9 Expert Tips for First-Time Homebuyers
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
Buying your first house can be intimidating to say the least. An excellent test of patience, endurance and resilience, if you’ve never been through the process before you could definitely stand to use a little help along the way, which is why I'm here! Here's a list of 9 tips I came up with to help any first-time buyer feel a little less intimidated about the whole home-buying process.
1. Determine a comfortable budget
Nothing can be done when it comes to buying a home without first understanding your budget, which is why I always suggest speaking with a lender who can help determine your buying power. Aside from the price of the home itself, there are many more factors that need to be included in the budget such as taxes, assessments (if it’s a condo), homeowners’ insurance, etc.
2. Get pre-approved by a lender as soon as you think you want to purchase a house
Pre-approval will be your road map for a successful purchase, which is it’s such an important first step. You need to understand what bills of yours need to paid off, and how much of a down payment you’ll need. The lender should be someone you've been referred to by a friend whose had a successful transaction with them, because a lender can kill a deal if they are not on top of their game.
3. Know what loans are available to you
Most first-time homebuyers tend to know the basics about buying a home — like what a mortgage is, for example — but that’s about it. They aren’t aware of the different options available to them with Conventional, FHA, Rural Development and 80/10/10 Piggyback loans to help buyers who do not want to pay Private Mortgage Insurance. In order to move forward, make sure you understand the differences in these options so that you can make the best decision possible.
4. Find an agent you trust, and don’t be afraid to shop around if your agent isn’t meeting your needs
Just like any other large purchase you would make, it's always in your best interest to shop around for the best options. I find that the agent/buyer bond is particularly strong with first-time homebuyers, as the buyers often need extra detailed explanations of each step in the process. This certainly takes more time, effort and patience on the part of the agent, and not all agents are willing to take those extra steps to make sure the buyers are always comfortable. It’s important to feel like you can ask questions and get reliable answers. A patient agent will not just work hard to earn your trust and business, they will make sure you're never feeling rushed.
5. Don’t fall in love with houses you see online
Unfortunately I've seen this happen all too many times — a first-time homebuyer finds something online that looks great, falls in love with it, and then is disappointed when seeing it in person. When looking at houses in person, it's important to never make snide comments about the house in front of the seller or the seller’s agent. It won’t endear you, and it could make it difficult to get your offer accepted.
6. Unless you have lots of extra cash, forgo foreclosures, auctions and bank sales
I'm often presented with first-time homebuyers who expect to get their dream home for 20% or more under market value through a foreclosure, auction or bank sale — but there are definitely stipulations that come these types of sales. What most buyers don’t understand is that by the time homes have reached the open market, they have been left vacant in poor condition for some time. Simply getting them back in reasonable habitable condition could take thousands of dollars in maintenance work. It isn’t to say there won’t be some good foreclosure deals out there, but in general, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
7. Visit at least 20-30 properties in person before making a decision
There are many factors that go into determining your ideal home, and it takes a trained eye to pick up on them. Price, neighborhood, immediate street, size, views, condition, monthly carrying costs, etc... Searching online is incredibly valuable, no picture or video will ever have the same effect as seeing something in person. Taking the time to visit numerous properties through private appointments and open houses will allow you to confidently narrow in on your preferred criteria and make an offer with confidence once you do find a home that you love.
8. Don’t be afraid to look everywhere
It can be intimidating checking out houses the first few times, but just remember how much money you’ll be spending if you were to buy the place, and use that as incentive to put your nosiest foot forward. Open drawers, cabinets and closets to see how much storage space you really have. Turn lights on and off. Walk down to the basement or up to the attic and look for smells and leaks. But also remember that there are always going to be elements about a house that you can change. Don’t miss out on a great house because you don’t like the paint or the appliances. These are small parts of a bigger picture. It's all about imagining the house as your own.
9: Read your contract
While it might seem like a bunch of standard legal jargon, it's crucial to understand absolutely everything that’s in your contract. If you’re confused about something, please do yourself a favor and ask your realtor or attorney.
Hopefully these tips helped! Buying your first house can be intimidating, but it should be exciting!
If you need any assistance with purchasing or selling your next home I would love to help you! Feel free to contact me via my contact form :)
- Monica Singer