USC Credit Union Blog

USC Credit Union Blog

Top 10 Home Buyer FAQs


1. What’s the First Step of the Home Buying Process?

The Answer: The mortgage pre-approval

Unless you’ve been saving your pennies for a while and can pay cash for a house, you will need to get a mortgage. In order to know how expensive a house you can buy, you will need to get pre-approved for a loan. This is the first step in the home buying process.


2. How Long Does it Take to Buy a Home?

The Answer: Between 30 and 45 days

The timeline for finding a house varies greatly because there are so many variables. Once you find a house and have an accepted offer, it usually takes around 30 days to close. If everything goes relatively smoothly between the buyer and the seller then you can expect it to take around 40 days total.


3. What Does a Realtor Do?

The Answer: Almost everything involved in the home buying (or selling) process

A realtor is your most valuable asset when buying a home. They will walk you through every part of the home buying process and will do much of the grunt work for you. They will educate and inform you of all your options. And finally, they will represent you throughout the transaction and beyond.



The Answer: Nothing at all!

In most cases, you do not have to pay your realtor anything to help you purchase a home. The sellers pay their realtor a fee, and then that listing agent pays the buyer’s agent for bringing the buyer and facilitating the transaction.


5. What’s Your Best Advice for a First Time Homebuyer?

The Answer: Trust the professionals!

Beware of advice from people who do not work in the industry. Real estate is a popular topic and almost everyone feels like they have some great insight to offer. In reality, the people who know best are the people that work in the business. Good realtors have sold hundreds (or even thousands) of properties. They know what to expect and what to look out for. Friends and relatives have only bought and sold a few homes if any at all. Buying and selling a couple of homes does not make someone a well-rounded source of information. There have been too many first-time buyers to become persuaded by well-meaning friends and family, only to be disappointed later.


6. What Kind of Credit Score do I Need to Buy a Home?

The Answer: 620 or higher

A credit score of 620, or higher, is recommended but it ultimately depends on your lender. As you probably know, a higher credit score offers better lending terms. There are some lenders who will approve buyers with a 580 score or sometimes even lower. Your loan officer will be the best source to give you a current answer for today’s lending requirements.


7. Are There Any Useful Programs to Help Me as a Home Buyer?

The Answer: Absolutely!

There are some great home buying programs to research. The main ones would be VA loans, USDA loans, and FHA loans. Knowing the difference between these types of loans is very important.


8. How Much Do I Need for a Down Payment?

The Answer: Usually around 3-5% but it depends on the loan type

The most common answer is 3% to 5% of the purchase price. FHA loans just dropped their requirement from 3.5% to 3.0%. There are also some conventional loans that only require 3% down. Veterans are usually eligible for a VA loan, which requires no money down. Properties in rural areas are usually eligible for a USDA loan, which also requires no money down.


9. Besides the Down Payment, are there Other Fees?

The Answer: The loan origination and closing costs

The down payment is usually the largest cost associated with buying a house and lending fees are the second largest. Most lenders will charge between 2% to 4% of the loan amount for loan origination fees, depending on the loan type. Conventional loans usually have lower loan origination fees, but require more money down. Your loan officer will be able to help you determine how much you can expect to pay towards loan origination and closing costs.


10. When do I Get the Keys?

The Answer: At closing

Usually, you will get the keys at the closing which typically takes about an hour. In some cases, the lender will need time to fund the loan and you will need to pick up the keys after the loan has been funded. If you have a Friday evening closing and the loan cannot fund until Monday, you may not get the keys until Monday. Make sure to coordinate your closing to get the keys on the same day, if that is what you want or need.

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