Buying a home can be a stress-inducing decision for anybody, and if you are a veteran, you may be trying to readjust to civilian life at the same time you are making other life changes like getting married, transitioning to a civilian job, or moving to a new city. Your veteran status nets you some extra perks when it comes to mortgages and homeownership, so be sure to take advantage of all the opportunities afforded as you move through your home buying checklist.
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1. Know Your Financial State
You may budget and spend your money wisely, but do you know your credit score? If you have a score below 670, take the time to figure out why and repair it if you can. Reasons that your score may be low — and ones you can fix — are not making payments on time, having too many open accounts, or having a credit card balance that uses more than 30% of your total credit.
2. Secure a Loan To Represent Your Post-Military Status
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs backs several types of loans that are available to homebuyers who are veterans. A VA loan is available to those who have served in any branch of the military — reserves qualify, too! Take the time to explore your options and adequately budget for monthly payments; if, for instance, you're interested in a VA 30-year loan with fixed mortgage rates, make sure to take into account the interest rates as well as the monthly payment, with and without discount points, to help you decide if this is the best loan option for you.
3. Decide on a Realtor
The pros to working with a real estate professional include being given knowledge of the current housing market and having a guide throughout the homebuying process. You'll have to pay the realtor in the form of a percentage of your closing costs, but if you’re new to the area or if you’ve never bought a home before, the money spent for a great realtor is well worth the expense.
4. Find Your Dream Home
You can research the market online, or you may drive around and spot something in a good neighborhood that feels right for your family. If you’re in touch with a realtor, he or she will send you listings via your area’s MLS. Make sure to calculate your drive to work and factor in public school quality for your kids.
5. Close on the Home
After you put in an offer for the house and it is accepted, you can have the home inspected, which is not required but strongly suggested by financial experts. Then, after your bank or mortgage service draws up the paperwork for your loan, you will meet with them (and your real estate agent, if you’re working with one) to sign and notarize all the necessary documents.
Home buying can be stressful for veterans, but it can be easier when you follow a step-by-step process. Check the above items off your list, and get ready to move into your dream home and start the next phase of your life.