Essential Tips for First-Time Homebuyers in Washington State

3.5-minute read | July 2, 2024

What You’ll Learn

  • Salal Credit Union’s mortgage loan specialists share their top tips for starting on the path to homeownership. They explain how to organize your finances, research the market, save on closing costs, and more.
  • Buying your first home is an exciting journey filled with anticipation and dreams of settling into a place you can call your own. But if you don’t know where to start or understand the steps involved, the process can feel overwhelming.
  • If you’re a first-time homebuyer in Washington State, it’s smart to equip yourself with knowledge and advice to make buying your first home easier and more affordable. Let’s dive in and get you started on the path to homeownership!



Illustration of person moving into new houseGet Your Finances in Order

Buying a home is a big purchase. So before you even start house hunting, it’s essential to get your finances in order so you can know what you can afford and what you need to save. Here are some first steps you should take:

  • Check your credit score: Your credit score plays a significant role in determining your mortgage eligibility and interest rates. You can request a free copy of your credit report by visiting, where you can access up to three free credit reports each year since you get one from each of the three major consumer reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  • Save for a down payment: Depending on the type of loan you apply for or the program you’re eligible for, you’ll typically need to save for a down payment, generally ranging from 3% to 20% of the home’s purchase price. Setting up a dedicated savings account can help you reach your goal faster.
  • Calculate your budget: Determine how much you can afford to spend on a home. Consider your income, monthly expenses, and other financial obligations to establish a realistic homebuying budget. To help, use online financial calculators, like Salal Credit Union’s monthly mortgage payment and home affordability calculators.
  • Reduce debt: Pay down existing debts to improve your debt-to-income ratio, making you a more attractive candidate for a mortgage. If you’re planning on applying for a mortgage in the near future, it’s also a good idea to hold off on taking on any additional debt whenever possible.

Research the Market

With an understanding of your budget and a plan to get your finances in order, it’s time to navigate the real estate market. By thoroughly researching, you can find neighborhoods in Washington State that align with your lifestyle and budget.

Check out our top tips to start researching the market as a first-time homebuyer:

illustration of person doing online homebuying researchAnalyze Home Prices

Compare the cost of homes in various neighborhoods to identify areas within your budget. Websites like Zillow, Redfin, and can provide comprehensive listings and price trends.

Evaluate Local Amenities

Consider the proximity to schools, parks, public transportation, grocery stores, and recreational facilities, which can enhance your quality of life and the long-term value of your home.

Assess Neighborhood Vibes

Visit potential neighborhoods at different times of the day to get a feel for the community. Attend open houses, walk the block, and drive around. Look for aspects such as traffic, noise levels, and overall atmosphere.

Monitor market trends

Stay informed about current real estate trends, including housing supply and demand, interest rates, and economic factors that could influence home prices.

By taking the time to research the market thoroughly, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions and find the perfect home that meets your needs and preferences.

Understand Closing Costs

Closing costs are fees associated with finalizing your home purchase, typically ranging from 2% to 5% of the loan amount. These costs can include:

  • Loan origination fees: Fees charged by the lender for processing the loan.
  • Appraisal and inspection fees: Costs for assessing the property’s value and condition.
  • Title insurance: Protects against potential legal issues with the property’s title.
  • Property taxes and homeowner’s insurance: Prepaid taxes and insurance premiums.

To prepare for closing costs, ask your lender for a detailed estimate early in the process. Salal members who qualify for our Workplace Banking program are eligible to get $1,000 off their closing costs. All Salal members (and even homebuyers who aren’t members) also have access to HomeAdvantage. First-time homebuyers can earn Cash Rewards* equal to 20% of your agent’s commission when you work with an agent in the HomeAdvantage network.

Set up a Homebuyer Planning Session

illustration o f person holding symbolic house keyOne of the best ways to kickstart your homebuying journey in Washington is by scheduling a Homebuyer Planning Session with Salal Credit Union’s mortgage lending team. These sessions are free and provide valuable insights into what to expect during the homebuying process, including:

  • Affordability: Understand what you can afford based on your financial situation.
  • Down payments: Determine how much money you’ll need to put down.
  • Future mortgage payments: Get an estimate of your monthly mortgage payments.
  • Your home loan options: Our Mortgage Advisors can also walk you through the mortgage options that Salal offers, including FHA loans, which can be a good option for first-time home buyers.


By attending a Homebuyer Planning Session, you’ll gain confidence and clarity, making the entire process more enjoyable and less stressful. Ready to get on the path to homeownership? Schedule your Homebuyer Planning Session online or download our free first-time homebuying guide now.

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