There is so much that goes into buying your very first home. So I have asked a handful of experienced buyer’s agents what they wished their first time home buyers knew coming into the home buying process.
Here is a quick summary of what 8 buyer’s agent from every part of the country had to share when I asked them what they wished their first time home buyers knew.
- Kevin Vitali- Know what you don’t know and work with someone who does.
- Eilleen Anderson Know your budget both when it comes to a mortgage and owning a home in general.
- Kyle Hiscock Understanding current market conditions will dictate how you handle the current market you will be in.
- Connor MacEvilly- The importance of choosing an experienced buyer’s agent.
- Sharon Paxson Getting properly pre-approved so you don’t waste your time and you understand your monthly budget.
- Jeff Nelson Establishing your wants and needs in a home and knowing the difference between the two.
- Paul Sian- The importance of getting pre-approved early.
- Maria Mastolonardo- Pre-approval, searching for a home and buying a sound home.
What Every Buyer’s Agent Wished Their First Time Home Buyers Knew
Eileen Anderson- Top REALTOR® in Simsbury, Connecticut
The most important thing Eileen wishes a home buyer knew before buying a home is to have a clear understanding of what their budget is and what their monthly payments will be.
New buyers may not be aware that they have an issue on their credit report which can prevent them from obtaining a mortgage. Their first line of business is to speak with a mortgage broker. The mortgage broker can run their credit and guide them in how to clean up their credit before purchasing a home.
Most home buyers start their home search on the internet and then call an REALTOR® to preview the home. When asked if they have been pre-approved for a mortgage they often respond that once they find a home they will contact a lender. They have no idea how much home they can afford, yet they are out looking.
I have also found that some lenders will give a price range of homes the buyer can afford but not give a clear number as to what the monthly payments might be. Once you include principal and interest, PMI and homeowner’s insurance the payment can be shocking especially if you get this number a few weeks before closing!
If a buyer feels they can’t afford these payments, they may backout and lose their deposit. A good real estate agent will guide a buyer seamlessly through the home buying process so they never find themselves in this situation.
Just because a mortgage loan person say you can afford “x” amount, a buyer needs to be realistic and take into account all of their monthly living expenses.
They should check with the utility companies that service the house they are considering and ask for an estimate of what the cost will be. Maybe the companies have budget plans available. If there is longer commute to work, then they need to take into account the extra gas.
Buyers should have a heart to heart with partner and agree on their budget, the towns they want live in and the type/condition of the home. If you are not in agreement, heading out to preview homes is a waste of the buyer’s time. Look beyond the décor and don’t be enamored by staging.
If buyers have a budget they should stick to it. Upgrades and repairs can be very expensive! If one person wants a fixer upper and one wants move-in condition they will be set up for disappointment and waste valuable time.
This is a huge financial investment! Buyers should have a team in place which includes a Mortgage Loan Officer, a Real Estate Attorney and a Top REALTOR® to be sure they are protected, informed and comfortable with their purchase for years to come!
Kyle Hiscock- Pittsford NY REALTOR®
Buying a home for the first time can be quite overwhelming. There are some very specific steps to buying a house that first timers should be aware of.
The importance of hiring an experienced local real estate agent, getting pre-approved by a quality lender, and being ready to shop are just a few of the most important steps in the buying process.
The one thing that most buyers agents wished their first time home buyers knew was to understand the current local real estate market conditions.
In many markets across the country, buyers are seeing very competitive markets with low housing inventory. It’s important that first time buyers understand that if their market is competitive, they cannot expect to get a “deal” on the home they’re interested in purchasing.
First time home buyers who expect to make offers that are thousands of dollars less than an asking price of a property that is getting multiple offers can expect to lose out on property after property!
Those first time buyers who’re educated on the local real estate market conditions and who understand the state of their market will position themselves in a much better position for success. Buyers who understand they may need to actually offer more for a property than what it’s listed for, if they’re facing competition, have a better chance of securing their first home!
Sharon Paxson- Top Newport Beach REALTOR®
One of the most crucial steps in home buying is the importance of meeting with a lender and obtaining a pre-approval for a loan and the purchase amount. This step will help a buyer understand what price range they can be searching in. Depending upon the borrower’s qualifications, there are different loans that a buyer can obtain. There is conventional financing, VA and there are FHA loans and others. There are certain criteria for each loan.
If a buyer is obtaining an FHA loan, then there can be upfront mortgage insurance. An FHA loan can also preclude certain building developments. If a buyer is purchasing a condo, then the Realtor needs to determine if that development accepts FHA loans.
Getting pre-qualified is the initial step in the mortgage process. The buyer supplies the bank or a lender with their financial picture which includes income, debt, and assets. The lender can then establish the debt to income ratio and determine the best loan for the buyer and what they can be qualified for. The lender will also run the buyer’s credit, so it important to ensure that you maintain your credit score before ever considering the home buying process. Along the same line, it is imperative that a buyer understand not to make any large purchases before or during the home buying process as this can impact the debt to income ratio.
If a buyer knows well in advance what they are qualified for, they can then search in their price range. This can prevent disappointment when a buyer is searching for a property which is well beyond their ability to purchase. Every buyer can search virtually online and search for properties. As a Realtor, I encourage it and ask buyers to send me addresses to look up and to find out additional information about a property which may not be easy to access online such as if a property is on leased land which can also impact the financing. Additionally, the Realtor can determine if that property meets the loan criteria that has been established.
Another very important consideration in the buying process is the importance of being timely with providing the lender every piece of documentation they ask for on that day requested. First-time buyers especially may not understand that time frames are crucial and the loan contingency does get removed a certain number of days after acceptance (generally 17 to 21 days but this is a negotiable term in the contract). Therefore, buyer, lender, and Realtor need to work together to stay within the time frames in order to remain in contract.
Conor MacEvilly- Seattle Washington REALTOR®
Foresight and experience are good things. However, first time home buyers have neither of these. They are, well… FIRST time buyers and it’s all new to them. When they buy their second home they will be a lot savvier and have learned from their past home buying experience. And yes, I was a first time buyer myself once too.
I wish that every first timer knew that the Realtor they choose to work with will have a big impact in how successful a buyer will be in securing a home and, for want of a better work, affect how enjoyable the whole process will be.
Too many buyers sign up with a Realtor who was recommended by a friend, popped up in a Facebook ad or who they met at an open house. The buyers hitch their wagon to an agent without doing any background research or interviewing them. “Seems like a nice guy and he plays golf too. That’s good enough for me!”
Being a newbie buyer, you are going to be extra reliant on your agent to educate you on the home buying process, protect you from buying a lemon, keeping your level headed and focused and successfully negotiating offers on your behalf. Will the agent have your best interests at heart, or theirs?
I was pleasantly surprised recently when a Ballard Seattle neighborhood couple I knew from occasional social events contacted me and said they were interested in buying their first home. I naturally assumed they wanted to sign up and work with me straight away. No. They met me for coffee and proceeded to grill me with a plethora of questions. Basically, they were interviewing me (and other agents) to see who would be the best first for their particular home buying needs. Kudos to them!
Many sellers interview a number of Realtors before deciding which one to go with. Buyers should be equally fussy and take the time to meet up and look in the eye the person who is going to help them secure the biggest purchase of their lives. Ask them LOTS of questions, ask for references and call/email/text them and see how responsive they are. Never feel obligated to work with any agent.
Now ask yourself: how long did I spend researching that big screen TV versus the agent who’s helping me to buy my first home?
Jeff Nelson- Gulf Shores REALTOR®
In Jeff Nelson’s article on establishing your needs and wants when buying a home, he talks about aspects that could drastically save buyers money in their next home purchase. Jeff states that you need to actually write on paper your “must haves” and “nice to haves”.
For most first time home buyers price is really the determining factor of what you can get in a home. Are you going to find the perfect home, probably not. Most people want a little more than what they can have. And, often buying a home is finding the compromise between “must have” and “nice to have”.
Be realistic on your must have list and keep it to things that cannot be changed like square footage, neighborhood, etc… Thinks like flooring and paint can easily be changed down the road and should not be on your must have list.
You should be able to get everything you need and most of the things that you want but don’t get too caught up with “keeping up with the Jones’s”.
Paul Sian- Luxury Real Estate Agent Cincinnati Ohio
One of the most important things a homebuyer should do prior to even starting the process of viewing homes is get in touch with a lender and get pre-approved. Nothing is more frustrating for buyers than looking at homes and finding out that those homes are above the price range they would be pre-approved for. Even worse is buyers shopping below their price range and wasting time when they could be looking at homes larger or more conveniently located since they could actually afford more home than they thought. The pre-approval process for buying a home is an essential action all homebuyers should be taking from the very start.
When seeking the pre-approval buyers should not just stick with one lender and consider it done. What that means is buyers should be talking to multiple lenders and getting multiple pre-approvals done around the same time. Not only does the pre-approval provide how much can be borrowed, but the running of the credit score with the pre-approval allows buyers to get a better idea of what the interest rate on their mortgage will be. With better credit scores come better interest rates and some lenders can offer better rates based on the way they do business.
Since your home is a long term purchase with long term payments getting the best interest rate possible by comparing costs, fees and rates amongst different lenders can add up to thousands or more dollars saved over the life of the mortgage loan. If you only stick with one lender because you bank with that lender, or have other accounts with that lender you will limit the chances of getting better interest rates.
For those home buyers who are starting early enough, understanding your credit report and your credit score means you will be in a better position to try and improve the score so you can get better mortgage interest rates. By paying down credits cards, making sure bills are paid on time, and not taking on too much debt homebuyers can improve their credit score in a matter of months which can translate to long term savings through lower interest rates and lower costs for the mortgage.
The bottom line is by starting the credit repair and pre-approval process early enough you can save quite a bit of money over the term of your mortgage loan.
Maria Mastrolonardo- Naperville IL REALTOR®
I wish that first time home buyers knew how vital it is to be pre-approved for a mortgage prior to starting their online home search. A pre-approval is their buying power. It shows home sellers that they are serious about making a purchase. And it also allows buyers to be prepared to move fast, more importantly in a tight market.
I wish that first time home buyers knew that when they are searching for homes online, they should not call each and every agent of each and every house they find. Real estate agents have access to all homes listed on the Multiple Listing Service that are found online, no matter which brokerage they are affiliated with. Home buyers should however, hire an agent who they feel confident will work in their best interest to help them find their perfect home. If they see a home online, buyers should let their agent know. Communication is so important for a successful home purchase.
I wish that first time home buyers knew that just because a home is aesthetically pleasing it may not mean that it’s physically sound. It’s wise for home buyers not to skip the home inspection. The cost of a home inspection will more than pay for itself in the long run. A home inspection is for one, a learning experience, particularly for first time homebuyers. The inspector will go through the home with them and point out defects, and/or items that need maintenance now or possibly in the future. The home inspection will give home buyers the peace of mind in knowing that they’ve made a good decision on their home choice.
I wish that first time home buyers knew to not apply for any credit before the home sale is final. Some homebuyers may jump the gun and apply for credit for either new appliances or a new car, with the thought that they are all set with their home loan, but that isn’t the case. More often than not, the lender will run a second credit report prior to giving them a final loan approval (clear to close). If the lender finds additional credit on the report it will hurt a home buyer’s ability to move forward with the home purchase. Rule of thumb – just wait. Home buyers should wait until after they’ve walked away from the closing table with keys in hand prior to making any large purchases.
Kevin Vitali- Tewksbury MA REALTOR®
The best advice I can give a first time home buyer is realize when “you don’t know what you don’t know”. And when you realize that get the proper help.
Over the years I have picked up buyers who have been very frustrated by trying to “go it alone”. The thing is, you don’t have to. There are plenty of great buyer’s agents who can help you.
It took me 5 years before I felt really comfortable as an agent and not rely on other agents around me. That is years of working 50-70 hours a week at real estate, closing 100’s of real estate transactions, hours spent researching, negotiating and problem solving for my real estate clients.
I recently finished up with a buyer in Lowell MA who came to me frustrated at their results trying to do it on their own. In her testimonial she wrote “he also (in a sellers market mind you) got a sold “as is” seller to fix things that I was sure they wouldn’t. He got the condo association to take care of things I was sure they wouldn’t and he took on tasks I never would have thought of.”
I literally saved this client over $10,000 by just doing my job properly, as well as saving them tons of time and aggravation, while looking out for their best interest. My experience played a huge part in that. As it would for any good buyer’s agent.
So what would the alternative have been for this client. Go it alone, flounder along the way and buy directly from the listing agent. The listing agent works for the seller, they aren’t going to insist certain repairs be done on the buyer’s behalf And, they would make the buyer would have been made to feel they had take it or leave it.
Use a buyer’s agent. But not just the first agent you run across. Interview to find the right one.
Summary of What Every Buyer’s Agent Wished Their First Time Home Buyers Knew
Well I think two things are clear after reading the 8 responses from buyer’s agents around the country. One is the finances and pre-approval are a critical component. I always say looking at houses is fun but talking about paying for it is not.
Yet it should be the very first step.
I think secondly, it is been made abundantly clear that you should seek out the help of an experienced buyer’s agent. Someone to partner with to represent you in the purchase of a home can be critical in making your purchase a success.
And finally, thank you to all who participated in providing great information for this article.
What Every Buyer’s Agent Wished Their First Time Home Buyers Knew is written by Kevin Vitali of EXIT Group One Real Estate.
If you would like to sell your home or buy a new home give me a call at 978-360-0422 and let’s get the process started.
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