So, you’re thinking about buying your first home? Congratulations!! You’ve worked hard to get here, and you should be proud of where you are today. Buying a home can seem like a daunting process — it just may be the most expensive and emotionally charged purchase of your life. But don’t worry, we’re here to tell you the do's and don’ts of purchasing your first home. *Cue a Whole New World from Aladdin*
1. Determine What you Need – Not What you Want
Remember, this is your FIRST house. The biggest benefit to homeownership is the investment in your future. Purchasing allows you to build equity so when you are ready to shop for your dream home, you have a hefty down payment to make your dreams come true. But for now- stick to the basics. What are your non-negotiables? Do you want a garage, or do you NEED a garage? How about that 3rd bedroom? Finished basement? Keep in mind, all these items will increase your purchase price. It’s important to remember, the average first-time home buyer stays in their starter home for 3-7 years and you can too. So instead of dumping all your savings into a house that checks ALL of your boxes NOW, try to imagine the bigger picture. Wants and needs change as families grow, jobs change and preferences differ. Think smart.
2. Get on the Same Page with your Partner
Before you meet with a real estate professional or lender, get on the same page as all the decision makers. How much do you want to spend per month on your mortgage? Do you want to live in the city or suburbs? These are basic questions that you and your partner will need to discuss before speaking with a licensed professional. If you’re not on the same page, how do we know how to help you? I advise my clients to do an exercise if things get tense… both parties separately write down their top three things they’re looking for and then share once completed. Who knows what info you’ll find out about each other! This also helps with determining your wants vs needs.
3. Save up for a Down Payment AND Closing Costs
While it's true that there are loan programs that offer 0% money down, nothing in life comes free. Speak with your lender about your lending options and select the program that works best for you. The biggest hurdle first time home buyers face is saving money (don’t even get me started on egg prices). A common misconception is that sellers will cover all of buyer’s closing costs, however, it is very VERY unlikely to get that kind of deal in this real estate market. So be prepared and start saving. You’ll also need to factor in additional costs such as your inspection, appraisal, earnest money, or lease break if needed. Simply put, you can't expect to buy a house for free, so start saving.
4. Interview Real Estate Agents
Not all Realtors are alike. Do your research and ask your friends and family, who have recently bought, if they had a good experience with their agent. A good or bad Realtor can make or break a deal. Make sure your agent is communicative and empathetic, yet assertive. This person will be responsible for negotiating on your behalf so don’t select an agent because they’re popular on social media or its your mom’s best friend’s, second cousins neighbor. Save yourself the drama and hire a professional. You also want someone who understands you. If the ‘vibe’ isn’t right or the communication is less than stellar, you may want to look into other agents who may suit your personality or needs better. And if you’re going to be spending your weekends and evening seeing homes with this agent, you want to make sure you at least enjoy being in their presence.
5. Get Pre-Approved.
I cannot say this enough – GET PRE-APPROVED BEFORE YOU START LOOKING AT HOUSES!! Reason being is simple; you wouldn’t go to the grocery store without your wallet, right? Being pre-approved verifies your eligibility to purchase a home and allows you to submit an offer on a property. You want the seller to see you’re qualified and willing to do what it takes to close the deal. So, when you walk in the door and you see butterflies and rainbows, you can put an offer in right away. Without a pre-approval, you’ll be behind and by the time you ARE approved, that home will most likely be gone. Big sad.