First Time Home Buyer

Until you’ve successfully purchased your first home, the process of buying a Cullman area home can be a little overwhelming. Here at Happy Homes, we want to help make the process as simple as possible. This is why we’ve put together this Cullman first time home buyers page… to demystify the home buying process and show you just how simple the process can be.

What credit score do I need to buy my first home?

One of the biggest concerns people have when buying their first home is knowing if their credit score is high enough to get approved for the home they want to buy. The answer to this question depends on your lender, your credit profile, and whether you are seeking conventional financing or will be participating in a government loan program like FHA or VA financing. For instance, conventional financing can typically require a credit score of at least 720 for the most favorable rates, while FHA loan programs are sometimes available to borrowers with scores as low as 580. (Generally speaking, the higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate.)

Is it true that I should review my credit report?

It is vital you review your credit reports from each of the “big three” credit bureaus before applying for mortgage financing. should be your first stop. You can get a free copy of your TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian credit reports. Get all 3 and review them to make sure there aren’t inaccuracies like late payments, unpaid collection items, or accounts you don’t know about. If you find inaccuracies, you can file a dispute; unpaid collections must be paid before mortgage approval is possible.

What kind of mortgage should I get?

The kind of mortgage you should get depends on you and your situation. If you have a 20% down payment and a good credit profile, conventional financing is probably your best bet. However, if you have a smaller down payment and meet income and maximum loan requirements, you might find that FHA or VA loan programs might be a better fit for you. (Important caveat: If you get FHA-backed mortgage financing, you might pay for more generous down payment requirements with higher than expected mortgage insurance premiums—these can sometimes add a couple hundred dollars to your monthly mortgage payment. If you’re considering an FHA loan, talk with your Happy Homes real estate agent. We’ll be glad to help you determine the amount of your mortgage insurance premiums.)

Is it possible to buy my first home if I don’t have any money for a down payment?

Yes! The Cullman area is considered “rural” for financing and may qualify you for a 100% loan called a Rural Home Loan or USDA loan. There are certain criteria that must be met, but most first time home buyers do qualify. This is usually the most popular first time home buyer loan option. Ask your Happy Homes Real Estate agent for more information on how to get a 100% loan for your first home!

What is preapproval and how important is it to the buying process

Pre-approval is the process where your lender takes a hard look at your entire financial situation—credit, income, other financial obligations, etc.—and determines exactly how much home you can afford, and more importantly, the maximum amount they will loan to you. Once you’re preapproved, you should receive a preapproval letter, which can help your offer be taken more seriously by sellers when you find the home of your dreams.

How much home can I afford?

The answer to this question depends on your income, other credit obligations, and the type of mortgage program through which you will receive mortgage funding. Talk with your Happy Homes real estate agent. They’ll be glad to help you determine a rough ballpark figure if you aren’t preapproved for a mortgage.

Which lender should I use to finance my home purchase?

You have a lot of options when it comes to obtaining mortgage financing on your first home. We work with a number of excellent local lenders. If you like, we’ll even go with you to meet one of them to get the mortgage application process started. If you don’t want to use a local lender, there are also a number of reputable national lenders you might choose to work with in financing your first time home purchase.

How big should my down payment be?

The amount of your down payment will depend on your income, your credit score, lender requirements, and the kind of mortgage loan you are seeking. Conventional mortgages typically require 20% down payments, while government-backed programs like FHA have more lenient requirements (as little as 2%-3%).

Does it matter if I carry credit card balances?

A general rule of thumb when seeking mortgage approval is to pay off your credit cards and not use them for a few months before applying for a mortgage. This is good advice because credit card balances will reduce the amount of home you can afford. (For future reference, you should never, ever let your credit card usage in a given month rise above 20% of your credit limit because it can have a negative impact on your credit score.)

What do I do if I have questions along the way?

As a first time home buyer, you will probably have questions as you go through the home buying process. Lean on your Happy Homes real estate agent for help! They’re here to make the process of finding, negotiating, and financing the home of your dreams as simple as humanly possible!

Search Homes

“We worked with Jeff as a long distance relocation from Florida to Alabama. We started with a realtor from another agency, but felt that our needs were not being met. We received a recommendation for Jeff and it turned out to be the recommendation we could have received. Jeff was professional, relatable, and took the time to listen and understand what we were looking for. After many trips back and forth from Florida, and looking at many houses, we finally found \"the one\". It turned out to be the house we didn\'t know we wanted. Jeff was with us every step of the way throughout the entire process. We received many compliments from our lender regarding Jeff\'s knowledge, professionalism, and timely response to questions. We closed on our house on March 16, 2020, and have since spent time making it ours. We can\'t recommend Jeff enough for your real estate needs, whether you\'re buying or selling.”


“Happy Homes is a great real estate agency. Thank you to Wayne Smith who made what would have been a scary experience a great one. Wayne is eager to help his clients and very well verses in in his field. I would highly recommend Happy Homes and Wayne to anyone looking to buy or sell.”

Cullman, Alabama (Welti)

“We would like to thank Jeff Dockery and Happy Homes Real Estate for their help in purchasing our first home! Jeff guided us through the whole buying experience from start to finish always encouraging us as some deals fell through. In the end, we were blessed with the house that was perfect for our family! Thanks again!”

“Donna Jo Fleming at Happy Homes Real Estate was very helpful throughout our home buying process. She went above and beyond our expectations on helping us close the deal on our new home. We would definitely use Donna Jo again as our agent and would highly recommend Happy Homes Real Estate to anyone looking to buy a home!”

“We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Happy Homes Real Estate. Our experience is that Cullman County can be a challenging real estate market. However, Happy Homes possesses the perfect mix of knowledge, professionalism, motivation, humor, and grit for the task. Working with them has been a true pleasure. We will certainly turn to Happy Homes again in the future.  We have recommended, and will continue to recommend them to others in need of real estate support. Happy Homes Real Estate is the best.”

“Thrilled that Happy Homes Real Estate helped us get a home in Cullman County where all my mom’s ancestors once lived. I have made a full circle to get back to my roots. Thank you Happy Homes!”

“Thanks to Happy Homes Real Estate for helping me find a home. My experience with Happy Homes has been a very good one! Everyone at Happy Homes has been extremely nice and helpful. Everything went very well and smooth.”

“Happy Homes recently sold two of my properties and third closing soon. I would highly recommend Happy Homes Real Estate to anyone that wants to sell their home or looking to buy. I think they have the best realtors in the state! They are fantastic!”

“We used Happy Homes Real Estate to buy a house in Cullman. We can't recommend Happy Homes enough – they are great in all areas, from the beginning of when they first gathered input from us to determine proper areas to research all the way until the end when we were making an offer on the house. They are very careful and diligent and were very responsive throughout the whole process. You really get the feeling that they are on your side, and they are. The next time we need a real estate agent in Cullman, we will for sure be calling Happy Homes.”

“I am very pleased with my experience dealing with Happy Homes Real Estate. My agent went above and beyond to help me find the perfect house!”