3 Personal Finance Hacks For Homebuyers

 The most intimidating part of buying a house, especially for first-timers, is without a doubt the financing. For most of us, it’s the biggest purchase we are ever going to make in our lives, which adds a certain amount of pressure. What few people know is that there are several programs in place to help buyers with the finances -- if you know where to look.


HUD Homes


HUD homes are houses owned by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. They are acquired by the government during the foreclosure of an FHA-backed mortgage and can thus be eligible for FHA financing, whose benefits include lower down payments and potential financing for home improvements.


HUD homes tend to be quite cheap, and they can also help you save in smaller ways. For instance, HUD pays up to 5 percent of closing costs and your real estate broker will not charge you for placing the offer. The main downside of buying a HUD home is that they can be in a state of disrepair, but this makes it perfect for a first-time buyer looking for a cheap fixer-upper.


This detailed guide by Home Advisor contains everything you need to know about how HUD Homes work and how you could benefit from buying one. You can find HUD homes in your area on their official website or by asking your local realtor.


Special Loans


FHA financing on a HUD house is just one of many special loans you can get to help you buy your house. Before you start shopping around for mortgages, check whether you are eligible for any of the following:


       USDA Loan - Also called a rural development loan, this is similar to FHA financing but is specifically targeted toward people buying homes in rural areas. These usually have zero down payments and are even cheaper than FHA loans. Eligibility is for low and moderate-income families.

       VA Loan - Loans by the Department of Veteran Affairs are offered to veterans, surviving spouses, and those currently serving. There are zero down payments and no mortgage insurance. Instead, a VA Funding fee -- usually 2.15 percent of the loan amount -- is the only extra charge.

       Good Neighbor Next Door - A HUD initiative that offers a 50 percent discount on homes in revitalization areas for teachers and emergency service workers. The homes are only listed for a week, so you have to be fast and keep an eye on the official listings.


Credit Score Hacks


Your credit score makes a big difference in how much you will ultimately pay for your house. The better your score, the lower the down payment, the better the interest rate, and the more your bank is willing to lend you. For this reason, it is worth your time and some effort to boost your score as much as possible before applying for a loan.


To begin, you need to know your credit score (about one in three Americans don’t). You are entitled to a free credit report from all three credit report agencies every year: download them all to get yourself familiarized with the figures. Then, try some of the following techniques:


       Reduce debt as much as possible -- this is less of a hack than just common sense, but it will by far have the most impact on your score.

       Increase your credit limits while taking care to keep your spending the same.

       Ask a loved one with good credit whether you can become an authorized user on the credit card -- also known as piggybacking.

       Dispute negative information on credit reports if it is outdated or incorrect.

       Add your rental information to your credit score.



A little bit of research goes a long way when it comes to financial planning, so take your time finding out what options are available to you. Don’t assume you are tied to a classic 30-year mortgage with a 20 percent down payment or that your credit score is beyond your control. Help is available to you: you just have to know where to look.