Buying your first home is one of the most exciting times in your life. You’re taking a big step toward independence, wealth-building, and the ability to make a place truly your own.
With that said, there’s no getting around the fact that first-time homebuying can be challenging – especially in today’s strong seller’s market where low inventory and low mortgage rates have driven up competition. The real estate market may be starting to slow down though, and most first-time buyers still expect to purchase a home in the next 12 months.
Whether you’re ready to buy now or within the next year or so, there are a few key things you should keep in mind to successfully find and buy your first home.
Get Your Finances In Order
House hunting can be a lot of fun, but finances come first when homebuying. It’s important to start financially planning months in advance. The first question you should ask is: what home can I afford? That will depend on your income and other variables, with the rule of thumb being your house payment should not exceed 28% of your gross monthly income. Remember, the house payment includes mortgage, insurance, maintenance and taxes.
Before cracking open Zillow, you will also want to make sure your credit score is in good shape and find a lender to see what mortgage you can get.
It’s easy to fall in love with properties once you start searching, so understanding your budget beforehand is key to a financially sound purchase that you won’t regret down the road.
Determine Your Top Priorities
The next step to help narrow down your home search is deciding on your top priorities. I find the best way to figure out the difference between a “must have” and a “would like” is by listing them all out and then picking those top priorities from the list. If you are buying with a partner or spouse, you can both write lists and see where you overlap.
You may still have trouble deciding. In that case, select features that cannot be changed over those that can. You can renovate the master bathroom in your home, but you can’t change its location.
The most important attributes I would recommend for a first home are:
- Location (safety, proximity to work and family, walkability)
- Condition of home systems like electrical, plumbing and foundation
- Level of upkeep needed
- Amount of indoor and outdoor space
This is a step you can also complete with your most valuable asset when buying a home: your real estate agent.
Choose the Right Real Estate Expert
Your real estate agent is your navigator throughout the homebuying process. Not only does your agent help you set priorities, find homes and check for property issues you might not know about – but he or she also handles the complex paperwork that comes with homebuying and closing on a home.
While finding a real estate agent is easy, hiring the right one takes more groundwork. You can use referrals or search engines to find agents in your area. Look for someone who is experienced, highly knowledgeable of the area, and has good reviews. You will likely want to interview a couple agents before making a final commitment and beginning the home search together.
With your finances in order, your priorities set, and a real estate agent helping navigate the ins and outs of your options, buying your first home and starting that next chapter of your life is possible now.
Ready to get started on your homebuying journey on the First Coast? As one of the top Realtors in Northeast Florida for over 15 years, I have helped many clients find the right home. Call me today to get started: 904-626-1551.