I’ve always been interested in real estate but I never expected I would buy my first home before the age of twenty-five — yet here I am! I was going to wait until I was married to buy a cute suburban house with a white picket fence…then reality set in. After a brief stint at home with my parents and another with a roommate I suddenly developed the desire to live on my own. I felt like it was a rite of passage that I would benefit from in the long run. So I began the search for a one-bedroom apartment along the bus route to work. Talk about an eye opener! In this crazy Seattle market, I would be paying the same in rent as I would be for a mortgage. So I started saving up a down payment. A few short months later, I closed on a condo. And I was terrified. But the quick and tiresome process taught me so much.
Set a timeline and start saving.
– If you’re working against an expiring lease, this may be pre-defined. If your living situation is flexible, like mine was, you may have more leeway. Map out the timeline that is right for you. Think about how long it may take you to find the right place, go through the closing process, and move in.
– Make sure your timeline coincides with your savings capabilities. Saving a down payment is probably the most challenging part of the process for young first time home buyers. Budget accordingly and consider how long it will take you to save an appropriate amount for your down payment and closing costs. Ideally you’ll have 2-3 months of expenses saved up as well so you can rest easy about paying your mortgage in the event of an unforeseen job change.
Do your homework.
– It’s important to understand the process from start to finish. The more knowledge you have, the more informed decisions you can make and the fewer surprises there will be along the way.
– Shop around for a mortgage lender and get pre-approved right off the bat. A pre-approval, as opposed to a pre-qualification, will instantly make you a more desirable buyer for sellers, especially in hyper-competitive markets. You then have a well-defined price range and a lot of credibility to bring to your realtor.
– Find a realtor that you trust. I took a chance and made a cold call to a realtor I found online, but often these connections are made through referrals, so don’t be afraid to ask around. It’s important to set up an initial meeting to discuss the process, expectations and of course your wish list! For me, I felt a sense of connection to my real estate team, like they really had my best interest in mind, which put me at ease throughout the process.
Don’t start until you’re ready.
– It’s one thing to be a casual surfer of real estate sites, but officially taking steps to meet with a lender and realtor is a big commitment. Once you start, you better be along for the ride because your dream home could pop up during your first weekend of open houses. You don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you find the perfect place for you but don’t have all your financial ducks in a row quite yet.
– It’s just as important to be ready financially AND emotionally when you start touring homes! For some, the home buying process consists of ups and downs and, especially in the Seattle area, often includes losing a bidding war or two. So whether you win or lose the first time you make an offer — you want to be prepared. Take it from someone who “gave it the old college try” on the first condo I loved, and ended up with the keys a month later! Anything can happen.
What was your first time home buying experience like? I’d love to hear more tips and tricks from other first time home buyers.