When it comes to things that should be exciting but actually turn out to be stressful, buying your first home is at the top of the list. Prices are steep, inventory is limited, and finding a great agent isn’t easy. In fact, it can be pretty rough.
Getting the right home at the right price can be fun, thrilling, and simple. But, you’ll need to know the ropes to make it happen. We talked to real estate professionals and first-time home buyers to find out how they made the process easier.
Here are the tips and tricks that they wish they knew before embarking on the home buying process for the first time.
1. The sooner you start saving for it, the better off you’ll be.
For many people, the hardest part about buying a home is actually saving up the money for the down payment. Typically, your down payment will need to be at least 20 percent of the home’s price in order to avoid extra fees or Private Mortgage Insurance. The more money you have, the lower your monthly payments will be. There are programs to put as little as 3% down, but closing costs alone can still run over $10,000.
2. Maintenance will cost more than you think, so budget for that too.
Now that you’re not renting, you can’t just call a landlord every time a faucet starts leaking or your lawn is overgrown. You will need to fix those issues yourself—or hire someone to do it. The cost of maintaining a home adds up faster than you think. But it’s also thrilling to be able to modify your new home however you please!
Along with the regular upkeep, you never know when you’ll have to deal with emergencies like the AC breaking, the ceiling leaking, or a storm sending a branch through your kitchen window. Make sure you can afford to care for your future home needs before you agree to a mortgage on it.
3. Be picky when it comes to your real estate agent.
The people you hire to help you buy a home make a world of difference in how well the experience goes. Knowing this, you need to find a real estate agent who knows how to give you the service you want and cares about the same things you do. To find a great agent, it’s important to understand how the real estate industry works.
Most agents survive off commissions rather than a stable salary—and that’s a problem that tends to weed out newbies. Around 90 percent of real estate agents who start out in this industry end up failing after the first two years in the business. This isn’t just on the agents—a lot of them struggle because traditional brokerages set them up for failure by offering them no support to run their business.
If they can’t push deals through, they may not be able to pay the bills that month. Obviously, this tends to cause professionals to act on their own behalf rather than on behalf of the home buyer. When your agent is emotionally and financially dependent on your purchase, trust becomes an issue.
You should vet your agent by looking at their experience and opting to work with full-time Realtors exclusively. After all, a part-time real estate agent can only offer you a part-time experience.
4. Actually, you should probably skip commissioned-based agents altogether.
In certain parts of the country, you don’t actually have to deal with commission-based agents anymore. And if you live in an area where salaried Realtors exist, you should choose them instead simply because it allows you to avoid commission-related toxicity.
Houwzer is one company that’s giving home buyers the customer experience they deserve by completely reshaping their real estate agents’ relationship with both their clients and their employer. Their approach seems simple, but in the outdated real estate industry it’s refreshingly innovative.
Instead of independent contractors working on commission, Houwzer employs full-time Realtors and offers them salaries, benefits, and uncapped performance bonuses. They’ve found that by eliminating the high-stakes pressure that comes with commission pay and replacing it with customer service incentives, their Realtors are able to truly put their clients first.
5. Remember that you don’t have to pay your agent if you’re buying a home.
There’s a common misconception among first-time home buyers that they’ll be paying their Realtor for their services. This isn’t true! Home sellers are the ones who have to pay the brokerage fees for both sides of the transaction.
Don’t worry about being unable to afford a good Realtor for your first home. Working with a buyer agent is a free resource for you, so you might as well seek out a brokerage that has quality Realtors with extensive training.
6. There’s no need to tolerate a bad agent.
Are you feeling ignored, bullied, or browbeat by your real estate agent? It’s time to consider finding a new one.
In the 21st century, there is no reason to settle for a mediocre customer experience—particularly when making a major life purchase. A great agent will be a go-getter who can help you get the right home, and will be a valuable source of support and guidance along the way. You need an agent who will help you overcome hurdles, rather than be the stumbling block you need to overcome.
Being a home buyer puts you at an advantage here. Most buyers can start the home search process without even signing any paperwork, so just because someone showed you a few homes doesn’t mean that you are locked in with that agent.
Even after signing a buyer agency agreement, it is still much easier to terminate than a listing contract. Usually, a simple form and phone call will be enough to make it happen. That being said, you should research the process in your state and read any paperwork you signed before you take the plunge.
7. Know what you want in a home before you start shopping.
Do you want a split-level home, or would you prefer a single-story place? Do you know what type of neighborhood you want to live in? Are you looking for a home with a large backyard, or something more urban? These things matter!
You can cut down the time it takes to find your dream home by laying out your must-haves and must-avoids in a single list. Figure out what your non-negotiables are and keep an open mind about the little things that don’t matter as much. This way, you can avoid viewing homes that aren’t right for you and focus on the ones that are.
8. If you see something off-kilter, ask your Realtor about it.
An expert Realtor will be able to point out potential problems and money-pits during the initial walk-through. They should be commenting on things that were done cheaply, any water damage, and general home condition. However, you still need to bring up anything that makes you nervous.
When shopping for a home, you can never be too careful. That’s why people hire home inspectors, after all. Most houses will have one or two little things that will need repairs, and it’s up to you to address them if you buy the home.
Thankfully, your Realtor is here to answer questions for you and also advocate on your behalf. If you see something odd, ask about it. In some situations, this can be used as a bargaining chip that can help you lower the overall price of the home, or have the seller fix it before handing over the keys.
No matter how big or small the issue is, ask your Realtor about it. If they seem ill-equipped to help you get the answers you need, that’s probably a sign to look for another partner. A simple question could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars!
9. Bother your agent.
Many people feel nervous about asking the real estate agent too many questions, calling them at odd hours, or even asking to view another home. Don’t be. That’s what they are there for, and it’s up to you to use their services to your advantage. Any agent who lacks patience and can’t dedicate their time and attention to your home buying journey is not an agent you want to work with.
10. Take your time.
Finally, don’t be afraid to take your time looking for the right house. It can take months to find a home that matches your specific needs, let alone deal with the closing.
Considering that a typical family will only buy a home once every seven years, you might as well make the most of that time and enjoy every bit of it. It's a time of discovery, fun, and excitement.
Once you give a brokerage like Houwzer a try, you'll see that real estate really isn't as scary as you may have initially believed it to be. That's why one of the best real estate lifehacks you can learn is to find the right brokerage to help guide you on your journey. Learn more at Houwzer.com and trust when you buy.