Buying your first home can feel like an overwhelming challenge.
You know your first home will shape your future. It might be the place you settle down as a newlywed or where your kids learn to take their first steps. Maybe you’ll prepare Thanksgiving dinners in that kitchen. Or perhaps you’ll get to know new best friends while grilling in the backyard. When it comes to your first home, you’re looking for more than four walls.
You want to find the right place, but that’s hard to do. After all, you’ve never done this before!
You probably have a million questions floating through your head: Do I look for a starter home or hope for my dream home? Buy for now or buy for five years from now? Where do I need to manage my expectations? And where should I be unwilling to compromise?
At TJ Homes, we’ve helped a lot of first-time homebuyers find and love their new place. And as Grand Rapids realtors, we know how to make the whole process a little easier. In this article, we’ll share our tips for buying your first home.
Tips for Buying Your First Home
1. Get a realtor that you know and trust
It’s okay if you think we are biased here. This is too important not to say right out of the gate.
Buying your first home is a challenge. That’s why it is important to have someone to guide you through the process. You might be new to this space, but real estate agents live in it every day. They know what to look for and what questions to ask. They can take the stress off of your shoulders and help you find a home without all the risk and uncertainty.
But since buying a home is such an important decision, don’t just call up any name off Google and start going to open houses. Take the time to get to know your realtor. You want someone that knows their stuff and is trustworthy from day one.
That way you’ll never have to worry about being taken advantage of or settling for something you don’t want.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and push back on things. How your realtor responds will tell you a lot about their character. You want someone who is patient and has your best interest in mind.
2. Don’t get caught in the bling
Buying your first home is exciting. There’s a feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes with this milestone. Perhaps it’s a little bit of a status symbol. Or maybe it’s just the chance at comfort you’ve been longing for.
All those feelings swirl together when you start looking at home listings. As a result, some properties will capture your attention right away.
You might be wowed by granite countertops in a redone kitchen. Perhaps a pool in the back or a pool table downstairs will get you dreaming of throwing parties. Maybe the right wall colors or newest appliances will keep you staring at the listing late into the night.
Some homes offer a lot of flash. They have shiny new things or fancy amenities. And while those features can be nice, and there is value in being move-in-ready, one of our biggest tips for buying your first home is don’t get caught in the bling.
“Bling” is typically surface level. It may be things that were added at the last minute to impress potential buyers or features that previous owners just “had to have”. Whatever its origin, bling can be a distraction. It will keep you from looking at the most important things in a home.
Instead, make sure you focus on the true necessities. Does the home have a good roof? Is the foundation in good shape? Does the furnace work? Is there water in the basement?
You’ll always be able to remodel or redecorate, but don’t overlook big red flags just because the home comes with some bling. The oversight could cost a lot of time or money in the long run.
3. Don’t get caught in the race
What’s your timeline for finding a home? Are you rushing to find a place before the wedding? Do you need to get out of your grungy apartment as soon as possible? Or do you need a bigger space quick before the new baby comes?
First-time homebuyers are usually buying for a reason — and they’re usually under a time crunch. And while it’s okay to have a timeline, number three on our list of tips for first-time homebuyers is don’t get caught in the race.
As we said above, buying your first home is an important decision. You’re choosing something that will affect your life every day. That’s not a process you want to rush.
At TJ Homes, we believe that the wrong home at the right time is still the wrong home. Don’t settle for a problem house just because you need to settle on something quickly.
You’re far better off finding a short-term housing solution until the right place comes through. Besides, buyers often have more time than they think. So don’t get stressed if your first offer isn’t accepted. Still take the time to find a place you can really be happy with.
And if you need to keep the process moving quickly, you can always turn to your trusted realtor. They can do all of the legwork and search around the clock while you take care of your own job and love your family. An extra pair of eyes — especially a trained pair of eyes — will help you find a better house, faster.
4. Stop looking for unicorns
Every first-time home buyer wants to find a 10 out of 10 — that dream home that matches their family perfectly.
But the truth is, no home will be absolutely perfect. It only becomes a 10 when you move in and make it yours.
That’s why anything you’d rank a 7, 8 or 9 is worth considering. By all means, find a place you love. But don’t ignore a great home just because you’re hoping a unicorn jumps out of your Zillow page.
This is an extra temptation for first-time homebuyers. They’re often expecting to find their parent’s standard of living at their smaller income level. But unfortunately, that just doesn’t happen.
Instead, sit down with your realtor and decide on the things you really want in a home. Which features are non-negotiable and which are nice, but not necessary? The more specific you can be about what you’re looking for, the easier it will be to find it.
If you want help imagining this house, click here to take our free quiz.
15 More Tips for Buying Your First Home
Here are a few more things you’ll want to keep in mind when buying your first home.
- Start saving as soon as possible
- Figure out your down payment and financing options early
- Compare mortgage rates and fees
- Consider your lifestyle now and five years from now
- Tour in person whenever possible
- Fixer-uppers can be well worth the sweat equity
- Pay attention to the school district — even if you don’t have kids
- Talk to the neighbors if you can
- Ask about any recent renovations
- Don’t spend the maximum amount you qualify for
- Save money for later home improvements
- Consider creative bid strategies
- Follow up on any inspection issues, even if it costs a little extra
- Keep negotiating after inspections
- Consider an exit strategy
You’ve Got This, But if You Need a Little Help…
If you’re ready to buy your first home, congratulations! That’s a huge step and it’s one you should be excited for. We know there are a lot of things on your mind, but if you take the advice in this article, you’ll be well on your way to finding the right place.
If you have more specific questions or just want to talk about your first-time homebuyer strategy, we want to help. At TJ Homes we offer a free strategy session. This is a chance for you to pick our brain and get advice from one of Grand Rapids’ top realtors.
If you’re interested, just fill out the form below.