8 Steps to Buying a House in Alaska

Jamie Ayers

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Jamie Ayers

September 16th, 2022
Updated September 16th, 2022

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8 Steps to Buying a House in Alaska

Save for down payment | Find a real estate agent | Get preapproved for a mortgage | Choose your neighborhood | Go house hunting | Make an offer | Inspections and appraisal | Final walkthrough and closing

Buying a house in Alaska 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 Fairbanks are hitting the market at $346,450 and selling within 38 days — 33 days faster than the state average! — so you'll need to move quickly if you want to beat out the competition.

The more you know about the home buying process and Alaska'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 can connect you with local real estate pros who will help you purchase your Alaska dream home!

The best part? Clever's service is 100% free! You can meet local lenders and real estate agents with no obligation. If you don't find the perfect match, you can walk away at any time.

» START: Find top local agents today!

Step 1: Save for a down payment

🔑 Key takeaway:

Your down payment can be less than 20% of the purchase price — $66,431 for the typical home in Alaska — but you'll have to purchase mortgage insurance and pay more interest over the life of your loan.

Your down payment is the first part of your home's purchase price that you pay at closing. Your mortgage lender will pay the remaining balance.

Typically, mortgage lenders in Alaska want you to contribute 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. That would be $66,431 for a $332,157 home — the typical home value in Alaska.

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).

Mortgage type
Minimum down payment (%)
Down payment ($)
VA Loan
0%
$0
FHA Loan
3.5%
$11,625
Conventional
3%
$9,965
Based on typical home values from Zillow (August 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.

Down payment
Monthly payment
Total interest
Total Cost
5%
$1,821
$340,177
$672,334
20%
$1,534
$286,465
$618,622
Based on home values from Zillow (August 2022) and a 5.65% 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.

» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about low-income home loans

Alaska down payment assistance programs

There are several down payment assistance programs available for Alaskan homebuyers. These programs include regional resources, government grants, and second mortgages with deferred or forgiven payments. Just make sure to review each program's eligibility requirements to find one that best suits your needs.

Here are a few down payment assistance programs in Alaska to help you begin your search:

Alaska Housing Finance Corporation

The AHFC offers grants to cover a homebuyer's down payment or closing costs. Single-family homebuyers with FHA, VA, and USDA-RA 30-year fixed-rate loans are eligible for the program. The AHFC also requires applicants to have a credit score of at least 640.

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can get up to 4% of the initial principal balance of the mortgage loan. (Rates change daily. Check the current rate here.)

Affordable Housing Enhanced Loan Program

The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation created the Affordable Housing Enhanced Loan program (AHELP) to provide secondary financing and down payment assistance for prospective homebuyers. The AHELP network pools resources from different agencies and nonprofit organizations to offer the most helpful resources for participants.

Financial assistance may include a grant, deferred payment(s), a forgivable loan, or a combination of these options. Eligible participants must:

  • Not currently own a residential property in the same region as the home they're purchasing.
  • Purchase an owner-occupied single-family home, condominium, unit in a common interest community, or a Type I manufactured home.
  • Complete an approved homebuyer education class.

Other requirements may vary depending on the provider.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD’s list of alternative and city-specific programs in Alaska can be found here.

Step 2: Find a great real estate agent in Alaska

🔑 Key takeaway:

Interview multiple agents to find one who knows your target neighborhoods, has experience in your price range, and communicates well.

Your real estate agent will be your main ally during the home buying process. Besides finding and showing you properties, your agent will 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 Alaska.

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

Top Local Agents Hand-Picked for You!

Clever matches you with multiple agents in your area so you can interview, compare, and choose the best one to help you buy your next home.

Step 3: Get preapproved for a mortgage

🔑 Key takeaway:

Once you're preapproved for a mortgage, it's imperative that your financial situation doesn't change. If your credit drops, it can derail the process and keep you from closing on your house.

Here are some easy ways to ensure your credit doesn't change after you receive your preapproval letter:

  • Avoid opening new credit accounts
  • Don't close any accounts that have been open for a long time
  • Make all of your credit card payments on time

» LEARN MORE: What factors do mortgage lenders consider?

A mortgage preapproval 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 Alaska will require preapproval before showing you their home.

You don't have to decide on one lender right now. In fact, you should compare interest rates and preapproval amounts from several lenders to make sure you're getting the absolute best terms when you buy your Alaska 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?

Step 4: Choose the right location

🔑 Key takeaway:

Search for neighborhoods where:

  • Home prices are within your price range
  • Home values are on the rise
  • The local amenities support your lifestyle

Currently, the typical home value in Alaska is $332,157, but don't worry if that doesn't perfectly match your budget. Home prices vary dramatically from city to city and even from neighborhood to neighborhood!

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.

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 Anchorage:

Home value appreciation in Anchorage

Neighborhood
2015
Current
Appreciation
Eagle River
$349,544
$474,852
26.4%
Northeast
$269,595
$353,346
23.7%
Abbott Loop
$285,407
$392,224
27.2%

Step 5: Start house hunting in Alaska

🔑 Key takeaway:

It’s a strong market in Alaska, so you might not get the house of your dreams this year. The soaring prices and dropping inventory will keep your list of options thin, especially if you have a limited budget. If you really need to buy a house, then your real estate agent will be able to gather a lineup for you — but don’t expect a large selection. You will likely have to lower your expectations and choose one that won’t tick all your boxes.

Searching for homes in Alaska 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.

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 Alaska can have a big impact on your number of options. For example, in Alaska, June 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, December gives you the fewest choices in Alaska. Historically, there are 67.1% fewer homes for sale than during Alaska's peak season.

Housing inventory in Alaska by season

Season
New listings per month
Spring
928
Summer
1,054
Fall
648
Winter
517
Based on data from Realtor.com (August 2022)

Step 6: Make an offer

🔑 Key takeaway:

Listings close quickly for great properties in Alaska’s market, especially given the limited inventory. With the thin market, you may be hard-pressed to negotiate a good price, especially if you find a decent home. Work with your realtor to give a strong offer right off the bat; you may even need to put one in on the same day of viewing to up your chances of snagging the property you’re eyeing.

Once you find a Alaska 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 Alaska, homes stay on the market for 75 days before going under contract. However, every market goes through seasonal changes. During busier months, homes get snatched up more quickly than others.

Historically, Alaska homes sell fastest in June, where the average property is only on the market for 52 days. 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 January, you have a bit more time to search. Homes typically stay on the market 33 days longer than Alaska's annual average.

Average time homes spend on market in Alaska

Annual average
75 days
January
107 days
February
97 days
March
67 days
April
54 days
May
51 days
June
48 days
July
54 days
August
60 days
September
69 days
October
77 days
November
88 days
December
103 days
Based on data from Realtor.com (August 2022)

» LEARN MORE: What should an offer include?

👋 Next Steps: Talk to an expert!

If you're weighing your options for buying or selling a house, Clever can help!

Our fully-licensed concierge team is standing by to answer questions and provide free, objective advice on getting the best outcome with your sale or purchase.

Ready to get started?

Give us a call at 1-833-2-CLEVER or enter your info below. Our concierge team will be in touch shortly to help.

Remember, this service is 100% free and there’s never any obligation.

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.

🔑 Key takeaway:

  • Inspections: A licensed professional checks the house for any unseen, unexpected, or potential issues.
  • Appraisals: An appraiser hired by your lender examines the house to determine how much it's worth.

Home inspections in Alaska

Having your Alaska 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:

  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Electrical system
  • HVAC system
  • Plumbing

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.

Alaska-specific inspections

Alaska’s real estate laws require sellers to disclose several current or potential issues to prospective buyers. In most cases, a general inspection is enough to uncover any problems with a home. However, buyers may want to complete the following tests and inspections for good measure:

  • Radon testing: Alaskan sellers are required by law to disclose known radon hazards. If a seller doesn't know of any radon hazards, it's best to do a test before closing.

    Alaska’s Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys gives out free radon testing kits every January for National Radon Action Month. Check it out here to find out more.

    • Indoor air quality testing: If you're moving into a new house, certain chemicals used during construction may decrease indoor air quality. Checking the air quality will help you avoid potential pollutants and protect your overall health.

    Appraisals

    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.

    » LEARN: 3 options for buyers after a low appraisal

    Step 8: Close on your new home!

    🔑 Key takeaway:

    Before you close on your new home, you and your agent will do a final walkthrough of the property to ensure that it's still in the expected condition.

    After inspections, you’ll set a date at your title company to finalize your loan and title transfer. Block a few hours of your day for this, as there will be a lot of things to discuss and finalize. Your agent will help you communicate with the title company leading up to closing day and streamline the process when the time comes.

    On the closing date, you will be signing a lot of documents — in fact, most buyers spend about an hour just reading and filling out all of the necessary papers. Among the many documents that you’ll signare:

    • The final loan application
    • The mortgage note
    • The deed
    • The closing disclosure

    After signing all your documents, you'll then pay closing costs. Typically, buyer closing costs come in four categories:

    • Prepaid Costs: Homeownership expenses that mortgage companies require you to pay upfront. These may include the property tax, the homeowner’s insurance, and certain annual fees, among others.
    • Title and Escrow Charges: Expenses that you pay to ensure that the transfer goes smoothly and is in line with regulations. Some of these charges can be split with the seller.
    • Lender Fees: Fees charged by the buyer’s mortgage lender. Lender fees often include expenses that are connected to the loan, such as appraisal fees and survey fees. It is this category of expenses that makes a buyer’s closing costs much higher than a seller’s.
    • Miscellaneous Fees: Including inspection fees, flood insurance, real estate attorney fees, and other fees that will vary based on your situation.

    Don’t worry about having to pay different people just to settle everything. You'll pay the total amount to your title company which will then disburse the money to the appropriate parties.

    Buyers in Alaska typically pay 3–5% of the purchase price in closing costs. For a $332,200 home — the typical home value in Alaska — that's between $9,966 and $16,610!

    » LEARN MORE: Closing costs for buyers in Alaska

    Should you hire a real estate attorney?

    Alaska does not require you to hire a real estate attorney to buy a home. However, depending on your circumstances, you might consider hiring one anyways. If you do, treat the process similarly to hiring an agent. Interview multiple attorneys and proceed with the one that best meets your needs.

    Frequently asked questions

    1. Save for down payment
    2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage
    3. Choose your preferred Alaska neighborhoods
    4. Partner with the right real estate agent in Alaska
    5. Go house hunting
    6. Make a strong offer
    7. Inspections and appraisals
    8. Do a final walkthrough and close

    Yes, it does. The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation has two first-time homebuyer programs: the First Home and the First Home Limited.

    The First Home program offers a loan to first-time homebuyers at a low interest rate. It can be used for owner-occupied single-family residences, condominiums, Common Interest Community units, duplexes, and Type I manufactured homes. It does not have any income and purchase price limits, but it requires borrowers to submit copies of their federal income tax returns for the last three years.

    The First Home Limited program, on the other hand, is similar to the First Home Program, but it offers an even lower interest rate — if you are within the income limits. Target areas have higher income limits than non-targeted areas. Those with a First Time Limited loan may have to pay federal "recapture" tax after selling the home.

    » READ: What are the top first-time homebuyer programs?

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