Millennials continue to make up the biggest share of homebuyers, at 43%, according to a 2022 National Association of Realtors® report.
And Gen Y is the most educated group of buyers, so if you’re a millennial, you’re smart; you already know a few things about home buying.
But if you’re part of the generation of people born between 1981 and 1996, you may still have questions. Here are eight tips to buy a house.
Smart Homebuying Tips for Millennials
1. Pay Down Debt First
The average millennial had about $28,300 in nonmortgage debt in 2021, according to Experian’s latest State of Credit Report. The average balance on retail credit cards was over $1,800.
Gen Y’s credit utilization rate — the percentage of available credit you’re using on your revolving credit accounts — was 30.2% on average. That’s the top end that’s generally advised, but lower is considered better.
As many millennials know, savvy credit card users maximize the rewards they earn or take advantage of interest-free offers. But carrying a revolving credit card balance can add up.
Clearing out at least some debts may be a great place to start on a millennial homeownership journey. You’ll likely need to take out a mortgage to purchase a new house, which will account for an even larger portion of personal debt.
There are several strategies to pay off debt, including the snowball and avalanche methods.
Those methods are part of six ways to become debt free.
Recommended: How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?
2. Start Saving for a Down Payment
After whittling down at least some debt, it’s time to think about how to afford a down payment.
Though a 20% down payment may allow you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance on a conventional (nongovernment) loan and get a better rate, borrowers often are able to put down as little as 3%.
The down payment on a house can be as low as 3.5% for an FHA loan if you have a FICO® score of at least 580 (but mortgage insurance always comes along for the ride with an FHA loan and will not drop off unless you’re putting at least 10% down).
USDA and VA loans usually do not require any down payment, but the eligibility for those loans is pretty narrow.
Many lenders give first-time homebuyers a break, and income-qualifying first-time buyers may be able to get down payment assistance from state or city programs.
Younger millennials use a gift or loan from friends and family to help fund the purchase more than any other generation, the National Association of Realtors has found. A gift will need to be documented in a gift letter for the mortgage.
Recommended: 31 Ways to Save for a House
First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.
3. Determine Your Must-Haves
Here’s one of the most fun parts about purchasing a home: plotting a dream space.
Before starting your home search, it’s helpful to take some time and think about what you really want. Do you want an open-concept home, or need a minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms?
Are you considering a condo or townhouse? The maintenance will be minimized, but regular fees are usually part of the deal.
Or is your heart set on buying a single-family home? You’ll usually be responsible for maintaining everything from the roof to the yard (hope you don’t mind mowing, blowing, and edging or paying to have that done).
Maybe you’re open to a frumpy house because you know you can easily upgrade your home with a smart front door, outdoor lighting, paint, and more.
Or maybe new construction — everything shiny and new — is calling your name.
To narrow the search, think about everything on your must-have vs. like-to-have list.
Recommended: How Do Home Improvement Loans Work?
4. Find a Real Estate Agent
Though you don’t have to use a real estate agent to purchase a home, a buyer’s agent can be your guide from the first viewing to the closing.
Real estate agents have access to a multiple listing service (MLS), which allows them to sift through every home in your area at once. They may also have pocket listings, or whisper listings, few others know about.
A real estate agent is also well versed in what needs to take place before a buyer can take ownership of a home, including making an offer, scheduling a home inspection, and obtaining homeowners insurance.
They know how to handle counteroffers, contingencies, and putting an offer on a house that’s contingent.
They may also have a list of trusted inspectors, lawyers, contractors, and insurance agents a buyer may need along the way.
Recommended: Guide to Buying, Selling, and Updating Your Home
5. Set Up Real Estate Alerts
Millennials are digital natives, so this part is cake.
Once your list of must-haves is complete and you’ve picked a real estate agent to assist you, it could be a good idea to set up alerts across listing sites such as the MLS, Zillow, and Redfin. You’ll be notified whenever a home in your chosen area, price range, and desires comes onto the market.
These websites also typically allow users to save favorites and gather intel on a specific home, such as its tax and sales history. They also allow users to book viewing appointments.
6. Think About Long-Term Value
While viewing homes, it may be easy to fall in love with fresh subway tiles, staged furniture, and the simple shine of a brand-new spot. However, it helps to take a beat and a breath and think about the long-term value of the home.
Are you buying this home as a spot to raise a family? Then make sure the schools are a good fit and it’s a walkable neighborhood. Looking at purchasing a home to rent out short term? Check local laws to ensure you’re zoned properly.
Are you buying a house from a family member? A gift of equity is a lovely thing for a buyer indeed.
Recommended: Local Housing Market Trends by City
7. Consider a ‘Love Letter’ and Incentives
Once you’ve found a home in your price range that comes with all your must-haves, it’s time to put in an offer. There is something you can add to your offer to stand out from the crowd: a personal real estate offer letter, or so-called love letter.
If you choose this route, write a letter to the current homeowner expressing how much you love the space and why you feel you’d make the next great owner. You may also want to point out all the things you love about the home design.
To make your offer stand out, you could also provide a quick closing date, suggest paying for things like a termite inspection, and offer a leaseback to the owners until they are ready to move out.
8. Shop for a Mortgage
With any luck, you’ve gotten prequalified or preapproved and know how much of a mortgage you can afford.
Now it’s time to look for a home loan.
When shopping for a mortgage, realize that advertised rates may differ from what you’re offered. Multiple factors determine your rate.
You can apply for a mortgage online with any number of direct lenders and mortgage brokers. Just try to do so within 14 days to protect your credit score.
Then you can compare all the details of the mortgage offers in the loan estimates you’ll receive after applying with each.
As multitudes of millennials suit up to take the homebuying plunge, they will benefit by getting their finances in order, hiring an agent, setting up real estate alerts, and shopping for a mortgage.
SoFi is there for Gen Y with competitive rates, a variety of terms, and low down payments.
Look into the advantages of SoFi mortgage loans and get a quick rate quote.
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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