This is by no means a comprehensive guideline of buying your first home. It is a starting point. A snapshot of the big things. A bullet point outline. You get the idea. It is my attempt to, as briefly as possible give first time home buyers a glimpse of what is coming their way and some advice on how to proceed with what is likely going to be largest purchase you ever make.
Without further ado, here are my “10 basic steps to buying your first home”
1) Know what you can afford – Contact local mortgage lenders to know exactly what you can afford AND how much your monthly payments would be. Most sellers will not accept an offer on their home without a pre-approval from a mortgage lender. Your Realtor should have a vetted list of local mortgage lenders that they trust.
2) Get your paperwork in order – Meet with a Realtor to go over all the paperwork that will be coming your way. The real estate market is moving fast. If you find a home you love, chances are, others will love it too. You may need to act fast. You want to be confident in your understanding of what you are signing.
3) Know your cost – There are many costs that come with buying a home. You need to know how much earnest money you will need to put the house under contract, how much money you need for your down payment, what your loan origination fees will be, how much your closing costs will be, if you are responsible for any HOA or transfer fees, and many other things. Ask your Realtor and lender what the true cost of buying your home will be.
4) Know your needs and wants – Think about what you absolutely have to have in your home compared to what you would like to have in your home. There is a big difference. Many people start their search by looking for a perfect home only to find out that their perfect home costs twice as much as they can afford. Knowing what are “must haves” and what are “would be nice to haves” from the beginning will make sure you don’t pass up a home that may not have been perfect but would have made you perfectly happy.
5) Set your expectations – Take your needs and wants to your Realtor and find out how many homes meet that criteria in your area and price range. If you only have two options, you may need to readjust and drop some of your “would be nice to haves”
6) Know your market – Are homes selling unusually fast? Is the inventory high or low? Are sellers getting list price for their homes or is there room for negotiations? Your Realtor can tell you what to expect in your current market.
7) Know your area – Are you wanting to be in a certain school district? What about inside city limits? Is the traffic bad? How far are you willing to commute to work? Narrow down your area and be confident you are happy there.
8) Finding the home – Now that you are confident in what you want, you can be confident in your home choice. Some people choose the first home they see. Some people choose the twelfth home they see. You have done all the work up front to know the right home when you see it.
9) Negotiations – Don’t get caught up in emotions. Falling in love with a home can sometimes cause people to make a bad financial decision. Sometimes pride can stall negotiations over $500! Don’t let your emotions cause you to be stuck in a home that you can’t afford or keep you from a home that you love for no reason.
10) It’s not over yet – Once you find the home and negotiate the contract, the work really begins. A good Realtor will be able to advise you on quality inspectors, lawyers, contractors, etc. There will be problems! No home buying experience is perfect. What matters most is having a Realtor who can remain calm and fix the problems whether they are big or small.
Bonus Tip – Enjoy your home after you move in. I have talked with people who literally designed their own home and had it built from the ground up. Soon after, they found there was something they didn’t like about it. There is no perfect home. However, because you spent the time doing the work in steps 1 – 10, you can be confident that you have found the best home for you.