Are you a first-time homebuyer that is ecstatic, yet unsure where to begin? A google search can bring up various articles mentioning different things to account for in various terms ranging from over simplified to over complicated. All of the information can seem overwhelming and dry, but never fear! We’ve compiled a list of several things to think about and hopefully have made it clear enough to read without insulting your intelligence.
To start, it’s important to know what qualifies someone to be a first-time home buyer. First, of course, applies to people who haven’t ever owned a home. The next few apply to certain situations: someone hasn’t owned a primary for at least three years prior to buying, a displaced homemaker or single parent who has only owned a home jointly with their previous spouse, someone who previously owned a home without a foundation that meets local regulations (such as a trailer home), or someone who has a spouse, who has never owned a home (in the situation where they are buying one together). Depending on the area where you are looking to buy, there may be programs and assistance available to new home buyers. It’s important to review the perimeters of each program to make sure that you are eligible to apply.
Next on the list is to figure out how much you can budget more monthly mortgage payments. Be mindful that some homes may hit that price on the nose, but there may be monthly homeowner’s association fees, closing costs, and upkeep and maintenance that could stack up- thus bringing the overall monthly cost higher than expected. Calculating the top dollar you can afford once all is said and done can alleviate some stress of having to pass on a seemingly perfect property. Likewise, it’s not a bad idea to save ahead of time and have a small nest egg for any surprise repairs that may pop up. One suggestion that may help in the actual searching process would be to meet with a bank or other lender to get pre-approved for a loan. This will give you a solid figure that you can keep in your mind and will help to set a hard limit for the realtor to stay under. The monthly budget will come in handy, here, because occasionally a lender will approve you for a higher loan than you need. Be wary that this may happen and only bite off what you can chew. Figuring out your loan before starting the official search can help in placing offers because they can see that you are serious about buying and it could save time that may leave the right home open for other offers. Just make sure that once you are approved, you do what you can to keep your credit the same to lessen a chance of the loan falling through.
Now would be a good time to start to nail down a few specifics. Decide when you are looking to be in your new home. Knowing approximately when you are ready to close can be helpful to a realtor and seller. It’s also important to nail down what type of property you desire. There are several options, and it’s helpful to know whether you’d rather be in a townhome or a stand alone home, condo or farmhouse with property. This would also be a good time to sit down and write out a list of things you are looking for (or looking to avoid) in your home. Make sure to distinguish whether it’s a want or a need. Example: some home buyers need a space for an office as well as two bedrooms, but would like to have three bedrooms so that they can convert one to a music room or craft studio. Once you have a list that includes your needs and some of your wants, try to prioritize the list so that your realtor knows what is most important and what is mainly a perk.
Looking into location is next on the journey to becoming a first time home buyer. Is there a specific neighborhood or area that stands out to you? How about somewhere that’s within a certain distance from your work? If schools are important to you, make sure to look into ratings. Another thing to look at could be proximity to stores, gas stations, power plants, and emergency services. If sirens bother you, a neighborhood near a fire station may be out of the question. These are all things to consider when talking to your real estate agent and when searching online for homes.
In the same vein, it is important to find a real estate agent the is willing to listen to you and work for you instead of try to project their wishes for you on the homes they are showing to you. In order to help with this, you can ask them to preview the homes that they want to show you prior to actually walking you through them, which can help to prevent seeing too many homes unnecessarily. Before you head out to search for your dream property, realize that it may not be best to see a ton of homes all in the same day. Your memory may be good, but it’s helpful to see only a few, one agent suggests no more than seven, and then take a break to evaluate and reset.
The same person points out that eating lots of sugar can slow memory, while eating carbs can boost memory. It may be a good idea, therefore, to eat a balanced meal with plenty of carbs to help bolster your ability to remember details. To aid in memory when you are thinking back to potential homes, you can take photos and write down things that stand out to you about each place. Unique details could be the deciding factor between two equally appealing homes, so having a notebook with those noted can be of great value. Likewise, note the negatives that you may see. There may be a way to easily fix them or they may be helpful in deciding whether to buy or pass.
Make sure to revisit any homes that are in the running and look with more finely tuned eyes. This can help to remind you why you loved a place, or could push you away from buying a home that seemed right upon first glance, but wouldn’t work in the long run. When you’ve found a home that fits in every way, you don’t need to keep searching. Much like the advice given why buying a wedding dress- when you find the one you love, stop. When that moment finally comes where you’ve put in an offer and it’s been accepted, a home inspection is a great idea to ensure the stability of the home and prepare you for potential problems. Be sure to read the full contract before signing to avoid any surprises.
Most importantly, be sure to enjoy each step of the process. It’s not every day that you are searching to find you first home. Savor every moment because the stress may seem overwhelming, but this experience is one you’ll never forget. Make the most of it!