Are you a Buyer that started a conversation with a family member, close friend, church member or other trusted person and asked a simple question, “Where do I start to buy a home?” First-time Buyers are inundated with media advertisements, advice everywhere with nightmare experiences to avoid, basically a mountain of information to comprehend and discern! I’d like to help you all right now with 4 simple steps that will put you on the right track to success and limit the potential pitfalls.
Step 1: What is the motivation to buy a home for you and your family?
– This seems like an obvious question to answer, but often needs to be laid out clearly to help you with many facets in the home-buying process. If your motivation is to have a larger yard for your dog to roam, great! What about another lil’ one coming into the family and an extra bedroom would greatly benefit the family, even better! If you just want to buy because others have a home and you don’t, perhaps a few more steps are needed to weigh-out the consequences of buying before you leap, such as the time and expenses that are necessary in home ownership. Just sit down, think about it, and write a sentence or two outlining your motivation(s) and it will create the right attitude from the start, helping you find the right home or property.
Step 2: What can I buy and afford today?
– This is often the quickest step to answer, yet often skipped for First-time Buyers in the beginning. This is very important, as you must do this PRIOR to looking at homes or getting into the mindset of searching online too far, as you can directly effect your buying experience if you find you are not qualified for homes you’ve been looking at prior to getting qualified. Also, and maybe more to the point of they “why” you need to do this, Realtors will use this information in a variety of ways to help you, from setting up tools that automate information being sent to you more accurately to being able to respond when a home search is successful and an offer is being presented. If you don’t know who to talk to, again your Realtor has partners to assist their Buyers, for instance Guaranteed Rate Mortgage is who I use for my clients. Sellers today almost always want a pre-qualification letter from anyone submitting an offer, as the market is HOT and a lot of offers come in at times for the same home, making it necessary to stand-out as a Buyer as legitimate and ready to buy! Lastly, I’d recommend speaking to a Mortgage Lendor versus perhaps your bank, as I’ve experienced the timeliness and costs seem to favor this decision for the Buyers overall.
Step 3: Who should I use to help me find the home?
– This one can be a little tricky at times! The saying in the industry of Real Estate, throw a rock and you’ll hit 3 licensed Agents in any direction! There are over 8000 licensed Agents in Tennessee, but choosing the one for you can be a daunting experience for some. I’m usually narrow this need down into a few necessary, core characteristics. Does your Realtor work full-time or part-time? Does your Realtor work with Buyers or only Sellers? Do you feel comfortable, trusting of your Realtor? Can you be completely open with your Realtor? If you can answer these questions and find a full-time, Buyer’s Realtor that you trust, you are on the right track. Read recent referrals, they are usually helpful and show recent work done by the Realtor versus 2 years prior! Another area of need, and sometimes can’t be known until you start working with them, is the communication and responsiveness from your Realtor exceptional? See, for me, technology is key and being first to the table often wins the deal! Some Agents are simply not quick enough, perhaps taking on too many clients, or having a technology/generational gap causing slower response times. Whatever the situation, strong communication is needed between Realtor and Buyer, as slow-responding Buyers are just as concerning if they can’t be readily available to be shown homes in today’s market! Also, if you have a really close friend or family member, and they are licensed, you might easily trust them, but perhaps you find the comfort level isn’t there for buying your home. For instance, your financials are very open during this process, so perhaps you don’t want to be “exposed” beyond a point with those individuals, or you feel they are casting “judgment” with regard to your decision-making, taking away some joy when you feel very excited. Use caution and focus on making sure you are finding the right fit to ENJOY this experience overall, as it will at times be stressful, and if you find that to be awkward with someone you are too close to, weigh that factor into your decision!
Step 4: Keep your emotions in check and be flexible as a Buyer!
– You’ve decided to move ahead and begun the process of seeing some homes, good for you! All of a sudden, stress starts to rise up and feelings of overwhelming confusion overcome you! <Deep Breath, No Stress!>
It’s easy to find the current inventory isn’t “fitting” your needs or wish lists, and you become concerned, especially if you have a time limitation in finding your home, say because a lease is up or relocating! It’s not a perfect science buying homes, sometimes Buyers hit it out of the park showing #1, other times it can take 20 and nothing! I’d like to tell you to pause a second, reflect on what you’ve seen so far, and maybe re-evaluate the search criteria you set in place when starting your search. It’s very common for First-time Buyers to have a wish list that is sometimes robust versus someone who is selling and buying another home. Mostly, this is due to never owning a home and doing the maintenance in areas that need “updating”, so they feel overwhelmed and see those as homes that cannot work! Be flexible, don’t let an outdated bathroom create such a block when the rest of the home, neighborhood, yard, and everything else really nailed your needs to a tee! Always look at your wish list of needs, keeping them flexible and categorizing them periodically to make sure you aren’t walking away from the right home, with the right price!
Also, say you’ve FOUND THAT HOME and make the offer, then it’s accepted, CONGRATS! Well, almost, as this starts the next phase and this Step 4 really continues throughout this process until keys are handed to you at closing!
You will have inspections of the property from the beginning, and don’t worry, your Realtor has you covered with whom to set this up and get these done. You will be responsible to pay the inspection fee on the front end for the home, usually $350-500 depending on size, distance, etc… Another inspection is for termites, as the home has to be free and clear, so if those are found during the inspection, the Sellers are 99% responsible to get this done prior to closing, but you usually pay for this inspection fee at closing, often $25-50.
After these are done, you’ll have a report generated that you can go over with the Realtor and Inspector if desired. You will create a repair request proposal to the Sellers, and both go back and forth until agreed and signed as part of your agreement. This can be challenging for First-time Buyers, as a lot of time they over-reach on the ask of the Sellers and make the Sellers feel overwhelmed themselves with you as a Buyer, even at times terminating a deal! Keep your emotions in check folks, it’s a process, just really look at that report and determine things based on severity, health, safety and cost of repairs. An experienced Realtor can really help you weigh these out, but you are the one that makes the final decision on what’s on that repair proposal. Don’t get offended or upset if the Seller is blocking or being difficult, just try to see if for what it is and work to finalize an agreement. Remember, you really wanted this home and loved it when compared to others on the market, so try to keep that grounded in your mind and it will help you throughout the whole process! When done right, your experience will be one you can share with those future Buyers and refer the RIGHT REALTOR for the job to help them too!
Have fun, you only get to be a First-time Buyer once! 🙂
THE ERIC SWINGER TEAM