To All the First Time Home Buyers
Dear First Time Home Buyer,
I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. Something about the market last year and the things I’m seeing early this year tell me this is going to be a big year for you. Whether you simply haven’t been able to afford to buy up until now or you’ve been patiently waiting for things to feel right for you so you could dive into the world of home ownership, you’re out there. I’ve worked with you in the past (not you, but people just like you) and I’ve learned a few things about first time home buyers, so I thought I’d take a few moments to help you out.
First, let me be clear, home buying can be a scary process for the first time home buyer. I’m not trying to spook you, just want you to know that I feel it. I was there once. Overall the process was awesome and I loved it, there were times when I was terrified. Thinking about all that money, filling out form upon form upon form, wondering if I should really be doing this…all of it was a bit much at times. Buying a home is a pretty emotional process.
I learned a few things over the process though and in the end I owned an amazing house and loved it for many years. Buying the second one was a lot easier. Here are some of the things I’d like to pass on to you…
Choose your Realtor wisely. Don’t just take on someone who is your brother’s dentist’s best buddy because you feel obligated to do so. Choose an agent for yourself. By all means, get some recommendations from friends and family, but remember, what works for Uncle Bob, might not work for you. Your agent and you are going to spend some serious time together, so you want someone you can relate to, someone you trust, and someone who communicates with you in a manner most effective for you. Trust is a big deal in the real estate world, especially for a first time home buyer, so talk to a few agents and feel them out. Find the one that takes their time with you and talks to you openly. Without this connection, I guarantee that your experience will not be a fun one – I’ve heard all the horror stories you can imagine.
Even though this is your transaction and your first home, listen to your agent for insight and instinct. Realtors do this everyday and they’ve seen all sorts of different situations – rely on them and their experience. While I encourage you to ask questions and add your input, this is not an ego-head-trip game for agents – they’re in this business to be successful and you don’t become a success by a) not knowing a thing or two or b) pissing off your clients by giving them bad advice.
Prepare yourself for the lending process. This is probably the worst part for most first time home buyers. Let’s be frank, it’s not fun at all. I’ve worked with clients with incredible credit scores and money pouring out of their ears – and yet, they too were nervous about the lending process. No one likes to have their finances analyzed and critiqued. It’s an uncomfortable situation. The trick is to remember that the loan officer wants you to get a loan. Why? Because it’s how they make their money. If you can’t get a loan, they don’t get paid. So, they’re not going to turn you down just for fun. The trick to the lending process is to remain calm and no matter how many times an underwriter asks for the same piece of documentation, just get it to them as fast as you can. Getting things to the lender when they request them is probably the best way to keep your loan on track. All of this is why I recommend finding a good local lender – someone you can meet face to face and get to know.
Being a first time home buyer, you have a lot to learn. Terminology, processes, and even your own wants and needs when it comes to a home. Become a student of real estate. Ask questions. Read up on your local real estate market. Read blogs (like this one of course!). Educating yourself is never a bad idea – real estate or not. Of course, you’ll need to remember that not all sources are the best and what works in Seattle, might not work in San Antonio. Read and learn, but also get advice and information from the locals.
Probably the best advice I can give is simple and comes from one of my favorite authors and series of books, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. The advice is so simple (and works in lots of different situations). The advice? Don’t panic. I try to use it as a general mantra for everything I do and it has served me well.
One last thing before I let you go. I predict that this year, like many other years, you’re going to hear the phrase “Now is a great time to buy!” While there may indeed be a convergence of good news in the real estate markets, the oft-overspoke mantra is not one of my favorites. The reason is simple – it’s only a great time to buy if it’s a great time to buy for you. While the phrase is often useful in getting first time home buyers to think about the possibility, it is not an absolute. If you’re thinking buying might be for you, talk to a Realtors and ask questions – they’ll be able to help you see opportunities or stumbling blocks that you may face in your attempt to become a first time home buyer and help you figure out just when is the right time to buy for you.
image courtesy of ElArreglador