Part Two: Your First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide
Read Time: 4 Minutes
In First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide (Part One) [LR1] we covered key elements such as deciding to buy, finding your agent and securing financing. In part two, we will explore three more components of the first-time homebuying experience so you can embark on it with ease and confidence. Each magnificent tip below is brought to you courtesy of Your First Home (Second Edition), authored by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.
Identifying Your Criteria
In the homebuying process, an initial consultation with your agent is your way to make sure you are prepared. You may think you already have a pretty good idea of what your first home might look like, and you’re probably right. However, you want to be sure you haven’t missed something. That’s why it’s important to sit down, talk through things with your agent. Your agent will help you get to the heart of what you want, why you want it and establish search criteria around what you truly need. Recognize the right home will meet all your needs and as many of your “wants” as possible.
As you and your agent work to establish your criteria, some questions you should ask yourself may include:
- What do I want my home to be close to?
- What do I want my neighborhood to be like?
- How much space do I need?
- Would I be interested in a fixer-upper?
- What features do I need?
- What amenities do I want?
- What does my home have to have now?
- Of all my wants and needs, which are the most important?
Finding Your Home
No matter how long it takes or how many stops there are on your journey, finding the right home to make an offer on is essentially a four-step process:
Determine what houses you want to see.Your agent, as a real estate professional, will have access to the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service). This service acts as an aggregator of available properties, and it isn’t readily available to the public. The MLS will detail a property’s features, its current status (such as whether it’s just listed or under contract) as well as its market history. Using your criteria, your agent can automate search results so that you’ll be alerted when property matches arrive on the market, and they’ll be added to a collection in your home search app.
If you see something that you’d like to check out, contact your agent and let them know. Even though your agent is diligently watching the market for you, don’t take your eyes off the literal and digital roads! By driving around neighborhoods where you want to live, you may be able to catch for sale or coming soon signs in front of properties that haven’t hit the MLS yet or simply make your heart go pitter-patter.
Check out homes that match your criteria.As you and your agent move into the home-viewing phase of your homebuying journey, don’t be afraid to ask to look at any house that you think could be a match for your criteria. However, don’t forget that you created your criteria for a reason: to help you get what you want. Your agent will be able to guide you on a well-curated search so that the homes you view are closer to your wants and you may not need to tour as many properties.
As you navigate your home search, be on the lookout for the BIG stuff first - structural damage. Structural damage refers to concerns about the home’s main systems (plumbing, electrical and more). Some signs of structural damage may include major cracks in the foundation, water stains on the ceiling, floors or walls or jagged or diagonal cracks inside the house (especially over windows or doors.)
As you continue, you’ll learn more as you go and can begin noting other details, such as:
- How you like the neighborhood at different times of day
- Traffic patterns
- The way noise carried
- Floor plan preferences
- Storage requirements
Create a rating system. After a day or two of looking at properties, it can become hard to remember which homes were appealing, which were appalling, and why. In fact, after viewing numerous homes in a few hours, they can become one big blur. One of the best things you can do is create a system to help you rate, evaluate, and remember each home as you go.
Pro Tips: We suggest you have some way to take notes as you go: Use an app on your phone, take photos, or even bring good old-fashioned pen and paper with you to help you remember each home distinctly. Write down the address of each property you visit before you get out of the car. While you tour the home, take short notes about the things you like and don’t like (including any areas of concern), and note any distinguishing features (for example, a purple birdhouse or a stained-glass window) that will jog your memory after a long period of looking.
And don’t forget to snap some photos! Whipping out your smartphone to take pictures of the property is a great way to track the homes you’ve visited.
Decide to make an offer. Which we cover in the third installment of the First Time Homebuyer’s Guide. Read on to learn about making an offer and negotiations.
Recognize the right home will meet all your needs and as many as your “wants” as possible.