HOME BUYING 101: A Guide to Buying your First Home

July 6, 2020 | by HC Mutual

Part 1: House shopping

What to look for in finding the perfect first house for you

Buying your first home is not something you can rush into. We understand that it is an important milestone—something to show as proof of financial responsibility and capability, a rite into full adulthood, as it is. But this is all the more reason to take your time. Buying a house, especially for the first time, is a big commitment that takes a lot of work and preparation. It can be a smart move for the long term, but only if you fully understand what you’re getting into.

This is the first part of a series of our complete guide to help you buy your first home and reach an important milestone in your life—and ensure that it will be a step towards a good future.

How do I know if I’m ready?

This is the first, and probably one of the more difficult questions in starting your journey as a first time homeowner. While there is much to think about, you can start here.

Step 1: Ask yourself if it’s time for you to buy a home
We get it. Achieving milestones at work, thinking of your age, and grappling with peer (and family) pressure can be pushing you to consider buying a house now. But why do you really want to buy a house? The only reason that matters is if you are ready to be a homeowner, and ready to commit to everything that it entails—psychologically and financially. (If you are feeling anxious about “burning money” paying rent, think of it this way: they are both ways to have a place to live, each with their own pros and cons.)

Step 2: Ask yourself how you can afford a house
A home loan (or mortgage) is not something to be taken lightly. It is a commitment that takes 15 to 30 years. Before you even consider buying, you would have to have good credit, a steady income, and a sizable amount of cash for down payment which can range from 10% to 40% of the price tag. On top of that, there’s also the closing cost to take into consideration, which can run from 1.5% to 3.5%. Research financing options available to you and look at which fits. The KayaMo Home Loan is specially designed for first time home buyers; HC Mutual also looks at your current credit standing, not your history, when you apply for a loan.

Try a home loan calculator or consult a financial advisor to see if you can afford a home (or how much home you can afford) given your income and credit score, versus different loan term options and the down payment amount you are able or willing to cash out.

Step 3: Start with your dream house—and work backwards
Having an ideal “dream” home is just as important as thinking realistically about being able to get it. The key to finding the sweet spot is to separate your needs and wants in a house. Understanding what’s truly important to you can help you compromise based on your budget. Here are some things to consider:

  • Basic requirements (e.g. size (sqm), number of bedrooms and bathrooms)
  • Location and accessible amenities
  • Structural features (e.g. no. of stories, basement and/or garage, ventilation)
  • Exterior and interior features (e.g. pool, garden, flooring type, accessibility features)
Tips for shopping for your first home

Once you have decided that you are ready to own a house, then it’s time to look at your options.

1. Pick the right type of house for you
What kind of future are you seeing in this house? Perhaps you are looking to start a family and want a nice yard and ample space in a single detached home. But if you want easier maintenance and extra amenities and perks (and if your lifestyle can support the extra cost and less space), then you might want to consider a condo or a townhouse.

2. Check the neighborhood
Remember, this will be your home for a good chunk of your life, so you need to make sure that the neighborhood you pick will be a good fit for you.

  • Look up safety and crime statistics. This is a given, especially if you are planning to start a family. Go around and talk to the barangay or local enforcers to get a good picture of the security of surrounding areas.
  • Map out the available amenities. What do you need near you? Look for the nearest hospitals and clinics, grocery stores, pharmacies, churches, train and bus stations, parking spaces, etc.
  • Research nearby schools. Even if you don’t have (or are not planning to have) kids, this affects home value in the long term.
  • Visit the area or drive down through the neighborhood at different times of day so you can assess the traffic, activity, and noise in the area. Drive or commute to or from the location to assess how accessible it is and how long it takes to go to work or school. Transportation also factors into your living expenses.

3. Stick to your budget
Your pre-approved loan amount should be the ceiling when you’re house shopping and comparing prices. Aside from buying the house, you have to consider how much it costs to move into that house and live in it. In general, look at property valued less than your ceiling to make room in your budget for homeownership expenses such as:

  • Bills and utility payments
  • Home insurance
  • Maintenance and general upkeep of the home (e.g. paint, plumbing, etc.)
  • Emergencies (such as broken appliances)

It is important to consider these monthly and periodic expenses especially right after buying the house as your finances dip and shift drastically. For this crucial moment, HC Mutual offers the KayaMo Saver’s Plan to help you build up your savings and borrow against it when you need it for repairs and improvements in the future (you can usually expect these expenses within the first 5 years of moving into your new house).

Ultimately, being firm with your budget will save you from getting stuck for years paying a mortgage you can’t afford, and not being able to build your savings as a consequence.

Quick Tip!
If you’re buying from a seller and you’ve fallen in love with a house, you may be tempted to bid high at once to ensure that you win. Don’t. As long as you shop within your budget, you can give yourself some wiggle room to bid higher only if needed.

Lastly, find a good agent that you get along well with and discuss your questions and concerns comfortably. Someone who is skilled, motivated, and knowledgeable on your side is indispensable in finding the right home just for you.


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