Being a First Time Home Buyer
It's been 6 months since I moved out my apartment into my new condo that I officially own. I'm still in shock that I get to say that I'm a homeowner. With the COVID pandemic, the buying market is in a frenzy due to low interest rates. I would tour homes in Atlanta and by the time of my showing, there were five offers already on the table. Complete craziness!
I had so many questions while I went through the process, but the biggest aspect (obviously) was finding the right home for Briar and me. I'm ready to share some quick tips when it comes to buying a home and what are key items you should look for before diving into the process.
1. The first thing you should do is find the right realtor for you- especially if you are looking to buy in an area that you're still new to. I specifically wanted a realtor, who knew how to work with first time home buyers. Who wouldn't judge me with my questions and knew what to look out for when touring homes. One thing I learned from that process, that it's ok to interview other realtors through the process. Until you sign a document stating that you won't work with any other realtor, you can find the best realtor for you. I recommend meeting with at least 3 to ensure you're making the right decision. My realtor was a freakin shark! The first time I met her was touring a home and she immediately asked the other realtor questions and about "disclosures", which I'll talk more about. I met her through a friend that used her for her first home purchase. She explained the process in detail with how earnest money works and other important tasks that would need to be done when buying a home. I couldn't ask for a better person to represent me through this journey.
2. Once you find the right realtor, the next step would be to get pre-certified for a mortgage. I followed my realtor's guidance by using a Mortgage Consultant that she works with regularly. By having met with him in advance, it gave me a better understanding of what I can afford before looking as well as getting pre-certified in advance in case I found my dream first home quickly. Usually being certified lasts 4 months or so. It can always be redone if you haven't found your home within that time, but all your information will be re-pulled. Before setting up your meeting with the mortgage consultant, send as much of your financial documents as you can, so they can have a better picture of your finances. You don't want to waste their time if they don't already have that general information. Also, because I chose to work with the consultant that works with my realtor, they would talk to each other about what direction I could go when placing an offer to make it look more competitive- if it came down to it.
3. The best part of finding a home, is searching for a home to view. Your realtor will set you up in their system and set up queries based on what you're looking for. Though I would look outside of the query she set up for me, you want to look at all your options. In the end, I found my future place through the query she set up and pushed me to go check it out. This is when it's ok to be picky. I had a set list of requirements as well as a list that I would be feasible with. Look at the details in the posting. Most posting will list everything, to the point of how much HOA will cost.
4. Whenever you're touring homes, always ask the realtor on the property or your realtor if they have disclosures of the property. The disclosures list everything. From HOA costs to any previous damage/ updates to the home, it's important to know these things in advance- especially before you pay an inspection. My realtor asked about those every time we were on a property. This gave me a better idea of if any equipment was old or if there was any additional work I would need to consider before purchasing the home. Also, when touring properties no question is a dumb question. Again, you're putting down a significant amount of money on a huge investment.
5. Be realistic with your budget. At the beginning of my search, I met with 2 mortgage consults. I asked them each point blank what can I afford. One gave me a way lower budget, while the other said I can be pre-approved for a certain amount, but it depends on 1. how much I put down and 2. what I want my mortgage payment to be. As you can probably guess I went with mortgage consultant #2. Define in advance what you want your mortgage to be and how much you're looking to put down. That gave me a better idea of how much I wanted to spend.
6. Have fun with the process! Buying your first home can be stressful, especially in this market. Midway through my search, I was wondering if I would ever find a place. My realtor talked to me saying "We're going to find your dream place." A big purchase takes time! The biggest question I asked myself every time I saw a place that I liked was, "could I see myself here for 5 years?" Granted 5 years is a long time for condo life, but I wanted to make sure I found a place that I felt safe and happy in.
Next post on the home front will be on how to make your first home truly your own. Stay tuned!