As you may already know, home buying is an intimidating proposition for the uninitiated. Fortunately, though, some sensible steps will help you get onto the right foot. Here are 14 essential tips to get on track.
Tips for First-Time Buyers
- It’s great to have high expectations, but you should also be realistic; even a brand new home is never “perfect.”
- Know what you’re looking for in a home before you start shopping, and know your priorities (location, price, number of bedrooms, etc.).
- Review your credit reports and make sure your finances are in order. You’ll need cash upfront for a down payment, closing costs as well as a capital reserve of 6 months – it’s also best to have 1 year of your mortgage and building associated expenses in savings.
- Get pre-approved for a mortgage with the lender of your choice; this gives you credibility when negotiating for a property.
- Pick one or two trusted friends if you find you want a second opinion—too much conflicting advice can keep you from making a decision.
- Set a realistic time frame for moving into your new home: How much time is left on your lease? Can you sublet if necessary? Do you need to sell an existing home?
- Consider the big picture. Will you buy a starter home knowing you want to trade up in a few years, or a long-term family home? This will narrow your search, and guide the type of mortgage that works best for you.
- Avoid over leveraging to buy the most expensive home you qualify for; you’ll want money for decorating, maintenance, and a rainy-day fund.
- Try to negotiate repairs by the seller into the contract; sometimes, however, a home is sold “as is,” so you are responsible for repairs after you close on the property.
- Find a buyer’s agent you feel comfortable with and trust, and whose style and principles align with yours. Consider choosing an exclusive buyer’s agent who never lists properties, who works for you and watches out for your best interests. Listing agents are obligated to protect the seller’s interests.
- Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger when you find the right home. Second-guessing interest rates or changes in the housing market often lead to disappointment, and great properties don’t stay on the market long.
- Don’t expect the impossible—there’s no such thing as a perfect apartment. If you find a place that meets your most important needs, you can change or repair the minor flaws.
- Negotiate for the best price, but avoid insulting the seller with ridiculously low offers or too many contingencies. You may end up losing the property.
- Develop a realistic post-purchase budget that includes funds for decorating, maintenance, and repairs. Even new homes come with move-in expenses.
Expect a little buyer’s remorse at first. Buying a home is a huge commitment, and it’s normal to doubt yourself before the satisfaction of owning your own home sets in.