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February 22, 2024

The Ultimate Guide for First-Time Home Buyers in Florida

The Ultimate Guide for First-Time Home Buyers in Florida offers a comprehensive overview of the home buying process tailored specifically for Florida residents. Covering everything from defining first-time buyers to the steps involved in purchasing a home, the guide delves into financial considerations, mortgage options, market insights, and practical advice for navigating the real estate landscape. From understanding your finances to closing the deal, each step is outlined with clarity and detail to empower prospective buyers in their journey towards homeownership in the Sunshine State.

This blog is for educational purposes only, not an offer of credit or advertisement for current loan terms. It does not provide legal advice. Refer to our loan web pages or consult professional advisors for specific information.

It’s a great time to be a first-time home buyer in Florida.

First-time home buyers have many resources available to them in today’s market to help make the process as smooth and efficient as possible.

Let’s take a look at who is defined as a first-time home buyer and the steps involved in purchasing a home in Florida.

Start your application with MIDFLORIDA Credit Union.

Who is a first-time home buyer?

People often assume a first-time home buyer is a young person or couple who is purchasing a home for the first time.

But first-time home buyers include anyone who has not owned a home in the past three years. First-time home buyers can be of any age and have any level of home-buying experience.

However, the housing market is always changing and evolving. What was “normal” for first-time buyers five years ago isn’t necessarily what is true today.

What are the steps involved in buying a home in today’s market?

The specific timeline of events can vary based on local practices, state laws and individual circumstances, but here are nine general steps involved in a home purchase for first-time buyers in Florida.

1. Understand your finances

First, first-time buyers must evaluate their financial situation and pinpoint areas that need improvement.

This step should take place early on in the home-buying process so you have time to make improvements before applying for a mortgage.

It doesn’t hurt to reach out to a mortgage specialist at this point in the process to get an idea of your options.

Understanding your finances includes the following:

  • Credit score: Get free copies of your credit reports from to evaluate your information and ensure it is accurate.
  • Debt-to-income ratio (DTI): Used by lenders to determine your ability to repay your loan; equals all your monthly debts divided by your gross monthly income.
  • Down payment: Determine how much you can comfortably afford to put down on your home.
  • Savings: You’ll need to have enough cash available to cover your closing costs and fees, and additional funds for expenses, repairs or emergencies.

Credit score, DTI and down payment requirements vary by loan type and lender.

Some first-time home buyer programs allow as little as 3 percent down, a credit score of at least 620 and a DTI of 43% or less.

A mortgage with less than 20% down will require Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), which could mean a higher monthly payment.

It’s best to get your credit score as high as possible and your DTI as low as possible before purchasing a home so you can access the most favorable interest rates and terms.

2. Know your mortgage options

The most common type of mortgage is a conventional loan. Conforming conventional loans must meet specific criteria, including loan limits, down payment requirements and borrower creditworthiness.

Conventional loans typically offer loan terms ranging from 15 to 30 years, with fixed or adjustable rates.

They are flexible in terms of property type and usage, making them suitable for various housing scenarios.

3. Get to know the Florida market

  • Use real estate websites and online platforms to explore current listings, property prices and trends in different neighborhoods across Florida.
  • Connect with local real estate agents who can provide insights into neighborhoods, market conditions and future developments.
  • Research and attend open houses in different areas of Florida to understand the unique characteristics of each location, such as climate, job opportunities and lifestyle.
  • Consider also connecting with residents on social media to hear about their experiences.

4. Find a mortgage lender

Next, it’s time to officially connect with a mortgage specialist who serves the locations you are exploring and start the application process.

MIDFLORIDA will provide you with personalized loan options based on the information you provide. This information can help guide your home search.

5. Get pre-qualified

Pre-qualification is a preliminary application to find out from the lender how much you’re likely to be approved for on a mortgage.

This isn’t an official mortgage application but will require some basic information about your financial situation so that the lender can get a clear picture of what you may be able to borrow.

With a pre-qualification in hand, you’ll be able to confidently search for a home within your pre-qualified budget.

6. Shop for a home

Using all of the information you have gathered up until this point, you can confidently search for a home in the area of your choosing—with a complete understanding of what you can comfortably afford.

7. Make an offer

Your real estate agent and attorney will help you create an offer that stands out from the competition, complete with an offer price and any contingencies. An agent will also help you negotiate if the seller rejects or counters your offer.

Your pre-qualification will help to let sellers know that you’re serious about buying and have the financing to back it up.

8. Get an inspection

After your offer is accepted, it’s time to hire an inspector to evaluate the home for any potential issues, including structural problems, termites, electrical issues or plumbing concerns. You may also need a surveyor, title insurance agent, a qualified real estate attorney and other professionals.  Your real estate agent can help you arrange these professionals.

9. Officially apply for your mortgage

You should apply for your mortgage as soon as your offer is accepted. The lender will verify your financial information, creditworthiness and the property’s appraised value.

10. Closing time!

Once the inspections are complete, negotiations are settled and the mortgage is approved, you move forward to the closing stage.

On closing day, you’ll sign the necessary paperwork and ownership of the property will be transferred to you.

Can you buy a house in Florida without a down payment?

It is possible to buy a house in Florida with zero down using certain programs or loan options.

Florida has first-time home buyer programs including down payment assistance and help with closing costs.

Ask your lender about these programs for more information.

Start the mortgage process with MIDFLORIDA Credit Union

MIDFLORIDA’s mortgage specialists are ready to help you navigate your full range of loan options as a first-time home buyer in Florida.

Start your application with MIDFLORIDA Credit Union to get on the road to homeownership.

We will be by your side throughout the loan process to ensure you understand what is expected of you and what you need to do to secure the best rate and terms for your unique scenario.

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