First-Time Homebuyer

Articles and tips to help you on your journey to homeownership

Watch First-Time Homebuyer videos

Congratulations! Your search for a first home is over. Now a new journey begins ... you're about to be a homeowner. There's nothing like putting your own key into the lock of your very own front door.

Before you move to the closing table, it's time to consider some important steps on the last push to homeownership.

You'll work with a mortgage company to secure financing for your home. It's a good idea to begin the mortgage relationship before you actually start your home search so you can do smart shopping. Allen Tate Mortgage offers a variety of loan products and programs. Why look at houses you can't afford?

Now that you've found the house you want and your offer is accepted, you'll go back to your mortgage company and begin the process of closing. In this section, you'll find the information you need to understand the process and all the players - and what you'll need to do to prepare for the big day.

Your new home must be insured. If you don't already have an agent, you'll need to find one. Allen Tate Insurance represents the nation's top carriers, providing competitive pricing and coverage. In this section, you'll find the insurance basics you need to understand as a new homeowner.

Finally, your new home may need repairs - now or in the future. That's where Allen Tate Home Services comes in. Learn about our free service in this section.

Read, print, save, share. We hope these articles help you as you take your first steps toward homeownership.

You want a home of your own. One of the most important steps is to understand how to finance it. Here's what to expect as you move toward a place of your own.

Get approval first
It's disappointing to find a place you love and find out it's out of reach. That's why we strongly suggest that you get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before you start looking.

Pre-qualified vs. pre-approved
Pre-qualification is a quick process. A lender asks you for basic information (income, employment information, credit and liabilities) and tells you what price range you should be considering. Important: Pre-qualification does not mean you have been approved for a loan. If your loan is pre-qualified, when you find a house you want to buy, you'll still need to go through the loan approval process.

Pre-approval takes longer and is a more comprehensive process. But when your loan is pre-approved, you can move quickly. When you find a house you want, being pre-approved tells the seller you're serious - and it could give you an advantage in negotiation.

A lender doesn't commit to a loan until you've found a specific property. Once you've found the home you want to buy and your loan is approved, the lender will make a final decision.

Your credit matters
A good credit history and profile perhaps is the most important element in the lending process. Lenders look at your credit history, the type of credit you've used, the amount of debt you have and your payment history. What you've done in the past tells a lender what you are likely to do in the future.

Your credit score (a number between 350 and 800) has an impact on the loan terms you are offered. The higher you score, the lower your interest rate may be.

Start saving
Your next step is to create a budget and save for a down payment and other home-related expenses. Make a realistic budget that includes everything you spend money on, plus money set aside for home maintenance and emergencies.

Make an offer
When you find a house you want to buy, your Realtor will make an offer on your behalf. As soon as your offer is accepted, meet with your mortgage consultant. Allen Tate Mortgage works with a variety of lenders and programs to offer the most competitive interest rates and loan packages.

Want to buy a home but your credit's not quite there? Consider Allen Tate's Prepared Buyer Program. It's free!

We work with selected buyers with credit scores of at least 570. The program, which lasts from six to nine months, helps potential buyers improve their credit records and provides educational tools to help with budgeting and savings.

The Prepared Buyer Program offers participants a comprehensive, personalized program. It is not a counseling service or credit-repair program and it does require work on the part of the potential buyer.

Interested? Contact Allen Tate Mortgage for program details.

Personal and Employment Information

  • Two most recent pay stubs with year-to-date earnings
  • Two most recent years of W-2 forms for all sources of income
  • Two years of personal tax returns - all pages
  • Two years of business tax returns (If self employed) - all pages
  • Social Security and pension award letters (If applicable)
  • Rental property information - personal tax returns (Schedule of Real Estate Owned). If the rental property was not listed on the most recent tax return, a copy of the lease agreement, and evidence of receipt of earnest money is required.
  • Divorce or separation information - copy of divorce decree or separation agreement with any amendments.
  • If you are using alimony/child support as a source of income, receipt of child support must be documented with a minimum of 3 months. Up to 12 months may be required. Alimony, child support or separate maintenance need not be disclosed unless you want the income to be considered as part of the application.
  • Copy of current (not expired) driver's license from each borrower.

Assets and Property Information

  • Two most recent months' bank statements on all open checking and savings accounts, all pages. If you are providing an online printout, please make sure the bank URL and customer name are included.
  • Two months, or most recent quarterly statements, on other assets, including IRAs, CDs, stocks and bonds.
  • Gift letter with proof of donor ability and evidence of receipt of gift funds (If applicable)
  • If you are selling a home, copy of the sales agreement or HUD-1 Settlement Statement. (If applicable)
  • If you have rental property, or are retaining a property, please provide written verification of the amount of taxes, insurance and/or HOA dues. (If applicable)

Credit and Liability Information

  • Name, address and account numbers of creditors with balance and monthly payments
  • Written credit explanation of any current or previous credit problems (If applicable)
  • Written explanation of any inquires on credit report. Statement, copy of note, or
  • Account number for any newly opened accounts must be provided.
  • Information on any co-signed obligations.
  • If paying alimony or child support, provide a copy of the divorce decree or separation agreement with amendments to verify debt obligations (If applicable).
  • Bankruptcy discharge and schedule of debts (If applicable).

Property Information

  • Sales contract with all signatures and addendums
  • Copy of earnest money check
  • Name of condominium project and HOA contact information (Additional information may be required on condominiums)


When you get a mortgage for your new home, your lender will require that you get homeowners insurance. Here's something important for you to remember:

Your lender is telling you the minimum amount of insurance you must carry, not advising you on the best coverage. Your insurance agent will provide that guidance.

A policy will cover you in one of two ways: Actual cash value or replacement cost.

Actual cash value: Also known as fair market value. Means that items are replaced at their cost minus depreciation.

Replacement cost: Means you will be able to replace items at today's prices.

Most standard policies are written with Actual Cash Value. If you want Replacement Cost coverage, talk to your agent. It will cost more, but may be well worth it.

Some items in your home are not covered by your policy. Be sure to talk to your agent about any collectibles or jewelry you have.

Every homeowner has different insurance needs. And those needs are ever-changing. Your home's value will change over time. So will the contents of your home. That's why it's important, as a homeowner, to check in with your insurance agent about once a year to make sure you are fully covered.

Allen Tate Insurance is an independent company that works with the nation's top carriers and offers competitive prices and coverage.

You don't want to find out that your coverage is lacking when it's time to file a claim.

When you're renting a home, insurance is a choice. When you're buying, it's a requirement.

Everyone's insurance needs are different. Your home may be an exact copy of your neighbor's on the outside, but the contents of your home are uniquely yours. No one knows exactly what's in your home but you.

But if disaster struck and your home was damaged or destroyed, could you list the total contents of every room? If you're like most people, you couldn't.

In case of a catastrophe, it's important to know exactly what you have and how much you paid for it.

BEFORE you move is a great time to start your home inventory. Getting your home contents organized will help you in two ways:

You'll realize what you have and what you want (and don't want) to move to your new place.

You'll be prepared when you meet with your insurance agent to go over the coverage you'll need for your new home.

Here are some tips for taking a home inventory:

  • Decide how you want to organize your inventory. Some people do it by room (living room, kitchen, bedroom, etc.), some group it by category (electronics, silver, etc.). Think about what makes sense to you, but keep in mind that you might move an item from one room to another, so putting items together by type might be a better way to go.
  • Take pictures of each item. Or use a video recorder.
  • Write down serial numbers.
  • Keep receipts whenever you can.
  • Use one of the free online sources for inventory sheets. You'll find helpful downloads at
  • Keep copies of your inventory sheets, receipts, photos and/or tapes in a safe location away from your home.
  • Update your inventory list when you make major purchases, or at least once a year.

Home maintenance is an ongoing project. But sometimes you'll need to repair something. And some day, you may want to make some changes and do some home remodeling.

As a proud new homeowner, you may want to tackle some of those around-the-house projects yourself. If you don't want to, you'll have to hire someone. And finding the right person or company can be quite a job on its own.

That's why we created Allen Tate Home Services. We're a trusted resource for finding the right service professional to handle your home maintenance, repair and remodeling. And our service is absolutely free!

Our website has a searchable, comprehensive list of screened professionals to handle most any job you have. To be added to our list, a provider must have been in business at least three years. They must pass a screening that includes background checks, reference checks and business license verification. Each provider on our list must maintain at least $1 million in general liability insurance and workers compensation coverage.

And to stay on our list, each provider must keep at least a 95 percent satisfaction rate.

You can trust Allen Tate Home Services to find the right professional for every job, from heating, electrical, air, landscaping, painting, plumbing and general handyman work and more. At, you will find everything you need to keep your house in top condition.