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The Complete Guide to Buying a House in Utah (2020)

Are you considering buying a house in Utah? Congratulations! Whether you’ve lived near the “greatest snow on Earth” your whole life, or are moving to our beautiful state for the first time, settling in Utah is a great choice for anyone. Utah has a lower cost of living than other states in the US, lots of fun things to do, and is one of the fastest growing tech hubs in the country!

If this is your first time buying a home, take a moment and breathe. The homebuying process is long, and can quickly get overwhelming, but with the right guidance, you can do it. That’s why we’ve put together this complete guide to buying a house in Utah– simply keep reading, and you’ll be ready to buy with confidence.

How Long Does Buying a House in Utah Take?

While some people do find their dream home on the first day of looking, and close 30 days later, for most folks, the homebuying process takes a little longer. Most people spend the first month or two (or longer) shopping around, potentially choosing the right neighborhood, considering their “want” and “need” list, and looking at a variety of homes with their realtor. Once you put in an offer, you’re likely to get a response and sign a contract in under a week. Most contract periods last at least 30 days before you can close and finally move in.

Programs for First Time Homebuyers in Utah

Person holding the keys to a new home.

If you’re buying a house for the first time in Utah, it’s important to be aware of the state’s special offers for first time buyers! Since the standard down payment for regular mortgages is 20%, the number of cash you need just to get a loan can be significant. These programs are designed to help you get a loan with a lower down payment requirements, or even no down payment, which is helpful if you don’t have significant savings yet. Here are a few great Utah programs designed to help first-time homebuyers.

  • First Home Mortgages: Made for families with at least a 660 credit score, but limited income and a smaller down payment.
  • UHC NoMI Loans: Only requires a down payment of 3%, but has higher interest rates than First Home Loans.
  • Utah Housing Score Loan: This mortgage program helps buyers with a credit score of less than 660. You’ll need to take a homebuyer education course within 90 days of closing on your home to qualify.
  • Location-Specific Home Buying Assistance Programs: Cities and counties in Utah such as Salt Lake City, Davis County, and Provo City have additional grants to help homebuyer’s in their location.
  • Utah Grants for Veterans: These grants are offered to veterans with who’ve been approved for a loan by a private lender, and provide assistance up to $2,500.

There are also national offers to help people purchase their first home. Check out the options below to see if you qualify:

10 Easy Steps to Buying a House in Utah

So, are you ready to start your journey towards owning a home in Utah? Congrats! Just follow the steps below and you’ll be in your dream house before you know it.

#1: Determine Your Budget

Before you can buy a home, you need to set an upper limit on what you’re willing (or able) to spend. Remember that buying a home includes more than just the base price of the house. You need to take into account closing costs, property taxes, utility fees, and your other monthly expenses to determine a good price range. It’s also good to keep in mind that most homes will need some repairs or updates in the first 6 months you live there, so make sure you can cover those costs as well.

#2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Choosing a mortgage lender is about more than going with the first company you see. Make sure you talk with at least three lending companies to see their average credit score requirements, the types of home loans they offer, and their average interest rate.

To qualify for a mortgage, you’ll have to fill out a formal application. You’ll also need to provide proof of employment or income, such as bank statements, a W-2 and/or your latest tax returns. The lender will also need to see a detailed credit report. Since your credit score often directly impacts your interest rate, make sure you have a good credit score before approaching a mortgage company.

#3. Find the Perfect Real Estate Agent

Real estate agent helping a couple find the perfect home.

Having a great real estate agent can make all the difference in the home buying process. A good agent is responsible, has a history of “making the sale” and significant experience in price negotiations, and is an excellent communicator. But you’ll also want to find a real estate agent who has the right “feel” for your needs. Choose a person who listens to the things you’re looking for and offers constructive advice on neighborhoods, price points, and your lists of needs and wants. Sometimes you’ll just have that “good feeling” in your gut about an agent– listen to your instincts!

It’s also important to know what qualities you DON’T want in a real estate agent. Avoid agents who want to “upsell,” or insist on showing you houses that don’t fit your needs. If you don’t like a house, your real estate agent should try to understand why, instead of trying to change your mind!

Note: Steps 2 and 3 are sometimes done in reverse order, since a Real Estate Agent can offer helpful advice on mortgages, or may have connections to trustworthy lenders.

If you are looking for a Utah real estate agent, we recommend Millie Killpack.

#4. Start Looking at Homes

This is simultaneously the most exciting, and the most stressful part of home buying. It’s exciting because it’s finally REAL, and you’re about to fall in love with “your” house. It’s also terrifying, because, hello, you’re actually going to buy a house!

When you’re looking at houses, keep an eye on what your heart says, as well as your head. Don’t rush into the first house you fall for without taking the time to ask questions and assess if the home is right for you. At the same time, if you absolutely love a house that doesn’t fit every point on your “list”, think about what really matters to you. Will you give up a fireplace for a beautiful neighborhood? Is a garage more important than a finished basement? Finding a house you can afford that also checks every box is rare, so be prepared to make some compromises.

#5: Make an Offer

Found the perfect home? Then it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Take some time to discuss your offer with your real estate agent. Talk about the home’s pros and cons, ask any questions you have (they can request answers from the seller’s agent), and think about any obvious repairs that need to be addressed, before settling on your number. Your agent will send you the paperwork and submit the offer to the other party, as well as guide you through any tricky negotiations!

#6: Get a Home Inspection

Home inspector checking a new home.

Now that your home is “under contract,” it’s time to call in the inspectors! Hiring a home inspector costs about $300-$500 each, but it is absolutely essential to make sure your home is up to code in terms of water pipes, electricity and fire safety, as well as checking for dangerous radon levels, termite or water damage, lead paint or any structural issues. Your real estate agent will be helpful here: they’ll be able to show you any tests done by the previous owners (though we always encourage a second opinion), and help you find the best local professionals.

#7: Close and Move In!

It’s finally here: Closing Day! Usually, closing takes place at a lawyer’s office, usually chosen by the seller. The lawyer will ensure that everyone really wants to sell/buy the home, and facilitate the proper paperwork to transfer the title. This is also where you’ll get the keys to your new home.

After closing, the house is yours! Now it’s time to move in, unpack, and have a glass of champagne. If you need help settling into your new home, Wasatch Moving Co. can handle all the heavy lifting with our local and intra-state moving packages. For more information, give us a call today!