If you know absolutely nothing about buying a house, don’t learn the hard way. There’s plenty of information available to help you avoid the many potential pitfalls in the process. You want your first home buying experience to be exciting, not exhausting. Here are some tips to get you started the right way.
- Know when you’re ready. Sometimes the pressure to buy comes from well-meaning family and friends. Even your boss might press you to buy a home. But there are personal and financial milestones you need to pass before jumping into the housing market. These include paying down debt, monitoring your credit report and credit scores and freeing up cash to save for a down payment. If you can’t adjust your cash flow so that you can set some funds aside, you may not be ready to buy a home. Yes, there are zero-down and low-down-payment loans out there, but you still have closing costs, taxes, insurance and maintenance to cover. If you’re not there yet, start by making small adjustments to your financial picture. Trying living on a budget. You’ll find plenty of apps online or for your phone to help you follow the money. Once you know where your money goes, you can redirect it to where you want it.
- Learn what you want. While you’re working on your financial adjustments, start visiting open houses. Go to single-family homes, new builder developments, condominiums, townhomes, patio communities and hi-rise buildings. Keep a list of what you like and dislike about each. Then, consider the time it takes to maintain the property. Calculate the hours spent mowing the lawn or caring for landscaping, or the cost to have it done for you. Consider if you want a ready-to-live-in home, or if you’re up to the challenge of a renovation. If so, will you do the work yourself or hire out to have it done? While not a perfect depiction, watch television shows about home renovations and remodels. You’ll see some of the disasters that might be lurking behind an innocent-looking wall.
- Hire the right help. Buying a home for the first time is not the time to go it alone. Hire a professional real estate agent that represents buyers. You need someone in your corner during negotiations and the contract process so that necessary paperwork gets completed and a seller’s potential lack of disclosures doesn’t slip by you. Your agent can refer a home inspector to find out everything that might need repairs. Then they can negotiate for you to get the price reduced or the item fixed during the closing process.
If you follow these suggestions, when your agent finds the perfect home, you’ll be ready to take the exhilarating leap to purchase your first home.