first time homebuyer purchasing guide

Despite some economic uncertainty, homeownership amongst Americans remains strong, around 66% to be exact. Buying a home is an exciting life milestone that many hope to achieve sooner rather than later in life, which is why, even in times of economic hardship, homeownership remains relatively steady. This is especially true for first-time buyers because it allows them to build home equity, an essential financial asset.

But if you’re a Tampa first-time home buyer, finding and purchasing a property is likely overwhelming. From attending open houses to finding a mortgage lender, there’s a long list of things you must do before you can finally move into your dream home.

So let me help. Read my buying guide below for some must-have information about the home-buying process to ease the stress!

Overview of the Home-Buying Process 

Generally, the home-buying process looks something like this: 

  1. Find a property 
  1. Secure financing (mortgage loan) 
  1. Make an offer 
  1. Get a home inspection 
  1. Close on the purchase 

Of course, there will be many smaller steps in between, but these are the major stages to expect. 

In addition to understanding the home-buying process, you should learn more about the city you’re moving to, especially if you’re relocating. In my guide “Moving to Tampa: Everything You Need to Know,” you can discover all the unique reasons Tampa is a fantastic place to put down roots! 

Factors to Consider Before Becoming a Tampa First-Time Home Buyer 

Although becoming a first-time home buyer in Tampa, FL, is a thrilling decision, it’s not one to take lightly. The biggest thing to consider is the purchase price you can realistically afford. Factors that determine what you can afford include: 

  • Credit score 
  • Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio 
  • Interest rates 
  • Loan type (conventional loan, FHA loan, VA loan, USDA loan, etc.) 
  • Household income 

If you purchase a home you cannot afford, you may need to take out a second mortgage later on or risk foreclosing on the house. You never want to find yourself in this situation. 

Additional Fees to be Aware of: Down Payments, Closing Costs, Taxes, and Title Fees 

Don’t forget that after you make a down payment on a house, there are still many costs to follow. You will need to pay title and real estate agent fees. You’ll also have to pay closing costs. 

How much do these fees cost? Read my guide, “Closing Costs in Florida: What You Need to Know,” to better understand how much closing costs are in Florida. 

Fortunately, some housing programs specifically help with additional fees, such as closing cost assistance, which you can research to help with costs outside the home purchase price. However, don’t solely rely on these programs to help you. 

Finally, remember you’ll need to pay your mortgage’s monthly payment. Homeowners insurance, and yearly property taxes. If you’re unsure how much the property taxes will be, ask me, your real estate agent! 

First-Time Homeownership Programs 

Affordable housing is becoming harder to come by these days, but luckily, several home-buying assistance programs are available, especially for buyers purchasing their first home. Let’s explore them. 

“Dare to Own the Dream” Homeownership Program 

The City of Tampa’s first-time homebuyer program, “Dare to Own the Dream,” offers down payment assistance of up to $40,000 to eligible home buyers. This program has income limits, meaning if your household income is 140% above the Area Median Income (AMI), you will not be eligible for assistance. 

Additionally, participants must use the services of either a loan officer or real estate agent on the city’s Approved Lender List or Approved Realtor List to qualify. 

Even if you don’t qualify for this program, Florida has a first-time buyer tax credit. The Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) allows first-time buyers to claim up to $2,000 of their mortgage interest as a tax credit. 

FHA Home Loans 

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This agency offers loans with more favorable terms to first-time homebuyers. Because the government is the lender, it can take more risk when lending money to new homeowners than traditional lenders. 

For example, borrowers only need to put down 3% (compared to 10-20%) and can qualify for a loan with a lower credit score than other loan types. 

Down Payment Assistance Program 

The down payment assistance program is another first-time homebuyer program for Tampa and Hillsborough County residents. This program helps buyers and their spouses buy their first principal residence. 

The assistance is valid for up to $15,000, but the amount you receive will depend on your income level. 

Aside from this specific program, other state and federal government agencies have several more down payment assistance programs you can research. 

Tips on How to Successfully Apply for Homeownership Programs

When applying for homeownership assistance programs, ensure you meet all eligibility requirements before completing each application. You don’t want to waste your time applying for something you don’t qualify for. 

You can also enroll in homebuyer education classes, which will help you with all the steps in the home-buying process, from finding a lender to understanding the home inspection and closing costs. Especially for first-time buyers, these classes are invaluable; you can often enroll for free. 

Aside from homebuyer education classes, plenty of other resources exist regarding becoming a homeowner, so consider exploring them before starting the home-buying process.  

Ready to Become a Tampa First-Time Home Buyer? 

If you’re a Tampa first-time home buyer, bookmark this homebuyer education guide to help you through the home-buying process. When you’re ready to begin, search my listings and get in touch with me, Kimmie Fine, to learn more about buying your first home! 

As a prominent figure in the Tampa real estate with 19 years of experience in real estate sales, I know the market better than anyone. You don’t have to go through this process alone—let’s make this dream happen together.