Becoming a homeowner is so much more than just owning a piece of property. It is about feeling empowered to have a place you can truly call your own, a space that fits your personality, style and comfort. Adding a personal touch to your home is among the many reasons to become a homeowner. (Building equity is another!)
As we celebrate National Homeownership Month in June, let’s look at some key steps to a buy a home and the benefits that come with it.
Preparing for homeownership ideally starts years before you buy. That’s because you need enough money set aside to handle all the costs and expenses involved in purchasing a home, including the down payment, closing costs and moving expenses.
- Down Payment: Lenders typically require a down payment or portion of the purchase price upfront, depending on the mortgage program. Typically, 20% down is the standard but that can vary, with some mortgages allowing as little as 3% down. VA Loan programs, which are for military veterans and active-duty service members, do not require a down payment at all. Make sure to ask your lender what, if any, additional costs may come with down payments less than 20% of the home’s value.
- Closing Costs: Closing costs are made up of all the expenses that go with transacting the home loan. These include home inspections, appraisal fees, lender fees and title fees, among others. In California, closing costs run about 2% to 5% of the purchase price. This does not include the down payment.
- Move-in Expenses: Once your loan closes, you’ll take possession of the home and can move in. You’ll need additional savings to pay for utility connections for electricity, water, sewer, trash, cable and internet service, as well as new kitchen and laundry appliances if they aren’t provided. Also, if you’re planning repairs or renovations to your new home, it might be practical to do that work first before you occupy it. Here are some common upgrades.
Improve Your Credit Score
The next step to becoming a homeowner is to evaluate your credit score. First, visit annualcreditreport.com to get your free credit report from one of the three major U.S. credit reporting bureaus. Review your report to see if there are any discrepancies that need to be fixed and to identify areas where you’ll need to improve your score.
Knowing your score will let you know if you qualify for a home loan and what type of interest rates you might be offered based on your credit. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate will be, which means you’re paying less on your loan and have the advantage of lower payments.
Benefits of Being a Homeowner
By owning your home instead of renting it, you are building equity for yourself and not your landlord. Equity is built over time as you pay down your mortgage and grows with the value of your home. Once your available home equity is significant enough, generally around the $10,000 mark, you can apply for home equity credit products to start utilizing it.
You can use your equity for a variety of things, such as improving your home, consolidating bills, a wedding, covering unexpected expenses and more. With rates generally lower than credit cards, equity lines and loans provide homeowners with a valuable tool that can help maintain financial wellness.
Some ways to access your home equity include:
- HELOC: A Home Equity Line of Credit is a line of credit that can be used for many things such as home repairs, college funding, trips and much more. This is a revolving line of credit that can be paid back over time and that you can access at any time. HELOCs typically have a 10-year draw period with interest-only payments followed by a 15-year payback period with both principal and interest.
- Home Equity Loans: Home equity loans also use the equity in your home. Instead of a line of credit, however, they offer you a lump sum of cash that you’ll start paying back immediately. This loan is a great fit for when you know exactly how much to borrow and prefer fixed payments and terms so you can budget accordingly.
- Cash-Out Refinance: This option refinances your current mortgage and allows you to take out equity from your home that is above what you previously owed. In some cases, a cash-out refinance will result in similar or lower mortgage payments, as the market will have changed, and the previous mortgage was calculated with a different total principle, interest, and term. The refinance plus the equity taken out is then repaid in the new monthly mortgage payment.
Other Perks of Homeownership
There are other perks of homeownership, the biggest one being the stability of a permanent residence and the sense of community that comes with it. There are also tax benefits related to owning property, which your tax advisor can help you learn about.
As a homeowner, you can make upgrades such as solar panels and other energy-efficient improvements that can lower your utility bills and save you money. Plus, these upgrades can boost your home’s value.
Ready To Buy
With all the benefits that come with homeownership, why not explore your home loan options? If you’re a renter, making the leap to owning your own home might be more achievable than you think. Travis Credit Union’s knowledgeable home loan team is focused on listening to your needs and identifying the right mortgage product for your unique financial situation. They’ll walk you through the entire home loan process and keep you informed every step of the way. Visit our Mortgage Hub to get started.
Travis is focused on your complete financial wellness and can also help you with Money Market Accounts and Certificates, auto loans, credit cards, business services and much more. Visit traviscu.org to see how we can help you reach your financial goals.