This is the first installment of multiple posts aimed at helping first time home buyers.
Buying your first home is a big deal and it is one you should be prepared for. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of shopping for your first house and overlook some simple steps that can make your first home purchase go smoothly and keep it from being a stressful experience.
The first step is to find two good people to be on your team. Professionals who know what they are doing and will represent you to the best of their abilities.
How to find a Realtor®. Ask all of your friends, relatives, neighbors and business associates that live in your area to recommend at least one Realtor to you. Gather as many names with positive reviews from those people as you can, preferrably between seven and ten names. After you have a list of names it’s time to Google them. This is the first step in your interview process. Check out their websites. Read their bios. Check sites like Yelp, Google+ and Realtor.com for reviews for these people. This should help you narrow your list down to three (or a number that is manageable) Realtors to interview in person. During the face to face interview you should be looking for answers to your questions that are straight forward and honest and for a comfortable rapport with the agent. Here are some questions to ask the person who will help you make perhaps the largest and most important purchase of your life:
- How long have you been selling real estate?
- What percentage of your clients are buyers? Sellers?
- When did you last represent a first time buyer?
- How will you keep me informed?
- How many active clients are you currently representing?
- Can I contact three clients you have represented recently?
By no means should these be the only questions you ask. Prepare a list of questions to take with you to the interview and don’t be afraid to take notes. While you may realize during the interview that a particular Realtor is the one for you don’t make a decision on the spot. Take your notes home and compare them with answers from other Realtors you interviewed and let the information roll around in your brain for a day or two.
How to find a lender. The steps for choosing a Realtor® also apply to choosing a lender. Ask for referrals, Google the names and check out their websites for bios and loan programs that apply to first time buyers. When choosing which three or four lenders you want to interview we recommend including at least one banker and at least one broker. Brokers often have more loan programs to offer but banks can sometimes offer a great program that is unique to only them. When creating your list of questions many of the same questions you had for Realtors, though slightly modified, will also apply to lenders. Before you leave the lender interview ask them to give you information about the two loan programs that they think suit you and your situation best. Then ask for a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) for each loan program to help you compare apples to apples.
Now you are officially on your way to buying a home but don’t start getting comfortable yet. There is still a lot to be done.