When you’ve decided to buy your first home, your emotions are probably an even mix of excitement and nerves. There is a lot to consider, and the first time home-buying process might seem a bit daunting at first. As experienced realtors, we’ve decided to put together a list of tips every first time home buyer needs to know to navigate the process wisely and efficiently.
1. Use a qualified Real Estate Agent
Just because a friend of a friend has a realtor’s license doesn’t mean you should automatically use them. Choose a buyer’s agent with experience in the region. They will better know the ins and outs of each community and can compare properties for you, addressing issues you might not have otherwise thought about. That source of information is vital, and the cost is free since their fee comes from the seller.
2. Make a “Needs and Wants” List
If you’re buying a home with a partner, you might have different ideas about what’s important. Write down a list of characteristics you want in a house and ask your partner do the same. When you’re finished, combine lists with your partner, creating three columns: Needs, Wants, Would-Be-Nices. Categorize each of the items on your lists and take the final list house-hunting with you. Pro tip: Make sure to include price range in that list. Do some online comparison analysis of houses in the WNC area with similar criteria and ask your real estate agent for their insight into the current state of the market and asking prices when it comes to buying a mountain home. This pre-search research will provide more information as to what budget you should set for yourself when it comes time to make an offer.
3. Get A Pre-qualification Letter From Your Mortgage Lender
If you’re looking to fund your home and take out a mortgage, choose your lender beforehand and get a pre-qualification letter before you even start looking. This letter will put you in a better position to make an offer quickly. There are three major mortgage options: conventional, FHA (Federal Housing Administration) and VA (Veterans Affairs). FHA loans are insured by the federal government and are ideal for buyers with low credit. VA loans are available to qualifying Veterans. As you’re walking through the steps to applying for a mortgage, your lender may ask you if you’d like a 15-year mortgage or 30-year mortgage. If you choose the 15-year mortgage option, your payments will be higher on a monthly basis, but you will pay less interest and more of the principal in the long run. 30-year mortgages have smaller monthly payments, but the interest rates are higher, so you would be paying more in the long run. If you’d like to price out which type of mortgage is best for you, try out a mortgage calculator. Rest assured, though, none of the mortgage decisions have to be set in stone to achieve a pre-qualification letter. You can always change your mind about the mortgage details after an offer on a home has been accepted.
4. Hold off on other big purchases or hard inquiries on your credit
Mortgage lenders will want to take a look at your credit score before approving a home loan. Make sure you know what that number is and don’t take out any credit cards or loans on other big-ticket items that may affect your score.
5. Make yourself at home
When you walk through a house try imagining yourself living there. Turn on and off each faucet, light switch, and fan. At first, it may seem a bit invasive, but water pressure and lights are part of your day-to-day life. By testing them all out, you’ll get a better feel for the house and whether or not you can see yourself living there. It might also shine some light (pun intended) on some repairs that would need to be made.
6. Buy a home for the future
Many first-time home buyers outgrow their first home rather quickly because they didn’t plan for the future. Newlyweds especially might think they don’t need much space, but if starting a family is in the plans, think about how much space you may need for children that will come along in a couple years.
7. Take photos and videos
Not only will this help recall tiny details of a home, but you can also use these photos and videos to show friends and family. Their keen eyes might notice something you hadn’t.
8. Save a little cash for aesthetic repairs
The aesthetics of a house are the most obvious and can affect your overall impression of a home. Try to see past the aesthetics and focus on the structure and foundation of a house. If everything functions properly, and the house has everything listed on the “Need” column of your list, slapping on a different coat of paint or freshening up the garden will be easy.
9. Visit at different times of the day
Take a second or third look at a house at different times of day and the weekend vs. weekday. Those subsequent visits will give you a better idea of the light and noise levels in a home. A house may look and sound different on Saturday at 2 PM than it would at 7 PM on a Wednesday. Test them both out.
Buying a home for the first time is exciting!. Enjoy the experience. If you’re looking at homes in Western North Carolina we’d love to answer any questions you might have or take around the area to find your perfect starter home. Give us a call today.