First-Time Homebuyer

Your Homebuying Journey Simplified in Eight Easy Steps

Embarking on the journey to homeownership is a significant milestone, especially for first-time homebuyers. At CUSO, we’re dedicated to guiding you every step of the way, ensuring a smooth and informed homebuying experience tailored specifically for Maine residents and credit union members.
Step 1

Determine Your Budget

Before browsing home listings or imagining your future life in a new neighborhood, you must clearly understand your financial capacity. Determining your budget is the foundational step in the home-buying process. Here's how to go about it:

  • Assess Your Monthly Income: Begin by calculating your monthly income. This includes your salary, any bonuses, and additional sources of income. If you're buying with a partner or spouse, combine both incomes.
  • Understand Your Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI): Lenders use the DTI ratio to measure your ability to manage monthly payments and repay debts. It's calculated by dividing your monthly debt payments by your monthly gross income. A lower DTI indicates a better financial position. Learn more about DTI and its impact on your loan eligibility.
  • Factor in a Down Payment: While many first-time homebuyers believe they need a 20% down payment, there are several loan programs, like the CU Promise 97 Loan and various government programs, that require much less. Understand how much you can afford to put down and how it affects your overall loan amount.
  • Account for Additional Costs: Homeownership includes additional costs such as property taxes, homeowner's insurance, and maintenance. Don't forget that closing costs typically range from 3% to 6% of the home's purchase price.
  • Use Our Mortgage Calculator: To get a clearer picture of what you can afford, use CUSO's Mortgage Calculator. This free tool estimates your monthly payments based on the home price, down payment, loan term, and interest rate.
  • Consider Future Changes: Life is unpredictable. Whether it's a career change, expanding your family, or other significant life events, ensure your budget has some wiggle room to accommodate future changes.

Step 1
Step 2

Secure Your Pre-Approval

Mortgage pre-approval outlines your purchasing power and showcases your seriousness to sellers. Guarantee a smoother home-buying journey with a mortgage pre-approval from CUSO. Here's a quick breakdown:

  • What Is Pre-approval? A pre-approval is a lender's commitment to loan you a specific amount based on your financial health, going beyond a basic pre-qualification.
  • The Advantage of Pre-Approval: A pre-approval can set you apart in competitive markets, making sellers more receptive to your offer.
  • What You Need for Pre-Approval: To apply, provide CUSO with proof of income, assets, credit history, and identification.
  • How Long Will It Last: Pre-approvals are typically valid for 60-90 days. Keep this timeframe in mind as you house hunt.
  • Protect Your Credit: While seeking pre-approval, CUSO will review your credit. This hard inquiry may slightly impact your score, but pre-approval benefits outweigh this.
  • Stay Steady: Post pre-approval, avoid major financial shifts, like new debts or job changes, to ensure a smooth final loan approval.

Step 2
Step 3

Engage a Trusted Real Estate Agent

A seasoned real estate agent can be your ally, helping you find properties that match your criteria, scheduling property tours, and negotiating on your behalf. Seek recommendations, attend open houses, or use platforms like HomeLight to find a reputable agent.
Step 3
Step 4

Visit Potential Homes

While online tools and photos offer a glimpse, physically touring a property is essential. Being on site lets you experience the home's ambiance, assess its layout, and get a feel for the neighborhood's character and amenities. It's a chance to visualize your daily life in that space while noticing unique features and understanding the community vibe.
Step 4
Step 5

Place Your Offer

Once you've identified your dream home, it's time to take action. Work closely with your real estate agent to craft a compelling offer. Drawing on their expertise, they'll guide you on local market trends, recent comparable sales, and potential negotiation tactics. Additionally, consider including a heartfelt handwritten letter to the seller, expressing your genuine interest in the home and how it aligns with your dreams. This personal touch can resonate emotionally, setting your offer apart in a sea of numbers.
Step 5
Step 6

Home Inspection and Appraisal

Once your offer gets the nod, it's crucial to delve deeper into the property's condition. Schedule a thorough home inspection to uncover any hidden issues, from structural problems to minor repairs. This step ensures you're making a sound investment and can be a negotiation point if any issues arise. Concurrently, CUSO will coordinate an appraisal. This assessment, conducted by a licensed professional, determines the home's market value, ensuring you're paying a fair price and that the loan amount aligns with the property's worth.
Step 6
Step 7

Finalize Mortgage

Finalizing your mortgage is a pivotal step in the homebuying journey. At this juncture, it's essential to revisit and confirm that the chosen mortgage type—whether it's a fixed-rate, adjustable-rate, or any other specialized loan—still aligns with your financial goals and current situation. Partner with CUSO's dedicated team to ensure every detail is meticulously addressed. This involves reviewing and submitting all necessary documentation, from income proofs to credit reports. Understand the terms of your loan, including the interest rate, monthly payments, and any potential penalties. If you have any second thoughts or queries about your mortgage type or terms, now is the time to discuss them. CUSO's experts are here to clarify any questions, ensuring you're well-informed and confident about your mortgage commitment.
Step 7
Step 8

Close The Deal

The closing meeting, often called "settlement" or "escrow," is the final step in your homebuying journey. This is when the property legally transfers from the seller to you.

  • Preparation: Before the meeting, review the Closing Disclosure provided by CUSO. This document outlines the terms of your loan, the final closing costs, and any outstanding charges or fees. Ensure that the details match your original loan agreement.
  • What To Bring: Come prepared with a valid photo ID, proof of homeowners insurance, and any additional documentation requested by CUSO or the title company. It's also essential to arrange the payment method for closing costs in advance, whether it's a cashier's check or a wire transfer.
  • Understanding Costs: Closing costs encompass a range of fees, including title search, appraisal, credit report charges, and loan origination fees. These typically amount to 3% to 6% of the home's purchase price. It's crucial to understand each fee and ensure there are no unexpected charges.
  • Signing Documents: During the meeting, you'll sign several legal documents, including the mortgage agreement, the deed of trust, and the promissory note. Take your time to read through each document and ask questions if anything is unclear.
  • Receiving the Keys: Once all paperwork is signed and payments are made, the keys to your new home will be handed over to you. Congratulations, you are now a homeowner!

Step 8
Ready To Embark on Your Homebuying Journey?
Connect with CUSO today at 800-360-2876. Our team of experts is eager to assist you, ensuring your path to homeownership is smooth and rewarding. Whether you’re curious about loan options, credit scores, or the closing process, contact us to get started.

Special Programs for First-Time Homebuyers

CUSO is proud to offer specialized mortgage programs tailored for first-time homebuyers. Our FHA Loans, VA Loans, Rural Housing Loans, and CU Promise Loans are designed with favorable terms, allowing for lower credit scores and minimal down payments. Reach out to our team to explore which program aligns best with your needs.