lender can review their credit report with them and create a homeowner action plan to improve their scores and their chances of qualifying for a mortgage. Amerifirst has many resource guides on its website, including a first-time homebuyer’s guide: https://www.amerifirst.com/buy/firsthome.