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5 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

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first-time-home-buyersBuying a first home can be a scary, confusing and stressful process. Many would-be buyers are understandably nervous at the prospect of making the largest purchase of their lives. Rather than diving in and hoping for the best, you should prepare carefully before you begin the house search.

Following some useful tips will help you turn an overwhelming and intimidating experience into an exciting search that yields the right home!

1.) Establishing a Realistic Price Range

A common mistake among first-time home buyers is purchasing more house than they can afford. You should not rely on banks to determine what you can comfortably spend on a new home. Banks are adept at determining the amount of monthly debt in the form of mortgage, insurance, credit card, student loan and auto loan payments. They have no way of knowing, however, what you spend each month on groceries, entertainment and utilities.

You should make a list of all monthly expenses, excluding rent or your current mortgage payment. Whatever is left after monthly expenses is the amount available for a mortgage payment and housing expenses such as taxes, insurance and home maintenance. Carefully consideration of your budget saves time by weeding out homes that you cannot afford and guards against overspending.

2.) Seeking Pre-approval

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage prevents a deal on a dream home from falling apart due to failure to obtain financing. You should compare loans from several lenders to see which one best suits your needs. A pre-approval letter will give you some power to negotiate on a home’s price because the seller will view a pre-approved offer more favorably than an offer that comes without lender pre-approval.

Keep in mind that pre-approval is different from pre-qualification. During pre-qualification, the lender estimates what you can afford. Preapproval is a more involved process in which the lender looks at your credit report and performs an extensive financial background check. At this point, you will get a good idea of the mortgage interest rate as well.

3.) Setting Priorities

You should compile a list of what you need and want in a house. Needs might include the number of bedrooms, square footage, high-quality schools and commute time. These needs are aspects of the house that either cannot be changed or cannot be changed without substantial cost to you.

Wants, on the other hand, are something you would like and that can be changed. Wants may include a pool or hot tub, landscaping, finished basement or hardwood floors. Making a list of wants and needs helps you focus on what is really important in a house, narrowing the list of prospective homes. Ideally, the new house will include all of the needs and a few wants.

4.) Choosing the Right Neighborhood

Crime statistics, insurance rates, property taxes and school quality are important considerations for you. Because the neighborhood makes up a large part of a home’s value, take your time to find exactly what suits your needs. You should also consider job commute, traffic during rush hour and proximity to amenities such as shopping, churches and libraries.

Driving through the neighborhood at various times during the day and night will provide a more complete picture of the location. Don’t forget to talk to potential neighbors, who can be a good source of information regarding the neighborhood and residents in the community. Take note that bad neighbors can bring down the value of a house.

5.) Finding the Right Home Inspector

You will also need a professional home inspection. Even new houses may present costly problems evident only to a home inspector.

You should talk to several inspectors before hiring one. You should ask about the inspector’s qualifications, scope of the inspection, how long it will take and the nature of the report you will receive at the end of the process. Main areas covered by the inspection should include quality of construction, integrity of the foundation and condition of plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems. If the inspection uncovers serious issues, such as cracks in the foundation, you may decide to back out of the contract or ask the seller to repair the problem.


About Becky Flanigan

Becky Flanigan is a former real estate professional with over 13 years of experience. She currently writes at as well as other sites. She has taught many real estate courses and is committed to offering sound, real life advice. Follow her on twitter @Becky_Flanigan.

15 Responses to “5 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers”

  1. Mindy April 18, 2013 at 11:16 pm # Reply

    Good stuff!! Thanks!

  2. Chasing Joy September 25, 2013 at 4:49 pm # Reply

    These are good tips. I wish I would have known to do research on the home inspector and instead of going with one recommended by my agent.

  3. Michele October 14, 2013 at 4:35 am # Reply

    Finding the right buyer’s agent is critical to any real estate transaction. First time buyers should not go at it alone.

    • Sue Scott February 4, 2014 at 2:47 am # Reply

      Yes! So true! Finding a Realtor who can point you toward reputable and licensed service providers (loan officer, home inspector, insurance agent) should be the very first step! Have a knowledgable real estate professional with you from the start, to guide you through the steps and be there to answer your questions as they come up! It’s a team effort to smoothly transition to a new home.

  4. Aria Wellington June 9, 2016 at 5:11 pm # Reply

    I really like your tip about setting priorities like the number of rooms that you might need as well. Something that I would suggest is going to the area of your future home and getting to know what’s around. My husband and I are searching for homes for sale so we want to try and get to know where everything is like grocery stores and schools.

  5. Danni Black December 20, 2016 at 1:09 pm # Reply

    I really like your tip about finding the right home inspector. My husband and I are going to be buying a home in the next few months and we are trying to make sure that we know all that we need to do. I think that these tips will really help us find the hole that we are looking for. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Deedee Lewis January 30, 2017 at 5:47 pm # Reply

    These are some great tips, especially the one about pre-approval letters being able to give you some power to negotiate on a home’s price. When my husband and I were applying for our first home loan we definitely found it helpful to be pre-approved. I will be sharing these home buying tips with my brother and his wife, who are looking into buying their first home.

  7. Jade Brunet February 7, 2017 at 7:51 pm # Reply

    Setting priorities sounds like a great idea when it comes to looking for potential homes. It would be best to find things that you cannot live without and other things that can be optional. Something else to think about would be to seek help from a realtor to enjoy a more professional experience.

  8. Parveen February 16, 2017 at 4:24 am # Reply

    I agree with your statement that home buying is very uncomfortable and stressful process. Your post is good and informative for all buyers who are planning to buy home first time. Thanks for sharing the valuable information, it is really useful for me.

  9. Yilliang Peng March 27, 2017 at 3:16 pm # Reply

    I like what you had to say in this article about real estate agents and what you should know about them when buying a home for the first time. My wife and I are newlyweds and are thinking about buying a home. We had no idea that there are so many different factors that play a part in buying a home such as finding the right home inspector, etc. Thanks for the post!

  10. jresquival March 30, 2017 at 8:46 pm # Reply

    I like your idea to consider crime rates and insurance rates. Those things will impact your cost of living. I have kids so I’m looking for a good school and a low crime area.

  11. Burt Silver April 3, 2017 at 10:57 am # Reply

    Thanks for the tips for finding a home! My wife and I really want to buy our first home this year, but we have been unsure where we need to start. I like that you mentioned that you should research more than just the home, but the neighborhood as well. School districts and other factors are a big deal to us, so we will take that into consideration.

  12. Danni Black April 20, 2017 at 3:27 pm # Reply

    I really like your tip about making sure that you set priorities and compile a list of what you want/need in your home. My husband and I are going to be buying our first home in the next few months so we will have to keep these tips in mind. We have two little twin boys so we will be sure to check for accommodations for a growing family. Thank you so much for sharing!

  13. Bernard Clyde April 21, 2017 at 11:26 am # Reply

    I agree that you should come up with a practical price range for your next home on your own. It helps to do this before you even start looking so you don’t set up unrealistic expectation for your home. It’s important that you end up buying a home within your budget so you aren’t stressed financially with your new home.

  14. Frank Delaware April 26, 2017 at 9:45 am # Reply

    I really love that you talked about finding a professional home inspector to take a look at the home. Since you never know what might be wrong with a house, it would be nice to have someone come give it a nice look over. Plus, you might find that the house is in perfect condition.

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