How to apply for a mortgage: Your 4-step guide.

Applying for a home loan is the first step to take when getting serious about buying a home. It will help you understand how much house you truly can afford. Get ready for the application process by gathering your financial info, finding a lender to work with, and getting pre-approved. You can always shop around and pick another lender once you get an accepted offer.

Mortgage loan pre-approval means approaching a lender with financial, credit, debt, and other information that will help them determine if you qualify for a loan at a certain amount.

There are four essential steps involved with mortgage pre-approval:

  1. Gather financial information
  2. Select a lender
  3. Get a mortgage pre-approval
  4. Close on your home

This article will give you an idea of how to get pre-approved for a mortgage and why pre-approval is important for buying a home.

 

How to get pre-approved for a home loan

Step 1: Gather financial information

Before heading to your lender’s office, gather and prepare the following financial information:

Credit Information: Your credit score and reports will determine the size of loan you may qualify for and the type of financing plan you will be offered. For example, a borrower with a credit score below 740 will usually have a higher interest rate associated with their loan. A borrower with a score below 580 will usually have to put down a higher down payment.

Pro Tip: Check your credit score for free with credit.com.

Debt Information: Gather and prepare any of your debt obligations. This includes student loans automobile loans, and credit card payments.

Pro Tip: If you have a significant amount of debt, the amount that you’re pre-approved will likely be smaller or rejected. Before applying for your pre-approved mortgage, try paying off your debts and minimize the number of new debts you take on.

Income Information: Gather and prepare income information from the previous two years. This includes tax returns, W-9s, pay stubs, and additional income information (from second jobs, overtime pay, social security payments, alimony or child support payments, etc.).

Asset Information: Asset information refers to assets you own other than your income. This involves gathering bank statements, property statements, investment information, and money received by family members.

Personal Information: Bring a personal ID such as a driver’s license or passport and your social security number to your lender’s office.

Employment Information: This includes your proof of employment and the length of time you’ve been with your employer.

Budget Information: Before going to see a lender, determine your budget for buying a new home.

Pro Tip: Your total housing payment budget should not exceed 35% of your pre-tax income. The ideal percentage is 25% of your pre-tax income.

Step 2: Select a lender to work with

There are two types of lenders you can work with (1) big lenders (aka the bank) or (2) small lenders (aka small, community banks or small mortgage lenders).

There are pros and cons associated with each type of lender:

Pros of big lenders:

  • Security: You can trust that big banks will protect your sensitive information as it’s a crucial part of their reputation.
  • Customer support: Banks usually offer 24/7 customer support.
  • Availability: Making an appointment for a loan will be easier with big banks as they have a larger number of loan officers available.

Cons of big lenders:

  • Rates: The rates of the big banks are usually higher than the rates at small loan offices.
  • Approval: Banks have a specific ‘credit model’ that they like to use as a guideline for approving people looking for loans. You may have a hard time being approved for a loan by a big bank if you don’t fit this ‘credit model.’

Pros of small lenders:

  • Rates: Small lenders tend to have better rates than the big banks. Furthermore, smaller lenders generally let their customers exit early. In other words, small lenders allow their customers to pay off their mortgage early and either sell their house or find a better mortgage.
  • Approval: Small lenders will generally approve loans to freelance workers, property investors, or someone who doesn’t fit the bank’s credit model.
  • Customer Service: Small lenders provide more personalized customer service and usually have faster response times.
  • Specialized Financing: Smaller lenders offer more specialized financing options than big banks. For example, if you’re looking for a small mortgage, most big banks won’t accept your application because it’s not worth their time. The smaller lender, however, will be happy to work with you.

Cons of small lenders:

  • Vulnerability: Due to their size, small lenders are more sensitive to market fluctuations.
  • Availability: Smaller lenders may not have as many available lenders as the big banks.

Should I get pre-approved by multiple financial institutions to compare rates?

  • Yes, because you can still shop rates before locking into a rate and accepting an offer. Research different lender’s reputation, search for their past clients, read their online reviews, and give them a call to get a ‘feel’ of whether or not you want to work with them.

Step 3: Get pre-approved

Most first-time home buyers are confused about the pre-approval process. So, to clear things up, we answer “how to get pre-approved for a mortgage” and the 6 other common questions first-time home buyers ask about mortgage pre-approval:

1. How do I get pre-approved for a mortgage?

  • Gather Documents: Gather the necessary documents (as listed in step 1).
  • Organize Documents: Create a Google Drive or Dropbox where you can organize all information in one, easily-accessible place.
  • Contact a Lender: Call, go online or visit a loan office/bank. The loan officer will review your documents and give you a preliminary estimate of how much house you can afford, your monthly mortgage payments, and mortgage interest rate.
  • Find out if you’ve been pre-approved: You will receive a pre-approval letter that secures your interest rates for the next 90-120 days (more on this below). On the other hand, your lender will notify you that you have not been pre-approved.

2. Why get pre-approved for a mortgage?

Benefits of Pre-Approvals:

  • Accurate: The best pre-approvals will give you an accurate idea of how much house you can afford. Furthermore, you’ll get an idea of your monthly mortgage payments and your short-term mortgage interest rates.
  • Protection: When you apply for a mortgage pre-approval, there is usually a 90-120 day protection against rising rates. In other words, pre-approvals lock-in interest rates and allow you to search for a home without worrying about interest rates increasing significantly.
  • Trustworthy: A pre-approved mortgage signals to sellers and real estate agents that you’re serious about buying a home.
  • Advantage: A pre-approved mortgage may be the deciding factor between you getting a home over another home buyer.
  • Free: Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is free, and there is no obligation to use the lender that pre-approved your mortgage.

3. What is the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval?

  • Pre-qualification: During the pre-qualification stage of securing a mortgage, a lender will interview you to determine your income, expenses, and assets. The purpose of getting pre-qualified is to give you a rough estimate of how much house you can afford.
  • Pre-approval: During the pre-approval stage of securing a mortgage a lender will look through your income, expenses, and asset more thoroughly. A pre-approval is a more concrete estimate of how much house you can afford.

4. What if I don’t get pre-approved for a loan? Now what?

If you don’t get pre-approved for a loan, your lender can tell you why you were rejected. Lenders can also offer advice of how to get approved in the future.

For example, you may have to:

  • Build Credit: If bad credit was the reason you aren’t pre-approved, then pay off your credit cards and try not to miss your debt payments for the next 6-12 months.
  • Build Savings: Lenders usually want to see a significant amount of cash reserve in your savings account. Again, pay off your debts and try to save some money before applying for a pre-approval again.
  • Build Income: If your lender says that you don’t make enough income for a certain loan amount, either try applying for a smaller loan or, if you’re married, ask for a joint-loan with your spouse.
  • Build Employment History: Usually, lenders don’t like to see inconsistencies in employment history. Wait until you’ve been at the same job for two years before applying for a loan.

5. Does pre-approval guarantee a loan?
Pre-approval does not guarantee a loan. It is only a review of your qualifications for how much you might be able to borrow.

A buyer receives their pre-approval letters, searches for their dream home within their pre-approved amount, has their offer and financial structure accepted by the sellers, and then submits their proposal to the lender.

The lender then reviews the proposal, the buyer’s finance details, and the details of the property. If everything goes smoothly (i.e., the home doesn’t look like a money pit), the buyer will be approved for a mortgage.

However, the pre-approval letter alone does not guarantee a mortgage.

6. How long does it take to get pre-approved for a mortgage?

Depending on who you’re working with, you can get pre-approved for a mortgage in minutes. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call.

7. What impact (if any) will this have on my credit?

The short answer here is that it depends.

As mentioned above, lenders will look at your credit score and history to determine if you’ll be pre-approved. These are called credit report inquiries.

First-time home buyers usually don’t have to worry about inquires damaging their credit score. However, the more inquires your credit history shows, the more it can damage your credit score.

Inquires hurt your score because it shows lenders that you could be doing something with your credit that puts you at risk.

Step 4: Close on your home

Once you’re pre-approved for a mortgage, you can start the process of searching for a home, within your pre-approved amount.

The process of closing your home looks like this:
1. Application: The mortgage application involves submitting the documents outlined in step 1.

Time it takes: 1 day

2. Loan estimate: The lender analyzes your financial information and produces a loan estimate. A loan estimate describes the details of your loan including the terms and the predicted costs associated with your loan.

The loan estimate does not tell you if you have been approved for a loan. It simply estimates what your loan would look like if you’re approved and will help you determine if you would like to move forward with the mortgage application process.

Time it takes: The law states that you must receive your loan estimate 3 days after submitting your mortgage application.

3. Open a file: Your file is submitted to a loan processor who analyzes your financial documentation and property information. The loan processor places all this information into a loan package that is to be submitted to the underwriter.

Time it takes: 1 day

4. Loan underwriting: An underwriter analyzes your loan to determine the risk of approving your mortgage. Essentially, the underwriter is the key-decision maker and determines if you’re a good candidate for a loan based on the likelihood of you paying your mortgage each month.

The duties of an underwriter:

A. Assess: The underwriter assesses your risk by verifying that your credit, debt, income, and savings information is true. For example, they may call your employer to confirm that you do in fact work x amount of hours and are paid x amount of dollars.

B. Appraise: This is where the underwriter determines if your desired property’s price is comparable to the prices of similar properties. The purpose of the appraisal is to determine if the money you would like to borrow matches the value of the home you would like to purchase. If the appraisal is less than the loan amount, the underwriter will usually disapprove the mortgage or suggest another loan amount.

C. Approve or reject: The underwriter considers all this information and then approves or rejects your loan application.

Time it takes: 1-7 days

Pro Tip: The underwriting process generally takes longer and requires more documentation if you’re self-employed.

5. Mortgage Commitment: If the underwriter approves your loan, you are officially locked-into an interest rate.

Time it takes: 2-4 days

6. Closing: This is the step in the home-buying process where you sign all the necessary documents to own the home officially.

 

I read this article at: Open Listings

Got Real Estate Questions?   The Caton Team is here to help.

We strive to be more than just Realtors – we are also your home resource. If you have any real estate questions, concerns, need a referral or some guidance – we are here for you. Contact us at your convenience – we are but a call, text or click away!

The Caton Team believes, in order to be successful in the San Fransisco | Peninsula | Bay Area | Silicon Valley Real Estate Market we have to think and act differently. We do this by positioning our clients in the strongest light, representing them with the utmost integrity, while strategically maneuvering through negotiations and contracts. Together we make dreams come true.

A mother and daughter-in-law team with over 35 years of combined, local Real Estate experience and knowledge – would’t you like The Caton Team to represent you? Let us know how we can be of service. Contact us any time.

Email Sabrina & Susan at: Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522 Office: 650-365-9200

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina
A Family of Realtors
Effective. Efficient. Responsive.
What can we do for you?

The Caton Team Testimonials

The Caton Team Blog – The Real Estate Beat

The Caton Team Website

The Caton Team Advantage

How to Buy While Selling Real Estate

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  Mobile Real Estate by The Caton Team

Visit us at:  Our Blog * TheCatonTeam.com * Facebook * Instagram * HomeSnap* Pintrest * LinkedIN Sabrina * LinkedIN Susan

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties

Sabrina DRE# 01413526 / Susan DRE #01238225 / Team DRE# 70000218/ Office DRE #01499008

The Caton Team does not receive compensation for any posts.  Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Third party information not verified.

Family Room | Craftsmans Kitchen | For Sale in Newark

Whats the most important factor is Real Estate? Location Location Location. Del Monte is in a fantastic, well established & maintained neighborhood. This home has AC, forced air heat, LED lighting, dual pane windows & sliders, hardwood, vinyl, tile, carpet & laminate flooring. Spacious living/dining combo with fireplace & vaulted ceiling. Custom Craftsman Kitchen with electric glass cooktop/dual oven range, dishwasher, microwave & custom refrigerator – all overlooking the spacious back yard. Family Room with informal dinning. Play Fort, Greenhouse & Drought Tolerant plants makes landscaping a breeze. ALL APPLIANCES INCLUDE. 2 Car Garage w Laundry, Freezer, drink fridge. All this and 4 Bed with 2 Baths including Master Suite and private office. Close to schools, parks, shopping, 880, the Bridge, Facebook & Tesla. FULL Disclosure package available – CLEAN REPORTS! Excellent condition. Worth a look – 8213 Del Monte Ave in Newark is a well maintained home, with classic features in excellent condtion.  We have a full disclosure package with home, pest and roof inspections available upon request.  Contact The Caton Team with any questions.  

See more photos at: Facebook Photo Album of Del Monte Ave 

Call | Text 650.799.4333 | Email Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Upon entry you are greeted with tall vaulted ceilings and a burst of cheerful color in the large living anddining area; appointed with dual pane windows, fireplace, hardwood floors and tile.  The double doors on your left lead you to the 4th bedroom configured as a home office.  Pass through to the family room and find an informal eating area off the Craftmans style kichen with custom oak cabinetry and beautiful green tile.  The dual oven, glass top electric range, built in regrgerator, dishwasher and microwave are all at your finger tips while overlooking your back yard.  Large sliding glass doors connect the home with the garden in the family room with space for entertainment area.  Three bedrooms and hall bath featuring a shower over tub.  The master suite is tucked at the back of the home with a on private entry into the garden.  Ample closet space in each room, not to mention the oversized two car garage with washer, dryer, freezer and mini fridge included.  The garden is landscaped with drought tolerant plants such as succulents and shrubs.  Two long time lemon trees ready for your kitchen adventures.  The greenhouse, custom fort and tool sheds come with the home.  Del Monte Avenue is in lovely Newark and ready to make your own. Contact The Caton Team for a private viewing and more information.  Call | Text 650.799.4333 | Email Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our website for further details:

Info on Del Monte Ave, Newark | The Caton Team Links

MLS ML81730678

Available by Appointment

Contact the Caton Team with any questions! Call | Text | Sabrina 650.799.4333 | Susan 650.796.0654 | Email |   Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our website for further details:

Info on Del Monte Ave, Newark

Realtor.com on 8213 Del Monte Ave

Facebook Photo Album of Del Monte Ave

Instagram Photos for Del Monte Ave

Redfin info on 8213 Del Monte Ave

Zillow Info on 8213 Del Monte Ave

Trulia info for 8213 Del Monte Ave

 

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Got Questions – The Caton Team is here to help. The Caton Team Links

We strive to be more than just Realtors – we are also your home resource. If you have any real estate questions, concerns, need a referral or some guidance – we are here for you. Contact us at your convenience – we are but a call, text or click away!

The Caton Team believes, in order to be successful in the San Fransisco | Peninsula | Bay Area | Silicon Valley Real Estate Market we have to think and act differently. We do this by positioning our clients in the strongest light, representing them with the utmost integrity, while strategically maneuvering through negotiations and contracts. Together we make dreams come true.

A mother and daughter-in-law team with over 35 years of combined, local Real Estate experience and knowledge – would’t you like The Caton Team to represent you? Let us know how we can be of service. Contact us any time.

Call | Text 650.799.4333 | Email Info@TheCatonTeam.com

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina
A Family of Realtors
Effective. Efficient. Responsive.
What can we do for you?

The Caton Team Testimonials | The Caton Team Blog – The Real Estate Beat | The Caton Team Website | The Caton Team Advantage | How to Buy While Selling Real Estate

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  Mobile Real Estate by The Caton Team

Visit us at:  Our Blog | TheCatonTeam.com | Facebook | InstagramHomeSnap | Pintrest | LinkedIN Sabrina | LinkedIN Susan

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties Sabrina DRE# 01413526 / Susan DRE #01238225 / Team DRE# 70000218/ Office DRE #01499008

The Caton Team does not receive compensation for any posts.  Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Third party information not verified.

Forget Aspen! 10 Great U.S. Ski Towns Where Folks Can Actually Afford to Buy a Home

Winter, as you’ve surely heard, is coming—hard and fast. So why not ride it out in your very own home in the mountains, in a sweet place where the slopes are groomed, the air is clean, and après-ski bars are buzzing? While you’re at it, maybe chill for the summer too! Truth be told, you don’t have to be a second-generation reality TV star, tech titan, or trust-fund kid to live large in a great American ski town. And no, we’re not schussing you. You just need to know where to set your sights.

Hint: It’s not on Aspen, Jackson, Park City, or any of the other snowy playgrounds of the 1%, where median home prices rival or even exceed the most expensive neighborhoods of San Fransisco or New York.

But there are plenty of lower-key, way more inexpensive options around. In fact, just about half of America’s ski towns, as defined by realtor.com®, have a median home price under $300,000. So our data team set out to find the most affordable of the bunch, towns where you can keep the dream of owning a home near the slopes alive, and maybe even have some cash left over for a new snowmobile. Or heck, an SUV!

While you’d be forgoing some of the glam scenes, upper-end nightspots, and world-class powder of the best-known resort towns, these lower-priced mountain meccas are still undisputed winter and summer wonderlands. Some are old mining towns, or small remote cities that built resorts as a means to replace fading industries. They have fewer tourists, and miles of untrammeled nature.

To create our rankings, we started with a list of around 450 ski resorts, as compiled by onthesnow.com, a website that creates snow reports for the ski industry. We then looked at median list prices in the nearest towns or cities to those resorts to figure out which had the least expensive real estate. Only places with at least 50 homes for sale in October were included, and for geographic diversity, we included just one place per state.

So pull on that discount Uniqlo parka, grab a hot toddy or three, and let’s check out the best bargain ski towns in America.Most affordable ski towns

 

Read More:  Realtor.com – Ski Towns

Got Real Estate Questions?   The Caton Team is here to help.

We strive to be more than just Realtors – we are also your home resource. If you have any real estate questions, concerns, need a referral or some guidance – we are here for you. Contact us at your convenience – we are but a call, text or click away!

The Caton Team believes, in order to be successful in the San Fransisco | Peninsula | Bay Area | Silicon Valley Real Estate Market we have to think and act differently. We do this by positioning our clients in the strongest light, representing them with the upmost integrity, while strategically maneuvering through negotiations and contracts. Together we make dreams come true.

A mother and daughter-in-law team with over 35 years of combined, local Real Estate experience and knowledge – would’t you like The Caton Team to represent you? Let us know how we can be of service. Contact us any time.

Email Sabrina & Susan at: Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522 Office: 650-365-9200

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina
A Family of Realtors
Effective. Efficient. Responsive.
What can we do for you?

The Caton Team Testimonials

The Caton Team Blog – The Real Estate Beat

The Caton Team Website

The Caton Team Advantage

How to Buy While Selling Real Estate

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  Mobile Real Estate by The Caton Team

Visit us at:  Our Blog * TheCatonTeam.com * Facebook * Instagram * HomeSnap* Pintrest * LinkedIN Sabrina * LinkedIN Susan

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties

Sabrina DRE# 01413526 / Susan DRE #01238225 / Team DRE# 70000218/ Office DRE #01499008

The Caton Team does not receive compensation for any posts.  Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Third party information not verified

House hunting for first-time homebuyers: is there a right way?

A lot of buyers, especially first-timers, worry about whether or not they’re going about their home search the right way.

On the one hand, buyers fret that if they find their “dream home” too early, they might be missing out on something better. But, on the other, if the process takes a while, they worry that they’ll never find a home that works for them. The FOMO is real.

Keep reading to find out if you’re on track with your home search and what you should do if you find that you need to go back to the drawing board.

How many homes should you see?

Honestly, that depends. While we understand the impulse to try and rely on hard-and-fast statistics, homebuying is a truly personal experience rather than a science.

Trust your intuition. You know your needs, likes, and dislikes better than anyone else. You’ll know when you’ve landed on the property that makes the most sense for you to call home.

That said, though, there are a few things you can do to help speed your search along:

If you’ve been looking for a while and haven’t really found anything that meets your needs, it might be time to redefine search criteria. Sit down and take some time to think about which features you really need to have in your new home versus which are more nice-to-have, wishlist items.

Narrowing your search

Sometimes, narrowing search criteria can get tricky. If you’re unsure of where to start, try using the following as a starting point.

Neighborhoods

Focusing in on a particular area is one of the easiest ways to refine your search. You can start by doing research into different neighborhoods by you. Think about what you commute to work will look like, if the area has amenities that you enjoy, the quality of the school district, and home values.

With that in mind, though, you getting too hung up on a particular zip code can also limit your criteria. The key is keep an ideal location in mind while still staying open to possibility.

Bedrooms & bathrooms

When searching for a house, you should have a firm idea of how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’re after. Whether you’re just looking to accommodate yourself and the occasional guest, are thinking about starting a family in the near future, or want the option to convert a spare bedroom into an office, this information will surely help narrow your search.

We advise against compromising on this feature because, while it is possible to put an addition on later, doing so takes a substantial amount of time and effort. More often than not, homeowners find that they would rather put their home on the market than go through the hassle of trying to renovate it to fit their changing needs.

Sale price

This is the big one. Once you have the above two details settled, it’s time to narrow your search results further to only those homes that you can truly afford. If you’ve already applied for a pre-approval, that number can be a good place to start. However, remember that a pre-approval shows the maximum amount that you can ask for in a loan. You may not want to borrow up to that amount once you factor in the rest of your monthly expenses.

To find a more comfortable sale price, we recommend using a mortgage calculator to get a sense of what your monthly payment could look like at various loan amounts and interest rates. Then, once you’ve landed on a number that works for you, try plugging that into your monthly budget to get a sense of how the payment will feel in addition to your other costs.

Now what?

The good news is that once you’ve narrowed your search down, your pool of available properties will likely be much smaller than it was before – and much more targeted to meet your needs. From here, your search will be about zeroing in on your perfect match on the basis of which property was the best fit for your personal tates.

You’ll know when a property feels like it could become home versus when you’d be trying to make the best of an imperfect situation. Keep hunting until you find the former.

 

This article originally appeared on OpenListings.

 

Got Questions – The Caton Team is here to help.

We strive to be more than just Realtors – we are also your home resource. If you have any real estate questions, concerns, need a referral or some guidance – we are here for you. Contact us at your convenience – we are but a call, text or click away!

The Caton Team believes, in order to be successful in the San Fransisco | Peninsula | Bay Area | Silicon Valley Real Estate Market we have to think and act differently. We do this by positioning our clients in the strongest light, representing them with the upmost integrity, while strategically maneuvering through negotiations and contracts. Together we make dreams come true.

A mother and daughter-in-law team with over 35 years of combined, local Real Estate experience and knowledge – would’t you like The Caton Team to represent you? Let us know how we can be of service. Contact us any time.

Email Sabrina & Susan at: Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522 Office: 650-365-9200

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina
A Family of Realtors
Effective. Efficient. Responsive.
What can we do for you?

The Caton Team Testimonials

The Caton Team Blog – The Real Estate Beat

The Caton Team Website

The Caton Team Advantage

How to Buy While Selling Real Estate

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  Mobile Real Estate by The Caton Team

Visit us at:  Our Blog * TheCatonTeam.com * Facebook * Instagram * HomeSnap* Pintrest * LinkedIN Sabrina * LinkedIN Susan

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties

Sabrina DRE# 01413526 / Susan DRE #01238225 / Team DRE# 70000218/ Office DRE #01499008

The Caton Team does not receive compensation for any posts.  Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Third party information not verified.

Top 10 Cities for First-Time Home Buyers

Top 10 Cities for First-Time Home Buyers—and Not Just Because They’re Affordable

 

OK, let’s get it right out there: It’s a seriously tough time to be trying to buy your first home. Yes, in most respects the housing business is doing great. But the dazzling nationwide sales boom cuts both ways: Across the U.S., low inventory has put the squeeze on potential home buyers, driving prices up to nosebleed-inducing levels and sparking scary bidding wars. And first-time mortgages? They’re harder than ever to snag.

The numbers tell the tale: The National Association of Realtors® reported in November that the share of first-time buyers had declined in 2015 for the third consecutive year and remained at its lowest point in nearly three decades. First-time buyers made up 32% of all buyers in 2015, down from 33% the year before.

So where can today’s committed-but-oh-so-frustrated housing newbies turn?

We’ve got you covered! Bypassing today’s unabashed and unbowed metro seller’s markets (See ya, Seattle! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Dallas!), we set out to find  places that are still newbie-friendly. But we weren’t just looking for the cheapest places. Yes, affordability is key, but if you’re doling out your life savings on a new home, you want an area where you’ll actually enjoy living! Right? So we made sure that our top 10 cities bring something extra special to the party, lifestylewise.

We focused on the 25-to-34 age group, which is the vast majority of first-time home buyers. We filtered the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas using the following criteria:

  • Affordability, measured by home price to income ratio for 25- to 34-year-olds (the lower the better)
  • Inventory, with enough houses available that you don’t have to camp out at open houses or sell your firstborn to get your chance—measured by the number of homes for sale per 1,000 households
  • Mortgage availability, measured by the share of home loans purchased by 25- to 34-year-olds
  • Job growth, measured by lower-than-average unemployment rate (because unemployment and new homes are a lousy combo)
  • Livability, measured by the number of restaurants, schools, retailers, health care facilities, and arts and entertainment venues per 1,000 households

 

  1. Portland, ME

Median price: $304,000

Unemployment: 3.3%

What you don’t know about Portland: Yeah, sure, the West Coast’s Portland gets all the press, the hipster cred (and notoriety), and even a decent TV show to call its own. But here’s the deal: The largest city in Maine is no less hip, cool, and fun to live in. And it has way better lobster.

A foodist’s paradise nestled on the Atlantic coast, Portland has a slew of catch-of-the-day seafood restaurants and a thriving microbrew scene—Allagash Brewing Co. produces 45,000 barrels of beer each year. And check out that unemployment rate—one-third lower than the national average of 5.2%.

 

  1. Philadelphia, PA

Median price: $222,000

Unemployment: 4.8%

What you don’t know about Philly: Plenty of New Yorkers are fleeing the City So Nice They Named It Twice for Philly, with almost 27,000 people making the transition per year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many seem to relish escaping the crazy real estate prices of NYC without giving up big-city amenities.

So what’s the appeal?

Well, you’ve got Ukee Washington, Denzel‘s second cousin and quite possibly the coolest news anchor in America. You have perhaps the most loyal sports fans in the country. And you can get a “citywide special”—a can of PBR and a shot of Jim Beam—for just a few bucks across town. The United States’ first capital is rich in history and has recovered from a bad patch—no longer known as “Killadelphia,” its violent crime rate declined 20% from 2009 to 2014, according to the FBI.

 

  1. St. Louis, MO

Median price: $164,000

Unemployment: 5.2%

What you don’t know about St. Louis: Besides the Cardinals and the city’s namesake barbecue, there’s plenty more to celebrate in St. Louis.

Led by Washington University, more than a dozen universities and colleges boost the city’s IQ and keep the vibe young. You dig nature? You can spend weeks hanging in Forest Park, which is nearly 50% bigger than Central Park. And the city has two separate downtowns, each with its own gestalt. Housing prices have been low, partly because of the sluggish economy after the recession that erased thousands of jobs. But the city has finally made a comeback, adding 6,900 jobs in February and posting a declining unemployment rate. Eight Fortune 500 companies now call St. Louis home.

 

  1. Allentown, PA

Median price: $188,000

Unemployment: 5%

What you don’t know about Allentown: While the song “Allentown” by Billy Joel reminds us of the decline of the coal and steel industry (and still makes us sob), Allentown is en route to aggressive economic redevelopment.

Today the city hosts multinational companies such as Pennsylvania Power and Light and Air Products & Chemicals. Allentown also has Pennsylvania’s highest beer production by volume, and the Lehigh Valley area makes up the state’s fastest-growing wine region. And contrary to its grungy/gritty rep, there are more acres of parkland here than in any other city of this size. Take that, Billy!

 

  1. Albany, NY

Median price: $238,000

Unemployment: 4.5%

What you don’t know about Albany: The capital of New York state is having a renaissance. The effort to build a “Tech Valley” since 1998 has paid off with thriving new businesses, residential development, entertainment, and a cultural scene. Every spring, Albany celebrates its Dutch heritage with the Tulip Festival, featuring more than 200,000 tulips, fine art shows, crafts, and gardening exhibits. And you haven’t lived until you’ve tried an Albany fish fry. Or at least you haven’t lived well.

 

  1. Harrisburg, PA

Median price: $168,000

Unemployment: 4.2%

What you don’t know about Harrisburg: Tech may not be something this central Pennsylvania city is known for, but it may be in the future. In the past few years, at least 18 tech companies have sprouted in this midsize city. Benefiting from the tech wave, downtown Harrisburg has become a hugely popular northeastern destination stop for great live entertainment, especially music—from jazz to indie to hip-hop.

 

  1. Baton Rouge, LA

Median price: $217,000

Unemployment: 4.8%

What you don’t know about Baton Rouge: With a median age of 34.7 for its population, Baton Rouge is Louisiana’s youngest major metro area (the credit goes to Louisiana State University, which is based there).

About 80 miles from New Orleans, Baton Rouge knows how to do Mardi Gras right. Each year thousands flock to the city for festive carnivals, costume balls, and six different parades (including one just for pets). Increasingly a nouveau hipster haven, the city has the highest share (52%) of mortgages purchased by 25- to 34-year-olds among all the markets we studied.

 

  1. Dayton, OH

Median price: $115,000

Unemployment: 5.2%

What you don’t know about Dayton: Bike culture may be awesomely hip now, but Daytonians have been biking en masse for a long, long time. They drafted the nation’s first regional bikeway plans, which were adopted in 1973. Since then, the 300 miles of scenic Miami Valley Trail—the nation’s largest paved trail network—have seen generations of cyclists. With a median home price of just $115,000, Dayton is no longer a place to fly over or drive through—it’s a place to stay and live large.

 

  1. Minneapolis, MN

Median price: $294,000

Unemployment: 3.9%

What you don’t know about Minneapolis: America’s second fittest city, Minneapolis boasts more than 200 miles of bike lanes and 5,000 acres of parkland. Twelve Fortune 500 companies, including Target, and numerous small businesses keep unemployment low and income high.

America’s (purportedly) most literate city also hosts Open Book, the country’s biggest book art center, and the Chanhassen, its largest dinner theater. And Mary Richards lived here. Questions?

 

  1. Virginia Beach, VA

Median price: $256,000

Unemployment: 5%

What you don’t know about Virginia Beach: Pharrell Williams was born and raised here, and his song “Happy” could easily serve as the official town anthem . After all, with sun-drenched beaches dotted with swimmers, sunbathers, and volleyball players, how could anyone not be happy? Plus, the city’s majority of low-density neighborhoods are perfect for those who hate crowded city living.

———

We’re in such a celebratory mood, we almost hate turning our eyes to the worst markets for first-time home buyers. Almost.

New York and San Francisco, you say? If the two cities had a penny for each time someone complained about their sky-high housing prices, the money could probably fund many buyers’ down payments. But for many people, the excitement and job opportunities of those cities are worth the price.

By our calculation, the worst markets are where climbing home prices and plunging inventory are not sustained by employment and infrastructure—or any real sense of fun. Because fun rules!

Spoiler alert: The bottom five markets are all in California. As Jonathan Smoke, our chief economist, points out, those markets are affected by the “spillover” effect of being in California—filled with people looking for alternatives to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

  1. Stockton, CA

Median price: $340,000

Unemployment: 8.8%

  1. Fresno, CA

Median price: $262,000

Unemployment: 10.5%

  1. Bakersfield, CA

Median price: $222,000

Unemployment: 10.9%

  1. Sacramento, CA

Median price: $428,000

Unemployment: 5.4%

  1. Riverside, CA

Median price: $344,000

Unemployment: 5.8%

What are your thoughts on the subject?

I read this article at: http://www.realtor.com/news/trends/top-10-cities-for-first-time-home-buyers/?identityID=9851214&MID=2016_0415_WeeklyNL-comafter23&RID=353497822&cid=eml-2016-0415-WeeklyNL-blog_1_topcities-blogs_trends

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