Buying a home for the first time is a big step to take. It can be an exciting, overwhelming, frustrating and terrifying time in a person’s life. If you’ve decided to take this step, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve done your homework and have made the smartest, most informed decision possible. These ten must follow tips for first time home buyers will help you understand what goes into buying a home and will help you make sure you’re as ready as possible to take this important step.
10. Work with a real estate agent you trust.
In another article, we touched on some of the most common real estate scams potential buyers or renters may face when looking for a home. Finding a real estate agent you can trust and feel comfortable with is a great way to avoid many of the most common scams we discussed. Ask friends or family members for recommendations. Check online review sites for real estate agents with a solid reputation. Meet with a few different agents you’ve learned are reputable and decide who you are most comfortable with. While experience is important for a real estate agent, just going with the most experienced agent isn’t always the way to go. You need to be able to talk to your agent, ask questions and express your concerns without feeling pressured or awkward. Your real estate agent should be there to help you find the right home for you, not just the home that will give them the biggest commission check.
09. Understand the money involved.
Buying a home is expensive, obviously, but there are a lot of additional costs people don’t factor in when planning their home buying budget. Closing costs, potential repairs, renovations, moving costs and furnishing costs all need to be factored in before you decide whether or not you can afford to buy a house. Look into possible tax credits, find out how much you’re pre-approved for and then start looking. This is another area where you real estate agent will be useful. It’s also a good idea to plan out your budget in sections. For example, budget a certain amount that will be used to cover the cost of just buying the house, including closing costs and all related fees. Budget another set amount of renovations. Budget another set amount for furnishings and moving costs. Do all of this before you even begin looking and talk over your budget with your real estate agent. It will help your agent find you something that meets your needs.
08. Decide what you want and what you need.
What you want and what you needs are not always the same thing. For example, you may want a pool but you probably don’t need one. This is an important distinction to make, especially if you’re on a tight budget. You can’t always get everything you want in a home but you can usually find everything you need. Talk about your wants and your needs with your real estate agent. They may be able to find something that offers everything on both lists. If it’s a bit beyond your budget, you may be able to make a few sacrifices in other areas (furnishings and renovations, for example) to free up the extra money for the house of your dreams.
07. Be realistic about what you can get for the money you have.
This one times in with the last item on our list but it’s worth talking about in a bit more detail. The money you have will only get you what the money you have will get you. Prioritizing your wants and needs will help you stay on budget in theory but you also need to be willing to bend a little bit. Having a master bedroom that has a connected master bathroom may seem like something you need but if it takes you beyond your budget, you really need to decide whether or not it is more appropriate on your wants list. Sometimes you’ll need to trade something like a spacious master bedroom for a spacious master bathroom.
06. Location is important.
As far as real estate clichés go, “location, location, location!” is a big one but it’s repeated so often because it’s true. Homes in busy cities or closer to city centers are often far more expensive than houses further away. This could be a great way to get the things on your want/need list at a smaller price tag. At the same time, you need to consider your commute to and from work or school. A house might have everything you need or want and it may be a price you can afford but will it be worth the extra commute? Give this one some serious thought. It will be much harder to enjoy your new home if you’re spending all your time on the road. You’re also going to want to take note of any busy streets, airports, train tracks or construction zones around your house. The noise may seem like it’s no big deal when you’re swooning over a dream house but ask yourself if that’s really something you could live with for the next ten years or more.
05. Look past minor aesthetic issues.
Ugly paint, wallpaper, carpeting and curtains are an issue, yes, but in the grand scheme of things, they’re not a big issue. Paint can be painted over. Wall paper can be taken down. Carpeting can be pulled up. Curtains can be replaced. All of those changes can be made fairly inexpensively and while they are time consuming changes to make, they could be worth making if you can get a house you love at a price you can afford. Do you love the neighborhood? Is it a realistic commute from your workplace? Does the house have most, or all, of the things on your need and want lists? With those questions answered, ask yourself if a few weekends spent painting or pulling up carpet is really such a big deal.
04. Don’t ignore major issues.
We talked about minor aesthetic issues in number five. Now it’s time to talk about some major issues you should never let slide. Traffic, noise, a bad neighborhood, a long commute or serious renovations are all major issues. So are any serious repairs the house would need. Buying a fixer upper is one thing, especially if you want a good deal but it’s only a good deal if you’re not going to spend an arm and a leg commuting to work or gutting rooms in the house. Look at the bones of the house – the layout and the flow from room to room. If you’re basically happy with that but not the color, you shouldn’t consider it a big issue. If you’re going to need to knock out walls, especially structural walls, to get the flow you want you’re going to be looking at an expensive job. The same goes for complete kitchen or bathroom renovations.
If you’re thinking about making major changes to a house, you’ll probably need to hire a contractor. Ask if you can walk through the house with your contractor before you put in an offer. Ask the contractor what kind of cost you’ll be looking at to make the changes you want to make. You might be surprised by how much you could be looking at paying. You’ll also want to make sure you can have your own inspector check the place out. You will likely still have an unexpected surprise or two once you move in but a thorough inspection can often make sure those unexpected surprises aren’t terribly expensive.
03. Listen to your gut.
This one is a big one. If you walk into a house and you feel like you’ve walked into your home, you should pay attention to that feeling. There might be minor aesthetic issues to consider or even major structural changes to make but if you walk into that house and just get that special feeling, the house really is worth more thought. It might not be the place you wind up going with but make sure you think about it from all angles before you write it off and move on to the next one.
02. Take your time!
One of the biggest mistakes a first time homeowner can make is rushing into putting an offer on a house. Buying a house isn’t a decision you should make lightly. This is going to be your home. You’re going to want to relax and enjoy your time there. If you take your time, look at as many different houses in your price range as you can and really see what’s out there, you should be able to make the right decision. Don’t feel like you have to buy the first house you find that suits your needs.
01. Don’t be afraid to play hardball.
This is where working with a real estate agent can really come in handy. A real estate agent will be able to show you comparable houses in the neighborhood you’re interested in and tell you whether or not the asking price on the house you’re considering is fair. They can do the negotiations for you and help you decide what a fair opening offer is. If the house you’re looking at has been on the market for a while, you can probably get a better price on it. The same is true if your potential house has an asking price far higher than similar houses in the neighborhood.