First Home

There are a host of state and federal programs now available that assist first-time homebuyers, from low-interest loan programs to down payment assistance. These programs can make or break buying a home, especially for young families just starting out.

But, as with any other large investment purchase, these programs, while a wonderful resource, don't cover the whole cost. Fees a homebuyer might not expect -- inspections, appraisal fees, bank-mandated repairs and escrow -- can add up quickly.

Homeownership, of course, remains the cornerstone of middle class society and is a worthy goal with positives that far outweigh the initial stresses of the buying process. But having the guidance of a loved one while going through the process, and setting up careful savings goals long prior to beginning the search for a home to buy, can make things go so much more smoothly, and can greatly enhance the value of homeowner assistance programs.

Alternatively, you can help a loved one save to fix up an older home they are looking to purchase at a more reasonable price, or set up a savings plan to ensure there are always funds for any repairs that might pop up.

Saving to buy or fix up a home is a real way to make an investment in your future or the future of someone you love.

Recommended minimum savings goal: $3,500 or 3.5% of the purchase price (based on $100,000), which is equal to the minimum down payment for an FHA loan

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