If you have been considering buying a home and you’re on the fence, it’s time to get off it and own the home it surrounds. There has never been a better time to get preapproved for a first mortgage. The pandemic created an intimidating housing market, but it also made securing the finances for a starter home easier than in the past.

First, interest rates hit historic lows. This means consumers can borrow more money than previously. Yes, you may be paying more for that starter home, but low interest rates mean you can afford it.

Second, our remote world has leveled the playing field between traditional brick-and-mortar lenders and online lenders. Instead of walking into a bank or setting up meetings with a variety of lenders, consumers can shop online and get a mortgage without leaving their house. The increased competition means better opportunities for consumers.

Lastly, more first-time buyers today have better credit thanks to stimulus payments they used to pay down debt.

The first step is for buyers to search for the best interest rate. Consumers should always look for the lowest annual percentage rate, or APR. The APR combines the interest rate plus all the fees associated with it. Increased competition between lenders is generally favorable for buyers, but some lenders have increased fees to turn a profit. This means a buyer might be quoted a lower interest rate, but the added fees could make the mortgage higher and result in buyers paying more out-of-pocket at closing.

With a preapproved rate, finding that starter home will be a lot less stressful. Buyers will have a better idea of what homes are in their budget and how much they should be offering.

People typically buy three homes in their lifetime – a starter, a move up and a dream home. The starter home will be the least expensive of the three. Even if a buyer ends up paying more now for the starter home, it still won’t be as expensive as the next home. When it’s time for that bigger house, a starter home will either be more valuable and a buyer will have more money for the bigger home, or it will decrease in value along with the rest of the housing market and that bigger home will be cheaper.

Take advantage of the current lending environment to find the lowest APR mortgage and get off that fence and into that starter home. After all, the grass is always greener when you own the lawn instead of rent it.

Ryan Woodruff has 25 years of management, sales and customer service experience, and is currently the Vice President of Mortgage Lending for Teachers Credit Union (TCU).

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