Buying your first home is a big deal, both financially and emotionally. And while sometimes buying agents have to keep their opinions to themselves and let clients make their own decisions, we asked some real estate agents to open up and share the one thing that they wish all first-time homebuyers knew.
Their unfiltered responses are below. Check them out, and see what info you’ve been missing:
1. You can shop around for agents
Before starting out on your home search, it’s crucial to have someone in your corner whom you trust. This person will not only be your guide through the homebuying process, but also your advocate throughout sometimes-tough negotiations. You’ll want to make sure that the agent you’re working with is the right fit for you.
With that in mind, Robert Benenati of 365 Realty, Inc. stresses the importance of shopping around for agents. “Understanding where you are and where you are going before embarking on any journey is half of the battle,” he says. “I wish more buyers knew that it does not cost them a single cent to call an agent and schedule a consultation. Ideally, they should use that time to get a feel for each other and to go over a preview of what purchasing a home as a first time buyer will look like [with that agent or service].”
As for how to shop for a good agent or homebuying service, the process is similar to what it would be to find any professional. Ask family and friends for recommendations, search the internet, and read reviews until you come up with a shortlist of qualified candidates.
Then, follow Robert’s advice. Ask away. Ask for a consultation. Ask questions to get a feel for experience and personality fit. It's okay to shop around when it comes to what’s most likey the biggest purchase of your life so far.
2. You’ll probably need to compromise
It’s perfectly understandable to want to find your “dream home” — the home that checks all the boxes on your list and then some. However, unfortunately, the perfect home doesn’t exist. Whether you’re spending $100,000 or $1,000,000, every home is going to come with a little bit of a compromise.
Augusto Bittencourt of Compass stresses the importance of not letting your checklist turn you off of the home that’s right for you. “Any first time homebuyer is going to have a wish list, but it’s important to not let that stop them from recognizing when they find a great home within their budget that fits their most important criteria.”
To help keep your priorities straight, we recommend making a two seperate lists ~ one containing 3-4 features that a house absolutely must have in order to be a good fit for you. Then, another containing items that would be nice to have, but aren’t absolute dealbreakers.
This way, if a house checks all the boxes on your must-have list, you know it’s a serious contender.
3. Your home costs more than your mortgage payment
Since most first-time homebuyers have only had to worry about paying rent thus far, many think about homeownership in the same way. They assume that when they buy, the only thing they have to worry about is how they’re going to cover their mortgage payment each month. But, ufortunately, owning a home comes with a much bigger price tag.
“I wish first time homebuyers knew there was more to owning a home than ‘rent’ payments,” laments Corey Vandenberg, a mortgage banker with Platinum Home Mortgage. “I often see them struggle to pay for the little things and wonder how they will ever afford the roof or central air conditioning system going out. In reality, there’s also taxes, insurance, maintenance, and escrow costs involved in maintaining a home.”
The best way to prepare yourself for these costs is to budget for them and to save. Your agent can provide you with estimates on property taxes and closing costs. Take that information, and make sure you have a cushion for it, along with room for unexpected repairs, in your savings account before you buy.
If you need more wiggle room, asking your lender about down payment assistance programs can help defray some of the upfront costs.
4. Strong offers make all the difference
These days, we’re working within an aggressively seller-oriented market. This means that there are fewer homes available to buy and more competition for the inventory that is on the market. For buyers, it means that submitting a winning offer on a home is harder than it’s been in the past and there’s less wiggle room to try and score a deal.
Since this market is so tough, Dan Spransy, the broker/owner of Realty Executives Cooper Spransy, stresses the importance of going in with a strong offer. “You’ll want to win over the seller from the beginning especially in a competitive and fast-moving markets,” he advises. “Lead with your highest and best offer out of the gate for your greatest chance of being accepted, and don’t be scared to go over the list price.”
Open Listings’ own Director of Residential Sales, Beatrice De Jong, echoes this sentiment about being realistic around offer prices and resisting the urge to low ball. She recommends that buyers familiarize themselves with comparables (“comps”). “Look at homes similar in style and size sold within the past 3 months in the same zip code," she advises.
“Checking comps is the best way to determine the market value of a home since the list price could be higher or lower as a marketing strategy. Keeping an eye on what price listings actually sell for is a better way to look at the current market.”
However, keep in mind that sometimes winning offers aren’t just about the sale price. You can tweak other components of the offer, as well, to catch the seller’s eye. Your buying agent can help you figure out the seller's ideal closing timeline and have it match up, make any contingencies for your benefit only, or put a larger chunk of money in escrow.
Looking to buy your first home? Use Open Listings to house hunt 24/7, make an offer, get paired with a top-rated local agent focused on getting your offer accepted & closed. Plus, get back an average of $9,604 when you buy wtih us.