7 clever ways to cut the costs of buying your first home

Published: Wednesday, November 01, 2017 @ 9:32 AM

Here are seven tips to lower the cost of your first home Work on your credit score way ahead of time Crowdsource your down payment See if Uncle Sam will help Find a housing counselor Pick a real estate agent based on where you want to live Choose a home where you could stay five to seven years Don't get distracted

Being a first-time home buyer makes you a newbie, but it doesn't necessarily mean you have to be naive about purchasing a home. 

RELATED: House hunters, here are 5 secrets to getting the best home loan

While you might not be the “Property Brothers” your first time out, you can still have some clever tools and tips to reduce those costs.

Here are seven tips to lower the cost of your first home:

Work on your credit score way ahead of time. 

Reducing your mortgage interest rate by even a fraction of a percent point can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

One key factor: your credit score. According to Kiplinger, a score of 740 or higher will set you up to obtain the best interest rates. Check your credit report months - or even years - before you're sold on the idea of buying your first home, giving yourself plenty of time to boost your score. "What you don't want is to have to address a bunch of mistakes on your credit report while actively looking for a home and trying to get approved for a mortgage loan," HSH.com vice president Keith Gumbinger told Kiplinger.

To see just how much impact this step could have, enter information on your current and target credit scores into the CFPB's explore interest rates tool.

Crowdsource your down payment. 

If you're comfortable accepting money from friends and contacts, House Logic suggests crowdsourcing to accelerate financing your down payment. Sites like Feather the Nest can walk you through the process.

See if Uncle Sam will help. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, offers a number of home ownership programs for those who meet specific income or location requirements. You may qualify for assistance with down payment and closing costs, for example.

HUD also offers deep discounts for people in professions like law enforcement or firefighters when they buy in "revitalization areas." The Veterans Administration can guarantee part of a home loan, help veterans secure a competitive interest rate or waive down payment and private mortgage insurance requirements.

The city of Dayton is facing questions about its handling of money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. FILE(Staff Writer)

Find a housing counselor. 

HUD-approved housing counselor can give first-time home buyers entirely independent advice on whether a particular set of mortgage loan terms is a good fit.

Pick a real estate agent based on where you want to live. 

A neighborhood expert can often find you the best house at the best price in a way your friend who's a realtor or the agent who lives where you do now can't. "You want people who have worked and have experience directly in the areas you're looking in," Mia Simon, a Redfin agent in Palo Alto, California, told U.S. News and World Report. When you're a first time buyer, never hesitate to use real estate agents, since it costs you nothing. The agent will help structure and present your offer and can troubleshoot any issues that arise.

Choose a home where you could stay five to seven years.

"You're going to spend thousands of dollars to get into the home. To get out of it is going to be equally expensive and may possibly cost more when you do it in less than five years or in a down market," Keith Gumbinger, vice-president of HSH.com, told Kiplinger.

Don't get distracted. 

Aspects of properties for sale that may seem important to you aren't always important to your bottom line. U.S. News recommends concentrating on home features that would be expensive or impossible to change, like not enough bedrooms, an undesirable location or a floor plan that makes it hard to get around. Don't get sidetracked by things you could easily and inexpensively change after the sale, like an odd decorating scheme, dirty carpet or cabinet hardware.

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New spam impacts some Gmail accounts

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 4:37 PM

A new form of spam is causing some computer experts to scratch their heads.  

Messages you didn’t send but appear to come from your Gmail account may wind up in your sent messages folder.

The trick lets the spammers bypass Gmail’s spam filters, according to Gizmodo.com.

This doesn’t mean your account has been compromised, in fact, the problem continues for some users who have changed their password, or use two-factor authentication, according to Cnet.com.  

News Center 7 consumer reporter Rachel Murray will be talking to a local tech expert to find out more about how this is happening and what you can do to protect your Gmail account.  

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Toddler toys, decorative pillows, and water bottles among the latest product recalls 

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 2:41 PM

Toddler toys, decorative pillows, and water bottles among the latest product recalls

Children’s xylophones, water bottles sold at Costco, and 21 styles of decorative pillows are among the latest recalls announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

The Petit Collage musical jumbo wooden xylophones made by Wild & Wolf are under recall because the ball on the end of the stick can detach and pose a choking hazard. 

There is one report of the ball separating and another report of a loose ball, but no injuries.

They were sold at Barnes & Noble, Urban Outfitters and other retailers.

Don’t let your child use the toy and contact Wild & Wolf at 855-215-5879 to receive a free replacement beater stick. 

Reduce Hydro Pro Water bottles are being recalled over lead paint. 

They were sold in two packs with a dog and lamb design printed on the outside.

No one has been hurt, but the pink paint on the outside of the bear bottles contain levels of toxic lead that exceed federal standards.

Don’t use the recalled bottles and contact Base Brands at 833-600-2887 or return them to place of purchase for a full refund or replacement bottle. 

Decorative pillows by Primark are being recalled because they may catch on fire. 

No one has been hurt, but don’t use the cushions which come in 21 shapes, sizes and colors, click here for full product codes and descriptions. 

Contact Primark at 855-215-5829 or return the pillows to the store for a full refund. 

One million Square D safety switches are under recall because the could shock or electrocute users, although no injuries have been reported.

The power may stay on when in the “OFF” position on several catalog numbers of the general duty switches made by Schneider Electric. 

Contact Schneider Electric at 877-672-1953 or click here to find out how to inspect the switch, receive free service support, and a replacement switch. 

Pressure washer surface cleaners by Briggs and Stratton are being recalled because  the spray bar can fly off and cause an injury. 

One person reported needing sutures on a cut to the knee after being struck by the bar.    There are four other reports of the bars detaching from the central hub. 

3000 PSI Briggs and Stratton and Crafsman branded surface cleaners are involved in the recall.

Stop using the cleaners and Contact Briggs and Stratton at 877-370-7505 to receive a free replacement. 

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Jo-Ann Stores are recalling string light sets which can break and cut you.

Two people have  been cut by the decorative glass jars in the Jo-Ann’s Makers Holiday 10-count LED string lights. 

Don’t use the lights and contact Jo-Ann stores at 888-739-4120 for a full refund. 

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Polaris is recalling Ranger XP recreational off-highway vehicles and Phoenix 200 all-terrain vehicles due to injury and crash concerns.

Multiple model numbers of the 2016 and 2017 Ranger XP ROVs have seat belt brackets that can separate from the frame. No injuries have been reported.

All model year 2014 through 2017 Phoenix ATVs are being recalled because of nine reports of a damaged throttle limiter, with one minor injury.

Stop using the ROVs and ATVs and contact Polaris at 800-765-2747 for a free repair.

For more on these and other recalls visit CPSC.gov.

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Local students learn how to combat scams, fraud

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 1:08 PM

Students in the Miami Valley are learning to recognize fraud and scams, and finding out how they can protect themselves from these potential money pitfalls.

Several schools in our area teach a free consumer life skills and financial literacy curriculum called FoolProof. 

The goal of the web-based, interactive coursework is to teach a healthy dose of skepticism in a scam-filled world.

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Kettering, Xenia, Franklin, Stebbins, Greenville and Lebanon high schools offer FoolProof classes.

News Center 7 consumer reporter Rachel Murray will find out more about what the students learn and what they can teach us about avoiding scams and fraud. 

Watch tonight on WHIO-TV at 5pm.

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Audit-proofing your taxes 

Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2018 @ 11:29 AM

Audit-proofing your taxes

First, the good news.  The IRS is auditing fewer taxpayers.  

In fact, audits are at an all-time low. You can’t completely audit-proof your tax returns, but there are ways to make your chance of an IRS investigation less likely. 
Failing to report taxable income and cryptocurrency income, are among Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine’s list of audit red flags.

Math errors, sizeable donations, home office deductions and deductions of unreimbursed business expenses, for example, commuting costs and clothing, are also going to raise eyebrows at the IRS.

RELATED: IRS ID theft prevention steps appear to be working

One of the biggest red flags is income.

The more money you make the more likely you’ll be scrutinized by the IRS, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.  

If you make $200,00 or more, there is a one in 80 chance of an audit, and if you make more than $1 million your odds are one in 25, according to Clark Howard’s website, Clark.com.

News Center 7 consumer reporter Rachel Murray will have insight from a local tax preparer about ways to audit-proof your tax return tonight on WHIO-TV at 5.

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