People who have been homeowners for a long time tend to forget how exciting and nerve-wracking it feels to buy a home for the first time. Once you’ve been through the process, you know what to expect and aren’t surprised by the second (or fifth) go-around. But for first time home buyers, the road is filled with novel experiences, and the learning curve might feel a bit steep to someone who has never been through it before.
So, let’s take a look at ten things that may surprise you as a first time buyer, to help cut down on that learning curve!
1. Getting pre-approved is very, very important
While there are no barriers to looking at houses online, it’s absolutely critical for first time home buyers (actually, all home buyers!) to get pre-approved for financing before going to look at homes in person. This will allow you to not only determine exactly what you can afford, it will ensure that you’re ready to make a strong offer in the event you find your dream home. This step also allows you to get an idea of what your monthly payments will be, and to make sure it falls in line with the budget that you want for yourself.
2. There are a huge amount of resources available for first time home buyers
The housing industry is a giant segment of the economy—an entire ecosystem that keeps millions of people employed. That’s why there are so many resources catering to potential home buyers: from listing websites, to learning tools, to guides, videos, and everything in between. If you have any question, no matter how specific, there’s a good chance you can easily find the answers you’re looking for. In my free resource library, you’ll find downloadable booklets that can help you through the process, and if you are looking for design inspiration, Pinterest will definitely become your best friend! (mine is www.pinterest.com/marciasocas if you want to see my collection of photos from beautiful homes I’ve toured or renovated fixer upper homes I’ve been involved with)
Downpayment assistance resources is something I’m asked about quite frequently from first time home buyers. Know that there are resources in your area, you just need to search for them. In my area, there are down payment assistance programs at the County level, then others from the City, specific ones for teachers, police, or firefighters, and then there are State and National programs. Search online for all of these that could pertain to you.
3. A home can be much different in person than in photos
Pictures don’t always tell the full story. This can be a tough lesson to learn, especially if you get your hopes up. The good news is that this works in both directions. Sometimes, photos make a home seem a lot nicer than it really is. But, just as often, pictures don’t capture the entire essence of a house, and might fall short when it comes to showcasing it’s more positive attributes. The bottom line is: you should see it in person to be sure.
4. If a house is a great deal, expect plenty of competition
Unless you’re looking in an especially unique area, you’re likely to find plenty of competitors when a listing is a great deal, or when it has “everything” most people are looking for. There are exceptions, of course, and sometimes you might get lucky, but for the most part, if you recognize a great opportunity, there’s a good chance other people will too. It doesn’t even need to be a “deal”…it can just be when a house is priced appropriately within the market. Always expect that if you see the value and appeal of a home, so will another buyer. So, act quick, and write up a strong offer!
(*Note, based on requests I’ve received online, I’m currently in the process of writing up a guide with tips as to how I write the strongest offer for my clients–especially in today’s competitive market. If you’d like to receive this write up, just sign up below and I’ll email it to you within the next week or so. It’ll go through the negotiable parts of the offer, address how to strengthen these without weakening your position, and also showcase the addendum I use most often to ‘win’ the contract)
5. It’s perfectly normal to be nervous before (and after) an offer
Don’t feel silly if you find yourself filled with anxiety after submitting an offer. And definitely don’t be hard on yourself if you’re anxious even after your offer has been accepted. It’s completely normal to worry about all the decisions, stresses, and eventualities as you’re going through the process.
6. There’s plenty to do to keep everyone busy before the closing
If you think an accepted offer means you’re done, think again. In some ways, this is when the real work starts. A lot of the work will be done for you by industry professionals, but you will need to be ready and aware of anything they need you to do on your end. For example, lenders will want contract and financial documentation, and lawyers or title companies will need you to review documents and sign off or acknowledge them. You’ll also want to speak with your agent about scheduling an inspection on your new property, and making sure you do this within the proper timeline.
7. Agents, mortgage brokers, and lawyers will explain everything to you
Don’t be afraid of the nuances and moving parts of buying a home, because from day one, you have plenty of resources at your fingertips. Your agent, your mortgage broker, your closing attorney (or title company), and everyone in between will be able to explain the process and answer questions as you move forward. These people usually have years of experience, and none of them will begrudge you for not knowing everything they know. And if you have questions, or something doesn’t make sense, don’t be shy…just ask! That’s what they’re there for!
8. Owning feels different than renting
Renters don’t have the same skin in the game that owners do, and when you’ve bought something and put your money and credit on the line, it feels different. As first time home buyers, once you close on your home and move in, you’ll start to understand the feeling of commitment and ownership that comes from your own space. You’ll not only want to make it yours, but you’ll also feel a sense of pride and care that is often elusive for renters.
9. An agent does a lot more than help you find a house
Some people think of real estate agents like cashiers: people who help you with a transaction before you move on and forget all about them. But in practice, this is often not the case. Buying a home is such an emotional journey for even the most stoic among us that it’s almost impossible not to form a deeper connection with the person helping you find the perfect home, and guiding you through the process. Agents will serve as consultants, confidantes, interior designers, therapists, and everything in between. Agents become a part of one of life’s biggest milestones, and this makes it nearly impossible for them to take it lightly.
Choose a great agent to be part of your team! Make sure your agent is responsive and understands your needs. Try to work with someone who specializes in your price range and in your area of interest. Not sure how to find that person? One tip is to look online at homes for sale in the area/price that you’re looking for. See if you see a pattern of a particular agent listing a lot of homes in that area, that may be their area of specialty. If you’re using a first time home buyers down payment assistance program, contact that office–they often have a relationship with agents that have in depth knowledge of their assistance program’s guidelines and can lead you most effectively to a successful contract utilizing that program.
Hopefully this will make you a more confident buyer and help take some of the surprise out of the process for you!
Looking for more in depth info and the follow up email with tips on writing the strongest offer possible?
Just sign up for access to my free resource library. You’ll get the password to enter the library. There you’ll find free downloadable booklets (they’re too in-depth to list as posts on the website) that’ll help you through the process. Some titles in the library that you might enjoy:
|Ultimate First Time Homebuyer’s Guide (25 page booklet)|
|Ultimate Home Buyer’s Guide (over 40 pages of info in this downloadable booklet!)|
|Should you Hire an Agent When Buying New Construction? (over 25 pages of info)|
|Does Owning A Home Make More Sense Than Renting? (almost 30 pages in this downloadable)|
|Ultimate Relocation Guide for Buyers (17 pages)|
|Beware the Pitfalls of Attending Open Houses (22 pages)|
Ultimate Guide for Buying a FSBO (over 30 pages in this free downloadable booklet)
Other articles on my site that you may enjoy: