There are only so many hours in a day so it’s important to drive the neighborhood and run through your daily commute. Whether this includes heading to work or the gym, picking and dropping kids off at school, or simply heading to the store to grab something you forgot. Add all these up to determine if drive times will consume too much of your day.

Cory Diggs, Mortgage Broker

1. Research Neighborhoods to Find the Right Home

The Richmond Virginia metro area is an extremely diverse community with all walks of life, and a taste of anything one would desire. You can be in the hustle and bustle of downtown and within 15-20 minutes out on the countryside with fresh air through farmland. A short trip west on West Broad Street and you will find yourself in Shortpump with unlimited shopping options and entertainment.

Just north in Hanover you can find some of the best rated schools in the state, and if you are looking for the best bang for your buck you can travel across the river to Southside.

The point is that there is a neighborhood for any first home buyer they can call home in Richmond Virginia.

You just must do your due diligence and figure out what it is you are looking for. This can be easier for Richmond natives, but newcomers can be a daunting task. Either way these are some ideas of how-to vet areas you are interested in purchasing.

Things to think about and try

  • Check sites like Zillow and look at the listings for school information, median household incomes, gender ratios, average ages, and education.

  • What types of business are in the area? How close is the grocery store?

  • When you find a home you like – go for a long walk in the neighborhood to see what it is like.

  • Check how yards are manicured and homes are kept up.

  • Stop and talk to neighbors letting them know you are interested in moving there.

  • Check social media outlets to see if there are any neighborhood groups.

  • Check how yards are manicured and homes are kept up.

  • Drive the neighborhood and run through your daily commute. Drive to the school, the gym, your work, the store, etc. See what it

Richmond First Home Buyer

2. Find a Real Estate Agent

Choosing the right real estate agent is a vital decision for first home buyers’ success in finding the perfect home. You will want someone highly skilled, motivated to find the right home, and extremely knowledgeable about the market and area first home buyers are looking to buy.

The best place to start is checking with friends and family to see if they have any suggestions on local realtors, they have had a great experience with. Getting a referral from someone you trust can help make sure the one you choose has your best interest in mind.

If no luck there see if you have anyone in your network in another part of the industry such as a mortgage broker, closing attorney, or in insurance. All those fields normally have close working relationships with realtors.

First home buyers will also want to make sure the realtor they choose is experienced for their situation. First home buyers have a unique position to take advantage of local or federal assistance programs discussed later in this post, and you will want to have an agent that can guide you through those. You can also check to see if they have completed any specialized training such as the below:

  • Certified Residential Specialist (CRS): Hold a deeper understanding of residential real estate
  • National Association of Realtors (NAR): Held to a code of ethics and will be indicated by the capital R on Realtor.
  • Accredited Buyers Representative (ABR): Have more training in representing buyers

Once you have a few options do your research on them to see who will suit you the best. Check to see if they have any disciplinary actions.

As a first home buyer it is suggested to interview at least three agents. Finally ask for references and follow up with those people to see how their experience is and what their relationship is with the real estate agent.

3. Know Your Credit Score

Accessing your credit score is vital to knowing where you will rank with lenders when starting to think about being a first home buyer in Richmond, Virginia.

If not, as favorable you will want to make a strategy of small things that can make big impacts to try raise it as much as possible. As a first home buyer having knowledge of where you rank will also help you narrow down the type of loan you will qualify for.

Most all major credit card companies provide a credit tracker to help monitor your credit, so if you have a credit card check with them to see what is available.

Get Your Credit Report

You are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months. is the only truly free credit report available and is backed by the FTC.

The credit report doesn’t actually show your score but it does give you important information detailing every account and item on your credit report.

Things like debts and accounts you have open and can help you determine any fraud under your personal information.

4. Research State and Local Assistance Programs

In addition to federal programs, the VHDA offers programs for first home buyers with perks such as down payment assistance, and there are other programs possibly set up to help with closing cost assistance, tax credits, and discounted interest rates.

Your county or municipality may also have first home buyer programs. There are also first home buyer programs set up for first responders, nurses, doctors, and our military. Make sure to take advantage of what is available to you!

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How Much Can You Afford

5. How Much Home Can You Afford?

There are hundreds of listings for first home buyers in Richmond and choosing the perfect one can be tough. One way to help narrow the window of options is to figure out how much you can and want to spend.

Things to consider

  • Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio

  • Long term debts & short term debts

  • Consistent/qualifying income

  • Area taxes

  • Insurance costs

  • HOA fees for the neighborhood you like

  • PMI

  • Future repair costs of home items

  • Furniture, paint, furnishings, home supplies, etc.

That isn’t a complete list by any means but it will help give you a good idea on what you can afford for your first home.

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6. Compare Mortgage Lenders

One thing a lot of first home buyers in Richmond don’t realize is that you can shop lenders to find the best rate and options that work for you and your budget.

If you work directly with lenders, they will only be able to provide you with products their bank offers. This requires more leg work on your end if you want to compare multiple lenders for the best rate.

But don’t worry – there is a solution. Mortgage Brokers.

The best thing about mortgage brokers for first home buyers is that they do all that leg work for you. Mortgage brokers work with multiple lenders to shop the best and most current rates!

All lenders are not created equal so you will want to compare any different fees in addition to the rates. Reviewing your loan estimate document will give you all that you need to know of what fees you will pay.

Make sure that you have your mortgage broker or lender go over the document in detail and don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s why they are there.

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7. Figure Out Your Down Payment

As a first home buyer there are a lot of times you will not have the funds to put a lot down to make conventional loans favorable.

The good news is that there are several options for loans with lower down payments. Whether you don’t have the extra cash on hand or just want have money available after moving in – these options make it possible. Here are the main options:

  • Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE): Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae insure loans with as little as 3% down with 97% loan to value.
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA): FHA loans can have as little as 3.5% down and can also favor with lower rates than some conventional loans. They do require carrying mortgage insurance for the life of the loan which will increase the monthly payment and is determined by the loan value and what is put down.
  • United States Department of Agriculture USDA: These loans can cover 100% financing for qualified rural areas.

8. Get Pre-Approved

In Richmond Virginia’s competitive housing market, it is not uncommon for a seller to receive multiple offers on their home.

As a first home buyer having a pre-approval letter in hand could be the difference in you being able to win the house you want or losing it to a more attractive buyer.

The pre-approval document proves to the seller that as a first home buyer you are serious and provides bargaining power which can give you an advantage over other buyers.

The paperwork for this part of the process is a little more extensive but is worth the work to set you up for success. The last thing a first home buyer would want is to make it this far and lose the home of their dreams due to an approval letter.

Locking Your Rate

At this point it may be a good idea to check on getting a rate lock. Even if you haven’t found the home to put an offer on you can possibly lock a desired rate for a certain period of time.

This will allow you to still shop and when you are ready to put the offer in you have the rate that works for you.

9. Save for Closing

It is easy for first home buyers in Richmond VA to forget about the closing cost of their loan. These costs can add up quickly and average around 2% to 5% of the value of the loan.

For example – if you have a loan for $200,000 the closing cost can range from $6000 to $10,000.

There are options such are the programs mentioned that can assist with these cost and buyers can also as the seller to cover a percentage of these cost.

Depending on the LTV and down payment the seller can pay anywhere from 3% to 9%. For FHA or USDA loans the seller can give up to 6% in closing cost.

10. Expenses After Moving In

Ideally this is the fun part of spending saved funds. This is when you use your saved money to furnish the home, buy a grill or lawnmower to maintain the exterior, or make that man cave or she sheds.

It is key to realize how fast these things add up. Even a gallon of paint will run around $40. Once you add the remainder of the supplies for a paint project you are looking at a hundred or so. This includes brushes, rollers, pans, and tape which are just the essential tools to get the work done.

So it is extremely important to plan that spending amount prior to purchasing a home.

If you plan properly you will be prepared for any unintended cost that may arise due to a bad situation. These could range from something as simple are breaking a window moving to replacing a whole HVAC unit (which can run thousands depending on the size of the home).

There can also be expenses outside of the home such as your vehicle breaking down or unexpected medical bills. It is always better to be on the safer side of those issues than not being prepared.

Ready to talk?

We love to hear from anyone! Whether it is to learn more, ask a question, get a pre-approval or just say hi – we are always ready to talk.