What Every First-Time Homebuyer in Pittsburgh Should Know

What Every First-Time Homebuyer in Pittsburgh Should Know

What Every First-Time Homebuyer in Pittsburgh Should Know

ashley-cantley   Ashley Cantley
August 18, 2023   •   First-Time Homebuyers

Buying a home is a milestone that signifies stability and investment in your future. The journey can be exciting and rewarding in a vibrant city like Pittsburgh, PA. Whether you're a first-time buyer or an experienced homeowner, the Pittsburgh real estate market has something for everyone.


First-Time Homebuyers in Pittsburgh

First-time homebuying is a significant milestone, and the city of Pittsburgh, with its unique blend of urban and suburban lifestyles, is an ideal location for many. Each of the city's neighborhoods has a distinct personality. From the vibrant energy of Downtown, the city's economic and cultural hub, to the serene, tree-lined streets of Squirrel Hill, there is something for every lifestyle and budget.


Even though buying a house can be complex, especially for first-time homebuyers, it's straightforward. Here are the steps:

  1. Save for a down payment
  2. Get a pre-approved mortgage letter
  3. Scouting for potential areas to live
  4. Making an offer and negotiate
  5. Get a home inspection and appraisal
  6. Close on the house


These steps might seem overwhelming, but an experienced real estate agent will guide you on the best path as you become a first-time homebuyer in Pittsburgh.


Can I Afford a Home in Pittsburgh?


Understanding your budget is crucial. The average home price in Pittsburgh is lower than the national average, making it an affordable choice for many. However, there are additional costs to consider:

  • Down Payment: Traditionally, buyers would put down 20% of the home price. For instance, if a home costs $200,000, the down payment would be $40,000. However, that’s not the norm anymore. There are many loan options that require a much smaller down payment. In some cases, it can be as little as 3.5% or even less.
  • Closing Costs: These are typically 2-5% of your loan amount. For a $200,000 house, you could expect to pay between $4,000 to $10,000.
  • Mortgage Payment: This will depend on your loan amount, interest rate, and loan term. For example, a 30-year loan at a 3% interest rate for a $160,000 loan (home price – down payment) would be approximately $674 monthly.


Other expenses could include:

  • Property Taxes
  • Homeowners Insurance
  • Maintenance Costs


Whether you can afford a home in Pittsburgh is a question that depends on several factors, including not just the price of the house but also the ongoing expenses that come with homeownership.


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Deciding Where to Live in Pittsburgh


Pittsburgh, often referred to as "The Steel City," is a city that boasts a rich array of neighborhoods, each characterized by its unique features and allure. Your needs, lifestyle, financial capability, and personal preferences will largely influence your decision on where to live in Pittsburgh. Consider these five factors:

  1. Commute: If you're commuting to work, you might want to consider choosing a neighborhood that offers a shorter commute to your work. With Pittsburgh's unique topography and its intersection of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers, commuting times can vary significantly. Some neighborhoods are closer to the city's business district, which houses a plethora of industries from tech start-ups to medical facilities like UPMC, potentially reducing your daily travel time and ensuring a better work-life balance.
  2. Schools: The availability of good schools in the area is crucial for families. Specific neighborhoods in Pittsburgh are known for their excellent public schools, providing a conducive environment for children's academic growth and development. The city is also home to globally recognized institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, which might influence your decision if higher education is a consideration.
  3. Activities: Proximity to recreational amenities like parks, the zoo, and museums, including the famed Carnegie Museums, can be enticing for families with young children. If sports are your passion, you might lean towards areas closer to stadiums like Heinz Field or PPG Paints Arena, reflecting Pittsburgh's deep-seated sports culture with teams like the Steelers and Penguins.
  4. Affordability: The cost of living and housing affordability is another pivotal factor. While Pittsburgh's rich legacy as the hub of the U.S. steel industry means it's generally more affordable than many other major cities, certain neighborhoods, especially those with historical significance or close proximity to its over 440 bridges, might have higher housing costs. It's vital to factor in both the initial price of a home and ongoing expenses like property taxes and maintenance.
  5. Community: The feel and amenities of a community can be determining factors in your choice. Some Pittsburgh neighborhoods, like the vibrant Strip District or culturally rich Lawrenceville, offer a lively nightlife, while others might be more serene. Food enthusiasts might also be drawn to areas renowned for their unique culinary offerings, such as the iconic Primanti Bros. sandwich.


Choosing where to live in Pittsburgh is a personal decision that will depend on several factors. You can find a neighborhood with the perfect blend of affordability, convenience, and lifestyle by carefully considering your needs and priorities.


Requirements to Buy House in Pittsburgh


Purchasing a house in Pittsburgh needs careful planning and consideration. To be adequately prepared, understanding the key requirements is crucial:

  • Reliable Income Source: Lenders will assess your financial stability to ensure you can comfortably afford the mortgage payments. They will look at your employment history, income level, and any outstanding debts you may have.
  • Good Credit Score: Your credit score can significantly impact your mortgage interest rate and terms. Most lenders prefer a score of at least 620. However, the score requirement varies by lender. Having a higher credit score can potentially secure you more favorable terms and lower interest rates. 
  • Down Payment: That is the upfront payment made during the purchase of a home. For instance, the median sale price for a home in Pittsburgh in March 2023 was $217,000. Typically, a down payment ranges from 3.5% to 20% of the home's worth. However, some programs in Pennsylvania offer support to first-time homebuyers, potentially reducing the down payment required. 


It's also important to be mindful of the ongoing costs associated with homeownership. These include:

  • Insurance Payments: Offers financial protection against damage to your home or theft of your belongings.
  • Property Taxes: Payments made periodically to local governments vary depending on the area.
  • Maintenance Fees: An integral part of homeownership that can prevent more significant, more costly issues in the future. 


By understanding these requirements, you're better equipped to navigate the process of purchasing a home in Pittsburgh, making it a smoother and more successful experience.


How to Buy a House in Pittsburgh


Here is the step-by-step guide to buying a house in Pittsburgh. The process is seamless and straightforward and includes seven steps:

  1. Find a Local Real Estate Agent: Partnering with a knowledgeable real estate agent who understands the Pittsburgh market is critical. They can guide you through the buying process, from locating suitable properties to negotiating terms. 
  2. Save For a Down Payment: Begin saving as early as possible. The more substantial your down payment is, the lower your mortgage payments. This financial preparation is a crucial first step in the home-buying process.
  3. Get a Pre-approved Mortgage Letter: A pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender shows sellers that you're a serious buyer and can afford to purchase the home. Having this can give you an edge in competitive markets.
  4. Start Looking for Areas You Want to Live: Research different neighborhoods in Pittsburgh to find one that aligns with your lifestyle, work, school, or other personal preferences. Knowing this will help streamline your house-hunting process.
  5. Make an Offer and Negotiate: Once you've found your dream home, your real estate agent can assist you in making an offer and negotiating the terms of the sale.
  6. Get a Home Inspection and Appraisal: A home inspection reveals its condition, while an appraisal determines its worth. These steps are essential to ensure you're making a sound investment.
  7. Close On the House: Once all the paperwork is in order, you can sign the documents to finalize the purchase.


Pennsylvania First-Time Homebuyer Programs


Pennsylvania offers several programs to assist first-time buyers that an experienced real estate agent can help you with. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) has developed programs specifically tailored to assist first-time homebuyers in the state. Among these include:


The Keystone Home Loan Program aids first-time homebuyers who fall within the low to moderate-income bracket. One of its most attractive features is the financing options it provides. The options include a low down payment of just 3% and a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with no prepayment penalties. Such features can significantly ease the financial burden of purchasing a new home. For homebuyers to qualify, they must:


  • Meet specific income requirements
  • Meet specific purchase price requirements
  • Meet credit history requirements
  • Work with a PHFA-approved lender
  • Must be first-time homebuyers


The Keystone Home Loan Program offers further financial assistance to alleviate home-purchasing costs. The aid comes in the form of a down payment and closing cost assistance of up to $6,000, which can significantly help those struggling to gather the necessary funds.


Pennsylvania First-Time Homebuyer Grants


They'll also point you to programs designed to aid first-time homebuyers in Pittsburgh, like:

  • OwnPGH Homeownership Program: Provides up to $90,000 to first-time homebuyers looking to purchase a home within the city.
  • First-Time Homebuyer Program: Offers up to $5,000 for closing costs and down payment assistance.
  • Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA): Provides mortgages to stimulate development in targeted neighborhoods. 
  • Keystone Forgivable in Ten Years Loan Program (K-FIT): A state program
  • HOMEstead Program: Provides up to $10,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance, helping first-time buyers overcome financial obstacles in the homebuying process.


Loans for Pennsylvania First-Time Homebuyers


Pennsylvania offers various loan options for first-time homebuyers:


Conventional Loan: Conventional loans are a popular choice for homebuyers with a robust credit score and a considerable down payment. The federal government does not insure these loans, and they typically come with more stringent qualification requirements. However, they also often offer more competitive interest rates and flexible terms. With a Conventional loan, buyers can avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI) by putting down 20% or more of the home's purchase price.


FHA Loan: The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan program is an excellent option for first-time homebuyers with lower credit scores and a smaller down payment. These loans are government-insured, making it easier for buyers to qualify. They require a down payment of 3.5% and have different qualification rules, including allowing for lower credit scores, than many conventional loans. However, they do require borrowers to pay mortgage insurance premiums (MIP), which can add to the overall cost of the mortgage.


VA Loan: VA loans are available through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They are open to veterans, active-duty military members, and select military spouses. VA loans provide numerous benefits, including no down payment requirement and no PMI. They also often have lower interest rates compared to conventional loans. The VA guarantees a portion of the loan, making it less risky for lenders and often leading to more favorable terms for the borrower.


USDA Loan: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan program is for homebuyers in rural areas. These loans offer 100% financing options, meaning buyers may not need to make a down payment. The USDA loan is also government-backed, which can make qualifying easier. However, specific eligibility requirements relate to income and the property's location.


Each of these loan options has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, so it's crucial that first-time homebuyers in Pennsylvania work with an experienced real estate agent who can help evaluate their financial situation, goals, and eligibility to determine the best fit for their needs. 


NAF Homes is Your Essential Resource to Buying a Home in Pittsburgh


Buying a house, especially for the first time, can be daunting. But with the proper guidance and resources, it can also be an exciting journey toward owning your dream home. Whether you're pondering whether you can afford a house in your city, deciding where to live, or navigating through the state's first-time homebuyer programs, grants, and loans, the process can be smoother with expert help like NAF Homes. Here's what NAF Homes does:

  • Match prequalified or pre-approved homebuyers with experienced local real estate agents.
  • Pair you with a real estate agent who understands the Pittsburgh market and has at least two years of experience.
  • Utilizes expert knowledge and advanced technology to guide you in making the right decisions. 
  • Practices high-level communication and professionalism throughout the home-buying process. 
  • Leverages connections with other home-buying professionals to ensure a smooth experience.
  • Connects you to programs that turn your offer into a competitive offer.


Want to be paired with a Pittsburgh real estate agent? Contact NAF Homes now and let us guide you home.




What are the average home prices in Pittsburgh?

Average home prices in Pittsburgh are lower than the national average, making it an affordable city for homeownership.


When is the best time of year to buy a house in Pittsburgh?

The best time to buy a house in Pittsburgh varies, but many find the spring and summer months to offer more variety.


How long does it take to buy a house in Pittsburgh?

Buying a house in Pittsburgh can take a few weeks to a few months, depending on various factors.

Can I buy a house with bad credit and low income in Pittsburgh?

Buying a house with bad credit and low income in Pittsburgh is challenging but not impossible, thanks to various state programs and loan options

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