10 Things Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Know

Wed Mar 13 2024 05:44
10 Things Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Know

So, the rent keeps climbing, that shoebox apartment is losing its charm, and the thoughts of homeownership are getting louder. But for first-time buyers, the excitement can quickly turn into a whirlwind of questions. How much can I afford? What do I need to know about mortgages? Should I prioritize a dream location or a spacious layout?

Take a deep breath and relax. You're not alone on this journey. This blog will be your roadmap to navigating the exciting (and sometimes overwhelming) world of buying your first home. We'll break down the essential homeownership tips, from getting your finances in order to understanding the home inspection process. We'll also help you assemble your dream team of professionals and ensure you enter the negotiation table feeling confident and prepared.

Here are 10 crucial homeownership tips every first-time homebuyer should know:

1. Face the Finances First

Buying a home for the first time is a process, not a tick mark. Before you start scrolling through dreamy listings, get a clear picture of your finances. Here's the breakdown:

Know your credit score

A good credit score (ideally above 740) qualifies you for better mortgage rates, saving you thousands in the long run. Check your credit report for errors and work on improving your score if needed.

Crunch the numbers

Honestly assess your income and expenses. Remember, a mortgage payment isn't the only cost. Factor in property taxes, potential maintenance charges and homeowners insurance. A good rule of thumb is to keep your housing costs below 30% of your gross monthly income.

Saving Savvy

A bigger down payment (ideally 20%) lowers your loan amount and reduces your private mortgage insurance (PMI) – a monthly fee for loans with less than 20% down.

2. Get Pre-Approved, Not Just Pre-Qualified

Pre-qualification is a basic assessment, but pre-approval is a game-changer. A lender verifies your income and creditworthiness, giving you a clear picture of how much you can borrow. This strengthens your offer in a competitive market and shows sellers you're a serious buyer.

Speeds Up the Buying Process

Being pre-approved can expedite the home-buying process once you find a property you wish to purchase. Sellers often prefer deals that can close quickly, and pre-approval reduces the time spent waiting for loan approval.

Identifies Credit Issues Early

Pre-approval involves a thorough check of your credit report. This early deep dive can help you discover and address any potential credit issues or errors on your credit report before they can impact your ability to buy a home.

Helps You Set a Realistic Budget

With pre-approval, you get a detailed understanding of the mortgage amount you qualify for, which helps you set a realistic budget. It also prevents the disappointment of looking at homes that are beyond your financial reach and focuses your search on properties you can afford.


Want to get pre-approved? We can help you navigate the pre-approval process all the way to the finish line.
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3. Assemble Your A-Team

Buying a home for the first time isn't a solo act. Here's who you need in your corner:

Real Estate Agent

A good agent acts as your advocate, navigating negotiations, paperwork, and local market nuances. Look for someone specializing in first-time homebuyers who understands your needs.

Mortgage Lender

Find a lender offering competitive rates and terms that fit your financial situation. Shop around and compare options before committing.

Home Inspector

This professional thoroughly examines the property for hidden problems, saving you from potential headaches down the line.

4. Location Factors

Sure, that farmhouse with the white picket fence is charming, but consider the long-term picture. Here are some location aspects to ponder:


Factor in travel time to work, school, and other necessities. A longer commute can eat into your time and budget.

Neighborhood Vibe

Do you crave a bustling downtown scene or a quiet suburban haven? Consider your lifestyle and future plans.

School Districts (if applicable)

If you have children or plan to, research the quality of schools in your desired area.


Think grocery stores, parks, libraries – access to daily conveniences matters.

5. Needs vs. Wants: Make a Wish List (But Be Realistic)

Dream about granite countertops and a walk-in closet? Fantastic! But prioritize your non-negotiable needs first. Is a fenced-in yard a must-have for your dog? Understanding your essential needs will help you narrow down your search.

Prioritize Essentials

Before getting caught up in the aesthetics, ensure the house meets your basic needs like the number of bedrooms and the necessity of a yard.

Future-Proof Your Home

Think about how your needs might change over time. A home office might seem unnecessary now, but could it be useful in a few years?

Flexibility with Wants

Be prepared to let go of some of the less crucial wants if budget constraints or market conditions make it necessary.

6. Don't Be Afraid to Negotiate

The asking price isn't always the final price. Your agent can help you research comparable properties in the area to determine a fair offer. Don't be afraid to negotiate on price, repairs, or closing costs.

Understanding whether you're in a buyer's or seller's market can give you leverage in negotiations. Use this knowledge to your advantage.

Consider the Home's Time on the Market

A home that has been on the market for a long time may give you more negotiating power.

Personal Touch

Sometimes, a personal letter to the sellers explaining why this home is perfect for you as a first-time buyer, can make your offer stand out, even if it's lower than others.

7. Brace Yourself for Inspection Day

The home inspection might reveal things you didn't expect – leaky faucets or outdated wiring. Don't panic! The purpose is to uncover potential issues, allowing you to renegotiate the price, request repairs, or even walk away if the problems are too significant.

Prioritize Major Over Minor Issues

Focus negotiations on substantial repairs that affect the home's overall value and safety, rather than cosmetic concerns.

Use Inspection Results for Learning

Use the inspection to learn about the general upkeep and what future maintenance the home will require.

Seek Second Opinions if Necessary

If major issues are found, don’t hesitate to hire a specialist to further investigate concerns before proceeding.

8. Closing Costs: There's More Than Just the Mortgage

Closing costs include fees for loan origination, appraisals, title insurance, and more. These can add up to thousands of dollars, so factor them into your budget.

Shop Around for Lenders

Different lenders can offer varying closing costs and interest rates. Shop around to find the best deal that suits your financial situation.

Ask the Seller to Contribute

You can negotiate with the seller to cover some of the closing costs as part of your purchase agreement.

Be Prepared for Unexpected Fees

Always have a little extra saved up for unforeseen expenses that may arise during the closing process.

9. Account for Post Ownership Costs

Beyond the initial purchase, there are ongoing costs to consider. Budget for property taxes, homeowners insurance, maintenance, and potential repairs. Owning a home is an investment that requires ongoing financial responsibility.

Plan for Utility Costs

Factor in the cost of utilities like water, electricity, and gas, which can vary widely depending on the home's efficiency and location.

Consider the Cost of Home Improvements

If you're buying an older home, anticipate potential renovation costs that may arise sooner than in a newer home.

Community Fees

If moving into a planned community or condominium, consider monthly or annual homeowners association (HOA) fees into your budget.

10. Enjoy the Journey!

Buying a home is a significant milestone. It can be stressful, but it's also an exciting adventure. Celebrate your victories, big and small.

Document the Process

Keep a journal or photo album of your home-buying journey. It can be a wonderful keepsake to look back on.

Seek Support from Others

Don't hesitate to reach out to friends or family members who have gone through the process. They can offer advice and emotional support.

Embrace Learning Opportunities

Each step of buying a home offers a chance to learn something new about real estate, negotiating, and finance. Use this as an opportunity to grow your knowledge.

To Wrap Up

Take your time, do your research, and don't be afraid to ask questions. There will be bumps along the road, but with the right preparation and a supportive team by your side, you'll navigate them with ease.

The feeling of stepping into your own first home for the first time is truly special. It's a space to create memories, grow as a family (or individual!), and build a foundation for your future. So, go on, explore, and find the place that sparks joy and feels like "home." This is just the beginning of your exciting homeownership adventure!

And lastly, this homeownership tips guide is just a starting point. The real estate market can be dynamic, so stay informed by following reputable sources and consulting with your trusted professionals. They'll be your go-to resource for navigating market trends and ensuring you make informed decisions throughout your homeownership journey.

Happy house hunting!

Mandi Turner
John Hortin
Brodie Calder
Summit Lending

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