Home Buying Tips for New U.S. Citizens

The home buying process is often daunting for many people, but for those who are new U.S. citizens, the task can be particularly difficult. However, having a house to oneself is a dream for many immigrants, and there are options available that can help make the process easier to navigate. 

In order to help get your footing on the home buying process as a new U.S. citizen, here are a few tips and resources you can utilize to make your journey as easy as possible.

Save Early

While there are first-time homeowners loans available that immigrants should certainly take advantage of, these loans still require a down payment of 3.5%. Therefore, saving money in advance is imperative to the process. 

Signing up for a bank account in the United States as a new citizen can be difficult, especially due to the potential lack of a U.S. credit score. However, there are now online banks that don’t require credit checks to sign up, allowing you to have a safe place to save your money during your home buying process.

Build Credit

As mentioned previously, credit scores play a major role in the home buying process; your credit history will impact the interest rates and loan amounts you have access to. This applies to most mortgage services, aside from a few agencies that perform underwriting for home buyers and don’t take credit score into account when applying.

However, there are options available for new citizens looking to build their credit. One option would be to use your international credit report to get credit in the United States. This means that you won’t need to spend time signing up for credit cards and building credit, if you have a solid credit score from your previous nation of residence.

Find Community Support

Remember that the home buying process isn’t something that you need to take on all by yourself. Through the support of your friends, family, and other members of your local community, you can find a great network of people who have been through the home buying process themselves. Many of them would be more than willing to provide insights and advice on how to navigate it in the best, most cost-effective way. 

Finally, look for real estate agents that have experience working with new citizens, as they can often point you in the direction of the best resources for you to utilize while searching for a home. They will also be more understanding of your current situation, and give you the time and advice you need, to avoid rushing into the process and overspending, or settling on a home you don’t enjoy. At the end of the day, being a homeowner is a wonderful experience, and the day you finally sign the final deal will be incredibly rewarding.

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What Is an Escalation Clause?

You’re a first-time home buyer and just found your dream house. You put in an offer. The seller goes with someone else.

That’s OK, because shortly after you find another beautiful home! You put in your offer. But once again, the seller goes with someone else.

Anyone would be bummed in this situation. Most would be thinking the same thing: How can I break the pattern?

The escalation clause is a potential solution. See how this real estate tip can keep your offer on the table!

What It Is

The escalation clause is this little-known addendum that you can add to your offer. If you hear that there are other offers on the table, you can submit an escalation clause to help give your offer a little boost.

Infographic explaining what an escalation clause is in real estate

How It Works

Oftentimes, interested home buyers will submit an offer on a house they really love, listing the max price they’d pay off the bat. Their offer still might not get accepted, but even if it does, they might end up paying more than they needed to.

Let’s say you put in your offer at $250k. You find out there are other offers. Here’s what you can do:

  • Determine what your maximum amount is
    • Ex: “I don’t want to pay more than $280k on a house.”
  • Decide the incremental amount you’ll extend your initial offer
    • Ex: “I’ll increase my offer by $1200 up to $280k.”

There’s a lot that goes into making an offer, and an escalation clause doesn’t guarantee success. However, it can keep your foot in the real estate door, and it’s handy for when you find a house that you really want.

Can an Escalation Clause Backfire?

Not really, except in the sense that you could end up paying your max when you didn’t need to. The best way to prevent this is by only submitting an escalation clause when you know there are other offers. Don’t submit if the sellers tell you “We’re expecting other offers” or something along those lines—only when there are actual, written offers on the table. Ask the seller’s agent to let you know when other written offers have been presented.

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Pre-Event Offers: An Escalation Clause Alternative

Placing a pre-event offer for a home auction is similar to an escalation clause. With RealtyHive, your pre-event offer could be accepted and then you wouldn’t even have to wait for the event itself! You can submit your offer and increase it in the same increments. We also sell traditional properties, so escalation clauses can help in competitive situations.

You might have been unsuccessful with offers in the past, but with your newfound escalation clause and pre-event offer knowledge, we think your future of home ownership is looking pretty bright. Check out some of the incredible properties on RealtyHive today!

Special thanks to @fixandflip_kdesigns for their business tips.