How To Buy a House In 2021

Contributing Author: Travis Carter : Loan Options

Purchasing your first home is one of the biggest financial decisions you can ever make. Offering the gift of stability to your family while carrying the burden of financial responsibility can keep many people up at night. Making the right choice the first time is critically important. Reading this article will show you how to buy a house and the next steps to take.
With this guide you can expect to know which loan program to choose, how much money to put down. and how to prepare you r credit report and finances.  The first step to building wealth is homeownership.

Why Buy a Home, How to Buy a House

Purchasing your first home is the first step to building wealth. Most young families see a home like an expensive car purchase without ever considering the power of real estate in their overall financial goals.

When you rent a home, you pay a set monthly rental fee to the landlord and at the end of the agreed on lease, you can either move, or renew the lease at the agreed upon rents. The problem with paying rent is that it changes! As the economy around you changes and the value of the dollar rises and falls. The amount of rent needed to pay for your housing is likely to increase year over year. In addition, you are not building equity in anything. You are simply paying your landlord every month  for the right to use his home. Granted, there are some protections that come along with signing a lease. You can’t be thrown out on the street without notice, for instance. On the flip side, you are not building equity either.

When you purchase a home your payment is fixed. You lock in to a payment for 15, 20, or 30 years. As the economy changes around you (Inflation, appreciation, etc..) your payment will remain the same.

Typically as the cost of goods and services increases so does income. These are the basics of economic growth. From that information you can conclude that if the cost of rent increases so should your annual income. When you purchase a home, the economy will likely still increase your income but your monthly payment will always remain the same meaning more monthly disposable income. These are the basics of building wealth with real estate. 

So how do you buy a house? Keep reading and you will not only know how to buy a house but why you should buy a house.

Average Household Income Over Time

Historic Average Household Income Chart
Average Household Income Over Time

You Build Equity!

In addition to saving money every month as the cost of living increases around you, you will also build wealth through equity. Every month you will be paying down your mortgage as your home’s value increases simultaneously. Equity is the difference between the home’s fair market value and the outstanding balance of all loans on the property. When you sell your home you convert equity into cash. 

Home value’s increase over time. This is called appreciation. The free market determines the value of a home and thus there is no way to know exactly how much your home will increase in value over time but the chart below should help you understand the relationships between rent, income, and home values. Excited yet?

Rent vs Home Prices Over Time

Rent vs Home Prices Over Time

How To Buy a House Understanding The 4 C's

So we talked about the why, now lets get into the how you buy a house.

The four C’s is a common term for experience mortgage professionals. The C’s are Cash, Credit, Collateral, and Capacity (Income).

1. Cash

The money you have available will play a big role on what loan programs you qualify for. If you do not have any money in savings, you will need  utilize a no money down home loan like USDA or VA. 

USDA loans are offered to home buyers trying to purchase a home in a rural area. They provide funding to home buyers with no money down and closing costs can even be financed. If you live in a rural area and do not have any money saved, USDA might be the right home loan program for you. 

VA loans are home loans backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. These loans are offered to our armed services veterans and are one of the best home loan programs available today. VA does not require a down payment, closing costs can be financed, and VA has restrictions on what fees. a Veteran can be charged. If you are a Veteran and want to obtain the best possible home loan program, a VA Home Loan might be the right loan for you. 


If you have built up a savings account over time and would like to purchase a home you are likely in a better position than most home buyers. Mortgage Lenders and Banks like to see savings as it shows the ability to manage money responsibly and that you do have extra income left over for other payments.

Conventional loans are a great options for home buyers with a large down payment saved up. Conventional loans offer the lowest monthly payments and the best interest rates but do require more money down that USDA, VA, or FHA Home loans. 

If you have built up a savings account and want to pay off your home as quickly as possible, a Conventional Loan may be the right home loan for you. 

Although having a savings account can help you purchase a home keep in mind it is not always required. First time home buyer programs were created for buyers without a great deal of money available. 

The Down Payment

Now that you know how much you need to put down, lets talk about how much you should put down. If you want to know how to buy a house you will need to know if you need a down payment. 

The reality in home lending is that the interest rates offered are some of the lowest interest rates available in any market. With such cheap money available, sometimes a down payment isn’t the best option.  Lets assume you have $100,000 in stocks and bonds and this is paying you a rate of return (on average) of 5.25%. That is $525 annually that will compound over time to build more wealth and result in higher returns year over year.  If the interest rate on your new mortgage will be 4.5% , it probably isn’t the wisest choice to sell your investments to make a down payment. You would be giving up 5.25% annually in compound returns in order to negate an interest rate of 4.5%. Although this calculation can be complicated, we recommend talking to a financial planner for more details or consulting your mortgage professional. 

There is always more to home purchase than the monthly mortgage payment and interest rate. Planning to incorporate the real estate as a tool to use in your overall financial plan is the most important aspect of purchasing a home. 

Make sure to read: How to Avoid Paying Closing Costs


2. Credit

Your current credit profile will help determine if you currently qualify for a mortgage and which home loan program suits your credit profile best. 

Conventional home loans require a better credit score to receive the best available interest rates and terms.Typically you would need a credit score above 680 for a Conventional home loan, however, many Government backed home loans will finance a home with a credit score as low as 580. If your credit socre is below 580, don’t worry. We have credit consultants on staff to help you raise your credit score and help get you prepared to purchase a home. 

One overlooked factor in calculating your credit score is the balance vs high limit ratio on your credit cards. We have worked with many home buyers that have raised their credit scores over 100 points by simply paying down their credit card balances. 

If you have collections on your credit report, you will need to take other factors into consideration. Government home loans such as FHA, VA, and USDA do not take into account medical collections. If you have cash available and want to improve your credit score, do not focus on the medical collections. It is always best to pay off bad debt such ass credit card collections, loans, and utility bills first. If you have total non medical collections above $2,000 you might be asked to pay off some of the colllections to qualify for a home loan. 

To complete a full credit checkup with one of our representatives. give us a call at (518) 324-5544.

Keep Reading Below

About Me

Contributing Author

Travis Carter PLattsburgh Mortgage

Travis Carter –  Bank of England 

I have been in the mortgage business for over 18 years. Since joining my first mortgage company in 2000, I have focused on providing a better mortgage experience. I have managed and trained 30+ mortgage professionals since starting my career. I specialize in first time homebuyer loans including FHA, VA, USDA, and Conventional financing. My goal is to never stop learning and test new financial strategies so I can pass this knowledge on to my clients.

If you have questions or would like to apply for a first time homebuyer loan, I can be reached at travis@plattsburghmortgage.com 

3. Collateral

In addition to the cash and credit you have available, you will also need to consider what type of home you plan to purchase. 

Government home loans like FHA, USDA, and VA have minimum property requirements that need to be met in order to purchase the home. 

Some of the requirements are minor while others will require more work if the property needs repair now. All utilities must be on and working. In most cases this means buying a foreclosure is not possible using a government backed home loan. Banks typically winterize a home before selling a home in foreclosure. Handrails are another common issue with government home loans. Any stairs or steps typically need some kind of handrail for safety. 

An experienced real estate agent or mortgage professional should be able to look at the property and advise what repairs (If any) would be needed to qualify for Government backed financing. 

Multifamily Housing

Some loan programs allow you to purchase up to a four unit property with little to no money down. Buying a multifamily home is a great way to let someone else pay your mortgage

FHA Home Loans allow a first time home buyer to purchase up to a 4 unit property with only 3.5% down. In addition, closing costs can be financed by utilizing seller concessions. If you wanted to purchase a $250,000 4 unit property you might only need $8,750 to close the purchase. 

VA allows 100% financing on up to 4 units. VA is considered the best available loan program today. If you are looking to invest in a multifamily apartment building and put no money down, VA might be the right loan program for you. 

Manufactured Homes

Manufactured homes are more difficult to finance in 2019. We offer all of the same loan programs for manufactured housing as we do for stick built (Standard construction.). 

The Appraisal

The appraisal is a report completed by a licensed appraiser to determine the market value of a property. The appraisal is required on every home loan and will be ordered by your financial institution. Typically, the appraised value of the home must support the agreed on purchase price. Although the loan process can be derailed by a property that does not appraise correctly, typically, the slaes prices is renegotiated when the apraised value comes in less than the sales price. 

Learn More About the Appraisal Process


4. Capacity (Income)

A borrowers capacity is the amount of home you can afford. Capacity is determined by analyzing your monthly income and calculating your debt ration. Typically, all monthly debt payments including your new house payment cannot exceed 50% Of your total monthly income. 

To document your income you will need to provide your paystubs, tax returns, and W2 forms. If you receive monthly benefits you will need to provide copies of your award letters or other proofs of your monthly income. 

Timeline to Buy a House

So now you know your loan program options but you will also need to contend with closing costs. In some areas closing costs can exceed 5% of the property sales price. This means that a $100,000 home purchase could have closing costs as high as $5000. Title insurance, homeowners insurance, attorneys, appraisals, and the state transfer taxes are just some of the fees you will be charged.  Fortunately closing costs can be covered by seller concessions (Seller paid closing costs).

Seller Concessions

Seller concessions are concessions built into the sales contract so that the seller pays for your closing costs. USDA, VA, ad FHA all allow for up to 6% seller concessions If you are buying a $100,000 but the home has a value of $106,000, you are able to write the sales contract for $106,000 with the seller giving you back $6,000 to pay for closing costs.  If the seller wants $100,000 for the home, offering $106,000 with $6000 in seller concessions should not turn off the seller too much. 
It is very important to discuss your need for seller concessions with your bank and real estate agent to make sure the contract is written properly. In the vent seller concessions are not included in the contract, you will need to pay for your closing costs out of pocket. Although no closing cost loans are an option, the interest rate tends to be higher making the home less affordable. 
Utilizing FHA, USDA, or VA for your home financing in conjunction with seller concessions will allow you to truly purchase a home with no money down. All too often a lender will not explain the closing costs and not prepare the client properly. 100% financing does not always mean “No Money Down” if you have not negotiated seller concession.  Make sure to look at more than one loan option also. Ask your lender to provide loan comparisons so you can decide which loan product is the most affordable for you.  
Give us a call at (518) 324-5544 if you have any comments or questions about this article. Happy house hunting! 

PlattsburghMortgage.com strives to make homeownership easy through educational resources. Our mission is to provide financial education to help grow the economies of Upstate New York and spread the dream of homeownership. 



PlattsburghMortgage.com has tried to provide accurate and timely information; however, the content of this site and Home Loan Programs offered may not be accurate, complete or current and may include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. From time to time changes may be made to the content of this site without notice. PlattsburghMortgage.com may change the products, services, and any other information described on this site at any time. The information published on this site is provided as a convenience to visitors and is for informational purposes only. The Plattsburgh Mortgage Center is an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service only.  Plattsburghmortgage.com does not lend money or approve mortgage applications and does not include all companies or all available products.  You should verify all information before relying on it and decisions based on information contained in our site are your sole responsibility. Any contact information provided is for accommodation requests only.