First-Time Home Buyers
Here are a few helpful hints to get started on your home buying journey.
- Budget: The most important thing is that a new home payment is affordable for YOU. Many people can qualify for more than they care to spend, so knowing your personal monthly target payment is the most important aspect. When you determine your budget, start making ‘mock’ mortgage payments. For example, if your current rent is $1,000/month, and your target home monthly payment budget is $2,500/month. When you pay your rent, also pay yourself $1,500/month. You’ll find out quickly if your target is comfortable, or you need to adjust. As an added bonus, you’ll have more money in your savings account.
- Market Exploration: Ask your agent to set you up on automated daily searches directly from the MLS. You can watch the properties that come to market, browse and note your favorite features, and see how quickly they get under contract and when they go to settlement you can note the final sale prices. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the “flow” of the market. Also drive around neighborhoods you think you’ll like, stop in at Open Houses to get a feel for the difference between the online pictures and the actual property (you’ll be amazed!) ***IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure to tell any agents you meet at Open Houses that you’re being represented by NoVa House and Home. They’re required to leave you alone once you tell them you’re represented, beware the snaky agents who break the rules – you don’t want a dishonest person representing you in the biggest purchase of your life!
- Pre-Qualification: Meet with a mortgage broker and find out how much you can afford to pay for a home, it’s a good idea to do this during the exploration process, so you can focus on properties in your price range.
- Pre-Approval: While knowing how much you can afford is the first step, sellers will be much more receptive to potential buyers who have been pre-approved. You’ll also avoid being disappointed when going after homes that are out of your price range. With Pre-Approval, the buyer actually applies for a mortgage and receives a commitment in writing from a lender. This way, assuming the home you’re interested in is at or under the amount you are pre-qualified for, the seller knows immediately that you are a serious buyer for that property. Costs for pre-approval are generally nominal and lenders will usually permit you to pay them when you close your loan.
- List of Needs & Wants: Make 2 lists. The first should include items you must have (i.e., the number of bedrooms you need for the size of your family, a one-story house if accessibility is a factor, etc.). The second list is your wishes – things you would like to have (pool, den, etc.) but that are not absolutely necessary. Realistically for first-time buyers, you probably will not get everything on your wish list, but it will keep you on track for what you are looking for.
- Dedicated Representation: Sometimes listing agents will try to entice you into Dual Agency or Dual Representation. Don’t fall for it! In Virginia, when an agent enters into Dual Agency, they’re no longer supposed to give any of the parties any “real estate advice”. They become transaction coordinators, not advisors. You deserve your own representation, an expert who can advise you and who’s only loyalty is to you.
- Focus & Organization: You may want to keep track of properties you’ve seen, keep notes on different properties and neighborhoods. Our Client Portal will allow you to keep track of everything, and share notes with your agent.
- Visualize the house empty & with your decor: You NoVa House and Home agent will walk you through this in different properties. Usually a property is staged and presented in a way that no one actually lives. For example, kitchen countertops are usually clear, you should imagine the items you use in the kitchen every day, will they fit? Do you still have enough room for meal preparation?
- Be Objective: Instead of thinking with your heart when you find a home, think with your head. Does this home really meet your needs? There are many houses on the market, so don’t make a hurried decision that you may regret later.
All the above may seem rather overwhelming. We have your back, every step of the way. You can ask us any questions, we understand all the ins and outs from mortgages and pre-approvals to post-settlement questions, even in 10 years if you need something real estate related, we’ll be here for you.