Buying a house in West Virginia is an exciting milestone, but the process can take some time. Several factors, like your financial situation, market conditions, and the local economy can affect both how long it takes you to find a home and how much it costs you.
For example, homes in Huntington are hitting the market at $182,250 and selling within 37 days — 25 days faster than the state average! — so you'll need to move quickly if you want to beat out the competition.
However, homes typically stay on the market longer in Charleston, so you'll be able to take your time and potentially find a better deal.
The more you know about the steps to buying a house and West Virginia's current real estate trends, the more prepared you'll be to navigate this complicated process as quickly and smoothly as possible.
No matter where you are in your home buying journey, Clever's concierge team can connect you with local real estate pros who will help you purchase your West Virginia dream home!
The best part? When you buy with a Clever real estate agent, you could earn a cash-back refund worth up to 0.5% of the home price. On a qualifying $300,000 purchase, you'd get $1,500. That's real money back in your pocket!
Step 1: Save for a down payment
Your down payment is the initial portion of your home's purchase price that you pay at closing. Your mortgage lender will pay the remaining balance.
Typically, mortgage lenders in West Virginia want you to contribute 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. That would be $27,476 for a $137,379 home — the typical home value in West Virginia.
However, you have options to lower your down payment amount.
Government backed loans, like VA and FHA loans, allow you to contribute 0% and 3.5% of your home's purchase price respectively. Even conventional loans allow for down payments as low as 3-5% (though the minimum varies by lender).
Minimum Down Payment (%)
Down Payment ($)
Based on typical home values from Zillow (June 2022)
But making a down payment of less than 20% comes with some risks.
First, because you're borrowing more money, you'll have a higher monthly payment and pay more in interest over the life of your loan.
Based on a $137,379 home, the typical home value in West Virginia (Zillow, June 2022) with a 5.45% interest rate for a 30-year loan.
Second, you may have to purchase mortgage insurance.
Conventional loans require private mortgage insurance (PMI) until your loan balance reaches 80% of the purchase price. FHA loans, on the other hand, require a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) for the life of your loans.
Mortgage insurance costs around 1% of your mortgage balance annually. However, rates vary based on your down payment and credit score. Typically, your mortgage insurance payment is added to your mortgage payment each month.
VA loans don't charge mortgage insurance. Instead, you'll pay a VA loan funding fee at closing, which can range from 1.4% to 3.6% of the purchase price.
West Virginia down payment assistance programs
Are you worried that you can't afford a down payment?
There are numerous down payment assistance (DPA) programs in West Virginia that can help low-income and first-time buyers afford a home. If you're eligible for one of these programs, you could receive a grant or loan to make homeownership a reality.
Here are a few DPA programs that you may qualify for:
WVHDF Down Payment/Closing Cost Assistance
The West Virginia Housing Development Fund (WVHDF) offers different levels of down payment assistance based on your first mortgage loan program. Household income and home purchase price limits apply for both programs.
If you're part of the Homeownership program, you can receive $7,500 or $10,000 as a second mortgage. The amount of financial assistance you receive depends on the loan-to-value ratio of your first mortgage.
If you participate in the Movin' Up program, you can receive either $5,000 or $8,000 as a second mortgage. Your financial assistance will depend on the loan-to-value ratio of your first mortgage.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
You can find alternative programs in West Virginia here.
Step 2: Get pre-approved for a mortgage
A mortgage pre-approval letter is an offer to lend you up to a certain amount of money to purchase a home. It shows sellers that you are a serious buyer who is financially qualified to make an offer on a home.
Most sellers in West Virginia will require pre-approval before showing you their home.
You don't have to decide on one lender right now. In fact, you should compare interest rates and pre-approval amounts from several lenders to make sure you're getting the absolute best terms when you buy your West Virginia home.
Get Pre-approved Today!
Get matched with a lender who can tell you how much house you can afford. To get started, where do you plan on buying?
To get a pre-approved for a mortgage, you'll fill out a mortgage application and provide details about your financial situation. They'll look at the following information to determine your mortgage pre-approval amount:
Lenders need to know that you earn enough to make your mortgage payments each month. Most lenders want your monthly housing costs to be less than 28% of your monthly income.
Lenders also consider your other debts, including credit cards, student loans, auto loans, and personal loans. They use this information to calculate your debt to income ratio (DTI) — or your total debt (including future mortgage) divided by your total income.
While some lenders will approve mortgages for buyers with DTI as high as 43%, it's best to keep your DTI under 36%.
Because of this, you might consider paying off some of your other debts before applying for a mortgage in West Virginia.
Mortgage lenders in West Virginia want to see that you have enough cash in the bank to cover your down payment and closing costs without completely draining your cash reserves.
While this requirement varies by lender, most want you to keep at least enough to cover two mortgage payments including insurance and taxes.
Step 3: Choose the right location
A house's neighborhood can be just as important as its layout and features. In general, you should consider the following factors when deciding which neighborhood is best for you:
What's your home buying budget?
Once you know your budget (a pre-approval letter will tell you the most you can expect to borrow), you can narrow your search to neighborhoods where homes are selling within your price range.
Also, look at past home value trends. This will give you an idea of how much your home's value could go up over the next few years. You want to choose a neighborhood that's in your budget, but could also lead to a big return when you decide to sell.
To give you an idea of how appreciation could impact what your house is worth in the future, consider these examples from three neighborhoods in Morgantown:
Home value appreciation in Morgantown
Once you have a list of neighborhoods with homes in your budget, you should evaluate how well each one meets your personal needs and preferences. To finalize your list of target areas, consider factors like:
- School districts
- Your daily commute
- Crime rates
- Restaurants and amenities
- Transportation options
Step 4: Find a great real estate agent in West Virginia
Your real estate agent will be your main ally during the home buying process. Besides finding and showing you properties, your agent should be an expert on buying a home in West Virginia.
They'll help you make offers, negotiate contracts, and navigate the closing process. Plus, they can recommend other service providers like title companies and inspectors to help you buy your home in West Virginia.
Don't rush into choosing an agent. Instead, take the time to research and interview multiple real estate agents who have experience in the neighborhoods you're interested in. you should pay attention to a realtor's:
- Years of experience
- Number of transactions in the last year (the more the better!)
- Experience in your price range
- Overall review score
- Individual reviews and complaints
Ask each of them questions about your target neighborhoods, how they prefer to communicate, and their strategy for helping you find and close on your new home. You should feel comfortable with the agent's knowledge, experience, and process before committing to an agent.
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Step 5: Start house hunting in West Virginia
Searching for homes in West Virginia is the fun part of the home buying process! You'll get to look at a variety of homes and discover what you really want in a home.
Prioritize your needs vs. wants when buying a home in West Virginia
Make a list of everything you want in a home and prioritize them. At the top of the list should be the items that are most important to you. This will help you separate your "must-haves" from your "nice-to-haves."
Your agent can help you understand if your wants are realistic for your budget and favorite neighborhoods or if you need to rethink what you're looking for.
Look at current housing inventory
The timing of your house hunt in West Virginia can have a big impact on your number of options. For example, in West Virginia, May has historically seen the most homes for sale. Searching in this season could give you more options and a greater likelihood of finding your dream home.
On the other hand, January gives you the fewest choices in West Virginia. Historically, there are 35.6%) fewer homes for sale than during West Virginia's peak season.
Housing inventory in West Virginia by season
New Listings per Month
Based on June 2022 data from Realtor.com
Step 6: Make an offer
Once you find a West Virginia house you love, it's time to make an offer. Your real estate agent will help you write a compelling offer that gives you the best shot of convincing the homeowner to sell to you.
Currently, in West Virginia, homes stay on the market for 94 days before going under contract. However, every market goes through seasonal changes. During busier months, homes get snatched up more quickly than others.
Historically, West Virginia homes sell fastest in June, where the average property is only on the market for 81. If your home search falls around this time, you should be prepared to move quickly and potentially make offers on several homes before yours is accepted.
On the other hand, if you buy in February, you have a bit more time to search. Homes typically stay on the market 25 days longer than West Virginia's annual average.
Average time homes spend on market in West Virginia
Based on June 2022 data from Realtor.com
What should your offer include?
Your real estate agent can help you decide which of these common options you should include in your offer:
- Seller concessions: You'll have to pay for most of your closing costs out of pocket when you buy a home, but you may be able to ask the seller to cover some of those costs for you. This option may allow you to offer a higher purchase price and essentially include your closing costs in your mortgage.
- Repair credits: If the home is in need of repair, you could ask for credits instead of having the seller make and pay for the repairs. The seller avoids the hassle of waiting for contractors to complete the job, and you get to oversee the repairs in the future to make sure they meet your expectations.
- Inspection contingencies: Most purchase agreements have inspection contingencies that allow you to change your offer (or back out all together) if the inspection turns up major problems. If you have a high degree of certainty about the house's condition (like if the seller can show you a recent inspection report), you can forgo this contingency to give the seller a higher sense of confidence.
- Letter to the seller: Many sellers have a personal attachment to the home. They've lived there for years and want to know the next owner will take care of the property. Writing a letter to the seller can show them how you picture your life in the house and appeal to their sentimental side.
Step 7: Inspections and appraisals
Inspections and appraisals are an opportunity for you to better evaluate the home's condition and value before officially purchasing it. You may have an opportunity after this step to renegotiate the terms of your contract with the seller if something unexpected pops up.
Home inspections in West Virginia
Having your West Virginia home inspected by a licensed inspector gives you peace of mind about the condition of the property before you commit thousands of dollars to purchase it.
Your inspector should check out the following parts of the property:
- Electrical system
- HVAC system
If the home has a septic system, you should also pay for a septic inspection to make sure it doesn't have any problems that wouldn't be covered in a typical home inspection.
West Virginia-specific inspections
West Virginia is known as a "buyer beware" state, meaning that buyers need to take extra precautions to ensure a property is safe before closing. It's strongly recommended for buyers to go beyond the general home inspection and have additional tests conducted to identify any risks or hazards.
Here are a few important inspections that West Virginia buyers should consider:
Radon testing: Prolonged exposure to high levels of radon can result in health complications. Although it isn't required, buyers are advised to have a home checked for radon before closing. Residents in certain counties can claim a free radon test kit from the American Lung Association. Check if your county is eligible for one here.
Pest inspection: Some lenders may require you to get a termite and pest inspection done before buying a property, but it's something all buyers are advised to do. Pest infestations can go undetected by residents until significant property damage has already occurred. Getting a professional to check the home for an infestation can save you from expensive repairs and pest removal services in the future.
Appraisals determine the value of the property. If you're using a mortgage to buy your new home, your lender will order an appraisal to make sure the home is worth the money that it's loaning you.
Step 8: Close on your new home!
Once you finish your inspections and your lender approves your financing, you'll be ready for closing! Closing is the process of finalizing your mortgage and transferring ownership of the property.
Closing on your West Virginia home will require you to meet at the title company with the seller to complete paperwork and settle closing costs.
On the closing date, expect to spend about an hour reviewing and signing legal documents. These forms are required to finalize your loan application and begin the title transfer process, so make sure that all of the information is correct before you sign.
Just a few forms you'll have to complete will include:
- Your final loan application
- The deed
- The mortgage promissory note
- The disclosure statements
After completing all the necessary paperwork, you’ll pay your closing costs to the title company. They can take care of distributing the correct amounts to each recipient.
Your closing costs as a homebuyer will cover four major categories:
- Lender fees: Fees paid to your lender for originating and underwriting your loan. This payment may cover other costs associated with your loan, like appraisal and survey fees.
- Title and escrow charges: Fees that the title company charges for conducting the title search and facilitating the closing process. Buyers and sellers often split this cost.
- Prepaid costs: Ongoing costs of homeownership. Mortgage lenders often require borrowers to pay for some of these homeownership expenses in advance, such as property taxes and homeowners insurance.
- Other closing costs: Miscellaneous expenses that vary from buyer to buyer. Some common costs may include pest inspection fees, natural disaster certification fees, or real estate attorney fees.
Buyers in West Virginia typically pay 3-5% of the purchase price in closing costs. For a $137,400 home — the typical home value in West Virginia — that's between $4,122 and $6,870!
Frequently asked questions
- Save for down payment
- Get pre-approved for a mortgage
- Choose your preferred West Virginia neighborhoods
- Partner with the right real estate agent in West Virginia
- Go house hunting
- Make a strong offer
- Inspections and appraisals
- Do a final walkthrough and close
Yes! The HOMEownership Program Loan offers a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage with the option to apply for down payment assistance of up to $10,000.
To qualify, you must be within the household income and purchase price limits set by the West Virginia Housing Development Fund. Depending on your loan type, you may also have to take a homebuyer education course.