Guest Post by Brittany Fisher
Brittany's Bio: Brittany Fisher has spent more than 20 years as a CPA. She runs her own site, Financiallywell.info where she shares her knowledge about taxes, personal finance and general financial literacy hoping to help anyone who may benefit from it.
Need more insights and tips to better ease into civilian life, like the following article? See more on the Marine Corps League of Ellis County blog.
Buying a home is a major decision, so it’s important to get the details right in the beginning to ensure a smooth process that you’re satisfied with. For veterans, the process is slightly different simply due to the types of home loans available, and there are some benefits involved that might make your decision easier. Look for resources that will help you find a supportive community; the Marine Corps League of Ellis County is a great place to start. This step-by-step guide will help you through the process of finding the perfect home and making it your own.
Before you begin looking for the right home, it’s crucial to get your finances in order. Take a look at your expenses and income to determine a budget, and make a spreadsheet that lays out your monthly costs. If you have a lot of credit card expenses or other debt, pay it down now and get your credit score in good shape. Ideally, you’ll want a score of between 580 and 620 to ensure you get a great loan rate. VA loans typically either don’t require a down payment or they require a small amount down, but if you want to get ahead, you might consider putting down a lump sum up front.
Buying a home comes with a lot to think about, and finding the right loan is one of the most important details. While most VA loans don’t require a down payment, some lenders may require one depending on your credit score and other factors, so make sure you understand the terms of the loan completely. Read up on the benefits that come with a VA loan, including fewer closing costs, low interest rates, and no required private mortgage insurance. To give yourself peace of mind, get pre-approved for the loan.
Once you have the loan paperwork started, you’ll know how much you can afford to spend. This is crucial when searching for the perfect home. Think about the best time of year to do your search; in many areas of the country, spring is ideal because there are so many options to choose from. However, this also means you’ll have more competition. Winter is a slow season for real estate, and prices trend higher in the summer.
You’ll also need to consider your must-haves in a home and neighborhood, as well as the things you absolutely don’t want. Check out school districts, crime rates, and proximity to your favorite stores and restaurants as well.
Closing on a home is often the most stressful part of the process because it requires a lot of details to come together. Take some of the stress out of closing by making sure you do a final walk-through inspection. On closing day, ensure that everyone whose name is on the mortgage has identification and any other necessary paperwork. Make sure you understand ahead of time whether you need to bring the remainder of the down payment or funds for closing costs, and whether you’ll be getting the keys at that time.
You might also want to consider hiring a locksmith to rekey the locks of your new home for your peace of mind. Check out reviews online before you settle on a service, and make sure they’re bonded and insured. A reputable locksmith near you will typically offer a warranty, as well. Be prepared for an average cost of $50–$150.
Buying a home is a huge milestone, so try to celebrate the moment rather than feeling stressed. Look at it as an investment rather than a debt, and seek out resources and support from veteran’s services that will help you understand the process.
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