Thinking about buying your first home? That’s exciting!
The thing that surprises most first-time buyers is the sheer number of things that need to happen in order to find, fund, and finally move into a new home. There’s a lot that goes into the process. Sure, you’ll be working with a mortgage loan officer and real estate agent, and it’s their job to be an all-around Sherpa, guiding you along the way. They’ll help you navigate all the steps.
However, there are four key items first-time home buyers should know in advance. The following four tips deserve the most attention and will help make sure you have a great home-buying experience.
1. Get pre-approved.
Without financing, real estate transactions simply don’t happen. Loans make the housing world go ‘round. Getting a loan pre-approval squared away before home shopping is important, as you will see below.
First, pre-approvals involve formal documentation of your credit score, credit history, income, employment, etc. Pre-approvals carry much more weight than pre-qualifications. Pre-qualifications don’t involve any formal documentation, which is why they are essentially meaningless to everyone from real estate agents to sellers.
Pre-qualifications will give you confidence. You’ll know what loan program you want to use such as FHA or VA loans (these very common first-time home buyer programs). There’s a big difference since FHA loans require 3.5 percent down and VA loans are zero down loans. Knowing know your loan program and how much money you’ll need to get the deal done means no surprises later on.
Pre-qualifications save you time because you will know the mortgage amount for which you qualify. You will shop faster and smarter by searching for homes you can afford. You’ll get better service from real estate agents. In fact, many agents insist that their clients are pre-approved. Everyone involved in this transaction deserves to know that their efforts are leading toward a tangible outcome.
Continuing with that thought, sellers may not let home shoppers view their home without a pre-approval. Furthermore, when you make an offer on a home, sellers will take a pre-approved buyer seriously.
2. Search with focus.
There’s never been a better time — in terms of efficiency — to shop for a home. Online searches, using tools like Zillow or Redfin, are fast and easy. And you can stay focused on properties you are likelier to acquire when you know your pre-approved loan amount.
After searching for a while, you’ll want to narrow your choices and pick homes to view in person. This the time to leverage you real estate agent’s understanding of the surrounding area. Their input on schools and neighborhoods is invaluable. Modern technology, combined with your agent’s knowledge of the area, will help you determine the short list of homes to visit.
3. Keep your emotions in check.
Stuff happens. Real estate deals can go sideways for a number of reasons, including:
- Offers rejected by sellers
- Negotiations wind up going nowhere
- Appraisals come in too low
- Lenders need additional documentation
- Home inspections reveal major issues with the property
A lot of these things are outside of a buyer’s control. This is why keeping emotions in check is important. Going back to the search phase above, having several homes on your short list can prevent buyers from fixating on just one property. Having choices helps reduce the potential for an emotional roller coaster.
4. Don’t skip the home inspection.
Getting a home inspection before finalizing a deal is important. Surely you’d prefer not to have buyer’s remorse. Don’t skip this step, even if you’re planning on buying and rehabbing a fixer-upper home.
While all purchase transactions will require a property appraisal, some mortgage programs do not require an inspection. An appraisal will tell you and your lender what the home is worth, but an inspection will tell you if it needs any repairs.
There’s pretty good chance an inspector will find some imperfections in the home you want to buy. The good news here is that inspections:
- Identify issues with the property
- Come from a neutral third-party
- Help create space for you and your Realtor to negotiate with the seller
Asking a seller to fix something before you buy it or come down on the price is pretty typical after an inspection. More importantly, you’ll know what you are buying so the chance of any surprises is very small. The idea here is to prevent you from encountering unforeseen expenses after moving in.