Empowering First-Time Homebuyers: Your Community Bank's Role

Published on : 6/10/2024

Buying your first home is an exciting and significant milestone. It can also be one of the most important purchases you will ever make. Navigating the complexities and financial options overwhelm even the most informed borrowers. That's where a trusted relationship with your community bank comes in! Community banks offer personalized services and expert advice designed to meet the unique needs of first-time homebuyers.

Let’s explore the various financing options and discuss how the right banking partner can provide support at every stage of the home-buying journey.


Understanding Your Needs as a First-Time Homebuyer ​​​​​​

Banking and Financing Options

As a first-time homebuyer, understanding the different types of financing options available is crucial to making an informed decision. Community banks may offer a variety of home loans to fit your needs:
  • Fixed-Rate Mortgages: These loans offer stability with a consistent interest rate throughout the loan term. Predictable payments make budgeting easier.
  • Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs): ARMs start with a lower interest rate that can change periodically. You may consider these if you plan to move or refinance in the near term.
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loans: Ideal for those with lower credit scores or smaller down payments, FHA loans are backed by the government.
  • Veterans Affairs (VA) Loans: Available to veterans and active-duty military, these loans offer favorable terms without requiring a down payment.
  • Rural Housing (RD) Loans: Designed for low to moderate income homebuyers in eligible rural areas offering 100% financing.
  • State Housing Loans: State Housing Authority mortgage programs provide low fixed rate mortgages and other assistance to qualified borrowers.

Once you have a good understanding of the various financing options, the next step is to focus on qualifying for a home loan.

Qualifying for a Home Loan

Securing a mortgage involves several steps, including credit checks and income verification. An excellent first step is to talk with your local Mortgage Loan Officer (MLO). They will guide you through the requirements of an application and assist you with your pre-approval request. A mortgage pre-approval is a key step in the home-buying process as it helps you clarify your budget. It is particularly important as it allows you to shop with confidence and be seen as a serious buyer. Once pre-approved, you know your market buying power and can start looking for your dream home within your affordable range.


The Role of a Bank’s Mortgage Loan Officer and Team in Your Home Buying Process

Your MLO will walk you through the pre-approval process, ensuring you have everything you need for a successful loan application. Once you identify a property, and have a successful offer to purchase, they will guide you through the loan application process and review your application every step of the way.

In addition, your Loan Coordination team will be communicating with you on a regular basis, providing updates on the status of your loan request as well as next steps to avoid any surprises.

The Closing/Title Agent is responsible for researching the title to identify liens, ownership and ensuring that you are prepared for closing in advance.

Explaining Closing Costs

MLOs will explain costs and fees associated with buying a home, including escrow accounts and how they are managed during the home-buying process. They will provide a detailed breakdown of common closing costs and help estimate these expenses, which may include:

  • Origination Fees: Fees charged by the lender for processing the loan application.
  • Appraisal Fees: Fees for hiring a professional appraiser to determine the market value of the property.
  • Title Insurance: Insurance that protects you and the lender against any issues with the property's title.
  • Attorney Fees: Costs for property search and legal services during the closing process.
  • Recording Fees: Fees for recording the new mortgage and deed with the local government.
  • Prepaid Costs: Upfront payments for property taxes, homeowners insurance, and mortgage interest.

MLOs and their loan coordination teams are your partner in completing your home loan purchase and will answer any questions you have along the way.

What to Look for in an Ideal Community Banking Partner

Choosing the right bank is a crucial step in ensuring a smooth home-buying process. An ideal community bank provides more than just financial services - it offers personalized attention, expert advice, reliable support, and a deep understanding of the local housing market and lending solutions. These attributes help you make informed decisions and streamline transactions, reducing stress. Here are key characteristics to consider:

  • Personalized Service: Choose a banking partner that offers individual attention and tailored solutions. Trained and experienced mortgage loan officers should guide you through the process, tailoring solutions to your unique needs.
  • Expert Advice: Navigating the complexities of home financing requires expertise. Community bank professionals are well-versed in the intricacies of mortgages, down payments, interest rates and down payment assistance programs. They’ll help you weigh the pros and cons of different loan options.
  • Transparency in Fees and Rates: Trustworthy banks provide clear information on costs. Avoid surprises by choosing a partner with transparent fees and rates.
  • Community and Economic Support: An ideal community bank partner is actively involved in the local area and supports the local economy. For example, Bangor Savings Bank and The Bangor Savings Bank Foundation invested more than $3.5 million in the region last year through sponsorships, grants, and partnership initiatives. Banking locally means your money stays within the community, supporting local businesses and contributing to economic growth. This involvement demonstrates a commitment to enhancing the community's vitality.
  • Partnerships with Local Organizations: Banks that partner with local organizations, such as MaineHousing and Rural Development, support first-time homebuyers and affordable housing. These partnerships provide additional resources and support for your home-buying journey.
  • Down Payment Assistance Programs: Look for banks that facilitate down payment assistance programs. In 2023, Bangor Savings Bank provided nearly $1.2 million for such programs, helping first-time homebuyers overcome financial hurdles. These programs include programs with the Federal Home Loan Bank to address the racial homeownership gap and support wealth building through homeownership for communities of color.
  • Personal Connections: Building relationships with a mortgage team that understands the local market can offer invaluable insights and support. Personal connections ensure that your banking experience is more than just transactional.
  • Faster Decision-Making: Localized management in community banks can lead to quicker loan approvals, allowing you to move into your new home faster. This efficiency is a significant advantage over larger, less personalized institutions.


Additional Community Bank Services for First-Time Home Buyers

Community banks go beyond traditional banking services to empower first-time homebuyers. From pre-sale education to post-sale financial planning, these services are designed to help new homeowners make informed decisions and manage their finances effectively. Here's a detailed look at the key services provided at different stages of the home buying journey:

Pre-Sale Services

  • Financial Education Workshops: Offering free first-time home buyer classes on home buying basics, mortgage terms, and budgeting. Knowledge is your best asset!
  • Budget Planning and Credit Counseling: The bank can help you understand and improve your credit score and help you set a realistic budget. A strong foundation is important!
  • Home Loan Customization: Tailoring loan products ensures your financing aligns with your unique financial situation. No one-size-fits-all solutions!


Services During the Purchase

  • Assistance with Paperwork and Legalities: Helping you understand contracts and legal documents. Your team will help guide you through the fine print.
  • Partnership with Local Real Estate Agents: Community banks work collaboratively with local agents to find homes that meet your criteria.
  • Flexible Loan Terms: Exploring different loan structures to suit your long-term financial goals.

Post-Sale Services

  • Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs): Your relationship with your bank should continue long after you buy your first home. There are benefits to working with your bank long into the future with offerings like HELOCs, which can be a great way to pay for a wide variety of expenses, such as home renovations or repairs, landscaping improvements, energy-efficient upgrades, and more.
  • Home Insurance Options: Assistance in finding suitable home insurance.
  • Financial Planning for Homeownership Costs: Managing expenses with owning a home, like property taxes and maintenance. For detailed guidance on managing these expenses, check out our Money Mentor site.
  • Refinancing Opportunities: How to assess and decide if refinancing is a good option as your financial situation evolves.

Start Your Home-Buying Journey with Confidence

Buying your first home is a major milestone, and an accomplishment that will be less stressful when you choose the right community bank for your home-buying journey. Personalized support and comprehensive services offered by community banks like Bangor Savings Bank can make the process smoother and easier to understand. Our team, including your Mortgage Loan Officer, client service coordinator, and closing agent, will work with you every step of the way to ensure you find the right mortgage solution for your needs. Since 1852, Bangor Savings Bank has been committed to helping customers achieve the dream of homeownership. Contact Bangor Savings Bank to start your home-buying journey today.


Author: Laura Johnson, SVP, Director of Mortgage & Consumer Lending, Bangor Savings Bank