Advice for First-Time Buyers
Buying a home is a major step in anyone’s life. You should prepare yourself by making a few preliminary decisions to determining what you want and can afford. Following the steps below can make your life much easier.
Tips on Buying a Home
1. Determine How Much You Can Afford
- Plan ahead: List out your sources of income, savings, monthly expenses, and other cash-flow considerations.
- Pre-Qualification: Meet with a mortgage broker and find out how much you can afford to pay for a home.
- Pre-Approval: While knowing how much you can afford is the first step, sellers will be much more receptive to potential buyers who have been pre-approved. Also you’ll avoid being disappointed when going after homes that are out of your price range. For pre-approval, the buyer actually applies for a mortgage and receives a commitment in writing from a lender. This way, assuming that the house you desire is at or under the amount you are pre-qualified for, the seller knows immediately that you are a serious buyer for that property. Costs for preapproval are generally nominal and often lenders will permit you to pay them when you close your loan.
2. Start Your Home Search
- List of Needs & Wants: Make 2 lists. The first should include items you must have (i.e., the number of bedrooms you need for the size of your family, a one-story house if accessibility is a factor, etc.). The second list is your wish list, things you would like to have (pool, den, etc.) but that aren’t absolutely necessary. Realistically for first-time buyers, you probably won’t get everything on your wish list, but it will keep you on track for what you’re looking for. Be mindful of the location of your place of business, preferred schools, proximity to doctors and hospitals, restaurants, entertainment, and other things that are important to you. Answer the following questions to help narrow your home search:
- What style of home do you prefer – two story, ranch, split-level, something else?
- What size of home do you need – number of bedrooms, baths?
- What are your priorities in home features – garage, gourmet kitchen, main level master, etc.?
- Is it important to you to have additional space that could be finished such as an attic or basement?
- What outside natural features are most significant to you – woods, hills, streams, lakes, others?
- How close to work, shopping, schools or recreational facilities do want to be?
- How long of a commute do you want?
3. Contact an Agent
- Representation by a Professional: Consider hiring your own real estate agent, one who is working for you, the buyer, not the seller. There are significant advantages to being represented by a well-trained agent who acts on your behalf, and it usually doesn’t cost you a dime!
- Representation by a Buyer’s Agent assures that your very best interests will be handled in a professional manner.
4. Find Your Dream Home
- Focus & Organization: In a convenient location, keep handy the items that will assist you in maximizing your home search efforts. Such items may include:
- One or more detailed maps with your areas of interest highlighted.
- A file of the properties that your agent has shown to you, along with ads you’ve cut out from the newspaper.
- Paper and pen, for taking notes as you search.
- Instant or video camera to help refresh your memory on individual properties, especially if you’re attending a series of showings.
- Location: Look at a potential property as if you are the seller. Would a prospective buyer find it attractive based on school district, crime rate, proximity to positive (shopping, parks, freeway access) and negative (abandoned properties, garbage dump, source of noise) features of the area?
- Visualize the house empty & with your decor: Are the rooms laid out to fit your needs? Is there enough light?
- Be Objective: Instead of thinking with your heart when you find a home, think with your head.
- Does this home really meet your needs?
- There are many houses on the market, so don’t make a hurried decision that you may regret later.
- Be Thorough: A few extra dollars well spent now may save you big expenses in the long run. Don’t forget such essentials as:
- Include inspection & mortgage contingencies in your written offer.
- Have the property inspected by a professional inspector.
- Request a second walk-through to take place within 24 hours of closing. You want to check to see that no changes have been made that weren’t agreed on. For example, a nice chandelier that you assumed came with the sale having been replaced by a cheap ceiling light.
All of the above may seem rather overwhelming. That is why having a professional represent you and keep track of all the details for you is highly recommended.