The supply is limited while the demand for housing in Vietnam is only increasing. Real estate price in big urban areas has never been any higher. For first-time buyers, buying an apartment seems a challenge but it is quite possible with a little bit of discipline to follow those 6 steps 

Step 1: Identify your budget 

This is the first and basic step. The budget you identify for your first apartment is going to affect your present and future living. Pick a number that suits your capacity to handle financial pressure, short-term, and long-term.

You can base it on what you have accumulated over time, the possibilities of a mortgage or borrowing from family or friends, and most importantly your income now and in the near future. 

Identifying your budget is not only about setting out a number you need to achieve or spend but also about working out a smart plan to pay it off by taking advantage of preferential loans. Consider and calculate between paying it all in one go or gradually paying it in portions. The majority of projects allow preferential mortgage payment plans in which you can maximize your capital. But sometimes, when you pick the option of paying it off in one go, you can enjoy generous immediate promotions too.

Regarding mortgages, the general advice for buyers is to only borrow 50% of their identified budget. This helps balance between financial pressures and maximizing your capital. When picking a mortgage, compare not only the interest rates between the banks and their amortization period but also their terms and conditions on floating rates and fines when you pay early.   

Step 2: Identify your criteria 

After identifying your budget, you will generally know what you could get with that number. Sizes matter here. If you go for a big apartment, you might need to re-identify your budget. If you go for a small one, would you and your family fit it? If you are planning to have kids, it might be a good idea to consider well-planned urban areas with kid-friendly spaces. 

You need to button down a very clear set of criteria: number of bedrooms, number of toilets, suitable area, internal utilities, distance to hospital, schools, and to your workplaces.

Once you have a clear picture of your apartment, you can quickly make a decision on what to buy and buy what you have thought about and planned for from the very beginning. 

Step 3: Search and decide 

Among hundreds of apartments being up for sale, each with advantages and disadvantages of its own, under the pressure of time and other buyers' deposits, picking one apartment is not easy at all. 

To avoid rush decisions or the paradox of choices, you need to make one step further. It is to search and compare the shortlisted apartments. At this step of searching, your set budget and criteria help you come up with a shortlist of potential choices. Read into the project information or the area you want to buy an apartment in. Get information from the internet or the people you know. This comes as your extra filter to judge the total offerings being sold to you. You can also check out and get help from brokerage services. 

You will need to visit the apartments you shortlisted. See with your own eyes and take notes of what you like or do not like about each apartment, especially your gut feelings. This searching can be draining so it will be useful to set a deadline for this phase. For example, after 2-3 months of searching, you need to compare 3 options. At this point, you can take out the list of your identified criteria and judge them one by one. Once you have both in hand, a quantitative list of criteria, and the intuitive notes of your visit, you might make a better decision. 

Step 4: Stick to the payment plan 

After you pick and seal the deal for your first apartment, you need to stick to the plan. All financial pressure is calculated, you just need to take one step at a time. Take notes of how much you pay in your first deposit and the period of time between the payments afterward.  

At each payment, you should make a bank transfer to get confirmation from the bank itself. Buying an apartment is a big deal; you should take care to keep all the transactions confirmed and agreements documented. In some projects, if you agree to pay a big sum for the first deposit this can extend your next payment to 2-3 years ahead - this is a great advantage of the time to prepare for the next batches. 

Step 5: Control risks 

No one wants risks and this is all the more you need a plan to control them.

- If you go for a mortgage, be aware that the preferred interest rate only applies in the first 6 to 12 months and will be adjusted to the increase. Normally 4-6% increase and you need to secure some funds for this potential increase of interest. 

- If you are the breadwinner, you are the source of income that needs investment. Invest in health and educational courses that help increase the value of your own time. When you are healthy and high in value, you can control your finances and minimize the risks. 

Step 6: Get the apartment and take advantage of after-sales services 

It must be a big moment to get the apartment. To anyone, successfully buying the first apartment is a huge achievement. Bring the contract of sale to the apartment and check every nut and bolt, make sure all agreements in the contract are aligned with what you get. You should also take a trusted friend to come along, someone who has experience with apartment living, in order to point out faults you don't even realize. 

Moreover, after you move into the newly bought apartment and experience the utilities you have paid for, you can take advantage of the after-sales service and guarantee policies to make sure everything works well. Usually, within the first 2 years after delivery of a project, the developers often offer free maintenance or a free replacement of in-house facilities and hardware. 

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