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5 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Kat Sellis, MBA

Kat and her team are hard working agents with Real Brokerage, in beautiful East Bay of Northern California surrounded by Napa Wine Country, San Franci...

Kat and her team are hard working agents with Real Brokerage, in beautiful East Bay of Northern California surrounded by Napa Wine Country, San Franci...

Feb 7 8 minutes read

She would stay up late searching for her ideal home online, but she really didn't know what she could afford. Every time she just wanted a little more information on a home she found herself getting four phone calls and added to three email drip campaigns. Heard of this before? Julie just wanted a list of things that she could do to get herself ready to BUY her first HOME.

We understand the frustration. It's one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life. 

We want to give you 5 Tips for First-Time Buyers to ease your mind, calm yourself down and proceed on your mission with confidence.

WELCOME to your first home search. What's that? You've already been looking on Zillow for six months? Let us stop you right there. Your home search has yet to begin. In order to be prepared to actually buy a home, we are giving you 5 Tips for First-Time Buyers that you absolutely must do BEFORE you go look at your first home in person.

1. Pick a Neighborhood  

This means to get off of Trulia and get in your car. If you aren't sure where you want to live, you aren't ready to buy. Too often buyers are swayed by the allure of the physical and aesthetic value of a home and forget to make sure that they really want to live on that block, in that town. Do some town and school research on Niche and narrow down your list of neighborhoods to no more than THREE. This way we can focus our search for you on the specific features you are looking for in a home, in the neighborhoods you WANT to live in. Then drive through the areas you like in the morning, the middle of the day and at night (and on a weekend) to see what's going on in the community. Your search will be SO much easier when you narrow down your target area. If you aren't sure what you want to eat for brunch and you go to a diner with a thirteen page menu, you are going to have a really hard time choosing (except for bacon). The same holds true for your 'hood. Narrow it down and pick and neighborhood.

2. Get Pre-Approved

 Do you want to know why we won't show you a home if you don't have a pre-approval for a mortgage? 

  • If you are out looking at homes without a pre-approval, you will not be ready to buy when you find "the one." Getting a true pre-approval takes more time than a few clicks online. We want you to get a good pre-approval from a reputable lender so that when you find the home you have always wanted, we can move right forward with an offer.
  • We will not submit an offer on a home for you without either a pre-approval for a mortgage or a proof of funds for a cash buy because there is no reason that a seller would accept an offer without proof that you have the money to purchase the home.
  • Imagine you are the seller. You will be one day! Do you want agents privately showing your home to people who are not qualified to purchase it? NO, that's what public Open Houses are for.

3. Choose a Buyer's Agent 

Stop clicking CONTACT AGENT on Zillow and leaving it up to an advertising algorithm to find you an agent to show you a home. Do the work before you start looking and find an agent who you think will do a great job for you. P.S. - That is never the agent that tells you they are the best! The best agents let you find that out on your own. Read their bio and read their reviews to see what they did for other clients. If you don't pick an agent of your own, you will have to retell your story to every real estate agent you meet. How many times have you done this so far? You are likely about to spend the most money on any single thing in your whole life. Protect that future investment by only working with an agent that you trust who gets you and understands exactly what you are looking for.

About Team, with J. Rockcliff Realtors  Walnut Creek

The Team helps clients buy and sell real estate in the Walnut Creek and surr...

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4. Stop Looking at Fixer-Uppers

 I know, I know - they are attractive online because they are cheaper, but they are cheaper because you have to put money into fixing them up; hence the term fixer-upper. Do you really want to balance the joy of moving into your first home with the angst of remodeling your first kitchen? Say it with us...NO. Ask yourself these questions before you think about buying a fixer upper:

  1. Have you ever done a renovation, of any kind, on a home? If no, STOP looking at fixer uppers. If yes, proceed to step 2.
  2. Do you understand the cost involved in kitchen and bathroom renovations? If no, STOP looking at fixer uppers. If yes, proceed to step 3.
  3. Do you have service providers that you trust to do the work the right way, but also for a good price? If no, STOP looking at fixer uppers. If yes, proceed to step 4.
  4. Have you calculated your offer price plus your renovation costs? If yes, double your renovation costs. If no, STOP looking at fixer uppers. If yes, proceed to step 5.
  5. Are you able to continue to pay for the place you are living in now while you renovate your new home. If no, STOP looking at fixer uppers!

5. Understand the Process 

Don't start learning the steps when you are ready to make an offer. Get INFORMED early and ask your agent to go over with you how it all goes. Then, when it is time to make an offer, you won't be overwhelmed by the unknown. At least know what these terms mean:

  • Attorney review
  • Inspection period
  • Mortgage contingency
  • Closing costs

Home ownership is a wonderful thing, but the journey to get there can be stressful and frightening. Listen to these 5 Tips for First-Time Buyers to stay ahead of the curve and fully engaged in the process. A great way to get started is to set up a free, no obligation, Buyer's Strategy Session with us so we can tell you all about what to expect. 

In your quest for home ownership, you should never feel pressured nor intimidated into making a decision. However, the reason you should be vetting your buyer specialist so heavily up front is because when it comes time, you are going to need to TRUST him or her to properly advise you on your inspector, what to ask for and what not to, your attorney, proper negotiating strategy and so much more. Build a relationship and you will begin to build your future.

Now it's time to celebrate all of your newfound knowledge! THANKS for making it to the bottom! We appreciate you taking time out of your day to get more informed about the home buying process. In 1597 Sir Francis Bacon was credited with saying, "Knowledge is power." When it comes to buying your first home, no truer words have ever been spoken. Get ahead of the curve, find an Agent you TRUST and stay informed. Soon you will be sitting in your new living room, waxing poetic about how simple the whole process was.**

*Julie is not a real person. Actually, she is. Julie is a conglomeration of all of the first-time buyers we have ever worked with. You are not alone. Everyone's journey to a first home starts with wild uncertainty.

**Note - Be prepared for hiccups. An easy process is one where everyone stays calm and finds solutions because no home buying process is foolproof.

P.S. - One of the best ways to learn about an Agent is to read their Reviews on Zillow! Social proof is an important aspect of any business and Real Estate is no different. If you want to make sure you have a good meal out, where do you start your search? Advice from friends and/or Yelp, right?

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