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There’s no doubt buying your first home can be intimidating.
Not only is it a commitment to settle down in one place, but it’s a huge financial decision.
So where do you start?
In preparing to buy, you need to make sure you have at least nine months to a year of consistent income in order to qualify for a mortgage, says Dana Bull, a 27-year-old realtor with Sotheby’s International in Boston.
Bull bought her first home, a condo in Salem, Massachusetts, with her now-husband at just 22 years old, after working for nine months straight out of college.
Bull suggests talking to a lender at least two to three months before you’re ready to buy, so you can find out what you need to do – or how much longer you’ll need to work – to qualify for a mortgage in your price range, or simply to talk about the financial options available to you.
“There’s no harm in talking to a lender and getting started early and understanding your options and what you need to do,” she told Business Insider. “Oftentimes, I’ll have a buyer come to me and he’s like, ‘I just got a new job, I started my own business, I’m going to be a photographer, and I want to buy a house’ and it’s like, ‘Well, you kind of shot yourself in the foot because now you don’t have the income proof to back up your loan.'”
She says she’s noticed more and more millennials favoring low down payment programs, where down payments range from 3.5% to 10% of the purchase price rather than the typical 20%. It helps first-time buyers with lower incomes enter high-priced markets.
“I think there’s no harm in starting early and just going out and seeing the sights,” Bull said. “That way you’ll be even more armed by the time you’re actually ready to pull the trigger.”