Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer applying for a mortgage or you’re a real estate expert, the process of securing funds to purchase a home can seem daunting. That’s why having an experienced, knowledgable loan officer on your team is crucial. Bonus points if they’re local to Richmond. With that in mind, we chatted with Courtney Ficken, a loan officer at First Home Mortgage, about some of the most common mortgage questions she hears from homebuyers. Keep reading for Courtney’s pro tips on avoiding mistakes, comparing lenders, and making the most of your money when applying for a mortgage in Richmond.
What’s your advice for choosing the best type of mortgage for your situation?
There are many factors that determine the best financing options for each individual. Some of those factors can include credit scores, cash on hand, and even the type of property. There are three main components to the initial loan application: credit, income, and assets. And, while some individuals may share similarities in two of those three components, they may be best suited for completely different loan types. Conventional loans are not the best fit for everyone.
I think the best advice is to speak to a qualified loan professional about your particular circumstances to get the best recommendation for how to make your home buying goals a reality. I make my lending recommendations based on each client’s unique set of needs and goals. Oftentimes I joke that loans are like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike.
What are your top tips for first-time homebuyers seeking a mortgage in Richmond?
The most important thing a first-time homebuyer can do is arm themselves with information about the entire process. It’s critical to take the time to meet with a mortgage advisor to get a better idea of where one stands financially, and also to get an idea of what certain price points cost on a month by month basis. In my opinion, it’s never too early to start the process.
In addition to that, there are a lot of great resources online for first-time buyers to take advantage of. There are online courses offered by Virginia Housing, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Most of the courses are free of charge, and they explain each step of the home buying process in great detail.
What are some of the most common mistakes you see first-time homebuyers make?
The most common mistake that I see from first-time homebuyers is a reluctance to sit down with a lender to complete the initial steps of having their credit pulled and completing the loan application. There are so many myths out there that scare people away from the process, like the idea that you need a large down payment to buy a house, or that having a lender pull your credit report will significantly drop your credit score. Neither of those two things are true. As a result, some first-time homebuyers actually wait much longer than they need to to buy a house, and they continue to rent when they could be increasing their net worth by purchasing real estate and owning their own home.
The second most common mistake I see is when homebuyers buy a car right before they buy a home. It’s always easier to secure financing for an automobile than it is a home. So please get the mortgage in place before you go car shopping.
Should buyers compare multiple lenders? Why or why not?
It never hurts to explore your options. Sometimes, First Home Mortgage has access to grant programs that companies like Bank of America and Wells Fargo do not. In addition to that, different lenders can have different qualification requirements for the loan programs they offer. So, some individuals may qualify for different financing options with different institutions. That said, I believe that buying real estate is deeply personal, and therefore working with people you trust to have your best interest at heart is paramount.
Do you have any mortgage advice in light of our current climate?
Right now, interest rates are at historic lows, which means individuals can afford higher-priced homes than in years past. It’s a great time to either purchase a new home, or refinance an existing mortgage. It’s hard to predict what the future will bring, but I haven’t seen a better time to get involved in the real estate market in my career as a mortgage professional.