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If you’re a first-time buyer, odds are you’ve never seen or heard much about mortgage applications. However, for something as important as buying a home, it pays off to go into the process knowing what to expect.

Mortgage applications aren’t all that complicated in and of themselves. Most of the time, your chosen lender will walk you through the process and answer any questions that arise. However, complications do arise when it comes time to provide documentation on things like your income.

To make things easier for your first application, I’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions that first-time buyers often have about their mortgage application process.

Will applying for a mortgage hurt my credit score?

Mortgage lenders will run a credit inquiry to help determine your lending eligibility. There are two types of credit inquiries: hard and soft. A soft inquiry is a quick credit check that doesn’t affect your credit score. A hard inquiry, on the other hand, does. This means your score will be lowered slightly for a few months and then will bounce back.

Mortgage lenders run both types of inquiries. For quick, pre-qualifications, lenders typically run a soft inquiry. Then, as you progress through the approval process, they’re run a detailed credit report (hard inquiry).

What information should I have available?

Lenders will ask you for various documents. The most common things they will ask for include proof of income in the form of  W-2 forms from the previous year and your most recent pay stub. They will also require a record of your other debts, including student loans, auto loans, credit card debt, and any other outstanding debt that you owe. Finally, they will ask for an inventory of your assets. This could include investments, properties, auto titles, and more.

What if I don’t work a conventional job?

People who are self-employed or have unconventional income can still qualify for a loan and will still be required to show proof of income. Lenders may ask for Form 1099 records, tax returns, or any other record or proof of income you have available.

How long does it take to complete an application?

Mortgage applications can be completed as quickly as you gather the required documentation. However, there’s more to getting approved for a mortgage than filling out an application. There will be time needed to process the application, and underwrite your mortgage. This entire process typically takes between 30 and 45 days.

Is it safe to apply for a mortgage online?

Most lenders allow you to start the application process online and their online portals are typically secure. Make sure you check your browser window to ensure that the connection to the site is secured, and you should have nothing to worry about.

Keep in mind that most online applications are designed to get you  prequalified and on your way to getting a mortgage. So, if you want to avoid getting calls from the lender, you might not want to enter any data until you know you’re interested in borrowing at this time.



Buying your first home is probably one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your life. But, it does come with its advantages. Among them are tax breaks and deductions that you can take advantage of to save money if you play your cards right.

In today’s post, I’m going to cover some of the tax breaks and deductions that first-time homeowners should seek out this tax season to help them lower their tax bill.

Mortgage points

While earning points is a good thing on the basketball court, it can be a financial drain on a mortgage. Mortgage points are what buyers pay to the lender to secure their loan. They’re usually given as percentage points of the total loan amount.

If you pay these points with your closing costs, then they are deductible. Taxpayers who itemize deductions on their IRS Form 1040 can typically deduct all of the points they paid in a year, with the exception of some high-income taxpayers whose itemized deductions are limited.

PMI costs

If you’re one of the many people who made a down payment of less than 20% on your home, odds are that you’re going to be stuck with PMI, or private mortgage insurance, until you pay off at least 20% of the loan balance.

The good news is that homebuyers who purchased their home in the year 2007 and after can deduct their PMI premiums. However, the state on premium insurance deductibles is something that frequently comes up in Congress, so homeowners should ensure that these deductions are still valid when filing their taxes.

Mortgage interest

Mortgage interest accounts for the biggest deduction for the average homeowner. When you receive your Form 1098 from your lender, you can deduct the total amount of interest you’ve paid during the year.

Property taxes

Another deductible that shouldn’t be overlooked by first-time buyers is local property taxes. Save the records for any property taxes you pay so that you can deduct them during tax season.

Home energy tax credits

Some states are offering generous tax credits for homeowners who make home improvements that save energy. There are a number of improvements you might qualify for, including things like insulation and roofs, as well as photovoltaic (PV) solar panels.

IRA Withdrawals

Many first-time buyers withdraw from an IRA account to be able to make a larger down payment on their home or to pay for closing costs. In most other cases, withdrawing from an IRA will count as taxable income. However, if your IRA withdrawal is used toward a down payment or closing costs, the tax penalty is waived.


Keep these tax breaks and deductions in mind this tax season to help you save money and get a larger refund.


An offer to purchase represents a key milestone in the homebuying journey. Ultimately, it helps to plan ahead to ensure you're ready to submit a homebuying proposal. Because if you know what it takes to put together a competitive offer to purchase a house, you can boost the likelihood that a home seller accepts your proposal.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you get ready to submit an offer to purchase.

1. Study the Housing Market

The housing market fluctuates frequently. As such, you may enter a real estate market that favors buyers but slowly shifts into sellers' favor, or vice-versa. But if you examine the real estate sector closely, you can differentiate a buyer's market from a seller's one and submit an offer to purchase that accounts for the current housing market's conditions.

If homes are selling quickly at or above their initial asking prices, you may be working in a seller's market. Comparatively, if houses linger on the real estate market for many weeks or months before they sell, you may be operating in a buyer's market. As you start to craft an offer to purchase a house, you should analyze the real estate market. By doing so, you can submit an offer to purchase that matches a seller's expectations.

2. Get Your Finances in Order

Entering the housing market with a budget in hand usually is beneficial. If you get pre-approved for a mortgage, you can narrow your house search and stick to a budget as you pursue your dream residence.

Banks and credit unions can teach you everything you need to know about fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages. Perhaps best of all, lenders employ mortgage specialists who can respond to your mortgage concerns and questions. If you collaborate with a lender today, you can get the financing you need to buy a house. Also, you can conduct a search for homes that fall within your price range and reduce the risk of submitting an offer to purchase that surpasses your budget.

3. Avoid a "Lowball" Offer

Submitting a "lowball" offer to purchase a home may seem like a good idea at first. Yet submitting a homebuying proposal that falls short of a seller's expectations is unlikely to help you acquire your dream house.

In most instances, a seller will instantly reject a lowball offer to purchase. And if you receive an immediate "No" from a seller, you risk missing out on the opportunity to purchase your ideal residence.

Allocate time and resources to craft a competitive homebuying proposal – you'll be glad you did. Otherwise, you run the risk of putting together a lowball offer that will miss the mark with a seller and force you to look elsewhere to purchase a house.

Lastly, if you need extra assistance as you perform a house search, you may want to hire a real estate agent. By employing a real estate agent, you should have no trouble crafting a competitive offer to purchase any home, regardless of the housing market's conditions.


Having a high credit score is one of the most important and helpful things you can achieve before buying a home. A solid credit history will give you a better chance of being approved for the home loan you want and getting a lower interest rate so that you know you’re getting a good deal on your first home.

But, as any renter can tell you, it can sometimes be difficult to lift your credit score when you’ve got so many other things to worry about.

In today’s post, I’m going to cover the best ways to build credit while renting an apartment so you can lift your score to an amount that will help you achieve your goal of homeownership.

1. Take over the bills

If you live with roommates or with your family, one good way to start building your credit score is to simply put more bills in your name.

If you’re certain that you’ll be able to make on-time payments on them each month, this can be a way to boost your score without much thought.

Keep in mind, however, that not all utility companies report your payments to credit bureaus, so it’s a good idea to check that yours does before putting the bills in your name.

2. Become an authorized user

If taking out new credit isn’t an option for you, becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit account can help you increase your score.

Be sure to find out whether the credit issuer reports payments for authorized users before taking this step. And, once you’re sure that they do, you can be added to the account without changing anything about your spending.

3. Convince your landlord to report your rental payments

In most cases, rental payments aren’t reported to the credit bureaus. However, it is becoming more common. Check to see if your landlord uses a service like PayYourRent or RentTrack. If not, consider asking them to try it out.

4. Solving the “no credit” problem

Since we all start off with a blank slate in terms of credit history, some renters have the issues of not having enough credit information to start building their score.

If this is the case, it might be a good idea to open your first credit account. But, wait! Before you start racking up debt on your first credit card, take a minute to make a wise plan.

First, don’t change your spending habits just because you have credit. Pick a card that offers rewards in the form of cash back, and only use your card for things like gas and groceries that will help you earn points.

Then, set your card to auto-pay in full each month so that you never start accruing interest. This way, you’ll build your credit score and earn money (in the form of rewards or cash back), making it a win-win.


A successful home search enables you to discover your dream residence at a budget-friendly price. However, conducting a successful house search may be difficult, particularly for individuals who fail to prepare for the homebuying journey. Lucky for you, there are many things you can do to prevent problems as you search for your ideal home.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you complete a successful home search.

1. Refine Your Homebuying Criteria

Think about where you want to reside. That way, you can focus on available houses in your preferred cities and towns – something that will allow you to speed up your quest to find your dream home.

Also, consider your homebuying must-haves. If you have always wanted to own a house with a spacious backyard, for instance, you can hone your home search accordingly. On the other hand, if you require a home that features multiple bedrooms, you can search for a residence that matches your expectations.

2. Establish a Homebuying Budget

A homebuying budget is crucial because it helps you understand exactly how much you can spend on a house. If you get pre-approved for a mortgage, you can start your house search with a budget in hand.

Meet with a variety of banks and credit unions. Then, you can find out how different types of mortgages work and select a mortgage that complements your finances.

In addition, ask questions about home financing. Banks and credit unions are happy to help you make an informed mortgage selection. If you analyze your home financing options closely, you can choose a mortgage that will serve you well both now and in the future.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent takes the guesswork out of a home search. In fact, he or she will go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure you can discover your ideal residence without delay.

Oftentimes, a real estate agent makes it easy for a homebuyer to find a terrific house at an affordable price. This housing market professional simplifies a home search and will keep you up to date about residences that match your property buying criteria. Plus, if you want to buy a home, a real estate agent will help you submit a competitive offer to purchase your ideal house any time you choose.

With a real estate agent at your side, you can streamline the home closing process as well. A real estate agent will help you finalize a house purchase and ensure you can move into your dream residence as soon as possible. Best of all, if you have any concerns leading up to a home closing, a real estate agent can respond to them right away.

As you get set to search for your dream home, you may want to start planning for the homebuying journey. Thanks to the aforementioned tips, you can prepare for the homebuying journey and boost the likelihood of quickly finding and acquiring your dream house.




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