10 Staples Every First Time Home Buyer Should Know

Dated: 09/10/2015

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Home ownership takes planning and education to achieve. For the first-time home buyer, stepping into the real estate world can be rocky. There are a ton of decisions to be made, from where to buy a house to which house to buy. Then, there’s industry jargon, which ranges from financial terms to buyer/seller speak. Much of the knowledge you need for buying your first home is available for free, if you know where to look.

#1: Knowledge is Buying Power

The first step in home buying starts early. In fact, as soon as you can, you should start reading websites, newspapers, magazines, and journals with real estate listings. Make a note of the homes that grab your attention and keep an eye on them. How long do they stay on the market? Do any changes in the asking price occur? Eyeballing how houses fair on the market will give you an idea of the current housing trends in specific areas.

As you note the houses you find interesting, start a list of the neighborhoods, communities, or developments they occupy. You’ll want to research these areas thoroughly to learn about market trends and whether the neighborhood will be a good fit for you. If you’re looking for houses in Hampton Roads, some of the areas you’ll likely watch will include:

  • The Oceanfront Communities

  • Neighborhoods in Portsmouth

  • Neighborhoods in Norfolk

  • Communities throughout Virginia Beach

#2: Research Available Programs

As you research home buying, look for programs available to first-time buyers. These can include down payment assistance programs, different types of loans, educational programs with a kickback, and other programs especially for first-time home buyers.

#3: Work on Your Credit

Credit is one of the most important factors for first-time home buyers. You’ll want to know exactly where your credit sits and how a lender will view your current credit. As you’re watching the market for the right house, use your time to pamper your credit score.

Your goal should be to hit the credit score sweet spot before buying. If you happen to be in the sweet spot, work to make it even sweeter. Great credit cannot be underestimated in the home buying process.

#4: Learn the Industry Jargon

A lot of terms apply to a real estate deal, like appraisals and inspections. A real estate agent will be one of your best assets. They live and breathe the real estate industry, which means they can decode the jargon and make the process simple. Some terms you’ll want to understand include:

  • Appraisal: It sounds like a simple term, but a lot of first-time homebuyers misunderstand what an appraisal is and how it affects the home buying processing. An appraisal is a credible opinion regarding the value of the home based on a thorough and unbiased review of the property. Appraisals can help stop a buyer from overpaying.

  • Inspections: Smart buyers have the houses they’re most interested in inspected prior to making an offer. A professional inspection can help prevent a buyer from investing in a money pit. The inspection can reveal otherwise unseen problems, including structural issues.

#5: Understand Pre-Approvals vs. Pre-Qualifications

A lot of first-time homebuyers confuse a pre-qualification letter with a pre-approved mortgage. The two could not be more different.

A pre-qualification letter is like a credit card pre-qualification; just because it hits your mailbox does not mean you’re automatically approved for the loan. It just means you have a chance of approval. In comparison, a pre-approved mortgage means a specific lender has pre-approved a home loan and needs only a few details to finalize the loan.

#6: Coordinate the Paperwork

A mountain of paperwork is involved in a real estate transaction, from the financial side to the actual deal and beyond. It can quickly become confusing, which is why coordinating the paperwork is crucial. One missed signature can stall the entire deal.

A professional real estate agent will be able to coordinate the paperwork with you. They’ll help keep everything in order, ensuring it’s all properly completed and submitted as needed.

#7: Shop Around

The best piece of advice for first-time buyers is this: Don’t buy the first house you see. It’s important to tour several homes in your price range. Take notes of pros and cons. You need choices to ensure you land the best bang for your buck.

#8: Evaluate the House

Test the plumbing by turning on a facet or two to see what the water pressure is like and how long the water takes to get hot. Turn switches on and off throughout the house to see how the electrical system is fairing. Open and close doors and windows to see if they work properly.

#9: Evaluate the Neighborhood

You’ll want to evaluate the neighborhood. Drive through at different times of the day (and night) to see what kind of activity takes place. Check out other homes to see if they look maintained or not. You can also gauge the street traffic and how close the house is to necessities like schools, shopping centers, parks, restaurants, and public transportation.

Involve your agent in the shopping process. Ask questions about the neighborhood and community surrounding the houses that interest you. If they’ve been handling transactions in the area for a while, they should have solid insights on the pros and cons to different areas, and they won’t be afraid to tell you if they don’t feel a particular area or property is good for you.

#10: Don’t Forget Insurance

A house is a major purchase that needs to be properly insured. This is a step most first-time home buyers don’t initially grasp. Insurance is an additional expense, one you will be responsible for paying. It will be your responsibility to ensure the house is properly appraised and you’re paying only for what is on the property.

For example, if you’re about to close and the current homeowner decides to remove and take the gazebo in the backyard, you’ll need to have the insurance paperwork checked to ensure you’re not paying an additional premium to cover the gazebo.

Buying a house is a challenging endeavor, but well worth the time, effort, and expense. You’ll receive the biggest value by using a qualified real estate company.

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Chenea Powell

Whether it is your first home or the home you plan to retire in, I will be there to ease the process every step of the way! I find great pleasure in helping people achieve their goals in real estate a....

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