The 10 Secrets Every First-Time Home Buyer Must Know, from Realtor.com

Home search site Realtor.com has unveiled its top 10 tips and tricks for a successful first time home purchase from its recently released book, “The Essential First-Time Home Buyer’s Book.”

This guide provides home shoppers the essential tips and advice needed throughout every stage of the home-buying process.

When it comes to buying a home, the 10 must-know, simple secrets for first-time home buyers from realtor.com are:

Identify your home buying power: Understanding how much house you can afford can give you a leg up when it comes to buying a new home. Estimating your monthly housing payments using the realtor.com Home Affordability Calculators can help to determine how much monthly mortgage payment you can afford and calculate a feasible home price range.

Give up unnecessary expenses and save more: Saving cash for a down payment takes time. A good way to get started is to trim unnecessary spending. Find simple ways to save extra cash, like, skipping the extra coffee and saving that money in a dedicated account so you can watch your progress. If you struggle to save, automating the process can help. You can have your employer deposit some of your paycheck into a savings account or have your bank automatically deposit money into your savings account.

Work with a local agent: Purchasing a new home is a huge financial decision that can be fairly complicated. Work with a local real estate agent who has the experience, negotiating chops, a large network and local knowledge to help get you through the process to close on the right home for you.

Interview several real estate agents: It’s wise to connect with several agents before deciding who you’ll work with in your home buying journey.

Ask questions like:

How long have you worked in real estate?

How long have you lived in the area?

Do you have a team or do you work alone?

What’s your schedule like?

Are you taking any time off in the next few months?

Create a must-have list and stick with it: Before you begin your search, write down the non-negotiable features your new home needs – the more specific, the better. If a home doesn’t have everything on the list, skip seeing it to avoid compromising. For the listings that do have all your must-haves, document your open house or showing visits by taking notes and photos of each property so you can review them later when making a decision on which house has what you need and ultimately, is right for you.

Make an informed offer: Negotiating can be tricky. Make sure to discuss the following aspects of your offer with your agent to ensure you have a complete understanding of the financial implications before you sign a contract:

Market price: Your agent can help you determine a fair price based on your budget, market dynamics and comparable homes in the area.

Earnest money deposit: Placing a portion of the purchase price in an escrow account can demonstrate to the seller that you are serious. Just make sure to discuss the scenarios that could cause you to lose this deposit.

Contingencies: Contingencies are provisions that can allow you to get out of your contract without losing your deposit under certain circumstances, such as passing a home inspection or appraisal or securing a loan. Make sure you understand how they serve to protect a buyer’s interests and what impact they can have on a sale.

Avoid saying these things when buying a home: While the home search can be a very long process, it’s imperative to keep your emotions in check, especially around the seller or listing agent. To maintain a strong negotiating position, keep your composure, as over-enthusiastic potential buyers can wind up overpaying. With that said, avoid the following statements:

“This is my dream house!”

“That couch is hideous!”

“I can afford to spend this much.”

“I can’t wait to get rid of that.”

“Why are you selling?”

“You’ll never get that price.”

Appeal your appraisal if necessary: If you’ve applied for a mortgage, your home-to-be still has to undergo a home appraisal. Appraisers will estimate the home’s exact value based on home condition, location, square footage and renovations. If the appraisal comes in lower than what you have offered, you have options, which may include: 

Appeal the appraisal: Appealing can extend the process by a few weeks.

Get a second appraisal: This is an added cost and can extend the process.

Negotiate with the seller: Sometimes a seller will lower the price or help in other ways.

Walk away: You’ll likely lose the money already paid for inspections and/or appraisals, and your earnest money deposit may be at risk if you don’t have an appraisal or financing contingency in your contract.

Follow your home inspector checklist: Your inspector should be trained to check your soon-to-be home for any issues. Join your inspector during the inspection to ask questions and find out hidden details of the home. Here are some of the main items a home inspection should vet:

Structural issues

Roof problems

Mechanical issues

Plumbing concerns

Electrical troubles

Overall condition and basic home functionality (ie. windows, doors, vents, lights, fans)

Safety – mold, hazards, faulty smoke detectors

Don’t break the deal! Avoid these things: Remember, a sale is not final until you sign all the paperwork and get the keys, anything you do before closing could impact the sale. Most states do not have in-person closing meetings anymore; however, if you do wind up in an in-person closing meeting, it’s best to avoid voicing these potential deal-breakers:

“I can’t wait to get all the new furniture we bought.”

“I can’t wait to gut the house.”

“Could you remove that swing set from the backyard?”

Find out more at realtor.com

Copyright Today’s Credit Unions