Follow These 8 Steps to Successfully Purchase Your First Home
You've been in an apartment or renting a house with friends or maybe even living in your parent's basement to save for a down payment on your first home. You've decided to take the plunge to buy a home. In today's market, we wanted to find out what the most important steps to take to successfully purchase your first home. We sat down with one of the Twin Cities' top realtors -- Donna Vanneste, President Elite for Coldwell Banker -- to find out what first-time home buyers should really be on the lookout for in a first home.
Find a Realtor with Whom You Click
When looking for a Realtor, find one with whom you really have a connection. "It's important to click with your Realtor," says Donna Vanneste, Real Estate Agent, Coldwell Banker. "Does the realtor feel honest and authentic? Can you tell they will be patient and educate you, so you can really learn and understand the market?" Other things to ask yourself are, do you feel confident they are working on your behalf and not just trying to slam dunk you into a home to get the sale? Is the Realtor knowledgeable of the specific neighborhoods and areas you are interested in living so they can negotiate a good price for you? It is always a good idea to talk to a few of the realtors' recent buyers to find out if they experienced good communication and follow up.
Love at First Site
Be patient. 'First-time home buyers can easily to get excited about a house and fall in love just because it's staged with nice furniture and has a few nice updates,' says Vanneste. 'But when the frenzy is over, will the next buyer see the value in a normal market?' Even if you think you are in love, watch out for DIY projects that haven't been done correctly. Always note the age of roof, windows, siding, and mechanicals -- such as furnace and air conditioner. These home maintenance projects add up in overall home cost if you have to make these repairs soon after the purchase of your new home and are a must to be considered when comparing other homes on the market. If you do move into a home with an old roof, here are a few good tips on how to fix your roof.
Location, Location, Location
First-time home buyers might be struggling with the dilemma of buying a home with more square footage versus buying a home in an area's hot spot. Home values and being able to sell the home down the line are important for the first-time buyer and when wrestling with this question, location truly helps maintain home values in all types of markets. Neighborhood amenities are also important in assessing location when buying the first home — how close is the grocery store? What about recreation areas such as bike and walking paths? Is the home accessible to public transit? Lastly, homes on a busy street will always take longer to sell and that usually translates to selling at a lower price.
One Car Garage
A one car garage is better than no garage for maintaining home values. Two garage stalls are better than one, and for the first-time home buyer -- a three car garage is probably pretty much a nonexistent option. No matter what size garage you get with your first home, have at least a one-stall garage. Find easy space-saving tips for the garage here.
"One home style first-time buyers should definitely take a look at are the ramblers," says Vanneste. The rambler is considered a plain home built in the mid-century, but these homes have the potential to give the first time buyer more square footage per dollar. Rambers were built in a time period where they are typically in an inner ring suburb, so excellent location, with larger than normal city-sized lots. Another plus for the rambler is the possibility for transforming the rambler from run-of-the-mill into exceptional one-level living. Here are some good ideas for the first projects to tackle after you move into your first home.
Everyone knows a mom or a dad or a friend who "hated" their split-entry home. The reality is — many split-entry homes have been updated with bigger foyers and closets. For the first-time home buyer, excluding split-entry homes, might mean missing an affordable home option with some very nice features such as wood floors, a more open floor plan between the kitchen and living areas on the upper level. Split-level homes also generally include three bedrooms on the upper floor — an amenity that helps maintain a home's value. Check out how to build a custom closet to improve the split-level entry here.
Don't Always Believe the Estimate of a Home Price on Zillow
The estimate of a home is very likely not accurate on Zillow. The way Zillow derives an estimated home market value is using a proprietary formula and must not be mistaken for a bank appraisal. Zillow is only a starting point in determining a home's value and is calculated from public and user-submitted data, taking into account special features, location, and market conditions. First-time buyers need to be wary of the Zillow estimate in deciding whether a home is under or over priced and determining whether a home is a good market deal.
Bidding War Strategy
The first-time home buyer market is a tight one. Many homes may have more than one offer — turning the offer process into a full-on bidding war. Besides the financial winning strategies in a bidding war — such as doing a bigger down payment or upping your earnest money, there is one strategy that many home buyers may not think of on their own. Get personal with the seller. Either in person or writing a letter to the seller about your family and why the neighborhood and home fit your needs are both excellent ways to stand out in a bidding war. Be sure to include a family picture, and of course, a few compliments to the sellers on the maintenance and appeal of their home.