It's now officially spring and we will see more and more prospective homebuyers looking for a house in the next few weeks.
And we can confidently anticipate that first time buyers will be out in force again this year, following their major, very welcome and long awaited comeback in 2016.
Because they have no previous experience of home purchase, first timers face a somewhat steeper difficulty curve than those of us who have gone through the process at least once before.
So, if you're looking to buy your first home this year, here's some advice to help you win right out of the starting blocks.
Know what you can afford - While there's often a natural tendency to want to stretch your finances to get the best home you can possibly acquire, remember that home ownership is a marathon and not a sprint and that you not only need to be able to meet your mortgage payments each month, but also have enough left over for all other living expenses and all those costs that you didn't have to consider when renting, such as ongoing maintenance, homeowner's insurance, property taxes and so on. Remember also that the home buying process will require expenditure too, such as appraisals, notary fees etc., etc. And always allow yourself a sufficient buffer for those unexpected costs that life has a wonderful habit of creating at just the wrong moment. In counterbalance to all this, some first timers may actually find their overall monthly costs reduce when they break the renting cycle, but it's still vitally important to know precisely what costs you will face as a new homeowner.
Know what you're looking for - Most first time buyers are busy building careers and raising a family, so there often isn't a great deal of time to waste looking at dozens of properties. Apart from the time management aspect, it's also very possible to look at so many homes that you completely confuse yourself as to exactly what home you want. It therefore makes abundant sense to sit down and create a specification list of all the features you want and/or need. This helps to create a far more focused shortlist of homes to view.
Know where you want to live - Just as it's a great idea to create your list of essentials for the home, it also helps to have a good idea of where you want to live. Not only can this reduce the timescale of searching for the right home, it can help you to be certain that you're going to be happy in the area you will live in. Here's where doing some research can be so very helpful. Visit the area(s) you're interested in and thoroughly check out all the amenities and facilities you'd either like to have or must have and don't be shy to talk to local people about the pros and cons of the neighborhood you're considering. Also be certain that there are homes in the area that you can actually afford too!
Get pre-approved for a mortgage - This is such a great piece of advice, especially in today's market where there is low inventory of available homes for sale. Picture, if you will, a scenario where both you and another home seeker have made an equal offer for a property. Your competitor is fully approved for a mortgage, whereas you have yet to even talk to a loan officer about what level of home you might actually be able to buy, or even if you can qualify for a home loan. Who's offer would you pick if you were the seller? Very simply, sellers will almost invariably treat those buyers who have gone through the process of mortgage approval more seriously. Even if you're not in a multiple offer situation, some sellers will not accept your offer until you have approval. So follow what is often the best advice we can give any home purchaser, but especially first time buyers, and get pre-approved. Be careful not to just get pre-qualified, as that is not the same thing. Prequalification is the lender's best guessed estimate of what you can afford. Crucially however, it doesn't guarantee that you will obtain finance. Pre-approval, on the other hand, is a firm commitment from the lender based on careful and in-depth assessment of your actual finances.
Try not to fall in love with the first home you view - Some people strike it lucky and find the perfect home for themselves right off the bat and they're all set. Indeed that's possibly more likely if you follow the steps we've already recommended. However it also makes sense to look at a selection of homes you can afford to get a better sense of what's the best value for money in the right location. It's probably fair to say that first timers are more easily impressed with the first home they view, simply due to a lack of experience in viewing homes. It could still be that the first home you visit ends up being the right one for you, but make sure that you are making that decision from a position of thorough knowledge of what else is available in the area at your price point.
Team up early with a top buyer's agent - There is no such thing as hiring a buyer's agent too early in the home buying process. We are very used to helping first timers in all the above steps we've outlined, to help make their initial home purchasing experience as seamless and enjoyable as possible. We also ensure that we negotiate the best possible deal for you and find that buyers greatly appreciate how we use our extensive market knowledge to put them in a winning position. Why not contact us today for an informal discussion of your specific first time home needs.