Buying a first home is an exciting and intimidating prospect. It's a huge life achievement, but it can be a long and intensive process that most people don't quite expect. If you're thinking about becoming a first-time home buyer, here's a guide to help you through it.
Check Your Finances
Before you open up those listing websites, take a moment and open up your banking app instead. What do your savings look like? If you spend it all on a downpayment, would you have anything left for emergencies? What about your credit? Your credit score can have a huge impact on your financing options, which you should spend some time researching and considering individually. Do you want a mortgage? Are you interested in using strategies like velocity banking to help you pay down your mortgage faster? Different places will offer different rates, and first-time buyers sometimes qualify for special programs or loans, so make sure you do your research before settling on anything.
Make Your Wish List
Once you're satisfied with how your finances look, it's finally time to think about how you want your home to look. Keep in mind that most first homes are rarely the dream home, so don't let your imagination soar so far that it escapes your budgetary restraints. Figure out your non-negotiables, like a two story home versus a home all on one level, and your negotiables, like fencing and a finished basement. Do you want something new, or something with a history? Do you want to choose your own furniture, or do you want a seller willing to include the furnishings? If you're not prepared to do some remodeling, you need to be prepared for the kitchen to be slightly outdated. Make your list now, but don't go into the search with too many firm expectations, or you may lose out on a gem.
Choose Your Location
Location is a huge aspect of home buying, and it can change a home's price point drastically. Consider whether you want to be close to work or if you're willing to drive. Do you want neighbors, a wooded yard, or something near a school? Even if these things don't seem like they apply to you now, think about what you may value in the future. Even if you don't want kids, the next people to buy your home might, and owning a house near a good school can add value to your property. Location is also important when it comes to insurance. Are you near water or in a location that experiences a lot of storms? If you're in a remote area, how difficult is it to get WiFi? These elements can all impact the yearly costs of owning a home far beyond the standard costs of a mortgage.
Choose Your Realtor
The actual process of viewing, making an offer, and closing on a house can be a lot more complicated and full of paperwork than you're ready for, which is where a good realtor comes in. When you know exactly what you want, your realtor can show up ready to take you only to homes that fit your budget and wish list expectations. They'll also be prepared to help you navigate competitive markets and offer tips and tricks to getting the buyer's attention.
It can be frustrating to put all this work into preparing to buy a house, only to struggle to find anything on the market, or be outbid by other buyers. Your area may be more competitive than others, but that doesn't mean you should give up. You just need to be persistent.
Buying a home involves many steps, a great deal of time, and even more paperwork, but the feeling of those keys in your hands will make everything worth it. When you do your research, take your time, and stay determined, there's no reason why you shouldn't wind up with a wonderful first home.