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""If your largest purchase or expense to date has been a security deposit for an apartment or car payment, deciding to buy a house can be scary.

Fortunately, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) has First Time Home Buyer (FTHB) resources to prepare you for the big purchase. From learning how to manage your credit to choosing real estate representation, do your research to ensure you end up in the right home for your family.

Take Home Buyer Classes or Speak to a Housing Counselor

MassHousing and some private organizations offer classes throughout the Commonwealth to first-time buyers. The classes touch upon all aspects of the home buying process, including how to determine what you can afford and the benefits of a home inspection, as well as the responsibilities that come with owning a home. Some first-time home buyer programs and loan programs require first-time buyers to complete a course.

Contact a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)–approved Housing Counseling Agency or find a home buyer education course near you to get started.

Know Your Credit Score and Manage Your Debt

When preparing to buy a home, you must first understand the importance of establishing good credit and managing your debt. A good credit score can improve your chances of getting a lower interest rate when you take out a mortgage. If your credit score is lower than you would like, you can work to improve it by being smart about money.

According to Massachusetts General Law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau per year. Be sure to obtain your report from one of the three major credit rating agencies before you begin your home search.

Obtain a Mortgage

Once you are satisfied with your credit score, savings, and overall debt, you can begin the process of obtaining home financing. Whether you use a private lender or a state-funded program, steps to secure a mortgage include:

  • Comparing rates and terms
  • Checking that your mortgage lender and broker are licensed by calling (800) 495-2265
  • Obtaining your rate commitment in writing
  • Submitting all paperwork in a timely manner
  • Keeping track of your mortgage application throughout the process

Although EOHED does not directly issue mortgages, a number of its programs can help middle- and low-income residents in Massachusetts get home financing. If you can’t afford current market prices, you may also be eligible to get housing assistance through EOHED. Some of the options include:

  • ONE Mortgage Program — A cooperative program between the private and public sector to help first-time home buyers obtain competitive financing. Since many first-time home buyers have a difficult time getting a mortgage that is large enough for the average home on the market, the ONE Mortgage Program breaks the total mortgage amount into two smaller mortgages. For more information, prospective buyers should reach out to their local program representative in the community where they want to purchase a home or the Massachusetts Housing Partnership Fund at (617) 330-9955.
  • MassHousing — A self-supporting quasi-public agency that provides affordable housing opportunities across Massachusetts. MassHousing offers properties for sale to people who qualify, as well as a variety of mortgage options to prospective home buyers. Through MassHousing’s Home for the Brave program, veterans may be eligible for low down payment mortgage financing. This program is also available to active-duty military and the spouses of military members killed while on active duty. Find out if you’re eligible for MassHousing loans through the eligibility check.

If you have questions about mortgage loans, contact the Attorney General’s Office (AGO).

Choose Real Estate Representation

Many first-time home buyers choose to hire a real estate agent. Real estate professionals, sometimes known as brokers or agents, can facilitate the process and help you buy a home in Massachusetts. If you’re using real estate representation, make sure to check their professional license, issued through the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR). However, you are not required to use real estate representation. Before making a decision, learn about your options and what representation best suits you.

By attending classes, checking your credit, and managing your debt, you can work to secure your finances for a home purchase. Through EOHED and OCABR’s resources, you can explore your mortgage and real estate representation options before you move on to the next step: choosing the right home.

First-time home buyers, what tips do you have for managing debt? Comment below or tweet us @MassGov.

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