I just returned from a relaxing beach vacation, Yes, another vacation, but, as always, it was paid for. If you plan and save, vacations can be in your retirement future also.

While at the beach, I had the pleasure of spending time with a local prominent, experienced real estate broker. I indicated that I was interested in advice for first-time homebuyers, since I have been hearing so much about how hot and competitive the entry market is, because many young people are now coming back to the idea of home ownership rather than renting.

She indicated that she had the perfect recipe for first-time buyers, so I asked her to share it with our readers, knowing that I couldn’t use her name. She graciously agreed, saying that this was important for the public to know. Nice and thank you!

First, she provided a link to a first-time buyer’s club: First Home Club from the Housing Council, at http://www.thehousingcouncil.org/homeowners/first-home-club-homeownership-counseling-guidelines. There are many additional lenders that have these programs that you can search for online.

Here is the recipe.


1-Experienced Real Estate Agent

1-Home Loan Lender

1-Best Credit possible

1-Mortgage Preapproval

1-Home Wish List

1-Choose your Real Estate Attorney

1-Home Search

1-Accepted Offer

1-Engineering Inspection

1-Formal Loan Application

1-Closing on your new home


The first step in  the home-buying process is to find an agent you feel comfortable working with on what will likely be the largest financial decision of your life. Ask friends and family members for referrals, and interview several real estate agents. Choose an agent that you are sure understands the current market place and has experience in Buyer Agency.

Once you've chosen a real estate agent you trust to be your advocate, ask him or her to recommend lenders that have programs for first-time buyers and fair closing expenses. The loan officer must be available and responsive, as the marketplace is currently very brisk, and when you find that perfect home, your home buying team must act quickly.

Now that you  have a great  lender, you can ask for guidance on any credit score issues you may be facing. Whether it’s a small or large problem, the lender can provide guidance to help repair your situation and make sure you'll be approved for a loan.

A lender will help you determine what payment you can afford based upon your income and debt ratios. To arrive at a purchase price, you’ll factor in expenses like homeowner’s insurance, taxes, and utilities to make sure you can comfortably make your mortgage payments. The lender will then identify the total amount of money it's willing to lend you. This pre-approval is a very important piece in convincing a seller you are the best person to go forward with on their home sale.

Once you know your price range, you and your real estate agent will begin the home search. First, list your must haves and your wish list. For instance, do you want to be within walking distance of your place of worship, must have two baths, must have a garage etc.

Next, a mixture of daily home search reports, driving by new listings, touring available homes with your agent and ultimately finding the home that suits you best and making an offer. This process can take a week or even months, but listen to your agent (and any other folks that may be assisting in the search such as a parent or friend), your head and your heart. Rushing into the wrong home is not the thing to do. Be patient and the outcome will reward you for many years.

Next, this is a good time to interview an attorney that assists in protecting your real estate interests. Interview several to find an attorney that you are comfortable with. He or she will explain their role in reviewing all documents including the purchase offer. If you don’t include this important advocate from the beginning, it makes it difficult for the attorney to protect you.

Once you have found the perfect home, the steps to making it yours are as follows: Write the best offer that you are comfortable with and listen to your agent’s advice. In the offer you will include any contingencies you would need to have, such as attorney approval, a mortgage, an engineering inspection, a radon inspection, and a septic and well inspection, if the home is serviced by either. You will also need to make an earnest money deposit, which seals the contract and will later be applied to your closing expenses.

When your offer to purchase is  accepted, you'll work with your lender to get final mortgage approval by the date specified for the closing. Your lender will most likely require one year of taxes and insurance to be escrowed at closing to make sure you are ready to pay them when they are due.

Next, it is important to have a home inspection to make sure that you haven't missed any undisclosed or hidden defects in the home. If anything is found, the repair or compensation for the repair is reasonably negotiated between the buyer and seller.

Once you have completed the recipe, you are on to closing. Your attorney has searched the title for any title issues and received a land survey, The bank attorney, the seller’s attorney and your attorney will set the date for closing. You will attend the closing with your attorney, sign a mountain of documents and leave with the keys to your new home. Now this is a delicious way to start your new life as a homeowner.

John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo