So, you’re buying a house in fall. There are a lot of perks to making a purchase during the autumn season, like fewer competing offers and more motivated sellers. Even with those advantages, it’s important to make your mortgage experience as smooth as possible. That’s why we recommend trying these fall home buying tips.
7 Tips for Buying a House in Fall
- Understand your credit score
- Prepare for your down payment
- Get your paperwork in order
- Budget for renovations
- Hold off on the holiday shopping
- Stay flexible
- Get a head start on tax season
1. Understand your credit score
These days, there are more loan options than ever that offer flexible credit requirements. A higher credit score typically means lower rates, though. So while a perfect score isn’t necessary, it’s important to understand what you can do to keep your credit healthy and lower your homeownership costs.
The best way to get the full picture of your credit score is to pull a copy of your credit report from one of the three major reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion). You can do this by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Each reporting agency calculates your score differently, and not all creditors report to all three bureaus. While they may vary slightly, they all consider factors like account age, payment history, balances, and number of accounts.
Pro Tip: Try these tips to get your credit where you want it.
2. Prepare for your down payment
Did you hear the one about putting 20% down? It’s a myth. Realistically, the average home buyer just doesn’t have 20% of their home’s purchase price readily available. Some loan types have down payment requirements as low as 3%. Some, like VA and USDA loans, require no down payment at all. Still, there’s no denying that putting down more upfront can help you qualify for better loan terms. As you get ready to buy a house in fall, crunch the numbers to determine how much down payment is realistic for you. Try to aim for at least 10% down if your credit score is below 580.
Pro Tip: Get the full explainer on down payments with our free guide.
3. Get your paperwork in order
Buying a house in any season means paperwork. Most lenders will ask for documentation covering your income, taxes, and more when you apply for financing. Getting all that information together before starting the application process will save you a lot of time and stress.
Plus, you can use that documentation to get pre-approved and make a stronger offer on your home.
4. Budget for renovations
In today’s market, you’re unlikely to find a home in your budget that meets all of your expectations perfectly. Renovations are almost a given for most people who buy a house in fall. And with colder weather already rolling in, you may not be able to delay home projects like HVAC repairs, new windows, or updated plumbing. So, if you plan to buy a house in the colder months, make sure your budget allows for renovations that need to be addressed immediately.
5. Hold off on the holiday shopping
Good news: You officially have an excuse to put off holiday shopping until the last minute. Why? Big purchases can impact your credit score and debt-to-income ratio (DTI).* Those numbers help determine your loan terms. So, if you apply for home financing and then make a big purchase before closing, your lender will likely need to update your application with your updated finances.
*DTI is the percentage of your gross monthly income spent on debt payments. Mortgage lenders add current debts to projected mortgage payments to help determine loan qualification and usually like to see the debt percentage below 40%.
6. Stay flexible
Fall weather can be unpredictable. From showings to moving day, your plans may have to change on short notice. As with any home purchase, it’s important to stay flexible and keep your eye on the prize: A place to call home for the holidays.
7. Get a head start on tax season
One of the biggest perks of homeownership is the tax deductions* you may qualify for. To make sure you don’t miss out on any write-offs, get everything you’ll need in order as you’re finalizing your home purchase and moving in. With your mortgage fresh on your mind, you’re a lot less likely to miss important details or lose track of necessary documentation. Plus, if you have any questions about filing taxes as a homeowner, your real estate agent and lender might have tips.
*This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before making the decision to buy or refinance a home.
If you buy a house in fall, make sure you understand your credit score, budget for renovations, and avoid big holiday purchases until after closing.