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January 26, 2024

Navigating the Florida Housing Market: Tips for First-Time Buyers

Discover six essential tips for first-time homebuyers in Florida in this educational blog. From starting your mortgage application with MIDFLORIDA Credit Union to understanding preferences, creating a budget, finding the right agent, exploring the local market, choosing a mortgage lender, and emphasizing the importance of inspections, this guide ensures a smooth path to homeownership. Whether dreaming of beachfront properties or cozy neighborhoods, these strategic steps empower first-time buyers for confident decision-making.

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.

The journey into homeownership can be both thrilling and challenging, especially for first-time buyers. Fortunately, there are several strategies to transform this experience into an exciting adventure rather than a stressful ordeal. Whether you're a long-time Florida resident or considering a move to the Sunshine State, here are six essential tips for first-time homebuyers in Florida to ensure a smooth process.

Start your application with MIDFLORIDA Credit Union.

Kickstart your homebuying journey by initiating the application process with MIDFLORIDA Credit Union. Their experienced mortgage specialists will guide you through the financing options, providing a solid foundation for your homeownership goals.

1. Know what you want in a home

A home purchase is a commitment. Before you take the plunge, it’s important to understand why you want to purchase a home and what you want in a home. Taking the time to examine these aspects of homeownership will make it easier to budget, find the right location and ultimately find the right property.

Consider the following aspects of homeownership to help you define your preferences and priorities:

  • Location: Weigh factors such as proximity to work, schools, recreational activities, public transportation and entertainment.
  • Type of home: Single-family, condo or townhome? Decide on the type of home that best suits your lifestyle.
  • Size and layout: Determine the size of the home and layout that meets your needs, including the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and the flow of the space.
  • Amenities: Do you want a pool? A fenced-in yard? Space for an in-home office? Identify the amenities that are important to you and determine what you can compromise on and what is non-negotiable.
  • Property condition: Does it need to be move-in ready, or are you okay with some renovations? Factor in your willingness and ability to take on home improvement projects.
  • Community: Visit various Florida communities to determine which suits the type of atmosphere you prefer, such as family-friendly, retirement or young professional.

In competitive markets, compromise may be necessary in some aspects. That’s why first-time buyers need to understand what is non-negotiable. This may change over time as you visit more homes and communities, but having a solid starting point is helpful.

2. Know what you can afford

Once you understand what you’re looking for in a home, start creating a budget. To begin, calculate your monthly income, debts and regular expenses. Use a mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly payments and determine what you can comfortably afford.

You also must plan for a down payment, closing costs and additional fees such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, and homeowners association fees. Additionally, get familiar with your credit score. If it’s too low, work to improve it by making all your monthly debt payments on time and reducing the amounts you owe.

How much money should I save before buying a house in Florida?

First-time buyers often wonder exactly how much money they should save before purchasing a home, but this depends on multiple factors such as the home price and your down payment amount.

Here are some additional tips for first-time home buyers in Florida:

  • A 20% down payment eliminates the need to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), but many Florida lenders allow first-time buyers to put down as little as 3 percent.
  • Closing costs generally range from 3-6 percent of the purchase price.
  • Create an emergency fund for unexpected repairs or home expenses, and make sure you have enough savings to cover any moving costs.

Estimating your monthly mortgage payments, down payment and closing costs should give you a good idea of how much you need to save for your home purchase.

3. Find the right real estate agent

Your real estate agent will help you find the right properties based on your preferences, budget and other criteria. This includes conducting searches, attending open houses and scheduling property viewings. They also will negotiate on your behalf to secure the best possible deal.

To find the best agent, ask friends and family for recommendations, conduct local searches and check their credentials and experience. Choose an agent you feel comfortable with and one with strong communication skills.

4. Get to know the Florida market

Your real estate agent can help you with this tip, but first-time buyers in Florida should get to know the areas they are searching for a home. This includes looking at home prices, inventory levels and average time on the market. It also involves researching the particular climate you are seeking, the weather and the lifestyle.

Florida has everything from stunning beachfront properties to cozy neighborhoods and close-knit communities. Attend open houses in multiple communities to see what life is like in each particular area.

What do I need to know before buying a house in Florida?

Every state has its unique considerations. Florida buyers should keep in mind the hurricane and flood risks during the home search, including insurance costs and considerations for waterfront properties. Your real estate agent can help you navigate Florida’s unique characteristics.

5. Find the right mortgage lender — and get pre-approved

Your mortgage lender will help you choose the best loan to meet your homeownership goals—a decision that can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. Choose a lender who is experienced with first-time home buyers in Florida and is knowledgeable about the location in which you want to purchase.

Take your first steps in the process with your lender by getting pre-approved for a loan. Loan pre-approval unlocks your personalized loan options—including your loan amount. You’ll also receive a pre-approval letter that can be used to strengthen your purchase offer.

6. Don’t skip on an inspection

Home inspections can uncover hidden or potential issues with the property that may not be apparent during a casual viewing, including problems with the foundation, roof, plumbing or electrical systems. If the inspection reveals significant issues, you can decide whether to proceed with the purchase, renegotiate the terms or, in some cases, walk away from the deal.

Start the home-buying process with MIDFLORIDA Credit Union

At MIDFLORIDA, we want to know your story and help you meet your homeownership goals. Our experienced, friendly mortgage specialists will work with you personally to ensure you end up with a mortgage that best fits your unique lifestyle. Start your application with MIDFLORIDA now to take advantage of our flexible financing solutions and great rates.