“We could hardly afford a nanny in New York.” But this year we bought a gorgeous home in Savannah for $ 340,000. Here’s how.

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Looking back, I still can’t believe that the bank gave me and my husband a mortgage in the midst of a global pandemic. My husband had just gotten a 50% pay cut and we were living with my parents in Westchester County, New York because we could no longer afford the rent for our Brooklyn apartment. But the house we bet on in Savannah (my husband grew up there), which we only saw on the Internet, was within our budget – in the end, we paid $ 340,000 for it and got an interest rate of 3.25%. (This week, mortgage rates hit their lowest level since winter. Compare the best mortgage rates here.)

Our monthly mortgage payment is now $ 1,500 less than Brooklyn rent. In New York, some parking spaces are used for what we bought a whole house in Savannah for. Our real estate agent walked us around the house via FaceTime before we submitted our offer.

However, the process of obtaining a mortgage permit was so stressful that I lost weight. But we left him more mortgage-aware and incredibly grateful for our home and much less stressful life in Savannah. Here’s what we learned about getting a mortgage. (You can find lenders with the best rates here.)

1. I didn’t need to save as much for the down payment as I expected.

I always thought that no one would give you a home unless you save 20% of the home’s value as a down payment. As creative professionals living in New York for twenty years, we could hardly afford a nanny – forget the tens of thousands of dollars. What I didn’t realize, however, was that if you’re a first-time homeowner with a credit rating of 580 or higher, you are eligible for a FHA loan with a down payment of just 3.5%. In our case, it was $ 11,900, of which we had little. (Need to save on a down payment? These are some of the best savings accounts out there.)

2. The annual interest rate on mortgages varies greatly.

Before we bought the house, I thought that mortgage rates are pretty much fixed. But when I started looking around, I saw rates that varied by as much as 1%. This explains why it pays to shop around to get the best price. (You can find lenders with the best rates here.) Indeed, mortgage rates change every day, and finding the best rate can mean thousands and thousands of dollars that you will save over the life of the loan.

3. Getting pre-approval is easy. Getting a real mortgage is not.

Most of the sellers we came across wanted us to get pre-approval for a mortgage before they considered the offer. Getting pre-approval, at least for us, was very easy – the lender checked our credit score and monthly income – and sent us a pre-approval email.

Getting a real mortgage, however, is a different story altogether. We were required to submit tax returns for the past two years, along with proof of income and information about our assets. We also had to provide the lender with access to our daily transactions in our bank accounts. This made my husband so nervous that he was afraid to buy even the simplest products for fear that the wrong purchase would cause the underwriters to refuse our loan. Still, it was worth it (have you seen what a sweet home I have ?!). (You can find lenders with the best rates here.)

4. Our lender made us take a financial literacy course.

While they were arranging our loan, our lenders forced us to take a financial literacy course from Freddie Mac, which included tips on how to make a budget, as well as suggestions on how much income to spend on home renovations each year to maintain the value of the apartment building. … At the end, we had to take a test. My husband really appreciated this aspect of the process, although the course took many hours – he had never studied financial literacy before.

5. Our mortgage was sold before we made our first monthly payment.

Even before we paid our first monthly mortgage payment, our loan was sold to another bank. We found out about this when we received by mail an extract from a bank completely unfamiliar to us. I almost threw the application into the trash – fortunately, I had the foresight to open it. This is completely normal. The terms of our loan have not changed – only the one to whom we send money has changed.

Bottom line: A year later, and we are incredibly grateful. Even with the loss of our job and various other hardships, we never had to pay the mortgage. And every day this house, which we found on the Internet, more and more resembles our home. (You can find lenders with the best mortgage rates here.)

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