Buy Your First Home in the Greater Philadelphia Area

Buying your first home can come with quite a few challenges, especially if you aren't sure where to start. Whether you need help choosing a mortgage, beginning your search, or just navigating the nuances of Philadelphia's market, you can trust the Sivel Group to help you through the entire buying process.

Here are a few resources that can help jumpstart your real estate journey. You can always reach out to our team with any questions, too!

Understanding Your Mortgage

Before you even start looking at houses, you need to figure out just how much you can afford, as well as the type of mortgage and interest rate that will best suit your needs. Believe it or not, there are hundreds of different kinds of home loans out there, and many of them are designed specifically for first-time buyers.

Types of Mortgages

Here are the four basic types of loans that are most popular amongst Philadelphia buyers.

Conventional Mortgage

This is a standard type of loan that most home buyers use if they can afford to put 10 to 20% down on a home. Interest rates can be fixed or adjustable, and the terms of the loan can vary depending on the lender.

FHA Mortgage

These loans often appeal to lower income or first-time buyers due to their low interest rate and downpayment options. However, these mortgages also require mortgage insurance to protect the lender, which could result in higher costs.

VA Mortgage

If you're an active duty, veteran, or retired member of the armed forces, you could be eligible for a VA mortgage. These loans offer both low interest rates and down payment requirements, and you won't need any mortgage insurance.

USDA Mortgage

If want to live in the outskirts of Philadelphia, check to see if a property is eligible for a USDA mortgage. This type of loan is targeted towards average income buyers moving to a low density area, and they also have lower interest rates. 

What Do Mortgages Include?

Your mortgage payment contains four parts—you'll often see them abbreviated as "PITI." Here's what each letter means:


The repayment for the money you borrowed to purchase your home. This goes directly to the lender.


This is a payment you make to your lender for letting you borrow money, in addition to the initial amount you borrowed.


Many lenders (and all FHA lenders) will lump your property taxes into your monthly mortgage payment.


Your payment may also include homeowner's or mortgage insurance.

Shopping for the Right Loan

Shopping for a loan is kind of like searching for a house; you'll want to do plenty of research and explore all of your options before settling on "the one." You should meet with at least two different lenders to make sure you're getting the best deal, or have a mortgage broker do the shopping for you.

Be sure to consider interest rates, too—here are two of the most common options.

Fixed-rate mortgage

The interest rate on a fixed-rate mortgage will never change, so your monthly payments will always be the same. Buyers looking for stability and predictable payments often choose this type of mortgage.

Adjustable-rate mortgage

The interest rate on an adjustable-rate mortgage can start out low, but it fluctuates depending on the state of the market. This type of loan is somewhat unpredictable and could result in higher payments.

Calculating Your Monthly Budget

Now that you know all of the mortgage options available here in Philly, it's time to start crunching some numbers. You'll need to determine just how much you can afford every month before you start applying for loans. Typically, your mortgage payment shouldn't exceed 25% of your monthly take home pay.

Remember—home prices and interest rates can fluctuate every day. Make sure you're working with current information as you make your calculations!

Finding a Great Local Agent

“An agent can offer you a wealth of resources that can help make the entire process stress-free. And best of all, most buyers won't have to pay their agent's commission—that responsibility typically falls on the seller.

Your agent should be someone that's intimately familiar with your area of choice and knows how to help first-time buyers. You may also want to interview a few candidates before making your decision.

It's time for the part we've all been waiting for: touring homes, attending open houses, and tracking down the place of your dreams. As tempting as it is to start scrolling through the latest listings, take a moment to outline your wants and needs first. Settling on a specific neighborhood and price range can also help you pinpoint homes that could be a great fit.

If you aren't quite sure what you're looking for, now is the time to ask your agent for advice. They can help you rule out homes and settle on a community in the Greater Philadelphia area or on the Main Line.

Making an Offer

Once you've found your perfect place, it’s time to sit down and strategize with your agent. Ultimately, it's up to you to determine a price you're comfortable with, but you'll also want your offer to stand out to the seller, especially if you'll be competing against other buyers.

What Will I Pay Upfront?

Earnest money

This is like a security deposit that shows the seller you're serious about their home. If the sale goes through, the earnest money will cover your closing costs.

Down payment

This number can vary from 5% and up of a home’s price. This is the out-of-pocket amount that you're putting down to pay for your home.

Closing costs

These extra fees are typically low for buyers and cover the various expenses that come with finalizing a home purchase. They often include inspections, title charges, and legal fees.

Should You Get a Home Inspection?

If the seller accepts your offer, then it's time to move on to the home inspection. Even if you're buying a brand-new home, inspections can uncover issues that you may not be able to see at first glance. During the inspection, a certified expert will check over the interior and exterior of the house to check for any lingering issues.


You've finally made it to the finish line! Now it's time to actually close on your home, sign some paperwork, and pick up your keys!

Review your contract

Before you sign any paperwork, take some time to triple-check your contracts with your agent or lawyer present. They'll be able to answer any of your last minute questions.

Finalize your mortgage

This is when you'll submit your formal mortgage application, have your home appraised, and pay off any closing costs. However, it's not uncommon for the seller to pay a majority of the closing costs.

Pay, close, and get keys!

Meet with your agent to sign all of the paperwork, make your down payment, and tie up any remaining loose ends. Congrats—you're finally a homeowner!

Still Have Questions?

Buying your first home is no easy feat, so it's normal to have plenty of questions! Just reach out to the Sivel Group to learn more about real estate in the Greater Philadelphia area. We'd be happy to give you the answers you're looking for and help you find the home of your dreams.