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If you have dreams of purchasing a home, you probably already know there's a lot of work involved before you can get started. Unfortunately, the home buying process is not an easy one to understand, especially if you are the first in your family to purchase a home or you are purchasing a home for the first time. There’s a lot to learn, but DoughMain Financial Literacy Foundation’s FitKit personal finance curriculum helps students (and their teachers) understand the pillars of the process, everything from taxes and budgeting to credit and banking.
If you already have debt, such as from student loans or credit cards, you might feel even more intimidated and unsure of how to proceed. Even with previous debt, it’s still possible to pay it off and realize your dream of buying a house. Your best bet may be to take a financial literacy course to ensure you know your personal finances first. Here’s a quick primer on how to begin the process.
Know Your Current Debt Level
Before you start dreaming of purchasing a home, take the time to go through your current debt. This can include credit card debt, other types of obligations you might have such as student loans or a car loan and any outstanding monies owed. Rather than fear what the end total might be, face it head-on, knowing you are working toward paying off your debt. It's likely that once you find the total cost of what you owe, you can focus on getting everything paid off and figure out when it might be possible to buy a home.
Prioritize Paying Debts
Once you have a list of all your debts, decide how you'll begin paying them off. Many individuals utilize the snowball method, where, as CNBC explains, the focus is on eliminating the smallest debt first. Once that liability is gone, they are free to move on to the next smallest debt until all commitments are paid off one by one. This method is helpful when dealing with credit cards or a car loan prior to buying a house. It isn't suggested for larger debts, such as a student loan, because it is unlikely you'll have that all paid off by the time you buy your house. This offers a helpful method for reducing overall debt.
Create a Budget To See You Through
Putting together a financial plan gives you the chance to list all your expenses and see where your money is going. You can then review your budget and decide where to make cuts to help keep your spending down. By paying upfront for items rather than using credit, you can reduce debt, save money in certain areas and pave the way to buying a home. Your budget can help you decide how large a mortgage you can take on and if you need to increase your overall income, perhaps by picking up an additional part-time job.
Understand Home Loan Options
When seeking a mortgage, find out what different alternatives are available to you to lower the overall monthly costs. You can do this in a number of ways, such as paying points on your mortgage. This means you'll pay a fee to the lender when you close, according to Bankrate, giving you the opportunity to get a better interest rate in return. Overall, your monthly mortgage payment may be lowered. The best way to determine if this will work for you is to evaluate the home you want to buy, review your current finances and project the number of years you think you'll live at the property. Using a mortgage points calculator can help with this decision.
If you are ready to get a home loan, make sure you know your current debt level and figure out a definite plan to reduce it. Create a budget and find out what home loan possibilities are open to you so you can select the one that best meets your needs.