Tips on How to Buy a House in Today’s Market

Buying a home may be the American dream. But with escalating home prices, rising interest rates, low inventory, and inflation, as a first-time buyer, you may be wondering if that dream is out of reach.

Many new homeowners rely on first-time homebuyer (FTHB) programs like low down payment and closing cost assistance to help get in the door. While these are great resources to tap into,  it’s helpful to keep in mind that many of these programs apply to homes in a specific price range. For example, in Michigan, down payment assistance is available to homes priced at $224,500 or less, even though those homes are getting harder to find. In fact, the Federal Housing Finance Agency says US house prices have gone up 17.5% over the last year, and according to, there are currently 481 “million-dollar cities” in the US where the typical home value is at least $1 million.


So, what’s the average consumer with a household income of $120,000 or less supposed to do? We asked Steve Cartwright, one of our experienced loan officers at Amerifirst, for tips on how to get yourself in the best shape possible so that you too can start living the dream. Here are his 6 tips: 

  1. Estimate your monthly mortgage payment.

    Before you buy, estimate what your monthly mortgage payment will be (you can use an online tool or talk to a loan officer for help), and figure out how you and your family are going to live with this monthly expense. Then, If you can, get into a habit of depositing that amount into your savings account each month—even if it means living with mom and dad while you do it. Lenders love to see a consistent history of deposits!
  2.  Talk to an experienced loan officer.

    If you’re just starting to think about buying a home, I recommend that you sit down with a loan officer. They can answer all your questions and teach you a little about how the process works even before you pre-apply. Then, after you’ve saved up some money for a down payment and improved your credit score (see below), you’ll be ready to pre-apply for a loan. At that point, you’ll fill out an application and go through a credit check, and if you qualify, the lender will give you a pre-approval letter that you can show sellers to prove you have the financial resources to buy a home. This letter is typically valid for 90 days, so talk to your loan officer about the best time to start this process.

Sell your home fast in Atlanta Georgia

  1. Get your credit score in the best shape possible.

    Rule number one: don’t use the internet for credit advice. Call an experienced loan officer and ask them to analyze your credit. Many first-time homebuyers make mistakes that drag down their credit, but you can avoid those pitfalls. For example, instead of getting a credit card and maxing it out, keep it at 30% of the credit limit. Also, this is not the time to refinance a car loan to lower your payment, as it will show up as a new loan that can lower your credit score. Choosing not to make payments on your student loans as interest rates rise is also a drag on your credit.
  2. Pump up your savings.

    Do everything in your power to save 10% of the purchase price of the home you want to buy. You should have a minimum of $10,000 in the bank when you close. That’s a lot of money, but you’ll need it to cover the down payment, appraisal gap, closing costs, etc. Sellers aren’t agreeing to pay closing costs anymore because it’s a seller’s market, and they don’t have to.
  3. Consider buying a fixer-upper.

    If you’re working remotely, you may want to consider moving to an area that’s not so costly. There are still some affordable pockets in the country. For example, there are some counties in the Midwest where you can find houses for $100,000. You should also consider buying a fixer-upper using a renovation loan. With this type of loan, you borrow one amount to cover the home’s purchase price and the cost of repairs, which you can spread out across 30 years. Reno loans also help you earn instant home equity (the part of your home that you, not the lender, own) so you can start building wealth. While affordable, prime-condition homes may be scarce or non-existent, affordable fixer-uppers are much easier to find, so this may be your best viable option.
  4. Use an Appraisal Gap Guarantee.

    Last year, over 50% of loans that closed had Appraisal Gap Guarantees. That means the asking price is higher than the home’s appraised value, which can happen in competitive markets. The only problem is that lenders won’t give you a loan for more than a house is worth, minus the down payment requirements of the program you are approved for. However, you can put an Appraisal Gap Guarantee in your offer to get around this problem. Then use your own cash reserves (money you’ll have in the bank after closing) to pay the difference to the seller.

Know how to Get a Mortgage for a Manufactured Home

Frustrated with the lack of homes available to buy? Tired of competing with multiple offers for your dream home? Getting that sinking feeling that rising home prices are pushing you out of the market?

Consider a manufactured home.

With its budget-friendly price tag, high-end customization options, shorter build time and cheaper maintenance, a manufactured home is an affordable housing solution that is getting more attractive to homebuyers of all ages – especially in a tight housing market.

What is a manufactured home?

Today’s manufactured home is not your grandmother’s mobile home. Manufactured homes (built after June 15, 1976) are built entirely in a factory to meet the federal building code administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These federal standards regulate home design and construction, strength and durability, transportability, fire resistance, energy efficiency and quality. This includes performance standards for the heating, plumbing, air conditioning, thermal and electrical systems. Manufactured homes are built on a non-removable steel chassis and sections are transported to the building site on their own wheels.

Can I get a home loan for a manufactured home?

Yes!* But there’s one thing you’ll need: the HUD tag on your manufactured home. This tag has a number that the manufacturer stamped on it when they made the home—a practice the government required starting in 1976. To earn the tag, manufacturers must follow the strict set of building codes we mentioned above that make each home a safe place to live. Choosing a home with this tag not only protects your safety and your financial investment but it’s also required by lenders before they can finance the home. Let’s learn a little more about this label and why it’s so important.

What is a HUD Label?

This is a red metal label that the home’s manufacturer attaches to each section of a home at the factory. The label proves that the home has been certified by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Since manufactured home builders can’t predict where homes will be installed, it doesn’t make sense to build them according to state codes. Instead, all manufactured homes are regulated by HUD, which sets a national standard as we explained above.

What can my home’s HUD Label tell me?

The fact that the home is marked with this label is proof that it was made after 1976 when the government put HUD manufacturing standards into effect, and the home complies with all of the federal guidelines. The specific number printed on your home’s label can tell you some things, too. Each label shows three letters (which identify the agency that inspected the home) followed by a unique six-digit number known as the certification label number. This number will be noted on your appraisal, and it is required for all types of loans.

Where can I find the HUD Label?

Look on the outside of the home, on or near the back. (While single-wide homes have just one HUD label, each half of a double-wide home will have its own label, so remember to look for and record each one.) Labels should be approximately two inches tall and four inches wide. When new, they are red with silver text, however, they can fade with time.

If the HUD Label is missing and you know the home was built after 1976, ask your loan officer to order a Label Verification Letter from IBTS, available at a nominal cost to you. If the home was built before 1976, it will not have a label, and you will not be able to get financing for it.

If you’re the owner of a manufactured home, you may want to take a photo of the label and keep it with your important documents so you don’t have to search for it every time you need it.

What is the HUD Data Plate?

Manufactured homes also have another important plate known as the HUD Data Plate. This is the manufacturer’s certification that the home is built in accordance with HUD’s construction and safety standards.

What can my home’s HUD Data Plate tell me?

The plate shows the:

  • Name and address of the manufacturing plant,
  • Manufacturer’s serial number and model,
  • Design approved primary inspection agency,
  • A list of certification labels for body and frame requirements, thermal protection, plumbing, electrical, fire safety, and other aspects of the home. These HUD standards are published in the Code of Federal Regulations (24 CFR part 3280, Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards). 
  • Date your home was manufactured

Where can I find the HUD Data Plate?

Look for an 8-1/2 x 11-inch document mounted inside your home, typically near the

main electrical panel, inside the master bedroom closet door, utility or laundry room door, inside a kitchen cabinet or on the backside of a cabinet door. As show in the 

example, the data plate has a map of the United States to let you know the Wind Zone,

Snow Load, and Roof Load for which the home was built

Thanks to HUD guidelines and manufacturers

who use the same building materials found in site-built homes, today’s manufactured homes are designed to be safe and built to last.  As you can see, the information found on the label and the data plate is all the information you’ll need to buy your home, and when the time comes, to sell it as well.


The need for quality, affordable housing has never been greater. Today’s manufactured homes can deliver outstanding quality and performance prices that are up to 50 percent less per square foot than conventional site-built homes. These savings allow more and more Americans to own their own home, even in the face of an ever-widening housing affordability gap. And the first step in getting a home loan to buy your manufactured home: locating the HUD label!