Business & Finance

How To Become a First-Time Homebuyer in Washington State

Buying a home for the first time is an exciting, big step. It might also bring up a lot of questions. What do you do first? Where should you look? How should you get funding, and what types of home loans are best? Navigating the process might require a little research and guidance. After all, you’re not the first person who has bought a home for the first time, and there’s a lot of information out there about buying a home. In this article, we’ll offer a brief guide to becoming a first-time homebuyer in Washington State.

Why Buy a Home in Washington State?

There are many reasons first-time homebuyers might want to live in the Evergreen State. Washington regularly ranks toward the top of the table in many important quality-of-life metrics: in 2019, US News ranked Washington as the best state to live in in the whole country.

High average life expectancy, low unemployment, thriving industries, and of course the incredible beauty of the Pacific Northwest. From the mists of the Pacific coast to the beautiful Cascade mountains to the rolling plains of farm country in the east, Washington is an incredibly desirable place to live. Plus—no income tax.

It’s no wonder that people are looking to buy homes in Washington, whether they hail from other parts of the country or were raised in the state itself.

But the “why” people want to move to Washington isn’t in question. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve likely already made up your mind. Instead, let’s look at the process of how you can become a first-time homebuyer in Washington State.

Steps to Buying a Home in Washington State

We can divide the homebuying process into, broadly speaking, four individual steps. Obviously, this will be a tremendous simplification—it’s easier said than done.

The four steps are:

  1. Research where you want to live.
  2. Secure funding (such as pre-approval) for your home loan of choice.
  3. Shop around for a home you want to buy.
  4. Seal the deal.

Let’s focus on each of these steps individually.

1. Research Where You Want to Live

There are two parts to this step—or rather, two separate questions you need to answer. The first is, what part of the state do you want to live in?

If you’re moving to Washington, or within Washington, because you’ve been offered a job, then this part is easy. You should find a home within a reasonable commute to your new career. However, if you haven’t yet found a job, or if you’re fortunate enough to be able to work from home, this question becomes much more significant, especially since the eastern and western halves of Washington couldn’t be more different.

Do you care about hiking, the mountains, and easy access to the ocean? Then you’ll want to live in western Washington, nearer to the coast. Do you want sunny weather year-round? Eastern Washington has blue skies most of the year, in contrast with the western part of the state’s famous cloudy and drizzly climate. Do you want access to the excitement of city life, like live music and trendy food? You could consider living near Seattle or the Portland suburb of Vancouver—but don’t write Spokane off entirely.

Once you’ve decided where you want to live in general, you need to ask yourself what neighborhood you want to live in. Consider the following:

  • What’s your budget?
  • What are crime rates like?
  • How is public transportation or access to things like international airports?
  • If you have children, what sort of schools are nearby?
  • Is there any nearby nightlife or places to have a night out?

Obviously, more desirable locations will tend to be more expensive. Doing some research can help you find a place that meets both your needs and desires.

2. Secure Funding for Your Home Loan

There can be a lot of competition for houses on the market, so the last thing you want is to tell a prospective seller that they’ll need to wait for you to get your mortgage application approved.

For this reason, it’s best to seek pre-approval from a lending institution like a bank or credit union before you start shopping for homes. This way, you can start the closing process ASAP, which will give you a key leg up over any competition for the home you want.

Many Washington lending institutions, such as Solarity Credit Union, have programs designed for first-time homebuyers. Here are some of the most common types of loans you’ll encounter:

  • Fixed-rate mortgage. This is the most traditional type of mortgage, where your interest rate is the same for the length of the loan.
  • Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). These have an introduction period when your interest rate stays the same, but then it fluctuates based on a particular economic index. Since ARM intro rates are typically lower, if you’re looking to sell soon, these can be attractive.
  • USDA home loan. These loans, subsidized by the US Department of Agriculture, can be quite attractive due to lower interest rates. The key is that they’re intended to make it easier for people to buy homes in rural areas, so your location options are more limited.
  • VA loans. If you or your spouse served, you might be eligible for a loan backed by the Veterans Affairs bureau.
  • FHA first-time loans. The Federal Housing Administration offers loans to first-time homebuyers, even those with poor credit. Since there is a cap on the amount that can be borrowed, you may need to look for a smaller home. Still, for a first-time homebuyer, FHA-backed loans are a great bargain.

3. Find a Home You Want to Buy

Easier said than done, right? Still, with funding secured, this is the exciting part. There are tons of resources online to help you find homes, including apps like Zillow. You could also contact an experienced real estate agent.

Have a solid idea of what you want. How important is backyard space? How many bedrooms do you really need? What are you willing to compromise on or fix later (those cabinets are so dated in the kitchen)? You may not find your 100 percent ideal home, but there’s bound to be something out there that’s right for you.

4. Seal the Deal

When you’ve found the house you want in your price range, make an offer. With luck, it’ll be accepted. If not, get back on the horse and try again. Once you’ve found a deal that the seller accepts, close out with your lender, take possession, and move in. Now you’re a homeowner!

Of course, you don’t have to go on this journey alone. If you have any questions, your local lending institution will have experts that are ready to help you become a first-time homebuyer in Washington State.



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