Marie McLaughlin - Century 21 Alliance realty
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First-Time Buyer FAQs

First-Time Home Buyer Questions, Answered

Are you buying your first home in Spring Hill?

Congratulations! Home ownership is an exciting adventure. Hernando County is a beautiful place to call home. I’ve been selling real estate in the area since 2003, and am confident you will enjoy the area as much as I have.

No matter where you buy, the unknowns make first homes seem daunting. To help make the process a little easier, my team and I have put together the answers to some of the most common questions I hear every day.

Home ownership is a rewarding experience. Find the answers you need to begin your journey here...


Q: What is the first step I should take when I want to buy a house?

The very first step is to evaluate whether or not you are truly ready to purchase a home. Ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Do you have a reliable job and income? Provable and reliable income are essential to buying your first home. You should have at least six months (possibly more) of pay stubs or bank deposits showing you have a secure way to repay the mortgage you will be applying for.
  • Do you have money saved up for a down payment? You should expect to put down money for your down payment and often need to bring money to closing. You should have 10-20% of the total purchase cost of your home saved for down payment and closing costs, depending on the type of home you are purchasing. That means, on a $150,000 home you ideally should have about $15,000 saved. There are special loans available to first-time home buyers that can reduce this upfront cost, such as FHA or VA loans. So if you have some savings, feel good about all the other questions here, but haven't quite hit the savings mark, talk to a mortgage lender about your options.
  • Are you able to pay a mortgage plus taxes and insurance every month and any other expenses that may occur? Your mortgage lender will do the math on what they think about your financial situation, but you know your finances best. Typically, your mortgage shouldn’t account for more than 30% of your household income. Take a look at your budget and make sure you can cover not just the mortgage, but savings for major repairs and other expenses. As a renter, the landlord typically handles these. Once you own your home, there are hidden costs to think about.
  • Have you missed a bill payment within the last couple of years? And do you have any long-term debts or liabilities? Be realistic about where your current credit stands and what issues might cause you not to qualify for a mortgage. 

Once you have confirmed that you have the appropriate income, can make a down payment, evaluate your budget, and check your credit history, you are ready to speak to a mortgage lender about pre-qualification.


Q: Can you refer someone for Lending, inspection, or repairs?

Yes I can! Give me a call at (727) 858-7569 or fill out the form on the Contact Us page and I will match you with one of the trusted professionals I work with every day.


Q: What are the utility companies?

Hernando County residents are part of Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative. They are one of the world's largest non-profit electric utilities.

Hernando County Utilities covers water, sewer, and trash. They are responsible for water and sewer services for county residents and also solid waste disposal and recycling services.


Q: What are the school zones for Hernando County?

Hernando County schools provide ample opportunities for both zoned and magnet schools. You can review each school’s zoning on the Hernando County School District’s website or call the district office at (352) 797-7000 to verify the schools zoned for areas you are looking at.


Q: Where is the best shopping in Spring Hill?   

Most of the best shopping in the Spring Hill area is technically in Brooksville. At the end of Mariner Boulevard at State Road 50, there are numerous national retailers. You will find Dick’s Sporting Good Store, Hobby Lobby, and more in this area.

For luxury shopping or a more traditional mall, we are less than an hour away from The Shops at Wiregrass, Citrus Park Mall, or the premier luxury venue in the area, International Plaza.


Q: How do I know if I can buy a home?

If you are renting right now, pay all your bills on time, and have some savings, chances are pretty good that you can buy your own home. A great place to begin determining what you afford is by using a free mortgage calculator. You can also call me at (727) 858-7569 for a referral to a reputable mortgage lender in our area. He/She can help you get pre-approved so we can begin searching for the perfect home for your family.


Q: What are the benefits of owning a home?

There are many benefits to owning a home. Greater privacy, building wealth over time, and more predictable housing fees are all examples. There are also tax advantages. Many people find that, over the longterm, buying is actually less expensive than renting. 


Q:  How much home can I afford?

It depends on how much money you make and your down payment. The standard rule is that your monthly expenses should not exceed 36%.


Q. What are the different types of loans for first-time buyers?

There are many different first-time home buyer programs available, such as FHA loans, US Department of Veteran Affairs and USDA loans. A good mortgage lender will help you choose the type of loan that is right for your needs.  Residents of Hernando County can also take advantage of special assistance programs like the SHIP program.


Q: What type of maintenance will I need to think about when I buy a home?

When there is no longer a landlord responsible for maintenance you take on many extra responsibilities. Think about yard work and other outdoor maintenance activities. Then, you will have indoor maintenance such as HVAC filters, cleaning the garbage disposal and cleaning or replacing range hood filters, smoke detectors, vacuuming the coils on your refrigerator and numerous other items. The best thing to do is to set up a home maintenance checklist. This way you will have an annual plan for performing household maintenance. Click here for a seasonal checklist from Better Homes and Gardens to help keep you on track.


Q: What will my taxes be like?

Taxes are determined on the assessed value of the property. This information is public, so you can do a property search through your local tax collector to see what the range would be for your potential property. Simply put in the address of the property and you will get years of property tax info and sales history information. You can find information for Spring Hill, Florida and surrounding areas here:


Q:  What do home inspectors do?

Inspectors cover every reasonable visible inch of a home and evaluate it from top to bottom. Then, they report their findings in a report for the buyer. This report will tell you what needs to be repaired.  The inspector mainly focuses on the mechanical systems, structure and construction of the house. It is not their job to give you insight on whether you’re getting a good deal, but they will give you an idea what it would cost to repair certain conditions. A home inspection is an important part of the home buying process.


Q:  Do I need a lawyer?

Florida does not traditionally use lawyers to close real estate transactions. If you're buying a home in Florida all you need is a title company however, the choice is entirely up to you.


Q:  What do I need to consider about flood zones?

While laws are different in every state, common law in the U.S. mandates that the seller of any real property is required to disclose all material facts that affect price paid and desirability by a potential buyer.  Make sure you ask your Realtor, insurance agent or lender about the properties flood status before writing an offer.


Q:  Should I avoid sinkhole homes?

Not necessarily. You have to make sure you have all the proper documentation. There is usually a 7 to 10% difference in potential sales price so you can find a good deal but you will also need to find out if the home is insurable.


Q: How long will it take to close on a home?

In most cases, home sellers expect buyers to close within 60 days.  Generally, most buyers who are financing require 45-60 days to close.  While cash buyers may close in as little as 14 days depending if the home is vacant or the occupants can move quickly.


Q: How much of a down payment do I need?

The standard answer is about 20%. If you put less than that down there may be more fees associated with the mortgage, although some FHA Loans work with as little as a 3.5% down payment. Just remember, the less you put down the more your mortgage payment will be. In addition, home owners who put down less than 20% can be required to attain Private Mortgage Insurance, which raises the monthly cost of home ownership.

Q: What's a home warranty?

It is a one year service agreement that covers the repair or replacement of many major home system components and appliances.


Q:  Will my taxes and insurance be included in my mortgage?

Most likely, for a first-time buyer in Florida, your taxes and insurance will be included on your monthly mortgage payment bill and held in an escrow account. These fees are separate from the fixed monthly payment for your mortgage. They often vary from year-to-year, based on insurance rates and tax changes.


Q:  What is the difference between prequalified and preapproved?

When you are pre-qualified this simply means that based on what you have told the lender, you qualify for a mortgage. This is different from pre-approval, which requires verification of income and credit history. 

Remember, buying a home can be exciting and fun but it can also be downright frustrating! It is just hard to know what to expect. But by doing a little homework you can set yourself up for a very rewarding experience.