5 Tips Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Know

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Tips for a First-Time Home Buyer

By: Doug Gartley

Buying a home requires a lot of preparation and research. It’s important to start off on the right foot because the time you initially put in with save you time down the road. Plus, going through the basic steps to get you ready for buying a home will help you decide if you’re truly ready for homeownership.

As a first-time home buyer, here are five basic steps you should take before you make an offer:

Get Pre-qualified

Nothing is more important than understanding your credit situation and getting pre-qualified with a reputable lender before you start your home search.  This also means calculating all of additional expenses besides a mortgage payment that come with owning a home.  For instance, if you’re looking at condos, you’ll want to take into consideration how the Home Owners Association (fees, etc.) will impact your monthly expenses.

Doing a little prep-work and knowing how much home you can afford will allow you to search for a house with confidence and avoid being disappointed by homes that are out of your price range.

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Hire a Buyer’s Agent

Outside of getting pre-qualified, this is the single-most important thing a first-time home buyer can do.  A buyer’s agent is a real estate agent hired specifically to help a person interested in purchasing a home.  This agent will work for you and will always have your best interest in mind.

Buyer’s agents will research a property and give you valuable information that the agent who is representing the seller is not allowed to provide.  This includes any public records showing what the current owner paid for the home, the last mortgage on record, comparable homes in the neighborhood and how long the property has really been on the market.

A buyer’s agent can also give you a thorough explanation of the best way to approach a negotiation of the property. In addition, a good buyer’s agent will have a list of resources that will help you in the home buying process, including home inspectors, contractors and attorneys.

The best thing about hiring a buyer’s agent is that it often costs you nothing! Because of the agreement between the seller and the listing agent, compensation is offered through multiple listing services that encourage other agents to show the property.  The buyer’s agent only gets paid if they are the one who brings the buyer.

Know the Neighborhood

When searching for your first home it’s important to know and understand the neighborhood. Target an area and drive around at different times of the day or week to observe what’s going on. Often in the evening and on weekends you’ll get a better idea of what the activity level is for a specific neighborhood.

Don’t settle when you’re looking for your first home. While most buyers understand that they may only be in a home for a few years, the decisions you make now will have a huge impact when it comes time to sell the property.  Things like not having a garage or basement, or the proximity to commercial or major roads could create some obstacles when you try to sell the house in the future.

Prepare for a Competitive Bid Situation

In this market with so many buyers wanting to take advantage of record-low prices, it’s not uncommon to find yourself in a competitive bidding situation. This is why it’s so important to already have the three previous items under your belt. As an agent, I’ve had buyers who thoroughly understood the value of a property and as a result were able to out-bid other buyers and still get an outstanding deal on the home.

Have the Home Inspected

This is one thing you definitely don’t want to skimp on!  Choosing to do the inspection yourself or relying on your family member or friend who has owned a home before will most likely result in a greater cost than if you had hired a professional in the first place.

By not hiring a full-time inspector who is a member of either the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or your state’s association of home inspectors, something will be missed and it could cost you thousands of dollars in the long run. Not only does a professional inspector provide peace of mind about what you’re buying, but can walk you through the process so you understand the inner-workings of a home and regular maintenance schedules.

[Mortgage Help: Get your free credit report and see if your credit score is mortgage qualified]

For more tips about your home, money and credit, plus free tools to help you make the most of them – including a free credit score, home value estimate and home loan recommendations – check out Quizzle.com.

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Doug Gartley is an Associate Broker with In-House Realty LLC. He has been a full time REALTOR for over 10 years in the Detroit Metropolitan area and works hard to earn the trust of each and every client.

  • Steve G.

    Excellent tips overall, but buyers should still be wary of “buyers agents.” They are, afterall, still professionals looking to maximize their own gain from a transaction and will, as such, put their own interests above even those they are supposed to be representing. In my own recent case, I engaged a buyers agent to help me purchase a small condo I wanted to downsize to. This was in the wake of the housing crash when lenders were unwilling to make condo loans for any reason. I’m not sure if my agent was aware of that – she seemed quite knowledgable in most areas – but she never advised me that getting the loan, despite my top notch credit and secure income, would be next to impossible. In fact, she drew up the purchase offer with a requirement – not an option – that earnest money be desposited, even when I questioned it because the condo had been on the market for months without drawing any interest but mine. You guessed it – the three lenders I had lined up each backed out of the deal at the last minute, and when I couldn’t find another, the seller refused to let go of the downpayment, claiming I hadn’t fulfilled the offer agreement. When I complained to “my” agent that I never should have given the earnest money, she shrugged it off, as if it was strictly my fault. She informed me that the deposit would be refunded to me in two years, as stated in the contract. So, with “buyers agents,” as any other type, it’s still “caveat emptor.”

  • irma

    i have a 575 fico score and i want to buy a house but i think i would need to go with owner fiancing being that my credit is poor. please help