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Experts share advice for first-time homebuyers

Buying a home for the first time can be an overwhelming experience, but experts in the field say there are some things prospective homebuyers can do to ease those headaches.

Roseann Lund, senior vice president of mortgage lending at Gate City Bank, said first-time homebuyers should get prequalified or preapproved for a mortgage. That helps ensure that "we're looking at homes that are in the right price range for what they can do so they don't fall in love with something that's not attainable," said Becky Aadnes, a real estate agent at Alliance Real Estate in Bismarck.

Lund said it's a misconception that homebuyers need a large down payment. While Zillow referred to 20 percent as the "ideal" amount to put down, she said that's a standard figure to avoid paying mortgage default insurance but ends up being "a lot of down payment" in today's prices.

"There are other options that we have for customers where we can help them still get into a home rather than waiting for that 20 percent down," Lund said. "They may not have enough disposable income to save that up in a realistic time to get into a home."

Aadnes stressed the importance of shopping around for different mortgage lenders and said homebuyers should find a real estate agent they're comfortable with to guide them through what can be a stressful process.

Moreover, Aadnes advised people to avoid making any big purchases right before buying a home and to improve their credit score.

"I don't know that people realize that they can save money by improving their credit," she said.

Julie Gugin, executive director of the Minnesota Homeownership Center, emphasized patience. She said prospective homebuyers should take some time to improve their credit and save money to make a "smooth transition" to homeownership.

"We also like to say to people too that this might not be a 30-day process, but it doesn't mean that it's not ever going to happen," she said. "It might be six months to a year before you're ready."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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